Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne

Waiting on Wednesday is the excellent meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine to highlight the upcoming titles we're excited about.  This week, I'm looking forward to:

by Sara Wilson Etienne
February 2, 2012

When sixteen-year-old Faye arrives at Holbrook Academy, she doesn't expect to find herself exactly where she needs to be. After years of strange waking visions and nightmares, her only comfort the bones of dead animals, Faye is afraid she's going crazy. Fast.

But her first night at Holbrook, she feels strangely connected to the school and the island it sits on, like she's come home. She's even made her first real friends, but odd things keep happening to them. Every morning they wake on the floors of their dorm rooms with their hands stained red.

Faye knows she's the reason, but what does it all mean? The handsome Kel tries to help her unravel the mystery, but Faye is certain she can't trust him; in fact, he may be trying to kill her - and the rest of the world too.

Rich, compelling writing will keep the pages turning in this riveting and tautly told psychological thriller.

I totally have to admit that the cover first attracted me to this title.  It's just lovely and intriguing. The blindfold and the moon-lit clouds behind.  I love it.

But if the book lives up to the synopsis and there really is a psychological thriller, I'll be really excited and probably in love.  Also it's a boarding school book so how can I not be interested?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Hellos and Best Books of 2011

These past two months have been such a crazy mash-up of insanity, holidays, Yuletide, and Issues that I kind of started to hide from anything that wasn’t Absolutely Required because everything was stressing me out.  And then, of course, once that starts, it’s hard to stop hiding because there is Much Guilt.

But luckily there has been the start of the New Year and an acknowledged place for New Beginnings so I poke my head out again to say how much I missed all of you and how much I’ve missed this crazy book blogging thing we do.  So hi!  I doubt I will be posting as much as I had been last year, but I want to keep posting and keep up the conversation.  

To make this a real post, I just want to take a moment to look back at the best books I read in 2011.  I didn’t review them all, but I did review some, and I’ll link to those reviews in the list.

  • A Brief History of Montmaray and FitzOsbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper - My favourite books of the year.  The story of the royal family of a tiny (fictional) island in the Bay of Biscay in the late 1930s. Gorgeous history, fantastic characterization. I can not wait for the third book.  Can. Not. Wait.
  • Entwinedby Heather Dixon - An amazing and magical retelling of the fairytale Twelve Dancing Princesses. The author managed to create distinguishable personalities for each of the twelve sisters which is a feat in itself.
  • Deadline by Mira Grant - The sequel to Feed which came out in 2010. Somehow Grant avoided the 'second book of a trilogy' curse with a further exploration of the world, the virus causing zombies, and the wonderful characters she makes us fall in love with.
  • All These Things I've Doneby Gabrielle Zevin - Not a dystopian, but a future New York where coffee and chocolate is banned because caffeine is a dangerous drug. A mafia princess (the 1st person narrator with a unique and interesting voice) tries to protect her siblings and find her own path after their father is murdered.
  • The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson - Hilarious and terrifying on the same page.
  • White Cat and Red Glove by Holly Black – Utterly brilliant writing and worldbuilding.
  • Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper - A mourning emporium with a cameo from Charles Dickens.
  • Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys - Heartbreaking and gorgeous.
  • Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty – How did I last this long without reading them before? I have no idea, but I’m kind of glad I got to read them all in one big bite.
  • Eon and Eona by Alison Goodman - Asian dragon lore and girls dressing as boys. An incredibly unique magic system and an epic fantasy.
  • If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman - These are books you'll weep over. And they're amazing.
  • Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins - Technically I read Anna at the very end of 2010, but I reread it about 6 times in 2011 so I'm counting it.
I don't know how real journalists do it! I always feel so badly when I'm choosing for 'best of' lists. All the poor books that I really liked but just didn't quite measure up!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review: Fracture by Megan Miranda

by Megan Miranda
January 17, 2012
Received from NetGalley
Goodreads Page
Amazon Page
Grade: A-

Eleven minutes passed before Delaney Maxwell was pulled from the icy waters of a Maine lake by her best friend Decker Phillips. By then her heart had stopped beating. Her brain had stopped working. She was dead. And yet she somehow defied medical precedent to come back seemingly fine-despite the scans that showed significant brain damage. Everyone wants Delaney to be all right, but she knows she's far from normal. Pulled by strange sensations she can't control or explain, Delaney finds herself drawn to the dying. Is her altered brain now predicting death, or causing it?

Then Delaney meets Troy Varga, who recently emerged from a coma with similar abilities. At first she's reassured to find someone who understands the strangeness of her new existence, but Delaney soon discovers that Troy's motives aren't quite what she thought. Is their gift a miracle, a freak of nature-or something much more frightening?

For fans of best-sellers like Before I Fall and If I Stay, this is a fascinating and heart-rending story about love and friendship and the fine line between life and death.

Here’s a tip: when you’re reading Fracture make sure you have some fluffy blankets or a nice animal or two to curl up on you because between the descriptions of the icy lake and the Maine winter, you’re going to want to warm up!

Much of this book felt like an adaption of a Hitchcock movie - suspenseful and cinematic with an overall feeling of dread even when chocolate chip cookies are baking in the narrative.  The writing is incredibly evocative both of the cold of the winter and of the bleakness of Delaney’s situation, and the cinematic qualities had me picturing cold winter light dulling every color it touches - except for the bright red of Delaney’s parka. 

I tend to enjoy character-driven books more than plot-driven, but Fracture is definitely an exception to that rule.  Though I have to admit, it’s not entirely plot-driven either.  There’s a Major Event - which is referred to in the synopsis so this isn’t a spoiler! - and the rest of the book is how Delaney reacts to it.  All of that is a roundabout way of saying that in some ways, I found that watching the characters’ reactions to the situation more interesting than the characters themselves.

Which isn’t to say I didn’t find the characters enjoyable! I empathised so much with Delaney and her focus on grades and uncertainty about her standing with her best friend Dexter and the friends that are more his than hers.  She’s a smart girl, stuck in a situation where intelligence has to give way to feelings and intuition.  Learning that sometimes intelligence can’t fix things is a hard, hard lesson when for a girl who’s always gotten A’s (yeah, I’m totally speaking for myself here, but for Delaney too).  I liked her best friend Dexter and his easygoing approach to life which was nearly shattered when his best friend fell through the ice, and I felt so much for both Delaney’s parents as they struggled to come to terms with the fact that their daughter before her accident may not be the same girl who woke up from the coma.

I think there may be criticisms of this book for being too slow or uneven pacing, but I didn’t find it so.  When the book slowed down to examine the day-to-day minutia of Delaney’s post-accident life, I felt it served both to give greater insight into these characters and to build tension about what was happening and what might happen.  Certainly it allowed Delaney to slowly but fully comprehend everything occurring around her. 

I found the climax a bit confusing, and there were questions raised that we never really got answers to especially in regards to Troy.  What really was going on?  But the overall message really touched me and makes me rather think that sometimes questions don’t need answers even when we really want them.  I very much want to talk about the conclusion, but I don’t want to spoil everyone so I’m going to avoid it.  Suffice it to say...I liked it.

This is a tense, suspenseful book that I’d recommend to anyone looking for a cinematic read with touches of horror.  I really enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to see what the author writes next.

Thanks to Walker Books and NetGalley for allowing me to read this eARC!