Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester

Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events. When the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts. – Goodreads

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1930’s New York is a lively setting for four orphans living in a Museum of Oddities to work together to solve a mystery.  Philippa, Sam, Thomas, and Max each possess unique qualities –  minding reading, super strength, elasticity, and deadly knife throwing.  Their lives are not glamorous though, their abilities are not fail-safe and they still go through the struggles associated with early teenage years – anxiety, shyness, and self-doubt.  Dumfrey’s Museum survives financially by attracting visitors to view the strange collection of worldly wonders as well as a freak show of sorts featuring the orphans and the array of odd inhabitants of the house.  Their fortunes begin to rise when an Amazonian shrunken head is procured for the museum however shortly thereafter the head is stolen and the museum is in danger of permanent foreclosure.

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I read a lot of YA (surprise, surprise) but I haven’t read too many middle-grade novels, including Lauren Oliver’s (Liesl and Po, The Spindlers).  Unfortunately, I couldn’t connect with the young protagonists or get behind their search for the thief of the shrunken head.  About a third of the way through the book, the plot seemed on repeat – do some digging, someone’s dead!, do some digging, someone’s dead! – literally everyone kept kicking the bucket.  The mystery (and murders) were solved in the end while leaving a larger mystery arc to be continued in the second book Curiosity House: The Screaming Statue, due out in 2016.  The Shrunken Head was likable enough, the story was a bit slow in the middle and the mystery reveal was a little predictable.  That said, I will probably read The Screaming Statue, picking it up from my local library.

In other Lauren Oliver news, the author shared that Before I Fall (one of my favorite novels from Oliver) is being made into a movie staring Zoey Deutch (Beautiful Creatures, Vampire Academy), see here.  There had been previous talks about developing the novel into a movie and then even a TV show with Emma Roberts.  Third time’s the charm?

Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head will be released September 29th, 2015.  A big shout-out to Harper Collins for sending me a copy for review ❤

Book Mail!

  1. I love books
  2. I love mail
  3. I love book mail!

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I received The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich from Kristina (@gone_pecan) in a Twitter giveaway – the first book I’ve ever won in a giveaway!!

From Goodreads: Twenty-five years ago, Elmbridge High burned down. Three people were killed and one pupil, Carly Johnson, disappeared. Now a diary has been found in the ruins of the school. The diary belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, Carly’s identical twin sister. But Carly didn’t have a twin . . . Re-opened police records, psychiatric reports, transcripts of video footage and fragments of diary reveal a web of deceit and intrigue, violence and murder, raising a whole lot more questions than it answers.  Who was Kaitlyn and why did she only appear at night? Did she really exist or was she a figment of a disturbed mind? What were the illicit rituals taking place at the school? And just what did happen at Elmbridge in the events leading up to ‘the Johnson Incident’’

The second piece of book mail this week actually took me completely by surprise!  I received Shrunken Head (The Curiosity House #1) by Lauren Oliver and H.G. Chester from Harper Collins.

From Goodreads: Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events. When the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts.

Both books are to be released September 15th.  I’m going to do my darnedest to read them in time.  I’m plan to finish Black Widow: Forever Red tomorrow and then I think I’ll dive into Shrunken Head.

What’s been your favorite book mail?

Bookshelf Thursday: YA Dystopian

Bookshelf Thursday returns!!  So sorry I missed last week – I was traveling to NC for my friend’s 30th birthday party (and Mum’s day!)  This week’s cubby is my YA dystopian cubby.

IMG_4668Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay

Marie Lu: Legend, Prodigy, Champion

Lauren Oliver: Delirium, Pandemonium, Requiem, and Delirium Stories

Little background – I start reading The Hunger Games trilogy right as Mockingly came out.  I actually saw Kristen Bell tweet about it and was like what is this???  Since then THG has become one of my favorite books/series!  Delirium was an NPR recommendation of what to read post THG.  Delirium is one of the few series with a love triangle that I am ok with and I love the ending to the series.  I just finished the Legend trilogy last month and was very impressed with it!

Don’t worry I will have an adult dystopian Bookshelf Thursday in the future!

What are your favorite YA dystopians?

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara’s beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it’s too late.

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Lauren Oliver’s new novel explores the relationship between sisters who are torn apart by a horrific car accident. The story alternates not only between Nick and Dara but between Before and After the accident which unfortunately makes the story a little fragmented. While the timeline is a little difficult to keep straight, Oliver has created unique voices for each of the girls with subtle overlaps adding to the narrative of their close relationship growing up together thick as thieves. The third musketeer to round out the trio is Parker, the girls’ life long neighbor and best friend. As we learn about Nick and Dara (and Parker) and their evolving relationship before the accident and their estranged relationship post-accident, the disappearance of a young girl named Madeline Snow looms in the background.

I liked Vanishing Girls – I didn’t love it and I’m not sure I can exactly pinpoint why. I liked that the story was interspersed with newspaper articles, emails and Dara’s diary entries. I felt like the story was a little slow, based on the back cover I expected Dara to disappear much earlier in the novel and Madeline’s connection to become clearer sooner. I wasn’t a fan of the love triangle (I rarely am) especially between siblings.

Overall, Vanishing Girls is interesting read. I read it mostly in two sittings torn between wanting to know what would happen next in present time and what happened in the past leading up to the accident. I have a feeling Vanishing Girls will be marketed as the next We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (Lockhart is the cover quote after all). I think this sort of comparison does the newer novel a disservice → Liars ends with a serious twist and now the publisher/reviewer/whomever is creating a semi-spoiler by making the comparison. I went into Vanishing Girls, just like We Were Liars, knowing nothing about the novel beyond the back cover. I think it makes for a much more enjoyable reading experience, a slower build to the climax as I wasn’t looking around every corner to solve the mystery.

Now by even saying this I feel like I have become part of the problem I am describing and take ownership of that (boo/hiss/rude on me). Here’s a link to the newest podcast from BookRiot ‘Do Spoilers Matter‘ that I just finished which discusses the idea of spoilers in further detail. That said, I hope you enjoy Vanishing Girls and the mystery behind the intertwined lives of Nick and Dara.

I received an ARC of Vanishing Girls from the Not-So-YA book club in Decatur, GA. Vanishing Girls is on sale March 15th, 2015.

Book Review: Random by Tom Leevan

I received an ARC of Random from the Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, GA. Random is marketed as a novel along the same lines of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver and 13 Reasons Why by Jason Asher. I am a huge Lauren Oliver fan, reading Before I Fall made me cry in public – not that crying in public is something I make a habit of doing. Additionally, 13 Reasons Why has been staring at me from my to-read shelf since Christmas. All in all, it seemed like Random would be right up my alley!

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Random introduces us to the Hershberger family, currently in a state of upheaval. Sixteen year old Victoria ‘Tori’ has irrevocably changed life forever when she becomes known as a member of the Canyon City Seven. The group of teenagers are being prosecuted for manslaughter following the suicide of a fellow student from online bullying. On the eve before the trial, Tori receives a phone call from a stranger, Andy, claiming to be on the verge of committing suicide. Andy tells Tori he dialed her number at random and it is up to her to prove to him that life is worth living before sunrise. Initially, Tori believes this to be an elaborate prank but as the night goes on it becomes apparent that Tori does hold yet another young man’s life in her hands.

While I find the subject matter incredibly relevant, Random did not pack the same emotional punch as Before I Fall (hence the crying in public) while exploring the motives of high school bullying. I found Tori incredibly irritating and though the novel takes place in less than the span of 24 hours, I didn’t feel Tori exhibit any growth, let alone express any remorse at the death of fellow student Kevin. We live in a world where anyone can hide behind a computer screen and say whatever vile or malicious comments come to mind without repercussions. Leevan attempts to explore the backlash of online cruelty. The chapters of Random are interspersed with facebook-esque posts from the past illustrating the evolution of Tori from her weak attempts to defend Kevin to the eventual acceptance her friends’ online behavior to her ultimate betrayal of Kevin as she becomes a vicious bully herself.

There is a twist at the end of the novel involving Andy that I didn’t see coming and I’m still not sure how I feel about it but I won’t spoil it here. HOWEVER, the final scene SPOILERS!! in which Tori leaves an unanswerable voicemail for Kevin was the most heart wrenching part of the book which did lead to a brief misting of my eyes. Random is poignant must-read for all online teenagers.

Busy Busy Book Bee

 

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of book reading (yay vacation!!). True to my previous post, I finished Unwholly by Neal Shusterman before going on vacation. Once I finally got going, I enjoyed it, granted not as much as Unwind but such is burden of being the second book in a series. Starkey (the new power hungry bully) was just too much like Roland for my taste and he didn’t have any redeeming scenes throughout the whole book (unlike Roland). I am disappointed at Starkey’s inevitable appearance in Unsouled – boo, hiss! However, I am really excited to continue the journeys of Connor, Risa, Lev and even Cam.

So Unwholly was my pre-vacation read. Panic by Lauren Oliver and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins were my active vacation reads. The Giver by Lois Lowery was my post-vacation read. I debated how best to approach this entry: Should I separate it in to two author event posts with an additional review post? Should I leave it all as one lump sum? To take it a step further, do I write about the author events chronologically or in the order I read the books? Especially tricky since I read Panic well after I read Anna and French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins but before Lola AND I met Stephanie Perkins before I saw Lauren Oliver for a third time #firstworldproblems for sure.

Enough chatter! A few months ago, I met Gayle Forman (author of Just One Day) and Stephanie Perkins at none other than the Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, GA. Just One Day had been a previous book club pick which I surprisingly enjoyed given my usual taste in YA books. I haven’t read Just One Year yet but it is on my to-read bookshelf by my bed!! Paired with Ms. Forman was Stephanie Perkins, a delightfully perky, colorfully dressed, young adult romance author. I loved her unabashed approach to writing romance novels – there is nothing wrong with writing (or reading) happy books!!

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Something about Perkins stuck with me and I bought both Anna and Lola on a whim. I finally read Anna after I finished sobbing over The Book Thief when I was clearly in desperate need of a happy book. My initial reaction was ‘not bad’! I decided to save Lola for a future pool/beach read hence bringing it along on my cruise. I liked Lola more than Anna, I guess I’m a secret sucker for a next door romance, though that could be attributed to my own failed relationship with my neighbor in high school. Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna #3) has been added to my to-read list, I am just waiting for paperback publication and another situation which calls for a cheerful novel. Let me add that I love the new covers to Ms. Perkins’ novels!!

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Next! I met Lauren Oliver (again) a few weeks ago at Little Shop of Stories (do I meet authors anywhere else these days??) for the Harper Collins Story Crush Tour. It was Panic’s book birthday! I have been a fan of Oliver’s for a few years now, falling in love with the Delirium series and sobbing over Before I Fall. Panic was Oliver’s return to realistic fiction as high school seniors complete in a series of fear based challenges to win money so they can escape their middle of nowhere, dead end town. While I liked Oliver’s multi-dimensional characters, I longed to see an even darker side of Dodge, a further peek into the psyche of a teenager poised to commit murder. I will continue to follow Oliver’s work and stalk her across southeastern bookstores.

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Lastly! Somehow I made it to the ripe old age of 28 never having read The Giver – this despite all my dystopian reads!! My book sharing by mail friend Kelley sent me The Giver a few months ago, she never lets me down with her recommendations, or hand drawn pictures of the sorting hat. I read The Giver in one sitting Wednesday night, just incredible and what an ending. I promptly watched the movie trailer afterward and just terrible…. Speaking of page to premiere (check out their social media presence for all your novel to movie transition needs!), I think I’ll finally be seeing Divergent this afternoon!

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What to read next?? I am thinking of mixing it up by visiting the adult fiction section and reading Fledgling by Octavia Butler, another gift from my best book buddy Kelley. As far as the Not-So-YA Book Club is concerned, I missed out on the March book More Than This by Patrick Ness due to cruising. Our April book is The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski (I can’t afford to start another triology ahhhh!!!).

 

Bookish Update

Just a quick update on my latest reads!

Following the intensity of Unwind by Neal Shusterman, I read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline at Mark’s suggestion. Mark has read a few of my books (The Book Thief, Feed, The Magicians) and I decided it was high time I returned the favor. Mark went on and on about Ready Player One for quite awhile which is kind of rare for him. All I can say is good choice Mark! Ready Player One is a fantastic futuristic adventure encompassing an obsession with the 1980’s, specifically vintage video games, and a quest a holy grail of sorts, with some unconventional bonds of friendship and a love story thrown in for good measure.

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After RPO, I started Unwholly but stopped because one of the new characters seemed like a carbon copy of a deceased character from Unwind and I was a bit turned off by the redundancy. However, after a month long break (whoops!) I have picked Unwholly back up and am ready to make peace with the new character – so far so good!

In between RPO and Unwholly, I read the brief e-novella Dangerous Dream by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, which is a bit of a prequel to the upcoming novel Dangerous Creatures. Garcia and Stohl are the lovely pair who brought us the Beautiful Creatures series. I’ve discussed my feelings about e-books before, especially e-novellas that fall in between novels –> I don’t like them!! They are too short, I have to buy them on my iphone (I don’t own an e-reader), hence they are hard to read (I’m old!!) and then they are usually added to the hardback copies of the following novel in the series so it’s like buying the short story twice. That said, Dangerous Dream was a sweet (a la Ridley) taste of what’s to come in Dangerous Creatures and I am certainly excited to be visiting Gatlin again!

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Last week I finished re-reading Fangirl. Let me just say I love love love Rainbow Rowell (as if I haven’t sung her praises enough already, which by the way is impossible!). I can not get enough of Rainbow or Cath, Levi, Reagan and Wren, or Eleanor and Park for that matter!! Let me live in your world!! Obsessed. Enough said.

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Back to Unwholly! I’m about a quarter of the way through and I hope to finish by the time I leave for my cruise next week. My cruise reads include Panic by Lauren Oliver and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, these books being the only things I have packed… More entries to come after vacation including my 3rd author encounter with Lauren Oliver and an older author encounter with Stephanie Perkins (and Gayle Forman)!

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