3

Fantasy, Don’t Fail Me Now: Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

Well hi there!

Guys! Fantasy is just so darn good!

Seriously. I recently finished Melina Marchetta’s Finnikin of the Rock and when I finally put the book down I said “I LOVE fantasy” out loud, to no one because I was alone.

Finnikin of the Rock and his guardian, Sir Topher, have not been home to their beloved Lumatere for ten Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchettayears. Not since the dark days when the royal family was murdered and the kingdom put under a terrible curse. But then Finnikin is summoned to meet Evanjalin, a young woman with an incredible claim: the heir to the throne of Lumatere, Prince Balthazar, is alive.

Evanjalin is determined to return home and she is the only one who can lead them to the heir. As they journey together, Finnikin is affected by her arrogance . . . and her hope. He begins to believe he will see his childhood friend, Prince Balthazar, again. And that their cursed people will be able to enter Lumatere and be reunited with those trapped inside. He even believes he will find his imprisoned father. But Evanjalin is not what she seems. And the truth will test not only Finnikin’s faith in her . . . but in himself.

I’m very guilty of passing over this one at my public library multiple times. Probably because of the fact that it has a male main character…which you know I have issues with. So, I had been intimated by this one but I knew how much other bloggers loved it so I finally decided to give it a go and I’m so glad I did!

I was hooked right away. Marchetta’s writing style is riveting. Finnikin of the Rock had some of the most amazing world building I’ve ever experienced. I was so eager to learn more about Lumatere’s strange and dangerous history and culture. The people of Finnikin’s nation are so bound by their history that as the reader you’re right alongside Finnikin and Evanjalin as they feel both frustration and compassion for the people of Lumatere.

Marchetta’s characters are so beautifully sketched. Each person in Finnikin’s circle is full of courage, faith and perseverance that I couldn’t help but admire them. They’re not all perfect, by any means, but they are loyal to their nation which allows them to spur others on at difficult times throughout the story. And Evanjalin?! She’s a badass. Sorry, that is the only word I can think of!  Also, the enemy, the Imposter King, is so terrifying a character…he really is the stuff of nightmares, even though we actually never really meet him. Which proves Marhetta’s skill – to be so frightened by a character that we never see?!?! Awesome!

I had my suspicions but the plot twist was sooo well done that it totally took me by surprise and  made total sense at the same time.  I actually think my reaction was the same as some of the characters upon realizing the truth!

After listening to many audiobooks, I’ve come to realize that audiobook narrators can really make or break a story. This narrator  was incredibly talented and really added so much to the story, although there were a few points where some of his accents faltered.

Is Finnikin of the Rock a great fantasy read? YES! So, if you’re into fantasy you should totally read it. As far as age recommendations, I wouldn’t suggest a middle schooler read this one as I’m pretty confident it has some material that might be too disturbing for those younger than high school (think terrifying king), although a mature eighth grader may be able to handle it.

So…YAY for fantasy! This genre rarely fails me! It definitely didn’t fail with Finnikin of the Rock.

Author: Melina Marchetta

Publisher: Candlewick on Brilliance Audio (September 29th 2008)

Format: audiobook

Length: 12 hours and 25 minutes

Narrator(s): Jeffrey Cummings

Series: First in the Lumatere Chronicles

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book: Finnikin of the Rock (The Lumatere Chronicles)

10

Fairy Tale with a Twist of Sci-Fi: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Welcome back BookTasty friends!

Whew! Moving is intense! First the packing and living in chaos, then the cleaning and packing up the truck. This is then followed by driving the truck and your cars to new home (from Florida to South Carolina in our case) and unpacking said truck. Finally  you unpack boxes and organize. It’s a good thing we have amazing friends in both states who were ready to help!

Recently I was able to snatch up the audiobook of Scarlet by Marissa Meyer from my library – I literally did a little happy Scarlet by Marissa Meyerjumping dance in the middle of the teen section when I saw it sitting on the shelf! I absolutely loved Meyer’s first book in The Lunar Chronicles, Cinder, so I knew Scarlet (book two) was one I had to read!

The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth. Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Marissa Meyer just knows how to write a fun book! Fairy tale retellings are some of my favorites, and Meyer took the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale and added a kick-butt futuristic, sci-fi twist to it. LOVE!

In Cinder, we met Cinder and Prince Kai. Their stories were great – a cyborg Cinderella meets reluctant prince amidst a plague epidemic in futuristic Asia? But what I love about Meyer’s storytelling is she doesn’t stop with them and make them the central focus of each book, she adds in new main characters to move the plot forward but also add new story lines. In Scarlet we met, Scarlet (who always wears her red hoodie) and Wolf, an intriguing mystery guy who knows more than he lets on.

As a main character it took me a while to warm up to Scarlet. In the beginning she seems unnecessarily reckless and rebellious, but her sarcasm (which I’m always a fan of) starts to grow on you and you can’t help but be on her side. Plus, the more and more I remember the original story of Red Riding Hood, Scarlet’s personality reflects Red Riding Hood pretty well. Not following authority’s recommendations?! That’s Scarlet!

On another character note, Cinder is much darker and snappier than she was in the first book, but then again if I was on the run from the law I’d probably be a little snappy too! Oh and Captain Thorne?  You remind me of someone just as naughty and honorable…(pssst…it’s Captain Mal from Firefly). Of course, Queen Levana is an evil and manipulative as ever, while her “army” is terrifying!

Meyer’s sci-fi futuristic world is fabulously imagined, but isn’t the focus of the story. The reader isn’t laden down with technology and scientific descriptions of things. These characters live a world of robots, vid-screens, trackers,s pace ships, and cyborgs but ultimately the reader can recognize the world as one that’s not so different from ours today.

So, all in all I really enjoyed Scarlet and can’t wait for the next book in The Lunar Chronicles, Cress which is to be released in early 2014. So, if you’re looking for a quality fairy tale retelling, or are in the mood for some fun science fiction you should definitely read Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (only you should start with Cinder since, you know, it is the first book!).

Author: Marissa Meyer

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends (February 5, 2013)

Format: audiobook

Length: 11 hours and 19 minutes

Series: Second book in The Lunar Chronicles

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book:  Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, Book 2)

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This Happened: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Welcome Back!

I try to stay away from books that want to make me cry. We’ve talked about this before. I don’t like to cry when I’m reading, that’s not a fun part of the reading experience for me. Sometimes though…just sometimes…I hear such wonderful things about a book that crying or not I have to read it (no matter how much it intimidates me!). So, I read Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta SepetysLina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

I really am speechless and have no idea what to say about this book that will do it justice. Between Shades of Gray is haunting. The story itself is incredibly intense and horrific.

Guys. This happened.

I had no idea that the Soviets went into the Baltic states and just took people from their homes and shipped them off to Siberia to die. I mean I knew a little, but the happenings of World War II often get eclipsed by the Jewish Holocaust, Hitler and the Nazis, so I had no idea to what extent Stalin’s damage had on the people of countries such as Lithuania. Interestingly enough, now that I’ve read this book, I’m remembering my mom telling me about one of the priests at the church I grew up in. Father Palis was born in Lithuania, was in seminary when the Soviet’s invaded and had to escape to Germany in secret. Personally knowing someone who went through parts of what Lina experienced makes the story in Between Shades of Gray that much more tangible.

Ruta Sepetys’ writing is beautiful. The horrors that Lina and her family witness and experience take on an almost lyrical quality, which made me continue turning the pages even though my heart hurt so much. You want to know what happens to this remarkable, vulnerable, bitter, kind and brave teenage girl. You want to know that she gets to go home and be a normal teenager who goes to school, flirts with boys and imagines her future as an artist. Sepetys’ writing just makes you get completely caught up in these characters.

It is interesting to see how the others in Lina’s group of deportees respond to the harsh circumstances. Some, like Lina’s mother, show amazing courage and kindness, while others are so broken that they become hard and bitter. Lina touches on these reactions throughout the story, and Lina herself struggles with alternating feelings of hatred and anger versus love and grace.

If you haven’t read Between Shades of Gray yet, you need to add it to your TBR list as soon as possible. It is so well done (and the audiobook narrator is fabulous). The story of what Lina and her people are forced to bear with will cause you to wonder why our history textbooks don’t teach us more about what happened in the Baltic states during Stalin’s rule. As an educator, I believe this book could be (and should be) taught as a supplement to any history or language arts curriculum at the middle school level and up (if it’s not already…but it probably is). Parents note that there are very disturbing scenes of death and violence and you should read it along with your middle schooler.

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Publisher: Philomel Books (March 22, 2011), Penguin Audio

Format: Audiobook

Length: 7 hours and 47 mins

Narrator(s): Emily Klein

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: Between Shades of Gray

1

Sarcasm and Redemption: Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Well hello there!

I’ve been reading some of the 2013-2014 Florida Sunshine State books even though I’m moving out-of-state soon.  One of these books is Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt, which is apparently also on the South Carolina Junior Book Award list as well!

Okay for Now by Gary D. SchmidtOkay For Now explores a seemingly improbable alliance, this one between new outsider in town Doug Swieteck and Lil Spicer, the savvy spitfire daughter of his deli owner boss. With her challenging assistance, Doug discovers new sides of himself. Along the way, he also readjusts his relationship with his abusive father, his school peers, and his older brother, a newly returned war victim of Vietnam.

This was the first of the Florida Sunshine State books that I read this year. Being narrated by a male main character, I wouldn’t have chosen to read it first, but my library had the audiobook so I decided to give it a try.

Okay for Now was incredibly good. Like I want everyone I know to read it good.

First of all, I don’t know why I always shy away from male main characters, but I do! When I do actually take the time to read a book with a male main character, I usually end up enjoying it, so I don’t know whats wrong with me!  Well Doug, the main character in Okay for Now was incredibly refreshing. He was sarcastic and cynical in a way that I can relate to.  As the reader you quickly realize that Doug’s cynicism is just a shell he’s constructed to protect himself because that’s how he thinks real men should behave.

What I can’t get out of my head is what an awesome story of personal growth and redemption Okay for Now is. Doug grows and matures so much throughout the course of this book and the reader gets to see how far a little nurturing and love can do to really alter someone’s life. He starts out with an incredibly negative view of life and relationships, but eventually starts to let go of all that negativity with the help of some encouraging friends/mentors. But Doug isn’t the only character who experiences a little redemption in the end and this is probably the most difficult to accept yet beautiful maturation of all.

The difficulty and tension of the father-son relationships in Doug’s family is palpable. You can just feel the wall in Doug’s heart growing taller with every negative word or action from his father. It is amazing that Doug is able to turn into the young man he becomes considering the type of man his father is.

I will say that I was a little thrown for a loop with the sudden plot twist toward the end, but I did enjoy the fact that this surprise didn’t cause Doug to buckle under the pressure, but instead spurs him to love harder than ever.

Okay for Now is a hilariously witty and sarcastic coming of age story that everyone should read. I loved it and highly recommend it, but I don’t know how my students will respond to it since they normally aren’t fond of historical fiction.

Author: Gary D. Schmidt

Publisher: Clarion Books (April 1, 2011)

Format: audiobook

Length: 9 hours and 16 mins

Narrator(s): Lincoln Hoppe

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book:  Okay for Now

0

The Troll Toll: The Trylle Trilogy by Amanda Hocking

Well hello there BookTasty Fans!

*props to whoever gets the tv show reference in the title…*

I’m back! I know I haven’t posted a review in a little while (because the end of the school year is always jam-packed with events that take up my time) but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. I promise!

Recently I read (listened to) the entire Trylle Trilogy by Amanda Hocking….see I was reading!

When Wendy Everly was six years old, her mother was convinced she was a monster and tried to kill her. Eleven years later, Wendy discovers heSwitched by Amanda Hockingr mother might have been right. She’s not the person she’s always believed herself to be, and her whole life begins to unravel—all because of Finn Holmes.

Finn is a mysterious guy who always seems to be watching her. Every encounter leaves her deeply shaken…though it has more to do with her fierce attraction to him than she’d ever admit. But it isn’t long before he reveals the truth: Wendy is a changeling who was switched at birth—and he’s come to take her home.

Now Wendy’s about to journey to a magical world she never knew existed, one that’s both beautiful and frightening. And where she must leave her old life behind to discover who she’s meant to become. (summary from book one, Switched)

I was at my public library searching for an audiobook to listen to. It seems that they can’t keep up with my listening habits because there wasn’t anything that a. I hadn’t already read or b. was actually interested in. So there I was scouring the small audiobook section, when I came across Switched, Torn, and Ascend all sitting there like they were waiting for me to choose them. So I did.

I’m kind of lazy, so this post will be about the whole series, rather than reviewing each book independently.

When I started Switched, I was surprised by how much I was actually enjoying it! From the start I saw Wendy as an interesting character. She is flawed, hurt and knew that she never quite seemed to fit in. I love the whole idea of WTorn by Amanda Hockingendy’s mother trying to kill her because she believed her to be evil…I mean that whole scene described was pretty intense! No wonder Wendy is so messed up! I even liked the potential romance that was heating up between Wendy and Finn. The whole premise behind Wendy’s feelings of not fitting in is pretty cool and makes a lot of sense once you’ve realized what actually happened when Wendy was born. And she really does mature in some ways by the end of book three.  So, book one…I’m cool with you!

Then I got to book two, Torn. And this is where I realized that I wasn’t loving the series as much as I had while reading Switched. Don’t get me wrong, so much more happens in book two, and so much more is explained, but it’s also where the love triangle is introduced….DUN DUN DUUUUN!! I don’t normally have major issues with love triangles, but this one was super frustrating to me. Wendy pretty much gets tossed back and forth between Finn and Loki and can’t seem to get her own emotions straight.

And then we get to Ascend where the love triangle becomes…WAIT FOR IT…a love QUADrangle! That’s right…three guys and one Wendy! What’s a girl to do?! Kiss them all and marry one (whom she doesn’t love) so she can pretend she doesn’t need the others.  Oh Wendy…I can see right through you! Stop it! Be a strong young woman and just pick one of these guys instead of running into their arms one after the other. uurrrggghhh

Ascend by Amanda HockingOkay, so what was pretty frustrating for me while reading the Trylle trilogy is the way in which the love tri…quadrangle overshadows the rest of the plot. There was some really potentially cool stuff happening between the Trylle and Vittra tribes involving war, secret powers and birthrights, but all that is treated like small potatoes compared to the romance, which is such a shame.

So, all this aside. Was the Trylle Trilogy entertaining? Yes.

Did I enjoy these book? Sure.

Did I love them? No.

Did they have major flaws? Heck yes!

I have students who completely love and highly recommend The Trylle Trilogybooks, but in my mind these books are categorized as superficial fun romances with a little supernatural/fantasy thrown in. Not the first books I’d recommend to readers, but if this is what you’re in the mood for, like I was, then go for it.

Author: Amanda Hocking

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (Switched 2010, Torn 2010, Ascend 2011)

Format: Audiobook

Length: Switched (8 hrs, 48 mins), Torn (9 hrs, 2 mins), Ascend (7 hrs, 59 mins)

Series: The Trylle Trilogy

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book: Switched (Trylle)
Torn (Trylle Trilogy Book 2)
Ascend: A Trylle Novel

2

For Historical Fiction Fans: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Hello!

I listened to another audiobook! I recently finished A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly and I think it was my eighth audiobook of 2013.

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. Desperate for money, she takes a job

This isn't the cover for the audiobook, but I like this one better.

This isn’t the cover for the audiobook, but I like this one better.

at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown entrusts her with the task of burning a secret bundle of letters. But when Grace’s drowned body is fished from the lake, Mattie discovers that the letters could reveal the grim truth behind a murder.

Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, Jennifer Donnelly’s astonishing debut novel effortlessly weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, and real, and wholly original.

Historical fiction…why are you so good?! I love you! Seriously, I’m picky about my historical fiction, but when I do read one I like….I REALLY LIKE IT! Jennifer Donnelly’s books have this gritty realistic quality to them that I don’t always see in a lot of YA. Last year I listened to Donnelly’s Revolution, which I really enjoyed (read my review here) so I thought I should give another of her books a try. I’m glad I did because I think I prefer A Northern Light to Revolution.

First I think the main character, Mattie, is what made A Northern Light that much more enjoyable for me. Mattie, an intelligent farm girl with dreams of college and the big city was an engaging character. She is sharp and observant while also sarcastically witty. Mattie is under a lot of pressure and struggles to keep her head afloat amidst the contradictions of her dreams and her reality.

Both Mattie and Grace’s stories are told through flashbacks and both girls are fleshed out really well. Mattie begins to see something of herself in Grace’s letters which ultimately scares her. Although the story is mostly about Mattie and Grace, the supporting characters are written well. Sometimes minor characters get the two-dimensional treatment, but I really felt each character’s voice from the beginning.  They were all complex and had their own struggles which sometimes even mirrored Mattie’s. Each one was flawed in ways that make you want to love them more. Also, the mystery surrounding Grace Brown’s death is gripping. As the reader you just know something is not right and you can’t wait to figure out what it is. I’d say this was a page turner, but I was listening to it so that doesn’t apply!

Now, I did get a little frustrated at times because Donnelly’s overarching theme is pretty heavy-handed. It was incredibly clear that the main message was that women will be nothing but prisoners if they allow men into their lives. Not one woman in Mattie’s story lived a life that was happy and fulfilled, unless they made the choice to be manless. I was bothered by this not simply because I disagree with this idea, but because Donnelly doesn’t give us any room to see other possibilities. I know this story is set in a different era, but I cannot believe that EVERY woman throughout history who chose to have a man in their life was less fulfilled than those who chose to be alone. I find it frustrating that the reader is left with only one possibility.

OKAY…I’m getting off my soapbox now.

Despite the above mentioned frustrations, I still really, really enjoyed listening to A Northern Light. The narrator’s voices were all well performed (although one character’s southern accent shifted here and there) and I enjoyed her narration. If you don’t enjoy historical fiction, Donnelly’s books probably aren’t for you, and I do believe A Northern Light will be best enjoyed by older high school students (and those of us who find ourselves a tad bit older) who love historical fiction.

Author: Jennifer Donnelly

Publisher: Random House Audio (March 1, 2003)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 8 hours and 49 minutes

Narrator(s): Hope Davis

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book: A Northern Light

5

Crying Books and My Comfort Zone: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Welcome back!

There are tons of different types of books out there. There are books that want to make me laugh. Books that want to make me swoon. There are books that just want to entertain me. There are even books that want to make me think.  But then there are also these devious little books whose only desire in life is to make me cry.

I am a pretty emotional person in real life. I can cry at the drop of a hat. There was even a commercial about a friendly lady and her daughter who send their lonely elderly neighbor a greeting card. The old lady is so touched that she comes over and hugs the lady and her daughter…I WAS WEEPING! So, you see when I sit down to read a book I’m not in the mood to cry. When I read a book, I pick the ones that are going to make me laugh or swoon or think. I kind ofIf I Stay by Gayle Forman just want to be entertained. I don’t want to cry…and If I Stay by Gayle Forman ONLY wanted me to cry.

In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck… A sophisticated, layered, and heart-achingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make, and the ultimate choice Mia commands.

Can’t you just tell from the summary that this is a book that is plotting the imminent emotional demise of all its readers?! YES! I knew this going into it, but I thought it’d be good to step out of my reading comfort zone a little. In the end, I’m glad I did but If I Stay isn’t a book that I can say I enjoyed.

Forman’s writing is stunning and almost musical and the story itself is well imagined. The lyrical writing is reflected in Mia’s love of music and everything about the story just kind of flows by smoothly even though the story weaves back and forth through flashbacks and the story’s current point.

Mia’s story was interesting. I was enthralled with the possibility of her decision. Which choice will she make and what will happen to her because of it? I loved learning about her life and family and friends up until that fateful moment on that particular snowy morning. You begin to see just how complicated and painful Mia’s decision is going to be. But Mia herself isn’t the most intriguing character I’ve ever read. She just doesn’t seem all that colorful of a person.  Her friends and family do, but Mia seems to fade into the background of the scenes she shares with her family and friends.

So. You want to know. Did If I Stay achieve its mischievous little goal to make me cry?

No. It didn’t. But that’s because I knew I had to protect myself going into it. Don’t get me wrong, this book was painfully heartbreaking and there were times where I was VERY CLOSE to shedding some tears while listening (I had the audiobook from my public library) but in the end I was stronger than the book….VICTORY!

The audiobook was a quick listen, and I believe I finished the book in a little over two days (while running or driving or cleaning the house).  I love getting through an audiobook that fast!

So, if you’re one of those people who do enjoy a good cry while reading (I know there are tons of you out there!!!) you should definitely pick up If I Stay by Gayle Forman. It may even be a good idea to stop by the store to pick up a box of Kleenex as well! I also have to mention that this book is definitely intended for high school readers as there is some language and some sexual scenes sprinkled throughout.

I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone a little, but now that I have I’m going to crawl right back into my preferred reading cave! :)

Author: Gayle Forman

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (April 5, 2011)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 4 hours and 48 mins

Narrator(s): Kristen Potter

Series: First in the If I Stay series

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book:  If I Stay

wasn’t my favorite

12

Pleasantly Suprised: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Hiya!

For a few years I watched Beautiful Creatures by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garica circulate through my Media Center frequently, by teachers and students alike. I thought to myself, “I should read that.” But I always held back. Then I heard it was being turned into a movie and I thought, “Ok I need to read that.” So I did. Only I listened to it.

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohland a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them. In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

So I finally read/listened to this! I figured it was time to know what all the fuss was about. And I was honestly, pleasantly surprised!
The main thing I think I enjoyed the most was the male main character and narrator. It is rare in Young Adult fiction to have a male be the narrator. Ethan Wate is a refreshing taste of YA supernatural romance through the eyes of a guy. He was a funny, flawed and incredibly loyal character and I enjoyed hearing the story as it unraveled from his point of view.

The story itself wasn’t most well written or most unique tale I’ve ever read, but it was fun. And this surprised me! I think after I recently read another supernatural YA novel (that shall not be named) I kind of had low expectations for Beautiful Creatures. Fortunately I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself being majorly entertained while listening and really wanting to find out what would happen next    Particularly, as one who majored in history in college, I enjoyed the Civil War references throughout the plot. It was interesting to imagine what Sherman’s March to the Sea (where he burned much of the South in his wake) was like and the effect it may have had on the people who lived there.

One of my favorite minor characters was Marian the Librarian. It’s so nice to see a librarian portrayed in a positive way (again I will not mention that other book ehhhmmm). And I completely hated Ms. Jackson, who reminded me so much of Hilly Holbrook from The Help that I wanted to smack her! But this all makes sense to me now!

The audiobook and narrator were fine.  There were some sound effects that were added in, which didn’t bother me too much, but the song…the SONG! It was SOOO hilariously bad I laughed every time it played. My husband heard it once and even looked at me with disgust on his face! It wasn’t the lyrics that Garcia and Stohl wrote that were awful, it was the audiobook’s take on how it should sound that was bad. We started singing it around the house to be funny and that it was!  I was also pretty distracted towards the end when the narration suddenly shifts to Lena and the audiobook narrator for her just had no inflection to her voice and was pretty boring.

So, other than a few minor issues, I found myself really enjoying Beautiful Creatures. I think I’ll definitely check out the rest of the Caster Chronicles in the future (most likely on audio because they’re just so darn big!) to see what happens in the end. Fans of supernatural YA fiction will most likely find this one a fun and interesting read, so I recommend it to older middle school readers and up.

Author: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (December 1, 2009)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 17 hours and 38 minutes

Narrator(s): Kevin T. Collins,

Series: First in the Caster Chronicles series

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book: Beautiful Creatures

7

Where Have You Been All My Life? Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Hello everyone!

Sometimes you come across a book that you just know you’re going to love. The title, the cover, and the summary all seem to fit your book love meter. And then you read the book (or in my case, listen) and you discover that you don’t just  love the book….

YOU FREAKIN’ ADORE THE BOOK!

Gail Carriger, where have you been all my life?! The steampunk debut, Etiquette & Espionage, by Gail Carriger is officially on my new favorites list!

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger Finishing School.

Sophronia Temminnick at 14 is a great trial more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners — and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Her poor mother, desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady, enrolls the lively tomboy in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage — in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

So, yes this fun, and light-hearted romp through a steampunk/supernatural world is  Carriger’s first YA novel.  Apparently she writes a steampunk series for adults (thank you internets!), in which some of the characters in Etiquette & Espionage make appearances all grown up.  I absolutely must add these to my To Read stack.

Etiquette and Espionage is kind of like a Gallagher Girls book (by Ally Carter- which I also LOVE!) set in a steampunk setting. It’s a boarding school for girl spies, with a twist! I am craving so much more of this alternate steampunk world with vampires, werewolves & evil geniuses!

I had fun with all the exaggerated Victorian fashion. And the fact that your pearl necklace may or may not be useful as weapon! Also, I’m a huge fan of boarding school books, but a boarding school for spies and assassins – a FLYING boarding school at that?! I want to go to a flying boarding school for spies and assassins!!

The plot and mystery in Etiquette & Espionage were on the mild side, with most of the story detailing Sophronia becoming accustomed to her new school and home, but this was a good thing as it enabled Carriger to focus on introducing and letting us get-to-know characters. I really enjoyed Sophronia, the main character (although she can be a little too perfect sometimes) for all her progressive thinking and climbing skills.  Overall she is spunky, smart kindhearted and a fun character. If I was a student at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s I believe I’d want to be one of Sophronia’s good friends. Additionally, all the other debut students were well written and interesting, especially the reluctant Sitay, and the ever colorful Dimity!  My favorite character though, was the mechanical dog (mechanimal) named Bumbersnoot.  YES.

The narrator, Moira Quirk, was really entertaining to listen to. Her accents and voices were perfect and made me so happy that I listened to the audiobook instead of reading it myself. And let’s not forget this absolutely stunning cover! I want this dress. Seriously. The  hot pink against the black is eye-catching and the cogs and gear pattern is so smart and perfectly matched to the story.

Do you like steampunk? Do you enjoy reading YA? Are you in the mood for an audiobook? Well, Etiquette & Espionage comes recommend with the BookTasty stamp of approval! I believe that middle grade readers and up will have as much fun with this book as I did!

Author: Gail Carriger

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (February 5, 2013)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 9 hours and 1 minute

Narrator(s): Moira Quirk

Series: First in the Finishing School series

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School)

7

I Felt So Much Love: Entwined by Heather Dixon

Hi guys!

Can you get any better than fairy tale retellings?! I don’t think so! They’re my favorite genre and I can’t get enough of them!  Espeically, if they’re retellings of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, my favorite fairy tale. Well, that just so happens to be exactly why I felt so much love for Entwined by Heather Dixon!

Entwined by Heather DixonAzalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it’s taken away. All of it.

The Keeper understands. He’s trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation. Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest. But there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

When I first saw this book at my school book fair a while back I was knew it had to one day be mine. Look at the gorgeousness of this cover! It screams “READ ME CHRISTINA!” Entwined‘s cover is the quintessential Christina book cover…a girl in a gorgeous gown. I know it’s so girly and silly, but chances are if your cover has a girl in a beautiful gown, I’m going to enjoy it!

Have I mentioned that I loved this book? I listened to the audiobook and the narrator was fabulous. Her voices were just enough and not over done, which can be hard to do. She was pretty soothing with that accent!

What can be difficult in retellings of The Twelve Dancing Princesses is making all twelve of those sisters standout. I’ve read some versions of this fairy tale, where the sisters are kind of just lumped into little groups. I didn’t feel like the younger sisters were just two-dimensional paper characters in Entwined. I felt like Dixon nicely fleshed out each sister well and I could see glimpses of their individual personalities shine .

Throughout the entire story, I was soooo flipping mad at The King! I mean I know I’m supposed to be, but I just wanted to grab him by the shoulders and shake him! I kept mentally yelling, “Dude, I know you’re grieving…but seriously, you can’t just emotionally and physically abandon your TWELVE daughters! They need you in this darkest time!” But I guess if he did what I wanted him to do, we wouldn’t have a story now would we?! See? The authors always know best!

And how about Mr. Creeper…I mean Mr. Keeper?! Creepy McCreeperton to the core! His character was absolutely exactly what it should be…charming, scary and ever so manipulative. Actually, there was so much in this story that reminded me of a feminist lit class I took in college where we looked at abusive relationships in fairy tales, and oh would Mr. Keeper be an interesting one to discuss! But anywhoo…let’s not forget about all the talk of the stitching and soul keeping (no spoilers but you’ll get it if you read it) was enough to give me nightmares had I actually dwelled on it!

 I’m a major sucker for fairy tale romances and there was some good romance in Entwined! So, yes…I thought this book was awesome and think that you should read it, especially if you’re in the mood for a good old fashion fairy tale retelling!

Author: Heather Dixon

Publisher: Greenwillow Books (March 29, 2011)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 11 hours and 50 mins

Narrator(s): Mandy Williams

Series: standalone

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: Entwined