Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Caitlin's CBR VI #16: Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano

"I wasn't nearly, I was enough..."

Nearly Boswell lives with her mother in a trailer park. Her dad abandoned them years ago, so mom has to dance at the local strip club to make rent. Thankfully, Nearly is super smart. She is competing to be the top student in her physics class so she can earn a huge scholarship and get out of the trailer park. He only competition is her best friend Anh.

Years ago, Nearly read an ad in the classifieds that she is certain was from her father. Now, she steals from her mom's tip money to buy newspapers in hopes that he will contact her again. She spots an ad that sounds like it's meant for her, telling her to look under the bleachers at school. The cheerleader that she tutors is found, naked and unconscious, under the bleachers. A second ad follows. By the time Nearly figures it out, she is too late to save another student she tutors.

It's at about this point that Nearly goes to the police. She shows them the ads, but they are dismissive of her claims. After a third ad and the murder of another student she tutored, they start to see the connection. Unfortunately, they decide that the connection means that Nearly is the murderer. To keep tabs on her, they enlist the help of bad boy turned informant Reece. They have one of those prickly relationships where they hate each other until they inevitably fall in love.

Nearly Gone is an intriguing mystery. I didn't even figure out who did it until really close to the end. I almost forgot the whole semi-paranormal touching thing that Nearly does where she can read people's emotions, but it really doesn't matter to the plot anyways. I liked Nearly, she was smart and had a tough attitude and drive. Reese was okay, but not good enough for my collection of YA boyfriends. The story gets a little gory at times, but I enjoyed that aspect. It is nice to have another book for the fairly rare YA mystery genre.

I received my copy of Nearly Gone from Edelweiss, courtesy of Kathy Dawson Books. It's available for purchase now.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Caitlin's CBR VI #15: The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

"What if the future doesn't want to be changed? What if it wants what it wants? What if it makes no difference what any of us do, whether we are heroes or cowards?"
"The future doesn't want anything...We're the ones who make the future..."

Prenna moved to New York five years ago, but it wasn't a typical move. It's not about where she moved, but when. In 2090, the world is being ravaged by a blood plague that kills the majority of the population. In order to survive, Prenna and several others emigrate to their past, our present.

The travelers, as they call themselves, must live by strict rules. They have to fit in with normal people, time natives, as they call them. They must limit contact with the time natives. Travelers could expose them to any number of diseases, and vice versa. Most important of all, travelers cannot be intimate or fall in love with a time native. This sounds like a rule waiting to be defied by a teenage couple in love!

When Prenna first arrived in the past, she became disoriented. A young man named Ethan saw her arrival. Now, as a teenager, she walks into his classroom. He recognizes her right away. They form a friendship and then a romantic relationship, rules be damned. Ethan is also friends with a homeless man. They discuss philosophy together, as teenaged boys and vagrants do. The man startles Prenna by telling her about a murder that will occur May 17th, 2014, a pivotal moment that she must stop.

Of course, travelers are not supposed to change the course of events. It's just time travel basics, people. When the homeless man's true identity is revealed, Prenna is determined to change history, even if she has to go against her mother and the other travelers to do it.

 The Here and Now was a solid book. It had a lot of romance, and I loved the time travel stuff. It falls apart a little at the end, but it's overall pretty good.

I received my copy of The Here and Now from Netgalley, courtesy of Delacorte Press. It's available for purchase now.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Caitlin's CBR VI #14: House of Ivy and Sorrow by Natalie Whipple

Josephine "Jo" Hemlock lives with her grandmother. People say that a witch lives in their house. Actually, two witches live there. Grandma has been taking care of Jo since her mother died from a curse. They are the last of the Hemlock witches, but still one of the major families.

Jo tries to keep her normal life separate from her magical one. Her two best friends, plus her potential new boyfriend, don't know anything about her witchy side. Things get complicated when the strange man shows up.

He is looking for Jo, but she avoids him. She can see that he has a very dark curse attached to him. The man is very persistent to get close to her. She finds out that this man is...her father.

Background info! Witches are all female, and women are the only ones who have magic. They need men to make new babies, but they end up leaving the fathers. Upholding the family line is more important than personal relationships.

Surprisingly, Grandma lets Jo's father into their lives (After getting rid of the curse). She also lets Jo tell one of her best friends about their witchiness. Unfortunately, the reason that she is being so lenient is because Grandma has the curse. She is dying, and it's super sad. Jo and her witch relatives (Including her adorable cousin) have to band together to try to destroy the curse before it destroys them.

This was a cool take on witchcraft. When the witches performed a spell, they had to offer something to get magic. The bigger the magic was, the bigger the sacrifice needed. They would need to offer hairs, fingernails, sense of taste, etc. I read a review of this book that mentioned how Teen books featuring witches are meant to counter against so many books that focus on weak female characters being saved by strong male vampires/werewolves/etc. This is definitely a good thing. I hope we see a lot more strong female characters, whether they are witches or not.

I received my copy of House of Ivy and Sorrow from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperTeen. It's available for purchase now.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Caitlin's CBR VI #13: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

"It's Cotillion. We wear a white dress we walk down some stairs, we drink some punch and dance with our dads. And then we pretend we did it just to raise money for charity, and that it's not stupid and old-fashioned and totally self-indulgent..."

Harper Price, the main character of Rebel Belle, doesn't utter that quote. Harper is the uber-belle. She organizes Cotillion, serves as Student Body President, has the perfect boyfriend, and Homecoming Queen is in the bag. Everything changes Homecoming night, all because she forgot her lipstick. She visits the ladies room to apply a borrowed tube and encounters a strange and grisly scene.

The janitor runs into the bathroom. He is covered in blood and injured. Harper tries to help him, but the man dies after kissing Harper. Immediately after, the history teacher breaks down the door and attacks Harper with a giant sword. To her surprise, she is able to fight and defeat the teacher.

From the little the janitor told her, Harper figures out that she is now a Paladin, a warrior who is tasked with defending an oracle with their life. The oracle that Harper must defend? None other than David Stark, the grandpa sweater-wearing, trash-talking school reporter. They have been enemies since grade school, and Harper hates him for his editorials that criticize her presidency. Just being around David is enough to make Harper lose her cool. Now, she can't lay a hand on him, and she is compelled to keep anyone else from hurting him.

It turns out that in addition to the Paladin and oracle, there is also a third member: Saylor Stark, David's aunt and director of the Cotillion. She trains Harper to defend David, and makes sure that the two spend lots of time together. Unfortunately, this has a negative effect on Harper's other activities, as well as her relationship. Then there are the looming questions: 1. What will happen in the future when they go off to college, and 2. Is it really fair to ask Harper to sacrifice her life?

This was a really fun series that reminded me a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It had really great action, an interesting plot that I haven't read before, and it was incredibly funny. There was a really great plot twist at the end of the book that makes me very excited for the sequel.

I received my copy of Rebel Belle from Edelweiss, courtesy of Putnam Juvenile. It's available for purchase now.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Caitlin's CBR VI #12: Great by Sara Benincasa

"That place at the beach with all your mother's fancy friends- it's another world. I'm not saying it's a bad one. It's just different. But whether you're in this world or that one, you still have to live with yourself. Remember that you can't be one person one place and a totally different person in another place. Right is right and wrong is wrong, no matter where you are..."

Thus begins Great. Let's compare it to Nick Carraway's father's advice:

"Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone...just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."

I first read The Great Gatsby in my 11th Grade Honors English class. Actually, I read it twice (Which is about one and a half more times than I read The Scarlet Letter, but that is irrelevant). I finished the book on my own, then we ended up reading it in class. I've always liked Gatsby, the green light, can't repeat the past, and boats against the current.

Great sounded really interesting. It takes The Great Gatsby and sets it in present day Hamptons, the vacation destination for the old and nouveau rich alike. Naomi, our Nick Carraway, is spending the summer in the Hamptons with her mother. Her mother is a TV chef who has become a household name, so she is busy with marketing and all that good stuff. They are the new rich, so Naomi is usually ignored by the children of the people her mother wants to know.

One exception to this is Delilah. Delilah is tall, blonde, beautiful, and perpetually stoned. She also works as a model and dates Teddy (Tom), who was a child actor on a popular sitcom. He never stops talking about the show. It's very sad. Delilah and Teddy are an awful couple. Most of their friends even know that he is cheating on her with Misti (Myrtle), a New Jersey waitress.

The talk of the Hamptons this year is Jacinda. She runs a popular fashion blog and is very focused on Delilah. Jacinda is renting the house next door to Naomi's, and she wants Naomi to help her get close to Delilah. It turns out that the two were very close as children, and soon they are best friends, and maybe more? Meanwhile, Naomi is getting close with the male version of Jordan Baker.

We all know how The Great Gatsby ends, or at least we should by now. Myrtle dies, Gatsby dies, the Jazz Age sucks, and we all live depressingly ever after. Great does have the same ending, with some odd differences. I really enjoy the writing in this book. It made reading a treat. Updating the story to the Hamptons works well, because there's plenty to be cynical about there.

What doesn't work is making the characters teenagers. It's hard to get invested in the relationships. Tom and Daisy were married with a baby, and they lived in the 1920s. Teddy and Delilah could actually just break up, because they are teenagers, and that's what teenagers do. It's hard to believe any real connection between Jacinda and Delilah because their entire history occurred when they were in elementary school.  The female Gatsby angle is different, but a same sex couple isn't especially scandalous these days.

Overall, I still enjoyed Great. It really is easy to get lost in the writing. I am a little skeptical if teenagers will want to read a retelling of their English assignments, but you never know what kids these days are into. 

I received my copy of Great from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperTeen. It's available for purchase now.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Caitlin's CBR VI #11: Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott

Tella has been stuck in the middle of nowhere after her parents suddenly decided to move in order to aid her older brother's health. It is so isolated that there aren't any stores or people for miles. Needless to say, she is bored. When a mysterious listening device (Like an mp3 player) shows up on her windowsill, and her parents confiscate it, Tella becomes curious. She is even more intrigued when she discovers her father burning the device in the middle of the night. Tella retrieves it from the fire, and is able to hear its message.

The message is inviting her to the Brimstone Bleed. It's a race through four environments: jungle, desert, mountain, and sea. Brimstone Bleed is brutal, full of life-threatening obstacles and harsh conditions. People can, and do, die during the race. Why would anyone voluntarily compete? The prize is the cure, one cure for the winner. All of the competitors are racing for someone that they love, someone with the same debilitating disease that Tella's brother has.

In order to save her older brother, Tella sneaks off in the middle of the night. She has to drive for days to get to the first checkpoint. The challenge is to grab an egg. There is a frenzy, as everyone rushes to get an egg and leave. The room clears out, and it seems as though everything is already over. A kind-of-scary guy just a little older than Tella points her towards a shelf, where she finds an egg underneath. It's a little cracked, but it will work.

Soon, the contestants are sent off to the first environment: the jungle. Tella starts alone, following the helpful young man. They form an alliance with another young woman, a set of pre-teen twins, an older woman, and a young boy. Also, an a-hole guy. It turns out that the eggs hatch, and inside are animals. The animals have special powers and they serve and protect their contestant. Tella doesn't think her egg will hatch at all, like the young boy and older woman's. Eventually, it reveals a little fox that she calls Maddox. After that, she gets all insecure that Maddox doesn't have any fancy powers like the other animals. Of course, that's not true. Little Maddox has a big surprise.

Fire & Flood deals with the jungle and desert portions of the Brimstone Bleed. Tella makes a group of allies, but also an awful, crazy enemy. The book is interesting. There are traces of Hunger Games, but also Pokemon. It's a little weird.

 I was a big fan of Tella. She was a girly girl, but she entered the race to save her brother, because he would have done it for her. After she almost lost the egg challenge when a contestant grabbed her by the hair, Tella cuts it all off. True, she isn't the toughest female character. Most of the time she is saved by her love interest, and she has a lot of insecurity. I still liked her. She was funny and snarky, and she made me laugh. I'd like to continue the series to see how things end for Tella and Maddox.

I received my copy of Fire & Flood from Netgalley, courtesy of Scholastic Press. It's available for purchase now.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Caitlin's CBR VI #10: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

"Demons are made of shadow. Don't look at the shadows too long or a demon might look back..."

This cover, this is a gorgeous cover. Just look at the pretty.


In this retelling of Beauty and the Beast, a young woman named Nyx is married off to an evil, demonic man. The Gentle Lord makes bargains. For the price of two daughters, one was promised as a future wife. In spite of her outward appearance, Nyx is resentful that she was chosen to sacrifice her freedom and ultimately her life.

She was chosen because she resembles their father. Astraia, her twin, resembles their mother, who died giving birth to them. By punishing Nyx, he is symbolically punishing himself for the bargain that led to his wife's death and for sexing up his dead wife's sister.

The plan is for Nyx to give into her husband's, um..."marital desires." Then she must find the four elemental hearts in his palace. She was trained in an elemental magic that will allow her to shut down the hearts. Once all four hearts are destroyed, she will be able to kill the Gentle Lord and finally free her people from his bargains, though she will most likely die in the process.

After a lovely wedding where Nyx calls her aunt out on having the sex with her dad, tells her sister how she really feels, and marries a rock (Symbolizing her husband), she arrives at the castle. There are many surprises awaiting her. The Gentle Lord, Ignifex, doesn't immediately ravage her. He turns out to be pretty evil, but not such a bad guy. I really loved him, but I'm always a fan of the bad ones.

Living with Ignifex involves a lot of games. Nyx is given a key that opens a select number of doors. She uses them to explore and search for the hearts while he is indisposed at night. She is also given the chance to guess his true name every night. If she guesses correctly, Ignifex will let her go. If she is wrong, he will kill her.

There is also the issue of his servant, a shadow called Shade. Ignifex must retreat from the darkness every night. At the same time, Shade is insubstantial in the day and becomes solid at night. Nyx trusts Shade, even starts to fall in love with him.

Nyx spends most of the book wanting to kill Ignifex. He is evil, making bargains and twisting them around to hurt people. Ignifex argues that the people are aware that the bargains come with a great price, they just don't care. Personally, I think he has a point, but Nyx is firmly in the "my husband is evil" camp. What she doesn't see until later in the book is that they share a dark side. Nyx has a part of her that doesn't want to be self-sacrificing, that part that destroyed her sister on what was probably the last time she will ever see her. Ignifex has secrets that even he doesn't know. Together they might be a perfect match.

I really liked the story here. The fairy tale elements were fantastic, and as the story continues it becomes even better. Unfortunately, one of the major plot elements was glaringly obvious. It was frustrating that Nyx was so unaware, to the point that I was yelling at her. It kept the book from being a complete 5 stars, but it was still really good. Again, I really loved Ignifex. He was funny and kind of evil, and deserves to be part of my YA Boyfriends club.

I received my copy of Cruel Beauty from Edelweiss, courtesy of Balzer + Bray. It's available for purchase now.