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!