A new year is just around the corner, which means all sorts of new releases! I, for one, can’t wait. I fully expect this winter to be an outrageously snowy one, so I’m planning on plenty of days spent inside with the heat turned up high, a giant mug of coffee, and something good to read.
At work, I keep a document on my computer that is a calendar for the entire year. When a book description strikes my fancy, I enter the book’s release date on the calendar. For January, my first notable release date happens to be for the 12th. What book is it?
Bookishly Ever After
By Isabel Bandeira
Publication Date: January 12, 2016
Synopsis (via Goodreads)
In a perfect world, sixteen-year-old Phoebe Martins’ life would be a book. Preferably a YA novel with magic and a hot paranormal love interest. Unfortunately, her life probably wouldn’t even qualify for a quiet contemporary. But when Phoebe finds out that Dev, the hottest guy in the clarinet section, might actually have a crush on her, she turns to her favorite books for advice. Phoebe overhauls her personality to become as awesome as her favorite heroines and win Dev’s heart. But if her plan fails, can she go back to her happy world of fictional boys after falling for the real thing?
Why I’m Waiting
Hold up…what? A book about a girl who loves books? I’m a girl who loves books! This book seems like it might be the perfect fit for me, as well as any other girl who has ever had a crush on the fictional boys in books. I’m dying to know what characters Phoebe turns to for advice (Elizabeth Bennet, perhaps?). Ratings from those who have received ARCs are altogether positive, but nobody seems to be revealing additional snippets or details from the book yet, which makes me all the more excited to get my hands on it come January 12th. Goodreads has this marked as Ever After #1, which is a good indicator that this is the start to a new series. Also, I feel I just have to mention this… if you’re browsing Goodreads, you might see the author, Isabel Bandeira’s, profile picture. Is she or is she not dressed like Belle from Beauty and the Beast?! No wonder she wrote a book about a girl who loves books.
Lately, I’ve been a little obsessed with subscription boxes. We’ve fallen in love with Blue Apron, our weekly meal subscription box that has pretty much eliminated the tedious trips to the grocery store for us, and that led me to look into what other kinds of subscriptions I could find. Loving YA Lit as much as I do, that was the first thing I searched for – and the list of available subscription boxes is pretty extensive. What I discovered though, was that there are two YA subscription services that tend to stand out among the rest. Those two are Uppercase and OwlCrate.
After spending several minutes researching, browsing pictures of the contents of past boxes, and reading a handful of reviews, I still couldn’t make up my mind which I would like better. So, I joined the waitlist for OwlCrate and signed up (no waitlist!) for my first Uppercase box. I didn’t last long on the OwlCrate waitlist though, three days later, a spot was open and I signed up – ready to test both November boxes.
“Once upon a different time, there was a girl who lived in a kingdom of death. Wolves howled up her arm. A whole pack of them – made of tattoo ink and pain, memory and loss. It was the only thing about her that ever stayed the same.
Her story begins on a train.”
I’d always considered myself not such a fan of alternate history. Something always made my stomach a bit nervous when people toyed with real people in a book just like they would a fictional character straight from their mind. That being said, Wolf by Wolf actually made me a fan of an alternate history story. There was just enough fantasy slipped in to ease my mind out of established history and into Graudin’s new world.
I received Wolf by Wolf as part of my very first subscription box with Uppercase. (I also am receiving my first Owlcrate this month as well, so keep checking the blog for a side by side comparison.) I’m so thrilled that it was picked for this month’s book because, otherwise, the thought of reading an alternate history might have lessened my chances of picking it up on my own… Then, I really would have missed out. It also came at just the right time – day four of being stuck in bed, sick, with nothing to do. I devoured this book in under six hours.
This story is set in 1956, in a world where the Axis Powers actually won WWII. Each year, to celebrate their victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour – a treacherous motorcycle race from Berlin (now Germania) to Tokyo – with the victor receiving a ball in their honor attended by both Hirohito and Hitler.
Yael is a survivor of the death camps, one who hides the numbers on her wrist with a fresh tattoo of five wolves, four for the memories of people she has lost and one as a reminder. As a small child, she was the subject of an experiment that granted her the ability to skinshift, transform her appearance into that of any other female. It is with this skill that she becomes the resistance’s best hope. Yael uses her ability to skinshift into the Axis Tour’s only female victor, Adele Wolfe, in order to win the race, dance with Hitler, and be the one who murders him on live television.
The story switches between Yael’s present day fight to succeed and her struggle-filled past that tells the story of each wolf permanently etched on her arm. Keeping up appearances gets complicated for Yael as she races alongside Adele’s twin brother and her former fling, Luka. No amount of research has prepared her to slip into these relationships without arousing some suspicion. She has to balance her lies with certain degrees of truth if she hopes to make it to the finish line first.
Things I enjoyed:
Yael – She’s strong, resilient, and a true heroine. The stories from her past are what truly shape this character and how she thinks, feels, and acts. It was very easy to get lost in her mind and race right alongside her.
It’s not a love story – Too often good stories with strong female leads get side tracked by a love interest. This one does not. It reminds me more of the first Hunger Games book in the sense that “yes, male character, you’re charming and all, but there’s quite a bit of death and destruction happening right now, and a relationship doesn’t really take priority over my mission”.
Graudin’s writing style: Simply beautiful wording and imagery. It makes me want to scrap all of my current projects and start over, in hopes that one day I will be able to write with that level of showing-not-telling skill.
Things I didn’t enjoy:
There wasn’t anything I outright didn’t like about this book. It was well paced and interesting. I even enjoyed the alternate history, something I was originally wary of. I suppose if I have to pick something, it’s that I didn’t look at the back cover closely enough to realize this would be a series. At least it’s one that I will gladly wait for though.
This story is compelling, and it’s rare in my busy schedule anymore that I get to make my way through a book entirely in one sitting. While my review of the Uppercase box is forthcoming, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the Uppercase bonus feature post its, as they really drove me forward to reach the next one as I read. The moment I finished, I started recommending it to friends. It’s definitely worth a read, and it has been one of the most thrilling adventures I’ve read recently.
As I am starting to look forward to blogging more and doing more reviews of what I’ve been reading, I’ve decided to also add a weekly Waiting on Wednesday post to highlight upcoming YA releases that I’m excited about.
And as with most things, I’m immediately breaking the rules…
By the time you read this post, the book that I’m desperately looking forward to getting my hands on will no longer be in pre-publication status. It will, in fact, have been published the day before. -BUT- I work for the public library, which means, it may be a little bit before this lovely book falls into my hands, so I’m saying it still qualifies.
The book I’m awarding the very first Waiting on Wednesday post just so happens to be…
The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch
By Daniel Kraus Publication Date: October 27, 2015
Synopsis (via Goodreads)
May 7, 1896. Dusk. A swaggering seventeen-year-old gangster named Zebulon Finch is gunned down on the shores of Lake Michigan. But after mere minutes in the void, he is mysteriously resurrected.
His second life will be nothing like his first.
Zebulon’s new existence begins as a sideshow attraction in a traveling medicine show. From there, he will be poked and prodded by a scientist obsessed with mastering the secrets of death. He will fight in the trenches of World War I. He will run from his nightmares—and from poverty—in Depression-era New York City. And he will become the companion of the most beautiful woman in Hollywood.
Love, hate, hope, and horror—Zebulon finds them. But will he ever find redemption?
Ambitious and heartbreaking, The Death & Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume 1: At the Edge of Empire is the epic saga of what it means to be human in a world so often lacking in humanity.
Why I’m Waiting
When I first read this description, I was reminded of one of the most intriguing writing prompts I’ve ever found – “You’ve been dead for 67 days. You awake to the entire world watching the first human revival. Your revival.”
Playing with the concept of revival will always be interesting to me, as I was fascinated by stories like Frankenstein from an early age. The idea of a gangster receiving a second life and experiencing notable events throughout history has me ready to grab this book as soon as it hits the shelves.
If you happen to get to read it before I do, I hope you’ll post your opinions. I have high hopes for Zebulon Finch, and I can’t wait to see if they are met.
You see the back cover of this book? Did you read what it says? Do you believe that these will be the events that transpire within its pages? Well, DON’T. This book is a LIAR.
After finishing this book today, I tried to step away for awhile and examine the book as a whole, but I just couldn’t get past the disappointment that consumed me as I closed in on the final few chapters and realized that there wasn’t enough book left for anything to actually happen. Nothing. Zilch. NADA. This absolutely kills me because I had such high hopes for this book. My to-read list is a mile long, so when I want to immerse myself in a book, I’m extremely picky about which one I choose. The goodreads description of Dorothy Must Die interested me enough to add it to my to-read list, but when I happened to stumble across the Epic Reads site and saw how much hype and promotion they were giving this book, I figured it had to be something worthwhile. I ordered a copy for our Young Adult section, and I was also the first patron on the hold list. The day this book was catalogued, it was MINE, and I couldn’t wait to jump right in.
A little background on me: I LOVE retellings. Give me a fractured fairytale, and I’ll be a happy girl. My first NaNoWriMo project? A really poorly put together novel set in a fantasy world that combined characters from fairytales and classic lit, including the Wicked Witch from Oz. Another fun fact? I’m actually not-too-distantly related to Judy Garland through the Gumm family (I did enjoy the not-so-subtle homage in Dorothy Must Die’s main character’s name being Amy Gumm).
Things I wasn’t a fan of:
What do I NOT love? Well, when it comes to this book, frankly, a lot. I had such high hopes for this one, and those hopes crashed harder than Amy’s trailer-ride into Oz. The biggest disappointment was expecting to see Amy take on the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow, and the Lion individually to take back their gifts from the wizard, and instead, I got an entirely different story. *SPOILER* – Amy isn’t told she has to take out the three henchmen before she takes on Dorothy until the END of the book. You read that right! The WHOLE book is spent mainly focusing on Amy’s arrival in Oz, her training with the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked to kill Dorothy, and her infiltrating the staff of Dorothy’s palace so that she can kill the ruby-shoed princess. Sure, she encounters the other characters, but nothing is said about having to take out Dorothy’s biggest supporters until AFTER Amy flubs up her assassination attempt at the very end. Seriously?! You tell me on EVERY site’s book summary what her mission is supposed to be, and then she doesn’t learn that mission till the end? Sure, maybe I didn’t realize this was going to be the first book in a series, but what are you going to do now? Devote one book to each character Amy has to kill off? In that case, Dorothy will NEVER die.
Other things I don’t enjoy include overly blatant foreshadowing and giving readers flashing neon arrows, as if we’re not smart enough to figure things out ourselves. Paige is guilty of telling, not showing. Such as when Amy is met by the mysterious Pete the gardener in an ever-moving maze. He lays the foreshadowing on pretty thick to where it reads almost like, “Dorothy and Glinda HATE this maze. They pretty much NEVER come here. They are SCARED of it. Now that it knows you, it will remember you and help you, Amy. Oh, you want to know why I’m telling you all of this? BECAUSE SOMEDAY YOU MIGHT NEED TO USE IT.” Do you really have to make it that obvious? Although, of course, much like the rest of the book, nothing happens and Amy doesn’t end up using this maze…so, unless it shows up somewhere in one of the sequels, this scene was pretty much useless.
Speaking of Glinda, where is she? She’s introduced once in Amy’s first few hours in Oz, as she sees her from a distance. After that though? She briefly makes an appearance towards the end. Sure, we get to see this twin sister of hers that happens to be Wicked, but I would figure she’d be a much larger character. Also, if she’s so close to Dorothy, then why isn’t she part of Amy’s mission? Glinda as a whole just seems underdeveloped and underutilized.
The last thing that tended to bug me was the way the author sexualized Dorothy to make her a villain. I 100% believe that female villains can be both attractive and evil, and frankly, those are the villains I enjoy. But Dorothy? It seems that most every bit of description had to be about her appearance – from her cleavage hanging out to the ruby red slippers turned f*ck-me stiletto boots. The only image I get when I picture this version of Dorothy are the show-some-skin, Leg Avenue Dorothy Halloween costumes. It simply makes me cringe because it comes off as overly cheesy. Make her every bit attractive as you want, but if that’s the only thing she’s got going for her, then the character is just going to fall flat. Yes, we do get to see some of her twisted cruelty (which I will give credit, is one of my favorite parts), but not nearly enough background or development to make me feel anything except disinterest in the character.
Things I enjoyed:
I’ll admit this is list had few and far between, but the book did have some redeeming qualities. I do like a fresh take on Oz. The world building was clear and intriguing, and it added to the overall mood. I did like the twisted portrayal of -most- of the familiar characters like Tin Woodman, the Lion, and especially the Scarecrow. When the depths of Dorothy’s cruelty involving her former head handmaid was unveiled at the ball, that was the highlight of the book for me. It was creepy enough to make my skin crawl, and that was when I finally felt an emotional connection to the characters. The casual nods to L. Frank Baum’s text and to the movie were a nice touch and not overly in-your-face.
Unfortunately, I do predict this series will drag out Amy’s “mission” for several books, to spend time focusing on her taking out each of the supporting cast before going after Dorothy. Will I read them? Likely not. It’s sad, but I don’t even care to guess what will happen in the rest of the series because I was just so unattached to the characters. My Rating: 2/5 Library Cards
I considered 2.5 to be generous, but I’ve taken my time putting this post together, thinking that eventually my opinion of the book would improve. Nope. Didn’t happen. I’m stepping away from it, clicking my heels together, and wishing I was reading a better book. Maybe next time.
*EDIT* – Found this image floating around Facebook today, and I’ve deemed it “What Actually Should Have Happened in Dorothy Must Die“.