Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Netgalley”

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #101: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Echo (named for a Greek nymph) Emerson used to be one of the popular girls in school, dating one of the stars of the basketball team. But one night two years ago, her life changed drastically, leaving her nearly dead in the hospital with horrific scars all down her arms and she doesn’t even remember what happened, only that it has something to do with her mother, who is now kept away by a restraining order. She hates going to therapy, she hates that her father is having a baby with her step-mum (who used to be her babysitter). She desperately misses her older brother, who died on a mission in Afghanistan two years ago, and now her father is threatening to sell the car he wanted to restore. She needs to get a job, so she can make enough money to complete her brother’s project, she wants to discover what happened to her, and she wants everything to return to normal.

Noah Hutchins had a stable and loving family, until his life changed drastically when his parents died in a fire. In school, he’s known as a girl using loner, a stoner kid with no prospects. Only his closest friends know that he’s been in and out of a series of shitty foster homes, and desperately wants to be reunited with his two younger brothers, who he barely ever sees, because he was judged emotionally unstable when he punched his abusive first foster father. If he’s to have any hope of gaining custody over his little brothers when he turns 18, he needs to improve his grade point average drastically, get a good job, a place to live and  hopefully discredit the foster parents now raising his brothers. He would give anything for his life to go back to some kind of normal.

The new school therapist, Mrs. Collins, decides to give Echo a job tutoring Noah. She promises Noah increased visitation with his brothers if he promises to shape up, and despite his deep mistrust of social workers and authority figures, he has no choice but to agree to his plan. Unfortunately, because of some misguided verbal exchanges with Echo, the tutoring job might not be something she’ll feel comfortable sticking with. Both teenagers are deeply vulnerable and very wounded, extremely mistrustful of the adults around them after facing bitter disappointment again and again. On the surface, they have nothing in common, but once they start talking, they’re drawn to each other like moths to a flame.

The book is written in alternating points of view, so the reader gets to follow both Echo and Noah closely. While the book blurb made me expect a fairly run of the mill high school romance, where now outcast good girl loses her heart to the resident bad boy, the book proved to be a lot more than that, and a lot better than the back cover makes it sound. Katie McGarry writes very believable teenagers, and both protagonists have gone through hell. It’s completely understandable that they feel angry, and helpless and desperate, and long for a return to the pleasant, normal lives they used to have.

The full back stories for both characters are gradually revealed, and it keeps the suspense up. Noah and Echo team up to try to get access to their files in Mrs. Collins’ office. Echo can barely sleep and is plagued with horrific nightmares every time she does sleep. She wants to know the full story behind her “incident” without having to gradually remember it through therapy, convinced that if she just knows the whole truth, she’ll find peace. Noah wants the name and address of his brothers’ foster parents, convinced that they’re being mistreated, and determined to prove it, so he can win custody over them as soon as he comes of age. It’s obvious to the reader that these are dreadful plans, but you still go along for the ride, hoping that the characters find closure and some sense of relief towards the end.

I received an ARC of this from Mira Ink through NetGalley, and am sorry that I didn’t read it sooner. Not at all the cliched teen romance I thought it at first, it’s a beautiful story of two damaged people finding each other, and helping each other through a difficult time. It’s currently a finalist in Young Adult Fiction in the Goodreads Choice Awards 2012, and available in hardcover or e-book.

Cross posted on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #87: Ironskin by Tina Connolly

It’s been five years since The Great War between the humans and the fey ended,  and the humans are trying to rebuild their society to manage without the magically enhanced technology they previously got in trade with the fey. Jane Elliot lost her brother during the war, and has permanent scarring on her face. Those injured with fey sparks have to wear to control the fey influence overwhelming them and spreading to those around them. In Jane’s case, she has to wear an iron mask, or her rage will affect those around her in terrifying ways.

Jane works as a governess to support herself and her younger sister, but never gets to stay long in a position before she is let go with thinly veiled excuses. When she sees a listing for a governess to help with a child born during The Great War, she is certain it’s a child who’s also fey-cursed, and she’s eager to help. The position proves harder than Jane could’ve imagined. Nearly alone at the large, partially ruined manor with a willful child who refuses to use her hands, and is able to move things with her mind, Jane is close to despair. She is one in a long line of governesses who’ve been driven to despair by the girl, Dorie, and the girl’s widowed father, Mr. Edward Rochart, is an elusive and mostly absentee artist, clearly fond of his daughter, but mostly preoccupied with his work.

Jane is drawn to her employer, even when she knows it’s a terrible idea. She’s also curious as to the mysterious nature of Mr. Rochart’s work. Plain or downright ugly women come to the manor and enter his studio, and leave beautiful as the fey. How is it that the lights in the manor are still run on fey technology? What is the real truth behind Dorie’s strange powers and why is her birth shrouded in secrecy? Why does Mr. Rochart visit the woods around the manor, where the fey are known to live? How does he transform the women who come to his studio?

I first read about Ironskin several months ago on The Book Smugglers’ blog. A steampunk retelling of Jane Eyre, one of my favourite historical novels? I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the book, and my joy was hard to contain when I was granted an ARC through NetGalley. The book is indeed a re-imagining of Jane Eyre, but it’s more fey-punk than steampunk and there are elements of other stories in it too. Aspects of Beauty and the Beast and Tam Lin are absolutely present, and anyone expecting a beat for beat fantasy version of the Brontë-novel is going to be disappointed.

This Jane is not an orphan, and actually has valid reasons for being upset about her appearance. If Jane Eyre had had to wear a face mask to cover hideous facial scarring, I would’ve had more sympathy for her whining about being so plain all the time. Mr. Edward Rochart doesn’t have a mad wife in the attic, and the little girl needing a governess is actually his daughter. Unfortunately, while the world building is excellent and the events of the Great War and aftermath are portioned out without any heavy info dumping, the romance side of the book is less well done than I would’ve liked.

Jane is a great character. As the story is told from her perspective, we get to know her intimately. We know her fears, hopes and dreams and feel deeply for her when she’s struggling to get Dorie to behave more like a normal child than one fey-touched. We understand her loneliness, and how distant she feels from the life of balls and high society that her younger sister is part of after an advantageous marriage. Mr. Rochart is clearly an attractive and intriguing man, but unlike Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester, they barely spend any time in each other’s company. Barring a few scenes together, where it’s made clear that Mr. Rochart’s past is somehow intertwined with the fey, and that he loves his daughter very much, they barely see each other, and it makes me wonder what she’s building her infatuation and later passionate affection on. I’m not a fan of “tell, don’t show”. The author has to give me reason to believe a romance is actually viable, something Connolly sadly doesn’t. Jane just falls in love with her employer because Jane Eyre does. That’s not good enough.

Despite this, I really very much enjoyed the novel, and thought it was a very clever re-working of a book I’m very fond of and have studied in depth while doing my degree. As well as being an entertaining reading experience with many clever twists in its own right, Ironskin made me consider new aspects of Jane Eyre and different interpretations of the influences that may have inspired Charlotte Brontë. Best of all, Ironskin is the first book in a series, and I enjoyed the book enough that I will absolutely check out any sequels as well.

Crossposted on my blog.

Petalfrog’s #CBR4 Review #29: One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf

One Breath Away utilizes one of the most simple plot points around. An armed gunman takes a school hostage, and the entire small town of Broken Branch gathers to wait for the outcome. The story is told from the point of view of several characters: Augie is 12 years old living with her grandparents while her mother recovers from devastating burns; Will, Augie’s grandfather; Holly, Augie’s mother; Meg, a local police officer whose daughter also attends the school; and Evelyn Oliver, the third-grade teacher whose classroom the gunman has holed up in.

Read the review here!

I also got this book through a site, netgalley, that allows you to read unreleased books and review them! They send the books in pdf/galley format for reading on an e-reader. It’s pretty great, and I have gotten 6 books from them so far!

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