Sunday, December 19, 2010

Harper Connelly Books 2-4

Grave Surprise
by Charlaine Harris

While providing a demonstration for a professor and his class, Harper runs across the grave of a girl she had searched for years before and had not found.  What follows is a dangerous journey to find the killer and figure out why that killer lured Harper to that grave.

Ice Cold Grave
by Charlaine Harris

For the past few years, boys have been mysteriously disappearing.  Initially shrugged off as having run away, the new sheriff thinks something more sinister is going on and calls on Harper Connelly and her special "talent" to find the truth.  What Harper finds is a mass grave filled with the remains of tortured boys.  She also finds out that the killer is not too happy to have had his burial ground found, and now he wants Harper dead.

Grave Secret
by Charlaine Harris

Brought in to simply tell a family whether or not the now-dead patriarch was murdered, Harper comes across the body of assistant who had died around the same time and makes a pronouncement: the girl had died in childbirth and not appendicitis.  Now the family of that patriarch needs to find the child and discover if she is the heir to a fortune, or just the daughter of some random guy.  During her search, she also finds clues to solve the crime of her sister's disappearance eight years before.  But can Harper figure out all the clues before it's too late?

Final thoughts:  The first two books in this series were pretty good.  They had a mystery, drama, and a pinch of the supernatural.  However, the third book (Ice Cold Grave) was when Charlaine Harris seemed to get writer's Tourette's.  Where the first books had been tame enough to recommend to older teens, this third book suddenly became curse central with f-bombs dropped left and right.  Harris also seems to find it necessary to go into great detail about the torture and rape of the dead boys.  Finally, she decided to drop in a semi-incestuous, and very graphically described sexual relationship between Harper and her stepbrother.  The last book felt like Harris was giving up the series (possibly after complaints about the third book) and just wanted to tie up the loose ends.  It was a hasty, messy way to conclude Harper's story and the last few pages were a throwaway to give some closure.

Rating: 3/5 for the series as a whole.  Grave Surprise: 4/5.  Ice Cold Grave: 2/5.  Grave Secret: 3/5

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Grave Sight

Grave Sight
by Charlaine Harris

Harper Connelly makes a living finding bodies and figuring out how they died, but she's not a cop.  When she was young, she was struck by lightning, which gave her the ability to sense the dead.

Yup.  That's right.  She can sense the dead.  They buzz in her brain until she's right over them and then she sees their last moments.

Cemeteries can give her a peaceful buzz or a major headache.  The more recent the death, the louder the noise.  The more violent the death, the scarier the picture.

And while she can see a murder victim's final moments, she can never see the killer.  But that's ok with her.  She doesn't want to solve cases (except for that of her younger sister's disappearance and probable murder); she just wants to find the body, declare the cause of death, get paid, and get out of town.

Unfortunately, while the residents of Sarne need her services, she's very unwelcome while she's there.  And when she finds the body of a dead teenage girl whose mother is murdered soon after the discovery, she now becomes a key person in an investigation where no one wants her around, and someone really seems to want her dead.

With the help of her friend/coworker/stepbrother, can Harper solve a town's mystery when the town doesn't want her around?

Final thoughts:  Nice change of pace from the Sookie Stackhouse novels.  This book is aimed more at older readers (think college and beyond), so it's off my normal YA review path, but it's still decently written.  Now that the basic premise has been set, I'm sure the next books in the series will have less exposition and more plot.  Decent read all around.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, December 10, 2010

Matched

Matched
by Ally Condie

In the Oria Province, everything is planned.  The moment you are born, you are tracked.  From your first day on Earth to the day you die, your life is mapped out for you.

The Officials track everything you do and plan your day for you.  They send food trays to each person at mealtimes with the exact amount of nutrition necessary and then check the trays when you dispose them to make sure you ate everything.  They watch your sleep and follow you on outings.  They build a physical and psychological profile of you to help them predict your attractions, friendships, and reactions to events.  They know what you're going to do before you do.

Nothing you do is truly private. 

Nothing.

Cassia has always believed in the system.  She was raised with it and has always been a good follower.  On the day of her Match to her future mate, she is eager, happy, and proud.

And when the screen that is supposed to show the image of her Match in another province stays blank, leading to the realization that she's been matched to her best friend, Xander, things couldn't be more perfect.  She gets to marry the one person who knows her better than any other and she gets to continue living in the same province as her family.

But when she goes to view Xander's profile on the microcard, another face appears.  It's the face of another boy she's known most of her life and now Cassia faces the difficult choice: to follow the rules and stay with her Match, or follow her heart and be with Ky.

She has to choose carefully because every misstep is punished and the Officials have no tolerance for changes in the plan.

Final thoughts:  I love this book!  BUT!  I think the dystopian novel is taking over vampire novels as the next "big thing", and I worry that the market will get flooded with bad copies.  Not as violent as The Hunger Games series (Cassia is more of a thinker than a doer, unlike Katniss), the stakes are just as high.  Everything Cassia does affects everyone around her.  Of course, my big pet peeve with this is that it appears to be a trilogy.  I hadn't realized that when I started and now have to wait for the next book to continue the story.  Can no one write one, solid novel anymore?

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
(movie review)

I don't usually review movies anywhere, but as this is the most highly anticipated movie of the season on so many levels AND it's based on the final book of a hugely popular series; it just screamed for a review.

I won't say much about this, but I do think it's definitely one of the best in the movie franchise.  It hits all the right notes when dealing with the fact that Harry, Ron, and Hermione, for the first time ever, are really, truly alone.  There are no adults as back-up here.  They have no one to help them or give advice, and the one person they trusted throughout the rest of the series is not only gone, but they are finding out that he was too human in many ways.

It's an absorbing film that drags you in.  I'm glad I had re-read the series and the final book just before I saw the movie because it really helped me to understand what was going on and what was coming.  I had thought I knew where the break would be between the first and second parts, but I was wrong.  It went much farther than I thought, which means that there will be a LOT of fighting in long sequences in the final movie.  It should be very good.

One thing to mention: this is NOT a movie for kids.  Really.  Truly.  Not.

This movie is violent, crushingly sad at time, filled with deaths, and has long sequences where the wizards are on the run and just trying to figure out what they are going to do next.  The film opens with Snape and, within the first five minutes, a witch, who has been tortured, is bleeding, and is begging for mercy, is murdered and then eaten by a giant snake.  This is IN the book, but it's so much more disturbing on screen.

The one fault I find with this is that it's cramming in characters who had been ignored in previous films.  Mundungus Fletcher, who was in both the fifth and sixth novels, but had never previously been in the movies, was suddenly in this one because he is essential to a plot point.  Bill Weasley had been ignored since the fourth book, but he was suddenly here, being introduced and his scars explained in a couple of throwaway lines.  In a franchise that had otherwise been very well planned, these sudden corrections stood out.  I remember reading that Rowling had had to work hard to keep Dobby in the second movie, because the screenwriter and director wanted to cut him for time.  If they had succeeded, this film would not have.  I wish they'd been able to do the same for other characters who just popped up all of a sudden.

In the end, though, this is a great film, and well worth watching.  I can't wait to see the finale.  It should be completely amazing and awesome, especially if they DON'T succeed in transferring it to 3D.  Those 2D to 3D transfers have never worked in the past (see: The Last Airbender and Clash of the Titans), so ruining the last episode of the franchise on bad coloring and lighting because of horrid transfers would be a shame.

Can't wait until July 15, 2011!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Delayed

Busy re-reading all of the Harry Potter books in preparation for Part 1 of Deathly Hallows coming out this month.  Will be back with new books soon (currently on Book 4).



UPDATE: Halfway through the last book, so I've probably read everything in the first movie.  I haven't re-read the series since Deathly Hallows came out in 2007.  It's like finding an old friend on Facebook and remembering the good times, but also remembering why you stopped talking in the first place.

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Soul to Save and My Soul to Keep

My Soul to Save
by Rachel Vincent

While attending a concert with her hotter-than-average boyfriend, Kaylee is able to sneak backstage and watch the action from the wings.  What she didn't count on was watching the teen pop star die on stage in front of everyone.  

Even more confusing is that Kaylee never felt the need to scream.  She's a banshee and her fate is to scream the souls of the dead as they cross over.  So why didn't she scream when this pop princess died?

It turns out, someone's been making deals with devils and trading their souls for fame and fortune.  Now time is running out for the next teen sensation and Kaylee must find a way to get her soul back before the week is out or another soulless pop star will die.

Rating: 4/5



My Soul to Keep
by Rachel Vincent

Kaylee knows all about addiction.  After all, she's completely addicted to her boyfriend.  Every second she spends with him has been blissful up til now.  But things change when a dangerous substance, one that's only supposed to be available in the demon Netherworld, makes it into her reality, and it becomes the hottest "fix" in town.

Now Kaylee has to stop the supply before people literally go insane trying to get ahold of this "drug", and she has to do it quick, because people she knows are becoming affected, in ways she never imagined possible.

Rating: 4/5

Final thoughts on both:  Again, these are great YA supernatural urban lit books.  They're easy to read, fast-paced, and really get the reader sucked in.  The biggest negative is having to try to patiently wait for the next one.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Soul to Take

My Soul to Take 
by Rachel Vincent

Kaylee's not insane.  Really!  She isn't!  She just sometimes thinks she is.  And many of the people around her, including her aunt, uncle, and cousin, treat her like she may be.

Screaming bloody murder in the middle of a mall and not stopping until you're committed to a mental health hospital and drugged out of your mind will get you funny looks.

But she's not crazy.

What she IS is a bean sidhe, otherwise known as a banshee.  She knows when people near her are about to die and she's overcome by a fierce compulsion to scream when their time on this earth is up.  Her screams are a siren call to the souls of the dead, whether she wants them to be or not.

It's normally not a problem for her since death around a teenage girl is rare, but suddenly girls are dying all around her.  Each day she's faced with another compulsion to scream a young, pretty, teenage girl to her death.  But these girls weren't meant to die and now Kaylee, and her new, hot, understanding boyfriend, Nash, must figure out what's going on before the next victim dies, especially when that victim is someone Kaylee knows very well.

Final thoughts:  I have finally found something to tide me over until the next Chloe Neill Chicagoland Vampires novel!!  This series has been out a couple of years, but I'd never heard of it until reading about it on a fellow blogger's site (sorry I can't remember which one!!!).  Kaylee's voice is clear and fun to read.  Her relationship with Nash is sizzling, but not overly sexy.  And it's just good to finally read a supernatural YA lit book that doesn't feature vampires or werewolves (though it looks like Vincent does have a shapeshifter series that I'll have to look into, as well).  I would definitely recommend this one for teens and, if I was still  in the library, I'd buy multiple copies and pitch it like mad.

Rating: 4/5 (should be a 4.5 or 4.75)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird

Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird
by Vivian Vande Velde

Take a cup of fairy tales, add a tablespoon of irony, and a dash of snark and you get a whole new take on the stories of the Brothers Grimm.  These aren't just fractured; they are completely smashed and then rearranged in some strange mosaic that sometimes only vaguely resembles the original tale.

Take, for example, this line from the Beast of the original "Beauty and the Beast":

Beast was looking at the man skeptically.  "Your daughter's name is Beauty?" he asked.  "What kind of name is that?  What did you do, call her 'Hey, you,' until she grew up, and then, when she turned out to be good-looking, you finally settled on a name for her?  Or did you call her Beauty from the start, simply hoping for the best, trusting to chance that she wouldn't turn out to be a dog?"... "I suppose she's lucky you didn't call her Honesty," Beast said.  "That's a fine virtue, too.  Or Sweet Breath. Or Mathematical Ability."

Final thoughts:  This is an older book that's been around a while, but I'd never had a chance to read it.  I am a fan of retold tales and a few of these were hilarious.  Unfortunately, they aren't all great.  There was a definite inconsistency in the quality of the tales.  Some of them felt very well thought out, while others felt like throwaways designed to fill space.
Rating: 3/5

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gimme a Call

Gimme a Call
by Sarah Mlynowski

Imagine how much better your life would be if you could just go back in time and fix all the stupid mistakes you made in the past.  You could stop yourself from tripping in front of the cute guy you like or getting that horrible haircut.  Maybe you could even stop yourself from dating the person who broke your heart!

When Devorah (Devi, for short) drops her cell phone in the nasty, mold-filled fountain at the mall, the phone seems to stop working completely, until Devi realizes that the one number she can call is her own and the one person it rings to is herself... 3 1/2 years ago. 

Now Devi has a chance to change the past, once she can persuade her 14-year-old self that she's for real.
She can become a better student, avoid losing her friends, and avoid getting her heart broken by her boyfriend of almost four years... IF her past self can handle the stress.  

It's not easy to completely change who you are, especially when your future self keeps calling and screaming about all the changes.

And there are many.

Is changing the past worth taking the risk on the present?

Final thoughts:  This is a roller-coaster book.  It grabs and doesn't let go.  It's a super quick read and delves into everything from the time-space continuum to finding balance in life.  Definitely a book for anyone who's wondered "What if??"

Rating: 5/5

Saving Francesca

Saving Francesca
by Melina Marchetta

All her life, Francesca has had her mother to tell her what to do.  And, while she thought her mother was a pain who was smothering her and never allowing her to do what she wanted, she never imagined how awful not having her mother would be.

It's not that her mother has died; it's that she's sunk into a serious depression.

Happy, in-control, play-a-song-to-start-the-day-mom has become trapped in her own sadness, under the blankets of her own bed.

Now Francesca must help her father take over the household chores that her mother always did.  She must keep up her little brother's spirits so that he doesn't become to scared or sad.  She must find a way to deal with starting her new term at a very recently, now formerly, all-boys school.  She must figure out who her real friends are.  And she must figure out how to deal with leader of her section who seems to see right through her façade and right into her soul.

(That last one probably wouldn't be too hard to figure out on her own if it wasn't for the fact that he has a girlfriend already even though he keeps finding excuses to kiss Fran.)

Can Francesca become the girl her mother's always wanted her to be without her mother there to guide her?  And will that person ultimately be the person Francesca wants to be, too?

Final thoughts:  This is an excellent book to share with older children who are dealing with depression, either their own or someone else's.  Francesca's problems are real and realistically portrayed.  She goes through ups and downs like anyone else caught in the middle of this type of thing and she struggles to figure out who to blame for what's going on.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, October 22, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

Wow!  It feels like I just did this and only one book reviewed between!  Arrgg.  Of course, the fact that I've been in training sessions all-day, everyday for the past week, arriving home exhausted, and just vegging in front of the TV my have something to do with that.  Luckily, I have a few new books downloaded to my Kindle, so I'm hoping to get a little reading in soon.

Today's question:

"Where is your favorite place to read? Curled up on the sofa, in bed, in the garden?"
 
Personally, I'm a fan of the couch.  Mine is a recliner, but when I'm reading, I tend to not recline.  I must be curled.  Reading while sitting in a straight pose may be great for posture, but not for getting into a good book.  Maybe I just like hugging myself while lost in a book.  Hmm... 

Off to hop around and visit others!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Banned Books Week

I know that Banned Books Week was last month, but I LOVE this display, which was linked at my favorite Library Comic Strip, Unshelved!



Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jane

Jane
by April Lindner

In this modern retelling of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Jane Moore is a nineteen-year-old college student forced to drop out and seek a job as a nanny after her parents' death.  Her older sister and brother have taken the inheritance money and left her with almost nothing.

A plain Jane in every sense, Jane has never been one to pay attention to fads or celebrities, which makes her the perfect candidate to take over as the nanny to Maddy, child of rock superstar, Nico Rathburn.

Initially, her job is fairly easy.  Nico is out making the publicity rounds, preparing for his next big tour, so Jane's duties are fairly light.  She takes Maddy to and from preschool and keeps her busy the rest of the time.  When Maddy is away, Jane has time to wander the town and hone her painting skills.

One day, on the way to a horse ranch to paint, she is nearly run over by none other than Nico Rathburn, and so begins the retelling of the classic love story.

Final thoughts:  I'm mixed on this one.  I LOVE Jane Eyre and that may be the reason I'm so torn about this.  If I wasn't so familiar with the original material, I may have loved this book, too.  Unfortunately, the author also loves Jane Eyre and she works hard to incorporate as much of the original book as possible, including some of the original dialogue.  It's disconcerting to read when I have both books in my head.  Most of the story is successfully updated, but there are a few things that just didn't work in the update.  Instead of living with  a hated aunt and then spending much of her childhood at Lowood School, Jane instead has a mother who constantly tells her she's not pretty and always believes the abusive older brother.  Instead of told in one cohesive chronology, the author chooses to use flashbacks, which pull the reader out of the moment.  And, sadly, the relationship between Nico and Jane doesn't progress as well as that of Jane and Mr. Rochester.  She goes from confused to in love in just a few pages.  
And one final thought: the author seemed to feel the need to add a sexual element, including a bedroom scene.  It wasn't necessary and seemed like a forced element to try and modernize the story, rather than a natural progression of the relationship.

Rating: 3/5

Friday, October 15, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop


I did this once a couple of months ago, but hadn't done it again until now because I could never get enough time to hop around to the other blogs.

This week's question:

"When you read a book that you just can't get into, do you stick it out and keep reading or move to your next title?"

I usually try to stick it out for as long as possible.  There have been a couple of books that I've just completely given up on and others that I'd wished I had.  I hate quitting things, but sometimes it just has to be done.  I quit The Fetch because it was just annoying and I wish I'd quit Bleeding Violet because it was just all-around awful and The Red Necklace because it was a mess.

So now to hippity-hop to some other blogs...

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Julian Game

The Julian Game
by Adele Griffin

Raye is an outsider in a world of insiders and cliques.  A scholarship student at a well-respected, very expensive, all-girls school, Raye is a late enrollee and completely out of the loop.  Her one friend, Natalya, is an outsider by choice, and the only person Raye trusts.

One evening, the two of them create Elizabeth Lavenzck, a profile on a social networking site like Facebook or MySpace.  Their creation is an exchange student from Poland who is exotic, says all the right things, and goes to all the right places.  She's instantly popular and makes "friends" with whomever she invites.

It was just a bit of fun.  Neither girl meant any harm.

However, when Raye tries to get on the good side (as opposed to the ignored site) of popular girl Ella Parker, Elizabeth become something dangerous.

Ella gets Raye to set up a boy who did Ella wrong at a party.  She wants revenge against Julian and Elizabeth can get it for her.  But Raye feels guilty and lets Julian in on the scheme.  

Unfortunately, she also falls for Julian, so she becomes the bullseye on Ella's target.  And now that Ella has seen what damage the Internet can do, she's become an expert at using it against Raye.

What can Raye do when every attack is virtual and there's no way to take it down?

Final thoughts:  I got my Master's researching Cyberbullying, and it's also the hot topic of the hour, but reading this was hard.  It's so very well written that it gives me chills.  Luckily, Raye has people around her who love her and a good head on her shoulders, but this book could definitely have gone down a different path.  Having a young son, watching him already master getting around online, I know that his future academic career is going to be vastly different than mine.  I never had to fear a bad picture getting online or forums dedicated to tearing me down.  What kids have to face today is beyond scary.
This is the perfect book to show to those who think that cyberbullying is just a fact of life and it's just kids being kids.  It's kids being cruel in a way never done before.  This isn't a 2-second insult in front of a crowd that shames and embarrasses.  This is an online post that can NEVER be fully destroyed and will always be there to haunt the victim.  Griffin nails these fears, and it's all the scarier for it.

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Reality Check

Reality Check
by Jen Calonita

When Charlotte, aka "Charlie", is scouted by a producer for the new Fire and Ice Network for a reality show to rival The Hills and Jersey Shore, she and her friends immediately accept.  It's not every day that you get to do what you do every day and get paid $10k an episode for it.

However, it seems there are a few complications:
  1. It's "scripted reality".  All locations must be scouted, some scenes are staged, and even fights have to be re-shot when things go wrong with the equipment.
  2. Zac.  He's hot.  Charlie likes him.  And he doesn't want to be on the show.
  3. Brooke.  She's supposed to be Charlie's best friend, but fame goes to her head.
  4. The Producers.  They want more juicy fights and less boring talk about clothes and babysitting.
The dream of fame and fortune becomes a nightmare of epic proportions with fights, screaming, backstabbing, and the realization that once you're on TV, no one around you can be trusted. 

Can Charlie figure out a way to stop it all before all of her friendships (and her first possibly-serious boyfriend) are destroyed?

Final thoughts:  Slightly better than cotton candy in the sense that there is a serious message snuck in about how much of reality television is really "real".  Most of the stereotypes in YA fiction are here, but they're decently written.  This one's good for any girl who watches reality TV and dreams of being one of "them".

Rating: 4/5

Just a Geek

Just a Geek
by Wil Wheaton

Years ago there was a show about the future.  It was a future that had been dreamed up by one man and put together by a cast of thousands in five different versions of one-hour shows spanning decades in our television history.  The show that started it all was Star Trek.

One boy, Wil Wheaton, joined the second version of Star Trek, nicknamed TNG for The Next Generation, and he was supposed to represent the newest generation of Star Fleet hopefuls.  He played the son of the ship's doctor, and he just happened to be extremely smart and often knew the ship better than many of the adults around him.

Many viewers hated him and even created their own fan clubs dedicated to ripping his character apart.  Unfortunately, they often tore down the young actor at the same time.

For years, Wil Wheaton has fought to separate himself from that show and that character.  Just a Geek is a book about his own struggle to come to terms with his Star Trek past while embracing his future as a writer and geek.

Now he's become a well-respected actor and he runs his own site at WWdN: In Exile, which used to be known as Wil Wheaton dot net.  This is his personal autobiography derived from his many online posts, which he has occasionally edited and then commented on in this book.  

Find out the real truth about a child actor's struggle to succeed in the adult acting world while supporting a family and dodging the past.

Final thoughts:  I've been reading Wil Wheaton dot net, WWdN: In Exile, and @wilw on Twitter for a while now and have really enjoyed his insight into conventions, writing, acting, and life.  He's become the guy everyone wants to be buds with to hang out, swap stories, and just be a geek without fear of people staring at you like you're insane.  Many of the stories are ones that he's shared at conventions and, his recent shared creation, W00tstock.  If you're interested in a preview of his amazing writing, just search for him on YouTube and watch his performances at w00tstock and PAX.  Fans of ST:TNG should definitely read this.

Rating: 5/5

Monday, September 27, 2010

Firespell

Firespell
by Chloe Neill

All her life, Lily Parker has lived with her parents in a small town in New York.  When her parents get the opportunity of a lifetime to take a sabbatical to Germany for their research, they inexplicably send Lily to a very expensive boarding school in Chicago instead of taking her with them or leaving her with her best friend's family.

Now Lily has to learn how to live life on a tight schedule, in a building build like a maze, led by a hard-nosed matron, in a small school smack in the middle of Chi-town.  And she has to wear a uniform!  Ugh!

Of course, being a new junior in a school full of girls who've known each other for years is tough.  And figuring out the people to hang with is even tougher.

Goth girl with attitude or brat packers with fashion style?

Then there's that whole secret teen magic society determined to save others in the city from soul-draining sorcerers thing.  That's a little much to get used to in the first week.

Final thoughts:  I read this book on my Kindle in the hopes of staving off withdrawals from Neill's Chicagoland Vampires and Merit, the awesome vamp.  However, this book was SUCH a disappointment.  It's almost all exposition.  Even the little bit of action is just jammed in there to explain things.  There's not much plot here and the word-magic is missing.  I'm hoping the next book, due in January 2011, is better.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Twice Bitten

Twice Bitten
by Chloe Neill

The third book in the Chicagoland Vampire Series finds Merit finally reconciling her vampire self with her former human self and her personal life with her professional one.

Of course, that kind of thing is never easy and having to do it while shape-shifters gather in Chicago for a huge meeting makes it all the more difficult.

Cadogan House, of which Merit is the Sentinel, has been asked to help out with the event and keep order if things get hairy... literally.  It's the first time vamps have been involved in shifter politics and many of the shifters are not as welcoming as Merit would like.

Compound that with a dalliance with the Master of the House and a visit from that same Master's old flame, and things are just "peachy" for Merit, thank you very much.

What else can go wrong?  

Oh... yeah... The invitation for Merit to the super-secret Red Guard that wants her to join them.  They're kind of like the Internal Affairs department of the vamp world and joining them would mean turning against her House and her oh-so-sexy Master if things get ugly.

Should be a cinch!

Final thoughts:  Ok.  I've become an addict.  And waiting until May 2011 for the 4th book may very well drive me insane.  At least I've got the first book in her new series to keep me company while I wait.  As a happy bonus, this was the first book I read on my new Kindle and, except for the fact that bouncing back and forth to read the best parts is much more complicated, I'm liking it.

Rating: 5/5

Monday, September 20, 2010

Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation

Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation
by Matt Myklusch

For the last eleven years, Jack has been raised at St. Barnaby's Home for the Hopeless, Abandoned, Forgotten, and Lost ("Crushing the spirit of childhood since 1898").  He was found on the doorstep with the name "Jack" on the cradle and no last name.  So now Jack is Jack Blank, victim of bullies and evil teachers everywhere.
.
But Jack isn't a wimp and he's not one to let the daily grind of extra chores get him down.  On a day when the rest of the orphanage is going on a field trip to Mount Dismoor Maximum Security Prison, Jack chooses to hide out in the library with his secret stash of comic books.  Of course, he couldn't go on the field trip even if he wanted to (which he doesn't) because he seems to always make mechanical things stop working, so he's been banned from riding the bus.

Basically, Jack is trapped at the orphanage and is usually pretty bored.

All of that changes on this field trip day when a Robo-Zombie that Jack has only ever seen in his comic books appears and tries to kill him.  Soon after that, another man shows up and tells Jack that he doesn't belong at the orphanage and he is taking him to Imagine Nation, where all his comic book stories are true and almost anything can happen.

Unfortunately, instead of a happy reunion with people just like him, Jack is discovered to have been unknowingly harboring an enemy and now there are many who want him dead, including the Robo-Zombie.

Can Jack find out who and what he is before it's too late?

Final thoughts:  This is a fun read and a definite story for boys who love comic books.  The whole land of Imagine Nation is carefully crafted and easy to see in the mind's eye.  If you have boys around who need a little push to get reading "real books", this is just what you need.

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Friday Night Bites

Friday Night Bites
by Chloe Neill

Just two months after unwillingly becoming a vampire, Merit is moving into Cadogan House to live with her fellow vamps and be closer to the person she's supposed to guard: the deliciously gorgeous Master, Ethan Sullivan (a.k.a. Darth Sullivan).

There's definite chemistry between her and her boss, but there's also chemistry with the new head of Navarre House, Morgan.  So now Merit has a dangerous choice to make: date the boss or date the leader of the House that could be a real danger to the boss.  Of course, they're both gorgeous, so that doesn't help/hurt at all.

In addition, there's been some talk of "raves" taking place where vamps drink humans straight from the vein, and where not all humans make it out alive.  And a little bird has warned the vamps that a new human reporter is looking into the story and threatening to publish an exposé.  Definitely not good for vamp publicity.

Worse for Merit is the fact that she knows the upstart journalist, so now she has to go back into that world of the rich and privileged, a world she ran from years ago, and get them to trust her so that she can help Ethan stop the story.

And to top it all off, the vamp Merit almost staked to a dusty end was released and is out to get a little revenge.

Nah!  Being a vampire isn't hard at all...

Final thoughts: Quick, fun read.  Merit's snark and the reactions of those around her are so spot-on fun that people can't help but side with her and wish others would just lighten up a bit.  Great sequel to Some Girls Bite.  I'm so running out to get book 3.

Rating:  5/5

Friday, September 10, 2010

Among the Ghosts

Among the Ghosts 
by Amber Benson

Noleen's mother died minutes after she was born and her father is always gone on research missions, so Noh's never really had a regular childhood.  Now that she's about to start at New Newbridge Academy, she's going to have to use that unusual childhood for unusual things.

It seems that New Newbridge is filled with ghosts.  They are all over the place.  They've died from bees stings, horse-riding accidents, fires, chopped off fingers, and more.  And it turns out that Noh can see them.

It's as new and surprising to the ghosts as it is to Noh.  But just as she's making new friends, they are disappearing.

Can Noh solve the mystery before they all reach the light?

Final thoughts:  While I love Amber Benson the actress, I can't say much about the author.  The writing was choppy and often felt as if it was written as a stream-of-consciousness attempt.  There just wasn't a cohesive story that made any sense.  The ending hints that this is the start of a series, but if the writing doesn't improve, I don't see it going far.

Rating: 1/5

Thursday, September 9, 2010

One Night that Changes Everything

One Night that Changes Everything
by Lauren Barnholdt

It's the weekend and Eliza's parents are out of town, so what does Eliza do?  She spends all night following the instructions of the secret high school club that is holding her personal notebook of fears hostage until they feel she's punished for ratting out her ex and possibly preventing him from getting into a college he doesn't even want to attend.

Seriously.

Months after breaking it off with Cooper after finding out he dated her as part of an initiation into a secret high school prank group called the 318s, Eliza is forced to perform tasks reflecting the secret fears that she had been putting in her purple notebook since the seventh grade.

She now has to somehow complete the tasks before they post the notebook online and share her secrets with everyone.  And some of those secrets are better left unknown.

Final thoughts: This was a really good read about how fear can stop a person from doing things that could really be fun, while also showing how scary high schoolers and the Internet can be nowadays.  I loved Eliza's POV, but would have loved it more if she'd been able to see the obviousness of some of the things around her a little earlier in the narrative.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Distant Waves : A Novel of the Titanic

Distant Waves : A Novel of the Titanic
by Suzanne Weyn

Jane Taylor was never in what might be called a "normal" family.  Her mother is a professed medium whom many believe can contact the dead and let them speak through her.  Her older sister, Mimi, is an non-believer who can't be in the same room during séances because she's always rolling her eyes.  Her younger twin sisters have a strange bond in which one seems to have the predictions, but can't talk, and the other talks for both.  And her youngest sister just wants to get out of their crazy town and live the high life.

Of course, it's not really a normal time.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle writes about Sherlock Holmes and believes that all spiritualists are real.  Harry Houdini works to demonstrate that all spiritualists are frauds.  And Nikola Tesla is running around experimenting with electricity, vibrations, and time travel.

Unfortunately, all the spirits in the universe can't stop events from leading to one of the biggest maritime disasters in history.  And nothing can stop Jane and her sisters from being there to witness it all first-hand.

Final thoughts:  This is a poorly written piece of historical fiction.  The pacing keeps changing from slow to rushed to slow again and it often feels like a high school research paper gone horribly wrong.  Reading it is like witnessing Weyn's personal discoveries.  Ooh!  Tesla did this cool stuff, let's make him central.  Here's some interesting things about spiritualists of the day; I'll mix those in.  Houdini and Doyle would be great to have as cameos and it will prove I've done tons of research!  
Only read if you can read it for free.  (Though I will admit that the cover is hauntingly beautiful.)

Rating: 2/5

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Justin Fisher Declares War

Justin Fisher Declares War
by James Preller

In third grade, Justin slipped and fell in the cafetorium, dumping spaghetti all over himself.  At that moment, he knew he had a choice to make: be embarrassed and slink off to be laughed at OR turn it into a joke and make himself the class clown.
.
He's not wearing the costume, but two years later and he's still clowning around.  Or, at least he thinks he is.

After two years of constantly trying to top himself in the funny department, he's gone too far the other way and now he's become the jerk of the school.  And when his newest teacher refuses to put up with it, Justin declares war, even if the teacher doesn't know it yet.

Now Justin must figure out how to become the funniest clown on campus without losing the few friends he has left and getting suspended in the process.

Final thoughts:  It's a simple, quick read that's a good story, especially for kids who seem to have a problem understanding the difference between things that are funny and things that are hurtful.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Graveyard Book


The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman

Nobody Owens does not exist in the same world as everyone else.  He's in that in-between.  He's human, raised by ghosts in a graveyard and he can do many of the things that ghosts can do.

He can fade to invisibility, inspire fear, and walk dreams.

He can also get into trouble, have problems with his homework, get kidnapped by ghouls, and get rescued by werewolves.  So he's still just like any normal boy.

And he's in danger.

His parents were murdered because of him and their murderer is trying to find him to finish the job.

Final thoughts:  Starting out at the scene of a triple murder can be a jolting way to start a book that ended up being the Hugo Award and Newbery Award winner for 2009.  Bod's story is well-told and fascinating.  I find myself worried about him as he heads off into the world, but also sure that he will make the most out of life, especially since he's spent so much time around death.

Rating: 5/5

Mockingjay

Mockingjay
by Suzanne Collins

When Katniss and Peeta threatened to eat the poisonous berries at the end of the 74th Annual Hunger Games, thereby forcing the Capitol to hastily change its own rules, they unknowingly threw themselves and all of Panem into a revolution.

Now, less than a year later, and after the Quarter Quell, which forced Katniss, Peeta, and other victors to relive the Hunger Games in all its gory details, Katniss is the Mockingjay: the figurehead for the fight being led by District 13, which had been thought to have been completely obliterated 75 years before.

With Peeta captured, District 12 in ruins, and physical, mental, and emotional trauma, Katniss must somehow find her own strength and help lead the revolutionaries back to the Capitol for the final battle.

And no matter how many troops surround her or where she goes to hide, it's obvious that people are after her, her family, and everyone she cares about.  Can she save everyone she loves without dying in the process?

Final thoughts:  Wow.  Really... Wow.  For those who thought Stephenie Meyer had just too much of a happy ending where everyone's futures were rosy in Breaking Dawn, this book will satisfy.  The final book in the trilogy is not happy.  It's not a feel-good book.  This will NOT make you smile with satisfaction that everyone got what they deserved in the end.  While technically sci-fi, this is a completely realistic final chapter that will leave people in shock and awe that Collins would so brazenly do what she did.

Rating: 5/5

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