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.