DNF Review: Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts

Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts17332270

Published: September 17th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Format/Source: Paperback Advanced Reading Copy from BookExpo America
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary/Apocalyptic
Pages: 384

Synopsis:

A novel about the end of days full of surprising beginnings.

The world is living in the shadow of oncoming disaster. An asteroid is set to strike the earth in just one week’s time; catastrophe is unavoidable. The question isn’t how to save the world—the question is, what to do with the time that’s left? Against this stark backdrop, three island teens wrestle with intertwining stories of love, friendship and family—all with the ultimate stakes at hand.

Alexandra Coutts’s TUMBLE & FALL is a powerful story of courage, love, and hope at the end of the world

Review:

So I know everyone likes to handle books they did not finish differently. I generally finish books that I don’t like anyways because of either morbid curiosity or some deep-rooted sense that it is my duty, particularly if I received a review copy.

It is for my very sparing use of book abandonment that I feel like it is important that I at least share why I couldn’t finish Tumble & Fall.

I love the cover. I had heard of a few people looking forward to reading this book, making me decide to pick up a copy and read it. Now it is entirely possible that because all the other books I read around this book were absolutely amazing that it made this one seem that much duller than it really is. However, I kept trying to make it through it, using different techniques (setting a page goal for each sitting, speed reading, etc.) to try to finish it. But when I realized that I was dreading picking it up, that I was choosing to go straight to bed instead of reading, I made the call to put it down.

The premise could be cool. An asteroid will destroy the world as we know it and people have one week to enjoy life. But as many reviewers have noted, no one is really reacting in the world as you might expect. No one’s looting, no one’s really freaking out, hoarding, sheltering in fallout shelters…instead, people are poetically dealing with it in different emotional ways. Painting, going about their regular business, mourning those already lost, and trying to reconnect with those they have ignored for years. I think it was meant to be a poetic story, one with quiet reflection instead of mass panic.

It’s entirely possible that I was just not in the right mood for this. I found it very depressing and difficult to keep the characters straight. It alternates points of view between different teenagers, and it was hard to figure out who was feeling angst about what.

I truly hate not finishing a book and I hate that I have to write such a negative review concerning this book. But I don’t foresee myself giving this book another chance. Perhaps it would be better with someone in the right frame of mind. But for me, it was a no-go.

My rating: 1/5

Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

12813630The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Published: September 3rd 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format/Source: Paperback Advanced Reading Copy from BookExpo America
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Pages: 419

Synopsis:

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

Review:

When you’re drinking a fine wine, you want to take small sips, enjoying the layers of flavor. As tempting as it is to drink many glasses, you try not to overdo it. And yet, sometimes it happens.

I liken my experience of reading The Coldest Girl in Coldtown to drinking that fine wine. Each chapter was a delicious morsel that I was trying to savor before I picked up too much momentum and began tumbling down the stairs. Needless to say, my self-restraint failed after a certain point and I spent most of my weekend finishing the book in newborn vampire hunger.

It had been a while since I had read a vampire story. I think the last one was probably a Charlaine Harris southern vampire novel. That series is great fun but The Coldest Girl in Coldtown definitely had a different vibe to it. There’s nothing quite like a novel beginning with a 30+ teenager massacre and a girl stumbling out of being passed out in the bathtub to discover the entire party’s population dead and drained. It definitely sets the mood for the rest of the story.

There were parts of the novel that I was confused about. Questions where I was wondering if I had skipped a paragraph or something (which I have been known to do by accident). However, most of those questions are answered as the story progresses. Don’t expect everything to be immediately known and understood right away, or even completely after your first read. This is a book that I strongly believe will only grow on me more with a reread. I think I missed some of the carefully laid details that make such a detailed world. I particularly love how the vampires bloat like leeches or ticks after a feeding—it’s those details that make is so much more real and different. Very believable. I also love how it’s basically a pandemic biological disaster—the disaster preparedness part of me found that fascinating.

I do wish the ending was a bit more concrete, but I am okay with it as it is. It leaves it up to your imagination as much as I’m dying for more of this world.

It’s a young adult book, but I really think that if this had been published before that marketing label was so widely used, it would have fit just fine in the science fiction/fantasy/paranormal adult genre. There are really only two factors that make it young adult for me: the age of the protagonist and the lack of sex. Otherwise, it is entirely an adult-styled book.

I really believe that this is a book that will remain on my bookshelf and be read at least once more. I highly recommend this book—particularly to get you in the mood for Halloween!

My rating: 5/5

Review: Storm Watcher by Maria V. Snyder

15846011Storm Watcher by Maria V. Snyder

Published: October 2013 by Leap Books
Format/Source: ARC from BookExpo America 2013
Genre: Middle grade contemporary
Pages: 184

Synopsis:

Luke Riley is lost. His mother’s recent death has set Luke and his family adrift. Even though his father, twin brothers, and their three Bloodhounds are search and rescue volunteers, they have been unable to rescue themselves and become a family again. The summer after sixth grade looms in Luke’s mind as a long, lonely three months where the only thing he can look forward to is watching The Weather Channel. Luke is fascinated with the weather, but since his mother’s death in a storm, he is also terrified. Even the promised 13th birthday present of a Bloodhound puppy fails to lift Luke’s spirits. He would rather have a different breed – a petite Papillon, but his father insists he get a Bloodhound.

When Luke decides to get the Bloodhound from Willajean, a dog breeder who owns Storm Watcher Kennel, he works out a deal to help at her kennel in exchange for the expensive dog. Thrilled to have a summer with a purpose, Luke befriends Willajean’s daughter, Megan and together they plan how Luke can get a Papillon puppy instead of a Bloodhound. But nothing seems to work as they struggle with stubborn fathers, summer storms, unhelpful siblings, and hidden guilt. Can one little white dog really save both families?

Review:

When I reached Ms. Snyder in the autographing line, I gushed, “I loved the Study series! I’m excited for this book!” Her eyes paused over me for a moment longer than what was necessarily comfortable or expected and she said, “This book is nothing like the Study series.” I was taken a little aback and mumbled an, “Oh, okay! Well I’m looking forward to it.” She signed the book and I quickly walked away, a little ashamed and red in the face.

I couldn’t get that memory out of my mind when I picked up Storm Watcher to begin reading. But it really didn’t take long to understand the merit behind what she had said. Storm Watcher is not the Study series. I haven’t read her other books, but I would assume that it varies from them as well. Storm Watcher is a middle grade contemporary story about a boy dealing with loss and finding love where he had grown to accept its loss.

Storm Watcher is written in that simple and yet artful style that first made me love the Study series. Luke has lost his mother and is grappling with the loss. He is terrified of storms in a family of search and rescue dog trainers. He wants a Papillion instead of another Bloodhound in his family.

I’m a twenty-something year old woman and I loved the book despite it being meant for 9-14 year old. The weather symbols to describe different things and what was happening were really artful. It really shows what an experienced writer Ms. Snyder is. It also made a lot more sense once I read Ms. Snyder’s new bio about being a meteorologist—you can totally see the connection with the details. It was an intelligent read that did not speak down to the reader. The drama was real; it was something that I was instantly relatable despite never having been in a similar situation.

I would definitely recommend this book for children, and really anyone who can appreciate a middle grade book. I would also recommend having a dog to cuddle with while enjoying the story. It really makes you pine for one.

My rating: 5/5

Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Vicious by V.E. Schwab13638125

Published: September 24th 2013 by Tor
Format/Source: ARC from BookExpo America
Genre: Adult Science Fiction/Paranormal
Pages: 368

Synopsis:

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.

Review:

Once upon a time there was a girl in shock over the ever-book-lovin’-goodness of Book Expo America in NYC. She managed to find herself in line for Holly Black’s signing of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Advanced Reading Copies. As she’s standing in line, the person in front of her keeps having people coming up to her to take pictures and to chat. The girl begins to wonder, who is this person standing in line?

That girl was me and that person was Victoria Schwab, a few hours before her own signing of Vicious ARCs. I admit, I had never heard of her before or her books, but I was new to the whole being a lucid reader/educated bookie (the book-lovin’ kind, not the gambling kind). Let’s call it fate, as much as Victor would hate to say such a thing, because really, I found a great book that day.

Vicious is an adult super-villain tale. I feel like that alone makes it stand out. I have mentioned before that I am not a comic book person. I do not read comic books. In fact, I have not seen most of those incessant superhero movies that keep coming out. The only one I’ve watched is The Green Lantern (which I know isn’t even the best one). No Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, X-Men, and whatever other freak movies there are out there for me. It’s strange, I know but I digress.

I want to make it clear that you do not have to be a comic book or superhero fan to enjoy this book. The first chapter is enough to make it the perfect autumn read.

“The shovel was almost as tall as she was. A few days shy of her thirteenth birthday, and even for twelve and eleven twelfths, Sydney Clarke was small. She had always been on the short side, but it certainly didn’t help that she had barely grown an inch since the day she’d died.” (Quote from an ARC to be checked against a finished copy.)

It is sentences like that one that are so matter-of-fact and yet so spooky it really makes the reader in me start jigging with happiness. In fact, perhaps I took longer with this book than I might have because I wanted to make sure I didn’t rush through it.

Vicious is written with short chapters that vary from third person point of views. Each chapter leads to the next easily though, as each chapter explains something from the past one that then lays the foundation for the next. It helps build a complete and fulfilling story without rushing through it.

So at quick glance, the reasons why I really liked Vicious:

  • The characters are multi-dimensional and not necessarily black and white. There’s a lot of gray and doubt that is created that makes it a solid read.
  • The ending was complete. There is no annoying cliffhanger for a sequel. I read it, I felt completely satisfied.
  • It is a book that stays with you for a while after reading it. I admit, I was going to award this book four stars for, “I really liked it,” but when I found myself still thinking about it while driving, then it got bumped to five, “It’s amazing.” I want a book to do that to me.
  • It has the right level of creepy without being over-dramatic.

I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for an entertaining, supernatural and perfect-for-Halloween-or-really-anytime book.

My rating: 5/5

Top Ten Books on My Fall 2013 TBR List

toptentues

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Broke and Bookish.

This week is the Top Ten Books on My Fall 2013 TBR List. I’ve already said a bit of the books that I plan to read in September, but considering that I’ve finished one of those books already (Vicious was amazing!) and that doesn’t equal 10, here’s my list!

So, in no particular order:

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1. Tumble & Fall

My focus this Fall is to read all those books I couldn’t stop myself from picking up at the Book Expo America this year. I’ve read mixed reviews about this book but I’m curious to see how I will feel.

2. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

I have actually nominated this book for my book club’s October pick. Holly Black almost never disappoints me so I’m looking forward to it.

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3. Projection by Risa Green

Another case of the cover enticing me too much and me having no self-control.

4. The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit by Octavia Spencer

Ms. Spencer was an amazing speaker at BEA. I’m curious to read this children’s book.

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5. Relic by Heather Terrell

High fantasy and dystopia? I’m in!

6. The Land of Dreams by Vidar Sundstol

I was told that this author is a huge thing internationally. It’s a translated story, so we’ll see how it turns out.

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7. One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

I read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods last year and I was super happy to find the line for him at BEA. This book I have been saving because I just feel, rather know, I’m going to love it.

8. If You Were Here by Alafair Burke

The author is so cool. She loves Boston Terriers.

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9. Solstice by P.J. Hoover

I think it’ll be nice to read about a hot world when it’s cooling down.

10. September Girls by Bennett Madison

I don’t think I’ll have time to read this in September, but perhaps it’ll work out that way.

What other books should I be on the lookout for this fall?

Review: Love and Lament by John Milliken Thompson

16720466Love and Lament by John Milliken Thompson

Published: August 6th 2013 by Other Press
Format/Source: Paperback ARC from Book Expo America
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 400

Synopsis:

A dauntless heroine coming of age at the turn of the twentieth century confronts the hazards of patriarchy and prejudice, and discovers the unexpected opportunities of World War I

Set in rural North Carolina between the Civil War and the Great War, Love and Lament chronicles the hardships and misfortunes of the Hartsoe family.

Mary Bet, the youngest of nine children, was born the same year that the first railroad arrived in their county. As she matures, against the backdrop of Reconstruction and rapid industrialization, she must learn to deal with the deaths of her mother and siblings, a deaf and damaged older brother, and her father’s growing insanity and rejection of God.

In the rich tradition of Southern gothic literature, John Milliken Thompson transports the reader back in time through brilliant characterizations and historical details, to explore what it means to be a woman charting her own destiny in a rapidly evolving world dominated by men.

Review:

It should have been named Lament and Love, because not only was that the order in which I feel like events in the book go but it also describes how I was feeling about the book.

The Hartsoe family experiences one tragedy after another, witnessed and experienced by the youngest child, Mary Bet. It leaves a profound mark on her and the family’s psyche. The story then follows Mary Bet as she grows up, learning some secrets and what kind of an adult she wants to be.

The first half of the book was not too enjoyable for me. For some reason, the first quarter felt passive in the way it was written. I felt like I was reading about scenes instead of being in the scenes. Then the second quarter was so depressing. It was almost a joke with my boyfriend, “well, another person has died!” It is definitely a heavier read and I think you have to be in the right frame of mind to it.

The second half though sucked me in a lot more. It became more active and it focused more on Mary Bet’s development. In fact the very end had me wanting to read more instead of just feeling compelled to finish it.

It’s a mixed bag book for me, and I am not doing a very good job of explaining it, but it was enjoyable, I’m glad i read it, I just think the beginning could have been set up differently. It runs the risk of scaring away readers before the good parts.

My rating: 3/5

Waiting on Wednesday (9): Three Books Worthy of Spotlighting

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

I can’t decide between three books that are coming out soon. So I figured I’d just include all of them!

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Expected publication: September 3rd 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal12813630
432 pages

Synopsis:

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black

I have the ARC of this book from the Book Expo America this year but still, I can’t wait until I have an opportunity to read it! Everything from Holly Black generally enthuses me.

All of Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Expected Publication: September 3rd 2013 by Disney Hyperion
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction13514612
Pages: 368 pages

Synopsis:

“You have to kill him.” Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

A lot of my fellow bloggers have been posting about this book and there is even a release party near me next week (that I can’t go to!). At this time, I definitely plan on reading this one.

The Transfer by Veronica Roth

Expected Publication: September 3rd 2013 by Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: Young Adult Dystopia18080920
Pages: 50 pages

Synopsis:

More Four! Fans of the Divergent series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth will be thrilled by “The Transfer,” the first of four new short stories told from Four’s perspective. Each brief story explores the world of the Divergent series through the eyes of the mysterious but charismatic Tobias Eaton, revealing previously unknown facets of his personality, backstory, and relationships.

Does this one even need an explanation? Despite some of the issues with the Divergent series, I will continue to devour anything about it. I’m definitely very curious about this and the other short stories being released. So excited!

What are you waiting for?

August’s Reading List

So I realized in reading other people’s blogs that instead of just keeping a private list of their book queue, they post it on their blog. Which completely makes sense, so I’m going to give it a go.

I in no means intend this to act as any sort of real accountability. Instead, it’s meant to serve as a guide and perhaps give a head’s up of what kind of The Transplantreviews you can expect to see from me on Playing Jokers.

I began reading The Transplant by Alexander Ulysses last week. I won it from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers and so far it’s interesting. It deals with illegal immigration, and is sometimes a bit political in the way that it comes off. I expect to be done with it fairly soon.

The next book is one I again won a couple of months ago from…Goodreads I think this time. His Magesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik is the first book in a series that I think the publishers are trying to generate some buzz for. I hadn’t heard of it, but it will be quite a shift to go from realistic fiction to what looks like a bit of alternate history. I haven’t read any alternate histories before so I’m curious to see what I think of it.

I need to make sure that I don’t procrastinate too long on reading the August book pick for my book club. Lately, I tend to wait until the last week before we meet and then I’m rushing through the book, stressed that I won’t finish it in time. So next will be Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I will probably borrow this from the library or a friend. I really don’t have the space for any more books right now.

From this point, I don’t really have a set order, but I have three books I’d like to make sure I get to. The first is Catherine by April Lindner. She and her Love and Lamentpublicist were very kind in sending me access to the ebook to review after meeting Ms. Lindner at an author panel. I always feel bad when someone gives me a book to review and I don’t get to it very fast. I’m just a slow reader, not a neglectful one.

Another option for late August is Love and Lament by John Milliken Thompson. This is one of the books I got from the Book Expo America (BEA). (This is the point when I confess I picked up way too many books at BEA. I’m sorry! But I totally plan on reading every book I got and recommending them to people and my book club.) Love and Lament got me with its pretty cover. It’s historical fiction in the South after the Civil War…clearly I was meant to read it right?!

The final option for the end of the month is Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts. Another book I picked up BEA (and got signed!), it is to be published in September, so I’d like to be able to have read it and have a review up close to its publication date.

The sad thing is, this is barely a dent in all the books I feel the pressure to get through. There are so many that I went a little nuts with in requesting and buying, and so on that for the past couple of months, I’ve stopped requesting or accepting anything. I have said a few times that I hate feeling too far behind with all the books and their associated obligations. So it is my intention to really try to get through everything I have and potentially find new homes for them as I go along.

And of course, the above is only my reading list. I have a separate list for those audiobooks that I have, but I’ll leave that out for now. 🙂

How do you determine what to read next?