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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Feminist Reads Challenge April Reviews, Updates, & Giveaway

I've been a very bad host & didn't put up a challenge post for March (sorry!), so those of you who reviewed books in March, be sure to link them on this post along with your April reads!

I hope everyone is still going strong and reading books for the challenge despite how hectic spring can be, though, if you've fallen a bit behind, I'm definitely not one to judge! 

Below, you'll find April's giveaway, a finished copy of Kristin Cashore's Fire, and a Mr. Linky to link all your March & April book reviews and updates!

Happy Spring!

Dial Books

It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.
This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.
Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there's more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.
If only she weren't afraid of becoming the monster her father was.

Interested in reading this amazing fantasy novel featuring a strong, feminist main character? Follow the directions below! 

To be eligible, all you have to do is leave me a link on the Mr. Linky to one of these two things: 
Your review of a book you've read for the Feminist Reads Challenge. The review can be posted on your blog, Goodreads, or wherever. (If you've written more than one reviews, link each separately and you'll get an entry for each!)
If you aren't a blogger, or are super busy like me and haven't don't always have time to write reviews in a timely manner, you can leave a link to a tweet, Goodreads status, or something in which you talk about and promote whatever you've been reading/have read for the challenge or promote the challenge. If you're tweeting and can fit it in, don't forget to use #FeministReadsChallenge
For a bonus entry leave a comment on this post talking more about what you've read, plan to read, have read and are considering rereading, like about the challenge, dislike about the challenge, suggestions etc, etc. Comments brighten my day! (I'll add in these entries later before I pick a winner!)

If you want to win this book, but haven't signed up for the challenge, NEVER FEAR! There's still plenty of time to sign up... the year is young! Go here for more information regarding the challenge!

Top Ten Tuesday: Words/Phrases That Will Make Me Pick Up or Buy a Book

This week's topic focuses on words or phrases that compel me to pick up a book, regardless of whether I know anything else about it!

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the fabulous blog The Broke and the Bookish!

1. Assassins

I'm not sure why I have such an obsession with assassins, but I have ever since reading David Eddings' Belgariad and Mallorean in junior high. Now, if I see any mention of assassins on a book, it will move to the top of my reading list, no matter what I'm supposed to read next!

2. Thieves

Along the same lines, I love books about thieves. I wish I knew why I loved them so much... maybe the danger. Not sure, but seeing this word in reference to a specific book makes it a must-read.

3. Spies

I think my love of spies is partially due to the fact that two of my favorite television shows are Alias and Nikita. Plus, spies often seem to lead complicated double lives and fall in love with people they shouldn't, two things I love to read about!

4. Historic Europe

I love books set in Europe, especially historical novels! For some reason, I took a lot of European History classes in school, rather than US History, and have been interested in Europe ever since.

5. Autism

My cousin is autistic, which I think is one of the main reasons I've found myself so interested in books featuring characters with forms of Autism. I love these books not only spread awareness, they give a voice to characters (and, therefore, people) that might otherwise not have one.

6. Retellings

I adore retellings of all types. Fairytale retellings are always fun, but I'm really starting to love the retellings of classics that keep popping up!

7. Zombies

I never thought I would, but I love zombie books! There are so many different takes on zombies, even just within the YA genre, and I want to read them all.

8. Prophecies

Books featuring a prophecy have always been interesting to me. I love that, although something has been foretold to happen, there is room for decisions and personal will along the way. I like to see how these two forces interact.

9. Dual POV

I've read quite a few novels that have dual POV and have enjoyed many of them, plus I like having multiple narrators. Sometimes, I simply won't like one, so there is another to favor, other times, having two gives depth to both, making them both more compelling characters.

10. Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic

I'm definitely still a fan of this sub-genre... in fact, I'm not really sure I ever won't be!

Review: City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster

An exotic treat set in an entirely original, fantastical world brimming with deadly mystery, forbidden romance, and heart-stopping adventure.

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.

Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life.

Though it's still early in the year, I feel that I can confidently say Miriam Forster's City of a Thousand Dolls will end up on my Best of 2013 List in December. The world, the characters, the mystery, and the romance within this novel's pages mark it as a stellar debut and a memorable fantasy novel.

One of the first things that drew me to Forster's debut was the similarities to Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series for adults. Carey's books are definitely for an older audience (as they feature lots of adult content), but Forster's world has some similarities: an isolated estate where girls are apprenticed, taught, and eventually sold based on their skills, looks, etc. and a handsome and tempting boy from outside the walls. I've loved Carey's books for years (having read the first book, Kushiel's Dart, in seventh grade, when I was, in retrospect, probably much too young!) and have always wished there was something similar that was more appropriate for slightly younger readers and/or readers that would rather skip the sex as power but keep the romance. City of a Thousand Dolls is that book I often wished for... and it has far exceeded what I had hoped for. 

Since this is a YA title, not adult, the sex and sexual power that motivates Carey's novel is absent and the girls are apprenticed as more than courtesans; girls are also taught to be musicians, healers, and assassins. I really enjoyed the diversity of the houses and having Nisha as a main character, a character free of the limitations of belonging to one specific house, which added an interesting dimension to the novel.

Though the romantic plot line is often a secondary concern next to the mystery elements of City of a Thousand Dolls, it ended up being one of my favorite aspects of the novel. Though I wasn't entirely sure how every detail would fall into place, I had my suspicions regarding Nisha's love life and would have been miffed to find my guesses were wrong, but, thankfully, Forster was headed the direction I'd hoped. And, she managed to successfully resolve questions in a rather small number of pages (as these questions are answered near the very end of the book) - no small feat! I'm rather anxious to get my hands on book two and see more of Nisha and her boy!

City of a Thousand Dolls is a must read for fantasy fans. The world building is wonderful and doesn't bog down the story's pace, the main character is fantastic, the mystery compelling, and the romance is absolutely lovely. I highly recommend Forster's debut!

HarperTeen, February 2013, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780062121301, 359 pgs.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Review: Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill

On a bleak February day in 1963 a young American poet died by her own hand, and passed into a myth that has since imprinted itself on the hearts and minds of millions. She was and is Sylvia Plath and Your Own, Sylvia is a portrait of her life, told in poems.

With photos and an extensive list of facts and sources to round out the reading experience, Your Own, Sylvia is a great curriculum companion to Plath's The Bell Jar and Ariel, a welcoming introduction for newcomers, and an unflinching valentine for the devoted.

Sylvia Plath is an enigma that I've spent a (probably) unhealthy amount of time trying to understand. Like many women and teens who've read her work, I feel a strong sense of kinship to Plath that fuels my curiosity, and I found Stephanie Hemphill's Your Own, Sylvia to be a welcome and engaging read which offered both interesting information and the emotion of poetry.

It surprised me how much I learned while reading Your Own, Sylvia. Many of the poems mimic poems written by Plath in style or form and were informed by the reports or writings of those who knew her. It's clear that the poems are fictional accounts created by Hemphill, but, for me, each had a clear ring of truth and feasibility. It's clear Hemphill spent much time researching Plath and those in her life before composing the poems that make up the novel. Some of them are better than others, that is, some felt more aesthetically pleasing, but they all contributed in an important way to the overall narrative. 

After each poem, Hemphill added factual information or a short explanation of the poem. Given the personal nature of the poetry, the information included often had a personal tone as well. I never felt that I was being force fed dry bits of factual information, rather, each fact gave additional depth and meaning to Hemphill's poems and created a more vivid portrait of Plath.

I highly recommend Your Own, Sylvia to readers with a particular interest in Plath, as well as those who generally enjoy poetry and verse novels. Hemphill's novel is unique in that it focuses on a real person and weaves facts into the verse novel format, offering readers something new and notable. I'm looking forward to Hemphill's upcoming verse portrait, Hideous Love: The Story of the Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein. This novel, which focuses on author Mary Shelley, is scheduled for an October 2013 release.

Random House, December 2008, Paperback, ISBN:  9780375837999, 272 pgs.

Review: Mila 2.0 by Deb Driza

Mila 2.0 is the first book in an electrifying sci-fi thriller series about a teenage girl who discovers that she is an experiment in artificial intelligence.

Mila was never meant to learn the truth about her identity. She was a girl living with her mother in a small Minnesota town. She was supposed to forget her past—that she was built in a secret computer science lab and programmed to do things real people would never do.

Now she has no choice but to run—from the dangerous operatives who want her terminated because she knows too much and from a mysterious group that wants to capture her alive and unlock her advanced technology. However, what Mila’s becoming is beyond anyone’s imagination, including her own, and it just might save her life.

Mila 2.0 is Debra Driza’s bold debut and the first book in a Bourne Identity-style trilogy that combines heart-pounding action with a riveting exploration of what it really means to be human. Fans of I Am Number Four will love Mila for who she is and what she longs to be—and a cliffhanger ending will leave them breathlessly awaiting the sequel.

I have so much love for Deb Driza's debut, Mila 2.0! Not only did I find it impossible to put down, I've found it impossible to forget. 

The novel follows Mila, a girl who thinks she's normal, but finds out she's technically not even  human... at least, not in the traditional sense. Mila is an android: she was created in a lab and looks human, but is, in fact, a robot. And she had absolutely no idea. The woman she calls mom isn't her mother, her past is not her past, and her future is completely unknown.

For me, one of the most compelling aspects of this book is the question of whether Mila is "human." Furthermore, what makes us human? Where is the line between human and technology that mimics human traits... and is there a line that shouldn't be crossed? What happens if it is crossed? All of these questions are, of course, complicated, and Driza doesn't answer that question for readers in Mila 2.0, but she creates an interesting situation in which to consider them. I'm curious to see how these questions (and the possible answers) will evolve in upcoming installments.

I also enjoyed how "human" Driza made Mila. I've read other android novels in which the characters were difficult to connect to, but I quickly formed a bond with Mila and often forgot she wasn't a normal teenage girl. I preferred this portrayal to the others I had read, plus it strengthened the complexity of the situation. If Mila had seemed more like a robot, I don't think the questions posed earlier would have had the same weight as I considered them.

Mila 2.0 is a strong debut from Driza and I cannot wait to see what the next Mila novel offers. Driza is an author I'll happily add to my must-buy list!

Katherine Tegen Books, March 2013, Hardcover, ISBN:  9780062090362, 480 pgs.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Exclusive Artwork Reveal: Flimsham from The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle

The second League of Princes book, which follows The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, will be hitting shelves soon! But I have a special sneak peek for fans: an exclusive artwork reveal featuring the character Stanislav Flimsham! You'll find the reveal and information about Flimsham below, as well as a chance to win a framed print of the illustration (signed by the illustrator Todd Harris!) and a copy of the new book, The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle!


The Flimsham Brothers Circus was founded generations ago by Jacques and Dmitri Flimsham, twin boys who entertained houseguests by making their younger brother, Rufus, jump through a hoop with a ball balanced on his nose—and tossing him a small fish afterward as a reward. As word spread, the Flimshams added more acts and began charging admission. They built themselves some homemade stilts, brought in a neighborhood girl who could climb tall lamps, and even trained the tiny fishes to jump into Rufus’s mouth on their own. Eventually, this bit of weekend entertainment turned into a full-fledged traveling circus.

But it didn’t became a huge hit until years later, when the circus was under the management of the slick and stylish Stanislav Flimsham, who also served as ringmaster. It was Stanislav’s love of sparkle and dazzle (or “sparzle,” as he put it), combined with his knack for finding truly unusual acts (like his famous jousting chickens or El Stripo, the tiger that spat human babies into the audience), that made the Flimsham Brothers’s show the most renowned circus in the Thirteen Kingdoms.

Children all over would gather along the roadside to watch the circus caravan roll by: twenty glittering, rainbow-colored wagons driven by burly, heavily sequined men. The kids would keep their eyes trained on the passing windows, hoping for a glimpse of a shimmery top hat, a bouncy clown wig, or a flickering striped tail. Duncan had giddily done so several times in his own youth.

About the Book

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You remember them, don't you? They're the Princes Charming who finally got some credit after they stepped out of the shadows of their princesses - Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Briar Rose - to defeat an evil witch bent on destroying all their kingdoms.
But alas, such fame and recognition only last so long. And when the princes discover that an object of great power might fall into any number of wrong hands, they are going to have to once again band together to stop it from happening - even if no one will ever know it was they who did it.
Christopher Healy, author of the acclaimed The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, takes us back to the hilariously fractured fairy-tale world he created for another tale of medieval mischief. Magical gemstones, bladejaw eels, a mysterious Gray Phantom, and two maniacal warlords bent on world domination - it's all in a day's work for the League of Princes.

The Giveaway

Artwork Copyright © 2013 by Todd Harris - Text Copyright © 2013 by Christopher Healy

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Creating the Cover for The Key and the Flame by Claire M. Caterer + A giveaway!

Thanks to Sara for hosting me today here on The Hiding Spot! She asked me to talk about one of the most fun parts of the publishing journey: the creation of the cover. Today, freelance artist Karl Kwasny is here to talk with me about how he created this gorgeous image.

Don't forget to enter win a signed copy of The Key and the Flame at the end of this post!

Karl, I’m in awe of people who can so completely capture a mood in a single image. I was thrilled when Art Director Michael McCartney at Simon & Schuster commissioned you to create my cover! How does that come about?
I think it has a lot to do with developing good working relationships with art directors. I'm not sure exactly how Michael found me, but if you do good work and are pleasant to work with, word seems to get around.
When my editor asked if I had ideas about the cover concept, I was flummoxed. Uhhhh ... something to do with trees? Some kids?  How do you approach a project like this, Karl?
It depends on the project. Often, art directors will prefer to leave the brief quite open so the artist can develop his own ideas of what the cover should look like. Other times, as with this cover, the brief is a little bit tighter. Neither approach is necessarily better than the other, and having a tighter brief generally makes the process a little easier. I usually submit a series of little thumbnail doodles in order to work out what direction I should be taking it in. Then I refine a single sketch, fix it up in Photoshop, print it out, tape it to the back of some watercolor paper, and start working on it.
What was the idea you were aiming to convey for this project?
The art director wanted the three kids to be standing around the portal, looking inside. My original version didn't have any of the lighting effects, and the portal itself contained a little glimpse of the fantasy world within. I didn't have a particular image in mind when working on it, but I wanted to convey a certain sense of amazement, I suppose. See here.
When I first saw the sketch, I almost couldn’t breathe. It sounds corny, but for the first time my work was starting to look like a real book. The lettering is beautiful, and I especially liked that Holly and Ben are exchanging looks while Everett gazes off at the castle. It was a perfect beginning.
This was a fun project without many snags. It took a little while to work out the ideal poses for the kids, I seem to remember. Aside from that, I don't recall any real challenges. See here.
After a few tweaks—making Ben a little chubbier, putting some glasses on Holly—Karl added the colors:
See here!
... and then the light! I saw the final image in March 2012:

Karl also created a spot illustration of Áedán, the Golden Salamander that Holly befriends in the story:

He even added his marvelous typography to the title page of the book:

and the spine:

The finished cover conveyed the perfect mix of magic and mystery that I wanted for The Key & the Flame. And best of all, it’s an image that compels readers to open the book! Karl, what are you working on now? And where can we see more of your fantastic illustrations?
I've got several covers in the works at the moment, and am working on ten interior illustrations for a middle-grade book. You can find my work at or I'm planning to do a big overhaul of my site this year once my workload calms down a little bit.

Thanks so much for talking to me, Karl, and my very heartfelt thanks to you, Michael McCartney, and everyone at Margaret K. McElderry who helped create such a lovely-looking package. In August 2013, look to see Karl’s work in Claire Legrand’s upcoming book for middle-grade readers, The Year of Shadows.

Win It!" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway

Claire is also gabbing via podcast with The Girls in the Stacks today. Head on over and listen in! Tomorrow, she shares with The Book Muncher what she’s learned about the publishing biz. Get the full blog tour schedule right here.
Find out more about Claire:
Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads / Amazon


All images copyright Karl Kwasny. Used with permission. Not to be reproduced or reused in any form without express permission from copyright holder.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Review: Hollow Earth by John Barrowman & Carole E. Barrowman

Imagination matters most in a world where art can keep monsters trapped—or set them free. Lots of twins have a special connection, but twelve-year-old Matt and Emily Calder can do way more than finish each other’s sentences. Together, they are able to bring art to life and enter paintings at will. Their extraordinary abilities are highly sought after, particularly by a secret group who want to access the terrors called Hollow Earth. All the demons, devils, and evil creatures ever imagined are trapped for eternity in the world of Hollow Earth—trapped unless special powers release them.
The twins flee from London to a remote island off the west coast of Scotland in hopes of escaping their pursuers and gaining the protection of their grandfather, who has powers of his own. But the villains will stop at nothing to find Hollow Earth and harness the powers within. With so much at stake, nowhere is safe—and survival might be a fantasy.

I picked up Hollow Earth because I loved the cover. Upon closer inspection, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it features twins... to be more exact, magic wielding twins who can manipulate artwork. I wasn't aware until after I'd read the novel (and absolutely adored it) that the half of the brother-sister author duo, John Barrowman, is well-known among Dr. Who and Torchwood fans from his role as Captain Jack Harkness. The remaining half of this writing team, Carole E. Barrowman, may also be familiar, as she has authored five other book with John before Hollow Earth

This book reminded me, in a very good way, of Lisa McMann's The Unwanteds. Both books focus on creativity and art as a means to combat dark forces and feature twins. Though the two books do have these themes in common, the execution and characters in Hollow Earth are unique... I never felt myself confusing details or characters and I wasn't left with the impression that I'd read the story before.

Hollow Earth is nearly 400 pages long, but is an extremely quick read. The action was non-stop and the details and explanations about the magical gift the twins share never bogged down the pace of the novel. 

The title of the novel refers to the place where the dark, evil creatures of the world are banished, a place that few can access. Among those that have the ability to open Hollow Earth are, of course, the twins, making them a target for those who would use their power for their own nefarious gain. The stakes are high for Matt and Emily Calder: they must learn how to control and use their powers for good before they're forced to use them for evil.

I highly recommend Hollow Earth to both MG and YA readers. It's a quick, satisfying read that left me anxious for book two, Bone Quill.

Aladdin, October 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780385741293, 381 pgs.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Fantastic Five: 2013 Sequels

Fantastic Five is a new-ish feature at The Hiding Spot! These posts will always feature five of something - whether it be forthcoming novels, favorite authors, books with a common theme, or newly released covers. 

Sky on Fire by Emmy Laybourne (Monument 14 #2)
Feiwel & Friends/5.28.2013 

The world hasn't ended...yet.

In this sequel to MONUMENT 14, the group of survivors, originally trapped together in a superstore by a series of escalating disasters, has split in two. Most of the kids are making a desperate run on their recently repaired school bus for the Denver airport where they hope to reunite with their parents, be evacuated to safety, and save their dying friend. 

But the world outside is dark and filled with dangerous chemicals that turn people into bloodthirsty monsters, and not all the kids were willing to get on the bus. Left behind in a sanctuary that has already been disturbed once, the remaining kids try to rebuild the community they lost. But when the issues are life and death, love and hate, who can you really trust?
A Darkness Strange and Lovely by Susan Dennard
Following an all-out battle with the walking Dead, the Spirit Hunters have fled Philadelphia, leaving Eleanor alone to cope with the devastating aftermath. But there’s more trouble ahead—the evil necromancer Marcus has returned, and his diabolical advances have Eleanor escaping to Paris to seek the help of Joseph, Jie, and the infuriatingly handsome Daniel once again. When she arrives, however, she finds a whole new darkness lurking in this City of Light. As harrowing events unfold, Eleanor is forced to make a deadly decision that will mean life or death for everyone.

Unbreakable by Elizabeth Norris (Unraveling #2)
Balzer + Bray/4.23.13

Four months after Ben disappeared through the portal to his home universe, Janelle believes she’ll never see him again. Her world is still devastated, but life is finally starting to resume some kind of normalcy. Until Interverse Agent Taylor Barclay shows up. Somebody from an alternate universe is running a human trafficking ring, kidnapping people and selling them on different Earths—and Ben is the prime suspect. Now his family has been imprisoned and will be executed if Ben doesn’t turn himself over within five days.

And when Janelle learns that someone she cares about—someone from her own world—has become one of the missing, she knows that she has to help Barclay, regardless of the danger. Now Janelle has five days to track down the real culprit. Five days to locate the missing people before they’re lost forever. Five days to reunite with the boy who stole her heart. But as the clues begin to add up, Janelle realizes that she’s in way over her head—and that she may not have known Ben as well as she thought. Can she uncover the truth before everyone she cares about is killed?

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
Henry Holt & Company/6.4.13

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger
Little, Brown BFYR/11.5.13

Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests?

Sophronia's first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy (won't Mumsy be surprised?). Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners.

Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers' quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship's boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a school trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot--one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.

In this sequel to bestselling author Gail Carriger's YA debut Etiquette & Espionage, class is back in session with more petticoats and poison, tea trays and treason. Gail's distinctive voice, signature humor, and lush steampunk setting are sure to be the height of fashion this season

There are so many great sequels releasing in the upcoming weeks and months! What sequels and series continuations are you waiting for??

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Review: Foretold: 14 Stories of Prophecy and Prediction edited by Carrie Ryan

Have you ever been tempted to look into the future? To challenge predictions? To question fate? It's human nature to wonder about life's twists and turns. But is the future already written—or do you have the power to alter it?

From fantastical prophecies to predictions of how the future will transpire, Foretold is a collection of stories about our universal fascination with life's unknowns and of what is yet to come as interpreted by 14 of young adult fiction's brightest stars.

I've always been fascinated by the theme explored in Foretold: prophecy and prediction. I remember various instances throughout my childhood when my mother told me that, for better or worse, something was meant to be. Later, in middle school, I fell in love with the epic tale of a boy fulfilling a prophecy in David Eddings' The Belgariad. Then, in high school and college, I was intrigued by the idea of self-fulfilling prophecy I studied in my psychology course. So, when I picked up this collection of short stories, I was curious see what others would connect to the mysterious concepts.

In addition to my initial curiosity about the theme of this collection, I was interested in the concept of a collection of short stories. Though I'd glanced at them before, I'd never actually sat down and read a collection of short stories... or any short stories at all apart from those assigned in my literature seminars. I found it curious that many readers appeared to have purchased or read this collection specifically for Richelle Mead's short story, Homecoming, which centers around Rose and Dmitri the Vampire Academy books, which was worrisome to me because I never finished that series and hadn't picked one up in years. 

The anthology begins with Laini Taylor's Gentleman Send Phantoms, which I immediately adored. For me, that story set the tone for the entire collection. Whimsical with gorgeous imagery, this story set the tone as anything is possible. Each story had an entirely different feel and tone, yet they were all connected by thread extending from Taylor's story.

The anthology ends with the Richelle Mead story based in the world of the VA books. For me the story didn't shine as bright as it might have if I still read the VA books or had read them recently. I remember really loving Rose and her world, but the details were hazy and I didn't feel as invested in Rose and Dmitri's story after being away from it for so long. 

Unless you are a diehard fan of their story, I can't imagine buying an entire book and never reading the other stories. Because they are amazing. Even the ones that wasn't entirely captivated by were interesting. I have read full length books by many of the authors in this anthology, so I'm familiar with their writing, but I was blown away by what I read in Foretold. The style of each author was present, but shaped in a completely new way. 

I was particularly drawn to the stories that featured magic and fantasy than those that were more science fiction or realistic... Still there were a couple in the latter categories that ended up being favorites as well:

Laini Taylor Gentleman Send Phantoms
Malinda Lo One True Love
Heather Brewer Misery
Saundra Mitchell The Chosen One
Margie Stohl Death for the Deathless
Simone Elkeles Fate
Diana Peterfreund Burned Bright
Carrie Ryan The Killing Garden
Lisa McMann The Angriest Man

Many of the stories that ended up being on of my favorites felt very connected to other things I'd read by them, like the stories by Laini Taylor, Malinda Lo, Richelle Mead, and Michael Grant. Others, however, showed side of some of my favorite authors that I wasn't as familiar with, like Saundra Mitchell, Simone Elkeles, Diana Peterfreund, Carrie Ryan, and Lisa McMann, and I wanted more. Plus, I experienced some writers for the first time, like Matt de la Pena, Margie Stohl, Kami Garcia, and Heather Brewer.

Not only did I love the stories in this collection, I closed the covers with a hunger to read and reread a number of these authors. It felt like a nice little snack to help decide what I wanted for my main course: whatever full length novel I chose to read next, perhaps by one of the authors in this wonderfully imagined collection. 

Delacorte BFYR, August 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780385741293, 368 pgs.

      Foretold: 14 Tales of Prophecy and Prediction


Monday, April 1, 2013

Review: The Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger

Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster has a secret. She’s a Telepath—someone who hears the thoughts of everyone around her. It’s a talent she’s never known how to explain.

Everything changes the day she meets Fitz, a mysterious boy who appears out of nowhere and also reads minds. She discovers there’s a place she does belong, and that staying with her family will place her in grave danger. In the blink of an eye, Sophie is forced to leave behind everything and start a new life in a place that is vastly different from anything she has ever known.

Sophie has new rules to learn and new skills to master, and not everyone is thrilled that she has come “home.” There are secrets buried deep in Sophie’s memory—secrets about who she really is and why she was hidden among humans—that other people desperately want. Would even kill for.

In this page-turning debut, Shannon Messenger creates a riveting story where one girl must figure out why she is the key to her brand-new world, before the wrong person finds the answer first.

I picked up Shannon Messenger's Keeper of the Lost Cities with high expectations. Not only had a heard very positive things about this specific novel, reviewers and readers seemed to extremely excited about her YA offering, Let the Sky Fall. I still haven't read Let the Sky Fall, but I really enjoyed this first installment of the Lost Cities books.

My favorite aspect of Keeper of the Lost Cities is the treatment of the characters. For the most part, the reader only knows as much about the characters as the main character, Sophie, who is naive due to both age and because much of her memory has been blocked by an unknown source. Sophie and, therefore, the reader, are never quite sure who can be trusted or what motivates the other characters in the novel. This novel is full of secrets, some harmless and some dangerous, but it's hard to determine which are which.

I also adored the entire concept of the "lost" cities, like Atlantis. In Keeper of the Lost Cities the places and beings that are considered fantastical myths by humans are actually real and kept hidden from prying humans. In this first book readers only get fleeting glimpses at these places, but I'm hopeful more in-depth exploration will occur in future installments. 

Though, for the most part, I liked Keeper of the Lost Cities, I did take issue with a few elements, especially those that seemed a bit too similar to the world of Harry Potter. I'm not saying that I have a huge problem with Messenger drawing inspiration from another fictional world - there weren't any exact parallels or anything like that, it was more the feel or spirit of the ideas - but I just didn't feel like some of things were executed well. For example, Sophie describes the food and medicine in these lost cities as candy-like and sweet. While these details were probably meant to be fun, I didn't feel that they were all that genuine or necessary. In fact, I found them quite distracting! Sometimes it just felt like the novel was trying too hard to be something else, when it would have been wonderful as itself!

I'm looking forward to the next book in this series, Exile, which is due out October 2013!

Aladdin, October 2012, Hardcover, ISBN:  9781442445932, 496 pages.

      Keeper of the Lost Cities (Keeper of the Lost Cities, #1)