Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Murmurings by Carly Anne West

There seems to be a new genre in Young Adult literature. It could be "Psychological Thriller," or "Crazy or Not Crazy" for the less sensitive, or "Books to Read with Your Straight Jacket on" for the even less sensitive. "You think that your life sucks? Read this!" I was thinking about this when I was reading my last book, Hysteria by Megan Miranda. Thankfully, it also applies to The Murmurings (Because I had absolutely no clue how to start writing this review otherwise!).

Sophie's life is messed up. Her sister, Nell, committed suicide after escaping from her mental asylum. They found her hanging upside down by her big toe (Seriously, this gave no one pause- I think it made me snicker). Now, their mother drowns her sorrows in alcohol. Sophie herself has given up caring about school, or anything at all. Then things get spooky up in there. Crazy Nell used to hear strange whisperings and see dark shapes in the mirror. Now, Sophie is hearing those whispers and seeing those shadows. Which is scarier- that everything is in her head, or that it's real?

Because even (possibly) crazy girls can get a man, Sophie starts a relationship with new football player Evan. I was skeptical at first, worried that he was getting close to her as some sort of prank or bet. It turns out that he's legit, and actually really awesome and supportive and understanding. Evan's cousin, Deb, had been committed when they were children, so he can easily sympathize with Sophie.

Throughout the book, Nell's old asylum is trying to reach Sophie's mom. The head doctor, Dr. Keller, wants to talk about Sophie. Nell may have told him that Sophie was also hearing and seeing things. Dr. Keller seems to be trying to get her committed as well...but for what purpose? Dun. Dun. Dun.

The Murmurings did actually give me the wiggins. I was reading the scary descriptions of the Takers in pitch darkness and I was a little freaked out, imagining bony hands reaching towards me from beyond my Glowlight. For that alone, I consider The Murmurings to be a success. It's a little ridiculous, but I managed to keep on until the end.

I received my copy of The Murmurings from Edelweiss, courtesy of Simon Pulse. It's available for purchase now.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Towering by Alex Flinn

I have never read any of Alex Flinn's books, though I have been meaning to get around to them. Towering seemed like a good start in that respect. I love the movie Tangled and Rapunzel was one of my favorite stories as a child.

Towering is another book with alternating narrators. Rachel is the girl in the tower. She is completely alone, except for Mama, the old woman who brings her food and takes care of her. Inexplicably, she knows that someone is out there who will rescue her and help her find what she is meant to do. Wyatt is the other narrator. After a tragic event involving his best friend, Wyatt goes to stay with Mrs. Greenwood. Her daughter, Wyatt's mother's best friend, disappeared years ago. It's very cute how Wyatt and Mrs. G bond, and it's nice that the old woman isn't alone anymore.

There are a lot of strange things going on. Wyatt finds the daughter, Danielle's, journal. He reads about an overprotective mother and a romance with a mysterious stranger, a romance that resulted in a baby. He starts to hear singing in the woods. Nobody else seems to hear it. The music leads him to Rachel in her tower.

Together, they get all schmoopy and lovey dovey, plus they have to figure out what Rachel is meant to do and heal and stuff. That's an abbreviated version, and I actually didn't mind it as much as my slightly jaded description implies. Honestly, this book gets incredibly cracker jacks. One should be cautious about trusting my star ratings, because I gave it an extra star because of the weirdness. We're talking a magical herb drug ring, on top of the magic hair inherent to the Rapunzel story. I've been wanting a book that goes over the top, and I got it. I also really liked it, both as the weirdo it was and as a pretty good fairy tale retelling.

I received my copy of Towering from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperTeen. It will be available May 14, 2013.

The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

The protagonist of The Nightmare Affair is literally a nightmare. Dusty sneaks into bedrooms at night and straddles the occupants in order to feed off their dreams. It's all business as usual until she is assigned to feed off of Eli, the hottest boy from her old high school. Eli is dreaming of a crime scene, complete with a dead girl missing a hand. Then, a girl is found: dead, missing a hand, just like the dream.

Eli and Dusty together are dream prophets, an extremely rare phenomena. It's so rare that ordinary Eli is transferred to Arkwell Academy, along with all the fairies, sirens, and wizards. Dusty spends her nights straddling Eli, but not in the fun way. They have to keep dream walking in order to find out who the murderer is. Adding further complication, Dusty suspects that the murderer may be her own mother, the Nightmare who abandoned her as a child, who is also notorious for her multiple crimes while at Arkwell.

The Nightmare Affair drew me in with the plot description. I love boarding school stories, and this sounds almost like Harry Potter, with all the magical kids. Unfortunately, it doesn't reach the phenomenal heights of Harry Potter. It was still a good read, and the mystery was compelling. I really liked Dusty, although she could be exasperating. I liked her for being feisty and stubborn, but she pushed the limits. Poor Eli would try to get along with her and she would run away from him or go out of her way to be offended by his innocent gestures. I would have liked to see a few chapters narrated by Eli. It could have been interesting to get his perspective on Arkwell and the dream walking. Overall, a fun, quick, and painless read.

I received my copy of The Nightmare Affair from Edelweiss, courtesy of Tor Teen. It's available now for purchase.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

"You called me a symbol, and you're right. This suit stands for something. It isn't me living some childhood fantasy or anything like that. It's about hope...I wear this thing, all these bright colors, because I want people to know someone's trying to make their lives better. I want to give them hope."

I only had to hear two words to convince me to read this book: zombies and superheroes. Talk about your match made in heaven! I am also happy to report that I got a zombie book with just plain zombies, which means I got my fill of gore and death.

Ex-Heroes takes place after an epidemic has swept the nation, most likely the entire world. The dead have risen and walk the earth, eating the flesh of the living. Thankfully, the living have some defense in the form of the supers. They had been ordinary people who developed super powers through varying means. Now, they protect a community of people in an old Hollywood production studio.

The heroes include St. George, also known as The Mighty Dragon. He is bullet-proof and zombie bite-proof and he can breathe fire. He was sort of a Captain America/Superman level goody two-shoes, but he was my favorite hero. Others included Stealth (Ninja, leader, doesn't use contractions), Gorgon (Energy vampire), Cerberus (Mechanical super suit), and Zzzap! (Powers the compound). There are actually a couple more, but they have become zombies, or exes as they are referred to here.

There are chapters that show origin stories and what happened before, and just at the beginning, of the outbreak. I really liked how it was done. It was a little difficult for me to get into the book at first, but I was devouring the pages like an ex on a human by the end.

I received my copy of Ex-Heroes from Edelweiss, courtesy of Crown Publishing Group. It's available now for purchase. Because I read an unedited copy, the quotation may vary from the book.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

My review of Cinder can be found here.

Spoilers for Cinder follow
In the first installment of the Lunar Chronicles, we met Cinder. She is part cyborg, and as it turned out, a Lunar. Actually, Cinder is the presumed dead Princess Selene, rightful heir of the throne until her aunt tried to kill her. Because of the extensive injuries from the fire, Cinder ended up a cyborg with a metal leg and hand. After the eventful ball in the first book, Cinder ended up in jail. Prince Kai felt betrayed upon learning the truth about Cinder, but he still pretty much loves her. The only problem is that a treaty with the Lunars makes it so that any unauthorized immigrants must be executed. Cinder is locked away in jail until then.

Meanwhile, a girl named Scarlet is worried about her grandmother. Michelle Benoit has been missing for two weeks, and the French police have given up searching. Scarlet's deadbeat father shows up and tells her how strange men kidnapped him. They tortured them to get grandma to talk, but she never did. Now, he is tearing the farmhouse apart to find whatever it is that the men were seeking. All he knows is that the men had strange tattoos on their arms, tattoos like the one on Scarlet's new friend Wolf.

Cinder escapes from jail, taking along an arrogant and funny captain named Thorne. They commandeer his stolen airship, and they are off to find the truth behind Princess Selene's origins, from a woman named Michelle Benoit (Sound familiar?). It's awesome that Cinder puts Iko's personality chip in the ship (Iko was the family's android, she was awesome and boy crazy and wore lipstick because she wanted to be human; the mother had her dismantled to punish Cinder and it was heartbreaking), so we get both her and Thorne for some humor.

In yet another storyline, Kai has to deal with Queen Levana. She is threatening to attack the earth unless Cinder is found and executed. We don't hear a whole lot from him, mostly how he doesn't really hate Cinder. His job sounds really stressful, and I feel great sympathy for what he has to do at the end of the book. Poor Kai.

Cinder and Scarlet do eventually meet, and they're most likely going to meet more fairy tale characters in books three and four. The rest of the story is Scarlet figuring out whether or not she can trust the mysterious Wolf (Yes, and no, but also yes- it's complicated), and Cinder coming to terms with being Lunar. She has powers to manipulate people, but she's afraid of hurting people like her aunt does. I still really like Cinder. In the last book, she was fitted with a fancy new hand that has a screwdriver and darts, so she is extra-tough for fighting. I'm ultra-excited to see her fight back for her throne in the next book, though I do wish we got to see more of that here. The story was still awesome and action packed. My only problem now is the lo-o-ong wait until the next book comes out!

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

This was another weird book that I totally loved. I wonder if that says something about me? Maybe, but I don't think it's a bad thing.

I'll see if I can describe the plot as simply as possible. Someone has been murdering girls. They are around 12-13 years old, and they are found surrounded by cheap toys and a paper heart. Hannah finds out the details by looking at the crime scene photos developed at her cousin's photo shop. She has been having a tough time already because her best friend, Lillian, died of an eating disorder just six months ago. She had been the Queen Bee of their group, the Regina George. Therefore, they were sad that she died, but they didn't always miss her. Nobody else knows that Lillian may be dead, but she isn't gone. Hannah's friend still haunts her, commenting on her life and urging her to solve the murders.

As the book goes on, we get more details. Hannah starts to think about how it didn't have to happen. How her friend killed herself while everyone else just watched.

"And maybe, when everyone is always competing to have the most ironic thing to say and wear the most unique outfit and be the most special, maybe it starts to feel like you don't have a choice. Because the truth is that if everyone's special all the time, then really, no one's special, so maybe all that's left is to be perfect, because at least that's something you can measure..."

Hannah gains a love interest in the form of Finny Boone. He's a tall, bleached-haired rebel without a cause. He steals off-brand Zippo lighters from convenience stores, but he also gets back Hannah's beloved Alice in Wonderland bracelet from a thug. I really loved Finny. It's unfortunate that he may be a suspect in the murders.

Eventually, Hannah is haunted by the dead girls as well as Lillian. The only way to put the ghosts at rest is to find their killer.

I just loved this book. I loved the mystery aspect. I loved the numerous descriptions of Hannah's adorable sundresses. I already said this, but I loved Finny Boone. I loved snarky Lillian the ghost.

I received my copy of Paper Valentine from Edelweiss and Netgalley, courtesy of Razorbill. It's available for purchase now.

Pivot Point by Kasie West

Pivot Point was a unique story. If nothing else, I will say that the way the story tells is unlike any other book I've read. It's about a teenager named Addison. She lives in a compound where all the people have special abilities. Her ability is called Divergence. If she is facing a major decision, Addie can look into the future and live out the timeline for whichever decision she could possibly make.

The power comes in handy when her parents tell her that they are getting a divorce. Her father will be moving out of the Compound and living among normal people. Addie explores what would happen if she lives with her dad or with her mom. Each decision is told in alternating chapters. If she stayed with her mom, Addie catches the attention of the quarterback. With her dad, she becomes friends with a group of normal kids, including sensitive Trevor. The stories eventually start to overlap, with the characters appearing in both timelines.

I love the details about the Compound, and I really love having chapters switch off between timelines. I believe that this book will continue in a series. There are a lot of potential directions it could take, so that will be interesting to see. Personally, I didn't connect very deeply with the book, but I still enjoyed the story and originality behind it.

I received my copy of Pivot Point from Edelweiss, courtesy of Harperteen. It's available for purchase now.