Sunday, May 27, 2012

Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

It seems so unassuming at the beginning. Janelle is just walking home from her shift as a lifeguard...then she is hit by a truck...and she dies. Then she is brought back to life by Ben, a boy from school who she has never even talked to. Then things just get weirder and weirder.

Janelle's dad works with the FBI and they are investigating strange occurrences all over town. People show up with radiation burns. Unidentifiable people show up, even a phone booth just springs up out of nowhere. Then there is the countdown. It points to the detonation of a bomb of sorts, but then it turns out to be connected to something so massive that it may end our world as we know it. The countdown, the strange radiation, and Janelle's resurrection are all connected, but in a way that nobody could ever imagine.

I admit that I wasn't sure about this book when I first started. Then it got all intriguing with the mysteries. After that, it got incredibly complicated and a bit confusing. I won't say anything spoilery, but it was a lot more than I was expecting. Though I also didn't expect to end up sobbing from this book, and that happened. I'll just say that this is a very surprising book and leave it at that.

I received my copy of Unraveling from Edelweiss, courtesy of Balzer + Brey. It's available now.

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

"...And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all..."

In a far-off dystopian future, the world has been decimated by the Red Death. This contagious plague means certain death for those who contract the disease. Protection is available in the form of the masks, but (obviously evil) Prince Prospero sells them at such a price that only the rich can afford such a necessity. So the poor will eventually contract the disease and die, while the rich go about their lives, all safe and secure.

Araby is one such rich girl. She spends her nights at the Debauchery Club with her best friend April, looking to score drugs so that she can stop feeling for a while. Araby's father invented the masks, the masks that saved humanity. It was too late to save her twin brother Finn. Which is why Araby tries to forget, why she doesn't let herself kiss, date, or do anything Finn will never be able to do.

Araby becomes entangled in a plot by April and her brother Elliot to kill Prince Prospero, their uncle. She has to pose as Elliot's girlfriend. He's obviously unstable, and he constantly tells her how much he doesn't really like her. Honestly, he's a little hot anyways. Then there's sweet bartender/security guard of Debauchery Club, Will. He takes care of Araby, even when he thinks she's just another shallow club girl. He is working and sacrificing everything to take care of his younger brother and sister, saving up to buy them masks so they can finally attend school. Between the loose cannon bad boy and the devoted older brother, the choice should be obvious. Yet there are lots of twists in those relationships and throughout Masque of the Red Death.

It's about the rich versus the poor, the inhumanity of denying an essential for survival just to make a profit. It's about the tragedy of losing the person closest to you, which becomes even worse when we learn the details behind the event. It's about the Red Death, the bodies, so many bodies, in the streets and gathered in carts. I wasn't sure how Edgar Allen Poe's story would fare as a young adult novel, but I enjoyed this expansion of the story.

I received my copy of Masque of the Red Death from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperCollins. It's available now.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Starters by Lissa Price

If you believe that Grandma has a sinsiter motive for offering you that so-called Worther's original, this is your book.

In the world of Starters, a massive plague swept throughout the world. It killed everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. The really old and really young were the ones vaccinated and therefore the ones who lived. Now, the older folks, or Enders, have taken over the country. Young people, Starters, are not allowed to work. This makes life very hard for those Starters without grandparents. Callie is one such teenager. She has to take care of her younger brother Tyler, who has a lung disorder and requires expensive medicine. They get by squatting in abandoned buildings, but times are tough.

Callie turns to Prime Destinations for help. They are a business that rents out teenagers to Enders so that they can relive their youth. After just three rentals, Callie will end up with enough money to get an apartment and take better care of Tyler. Prime Destinations has a contract forbidding the Enders from doing anything dangerous or illegal, so there is no downside. On her third and final rental, she finds herself waking up during the procedure. She lives at the client's fancy house and drives the client's fancy cars. Then after blacking out again, Callie wakes up with a gun in her hand. Something has gone very wrong with her rental. She'd go back to Prime Destinations, but a voice keeps telling her to stay away.

Some of the background details were a little vague in this book. They mentioned that a lot of the Enders were over 100 years old, some even 200. I wanted to know how that was possible, but it was never mentioned. I'm also a little suspicious that not a single person between the ages of twenty and sixty received a vaccine, but that might have another explanation altogether.

Ultimately, I really liked Starters. First of all, I really cared about Callie and Tyler. They just got to me. Second, I have met a fair share of awful old people (As well as lots of delightful old people). It's not difficult to imagine them being the opressive jerks in this book. It's an exciting adventure story, and a fairly compelling dystopian tale, though I'm hoping that the sequel will clarify the questions I have left.

I received a copy of Starters from Edelweiss first, Netgalley second, and then I ended up reading a hard copy that was sent to the bookstore. They are courtesy of Random House. The book is available now.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

I initially rejected The Girl of Fire and Thorns. It was the bit about the jewel in her navel. "I used to have a Treasure Troll when I was a kid! That sounds la-ame." Later, I suddenly decided that I had to read the book. A plus-sized princess turns into a warrior? Sign me up for that!

Elisa is the younger of two princesses, and she feels that she is the lesser of the two because she is fat and less adept at politics. She is also the chosen one, the bearer of the Godstone. Her destiny is to perform a great act of service. In the past, the great act of service involved the early death of the bearer.

On her sixteenth birthday, Elisa is married off to the king of a faraway land. It's basically a political deal between her father and King Alejandro. Alejandro is kind but he doesn't take her seriously, and he doesn't love her. Not a lot of people see her worth, including Elisa herself.

I liked the concept of a plus-sized heroine. Honestly, I was a little disappointed that Elisa would stuff herself at emotional moments and constantly ate sweet foods. Then she gets a little self confidence, drops some weight, and doesn't eat anymore. It's not a very good lesson. Overall, I enjoyed the story. The Godstone was very compelling. Elisa sometimes annoyed me, but I liked having a weak character grow stronger throughout the book.