Saturday, September 24, 2011

"The Eleventh Plague" by Jeff Hirsch

“In the aftermath of a war, America’s landscape has been ravaged and two thirds of the population left dead from a vicious strain of influenza. Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn and his family were among the few that survived and became salvagers, roaming the country in search of material to trade for food and other items essential for survival. 
But when Stephen’s grandfather dies and his father falls into a coma after an accident, Stephen finds his way to Settler’s Landing, a community that seems too good to be true, where there are real houses, barbecues, a school, and even baseball games. Then Stephen meets strong, defiant, mischievous Jenny, who refuses to accept things as they are. And when they play a prank that goes horribly wrong, chaos erupts, and they find themselves in the midst of a battle that will change Settler’s Landing forever.”-goodreads

Hehehe. So, I had a misconception (I have no idea why I thought this, actually, look up there it even says influenza) that “The Eleventh Plague” was about zombies. As in, zombies being the eleventh plague. Yeah. It’s not, FYI. However, I went into the book expecting zombies and didn’t get them, but wasn’t disappointed. (Books don’t have to have zombies to be good for the record. It’s just a bonus.)  Instead of a zombie smashing book I found a book about life after “the Collapse” (which I assume is the collapse of humanity-- a culmination of wars with other countries and the plague, but that’s not explained specifically), a book about survival, and ultimately, for me: a book about hope and community, and its necessity even after a disaster. Even if the world is technically already ‘over’ if you will. Even though the book wasn’t overly emotional these were the impressions it gave me.

Stephen is a nomad at the beginning of the book; both in the moving around all the time literal sense of the word, and to me, emotionally. He’s only close to his grandfather (if you can call what we see of their relationship that) and his father, and he used to be close to his mother before she met her end. That’s the other thing: this book is kind of about loss. Overcoming loss and finding that hope and community. Throughout the book Stephen has to figure everything out. That’s probably why I liked him so much a main character-- he didn’t know everything, not even close. He had a ton of flaws. Sometimes flaws (kind of like I was talking about in my Anna and the French Kiss review) can make the book if they’re done right. This is one of those books, I think.

Additionally, there quite a bit of action and when necessary, creepiness. There was romance that I didn’t expect (I basically thought she was going to continue ignoring him completely) with a troubled girl who really identified with Stephen. The ending was great because it wasn’t completely picture perfect-- also, it left me wanting more without being a total cliffhanger and infuriating me. I believe there’s a sequel or companion novel coming though this novel could easily stand-alone, I look forward to more of the story!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Witchlanders" by Lena Coakley

“High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future.  It’s all a fake. At least, that’s what Ryder thinks. He doubts the witches really deserve their tithes—one quarter of all the crops his village can produce. And even if they can predict the future, what danger is there to foretell, now that his people’s old enemy, the Baen, has been defeated?  But when a terrifying new magic threatens both his village and the coven, Ryder must confront the beautiful and silent witch who holds all the secrets. Everything he’s ever believed about witches, the Baen, magic and about himself will change, when he discovers that the prophecies he’s always scorned— 
Are about him.” -goodreads

Hello there, epic like complicated fantasy novel, a variety of book I almost always seem to fall for. “Witchlanders” is fantasy, people. The fantastical world within is amazing; reminiscent of the worlds “Eragon“, ‘Narnia‘, or “The Lord of the Rings“, and I totally loved those. No one is flying dragons, there’s no talking lion, and there aren’t any hobbits to be found, but it’s the feeling. A whole different world, with magic and its varied abilities,  a broad sense of imagination where you never know what’s going to happen next-- what character will discover their magical ability or what new creature will appear. It makes you want to know more, more about what their magic is, what the singing is, what’s up with the witches shrinking coven, what is going on with Ryder and Farien? Main character Ryder is excellent too. I was kind of confused about Ryder; he’s a great main character and I really liked him but the cover has a girl (I presume his sister, Skyla, but not sure), and I don’t know I just expected the protagonist to be a girl for some reason. I’m entirely okay with it being Ryder though, he was really interesting, and determined.

An interesting thing I noticed throughout the book, is that some things, especially the characters, aren’t physically described much. At the beginning that actually annoyed me, but then as I read on, I unintentionally formed my own picture in my head and it was crystal clear. I don’t know if this was intentional on Lena Coakley’s part or not but it was brilliant and I’m guessing it was. The pace was good overall also, it did seem a bit slow at times but I think that happens in all fantasy books…

I’m also not sure if there’s going to be a sequel to this one or not, but I hope there is! It didn’t really seem like a stand-alone with the ending, but more importantly; I want more of the world in Witchlanders and Ryder’s adventures!
Thank you Simon&Schuster for the opportunity to review this book.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Jane Jones: Worst. Vampire. Ever." by Caissie St. Onge

For someone who had, prior to that week, never broken a school rule, I'd sure made up for it in two days. I'd become a one-woman crime wave! Okay, maybe just a one-girl minor-infraction machine. Still, I'd gotten pretty bold.

What do you think of when you hear "vampire"? Do you think, fabulous life style? Do you think, sexy undead creature who will never die? Do you think, Dracula?
You probably don't think, "Blood intolerant, flat chested, teenage girl from the Dust Bowl who is forced to live to eternity".
So, basically, you don't think of Jane Jones.

Jane's life is pretty wacked up. She's lived for years, moving around with her family, who just happen to also be vampires. Her brother is a genius, but forced to be a preteen forever. Her dad works long hours during the day (eesch), for minimal pay. Her mom wants to do her best for her daughter, but doesn't really know how, and Jane?
If Jane's life sounds weird as it is, what's the adjective when
1. Her favorite teacher starts acting strangely
2. She's accused of being bullimic
3. Two boys, one alive one vampire, fall for her simultaneously
4. She finds a "cure for vampirism"?

Something sharp hit me right between the eyes and before I knew what was happening, I was on the floor defending my life. When I finally got the better of my attacker, I stood up and discovered, to my horror, I 'd been fighting with a pair of antique skis and a long moth-eaten wool robe that had fallen on me from what I now saw was an overstuffed closet.

This was a pretty... interesting book. Unusually, I actually found it humorous, and I enjoyed it. I liked the fact that Jane wasn't fabulously beautiful or rich, but on the other hand, I also think that that card has been played a little two often in the past few years. This is definitely not "good literature" but I don't think I lost any brain cells from reading it. I'd recommend it only as a "I'm bored what can I read" sort of book, or when you've read a big heavy book and need some fluff to recover from it. Or, you know, if you love vampires of all forms and are just looking for another book to read.

Also, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who can't take any jabs at the myths of vampires, vampire slayers, or teenagers.

Friday, September 16, 2011

"Anna and the French Kiss" by Stephanie Perkins

“Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.  As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?”-goodreads

Wow. This book surprised me. You’ve probably noticed by reading my reviews, I don’t read contemporary that often. I mean, sure, I like a good Sarah Dessen novel, I really liked The Summer I Turned Pretty books, and Five Flavors of Dumb is one of my new favorite books, BUT I read a lot more science-fiction/paranormal/dystopia/mystery/horror stuff as compared to anything supposedly based in reality. I’m not sure if that’s because I like to read about things other than reality or because I think most so-called ‘realistic’ fiction seems so very unrealistic to me, or something else, but regardless, picking this up was REALLY out of the norm. I mean, read the title and description, look at the cover. Geez. Chick-lit-y central, yes? In fact, I really wouldn’t have picked up this book, but I’ve read so many good reviews about it and I kept seeing it at libraries and bookstores and such and thought, hey, I’ll give it a try. It’s just a book. Maybe I’ll dislike it… but so what, you can’t like everything!

While out of my regular-reading-zone, this book amazed me. I pretty much loved it. Of course, I adored European-American love interest St. Clair, and I really liked Anna’s spunky sarcasm and intelligence, but that’s not all (I’m going to try to never say ‘that’s not all’ again because reading that in my head, it sounds like an infomercial). The flaws. If this book was anywhere near perfect, though nothing is, it was because of the character’s flaws. I realize that makes no sense. But it’s because everything wasn’t perfect. Anna and St. Clair didn’t immediately fall for each other. This book was not just completely about their puppy-love. This was not a simple scenario of, ‘girl goes to study abroad, finds perfect boyfriend, lives happily ever after, lalalalalala’. They had their problems and obstacles. There were other characters with the same. Their families were completely dysfunctional at best. I liked that a lot. Most importantly about Anna&St. Clair, first and even in the end I think, they weren’t just boyfriend/girlfriend. They were best friends. Also, the setting: amazing. Paris. So descriptive in a way that didn’t bore me at all, but I really got the feel of it. Additionally, I’m on my second year of French so when a character said something in French, rather than waiting for them to explain it or figuring out what they were saying in the context, I understood it.That has nothing to do with the book itself but I thought it was cool!

So I guess the moral of this story review, is that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover/description/concept (even if they're a total cheese-fest) or assume you won’t like it, heck, you shouldn’t judge that way in most areas of life-- gosh knows, you’ll probably be wrong, like me. :P

Monday, September 12, 2011

"The Wizard, the Witch, and Two Girls from Jersey" by Lisa Papademetriou

They had disappeared. All that was left was the copy of Queen of Twilight and two smoking coals.
The clerk stared for a minute, then did the only reasonable thing he could think of. He pressed a button on the intercom.
"We need a cleanup in the checkout aisle," he said.

What would you do if you were transported into a fantasy book with someone you were completely different from?
That's the situation that Heather and Veronica, two teenage girls, find themselves in when they both reach for the same copy of the school's assigned reading... The Queen of Twilight.
Suddenly, they're transported into a magical world.
And let's just say their journey doesn't start out so well.

After accidentally killing the heroine of the book, they're left in a pickle. Only one person can get them out of the book, and back home... But he doesn't get his powers back until the end of the (Real) book... And who knows how that's going to work now that the plot has already changed?
The only way to get out?

To play along to the end.
But as they try to battle the evil Queen of Twilight and her sisters, the Duchess of Breakable Objects and the Countess of Uncomfortable Humidity, they might find out that appearences can decieve...

"My, you dwarves have such cultured phrases," Chanttergee told Veronica s he listened to her, wide-eyed. "Would you teach Chattergee some of your foreign tongue?"
At that, Veronica unleashed some of her most creative and colorful expletives, which caused the squirrel to gasp in admiration and burst into applause.

DO read this book if you enjoy silliness.
DON'T read this book if you take your fantasy novels seriously.
DO read this book if you enjoy a quick read.
DON'T read this book if you get offended by people making fun of teenagers.
Because all of these things feature quite strongly in the book.

I, for one, rather enjoyed this book. Sure, sometimes both of the girls got on my nerves. Sure, it sort of annoyed me about the jabs at D&D being a "geek" game (even though it is).
But all in all?
It was really entertaining, and a fast read.
Everything that YA books dream of becoming...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

"City of Orphans" by Avi

"The streets of 1893 New York are full of life: crowded, filthy, dangerous. If you are a newsboy like thirteen-year- old Maks Geless, you need to watch out for Bruno, leader of the Plug Ugly Gang whose shadowy, sinister boss is plotting to take control of all the newsies on the lower East Side. With Bruno’s boys in fierce pursuit, Maks discovers Willa, a strange girl who lives alone in an alley. It is she, stick in hand, who fights off the Plug Uglies--but further dangers await. Maks must find a way to free his sister Emma from The Tombs, the city jail where she has been imprisoned for stealing a watch at the glamorous new Waldorf Hotel. Maks, believing her innocent, has only four days to prove it. Fortunately, there is Bartleby Donck, the eccentric lawyer (among other employments) to guide Maks and Willa in the art of detection. Against a backdrop alive with the sights and sounds of tenement New York, Maks, as boy detective, must confront a teeming world of wealth and crime, while struggling against powerful forces threatening new immigrants and the fabric of family love."-goodreads

I haven't read a really good middle-grade in quite a while (aside that I'm currently re-reading "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" at a snail like pace to go along with Pottermore). I don't read middle-grade very often, but when I do I usually enjoy it (well, actually, specifically, I've said it before and I'll say it again: I enjoy any kind of book, as long is it's good, to me. That's the obvious requirement, and that's all.) "City of Orphans" fulfilled the good book requirement as well as the 'good middle-grade since I haven't read one in a while' requirement.

I really liked Maks, the main character. Throughout the novel, he deals with a whole lot of problems amicably but realistically. He experienced set backs and not everything went as planned, and that seems to happen too much especially in middle-grade. It wasn't a complete fairy tale. Willa was pretty epic too, tough girl who's also sensitive (which has been done a million times, but still). While I thought the characters were likable, I 
didn't necessarily think they had as much depth as I would have liked... 

The overall plot was good, well paced, a mystery that kept you reading to find out who the crook was, and when I did find out I was pretty sad for -insert character here-. I also liked that between the writing and the few illustrations scattered through out I felt the book come to life-- which is really important for the middle grade genre, I think (but any genre for the most part!)! The voice is quite important too and I thought that was also great. The bottom line: A great historical, stand-alone, middle-grade novel!

Thank you Simon&Schuster for the opportunity to review this book, readers, as usual it in no way affected my opinion!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"The Fox Inheritance" (Jenna Fox Chronicles, #2) by Mary E. Pearson

*As usual with sequel/companion novel reviews, this could include minor spoilers. You are warned.*

I didn’t know what to expect AT ALL when I picked up “The Fox Inheritance” especially since I thought “The Adoration of Jenna Fox” was a stand-alone (and, I’m not sure, but I think that might’ve been the original plan? It’s been a few years…), but I know I couldn’t have expected the perspective change or that Jenna wasn’t even personally in the beginning of the book! I’m not saying this as a bad thing, though. It was just really different. Immensely different.

The only thing I felt in common between “The Adoration of Jenna Fox” and “The Fox Inheritance” were the same sense, especially in the beginning, of not knowing. The seeking, the discovery of what you are and the journey between being reborn (if that’s the right word) and being who you are or returning to who you were, to a point.

I’m not saying I didn’t like it at all, I’m just saying it was really different. It was good! I did like the first one better, but it’s that way with a lot of sequels, and the first one was amazing, very hard to beat. I liked the characters, discovering more of who Kara and Locke were before the accident, and who they are in this book throughout the adventure. The ending and the events leading up to the ending are shocking, and I could hardly stop turning pages until the end (unless I absolutely HAD to.)! I’ll also be really interested to see if there’s a third Jenna Fox novel coming.

Also, I did NOT get this book for review, HOWEVER I would like to thank Tara from Fiction Folio for loaning me her ARC to read before the release-- I was really excited about this one!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

"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.”-goodreads

Fun fact: When I started this book, I thought there were also mermaids involved. I guess it’s because I looked at the cover oddly or something… I mean, it kind of looks like that doesn’t it? The dress? The translucent looking girl (now that I get that she’s a ghost that makes a lot more sense) looking out over the water? Yeah. Well, anyway, I think I enjoyed it a lot more because it’s about ghosts because I’ve never been too big of a fan of mermaids but ghost stories are always creepy fascinating, so yay for that.

Hereafter brought the creepiness and the paranormal element, though not too heavily. At times it was super-creepy and then other times it wasn’t really creepy at all which is peculiar seeing as you’re reading the whole thing from the perspective of a ghost-girl. The mystery element was good, trying to solve the case of who Amelia was and why she died, and then the TRUE reason she died was even more complicated and twisted. I liked Amelia, sometimes for reasons I couldn’t point out considering her logic was rather flawed at times. Joshua was great too-- I mean, I had a hard time believing he’d be so okay with having a ghost-girlfriend but that’s the case of fiction, the characters role with it.

Overall, I really liked the feeling of this book, and appreciated the creepy level. I do have a complaint though. It seemed, at times, that the story was dragging. It didn’t seem slow, but it seemed like things could’ve been happening faster and by the end of the book it still felt like more should’ve happened. I look forward to the sequel and finding out more about Eli, and discovering more about that world.