Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Princess of Las Pulgas by C. Lee McKenzie

Carlie, her mom, and her brother haven't had the best year. Carlie's dad just passed away from cancer, and not too long after, the family has to sell their home and move from Channing, a pretty well-to-do town, to Las Pulgas, which is not so well-off. Carlie goes back and forth between hating her dad and missing him like crazy. She can't wait for life to get back to "normal" and for the family to move back to Channing.

Nothing works out the way she wants though. In school, she's called 'Princess' and refuses to make friends. Her brother shuts down and then vandalizes the school. Even though she doesn't want to, Carlie starts getting pulled into the lives of her classmates--especially since they are putting on the play Othello together for a fundraiser for school and Carlie is playing the lead.

She learns that at some point, things can never go back the way they were. And maybe you wouldn't want them to.

Carlie is a believable character going through an awful experience. There are a couple of times where you just want to shake her, but they fit into what's happening in the story. Stereotypes are both broken down and used in this story. Heartwrenching at times.

Prom Dates from Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Just weeks from graduation, Maggie Quinn just wants to keep a low-profile and get out of Avalon High as quickly as she can. Not so easy when Stanley, a guy "lower in the high school food chain," asks her to prom. She has no intention of going. Not for anyone.

That day changes Maggie's life forever. She has a gift she's been trying to ignore, but her nightmares are back. In gym, as everyone lines up for diving, Maggie's fear of the water is paralyzing. As Karen heads up to dive off the low board, Maggie sees a shadow in the water and then Karen slips, hits her head, and falls into the water. Not long after, some other people in school are also targeted and Maggie's gift for sensing when things aren't right goes off left and right.

Someone's raised something and set a curse on people at her school. And going to prom may be the only way to set things right.

Yes, I read this book all in one setting, and I really want to read the other two. Maggie is a great character and I was laughing many times at her comments and the things that were happening in her story. Just enough of a creepy factor for me too.

Audrey, wait! by Robin Benway

Audrey breaks up with her boyfriend Evan. Pretty normal, right? Wrong. Evan's a musician, and he turns their break-up into a song. Which becomes very popular. So popular, Audrey is hearing it on the radio constantly. She can't escape from it.

Meanwhile, her family's being hounded by reporters and photographers, her best friend Victoria is getting all sorts of free stuff, but Audrey just wants everything to go back to normal. She is interested in a new guy...but it's hard to understand why he'd want to put up with being followed all the time. All of this could ruin her junior year.

This was a very entertaining read. I laughed at parts, sympathized at parts, and enjoyed the whole story. Audrey is an enjoyable character, especially since every once in a while she talks to the reader.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Skyship Academy: The Pearl Wars by Nick James

Jesse, Eva, and Skandar have gone down to the Surface, which is illegal, to trade for a Pearl. Pearls come from outer space and have enough power for small cities. The mission is a success until Jesse is trapped on a roof by Cassius--a trainee in the Unified Party and enemy to the Skyships. Jesse falls but survives without a mark on him. Cassius still gets away with the Pearl, so Jesse, Eva, and Skandar return to base without the prize they went looking for.

Cassius, however, knows something happened while Jesse was hanging off that roof. He knows Jesse did something to him. Especially when he sets his entire room on fire. Madame, the real leader of the Unified Party, has a special mission. When she heads up to the Skyship, she wants Cassius to find and kidnap Jesse. She doesn't explain why, but Cassius feels honored he is chosen for such an important mission.

Until it goes badly. Jesse recognizes him and tries to escape. He's helped by his friend Avery as they jump into a ship and head for the surface. The two of them try to avoid Cassius, but at what cost?

At every turn, Jesse is learning who he can and cannot trust.

A solid beginning--it appears there may be more. There are some pacing issues, but mostly this is action-packed. Especially about halfway through the book to the end. Something is always happening and there are enough twists to keep anyone interested.

Siren's Storm by Lisa Papademetriou

In the tiny seacoast tourist town of Walfang, Will and his family live year-round selling flowers, home-baked products, and food to the seasonal crowd. Last summer tragedy struck when Will's brother went out on his boat one night. His body has never been found and Will has very dim memories of that night--for some reason he was on the beach but doesn't remember how or why.

When a hurricane is predicted for their little town, Will knows he needs to go to the harbor and help his uncle secure their boat. On his way, he runs (literally) into the most gorgeous girl he's ever met. With his truck. When he looks for her, she's gone. After heading to the docks to help his uncle, he sees her again, climbing down the rocks to the beach. He then runs into her again, this time working at the local diner his best friend Gretchen also works at. The mysterious girl's name is Asia and there is definitely something strange about her.

All Will cares about is she may know what happened to his brother. Before he can swallow the truth, he may have to save his best friend too.

I admit to liking books that take Greek mythology and twisting them to fit into today's world. This one definitely does that. The sirens from Odysseus' time make a new appearance. Will is a good main character who will hopefully be more fleshed out (along with Gretchen) when the sequel comes out.

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

Kate's mom is dying and one of her last requests is to move back to where she was born. So Kate packs them both up and drives from New York to Eden, Michigan. Kate knows she's not ready for her mom to die, but knows it's going to happen soon.

Kate goes to school, not really wanting to leave her mother behind. She doesn't expect to be there very long, so figures she doesn't really need to make friends. Her first day one of the football players takes an interest in her, much to his girlfriend's annoyance. To get back at her, Ava convinces her to go to a "party" where she intends to leave Kate behind. Instead, Ava falls and dies.

To save Ava, Kate makes a deal with Henry, a strange guy who appears just around the bend. She'll do anything for Ava to be alive again. Without her knowledge, she bargains her freedom. When Henry comes to collect her, she refuses to go. With her refusal, Ava dies instantly. Horrified, Kate finds Henry and even though she can't save Ava again, bargains with him to keep her mother alive the six months she has to stay with him.

What an eye-opening experience those 6 months are...

A retelling of the Persephone myth--sort of. Kate is not Persephone but a replacement for her. The story does stretch incredibility every so often, but it doesn't get too far out of line. The sequel will be coming, and fans of romance will eat both of them up.

Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar

Scott begins his freshman year of high school with very little expectation and a whole lot of worry. He wishes his big brother was around to tell him what to expect, but since he never graduated from high school, Scott isn't sure what kind of advice he'd give.

Then Scott's parents announce they're pregnant. Still reeling from the idea, Scott decides to write down tips and tricks for the unborn sibling for beginning high school. Just so when that person enters high school, Scott can act as a guide for him or her.

Other things are going on in Scott's life though. He's trying to get Julia, a girl he's gone to school with for years, to notice him. He runs for student council because she does. He joins the school newspaper because she wrote a story. And he tries out for the school play because he hears she's going to. All of these plans backfire on him. In the meantime, he might just learn what being in high school is really like...

And what a ride it'll be.

Hilarious, sweet, and completely realistic. I highly recommend this for anyone to read. We read this for my book club and we absolutely loved it. It is a little dated, but you'll never even notice!

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

In Anya's world, things like chocolate are illegal. Too bad her dad was the head guy of one of the best chocolate-making companies in the world, and so, one of the biggest crime/mob bosses! Both he and Anya's mom have been dead for a while now, and even though Anya has an older brother and they live with their grandmother, Anya is really in charge of the family. She knows the best thing she can do for the family is to keep her head down and stay out of the lime light.

Then her ex-boyfriend gets sick off of chocolate he begged her to have and she's blamed for the poisoning. At the same time, she meets the son of the new assistant D.A. and starts to fall for him. All of this leads to the kind of attention she doesn't want and her family doesn't need. But she can't help what her heart wants.

Until she has to bargain with the devil to keep her family together.

Anya is a fantastic character with the weight of the world on her shoulders. She tries to walk a fine line between keeping up appearances and keeping the family together. Attempting to keep her promise to her father ends up costing her too much in the end. There were a few confusing spots throughout the story which could have been covered with a little more backstory, but otherwise, I enjoyed the story. Took me a while to get through though!

Drink Slay Love by Sarah Beth Durst

Pearl is just your average 16-year old vampire...conceited, hungry, and considers humans to be little more than food. She especially likes the guy at the ice cream store--right after he's eaten chocolate mint ice cream. He's her favorite snack.

After indulging herself one night, however, Pearl is attacked and stabbed through the heart. By a unicorn. Her family (also vampires) doesn't believe her, but when she can walk in daylight without burning to a crisp, she starts to wonder if this new power won't be useful. With the king of the vampires coming, Pearl knows her family is expected to provide lots of food. And what better than teenagers from the local high school?

Not only can Pearl walk around during the day...she also develops a conscience. And suddenly the idea of killing a massive amount of people doesn't sit well with her at all. Not to mention the role she must play to make that happen. She has to choose between her family and her new found conscience.

Very interesting twist on the vampire story. Pearl is an interesting character, but there are definitely some flaws. Overall it was a good story...I just lost interest every once in a while. I liked the idea though!

Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Amy Goodnight is the 'normal' person in a family of witches. She herself was fascinated by ghosts until a tragic incident when she was 11 almost killed her and her sister. Now she tries to suppress that part of her nature and keep her family's secret.

For the next month, Amy is watching over her aunt's farm along with her sister Phin. While Phin will be dealing with keeping all the plants alive, Amy is in charge of all the animals. Which is how she meets Ben, the cute rancher from next door. That's also how she learns about the ghost plaguing Ben's ranch.

Amy is thrust back into the supernatural when she most definitely wants to be left alone. But how long can she deny what's a part of her?

A good paranormal romance. Lots of humor and creepy points--especially good for a ghost story.

Wolf Mark by Joseph Bruchac

Luke has lived his whole life being prepared for something bad to happen. His parents have run through drills and safety measures "just in case" something goes wrong.

The day after Luke has a horrible nightmare in which he meets a creature known as Grue, his dad disappears. Following the clues his dad's left behind, Luke discovers his dad has been kidnapped and it's up to him to save his life.

Luke has been training for such an occurrence most of his life; he just never expected to have to do it alone. And while he gets most of his questions answered about their strange heritage, the mark on his hand, and why electronic devices don't work for him, he's left with just one mission. Find and save his dad. At any cost.

A fascinating read, it does wander at times. Luke is a great narrator, but even he admits he gets sidetracked easily. A lot. There is page after page of action, but the back story is also well-developed. This is a great werewolf novel from a Native American point of view. Highly recommended.

Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

Isobel can't believe she's paired with goth Varen for an English project. Varen seems equally disgusted, so their project is not off to a good start.

When Isobel's boyfriend and friends trash the ice cream shop where Varen works to make Varen stay away from Isobel, she realizes maybe Varen isn't so bad afterall. At least he handles things better. Isobel can't believe her boyfriend would do something so horrible.

Weird things start happening to Isobel after that night. First, she's chased through the woods behind her home. Then she meets a man who introduces himself as Reynolds and informs her she's going to save them all. She has no idea what he means, but shadow creatures begin to stalk her nightmares and even in the real world. Before she knows it, she's in a world of Varen's making.

And they're all going to die.

This is the first in a series, so be ready to want the next one right away. Isobel and Varen eventually figure out their feelings, only to be ripped apart. There are lots of references to Edgar Allan Poe throughout, especially since Varen is a huge fan and according to this story, the same thing that makes Varen go over the edge did the same for Poe.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Rory, a teen from small town Louisiana, moves to London for a year to attend school at Wexford. The same day she arrives, a murder takes place. A murder in the style of Jack the Ripper.

Rory doesn't pay a lot of attention to that. Until she almost chokes and dies. Now she's seeing people no one else can. Her new friends think she's either making things up or going crazy.

The murderer is also curious about Rory and begins to follow her around. Not sure what's going on, she turns to the only people who may be able to help. Unfortunately they are also in a little over their heads.

The ghosts and terror in the story are very real, but there's also humor and a solid central story. I liked Rory and thought her narration was easy to follow. Another amazing book by Maureen Johnson!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Cas exterminates, or kills, ghosts. He's pretty good at it too. His dad did it before him, until he was killed by one. Now it's Cas' turn, and he and his mother travel across the country, following leads.

They head to Thunder Bay, Ontario, to confront and put down a ghost most locals know as 'Anna Dressed in Blood'. Cas isn't sure what to expect, but he goes in, just to scope it out. Actually, two local teens knock him out and push him inside, trying to scare him even though they don't believe the story.

That is, they don't believe it until Anna appears and rips one of them in half. Cas isn't sure what to expect, especially since the next time he sees her, she beats him up. She's a ghost with extra super powers and for once in his life, Cas doesn't know what to do.

Gruesome and scary. The ending is definitely a twist. It's very enjoyable, despite a couple flaws. And spooky too!

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Nailer works on light crew--crawling into the deep paths on the ships beached in the Gulf and pulling copper wires to cell. His life is hard and he almost dies more than once. He is afraid of getting too big to continue this job as well.

He and his friend Pima save a girl, Nita, whose father is very wealthy. Nailer's dad wants to ransom her, but Nailer just wants to get her to safety. So they run away.

On the run, they don't know who to trust. They'll have to start somewhere to survive.

A pretty good dystopia--has everything you'd want, including a little social commentary. Action, adventure, and danger to keep things moving.

Playing Dead by Tim Bowler

Blade has been hiding in London for a while, hiding from his past. It catches up to him though, in the form of thugs who are trying to capture him and make him pay. Blade is sure he can avoid them, but he'll have to leave London.

Then he meets Becky and gets tangled up in her life. Becky wants to escape the gang she belongs to--the same gang that beat Blade up before--and she wants Blade's help. What Blade doesn't expect is Becky isn't straight up with him. Not even a little. And the two of them end up kidnapping someone's kid because of it.

It took a long time to figure out what Blade is saying; the British slang is very heavy here. I wasn't really a fan of the story at all. Blade talks to the reader, like we're on the run with him, which is a nice device, but I found I didn't care too much. I'm sure I'm just an anomaly.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rachel Spinelli Punched Me in the Face by Paul Acampora

Zachary and his dad move to Falls, Connecticut, to start over after Zachary's mom left.

Life in Falls, Connecticut is very different. First, they live in a house and not a trailer. Everyone knows everyone else. And then there's Rachel Spinelli. Rachel, her dad, and her brother Teddy live across the street and Rachel wants to make sure Teddy is treated nicely by Zachary and his dad. Teddy is "special" and Rachel doesn't want Zachary being mean to him. Zachary is actually happy to be friends with them both.

Nothing happens the way he expects, even when his mom shows up.

A times funny, heart-wrenching, and always enjoyable, this is a realistic story of a high school freshman settling into a new start. Highly enjoyable.

As I Wake by Elizabeth Scott

Ava has no memory of her life. She wakes up in a strange bed, a strange home, a strange world. All she knows is...nothing. Not even her name.

Memories start to return, but not easily, and they do not belong in the world she's living in. She doesn't remember Jane, the woman who says she's her mother. She doesn't remember her friends--well, she does, but not the same as they appear now.

There's a guy she does think is familiar--Morgan. Ava knows him better than she knows herself. He is the catalyst to bringing back her memories of another world, another time, and another place entirely.

Morgan, however, doesn't belong in this new world and risks fading away completely to find Ava and get her back.

By the time the story ended, I was enjoying it. Getting there took some time...the story is confusing from the first page. Ava is also confused for most of the story, so you're just right there along with her. An interesting premise though.

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

Chloe can see dead people. Or rather...their ghosts. When they realize she can see them, they do anything to get her attention--even making themselves as frightening as possible. She freaks out at school one day and gets herself sent to Lyle House.

Chloe's aunt is the reason she goes to Lyle House instead of any other home. But everything there is strange. Her roommate Liz is sent away. The staff seem to be waiting for her to do something supernatural as well. When she gets locked in the crawl space under the house, it creates stunning results--she wakes up the dead. Literally.

With the help of Simon and Derek, foster brothers who also have supernatural secrets, Chloe knows they must escape.

Not a bad start to this supernatural series. Chloe has a clear voice, most of the time.

Misfit by Jon Skovron

Jael Thompson has a huge secret. Her mother, who died when she was a baby, was a demon. Her father, an ex-priest, moves them around constantly, to protect Jael from forces that would try to either kill her or use her for evil purposes.

When Jael turns 16, her dad gives her a necklace he promised he would. With that gift, everything changes. Her dad doesn't want to tell her anything, but before long, he has to. Her demon half is making itself known. She can't control her emotions and the demon who killed her mother is now after her.

The story starts a little slow, but that's only the first chapter. Flashbacks and memories surface through the book. Lots of dialogue, action, and a little romance round out this supernatural story. There's some mythology as well.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Five 4ths of July by Pat Raccio Hughes

Jake's first 4th of July happens in 1777, one year after the start of the Revolutionary War. He's with his buddies, swimming, joking, and having a good morning before having to go home to do chores. The war has started, yes, but it has no real impact on his life.

1778, little has changed. Jake's father decides on the 4th to enlist Jake in the militia, and Jake is angry at being forced. Things are changing, but even though the war has been going on for two years at this point, it means very little to Jake personally.

1779, all of that changes. The British attack New Haven, and Jake, who lives in East Haven, and his best friend Tim are in the middle of all the action. The Rebels run out of ammunition and have to retreat to a new post to keep fighting. Jake and Tim get separated from the rest of the militia but decide to protect Jake's father's ferry. They are captured and forced onto a prison ship.

1780 and 1781 find the boys completely different. Each 4th of July brings about new issues and torments. And all they think about is surviving to the next day.

A powerful novel. Each chapter is only about the 4th of July, but the narrator catches you up on what's happened in the past year. There is action and adventure here, but also brutal truths about war and about the Revolutionary War in particular. Very moving, and the author's notes at the end about the real people her characters were based on is appreciated.

Storm Runners by Roland Smith

Chase and his father run around the country ahead of natural disasters, helping people get ready and being there when they need to rebuild after. Since being struck by lightning, Chase's dad has a sixth sense about where things just might happen.

This time they're headed to Palm Breeze, Florida--or rather, Chase is. Chase's dad is headed to St. Petersburg, where he's sure the latest hurricane, Emily, will make landfall. Chase hopes his dad is right--otherwise he'll be too far away to do much good. The first day of school and Chase knows his father is wrong. Emily is headed right for Palm Breeze, no matter what the weather forecasters say. No one believes him, however, and he gets on the bus, knowing it's one of the most dangerous places to be during a storm.

He doesn't feel good about being right though. The hurricane hits as they're headed home and the bus driver has been taking shortcuts to get around all the traffic. Chase hopes he can help the others survive.

Short but action-packed. The book ends as the eye of the hurricane passes over Palm Breeze, so there is a sequel (The Surge), which comes out soon. I couldn't put this book down.

Rise of the Corpses by Ty Drago

The first in the Undertakers series.

Will is startled and extremely disgusted when he leaves his house one morning and stumbles upon his neighbor, Mr. Pratt. A very dead Mr. Pratt. Who is still walking around and talking, only Will can also hear his voice in his head. Will runs as fast as he can to get to the bus and away from what he assumes is a hallucination (a bad Pop-Tart perhaps?).

However, when he gets to school he's met with even more undead people. His math teacher. The assistant principal. A couple of janitors. He tries to control his panic, but it's hard. And they seem to realize he can see them. When they attack, Will tries to fight back and luckily is saved by Helene, a cute girl in his class. She fights them off and they escape. Helene tries to explain to Will what's happened, but they're followed everywhere by what she calls Corpses. Soon he's taken to Haven and the whole thing seems unreal. Apparently these beings have come to earth and inhabit dead bodies--but they can animate them for a time. And Will's father is the only adult anyone knows of that could see them for what they are. Which makes Will a big target for the Corpses--they want to study him. And kill the rest.

So...you might have some reluctant readers hesitate to pick up this book. It is pretty thick. The story moves fast for the most part--it could have used a little more editing before printing, but that seems to be the norm now. There is A LOT that goes on, even for the numerous pages. However, it was worth the reading. It's a good story with action, adventure, friendship, and discovering oneself. Not to mention alien beings invading dead bodies.

The Girl is Murder by Kathryn M Haines

Iris hasn't had an easy few months. Hearing that her father was returning from Pearl Harbor, wounded in the attack, Iris' mother kills herself. Shock is the least of Iris' emotions.

So Iris and her father move to the Lower East Side of New York, and Iris will be going to a public school for the first time in her life, not the private all-girls school she's use to. And nothing could have prepared her for public school. Her purse is stolen the first day and she has no idea where to find anything.

Iris' father is a private investigator, hindered only by his leg. Knowing they're running out of money and job leads, Iris tries to help. So when a boy goes missing at her school, she's sure she can help out. But does her assistance make it easier or harder for her dad to do his job?

Written in the style of Nancy Drew, Iris always seems to be in the wrong place at the right time. She does have some naivety that undermines her detective skills. I liked the premise and the historical background was vivid and entrancing. The ending was a little disappointing, but on the whole, I enjoyed the story.

Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs

Tempest knows one of the most important decisions of her life will come on her 17th birthday. She will have to decide between staying human or giving up her humanity to become a mermaid. Like her mother.

Her mind is already made up though--she would never abandon her family and friends like her mother did. While the pull of the ocean is strong, Tempest knows she can resist it. But her body seems to have other ideas, and it doesn't wait until her 17th birthday. Changes are already coming.

Then she meets Kona, a mysterious man she feels drawn to. The sea witch from her childhood comes back and tries to claim her. Before her eyes Kona is struck down and the only thing she can do to save him is put him in the water. But when he disappears, she knows she has to follow.

I wasn't expecting to hate or love this book, but I did really enjoy it. I couldn't wait to see what happened, and even though the big battle towards the end kind of fell flat, the book ends with a questioning tone, which I assume will lead to sequels. It is a paranormal/supernatural romance story, but since the author writes romance in her adult guise, I'm not surprised!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Shine by Lauren Myracle

Cat's best friend Patrick was found one morning at the gas station, tied up with a gas pump nozzle shoved down his throat. The police are placing blame on outsiders, while Patrick lies in a coma. Cat's own relationship with Patrick has been strained--she's shut him out since the awful incident she went through a few years ago. She feels partially responsible--if they had been getting along, she would have been with him that night.

Cat also doesn't believe Patrick was attacked by outsiders. In fact, she knows exactly who attacked him and left him tied up to die. Her only problem now is proving it. But her searching into Patrick's last night opens a whole can of worms involving her brother, her past, and the whole community. Until she becomes a target.

Mostly about Cat, the town, and life in the South. The ending has a slight twist to it, but not unexpected. I enjoyed the story and unraveling the mystery and secrets of the town and Cat.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Evie has a special talent--she can see through glamours. This talent lands her in the International Paranormal Containment Agency, from the age of 8. Now 16, she is sent out to "bag and tag" supernatural beings to minimize their influence and hunger on the human population.

Then Evie catches a shape-shifter in her boss' office--a boy her age named Lend. She knows he could be dangerous, but she can't stay away. The more she learns about the agency she's called home most of her life, the less she thinks of it. When the agency is attacked, she takes the chance to break out and try her hand at freedom. With Lend's help.

A pretty typical paranormal romance. Lots of things go wrong, but Evie is just as concerned about life and death as she is about getting to go to prom. I enjoyed the story and I'll recommend it, but mostly to fans of chick lit.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Tessa's going to die soon. At the age of 12 she contracted leukemia, a deadly cancer. Four years later it's spread all over her body and it's only a matter of time. She's made a list of things she wants to do before she dies--a list she knows her dad won't approve of. So she gets her friend Zoey to help her.

First on the list--have sex. Other things include saying yes to everything for an entire day, becoming famous, falling in love, driving, and shoplifting, among others.

As her time grows shorter, her list gets longer. She meets the boy next door, Adam, who has a lot of his own issues to deal with. She spends time with her brother Cal. And Zoey has her own surprise along the way. Life is what Tessa wants to experience, before it's too late.

Absolutely heartbreaking to finish. Tessa isn't always a sympathetic character but very realistic. As a narrator she draws you into her story and even though you're sure you know the eventual outcome, it is still hard to put down and hard to keep going.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Beatrice lives with her family in the Abnegation faction. They dress all in grey, wear their hair up, and are completely selfless. Beatrice and her brother are nearing their Choosing Ceremony, where they'll decide which faction to live the rest of their lives in. Before that happens, they have to go through an aptitude test, which indicates which faction they should be in. Beatrice's test shows she's Divergent. She's told to tell no one.

At the Choosing Ceremony, the first shock Beatrice gets is watching her brother Caleb choose the Erudite--the intelligence faction. The second shock is watching her own hand choose the Dauntless--the bravery faction. Once there, she changes her name to Tris and has to learn survival, fighting, and killing to become a full member.

Her days are spent training but she learns quickly how to survive in the brutal surroundings. Then she stumbles upon something that isn't quite right--deals being made between the Erudite and the Dauntless, aimed at the Abnegation. And finding that being Divergent means she can manipulate simulations, which means she may have a chance to save her family.

On the same bent as the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Enclave by Ann Aguirre, we've entered another dystopias, this time in Chicago. The story moves quickly, the characters are well-drawn, and Tris is a great narrator. Some things are obvious, but that's ok. I'm sure there will be more--so this sets up a great beginning. Well worth the read!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Lark by Tracey Porter

Lark was kidnapped, raped, then left tied to a tree to die. Nyetta, a young girl Lark use to baby-sit, sees Lark's ghost now. Lark only has so much time before the tree traps her soul. In order to be free, someone has to acknowledge her wounds and what happened to her--Lark has chosen Nyetta for this 'honor'.

Eve was Lark's best friend, and she is also haunted, but by her own guilt. They had a fight and couldn't work past it.

The three of them are lost and not sure where to turn. Lark's time is running out but Nyetta can't do what she wants. And Eve is tormented by her guilt and knows she needs to do something.

Short and sweet, but serious. The story is told in alternative voice and very well-done. Each character, while not fully formed, has a strong enough voice it keeps the pages turning. Emotional but not overkill.

The Enemy by Charlie Higson

Everyone over the age of 16 has come down with an illness that rots their brains and bodies and makes them crave human flesh. Fresh human flesh, which is why all the grown-ups are chasing around children. Children are the only ones who have survived. At least until they turn 16.

Maxie is second-in-command to Arran and their group of kids live in a supermarket reinforced to keep the grown-ups out. They also fight another group of kids--Blue's crew--for food. They soon realize some of the grown-ups are still intelligent and join forces to find a new place to live. They head to Buckingham Palace with Jester, who was sent out to find groups like theirs.

Traveling through London isn't easy though. A big group like theirs draws a lot of attention, and not just from the grown-ups. Once they arrive at Buckingham Palace, things are not as they seem. David, the one in charge, has plans to be on top and to unite all the kids of London together. Maxie and Blue, however, have something to say about that.

Ok, not a book for the faint-at-heart. While the adults eating kids isn't exactly described to the bare bone, it does have some description to it. The adults are vicious and hungry. The children are great characters and their fear and survival are well-portrayed. Looking forward to reading The Dead, which is a companion/prequel, and the third one that brings everything together.

Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill

Mercy is a servant girl in the Putnam household. Her life hasn't been easy, especially since her whole family was murdered when she was young. Ann Putnam, Jr. follows Mercy around and wants to be like her. Her mother practically ignores her existence. Their friends Margaret Walcott, trying to attract a boy she wants to marry, Elizabeth Hubbard, who is beaten by her relatives on a regular basis, and Betty Parris and Abigail Williams, who both started this whole mess, begin a dangerous game of devil possession and naming witches. So many innocent, and maybe not so innocent, people die because of their stunts.

Each girl has her own motivation and doubts. And as the 'witches' are put to trial and then killed, each girl has to decide if it was all worth it.

Exceptional retelling. Completely told in verse, each of the main 'Afflicted' have a side. No one is victimized or villainized. A new look at the Witch Trials of Salem.

Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks

Cadel has not always been...good. He's a genius, and easily gets into trouble. After hacking several security agencies, he's no longer allowed access to a computer. And he has to start seeing a psychiatrist, Thaddeus Roth.

Thaddeus has another agenda. He's been hired by Cadel's real father, who is in jail, to take care of him. Nurture his bad side. And enrolls him into the Axis Institute, where Cadel can learn all sorts of things to begin his criminal career. He learns disguises, embezzlement, and gets access to all the computers he wants.

But putting together a lot of criminals and in a small space only works so long. And if Cadel has a change of heart and no longer trusts anyone...where can he turn? And who would survive being nice to him?

A good story, but A LOT of things happen. Lots of plot and intelligence. The book picks up about halfway through and goes faster.

Abandon by Meg Cabot

Pierce is very unusual. She died when she was 15. When she died, she went to the Underworld, but didn't know it. So when she saw John, the man she met after her grandfather's funeral in the cemetery, she asked him to save her. And he did.

Two years later she's alive--she was brought back to life--and moving with her mom to Isla Huesos, where her mother grew up and where she met John for the first time. Where she runs into John again, after having escaped his palace in the underworld when she was 15. She feels drawn to him, despite the danger. John fears for her safety, since the Furies try to destroy anyone he cares about. Can Pierce save herself and John? Or is it hopeless?

A good love story and twist on the Persephone and Hades story. This is the first in a trilogy, and although Pierce is a little slow on the uptake, it's well-written and she is a strong character. Can't wait for the other books!!

Flygirl by Sherri Smith

Ida Mae has always belonged in the skies. Her father was a pilot and taught her to fly. Trying to get her pilot's license, she is saving up enough money to attend a flight school in Chicago.

Then World War II begins and Pearl Harbor is bombed. Ida Mae's dreams go up in smoke. When she learns the army is looking for female pilots to fly cargo and supplies, she attempts the riskiest plan of all--passing as a white girl in order to enroll. She forges her license and she's in.

What she didn't count on was having to live two lives--fitting into the colored world back home and the white world outside of home. She feels like she's fading, the longer she holds up this farce. All in order to fly.

A fascinating historical book. The historical aspect is done well, but the main focus is on Ida Mae. I loved her character and the courage she has to face every obstacle. Highly enjoyable.

Department 19 by Will Hill

Jamie Carpenter's dad has been labeled a traitor when Jamie was younger. In fact, Jamie saw him shot down right in front of their house by the government, and since then, Jamie's been in trouble.

One night Jamie's attacked by a girl his age who's a vampire. He can't believe it, but when he runs home to find his mother missing and an odd guy waiting for him, he starts to believe. Especially when he's rescued by Frankenstein.

Turns out, all the stories we shrug off as folklore are actually true. Dracula did exist and the men responsible for killing him started a secret government division--Department 19. Jamie's dad was a member, but he sold information about the department to keep Jamie and his mom safe. Now Jamie must learn all he can and fast, despite half the agency thinking him a traitor too. His mother's life depends on it.

While the story is pretty engrossing, it is a little long (over 500 pages). There are moments when it seems everything crawls by, but it picks up again. There are lots of flashbacks to explain how we got where we are today. The only point I found odd was every once in a while, you'd get a random thought from another character, not Jamie. Not usual. This is probably the first in a series too.

But I Love Him by Amanda Grace

Ann has been dating Connor for the past year. For their relationship, she's given up track, her friends, even her mom. She's even moved in with him now.

But Connor isn't the perfect boyfriend Ann envisioned. While he promised her from the beginning he would never hurt or hit her--he breaks that promise. Ann knows it's her fault--she's not doing things right--and he's always sorry afterwards.

The night of their one year anniversary, though, things go too far. And she has to figure out if she can really stay with someone like him.

An emotional and harrowing book. Ann and Connor are both sympathetic, although Connor loses that as time moves on. This book starts at the end of the year and moves backward in time, while flashing forward again to the present. A hard book to read, but even harder to put down.

Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan

Nas has reached a crisis in her 459 years of life. While out partying with other immortals like her, her best friend Incy uses magick to snap the back of their taxi driver when he gets angry. Nas, shocked and disgusted, flees to find River, another immortal she met 80 years before.

Life with River and her 'school' of immortals isn't what Nas expected at all. They grow their own food and spend their days learning how to control the good side of magick. Nas doesn't know if she can survive this type of living, but recognizes she may not have a choice. Something has to change and just maybe, this is the change she needs. And one of the other immortals on the farm--Reyn--looks familiar to her in a way she can't figure out. But he definitely draws her attention.

The longer she spends with River, the more Nas' memories come out and the most painful ones are yet to surface. Nas must accept her past, however, to move into the future.

Ok, so yes, this is a paranormal romance. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story and can't wait for the next one in the series. I have serious doubts as to whether this should even be considered a 'teen' novel though--the main character may look like she's 18 or 21; she's actually much older. I enjoyed the story and the romance is there but not very strong, for the first book in the series. Highly recommended for those who like paranormal with a splash of romance.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Draw the Dark by Ilsa Bick

How I managed to read two books in a row about a guy who struggles with a difficult power, I never know...but I did.

Christian has a gift, although he sees it as a curse. He can make people's darkest fears come alive on paper, or draw their death. It worked on his teacher when he was seven and on his aunt when he was ten. Since then he's struggled to control it.

But he can't control his mind when he's asleep. He wakes up one morning sore and still tired, to find his uncle, the sheriff, wanting him in for questioning. In his sleep Christian went to an old barn owned by the richest guy in town and, hanging from a rope by one arm, spray-painted "I Saw You" with a couple of Nazi swastikas. He has no memory of this, but must clean it off and do community service.

Working at the nursing home isn't so bad until he stumbles upon Mr. Witek. Somehow they're all involved and Christian knows he must figure it all out before it's too late.

Amazing book. Slow start, but by the middle it's going at a good speed. The mysteries get more involved as you go along, and Christian's visions on paper get stranger and stranger. Very enjoyable and not at all scary, like I thought it was going to be!

Venomous by Christopher Krovatin

Locke has problems controlling his anger. He calls it 'the venom' and when he loses control, people get hurt. He doesn't want the venom to be in control at all, but he can't always help it.

Then Locke meets Renee and she seems to have the power to keep the venom under lock and key. His best friend Randall introduces Locke to her and to a whole group of people, including Casey, who has his own dark side to struggle with.

The venom won't stay quiet for long, though, and things are far from over. Can Locke figure out how to conquer it once and for all?

Fascinating book. Locke is a complicated character, and even though I was thinking about Spiderman from almost the beginning...you do want him to figure everything out. The supporting characters for the most part are well-drawn and have their own voices. The venom's voice, when it comes out, is a little creepy.

Zombies Don't Cry by Rusty Fischer

Maddy's Home Ec class has had some...problems. In the past three months, three girls have died. They weren't well known, but after the third death, people start to wonder.

Then Maddy runs into the new boy Stamp, literally. He asks her to meet him at a party one night, so she sneaks out. On the way, she's struck by lightning and dies.

She's not dead though, just undead. A zombie. And as such, she needs to follow the rules or be put down for good. But Bones and Dehilia--no surprise they're Zerkers--can't wait to take Maddy down. Going through everyone she cares about to do it. And Maddy must join Dane and Chloe to fight.

Too bad none of them know what to expect.

I enjoyed this zombie romance. Maddy's a fun character, but she isn't the only fully-fleshed one. The setting is well-done and even though almost everyone dies, highly entertaining.

Virgin Territory by James Lecesne

Dylan didn't want to move to Florida from New York City, but everything changes when his mom dies. The move was suppose to be temporary, but Dylan's grandmother is in a nursing home and escapes often enough that Dylan's father wants to be nearby.

Then the image of the Virgin Mary appears in a tree on the golf course Dylan works at, and everything changes. He meets Angela and the Virgin Club, where they do what they want and are willing to take the risk. Soon they're all breaking into houses and unknown to Dylan, stealing things. One thing Angela steals is the small figurine his grandmother treasures, and getting it back could be life or death for her.

I did enjoy the book, although if you're looking for more stuff with the Virgin Mary, you will be disappointed. That's the catalyst that brings everyone together, but that's almost a sidenote. A good realistic fiction. Especially with a guy as the main character.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe

Cass gets along with the dead a whole lot better than the living, but that could be because the dead know almost everyone's secrets--and they're willing to share. Cass uses these secrets to protect herself.

Then Tim, a senior who's mom died, guesses at her secret. He's willing to do anything if she'll just see if she can talk to his mom. Cass thinks this is the perfect opportunity to get back at her ex-best friend and her boyfriend for backstabbing her in the 7th grade, but revenge leaves her cold.

Then enters the complications of her feelings for Tim and his obvious downward spiral. Can she attempt to find a place among the living again?

Yeah, it's chick lit, but it's got a nice paranormal angle to keep things interesting. Cass does some growing, which is good, even though part of me didn't want her to, and it seems realistic. I enjoyed it!

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

John, or Four, is not from Earth. He is one of nine Legacies escaped from Lorien before it was decimated. In those nine sets the fate of the universe.

But the first three are dead and the Legacies must be killed in order. John and Henri, his guardian, head to Ohio to hide, again. It's worse this time, since John knows he's next.

He still tries for a normal life. Sarah, a girl who catches his eye from the beginning, is also interested in him, and Sam, a nerd fascinated by space and aliens, are his two only friends. John tries to avoid drawing attention, but it only works to a point. Meanwhile, his powers are developing; he is able to control light and fire, move things with his mind, and that's just the surface.

Then Sarah gets trapped in a burning building and all hell breaks loose. John's cover is blown and the Mogadorians are coming.

While the action keeps up, even with John's training and everything at school, nothing really happens until late in the book. The story has a lot of good elements, but the ending felt like the movie Thor: "I'll come back for you". A good book and it should be popular. Who doesn't like a superhero.

Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

Ok, so once again, I find myself reading a book in a series, and I don't want to give away what happens in the other two books by talking a lot about this book.

What I will say about this book is this one was the best of the three. I didn't think it would be when I started, but I absolutely could not put it down. This pulls stories mostly out of the 2nd book, Dead-Tossed Waves, but there are a few references back to The Forests of Hands and Teeth.

Well worth the read, and wonderful!

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown

Alex doesn't have a bad life--for the most part. Her mother died when she was young, her father has shut himself off and her sisters don't feel the same way she does about the whole situation.

The only people she counts on are her two best friends--Bethany and Zack. Then she meets Cole, a new student she's been assigned to tutor. Cole seems to understand her from the get-go and he accepts everything. He's so nice and caring. Which is why she can't understand why Bethany and Zack don't like him. Why Cole can't get along with them either.

Then Cole's jealousy gets out of control and he hurts Alex. She's shocked and scared, but when he apologizes, she forgives him. Maybe it was a mistake. Then it happens again. And again. She knows she should leave him, but it's all her fault and everyone will blame her for pushing them away to keep him.

But sometimes things go too far and that decision is taken from you.

This book was utterly engrossing. I was sorry, annoyed, and angry at the characters at different times all the way through the book. Alex's anguish and how she feels about Cole and breaking up with him is very believable and gut-wrenching. Absolutely fantastic.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Rhine can't believe she's been captured. Now she'll either be a bride or be forced to work in a brothel, forced to sell her body for food and have children before she dies.

Which will only be four years from now. Everyone born these days only lives until they're 20 for females, 25 for males. Rhine has avoided the Gatherers thus far, but no longer. She's taken, drugged, and married to Linden, along with two other girls. Despite Linden's obvious attachment and wealth, Rhine thinks only of escape and finding her twin brother. She knows he'll be looking for her, but won't be looking in the right area. She hopes to find him before he takes off. But escape takes planning. And cunning.

The first in a series, because the ending is a cliffhanger. An interesting plot, with girls having to give birth as early as possible to keep the human race going and almost everyone dying young. Tense, beautifully written, and with great characters. Highly recommended.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

The fifty contestants of the Miss Teen Dream pageant trained for months, even years, to strut their stuff in front of the cameras. Too bad their airplane crashes on an unknown and deserted island and some of those 50 girls don't make it.

The survivors are left wondering if they'll ever be rescued. They continue to train for the pageant, but in order to survive they also have to learn how to find food, fend off snakes, and cope with the lack of civilization.

Meanwhile, on the same island, The Corporation--responsible for all merchandise and entertainment available to everyone in America--plots to undermine the government by supplying weapons to America's worst enemy.

Yet another hilarious book by Libba Bray. Enough things go on here, most of all a parody of the way society is. Humor, adventure, and a dose of romance.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Every child is safe until their 13th birthday. Then parents have the option of 'unwinding'--cutting their child into pieces and giving them to others. Once they turn 18, that's no longer an option.

Connor's parents decide to unwind him when he's 15. Risa's a ward of the state that no longer has the funds to support unnecessary talent. Lev is a tithe--born for the purpose of unwinding. All three are thrown together when Connor decides to break for it and kidnaps Lev to avoid getting shot with tranquilizers.

Connor and Risa end up at a sanctuary for unwinds, until things go terribly wrong.

And Lev, well, he makes some uncomfortable decisions.

An unusual concept and telling. The book focuses on different characters--most often Connor, Risa, and Lev, but it is told in 3rd person. The society is always in the background, and those who are unwound still have a voice throughout. Science fiction thriller to be sure!

Matched by Ally Condie

Cassia has been Matched with Xander, her best friend. Virtually unheard of, Cassia is pleased she doesn't have to wonder what her match is like. When she puts her microcard of Xander in her screen at home, though, someone else's face pops up for a few seconds--Ky.

Cassia's told Ky can't be Matched with anyone, but she can't help but wonder. The two of them are thrown together, for hiking, leisure time, and in her neighborhood. He's from the Outer Provinces and while at first that scares her, she becomes fascinated. Her feelings begin to grow, especially when her Grandfather gives her an illegal poem, Ky teaches her how to write, and she begins to question the Society, Officials, and her life.

Then Ky is taken away. Cassia has to decide where her loyalties will lie.

This is the first in a series. I liked how the book unfolded, and Cassia's growth. A lot happens in the book and most of it seems important in one way or another. In a way it reminded me of The Matrix (everything reminds me of a movie!)

Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Deuce has lived her whole life underground in the enclave. She's also been in training to be a Huntress, someone who protects, hunts, and fights for the enclave's survival. After her naming ceremony which identifies her as an adult, Deuce is partnered with Fade, a lone Hunter from Topside. Neither is happy about it at all.

Soon that doesn't matter. The two are punished for not following direct orders by bringing a deformed outsider into the enclave. The outsider brings news--Nassau is gone, overrun by the Freaks who threaten everyone's survival. Deuce and Fade are sent to find the truth--a mission no one expects them to survive. That's only the beginning of their adventure together.

A fantastic book. Loved the characters and setting along with the plot. A lot like The Hunger Games and The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Can't wait for the sequel.

Kick by Walter Dean Myers and Ross Workman

Sergeant Jerry Brown is asked to look into the case of Kevin Johnson, a 13-year old arrested for car theft and kidnapping. Kevin was with another 13-year old, Christy, driving Christy's dad's car.

Kevin has a few secrets to keep and isn't sure if he can trust Sergeant Brown. His own father was killed in the line of duty, and Kevin doesn't know how to handle the grief and anger that comes with that. He's sure that he was doing the right thing for Christy, but it has definitely gotten him into big trouble.

As Kevin tries to help Sergeant Brown with another case, play soccer, and keep his nose out of trouble, something will have to give. When he finally decides to tell what happened the night in question, will it all work out?

This is told in alternative voice and has many subplots. They are mostly handled well--the subplot of the illegal alien feels like it came out of left field. Kevin and Jerry are both great characters. The chapters aren't identified with who is speaking, but it's easy to figure out. Highly enjoyable.

Ghost Hunt: Chilling Tales of the Unknown by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson

This is a collection of short ghost stories from the TAPS group so well-known from Sci-Fi.

Most of the stories are definitely spooky. Some of them are ok, and some could do without the beginning story or the interaction of the staff. On the whole, entertaining.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Death Cloud by Andrew Lane

Sherlock Holmes, the world's greatest detective, hasn't yet made a name for himself. He's 14 and on break from his school. His father's off to India, so Sherlock has to stay with his uncle and aunt--two family members he's never even met. He spends most of his days outside and away from the housekeeper.

Sherlock then meets Matty, a boy living on his own who wanders the countryside. Matty tells Sherlock of a dead person from earlier...and the strange black cloud he saw float out the window after his death. Sherlock thinks he's explained it...until he sees it after stumbling upon a dead body near his uncle's home. A Mr. Crowe comes for the summer to tutor Sherlock and the three of them begin an adventure to solve two murders and unveil a plot to destroy the British Army.

There are definitely slow moments throughout the book, giving you a feel for the scenery as well as the mystery. Sherlock is well-drawn, as are his compadres. When the action starts around halfway through the book, the pace picks up a bit and it goes faster.

Surviving South Side series

Bad Deal by Susan Korman
Fish hates his ADHD medication, so when Ella, a popular girl at school, needs help staying awake to study for tests, Fish doesn't see the harm in giving her a few of his pills. Soon he's selling his meds to several of his classmates, with the demand growing every week. Until he thinks he could get caught.

Recruited by Suzanne Weyn
Kadeem is a pretty good quarterback--good enough to get the attention of scouts anyway. One scout in particular--from Teller--is especially interested. He buys Kadeem dinners, introducing him to some of the cheerleaders, and letting him know they'll help with his grades if need be. When he's asked to help expose Teller's illegal recruiting practices, Kadeem has to choose between what's right and his future.

Plan B by Charnan Simon
Lucy has her whole future planned. Her boyfriend Luke is going off to college next year on a baseball scholarship and she'll follow him a year later. They'll both get teaching degrees and teach at the same school. They'll get married and everything will be perfect.

Then Lucy gets pregnant and everything changes.

Beaten by Suzanne Weyn
Paige is dating Ty, a moody football player who has his future riding on getting a football scholarship and getting away from his abusive father. Paige tries to stay upbeat for him, but that doesn't seem to help. Then he hits her. She hides it from her mom and friends. Then Ty loses a big game and he really takes it out on Paige. Her mom decides to press charges and Paige has to accept he's never going to change.

Shattered Star by Charnan Simon
Cassie's a great singer--good enough everyone thinks she has a shot to make it big. She skips school one day to try out for a national competition, but after a day of waiting, she's frustrated. In walks Mr. King, a talent scout who promises her he'll give her a chance.

He doesn't tell her what she'll have to give him in return. Besides all her money.

There's another book in the series as well, but I didn't get a chance to read it. We own all of the Bluford High series, and I can see these will be popular with the same group of readers. They're short and full of drama. A couple of them skipped the editing process from the looks of it, Beaten is told from Paige's point of view, but the back cover has some other person named.

Invasion by Jon S Lewis

Colt's parents die in a tragic car accident and Colt has to move from California to Arizona to live with his grandfather. Colt's only solace in this is he'll be living near an old friend and his grandfather. Then at school he meets Oz, who acts like this isn't the first time they've met.

Colt finds an unfamiliar cell phone in his book bag one day at school, with a text message saying his parents were murdered. Colt agrees to meet the message-sender to learn more about his parents' death. His mother was about to expose one of the biggest corporations in the world...and they killed her for it. Now Colt's dodging assassins while looking for the information his mother hid somewhere. Unknown to him, he's drawn into a world of aliens and world domination.

He's in over his head but he'll have to catch up quick. His life and the lives of his friends depend on it. Not to mention the whole world.

A great first in the C.H.A.O.S. series. There are many other threads alluded to throughout the book, which if nothing else, tells you there's another book coming. The story ends, however, which I like. Lots of action and a good back story. I enjoyed it!

The Wild by Christopher Golden

This is the first book in the Secret Journeys of Jack London series.

Jack's 17 and definitely an adventurer. He's on his way to the Yukon River in Alaska, and the gold rush that's going on there. This trip isn't for the faint at heart--on the way to the river Jack comes across dead horses and men, and others who have already turned back. Jack meets two men on his way--Jim and Merritt--and the three spend the winter together, surviving and waiting for their chance to look for gold.

Things are not as they seem. Jack sees a wolf tracking him in the forest several times, and that wolf seems to save his life at different points during his journey. Jack, Jim, and Merritt are all captured by slavers and "pressed" into service, looking for gold. Their camp is attacked by a Wendigo--a supernatural beast. Jack survives, but barely, and is rescued by a forest sprite who also tries to imprison him. Jack has to use all of his wits and some desperate attempts to save his life.

The first in a series, some of the action is a little over the top. The characters aren't developed as much as the scenery and the action. I haven't read any of Jack London's books, so I may not see how alike or different they compare. The last half of the book went quickly. Getting there took a bit of work.

Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series by Heather Brewer

Eighth Grade Bites
Life isn't perfect for Vlad, but things are pretty good. He's got his best friend Henry, who he accidentally bit when they were 8, his aunt Nelly brings blood home from the hospital, and 8th grade could be worse. He misses his parents terribly, and believes he's the only vampire left.

This year brings about changes...especially in his need to eat and control his temper. And Mr. Craig, his favorite teacher, goes missing. Mr. Otis takes his place, and seems to know that Vlad is a vampire. Vlad finds his dad's journal and learns some startling truths--like he's not the only vampire and he's been hidden from the others his entire life. They now might know where he is and are coming to get him. To make him pay for his dad's crime.

A good start to the series. There are enough things left unexplained to lead into the next books. Vlad is a great character, but not the only one.

Ninth Grade Slays
Vlad survived 8th grade and now begins his freshman year of high school. Henry's cousin Joss has come to stay with him and Vlad is happy to have another friend--especially when Henry is busy or when Vlad's getting picked on.

Vlad also gets an opportunity to develop some of his vampire powers, which should come in useful when his life is in danger. Which is sooner than he would have thought, as an old enemy comes back determined to take him out, by any means necessary.

She Said/She Saw by Norah McClintock

Tegan was in the backseat of Clark's SUV when someone walked up and shot both Clark and Marvin, both in the front. She wasn't looking at the shooter, she was looking at Marvin, so when the police ask her for a description of the shooter, she can't tell them anything.

But no one believes she didn't see anything. Not her friends, who are shunning her, not her family, who want her to tell the truth, and not Clark and Marvin's families, who are convinced she's scared for her own life and can't be concerned with her two best friends.

Kelly, Tegan's sister, believes Tegan at first. It's entirely possible she didn't see anything. Then she finds out that Marvin, who had a crush on Kelly, told Tegan. And Tegan convinced Marvin to get drugs for the party they were at, even though he had gone clean. Not sure what to believe, Kelly also shuns Tegan.

Until Tegan decides the only way to tell the truth is to flush out the killer herself.

The story is told from Tegan and Kelly's points of view and could have been a much longer book. I found the concept pretty amazing, and enjoy the way McClintock builds suspense and doubt. Both main characters are likable but have their moments.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Steel by Carrie Vaughn

Jill has been competing in fencing competitions for years. She knows she's good, but when she misses the chance to place third in a national competition by 1/2 second, she questions whether she's good enough to qualify in other tournaments.

On vacation with her family in the Bahamas, she finds a dull rusted tip of a rapier. Not sure why, she picks it up and puts it in her pocket. On a tour boat the next day, she falls overboard and is rescued by pirates. Early 18th century pirates. In the early 18th century.

Pirate life is hard and it takes Jill some time to get use to what's going on. According to Captain Cooper, the rapier tip she found is trying to find it's way back to its sword. The owner of that sword is Captain Blane, and Captain Cooper hates him with a passion. It's her mission to bring him down. Jill's main concern is how to get back to her time, since no one would believe that she doesn't belong in the 18th century. Until then, she joins the crew, learns about life on a pirate ship and how to fight with real rapiers.

Realistic fantasy all the way. Life aboard a ship is rough, but not as bad as it could be. The author did some research before writing the novel, and it really shows. There's action, adventure, and drama, and Jill's story is believable. There are a couple of spots that are a bit unbelievable, but on the whole, it's well done.

I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells

John Wayne Cleaver is fascinated by serial killers. He studies them and knows what makes them tick. It's a passtime for him, but so much more. John knows he could easily become a serial killer, but he doesn't want to. So he studies them and sets up rules for himself to avoid following that path.

Then someone is murdered in their little town of Clayton. John immediately believes it's the work of a serial killer, but it takes two more deaths to convince others he knows what he's talking about. And since he knows serial killers, he feels he's the best qualified to figure out the guy's next move.

But what he finds he could never have anticipated. And in order to defeat the killer, he may have to let his own monster loose.

A little grotesque, but pretty good. John is a great narrator. I would recommend not eating at the beginning of the book--the embalming process is explained. Enough happens even when it seems like nothing is happening to keep you interested.

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Benny lives in Mountainside, the only town he's ever really known. He was 18 months old when First Night happened--the night people started turning into zombies. His first memory is of his mother pushing him into his older brother Tom's arms and telling Tom to run while she faces their father--already a zombie. Benny has disliked his brother for being a coward and running away.

Now Benny's 15 and it's time for him to get a job or his rations will be cut. He tries a wide variety before deciding he might as well become Tom's apprentice. His first time in the Rot & Ruin (what they call the area outside the perimeter fence) is eye-opening. His brother calls himself a closure specialist, instead of bounty hunter like the others. His job is to find people who have been turned into zombies and to put them down. On their journey, Benny sees men he's always admired torturing zombies for fun. He knows he'll never be the same again.

But his lessons aren't over. Soon Benny's friend Nix is kidnapped and her mother murdered by the very bounty hunters Benny has always admired. And Benny and Tom know they must go out into the worst of the Rot & Ruin to find her. Before she's handed over to zombies for entertainment.

Utterly believable and well-executed. Benny can be annoying and frustrating at times--especially in the beginning, but that's on purpose. He does mature and grow as the book moves on, thankfully. Enough action, adventure, characterization, setting, danger, suspense, and a little romance to keep the pages moving. Thoroughly enjoyed it!

Monster High by Lisi Harrison

Melody and her family move from L.A. to Oregon, mostly due to Melody's asthma. She fits in at school better than she did in Oregon, but finds many of the students to be a bit strange.

Frankie's parents created her--at the ripe age of 15. She's never been outside before they announce they're sending her to school, but she doesn't understand why, if they keep telling her she's perfect, she has to cover up her green skin with makeup and wear ugly clothes.

But Frankie's not the only monster in hiding. Soon she realizes there are other monsters out there, all afraid to show their true colors. Convinced she knows better, she encourages them to step out and reveal their true selves. And causes mass panic.

Definitely a chick lit book. The characters were ok and seemed true to their natures. It's an interesting idea, and there is a sequel out now. Fans of The Clique series will definitely like this. It did remind me of the book Vamped by Lucienne Diver.

Warrior Woman by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Ok, this isn't really a teen book, but I love Marion Zimmer Bradley and thought I had heard of all of her books (knowing I hadn't read all of them!), so I thought I'd pick this one up.

This is the story of Zadieyek, who has no memory. The first thing she remembers is a trek across the desert and being raped. A lot. But soon she's sold to be the concubines for gladiators--until she defends herself against one gladiator and kills him. Now her 'job' is to fight in the gladiator arena.

For Zadi, that's not a bad life. It isn't one she would have chosen, but she has no memory of life before. She's taken into the home of a rich patron--a woman--and given the task of finding other warrior women who wouldn't mind fighting as gladiators. This takes her over the same desert she was dragged through before, only this time, her memory starts to return.

Ok, so I did enjoy the book, although it was extremely short. A lot goes on, many avenues are started and then not explored, and Zadi only fights in a couple of matches in the arena. This is definitely fantasy, especially when you find out who Zadi is. Maybe not Bradley's best work, but I enjoyed it all the same. Reminded me a little bit about the Darkover novels, although I only read the first one.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde

This book is a collection of short stories, all based on the "Little Red Riding Hood" fairy tale. Some of them include woodcutters, some involve wolves, and one has many of the other Grimms tales intertwined. Each story twists the idea of a young girl walking alone through the woods on her way to her grandmother's house. Some of the stories have happier endings than others.

Some of the stories were interesting, and I enjoyed a couple of them. However, the best part of the book is the Author's Note at the beginning. Some of the stories had a nice twist on the 'original' fairy tale, but none of them could compete with the Author's Note.

The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee

Meg's older brother Orion has been missing for six months. This, on top of her mother's death a few years ago, has broken their family. Meg's father goes through the motions, her aunt tries to help out as she can, and Meg is determined no one else in their family will disappear. She wants to know what happened to Orion, but doesn't know where to start.

One night she sees a strange light from Satis House, long abandoned. Too curious to stay home, Meg climbs over the rooftops of the nearby houses to investigate that strange light. What she finds is a fake seance and an old friend--Charles Dickens. They both spy on the seance, where Meg is astonished to find her brother Orion! Unable to signal him before he leaves, Meg is determined more than ever to find him.

Thus begins Meg and Mr. Dickens' adventure into the seedier side of London. The two follow clues and sightings to the underbelly of London and the child labor which keeps the city going. Their journey is full of peril and more than once, Mr. Dickens' fame as The Great Man gets them out of trouble. Or brings it down upon them.

An engrossing tale. There are hints of Dickens' work throughout, although if you aren't familiar with them it doesn't hurt the story at all. Dickens himself was a proponent of ending child labor, which he often wrote about. A great historical fiction.

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

Scarlett just turned 15, and in her family, that means she's in charge of one of the rooms at the small hotel her family owns and runs. She's given the key to the Empire Suite, one of the best rooms, and the least likely to have a guest.

That's before Mrs. Amberson appears and wants the Empire Suite. Soon Scarlett is not only taking care of the Suite, she's become Mrs. Amberson's personal assistant. When her older brother's acting group is in trouble of shutting down their production, Mrs. Amberson steps in to save the show. But her assistance comes with a price, one that Scarlett may end up regretting. She puts everything on the line...Spencer's job and her family's livelihood. But the show must go on...and anything's possible in New York City.

I enjoyed the story, but the main star was New York City. It's described so well that most of the time, I felt I was running around with Scarlett. There are many dimensions to the story here, and I enjoyed sitting back and watching everything unfold. Dynamic.

Flip by Martyn Bedford

Alex doesn't know what's happened. He wakes up but instead of his familiar bedroom, he's in a strange one. Some lady is yelling for Phillip, and the light coming into the window is all wrong. He doesn't realize at first that he's in the body of Phillip, and he's standing in Phillip's room, in his house, with his family downstairs. No clue what's happened. All he knows is his name, and the last memory he has--climbing into his window in the middle of December. Now it's June. What happened?

While trying to figure that out, Alex is forced to live Phillip's life. Go to his classes, deal with his friends and girlfriends, trying to play cricket (first time ever!), and trying to appear as if nothing is wrong. But something is wrong...horribly wrong. And Alex wants back in his own body. In the worst way.

I really enjoyed this book. Some of the vernacular was odd, but it is set in England. Alex's experiences are realistic and his character is nicely flawed. The ending wasn't totally unexpected but it was nicely executed.

Notes from a Totally Lame Vampire by Tim Collins

Nigel is a pretty average English teenage...vampire. His "parents" turned him many years ago, and existence is just not that great. He goes to school, but doesn't fit in. At home, he's the only one who doesn't have super speed or strength.

The Chloe appears--a new student at his school and all of a sudden, life is worth living. She is his reason for being--not that she would ever know. When she does realize he exists, it's mostly because he tells her he's a vampire. Family dynamics aside, Nigel is definitely learning how to be a vampire at the tender age of 100.

Told completely in journal entries, you get what the title promises. Each day is filled with more of the same...Nigel not fitting in and not having a clue. You might put the book down before you get to any of the interesting stuff, which is about 2/3 of the way in. I heard this compared to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I've never read it, so I couldn't say for certain.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Absolute Value of -1 by Steve Brezenoff

Told from the viewpoints of best friends Lilly, Noah, and Simon, with a prologue and epilogue from Simon's sister, Suzanne.

Lilly's had a crush on Simon forever, but Simon doesn't feel the same way--not at all. Noah has a thing for Lilly, but she doesn't even know. How are the three of these guys best friends? Well, they're brought together by their need for cigarettes and weed. Simon's Noah's best customer, and they tolerate Lilly's presence. They've fallen into the habit of spending time together, but that's all about to fall apart.

While I enjoyed the story, I wasn't a huge fan of any of the main characters. I wanted to see what happened, but I really couldn't care about who was in the story at all.

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Jessica can't believe her life has been turned upside down. Lucius has appeared, claiming not only that he's a vampire, but she's one too, and a princess as well. According to him, the two are suppose to wed, to avoid a full-on vampire war.

Jessica isn't willing to accept any of it. She's happy with her normal life--best friend, math, and of course, the cute neighbor. Lucius doesn't know how to deal with the average American teenager, and wonders if perhaps she isn't worth all of the work he's had to put into convincing her he's telling the truth. By the time her feelings go 180, so do his.

And then there's that pesky war that might or might not happen...

Told primarily from Jessica's point of view, this is a pretty typical vampire romance. What makes it stand out is Jessica's sarcastic and strong personality, along with Lucius' adaptation to American culture. Slowly. I enjoyed it!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Leverage by Joshua Cohen

One of the most absolute hardest books I've read and couldn't put down, all at the same time. Danny is a sophomore and a gymnast. He's actually pretty good, and hopes that a gymnastics scholarship is his ticket to college and away. He's pretty scrawny (a good thing for gymnasts), gets along with his teammates, and loves his sport.

Kurt is a senior football player and a pretty big guy. He's been in the foster care system for a while, and as a survivor of child sexual abuse, he's especially had a hard time after his best friend was killed. He's determined never to be a victim again, and takes the coach's "vitamins" to help with that goal.

What the two of these guys are witness to is horrendous. Three of Kurt's teammates gang-raping a freshman teammate of Danny's. Both too scared to talk about it, they have to decide whether to stay victims, or find the courage to stand up to bullies.

The story is told in Danny and Kurt's alternating voices. Like I said, this was a hard book to get through. The rape scene could have been described in more detail, but it could have been described in less. The author did a fantastic job of hitting just the right notes with both characters and the horrible, horrible action they witness. Everyone should read this book.

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton

Ok, so sidenote...I have been reading...just not updating the blog! So bear with me...we'll get there eventually!

So..on to Angelfire. Ellie suffers horrible nightmares every night. She doesn't understand what causes them, but she can't seem to avoid them.

Then she meets Will and her world gets even weirder. According to Will, Ellie's nightmares are memories from her past lives. Ellie is the Preliator, a human reincarnated with the ability to summon angelfire and kill dark reapers. She and Will have a lot of work cut out for them though, as Ellie missed one cycle of reincarnation and even with Will helping her, can't recall all of her memories yet. Their time is limited and precious.

The first in a trilogy, it has what every good paranormal romance should. Action, some (not a lot) romance, awakening powers, forbidden love, and destiny and fate. Add to that some angels, demons, and a good sword fight or two...I enjoyed it a lot!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves

Ok, this is one of the strangest books I've read in a long time. Nothing is explained right away, so it's hard to describe without giving too much information away.

Fancy and her older sister Kit live with their mom in a town named Portero. Their father, known as the Bonesaw Killer, is currently in jail due to the people he murdered, hacked up, and hid all over town. Portero isn't just any town however. It bridges a gap between our reality and others, so there are all sorts of creatures who come out to play--monsters. There are also doors that lead other places and those doors can be dangerous.

Back to Fancy and Kit. The two of them share a love of killing things, just like their father. When the first embark on their rampage, they decide to limit their killings to people who deserve it. Fancy worries about getting caught, so she is granted a wish of having a place where the bodies will never be found. This opens a door to the 'happy place' where everything is under Fancy and Kit's control. But soon that's not enough for Kit...in fact, she loses some of her taste for murder as she gets more interested in boys.

And Fancy never foresaw the repercussions of doing something 'good' for their fellow townspeople.

A very strange book. Some romance but mostly blood. Not really fantasy, but not really realistic fiction either. I did enjoy it, but really very strange.

Vesper by Jeff Sampson

Emily Webb has one leg out of her second story window when her best friend calls to tell her a classmate has been shot and killed not more than 3 blocks from Emily's house.

Shocked, Emily realizes just where she is..and what she's wearing. She has no memory of changing clothes or why she was climbing out her window. Unfortunately for her, this is only the first night this happens. Suddenly she's jumping from her second story window, chasing cars, beating up guys, and hitting on all the available guys in her path.

This is very unusual behavior for Emily. One she worries about. Why does it only happen at night? What causes it? Then another classmate is shot and Emily realizes she might be next.

This is the first in a series, so naturally, not everything is explained. Emily is on the hunt for a mate, which I could find almost offensive, but the rest of the story is interesting, and trying to figure out what's going on and what she'll do next keeps the book moving. I enjoyed the story, and I'm looking forward to the next one.

Virals by Kathy Reichs

Tory Brennan is adjusting to life with her dad. Just a year ago her mother passed away and she and her dad got the shock of their lives--they learned about each other. Now Tory is living on an island off the coast of Charleston, South Caroline, with Hi, Shelton, and Ben as her only friends.

The foursome spend a lot of time on Loggerhead Island, the research institute where most of their parents work. That's where Tory finds a set of dog tags that lead them on a search to find a missing person, then a murderer. Not to mention the change it makes to all of them.

The book starts off a little slow, but picks up quickly. The science can get heavy at times, but it rarely takes away from the pace of the book. There's lots of action and adventure to go with the science. I'm waiting for the next one to come out.

The Strawberry Picker by Monika Feth

Jenna is 18 and on her own for the first time. She lives with Merle and Caro, two of her closest friends. When a young woman is found murdered, the girls are concerned but continue their lives.

Until Caro goes missing. Before her body is discovered, in the same way as all the other girls, Jenna and Merle start to question what was going on with Caro's new boyfriend. And their determination to find him.

Nate is sure he's been careful, but he is worried the police are on to him. Caro seemed like the perfect girl but she disappointed him. And now he has new prey...Jenna.

The book was originally written in German, then translated to English. It took a while to get into, the perspective changes from various characters often, and it switches from 3rd person to 1st. About halfway through it picks up, but I'm not sure how much it will appeal to teens.

Vampire Crush by A.M. Robinson

Sophie lives a normal life with her stepsister Caroline, her father, and her stepmother. She writes for the paper and is sure she'll be editor-in-chief when her junior year starts.

But her first assignment is not at all what she imagined it would be. There are 8 new students in school and she's asked to interview 4 of them for the paper--Vlad, Marisol, Violet, and Nevielle. Sophie notices strange behavior from all 4...a couple of them are very old-fashioned, and they look to Vlad as a leader. Thrown into the mix is her old neighbor James--tormentor extraordinaire--who is back in town and seems to know a little too much about Vlad and his group.

Sophie gets a chance to learn more for herself when she follows Vlad into the woods after school one day--more than she ever wanted to know. Now she's on a mission before Vlad bites every girl at school and stop him from finding what he believes is his ticket to acceptance in the vampire world.

Ok, so you basically know what's going to happen as the book begins. Vlad and his clan are all vampires, and they're looking for some girl who descended from a bunch of other vampires. Vlad has an evil plot to take over the vampire world...or just become part of it. Sophie and James obviously have feelings for each other, although things get complicated.

What I really enjoyed about this novel was the characters' abilities to laugh at each other and themselves. There's nothing new here besides humor. It did make all the difference.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Andi's younger brother Truman was killed and since that day, she's just been going through the motions. She believes his death was all her fault and feels she has no reason to keep on living. With her mother grieving and her father busy with his new wife, no one really seems to notice Andi on the edge.

Then Andi's father reappears and drags her off to Paris. Hoping to finish her senior project and get back to her mother, Andi finds the diary of a young woman stuffed in an old guitar case. The young woman lived during the French Revolution and was the companion to Louis-Charles, the young French prince. Andi feels a connection and affection for Alex as she reads more of what life was like during the Revolution. And somehow, after another attempted suicide, Andi is transported back to Alex's time...to finish what Alex started for the young prince.

A moving and vivid novel. The imagery is fantastic, but the characters really make the story. I could hardly put the book down.

My only complaint is the lack of information at the end of the book, detailing what was fact and what was fiction. This could also be my laziness in not going to find out for myself, but I think the book would have only benefited from that information.

Siren by Tricia Rayburn

Vanessa and Jessica look forward to their summer vacation every year. They head up the coast of Maine to Winter Harbor and spend most of their time together with the two boys next door, Simon and Caleb.

But one night Jessica gets angry at her parents and jumps off their favorite cliff--and disappears, along with Caleb.

Determined to learn more about her sister and best friend's life, Nessa heads back to Maine to find and talk with Caleb. Instead, she learns far too much about the creatures inhabiting the coast, as more bodies wash up on shore.

A thriller I could not put down. Although I guessed Nessa's true identity long before she does, the mystery keeps the pages turning. This is more of a "will they stop them at some point" rather than a "will they stop it in time" thriller. Lots of action, some romance, and of course, family secrets.

Nomansland by Lesley Hauge

Keller is a Novice Tracker. She lives in FoundLand, a country of all women. The world has changed, and while a few items of the Old People exist, most of them are gone. The materials from the Old People must be purged from their area, to avoid the catastrophe which caused the earth's destruction so many years ago.

But Laing finds a hidden cave of forbidden items and Keller can't stay away. The more she tries to resist, the more often she risks getting caught. The more she learns about the Old People, the less she believes what she's always been told.

An interesting premise. I enjoyed the story and Keller is a likable character. A few characters were not so fleshed out, but it didn't detract from the story. Lots of questioning authority and adventure, along with human nature.

The House of Dead Maids by Clare B Dunkle

Tabby is taken to Seldom House to become the young maid. Once there, she finds the home in ruins, and instead of becoming the maid, she's asked to be the companion for the new young master.

Something strange is happening, though, and Tabby can't help but try to figure it out. The villagers all watch her when she's outside, and inside, Tabby is certain there's another young girl.

Only when Tabby finds the chamber full of old bones does she realize how threatening the whole situation is...she and the new young master are meant to be sacrificed.

A chilling tale that almost works. While it's chilling, the conclusion--and really the climax--stutter a bit and lost some momentum.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Melinda is a freshman beginning her first year of high school, and already a social pariah. At a party before school began, she called the police, getting the party busted. Her friends pretend she doesn't exist, everyone seems to know who she is, and she is completely outcast from everything.

Her only reprieve is art class and the janitor's closet she uses to hide. She's ok with no one talking to her--then they aren't asking her what happened. Something horrible happened to her the night of the party, something she would prefer to forget. But when IT starts dating her former best friend, Melinda feels she needs to speak up. When she finally shares what happens, her best friend doesn't believe her...but not everyone has such a great opinion of IT.

A powerful and moving story about how painful things can be to talk about--especially rape. Melinda's character is believable and sympathetic, and her situation is heartbreaking.

They also made a movie out of this book--it was fabulous. Very well done--check it out if you get a chance!