Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Throwback Review: Touched


Throwback Review from 2013!


Touched is a YA contemporary fantasy novel by Cyn Balog.

Nick Cross lives life on a script.

Literally.

Since he was born he “remembers” his future, the sooner it’ll happen the clearer it is. And if he goes off script, it causes all his future memories to change – and what a painful experience that is.

Literally.

But Nick cannot ignore someone’s life being in danger. Yet saving one person may mean that he doesn’t save another’s. This adds up to possibly disastrous consequences.

For the first time, as the summer in Jersey Shore is winding down, Nick cannot predict what will happen next. Taryn, the girl he decided to save, is… different. When he’s around her, his script quiets down. He feels almost… normal.

She holds family secrets that may explain why Nick is the way he is. But their meeting has put Nick on a path that puts him a position of making choices he never wanted to make…

Last year I read Cyn Balog’s Starstruck, which I thought was really different and impressive. Touched is not as playful or fairy-tale-esque – but reinforces my belief that Balog is an author to read based on name alone.

Touched has such a unique, bizarre, but incredible concept that fascinated me from the get-go. Living life on a script sounds so distracting, so difficult – the fact that Nick even tries to attempt to act normal is admirable and brave.

Infused with paranormal mystery and tentative romance, I was racing through this suspenseful story with a desperate need to know what would happen next. There was a short period of time about two-thirds into Touched that lagged just a tad for me, but that quickly changed.

With a really interesting, thought-provoking core, Touched is quite romantic and surprising.

And as it reaches it heartrending conclusion it’s shocking, bittersweet, and lasting!

In my opinion Touched was very, very, VERY good!!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Throwback Review: Green Heart

Another Throwback Review - this time from back in 2012! Enjoy!

Green Heart is the combination of two YA novels Green Angel and Green Witch by Alice Hoffman.

The day it happened, fifteen-year-old Green was angry and refused to speak to her family as they left. She had wanted to go with them to the city, but they needed her to stay home.

Her father, mother, and sister all died in the terrible disaster – leaving Green all alone, and plagued by the memory of her last moments with them.

She struggles to survive in a world turned topsy-turvy, a place where nothing wants to grow among the ashes. Green becomes one with the thorny, lifeless realm of her garden – but finds she must allow herself to open back up to life, to possibility… to magic.

Even though all she can see is pain.

Green Heart was a majestic read!

I read The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman years ago and was dumbfounded by it – so I had high expectations, and, my, were they reached!

The haunting, mournful, poetic sentences create an almost ethereal, atmospheric tone – a poem that goes on and on with grace and elegance.

As I read the Green Heart, or I should probably say absorbed, I hoped for a happy end, for healing, but I knew that anything Alice Hoffman created would be more complicated than that, more real.

Green Heart is a novel of lovely, wistful, staggering simplicity of words that brings a quiet power to this otherworldly tale. This is especially true when it comes to the allure and hypnotic pull of nature and animals (Animal lover, here!). There’s a sense of magic, of wonder, of hurt and hope intertwined.

Both Green Angel and Green Witch are beautiful, the sequel taking us deeper into a surprisingly revealing and exquisite story that is tonally the same.

If you’re a bit sick of reading about the apocalypse, various dystopias, that really just kind of depress you (I know that I have started to be), Green Heart is a refreshing read.

Here we have a book that is touching, transcends genres, and brings lightness to the dark.

If you haven’t already, you should definitely read Green Heart!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Throwback Review: Love and Other Perishable Items

A contemporary YA Throwback Review for you ravenous bibliophiles, this time. Originally posted back in February 2013!

Love and Other Perishable Items is a YA contemporary fiction novel by Australian author Laura Buzo.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day – and to celebrate I bring to you a story about first love. Not the mushy romance novel kind (not that there’s anything wrong with that) or the paranormal kind (not that there’s anything wrong with that either) but the regular, difficult, real-life kind.

It didn’t take long for Amelia to fall for Chris, her trainer at the supermarket in which she works. His easy way of talking, his friendliness, humor, and charisma has done her in.

This is a problem because Chris is twenty-one, a university student hungry to become an independent man. And Amelia? Fifteen.

Having always had a good head on her shoulders, Amelia knows it won’t go anywhere. Sure, it’s like a knife to the heart every time she sees him flirting with a girl his age – but she’ll take the moments of conversation, sharing opinions and personal moments with him at the checkout as they work.

But it’s those long conversations that buzz with wit and candor that start Amelia to wonder, eventually, if her crush really is one-sided… or if there is a chance that despite her age, Chris might like her back.

And even if he does… then what?

Love and Other Perishable Items is superb. I read the whole book in one sitting. I couldn’t stop. I was riveted, glued, and dumbfounded by the tender authenticity and genuineness.

From the get-go, Chris is immediately engaging, likable, fun, and cheery – the kind of guy you’d want to be around. He is able to talk – something that can be difficult to find in guys, and it’s one of the main reasons Amelia falls for him.

The tingly, nervous, excited, slightly obsessive feeling of a crush is evident and honest here. Any one of us who has felt it will recognize it easily. Laura Buzo writes extremely well – extremely.

Amelia is believable, feels like a legitimate fifteen-year-old with a brain. She’s not a bundle of gushy girl romantic fantasies, but can carry of intelligent exchanges, has views, and holds her own among the anguish of unrequited love.

Love and Other Perishable Items switches to Chris’ viewpoint occasionally, through his journal, and it is enlightening and cool. It’s a chance to see his darkness, the underground of his personality that is revealing, disheartening, but realistic. I loved that we got to see her perception of him, his personal hidden side, and then the two combined eventually as a whole human nature. Incredible.

This book isn’t sunshine and rainbows – it’s painful, heartbreaking and sad at times. It’s truly raw and presents unaffected, flawed people and the ache that is sometimes life. But – wow! I was stunned, as you can tell. There’s joy here too – and hope.

Love and Other Perishable Items is… special. I think you’ll think so, too.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Throwback Review: The Game of Triumphs

Another Throwback Review, this time from February 2012. Take a looksie:

The Game of Triumphs is a YA urban fantasy by Laura Powell.

Fifteen-year-old Cat is on her way home, doing her best to avoid human contact as always, when she can’t help but notice a man being chased – a man that asks for her help. But Cat sees the gleam of excitement in his eyes, along with the fear, and figures he’s just a weirdo.

Yet something about it all sparks her curiosity, and Cat can’t seem to help pursuing the situation. Doing so brings her to an extravagant party that introduces her to the Game of Triumphs. It’s a centuries-old game played between modern-day London and an alternate, unexplainable reality called the Arcanum where game players embark on challenges having to do with the tarot cards they are dealt, or the card they are trying to win. It’s all a bit confusing to Cat at first, but the intrigue is undeniable.

Not long after becoming involved in this enigmatic game, though, Cat finds out just how dangerous and potent the information you can learn in Arcanum can be. Despite others’ single-focus goal to win and gain the power and glory of their Triumph, Cat begins to uncover secrets from her own past that alarm her – including a possible link to the Game of Triumphs from when she was very young.

Determined to learn more, Cat is drawn into the addictive gameplay – and it’s not something you can just walk away from…

My synopsis may be a little befuddling, and I apologize for that. The specifics of the actual game are a little confusing and would take a while to explain – so I’m not. The author does it far better than I could!

The Game of Triumphs has a brilliant, truly enthralling start with a creepy tarot card. It has a plot that feels fresh and new from the get-go, which is fantastic for us bibliophiles that read so much that sometimes plots tend to blur. Not here!

Laura Powell is not shy about throwing us into the story. We’re right in the thick of it from the beginning, though she kindly offers up a tad of exposition to let us a learn a bit more about Cat and her eccentric relationship with her Aunt Bel, who has been her guardian since her parents’ death when she was a child. Its’ sparse but illuminating initial detail provides us some background and explains Cat’s different, likable, maybe slightly standoffish personality.

As she gets more involved in the Game of Triumphs I was just as confused as Cat was about how the game is played. I hoped it would eventually make sense – I was captivated by it. And, happily, Laura Powell expertly lets us learn by little explanation and lots of observation without bombarding us with rules and details in one fell swoop.

The Game of Triumphs is kind of psychedelic, in a good, intoxicating, stimulating way! Mysteries and questions abound and my curiosity always mirrored Cat’s. Startling revelations, done in a hypnotic, dream-like way bring about a new level of meaning and history to the game.

Let me put it this way, since I’m not so sure I’ve made it clear yet: The Game of Triumphs is very cool, very original, and very alluring.

And I will be waiting to read the sequel the day it comes out!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Interview with the Vampire



Interview with the Vampire is the first book in Anne Rice’s adult horror fantasy Vampire Chronicles series.

When a young reporter gets a chance to interview with the enigmatic, pale man that claims to be a vampire, he takes it. Such begins the long, harrowing tale of Louis, his maker Lestat and his “child” Claudia.

Sweeping from pre-civil war Louisiana to the mists of Europe, Louis weaves his life story for the reporter from the tragic, defining moments before his transition and those bloody, unsettling moments immediately following his meeting with the vampire Lestat – and beyond.

Anyone who has seen the film starring Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and a young Kirsten Dunst may know many details of the turns the novel will take – as it is a fairly strong adaptation, likely due to the fact that Anne Rice herself penned it. However, here we have the original book form where Rice lends that miserable, contemplative, gloomy voice of Louis who is a reluctant vampire, to put it lightly.

Desperately trying to hang on to his humanity, Louis is a conflicted character who is torn between caring for, and being dependent on, his relationships with Lestat and Claudia, while also being horrified by their easy killing and lack of conscience. He is, quite simply, not built to be a vampire but doomed to its fate.

Without providing further plot details, I will say that Interview with the Vampire had gorgeous descriptions and an eloquent, poetic language that was both very enveloping and also, at times, probably more than necessary. I won’t deny occasionally skimming some of the more longwinded narration describing the countryside or what have you.

However, the prose was affective in creating an absorbing atmosphere, a distinct first-person voice and some occasionally powerful emotional punches – from strangely, almost involuntarily, erotic to heartbreaking, tormenting sorrow.

Though Louis’s journey through vampirism was hypnotic, and its eventual conclusion titillated me on a pure character development level, I have been assured by a friend that the next books in the Vampire Chronicles series are far more satisfying. It sounds as though Lestat becomes much more in the spotlight and creates a vibe a little less depressive and a little more fun.

Either way, though, Interview with the Vampire was definitely worth the read and was a great experience. I would strongly recommend bibliophiles with an enjoyment of gothic stories to check it out! I look forward to diving into more novels in the series as soon as I am able.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Throwback Review: Rotters


One more throwback review, originally posted in August 2011 this book has definitely left an impression in my memories. Enjoy:

Rotters is a YA contemporary novel with a twist of horror written by author Daniel Kraus.

Sixteen-year-old Joey loves his Mom. It's just been the two of them in Chicago since forever, and he doesn't mind. Joey's life is low-key. He gets straight A's, plays the trumpet, and hangs out with the one friend he's had since he was young.

But when Joey's mother dies in a sudden, tragic accident Joey is sent to live with his father in rural Iowa - a father that he has never met - but a father that Joey's Mom specifically willed him to go to should she die. Joey tries to honor her wishes, but when he arrives at his new home he finds a man that is short on words and leaves for long periods of time without warning.

Nothing is going well for Joey. There's no food at home, no guardian to rely on, and he finds himself being the brunt of cruelty by both students and teachers - each day is a struggle.

Yet once he gets his Dad to speak to him, Joey starts to put the strange pieces of the puzzle together - and before long Joey's life takes another turn - this one far more taboo. His father's secretive occupation? It's one that has been around for centuries, but never greeted with admiration.

Grave robbing.

Obviously, I don't want to give away too much of Rotters plot - but that final bit is necessary to let you know the basic premise of the book. It's kinda important that you're prepared!

Rotters starts off with a flat-out amazing prologue - it's stunning, gripping and instantly makes me aware of the author's talent - a talent that only gets spotlighted more as this vibrant, vivid, vicious novel continues! It features one of the most horrifying high school experiences ever and a world that is dank and dark and utterly fascinating.

I was absolutely riveted by it true originality, it's crisp, startling, phenomenal, enveloping prose, and it's touching, heartrending, one-of-a-kind coming of age story. Rotters features some ugly transformations, gruesome turn of events, and both positive and negative growth in Joey. Rotters is a standout - astounding, horrifying, and jarring.

In my opinion, Rotters is an epic - a journey bringing to the forefront an occupation that turns the stomach and magnifies madness and utter insanity - and it plotted and written brilliantly. I have never read a book like Rotters, it is an experience like no other!

Be ready to control your gag reflex. Be ready to gasp. Be ready to be amazed.

Wow.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Throwback Review: Eyes Like Stars


Another throwback review this week! This one was posted originally in July 2009 and is still one of my favorites! Here ya go:

Eyes Like Stars in the first book by Lisa Mantchev in the Theatre Illuminata trilogy.

Bertie lives on a stage. Her friends are fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Her crush is Nate, a pirate from The Little Mermaid. And her childhood friend and now frenemie is Ariel, a hunky spirit from The Tempest.

That’s right. On the stage Bertie lives on, all those characters from all those plays? They’re alive and bursting with drama. And not just the characters from Shakespeare. Every single play that has ever been written is represented in The Book. The Book that makes all of this possible. The Book that creates the magic.

But Bertie isn’t one of these characters; the theatre has taken her in, with a rather murky explanation as to why. It is her home. The only place she knows.

However, Bertie isn’t the most gracious of guests. She can’t seem to help making messes and getting into mischief. And when she is threatened with banishment – she has to find a way to make herself invaluable to the Theatre in order to stay. But while she works hard at doing just that, things start to fall apart. The very existence she is trying to maintain for herself is disappearing in front of her eyes.

Mixing drama with whimsical fantasy, humor with magical depth, Eyes Like Stars manages to be extremely hypnotic in it’s telling. Bertie is somehow very relatable, yet completely immersed in this world that is so unlike our own. She’s interesting and talented without being a goody-two-shoes. All of the incredible characters from all the plays are mesmerizing and stunningly entertaining.

And the plot weaves itself into more than it first seems. There are twists I can assure you, you won’t see coming! At least, I didn’t.

It’s not just a book for Shakespeare lovers, though I’m sure they’d enjoy the characters being lively and full of personality. I, myself, only have a read a couple of the plays and have only a basic idea of the others, and it was in no way an impediment to my delight in Eyes Like Stars.

Somehow, by the last page I found myself spellbound in this exceptionally unique, dreamlike YA novel and breathless for the next installment. The character depth and wit manages to grab a hold of your emotions in a way that you wouldn’t expect for such a quirky novel. But there seems to be more under the surface.

And ALL of it is excellent.

I think you all should find it when it comes out this month and decide for yourselves: Do you wish you had your own Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed (the fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream)? My answer is an emphatic: yes.

I’d be shocked if you disagreed.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Throwback Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Due to time restraints, instead of a new review I am doing a throwback! This review was originally posted back in April 2011 - and is definitely a great read! Here goes:

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a YA post-apocalyptic, literary zombie novel by Carrie Ryan.

I know what you're thinking - "literary" zombie novel? Yep, never read anything like it!

Well, that's not exactly true. The whole reason I became obsessed with reading The Forest of Hands and Teeth (beyond the amazing title) is the short story Carrie Ryan wrote in Kiss Me Deadly, a compilation of a bunch of stunning stories written by some of today's best YA paranormal authors. It was called Hare Moon and it took place in the same world, the same village as The Forest of Hands and Teeth - and it was flat out spectacular. So I knew that I absolutely had to read The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

So, lets get to the synopsis, shall we?

Mary lives in a village surrounded by a fence. The fence keeps out the Unconsecrated that live in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, those who have Returned after being Infected - and whose hunger and moans never cease. The Guardians protect the fence, make sure it holds, make sure there won't be a breach. There hasn't been a breach in years. The Sisterhood knows best, and directs the village towards the survival of mankind.

The time is coming when Mary will be claimed and her life of commitment with a husband will begin. After all, in order to survive there must be children. And in a village plagued with miscarriages and barrenness, this is prized above almost anything else.

Yet Mary has never been like other villagers. Her mother has told her of the ocean, a place so many believe is nothing but a ridiculous dream - an impossibility. Mary longs to leave the village, to know of more. To see that they are not the last of mankind, as they've always been told. That there is hope. But secrets begin to reveal themselves to Mary, and what she has always known to be true is thrown into questioning and suspicion.

But then the unthinkable happens. The fence is breached. The Unconsecrated get in. And everything and everyone is in chaos. Mary is faced with unthinkable choices - between the brother she yearns for and the brother she's bound to, between the falling village and the uncertain place the fences old and worn path leads to.

And the Unconsecrated just keep coming.

Oh my. Okay, so my expectations were high from the short story. And my expectations were met - and exceeded. But my, oh my... What an unsettling book! The Forest of Hands and Teeth is horror through and through, written superbly and uniquely - causing a gripping, insanely intriguing, and darkly disturbing result.

I was on pins and needles practically the entire time - totally freaked out by its delicately terrifying, lyrically and deceptively simple prose, and the nonstop shocking turn of events that kept leaving me breathless. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is intense (to put it lightly) and heart-poundingly scary - its horror done almost too well!

Carrie Ryan managed to horrify and sicken me with a world that felt too real to be filled with flesh-eating zombies. She brought it to an entirely different level than any shtick with zombies could be. There was absolutely nothing cartoonish about Mary's story, a heroine flawed but lovely, naive but wise beyond her years, strong and perfect as a main character.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth never ceased to stun me, leaving me with an unforgettably nightmarish experience that was sprinkled with enough humanity, love, hope, and beauty to make it as effectual as it was.

I was heartbroken and exhausted by the end. And ready to see what was going to happen next in the sequel The Dead-Tossed Waves. And all the more wowed by the new implications of the short story Hare Moon, which I now realize to be an incredible prequel, and a must-read to any fan of The Forest of Hands and Teeth!

Have you read it, my fellow bibliophiles? Were you as floored as I was? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Psych: A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Read



Psych: A Mind is a Terrible to Read is a contemporary mystery based on the USA television series and written by William Rabkin.

Brilliantly showing up a detective in court by causing someone other than the defendant to confess to a murder, therefore throwing out the whole case, is not the best way to get in someone’s good graces.

Though Shawn, man-child of excellent deduction skills who has convinced most of Santa Barbara that he is actually psychic, may be convinced that the end justifies the means in this case, the detective in question is not so sure.

In fact, he’s so irritated that he gets Gus, Shawn’s best friend since childhood, and Shawn’s car impounded over something as silly as eighty-seven parking tickets. Petty man!

But when the duo go to pick up the car, they find they’ve stumbled across a criminal conspiracy and nearly get run over by a Mercedes. Not that surprising, really.

Once Gus wakes up in the hospital, not only does he find himself in the midst of another crazy case with his so-called psychic best friend, but they have somehow picked up a tagalong. Her name is Tara Larison and she’s beautiful, helpful and kind.

And completely insane. She’s positive that she is Shawn’s psychic slave and will do anything for him. Which doesn’t seem TOTALLY bad until Shawn’s enemies start showing up dead – and they are no longer sure if it’s the result of criminal conspiracy or Shawn’s new, gorgeous minion making her devotion known….

I love Psych. One of my favorite TV shows. It’s wacky, witty, full of pop culture and 80s references and hilarious - while also solving crimes.

This is my first foray into the novelization of the TV show and I was quite pleased. Is it AS awesome as the show? I don’t think I’d go quite that far – but it was quite good!

Primarily written from Gus’s perspective, though in third person, A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Read is funny and has that same wackadoodle feeling to it as the show. We get appearances by all the beloved characters and a pretty solid mystery. I even managed to be surprised!

It only reminded me how much I love the show, and I have to say that it was definitely good enough to read the next novelization – as I know there are a good few written. More time with Shawn and Gus is never anything but a good thing in my book!

Now, go find a pineapple!