Monday, June 28, 2010

Insatiable & BBAW


Insatiable is Meg Cabot's newest release and her first ever adult paranormal novel.

Meena Harper is an average, ordinary sort of young adult woman. She goes to work every day writing dialogue for the daytime soap opera Insatiable and comes home to her beloved, adorable dog Jack Bauer and currently unemployed brother, Jon.

And, oh yeah, she knows how you're going to die.

She doesn't really tell people this, though, since almost no one ever believes her. And she had to spend some dark years in high school as the You're Gonna Die Girl. So, instead, she just suggests you don't take such-and-such street home from work, or that you don't climb that ladder.

But it's a burden Meena has always lived with.

However, when she meets an incredibly handsome stranger, Lucien, in an unbelievably weird way - she's flabbergasted to realize she has absolutely no idea how he will die. It's almost as if he's... already dead.

In fact, it looks like Meena will be getting some firsthand research done on her new vampire storyline...

With a bang, Meg offer us Meena's twist and signature voice in the first, short chapter. By the second chapter I already like Meena and am both sympathetic and intrigued by her ability. Then we've got the introduction of Lucien, which is both appealing and creepy - calling back Meg's earlier days with her YA paranormal series The Mediator and 1-800-Where-R-U (both of which I adored and first introduced me to her).

So, as you can see - I was into Insatiable pretty darn quickly. That's one of the things I love most about Meg Cabot's writing - she always puts you so "in" the story.

Another thing I love about her books is how she stocks them full with awesome, fully-developed characters. One of which is Alaric. I don't want to give away too much here about who he is or what I think of him - but I will just say that he is the owner of a weapon he calls "Senor Sticky", which I can't help but feel is an awesome shout-out to Buffy's "Mr. Pointy".

Insatiable is hard to put down and easy to keep reading. Meena is very root-able, and the novel offers the readers little surprises and twists from beginning to end. There's a fun switching of viewpoints that Meg doesn't do very often in her novels - which gives us even better insight into who all these characters are.

There's great chemistry between the characters - as well as disturbing, question-raising pictures painted about the vampires, who can be truly cruel and vicious - which, to me, gave it a bit more of a deeper suspense.

Now as a warning to any bibliophiles reading this that don't tend to read adult fiction - there is swearing and a couple sex scenes in Insatiable. I wouldn't say anything is more graphic or beyond what you may read in some of the racier YA fiction, but I should let you know. I personally prefer my reading material to have neither, but just like with movies, I don't let it ruin or detract from an otherwise fantastic book. The sex scenes aren't overtly detailed either. It isn't like a bodice-ripper or Harlequin novel. And I still heartily recommend it.

My only detractors on Insatiable were thus: I felt some relationships moved a little too fast (though I won't say it wasn't understandable), and as the novel progresses it seemed Meena became incessantly weepy (though, again, I wouldn't say it wasn't understandable). Also, I became quite passionate about how I wanted Insatiable to end - and felt that if it ended a certain way I'd be upset.

Gosh, I sound so cryptic and confusing without supplying names or details - but I desperately don't want to spoil anything for you, or color your opinion too much on any characters before you read it (which you totally should).

Thing is, this sort of passion and worry is just the kind of thing that shows how involved I was in Insatiable. And with the fun and entertaining dialogue, scary mystery, and truly laugh-out-loud lines sprinkled throughout Insatiable - the book ended up being very well-rounded and had true substance. And don't get me wrong, I still loved Meena. She's strong, feisty and different from other Meg Cabot heroines. My small complaints were actually what made me feel so satisfied by the last page.

Why? Because Meg totally threw all my expectations out the window and showed me an exhilarating, cliche-free, refreshing, empowering conclusion that allowed my wishes to still be possible, while allowing the reader who disagrees with me to also still have hope for their resolution as well.

I really appreciated how unique Insatiable was - and when I found out that there will be a SEQUEL I was even more excited. Because I am becoming more and more convinced that I am so totally right about who Meena should end up with. Let the debate begin!

(If you have read Insatiable, I would love to hear your thoughts on it. I'd love to explain about what I'm talking about at the end of my review and see how my opinions stack up against yours. Please email me at MrsRonWeasley@aol.com and let me know!)

MARK YOUR CALENDARS: Next Monday, July 5th, instead of a review I will have a guest blogger - up and coming new YA author Sean McCartney! Don't miss it! To find out a bit more about him and his new book, check out his site: www.treasurehuntersclubbook.com



ADDITION on JULY 6th: Hi! I just realized that the registration for Book Blogger Appreciation Week is TOMORROW and therefore I need to post! Hopefully it's okay that this is at the end of my review of Insatiable - but I didn't want to dislodge Sean's McCartney's guest blog from the top of the screen.

It's always weird to register yourself and have to pick your "best" posts - but here goes:

Bibliophile Support Group's 5 Posts that Best Represent *Best Eclectic Book Blog*:

Review of Insatiable: http://bibliophilesupportgroup.blogspot.com/2010/06/insatiable.html
Review of Middleworld: http://bibliophilesupportgroup.blogspot.com/2010/06/middleworld.html
Review of Golden Girl: http://bibliophilesupportgroup.blogspot.com/2010/05/golden-girl.html
Review of Sea Change: http://bibliophilesupportgroup.blogspot.com/2010/03/sea-change.html
Review of Nocturne: http://bibliophilesupportgroup.blogspot.com/2010/06/nocturne.html

Bibliophile Support Group's 5 Posts that Best Represent *Best Written Book Blog*:

Review of Middleworld: http://bibliophilesupportgroup.blogspot.com/2010/06/middleworld.html
Review of Golden Girl: http://bibliophilesupportgroup.blogspot.com/2010/05/golden-girl.html
Review of Sea Change: http://bibliophilesupportgroup.blogspot.com/2010/03/sea-change.html
Review of Still Sucks to be Me: http://bibliophilesupportgroup.blogspot.com/2010/06/still-sucks-to-be-me.html
Review of Birthmarked: http://bibliophilesupportgroup.blogspot.com/2010/03/birthmarked.html

So there it is. Had to pick kinda fast, but hopefully these posts are worthy of BBAW. :)

And thanks to all who read this blog, which I really enjoy writing!!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Nocturne

Nocturne, written by L. D. Harkrader, is a companion novel to A Practical Guide to Vampires. (Wish I coulda found a bigger pic, but this was the best I could find.)

To sum up a premise that could easily be spoilery (I'll do my best to give away as little as possible): Flannery Lane is a fifteen year old girl living with her "Uncle" Anatole who took her in as an infant found on his shop's doorstep - she has strong magical abilities that she keeps secret at his behest, though Uncle Anatole is a known, practicing wizard shopkeeper in the village. When strange, dangerous things begin happening, Flannery finds herself having a harder and harder time not using her magic to help.

Okay, that synopsis is kind of weak. See, I liked the book SO MUCH I didn't really want to give away anything much. Here's the thing: I thought, based off it's Twilight-esque cover and basic description on the back, that Nocturne took place in modern times. But that is oh-so-delightfully wrong!

Actually, Nocturne takes place in the time of cobblestoned streets, carriages, and cloaks with hoods. All the villagers are aware of vampires, werewolves, and other magical creatures and even have their own local lore - an intoxicatingly fun legend involving their own sort of Van Helsing, Lord Blakely. Kind of awesome, right? Well, I certainly thought so!

Right off the bat we meet Flannery (named after the scrap of paper lining her basket as a baby) and her eccentric wizard Uncle, Anatole. It doesn't take long to sense Flan's fierce protectiveness of her Uncle, but also her frustration with him over his forced cautiousness involving magic. I easily came to like both of them, and when the first indication of danger comes (doesn't take long!) I got caught up in it eagerly.

See, the local butcher comes by the shop and asks for Anatole's help with an odd incident that keeps occurring in his store - someone (or something) is breaking in at night and cleaning everything up - stealing nothing but a musical instrument. But the real suspicion comes from Flan's knowledge that something is majorly wrong from her Uncle's reaction, yet he lies and says it is only a friendly brownie (something sort of like an elf). Not really. In fact, it is our first clue of the danger to come.

Very soon Flan's desperation for the success of her Uncle's shop and the fickleness of the villagers is clear - and I felt as she did regarding them. I related to her easily. So by the time she meets a mysterious, handsome stranger I am fully involved in this entertaining, suspenseful, truly escapist-worthy novel.

There is also a story arc for Flan personally, involving her yearning to know the truth of her childhood - who her parents are and why she is so powerful with her magic. This journey of self-discovery is well-plotted and only adds to the overall enjoyment. There was a couple of twists I guessed correctly, but that didn't take away even an ounce of my utter entertainment!

The ambiance of Nocturne is very hypnotic, eerie, ominous, and exciting - making for an excellent, page-turner of a supernatural adventure novel - all leading up to one heck of a suspenseful, satisfying climax!

To be honest with you, bibliophiles, I can't help but wonder if all the companion novels printed by Wizards of the Coast's Dungeons and Dragons series are as good as Nocturne. Because, if they are, I want to read more of them!!!

And I wouldn't be surprised if you agree with me! Check Nocturne out! :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Still Sucks to be Me

Still Sucks to be Me is the very recently released YA sequel to Kimberly Pauley's 2008 Sucks to be Me.

Personally, I cannot be more ecstatic to have our insanely likable, hilarious Mina back! How about you?

And if you can't answer that because you haven't read the first novel Sucks to be Me - check out my review on that one here: http://bibliophilesupportgroup.blogspot.com/2008/05/sucks-to-be-me.html and skip this review. Trust me, you don't want to get any spoilers!!! :)

For the rest of you, I promise to have next to no spoilers on Still Sucks to be Me in this review, as I am an avid avoider of spoilers myself!!!

Now that Mina has taken the plunge and become a teenage vampire (after being threatened by the Northwest Regional Vampire Council with either doing so or losing all her memories - and having a four-week deadline for making the decision), she and her parents are unexpectedly killed in a car accident (or so everybody is led to believe), uprooted from her home and life and sent to a tiny Louisiana town with a new identity (she knew it was coming, but she was hoping for some notice first). And since Serena isn't even supposed to know about Mina's new, "undead" status, Mina is also sadly without her BFF.

Without wanting to give anything more away, I'll tell y'all what I thought of it.

I just love how Kimberly Pauley makes being a vampire so bureaucratic and controlled with stuffy brochures and paperwork. It's super funny and breezy, so unique from the usually dramatic, angsty vampire novels out there (not that I'm slamming those, because I adore those as well!). The pages of Still Sucks to be Me rush by very quickly, thoroughly entertaining and full to the brim with real laugh-out-loud moments.

Having Mina's larger than life personality banished to such a blip of a town with crazy, eccentric neighbors and strangely melodramatic southern belles is bad for her, but great for the readers! :)

There's also more plot developments along the lines of interesting, intriguing new vampire history - not to mention new hotties (does George have competition??? Gotta read to find out!) and a brand new nemesis (Bethany, who?).

Still Sucks to be Me is tons of fun (have I said that already? Just shows ya how fun it is!) and Mina is shockingly normal and modern (despite being, ya know, a vampire). Her sidesplitting (yes, I said sidesplitting, lol - have to use my thesaurus sometimes!) nicknames add to the fantastic voice she brings as a narrator.

Some surprisingly creepy and rather nerve-wracking stuff happens later on in the book, with a bunch of unforeseen (at least for me) twists. The story constantly mutates further into a well-plotted finale, with higher stakes than Sucks to be Me (no pun intended).

I found the end of Still Sucks to be Me to be awesome and satisfactory, but still open just enough for the possibility of another sequel. I have no idea of one is planned or not - but I'd look forward to it! Definitely not a disappointment! Highly recommended, especially if you'd like a read with quite a few laughs!!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Middleworld

Middleworld is a middlegrade fantasy/adventure novel by Jon and Pamela Voelkel and the first of the Jaguar Stones trilogy.

Synopsis as summarized by your Support Group leader: Max Murphy is a video game loving, indoorsy, kinda irritated fourteen-year old - and for good reason (well, the last part anyway). His parents, archaeologists, take off on a suddenly open dig in Central America, thereby canceling Max's family vacation to Italy - which he'd been really looking forward to (his grandma makes awesome pizza). And his dad isn't all the apologetic about it either.

So before he can even digest this turn of events, his parents are gone and he is all alone with Zia, the odd housekeeper. But in yet another sudden twist, Max is shipped off to San Xavier to be with his parents, because, apparently, they need him. His estranged Uncle Ted isn't all that friendly - and Max quickly realizes that his parents didn't send for him - they're missing. And there might be something pretty sinister and evil going on with some ancient Mayan artifacts.

Alrighty - I thought that the premise was a pretty creepy and intriguing way to kick things off. Max is relatable, though maybe a little bratty and spoiled (and, honestly, who doesn't like tamales? lol)- but as time went by I came to really appreciate his sarcastic, dry sense of humor, which led to some awesome descriptive lines, such as calling the trees of the rainforest "evil mutant broccoli," and a wizened old man "a Maya version of Gandalf". The writing is brisk and modern with these current, fun descriptions.

Throughout Middleworld there are cool drawings, and at the very end of the novel there is a glossary of information about the history and mythology of the Mayan people. The cover is really nice and draws you in to the epitomization of action/adventure (though when reading the novel, you realize the the facial expressions should be switched).

There is an interestingly weird, constantly suspicious tone from the very start of the novel and it very quickly takes off into the mystery, though it is subtle at first. Unlike most middlegrade books, there is a sense of real, pressing danger - and the plotting and characters (such as Lola, a young Mayan girl who comes to help Max, who is a great, strong, capable, athletic, and smart heroine) kept calling for me to return to it after setting it down.

The rainforests of San Xavier (a fictional version of modern-day Belize) are described in vivid, colorful imagery and recalls old Indiana Jones movies. There's a great chemistry between Max and Lola, and though Max can be upsettingly immature, he also has surprising character development as the novel progresses.

By the end of Middleworld, I was quite involved in what becomes a notably scary climax and was ready for the sequel immediately. I look forward to when the next book in the Jaguar Stones trilogy comes out and I can rejoin Lola and Max in this fun, supernatural action/adventure that certainly is NOT just for kids!