I can't sing the praises of Holly Black's Curse Workers series enough. I loved the previous two books, White Cat and Red Glove, and Black Heart does nI can't sing the praises of Holly Black's Curse Workers series enough. I loved the previous two books, White Cat and Red Glove, and Black Heart does not disappoint. Instead, it does what a great ending to a series should do: it gives the reader plenty to think about, has a compelling and interesting plot, wraps up questions and plot points satisfactorily, but leaves enough open at the end that the reader can imagine where things go from there.
Black's series is one of the most original in YA literature today. There's nothing outwardly magical or mystical about the world it takes place in--it could be our own except for the fact that some people have the power to curse or to charm. But admitting that you know you have that power is an admission of guilt, because you must have used your power at some point to find out. Since it is illegal, all people with these abilities are automatically criminals, no matter their character or intent. It's out of overreaching laws like this that great crime organizations and families are born. Just like the Prohibition Era gave birth to Al Capone, the criminalization of curse and charm work has created the Zacharov empire.
In this installment of the story, Cassel has found himself between a rock and a hard place: he has the choice to either work for the Feds or for Lila Zacharov's father. Neither is an acceptable resolution for Cassel, who wants to be good and make the right choices in life, but both factions want to claim him and to use him for their own purposes. Cassel also needs to figure out how to help his mother, who is currently on the lam, and how to win back Lila after she's been worked over so many times. When your entire family is criminals, who can you trust?
Holly Black's plotting is incredible. She's created a story with all sorts of twists and turns, that seemingly paints the main character into a corner. Then, she's able to pull out a resolution you never see coming, but that completely fits within the nature of the world. I am in awe of Black's ability to tell a great story.
If you're looking for a YA series to read that won't let you down, but will suck you in and blow your mind, read this one. If you've read the previous two and are wondering about Black Heart, just read it already. It's amazing....more
Struck surpassed my expectations of what this book would be. Instead of merely being yet another YA paranormal romance, I found myself pleasantly intrStruck surpassed my expectations of what this book would be. Instead of merely being yet another YA paranormal romance, I found myself pleasantly intrigued by the lightning addiction, post-mega natural disaster Los Angeles, and the cult theme. Plus, Bosworth has given us another strong female character who takes control of her situation instead of acting passively. Combined with fast-paced storytelling and the high stakes of needing to save the world, this adds up to a really strong debut novel.
I used to live in Los Angeles. I love L.A., as the song goes. And so I was delighted to see Los Angeles presented in the aftermath of a giant destructive earthquake. Californians are always expecting the “big one,” and Struck takes place after such an earthquake has hit. The details of how L.A.’s destruction has affected everyday life, and how people are struggling to continue with life even though aid is slow coming was touching and seemed truthful.
Mia is a pretty rad main character. She has Lichtenberg figures decorating most of her body: branch-like darkening of her skin where lightning has struck and spread. Google it. Mia attracts lightning, but also craves it. Lightning has burned her clothes off, and has made her heart stop on multiple occasions. While this makes her totally cool, it also sets her apart from those around her.
The villain of the story is a cult leader named The Prophet. He interprets the disaster as a precursor to the Second Coming, and uses a television show to gain support. In fact, his numbers have swelled because he was able to predict the time of the earthquake, causing many to believe that he is the real deal. I love books with cults, so the inclusion of this made me really happy.
The only downside for me in Struck is that it has yet another insta-romance, which I’m pretty much over. However, that wasn’t the central point of the story, and there was enough going on that I didn’t actually mind too much. I think Struck was one of the stronger YA paranormal books of the year I’ve read so far, and definitely fun enough to garner a read by somebody who is casually interested....more
The Hunt is the latest in a recent trend of young adult literature that plays off of the success of The Hunger Games. While not a dystopian, it featurThe Hunt is the latest in a recent trend of young adult literature that plays off of the success of The Hunger Games. While not a dystopian, it features a main character thrown into an impossible situation–chosen by lottery to take place in a government sanctioned publicity event involving probable failure and death. Gene needs to use all of the survival skills he’s been learning his entire life to make it through, because Gene is a lone human living in a world of vampires. Really, The Hunt is like the lovechild of The Hunger Games and the 2009 film Daybreakers.
The Hunt is exciting and fast-paced. I don’t think this book will have a hard time finding an audience. The writing is easy to read, and there’s palpable tension running throughout the novel. Fukada is good at setting up scenarios where we fully expect Gene to fail, and milking those for maximum effect. There’s also a romance here, but I didn’t think it overshadowed the story or felt out of place.
I did have some issues with The Hunt, though. The biggest for me was that the mechanics of vampirism was never really explained. We see that vampires sleep upside down, can’t go in the sun, eat bloody meat and drink blood, and don’t have any facial ticks or emotions. I’m on board with all of that. Less compelling were the wrist-scratching in lieu of laughter and elbow to armpit sexitimes of the vampires. I could go along with this if it weren’t so out of left field, and if some kind of explanation was given. Furthermore, I got the feeling that vampires aged and were very close to actual people. I wanted to know if vampires could be born, or if they had to be turned. And since humans were pretty much extinct, wouldn’t that mean that there were a set number of vampires on Earth, which would gradually decline as they were exposed to the sun, etc.? See what I mean? Too many questions.
Those weren’t the only questions I had, either. I also wanted to know what led up to this point. Why do they use horse-drawn carriages instead of cars? It seemed that the vampires had been in charge for a while. Why? Also, were we really expected to believe that Gene had never accidentally cut himself, or cracked a smile, or broke a sweat? It was a bit far-fetched.
Even so, I did have a good time reading The Hunt. Fukuda is quite cruel with the ending and leaves things hanging from a steep cliff. Readers who bought into the story will need to read the next book in the series. I just hope that Fukuda invests some real time in better world-building so that there is depth to the setting....more
Teen Laurel lost her mother and grandmother in Hurricane Katrina. Struggling to get back on their feet, she moves north with her father and baby brothTeen Laurel lost her mother and grandmother in Hurricane Katrina. Struggling to get back on their feet, she moves north with her father and baby brother. There, things are going okay as she joins the cheerleading squad and meets the basketball star, T-Boom. However, T-Boom likes to party, aka do crystal meth, which he calls moon. Laurel gets hooked and winds up living in the streets, doing whatever she can for the next high.
For being a book about such a serious subject as meth addiction, I thought Beneath a Meth Moon was pretty darn weak. It seemed that Woodson was making an effort at writing an addiction book with flowing, poetic language, but that same writing style robbed the message of its punch. Meth addiction is ugly. Don't believe me? Look at these photos for proof. It's absolutely horrifying, and I'd hoped that this story would be as equally shocking as the photographic evidence. It wasn't.
One issue I had with the writing was the insistence on calling meth "moon." I'd never heard it called that before, and it gave it a dreamy, seductive quality, which maybe isn't what you want in a book that's trying to show you how bad drugs are. I guess this is how Woodson was trying to create atmosphere through names, just like the poorly named "T-Boom," Laurel's boyfriend. Every time I saw that name, I both wanted to laugh and cringe.
Woodson only scratched the surface on a lot of things in this book. Even though she's the first person narrator, I didn't feel like I got to really know Laurel, other than the fact that she's sad about losing her family and she loves meth. None of the characters are fleshed out enough. Also, the many aspects of meth are just touched upon. T-Boom makes meth--why didn't we get a feel for how dangerous that chemical process is, or how often meth labs blow up? I used to live in Southern California's High Desert, where there were regular meth lab explosions. Those areas can remain toxic for years. No mention of that in this book, though.
Sadly, I really didn't care for, or about, this book. If you want to read a teen book about drug addiction, stick with Ellen Hopkins....more
Zombie was pitched to me as a coming-of-age story about a boy who is unable to relate to his father except through their mutual love of zombie movies.Zombie was pitched to me as a coming-of-age story about a boy who is unable to relate to his father except through their mutual love of zombie movies. While that much is true, it does not even come close to really capturing this book. Believe me when I say that this is one seriously messed up novel. Parts of it reminded me of one of the Dexter books, although I won't say which one due to the risk of spoilers.
Zombie is told through the first-person perspective of Jeremy, a boy who is beginning private Catholic school after the breakdown of his family. His parents have separated, his mother is addicted to prescription painkillers, and his older brother is a womanizing drug addict with a penchant for stripping down while high. Jeremy's dad is also increasingly more absent, leaving for entire nights at a time with no real explanation. School is proving to be tougher than anticipated for Jeremy, and freshmen are routinely beat up and humiliated. Also, Jeremy's started having nosebleeds at the most inopportune times. The things going on in Jeremy's life made me want to scream at the book, "Where are all the grownups!?" Because there is really nobody reliable for Jeremy to turn to. Then, he finds a bizarre video in his dad's room, which might or might not be a snuff film. Things just got worse for poor Jeremy.
I did enjoy reading this book, although I didn't always understand why some things were happening. The plot is not nearly as tight as it could have been, but you can't help by feel for Jeremy and want to keep reading to find out what the heck is going on. The ending also felt a bit rushed, but it is quite a climax. I feel sorry for anyone who reads this and doesn't finish the book, because it's a doozy.
Want to feel better about your own life, think about your favorite zombie films, and have your mind blown at least a little? Read this one....more