On Christmas night, Katelyn dies in the bathtub, electrocuted by an espresso machine. Her death is ruled accidental by the authorities, mostly to saveOn Christmas night, Katelyn dies in the bathtub, electrocuted by an espresso machine. Her death is ruled accidental by the authorities, mostly to save the family further grief, but most people think it was a suicide. Twin psychics Hayley and Taylor get a weird vibe about the death, though, and think that something larger was at work. Either Katelyn was murdered, or she was driven to suicide. Either way, the twins want to use their peculiar powers to bring justice to their former friend.
The blurb on the back of the ARC describes this story as inspired by a “ripped-from-the-headlines” crime. I actually remember reading the story it was inspired by when it happened. What is at work here is cyberbullying, and the pain and trauma it causes victims today. The original true story involved a mother and daughter who created a fake teen boy Myspace page, and used it to bully a young girl into committing suicide. The story isn’t exactly copied in this book, so you may still be surprised by what transpires, but it is equally sad and terrible.
While I liked this book, I felt like it somehow never quite gelled for me. This is Olsen’s first attempt at writing a young adult novel, and it showed. It seemed like at times it tried too hard to use current lingo and teen references, and they didn’t quite sit right. Olsen has been a true crime writer, and the pacing and storytelling really reflects that background. Throwing in the extra paranormal subplot overpowered the message of the book at times, and was sometimes distracting from the larger plot at play. I actually think this would have been a more solid novel sans the paranormal aspects, but it seems that the twins’ powers will be a throughline in the rest of the series.
I will more than likely continue reading this series in the future, and I think that Olsen will be able to hone his YA writing skills to result in a book and style that is more true to the genre, and sounds more authentic. I recommend this to fans of true crime, or people who have an interest in bullying and cyber crime....more
I had a great time reading Frost. As a fan of psychological horror and haunted houses with strung out girls, this book was a perfect fit for me. We geI had a great time reading Frost. As a fan of psychological horror and haunted houses with strung out girls, this book was a perfect fit for me. We get the entire story from Leena, a high performing high school senior who has great friends, is close to the dean, and started a peer counseling program at her boarding school. However, we get hints that Leena’s not all that she seems to be. She’s particularly emotionally estranged from her parents, takes pills for anxiety, and finds strange comfort from laying in her roommate’s closet. The same roommate is having issues of her own: she can’t sleep, claims that there’s somebody always watching them, and talks of a girl who once died in the house.
Baer cleverly plays with the concept of female hysteria, while mixing in modern psychology and prescription drug use. She also leaves the readers plenty of fun Easter eggs to hint at Leena’s internal state: Leena works on a crossword puzzle, searching for the answer of Shirley Jackson (who wrote The Haunting of Hill House); she does schoolwork on unreliable narrators, and is compared to Joan Fontaine (the actress in who was in Rebecca and played Lina in Suspicion). The book will read well to those who aren’t familiar with the references, but they do offer a treat to people who recognize them.
Overall, I was compelled to keep reading, and had a great time watching Leena unravel. There’s a romance at stake as well, and I thought that it was well done and didn’t dominate the story. This was a terrific book, and it really scratched my itch for creepy old house stories....more
I first heard about Stupid Fast at BEA last year. I attended a book signing at Books of Wonder, and Herbach stole the show with his reading. It took mI first heard about Stupid Fast at BEA last year. I attended a book signing at Books of Wonder, and Herbach stole the show with his reading. It took me forever to actually pick up the book, but I'm glad I did. I'm also glad I heard Herbach set the tone and cadence of the narrator, because I read Felton's voice in that same super quick manner, livening up my experience.
At first, all I could think was how much of a spazz Felton was. Seriously. He kept referring to himself as a donkey, and was just kind of all over the place. Zing. I wasn't sure if I'd still enjoy the book with such a weirdo as the narrator. The funny thing about good writing, though, is that Felton grew on me. The more I read, the more I understood and wanted him to succeed. Because Felton has a lot of pain in his life, as well as new insane hormones and athletic abilities. Felton found his dad hanging in their garage when he was just a kid, and that has quietly affected him for the rest of his life. Felton's mom is a hippy who doesn't do much disciplining, and Felton's little brother is a piano prodigy.
The thing is, now that Felton's grown all big and become stupid fast, his mom is freaking out. She stops cleaning, cooking, taking care of the boys. She's rude, and all she does is watch television and cry. Felton tries to ignore things at home, even as his brother is crying out for help, but Felton's having a really hard time dealing. I think we can all relate to the feeling of having somebody who has always been there for us suddenly not fulfilling that role. Plus, there are the pressures of football, and everybody's expectations. Felton became very compelling and human very fast.
In the end, Stupid Fast was a book with a lot of heart. Don't let the cover throw you off, you don't have to be a fan of football to appreciate this book. Anybody who has ever been a part of a family, or has felt like an outsider will be able to relate. You'll likely find yourself cheering for Felton in the end, too....more
Saba has lived all her life with her father, her twin Lugh, and sister Emmi in the desert area called Silverlake. Then one day Lugh is captured by cloSaba has lived all her life with her father, her twin Lugh, and sister Emmi in the desert area called Silverlake. Then one day Lugh is captured by cloaked figures, who also kill Saba’s father. She launches on a quest to save her brother, accompanied (grudgingly) by Emmi. The journey is full of dangers, though, including slave traders, crowds crazed by their desire for drugs, sandstorms, monsters, and an insane “king.” Saba can make it, but only if she is able to learn to accept friendship, support, and help from those around her.
Young writes with a terrific style. The story is told in the first-person narrative, in Saba’s voice. The writing expresses Saba’s vernacular speech, so words are spelled the way she would say them, rather than the standard English spelling. What this accomplishes is to place us immediately within Saba’s world, and we get to know Saba’s character very quickly. The narrative is sparse, relying very little on extensive description, and more on action, moving the story forward swiftly.
Saba is a terrific female protagonist. She has fiery rage, which she calls “the red hot,” that she calls up at moments of need, propelling her through conflicts and adversity. She has a complex relationship with her younger sister, Emmi, but their relationship develops throughout the story, adding a very real dynamic to Saba’s character. Saba’s ability to do whatever needs to be done, and to work through any fear she has reminded me of The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen. I think people will really take to Saba.
One of my favorite parts of this book is Saba’s pet crow, Nero. I absolutely love crows, and have always wanted one as a pet, so Nero’s appearance made me squeal with joy. He’s completely intelligent and full of humanity, and just happens to have a really important role within the plot.
Another big plus to this book is the romance that develops. Instead of an instant love story, the romance develops gradually, like a slow burn. When it finally blooms, it’s that much sweeter. YA writers, take note! This is how it’s done.
I was completely smitten with Blood Red Road. Young’s written a really strong debut, reminiscent at times of Stephen King and The Road, but still infused with hope and exuberance.
*Review ebook received from Simon & Schuster as part of their Galley Grab program*...more
Witchlanders is a fantasy novel that focuses on two boys, the stereotypes they’ve grown up with, and their ability to find commonality in a person theWitchlanders is a fantasy novel that focuses on two boys, the stereotypes they’ve grown up with, and their ability to find commonality in a person they have been groomed to hate and fear. Don’t let the “witches” part of the title fool you, like it did me. These are not traditional witches, but magic workers within the framework of the world that Coakley has created. The witches operate more like a subgroup of a society, like the magus class or clergy. Magic takes two main forms in this world of two warring nations: casting bones to read the future, or singing to weave a spell.
Something I loved about this book was the absence of a romance plot. Instead, we see the blossoming of an unlikely friendship between the main characters Ryder and Falpian. From their first tense meeting, to the point where they realize what they mean to each other, it was refreshing to have their relationship at the center of the story.
Although I thought the pacing could have moved more quickly, and the girl on the cover was misleading, I did enjoy this book as a strong fantasy novel that didn’t get too bogged down in the details of the setting or mythology. I recommend Witchlanders for fans of fantasy who are tired of the usual romantic plots....more
Cas Lowood has a special skill he inherited from his dead father: Cas kills ghosts. He travels from city to city with his mother, dispatching the dangCas Lowood has a special skill he inherited from his dead father: Cas kills ghosts. He travels from city to city with his mother, dispatching the dangerous dead to keep them from killing any more of the living. He doesn’t think much of it when he takes the assignment to travel once again in order to rid a town of an especially terrifying legend: Anna Dressed in Blood, the ghost of a teen girl who wears the blood soaked white dress she was murdered in. Something’s different about Anna, though, and Cas finds out that killing her will be much, much more difficult than anything he’s faced before.
Anna Dressed in Blood is an intense and intriguing YA horror debut novel. The main thing I enjoyed about this book was that there were real stakes involved, and characters weren’t necessarily safe. Early in the book, a character that I expected to be a part of the cast for most of the novel was killed off in a gruesome manner. My reaction: yes! (I hope that doesn’t make me sound like too much of a weirdo.) I’m tired of horror novels that bat around with the idea of horror without doing any actual damage to the main characters of the story. By introducing this early death, Blake made me sit up and pay closer attention to the story and world she was creating.
There’s a lot of good creepiness in this book. The ghosts Cas has to exorcise have interesting back stories, and I only wish that there would have been more of them. There is also a voodoo element to the story, which I thought was a nice touch.
One of the high points of Blake’s writing is her character development. Characters don’t fall into ready stereotypes, and Cas grows genuine relationships with those around him. I was kept guessing about people’s true natures and how they would react to situations. Anna was also quite complex: she’s described as a terrifying goddess, but also as a girl who was gravely wronged, and who has remorse for the awful things she’s done.
Something that perplexed me about the writing was the structure of time in the novel. I thought that only a couple of weeks had gone by, but then I learned that it had been months. I didn’t have an accurate sense of the chronology of the story and how much time was progressing between scenes. It isn’t a big deal, but it did throw me off kilter while reading.
This book could have worked as a stand-alone novel, but it is actually the first of a new series. The next book is called Girl of Nightmares, which I’m assuming will clear up the ambiguous ending. I’d also like to see more of Cas’s background, and what exactly happened to his father....more
Something strange is happening in New York. People go throughout their lives in a mindless state of despair, relying on their electronics to carry theSomething strange is happening in New York. People go throughout their lives in a mindless state of despair, relying on their electronics to carry them through each day. Teenager Mal has received a strange, frantic message from his estranged brother, but cannot find him. Elsewhere, Laura has been forgotten by her parents and everybody in her life, suddenly a stranger to them. High school teacher Mike finds a door in the basement of his school that leads to a weird place with menacing people, and an agent named Remak shows up to investigate. All four are thrown together under odd, dangerous circumstances, and must work together to find the answers they seek.
Those That Wake was not at all like I thought it would be. It creates a New York City that has been destroyed by an even larger attack than 9/11, one that has destroyed the ability to hope. Despair is written in the pages of this book, like a bad nightmare. There are four main characters, two of whom I’d consider leads. I didn’t really get attached to any of them, though, so I wasn’t motivated to really care too much about what happened. In fact, they got on my nerves after a bit. Laura came across as pretentious, and Mike drove me nuts with his poor attitude.
I think my detachment from the story led to me getting lost in what was actually happening. I’d have to sit back from time to time to try to get my bearings and start paying attention again. I might have been a bit distracted while reading, but can cite some of that distraction as being a result of the book not pulling me in. Toward the end, it felt like a chore to finish.
I did think some of the concepts were interesting, though. Karp makes a statement about how technology and global interests are having a real bearing on our world, and the ways we interact and relate to one another. It’s a pessimistic view, where technology divides rather than unites. All in all, I think this book was a bit too dark for my tastes, because the darkness comes from something that might hit a little too close to home as a possibility for our future. ...more
When Alex’s family goes on a trip to his uncle’s house without him, he thinks it will be an awesome weekend to himself. Instead, the caldera under YelWhen Alex’s family goes on a trip to his uncle’s house without him, he thinks it will be an awesome weekend to himself. Instead, the caldera under Yellowstone erupts, launching him into an epic struggle for survival while he journeys to try to locate his family. Along the way he is witness to inhuman atrocities as well as astounding kindness. He also meets Darla, a tough-as-nails Iowa farm girl. Together, they struggle through hardship after hardship, fighting to retain their humanity and growing up in the process.
Ashfall truly is a harrowing read. An eruption of this magnitude would be disastrous, and Mullin doesn’t spare his readers as far as the science and implications of such a disaster are concerned. The idea of fiery rocks being blasted 900 miles is terrifying, as is the volcanic winter that results from the ash blocking out the sun. The simple natural effects of the volcano are enough to induce nightmares, but then there comes the collapse of society as well. If anything, the human element in this book is even more dangerous than the weather. Unsavory people are out to make the most of the bad situation, and the government also reacts badly. I didn’t think those scenarios were that far off, either. There was a lot of thought given to how society would react if a disaster of this size would occur in today’s United States, and it would be truly frightening.
When I first began the book, Alex was annoying. He seemed like a teenage boy who didn’t care much about his family, and was selfish. My immediate reaction was that I would not make it through the book if I had to yet again read a story narrated by an immature boy obsessed with sex. What I got, however, was a character that grew and learned about himself and the people around him. Nothing is more satisfying than going on a journey with a main character that has such development that is derived from overcoming obstacles, and that was very much the case in this book. And while sex was a topic that was sometimes mentioned, it was actually treated quite maturely rather than for laughs or shock value.
Darla was an awesome character, too. She was spunky, yet also had a vulnerable side. I really appreciated that she was the one who was good with machinery, and able to do so many things that I would not know how to do. Definitely a strong female role model for readers.
Ashfall was a little bit like the events that would create the world of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. However, there is a lot of heart to this book, and it shows that even in the worst of circumstances, we’re able to survive. Ashfall is a very strong debut for author Mike Mullin....more
Bridget Duke is the queen bee of her school. She decides who is cool or uncool, and everybody is jealous of her. So she thinks. After a few key eventsBridget Duke is the queen bee of her school. She decides who is cool or uncool, and everybody is jealous of her. So she thinks. After a few key events where she treats others cruelly, and a new, perfect girl enters school, she starts to lose control of those around her. People who were her friends begin standing up for themselves, and her classmates go from worshiping her to ridiculing her. In a fit of anger, she races her car with reckless abandon…and ends up in a kind of purgatory where she must literally walk in the shoes of those whom she has affected. Bridget has to make a choice, and that choice will decide whether she lives or dies.
Here Lies Bridget is not an original story. At its heart, it is much like Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. A bad person is shown how their choices affect the ones around them, and is given a choice about how to continue in life. I did not mind the predictable story, though, because where this book really shines is in the storytelling. I felt compelled to read on, and to see how the events would unfold that would take Bridget to her ultimate judgment. It was also very satisfying to see how things would unfold in the other points of view–that of the people Bridget affected.
Bridget herself was a complicated character. She’s completely hateable for most of the book. Bridget is surprisingly self-aware as far as her behavior is concerned, but she makes a real effort to push aside any guilt that she feels. As the plot progresses, we’re slowly shown the reason behind Bridget’s insecurity and aggression. We also see that Bridget could be a good person if she could let go of her issues.
The writing in this book is fast-paced, and the dialog is realistic and effective. I’d recommend this one to people who liked 7 Souls by Barnabas Miller and Jordan Orlando, or The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade. Here Lies Bridget was a very strong debut for Harbison, and as a young woman, I’m sure she has a lot more great writing to do....more
Riley Blackthorne is the first girl to train to be a demon trapper, following in the footsteps of her demon trapper father. However, the Guild is a biRiley Blackthorne is the first girl to train to be a demon trapper, following in the footsteps of her demon trapper father. However, the Guild is a bit of an old boys’ club, making a challenging vocation nearly impossible for her to attain. Even worse, demons have been referring to her by name, something that never normally happens. After a tragedy befalls her father, Riley needs to grow up fast and take care of herself, even though Atlanta is very quickly becoming hell on Earth, literally.
The Demon Trapper’s Daughter pulled me in right from the beginning. We’re thrown into a world where demons terrorize the streets, and an elite group of people are all that is keeping humanity safe. Oliver has created a world that feels really natural, and lays out the rules of the universe at the beginning. I love that it takes place in Atlanta, too, because there’s something I find really appealing about southern paranormal novels.
Riley’s a great, strong female lead in this book. I love that she’s a girl who does what she is passionate about, no matter that it’s normally a man’s profession. It just means that she works twice as hard in order to attain her dreams. She has a very dynamic relationship with male lead Beck, which didn’t feel forced and obvious like so many romances.
This book is packed with action, and learning about the different classes of demons and how to fight them was a lot of fun to read about. It’s a creepy, cool world that I wouldn’t want to live in, but I love to visit through this story. It seems like the series is just getting revved up to take off, so I look forward to Soul Thief, coming out in August....more
Nora Dearly is one of the New Victorians, living in what was formerly South America following a massive global meltdown and disintegration of most ofNora Dearly is one of the New Victorians, living in what was formerly South America following a massive global meltdown and disintegration of most of the world's major powers. The New Victorians are at war with the Punks, a more savage people who do not want to live according to the prim and proper rules that emulate 19th century England. Nora is just coming out of a year of mourning for her father when she is captured by what turn out to be zombies. That's when she finds out that although her father is dead, he is still walking and talking. She also starts to fall for Bram, one of the undead soldiers caring for her. However, Nora's father is missing, zombies are invading Nora's town, and her best friend is being forced to protect her family while trying to find a suitor. Nora's got big problems, and a massive zombie outbreak is just one part of the equation.
Dearly, Departed had a lot of fun elements to it. It's a post-apocalyptic, steampunk zombie novel, which could have been a really good time. It fell flat for me, though. There was a bit too little action and a bit too much reveling in the cleverness of itself. In a way, it reminded me of a work of fan fiction, written in an attempt to honor the genres. At first I was having fun, but after a while the pacing of the book wore me down.
Part of my problem with the pacing was that the story would rotate narrators each chapter. Narrators included Nora, her father, Bram, Bram's superior, and Nora's best friend Pam. I had the same problem I have in a lot of books that alternate narrator: they each had the same voice. I'd have to go back to the first page of the chapter to gain my footing in who was speaking, which would have been apparent without the chapter title if the characters sounded more different from one another.
I did enjoy Nora's relationships with the characters around her, though. Bram's a zombie, so there will always be an "ick" factor in them getting together, but he was a stand-up guy and I didn't mind the romance that developed between the two of them. Nora also has a complex but happy relationship with Pam, a lower class scholarship girl with her sights on elevating her family's social standing. The girls stick together and stick up for one another, which is as it should be.
Overall, Dearly, Departed had some memorable characters and fun moments, but relied too much on its genres to carry it rather than moving forward because of its substance and action. I do think it will find its fans, but it just was not the book for me....more