My son and I both love fantasy fiction, and we’re both suckers for ARCs from beloved authors… So, when I heard that Holly Black and Cassandra Clare were writing a middle-grade fantasy series together, I just knew I had to get my hands on a copy of this ARC. (The good news for anyone reading this review is that the book came out September 9th and you can read it without scheming to find an ARC!)
And do you know what was even better than opening a random, unexpected package to find a copy of this ARC? When it arrived in the mail on the very day that we were ready to start a new book. Awesomesauce! I knew these authors were awesome and that a collaboration between them was likely to be epic, but I also kinda expected that this book would be somewhat formulaic and predictable, like many of the other middle-grade fantasies I’ve read. Thankfully, I was wrong. Although there were some parallels to other books we’ve read, the story was fresh and there were a couple of plot twists that blew our minds!
Callum’s father has always taught him that magic is bad and that the Magisterium, a school that teaches adolescents how to hone their magical abilities, is evil. So, when Callum had to go in to test his magical acuity at the Magisterium, he did his best to fail. For some reason, nevertheless, Master Rufus chose Callum to be one of his apprentices. Even though neither he nor his father wanted him to attend, being selected meant that Callum had to go to the Magisterium… As soon as he started to learn how to use his magic and began to make friends, though, Callum started to wonder if maybe his dad was wrong after all…
From looking at the cover of this book, I assumed it would have been a historical romance novel. I honestly thought it would have read like The Luxe or Manor of Secrets, and I was hoping for a Downton Abbey fix. And though there was a touch of romance, my assumption was pretty far off. Gemma Doyle’s experiences in a London finishing school [in 1895] were historically accurate, and she did experience some romantic entanglements, but the plot was primarily focused on the supernatural forces at play in Gemma’s life. While part of me wishes I knew about this book when it first came out, part of me is happy that all three books were already published and available as audiobooks so I could listen to them in rapid succession!
Gemma had a fairly uncomplicated life until the day a strange creature attacked her mother in an Indian marketplace. Rather than be captured by the creature, her mother committed suicide. Gemma’s father insisted on telling everyone that his wife died of an illness, but Gemma knew the truth and was racked with guilt over the fact that her mother was only in that area of the marketplace because she (Gemma) had run off in a snit. After witnessing the attack/suicide, Gemma started having visions — and the visions only got worse after she was sent off to Spence Academy. Trying to make new friends and to succeed in finishing school while also figuring out what was behind the visions proved extremely challenging, but these challenges were no match for Gemma’s pluck and determination.
After her boyfriend’s death, Zoe is so overcome with guilt that she finds it hard to function. People assume that her reclusive behavior is owed to the fact that she’s grieving for Max, and she finds that their sympathy actually makes her feel even more guilty. In an attempt to unburden herself, Zoe decides to confess to Stuart Harris — a Death Row inmate in Texas who was listed on a website of prisoners seeking pen-pals. She thought writing to Stuart would be a good idea for a few reasons — 1. he killed his wife and would likely understand what she’s going through, 2. he is in the United States while she is in England, and 3. she could use a false name and address to avoid being turned in to the police. (Yeah. Her name’s not really Zoe.) Through her letters to Stuart, which she writes while hiding out in the shed in her backyard, readers learn about the events that led up to Max’s death and why she feels responsible. I’ll admit that I found myself getting a little frustrated at times, but I don’t think it was poorly done or anything. I was just too impatient and wanted to know what happened! I recommend this one to people who enjoy a little romantic drama with their mystery.
Today’s installment of I Read YA Week is RelationSHIP Day — and I am supposed to “play matchmaker to the YA universe.” While I am guessing most people will be matching up couples, I think I am going to be different and match up some BFFs. I recently listened to the audiobook of Grave Mercy, and I kept thinking of Katsa, from Graceling. After all, she was also an assassin with mystical powers who was being used as a pawn in someone else’s plans. I think these young women would find great comfort in each other’s company, and I can almost imagine them meeting up for tea or a glass of wine and to kvetch about the people they had to kill that week! (To learn more about Katsa’s story, check out my Graceling review.)
The really cool thing about Ismae is that she was fathered by Death — aka Saint Mortain. This was first discovered when she resisted the herbs her mother bought in an attempt to expel her from the womb. The turnip farmer who raised her as his child despised her and treated her terribly, then he sold her off as a bride to a brutish man when she was seventeen. On her wedding night, when her husband discovered the marks that had been left behind by the poison, he flew into a rage. Ismae managed to escape and was taken away to live in a convent with the Sisters of Mortain, who trained her to be handmaiden of Death. Ismae was trained to mix and administer a variety of poisons, to conceal and use all manner of weapons, and to use “womanly arts” to search potential targets for the mark of Mortain [which both confirmed that a person should be assassinated and also indicated how they would die]. Add in some double-agents, hidden plots, and a dash of romance, and you get an audiobook that made me sad to run into only light traffic on the way home!
I’m thinking I Read YA Week is a perfect opportunity for me to catch up on some blogging… and I may even actually use my Twitter account to tag my posts! ;-) Day 1 is supposed to be something I recommend, and this book definitely fits the bill. I have read several of E. Lockhart’s other books — my favorite of which was probably The Boyfriend List — and I was over the moon when my friend Molly got me the ARC of this book. Although I slacked when it came to posting a review, I handed it off to a friend immediately upon finishing and was happy to hear that she passed it along as well. This book has legs!
Cadence has spent every summer of her life on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts with her entire extended family. Hired help does all the work while the family enjoys a life of luxury and leisure. She missed last summer, which she spent in Europe with her father, but she is back and trying to piece together what happened two summers before. All she knows is that she sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and now suffers memory loss and crippling headaches. No one in the family is supposed to talk to her about it because it upsets her and then she ends up forgetting anyway — the doctors have decided it’s best if they let her recover those memories on her own. I almost couldn’t get over the shock of what had happened when her memories finally sorted themselves out, and I was in awe of how well everything that seemed so strange finally fell into place. This is a great summer read for people who like mysteries and don’t mind shedding a few tears.
I have always been intrigued by serial killers. I am so utterly fascinated, in fact, that I managed to scare a student worker at my college library during my freshman year. You see, I used to go during my [6-hour-long] breaks between Tuesday classes to watch A&E Biography videos about serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, and David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz in the media lab. One week, he asked what class I was studying for. When I replied that it was “just for fun,” he practically threw the video at me before running and hiding in the back office! Luckily, I happened to meet him at a later time through some mutual friends and I was able to set his mind at ease. Up until I had the chance to explain myself, he called me “the creepy serial killer girl” and worried that I was studying up so I wouldn’t get caught! Though I no longer frequent the library to watch A&E Biography videos about serial killers, I have watched enough of them (and reality-based shows like Crossing Jordan, Law & Order, Castle, and Criminal Minds) that I have a frighteningly thorough knowledge of serial killer pathology and the methods of the law enforcement officials who try to catch them. When one of my teens told me about this book, therefore, I knew I had to read it.
Though he is pretty average and a fairly nice guy, most people in town wouldn’t be surprised if Jasper Dent was secretly a serial killer. Why? Because his dad, Billy Dent, killed into the triple digits by the time he was caught. Everyone seems to be afraid that Jasper is a killing spree just waiting to happen; well, everyone except his best friend, Howie, and girlfriend, Connie. So, after a dead body shows up in Lobo’s Nod, Jasper is determined to help the police. Even though Sheriff G. William Tanner does his best to dissuade his involvement, Jasper keeps insisting that he needs to help — because he’s sure it’s a serial killer [even though the police don't think so], because he knows how serial killers think, and because he wants to clear his own name.
I was enjoying this audiobook so much that I jokingly told my husband I was going to make him listen to it when I was done. He agreed that it sounded good, so we decided to actually start it over (even though I was at 96%!) and listen to it together on our weekend roadtrip without the kids. We finished all but half an hour by the time we got home and we couldn’t imagine leaving it for later… So, we listened while we unpacked our bags and sorted laundry! Since then, I have read the prequel (an e-novella) and downloaded the second audiobook from OverDrive.com. The third book comes out in September on the day after my birthday. Coincidence? I think not! ;-)
This was one of the most messed up books I have ever read. (I don’t mean that as an insult, by the way. I am referring to the content, not the writing.) It was like driving by a terrible car accident — you know you shouldn’t look, but you just *have* to see for yourself what’s going on. And although I did think it was a bit hyperbolic, it wasn’t completely outside the realm of possibility either. I mean, the Catholic Church is pretty well known for brushing things under the rug and covering things up to save their reputation, so why wouldn’t it be possible for a Catholic school to have insane hazing issues and major problems with student discipline in general? Let alone the fact that there have been so many darn hazing stories in recent years — many of which involved high school students and adults who looked the other way. Part of me wanted to reach into the story to slap the snot out of the so-called adults who let the insanity continue, and part of my wanted to stop reading in case something truly horrific happened because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle it. I think this story is like a more modern version of Lord of the Flies — only with adults who just stood by and watched everything unfold.