Sunrise

Finished Sunrise by Mike Mullin.  I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“The Yellowstone supervolcano nearly wiped out the human race. Now, almost a year after the eruption, the survivors seem determined to finish the job. Communities wage war on each other, gangs of cannibals roam the countryside, and what little government survived the eruption has collapsed completely. The ham radio has gone silent. Sickness, cold, and starvation are the survivors’ constant companions.

When it becomes apparent that their home is no longer safe and adults are not facing the stark realities, Alex and Darla must create a community that can survive the ongoing disaster, an almost impossible task requiring even more guts and more smarts than ever — and unthinkable sacrifice. If they fail . . . they, their loved ones, and the few remaining survivors will perish.

This epic finale has the heart of Ashfall, the action of Ashen Winter, and a depth all its own, examining questions of responsibility and bravery, civilization and society, illuminated by the story of an unshakable love that transcends a post-apocalyptic world and even life itself.”

I absolutely loved this book and this series.  This book covers several years after the supervolcano at Yellowstone erupted, and things are not getting any better.

People are getting increasingly desperate to survive and people are beginning to band together more and more.  Sometimes that’s a good thing but generally not so much.

One of the most interesting things about end-of-the-world type books is that it tends to turn society on its head a little bit.  You know how now, money is so important and we judge people based on their job and office size?  In this world, money is absolutely worthless and the important jobs are the same ones that are mocked a little bit now.  Mechanical skills are the most important things ever, and many people don’t have them.

Also, since a lot of the things we take for granted aren’t around anymore, simple things become absolutely daunting.   (As an added bonus, even if you can find a car that works and enough space to drive it, any leftover gas has long since gone stale.)

I absolutely cannot wait to see what Mike Mullin does next.  Highly recommended.

 

House of Ivy & Sorrow

Finished House of Ivy & Sorrow by Natalie Whipple.  I received a copy from the publisher on Edelweiss.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Josephine Hemlock has spent the last 10 years hiding from the Curse that killed her mother. But when a mysterious man arrives at her ivy-covered, magic-fortified home, it’s clear her mother’s killer has finally come to destroy the rest of the Hemlock bloodline. Before Jo can even think about fighting back, she must figure out who she’s fighting in the first place. The more truth Jo uncovers, the deeper she falls into witchcraft darker than she ever imagined. Trapped and running out of time, she begins to wonder if the very Curse that killed her mother is the only way to save everyone she loves.”

Oh, you guys, this book.

I feel like in a lot of ways, witchcraft is becoming the latest trend in YA.  We’re not seeing so many vampires or werewolves and now it’s all witches and magic and whatnot.  But this book is a whole other thing.  Witchcraft isn’t fun or easy—spells demand a price, and generally it’s something awful (like losing a fingernail.  And you have to do it to yourself, which makes me cringe every time I think about it).

Natalie Whipple spends the first part of this book setting up the rules and parameters of this family and witchcraft and then the next part breaking them.  Almost everything we initially think is true turns out to be a lie.  That’s an interesting trick, but what’s an even better one is the fact that she makes it all make perfect sense in the context of the story.  That’s impressive and probably nearly impossible to do.

I love Jo so much, and I love her Nana and friends, too.  To Jo, her life is completely normal, even the fact that she can’t let anyone who isn’t her family into her life.  That’s got to be almost impossible for a teenage girl, because you know how your friends become your family and usually even more important than said family.  So Jo spends her life balancing a tightrope, trying to be a normal girl and at the same time, not being able to be more than, say, 75% typical.  (And that’s at best.)

There are definitely creepy aspects to the book (primarily the Curse and the person doing the Cursing) but it’s the best kind of creepy: enough to send a chill down your spine but nowhere near enough to steal sleep.

Unless you’re unlucky enough to start this close to bedtime, because you won’t want to stop reading until you’ve finished.

Highly recommended.

 

I Don’t Know What You Know Me From

Finished I Don’t Know What You Know Me From by Judy Greer.  I received a copy from the publisherIn case you legitimately don’t know what you know her from, click here.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Like Tina Fey, Chelsea Handler, and other (bestselling) co-stars, Judy Greer is taking pen to paper and in her honest, self-deprecating, and hilariously relatable way reminding us why she’s not America’s sweetheart but America’s best friend.

You know Judy Greer, right? Wait, what was she in again? The Wedding Planner, 13 Going on 30, 27 Dresses, The Descendants. Yes, you totally recognize her. And, odds are, if you’re like most women in America, you feel like she’s already your friend. Thankfully, Greer has finally written a book of essays about all the moments, topics, observations, and confessions that you would hope to hear from your best friend. How a midnight shopping trip to CVS can cure all? What it’s like to have stepchildren? And how she really feels about her mother? Yes, it’s all in there. But Judy Greer isn’t just a regular friend-she’s a celebrity friend. Want to know which celebs she’s peed next to? Or what the Oscars were actually like? Or which hot actor gave her father a Harley Davidson? Don’t worry—that’s included, too. Besides being laugh-out-loud funny, you’ll love her because she makes us genuinely feel like she’s one of us. Because even though she sometimes has a stylist and a make-up artist, she still wears (and hates!) Spanx. Because she starts her book like this: “This is who I am. This is what I think about things. This is stuff that happened to me, that could have just as easily have happened to you. I’m not that special, and we’re probably not that different. I think I am really lucky to be where I am in life, but I’ve never really lost that feeling that I don’t fit in, and if you have, will you please email me and tell me how you did it? I’m serious.“

If you watch movies or have a TV, you know who Judy Greer is (whether or not you know it).  TV-wise, she’s been on Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory and House, MD to name just a few.  In terms of movies, she’s been in 13 Going On 30, The Descendants and the remake of Carrie (again, this is a small sampling).

What you may not know is that she’s also a really funny person.  I laughed out loud reading this book so many times.  It’s sort of like a human version  of that US magazine feature about how stars are just like us.  Except Judy Greer really IS just like us.  (It’s not like how Jennifer Aniston is just like us except crazy rich and can get pretty much whatever she wants.)

There are three parts to this book: her childhood and college years, Hollywood and what I will call her real life.  I love movies so I liked the Hollywood part best, but the entire book was funny and smart and endearing.

I would’ve liked a few more set stories (especially from 13 Going on 30, which is one of my favorite movies) but that didn’t make me enjoy the book any less.

Highly recommended.

Rose and the Lost Princess

Finished Rose and the Lost Princess by Holly Webb.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The second spellbinding adventure with Rose… Turning the worn pages of her spell book, Rose can’t believe how much her life has changed. Once a poor orphan, and now an apprentice to the King’s chief magician! But when the country’s beloved Princess vanishes, everything changes. As rumours of dark magic fly through the city, the King asks Rose for help. She must find the missing Princess – before all is lost.

I absolutely love this charming series.

Rose is a fantastic heroine.  She’s clever and brave and so much more capable than she thinks she is.

This book is perfect for middlegrade readers.  It approaches creepiness but doesn’t get too scary (although to be fair, I’ve been told my scary meter is broken).

I love how plausible this book seems.  Obviously there’s no such thing as magic, but reading this, it seems so possible.  I also appreciate how quickly everyone turns on the magicians once there’s a chance that the princess was harmed, or could be harmed.  I think it’s very much human nature to find and attack a scapegoat.  (This aspect of the book would lend itself to discussions with children.)

Highly recommended.

Steal the North

Finished Steal the North by Heather Brittain Bergstrom.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A novel of love in all its forms: for the land, for family, and the once-in-a-lifetime kind that catches two people when they least expect it

Emmy is a shy, sheltered sixteen-year-old when her mom, Kate, sends her to eastern Washington to an aunt and uncle she never knew she had. Fifteen years earlier, Kate had
abandoned her sister, Beth, when she fled her painful past and their fundamentalist church. And now, Beth believes Emmy’s participation in a faith healing is her last hope for having a child.

Emmy goes reluctantly, but before long she knows she has come home. She feels tied to the rugged landscape of coulees and scablands. And she meets Reuben, the Native American boy next door.

In a part of the country where the age-old tensions of cowboys versus Indians still play out, theirs is the kind of magical, fraught love that can only survive with the passion and resilience of youth. Their story is mirrored by the generation before them, who fears that their mistakes are doomed to repeat themselves in Emmy and Reuben. With Louise Erdrich’s sense of place and a love story in the tradition of Water for Elephants, this is an atmospheric family drama in which the question of home is a spiritual one, in which getting over the past is the only hope for the future.”

Note to readers: this book has a slow pace.  This isn’t a bad thing.  It’s languid-slow, not  boring-slow, and it takes the book time to tell you its secrets.  Be patient; you’ll be amply rewarded.

I absolutely loved this story.  It’s told from different perspectives.  I loved Emmy’s chapters the most, but enjoyed hearing things from the other perspectives, too (especially Bethany’s and Reuben’s).

The characters in this book became friends and I rejoiced and suffered along with them.  And now I miss them.

I know the synopsis compares it to Louise Erdrich (which I can see, especially in Reuben’s chapters) and Water for Elephants, this book is completely itself and I can’t wait for this book to find its audience.  It’s a rare, beautiful thing.

Highly recommended.

Ask Me

ASK ME Blog Tour Banner

Finished Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Ask Aria Morse anything, and she must answer with the truth. Yet she rarely understands the cryptic words she‘s compelled to utter. Blessed—or cursed—with the power of an Oracle who cannot decipher her own predictions, she does her best to avoid anyone and everyone.

But Aria can no longer hide when Jade, one of the few girls at school who ever showed her any kindness, disappears. Any time Aria overhears a question about Jade, she inadvertently reveals something new, a clue or hint as to why Jade vanished. But like stray pieces from different puzzles, her words never present a clear picture.

Then there’s Alex, damaged and dangerous, but the first person other than Jade to stand up for her. And Will, who offers a bond that seems impossible for a girl who’s always been alone. Both were involved with Jade. Aria may be the only one who can find out what happened, but the closer she gets to solving the crime, the more she becomes a target. Not everyone wants the truth to come out.”

I absolutely loved the concept of this book—because who wouldn’t want to be an Oracle and know the future?

Turns out I wouldn’t.

Aria is the latest in a long line of Oracles.  If anyone asks a question around her—not even necessarily TO her but around her—she has to answer.  And the answer may not make sense.  (Sometimes she rhymes.)

Now imagine that’s your life and you’re a teenage girl.  Pretty awful, right?

So it’s not surprising that Aria keeps to herself and has an mp3 player going pretty much all the time.  (If you can’t hear the question, you don’t have to answer the question.)

But then there’s a murder in her town, and it’s one of her classmates.  No one knows who did it and there are a LOT of questions.

I absolutely loved this book.  It’s ridiculously fun and creepy in equal measure.

As an added bonus, I love the fact that Aria’s “super power” for lack of a better word isn’t really all that helpful.  Her inner Oracle knows everything, but generally will answer questions in a less than straightforward way.  So if you were to say, “Aria, do you know who the killer is?” you would get this really weird and creepy reply, but you wouldn’t get, “Yes.  The killer is [redacted].”

Recommended.

A Whisper in Time Release Day Blitz

Book Blurb:
“I have never been useless in my life…”

Rescued from a life of servitude by the boy she loves, Susanna Marsh escapes across two centuries, only to be plunged into a world she’s ill-prepared to face. Unable to work or go to school, Susanna finds herself dependent on others to survive.

Immersed in the fun and demands of his senior year of high school, Mark Lewis longs to share his world with the girl who’s captured his heart. But first he must tackle government bureaucracy to prove Susanna’s identity.

Overwhelmed by her new home, Susanna seeks refuge in history and in news of the people she left behind. But when she learns that danger stalks her sister, Susanna must weigh whether to risk her own future in order to save Phoebe’s happiness.

Click here to enter the giveaway.

Links:
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Book Information:
Paperback: 360 pages
Expected publication: April 8th 2014 by Spencer Hill Press
ISBN: 1937053814

Author Bio:
Elizabeth Langston lives in North Carolina, halfway between the beaches and the mountains. She has two teen-ish daughters and one husband (a geek like her). When she’s not writing software or stories, Elizabeth loves to travel with her family, watch dance reality TV shows, and dream about which restaurant ought to get their business that night.

Elizabeth’s debut novel WHISPER FALLS released in November 2013. Its sequels, A WHISPER IN TIME and WHISPERS FROM THE PAST, release in 2014. Learn more about her at http://www.elizabethLangston.net.

Author Links:
Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Blog

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Great

Finished Great by Sara Benincasa.  I received a copy from the publisher on Edelweiss.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In Sara Benincasa’s contemporary retelling of The Great Gatsby, a teenage girl becomes entangled in the drama of a Hamptons social circle, only to be implicated in a tragedy that shakes the summer community.

Everyone loves a good scandal.

Naomi Rye usually dreads spending the summer with her socialite mother in East Hampton. This year is no different. She sticks out like a sore thumb among the teenagers who have been summering (a verb only the very rich use) together for years. But Naomi finds herself captivated by her mysterious next-door neighbor, Jacinta. Jacinta has her own reason for drawing close to Naomi-to meet the beautiful and untouchable Delilah Fairweather. But Jacinta’s carefully constructed world is hiding something huge, a secret that could undo everything. And Naomi must decide how far she is willing to be pulled into this web of lies and deception before she is unable to escape.

Based on a beloved classic and steeped in Sara Benincasa’s darkly comic voice, Great has all the drama, glitz, and romance with a terrific modern (and scandalous) twist to enthrall readers.”

I think that the idea of retelling The Great Gatsby—regarded by many as THE great American novel—is an incredibly bold one and one that’s probably pretty likely to fail.

Sara Benincasa, though, succeeded admirably.  What makes this work so well is that she kept the general Gatsby framework but made this novel absolutely succeed on its own merits.

This novel almost reads like a melding of Gatsby and My Fair Lady (or Pygmalion, for the purists).  Watching Naomi turn from herself into a carbon copy of the Hamptons teens she used to make fun of was a very interesting twist to this novel.  There are fantastic nods and references to Gatsby but at the same time, this is enough of its own story that I didn’t read this and go, “Oh, this is the part where…”

Great is amazingly fun and…well, great.  (I know, but sometimes you have to take the easy shots.)

Recommended.

BEA Quests, Part 2

To see my earlier BEA quest post, click here.

BEA info is starting to come out, slowly but surely.

Jodi Picoult is going to be at the author tea (for audiobooks), so I hope that her new book will be at BEA.  (It’s out this fall.)

We know that Megan McCafferty will be signing her second Jessica Darling middlegrade book, and that’s such a must-grab for me, you don’t even know.

We know that Amy Poehler (!!!!!) will be there on Saturday, which gives me hope that she’ll be there at least one other day, too.  I know she has a book out (I think in October) so maybe she’ll be signing that?

Also, and finally, I found out that RL Stine’s return to the Fear Street series will be at BEA.  I can’t even adequately express how excited that makes me.

The other breakfast guests were announced and it seems like BEA is going super-heavy on the celebrities (Neil Patrick Harris and Anjelica Huston at one breakfast; Jason Segal at the Children’s Author breakfast; Alan Cumming, Martin Short and Lena Dunham at the third).  Now yes, each breakfast has non-celebrity authors but they’re definitely endangered this year.  There have always been celebrities at BEA (Chris Colfer, Bernadette Peters, Julianne Moore, for example) but this year, they’ve gone overboard.

I’m excited to get their books, of course, but I’m even more excited for the actual authors.

Life as a Publicist (Update 1)

The first book I’m doing for Spence City is Elements of Mind by Walter H. Hunt.

Elements of Mind

Summary (from Amazon):

“In Victorian India, a Scottish doctor, Dr. James Esdaile, finds a way to use the power of mesmerism to aid him in performing surgeries, using a remarkable artifact that enhances his abilities. The revocation of the promise to bring the artifact to Rev. William Davey, the head of the secret Committee of English mesmerists leads him to commit suicide in the center of the Crystal Palace…but that is only the beginning of the story. Davey’s pursuit of the object leads him across two continents, unfolding the story that has its origins two decades before – and reveals the secret world of the -chthonoi-, the elemental spirits that were banished from human lands in antiquity, and now want to find a way to open the Glass Door and reassert themselves in the world of men.”

This is so great and so incredibly creepy.  I can’t wait for this book to be released and for people to get to read it.

The best/worst part is that many parts of this book are real. That statue? The object that is at the heart of all the problems?  That’s real.  (Ask Walter; he’ll tell you ALL ABOUT IT.  Even if you don’t want to know because you like being able to sleep at night.)  ;)