The Midnight Gate starts off not too long after Spellbinder concluded and while it begins with a much slower pace, the story unfolds cleverly and withThe Midnight Gate starts off not too long after Spellbinder concluded and while it begins with a much slower pace, the story unfolds cleverly and with ease. Belladonna’s troubles couldn’t have ended with Dr. Ashe being carted off by The Hunt, that would have been far too easy. But her troubles double, triple, just get really, really bad. Yet Belladonna is still Belladonna. She copes remarkably well for a twelve year old girl with dead parents and an ever-mounting pile of bad on her doorstep.
Belladonna’s perseverance is one of her many characteristics that make her, and this series, stand out. She’s tough and intelligent, but still only a young girl. She knows that. She’s unafraid to ask for help, and is more than willing to accept it from her Paladin, protector, and maybe-friend Steve. Just as before, Helen Stringer puts Belladonna and Steve through the ringer and places them in more than a few unsettling positions – Belladonna’s venture into foster care being only one of them. These two are able to work through it though and, from their uproarious banter with ghost girl Elsie, a huge story unfolds.
The Midnight Gate is a bit slower than Spellbinder, but there are heaping, bountiful bouts of backstory that are captivating. The good and evil – Spellbinder vs. The Darkness – aspect jumps to life with dragons, other worlds, mythical creatures, life and death situations, and even some ancient Sumerian. The ending comes together flawlessly; with small details from the story working into a big showdown that provides the action and adventure young readers crave, but also adding to the series as a whole.
Unexpected twists and turns abound in The Midnight Gate, bringing Helen Stringer’s story about a girl who can see ghosts, into an entirely new light. Mythology runs heavy throughout the pages, leaving the ghost aspect on the backburner, to tackle the new responsibilities that Belladonna is only now realizing she has. Spellbinder is much more than just a nifty title for her and she quickly discovers that she holds a lot of weight in the fight between good and evil, light and dark. This series will entice readers both young and old, with a fantastical element that delights, characters with heart, and a strong backstory that ties each adventure together....more
One freaking crazy book about beauty queens (duh!) who are stranded on an island after their plane crashes. It’s rife with death, steBeauty Queens is…
One freaking crazy book about beauty queens (duh!) who are stranded on an island after their plane crashes. It’s rife with death, stereotypes, an almost audible laughtrack, product placements, self-esteem issues, a transgender contestant, a lesbian, sex, a deaf girl who can boogie, an undercover reporter, a controlling government, the undermining of women, and even a very short bad guy who is obsessed with Elvis and his dead, stuffed lemur. Weird, right?
Libba Bray has somehow combined all these things to create this chaotic mess of a book that is both an uproarious riot, but also a satirical look at our society where sex sells and beauty queens are the ideal image for women. Beauty Queens spotlights some obvious qualms with society, but it does so a little too blatantly. It’s funny, sure, but that humor tends to undermine the impact of satire. After a while, I felt like the book was beating me over the head with glaring ads about the perfect body, but maybe that’s the point.
The cast of characters, while fun, are difficult to keep straight at the beginning. There are so many girls and they go by their states, not names to begin with, but once they start coming into their own, I could begin to distinguish them from one another and they become much more likable in the process. Adina (Miss New Hampshire) has this dry sense of humor and a very ‘stick it to the man’ attitude that I loved. Petra (Miss Rhode Island) is just, ‘wow, didn’t see that one coming,’ kind of cool. Then Shanti (Miss California) and Nicole (Miss Colorado), the minorities, being an Indian and a black girl respectively, bring this unexpected humor, but heart to the story. Mary Lou (Miss Nebraska) is a welcome surprise with her purity ring, wildness, and a bit of wisdom thrown in. Then there’s Taylor. She’s the queen bee, Miss Texas, and as much as I enjoyed seeing her get knocked down a peg or two, her craziness thrilled me.
The quippy one-liners – courtesy of Adina, most of the time – lend to the book’s laugh-out-loud funniness, but it’s the girls’ realizations and motivations to be different that make it a great read. Beauty queens are nothing more than a pretty face, or at least that’s what we’re told, but these girls are so much more than that and getting to see them for who they really are was a pleasure. Also getting to see them be resourceful, battle pirates (sort of – don’t want to give it away), discover a secret government operation to illegally trade arms with the aforementioned very short bad guy, and put on a beauty pageant are cool too.
Beauty Queens is wild ride of consumerism, human rights violations, a whacked out blonde girl with a gun, super secret government projects, Lost references (page 21!), Doctor Who references (can’t remember what page!), funny names (David L. Evithan!), stereotypes that ridicule themselves, girls with brains (shocker!), some swearing thrown in for good measure, and a ruckus of a good time (despite all the death!). It’s insane (as I’ve said before) and quite possibly the most wondrously strange book I’ve ever read....more
It’s hard to know where to begin with a story like Exposure. The premise is simple enough: 18 year old Anthony Winter is in love with 17 year old AmelIt’s hard to know where to begin with a story like Exposure. The premise is simple enough: 18 year old Anthony Winter is in love with 17 year old Amelia Wilkes. The two of them have a sexual relationship – which is perfectly acceptable according to North Carolina law – and happen to exchange nude photos of each other and with each other – which is not acceptable according to the law. Parents are infuriated, blame gets passed around, mostly by Amelia’s father Harlan, yet both teens are still 100% devoted to one another. Like I said, simple enough.
What makes Exposure stand out and truly become this phenom of a story, is Therese Fowler’s remarkable execution. Told in third person, from several different perspectives, the reader has insight into the emotions and the thought process of Amelia, Anthony, Kim Winter (Anthony’s mother), and Harlan Wilkes himself. Each chapter ignites more and more rage about the entire situation, but no one can ever be hated in it. Harlan, the most easily disliked of the characters, isn’t even a bad person. His view of the situation, while biased, unreasonable, and rash, is still understandable. He loves his daughter and he wants to do what is best for her, even when she insists that he’s only accomplishing the opposite. Kim Winter’s love for her son rings just as true as Harlan’s for his daughter, only she sees Anthony for who he is – not a man who should be on a sex offender registry, but as her son. Her son who is madly in love with the wrong man’s daughter and who is being unjustly punished by some backwards law that allows him to have sex with a 17 year old girl, but to not have naked photos of her, or her of him.
Seeing the strains put on each of these characters strengthens the story, and each of their reactions make the entire situation hit that much closer to home. Anthony and Amelia could be any two teens, in any school, in any state. Harlan could be any concerned, upset, outraged father. And Kim could be any devoted, terrified, and loving mother. These people are not out of the ordinary. It is the fact that they are so ordinary, that makes them stick out.
It is this – along with Fowler’s emotional hold on the reader – that gripped me from beginning to end. Exposure is a love story at its heart, yet Amelia and Anthony spend little time together. The majority of their love is displayed in sweet memories and quiet longings. But that love is quite evident regardless. Fowler writes the story like one would a play, in acts, and even with an encore. Each act brings more and more dissolution and despair, almost like one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. And she knows this, doing it with precision and purpose. Creating a poetic connection to her characters and their plight, two teens, madly in love, yet persecuted for the means in which they go about it. For hiding it, for lying, for keeping their private manners private, but doing so with technology they always use, but winds up being their damnation.
Exposure is provocative, gripping, intense, and all too timely – a modern tale of love, family, right, wrong, and the consequences of following your heart. It didn’t leave me breathless, but gasping for a resolution. I was stunned, blindsided, emotionally aghast, and so, so heartbroken that love in the 21st century can be this hard. That two people can love each other that much and have to suffer for it. It defies genres and preferences. It is timeless, a modern twist on a classic tragedy. ...more
With or Without You is a character-driven, harsh, stunning, but beautiful story about a young man caught between the two worlds he’s tried to keep sepWith or Without You is a character-driven, harsh, stunning, but beautiful story about a young man caught between the two worlds he’s tried to keep separate The title actually sums up the book perfectly. Except not really, because Brian Farrey’s storytelling and character development are incredible. Evan, an 18 year old senior, has all the problems a guy his age should have, but then he has to contend with the gay-bashing he experiences on a regular basis. Because, yeah, he’s gay. But he’s not just gay. He’s an artist – painter – a best friend, a son, a brother, and a boyfriend. He’s all these things, but he still has no clue who he is.
He’s gay, but it’s only one aspect of who he is. Because throughout these few months in his life, Evan tries to contend with the two parts of his life – the part that is madly in love with a great guy named Erik, and the part that still hasn’t told anyone about Erik. He’s young, he’s scared of the love he doesn’t think can last, but he’s still this beyond-words caring person. Evan is one of the most realistic characters I’ve ever read. His emotions are raw and honest, and he felt as real to me as my own brother is.
Evan’s best friend Davis is everything Evan is not. He’s angry and bitter and willing to go to any length to fit in. He wants acceptance, while Evan just wants to get out. When Davis gets mixed up with Chasers, a group of gay young men who look at contracting HIV as a gift, Evan refuses to let him go. This aspect of the story, while integral and important, is not the driving force of the plot; Evan is. His painting – window panes are his canvas – is as important to the story as any other aspect. Evan’s relationships, with his parents, his sister, Davis (who is only his best friend), and with Erik evolve throughout the pages. He grows into a much stronger character by the end.
And every single character grows along with him. For better or worse, they develop, they grow, and by the end, they are different people; some only slightly, but others irrevocably altered.
With or Without You is a coming of age story, that just happens to have gay characters. Not once will it try to beat meaning into your head. It is what it is and each reader will come away with a different feeling by its close. But one thing is for sure, With or Without You is about finding out who you are, outside of the person people are telling you to be, and outside of the person you think you’re expected to be. It’s emotional and brutally honest, but the reality it represents is what will captivate readers, just as it did for me....more
Moonglass is truly a stunning book, with its atmospheric setting and poignant storytelling. It pulls the reader into its pages and drops them right onMoonglass is truly a stunning book, with its atmospheric setting and poignant storytelling. It pulls the reader into its pages and drops them right on the sand with Anna, fumbling for purchase in a new town, on a new beach, with no friends and the weight of the memories of a mother she never really got to know.
Kirby balances Anna’s growing sadness with a sweet love story and quite a few amusing characters. Tyler is everything a beach-loving girl could want. He’s gorgeous, a lifeguard, and confident without being overly cocky. His personality is electric and the reader will feel that, along with Anna. Then there’s Ashley, Anna’s first new friend, who is pretty much a bimbo, but very innocent and impossible not to like. Jillian, Anna’s cross-country teammate, is such a contrast to Ashley, but her backstory plays well into Anna’s.
The focus of the story is Anna and her family though, her dead mother, her father, and the world the two of them left behind; the world that Anna never knew, but that her father has pulled her to. Kirby’s vivid descriptions of the ocean, the sea glass, Anna’s ‘moonglass,’ and the story of the mermaids is heartbreaking and poetic. This small community that Anna first views as foreign becomes such a huge part of who she is. Every detail is important; every character adds to the intrigue about Anna’s mother and towards the end I was near tears.
Moonglass is a beautiful debut that is the perfect summer read. It delicately confronts family issues, while allowing for a romance to bloom. If you’re heading out to the beach or plan on spending a night overlooking the water, grab this one to bring with you....more
Zombie books are awesome, they really are, but The Cellar just did not cut it for me. The premise has so much promise, playing off of Romeo a1.5 stars
Zombie books are awesome, they really are, but The Cellar just did not cut it for me. The premise has so much promise, playing off of Romeo and Juliet, but with a zombie and a depressed girl as the leads. It’s the execution that just didn’t work for me.
The chapters alternate between Meredith’s first person POV and her depressed sister Heather and zombie boy Adrien’s third person POV. This style allows the reader to see more into the story and the characters, but also makes it harder to connect with them.
I felt next to nothing for all of the characters. There were moments when Meredith would shine through, but The Cellar is mostly a plot-driven story. And sort of a gross one at that. The scenes with Adrien and his ‘mother’and their tasty human treats are too graphic for my liking. If the story had been centered more on the creepy, ‘there’s something wrong with my neighbor and he gives me bad vibes’ feeling, then I probably would have gotten into it more.
As it is, The Cellar is more of a weird zombie lovefest. Adrien has some odd power over women because their minds are easily influenced – this thought alone bothered me – yet he is, at least to me, a tool. He’s a zombie sure, but in trying to blend so he can seek out his next victim, he takes on the role of a pretentious, ‘I wear my sunglasses at night because my eyes are infested with worms’, high school kid with a hold on everyone, but Meredith. Heather is his chosen victim and instead of seeing him for what he is – or even seeing him as more than a sex symbol – she falls in love.
And then we have a mindless gaggle of girls who are gaga over Adrien, simply because he can plant nice ideas of himself into their thoughtless minds. The saving grace is Meredith, whose will to find the truth and help her sister carry on throughout the book. She’s also the best thing about the book, along with Heather’s ex Sam, because she (and Sam) see right through Adrien and don’t trust him one bit.
The Cellar has some good tension and more than a few gross-out scenes, but its predictability and insistence on Heather and Adrien’s forever love is contrived and flawed. By the end of the book, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to view Adrien as the manipulative, people-eating bad guy who only wanted to kill Heather and keep forever her as his zombie bride, or as a zombie with feelings. Either way, The Cellar was not for me. I could see fans of paranormal stories with a substantial amount of gore appreciate the more disgusting scenes though and if that’s your thing, pick this one up. ...more
The first thing you should know about Divergent is that it’s awesome. The second thing you should know is that author Veronica Roth writes one hell ofThe first thing you should know about Divergent is that it’s awesome. The second thing you should know is that author Veronica Roth writes one hell of a story, with some phenomenal world-building and a main character that is tough as nails, but vulnerable enough to show her softer side. In fact, there isn’t one thing about Divergent that I didn’t like.
As far as dystopians go, Divergent does something different and fascinating. Roth’s development of different factions with very basic morals and ethics seems so simple, but in reality, it opens up a world of dilemmas…all boiling down to Tris’ choice.
Tris is a character that I empathized with and understood. She’s hard on herself and doesn’t think she’s good enough for her faction – Abnegation; but she’s also unwilling to live a lie. Her flaws make her that much more human and easy to relate to. The other initiates and Tris’s superior, Four, all bring a little something to the story; friendship, betrayal, understanding, and even romance.
Divergent is a fast-paced, impressive debut that forces Tris, as well as the reader, to question what is right and what is needed. Roth’s writing is completely enthralling, pulling the reader into this futuristic Chicago where your faction is your family and one choice decides your future. The fighting, the romance, the factions, the characters, all of it ties together to create this mesmerizing world and a thrilling read. Divergent has made its way to the top of my list of favorite books of 2011. I have no doubt it will do the same for everyone who reads it....more