Wednesday, December 29, 2010

As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins

Picture this. You decide to go to camp in Montana (you live in Wisconsin). On the train you open up a piece of mail from said camp to learn the camp is not going to be open when you get there. Your train breaks down. In an attempt to get a cell phone signal to call home, you get off the train, despite being told not to. While you are trying to call home, the train is fixed and starts to move. Without you.

Now what?

Well, if you're Ry, you walk to the nearest town (hours away). You meet a friendly man Del who offers to drive you back to Wisconsin. Meanwhile, your grandfather (who's staying at your house in Wisconsin) takes the dogs for a walk and falls into a pit in the woods. And your parents, on their first vacation in forever in the Caribbean, leave their cell phone on a volcano.

What other option does Ry have but to find his parents and his grandfather?

A good book, although some suspension of disbelief is necessary. Ry is a great character, flawed but not too much. He's the main story, although his grandfather, his parents, and even the dogs get a chapter or two here and there. A good road trip and adventure story.

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Calla Tor is the newest alpha in her family. As such, she's given her own pack--the other wolves her age--to rule over. She is promised to Ren Laroche--the alpha in another pack--also her age. Together they'll form a new pack to help protect the Keepers. On their eighteenth birthday they'll be mated and set up in their own territory as Guardians.

Before that can happen, Calla saves a young man attacked by a bear. Defying the rules she's followed her entire life, she saves him by sharing her blood. Now he's showing up everywhere--at school and with the Keepers. Somehow, Shay has an important role to play, and Calla is asked to keep him under her wing. Unfortunately, she also starts falling for him, placing herself and her pack in danger. Especially when she learns the real reason he's been honored by the Keepers.

Will saving him condemn her to death?

Not a lot happens in this book. There will be another one, so this one really sets the scene. Calla follows rules and orders without questioning why, while Shay questions everything. While some of the scenes could have been shorter or cut out completely, anyone who is a fan of books like Twilight, Shiver, or Vampire Academy will be interested in this new addition.

The Everafter by Amy Huntley

Madison is dead. That's the only thing she knows for sure. What she doesn't know is how she got that way. And she'd like to know.

In the near distance she sees a light. As she gets closer, she sees an image of a bracelet she lost when she was younger. When she touches the image, she gets taken back to the memory of what happened when she lost it. Even more strange, she can enter her body at that time and try to alter that specific event. Each time she does that, she can't remember the details of the original memory, just the altered one. Pretty soon, she's trying every object she can find to see moments from her life which all ultimately lead to the scene where she lost her life.

Some memories shouldn't be altered though. And others can't change.

I liked this book for the overall concept and story. Madison loses a lot of objects during her lifetime, even though she's only 17, so there are many memories for her to follow. The switching from the past to the present jars a little, but it gets better as the story goes on. While the ending was a little surprising, Madison's feelings are not.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

Alex wakes up in a strange boy's bed, a bad taste in her mouth, and without any of her clothes. She can't remember how she got that way. She makes her way back to her room across Themis' campus, determined to forget everything.

But her roommate T.S. has a different idea. She believes Alex was raped and wants her to go to the Mockingbirds to turn Carter in. The Mockingbirds is a student-run justice force to police bad behavior.

While Alex decides to talk with the Mockingbirds, she has doubts about what really happened in Carter's bed. And when he tells all his friends about her and their "great" time together, she starts avoiding him at all costs. This event has completely changed her life, and thanks to the Mockingbirds, it's about to change Carter's as well.

Then Carter and his friends get pushy about her silence. And have no problem smearing her to anyone who will listen. Especially at the Mockingbirds' trial.

While I agree with the reviewers that it seems implausible the adults at Themis have absolutely no idea what's going on, I can fully believe they'd turn a blind eye to misbehavior and misconduct.

The real story here is Alex's coping with being date raped, her acceptance of what happened to her, and the beginning of the healing process. Alex spends much of the book in agony that she asked for what happened, she can only remember bits and pieces, and she worries about Carter not being found guilty. I found the character and story to ring true with what I know, and thought it was just amazing. Well worth reading.

The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B Cooney

I decided to re-read the Face on the Milk Carton because I couldn't remember everything that happened. I've read the other two sequels, so the story got a little mushed together in the mean time.

Janie has a pretty good life for being almost sixteen. She actually gets along with her parents, has great friends, and enjoys school (as much as one can). So when she's at lunch one day, she can't believe the picture she sees on the milk carton of a 3-year old kidnapped girl. It's her.

Janie becomes obsessed with learning about the family she may or may not have been taken from. She convinces the boy next door, Reeve, to drive her to their house in New Jersey so she can see it. She goes through old boxes and finds the dress from the picture. And her memories start coming back of another family and of the woman who bought her an ice cream sundae and convinced her to go for a drive.

Janie can't believe her parents would kidnap anyone, but it's obvious they must have, right? Things start colliding together until Janie is left with no other option but to tell them she knows.

I've always enjoyed this story, but re-reading it gave me a chance to step back and look at it again. Janie is a likable character and her fears and emotions come across well. Her friends don't play an important part of the story, so while there, they're more background noise, other than Reeve. Janie is a little more wrapped up in her own world than anyone in her life appreciates, but it's understandable.

And you can try to ignore the references to cassette tapes and pay phones as well as the lack of cell phones and other forms of technology. The story isn't any worse for missing those.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Big Field by Mike Lupica

Hutch loves baseball. He lives for it. He breathes it. And in the summer, it's all he can think about. Even having to play second base instead of shortstop (his real position) doesn't dim his love for baseball. Not even the hotshot now playing shortstop.

When his team gets their chance to play in their version of the World Series, Hutch is ecstatic. Baseball season is never long enough. But the road there is paved with problems...Hutch zoned out and stole a play from Darryl (the hotshot), he catches Darryl and Hutch's dad practicing together (something Hutch's dad never does with Hutch), and Hutch gets suspended a game after starting a fight.

In the world of baseball, it's all about teamwork and balance. Hutch needs to find both to help the team make it to the championship.

Hutch is a great character, but he is only one of many. Most of the characters are fleshed out--at least the main players (his best friend, his parents, Darryl...). The action of the game is clear and the author clearly knows baseball lingo. A great book for any sports nut--especially baseball.

Grace by Elizabeth Scott

Grace is an Angel. To the People, Angels are used to bring justice to their world. By taking out government officials. By suicide bombs.

It's an honor to be chosen. Or so Grace and her fellow Angels have been taught to believe. Grace can't accept they were chosen for death. She doesn't want death. So when her chance arrives, she leaves the bomb and walks away before setting it off. She shames her father and the man she was promised to by this act alone.

Shunned from her people, Grace must escape before the government finds her. She is given a traveling companion--Kerr--and a story to get them across the border. What she doesn't realize or even suspect is Kerr is one of the men she's been taught to fear, hate, and kill her entire life.

Sometimes things aren't always what they seem.

Told from Grace's point of view, the story jumps from present day, to the past, and back again. You get the full story in bits and pieces. Grace is a likable character, even if she struggles to understand everything going on around her and where she fits. There are a few plot skips, but the perspective is interesting--what goes on in the mind of a suicide bomber (a young one) and are they ever given a choice.

Hunger by Jackie Kessler

Lisabeth Lewis is seventeen and anorexic. When a friend confronts her about it, she decides it's time to end everything and tries to commit suicide. But she's interrupted by a young man with a package and a command, "...go thee out unto the world." The package is a Scale. Lisabeth has just become Famine, one of the Four Horsemen (women?) of the Apocalypse.

Of course, she believes it has all been a dream. However, she can't ignore the Scales that appear out of nowhere (that no one else can see) or the black horse in her backyard eating her mother's flowers. Or the riot she starts in Sydney, thousands of miles from home.

Once Lisabeth learns what real hunger is like from villagers eating dirt cookies, how can she continue to live like she has been? And how can she use this power to help instead of hurt?

An interesting concept--I've never read anything like this anyway. Lisabeth is a hard character to really like at first, but she has many redeemable qualities as the story goes on. There are amusing parts (especially when Death is singing) and the ending is especially moving.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shutout by Brendan Halpin

Amanda loves soccer--so does her best friend Lena. The two are inseparable and unstoppable on the soccer field. Until Amanda contracts Severs disease (heel pain) and can't keep up.

So when it comes down to tryouts before their freshman year of high school, Amanda's sure they'll still be playing together. But they aren't. Lena gets bumped up to varsity while Amanda's left on JV. At first, this really bothers Amanda, but she tries to shrug it off and still be Lena's best friend. Until Lena starts ignoring her. Amanda can't take it anymore and tells her off. And the friendship that lasted 6 years is over.

Amanda realizes things have to change, but didn't think it would happen so soon. Then the varsity team makes a huge mistake that costs them their rights to play and the JV needs to step up.

Amanda's a likable character and while the book is mostly about friendships and soccer, there's humor here too. The story is well-written and for someone who doesn't know a lot about soccer, I was never lost in any of the jargon (there isn't a lot). I could hardly put this book down.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Merchant of Death by D.J. MacHale

Bobby Pendragon is your typical 14-year old guy who loves to play basketball and is good at it too. On the night of the final game, Bobby is running late so by chance his Uncle Press finds him still at home.

Press tells him there are people who need his help and he won't take no for an answer. Thinking it would be faster to just go with Press before the game, Bobby agrees. Before he knows what's happening, he's traveling down a flume on his way to Denduron, a different territory and time than Earth.

With no answers (or uncle) as to what he's suppose to do or how, Bobby kind of stumbles into situation after situation. Life on Denduron is primitive--at least for the Milago, slaves to the Bedoowan. Not to mention running into another Traveler--Saint Dane--who is determined to have chaos and war at every turn.

Bobby is a likable character who fumbles with his destiny. He doesn't want anything to do with being a Traveler, but he learns he has little choice. The story is told in alternating parts--Bobby's journal which he sends back to his friends Mark and Courtney. Mark and Courtney's reactions are the other half of the story. Looking forward to reading the other 9! (Yes, I said 9!!)

Boarder Patrol by Erin Thomas

Ryan is determined to be a professional snow boarder, so he practices whenever he gets a chance. Pretty easy when you're a junior Ski Patrol. So when a famous photographer catches him dinking around, he thinks he's got his shot.

Which then turns bitter when his snowboard is stolen. Kevin, his cousin, gets it back for him, which makes Ryan wonder just what Kevin knows about the string of stolen ski equipment.

His determination to get to the bottom of everything and learn the truth puts his own life, and Kevin's, in danger. And his chances of going pro along with it.

A quick novel, as this is one of the Orca Sports series. The pace is steady and the action keeps coming. A little easier to read for those who know the lingo, there's enough here to keep anyone turning the pages. Enjoyable and fast.

Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams

Ingrid, thirteen, has a habit of zoning out while reading, ignoring math homework, and attempting to emulate her idol, Sherlock Holmes. So when she finds out Cracked-up Katie was murdered the same day Ingrid was at her house, she is unsure of what to do. Should she step forward to the police and tell them what she knows (not much)? Or should she try to find out more information?

Ingrid opts for more information, once again in the wrong place when she returns to the scene to get back her cleats. Now the police chief is suspicious, two men Ingrid knows are innocent sit in jail, and the real killer is still out there and knows about her investigation.

All this on top of practicing for an upcoming play Alice in Wonderland. What's a young Holmes to do?

Ingrid is a likable character with an interesting thought process. There is a little romance here as well, but most of the story is concentrated on figuring out who killed Katie Kovac and watching Ingrid figure out clues. A nail-biting ending concludes this story, but not the series--this is book 1!

Three Quarters Dead by Richard Peck

Kerry believes her life is on it’s way to the top—she’s a sophomore invited to sit with the three most popular girls in school at lunch!

And while no one questions Tonya, Kerry can’t believe her luck until she learns she’s expected to give something in return.

At first it’s just pranks, but when Tonya, Natalie, and Makenzie die in a freak car accident that could have included Kerry, she starts to wonder if they might want or need something else from her too.

It took a while for me to get into this book. Kerry narrates her tale, and while interesting, the best part of the book happens in the later half. Not a huge fan of Peck's work but the horror in this one makes it worth it...for the most part. The ending is anti-climatic, and the beginning is slow, but the middle and last half of the book are interesting enough to keep reading.

Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

I've been wanting to read this book since it came out, and I finally got a chance!

Alcatraz is prone to breaking things. Not like you and I would think--big things. In the first few pages, he breaks the stove and sets his foster mother's kitchen on fire! That kind of breaking things.

Then he gets a strange package filled with sand. An old man shows up, claiming to be his grandfather. Alcatraz doesn't believe him...not until another man appears with a gun and tries to shoot him and his grandfather.

Alcatraz soon learns he lives in a world controlled almost entirely by Librarians. The lands they control are called Hushland (like the United States). The Librarians control everything, including information. His ability to break things is actually his Talent--and a powerful one. He'll need it to break into the Librarian's headquarters (the Library) and steal back the sands they stole. He just needs a plan and a little help.

There is action and humor here. The author or narrator intervenes a lot with comments or sidebars as the book goes on, but it doesn't get too distracting.

Flipped by Wedelin Van Draanen

Bryce and Juli have lived across the street from each other since the second grade. From the day they met, Juli's been a thorn in Bryce's side and Bryce has been the only one Juli wants.

Now in eighth grade, they both have to recognize some truths about themselves and each other. Bryce is forced to see behind the annoyance that is Juli, and Juli slowly realizes Bryce has never been who she thought. Just as she decides to have nothing to do with him, Bryce realizes he can't live without her.

So who do you root for?

Told in alternating voices, it's hard to dislike either character. They describe their relationship from the beginning. The story is touching, funny, sad, and joyful all at the same time. A great book.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

iDrakula by Bekka Black

What would Dracula be like if he lived in today's world instead of in Bram Stoker's imagination?

Well, I still can't tell you. While this book is a retelling of that great classic, you don't spend much time with the Count. This book is told entirely in text, email, and web browsing. Most of the story comes from Mary who talks to Jonathan Harker, her boyfriend, Lily, their friend, and Abraham Van Helsing, a pre-med student.

Renfield, their friend, has been committed to a mental hospital after some bizarre behavior. He had been setting up a business deal with a Count from Romania, so Jonathan is sent to Romania in Renfield's place. There he finds himself cut off from technology and almost a prisoner during the day. He manages to escape but is captured and sent back home to the hospital, as he's contracted a rare blood disease.

Mary, learning some uncomfortable truths, decides to learn all she can about the Count and what could have happened to Jonathan. Lilly is then attacked and everything seems to point back to the Count. On the advice of Renfield, Mary and Van Helsing work together to learn the Count's secret and destroy him to save the lives of Lilly and Jonathan, and soon, their own.

I was a little worried about trying to read iDrakula in its strange format. I found the story moves forward at a much faster pace when told in text or email. When Mary browses through airline tickets and recognizing vampire websites, I had to go back and check each screen print to get all the details. I enjoyed the story a lot more than I thought.

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

So, I'm probably the only one who hasn't read the Alex Rider Adventures series yet, as I believe there are 8 now. Well, I've started now and I am ready to read the next in the series!

Stormbreaker sets up the story for the sequels to come. Alex lives with his uncle Ian, who is killed in a car accident late one night. The story the police give him and the housekeeper doesn't make any sense, and Alex is determined to learn the truth. When he sneaks into the junkyard and actually looks at his uncle's car, he knows he's right. The driver's side of the car is riddled with bullets. His uncle was murdered.

Alex has more secrets to learn. His uncle didn't actually work for a bank, but was a spy for MI6. His current assignment is to investigate Herod Sayle, who invented a new computer Stormbreaker and plans to distribute it to every school in England. This unusual generosity has MI6 worried and Ian Rider was to find out the truth.

Now that his uncle is gone, Alex has been asked (forced) to take over his mission. He is to infiltrate Sayle's headquarters and learn what's really going on. While he may learn the truth, the question becomes whether he can stay alive to tell someone about it.

Alex is a likeable and smart character, and the book is full of action, adventure, danger, and spying. While it seems a little unbelievable that a spy organization would hire a 15-year old to work for them, it works. I was thinking the books were a little bit more like a young James Bond, and while Alex is great at getting into impossibly sticky situations, it isn't exactly the case.

Empire of Night by Justin Somper

This is the 5th book in the Vampirates series. I don't want to say too much about what happens, but once again, we're following Grace and Connor as they deal with the secrets they learned in the last book--The Blood Captain. Each of them has been sent on a mission to help end a situation that is spiraling out of control. They both have issues they need to overcome which may prove impossible as the stakes get higher.

I did enjoy returning to Grace and Connor's lives as the 5th book got started. It ended on a cliffhanger of sorts, which means there will at least be a 6th. There is a lot of action, adventure, pirates, and vampires to satisfy anyone looking for any combination.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Jane by April Lindner

Jane Moore is desperate for a job so she can get back into college. With her parents' deaths, she can't afford tuition.

She finds a job as a nanny to a famous rock star, Nico Rathburn. Mr. Rathburn is ready for a comeback and Jane is perfect for the job--she knows almost nothing about him or his music. She finds a place for herself taking care of his daughter and enjoying nature on her time off.

Then Mr. Rathburn returns and seems fascinated by Jane. Not happy to leave her in the background, he insists she come to the parties he throws with the band, their rehearsals, and on his walks around the grounds. Jane begins to feel in over her head, then Nico proposes.

But not everything is as it seems, and Jane can't help but feel she's missing some important information about Nico's life.

This is a modern retelling of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Told in modern English, the story has been updated to fit modern times. That makes it all the more captivating, as the imagery and plot stays the same. Fantastic retelling--I couldn't put it down!

Crave by Laura Burns & Melinda Metz

Shay has a rare blood disease that leaves her weak all the time. She can usually have three good days a week where she can make it through school and normal activities. But Shay is tired of being "The Sick Girl".

Then her doctor--and stepfather--says he has a new blood transfusion to try. Shay is shocked with the results. She feels powerful. But the blood wears off quickly, leaving her needing transfusions more often. Along with the new blood come visions of someone named Gabriel, with whom Shay becomes enraptured.

Of course, when she discovers Gabriel is real, she does what she can to save him as her world is completely turned upside down.

But can she trust him?

This is not a typical vampire romance story, although all the elements are there. The reader might realize what Shay is before anyone else reveals the truth (I had my suspicions the whole time). The ending suggests a definite sequel. I enjoyed the story,especially with Shay sharing Gabriel's memories through his blood.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nightmarys by Dan Poblocki

Timothy's been having nightmares since he learned his brother was injured in Iraq and is now in a coma.

Abigail has nightmares too--only hers come when she's awake. When the two are suppose to do a history project together, they realize their nightmares may have a common source.

Stalked by two faceless beings, attacked by a painted dragon, a skeleton brought to life, and chased by Timothy's injured brother, neither believe it could be a curse.

Until they learn the truth. And their only hope is to defeat the man responsible.

More creepy than scary, this book definitely hits the right tone. Action-packed, especially at the end, and a heavy dose of disbelief. Timothy and Abigail stumble on the truth before they realize it, which clues the reader into what's going on. Mystery and creepy all at the same time.

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Kendra and her brother Seth are sent to stay with their grandparents for a couple weeks while their parents are on a cruise. They don't know Grandma and Grandpa Sorenson very well, in fact, Grandma Sorenson isn't even at the house. Kendra and Seth are given full reign of the house and yard, but are told to stay out of the forest.

Of course, Seth can't help but wonder what's in the forest, and he wanders in one day. Kendra wonders at the giant butterflies and dragonflies in the yard, until she notices their odd behavior. They drink milk--so Seth and Kendra also try it. Turns out, their grandparents are the caretakers of Fablehaven--a sanctuary for mystical and magical creatures. And when Seth accidentally insults the fairies, everything dissolves into chaos. Grandpa Sorenson is kidnapped and it's up to Kendra and Seth to put aside their fears to save him.

The first in the series, there are a lot of things going on here. The point of view shifts a little at the beginning of the book, but the story distracts from that. The whole book is part mystery, part fantasy, and part realistic fiction. Kendra and Seth are well developed and likable. An excellent first book in a series.

Reckless by Cornelia Funke

Jacob Reckless has traveled through the mirror in his father's study far too often. One of those times, he makes a mistake and his younger brother, Will, follows him through.

Now they're both in Mirrorworld. Caught unaware by a squad of goyls, Will is attacked and now their curse is covering his body in stone. Jacob is desperate to save his life, calling in favors and tricks to find a cure no one believes exists.

Will Jacob be able to lift the curse? And will the price be too high?

The story starts slowly, but does speed up towards the middle of the book. This is one of those on the fence books, it could be Juvenile, it could be Young Adult. The characters in the book are actually in their teens or early 20s, but it is written more for the middle school crowd. There are many fairytale elements involved in the story, and in fact, all apart of what's going on. That wasn't clear until about halfway through.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Torment by Lauren Kate

This is the second book in the Fallen series, so I don't want to say much about it. I do feel I have to say something though, since my feelings towards Fallen were not pleasant.

Torment was much better. My big problem with Fallen was it could have been 3/4 shorter, since hardly anything happens in the book until the end. Torment could have been shorter, but not by much. There are a lot of things going on, and Luce and Daniel are still the main characters, even if Daniel is barely in the book. However, I enjoyed reading the story and could barely put it down.

(One thing I will say about teen romance books in general, though, I'm getting tired of the whole love triangle. Sure, the concept works, but it's so far from reality that it gets a little aggravating.)

Passion is the third book in the series, and comes out next summer. I will definitely be picking up a copy. Fallen was worth sitting through, if only to make it to Torment.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Name of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch

Yes, this book has been out a while, but since it's more on the Juvenile side of fiction, I haven't picked it up before now.

Cassandra is an eleven-year-old survivalist. She's prepared for any--and every--thing. While spending time with her grandfathers who own an antique dealership, a box of items is delivered with an unusual briefcase inside. The briefcase is labeled "Symphony of Smells" and is filled with vials of different powders, each with a distinct smell. The box came from a magician's home, so Cassandra, with her new friend Max-Ernest, decides she needs to investigate. Once in the house, they find a secret room and a notebook with a riddle. They also meet the bad guys--Dr. L and Ms. Mauvais.

Cassandra knows the couple will be looking for her and Max-Ernest. She is proven correct when the two show up at her school. What she doesn't expect is Benjamin Blake--a classmate--disappears after Dr. L and Ms. Mauvais leave. Now Cassandra must convince Max-Ernest to help her save Benjamin from a fate they don't want to think about.

A good mystery and suspense novel, especially for the older elementary grades. This is written in the style of the Lemony Snicket books--so the narrator is extremely involved in the plot and the action. There is a lot of things going on with the plot, too much to explain here, but the book is pretty engrossing. And descriptive.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Clockwork Angel, book 1 of Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

Tessa Gray crossed the Atlantic to join her brother in England. Instead of her brother Nathaniel, she's met and kidnapped by the Dark Sisters. They torture her into learning how to use her shape-shifting power, using her brother as bait. She learns their plan of preparing her for someone named the Magister, who plans on marrying her.

Before she can save herself, Tessa is rescued by William, a Shadowhunter. Shadowhunters hunt down the Downworlders who harm humans. Tessa is taken to the London Institute where she learns the Downworlders are beings like vampires, demons, and warlocks who thrive on certain humans--her brother being one of those humans. Tessa is determined to find her brother and rescue him, hopefully with the Shadowhunters' help.

As details unravel and the enemy becomes clear, Tessa may be making some hard decisions.

The first in a new trilogy, I couldn't put it down. This is a prequel series to Clare's Mortal Instruments series, which I haven't read yet. The story is well-written, characters fleshed out, and the plot is exciting. Lots of vivid action, setting, and plot to keep anyone happy. It is more in historical fiction, but that shouldn't stop anyone from picking up this great story.

Fat Vampire by Adam Rex

Doug feels a little cheated. He was accidentally turned into a vampire, doomed to spend eternity chubby and unappealing. His first few attempts to convince girls to let him bite them fail miserably, and get a vampire hunting tv show on his tail.

Sejal is an exchange student from India, in America to escape her addiction to the Internet. Doug falls for Sejal hard, but she doesn't share his feelings. He finds a willing (or semi-willing) victim, his best friend falls for Sejal's host sister Cat, and Doug himself starts to think about finding the parent of his little vampire family so he can return to normal. Although he finds being a vampire gives him a few extra quirks...almost like superpowers.

This book had good and bad moments. I did enjoy reading it, but I didn't find all of the characters completely believable. I don't think you're intended to really like Doug, and the description on the inside cover doesn't really describe the book all that well.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade

Alona, dealing with her usual issues at home, didn't realize she had stepped out into the street until it was too late. Now a ghost, she is left with a lot of unanswered questions--and there is nothing Alona can't get when she sets her mind to it.

Will would like nothing more than to be left alone. He can see and hear ghosts, but tries to hide that as much as he can. But when he sees queen Alona fading and sobbing, he can't help but laugh. And then his secret's out.

Alona refuses to leave Will alone until he answers her questions. And Will can't seem to get the rest of the ghosts at school to leave him alone. Especially the one trying to kill him.

So, I did like the story. It wasn't completely light-hearted, there are serious issues. But for the most part, this was chick lit with paranormal thrown in for fun. Many humorous moments. My only issue was the title--cutesy--but the character even says he's not goth. Otherwise, a good choice for someone looking for lighthearted paranormal romance/chick lit!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

13 to Life by Shannon Delany

Jessie can't believe she's been assigned to show new boy Pietr around their school. It's the last thing she wants, especially since Pietr can't seem to stand her, and every girl in the school is trying to climb all over him. She tries everything she can to stay away from him, while he's just as determined to stick around.

Pietr, however, has a big secret. And after learning about hers, he can't help but feel drawn to her more than ever.

A great love story. Jessie is believable and sarcastic. Her falling for Pietr is kind of predictable, as is their romance. That doesn't make it any less entertaining or page-turning. The rest of the plot really picks up at the end, making way for a possible series. (There will at least be a sequel)

Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda

Billi's father is the Master of the Knights Templar--all nine of them. They fight against the Unholy, which these days include vampires, demons, and werewolves. They battle against the darkness that constantly strives to overtake humans.

Billi is their only female. Having passed her last test, she is a full-fledged member. Then Kay, the only friend she's allowed to have, returns. Angry at him and her father, she turns to Mike, the first guy ever to show interest in her.

But Mike's interest isn't in her--it's in getting the Cursed Mirror and freeing the other dark angels cast out of heaven.

King Solomon wasn't powerful enough to destroy Michael. Can Billi and Kay?

An interesting concept and story. A little slow to begin with, but the action picks up quickly and everything comes to a head. A few inconsistencies, but overall a great book and a fantastic twist.

The Wager by Donna Jo Napoli

Don Giovanni thought he had everything, but a flood showed just how wrong he was. With nothing but the clothes on his back, he wanders Sicily, looking for a kind soul to take pity on him.

Then a gentleman appears one day, with a wager too good to be true. All Don Giovanni has to do is not bathe, cut his hair, change his clothes, or shave his beard for three years, three months, and three days. He can have all the money he wants until that time is up. If he fails, the devil gets his soul.

What he finds is staying dirty isn't easy. But with his wealth he has a chance to do some good. And hopefully keep his head about him until he wins the wager.

Interesting and pretty easy to read. Not sure how much teens will actually pick up this book--it doesn't feel like it was written with teens in mind. However, it is based on actual folklore.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl II is a genius. And 12 years old. He bargains with a drunk fairy for a copy of The Book, a book of all the fairies'--The People--rules and secrets.

Armed with The Book, he plans on kidnapping a fairy to get gold--enough gold to get their family back to the lavish conditions they had before his father disappeared.

Holly is a fairy in the Recon division. She has one more chance to prove herself before being demoted. She goes to recharge her magic and that's when Artemis captures her.

Now the fairies are trying to get Holly back with any means necessary. But just maybe, she can save herself and spare them the trouble.

Interesting beginning to a series. Action and a back story. There are some down times, but the story is enjoyable and starts a great theme for the rest of the books.

Skinned by Robin Wasserman

Lia had everything, until a freak accident ruined it all. Her body was destroyed in the car crash, so her father had her brain downloaded into a mechanical body.

Not only does she have a hard time accepting her new body, but her life has drastically changed along with it. Her friends and boyfriend abandon her, her sister Zo is now living the life she had, and her parents can hardly look at her, even though they were the ones to make the choice. Lia's only friend is Auden, one of the outcasts at her school she never paid attention to before.

She's unsure if she should try to fit with the humans or spend more time with the other people like her. Mechanical. Her choice could be the last for Auden.

A good sci-fi story--takes a bit to get started, but then it moves quickly. Lia is a selfish creature who ends up putting everything she cares about in danger. Interesting enough for me to want to read the sequel, and a third book is coming out as well.

The Mark by Jen Nadol

Cassandra, or Cassie, has a gift--or a curse. She sees a mark on people the day they will die.

When she sees the mark on her grandmother, she spends most of the day trying to save her life. To no avail.

When she sees the mark on her new boyfriend after going to live with her aunt, she intervenes and saves his life. Now she's forced to show him she can really tell when people will die, but should she?

Once she convinces him, Lucas is obsessed with her cheating death by saving the ones she sees are Marked.

Will learning more about her family and her past help her decide if she can--or should--save people?

Interesting concept, not well put together. The story is entertaining, but there are a few plot developments that could have developed more effectively. On the whole, the book was an interesting read and I enjoyed that aspect of it.

Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Barnes

Bryn's family was attacked by a werewolf when she was just 4 years old. She's the only survivor.

As the only human in the pack of werewolves that saved her, Bryn finds her life difficult and complicated. She was Marked by the pack's alpha, so the rest accepted her--or were forced. She still doesn't fit in.

Bryn then learns that Callum lied to her about the rogue werewolf who attacked her family. He escaped their wrath and continued to attack humans. One such human, Chase, was rescued by the pack.

Now Bryn breaks the rules to be with Chase, which also pushes her out of the pack for good. Determined to bring down the Rogue that stole her and Chase's lives, she sets out to finish him off for good. No matter what the pack has decided.

A fantastic new story about werewolves/shapeshifters. Well-written, paced, and executed. I enjoyed reading about Bryn and Chase and learning about their world.

Vampire Rising: Alex Van Helsing by Jason Henderson

I believe this is the first book in the Alex Van Helsing series.

Alex has been sent to yet another boarding school after an incident at the last one. As he's walking through the woods one night (yeah, he breaks the rules sometimes), he hears a scream. He finds a dead body and what appears to be a vampire. Not sure how, he stakes her and watches as she turns to dust. Convinced he was hallucinating, he returns to school and what he hopes is his sanity.

No such luck. Alex starts to wonder if the stories about Van Helsing are true. And if there really are vampires, is he destined to fight them? His friends are kidnapped and he knows he has no choice in the matter. He must charge into the lair of the vampires to save his friends.

An interesting premise and story. The story does waiver a little, but the action is solid and pretty believable. No romance here, just vampire hunting and plenty of it!

The Compound by S.A. Bodeen

Eli and his family have lived in the Compound for the past six years, right after a nuclear attack on the United States. There was no time to wait for Gram or for Eddy, Eli's twin brother. Eli's response is to pull back from everyone and try to survive without getting attached to anyone else. They have another 8 years before they can think about leaving.

But things aren't going well. They are running out of food, and Eli can't stomach the idea of his dad's solution. His mom is pregnant again, the vegetable garden is dying, and Eli's dad is acting crazy. Then Eli finds a wireless connection. Soon he questions whether there was an nuclear attack at all--especially when he finds out Eddy is still alive.

Crazy paranoid but fantastic book. I enjoyed the character development and although I'm not surprised at the ending, I thought it worked with the book.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham

This novel-in-verse follows Jane recovering from a shark attack that leaves her without most of her right arm. Jane is an artist and a successful one--but without her right hand she's not sure she'll ever be able to draw again.

Jane's life isn't the only one that changes, but Jane has a hard time seeing that. Her friends don't know how to act and the only one who understands is a 10-year old, Justin, who lost his leg. But Justin is still living his life and adapting while Jane struggles to accept what's happened.

Jane strives to teach her left hand to do all that her right no longer can.

A great novel-in-verse. There are plenty of flashbacks and doubts. Eventually Jane realizes the good in things--which works with this story. Well-written and told.

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

Elizabeth doesn't have the best life--or the worst. Her dad remarried, her stepsisters aren't mean, but not nice either, and her stepmother can't stand her. Her close relationship with her dad is also a thing of the past.

Then she gets a job a the New York Circulating Material Repository to make some money and friends. The job is not what she expected. The Repository is a huge building filled with items from history that people can check out. Elizabeth is amazed.

She then learns of the Grimm Library--actual items from the Brothers Grimm's stories. These items all have a magical component--and they're being stolen. The staff are all on alert and Elizabeth is determined to find the culprit. Then one of her new friends disappears and she must decide what's more important.

There is a lot going on in this book. The concept is great but the story could have been polished a bit more. Plenty of action and characterization, it was just missing a little realism amongst all the fantasy.

Rush by Jonathan Friesen

Jake has a compulsion to take risks. It clears his mind and frees him to think. He's always doing stunts and risking his life for the rush and thrill.

The only other risk/thrill Jake has is Salmone. She clears his mind the same way. They have strong feelings for each other, but Jake keeps her at a distance. Anyone too close to him ends up getting hurt.

Then Jake pulls a stunt that gets him expelled from school. His dad pulls strings and gets him into the forest firefighters' ring--one of the riskiest jobs around.

Jake is pumped--until everything he's ever cared about is put on the line.

Fast-paced and full of action. Jake is an interesting character and his need for thrills fuels this story. Lots of things happen here and it's all exciting. Ending wraps up almost everything.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Valerie is confused, hurt, angry, and scared. Five months ago, her boyfriend Nick opened fire in the Commons at school and killed 6 people before Valerie stopped him. Then he killed himself. The investigation into the shooting revealed the Hate List--a list she and Nick put together of all the people they hated. Almost everyone who got shot was on that list.

Now Valerie is back at school, with no friends and lots of enemies. Her old friends abandoned her, the survivors want her gone, and the teachers and principal watch her for signs of aggression. Even her parents think she had something to do with the shooting. How can she prove them wrong?

This is a powerful story about surviving a school shooting and moving on--not only for Valerie, but the community as well. Valerie's reactions and emotions are realistic as well as many of the other characters. I found the book to be riveting and couldn't put it down. But it was hard to read as well.

Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin

Jennie has lost her brother and her fiancee Will to the Civil War. Her place in her aunt and uncle's home is questionable until Quinn, Will's brother, returns wounded. Jennie decided to take care of him, slowing the process of being shoved out into the street.

Only Quinn really knows what happened to Will, and slowly he starts to tell Jennie what he saw. But what he tells her doesn't fit with what she knew about Will, and Jennie starts to doubt she knew him at all. But something isn't letting her forget or move on--she's attacked at night and finds clues that Will is not going to let go of her at all.

An interesting historical story with illustrations and pictures. It all wraps up in the end, but getting there is a little bumpy. I wasn't that drawn to Jennie, and although I liked the ending, the rest of the story wasn't enthralling.

Never After by Dan Elconin

Ricky has been dreaming about The Island for a few nights now, so when Peter appears in his room one night, he figures a short visit couldn't hurt. He's been thinking about running away anyway.

When Ricky gets to The Island, he realizes Peter has no intention of letting him go back home. Ever. Chained up underground, Ricky has no hope of escape--until he's rescued by Alex, Hooke, Nigel, and Oscar. Oscar is captured in the process, so Ricky repays the favor by rescuing her. Together, the group plans on capturing Peter with one goal in mind--getting off The Island.

But they didn't realize Hooke just may have his own plans.

An interesting twist on the Peter Pan legend. Peter is the bad guy here, and you know that from almost the start. There are no adults and no ship on The Island. Lots of action and humor--I was laughing out loud with some of the jokes and pranks the boys played on each other.

Zen and Xander Undone by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Zen and Xander lost their mother almost a year ago. And for the past year, they've been receiving messages from her, sent by someone on significant days.

The girls are handling their grief in their own ways. Zen, who tells this story, bottles everything up and buries herself in her karate and trying to keep the family together. Xander goes out drinking, wild parties, drugs, and dangerous men. When one follows her home, Zen allows her anger to push her to fight back.

Now Zen has to deal with her sister's antics and a bad back. She no longer has karate to look forward to, and as she tries to cope without it, she and Xander stumble upon a secret they didn't want to know about their mother.

Can they get it together before Zen paralyzes herself and Xander throws her future away?

A heartfelt and touching story with a lot of emotion. The girls have a hard time with their grief and struggle to overcome it in their own way. I found this to be a powerful and very moving story.

Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey

Ellie is your typical 17-year old--hangs out with her best friend Kevin, crushes on cute Mark, and generally wants to be anywhere that isn't boarding school.

But a chance encounter with Mark guarantees life will never be typical or ordinary again. A mysterious red-haired woman appears with a fascination for Kevin. Ellie finds Mark at the oddest of times--usually when she's in trouble. And an old preacher gives her a Bible and tells her it will save her and her soul.

Could this all have to do with the mysterious murders? What is Mark hiding? And can Ellie figure it all out before her entire world goes under?

A well-written fairy/fantasy story. There are some jerky moments, but the background is well developed and has great characterization. I'm not familiar with lore from New Zealand, and that's where some of my confusion came in. Ellie's role is crucial, and the ending is bittersweet.

The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause

Zoe struggles with her mother's cancer, her father's attitude, and the fact her best friend is moving away. Not to mention the headlines lately--murders are happening and getting closer to her home.

Simon has been alone for centuries, tracking his brother across countries. In all that time, no one has caught his attention. Until Zoe.

Zoe doesn't know what to make of Simon--especially after she realizes he's been following her. But she is still drawn to him and he helps her deal with the pain of her mother's illness and father's indifference. And Zoe resolves to help him stop his brother, no matter the cost.

The story is good but a little rough. It isn't a long story, but you still feel for Zoe and Simon. They are realistic and their pain is genuine. The copy I read also had two short stories, one about Simon years before he meets Zoe, and one about Zoe after she meets Simon.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

14-year old Sig didn't know what to expect when he found his father's body in the middle of the lake between their home and the nearest town. But when his sister and stepmother leave to go get help, he didn't anticipate a stranger showing up at their door.

Wolff isn't just a stranger--he's a terrifying giant stranger. He appears to know the family quite well, and demands Sig hand over his share of the gold his father stole. Sig has no idea what gold--they've lived in poverty their whole lives. Wolff is serious about his demand and threatens to kill both Sig and Anna if they don't hand over the gold immediately. Sig knows there's a gun in the store room, but can he get to it before Wolff makes good on his threat?

A great book for reluctant readers. This is historical fiction, but the chapters are pretty small, and something is always going on. The chapters flip from 1910 (present day) back 10 years to 1899 and 1900, and the Alaskan Gold Rush. You get both sides of the story, and there's a twist that is set up nicely through the book.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Ty has been watching Gemma for the past six years. He's watched over her, left her gifts, and kept his eye on everything around her. But Gemma doesn't know that. Not until it's too late.

Gemma wakes up to find she's no longer at the Bangkok airport where she met Ty, but the middle of the outback in Australia. And Ty has no intention of ever letting her go. Escape seems impossible, especially since there are no signs of civilization any where. And that's only the beginning. What can she do but go along with what Ty wants? At least until she can figure out a way to escape.

I really enjoyed reading this story. It's told from Gemma's point of view, but she's writing to Ty, explaining to him how she felt about being abducted and held hostage. The ending does come with a little twist, and I ended up actually liking Ty. There are a few inconsistencies with the story, but on the whole, it was interesting. There's not a lot of action--but some--but the story is written well enough to hold your attention.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey

Jill Jekel can't believe her father is dead. At the funeral, Tristan Hyde seems to be the only one who really understands her pain. But before she realizes it, Tristan also disappears.

Then Jill finds out her dad spent her college fund and stole from the college he worked for. Jill hopes she can win a chemistry contest and scholarship to replace the money her dad took. To do that, she and Tristan pair up to recreate her ancestor's experiments. Tristan has his own demons and his own reasons to help Jill win the contest--the solution to the beast that lies within.

Told in alternating voices, the premise of the story is interesting. It's a love story, with chemistry and action thrown in for good measure. Jill and Tristan are full characters, but many of the adults don't seem fully fleshed out. They are mostly background noise as the story focuses on Jill and Tristan. An interesting twist on a love story, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman

Jacob's been in and out of the foster care system most of his life--until he stumbles into Mr. Fielding, who takes him in. They get along well together until a car accident kills Mr. Fielding.

But Jacob has a secret. Right before the crash, Mr. Fielding whispered "You are indestructible" to Jacob, which saved his life. Jacob's not sure, but he thinks he can't die. And when he accidentally writes the same phrase on Olivia's cast, he puts both their souls in danger.

The story seems a little odd, and it is. There is a lot of suspension of disbelief here, but the story itself is interesting and engrossing. Most of the book is spent trying to see the limits to this "power" of Jacob's, with Olivia getting more and more obsessed with it. When Jacob and his best friend realize they shouldn't have been playing with the idea, it's almost too late to save Olivia. Lots of action and suspense. You just have to ignore some of the most implausible ideas.

Secret Saturdays by Torrey MalDonado

Justin and his best friend Sean are tight. Justin's sure they know everything about each other, so when he catches Sean lying about his weekends, Justin doesn't know what to do. Now Sean is skipping class, avoiding homework, and hanging with some of the older guys in the neighborhood.

Justin decides he has to figure out what's going on, so he, Kyle, and Vanessa work up a plan. Meanwhile, Sean, who's never had to use his fists to fight, gets suspended for fighting. Now it's more important than ever they figure out what's going on.

A great and simple story. Told from Justin's point of view, but the story really focuses on Sean and their friendship. It's rare to find a well-written book about friendship between two guys living in the projects in New York and surviving without gangs.

Wereling by Steve Feasey

What would you do if you woke up one morning and everything you owned was ripped to pieces? That's the dilemma Trey wakes to one morning. Everything he owns is ripped apart and the window is almost pulled completely out of the wall.

Enter Trey's long lost "uncle", Lucien, who says he has all the answers. But answers Trey doesn't want to hear--not at first. Trey is the last known natural-born werewolf. As such, his life is in danger. Before he knows it, Trey is on an adventure of his lifetime, as Lucien's daughter is kidnapped and Trey must learn how to control the beast within, before it destroys everything he's ever known.

The first book in a new series, judging from the ending. There are a few inconsistencies throughout the story, but it doesn't detract from the overall plot. Lots of action, fighting, and background to make the book interesting, as long as you can ignore some of the holes. Hopefully they'll be explained in the next book.

Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots by Abby McDonald

To Jenna, environmentalism is everything. She spends her time organizing protests and writing senators. Her best friend, Olivia, or Livvy, is just as passionate.

After her parents throw a wrench into her summer plans, she heads off for Canada instead of Florida, to spend some time with her godmother.

Canada isn't quite what she expected. The town is tiny, the house her godmother lives in is being renovated, the stepdaughter is horrid, and Jenna's vegetarianism and conservation attitude doesn't fit with the locals. And just maybe, it doesn't really fit with Jenna.

The story is solid, a good chick-lit romance. A few inconsistencies that are distracting, but the story keeps you hooked. A light-hearted and fun read.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Grace was attacked by wolves when she was just 6 years old. Since then, she's always found wolves fascinating, especially the wolf that saved her all those years ago.

Sam knows Grace should have turned into a wolf when she was 6. He's watched her every winter as a wolf and tries to work up the courage to speak to her in the summer.

Then one of Grace's classmates, Jack, is attacked by wolves and supposedly dies. Sam ends up shot. And Grace soon learns the wolf she sees every winter knows more than he's willing to tell.

This story is told from Grace and Sam's points of view. How the wolves become human or wolf is all part of the story, and Grace and Sam's story is more tragic because of it. A great romance story with paranormal overtones. There's some action thrown in as well, but most of the story focuses on Grace, Sam, and their feelings for each other.

The sequel to this book is Linger.

Scars by Cheryl Rainfield

Kendra was sexually abused and is still recovering years later. She doesn't remember the face of her abuser, but slowly her memories are coming back. Kendra doesn't think she has the time it'll take for her memories to return--someone's following her. And threatening her to keep silent.

All Kendra has is her art. But her artwork is getting more expressive of the trauma she's going through, trauma that she cuts to forget. Her artwork also leads her to Meghan, a girl whom Kendra can relate to. Soon she finds herself wanting to talk about everything that's happened to her. And her abuser ups the stakes to keep her quiet.

A very intense book. Kendra's pain is real and visual. Her cutting is well-described so it can be hard to read. Not reading it would be the real tragedy. This is a book everyone should read to understand what the victims of sexual abuse go through, and how inadequate most of the help for them really is. Heartbreaking, realistic, and emotional.

A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker

Fiona can't wait for the beginning of her senior year--until the day arrives. The principal announces all seniors will participate in a class to prepare them for marriage--without which, they can't graduate.

It wouldn't have been so bad if Fiona hadn't been paired with jock and jerk Todd. And if his girlfriend, Fiona's archenemy, wasn't paired with Fiona's crush. Todd and Fiona can't stand each other and strive to embarrass the other as much as possible. Fiona's mother is on a crusade to get the marriage-preparedness class revoked from school curriculum. Fiona's best friend Marcie is keeping a big secret from her. And it appears that Marcie's "husband" may just have a crush on Fiona.

How long can one semester last?

Although predictable, there is a lot of humor in this chicklit romance. Many of the pranks Fiona and Todd play on each other are hillarious. Fiona is a humorous narrator, although a little selfish, naive, and self-absorbed. She doesn't notice many things going on around her until they're smacking her in the face. Despite that, it was entertaining and fun to read.

Morpheus Road: The Light by D.J. MacHale

Marshall's sure he's going crazy. At first he thought he was just seeing the Gravedigger--a figure he's been drawing all year--outside the window of his house. Then he thinks the Gravedigger is trying to kill him--first at school, then again at home. All Marshall knows is he has to stay put until his dad gets home. Then they can get him help.

But help isn't easy to find. While Marshall is being stalked by a fictional character, his best friend goes missing. And Marshall can't help but wonder if the two things are connected. He heads to where Cooper was last seen with Cooper's sister Sydney. He hopes they aren't too late. But Cooper's life isn't the only one left on the line, and Marshall isn't safe from anyone or anywhere.

A great start to a new series. There's a lot of suspense and terror, but not quite the horror story I was prepared for. The setting and characters are vivid and charismatic--I couldn't put the book down. The ending especially leaves you with expectations for the next in the series. Can't wait!

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

Alan and Nick have been on the run most of their lives. First, they moved around with their parents as magicians hunted for them. The magicians are determined to get back something their mother stole from their leader Black Arthur.

Now that their father is dead, the brothers struggle to survive and hide with their mom in England. Alan, the nice one, can't say no to anyone, so when Mae and Jamie show up at their doorstep needing help, the whole family is sucked in. Before Nick knows it, Alan has the mark of a demon and it's a race to survive and save his soul.

Most of this story is told from Nick's perspective. He has a dark side that he struggles with constantly, and the story is well-written and told from his side. Alan and Nick are fully developed and complicated, and there are twists and turns throughout the story to keep anyone interested. There are a few things that are left unexplained--hopefully the sequel, The Demon's Covenant, explains those.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum

I really don't read a lot of non-fiction, but this book looked intriguing enough I decided to give it a try.

This book is more about the first medical examiner, Dr. Charles Norris, in New York City to actually hold a medical degree, and the first toxicologist, Alexander Gettler. Each chapter is about a different poison and how the two working together figured out what effects the poison had on the body and in what levels. Before their time, forensic science was not considered to be reliable or even usable in a court of law--Norris and Gettler changed all that.

This is a fascinating work about poisons, chemistry, science, and how it has changed and shaped our lives. I learned so much from this book about Prohibition and the people who died of wood alcohol, the women who died from radiation poisoning and taught us that radium was not beneficial. There is a lot of chemistry and science in the book, which is hard to get through, but the story woven through the pages makes it all worth it. I enjoyed each chapter focusing on a different poison and how Gettler and Norris worked to get forensic science into the 20th century.

Deadly Little Secret by Laurie Stolarz

Camelia is your typical junior in high school. She has good friends, gets along with her parents, and has, to this point, not caused any trouble. Then Ben, the new guy, saves her life. And she can't stop thinking about him.

So when the first picture appears in her mailbox, she shrugs it off as a joke. Then a gift appears on the window sill of her second story bedroom. Then the phone calls. And even more pictures appear. Her friends all suspect Ben, who has a mysterious past including the suspicious death of his last girlfriend. But Camelia isn't so sure. And the stalker isn't willing to wait for her for long.

Lots of suspense and romance thrown together to balance nicely. You aren't sure who Camelia can trust through most of the book. Every few chapters you get insight into the stalker's mind, but the author is careful to give hints about who it could be without throwing suspicion on anyone specifically. There is some paranormal stuff thrown in here as well with Ben's gift. A well-written suspenseful novel--I can't wait to read Deadly Little Lies.

Taken by Norah McClintock

Stephanie hasn't gotten along with her mom since her dad died and Gregg came into their lives. Her mom seems happy with Gregg but Stephanie can't stop comparing him to her father. She doesn't understand how her mom could have moved on so soon.

But that isn't the only thing going on in Stephanie's life. Two girls matching her description have gone missing, one soon after the other. The first girl's body is found and it's only a matter of time before the second one is too. Everyone has been warned to go nowhere alone, but Stephanie figures the walk home from the bus stop is populated and nothing will happen.

Turns out she was wrong. Finding herself tied up in the middle of unfamiliar woods with no food or water, Stephanie knows she doesn't have long before the serial killer comes back to finish her off. She has to keep her wits about her, escape, and find someone to help. What if she can't find help before the serial killer finds her?

A short but engrossing book. I'm not one much for suspense, but this book pulls it off well. Stephanie does have some wilderness survival training, so most of the book is about her traveling through the woods to find help. The story ends with a twist that isn't all that unexpected, but still works with the story. Lots of action.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Our 16th president led an extraordinary life, and according to this work of fiction, we only knew the half of it.

At the age of 12, Abe's story begins. From humble beginnings, Abe declared war on vampires when his mother was murdered by one. He spent most of his young life hunting and killing those who used humans as cattle. The Civil War wasn't just about slavery of African Americans--it was about slavery of all vampires.

Grahame-Smith weaves vampires into the true story of Abraham Lincoln's life and presidency, focusing on the events in Lincoln's life that truly made him an amazing man..and in my opinion, the best president in history. Even without the vampire killing.

Heist Society by Ally Carter

Kat had enough with the family business until someone framed her in a school prank and her father is accused of stealing a private collection of extremely valuable paintings. And the owner won't hesitate to hurt everyone Kat cares about if he doesn't get them back.

So Kat has two weeks to find and steal back the five missing paintings. She knows her dad didn't take them--his alibi is stealing something else and having Interpol on his tail. Kat needs the skills and help of a few old buddies--Hale, Gabrielle, Simon, and the Bagshaw boys. Uncle Eddie, the unofficial leader of the family, has washed his hands of the whole mess and told her to do the same. But she can't do that with all of their lives on the line.

Kat knows who took the paintings and where they stashed them. Can she and her crew pull off an amazing heist to save her father and not get caught?

Lots of action and movement--Kat runs around Europe pretty easily. The characters all interesting and everything is well described. If you liked I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You, you'll definitely love this story!

Every Little Thing in the World by Nina de Gramont

Sydney is sixteen and has a problem--she's pregnant. And when she and her friend Natalia are caught stealing Natalia's parents' car, neither share Sydney's condition or the fact Sydney was trying to tell Tommy, the baby's father.

The last straw, Sydney is sent to her dad, who then sends her on a canoe trip in Canada for a month. No technology, just a group of teens camping in the wilderness. Then surprise--Natalia's parents think it's a suitable punishment for her as well, and both girls are in the wilderness together. Sydney had hoped she could forget about being pregnant for a while--but Natalia thinks and talks about it through the 4 weeks.

Along for the ride comes boys, friendship, and food poisoning that ends in Sydney's decision about the pregnancy.

Sydney is your typical teenager--she gets into trouble and can't tell her mom the real reason behind it. She forgets about the pregnancy for as long as she can, ignoring the whole issue until she can't anymore. This is one of the rare books that tackles the issue of abortion without being didactic. The only thing I wish is the book had some resources for girls in Sydney's situation. The book is very realistic and poignant.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Freaksville by Kitty Keswick

Kasey Maxwell thoroughly believes she is a freak. She fears touching anything with her bare hands because she sees things. Her visions usually involve death or mayhem and end with her in pain. Which is true when she gets a vision of Josh, the foreign exchange hottie from England.

Kasey assumes her vision means she should follow him, but Josh catches her. Then Kasey gets caught in auditioning in the school play, or admitting she was following Josh around. No one knew she'd land the lead. Just like she didn't realize the theater was haunted and she'd start seeing ghosts. Now everyone around her appears to be keeping secrets--Josh, her parents, and even her best friend.

Before she knows it, Kasey is up to her neck in Freaksville. And it isn't as bad as she feared.

Yet another paranormal romance mystery/suspense. There is a lot of things going on--the ghosts in the theater, Kasey's relationship with Josh, her dad's secret and his job, her mom's secret, and the normal high school struggles. The book is written in blog form, with much humor, action, suspense, and a little romance in the mix.

The Poison Eaters: And Other Stories by Holly Black

A collection of short stories all having a fairy tale or fantasy twist to them.

Black has published most of these in other anthologies, she just collected them all here in one novel.

"The Coldest Girl in Coldtown"--vampires
"A Reversal of Fortune" --deal with the devil
"The Boy Who Cried Wolf" --shapeshifters
"The Night Market" --elves and curses
"The Dog King" --shapeshifters
"Virgin" --faeries and unicorns
"In Vodka Veritas" --Bacchus and his followers; fairies (sort of)
"The Coat of Stars" --faeries
"Paper Cuts Scissors" --books, characters out of books (think Inkheart but darker)
"Going Ironside" --faeries in our world
"The Land of Heart's Desire" --faeries in our world
"The Poison Eaters" --far away kingdoms and getting rid of opposition

I don't usually like short story collections, mostly because the stories are really good and I want to keep reading them. With this compilation, I didn't feel that way. Several of the stories could have been longer--I would have loved to keep reading. Most of them had an ending that I was satisfied with and happy to turn the page and go on to the next one. "The Coldest Girl in Coldtown" and "In Vodka Veritas" were my favorites.

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Brittany and Alex can't be farther apart in appearances. Brittany is upper middle class, from the north side, and has everything. Alex is Mexican-American, belongs in a gang, and lives on the south side. Unfortunately for both of them, they are stuck as chemistry lab partners for the year.

They do have a lot in common though, as they realize. Brittany has a hard home life with a sister with cerebral palsy and parents who fight constantly. Alex lives in a tough neighborhood and the only way to save his family is to be a member of the local gang, like his dad. They both spend more time thinking about the other than they should. Their different worlds threaten to tear them apart right when they can't live without the other.

Told from both points of view, this is a fabulous love story. It reminded me a little of West Side Story, with a much better ending. Brittany and Alex fight the odds to be together. There is a lot going on here though--not just love and romance. I could barely put it down, and can't wait to read Rules of Attraction.

I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder

Ava can't believe Jackson is gone. The love of her life died and she can't help but think it's all her fault.

But Jackson isn't really gone--at least not yet. He's still around, letting her know he still cares for her. All she wants to do is stay home and feel his presence.

Life has a way of moving on and after a summer vacation away from her house, Ava realizes she can't hold on to him. Her guilt increases as Jackson struggles to communicate with her.

Can she move on and let him go? That is her hardest choice.

This story is a novel in verse and very well done. Schroeder gives hints about what happened to Jackson as the book begins at his funeral. Ava's feelings of guilt are apparent on every page and each flashback reminds her what they had and how she lost it. Lots of emotion and grief--probably more than if the book was written in prose.

My So-Called Death by Stacey Jay

Karen didn't know she had a genetic mutation that would keep her alive when she fell off the top of the cheerleading pyramid in front of the whole school.

Now she's head to a boarding school for the Un-Dead. As soon as she arrives bad things start happening. Some students at DEAD aren't mutants like her--they were raised from the dead by a magician and rescued. Those students are now in jeopardy, including Karen's new friend Trish. Girls have been found with their brains missing and Karen and Trish are determined to find the culprit. Karen gets distracted by cute Gavin--her number one suspect and then Trish is attacked. Now Karen and Gavin must find the attacker before they're the next victims.

An interesting paranormal romance--all the elements are here. There's a lot of description from Karen about being a zombie (including brains and eating them). The real killer is one of the plot twists and Karen's reaction to everything is as well. I wouldn't say this is on par with Jay's other Undead series, but I still enjoyed the story.

The Stolen One by Suzanne Crowley

Kat has lived a simple life with Grace and Anna, Grace's daughter. They survive in a small village but life cannot continue in the same manner forever. Christian, Grace's nephew, asks for Kat's hand in marriage and Grace receives a visitor wanting to collect a debt. Then Grace dies, leaving far more questions than answers.

Hoping to find those answers, Kat and Anna take off for London with nothing but a note from Grace and a hope they can survive. Kat's taken into court by Queen Elizabeth herself. Kat gets attention from many who wish to do her harm or distract her. In all that goes on, Anna heads home, Christian comes looking for her, and Kat realizes who her parents really were.

A good historical novel, with lots of truth/fact wrapped in all the fiction. There's enough mystery to keep the story going even when it lags a bit. A definite read for anyone interested in the Elizabethan era.

I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It by Adam Selzer

Alley can't believe the craze vampires, werewolves, and zombies have stirred up. Ever since they've gone public, most teens try to be goth or just date one--everyone wants to be a vampire or werewolf. Not Alley though. She and her friends stand back and watch the mayhem without getting too involved.

Then she meets Doug, and to her, he's the perfect kind of guy. They like the same music and he isn't a poser--he's the real thing. She ignores the warning signs until all the popular girls tell her they're dying to meet him. Apparently, Doug is a zombie--something Alley didn't figure out on her own. Now she has to decide if she's going to die to be with him or break up. Before a vampire decides for her.

As a satire on the whole paranormal romance movement, it succeeds. However, by the way the author narrates through Alley, it's apparent he didn't date in high school. The characters are all stereotypical girls and guys--girls and guys are both attractive and pretty brain-dead. Alley's comments and observations are amusing. The book was very entertaining--hand off to anyone annoyed with the Twilight era.

The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

Grace has always been close to her family, even though they have many secrets from her. Like her brother Jude, who came home one night covered in his own blood and his best friend Daniel disappeared.

But Daniel's back and Grace is more confused than ever. Wanting to be loyal to Jude, she can't help but be drawn to Daniel again and again. Daniel appears to feel the same way, but when she gets close to him, he pushes her away. When Grace's baby brother disappears, Daniel is the one to find him. Jude is even angrier at this and Grace must decide who to trust. Secrets have a way of coming out and Grace is determined to know Daniel's. Determined to save him too, if she can.

I did enjoy the story, but there were a few irritations as I read it. For one, when Grace finds out Daniel is a werewolf, she tells him over and over again how he can be a hero. She's 17, and doesn't seem to be that naive in the rest of the book. This is the story of the prodigal son with werewolves. There are Christian fiction overtones as well, but they aren't heavy or preachy. A good werewolf romance with plot and mystery.

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Meghan thought her only worries would be getting the most popular guy in school to notice her. And he notices her all right, enough to publicly humiliate her. But that's the least of her worries--her brother Ethan begins acting strange and even attacks her. Her friend Robbie explains Ethan's been kidnapped and replaced with a changeling.

Meghan can't believe it at first, but Robbie proves his story and the two head off into Nevernever to rescue Ethan. Robbie's real name is Puck, like in Midsummer Night's Dream, and he acts as Meghan's guide. Much more is going on than meets the eye, as Meghan learns of her heritage and the danger facing all the fey.

An interesting first in a series. A lot of character development and action, but the story kind of drags in the middle. Meghan falls for Ash, one of the fey princes, without much of a back story or interaction, and there is some forced dialogue as the author struggles with her themes. A mix between Midsummer Night's Dream and Alice in Wonderland. Despite all of this, I'm still going to be waiting for the next one in the series!

The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott

Sarah's had a crush on Ryan since at least the 8th grade, something she thought her best friend Brianna knew about. But Brianna starts dating him anyway, determined Ryan is the one for her. Small problem--Sarah still has a crush on him and Ryan appears to have a crush on her.

The Unwritten Rule--don't fall for, don't date, definitely don't kiss your best friend's boyfriend makes Sarah feel especially guilty. Brianna has a hard home life--her parents either ignore her or treat her like a complete failure, which means Brianna needs support from Sarah and Ryan. When Brianna makes out with another guy to get Ryan's attention and it doesn't work, Sarah may think she's found a way to calm her own conscience.

Sarah tells a good story. She is the friend that is "stealing" the boyfriend, but you don't hate her. Brianna gives her a lot of backhanded compliments and is angry and perplexed why Ryan would like Sarah more than her in the first place. Sarah and Brianna's friendship doesn't survive, but as the reader, I didn't really want it to anyway. I found Sarah to be a much more likable character. She shows remorse and Brianna never does.

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Sophie is a witch and in big trouble. No matter the reason, every time she casts a spell it goes horribly wrong. She is finally sent to Hectate Hall, where all witches, shapeshifters, faeries, and other creatures go when they fail to fit into a 'normal' existence.

Hex Hall isn't so bad--Sophie's found a good friend in Jenna, her vampire roommate, and a huge crush on Archer, the school's resident hottie. Not that it's all sunshine--some of her fellow witches are showing up dead and Sophie is seeing a girl in green wandering around. Sophie can't help but wonder why her power seems so different from everyone else's and if she can learn how to control it.

I really enjoyed this story. Sophie is a great character, full of smarts, spunk, and her own sense of self. There are instances where the story twists in unexpected ways. If you liked Harry Potter, you'll probably like this one too.

The Guardian by Julius Lester

Down in the south, segregation is a part of life. It's 1946, and even though African Americans have been free of slavery, not everyone things they should be. They certainly aren't treated the same.

Ansel has been friends with Willie his whole life. They both work in Ansel's dad's store, but Willie only works there because of Esther Davis. Otherwise, Bert-Ansel's dad-would have never hired Willie. He wants nothing to do with "their kind."

Then a girl is murdered and the boy who did it goes free after accusing Willie's dad. And in that instant, everything Ansel thought he understood disappears and life for him will never be the same.

This is a powerful story but confusing. The prologue talks about the trees used for hanging people and the last chapter talks about the survivors being guardians to pain, shame, and murder. The book is about lynching, so no easy topics discussed here. A short, painful, and necessary book.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Blood Promise by Richelle Mead

I'm not going to do any spoilers here, but I didn't want to ignore this book either.

I read The Blood Promise, the 4th book in the Vampire Academy series, the other day. While the book looks huge (and it was published as a hardback, unlike the others in the series that all came out in paperback), it reads pretty fast.

The story still follows Rose as she attempts to fulfill a promise she made Dimitri.

While the book could have been smaller, I can't wait to read what happens next, and anxiously awaiting the 5th book in the series, Spirit Bound.

If you haven't read the Vampire Academy series, yet, please do. Yes, they're vampire novels, but I push them on all of my Twilight fans! And they are, dare I say, much better!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Seen True Blood on HBO? Read the book that started it all!

Dead Until Dark is the first of the Sookie Stackhouse series. Sookie is telepathic and lives in Bon Temps, a small town in Louisiana. Since vampires made themselves known two years ago, she's been hoping one would stop in town. She gets her wish when Bill shows up at Merlotte's one night. She can't believe it. Not only is there a vampire in the bar, but she can't hear his thoughts either! She's not the only one that notices the vampire, and before the night is over, she's rescued him from the Rattrays, a couple determined to drain his blood.

Sookie and Bill start dating, much to the joy of her grandmother and the dismay of everyone else in town, including Sam, Sookie's boss. So many things happen at once that Sookie isn't sure what to think or believe. Women known to go around with vampires start showing up dead and while Bill isn't a main suspect, yet, other vampires are. Sookie's life might be in danger, and in more ways than one.

A fantastic novel! If you've read Twilight you'll see some parallels (but this book came out first). The HBO show doesn't quite do justice to the book, but the story lines are close. I loved the book and enjoyed reading about Sookie's strange abilities and her romance with Bill.

You Don't Even Know Me by Sharon Flake

A collection of short stories and poems about African American guys. Each story or poem highlights the difficulties guys face in expressing emotion, surviving the streets, being a man, or just making it through the day.

Even though I'm not a guy, I still think the stories reflect the difficulties and strains guys go through most days. There are a wide variety of stories to tell, and even though Flake can't cover all of them, she hits the mark on some of the most important.

A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

I didn't think I'd read this at first, because the reviews weren't fantastic for it. But I thought I'd give it a try, and I'm glad I did!

Mary is a thief who lives in Victorian England. Saved from the gallows, she's given a second chance to make something of herself by attending the Academy, a school for girls who want more than a life of servitude to a husband or living on the streets. She's then introduced to the Agency, a group of women who work secretly to investigate crimes and criminals. As women are more property than person in Victorian times, they can work behind the scenes without ever being noticed.

Mary is sent to the Thorold household as a companion to their daughter, but really to find out more about Mr. Thorold's business dealings. He's suspected of smuggling gemstones and artifacts from India. Frustrated with the lack of business talk in the home, Mary decides to start hunting around his offices, where she runs into James Easton, also spying on Thorold. The two decide to team up and learn what they can about Thorold's practices. What they find is a whole lot more than they ever expected.

The mystery is complicated but interesting. A good book with intrigue and history all in one. Someone who doesn't enjoy historical novels would still enjoy this book. I don't notice small inaccuracies, and even though the whole book takes a while to get up to a pace, it was still entertaining. The first in a series.

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Violet is just beginning her junior year of high school and concerned about her growing feelings for her best friend, Jay. She's not sure if he feels the same way about her, but she's pretty sure he doesn't--he never acts like it.

But that's not all Violet has to worry about. Violet has a special gift. She feels a pull or an echo, to find murdered creatures. In the forest behind her home, that usually means animals that have been eaten or killed. She's only found a human once--when she was eight she found the body of a murdered little girl.

That all changes on Labor Day weekend, when she's out on a jet ski with Jay. She feels a pull towards the shore where she finds the body of a teenage girl.

Now girls are disappearing with more regularity and Violet can't help but think she needs to help find the killer. Each echo leaves an imprint on the murderer, and she knows she's the only one that feel it, just by seeing the killer's face.

What she doesn't know is she may be the next victim.

A thriller with some romance thrown in for balance. An excellent and exciting novel. The murderer's point of view is offered every few chapters as he picks up new victims. Violet's story is well-written and terrifying. Let's just say, I didn't want to be walking out of work at night into our vacant parking lot!