Monday, August 27, 2012

Defiance by C.J. Redwine

Release date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Format: ARC
Source: Borrowed
Pages: 416
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository

Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan—the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.
When you read the synopsis of Defiance it sounds pretty much like a fantasy, doesn't it? I hate to tell you, but it's really not. Somehow, it's set in the future, with advanced technology and everything. This juxtaposition didn't sit well with me. I didn't like a world that seemed archaic with technology past what we have today. With such technology, I don't feel like the people of this world would live like they do. Everything points to something medieval, but it's NOT and it bothered me. (This is a slight rant, and for that I"m sorry. I just had to get it off my chest before I got to really reviewing or the whole thing would be a rant. I also realize this whole paragraph makes no sense. Ignore me. :) It shouldn't be terribly difficult.)

Despite the above rant, generally I really enjoyed Defiance. Most things were done well, with Rachel being a stand-out protagonist. From a young age, she is trained to take care of herself. She can fight, hide, survive in the wild, and is mentally very tough. She has lost much but persists on, even when all seems lost. Despite being a rather tough person, she is very loving and wants to protect others. This is evidenced in her relationship with her father, with Logan, and with her surrogate grandfather, all of whom she loves fiercely and will do anything to protect. I just loved the girl.

The relationship between Rachel and Logan, obviously a romantic-skewing one, could have been a low for this book very easily. BUT it was done well and flowed very naturally, even though Rachel had established feelings before the start of the book, so it didn't feel like it was too quick or forced. Logan is, admittedly, an easy character to fall for. He is, like Rachel, loving and protective, but he's also insanely intelligent and has a plan and an invention for just about every situation. I loved in his chapters when he'd list all of the things that could go wrong and the best and worst case scenarios. That added something very individual to him that helped make him real to me. It never hurt that he was so ready to sacrifice everything for the girl he loved. :)

My biggest disappointment, as evidenced in my rant, is based in the world-building. I didn't get it. Without the dystopian aspect and the technology, it would have served very well as a alternate medieval times. Magic substituted for the technology would make much more sense and could solve most of my problems. Sad, I know. (MAGIC IS NOT THE ANSWER. It's like a drug...) I understood that this unknown monster had destroyed the world as they knew it and that this guy somehow prevented the monster from attacking the people, but I just couldn't wrap my head around it working. I couldn't. And still can't. Normally, world-building is a minor complaint for me, but it is what made Defiance a shaky four stars rather than a comfortable five.

While I felt that Defiance was absolutely worth my time and a very enjoyable read, there is a lot of ground to be covered in the second book in order for me to continue with the series.

Risk a paper cut? A solid yes for this installment. You'll root for Rachel and Logan's plight like your life depends on it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Legend (Legend #1) by Marie Lu

Release date: November 29, 2011
Publisher: Putnam
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 305
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.
I didn't realize for a long time that I wanted to read Legend. I thought I was exhausted with dystopians. This was before I knew that the relationship between Day and June was based on the one between Jean Valjean and Javert in Les Miserables. They were mentioned together one time to me and I was sold. No need to know anything else. And while this was a fun way to hook me personally, the book itself was what convinced me in the end.

Sometimes I'm all for pensive and thoughty books. Other times all I want is a book that keeps barreling on with action. Legend is just that kind of book, which makes it terribly fun to read and not easy to put down. When I finished one chapter, I found myself flipping through the next one to see how long it was so I could convince myself I needed to sleep, eat, wash dishes, anything else.

Recently I've found myself very disconnected from characters I'm reading. This could be my choices in the books or it could be me, but I was quickly hooked by June and Day and found myself feeling for them much more deeply than I have for characters recently. With the death of her brother, June has no family, and turns to her rage and loneliness to find his killer. It seems like the investigation is easy, with no doubt that Day, a criminal wanted by the Republic, is her guy. But as June looks deeper into the story and becomes closer to Day, she sees that not all is as it seems in the Republic. I found myself grieving with June, frightened with Day, and rejoicing in their triumphs.

I did feel a slight lack of world-building. We were given the situation, but not a lot of information regarding outside the Republic. People's passivity looked a little more like stupidity. Generally, I'm not a nitpicker on world-building, though, so it's really not a huge chunk out of my personal enjoyment. I am hoping for more in Prodigy, though, as we get deeper into the story.

If you're a fan of dystopians, Legend will be your cup of tea. If you may be getting a little bit tired of 'em, maybe try it! I thought I was worn thin with controlling governments, rebels, and big brother, but Legend kicked that thought to the curb.

Risk a paper cut? I should say so. With nonstop action and romance, you're in for a good ride.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Books of My Childhood

I've wanted to do some more personal posts for a long time, but I have had trouble figuring out what to do. When I think of something I convince myself out of it because I just don't think people will be interested, honestly. While this is probably just stupidity on my part, I figure that is the case sometimes, so I've taken some time to figure out what to write. But I was browsing some blogs and came across Belle's Bookshelf. First, she clearly loves Beauty and the Beast (my favorite Disney movie of all time). I immediately liked her. And second, she's done a lot of posts listing her favorites of things. One she had was "Top 5: Series that Defined My Childhood". I read it, and immediately knew that was what I wanted to talk about. I've always been fascinated hearing what made people the readers they are today, and have never really explored it in myself, though I've always wanted to... So thanks Belle! My list is not exactly the same; it's not a top 5 and it's not necessarily series, just books that impacted my reading life growing up.

The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey, illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren

This is one of the first books I remember loving as a child, aside from the Berenstein Bears books. The puppy always reminded me a little of myself, getting curious and wandering off to find interesting things, and I always got sad when he didn't get his dessert. As a kid who loved her food, I felt for a guy who didn't get that pie.

Every once in a while I pick it up at the store and find myself reading it, since I'm not sure where my childhood copy went. I always smile. I always find the puppy's plight sad, but it's also a perfect reminder of the time in my life when the saddest thing that could happen was being sent to bed without dinner. I certainly haven't had a hard life, but, as is inevitable, I've become more jaded and realistic than I was as a child, and I love the reminder and the memories of my parents reading about the poky little puppy as I fell asleep.

The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

Apparently I was a competitive little bugger growing up. In elementary school, we had Accelerated Reader. If you don't know what it is, it's a system where books are assigned a grade level and points, and you take a test after reading them to earn those points. At the end of the year, my school awarded the student who had earned the most points in each class, as well as in the school. In first grade, I decided I wanted to win. Badly. So I picked up The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle, with a grade level of 8 and worth 26 points. I read it and took the test, pretty much on the last day that we could earn AR points. I HAD THE MOST POINTS IN THE FIRST GRADE. I WAS SUPERIOR TO ALL AND WAS QUEEN OF THE WORLD. Until the teachers decided it wasn't fair that I had taken a test at the end of the year worth so many points, and didn't let me win. I got a special certificate, but NO TROPHY. Needless to say, it has scarred my memory ever since, and the book that would have been a fleeting memory is ingrained for having helped me beat all of the wimpy first graders, and yet not.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Even today this is one of my favorite books. Out of every book I've ever read, I've read this one more times than any of them. I'm not huge on rereading things, but I've easily read Ella Enchanted thirty times. I remember a time when I literally read it over and over and over again. I finished it and immediately flipped back to the first page and started again. If that's not love of a book I don't know what is.

I think this is what fostered my love of fairy tale retellings. It's one of the first books I remember that gave me the familiar yet new sense that I love about retellings, and what has made me seek them out even now. It didn't hurt that I was in love with Char and thought Ella was about the coolest girl ever. I think Char was probably my first swoon-worthy love interest; the first male character I wanted to marry. I even love the hokey movie starring Anne Hathaway that is practically unrecognizable from the book. In my mind, this book is flawless and always will be.

---We're on to my fantasy phase! The one that really lasted from the middle of elementary school and pretty much hasn't stopped. I read other things, but fantasy is kinda my lifeblood. I don't read it often even, but it's what I love more than anything. I'm not sure about the order of these last three in my life, since they all go together in my brain, but it's not really of importance.---

The His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman

Interestingly, The Golden Compass was the first book I ever listened to as an audiobook, and I think it set the tone for the audiobooks of my life (of which there are very few). I feel like I don't get the story properly. When I finished listening to this, I immediately picked up the physical book and began reading it again. This was partially because it was awesome, but also because I didn't feel as connected to the world as I was used to.

After I finished it, I got the next two pretty much immediately and devoured them. And though the first one is the only one I've read twice, I feel profoundly connected to these books. I was close to Lyra's age when I first began them, and felt like she and I were related in some way. I didn't go on fantastic adventures like she did, but I was finding myself, just like Lyra was. I was certainly jealous of her, going into alternate dimensions with Pantaliamon while I was stuck learning math, but Lyra was important to me and, really, she still is.

The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

To this very day, as I sit in my bed, Robin McKinley is unequivocally one of my favorite authors of all time. I'm a couple of books behind on her recently, but I at least own everything she has written. She is one of the first authors I could admire simply for her writing itself. The words flow on the page so beautifully and her worlds practically create themselves in my head. I read these two books as I was growing to appreciate such things and as I was learning not every story has a perfect happy ending. The Hero and the Crown was written second, but takes place before The Blue Sword, so I read them for chronology, rather than publication date, but it really doesn't matter. Both stories are of women finding themselves in situations that should be beyond them, yet they persevere and they succeed beautifully, but not without a cost. I don't love many books like I love these two. They've both gotten later rereads to find that I love them just as much now as I did then, though I'm due for an all out McKinley fest. (Would anyone join me???)

The Abhorsen series by Garth Nix

Sabriel and the other Abhorsen books were definitely some the first darker books that I read, and clearly grew to love. A girl who can control the spirits of the dead through a set of powerful bells. My first introduction to necromancy, a subject I've been fascinated with ever since (but not in the evil way, I swear!) The idea of the Old Kingdom living alongside a normal world was such a new idea at the time that I couldn't really even fathom it. I didn't get how a world full of magic and the ways of a forgotten time could exist right alongside cars and gas lamps, and yet it did here and it worked so well. This is also one of the first series that I just couldn't get out of my head when I finished. Honestly, it's still very prevalent in my imagination. Luckily for me, next year Garth Nix is supposed to be publishing a sort of prequel about Chlorr of the Mask, called Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen! I know I will be rereading the series before it's release and will be first in line for it. Part of my excitement lies in the continuation of a beloved story, but another part is simply excited to reenter a world I loved so long ago with a fresh story that I've not read before.

So there we go! These are the books that most formed my tastes as a reader and formed, well, me. I'm sorry it's so long-winded, but I got started and just wrote to my heart's content. This is what I got! I hope I haven't bored you, and I hope y'all will share the books of your childhood, either here or even as a post. :) I'd love to chat, guys.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

Release date: July 24, 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided through Edelweiss
Pages: 388
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository

The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

Something Strange and Deadly was an easy sell for me. I love anything remotely period, steampunk or not, though steampunk never hurts my feelings, and zombies are like candy to me. Generally I like my zombies to be as disgusting as possible, mindlessly searching for their food, popping up when they're least expected, eating the man next to you's brains. These were not THOSE kind of zombies, much to my chagrin, but after getting over that realization, Something Strange and Deadly was a very good read.

We follow Eleanor Fitt (of the Philadelphia Fitts, thank you!) as she becomes embroiled in the ever growing scourge of Philadelphia, the walking dead. On the day her beloved brother, Elijah, is to return to town, a message is delivered to her, in the hands of a zombie, telling her that he has been taken hostage by the necromancer controlling the dead and that she should stop looking for him. As a fine lady of society, Eleanor should do as the note says, and worry about Elijah from the comfort of her sitting room. BUT, Eleanor is not your typical proper lady. Instead, she takes up with the Spirit-Hunters, a questionable group in town to help them be rid of the zombies, and ends up getting caught right in the middle of the action, also catching the eye of their resident inventor, Daniel, a most unsuitable match.

Like I've said, Eleanor is not much like the girls of the time. All for the sake of her brother she ruins several dresses, bashes in a few zombie legs, and even dresses up like a man on a few occasions. She's a go getter and really just does what needs to be done without really relying on anyone else, let alone a man, to help her.

I did call the big twists rather early on in the book, something I'm never too happy about doing, but that didn't really detract from my enjoyment, especially in the end when EVERYTHING IS GOING DOWN. I like endings like that. :) You're on the edge of your seat, just waiting for the next big thing to happen. (It always so happens that someone calls me or I have to do something right at that moment. Boo.)

Aside from the non-gruesome zombies and the decently easy to pick apart plot, I really enjoyed Something Strange and Deadly. Eleanor and all of her supporting characters were fascinating (especially Jie! More of her please!) I'm definitely looking forward to the follow up.

Risk a paper cut? Personally, I'm a sucker for zombies, especially in a period setting. Nothing is more enjoyable. Oh! You're the same? You'll like it. :)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Girl of Fire & Thorns by Rae Carson

Release date: September 20, 2011
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Format: Ebook
Pages: 424
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will. Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.
I put off reading this for a long, long time. But a month or so ago, I saw that it was being offered for $2.99 for my Nook, so I figured, "Why not?" I started it, and absolutely could not put it down. I was fascinated by the lore of the Godstone, Elisa's journey, and the world Carson created. I had a small freak out, after a big incident, when I thought I might have to stop reading, but I persisted and ended up adoring the book entirely.

I've always been a fan of high fantasy, of world's created solely from an author's imagination, where things not of this world are accepted as more commonplace. Some authors try to write high fantasy for a young adult audience, but somehow fail. This is not one of those cases. The nations, people, and locations of The Girl of Fire and Thorns are fascinating and exotic in their own way. I loved seeing them all through Elisa's eyes as they're opened to a new world and a new outlook on life.

Elisa was one of the most interesting characters I've read in a long time. Most heroines in young adult fiction perceive themselves as being unattractive or undesirable when they really are not in any way. Elisa is a lazy princess, one who sits about the castle eating truffles (I don't think she actually ate truffles, but you get the idea), and therefore her body reflects that. She feels useless, and kind of is, except she knows she is meant for some kind of purpose. She doesn't know how she's going to accomplish it, and she fears she won't be able to. As she explores the country of her husband, she finds herself becoming someone she feels could actually accomplish her purpose, mentally and physically. I loved watching her transformation and learning along with her.

The plot and pacing are fantastic as well. I found myself completely engrossed time and time again. Not only could I not get the characters and world out of my head, I couldn't stop wondering what was going to happen next and knew if I kept reading just a teensy bit more I'd find another scene to love. Even after I finished the book, I wanted more. I wanted more of the world. I wanted more of Elisa, her family, and friends. I wanted more of her story.

Risk a paper cut? Absolutely yes. The story enthralled my imagination and my heart, leaving me begging for more.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Florence by Ciye Cho

Release date: July 1, 2012
Source: Egalley received from author
Pages: 336
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon
Seventeen-year-old Florence Waverley is out of her depth. Literally. Kidnapped and taken below the waves to the mer world of Niemela, she is the ultimate gift for merman Prince Kiren: a human familiar tied to his side. But nothing is what it seems amid the beauty and danger of a dark ocean.

Every Niemelan has a role to play, from the mermaids who weave towers out of kelp to the warriors who fight sea monsters. But in trying to survive, Florence will end up in the middle of a war between the mer and the Darkness. A conflict that will push her between two brothers: Kiren, the charmer inexplicably drawn to both her and the monsters; and Rolan, the loner who has been pushing her away since the day they met. But in order to take a stand--and find out where she belongs--Florence will have to risk it all: her life, her heart... and her very soul.
I haven't been accepting many self-published books for review recently. Not because I don't want to, but because I have so many things piling up on me. Not only do I have books to read and review that I've already accepted or requested, along with books I've bought or been given, but I also have work and friends to keep up with, plus I'll be starting back at school soon. But when I got an email from Ciye Cho asking me to review his book, Florence, my fancy was caught.

Florence follows Florence Waverley, a very average, unnoticed teenager, as she is taken into the world of the Niemelans, mermaids who live in secret on the bottom of the ocean, hiding from human eyes and from the dangers of the world around them. She is seen as an outsider in her world, as well as theirs, but slowly she finds a place for herself as she becomes involved in the Niemelans battle against the Darkness, the forces that would destroy them, and involved with the two princes of the people.

I was enchanted by the idea of a human brought into the world of mermaids, rather than a mermaid in the world of the humans like we normally get. And the world created by Cho for our mermaids to live in is fascinating and beautiful. Every person has a role and nothing goes to waste for their people. They work to protect themselves from the mystery and danger of the Darkness, something else I was intrigued by. Normally, mermaids are at one with their surroundings, generally working with the creatures, rather than against them. To see the Niemelans battle against giant undersea creatures was quite a treat, and an aspect I loved.

At first I thought Florence was a rather boring protagonist, average in her world, average in the Niemelans, but she grew into so much more. Somehow, in a place where she should have felt most at odds, she seemed to find a home and a place, and blossomed into a new person; a person with a purpose and with drive, and a pleasure to read. I also deeply enjoyed the progression of her relationships with Kiren and Rolan, two very different princes and two very different relationships. It seems like it'd be a love triangle, but it wasn't really, and that was something I appreciated. Both princes are much more than they seem, but one is better than one could imagine and the other is deeply troubled with a heartbreaking story.

There were times where I felt like dialogue was a little stilted and the story got slow, and I thought the beginning had a bit of a slow start. But once we got into the world of the Niemelans it picked up for the most part and I really couldn't put Florence down.

Risk a paper cut? Florence is an above average mermaid book that turns the tropes on their heads. Easily worth the read for a new look on the mermaid genre.

Visit the book's site for sample chapters!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Once (Eve #2) by Anna Carey

Release date: July 3, 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen
Format: Egalley
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher provided through Edelweiss
When you're being hunted, who can you trust? 

 For the first time since she escaped from her school many months ago, Eve can sleep soundly. She's living in Califia, a haven for women, protected from the terrifying fate that awaits orphaned girls in The New America. But her safety came at a price: She was forced to abandon Caleb, the boy she loves, wounded and alone at the city gates.

When Eve gets word that Caleb is in trouble, she sets out into the wild again to rescue him, only to be captured and brought to the City of Sand, the capital of The New America. Trapped inside the City walls, Eve uncovers a shocking secret about her past--and is forced to confront the harsh reality of her future. 

When she discovers Caleb is alive, Eve attempts to flee her prison so they can be together--but the consequences could be deadly. She must make a desperate choice to save the ones she loves . . . or risk losing Caleb forever. 
 It's always hard to write a review when you were just a little disappointed in a book. It's so different from loving or even hating a book, because you have strong feelings in whichever direction you feel. I was entertained by Once, but I just can't say I particularly liked or disliked it.

I enjoyed Eve because of the slightly different twist on the idea of women being raised simply for birthing purposes, the wild unknown Eve finds herself journeying through, and the winning supporting characters. While the same world is there, I missed the expeditions through the wilds and especially the boys from the dugout Caleb grew up in. I'm still looking forward to the conclusion, Rise, but felt that Once was simply an adequate bridge between the set up and the ending.

Once begins a couple of months after the end of Eve. Eve has been living in Califia in relative safety, but also unhappy because she doesn't know the fates of Caleb or Arden. Carey doesn't wait long to propel us into new and unfamiliar territory as Eve ends up in Sand City, finally taken by the King. There is a huge revelation, one that I was rather blindsided by and kind of loved, that rather limits what I can say without spoilers. It is the catalyst for much of the story, as Eve spends the novel trying to escape the King and help those resisting him. I found her slight growth as a character, from one who's searching for a way out for herself into one who is working for others as well, to be good, but she was still dumb as she could be at times.

While I missed the supporting characters from Eve, we are introduced to a few new ones, including the King--whom I actually found rather fascinating--Beatrice, a maid, and some members of the resistance, all of whom I found to be at least as interesting, though not as endearing, as the dugout boys. Caleb was still pretty irresistible, albeit a little reckless, but I loved his love for Eve and his faithfulness to others.

Altogether I'm a little meh about the book as a whole, but I'm still looking forward to Rise, so I can hopefully see a good ending for the characters I've come to care about through two books.

Risk a paper cut? If you enjoyed Eve, I think you'll be in for a good read, though if you didn't, I might steer clear.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Release date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 319
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
Everything is in ruins.

A devastating plague has decimated the population. And those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles to pieces around them.

So what does Araby Worth have to live for?

Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery make-up . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.

But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club. And Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither boy is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

And Araby may find something not just to live for, but to fight for—no matter what it costs her.

I'm an unabashed fan of all things dark. Therefore anything by Edgar Allan Poe is a little bit like crack to me. I took the time to read Poe's story that inspired the book before I started, and fell in love with it. It has a very distinctive feel and is something I imagine would be hard to catch by anyone who isn't Edgar Allan Poe. Luckily, Bethany Griffin did it, and it made her book work on so many levels and made me desperate for more.

The setting of The Masque of the Red Death is nonspecific but it has the appealing look and feel of the darker, more dangerous and mysterious parts of New Orleans, Paris, or maybe even Vienna without all the water. It's so fitting for the story and works to enhance the already palpable eerie feel. The porcelain masks, the Debauchery Club, and rich dresses only add to the idea. Honestly, what makes this book memorable and so worth your time is the immersing setting and vibe.

I found Araby to be an appealing and easy to understand protagonist. She's deeply mourning the loss of her beloved brother, forgoing the good parts of life that he will miss. She spends her nights at the Debauchery Club, trying to forget and pass the time. She finds herself caught between Will and Elliot, two very different men with two different causes. I could understand the appeal of each to Araby and could feel her confusion. Sometimes I did want to smack her, but I find that I commonly want to smack the people I love most in the world, so I suppose that is a good sign. :)

The ending was a quick succession of big reveals and shocks for me. I went from heartbroken to angry to crying and to hopeful, all to be heartbroken yet again. The story and its repercussions kept with me for a long time after I finished reading, and I'm just dying to read more.

Risk a paper cut? If only I could get my first read back, I'd be quite alright getting a good number of paper cuts to experience it, and you should too.