Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann

Confession: this book made me have to sleep with my light on. One part just freaked me out so badly that I couldn't bear to turn my light off, for fear that a creepy fairy man would sneak around my bed as well. I don't know whether the children this book is intended for are braver than I am. It wasn't too scary otherwise

The Peculiar is the story of Bartholomew Kettle, a changeling, which is a half-fairy, half-human. He is forced to stay inside all the time, along with his sister Hettie. Both normal people and fairies dislike Peculiars like them. Bartholomew witnesses the changeling boy across the street being abducted by a strange woman in purple with a second face on the back of her head. The face sees Bartholomew and marks him as number 10. Nine changelings were found dead in the river, their bodies drained of blood. Bartholomew is next.

Meanwhile, a man named Mr. Jelliby accidentally stumbles into this plot. He is a politician who works with a fairy by the name of Mr. Lickerish. Jelliby encounters the woman in purple, who pleas for his help. A mechanical sparrow leads him to realize that Lickerish is up to something incredibly evil, something that could destroy the entire world if he doesn't put a stop to it.

Jelliby ends up teaming with Bartholomew, and the two are adorable together. I found Jelliby to be very entertaining, though I like the befuddled type. I was attracted to the book by a comparison to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I definitely see the resemblance. Just today, I learned that the author, Stefan Bachmann, is only a teenager. I am impressed, and I look forward to the sequel to The Peculiar.

I received my copy of The Peculiar from Edelweiss, courtesy of Greenwillow Books. It is available for purchase now.

Nerve by Jeanne Ryan

(I just accidentally cut-and-pasted my entire review away, and I am perturbed and I am going to make this fast)

Vee is a girl who live in the shadow of her best friend. It's self-imposed exile, but she still resents it. Vee sort of sucks. After suffering from what she considers betrayal from her bestie, Vee performs a dare from NERVE. NERVE is an online game that challenges people to perform increasingly risky dares to earn bigger and bigger rewards, all tailored to their exact desires thanks to social media. Vee starts out wanting to stop after one dare, but finds herself tempted by each new prize.

Soon, Vee is stuck in a room with a group of contestants, all of whom are in it to win. Even if it means taking her out. She finally realizes that she is in danger and it's not really a game anymore.

First of all, I wasn't a big fan of Vee. She was a bit annoying, and her problems seemed like something she could have solved with a bit of self reflection, rather than an online dare competition. Overall, Nerve was thrilling and compulsively readable, flying by much faster than I expected. If you're looking for a fast-paced young adult thriller that shows how Society is cruel with their pleasure in cruelty and Kardashians, look no further than Nerve.

I received my copy of Nerve from Edelweiss, courtesy of Dial Books. It's available for purchase now.

Hanging By a Thread by Sophie Littlefield

I was excited by Hanging By a Thread because I loved the idea of a girl with psychic powers that stem from touching clothes. Clare also loves vintage clothing, and has a business selling her upcycled creations. I was hoping for lots of clothing descriptions, but I came away a little disappointed.

Anyways, Clare has just moved back to Winston, California, a town she has not lived in since she was very young. Poor Clare feels like an outsider, her only friend being the popular Rachel, who she used to have play dates with long ago. In order to survive the move and stigma of being the new girl, Clare follows along with whatever plans Rachel and her group concoct, sometimes ill-advisedly. Clare eventually meets a boy to crush on, Jack with his mysterious secrets connected to a missing persons case.

Last Fourth of July, a teenage girl went missing. The year before, a young boy's body was found near some cliffs. The town is worried that whomever committed these crimes will strike again. Clare ends up finding a jacket that belonged to the second victim, and she has a vision. Her visions lead her to a horrible plot, and the truth that her hometown is a bit of a scary place.

Once again, I solved the mystery in this book way before it ended. I'm just awesome at that. All in all, I really wanted more fashion and clothes descriptions in this book. As it is, the mystery ends up being really sad, a bit of a bummer. It's not the worst thing ever, but not the best either.

I received my copy of Hanging By a Thread from Edelweiss, courtesy of Delacorte Books for Young Readers. It is available for purchase now.

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

“Let me tell you something straight off. This is a love story, but not like any you've ever heard. The boy and the girl are far from innocent. Dear lives are lost. And good doesn't win.”
Tiger Lily is a beautifully written story of the minor character of Tiger Lily from Peter Pan, told by the fairy Tinkerbell. Tiger Lily was a member of the tribes on Never Land. She never fit in with her people, people who mostly feared her and the death she seemed to bring to those around her, a fear supported by the ravens that seemed to be in her power. The tribe also feared the island's other residents, the Lost Boys.

At first, Tiger Lily also feared the Lost Boys, and especially their leader Peter Pan. Once she meets them, Tiger Lily finds out that they are just a group of normal, messy and unruly boys. With them, Tiger Lily doesn't have to play at being the proper young maiden she is expected to be in her village. She runs and plays and hunts just as well as the boys. Soon, she starts to fall in love with Peter, and he falls in love with her. Then a new visitor to the island disturbs their relationship.

Wendy Darling kind of ruins everything. Poor Tiger Lily is already engaged to a horrible man in her tribe, and now some little blonde interloper is stealing away her guy. I won't reveal anything major, but I can't blame Tiger Lily for going a little evil in this case.

I enjoy additions to classic stories, so I loved this book. Taking a minor character and flipping a story to their perspective brings a fresh point of view to any story. Besides, this is the only book I've read that is narrated by a fairy.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Josie Griffin Is Not a Vampire by Heather Swain

Josie Griffin used to be a good girl, until she found her boyfriend cheating on her with her best friend. After that, she stopped wearing pink and quit cheerleading. To make matters worse, she took a bat to her ex-boyfriend's vintage car, and that is why we open on Josie Griffin's court hearing, in which she is sentenced to community service and anger management classes.

The anger management group she is assigned to turns out to be a little different, to say the least. It's a group attended by a vampire, a werewolf, a fairy, and a Greek god. Yes, it's somewhat of a supernatural Breakfast Club. It takes Josie a while to figure out exactly what is different about her new friends, but by that time she is already a part of their group. Unfortunately, her ex-boyfriend is one of those crazy paranormal investigating people who could end up endangering the lives of her new friends and their efforts to remain undetected by humans.

Something strange is also going on at her volunteering gig. She is assigned to a shelter for teenage girls, but the girls keep disappearing under mysterious circumstances. Thankfully, Josie Griffin is on the case, along with her newfound friends.

Okay, this book is full of whimsy and goofiness, but I sort of really like it anyways. It's a bit predictable. Josie was a little annoying sometimes, with her pointless rebellion and angsty blog, but that's what teenagers are like, isn't it? It's just a fluffy cotton candy read, and I happen to be a fan of occasional fluffiness.

I received my copy of Josie Griffin Is Not a Vampire from Edelweiss, courtesy of Speak. It's available now, in paperback.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman opens with a story of her thirteenth birthday, when she was chased down by a group of boys who did not recognize her as a girl. They threw rocks at her and called her names. Moran escaped and sought solace from her German Shepard. With a few tweaks, this story could have been about me when I was 13.

I was initially drawn to this book because the author's name is also Caitlin and because I love a good memoir/essay book. While it turns out that Caitlin isn't Moran's actual first name, I will forgive her because 1) Everyone wants a name this awesome and 2) I really liked this book. The major difference between me and Moran is that she is way more comfortable with sharing about private parts and situations. She would talk about things with her sister that made me squirm a little, but I'm a bit embarrassed about buying underwear in public, so I'm not really normal either.

How to Be a Woman covers the gamut of feminine topics, from fashion to periods to abortion. The earlier chapters are Moran's accounts of becoming a woman, stories of puberty and falling in love, told with little regard for her own cringe-worthy moments. Again, most of it sounds like it could have happened in my own awkward ascent to womanhood. Later on, we get into marriage and children, and the account of her abortion, which she had after already mothering two baby girls. One part of me was a little saddened by the story, but I firmly believe in her right to make that decision and I appreciate her reasons behind it.

Moran really captures being a woman for me. There are so many familiar moments regarding fashion, how it's almost impossible to find clothes that fit because clothes are not made specifically for you, and how you can own so many shoes that you never wear because they are implements of torture. She is also behind my new desire for a pair of yellow shoes. Moran even hangs out with new feminist icon Lady Gaga, a story that makes me appreciate Gaga more.

In conclusion, I liked How to Be a Woman. For me, it demonstrated so many of the good and bad bits of being a woman, and a feminist. I'd recommend a bit of caution if you are squeamish or easily offended, but otherwise I'd recommend this book for all women and even men.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon

In the strain of my last couple books, by which I mean the main characters waking up in strange circumstances. In Don't Turn Around, Noa wakes up surrounded by bright lights and connected to a series of tubes. She doesn't know what they did to her, but she has to escape.

Noa is a bit of a lost child, having escaped from the foster care system using her mad hacking skills to forge documents of fake foster parents. This mini Lisbeth Salander is one of the biggest participants in Alliance, a website where hackers work together to bust down firewalls and punish big evil companies.

Meanwhile, Peter is the teenaged son of a wealthy family. Peter runs the Alliance website, seemingly as a form of rebellion against his father, a big fancy person at a powerful medical company. When home alone one night, he decides to hack into his father's company website. Soon after, a group of company thugs break down the door and take his computer and phone. He doesn't know the full story, but he sees that they are trying to protect something called Project Persephone.

Peter and Noa are already tied through Alliance, and Peter asks Noa to check into the files of Project Persephone, where she finds one with her name. Soon, they are both on the run, as they try to find the truth and the goons try everything in their power to stop them and recapture Noa.

I will admit here and now that I am terrible with computers. I prefer to think of anything having to do with them as magic on the Harry Potter end and therefore something unattainable to a muggle like me. So, the hacking stuff went right over my head. Don't Turn Around still offers a thrilling story, full of lots of suspense and action. It's a breath of fresh air in a genre full of dystopian thrillers and paranormal romances (Not that I don't love those too, it's just nice for some variety).

I received my copy of Don't Turn Around from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperCollins. It is available for purchase now.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Every Day by David Levithan

If you stare at the center of the universe, there is a coldness there. A blankness.
Ultimately, the Universe doesn't care about us. Time doesn't care about us.
That's why we have to care about each other.

I will just let loose with my geeking out now: I love, love, loved this book! It was so weird and amazing, and I love David Levithan's writing.

Every Day is the story of A. A wakes up every day in a different body. A can be a boy or a girl, gay or straight, rich or poor. A has been like this ever since he was born, waking up in a new body every morning. He easily makes no ties and leaves everyone behind until he meets Rhiannon.

He immediately loves Rhiannon, so much so that he reveals who and what he is to her. They start a relationship together. She loves him, but it is difficult for her to love someone who never stays the same. He is always the same person on the inside, where it's supposed to matter the most. It shouldn't matter what he looks like on the outside. But it does.

If you didn't get it in the first sentence, I loved this book. David Levithan has a way with words that made me want to highlight so many quotes. Every Day made me laugh and it made me cry and I just loved it. I know I said that before, but it bears repeating.

I received my copy of Every Day from Edelweiss, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers. It's available for purchase now.

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

Imagine waking up not knowing who you are. You are in a park, surrounded by dead people. Then you find the letters in your pockets, letters from the person you don't remember being. That is the situation faced by Myfanwy (The name frightened me at first, but they tell you that it rhymes with Tiffany. I don't think I would have known how to pronounce it otherwise, in my head) Thomas in The Rook.

As it turns out, Myfanwy is part of a secret English organization called the Chequy (It's French, so "shek-eh;" pronunciation is very important to me) that protects the country from the supernatural threats to its security. Myfawny is one of the youngest rooks in the organization, having moved through the ranks because of her fantastic administrative skills. The old Myfanwy is also rather timid and shy, and she doesn't command much respect in the Chequy. Despite having a potentially great power, she never uses it and doesn't know how to access it. She is known for staying about the office and filling out paperwork, and needing a bag for when she becomes sick during medical examinations.

It turns out that amnesia is just the solution Myfanwy needs, and the new Rook Thomas isn't playing the quiet little mouse. Someone inside the organization caused her amnesia, someone who may attack her again when she finds out the truth.

I highly enjoyed this book. It's sort of a British X-Men story. The letters that Rook Thomas wrote for herself are a good technique for the exposition that is required for the story. And because I suck at ending these things, I'm just going to include the book trailer here: