Zombies vs. Unicorns is a fantastic YA anthology! If you love zombies, unicorns, or any of the authors featured in this anthology, you are going to waZombies vs. Unicorns is a fantastic YA anthology! If you love zombies, unicorns, or any of the authors featured in this anthology, you are going to want to pick up a copy of Zombies vs. Unicorns as soon as possible. With funny introductions from Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier, this diverse collection of zombie and unicorn stories by a wide assortment of talented YA authors is highly entertaining. It has something for everyone - romance, intrigue, sci-fi, fantasy, tragedy, violence, heartbreak, and humor.
The Highest Justice by Garth Nix It seems fitting that this book starts with a story that features both a unicorn and a zombie. This is a tale of deception and revenge about an unfaithful king and a dead queen. It has a scheming sorceress, a touch of romance, and a unicorn who helps dispense justice. Hard not to like that.
Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson This author was totally new to me before reading the Zombies vs. Unicorns anthology, but I look forward to searching for more of her work because Love Will Tear Us Apart turned out to be my favorite story in the entire book. This darkly funny, romantic, and intense story is about a teenage boy who finds himself hungering for a handsome lacrosse player (in more ways than one). I'm a sucker for stories about broken boys, and this angsty love story features two broken boys who may just be perfect for one another (so long as one of them can control his cannibalistic urges).
The Purity Test by Naomi Novik Hilarious! This is probably the funniest story in the anthology. Team Zombie may have my undying allegiance, but between The Purity Test and Princess Prettypants, Team Unicorn definitely deserves the prize for funniest story. This story is set in modern day New York, where a teenage girl who is down on her luck unexpectedly finds herself helping a unicorn on his quest to rescue baby unicorns from a conniving evil wizard. So funny!
Bougainvillea by Carrie Ryan I liked this story a lot. I love the way Carrie Ryan's zombie stories feature people pushed past their breaking points. Plus, the idea of zombie pirates is just plain awesome. Bougainvillea is set in a fully-imagined world in which the zombie apocalypse is upon us, and it cleverly brings to mind questions about how much of your humanity you'd be willing to lose in order to stay alive.
A Thousand Flowers by Margo Lanagan For me, this was the weakest story in the anthology, and it definitely features the strangest human/unicorn relationship. There are three different narrators, and unfortunately all three narrators are too disposable and too far removed from the emotional heart of the story for my taste. I really wished that at least one part of the story had been narrated from the princesses' POV. Since I didn't particularly care about the princess and thought her connection to the unicorn was very tricky to believe in, this story wasn't particularly compelling.
Children of the Revolution by Maureen Johnson Hilarious and disturbing all at once! I thoroughly enjoyed it. This story is about a teenage girl who spends every penny she has flying to England to work on an organic farm with her boyfriend for the summer. Once her slacker boyfriend ditches her, she finds herself miserable, broke, and stuck in dreary rural England. So when an Angelina Jolie-esque celebrity (who lives in a secluded manor nearby) offers her a job working as a nanny, she quickly jumps at the opportunity. But there is definitely something very odd about those children...
The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn by Diana Peterfreund Set in Diana Peterfreund's world of killer unicorns, this story is a must-read for fans of Rampant and Ascendant. It offers a view of the unicorns as both predators and an endangered species in need of compassion and protection. This story also features an angsty best-friend romance that will resonate with lots of readers.
Inoculata by Scott Westerfeld An excellent dystopian story about a small community of people who have found temporary refuge from the zombie-infested world by barricading themselves inside an old marijuana farm. When one of the teens survives something that would normally have been fatal, it opens up a new world of possibilities. I really liked this unique take on the zombie apocalypse, and I wish it had been longer because I wanted to see what happened next.
Princess Prettypants by Meg Cabot First of all, can you even say the name Princess Prettypants without smiling? I don't think that is possible, and I also don't think it is possible to read this story without laughing aloud. This cleverly funny unicorn story is about a modern seventeen year old girl who is understandably shocked and mystified when she receives a unicorn for her (very disappointing) birthday. This story features a boy-next-door romance (love that!), a unicorn who farts rainbows but goes all demon-eyed when facing down sexist jerks (hilarious!), and a Zack Efron birthday cake (even more hilarious!). Major kudos to Meg Cabot for this totally entertaining unicorn story.
Cold Hands by Cassandra Clare This is a zombie story that touches on one of my worst childhood fears - being trapped in a coffin. It is also a love story and the tale of a corrupt leader of a village in which the living and the dead spend their days side by side. It feels like a bittersweet fairytale, with zombies. :-)
The Third Virgin by Kathleen Duey This was definitely the most haunting and thought-provoking of the unicorn stories for me. I loved it and was impressed by the way it dealt with the concepts of suicide, loneliness, and addiction from the perspective of an immortal unicorn who has the ability to heal people or steal their lives.
Prom Night by Libba Bray This haunting story about a town full of teenagers who outlived their parents in the zombie apocalypse is quite sad, but it is also told with a lot of humor and heart. The teens are all survivors who have tried to stay optimistic and to maintain a sense of normalcy as they've dealt with the tragic deaths of their parents and classmates. An excellent conclusion to the book, which will make you want to hug your loved ones while you still can.
Zombies vs. Unicorns is an awesome anthology. If you have any interest in zombies, unicorns, compelling short stories, or any of the fabulous authors featured in this book, I highly recommend you pick up Zombies vs. Unicorns immediately. Some anthologies have one or two gems in a sea of mediocre stories, but this one is full of great stories. ...more
Kelly Creagh's Nevermore is a YA romance with a deliciously dark supernatural edge. When popular cheerleader Isobel is unwillingly paired with gothicKelly Creagh's Nevermore is a YA romance with a deliciously dark supernatural edge. When popular cheerleader Isobel is unwillingly paired with gothic loner Varen for a school project, she is surprised to find herself increasingly charmed by his quiet intensity. As they each learn to see beyond their preconceived notions about one another, their unlikely friendship takes a turn toward romance. But behind Varen's guarded exterior lurks a dark secret that could prove very dangerous for them both. Will Isobel unravel the mystery in time to save him or will she need saving herself?
What I Liked: - Isobel and Varen's relationship evolves enjoyably slowly, and it never feels like a recycled, opposites-attract story. Both characters are easy to like, and their relationship feels builds naturally and never feels contrived. - I liked seeing Isobel take a stand against her 'friends' as their true colors began to show. - Isobel's parents and little brother figure prominently in the story. I love seeing parents and siblings play a realistic role in paranormal YA novels! - I was pleased to find that Nevermore is much more of a 'Gentleman in Distress' than a 'Damsel in Distress' kind of story. - Reynolds is cleverly imagined and infuriatingly mysterious. I hope to see much more of him. - I was glad that Isobel proved to be so thoroughly likable because it made me question my own tendency to make snap judgments about popular, pink-loving cheerleaders. - The nightmarish, Poe-inspired dreamworld imagery is beautifully dark and creepy. - Varen is intelligent and thoughtful, and so refreshingly different from Brad (Isobel's football player boyfriend at the start of the novel). Varen's rooftop visit is particularly sweet, and I loved his interaction with Isobel's mom and little brother. - This book made me want to read more about Edgar Allan Poe's life (and death).
Not exactly a complaint, but... - Be warned that this is the first book in a trilogy, so don't expect the story to be thoroughly resolved by the 543rd page. In fact, the ending feels a bit more like an intermission than a conclusion.
Nevermore is an excellent debut novel that will make readers want to check out Edgar Allan Poe's work. I would recommend this book to fans of YA romances with spooky paranormal atmospheres, like Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series. ...more
Juliet Marillier's Heart's Blood is a romantic fantasy inspired by Beauty and the Beast and set around Whistling Tor, a mysteriously haunted fortressJuliet Marillier's Heart's Blood is a romantic fantasy inspired by Beauty and the Beast and set around Whistling Tor, a mysteriously haunted fortress in 12th century Ireland. Caitrin, a young scribe whose father recently passed away leaving her at the mercy of abusive relatives, finds her way to the eerie Whistling Tor in search of work. What she discovers there is a physically-impaired chieftain who is plagued by a dark curse and has withdrawn from his responsibilities to his people. Part ghost story, part love story, Heart's Blood is a tale of courage and hope.
What I Liked: - I have always loved Beauty and the Beast-inspired stories, and this one has several of the key elements that I adore about that fairytale - an intelligent heroine, a cursed man, magical mirrors, a precious garden with a priceless flower, and a whole host of characters bound by an enchantment. - The haunted hill, the forbidding castle, and the mysterious residents of Whistling Tor all add to the wonderfully dark and spooky atmosphere of this book. I am a fan of Juliet Marillier's Sevenwaters series, and Heart's Blood reminded me once again of how skilled she is at bringing her settings to life. It is very easy to immerse yourself in her version of the 12th century Irish landscape, to feel the threat of Norman invasion, and to find yourself caught up in the whisperings about sorcery and a mysterious curse. In such a setting, the fantasy elements feel perfectly natural. - I liked the balance within the romantic coupling. This story is about a heroine and a hero who encourage each other to help themselves and to face their own challenges with courage. The hero must learn to accept his physical deformity without being incapacitated by it, and the heroine is haunted by an abusive past that left her crippled by fear and grief. Rather than sweeping in and saving each other, they each inspire one another to be brave enough and hopeful enough to conquer their own demons. - The secondary characters are interesting and memorable. - Magnus, the galloglaigh hired by Anluan's father, is now one of my favorite Marillier characters. Love him! - I also liked that this is a Beauty and the Beast story in which the 'beast' doesn't undergo some grand physical transformation. Instead, the transformation centers around the fact that he must learn to see himself as an exceptional man who is worthy of love and capable of becoming the chieftain his people need, despite his disabilities and his family's tragic and discouraging past.
What I Wished: - This book is more than just a mystery novel about a curse on the inhabitants of Whistling Tor, but I still wish that the mystery element of the story had been much more difficult to solve. Caitrin was generally an intelligent and observant character, but it took WAY too long for her to figure out a key aspect of the mystery that seemed extremely obvious from the very beginning of the book. Seeing all the characters overlook or ignore so many clues throughout the story was frustrating to the point that I actually set the book aside for a couple of days. But I enjoyed the setting, the secondary characters, and the romance so much that my desire to see how it all turned out overpowered my annoyance regarding the mystery.
Heart's Blood is a love story between a cursed Irish chieftain and a scribe trying to escape the dangers of her past, but it is also a dark fantasy about overcoming grief and despair with courage and hope. If you enjoy fairytale retellings, historical romance, or historical fantasy, you will want to check out Heart's Blood. ...more
Lisa Schroeder's I Heart You, You Haunt Me is a beautiful verse novel that cuts right to the emotional core of a teenage girl's heartbreak after the tLisa Schroeder's I Heart You, You Haunt Me is a beautiful verse novel that cuts right to the emotional core of a teenage girl's heartbreak after the tragic death of her boyfriend. Ava's poetic, stream-of-consciousness narrative makes this story feel immediate, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful. A fast and moving read, I found it to be a very accessible novel about grief and recovery, and it provides a wonderful introduction to novels in verse.
What I Liked: - This is the first verse novel I've read, and I honestly could not have asked for a better introduction to the style. The story is compelling, the characters are well-drawn, and the verse-style narrative is remarkably accessible. Before starting to read this novel, I imagined that the poetic style might make the book more challenging to read or might make the protagonist seem overly dramatic, but I found exactly the opposite to be true. The free verse is extremely easy to follow. It flows smoothly and feels like a natural way for Ava to tell her story. - Ava's emotions feel honest. Both her happy memories and her grief are raw and beautiful, and it is easy to sympathize with her conflicted feelings. - Feelings of loss and guilt are at the heart of this book, but the overall tone is not one of despair and hopelessness. Ava's pain is real and palpable. Her grief feels realistic and varies from day to day and moment to moment. Her broken heart does not mend instantly and without conscious effort. - The book does not feel condescending or preachy, but it is wonderful to see Ava take steps toward healing, moving forward, and forgiving herself as the story unfolds.
What I Wished: - I wanted this story to be longer. Because of the brevity there are not many secondary characters or subplots. I don't mean to imply that the book feels unfinished, just that it seems more like a short story than a traditional full-length novel.
I Heart You, You Haunt Me is a touching story about the challenges of moving forward after losing someone you love. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys contemporary/paranormal YA novels and to anyone who is interested in (or even curious about) reading a verse novel. It is a quick, absorbing read, so it would also be a good choice for reluctant readers....more
Kiersten White's Paranormalcy is a fast-paced fantasy with a sweet and charming heroine, an entertaining assortment of paranormal characters, and a suKiersten White's Paranormalcy is a fast-paced fantasy with a sweet and charming heroine, an entertaining assortment of paranormal characters, and a suspenseful mystery. Evie's work for the IPCA (International Paranormal Containment Agency) has made her day to day life anything but normal, and she longs for a typical teenage life with all its novelties - like high school lockers and prom. Then she meets Lend, a teenage shapeshifter who catches her eye, and some of that normalcy suddenly feels like it might actually be within her reach. But there is a mysterious threat brewing. Someone is murdering paranormal creatures and if IPCA can't figure out who is behind these crimes, it may not be long before there aren't any paranormals left to police. Evie must figure out who to trust and uncover details from her own past in order to stop the killer before they strike again. I thoroughly enjoyed Paranormalcy and look forward to reading the second book in this trilogy, Supernaturally, next autumn.
What I Liked: - Evie is very amusing. She is a fashion-conscious girly-girl who loves makeup, shopping, and watching her favorite teen television drama. Of course, she also spends her days taking down vamps, hags, and werewolves with Tasey, her handy rhinestone-encrusted Taser, so she isn't exactly your typical girl next door. Think Legally Blonde meets Men in Black. - Lend is a likable guy who doesn't have an ounce of 'bad boy' attitude, which is refreshing in a paranormal romance. He has a unique shape-shifting ability that gives him an interesting edge, and I'm really curious to see what the next two books have in store for him. - The romantic elements in this book are light and flirty rather than dark and angsty or smoldering and racy. Evie and Lend are both outsiders who have grown up surrounded by paranormals and humans but have never fully fit in with either group. They are instantly intrigued by each other, and it is quite sweet that they are able to see and accept each other for who they truly are. Their chemistry is of the blushing and inexperienced variety, so I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to younger YA readers or even MG readers. - I was drawn in my the mystery in this book right away, and it kept me guessing chapter after chapter. There is still plenty to be explored in the second book, Supernaturally, but I was happy to find that Paranormalcy doesn't end with a frustratingly suspenseful cliff-hanger. - Evie was brought in to work with IPCA at a very young age, so her supervisor Raquel and best friend Lish are the closest things she has to a family, and I liked seeing that aspect of the story explored. Lend also has an unusual family situation, and I loved the way his family was involved in the story. Kind, supportive parents are fairly rare in YA novels, so it is always nice to see a parent like that pop up occasionally. - The IPCA (International Paranormal Containment Agency) reminded me a little of Men In Black. They are a top secret agency responsible for monitoring and containing paranormal individuals around the world, and they employ several paranormals to help them get that job done. I liked their high tech, sterile command center and Lish's nifty control room, and I especially liked that they aren't necessarily beyond reproach. I enjoyed seeing the gray area between the good guys and the bad guys, and this book touched on that concept a little. I hope we will see that gray area explored even more in the second and third books of the trilogy. - I liked that Reth, who used to be one of Evie's closest companions, provided tension within Evie's relationship with Lend without ever actually seeming like a rival for her affections. There is not a love triangle in this book, but Reth does have something to offer Evie that only he has ever made her feel. - I loved reading Lish's monotone computer voice aloud because it made her dialogue so charming and funny. I also loved Raquel's expressive sighs and all of their very specific meanings.
What I Wished: - The one element that wore a bit thin for me was the way Reth repeatedly popped up and disappeared at key moments throughout the story. After a few of those instances, the lack of answers from him and the way the other characters seemed able to put him out of their minds to focus on other mundane things (like homework, prom, and tv shows) started to grate on my nerves and to feel like a slightly-too-convenient plot device to drag out the mystery. - There were a couple of moments in which Evie swung from bursting into tears to feeling giddy with happiness a little too quickly for my taste, particularly in the days following one very sad incident. I felt like I was more depressed than Evie regarding that incident, which was a little odd.
If you like humorous YA fantasies like Rachel Hawkins' Hex Hall or sweet, innocent YA romances like Aprilynne Pike's Wings, you will want to pick up Paranormalcy. If you like mysterious urban fantasies with a variety of paranormal creatures and a heroine who has been kept in the dark about her origins like The Mortal Instruments, you may want to pick up Paranormalcy. Supernaturally, the second book in this trilogy, is set for publication next September and I will definitely be picking up a copy....more
This book is overflowing with excellence. From the perfectly described details of Laura Chant's everyday family life to her charmingly atypical romantThis book is overflowing with excellence. From the perfectly described details of Laura Chant's everyday family life to her charmingly atypical romantic suitor to the threat of a truly sinister villain, The Changeover is a terrific coming-of-age story with a paranormal twist. For a novel written twenty-six years ago, this book does not feel dated, and it quickly found its way onto my favorites shelf to be read again and again.
What I Liked: - The beautiful and precise prose. Even the mundane details of Laura's life are fascinating and lovely because every description is infused with personality. From the teapot that screams as if it wishes to be put out of its misery to the suburban tract houses that all look as though they are cousins, if not siblings. I read this book aloud to my husband & found myself stopping to re-read many passages just to enjoy the imagery. This book is not bogged down by lengthy descriptive passages or filler. Every word on the page is there to move the story forward or to actively enhance the atmosphere of a scene, and not a single word is wasted. - Everything about the characters feels authentic. From the way Laura feels about her parents' divorce to the way she interacts with her mother and younger brother. There is nothing forced or contrived about a single line of dialogue, and the emotional undercurrent running between each of the characters feels absolutely genuine from start to finish. It is difficult to describe how much I adored that. - Sorry. He is not your standard romantic hero, but he has a quirky, self-assured charm that is all his own. Socially awkward and notably conflicted, Sorenson Carlisle is a male witch who reads romance novels and somehow manages to be both overly confident and surprisingly vulnerable. He is honest but not necessarily safe. And he may have an impressive school transcript, but he still has a lot to learn when it comes to interpersonal relationships. I've enjoyed a lot of 'broken boy' romantic heroes in various books over the years, but Sorry jumps off the page as completely unique. I was thoroughly impressed by the way Margaret Mahy brought him to life with such an original voice, and I loved Sorry for his unfiltered honesty and his oddities. He is not quite sure who he wants to become or how comfortable he is embracing his own humanity, but the closer he gets to Laura & the more he sees the possible consequences of losing touch with your humanity, the more he begins to open himself up to some new opportunities (even if those bring new frustrations along with them). - Laura! As much as I adored Sorry for his flaws, I loved Laura even more for consistently calling him out on them! She is both an "every-girl" character with many of the standard worries and insecurities of a typical fourteen year old, and a strong, confident young woman who boldly sets out to take her fate (and her brother's fate) into her own hands. Laura grows up a lot over the course of the novel, taking several risks and making a number of difficult decisions. Her motivations and choices never feel artificial or unrealistic, and even the paranormal changes are used to such excellent metaphorical effect that they feel totally natural & believable. You'll find yourself relating to her and rooting for her from the very first page to the very last. - There is nothing fluffy about the romance in this book. Laura and Sorry are frustrated & challenged by each other more than they swoon and sigh over each other, and that fits the characters and their situation perfectly. I don't mean to imply that I dislike sigh-worthy, epically romantic love scenes in books. In fact, I adore those scenes when they suit a particular story & set of characters. In this case that wouldn't have suited the characters well at all, and I strongly respected the author's choice not to toss in a nonsensical fluff-fest. Even Laura's mother's romantic entanglement has a decidedly practical & realistic nature to it. And despite (or perhaps because of) the lack of fluff, I still found both relationships endearingly romantic and moving. - The dark & remorseless villain, Carmody Braque. (<-- How great is that name?!) Not only is he sly and frightening in the spookiest of ways, but he appears in a very commonplace setting, making him twice as terrifying. His particular style of magical wickedness is definitely the stuff of nightmares as he literally devours Laura's young brother from afar. Creepy with a capital "C"!
What I Wished: - I wish I'd stumbled across this book ages ago! I would have loved this book as a tween/teen & it may have led me to discover the paranormal & urban fantasy sub-genre within YA literature long before I managed to find that section on my own. - I don't think the subtitle: "A Supernatural Romance" is entirely accurate. In my opinion, the romance, while lovely and an enjoyable subplot, is not the main theme of this novel. This book is about a girl transitioning into young adult territory & evolving into a new version of herself. Yes, there is a boy who helps that change along, but he is not the primary reason for the important choices Laura makes. He is a fairly important companion along this part of her journey, but he is not the most compelling motivation propelling her forward. So I think the subtitle is slightly misleading and may give readers expectations for this book that they will not find fulfilled. However, the romantic elements of The Changeover are memorable and hopeful (in a very realistic way), so perhaps readers won't feel misled by the subtitle after all.
I would highly recommend this book to all readers, and I would particularly recommend it to anyone who enjoys paranormal, fantasy, or urban fantasy novels set in a realistic, non-fantastical world. Fans of Richard Peck's Blossom Culp books may like the way Margaret Mahy mixes magic with the common, no-frills world of an intelligent teenage girl. Fans of Meghan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series, may like Margaret Mahy's precise prose that is not at all condescending to its target audience of YA readers. And fans of Frances Hardinge's Fly By Night may enjoy Margaret Mahy's imaginative imagery. I was surprised and pleased by how much I loved this book, and I will be bumping Margaret Mahy's other novels up several notches on my "To-read" list because I enjoyed The Changeover so much. ...more
Hex Hall is a delightfully funny book about a likable heroine who finds herself sent to an unexpectedly dangerous reform school. I guessed that I woulHex Hall is a delightfully funny book about a likable heroine who finds herself sent to an unexpectedly dangerous reform school. I guessed that I would like this book because of the witches, warlocks, vampires, ghosts, and fey, but it turned out to be the protagonist's ordinary human qualities and sense of humor that totally won me over and made this book a joy to read.
What I Liked: - Sophie's sarcastic sense of humor and knack for landing herself in awkward situations kept me laughing page after page. She is intelligent, stands up to her rivals, and is not a damsel in distress. She does not spend her time apologizing for who she is, and it is fun to explore Hecate Hall from her point of view. - Archer and Sophie have chemistry from the first moment their names appear on the page together, and I found myself hoping he would pop up in every scene, even if it was only to send an unexpected wink or a wicked grin her way. - Common boarding school plot elements (like a much-anticipated dance, a trio of mean girls, roommate conflicts, and ugly gym uniforms) could have fallen flat and made this book feel exactly like a billion other boarding school books, but the cliches feel acknowledged and celebrated here, which has the effect of adding to the book's 80's-teen-flick charm rather than detracting from the story. - Sophie's personality is pleasant and funny, but the world she lives in is a dangerous one. There are quite a few twists to be found within this first book and several mysteries are left for further exploration in the next two books. - Many paranormal YA novels can be sorted into sub-genres like romantic drama, action-adventure, historical, or urban fantasy, but Hex Hall is a paranormal YA novel that leans toward humorous chick-lit.
What I Wished: - I wanted more. This book was such a light and fun read that the 336 pages flew by and I found myself wishing it was at least 100 pages longer.
Hex Hall blends humor with darkness as Sophie learns about the dangers threatening the inhabitants of this southern boarding school for supernatural misfits. Fans of paranormal YA novels like Claudia Gray's Evernight series, Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle series, and P.C. & Kristin Cast's House of Night series will want to pick up Hex Hall. Readers who enjoy funny chick-lit like Meg Cabot's books or Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones' Diary may also find a lot to like in Hex Hall. I look forward to reading the second book in this series! ...more
Grace's childhood crush sweeps back into town after having disappeared under mysterious circumstances years earlier. Why has he come back? What does hGrace's childhood crush sweeps back into town after having disappeared under mysterious circumstances years earlier. Why has he come back? What does he want from her? And is she willing to give him her heart even if it means ignoring her family's wishes or betraying her brother? Bree Despain's The Dark Divine is a romantic, paranormal YA novel inspired by the parable of the Prodigal Son.
What I Liked: - Grace's close-knit family is unusual in the sea of YA paranormal novels. That gave her a unique and memorable perspective. Parents are notoriously absent/neglectful/evil in YA novels, so the fact that this book features activities like family dinners, looking after younger siblings, and being expected to contribute to their church charity work made Grace's family dynamic stand out as something different from the average YA heroine's family dynamic. - I often have a soft spot for 'bad-boy' heroes, so I expected to like Daniel for his mysterious, 'bad-boy' qualities. Instead, I ended up liking him for the childhood crush he shared with Grace and for his nice-boy-with-a-secret-and-a-rough-past qualities. - I enjoyed Don's character. He remains a bit of a loose cannon throughout the story, so you are not quite sure what to expect from him, and that kept his roll interesting. He reminded me of Lennie in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and Boo Radley in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. - I liked Grace's fixation with the walnut tree, and nearly all of my favorite scenes involved that tree. - The details of Daniel's childhood were revealed in a way that was consistent with the rest of the story and got the point across without halting the rest of the story or becoming disturbingly graphic in the description of the abuse he endured. - The romance, while somewhat predictable, is sweet and compelling. I liked Daniel more than I liked Grace, who occasionally seemed a bit too selfless and 'perfect' to me, but I still wanted them to find a way to be together. I look forward to seeing what obstacles they will face in the next couple of books in this series. - The paranormal elements in this story have their own unique mythology and tie into the Divine family's religious beliefs quite convincingly. Daniel's story strongly parallels the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32), and I am curious to see if the upcoming books in this series will have elements of other parables. - This book did veer a little too close to preachy territory a couple of times, but I enjoyed the way the ideas of forgiveness, love, and sacrifice were woven into the fabric of the paranormal mythology.
What I Wished: - I strongly wished there were not time and location headers every few pages throughout this book. Since the time and place were already obvious within the text, the headers seemed unnecessary, distracting, and redundant. They were also strangely inconsistent. Here are a few examples of these headers with my notes in parentheses: "Downtown" (a location), "Later, before school" (a time), "In the house, about twenty minutes later" (a time and a location), and "Avoidance" (not a time or a location). Perhaps this was just my personal pet peeve and won't bother other readers, but I found the headers consistently unnecessary. - The paranormal twist to this story is hinted at way too heavily to feel like much of a surprise once it is finally officially revealed, so I found myself wishing it would come out into the open much sooner than it actually did. - Jude annoyed me from start to finish, and although tried to understand Grace's desire to respect his wishes and honor his requests, I simply could not. I understood that his irritating behavior was critical to the roll he played within the story of the Prodigal Son as well as the roll he played within the paranormal aspect of the story, but it succeeded in making me annoyed with Grace as well as Jude each time she chose to take his side.
The Dark Divine will appeal to fans of paranormal romances with fairly innocent heroines, like Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, Maggie Steifvater's Shiver, and Shelena Shorts' The Pace. I am looking forward to checking out the sequel to The Dark Divine, The Lost Saint, which is scheduled to be released on December 28th....more
Anastasia Hopcus's debut novel, Shadow Hills, follows Phe as she enrolls in a prestigious Massachusetts prep school in an attempt to unravel the hauntAnastasia Hopcus's debut novel, Shadow Hills, follows Phe as she enrolls in a prestigious Massachusetts prep school in an attempt to unravel the haunting dreams she has been having since her sister's mysterious death. As she settles into school and begins to learn more about the local residents, she discovers that the townspeople have been hiding some very big secrets. But how was her sister connected to Shadow Hills? The more Phe discovers, the more danger she finds herself in and the more determined she becomes to uncover all of the secrets buried in Shadow Hills.
What I Liked: - I liked the concept behind the townspeople's extraordinary abilities. The science-fiction element of the mystery surrounding the residents of Shadow Hills help this book stand out from others within its genre and give the story a bit of a superhero/X-Files edge. - I enjoyed the assortment of students Phe encounters at Devenish Prep. They are not cookie-cutter rich kids, but distinct individuals. I hope to see more of all of her new friends in the next Shadow Hills book. I liked Graham for his open friendliness and sense of humor, Toy for her geeky charm, Adriana because she is lovable and bold (in addition to being entertainingly spoiled), and Brody because he has dealt with some rough circumstances and is more complicated than his reputation first indicates. Even the antagonistic characters, like Corinne and Trent, are more than just flat villainous individuals and I look forward to learning more about them also. - Brody's living arrangements and his relationships with Mr. and Mrs. Carr allow us to glimpse another side of his personality that I enjoyed seeing. - The story progresses with consistent pacing and there is always a mystery pulling the plot forward, making Shadow Hills a quick read. - Many of the mysteries that are left unresolved at the end of Shadow Hills are very intriguing. I particularly look forward to learning more about Athena and about the banished individuals like Damon Gates. I feel like Shadow Hills barely scratched the surface of many of the mysteries Phe uncovered, and there are several more mysteries left to explore in the world Anastasia Hopcus has created.
What I Wished: - I wanted to feel more chemistry between Phe and Zach. Their relationship seemed rushed and way too generic to me. I expected to feel a compelling chemistry between them, but I actually found almost all of Phe's other relationships more interesting than her attraction to Zach. I enjoyed her platonic camaraderie with Graham and her growing friendship with Adriana more, and I thought that those relationships better illustrated the aspects of Phe's personality that set her apart from other YA heroines. - In the beginning of their acquaintance, I felt that Phe should have been more alarmed by Zach's unique abilities. And the way in which Zach's special abilities were revealed occasionally led me to feel that he gained a new power whenever it was convenient to the plot. - While the underlying mysteries surrounding Phe and the residents of Shadow Hills are fascinating and create a lot of potential for a fun and suspenseful series, I thought the primary villain in this particular book was a little too predictable.
I look forward to reading the next book in this series and hope to see more of Phe's new friends. There are lots of mysteries left to explore. Fans of paranormal thrillers like Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers series and Kimberly Derting's The Body Finder should check out Shadow Hills....more
Lisa Schroeder's Chasing Brooklyn is a moving novel that follows two individuals as they find themselves drawn together by a shared loss. Told in versLisa Schroeder's Chasing Brooklyn is a moving novel that follows two individuals as they find themselves drawn together by a shared loss. Told in verse from alternating points of view, this compelling story follows Brooklyn and Nico as they attempt to navigate their way around the hole Lucca's death left in each of their lives. A year after Lucca's death, the unexpected loss of a friend brings Brooklyn's heartache back to the surface and leaves her feeling haunted. Nico has always known he couldn't fill his brother Lucca's place within his family, and he still finds himself running away from the emptiness that he can't seem to fill. Both narratives are written in very accessible verse, and once again Lisa Schroeder manages to cut straight to the emotional core of the heartache holding each of the main characters captive. The story is suspenseful, romantic, and emotionally captivating. I thoroughly enjoyed Chasing Brooklyn.
What I Liked: - The alternating perspectives helped propel the story forward and made me long for Nico and Brooklyn to connect with one another from the very start. Glimpsing each of their individual thoughts and realizing how much they could both benefit from opening up to one another added a compelling level of tension to the story. - It was easy to sympathize with Nico and Brooklyn. My heart truly ached for them both. They are believable characters, and each of their verse-style narratives is remarkably clear and easy to follow. - The suspenseful elements of this book are well-crafted. At times, I found myself on the edge of my seat with butterflies in my stomach as I wondered how the story would end. - The paranormal aspect of this novel has a sinister feel to it as Brooklyn is haunted and pursued by the ghost of her recently-deceased friend. Eerie and frightening. - I enjoyed the roll Ava (the protagonist from Lisa Schroeder's first verse novel) played in Chasing Brooklyn. It was a small but lovely part, and it was nice to see her supportive gesture passed along by the end of the novel. - As in I Heart You, You Haunt Me, feelings of loss and guilt are at the core of this book, but the overall tone is not one of despair and hopelessness. Chasing Brooklyn is also a longer, spookier, and more romantic story.
What I Wished: - I still wanted a little bit more at the end. The novel definitely feels complete, but I liked Nico and Brooklyn so much that I was reluctant to let either of them go even after the main plot points were resolved. Basically, I was ready to start reading this book again the moment I set it down.
Chasing Brooklyn is a beautiful and memorable story about the bravery it takes to move forward and embrace life after losing someone you love. If you liked I Heart You, You Haunt Me, then you absolutely MUST read this book! It is a companion novel rather than a sequel, so you can also enjoy Chasing Brooklyn without having read I Heart You, You Haunt Me. I would recommend Chasing Brooklyn to anyone who likes contemporary/paranormal YA and to anyone who is intrigued by the idea of a verse novel. It is a fast, compelling read, so it would also be a great choice for reluctant readers....more
Lauren Kate's Fallen is a paranormal romance set against the backdrop of a decaying reform school in the Deep South. Luce has been haunted by mysterioLauren Kate's Fallen is a paranormal romance set against the backdrop of a decaying reform school in the Deep South. Luce has been haunted by mysterious shadows all her life, and it seems that they are getting more and more aggressive. After surviving a deadly fire under suspicious circumstances, she finds herself shipped off to a reform school in Georgia where she quickly finds herself courted by one boy and irresistibly drawn to another.
What I Liked: - I am a sucker for love stories that defy time, so I really enjoyed that aspect of Fallen. - Many of the secondary characters in this book kept me guessing, wondering who was to be trusted and who had ulterior motives. - Before I started reading this book, I was concerned that the story would remind me too much of other books (like Hush, Hush and Twilight), but overall I was pleasantly surprised. Luce did not drive me crazy, and although Daniel was not nearly as forthcoming as I wanted him to be, he was not an insufferable jerk or a 'bad boy' either. I found their attraction to one another believable. And Cam was also surprisingly likable. - The action and conflict kicked up a notch in the final quarter of the book, so that left me eager to check out Torment, the second book in the series. - I liked that the author was not afraid to kill characters, so I wasn't completely positive who would make it to the final pages.
What I Liked Less: - Luce's obsession with Daniel felt fairly static and one-note in the middle of this book, but every time it started to grate on my nerves I thought about the all-consuming nature of high school romances & tried to forgive her obsessiveness. Plus, although she may not be fully aware of it, Luce really does have a valid reason to be drawn to Daniel. - I wanted more background information about the characters' histories, and I found everyone's insistence on keeping Luce in the dark frustrating.
Fallen is a fairly slow-building paranormal romance, and I look forward to seeing where this series goes in the next three books. I was especially excited to hear that the third book in the series, Passion, will be a prequel to Fallen that spans 5000 years. How fun to see two characters falling in love in a wide variety of time periods and places over the course of several millennia. If you like relatively chaste romances, angels, or love stories that span several centuries, then you will want to pick up Fallen. Fans of Shelena Shorts' The Pace will probably want to check out Fallen. The second book in the Fallen series, Torment (which has a gorgeous cover) was released September 28th. I picked up a copy and look forward to reading it soon....more