Thursday, December 10, 2015

Early Review: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

by Alexandra Bracken
Read: November 28 - December 3, 2015
January 5, 2016 by Disney-Hyperion
Source: BigHoncho Media (THANK YOU!)
Category: YA, time travel, historical fiction 
Series: Book 1/2 Duet

Book description: passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever

I have never read a book by Alexandra Bracken before, and I have no idea why, because Passenger was EXCELLENT. 

Here's a quick breakdown of why I loved this book:

1) The general setup of the story was engaging and created lots of increasing tension, plus I could follow the time travel without too much trouble. Etta, a violinist on the verge of turning professional, is kidnapped by travelers and wakes up on a ship in 1776 in the middle of a battle being waged by Nicholas and his crew. Not only is that the moment Etta finds out time travel exists - and that she can do it too - but she soon learns that she's a central character in a time travel conspiracy that she knew nothing about. Then Etta, along with Nicholas - who is more than just a sailor - is forced on a journey through time and history, as everything just gets crazier. I was absorbed from the start, and had a lot of fun visiting different places and periods all through world history, including several in very contentions periods. 
In fact, 

Passenger was surprisingly timely despite taking place mostly in the past. The last place the characters visited made my heart break for what is happening there today. It was really interesting (and sometimes heartbreaking) to see what about society has changed - and what hasn't. Even more, 

3) The story works hard to get the details of the past right. The sights, smells, sounds as well as the social aspects. One of the big questions explored as we follow Etta and Nicholas is what was life like for a woman or people of color in the past? In many places that answer is, 'not kind'. All of this added layers of reality and tension to the story, and seeing the past come alive in all its messy details is exactly why history has always been my favorite subject. I haven't read a lot of time travel books that delve into these elements quite as much as this one does. 
Speaking of Etta and Nicholas, 

4) I LOVED the dual narration between these two. I thought Etta and Nicholas were both amazing characters separately, and even more incredible working together as they slowly build trust and more more MORE between them. They are no-nonsense, respect each other, communicate and have too much going on to be creating their own angst. 
For real, though, this is my new OTP power couple:

5) I was not expecting the amount of swoon in these pages, but I approve! It was delicious and I could very easily understand how Etta and Nicholas fit together despite being born in vastly different time periods. I just hope they can make it work with such an uncertain future. *bites nails*

A few small things bothered me:
I'm not sure 18th century people would hear Etta's New York accent and think "she's American and not British," since America and Britain was intermingling so much at that point. But I was able to pass by those small details pretty easily. However, I do have one pet peeve that showed up in this story. It isn't a big plot spoiler, but gives something away about the romance. I wrote about it in my Goodreads review, HERE.

Overwhelmingly, Passenger was excellent! I know hype can be a tricky thing, but this one deserves it, in my opinion. Read it!

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: High

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater - An Audio Reread

By Maggie Stiefvater
Audiobooks Published by Scholastic Audio
Read by Will Patton 

These boys are real, right?
The Raven Boys
Read: September 18 - 20, 2012 
Re-read: October 13 - 20, 2015
Find my original review

The Dream Thieves 
Read: July 8 - 10, 2013
Re-read: October 21 - November 3, 2015
Find my original review

Blue Lily, Lily Blue 
Read: September 11 - 13, 2014
Re-read: November 5 - 19, 2015
Find my original review

The Raven King
Coming April 26, 2016

NOTE: This post is for people who have read The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves and Blue Lily, Lily Blue already. I tried not to give away anything vital, but this is not a comprehensive overview, and it has been written for people who know (and love) these books.

In case you've forgotten what this series is about. Here are the author's words herself:

I just finished rereading the first three books in The Raven Cycle via audio, and it was the most delicious experience. I tried to savor it as long as possible, but alas, the words have come to an end. Now am even more obsessed with Blue, Gansey, Ronan, Adam, Noah and basically everything else, and suffering from major Henrietta withdrawal.

For me, rereading is always a very different experience from the first time I pick up a book. When I read a story for the first time, I'm focused on What Is Going to Happen and Answers along with getting to know the characters and their world. But the second time through, I'm able to dig in and spend time with the story and the people in it, more than I'm gathering information, although that is always happening too. My focus is a bit different, and my perspective is wider, because I already know what is to come, and that changes my experience. 

Experiencing a reread though audio adds another layer of richness to a story, even more so when it is a good narrator. Thankfully, Will Patton did an amazing job bringing the Raven boys to life. Honestly, I was not sure how I was going to like an older male actor as the reader, but now I am in love with his voice. For many of the characters, I hear his version in my head when I think of them. That is always a testament to a good audiobook narrator.

Below are some general thoughts I had after completing these three books for a second time, elements that stood out to me or were different than the first time I read this series. 

This time through the series

1) I was struck by how Stiefvater's characters are very honest about their own truth. In other words, they say what they mean and mean what they say. Even Stiefvater herself has stated this point repeatedly. 

Some examples of "I do what I say" from the series: 1) The first thing Noah says in The Raven Boys is that he's dead. 2) Mr. Gray tells Maura he's a hit man. 3) Ronan says Chainsaw came out of his dream, though we all think he's being evasive. 4) Kavinsky states, "My favorite forgery is Prokopenko." I could keep going, but I'll stop there. All that is to say, this doesn't bode well for Gansey. I just hope Stiefvater has some tricky tricks up her sleeve and with the circular time, and dream abilities and wishes, Gansey won't be dead forever. PLEASSSEEE SAVE HIM!!

2) This goes along with what I stated above, but the first time I read this series I was focused on getting answers to the bajillion questions I have about it. I was even a bit disappointed with book three, because it keeps piling on the questions, with very little answers. And why I was reminded of my endless list of questions on my re-read, I didn't care about that so much this time. I think it's because we know what we know at this point in the series. Also, I've become increasingly invested in the characters and the lives, and I don't care anymore that I'm still clueless about most things. I just want to BE with them a little bit longer. 

3) I like Adam MUCH better this time. I definitely went through a period thinking he was going to become a villain early in the first two books, and I just didn't connect to him well at all. But those things changed a lot on this read. That was partially due to Will Patton's reading, because he makes Adam's southern accent sound sweet and slow and dreamy. I also eagerly spent a lot of time looking for seeds of his future ship, and I definitely saw more of those, but they're very subtle still. Come on Pynch!

4) The almost triangle with Adam-Blue-Gansey actually bugged me more. I'm not sure why, maybe because I knew where things were headed and wanted to get to the part where my ships were headed in the right direction.  But it was really hard for me to read Blue's slow process to figure out who she did and didn't have feelings for and do something about it. This was one of two things that grated on me on this read. 

5) The other thing that weighed me down a bit was the constant talk about money differences between the Haves (Ronan and Gansey) and the Have Nots (Adam and Blue). This is one of the reasons I didn't care for Adam on my first read of the series because he's obsessed with it. But this reading, I noticed how much the characters' differences in finances are brought up by more than just him. Though it was especially hard to watch Blue struggle with wanting in book three - not just for things that cost money, I appreciated when Calla (typically) told her to get over her whining. Also, it is interesting to see how the ship pairings are going despite/in spite of their social statuses. 

6) HOWEVER, one of my most favorite scenes in this series remains when Gansey's family conspires to 'help' Adam without him knowing what they're doing. I have a vivid picture in my head of Adam trying to lug a 5 gallon rubber plant, while Gansey carries his tiny pot of mint to the car. Such a metaphor, that.

7) I have even more of an overwhelming feeling of dread going into the final book after rereading this series. There's no guarantee it's all going to turn out ok and there's been so much heartbreak and yearning between these characters already. I really want to cling to this recent Stiefvater text, because I'm desperate to want to reread the entire series again with audio and include the final book, but that will only happen if the last one ends in a way that I can handle. Stiefvater has done that for me with her other books/series, and I'm hoping that will happen again. Please, please make it all work out somehow!!

Now, on April 26, 2016, two days after St. Mark's Eve, the night it all began with the prediction of Gansey's death, the final installment, The Raven King is releasing next year. I'm thinking I may have to reread these books again before then. 

I'm not ready! I can't wait! 

Have you reread this series? 
Tell me some of the things that stood out to you on the second time through?
Or some of your most memorable parts from your first read.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Blog Tour: Dare to Disappoint by Ozge Samanci + Giveaway

Tour organized by Fierce Reads
Find the full schedule HERE

As a newbie to graphic novels in general, I never thought about the fact that that they could be made with anything other than ink on paper. But Ozge Samanci uses a lot of unconventional materials – like tumeric, bread, and burned paper, all things that are also part of her story of growing up in Turkey. How is that for layers?  

Each stop of this blog tour for Dare to Disappoint highlights one of her materials and how it relates to her graphic novel memoir.

Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey
by Ozge Samanci
Date Published: November 17th 2015
Published by: Macmillan - Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

About the Book: Growing up on the Aegean Coast, Ozge loved the sea and imagined a life of adventure while her parents and society demanded predictability. Her dad expected Ozge, like her sister, to become an engineer. She tried to hear her own voice over his and the religious and militaristic tensions of Turkey and the conflicts between secularism and fundamentalism. Could she be a scuba diver like Jacques Cousteau? A stage actress?  Would it be possible to please everyone including herself?

In her unpredictable and funny graphic memoir, Ozge recounts her story using inventive collages, weaving together images of the sea, politics, science, and friendship.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&NBook Depository | IndieBound


Today I'm highlighting...

Fishing Materials

"My childhood was full of fishing anecdotes. In Chapter 7 of Dare to Disappoint, , I narrated a fishing adventure. Each chapter opens with a full-page collage and I was thinking what to use for a full-page collage that is about Istanbul, my father, and fishing. I decided to make a collage by using real fishing materials: hooks, sinkers, fishing line, and that metal loop preventing the fishing line from tangling. Real fishers will know the name of it."

I don't do much fishing, but my grandfather loved to fly fish and tie flies, which is its own art form. I love seeing how those materials were used as collage in this story.

Thanks for visiting, Ozge Samanci! 


About the Author

Ozge Samanci is an artist and an associate professor. She was born in Izmir, Turkey, and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. Dare to Disappoint is her debut graphic novel.  

Find: Website | Twitter


Blog Tour Schedule:

Find out more about Ozge Samanci's creative process as she highlights one of her art materials on each stop along the way.

11/16 – Supernatural Snark 
11/17 – Forever YA 
11/18 – Teen Lit Rocks 
11/19 – Kid Lit Frenzy 
11/20 – The Book Wars 
11/24 – Fly to Fiction 
11/25 – Watch Connect Read 
11/26 – Stacked 


Win a finished copy of Dare to Disappoint

Giveaway is for US and Canadian residents only (Sorry, international readers!)
You must be at least 13 years old to enter

See my policies HERE

Friday, November 20, 2015

Every Word Blog Tour + Giveaway
On Location with Ellie Marney

Tour organized by Tundra Books
See full schedule HERE

Every Word is the sequel to Every Breath, and where the first book took place in Australia, this time James Mycroft and Rachel Watts travel to England. 

Last year, Author Ellie Marney did a virtual tour of the places in Melbourne featured in Every Breath, and this year I'm thrilled to have her back again sharing the locations Mycroft and Watts visit in Every Word

This book is my most favorite of the series, and I'm so excited it's now published in the US and Canada!

Every Word
by Ellie Marney
Date Published: September 8th 2015
Publisher: Tundra Books

About the book: James Mycroft has just left for London to investigate a car accident similar to the one that killed his parents seven years ago...without saying goodbye to Rachel Watts, his 'partner in crime'.

Rachel is furious and worried about his strange behaviour - not that Mycroft's ever exactly normal, but London is the scene of so many of his nightmares. So Rachel jumps on a plane to follow him...and lands straight in a whole storm of trouble.

The theft of a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, the possible murder of a rare books conservator, and the deaths of Mycroft's parents...Can Watts help Mycroft make sense of the three events - or will she lose him forever?

Sparks fly when Watts and Mycroft reunite in this second sophisticated thriller about the teen sleuthing duo.


On Location with Ellie Marney

Hi there! Welcome to the Every Word blog tour, and this special location visit to the places I went while researching the book.

Now, most of you know I live in Australia, right?  I actually live in rural Oz, way down south, about two hours out of Melbourne (along some very dilapidated dirt roads, but whatever).  Well, about halfway through the writing of Every Word I realised that Google Earth was only going to take me so far when it came to researching the locations that Rachel Watts and James Mycroft visit in London.  Turns out ‘write what you know’ is actually the adage most applicable to writing location – who would’ve thunk it?

So there I was, agonising over some small location details one day, hunched over my laptop, when my husband leaned towards me (we work in the same back-room-shed office) and said ‘You know, you should probably go to London’.  And I was all, ‘Pshaw! Like that’s ever gonna happen!’ (cos yeah, we have a large brood of children and the idea of travelling overseas sounded akin to the idea of visiting the moon or something), but he was absolutely right.  And no sooner had I said the words, ‘Um, can we really do that?’, I realised that it was actually really important – I really did need to go to London, there was no getting around it.

So after that, Real Life started moving with tremendous speed – my sister-in-law and my brother and my dad offered to mind the fort, tickets were booked, bags were packed.  Before I knew it, I was on a plane to the UK.  It really did resemble the scene in Every Word where Rachel decides, on the spur of the moment, to join Mycroft overseas.  I was just as shell-shocked about the whole thing as she was.  I’d never been to the UK before.

Turns out, the UK is lovely!  London is spectacular, and I highly recommend putting ‘Visit London’ on your bucket list somewhere.  So here’s a few of the places I went and the stuff I saw, and if you peer closely, you’ll notice the bits in the book where all these photos are relevant.

Now on with the show!

Pic 1: Terminal Four

“I call, looking out at the buses and black taxis puttering through the underground tunnel of Terminal Four.”

When you’re first evicted from your plane in London, you walk out of the giant Arrivals concourse into this rather dingy but very London-y tunnel.  From here you can either hail a taxi or get on a bus, or if you’re enterprising like Rachel and Mike’s girlfriend, Alicia, you can promptly walk back inside and head for the train station that is actually the easiest way to get into London proper.  The Underground rail in London is AMAZING.  It’s archaic and quaint and incredibly efficient, and not to be missed – go buy a blue Oyster card and ride the rails. 

Pic 2: Westminster Mortuary

“This building looks more like something you’d see in a horror movie, with russet brick and white marble eaves and a gothic turret above the front door.  Even now, in the warm sunlight, it conforms more to the expected idea of a house of the dead: stone and stately and old.”

In point of fact (just like in the book) this is only the front fa├žade of the Westminster Coroner’s Court – the morgue itself (which is the place where almost every dead body in the area eventually arrives) is around the back, near the taxi rank.

I was given special permission to visit the Mortuary, after writing a letter and delivering it (by hand) to the kind people who run the city council services here.  The folks who work at the Mortuary were incredibly generous of their time and gave me a thorough tour of the facility, including the Forensic Suite.  Those bits in the book describing the morgue – how it’s laid out, and the processes you go through while visiting – are all completely accurate.  And yes, it really does smell like that.

Pic 3: The Sherlock Holmes Museum

“Even if I failed to see the discrete 221B Baker Street above the door, I couldn’t miss the big honking green-and-black sign that says, The Sherlock Holmes Museum.”

This is one of those quotidian things – a place that I not only had to visit while I was in London, but absolutely the most important place to write into the book.  It’s pretty much exactly as it is in Every Word, right down to the violin on the chair in Holmes’ and Watson’s living room, and the little 19th century chemistry set in the corner, and the waxworks upstairs really do give you the willies (that brief experience of being in the same room as Moriarty’s waxwork, and getting the heebs when it felt like his glass eyes were following me around the room, was enough to put me off visiting Madame Tussaud’s).

Just for the record, I bought one of those little Big Ben pencil sharpeners that Rachel mentions in the book.

Pic 4: The Bodleian Library

“I’m almost expecting a moat and a fire-breathing dragon, but this is the Bodleian.”

The Most Amazing Library in the World – where else would a writer end up?

I had to do a bit of legwork to get in here: I actually emailed the Head of Rare Books at the Bodleian to arrange an interview, and made sure all my Library Card paperwork was completed before I left Australia, because no card, no pretty books.  They actually make you swear an oath (‘I will not kindle, or allow to be kindled, any fire or flame within the library…’) before they give you a library card, and you have to swear the oath in your native language.

Pic 5: Brentford

“In other words, I’m being held captive in a disused industrial lot, a place warehouses go to die, god-the-f***-knows-where in England…”

Oh, Rachel!  She has a hard time in Brentford.  Which is a shame, cos Brentford is actually rather pretty, and the people there are really nice.  I caught the train to Brentford (yay Oyster cards!), after researching it as a possible location, and finally found this fantastic place where all these trucks were coming in and out, right near the river.  I basically did a bit of gawking around, and took loads of photos, and when I poked my nose into this industrial lot with the trucks, a very agreeable man there gave me permission to come on-site and chatted to me about books and writing (we talked about Shantaram).  And the location was perfect!  Very atmospheric, with some seriously seedy-looking ancient buildings.  If I’d been trapped there at night I might have been freaked out, though, so I guess Rachel did it tough.

Pic 6: Shakespeare’s First Folio

“Shakespeare’s First Folio is the first known collection of his plays in one volume.”

Okay guys, here’s the deal: nobody gets to see this book.  I mean, unless you’re a visiting Head of State or something, or maybe a tourist who (with the rest of the hundreds of people in line) walks past the glass cabinet where it’s occasionally displayed, with one page turned over every day to keep things interesting.

The Bodleian Library only has one copy.  The British Museum also has a copy.  There are fewer than 400 hundred copies of this book left in the world, and they are each worth millions.  The Bodleian’s copy is actually kept off-campus, in a special hermetically-sealed, environmentally-controlled room, and when the Queen or whoever wants to look at it, they courier it over in a special van.

So when I went to the Bodleian and interviewed the Head of Rare Books, I didn’t ask to see this book because I knew it was impossible.  I did ask to see some other books that were printed in the 17th century, which I thought might help give me a feel for the type of books produced back then.  I figured I’d look at these books, then look at pictures of the First Folio on the net and extrapolate.


After I finished speaking to the lovely man (now retired) who oversees these things, he said, ‘Ideally you’d want to see the Folio,’ and I said, ‘Well, yes, but of course there’s no way I could ever –‘ and then he interrupted me and said, ‘Actually, the Korean Foreign Minister was here yesterday, and he had a viewing of the Folio and it’s still here in my office, would you like to see it?’

I swear I nearly fainted.

And he let me see it!  I got to look through it, touch it, take notes from it, photograph it…the pic here is actually one of the pics I took.  Then I basically hyperventilated, because seeing the original First Folio is like seeing God, if you’re a writer.  When I got out of there I was completely overwhelmed.  I couldn’t stop laughing and then I had to cover up my laughter with my hand cos people were looking at me funny.

But seriously – only a few dozen people in the world have had a first-hand viewing of Shakespeare’s First Folio, and I’m one of them.

Amazed doesn’t even begin to cover it.


About the Author

Ellie Marney was born in Brisbane, and has lived in Indonesia,Singapore and India. Now she writes, teaches, talks about kid’s literature at libraries and schools, and gardens when she can, while living in a country idyll (actually a very messy wooden house on ten acres with a dog and lots of chickens) near Castlemaine, in north-central Victoria. Her partner and four sons still love her, even though she often forgets things and lets the housework go.
Ellie’s short stories for adults have won awards and been published in various anthologies. Every Breath is her first novel for young adults.
Find Ellie: Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest 
Hashtags:  #Wattscroft    #EveryWord



Win a finished copy of Every Word

Giveaway is for US and Canadian residents only (Sorry, international readers!)
You must be at least 13 years old to enter
See my policies HERE

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