Friday, June 29, 2012

The Obernewtyn Chronicles

The Obernewtyn Chronicles is an eight book YA fantasy/sci-fi series by Australian author Isobelle Carmody.

For the purposes of this review, I’ll only be reviewing Obernewtyn, the first book, so no worries about spoilers!

The sequence goes as such:
#1: Obernewtyn
#2: The Farseekers
#3 and #4: The Rebellion - omnibus featuring both Ashling and The Keeping Place
#5 and #6: The Dreamtrails – omnibus featuring both Wavesong and The Stone Key
#7: The Sending – not yet available in the USA as far as I can see
#8: The Red Queen – also not available in the USA yet, according to my investigation

Now for the synopsis for the first book:

Since the Great White, an apocalyptic event that killed most people and contaminated large portions of the Earth, a new society has emerged. It’s strict and harsh, careful to avoid any future likelihood of something like that happening again.

A big threat to the world’s safety, believed by the governmental group that formed over the years, is a genetic anomaly they call Misfits.

Misfits are born, or occasionally mutated later on, with abilities outside the norm. This is believed to be associated with the Great White – but it is not accepted. They are burned, executed. Or, in rare cases, sent to Obernewtyn – a compound far away from the rest of society where others burdened with abilities are exiled.

Espeth Gordie is a Misfit, but she’s been hiding it her whole life. Her parents were killed, suspected of being supporters of something other than the governing faction, so she is also an orphan – making her life even more isolated and wrecked with danger and threat of exposure.

She has mental abilities that range from being able to peer in on other’s thoughts to communicating with animals. So when she is found out and exiled to Obernewtyn she finds that she may be out of her depth – and that the rumors are true… she’ll never leave Obernewtyn.

But despite everything, there is a comfort in being around others that have powers. That is, until she realizes that someone at Obernewtyn has an agenda that will harm them all. And possibly damage the flawed but relatively stable survival the human race has hobbled together since the Great White.

Does Elspeth have a destiny to stop them?

That’s the general plot for the first book, without giving too much away.

Elspeth is a likable heroine with cool abilities – I, being an animal lover, loved her connection and caring for animals. The story itself has an intriguing premise and a wide-reaching history and mythology that this first novel only barely taps into – but at times I felt the book was bogged down by details.

Obernewtyn was, honestly, a little slower than I’d like, though I did like everything from the premise to the characters to the environment. It has some excellent, unexpected twists later on and a building plot with affective, heartbreaking sacrifices that deepen the character development and investment in the book.

I wished I could get into it more than I did. It is truly a thought-provoking novel, and I have a feeling the series might get better with each successive book. Thing is, since Obernewtyn didn’t blow me away (which I kinda needed after the relative disaster that was 172 Hours on the Moon), I’m not going to be able to invest as many hours of time that would be needed to read the other five books I have in the series. I want to when I have more time though. Because I think there’s a lot of potential here.

Anyway, my point is: if you have the time, and fantasy/sci-fi is your genre, I encourage you to check out this series. It seems to be quite popular – and I’d love to get your feedback on it!

See ya on Monday!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

172 Hours on the Moon

172 Hours on the Moon is a YA sci-fi novel by Johan Harstad.

In 2019, NASA has decided to return to the moon.

And this time they’re using a worldwide lottery to pick three everyday teens to join trained astronauts on this amazing journey. It creates a huge media buzz and millions upon millions of teens enter – looking for an experience to last a lifetime.

Mia from Norway has no interest in going to the moon, but she does want her band to become famous and successful – and this would be an opportunity to get the word out to hundreds of news outlets.

Midori from Japan sees the lottery as a way to get out of the restrained life of her country and find freedom somewhere else. She plans on never going home again – maybe traveling to America.

Antoine from France is desperate to get over his broken heart and sees the contest as not only a way to distract him, but maybe a chance for Simone to see him on TV so much that she’ll remember that she once loved him…

They all have their own reasons for entering – but when they win and actually go up to the moon, they’re going to find out there is a lot more going on here than research.

Something happened the last time NASA went to the moon, something that has been kept secret for decades…

Something’s waiting for them…

I thought the premise of 172 Hours on the Moon sounded really exciting. Sadly, this is one of biggest disappointments of the year for me…

Before I go into detail on my opinion, I want to stress that is only MY opinion – you may love 172 Hours on the Moon, and I want you to find out for yourself!!!

However, for me - I was really surprised how long it was taking to actually get to the moon. We’re given an unexpectedly dull introduction to each of the three characters (each of which will eventually win the trip to the moon) and I was not becoming attached or invested in any of them. I always hate to be negative, but I honestly was feeling lackluster. 172 Hours on the Moon is translated from the original Norwegian, so perhaps something is lost in translation, or maybe it’s just me.

Also, I was puzzled as to the logic of why NASA would hold a universal lottery, instead of just a national one, since from the beginning there seemed to shady motives for doing the launch anyway. After all, if a bunch of teens from other countries get killed or hurt, wouldn’t that cause BAD international relations? The illogic of that bugged me.

By the time we finally get the launch, after seemingly skipping all the more possibly interesting moments - such as the media blitz, maybe some jealousy, suspicion with the trip, or at least more ominous scenes - my expectations were so lowered that the awkward tone of the novel was barely registering anymore.

The last third of the book was a bit more frightening and finally had some suspense – but even then it felt rushed and kind of ridiculous. And I really didn’t like the end. It felt both cliché and disrespectful to readers.

Again, I know that each book takes a lot of work to complete – and writing unenthusiastic reviews certainly aren’t my favorite thing to do. But I also want to be honest. And this is how I honestly felt.

Hopefully, I made you curious enough to give it a shot yourself – because if you can enjoy it, well… I’m happy for you! Every book deserves a little love, after all.

Sadly, that love is just not coming from me.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The False Prince

The False Prince is a YA historical adventure dealing with political conspiracies by Jennifer A. Nielsen.

The kingdom is in turmoil as rumors abound that the king, queen, and prince are dead. If this is true, the land will be struck with a civil war.

One man, a nobleman named Conner, knows that the royal family is indeed dead – and he has devised a plan that will keep the country from war. He plans to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost, long believed dead son and place him on the throne.

To pursue this, he picks four orphans of the right age and takes them to his estate to begin their training.

One of these boys is Sage, a thief, defiant, and very clever. He knows that Conner’s motives are more than philanthropic. He also knows that he won’t want the remaining three boys to be able to reveal his deception… so being chose as the prince is a matter of life or death.

But can Sage ever convince anyone that he is a prince?

When I read the synopsis of The False Prince, I was interested but wasn’t sure I’d be blown away.

This has to be one of the best surprises of the year!

I was astonished to find The False Prince to be an intellectual, gripping, suspenseful tale of political intrigue and duplicity in a richly portrayed kingdom. To be clear, this is not based on any real historical time period – as far as I can tell. You could almost call it a fantasy, when it comes to the fairy-tale feel of the era – but there are no magical or otherworldly creatures. This is pure cloak-and-dagger goodness!

At first I wasn’t sure of our sharp-tongued hero, but with time I came to appreciate his toughness and tenacity. This is a story of a fight to survive – and I was rooting for him quickly. Though the moral question of the fate of the other three boys, if Sage is to be chosen as Conner’s prince, weighs heavily on the reader’s (and protagonist’s) mind.

The False Prince is a page-turner and a nail-biter. It’s enigmatic, clandestine, and is soaked in danger. It became increasingly riveting as the pages flew by – truly fascinating, intriguing, and entertaining. And there are some fantastic surprises later on that I was staggered by!

On paper the plot seems only moderately good, but it is so well-executed I was engrossed from start to finish and MUST encourage you to try it too!

Happily, this is only the first book in the Ascendance Trilogy – so I am looking forward to following this tale much further!

Ooooh, I kinda loved it! :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Above

Above is a YA urban sci-fi/fantasy novel by Leah Bobet.

From the moment Matthew found Ariel in the tunnels, her golden hair and iridescent bee’s wings falling away, he loved her.

He took her to Safe, an underground refuge for those fleeing the city Above – those that are different. There’s Whisper, who speaks to ghosts, Atticus with his crab-like claws, and Jack Flash who has lightening in his fingers – among many, many others.

As much as Matthew tries to give Ariel safety, however, whatever happened to her has made her frightened, withdrawn, and traumatized…

One night an old enemy of Safe arrives with an army of Shadows and only a few of Safe’s people escape to Above. While they figure out what happened below and how they can reclaim their Sanctuary, they’re forced to try and blend in Above – the most dangerous place for people like them. It’s here that Ariel was hurt, though he doesn’t know how, and it’s here he fears losing her forever to the past she seems unable to speak of.

It’s also the place that Matthew begins to unravel long-hidden deceptions about the place he’s called Home and the people he’s trusted…

Above is irrefutably unique.

Leah Bobet presents us with a puzzling, complex story that takes place in an intriguing, gloomy, different world. The graceful, soft ambiance smoothes out the oddities and questions that filled my mind and took me on a sweet, raw love story between Matthew and the skittish, emotionally scarred Ariel.

I kept wanting to know more details – like what year it was, what happened for these deformities to begin, what those who weren’t effected thought was going on, etc. I can’t say my questions were ever really answered. Yet there was a poignant power to the writing – though I often wished the language and narrative were a bit clearer.

Above is a difficult book for me to review. I was confused half the time, yet swept away the other half. In it is such a lovely, heartfelt, unusual story that I wanted to absorb and follow – but I always wanted more.

I encourage you to read it and see for yourself what you think. I think it’s more than worth it – even if I would suggest being ready to not be completely satisfied at the end.

Above, in the end, seemed to be a story of finding the difference between healing and hiding. And, despite my own uncertainties, I encourage you not to hide from Above.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Timeless

Timeless is a YA contemporary fantasy by Alexandra Monir.

Michele Windsor has always lived a modest, but content, life with her Mom in LA. She has two best friends and a passion for writing song lyrics. Other than healing a recent hurt over an ex-boyfriend – her life is a happy one.

But then tragedy strikes and she’s uprooted to New York City to live with her wealthy, aristocratic grandparents that she’s never met – and who broke her mother’s heart many years ago.

When she moves into the historic Fifth Avenue mansion, she can’t help but be amazed by her surroundings. Nothing, though, can lift her from the sadness that has taken hold of her.

That is, until she finds an ancestor’s diary that – unbelievably – has the power to send her back in time to 1910. There she finds a distraction from her pain as she travels, ghostlike, amongst the glitz and glamor of the Gilded Age. Because it is there that her eyes meet the sapphire blue eyes of the handsome young man that has haunted her dreams since she can remember – and he is one of the only ones that can see her.

They fall into a romance of otherworldly proportions – but how could it ever work when they’re 100 years apart?

And as family secrets and time travel begin to clash with her time in her modern high school, Michele begins to wonder if there is a bigger reason she’s traveling through time than finding an impossible love…

I struggled with Timeless. I’ll tell ya why.

First off, the sad beginning that turns into a fairytale change of circumstances for our heroine is marred by a heartbreaking loss that feels real and lingering. A sense of mystery loomed quickly, as well, so I was happy to start. Not to mention slightly envious of Michele’s new bedroom that adjoins to a private library!

My issue was, though the time-traveling and family secrets were intriguing, the romance element was coming across as forced for me. There are times that insta-love works for me in books. In all honesty, this one should’ve. They talked, they had a lot in common, all great ways to build a more legitimate love story – yet it kept feeling disingenuous to me.

However, with time and tragedy I did begin to become more charmed by their almost epic love. Many of my doubts and questions regarding the plot did get answered in a satisfactory manner, which made my enjoyment of Michele’s journey through time meeting her ancestors much better – for sure.

I guess, maybe, at times it just felt a bit forced and cliché. I think that’s why I had a tough time. But, in the end, I did find myself invested – and the cliffhanger end definitely made me sure I’d want the second book!

So, a bit of a mixed bag for me this time around. Yet I was relatively pleased. What about you?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Underworld

Underworld is a YA retelling of the Greek myth of Persephone, and the sequel to Abandon, by one of my favorite authors: Meg Cabot.

If you haven’t yet read Adandon, you shouldn’t read a word of this review! This is a series, so there will be unavoidable spoilers of the first book in even the sparsest of a summary for Underworld. Please don’t ruin Abandon, which I loved, by reading the review of Underworld! Instead, read my review of Abandon here and get a copy of the book!

Now, for all of you bibliophiles that HAVE read Abandon… let us continue:

The last time seventeen-year-old Pierce Oliviera was in the Underworld she was dead.

Not this time.

John Hayden, the insanely masculine and terribly hot lord of the Underworld, has taken her there for her own safety – or that’s at least part of the reason.

The fact that they’ve been tiptoeing around a rather steamy attraction might also be a factor…

But Pierce can’t deny the threat of the Furies who have an insatiable, irrational desire for revenge on John – therefore an obsession with hurting the one thing he loves… Pierce. And she recently realized she’s been in danger for more years than she would have guessed – part of an epic vengeance plan.

Yet, despite the sometimes pleasant captivity/protection of being in the Underworld with John, Pierce can’t forget that her family and friends are still back on earth – in danger. They’re not safe.

Will John trust her to return if he lets her out long enough to save the life of someone close to her?

Or does trust have nothing to do with it?

I absolutely adored Abandon and was ecstatic when my copy of Underworld arrived!

So… did Underworld live up to my own hype?

Well, yes! And… sorta no.

This has the feel of a “middle book” in a trilogy. All of you bibliophiles will know what I mean, as I’m sure most of you have read just as many trilogies as I have. Sometimes I felt that Underworld had a bit of a lack of an obvious plot – I wasn’t sure where we were going, or how it advanced the trilogy. I was left wondering why, it seemed, so little actually happened – in my opinion.

BUT – I didn’t really care.

The thing about Meg Cabot is I’m never REALLY disappointed. Because she always delivers!

Underworld sizzles with a dark, sexy vibe that is practically on fire! Pierce and John still have an irrefutable chemistry that is magnetic. Underworld zipped along, fast as ever, providing a ton of delicious morsels of supernatural romance – only making me ravenous for more!

I’m always happy to return to any world Meg creates because it’s always fun and easy to read – and flat-out entertaining. You get laugh-out-loud moments and swoon-worthy male characters! So, even though I felt there was an absence of clear storytelling in the sense of overall plot (and I could be wrong), I very much relished even minute of the ride!

What’s my main response to Underworld? I want book three NOW!!! I’m not sure where it’s going or how it’ll end – but the characters and passionate love story are enough to hook me and keep me!

So… ahem… is Awaken (book three) ready yet?

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Springsweet

The Springsweet is a YA historical paranormal novel, and a companion to The Vespertine, by Saundra Mitchell.

I warned you yesterday that my reviews were going to be sequels for a few days! If you haven’t read The Vespertine, you definitely want to avoid this review and seek it out after you’re done. Don’t ruin your experience!!! Instead, read my review of The Vespertine here.

Last chance to turn away…

Zora Stewart hasn’t been the same since her sixteenth summer. She’s haunted by her fiancés death and the amount of other losses in those few short months. She’s a shell of her former self, and her parents are worried.

After an attempt to reorient Zora to Baltimore society goes scandalously wrong, it’s decided that she’ll join her widowed aunt in Oklahoma Territory in the hopes of some good old-fashioned hard work waking her back up to life.

It doesn’t take long for Zora to see that the exciting, thrill-ride of an adventure the papers make the West out to seem is a far cry from the truth. It’s a dusty, heartbreaking, backbreaking area to live – and it seems to stir something inside of Zora that she’s never experienced. She begins to sense the water beneath the ground – as though she’s getting a power of her own after watching her cousin Amelia use her own strange abilities to predict and prophesize.

But she saw the dangers that came of Amelia’s power – and though she allows her struggling aunt to hire her out as a “springsweet” to help people find the water they so desperately need in this merciless land, deep down she knows it may all come tumbling down on her.

Yet amidst all of this, Zora is shocked to find herself drawn to a wholly unsuitable, rough-mannered young man named Emerson Birch in a way she thought she’d never be again after her beloved Thomas’ death. Her aunt prefers Zora to focus on Theo, the surprising visitor from her hometown, who has come to court her. Nevertheless, the more Zora learns about Emerson the more she’s attracted…

For the first time, Zora wonders if she can do more than survive life… Maybe she could begin to live life.

The Vespertine, for me, was an incredibly hypnotic, dark story that pulled me into its expressive splendor. Getting the chance to revisit Zora, who has a big character in that, was wonderful.

The Springsweet started a little slow, but there’s a vibe of enigma that held me and a fiery attraction that pulls Zora unwillingly out of her mourning and into a realization of her own powers. Unlike The Vespertine, which even in its leisurelier, earlier moments would switch to a future moment that provided such an disquieting sensation that you would be pulled back into its gothic hold, The Springsweet takes it’s time to really develop a plot – but I was patient, as I knew that it wasn’t until the end of The Vespertine that I was fully won over.

I was, and am, taken with Saundra Mitchell’s way of introducing these elemental-like powers tied to fire, air, earth, and water. She makes it gritty and frightening how it can affect the world around them and cause a moment of utter devastation. The Springsweet may have been gradual to show how that was true for Zora, but once it did that ominous tone really kicked in. With that and both the passion of her burgeoning romance and the wild beauty of their magic becoming more vivid, I became more mesmerized.

In my opinion, The Springsweet takes a bit more patience – I’d say to hang in there to about the middle – but it is definitely a worthy, if perhaps a little less gothic and dark as, The Vespertine.

I’ll be looking for more from Saundra Mitchell!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Perception

Perception, the sequel to Clarity, is a YA paranormal mystery novel by Kim Harrington.

You know the drill. This is a sequel. In fact, the rest of the week is going to reviews of sequels. If you haven’t read the first book in the series – that would be Clarity which I reviewed yesterday – then you should NOT read this review!

Don’t ruin the fun by seeing inevitable spoilers. So, turn away NOW! Got it?

Okay… now, assuming the rest of you have read Clarity:

Clarity “Clare” Fern is starting a new year of school after a highly publicized summer of using her psychic abilities to solve the murder of a tourist. Because she’s now, apparently, a local celebrity, many of the popular crowd are now trying to assimilate her into their society.

No thanks.

Clare prefers to be on the outskirts than hang around the people who have made her life a living hell for the past many years. Not to mention she has more than enough to deal with without their ridiculous attempts at conversation…

She’s still trying to figure out if she’s willing to give her ex-boyfriend Justin another shot or turn her heart over to Gabriel, the hot detective’s son that she solved the summer case with. But when she starts getting notes, gifts, and phone calls from a secret admirer, she begins to think it’s too much of a good thing – especially when it starts getting creepy.

Then there’s the fact that a local, gifted student has gone missing. Since there was a goodbye note, the police assume she’s taken off of her own accord, but the girl’s mother insists otherwise. And for some reason, Clare’s intuition urges her to look into it.

Can the sassy, psychic girl detective do it? Or is she pushing her luck the second time around?

I loved Clarity with a bibliophile passion, and I can happily assure you that Perception is just as awesome – at least for me!

These fantastic characters are growing and changing in realistic ways, yet staying happily likable and relatable. Add in the new mysteries – both personal and criminal – and we’re left with an exciting, invigorating, fast-paced book that makes me positively gleeful!

My internal alarm was blaring as Clare gains a secret admirer and a new friend, and I have to say how nice it is to have the protagonist come to the same conclusion as you at about the same time. I hate feeling like my heroine is dumb. Plus – my guess was wrong! I love it when that happens!

Perception is hilarious with excellent one-liners and snappy dialogue. It’s truly an exhilarating, fun, must-read series – I WANT MORE!!!

I haven’t read anything about there being more novels in the series yet, but I hope that there are. Clare is a new teen detective that I want to follow for many more books!!!

Please, Kim Harrington, please? *cue sad, longing puppy dog eyes*

Monday, June 11, 2012

Clarity

Clarity is a YA mystery novel with a paranormal twist by Kim Harrington.

Clarity “Clare” Fern is used to being thought of as a freak. She and her family don’t hide their abilities; in fact it’s the way they make their living. So, living in a small tourist town on Cape Cod means that everyone knows – and not everyone believes.

Her particular skill allows her to see visions connected to objects. All she needs to do is touch it. It doesn’t always work – and usually takes some concentration. But it wasn’t too hard to ruin her seemingly solid relationship with Justin Spellman – and her sudden vision of his drunken night with Tiffany Desposito with one light touch of his jacket.

Yeah, it’s not really fun to be psychic.

But Clare has toughened against the scorn, mocking, and overall exclusion from regular high school society. She’s gotten used to it. Anyway, she has her mom, brother, and brother’s longtime best friend Nate to keep her company. She’s all good.

When a teenage female tourist is murdered, however, she’s suddenly thrust back into the society of someone she’s still furious with: her ex-boyfriend. Justin, who’s always believed in her abilities, wants her help with the case.

If it was just about Justin, she’d probably flip him off – but there is a murdered girl involved here. And the idea of using her gift for more than entertaining tourists appeals to her. So, Clare agrees. She teams up with Gabriel, the smoldering son of the new detective in town, and deals with his skepticism as she faces darker visions than she’s used to.

Will her ability help her solve the case? Or, when her beloved brother becomes the prime suspect, does she even want it to?

Clarity is awesome! And let me just say, before I go any further, that there is a sequel, Perception – thank goodness!!! I am hoping that there are MANY more to come!!!

Okay, onto the details of my opinion…

The tourist town of Eastport can hardly contain the feisty, lively, witty personality of Clare – let alone her and her family’s talents. I loved Clare’s vibe of individuality, toughness, and confidence – she’s funny and real. She has her relatable moments of vulnerability – especially regarding her ex-boyfriend, who is refreshingly not painted as a villain but a good guy that did a really stupid thing – but always maintains a cool sense of self-preservation and sharpness.

Clarity also has an original, revitalizing way of making Clare and her family’s gifts a well-known fact, with varying opinions of their truth, of course. It’s nice to not have her hiding it.

Once you mix in all the awesome dialogue and paranormalcy with a Veronica Mars like murder mystery, I found myself reading an absolutely irresistible novel! This is the kind of book I love down to the core – it’s twisty, complex, hilarious, unpredictable and romantic in a non-mushy way. It sizzles with energy and intellect but provides a truly escapist, fast, fun read.

Plus, for once I had no idea which of the (in my opinion) three eligible guys Clare would end up with – if any! That’s practically unheard of in ANY book, let alone YA! I was even having a hard time picking one as my preferred option!

I was very, very happy – as you can see. I want MORE! Which, as I mentioned earlier, isn’t difficult as there is a recently released sequel called Perception available to my greedy bibliophile hands. But I can’t help but want even more than that! I’m hoping for a full-out series.

Because, I can tell, Clare Fern is going to be a plucky, psychic girl detective to remember!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Guest post with author Anne Tibbets!

Today we have a special TGIF guest post from Anne Tibbets, the author of SHUT UP.

First, so you have an idea about the book, here's a synopsis:

Mary's older sister, Gwen, has royally screwed up her life. Not only is Gwen pregnant at seventeen, but she's also decided to marry The Creep who knocked her up.

Now Mary is powerless to stop her family from imploding. Her parents are freaking out, and to top if off, The Creep has a gross fascination with Mary, while Gwen enjoys teasing her to tears for sport.

Despite her brother's advice to shut up, Mary can't keep her trap closed and manages to piss off Mom so much it comes to blows.

Mary doesn't know what to do, and all her attempts to get help are rejected. When she finally plans her escape, she fails to consider how it could destroy them all.


And a quote quote about SHUT UP from NYTimes Best Selling author, Christine Wiltz:

"Twelve-year-old Mary is running away from home. She's sick of her school, her friends, and her family, especially her big sister, Gwen. But this is not just the story of a girl with a case of adolescent angst. It is all of us who ever experienced the fear of what fresh hell the next hour will bring, deep hatred of ourselves, despair, and the very real possibility that we will spend the rest of our lives with echoes of "You're stupid, you're ugly, shut up!" haunting our hearts, minds and spirits. There is physical violence and there is the hidden violence that poisons families and corrupts the soul and is as much a danger to a human life as any weapon of destruction."

Intrigued? It's too bad I didn't have the time to read it myself (my pile of books is still threatening to suffocate me in my sleep), but I wanted to make sure y'all got the chance to hear about it! Here's a few words from Anne Tibbets herself:

The Making of Shut Up
By Anne Tibbets

I got the idea for Shut Up and despite all my best attempts to ignore it; the idea wouldn’t leave me alone. I had just finished writing The Beast Call, and was all set to delve into re-writes, when I had a memory from my childhood pop into my head, and it wouldn’t let me go.

Finally, in an attempt to purge this memory (because it wasn’t a good one!), I wrote it down with the hope that would be the end of it.
It wasn’t.

After I wrote that memory, I wrote another one. Then another. Then another. I became almost obsessed with purging all the horrible memories I had as a kid. And while, on the whole, my childhood wasn’t as tragic as some, I had some pretty amazingly poignant moments. After all was said and done, I had a mishmash of non-linear memories, that didn’t make much sense to anybody but me.

I hoped that would be the end of it, and I went back to work on the rewrites for The Beast Call. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t concentrate on it.

I didn’t want to write Shut Up. Some of the memories were too painful. But I was on a mission, of sorts, and it took years for me to fictionalize it, in order to make it a cohesive and solid piece of work. I also altered some of the characters in the book, so they didn’t so closely resemble my immediate family members, and all the horrible memories I had, I twisted, distorted, warped and exaggerated so that the main character ended up having all the bad moments of my entire childhood in a single year. The poor kid.

This process took me eight drafts and three long and agonizing years. But I was finally able to put it away and leave it away, and flush all that ugliness from my mind. And the book sat abandoned for several more years, on my hard drive, collecting cyber dust.

After some time, I tried querying a few literary agents about it, but since the story was so deeply personal, every rejection felt like a dagger through the heart. So I stopped submitting it.

Then, after I released The Beast Call through Premier Digital Publishing, they asked what I wanted to release next, and I tentatively said, “Well, I have this book based on my childhood, but I’m not sure I want to publish it.” My book to film agent read the book, and immediately recommended Shut Up be published.

When it first came out, I was incredibly nervous about how it would be received. Publishing Fantasy is one thing, but publishing THIS story is something entirely else. All my fears were swept away on the first day, however, when an old friend of mine contacted me after having read it, and she told me about how much it affected her, and how it showed her just how a mother’s actions, however well intentioned they may be, can affect their children – and now, I’m not so worried anymore.

I always said, “If this book helps one person, then I’ve done my job.”

So everything else after this, is just icing on the cake.

Awesome! Thanks, so much, for joining us Anne! Feel free to come back anytime!

And I will see YOU, bibliophiles, on Monday with more reviews! :)

Irises

Irises is a YA contemporary fiction novel by Francisco X. Stork.

Eighteen year old Kate is headed for college and an MD. Sixteen year old Mary is happy to imagine herself home and painting as often as possible. As sisters, they are not alike but they do share in being inhibited by their caring but domineering father. Things have been tougher ever since their mother entered a vegetative state after the accident. Things were different before. Lighter. Happier. For all of them.

But when their father suddenly dies, Kate and Mary must figure out how to support themselves and their comatose mother. Simon, Kate’s stable, dependable boyfriend offers marriage – a means of support and love, from his point of view. From Kate’s point of view, however, she’s not so sure. Her ambition has been tempered by her dad, and now she’s not sure if pursuing those dreams is selfish or legitimate. Andy, their new, young reverend, recognizes drive in her that reminds him of himself and provides advice… and maybe more.

Mary struggles with her increasing lack of passion for painting. Her heart is broken by it, and she feels her sister isn’t open with her. Being introverted and quiet, the arrival of fellow student Marcos in her periphery both draws her in and frightens her. He has a violent past and a shady present, yet his smile and eyes seems to shine with truth and goodness.

In the back of both sisters’ minds is one all-consuming worry: their mother. Every decision revolves around how they’ll care for both themselves and her, without their father’s help.

And it’s a decision that could tear them apart forever…

Irises is a difficult novel to give a decent synopsis for. Please forgive me if it sounds less than appealing. The thing is, oftentimes contemporary fiction is far more about the emotional depth and character development in the ordinary moments of ordinary lives – which can make is hard to sound super-duper exciting. That’s the case here.

Yet, Irises has a quiet, genuine tone that transcends melodrama and settles into a mostly harmonious portrayal of the family behavior of love and toleration that is suddenly turned topsy-turvy by an unexpected loss. Their deep grief shows itself in varying forms, but is clear in both Kate and Mary. It’s poignant, melancholy and profoundly real.

Francisco X. Stork staggers me by being one of the few male authors that writes young female characters very well. They are empathetic, three-dimensional, and relatable. Their individual and entwined journeys are absorbing and softly meaningful.

So, as tough as it is to make Irises sound as amazing as, let’s say, the next big vampire book, it is. If not more. I’m a huge fan of fantasy, sci-fi, and all these other fantastic genres, don’t get me wrong! But I like to foray into a slice of real world drama as well.

And Irises is a beautiful, tender novel that focuses on family and personal growth with maturity and authenticity. It’s a memorable story that, I believe, deserves a spot on your shelf.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Starters

Starters is a YA dystopia/sci-fi novel by Lissa Price.

Callie doesn’t have many options.

Since the Spore Wars decimated the population between the ages of twenty and sixty, including Callie’s parents, there has been a power play going on in society. The Enders are all the older generation that have survived. They’d already become a bigger part of the populace since their lifespan had increased exponentially over the years – it is now common for people to live to two-hundred. Because of this there were new laws enacted to maintain their ability to make a living – no one under nineteen is allowed to be employed.

Problem is, now that the Spore Wars have left so many orphans, the Starters are left to poverty and hunger with no real way of digging themselves out of that hole until they get to nineteen – if they survive that long. The only way to avoid this future is if you have a grandparent or any relative that lived – someone who will claim you and provide for you.

Callie, and her sick little brother Tyler, do not. They’ve been squatting with their friend Michael and hiding from renegades that would kill them for a cookie. Or less.

When an opportunity arrives where Callie is offered a lucrative deal to become part of Prime Destinations, she’s faced with a difficult choice. Prime Destinations creeps her out. It’s run by a cryptic figure called the Old Man. They rent out Starter bodies to Enders who want to feel young again. For three rentals you get a huge sum of money to have your mind put to sleep while someone else walks around with your body. It’s extremely weird.

But Callie is desperate. She’s sees no other way to get Tyler what he needs. So, she agrees. Even if it makes her sick to her stomach.

Yet things don’t go as planned. The neurochip they implanted in her brain malfunctions and she wakes up, mid-rental, living the life of the Ender who was joyriding her. She’s in a mansion, driving expensive cars, wearing designer clothes that could feed her and her brother for months, and suddenly dating a senator’s attractive son.

She’s afraid of going back to Prime Destinations to let them know about the malfunction, because she knows they won’t pay her the stipend if anything went wrong. She desperately hopes that the neurochip will kick back in, so she just plays along.

Then she finds out her renter is planning to use her body in a much more devious way than carousing. And it involves Prime Destinations, and an endgame that is far too horrible for her to ever have imagined…

I love the cover of Starters, as well as the premise. I was thrilled that Starters was speedily, excellently creepy and suspenseful, made better with a smart and swift tone and clipped pace. The stakes for Callie, Tyler, and Michael are made clear incredibly quickly… and it wasn’t long before my bibliophile soul was singing about how awesome sci-fi is!

A series of freaky events begin to occur when her third rental starts going wonky, which became quite a nail biter. I loved how Starters hypnotized me in a briskly moving, twisting plot. It’s the kind of book I love reading because there is pretty much no effort involved. You can read it in one sitting.

I really, really liked Starters. It was great escapist entertainment and intelligently done, with heart. My only small complaint was that *MINOR SPOILER ALERT* it reminded me a bit more of Meg Cabot’s Airhead trilogy than I wanted it to… which meant I guessed one of the twists rather rapidly, and was a little disappointed to be right.*END OF MINOR SPOILER ALERT*

But there’s some more twists coming, I can tell. I will look forward to reading Enders, the sequel, when it comes out later this year. Starters is more than worth reading – I just hope there’s a tad more originality in the revelations this time around.

And I’m sorry for having to put a spoiler alert in my review. I usually never do that. It’s just that sometimes it’s really hard to give an opinion without one. So, please do avoid reading it (if you haven’t already, that is) until after you’ve read Starters. I’d love to hear if anyone else felt the same way.

Anyway, I am still ecstatic that Enders is not going to be a long wait!

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Mastermind Plot

The Mastermind Plot is a middlegrade mystery by Angie Frazier, and the sequel to The Midnight Tunnel.

Being that The Mastermind Plot is a sequel, it does unavoidably have some spoilers of the first book in its description. I recommend avoiding my review and reading the first book instead. You’ve been warned! :)

Eleven-year-old Suzanna “Zanna” Snow is finally where she’s wanted to be for a long time: Boston!

Her grandmother, whom she can barely remember, has invited her to stay for TWO months – and Zanna is head over heels! 1904 Boston is sure to be a far livelier, exhilarating place than her usual home of Loch Harbor, New Brunswick – plus, it’s where her Uncle Bruce Snow (admittedly not the hero she once thought he was, but still) works as a detective.

And what do you know? Not long after her arrival, Zanna finds herself in the heart of another mystery.

There have been fires plaguing a local resident’s warehouses. So when Zanna is enrolled in the cringe-worthy Lady Doucette’s Academy for Young Ladies she quickly begins to use the opportunity to question the ornery daughter of the owner of the warehouses, Adele, who also attends the school.

But Adele has more information for Zanna than she expects. She believes the fires are being set on purpose and are actually a cover for the theft of valuable pieces of art. The authorities believe the art has been destroyed by the fires, but Adele believes differently…

With that, and the fact that a cagey, familiar-looking man keeps shadowing Zanna around Boston, Zanna knows she needs to solve this case before it’s too late.

I really liked The Midnight Tunnel, but I must say that in The Mastermind Plot Zanna grew on me more than ever! Her spirited, independent, determined attitude is infectious – and seeing her try to fit in at a lady’s school and mix with society is hilarious. There are many laugh-out-loud moments in this book, I’ll tell you.

A new mystery presents itself, of course. This is a far more comfortable pursuit for out pint-sized heroine. We also get the welcome return of Will and a host of new, jump-off-the-pages characters.

The Mastermind Plot was good, entertaining fun with great surprises and twists – even if I did end up correctly guessing the big whodunit. To be honest, my guess wasn’t firmly established until rather soon before the reveal – so that’s not a huge thing.

For whatever reason, I found this second Suzanna Snow Mystery to be much more addictive for me. I’m hoping for more adventures featuring this charmingly clumsy lead!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Ride of Her Life

The Ride of Her Life is a historical fiction novel by Lorna Seilstad, and the third in her Lake Manawa Summers series.

It’s the summer of 1906 in Lake Manawa, Iowa, and Lilly Hart has no interest in any other man than her six-year-old son Levi.

Not only is she a self-determined woman who is still mourning her late husband of three years, but she also has no time for any courting nonsense. She’s only recently decided to leave the home of her interfering, wealthy in-laws who have been pushing to send Levi to a boarding school – which she flatly refuses to do.

To make ends meet on her own, Lilly is working as a cook at a popular luncheon. Her in-laws find this unsuitable though, and begin to ask for custody of Levi. When a tall, handsome stranger who designs roller coasters, and is currently working on one in Lake Manawa, intercedes on her behalf, Lilly gets angry.

After all, she doesn’t want or need to hide behind anyone else. Lilly can take care of Levi herself. She can provide him a home, like she always wanted as a child. It’ll just take a lot of hard work.

What Lilly doesn’t know is that the attractive stranger isn’t easily swayed by her obstinate streak. He, in fact, is ready to take her on the ride of her life…

I’ve actually been interested in reading the Lake Manawa Summers series for quite a while, but this was my first opportunity to dive in. I would suggest that, if you’re able, you read the series in order – Making Waves and then A Great Catch – as there are some spoilers for the earlier books in this one.

The Ride of Her Life felt fresh, fun, and as perfect for summertime as the sparkly waters of the lake itself! Lorna Seilstad offers up an outstanding amount of humor and energetic personalities from the get-go. The flavor of 1906 is robust and delightful with many small but helpful details to transport you to the time period and feel of the era.

Lilly’s tension with her in-laws is a palpable threat – especially as we get to know her and her adorable, precocious boy. Since I became invested quickly, it was very worrisome. Lilly’s likable as a patient, loving mother who desperately wants to protect and prosper her child. Her flaws and blindness of the obstacles she may give herself due to her own stubbornness make her more relatable.

Once you add in the swoon-worthy romance, which happily doesn’t take a contrived route, you get a truly irresistible, addictive read that ranks up there for me with Julie Lessman. Both create three-dimensional characters that aren’t held back by the Christian theme but enhanced by it. I really didn’t want to stop reading The Ride of Her Life – and I really wanted to summer at 1906 Lake Manawa!

I implore you to read The Ride of Her Life, even if you don’t usually delve into historical fiction or Christian fiction. This is a novel that is wonderful, amusing, touching, and rarely cliché. Plus, it has a level of emotional honesty that can be erratic in the genre. It’s an overall joyful, satiating read.

Come on… you know you want to try it!

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

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

The Door in the Forest

The Door in the Forest is a middlegrade/YA fantasy by Roderick Townley.

Daniel has always been absorbed with the concealed, secretive island that is in the center of the forest. It’s surrounded by quicksand and nearly impossible to see through the vines. There are rumors that snakes with the heads of humans await you if you try to get past the moat circling it.

He soon has a partner in his fascination when a seemingly mute girl named Emily comes to town. Her mother was taken away by soldiers and now she’s living with her odd grandmother, whom everybody considers a witch – with varying opinions.

When the soldiers arrive, something that has never happened to their town as they always seem to be protected from the Uncertainties, their village is suddenly under the orders of a crooked captain that may have a past with Emily. He has a hidden plan – Daniel and Emily are sure of it.

All too soon it becomes clear that their only hope is to get to the island – but how can they do something that people have always said is impossible?

The Door in the Forest has a mystical, magical, mysterious feel – primarily because of this enigmatic island, which is the center of attention, but also because of the eccentric, inviting residents of the village. It’s one of those books that you can kind of sit back and be entranced.

A vibe of suspense and humor keeps the novel interesting, yet light. I was charmed by Daniel’s peculiar idiosyncrasy (which I will not pinpoint), Emily’s secrets, Daniel’s brilliant little brother, and Bridey as the unusual but kind “witch”.

Our island in the spotlight adds to the fun tone. I want to ride on the back of Snowball, a tame, enigmatic white leopard and visit Here, an bizarre place that a mystifying door takes you to. Plus, the Lostie in me couldn’t ignore the mentions of “protecting the island” or that an important occupant of the island is named Jakob. Of course, the similarities end there and may be entirely coincidental, but I still enjoyed it.

To sum it up, I won’t give specifics but I found The Door in the Forest to be amusing, enchanted, earnest, and sweet. An overall nice story that might not reach the heights of my favorite reads, but also caused a pleasant afternoon diversion.