Monday, April 30, 2012

The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John

I really enjoyed Emily St. John's first book, Last Night in Montreal, and her second, The Signer's Gun, was just okay. This third novel is somewhere between the two.

The first thing I noticed was that like her first book, this was again about a mysterious girl and a man out to find her. Oh how I love stories like this! I just can't get enough of guys tortured by the girl that got away. The pain of wanting and having loved these women is completely romantic. The second thing I noticed is Emily's signature calm and poetic writing. Her sentences always seem to lure me into a sense of peacefulness, even with tense scenes. Reading her work is very comfortable!

The book is divided into three parts, and where the first part caught my full attention, the middle began to lose me a bit. I was still interested in the fate of the characters I was reading about (especially Gavin and Anna) but I think too many other characters were the focus of the second section and didn't appeal to me. The ending was both rewarding and shocking. I wished the climax had actually happened earlier in the book, so that we could watch the characters move forward with their lives afterward longer than we did. In this case, that was the more intriguing element for me.

Emily St. John is proving herself to be a master of writing about people pushed to the brink by desperation. I look forward to seeing what she has for us next.

Overall Rating: 3 Stars

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Right & the Real by Joelle Anthony

Joelle Anthony has cemented her place on my shelf as an author I love. Her first book, Restoring Harmony, blew me away with it's originality and great characters. The Right & the Real has done it again.

This is a scary book, but not because of anything paranormal. This story is very frightening because it feels so real. Ripped from the headlines. LaVon is such a cool character. I wish I could meet him in real life. He's one of those characters that I like to see so much in YA books - the one that scares you are first, but turns out to be such a great person. And Trent! A total caring and trusting boss. The things Jamie goes through and endures are astounding. Things no teenage girl should ever have to deal with. But she handles it with such strength and grace that I found myself pausing to wonder how I would have reacted if I were in her shoes. There were a few elements in the story that were a little hard to believe, such as Jamie loving acting so much and getting in to a great acting college. For someone so studious, we barely saw her crack open a book. The other thing that was difficult to see happening was how no one else seemed to know what was going on with her, from her teachers to her best of friends. Ultimately, though, this was a book I had trouble putting down. I enjoyed Janie's journey immensely and it should go without saying that I am looking forward to whatever Joelle Anthony has for us next.

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday 4/25/12

EVERGREEN by Brenda Pandos

A kingdom on the brink of war.
A king on the fringes of insanity.
A family running for their lives.

Ash and Fin’s only desire is to be together and dive into their happily ever after, though their conflicting worlds work to pull them apart. Neither is ready to convert to the other’s life: become a human or a mer. Little do they know that somewhere in Natatoria a secret holds the fine fabric of everyone’s lives together. If the truth is discovered, Ash and Fin will no longer have the luxury of waiting. They’ll be forced to choose. But will it be for loyalty or love? Or will someone else make the choice for them if they can’t decide?

Confession: I haven't read the first book yet, Everblue. But it's a mermaid story and I have heard such good things, so believe me I will read both of these books! This premise sounds a little more intense than the first book, so I am looking forward to that. I hope there's a third.

Release Date: June 29, 2012

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fear Street Flashback (27)

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

Originally released in April, 1993.

Anyone else out there have to chuckle a little bit when they see this cover art? Velveeta cheesy! This book in the Fear Street series is not scary in the least. But it is still good. Poor Carter is being blackmailed by Adam and it's a nightmare for her. But really, she seemed to enjoy herself around Adam, so I couldn't fully understand why she didn't just try to make it work. Still, blackmail is never okay, and it is quite scary in this story. I also noticed how involved Carter's parents seemed to be in her life, for two people that left her to fend for herself all of the time. There's also a minor theme of class wars in this book, which I thought was interesting to see. The ending was a bit of a stretch to believe, but was a total surprise, so bonus points for that. A good Fear Street book, where the characters all got what they deserved!

Fear Rating: 1 out of 3 Screams

Friday, April 20, 2012

Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

With the cheesy cover and tag line (Stop the Countdown. Save the World), I had REALLY low expectations for this book. But right from chapter one, I was hooked. The skipping-meals-so-I-can-keep-reading kind of hooked. It was really so much better than I thought it would be.

For one, Janelle's Dad works for the FBI. A way cool character that provided lots of realistic excuses for Janelle to know so much about freaky situations. Another thing I liked was the paranormal mixed with the actual threat to the world. Don't get me wrong - you DO have to suspend your disbelief pretty heavily here. But the countdown in this book has credibility for being a genuine concern. Plus, the story takes place in Southern California, with landmarks that I could recognize. Bonus!

Ben, Alex, and Janelle are some of my favorite characters I have read so far this year. Romantic, brave, strong, and funny. I was completely shocked when Janelle lost who she did in the story. That was gusty on Elizabeth Norris' part, but it makes for an even better book. Because unlike other stories that seem to gloss over the death of a character, Janelle takes a few chapters to dwell on her loss and mourn. Ben was so sweet and amazing! Janelle is one lucky girl, despite everything else that happens to her. The countdown element is gimmicky, but gives a real sense of urgency, especially as the reader moves towards the climax of the book.

After finishing this, the cover makes a lot more sense. I am looking forward to what Elizabeth Norris has for us next!

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday 4/18/12

GLIMPSE by Claire Merle

In a near future, society is segregated according to whether people are genetically disposed to mental illness. 17-year-old Ana has been living the privileged life of a Pure due to an error in her DNA test. When the authorities find out, she faces banishment from her safe Community, a fate only thwarted by the fact that she has already been promised to Pure-boy Jasper Taurell.

Jasper is from a rich and influential family and despite Ana’s condition, wants to be with her. The authorities grant Ana a tentative reprieve. If she is joined to Jasper before her 18th birthday, she may stay in the Community until her illness manifests. But if Jasper changes his mind, she will be cast out among the Crazies. As Ana’s joining ceremony and her birthday loom closer, she dares to hope she will be saved from the horror of the City and live a ‘normal’ life. But then Jasper disappears.

Led to believe Jasper has been taken by a strange sect the authorities will not interfere with, Ana sneaks out of her well-guarded Community to find him herself. Her search takes her through the underbelly of society and into the pits of the human soul. And as she delves deeper into the mystery of Jasper's abduction she uncovers some devastating truths that destroy everything she has grown up to believe, but she also learns to love as she has never loved before.

Is it just me, or does this premise sound insanely awesome?!? The cover artwork doesn't really fit, but I am glad there is no photo of a girl or guy on the front. I can leave it all up to my imagination! Looking forward to picking this title up.

Release Date: June 7, 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012

Bound by Book-To-Movie Law: The Hunger Games

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.

May the odds be ever in your favor. They certainly are for this movie! Katniss sure has powerful stage presence. Her gaze made me feel every little emotion. She's a completely serious actor who totally nailed this part. Her fights scenes were spectacular, but she was so buff that there's no way she couldn't have mae those scenes anything other than awesome. Other characters that totally rocked their parts were Stanley Tucci as Caesar and Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. A great movie, worthy of the book. However, I do have one major and a few minor complaints. First, the jumpy camera shots were AWFUL. They made me so queasy in the first 12 minute of the movie, that it was difficult to focus on the rest of it. A few shaky scenes here and there would be okay, but that camera shook for what felt like literally the entire movie. Not cool, didn't add anything. And I didn't think there was nearly enough exposition as the book provided, so audience members who haven't read the books may feel a little in the dark. Otherwise, I am proud of and impressed by the cast, and hope they make the second book just as well as this one.

Bottom Line:
Book was incredible, movie was breath-taking. Finally, a win-win!
Just be sure to eat lightly before viewing.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Daughters of the Sea: Totally Underrated!

Let me get this off my chest right away: I LOVE Kathryn Lasky's Daughters of the Sea series.

These are sea-folk stories, people! And very good ones, at that.

Hannah's story was such a great place to start. She leaves salt on whatever she touches, thanks to getting land-sickness. The only cure is go be in the ocean! The story takes place in Boston at the turn of the twentieth century, and the atmosphere was pitch-perfect. There wasn't too much mermaid-y type stuff in this story, or even all that much romance, but what was there was tender and completely engaging.

May's story was beautiful as well. This one was much more of a love story, and an innocently sweet one at that. Set in the same time period as the first, only this time in Maine, the characters acted exactly how I would have expected them to for 1899. And again, the mermaid element was well thought-out and just right.

I haven't read Lucy's story yet (bad, I know!) but it is sitting on my shelf waiting for me and I can't wait.

So if you're a fan of mermaid stories, YA romances, and historical fiction, do not leave these titles off your list. They are the kinds of stories that are quiet and unassuming, yet leave you feeling satisfied and happy. They read like stand-alone novels, but are connected in small ways that make reading them all together very rewarding. Give us more please, Kathryn Lasky!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday 4/11/12


Whitley Johnson's dream summer with her divorce dad has turned into a nightmare. She's just met his new fiancee and her kids. The fiancee's son? Whitley's one-night stand from graduation night. Just freakin' great.

Worse, she totally doesn't fit in with her dad's perfect new country-club family. So Whitley acts out. She parties. Hard. So hard she doesn't even notice the good things right under her nose: a sweet little future stepsister who is just about the only person she's ever liked, a best friend (even though Whitley swears she doesn't "do" friends), and a smoking-hot guy who isn't her least, not yet. It will take all three of them to help Whitley get through her anger and begin to put the pieces of her family together.

If you haven't read Kody Kiplinger yet, you should really pick up her books today. I fell in love with her unapologetic and raw writing with The DUFF, and then was thrilled to see her second book, Shut Out, held up to my expectations as well. This third novel sounds like it will pack the same punch as the others. Yay!

Release Date: June 5, 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012

Inspired to Art (5)

The Boneshaker is a middle grade book by Kate Milford that blew me away with it's character dialog and awesome premise. Check out my review here. But the book did more than give me something fun to read. It inspired me to create artwork in honor of the characters I had spent time with. It all started with a paper mache book box, and an empty packet of gum.

First was a list of notes. The book is so chock full of references and names and titles that I had to collect them all on one list, to make sure I didn't leave anything out. Then came the front of the book box, which was the easiest and most fun to decorate. And then opens up to the inside, which includes little pieces of the following from the book:
-pieces of glass from caravan
-gears from Natalie Minks
-piece of string from Old Tom Guyot's guitar
-amber crystal from Amber Therapy
-key to automaton
-head figure from phrenology
-curious feather left behind the main stage
-light bulb used in Magnetism and lodestone therapy
-small dagger found on Harlequin automatonThis was such a neat project to make! Though it had plenty of frustrating bits along the way. I think it took about 9 months to finish the whole thing. And the finished piece makes all of this work well worth it. The paper is Basic Grey Cappella and the drawings are from 7Gypsies Steampunk collection.

Friday, April 6, 2012

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

I felt really troubled the whole time I was reading this book, because it really is a scary topic. Kids growing up to be killers. A voice eerily reminiscent of Dexter. Really quite terrifying. And also very good.

Jasper "Jazz" Dent is a complex character. His upbringing with his serial killer Dad has created a dual identity within himself, and it makes for some pretty powerful reading. Jazz suffers from hearing the voice of his demented father in his head and it is creepy, but what I imagine to be realistic. I liked how Jazz worked so closely with the police chief in his town, to help himself cope with the conflicts running through his mind. Just brilliant. And I loved both supporting characters of Connie and Howie. Those two were so perfect in their love for Jazz and their dialog!

And the ending - WOW. Just after the halfway point, the story begins to fly towards it's climax. And I totally did not see it coming. I definitely appreciate a book that gives me a genuine surprise.

I'm a big fan of Barry Lyga, stemming back to his totally awesome debut The Adventures of Fan boy and Goth-Girl. His stories always manage to pull me in right away and demand my complete attention and brain power until finished. I Hunt Killers was no exception. If you haven't read Lyga before, I promise you will want to explore his back catalog after this one!

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday 4/4/12

BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past. Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

Am I the only one who feels like I've been waiting FOREVER for this book? Graceling was amazing, as was the follow-up, Fire. Fire came out in October of 2009, so it's been a long time of longing and wanting for me. I love the premise, love the cover, and can't wait to be back in the world Cashore has created!

Release Date: May 1, 2012

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Three Best Zombie Fiction Series

Something has come over me and I must tell about my three most favorite zombie series out there today. Because you see, I was never a fan of zombies, until these authors convinced me just how good a zombie story can be.

Carrie Ryan and her Forest of Hands and Teeth series. Seriously, I love Love LOVE this world Ryan has created. Each one feels like a punch to the gut, a burning image in my brain. The world is fairly simple, and yet very sophisticated as well. The dead are called The Unconsecrated, and the villages are set up in a manner very similar to religious group compounds. Her story-telling is beautiful. But perhaps the best part about this series is that these are all separate stories connected with the same characters. In other words, they do not follow the same characters in each book, but rather they follow relatives and acquaintances of the characters. This creates a spin-off feel, which I totally enjoyed and can't get enough of.

Sophie Littlefield and her Aftertime series. Another author who can keep me up late into the night because it's so hard to put down her books once I have started them. My favorite part about these stories is the tenderness that is so rampant among such horrors. All books follow Cass and her family, which makes reading them all together even more rewarding. The zombies are called Beaters in this world, which dehumanizes them more than the other zombie series I like so much. But it also serves to make the life the characters lead bleak and sparse, which in turn makes what they have feel rich. I don't want this series to end!

Jonathan Maberry and his Benny Imura series.
This series came as quite a surprise to me. Neither the cover nor the premise of the first one really caught me. It was a recommendation from another trusted reader that made me pick up the book, and then once I started reading, I couldn't stop singing Maberry's praises. These are more of a boys story, but I am still completely hooked. There is a large underlying theme of morality in a world of Zoms, and it makes for a very thoughtful and absorbing read. I always recommend this series to YA male readers, but I too look forward to more of Benny, Nix, and Lilah.