Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Best Books of 2014

Well, well, dear readers--another year races to a close!

Thank you for sticking with me through another year of muttering angrily about books. I hope you've found some amusement here and perhaps a new favorite story or two. I've got a number of fun reviews set aside to kick off 2015, as well as a new feature on the blog. Be looking forward to it!

To wrap up the year, let me bring to your attention my top dozen books of the past year, in alphabetical order.


1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein 
(YA historical fiction, 2013 Edgar Allen Poe Award winner) 

What it's about: a prisoner in Nazi-occupied France feeding false information to her jailers, hoping that her pilot friend survived their capture and will save her.
Why you should read it: because I cried buckets about female friendships and courage and lying narrators and stuff.


2. The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold 
(adult fantasy, 2002 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award winner)

What it's about: a brutalized war veteran training a king's niece to face the treacherous court he would personally rather never see again.
Why you should read it: because of faith and free will, and surviving trauma, and adventure stories that gallop across the finish line.


3. Far From Xanadu by Julie Anne Peters 
(YA contemporary fiction, 2005)

What it's about: a teenager in rural Kansas trying to reclaim the family plumbing business after her father's suicide, while wooing the ostensibly straight new girl in town.
Why you should read it: because the narrator and the narrator's family are the truest, most well-rounded characters you'll find in YA literature this decade, and because you remember what it's like convincing yourself that your crush liked you back. 


4. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison 
(adult fantasy, 2014)

What it's about: an unwanted half-breed son unexpectedly inheriting the elven crown after a lifetime of neglect and abuse, and choosing how to shake off his father's ugly legacy.
Why you should read it: because this is the book I never knew that I wanted to write.


5. I Never Promised You A Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg 
(adult historical fiction, 1964)

What it's about: a schizophrenic teenager navigating between the outdated psychiatric ward where she is imprisoned and the seductive fantastical world that used to be her refuge from reality.
Why you should read it: because it's smart and lavish and will wind around your imagination for years, even if you aren't all about stories of mental health and illness like I am.


6. The Orphan's Tales by Catherynne M. Valente 
(adult fantasy, 2008 Mythopoeic Award winner)

What it's about: a Scheherazadesque layering of original mythic stories in an unfamiliar world that all tie together and drag the narrator along.
Why you should read it: because you can never have enough fairy tales.


7. The Patron Saint of Ugly by Marie Manilla 
(adult contemporary, 2014)

What it's about: a hideously birthmarked child in rural West Virginia convinced by her Sicilian grandmother that she is the reincarnation of an ancient saint.
Why you should read it: because it's sizzling and funny and memorable in a way that I don't often find in contemporary fiction.


8. Port Eternity by C.J. Cherryh 
(adult science fiction, 2000)

What it's about: a crew of androids, named and programmed for their owner's love of Arthurian lore, shipwrecked in deep space with an unknown monster and the tape which gives their shallow programmed lives a deeper cause.
Why you should read it: because it's the only story which gives me The Once and Future King feelings besides that book itself.


9. The Sand-Reckoner by Gillian Bradshaw
(YA historical fiction, 2000)

What it's about: a young Archimedes of Syracuse reluctantly turning his genius to make war machines for his city's defense, and his Roman slave struggling between loyalty to his warring family and to his new home.
Why you should read it: because Bradshaw is the greatest novelist of the ancient world and this story about nerds warms the cockles of my grim little heart.


10. The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob 
(adult contemporary fiction, 2014)

What it's about: a family of Indian immigrants unable to either settle in America or to return home, haunted by a legacy of sleep disorders which has already claimed the lives of several members.
Why you should read it: because sometimes you have to take a book on faith and this one I'm asking you to read.


11. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell 
(adult contemporary fiction, 2011 Andrew Carnegie medal finalist)

What it's about: a family-run amusement park in the Everglades sinking into decay, whose younger members turn to the occult to try and save it.
Why you should read it: because it's surreal and ghastly and charming in the most horrifyingly casual way.


12. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner 
(YA historical fantasy, 1997 Newbury Honor winner)

What it's about: a street thief hired by the king's advisor to steal an ancient sacred treasure, and the double-dealing that follows on the crankiest of all possible road trips.
Why you should read it: because even I, knowing this old favorite like the back of my hand, am still amazed by this narrator's cleverness and effrontery.


13. The Wolf Hunt by Gillian Bradshaw 
(adult historical fiction, 2001)

What it's about: a novice Norman nun (say that three times fast) kidnapped by her Breton enemies, who investigates a local werewolf legend after her only protector goes missing.
Why you should read it: because this is an absolutely perfect marriage of history and mythology, and because it takes a lot for me to recommend as unabashedly romantic a story as this one is.


Happy reading, dear friends!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas! + "Dealing With Dragons"

Merry Christmas and a happy impending New Year, dear readers!

Working over the holidays has been a little bonkers, so none of the... three? reviews that I've been drafting are ready to appear before you. In their stead, let me fall back on one of my side projects: the read-alouds of fairy tales and short novels that I've been recording.

Back in July, I posted the first batch of short stories from fantasy greats authors Patricia C. Wrede, Patricia McKillip, and Peter S. Beagle. Now I've finished (yes, finished!) recording "Dealing With Dragons," a lighthearted story about a princess who volunteers to be kidnapped by a dragon, in order to keep away all the nonsense of knights, princes, and marriage. The dragon who takes her in doesn't need a princess so much as a librarian/cook/maid/co-conspirator.

It's an old favorite of mine and yours. I hope I do it justice.

This present is specifically for my friend Sarah, but the rest of you are welcome to listen, too!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Review: "Imperial Purple" by Gillian Bradshaw

Even slaves are honored to work with Tyrian purple, the rarest and most expensive of dyes in Byzantium. Demetrias, who weaves silk tapestries for the emperor, is luckier than most. But the honor turns to danger when Demetrias is secretly ordered to weave an imperial cloak in dimensions she knows are not the emperor's.

The secret commission is evidence of treason, and Demetrias wants no part of it. As a slave, though, she has no choice but to follow orders. After the conspirators escape with the finished cloak, Demetrias herself is seized as evidence of the plot and dragged a thousand miles from home to the court in Constantinople.

Her husband Symeon, a state slave himself, fishes for the murex shells which give the dye its hue. When Demetrias is kidnapped by the investigators, Symeon sails his tiny boat across the sea to follow her and force the powers of the state to return her home. But it was Symeon's well-meaning attempt to protect Demetrias that revealed the conspiracyand endangered her in the first place.

4 out of 5 stars
(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Review: "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed's name is no accident. At twenty-six years old, she has lost both father and mother, ended her marriage with her deliberately self-destructive habits, and struggled with the siren call of heroin. When she sets foot on the Pacific Crest Trail for the first time, she is nothing more than a stray.

Cheryl believes that hiking the PCT--from California through the Mojave Desert and across the Sierra Nevada into Washington State--will bring her insight and peace. But this stray has nothing but an oversized backpack, an outdated trail map, and determination to carry her forward. The kindness of her fellow hikers on the trail helps her onward, but not as much as Cheryl's hope.


3 out of 5 stars

(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review: "The Queen of Attolia" by Megan Whalen Turner

(The Queen of Attolia is the second book in a series. I reviewed The Thief, the first book , here.)

"My" cover of The Queen of Attolia,
which apparently other fans despise.
The Queen of Attolia has not forgiven the thief Eugenides for outwitting her and escaping her judgment. When she captures him a second time in her own megaron, she invokes the historical punishment for thieves and orders his right hand be cut off before sending him home to his people.

The maiming of the thief becomes the catalyst for a war between three countries. The invading Mede Empire waits to overrun the first one weak enough to allow them a foothold. And Eugenides, one-handed and shaken, is called upon once more to snatch an impossible victory.

4.5 out of 5 stars

(grump + breakdown below the cut)


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Review: "Watership Down" by Richard Adams

Hazel's brother Fiver is special--given to strange visions of the future, able to understand things outside of the ordinary rabbit's experience. When Fiver warns that the entire Sandleford warren will be destroyed, not by predators or plague but by some vast, unthinkable disaster, Hazel believes him when most others laugh. With a handful of others who either trust Fiver or chafe under warren life, they go into exile, daring the unknown.

But the English countryside is dangerous to rabbits without a safe place to run. Hunted by a thousand enemies, guided by Hazel and Fiver, the Sandleford exiles search for a safe place of their own.

3 out of 5 stars

(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Review: "The Thief" by Megan Whalen Turner

"I can steal anything," the thief Gen claimed--and proving it has already landed him in the king's prison. Now the king's advisor, the magus, wants to put Gen's boasts to the test.

With the magus and his apprentices, Gen is dragged across the mountains and into hostile country where discovery will mean death. The magus believes Gen can steal a sacred stone from the altar of the long-forgotten gods. With the authority of the gods behind him, the magus could dictate the future of alliances and wars for years to come.

But Gen has plans of his own. And he is is used to playing a very long and risky game to get what he wants.

3.9 out of 5 stars

(grump + breakdown below the cut)


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Review: "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon" by Stephen King

Nine-year-old Trisha McFarland only stepped off the hiking trail for a moment, just to get away from the argument between her divorced mother and her embittered older brother. That moment is enough, though, for her to lose her way back. The supposed shortcut Trisha takes leads her off into the dense wilderness of the northern Appalachian Trail.

Hours of uneasy wandering turn into days. As Trisha's hunger and her injuries mount, she finds comfort in listening to the radio, where ballplayer Tom Gordon's victories seem to predict her own rescue. But the lost girl begins to believe that she is not alone in the woods. Something is accompanying her, leaving her grisly calling cards, as if to say that she is not only lost... she is hunted.

3 out of 5 stars
(grump + breakdown below the cut)

The 2014 "Books Read" List Has Been Updated At Last!

As you may not have noticed, dear reader, I took a few months' vacation from updating my Goodreads account, as well as my own list of completed books in the sidebar. A little racking of the brain (and of the library's "past checkouts" list) later, I've filled in the months from June to November. The total number of completed books is currently one hundred thirteen on Goodreads, or one hundred twenty-five by my own reckoning.

I'm not sure where the discrepancy lies there. One way or another, though, I've succeeded in my annual goal of one hundred books read, with one month still to go before the year comes to an end.

If you're not a member of Goodreads, you can still check out the list over in the right-hand sidebar. I've linked to every book for which I've completed a full review. If there is a particular book in the list you'd like me to go back and review for your enjoyment, or a book you think I would enjoy reading, let me know in the comments or by email!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Review: "The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing" by Mira Jacob

The second version of the cover is jaw-droppingly
beautiful, like the book itself.
Amina Eapen tries not to go home too often. She finds her immigrant parents difficult--too much at odds with her own American dreams, too eager to set her up with nice young men from other Indian families, too hobbled by the memory of her brother's death.

When she hears that her father is hallucinating ghosts, however, Amina knows she has to go.

Amina's trip home raises a flurry of her own memories. Of her family's last fateful visit to India, when her grandmother's angry love for her emigrant son drives him into exile; of the bizarre narcolepsy her genius brother experienced in his teenage years that led to his death; of photograph of the bridge-jumper which both made Amina's career and drove her away from photojournalism forever, afraid of her own instinct for witnessing ruin.

This unwilling homecoming digs up all the buried wounds which the Eapens have kept hidden for years. But while her father's condition worsens, there remains the hope that they may lay these ghosts to rest at last.

5 out of 5 stars
(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Biographies and Memoirs

The artist and writer Mervyn Peake,
the subject of  both memoir and biography
in this post.
This little compare-contrast is purely for my own amusement, dear reader. I expect there are very few people in this world who share my love of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast books (although those that exist tend to be remarkably passionate about it.)

I read Gormenghast in high school for no reason that I can now recall. In A. Langley's proposed division between
those who wallow in the murky shadows of Gormenghast like hippos in the mud, and those who listlessly let Titus Groan fall from their fingers in the middle of the first sentence

... I was one of the former. I read that entire gargantuan puzzlebox of a book, then I tried to make my friends love it like I did. I watched the terrible BBC miniseries. I wrote Peake-themed essays for my college applications. I sought out every scrap of his writing I could find and plunged into his biography, as if I could trace this man's imagination and somehow find another story.

More recently, just for kicks, I picked up A World Away, the memoir written by his wife, the artist Maeve Gilmore, about her life with Peake. I had read the memoir before, but forgotten--or perhaps, never fully respected--what a remarkable storyteller Gilmore is in her own right. (It may also be possible that I was not an unbiased reader.) I reveled in the details Gilmore shares and mourned with her as her brilliant lover fades into early senility and untimely death. I made my roommate sit still while I read her the last few pages, in which Gilmore abandons the detached tone which she has been using and instead writes an direct and heartbreaking narration of a visit to him in the nursing home.

Immediately afterward, I picked up Peake's official biography, Malcolm Yorke's My Eyes Mint Gold, with the intention of using the two back-to-back to further my understanding of Peake and on his novels, which I planned to read again afterward.

Mervyn Peake and his wife Maeve Gilmore.
The experience of reading these two books--about the same subject--could not be more different.

While at first, I appreciated Yorke's more expanded view of Peake's life (as Gilmore begins her story with their first meeting, and only summarizes Peake's early life later), I soon became disappointed in Yorke's execution. My Eyes Mint Gold is exhaustively researched, and the exhaustion carries over to the reader. At far too many points, the narrative of Peake's life devolves into Yorke listing off the other quasi-famous figures with whom he may have had the briefest of contact. It is as if by this tedious name-dropping, Yorke attempts to persuade the reader of Peake's significance. A better portrayal might have let him stand alone on his own two unusual feet, rather than tying him to a laundry list of other nearly important people. It makes for very dull reading, and fails to convey any meaningful depiction of the subject.

Moreover, Yorke takes a bizarre bent against Maeve Gilmore. When he cannot elide her presence from the record of her husband's life, he castigates her as a "spoiled little rich girl" and blames her for Peake's abysmal money management, at one point demanding to know why it did not "occur" to her to get a job to support her struggling husband. In Yorke's telling, Gilmore's own artistic career is overlooked as a babyish imitation of her superior partner. He also suggests repeatedly that Peake was unfaithful to his wife, although he eventually admits that no one he interviewed in the course of researching his biography could substantiate such rumors. It is as if Yorke deliberately wished to besmirch his subject's legacy.

The experience of reading the two books one after the other made Yorke's bias shockingly apparent. With A World Away still fresh in my mind, I could see how [name] quoted selectively from Gilmore's own memoir, leaving out key contexts or even changing the meaning of entire sequences. It's a cruel treatment and one which has me far more alert to the less-obvious prejudices held by other biographers--the information they deliberately withhold, misrepresent, or present in damning fashion.

Mervyn Peake surrounded by his paintings. His wife
was the muse and model for most of his work.
My Eyes Mint Gold claims to be the most "factual" telling of Peake's life, shading certain of Gilmore's personal memories as being unreliable or impossible. It is nevertheless a bone-dry and soulless account of a man's colorful and brimming life. Its most tantalizing contents are the excepts from Peake's less popular works, both poetry and fiction, and the descriptions of his art, most of which is not actually reproduced within the pages. As an attempt to convey the life of Mervyn Peake, however, I would have to say that it fails. 

Perhaps one could take these two divergent tellings of the same man's life as the difference between autobiographical writing and memoir.

Or, perhaps, the difference between a book that was written out of love and one that was commissioned for a paycheck.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Review: "The Curse of Chalion" by Lois McMaster Bujold

This is the least artistically
insulting cover I can find.
Facebook visitors: this is the book I was yelling about last month.

I almost didn't bother with this book because the cover was uninspired and the title was insipid. (Bujold has a problem with lackluster titles, though all the books of hers I have read were more than competent.) Dear reader, do yourself a favor and take this book on faith, as I did. I hadn't read the synopsis. I didn't know what I was getting into. All I had was the recommendation of a few friends I trusted.

By the fifth page of The Curse of Chalion, I had almost given up.

By page 24, I was head-over-heels in love with the story and making little screeching noises of glee.

With that out of the way, let me proceed with the usual synopsis + grump.


When Cazaril is freed from the slave galleys of his enemies, the old soldier wants nothing more than to rest, far from war and the political machinations that betrayed him.

Homeless, friendless, and broken, he throws himself on the mercy of the old Provincara in whose house he served as a young man. By the grace of the gods, the Provincara has a place for him. Her granddaughter stands in line for the throne of Chalion--and will need every advantage she can get to survive the treacherous Chalionese court, which drove her own royal mother mad. Cazaril's varied and ugly experiences as soldier, diplomat, spy, and prisoner makes him an ideal tutor, if not an eager one.

As Iselle's tutor, Cazaril means to teach her to avoid the snares that ruined her predecessors. He believes that Iselle has the chance to turn the bizarre chain of bad luck which has plagued the royalty of Chalion for generations. But the responsibility comes with risks. Protecting Iselle means following her to the court, where certain old friends are less than pleased to find Cazaril back from the galleys, living proof of their treachery.

  5 out of 5 stars
(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Well, well, well!

Dear reader, are you aware that it has been one year (and change) since the first Book Grump was posted here? I am.

Are you also aware that there have been, as yet, been no Book Grumps this month? That's rather more likely, and for which I apologize.

Looking at my blog calendar, it seems like every few months, I take a whole thirty-day stretch off to flex out my brain. October 2014 is going the same way as March 2014. I have a wealth of books I'm excited to tell you about, and a few more I can't wait to shred, but I've given myself permission to take a vacation.

Book Grumps will resume in November. Until then, thank you for all the comments, the recommendations, and the pageviews from the past twelve months. It means a lot to me that people are reading this blog. I hope that all of you are coming away amused and with a new list of books to check out.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review: "I Never Promised You A Rose Garden" by Joanne Greenberg

Against their better judgment, a wealthy Jewish family delivers their schizophrenic sixteen-year-old daughter to a mental institution for treatment. Where the Blau family sees terror and depravity, Deborah herself sees a refuge--proof at last that she is as sick as she has always known herself to be, and the freedom to tell the truth.

Dr. Fried, Deborah's psychologist, is not scared by Deborah's caustic wit or the bizarre symptoms which frightened her family into committing her. She believes that Deborah has the strength to secure her own rescue from her illness.

But Deborah is fighting an enemy the doctors cannot see: the imaginary world of Yr, which used to be her refuge from cruel reality and is now her prison. The cruel gods of Yr are unwilling to let their captive go free, and every step Deborah takes toward health is countered by their punishments, erasing the real world she is not entirely convinced she wants to rejoin at all.

5 out of 5 stars
(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Review: "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" by Ransom Riggs

As a child, Jacob loved his grandfather's stories about the magical island off of Wales where he and other children waited out the devastation of World War II. When he grew up, he recognized them for the fairy tales they were--until the day he finds his grandfather dying in the woods behind his house, and lays eyes on the monster which killed him.

Jacob is haunted by nightmares of what he saw. The peculiar photographs his grandfather entrusted to him make the impossible old stories seem real. With the encouragement of his worried psychologist, Jacob and his father travel to Wales. His father hopes that Jacob will see how ordinary the island is and realize that his grandfather's stories were only imaginary. Jacob hopes to find proof that the peculiar children from the photographs really existed. He finds far more than he ever dreamed.


1 out of 5 stars
(grump + breakdown below the cut)


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review: "Seven Daughters and Seven Sons" by Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy

Buran is the fourth of her father's seven daughters, and the apple of his eye--but her village of Baghdad doesn't see it that way. While her uncle's seven sons venture off to make their fortunes, Buran and her sisters can do nothing to save their impoverished family. As women, they are forbidden to leave the house to work, and no one will marry such poor brides.

With her father's reluctant blessing, Buran disguises herself as a man and joins a caravan bound for Tyre. She plots to match the success of her uncle's sons, providing for her sisters and giving her father a reason to hold his head up high. But her cleverness might prove her undoing, when it brings her to the attention of the prince himself.

  5 out of 5 stars
(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Review: "Elantris" by Brandon Sanderson

Long ago, citizens of Elantris were blessed by the mystical Shaod, changed into shining golden gods when the unpredictable magic took them. But the Shaod has become a plague, turning those it infects into undying lepers. When the crown prince of the neighboring kingdom falls victim, Raoden is declared dead and locked in the now-accursed city to rot--only days before his new bride arrives to marry him.
Legally bound by her vows, Sarene picks up the pieces of Raoden's quest to reform the corruption of his father's reign. But someone else has a different plan to save the kingdom: Hrathen, the high priest of an eerie religion that has swallowed up the rest of the world. Hrathen has been given three months to convert Elantris before his god's armies arrive to destroy it. He intends to save the country that hates and fears him--by any means necessary. 
Meanwhile, within the dead city, Raoden tries to solve the mystery that changed the Shaod into a nightmare plague, before he, too, succumbs to the hunger and the constant pain of his new unlife.
3 out of 5 stars
(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Review: "Green Rider" by Kristen Britain

Karigan G'ladheon leaves the Sacoridian university with one worry on her mind: how to explain her disgraceful expulsion to her family.

Her woes no longer seem as important when she finds a Green Rider, one of the king's messengers, dying on the road. In desperation, the Rider gives Karigan his horse, his message, and a warning: beware the shadow man. The black arrows in his back, binding him beyond the grave, signal what fate awaits her if she fails.

Carrying the dead Rider's burden, Karigan races to reach the king, pursued by unnatural forces. Ghosts and monsters block her path. But there is more to being a Green Rider than just wearing the uniform. When she accepted the dead man's mission, she gained his strange powers as well--and Karigan does not ride alone. 


2 out of 5 stars

(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Two-For-One Review: "Rider at the Gate" and "Cloud's Rider" by C.J. Cherryh

"Heed not the beasts," the preachers who led the human colonization of Finisterre say. The planet's native species, great and small, predator and prey, can fill a person's mind with telepathic images until reality blurs. When the most dangerous of all--the carnivorous nighthorse--comes calling for a rider, the best thing their quarry can do is go join it, before it kicks in the door and lets in the many-toothed swarm of the world.

Danny Fisher is cast out by his religious family when he becomes Cloud's rider. But the rider camp that protects Shamesey town is no safe place for a poor junior rider, either. When the only rider to show him kindness is driven out as a rogue, Danny rides into the mountains alone to help him.

Up in the snowbound heights, a real rogue terrorizes isolated villages, hunting down any truckers or riders caught outside walls. Insanity is a deadly pandemic on Finisterre, when the thoughts of a madman--or a mad horse--can infect an entire mountain range. With the wilderness full of hungry predators, and human settlements full of paranoia and old grudges, no one may survive the coming winter.

3.5 out of 5 stars
(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review: "The Patron Saint of Ugly" by Marie Manilla

When stories come pouring out of the tiny town of Sweetwater, West Virginia, about the miraculous healing powers of Garnet Ferrari, the Vatican dispatches an investigator to determine the truth of the so-called saint.

Garnet herself denies all claim to sainthood or miracles, but she cannot deny that something strange has been happening all her life. From the day she was born with a birthmark of the world covering her entire body, she has been set apart, marveled over by superstitious grandmothers and reviled by her peers. Only her mother, a blue-blooded runaway from Virginia's highest society circles, is determined to adore her map-stained daughter.

The Vatican's investigation follows Garnet back through time to the miracles she performed and the ones she failed. Was there ever really a Santa Garnet del Vulcano before her, or is Garnet truly the rebirth of a long-lost Sicilian saint? It's a legend the world has never heard before, but one which in Garnet's memory has been told a hundred times and more. 

4.5 out of 5 stars
(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Review: "The Wolf Hunt" by Gillian Bradshaw

When her brother is killed fighting in the Crusades, Marie Penthievre becomes the heir of the family manor: a rich prize fought over by Normandy and Brittany for generations. Now Marie herself is the prize. Before her Norman overlord can act, Marie is kidnapped from her convent and smuggled into Brittany.

Alone in the Breton court, Marie defends her honor and her right to refuse a husband from among her enemies. Tiarnan of Talensac, a knight in Duke Hoel's service, serves as her champion. But Tiarnan, a married man, has his own crisis of honor to endure: whether his new bride will still love him when she learns that he is a werewolf, an abomination in the sight of God.

When Tiarnan disappears, Duke Hoel's court grieves their favorite while Marie mourns for her first friend. But Tiarnan is not dead--only trapped in his monstrous form by his faithless wife and her former lover. Now the duke he once served hunts for him, and the forests of Brittany become a battleground.

5 out of 5 stars
(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Review: "The Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson

"I was born with the devil in me. I could not help that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing."

Occasionally I have a craving for really solid narrative nonfiction. In The Devil in the White City (subtitle: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America), Erik Larson chronicles the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and the serial killer in its midst. It wasn't a particularly filling "meal" of a book, but it gave me a taste of the weird and unusual history which I love.

If the 1893 Chicago World's Fair was mentioned in any history class of mine, it was swiftly overlooked. Larson's loving chronicle brings to vivid life an era and a spectacle which I find now hard to forget. The number of visitors to the park on October 9th of that year set the record for highest attendance at any peaceable event in history!

Larson splits his narrative into three paths. One follows the architects, engineers, artists, and showman who attempted to surpass the glory of France's "Exposition Universelle" in 1889 in a fraction of the time. Another tracks the mentally ill man whose delusions led him to assassinate Chicago's leading figure in his hour of triumph. The third, and most riveting, closes in on H.H. Holmes and the dozens--possibly hundreds--of women he murdered during the days of the fair.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Review: "Howl's Moving Castle" by Diana Wynne Jones (plus notes on "Howl's Moving Castle" by Hayao Miyazaki)

As the oldest daughter of three, Sophie Hatter knows that adventures are not in her future. While her younger sisters seek their fortune, she slaves away in the family hat shop.

But fate has its eye on Sophie, for better or for worse. When a chance meeting with the dreaded Witch of the Waste leaves Sophie cursed with old age, she flees to the dubious shelter of a magical castle, owned by the equally dreaded Wizard Howl. Howl is rumored to eat the souls--or was it the hearts?--of beautiful young maidens. Surely old Sophie has nothing to fear. 

Howl's fire demon refuses refuses to help Sophie return to normal until she breaks his own curse. Will the fact that Howl and Sophie have a common enemy in the Witch of the Waste be enough? Or will Howl's heartless ways drive Sophie out to find her own magic?

1.5 out of 5 stars
(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Review: "Life As We Knew It" by Susan Beth Pfeffer

When the asteroid collision shifted the moon's orbit, Miranda thought it was no big deal. But the very next day, her mother pulls her out of school to hoard all the food they can carry out of the supermarket. Miranda thinks she is overreacting. Things can't be that bad--can they?

Instead of cute boys and test scores, she begins to worry about what they will do when the fuel runs out, or what has happened to her father, out of touch with satellites down and electrical power unavailable. Day by day, her world becomes emptier, hungrier, and smaller. The world she knew is gone forever.

The end of the world is not a single moment, but a lifetime... one which may be very short after all.

  3.5 out of 5 stars
(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Review: "Cinder" by Marissa Meyer

Linh Cinder may be the best mechanic in New Beijing, but that fact brings her no happiness. First, all of her wages--and everything else she owns--belong to her stepmother. Secondly, if the reason for Cinder's technological genius got out, she would be taken away with all the other cyborgs.

Cinder's cyborg nature becomes a hidden blessing. She is immune to the plague which ravages the rest of New Beijing, from the slums and junkyards all the way to the royal palace where the Emperor lies dying. In his stead, Prince Kai tries to find a cure for the plague while keeping the devious Lunar Queen at bay. He finds an unlikely ally in Cinder. But can his trust in her be returned?

2 out of 5 stars
(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Review: "The Goblin Emperor" by Katherine Addison

When the emperor and his chosen heirs are killed in a fatal airship accident, the elven crown falls to the last person anyone considered: his youngest, least-favored son, raised in exile and all but forgotten by the court.

In the blink of an eye, half-goblin Maia becomes the Emperor Edrehasivar VII. He would be the first to agree that he has no allies, no proper training, and a rather short life expectancy.

But when there are only two paths open to him--to be emperor, or to be dead--Maia chooses to repair the devastation of his father's legacy, and to leave his own.

And for all his lack of polish, Maia is no fool--and no stranger to living in a den of vipers. Those who expect Maia to be a simple puppet to be manipulated and replaced have a nasty surprise in store.

  4.9 out of 5 stars
(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Monday, July 7, 2014

DIY Audiobooks By Yours Truly!

In a few posts now, I've mentioned that I enjoy reading aloud to my roommate, who has great taste in stories, but reads at the pace of an actual snail. We've kicked around the idea of recording these readalouds for other people to listen to while they're going about their day. Now it's happening!

In time, I'd like to work up to reading whole books, but I've started small...ish. (Who knew that a simple 10-page story could turn into a 30-minute recording? Not me, that's for sure.)

These recordings were meant to be heard, rather than watched; there's not much to look at, just your resident book grump turning pages. I hope they're fun to listen to, though. I'd love to hear your comments (and suggestions on how to improve the recording quality.)


The first recording I did was "Stronger Than Time," a short story by Patricia C. Wrede from her collection Book of Enchantments. I don't like this recording as much now that I've done the others--the "voice" of the story is rather flat and dry, where the other two have a much more lively narration that's fun to read (and act out a bit)--but it's still a lovely, eerie story that plays off the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty.

I'm more proud of this next one: "Barrens Dance" by Peter S. Beagle, from the anthology Wizards (which I highly recommend, by the by.) This is an original tale about a fantasy frontier's troubles with the local wizard, and his attempts to woo a monster trainer away from her husband. If you must watch a video, rather than listen, I recommend this one.

And if neither of these stories sound like your taste, try Patricia McKillip's "Lady of the Skulls" from the anthology The Secret History of Fantasy. This is another original short story with a heavy Arthurian feel, about an enchanted tower and its guardian. The legends say that the one who chooses the most precious treasure in the tower will win it all, but those who choose wrongly will die on the spot.

Happy listening!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Series Review: "The Hollows" by Kim Harrison (plus bonus remarks on "The Dresden Files" by Jim Butcher)

Rachel Morgan lives on the edge. Keeping her magical kindred from breaking too many human laws in the slums of supernaturally-integrated Cincinnati is a full-time job. Being a white witch herself means that she will always be taking the job home with her, too.

Chafing under the restrictions of the Inderland Security--plus a little harassment from her vampire boss--Rachel strikes it out on her own as an independent bounty hunter. The odds of her lasting long enough to file for self-employment aren't good, though. Her former employers have put out a hit on her for breaking her contract. And that's not including the everyday dangers from werewolves, demons, gang lords, insurance agents, and her own bloodthirsty roommate.

What's the good news? Rachel lives for danger.

  3.5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Bonus Review: Karen Russell's Short Story Anthologies

I had so much fun reviewing Karen Russell's Swamplandia! that I picked up both of her short story anthologies: St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and Vampires in the Lemon Grove. Over the weekend, I tore through them both. As long as I can spend this summer lying by the pool with good books like these, I won't complain about the heat.

Russell is climbing swiftly in the ranks of my most esteemed modern writers. She has a thoroughly unique viewpoint on both the everyday and the paranormal, one which at times even reverses the two. At the same time, her writing is so grounded in earthy and unvarnished settings that the reader never senses when their feet have left the ground. There is no need to suspend disbelief when reading her tales. Russell does it for you. It's quite the optical illusion.

Most importantly, against these surreal stages--both the ones that exist in our own world, however unfamiliar they are to the reader, and the ones that require a little loosening of the seatbelt of reality--Russell sets very simple, very true characters. They grip the reader's heart with a familiar and possessive hand.

Reading through both of these anthologies at such a fast clip, I did notice a recurring weakness when it comes to endings. Over and over, Russell seems to conclude the tale five minutes too soon, stopping on a point that feels neither cliffhangerish nor resolved. It may be intentional, but I would love to see the author follow through at least once.

Every anthology has a few duds, but Russell knocks it out of the park with so many of these tales that I recommend both books as highly as Swamplandia! itself. I look forward to her other works.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Review: "The Princess Curse" by Merrie Haskell

The princesses of Castle Sylvian are under a curse, and young Reveka, the herbalist's apprentice, intends to be the one to break it. With the reward the king is offering, she could run her own herbary--and not have to listen to Brother Cosmin yelling anymore.

But breaking the curse is no simple matter, with a tower full of enchanted sleepers who failed to break the curse, and the princesses themselves poisoning those who try. It's for their own good, they tell Reveka. Better to be poisoned, than to follow the cursed princesses to the Land of the Dead where souls wander and fade, and where a monster hunts for his bride.
4.5 out of 5 stars


Friday, June 6, 2014

Review: "Swamplandia!" by Karen Russell

Once upon a time, Hilola Bigtree, the Swamp Centaur, wrestled alligators before cheering crowds at Swamplandia!, the Bigtrees' family-run theme park. Her daughter Ava wanted nothing more than to be just like her. But Hilola is dead and the tourists no longer flock to the island, preferring the gimcrack attractions on the mainland. Swamplandia!, like surviving Bigtrees, is abandoned.

While Chief Bigtree vanishes for days on end--supposedly raising money to save Swamplandia!--his children are left to fend for themselves. The traitor Kiwi runs away, working at a rival hell-themed water park to earn a normal life for himself and his sisters. Dreamy Osceola holds seances, talking first to her mother and then to a succession of ghostly "boyfriends." When one proposes to her, Ossie boards a derelict ship she believes will drift to the Underworld, leaving Ava behind.

Guided by the mysterious Bird Man, Ava plunges into the treacherous labyrinth of the Everglades, searching for Ossie. In the wake of Hilola's death, someone has to save Swamplandia! and the Bigtrees, even if that someone is the youngest of them all.

4.5 out of 5 stars


Friday, May 23, 2014

Review: "Breath and Bones" by Susann Cokal

The nuns at the Danish convent always knew young Famke would fall into sin. Such a pretty girl would never stay on the path of righteousness, they said. She was born for rebellion--and for ruin.

Aspiring painter Albert Castle sees Famke's beauty as his means to join the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of artists. His painting of Famke as Nimue cursing Merlin is a masterpiece. But when Albert goes to make his fortune, he takes only the painting and leaves behind the naive girl whose reputation he has destroyed. 

Too fallen to be afraid of God, too sheltered to be afraid of the world, Famke sets off on her own pilgrimage. She follows Albert's wake across the ocean to the American frontier, through brothels and Mormon communes and all the wild places of a new and chaotic country. She has one shining purpose: to find her artist and be his muse again.


4.5 out of 5 stars


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Review: "Feed" by Mira Grant

The zombie apocalypse has come--and stayed. Twenty-five years after the initial outbreak of the virus, the infected continue to shuffle hungrily after warm flesh. Worse, every single living person is a carrier for the dormant virus, which could claim them at any time.

Even in the face of the undead, however, life goes on. Bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are selected to cover the presidential campaign of Peter Ryman, the first candidate to have been a teenager during the first horrifying outbreak.  Few have trusted the official media since censoring and misinformation led to the (un)deaths of thirty-two percent of the population--leaving bloggers in the position of viral truth-tellers for the world. Ryman hopes the presence of the Mason team will give his campaign the legitimacy and the popular support he needs.

Georgia and Shaun, poster children of the apocalypse generation, are prepared for cross-country travel through a zombie-filled wasteland. But even the living dead aren't as lethal as ordinary humans with an agenda. Political schemes escalate from sabotage, to murder, to biological terrorism. The Masons were hired to tell the world the truth--and someone doesn't want it told.

  4 out of 5 stars

Friday, May 2, 2014

Review: "The Miseducation of Cameron Post" by Emily M. Danforth

The day that Cameron Post kisses a girl for the first time, her parents die in a car accident.

While every one of her peers in tiny Miles City, Montana struggles with romance, rebellion, and boredom, her orphan status--and her infatuation with her female friends--sets Cameron apart. She is convinced that God took her parents away to punish her for her sinful ways, but she can't stop thinking about beautiful, graceful Coley.

It's only a matter of time until someone realizes that the heart Cameron wears on her sleeve is rainbow-hued--and when they do, they will set out to fix her.

  2 out of 5 stars

Friday, April 18, 2014

Review: "Dark Lord of Derkholm" by Diana Wynne Jones

Mr. Chesney's Pilgrim Tours are a dream come true for the diehard fantasy fan. Now you, too, can go on a thrilling adventure in a magical world, battle monstrous hordes, fulfill prophecies, find treasure, and--of course--overthrow the Dark Lord himself. Book your ticket today!

The Tours are viewed with less delight by inhabitants of the world in question, which is ravaged on a yearly basis by hordes of tourists wielding swords and cameras.

This year, the responsibility of playing the Dark Lord falls to the eccentric and ingenuous Wizard Derk. According to Mr. Chesney's guidebook, Derk's farmhouse must become a forbidding Dark Citadel; his wife Mara, the requisite seductive Dark Enchantress; his children, guides for the Tours. Derk himself will be killed, twice a day, by tours of Pilgrims reaching the end of their tightly scheduled adventures.

The life of a Dark Lord isn't an easy one. Derk is singed by dragons, haunted by blue demons, fined by auditors, all while stamping out a revolution he'd really rather join. Meanwhile, his marriage slowly crumbles, taking with it Derk's reason for cooperating with Mr. Chesney's demands.

  3 out of 5 stars

Friday, April 4, 2014

Review: "The Storyteller" by Jodi Picoult

The nocturnal hours of her profession suit baker Sage Singer. In darkness and isolation, she nurses her pain over her mother's death, killed in the same car accident which disfigured Sage's face.

In her grief support group, Sage bonds with elderly widower Josef Weber. But her new friend discloses a terrible secret: he was a member of the SS, overseeing a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. Josef believes Sage's Jewish ancestry grants her the authority to forgive him--and the right to assist in his suicide plan.

Sage is no stranger to guilt and despair, but Josef's confession and its accompanying plea horrify her. She is convinced to endure the truth by Nazi hunter Leo Stein; by her own grandmother, a survivor of the camps; and by her lingering compassion for Josef. For the sake of the Holocaust's victims, she must see Josef's story to its end--no matter what skeletons they unearth along the way.

  3.5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Review: "Blood, Bones & Butter" by Gabrielle Hamilton

 Gabrielle Hamilton has never been to a culinary institute or apprenticed herself to a professional chef. She learned to cook from the lessons taught by two sublime tutors: Hospitality and Starvation.

After her parent's divorce, Gabrielle is left behind--literally--in an empty house to fend for herself. She offers herself up to the restaurant life, relying on bravado and the cooking skills learned at her mother's elbow to hide the fact that she is only a cigarette-smoking thirteen-year-old who steals cars.

By force of will and a healthy amount of luck, Gabrielle survives her teenage years. She wanders through urban hotspots and European villages, where the alternation of desperate hunger with the generosity of strangers forms her dream of the eclectic, all-embracing restaurant she will someday own. Vagrant, dropout, activist, she toys with a dozen different identities, but in the end she always wanders back to her passion and to her gift: cooking.

  3 out of 5 stars

Guest Review: "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn (Revisited)

 My friend Traci of Traci J. Brooks Studios took exception to my review of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. She took away a very different message from the book than I did. I invited her to write her own review, which she has graciously permitted me to post here for you, dear reader.

 A Portrait of Marriage
This is not a book review of the New York Times Bestseller by Gillian Flynn. If you haven’t read the book, it’s going to get spoiled for you – and I’d hate to do that, because it truly is a magnificent piece of writing. You have been warned.

What this entry is, is catharsis. This book annihilated me. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that not only kept me twisting as a reader, but sucker-punched me in the emotional gut. I’ve needed to talk about this book since I finished it at breakfast many months ago, absolutely exhausted from the crazy ride on which it took me.

What I want people to understand, is that while this book is fantastical (I’m sure psychopaths like Amy exist, but the events in this book are pretty extreme), the elements of marriage as it portrays it are not. It’s temping to write off all of Amy’s fake diary as just that, when we as a reader feel duped and a little stupid for believing her tale – but don’t. This book paints a horrifying portrait of a marriage, brushstrokes of embarrassing emotion admissions and all too real truth. And being that I am myself committed to a wonderful man in that same union, I didn’t even have to search for similarities in our life to Nick and Amy’s… they were there before I even tried to find them.

That’s enough to turn your stomach, right there.

These are two awful people. Flynn crafted a man and a woman so real in their flaws, I cringe to think they exist. But I know they do. Pieces of them exist in every single marriage out there. I am Amy. My husband is Nick.

It starts so innocently. Amy’s entry about first meeting Nick rings true to me especially, because I met my husband at a party. And her description of being “fat with love” is so perfect. She writes that she has become a wife, a bore, that she finds chances just to say his name out loud. It is exactly how every love story begins! Flynn does a spectacular job on describing what it feels like to fall in love, to find your soulmate.

She does an even more spectacular job of detailing its unraveling. Flynn nails how simply the end begins. A forgotten anniversary. Not apologizing. Resentment. How Amy/I would do something meant to be nice for Nick/JD and he would take it the wrong way. How Amy/I would nag about something like laundry. How Amy’s/my ego would get in the way of admitting what I really wanted to Nick/JD. It’s a slow, magnificent catastrophe that I swear I have experienced only a year, a few months, a week ago in my own life. The walls have crumbled before you even knew there were cracks.

But Gone Girl is not the end all, be all of marriages, thank God. While almost every one of Amy’s fictional scenarios easily could happen (and have) in my own life – that is not the way every marriage’s story ends. Ulitmately, the takeaway from this book is that marriage is not a game where the spouses try to outwit each other. It can’t be, or it will be miserable like the ending of Gone Girl. Marriage, for all it’s horrible parts, is also filled with moments of utter ardor – and we so easily forget about them in the daily grind.

I hope that in writing this entry, I will remember in crafting my own metaphorical and literal diary of being a newlywed, to remember the great times, just as much as the bad, and also to remember in marriage, I am not the protagonist. We are the protagonist, and where one fails, so does the other. That’s where Gone Girl gets it wrong – or perhaps, gets it right. One spouse in a marriage cannot disappear and the marriage still survive. Marriage creates a bond so intimate and intricate, that you can’t have one without the other. Gone Girl teaches its readers that marriage is for richer or pooer, sickness and in health, til death do you part.

Hopefully I never have to learn it Amy’s way.  
Traci J. Brooks Studios
Posted with permission.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Review: "Redemption Ark" by Alastair Reynolds

(Redemption Ark is the second book in a series. I reviewed Revelation Space, the first book , here.) 


Humanity has attracted the attention of the Inhibitors: the alien machines designed to eradicate intelligent life throughout the galaxy. Tireless, relentless, unstoppable, the Inhibitors cannot be outwitted or outfought. Maybe, just maybe, they can be outrun.

Ana Khouri races against the clock to evacuate the planet Resurgam. One species has already been hunted to extinction there by the Inhibitors, and if she fails, humans will be next. Meanwhile, Triumvir Ilia Volyova negotiates with her former captain--a ghostly presence haunting his own ship--for the use of the cache weapons to protect Resurgam.

But the Conjoiners who created the cache weapons are coming to collect them. The artificially enlightened subspecies are turning their backs on baseline humanity, leaving them for the Inhibitors while the Conjoiners flee the galaxy. The Conjoiner hero Nevil Clavain, who was human himself many centuries ago, suffers a crisis of conscience and defects to warn humanity of the danger. Now he must beat his own people to the cache weapons--if Ilia and the Captain will agree to turn them over. When all of human civilization is awaiting execution, there are no right answers, and not enough time.
  2 out of 5 stars

Friday, February 21, 2014

Review: "Black Unicorn" by Tanith Lee

In her desert fortress, a hundred miles from civilization, the Sorceress Jaive toys with the laws of magic. The careless overflow of her powers warps the world around her--just as her neglect warps her daughter Tanaquil, raised in isolation.

Tanaquil's talent lies in repairing broken things, rather than in spells and enchantments. One night, by chance or fate, her mundane work collides with her mother's magic. The skeleton of the creature she has painstakingly reassembled comes to breathtaking, terrifying life. The black unicorn, dead for a thousand years, tears through Jaive's fortress and disappears.

Half enchanted, half desperate, Tanaquil follows the hoofprints of the black unicorn across the scorching desert. With no money, no friends, and no control over the beautiful, terrifying creature that alternately helps and haunts her, she must rely on her own wits and her own heart to guide her.

  3.5 out of 5 stars

Monday, February 17, 2014

Review: "Locked Inside" by Nancy Werlin

The death of her mother, the famous singer-writer Skye, has left Marnie immensely wealthy--and intensely alone. She drifts through the ritzy private school selected for her, avoiding friendships and disappointing her guardians, waiting until the day she is 18 and can choose her own life. While she waits, she loses herself in the digital world of Paliopolis, the only place where she feels free.

Even if Marnie tries to ignore the world, though, the world has not ignored her. As the Halsett campus empties for spring break, Marnie is kidnapped. Her kidnapper has no interest in ransom--only in Marnie Skyedottir herself.

As isolated as she has kept herself, no hope of rescue is forthcoming. If Marnie will ever be set free, she will have to win her freedom herself.

  3 out of 5 stars

Friday, February 14, 2014

Review: "Code Name Verity" by Elizabeth Wein

"I am a coward," the wireless operator writes on the first page of her confession. In exchange for gentler treatment and a delay of her execution, she has agreed to tell her Nazi jailers everything she knows.

But the pages she fills with words have very little to do with the locations of British airfields, or the types of planes they are sending into the war. Instead, she writes about her dearest friend, Maddie Brodatt--clever Maddie who never gets lost; courageous Maddie who became a licensed pilot just before the war broke out; faithful Maddie who flew the the wireless operator to occupied France, where she was captured.

For page after page she draws out Maddie's story (punctuated with just enough details of airfields and planes to keep her captors interested.) She masks her treason inside memories of their friendship. As time runs short, the prisoner's scheme takes shape: to reach Maddie, if she is still alive, to fulfill their duty, and to take their revenge on the cruel regime that has darkened all of Europe.

  5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Page Flag Bonanza

Pictured: a lot of page flags.
Not pictured: creased corners.
I'm taking advantage of a day off to write up that giant backlog of books I have on my desk. Just for fun, here's a snapshot of what books look like while I'm preparing to review them!

After several people lectured me about creasing the corners, Sarah went ahead and gave me a stack of page flags to use when I need to remember something. Obviously I don't end up including every quote, but it's a good way for me to get a handle on what I want to talk about--especially if I wait several weeks before actually reviewing a book. In going back through my tabs, I am reminded of great lines, crucial details, and moments where the author dropped the ball--i.e. where my inner grump comes out to play. Then I have a good direction to start my review.

If y'all saw what my books looked like BEFORE I had page flags, you'd probably shun me. Though my stash of flags is running low...

Review: "Bridge of Birds" by Barry Hughart

When all the children in the village of Ku-fu fall mysteriously ill, Number Ten Ox goes to find a cure for them. In Peking's Street of Eyes, he hires the assistance of the ancient and unscrupulous sage Li Kao. But the only known cure for the mysterious ailment appears to be something out of a fairy tale--a magical ginseng root.

Ox and Li Kao set off in search of miracles, and money, and revenge. Every trail they follow leads them back to the Duke of Ch'in, with his terrifying tiger mask and his deadly labyrinth. Against his power, even Li Kao's clever schemes and Ox's pure faith may not be enough. Meanwhile, the sickly children of Ku-fu are running out time.

  2.5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Review: "Wither" by Lauren DeStefano

Sixteen-year-old Rhine lives under a death sentence. By the age of 20, she and every other woman in her generation will die, thanks to the effects of genetic experimentation. But Rhine's life expectancy may be even shorter than that. Like so many other girls, she is kidnapped, sold to wealthy men eager for children before their own lives come to an end.

Imprisoned in Governor Linden's mansion with his three other young "wives," Rhine plots to gain his favor, but also her own freedom. Neither will be easy to achieve. And the horrors of her abduction is nothing compared to the eerie power held by Linden's scientist father. 

1 out of 5 stars