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Erin Bowman

Coffee addict, type nerd, Harry Potter enthusiast. I also write books for teens. Taken is out now, and Frozen releases 4/15/14.

Currently reading

On Writing
Stephen King
The Dream Thieves
Maggie Stiefvater
In Time (The Darkest Minds, #1.5)
Alexandra Bracken
Long Lankin - Lindsey Barraclough This horror story, set in 1950′s rural England, follows Cora and her younger sister Mimi, who are sent to stay with their aunt in the isolated village of Byers Guerdon. Their aunt does not welcome them warmly, and forbids them to crack a window in the house or visit the nearby church. What follows is a bit of rule breaking, which leads the girls to uncover a grim evil that has been plaguing the town for centuries.

This is a slow, atmospheric read. There are plenty of “everyday” scenes, which dispel tension on occasion, but also make the characters and town feel that much more real. Which in turn makes the events that unfold–apparitions in a graveyard, ghostly songs sung in the night, the sound of scratching in the walls–that much more disturbing. There’s multiple narrations, and while I’m still not convinced the entire story couldn’t have been told from merely Cora’s point-of-view, one thing is certain: this is a highly effective horror story. I couldn’t read it at night. I shuddered many, many times and was thoroughly freaked out. This won’t be for everyone, but horror fans, and those willing to immerse themselves in a slower read, should pick this up. The last hundred pages pack quite the punch.

Originally posted here.
Her Dark Curiosity - Megan Shepherd This sequel picks up shortly after where THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER ends. Juliet has returned to London and is trying to rebuild a life for herself, but her illness is taking a toll. Her father’s serum is losing effectiveness, and she has yet to find a better cure. As people close to her begin falling prey to a murderer, Juliet worries that some of her past–things she hoped to forever leave on the island–have followed her to London.

As in book one, this sequel takes inspirations from a classic; this time, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Shepherd’s prose is as fluid as ever, and London comes to life on the page. She’s also perfected the art of the cliffhanger chapter ending–I literally could not put this book down. Equal parts mystery, horror, and romance, this sequel is as good, if not better than the first. To say I am anxiously awaiting the final installment in Shepherd’s trilogy is an understatement.

NOTE: This review is based on an ARC.

Originally posted here.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel - Neil Gaiman When a middle-aged man returns to his childhood home after attending a funeral, memories resurface as he stares at the duck pond--a pond his neighbor Lettie once told him was an ocean--and the reader is launched into a flashback.

I’m almost surprised this is marketed as adult fiction. I mean, I know exactly why it is, but take out the prologue and epilogue and it’s a story about childhood–monsters and memories and the loss of innocence–not unlike Coraline. Still, I love love loved it. Gaiman has a knack for taking the ordinary and making it magic. This books begins rooted in reality and then bleeds into much more; a dark, timeless fairy tale. It moved me. And it demands to be re-read.

Originally posted here.
Untitled (Let the Sky Fall, #2) - Shannon Messenger Vane and Audra are back, but Raiden is strengthening. He’s got a new weapon (one that ties into the title so well I actually beamed when I made the connection), and it’s crippling for the Gale Force. Vane is a reluctant hero, still adjusting to his new-found role among the Gales, and his voice is as authentic and charming as ever. Audra is running from her past. Her mother makes another appearance, shedding some more light on her character, and a few new faces join the cast. The romance is swoonworthy, but the pages are also packed with action. And that ending! *shakes a fist at Shannon* Fans of LTSF are going to gobble this up, and desperately await book three.

NOTE: This review is based on an ARC.

Originally posted here.
September Girls - Bennett Madison Bennett Madison's SEPTEMBER GIRLS seems to be a book that people either love or hate. Having read, I can see why there is such a strong divide--it's not an easy read, and Madison puts the reader deep into the mind of his teen protagonist--but I'm in camp Love. This book floored me. Truly. It is a strange, powerful, haunting little story, and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to do it justice. After his mother bails, Sam's father drags him and his brother to the beach for the summer. A beach that just happens to be populated by gorgeous girls who all take a strong interest in Sam, and who have a terrible, heavy secret.

Having read a bunch of reviews, it's obvious this book has rubbed quite a few readers the wrong way. I've seen it called sexist and misogynistic, but I didn't have that experience with the novel. I had quite the opposite. I thought this book touched upon some complex societal issues in an incredibly powerful way. In my opinion, it questions what it really means to "be a man," and shows us just how damning the objectification of women is in our current culture.

The girls in this novel are cursed by their father. They are many (therefore their mother is a "whore") and they come to the beach (from the sea) without an identity. They have no names or home. They are trapped at the beach until they break the curse, which they can only do by getting a virgin to sleep with them. And so their entire life is spent building their personality and appearance around what can attract one of these boys. They are all competing for him, making each girl an enemy of sorts to the other. They are also at the mercy of the male, because they can't speak to the virgin unless he speaks to them first. Their lives and future are defined by men.

It's horrible and cruel and oppressing and unfair and I think that's the point. I think we--as readers--are supposed to see just exactly how f*ed up this is, and be angry. With the girls's father. With the curse. With the beach, and how Sam can free one of them if he chooses, but also how gross and disturbing and wrong it all feels.

What's even more maddening is when we realize that our culture--sometimes subliminally, sometimes very bluntly--bestows this same curse upon girls: You are nothing without a man. If you're not pretty, you won't get him. But don't obsess over your shoes or jewelry--so girly to care about shiny things. And stop obsessing over your weight and skin and boob size. How vain!

What makes this book so powerful is that Sam and DeeDee (the girl he begins spending time with) recognize exactly how messed up this is. DeeDee manages to form friendships with the other girls. She questions the definition of "ho" and "whore" and if the label even matters. She has her own opinions, and she isn't afraid to call bullshit on others. Also, Sam rejects the entire idea that "manhood" can be defined simply by losing your virginity. Manhood, he decides, cannot just be found, and it certainly can't be taken. There is more to "being a man" than doing the one thing society has told us is the most manly of all. (He is so right, and it's incredibly moving. Made me think of this amazing spoken word piece, Man Up.)

The relationship these two teens forge is honest and difficult. The ending is bittersweet. There's great secondary characters too--Sam's brother (an ass, who at least has some growth, and who Sam realizes is an ass) and mother (who shows that feminism can mean many things--leaving, returning, family, independence.) I feel like I could write an essay on this novel, but I won't. Besides, the Book Smugglers already have a fantastic analysis on the story that I'm not sure I could top.

SEPTEMBER GIRLS is magical realism at its finest. It's complex and fantastical and familiar all at once. It holds a mirror up to our culture and lets us draw our own conclusions. It brings out strong emotions and sparks conversation. I've been thinking about this book since I put it down, and I have a feeling I won't soon stop.
Golden - Jessi Kirby GOLDEN is everything I want in a contemporary: heartfelt, thought-provoking, charming, and real. Parker is a good girl and valedictorian of her graduating class, one to play by the rules and never step out of line. When mailing ten-year-old journals back to past graduates as part of her TA duties, she finds the journal of Julianna Farnetti, a girl who died along with her boyfriend in a tragic accident years earlier. Curiosity getting the best of her, Parker reads the journal.

I related with Parker more than I have with any YA heroine in a long, long time. Perhaps because I was a lot like her in HS–graduating near the top of my class, taking only carefully calculated risks. My parents were not nearly as overbearing as Parker’s mother, but I understood Parker’s desire to never disappoint. I won’t say much about the journal because the mystery surrounding it is one I don’t want to spoil. (Though if you’re an detail-focused reader like me, you’ll likely figure it out before the big reveal.) This is a novel about how small moments can lead to big ones, how chances can be seized as easily as missed. It also features a wonderful friendship–Parker and Kat felt like real girls, real friends, real teens. I adored this story.

Originally posted here.
Siege and Storm - Leigh Bardugo Leigh Bardugo rocked the heck out of this sequel. I enjoyed SHADOW AND BONE, but SIEGE AND STORM...Oh, S&S, you are something else.

This picks up right where book one left off, with Mal and Alina fleeing across the sea. Unfortunately, they don’t avoid the Darkling long, and are soon dragged back into his clutches. Along the way, we meet a few new characters, one of which is my new favorite. (I’ve never understood all the love for the Darkling. I admire him as a character, but Sturmhond I can actually ship. The sarcastic, witty, smug charm...LOVE.)

Speaking of characters, I found Alina more likeable this time around–stronger, bolder, more driven. She has lofty goals now, and Mal is dragged along for the ride. This creates some very believable tensions between the two of them. Actually, all the relationships in this sequel were nuanced. This book does a lot of setting up for the final showdown. We get a look at the larger world and its politics. The war strategies and planning might be weighty for some, but I gobbled it all up. Same goes for the newly revealed Ravkan folklore and myths. I am so very excited for RUIN AND RISING.

Originally posted here.
The 5th Wave - Rick Yancey I heard so many good things about Rick Yancey’s THE 5th WAVE that I finally caved, ran to the library in the middle of my book three drafting, and checked it out. In this post apocalyptic thriller, the alien invasion has already happened and we meet the characters in the aftermath. Cassie has survived the first few waves that have killed off millions, and is hoping to find some sort of haven at which to survive the fifth. Things are complicated when she is separated from her younger brother and embarks on a mission to rescue him.

Everyone talked up the twists and turns in this book, saying they never knew who to trust and/or were constantly surprised. I will admit that I saw every twist coming, and predicted them well before each reveal. However, this didn’t make me enjoy the book any less. (There’s something immensely satisfying about learning your gut reaction is right.) While the underlying premise of this novel is familiar (The Host, Invasion of the Body Snatchers), it is still a compelling, unputdownable read. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Through various POVs, we get not only Cassie’s tale, but that of a few other characters, which helps flesh out the ruined world. I still have a few questions regarding the aliens’s end goals, and am anxiously awaiting the next installment in this new series.

Originally posted here.
Insomnia - J.R. Johansson Parker Chipp is suffering a bizarre form of insomnia: he enters the dreams of the last person he made eye contact with each night, and the sleep deprivation is beginning to catch up with him. Then Mia moves to town and her dreams are so calm Parker remembers what it’s like to feel rested. He becomes obsessed with making eye contact, and when a stalker begins to terrorize Mia, Parker’s the prime suspect. Worse part? His memory blackouts leave him questioning his own innocence.

This book is twisted, dark, and gruesome. For a good while, I wasn’t sure who to trust. Parker’s voice is authentic and urgent, but he’s also an unreliable narrator. He doesn’t trust himself, so how can we as the reader? He is a gray character, with understandable goals, but sometimes questionable means of achieving them. Plot threads are mostly tied up by the end, and a sequel (in the works) is sure to address the few remaining questions. Fans of dark thrillers will be on edge reading this.

Originally posted here.

NOTE: This review is based on an ARC.
Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell At first glance, this is a basic coming of age story. Cath heads off to college where she struggles to find herself, navigates a new landscape, and deals with all sorts of relationship drama (family drama, friend drama, boy drama). But beneath that, Rowell has created something very special.

Reading this book let me relive falling in love for the first time. The butterflies, the warm fuzzies, the constant, palpable tension. (I’m starting to suspect that this is where Rowell really shines–crafting honest, heartfelt relationships, showing us that a touch can be just as sexy as a kiss.) There’s also some strong female friendships in this work that make me want to sing. And let’s not forget that Cath writes fanfic–Simon Snow fanfic, to be exact, which exists in a world much like Harry Potter. My inner nerd was on cloud nine. All the fandom gems are icing on an already very delicious cake. This is a new adult novel that no one should miss come September.

Originally posted here.

NOTE: This review is based on an ARC.
In Defense of Food - Michael Pollan This is an illuminating read. Pollan's mantra, printed right on the cover, is simple: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Well of course you should eat food! Duh. How hard can that be? Turns out the evolution of the American food industry has pushed a lot of things that are anything but food into our grocery stores. Fed up with not being sure what, exactly, was in the food I was buying (and after Susan Dennard recommended it to me), I eagerly picked up Pollan’s book. He outlines the history of food science/engineering, the constantly changing diet fads in America, and how it has impacted our food and agriculture; then goes on to provide some common sense suggestions to eating thoughtfully and responsibly. (In short, don’t eat anything with long ingredient lists, especially if you can’t pronounce any of those ingredients. Don’t obsess over calories. Ignore products that make health claims. Just eat real, whole foods, and avoid the processed.)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but unfortunately, I have a feeling most people seeking out this info are like me–pretty darn healthy, concerned about what they eat, and eager to make additional lifestyle changes. Meaning those who could perhaps benefit most from the information in In Defense of Food, likely will never come across it. Quite the conundrum.

Originally posted here.
The Thief - Megan Whalen Turner Having heard so many amazing things about Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen’s Thief series, I finally snatched up the THE THIEF. After bragging that he “can steal anything,” Gen ends up in the King’s prisons, only to later be selected by the King’s scholar, the magus, to accompany him on a journey to seek out–and steal–and invaluable ancient treasure.

I found the beginning of this one a little slow, but the second half made up for it tenfold. Talk about twists and turns and surprises. (Like Jellicoe Road, I would tell hesitant readers to give this one ~100p before quitting.) Gen’s voice is blunt and humorous–he’s lazy, and yet completely sympathetic, likely because he does have the skills to back up his bragging (and then some). He’s also one of my favorite types of narrators: an unreliable one. This fantasy world is rich and evocative–an almost Greek-like setting, but with a unique series of gods/goddesses and their own histories–and the character development is top notch. None of the characters we start out with as a reader are left unchanged by the end. I’ve heard the second and third installments in this series are where the story really shines, so after a thoroughly enjoyable tale in THE THIEF, I’m pumped to pick up THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA.

Originally posted here.
The Beautiful and the Cursed (The Dispossessed) - Page Morgan I’ve never been a big paranormal romance reader, but the premise of Page Morgan’s THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE CURSED sounded too good to pass up: gargoyles in 1899 Paris act as guardian angel figures, protecting the humans who live within their dwellings. Um, yes please! After an embarrassing and bizarre accident, Ingrid Waverly moves to Paris with her mother and younger sister, Gabby. Waiting for them should be her brother, Grayson, only he’s gone missing. Searching for clues regarding his whereabouts, Ingrid and Gabby learn that girls have been vanishing all throughout Paris, and that Luc, a servant working at their new estate may be the only one with answers…

I absolutely devoured this one. The historic setting seeped from the pages, the writing was lovely, and the mystery behind Paris’s disappearing girls–and how the Waverlys fit into it–kept me anxiously reading. Above all, I loved how Morgan wove her gargoyle mythology into existing angel-demon folklore. It felt both familiar and unique at once. This is the first in a trilogy, and while TBATC ends without major cliffhangers, I am dying to get my hands on the sequel. The forthcoming e-novella might have to tie me over until next May.

Originally posted here.
Crown of Midnight - Sarah J. Maas I can’t tell you how excited I was to get my hands on an ARC of Sarah J. Maas’s CROWN OF MIDNIGHT, sequel to THRONE OF GLASS. I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning of Celaena’s story (ToG and the novellas), but this follow-up blew. me. away! It picks up right where ToG left off: Celaena has won the title of Champion and is now tasked with carrying out the King’s orders. But she is far from loyal to the crown, a secret she hides from even those closest to her in an attempt to keep them safe. But those secrets backfire, changing everything in the course of one horrific night, and leading Celaena to question who she trusts, where her loyalties lie, and what she is willing to fight for.

I can’t say much more without spoiling all the wonderful twists and turns of this novel. But rest assured that it is epic in scope, with wonderfully layered relationships between characters, intense political intrigue, and mind-bending plot twists. Celaena is as bad-ass as ever. Chaol made me swoon like crazy. Nehemia became a favorite for me–her relationship with Celaena is endearing and nuanced. In full disclosure, I am good friends with Sarah, but I’d be fangirling either way, I was that floored. Kirkus gave Crown of Midnight a star, and after reading, I completely see why. (And agree, mind you!) I had chills upon reading the final pages. Absolute CHILLS. I am so excited for you all to read the next chapter in Celaena’s story so that we can fangirl together. (Now I just have to figure out how to survive the wait until book three.)

Originally posted here.

NOTE: This review is based on an ARC.
17 & Gone - Nova Ren Suma Nova Ren Suma’s 17 & GONE was such a unique read. After growing interested in a missing person’s case (a seventeen-year-old girl who vanished from a nearby summer camp), Lauren begins having visions of more missing girls. The deeper she digs for clues, the more convoluted the truth becomes. Why are the girls speaking to her? Can she help them? Who is still alive, and…Could Lauren be next?

First and foremost, Nova’s writing is gorgeous. This book goes down like honey, and the tone is both serene and spine-tingling eerie at once. Lauren’s visions are shockingly well realized, and entirely compelling. (While the story unfolds at a steady but rather slow clip, I eagerly kept turning pages.) More than anything, I love an unreliable narrator, and 17 & GONE gives us just that. Lauren is a reliable until she’s not, and suddenly the reader is left wondering what is real, what is a lie, what is supernatural, and what is something else. I can’t say much else without risking spoilers, but I thought the subject matter was handled deftly, and the final reveal and conclusion, powerful.

Originally posted here.
The Distance Between Us - Kasie West I read Kasie West’s PIVOT POINT earlier this year and thought it was sweet, smart, and charming; so naturally I was excited to get my hands on an ARC of THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US. This is an unrelated, straight-contemporary series, releasing as a paperback original come July. The story follows seventeen-year-old Cameron, who lives with her mother in a tiny apartment above their porcelain doll shop (where she also works). When she crosses paths with Xander Spence, heir to an upscale hotel chain, she knows that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps showing up…And she can’t ignore him completely…

This book reads like Pretty in Pink meets Stephanie Perkins, and it made me forever a fan of West. Cameron and Xander are each achingly real. The financial gap between them is obvious, and yet they manage to relate to each other in a number of ways. They are both expected to take over the family business, and they both think they want more for their futures. Family tension, money, and friendship play equal roles in this novel, and the relationship that builds between the characters gave me warm fuzzies. Simply put, this was adorable. I can’t wait for whatever West writes next!

Originally posted here.

NOTE: This review is based on an ARC.