Thursday, March 29, 2012

Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Plain Kate by Erin Bow
Brilliance Corporation, September 20, 2010
8 hours and 45 minutes, narrated by Cassandra Campbell
Book Source: Public Library/Overdrive

Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver's daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden talismans are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade”: a dangerous nickname in a country where witches are hunted and burned in the square.

For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate’s father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate.

Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he’ll give Kate the means to escape the angry town, and what’s more, he’ll grant her heart’s wish. It’s a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes she can't live shadowless forever -- and that Linay's designs are darker than she ever dreamed.

Judging by the cover...: It's plain, which in this case is good, considering the name of the title character. It's understated, it doesn't give away the depth within.

Favorite Elements:
  • Companion of the Year - Taggle was by far my favorite character in this book, and without him, it would have been a much different (not better) story. He sticks by Kate through thick and thin, and proves that he is much more than a cat.
  • World Building - Bow has made Plain Kate's surroundings extremely intricate and vastly different from any story I've read before. Everything is believable, including the magic.
Overall:  B+ story / B+ audiobook / D like-ability
Like I said above, Kate's world was built extremely well. As far as fantasy novels go, it was above and beyond many that I've read before. I'll even overlook (for now), the creep factor of the magic rules. The characters were authentic human beings, neither perfectly good or totally evil, and they didn't always do what you'd expect them to. I kept listening, long after I wanted to stop, because I needed to know how the story would play out. Some parts were obvious, and if you've read it, too, you'll know what I mean. But I was kept guessing about how other elements would play out, and I totally did NOT see them coming.

Campbell's voice was a good match for Kate. Though it was sometimes hard to tell her voices apart from each other (there were several moments of confusion when I thought one character was speaking and it was another), there aren't enough different voices for it to have too much of an impact on the story.

That brings us to my like-ability score. Please do not get me wrong; this is a well-written fantasy novel that I'm sure would appeal to a wide variety of people. However, there were a few drawbacks for me. I am not the sort of person who enjoys hearing about bloody scenes. There are several instances of cutting one's skin and blood-letting/spilling, and since descriptions of these usually cause me to pass out, highly frowned upon while operating a motor vehicle, I was not particularly comfortable listening to them. I believe the technical term is "having the willies". This book should also come with a disclaimer on it: Do not read before an important engagement, since this book has been known to cause significantly puffy eyes and red face due to extreme crying.

Recommendation: You've heard the good and the bad, and I'll let you form your own opinions. My own thoughts are to only read this book if you like to have your heart thrown on the ground and trampled on.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
The Lynburn Legacy, Book 1
Random House Books for Young Readers, September 11, 2012
370 pages
Book Source: ARC copy provided by NetGalley

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the- Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

--Summary provided by 

Judging by the cover...: When the cover art was revealed, I had no idea what the book was even about. Seeing it MADE me want to read it. It's a gorgeous cover (you know I have a thing for reddish covers), and I can't stop looking at it.

Favorite Elements:
  • Small Town Feel - Creepy stories are much more spooky when set in a town where everyone knows your business. It's much scarier to think that someone you've grown up with is out to kill you, rather than a complete stranger.
  • Kick Butt Heroine - Kami is a sassy, driven lady who knows what she wants and will not let anyone, not even a drop dead gorgeous boy, get in her way. She has her head on straight, and is Top Choice Role Model material.
  • American Boys - Too often it's the American girls who are swept off their feet by British boys. Why can't it be the other way around? The Lynburn boys prove that American accents are just as sexy.
  • Bestest BFF EVAR - Angela, with her penchant for napping, is a girl after my own heart. I'd be proud to have her by my side in a fight with a powerful family any day.
Overall: A
Unspoken doesn't make its debut until September, which makes me sad in a way. I'm so anxious for this to be in the hands of readers everywhere! I normally wouldn't put out a review this early, but I needed to share it with my readers NOW. Brennan takes everything that is associated with Young Adult supernatural romance stories and throws it out the window. Kami is a strong main character, not one of those girls who will drop everything for the new boy in town (not naming any names, Bella!). I won't say too much more about these newfangled ideas, but suffice it to say they're awesome. 

The plot had me hanging on for dear life, and it took effort to put it down and go do those unimportant things like, you know, work and sleep.

Recommendation: Put this on your To Read list now, so that when September comes around, you'll remember. Though the cover screams, "Lady Readers!", guys won't be put off by the story, since there's no unrealistic romantic garbage in the way.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Poppy, January 2, 2012
236 pages
Book Source: ARC from the publisher

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18C. Hadley's in 18A.

Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

--Summary from 

Judging by the cover...: Smart, simple, and cute. People might actually believe you're not reading a teen romance novel.

Favorite Elements:
  • Phobia Besties - Hadley and I share three phobias. 1. We are both claustrophobic, though hers is much worse than mine. 2. Dentists are panic inducing enough BEFORE they stick sharp metal objects in your mouth and then tell you to relax in vain. 3. Mayonnaise. It's a healthy fear; imagine all of those calories I save!
  • Gorgeous Boy - Oliver (all boys from Britain should be named this) is a seat mate to totally flip your claustrophobic lid for. Plus, he comes equipped with a sexy accent. Sa-woon!
  • All Things English - Trainers! Adverts! Loo! Lift! Am I British yet? No? Well, I'll keep trying.
Overall: B+
The main reason this didn't get on the A List is because of its length. Don't get me wrong, this short novel will draw in reluctant reasons, but the potential is there for a much longer story. With that aside, it's a non-stop flight to first love that avoids turbulence and lands smoothly, and early at that. At the end, you'll find yourself cheering for the pilot and wishing you could make the return trip the same way. 

Recommendation: Teen girls will get the most out of this. Thankfully it's a romance novel that I would give to a twelve or eleven year-old girl. There's just enough kissing to qualify it as a romance, without any of those pesky sex conversations. 

Similar Reads: Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins; Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson; Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson.

    Monday, January 30, 2012

    The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez

    The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez
    Simon and Schuster, January 17, 2012
    218 pages
    Book Source: Reading Copy (final) from Barnes and Noble

    It started as a school project…but turned into so much more.

    Growing up, Gaby Rodriguez was often told she would end up a teen mom. After all, her mother and her older sisters had gotten pregnant as teenagers; from an outsider’s perspective, it was practically a family tradition. Gaby had ambitions that didn’t include teen motherhood. But she wondered: how would she be treated if she “lived down” to others' expectations? Would everyone ignore the years she put into being a good student and see her as just another pregnant teen statistic with no future? These questions sparked Gaby’s school project: faking her own pregnancy as a high school senior to see how her family, friends, and community would react. What she learned changed her life forever, and made international headlines in the process.

    In The Pregnancy Project, Gaby details how she was able to fake her own pregnancy—hiding the truth from even her siblings and boyfriend’s parents—and reveals all that she learned from the experience. But more than that, Gaby’s story is about fighting stereotypes, and how one girl found the strength to come out from the shadow of low expectations to forge a bright future for herself.

    --Summary from

    Judging by the cover...: Holy bad covers, Batman! For the brief period of time I carried it to the break room, I made sure it was hidden. It just screams CRAZY TEEN DRAMA GOING ON HERE!!!! Thank God I didn't have to go out in public with it! At least I would have been able to take off the dust jacket, but that wouldn't happen with a library or paperback version. I'd recommend getting an ebook version.
    Overall (out of Pass/Fail): Pass
    Congratulations for being the first non-fiction book reviewed with yattitude! As a teen non-fiction title, it's certainly a doozy. No one can tell Gaby that she doesn't have guts! She's a smart girl for realizing how her family's decisions have affected all of them, and she knew from a young age that she didn't want to repeat those mistakes. Her project showed an incredible amount of foresight, complete with fake baby bump and borrowed sonograms.

    While the story is compelling, Gaby's writing is what you would imagine for a teenager, though she certainly has potential to become a great writer. The writing is halting yet heartfelt, and very factual. This girl has done her research and drawn conclusions that the rest of us should have. She reminds us that every teen mom needs love and support, no matter what, because her health and the baby's are at stake if they're not taken care of. As a society, we can not continue to look down our noses at these girls.

    She's not suggesting we glorify them, either. Somewhere along the way there has to be a happy medium between shunning and making celebrities out of teen moms.

    Recommendation: This is the type of book you read because your sex ed teacher has thrust it in your hands. Short and to the point, it's great for any high-schooler or anyone who wants to defy the stereotypes and live their own life.

    Saturday, January 28, 2012

    Fever by Lauren DeStefano

    Fever by Lauren DeStefano
    Chemical Garden series, book 2
    Simon and Schuster, February 21, 2012
    368 pages
    Book Source: ARC copy provided by the publisher

    *WARNING: If you haven't read Wither yet, I suggest you read no further. Spoilers ahead!

    Rhine and Gabriel have escaped the mansion, but danger is never far behind.

    Running away brings Rhine and Gabriel right into a trap, in the form of a twisted carnival whose ringmistress keeps watch over a menagerie of girls. Just as Rhine uncovers what plans await her, her fortune turns again. With Gabriel at her side, Rhine travels through an environment as grim as the one she left a year ago - surroundings that mirror her own feelings of fear and hopelessness.

    The two are determined to get to Manhattan, to relative safety with Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan. But the road there is long and perilous - and in a world where young women only live to age twenty and young men die at twenty-five, time is precious. Worse still, they can’t seem to elude Rhine’s father-in-law, Vaughn, who is determined to bring Rhine back to the any means necessary.

    In the sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s harrowing Wither, Rhine must decide if freedom is worth the price - now that she has more to lose than ever.

    -- Summary from 

    Judging by the cover...: My husband took one look at the cover and said, "That book looks extremely emo." And he's right, of course. But the entire book feels emotional and hopeless, therefore it works. Even the props tie in. My only question: What happened to the Mandy Moore look-alike model they used for Wither's cover?

    Favorite Elements:
    • Maddie - For such a small child, she's certainly endured more than her fair share of hardship, yet she manages to keep her wits about her and enjoy the small stuff.
    • Madame's Heated Ground - Life would be a whole lot easier if we could heat the ground just like they do at Madame's. No coats and bare feet in winter? Yes, please!
    • The Edge of My Seat - It's a well known fact that once you pick up DeStefano's books, you CAN. NOT. PUT. IT. DOWN. The only way to get it out of your hands is by surgically removing it.
    Overall: A-
    The story picks up right where Wither left off, with Rhine and Gabriel running away from the mansion, and does not stop. Even though they are away from Vaughn, there's still danger no matter where they look. It's another roller coaster adventure that refuses to let the heart-pounding action quit.

    While she's keeping you wired with action, DeStefano is also enveloping you in rich detail. Her descriptions are so plush, you'll imagine that you're smelling the sea and the incense right along with Rhine. 

    Recommendation: I had heard rumors that ARC copies of the book were being given away at the Simon and Schuster booth at this year's ALA Midwinter. I thought that I was so close, yet so far away, until I found out I could purchase an exhibit pass. And so, on the last day of the conference, I made my way to the booth and asked if they had any left. 

    The answer was no. 

    BUT THEN I found out they were giving away books, but you had to stand in a line and wait. I was third in line. They had one copy left. And the school librarian in front of me had her eyes on it, too. 

    What's the point of this story, you ask? This is what I would go through to get a copy of this book, even though it was set to release in one month's time. I offered that librarian my soul, and she let me have it. Bonus: I got to keep my soul! 

    While you may not have to offer your soul for this book (you could actually purchase it with money instead), it is necessary to go out and get. So preorder or put your name on the waiting list now.

      Sunday, January 15, 2012

      Variant by Robison Wells

      Variant by Robison Wells
      Variant series, book 1
      Harper Audio, October 4, 2011
      8 hours and 5 minutes, narrated by Michael Goldstrom
      Book Source: Audible

      Benson Fisher thought a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life.

      He was wrong.

      Now he’s trapped in a school that’s surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive.

      Where breaking the rules equals death.

      But when Benson stumbles upon the school’s real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape—his only real hope for survival—may be impossible.

      --Summary From

      Judging by the cover...: I'm about to say something that I can't say very often. Get ready folks... It actually depicts what's going on in the story. I know! I was shocked, too!

      Favorite Elements:
      • Private School - A common favorite on this blog, but it's true. Although, judging by what goes on at places like this, I'm extremely glad that my parents kept me in public school. Good lord those places are scary, but ripe for good fiction.
      • Becky - I can't say much without giving it away, but that girl has a lot of things going for her.
      • Paintball - I don't normally like battle scenes, so I was surprised when I found myself looking forward to the paintball wars.
      Overall: C- story / C audiobook
      If you're looking for a story that makes sense, has a well thought out plot, and does not annoy you once a minute, please do not pick this up. The narrator is too far out of his teens to make a convincing voice for Benson, and I almost stopped listening simply because of this. Benson has a knack for whining about the same idea over and over again, becoming obnoxious after the millionth time he states that he plans to escape. Hey, Benson, let's have less talk and more action!

      I was under the impression that it was going to be a stand alone novel, but I was wrong. There's a sequel. Oh joy.

      Recommendation: Push the fast-forward button and bypass Benson and Maxfield Academy all together. Variant is predictable, boring, and repetitive, and these are things we can all live without.

      Monday, January 2, 2012

      I am Half-Sick of Shadows by C. Alan Bradley

      Happy 2012! It's hard to believe that last year went so fast. The full weight of the summer months seemed to have dampened my writing gumption, so my one resolution for the new year is to have more YAttitude!

      It seems only fitting to do a post on the first book I finished in 2012, I am Half-Sick of Shadows by C. Alan Bradley. Do not fear, this post will contain no spoilers. The Flavia de Luce series does not need to be read in order, though why you wouldn't want to read all of them is beyond me. 

      And so, without further ado, I present my review of Flavia's latest detective endeavors.

      I am Half-Sick of Shadows by C. Alan Bradley
      Flavia de Luce series, book 4
      Delacorte Press, November 1, 2011
      293 pages
      Book Source: Public Library

      It’s Christmastime, and the precocious Flavia de Luce—an eleven-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry and a penchant for crime-solving—is tucked away in her laboratory, whipping up a concoction to ensnare Saint Nick. But she is soon distracted when a film crew arrives at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ decaying English estate, to shoot a movie starring the famed Phyllis Wyvern. Amid a raging blizzard, the entire village of Bishop’s Lacey gathers at Buckshaw to watch Wyvern perform, yet nobody is prepared for the evening’s shocking conclusion: a body found, past midnight, strangled to death with a length of film. But who among the assembled guests would stage such a chilling scene? As the storm worsens and the list of suspects grows, Flavia must use every ounce of sly wit at her disposal to ferret out a killer hidden in plain sight.

      -- Summary from

      Judging by the cover...: Another timeless cover, one that will surely win you smart points from those who see you reading it. I'm always impressed with the covers of Flavia's books. Just like Flavia, the covers seem innocent, but always hide a brilliant scientific mind underneath.
      Favorite Elements:
      • Small Town England - I'd be lying to myself if I didn't admit that I could see myself living in a close knit enclave such as Bishop's Lacey. Everyone knows each other, for good or bad, and the town always seems to rally together when needed.
      • A Secret Laboratory - A calculating mind such as Flavia's needs a well stocked lair in which to concoct her prize poisons and explosives.
      • Dogger - If every child had a man such as Dogger at their disposal, then everyone would have had an extremely interesting childhood. Strong, silent, and a jack-of-all-trades, if I needed someone in my corner, it would definitely be him.
      Overall: A
      The story begins with an incredible example of just how charming Flavia de Luce, an eleven year old girl, can be. Her ever-scheming mind is relishing her latest plan, one that involves confirming or denying the legend of Father Christmas. Her idea, though complicated in execution, has a childish need behind it. It is proof that even though she's a genius in the making, she still operates the way girls her age should. She has no patience for understanding what an affair is, can't fathom why anyone would want to fall in love, and is quite reluctant to give up the notion that a mythical man climbs down the chimney and brings her the Erlenmeyer flasks she desperately wants for Christmas.

      Enter murder, and Flavia's mind immediately goes to work unraveling the murderer's scheme, foiling the inspector's attempts to keep her out of it, and trying to understand why adults do what they do. Though the ending is a tad predictable, this book isn't just about the whodunnit. It's also about the fascinating thought processes of our heroine.

      What I love most about this series is that even though it's marketed as adult, anyone age ten and up could read it and enjoy every minute. They're relatively short (an average of 350 pages), they're fast-paced, and the stories never feel the need to be vulgar or violent.

      Start with the first, though reading any will send you scrambling for the others. Make sure that you are able to get your hands on the other three as soon as you finish! 

      Similar Reads:
      Anything by the great Agatha Christie, the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series by Maryrose Wood, the Amelia Peabody Emerson series by Elizabeth Peters, and Alexander McCall Smith's Sunday Philosophy Club series, to name a few.