Suspicion

Thanks to NetGalley, I have once again been privileged enough to read an early copy of a thrilling new young adult novel. This time, I turned my attention to Suspicion by Alexandra Monir. (This book is set to be released next Tuesday, December 9th.) I had previously read one other book by Ms. Monir–Timeless–so I was fairly certain I would enjoy Suspicion. And when I heard that it was like a combination of The Princess Diaries, Downton Abbey, and Alfred Hitchcock, I was even more eager to read it. (Also, the cover is gorgeous, no?)

Seven years ago, Imogen Rockford endured a horrible tragedy on the grounds of her family’s estate in Wickersham. Her parents and her aunt and uncle were killed in a terrible fire, and Imogen has spent the time since trying to put the horrifying events firmly in the past. She cut off all communication with her grandfather, her cousin Lucia, and Sebastian, the boy both she and her cousin adored.

Fate, though, seems to have other plans for Imogen…

When Imogen learns that both her grandfather and cousin have passed away, she’s faced with the realization that she’ll have to return to the Rockford family home in England…as the new Duchess of Wickersham. That’s quite a bit of pressure to put on her seventeen-year-old shoulders, but Imogen knows only she can fill this role. Only she has ties to the estate that cannot really be explained.

Upon her arrival at her newly-inherited estate, Imogen is flooded with both a sense of rightness and a feeling of dread. For some reason, she belongs here, but why? Why does the land come alive in her presence? Why does she seem to have some sort of power over the gardens? What abilities has she been ignoring for all these years…and who wants to make sure that she never has a chance to discover just how important those abilities are?

As Imogen learns more and more about her place–and her family’s history–in Wickersham, she begins to uncover a mystery that defies everything she’s ever believed. She also grows ever closer to Sebastian, the boy she’s loved her entire life, the boy who chose her cousin, the boy who is hiding secrets of his own.

Can Imogen unravel the web of deceit surrounding her before she’s caught up in yet another tragedy? Will her newly (re)discovered abilities help in her quest for the truth? Who can she trust with her own secrets? And who is hiding something so shocking that it will shake the foundation of Imogen’s entire world? Read Suspicion by Alexandra Monir to find out!

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First, let me say that I did like this book. It was a quick, fun read that kept me guessing…but it was rather unrealistic at times (aside from the supernatural elements). I had issues with the lightning-fast romance part of the story, Imogen’s totally ridiculous “magical powers” (which I didn’t think added all that much to the plot), and the unrealistic ending. The ending especially was just a little too neat for me, and I can only hope that the one piece of “unfinished business” in the book will come back in a sequel and mess things up a bit.

All of that being said, I do think Suspicion is a good read for those who like their mysteries peppered with a bit of romance and a dash of the supernatural. When you throw an English setting into that mix, you’ve got me. I’m probably not alone in that.

If you’d like to learn more about Suspicion and other books by Alexandra Monir, check out her website, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Published in: on December 2, 2014 at 1:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Mobile Library

Normally, I’m not a huge fan of surprises. That’s not the case when I read. I kind of love it when an author takes what I think I know about a story, flips it around, and gives me something unexpected. That’s just what happened in Mobile Library by David Whitehouse. (The title should tell you why I wanted to read this book. Thank you, NetGalley, for the opportunity!) This book won’t be released to the masses until January, but I recommend putting it on your to-read list now.

Mobile Library begins with a glimpse at the ending, and I thought I had things figured out. Let’s face it. Many, many books are rather predictable. I thought this one would be no different. This is one instance when I’m glad I was wrong.

Bobby Nusku is a kid with a rather sad life. His mother left a long time ago. He walks on eggshells around his father and Cindy, his dad’s horrible girlfriend. He has only one friend at school. He’s a target of bullies. Bobby’s big plan to get back at those who would hurt him is to turn his best friend, Sunny, into a cyborg. As one can imagine, that plan doesn’t exactly turn out the way Bobby would have liked. Sunny is taken away, and Bobby is left all alone in the world.

Things change, however, when Bobby encounters Rosa, a girl whose disability makes her vulnerable to bullies, and her mother Val. These two kind people offer Bobby a refuge from his life. Val cleans the town’s mobile library (known to many as a Bookmobile), and she introduces Bobby to the escape offered in the pages of books.

Val provides Bobby the love he’s been starving for, and Bobby quickly becomes part of Val’s family. But not everyone understands their relationship. They think something sordid is going on, and that results in ostracism, vandalism, and Val losing the job she needs to care for herself and her daughter.

Even though he’s been warned away from Val, she’s his only solace after his father beats him one night. He runs to her house, and Val knows she has to do something to get Bobby away from his dad. So what does she do? She takes Rosa, Bobby, her dog Bert, and she steals the mobile library–the one no longer used by the town, the one she still has the keys for–and escapes into the night.

Val realizes that she and her small family are always one step from being found, and she’s always looking over her shoulder, but she and the kids soon find help in an unexpected place. While hiding out in the woods, Bobby runs across Joe, a homeless man with reasons of his own for staying under the radar. Joe joins forces with Val, Bobby, and Rosa, and this ragtag team journeys across England and into Scotland in the hopes of finding safety, peace, and a home of their own. Once again, though, things don’t go exactly according to plan.

The authorities are closing in on Bobby, Val, and company, and they’re running out of places to hide. Is anyone willing to help them? Can they get out of this mess and still remain together? What will become of Bobby, Val, Rosa, and Joe, and will anyone ever understand how these people came together to form their own family within the walls of a mobile library? Is there any hope for a happy ending? Find out for yourself when you read Mobile Library, an novel by David Whitehouse!

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I love all of the misdirection in this book. I had several “What the crap!” moments while reading, and that’s always fun. I admit that I jumped to some conclusions at the beginning of the book (which was also the ending) that mirrored the town’s concerns regarding the relationship between Bobby and Val. That was just one thing that was turned on its ear. There were quite a few surprises in this book, and their eventual revelations made for a page-turner of a book.

The librarian in me enjoyed the literary allusions in Mobile Library…not to mention the bulk of the story actually occurring in a library on wheels. Bobby’s reading list will connect with those who’ve read the same books…and it may just encourage others to pick up the books he’s enjoyed so much.

Even though a few of the characters in this book are children, I think Mobile Library is definitely an adult book. Some teen readers may be fine with it, but this is a book with a lot of subtext, a bit of profanity, and some mature situations. I would recommend this book for public library collections. Not so much for school libraries.

Mobile Library won’t be released in the U.S. until January 20th, 2015. (The U.K. release is set for January 8th.) So, unless you’re a member of NetGalley or have some other source for advance copies, you’ve got about a three-month wait for this book. It’s worth the wait.

If you’re interested in learning more about Mobile Library and author David Whitehouse, check out the author’s websiteGoodreads, and Twitter.

Published in: on October 19, 2014 at 11:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ghost House

Next week, Ghost House, a new book by Halo author Alexandra Adornetto, will be released. I was lucky enough to read an advance copy via NetGalley this weekend. I was in the mood for something kind of spooky, and that’s what I got with Ghost House. It was a bit predictable and vaguely “Twilight-ish” at times, but it was a fairly enjoyable book that will be a big hit for those readers who like a bit of romance–especially seemingly impossible romance–in their supernatural tales.

Chloe Kennedy recently experienced a loss that shook her entire world. When her mother passed away suddenly, the walls Chloe had carefully built in her mind came tumbling down, and she was no longer able to block out the ghosts that haunted her as a child.

Now, Chloe is dealing with even more change. Her father has decided that he simply can’t cope with his own grief and that of his children, so he’s sending Chloe and her younger brother to live in England for the summer. Chloe is not happy about spending weeks on her grandmother’s estate, Grange Hall, but this may be her chance to escape the ghosts that have suddenly reappeared. Well, Chloe is about to learn that her encounters with ghosts are only just beginning…

On her first day in England, Chloe meets a strange young man in the woods. He’s not dressed like anyone she’s ever met, and, while Chloe is wary of him, she’s also oddly drawn to this young man. His name is Alexander Reade, and Chloe soon realizes that Alex is not altogether “real.” He’s a ghost. Alex lived at Grange Hall long ago, and he is still very much connected to the house…and what happened there.

As Chloe learns more about Grange Hall’s horrific past–and Alex’s place in it–she finds herself developing some disturbing feelings for Alex. Chloe knows nothing can really come of a relationship with a ghost, but she can’t help but fall a little more in love with him each day. That is a problem, especially when a vengeful spirit named Isobel is determined to do anything–even kill–to make sure Chloe and Alex remain apart.

What is Alex’s connection to the mysterious and menacing Isobel? Can Chloe do anything to stop the approaching horror before someone gets caught in the crossfire? Is Chloe willing to sacrifice her beloved Alex–or herself–if it means stopping Isobel once and for all?

Join Chloe and Alex on a harrowing journey through life, death, revenge, and redemption when you read Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto.

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Ghost House is a great read for a dreary, rainy day. It started off kind of slow, but the action really picked up the more I read. I read the last three-quarters of the book in just a few hours, and the ending kind of threw me for a loop. I look forward to seeing how things progress for Chloe (and Alex) in the next book, Ghost Hour. (There’s currently no publication date for book two, but I’m guessing we can expect it sometime next August.)

I would recommend Ghost House to teen (and adult) fans of books like Twilight, C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series, and even the ghost stories of Mary Downing Hahn.

For more information on Ghost House and author Alexandra Adornetto, visit her on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter. A book trailer is supposed to be released soon, but as of this posting, it’s not available yet.

Published in: on August 18, 2014 at 3:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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V for Vendetta

Well, this one has been a long time coming. During Snowpocalypse 2014, I finally made time to dive into V for Vendetta, the classic graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Like so many other classics, I don’t know why I waited so long to read this book (especially since I loved Watchmen so much–the book, not the travesty of a movie), but I’m glad I finally made time for it. It definitely appeals to the dystopian fiction fan in me.

V for Vendetta presents a disturbing view of an alternate England in the 1990’s. The world has been ravaged by nuclear war, and, somehow, England has come through nuclear winter. (Not realistic, but we overlook things for the sake of the story.) Fascism has taken hold, and differences–at least those that don’t benefit those in power–are eradicated. People are controlled through fear, and only a select few have any say in what happens. One man–a man who takes on the persona of the infamous Guy Fawkes–aims to change that.

The vigilante known only as “V” is on a mission. At the beginning, that mission revolves around a select few individuals, people who made him into the man–or maniac–he is. Slowly, readers learn the story of how the totalitarian regime’s policies and “experiments” made some people–those thought to be expendable–into nothing more than lab rats. Few survived, but one of them, V himself, did just that, and he’s unleashing hell on those who tortured so many. V is eliminating these tormentors one by one, and his vendetta against them is blossoming into a rebellion against everything they stand for.

Only one person has any real contact with V. Evey, a young woman all alone in this frightening world, is saved by V one night, and she begins to learn more and more about her savior. She is terrified by some of what she learns–and the part she plays in certain things–but part of her understands what motivates V. Soon, it will motivate her as well.

V for Vendetta is, at its most basic, a story about oppression and how one person can strike a flame that sets off a conflagration of rebellion. It only takes one voice speaking out to change things. Yes, V sought to subvert the system through violence and death, but his legacy was that one person could do much. Only fear stands in the way. Once fear is removed from the equation, there is no limit to what can be accomplished.

(I would add that apathy needs to be removed from the equation as well, at least as far as our own society goes. Too many people are okay with the status quo, don’t think they can do anything, or just don’t care to change things. In my opinion, this attitude is more damaging than fear.)

Maybe I’m missing the boat on my interpretation of this story, but I don’t think so. After having watched the movie–which is pretty different from the book but has the same basic message–I’m doubly sure that V for Vendetta centers on a message that resistance to any form of oppression begins with one person who decides that he/she just won’t take it anymore. Does resistance have to be violent? Absolutely not. In fact, I’d wager that most successful resistance movements are not. The point is that someone has to be brave enough to speak up and do something. Even seemingly small acts can have a lasting impact…and one never knows when those small acts could turn into something bigger and unstoppable.

Published in: on February 13, 2014 at 2:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Madness Underneath

Spoilers! Read Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star, the first book in her Shades of London series, before continuing. I just finished the second book in the series, The Madness Underneath, and you really need to experience the first book before diving into the second. This sequel is definitely not a stand-alone novel. You’ve been warned!

A little over a year and a half ago, I read The Name of the Star (which is now on the nominee list for this year’s South Carolina Young Adult Book Award). I picked this book up for two reasons. 1. The author, Maureen Johnson, is one of the funniest people on the planet. (If you don’t already follow her on Twitter, you should.) 2. Jack the Ripper. I’ve always been kind of morbidly fascinated by stories of the Ripper, and I figured this one–with its new supernatural twist–would intrigue me. As usual, I was right.

I absolutely adored The Name of the Star (one of my top 10 books of 2011), so I’m not sure why it took me so long to pick up the sequel. (It was released in October 2012.) At any rate, I made time for it this week, and it didn’t take long to get right back into the world created in this series.

Now, the Ripper-esque story in the first book was–more or less–wrapped up, but the aftermath opened up a whole new world to our main character, Rory Deveaux, a Louisiana native transplanted in London while her parents are on sabbatical. (Hmm…a southern girl in London. I wonder why that appeals to me…)

Following her near-death experience at Wexford, her boarding school, Rory is now staying in Bristol under the watchful eyes of her parents and her therapist. While Rory would normally be thrilled to talk about herself–especially to someone who is basically paid to listen–she just can’t tell her therapist (or her parents) what really happened. No, she must keep quiet about her encounter with the Ripper copycat who stabbed and nearly killed her. She can never reveal that she can see ghosts…and can now somehow kill them (or help them move on to the next spiritual plane) with a touch. Who would believer her anyway? Is there any way for Rory to get back to some semblance of a normal life and maybe–just maybe–not have to hide so much? Perhaps…

With the help of some high-ranking government officials, Rory is allowed to return to Wexford. She’s behind in all of her classes, and she has a bit of trouble adjusting to school after so much time away, but Rory is back with friends…including the Shades of London, a top secret “police force” capable of seeing and interacting with ghosts. And the Shades–Stephen, Callum, and Boo–need Rory. Now that their all-important termini (ghost-eliminators) are gone, Rory is the only being that can send ghosts on. (On to where, I have no idea.) A simple touch makes ghosts go bye-bye. So, in addition to worrying about grades, friends, boys, and the warped psyche that comes with nearly being murdered, Rory must also deal with being a human terminus, a weapon against ghosts with a grudge.

And boy, do some of the ghosts in London carry grudges. But they’re not the only beings up to no good. It seems that something–or someone–even more disturbing may be at work, and Rory finds herself right in the middle of yet another mess. Her longing to get away from her problems and find a place to belong may have landed her into a predicament that even her quick wit can’t get out of. What has Rory gotten herself into this time, and will she be able to find a way out…before she or someone she cares about pays the price? Learn what madness lurks underneath the streets of London–and in the hearts and minds of people–when you read The Madness Underneath, the second book in Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London series.

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While I enjoyed The Name of the Star a bit more than this book, I have to say that The Madness Underneath was a wonderful read. The character’s distinctive, often sarcastic, voice was perfect, and I felt her turmoil over trying to return to a somewhat normal life after going through so much horror. At several points in the story, I felt like screaming at Rory because I could kind of see that she was about to walk into bad situations. (What seventeen-year-old doesn’t?) I was thoroughly engaged and, at the end, kind of heartbroken. (When you read this book, you’ll know what I mean. If I didn’t treasure books so much, this one would have taken a lovely flight across the room and landed against my wall.) I’m hoping for some kind of happy resolution in the next book. (But I honestly don’t see how things can get happy after what happened at the end of this one. Hopefully, Maureen Johnson can find some way to “unbreak my heart,” to borrow a phrase from one of my all-time least favorite songs.)

Speaking of the next book, it’s supposedly titled The Shadow Cabinet and is due for release sometime in 2014 according to Goodreads. There is no information on the third book on Maureen Johnson’s website. With any luck, she’ll tweet about it in the near future. (This woman is all about some Twitter. So am I, so that’s cool.)

I guess that’s all for now. I’ll leave you with a book trailer for The Madness Underneath from Penguin Young Readers. It’s creepy, but it doesn’t give away much of anything about the book. It does a good job of setting the mood for a good supernatural mystery though. Enjoy!

Published in: on July 25, 2013 at 11:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ripper

I’ll admit that I have a somewhat morbid fascination with the unsolved mystery that surrounds Jack the Ripper. (I’m no ripperologist, but my personal bucket list does include taking the Jack the Ripper tour in London.) In the past couple of years, there have been a number of YA fiction books published that revolve around the unknown serial killer. Last year, I was lucky enough to read Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star, in which someone is recreating the crimes of the Ripper. (It’s an absolutely fantastic read, and I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel, The Madness Underneath, which will be released on February 26th.) Several days ago, I started reading Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves. I first heard about this book from the author herself. She presented information about her book at the annual SCASL (South Carolina Association of School Librarians) conference earlier this year. I was enthralled by her research process and the little details that went into the making of Ripper. I meant to read the book as soon as I could get my hands on it, but one thing or another inevitably got in the way, and I didn’t make the time to really get into this book until a few days ago (when I got out of school for winter break). Now, I’ll go ahead and tell you (if you didn’t already know) that historical fiction is not exactly my cup of tea…unless it happens to take place in London. There’s just something about that city that totally captivates me, and Ripper only added to my obsession…

The year is 1888, and a young girl, recently orphaned, has moved to London to live with her strict, unyielding grandmother. Arabella Sharp is not exactly a typical Kensington lady…much to her grandmother’s chagrin. Abbie would much rather be doing something interesting rather that sitting around all day waiting for her grandmother to select a suitable husband for her. Unexpectedly, Abbie receives an invitation to work at Whitechapel Hospital, assisting a doctor and family friend with the care of poor women (mostly prostitutes) and their children. Even though the work is most unpleasant at times, Abbie feels drawn to the medical field and is considering doing something totally unheard of–applying to attend medical school.

While Abbie is learning much at Whitechapel Hospital–and dealing with rather puzzling feelings for not one but two young physicians–something more sinister is occurring nearby. Prostitutes, all of them former patients at the hospital, are being murdered. No one seems to know anything about the culprit, but his heinous crimes soon earn him the nickname Jack the Ripper. All of London, specifically the rundown area of Whitechapel, is in an uproar. Who is this killer? Why is he targeting prostitutes? And why can the police find no trace of him?

Abbie, much to her dismay, may be in possession of answers to these questions. Ever since she first entered the Whitechapel area, she’s been plagued by visions. Visions of the Ripper’s crimes as they are committed. She’s seen what he does to his victims. She’s felt his breath on her neck. She knows that he’s somehow got his eye on her. But why? And what is his connection to the hospital where she feels so needed?

As Abbie does all that she can to uncover the mystery of the Ripper, she uncovers something that she is totally unprepared for. Jack the Ripper is not the only being wreaking havoc on London. Something much bigger may be at work, and the Ripper might just be one small piece of the puzzle. Can Abbie unveil the truth before she’s lost to a power that spans centuries? Before she–or someone close to her–becomes the Ripper’s next victim? Read Ripper, Amy Carol Reeves’ gripping tale, to reveal the horrible, hidden truth about the world’s most infamous serial killer.

I wasn’t quite prepared for the supernatural twist at the end of this book. (I liked it, but it was a bit surprising.) Ripper isn’t simply a retelling of the crimes of Jack the Ripper. It does contain lots of information based on actual events, locations, and people, but this is most definitely a fictional account of what could have happened during that horrible time in 1888…if you believe in the strange and supernatural, that is. (I’m not saying that I do, but it is kind of fun to read about.) Amy Carol Reeves detailed what was and wasn’t factual in her book when she spoke at the SCASL conference, but I must confess that I can’t remember everything. (It was in March, after all.) I will, however, get the opportunity to go over this information with her again, as she is speaking at the conference again this year. (And I get to facilitate a panel with her and several other YA authors.  Hooray for me!) I also look forward to talking with her about the next book in this series, Renegade, which is due out in April of 2013.

If you’d like more information about Ripper and author Amy Carol Reeves, I encourage you to visit the author’s website. For those of you searching for information on Jack the Ripper, there are thousands of websites that contain loads of information, many of them saying different things. Theories abound on the true identity of this killer, so it’s no surprise that this enigma has found its way to YA fiction. If you can recommend any other YA Ripper books, let me know, and I’ll add them to my towering to-read pile!

Published in: on December 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Sometimes I like to put the fantasy, science fiction, and dystopia aside and just read a really good love story (though some of the more pessimistic among us would argue that love stories are also fantasies).  My most recent favorites have been Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door.  Now I can add one more to that list:  The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith.  At first, I thought this book would be a romance between math nerds (which would have been totally cool with this former Palmetto High School Math Team member), but I was wrong.  At its core, this book is about how a chance meeting can change a person’s life forever…

Hadley Sullivan is running late. What’s worse is that she’s running late to something that she wants no part of in the first place–her father’s wedding to “that British woman” in London.  She misses her flight by about four minutes is forced to take the next plane–which will arrive at Heathrow approximately two hours before the blessed event.  A bit of a time crunch, to say the least.  So, now she has a time to kill in a crowded airport.  Time to think about how much she doesn’t want to see her dad or his new bride.  Time to worry about the flight and being trapped in a tube thousands of feet in the air.  Time to stew over what she said to her mom this morning.

Purely by chance (or fate, destiny, whatever you want to call it), Hadley meets Oliver, a London native (who’s kind of a looker) who will be sitting next to her on her upcoming flight.  The two hit it off instantly, and Hadley feels like she can tell Oliver anything…and she does.  She tells him little things about herself (favorite color, animal, etc.) as well as big things (how she feels about her dad and this wedding, how her relationship with her mom is going, and how things ended with her ex-boyfriend).  Oliver shares some stories of his own, including a glimpse of his relationship with his own father.  Hadley and Oliver are so wrapped up in getting to know each other that their time at the airport and the flight to London seem to pass in a blur.

Before either of them are ready, Hadley and Oliver arrive in London, and they are forced to go their separate ways–Hadley to the dreaded wedding, and Oliver to his own family drama.  Will they ever meet again, or has fate brought them together for only this one flight?  Will Hadley be able to get over her anger with her father and be part of his new life?  Will Oliver be able to deal with his own family issues?  Is there any hope that these two will meet again despite the odds?  What’s the probability that two young people could meet, fall in love, and find each other again in the span of 24 hours?  Find out when you fall in love with Jennifer E. Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight!

Even though I totally knew there would be a happy ending, I was still enraptured by this story.  I love the idea that you can meet someone tomorrow, and that will ultimately be someone you’ll spend the rest of your life with.  If even one little thing had changed leading up to that meeting, entire lives could have been completely different.  It’s kind of cool (and scary) to think about.

I also enjoyed how Hadley–and even Oliver–explored their family situations.  Hadley spent much of the book angry at her dad–and her mom and future stepmother–and it was interesting to see how her views of those relationships evolved during the course of one very long day.  Oliver’s issues were thought-provoking as well and helped Hadley put her own problems in perspective.  In a lot of YA novels, the parents are secondary figures–and are often horrible–but this book allowed both characters and readers to see the humanness of parents.  We were all given a look into the relationships between husbands and wives, fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, and mothers and daughters.  These family dynamics are not always calm and smooth, but, at the end, these people are still family.

If you’re looking for a quick, fun, engaging read, I strongly urge you to give The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight a try.  You won’t be disappointed!

You can find out more about author Jennifer E. Smith and her books at http://www.jenniferesmith.com/.  You can also follow her on Twitter @JenESmith.

Published in: on March 30, 2012 at 11:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Name of the Star

It’s so great when I come across a book that grabs me from the first page.  My latest read, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, is one of these books.  I loved the voice of the main character, Rory, and I was entranced by the London setting.  This book has also provided me with one of my new favorite quotes that adequately sums up what it’s like to converse with a Southerner.

“I come from people who know how to draw things out.  Annoy a Southerner, and we will drain away the moments of your life with our slow, detailed replies until you are nothing but a husk of your former self and that much closer to death.”

It’s almost like the author had a camera or microphone planted in every gathering I’ve ever been to in my small, Southern town.  I laughed out loud when I read this–all the while picturing several of my family members (who I’ll be seeing in just a few days) who have that special Southern ability to drain the life out of anyone they happen to rope into conversation.  (This may explain why I always bring a book to family gatherings.  It may be rude and antisocial, but even pretending to be engrossed in a book provides me with a much-needed escape.)  (See what I just did there?  I provided you with way too much information and drew things out and probably drove some of you away with this unnecessarily detailed paragraph about holiday gatherings with my family.  Welcome to the South.)

Anyhoo, The Name of the Star is a thoroughly entertaining–and kind of creepy–read that plays upon fear.  It seems that someone is recreating the crimes of Jack the Ripper, and our heroine Rory might be the only one capable of stopping the mysterious murderer…

While her parents are spending a sabbatical year at a university in England, Rory Deveaux, a teenage girl from Louisiana, has decided to spend her senior year of high school at a boarding school in London. She’s never been to boarding school–much less London–and it’s a bit of an adjustment for her. Things are a lot more intense than in America, and they’re about to get even worse. See, her school is in the East End of London, and someone in the area is recreating the murders perpetrated by Jack the Ripper in 1888. The entire area is in a panic, especially because there are no clues as to who might be committing these heinous acts. The cops have no evidence. Security cameras captured the murders, but not the murderer. Everyone is at a loss…until Rory sees someone on the night of one of the murders. Someone no one else saw.

Could the weird guy she saw outside of her dorm be the new Ripper?  Why didn’t her roommate Jazza see him?  Could this have any connection to the security cameras not being able to see the Ripper?  As Rory tries to uncover a mystery without losing her mind, she encounters some disturbing truths along with a strange new ability.  Why can she see people no one else can see?  Does anyone around her share this ability?  And can she use it to find out who the Ripper is and stop him before she’s his next victim?  Enter the shady world of London to reveal the truth in The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.

If you want a funny yet creepy read that will leave you wanting more–but still kind of scared to turn the next page–then The Name of the Star is the book for you.  I read it during two extremely gloomy days here in South Carolina.  The weather outside matched the setting and tone of this book perfectly, and I refused to answer unexpected knocks at the door while I was reading.  I will admit that I was terrified that someone was at the door to kill me.  (I tend to get a little involved in books I read, and I am aware that a potential murderer would probably not knock.  I found out a little while ago that it was my grandmother who was at my door.  Oops.)

If you’re interested in The Name of the Star or any other books by Maureen Johnson, you should visit her website at http://www.maureenjohnsonbooks.com/index1.html.  I’ll go ahead and let you know that The Name of the Star is the first book in The Shades of London series.  The second book, The Madness Underneath, is expected to be released in October 2012.  Based on how the first book ended, we can look forward to even more mysteries to solve in the second.

Published in: on December 21, 2011 at 10:02 pm  Comments (3)  
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Clockwork Prince

Even though this post will not be a typical one for me, I will be talking a bit about Clockwork Prince, the second book in Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices trilogy (which is the prequel trilogy to her Mortal Instruments series).  If you haven’t read all of the books that precede Clockwork Prince–especially Clockwork Angel–I strongly urge you to do that as soon as possible.  All of these books are unbelievably amazing, and the events of today only increased my love of these series.

Now, for the good stuff…

Today, I had the pleasure of meeting the one and only Cassandra Clare.  As part of her book tour for Clockwork Prince, which was released on Tuesday (and which I finished reading last night), Ms. Clare paid a visit to Greenville, South Carolina.  I live just a few miles away from Greenville, and I was understandably excited about meeting one of my favorite authors.  The event was sponsored by a local independent bookstore, Fiction Addiction, and held in a spot called the Hangar at the Runway Cafe (near the downtown airport, obviously).  And I have to say it was one of the most well organized book signings I’ve ever attended.  (I went to see Stephenie Meyer at a Barnes & Noble in Georgia four years ago, and it was absolute chaos.  Imagine thousands of people crammed into a B&N for upwards of five hours.  Shudder.) 

Anyhoo, Cassandra Clare entered the Hangar and answered questions from the audience.  The first few people who asked questions even got a free t-shirt.  I was one of those people…and here’s the back of the shirt:

I asked who she would pick to play Magnus Bane if she had any say in the movie casting.  Her answer both surprised and delighted me–Darren Criss, who plays Blaine on Glee.  She said that his ethnicity matched Magnus’, and he seems to have no problems kissing a boy.  For those of you who’ve read the Mortal Instruments series, you know how important this is.

Ms. Clare answered lots more questions on how she overcomes writer’s block, using outlines in her writing, how much influence she has over the upcoming City of Bones movie (very little, sadly), the love triangle between Will, Jem, and Tessa in Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince, other books she would recommend, how she would encourage aspiring writers, where her ideas for her books came from, the real-life settings used in the books, the inspiration for the character of Magnus Bane (one of my favorites), and much more.  Throughout the question-and-answer session, Ms. Clare kept the audience laughing and made us fall more in love with her and her wonderful stories.

Then, it was time for the autographing to begin.  I took seven books to be autographed–City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince, and Steampunk!–and Ms. Clare graciously signed all of them.  Check it out:

 

Everyone who attended also received a cool Shadow Hunter poster. 

Christmas came early for yours truly this year.  I got to meet one of my favorite authors, tell her how much I loved her books, and I even had the opportunity to recommend a few books to her–Kiersten White’s Paranormalcy series was at the top of my list.  This was an awesome afternoon for Knight Reader.

Now, I’m sure you might be wondering a little about Clockwork Prince, the latest book in the Infernal Devices trilogy.  Well, I’m not going to tell you much about the book because there would be spoiler alerts all over the place if I did.  I will tell you, though, that we learn more about why Will is such a butthead most of the time.  We also delve into Mortmain’s past and what he might be planning for the Shadow Hunters.  For me, however, the driving force in this book was the dramatic love triangle between Will, Jem, and Tessa.  It was infuriating, powerful, and traumatic–for them and for me.  I just hope their situation resolves the way I want it to in Clockwork Princess.

Speaking of Clockwork Princess, it has an expected release date of December 1st, 2012.  (Yes, we have to wait nearly a year for it.  Curses!)  Also, there are two more books in the Mortal Instruments series to look forward to:  City of Lost Souls, due out May 8th, 2012 (and the cover should be released soon), and City of Heavenly Fire, due in September of 2013.  There’s also another Shadow Hunter series in development, the Dark Artifices, which will take place roughly five years after the events in City of Heavenly Fire.  So, there’s lots more Shadow Hunter goodness to look forward to.

If you’d like to learn more about Cassandra Clare and her amazing books, you might want to check out these websites:

You can also follow Cassandra Clare on Twitter @cassieclare.

I will leave you now, dear readers, for I am spent.  It has been a great day filled with books, authors, and fellow word nerds.  I wish every day could be so awesome.

Published in: on December 10, 2011 at 10:41 pm  Comments (3)  
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Heist Society

Before I begin writing about my latest read, I’d like to wish everyone who takes the time to read this blog a happy Thanksgiving.  I am thankful for all of you, and I appreciate each and every comment posted (and even those of you who’ve never made a comment but still, for some reason, care what I think about books).  Knight Reader started as a way for me to keep track of what I’ve read, but it’s quickly grown into a passion, and my readers definitely help to make this more than a hobby.

Now, on with the show…

I just finished reading Heist Society by Ally Carter.  I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while, and I finally picked it up this weekend when I was in the mood for something kind of light. While this was a light, fast read, Heist Society was also engaging, fun, and suspenseful.  The story is kind of a blend of Gossip Girl and Ocean’s Eleven, and, even though I’m adamantly against crime of any kind (except the occasional breaking of the speed limit), Heist Society makes art thief seem glamorous and terrifying at the same time.  I would be a horrible thief—I get very nervous when things don’t go according to plan—but the teens in this book make it seem so effortless, much the way Danny Ocean and his crew did in Ocean’s Eleven (and Twelve and Thirteen).  But things weren’t so smooth at the beginning…

 

All Katarina Bishop wanted to do was leave her old life as a thief behind.  To do that, however, she had to pull off one more con—scam her way into the best boarding school in the country.  Well, she did, and Kat’s life was boring normal for a while…until circumstances pulled her back into the life and family she left behind.

Kat’s father, a master thief himself, has been accused of stealing a very valuable private art collection.  But the cops aren’t the ones after him.  No, a more sinister character is after Kat’s father.  This bad guy wants his paintings back, and he wants Kat to bring them to him.  There’s just one problem…Kat’s dad didn’t steal the paintings.  But who did?  And can Kat find out and clear her father’s not-so-good name?

As Kat and her motley crew, including the handsome, rich, and enigmatic Hale, travel the world, it becomes clear that to prove her father didn’t steal the paintings, they will have to find out who did…and steal the paintings back.  Can Kat pull off the biggest theft in her family’s history with a teenage crew?  Does she even want to?  Will she be able to leave everything behind again when/if she completes this job?  And is there more to these paintings than meets the eye?  Dive into the mystery when you read Heist Society by Ally Carter.

I really enjoyed this book, and I look forward to further adventures of Kat and crew in the sequel, Uncommon Criminals, which is already out.  Even though I did wonder where most of the parents were throughout this entire book, the story was still thought-provoking and entertaining.  Male and female readers from middle school on up will enjoy this one.

For more information on Heist Society and other books by Ally Carter, visit http://allycarter.com/.

Published in: on November 23, 2011 at 11:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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