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.