Antici…..pation: August 2014

Our apologies. We went absent without comment last month, but we’re re-focusing this month. And what better way to do so than to start with our August anticipation?

Cover artwork for I Love I Hate I Miss My SisterTitle: I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister

Author: Amelie Sarn, translated by Y. Maudet

Publisher & Release Date: Delacorte Press, Aug. 5

The Hook: “Eighteen-year-old Sohane loves no one more than her beautiful, carefree younger sister, Djelila. And she hates no one as much. The two have always shared everything. But now, Djelila is embracing her life as a secular teen, and Sohane is becoming more religious.

“Every choice has a price.

“When Sohane starts wearing a head scarf, her school insists that she remove it or she’ll be expelled. Meanwhile, Djelila is repeatedly harassed by neighborhood bullies for not following Muslim customs. Sohane can’t help thinking that Djelila deserves what she gets. She never could have imagined just how far things would go.

“I love I hate I miss my sister.

“In the year following Djelila’s tragic death, Sohane struggles with her feelings of loss and guilt, revealing a complex relationship between two sisters, each girl’s path to self-discovery, and the consequences they face for being true to themselves.”

Cover artwork for Some BoysTitle: Some Boys

Author: Patty Blount

Publisher & Release Date: Sourcebooks Fire, Aug. 5

The Hook: “When Grace meets Ian she’s afraid. Afraid he’ll reject her like the rest of the school, like her own family. After accusing the town golden boy of rape, everyone turned against Grace. They call her a slut and a liar. But…Ian doesn’t. He’s funny and kind with secrets of his own.

“But how do you trust the best friend of the boy who raped you? How do you believe in love?”

Cover artwork for Of Metal and WishesTitle: Of Metal and Wishes

Author: Sarah Fine

Publisher & Release Date: Margaret K. McElderry Books, Aug, 5

The Hook: “Sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic, housed in a slaughterhouse staffed by the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor. Wen often hears the whisper of a ghost in the slaughterhouse, a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. And after one of the Noor humiliates Wen, the ghost grants an impulsive wish of hers—brutally.

Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including the outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the ghost. As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen is torn between her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. Will she determine whom to trust before the factory explodes, taking her down with it?”

Cover artwork for The Unfinished Life of Addison StoneTitle: The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone: A Novel

Author: Adele Griffin

Publisher & Release Date: Soho Teen, Aug. 12

The Hook: “For fans of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Girl, Interrupted, and A.S. King, National Book Award-finalist Adele Griffin tells the fully illustrated story of a brilliant young artist, her mysterious death, and the fandom that won’t let her go.

“From the moment she stepped foot in NYC, Addison Stone’s subversive street art made her someone to watch, and her violent drowning left her fans and critics craving to know more. I conducted interviews with those who knew her best—including close friends, family, teachers, mentors, art dealers, boyfriends, and critics—and retraced the tumultuous path of Addison’s life. I hope I can shed new light on what really happened the night of July 28.
—Adele Griffin”

Cove artwork for Greenglass HouseTitle: Greenglass House

Author: Kate Milford, illustrated by Jaime Zollars

Publisher & Release Date: Clarion Books, Aug. 26

The Hook: “A rambling old inn, a strange map, an attic packed with treasures, squabbling guests, theft, friendship, and an unusual haunting mark this smart middle grade mystery in the tradition of the Mysterious Benedict Society books and The Westing Game.

“It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smuggler’s inn is always quiet during this season, and twelve-year-old Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again. Soon Milo’s home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House-and themselves.”

Cover artwork for Six Feet Over ItTitle: Six Feet Over It

Author: Jennifer Longo

Publisher & Release Date: Random House Books for Young Readers, Aug. 26

The Hook:”Leigh sells graves for her family-owned cemetery because her father is too lazy to look farther than the dinner table when searching for employees. Working the literal graveyard shift, she meets two kinds of customers:

“Pre-Need: They know what’s up. They bought their graves a long time ago, before they needed them.

“At Need: They are in shock, mourning a loved one’s unexpected death. Leigh avoids sponging their agony by focusing on things like guessing the headstone choice (mostly granite).

“Sarcastic and smart, Leigh should be able to stand up to her family and quit. But her world’s been turned upside down by the sudden loss of her best friend and the appearance of Dario, the slightly-too-old-for-her grave digger. Surrounded by death, can Leigh move on, if moving on means it’s time to get a life?”

Antici…pation July 2014

Happy July! We’ve a smattering of titles that excite us this month. Some are YA, some are not, and we anticipate awesomeness. (Just picture us doing a little Rainbow Rowell happy dance.) As usual, summaries come from Edelweiss, site of far too many delectable forthcoming books.

Title: LandlineCover art for Landline

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Publisher & Release Date: St. Martin’s Press, July 8

The Hook: “Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now. Maybe that was always beside the point.

“Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset her — Neal is always a little upset with George — but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and go without her.

“When her husband and kids leave the airport, George wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

“That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts…

“Is that what she’s supposed to do?”

Title: Demon DerbyCover art for Demon Derby

Author: Carrie Harris

Publisher & Release Date: Delacorte Press, July 8

The Hook: “Casey kicked cancer’s ass. Now a demon wants to kick hers….

“Casey hates being known as the girl who survived cancer. She wants people to treat her like her old self, fearless and strong. And after a creepy encounter with a crazy guy in an alley, Casey is all about reclaiming her power.

“So when she has a chance to try out for the Apocalypsies roller derby team, she jumps on it. Being a derby girl would prove that she doesn’t need anybody’s pity. It doesn’t hurt that Michael, the team manager, is almost unnaturally hot. Which makes sense when Casey finds out that he’s not human.

“Michael’s got a secret: he trains demon hunters. That crazy guy in the alley? Demon. And the fact that Casey went head to head with evil and lived makes her a threat to demonkind. Casey thought she’d already fought and won the battle of her lifetime. But it’s only beginning….”

Title: The Fire WishCover art for The Fire Wish

Author: Amber Lough

Publisher & Release Date: Random House Books for Young Readers, July 22

The Hook: “In this romantic and evocative fantasy, Najwa is a jinni, training to be a spy in the war against the humans. Zayele is a human on her way to marry a prince of Baghdad-which she’ll do anything to avoid. So she captures Najwa and makes a wish. With a rush of smoke and fire, they fall apart and re-form-as each other. A jinni and a human, trading lives. Both girls must play their parts among enemies who would kill them if the deception were ever discovered-enemies including the young men Najwa and Zayele are just discovering they might love.”

Title: Magic Breaks

Author: Ilona AndrewsCover art for Magic Breaks

Publisher & Release Date: Ace Books, July 29

The Hook: “As the mate of the Beast Lord, Curran, former mercenary Kate Daniels has more responsibilities than it seems possible to juggle. Not only is she still struggling to keep her investigative business afloat, she must now deal with the affairs of the pack, including preparing her people for attack from Roland, a cruel ancient being with god-like powers. Since Kate’s connection to Roland has come out into the open, no one is safe—especially those closest to Kate.

“As Roland’s long shadow looms ever nearer, Kate is called to attend the Conclave, a gathering of the leaders from the various supernatural factions in Atlanta. When one of the Masters of the Dead is found murdered there, apparently at the hands of a shapeshifter, Kate is given only twenty-four hours to hunt down the killer. And this time, if she fails, she’ll find herself embroiled in a war which could destroy everything she holds dear…”

The Ultimate Filler

Title:  Hungryhungry

Author: H. A. Swain

Publisher & Release Date: Feiwel & Friends, June 3

The Hook: Another dystopian tale with romance; this one pretty convincing in how the circumstances came about – a corporation manipulating the government to agree to its demands in ‘feeding’ the population as climate change destroys great swathes of the ecosystem.

The Lowdown (from jacket): In Thalia’s world, there is no more food and no need for food, as everyone takes medication to ward off hunger. Her parents both work for the company that developed the drugs society consumes to quell any food cravings, and they live a life of privilege as a result. When Thalia meets a boy who is part of an underground movement to bring food back, she realizes that there is an entire world outside her own.

Overall Impressions: Thalia and her family live inside a bubble of privilege,  one so well-constructed that Thalia and her friends have no inkling of the second-class that are starving beyond the walls of the city. Thalia rebels in small ways, but it’s only when her hunger pangs, ineffectively suppressed by her formulated Synthamil, drive her away from her “our medicine will cure anything” parents that she really cracks the carefully constructed facade of corporation-created perfection.

She does have emotional support in the form of her more traditional (pre-Synthamil) grandparents and a friend, who’s also a little deeper than she appears. After discovering the attractive Basil with (essentially) a magic box of delicious smells, Thalia and Basil venture outside the walls and quickly careen from anarchist protests groups to angry riots to opportunistic scavenger – and finally a commune that is far less idyllic than it first appears.

The Highs: I most enjoyed the world-building in creating a dystopia that had a very clear cause and cascading effects; many that I’ve read leave it to a sort of “ultimate war” or simply “previous events” that aren’t terrifically clear. The mega-corporation One World is an effectively intimidating Big Bad, one with Big Brother-esque control over most of the inner city and tendrils of power that catch our heroes by surprise.

The social construction is also food for thought (ahem) for teens thinking about current society – the more stark separation of inner and outer city residents was very plausible, when you look at how parts of American society are today, and how it could get much worse in times of crisis. (I would love to see this talked about in a book club, actually.)

Buzzkills:  “Privy” is short for privilege in this context – but is also an antique word for toilet, which is hard to ignore.

The ending doesn’t leave the reader with a great deal of solutions – clearly there’s a future trajectory (to be explored in later books?), but for now the heroes are very much still on their journey.

The Source: NetGalley

Many apologies for the late post!

Disclaimer: Neither chocolate nor Synthamil was provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Mars needs mercenaries with a heart of gold

Cover artwork for Invisible Sun Cover art for Black Hole SunTitle: Black Hole Sun, Invisible Sun, Shadow on the Sun

(Surprise, it’s the trilogy!)

Author: David Macinns Gill

Publisher & Release Date: Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins), 2010-2013

The Hook:  For me, the hook was Book Riot post on Tin Star readalikes, saying series was like Firefly. Two things I love? Sign me up!

The Lowdown (from jacket): “Mars stinks.

“The air reeks of burning fuel; the rivers and lakes seethe with sulfur. In the shadows, evil men plot terror and beasts hunt the innocent. Out on the barren crags of the terraformed planet, there is nowhere to hide. No one to heed a call for help.

“No one except Durango.”

Overall Impressions: Telling me something is like Firefly is like waving chocolate in my face, and when I checked the catalog and saw the first book was on the shelf at the library branch where I was working… Let’s just say I devoured the first book that night and immediately wanted the next book. And at 9:30 p.m. in a town that pretty much shuts down at 8 on weeknights, that meant ebooks – yay library ebooks!

I agree wholeheartedly that the series has a Firefly flavor – the feel of the society, former military protagonists who were on the losing side of a great war, the importance of made family, snappy banter and snarky commentary, living on the fringes. Also crazed cannibals. (Who have a diabolical queen.) But it’s not a slavish imitation. And it’s flat-out awesome. The first book opens with Durango, a 16-year-old disgraced soldier turned mercenary, high above Mars, preparing for a space jump to rescue two kidnapped children, and the action really never lets up. He and his partner Vienne assemble a crew to save a settlement of miners from cannibals, catch on to a bigger conspiracy, and spend the next two books getting in ever deeper. I think every time he’d try to catch a little sleep, someone would interrupt because they were under attack or they’d gotten some new bad news.

I just want to infodump his background:

Durango, once known as Jacob Stringfellow, the son of one of Mars’ wealthiest and most powerful men, carefully educated and trained to be a “prince of Mars.” But his dad’s push to take over the planet fails, and Durango (not in on that plan) has to survive in the aftermath. And a soft heart, as much as he tries to hide and/or ignore it. Good thing he’s quick-witted and has the advantage of Mimi, an AI flash-cloned in his brain, and the amazing Vienne.

Vienne, Durango’s second in command / partner, is thoroughly fantastic. Her strength of character, her all-around massive competence, her no-holds-barred driving, her disinclination to suffer fools… she’s just impressive. Loyal, but not blindly so.

And yes, Durango and Vienne do have some sizzling chemistry, which has no time to go anywhere in the first book. But Durango’s also got a giant streak of self-sacrifice and self-denial, and Vienne has her own angstly backstory. She just also has family who loves her.

Mimi, cloned from his former commander (also awesome, but dead, boo), helps run the augmented parts of his body and senses, and is extremely snarky. She’s his secret ace-in-the-hole, and utterly vital in the third book. I love her.

The story expands in scope in books two and three. Vienne bears the brunt of horrible things happening to her in the second, Durango in the third. Wonderful new characters do not all make it.

The Highs: Honestly, the whole trilogy was a rush. One I raced through in about two days. I loved pretty much every moment of it.

Buzzkills: The one thing I really would have liked from this book was opportunities for Vienne – Mimi interactions. Mimi was Vienne’s original crew chief as well, and Gill does an excellent job of showing how much she meant to both Durango and Vienne, and I wish there was a way for Vienne to have that connection with Mimi again. But since Mimi’s living inside Durango’s head….

I spent a fair amount of time trying to decide if this book passes the Bechdel Test, which the first one does in a minor way, but mostly off-stage. However, I attribute that to the narrative style rather than a lack of wonderful female characters. Durango is the primary narrator of the first book with occasional sections from the diabolical queen of the cannibals – who is gleefully, strategically advancing her plans. In the second book, it’s Durango and a new deranged villain. So we don’t really see a conversation without him present. In the third book, we finally get Vienne POV, and it definitely passes the Bechdel test.

I’m not that crazy about the cover art. I’ve included the original hardback cover art for the first book and the second book in the current style.

The Source: Public libraries.

Disclaimer: Neither chocolate nor an awesome AI was provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Antici….pation – June 2014

(And we are running a  week behind  this month. Apologies!)

Summer! Time to grab a blanket and some popsicles and read outside. Here’s a few of the titles coming out this month that we think sound intriguing. (Summaries are from Edelweiss.)

Title:  The Truth About Alice

Author: Jennifer Mathieu

Publisher & Release Date: Roaring Brook Press, June 3

The Hook: anybody.

“Rumor has it Alice Franklin is a slut. It’s written all over the “slut stall” in the girls’ bathroom: “Alice had sex in exchange for math test answers” and “Alice got an abortion last semester.” After Brandon dies, the rumors start to spiral out of control. In this remarkable debut novel, four Healy High students tell all they “know” about Alice–and in doing so reveal their own secrets and motivations, painting a raw look at the realities of teen life. But exactly what is the truth about Alice? In the end there’s only one person to ask: Alice herself.”

Title: Say What You Will

Author: Cammie McGovern

Publisher & Release Date: HarperTeen, June 3

The Hook: “Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can’t walk without a walker, talk without a voice box, or even fully control her facial expressions.

“Plagued by an obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matthew is consumed with repeated thoughts, obsessive rituals, and crippling fear.

“Both are in desperate need of a friend to help them reach out to the world. When Amy decides to hire student aides to help her at school, Amy and Matthew are thrust into each other’s lives. As they begin to spend time with each other, what started as a blossoming friendship eventually grows into something neither expected.”

Title: Fan Art

Author: Sarah Tregay, illustrated by Melissa DeJesus

Publisher & Release Date: Katherine Tegen Books, June 17

The Hook: “Senior year is almost over, and Jamie Peterson has a big problem. Not college—that’s all set. Not prom—he’ll find a date somehow. No, it’s the worst problem of all: he’s fallen for his best friend.

“As much as Jamie tries to keep it under wraps, everyone seems to know where his affections lie, and the giggling girls in art class are determined to help Jamie get together with Mason. But Jamie isn’t sure if that’s what he wants—because as much as Jamie would like to come clean to Mason, what if the truth ruins everything? What if there are no more road trips, taco dinners, or movie nights? Does he dare risk a childhood friendship for romance?”

Title: Otherbound

Author: Corinne Duyvis

Publisher & Release Date: Amulet Books, June 17

The Hook: “Nolan doesn’t see darkness when he closes his eyes. Instead, he’s transported into the mind of Amara, a girl living in a different world. Nolan’s life in his small Arizona town is full of history tests, family tension, and laundry; his parents think he has epilepsy, judging from his frequent blackouts. Amara’s world is full of magic and danger–she’s a mute servant girl who’s tasked with protecting a renegade princess. Nolan is only an observer in Amara’s world–until he learns to control her. At first, Amara is terrified. Then, she’s furious. But to keep the princess–and themselves–alive, they’ll have to work together and discover the truth behind their connection.”Cover art for four books

 

This post is full of lies

Title: We Were Liars

Author: E. LockhartCover art for We Were Liars

Publisher & Release Date: Delacorte, May 2014

The Hook: Something happened two summers ago, something Cady doesn’t remember.

The Lowdown (from jacket):A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

Overall Impressions:  “Wow.”

Emily and Julie both read this one and it left us feeling shell-shocked.

We shall now attempt to describe the book without actually telling you anything. We may have already told you everything you need to know, in which case, we simply recommend you read this book. Then make your friends and co-workers read it so you can discuss it with them. You will want to.

“We Were Liars” is a powerful, well-crafted tale about the effects of privilege, an illustration of why having money does not exempt people from human misery. It’s one generation looking at another, falling in line or standing firm. It’s passionate, romantic love clashing with family ties, threaded through with fairy tales. Love can build. It can also destroy. It glosses over ugliness and holds up mirrors.

Once upon a time, a man married, grew rich and had three daughters. The daughters grew, beautiful and special, and they married and had children…

The Highs-

Emily: “I love an unreliable narrator because I love the mind-warping. I love not knowing what you’re getting into.”

Julie: Gorgeous, compact writing. I loved the structure of the book, the patterns, sinking into it, the stories Cady writes as she tries to remember. It stands up just as well on second reading.

Both: Strong, full characters. The family dynamics and how they twist around the four groups. How you’re left wanting more, wondering about the characters’ futures, and yet the story feels complete.

The island so isolated, the family so insulated. Emily noted a similarity to a micro-dystopia.

The cover art and how it looks not quite real; summer but dreamy, foggy, out of focus. Perfect.

Buzzkills: We did differ somewhat on how we felt about the layout of the writing. Some parts looked similar to free verse, which Julie liked and Emily does not generally care for.

The Source: Galleys provided by publisher at an ABA event.

Disclaimer: Neither chocolate nor a private island was provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Country brother, city brother

Title: Steering Toward Normalsteering

Author: Rebecca Petruck

Publisher & Release Date: Amulet Books, May 13

The Hook: Honestly, the cover sucked me in right from the start – and it actually gives a great snapshot of the family tensions inside: two half-brothers who aren’t necessarily loving the new situation, but still with a little cheeky humor.

The Lowdown (from jacket): “Eighth grade is set to be a good year for Diggy Lawson: He’s chosen a great calf to compete at the Minnesota State Fair, he’ll see a lot of July, the girl he secretly likes at 4-H, and he and his dad Pop have big plans for April Fool’s Day. But everything changes when classmate Wayne Graf’s mother dies, which brings to light the secret that Pop is Wayne’s father, too. Suddenly, Diggy has a half brother, who moves in and messes up his life. Wayne threatens Diggy’s chances at the State Fair, horns in on his girl, and rattles his easy relationship with Pop. What started out great quickly turns into the worst year ever, filled with jealousy, fighting, and several incidents involving cow poop. But as the boys care for their steers, pull pranks, and watch too many B movies, they learn what it means to be brothers and change their concept of family as they slowly steer toward a new kind of normal.”

Overall Impressions: The boys have parallel abandonment issues: Diggy’s mother left him as an infant on Pop’s doorstep and then left town on a tractor, the ignominious mode of travel just salting the wound; and Wayne has lost both his mother and then very shortly after the man that he thought was his father, who in an alcoholic rage also dropped Wayne on Pop’s doorstep. Wayne’s obsession with Diggy’s mom, who’s never returned or contact her son, is a constant sore spot between the two of them – neither boy truly understanding why the other feels like they do. There’s a blowup at the end that makes things clearer, but Petruck does a great job of showing how time and perseverance is the biggest factor in healing tempers and family problems. Nearly a year passes as the boys and their respective families fight, find common ground, and deal with life as it comes.

The Highs: Petruck does an excellent job of creating a believable set of characters with very human problems and setbacks. The inclusion of the steer raising details and even rocket-building were interesting without being an info dump; it tied everything together really well in building the relationship – and tension – between Diggy and Wayne. Diggy gets to be the knowledgeable one in teaching the less farm-savvy Wayne, but when Wayne starts to succeed on his own (and attract July’s attention) Diggy starts having second thoughts. Their final competition, and Diggy’s crush on July, were resolved in a way that made total sense – not quite a happy ending, but one that will leave readers happy and rooting for them in the future. 

Buzzkills: By the end, I still was concerned about the level of rage that Mr. Graf exhibited even when he was sober. He finished on better terms with Wayne and his in-laws, but I kept thinking that Pop should be making regular visits to the Graf house to make sure that his son is safe. There was a lot of story on the parents’ side that we didn’t see much of, though, so maybe it’s implied that he went to some sort of counseling.

The Source: Galley from publisher.

Disclaimer: Neither chocolate nor hay was provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Fallen from space

Cover art for These Broken StarsTitle: These Broken Stars

Author: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Publisher & Release Date: Hyperian, December 2013

The Hook: Richest girl in the galaxy and a decorated soldier have to find a way to survive when their escape pod crash lands on a deserted planet. (Also a cover with a ridiculously gorgeous dress.)

The Lowdown (from jacket): “It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

“Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help. Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

“Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.”

Overall Impressions:  Titanic meets wilderness survival with a long-hidden secret buried underneath it all. (Or to put it another way, Titanic plus Shards of Honor plus Firefly. Want to read it yet?)

For me, this book took off when the ship went down. Lilac and Tarver’s introduction and initial meeting onboard felt believable but familiar – attraction, conscious and then reactionary rejection because Important Reasons – but once they’re on the planet, they only have each other. And it’s kind of hard to put on a shell to hide yourself when all your energy is on survival. The description as they trek from the downed, damaged pod to the site of the fallen ship and slowly realize that the planet has no human inhabitants and no one else escaped the Icarus sucked me into the story. They face the mounting terror of first Lilac and later Tarver hearing whispers they can’t quite make out. And then they start seeing people, people who died and people who can’t possibly be on the planet.

Spooner and Kaufman tell the story in alternating chapters between Lilac and Tarver, interspersed with short chunks of Tarver being interviewed/interrogated by rescuers. The latter are dialog-only and become increasingly intimidating.

I love that both characters contribute to their survival and figuring out what to do as it increasingly looks as if rescue will not be coming. The relationship between the two becomes frighteningly intense.

The secret I did not expect and definitely didn’t anticipate some of the effects of its discovery.

The Highs: The reserves Lilac finds when Tarver is injured and his wound gets infected, leaving him delirious.

Great creepiness factor with the whispers and hallucinations/mirages – I had to quit reading at one point because it was late and no one else was home!

The description of the Icarus falling. (And really, naming a ship Icarus? Just asking for trouble.)

World-building. Both the beautiful, empty planet with its secret, and the central worlds – terraformed colonies power and resources imbalance, which will no doubt be explored in further books.

Tarver’s voice during the interrogation.

Buzzkills:  I found the relationship between Lilac and her father rather baffling. Does he love her? Does he have dreams for her? He’s obviously very protective in terms of what he considers appropriate exposure. Is it a possession-type of love? I expect that will get explored more in books two and three.

Really, Lilac and Tarver are so intense, so very front and center, very few other characters made much of an impression.

Pro and con – Did I mention this is not a stand-alone?

The Source: Public library.

Disclaimer: Neither chocolate nor a galactic cruise was provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Antici….pation May 2014

Confession: Julie just wants to plaster “We Were Liars” all over this post because of her deep love for E. Lockhart’s books. But believe it or not, other awesome-sounding books come out this month as well! (In fact, several come out tomorrow.) So here’s a select handful of books we’re looking forward to this month…

As usual, publication dates and summaries are courtesy of Edelweiss.

Title: A Time to Dance Cover artwork for A Time to Dance

Author: Padma Venkatraman

Publisher & Release Date: Nancy Paulsen Books, May 1

The Hook: “Veda lives for dance, so her dreams are shattered when she’s injured in an accident. For a girl who’s used to receiving applause for her dance prowess and flexibility, adjusting to a prosthetic leg is humbling. But Veda refuses to give up her dreams, and she starts over with the youngest dancers. Then she meets Govinda, a young man who approaches dance as a spiritual pursuit. As their relationship deepens, Veda rediscovers the world around her, allowing herself time for friendship and romance. She begins to discover who she is, what dance truly means to her, and to see herself and the world with compassion.”

Cover artwork from A Creature of MoonlightTitle: A Creature of Moonlight

Author: Rebecca Hahn

Publisher & Release Date: HMH Books for Young Readers, May 6

The Hook: “As the only heir to the throne, Marni should have been surrounded by wealth and privilege, not living in exile-but now the time has come when she must choose between claiming her birthright as princess of a realm whose king wants her dead, and life with the father she has never known: a wild dragon who is sending his magical woods to capture her.”

Title: Since You’ve Been Gone

Cover artwork for Since You've Been GoneAuthor: Morgan Matson

Publisher & Release Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, May 6

The Hook: “Before Sloane, Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, and she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—someone who yanks you out of your shell.

But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list with thirteen bizarre tasks that Emily would never try. But what if they can lead her to Sloane?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Wait…what?

Getting through Sloane’s list will mean a lot of firsts, and with a whole summer ahead of her—and with the unexpected help of the handsome Frank Porter—who knows what she’ll find.

Go Skinny Dipping? Um… ”

Title: We Were Liars Cover artwork for We Were Liars

Author: E. Lockhart

Publisher & Release Date: Delacorte Press, May 13

The Hook: “A beautiful and distinguished family.

“A private island.

“A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.

“A group of four friends-the Liars-whose friendship turns destructive.

“A revolution. An accident. A secret.

“Lies upon lies.

“True love.

“The truth.

“We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

“Read it.

“And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.”

All’s unfair in love and war

Title: The Ring and The CrownCover

Author: Melissa de la Cruz

Publisher & Release Date: Hyperion, April 1

The Hook: Four girl lives’ collide in a lavish and magical London Season, with hearts and entire kingdoms in peril.

The Lowdown (from jacket): “Once they were inseparable, just two little girls playing games in a formidable castle. Now Princess Marie-Victoria, heir to the mightiest empire in the world, and Aelwyn Myrddyn, a bastard mage, face vastly different futures.

Quiet and gentle, Marie has never lived up to the ambitions of her mother, Queen Eleanor the Second. With the help of her Merlin, Eleanor has maintained a stranglehold on the world’s only source of magic. While the enchanters faithfully serve the crown, the sun will never set on the Franco-British Empire.

As the annual London Season begins, the great and noble families across the globe flaunt their wealth and magic at parties, teas, and, of course, the lavish Bal du Drap d’Or, the Ball of the Gold Cloth.

But the talk of the season is Ronan Astor, a social-climbing American with only her dazzling beauty to recommend her. Ronan is determined to make a good match to save her family’s position. But when she falls for a handsome rogue on the voyage over, her lofty plans are imperiled by her desires.

Meanwhile, Isabelle of Orleans, daughter of the displaced French royal family, finds herself cast aside by Leopold, heir to the Prussian crown, in favor of a political marriage to Marie-Victoria. Isabelle arrives in the city bent on reclaiming what is hers. But Marie doesn’t even want Leopold-she has lost her heart to a boy the future queen would never be allowed to marry.

When Marie comes to Aelwyn, desperate to escape a life without love, the girls form a perilous plan that endangers not only the entire kingdom but the fate of the monarchy.”

Overall Impressions: The combination of what was essentially a Regency romance (minus the Regent) with dark fantasy and political intrigue was a pull for me – I love both of those genres, and was eager to see where de la Cruz would take it. From the jacket flap and the snippet on the back of the book, I was expecting a serious narrative with magic, mystery and romance. Apart from a few snippets about Avalon and Merlin, there wasn’t much magic to be seen, though. About halfway through, the romantic pairings were pretty obvious and I was ready to enjoy a fluffy romance set in magical world instead. Then with about 30 pages left to go, the narrative took a huge turn into unexpected deaths and plots.

The Highs: De la Cruz spent most of her time on the characters, their lives and romances, so characterization was very well done and believable. The strength of their personalities and individual dreams carried the story beautifully… until about 30 pages from the end.

Buzzkills:

This felt like a mishmash. The major dynamic should have been between princess Marie and her mage friend Aelwyn; there was plenty to explore there, from their childhood together, to Marie’s curious health problems, to Merlin’s reasons for calling Aelwyn home and her own goals as a magician, not to mention the apparently minor issues of hostile rebel forces, systemic poverty across most of England, and the competing forces of magic and industrialization. However, much of the narrative veered away into the life and trials of Ronan (and to a lesser extent, Isabelle), which while an interesting read were not, in fact, that important to the eventual plot.

This had potential as a great magical world – the conflict between the wild magic of Avalon and the strictly controlled British mages, the lockdown on magic outside the official magicians, Aelwyn’s ability to take souls and transform people, the secret of Pandora’s box – there was some great foundation laid. And then buried under first a fluffy romance setup and then a  furious whirlwind of political plotting that was hastily resolved and ruined everyone’s lives. I’m not a believer that every book should have a happy ending, but wow.

All of the evil in this book came from men. Liars, cheats, sorcerers and molesters, most of them. Even the most annoying of the women were merely victims of circumstance. As a feminist, this bothers me.

Now that I’ve finished, the title made some sense; but it really wasn’t what this book was about at all, barring the last chapter.

The Source: Galley from a PLA conference

Disclaimer: Neither chocolate nor moonstones were provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.