Face In A Book Update: Mini-Review Edition

Monday, April 14, 2014

Face In A Book is Off The Book's weekly "currently reading" feature - this week, we welcome our new YA/features contributor Anna and share a whole bunch of mini-reviews. 



The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
In this timeless new trilogy about love and sacrifice, a princess must find her place in a reborn world.
This book was suggested as a download on NetGalley...and really I'm sold on anything involving princesses, divided kingdoms, and runaway brides. This has all three. I'm also in love with the cover - so much so that there will be a Fashion Meets Fiction post inspired by it later in the week. ;)


Searching for Sky by Jillian Cantor

Since moving home to California, I've begun to take special notice of writers who are from and/or are setting their stories in the Golden State, which is the main reason I requested Searching for Sky via NetGalley:
Sky and River have always lived on Island, the only world they’ve ever known. Until the day River spots a boat. Across Ocean, in a place called California, Sky is separated from River and forced to live with a grandmother she’s just met. Here the rules for survival are different. People rely on strange things like cars and cell phones. They keep secrets from one another. And without River, nothing makes sense. Sky yearns for her old life where she was strong and capable, not lost and confused. She must find River so they can return to Island, but the truth behind how they ended up there in the first place will come as the biggest shock of all.
It doesn't hurt that the cover is super pretty in a West Coast sunset way. Searching for Sky will be published by Bloomsbury on May 13.


Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro (St. Martin's Press; 2014)
One of the most anticipated debut novels of 2014, Cutting Teeth takes place one late-summer weekend as a group of thirty-something couples gather at a shabby beach house on Long Island, their young children in tow.
A gripping drama that explores urban "mommyhood" from the perspective of each member of a group of adults, including a blue-blood socialite, a sensual social climber from the wrong side of the tracks, a stay at home daddy (SAHD, for short), a lesbian couple, and a neurotic housewife. Each character is deftly written, with well-thought out and realistic back stories. You really get to know the couples involved, have sympathy for some, malice for others. I found some of the POV's difficult to manage, especially Nicole's - her struggle with anxiety hit too close to home with me at one point - but that speaks only to the author's skill. -Amanda

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2014)
When a brutal angel army trespasses into the human world, Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat -- and against larger dangers that loom on the horizon in this thrilling conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy.
Book hangover doesn't even begin to describe how I feel after finishing this book, which is the final volume of possibly my most favorite recent series. It's a long book in a long series, but Laini Taylor's prose is as enthralling now as it was when I read Daughter of Smoke & Bone in 2011, and her world is one I'm loathe to leave behind. Here's a Spotify playlist that I started compiling about half-way through, both in preparation for reaching the end, and as a way to stall my breakneck reading pace: Smoke & Bone. Read this series. —Anna

Etched On Me by Jenn Crowell (Washington Square Press; 2014)
On the surface, sixteen-year-old Lesley Holloway is just another bright new student at Hawthorn Hill, a posh all-girls' prep school north of London. Little do her classmates know that she recently ran away from home, where her father had spent years sexually abusing her. Nor does anyone know that she's secretly cutting herself as a coping mechanism...until the day she goes too far and ends up in the hospital. 
Lesley, or "Les" is a smart, sassy teen with a lifetime of problems. Her father raped her for years, and her mother didn't protect her at all. When she decides to fight back, she fights through years of self-mutilation and mental illness before becoming a social services success story. But when she becomes pregnant, she has to fight for her freedom, her child, and her sanity. This is a gritty story about survival, and if you have a heart at all, you'll be cheering Lesley and her adoptive family on. -Amanda

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Macmillan/Tor-Forge; 2014)
The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an "accident," he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.
A slow-simmering read with a magical, steampunk inspired world. This tale about a sensitive and much-maligned half-goblin who becomes emperor of his realm, due to his father and half-brothers dying unexpectedly, promised more than it could deliver for me. While the political intrigue was spot-on, and the world-building superb, I really found it difficult to get past the boring beginning. Maia was a sensitive, warm and endearing character, which is why I finished, but overall I found it a bit dull. -Amanda

God Is An Astronaut by Alyson Foster (Bloomsbury; 2014)
An uncommon love story unfolds in an exceptional time, amidst the conflicting narratives of a space launch gone wrong.
The botanist wife of a man who runs a private space tourism service is thrown out of orbit after a tragic accident changes their lives. Reporters and a husband-and-wife film-making duo descend on their home, Written entirely in e-mail correspondence with a co-worker (who is more than he seems), this dishy read has literary bones. What I enjoyed most was that you could only read Jess's e-mails, and not her co-workers - meaning you'd have to fill in the blanks, and a building premonition that something will go terribly wrong ups the ante. -Amanda

I Am That Girl by Alexis Jones (Evolve; 2014)
In a crazy, media distracted world the important questions often get lost like: What’s your passion? What’s your purpose? Who do you want to be? 
You've probably heard about Jones' #bethatgirl campaign - a great one that aims at helping girls find success by acknowledging their potential and inner beauty. Women are good enough, can accomplish anything, and perfection is frankly overrated. The book includes stories from thirty influential women who have found success in various areas of their lives, and is a basic guide to being That Girl. Who is That Girl? The best version of you, of course! An important read, especially for teens. -Amanda

Marta Oulie by Sigrid Undset (University of Minnesota Press; 2014)
Marta Oulie, written in the form of a diary, intimately documents the inner life of a young woman disappointed and constrained by the conventions of marriage as she longs for an all-consuming passion. 
When this book came out in the author's native Norway, it made a huge and controversial splash. With one of the best opening lines I've ever read - "I have been unfaithful to my husband" - you're dragged right into Marta's revealing diary entries, her disappointing marriage, and her just-as-disappointing love affair. Even translated (and what a great translation this was), this is an incomparable and astonishing novel. It's unsurprising that Undset won a Nobel Prize for Literature, and I'm shocked it took this long to become more widely known in the United States. I'd compare this to Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles, or even The Scarlet Letter in its intensity. -Amanda

Sekret (Sekret #1) by Lindsay Smith (Roaring Book Press, 2014)
A group of psychic teenagers in 1960s Soviet Russia are forced to use their powers to spy for the KGB.
The fact that this has been blurbed by Elizabeth Wein, author of the spectacular CODE NAME VERITY, is no surprise, as both Wein and Lindsay Smith are attentive to the details of history and the inner minds of their characters. Readers hoping for a fast-paced thriller will likely be disappointed, but those with the patience for a richer exploration of good vs. bad vs. the infinite shades of grey in-between will likely be pleased. I look forward to the sequel and whatever's next for Yulia. –Anna

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz (Grand Central Publishing; 2014)
In this intriguing new novel from the author of Admission, a successful marriage counselor learns that her perfect life is a mirage.
A relationship therapist who specializes in marriage counseling has decided to write a self-help book - aptly titled "You Should Have Known." The premise? That all people have known all along about the dooming faults of their partners, and that they should have known why it would fail when it does. On the verge of massive success, her cloistered and perfect New York City life is shaken by a shocking private school murder - one that hits a little too close to home. This is a suspenseful, and honestly terrifying novel. One of the best mystery reads of this year. -Amanda

What are you reading right now?