Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The List

The List is a YA contemporary fiction novel by Siobhan Vivian.

Every year at Mount Washington High, before Homecoming, a list of eight girls is posted anonymously featuring the prettiest and ugliest girl in each grade. These girls become the center of attention, for better or worse.

Prettiest:
Abby Warner is delighted with her newfound fame, but it’s overshadowed by her older sister’s resentment. Lauren Finn is stunned, as she has been a loner thus far, having been homeschooled up to this point. She’s suddenly bombarded with friends and doesn’t know whether to be wary or joyous. Bridget Honeycutt takes this acknowledgment as validation of what she believed was a worrisome way to lose weight this summer. While Margo Gable is pleased but is haunted by how she got there.

Ugliest:
Danielle Demarco is stunned and hurt, but far more worried about what her boyfriend will think. Candace Kincaid is angered at the pure ridiculousness of the label, as she is one of the most attractive girls in school. Sarah, who is always rebellious, decides to push the label in the school’s snotty faces. And Jennifer, the only four-time choice in all of Mount Washington High’s history, has come to just be glad of the attention.

Each of these eight girls faces a struggle of self-identity, self-esteem, and the judgment of their peers. And none of them will ever be the same.

Wow.

The List is an exceptionally powerful novel that has an appalling, yet wretchedly believable, premise. It’s sad and fascinating to follow how each girl reacts to her placement. We get to see a vivid bit of every girl’s life and how the news shapes things. It’s raw. It’s warm. It’s excruciating.

There’s a level of anticipation and suspense of finding out some of these girl’s pasts and secrets, as well as nervousness as to seeing where they’ll end up. Siobhan Vivian masterfully creates eight three-dimensional students, each with their own set of worries, insecurities, and issues. It peels back the veil behind the labels of “pretty” and “ugly” and shows us so much more.

The List is mesmeric to read – I was glued, astounded, and on the edge of my seat the entire time. It’s heartbreaking and intimate with touching moments of family/friends intuition and love. Plus, there’s a huge, shocking revelation that somehow brings even more depth and psychological integrity to The List.

And then the profound, superb end…

Really, The List has to be one of my favorite contemporary fiction novels this year so far. It’s a must-read for all ages.

Wow.

Monday, May 28, 2012

House of the Star

House of the Star is a YA fantasy by Caitlin Brennan.

When horse lover Elen, princess of Ymbria, is told her dreams are to come true and she is to go to the House of the Star, a ranch on Earth that houses the most magnificent horses in the world – worldrunners who provide the only safe way to travel between worlds – she does not want to go.

Because despite her deep, desperate desire to become a rider of worldrunners and spend her days with horses, she knows that this trip is only a cover for a meeting with a representative of Caledon – the world they’ve been at war with since long before she was born.

In the past the Caledon citizen would be a boy of the same age as the girl from Ymbria and they’d usually be forced to marry to facilitate peace. The unhappy marriages only caused the war to get worse, though.

This time, Elen is shocked to find that the traditional meeting at the House of the Star is far different than normal. But as much as she tries, her hatred of the traitorous world of Caledon makes it impossible to make peace.

If no peace is found, however, the Master of the House of Star will cut off both Ymbria and Caledon from the worldroads forever, which would be devastating for their people and economy.

With the help of a wise, stubborn worldrunner named Blanca, can Elen find it within herself to save her world?

House of the Star starts with a wonderfully descriptive prose that brings about a magical, perilous, ethereal vibe, but a rather perplexing and resultantly slow plot. With patience, however, the plot does pick up as details of the long, bitter war are illuminated and brought to the forefront. As well as the ardent love of horses and ranch living, which is fascinatingly gripping.

This is truly an original fantasy story that doesn’t ring of really anything I’ve read before. The mixture of prejudice, war, politics, and intrigue with absolute love and admiration for horses makes it uniquely recommendable to both fantasy and animal lovers!

House of the Star is gentle, yet engrossing. It becomes steadily more suspenseful and nail-biting, and is ultimately tremendously satisfying and rousing. I really was surprised by how into it I ended up being.

Maybe you will, too!

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Midnight Tunnel

The Midnight Tunnel is a middlegrade mystery novel by Angie Frazier.

In 1904 Loch Harbor, New Brunswick Suzanna “Zanna” Snow’s family manage the well-to-do Rosemount hotel. And though it’s her duty to help out with the rest of the family, Zanna dreams of being a world-class detective like her Uncle Bruce Snow from Boston.

She keeps an observational notebook about nearly everything of interest that goes on, but not much of interest does go on.

That is, until the sleepy little town is hit with a case of a missing girl – and Zanna is determined to help in the investigation! And she begins to think there's more going on that what may meet the eye. Problem is, by digging up clues and searching for leads, she’s also putting herself in danger.

She sure can't say life is boring now...

The Midnight Tunnel offers us a plucky, clumsy, very relatable heroine as we follow her in her seemingly ordinary life at the quiet hotel. She’s a mystery lover, a girl after my own heart, and extremely persistent. She’s met with underestimation due to her young age and gender, which makes her all the more root-worthy.

I found the book to have a nice, light, pleasant clue-finding tone. It was a tad slow at times, but always fun and full of eccentric guests, red herrings, and an eventual disillusionment that Zanna had to overcome.

It wasn’t as Agatha Christie-lite as I was hoping, but it was diverting just the same. I will be reading the next book in what may now be a series, The Mastermind Plot.

A Love Forbidden

A Love Forbidden is a historical romance by Kathleen Morgan.

Driven by a resilient aspiration to help Indians, especially the Ute Indians whom she’s had personal contact with over the years; twenty-year-old Shiloh Wainwright accepts a position at the White River Indian Agency in 1870 northwestern Colorado. She’s expects to have a fulfilling, autonomous life on the frontier while teaching the Ute children.

When she arrives, however, Shiloh finds a much more reluctant group of people than she was initially presented with. The Utes are rebelling against the government’s demands, the Indian agent is unyielding, and she’s in the middle.

And then she crosses paths with Jesse Blackwater, a half-Ute man that she was friends with as a child. Her memories of him are vivid and painful, as prejudice and cruelty were the reasons for his departure. She’s shocked to find her youthful attachment is now a full-fledged attraction – but his loyalty to the Utes makes any sort of relationship between them unconventional – and in this climate of anger, dangerous…

A Love Forbidden has a heart-wrenching beginning that leaves a powerful impression and connection between Shiloh and Jesse that helps to build the chemistry later on. The racial tensions, lack of trust and rumblings of an uprising are an ever-present background to this hesitant, moving love story.

Shiloh is a kind, compassionate person but she is not without fault – she comes across as authentic. And Jesse’s pride, animosity, and resentment are deep enough in his soul that only the grace and love of God can help him find peace. They are a pair that truly has to overcome many obstacles, both physical and psychological.

The story touches on multiple issues of family, identity, love, and forgiveness. A Love Forbidden presents a strong attraction that is matched with emotional and intellectual understanding, which makes for a great romance! Though the end felt a little rushed to me, I found this to be a very nice story in a very sad time.

Definitely a great choice for readers of Christian fiction, romance, and historical novels!

*Available May 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

*I received a copy of A Love Forbidden from the Baker Publishing Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Throat

Throat is a YA supernatural novel by R. A. Nelson.

Emma, seventeen, has epilepsy.

The erratic seizures are humiliating and have driven away friends and ruined some of her dreams. Even soccer, where she can let out some of her substantial frustration, is starting to be taken from her.

She’d do anything to not have epilepsy – until it saves her life.

When she wakes up in the hospital with a severe cut on her thigh that caused tremendous blood loss, she can’t remember anything at first. But then small pieces of the puzzle start to come together, until she begins to recall an attack by a man – a vampire, she realizes – named Wirtz. He was going to kill her. But, it seems, Emma’s sudden grand mal seizure somehow enabled her escape.

Then Emma’s starts to notice changes.

She gets an extreme sensitivity to light, with implausible night vision, and more strength and speed. But she’s not craving blood, and she has no problem going out in daylight. Could she be half a vampire? Is that even possible?

Emma has a bigger dilemma though. It’s not long before she gathers that Wirtz is after her. Her mother and little sister are in danger. Emma needs to figure out what she is and how to prepare for a fight that she can in no way predict…

Throat provides us bibliophiles with a different kind of character. Emma is unruly, impulsive and often angry – and she has a strength to her, a capable-ness that is sometimes unusual to this genre. Plus, the condition she suffers from – epilepsy – is not one I’ve read about often, so points for originality yet again.

When we take that creativity and toss in vampires and a bit of mystery we get a creepy, fascinating, unexpected thrill-ride of a read that can come across at times to be The Fugitive for the supernatural set.

Throat has a very cool, very unique vampire mythology that mixes well with a dash of sci-fi. The pace sometimes takes its time, but with engrossing revelations of details that kept me utterly glued. And we get just enough romance to satisfy our need for it (or my need for it), without getting schmaltzy or cliché.

Truly different. I was happily astonished. In fact, I think Throat may be a vampire book that boys might enjoy just as well as girls – and that doesn’t happen too often!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Hooked

Hooked is a YA contemporary fiction novel by Catherine Greenman.

Seventeen-year-old Thea Galehouse has long ago learned how to take care of herself. Her Mom used to own a rather scandalous club and tends to be a bit flighty. Her Dad is a recovering alcoholic, workaholic, and overall not the most relaxing person to be around. They’re divorced, of course.

Then Thea starts her first serious relationship with Will, an attractive and funny senior. They fit perfectly. She’s hooked on him and barely cares about school anymore, despite her Dad’s prodding.

When Will goes to college, Thea is happily relieved that their relationship seems stronger than anybody guessed. Her comfort level with him is off-the-charts and she finally starts to think he might love her as much as she loves him.

But when Thea discovers she’s pregnant – things go on a roller-coaster ride.

Thing is, it’s not so much causing problems with Will as much as their parents. Because Thea wants to keep her baby. And nobody is changing her mind.

But will her relationship last with Will through the pregnancy - and after? Is she making the right decision?

Wow. Hooked dumps you right into the moment Thea meets Will and elegantly convinces you of a legitimate relationship. We get good humor, believable and relatable dialogue, heartfelt and sometimes painful family situations, and a raw and honest tone that doesn’t make anyone out to be a villain or an angel. These feel like real people. In the end, I believe that is the biggest hurdle in a contemporary fiction novel. Catherine Greenman doesn’t stumble once, in my opinion.

Hooked takes you on a downward spiral of reality, in which we focus on a likable, smart, occasionally plausibly vexing character in Thea – who has a unique hobby in crocheting. I don’t want to give you too many details on the plot (I already wish I didn’t have to give as much as I did!) because the rhythmical prose smoothly takes you from plot point to plot point in an skilled manner that defies the fact that this is Catherine Greenman’s debut novel.

Really, I found Hooked to be an understated, sophisticated, poignant novel that is moving and uplifting. Superb!

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning is a historical romance by Olivia Newport.

Twenty-one year old Lucy Banning’s life has been mapped out for her since she can remember. Especially when it comes to marrying Daniel, the son of lifelong family friends. Their engagement recently became official and Lucy is on her way to being everything her upper class parents want as the 1893 World’s Fair begins to draw near.

Only problem? Lucy isn’t so sure she’s content with the life laid at her feet. She has dreams that she knows her parents, good and kind people but set in their ways, wouldn’t understand. Neither would Daniel. That’s why she keeps the fact that she’s taking art classes at the local college a secret to all but her Aunt Violet, whom is helping to pay.

Then she meets Will, an up-and-coming architect of the working class. Lucy begins to wonder how life would be if she lived life on her own terms…

The main character in The Pursuit of Lucy Banning is scrumptiously feisty and ambitious and unacceptably betrothed to an unexciting, acceptable man that she’s been friends with all her life – but is not in love with. Within just the first pages I got a strong impression of her personality, very likable and softened by compassion, which adds a fun flavor to the high-society, late 19th century feel.

There’s actually a bit of an upstairs/downstairs tone as we also follow the new kitchen maid Charlotte, who is hiding a big secret of her own. In fact, The Pursuit of Lucy Banning has a Downton Abbey sense that would make this novel, I believe, a great recommendation for fans of that series.

I couldn’t help but love the polite conversation, at times laced with the gentlest of sarcasm, and the desire for more freedom brimming beneath the surface. Oh dear. This is a great historical romance!

Also, the author provides an excellent amount of dialogue to allow us to get to know the characters in a zippier fashion. I was absolutely delighted with the first third, and then all the crazy stuff started to happen – and I was still enchanted!

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning is a sincerely sweet, insightful, graceful story that is truly interesting, romantic, and transports you to the time period – everything you hope for in historical fiction. And because it is written with Christians in mind, it’s also appropriate for any age.

Happily, this is the first in a new series by the author called Avenue of Dreams. Sign me up for book two!

*Available May 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

*I received a copy of The Pursuit of Lucy Banning from the Baker Publishing Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

The Fire Opal

The Fire Opal is a YA fantasy historical by Regina McBride.

Maeve O’Tullagh lives a simple life on Irish shores of Ard Marcha with her Da, Mam, and two brothers. She plays among the ancient Celtic ruins and envisions the legendary, enchanted land of the Holy Isles –a place ruled by a goddess instead of a god, something almost preposterous in the late sixteenth century.

When Maeve’s sister Ishleen is born to her mother under enigmatic circumstances, her Mam enters a stupor. She can walk, very slowly, if prodded and eat. But she is otherwise completely absent from her body. Her eyes stay open, unseeing. She is like a vegetable almost. Maeve’s heart is broken, but from time to time she believes she can hear her mother and she talks to her. He Da and brothers begin to look at her in fear – they’re scared they’re losing her too.

As Maeve grows older, she feels strongly that there is something keeping her Mam from returning to them. Something connected with a woman that once appeared to her with charmed bottles to wear as protection and feathers falling from her shawl.

When an unexpected turn of events happens to cause yet another heartbreak, Maeve is more determined than ever to rescue her loved ones. But the cruel and handsome Tom Caven is unrelenting on her hand in marriage – and might be involved in the stealing of her Mam’s soul.

But Maeve will save her family. She has to…

The Fire Opal gripped me with its lyrical, mystical opening. This is an atmospheric Ireland with whispers of magic and lore dense among the sorrow of its first pages. I found it to be a haunting, melancholy tale with historical details that enhanced its strange, supernatural tone.

Odd occurrences peppered throughout the beginning years of Maeve’s life brought about ominous feeling, and what I loved was that I really had no idea what was going on. The Fire Opal is a war-torn, spellbinding, dark tale sudsy with mystery, unwanted attentions from an unwelcome suitor and richly romantic moments with a wanted one.

Bizarrely, once the more obviously fantasy elements began to clarify itself in a sudden (and maybe too convenient?) way that seems out of the blue, that poetic aspect seemed to waver. I tried to go along with it, but I felt the plot began to turn a little murky and convoluted. I’ll be honest – I got kind of confused. Now, with a reread that might be fixed. Or maybe I was just eating more of those crazy cupcakes without realizing it. But that’s how I felt.

Still, though, I found The Fire Opal to be a unique and exciting novel of Celtic mythology – weaving swan maidens, mermaids, and magic together – that might’ve just gotten a bit too muddled and befuddling at the end but is still worth the read.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Prom & Prejudice

Prom & Prejudice is a YA contemporary novel by Elizabeth Eulberg.

I am such a HUGE Jane Austen fan. Though somehow I’ve yet to read Persuasion. Isn’t that insane? I so need to rectify that ASAP.

Anywho, Prom & Prejudice is based on Pride & Prejudice. And if you haven’t read it yet – why? Really, you should! And by reading it BEFORE Prom & Prejudice, you’ll have a ton more amusement, in my opinion, reading this little, quick-bite of a novel.

Moving on from my rather forceful advice (bibliophiles can be forces of nature!), let’s find out some of the basic summary details of Prom & Prejudice, shall we?

Lizzie Bennet is a scholarship student at the esteemed Longbourn Academy. She’s using her good fortune to further her hopes of being a renowned pianist. But being a scholarship student among all the snobby rich girls that consider you scum is like a daily hazing ritual. If she didn’t have Charlotte, the other scholarship student, and uncommonly kind Jane, her best friend and roommate, she’d be completely miserable.

Most everybody is breathless over the upcoming prom. Even Jane, whom is head-over-heels over the returning-from-England Charles Bingley. He’s a student over at Pemberley Academy, the boy’s version of their school. Lizzie is shocked to find him just as nice and cheerful as Jane, but doesn’t find the same virtues in his dour, stuck-up friend Will Darcy.

Yet Lizzie can’t help but be curious about Darcy anyway. He’s an enigma. But a jerk.

Right?

Oh, I loved the first line of Prom & Prejudice and the clever way it hearkens to Pride & Prejudice. It has heavy references to the believed Austen novel, but the author incorporates the fun little matching details in new, modern ways.

I felt this was a fun, honeyed, fantastic reconstruction that doesn’t so much try to be Pride & Prejudice, or compete with it in any way, but instead pays homage to it.

Romantic, funny, sweet, and elating, this is a book that is frustrating in all the right ways.

Prom & Prejudice is a delectable dessert of a novel!

After a long week of school or work, this is the kind of book you want to crawl in bed with.

And, for some strange reason, it caused me a strong desire to watch a certain movie starring Colin Firth…

Monday, May 14, 2012

Witch & Wizard: The Fire

Witch & Wizard: The Fire is the third book in James Patterson’s supernatural YA series. This one is co-authored with Jill Dembowski.

If you haven’t read the first two books in the series, this review will contain inevitable spoilers. I’d suggest – strongly – that you not read it. Instead, read my reviews of the first book, Witch & Wizard, here and the second, Witch & Wizard: The Gift, here. I am super-duper happy to announce that moi here at the Bibliophile Support Group is actually quoted on the back cover of Witch & Wizard: The Fire! How awesome is that? Very. ;)

Anyway, if you are still reading I hope you have read the previous books and aren’t about to spoil your fun! I’m trusting you…

Whit and Wisty Allgood have powers. And apparently they are the stars of a prophecy having to do with getting the world out from under the tyrannical thumb of The One Who is The One. He dictates everything and has pretty much outlawed anything you like or believe in: religion, music, books, movies, etc.

Whit and Wisty have tried, in the past, to fight him. But his power is so strong; they keep barely escaping with their lives. They’ve sacrificed so much – seen their very own parents murdered… It’s discouraging to say the least.

The gift of fire is highly coveted by The One, which is why he’s always after Wisty. She knows she’s supposed to be the key to beating him – but when she uses it against him it only seems to provide him with more power.

Before it’s too late, these magical siblings need to learn how they can defeat The One – or it might never happen…

You know, I wish I had the time to reread the first two books in the series. I remember really liking them, but hoping that James Patterson would shy away from the whole “kids can save the world!” gimmick that was growing rather heavy and corny. I just kind of had to jump in and try to reorient to the story.

Witch & Wizard: The Fire starts intense, grim, dark, and well, kinda cool! It’s suspenseful and whip-fast – dragging you along for the ride whether you want go or not. I found it to be absorbing, different, and unadulterated entertainment.

The Fire has a vicious, violent and a rather exaggerated but effective disturbing element to it. It’s a merge of fantasy, dystopia, and action/adventure genres.

Now, I did begin to feel it got cluttered and rushed somewhere in the middle and towards the end. In fact, I’m almost starting to wonder if there’s an endgame to the series. Sadly, in my opinion, The Fire started to have a sense of a jumbled mess with some painfully cheesy dialogue and a convoluted plot.

Yet, despite my disappointment and eventual waning of interest in what I considered to be a lackluster conclusion, I still found Witch & Wizard: The Fire to be, on the whole, an easy and fun read.

It’s just too bad I didn’t feel the attachment all the way through… But, it looks like there might be another book in the series. I’m not as eager as I was before, but I’d give it a chance to prove itself to me.

After all – Witch & Wizard: The Fire might be your favorite in the series! I could be eating crazy cupcakes or something. Let me know what you think!

*I received a review copy of Witch & Wizard: The Fire from Hachette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Prize of My Heart

Prize of My Heart is a historical romance written by Lisa Norato.

In Massachusetts 1815 a man searches desperately for his son…

It was three years ago that young Captain Brogan Talvis’s now-deceased wife told him she’d given their son to someone else to raise and delightfully declared that he’d never find him. But he couldn’t make it through growing up in a cold orphanage without gaining determination. After searching relentlessly he believes he’s finally found his Ben in the guardianship of a New England shipbuilder.

Lorena, though only nineteen years old, acts almost as a mother to little Drew who is just as much a part of her family as she is, despite the dark truth of his arrival. When Captain Talvis becomes a guest at their home, she finds herself drawn to him. Not only is he ruggedly handsome, but his loving manner toward Drew touches her.

Both are holding secrets from the other, yet they find that there is something between them.

But how can Brogan end up with both his son and the woman he’s deceived?

Prize of My Heart starts off with a cleverly disastrous first meeting between Brogan and Lorena. We’re introduced to a smart, independent heroine and a masculine, passionate, hot-headed hero – ingredients for a winning historical romance.

Yet with the right ingredients, I still wished there was just a tad more charm, wit, and romantic pull.

However, Prize of My Heart provides a rather large twist near the middle that took me unaware, and though I didn’t believe the love story aspect as much as I’d like – it’s fast and largely attraction-based, plus as much as Lorena is admirable, sometimes she can come across as a little TOO saint like – I do think it can be a fun read for historical romance fans in the YA genre. This isn’t technically YA, but it’s certainly appropriate and both the leads are young enough to still connect with that audience. It’s Christian-focused also, so I’d still recommend it to fans of those categories of reading.

Thing is, it just wasn’t as great as it could have been, in my opinion. Could’ve used way more humor and a tighter plot, I think.

Sincere, heartbreaking confessions made for a sweet, unexpected end to Prize of My Heart, though. That’s why I can still recommend it. Just maybe adjust your expectations a little for a nice digression instead of a Jane Austen fan’s dream novel.

*I received a copy of Prize of My Heart from the Bethany House Book Reviewers program, which you can check out here. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Warped

Warped is a YA modern fantasy by Maurissa Guibord.

Tessa Brody is just an average seventeen-year-old in most ways. She has just one best friend, no boyfriend, and some academic pursuits. One of the big differences between her and most teens, though, is that she doesn’t mind hanging out with her dad. After all, since her mom died they’ve had to take care of each other and run the bookstore that they live above.

That’s how they end up at the auction, bidding on crates of ancient books.

Tessa’s dad gave up because the bid got too high, but then the auctioneer opened one of the bolted crates and pulled out a tapestry that the bidder would get as a bonus. Something unexplainable happens to Tessa as she stares at it. It’s beautiful, almost alive, and features a wild-looking unicorn with a slightly bloodied horn. She’s never been a fantasy fanatic or a unicorn lover, but she finds herself pushing her dad’s hand up and winning them the bid.

When she puts the old, dusty, yet, to her, bewitching tapestry up in her bedroom, strange things start to happen. She begins to have intense dreams, even sometimes visions in the middle of the day. And then when a solitary thread hangs loose she pulls it out, and new secrets and revelations begin to fall into her lap. She meets William de Chaucy, a very good-looking, young sixteenth-century, infuriatingly haughty nobleman, and she realizes she has gotten deep into something dangerous.

Tessa also receives validation on something she’s suspected from the beginning: the tapestry is anything but just a wall decoration for a unicorn weirdo (which she beginning to fear she was).

Together with Will, whom she is frustratingly attracted to, she tries to unravel to magic of the tapestry and right wrongs that were done hundreds of years ago.

The problem is the Fates, called the Norn sisters, don’t take kindly to Tessa’s interference and suddenly everything and everyone she loves is crumbling down around her…

Warped was one of those books that took me a little while to get into, but then fully converted me before it was done.

This is a well-done magical mystery that switches from modern Tessa, hypnotized and mesmerized by the old tapestry, and 1511 England where we meet evildoers, Will in his rightful timeline, and Tessa’s doppelganger. It has a suspenseful build that I didn’t feel from the get-go, but as things get really crazy you start to appreciate that slow burn.

One of my favorite things, early on, about Warped was how the author portrays the relationship between Tessa and her dad. The grief they still share over the death of her mother quickly humanizes our protagonist and makes her more relatable.

Warped has so many different elements to the story that keep it moving briskly, it’s almost impossible to touch on them all. There’s excellent humor to lighten it up in parts, especially with Tessa’s best friend Opal who is absolutely hilarious and provides one of the more unorthodox and refreshing moments of trust. I don’t want to give it away, but I’ll say it was nice to see this happen, as it doesn’t often in books or movies.

Here we have a romantic, exciting, action-packed, sometimes violent, unexpected, and fast-paced must-read for any YA lover. With each page I was sucked in more and more.

Warped is a wonderful novel that hobbles together (expertly) fantasy, myth, legend, time-travel, love, and bravery. I was on pins and needles up to the end!

I ended up loving it! I would like the story to continue, but I’m thinking it’s a stand-alone. I resignedly admit, despite my bibliophile ailment that demands MORE, that it was a pleasing conclusion.

My, oh my, this is a goodie!

Special Note: For the next four Fridays (including today) you'll notice two reviews posted. Due to some scheduling issues, you'll be getting a TGIF bonus! It'll go back to just one review on Friday June 8th, but until then enjoy reading about yet another book before your weekend reading frenzy!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Clockwork Three

The Clockwork Three is a middle-grade mystery adventure by Matthew J. Kirby.

Giuseppe is an orphaned street musician under the control and guardianship of a legal enslavement in the late 1800s. He sees no way to ever get away until one day he finds a green violin that makes his music even sweeter. His dreams of returning home to Italy seem slightly more possible, if only he can keep the violin a secret…

Frederick is an apprentice to a kindly clockmaker. He was rescued from a cruel orphanage with no memory of why his mother left him there. Despite his change in status, his bitterness drives him to make sure he doesn’t need to rely on anybody. He is working on an incredible clockwork man, automaton, and plans of showing the world his worth.

Hannah is a maid in a grand hotel and her family’s only source of income. Ever since her father got sick their relatively comfortable life has fallen into one of barely getting by. Any hopes of her family ever seeing better days seems impossible, but then she overhears a conversation about a hidden treasure and meets an eccentric, wealthy hotel guest and she begins to hope.

Without realizing it, these three children begin to interweave into each other’s lives.

It seems each of them holds pieces of the puzzle that links them together…

I was happily surprised at the emotional depth in The Clockwork Three. These three children quickly feel real in a sympathetic, non-patronizing way. Their paths begin to cross and their individual mysteries begin to turn more enigmatic by the second.

The Clockwork Three is a charismatic mixture of mystery, clockwork brilliance, hidden treasure adventure, suspense, action and character drama. I was impressed by the effervescent descriptions that created a rich setting.

There’s something so important about making you truly care about the characters, and this novel has that. So when you add that to the intriguing, absorbing multiple storylines that overlapped, entrancing and whisking me away, well, I was transfixed.

A twinge of magical realism in a lovely, touching package with a dash of whimsy and fantasy that only deepens the story further, The Clockwork Three is a story that focuses on genuinely magnetic characters and explores the meaning of family, friendship, and hope in a refreshingly non-mawkish way.

So, clearly, I thought The Clockwork Three was terrific! It can be read by essentially any age group, and I believe, relished by them all. Check it out!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Croak

Croak is a YA supernatural novel by Gina Damico.

Lex is not your average angsty sixteen-year-old. For the last two years she has morphed from a sweet, good girl into an angry, physically violent troublemaker with a penchant for punching almost anybody who annoys her.

The change is alarming and has no apparent cause. And deep down, Lex is conflicted and confused by her own actions. But it doesn’t take long for the irritation and exasperation to lash out yet again.

When her parents decide, after another near-expulsion, to send her away for the summer to her Uncle Mort’s in up-state New York, their hope is that some time with dirty farm work and good old-fashioned discipline may turn Lex back into the daughter they remember. The daughter her twin sister Cordy still is.

Leaving her family, especially her twin, is difficult for Lex. And it all seems a little odd to her since she hasn’t seen Uncle Mort for years.

Her perspective of odd was about to change dramatically.

Because Uncle Mort? Yeah, he’s not a farmer. Not even slightly.

Instead he’s a wild-looking, motorcycle-riding crazy man that spouts off about her (and him) being a Grim Reaper.

After getting situated in the little, eccentric town of Croak however, Lex can’t help but quickly come to terms with her new reality. It doesn’t take long before she sees the town and her Uncle in action and finds peace in her newfangled purpose.

Her rage is already starting to calm down as she begins to deliver souls to the next life – that is, when she’s not dealing with her infuriating, frustratingly attractive partner Driggs.

The only problem with this fresh start is her job limitations. When she arrives at the frozen scene of a death to Kill and send the soul to harmony with Griggs, oftentimes a murderer might be frozen in the scene as well. Her temptation to rid the world of such scum is incredibly strong, but very much against the rules.

But when bodies begin to pile up, dead by an unknown cause, it appears someone else seems to have the same idea…

Croak is a strikingly original novel with a tone of the unreal, otherworldly, and strange. I adored how Gina Damico created a whole mythology and world for these Grims to inhabit. It feels fleshed out – complete with a clever, witty, weird town that has a macabre, Tim Burton vibe. Very cool.

Our protoganist is tough, cross, and seem to be going through an internal struggle of pain. From the get-go I wanted to like her better, and I let her grow on me – which she did, as she came into her own.

Croak is increasingly interesting with its captivating premise, funny cast of characters, and sizzling chemistry between Lex and her bold, hot partner Driggs. There’s lots of mystery too, with the sudden rash of bizarre deaths where the victims have pure white eyes. Some detective skills come into play to solve the creepy, deadly puzzle.

Croak’s great sense of humor ranges from sardonic, sarcastic, dry, to goofy – especially highlighted in the Croak’s local diner, The Morgue, where you can imbibe in HomiCider, Mad Cowburger, and other hilarious named items.

I found Croak to be an impressive, addictive, unique debut that becomes surprisingly deep at moments. You won’t believe the twists nearer the end!

I’m happy to know a second book, Scorch, will be out in September – and I hope many more after that!

On a separate note, HAPPY BLOGOVERSARY to the Bibliophile Support Group! It's the first time I've really acknowledged it, as I usually hardly notice. But I want to thank all of my lovely, growing followers and readers! It's been FOUR years today and Croak is my 411th post! Wowza! I hope you all will continue to get the word out there about this blog and we can continue to grow and share in our adoration and addiction to books! :)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Scary School

Scary School is a humorous middle grade supernatural series starter by Derek the Ghost (a.k.a. Derek Taylor Kent).

You might not like school – but at least you don’t face the high probability of not returning home alive each day!

Scary School is unlike any other – it’s very teachers pose a serious threat to their students mortality. There’s Ms. Fang, and 850-year-old vampire, Dr. Dragonbreath, a self-explanatory threat with an insistence on following rules, Mr. Snakeskin, a science class teacher that can show students all the different layers of anatomy by using his own half-zombie body, and many, many more.

Then there’s even the high population of Scary students. There’s werewolves and Sasquatch, etc.

So, when Charles Nukid, entirely human, becomes the “New Kid” at Scary School, we follow him as he encounters all sorts of dangerous situations – while finding out Scary School is far more comical than frightening! At least, most of the time…

All the while Derek the Ghost, an eleven-year-old former student of Scary School, narrates the action and lets us in on all kinds of secrets!

Scary School is a funny, eccentric, good-humored and spookily silly tale! It’s ridiculous in a likable way – and definitely great for middle grade readers and anyone who wants a cheerful diversion.

More than a straightforward story, my impression of Scary School was more of a collection of clever short stories with a light horror touch. Kind of like if R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series had a baby with Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Fun!

This youngin’ focused novel was excellent escapism, even for this older bibliophile. It’s smart, enjoyable, and often hilarious – pointing to a highly entertaining series!

The second Scary School book will be out on June 26th, so I’d recommend gobbling up this one now so you can be ready! Highly recommended for your little brother or sister – but you might want to sneak it for yourself here and there for a good laugh!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Forgetting Curve

The Forgetting Curve is a YA sci-fi/dystopia novel, and the sequel to one of my Stand-Out Books of 2011 Memento Nora, by Angie Smibert.

Memento Nora was really quite fantastic, and I don’t want you spoiling it by reading this review – if you haven’t read Memento Nora yet, that is. If that’s the case for you, check out my review of the first book here.

Otherwise, if you have read the aforementioned title, please join me in the enthusiasm of reading the sequel, which will come out for everybody on May 15th (mark your calendars!).

Aiden Nomura is more skilled than the average hacker. It’s like an art, what he can do. He likes to open doors and see what’s hidden inside – his own personal game. But his abilities can become dangerous, he soon realizes.

He’s been going to school in Bern, Switzerland where they are almost untouched from the popular-in-the-US Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic. But when one opens, something about it disturbs him. Things are changing.

And then a bomb goes off. A ripe memory for people to forget… business for the Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic. But before he can think too much about it, Aiden finds out his cousin Winter has had a mental breakdown and is in a hospital. He hurries home to the US to find out what’s happened to his bold, fearless, brilliant cousin ASAP.

Winter is utterly confused. When her parents come home and explain they’ve been away to Japan, Winter can’t remember them leaving – it’s all a blur. A part of her is convinced that she had been worried about them. But they tell her it’s all part of her mental breakdown, and that she will get better.

Yet the streets are stricter than ever and the murmurs of an underground movement full of conspiracy theories grows…

Winter, Aiden, and Winter’s friend Velvet begin to open doors that reveal information they might not want to know. Yet the truth is better than the dark – so they pursue it. And Aiden realizes his skills might be necessary – if he doesn’t want more people to get hurt…

Hopefully that’s rather vague. Both Memento Nora and The Forgetting Curve are short in comparison to most books – but somehow Angie Smibert packs them with twists and smarts and tons of plot. I don’t want to ruin the experience for you – so I give very little.

Wow. Just wow.

The Forgetting Curve is yet another genius novel. It’s weird at first, because you want to be following Nora and Micah – but it’s that weirdness that pulls you into the purposely disjointed, complex stunner that is The Forgetting Curve.

Their absence is both frustrating and exhilarating as we delve into this world where memories can be wiped from your mind – and is encouraged. We know Winter is fighting it (don’t want to give too many details here) since we get warped, confused memories from her – all the more enthralling and exciting.

This novel is gently, yet powerfully, horrifying in its portrayal of a controlling society that steals citizen’s free will and free choice. It’s disturbing, electrifying, and fascinating – extremely fast-paced.

My mind was blown and I was stunned yet again. I am desperate for the third book in the Memento Nora series and hope it comes SOON!!!

Yes, you MUST read The Forgetting Curve when it comes out on May 15th!! :)