Saturday, September 20, 2014

ARC Review: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place
Author: Julie Berry
Publication: Roaring Brook Press (September 23, 2014)

Description: There's a murderer on the loose—but that doesn't stop the girls of St. Etheldreda's from attempting to hide the death of their headmistress in this rollicking farce.

The students of St. Etheldreda's School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma. Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner. Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home—unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong.

Julie Berry's The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a smart, hilarious Victorian romp, full of outrageous plot twists, mistaken identities, and mysterious happenings.

My Thoughts: If the reader is looking for melodrama and Victorian high-jinks, this is the perfect story. The seven young women sent to St. Etheldreda's School for Girls are faced with a major problem when the school's headmistress and her disreputable brother die suddenly at Sunday dinner. Rather than reporting the deaths, the girls decide to bury them in the garden and keep the deaths quiet. This leads to all sorts of unforeseen consequences including what to do when guests assemble for a surprise birthday party for the brother.

They begin and investigation when they learn that the two died of poison. There are all sorts of suspects ranging from the maid to an assortment of strangers who are suddenly paying attention to the girls. The girls have an interesting variety of character traits and names. Smooth Kitty is the ringleader and the daughter of a successful businessman who doesn't pay attention to her. Pocked Louise is the youngest and a keen scientist who takes charge of the investigation. Then there is Stout Alice who is quite an actress and who successfully impersonates the headmistress when the girls can't make excuses for her absence.

The story has all sorts of over-the-top elements - murderers, lost wills, hidden wealth, romance - all in a Victorian setting. Fans of Lemony Snicket who are a bit older now will be the best audience for this romp.

Favorite Quote:
They finished wedging the bodies into a position that seemed likely to stay below ground at last, then they dumped an avalanche of manure over the shrouded bodies. Dear Roberta gagged into her handkerchief but Dull Martha didn't seem to mind. "It smells wholesome," she said. "Like ponies."
I got this ARC from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Memes: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

Happy Friday everybody!!
Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City Reader. The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.


This week I am spotlighting The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry. I got this middle grade ARC from Macmillan. The book will be released on Sept. 23. Here is the description:
There's a murderer on the loose—but that doesn't stop the girls of St. Etheldreda's from attempting to hide the death of their headmistress in this rollicking farce.

The students of St. Etheldreda's School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma. Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner. Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home—unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong.

Julie Berry's The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a smart, hilarious Victorian romp, full of outrageous plot twists, mistaken identities, and mysterious happenings.
Beginning:
Each Sunday afternoon at Saint Etheldreda's School for Young Ladies on Prickwillow Road in Ely, Cambridgeshire, the seven enrolled young ladies were invited by custom to join Headmistress Constance Plackett while she entertained her younger brother, Mr. Aldous Godding, at the dinner table.
Friday 56:
She shook Disgraceful Mary Jane awake. The older girl did not rouse easily. Her chestnut curls spilled over her pillow like a waterfall. It's a shame she's so disgraceful, Kitty thought. She really is quite lovely. Then again, Kitty considered, perhaps moral rectitude and dazzling beauty could scarcely coexist in the same person. Not, at any rate, in a person like Mary Jane.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

ARC Review: Blackbird by Anna Carey

Blackbird
Author: Anna Carey
Publication: HarperTeen (September 16, 2014)

Description: From the author of the Eve trilogy comes the breathless story of a girl racing to figure out who she is—and how to stay alive. When a nameless girl wakes up on the subway tracks, she knows only one thing for sure: people want her dead. Can she find them before they track her down? This pulse-pounding contemporary thriller is perfect for fans of The Maze Runner, The Darkest Minds, and Legend

Things I know are true:
  • I am in Los Angeles
  • I woke up on the train tracks at the Vermont/Sunset station
  • I am a teenage girl
  • I have long black hair
  • I have a bird tattoo on the inside of my right wrist (FNV02198)
  • People are trying to kill me
My Thoughts: This story was exciting from the moment a nameless girl wakes up on a subway track in Los Angeles right to the sort of hopeful end. The girl has cuts, scars and a tattoo on her wrist. She has a black backpack with a variety of things in it. One of the things is a notebook with a quarter and a phone number in it. Another is a map of the city. Another is a memo to not trust the police.

When she calls the number she is directed to an office marked on her map where she is set up for a robbery. Now she really can't go to the police. She has no explanation for what is happening to her. But she has met a boy named Ben who has offered to help her. She goes to him but the people who want her dead are never far behind.

While she has no memory of her past, her name, or anything else, she does start to get some flashbacks of being on the run on an island and having a friend to partner with her to get away from the killers. She also gets a flashback of attending a funeral and another of a house and younger brother. None of those memories are particularly helpful for her immediate problem. Gradually she learns that she is being hunted as part of a vast conspiracy where people who want to hunt human game are given targets like her.

The story was an intense thriller and it was told in the second person. I thought that seemed a little gimmicky. I never did figure out who the narrator was. There were a few isolated chapters that gave information that our nameless heroine didn't have but not very much information.

Fans of suspense will enjoy this one. The ending is unresolved and demands a sequel. I'll be looking forward to it.

Favorite Quote:
In the morning heat you are all thoughts, wondering how long the man was standing there before he took that shot. Who are you to him? Why did he protect you? Why did he follow you, watching from above?
I got this ARC from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ARC Review: Adrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle Cromption

Adrenaline Crush
Author: Laurie Boyle Crompton
Publication: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (September 23, 2014)

Description: Seventeen-year-old Dyna comes from a long line of risk-takers and is an avid thrill-seeker in her own right, until she takes a terrible fall and shatters her leg. Her life used to be about bike racing and rock climbing; now it’s about staying home, except for attending physical and group therapy sessions at the bizarre alternative healing center her mom has chosen. Dyna's boyfriend saw her accident and supports her newfound desire for safety, but a young Iraq war veteran she meets at rehab challenges her to think about what she’s really avoiding in her old life and to take chances again—even with her heart.

My Thoughts: The book description tells the main points of this story but what it misses is the way the author sweeps the reader into Dyna's emotions. I am notably "risk-averse" but still found myself feeling the rush that Dyna feels when she almost wipes out on her mountain bike and when she does her barefoot climb above the swimming hole.

I was also with her when she wakes up in the hospital and fears that she will lose her foot and fears that she will never again be able to do the daring and dangerous things she loves. Dyna's family is not average. Her dad is a well-known tattoo artist whose body is a canvas for his own work. Her mother is also heavily tattooed and a fabric artist. Her older brother Harley is currently a pot-smoking skydiver. Despite their unique appearances her family is close and loving. And they take risks.

There is a love triangle in this book. She and the boy who saves her life when she falls begin dating. He says that, since he saved her life, he is now responsible for her. He's a writer on track to attend Columbia. She also meets Pierce who is a young Iraq war veteran who lost a leg while trying to save another soldier. He is pushing her to get back to her daredevil, risk-taking self while Jay is urging her to take the safe course. You know how this has to go. Jay didn't fall in love with the real Dyna and, once she recovers, their relationship has to fall apart.

I really liked Dyna's relationship with her parents and I liked all the quirky characters who are in her support group at the Ulysses Inner Outer Healing Center. This was a great story about willingness to take risks whether the risks are physical or emotional.

Favorite Quote:
I chose this.

The thought hits me so hard I rub my forehead.

Everything—the fall, nearly dying, the possibility of being permanently crippled. These must be the experiences I've been searching for. The logical extreme conclusion to all my risk taking. I simply reached the end of the road I've been traveling down full-speed for years. Did I really chase after this with everything I have?

Maybe I am one of those psycho chicks with a death wish after all.
I got this ARC from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: Blackbird by Anna Carey

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Teaser:
"What happened? How'd you get there?" one of the medics asks as they pull you up toward the platform.

You glance down at your outfit, staring at a body that feels completely unfamiliar to you. the front of your T-shirt is wet with blood. You're wearing new jeans and new shoes. The laces are a stiff, electric white.

"I don't know," you say, unable to place the time or day, unable to conjure even one detail of your life. There is only this moment, nothing more.
This week my teaser comes from Blackbird by Anna Carey. I got this eARC from HarperTeen through Edelweiss. This book will be released on Sept. 16 (today!). Here is the description:
From the author of the Eve trilogy comes the breathless story of a girl racing to figure out who she is—and how to stay alive. When a nameless girl wakes up on the subway tracks, she knows only one thing for sure: people want her dead. Can she find them before they track her down? This pulse-pounding contemporary thriller is perfect for fans of The Maze RunnerThe Darkest Minds, and Legend.

Things I know are true:
  • I am in Los Angeles
  • I woke up on the train tracks at the Vermont/Sunset station
  • I am a teenage girl
  • I have long black hair
  • I have a bird tattoo on the inside of my right wrist (FNV02198)
  • People are trying to kill me

Monday, September 15, 2014

ARC Review: Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan

Unmade
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Series: The Lynburn Legacy, Book 3
Publication: Random House Books for Young Readers (September 23, 2014)

Description: A modern, magical twist on the Gothic romance and girl detective genres, the Lynburn Legacy books will appeal to fans of both Beautiful Creatures and the Mortal Instruments series.

Powerful love comes with a price. Who will be the sacrifice?

Kami has lost the boy she loves, is tied to a boy she does not, and faces an enemy more powerful than ever before. With Jared missing for months and presumed dead, Kami must rely on her new magical link with Ash for the strength to face the evil spreading through her town.

Rob Lynburn is now the master of Sorry-in-the-Vale, and he demands a death. Kami will use every tool at her disposal to stop him. Together with Rusty, Angela, and Holly, she uncovers a secret that might be the key to saving the town. But with knowledge comes responsibility—and a painful choice. A choice that will risk not only Kami’s life, but also the lives of those she loves most.

As coauthor with Cassandra Clare of the bestselling Bane Chronicles, Sarah Rees Brennan has mastered the art of the page-turner. This final book in the Lynburn Legacy is a wild, entertaining ride from beginning to shocking end.

My Thoughts: It is hard to talk about the third book in a trilogy without spoiling the story for people who haven't read the rest or haven't had a chance to read this one yet. I feel that I can confidently say that I was extremely satisfied with the conclusion to this story.

Kami and her friends are facing overwhelming odds as they try to protect their town and the people they love from the evil sorcerer Rob Lynburn. The relationship between Kami, Ash and Jared is as twisted and tangled as it could possibly be and doesn't make any of them happy. Risky chances are taken, sacrifices are made, and hearts are broken and mended.

This is an excellent series. Kami hasn't lost her unique narrative voice or her habit of making jokes whenever the emotions run high. Angela and Rusty are also the sources of some great dialog. I laughed out loud on a number of occasions. I love the relationship Kami has with her Dad. She can take the risks she does because she knows she has his unconditional love and support.

Brennan has a way with playing with this reader's emotions. I went from laughing out loud to getting all choked up and crying at one point in this story. I will be glad to share this story with my students.

Favorite Quote:
"Did he say he wanted us to go steady and he was planning to offer me his pin and/or letter jacket?"

Kami crossed the fingers of her free hand, mouthing "Please say yes," and Holly grinned and batted at them, "I may not remember exactly when this conversation took place, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't in the 1950s, Kami."
I got this ARC from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Stacking the YA Shelves (Sept. 14, 2014)

Tynga of  Team Tynga's Reviews hosts this meme to spotlight the books we receive each week. I guarantee that your TBR pile will grow when you see all the wonderful books everyone gets.
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen
Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

What did you add to your stack this week?