Sunday, October 20, 2013

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer

Edition: ARC
Author: Katie Alender
Goodreads: Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer
Release Date: September 24, 2013

I was grabbed by the title alone when I spotted Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer at ALA back in June. The title and the tagline ("Heads will roll...") made it seem like this would be a fun book, so I went in expecting a joy ride and not much else. Thankfully, I read the Goodreads reviews AFTER I finished the book, or I would have been disheartened - but, seriously. Did you read the title and the tagline? Anyone who got it in their heads that this was going to be a deep, groundbreaking book set themselves up for failure. Bonus points: It's not a series! Yay!

Here's the summary from Goodreads: Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She’ll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family’s French roots.

But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette.

Colette knows her popular, status-obsessed friends won’t believe her, so she seeks out the help of a charming French boy. Together, they uncover a shocking secret involving a dark, hidden history. When Colette realizes she herself may hold the key to the mystery, her own life is suddenly in danger.

As usual, the summary doesn't really do justice to the plot line. Yes, there are murders, shown in mini chapters at highlight points in the book, and Colette keeps seeing the former Queen of France pop up in the most unexpected places - but, more than that, Colette experiences life a grounded, decent human being, and realizes that maybe being friends with the popular kids isn't what life is all about. Double bonus: if you're a French language student, you get a lot of practice with Ghost-of-Marie, who (obviously) doesn't speak a lick of English.

I enjoyed this book and wasn't once turned off by Colette as a narrator. She's a flawed character, like all people and especially people her age, and she makes some heinously bad decisions, but she seems like she learns from said bad decisions. That's really the important part - nothing makes me throw a book across the room like a character who doesn't grow at least a little during the book. 

The author states at the end of the book that the connection between Colette, Her Majesty, and the murder victims is falsified and not rooted in real history, but I honestly found the whole thing pretty believable. Colette and Co. find enough clues in realistic places (history books, old stories, old buildings) in Alender's wonderfully rendered vision of Paris that I was actually saddened to learn it was completely made up. 

Grab a mug of tea and go into this book on a dreary Sunday afternoon when you a need a page turner that will make the time fly by. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

From the Future Review: Curtsies & Conspiracies, by Gail Carriager

Edition: ARC
Author: Gail Carriger
Goodreads: Curtsies & Conspiracies
Release Date: November 5, 2012

I practically wrestled  Liz at Assorted Leafs to get first chance at this sequel to Etiquette & Espionage - and even after I won, I'm STILL behind her in posting my review.

Carriger's adult series, Parasol Protectorate, ranks in my Top 10 for all-time best series. She has a wonderful way with characters and a humor that's top notch. Parasol Protectorate has wonderful, strong female characters, but it's definitely an A-D-U-L-T series. Finishing School keeps the same strong, amazing female characters, and brings in themes that YA readers will have a easier time identifying with - friends, grades, cliques, and dangerous floral arrangements.

The first book in the series was high on adventure and character building and low on romance and C&C keeps that pace beautifully. There are romances budding but they don't overtake the characters or the story itself. Sophronia knows her mind and applies logic liberally to any romantic situation that she comes across. On the one hand, this keeps her from falling into a ridiculous, dramatic relationship with a Bunson boy who has set his sights on her; on the other hand, if she's not careful, keeping her distance could cost her a great friend and ally in future books.

The web of plots in the second book is much wider and much messier than in the first - not only is there another Mysterious Device to contend figure out, now the girls are set to go to London to participate in a Mysterious experiment that has caught the eye of the vampires, the werewolves, the Picklemen, and the Queen herself. Almost everything wraps up in the end, but there is no pretty little bow. Sophronia experiences first hand that even her most well laid plans can have terrible consequences.

I have yet to read a book by Gail Carriger that isn't a solid, fantastic piece of writing, so it goes without saying that this book rocks and should be read by anyone with an interest in, well, books.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

Edition: ARC
Author: Catherynne M Valente
Goodreads: The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland And Cut the Moon in Two
Release Date: October 1, 2013

I have to make a confession. See, at ALA, when Lynn showed off her nice galley copy of The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, I was the first one to get super excited. Lynn admitted she hadn't read the series and gave me the galley to take home and read. Except when I got it home and went to reread the first book (of which I also have a galley), it turns out that I've never read the series either! I feel quite silly, but I'm so glad to get it off my chest!

Goodreads summary: September misses Fairyland and her friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. She longs to leave the routines of home, and embark on a new adventure. Little does she know that this time, she will be spirited away to the moon, reunited with her friends, and find herself faced with saving Fairyland from a moon-Yeti with great and mysterious powers.