Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Splintered by A.G. Howard

Alyssa Gardner is a decedent of Alice Liddell, the girl who inspired Lewis Carroll to write Alice in Wonderland, and all the women of her family have been cursed since Alice came back out of the rabbit hole. Alyssa is scared to succumb to the same crazy that has kept her mother living in an asylum for years, ever since she attacked Alyssa with a pair of pruning sheers.  Alyssa has reason to be scared, she can hear bugs and flowers talk, but she has kept this a secret from her father, and her best friend/secret crush Jeb.

Then, Alyssa's mother's health takes a turn for the worse and Alyssa decides that she is going to enter Wonderland, break the family curse, and save her mother.  But, once she's there, Alice isn't sure who to trust, and finds herself torn between two worlds.  Nothing in Wonderland apparently is as it's described in the books.

Howard's Wonderland is creepy, deadly, and beautifully described.  Alyssa is a likable character, torn between the mortal world she is known, and a desire to connect with the ethereal Wonderland.  Some of the creatures described in this book are outright gruesome, but there is always an underlying beauty about all of it, even the most horrific descriptions.  There is a touch of romance to this book, and its pretty heated for not being explicit.  I liked that this was a fantasy book, but that the character wasn't your normal fantasy heroine.  Alyssa is a sporty artist who loved to skateboard.

I really enjoyed this book, and kept reading the character descriptions out loud to my fiance.  I'm excited to get this book in at the library so I can start sharing it with the patrons.

I was allowed to borrow an ARC e-book of this title through netgalley.  I received no compensation, nor fun book related swag for my review.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cinders & Sapphires (At Somerton) by Leila Rasheed

Rose Cliffe has never met a young lady like her new mistress. Clever, rich, and beautiful, Ada Averly treats Rose as an equal. And Rose could use a friend-to the rest of the staff at Somerton Court she is the indulged favorite of the housekeeper, her mother. Especially now that she has risen to ladies' maid at barely sixteen. Rose knows she should be grateful to even have a place at a house like Somerton. Still, she can't help but wonder what her life might have been had she been born a lady like Ada. If she even had a father.

Ada never believed that one encounter could so completely alter a young lady's heart. That was before her voyage to England. For the first time in a decade, the Averlys have returned to Somerton, their majestic ancestral estate. But terrible scandal has followed Ada's beloved father all the way from India. Now Ada finds herself torn between her own happiness and her family's honor.  Only she has the power to restore the Averly name-by marrying a man more than twice her age. And ever since her voyage across the sea, she's loved someone else...someone she could never persuade her father to accept. 

I made it about a third of the way through this book, and I enjoyed the story well enough, but I came across the same problem I had with the Gossip Girl series, too many characters, not enough development, and not enough interest to keep going.  For awhile I pretended that the maid Rose was actually Moira from American Horror Story: Murder House, and that helped.  But, eventually I started reading again and they mentioned a character that I'd already been introduced to and I thought "who in the world is that???", didn't care to go back and find out, and promptly gave up reading.  I don't think the book was bad, I just lost interest.

This review is based on an e-ARC I was allowed to read.  I received no compensation or free swag for my review.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Sin-Eater's Confession by Ilsa J. Bick

I was very excited to be approved for this ARC.  I mean look at the cover of this book!  It's awesome, and that alone made me want to read it.  Then there's the description:

People in Merit, Wisconsin, always said Jimmy was . . . you know. But people said all sorts of stupid stuff. Nobody really knew anything. Nobody really knew Jimmy.
I guess you could say I knew Jimmy as well as anyone (which was not very well). I knew what scared him. And I knew he had dreams—even if I didn't understand them. Even if he nearly ruined my life to pursue them.
Jimmy's dead now, and I definitely know that better than anyone. I know about blood and bone and how bodies decompose. I know about shadows and stones and hatchets. I know what a last cry for help sounds like. I know what blood looks like on my own hands.

What I don't know is if I can trust my own eyes. I don't know who threw the stone. Who swung the hatchet? Who are the shadows? What do the living owe the dead?

Seriously, this book sounded amazing.  Then I started reading.  I know that this book is about a gay character, but honestly, this character was described as so over the top blindingly stereo-typically GAY! that I just could not deal with it.  Plus, the main character's voice was just meh.  The setting kind of threw me off, because it reads almost like a historical novel, but not quiet.  I honestly didn't make it very far through this book before my mind wandered and I just started thinking that I didn't care what had happened to any of the characters.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban

At the Irving School (a boarding school in New York) it is tradition that the parting seniors leave a treasure behind for the next person to inherit their room.  Duncan arrives on his first day of his senior year concerned with two things, what his treasure will be, and what is he going to do about the Tragedy Paper that each senior must write. Duncan inherits Tim Macbeth's room, and the treasure left behind will influence Duncan's paper in ways he never thought.

It's hard and also simple to describe what this book is really about.  It's a boarding school/mystery/coming of age type novel, but it's in many ways more complex than that.  The story is pretty straight forward, even though the description on Amazon focuses on Tim's story (which we learn about while Duncan listens through the Cd's Tim has left him), it isn't just about Tim.  It's about Duncan, and also how Duncan and Tim's interactions influence them both.

There is a mystery with this book.  We learn early on that Tim's Cd's will help Duncan out with his Tragedy Paper, but we don't know until the end exactly what the tragedy is.  Tim himself is a tragic character, an albino who by chance shares a flight with a fellow classmate, whom he promptly develops a crush on, only to find out she is currently dating the most popular buy in school even though she also seems to be into Tim.  Tim's voice is distinct, and not as self pitying as he could come across.  Some of the relationships in the book are a little superficial (especially Duncan's relationship with his girlfriend Daisy), but the characters are relatable.  After while, I had a hard time putting this book down, and I could not wait to get to the end to find out what happened.

This review is based on an e-ARC I obtained through Netgalley.  I earned no awesome free swag for reviewing this book.