Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Trial by Fire


Trial by Fire is the second book in the YA paranormal series Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

I loved Raised by Wolves with my entire book-loving being, so I encourage you to read it before looking at my review of its sequel. You can read my review of the first book here, so would you now kindly avert your eyes if you don't wish to be assaulted with spoilers? Thank you muchly!

Alrighty, so Bryn went through a lot in Raised by Wolves - and it all led up to her becoming the alpha of a whole new pack. Even though she's human. And that's pretty much unheard of.

So, yeah, her pack is pretty different from the other ones out there. But they're happy, and Bryn feels like she's getting the hang of being an alpha.

But then a mangled, bloody teenage boy arrives at the doorstep with desperation in his eyes and announces that he is a Were and that he has come to Bryn - because Bryn helps Weres, and she is his only, and last, hope.

Yet the boy is part of a different pack, and Bryn has no right to claim him - as much as she wants to. Doing so would ignite a civil war, a war that could open the rules to other packs stealing her much sought after female Weres. And Bryn won't do that to her pack. Not even if the only other alternative of sending the boy back to his abusive alpha, as much as it horrifies her.

But Bryn being Bryn decides to see if there is a way around the rules to help him. However, more than his alpha may be looking for the boy - and be putting the entire Cedar Ridge Pack in danger of a new, foreign threat...

I'm telling you, I can never do justice to a book I adore with a synopsis - especially when I'm trying to skirt around spoilers! All I can say is, if you read Raised by Wolves and loved it like I did, you don't need any persuading to read Trial by Fire, right?! Right.

Well, Trial by Fire is intense and excellently written - again Jennifer Lynn Barnes blew my mind. It's gripping and suspenseful to the max, mixed with the vibrant, full-bodied, easily likable characters that we came to covet in Raised by Wolves, and their amazingly layered, deep relationships and bonds. This is one of those books that can't come even a tad close to being accused of superficiality. Nope. Nada.

Then there's the fact that Trial by Fire is also devastatingly romantic without even trying too hard. Jennifer's skill just makes it all feel natural and believable. And then there are the horrifying and heart-wrenching new twists. Wow. I mean, really. Wow.

Bryn is a protagonist to admire - strong, intelligent, loving, independent, unique, and protective. She also provides levity in her camaraderie with her oldest friends, especially the drama-stud Devon and the gun-happy Lake. And the hints of her vulnerability with Chase, the werewolf she has a connection with that is so full of depth that calling him her boyfriend feels cheap.

And I certainly didn't expect there to be any character bad enough to rival the terrifying Rabid from Raised by Wolves - yet Barnes delivers yet again. Its shocking how even in the midst of all the horrors she presents, she still manages to keep a haunting human element involved, making it all the more scary and heart-pounding.

Its impossible to not hang on to every word of Trial by Fire with bated breath, following the paths of these beloved characters I've become so invested in. Caring so much makes the nerve-wracking and frighteningly tense plots all the more nerve-wracking and tense!

As you can see my lovely readers, I was thrilled with Trial by Fire. Jennifer Lynn Barnes creates an experience that is unforgettable to me, and ripe for rereading. Its hard because I don't want to go into any spoiler-possible details as I rave and rave and rave, but I hope you get the gist of how phenomenally awesome it truly is.

Trial by Fire is a YA paranormal that puts many adult bestsellers to shame, being beautiful and stunning and a series worthy of immense praise. And I cannot wait for the next book in the series!!! I can't believe how this fantastic author can manage to keep me, who has read so many books over the years that I often see twists coming long before they occur, guessing and shocked from the beginning of a novel to the end! You're going to want to grab it up when it releases in June!

Which is why reading the sneak peak excerpt into her stand-alone demon slayer book Every Other Day (coming out in December) hardly matters. Because its Jennifer Lynn Barnes. And I'll be there.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Titanic: Unsinkable


Unsinkable is the first book in a YA/middlegrade trilogy called Titanic by author Gordon Korman.

The Titanic is a majestic, unbelievable ship and it is about to set off on its maiden voyage. Four of its passengers already have lives fraught with danger, worry, and hardship - and they don't even know what's coming...

Paddy is a stowaway, accidentally escaping aboard the Titanic to get away from a deadly situation. His trip to America is dampened with a deep grief and a fear of being caught.

Sophie is a first-class passenger that can't avoid the dirty looks of the rest of her class, as she is escorted on to the Titanic with her mother - both of them in handcuffs.

Juliana's father seems intent on gambling away their riches and she is finding it harder and harder to hide from society that he is losing his grip on his sanity.

Alfie has joined his father as a member of the crew - his father a part of the firemen group at the bottom level, Alfie a junior steward to first class. But his employment is based on a lie that could endanger his continued passage on the Titanic.

These four passengers don't yet know how their lives will be changed, or cut short, forever by the fate of the Titanic. But as each day passes, they grow closer to knowing...

I am a big fan of the movie Titanic and love historical fiction, so I knew I wanted to read Titanic, Book One: Unsinkable. And I'm so glad I did! The novel transported me to the time period easily and swept me away to this ominous moment in history.

The characters are believable and very interesting. I found myself honestly caring for each of them and their extremely different personalities and situations. Each separate storyline is equally intriguing and suspenseful. And the knowledge that the Titanic will sink adds an extra dose of nerves for these characters you've come to be involved in. Especially since a shocking situation that happens early on, as well as a big twist that happens late leads you to the conclusion that our protagonists aren't necessarily guaranteed survival.

There is something chilling about reading about this doomed ship and its passengers. I felt Gordon Korman did an excellent job! I definitely recommend Titanic, Book One: Unsinkable, and I look very forward to the opportunity to read the second book in the trilogy!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New Weekly Writing Challenge!


Thought you bibliophile author wannabes might want to know about Inkpop.com's new Weekly Writing Challenge!

This one is coinciding with Through Her Eyes, a supernatural YA by Jennifer Archer - which sounds pretty awesome actually! In it, the main character looks through the lens of her camera and sees a black and white world of the past that is both mysterious and surreal.

Your mission is to take that same concept and write a short story, poem, or essay about a photograph from the past that you'd like to step into! You can enter here, and the deadline is March 31st, so you don't have a ton of time to come up with your brilliance - so hurry!

Two writers and two commenters will be picked to win a copy of Through Her Eyes and their choice of three other HarperTeen books from the catalog!!!

Awesome, right? :)

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Vampire's Promise


The Vampire's Promise is a YA compilation of three of Caroline B. Cooney's previous paranormal/horror books.

There is a house with a shuttered, circular tower that gives off an essence of creepiness. But inevitably, families do eventually move in, as it once was a beautiful place after all. Althea, Devnee, and Lacey all, at different times, find themselves in the tower room - and in that tower room there lives a vampire. A vampire that offers to grant the deepest of wishes and use his power to promise their dreams come true - at a price.

But how much are these girls willing to give him, to make sure they don't lose what they've been given?

I have read a ton of Caroline B. Cooney books, in fact I own a bunch of them. I primarily read them when I was younger, but I was curious to see what I would think of this trilogy-in-one. It takes Deadly Offer, Evil Returns, and Fatal Bargain and puts them all together for our reading pleasure.

First up was Deadly Offer, which was, in my opinion, almost instantly spooky with the way Caroline B. Cooney wrote it, a truly creepy feeling burrows in and stays. The way she makes it more about the darkness in deep desires, rather than just the vampire, is compelling. And I was entranced by the way she presented regret, fear, and loneliness. It reminded me of how great of an author she really is.

The Vampire's Promise does not offer up a hot, swoon-worthy vampire in any sense. He is gross, manipulative, and super duper nightmarish. This makes the novel feel unique in today's realm of romantic vampires. It's magnetic and has a dreamlike tone to the entire book. Very, very good!

The second novel in the compilation, Evil Returns, was just as suspenseful and ominous - though a tad more predictable. And then when the third and final story came around, Fatal Bargain, I found it to be a psychological twister. It jumped around more than the others and was definitely interesting, but lacked the slow build and atmospheric, dark quality of the first two.

The Vampire's Promise is a great book that brings you a sort of ghost-story feeling - but as each book progressed they got a bit more predictable. So I recommend it, but primarily for the experience of the first book in the trio, and most of the second. However, you might find each book to be just as twisty as the next, so I recommend it all the more!

*Quick Note: If you like to join in on live chats with authors, I want to let you know about another one Inkpop.com is hosting! On Wednesday, March 30, 2011, Ellen Schreiber will be paying a visit to inkpop for a Live Chat. Check out all the details and how to join in on the conversation here! See ya Monday, crazy book lovers!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Vixen


Vixen is a YA historical and the first in a new series titles The Flappers by Jillian Larkin.

It's the Roaring Twenties and seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody is a good girl. She goes to a good school, gets good grades, and is engaged to a good Chicago family young man. But underneath all that she is entranced with the mere idea of flappers, with their bobbed hair, booze, and smoky speakeasy lives. Is it possible to explore the world that so fascinates her before she is married and firmly part of high society forever...?

Clara Knowles, Gloria's visiting cousin, has seen it all and done it all - but only a select few know. So Clara decides to take the opportunity to reinvent herself and become the innocent farm girl everybody believes her to be and devote herself to making sure Gloria's wedding goes off without a hitch. But will her secrets, some of which nobody knows, come back to haunt her...?

Gloria's best friend Lorraine Dyer has always lived in Gloria's shadow, and she's sick of it. Especially when it comes to Marcus, the extremely good-looking and charming good friend of Gloria's, whom Lorraine has been besotted with since pretty much forever. His eyes, apparently, are only for Gloria. But Gloria already has her rich fiance - and Lorraine feels its her duty to make things a bit more fair...

It's 1923 - a time when secrets are dangerous, the mob is around every corner, romances are crushed, propriety is abandoned behind closed doors, young girls reinvent themselves, and anything can happen!

Vixen is a juicy novel, full to the brim with rich details of the flapper lifestyle, loveless engagements, fragile wealth, shocking divorces, lies, heartwrenching crushes, and forbidden attraction. Though sometimes it feels a bit trashy and fluffy, its undeniably fun!

The three main characters are interesting, but do occasionally feel rather empty and similar. Perhaps Vixen could have been better, but it still has this magnetic, if a tad disappointing in its lack of depth, pull to it. Maybe its the fact that it takes place in 1923, a time so lush with detail and flavor. Jillian Larkin, I feel, does a great job at presenting the time period for the reader and then wrapping us in these three lives that take surprising routes.

Despite some slowing of momentum and plot direction in the middle of Vixen, the later twists bring a bit more spark and take it to an, admittedly, ridiculously and kind of awesomely romantic place. And it even becomes surprisingly non-cliche as it nears closer to the end, giving fresh avenues for advancement in the next books.

In fact, with its dramatic, pitch-perfect, highly climatic end and startling cliffhanger, Vixen is one of those books that you don't simply want to read the sequel - you need to read the sequel!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dark Life


Dark Life is a YA sci-fi adventure by Kat Falls.

Ty was the first baby born deep undersea. His parents were two of the first settlers to start farming the ocean floor, after large portions of the land had begun sinking into the water. He loves his homestead, and at fifteen is already thinking of the land he will inherit and work once he reaches eighteen. The farmers below the surface provide most of the food to the "Topsiders", those who still live in the cramped spaces of land, and the commonwealth government, that took power in the days of panic, subsidize their needs.

However, when outlaws begin attacking the settlers' homes, crops and livestock and become more and more dangerous, the commonwealth hold back their subsidies until the settlers catch the outlaws. This is an outrage to Ty, as they are threatening their way of life and refusing to do their job to help. But he can't stand the thought of living Topside and begins fighting for his home.

He is joined by Gemma, a Topsider that came subsea to look for her brother. Together they will uncover secrets and face true danger that will potentially destroy everything...

I was instantly compelled by the presentation of this watery, dark world and the believable, inevitable separation of cultures that would result. And the beginning? Whoo-boy! Stellar - a creepy, bloody ship, a clearly unstable situation, and the introduction of Gemma and Ty. I immediately wanted answers and was thoroughly intrigued.

Kat Falls has created a truly well-written, vividly detailed and realistically described world of under-the-sea living, with both its threats and beauties. All of this is mixed superbly with a controlling government that continues to take advantage of a crisis and the fight for the right to live freely.

Its scary and page-turning, taking these great, likable characters and putting them in smart, suspenseful situations. Dark Life is completely without patronization or preaching, and instead presents mature, capable, intelligent fifteen-year-olds.

In my book loving, bibliophile opinion, Dark Life is a theatric, thrilling adventure - with enough lies, deceptions, secrets, and mysteries to make every page count. It's a unique and fulfilling tale with shocks and surprises - truly awesome!

I think Dark Life is a great book for any sci-fi/adventure fan of any age - as it is an excellently executed one!

And I am very happy there is a sequel, Rip Tide, coming out soon!!! :)

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Branding


The Branding is a new YA fantasy by first-time author Micaela Wendell.

The forests at the edge of Morwen's elfin village have always been dangerous. There have been rumors of children disappearing for good. These stories have just been legend to Morwen until her father becomes one of the missing, and she becomes determined to bring him home.

In Aren, her village, female elves aren't allowed to learn how to fight - but Morwen does it anyway. As she is training she turns sixteen and becomes the target of many an uncouth male elf in the village as her beauty grows with her. But when suddenly her baby sister Brynn is taken into the woods, Morwen hopes that the training she has received is enough - and heads right into the forest to save her.

She does find her sister - but her release comes with a price. The horrible, dark wizard Tobias will let little Brynn go if Morwen will stay as his apprentice. She agrees, and he places a "brand" on her - a brand that will slowly turn her into a terrible creature that will be a slave to Tobias and unable to execute her own will.

A chance meeting with a handsome elfin boy gives her hope of a solution. He vows to help her get to a wizard that can lift the spell. But they don't have much time - Morwen is already losing her beauty, it won't be much longer before her sanity is lost as well...

I felt like the premise of The Branding sounded pretty good - a high fantasy YA adventure always sounds good to me! ;)

There is definite creepy imagery and little Brynn is adorable - however I did feel like the writing itself could've used a tad more work. It just felt a bit rushed and stilted, making me feel like I was reading something someone wrote than being able to truly immerse myself in the story.

The ritual in which the brand is placed on Morwen was extremely gross and creepy, though, and I must give props to Micaela Wendell for that! It made The Branding suddenly take a much darker, shocking turn. The tale ends up being a creative quest, mixing adventure, romance, and danger. So even though I think some of the dialogue could have been improved, and maybe another rewrite would have made everything a bit cleaner, The Branding was very easy to read and fast paced. A very interesting premise, with a surprisingly dark twist!

I may not necessarily clamor for the sequel that is in the works, but I would certainly be curious to see where the story goes.

*And a couple quick notes to all you bibliophiles -

Bestselling author Lauren Oliver will be paying a visit to inkpop.com for a live chat on Sunday! To be involved or find out more click here!

Also, new Weekly Writing Challenge at inkpop.com just launched! This one coincides with Claudia Gray's new book Afterlife, the fourth novel in her Evernight series! In this one you are asked to write a short story, poem or essay that takes two of the characters and puts them in a great challenge they must overcome together. The prizes are still fantastic and the winners still include both writers and commenters! Check out all the details and how to enter/comment here.

Hope you all had a great St. Patrick's Day and are about to have a readerlicious weekend!!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Red Riding Hood


Red Riding Hood is the YA novel based off the new movie coming out - written by Sarah Blakely-Cartwright, based off David Leslie Johnson's original screenplay.

Valerie has lived her whole life in a tiny village where everyone know everyone, and where every full moon the villagers barricade themselves and their livestock inside their homes, leaving but one sacrifice out of doors. This is the way it has been for generations. This is the way they appease the Wolf that otherwise would terrorize the entire village, as it had in the days of old.

When Valerie was only seven, she did the unthinkable and stepped outside one of those dreaded nights, hoping to think of a way to save her pet goat, who was to be that night's sacrifice. That night Valerie came face to face with the Wolf and felt the depth of its evil down to her very core. Since that night, Valerie has always been different from other village girls. She doesn't become breathless at the sight of the town's most handsome (not to mention most rich) boy their age, Henry, or have all that much interest in romance at all.

But then Peter is back. Her childhood friend, whom she had always felt a deep connection and whom had left years ago under a shroud of dark mystery. Suddenly Valerie is slammed with feelings she's never felt before. Intense feelings. Yet before they have a chance to really acknowledge each other's presence, the Wolf attacks.

And this time it is not scheduled. This time it is a human that has been brutally slain.

This time it is Valerie's sister.

The Wolf no longer is abiding by the longtime held customs, and seems to seek Valerie out. But this is a village that does not handle "odd" well. So, Valerie becomes the focus of the townspeople's suspicion, and in the midst of Valerie's grief, she finds herself in danger from all sides.

With Red Riding Hood's disturbing opener, we are introduced to a refrshingly headstrong and independent protoganist in Valerie. There is something kind of cool and gothic about the story and the way it is written - with a definite creepy vibe. Plus, there's a simmering sexiness and barely restrained feeling of danger that kept me interested and ramped up the pace.

One thing, though, was the romance felt superficial, though certainly strongly presented. And at times I felt like the story stalled a bit in the second half and wandered without purpose. However, the question of the idenity of the Wolf was a most intriguing puzzle - and as the village dips into the madness of panic, things really got spooky.

There is something very ominous about Red Riding Hood, as the paranoia drips over everything like heavy, thick, sticky syrup. And the way people became sick with violence and fear was quite effective. But the ending, which is missing and requests the reader to visit a website to read, is a tad disappointing. I was left a bit annoyed, I admit.

But all in all Red Riding Hood was a very good tale and twisted new take on that fable we all know. And I can't help but be curious in seeing it on the big screen. Will you join me in that sentiment? Check out the book!

*I received a review copy of Red Riding Hood from Hatchette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Guest Post with Bitter Melon author Cara Chow!


As a big fan of Cara Chow's debut novel Bitter Melon, I am thrilled to welcome her to the Bibliophile Support Group to share a little about herself.

Read my review of her book here, and then delve more into the author here:

I’m not exactly a Luddite, but I am slow to pick up new technologies. While I embrace innovation on an intellectual level, on a gut level I am a rigid creature of habit who is prone to stress and resistant to change. I’m the type of person who will wear the same tee shirt or jeans for years until they get holes. Then I’ll go to the exact same store to look for the exact same shirt or jeans, only to find that that model has been discontinued. Another example: my mom bugged me for years to get a DVD player, but I insisted that my VCR worked fine, so why spend the money? (“Why does she sound so annoyed?” I thought. “I’m an even bigger tight wad than she is. She should be impressed.”) Then one day, I went into Blockbusters to rent a film, only to discover that there were no VHSs, only DVDs. Only then did I break down, join the rest of the world, and get a DVD player. But even then, I was behind because everyone else had already abandoned Blockbusters for Netflix. When my husband bought our digital camera for our family reunion in Hong Kong and China, I was intimidated by this new machine, so I made him learn how to use it. During the entire trip, I kept slapping him on shoulder and pointing every time I wanted him to take a photo. He went home with a very sore shoulder.

So how does this quirk relate to my writing life? I’ve sent emails to my colleagues in New York, who are three hours ahead of me, late at night or on weekends, thinking that they would read my messages at 9am the following workday after strolling into the office and downloading my emails from their desktops while sipping their morning coffee. Instead, I’d get replies at 9:30pm or on a Sunday. “How did they do that?” I’d think, totally astonished, until I realized that other people have Blackberries and iPhones.

There is one exception to my resistance to technology. I embraced the word processor and the PC as soon as they came out (or rather, as soon I found out about them, which may not be the same thing). I’ve always suffered from a severe writer’s block that is related to my thinking process—which is not very linear—and my fine motor skills—or lack thereof. I’ve always had difficulty using a pen or pencil. My fingers strain to form the letters, and I either produce misshapen letters or skip letters all together unless I concentrate on my fingers, which impedes my ability to articulate ideas. The computer freed me to write without worrying about my penmanship. I could delete and cut-and-paste. I felt like I had traded in crutches for wings. Without my computer, Bitter Melon may have taken two decades to complete instead of one!


You know, I recognize a lot of me in that lack of technology aspect of Cara Chow's personality. How about you, bibliophiles?

Thanks for joining us Cara! I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that I can't wait for whatever you'll bring us next! :)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Angel


Angel is the seventh book, as well as the penultimate novel, in the YA Maximum Ride series by author James Patterson.

First off - do not read this review if you haven't read Books 1 - 6! Don't ruin the ride for yourself, you crazy, impatient book addict! ;)

Now, for all of you who actually have business reading this...

Max isn't herself. She is heartbroken. She hates being heartbroken. But Fang, the flock member that was her best friend and became more, took off. And when a new threat seems to be breaking across the horizon with a new organization called the Doomsday Group, Max misses his company all the more. But Dylan, who hasn't made his devotion to Max hidden, stays steadfastly by her side, ready to help. This annoys Max. Though sometimes... she can't help but be drawn to him...

But as the Doomsday Group seems to explode overnight and even some of the flock seem to begin agreeing with their insane, antihuman rants - Max starts them off on a global search to figure out WTH is going on!

That is the extent of the details I feel I can safely give away.

And did Angel follow through with the series' improvement in Fang? In my opinion - yes!!!

Though I feel Fang is a weaker character when he is away from the flock, all the characters are back to being themselves - including having sweet Angel back, instead of the Angel that turned backstabber inexplicably for a while. There are some creepy twists, and reemerging of characters from earlier books that continues to return the much needed flare of the original books.

Back is the edgy sci-fi experimentation and mind control gone awry plots! And the fast, clipped pace of Angel helped to make it a swift, entertaining read. I was honestly surprised just how much I enjoyed it!

And despite my earlier belief that Fang is a weaker character without Max (which I still think is true, but...), he is kinda hot. Mmm hmm.

Angel is intense and heart pounding, one second action-packed, the next second heart-wrenching! The end is a cliffhanger among cliffhangers, and made my heart soar for a series that I feel has drastically improved within these last two books and left me happily desperate for the next and FINAL book!!!

Wow. What a difference two books can make!

I don't know about you but I will be flocking to the next book as soon as its available.

Forgive me. I had to say it. Lol. :)

*I received a review copy of Angel from Hatchette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Once Was Lost


Once Was Lost is a new YA literary fiction release by acclaimed author Sara Zarr.

Sam's mother is in rehab after a DUI that brought her longtime problem to light in a small town where news travels fast. Her father, a local pastor, doesn't seem as invested in Sam as he is in his congregation. Sam struggles with the hypocrisy and her sudden lack of faith in the belief system she has held since infancy. She misses her mother terribly - because even though she had to sometimes help her put on her lipstick when her hands shook too badly, living alone with her dad is like living with a stranger she knows too well.

But then a thirteen-year-old soloist in the church choir goes missing, and Sam's faith falters even more. Sam joins in the search, but nothing seems to keep her from feeling as though she is sinking into nothingness...

Once Was Lost has a deeply somber, realistically depressed tone about it. At first it is hard to grasp Sam's character as she is almost invisible within the heavy fog of hurt and doubt, but her pain is sympathetic. And the cloud of hypocrisy lingers over each side of the line, slowly peeling away the judgment and instead acknowledging human weakness. It is written exquisitely by Sara Zarr, and is fantastic for fans of Sarah Dessen. Of which I most definitely am one.

When Jody, the thirteen-year-old girl who goes missing, disappears, the portrayal is unglamorous and stark. It feels unsettlingly real. The cameras, the fear, the suspicion, the dreading the worst, the mobs of people you've never met crying at the public vigil - Zarr presents it all without gloss.

As someone who knows God exists, the doubting and questioning of God that Sam's character does was sometimes a bit much for me. However, Sam's character kept me invested and I didn't feel as if Sara was laying out a view or an opinion, but rather relaying a journey of Sam's tired soul.

There is a lyrical, truly sad prose about Once Was Lost that makes it both hard to put down and hard to read. It is haunting and believable - and I was honestly scared to find out what happened to Jody, and who it was in the town that abducted her.

By the end, I was convinced with this lovely novel that ends in a way that I will in no way spoil - but left me the urge to cry. I encourage all you perfectly insane bibliophiles to read Once Was Lost and find out for yourself how it all ends up.

*I received a review copy of Once Was Lost from Hatchette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fang


Fang is the sixth book in the Maximum Ride YA series by constantly-on-the-bestseller's-list James Patterson.

So, anybody who has read my blog for a while now knows that I was a HUGE fan of the first three Maximum Ride books and then was VERY disappointed with the fourth and fifth. If you haven't read the series you should avoid this review for spoilers - and go pick up the blockbuster Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment.

Thing is, as much as I was upset with the turn the plots took in The Final Warning and Max, I still held out hope that maybe, just MAYBE, Fang could get the series out of its preachy, overtly overtoned with environmental issues rut.

And... it did!!!

Okay, I'm still not sure that it was AS good as the first three. But in this one we get a bit more romance between Fang and Max (which is shockingly better than what I felt were painfully awkward scenes in books three and four), and besides a brief humanitarian mission at the beginning of the novel - more focus on the flock!!!

Fang puts more of the plot on the horrible experimentation that caused Max and the flock to have wings in the first place, the threat of more tests, and a newly created winged boy - the incredibly good looking and apparently perfect Dylan - whom Max is told was made for her as her other half.

Yep. Max doesn't take that too well.

Besides that, I don't want to go too much into the plots because there are actual TWISTS and TURNS that I don't want to give away! Some other comments I can give, though are:

Max had been lacking her original feisty, tough sass that made her an irresistible protagonist in the first three books and it is back! Her sarcasm and lack of trust have returned, bringing back the level of paranoia that always gave the Maximum Ride series an edge.

When my hope really started to flourish, however, was when an awesomely funny scene with a doctor experimenting on himself occurs - you'll know what I'm talking about when you read it. My happy vibes start humming when the flock leaves all the "saving the world one person at a time" slosh behind to go home again - where their independent streak kicks in and more mystery is introduced beyond the stuff that's been the focus in the, in my opinion, very weak The Final Warning and Max.

There was actually breathless excitement and shocks, oh my! And some of the stuff that happens (my lips are sealed) was actually painful to me, because I was actually CARING again!!!

Fang launches Maximum Ride back to its cinematic beginnings and was actually... cool! And it actually made me look forward to Angel, the next book! Maybe you'll disagree, but I'm thinking you won't. ;)

*I received a review copy of Fang from Hatchette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

SPECIAL NOTE: All you aspiring writers NEED to know about a contest over at inkpop.com, where you could have the chance to be PUBLISHED in HarperCollins upcming release A Midsummer Night's Dream! Find out all the details here!!!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Consumed


Consumed is Kate Cann's sequel to the totally freaky YA horror novel Possessed.

As loyal Bibliophile Support Group readers, you guys know what I thought of Possessed. Need a refresher? Click here to read my review. The gist of it is - it creeped me out. But it was awesome.

So, obviously I was pretty excited for the second book, right? Right.

I'm always tightlipped when it comes to giving away any details about sequels, as I tend to be a strong believer in if-you-loved-the-first-book-enough-to-wanna-read-the-second-why-do-you-wanna-know-anything-about-it-instead-of-just-read-it-and-be-constantly-surprised???

Yeah, I'm a bit strange. But I embrace it! As all of us eccentric book addicts should!!!

Anyway, I'll only give you a teeny tiny amount of info about Consumed to whet your already starved appetites. BUT if you have not read Possessed DO NOT READ this review!!!

Okay, now let's get down to business.

Rayne believes the threat is over. Morton's Keep, the ancient, remote mansion she works and lives at has a horrifying and sickening past that lingers there like syrup never cleaned off the counter. Her romance with the seductive and enigmatic St John ended in terror, as his lineage to the legendary previous resident and host of sadistic parties at Morton's Keep, Sir Simeon Lingwell, was revealed - as was his desire to follow in Lingwell's disgusting footsteps.

But it's over. Rayne and Ethan, a member of a group of protectors of the area with knowledge of the Keep's dark past and continuing evil, set fire to the forgotten dungeon. All the evil has been burned.

Or has it just changed?

After the manager Ms. Barton leaves in a panic over a family illness, a new, attractive, and charismatic woman takes over the Keep and has some new ideas to keep it afloat, money-wise. Rayne is torn over the other employees' anger over the changes and the new manager's kind and attentive focus on herself. After all, what is there to worry about now that the evil is gone?

But will the evil of Morton's Keep ever really be eradicated...?

I was admittedly apprehensive to read Consumed, as Possessed was one of those books that suddenly makes your ordinary dark hallway look sinister when you're reading the book at night by yourself. But I was also super excited, because Possessed was equal measures of spooky, crazy suspenseful, and shocking.

However, the start of the book surprised me because I felt like it was bit shaky getting off the ground. The characters felt a bit off to me, kind of how you have to reintroduce yourself to a friend you only see during the summer. But this could be just me, as I didn't get a chance to reread Possessed before jumping into Consumed.

Despite it though, the creepy factor set in pretty fast - laying on the Shining-like feeling of a building being alive and rather unpleasant. Yet Consumed still came across to me as uneven at times. Didn't feel quite as smooth and riveting as Possessed did - though still scary and very easy to read on a page-turning scale.

But right around page 100 - BAM! - disturbing and unsettling stuff started happening in spades. There were a couple of chilling turn of events that had me, well, on edge and bothered. I'm sure once you read the book, you'll know what scenes I am talking about. They'd be hard to miss.

There is a constant ominous sensation in Consumed, like something really frightening and/or nightmare inducing is going to happen around the next turn - and it usually is. The deep gothic horror at the English countryside historical site can be hard to stand at times, as it kinda just really, well, disturbed me.

Kate Cann is great at freaking you out and soaking everything in a haunting atmosphere. And there is a strong magnetic pull about it. I didn't feel that Consumed reached the same level of horror and revelations as Possessed did, and I wasn't in love with how much focus ended up being on the potential feelings between Rayne and Ethan, BUT Consumed was still a great read that will rankle and scare you - even if you do read it in bright, cheerful sunshine.

Which I still suggest. Lol. ;)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How to Slay a Dragon


How to Slay a Dragon is a new middlegrade fantasy novel by Bill Allen.

Greg Hart is normal, kinda scrawny kid. He likes to write out elaborate fantasy hero sequences in his journal, with himself as the star of course, and spend time alone in his treehouse. Being twelve and about ready to start seventh grade is tough enough without getting chased by the school bully, so he tends to avoid as much conflict as possible.

But when he wakes up by the prodding of a rather rude stick and sees a bunch of cloaked and excited-looking faces, he is unable to avoid the situation. Apparently he has been taken to another world called Myrth, and the magicians of this land believe him to be a legendary dragon slayer prophesied to save the King's kidnapped daughter.

Um, yeah right.

Greg tries his hardest to convince them that they have the wrong guy - but no one believes him. No prophecy has ever been wrong before.

But Greg is afraid that he's been yanked into their world of sorcery and danger to prove that, unfortunately, there is a first time for everything.

Sounds like a fun premise, right? And it is!

It starts off humorous and imaginative, but my initial issue was that I thought the narrative flow felt stilted. I was unable to really connect with the story, and some of the characters that I got the feeling I was supposed to like just came across as annoying to me. And sometimes Greg's hesitance (which is understandable) read more like cowardice.

I was, admittedly, having a bit of a hard time getting into How to Slay a Dragon and began to get a bit *ack* bored.

However, as the novel progressed and I kept reading a couple new characters were introduced: a enigmatic traveler named Nathan and a pretty creepy witch named Hazel. And with the awesome name of the witch and the suddenly deeper fantasy shape and mysteriousness that How to Slay a Dragon was taking, I got a glimmer of hope - and hooray, it improved!

How to Slay a Dragon ended up having a fun sense of adventure, of a quest. And I started to recognize some cleverness and wit that I think I may have been missing earlier on. With Greg as our unsuspecting hero and surprising twists that kept things interesting, I began to enjoy the story and see how boy readers would probably gobble this up!

Though there were odd bits that I still felt like skimming, I found that the characters (even the one I initially found annoying) were colorful and delightful - and I could see where the sequel could be something to keep an eye out for.