Monday, January 31, 2011

Hate List

Hate List
by Jennifer Brown

She didn't think it would go down like that.

She had no idea he would do it.

She'd only started the list because she needed a way to vent about being bullied and teased.

It wasn't supposed to become what it was.

It wasn't supposed to become a hit list.

It wasn't supposed to become his hit list.

Now, months later, Valerie is left to pick up the pieces of her life, even as many wish her dead.

After all, it was her list to begin with.

After all, he was her boyfriend.

She should have known.

She should have seen.

She should have stopped it.

At least that's what everyone thinks.

Including Valerie.

Final thoughts: Wow.  This one is an intense read.  It brings back memories of Columbine and other school shootings.  I was amazed to find myself not only sympathizing with Valerie, but in some ways empathizing with her, as well.  While I was tremendously lucky to have a few very good, sane friends in high school, I was often an outsider.  I never faced the daily ridicule that were constants for Valerie and Nick, but I saw it regularly as a teacher later in life.  I tried so hard to help those kids.  I hope I made a difference.  And I truly hope that others can read this book, see the victims around them, and step up to offer them hope.  This is a must read, especially for troubled high school students. 

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, January 30, 2011


by Cynthia Hand

At 14, Clara found out the family secret.  She's an angel.  Well... one-quarter angel on her mother's side.  She's stronger, faster, and just a little bit smarter than the humans who surround her.  She can speak any language.  She can communicate with animals (though birds seem to hate her).  And she's got wings.  Yup!  Honest to goodness wings!

At 16, Clara has her first vision, which reveals her "purpose".  It's her reason for existing.  And it has to do with a forest fire, silver truck, and a very, very cute boy.  Once the location of her vision is known, her family packs up and leaves California to head out to Wyoming so that she can save the boy in time.

At 17, things get very complicated.  She falls in love.  She wasn't supposed to.  She has a mission to complete and he may get in the way.

On top of all this is Clara's knowledge that she lacks knowledge.  She knows some stuff about being angel-born, but it never seems to be enough.  Her mom is keeping secrets from her and those secrets could ruin everything and get in the way of her purpose.

Final thoughts:  The last angel book I read was Hush, Hush, and I was not a huge fan, so diving into this book made me nervous.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  Clara is as real as she can be for a teenage angel and her struggles seem realistic given the circumstances.  I had a few problems with the romantic lead.  His transformation from semi-jerk to awesome guy seemed to skip a few needed moments in the book, but I liked the relationship overall.

Rating: 4/5

The Body Finder

The Body Finder
by Kimberly Derting

Violet Ambrose and her family have always known she was a bit "different".  Ever since she can remember, she's gotten a sense about the dead creatures around her.  Those that have died at the hands (or paws) of another, leave an "echo" behind.  That echo can attach itself to Violent by her senses.  Sometimes it's a bad odor, other times it's a song, and sometimes it can even be an aura.

When she was eight, while walking in the woods with her dad, Violet was inexplicably drawn to a mound of dirt by a sound, an echo, a voice that begged to be found.  Under the dirt was the body of a young girl.

Since then, her family has been very protective of her.  They've kept her from hospitals and cemeteries as much as possible to shield her from the echoes around her.

But Violet still senses them.  She's even got a little graveyard at her home for all of the dead animals she's found that were killed by predators.  Their echoes fade once they have a resting place, and Violet feels better knowing that they will no longer be alone in the woods.

Now Violet has other things to think about.  As she starts her junior year of high school, she faces a hard choice.  Her best friend who has known her forever and knows about her "talent" has also changed over the summer.  He's now hot, buff, and seems to be completely oblivious to the fact that Violet has suddenly developed feelings for him that go way beyond friendship.  Does she tell him?  Or does she keep the secret and try not to be jealous when he asks the most popular girl in school to go to the homecoming dance?

Things get even worse for Violet when she's out on the lake during the last summer party and she follows a visual echo to a dead teenage girl in the water.  Soon after, girls start to go missing and Violet's gift may be the only thing out there that can stop the killer.

Final thoughts: This is a great little YA supernatural book.  I downloaded it onto my Kindle because I have the ARC for the sequel sitting at my desk at work and I didn't want to read it without reading the first one.  I'm glad I did.  While there were some problems with the flow of the story (spending so much time on the possible romance that the murders get ignored for a while and then vice versa), the overall story is really good.  There are a few edge-of-your-seat moments and a couple of plot twists, but there are also a couple of obvious choices.  In the end, it's a solid supernatural murder mystery that should be added to anyone's "to-read" list.  I dare you to watch the trailer and not feel intrigued.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, January 28, 2011

Die for Me

Die for Me
by Amy Plum

After Kate's parents died in a horrific car accident, she and her sister move to Paris, France to live with her grandparents.  While her sister seems determined to ignore her grief by partying every night and flirting with every guys she sees, Kate disappears into her grief and barely leaves her room.

One day, while out in a local café trying to return to the real world, Kate spots Vincent.  He's gorgeous.  He's chivalrous.  And he's undead.

Turns out, if you die while trying to save others, there's a possibility that you can come back to life... in a way.  However, once you are brought back, you have an overwhelming urge to save everyone around you.  Of course, it turns out that if you die while betraying and killing someone, you can come back to kill even more.  So there's a war and now Kate's in the middle of it.

Can she open her heart to love and still survive... literally?

Final thoughts:  Checklist time!  Let's see if we can name all the ways this is Twilight for the zombie crew!
1) Girl who thinks she's only plain-looking meets gorgeous boy, compares him to characters from Greek mythology, and doubts he can ever love her the way she loves him.  All the while, said boy is completely in love and thinks she's the most beautiful person ever born, but is always afraid she'll run screaming from him because of what he is.  CHECK!
2) Immortals.  CHECK!
3) Good immortals vs. bad immortals!  It's really all a choice.  CHECK!
4) Supernatural powers to predict the future and manipulate emotions.  CHECK!
5) Girl in the supernatural group who is drawn to the new human chick and they become best friends instantly.  CHECK!
6) Father figure who leads the group and works to keep it from harm while making mad cash so everyone is rich.  CHECK!
7) When kissing boy, girl sometimes forgets to breathe.  Also loses train of thought when looking into his eyes.  CHECK!
8) Girl saved from certain death by Alice/Edward = Charlotte/Vincent.  CHECK!
9) Girl risks self to save family member and is saved by boy she loves.  CHECK!
10) Three days to convert to supernatural being, can't sleep, sometimes cold/dead looking.  CHECK!
11) Boy leaves girl alone to keep her safe/sane, but can't stay away.  CHECK! (though really from New Moon)
12) Girl somehow awesomely able to handle the truth and can even do things that most humans can't, which makes her a perfect addition to the group.  (Oh, yeah.  And almost everyone in the group loves her and would do anything for her.)  CHECK!
... and oh-so-many more similarities.  This could go on for days.

It's Twilight... but as zombies.  Good zombies.  We don't eat humans; we save them! zombies.  Messy. Confusing.  And an obvious knock-off complete with New Moon aspect.  There are two more planned in this knock-off trilogy by all appearances so I'm willing to bet other supernatural beings show up and there may even be a wedding and/or baby in the future for Kate.


Rating: 2/5

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Books and Movies

Maggie Stiefvater, author of Shiver, recently posted a blog asking people to stop sending her headshots and requesting casting information for the movie adaption of her novel.  You can read the whole thing here.

This leads to a few questions:
1) How much say should an author have in the casting of his/her own movie?
2) How much say should the potential audience have in the say of the casting of the movie adaption of their beloved book?

Personally, I think the problem stems from Stephenie Meyer and Twilight.  Yes, there had been plenty of converted books cast before and there had been plenty of speculation about casting choices.  I remember oh-so-long-ago when Daniel Radcliffe was cast as Harry Potter and the fans screamed both in support and anger.  But the real hard push by fans to have a say in casting came when Stephenie Meyer became a regular poster on her own website.  She posted actor headshots early on of people she thought were perfect for the roles.  She commented regularly on Catherine Hardwicke's casting choices.  When Kristen Stewart was cast, people were relatively happy.  But when Robert Pattinson was cast, the fans and fansites became incensed.  Flame wars erupted everywhere.  It was only when Stephenie herself stepped up and posted that she approved of the choice that people calmed down.  (Of course, I personally think that both actors were tremendously mis-cast since I love the books but HATE the actors' choices in their performances.)

Now, as more and more novels are being adapted (Shiver, The Hunger Games, the entire Twilight franchise, etc...) the fans seem to have an expectation that the authors are a part of the movie production.  While Meyer was very hands-on with Twilight and often posted about talking to the directors and the screenwriter, most authors sell the rights and lose control of their work.

So how much say should the original author have in the adapted work?  When does the author have to step back and let changes be made?  And who is the final decider of what works and what doesn't?

These things will bug me for days now.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


by Veronica Roth

In the future, the people are separated into five distinct and different factions.  Candor see the world in black and white and always tell the truth.  Erudite live to learn and prize information above all things.  Amity live to be happy and joyful.  Dauntless respect only the brave and love danger and fighting. Abnegation sacrifice everything for the good of all.

Beatrice has lived in the Abnegation faction her entire life, but she's never felt like she belongs.  She's not nearly as giving as her parents and her brother has always been kinder than she.  But now she's turning 16 and she has a choice to make.  She can choose to stay with Abnegation and spend her life living selflessly for others or she can become Dauntless and learn a more physically demanding life, but one that does not force you to give up comfort... or love.

As she struggles with figuring out who and what she is, she also finds herself having to fight against the world around her... a world that is not as ordered and orderly as it seems.

Final thoughts: I got this as an ARC from the ALA Midwinter Conference and I've got to say that I am sooo glad I didn't have to wait for this book!  While I've worried over the new trend in dystopian YA fiction, this one is totally worth checking out and possibly keeping by your side for always and ever.  I LOVE this book.  Beatrice (Tris) is such a real character.  She's full of conflicting feelings and emotions, but her real personality is always true and constant.  She's a cross between Katniss's badassness (The Hunger Games) and Cassia's honesty and love (Matched). The romance is awesome.  The story is strong.  The only bad thing is that it is the first of a trilogy, so now I have to wait for the next book.  Completely wonderful and fantastic.

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, January 15, 2011


by Amanda Hocking

With Wendy's wedding approaching and war on the horizon, she must now make preparations to keep her people from dying.  The choices she makes now will either guarantee the future of the Trylle or destroy them completely.

Final thoughts:  Ugh.  I am so disappointed by this book.  It was an absolute mess.  Hocking seems to have realized late in the game that she needed to resolve points from her first two books in this trilogy and she kind of just jams those resolutions in without any honest flow.  There's also a Bella Swan element here of Wendy constantly wanting to go out and save the day on her own and having the men who love her constantly tell her they won't lose her like that and "never do that again".  

Hocking also seems to have no idea about the realities of war and she even seems to forget the time period she's in.  A whole city has been attacked and Wendy first sends 10 people out to go help them.  Those 10 people come across the attackers in a forest and surprise them.  But if everyone is driving cars and cities aren't that far away, how come the attackers stopped at all and how did the 10 scouts (who are in cars driving on roads) just happen to come across them in the forest?  Later, Wendy herself goes out to the town, makes one round in the palace ballroom that's being used as a hospice, and then she goes out and cleans the town.  Yup.  She and the others clean.  No rescuing of anyone.  No burying.  Cleaning.

The romance part isn't handled well either.  Wendy has three guys in her life, but the person she seemed to want the most for the first two books is just kind of there in this one and she's suddenly deeply in love with someone else.  

Another similarity to Meyer's work is the seeming need for everyone to have a happy ending.  Breaking Dawn annoyed me because everyone ended up happy.  Ascend is similar.  All things work out for everyone good and nice.  Bad guys are no longer around and/or bad.  Blah blah blah.  I could go on and on for days about the problems in this book.

Hocking needs an editor desperately.  Her FAQ says that she writes each book in about three weeks.  It really shows in this one.  Writing a book and self-publishing it doesn't mean it's necessarily worth reading and this one isn't.

Rating: 2/5

Friday, January 14, 2011

Across the Universe

Across the Universe
by Beth Revis

She only agreed to go because she didn't want to leave her parents.

She didn't know how wrong everything would go.

No one did.

No one could.

And now she's been awakened early and she can't go back to sleep.  She can't sleep through the rest of the 300 year journey across space to the new planet.  She may be dead long before her parents ever wake up...

He's been brought up to be the future leader.
It's his job to keep the people on the ship safe as they travel.

But he didn't know the secrets that were being kept.

Almost no one did.

And now he needs to get the answers to his questions and find out the secrets before more are unfrozen and awakened.  

Before more die.

Together, maybe they can find the truth.

Final thoughts:  Wow... This one will be screwing with my head for a while.  This is Revis's debut novel and it's amazing.  This ship world that has been created and all of the controls that are in place are mind-boggling both in complexity and simplicity.  I highly recommend this to both sci-fi lovers and those who like a good edge-of-your-seat thriller.

Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Samantha Granger Experiment : Fused

The Samantha Granger Experiment : Fused
by Kari Lee Townsend

Sam's parents had warned her that she was far too dependent on technology and gadgets.  She couldn't go anywhere without the latest tech and she got easily lost without her handy phone GPS.  But they never could have expected things to go down the way they did.

One night, while lost in the woods, Sam turns on her GPS, turns a corner, and finds the discovery of the century.  A blue, glowing meteor is lying in a crater in the forest and Sam gets the sudden urge to touch it.

Big mistake.

After receiving the literal shock of a lifetime, she gets a figurative one.  Her phone is gone, but she can suddenly do everything it could.  Her hand is now a dial pad.  Her eye is a camera.  Her brain can tap the Internet.  And her world has just turned upside-down.

She's only 13 years old.  She's finishing middle school.  She's got a major crush on an awesome guy.  And now her phone's tech is taking over her life.  

Now she must become Hard Wired (or maybe some other hero name that won't get confused with "Harry Weird") and try to track down why 911 calls are not getting through to anyone but her and why there have been so many recent break-ins.

Can she save the town and still get the boy?

Final thoughts:  This is a cute premise, but it's an absolute mess overall.  The story jumps all over the place and some things that really should be explained just never are.  Sometimes Sam is completely in control of her new powers, while other times she's as lost as the reader.  And somehow, everything seems to magically work out at the end, though it does finish off with an obvious "to be continued" type ending.  Upper elementary and middle school girls will probably enjoy it, but it's just not executed well enough to recommend.

Rating: 2/5

Monday, January 10, 2011

ALA Youth Media Award Winners

Congrats to all of the winners of this year's 
American Library Association 
Youth Media Awards!!

John Newbery Award Winner - Moon Over Manifest by Claire Vanderpool

Randolph Caldecott Medal - A Sick Day for Amos McGee, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Michael L. Printz Award - Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award - One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (also the winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction)

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award - Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent (Author) Award - Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T. R. Simon
Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent (Illustrator) Award - Seeds of Change, illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler

Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Practitioner Award for Lifetime Achievement - 
Dr. Henrietta Mays Smith

Schneider Family Book Award - The Pirate of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon, After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick, Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Laura Ingalls Wilder Award - Tomie dePaola
Margaret A. Edwards Award - Sir Terry Pratchett 

May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award - Peter Sis
Mildred L. Batchelder Award - A Time of Miracles by Anne-Laure Bondoux, translated by Y. Maudet
Odyssey Award - The True Meaning of Smekday, produced by Listening Library

Pura Belpre (Author) Award - The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan
Pura Belpre (Illustrator) Award - Grandma's Gift, illustrated and written by Eric Velasquez
Robert F. Sibert Medal - Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot by Sy Montgomery

Stonewall Children's and Young Adult Literature Award - Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award - Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee
William C. Morris Award - The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults - Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing by Ann Angel    
More details and information can be found at the ALA website.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Switched and Torn

by Amanda Hocking

Wendy was only six when her own mother tried to kill her with a knife at her birthday party.  Since then, she's lived with her older brother, Matt, and her aunt, Maggie.  They are really all the family she's ever known, especially after her father died and her mother attempted filicide.

And while she's felt loved her entire life, she's never really fit in.  Because of her own temper issues and inability to focus, she's had to change schools repeatedly over the years, forcing her brother and aunt to move from place to place.

Seventeen and fully resolved to make sure she never forces her family into moving again, Wendy finally seems to be getting her act together.  She's doing better in school and has even met a cute guy: Finn.  Of course, he's always watching her, which is a little creepy, but it's also a little hot.

Unfortunately, it turns out that Finn has a secret and that secret is really about Wendy.  It seems that Wendy isn't really her mother's child.  She's a changeling.  A troll.  A Trylle, actually.  And her powers (yup, powers!) have started developing a little early, forcing her real mother to call her back early before members of an opposite and dangerous group get ahold of her.

Now all Wendy has to do is figure out who she really is and learn to embrace it. 

by Amanda Hocking

Just weeks after running away from home to fulfill her destiny to be queen of the Trylle, Wendy has run away again with her brother's brother to return home.  Unfortunately, the homecoming is short-lived and, before she can even settle in, she's kidnapped.

What she learns from her captor, her rescuers, her mother, and the man she wants to be her lover turns everything she knew on its head.

Can she be the Princess that the Trylle need and prevent the Vittra from ending the lives of more innocents?

Final thoughts:  These books were recommended to me on my Kindle by Amazon.  At first, I ignored the recommendations, but I'm glad I finally gave them a chance.  Amanda Hocking is a self-published author who has a real talent.  While there are some difficulties with flow and some of the relationships don't seem to be how they are described, the story is compelling.  I was hoping to review all three in one post, but, alas, the final book, Ascend, seems to be delayed until next week.  Good, solid read with a little supernatural and a lot of chemistry/friction/romance.

Rating for both books: 4/5

Monday, January 3, 2011

The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend

The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend
by Kody Keplinger

After a horrendous break-up with her "boyfriend" when she was only a freshman, Bianca's pretty much sworn off love.  It really only causes problems and everyone suffers in the end.  Love really takes years to get to, anyway, so why waste trying to find it in high school?

So she's settled on just being best friends with two of the prettiest girls in school and watching them have fun.  Now all she has to do is finish her senior year and she'll be off to college.

Unfortunately, she has a bad night with her friends when they all go to a club and leave her at the "bar" to drink Cherry Cokes and watch them dance the night away.  That's when Wesley Austin, known player and man-whore, sits down to talk to her.  He explains that she's the Duff (Designated Ugly Fat Friend).  If he makes nice to her and makes her happy, he may be able to sleep with one of her pretty friends, since he'll have scored points with them by talking to her.

This becomes too much to deal with for Bianca, who's never thought of herself as anything so negative before.  She's always been herself (even sometimes rudely so), but always true, real, and a real friend.

She gets more bad news when her family falls apart in front of her very eyes and the only time she ever feels like the world doesn't suck is when she's in the arms of the very same man-whore who started it all: Wesley.

Can she find her way back to herself and maybe even to love?  And will Toby Tucker ever finally give her the time of day?

Final thoughts:  We've all felt like the Duff before.  It's natural.  But knowing that we ARE the Duff and being able to turn that into a positive can be very difficult.  Keplinger also references The Scarlet Letter and Wuthering Heights to great affect, hopefully inspiring others to read those, too.  Overall, it was a good read and very self-affirming.  Bianca's story is fairly realistic and honest.
WARNING: this is a YA book, but it is definitely for more mature readers.  There is sex and foul language, which, while honest for many 17-year-olds, may be inappropriate for younger teens.

Rating: 4/5

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins

Anna had everything planned.  Her senior year was going to be amazing.  She had an awesome best friend and a guy who was heading towards being her boyfriend.  Everything was looking good.

Then her dad decided to use his daughter to increase his status.  A famous writer of schlock about-to-die books (you know the ones where the woman finds romance, discovers she has cancer, spends her last days in love, and croaks at the end), he wants to send his daughter to a boarding school in Paris in order to help bump up his reputation in the states.

Unable to fight him, Anna is shipped off and now must figure out how to live and study in France even though she's only ever taken Spanish in school and she's absolutely horrible at learning new languages.

Fortunately, Anna has a great new friend in the girl next door who gives her a built-in group of friends.  And with those friends comes Étienne St. Claire.  He's gorgeous.  He's smart. And he has a great accent.  There seems to be great chemistry.  If only he didn't have that pesky long-term girlfriend with him.

Can Anna learn to live and love in the city that is built for that kind of thing?

Final thoughts:  Great teen romance.  Anna is realistic and funny.  She has a great voice and her problems are real.  Most people would be ecstatic to spend a year in France, but Anna's reasons for being unhappy are honest and unforced.  Perkins has done a great job making the story real.  My only issue has to do with Étienne's problems and his handling of the whole girlfriend vs. the love of his life issues.

Rating: 4/5


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