Saturday, April 30, 2011

**Weekly Writing Challenge!**


Another week, another opportunity to win Harper Teen books!!! And stretch your creative talents!

The newest Weekly Writing Challenge is running in accordance with Tara Hudson's Hereafter. This new supernatural YA features Amelia, a girl who faintly believes she is dead but can't remember anything about her life. She just aimlessly floats in a river, wondering if she'll ever remember who she once was.

But then a boy falls in the water she's been floating in. Her desire to save him changes everything...

I don't know about you, bibliophiles, but I think that Harper Teen's books have been sounding a little too good lately!!! I think this sounds awesome!

So, anyway - your challenge is to write a story, essay or poem that centers on overcoming a great barrier to communicate with someone. This time around the author of Herafter, Tara Hudson, will actually choose the two writing winners!!! The two comment winners will be random - but y'all will win a copy of Hereafter and three other Harper Teen books of your choice!!!

You have to enter by May 5th, so check out all the details here!

See ya on Monday! :)

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Map of the Known World


A Map of the Known World is a YA contemporary fiction novel written by Lisa Ann Sandell.

Cora Bradley's life as she knew it changed dramatically the night her rebellious older brother Nate died in a car crash. Every day her dad comes home from work without a word to her, the only sound marking his presence in the house is the clinking of the ice in his gin and tonic. Her mom's arrival is different - a quavery, desperate search for Cora that is abated only by Cora's quick arrival at her side in the kitchen.

Nothing is the same. Her home is never happy.

Cora feels trapped in the small town of her upbringing, deadened by the constant assault of sameness. She dreams of leaving, of seeing the world. To keep herself sane, Cora draws. She draws maps to the places she wants to go. And the only good thing about going back to school is the art class she gets to take.

But in that art class is Damian - the handsome, quiet boy who was Nate's best friend and the passenger in the car the night Nate died - yet walked away without harm. Cora's parents have taught her to hate him, have told her that Damian took Nate down the wrong the path, the path that made Nate lost to them long before the accident - but she begins to see something else. He's a brilliant artist, maybe even sweet. But is forgiving Damian betraying her brother?

It doesn't take long for the lonely, sad words of A Map of the Known World to sink in and permeate your soul. Sandell makes the prose somehow rhythmical, lyrical and poetic while remaining approachable and easy to relate to. Cora's depression is a real, deep depression - one that is hard to reemerge from as you are reading. All the details provided in the novel about school, students, even the halls, scream REAL LIFE!

I was blown away by the introspective sensitivity and believably painful tone that is like Sarah Dessen's in its complete and utter elegance and realism. The underlying desperation and suffocation of Cora's spirit is shakening and gripping, and I was glued to the pages, rooting for her happiness.

There is a magnetic pull to the characters. Damian is an enigmatic romantic conundrum and Cora a confused, curious, passionate girl caged in by the circumstances of life. There is an exploration of knowing those you love beyond the blood ties and how much courage you have to try. It's a bittersweet examination of how life can change you, about how it can make you grow or disintegrate - depending on your choices.

A Map of the Known World is a mature, beautiful, touching, engrossing novel from the first page to its last. I was fully invested in these characters, in a state of suspense really. What a satisfying, inspiring, amazingly written read! A slice of life, when life isn't so great. Exceptional.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Splendor Falls


The Splendor Falls is a stand-alone YA supernatural novel by Rosemary Clement-Moore.

I'm a huge fan of Clement-Moore's Maggie Quinn series, having read and reviewed both Prom Dates from Hell and Hell Week - both excellent, witty, fast-paced YA paranormals. Sadly, I still haven't gotten the chance to read Highway to Hell, the third Maggie Quinn book, but I was super-excited to get this great author's stand-alone now in a paperback, gorgeous cover - a whopping 513 pages!!!

Sylvie Davis has a shattered life. She was a ballerina with a promising career at only sixteen, when her leg broke in a normally routine move and everything was over. In the midst of her pain and continued mourning of her father's death, Sylvie isn't pleased with her mother's marriage. To a shrink, at that. A shrink that wants to diagnose her.

But in order for them to have a delightful honeymoon, the newlywed couple send Sylvie off from her Manhattan home to Alabama where a cousin Sylvie barely knows is renovating their ancestral home and turning it into an inn. It's a small town full of family history that Sylvie has never been interested in, until she realizes her father used to summer here, and she grows desperate to know why he never spoke about it.

Then there's the handsome guy with the accent that is staying with his dad in the not-quite-open inn, working on a mysterious project. And the Tom Sawyer charmer of another long-resident family line in the area that keeps flirting with her, making her wince at the "inevitability" of the Davis and Maddox lines to "merge".

Sylvie just wants to dance again, she's not interested in all the soap-like drama and Southern culture. But she can't deny, as much as she wants to, that she's seeing things. A young woman running through the forest. Cries in the night. A chill deeper than a draft on the stairs. A man glaring out the window.

She is scared to death that after losing the ability to pursue her passion, she is now losing her mind too...

Rosemary Clement-Moore opens The Splendor Falls with a killer, quotable opening line and perfectly dramatic prologue. And it doesn't take long to sense the deep, if subtle, pain that Sylvie is in, but for a while I felt that was all I knew about her. But the hints of visions and/or hallucinations were alluring and enigmatic to what may come.

I was surprised at how slow moving the novel was. It featured lovely character development, giving the reader time to come to really know Sylvie and her grounded, relatable, believable personality. Her bond with her adorably small and sweet dog, Gigi, is also featured - making Sylvie all the more likable and perfect for us animal lovers. Yet I can't deny that not a lot was happening - for a long time. There were the slightest suggestions of the supernatural, but far less than what I was expecting.

However, The Splendor Falls continued to be riveting in other, less expected ways: the rich Southern tone, without cliche or disdain, was very appealing, the palpably strong chemistry between Sylvie and Rhys (the accented hottie), the questionable histories of the town's established families (of which Sylvie is part of), and luxurious atmospheric tone.

At one point I felt I knew exactly where The Splendor Falls was going, and I wasn't happy about it. I kept waiting for the slow, contemplative burn to progress to the point of a fantastic fireworks display - but that didn't happen. It's not that the novel never reached a peak - it did. It's just that what I expected of The Splendor Falls was not at all what this novel ended up being. Sylvie's story was far more a view of healing and hurt, rather than a page-turning, Maggie Quinn-like, fast-paced Veronica Mars meets Buffy awesomeness. But once I realized this, I was able to truly enjoy The Splendor Falls and accept that the opposite can be just as awesome, just different.

Rosemary Clement-Moore presents us with a strong, yet understated, romantic pull and delicately powerful contemporary fiction elements decorated with hints and whispers of ghosts, magic, and pasts long forgotten. It's earthy and patient - a bit long maybe, but a lovely, beautiful novel with excellently portrayed characters and an end that was heartrending, breathless, and insanely suspenseful.

The Splendor Falls ended up being a poignant, thoughtful, sensitive, horrifying, chilling, fantastic, sweet, romantic, extremely satisfying YA tale that I look forward to reading a second time with the right expectations. Because with that, I think it'll be even better. Which is honestly saying something.

I sat the book down happy. And I think you will too.

Oh, and by the way - that prediction I had about where the book was going? I was wrong. Another plus for The Splendor Falls!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Suburb Beyond the Stars


The Suburb Beyond the Stars is the second book in the Norumbegan Quartet by M. T. Anderson, the first of which I reviewed on Friday - The Game of Sunken Places. You can read my review of the first book here. And I encourage you to avoid the synopsis and review of The Suburb Beyond the Stars until you have read the first book - spoilers are inevitable, otherwise!

Okay, so assuming that those of you that haven't read The Game of Sunken Places have stopped reading if you have no interest in spoiling yourself...

Brian and Gregory are back at home in Vermont and hard at work in designing the next intergalactic game to finally decide who wins the war between the Thusser Horde and the Norumbegan Empire. They're having a blast, until odd things start to happen.

Like a mysterious man following Brian, quite persistently, after his cello practice. Like an attempted murder. Like Gregory's cousin Prudence disappearing.

So, the two decide to go back to where they previously played The Game of Sunken Places and find Prudence. Everything seems tied to that. But what they find is a new suburb that has sprouted up around her formerly solitary house. Yet that is still not the strangest thing going on - all the clocks show a different time, the children ride around in dazed circles chanting odd and disquieting rhymes, and the parents calmly announce that no one should be out on the streets after curfew because Gelt the Winnower will be about.

Every day another person seems to disappear, and Brian and Gregory are nowhere nearer to finding Prudence.

And this all points to something bigger and far more dangerous - a battle that is spreading from a game board to innocent bystanders...

Anyone who read The Game of Sunken Places and was a big fan of it like I was will be absolutely thrilled with The Suburb Beyond the Stars. It takes the scare-factor of the first book and increases it about tenfold, setting a far more creepy and dangerous tone in the very first chapter. I was instantly WOWed!

But don't think the pumping up of the frightening aspect of the novel takes away from the utterly perfect whimsical quality Anderson brings. Nope, still there in spades! I love the feeling of camaraderie and honest friendship of Brian and Gregory, the two of which are so enchantingly written I am besotted with their dazzlingly colorful and still somehow relatable personalities. The Suburb Beyond the Stars brings us the first real strain on the closeness between them, and I won't give away why...

The Suburb Beyond the Stars is even more jolting and surprising than the first book - which is awesome! The mystery and intrigue are even more gripping than before, even more disturbing, even more brilliant - I was (and am) totally into it! The characters are provided with even more depth and believability while we are presented with an even more entertaining, please-just-one-more-page-till-I-put-it-down read!!!

With The Suburb Beyond the Stars being this phenomenally refreshing and original in the intelligently written sci-fi elements, classic adventure tone, and overall fun way it is - how amazing is book three (The Empire of Gut and Bone, coming soon!) going to be?

This is an honest-to-goodness cool, clever, creepy, incredible book that is great for all ages - young and old!!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Inkpop.com Update!


New Writing Challenge - this time running alongside the release of Josephine Angelini's Starcrossed - a new twist on greek mythology mixed in with YA awesomeness! ;)

Your challenge is to take a myth, legend, or historical text and turn it into a contemporary poem or story! You have until April 28th to enter - and remember you can win not only Starcrossed, but other books of your choosing from the Harper Teen catalog as well!

And commenters, as well as entrants, get a chance at winning! To enter and find out more, click here!!!

The Game of Sunken Places


The Game of Sunken Places is a fantasy/sci-fi adventure for YA/middlegrade readers, written by M. T. Anderson.

Brian and Gregory have been best friend's since they were eight, though people puzzle at why. Gregory's outgoing, gregarious personality and near constant wisecracks don't mirror him to the quieter, contemplative, sometimes shy Brian. But nobody's speculations have ever come close to tearing them apart.

When Gregory's uncle sends an invitation to spend time at his mansion and bring a "companion," Gregory instantly thinks this will be a great way to make their thirteenth year an adventure.

The adventure they were expecting is not the one they get. Gregory's uncle drives a horse-driven buggy and wears clothes from a different century. The butler asks strange questions, such as if the boys' clothes would give off a poisonous chemical if burned. And there's a game with a well-drawn version of the mansion and grounds on it in the attic that changes and expands, inexplicably. It's called The Game of Sunken Places.

Evidence seems to be pointing to Brian and Gregory being part of this game - an interactive game - and it's sure not Monopoly. This one includes real-life trolls, kingdoms from other worlds, the solving of annoyingly complicated riddles and the forcing of them wearing uncomfortably starched britches.

And someone is going to need to win.

First off - I really love the old-fashioned looking cover. It matches extremely well with the contents of The Game of Sunken Places and the tone it gives off. M. T. Anderson has won the National Book Award for good reason - The Game of Sunken Places was a pure joy to read. It mixes silly, outrageous, funny situations, oddball characters (under which category you can even include the admittedly more grounded but still delightfully eccentric Brian and Gregory) and elements of a mystery novel, as well as a sci-fi/fantasy.

Personally, I found The Game of Sunken Places to be thoroughly entertaining, hilarious, original, and... fun!!! What's fantastic about this book is how it is should be so easily enjoyed by truly any age group that loves an excellently written story. A story that manages to be creepy, enigmatic, laugh-out-loud funny, and truly unexpected!

The characters are dynamically drawn and easy to like, and the surprising twists and classic-like quality of the novel give it a unique appeal. I really, really liked it!!!

Now, this is saying something. Because when I was reading this particular title, I was rather exhausted. It was one of those work weeks when you seem to never get enough sleep, and kind of zombie your way through the day - you know those, right? Well, I'll admit that my sleepiness got me a bit confused on the plot sometimes, but the bright, sunshiny-ness of the personalities, plots, and landscapes kept me interested and happy the whole way through. And once I woke up fully, I figured out what was happening (along with Brian and Gregory), and liked it all the more.

Plus, this Scholastic paperback version has After Words - extras in the back of the book. These extras include many things, and one of my favorites are the excerpts from The Lives, Illustrious Deeds, and Lamentable Deaths of the Emperors of Norumbega (sounds like gibberish right now, doesn't it? Read the book!). It features Anderson's awesome zany humor and gives more details of this lost civilization, making me all the more ready for the second book in what will be a quartet!

The Game of Sunken Places in a smart and clever fusion of genres that you should not miss!!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Touch Mortal


A Touch Mortal is a YA paranormal/fantasy romance by Leah Clifford.

Eden's life is empty. Half the time her mother doesn't even seem to remember she exists. She doesn't see a future for herself. She never has. In all honesty, Eden doesn't see the point in living any farther than her current seventeen years.

It is as she is contemplating this very choice, a choice she's thought about before, that two guys walk up to her on the beach. One, the darker haired of the two, unleashes a killer grin and a disarmingly cheesy pick-up line. But he makes her smile like no one else has... ever.

His name is Az. And he's an angel.

Eden herself won't stay mortal for much longer. After a horrifying, painful set of events, she finds out she is a Sider, a being not quite part of Heaven, nor Hell. But she's not a regular Sider either. Sider's have Touch, a poison-like substance that they pass on by touching humans. Depending on who you touch, that person could end up committing suicide after going through a downward spiral you caused. Yeah, not pleasant. But if you don't pass it on, you can become insane with the pain of not releasing it.

Yet Eden has a unique ability that makes her sought after by every side... including those she would like to not be noticed by, as she has unwittingly become part of an intense battle...

My synopsis might be a bit sloppy, and I'm sorry for that. A Touch Mortal is one of those books that jumps into its plot so fast, its hard to delicately and subtly present the basic premise of it. But hopefully I got you a bit interested, nevertheless.

Because not only does A Touch Mortal give off a gritty, edgy tone immediately, it follows through. To begin with a main character (Eden) contemplating her own suicide - well, it's not an opener you get that often. Leah Clifford is clearly writing this novel with the Gothic, more punk-like gal in mind - which works very well in the book. And even I, not even close to goth, still found the tone and unique presentation of A Touch Mortal to be engrossing.

Now, Eden's foul mouth isn't a trait I personally enjoy (there is honestly a lot of swearing), but the characters and different plot lines throughout the novel have a original and magnetic quality very quickly. It felt fresh and new to me. I've honestly never read a book with this sort of premise before - which is awesome.

Every once and a while I was confused with the intricacies of Touch, and it took me a while to fully understand it - but I was constantly intrigued and interested by Eden and the cast of characters. Eden is definitely a strong, decisive, independent female - and also fiercely caring. I thought she was a great as different brand of protagonist, though occasionally I felt like I was being told, not obviously, how cool she was.

A Touch Mortal is creepy, Gothic, and shocking - I never really had any idea what was going to happen next. It has an indie vibe, and is persistent in bucking all the cliches. This was my first YA angel-centric read, but I was happily surprised to find it not obsessed with the romance part of it, and more focused on a character that is in the middle of something big, but refuses to back down.

I felt it was an impressive paranormal tale - especially for a debut!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bright Young Things


Bright Young Things is the first book in Anna Godbersen's new YA historical series.

The year: 1929

The place: New York City

When teenage girls' Letty and Cordelia step off the train into New York City after escaping their suffocatingly small Ohio town, they both have clear goals.

For Letty it is the inevitable climb to stardom, having the petite frame, big blue eyes, and voice of an angel - her mother died when she was quite young, but not before telling Letty that she was made for bigger things. That she was special. But she learns that sometimes girls' use more than their talent to get famous...

Cordelia's goal is just as strong, but more secret. Since she was little, her strict Aunt has told her all about her dumb mother who went off to be with a dangerous, penniless man named Darius Grey before she died. Well, Darius has become quite infamous in the Manhattan papers, and Cordelia is determined to find out if the man is her father. Her search leads her to unexpected, sudden results that lead her down a path that is much more crime-ridden than she ever thought it could be...

But Astrid doesn't have any clear goals. She floats around a mansion, waking when she pleases, being almost accidentally beautiful, and without cares. Yet, she is plagued with the indiscretions of her mother, the unstable love of Charlie Grey, and her own lack of purpose.

The three lives intertwine and pull apart as they try to find themselves, love, and fulfill their dreams amongst the riches of Long Island and the dangers of the Prohibition, during the time of speakeasies and jazz.

Oooh, a new series by Anna Godbersen! How could I not read Bright Young Things after the lovely satisfaction the quartet of Luxe novels?

Without giving away any of the details, as Anna's books are pretty much a bevy of secrets, deceptions, and lies, I will say that I found Bright Young Things to be engrossing, intriguing, and especially disconcerting by the enigmatic prologue, which announces that one of these three girls will be dead before the next year. It instantly casts a mystery element over the entire novel, constantly making you wonder which of three girls' it will be.

Bright Young Things has quite the intense, flavorful first chapter that helps to give off the feeling, early on, that this tale is going to be a poignant, historical, page-turning, bittersweet, coming-of-age story. Godbersen easily enamors us with the atmosphere of 1929 and imbues each of her characters with life and varied personalities, each happily individual and unique. We have Astrid who is airy and iridescent, strong and yearning Cordelia, and sweet, naive, big dreamer Letty - all of which have layers and depth to scratch more at than we got a chance to in this first novel.

It's dramatic and deliciously absorbing, a quality all of Anna Godbersen's books seem to possess. Though the third quarter of Bright Young Things seems to hit a bit of a slow down, where the plot seems to plod a bit and soak up a little too much detail and a little too little development, it's still a great read.

I felt that Bright Young Things was a strong opener that would have been even stronger without the strangely lackluster second half. But once the climatic end came around, I knew I'd be more than willing to read the sequel and see where these interesting, juicy characters are going next!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

New Weekly Writing Challenge!


Readers and writers-in-training alike should know about the new Inkpop.com Weekly Writing Challenge!

This one is running in accordance with Die For Me, a new YA supernatual romance by Amy Plum that sounds like it might be trying to give Twilight a run for its money. Yes, I am going to read it as soon as I'm able. I am a bibliophile, after all. And listen to this small synopsis and tell me if it doesn't make you wanna read it too: A newly orphaned teen girl moves to rainy, atmospheric Paris to live with her new guardian and meets an enigmatic, attractive guy that doesn't live forever - he dies over and over.

Ooooh, where's my copy?!?! Well, if you want a copy of this and three more Harper Teen books of your choice you just need to write a short story, poem, or essay that imagines a life that never ends. Not a writer but love to read? You can also comment on the entries to win! Check out all the details here.

Two writers and two commenters will win!!! And hurry - you only have until April 21st to submit your vision!

See ya on Monday with a new review! Have a great weekend crazy book addicts!!! ;)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ascendant


Ascendant is the sequel to the YA fantasy Rampant by author Diana Peterfreund.

As a huge fan of Rampant, I encourage you to read Rampant before spoiling yourself with this review/description of Ascendant. Otherwise, fellow lovers of Rampant, read on:

Astrid is now an experienced unicorn hunter, despite having just been a teenage girl with dreams of the prom not so long ago. Now she's living in Rome with other girls with her talent, and trying to protect the human population from the bloodthirsty breeds of the mythical beast.

But things aren't so awesome. Not that Astrid ever really considered hunting awesome anyway, but now the Cloisters is in a bad financial situation, what with their investor Gordian Pharmaceuticals being crooked and sick and no longer involved, and Astrid's boyfriend Giovanni deciding to go back to school in America.

And then there's the thing about Cory's powers seeming to diminish for no apparent reason.

Then Astrid hits a moment on the field where she isn't so sure she wants to kill a unicorn, where she really wonders if she can keep doing this. Her long held hopes of being a doctor, of going to school, seem so out of reach to her now. So when she gets an opportunity to work on the Remedy and flex her scientific talents instead of her bloody ones, she takes it.

But as Astrid thinks things are taking a turn for the better... are they? Or is she realizing that everything, including her very purpose as a unicorn hunter, is in question?

Oh. My. Goodness.

Sometimes sequels are disappointing (such as, in my personal opinion, The Dead-Tossed Waves), so I wasn't sure what to expect. But - whoa.

Really. Whoa.

Ascendant was heartbreaking, horrifying, and increasingly intense. The character development, new plot twists, and introduction to another species of unicorn kept me completely wowed by Diana Peterfreund's amazing writing ability - she kept me glued. Super-glued. While at the same time, Peterfreund makes me feel so weary for the emotions and pain she invokes in me as I'm reading it, leading me to believe that life would be easier without reading Astrid's journey in Ascendant, but certainly not better off for it. There is a weight to the level of such well-wrought beauty this tale brings.

Its also romantic, mature, funny, and overwhelmingly passionate, while also being somehow believable and crazily relatable. Ascendant is haunting, wildly beautiful, and magically captivating in how attuned, naturally, the reader is able to become with the unicorns, despite their vicious behavior. Peterfreund honestly places me in the difficult position of Astrid and her own personal dilemma.

Then there's the shocking, unexpected turn of events that throws a curve ball I never saw coming and WOWS me. A turn of events that I can't even hint at to you, because I would absolutely hate to ruin it for you. Because you absolutely have to read Ascendant. Maybe you won't be as blown away as I was, but I would be surprised.

Perfect, stunning, superb - these aren't words I throw around without feeling them wholeheartedly - and I feel them wholeheartedly for Ascendant. As I turned that final page (which better not be the final page of the series!), I was head-over-heels and absolutely desperate to know what will happen next in Astrid's story.

Astrid's struggle is full of heart and soul and horror - oh so powerful and utterly, utterly, phenomenal!!!

As you can tell, I liked it. ;)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Rampant


Rampant is a YA fantasy thriller by Diana Peterfreund that puts a whole new spin on unicorns. Seriously.

Astrid Llewelyn has heard her mother's crazy stories since she was a little girl. Instead of sweet stories of pretty unicorns that bring love and innocence to a cruel world, her mother tends to rave about how its all a bunch of propaganda and unicorns were actually bloodthirsty killers until being hunted to extinction by virginal girls descended from Alexander the Great, the only ones with the power and ability to put down any of these near-impossible to kill beasts.

Yeah, Astrid tries to keep her Mom from talking about that too much in front of other people.

But when Astrid takes a stroll outside with her visiting boyfriend during a baby-sitting stint, her boyfriend is attacked. By something that looks suspiciously like a unicorn. The attack is violent and vicious, yet instead of turning its bloodlust on Astrid the unicorn nudges her and wants a pet before running off. Astrid is sure she's gone utterly insane, except for the near-dead guy laying on the ground by her, bleeding and suffocating from a potent poison that she's doesn't recognize, even after all her days volunteering at the hospital in her mission to be a doctor.

Feeling the reality she's always known crash around her, Astrid places a call to her Mom right before the ambulance, and her mother arrives with the tiny bottle that she has always announced is one of the last remnants of the secret Remedy the Hunters knew to cure unicorn poisoning. And watching as the clotted stuff heals him, Astrid's life changes.

Because Astrid's Mom is head over heels excited. The scenario she hears from her daughter points to only one conclusion, Astrid is a descendant of Alexander the Great, born to be a Hunter, and there is a reemergence of unicorns, which will prove that all these years she has not been insane. She quickly contacts other oddballs throughout the world that know the truth, and before Astrid can protest too loudly, her mother sends her off to the newly reopened Cloister to train to kill the monsters that are beginning to attack more and more people and animals.

Once there, Astrid begins to learn what it means to be a Hunter and is horrified. The power is intense, the task is bloody, and some of her fellow Hunters seem to be hiding something. Then there's the handsome art student she meets that makes her break a bunch of rules from the strict Cloister... and possibly make her ineligible for reentry...

The beginning of Rampant is fun, creative, and startling - introducing a vivacious, strong, personality-filled voice in Astrid. My initial interest in the premise of the novel was quickly rewarded with a stunningly original idea and execution. This was another one of the books that caught my eye after reading the YA short story compilation Kiss Me Deadly, in which Diana Peterfreund had a haunting and amazing entry that took place in the same universe as Rampant, only many years earlier. I was super excited to finally get a chance to read it!!!

Diana Peterfreund does not shy away from making the novel at times very shocking and unsettling, disturbing and cruel. This is something I recognized when I read Errant, the short story in Kiss Me Deadly. I don't love to get disturbed or read about too much violence, it's just not me. But the way in which Diana Peterfreund writes it, it adds so much depth and layers to Rampant, creating unexpectedly scary, surprising characters, thoroughly creepy unicorns, and thrilling coming-to-their-own powers, plus a tentative, modern romance. The darker moments are... dark. But Astrid's believable response to these moments helps to keep the reader (i.e., me) grounded.

Rampant is electrifying, nail-biting, powerful, gripping, mixing modern-day culture with a violent mythology that feels legend-worthy - creating a truly unique, excellent, page-turner! The characters are dynamic, sizzling with life and individuality, and meet (sometimes literally) drop-dead-crazy situations with an astonishing realism and (at times) humor.

And its written in such a way that I felt it, saw it, and smelt it all. I was right there with these girls-turned-reluctant-warriors. This is an addictive, if oftentimes unpleasant, world that is ripe with twists and turns and action.

It was pretty awesome.

Which is why I am already diving at Ascendant, the sequel. Because Diana Peterfreund has clearly not told us all the secrets and mythology yet...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dragon Rider


Dragon Rider is a middlegrade fantasy epic by the best-selling author Cornelia Funke.

Firedrake and the rest of the dragons have lived in relative peace in a secluded valley. The only real thing to complain about, perhaps, was the rain that made them melancholy. But dragons are easily melancholy. Which is where the furry, mushroom-loving brownies come in, a dragon's natural companion - of which Firedrake has, specifically a fiery little brownie named Sorrel.

However, one morning the rat named Rosa hurried to the dragons and declared what she'd always known - that their peace couldn't last forever. Humans were on their way to see about building in that very valley - and humans had become far more advanced over the years. Rose was hard-pressed to convince the old-fashioned dragons that hiding and waiting for the humans to leave was not going to be enough - but Firedrake pondered.

The legend of the Rim of Heaven - a haven for dragons - has always been no more than a story passed down over many generations. Though young, Firedrake's courage wins out over his organic need for rest and calm and he and Sorrel set out on the very, very long journey to find the Rim of Heaven and find the dragons a safe, permanent home.

Along the way, they cross paths with a lonely, homeless little boy named Ben, a cruel and stubborn villain with an inclination to destroy dragons, and a bunch of other creatures and obstacles. But as they reach closer to their destination, those aboard the long, arduous flight begin to realize they may in fact be fulfilling their own epic destinies...

I've heard of Cornelia Funke and seen her name all over the place, but have never personally read a book by her before. But when I saw the cover of this one, it sort of enchanted me. It reminded me of the special feeling a really good "children's" fantasy adventure can bring you - and I settled in for a nice, long (at over 500 pages), hopefully enjoyable read.

And, oh it was!

Right away I kinda fell in love with the traditional flavor of the fantasy, the creatively imagined creatures, and the quickly established goals. And with the gentle, sweet introduction of Ben, I started to get seriously charmed. The modern setting mixed with the immense fairytale mythology was lovely, and felt warm and cozy. I could just settle in and go on the journey with these vivacious, colorful, memorable, quotable characters!

Dragon Rider was awesome, fanciful, imaginative, and pure fun. Cornelia Funke gives her cast great names and personalities and creates a lively tale that reminds you that not every great book needs romance, angst, shocks, and gore. Which I didn't necessarily think before, anyway - but its nice to change the pace a bit and read something so wholesome and family oriented. The novel made me happy - Dragon Rider is cheerful and accessible by all ages that love a good, epic tale!

I was happily delighted with this captivating, adventurous tale, and found that I cared deeply and sincerely for these characters - leaving me with the impression that Dragon Rider is an engaging, unforgettable, graceful, kindhearted, humorous, tender quest that brings to the forefront the values of bravery, friendship, family, and home-sweet-home!

Dragon Rider, in my opinion, should be gighly recommended to all of you book lovers that like a lovely, old-fashioned, family friendly, funny, classic sort of fantasy journey! And maybe even to those of you who have never tried one, and don't even know how much you'll love it - yet! ;)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Weekly Writing Challenge!


Good morning lovely readers!

So here's another surprise weekend post for you!

What about? Well, another Weekly Writing Challenge notice of course! Inkpop.com is running another contest - this one coincides with Kim Harrison's Something Deadly This Way Comes. In the novel we meet Madison, a gal not so unlike us - except for the fact that she's not quite alive, or dead actually. And she's facing a big decision: which would she rather be? And can the guy she loves be trusted with her secret?

Which leads us to your challenge: write a poem, essay, or short story featuring betrayal. Find more details here and get the chance to win not only Something Deadly This Way Comes, but also three more books from the Harper Teen catalog!!!

Better hurry: you only have until April 14th to enter! :)

See ya crazy book lovers on Monday!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Dark Moon


Dark Moon is the YA paranormal/fantasy sequel to Wereling, written by author Steve Feasey.

If you don't want some serious, inevitable spoilers of Wereling, then don't read any further, book addict!

It was long ago that Trey found out he was a werewolf. And not just any werewolf. The last hereditary werewolf in existence. And Lucien, the man who told him this, took him away from the orphanage he'd been living in just before an evil vampire, Caliban, burnt it to the ground as an attempt on Trey's life.

Before he knew it, Trey was living in the lap of luxury, basking in Lucien's wealth and kindness - despite the fact that he was also a vampire and the brother of Caliban. But Lucien's not evil, you see? In fact, he tries to fight evil and his brother's always bad intentions through an organization he runs, which employs many other beings that aren't entirely human. Trey befriended Lucien's pretty sorceress daughter Alexa and Lucien's right hand man and premier bodyguard, Tom.

But in a big attack and attempt to kill Trey, Caliban nearly killed Lucien, and now, after they all escaped, Lucien lays immobile and unconscious, hooked up to machines in his bed. Trey, Alexa, and Tom must find a way to heal Lucien before he dies, and that involves facing Caliban again and the mother Alexa always thought was dead, who gave up her own daughter for dark magic...

Alright, so that's a quick update of what happened at the end of Wereling and a little idea of the premise of Dark Moon. I'll be honest with you guys right off the bat, I wasn't a huge fan of Wereling. I thought it had potential, was at times fun and creepy, but ultimately a bit cliche and recycled. I was willing to give Dark Moon a shot because I thought that now that the characters had been established, the flaws (from my view) might be taken care of.

Yet... sadly, I found the quality of the writing to still be dry and lacking depth and sink-your-teeth-into-it goodness. I'm afraid that this series from Steve Feasey just might not be for me. Because, sadly, I felt like Dark Moon was even more cliche and recycled than Wereling, instead of better. I was pretty bored from start to finish, and never connected with the characters or plots at all. It all felt painfully familiar, devoid of excitement, suspense, or originality. Oh, I sound so mean!

As I always say: Read it for yourself!!! Don't just take my word for it. If you've looked into the book and thought it sounded cool, if you read Wereling and liked it, READ Dark Moon!!! We all have our own opinions!

I've decided that, personally, after giving the second book in the Wereling series a shot, that it is just not for me. I ended up having to skim the last quarter of the book or so, because I was just so disconnected from it. So, I am not going to be looking into the third book, Blood Wolf, when it comes out. But I hope you give it a try for yourself, and feel free to defend it in the comments section!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Dead-Tossed Waves


The Dead-Tossed Waves is the YA horror follow-up to The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.

As all of y'all saw on Monday, I was extremely impressed and horrified by The Forest of Hands and Teeth, which made me both apprehensive and excited to continue Mary's journey in The Dead-Tossed Waves. Except... Mary's journey wasn't really continued.

But before I go into more detail, I must ask all of y'all bibliophiles to stop reading if you haven't read The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Even though it is not as much of a spoiler-ific book, being that it contains primarily new characters and plotlines, I still don't want you to learn anything you'll be disappointed to have known before reading, later on.

Anyway, for those of you that have read The Forest of Hands and Teeth... I'm betting many of you are at least moderately interested in the sequel. I know I was. So, here's a brief, light synopsis for you of The Dead-Tossed Waves:

Gabry has a lived a quiet, safe life in the lighthouse with her mother Mary. Some of her friends talk about the Dark City and the world beyond the Barrier that keeps all the Mudo (or what her mother calls Unconsecrated) away from them, but Mary is fine staying just where she is. Sometimes she wonders if her mother's strength and thirst for more that led her to Vista, the settlement they live in, will ever appear within her - but she doesn't mind remaining as is.

But the consequences of the Return are difficult to keep away, and its not long before Gabry's life is crumbling around her, the Infection stubborn in its need to spread, to turn those she's known her whole life.

And before she knows it, Gabry finds out the truths she has always known to be solid about her mother are veiled in secrets and lies and a past she still holds on to. This is all leads to Gabry stepping beyond that Barrier into danger and seeing what else lies beyond, and whether or not she can find herself somewhere out there.

Okay. So, again, this isn't really a continuation of Mary's story so much as a new story about her daughter Gabry. I have to admit that this disappointed me from the get-go. I was bewitched by Mary, her strong, if flawed, personality was perfect for going on a terrifying adventure like this with, to try to figure out what happened years before when the Return occurred, and find hope. Gabry felt like an unnecessary protagonist that was instantly much weaker than Mary and less interesting. However, these were first impressions and I tried to set them aside and read it with an open mind. After all, The Forest of Hands and Teeth blew my mind page after page.

When I first saw Gabry's full name (maybe you'll guess it, but I want to leave it up to you to find out yourself), I was nearly brought to tears - bringing to mind again the power of Mary's journey and the story of the first book. It was certainly interesting to take a look into other communities after the Return, still living a fragile existence that feels less sheltered than Mary's - but of course still dangerous. It's a different perspective and a different way of life. It's tense, but not as flat-out scary and shocking as The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Even the opening chapter's action didn't feel as shiver-inducing as anything from the first book.

One of my biggest problems with The Dead-Tossed Waves was that even as I continued to read and tried to become enamored with Gabry and her journey, I just still kept wanting more Mary and more follow-up to what happened with her once she reached the ocean.

But at last we meet one character that held some intrigue: Elias, from beyond the Barrier. It does bring some development of mythology when it comes to him, and he holds a mysteriousness that is a welcome change to the, I'm sad to say, rather flat characters in Vista. Nothing is as provocative and absorbing as the Sisterhood, the Guardians, and the Unconsecrated.

At its best moments The Dead-Tossed Waves was surprising and tentative, more philosophical than The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and some of the romance can even be described as lovely and gentle in the midst of degradation and despair. Yet, I never felt strongly for these characters, and I felt like the novel was overlong - as though, despite it being 100 pages longer than The Forest of Hands and Teeth, less happened. It was strange, and it kind of puzzled me. I feel really bad saying anything negative, because I thought The Forest of Hands and Teeth was phenomenal - but The Dead-Tossed Waves never became as gripping and it stubbornly stayed slower-paced, in my opinion.

I was even kind of shocked to find that I didn't feel it was nearly as well-written as The Forest of Hands and Teeth, having a stunning amount of repeated sentences and words.

Now, don't get me wrong. The Dead-Tossed Waves in no way a terrible novel, and I still encourage you to read it and find out for yourself what you think - because looking at some Amazon.com reviews there are people who think it is amazing and way better than The Forest of Hands and Teeth! So, ya know, this is only my opinion - I don't want to dissuade you from forming your own opinion at all!!!

But in order to uphold to the promise to myself that I would always be honest on this blog and to my beloved, and slowly but surely growing, group of readers - I have to let you know I was, in the end, disappointed and a bit bored. There were a couple of promising moments, one involving the facing of what we learn is called a Horde that was quite chilling, and some of the lyrical beauty of Carrie Ryan's language spilled over to the recognition of Gabry's insecurity, but it was few and far between, and sometimes the encouraging of our main character even became, I have to say it, annoying. And I was really, really surprised by this. I still want to read the next book, The Dark and Hollow Places, but my expectations aren't as high, and I still wish that I'd been given the opportunity to follow Mary's story. But, oh well. We don't always get what we want, right?

If you get a chance to read The Dead-Tossed Waves, or have already, I'd love for you to comment on this post and tell me your opinion! I'm really curious about all your different, wonderful points-of-view! ;)

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Forest of Hands and Teeth


The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a YA postapocalyptic, 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!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Splendor


Splendor is the fourth and final book in the YA historical Luxe series by Anna Godbersen.

I'm probably way behind here - I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of you have already devoured this novel a long time ago. Well, I just got the chance to read it and I was thrilled. Because, even though I haven't reviewed the first three books on my blog here, I am a big fan of the Luxe series and have been dying to find out how it'll all end.

So, if you haven't read the first three books in the Luxe series yet (The Luxe, Rumors, Envy) then go check them out and please avoid this review. Because the best part of the series is not knowing what's going to happen next, so don't ruin that for yourself!

Okay, so Envy left us in quite precarious situations for our various 1900s characters. Good girl Elizabeth retained her good girl reputation by marrying a friend of her deceased father's, therefore keeping her pregnancy with her servant-turned-husband respectable. She is floored by her new husband's kindness and understanding, and tries to be content despite her continued mourning of Will in the reminder of the child she carries. But Elizabeth inadvertently stumbles across some of her father's old documents and she begins to have questions.

Penelope, the manipulative wife of rich and handsome Henry Schoonmaker, left us with a surprising announcement of continuing the Schoonmaker line with her brand new pregnancy - made all the more surprising since it was a complete lie. But she had to do something to try and keep Henry by her side and build the life she always hoped for with him. But Henry could not be deterred from joining active duty to try and make himself worthy of the woman who truly loves, Elizabeth's sister Diana.

Diana decided to embrace her impetuous nature and leave the confines of high society to chase after Henry, going so far as to chop off her famed curls and try to join the army with him. It has the makings of an adventurous love story, after all - and that is the sort of novel life Diana strives for.

And Elizabeth's former ladies' maid Lina Broud stopped pretending to be the rich Carolina Broad and actually inherited real wealth. But will she be able to keep up the deception?

So, that is a quick overview of where we left off - though it lacks the surprising depth that Anna Godbersen brings to all these storylines. But if you have read the first three in the series (as I hope you have if you've read this far into the review), then you know what I mean and I don't need to convince you otherwise.

I was more than happy to jump back into the scandalous, deceptive, dramatic, lovely, romantic lives of the Luxe - and it wasn't hard to do. I was instantly bombarded, in the best way, with new twists and turns and alluring plots. Splendor is like its predecessors in the series, in that it continues the trend of being addictive, yet somehow grounded. Anna Godbersen expertly mixes soapy love triangles, lies, and shocks with a vulnerability and believability that is incredible and makes the series truly worth the read.

Splendor is unendingly suspenseful with its unexpected turn of events and presents us with smart, unique, fully imagined characters that you can love or love to hate. And without going into any details that could ruin someone else's experience of the novel, I can honestly say that as it barreled to its stunning, climatic conclusion, I found Splendor to be spine-tinglingly, goosebump-inducingly perfect!!!

It is both beautifully, rapturously romantic and utterly satisfying. Anna Godbersen wrapped up the series not with a perfectly tied bow, but instead with multilayered, bittersweet, varied ends. Each character was given a follow-up that gelled so fantastically with life and its ups and downs, providing some with a sad finale, and others were a happy one - that I was floored by the complete lack of cliches.

Despite the Luxe series being at its core a book of balls and forbidden romances and different levels of society in 1900s New York, entertaining and shocking and fun, it also managed to inspire me and impress me as it came to a close. And it only made me all the more excited to read Godbersen's next series Bright Young Things!