Thursday, October 26, 2017


Alice (The Chronicles of Alice, #1)Author: Christina Henry
Info: Ace, copyright 2015, 291 pages

In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.

In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…

Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.

Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.

And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.

~Goodreads Description

After reading and thoroughly enjoying Henry's Lost Boy (an origin story for Captain Hook), I knew I would have to give Alice a read.  Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite classic tales, and Alice retellings are pretty much always my cup of tea.  I had a feeling this one would be intense after the rather gory and violent Peter Pan adaptation, but...

We meet Alice as a patient in an institution for the mentally insane.  She remembers very little about the event that made her a little crazy (there's something about a rabbit...) but whatever it was was pretty horrendous.  In the cell next door is Hatcher, an equally "crazy" individual who communicates with Alice through a small hole in the wall.  Hatcher also has a sketchy past and is now being tormented by the evil Jabberwocky who communicates with him telepathically.  The two eventually escape into the Old City and realize that it is their destiny to hunt down the Jabberwocky and kill him before he wreaks havoc on the world they know.

but...this one was maybe a little too much for me.  There are only two women in the whole book who are not sexually assaulted or defiled in some really (really) disturbing ways.  That element alone seemed way overdone, and while I liked Alice's eventual courage, the trope of rape and abuse was a bit irritating after while and borderline offensive.

The take on the story that I loved was interesting and despite my frustrations with the book, I looked forward to seeing how each of the original characters were weaved into the tale.  It was also interesting that our two heroes were actually in fact villains and the story kind of became a competition to determine who was the lesser of all the evils.

As for the sequel - I think I'm going to skip that one.  I like a little blood and violence (yes, I know how that sounds), but I think I have my fill of Henry's for awhile.

And yet, I'm still giving it -

It would probably be 2.5, but a picture of half a gnome just seems sad.

Monday, October 23, 2017


SoloAuthor: Kwame Alexander
Info: Blink, copyright 2017, 320 pages

Solo, a YA novel in poetic verse, tells the story of seventeen-year-old Blade Morrison, whose life is bombarded with scathing tabloids and a father struggling with just about every addiction under the sun—including a desperate desire to make a comeback. Haunted by memories of his mother and his family’s ruin, Blade’s only hope is in the forbidden love of his girlfriend. But when he discovers a deeply protected family secret, Blade sets out on a journey across the globe that will change everything he thought to be true.

~Goodreads Description

Blade is the son of a famous, aging musician.  His life has been road trips and cameras, rehab and spectacle, and with the loss of his mother, "normal" no longer exists.  When he discovers a long-held secret about his birth, Blade travels across the world to better understand who he is and, through music, begins to grow and heal.

I both liked this one and didn't.  I liked the language, the poetry, the voice.  Kwame Alexander is a beautiful storyteller.  And I liked Blade.  He was kid trying to become a man and a human desperate to better understand where he comes from.

But the format felt lacking, which I feel is often the case with novels in verse.  You substitute character and plot development for form, choosing to focus more on poetry than story.  (I've mentioned before that I'm not a huge fan of yes, I'm a bit biased.) This went even a step further adding musical elements as well.  Those moments were quality and interesting but took me out of the story for some reason.  Blade's life is so far removed from anything I understand - adopted son of an attention-grabbing rock star - aspiring musician just kind of pushed it over the edge for me.

All that aside, I liked it.  I didn't love it, but I liked it, and recommend it for Kwame Alexander's voice if nothing else.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

These Shallow Graves

These Shallow GravesAuthor: Jennifer Donnelly
Info: Random House Delacorte, copyright 2015, 488 pages

Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo secretly dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter like the trailblazing Nellie Bly.

Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort accidentally shot himself while cleaning his revolver. One of New York City’s wealthiest men, he owned a newspaper and was partner in a massive shipping firm, and Jo knows he was far too smart to clean a loaded gun.

The more Jo uncovers about her father’s death, the more her suspicions grow. There are too many secrets. And they all seem to be buried in plain sight. Then she meets Eddie—a young, brash, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. Only now it might be too late to stop.

The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and the truth is the dirtiest part of all.

~Goodreads Description

When a teenager stands in front of you at the reference desk, hugging a book, and frowning because she doesn't want to give the book back, it's basically a librarian's duty to check out the title.  Usually this teen is reading paranormal romances by the armload.  I've taken to asking her to read particular titles that I have on my list just to see if they are worthy of my time.  She gladly has taken up the challenge.  So when said teenager stood in front of me that day, insisting that I read the book, I was a little surprised to find that it was a historical mystery.  Just not usually her cup of tea.

While I wasn't hugging the book at the end, it did move toward the very top of my favorites so far in 2017.  Why this is my first Jennifer Donnelly title, I don't know...actually, I think I do.  The size of her books usually intimidates me.  Thankfully I had the audiobook for this one and didn't have to have a constant reminder that I was lugging around an almost 500 page book.  This won't, however, be my last Donnelly.  If all goes according to plan (which it never does, so I'm not holding my breath), I'll take the rest of her bookography this year.

I think this was the right one for me to start with for one very important reason - it is set toward the turn of the century and sort of reminded me of Newsies.

Hopefully that's all you need.  If it's not, then 1) you probably haven't watched the 1992 production or recent Broadway release enough or 2) you just have really poor judgement.

In case you need a little more to entice you - Jo dreams of becoming a journalist like the great Nellie Bly.  She is working on a particularizing scandalous news article at school when she receives news that her father has committed suicide.  Upon returning home, Jo quickly determines that all is not as it seems, and with the help of another budding reporter, the mysterious and street-wise Eddie, goes in search of the truth.

Jo is stubborn, intelligent, feisty for a girl in the late 1800s.  She dreams of a life much bigger than the one the world says is appropriate, and she decides to fight for what she wants instead of sitting meekly on the sidelines.  While Eddie is a predictable romantic lead, he's also confident in her abilities, and equally stubborn, fighting for his own future and wanting more than the poverty he grew up in.  Together they make an awesome team, and my only complaint is that this was a stand-alone.  (What did she just say?!  Did she just say she wanted a series?  Now that is scandalous!)

Donnelly writes relatable and exciting historical fiction that is led by fantastic characters that you cheer for from page one.  She's a talented storyteller who takes you away to a time and a place without struggle, and I can't wait to read her other titles.  (Or listen, cause that's just how I roll these days.)

This one comes highly recommended.  And if you read it and feel the need to hug it afterward, go right ahead.  There's a teen in my neck of the woods who would appreciate your affection.

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