Monday, May 30, 2011

Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Saba lives in hard times. The land around her is dry, brown, and baron. Food is scarce. Yet it is the only life Saba knows, and she is happy with her twin brother Lugh, little sister Emmie, and her father. Then one day a terrible storm blows through, bringing with it a group of terrible men that take Lugh away. Saba takes off immediately in his wake. She must find him, even if it means battling demons both in strangers and herself. Saba is going to have to fight for her life or be killed.

What an incredible book. I cannot start a review without first mentioning the language. Blood Red Road is written unlike any other book I have ever read. The language is plain: uneducated and simple. Yet it is very powerful and lyrical. I got the sense that every word was placed very purposefully, so that no sentence was wasted. Saba is a great character and I instantly fell in love with her. As well as with Nero, her pet crow. He was SO cool! Even with the girl on the cover and the love interest between Saba and Jack, this book has more than plenty for the male readers out there, too. The action is high-octane, with cage fights and air ships and renegade gangs. The scenes flowed smartly, with lots to keep the pages turning, but plenty of little breaks for readers to pause and catch their breath. An extremely well-thought out and well-written debut!

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

Friday, May 27, 2011

Belladonna by Mary Finn

Fifteen-year-old Thomas Rose has already come to grips with the fact that his life is on the verge of change, but when he meets a girl named Ling, he know for sure that things will never be the same again. She is searching for a white horse named Belladonna, the same equine she used to dance atop at the circus. When Belladonna was sold, Ling swore she would never dance again until she found her. With Thomas' help, they just might be able to do that. As well as a lot of growing up along the way, too.

Belladonna is not an easy book to read, but a rather rewarding one if you do. I will tell you up front that from the cover and synopsis, I was totally expecting (and hoping!) to get a circus story. Unfortunately, that is not the case at all. However, though it is not my desired circus show, this novel was very rich with the atmosphere of mid-eighteenth century life. Ling is a fabulous character, and wise beyond her years. She felt both like the girl-next-door and exotic at the same time. By comparison, Tom was bland and uninteresting. The writing is a little dry and difficult to plow through for the average YA reader, but for those who stick with it, Mary Finn delivers a delightful gem of a tale.

Overall Rating: 3 Stars

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bound by Book-to-Movie Law: The Dive From Clausen's Pier

Book-to-Movie Law states that once you have read the book, you are bound by the media to go see the movie based on said book, and therefor compare to two.

To clarify upfront, this was not a major movie release. It was a small-time, made-for-tv movie that aired a few times as a Lifetime Network Original in 2005. If this makes you groan, hold your judgement until you see it yourself (the movie is readily available in twelve parts on YouTube). I thought it was a very good movie, and a great adaptation of the book. Which, by the way, is one of my all time very favorites books I love to death. Anyway, if you didn't catch this movie on Lifetime, check it out on YouTube. Which is what I recently did. And it did not disappoint. Michelle Trachtenberg did very well as Carrie Bell- hitting her high points, but always keeping with a sadness to her, as though she is always missing her life from before. Kilroy (Sean Maher) was downright dreamy and BOY did that guy look good during those kissing scenes! Overall, I found this to be a very honest take on the book, and I do not think any reader or fan would be disappointed with the final result.

Bottom Line: The movie is TOP NOTCH, but not a full replacement for the book.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday 5/25/11

SWEETLY by Jackson Pearce

As a child, Gretchen's twin sister was taken by a witch-like monster in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch's forest threatening to make them disappear, too.

When their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out as teens, they stumble upon a sleepy Southern town and are invited to stay with Sophia Kelly at her sweet shop. Sophia molds candied magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion.

Life seems idyllic and Gretchen and Ansel finally start to forget their haunted past - until Gretchen meets handsome local outcast Samuel, who gives Gretchen a reason to fear Sophia: girls have been vanishing at Sophia's annual chocolate festival, taken by the insatiable 'witch' of Gretchen's nightmares. Can Gretchen save herself, the girls of Live Oak, and Sophia?

Of one thing, Gretchen is certain: a monster is coming, and it will never go away hungry.

Ever since I read Jackson Pearce's Sisters Red, I have been salivating for more. Her re-telling of Red Riding Hood was fresh and edgy. Can't wait to check out her update on Hansel and Gretel!

Release Date: August 23, 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011

Entangled by Cat Clarke

Grace's world has been reduced to an all-white room and bathroom. There is one window up high and one door which is always locked. Her captor is a mysterious (and attractive) guy named Ethan. Besides three meals a day, the only thing Ethan allows Grace to have is blank paper and pens. So Grace has been writing about the events that happened before Ethan kidnapped her. But the more Grace writes, the more she remembers. And the more she remembers, the weirder things become.

Entangled was very well written. I felt claustrophobic and trapped in the room with Grace's memories. This book gave me some seriously weird dreams. Probably thanks to Grace feeling so crazy and confused. Ethan was such an intriguing character, and I totally could not get enough of him. Grace's friends Nat and Sal seemed too hot and cold for me. I wanted to yell at Grace some moments, and wish I could be as lucky as her in other moments. And I liked being able to guess along the way as to what was really happening. Even though readers may think they guess correctly, the final chapter is a whirlwind climax no one could turn away from. I cannot wait for Cat Clarke's next book!

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fear Street Flashback (17)

Why? Because FEAR STREET was like, my favorite series growing up.

Originally released in May, 1995.

This is an awesome Fear Street book. Perhaps because the narrator is first person, and Nicole is quite the storyteller. There is also non-stop action from pretty much the second chapter on, which keeps the book moving at a break-neck speed. It is pretty obvious to the reader what is happening to poor Nicole, but that doesn't change the suspense. It is still scary to watch Nicole go through the motions of what she is believing to be true in her own head. My only complaint would be that it was annoying to me when Nicole would discover gruesome sights and not tell anybody about them. But that was just normal for her character, which was well fleshed out. And the ending is completely worth it, as one last little jab into the reader's head. A very good story, and a perfect addition to the Fear Street drama.

Fear Rating: 3 out of 3 Screams

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday 5/18/11

HEREAFTER by Tara Hudson

Can there truly be love after death?

Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she's dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she's trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.

Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.

This book sounds like it will be really sad. But also really powerful, with the pages haunting me after I finish the book. I am looking forward to trying out this new author!

Release Date: June 7, 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

The A Circuit by Georgina Bloomberg & Cathering Hapka

Three very different girls come together over their love of showing horses. Tommi is a billionaire heiress who has spent most of her life in her older sister's shadow. Kate is a suburban girl working her hardest at the barn to escape her deteriorating mother. And Zara is the new girl, fresh from California and the daughter of a rock star. Despite their differences, these three girls will learn to overcome themselves and one another in order to shine bright in the spotlight.

It is a good thing this book was short, because I do not know how much more celebrity/rich girl/horse drama I could stand. The world of priviledged girls showing horses is not an easy one to get into, but authors Hapka and Bloomberg try to share of glimpse of what it is like. A lot of times, the barn seemed like a fun place to be. Girls who have horses or like horses should fall into the story fairly easily. Girls who are not as familiar with the equine language and protocol may feel lost throughout most of the scenes. Kate was by far the most interesting character, as I thought she was the one who had the most layers and motivation around her. Even so, there were many bits of the story and characters that were left unfinished and felt very shallow. Especially with Kate's mom and all of the eye rolling the girls did. Readers may get frustrated with the lack of focus on these elements. Though it was not my cup of tea, Georgina Bloomberg is knows about showing horses, and her expertise shines through in this debut.

Overall Rating: 2 Stars

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando

Jane is used to moving around. Her father designs roller coasters and the family has moved many times to places where her father's work took them. This time it is to Coney Island, New York, the place where her mother grew up. Jane is both excited and nervous to learn more about her mother, who died when Jane was only six. But Jane ends up learning a lot more than that. With the help of new found friends, Jane will learn things about people she never dreamed she would meet, see things she never thought she would see, and will even fall in love.

This book was AWESOME. I wanted to sit and soak up all of the Coney Island history, stories, and lore. I wanted to Google references as soon as I read about them. I loved all of the Coney Island history that is woven so tightly into the story. The atmosphere was rich with the salty sea air and sights and sounds Coney Island brings to it's visitors. Jane was a well-fleshed out character and a perfect choice to narrate the reader through the happenings of her experiences. The Tattooed Boy is totally romantic, and Jane's small friend Babette is honest and cute. There are a ton of "freaks" and "carnies" in this book, and Tara Altebrando is sensitive with her material while being unapologetic at the same time. I imagine many readers will want to visit the actual Coney Island after reading about the Dreamland Social Club. I have not read Tara's other two books, but I am interested in picking them up after reading this one, for sure!

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

Thursday, May 12, 2011

My Boyfriend Is A Monster Series

With the popularity of all things paranormal these days, there have been a number of books about human/monster relationships to come out. Some have been good, most have been bad. But this quiet little series of graphic novels is one I found to be worthy of notice.

My Boyfriend is a Monster #1 - I Love Him to Pieces - was an absolutely adorable story. I loved the role reversal of Dicey being the uber jock and Jack being the bookworm nerd. Evonne Tsang writes some super cute and often very funny dialog. And this first book does a fantastic job of setting up the world. Clues are given to the reader and the characters at the same time, creating the perfect blend of suspense, action, and tenderness.

My Boyfriend is a Monster #2 - Made For Each Other - takes another classic monster and pulls it into a teenage love story. Frankenstein doesn't sound like he could be attractive, but Paul Storrie writes a totally loveable boy in Tom. He and Maria make a great couple, even around the boundaries that dating a monster involves. Of the two stories, I did not think this one was as strong as the first book, though.

The art is simple black and white drawings, but I thought this worked well for the age range and content matter. There were a few places in both books where the art became crowded and muddy, but for the most part the illustrations were successful in fleshing out the scenes.

So if you're a fan of monsters (and even if you aren't), give this series a try. The stories are short and sweet and will leave you smiling.

Overall Rating: 4 Stars

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Waiting on Wednesay 5/11/11

SHADOWBORN by Alison Sinclair

Magic dies with the mage, or so the Darkborn believe. That's why Lady Telmaine Hearne has been condemned to death for sorcery. She's escaped but is now bound with her mageborn allies for the Borders and war. Meanwhile, her husband, Balthasar, has learned of his family connection to the Shadowborn-and is fighting for survival and sanity as magic turns him against everything he holds dear.

Not much of a synopsis available, but anyone who has read the first two in this series will know this book is destined to hold great things! I feel the Darkborn trilogy has really been under-appreciated by the media. It's a terrific series, with great writing and an awesome premise!

Release Date: June 7, 2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

Deep Trouble by Mary Connealy

Shannon Dysart may have hired a team to travel with her across the country, but she still feels very alone. With heirloom maps of a lost city, she and her party are on the hunt for gold and riches. When months of searching yields no discoveries, her gang steals her belongings and leaves her for dead. Lucky for her, wandered Gabe Lasley hears her cries for help and comes to her rescue. Though tension is high, sparks immediately fly between Gabe and Shannon. And when Gabe agrees to accompany Shannon on her continued quest, the romance is sure to get hotter. But when Shannon's former crew doubles back with hostile intentions, things in the Grand Canyon are going to get quite treacherous.

How Mary Connealy managed to write an opening that was even better than all of her other book beginnings, I will never know. But she did it. Seriously. Best. Opening. EVER. This book was great. Gabe and Shannon's dialogue is so snarky and yet never waivers from being tender too. It is obvious to any reader that Connealy loves writing about landscapes and nature just as much as she loves writing strong women and tough cowboys. Her descriptions of the Grand Canyon are never long, but the detail she does provide clearly illustrate the beauty and awe the land inspires. She same goes for her characters. Small snipets like "the man spoke through a mustache so bushy his mouth didn't appear to move" are perfect examples of how one little detail can really cement an image in the readers mind. As always, I am looking forward to her next book!

Overall Rating: 4 Stars

Friday, May 6, 2011

Girl Wonder by Alexa Martin

School can be tough for everybody, but for Charlotte Locke, it's even harder. She suffers from a learning disability that makes numbers and letters particularly difficult. Moving to a new school for her senior year doesn't help things either. Then she meets Amanda Munger and Neal Fitzpatrick, two beautiful people with reputations of their own and an interest in her. Amanda is quirky and fearless. Neal is sexy and funny. Charlotte is drawn to Amanda and Neal like a moth to a flame. And like the moth, Charlotte may find herself getting burned if she gets too close.

This book shocked me, mostly with it's content. Be warned: there are a lot of drug and sex scenes in this book! Charlotte ultimately learns her lessons, but throughout most of the story she doesn't have many redeeming qualities. Readers will be able to identify with her insecurities as well as her parents going through a turbulent divorce. I found myself getting annoyed with her attitude and behavior, but I had to consider it was justified in a lot of places, based on her character. I liked how Alexa Martin fleshed out Charlotte's brother James Henry (great name!) and his friend Milton. Those two made me chuckle out loud! So even though it felt like the story took a little bit to ramp up, once the middle of the book hit, it was a climactic read until the last page.

Overall Rating: 3 Stars

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday 5/4/11

SPELLBOUND by Cara Lynn Shultz

What’s a girl to do when meeting The One means she’s cursed to die a horrible death?

Life hasn’t been easy on sixteen-year-old Emma Conner, so a new start in New York may be just the change she needs. But the posh Upper East Side prep school she has to attend? Not so much. Friendly faces are few and far between, except for one that she’s irresistibly drawn to—Brendan Salinger, the guy with the rock-star good looks and the richest kid in school, who might just be her very own white knight.

But even when Brendan inexplicably turns cold, Emma can’t stop staring. Ever since she laid eyes on him, strange things have been happening. Streetlamps go out wherever she walks, and Emma’s been having the oddest dreams. Visions of herself in past lives—visions that warn her to stay away from Brendan. Or else.

Besides having an absolute stunning cover, this book sounds so interesting!I am usually disappointed by stories that take place in NYC's wealthy private schools, but I am definitely going to give this one a shot.

Release Date: June 21, 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mercy by Rebecca Lim

Mercy is a very different being than the ones you are used to. She awakens in a person's body and inhabits it long enough to help the person through a tough time.Then she is cast out and waits in the ether until her next assignment comes along. When she awakens in Carmen Zappacosta's body, she is disoriented and confused. With very little time to adapt to her new surroundings, she is forced to fill Carmen's shoes and take over as a top-rated soprano for the school's choir group. Then Mercy meets Ryan, a boy with a missing sister and a tortured soul. She desperately wants to help Ryan, but is it not going to be an easy task. There are forces working against her, both strange and frightening.

This book was not as good as I had hoped it would be. My feelings wavered pretty evenly back and forth between being entranced and being bored. It was neat to experience Mercy's thoughts and actions as she navigated through Carmen. I was sure there would be a lot of confusion, but Rebecca Lim kept her two beings straight. Both the main and secondary characters held a lot of depth, and Lim makes sure to let each one have their fifteen minutes. Mercy and Ryan get more time, naturally, but it was refreshing to hear the others get their chance to talk too. I found I was never truly gripped by the mystery aspect of the plot, so the characterization rounded out this reading experience. Fans of the angel paranormal trend will dive right into this book, but those looking to try it out may feel lost or confused by the added super power elements. As the first book in a series, Mercy has tons of potential!

Overall Rating: 3 Stars