Saturday, December 28, 2013

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

"It's not for sins committed
My heart is full of rue,
but gentle acts omitted,
Kind deeds I did not do."
-Robert Service

This was SUCH A GOOD BOOK. It's got that dystopian element, except less fantasy or science fiction. I don't normally go for that, but there is lots of great action and many emotional moments. Even though some of it is sad, most of the book is really sweet and hopeful. It's also a rare stand-alone book, so you don't have to track down previous books or wait around for a sequel. Really, there are so many reasons why you should read this very awesome story.

Not a Drop to Drink is set in a bleak future America where water has become scarce. Lynn and her mother are devoted to guarding the tiny pond on their farm. Lynn has been taught to spare no one who attempts to drink, whether animal or human. The pond keeps them alive, and their lives revolve around protecting the pond and purifying and storing the water.

After Lynn is left alone, her world expands. She actually talks to the old man from the neighboring farm, formerly known as "that asshole" by her mother. They discover some refugees from the city, people who don't know how to take care of themselves in the wild. These people beg Lynn to take their little girl, Lucy, until they can learn how to survive. There are also very bad men who appear, wanting the pond and also things that Lynn doesn't understand.

Lynn was very likable. She was very sheltered. Her only contact had been her mother for so many years. It can be hard to balance sheltered and ignorant, but she never came off as stupid. I enjoyed seeing her transform from a protective super soldier to a caring protector. Lynn didn't want to take Lucy at first, but she does so well with the kid. I really loved her reactions from Lucy's uncle, Eli. Eli was flirtatious and adorable. For instance:

"You're used to things like matching furniture?"
"Oh, yes, a coordinated dining room," Eli said, fake wistfulness creeping into his tone as he ran his fingers over the tabletop.
"I miss it more than tap water."

There was also an adorably awkward sex talk with the grizzled neighbor. She learns why those bad men were staring at her. She also learns what men can do to hurt women. That's what happens when you open yourself up to people. You get the good and the bad. Those who need your help and will help you in return, then those who will only hurt and take. You can close yourself off, like Lynn's mother did for so long, but then you may be safe but you are also missing out on a lot of good. 

Not to spoil too much, this book does have a happy ending. It's about as happy as these books get, anyways. It wasn't quite the ending I wanted, but it was happy, so I'll take it.

I received my copy of Not a Drop to Drink from Edelweiss, courtesy of Katherine Tegen Books. It's available for purchase now.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bubble World by Carol Snow

Bubble World is yet another book that pulled me in with its description, then turned out to be something else entirely. The synopsis made it sound like a standard dystopian plot. It's about an island where life is completely perfect, then stuff gets weird. I admit that it doesn't sound very original, but the actual plot is much more interesting.

Freesia lives on the island of Agalinas. Her life is completely perfect. She has a closet full of beautiful clothes, a loving family, lots of friends, and parties to attend every night. One day while looking at her perfect self in the mirror, Freesia gets a glimpse of a short, dumpy, and definitely imperfect girl. That's when things start falling apart.

A day actually repeats itself, and all kinds of glitches start to show. It turns out that Agalinas is actually a virtual reality created for young adults who have trouble living in the real world. Freesia's computer malfunctions and she wakes up to find that the dumpy girl is her. Her real family is a far cry from her virtual family, and real school is much more difficult to grasp. I really liked seeing Freesia learn to cope with reality, and I especially liked seeing her learn to make her less perfect self more fabulous.

What really interests me about Bubble World is that it seems like something that could realistically happen. Kids having trouble fitting in? Kids being bullied? Just hook those suckers up to a computer and all their problems are solved. As a bonus, you don't even have to interact with them until they go to college, and not even then, because virtual colleges are in development.

Bubble World ended up being a good surprise. Before I knew the whole story, I wasn't a big fan of Freesia. Afterward, I really liked her. Her entire world was shattered. She goes from fake perfection to genuine reality. The issue rises over which choice is better. You'll have to find out how it all ends in the book.

I received my copy of Bubble World from Edelweiss, courtesy of Henry Holt and Co. It's available for purchase now.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

"Because there is nothing, nothing worse than not being able to undo the crazy thoughts. I ask them to leave, but they won't. I try to ignore them, but the only thing that works is giving into them.
Torture: knowing that something makes no sense, doing it anyway."

Bea seems like your average teenage girl. She meets a boy at a dance, comforting him when the lights go out and sharing some kisses. Then she meets him again at her therapy group, a group to help treat OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder. Compared to the other kids, Bea and Beck seem normal. One girl is nearly bald, as her compulsion is pulling out her hair. Another boy has scabs all over his face, from compulsively picking at his skin. It turns out that Beck has an obsession with the number 8, with bathing and hand-washing, and he is addicted to the gym. He will text someone, then have to text seven more times. His skin is red and raw from being washed so frequently. He also has a fantastic body, but he will work himself to exhaustion because he can't stop himself.

Bea actually has a couple of compulsions as well. First is driving. She takes hours to get anywhere, often stopping and circling back. She becomes convinced that she hit a dog or a child, so she has to check on them. Over and over and over. Second, she collects articles about murders. Bea fears that she will someday snap and kill someone, so any sharp objects or weapons cause anxiety. Third, when stressed, Bea pinches her thigh. She pinches it so hard that it's marked with a black-and-blue bruise Then there is the really bad one.

There are off-hand comments made about some ex-boyfriend who had to get a restraining order, but we don't get an explanation right away. Bea's new obsession is a couple who also goes to her therapist. They are married and glamorous, and Bea sits in a corner and eavesdrops on their sessions. She writes down details in a secret notebook. One day, she follows them home. She goes back often. Sometimes she tries to stop, but then the fear will come that something bad will happen if she isn't there, and Bea will compulse. Eventually, she has to go further, actually interacting with Austin and Sylvia, and even talking her way into their apartment. It's pretty scary when she acts that way, and a little difficult to read about.

I really loved this book and the glimpse it gave inside the mind of a teenager living with mental illness. It's impossible not to sympathize with Bea through her struggles. At one point in the story, Bea was thinking about how their compulsions can come from a good place. Washing your hands, going to the gym, and cautious driving are good things, but at some point it becomes too much. It's difficult to gauge exactly when the good turns bad. It's a difficult subject matter, but it's approached with great care. The characters are easy to relate to, even if you don't share their affliction. The story contains a lot of drama, but also romance and comedy to balance out the heavy stuff. 

I received my copy of OCD Love Story from Edelweiss, courtesy of Simon Pulse. It's available for purchase now.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Special Guest Post: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Here is the special guest post of Cinder, by my esteemed friend Alex:

I've been wanting to start this series for forever...but I kept pushing it aside until a friend lent me the book. I really enjoyed the retelling of this classic fairy tale. I thought the big reveal was a bit obvious at the beginning of the book, but I think doing it that way made me enjoy the rest of it a bit more. I didn't have to play a guessing game at what was going on and where the story was headed. I loved that Cinder, the main character was a real snarky fighter. She never gives up or whines about her situation/predicaments even though she certainly has a right to. The side characters around her really made the story funny and the romance entanglement wasn't too much or not enough. Meyer gave me just enough of everything to make this book pretty good. I enjoyed that Meyer twisted it around and didn't stick to the original story.(It was nice for once to actually have at least one nice stepsister!) It kept me engaged the whole time. Excited to move on to Scarlet now!

Thanks, Alex! Full disclosure: this review was originally published on Goodreads and printed at my blog with permission from Ms. Alex Moore.

This guest post is sponsored by my insane desire to read the third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cress. Details on that are here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Shameless Ploy to Acquire Book

So, I am a big fan of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I have already read the first two, Cinder and Scarlet (Links go to my reviews of the books). The third book, Cress, is coming out in February. This is WAY too far away. Hence, I am shamelessly trying to win an ARC of the book.

In order to win the coveted book, I lent my copy of Cinder to my friend Alex. There is a promotion called Give the Gift of Cinder. You lend the book to a friend, share the friend's review, and then post links at the site. Twenty lucky people will be getting ARCs of Cress.

Now, why did I lend Cinder to Alex? We both work at Barnes & Noble together. Alex and I both love to read Teen books, and we recommend books to each other all the time. I know that she likes books with action and fantasy, as well as fairy tale retellings. Because of that, I am sure that she will like Cinder.

I will be posting her review here very soon (And hopefully I will be getting that book! :)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling

"And then, at last, the frenzy wore itself into staleness, and even the journalists had nothing left to say, but that too much had been said already."

I am almost positive that I have seen The Cuckoo's Calling around before the big reveal. It may have been on one of my ARC sites, I may have passed by it in our mystery section at work. Sometimes I try different genres, just to see if there may be something I'm missing. Even so, I don't usually read mysteries. Therefore, The Cuckoo's Calling went under my radar. Months later, when news broke that Robert Galbraith was actually a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, I suddenly had to read it.

Like everyone (Who isn't INCREDIBLY WRONG), I love Harry Potter. When The Casual Vacancy came out, I was excited. I love Harry Potter, and I AM an adult! This sounds right up my alley. Then, I read it...and I gave up on it after about 100 pages. It's just so long, and she seems to be taking too many liberties with profanity and sex now that she is writing for the grown-ups, and I sort of wish maybe she would have stuck with Fantasy, except for adults. The Casual Vacancy is so normal.

Unfortunately, The Cuckoo's Calling still isn't Harry Potter. It is a pretty darn great murder mystery. It starts with supermodel Lula Landry falling to her death from the balcony of her apartment. Given the troubled young woman's history of substance abuse and her rocky, well publicized relationship, it seems likely that Landry committed suicide.

When Lula's brother seeks to hire him to investigate, at first Cormoran Strike refuses. Business has been terrible, he can't pay back the loans used to start the agency, and he can barely afford the fee for his temporary secretary. Still, he doesn't want to take advantage of someone's death, even when John Bristow is offering double his normal fees. The money eventually wins. Strike takes the case, expecting to come to the same conclusion as the police. Instead, he discovers that the facts don't add up. The more he investigates, the more he starts to agree with Bristow. It appears that someone killed Lula Landry, and it's up to Strike and his new temp Robin to bring the murderer to justice.

I think that I liked this book so much because of the characters. Cormoran Strike is an imposing, tough man. He is also very sympathetic, having lost his leg in the war, and his girlfriend breaks up with him right at the beginning of the story. I also admire him because he is an amazing detective. Robin is newly engaged and planning to leave for a permanent job. However, she gets caught up in the excitement of working for a private investigator. I was a little jealous, because I also wanted to be a detective when I was younger. She is also impressively efficient at her job, often going above and beyond the secretarial role. The relationship between Strike and Robin was my favorite part. Both of them are so good at their respective jobs, and they form a mutual respect. It just warmed my heart, and I'm not being sarcastic. There is supposed to be a second book featuring these characters, and I am incredibly excited to see what unfolds between Strike and Robin.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

"People said time was relative, and I guess that explained why my life before River felt like a handful of seconds- brief flashes of small events that added up to very little.
But my life after River was a three-volume saga. Epic with quests and villains and murders and unsatisfactory resolutions and people being torn apart."

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is a paranormal teen romance book with heavy hints of southern gothic. It's sort of Twilight meets Beautiful Creatures, but different. Also, it's really, really good.

Violet and her brother Luke are the grandchildren of wealthy industrialists. As such, they are not supposed to get jobs to earn money for silly trifles such as food. While their artist parents travel in Europe and are basically unreachable, Violet comes up with the idea of renting out the guest house. A girl's gotta eat, after all.

Soon, almost freakishly soon, someone responds to her ad. The new boy in town is called River. Violet is drawn to him, and River seems to reciprocate her feelings. Despite never having strong feelings towards any of the boys in town, she starts having all kinds of steamy dreams about him. The problem is that strange things start to happen, bad things.

What qualifies as strange? The teenage neighbor sees a mad man in a cave moments after telling the story of a mad man who lives in a cave. A little girl disappears, the neighborhood children having seen her abducted by the Devil himself. People start to do things and feel things that they cannot control. The timing of the events coincides with River's arrival. The question is how River could do these things, and if he is responsible, does that make him evil?

I was a big fan of Violet. She was a fairly sensible girl (In one of my favorite quotes, she talks about a childhood fantasy that she had where a rich descendant who owns a neighboring estate comes back and they fall in love. She concludes this admission with, "I was pretty stupid when I was younger." That really made me laugh.) who likes to wear her late grandmother's clothes and watch old movies. River was fairly dreamy, though I have a thing for the boys with dubious motives. They have a pretty nice relationship, which fortunately doesn't ruin their individual characters.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea was pretty exciting. Normal, casual events would take place, then all of a sudden STUFF would happen. I loved how it was hard to predict when STUFF would go down. I am eagerly anticipating the sequel, which is due out August 2014. How can I wait sooo long?

I received my copy of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea from Edelweiss, courtesy of Dial. It's available for purchase now.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

"It's not so much a possession as an infection.
The House was always his.
Always him."

I was very excited to read The Shining Girls, but I ended up disappointed. It sounded awesome: a serial killer who hunts his victims throughout time, while the one who got away is hunting him. The biggest problem I had with the book is momentarily forgetting how very gross serial killers are. The very violent scenes of women being killed made me sick. The victims are interesting women, and one by one we see them being brutally murdered. This was listed as a book that features a strong female character, but the story shows the very opposite.

The Shining Girls opens in Chicago during the Great Depression. Harper, our a-hole serial killer, is running from some dudes who want to punish him for killing a man, like the a-hole he is. A bunch of crazy mishaps later, he steals a coat from an old blind woman (As you do, when you're an a-hole). The coat contains a set of keys, keys to the House.

The House is a giant mystery, this weird time-traveling place. Inside the House are a list of names and a whole lot of random objects. The objects are from the girls, girls who shined with life and potential, girls he will kill/has killed/time travel! Harper gets right to work visiting the girls, giving them an item, then going back at a future time and murdering them. He then leaves an object from another girl at the scene of the crime.

This whole disgusting routine is going swimmingly, until it doesn't. He leaves one woman alive: Kirby. She is a brash college student who interns at a newspaper and uses its resources to hunt down her attempted killer. This proves nearly impossible, as Harper's murders span decades. I found Kirby to be a bit annoying, but mostly okay. It would be hard to side against anyone looking to kick Harper's butt.

The time travel element made this book somewhat interesting. I was slightly impressed that a deranged lunatic was capable of keeping track of timelines so well, that he was so good at closing loops. The Shining Girls really made me sad because I do see potential greatness in the story, but ultimately it fell short of the mark.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

"I care about Simon Snow. And I know he's not mine, but that doesn't matter to me. I'd rather pour myself into a world I love and understand than try to make something up out of nothing..."

Going away to college has always been a rite of passage. For many, this counts as their first taste of independence. Cath isn't looking forward to the experience. Her twin sister, Wren, is using the time to explore new things, including requesting a roommate that isn't Cath. Wren spends her weekends drinking and partying, and her week days practicing crazy vegan diets. Cath is afraid of all the changes she has to face without her sister and best friend. She spends the beginning of her year eating protein bars in her bedroom because she's afraid to go to the dining hall, then because she's too embarrassed to ask where the dining hall is.

Thankfully, Cath eventually ventures outside of her dorm. This is largely due to the fact that her roommate Regan, and Regan's boyfriend Levi, take her under their wing. Through them, she finds the dining hall and learns the joys of peppermint mochas. Cath would still rather stay inside and write Simon Snow fanfic than party, but they always extend an invitation when going to a party.

Speaking of Simon Snow, he is the main character in a series of young adult books. Simon goes to a magical school, like Harry Potter. His roommate is a brooding vampire named Baz, and they tend to fight. In the great world of the internet, Simon and Baz are really hot for each other. Cath writes a lot of Simon and Baz slash fics, the most important of which is "Carry On, Simon." It gets tons of hits and even has its own fan gear. Cath is determined to finish her masterpiece before the final Simon Snow book is published.

Despite being a Freshman, Cath negotiated her way into an upper level writing class. She soon starts writing with a boy in her class, alternating paragraphs while he works at the library. Yet, library boy never walks her home to her dorm at midnight. Levi does. That little bit of conflict aside, Cath's teacher adores her writing. When she turns in a fanfic, however, the teacher hates it, even refers to it as plagiarism.

There are a lot of confusing moments going on in Cath's Freshman year. There's the feelings about library boy (Who always seems kind of meh) versus Levi (Who obviously loves her and has the funniest moments in the entire book and is awesome). She has conflicts with her family: the whole Wren issue, her guilt over going away to school and not being able to take care of her father, and then finding out that their mother wants to reconnect with them, the same mother who left when they were eight.

I really love how Cath starts out as an introvert, and basically stays that way in the end. She comes out of her shell a bit, but she doesn't turn into a social butterfly. I like that, how it's okay for her to be who she is. It would be really difficult to dislike Cath. There were moments when she was so incredibly awkward or self destructive, and I just wanted to give her a hug. I could see a whole lot of myself in her. I also loved Regan and Levi for never giving up on her, no matter how many times she turned down their invites. Regan is one of those intimidating girls with the pessimistic attitudes. They are exact opposites, but Cath and Regan created a great balance. And Levi is absolutely the best. I don't know why I'm just discovering Rainbow Rowell (I also read Eleanor & Park, and it is also fantastic), but she is a wonderful writer. I want to read whatever she has coming next, and I only hope that she comes out with it soon.

I received my copy of Fangirl from Netgalley, courtesy of St. Martin's Press. It will be available September 10th, 2013.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

"In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret. The secret was as old as the cracked cobblestone streets of Yuan, as peculiar as the roses that bloom eternally within the domed city's walls, as poisonous as forgotten history and the stories told in its place..."

The city of Yuan is enclosed by a dome that keeps out the savage monstrous people who roam the deserts. The dome also protects the normal smooth skin people from being mutated by the environment on the outside. Yuan is a successful city, and to ensure that success, a female royal must be sacrificed to the magical roses. These roses ensure plentiful food and water for the citizens. Recently, the city has been on a decline. The roses demand a proper blood sacrifice, and soon.

Outside the dome, the people of the desert are also suffering. Men, women, and children are starving to death. They even poison themselves to make it quick, rather than endure the slow torture of starvation. Gem, the chief's son, is part of a group that breaks into the dome. His village's shaman has seen that they need Yuan's magic roses in order to save the people. Once inside the dome, stuff goes down. Gem runs into Isra (More on her in a minute), who alerts the guards. The others leave, but Gem is held as prisoner in a gesture of good faith to ensure that the villagers won't attack the dome again.

Unfortunately, the King of Yuan was killed in the attack. His death means that his daughter, Isra, is now the Queen. Isra has been locked in a tower since she was four years old. An accident took her sight, so she was hidden from the people. She also suspects that she is deformed, as she is very tall and her skin is rough and a little scaly. Isra must now get married and then she will be sacrificed to the roses, hopefully in several decades. In the meantime, Isra tries to change things in Yuan. She gets Gem to help her plant a garden in order to reverse or prevent the mutations that are springing up among the people. She also wants to let the mutated and smooth skins live together, rather than keeping the former locked away in a ghetto area. Unfortunately, despite being Queen, Isra meets resistance from her father's top advisor. She will also have to marry his son, who ends up being kind of nice, though he is also racist and very promiscuous.

Obviously, as this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, Isra must end up with Gem. The reversal of the roles is interesting, with the man being the prisoner and the woman the captor. I thought the reversal from mortal enemies to true love was a bit rushed, but it wasn't terrible. I'm not an expert in how Stockholm Syndrome works. I was impressed by the combination of the fairy tale premise with a dystopian setting. It makes for an incredibly original twist on an old story.

I received my copy of Of Beast and Beauty from Edelweiss, courtesy of Delacorte Press. It's available for purchase now.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

This is Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh's blog. Now, as great as that blog is, imagine a version that you can take with you anywhere. You can take it camping, back to the Prehistoric Age in your time machine, or into a hellish dystopian future (Though by then, books may have been banned and you will be slaughtered by the fascist government).

Hyperbole and a Half: the book version features comics from the blog, as well as new ones. It's all the same awesome stories from Ms. Brosh's childhood, as well as details of her battle with depression. These comics are very brave, and still done with the same sense of humor as the other chapters.

It's definitely worth being persecuted in that dystopian future. You would need all the laughs you can get.

I received my copy of Hyperbole and a Half from Edelweiss, courtesy of Touchstone. It will be available for purchase October 29, 2013.

This is some Tweets from Allie Brosh to promote the book. They were originally posted on other sites, and also Twitter.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn

"Things happen in life. Things don't go the way you plan. And even when they do, it doesn't feel the way you thought it would."

Teenage girls are simultaneously the most powerful and powerless forces in the world. So much is designed to appeal to them, to get them to buy something, wear something, do something, or like something. That part is the power. Their weakness is that it's hard being a teenage girl. In order to appeal to them, a product claims to need to fix or complete the girl. They are never enough on their own.

It makes it easy to understand the book. Teenage girls are offered their greatest desire. It's always a boy. Make him love me, make him need me. What they lack the foresight to understand is the price. There is always a price, and it is always much too high.

A year after her disappearance, Annaliese Rose Gordon emerged from the woods. She had no hair, was covered in a garbage bag, and had no memory of where she had been. She was returned to her loving parents and safe comfortable life. As more and more memories come back to the girl, one thing becomes clear: she isn't really Annaliese Rose Gordon.

What does Annaliese Rose Gordon have to do with the first two paragraphs? Why, absolutely everything! Annaliese is just the latest in a string of covetous young ladies who gave up everything to get what she thought she wanted most. The real Annaliese is gone, and the girl occupying her body has to piece everything together, soon. Otherwise, she will end up trapping another teenage girl, and the same thing happens over and over again.

This sounds like another psychological thriller, but it ended up being more paranormal. This was actually a nice surprise. It weaved an original mythology with elements of Faust, and a satisfying amount of horror. It surprised me, both with the story and with how much I ended up enjoying it.

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

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Originals by Cat Patrick

Elizabeth is a normal, busy high school student. She juggles advanced courses, dance, cheerleading, a college course, and a part-time waitressing job. What nobody else knows is that Elizabeth is actually three identical girls. Ella, Betsy, and Lizzie are clones. Their mother smuggled them out of a lab after the clients were going to take only one baby and kill the other two. At least that was what the girls had always been told, and what they always believed.

In the beginning, Lizzie attends morning classes, Ella attends afternoon classes, and Betsy does after school activities, waitressing, and their college course. The girls are all tutored at home, so they still receive a complete education. When Lizzie fails a test, their mother switches her to afternoons. This is actually better suited to Lizzie, as she enjoys the creative writing and dance classes. This is also how she meets Sean Kelly.

Sean is in the creative writing class, and he notices the change in Elizabeth right away. Unfortunately, Betsy develops an interest in another young man in one of the morning classes. The girls have never been permitted to date before, but their mother gives them permission this time. The catch is that Elizabeth can only be seen dating one boy. Unfortunately for Lizzie, it's not going to be Sean.

This is when the girls take matters into their own hands. They start to break the rules that they have been living with for way too long. It's not just about the right to date whomever they want, there are much bigger issues. Lizzie, Ella, and Betsy want to be more than just one third of a person.

This was a fairly entertaining book. It was nice to see a subject matter that hasn't been done to death, so definite points for that. There is a nice, though slightly cliche, message about being yourself. It's made up for by the intriguing mysteries being hidden from the girls. Best of all, this isn't actually going to expand into a series. If you read this, there's no anticipation, waiting, or major commitment. I consider that a major win.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

I admit that I read Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep years ago. It seemed like something I would enjoy, but I ended up disliking the book. The main character is detestable, and there is way too much sex for my liking. Sisterland sounded good, because twins with psychic powers sounds like an awesome premise. Yet again, I was met with a main character that I didn't like and way more sex than I'd prefer.

Sisterland is about twin sisters Violet and Kate (Daisy). Violet receives a lot of attention when she makes a public prediction that an earthquake will occur. She creates a media frenzy, even gets a spot on the Today Show. Some people ridicule her, but others believe her prediction. Kate is upset that she would draw attention, attention that might end up falling on Kate.

While Violet works as a psychic, Kate is a stay-at-home mom. She used to have "senses," but she forced them away long ago. She even started calling herself Kate, from her middle name, instead of Daisy so that nobody would connect her with the freaky psychic twins. We get to see the bad experiences that Kate had had, her reasons for wanting a normal life. Personally, I understand her reasons, but I think she is a bit of a stick in the mud. I'd have liked a book from Violet's perspective, maybe even a shared narrative. Kate is very judgmental of her twin. Violet gives her reasons to judge a lot of the time, but the constant judging and snippy remarks reflect poorly on Kate.

I really would have preferred more psychic stuff and less sex. There is a lot of sex in this book. Most of it is fine, but the scenes toward the end of the book started to gross me out. I'm probably starting to sound like the Sex Police here, and writing the word sex so many times is making me feel embarrassed (Though I will probably get some new and fun items in the searches-that-brought-people-to-my-blog list). In summary, I do not like the main character or the sex. I do like the psychic aspects of the story, and the book is very well written. It wasn't really my cup of tea, but I can see how others might enjoy it.

I received a copy of Sisterland from Edelweiss and Netgalley, courtesy of Random House. It's available for purchase now.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Prep School Confidential by Kara Taylor

Anne used to be in charge at her old school, St. Bernadette's. She knew how to break the rules in all the right ways, and she had the headmistress wrapped around her little finger. Then she accidentally burned down part of the school. Anne's charm isn't going to get her out of that mess.

Anne is sent away to Wheatley, a boarding school in Boston. She is used to the excitement of New York, and fears that Wheatley will be dull. It appears that she is right...until her roommate is murdered.

What is more surprising is that the school seems to be sweeping Isabella's murder under the rug. Anne knows that they are covering for someone. She takes it upon herself to bring the culprit to justice, with help from Isabella's delinquent brother Anthony. Was it the scary type-A senator's daughter? Or the creepy stalker from the powerful family? Could it be the foreign professor who is overly attached to his work study students? Or was it Isabella's very own brother? They all have motives, but the further Anne digs, the more dirt she finds.

Prep School Confidential was a fun mystery, and I will always love a boarding school story. It was the rare YA mystery that wasn't completely predictable, and in fact had me guessing and second guessing all my theories. Anne was a commendable heroine, and I admire her bravery and detective skills. She did have a tendency to jump to conclusions too quickly with regards to her suspects, but she cracked the case wide open in the end. This book wasn't quite the over the top, guilty pleasure fix of the Pretty Little Liars, but I am looking forward to the next installment and further adventures of Anne Dowling.

I received my copy of Prep School Confidential from Edelweiss, courtesy of St. Martin's Griffin. I also received a copy from the Goodreads First Reads program, courtesy of Sarah G. The book will be available for purchase July 30, 2013.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Crushed by Sara Shepard

In #13 of the illustrious Pretty Little Liars series, we get to find out Aria's new secret. We know it happened while she and Hanna were vacationing in Iceland with their boyfriends. Let me say that it. Is. Awesome.

Avert your eyes, folks who don't want to be spoiled. Aria and her boyfriend Noel were having a tiff in Iceland. She was getting in a self-righteous mood, as she does, when she met a hipster named Olaf. One thing led to another, and they were kissing in an alley. Yet another thing led to another thing, and they were stealing a Van Gogh from a villa. I'll just let that absorb for a minute. Olaf played hipster chicken with Aria, and it ended with them trying to return Nazi-stolen artwork to its Jewish owners. That is the best, most outrageous secret yet.

In the present, Spencer decides that enough is enough. They are going to find A and end the torment. The Liars gather and deduce that Alison must have had an accomplice, who must be A. Their suspects are Grant (Tabitha's boyfriend who got all blown up on the eco cruise last book), Iris (Ali's roommate at the asylum), Jason (Ali's brother, not important because he is never mentioned again), and Noel Kahn (Aria's boyfriend, who suddenly became incredibly precious to me when I knew these girls were going to get him murdered).

The girls split up to investigate. Hanna takes back her old volunteering gig at the burn clinic to keep tabs on poor Grant. Emily visits Iris...and ends up breaking her out and helping her with her bucket list of stealing, skinny dipping, and stalking. Aria reluctantly agrees to investigate Noel, but she does so with a heavy heart. Everything she finds makes him look more and more guilty. Spencer goes for Alison herself, contacting the creator of a conspiracy website that claims Alison might still be alive.

The other story is that it's Prom time! Hanna is nominated for Prom Queen, against a formerly unglamorous classmate. Unfortunately, she can't campaign or A will reveal her secrets about Tabitha and Iceland. Spencer's boyfriend, Reefer, wins some elite internship in South America and he breaks up with her, leaving her to attend prom alone in her fancy designer dress. Fortunately, she hits it off with the conspiracy website guy and ends up taking him to the dance. Aria goes with Noel, but things get tense.

There is a constant pattern in these books wherein someone seems suspicious, the Liars suspect that they are A, there is a confrontation, then the suspect ends up dead. I was pretty devastated when they started to suspect Noel (As I already said). Some huge stuff happens in this book, definitely. I really, really need to know what happens next, as there was a huge cliffhanger. Book #14 is also supposed to be the FINAL book, for real this time. I'm very excited for that, the continuation and the ending.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Potty Mouth at the Table by Laurie Notaro

I really used to enjoy Laurie Notaro's books. They made me laugh out loud, even after I read them over and over again. I don't know if I have grown too disenfranchised in my old age, or if I have read them so many times that the humor is gone. Her last book, It Looked Different on the Model was good, but I barely laughed. I decided to try The Potty Mouth at the Table to see if it would get different results.

My basic impression of the new book is that I may not be old enough to relate to a lot of these stories. Notaro's early books were about dating and jobs, a lot of twentysomething anecdotes. Later books were about getting married and buying a house. Now, the majority of the stories are about complaining about one thing or another. Most of her complaints seem valid, or at least I wouldn't want them to happen to me. It just ends up feeling like I'm hanging out with my mom when she's in one of her moods ("Let me go into a diatribe about how I dislike Obama/how you shouldn't wear a Harry Potter t-shirt because it is the devil/how SNL celebrities got famous from snorting blow").

I feel pretty bad saying this, but it seems like Laurie Notaro is turning into her mother, frequent star of her stories. Don't get me wrong, overall the stories were entertaining. I even chuckled a couple of times. The last essay about her friend's battle with cancer was both unexpected and very sweet. Again, though, I may be a couple years too young to fully appreciate this book. Maybe I'll give it another try in five to ten years and see if I can relate better.

I received my copy of The Potty Mouth at the Table from Edelweiss, courtesy of Gallery Books. It's available for purchase now.

Icons by Margaret Stohl

"You can't kneel to a lord who will not show his face.
You can't pray to a god who hates the human race..."

Icons is another alien book. Aliens are the next big thing. They came when Doloria (Dol) was just a baby. Her family was killed instantly, along with a good portion of the planet's population. The icons were left in key cities to keep the humans in control. Humans were given senate positions to rule in the aliens stead, and to keep humans enslaved to the aliens.

Dol went to live with the padre at his church, where she became close with Ro, another orphan. They share a birthday, but they also share strange marks on their wrists, as well as crazy powers. Dol doesn't understand any of it, though she comes closer when the padre gives her a book on her birthday, a book about icon children. Before she can read it, the church is invaded by government soldiers.

This book made me sad because it killed off the greatest character very early on in the story. We barely even got to know her. Her name was Ramona Jamona, and this is how I imagined her to be:
She seemed awesome, and Ramona Jamona is the greatest name ever. This was a pig who did what she wanted and didn't let anyone tell her what to do. Curse you, alien overlords, for taking this delightful pig away!

Dol gives the book away to a delightful mercenary named Fortis. I love Fortis, he's my second favorite character. Fortis creates a diversion so she can get away from the soldiers. It's a waste, because Dol and Ro soon encounter a young soldier named Lucas. Ro almost kills him, but Dol stops him because Lucas is just like them. Dol, Ro, Lucas, and Lucas' friend Tima are all icon children. They have a destiny to fulfill, and the government and revolutionaries against the government all want them.

Icon was pretty entertaining. I almost thought this would be a single book, but it was yet another series. It made me a little sad, but I liked the book anyways. It had a solid story, and I was interested in the characters. The beginning of each chapter had classified reports of an autopsy and details on the revolution and parts of the book Dol gave to Fortis. I enjoyed the details. Ultimately, this wasn't my favorite YA alien invasion book of the year. Icons was still pretty good, and I do hope to keep up with the series when the next installment is released.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

"I'm going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one in the whole world..."

I'm finally going to write this review. I have been putting it off because I want to give this book a fitting review because I really liked it and I am a huge fan of Neil Gaiman. Tonight, though I should really be getting to bed, I will finish it.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a tiny little book but it contains a massive story. This is just like how Lettie Hempstock's little pond contained a whole ocean in the book! I am really excited by this connection. Also, spoilers, kind of.

Our narrator returns to his hometown to attend a funeral. He suddenly follows an urge to visit the house he grew up in, which was demolished and turned into modern houses. While there, he remembers a story long forgotten. He remembers the old house, wild and covered in brambles. He remembers the opal miner who killed himself in the family car, and the evil this attracts. He remembers Lettie and her family, how they took care of him and helped him.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is gorgeous and bewitching. It was scary and sad and beautiful, like reliving childhood all over again.  I definitely recommend this book for Gaiman fans and for those looking for a short but haunting read.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True by Sarah Strohmeyer

Zoe and her cousin Jess have just been accepted for an internship at Fairyland Kingdom amusement park. It's a low-rent Disney World located in New Jersey. The internship is incredibly competitive, as every year one intern receives the $25,000 Dream & Do grant. Zoe would like to use the money to pay her deceased mother's medical bills, but she really wants Jess to get it. Her cousin has always dreamed of being an actor. Jess would like to go away to study acting in New York, but her family could never afford the tuition.

It seems that both girls are out of luck because the grant usually goes to a prince or princess. They are usually the kids whose parents paid thousands of dollars for them to attend Fairyland Kingdom camps. Unfortunately, Jess is cast as Red Riding Hood and Zoe is a lady in waiting. The lady in waiting lives to serve the Queen, the head of Fairyland, and her yippy dog Tinkerbell.

I was interested in this book because of how it shows what goes on behind the scenes at an amusement park. Apparently, it's a lot of drama. There's a lot of back-stabbing over the Dream & Do grant. The princesses have to be weighed every week and cannot gain more than three pounds. Meanwhile, Zoe is stuck in her own rendition of The Devil Wears Prada. I liked Zoe when she was competent, the super lady-in-waiting. Unfortunately, most of the time she was a mess. I was cringing through a lot of the book. Zoe had a habit of doing and/or saying the wrong thing. Ultimately, it was a pretty cute story. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either.

I received my copy of How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True from Edelweiss, courtesy of Balzer + Bray. It's available for purchase now.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Reboot by Amy Tintera

In the not too distant future, when some people die, they come back. Young children and teenagers are taken and trained for the government. They are known as reboots. Reboots are more powerful than regular humans, stronger and faster. The longer they were dead, the more powerful they are, but also the less humanity they have left.

Wren was dead for 178 minutes, the longest of all the reboots at her facility. Because of her number, Wren gets first pick to train new recruits. She always picked the highest number. Then Callum arrived. He was only dead for 22 minutes, but he convinces her to train him. After all, maybe the lower numbers didn't survive because they didn't have Wren to help?

Callum is still practically human. He has trouble following orders from the commanding officers. Wren starts to loosen up around him. She does things that she wouldn't have done before, such as eating at the 60 and under table and interrupting training for some impromptu dance lessons.

Unfortunately, after several missions, Callum still hasn't made much progress. Wren is told that if he doesn't improve, they will have to kill him. Wren has also been noticing strange behavior in her roommate Ever, who is a lower number. She sometimes snaps in the middle of the night, attacking Wren and trying to bite her. This sometimes happens all night, with the guards doing nothing to help.

This book was all kinds of good. It reminds me of a lot of dystopian books that I have already read, but that isn't really a bad thing. I really liked Wren, and was a big fan of Wren and Callum. They were really good foils for each other. It's cute. Reboot was as compulsively readable as I had hoped, and I can't wait to read the second book when it comes out.

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

Friday, June 28, 2013

Born of Illusion by Teri Brown

"It is not difficult to convince people who have recently suffered bereavement of the possibility of communicating with their loved ones. To me, the poor suffering followers, eagerly searching for relief from the heart-pain that follows the passing on of a dear one, are a sacrifice to the scavengers who make money from them..."

Anna Van Housen and her mother are performers. Anna does magic, her mother is a medium. They are least one of them is. Anna's mother claims she is the illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini, which is where she gets her talent for illusions, and possibly her talents of communicating with the dead, reading emotions, and visions of the future.

The pair seem to have finally gone legit. Their new agent gives them an apartment, a real home. Anna doesn't have to worry about hoarding money or breaking her mother out of prison. She could almost be content, if not for a recurring nightmare. Both she and her mother are in danger, but Anna doesn't know who to fear.

I loved the historical aspects to this book. Anna also has to deal with a society for paranormal research, which was based on one founded by Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle. The 1920s seems like such an exciting time, at least the speakeasies and vaudeville shows depicted in this book sound exciting. The book gave great descriptions of how Anna did her magic, which was really interesting. This is supposed to be the first in a series, linked by the society depicted in the book. I'm interested to see if we continue to follow Anna or if there are new characters in the next book, also how the story might change through the years. It's definitely intriguing.

I received my copy of Born of Illusion from Edelweiss, courtesy of Balzer & Bray. It's available for purchase now.

Rush by Eve Silver

Miki died, then she woke up in the Lobby. There was a group of other teenagers, one of whom goes to her school. Luka was also there when she was hit and killed by the truck. Their group will be sent to a location, where they have to kill alien creatures called the Drau.

By killing the aliens, they earn points. It is said that once you reach a thousand points, you are free to go. If you die in the game, if your health dips to red, then you die for real. You are dead from the moment you originally died, as if the time you were living since then never happened.

Miki gets some answers from Luka, but most from Jackson Tate. He is the alluring leader of their squadron, and he is sort of a stalker. Jackson's also pretty noble, in that he tries to put his squadron before himself, and he lets them get all the points.

I wasn't all that into Rush, to be honest. The story was a little hard to follow. It seemed like there was a romantic triangle, then possibly a rectangle, then not. There isn't as much action as I would have preferred. I really wanted to like it, but it was only okay.

I received my copy of The Game from Edelweiss, courtesy of Katherine Tegen books. It's available for purchase now.

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Sophronia is a teenage girl with a dreadful curtsy. Her main hobby is making mischief, to the horror of her mother who had hoped she would be more like her sisters. In order to refine her coarser details, Sophronia is sent away to Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Mademoiselle Geraldine's teaches refinement and manners, but also poisons and espionage. It's killing with kindness, except literally.

On the way to school, Sophronia makes friends with Dimity, whose family is a legacy at Mademoiselle Geraldine's. Unfortunately, Dimity is terrible at being villainous. She even faints at the sight of blood, which makes being an assassin somewhat tricky. Sophronia, on the other hand, is a natural. Soon enough, she is climbing across balconies to visit the ship's coal room, spying on battles with air pirates and keeping a contraband mechanical dachshund (Named Bumbersnoot, which is the cutest name ever).

The girls uncover a conspiracy and set out to save their school. It's all very exciting, and very funny. I have been meaning to read Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series for a long time. The Finishing School books seemed like a good place to start. They are set in the same universe. There are also vampires, werewolves, and steampunk. I loved Etiquette & Espionage very much, so I see no reason why I wouldn't enjoy the adult series as well.

I received a copy of Etiquette & Espionage from Edelweiss, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. It's available for purchase now.

In the After by Demitria Lunetta

   "This is how I think of time: the past is Before, and the present is the After. Before was reality; the After, a nightmare..."

In the After is another entry in what seems to be the year of the alien invasion. Thankfully, it is also an awesome and riveting book.

The invasion started with spaceships, then came the arrival of Them. They are green and vaguely similar to humans in shape, but with sharp teeth. These teeth are used to tear humans apart limb for limb, eating them alive while they are still screaming.

Amy is a teenage girl who was in her house during the arrival. Her father was a hippie and her mother worker for the government. Therefore, Amy's house is equipped with solar panels and a rooftop garden, as well as a gun and impenetrable electric fence.

The aliens have very sensitive hearing, but poor eyesight at night. Amy sneaks out at night to get food and other necessities. One night, she finds a young girl in the store she names Baby. Amy and Baby develop a form of sign language to communicate without attracting the aliens. They become as close as sisters, forming routines to help them survive.

Eventually, they have to leave the house (It would probably be a pretty boring book otherwise). It seems like in every zombie/alien/dystopian book, there is a point where the main character(s) are taken to a safe place. They think that they can finally rest...but it's not as it seems. The safety is just an illusion. So it is in this book, not to give too much away. I am a little embarrassed that it took me this long to recognize the pattern.

In conclusion, In the After was a very good read. It's narrative flows really well, so much that I was compelled to keep flipping the pages. It was also full of suspense and a pleasing amount of gore from the aliens. I am definitely excited to read the next book in this series.

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

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

   "But there's a crazy little hope-squirrel running around inside my head, chattering, what if it's real? What if it's important? and it won't shut up no matter what I do..."

This was such a strange book, yet again, but I ended up liking it. Yet again as well. Kiri's parents are out of town, and she has definite plans. She will practice the piano so she can succeed at her upcoming showcase and get into an elite workshop. Together with her best friend Lukas, their band will win Battle of the Bands. Lukas will finally take her out of the friend zone. She will also remember to water the azaleas. One phone call changes these plans.

A man calls and tells Kiri that he has her sister's things. Kiri's sister was killed in a car accident five years ago. She sets off to get Sukey's things, and everything explodes from there. She finds out secrets that her parents had been hiding from here. There is a nice guy named Skunk who helps her fix her bike, a guy who also has a secret. Everything gets crazy, including the already kind of crazy Kiri. She's the one who talked about the hope-squirrel, and by the end of the book, she was taking a lot of drugs and I was worried about how she would end up.

I really liked Kiri as a character. From the beginning, she was a little crazy. Her time was taken up by piano and her and Lukas' band, and also getting Lukas to like her back. It was pretty disturbing to see her self destruct throughout the book. The saving grace is that she was always very funny. Wild Awake was funny and heartbreaking. This is definitely what I'm looking for in non-paranormal YA lit.

I received my copy of Wild Awake from Edelweiss, courtesy of Katherine Tegen books. It's available for purchase now.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined) by Chuck Klosterman

   So this, I suspect, is where we really begin: In any situation, the villain is the person who knows the most but cares the least...

Read this book. It's Chuck Klosterman. The end.

Okay, fine, I'll give you a little more. I Wear the Black Hat is an exploration into villains. What makes a villain? What actions or characteristics make one villain better or worse than another? What does it mean to be a villain? 

These arguments are made in typical Chuck Klosterman style. He talks about Joe Paterno, WikiLeaks, Andrew Dice Clay, and even Adolf Hitler. There is a chapter listing musicians that he hated at one point in his life. It's really essays on a vast array of subjects centered around the main theme of villains.

As usually happens when I read Klosterman's work, I had a lot of fascinating stuff to ponder. I learned new things and new sides to things I already knew. His writing style can move so swiftly from one subject to another, but I sort of love it. It's almost like stream-of-consciousness, and it makes me think I'd like to hang out with him and hear his take on everything. I dig his writing style, so I was already planning to love I Wear the Black Hat. It helps that the new book is excellent.

   We do not want to see goodness and badness as things we decide , because those are terms we need to be decided by someone else...

I received my copy of I Wear the Black Hat from Edelweiss, courtesy of Scribner and Simon & Schuster. It will be available for purchase July 9th, 2013. Because this was an unedited advanced edition, all quotes are not finalized (I promise to make sure that they are in the final book when it is printed).

Friday, June 21, 2013

Transparent by Natalie Whipple

"I'm invisible. I can be whoever I want. Why in the world would I want to be myself?"

The back story of Transparent is actually more interesting than the book. This drug was developed that had a strange side effect on the children of those who took it: they developed powers. Now, the drug is an illegal substance, sold by illegal organizations to those hoping to strengthen their powers.

One unlucky benefactor of the powers is Fiona. She was born invisible, so nobody, not even her, knows what she looks like. Her father is the head of a large crime syndicate and uses her as a weapon. He has super-woman-attraction powers, which he uses to compel his many wives and daughters into doing his bidding. Fiona's mother ran away with her many times in the past. After she is assigned to kill a rival drug lord's young daughters, Fiona's mother tries again. After so many half-hearted attempts, Fiona doubts that they will be gone for long.

The pair flee to a small town in the rival's territory, predicting that her father would never look for them there. They actually buy a house, and Fiona even enrolls in school. Most of the kids treat her as a freak, but she ends up making friends with other kids with powers. For the first time, the invisible girl has an actual life.

Transparent was a pretty good story. It made me think of invisibility in a new light, like how Fiona couldn't shave her legs or underarms because she couldn't see them. (Now that I'm thinking about it, she probably had a unibrow as well.) She could seriously annoy me a lot, but I understand where she is coming from. Fiona was naturally suspicious of people, especially her mother and brother. Given what has happened to her in the past, I understand why. Basically, it had potential, but I thought it was just okay.

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

Friday, June 14, 2013

Dance of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

You can read my review of Masque of the Red Death here

I cannot speak enough of how much I LOVE these books! They are very atmospheric, to the point that I got lost in the world and didn't want to come back. To recap, this is a world where people are dying from a very infectious disease, a disease that is mutating into an even deadlier disease. It's also a place where an evil Prince prepares for a massive party while the world outside dies, and an evil man plots against him in the sewers. It's dark and Gothic and completely gorgeous.

Spoilery spoilers of the first book follow! Elliott, my pretend boyfriend, is preparing to overthrow his uncle and take over the city. He needs Araby at his side for this. She supports overthrowing Prospero, but she isn't sure that she wants to be with Elliott. Despite his betrayal in the last book, Will is difficult for her to shake. Elliott is just as damaged as her, if not more. She still has to tell him how his father isn't really dead, but is actually the creepy sewer-dwelling Reverend Malcontent. I hate when you have to have the old "Your uncle was really bad at slitting throats and *surprise,* your dad is still alive and-he-tried-to-kill-you" talk. Hallmark just doesn't have a card for those moments. Will is, unsurprisingly, much less complicated.

Unfortunately, the other best character, April, is dying of the plague. She is still really funny and obsessed with makeup and the fun parts of life. April saved Araby's life when she was so close to killing herself. To repay her best friend, Araby hunts down her father, who is rumored to have a cure to the disease he created. The second option is to give herself to Malcontent, who will definitely kill her to punish her father.

Everything eventually comes down to the masquerade ball thrown by Prince Prospero, just like in Edgar Allen Poe's original story. Shit gets real. I am torn that this is the conclusion to the series. I dislike having to wait for sequels/conclusions, as I have said eleventy-bajillion times. Still, I am sad to leave the amazing world of these books. I am especially sad to leave Elliott, because he made being a warped, kinda evil dude hot.

I received my copy of Dance of the Red Death from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperCollins and Greenwillow Books. It's available for purchase now.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Elite by Kiera Cass

My review for the first book in this series, The Selection can be read here. Quick recap: America was owned by China because of debt and stuff, but they said, "Screw 'dat," and revolted. Then society was all broken down, so they made a caste system. Ones are the top of society, eights are the lowest. To improve morale, they also instituted the Selection. Every Prince gets to choose from a pool of eligible young ladies to be his future Queen. It's all the appeal of The Bachelor and fairy tale romance like Cinderella or Kate Middleton.

Or, you can watch this pretty funny video:

In The Elite, the girls are down to six. Celeste is the bitchy one, but she is still around because she's a model and rich and famous. Marlee is the most popular with the people, but she has some mysterious secret keeping her around. Elise is mostly around for her political connections to New Asia. Natalie is a bit of an airhead, but she is the King's favorite. Kriss is Maxon's second favorite. His number one choice, though least popular with the masses, is America Singer. She's the lowest caste left in the Selection. In The Elite, she becomes incredibly tiresome, constantly obsessing about her caste. In book one, America struck an agreement with Prince Maxon to help him choose one of the other girls. Maxon ended up liking America, and America liked him back. Then, America's ex-boyfriend Aspen was assigned to the castle as a guard, and stuff gets complicated.

Most of the second book is America going back and forth between her two suitors. It gets very old, very fast. I understand her objections to Maxon. He starts spending a lot of time with the other girls, which sucks when you're used to being his favorite. Maxon does have to pick a wife, and America still won't make up her damn mind, so he has to try his other options. Also, she pretty much only picks Aspen when she has some crisis about Maxon or being Queen. This makes me think he is really her backup, and I wish Aspen would get a little more self-worth than that. This triangle doesn't get resolved here, otherwise there wouldn't be room for a third installment.

Those pesky rebel forces are also back. Too bad Maxon can't vote them off! (That was horrible, please don't judge me too harshly. It's late and a smoke alarm is blaring at me) Last time, America deducted that they were searching for something. Now, she realizes that it's a book! It seems as though they are looking to destroy the whole caste system, Maxon and his father go off to war, and things are getting interesting.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The End Games by T. Michael Martin

"People say they have hope for the future, but no they don't. Because hope wasn't about the future, not truly. Hope was: make me feel better now. Hope was: tell me, this second, that I'll be all right. Hope was: tell me I don't have to be different, but things will be. Hope made you feel better by letting you feel a false future..."

This book basically knocked my socks off. The End Games is set during a zombie apocalypse. Teenaged Michael and his five-year-old brother Patrick have been running from zombies since Halloween, weeks ago, when everything started. For the brothers, the zombies are like living in a video game. They follow the instructions of the Game Master, earning points for finding supplies and weapons. Too bad it isn't really a game.

Michael made the "game" up to protect his brother. Patrick has a mental impairment that makes it hard for him to face extreme situations. When things become overwhelming, he starts to hurt himself and can even shut down completely. Patrick doesn't actually believe that they are in danger at any point.

So the brothers play the "game," doing their best to survive hordes of zombies, or Bellows. Bellows is Michael's term for the zombies, so-called because they parrot back whatever is said around them. Just when I thought zombies couldn't get any creepier, this happens. To make matters worse, they get on the bad side of a religious cult that worships the Bellows. The cult wants to sacrifice Michael for killing one of their precious "angels." Fortunately, the boys are rescued and taken to a secure fortress. After all of the running, the "game," they are finally safe...or are they?

The End Games made me happy because it gave me the good, old-fashioned zombie story I have been wanting. It's pretty intense, with loads of action and thrilling scenes. The story also mixes in some drama in Michael and Patrick's backstory. There's also some humor and a very sweet story of love between two brothers. The year is only a little over halfway through, but I am calling this as one of my top reads of 2013.

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

Monday, May 27, 2013

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Let me clarify one thing: I requested a copy of The 5th Wave before all the hype. I'm not trying to sound like a hipster (Though I probably do), I want to explain that I was interested in the book for its plot description. I didn't just jump on the bandwagon after the publicity and marketing, especially at the bookstore where I work. Honestly, all the publicity did compel me to make it a priority on my reading list.

The 5th Wave takes place in the aftermath of an extra-terrestrial attack. It came in waves. In the 1st Wave, an electromagnetic pulse took out all cars, planes, and electricity. During the 2nd Wave, they concentrated their target by destroying all coastal cities. The 3rd Wave is the most devastating of all. A virus carried by birds and spread through their droppings kills millions, 9 out of 10 people. During the 4th Wave, aliens implanted in human hosts years ago are awakened. It's impossible to distinguish human from alien, impossible to know who to trust.

We meet Cassie during the 4th Wave. At this point, she is alone and running from alien assassins she calls Silencers. Her goals are to survive and to reunite with her 5-year-old brother Sam, whose teddy bear she carries through all her ordeals. Cassie keeps a journal, through which we learn the events of the alien attacks, and how they affected her family. This journal is found by the Silencer who has been stalking Cassie. Strangely, it makes him form a strange attachment to the human girl, even save her life.

Meanwhile, a young man survives the plague of the 3rd Wave. He is sent to an army training facility full of young children and teenagers. The survivor receives the nickname of Zombie. He is put in charge of his squad after showing compassion for a new recruit, a 5-year-old called Nugget. Zombie and his squad learn some hidden truths the hard way, especially the truth that you really don't know who you can trust.

There is a 5th Wave coming, and it has the possibility of destroying all who remain. There are lots of questions unanswered in The 5th Wave, especially surrounding why the aliens want our planet. Thankfully, there will be sequels in this series. The first book is pretty epic, leaving me thirsting for the second book.

I received my copy of The 5th Wave from Edelweiss, courtesy of Putnam Juvenile. It's available to purchase now.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

House of Secrets by Ned Vizzini and Chris Columbus

This novel by Young Adult author Ned Vizzini and director Chris Columbus contains everything but the kitchen sink. It's an adventure story full of pirates, barbarians, witches, and magic. The main characters are the Walker children, Cordelia (Named after Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Cordelia Chase), Brendan, and Eleanor.

The Walker family has been living in hotels ever since the mysterious "incident" caused their surgeon father to lose his job. They have been looking for an affordable house to live in when they are offered the Kristoff House, a fully furnished mansion that was once owned by elusive author Denver Kristoff. The house seems too good to be true, and it just might be. Brendan sees a frightening angel statue in the yard, though his sisters accuse him of cowardice. All my fellow Whovians will understand that he is right in his fears. Angel statues are bad news, especially when they turn out to be witches.

The witch is actually Dahlia Kristoff, daughter of Denver Kristoff. She is the Weather Witch, and she attacks the family while they are enjoying pizza and Duck Soup. After the attack, the house is in a shambles, the Walker parents are missing, and the children are no longer on planet Earth.

Somehow, the witch transported them into a world made up of several of her father's books. That is how they meet barbarians and pirates, as well as a dashing World War II pilot with whom Cordelia develops a crush. The story quickly turns into a series of unfortunate events, as they get out of danger only to face yet more danger.

The Walkers are very smart and resourceful children. I liked the characters a lot, especially Cordelia's bookishness, Brendan's developing bravery, and how Eleanor was just an awesome kid. There is a good amount of violence, so this might be best for slightly older kids. Overall, this was a good start for a new series. House of Secrets could have easily been overstuffed, but it pulls everything off, even with the generous amounts of action, characters, and plot it has going.

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

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

A Corner of White is a book that alternates between modern-day England and the magical kingdom of Cello. In Cambridge, a girl named Madeleine lives with her mother, her mother who spends her days watching quiz shows and answering every question wrong. She used to live a fancy, exciting life when they were still with her father. Now, she just sits around a small apartment, eating beans, and missing what she used to have. Madeleine finds a note stuck in a parking meter one day and writes her own note. She is obviously surprised to get a response from a boy named Elliot who claims to live in another world.

Elliot actually lives in Bonfire, a small farming community of the kingdom of Cello. He has been preparing to take a trip to catch a locator spell and find his father. In Cello, colors routinely attack the people, though some colors hurt more than others. A Purple attacked his father, uncle, and the female teacher that accompanied them. The uncle was killed, but Elliot's father and the teacher were never found. Rumors swirled that they ran off together, or that he was taken by the Purples and killed, but Elliot hasn't given up hope that he can rescue his father.

Madeleine doesn't believe that Elliot really comes from another dimension, but she continues to write to him. Elliot is risking death if anyone finds out he knew about the interdimensional crack, but he still answers Madeleine's letters. The two form a sort of friendship, and end up helping each other with their respective problems. Madeleine even starts to believe that Cello might actually exist.

This was a really charming series debut. Madeleine and Elliot both had flaws, but I really liked those kids. They went through a lot of very difficult stuff, and I admit that I was in tears for parts. I'm definitely excited to read more of The Colors of Madeleine series.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Public Service Announcement

I am interrupting my normal book reviews to inform you of an awesome band that I love:

Twenty One Pilots!

I saw them in concert a couple months ago. They opened at an Owl City/Neon Trees concert. I didn't know much about them, though I had heard Holding on to You on the radio. Anyways, they opened with this:

Yes, pretty much exactly that. Skeleton masks, jumping off the piano. This was a fairly small gymnasium at a college in Adrian, MI, but they played it with an astounding amount of enthusiasm. I really loved their music, which mixes rock with rap. My favorite song is Migraine:

I also love Car Radio, which is really profound and existential:

I also really want to give the guy a hug after that.

Anyways, if you're still reading, give Twenty One Pilots a shot. Maybe you already know them, though, in which case: go you! They seem to be getting bigger, playing a lot of festivals and opening a lot of shows. They have a song playing on the two rock stations near me. Twenty One Pilots originated in Columbus, so I thought it would be nice to show some love for my state.

In conclusion: listen to Twenty One Pilots. If they are playing near you, for God's sake man/woman, go! Thank you for your time.

Taken by Erin Bowman

Taken is yet another Dystopian Teen book. In this one, the focus is on the village of Claysoot. It contains lots of women and children, but no men over the age of 18. This is because once the men turn 18, they are taken from the village in the Heist. This is just one of the facts of life in Claysoot.

Gray's older brother, Blaine, was just taken. Afterwards, Gray finds a note from his deceased mother to Blaine. It hints at a secret that she was keeping about Gray, a secret having to do with the Heist. Claysoot is a town surrounded by a high wall. Many have tried to climb the wall, but they all come back as a burned corpse. Gray knows that he has to try because the answers he seeks are on the other side. He ends up finding out answers about himself, Claysoot, the Heist, and much more.

I enjoyed Taken a lot. The writing is very nice, even moving me to tears during Gray and Blaine's goodbye before Blaine is taken. Gray is a bit of a hothead. I didn't dislike him (Except for one very notable exception near the end. You know what you did, Gray, and it sucked), but his temper and impulsive decisions made it difficult to like him sometimes. I wasn't that excited by a lot of the developments near the end of the book, but I'm still willing to give the next book in this series a chance.

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

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick

Gorgeous is a modern fairy tale, probably the Ugly Duckling if anything. Becky Randle was a normal girl, maybe too normal. She was invisible and overlooked, resigned to an after-high school life of cashiering at a dollar store. After her mother dies, Becky finds a phone number that connects her with Tom Kelly, who is the most important fashion designer in the world.

Tom has a proposition for her: he will design her three dresses. These dresses, red, white, and black, will make her the most beautiful woman in the world. The red dress works, and Becky is transformed into Rebecca. She is offered movie roles and magazine covers, and all the fancy accommodations that come with being gorgeous. The one catch is that Rebecca has to fall in love and get married within a year or she will go right back to being plain Becky again.

It seems as though she will complete her task when Becky meets Prince Gregory. He is handsome and charitable. Becky knows that her life's goal is to marry the Prince and help him perform good deeds throughout the world. Despite some pitfalls, the two get on swimmingly. Then Becky starts to worry about whether Prince Gregory is really in love with her or Rebecca, the girl within or the pretty exterior.

So it's basically the Ugly Duckling, but if the duckling had an identity crisis after turning into the swan. The concept of inner beauty vs. outside appearance isn't new, but I still enjoyed the story here. This book was really charming. Becky is very likeable, and it's easy to root for her. There's also a bit of mystery surrounding her mother's connection to Tom Kelly. They never explain exactly how the dresses are able to transform Becky into Rebecca, but it's really better that way. I like my fairy tales to keep some of their magic, and as always, I love a happily ever after.

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

Monday, April 29, 2013

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

The year is 1919, and the world seems to be on the brink of the apocalypse. Young men are being shipped overseas to fight a world war, and coming home in a box...or worse. The Spanish flu is killing millions of people, striking without discretion or bias. It can hardly be a surprise that countless people turned to Spiritualism for comfort during these hopeless times. Spiritualism was a near-religious movement that involved the use of séances, spirit photography, and other means to contact people who have passed to the other side. The trouble was figuring out whether the Spiritualists were charlatans, or genuinely in contact with the dead.

At the beginning of In the Shadow of Blackbirds, Mary Shelley (Named after the author) was just sent away to the east coast to stay with her aunt. Mary Shelley's father had been arrested for anti-American sentiments after he helped several young men avoid the draft. She is a minor celebrity, as a photograph of her with a spirit is used to advertise the spirit photography business of Julian, brother of her sweetheart Stephen. Mary Shelley is an odd girl who enjoys science and taking apart machines. She never believed that Julian's pictures were real.

Then Stephen dies in the war, and strange things occur. Mary Shelley sees his ghost, and he tells her the most peculiar things about birds pecking out his eyes. She starts to believe in spirit photography, even attends a séance. It becomes clear that wherever he is, Stephen is definitely not at peace. As much as she doesn't want to lose him forever, Mary Shelley is determined to do whatever it takes to put the boy she loves to rest.

I am definitely the target audience for this book. The time period, the vintage photos, plus the addition of Spiritualism equals a book that is practically made for me. I loved all the historical details, like how Mary Shelley's aunt cooked nothing but onions to keep away the flu and the creepy descriptions of people on the street in their flu masks. When I was in college, I actually wrote a paper on spirit-rappers and I have always been a creepy kid who loved reading ghost stories (And was creeped out by photos of ectoplasm in old black and white pictures). I sort of hoped that the pictures would make this similar to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, but the pictures here didn't really have much to do with the story (They were still pretty cool to look at). This was still a great book, a mixture of history, love story, and ghost story. It makes me want to do some research and write a paranormal teen romance set at Roanoke (TM to me, don't steal!) or something less lame.

I received my copy of In the Shadow of Blackbirds from Netgalley, courtesy of Amulet Books. It's available now for purchase.