Monday, January 31, 2011

Father of Lies by Ann Turner

On the outside, Lidda appears to be normal. She tends to her baby brother Thomas and does chores with her sisters Charity and Susannah. On the inside, however, she is an absolute mess. After recently going through puberty, she begins hearing a voice speaking to her in her head. Terrified at first, she thinks this is the work of the Devil himself. But the voice calls himself Lucian, and he is both seductive and powerful. Then strange things begin to happen to other girls in her village. They have weird fits and point to various others as being witches. With the whole town in rising chaos, Lidda has to figure out who she is before it's too late.

From the very first page this book is interesting. I have not read much on the Salem Witch trials since The Crucible in 11th grade English class, so I was both hesitant and excited to pick up this book. Lidda's thoughts are so well-written that even I felt raw with confusion and frustration. Reading on inside her head was deliciously claustrophobic as Lidda figures out what is happening around her. There isn't much to say about supporting characters, and Lidda literally hogs all the attention. Which is okay, ultimately, as it helps to preserve her innocence in the story. My only complaint would be that it's a fairly short book for such a large topic. I would have liked a few more chapters, at least. At times genuinely spooky, Ann Turner delivers a top-notch story of the Salem Witch trials.

Overall Rating: 4 Stars

Friday, January 28, 2011

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton

Ellie is turning seventeen soon. She can't wait, because it means getting a new car and... new powers? During a quiet late night walk, Ellie runs into a reaper, a horrific creature bent on destroying her. Luckily, new boy Will shows up out of the blue to help her survive the attack. And then he sticks around to help Ellie learn who she is and what she was born to do. Pretty heavy stuff, no? As Ellie's nightmares become actual memories, she not only comes to accept the role she was chosen to lead, but also takes charge of her destiny.

As with so many angel-themed books coming out these days, I was looking forward to reading this one. The cover and blurb didn't capture my attention as much as some of the other books out there, but I was still going to give this one an honest shot. Unfortunately, I did not like it. And honestly, it was a tough stretch to finish it. The characters of Ellie, Will, and everyone else were really shallow. Ellie was super strong and independent, except when she spent half her time whining to Will that she needed him. And her father was extremely harsh without cause or reprimand from Ellie or her mother. The paranormal elements seemed far-fetched and forced. The reader is thrown into the Grim headfirst and there are tons of names and places to keep track of. A little overwhelming. What I did like was the fact that Ellie actually felt the physical effects of her new born powers after she used them. It's only natural that a girl feel tired and achy after such battles! Moulton also writes fairly graphic and exciting fight scenes, which I think I would have enjoyed more if I were actually invested in the lives of the characters. The end of the book wrapped up nicely, but there were still a lot of questions left unanswered. The second book in the series, Wings of the Wicked is due out next year, but I do not think my interest will be strong enough to read further into Ellie's world.

Overall Rating: 2 Stars

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday 1/26/11

MAY (Daughters of the Sea #2) by Kathryn Lasky

May feels her life drying up. The sea calls to her, but her parents forbid her from swimming. She longs for books, but her mother finds her passion for learning strange. She yearns for independence, but a persistent suitor, Rudd, wants to tame her spirited ways. Yet after her fifteenth birthday, the urge to break free becomes overpowering and May makes a life-changing discovery. She does not belong on land where girls are meant to be obedient. She is a mermaid-a creature of the sea.

For the first time, May learns what freedom feels like-the thrill of exploring both the vast ocean and the previously forbidden books. She even catches the eye of Hugh, an astronomy student who, unlike the townspeople, finds May anything but strange. But not everyone is pleased with May's transformation. Rudd decides that if can't have May, no one will. He knows how to destroy her happiness and goes to drastic measures to ensure that May loses everything: her freedom and the only boy she's ever loved.

Ooooh, yummy! The first book about Hannah was a tantalizing start for Kathryn Lasky's series, and I look forward to reading more about the family!

Release Date: March 1, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa

Life can be hard when you're a half-blood. That's what Meghan Chase knows, anyway. After going into Faery to rescue her kidnapped brother and defeating the Iron King Machina, Meghan is horrified to learn there was still a false king bent on destroying and taking over the land. Plus there's still Ash and Puck, two boys with very strong feelings for her. Plenty of things to keep a poor girl busy! Meghan will battle some old friends and new enemies in her quest to save all that she holds dear.

There is a lot to follow and keep track of since the last installment (don't you dare read these books out of order) but I found that if I kept pushing forward, the action would overrule the exposition. The giant city was great! Julie Kagawa is very good with her visuals, whether it be shattering an Iron Fey into a million tiny shards of metal or a clockmaker who knows more than just how to make timepieces. Grimalkin was awesome as usual, being there to help/taunt/entertain everyone. There were a couple pretty heavy scenes in this book, too. Words that made my eyes threaten to spill over with tears. But I think readers will welcome the extra emotion, especially after all they've been through with Meghan. Kagawa wraps up her Iron Fey trilogy rather nicely, I thought, and all without feeling too rushed at the end. I am curious to see how Ash's story plays out in the next book, called The Iron Knight.

Overall Rating: 4 Stars

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fear Street Flashback (13)

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

Originally released in June, 1989.

I thought I would start the new year with the very first Fear Street novel. The New Year and The New Girl!

Cory Brooks falls head over heels for new girl Anna Corwin, especially her otherworldly, ethereal good looks. Thoughts of her screw up his concentration on everything from schoolwork to gymnastics practice. But when Cory begins to get spooky messages that Anna is dead, the real horror begins. Really! This was a spooky book and a great introduction to the notorious Fear Street. I liked that the main character was a gymnast rather than the more common football or basketball player. And even though I felt bad for Cory's poor friend Lisa, I was just as curious as he was about the new girl Anna. This classic 80's cover art is such fun, too, making the girl look ghostly. A good place to start if you've never read any Fear Street before!

Fear Rating: 2 out of 3 Screams

Friday, January 21, 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

It is 95 days until Lena undergoes her operation for the cure. She will be turning 18 and getting cured will mean she will not get the terrible disease amor deliria nervosa. Otherwise known as being in love. She has, after all, grown up reading the Safety, Health, and Happiness Handbook, which describes in great detail what love does to a human. How it kills them. She's followed all of the rules, has always done what was asked of her. Until one day she meets a boy named Alex, who hints at things she never allowed herself to imagine before. A veil has been lifted from Lena's eyes, and she will have to choose exactly how much she wants to see.

Wow. I mean, WOW. I've always heard good things about Lauren Oliver, especially her debut Before I Fall, but haven't read it yet. So as this was my first experience with her, I was completely blown away. There were some similarities I saw between this book and Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series, but they did not take away from the world Oliver had created. Everything was perfect- Lena's emotions, her best friend Hana, Alex's secrets. The timing and pacing held strong throughout the entire book, there weren't any slow spots or lengthy passages of exposition. Oliver inserts little pieces from the Book of Shhh into the chapters here and there, which I liked because it rounded out the idea of so much government control. I read the last 150 pages at a feverish pace, feeling as though I had contracted the deliria myself. Readers who enjoyed Allie Condie's Matched will find something even more built up in this all-consuming novel.

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday 1/19/11

PLAYING HURT by Holly Schindler

Star basketball player Chelsea "Nitro" Keyes had a full ride to college—and everyone's admiration back home. Then she took a horrible fall during senior year. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.

That summer, Chelsea's dad hires Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player and "boot camp" trainer, to work with her at a northern Minnesota lake resort. As they grow close, Chelsea finds that Clint's haunted by his own tragedy. Will their romance end up hurting them all over again—or finally heal their heartbreak?

This one's going to be a little tricky, because it;s always weird to read a book where the central character has the same name as me. But I loved Holly's first book A Blue So Dark and definitely want to see how her next book plays out.

Release Date: March 8, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

Here Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison

Bridget Duke rules her school. If someone is cool, it's because of her. If someone is a loser, it's because Bridget thinks she is a loser. She has complete control over both the teachers and students. That is, until new girl Anna Judge shows up. Suddenly Anna is getting all of the attention, and Bridget doesn't like it one bit. But what lengths will Bridget go to in order to get her Queen Bee status back? And will she hurt the ones she cares about in order to do it?

Though this book was rather cheesy at times, it was honestly enjoyable. It's one of those stories that will definitely keep the reader turning the pages to see what happens next, especially in the second half of the book. Bridget is a terrible, horrible, just awful person. The kind that makes me wonder how the author can stand to even write about someone this bad. But she is not unlike so many girls out there with their own issues and insecurities. The private school Bridget attends could be any high school in any city or town. And while Paige Harbison uses a not-so-subtle plot technique to teach Bridget a lesson, I enjoyed the ride nonetheless. A short and breezy read, but one that is sure to make readers think about their own actions.

Overall Rating: 3 Stars

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cloaked by Alex Flinn

Johnny Marco works at his family's shoe repair shop in a fancy Miami hotel. It's tough work, but he has to do it to help his mom pay the bills for their apartment. Then one day famous Alorian princess Victorianna stays at the hotel and asks Johnny to repair her broken shoe. Upon returning it to her, she asks him to help her find her kidnapped brother. Johnny finds it hard to say no to the beautiful princess and agrees to help. But this is no ordinary case, and Johnny gets a lot more adventure than he bargained for! With the help of some magical items and his best friend Meg, Johnny travels all over Florida and back in search of a prince-turned-frog.

If you've never read Alex Flinn, but you love a good fairy tale retelling, start with this book! She has previously written Beastly, a high school version of Beauty and the Beast (and a soon-to-be-movie), and A Kiss In Time, a modernization of Sleeping Beauty. I totally loved those two books and got swept away in this one as well. Cloaked includes many fairy tales, but the big ones are The Frog Prince and The Elves and the Shoemaker. A combo that works out surprisingly well! There was plenty of whimsical magic and non-stop action. Putting the old fairy tales into modern day Miami was fantastic and well thought out. The voices for each of the characters were excellent, their accents sometimes making me laugh. I thought all of the different fairy tales would add up to be too much, but they were small and sweet and added to the adventure as a whole. Flinn ties up all loose ends into a neat little package that left me feeling feeling complete at the end of the book. A fun read!

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday 1/12/11

NIGHT ROAD by Kristin Hannah

Jude Farraday is a happily married, stay-at-home mom who puts everyone’s needs above her own. Her twins, Mia and Zach, are bright and happy teenagers. When Lexi Baill enters their lives, no one is more supportive than Jude. A former foster child with a dark past, Lexi quickly becomes Mia’s best friend. Then Zach falls in love with Lexi and the three become inseparable. But senior year of high school brings unexpected dangers and one night, Jude’s worst fears are confirmed: there is an accident. In an instant, her idyllic life is shattered and her close-knit community is torn apart. People—and Jude—demand justice, and when the finger of blame is pointed, it lands solely on eighteen-year-old Lexi Baill. In a heartbeat, their love for each other will be shattered, the family broken. Lexi gives up everything that matters to her—the boy she loves, her place in the family, the best friend she ever had—while Jude loses even more.

When Lexi returns, older and wiser, she demands a reckoning. Long buried feelings will rise again, and Jude will finally have to face the woman she has become. She must decide whether to remain broken or try to forgive both Lexi…and herself.

HUUUUGE fan of Kristin Hannah. Need I say more?

Release Date: March 22, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer

Kathryn and Brooke are fierce rivals in their senior year of high school. They both sing in choir and are shoe-ins to win the prestigious Blackmore Young Artsists award. Oh yeah, and they hate each other. But it wasn't always like this. During their junior year, they had been inseparable at times. Then something terrible happened and the hatred has been thick ever since. As the stress of the upcoming contest gets heavier, both girls begin to re-evaluate what is truly important to them.

Two books in a row with piano covers! Perhaps this is my subconscious telling me to start playing the piano again. Hmmm.

This was a sweet little book about two rivaling high school girls. Sara Bennett Wealer clearly makes one girl out to be better than the other, in everything from singing to being a good person. Yet both stories (the chapters alternate between Kathryn and Brooke) are equally compelling. There is a little bit of everything for the reader to identify with. The popular crowd, the choir geeks, the hottest guy in school, the cool best friend that's been there forever. Kathryn and Brooke are well developed characters, as are Kathryn's best friend Matt and Brooke's best friend Chloe. I always like seeing clever secondary characters, because it ends up rounding out the story a lot more than if the only finished characters are the main ones. And with an ending that I don't think any reader will see coming, Rival is a perfect mix of melody and harmony.

Overall Rating: 3 Stars

Friday, January 7, 2011

Four Seasons by Jane Breskin Zalben

Ally Katz is a thirteen-year-old piano genius, having played since she was four years old. She attends a private music school and practices up to six hours a day. She eat, breathes, and sleeps music, especially with very important recital coming up that will determine her musical future. As you can imagine, this rigorous schedule does not leave a lot of time for a social life. With criticisms getting stronger and stress levels rising, Ally begins to long for something outside of playing piano. A normal life, with girlie sleepovers and maybe even a boyfriend. However, gathering the courage to tell her parents and herself what she really wants is not going to be easy at all.

Four Seasons was an interesting book. Occasionally there will be some kid on the news that lives a similar life as Ally, but reading about it first hand was an entirely different experience. I thought Ally's voice was very raw, very well-written. The reader gets to know her every ache, her hopes, her confusions. Ally's best friend Opal was absolutely adorable and completely charming. Though all teens go through some sort of encounter where they have to learn to express their feelings to their parents, I am not sure this book will appeal to a broad reading audience. It is very focused on the fierce competitive life of being a great musician, with little else in Ally's life that matters. Those who do pick up the book will be rewarded with cute scenes with boys and a happy ending.

Overall Rating: 3 Stars

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sharpshooter in Petticoats by Mary Connealy

Mandy Gray and her three children had been living with her no-good husband for years before he went off and got himself killed. Instead of this being good news, though, it leaves Mandy the prime subject of a family feud between her husband and the vicious Cooter clan. When long-time friend Tom Linscott comes to rescue her and the kids out from under the fear of being killed, Mandy is convinced it means death for him as well. Fortunately (and unfortunately) for Tom and Mandy, both of them are strongly stubborn. And they both know they will have to work together if they want to survive.

*sigh* A Mary Connealy book. Always such good reading. It feels as though I've known these characters for years now, like my own friends of the family. I've watched them grow up and marry off and start families of their own. Been on adventure after adventure with them. It is one of the reasons I enjoy Mary Connealy's books. This latest book (and the last in the Sophie's Daughter's Trilogy), was not my favorite though. For some reason I just wasn't into the story as I was with Beth and Sally. Perhaps because in the previous books, Mandy's story was always on the sidelines, little teases here and there about her terrible situation and the strong woman she was having to be in order to survive. So when we finally push everyone else to the side and get to see Mandy's story full-time, I was expecting more of the same feelings from before. They just weren't there. Not that Mandy is not an incredibly tough, independent woman. But the way she interacted with Tom was simply not interesting enough for me. The best scene in the whole book was when the reader finally gets to see just how sharp a shooter Mandy really is. I would have liked to see more of those shots! Still, Mary Connealy is no stranger to finishing a trilogy, and expertly wraps this one up with happy endings all around.

Overall Rating: 4 Stars

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday 1/5/11

OUTSIDE IN by Maria V. Snyder

Me? A Leader? Okay, I did prove that there's more to Inside than we knew. That a whole world exists beyond this cube we live in. And finding that led to a major rebellion - between worker scrubs like me and the snobby uppers who rule our world. Make that ruled. Because of me, we're free. I thought that meant I was off the hook, and could go off on my own again - while still touching base with Riley, of course. He's the one upper I think I can trust. But then we learned that there's outside and then there is Outside. And something from Outside wants In.

So Inside Out was one of my favorite books from last year. I have loved Maria Snyder's writing ever since Poison Study and have read all the way through six novels in that world. But her futuristic twist in these two books completely blew me away. I will definitely have my schedule cleared when this one comes out, so I can read it as soon as it arrives!

Release Date: March 1, 2011

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

On Reading Certain Words

You know how there are sometimes certain words that simply roll off your tongue and feel good to speak aloud? And then there are those specific words that make you cringe inwardly (or outwardly) whenever you hear or see them? Everyone has a few words that they like and those few words they don't. I thought I would take a moment to list some of mine.

I will start with words I like. One of my favorites in the whole of the English language is whisper. I love to read this word. It evokes a sensual reaction, a soft feeling of intimacy in my reading. I like giggle for a similar reason- it makes me want to smile and giggle myself. Mischievous is delicious to read, ambiguous makes me yearn for more, amused is just plain fun. I always approve of the use of the term correct over choosing to say someone is right. And perhaps is the preferred choice over the growing popularity of the term mayhaps.

Which is a good place to mention the words that I do not like. Or maybe the distaste comes from these words not being a part of my everyday vocabulary, so reading them in books makes me slow down for a split second. Pulls me out of the story, interrupts my focus.Words like grin instead of smile or smirk. This is a very common word, but rubs me the wrong way for whatever reason. Orb is another weird choice, a word I usually see in reference to someone's eyes or head. Really? There were no others words you could use? Silly. A few other harsh words are virulent, which makes me feel nervous, facetious which sounds meaner than it should, and bemused, which is entirely too close to it's cousin word amused.

These short lists aren't complete, but I wanted to impart my thoughts. Any of you out there feel the same way? Please share your words!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Vixen by Jillian Larkin

Gloria loves jazz music and longs to be an independent woman. This should be easy, except she is set to marry one of Chicago's most eligible bachelors soon, a sure sign of the end of her freedom. Her cousin Clara has come in from Pennsylvania to help plan the wedding, but Gloria can't stand her. However, Clara is arriving with a few secrets of her own, secrets that could bring her down from her new place in society, if revealed. And Lorraine has been Gloria's closest and best friend since forever. But with Gloria marrying Bastian and garnering more attention than she can handle, Lorraine starts to feel the green bug of jealousy creep in. Tired of never being in the spotlight, she begins to plot a way to push past the bright glow of her best friend, even if it means lying to her. Gloria, Clara and Lorraine are all very similar girls, despite their obvious differences. The three of them are caught up in the lifestyle of the roaring 1920's, and are about to clash at The Green Mill, Chicago's most famous speakeasy.

You know how sometimes you are unsure if you will like a book but it ends up grabbing your attention and holding on tightly? This was one of those times for me. I was not too anxious to pick up this book, as reading about socialite girls doesn't often appeal to me. However, I was pleased to find that I really, REALLY enjoyed this one. Vixen is a very atmospheric book, from the settings to the politics to the language. The chapters alternate between the three girls, and I found each one equally enjoyable. That is hard to do, no? More often than not there will be one character that stands out above the others, but I found I was excited to keep reading from each of the girls' perspectives. One of the most impressive parts about this book was by far the language. Jillian Larkin captures the slang of the 1920's underground and spreads it throughout without sounding forced and unnatural. I felt Gloria's suffocation and hope, worried with Clara about her past, and believed the confusion Lorraine was going through. A most excellent debut. I can't wait to get my hands on the sequel, Ingenue, due out in August 2011!

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!!!


I am totally looking forward to 2011 and the possibilities it brings! Not to mention all of the exciting new authors and books!

A quick tally for Total Books Read for 2010: 285

That is an insane number. But delicious. Out of curiosity, I counted those I thought were 5 out of 5 stars - only 76.

Whew! Not sure I can keep up that pace in 2011. How many books did you read last year?