Thursday, December 27, 2012

Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz

I want to start by saying, nay, exclaiming, that Colin Fischer was an incredible treat to read. It was a book that left me with a great big stupid grin on my face. This book is so different from the usual teen books, but I loved it almost more than any other I've read this year.

The titular Colin Fischer is a teenage boy with Asperger's syndrome. Colin doesn't care for the color blue. He dislikes when anyone touches him. Emotions are so difficult for him to decipher that he carries a chart to inform him what people are feeling. He makes up for this with a keen deductive mind. Colin retains volumes of information and can use it, plus his sometimes hilarious lack of social skills and tact, to solve all sorts of mysteries around his high school.

The big mystery comes in the form of a smoking gun in the cafeteria. The school bully, Wayne Connelly, is fingered as the suspect and expelled. Despite the fact that Colin was on the receiving end of much of Wayne's bullying, Colin is determined to prove that he didn't bring the gun to school. He just has to figure out who did.

I was drawn to this book because of comparisons of Colin to Sherlock Holmes. I've read stories about how Sherlock (From the television show Sherlock, I'm not sure if the novel version is the same) seems to have a highly functioning version of Asperger's that allows him to make such keen deductions. It also explains his lack of social graces. Colin Fischer is very much a teenaged Sherlock Holmes. He even speaks of earlier cases involving his own version of Moriarty. Needless to say, but I'm saying it anyways, I would love to have more adventures featuring Colin Fischer.

I received my copy of Colin Fischer from Edelweiss, courtesy of Razorbill. It's available for purchase now.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

Katharine is a young woman who has been living as a ward of her aunt. She has been penniless since her parents died, so she is completely reliant upon her aunt, and her cousin in the future. Aunt Tulman demands that Katherine travel to the family estate in order to check on her Uncle, the current head of the estate. Rumor has it that he is not of sound mind, and he has been squandering the family money. Katherine's assignment is to have her uncle committed to an assignment, otherwise she will be turned out on the streets.

Her reception at the estate is less than friendly. All of the servants know why she is there, and they don't want to lose their jobs or have poor Uncle Tully sent to an asylum. Katharine puts up with a bit of abuse, but eventually makes an agreement that she will observe the estate and Uncle Tully for a month. Though she will still face the same dilemma, Katherine actually loosens up and starts to enjoy herself. She grows to care for her Uncle, a man who lives by a rigid set of rules and builds wonderful clockwork figures. He would obviously never survive in an asylum. She also learns that the estate employs hundreds of people rescued from dangerous factories. Unfortunately, she still has to think of herself. Her aunt and cousin could still end up seizing the estate and firing everyone, then casting her out.

As soon as she arrives at the estate, Katharine is plagued by strange experiences. She hears phantom laughter in the hallways. She ends up losing consciousness randomly. She sleepwalks and harms herself in her sleep. Katharine soon starts to wonder if maybe she is the one who should be institutionalized.

The Dark Unwinding started out a bit slow for me, but once I got into it I loved it. I've read some very good stories this year, tales of young women in a historical context. I really liked Katharine. It's easy to sympathize with her situation, and to feel just as much excitement with the freedom she is allowed when she arrives at Uncle Tully's. I also love the relationship between Katharine and the servant Lane. The ending comes together almost too perfectly, but I've always been a sucker for a happy ending.

I received my copy of The Dark Unwinding from Netgalley, courtesy of Scholastic Press. It's available for purchase now.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

More zombies, this time the necromancer-controlled zombies. A group of the undead swarm and attack a town, leaving nobody alive. Three unlikely companions work together to stop any more attacks.

Jett is a girl who passes herself as a boy. She is searching for her brother, who has been missing since the end of the Civil War. Jett has some hostility towards the North, whom she blames for ruining her family and her brother's disappearance.

Honoria Gibbons, who goes by Gibbons, travels the country to investigate paranormal occurrences for her father. Gibbons believes in science and she is an avid feminist. I really loved her. Jett and Gibbons have a few fights, but they end up almost friends.

Finally, White Fox was raised by Native Americans. He serves as a scout for the U.S. Army. Gibbons and White Fox are investigating the disappearances that have plagued the area. Gibbons is checking for signs of alien abduction, while White Fox is searching for connections to his missing tribe.

The zombies lead to a strange commune in the desert. They talk of "angels" who will rid the land of the unrighteous. It's obvious how they are involved with the zombies, but why are they doing it?

Again, another not-really-zombie zombie book. My favorite part of this story was the characters. As I said, I love Gibbons. I love her suffragette pantaloons and her crazy horseless wagon. Jett is stubborn, and a wee bit racist, but I like her strength. It's also impressive how far she goes to pass as a sharpshooter. I didn't feel much either way for White Fox, though he seemed like a nice enough guy. Anyways, if you're looking for a story of zombies in the wild west, look no further.

I received a copy of Dead Reckoning from Netgalley, courtesy of Bloomsbury. It's available for purchase now.

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

Alice always thought that her father was crazy. All the locks on their doors. Never going out after dark. He spoke of monsters, monsters that eat people alive. It all sounded like the raving of a lunatic, until the night Alice's family dies. She watches a monster eating her father and she knows that he was right all along. The monsters are real, and Alice will do everything in her powers to destroy them all.

Now living with her grandparents, Alice starts at a new school. She is soon intrigued by bad boy Cole. Intrigued as in she keeps having steamy visions of smooching him, and Cole seems to be sharing the visions. Cole hangs out with a strange group, a group that shows up sporting strange injuries. Two members of the group died from a strange blood disease last year. Not to spoil too much, but Cole and company are hunting the monsters: zombies.

These aren't your typical zombies, though. They cannot be killed on the mortal plane, you have to fight them with your spirit, outside your body. It's a little weird. Alice joins the group, and trains to further the lessons that her father had taught her. It's all about getting revenge for her family and protecting her new friends and grandparents.

I was a little bummed at yet another variation of zombies. Whatever happened to good old-fashioned brain eating zombies? Nevertheless, I liked Alice in Zombieland. Alice is kind of like Buffy, except Alice the Zombie Slayer. She trains to hunt the zombies, her grades fall and she ditches her obligations. Her grandparents worry about what is going on with her. Also like Buffy, there's lots of good action scenes. I'm excited for the second book in this series: Through the Zombie Glass, obviously.

Velveteen by Daniel Marks

Velvet Jones was killed when she was sixteen years old. Now, she is stuck in Purgatory, unable to move on to the other side. Velvet leads the best team in Purgatory. They travel through cracks to earth in order to flush out evil spirits who are raising havoc. Lately, Purgatory has been falling apart. People are protesting because they want out and feel that they shouldn't have to wait for their sentence. One particular group has been creating chaos that is threatening all the souls coming in and out of Purgatory.

Then there is Velvet's awful secret. She has been using a secret crack in order to visit her killer. The Bonesaw Killer is still taking, torturing, and killing girls. Velvet has been haunting him, helping girls escape, and trying to get her ultimate revenge by killing him. Hauntings are strictly forbidden. Any ghost who participates in unauthorized haunting risks never moving on from Purgatory. Velvet knows the risks, but she is still haunted by her memories of Bonesaw, which drives her to break the rules.

Finally, there is the love interest. Velvet's team finds Nick during one of their missions. He is tall and attractive and sensitive. To Velvet's surprise, he also likes her. Before much of a relationship can form, he is assigned to their team. Dating is forbidden between coworkers, but Velvet starts to really like Nick, and he likes her back. It's relatively mild compared to the destruction of a world and a scary serial killer, but it's still an important part of the story.

Velvet was a fairly dark book. Some parts were very graphic, especially those concerning Bonesaw. Personally, I am a bit squeamish about violence and gore. There's more than you would expect, but I found it to be the right amount for my sensibilities. I really ended up liking Velvet a lot. She's tough and snarky, but she's also very vulnerable. The story wouldn't have been nearly as good if Velvet wasn't so complex. It's a unique story, sort of The Lovely Bones with more edge. Honestly, that was what drew me towards the book, and overall I'm pleased with my choice.

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

Spindlers by Lauren Oliver

One night, Liza goes to bed. When she wakes up, her brother Patrick is gone. Her parents don't notice, but Liza can tell the difference between her annoying little brother and the strange, wooden, glassy-eyed replacement. She knows that he was taken by the Spindlers, giant spider creatures who steal childrens' souls and leave empty husks behind, husks that eventually wither into dust.

It's up to Liza to travel into the world Below in order to rescue her brother. On the way, Liza encounters strange creatures both good and bad. She makes friends with a rat who wears makeup and a dress. She finds out that there is a market that sells items that people lose in the world above (That makes a lot of sense). I definitely admire Liza for her courage in the face of things that would probably have sent me running away if I was her age.

I appreciate the detail of the world of Below, but I found Spindlers to be a little underwhelming. It's a fairly short book, but maybe a little more detail could have helped the book? I don't know, it just wasn't quite there for me. It's still not a bad read for a kid looking for a book similar to Coraline, just a little bit of a scare.

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

The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini

One Peregrine "Perry" Eckert is one of those young teenagers who spends his time playing the role-playing game Creatures & Caverns. His parents, of which he has four because of divorces, two of whom are the lawyers who sued for divorce, would prefer he spent time on more social, typical teenage pursuits. They decide to send him away to summer camp to get C&C out of his system.

At first, camp seems like a disaster. He strikes out with cute girl Anna. His secret C&C friend pretends he doesn't even know him. Plus, he gets on the bad side of some majorly tough gang members. Then, he encounters Mortin Enaw, magical creature and co-author of Creatures & Caverns. Perry follows him into the world of the Other Normals, a place inhabited by fauns and dog-headed men. Everyone has an equivalent in the normal world, and every action Perry takes changes the normal world. For instance, when Mortin's brother decides to give up smoking rocks, Perry's brother (His equivalent) is no longer in rehab for his drug problem.

Perry ends up visiting the world of the Other Normals a couple times, using it to clean up some humiliating moments between him and Anna (There is one particularly cringe-worthy and hilarious moment at the camp dance). He's going to need as much help as he can get, because his ultimate goal is to get a kiss from Anna. Her equivalent is the Princess, who has been kidnapped. It seems easy enough, but the plan gets more complicated when Perry starts to fall for a girl from the Other World.

I have never played any RPG, and I'm not a boy, which are two strikes against me liking this book. In any case, I love books about nerdiness and coming of age and all those good things, and I liked The Other Normals a lot. Perry was a very funny narrator, and I laughed out loud several times while reading. It's a fun story and there's a good amount of action. Read this and learn about what it takes to become a man. Hint: it's more than just a couple pubic hairs.

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