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!