Monday, October 27, 2014

Before He Finds Her by Michael Kardos

Submitted for reader Kaye - 

Before He Finds Her is the story of an 18 year old woman who was raised in a small West Virginia town. She has been told for 15 years that she must not reveal her real name, as she believes she has grown up as part of the Witness Protection Plan. She decides to return to Silver Bay on the Jersey Shore where her mother was murdered 15 years ago. She believes her father murdered her mother and wants to find out why and where he is. Everyone believes he also murdered the daughter and dumped her body in the ocean. She discovers many secrets and stories concerning her mother’s death and her father’s disappearance.

I was completely surprised by the many turns the story took and definitely by the end of the mystery concerning her mother’s death. I enjoyed this book and had to keep reading to see how it would end.

This book is scheduled to be published in February 2015.

-Submitted by Georgette Kaye Carroll/October 15, 2014

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp

Series: The Accidental Highwayman #1 (there isn't actually a title at the moment for the series)
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Young Adult
Release Date: October 14th, 2014
Publisher: Tor Teen
Source: ARC from Publisher

Add on Goodreads
In eighteenth-century England, young Christopher “Kit” Bristol is the unwitting servant of notorious highwayman Whistling Jack. One dark night, Kit finds his master bleeding from a mortal wound, dons the man’s riding cloak to seek help, and changes the course of his life forever. Mistaken for Whistling Jack and on the run from redcoats, Kit is catapulted into a world of magic and wonders he thought the stuff of fairy tales.
Bound by magical law, Kit takes up his master’s quest to rescue a rebellious fairy princess from an arranged marriage to King George III of England. But his task is not an easy one, for Kit must contend with the feisty Princess Morgana, gobling attacks, and a magical map that portends his destiny: as a hanged man upon the gallows….
Fans of classic fairy-tale fantasies such as Stardust by Neil Gaiman and will find much to love in this irresistible YA debut by Ben Tripp, the son of one of America’s most beloved illustrators, Wallace Tripp (Amelia Bedelia). Following in his father’s footsteps, Ben has woven illustrations throughout the story.
You, like me, might scoff and roll your eyes at how this book is being compared to The Princess Bride. It’s understandable to be wary considering what a masterpiece The Princess Bride was, but that said, don’t be. This book isn’t The Princess Bride but it’s definitely written in the fashion of it and that’s why I adored it so much. This book isn’t, at least to me, trying to be The Princess Bride but it instead is trying to invoke the same humor and the same fun adventurous feeling.

Obviously, they aren’t wrong in making that comparison because this book lived up to what you would expect when a book gets compared to a beloved book. It was funny, it had witty comments and it had fantastic characters.

Kit is a great main character and someone you cannot help but root for. He is also a bit of a stereotype but that ties back into the whole fact that this book may or may not be a satirization of a typical fantasy. That said, Kit isn’t really annoying, his fascination with a certain princess can be but that aside, he is a fun hero who is loyal to those he cares about and will fight for what he believes in. What else can you want from a hero? 

Princess Morgana is fun too. She is a typical princess but with all her princessiness, she also manages to grow and become someone who thinks not just of herself and her selfish reasons for doing things but also thinks about the rest of her kingdom and what she could be doing to help them win this war.

What I really loved about this book was the secondary characters. They really did add to the story and made the already fun adventure a lot funnier, I do mean funnier and not funner since the adventure was already fun. You cannot imagine how many times I burst into laughter just by the actions of these bizarre secondary characters. My favorite character was in fact Lily’s uncle. His cluelessness always did me in. He had a way of messing things up but at the same time, if it weren’t for him, they wouldn’t have gotten as far as they had.

The romance was alright. I say alright because even though I know that there is a bit of satire involved in the book, instalove in this case wasn’t done as well as it could have. Remember the romance in The Princess Bride? That was fantastic. The romance here? Not so much. I loved some of the moments involving the two but other mushy ones did not work for me.

The plot on the other hand did. It was so all over the place and so exciting! It was definitely an adventure and there was a circus involved! CIRCUSES ARE AWESOME. There, that’s a selling point. A circus, one the characters formed. Why must I be so vague you ask? ‘tis because I am trying to sell this amazingly fun book and if I were to take away the mystery of what actually happens in the book, it wouldn’t be as intriguing would it?

What really works for the book is its quirkiness. I love the way the narrator inserts random tid bits in the notes as he tries to define the meanings of certain words that are ‘beyond our understanding’ and also manages to contribute to the world building aspect of the novel.  It makes the book original and it also manages to separate it from The Princess Bride  so that while it is written in the fashion of the great novel, it isn’t trying to copy it.

I am incredibly excited to see where Tripp will take us with the sequel and I only hope it’s to better places since there are two more books left in the trilogy.

I’d definitely recommend this book to lovers of The Princess Bride and really anyone who just wants to read a fun fantasy that involves the fae.  If that isn’t reason enough, here is another one, the author is the son of the illustrator for Amelia Bedelia! That worked for me, I hope it'll be enough to convince you to pick up this fabulously fun book.

Suspicion by Alexandra Monir

Imogen Rockford is a normal American teenager with a secret – she is part of the British Rockford Dynasty. Her grandfather was the Duke of Wickersham, a title just below royalty. Although she never expected to inherit the title and the manor, as her father was the second son, she finds herself with both. Her grandfather is dead, his two sons and their wives are dead, and her cousin Lucia is dead. Imogen is all that remains of her family.

When Imogen leaves New York for England, she does so under a mysterious warning that came in an anonymous letter. She is filled with questions about how her cousin died, whether she is in danger, whether she herself is quite “normal” -- and how that cute boy she had a crush on as a child will react to her return.

The attempt at Gothic suspense is a bit over the top at times. (“Lucia’s hairbrush, perfume, and makeup are arranged in orderly fashion on her vanity, and it’s then that I recognize the jasmine scent that has been wafting in and out of my bedroom over the past weeks. The scent is her perfume.” (p. 157 in the ARC))

Suspicion is competently written and is sure to delight any teen who would enjoy a slightly spooky paranormal mystery with a likable heroine and a touch of romance (despite the completely unbelievable plot twist at the end). The book cover is breathtaking and it alone will convince many a teen to give this book a try.

Although not presented as such, Suspicion is surely meant to be the first book in a series, and I see more adventure (and much more romance) for Imogen in future books.

I read a digital advance reader copy from Netgalley. Suspicion by Alexendra Monir is scheduled to be released on December 9, 2014.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Nice Little Place on the North Side by George F. Will

I love Wrigley Field and was interested to see what George Will had to say about it. I went to a game this year and Wrigley was really spruced up for its 100th anniversary - I doubt it has ever looked better.

There's a lot of baseball lore in this book, much of which I'd heard before but enjoyed reading about again all the same. Will really meanders all over the place; this book is a musing on baseball more than anything else.

"There are no waves in central Illinois. There the land is flat, so some people consider the vistas dull. But, then, there are those who consider baseball dull, and as sportscaster Red Barber once said, baseball is dull only to dull minds." (p. 16)

I learned something about Johnny Evers and Joe Tinker - they detested each other, but were destined to go down in history as having played magically well together because "their proficiency at turning double plays became the subject of a famous and god-awful poem, 'Baseball's Sad Lexicon.'" (p. 38) I've certainly heard "Tinkers to Evers to Chance" often enough.

Will's basic thesis is that Wrigley Field is the cause behind the Cubs, against all odds, not having won the World Series in more than 100 years. He makes a lot of sound arguments. I was there in August 2014, on a Friday afternoon with the Cubs in last place, and there were still over 30,000 fans in attendance. I don't know how the Cubs can turn their losing streak around while still playing in Wrigley - neither does Will - but I hope they keep playing in Wrigley Field as long as I'm attending baseball games.

I doubt this book would have much appeal for someone who is not a fan of Wrigley Field, but I enjoyed it. Not a great book, but short and very readable. It can be found in the new nonfiction section of the Galesburg Public Library at 796.357 WIL.

Note for Galesburg residents: Mr. Carl Sandburg makes an appearance in this book. "Since his death in 1967, at age eighty-nine, his reputation has fallen on hard times, and has fallen from quite a height. In the 1950s and 1960s, he was what now seems like an oxymoron, a celebrity poet." (p. 21) I'm constantly amazed by how often Sandburg crops up in books I read.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Drift by Jon McGoran

I bet Jon McGoran has seen a lot of Hollywood cop movies. A LOT of Hollywood cop movies. And I bet he was imagining his book Drift as a movie as he wrote it.

The hero, Doyle Carrick, is a likable guy. A Philadelphia narcotics detective on suspension for unprofessional behavior. Bit of a hot head, but with a good heart. If he’s not shooting at something or someone, he is being shot at. He loves his gun. He takes it with him everywhere – even into the shower at one point! And he’s even able to take control of a gun in the arms of a dead bad guy and use it to shoot at the other bad guys.

With nothing else to do while on suspension, Doyle heads to his parents’ house in the country when his stepfather dies. His mother is already dead. He meets a pretty girl, a stereotypical blustery incompetent chief of police, and a host of shady characters. The girl, Nola, is trying to establish an organic farm, but someone is determined to see her fail.

This book is light on romance and character development (despite the hero’s brooding over his relationship with his dead stepfather), heavy on rogue cop action. There are a lot of convoluted twists to the plot, leaving gaping holes behind. But it’s a quick read. If you like Russian bad guys, cops with a heavy trigger finger, buddy cop banter, and a pretty girl thrown in for good measure, you may enjoy Drift.

The Galesburg Public Library owns both of Jon McGoran’s ecological thrillers, Drift and its sequel Deadout.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios

Series: Dark Caravan Cycle #1
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult
Release Date: October 7th, 2014
Publisher: Balzer+Bray
Source: ARC from Publisher

Add on Goodreads
Forced to obey her master.Compelled to help her enemy.Determined to free herself. 
Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.
Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?
I think the most important thing for everyone to know is that this isn’t a book for everyone. Some people will hate it and get so disgusted that they’ll have to give up and other people are going to love this. I know I did. Of course, had I not known a certain tid bit before, I probably wouldn’t have.

Before going into this book, you need to know that there is an awkward love triangle and one of the relationships in this love triangle is unhealthy and abusive. It’s not meant to be romantic though and that’s what you need to know. You need to know that this disgusting relationship isn’t being romanticized. In fact it’s the exact opposite. You’re meant to hate it with every fiber of your being.

Let’s start at the beginning thought. Let’s start with Nalia. Nalia is an amazingly strong female lead and you feel for her. Sold off in the slave trade when just 15, with her entire race dead and the only surviving member of her family, her brother, sent to work camp, you feel for her. She does not have it easy. Especially given that she has a crazy captor.

Malek is cruel yet on top of that all, he is also very emotionally manipulative. Nalia, having been mistreated for so long, living only on the hope of seeing her brother and freeing him, is immediately drawn by his ‘gentle’ side and falls for his lies. I say lies because no matter how much he claims to love her, he will never see her as anything but a possession.

It will break your heart to see her go through all these ordeals and when Raif comes into the picture, you cheer, you cheer like crazy and hope for Nalia to snap out of it and realize how unhealthy her relationship with Malek is. It’s beautiful to watch her go through that character development.

Raif is a wonderful character AND a love interest. What I love about him is that in spite of everything, he does put his faith in Nalia, he chooses to trust her. It isn’t that he isn’t vary of her, heck yeah he is but seeing that he needs her help, he, in the end, chooses to trust her instead of making the whole thing some awkward dance.

It’s why their romance is so beautifully developed. It starts with variness of one another and leads to trust. It may be a tad fast paced but it’s still no less wonderful. Romance based on trust rocks doesn’t it?

The world building in this book is amazing. Heather does NOT hold back on us. She uses her gorgeous prose to paint beautiful pictures of Arjinna. That isn’t it though, she makes this world come to life by creating different races of jinnis thereby giving the book her own original twist and she also throws in a fun language.

The plot was amazing. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, on the tip of your toes and you kind of just fly through the book.  I mean it’s a big book but I was surprised by how quickly I got through it. The stakes are quite high in the book which really does amp up the anticipation levels. 

I am definitely looking forward to where things will go with the sequel and I only hope that Raif and Nalia’s relationship improves.

I’d recommend this to anyone who is looking for something a little more original in Paranormal YA and won’t mind feeling some discomfort in the search of a good book. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Carrion Death by Michael Stanley

I checked out the audio version of A Carrion Death for one reason - Simon Prebble. I was about to take a car trip and I love listening to his narration. He really excelled on this book. He was required to do a large number of voices and did them superbly.

This is a long book - 14.5 hours - and I didn't finish it on the trip. By the time I listened to the final chapter I'd forgotten some of the details at the beginning. There was one thread involving an orphaned child that I wanted more of. I didn't understand some of the plot twists.

A Carrion Death is the first book in a mystery series. It is set in Botswana, and I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of the landscape and the native plants and animals. It was nice to hear the words and names pronounced correctly. (If you read the print book, there is a cast of characters with phonetic pronunciations at the beginning.) The main character, assistant superintendent David "Kubu" Bengu, was well drawn and very interesting. (His nickname means Hippo, and he is a big guy who loves food, nice things, and life.)

I would think fans of The #1 Ladies Detective Agency would also like to meet Kubu. I am definitely going to read additional books in the series. It's up to four. The Galesburg Public Library owns all four titles in print and the first in audio. The books can be found in the Fiction area under the author's last name, Stanley.

No Dawn for Men by James LePore and Carlos Davis

Reading No Dawn for Men was a guilty pleasure, because I have to think J.R.R. Tolkien would have hated it. Let me explain: in 1938 Germany, Tolkien and James Bond author Ian Fleming join forces to prevent the Nazis from gaining control of an ancient artifact that would allow armies of the dead to be brought back to life. They form a “fellowship” to return the artifact to a certain location where it can be destroyed by fire. They meet dwarves (with beards and murderous skill with axes) and beautiful, tall, beardless youths who have a way with nature and provide them with “honey wafers” that keeps them on their feet for days. They meet and are aided by a mysterious "ranger."

Fleming also is threatened with torture in a bottomless chair and falls in love with a woman who may or may not be trustworthy.

Tolkien is in Germany to talk to the Germans about translating The Hobbit into German; Fleming is ostensibly there as a reporter, but he is in fact a spy. Although the premise is ridiculous, I still thrilled at all the references to the Lord of the Rings. (For example, the person with the artifact says, "The parchment and the figurine must be destroyed together. If they are not, there will soon be no more dawns for Berlin, no more dawns for men." (p. 68))

I’m not a Bond fan and I’m sure I missed many of those references. The narrative is definitely more Bond than Middle-earth. The styles of the two authors are quite different and the language felt quite forced at times, the two styles almost clashing.

This is not a great book. It could have used some editing. (For example: "In a few minutes they uncovered a dark, anvil-shaped stone as high as Shroeder's waste [sic]." (p. 241)) It’s hard for me to imagine that someone who is not a big fan of either Fleming or Tolkien would get anything out of this book. But if you are a Tolkien fan, you might find yourself, like me, enjoying the Lord of the Rings reminders. Guiltily.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Written by the same author who wrote The Secret Life of Bees, this novel is a well-written historical piece inspired by two sisters from Charleston, South Carolina, Sarah and Angelina Grimke, who dedicated their entire lives to ending slavery while at the same time promoting equal rights for women. What's not to love? The book opens with 12-year old Sarah Grimke receiving her birthday gift from her parents: A 10-year old slave named Hetty (a.k.a. Handful) complete with a lavender ribbon tied around her neck. Sarah is both horrified and embarrassed, and the next day pens a certificate of manumission to set Hetty free. Sarah's mother takes the certificate, shreds it and leaves it for Sarah to find to show her who's really in charge. There are parallels between Sarah and Hetty, as both live in the same household and neither have any control of their lives whatsoever. Sarah wants to be a lawyer, which could never happen because she is not a boy, and Hetty wants to be free. Both are prisoners in their own home. This novel spans about 35 years, so we get to watch these two women grow and change, and it really is fascinating to witness social change in action. At the same time, because this is a historically accurate piece, and since we are dealing with this timeframe in history, there are a lot of things in here that are hard to read and to be reminded of. This novel has encouraged me to read more about Sarah and Angelina Grimke, because they are truly worth knowing more about. If you like historically accurate period pieces that will inspire you to learn more, then this would be a great book for you! Read On!

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien

Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Young Adult
Release Date: September 16th, 2014
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Source: ARC from Publisher

Add on Goodreads

The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success:  every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What's worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.
The Vault of Dreamers was an interesting book to say the least. I didn’t love it to bits and pieces but it was definitely something that got the wheels turning in my head. It’s a book written more to mess with your mind than to actually provide answers so if that’s not your thing, you may want to give this book a pass.

Rosie Sinclair isn’t the brightest thing out there but she served her purpose. That said, there were times when I just wanted to shake her. She could be so impulsive at times and didn't really think things through. Impulsiveness does not help uncover a dystopic plot, in fact, it’s more likely to get you caught.

This was one of the reasons why I spent a good chunk of the beginning being skeptic, I kept on wondering when the other shoe would drop and the book would start reading like a generic dystopia. Luckily,  that didn’t happen. That isn’t to say it was unlike a typical dystopia, because it was, in some ways, but it also managed to stand out on it's own.

Linus and Burnham were interesting additions to the story. At first I thought it was going to be some weird love triangle but I was incredibly thankful that that wasn’t the case. I think what upset me about Burnham though was the fact that there was just not enough of him. There were some major things that he could have been a part off but wasn’t. I was also really curious to know what he knew and was upset we never really got to find out. With Linus, I was just never really a 100% sold on him. He was the love interest too so that not a good thing. I was always a little suspicious of him and I never quite felt like he genuinely cared for Rosie. I think a major reason for this could be that the romance was not nearly as well developed as it could have been.

It didn’t come out of nowhere and the L word didn’t pop out of nowhere either but there was just this awkwardness to it. I felt like there was no real transition into a relationship and that’s what made it hard for me to ship the two as a couple.

The world building was a tad disappointing yet really intriguing at the same time. I think the fact that we were kept in the dark was vital to the story but as someone who tends to be more than a little curious, it can be hard to not know all the facts. I closed the book with so many questions on my mind yet at the same time I wasn’t angry that the author didn’t give us more information. 

The saving grace of the story was the interesting twist that popped up. I had no idea that the author would choose to go down that road and that’s what made the story stick out to me. It’s what set it apart from all the other dystopias out there. It made me question some of the things the author had already laid out and made me come up with my own theories about what was going on and just made the book a lot more interesting. The twist also made our narrator unreliable which is always fun (but we may have different definitions of fun). 

I think the ending was interesting too. In most other cases, I probably would have been really angry but it worked with the context of the story. Given the things this story is dealing with, an easy solution wrapped up with a bow tie just wouldn't work. 

Given the way it ended though, I feel like a follow up would be interesting but at the same time, I am content with the way things ended.  

Really, if you're just looking for a fun book for a rainy day that is bound to mess with your mind, why not give this a shot?

As You Wish by Cary Elwes

I'm a big fan of the film The Princess Bride, so I eagerly anticipated As You Wish, a book about filming the movie written by Dread Pirate Roberts actor Cary Elwes.

The making of The Princess Bride was clearly one of the highlights of his career and life. If you are looking for dirt, don't look to As You Wish. Elwes is effusive in his praise of his costars and the crew behind the movie. Everyone was beautiful, talented, and perfect for their roles.

The sugary sweetness of the narrative was a little hard to take at times, but I thoroughly enjoyed As You Wish all the same. Elwes spends a lot of time talking about what he and Mandy Patinkin went through to create what Goldman described in The Princess Bride script as the "second-best" swordfighting sequence on film (according to Goldman, the "best" comes later in the movie). The fight and the training were very interesting to read about. The only part of the fight not filmed by the two leads were the somersaults - wow! That had to be a lot of hard work.

I definitely got the impression that Elwes is trying to give his career a shot in the arm by publishing this book. However, his true affection for The Princess Bride and its cast and crew came through.

As soon as I finished the book, I was ready to run off and rewatch The Princess Bride. If you are a fan, that alone is a good reason to read As You Wish. I definitely recommend it for all Princess Bride fans. 

I read an advance reader copy of As You Wish. It will be released on October 14 and will be available in the nonfiction section of the Galesburg Public Library.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips

In 1932, a man named Harm Drenth (also known as Harry Powers) was executed. He had been convicted of killing a woman named Dorothy Pressler Lemke in his home of Quiet Dell, West Virginia, but it is thought that he killed dozens if not hundreds of other women. The bodies of Asta Eicher, a widow from Park Ridge, Illinois, and her three children were found in the same grave as Dorothy Lemke.

Author Jayne Anne Phillips was told the story of what happened in Quiet Dell by her mother, who was six years old when her own mother “walked her past the scene of the murders.” Jayne Anne Phillips was inspired by this family connection to write her novel Quiet Dell.

Quiet Dell is well researched and contains many known facts about Drenth and his crimes. It contains a few black and white photos and quotations from newspapers of the time. But it is not true crime nonfiction. It is a fictional retelling.

The book begins in December 1930, focusing on the Eicher family. The narrative is gripping; I was pulled into the story from the start. Asta and her three children prepare for Christmas dinner with their friend and former boarder, Charles O’Boyle. Asta is in desperate financial straits, and although he is gay, Charles wants to marry her and help raise her children. He already considers their family his family and dreams of changing his ways. Asta dreams of the letters she keeps hidden upstairs and of the man who wrote them. The correspondence began through a lonely hearts ad; she hopes to meet him in person in the spring.

The Christmas celebrated in Quiet Dell is a charming look at a loving family. The children put on a play. They enjoy a fine meal and go sledding. The beloved family dog, Duty, participates in most aspects of family life, including the Christmas play. But the sad thread of what the future holds for the family runs underneath the narrative.

Although the narrative is fictional, it is mostly based on real people. That changes after first Asta and then the children are taken away by a man known as “Cornelius Pierson.” Fictional characters are introduced. One of them is a “modern professional woman,” a journalist who covers the trial. She forms a very sudden and lasting attachment to one of the real people depicted in the book, which was a bit jarring. Another fictional character becomes friends with Charles O’Boyle. I wondered whether any relatives of the real people are still alive and what they’d think of the liberties the author takes.

I was very interested in the coverage of the trial, but found the romance heavy-handed and distracting. It reminded me of how I feel about the movie Titanic. There is so much real drama in these stories that the added fictional drama feels unnecessary.

The novel is also a bit fanciful. We are set up from the beginning to know that Annabel, the youngest Eicher child, is special. “You are not like others,” her (fictional) grandmother tells her. “Your dreams see past us.” (p. 8) Indeed, after Annabel is murdered, her spirit remains and narrates some chapters of the story.

This book is well written but will not be to everyone’s taste. I enjoyed it as an alternative to reading a nonfiction retelling, but there’s much speculation, and it’s hard to know what is real and what is made up. I recommend Quiet Dell to people who like books that meld fact and fiction and who enjoy imagining what real people in a sensational event thought and how they felt.

Quiet Dell can be found at the Galesburg Public Library in the adult fiction section under the author’s last name, Phillips. Harry Powers also inspired the 1955 movie The Night of the Hunter starring Robert Mitchum. It is also available for checkout at the Galesburg Public Library. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini

Series: The Worldwalker Trilogy #1
Genres: Fantasy, Magic, Young Adult
Release Date: September 2nd, 2014
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Source: ARC from Publisher

Add on Goodreads
This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying experiences that others in her hometown of Salem take for granted, which is why she is determined to enjoy her first high school party with her best friend and longtime crush, Tristan. But after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class, Lily wishes she could just disappear. Suddenly, Lily is in a different Salem—one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruelest of them all is Lillian . . . Lily's other self in this alternate universe. What makes Lily weak at home is what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. In this confusing world, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone and a love she never expected.
Trial by Fire was exactly as I had hoped it would be but more. That sounds a little contradictory, doesn't it? I suppose the best way to explain it is that I knew I would love this book but I had no idea how much. Angelini never fails to surprise me.

I remember when I first read Starcrossed and now, reading the first book in her new trilogy, I feel the same way as I felt then. I feel that excitement. I feel the thrill. I feel everything. Yet at the same time, it's obvious how much she has grown as a writer. Angelini knows what she is doing. 

This book does not start off lightly and if you're like me and don't deal well with anticipation, the first chapter and a half is going to be HARD to read through but once you're past those hard bits, it gets a lot better, I promise.

Lily is a fantastic character. She is strong and her strength never fails to amaze me. When 'her' Tristan is a jerk to her, she doesn't just curl up into a ball. She's heartbroken but also realizes that what he did to her, the way he treated her, was wrong and she doesn't just let that go away, she tells him that he was a jerk. That's just one showcase of the strength she possesses. She has to adapt to a whole new world yet she does it realistically. Even though she is quick to understand the mechanics of the new world, she continues to hold the ideologies of her own. She isn't just going to change who she is to adapt to this new world, instead she tries to understand these differences and the reasons behind them. That's what makes her such a likeable character. 

The secondary characters are just as well developed. I want to start off by mentioning the brilliance that is Lillian. I have NO CLUE how Angelini does it. Lillian isn’t your typical villain and I have to say, I find it incredibly hard to hate her. Her actions are inexcusable yet Angelini still develops her character in a way where it’s possible for us as readers to empathize with her. Okay, so I know many won’t be enthusiastic about empathizing with a villain but just trust me. It’s important to the story. Juliet is a wonderful addition although to be honest, throughout the entirety of the book, I found myself missing Lily’s Juliet. That does speak volumes about Angelini’s character development skills, especially if you find yourself missing a character you knew for 1.5 chapters.

Let’s not forget Caleb and Tristan though. I think we get to know more about Tristan (the other version  who is a lot nicer) more but I kind of connected to Caleb after a certain event. That said, they are both wonderfully developed as well and I cannot wait to see more of them in the sequels.

Speaking of, I still haven’t mentioned Rowan, the love interest. I am all about the romance and while I genuinely enjoyed the romance in this book, I also felt really uncomfortable at times. Knowing that Rowan had loved Lillian in the past and was hurt so badly by her made me uncomfortable. It makes me wonder if Rowan actually has genuine feelings for Lily as an individual or if he sees her as a nicer version of Lillian? Those kinds of questions kept on bothering me as I read the book so it made it harder to enjoy their romance, no matter how sweet it was.

What takes the cake is the world building and I am not the least bit surprised by that. If you’ve read Angelini’s Starcrossed trilogy, you’ll know what I am talking about. If you have not, you should go get started on that. Moving back to the world building, I have always loved the idea of parallel universes and this book explores the idea in an interesting way. It’s not a brand new idea but at the same time, Angelini manages to make it original. Angelini does an original take on magic but she also creates an interesting power hierarchy. There isn’t much in-depth world building and we learn more about the differences between this world and our own than we do about the history of this new world, but I think we’ll find out a lot more in the sequels.

The plot was so well paced although that’s to be expected in this kind of book. The pages flew by and before I knew it, I only had 30 pages left in the book and had to take a quick break so I wouldn’t die of thirst. 

The way this book ends has me dying to read the sequel and all I can say is that anyone looking for an interesting book featuring magic, you need to check this out.