June 30, 2014

Tsarina: Get It... or Forget It?

This is a new feature I'm starting up, because as book bloggers we all know that there are too many books to read, and not enough time. I need to know which books are must-reads and which ones I can just plain ignore.

For which I turn to you, my readers! I'll pick a book each week that I'm wondering about, and you can tell me if I should GET IT...or just FORGET IT.
This week: Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick


Not gonna lie, part of my interest in this one is just for that spectacular cover. But I also like the idea of a storyline involving a Faberge egg! However, I've heard that this book plays fast and loose with actual historical fact. So I welcome your input: get it, or forget it? Vote!

If you think I should get it, let me know: buy from the bookstore or just order from the library? And if I should forget it...why?

June 26, 2014

Throne of Glass: A Close-Up Review

"Meet Celaena Sardothien.
Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness.
In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?
" (from Goodreads)
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Characters:

Celaena: I wasn't a big fan of Celaena at the beginning, but she grew on me. She has a lot of self-respect, to the point of (at least initially) coming off as full of herself. By the end of the book, though, we see that she can at times be rather brutally taken down. I think at least some of her cocky attitude is a cover so that she doesn't show her vulnerability. Her continual, lightning-fast flip-flopping with emotions and judgments of others irritated me, however — in some cases this led to behaviour that felt out of character, overall making Celaena's characterization feel somewhat inconsistent.

Also, I wish we'd seen flashbacks to when she'd done assassin-y sorts of things. We keep getting told she's a fantastic assassin, sure, but we don't see it. All we get is a lot of her either a) wearing fancy dresses, b) training, or c) competing. She does well in the competition, it's true, but so do many of the other criminals. Celaena's supposed to be Adarlan's GREATEST assassin, and I just didn't feel like I could fully believe it. Especially considering a decision she makes at one point in the story (spoilers): WHY does she pick a wooden staff over a sword when she knows her opponent will be wielding a sword? Unless it's a magical staff that does not break, you are screwed if you do that. Metal shears wood, case closed. Why didn't she choose Chaol's sword? (It was a romantic gesture, too!)

There's a sort-of love triangle here involving Celaena and two guys, and the way it was written did not endear me to Celaena. I dislike it when the heroine leads on two men, and I'm sorry to say that she does that a bit here. It's certainly not the worst case I've ever seen, but I wish she had made an effort to establish the boundaries of her relationships with Chaol and Dorian. As for how the love triangle turned out, here are my spoilery thoughts on that: I was pleased when she finally broke it off with Dorian, as I never felt a spark between them. 

Dorian: I found him rather bland and boring...truthfully, he seemed like a wuss with not much of a spine. It took him forever to stand up to his father about anything. Also, he was all talk and no action! He didn't back up his fine, fancy words. Case in point (spoilers): Dorian kept berating himself after the fact for not doing anything to help Celaena during the duel, and I was like, "Um, YEAH, dude, you sucked. You just stood there and watched her get beat up." Really, Dorian reminded me of nothing so much as an immature puppy dog.

Chaol: While I think I was predisposed to like Chaol because I'd seen readers raving about him, there is no question that he was by far superior to Dorian. He's the strong, silent, stoic, steadfast type (say that 10 times fast!). I think he and Celaena share more values than either of them cares to admit, and certainly more than Celaena and Dorian do.

Other characters: I liked the mystery surrounding what side Nehemia was on. Spoilers: it was interesting to make her out to be a potential villain for a while, and then have it turn out that she was actually one of the people saving Celaena a lot of the time. As for Kaltain, I thought her role wasn't fleshed out enough. Her character just seemed to be there for the convenience of the plotline.

Premise: I'd heard Throne of Glass previously described as the story of "Cinderella as an assassin." Now, they didn't market it that way on my physical copy of the book (rather, they claimed it was "hotter than the Hunger Games!" which I would dispute both metaphorically and, well, literally, considering the castle is made of glass), which was a smart choice since as far as I'm concerned it's a rather misleading comparison. Sure, there are a few similarities: Celaena's an orphan, her work in the mines could be seen as slaving away doing "chores," she attends a masked ball at one point (and dances with a prince), and she has anywhere from one to three potential "fairy godmothers." But thematically, I don't see Throne of Glass as capturing the heart of the Cinderella story. (Perhaps it started out as a retelling, and then expanded and changed in the writing of it?)

Plot: It takes a little while for anything to happen, but things pick up about halfway through (spoilers: once the Wyrdmarks come into effect and the Fae queen starts appearing to Celaena) which is when I started getting more into it. However, a lot of this book is just conversations interspersed with deaths (sometimes off-screen).

There were also a few plot points that confused me. I was never too sure on which cover story about "Lady Lilian" was being fed to whom, and who knew what about Celaena's participation in the competition. I was also left bemused by the Duke Perrington-Kaltain storyline (spoilers: I know he was using the black rings, but how exactly, and to what effect, was Duke Perrington exerting his influence on Kaltain?)

And the rules regarding a certain magic ritual seemed to get contradicted when put into action. Spoilers: I thought Cain needed the victim's blood to summon the Ridderach, but he does not stab Celaena before he calls the creature. Did I just misread this, or is there something I'm missing here? Perhaps someone can enlighten me?

Writing style: Unfortunately, I found the writing less than spectacular. Throne of Glass is written by a debut author and it shows, with plenty of cliched metaphors and overly dramatic phrasing.

Caveat: To be perfectly fair to Throne of Glass, I should really mention the circumstances under which I was reading it. It was during my first term in a highly intense, stressful Master's degree program, and I was really tired all the time! It took me absolutely forever to get through this book because of that (although once I had some time to finish it, I did within a couple of days). Of course, this coloured my reading experience of the book, so take from that what you will.

Final verdict: 3.5 shooting stars. It just didn't live up to all the hype and glowing reviews for me.

Note: there is some mature content (namely violence) in this book.

June 25, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: My Heart & Other Black Holes and The Girl at Midnight


 
Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and features books that we just can't wait to get our hands on!

This week's picks:

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

 Goodreads' description:

"Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who seems scared of her, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father who has made her the town pariah, Aysel’s ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers the website Smooth Passages and its section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution. Better yet, a boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman), who’s haunted by a family tragedy, is looking for a partner.

But as their suicide pact starts to become more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, Aysel must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. Except that Roman may not be so easy to convince.

This is a gorgeously written and compulsively readable debut novel about the transformative power of love and acceptance.
"

This one sounds dark but compelling. There are numerous YA books about suicide, but not too many about suicide pacts, so I'm interested to see how that aspect (and the dynamic of that relationship) is handled.

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey


"For readers of Cassandra Clare's City of Bones and Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone, The Girl at Midnight is the story of a modern girl caught in an ancient war.

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it's time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it's how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren't as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire."


Not gonna lie, I mostly chose this one because of the cover. I mean, look at it. The beautiful purplish background. The twisty scripted font. The phoenix and...dragon, I think? Anyway, despite the comparisons to City of Bones and Shadow & Bone, the description actually reminds me more of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke & Bone (off-topic: that's a lot of titles with "bone" in them.) 

What books are you waiting for?

June 23, 2014

Get It... or Forget It? (1)

This is a new feature I'm starting up, because as book bloggers we all know that there are too many books to read, and not enough time. I need to know which books are must-reads and which ones I can just plain ignore.

For which I turn to you, my readers! I'll pick a book each week that I'm wondering about, and you can tell me if I should GET IT...or just FORGET IT.

First up: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon


This one's gotten a lot of hype, and I do like the cover, but it seems to be garnering very mixed reactions. Some people love it, others were less than impressed. So... please vote and let me know what you think!

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

If you think I should get it, let me know: buy from the bookstore or just order from the library? And if I should forget it...why?

June 22, 2014

Attachments: A Snapshot (Adult)

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

"Hi, I'm the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . "

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It's company policy.) But they can't quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O'Neill can't believe this is his job now- reading other people's e-mail. When he applied to be "internet security officer," he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth's and Jennifer's messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can't help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late to introduce himself.

What would he say . . . ?
" (from Goodreads)

The subject:
a young man in his late twenties who's trying to figure out what he should be doing in life, and falling in love along the way. Lincoln's a slightly pathetic (he lives with his mom), somewhat neurotic (he's a worrier with self-esteem issues), entirely lovable character who worms his way into your heart.

The setting: primarily various offices and rooms at The Courier, as well as Lincoln's mom's house, in 1999/2000. (Yes, the Y2K scare happens!)


Shutter speed: slow, to be sure. This is a character-driven book, so if you are looking for action-packed plot, look elsewhere. 

What's in the background? The kind of dry, witty, understated humour that strikes my funnybone just right. This book had me chortling with laughter numerous times.


Also, some of the storylines are on the serious side, with more than a touch of melancholy to them. This balances out the lighter, fluffier side of things.

Zoom in on: Beth's perspective, particularly towards the end. We're in Lincoln's head a lot but I would have liked to have gotten a better idea of what Beth was thinking. 
 
Anything out of focus? I wanted more from the ending. Given that the whole book was building toward this moment, it just didn't give me everything I was hoping for. Spoilers, highlight to read: I found the last couple of chapters cheesy and predictable in how they got together, and it happened awfully fast. While I think theoretically they are quite well-suited — Lincoln loves devotedly, which is what Beth is looking for after her previous relationship with Chris — I would have liked to have seen more of them together, demonstrating their compatibility in action.


I also felt like Beth's and Jennifer's voices sounded quite similar, and it took a while for their personalities to become even somewhat distinct from each other. They both made plenty of pop culture references that went sailing right over my head (as they often do). 

Ready? Say... charming!


Click! 4 shooting stars. Fans of Meg Cabot's adult 'chick-lit' books will enjoy this one, especially if they're looking for something that's just a little bit weightier. 




June 18, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: We Should Hang Out Sometime and The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and features books that we just can't wait to get our hands on!

This week's picks:

We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a true story by Josh Sundquist


Goodreads' description:

"A bright, poignant, and deeply funny autobiographical account of coming of age as an amputee cancer survivor, from Josh Sundquist: Paralympic ski racer, YouTube star, and motivational speaker.

Josh Sundquist only ever had one girlfriend.
For twenty-three hours.
In eighth grade.

Why was Josh still single? To find out, he tracked down the girls he had tried to date and asked them straight up: What went wrong?

The results of Josh's semiscientific, wholly hilarious investigation are captured here. From a disastrous Putt-Putt date involving a backward prosthetic foot, to his introduction to CFD (Close Fast Dancing), to a misguided "grand gesture" at a Miss America pageant, this story is about looking for love--or at least a girlfriend--in all the wrong places."


This one sounds quirky and fun, and even better it's apparently autobiographical (embarrassingly, even!). I need some more humorous books in my life, so I'll be keeping an eye out for this one. 

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin
 

Goodreads' description:

"Two-time National Book Award finalist Adele Griffin offers an ingenious fictional take on the "oral history" celebrity bio that defined a bestselling genre: Edie, American Girl by Jean Stein and George Plimpton. In presenting herself as interviewer and curator of memories, Adele paints the portrait of a tragic young celebrity who allegedly committed suicide—presented in a series of brief first-person recollections—that ultimately results in the solving of a murder. 

Adele's words: "From the moment she burst into the downtown art scene, seventeen-year-old Addison Stone was someone to watch. Her trademark subversive street art and her violent drowning left her fans and critics craving to know more about this brilliant wild-child who shone so bright and was gone too soon. By means of more than one hundred interviews with those who knew her best—including close friends, family, teachers, mentors, art dealers, boyfriends, and critics—I have retraced the tumultuous path of Addison's life, with research that sheds new evidence on what really happened the night of July 28, 2013. With photo inserts and previously unpublished supplemental material.""


I've read a few books by Adele Griffin in the past, and been impressed by all of them. Her writing is simply superb. This book — solving a murder within a celebrity bio — sounds a little different from some of the other ones she's written. 

What books are you waiting for? 


June 17, 2014

Top Ten Books I'm Hoping To Read This Summer

 
The Top Ten Tuesday meme is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. I actually have some time now before school starts up again to get some reading (for fun) in! 

It is rather sad and pathetic that some of the books on this list were on last year's summer TBR list too. Sooner or later (apparently later for a lot of them) they will get read!


1.) Attachments by Rainbow Rowell — I haven't read anything by Rainbow Rowell before but lots of bloggers rave about her books. I've already started Attachments, not very far into it yet but liking it well enough so far.


2.) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green — Yeah, I'm one of those rare people who has not yet read this one. But now with the film out I have no more excuses!


3.) Scarlet by Marissa Meyer — I so need to catch up on this series, I'm way behind.


4.) Shadows on the Moon by ZoĆ« Marriott — I haven't read any books involving Japanese culture in a while so this will be a nice change. Plus, fairytales are always up my alley.


5.) Reached by Ally Condie — This one is so huge that it kind of intimidates me. I think I'll need to crack open Crossed first and remind myself of how it ended, because it's been a while now since I read it.

6.) Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein — somehow this one is *still* on my TBR list. I don't know how it has not been read yet.



7.) Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys — I know this one is supposed to be heartbreakingly depressing, but also oh so well-written.


8.) Breath by Jackie Morse Kessler —I've had mixed feelings about this series (I think the best so far is still the first) but I liked the character of Death and this is supposed to be the book that focuses most on him.

9.) The Sweet, Terrible, Glorious Year I Truly, Completely Lost It by Lisa Shanahan — this one looks perfect as a light, fun summer read.


10.) Five Flavours of Dumb by Antony John — this one's received plenty of great reviews from bloggers I trust.

Which of these books do you guys think I should prioritize reading? I'd love your input (as I'm not sure I'll get to all of them!)

And what books are on *your* summer TBR list?


June 14, 2014

Vicious: A Panoramic Review (NA/adult)

"A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world.

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.
" (from Goodreads)

Note: This review includes some mild spoilers, as there was just too much I wanted to talk about. Major spoilers about the ending, however, are whited out.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

My reaction: 
  

This is the sort of book suited to readers who don't mind completely dislikeable, loathesome, irredeemable characters. Because that is what Vicious gives you. This book has the most vile, sickening characters that I've read about in a long time.

As is obvious from the above description, there are two main characters here, Victor and Eli, and really it's a six-of-one-half-a-dozen-of-the-other situation as far as I'm concerned. Victor specializes in magically torturing people and Eli specializes in killing them the old-fashioned way. If I were forced to pick, I suppose I would choose Victor, simply because he seems to be more sane and stable than Eli. I think that if, heaven forbid, I somehow got in his way, I might be able to reason with Victor if I had something to offer him (like a useful superpower), in order to keep him from killing or torturing me. Whereas if I was an ExtraOrdinary and I ran into Eli I would be just plain out of luck, convinced as he is that he is on a God-given mission to eradicate all ExtraOrdinarys (save himself, of course, because he's "special".) 

Joining their ruthless ranks is Serena, Eli's sort-of girlfriend, who specializes in compelling everyone around her to do what she wants. She sometimes sickened me more than the others because she was so slick in manipulating people. We're told she is unable to "turn it off" and likes it when people resist her; perhaps that was supposed to make us sympathize with her but it didn't really work. Personally I thought she quite liked getting her way and twisting Eli around her little finger. Add to that her betrayal of her younger sister Sydney and let's face it, she was not about to win me over.

The only characters I actually liked were Sydney, Mitch, and the dog Dol. Sydney was a sweet, relatively innocent young girl who, despite the many obstacles she'd faced, had not turned all brutal the way Victor, Eli and Serena had. She was gutsy and had a quiet inner strength – sort of an "old soul." It was kind of sad and pathetic the way she saw Victor as her "safe place," given that the reader is well aware of his less-than-friendly attitude towards anyone who gets in the way of his plans. Mitch really seemed to care about Sydney and acted protective of her. And the dog, well, his loyalty to and bond with Sydney was admittedly adorable.


Best aspect: the complex, thought-provoking nature of Victor's and Eli's relationship and views of each other, both in college when this whole mess began as well as ten years later. While they may see themselves as vastly different (and they make every attempt to repeatedly tell themselves that) they are really two sides of the same coin. 

For Eli, there is a good dose of religious fanaticism motivating his "mission", whereas Victor is all about the cold hard facts. Eli's more impulsive and passionate, Victor more clinical, clever and exacting. In college, Eli was the charismatic one, naturally claiming the spotlight, easily charming the girl, whereas Victor lurked in his shadow, always a step behind. Victor has a glint of humanity left, evidenced by his befriending of Sydney and Mitch, while Eli appears to care for no one.

Yet their similarities are far more striking than their differences. Each determined to prove himself — Victor to Eli, who he seems to hero-worship; Eli to the world, and perhaps God. Each willing to take risks, to be utterly ruthless, to get a step closer to their ultimate goal. Each with a cruel sadistic streak that only widens when they become ExtraOrdinary. Each fascinated with pushing the boundaries of science and ethics. It is the height of irony that they both consider themselves to be on the side of "right" and the other on the side of "wrong" when from the reader's perspective it is easy to put both firmly in the category of "villain." (In fact, to underscore this point — the story primarily alternates between Victor's and Eli's perspectives, and I had a lot of trouble remembering which character I was reading about at any given time. Their mindsets just seemed so similar to me.)

If I could change something... I would tighten up the middle section plot-wise. The story dragged in the middle; things were getting repetitive ("ho hum, who's going to get tortured or killed next?") and I started to get bored. Mainly I just loathed both characters so much that I wanted to get to the part where they died (a not improbable prediction given that each of them wants to take out the other). 

I would also introduce a couple more characters who were not as despicable as the rest. It was disheartening to read over 300 pages about sadistic people with no hope for redemption. A few characters with some humanity left in their hearts would have brought a better balance to this book. 

As well, I would have liked more insight into Serena's motives. We don't get a very strong read on her character or much information on her backstory, particularly regarding her relationship with her sister.


If you haven't read it: and you like reading books about horrible people doing horrible things, well then...Vicious is your book.

If you have read it: did you find it as darkly harrowing and disturbing as I did?

Just one more thing I wanted to mention: I found the end of the book disappointingly anti-climactic, perhaps because it was not quite the ending I was hoping for. Spoilers, highlight to read: well, I was kind of hoping that Victor, Eli and Serena would all perish in a pyre of flames, as I said to my sister on Skype chat when I was partway through reading the book. Sadly, that did not come to pass. Serena did, in a manner of speaking, make it to the pyre, but Eli just ended up getting arrested (seriously, how long until he breaks out?) and Victor "died" but was conveniently resurrected by Sydney a couple days later. I would have appreciated more conversation between Victor and Eli at the end, hashing out what had gone wrong between them all those years ago at college, rather than simple physical battle.


Final verdict: This book is the antithesis of warm fuzzies. If you are looking for a book that delves into the inhuman lengths that super-humans will go to in satisfying their own ends, look no further. Vicious is aptly titled. 
 
Rating: 3.5 shooting stars. I struggled with what rating to give this book, simply because in all honesty I cannot say I liked it, but at the same time I cannot really say it is badly written. I will say that I think some of the violence was gratuitous, and overall I was left feeling sort of gross and tainted when I finished the book. I feel like perhaps Vicious tries too hard to be "edgy" without delving as deeply as it could into the real philosophical, ethical and psychological issues underlying Victor's and Eli's choices. 
 

Note: This book is only appropriate for mature readers (NA or adult), as it contains graphic violent content. 

June 11, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Stepsister's Tale, The Vault of Dreamers, and Don't Touch

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and features books that we just can't wait to get our hands on!

Yep, I *am* back on the blog again! My first year of grad school is finally done, and now I am home and able to catch my breath, relax, read, and catch up on what's been going on in the blogosphere over the last, oh, 10 months or so (anyone want to clue me in?)

There are apparently a lot of upcoming books I need to get familiar with. Here are a few that I'm looking forward to:


The Stepsister's Tale by Tracy Barrett


Goodreads' description:

"What really happened after the clock struck midnight?

Jane Montjoy is tired of being a lady. She's tired of pretending to live up to the standards of her mother's noble family-especially now that the family's wealth is gone and their stately mansion has fallen to ruin. It's hard enough that she must tend to the animals and find a way to feed her mother and her little sister each day. Jane's burden only gets worse after her mother returns from a trip to town with a new stepfather and stepsister in tow. Despite the family's struggle to prepare for the long winter ahead, Jane's stepfather remains determined to give his beautiful but spoiled child her every desire.

When her stepfather suddenly dies, leaving nothing but debts and a bereaved daughter behind, it seems to Jane that her family is destined for eternal unhappiness. But a mysterious boy from the woods and an invitation to a royal ball are certain to change her fate...

From the handsome prince to the evil stepsister, nothing is quite as it seems in Tracy Barrett's stunning retelling of the classic Cinderella tale."



I've read Tracy Barrett's Anna of Byzantium several times, although I was not as thrilled with her book Dark of the Moon. Cinderella is not my favourite fairy tale, but as a rule I do like fairy tales generally and I'm interested to see what Tracy Barrett does with one of the best known ones.


The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien


Goodreads' description:

"From the author of the Birthmarked trilogy comes a fast-paced, psychologically thrilling novel about what happens when your dreams are not your own.

The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success:  every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What's worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there."



I enjoyed Birthmarked (*cough* need to catch up on that series, along with a billion other ones *cough*) and I am drawn to psychological thrillers. Not the biggest fan of "reality TV show" premises but it sounds like there's more to it than that, so I'm hoping the secret of the Forge School is something good...


Don't Touch by Rachel M. Wilson


Goodreads' description:


"A powerful story of a girl who is afraid to touch another person’s skin, until the boy auditioning for Hamlet opposite her Ophelia gives her a reason to overcome her fears.

Step on a crack, break your mother’s back. Touch another person’s skin, and Dad’s gone for good.

Caddie can’t stop thinking that if she keeps from touching another person’s skin, her parents might get back together... which is why she wears full-length gloves to school and covers every inch of her skin.

It seems harmless at first, but Caddie’s obsession soon threatens her ambitions as an actress. She desperately wants to play Ophelia in her school’s production of Hamlet. But that would mean touching Peter, who’s auditioning for the title role—and kissing him. Part of Caddie would love nothing more than to kiss Peter—but the other part isn't sure she's brave enough to let herself fall.

Perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson, this debut novel from Rachel M. Wilson is a moving story of a talented girl who's fighting an increasingly severe anxiety disorder, and the friends and family who stand by her."


I'm always on the lookout for more YA books about mental health issues, so I'm happy to see another one tackling OCD. It seems like there are more of those these days than there used to be – perhaps awareness about OCD is increasing? In any case, I'm hopeful that it provides an accurate representation of OCD as well as a compelling storyline. Also, the cover is simple but effective, with the black gloves underscoring Caddie's challenges. 

What books are you waiting for? 


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