Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Not-So-Still Life


My Not-So-Still Life is a YA contemporary novel by Liz Gallagher.

Vanessa is colorful. Her hair, her makeup, her clothes, her very being is bursting with all the colors of the rainbow. She's an artist - and she wants to be art. Being art and being a sophomore in high school don't go together too well. You can imagine that she's not the most popular girl. Her first day there she was branded a freak. Not much has changed since.

But she has her Mom - young, single, and super hardworking. Plus, her Grampie, who also lives with them and helps out, and her two best friends: Nick and Holly. They understand her. They're colorful too, in their own way. And now she's gotten hired at her dream job: a local art supply store named Palette. It just so happens that her dream job also puts her in the periphery of a tasty slightly older guy that she hopes will help her get over her mushed heart.

Yet all of it takes to the sidelines for Vanessa's main focus: taking risks and living life bigger and better than those who drone about their lives in black and white.

But could that very wish be her problem?

My Not-So-Still Life is a very slim novel at only 180 pages, but still packs quite a lively punch. Vanessa is a vibrant personality - and one thing I really liked about her was how she truly cared and appreciated how her Mom works so hard on her behalf. Being the daughter of a single mother myself, I identify with that. It was a refreshing change from the typical mother-daughter bickering that is often featured in YA.

The entire cast of characters are well done in an honest, realistic portrayal. Vanessa herself can be so full of her artistic drive and frenzy that she doesn't stop to notice others, or slow down and realize she may not have to be in such a hurry - this can be frustrating to follow, but Liz Gallagher does it well.

I don't have real strong feelings towards My Not-So-Still Life, but I did find it to be well-written, enjoyable, somewhat original, and certainly fresh in its outlook. I thought the end was great - an excellent way to end a pleasant book. Certainly worth the read - especially for those many teens that are so busy expressing themselves that they actually lose themselves in the process.

**BIBLIOPHILE ALERT**

Here we are in the last week of August (Good-bye, summer! Hello autumn!) and I just want to give all of you awesome readers a head's up: the Bibliophile Support Group will be back to only Monday, Wednesday, and Friday reviews starting on September 6th. This will continue for the foreseeable future. Still a ton of books to read and talk about - but let's give ourselves a bit more time to talk about each one! I encourage you all to comment and read as often as you can - this blog is here for us all to support each other in what is, in the end, quite an addictive lifestyle after all! ;)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Want to Go Private?


Want to Go Private? is a new YA contemporary novel from Life, After author Sarah Darer Littman. If you didn't get a chance to read my review of Life, After yet, read it here.

Fourteen-year-old Abby doesn't like change. It's a first year of high school and already she's getting persuaded to try a little make-up and "make an effort", when all that just makes her feel uncomfortable and weird. Plus, her best friend Faith is only in one of her classes - PE! Her parents encourage her to try and make some new friends, but it just isn't working. Even the cute guy in her math class can't ever remember her name, instead calling her an endless slew of different "A" names.

Faith doesn't have the same problem. She is making new friends and getting involved in new activities, and though she invites Abby along, Abby feels unbearably lonely. That's why when she meets Luke online, she's so relieved to have someone to talk to every night. Someone who understands what she's going through and listens. He's funny and nice - plus he thinks she's pretty, which she can't help but admit is awesome.

Chatting with Luke after school becomes her rock, giving her a sense of stability that she doesn't sense with Faith anymore. She starts to realize that she's getting over the whole high school thing. Luke thinks she's cool - and he's older, smarter, and more mature. Sure, Abby doesn't love that her usually stellar grades are slipping and sometimes she feels guilty saying no to Faith's invites so that she can make sure and be home to chat with Luke - but does any of that matter when it comes to love?

Because Luke has said it. That he loves her. And she's sort of convinced she feels the same. He's the only thing holding her up as high school and life is pulling her down. He's no longer a Internet "stranger". So when he suggests they meet in person - she says yes.

And then she's gone.

I absolutely loved Life, After, so I was (of course) interested in reading more from Sarah Darer Littman. And yet again she blew me away. Abby is relatable in her fear of change - the anguish of it, the rawness of that feeling of losing your longtime best friend. So even when I was frustrated with her lack of common sense as she befriended Luke online, I could understand her need for that acceptance and flattery.

There is a horrible danger in Abby's vulnerability and a creeping sense of suspense in Want to Go Private? that made me sick in the pit of my stomach. Abby's increased reliance of Luke's pep talks and flirting is scarily realistic, disturbing, and decidedly creepy.

Want to Go Private? is not a pleasure read. It's not fun. It's discomfiting, nerve-jangling, jarring, and oh-so-effective. It lingered in my mind days after and continued to disturb me. Sarah Darer Littman doesn't hesitate to show the worst parts of being a victim of a Internet predator - nor does she shy away from the mental horror that follows it. My heart ached for Abby - oh, how I wanted to reach in the book and help her!

After things escalate and Abby meets up with Luke, the point of view changes to her friends and family and how they deal with her sudden disappearance. It becomes a search and rescue kind of thing, but with an emotional honesty that is hard to read - yet so wonderfully done.

Want to Go Private? is harrowing, horrifying, and heartbreaking. It's an unfortunately all-too-real, powerful look at how easily young teens can get sucked into a nightmare. It's a story that should teach and inspire. Hopefully it will keep a lot of kids from becoming a victim.

Like I said earlier, it's not fun to read. But it is phenomenally done. Sarah Darer Littman astounds me. Wow.

**BIBLIOPHILE ALERT**

Here we are in the last week of August (God-bye, summer! Hello autumn!) and I just want to give all of you awesome readers a head's up: the Bibliophile Support Group will be back to only Monday, Wednesday, and Friday reviews starting on September 6th. This will continue for the foreseeable future. Still a ton of books to read and talk about - but let's give ourselves a bit more time to talk about each one! I encourage you all to comment and read as often as you can - this blog is here for us all to support each other in what is, in the end, quite an addictive lifestyle after all! ;)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Dark Souls


Dark Souls is a YA contemporary ghost story by Paula Morris.

Her brother was driving and Miranda was in the back-seat when one night they were involved in a deadly car accident in which Miranda's best friend died in the passenger seat. Her brother is scarred by the incident - not physically, but emotionally. He hasn't driven a car since and hates enclosed spaces. For sixteen-year-old Miranda it's a different problem all together. A secret she is keeping hidden...

Their parents are eager to help jolt the family out of the sadness that has overcome them since the accident six months ago. They decide to take a little vacation to historical York, England where her father will be giving a lecture and her Mom was invited to be involved in a production. Miranda is ready to be swept away by the larger than life pasts of the landmark buildings and culture - and hopes to avoid the ghosts that apparently roam the city.

But then she meets a dark, brooding guy named Nick that knows the area all too well - as well as her secret. The combination makes him interesting, though the handsome, mysterious boy she keeps seeing in the building across from her still holds more romantic appeal.

Miranda begins to wonder if there is more going on in York than she initially realizes - suspicious motives, sinister pasts, and doomed futures... And she's afraid she may need to face her secret head on to get to the bottom of it all - but she's not sure if this will, in the end, help or hurt her family's healing...

Paula Morris is the author of Ruined, which I definitely liked. You can check out my review of that novel here. In fact, as time went on, I found myself appreciating Ruined even more than my initial review indicated. Morris has a great atmospheric tone, which is fantastic for ghost stories - which Ruined and Dark Souls most definitely are!

Dark Souls has a haunting start (pun not intended) that caught my attention and promised to hold it. Happily, she kept her unspoken promise and continued to do so from start to finish. I could feel the wet, foggy, chilly setting of York, England as though I were there with Miranda - an environment ripe for ghosts and mysteries.

Miranda was a great main character. She's smart and interested in history - plus very sympathetic in a non-pitying way. You easily put yourself in her shoes. What she's going through is given a depth that comes from, mainly, the first scene in Dark Souls (the accident and immediate event afterwards) and Paula Morris' excellent writing.

I loved the moody, contemplative tone and the increasing creepiness. It drew me in and kept me continually in its grips. Dark Souls is not necessarily original in the bare bones of the plot, but it's done so well with it's gothic, sensitive, quiet, but nerve-wracking prose that it kind of doesn't matter!

Enigmatic mysteries involving the magnetic Nick and the very attractive guy residing in the building across from hers shimmer with secrets. And if I am being vague - it's on purpose. I'd rather you read Dark Souls with a lot of surprises ready to, well, surprise you - rather than tell you some of the juicier bits to get your attention. Trust me, if you like ghost stories or YA paranormal books - you should read Dark Souls!

Dark Souls is exactly what it needed to be and more: suspenseful, chilling, shocking, frightening, twisty, unexpected, fast-paced, gloomy, alluring and even redemptive. Most definitely gives me hope that Paula Morris will continue to pen more novels!

**BIBLIOPHILE ALERT**

Here we are in the last week of August (goodbye, summer! hello autumn!) and I just want to give all of you awesome readers a head's up: the Bibliophile Support Group will be back to only Monday, Wednesday, and Friday reviews starting on September 6th. This will continue for the forseeable future. Still a ton of books to read and talk about - but let's give ourselves a bit more time to talk about each one! I encourage you all to comment and read as often as you can - this blog is here for us all to support each other in what is, in the end, quite an addictive lifestyle after all! ;)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Contest Alert!


This Saturday morning I have a special post to let all you lovely bibliophiles know about a new CONTEST you can enter!!!

To celebrate the release of TWISTED, the third book in her Intertwined series, Gena Showalter is throwing a mega contest and several young adult authors are joining her for the ride, including: Julie Kagawa, PC Cast, Rachel Caine, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Tina Ferraro, Jonathan Friesen, Marley Gibson, Linda Gerber and Chloe Neill, as well as The Knight Agency blog.

The Grand Prize is being hailed as "The Best Night Ever," and with concert tix to your fave music act, an American Eagle gift card for new duds, a glam Urban Decay makeup set for a "new" face AND cash (in the form of a Visa gift card) for dinner, how can it not turn into the best night you ever had?

The TWISTED Tour spans almost two weeks and 11 websites from August 22nd through September 2nd. The Grand Prize winner will be awarded all the essentials for a perfect night out, including:

- $250 Ticketmaster Gift Card
- $100 American Eagle Outfitters Gift Card
- $100 Visa Gift Card for Dinner
- Glam Urban Decay Makeup Gift Set

A Second Prize winner will receive an autographed set of Gena’s Intertwined series, including INTERTWINED, UNRAVELED and TWISTED.

HOW TO PLAY: Visit www.KnightAgency.net/twistedtour.php and check the tour schedule. Visit the sites of each author on their assigned tour date and locate the concert ticket image.

At the end of the tour, fill out the form on the aforementioned TWISTED Tour contest webpage by matching the concert ticket images to the authors’ websites that they were located on before Sunday, September 4th at 11:59pm ET. The winners will be randomly drawn and notified on or around September 9th, 2011.

You better hurry up and start entering! Sounds like a pretty awesome giveaway to me!

Meet me back here on Monday for a brand new review - have a great weekend! :)

Friday, August 26, 2011

My Life Undecided


My Life Undecided is a YA contemporary novel by Jessica Brody.

Fifteen-year-old Brooklyn Pierce is convinced that when faced with decisions, she always makes the worst one. She doesn't realize it at the time, of course - but eventually it becomes clear. In fact, she began life making stupid choices. It was nationally televised. Her name is still recognized for it. Obviously, her hopelessness has been imbedded in her since the toddler years.

But when she has a big party at her mom's model home, at the urging of her uber-popular bestie Shayne, and then proceeds to nearly burn the whole place down - while "under the influence" - well, she decides that she needs to take action. Brooklyn sets up an anonymous blog and poses every choice she is confronted with as a question to the readers and asks them to make her choices, because clearly it would be dangerous for her to continue to make her own...

My Life Undecided is awesome! The writing is full of life and bursting with humor, Brooklyn is a hilarious and sympathetic heroine - kinda hopeless, but likable all the same. And as she finds herself becoming a social pariah (I don't want to give too many details away, because it is all too great to experience when you're reading), her hurt has an honesty to it - it's interesting to see one of the "It" girls fall from grace.

Then we have the romance! Oooh! On one end of the spectrum we have the tasty, Southern, bad boy hottie that practically drips sex appeal and on the other end we have the nice, smart, and funny debate team "nobody" that may prove to be anything but!

This is a novel that is fast-paced, fun, and has heart - I was REALLY enjoying from start to finish!!! It's a great commentary on popularity and phoniness, without ever being a lesson really. It's pure entertainment with a dash of life experiences that help you grow. And then Jessica Brody brings us some heartbreaking moments near the end that cause genuine pangs to the heart, a rawness and sweetness that makes My Life Undecided all the more real.

And it's a stunner when you realize that there are more ways than polling blog readers to give up control of your life, to give up the decision making responsibility. There's an unexpected poignancy and an inspiration to My Life Undecided that gives the book more weight than a pure fluff story.

Not to mention that is has one of those big, romantic, blockbuster movie type moments at the end - and it totally works!!! Truly, truly awesome - and a book I recommend heartily!!!!!

***ALERT: Due to my continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am still having 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shadow Grail #2: Conspiracies


Conspiracies is the second book in the YA supernatural series Shadow Grail co-written by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill.

The first book in the series is called Legacies and I would strongly recommend you read that first! If you haven't, check out my review of it here, and avoid this review for inevitable spoilers of Legacies. Otherwise, read on -

When Spirit White arrived at Oakhurst Academy, still deep in mourning over the sudden death of her parents and sister, she knew the place was weird. Super-duper fancy, obviously soaked in wealth, highly competitive, and classes on how to use your magical abilities.

That's right! Magical abilities! But Spirit had none she could find. Yet despite that and the school's seemingly anti-friends policy, Spirit managed to make friends with some fellow students - Burke, Loch, Muirin, and Addie. And Spirit was the first to notice that students going missing overnight wasn't really normal - that the school's explanation for these things was odd.

Together they figured out that there was a Wild Hunt going on at the school - one in which magical beings went on a joy ride chasing and killing students - and that someone inside the school must be letting them in. The five of them were nearly killed themselves, but managed to stop the Hunt - hopefully for good.

But the person (or persons?) who allowed this to happen is still at large and Spirit isn't as at ease as her friends are. They've moved on to upcoming formal dances and getting back to their studies, happy to leave the remainder of the investigation up to Doctor Ambrosius, the headmaster. Spirit isn't so trusting - she's always found Doctor A just as strange as the rest - one minute senile, the next calculating.

Spirit seems to be proven right as new magical attacks begin to take place against the students. Waves of utter terror strike them frozen. Alumnus and security experts are called in to help protect Oakhurst Academy as they are now "at war" - yet whom they are fighting against is never revealed.

Their new "protectors" still don't put Spirit's mind at rest. None of it sits right with her. Her friends, however, are happy to let the adults step in. Is Sprit paranoid? She doesn't know - but she just hopes that she and her friends will stay alive long enough to graduate from Oakhurst Academy - goodness knows, many haven't...

Alrighty, so I was a fan of Legacies, the first book, and I was definitely in need of a bit of a recap of what happened in our first go-round as I had to jump directly into this sequel without a reread - again. It is both a good and bad thing to be this overloaded with new books! Happily, we are given a bit of a subtle (very subtle) overview of the events in Legacies.

I found Conspiracies to be excellent! Spirit's continued lack of magical abilities make her an outsider, even among her friends, and somehow this makes her all the more likable. There is this sense of Spirit being alone - in her suspicions, in her continued mourning for her family, in her lack of magic. She is smart and determined - with a sadness and insecurity that is dealt with in such a quiet, lovely way.

And the authors do such a great job of soaking Oakhurst Academy in mystery that you start to feel paranoid about everything! There is that I'm-being-watched feel at the school, and I even started to feel that Spirit's buds were off - and began questioning their motives as well. It's ominous, creepy, and never feels safe - Hogwarts this is not!

Conspiracies introduces us to a new student named Elizabeth and we are given a fascinating story with her - one that is utterly intriguing and brings extra layers to the mystery that veils Oakhurst. Another thing new in Conspiracies is a bit more overt romance hints - always a good thing! Yet there is such a question as to Burke and Loch's loyalties at times that you aren't sure what you want - do you want Spirit to end up with one of them, or are they gettin' a little jerky? But what if they are maybe being influenced by something? Oh, it's just crazy the level of paranoia that Eghill and Lackey bring to their own primary characters!

There are revelations that fascinated and delighted me and a very fast-paced, enjoyable tone that was also paced in a patient, sometimes slow way. As the tension steadily builds and the intrigue begins to speed up the plot more and more, I found myself becoming frustrated and maddened by the secondary characters - all of this in a good way, the kind of frustration you get when you're loving it, if you know what I mean.

And then - WOW! Some BIG secrets are uncovered late in Conspiracies that make the series darker, deeper, and all the more addictive!!! When you read it, you'll know what I mean. This is a very, very good paranormal series, and a great addition to the series! I am ready for the next Shadow Grail novel now, please!

***ALERT: Due to my continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am still having 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Guest Post by author Glenn Dakin!



Today I have a special treat for you, book addicts!

Please welcome author Glenn Dakin! He is the brilliant mind behind the fantasy/steampunk/YA-middlegrade novels Candle Man #1: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance and Candle Man #2: The Society of Dread. Click on each title to refresh your memory on what my thoughts were on each book (hint: I loved them!).

Glenn was kind enough to give us a piece of his creative mind through a guest post. This is what he wanted to say:

Candle Man – and the Approaching Revelation
by Glenn Dakin

I have always loved mysteries. Even minor ones like if nothing existed before the universe, then where did they make it?

One of my favourite puzzles is the enigma of STENDEC. In 1947 a passenger plane vanished over the Andes Mountains.

Before it disappeared it sent out one baffling radio message: the word STENDEC.

This word was sent, very clearly, by an experienced crew. What did it mean? Why was it so important? Why send out a word that does not exist… and then vanish?

All kinds of theories have been put forward, including possibly an alien encounter… The solution has never been found. Maybe one day YOU will figure it out.

It is a useful word though, sometimes when my friends baffle me, and I have nothing left to say, I simply reply, ‘stendec.’

My love of mysteries of all kinds feeds into my writing. When I first had the idea for Candle Man I imagined it as straight-forward adventure. My hero, Theo, would become Candle Man quite early in the story and then face the menace of many dark foes.

I began writing, but knew something was missing. That sense of mystery I had always loved – a feeling of desperately fighting through layers of darkness and deception until you reach the truth.

An author I learnt a lot from is John le Carré. He writes page-turners – the ‘unputdownable’ kind that make people miss their train stations. His books contain what I call SOAR – the Sense Of Approaching Revelation. Actually, I don’t really call it SOAR, but it just struck me it makes a pretty good acronym. Don’t forget, young writers of the world: SOAR!

Yes, LeCarré gives you that feeling that if you just turn the next page you will find out the one thing you really need to know.

I settled on this approach with Candle Man. I raced off, setting up my shadowy scenarios, but carefully leaving important bits out, to drive the reader on. Here’s one of the ways to do it.

Way One: (The wrong way)
Boy hero: Where are we going now?
Girl mentor: To see a doctor in Harley Street, who is a specialist in weird diseases and will finally help solve the mystery of this rare condition you are supposed to have.

Way Two: (the SOAR way)
Boy hero: Where are we going now?
Girl mentor: (mysteriously) No time to talk now, you twit – you’ll find out soon enough!

So the tale moves on, with wonderful, unexplained possibilities ahead, instead of a clear road-map.

Now, in Society of Dread, the second book in the series, the mysteries grow deeper. My young hero, Theo has discovered he is the Candle Man. But what is a Candle Man? What is his power really for? And who is the dark figure that threatens his survival – the maniacal Dr Pyre?

After that we head to book three, as Theo finds he is part of a destiny more terrible than he could possibly have imagined. He learns the truth behind his power, and how it could affect the whole world…

I could reveal all but that would go against the principles of SOAR. Goodbye for now and, of course, Stendec!

--

Thanks for dropping by, Glenn!

I love how I can recognize his witty, fun tone even in a guest post! If y'all haven't read the Candle Man books yet - you should. And I'm sure I am in agreement with all you guys who have read them when I say the third book can't come soon enough!!! :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tortall and Other Lands


Tortall and Other Lands is a collection of short stories from the fantasy Queen herself: Tamora Pierce.

There are thousands of reader's out there that recognize this name as being their favorite author. She has written the Alanna series as well as many more books that have continued to exist in the magical kingdom of Tortall. People can't get enough - and for good reason!

We get an even more intimate peek into this intricately woven medieval land and its smaller, but no less fascinating, stories with six tales taking place in Tortall, some of which feature cameos of well-known characters. We also get four stories not set in Tamora's beloved Tortall - two are in historical periods but take plan in unknown towns, one in an anonymous desert, and one even takes place in modern-day New York. Plus, we get a bonus story that isn't even a fantasy at all!

That means Tortall and Other Lands provides us with ten short stories to sweep you away and tickle your imaginations!

Now, I personally haven't read nearly as much Tamora Pierce as I'd like. All I've read is Trickster's Choice, which I though was amazing with its masterful plotting, slow burn, and meaty setting and characters. I purchased Trickster's Queen and have long been dying to read it - but still haven't. It's one of those situations book reviewers get in, where so many exciting books are coming your way that you want to read and need to review, that a book you bought sits on the shelf waiting patiently for you to have a spare few days to read it - and those spare few days haven't come. So, when one of the stories came up in my reading - Nawat - I was immediately horrified by the idea of spoilers for Trickster's Queen - and spoilers it did indeed contain! So, I quickly skipped over that one story - I felt full disclosure was necessary here. I did not read Nawat.

But what I did read was every other story in Tortall and Other Lands. And I am still stunned by how real Tamora Pierce makes Tortall and, well, the other lands! Her writing is so detailed and you just feel like she knows these places inside and out - it is quite something.

These are intelligent, mythical, feminist-bent fantasy stories that fulfill the mind as well as the page. Each one is excellent, but some of my favorites in the collection are The Dragon's Tale, Lost, and Elder Brother.

Some of the tales are adorable, some are funny, some touching - but all of them are empowering. It's a great collection that deserves to sit proudly beside your other Tamora Pierce novels!

***ALERT: Due to continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am continuing the 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Seven Kinds of Ordinary Catastrophes


Seven Kinds of Ordinary Catastrophes is a comedic YA novel by Amber Kizer.

Gert Garibaldi is entering her second semester of her Sophomore year of high school with a boyfriend - that's a first. And it seems that this year is going be full of firsts.

For one, her friends have decided that they should try out for the new girls' soccer team - and despite Gert having a boyfriend, she can't deny the appeal of being around luscious Lucas (assistant student coach) and goes for it. But, oh, she didn't realize there'd be so much running.

Also, she's having to deal with the dreaded "Who Are You?" essay that is worth, like, her entire grade that no one ever seems to get an A on. Joy.

Another first? Kissing. But she didn't realize it would feel like suffocating or be quite so uncomfortable, wet, and entirely without fun. Is it the boy kissing her? Is it her? All she knows is that she feels like running in the other direction when his lips start closing in!

Gert's life is full of ordinary catastrophes, but when all of these add on to some more serious family moments - well, it's going to be quite a Sophomore year...

This is the sequel to the first Gert Garibaldi novel entitled One Butt Cheek at a Time, though I didn't get the chance to read it first. I decided to just dive into this one (quite uncharacteristic of me, as someone who is obsessed with reading books in order, but for some reason I felt like this time it would be okay).

Seven Kinds of Ordinary Catastrophes is definitely an entertaining book! Gert's first person voice is funny with a forceful, outgoing personality. There are some truly laugh-out-loud stuff in here as we follow this wildly smart, crazy, relatable, hilarious gal! I mean, within only the first thirty pages I was giggling hysterically multiple times!

Gert is a unique mixture of Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicholson and Bridget Jones, with bits of a modern American teenager thrown in. There are some flat-out outrageous conversations in Seven Kinds of Ordinary Catastrophes - some of which are sexually graphic in nature, but all done in the name of comedy and natural curiosity - and all of which end up being frakkin' funny!!!

This is a wholly enjoyable and charming contemporary novel to lighten the mood between the darker paranormal books or more bitter-than-sweet stories - refreshing and stress relieving! I would most assuredly check out another Gert Garibaldi book - not so much because I'm dying to find out what happens next (though I am interested) but more because Amber Kizer's writing is just so flat-out hilarious and unexpected!!!

Feeling down? Like to laugh? Grab Seven Kinds of Ordinary Catastrophes!

***ALERT: Due to continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am continuing the 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Liar, Liar


Liar, Liar is a humorous middle-grade novel by Gary Paulsen.

Eighth grader Kevin is an excellent liar. He finds lies to be polite, and believes telling people what they want to hear is better for everybody. It's only to help everyone else. It's like a public service.

And sure, maybe some of his lies are to promote himself as boyfriend material for Tina - but those are harmless and shouldn't even count as lies.

But this time Kevin's lies may be spiraling out of control and for once Kevin may have to do something that he definitely doesn't want to do: tell the truth.

Liar, Liar is a skinny little book. I mean, it is literally only 120 pages in length! Yet somehow Gary Paulsen manages to pack quite a tale in there.

Kevin's story is lightening fast, humorous, and light hearted - but there is some surprisingly grounded family realism as well, seen through the eyes of a rather oblivious eighth grade boy.

When our main character becomes lovesick in a moment of sudden onset hormones, he begins to use his rather disturbing skill of lying to figure out how to be Tina's boyfriend. He weaves tales of deception to his teachers, to his friends, and to his family. Kevin is never mean-spirited, though, which obviously helps him to remain a likable character.

When reading Liar, Liar I had the feeling that there was a lesson around the corner - but I honestly didn't mind because I was having so much fun along the way. And, after all, Kevin needs the lesson!

All of the characters in Liar, Liar have vibrant personalities and there is definitely more than enough comedic moments to provide chuckles. It was very enjoyable!

There is definitely a little bit of an evil-genius-in-training vibe to Kevin - what with his plotting and lying and manipulation. But there are also genuinely sweet moments and a feeling of good intentions.

It's a wisp of a book, but worth the read - and I am now hearing that there may be a companion novel called Flat Broke coming out soon. I have to say, I wouldn't mind finding out what kind of trouble Kevin is going to get himself and his funny friend and family into next! I'll be there - will you?

***ALERT: Due to continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am continuing the 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rotters


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

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

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

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

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

Grave robbing.

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

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

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

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

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

Wow.

***ALERT: Due to continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am continuing the 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Flip


Flip is a YA psychological thriller by Martyn Bedford.

When fourteen-year-old Alex wakes up in the morning he doesn't recognize his bedroom. In fact, he can't remember getting home last night, he only remembers being on his way. His body feels weird, like he doesn't know how to move it, and a strange woman's voice is yelling for Philip to get up.

Alex doesn't know a Philip.

Disoriented and confused, Alex pulls himself out of the strange bed and tries to place the completely unfamiliar surroundings. He catches a glimpse of his forearm - hairy. Hairier than normal. And by the time he gets to a mirror, well, his head is spinning.

The body, the face, the person staring back at him looks to be a guy about his age - but one puberty has blessed a bit more. Fact is: it's not him. The family in the house, the sister bickering at him? Not his. The area of England he's apparently living in? Never been there before.

And when he looks at the newspaper the date tells him that six months have passed since his last memory of walking home after a night with his best friend. What is going on???

Alex is desperate to return to his old life - but for now he seems trapped in Philip's (nicknamed Flip) life. But he's determined not to be trapped forever...

Flip has an excellent start that instantly throws we the readers unto a mystery with Alex. We experience it all with him. It's very involving and fast-paced, presenting us with questions with no answers (for now) and keeping the intrigue notch up very high. Very, very high.

My interest is constantly piqued by the talented writing talents of Martyn Bedford, and I find myself caring for Alex as I'm pulled into this enormous puzzle, trying to piece it all together along with him. There is a heartbreaking, lonely tone to it at times, which makes Alex all the more sympathetic as a character. Having to deal with all of this, this insanity, on his own - as no one will believe him and he finally has to drop it before they send "Philip" to a mental institution, is difficult. His friends, his family, his school, his body, his face, his very personality - all seem so out of reach. It's haunting, and I was right there with him - hoping for answers that could help him!

I really had no idea where Flip was taking me. I had no guesses as to plot twists. It all felt very original as a completely different take on a body switch story. And as the book continued, it became increasingly urgent, desperate, and suspenseful. Flip is a mind-bender that follows through!

A great YA thriller!

***ALERT: Due to continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am continuing the 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Star Time


Star Time is a new release from YA sci-fi author Henry Melton, and the first in a series called The Project Saga.

Sharon Dae lives deep in a Texas forest, hidden away from ordinary humans since birth. For a long time now she has lived alone, and at only twenty-two-years-old she knows very little about how people really act in the "real" world. Her best guess is from all the books that she reads. She's a telepath, and works to keep the thoughts of the entire world at bay as she works peacefully at the garden she tends and spends time with animals, whose thoughts are simple and loving. But then she begins to sense something dark and dangerous. Something has crashed in the woods near her, and died. It didn't die before she knew it was not anything from Earth though.

Sharon doesn't know it yet, but it was a scout for the bloodthirsty Cerik. They are a race of predatory aliens that have found themselves on top of the universe's food chain and are now nearing Earth to take advantage of the chaos and confusion that the supernova will cause very soon. A supernova (a star burning out) that is closer than any in the past and ready to cause unknown destruction. They'll be reading to pick off those who remain - with glee.

Abe Whiting is a young computer genius who, with the help of his artificially intelligent companion Hodgepodge, is searching for the debris of the crash near Sharon. He finds the remainder of the fragments and takes it back to his lab to study. But Sharon, realizing, through her telepathy, that this puts this strange young man in danger, has to emerge from her seclusion to try and save him and the thousands of others before the Cerik vaporize them just to keep their identity a secret. But she'll have to lie and trick and deceive - and be in the presence of so many more minds!

Star Time is a phenomenal, smart, brand new take on the the Earth as we know it falling apart under the destruction caused by a supernova. Mass casualties, chaos, and a loss of all the technology we have come to rely so heavily on form a scene that is handled with expert creativity through Henry Melton.

But I'm getting ahead of myself!

We get an enigmatic start with our telepathic recluse, a girl who is instantly likable and unique as a sweet, sheltered girl who begins to pick up on this abnormal predator race. It started to get steadily more suspenseful and intriguing as it went on, each and every page and character keeping me fascinated! It didn't take long to get a really good feeling about Star Time - and I am happy to say I wasn't let down in the slightest!!!

There is a hint of brilliance, depth, intricacy, patient plotting, and an incredible payoff that I've learned Melton is oh-so-capable of! Star Time is action-packed and edge-of-your-seat with truly threatening foes. We get aliens, telepaths, seers, scientists, computer geniuses, astronomy, and robots - oh my! You get a reminder of the very best classic episodes of Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits in Star Time, only with more detail, character development, and an epic-feeling layout that makes you feel like Star Time is only the genesis of something bigger - the first segment in a blockbuster series I want to follow!!!

And besides the sci-fi awesomeness, the end-of-the-world paranoia, the supernatural occurrences, and all that jazz - we also get moments of sometimes heartbreaking loss, romance that digs in and grows, maturity and intellect, and an undeniable investment in a large array of characters.

Star Time is Henry Melton at his best! This is a fantastic novel for any sci-fi fan, watchers of disaster movies, smarties, and bibliophiles who just enjoy an extremely well-planned story! Read it and be amazed! I can't wait to read the next book in the Project Saga - and neither will you, I bet!

***ALERT: Due to continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am continuing the 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Carrier of the Mark


The Carrier of the Mark is a YA paranormal novel by debut author Leigh Fallon. She first published this novel on inkpop.com, and after gaining one of the top-five spots was viewed by an editor of HarperCollins and offered a deal! It will come out on October 4th of this year - here's a little synopsis and what I thought when I got the opportunity to read it early...

Megan is used to starting each school year in a different place. Ever since her Mom's death in the car accident Megan was also in when she was very young, her Dad just doesn't seem able to stay in one place for too long. Megan doesn't mind so much - her Dad is kind and loving, just trying to do his best for the two of them.

Their latest move takes Megan to Ireland - a beautiful green landscape where Megan feels at ease quicker than any other previous residence. She finds herself making friends easier too - plus her Dad seems happy and might even be starting to date for the first time.

And then there is the extremely good-looking, dark, and brooding Adam DeRis that seems to always be staring at her. She doesn't mind, since she can hardly take her eyes off of him, either. But he won't talk to her or approach her - just stare. Her new friends tell her about all the weirdness that seems to follow the DeRis family and the legends of the land they live on - but Megan still can't help but be drawn to him.

But what if her attraction isn't just teen hormones and a pull towards an enigma? What if it has more to do with something... supernatural? What if acting on the passion that seems to be brimming beneath the surface between their sizzling looks could lead to... destruction?

The Carrier of the Mark has great Irish scenery and flavor, with just enough hints of mystery and secrets to keep the spark of fantasy alive and patient as we meet Meg and her awesome new Irish buds. Leigh Fallon lets us delve into some character development first, which I always think is a good idea. Especially when you have characters as vibrant and talented at witty banter as Meg and Caitlin (as well as her other friends).

Once The Carrier of the Mark started to turn toward Adam and Meg's pull towards him, the plot started to feel a little familiar to me. Maybe a little Twilight. But I was still enjoying it and loving Meg's humor and groundedness. After all, Adam is gorgeous and their attraction is intense - why wouldn't there be a little Twilight echo there? Yet The Carrier of the Mark quickly releases itself from that box, and lets it take a creepier route - more of a fable or legend come alive rather than anything even close to vampires. Such as an ominous, eerie crow that seems to be following Meg's every move and a burning desire to understand what all the rumors and suspicion concerning the DeRis family actually points to.

As some of these questions begin to get answered, the true uniqueness of its supernatural plot is highlighted - very different, very interesting. There were times I felt there was more exposition that necessary, but I was into it. And Adam and Meg's romance, early on, didn't feel as genuine as their attraction did - which was weird. But once it started heating up - mm-hmm! So both of these small criticisms seemed to fix themselves easily.

The Carrier of the Mark became increasingly suspenseful, making me wonder how on earth this story could end before the book was over. Especially as I turned the last page - I couldn't help but be curious if a sequel is possible. Because even though you get some resolution and all, I was still waiting for more!

Leigh Fallon's debut was very, very good and passionate! I can see why the editors at HarperCollins were intrigued! The Carrier of the Mark is an entrancing, sweeping, romantic, Irish supernatural tale!

I encourage you to check it out when October 4th comes!!!

***ALERT: Due to continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am continuing the 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Hunt of the Unicorn


The Hunt of the Unicorn is a YA fantasy by C. C. Humphreys.

Teenager Elayne doesn't think much of the old family story her dad likes to tell her - though the fact that he's too sick and weary from his cancer to read it any longer, and has to ask her to read it to him, makes it more significant. But really, it's just a fantastical take on their ancestry, full of unicorns and other crazy beasts - and has absolutely no bearing on reality.

Or does it?

When she's at the Cloisters museum in New York City she is startled to find unicorn tapestries, just like those described in her father's beloved stories. Her initials are even woven into the fabric, just like in the legend. Before she gets the chance to get too freaked out, she slips and falls right through one of the tapestries and into another world - the world, apparently, from the stories: Goloth.

Quickly she finds herself introduced to the star of her dad's musty old book: the unicorn Moonspill. Moonspill wants her help - but in the meantime she's just trying to come to terms that any of this is real - let alone all the totally weird and scary creatures that surround her and the fact that the whole land in ruled by a tyrannical king that talks like its still medieval times!

When it comes down to it, Elayne just wants to go home. Her dad isn't doing well... and now is not the time to be hanging out in some alternative universe!

The Hunt of the Unicorn started so quickly with all the folklore and unicorn stories (from Elayne's dad's book), that I literally knew nothing about Elayne before we started getting loaded with all this info. But Elayne's father is instantly sympathetic with his weariness and sickness.

Though the novel is certainly fanciful right off the bat, I couldn't help but hope that The Hunt of the Unicorn would be soon broadening itself further than just a rather bland girl (Elayne) reading a rather bland book. It was just too much plot before any character development whatsoever, and that just threw me off a bit. I really felt the book needed more personality, and though the "family history" Elayne was reading was moderately interesting - it wasn't as gripping or fun as maybe it should have been so early in the book... Of course, this was just my opinion - doesn't mean you'd agree!

However, once Elayne entered Goloth and met a bloodthirsty, creepy manticore - things started to speed up! I loved how we were presented with mythical creatures galore - chimeras, cerebrus', griffins, and more! They pepper the novel heartily as it continues and give it a fun fantasy flavor. I still didn't find myself being the biggest fan of our main character, Elayne, as she kept coming across as weepy to me. Of course, rationally, this is understandable. But I can't help but rather have a gal that is more assertive, funny, or something. Again, just my personal opinion. And, to be clear, Elayne is NOT a bad character - I wasn't overly annoyed with her or anything - I just wasn't her biggest fan.

Overall, The Hunt of the Unicorn did end up being nice, enjoyable fare with some espionage adventure stuff and, like I mentioned earlier, awesome beasts. Really, the beasts stole the show in this one. They have the most personality and are really written with flare and imagination - I mean, the manticore was honestly spine-tingling!

Even though I personally found Rampant and Ascendant, two modern-day unicorn books written by Diane Peterfreund, to provide a darker, deeper, more original take on this particular subject - The Hunt of the Unicorn did redeem itself, in my eyes, with the presentations of its creatures of legend and very touching, cool moments in the final third of the novel.

I wouldn't mind a sequel that just follows these sometimes hilarious, sometimes frightening beasts of lore, actually. What say you, Mr. Humphreys? ;)

***ALERT: Due to continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am continuing the 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bad Taste in Boys


Bad Taste in Boys is a YA horror-comedy debut by Carrie Harris.

Kate Grable helps out her high school's horribly inept football team, using her aspiring doctor skills to treat injuries. Getting a chance to diagnose and fix up a broken bone is almost as exciting as being near hottie quarterback Aaron. Almost.

But as she's putting stuff away and locking up cabinets after the game, Kate sees a bunch of unlabeled vials and even a used needle. All she can think it can be is steroids and she is very disappointed and concerned that the coach seems to be the one initiating such dangerous activities.

Poor Kate doesn't get a chance to do anything about it, though, before one of the football players starts to vomit up horrible smelling black gunk and dies right in front of her.

But then he gets up. Not dead? Well, that's what everybody else thinks. But Kate isn't so sure. She may be a good doctor-in-training, but even she hasn't mastered the whole "bring back the dead" trick. Plus, he keeps staring at her like she's the juiciest steak in town and he's starving. And then things get even weirder...

Kate's pretty sure the whole school is slowly turning into mindless, flesh-eating zombies. Yet since quite a few of them weren't exactly Einstein's in the first place, people aren't noticing as quickly as they should.

Being that she's convinced those mysterious vials are the source of all of this, Kate is determined to figure out an antidote and keep her brother, best friend, and crush Aaron from wanting to take bites out of her.

That just wouldn't be cool.

Bad Taste in Boys is awesome!!!

First off, I want to take my hat off to Carrie Harris who has penned a memorable debut!

We are provided with a main character, Kate, who is instantly likable with her geeky personality, doctor aspirations, and fun friends. She's a great voice to narrate a great book.

Bad Taste in Boys has a ton of hilarious dialogue! Harris introduces us to an entire cast of fantastic characters, from Kate's sweet but dorky younger brother, her gorgeous yet nice buds, a football team of idiots - some meanspirited, some not - and a swoon-worthy crush in cheerful, outgoing Aaron.

This is a hysterical zombie adventure with an awesome heroine - a wild and crazy ride in a gross, laugh-out-loud funny and kickass-geek style!!! Fantastic and original!!! It's a short little book, but each and every word is oozing with wit and creativity. Bad Taste in Boys is also oddly empowering. Who woulda guessed that a gal with a medical textbook in one hand and a syringe in the other could be cooler than any cheerleader?!

Read this!!! This is most definitely an author to watch!

***ALERT: Due to continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am continuing the 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Accomplice


Accomplice is a YA novel by Eireann Corrigan.

Best friends Finn and Chloe have been working hard, since they were young, to get into a great college. They've done well in school and spent a bunch of time doing stuff that looks good on applications but isn't so much fun in real life. But then a college advisor came in and told everybody that what used to be good enough, isn't good enough anymore.

More and more applicants make the likelihood of getting into the college of your choice harder than ever - and you need to stand out and be truly unique to be noticed and accepted.

That's when Chloe starts to come up with something - something that will for sure capture attention. They will stage Chloe's disappearance, get CNN's interest, and then when the time is right Finn will "find" her - and they'll both be famous and be able to pick and choose the college of their choice.

It's a victimless crime that just takes resolve to complete - right? But with Chloe stashed away, Finn is the one having to deal with the frightened parents and the horrible guilt - and then everything starts to fall apart. It's not happening the way they planned, and Finn doesn't like where it's going - but now it's too late to turn back...

Ooooh, Accomplice is tension-filled, nerve-wracking, and all-encompassing - Eireann Corrigan made me feel like the third executer of this crime, as I began to feel as guilty as Finn - as if I was an accomplice too! The novel has an excellent plot that zips along, underlining the pressure high school students feel these days about college - it's a hard pressure to bear, which makes Accomplice not that hard to believe.

Finn is a great character to follow - you sometimes get a glimpse of her wit and her kindness, character traits that often get overshadowed by Chloe's beauty and instant likability by her fellow students and even the charmed adults. I started to feel very protective of Finn, and the layers of the plot really started to become more intense as the realizations pile up - realizations and revelations that I don't want to mention here and ruin your own experience reading it!!!

I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how on earth Accomplice would end! And, man, is it an ending! I was breathless, chilled, and shocked - it's a conclusion that left me flabbergasted and desperate for more. Wow!

I thought Accomplice was amazing and extremely well done!!! Check it out, bibliophiles!!!

***ALERT: Due to continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am continuing the 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Forever


Forever is the third and final book in Maggie Stiefvater's YA paranormal trilogy Wolves of Mercy Falls.

To any reader who has yet to read Shiver and/or Linger: Please don't read this synopsis. It'll only spoil, inevitably, great moments from the first two books. Instead, read my review of Shiver here - or if you've read Shiver, read my review of Linger here. In the meantime, get reading! Don't spoil yourself!

Now to everybody who has read Shiver and Linger: We shall proceed. ;)

Grace is in the woods. She used to be the human in love with a wolf. Now she is the wolf and Sam is the human. Apparently Grace and Sam's story was never meant to be easy. Especially now that there is a strong demand for a wolf hunt in Mercy Falls. People are paranoid over the amount of attacks - and ready to rid themselves of all the wolves. But Grace, as a wolf, doesn't know this. She doesn't remember anything about herself when she is a wolf. She doesn't know to be careful.

Sam has never been on this side of the fear. He's always been scared of the winter he would leave humanity, and Grace, forever. But he's never been afraid of losing her to the forest - or at the hands of hunters. Yet now, here he is. He's lost without Grace. He can't lose her forever...

That is a very sparse summary, I know. But we don't want to give too much away now, do we?

Forever, just like Shiver and Linger, is very intense emotionally. Because of this, the trilogy doesn't so much excite me to read the final book as much as compel me to. I need to know what happens. As do many of the fans.

To be honest, I felt like the first quarter of Forever had a lack of distinctive plot - but the thing about it is each personal thread (Grace, Sam, Isabel, Cole) is so alluring and magnetic that it didn't even matter. And the plot, which remained wispy, did emerge eventually - but took back-seat to the stunning character development that Maggie Stiefvater's makes her primary focus.

There is such anguish, such beauty, and such a thick, moody atmosphere in Forever. These are characters with pasts, with scars, with hurts that are deep, and hopes that are even deeper. These are flawed, damaged individuals - sometimes providing us with memories that are darkly disturbing, but also unimaginably effective.

Unlike most conclusions to blockbuster series', there is a patience in the pacing of Forever - pausing for nuances and hushed words. Forever is lovely and understated with a maturity that is sometimes sorely lacking in other paranormal romances. And it's not just Grace and Sam's inspiring, beautiful love story in focus here, but for me (and I am basing this off of Shiver and Linger, so as not to give you any hints on Forever) Cole and Isabel's truly raw and sometimes achingly honest chemistry is also. They have all been so lonely and so lost for a very long time.

I couldn't help but hope for a happy ending for all four of these wonderful characters... I felt that each of them deserved some peace and joy. But without revealing if my wish came true or not, I will just say that Forever was bittersweet and excellent and true to Maggie Stiefvater's unique tone straight through to the end. I could have used a more complete end, but at the same time I think I understand why the author wanted to end it the way she did. I am just sad that it is over.

But, oh, what a story!

***ALERT: Due to continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am continuing the 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Jasper Jones


Jasper Jones is a YA novel by Craig Silvey.

In a small mining town in Vietnam War-era Australia, it's a sweltering summer. And it's on one of these hot nights that Jasper Jones, the town's teenage outcast, appears at the window of thirteen-year-old aspiring writer Charlie Bucktin.

Jasper Jones needs Charlie's help but refuses to say with what - instead he wants to show him. Both scared and excited to be sneaking out of the house for the first time, Charlie can't imagine what Jasper could need him for, but he's rather honored - and determined to not let him down.

But Jasper leads Charlie to a secret spot in the woods that Jasper likes to stay - and gives him no warning for what he is about to see.

It's horrifying - and what Jasper wants... it's wrong. Charlie knows it's wrong. Yet there's an odd sort of sense to it, and before Charlie can really think straight decisions have been made and secrets have been locked - because there's no turning back now...

Jasper Jones starts off like a nervous but flattering adventure - but ends up being a nightmare for our Charlie, as he follows bad-reputation Jasper Jones into a secluded area. There's a creepiness to this entire scene that leads up to a chilling, startling discovery - done very well by author Craig Silvey. I can't really say what it is that Charlie sees without giving away much of the suspense and a lot of what happens afterwards - you should really read it to find out.

What I can say is that Jasper Jones is an edgy coming-of-age story. You've got Charlie's seemingly unhappy mother, his quiet father, his hilarious but terribly treated Vietnamese best friend, and a town barely holding on to its civility as it deals with the fallout of war, the heat, and now this new horror - which I won't give away. And Charlie who has never kept a secret like the one he's keeping now, finds himself losing his grip on his relationships and seeing things differently - how can any of it end well?

Craig Silvey doesn't hesitate to make Jasper Jones scary, nerve-wracking, and deeply disturbing at times. He quickly captured my attention and doesn't let it go. It's sometimes laugh-out-loud funny with its fantastic dialogue, sometimes absolutely heartbreaking - always irreverant and undeniably bold.

I didn't love everything about Jasper Jones - there were some subjects of conversation and views by the author I didn't agree with - and sometimes the novel was darker than I prefer to really delve into - as well as some points later on that did become slower for me personally - but overall I really felt that Jasper Jones was successful at creating an atmosphere similiar to literary beauts like To Kill a Mockingbird - and had a sensitive, lovely heart to it that made it sometimes painful to read - but definitely worth it!

***ALERT: Due to continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am continuing the 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tomorrow Girls #2: Run for Cover


Run for Cover is the second book in Eva Gray's futuristic middle-grade thriller series Tomorrow Girls.

In order to prevent spoilers, I suggest all book addicts to read Behind the Gates, the first Tomorrow Girls book, before even glancing at this review. For all of you that have read Behind the Gates and are ready for where the girls' are going next, I won't be giving any plot details away, but more of a recap of the conclusion and my thoughts on the book itself.

So, again - below are going to be spoilers for anyone who HAS NOT read Behind the Gates, but NOT spoilers about Run for Cover itself. Ready? Okay! :)

Rosie still can't believe it. She was sure that CMS was truly just an awesome boarding school that taught survival skills and kept her safe from the Alliance, America's enemy in the War. Louisa was totally on the same page, and the two of them had been enjoying all the nature that the school offered - nature that had become so scarce in this ragged world.

But Evelyn, crazy Evelyn, ended up being right. Her conspiracy theories had always sounded so far-fetched - but now even Rosie had to admit that they were in bad situation. The Alliance was behind CMS and actually using the school to get their hands on America's wealthiest kids in order to demand a ransom - which may very well be how they finally took Canada.

Louisa, Maddie, Evelyn, and Rosie got the heck out of there as soon as they overheard this - none of them liked the thought of being used against their parents - or being in Alliance hands! So, as Behind the Gates closed all four of our girls, despite their differences, were heading off silently into the forest to escape and - hopefully - find their way back to Chicago where their families are!

And the hardest thing about this for Rosie is that she kinda has to rely on these girls. And she's never been one to rely on anyone besides herself. At least, not since a certain event happened in her life a few years ago...

Run for Cover, instead of continuing to follow Louisa's viewpoint, spotlights tough-girl Rosie this time around. It's an interesting choice since she so often came across as unlikable in the first book - so it's nice to see things from her standpoint and experiences. Definitely some surprises there.

There is a cloak-and-dagger survival tone, the feel of hiding and trying to escape creating an environment of light suspense. It's fun and fast-paced but doesn't pack a whole lot of substance and sometimes feels a little fluffy. I did feel like Run for Cover wasn't as original as the first book, Behind the Gates. I wanted more information about this future world where gas in $60 a gallon and writing with pen and paper is nearly unheard of - but we got more of a hushed espionage tone - which was entertaining and a very quick read, but just not as intriguing to me as the more enigmatic, mystery-laced first novel.

In this second Tomorrow Girls book, the girls' run across the boys, and without giving away too much I will say that crushes do abound, resulting in some humorous moments and maybe a little hint of romance for our middle school aged characters.

Despite it not being as strong as the first book (in my opinion, that is - you very well may think it's stronger!), the end was a breathless cliffhanger - again! So, I still find myself looking forward to the next book. This isn't a series I would ever flip out about and it's occasionally predictable, but it's an enjoyable, relaxing read.

I might not be jumping up and down in excitement when the third book With the Enemy comes out, but I will be reading it. ;)

***ALERT: Due to continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am continuing the 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bearing Northeast


Bearing Northeast is a new Henry Melton YA sci-fi novel.

Sixteen-year-old Seth is parented by his older sister Biz, as she gained guardianship after they became orphaned. Sometimes it's hard to have that dynamic, but they've set down rules to make it work.

One thing that doesn't always work? Finances. And that is how Seth finds himself and his sister clearing out their parents' old vacation home to get it sold as soon as possible, even as much as losing the memories attached to it hurts.

While there, an odd metal cylinder crashes through the sky with such speed that it takes the bark right off a tree and embeds itself a few feet into the ground. Always curious, Seth is determined to figure out what the thing is - but the mystery only deepens when his sister helps him open it and they find a GPS tracking signal that leads them far northeast.

Seth takes the opportunity to convince his sister that they need a spontaneous roadtrip - that following the signal will make a great adventure together. And as they follow the signal, and Seth keeps his Twitter friends up-to-date and involved, he becomes more and more convinced that this is some sort of hidden project...

I'm a fan of Henry Melton - and he's back with Bearing Northeast, a novel in which he again provides us with relatable, realistic teens and family issues and relationships. He's also great at portraying honest economic realities - money troubles, layoffs, etc. It's always great to have an acknowledgment of what everyday people have to go through.

Bearing Northeast is one Melton's slimmer books - and I was instantly interested to see what sci-fi tricks he had up his sleeve for this one. However, I never really felt like it came. This was a novel in which Henry shows us some great ideas for advancement in technology, but not really the kind of sci-fi I go for. He's had books with time travel (Golden Girl), mind control (Follow that Mouse), aliens (Roswell or Bust), and more - but this one is perhaps more along the lines of his Lighter Than Air, in which we follow a likable teen boy as he discovers a new way to create flight and defeat gravity. Lighten Than Air was more scientific - as is Bearing Northeast. And that is great for those reader's who are more scientific minded and love that kind of thing - and I'm sure there are many.

But for me? Well, I was never bored - the roadtrip across America and over the border was full of great sibling dialogue and there was a good, surprising revelation near the middle - but it was a tad monotonous for me. I kept waiting for something more to happen - something more along the lines of, well, time travel, mind control, or aliens. The payoff for my patience wasn't what I hoped for - but this is a personal taste issue, nothing against the book itself.

Like I said, Bearing Northeast is an excellent novel for all you techies and geniuses in training - those of you who have a curious mind about the possibilities of new discoveries and like your stories to have good, solid characters as well.

Not one of my favorites from this talented author, but sure to be someone's!

***ALERT: Due to continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am continuing the 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Titanic: Collision Course


Collision Course is the second book in Gordon Korman's middle-grade Titanic trilogy.

I encourage all of you to read the first book in the Titanic trilogy, Unsinkable, before reading my review of Collision Course. This is because despite me not having any spoilers in my review for this book, it is inevitable that there will be details here that will spoil Unsinkable! And, this is an excellent trilogy that you do not want to spoil - so please avert your eyes and go read Unsinkable!!!

Now - all of you bibliophiles that HAVE read Unsinkable may proceed...

Paddy, Juliana, Sophie, and Alfie have formed an unorthodox friendship on the luxurious Titanic. Paddy is a stowaway on the run from the very people who killed his best friend Daniel, Juliana is a first-class young lady with a father that has a scandalous obsession with gambling, Sophie is also a first-class young lady but an American with a suffragette for a mother, and Alfie is trying his hardest to not give away that he doesn't meet the age requirement for his job as Junior Steward for the White Star Line.

Yet they've found each other. And that's not the only thing they've found...

They have found evidence that suggests that Jack the Ripper, the notorious murderer that was never caught, may very well be on the ship - and our four characters find themselves in the midst of a dangerous mystery, as each of them tries desperately to hide their own secrets from the outside world.

But then the Titanic hits an iceberg... and everything is about to change...

Like I said in my review of the first book in this series, Unsinkable, I am a huge fan of the movie Titanic, and after watching it found myself fascinated with the luxury liner that ended up in such tragedy. Gordon Korman's writing honestly soaks up the atmosphere of that time and that setting and just lets me burrow in and gaze in wonder. He makes it so believable and our four main characters all so different and unique in their perspective, Collision Course just feels like another layer to Titanic, the movie. Like these characters were there all along and we are now hearing their stories.

Since I've been oh-so-wonderfully-overwhelmingly-excitingly busy with reading, rereading books in a series before reading the next book has become something that is next to impossible right now. So, it was nice how Gordon Korman's writing helped me to remember where all the various plots left off without having an overt, lengthy recap. With a book this short, there's just no time for that! But he did help me catch up, which I was happy about.

The new twist on Jack the Ripper adds an extra dose of suspense and mystery, without feeling at all cheesy. It all felt very real, and when I thought I had a handle on what the revelation would be - I was wrong. Which is awesome.

This is really a series for any reader who is interested in historical fiction, or the Titanic specifically. Despite the characters being fourteen and fifteen, the story is accessible to all ages.

When I turned the final page, I was more than ready for the final book coming out in September - S.O.S.

And worried. Because we all know what happens to the Titanic, but we sure don't know what's going to happen to Paddy, Sophie, Alfie, and Juliana!

***ALERT: Due to continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am continuing the 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Falling for Hamlet


Falling for Hamlet is a YA modern retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet, written by Michelle Ray.

Ophelia has grown up with Prince Hamlet and Horatio. She's now entering her senior year of high school, and finds herself the continued center of attention when it comes of magazine covers and TV shows. After all, she is Prince Hamlet's longtime girlfriend.

It's not like she ever sought the fame - she and Hamlet just sort of had a magnetic pull - one neither of them could deny. And with that attraction came paparazzi and a royal family that insisted on everything in public being scripted. Yet it always seemed worth it to be with the handsome, charismatic Hamlet with whom she had a lifetime of memories.

But then the King of Denmark, Hamlet's father, dies suddenly under suspicious circumstances. And this ends up being a catalyst to changing everything about Ophelia's life. She wants to be there for Hamlet, but he seems to be turning more and more paranoid and strange. And the surprising turn of events in the kingdom don't help any...

Ophelia finds herself wanting a normal life more and more... but is it too late?

Falling for Hamlet has spicy, saucy, vibrant writing that makes it sparkle and shimmer with vitality! It was amazing - a great, fast-paced modern retelling of a classic Shakespeare tale - Michelle Ray does the drama just right! I have seen a period movie version of Hamlet and found the story to be fascinating - as Shakespeare always is - but Michelle Ray makes it more relevant, more believable, and more relatable to a 21st century reader.

Ophelia gets the center stage - and she's feisty with a good heart and torn loyalties. A fantastic protagonist, giving us a new perspective. Throughout Falling for Hamlet we get transcripts of an interrogation in which Ophelia is the subject. It is clearly taking place after all the events we're reading about are over and the dust has cleared - and it provides an ominous tone and succeeds in intriguing me further - I was absolutely glued!

Manipulation, deception, obsession, and the desire for power and revenge are the order of the day for Falling for Hamlet and it's all done so well. Plots with so much detail and drama can easily become melodramatic in the wrong hands - but Michelle Ray is proven more than capable as we are given a stunning debut and a fitting contemporary tribute to William Shakespeare.

Falling for Hamlet is heartbreaking, painful, spotlights the pain of loss, the pain of a messy breakup, and nail-biting suspense. It's a phenomenal new imagining on a classic tragedy - gripping and incredible!

Whether you're a fan of Shakespeare or not, or simply have never given the man a shot - Falling for Hamlet is a book for you to read and read and read until it is over - it is honestly that good!!!

I can't help but want Michelle Ray to do the same thing to all the Shakespeare plays!

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

***ALERT: Due to continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am continuing the 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hereafter


Hereafter is a recent supernatural YA release by author Tara Hudson.

Amelia knows only three things - her first name, her age (eighteen), and the fact that no one can see her. She knows the last one to be excruciatingly true after many desperate pleas and screams at passersby who didn't even blink. Most of the time she just aimlessly floats along the river, unaware of time or really anything else. She smells nothing, feels nothing. She is nothing.

Then she has her recurring nightmare. Drowning. Struggling. Panicking. Until she wakes up, terrified, in a graveyard. Every time it is the same. Every time she runs out of the graveyard without looking at the tombstones. Because she already thinks she knows why her existence is so vague and without memory...

She must be dead.

But then one day when she thinks her nightmare is beginning again, Amelia realizes that this time it is different. It's never different. This time its real. A boy, around her age, is in the water with her. His eyes are closed, his arms spread wide, and he's unconscious.

And all of a sudden - she can hear his heartbeat. It's slowing. He's dying. Just like her.

Purpose awakens Amelia from her stupor and she tries vainly to wake him up, to save him. To save him like she wasn't saved. But she's unable to touch him, to pull him up to the surface. All she can do is beg and will him to do it himself.

Then - he opens his eyes. Eyes that seem to see her. And he starts to swim.

Amelia is stunned and, for the first time, has a reason to notice time passing. She is waiting for him to return. And he does. His name is Joshua, and they begin to grow close. He wants to help her.

But then, Eli comes. Eli is a spirit, like her, but seems malicious and frightening. And he wants to take her to the ghost world. He promises answers to all her questions.

Yet for the first time, Amelia has a reason to stay...

Hereafter has a startling, haunting, intense start that brings you the sense of loneliness that Amelia has endured for who knows how long, until there is a bright light of hope in the moment Joshua's eyes seem to see her. From there, I was continually wowed by my empathy for Amelia, the intrigue of not knowing exactly what's going on, and chilled by Eli's arrival - which feels invasive to what feels like Amelia's first chance at happiness after such a long time of nothing.

Tara Hudson has penned a sweetly romantic unique ghost story that melds burning attraction with compassionate understanding, creating a creative, never-before-told version of a campfire legend - very character driven, scary, sad, touching, hopeful, riveting, nerve-wracking, suspenseful, and beautifully eloquent!

And when, later on in the novel, Hereafter presents us with a horrifying memory/flashback in which Amelia is forced to play her role (as her memories, when they start to come, are so vivid yet leave her so aware), is terrifying and super creepy. It gives it a horror edge - and sent chills down my spine. This is definitely a multilayered book!

I was extremely impressed! Hereafter is a lovely, amazing, romantic, poignant, truly excellent novel that had me turning pages obsessively, invested in these wonderful characters - characters who are easy to care for and root for as they try to figure out the strange circumstance they are in. I felt the author's love for them - and I joined her in the admiration.

This is a journey worth taking - no question.

***ALERT: Due to continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am continuing the 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!