Friday, July 29, 2011

"Lily of the Nile" by Stephanie Dray

"Heiress of one empire and prisoner of another, it is up to the daughter of Cleopatra to save her brothers and reclaim what is rightfully hers...
To Isis worshippers, Princess Selene and her twin brother Helios embody the divine celestial pair who will bring about a Golden Age. But when Selene's parents are vanquished by Rome, her auspicious birth becomes a curse. Trapped in an empire that reviles her heritage and suspects her faith, the young messianic princess struggles for survival in a Roman court of intrigue. She can't hide the hieroglyphics that carve themselves into her hands, nor can she stop the emperor from using her powers for his own ends. But faced with a new and ruthless Caesar who is obsessed with having a Cleopatra of his very own, Selene is determined to resurrect her mother's dreams. Can she succeed where her mother failed? And what will it cost her in a political game where the only rule is win-or die?"-goodreads

I've always been really into ancient history of the Egyptian/Greek/Roman varieties, and I recall pouring over Cleopatra's complicated story multiple times. Add that to my love for YA historical fiction and I figured I was sure to like this book. I wasn't let down; Lily of the Nile was stunning. Stephanie Dray wrote a brilliant novel that must have required copious amounts of intense research and much cleverly filling the gaps where necessary. 

The exploration of how Selene and her twin, Helios, dealt with everything and their lives being held captive by the Roman empire was amazing. The raw emotion of Selene as she changed and became more cunning, more like her mother's daughter, more of Isis, were so real seeming. The changing relationship between her and Helios as she made decisions as a strategist and he didn't necessarily was complicated and surprising. The theme of the treatment of women in Egypt in contrast to that in Rome... All fascinating stuff. The ending was explosive, and left me wishing there was more. (There should be a new rule: 'Sequels to books I like are not permitted to come out more than a week after I read said book' HA. No, that won't work.) Apparently there will be a sequel, "Song of the Nile" due in October.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"City of Ashes" (The Mortal Instruments, #2) by Cassandra Clare

*The description for this book has spoilers for its predecessor, City of Bones, so I won't disclose it here. If you would like to read the description or find out more about the book, visit the goodreads page for it here. This particular review is spoiler free.*

My experience thus far with The Mortal Instruments has been wonderful. "City of Bones" was brilliant, and I consider "City of Ashes" even better. 'Better?', you may inquire; to which I would respond casually: "Heck yes."

I think what I like best about The Mortal Instruments, "City of Ashes" in particular, is that they have a little bit of just about every element but it's still done remarkably well. There are vampires, werewolves, and demons. They are a lot like their stereotype, which is actually a good thing because that means NO *sparkly* vampires.Of course, there are also the fascinating shadowhunters, unique to TMI. All of the greatness present in the first book is back for the second, such as great pace, interesting and broad cast of characters, and deep-running emotions; probably even more of a thrilling page-turner than the first. There were more action filled fight scenes than in the first, all keeping you on the edge of your seat. An ongoing theme in the books seem to be that nothing is ever as it seems, and so I've heard, it stays that way.

All-together, an awesome book. I only bought the first two together and now can't wait to get the third. And, related question (please don't answer with a spoiler), to anyone else who has read TMI, isn't Valentine reminiscent of Voldemort? (Granted, I can draw a comparison to Harry Potter from pretty much anything...)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Angelfire" by Courtney Allison Moulton

"When seventeen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers - monstrous creatures who devour humans and send their souls to Hell - she finds herself on the front lines of a supernatural war between archangels and the Fallen and faced with the possible destruction of her soul.
A mysterious boy named Will reveals she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, the only one capable of wielding swords of angelfire to fight the reapers, and he is an immortal sworn to protect her in battle. Now that Ellie's powers have been awakened, a powerful reaper called Bastian has come forward to challenge her. He has employed a fierce assassin to eliminate her - an assassin who has already killed her once.
While balancing her dwindling social life and reaper-hunting duties, she and Will discover Bastian is searching for a dormant creature believed to be a true soul reaper. Bastian plans to use this weapon to ignite the End of Days and to destroy Ellie's soul, ending her rebirth cycle forever. Now, she must face an army of Bastian's most frightening reapers, prevent the soul reaper from consuming her soul, and uncover the secrets of her past lives - including truths that may be too frightening to remember."-goodreads

Angelfire was action packed! There were crazy awesome fight scenes. But those aren't the only elements that made Angelfire such a great book. An interesting cast of characters and a rather unique plot contributed to the awesome as well. I liked Ellie and Will individually and then, awww. I also liked Ellie's mom, which is random, but it's actually kind of significant because so often in YA we find the mom that we hate or just feel indifferent about and there usually aren't likeable moms or dads (granted, the dad wasn't likable. At all. But I won't rant about that.). The characters were each quirky in their own ways, from Ellie naming her car Marshmallow to Will's thing for root beer floats. I appreciated how the monsters and the reality of their presence actually complicating Ellie's life and her social life. Sometimes, in the paranormal books, the character is fighting monsters at night and in the day everything is perfectly normal, no changes, which isn't realistic... The reincarnation aspect was interesting, and I'm curious to find out more about that and Ellie's memories in the sequel. The sequel, Wings of the Wicked, comes out in February 2012. (Which is almost forever from now *exaggeration* but I'm excited for it!)

Friday, July 22, 2011

"The Power of Six" (Lorien Legacies, #2) by Pittacus Lore

August 23rd, 2011 - Harper Teen
(The description for this book is rather spoiler-y to the first. If you’d like to read the summary, visit the goodreads page here. This review also probably contains minor spoilers for the first book. YOU ARE WARNED.)

The Power of Six was a good follow-up to I Am Number Four. I liked it as much as the first book. It shared many of the great qualities of its predecessor! Playing out like a really good action movie in your head, The Power of Six unfolded with a ton of surprises and action.

My favorite thing about The Power of Six is that it’s not just in Four’s perspective. You also get to see parts of the story (almost every two chapters, then they get closer together) from Number Seven, Marina. That made the book a bit fresher, because it’s always nice to see things two ways, or see completely different situations going on and see how they come together. That bit was fascinating. You grew to know Marina and we saw a lot more of Number Six as well. Number Six and Sam are my favorite characters. Sam is so dorky and he’s in pretty much the whole book this time. He grows stronger as a character and in the story, learning to fight and not just be the alien obsessed one. He’s so funny.

I felt kind of disconnected with Four this time around. I’m not sure if that’s a result of his not being the only perspective or his emotions in the book, actually. I know he missed Sarah but at times it would be like he’d think of Sarah at in-opportune moments and it could be kind of annoying. I was really surprised about what happened with Sarah--- that was probably one of the biggest shocks of the book. (What happened, you ask? I’m not telling. *evil laugh*)

The Power of Six has a breakneck pace. It’s around 400 pages, yet it’s a SUPER-fast read, reminiscent of the Maximum Ride series (in pace and action scenes!). If you liked I Am Number Four you should definitely read the sequel, The Power of Six is not a let-down.  
Thank you HarperTeen for giving me the opportunity to review it!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Imaginary Enemy" by Julie Gonzalez

Dear Bubba,
Remember when I asked you to hook me up with some visibility cream? Well, forget that. I don't need it anymore. Send vanishing cream instead. I really need to disappear.
Harriet Hairdresser
(Alias Gabriel)

Jane has always survived in the same way.
Being a slacker, being sarcastic, mouthing off, not doing her homework, and writing letters to Bubba.
Short for Beelzebub.

Bubba is her imaginary enemy, and Jane blames him for everything in her life that goes wrong. A milk spill? It's Bubba's fault. Something stupid she says? Bubba put the words in her mouth.
Let's face it. It's just easier to blame everything on someone who doesn't exist, than it is to face up to the things that are going wrong.

And when Jane's relationships with her next door neighbors, with herself, and with her life in general start going downhill, that's exactly who she blames.

But what if she gets a letter back?

"You two little spies really need a new hobby,"   I said, reaching for my math book. "Have you considered stamp collecting? Quilting? Drowning each other?"

This is probably one of the more imaginative books I've read this year. (Get it? Imaginative? heh.) I usually think about imaginary friends, and how they are awesome, but I don't usually consider how the opposite would work. But this author did, and it was very interesting.

I really liked the character of Jane, but I think my absolute favorite character would have to be her half brother, Luke. Luke is a pretty cool guy. (But like I said. I like Jane as well.)

The thing I really didn't like was the main character's reaction to homeschoolers. When her next door neighbors and her brother and sister become homeschooled, she's very negative about it. I also think that the author portrayed homeschoolers in a fairly negative light, but that might just be me and my biased position.

I don't really have much else to say on this book, except that it was very well written, and very, very funny. And witty. The main character's jabs and remarks were just so creative it was hard not for my mind to be boggled.

Oh. And it's a short read. ☺

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Becoming Chloe" by Catherine Ryan Hyde

"How do you spell 'beautiful', Jordy?"
"Really? Are you sure?"
"Okay. If you're sure. I know how to spell 'ugly.'"
Too bad. I would've liked it better the other way around. But I guess she hasn't had much practice on "beautiful." I guess it's one of those things that just never came up.

Jordy is by himself.
He's okay with this.
He's living in New York City without a job or a family.
It's just a bad week in his life.

And maybe it'd actually work out for him.
But then comes Chloe.

Chloe- or Wanda Johnston- looks like she should have the perfect world.
But if she had a perfect life, why would she be living in a cellar?
Why would she be okay with all the bad things that happen to her?

As Jordy takes Chloe into his care, he starts to realize that everything isn't right with her.
She needs help.
But if she won't talk to her therapist....
And she won't take the antidepressents...
What is he going to do?
And if he himself doesn't quite believe that the world is a beautiful place...
How can he convince Chloe that it is?

She jumps up and grabs me. The way I'd expect her to grab on if she was about to fall off a twenty-story building. Then again, maybe she is, and I'm just too blind to know it.
"I'm scared, Jordy."

I absolutely adored this book. I ended up rewriting my synopsis of the book multiple times because I couldn't do it justice.
This book is amazing.

First of all, the writing is pretty epic. It definitely sounds like young adult is saying it, but at the same time it's so poetic that it's beautiful just to read it. The author deals with some themes that I sort of find myself dealing with sometimes in my life, so that was very, very nice.

Secondly, I really like Jordy. I mean, Chloe was alright, but I really liked Jordy.
First of all, he's gay. This is very helpful for this book specifically, because it means it doesn't fall into the "girl and boy take roadtrip, they fall in love" sort of book. (Which, I admit, I thought it was going to be.)
Secondly... He's very realistic. I like that, too.
And lastly... He gives up so much to help Chloe, and he doesn't complain. But even though he doesn't mind that he's helping her (because she ends up being his best friend), he doesn't not appreciate the good things that come to him. I liked that.

Also, this book is so emotional. Especially at the end, I found my self crying, because it was just so perfect. It ended perfectly, but right before the end I felt like... "It's over. It's over. Their trip. They've come to their end of the road. And that's sad. But it's okay."
(I was going to say something here, but I realized that it would be a spoiler. So you're just going to have to read the book to find out sort of what I was going to say. ;) )

"The Zombie Survival Guide" by Max Brooks

"Top 10 Lessons for Surviving a Zombie Attack
1. Organize before they rise!
2. They feel no fear, why should you?
3. Use your head: cut off theirs.
4. Blades don’t need reloading.
5. Ideal protection = tight clothes, short hair.
6. Get up the staircase, then destroy it.
7. Get out of the car, get onto the bike.
8. Keep moving, keep low, keep quiet, keep alert!
9. No place is safe, only safer.
10. The zombie may be gone, but the threat lives on."-The Zombie Survival Guide

This book is SERIOUS!! One would probably think that the Zombie Survival Guide is written humorously; in a way that pokes fun at zombies and the possibly coming zombie apocalypse. It’s even shelved in the humor section of the library/book store. Honestly, it seems like it should be shelved with the legit survival manuals, with the way it’s written, and if there was a zombie apocalypse this book would probably be useful.

The guide lays down all the rules. Situations and places to avoid, symptoms of the zombie virus, the best weapons to have, how to zombie-proof your house (or try), the stages of the zombie (from outbreak to takeover!), how to fight them, and ‘historical cases’ of zombie encounters; all to prepare you for when they come (which is inevitable, according to the ‘guide’).

To call it humorous, except occasionally, would be incorrect. It’s not. Not at ALL. It’s dead (living?) serious (see what I did there? Bam.), and very clever. It’s a brilliantly well thought out novel-- that’s what this book had to take. It covers all bases, all aspects of the zombie apocalypse that you never would have thought of, as if it were an actual survival manual. Some people have even gone so far as to call Max Brooks deluded, but I disagree, I think he just crafted a brilliantly well though out book that must’ve required some major brainstorming. When I bought The Zombie Survival Guide I also got Mr. Brook’s other book, World War Z, and look forward to reading that as well.

The bottom line: Legit and filled with zombie-tastic-ness.

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Hourglass" by Myra McEntire

Encounter with Hourglass (random and in second person, filled with randomness and some improper sentences, not at all a 'proper' review):
It’s a month or two before the release date of Hourglass and you’re browsing around goodreads and you spot a pretty nice cover. You click it and look a tad closer. Oh, that’s a nice dress, you think, and the font is kinda fancy pants, in a good way. Woah there, wait a second, shut the front door-- is that the FLOOR on the right side? Meaning she’s walking on the ceiling? What huh? So you read the description. Hm. Time travel. She see’s people from the past. A girl named Emerson? Hmmm. Tres interessant. You add it to your TBR.  Then your hanging around on twitter and you follow the author Myra McEntire and she says a lot of funny stuff and you’re like, hahaha. Then people are saying really awesome shhttuuff about it and then you’re really sold. Fast forward, it comes out, you order the book. It gets to your house and you open the box after taking forever to open the stinkin box because, geez, there’s a lot of tape on that thing. Two things: the book is sparkly and also you touch it and it’s SOFT. It has this weird velvet-y finish thing and it’s cool.
It sits on your shelf for about a month and then you finally go, I must read this shiny/soft book about time travel because you’re a very random mood-reader and a book about time-travel seems pretty cool right now.  Then you start reading. You’re addicted immediately and it’s 400 pages and you think it’s going to take forever but you finish it that night.
Looking back, you realize that when you opened the book you must not have seen the whole picture, you didn’t noticed the beam of light that MUST have been expelled from the pages and the unicorns and rainbows that were dancing around in front of you waving banners that said you’d love it, and you must not have heard the chorus of angels and stuff singing. Because that HAD to have been happening. The sheer awesomeness, you knowww?

So that’s me and my random thought process. I loved it. That was how I chose to convey it. Emerson is awesome and I think a proper way to describe her would be 1) awesome and 2)a cross between Evie from Paranormalcy and Frankie from The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks. Witty, slightly sarcastic and just humorous. Totally Team Michael, just so you know. Also, time traveling. That’s SO COOL. I haven't read a lot of YA books about time travel. Now I have. It was awesome. I need a sequel. (Right this second.) I realize the above ‘Encounter with Hourglass’ was very dramatized but it was indeed a very good book. :)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Shelf Life" by Robert Corbet

"Listen," she said, "to be fired from this job you'd have to run naked through the deli with a string of gourmet sausages round your neck. You'd have to cover yourself in cream cheese and dangle a smoked trout between your legs. Even then, they'd just move you to the dairy section. Nobody gets fired form this place. You leave when you're ready to, or else when you die."

Louisa is holding down two jobs, and works every moment. She also happens to be employee of the month.

Adam is a slacker who likes the idea of anarchy and who wants to get fired the moment he arrives at the supermarket.

Jared and Dylan are sharing a secret with a customer in the candy isle.

Chloe might be pregnant, but doesn't know who the father would be. She also quit what would have been her dream job, except for one detail.

Stephen is gone.

Tessa doesn't fit in with the girls, but can't hang out with the guys.

Abdi is finding out just what it feels like to be respected in America.

Rahel is marrying someone she doesn't even know.

Wyn is a human database, who doesn't tell her secrets.

Life working in the supermarket might not be the perfect job, but these teens know how to survive. Yes, that means surviving customers who can't understand why light bulbs keep breaking, or who don't get why long life milk still goes bad. And, yeah, that includes dealing with how to get a girl flowers.. when she works at the flower check out. And maybe it also includes the teens' crazy home lives, though the reasons for those being in the supermarket vary from teen to teen.
All in all, maybe the supermarket is actually giving the teens the "important life skills" they need.

Another worker stopped to see what was going on.
"Andy, this is Andy," said Jared, introducing them.
"I'm Adam."
"My name is Abdi."
Each glanced at the other's  name tag and nodded. Then, together, they all stood and stared at the old man.

I really liked this book. It was funny, witty, and just all around entertaining. After I finished the book, I still wanted to keep reading. Some of the situations in the book that the workers run into were just so completely outrageous, and yet, at the same time, completely plausible.

The only part of this book that I didn't especially like were some of the weird endings for people. Like the fact that you don't ever find out if Chloe is pregnant or not. It's just... kind of weird.

But besides that, I think this book is one of my favorites, and I'd definitely recommend it to most teens.

"City of Bones" (The Mortal Instruments, #1) by Cassandra Clare

“When Clary Fray witnesses three tattoo-covered teenagers murder another teen, she is unable to prove the crime because the victim disappears right in front of her eyes, and no one else can see the killers. She learns that the teens are Shadowhunters (humans who hunt and kill demons), and Clary, a mundie (i.e., mundane human), should not be able to see them either. Shortly after this discovery, her mother, Jocelyn, an erstwhile Shadowhunter, is kidnapped. Jocelyn is the only person who knows the whereabouts of The Mortal Cup, a dangerous magical item that turns humans into Shadowhunters. Clary must find the cup and keep it from a renegade sector of Shadowhunters bent on eliminating all nonhumans, including benevolent werewolves and friendly vampires.”-goodreads

Everyone seems to love The Mortal Instruments series; and everyone and their mother seems to have recommended them to me. (That might be a slight exaggeration. Might.) It’s a very popular series, and I think that’s partly the reason I waited so long to read it-- unfortunately, books don’t always live up to their hype. But, I read Clockwork Angel, the first book in the Infernal Devices; a prelude to TMI. That book was impressive! So eventually, I picked up City of Bones.

City of Bones is indeed a captivating story.  There are kick-butt characters with rather different personalities, and I enjoyed how there were many characters with good development, not just the main character or a few others. I really liked Simon and Clary (not as in a couple, as in, they’re my favorite characters.) It’s definitely a page-turner, I could hardly put it down and finished it in 2 days even though it’s almost 500 pages.

This is that part where I randomly interrupt my own thoughts and go, AWW Jace&Clary. They sounded like great characters/a great couple (are they? Aren’t they? Read the book.) Unfortunately, probably also due to the popularity of the series, I’ve been spoiled everything to do with them, as well as other elements of the series. But I still enjoyed it, although I would’ve liked to be more surprised. (SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE. Spoilers suck. Mark your flipping spoilers. Everyone slips up once in a while, but like, ALL the spoilers with no mark? No. ESPECIALLY FOR SEQUELS.)

Friday, July 15, 2011

"Harry, A History" by Melissa Anelli

In "Harry, A History", Melissa Anelli tells a story that most Potter fans could've told, with the added insight that comes along with her being mastermind webmistress of the popular Harry Potter fan site The Leaky Cauldron. This book is many things. For those who haven't read Harry Potter and are curious as to why it's so popular and what exactly goes on in the fandom, it's a very knowledgeable and good recount for them. For those of us like myself, who are die-hard Harry Potter fans, it serves as a book filled to the brim with nostalgia as well as some things you might not have known before-- even if you thought you were an expert -- as well as an easy-to-relate-to story.

That story is of Ms. Anelli's journey participating in the Harry Potter fandom and recounting some of her adventures (i.e... getting to interview J.K. Rowling (x2!), attending premieres, the website) as well as talking about some other ways Potter changed her life, by bringing different people into her life and making friends, gaining inspiration, etc... She also outlines many products of the fandom such as fan sites, fan fiction, wizard rock, the podcasts, release parties, and 'shipping'; as well as the various and plentiful controversies surrounding the books and between the fans.

It was a very personal book for me to read. So many of the feelings found in the book are ones I've also experienced, just as many others I know have. I'm a 'super-fan' and even I didn't know about all of the things in the book. For example, I didn't know that Cassandra Clare wrote a popular, novel-length trilogy of HP fan fiction about Draco Malfoy (must've missed that somewhere). But, you know, it's not as if I used to spend hours pouring over fan sites or anything *shifty eyes* (although I admit I've been more of a Mugglenet girl). As a fan, everything seemed very spot-on in the book. It's one I'd recommend to anyone who seeks insight of the fandom or any fan who wishes to experience nostalgia and such. In light of the new movie I found it particular insightful. :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"Pay the Piper" by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple

Not watching some dumb TV show while Mars made spooky commentaries. 
Yet somehow Callie believed Alabas. Believed what he was saying. Believed him down in the urpy part of her stomach. And afraid she was going to be sick, she slipped away and ran out the nearest door marked EXIT.

Callie, a fourteen year old girl from Massachusetts, doesn't expect anything exciting to happen in her town. She lives in the sort of area where the biggest crime is a boy running away from home and hiding in the neighbor's tree for a night.
In fact, even the bands that play in her town are.. well... fairly unknown. None from her top 5 ever get there... Heck, none of her top 20 have ever played in her town.

When the announcement comes that Brass Rat- a band who plays somewhere between folk and rock- is having a show in her town... Callie is shocked. Sure, Brass Rat might not be on even her top 20 (maybe her top 25, though), and she might prefer either straight rock, or straight folk... But it's definitely more than she expects to happen.

But sometimes, things aren't always what they seem... And you should be careful what you wish for. Strange as it might sound... it just might be time to pay the piper.
But what if they can't?

"And one thing I am certain I did not mention..." Gringas spoke calmly as the creature popped the screaming horse into its mouth whole, "is that the guardian is immune to magic."
Sighing, Alabas pulled two long knives from twin sheaths at the small of his back. "You did indeed leave out a few details, my lord."

As most of my friends know, I love retellings of fairy tales. I eat them up. Not quite literally.
So, when my mom gave me a stack of books, and I found out that one has to do with the Pied Piper, I knew I  had to read it. Even if it wasn't quite a retelling. (Not quite.)

So, I read it... And I really liked it!
The characters (particularly Gringas) were very interesting. I found Callie a bit flat, but she was still fairly fun to read about, anyway. Nicky was... Amazing. He acted just like a little brother, and Callie's annoyance at him was spot on.
I also thought the conflict about being the middle child was interesting, as well, if a little bit dramatized. (I know quite a few middle children... They do not seem scarred from life from their birth order.)

I have to say, also, the ending was amazing. At least the one about Gringas. The one with Callie was... a little forced, as was the bit before the ending, but the last few pages? Genius. I loved them. Well. I loved Gringas in general, which might not be good. Oh well.

Either way, I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone else who likes a good retelling of a fairy tale. I have another one of the "Rock 'N' Roll Fairy Tale" books on my book shelf, and thanks to this one, I'm definitely planning to read it.

"Unwind" by Neal Shusterman

"The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn't technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and survive."-goodreads

A while ago, I read "Full Tilt" by Neal Shusterman. Less long ago, I read his Skinjacker's Trilogy ("Everlost", "Everwild", and "Everfound"). In all of those books, Mr. Shusterman created a chilling and suspenseful tale that tended to highlight choices, the lack thereof, and terrifying worlds that you could never imagine being reality. Unwind is those things as more.

Horrifying. That is a predominant word I would use to describe Unwind. The (what one would consider dystopian) world that Unwind is that way. There are situations that the characters get into that are just gut-wrenching. It's bad. There's also a scene involving a character that you thought you hated, and up until that moment, you did-- but it's just the most emotional thing and it's scary, and the confused way it's written just amplifies that. Also, the story is written mostly from Connor, Lev, Risa, and Ci-Fy (love that name, by the way) point of view; but there are lots of others mixed in sometimes for a few parts and sometimes for only one. Each of them seem to see each other, their situation, and the whole world very differently and that was impressive and very useful to widen your opinion of each other characters. 

Apparently, there's a sequel to Unwind coming out called Unwholly (about 5 years later! It's scheduled for September 2012) and I look forward to more of this chilling story. Also, thank you KT for forcing me suggesting that I read this book; it WAS very good, you were right (and so were all the schools/associations that gave the book all the awards and such). :P

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"Possess" by Gretchen McNeil

August 23rd, 2011
"Fifteen-year-old Bridget Liu just wants to be left alone: by her mom, by the cute son of a local police sergeant, and by the eerie voices she can suddenly and inexplicably hear. Unfortunately for Bridget, it turns out the voices are demons – and Bridget has the rare ability to banish them back to whatever hell they came from.
Terrified to tell people about her new power, Bridget confides in a local priest who enlists her help in increasingly dangerous cases of demonic possession. But just as she is starting to come to terms with her new power, Bridget receives a startling message from one of the demons. Now Bridget must unlock the secret to the demons' plan before someone close to her winds up dead – or worse, the human vessel of a demon king."-goodreads

The genre that is paranormal YA is normally dominated by vampires, faeries, witches, angels, and ghosts, so Possess is a refreshing book. Its paranormal element is possessions by demons. As in people being possessed, and a lead character who goes to catholic school and has special exorcism talents. (That part sounded lame. But trust me-- Possess is anything other than lame!) 

Suffice to say, Possess is not your average paranormal book. But what else is awesome about it? Bridget is a really likeable and easy-to-relate-to character; not overly sarcastic or smart or anything, she just seems normal. She's an outcast at her catholic school as she's never been very popular or very good at making friends-- but that doesn't matter, she's okay with the friends she has. She has faced the tragedy of her father's death and will only find more as the book progresses, but the book was emotional without being overly heavy and Bridget wasn't a completely depressed character all the time. I'm a big fan of Matt, and Bridget's younger brother Sammy as well, he was cute.

Possess was a perfect combination of a good characters, quickly progressing and mysterious plot, extreme creepiness, and suspense. It was SO creepy. I read most of it late at night and that was kind of a mistake-- much jumping at every small noise ensued. I felt the voice held a lot of Bridget's personality for being in third person, with little quips of her sarcasm inserted after some situations; simple things like 'awesome' near the end of a scary situation, which occasionally added light and necessary humor. If you like creepy books and don't want your average paranormal book, I highly suggest you pick up Possess when it comes out; it's all kinds of awesome!

ARC received through review program at my awesome library. Thank you!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"The Lost Crown" by Sarah Miller

"Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia--like the fingers on a hand, Tatiana the tallest, Anastasia the smallest, Maria the one most desperate for a ring. These are the daughters of the Tsar, the daughters of the last royal Russian family. Acclaimed author Sarah Miller writes with lyricism, criticism and true compassion as she tracks this loving cluster of sisters from the decks of their yacht to the prison walls of their final home. What do abdication and revolution mean to these young women? Told through each of their voices in alternating chapters, we see their day-to-day lives, in many ways, remain the same; they dote on their dogs, flirt with the soldiers, and are followed constantly by guards. But their desires for the future have all but disappeared. As conditions worsen and the provisional government loses power to the Bolsheviks, the girls huddle together to make sense of what is happening. At the same time hopeful and hopeless, naÏve and wise, their voices become a chorus singing the final song of Imperial Russia."-goodreads

The Lost Crown was a fascinating novel. I love historical fiction, especially when it's about a period that I might not have known much about before going into the novel. I didn't know THAT much about Imperial Russia, so this book was very interesting and fresh for me.

The settings were ornate and as the points of view alternated things became different. An interesting point about this novel is that for every chapter the point of view is from a different one of the daughters. I found this really good, and switching up the perspectives did freshen the story a bit each time. The only qualm that I have with that is at times, especially near the beginning, the story switched character's narratives without really changing, but after a while and getting used to it I didn't feel that way at all. 

The way this story was done is just interesting, deciding to do it from the daughter's points of view and showing their side of the story. Sarah Miller seems to have done fantastic job capturing what they would've been like and must have done an impeccable amount of research to pull of this book. Overall, it was a fascinating historical YA with very unique insight on the inside of a period of history that you might not have known much about before. A great read! 

Thank you to Simon&Schuster for giving me the opportunity to review this book. Reader's Note: As always, my reviews are unbiased. Thanks! :)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

"Death Cloud" by Andrew Lane

"It is the summer of 1868, and Sherlock Holmes is fourteen. On break from boarding school, he is staying with eccentric strangers—his uncle and aunt—in their vast house in Hampshire. When two local people die from symptoms that resemble the plague, Holmes begins to investigate what really killed them, helped by his new tutor, an American named Amyus Crowe. So begins Sherlock’s true education in detection, as he discovers the dastardly crimes of a brilliantly sinister villain of exquisitely malign intent."-goodreads

Confession: I have not yet read the Sherlock Holmes tales completely. I've wanted to, but I haven't. Upon finishing this clever novel, my interest has been renewed-- I hope to do so soon! This novel, and Sherlock himself, were very good. If I had to compare it to something I'd say Alex Rider. (Getting himself into messes, playing the hero, all that.) Except, you know, it's 1868! Death Cloud is definitely a true mystery book; which I wouldn't say is something I've read a lot of in YA. Although I could probably call Uncommon Criminals a mystery!

I liked the setting of this book. The areas of England (and everywhere else Sherlock ends up, you'll see) that it takes place in are described really well, a clear picture was painted in my head. I liked Sherlock a lot, along with Matty, Virginia, and Mr. Crowe. A strength for the characters in this novel is that each of the side characters had a back story without it feeling like too much, like they were the main character all of a sudden, which seems to happen quite a bit if you know the other characters too well... Sherlock was really likable, and I think his biggest strength was that while clever, witty, and quick to react, he didn't seem perfect, and the whole mystery didn't seem completely easy for him to solve. 

The pace was slightly slow at times, and I noticed some inconsistencies sometimes... for example, I recall in one paragraph, I think it was Virginia, was sitting down, got up, and was fighting someone and then all of a sudden she was sitting next to Sherlock again; which I didn't really get. Other than those though, I can't really think of any problems! A very good book overall; it paints an awesome portrait of teenage Sherlock Holmes! I'd definitely recommend this as a pre-read to the complete Sherlock Holmes as if you haven't already read it, it will inspire you too; and surely a must for anyone who has enjoyed those stories. I'm very excited for the sequel coming this fall!