Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Ashes" by Ilsa J. Bick

"It could happen tomorrow . . .
An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.
Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.
For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human."-goodreads

Ashes is one of the best zombie books I’ve read, up there with The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Zombie Survival Guide, as well as one of the best post-apocalyptic books I’ve read (and probably one of the more ’realistic’ as well). But Ashes is so much more than that. As I was reading it I thought of it as one of those dolls that opens up and there’s another doll and another doll and another doll and another doll. Every page, there were more complicated (but awesome) things going on. Incredibly fast-paced, sometimes things happened so fast that I didn’t understand them right away-- but I don’t think Alex the protagonist did either, so that just enhanced it. Ashes bled fear, anxiety, tension, action, gruesomeness, creepy, scary, psychological stuff, and shock throughout the whole book. It was incredible! Also, it’s perfect for reading any time but I think I picked a fabulous time to read it, right around Halloween.

Alex is an epic heroine for the story. She’s a strong female character that doesn’t let herself totally give up for any reason, even when falling for a guy. She took charge and survived after the EMP, and helped others along the way. Granted, she also received help from several people, including Tom, the mysterious guy they meet along the way, however it wasn’t a *total* damsel-in-distress moment. Alex showed raw emotion throughout the book without being wimpy or anything like that. Tom was pretty cool too, when we got to meet him, and Ellie as well. Characters in this book (and a lot of similar books to these) are integral to me, I think, because you don’t typically see as many characters as often while they’re fighting their way through the EMP ravaged world.

An original thing that I liked about Ashes is that, while some post-apocalyptic (or dystopian) books avoid the actual disaster, experiencing it or explaining it, it started out from the beginning right before and the reader gets to see the whole thing unfold. I think a lot of the time it’s avoided because sometimes it’s hard to convince the reader and have them be like, ‘yeah, this could actually happen. The world really could end this way.’ and even I’m like that sometimes but Ashes convinced me. I’ll be thinking about the horrifyingly realistic (and horrifying in general) world from the book for a long time.
The bottom line: if you’re looking for an epic book, especially a scary post-apocalyptic zombie novel, Ashes is for you. I can’t wait for the next one! 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Paper Towns" by John Green

"Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life–dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge–he follows. After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues–and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees of the girl he thought he knew."-goodreads

"The town was paper, but the memories were not."
In this edition of 'Sometimes Cat likes Contemporary', she falls hard for a book called "Paper Towns" by John Green. Not remarkable on the surface. The cover has a thumbtack on it and thumb tacks are cool but thumbtacks don't say, 'HEYTHISBOOKTHISBOOKTHISBOOKIT'SAMAZING'. The quote above about towns that are paper, or paper towns, that's amazing, right? It's good. It's SO good. This book. Too good. Written beautifully, oh so magnificently so. SO MANY quotable things in "Paper Towns" too. I figured it would be good, because of a few reasons: everyone seems to love John Green and his epic-nerdness and what isn't to love about epic nerd-ness? Nothing. Also, the vlogbrothers videos are excellent and nerdy and cool, and DFTBA (Don't Forget to be Awesome) and stuff. But mainly, last year my friend KT was talking about this book and was like, 'YOUNEEDTOREADTHISBOOK' and I was kind of like, 'yeah, I should do that sometime!' but mostly it left my mind. I was re-interested in reading it because of all the talk about "The Fault in Our Stars", Green's upcoming novel, and borrowed it from her and oooh I loved it. 

First, I loved the characters. I loved Quentin and his weirdness and his tendency to be timid and how he thought Margo was so awesome in the true sense of the word awesome. I liked his friends and how he had real life teenage friend relationships and how sometimes you have weird friends and that's okay and when it comes down to it your friends are there for you and you'd die for them and them you, probably. I liked Margo Roth Spiegalman and her epic-ness and how she has the name Margo Roth Spiegalman and how her full name in its Margo Roth Spiegalman glory is used casually in the book just because she's Margo Roth Spiegalman. I appreciated her clever escapades and her willfulness to live by her own agenda and taking charge. I liked that she roped Quentin into her master plan and as that's going you begin to see her vulnerability and the true Margo Roth Spiegalman and not just the idea that Quentin and everyone else has of Margo Roth Spiegalman. I also like that I just used her name like 6 times and I'm okay with that. I like that this book has such a crisp and unique oh-so-very realistic and clever voice and it's addictive. I like that this book is forcing me to write a review where I break all kinds of grammatical rules because it's inappropriate that I just used the word 'and' so many times but I don't mind because that's the way I feel about this book.

What I'm saying is, "Paper Towns" broke some rules for me, but that was great and it was great otherwise as well. It made me use "and" so many times in this review that it should be illegal. It made me be in awe of a character with a name like Margo Roth Spiegalman and it was awesome. It had nerd-ness and fabulous adjectives. There was an epic road trip (two, if you count the first adventure), and it wasn't even that cliche even thought it should've been. It introduced me to the concept of paper towns in more ways than one, and a fabulous little place in New York called Agloe and its overwhelming population count of one.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"This Dark Endeavor (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein)" by Kenneth Oppell

"Victor and Konrad are the twin brothers Frankenstein. They are nearly inseparable. Growing up, their lives are filled with imaginary adventures...until the day their adventures turn all too real.
They stumble upon The Dark Library, and secret books of alchemy and ancient remedies are discovered. Father forbids that they ever enter the room again, but this only piques Victor's curiosity more. When Konrad falls gravely ill, Victor is not satisfied with the various doctors his parents have called in to help. He is drawn back to The Dark Library where he uncovers an ancient formula for the Elixir of Life. With their friend Elizabeth, Henry and Victor immediately set out to find assistance from a man who was once known for his alchemical works to help create the formula.
Determination and the unthinkable outcome of losing his brother spur Victor on in the quest for the three ingredients that will save Konrad's life. After scaling the highest trees in the Strumwald, diving into the deepest lake caves, and sacrificing one’s own body part, the three fearless friends risk their lives to save another."-goodreads

Okay, if any of you ever saw my review of "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley, you know that I liked it, but also was maybe a little bit underwhelmed after my expectations from the Hollywood portrayal of the Frankenstein monster (yes I realize this is absolutely *blasphemous*). I'm actually re-reading it right now, and appreciating it a lot more. (Give me a break, it was one of the first Gothic 19th century novels I'd read, and it was a lot to take in!). 

I wasn't at all sure what to expect from this book but I loved it! It was so good. The portrayal of young Victor Frankenstein to show the childhood that isn't talked about in Frankenstein was epic. It showed us some of the events that could've lead to the famous Dr. Frankenstein and his *slightly* twisted ways. From reading Frankenstein, I could totally believe that this is what his adolescence would've been like; the culmination of 'teenage-angst', bitterness, and tragedy to warp his future. Victor's character was well developed and the voice of the novel was great. The tension between Victor and Elizabeth (and the different kind between Victor and Konrad) was remarkable.  It did move a bit slow for me at times but so did "Frankenstein", and many other books that I end up liking. The mystery and misadventures were daring and cool to read of, and it was interesting to draw parallels to what occurs in the original novel in Victor's adult life. Also, one might think that "This Dark Endeavor" would be cliche or cheese-y, another one of those unoriginal 'teenage monster' stories but it was much more.

I also looked up the book because I wanted to know if there would be a sequel, which I would be very interested in if that's possible or maybe it would be too much, but anyway I saw that it's going to be made into a movie which would be amazing because I could totally see this book as a movie-- super creepy. Also, for the bottom line of random notes, look at the cover!! So eerie and dark, absolutely perfect for the book! 
Thank you to Simon&Schuster for giving me the opportunity to review this book. Reader's Note: As usual, this in no way swayed my opinion.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

In which I meet Moira Young and Becca Fitzpatrick

So, you guys know how much I liked "Blood Red Road" by Moira Young, right? Well, my friend Elena, who also picked up the book (Yay for YA love.) found out that she (and "Hush, Hush" author Becca Fitzpatrick) was coming on tour to IL (another place besides where we went, too, and one coming up still) and told me a few days ago. It was a, 'I'm going to this and you should come.', kind of thing, and I didn't think I'd be able to, but I did!

Elena and I and our books.
Also apparently I'm not looking at the camera.
It was fun! (Unsurprisingly!) I'm really glad Elena let me know about the event-- I had no idea. Becca Fitzpatrick gave this really interesting/funny talk about how she came to write "Hush, Hush" and became a writer and such. Moira Young also gave a very interesting talk and read from "Blood Red Road" which was excellent and she read from an epic scene of the book (seriously, epic.)

*If I had been thinking, I would've taken photos of the authors talking, and then I would've posted them right here. Obviously I wasn't.*

Then they let people ask questions and some people asked what I thought were really good questions. And, I think it was after someone asked about movies to books or something, Moira Young mentioned that "Blood Red Road" had been optioned for film and Ridley Scott is going to be directing it! Elena and I didn't realize that had been announced and we were totally squee-ing (on the inside. Moira was still talking!). Becca Fitzpatrick also told a particularly funny story about a situation that she took from her life as a teenager and put in "Crescendo", regarding asking a boy to a dance, her friends, and a hot dog...
Standing in line to get books signed! Hm. That rhymes. Odd.

Then we got our books signed. I haven't read "Hush, Hush" and didn't have it but I bought it there, especially after hearing Becca talk I want to read it! We also took photos:
Me with Moira Young!

Me with Becca Fitzpatrick!
Why do I look so weird in this picture, anyway? I look fairly normal in the first one! :P
So, basically, it was a fun time. It was super nice to meet the authors, and they were also very nice!

If you want to attend a stop on Becca Fitzpatrick's tour for "Silence", there are three more stops for the US part of the tour and even more scheduled for the UK and Canada, check them out here. (You should go.)
The books! Also feathers. (Hush, Hush-- wings... fallen angel.. yep. And, Blood Red Road has Nero too!)

Monday, October 10, 2011

"The Son of Neptune" (Heroes of Olympus, #2) by Rick Riordan

No description. Why? Because I didn't like any of the descriptions: too long, too spoiler-y, or generally too much. Did I think I could do better for a little summary? Nope.
(This review will probably contain spoilers for the first book. You might want to read The Lost Hero review instead. YOU ARE WARNED.)

The Lost Hero was seriously awesome, and being the first book in a companion series to THE Percy Jackson series by THE Rick Riordan, I didn't expect any less. Obviously I had high expectations for the sequel, "The Son of Neptune" which I impatiently awaited and narrowly avoided totally forgetting about. It was even better than the first though! Really good. So why did I like it?

The characters, as with the last one, were great. This one was told through three perspectives (as with the last one), each offering their own personalities with depth and history. That's one of my favorite parts of the book, actually, there were a lot of flashbacks and back story to the new main characters (of the 7? You'll find out) Frank and Hazel, from different families and *cough*times*cough*. Then, I'm brought to another of my favorite parts of the book, and this isn't a spoiler because the first page opens with him, PERCY. Percy is back and we read a lot of the book (I'd be inclined to say the majority of the book is from his perspective, but I'm not sure) with him. I think everyone's missed him since the end of 'his' series, or at least I have. He doesn't totally hijack the story though, it's still about the new heroes and it's also in third person rather than in the Percy Jackson books where it was ALL from his perspective in first person.

Besides characters, the settings were epic, as they are in the rest of Riordan's books. They cover a lot of ground in "The Son of Neptune", always moving. There's more mythology (duh.) as a lot of the book involves the Romans too as opposed to only the Greeks. The pace was quick too, the 520 pages passed lightning fast (get it? Lightning. Yeah...). The voices of the characters were fabulous, very different from each other which I was glad of, I can't stand it when I can't figure out who I'm reading as or forget.

I did have a few small disappointments, I wish we'd seen the characters we met in The Lost Hero; Leo, Piper, and Jason. I also wish that certain characters had been reunited (finish the book. You'll know what I'm talking about.) but I realize that's part of the cliffhanger thing. Overall though? I loved it and can't wait for the next book installment of The Heroes of Olympus.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"The Shattering" by Karen Healey

"Seventeen-year-old Keri likes to plan for every possibility. She knows what to do if you break an arm, or get caught in an earthquake or fire. But she wasn't prepared for her brother's suicide, and his death has left her shattered with grief. When her childhood friend Janna tells her it was murder, not suicide, Keri wants to believe her. After all, Janna's brother died under similar circumstances years ago, and Janna insists a visiting tourist, Sione, who also lost a brother to apparent suicide that year, has helped her find some answers.
As the three dig deeper, disturbing facts begin to pile up: one boy killed every year; all older brothers; all had spent New Year's Eve in the idyllic town of Summerton. But when their search for the serial killer takes an unexpected turn, suspicion is cast on those they trust the most.
As secrets shatter around them, can they save the next victim? Or will they become victims themselves?"-goodreads

This book was weird. I don't mean that in a bad way-- I consider myself weird (hopefully in a good way), I think my friends are weird (definitely in a good way), and basically the rest of the world weird (in its own special way). It was really suspenseful, too. I think the multiple perspectives were smart, they made each of the characters shine just a little bit more and kept up the suspense. Why did multiple characters/perspectives keep up the suspense? Not each of the characters knew what the other one knew so it was a lot of back and forth. It was a mystery, a true mystery book, keeping me flipping pages for the 'who did it??!?" conclusion until the end. The ending shocked me. Let me rephrase that-- parts of the ending were how I *thought* it would end but other parts I didn't think would happen or hadn't even considered. That's always good, a shocking ending when it makes sense and if it's really a knock-you-off-your-feet kind of thing that's even better.

This book was a lot to think about; a lot to consider. I questioned how I would react, and if I would go about solving the mystery the same way. I love books that do that! I also appreciate when a book keeps you thinking about it or its ending and it sticks with you for a while, which it already has ('what?' you ask. 'You just posted the review, how would you know that!?' Actually I read it over a week ago, maybe two weeks, but I've been having trouble *actually* gathering my thoughts about it. And I've been busy.. ANYWAY...), and it will probably continue. It's also a stand-alone. I like when I can get the ACTUAL WHOLE STORY and it EVEN has the nerve to pack a punch. Not that I hate series, it's clear that I don't, but once in a while, seriously: STANDALONE BOOKS. 

I'd recommend "The Shattering" to someone looking for a dark, stand-alone, mystery book packed with suspense with an ending that will shock you.
Thank you Little Brown for the opportunity to review this book. As usual, that didn't alter my opinion!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

"The Julian Game" by Adele Griffin

"All new girl Raye Archer wants is a way into the in crowd, so when ice-queen Ella Parker picks her to get back at her ex, the gorgeous Julian Kilgarry, Raye is more than game. Even if it means creating a fake Facebook identity so she can learn enough about Julian to sabotage him. It's a fun and dangerous thrill at first, but Raye hadn't counted on falling for Julian herself-and igniting Ella's rage."-goodreads (actually this is only 1/3 of the GR description, but it's the most necessary part AND the second part is *almost* spoiler-ish!)

I have been eager to pick up another one of Adele Griffin's *many* novels since reading "Tighter" (which was pretty amazing!). I'd heard good things about this one. Again, I really loved Adele's addictive, fast-paced, keeps-you-reading writing. It was another fairly short book at 200 pages and if it weren't for the necessity to get up early the next day I would've probably stayed up reading it all the way through like I did with Tighter. While a different sort of book entirely, I had the same 'what's going to happen next!?! This could go terribly wrong!! I must find out the end!!' thoughts while reading it. Even though "The Julian Game" is contemporary I had that scary movie suspense (don't open that closet! don't answer the door! NOOO) feeling throughout as well. 

I admit, I didn't like this one as much as Tighter. I think it was a good book and an important book because it's about things that can happen to anyone that uses the internet unwisely *cough*creatingafakepersontomanipulatesomeonenamedJulian*cough* (that's what happens in the book, anyway) and also backlash via the internet. Cyber-bullying. It's a serious problem. Even if Raye didn't necessarily make a good decision when staging the act of 'Elizabeth' to fool one of her peers, the backlash was worse. Those things happen all the time, sometimes it's on the news; kids have committed suicide because of cyber-bullying and its emotional impact just as with bullying at school or anywhere else-- it's a very real thing, is all. I never actually liked any of the characters especially because of their decision which often had me frustrated, but I didn't hate any of them either-- it was more of indifference.
Overall, I didn't love "The Julian Game" as much as I'd hoped, but I did adore the writing and thought the length was perfect.