Monday, April 30, 2012

Dark Eyes by William Richter

[description from goodreads]

Get ready for the vigilante girl detective of the next generation.

Wally was adopted from a Russian orphanage as a child and grew up in a wealthy New York City family. At fifteen, her obsessive need to rebel led her to life on the streets.

Now the sixteen-year-old is beautiful and hardened, and she's just stumbled across the possibility of discovering who she really is. She’ll stop at nothing to find her birth mother before Klesko—her darkeyed father—finds her. Because Klesko will stop at nothing to reclaim the fortune Wally’s mother stole from him long ago. Even if that means murdering his own blood. But Wally's had her own killer training, and she's hungry for justice.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for teens, this debut thriller introduces our next big series heroine!


Review:

I don't often get a chance to read "action books," so I looked forward to Dark Eyes, especially because it also promised to feature the Russian mob. The mafia was woefully absent, for the most part, but Dark Eyes is still a delightfully exciting read. 

It's easy to see from the description that this book focuses primarily on the action instead of the characters, which is good for the plot, but no so much for the people. Positives first, though: the action really is exciting. It actually takes a bit of time for Wally to begin searching for her birth mother, but in the meantime, she and her gang are wrapped up in so much shady business that it's still a compelling read. The combination of their street lives and their eventual quest for answers makes it even more adventerous; they always have to balance day-to-day life as well as the conspiracy-like danger, especially when their quest leads them closer to sketchy people like Wally's Russian criminal dad. The ending of the book is the best, though-- new twists pop up every chapter or so, making the slower beginning bits definitely worth it.

The focus on the action definitely hurts the characters, though. The perspective sometimes changes to the detective looking for the murderer of one of Wally's friends or to Wally's dad, but these shifts are so few that they make everything disjointed despite the added action they provide. They also don't help make the characters any more three-dimensional, since most of the chapters focus on a fight or new piece of evidence rather than what the characters feel or think about any one thing. Even the chapters that focus on Wally are relatively absent from a personal connection; there are glimpses of personality when she and her friends interact because of the strong bond their tough times on the street create, but sometimes their connection went too intense in too short a time for it to make much sense. For example, Wally and Tevin, one of the crew members, are love interests, but their romantic encounters happen, like, three times so I didn't see the point of including a romance when there were far more dangerous things going on.

The characters are tragically flat, but if you're looking for an exciting action-packed read, Dark Eyes is a good fit.

Book details: Razorbill/Hardcover/$17.99


Source: sent by publisher for review

Sunday, April 29, 2012

All the Books!

The awesome Jordyn from Ten Cent Notes created a delightful post yesterday entitled "All the Books," in which she wrote about things she's reading now, about to read, book events she's attended recently, and all that other book-related jazz. Because Jordyn creations always make for fun posts, and because the title reminds me of the "ALL THE THINGS!" meme, I wanted to play along this week.

Books I'm reading:


Very similar reads, I know. The Sound and the Fury is for English class, and although it's often a pain to follow, I quite like it since crazy families make for the best stories. I'm also about to start Graceling. Yes, finally. I know I'm behind in reading it, but better late than never, right? I think I'll start in on Fire and Bitterblue right after if I enjoy it.

On the screen:

Not YA related, but I just have to say that I hope The Raven isn't as dreadful as it looks, because otherwise I'm hoping that Edgar Allan Poe is planning revenge from his grave. He could come up with something awesome, at least.

And since I'm already slightly off-topic, I might as well veer off even more and say that I need more YA sci-fi in my life since Attack the Block is the best teen-starring movie I have seen in a long while.

And a song: 

Since I already talked about movies, I might as well venture into my other favorite topic: music. I'll keep it book related though and share a song that reminds me of a book.


I'm not what I was last summer
Not who I was in the spring
Tell me, tell me, tell me when will we learn
We love it and we leave it and we watch it burn
Damn these wild young hearts
"Wild Young Hearts" by Noisettes is totally Delirium by Lauren Oliver. It's also an awesome.

Friday, April 27, 2012

7 Clues to Winning You by Kristin Walker

[description from goodreads]

When a humiliating picture of Blythe goes viral, she's instantly the target of ridicule at her new school. To salvage her reputation, Blythe teams up with Luke to win the Senior Scramble scavenger hunt. But Luke is an unlikely ally and potentially can't be trusted.

Perhaps it's his Shakespearean witticisms that reel Blythe in despite her better judgment . . . or maybe she just craves the thrill of the game. But as the hunt progresses, their relationship heats up. Soon their madcap mischief spirals out of control. Blythe is faced with arrest and expulsion, among other catastrophes - until Luke shows her what the Scramble (and love) is really about.


Review:


Kristin Walker's first book, A Match Made in High School, impressed me with its consistent, movie-esque humor, and although I do prefer it over this one, 7 Clues to Winning You has much of the same fun "teen movie" spirit.

Much of the movie spirit comes from the rather out-of-the-ordinary events that occur with such frequency. Happily, none of them are far-fetched, but they're so uncommon that they're inherently a delight to read about. Combined with the humor present in many of them, especially the scavenger hunt clues, 7 Clues to Winning You is always a fun read. It does take a while for some of the more adventurous humor to reveal itself, though; for a while, Blythe is so set on fighting her school transition that she's more melodramatic than anything. However, Blythe herself is funny, especially as she comments upon her new non-preppy classmates, so the eventual transition into the crazy scavenger hunt is a clean one. The transition is also pretty easy because Blythe's assimilation problems continue as the hunt goes on-- the game causes so many mix-ups and mayhem that it's impossible for anyone to keep all the facts straight, which just adds to the fun.

However, the "teen movie" feel of this book also means that there are plenty of cheesy moments. Sometimes the corniness can be a good thing, like in the case of the ending or the development of Blythe and Luke's relationship. They're both so nerdy and staunch in their opinions that they have both great chemistry and a penchant for causing the other trouble. However, other overdramatic parts of the book are not quite as adorable. For example, Blythe spends a lot of time discussing her previous school and her old friends, but she never really spends a lot of time with them, which makes their eventual drama seem unnecessary and included for just extra emotional angst. Similarly underdeveloped characters make appearances throughout, too, like with Blythe's mom and brother, who do their job "the funny family" quite well but don't do much beyond that.

There are slow, underdeveloped bit of 7 Clues to Winning You that detracted from my enjoyment, but it's still a hilarious, adventurous, and sweetly romantic book.


Book details: Razorbill/Paperback/$9.99

Source: sent by publisher for review

Thursday, April 26, 2012

My Four Year Blogoversary

Imagine four years.

Four years, two Comic-Cons, one ALA, one Publisher's Weekly article, two trips to New York (one Book Expo America), three Sarah Ockler novels, countless books, amazing friends, late night Skype chats, email, comments, broken aspects of the Blogger website, twitter fiestas-- every day, a twitter fiesta-- four months until college and I don't know if I'll be able to keep it up. And everything I do here I love.

My blog.


It's been good, guys.

(Opening section lovingly inspired by the beginning of Courtney Summers' amazing Cracked Up to Be.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

There Is No Dog by Meg Rosoff

[description from B&N]

What if God were a teenaged boy?

In the beginning, Bob created the heavens and the earth and the beasts of the field and the creatures of the sea, and twenty-five million other species (including lots of cute girls). But mostly he prefers eating junk food and leaving his dirty clothes in a heap at the side of his bed.

Every time he falls in love, Earth erupts in natural disasters, and it's usually Bob's beleaguered assistant, Mr. B., who is left cleaning up the mess. So humankind is going to be very sorry indeed that Bob ever ran into a beautiful, completely irresistible girl called Lucy . . .

Review:
 
I didn't have much of a clue of what I was getting into with There Is No Dog, but I did figure it would be, at the very least, a bit weird. That turned out to be rather true, but in the best way possible.

There Is No Dog's eccentricities reveal themselves from chapter one, where Lucy is introduced as a girl who pretty much exudes sunshine and happiness. She speaks in such a proper fashion, in a way that almost reminds me of Mary Poppins, which is initially off-putting but fits because it further separates her from the often more human-seeming Bob. I enjoyed this distance it created between her and the immortal characters, for I think this novel is more about the differences and attempts by the immortal characters, especially Bob, to fit in to the human world instead of centering on a linear, action-driven plot. Which, really, makes for quite a thought-provoking read; there's a lot of time that can be spent pondering Bob's human qualities, his inability to control his supernatural tendencies, the role of the other gods and goddesses in the universe, and a whole load of other big religious topics, all of which are interesting and worth the effort.

Other parts of this book I'm not as big a fan of, though. Despite the intriguing questions the characters raise, I never really found myself actually enjoying reading about them because I just didn't care much. The novel is told in third person, but the perspective changes to different characters so often that I never really a got a sense of full personality from any of them, especially the humans. It also didn't help that the characters often make decisions or say things that just didn't make sense to me, like when Bob claimed to be in love with Lucy and when she seemed to return the feelings so quickly. Maybe the speed of their love was intentional to show Bob's inability to comprehend the humanity he created, but I still dislike such fast-moving romance.

It's definitely not for everyone because of its admittedly underdeveloped characters and lack of a concrete plot, but There Is No Dog is charming and funny in its quirkiness, as well being rather intelligent and original.

Book details: Putnam Juvenile/Hardcover/$17.99

Source: sent by publisher for review

Monday, April 23, 2012

Book Events: This is Teen and LA Times Festival of Books

It's been a while since I've done a book signing recap, but I was able to attend two delightful events within in the last few days, so I felt a write-up was necessary.

 Last Thursday, I was went to the This is Teen panel hosted by the always awesome Mrs. Nelson's Toy and Book Shop and featuring Libba Bray (Beauty Queens), Maggie Stiefvater (The Scorpio Races), Pete Hautman (The Big Crunch), and Siobhan Vivian  (The List), with my favorite David Levithan (Every You, Every Me) as moderator. 


The panel was great fun-- topics discussed included Libba Bray's stuffed bat who is also called David Levithan, The Scorpio Races being "My Little Pony meets Jurassic Park," people trying to elect one of the "loser kids" homecoming king at Siobhan Vivian's high school (and how the people attempting that clearly never saw Carrie). There were also the discussion of beauty, feminism, and the question of "is it difficult to write from the perspective of the opposite gender," which is one of my least favorite things people ask, but the authors answered it nicely by saying that they try to nail the voice of the specific character instead of writing the character based on his or her gender.

deep thought
 That panel was great fun, and the fun continued because on Saturday and Sunday I got to attend the LA Times Festival of Books.

My Saturday began with John Green's (The Fault in Our Stars) panel.

Despite the excessive amount of screaming (well, maybe not excessive but screaming people and people who take forever to ask their Q&A questions annoy me.), it was a most excellent panel. The whole "is it difficult to write from the perspective of another gender" thing came up again, but John also answered it nicely and made the point that he's not a sixteen year old boy either so it's necessarily a huge step to write as a sixteen year old girl. Other things discussed included the length of time it took to come up with the title The Fault in Our Stars and his penchant for the title The Hectic Glow; the fact that he enjoys that teenagers, unlike some adults, do not mind saying their favorite books are "The Great Gatsby and Twilight" (as in, "high literature" and "low literature"); and his series of videos in which he plays FIFA and discusses different topics. He also discussed English soccer and that he supports Liverpool and dislikes Manchester United, and thus I think my opinion of him has to lower because my dedication to my best friend and lack of soccer knowledge means I am supposed to like Man U. (Though I appreciate that John acknowledged the lame-ness of Man City, a team I know I dislike based on the fact that Liam Gallagher loves them.)

After John's panel, I headed over with my friend to get books signed by Nina LaCour (The Disenchantments ), Gayle Forman (Where She Went), and Stephanie Perkins (Lola and the Boy Next Door).

      Stephanie Perkins, who has awesome hair, and myself


After that signing, my friend and I headed over to the YA Stage to watch the contemporary YA panel featuring the aforementioned and awesome Siobhan Vivian, as well as Blake Nelson (Dream School) and Jessi Kirby (In Honor).

It was a fun panel, especially because the topic of writing and gender discussion was kept to a minimum (and thus I was not filled with rage) and it was mutually agreed upon that contemporary YA > paranormal and all that jazz. I concur.

And on Sunday, my day mainly consisted of seeing a panel featuring the also aforementioned and wonderful Maggie Stiefvater, as well as Lauren Myracle (Shine), Maureen Johnson (The Name of the Star), and Jacqueline Woodson (Beneath a Meth Moon ).


Although all the panels I went to were great, I'd have to say this one was my favorite for the balance of humor and deep discussion was just perfect. Things discussed included: race and the fact that people assume characters are white unless otherwise noted, the controversy each person's book raises based on things like language or sexuality, Maureen Johnson writing The Name of the Star so that there would be awesome ghosts instead of ghosts like the ones on TV that just make rooms cold, Lauren Myracle talking to a meth user on a plane and being inspired for writing Shine, Jacqueline Woodson's tendency to procrastinate (a woman after my own heart), and Maggie Stiefvater writing a novel about two dogs test driving a car when she was young. The gender and writing question also, unsurprisingly, came up in this panel too but I was pleased that Maureen Johnson, in her words, turns into an animal at that question too.

All in all: an awesome few days.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox was started by The Story Siren and inspired by Pop Culture Junkie. Descriptions and such from goodreads.

Bought:

The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman
June and Wes do not "meet cute." They do not fall in love at first sight. They do not swoon with scorching desire. They do not believe that they are instant soul mates destined to be together forever.

This is not that kind of love story.

Instead, they just hang around in each other's orbits...until eventually they collide. And even after that happens, they're still not sure where it will go. Especially when June starts to pity-date one of Wes's friends, and Wes makes some choices that he immediately regrets.

From National Book Award winner Pete Hautman, this is a love story for people not particularly biased toward romance. But it is romantic, in the same way that truth can be romantic and uncertainty can be the biggest certainty of all.
 Quirky love stories for the win.

Same Difference by Siobhan Vivian
Emily is ready for a change. She's been in the same town with the same friends for a long time...and none of them really understand her art. But when she goes to Philadelphia for a summer art institute, she suddenly finds like-minded people. One in particular, Fiona, intrigues and challenges her. But there are some things Emily is going to have to find out for herself -- like what the balance is between life and art, and which is more important when push comes to shove.
 I met Siobhan Vivian this week as part of a This is Teen event (recap post coming soon) and finally got to pick up this book. Siobhan is great, and I'm sure this book will be too.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
I've heard nothing but rave reviews for this one, so I'm sure I'll enjoy it although it's not my usual fare.

For review:

Grim by Anna Waggener  
When Erika wakes up after a horrific car crash, she finds herself somewhere between earth and heaven, between life and death. She doesn't want to accept help from Jeremiah, who she's not sure she can trust, even as she finds herself drawn to him, following him into a grim city of souls. She's not sure who wants to help her and who wants to hurt her. And she's desperate to get back to her children.
Shawn's never thought about having to shoulder the responsibility of caring for his young sister Megan and his reckless older sister. And he never imagined that the three of them would find themselves in a haunted wood, sometimes chased, sometimes assisted, never sure where they're headed.
With Grim, the terrifically talented Anna Waggener delves into the place where myth becomes reality, where family can distort you as easily as it cares for you, where death and eternity meet.
 Reading the word "city" in the description reminded me of the song "Beautiful City" as sung by Hunter Parrish, so I already associate this book with affection.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

[description from goodreads]

After her mother died, Glory retreated into herself and her music. Her single father raised her as a piano prodigy, with a rigid schedule and the goal of playing sold-out shows across the globe. Now, as a teenager, Glory has disappeared. As we flash back to the events leading up to her disappearance, we see a girl on the precipice of disaster. Brilliant and lonely, Glory is drawn to an artistic new boy, Frank, who moves in next door. The farther she falls, the deeper she spirals into madness. Before long, Glory is unable to play anything but the song "Chopsticks."

But nothing is what it seems, and Glory's reality is not reality at all. In this stunningly moving novel told in photographs, pictures, and words, it's up to the reader to decide what is real, what is imagined, and what has been madness all along....



Review:

Told by images and screenshots rather than by words, Chopsticks is certainly a unique read, and that's both its strength and weakness.

The story-through-pictures format of Chopsticks is honestly, undoubtedly really cool. The pictures are really rather vivid and clear, which makes it easy and fun to check out their details. Glory's story would be interesting if told in a traditional format, but I think this book's set-up allowed it to be even better because of the holes it leaves. I rather enjoyed following the story and piecing together what happened, especially as Glory's music takes over her life and she becomes more unstable because of it. However, the holes also have a downside. There were just some parts of the story I couldn't rationally fill in, mainly about the character motivations--  why did Frank and Glory's relationship progress so quickly, why was Frank such a jerk, etc. I just couldn't figure it out through the images, which prevented from completely connecting with the characters and enjoying the book completely.

There's also a website and app component to this story; the website doesn't add much to the novel itself, but it's cool to use a preview of sorts. I haven't checked out the app but I'm sure it makes the story more enjoyable, especially since there's sometimes links included in the screenshots of Frank and Glory's IM conversations and other ways to connect the story to the internet.

Chopsticks can be occasionally hard to figure out and therefore it's easy to feel detached while reading, but it's still got a wonderfully unique, beautiful way to tell its intense story. 

Book details: Razorbill/Paperback/$19.99


Source: sent by publisher for review

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. Descriptions and such from goodreads.

Today I'm waiting on:

 Send Me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt

Mia’s used to being the perfect teenager: pretty, popular, smart, caring. But that was before she was diagnosed with leukemia. Now, her father has become Captain Cancer Facts and her mother is obsessed with maintaining Mia’s image. Her maybe-more-than-a-friend, Gyver, is judging her decision not to tell the other cheerleaders that she’s sick. Her life’s about to change and she’s terrified by the loss of control.

Mia’s always been superstitious, but as her body starts to feel like it belongs less to her and more to the doctors and their needles, she becomes irrationally dependent on horoscopes, fortune cookies, and good luck charms. As chemotherapy replaces cheerleading and platelets replace parties, Mia just wants normal back. But despite searching for clues in everything from songs on the radio to her Magic 8 Ball, her future is coming up Outlook not so good.


---

I can't resist a potential tearjerker, and this one sounds like it will bring the tears for sure. 

Released October 2.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting

Desires of the Dead is the sequel to The Body Finder, so if you're super wary of spoilers and haven't read book one, maybe you want to look away.

[description from goodreads]

Violet can sense the echoes of those who've been murdered—and the matching imprint that clings to their killers. Only those closest to her know what she is capable of, but when she discovers the body of a young boy she also draws the attention of the FBI, threatening her entire way of life.

As Violet works to keep her morbid ability a secret, she unwittingly becomes the object of a dangerous obsession. Normally she'd turn to her best friend, Jay, except now that they are officially a couple, the rules of their relationship seem to have changed. And with Jay spending more and more time with his new friend Mike, Violet is left with too much time on her hands as she wonders where things went wrong. But when she fills the void by digging into Mike's tragic family history, she stumbles upon a dark truth that could put everyone in danger.


Review:

Having very much enjoyed The Body Finder and having realized book three in the series, The Last Echo, comes out this week, I started Desires of the Dead with much excitement. Although I prefer its predecessor, I like this one quite a lot as well.

What prevented me from enjoying Desires of the Dead as much as The Body Finder is that the threat in this book is not quite as menacing. The killer in The Body Finder had the benefit of being relatively mysterious and unknown in his separation from Violet, but the main threat in this book is so close to home that it's not difficult to guess who it is. The threat in this book also does not take up very much focus, for Violet also has to deal with her relationship problems as well as the FBI's increasing interest in her. I enjoyed the many subplots despite the unfocused feel they created because there was always a new event causing trouble, but I'm kind of bloodthirsty so I personally would have preferred more of the crazy killer antics. Luckily the chapters from the threat's perspective are just as well-written and intense as the killer chapters in The Body Finder, though, so I was satisfied in that regard. 


Other things that detracted from my enjoyment of this book, though, are some of the characters. For example, I really didn't care for some of the Jay/Violet drama. It did add for more excitement in the book, but some of their tension was unnecessary and therefore a bit annoying. I also wasn't a big fan of the new characters, Mike, and his little sister, Megan. I feel like they were never in the book long enough for them to seem like anything but catalysts to move the plot along, though I admit I like some of the changes they brought about. 


The lack of intensity compared to The Body Finder makes me prefer the predecessor to Desires of the Dead, but I still enjoyed this one for the continuous action it does possess.


Book details: HarperTeen/Paperback/$8.99


Source: ALA

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chopsticks Giveaway

Thanks to the lovely people at Penguin, I'm giving away a copy of Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral, along with an itunes card!

A bit about the book:

Chopsticks was born out of the desire to tell a story with multiple medias, without losing the fundamental truths which make reading fiction an emotional human experience.

The novel’s digital format will still allow you to encounter the lives of Frank and Glory, the characters that fill the pages, but the additional videos, songs and digital links will create a new novel experience.

Chopsticks is a novel, an app, a website. It is a collage of original drawings, objects, text, sounds, and video. It is a love story. It is a mystery. Read it. View it. Experience it.
It sounds really cool and different-- I'm excited to read it myself, especially after already having checked out the websiteThe app seems promising as well.

Really, anything with tumblr-worthy pictures on the inside gets my attention:


 Fill out the form to enter!


Sunday, April 15, 2012

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox was started by The Story Siren and inspired by Pop Culture Junkie. Descriptions and such from goodreads.

A couple belated Easter basket gifts:

The List by Siobhan Vivian
An intense look at the rules of high school attraction -- and the price that's paid for them.

It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn't matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.

This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, "pretty" and "ugly." And it's also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two.

Heck yes Siobhan Vivian! I know this one shall be super smart and excellent.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
I've heard so many great things about this one that I couldn't resist wanting to read it.

And, for review:

Earthseed by Pamela Sargent
The classic YA science fiction adventure by Nebula and Locus Award–winning author Pamela Sargent The ship hurtles through space. Deep within its core, it carries the seed of humankind. Launched by the people of a dying Earth over a century ago, its mission is to find a habitable world for the children—fifteen-year-old Zoheret and her shipmates—whom it has created from its genetic banks. 

To Zoheret and her shipmates, Ship has been mother, father, and loving teacher, preparing them for their biggest challenge: to survive on their own, on an uninhabited planet, without Ship’s protection. Now that day is almost upon them...but are they ready to leave Ship? Ship devises a test. And suddenly, instincts that have been latent for over a hundred years take over. Zoheret watches as friends become strangers—and enemies. Can Zoheret and her companions overcome the biggest obstacle to the survival of the human race—themselves?
 Spaceships!

Losers in Space by John Barnes
It is the year 2129 . . . and fame is all that matters

Susan and her friends are celebutantes. Their lives are powered by media awareness, fed by engineered meals, and underscored by cynicism. Everyone has a rating; the more viewers who ID you, the better. So Susan and her almost-boyfriend Derlock cook up a surefire plan: the nine of them will visit a Mars-bound spaceship and stow away. Their survival will be a media sensation, boosting their ratings across the globe. There's only one problem: Derlock is a sociopath. Breakneck narrative, pointed cultural commentary, warm heart, accurate science, a kickass heroine, and a ticking clock . . . who could ask for more?
Huzzah for another space book.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink

[description from goodreads]

Even angels make mistakes in this page-turning epic romance...

When her parents are murdered before her eyes, sixteen-year-old Helen Cartwright finds herself launched into an underground London where a mysterious organization called the Dictata controls the balance of good and evil. Helen learns that she is one of three remaining angelic descendants charged with protecting the world's past, present, and future. Unbeknownst to her, she has been trained her whole life to accept this responsibility. Now, as she finds herself torn between the angelic brothers protecting her and the devastatingly handsome childhood friend who wants to destroy her, she must prepare to be brave, to be hunted, and above all to be strong, because temptation will be hard to resist, even for an angel.

Michelle Zink masterfully weaves historical fantasy with paranormal romance to create a gripping tale of love and betrayal.


Review:

As with many official summaries, the description of A Temptation of Angels is not the greatest. Its emphasis on the wrong parts gives expectations that are never fully met, in both good ways and bad, but the book manages to stand on its own nevertheless.

Firmly on the side of "I'm glad this expectation was not met" is the romance. The summary makes it seem like some sort of odd love square going on, which isn't accurate. There is, however, a bit of a love triangle, which is a feature I'm not a huge fan of in any book unless done spectacularly well. And I feel like the one present in A Temptation of Angels does not quite fit into that category. I felt like Helen's preference was always obvious and that her "interest" in Raum, the childhood friend, was just to make other parts of the plot seem plausible. However, in the grand scheme of things, I didn't really mind this love triangle because it doesn't take up much of the novel. The book is full of far more action and adventure, right from the very beginning. Even when the group is just searching for information, there's always a sense of excitement because of the severity of the threat they face. This excitement intensifies even further when the group goes out to fight or spy, which happens a delightfully frequent amount.

In terms of expectations that were sadly not met, I must say I wish there was more information about the Dictata, angels, and the rest of the supernatural elements. There is enough for the story to make sense but I always hoped for more, especially about the villains, because without extensive knowledge of the villains' characteristics, their eventual appearance is not quite as menacing as intended. However, I do appreciate the originality of the information included. Although many of the elements-- angels vs. demons, for example-- are of a classic sort, their differences from other paranormal novels I've read makes them stand out in the best way possible. Instead of emphasizing the romance with the paranormal, the supernatural aspect really is integral to the story itself. I also like how the paranormal elements influence Helen, Griffin, and Darius; they each identify as Keepers but have different ways of expressing their abilities. Darius, for example, the most traditional and warrior-like of the three, while Helen is better at puzzles and the planning parts of their schemes. Their differences not only make their plans work well, but also allow for some humorous or tension-filled interactions.

Although its romance and the amount of given information leave some to be desired, the action, fun cast of characters, and originality of A Temptation of Angels completely won me over.

Book details: Dial/Hardcover/$17.99


Source: sent by publisher for review

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lexapros and Cons by Aaron Karo

[description from goodreads]

Chuck Taylor’s OCD has rendered him a high school outcast. His endless routines and habitual hand washing threaten to scare away both his closest friend and the amazing new girl in town. Sure he happens to share the name of the icon behind the coolest sneakers in the world, but even Chuck knows his bizarre system of wearing different color “Cons” depending on his mood is completely crazy.

In this hilariously candid debut novel from comedian Aaron Karo—who grew up with a few obsessions and compulsions of his own—very bad things are going to happen to Chuck. But maybe that’s a good thing. Because with graduation looming, Chuck finds himself with one last chance to face his inner demons, defend his best friend, and win over the girl of his dreams. No matter what happens, though, he’ll have to get his hands dirty.


Review:

As much as I love straight-up emotional dramas and the occasional otherworldly adventure, I think my favorite stories will always be the ones that manage to handle serious subjects with both humor and heart, and Lexapros and Cons does just that.


Chuck's narration is initially a bit off-putting because it's of the totally crude teenage boy variety, but once he meets his Potential Girl Amy and his OCD starts getting more out of hand, the crude humor takes a back seat to Chuck's self-deprecation and the genuine hilarity of his awkward actions. Because, really, even when things get serious, like when his OCD worsens, Chuck's actions never stop having a twinge of humor too. Some of the consequences that result from Chuck's illness are just so exaggerated and insane that I couldn't help but stifle a giggle as I realized I probably shouldn't laugh at his problems, but most of the time I'd end up laughing anyway because Chuck freely acknowledges how silly he is being and the extent to which he screws things up. His self-awareness makes his journey with OCD all the more emotional too, because he knows how to try and fix it but always notes the difficulty with even trying.


Just as great as Chuck and his narration are the rest of his friends. Well, not really "friends" because Chuck will be the first to say that his only real friend is his best, Steve. However, Steve on his own is more than enough. He's as funny as Chuck but in a hopeful but totally oblivious way that accompanies Chuck's self-deprecation quite well. However, the best thing about their friendship is that most of the time they can tell each other when the other is being an idiot, which makes their care for each other all the more genuine. Amy, the girl Chuck likes, is a great addition to the story as well. She sometimes seemed a bit too perfect but the way she makes Chuck act results in his genuine growth and some hilarious moments, so I like her anyway. I wish the other minor characters were as well-developed because they were more typical high school stereotypes, like Parker the bully and the Kevin Gnapoor-esque Kanha. Still, at least they added more angst for Chuck, because the book gets more intense and therefore enjoyable as Chuck finds more issues to confront.


Lexapros and Cons features a wonderfully hilarious lead but also manages to be sweet in its love story and smart in its handling of Chuck's OCD.


Book details: Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Hardcover/$16.99


Source: sent by publisher for review

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Life is But a Dream by Brian James

[description from goodreads]

Sabrina, an artist, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and her parents check her into the Wellness Center. There she meets Alec, who is convinced it's the world that's crazy, not the two of them. They are meant to be together; they are special. But when Alec starts to convince Sabrina that her treatment will wipe out everything that makes her creative, she worries that she'll lose hold of her dreams and herself. Should she listen to her doctor? Her decision may have fatal consequences.

Brian James calls Life is But a Dream "the most intense book I've written. Bringing this unique character to life and seeing the world through her eyes, with all its beauty and confusion, was an immense challenge that I hope is just as rewarding to read as it was to write." Intense--yes. Unforgettable--definitely.


Review:

A far cry from Zombie Blondes, the other Brian James novel I read oh so many years ago, but in a great way, because I'm having trouble finding things I don't like about Life is But a Dream. 

Actually, that's not quite true. There are a few things I dislike about Life is But a Dream, but not because they're poorly written or irrelevant, but because they fill me with rage. Alec, the boy Sabrina meets at the Wellness Center, is a prime example. The false ideas he places in Sabrina's head about her doctors' intentions and the actions he compels her to take are just so utterly wrong and cruel because of their consequences that I was never happy when he showed up. However, despite the anger he invoked in me, there is something undeniably fascinating about the way he operates. He's has a sense of awareness the rest of his peers don't that the ideas he brings forth always give Sabrina a new perspective and take the book in a new direction.

Other aspects of this book I tend to love more than I love-hate, namely Sabrina. Her struggle with schizophrenia is heartbreaking because of its intensity, especially as Alec begins planting the wrong ideas in her head and flashbacks of her past reveal the harsh treatment her former peers gave her. However, I'm glad this book does not solely emphasize the ugly parts of her illness. There's a lot of beauty in the way Sabrina views the world too-- her descriptions of the colors and shapes she sees in things that no one else notices create such beautiful images that it's easy to see why she's having trouble wanting them to go away. And, because they're so lovely, it's all the more emotional to realize that the harsh aspects of her illness are slowly but surely blotting them out.

Life is a But a Dream is an excellent balance of beauty and heartache, and I loved every minute of it. 

Book details: Feiwel and Friends/Hardcover/$17.99

Source: sent by publisher for review

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Goddess Test by Aimée Carter

[descriptions from goodreads]

EVERY GIRL WHO HAS TAKEN THE TEST HAS DIED.

NOW IT'S KATE'S TURN.

It's always been just Kate and her mom--and her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate's going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear that her mother won't live past the fall.

Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld--and if she accepts his bargain, he'll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.

Kate is sure he's crazy--until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she suceeds, she'll become Henry's future bride and a goddess.

IF SHE FAILS...


Review:

I am truly a sucker for any book with a Greek mythology background, and thus I could not resist The Goddess Test despite my eye-rolling at the description of Henry in the summary and subsequent belief that I would not enjoy it that much. I liked it more than I expected, but certain aspects are so obnoxious that I wouldn't be able to handle the sequel.

Since I already briefly mentioned it, I may as well begin the melodramatic parts of this book and how I did not enjoy them in the slightest. Henry's first appearance in the novel is so brief but "epic" that I half expected "Requiem" or a similar dramatic piece to start playing as I read. His early appearances are mostly brief and highlight the power he has, but even as he and Kate spend more time together and he appears more often, he never stops being so melodramatic. Especially when Kate is involved-- he tries so hard to make her pass the tests and whatnot that her resulting stupidity and rapid pace of her decisions are just as annoying. Kate's surroundings are pretty melodramatic as well; although I liked the included twist on the myth of Persephone, the way other mythological elements were included was a stretch at best. The mythological aspects were introduced far too late for them to make much sense, let alone have much of an impact.

However, despite how annoyingly over-the-top I found much of this book to be, there are things I like about it too. Although Kate's mother is often shafted in favor of further details of Kate's time with Henry, I did like the relationship between the pair. It's easy to see Kate's feelings about her mother's imminent death, for although she often describes them in detail, they're evident in her actions too. I also like how this book dealt with the tests Kate must face. It wasn't exactly a surprise as to what they were, but it fit into the story seamlessly and managed to be explained well in the short time their full information was revealed.

The Goddess Test has a nice premise and enough action to keep my attention, but it's too melodramatic for me to really love it.


Book details: Harlequin Teen/Paperback/$9.99


Source: Harlequin Teen Panel

Sunday, April 8, 2012

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox was started by The Story Siren and inspired by Pop Culture Junkie. Descriptions and such from goodreads.

Things for review this week: 

Silence by Michelle Sagara
It began in the graveyard. Ever since her boyfriend Nathan died in a tragic accident Emma had been coming to the graveyard at night. During the day she went through the motions at her prep school, in class, with her friends, but that’s all it was. But tonight was different. Tonight Emma and her dog were not alone in the cemetery. There were two others there—Eric, who had just started at her school, and an ancient woman who looked as though she were made of rags. And when they saw Emma there, the old woman reached out to her with a grip as chilling as death….
I hadn't heard of this one before it randomly showed up in my mailbox, but creepy old ladies always make for a fun read, so I'm sure it will be good.

The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle
Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community? The suspense of this vividly told, truly horrific thriller will keep the pages turning.
 I can't find the cover for this one anywhere, but that doesn't matter because the description on its own is a winner. Isn't this the best summary ever? I think so. Rumspringa!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

[description from goodreads]

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.


Review:

Spring break always allows me to begin catching up on some of the books I've had for a long time, and I thought I'd begin break with Delirium because everyone else seems to have read and loved it in the time I haven't been able to get to it. I don't love it nearly as much as everyone else seems to, but I don't think I'd say no to reading the sequel.

Delirium was different than I expected, and for that reason I find it difficult to determine how much I actually like it. I'm used to futuristic novels having a big emphasis on the role of the oppressive government in the life of the protagonist, but Delirium's really doesn't, and thus its world-building leaves much to be desired. I never understood how or why love became such a threat or who was running this society-- although Lena encounters different sorts of guards, officials, and tests, I didn't know what the tests and people were really doing. However, it sometimes didn't seem to be necessary for me to know these things since the focus is on Lena and Alex, the boy she meets. I still would have preferred to know what kind of place they were living in, though, because as time goes by and Lena gets closer to the date she will be cured, she feels more threatened but without knowing who was behind it, the threat seemed empty.

Even without the world-building, the events of this book did manage to keep my attention despite how long it takes to get to the more adventurous parts of Lena's romance. I do appreciate that the two actually took their time in the relationship, because the way Lena and Alex meet is too unconventional for them to jump right in to love. Occasionally their love seemed like a simple consequence of he being the only boy around, but because the book chronicles their relationship from its beginning, it seemed fairly realistic. I also liked Lena's relationship with the other characters in the book, especially her friend Hana. Although many of them, perhaps because of their cure-induced monotony, are not particularly exciting, Lena's relationships with them are complex because of how different she is from them. Her friendship with Hana, though, is the best because of how close the pair remain despite all the hardships they face and the knowledge that the cure will take their friendship away too.

I wanted more development pretty much across the board, but Delirium is such a quick and adventurous read that I liked it anyway.

Book details: HarperCollins/Paperback/$8.99


Source: BEA '10 (yeah, I know)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wintertown by Stephen Emond

[description from the jacket flap]

Every winter, straitlaced, Ivy League-bound Evan looks forward to a visit from Lucy, a childhood best friend who moved away after her parents' divorce. But when Lucy arrives this year, she's changed. The former "girl next door" now has choppy black hair, a nose stud, and a scowl. But Evan knows that somewhere beneath the Goth exterior, Old Lucy still exists, and he's determined to find her... even if it means pissing her off.

Can opposites attract? Or does growing up mean having to grow apart?

Told from two perspectives, this funny and honest novel by Stephen Emond (Happyface) is a unique combination of text, comic strips, and art. It's an indie movie in a book, perfect for the inner outcast and lovelorn nerd in all of us. 


Review:


If there's one thing better than a great book, it's a great book with pictures, which Wintertown just happens to be. It lacked a certain "oomph" that would make me scream its praises from every available website, but I still really enjoyed it. 


The description is dead-on with its comparison to an indie movie, which is probably one of the reasons I like this book so much and why others may want to throw it against a wall. It walks the fine line between endearingly quirky and just plain twee, but I personally always found it to be the former. The focus is definitely on the relationship between Evan and Lucy, and it's thus not the most exciting or action-packed book ever, but the two have such a complex friendship that it's always an interesting read nonetheless. Because the pair are so close, they have such frequent and wonderful adventures that it's a fun read, but because the changes both of them go through, especially Lucy, are so large and unfounded to one another they have plenty to angst over too. The balance between their shenanigans and emotion makes for an consistently compelling read, and with the cute added artwork and illustrations, my enjoyment grew even further.


A few things I'm less of a fan of, though. Despite the complexity of the relationship between Evan and Lucy, the rest of the characters suffer from the emphasis on the protagonists. Like, I love Evan's friends Marshall and Tim, as well as the added emotional tension added by his father, but the cast appears in such a limited variety of scenery that I never really got the feeling that they were fully developed characters. Another thing that I'm not a big fan of is that there's a strange shift in point-of-view halfway through the book-- although the entire thing is in third person, it mainly follows Evan in the first half but Lucy in the second. I liked being able to see events play out from both their perspectives because of the insight into their characters it allowed, but the switch was so random that I was initially thrown off.

A little more character development would have made me love it entirely, but I still found Wintertown to be an endearingly quirky and emotional read. 


Book details: Little, Brown/Hardcover/$17.99


Source: bought

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. Descriptions and such from goodreads.

Today I'm waiting on:
 Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

Sixteen-year-old Neryn is alone in the land of Alban, where the oppressive king has ordered anyone with magical strengths captured and brought before him. Eager to hide her own canny skill--a uniquely powerful ability to communicate with the fairy-like Good Folk--Neryn sets out for the legendary Shadowfell, a home and training ground for a secret rebel group determined to overthrow the evil King Keldec.

During her dangerous journey, she receives aid from the Good Folk, who tell her she must pass a series of tests in order to recognize her full potential. She also finds help from a handsome young man, Flint, who rescues her from certain death--but whose motives in doing so remain unclear. Neryn struggles to trust her only allies. They both hint that she alone may be the key to Alban's release from Keldec's rule. Homeless, unsure of who to trust, and trapped in an empire determined to crush her, Neryn must make it to Shadowfell not only to save herself, but to save Alban.


---

I usually shy away from high fantasy, but it's Juliet Marillier! Daughter of the Forest and its sequels remain favorites of mine, and this new series definitely has the potential to become a favorite too. 

Released September 11.

Monday, April 2, 2012

White Cat by Holly Black

[description from B&N]

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers—people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, all by the slightest touch of their hands. Since curse work is illegal, they’re all criminals. But not Cassel. He hasn’t got the magic touch, so he’s an outsider—the straight kid in a crooked family—as long as you ignore one small detail: He killed his best friend, Lila. Now he is sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat. He also notices that his brothers are keeping secrets from him. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of one huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to outcon the conmen.

Review:

I limit my reading of fantasy mostly to authors I already know I like, and because Holly Black has never let me down, I happily began White Cat. It didn't dazzle me, but I'll definitely continue the series to see where everything goes.

Mostly I'm interested in reading about more cons, though. It's not often that I get to read books with a lot of crime, which is a shame because crime always makes for an exciting read. Especially in White Cat-- even the secrets and con-related activities that are woefully predictable add to the intrigue present in this book. Although I did figure out plenty of things before Cassel, waiting for him to find out was never boring because of all the other drama he encounters. His family has so many strange, powerful friends and abilities that are present so often throughout the story that I was never anything but interested in what the extent of their influence was, especially as Cassel finally grows closer to finding out some of their darker secrets.

While I do love the premise and much of the action, I'm less crazy about the characters, and thus my enjoyment of the book fell. I do love Cassel because while he isn't the loudest or craziest narrator, his intelligence and sense of adventure make for a similarly smart read. His peers, though, tend to have only one or two personality traits throughout the story. His brothers, for example, are so wrapped up in work that they never seemed as much more than curse workers; Cassel's friends from school are not developed much better, as they typically are only around to help Cassel with whatever shady business he needs assistance with. Still, they at least all move the story along and keep it exciting, but I hope that their characterization improves in the future series installments.

Despite its flat characters, White Cat possesses enough mystery and a great enough premise that I was always compelled to keep reading.


Book details: Margaret K. McElderry Books/Paperback/$8.99


Source: sent by publisher for review

Sunday, April 1, 2012

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox was started by The Story Siren and inspired by Pop Culture Junkie. Descriptions and such from goodreads.

Catching up on two weeks of review books: 

7 Clues to Winning You by Kristin Walker
When a humiliating picture of Blythe goes viral, she's instantly the target of ridicule at her new school. To salvage her reputation, Blythe teams up with Luke to win the Senior Scramble scavenger hunt. But Luke is an unlikely ally and potentially can't be trusted.

Perhaps it's his Shakespearean witticisms that reel Blythe in despite her better judgment . . . or maybe she just craves the thrill of the game. But as the hunt progresses, their relationship heats up. Soon their madcap mischief spirals out of control. Blythe is faced with arrest and expulsion, among other catastrophes –until Luke shows her what the Scramble (and love) is really about.
 Funny books > most books.


My Life in Black and White by Natasha Friend
Lexi has always been beautiful, but her beauty is taken from her when she goes face-first through a car windshield. Now Lexi has to dig deep to figure out how to define herself. Help on her journey of self-discovery comes from unexpected sources: Ruth, Lexi’s sister, “the smart one” to Lexi’s “the pretty one,” with whom Lexi has never been close; and Theo, a classmate who is still recovering from his sister’s recent death from anorexia.

 There seems to be a lot going on in this one, but I think the book will pull it off.


Beauty by Lisa Daily
When we first meet Molly, she is plain, shy, and practically invisible to most of her fellow high school students. Hudson, the boy she cannot help but like, is handsome and popular. One day at a town carnival, Molly stumbles across an eccentric artist who offers to sketch her portrait. Thinking aloud, she wishes she was the most beautiful girl in the world. The following day, Molly gets her wish. All the guys at school are vying for her affection. Best of all, Hudson’s finally noticing her. As Molly’s relationship with Hudson heats up, violence threatens to erupt among the guys of their high school, and the newfound attention threatens to destroy the relationships she values.
Carnivals! My favorite. 

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
 Generations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Eighteen-year-old Luddite Elliot North has always known her place in this caste system. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. But now the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress and threatening Luddite control; Elliot’s estate is floundering; and she’s forced to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth—an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliott wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she abandoned him.

But Elliot soon discovers her childhood friend carries a secret—-one that could change the society in which they live…or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she has lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s PERSUASION, FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.
I'm super excited to read this one-- it sounds fantastic.