Tuesday, December 27, 2011

review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

pub date: January 3, 2012
publisher: Feiwel and Friends
pages: 387
source: NetGalley
appeals: scifi, fairy tale retelling, Cinderella, future, romance, techy stuff
content: nothing that could be offensive

thoughts:
I enjoyed this book a lot. It is supposedly a retelling of Cinderella, but only loosely. The world and characters and plot were so original and exciting and fun, that if I hadn't known it was supposed to be Cinderella, I don't know if I would've thought so just by reading it. But since I did know it was Cinderella, it was fun to pick out the similarities (I especially loved the foot), and I LOVED how it was scifi. Lots of fairy tale fantasys, but this is the only fairy tale science fiction that I know about. So cool!

I really liked this world that Meyer created. There was such depth, so much that was going on outside of the Cinderella-ish plot thread. It was done really well.

I am a sap for romance in my books, and this one did not disappoint. I really enjoyed the romance between Cinder, the cyborg, and Kai, the emperor of New Beijing's son.

And Cinder herself is a very sympathetic character. She's brave and humble and compassionate and strong and a dreamer. I could empathize with her plight and hated her step-mom.

A really enjoyable read.

However, I am noticing a trend in YA, and it's liable to drive me crazy. What is with not finishing a story?!?!? I get that it's a series, but please, give me an ending! Tie off some of the plot threads! It's like Meyer wrote a novel that was 1600 pages long (goodreads says there will be four books in the series) and randomly chopped it where it felt like a nice break in the ongoing plot. Lots of authors are doing this, and it's infuriating. I expect a conclusion when I begin a book and feel cheated when I don't get one. Especially if I won't ever get one until the fourth book comes out. Arg.

summary:
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Friday, December 23, 2011

review: Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey

pub date: Jan 5, 2012
publisher: Penguin
pages: 416
source: LibraryThing Early Reviewer
appeals: dragons, fae, friendship, historical, romance
content: some sweet kisses

thoughts:
I have mixed feelings about this book. I thought Carey did a fantastic job creating this world with fairies and dragons and humans, and had a very compelling story arch. I thought it was well written and had a nice flow. Though some parts seemed to drag a tad, the plot was interesting.


However, I also thought it lacked a spark of life. I never found myself enthralled by the characaters or the story, or compelled to keep reading. When I put the book down, I didn't really think about until I picked it up again (and I'm someone who tends to obsess about a book between readings). The romance was also rather ho-hum. I didn't feel emotionally involved with the events or characters.

It definitely has a more serious tone, it is not a light or quick read. Maybe that has something to do with why I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would?

If you like high fantasy and a more serious tone, I think you'll like this one.
summary:
Wilde Island is in an uproar after the recent death of its king. The uneasy pact between dragons, fairies, and humans is fraying, and a bloodthirsty witch hunter with a hidden agenda whips villages into frenzies with wild accusations. Tess, a blacksmith’s daughter from a tiny hamlet near the mysterious Dragonswood, finds herself caught in the crosshairs of fate when she is accused of witchery and has to flee for her life along with her two best friends.


Not even Tess’s power to see the future can help the girls as they set off on their desperate journey, but she keeps having visions of a man wielding a sword. And when she finally meets him, Tess has no idea how to handle the magnetic attraction she feels for him, or the elusive call she hears from the heart of the Dragonswood.

In this epic romance, an ancient prophecy comes true in a way neither dragon, fairy, nor human would have predicted

Thursday, December 22, 2011

review: Ditched: A Love Story by Robin Mellom

pub date: January 10, 2012
publisher: Disney-Hyperion
pages: 288
source: NetGalley
appeals: prom, romance, high school
content: swearing, sexual reference, underage drinking, drugs

thoughts:
What a fun premise. Justine begins her story in a ditch the morning after prom, then spends the morning telling her new "friends" at the 7-11 how the night that was supposed to be amazing was anything but. For the most part, I enjoyed reading Justine's prom night adventures. It was cute and sweet and full of missed opportunities and misunderstandings.

Justina's voice was strong, appealing and had a lot of personality. At times she was annoying because she jumped to conclusions A Lot, which was one of the reasons her night didn't end up so great, but because of her strong voice, I was able to overlook this small annoyance. 

In the beginning I thought this would be a fun book for younger teens or tweens, but as the novel progressed, I changed my mind. There was a lot of swearing, sexual discussions, drinking, and drugs. All that content took away from the sweetness of the story. It also took away from my enjoyment. Without all that content, I would have loved this book. As it was, it was just enjoyable.

summary:
High school senior Justina Griffith was never the girl who dreamed of going to prom. Designer dresses and strappy heels? Not her thing. So she never expected her best friend, Ian Clark, to ask her.


Ian, who always passed her the baseball bat handle first.

Ian, who knew exactly when she needed red licorice.

Ian, who promised her the most amazing night at prom.

And then ditched her.

Now, as the sun rises over her small town, and with only the help of some opinionated ladies at the 7-Eleven, Justina must piece together — stain by stain on her thrift-store dress — exactly how she ended up dateless. A three-legged Chihuahua was involved. Along with a demolition derby-ready Cadillac. And there was that incident at the tattoo parlor. Plus the flying leap from Brian Sontag's moving car...

But to get the whole story, Justina will have to face the boy who ditched her. And discover if losing out at prom can ultimately lead to true love.

Filled with humor, charm, and romance, Ditched: A Love Story by debut novelist Robin Mellom will have readers dreaming of love on their own prom nights.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E Smith

pub date: January 2, 2012
publisher: Poppy
pages: 256
source: publisher
appeals: romance, London, divorce, travel, family
content: clean

thoughts:
Really fun book. I love teen books that involve travel and love. So this was a perfect book for me.

I liked Hadley. She's going to her father's marriage and she's angry and bitter and I totally would have been, too. Even in such a short time as a day, she grows as a character and her view of her world changes. And I love that.  

I also liked Oliver. First, the name. Isn't Oliver such a cool name? Love it. Also, his accent. How I wish I could've heard it instead of read it. He was also sweet and funny and gentlemanly (most of the time). And he can draw ducks, which would make any woman swoon.

Hadley and Oliver's relationship developed very nicely and believabley. It was cute and sweet, but it also delved a lot deeper than just surface stuff. Only half of the book took place on the plane, the other half was on land while they were both in London, and that was a lot of fun, too.

I wanted more. I liked Hadley and Oliver, and I just wanted more. The book felt really short.

I must say that it was a little jarring because the bulk of the book was written in present tense, with interspersed memories in past tense. I find present tense jarring anyway, but when I was reading a memory I got used to past, then all the sudden it was in present. Didn't effect my opinion of the book, still enjoyed it, but I would've liked if it had been all past instead. Just not a fan of present tense in general.

summary:
Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?


Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18B. Hadley's in 18A.

Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

review: Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik

pub date: August 2, 2011
publisher: HarperTeen
pages: 288
appeals: Mr Darcy!, Austen read-a-like, romance, high school, family
content: some swearing

thoughts:
I don't think I'll ever get tired of Pride and Prejudice retellings. This one was fun. So much fun. And LaZebnik didn't stick exactly to the story, as so many others do. She gave herself wiggle room in the plot which made it that much more fun.

Her mother is unbareably embarrassing, her father is very nonparental. Her elder sister is sweet, and her younger sister out of control. And then Derek (aka Darcy) is very much a grouch, but a very sweet one.

Of course I loved the development of the romance. After I finished the book I had to go back and reread the best parts. A true sign of an enjoyable book.

Overall, a fun, light-hearted, sweet, and romantic teen romance. I recommend.

summary:
Will Elise’s love life be an epic win or an epic fail?


At Coral Tree Prep in Los Angeles, who your parents are can make or break you. Case in point:

As the son of Hollywood royalty, Derek Edwards is pretty much prince of the school—not that he deigns to acknowledge many of his loyal subjects.

As the daughter of the new principal, Elise Benton isn’t exactly on everyone’s must-sit-next-to-at-lunch list.

When Elise’s beautiful sister catches the eye of the prince’s best friend, Elise gets to spend a lot of time with Derek, making her the envy of every girl on campus. Except she refuses to fall for any of his rare smiles and instead warms up to his enemy, the surprisingly charming social outcast Webster Grant. But in this hilarious tale of fitting in and flirting, not all snubs are undeserved, not all celebrity brats are bratty, and pride and prejudice can get in the way of true love for only so long.

Friday, December 9, 2011

review: Bright Young Thing by Anna Godbersen

pub date: October 12, 2010
publisher: HarperCollins
pages: 389
appeals: speakeasies, historical, flappers, romance, friendship
content: Cordelia sleeps with a few boys, but nothing is described. Some violence.

thoughts:
I picked this book up at a librarian conference I attended last year and meant to read it since then, but it was a promise to review this book for a coworker that finally got me to pick it up. And to keep picking it up, each time I put it down. Every time I put the book down, I didn't want to pick it back up. It took me almost two weeks to get through the almost 400 pages, and it felt like so much longer. The story didn't compel me to keep reading.

In short, it's about three girls who are more worried about their clothes and cars then they are about morals. And the adults in the book aren't much better.


I was giving a quick synopsis of the book to a friend and as I was talking I realized not much did happen, actually. Especially Astrid's part of the story. What actually did she do besides go back and forth between Charlie and her mother? Nothing. In response to my summarizing, my friend said, "Are you sure it isn't called 'Dumb Young Things?'" I thought that was pretty funny. Harsh, I know, but it just wasn't all that appealing for me.

So overall, not my kind of book.

summary:
The year is 1929. New York is ruled by the Bright Young Things: flappers and socialites seeking thrills and chasing dreams in the anything-goes era of the Roaring Twenties.


Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey escaped their small Midwestern town for New York's glittering metropolis. All Letty wants is to see her name in lights, but she quickly discovers Manhattan is filled with pretty girls who will do anything to be a star…

Cordelia is searching for the father she's never known, a man as infamous for his wild parties as he is for his shadowy schemes. Overnight, she enters a world more thrilling and glamorous than she ever could have imagined—and more dangerous. It's a life anyone would kill for . . . and someone will.

The only person Cordelia can trust is Astrid Donal, a flapper who seems to have it all: money, looks, and the love of Cordelia's brother, Charlie. But Astrid's perfect veneer hides a score of family secrets.

Across the vast lawns of Long Island, in the illicit speakeasies of Manhattan, and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, the three girls' fortunes will rise and fall—together and apart. From the New York Times bestselling author of The Luxe comes an epic new series set in the dizzying last summer of the Jazz Age

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

review: Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

pub date: December 27, 2011
publisher: EgmontUSA 
pages: 352
source: NetGalley
format: digital
appeals: vampires
content: a lot of good stuff

thoughts:
Loved it!

I wasn't sure about this book when I first read the summary. I thought it sounded somewhat interesting, but mostly odd. I'm not sure why I decided to request it from NetGalley, except that I enjoy Jennifer Lynn Barnes' other novels.

Whatever the reason behind requesting the book, I was amazed just how wonderful this book was. I loved it!

I definitely wasn't wrong about the oddness of the story, but that was one of the things I loved so much. It's odd in the oddest, coolest, funnest way imaginable. It takes place in the alternate existence of our world in 2011 (or there abouts) where all the creatures, and then some, that exist in our imaginations are real. That cool guy Darwin discovered their existence and since then scientists have been fascinated by them. The plot was surprising and oh-so-much fun.

All the characters were great, but I especially loved Kali. Her growth as a "human" and as a "predator" was believable (in the paranormal way such things are believable), and I really cared about what she did and how she did it.

Things I loved:
all the creatures Kali hunts.
interesting people Kali meets in school and outside of school.twists and turns in Kali's story that I was not expecting at all.
world building!
the excitement.
Kali's romantic entanglement.

I usually dislike romance in books where the relationship is instant. I want development! The (slight) romance in this novel was quick, but it was so artfully done. Even though their attraction went deep fast, it was done in such a way that it was believable and it made sense. And it was fun.

Another book I can't recommend highly enough.

summary:
Every other day, Kali D'Angelo is a normal sixteen-year-old girl. She goes to public high school. She attends pep rallies. She's human.

And then every day in between . . .She's something else entirely.

Though she still looks like herself, every twenty-four hours predatory instincts take over and Kali becomes a feared demon-hunter with the undeniable urge to hunt, trap, and kill zombies, hellhounds, and other supernatural creatures. Kali has no idea why she is the way she is, but she gives in to instinct anyway. Even though the government considers it environmental terrorism.

When Kali notices a mark on the lower back of a popular girl at school, she knows instantly that the girl is marked for death by one of these creatures. Kali has twenty-four hours to save her and, unfortunately, she'll have to do it as a human. With the help of a few new friends, Kali takes a risk that her human body might not survive. . .and learns the secrets of her mysterious condition in the process

Friday, December 2, 2011

review: Reckless by Cornelia Funke

pub date: September 14, 2010
publisher: Little Brown Books 
pages:391
appeals: fairy tales, adventure, family
content: some violence and a lot of harsh stuff happens to the protagonists

thoughts:
I listened to this book immediately after reading Cloaked by Alex Flinn. Both books have many fairy tales meshed into one story. Both have contemporary characters dealing with fantasy creatures that they didn't know existed. And yet these two books were completely different in their execution. I just found the juxstiposion interesting in reading them back to back.

Anyway, I enjoyed this book. I picked it up for the first time last summer (I had an ARC from ALA), but didn't get past the second chapter. At the time, I just wasn't interested. I decided to give it another shot and I'm really glad I did because it was so interesting!

Funke is great at creating these alternate worlds where her everyday, modern characters escape to or have to deal with. The Mirrorworld is so cool! I loved how she revealed things about the world as the story went along. The characters are so original and interesting. The adventure is very exciting.

However...

Funke is not a very happy writer. There is always great loss to the main character, horrible sacrifice, and her endings don't end very happy. This book had a somewhat happy ending, the ties were mostly all tied, but it was still somber and sad in several instances. I cannot pick up the next in the series because I know that though the situation these characters are left in isn't the best, it will only get worse in the next installment. And I would rather leave them where they are now then have to watch them go through worse.

summary:
For years, Jacob Reckless has enjoyed the Mirrorworld’s secrets and treasures.


Not anymore.

His younger brother has followed him.

Now dark magic will turn the boy to beast, break the heart of the girl he loves, and destroy everything Jacob holds most dear. . . .

Unless he can find a way to stop it.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

review: Cloaked by Alex Flinn

pub date: February 8, 2011
publisher: HarperCollins
pages: 342
source: library
appeals: fairy tale retelling, contemporary, romance, male protagonist,
content: none that I remember

thoughts:
This is only the second book I've ready by Alex Flinn, the first being Beastly, and that was many years ago. I remember enjoying Beastly, so I had hopes for this one. Hopes that were not realized.

I think Flinn does a good job of taking fairy tales and updating them to our modern times. It's great world building and entertaining. In Cloaked, I thought all of the fairy tales she brought in to this one story were fun and I enjoyed how they all entertwined.


However, I kind of thought seventeen-year-old Johnny was an idiot. Sorry, kind of harsh, but I really started to dislike him A LOT by the middle of the book. He lied, he stole, he was extremely dim-witted, and not a hero at all. He did such stupid things and got in such lame situations because of stupid decisions, that I had a hard time liking him, or even rooting for him to come out on top. I saw the consequences of his choices LOOOOONG before he did, as well as how to get out of situations he got himself into when he didn't, and it was annoying. I kept thinking, "this is who the princess chose to help her? She's just as dumb as he is." He was also extremely shallow.

At the end when they were praising how honest and upright Johnny was, I had to laugh. If that is the definition of honest and upright then the world is in a lot of trouble.

Overall, not a recommend.

summary:
I'm not your average hero. I actually wasn't your average anything. Just a poor guy working an after-school job at a South Beach shoe repair shop to help his mom make ends meet. But a little magic changed it all.

It all started with a curse. And a frognapping. And one hot-looking princess, who asked me to lead a rescue mission.

There wasn't a fairy godmother or any of that. And even though I fell in love along the way, what happened to me is unlike any fairy tale I've ever heard. Before I knew it, I was spying with a flock of enchanted swans, talking (yes, talking!) to a fox named Todd, and nearly trampled by giants in the Everglades.

Don't believe me? I didn't believe it either. But you'll see. Because I knew it all was true, the second I got cloaked.

Monday, November 28, 2011

review: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick


pub date: September 13, 2011
publisher: Scholastic
pages: 640
appeals: historical fiction, illustrations, adventure,
content: clean


Thoughts:
Brian Selznick is an amazingly creative person. I think this book and The Invention of Hugo Cabret are great works of art and literature. The format and the way he builds his stories is really cool. Wonderstruck takes two stories, one about a boy that is written in words, and another story about a girl that is shown by drawings. It's cool how they parallel each other, like in one story there's a lightning storm and then switches to the other story and there is also a lightening storm. Which was cool.

But...

Whereas I think the format is cool and the art is great, I was less than impressed with the actual story. I just didn't find either of them very compelling. And when the two stories actually connect, there was a great info-dump to explain all of the illustrations and what they meant and how the two stories tie together. Which takes away from the magic. It would've been cool to figure things out within the story, and not have to be told everything at the end.

Still enjoyable and I think that a lot of middle graders (and their parents) will enjoy this book.

summary:
Two independent stories—Ben's told in words and Rose's in pictures—weave back and forth with mesmerizing symmetry. How they unfold and ultimately intertwine will surprise you, challenge you, and leave you breathless with wonder.


Ever since his mom died, Ben feels lost.
At home with her father, Rose feels alone.

He is searching for someone, but he is not sure who.
She is searching for something, but she is not sure what.

When Ben finds a mysterious clue hidden in his mom's room,
When a tempting opportunity presents itself to Rose.

Both children risk everything to find what's missing.

With over 460 pages of original drawings and playing with the form he invented in his trailblazing debut novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick once again sails into uncharted territory and takes readers on an awe-inspiring journey. Rich, complex, affecting and beautiful, Wonderstruck is a stunning achievement from a uniquely gifted artist and visionary.

Friday, November 18, 2011

my words are precious

It's nanowrimo in November, as I'm sure you all know. It is the reason for the scant posting on this blog. I have been reading, but not feeling like writing about what I've been reading. At this time, my words are precious and I want to use them where they count.

I have been delving into a new novel this month, putting my previous one on hold while I get this one into my computer. This is my fifth year participating, and I must say, it's been my most fun year by far. I love this story, even after eighteen days (a mighty miracle!) and I love where it's heading (another mighty miracle!). I am really bad at naming things, so at the moment the story is called, "Sisters." Lamest. Title. Ever. I know. It's a work in progress.

So that is where I will be for the next twelve days. Hopefully I'll be back in December with some reviews. Hopefully.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

review: Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore

pub date: July 12, 2011
publisher: Random House Children's Books
pages: 416
appeals: ghosts, mystery, romance, magic, witches, family, romance, Texas, ranching, romance :)
content: some swearing, a make-out scene

thoughts:
What a fun book. Really, quite delightful.

I liked Amy, our main character, and her snarky, sarcastic, highly entertaining personality. From the very first page, she grabbed my interest and kept me reading. Her family, especially sister Phin, were great, too. Is this a series? I kind of hope so because I really enjoyed the characters and would love more of them.

I must make a separate paragraph to make mention of the "hot neighbor cowboy." He is hot! He's her neighbor! and he's a cowboy! What isn't to love? He has a great personality, too. Amy meets while wearing only her underwear which makes for a great scene. From the onset, they hate each other, but Clement-Moore is so great at building the romantic tension in the mist of all their arguing. It was sublime romance. Seriously. But also rather nice that it was just attraction, and not all consuming, I-love-you-though-I-met-you-three-minutes-ago-and-I'll-die-without-you kind of thing. It was just a sweet, nice, realistic attraction. A really good one.

The overall story was fun. It's a mystery surrounding a ghost, with a good dose of denial and witchery, and some great snarky attitude. On a Texas ranch! Really fun stuff. And a quick read, for all it's pages.

You should give this one a try. It's good.

summary:
Amy Goodnight's family is far from normal. She comes from a line of witches, but tries her best to stay far outside the family business. Her summer gig? Ranch-sitting for her aunt with her wacky but beautiful sister. Only the Goodnight Ranch is even less normal than it normally is. Bodies are being discovered, a ghost is on the prowl, and everywhere she turns, the hot neighbor cowboy is in her face.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

review: The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

pub date: November 21, 2011
publisher: Razerbill
page: 309
source: LibraryThing Early Reviewer program
appeals: the 90s, facebook, futurish stuff, slight romance, multiple narrators,
content: swearing, it seemed that the topic of sex was brought up a lot

thoughts:
I don't really know what to write about The Future of Us. Like a lot of people, I really wanted to get my hands on this book. This was JAY ASHER. And the premise sounded really cool. But there is so much hype around this book, that in actually reading it I was a little disappointed. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the book. It just didn't blow me away like I thought/hoped it would. It's good, but it's not going to change the world.

And now we get to me not knowing what to write besides the general, "this was a good book" stuff. But I will try...

All the 90s references were fun. Emma and Josh are my age, I was 16 in 1996. So I laughed a lot at their lives because that was me. It's amazing how much has changed in 15 years.

To go along with that, the way they interpreted what the future was through facebook posts was also fun. My favorite was Emma in 1996 wondering why she was writing such personal information on a public forum in 2011. I wonder that all the time about others.

Whereas I liked Josh a lot, Emma really irritated me, as I'm sure she was supposed to. But I never felt like she redeemed herself, not even at the end. I hope she learned her lesson, but I still have my doubts. Mostly I was left wondering what Josh saw in the girl. 

I liked how Emma and Josh changed their future. I would write more, but every thing I try to expand on that thought, I delete it because I think it gives too much away about the plot. So just know, I liked how what they read in the future influenced their present, which in turn influenced their future. Get it?

I thought it similar to Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski which came out a few years ago.


summary:
It's 1996, and less than half of all American high school students have ever used the Internet.

Emma just got her first computer and an America Online CD-ROM.

Josh is her best friend. They power up and log on--and discover themselves on Facebook, fifteen years in the future.

Everybody wonders what their Destiny will be. Josh and Emma are about to find out.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

review: Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

pub date: November 8, 2011
publisher: Source Books 
pages: 320
source: NetGalley
format: digital
appeals: historical fiction, romance, painting, magic, supernatural, spiritualism
content: some steamy kissing

thoughts:
The premise for this book is so great! I wish I thought of it. I loved how the portrait was introduced to Natalie and the relationship she has with it. I loved how she crossed into the painting. It was just cool, cool, cool.

I also liked that this novel is Natalie's journal. It made it more personal, I think, and more immediate. There was a lot of dry humor that I appreciated and made me laugh. And Natalie has such a fun personality that I enjoyed reading her thoughts.

However...

I don't enjoy paranormal books that bring in Christian religious ideas. I have yet to read a fallen angel book I like for this very reason. Darker Still brings in religion and the idea of angels and devils and God, and it turns an otherwise fun book into something ridiculous (to me). Sure, have a bad guy, but does he have to use religious aspects in his evilness? I wish he hadn't. I would've enjoyed this book so much more.

That was the main complaint for me, but that is just me and my issue. There were smaller things that I wasn't such a fan of. Like the romance turned cheesy instead of sweet. I didn't like the wrap up at the end--I wish it had just ended with Natalie's diary closing, but there were some other stuff that happened outside of Natalie's diary that I didn't care for and I didn't feel were needed. And the "spell" that the evil dude creates is like a grab bag of stuff--oh, lets use religion and a pinch of hieroglyphics, maybe some Latin, and I can't forget poetry! I got confused.

And yet, it was a fun book. Just not my favorite.

The setting reminded me of the Luxe series by Anna Godbersen and the mood of the novel reminded me of Sorcery and Cecilia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.

summary:
The Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.


New York City, 1882. Seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewart's latest obsession is a painting of the handsome British Lord Denbury. Something in his striking blue eyes calls to her. As his incredibly life-like gaze seems to follow her, Natalie gets the uneasy feeling that details of the painting keep changing...

Jonathan Denbury's soul is trapped in the gilded painting by dark magic while his possessed body commits unspeakable crimes in the city slums. He must lure Natalie into the painting, for only together can they reverse the curse and free his damaged soul.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

review: Eve by Anna Carey

pub date: October 4, 2011
publisher: HarperTeen
pages: 336
source: NetGalley
format: ebook
appeals: dystopic, romance, adventure
content: a lot of good stuff

thoughts:
I kind of had mixed feelings about this book. Some things I loved, other things not so much.

This review has some spoilery bits, so beware.

The world Carey created was pretty creepy and scary. I could buy into a King of America, even his setting up schools for girls to be educated and getting work groups together to do manual labor to rebuild the city. Tyrants after disaster--good start.

However, I love dystopic world building that makes sense to me, and this one had some stuff that didn't make sense to me. First, why would the king educate these girls just...

HERE COMES THE SPOILERS

...to lock them up and have them have baby after baby to populate his new world. Incubators do not need to be educated, but neither do they have to be 18. Maybe he has a soft spot for children and can only abuse people once they're adults.

Also, there are really young boys found wandering around (which makes my above hypothesis completely off), why are those children unacceptable to the king to raise in his city? What makes the student's babies so much better?

Another issue I had was with Eve. She was destruction personified. Because of her decisions, so many other people suffered. I could see why she did what she did--she was a rather naive girl--but I was still angry with her. Especially at the end. I found that aspect of the novel frustrating and hard to deal with.  

That is the end of the Spoilers

Besides the above, I did enjoy this book. As Eve goes about her journey, the landscape and people she meets really brought this waste of a world alive for me. I enjoyed the characters. Eve meets a lot of different characters and I felt they were well flushed out. I loved the little boys she meets and her semi-friend, Arden, who she travels with.

I loved the romance. Eve was raised to see all men as evil. Her relationship with Caleb is so well developed that I could see her perceptions of men (or at least some men) change. It wasn't sudden and it wasn't unrealistic. It was perfect. And the sacrifices Eve and Caleb make for each other are really great.

Enjoyable read, but not a must have.

summary:
The year is 2032, sixteen years after a deadly virus—and the vaccine intended to protect against it—wiped out most of the earth’s population. The night before eighteen-year-old Eve’s graduation from her all-girls school she discovers what really happens to new graduates, and the horrifying fate that awaits her.

Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive. Along the way she encounters Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust...and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

review: How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

pub date: October 18, 2011
publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
pages: 341
appeals: adoption, teen pregnancy, realistic fiction
content: swearing, sex though not descriptive, abuse

thoughts:
I love me this book. Love, love, love! Passionately.

The characters in this novel are so real and flawed and believable and whole and awesome. I loved them all.

I loved Jill and Mandy. Their perceptions of the world and how they dealt with crap was so believable. Their struggles and how they dealt with horrible stuff and how they grew. Their insights into their world were so great. They're like real people to me now. I was really pleased with where they ended up, too. I usually find Sara Zarr's endings a little...unsettling, but this one was fantastic. It was actually happy. All the secondary characters were just as amazing. All the little details and peronality quirks were so tangable. Jill's father was dead, and he was a solid character in this book as if he was sitting in the leather chair in their family room.




 
I feel like I'm just blabbering and not saying anything (but I guess that is what I do when I review). It's an amazing story of growth and love and acceptance and moving on. It's beautifully written. Once I started it I didn't want to put it down. I was at work and all I was thinking about was lunch so I could read more, and after lunch I was counting down the hours till I could go home and read more. And then when I did go home and finish the book, I just hugged it to my chest because I was sad it was over. (not really, but you know what I mean)
 
This is a must read book. Please read! You are totally missing out if you don't pick it up.

summary:
Jill MacSweeney just wants everything to go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she's been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends--everyone who wants to support her. You can't lose one family member and simply replace him with a new one, and when her mom decides to adopt a baby, that's exactly what it feels like she's trying to do. And that's decidedly not normal. With her world crumbling around her, can Jill come to embrace a new member of the family?


Mandy Kalinowski knows what it's like to grow up unwanted--to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, she knows she wants a better life for her baby. But can giving up a child be as easy as it seems? And will she ever be able to find someone to care for her, too?

Critically acclaimed author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr delivers a heart-wrenching story, told from dual perspectives, about what it means to be a family and the many roads we can take to become one.

Monday, October 24, 2011

review: Gypsy Knights by Two Brothers Metz

pub date: May 19, 2011
publisher: LoudCloud Publishing
source: author
format: ebook
appeals: Gypsies, magic, historical fiction, mystery, adventure
content: clean

thoughts:
This was a fun book. It has a lot of mystery, history, some Gypsy magic, and a little bit of romance. I thought it was very well written and had great descriptions. The writing flowed well. As someone who knows nothing about the game (all I know comes from the musical Chess), I loved the roll chess played in this novel and how it became so important to the developing plot.
In the beginning I did have a hard time getting into the story. There was a lot of jumping around in time between 1960 and 1065, and then a lot of flashbacks to other times. It made the story somewhat choppy and confusing. But once I got past that aspect of the novel, I finished the book rather quickly and really enjoyed it.

Also, I thought the clues that Durriken received from his mother seemed rather contrived, but it set Durriken and Dilia on a fun adventure, so I guess it's all good.

summary:
Fourteen-year-old Durriken Brishen has lost his parents, his grandfather, and though he doesn't know it, his Gypsy culture's dangerous gift.

Taken in and raised on the rails by the first woman to pilot a freight train, Durriken has one remaining connection to his Romani roots: a small wooden box that hangs from the hammer loop of his overalls.

The last gift he received from his grandfather, the box contains the world's first chess set. But a piece is missing: the Red Queen. According to Durriken’s family lore, the complete set awakens the power of Tărie, a mercurial gift that confers unique abilities on each new Master.

When a suspicious fire erupts in the Chicago rail yard, Durriken's escape produces an uneasy alliance, though not without its silver lining. Dilia is a few inches taller, several degrees cleverer, and oh yes – very pretty. While Durriken is uneasy allying with a girl whose parents were convicted of sedition, there's no doubt she is a powerful partner. And while it's not immediately clear to either, her own Guatemalan culture and family history are deeply entwined with the ancient Romani mystery.

Jumping box cars, escaping riverboats, deciphering clues, crossing swords with the brilliant madman Radu Pinch – with great American cities as its backdrop – Gypsy Knights is the page-turning saga of Durriken Brishen and his quest to rediscover his past.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

author events

I know I've been really behind in updating author events in the SLC, Utah area, but I'm recommitting to doing better starting today. Though better than what I'm doing right now gives me a lot of wiggle room:) 

To do this I have the tab at the top and I will diligent in using it to keep up with all the author-goodness.

FYI--Tonight Sara Zarr is going to be at the King's English in SLC. She's a fantastic author and I wish I could go.

review: Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey

pub date: August 4, 2009
publisher: Atheneum
pages: 553
source: my bookshelf
series: A Resurrection of Magic #2
appeals: dark fantasy, mystery, magic,
content: violence, swearing (about 10 f-bombs which I did not think were needed in the context of the story and didn't fit into the world created--really irritated me)

thoughts:
I have a split opinion on this book.

On the one hand--
I enjoyed the mystery. This is a long book and I was interested in it enough to finish it in just a few days. I wanted to know what was going on, who was really who, and what the heck was going to happen before the end.

There are two stories being told, one of Hapt and his experiences in magic school, and the other of Sadima, who lives hundreds of years before Hapt and is there at the beginning of the resurrection of magic, long before the magic school is founded and back when magic was feared and magicians were put to death. The intersecting of the two stories is so awesome. I am impatient for the last of the trilogy to come out so I can see how they will finally come together. Much to my frustration, there is no pub date for A Resurrection of Magic #3. Which means it will be a long wait.  

On the second hand--
This book is slooooow. It takes FOREVER for anything concrete to happen. Hapt spends most of his time trying to build relations with the other boys in the school, which is practically impossible and is mostly internal with tiny interludes with the other boys. The other part of his time is spent trying to figure out magic, which is not a fast process. It takes him an eternity to figure things out. At times it was down right boring. But when his story was going so slow, Sadima's really picked up, and vice versa--when Sadima's was slow, then Hapts would get interesting.

I ended up skimming large chunks.

In conclusion--
Interesting, but way too long. I do want the conclusion of their stories--the ending was rather surprising and I'm left hanging

summary:
Sadima, Franklin, and Somiss, driven out of Limòri by a suspicious fire, are living in a cave hidden within the cliffs that overlook the city. Somiss is convinced the dark passages of the caves were the home of ancient magicians, and his obsession with restoring magic deepens. Sadima dreams of escape -- for her, for Franklin, and for the orphaned street boys Somiss has imprisoned in a crowded cage. Somiss claims he will teach these boys magic, that they will become his first students, but Sadima knows he is lying.

Generations later, Hahp is struggling to survive the wizards' increasingly dangerous classes at the Limòri Academy of Magic. He knows the fragile pact he has forged with his secretive roommate, Gerrard, will not be enough to put an end to the evil. It will take all the students acting together to have any chance of destroying the academy. Building trust, with few chances to speak or plan, will be almost impossible, but there is no choice.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Neal Shusterman Tomorrow Night!!!

So this is a really late reminder, but better now then not ever.

Neal Shusterman
Sandy Library
(10100 South Petunia Way Sandy, Utah 84092)
Thursday Oct 6 (tomorrow)
7pm.

It is going to be awesome.

review: Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

pub date: April 5, 2011
publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
pages: 368
format: audio
appeals: historical fiction, realistic fiction, family, art
content: clean

thoughts:
Schmidt has a gift of writing real, fully developed characters, including those on the edges of the story.

In the beginning of the novel, there are some really jerky people in Doug's life. His brother and the gym coach at his new school being two examples. Yet Schmidt has a way of showing why a character is the way they are, and with that new insight, no matter how jerky they are, it's hard to hate them. Which is AMAZING storytelling. The only character that I never really understood, especially at the end, was Doug's father. I didn't feel forgiveness towards him. But all the rest...POW! What GREAT characterization.

He is also amazing at playing my heart strings. One chapter I was so happy because things were FINALLY going well with Doug. But by the next chapter, something would happen that made me cry, literally cry. Twice I had tears running down my cheeks, I was so involved with Doug and his story, I had to keep listening long after I arrived home (I listened to it in my car and the narrator was wonderful).

I was very happy in the way the book ended--very hopeful. There was a while there where I was wondering if that would be possible. But it was. Yay!

The organization of the novel was also AMAZING. I loved how Auduban's artwork tied in so well with the story and the lessons Doug learns throughout the year of the novel. And since I listened to the book, it was rather nice how well Schmidt described the bird paintings because I didn't have the book to seem the birds myself.

So, if you haven't figured out how I feel about this book, let me tell you right out. I LOVED it. LOVED it.

And I'm not lying.

summary:
Midwesterner Gary D. Schmidt won Newbery Honor awards for Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boys and The Wednesday Wars, two coming-of-age novels about unlikely friends finding a bond. Okay For Now, his latest novel, explores another seemingly improbable alliance, this one between new outsider in town Doug Swieteck and Lil Spicer, the savvy spitfire daughter of his deli owner boss. With her challenging assistance, Doug discovers new sides of himself. Along the way, he also readjusts his relationship with his abusive father, his school peers, and his older brother, a newly returned war victim of Vietnam.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

review: Past Perfect

pub date: October 4, 2011
publisher: Simon Pulse
pages: 322
source: Simon and Schuster Galley Grab
format: digital
appeals: contemporary, romance, family, historical reenactment,
content: I don't remember...

thoughts:
This is one of those instances where I read the book over a month ago and just realized that I never wrote the review that I was going to write and that I thought I had written. So, um...yeah, I can't remember details anymore, so here are some broad strokes of what I think I thought way back in August.

I remember that I loved Chelsea. She had such a fun personality. Very easy to read, her story just flowed from one thing into another. I really wanted her to find her place and get what she wanted. I wanted her to succeed.

The plot was fun and wild and so wacky. I laughed out loud on more than one occasion by the situations she found herself in.

I liked the main love interest. Not the ex-boyfriend (blah!), but the crush. I liked him!

There was no pat, perfect, ending. Which is sort of annoying as a reader, but also rather refreshing.

There was a lot of insight in this book, about family, love, and life. You know what I mean? When you read a book and things happen and after these things happen a character will sum up everything they learned in just a few sentences and those few sentences apply to things in life as a whole, not just to that one character. I like books like that.

I loved the setting--two reenactment camps across the street from each other. Which made for a lot of fun.

I'm thinking this might have been a completely pointless review. But, there you have it. I did enjoy this book a lot when I read it. I just wish I remembered more detail.

summary:
All Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend, hone her talents as an ice cream connoisseur, and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village (yes, really), it turns out Ezra’s working there too. Which makes moving on and forgetting Ezra a lot more complicated…even when Chelsea starts falling for someone new.

Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think that a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. But with Ezra all too present, and her new crush seeming all too off limits, all Chelsea knows is that she’s got a lot to figure out about love. Because those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it…

Friday, September 23, 2011

review: Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles

pub date: August 16, 2011
publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
pages: 308
source: library
appeals: romance, street fiction, realistic, gangs
content: sex, violence, lots of swearing (lots of it the f-word)


thoughts:
I was excited for this book for such a long time, but in the end I was disappointed. 

1) I felt like it was the same story as Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction. Boy is involved in gang, girl wants to save him. They have a connection with each other that they've never felt with anyone else. Girl sleeps with boy the night before some big gang thing goes down so that he'll have a reason to leave the bad boy life and stay with her. It was great the first time. Okay the second time. The third time all I could say was, Really? What happened to that book rumor I heard at the beginning of the year about the girl being a gang member and Lois trying to get her to leave the bad girl life for him? I miss that book that never was.
 2) This also seemed cornier than the other two. They all, at times, have corny elements and dialog, but this one took the cake. Or should I say cob. (yes, this book was as corny as that joke).

3) I am a reserved person and I hate big scenes in life, I loath them in books. There are two of them in this book. The first was an embarrassing wedding scene where Alex and Brittany have a personal conversation just before being pronounced man and wife. The second was just in front of family, but it was still horribly embarrassing (to me as the reader) and that was between Carlos and Kiara. Both were seriously cringe worthy. And very corny.

4) Content was toooo much. I just wasn't in the mood for all that swearing. Sometimes I can handle it without a problem, but this time it jarred me out of the story.  And the sex in it seemed much more than the other two in the series, though I could be wrong because it has been a while.

On the plus side, it was fun to read about Alex and Britney and Carlos and Kiara. I love the family dynamic. It was also a fun romance, though it would've been more enjoyable if I hadn't felt like I'd read the main plot twice before. All three girls that fall for those trouble-making Fuentes boys, are different and original, which I really love. And the epilogue made me laugh, just like the other ones did.

This is a really harsh review of this book. I feel a little bad about it, but what can I say? I just wasn't feeling the attraction to this story. This is definitely the weaker of the three.

I remember reading an interview with Simone on someone's blog a long while ago (don't remember where or when exactly), and Simone said that the covers are stock photos and in Rule of Attraction she added a bit about kissing between cars so that the cover made sense with the story. Well, I think she did the same with this one. The shower scene in Chain Reaction didn't blend in as well with the plot, it didn't even really matter. It looks a lot sexier on the cover than it actually was. Which isn't really a critism, just an observation.

summary:
Luis Fuentes has always been sheltered from the gang violence that nearly destroyed his brothers’ lives. But that didn’t stop him from taking risks—whether he’s scaling a mountain in the Rockies or dreaming of a future as an astronaut, Luis can’t stop looking for the next thrill.

Nikki Cruz lives her life by three rules—boys lie to get their way, don’t trust a boy who says “I love you,” and never date a boy from the south side of Fairfield. Her parents may be from Mexico, but as a doctor’s daughter, she has more in common with her north-side neighbors than the Latino Blood at her school. Then she meets Luis at Alex’s wedding, and suddenly, she’s tempted to break all her rules.

Getting Nikki to take a chance on a southsider is Luis’s biggest challenge, until he finds himself targeted by Chuy Soto, the new head of the Latino Blood. When Chuy reveals a disturbing secret about Luis’s family, the youngest Fuentes finds himself questioning everything he’s ever believed to be true. Will his feelings for Nikki be enough to stop Luis from entering a dark and violent world and permanently living on the edge?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

review: Variant by Robison Wells

pub date: October 4, 2011
publisher: HarperTeen
source: NetGalley
format: digital
appeals: mystery, boarding school, big-brother-is-watching
content: violence, but it's not graphic violence (for the most part)

thoughts:
Wow, wow, wow. What a great, exciting, wonderful novel! I really love this book.

Benson was a very sympathetic character. He was locked in a boarding school with high walls and lots of security. No one had ever escaped and those that try, die. All Benson wanted was to escape. It was his main focus for the whole book. And I am impressed with Wells, because Benson so easily could have become annoying and whiny. But he wasn't. He was focused and proactive and acted towards his goal.

There are a lot of twists in the plot and wow, how I loved them. I just had to keep reading to find out how Benson would handle everything. Maxfield Academy was a very believable environment, with believable teens dealing with their situation in a believable way.  

What makes it better is that Wells is a Utah author! Yay for Utah!

It reminded me of The Maze Runner by James Dashner, but way better. I wasn't a fan of the Maze Runner, but I so totally am a fan of Variant

summary:
Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life.

He was wrong.

Now he’s trapped in a school that’s surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive.

Where breaking the rules equals death.

But when Benson stumbles upon the school’s real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape—his only real hope for survival—may be impossible.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

cover disgust

no cover lust here...just cover disgust

this book came into the library last week and when I first saw it I thought it was a mash-up.

Like...

Ugly Women from Outer Space

or...

Little Women and the Blackhead Epidemic
But no, this is the actual cover for Little Women, the sweet story about sisterly relations by Louisa May Alcott.

I can't figure out what demographic this cover is supposed to appeal to...Cyborgs? It just frightens me.