Monday, September 27, 2010

Follow that Mouse


Follow that Mouse is the newest release by YA sci-fi author Henry Melton.

Ranch Exit is a town that is too small to really be classified a town. It gains its name by the highway sign and is home to a one-room schoolhouse and a small spattering of residents. One of these residents is teenager Dot Comal, who personally loves her home and is quite defensive of it.

But in a place where nothing ever really happens, besides the continually odd signs that the town's enigmatic and strange billionaire hires Dot's father to put up around Ranch Exit, unusual occurrences are easily spotted. So when the animals begin to act erratically and more violently than ever before, Dot and her best friend Ned notice.

However, it's when Dot's own father and other residents of Ranch Exit start acting out of character, resorting to hostility and physical combat when they were previously known for their easygoing manner - Dot and Ned start to get really concerned. The old Paiute shaman that wanders around the town seems to know something is out of the ordinary, but only tells Dot to "heal the valley". Well, Dot has no idea how that is supposed to help... but she starts wondering if she needs to pay more attention to little Duncan (one of Ranch Exit's youngest children) and his "dwarf" that lives underground and maybe follow a certain mouse that seems quite persistent in getting her somewhere, despite being a, well, mouse.

As a big fan of Henry Melton's previous books Golden Girl and Pixie Dust, I was quite excited to read this new release and let me just say right off that I was not disappointed one bit!

In Dot Comal we have a very unique, charming, grounded protagonist - a refreshing change in YA. Even more rare is the truly tiny speck of a home town the entire novel takes place in. There is something honestly fun in reading such originality.

There is next to no technology in the Comal home, let alone all of Ranch Exit. Dot's house doesn't even have telephone - making Dot all the more sympathetic and relatable, especially with all the hometown pride Dot has.

Dot's likability is enhanced by her maturity, confidence, and niceness - so that when the quiet, surprisingly suspenseful atmospheric quality of Follow that Mouse kicks in, I am already invested in the characters.

The slow, steady build of tension builds in the early chapters, letting the plot gain traction and a quality of believability, even with its tiptoeing into fantasy territory (which anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis know is no problem with me!)

With the spooky sense of the novel, I begin to feel I am just as secluded from the world as the characters in Ranch Exit are! Follow that Mouse is sprinkled with interesting, seemingly factual info, while the mysterious impression of odd events turns more serious and gives way to a gripping, constantly evolving (literally!) story that is both intelligent and thought-provoking, disturbing and startling in its revelations.

Ned and Dot's relationship is comfortable and real, and the revealed villain has a classic, yet distinctive and creative feel to it - not in a comical sense, to be clear, as this villain is BAD.

I know I have not given much plot information, which might make it hard to decide if you'd like to read it - but I have to encourage you to realize the importance of being spoiler-free! This is a truly unpredictable, refreshing, and super smart YA sci-fi/fantasy novel that is entertaining, and at the same time expects you to exercise your brain.

Follow that Mouse is surprising right up to the end, and keeps you guessing just as long. I highly recommend it!!!

Quick note: There will be a special Friday review this week! So check back!!! :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Society of Dread


The Society of Dread is the second Candle Man book, the sequel to The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance, a middlegrade/YA fantasy novel written by Glenn Dakin.

Do not read the summary or review of this book if you have yet to read the first Candle Man book!!! Avoid spoilers and read my review of The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance instead, here.

Now that Theo Wickland is free of his greedy, secretive, horrible guardian Dr. Saint and has a better understanding of his Candle Man powers, Theo looks forward to a happier, normal life. Yet it looks like anyone with the original Victorian crime fighter's powers is destined to lead anything BUT a normal, happy life, because soon enough he is called upon to help solve and fight a new mystery.

Odd, malicious creatures are stealing bones from graveyards with nothing but bad intentions, and a legendary place called the Great Furnace has been kindled by a new villain. A new villain without any discernible face, at that! So, Theo must combat his reluctance to get involved and embrace his legacy and his feared touch, which can melt anyone as if they are the wax on a burning candle.

Now as an admitted and honestly addicted bibliophile, I have certain traditions I follow. Whenever I read a follow-up in a series I first reread however many books have come beforehand. In my book-addled mind, I believe this to be necessary. Problem is, I have come into a bit of a new book influx, which is really not much of a problem and more of an excellent relief to my bookish needs - but this required me to read Candle Man's Book Two without rereading the first book... Oh dear was this a struggle for me and habitual tendencies. :)

But it wasn't hard to remember how much I loved the first book in the series, and I was eager to jump into The Society of Dread, which is an adventure/fantasy and features a 14-year-old hero.

One of my favorite things about Glenn Dakin's writing style is how, though The Society of Dread is supposed to be taking place in present-day London, there is a sensation of there being no exact time period for the novel. In this, I must yet again compare this awesome book to the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, as I did with the first novel, which is nothing but a HUGE compliment from me.

The Candle Man series has a graphic novel/comic book feel in its depiction's of villains, creatures, and the mythology of a descendant's power passed down to young Theo. I also feel shades of noir at its best with a cool, unique fantasy twist. The entire novel has strong visuals and luxurious descriptions that call to mind Tim Burton movies. This mix is nothing but excellence!

When it comes to our main character, Theo, his secluded, limited life causes both great humor and also an endearing quality that makes his "reluctant hero" shtick anything but a cliche.

The switching viewpoints, weirdly-cool new case, sense of danger, and genuinely moody and suspenseful atmosphere keeps Book Two of the Candle Man saga moving at a quick pace. Add to that suspicious new characters, returning favorites, witty dialogue, and creepy, shadowy, original creatures - you've got magic.

Candle Man's world is easy to get wrapped up in, involved in, and love - just like other "young" fantasy novels, like Harry Potter. You honestly care for the characters and plots, there's twists galore, and an especially shocking revelation near the end that only reaffirms my assertion that this series is an awesome, entertaining read for ALL ages!

Though the end was satisfying and great, it left me wanting Book Three quite a bit, which is apparently titled The Way of the Dodo. But it's not coming out until spring 2012?!?!

Oh well. Maybe with all that time to wait I'll get a chance to satiate my bibliophile tradition and reread the first two books before the third, eh? ;)

IMPORTANT NOTE: I notified all the winners of the Werelove contest today! And I sent out all the discount codes!!! However, there were 4 people who entered without an email address and therefore don't have their discount code! Will the following people please email me at MrsRonWeasley87@aol.com:
"debb" Debby Ct
JoAnn
Dean Y
Venus

Thanks to everyone for entering!!!

Friday, September 17, 2010

How I Made it to Eighteen


How I Made it to Eighteen is a YA graphic novel written by Tracy White.

Stacy Black in the (barely) fictional version of author Tracy White. Stacy is only seventeen years old but has had a nervous breakdown. She can no longer feel happy, and she wants to change that. So she checks into Golden Meadows Mental Hospital to get better. It's told in comic book style squares and cartoon drawings.

I've never read a graphic novel that dealt with such personal, serious issues - I immediately was intrigued by the interesting, unique idea of it, and that never changed as I read through it quite quickly.

The drawings have a blunt, movie-like quality to them - though that sounds odd since the drawings aren't necessarily true-to-life and have a more cartoon feel. It's just the way Stacy curls up on her chair during therapy, the way only the eyes of a character move between two squares, and other noticeably realistic details cause the entire graphic novel to feel, well, real. It's an achievement, that's for sure.

Then there is the fact that How I Made it to Eighteen is a page-turner of a story. I felt for Stacy quickly and felt a need to know what would happen next - 50 page segments would fly by in amazing speed.

The story is blunt and raw in its honesty. Every minutiae of the relationships and dialogue ring true and end up being both saddening and inspiring. I definitely recommend reading it.

However, I would recommend getting it at the library - if only because the $16.99 asking price for this new hardcover seems a bit much for 150 pages of comic book style storytelling. It just goes by so quickly that it seems way too expensive, to me, to spend that much on it.

Which leads me to my only other complaint about How I Made it to Eighteen, which is that I wanted way more. I felt the story could continue for at least another 50 pages, if not more.

But this complaint also is a compliment, since it shows I was involved in Stacy's story.

So, go check it out. Don't think you'll regret it. ;)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Werelove: Dusk Conspiracy



To everybody that entered the Werelove contest: I'm planning on picking the winners randomly today and notifying y'all as soon as possible! So keep your eyes on your email inbox for the news, and your discount code!!!

Werelove: Dusk Conspiracy is a futuristic YA paranormal by the author who provided me so kindly with the opportunity of my last contest, Lakisha Spletzer. By the way, winners will be selected and notified sometimes within the next few days - then the rest of you will get your discount code! :)

Laylah Le Croix is seventeen with a wealthy father, luxurious mansion, and servants that cater to her needs. Thing is, she never sees her father. In fact, he seems to purposely stay away from her and sleep at his office - where he works on his experiments as a brilliant scientist. This leaves Laylah feeling neglected, abandoned and forgotten by the only parent she has. Having been treated this way since her mother's death when she was four-years-old, Laylah is now a quiet, sad, insecure, shell of a girl.

But when Weres, a race that can turn into animal form or human form at will, try to kidnap Laylah, her life suddenly becomes more interesting than the tedious blend of school, where she is bullied, and home, where she is pretty much alone and practically imprisoned.

The question of why Weres would try to kidnap her and who her handsome, cryptic rescuer Donil is are all that occupy Laylah's mind thereafter. It seems that there might be more worth to Laylah's life than she has ever been told, and could ever believe.

First off, I had no idea that Werelove would take place in a time period other than our own, but it does! Quickly it is revealed that this story is taking place a good 210 years in the future, which gives the novel a different world from ours - one that has creatures, wars, lands, and science fiction-esque gadgets in it that I was eager to learn more about.

The book starts off violently, in an interestingly confusing manner. What I mean by that, of course, is that I kind of had no idea what was going on, but I wanted to find out.

Laylah as the main character is effortlessly sympathetic with the unloving tyrant she has as a father. There is a classic feel to her loneliness that calls to mind the genesis of fairy-tale heroines. You root for her, even as you want to shake her with frustration as her naivete and insecurities make her become a little unlikable at times.

Werelove's love interest, Donil, has a macho, bad boy feel about him - but there were times when he didn't come off quite right to me. Just as a personal opinion, sometimes the more romantic aspects on the novel felt a bit cheesy - but Werelove continued to be a fast-paced, rousing book despite that.

My small complaints with Werelove: Dusk Conspiracy were such things as repetitious conversations characters had with Laylah that began to become a bit monotonous, dialogue that didn't always gel as genuine, and impatience with Laylah's lack of growth at a speed I desired - yet I want to stress that these were personal opinions and little hiccups in what was actually a quite engrossing story.

My favorite parts of Werelove, without giving away plot developments, were the striking, riveting race of Weres and the way they operate. The world that the Weres inhabit and share with humans was very alluring to me, and I am interested in the sequel since I feel that this world has only begun to show its first layers, and that there is a lot more coming from Lakisha's creative mind.

Most of Werelove: Dusk Conspiracy's mysteries were left tantalizingly unanswered. Though I wished that some plots had been pushed farther in this first book, I can't help but think this was our first taste of an imaginative, original story - and I was left wanting to know what would happen next.

And before I finish this review, I want to make one thing clear. There is a truthfulness in Laylah's character, a reality in her not shaping up to becoming a kickass superhero quickly. At the heart of this novel is a sheltered girl that has been so thoroughly damaged and victimized psychologically by an uncaring, warden-like father that I appreciate Lakisha Spletzer's restraint in her writing. I understand the patience needed for this character. And I was invested in her from beginning to end.

When you read Werelove: Dusk Conspiracy I wonder if you, too, will wonder if you have just witnessed the birth of an awesome heroine - with a little more time, that is. ;)

Special Note: Because I have been reading more books than usual, in order to post my reviews in a timely manner I will be occasionally posting a new book review on Fridays. This is one of those Fridays! So, please check back! :)

Monday, September 6, 2010

What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader


What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader is a middlegrade novel by Adrianne Ambrose.

Now that Elaine Rewitzer is in middle school, she can't help but want to try out for the one thing she has always secretly wanted to do: cheerleading. But as a comic-book-loving, sitting-far-from-the-popular-crowd-at-lunch girl, how could this dream ever work out the way it is supposed to in her mind? Not to mention still have time for her friends. And somehow get the cutest boy in school to notice her. Written in first-person, diary form, this is Elaine's story of how her life gets way more complicated once she makes it onto the cheerleading squad.

Though the main character, Elaine, is only 11-years-old and in 6th grade, she is easily likable and relatable. After all, don't we all remember middle school? Right away What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader shocked me with how much it reminded me of MY diary back in middle school.

One thing I really, really liked about What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader, and also causes me to recommend it heavily to any middle school girls (but you, too!), was how it really represents a portion of kids that don't get represented that much in books - the struggling, single, apartment living family.

This book, despite its deceptively simple story and light plot, is compulsively readable and truly authentic reading. I can't think of a middle school girl that wouldn't feel strongly connected to Elaine and her feelings and problems.

What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader is down-to-earth, real-life drama. It's charming and understated. Just as Meg Cabot alarmingly catches the essence of 4th grade in the Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls series, Adrianne Ambrose does the same for 6th grade with her exceptional quality of writing.

It honestly captures the painful part of middle school without being melodramatic. Adrianne Ambrose shines a bright light on human behavior that transcends even the middle school setting and enters the adult world. It manages to be sweet and uplifting without trying too hard.

What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader is a fun, easy read with excellent, right-on lessons (not condescending or patronizing) that girls of all ages can relate to. It's a great, accurate, pure portrayal that I recommend to older readers as well as the younger ones.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Contest Alert!!!

Well, hopefully you all know now about my own personal contest (if not, you can scroll down to find it and enter!) - but here is another opportunity to WIN that I thought all you bibliophiles should know about!
Here's all the details:



And if that isn't too easy for all you squinty eyed readers (and aren't we all starting to lose our eyesight? I know I am, lol) -

Three grand prize winners will each win a $100 Visa gift card to celebrate Gena Showalter's new release in her YA series, UNRAVELED. She's hosting a scavenger hunt on her and other awesome authors' blogs. Plus Gena's giving away signed copies of UNRAVELED to five lucky runner-ups. All you have to do is find all eight letters, unscramble them and email the word to Contests(AT)KnightAgency.net. To find out where the letters are hiding in the great internet universe, click here for a contest road map and rules.

This contest runs from Monday, August 30th to Thursday, September 2nd. All entries must be received by Monday, September 6th at midnight ET.

Not convinced you should enter? Here's a bit about Gena Showalter's book and the cool-lookin' cover:



Gena Showalter’s YA series, Intertwined, about sixteen-year-old Aden Stone, a paranormal magnet who has, well had, four souls trapped in his head, continues this fall with the release of UNRAVELED (Harlequin, September 2010). Now, Aden is down to three souls bossing him around, but along the way he’s picked up the title of Vampire King to add to his ever-growing list of worries (which includes a prophecy that says he’ll bite the dust after a knife through the heart).

Sounds pretty good, huh? Think I might enter too, if get the chance.

Hope you all win something, my lovely, book loving followers! :)