All tagged Penguin

Recommendation Tuesday: Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

Recommendation Tuesday started as a joke and is now an official thing. Basically, this is my way of making Tuesday a little more awesome. If you've got a book to recommend on this or any Tuesday, tweet me at @SarahSMoon or tag me on Instagram @sarahbethmoon and I'll help spread the word.

View all of the past recommendations over here. 

Stephanie Tromly’s first novel, Trouble is a Friend of Mine, packs clever dialog, great characters and a complex mystery into a quick paced and excellent read.

Friendship, Diversity and Adventure in Stacey Lee's Under a Painted Sky

A fantastic historical novel is a special thing--and I sometimes feel like it's a unicorn situation. The last historical novel I loved (that wasn't a verse novel) was Jennifer Donnelly's luminous A Northern Light and that was quite awhile ago. 

Fortunately, Stacey Lee's debut young adult historical novel about two girls on the Oregon Trail in the early 1800s, Under a Painted Sky, landed in my mailbox at just the right time, as it was the historical novel I've been looking for for ages and ages. 

Father always said, If you cannot be brave, then imagine you are someone else who who is. So I imagine myself as him, my optimistic father, whose steps never wavered, whose face never hid in shadows. Lifting my chin, I march after Andy as if my cares were few and my outlook, golden.

Under a Painted Sky starts off with a bang, with narrator Samantha--a skilled violinist of Chinese descent--being left with no choice but to flee her Missouri town. Dashed are her dreams of moving back to New York and pursuing a music career.

Review: Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose

Caroline Starr Rose brings a historical mystery to life in her beautifully crafted novel in verse, Blue Birds.

It is 1587 and 117 English men, women and children are left on the lush island of Roanoke near the shores of what is now Virginia.They expected fertile soil and friendly people. They were not disappointed in the land. But, the friendly Native people had become understandably jaded. The English who came before them brought disease and death to their island. 

Recommendation Tuesday: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Recommendation Tuesday started as a joke and is now an official thing. Basically, this is my way of making Tuesday a little more awesome. If you've got a book to recommend on this or any Tuesday, tweet me at @FullShelves and I'll help spread the word.

View all of the past recommendations over here. 

It's not often I find a work on literary fiction that has a story as compelling as its prose--hence, I don't recommend it very often. Sparkling, thoughtful writing is wonderful, but it feels awfully vapid when the story falters. Or it's filled with dull Middle Aged Man Angst.

Discovering Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You was an unexpected surprise, as result. While imperfect (as all novels are), it hits so many notes that make worth checking out, even if you normally avoid literary fiction. It's a historical novel, though the 1970s time period is one of the book's less-developed aspects, but more than anything it's a story of family and marriage. 

Recommendation Tuesday: The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

Recommendation Tuesday started as a joke and is now an official thing. Basically, this is my way of making Tuesday a little more awesome. If you've got a book to recommend on this or any Tuesday, tweet me at @FullShelves and I'll help spread the word.

View all of the past recommendations over here. 

The uncertainty of my own experience is crushing. I am drowning in an infinite sea. Sinking slowly, the weight of the lightless depths forcing me down, forcing the air from my lungs, squeezing the blood from my heart.

I feel kind of ridiculous recommending a big book with a big publicity push behind it, but it's a rare sequel that enthralls me as much as the original. 

The Fifth Wave was one of my favorite books last year, thanks to its editor literally shoving it in my hands and I clicked preorder on the follow up, The Infinite Sea, before it even had a title. The sophisticated plot, overwhelmingly ominous tone and captivatingly complex characters stood out in the sea of lookalike post-apocalyptic novels

Review + Giveaway: Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

Laura Marx Fitzgerald’s novel Under the Egg dazzled me with its complexity, its unexpected turns and its classic Shakespearean misdirection.

Early in the novel, I found the text interesting, yet without knowing precisely when, the depth and ingenuity of Fitzgerald’s writing crept up on me. The story is both profound and intricate and I could comfortably read it on any number of levels, each with its own kind of joy.

“It’s under the egg,” he rasped, his once-icy blue eyes now foggy. “Look under the egg.”

Theo’s bound by her uncle’s last words. She must delve into his mysterious legacy, go on a quest in search of an unknown treasure. Under the egg will lie both a treasure and a letter taking thirteen year old Theodora, Theo, into a world she pieces together like a painting, color by color, layer upon layer, as she delves into the puzzling enigma of her uncle’s secrets.

Evocative Gothic Horror: Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea

Gothic horror wrapped in mystery, intrigue and the supernatural was just the right blend in April Genevieve’s Tucholke’s Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea. And when I finished the final page, I was left tapping my fingers, thinking,

"Sequel, please. Puh-lease. I am not good at waiting. Patience is not a virute."

Well, I'll be waiting for it until August of 2014.

*taps fingers*


Twin teens, Violet and Luke, live alone in the once decadent mansion their grandmother dubbed “Citizen Kane.” Built by their fabulously rich and influential ancestors, Citizen Kane could comfortably settle into an Edgar Allen Poe story. Its wine cellar holds a chilling atmosphere perfect for The Cask of Amontillado.

Citizen Kane sits aloof atop a ridge overlooking the Atlantic, a crumbling tribute to a glorious past and a cold reminder of the depth of despair that is the present reality. The town of Echo situated near the dying mansion looks upon the twins' abode with scorn taking comfort in the downfall of a once rich and powerful family.

Violet and Luke's artistic parents leave them for months at a time while they pursue their dreams in vibrant oils and acrylics inspired by the art and history found only in Europe. "Here's some money," they would say on their way out the door. "Make it last until we return."

The money always lasted until it didn't.

Guest Post: The Evocative and Layered The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Shadow of the Wind is the first in a series of linked stories by Barcelona based Carlos Ruiz Zafon. (The Angel’s Game is a prequel which released later, A Prisoner of Heaven follows the story after The Shadow of the Wind and an as yet unreleased book will end the series).

1945 Barcelona is still coming to grips with the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War and Daniel Sempere, our main narrator and hero, is the son of a book-dealer. The narrative starts when a young Daniel is taken by his father to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books where he is allowed to pick only one book to take out with him. His father explains that once Daniel makes his choice, he must be the book’s caretaker, guardian and protector. 

Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.

The mysterious The Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax is the one that speaks out to Daniel, and later the very book that offers him solace from the loss of his mother. Curious about Carax’s other writing, Daniel stumbles upon a startling discovery – a shadowy figure who calls himself Lain Coubert (the name of the devil in The Shadow of the Wind book) has been systematically destroying every copy Carax has ever written; making Daniel’s copy potentially the only surviving. Over the span of a decade, Daniel unwittingly falls headfirst into his very own gothic mystery as he unravels the life of Julian Carax and gets much more than he ever bargained for. 

When Bad Marketing Happens to Good Books: Just One Year by Gayle Forman

 Sometimes the wind blows you places you weren't expecting: sometimes it blows you away from those places, too.

When I found an early copy of Just One Year on the shelf at University Bookstore in Seattle last week, I could not have been more thrilled. The sequel to Just One Day (which I loved) was hands-down one of my my anticipated novels of the season. I couldn't wait to see where Allyson and Willem's story went, since Just One Year promised to "pick up where Just One Day ended.


Except that's a lie. Just One Year doesn't pick up where Just One Day, the book, ended. Instead, it begins as just one day, the day Allyson and Willem spent together, ends. If you've read Just One Day, you know that it spans the year following that day, so Just One Year effectively hits rewind on the timeline for the thing that happens on the final page of Just One Day.

It's important to understand that how the Just One Year has been marketed and the actual story between the covers are two entirely different things.

Read the rest--> 

A Fresh Detective Novel - Loyalty by Ingrid Thoft

I attended the American Library Association Winter Conference in January in Seattle, Washington. I’d never attended one of the ALA’s conferences and after a few minutes there, wondered why (it would have been an excellent resource when I was teaching full-time).

A new writer, Ingrid Thoft, attended the conference to promote her first novel, Loyalty. I happened to be first in line to meet her and she handed me the novel with a huge smile. Her excitement clearly showed in her eyes when she asked for my name, signed my book and handed it to me--apparently, I was one of the very first people to receive a copy of Loyalty.

Loyalty opens with a woman attempting to ascertain what she’d done to deserve being tied up, blindfolded and laid in the bottom of a boat headed out to sea.

Her arms and legs were cinched together tighter, and she was picked up off of her feet.
Then it was air.
Then water.
Then nothing.

A few pages later Fina, the daughter of a tough lawyer who’s the patriarch of an equally tough family of lawyers, meets with her father who informs her that her sister-in-law has disappeared. It’s her job to find out what happened and where her brother’s wife is.

Fina doesn’t fit her family’s mold. The brothers all finished  law school and belong to the Ludlow law firm solely comprised of members who maintain a take-no-prisoners mentality. Fina, who’s a law school drop-out, works for the family firm as the lead investigator. Her credentials for “tough” stand up to anything the rest of the family can tout.

Review: The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen is one of those authors whose books I know I will like before I've read the summary. Just the Dessen name on the cover tells me that I'm in for a good read full of authentic, relatable experiences that are never overwrought or dramatic. 

Dessen's latest, The Moon and More, offers exactly that, but with a bit of a fresh flavor, since it heads in a different direction than her books typically do.  Despite what the back cover summary may indicate, this is less a summer romance, and more of an introspective journey.

The Moon and More is narrated in first-person by Emaline, who lives in Colby, the fictional North Carolina town that will be familiar to long-time Dessen readers (it's based on Emerald Isle, N.C.). It's the summer before college and despite getting into Columbia, she's headed to a nearby state school, thanks to a full scholarship. She's headed there with longtime boyfriend Luke, who's a fun, crazy about Emaline, fun and comfortable. She helps her mom, dad, grandmother and half sisters run the family's summer home rental business and has a good life in her small town. 

Then she meets Theo, who's spending the summer in Colby working on a documentary about a highly-regarded artist from the town. He has big dreams and believes Emaline's been thinking too small regarding her future. Her biological father too thinks that Emaline should be thinking bigger, and lets her know so when he arrives in Colby with her young half brother in tow. 

There's a difference between the words father and dad.

Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

But if I’m it, the last of my kind, the last page of human history, like hell I’m going to let the story end this way. I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running but facing. Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.

Earlier this year, I happened to meet the editor of Rick Yancey's The 5th Wave at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. I'm not exaggerating when I say that she accosted me, and forced The 5th Wave into my hands, despite my protests that I'm not really a science fiction reader and that I had major burnout on post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels.

She promised that this one was different, that this wasn't like those other books, that if I liked character-driven stories with lots of moral conundrums, I'd love this book (she clearly had my number on those counts). Then, because I was probably still looking doubtful, she told me that The 5th Wave was her favorite book she'd worked on. There was something that told me that this wasn't a line, that she she loved this book that much.

Just a few days later, my curiosity got the best of me and I cracked open The 5th Wave.  Let's just say, I never bring print books with me, instead relying on my ereader or Kindle app to read on the go. However, my review copy of The 5th Wave went everywhere with me while I was reading it--it's simply that excellent.

The 5th Wave opens after aliens have invaded and attacked Earth. First, electricity was destroyed with an electromagnetic pulse; then the coasts were enveloped by rising seas; next, an Ebola-like plague wiped out much of the population; then, what were effectively alien sleeper cells were activated, and the few remaining humans can't trust anyone. 

I know what you're thinking: Another post-apocalyptic novel?

The 5th Wave isn't just another post-apocalyptic novel. It's it's character-driven, it's complexly-plotted, it's frightening. 

While The 5th Wave is written in multiple points-of-view, Cassie, the teen narrator of the largest chucks of the novel, is the character whose voice will likely receive the most attention. She's one of the few who's managed to stay alive during the invasion, but not without a high, high cost. She lost her mother to the third wave (the viral infection), her father in the fourth wave and her younger brother is now missing--Cassie is alone in the world, dodging snipers and making life and death decisions in order to survive.  

Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

The clouds shifted, and the glow of sun brightened on my face. “But she's from a really wealthy family, a good family, and she's a freshman at Smith College in Massachusetts. She even flies a plane. Charlotte kept telling me that I should apply to Smith. I know it sounds ridiculous, me being able to go to a prestigious school like that, but she sent me all the information.”

Suddenly, the insanity of the whole thing came into focus, and I nearly laughed.

“But for some reason, I began to want it, really badly. I told Willie, and she was mad. She said I had to go to school here in New Orleans, that I was out of my league trying to get into a college like that.”

Willie Woodley, the madam who owns and officiates over a high class brothel on Conti Street in New Orleans loves Josie Moraine as only a mother can love a child, love that never came from Josie's mother.  Set in the milieu unique to the fifties, Out of the Easy brings a flavor and cast of characters that only that time and place can offer. 

The novel's setting and characters could have been a humdrum of stereotypes, but in the hands of  gifted writer, Ruta Sepetys, who wrote the excellent Between Shades of Gray, it's the polar opposite.

Josie and Willie stole my heart. I cheered for them; shed a tear or two for them when I despaired for them; and most of all, believed in them.

Josie's mother, Louise, has no redeeming qualities. She's a prostitute with no qualms about who she uses for her own purposes, which is mainly to use others to get what she wants--money and things. At age seven Josie comes to live in Willie's brothel with her mother who has no consideration for what Josie will see or experience. This house frames its beguiling women in dark brocade curtains, crystal chandeliers and paintings on the walls of nude women with expansive nipples.

Josie much prefers the local bookstore. She wanders about the shop in awe of the many books that rise above her like skyscrapers. Charlie, the owner, notices this quiet child. He befriends her and by the time she reaches eleven, he's offered her a room in his attic. To Josie, it's a secret garden filled with the smell of paper, the whisper of pages turning and the kindness of a truly fine person.

Neither the kindness of Charlie nor the love of Willie will protect Josie from the inescapable reality of her life.

Review: Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James (aka That Time That Sandra Read a Romance Novel)

I am not usually a fan of romances, but Julie James' Practice Makes Perfect is fantastic.

It brings to mind a delightful movie and cast: You've Got Mail. Indeed this one would make a great film. Julie James' romantic and funny novel has maybe even hooked me into romance as a genre. Anything that makes me laugh, think, "awwww how sweet" and look kindly on the characters and their actions, is a big win for me!

The setting of Practice Makes Perfect is a fast-paced, high-pressure law firm in Chicago. The characters are a couple of thirty-two year old lawyers on the cusp of making partner in said firm. Payton and J.D.  had a contentious, but outwardly civil, relationship during their years working at the firm. But all bets are off when, only days before the announcement of promotions to partner, they're told that only one can come out victorious. 

They've each been at the firm for eight years with tension building to a nearly explosive level between them. The pressure isn't all it's cracked up to be. Everything is ready to explode between them as they await the firm's decision as to who will make partner. Whoever doesn't make the grade is expected to resign--immediately. Gone. No longer welcome.

A prank war breaks out between the two would-be law firm partners, making each scene crackle with humor and chemistry.

One hilarious scene ensues when during an important court case one of Payton's beloved Jimmy Choo heels breaks; she catapults into the jury box, rips the seam of her pencil skirt straight up the back and exposes her thong-clad butt to the courtroom. All right then! All hell breaks out in the courtroom along with much hilarity.

Review: The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

I was in the unusual position of holding all the cards. I had to decide what to do, and only I could do it. And I was going to do it. I had faced frightening things before and had been powerless. But not this time.

Maureen Johnson's The Name of the Star was a real surprise for me in 2011. It had a bit of everything--mystery, paranormal, romance, humor--and it all came together in quickly-paced, gripping read.

The long-awaited sequel, The Madness Underneath, continues in the same vein, but amps up the over-arching intrigue factor, building the overarching mystery that began in the first Shades of London novel.

Note: the rest of review contains mild spoilers for the previous book in the series. If you want to remain wholly unspoiled about The Name of the Star and are curious about starting reading this series, please read Sandra's spoiler-free review of that book

The Madness Underneath revisits Rory, a Louisiana native in England who survived a run-in with the ghost of Jack the Ripper in the first novel, but was also profoundly transformed--in a very literal way. She's now a terminus, a human who can vanquish ghosts on contact. Her background means that she's mostly unflappable, even to her weird circumstances.

It’s possible that I have a higher tolerance for crazy talk than most people because of my background. I’ve channeled multicolored angels with my cousin and gone for discount waxes with my grandmother. I know two people who have started their own religions. One of my neighbors was arrested for sitting on top of the town equestrian statue dressed as SpiderMan. He just climbed up there with a few loaves of bread and tore them up and threw bread at anyone who got near him. Another neighbor puts up her Christmas decorations in August and goes caroling on Halloween to “fight the devil with song.”

Rory finds herself back in London after her parents sequestered her away in Bristol. She's rejoined her classmates at Wexford, the boarding school she left after her incident with the aforementioned ghost. Understandably, Rory has a difficult time adjusting, especially since her friends from the ghost catching squad (I call them the Ghost Busters in my head, but they're actually called The Shades), Stephen, Callum and Boo, seem to be missing. She's alone with her weird ability.

The Name of the Star by Maureen JohnsonI love a good mystery, so when Maureen Johnson takes it to another level creating her witty and fun paranormal young adult thriller The Name of the Star, I was instantly hooked.

Aurora (who prefers Rory) Deveaux comes from Louisiana, the land of all things fantastical and magical, a place where her uncle has eight freezers filled with everything from batteries to milk intended to get him through another Hurricane Katrina (no worries about electricity going out) and an aunt who sees various angels of several hues designating their place on a spectrum from good to not-so-good. With this background, nothing should come as a surprise to Rory.

But, surprised she is.

It’s Rory’s senior year of high school. Her parents have an opportunity to teach at a university in England for a year, so off they go to a place more laden with ghosts of the past than Louisiana could ever scare up. She’s installed in Wexford, an elite prep school where she becomes embroiled in a mystery dating back to 1888: Jack the Ripper.

I love to buy books. Ebooks, paper books, whatever. I simply love to own books. It’s probably a disease of some sort.

Sure, I use my library, especially my library’s ebook collection (more on that in a minute), since it always nice to visit my library without the hassle of, you know, leaving the house. But, ultimately, I feel good about buying books, because I know that it supports the people who create the books I love—authors, yes, but also the editors and book designers and everyone else who’s involved in the creation and curation* of what’s on our shelves, virtual or physical. 

However, as much as I love buying books, I hate feeling manipulated. 

And with the combination of publishers—particularly Penguin—simultaneously raising their ebook prices while yanking their titles from libraries’ ebook collections, that’s exactly how I feel. 

IceBound by Julie RoweUnfair Game?

Let me tell you a little story about my recent attempt to read one of Penguin’s new releases, Patricia Briggs’ Fair Game

I’ve been hit or miss with the Alpha & Omega spinoff series of the Mercy Thompson series. I liked the first book just fine and was rather “meh” on the second. So, while the books in the main series are auto-buys for me, because they’re guaranteed good reads, I’m not as confident in the Alpha & Omega series. 

But, since there’s not going to be a new Mercy book until 2013 (sob!), I decided that I’d been missing the Mercyverse way too much and would revist this parallel series in the same world. Since it was a hardback release, I knew it would be a perfect Kindle book. (I have tendinitis in my right hand so hardbacks, are murder on my hands—I’d quit reading any new releases unless they were in paperback before my husband bought me my Kindle three years ago. Additionally, our house is super-tiny—around 800 square feet—so I can’t bring paper books that aren’t part of my “permanent collection” into the house.)

Logging onto Amazon, I discovered that the book was priced at $12.99. Given that this series is iffy for me, and that it was fewer than 300 pages, I balked at that price point. Momentarily forgetting that Penguin had abandoned libraries’ ebook collections, I logged onto Multnomah County Library’s website to put a hold on the ebook. 

Oh, right… Penguin doesn’t want libraries to lend ebooks


Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. 

People have written really amazing and thorough reviews of John Green’s latest, The Fault in Stars, because it’s really, really wonderful and readable and gut-wrenching

I, however, have been left unable to form a coherent thought about this book—nearly two months after finishing reading it. But nevertheless, I feel like I need to say something about it, because the book (as well as attending the Tour de Nerdfighting) really hit me and actually changed my thinking.

For real.

Anyway, like I said, since everyone’s reviewed it, I thought I’d just share a few of my reflections on this special novel. I mean, there’s a big blobby tear stain in my book. And I kind of think I’m too old to be crying over books, because, you know, I have to deal with real life and all that stuff, but geez… I guess I’ll never stop crying over books. The Fault in Our Stars also made me laugh out loud. Especially the thing about the Swedish rap. Which is why it’s so good, because any book that can combine all those things is so, you know, “wow.” 

Why I ♥ The Fault in Our Stars

{Review} Truth by Julia Karr

On the day before I started reading Truth, the sequel to the excellent 2011 release XVI, I tweeted the following:

I kind of feel like I just need to quit dystopians cold turkey. At this point, they’re just aggravating me. Hopefully ninjas or something will be the next big thing, because I need something new.

Actually, yes, ninjas would be excellent.

Then I picked up the sequel to my favorite 2011 dystopian release* and remembered that the subgenre isn’t quite on life-support yet. 

Truth picks up shortly after XVI left off—if you have not read XVI or need a refresher, here’s a quick rundown of the premise and what I appreciated about it (my Goodreads review is here): 

  • Nina Oberon lives in a future version of the United States ruled by a misogynist Governing Council with the aid of a corrupt version of the media;
  • One of the main keys to the government’s control over the population is their control over the sexual availability of girls once they are 16—each girl gets a tattoo of “XVI” on their wrist and is therefore deemed available to any man who wants them, it is a culture that encourages rape and sexual control, and it is extremely disturbing;
  • The role the media plays in pushing teen and tween girls to act and behave in a way that encourages this culture is even more disturbing because it is not all that different from modern Western society;
  • Nina’s family has a history of involvement in the resistance movement and she becomes increasingly involved in it herself as she approaches her sixteenth birthday. (This is one of the things I most appreciated about XVI—there was context for her fighting the powers that be. In so many YA dystopians, the lead is just  a special snowflake and we’re just supposed to accept that’s why she’s fighing the bad guys.); 
  • Karr’s writing is tight and makes the Nina’s hyper-commercial, disturbing world come to life; and
  • I read XVI as a standalone, not knowing it was a planned trilogy and it actually worked as a single book!

If you have not read XVI, and don’t want to be spoiled for that book, I strongly recommend you do not continue reading my review of Truth! Do not pass Go!, instead, read XVI, and come back and read my review of Truth.