I'm abandoning this one. The writing is good, and the characters are interesting, but I didn't realize it was Christian fiction when I chose it. I did...moreI'm abandoning this one. The writing is good, and the characters are interesting, but I didn't realize it was Christian fiction when I chose it. I didn't read the description and thought it was an apocalyptic-survival type of story. Christian fiction (even with a romance) is just not my thing. My abandonment has nothing at all to do with the quality of the story itself.(less)
Review and e-book giveaway will be posted to my blog on October 31, 2012. In short, paranormal romance fans will not be disappointed! Excellent world-...more Review and e-book giveaway will be posted to my blog on October 31, 2012. In short, paranormal romance fans will not be disappointed! Excellent world-building, pacing, and characters. (less)
REVIEW: This is more of a 3.5 star book for me. I enjoyed it well enough and thought it was cute, but I doubt I'll re...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: This is more of a 3.5 star book for me. I enjoyed it well enough and thought it was cute, but I doubt I'll remember much about it by next week. Hadley's character is understandably furious with her father, who abruptly left Hadley and her mother after falling for another woman during a 4-month professorship at Oxford.
I have absolutely no sympathy for Hadley's father, whom Hadley has not seen in the two years since he left. Despite his pleas to Hadley to come visit him in London, Hadley does not want to do that, and I do not blame her one bit. Her father is the adult and the one who moved in the first place; if he was really that desperate to see hid daughter, he would have traveled to visit her. So, please, don't act all hurt when she is less-than-excited about your wedding. I am glad that she went to the wedding and learned to make the best of things, but that is what makes her the hero. It really was the right thing to do, even if the whole situation was forced on her and she really didn't want to do it.
Oliver is likeable as well, but I don't feel his character is as developed as Hadley's or even Hadley's father's character. Hadley's mother is a ghost of a character who is portrayed as an involved mother, even though she never answers her phone while her minor daughter travels overseas (and alone) for the first time.
I would have loved to have seen this from alternating or multiple perspectives (Oliver and Hadley and maybe even Hadley's parents).
THE BOTTOM LINE: An okay read for me, but I think lots of teens will identify with Hadley's family situation and her feeling about her father's nuptials.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: It's brand-new in our library and just got checked out yesterday for the first time (other than my checkout). Content is just fine for middle school, and I recommend it for purchase in most MS and HS libraries.
REVIEW: Easily among 2012's best! I read The Darkest Minds obsessively, reading almost all of its 496 pages in two si...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: Easily among 2012's best! I read The Darkest Minds obsessively, reading almost all of its 496 pages in two sittings. Interesting characters and non-stop (heart-pounding!) action kept me turning pages as fast as possible. As a comparatively slow reader, I got annoyed with my reading speed at times; I just couldn't devour the words fast enough to keep up with the action!
Epic. Not since Shusterman's Unwind and Ness's The Knife of Never-Letting Go have I read such intense action. Parts of TDM even reminded me of Unwind--teens on the run, hunted by a government gone wild. As in Unwind, terrorist organizations work for change, but these organizations are also corrupt, power-hungry, and extremely violent. I love how the characters don't always know who to trust and sometimes have no choice but to trust the wrong people.
The teens-with-superpowers plot line reminds me of Grant's Gone series. Yes, I am comparing TDM with another of my favorite series! As in Gone, the teens in TDM have dangerous superpowers that they are still learning to control. I love the classifications of powers into color categories, and since we never meet any reds in TDM, I am dying to read the sequel to find out exactly what the reds are capable of. I also am interested to see if powers grow or change over time. The virus has not been eradicated, and survivors are still exposed to it.
Though I compare TDM with several similar reads, TDM stands on its own among these giants of current YA fiction. The characters and premise are unique. I've read all of the readalikes I compare this to (see readalikes below), and I do not believe TDM is too similar or recycles familiar plot lines. Though some story threads are similar, TDM is beautifully written and unique with a greatness all its own.
The romance is beautiful and sweet and sad and really works for the story. As much as I love Liam, I don't think he will be Ruby's only love interest in this series.
And the ending! All I can say is WOW. The last 50 pages were one of those times my mind could not consume the words fast enough. Gut-wrenching and just...sigh. I won't be surprised when the movie rights are sold. Bring on the sequel!!!
THE BOTTOM LINE: One of the year's best. Read it. Now.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: Despite language, sexual content, and violence, I am getting The Darkest Minds for my middle school library. I know demand will be high enough to warrant the purchase of multiple copies. My school has a huge market of potential readers for this book, and I don't think the content is any worse than any of the readalikes listed below (all of which have been HUGE hits with my students).
Librarians unsure about purchasing The Darkest Minds should look at the readalike list below. If you have some or all of these books, TDM will fit in just fine in your library.
READALIKES:Unwind (Shusterman), The Knife of Never-Letting Go (Ness), Gone series (Grant), The Hunger Games (Collins), Blood Red Road (Young), Divergent (Roth)
Appeal to teens: 5/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Language: medium; pretty mild until one curse-laden tirade near the end. It only lasts a few paragraphs and is totally appropriate for the scene and character, but it holds nothing back. Includes 3-4 F-bombs and sh**.
Sexuality: medium; some references to guards rubbing against young female prisoners; a few intense kisses; one rape? scene (not sure what happened there; not explicitly described and victim is confused)
Violence: medium-high; a guard puts a gun into her own mouth and shoots (gory); fighting with injuries and death; lots of gun violence
REVIEW: The massive praise for Cinder is well-deserved. The story of a cyborg Cinderella is certainly unique, and, as...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: The massive praise for Cinder is well-deserved. The story of a cyborg Cinderella is certainly unique, and, aside from one predictable "surprise", Cinder kept me guessing. I loved Cinder's character because though her identity and past are a mystery, Cinder knows who she is as a person. She knows she's a cyborg, a second-class citizen. She knows Prince Kai would never look her way if he knew her cyborg status. But among all the humans in the story, Cinder is among the most humane, the one who cares about the suffering of others more than her own. Cinder is smart and determined and loyal, and I loved her all the way through.
I will say I am not as crazy about this book as many of the other reviewers I've seen. I liked it very much, but I'm just not gushing over it. It's crazy unique, but it took me a little time to get into. I wasn't as compelled to read it as I have been with Rossi's Under the Never Sky or Bracken's The Darkest Minds. This one was kind of like Roth's Divergent for me; I liked it very well, but I didn't go nuts over it. I found the big reveal to be extremely obvious (was it supposed to be a surprise?), and I am usually not that great at predicting the twist.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Definitely read it. It's one of the most unique and creative stories I've read recently, and it deserves a spot among the year's best.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have one copy that is ALWAYS checked out, so I will be buying more from our book fair next week. When we received the sequel Scarlet last week, we had several put it on hold. While I think boys would like it just as much, the girls are the main ones checking it out.
REVIEW: What's not to love? Shadow and Bone has everything I crave in a YA fantasy: magic, romance, extravagance, goo...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: What's not to love? Shadow and Bone has everything I crave in a YA fantasy: magic, romance, extravagance, good versus evil, darkness and light, supernatural powers, incredibly unique world-building.
Diverse characters with varying motives will keep readers guessing about just who Alina can trust. Even though this is a good-versus-evil fantasy, Shadow and Bone never resorts to stock characters with either altruistic or nefarious motives. The "evil" characters seem to truly believe they are doing the right thing, complicating Alina's sense of right and wrong and causing her to constantly question herself. I love love love that no character, including the protagonists, is perfectly good or evil; as in real life, every character houses some good and some evil inside. Bardugo leaves her characters to make their own decisions about what to do, what to believe, who to trust.
Even though the "I-secretly-love-my-best-friend" storyline has been played over and over, I really believed in both protagonists' friendship and romance. Their tender moments didn't make my toes curl as do some other books' romances, but I rooted for them anyway. Some very sweet stuff there.
And now for the world-building--I saved the best for last! As I was reading, I kept thinking of the unique world-building in Roth's Divergent and Young's Blood Red Road. As with those two, I can think of no book that features a world like this one. The story takes place in war-torn Ravka, mainly within the extravagant royal court where the Grisha hone their supernatural abilities in order to serve the king. The Shadow Fold reminds me of "The Nothing" in The Never-Ending Story, a dark, barren area dividing Ravka in half. The Shadow Fold is incredibly dangerous and plagued with winged monsters called Volkra who feed on any who attempt to cross the sandy bleakness of The Unsea. Bardugo details every scene beautifully; I could easily picture the characters, the volkra, The Unsea, the snow, the clothing, the movement of magic. Yet despite the abundance of vivid detail, Bardugo's descriptions never weigh-down the story or stop the action. Like The Darkling's magic, the details simply "curl" and "unfurl" themselves into the action, allowing the reader to savor every second. Just WOW.
THE BOTTOM LINE: I have zero doubt that Shadow and Bone will appear on several "Best of 2012" lists by the end of this year. Beautifully written with complex characters and unique world-building, Shadow and Bone is a must-read for anyone who loves a fast-paced fantasy romance.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. While it is well-paced, I don't think Shadow and Bone is for every reader. Give this one to more advanced readers who can be patient with a slow, suspenseful build-up where things are presented but not explained right away. I would not recommend Shadow and Bone to struggling or reluctant readers.
Appeal to teens: 4/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Language: very mild; one a** and one bi***
Sexuality: mild-moderate; some kissing, one intense kiss that involves thigh-groping, a few round-about references to "having some fun" with pretty girls
Violence: mild-moderate; a man is magically cut in half, two bloody confrontations with the volcra (winged monsters)
Drugs/Alcohol: mild; adults drink "kvas" (a Russian beer)
WHAT I LIKED: Who knew I would love this book? I picked it up at the public library having never heard of it, and I picked it up because of the colorful front cover and who the author is. Narrator "Butterball" is likeable, even though he is angry, violent, and oh-so-far from the perfect kid. His voice is genuine, and many teen readers will see themselves in him. Push all that anger and "fronting" aside, and he is a scared, insecure 13-year old kid whose life is spinning out of control despite his efforts to look cool and fit in with the kids at his new school.
Butterball's parents are clearly drawn and realistic; it's refreshing to see realistically flawed parents who are so central to the story, so important in Butterball's life. I love that Butterball initially idolizes his dad (despite his incredibly hurtful comments to his own son), but Butterball eventually sees him for who he truly is. Butterball's embarrassment concerning (view spoiler)[his mother's homosexuality (hide spoiler)] is totally realistic; half the book goes by before he will even admit the truth to himself.
The writing style is uncomplicated, and the action keeps the plot moving at a nice speed. For me, it was a page-turner; I really cared about Butterball and wanted to see how things would turn out for him. I read the whole book in one sitting.
Small illustrations scattered throughout do little to enhance the story, but they help break up the text a bit, making Playgroung a fantastic choice for reluctant readers. I showed the illustration of Butterball eating in the school restroom all alone to my seven-year old son, and we had a nice conversation about why the boy was eating lunch in the bathroom. Interesting that, though I didn't tell him so, my son knew he was in there because of bullies.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: It's rare that I have no criticisms, but truly, I loved the whole book. Middle school teachers and librarians, this one is a keeper!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
REVIEW: Despite huge Goodreads reviews, this book was just okay for me. I slogged my way through the story for nearly...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: Despite huge Goodreads reviews, this book was just okay for me. I slogged my way through the story for nearly two weeks. It is the beginning of the school year, so I read more slowly than usual, but I never felt compelled to read My Life Next Door compulsively. There always seemed to be something more important to do, something I cared about more than finishing this book.
I liked the characters--Jase and Samantha are perfectly nice and their relationship is sweet. They seem like very normal teenagers with normal problems, and I'm sure lots of teens will relate to them. The story is realistic and believable.
My problem with this book is that, while everyone is nice and everything, it is really pretty boring. I really liked Tim's character and, despite my lukewarm reception of this book, I would probably read a book written from his perspective. The conflicts are relatively minor until near the end, when a catastrophe comes out of the clear blue and finally introduces some tension between the lovers. By then, I just really didn't care anymore.
THE BOTTOM LINE: It's okay if you like "slice of life" fiction. The romance is sweet and realistic, but it just doesn't have enough conflict to keep me turning the pages.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We can't get it--it is very high school.
READALIKES:Along for the Ride (Dessen); Temptation (Hopkins); Endless Summer (Echols); The Boy Who Sneaks Into My Bedroom Window (Moseley)
Appeal to teens: 4/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 2/5
Language: high--lots of F*** from one particular character
Sexuality: high--kissing, kissing breasts, intercourse
Drugs/Alcohol: medium-high--one boy is addicted to drugs and alcohol; smoking cigarettes; adults and teens serve/drink wine
REVIEW: Books like Sanctum are exactly why I love reviewing for School Library Journal. I received this book for SLJ...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: Books like Sanctum are exactly why I love reviewing for School Library Journal. I received this book for SLJ review, and I wasn't psyched about it. A girl who goes into hell to save her suicidal friend? Whatever. I never would have picked up Sanctum on my own, but I am sooo glad I got the opportunity to review it.
First and foremost, the world-building absolutely incredible. I could picture the dreary, dusty, rotting world as if I really were there. Smell is particularly well-described--I could practically smell the decay of old apartments, the sweet stench of rotting fruit, the comforting leather scent of Malachi's skin. I love the way most of the people living in the Suicide Gates are so absorbed in their own pain that they don't notice much around them. I haven't seen such breathtaking worldbuilding since I read C. Bailey Sims's Candlewax months ago. Just wow.
The pacing is steady, and I never felt bored with the story. Though Lela's cluelessness and ridiculously self-sacrificing behavior gets on my nerves at times, Lela's voice is clear and consistent. The first-person viewpoint works well for Sanctum and will help readers immerse themselves in Lela's story.
The romance between Lela and Malachi is slow-building, sweet, and believable. While the lustful staring at Malachi's abs got old quick, I really like Lela and Malachi as a couple and can't wait to see how things work out in the sequel. I would love to see if Ana and Takeshi get together in the next book as well--surely their story isn't over just yet.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A modern-day take on Orpheus and Eurydice, Sanctum will enthrall readers with its vivid worldbuilding and fast-paced plot. Students with personal connections or experiences with suicide may be sensitive to or offended by the "Suicide Gates" concept. An excellent book, but definitely not for everyone.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I can't get it; it is very high school.
Characters: 4/5--Lela gets on my nerves at times
Engrossing: 4/5--really good, but I could put it down
Appeal to teens: 4/5--some will be turned off by the "hell" theme
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Language: high; multiple fu**
Sexuality: high; multiple memories of sexual abuse (described in terms of fear more than the sex itself, but readers will know what is happening); lots of appreciation of body parts (abs, upper-body muscles, breasts); a (very) near rape
Violence: high; murder by beheading and throat-slitting, plenty of combat scenes with a wide variety of sharp weaponry; suicide is central to the story
Drugs/Alcohol: mild; Lela's abusive foster father smells like beer and cigarettes
REVIEW: Aaannnddd...I'm done. No more YA angel novels for me, at least not anytime soon. Immortal City was my fourth paranormal romance featuring angels, and I just can't take anymore. So many of my library girls have gone angel-crazy over books like Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush, Smith's Eternal, and Kate's Fallen, so I am constantly on the lookout for well-reviewed angel romances. But while I am hardly a spiritual person, I can't help but wonder, what does God think about all these reckless angel-hunks shirking their heavenly duties and falling for the wrong girl? Does He condone guardian angels selling their services to the highest bidders?
I had hoped Immortal City might be different from the other angel romances I've read. In alternating viewpoints (love!), readers learn about Maddie and Jackson separately, within their own lives and relationships, before their fateful first meeting. I love the uniqueness of the whole angel-for-hire program. Non-altruistic angels? Um, okay! Despite the interesting premise, Immortal City ultimately put me to sleep. I had to force myself to finish it, and then only by skimming the last 75 pages.
Characters and events are typical of the paranormal romance genre, complete with beautiful immortals, a "normal" human girl, love-at-first-sight, an annoying best friend, a vindictive ex-girlfriend, a spoiled little sister, and no parental guidance to speak of. I'm really getting bored with the "instant, inexplicable love connection" stuff going on in recent paranormal romances. Maddy and Jackson's courtship begins abruptly and smolders despite the fact that neither character really knows anything about the other; in fact, the pair seems more interesting separately than together. The predictable murder mystery seems tacked on simply to add intrigue to a plot that features too many angel-crazed teenage girls and reads like an extended episode of TMZ.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Slow-paced, shallow, and predictable. Recommended only for the most die-hard angel romance fans.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We don't have it, and I have no plans to purchase it. Content-wise, middle school librarians have nothing to worry about beyond a little language.
REVIEW: I read about 200 pages of I Hunt Killers before I finally abandoned it. Abandoning a book is not something I...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: I read about 200 pages of I Hunt Killers before I finally abandoned it. Abandoning a book is not something I take lightly, but I will do it if I am still struggling at the halfway point.
For me, the biggest problem with IHK is that I really just didn't care what happened. I didn't connect with Jasper (everyone thinks he's so charming because...?) or his girlfriend Connie (boring). Jasper has plenty of teen angst to go around, but he never felt very real to me. I didn't understand how Jasper and his grandmother could stand to live in the same house where so many grisly murders took place. No wonder Jasper couldn't get rid of the images from his disturbing youth.
While I am not typically one to figure out the "whodunits," the murderer in this story is so obvious that even I figured it out fairly early. After I decided to abandon, I skimmed ahead to see if I was right, and I was.
I probably would have loved this if I were a teen with little experience with serial killer books. I have read tons of serial killer fiction and nonfiction, and this one just lacks something. It is plenty gross and disturbing, but I just wasn't into it.
Warner Brothers has already optioned I Hunt Killers for TV. (read more)
THE BOTTOM LINE: Considering all the huge Goodreads ratings, I'd say read it if it sounds good to you. I just couldn't get into it.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We don't have it. It would be easy to talk up to my students, but it is WAY too graphic for middle school. Probably even too graphic for many high schoolers, too.
READALIKES:Acceleration (McNamee), Counterfeit Son (Alphin), Kill Game (Pascal)
CONTENT: *Please keep in mind I only read about 200 pages, so content ratings do not include anything after the first 200 pages.*
Language: mild--I don't remember anything specific or the language being gratuitous
Sexuality: medium--references to Billy Dent's rape of victims, female body found naked in a field, Jasper's girlfriend kisses him on his lap and Jasper's body responds
Violence: EXTREME--probably the most violent YA I've every read--references to rape, forced drug injections, murder, body nailed to ceiling, body found in field has fingers cut off
Drugs/Alcohol: forced drug injections
REVIEW: As a sort of high school version of The Hangover, From What I Remember is a fun, adventurous romp through Mexico with (mostly) likeable characters, an idyllic tropical setting, and plenty of action and romance. The story centers on Kylie Flores, an uber-responsible and serious high school senior who is too busy planning her future to have any real fun now. Kylie ends up inadvertently stranded in Mexico with a cute boy but without a passport, cell phone service, or a car. The premise is kind of silly, the plot is full of holes, and the is story about 150 pages too long, but, surprisingly, I liked it anyway.
The characters are all over the place while the authors attempt to tackle everything from Asperger's Syndrome and homosexuality to white-collar crime and cancer. Kylie's character is an exercise in contradictions, which sometimes makes her difficult to relate to. She's smart enough to be valedictorian but it never occurs to her to back-up her screenplay. She has no confidence in social situations but has no qualms chasing a thief and climbing into the back of the bad guys' truck. She is patient with her brother's Asperger's Syndrome but has a hot-temper and overreacts when she discovers her father's history, which doesn't really seem all that shocking. Kylie's flamboyantly gay best friend Will gets irritating at times, but in the end, does not wind up as stereotyped as I thought he would. Max's arrogance and passivity make him far from flawless, but they help dilute the image of perfection that so many YA romances love to slap on the male romantic lead. Would Kylie have fallen for him so quickly if he were overweight and covered with pimples? I doubt it.
From What I Remember's plot holes are difficult to ignore. (view spoiler)[ Do all teenagers in San Diego have current passports in their rooms? How does Juan get over the border so easily without a passport? Is anyone in Juan's family aware that he is crossing the border when he leaves with Will? And isn't border-crossing kind of a big deal? How does a police officer get official clearance to run lights and siren just to get some teenagers to their graduation? Does cell phone service really die as soon as you enter Mexico? If Kylie and Max could text from the back of the U-Haul, why didn't they just call the police? How/why do Kylie's parents have such a dramatic change in perspective after Kylie is gone for 24 hours, especially when, for much of that time, they don't realize she is missing? How does Kylie go from not really knowing Max to "loving" him in just a day? How did the "bad guys" even remember what Kylie and Max looked like when they saw them again and gave chase? (hide spoiler)] I could go on and on.
Last, my NetGalley copy has 490 pages, but I noticed that Goodreads states the book has 331 pages. I sure do hope it's closer to 331 because 490 pages is entirely too long for this type of book. At around page 275, I thought maybe my NetGalley copy had 150 blank pages at the end or that there was some error in my page count. Sadly, there wasn't. The story should have ended within 50 pages of the "morning after." Some substantial editing of the last 150 pages would improve the book tremendously.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A fun, cute little story, From What I Remember has potential, despite some plot holes and interminable length. Librarians and parents should be aware of mature language and sexual content.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
WHAT I LIKED: Page-turner alert! Diana Peterfreund has really pulled off something incredible here: a post-apocalypti...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
WHAT I LIKED: Page-turner alert! Diana Peterfreund has really pulled off something incredible here: a post-apocalyptic version of Jane Austen's Persuasion? Yes, please! I love the way Peterfreund weaves the secret letters from forbidden childhood friends Kai and Elliot as a way to bridge the gap between the past and present. I'm not sure the exact setting, only that it is on an island and it is sometime in the future.
Peterfreund takes her time developing characters and underscoring their contrasting beliefs and social stations. Elliot is a super-strong and determined female lead, and heartthrob Kai will make the girls swoon. The political and social environments take some time to develop, but the plot mostly moves along at a steady clip. A large cast of well-developed characters and a few connected subplots will keep readers turning the pages right up to the end, making For Darkness Shows the Stars a solid choice for middle and high school libraries.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: For much of the book, I thought I would give it a solid 5-star rating. So why the 4-star rating? The book slips just a bit in the last 60 or so pages, and there just isn't enough Kai toward the end to keep me happy. I really, really wanted to see Elliot and Kai attempting to make a go of it long before they actually do, and when it does finally happen, it doesn't sizzle like I had hoped. The constant cycle of bickering and avoidance just goes on a little too long for me.
THE BOTTOM LINE:For Darkness Shows the Stars is a smart page-turner that will no doubt be a hit with strong middle and high school readers. No content concerns for middle school libraries.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: At the middle school level, For Darkness Shows the Stars is best for stronger readers. I have no doubt that by the end of this year, For Darkness Shows the Stars will be on several "Best of" lists, but struggling, reluctant, and "less savvy" middle school readers may have difficulty with philosophical concepts that are not spelled out immediately. Still, there are plenty of middle schoolers who will love this one (see the Readalikes listed below), and I plan to buy it for my middle school library when it comes out in June.
READALIKES:The House of the Scorpion (Nancy Farmer); Incarceron (Catherine Fisher); Divergent (Veronica Roth); Ship Breaker (Paolo Bacigalupi)
Appeal to teens: 4/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Sexuality: very mild; some references to forced sexual relationships between master and servant, but they so mild that younger teen readers may miss them altogether.
Drugs/Alcohol: mild; at a party, some guests drink and get drunk
REVIEW: I surrender! I just can't read one more page. For the first time EVER, I am giving up on a book and still publ...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants
REVIEW: I surrender! I just can't read one more page. For the first time EVER, I am giving up on a book and still publishing a review. I don't normally do that because I think it isn't fair to review a book I didn't finish, but in this case, I feel that I got far enough (197 pages) to review it with detail. There really was a lot I did not like, but to be fair, let the record show that I only completed 2/3 of the book. In the unlikely event that the last 100 pages feature a complete turn-around and it transforms into an action-packed, page-turning thriller, then please, someone let me know.
With a giveaway of Fated going on last week on my blog, I really wanted to like Fated. I was hoping I would be able to write a 4- or 5-star review, and everyone would be scrambling to get their hands on an autographed copy. Alas, I cannot honestly recommend it. I feel pretty bad about that because the publisher was so nice to sponsor the giveaway. The cover is gorgeous (can I PLEASE have those earrings?), and the premise of a girl who dreams of a world between life and death really sounds interesting. So WHY couldn't I like it?
For starters, I had the hardest time getting into Fated. The story is difficult to follow, and I was never really 100% sure why Daire needs to fight Cade and the Richters. Are they planning to kill someone? Take over the world? What is their "evil plan," other than to kill Daire, the last of the Soul Seekers? If they killed Daire, what then?
The characters hover somewhere between so-so and completely unlikeable. Daire, yet another YA heroine who is devastatingly beautiful and doesn't know it--ugh--whines excessively and constantly feels sorry for herself. She argues with her poor mother often, even as her mother really loves her and is trying her best. The constant bickering with her mother may be realistic, but it doesn't do Daire's character any favors.
Paloma and Chay are unique, but what kept Paloma out of Daire's life for 16 years? Wouldn't it have been much easier for Daire if she knew at age 16, she might see her dead father's severed head talking to her? I got pretty tired of the whole "I'll tell you later" and "You'll find out later" stuff from Paloma. This girl is kind of dealing with a lot--could you please give her some kind of real guidance? Daire knows enough information to ask the question; the least Paloma could do is give her something to go on.
The wooden romance barely has any spark. Dace and Daire don't even physically meet until more than halfway through the book, not that it really matters since, like Daire, Dace has no personality at all. And I got so sick to death of hearing about Dace's "glossy black hair." Do we really need to hear about it every time he appears in the story? And of course, it wouldn't be a YA paranormal romance without the "insta-love" that makes me so crazy.
Noel's writing style is descriptive, but it is seriously long-winded. Routine activities such as eating a hamburger, driving a long distance, crossing the street, and entering a high school take several paragraphs to describe. Nothing really happens in these scenes other than Daire eating or sleeping or walking, so I am not sure why Noel devotes so much time to them. For me, it bogs down the too-sparse action scenes, which were just interesting enough for me to keep reading (slowly, falling asleep after only a few pages).
It took me two weeks to finish 197 pages of Fated, and that was only because I "staggered" it with three other books I was more interested in. I tried really hard to finish, but I can torture myself no longer.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Disappointed. As much as Fated has going for it, it wasn't for me at all.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I'm neither here not there with this one. If students request it, I'll consider it. The only content I am concerned about for MS students is that intense kiss right at the beginning of the book (just before Daire sees the floating severed heads).
READALIKES:The Mortal Instruments series (Clare); Gemma Doyle series (Libba Bray)
Engrossing: 1/5--helped me take two naps in the same day!
Appeal to teens: 3/5--They might like it better than I did.
Appropriate length to tell the story: can't rate--didn't finish
Sexuality: medium-high--an intense kissing with under-the-shirt groping and an unbuckled belt; in some of her dreams, Daire is either partially or totally naked in front of Dace
Violence: medium--severed/floating heads, story about someone who was decapitated
Drugs/Alcohol: mild--psychotropic drugs used to control Daire's visions
REVIEW: I really enjoyed River Run, but I wish it were about 300 pages longer. That's right, folks, I actually think...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: I really enjoyed River Run, but I wish it were about 300 pages longer. That's right, folks, I actually think a book should be much longer! That never, ever happens--if I complain about a book's length at all, it is usually to say it was overlong. But as I approached the books final pages, I found myself disappointed that it was ending. I wanted to know more about how the world ended up so horrible, how Freya got to the basement in the first place, what happened to Kat before, during, and after she lived in the basement. I love the characters of Freya and Finn, and I have tons of questions about what happens next. The ending does wrap-up the story, but Finn and Freya's adventures are nowhere near finished by the last page.
I love Deirdre Black's simple-yet-descriptive writing style. I'm not sure what has happened to the U.S. before Freya's escape, but I am going to guess it was something apocalyptic because times are really quite desperate. Even in cities, people live in makeshift tents, and money appears to be nonexistent or at least has no value. Oil and gas and food are valuable, and slavers capture and sell both men and women, young and old, either for work or sex or both.
I couldn't help noticing the nod to Twain's classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It surely could not be a coincidence that the boy protagonist is called Finn and that, for a large part of the story, they are floating from the upper-Midwest in a canoe on (presumably) the Mississippi River towards the deep south. Or that, like Huck, Freya escapes a life of abuse early in the story. As in Huck Finn, the woods surrounding the river are dangerous and full of slavers attempting to capture the protagonists. The only safe and free place for Freya and Finn is on the river or along its muddy banks.
THE BOTTOM LINE: I really did enjoy reading River Run, but I wish wish wish it were longer and more in-depth. Interesting story, endearing characters, and a well-paced plot.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We don't have it, but I will get it. I think my MS students will enjoy the story, and more reluctant readers might give it a shot because of the pacing and short length.
READALIKES:River Run makes me want to reread The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Twain) to see what other similarities I can find. Kind of a cool connection that I didn't expect.
Overall: 4/5--could have easily been a 5 if more developed and longer
Appeal to teens: 5/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 2/5
Sexuality: mild; hand-holding, a very chaste top-of-head kiss, some vague references to sex slavery
Violence: medium--slavery, kidnapping, murder by gunshot
WHAT I LIKED: 172 Hours on the Moon is one of the creepiest, most chilling books I've ever read. After the first 100 pages, I finished the rest of it in one sitting. Gripping and suspenseful, 172 Hours is one of those books where you constantly ask yourself, "How can they possibly get out of this?"
I must give props to the translator, Tara Chace. If the front cover did not tell me 172 Hours was a translation (from Norwegian), I would never have known. With smooth flow and a story that grabs you and won't let go, I frequently forgot that I was reading rather than experiencing.
Illustrations, advertisements, maps, and photographs sprinkled throughout add to the story and help readers visualize places only a very small number of humans have ever visited. Despite numerous illustrations, Harstad describes the horrific evil inhabiting the moon without any visuals, which would probably have taken away from the horror of it anyway. Imagining what lurks out there is far more scary than any photograph or drawing could ever be.
I have seen a few reviews that complained about the ending, but I really liked it. It was such a cool twist that I went back and reread a couple of parts to see how they worked with that ending.
Be ready to sleep with the lights on!
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Initially, the three teens are really not all that likeable. They seem bratty and spoiled, and they all believe their lives are terrible and could be better elsewhere. Antoine is nothing short of an obsessed stalker, and Mia's rude treatment of her parents, while believable, does not make her likeable. They did eventually grow on me though, and their moments of remarkable courage in a dire situation helped to redeem them.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Original, eerie, and intense, 172 Hours on the Moon is page-turning craziness that will stay with readers long after the shocking and heartbreaking conclusion. Not for readers who don't like scary thrillers with a healthy dose of violence.(less)
REVIEW: On the surface, Vicious Deep has all the ingredients that I love to see in a YA novel: a male protagonist, a seemingly unattainable romance, mermaids and an assortment of mythological sea creatures, snarky humor, a quest to find an oracle... but I can't say I loved this book. For one thing, it took me THREE WEEKS to finish reading it. I kept putting it down, falling asleep after three pages, reading other books "in between." Why did that happen? Why was I so disconnected with the characters and the story? I absolutely adore mermaid literature, and male protagonist/ unwitting merman Tristan is likeable and funny. While Layla kind of irritates me with her never-ending spunk, the characters are mostly pretty likeable and clearly-drawn.
So why didn't I like the book? One word: pacing. Very little actually happens in the novel's 380 pages. There is a lot of talk about what's going to happen, what's happening to Tristan's body, what's going down in the mermaid community. I would have loved to see more connection between Tristan and Layla. On one hand, Tristan loves Layla more than just about anything, but he also checks out the female mermaids quite frequently. He's an insatiable flirt who knows girls find him attractive, and he sometimes uses that to get girls to do what he wants them to do. That may be realistic, but it doesn't make me really root for Tristan to end up with Layla.
I wish there were fewer instances of gratuitous language and references to Tristan's "junk." Profanity does not bother me (my husband likes to call me "Captain" because I "cuss like a sailor"), but I think the profanity usage in Vicious Deep is unnecessary. Even though I didn't love the pacing, I would have put Vicious Deep in my middle school library if it weren't for the frequency of the F-word and references to Tristan's "junk." I do have many books in my library that include profanity and sexual references, but I hate it when mature content seems thrown in just for the heck of it.
All that said, I have no doubt Vicious Deep will be a successful book. The cover is gorgeous, there's a male protagonist, and mermaids are hot right now. All the reviews I've seen praise it highly, and the Goodreads rating is well over 4-stars. It's not bad or terrible; it just didn't do much for me.
THE BOTTOM LINE: While for me, Vicious Deep has serious pacing issues and too much unnecessary profanity, I believe it will be a successful novel that will appeal to many teens. For middle school librarians concerned about mature content, check out Lies Beneath.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I can't get this one for middle school; see content advisory below. Highly recommended for high school libraries.
READALIKES:Lies Beneath (Anne Greenwood Brown)
Appeal to teens: 5/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 2/5
Language: medium-high; includes multiple instances of sh** and fu**
Sexuality: medium; multiple references to Tristan's manhood (Such as where does "it" go when he transforms, feeling "heat" in his pants); a few mild kissing scenes
Violence: mild-medium; some sea creature deaths (somewhat bloody/gory but also kind of funny); two human deaths (gory but not too descriptive)
Drugs/Alcohol: mild; a couple of scenes where teens drink (one unknowingly gets drunk). Neither scene is a big deal unless you are completely opposed to teen drinking in YA books.
REVIEW: I loved this book! I've seen The Sweetest Spell compared to The Princess Bride, and I totally agree with thos...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: I loved this book! I've seen The Sweetest Spell compared to The Princess Bride, and I totally agree with those comparisons. I was entranced right from the first page, and it kept me reading well into the wee hours. The romance is sooo sweet, and I love the story's fairy-tale feel. To my knowledge, The Sweetest Spell is not based on any particular fairy tale, but it does have that medieval, "Anglish" countryside setting and a hefty dose of romance and royalty. Readers will predict a "happily ever after" ending, but the fun is in getting there. Plenty of fighting, scheming, magic, cruelty and kindness lead up to that oh-so-sweet-and-anticipated first kiss. Absolutely magical.
I love that Emmeline has a serious physical handicap, but she does not let it prevent her from living life on her own terms. While the taunts do hurt her feelings, she takes it in stride and often fights back with snarky comebacks that will make readers laugh out loud. Her rags-to-riches story smacks a bit of Cinderella, but Emmeline needs no prince to rescue her. Male leads Griffin and Owen and Beau are fleshed out well; each is interesting and unique. I especially love Owen's toughness and his absolute resistance to admitting his feelings for Emmeline. A large cast of supporting characters and secondary plot lines will make readers laugh, cry, and wish they, too, lived in a world where good always triumphs and evil never pays.
THE BOTTOM LINE: While the premise (a girl magically makes chocolate and talks to cows) is a bit, um, different, The Sweetest Spell will easily hold its own among others in the fairy tale genre. Like chocolate, this one is super-sweet and satisfying.
READALIKES: anything by Shannon Hale, The Princess Bride (Goldman), Cloaked (Alex Flinn)
Appeal to teens: 5/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Sexuality: mild; kissing, a few mild references to prostitution (so mild many young readers will miss them)
Violence: mild; organized "barefist" fighting rings; talk of hangings
REVIEW: Honestly, Transcendence was just okay for me. It has some page-turning moments (mostly toward the end), but it a...moreMore reviews at MrsReaderPants
REVIEW: Honestly, Transcendence was just okay for me. It has some page-turning moments (mostly toward the end), but it also has some really slow moments (mostly the first 2/3 of the book). The story starts quickly on the steps of the Tower of London, where Cole has her first vision and meets Griffon. That part had me looking forward to the rest of the story. Once Cole returns to San Francisco, however, barely anything happens for quite awhile save a LOT of info-dumping conversations that really could have been more spread out.
Cole's character is okay to me, though her insecurity and whining did get on my nerves. While Griffon's mother Janine seems pretty trustworthy, I had trouble with Griffon's character almost immediately. Like many YA romantic male leads, Griffon displays stalker tendencies. For example, he first meets Cole in London but just happens to live within minutes of Cole's San Fransisco home. He turns up in the background of several London vacation photographs, which clearly demonstrates he has been following Cole around. When Cole and Griffon start dating each other, he disappears for days at a time with only a cryptic explanation of his whereabouts. He is caught listening outside her window on more than one occasion. He warns her away from a close friend, saying she is dangerous and not to be trusted. When Cole doesn't want Griffon to carry her expensive cello, Griffon retorts, "Now you don't trust me enough to carry your cello?" While these odd behaviors do bother Cole some, she dismisses them easily when Griffon gives her a weak explanation. For such a smart girl who knows she may be in danger, Cole sure doesn't question much.
The concept of remembering previous lives is unique and interesting, but I had difficulty believing that so many lives from the exact same time and place more than 400 years ago converge in this particular San Francisco location, at this particular time, among people who just happen to run into each other randomly. Griffon explains to Cole that Ahket can live at any time, any place in the world. So why are so many of them teenagers who live in San Francisco right now? Why were all of Cole's visions from one specific past life when she has presumably had multiple past lives?
For much of the book, I was unimpressed with the characters and the story; however, about 60 pages from the end, the mysteries of the past and present converge, making for a page-turning and suspenseful finale. The story can stand alone, but Omololu leaves a few intriguing loose ends open for a possible sequel. Despite my boredom with a good portion of the book, one particular plot thread has piqued my interest enough that I might actually read the sequel.
THE BOTTOM LINE: An interesting concept isn't enough to completely save this unevenly-paced paranormal thriller, but now that readers have the basic background, a possible sequel has potential. I recommend Transcendence as an additional purchase for most middle and high school libraries. (less)
WHAT I LIKED:Grave Mercy is really easy to get into. Having never read anything by Robin LaFevers, I could tell...more Read more reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants
WHAT I LIKED:Grave Mercy is really easy to get into. Having never read anything by Robin LaFevers, I could tell right away that she has serious writing talent. I was sucked into Ismae's story immediately; her forced marriage to the local pig farmer (who truly is a pig himself) and subsequent near-rape really help the reader understand Ismae's burning hatred for men and why she has no qualms about being death's handmaiden. For about the first third of the story, I was riveted.
Unique! I had never heard of Anne of Brittany, and after I finished reading, I researched the characters. Many of them really existed, and Anne's marriage (and multiple betrothals) really was a political football back in the 1400s. I can see why LaFevers chose to write about Brittany at this time in history; who knew it was so interesting? LaFevers introduces an element of fantasy into the mix with Ismae serving Death and having special abilities; add in Ismae and Duval's romance, and you really have a recipe for something different and exciting.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: I considered abandoning this book several times. I wanted to know what happened, and by the time I was really ready to abandon, I felt like I had invested so much time already that I needed to go ahead and finish it. By the end, Grave Mercy really never recaptured the magic of the first part of the book. The political intrigue in the last two-thirds of the book just got to be too much for me. I had a hard time keeping track of all the barons and lords and kings and dukes and courtiers and mistresses. Who is on who's side? Grave Mercy is long--549 pages--and would have been more interesting to me if some of the political plotting and explanation were cut down.
Also, why does Death worry so much about European politics? Why would St. Mortain care a lick about the duchess being crowned or whether France is allowed to invade Brittany? Over and over, Ismae and the nuns say that Mortain wants the duchess crowned. How do they know this? If they are correct, why would St. Mortain care? It bothered me.
I would have loved to see a section at the end about the historical events in the story. I read the publisher's ARC, so maybe the published edition includes that.
THE BOTTOM LINE: For me, this one is overlong and includes way too much political intrigue, but considering the high Goodreads rating right now, lots of readers disagree with me.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We don't have it and won't get it. It is definitely HS--content aside, I don't think most of my students will even understand it.
Appeal to teens: 3/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 2/5
Sexuality: medium-high; multiple references to women as sexual objects, several references to rape, lots of kissing, off-the-page intercourse
Violence: mild; for a book about an assassin, surprising few murders (none are gross or bloody)
Drugs/Alcohol: mild; poisoning is a method of murder; some characters drink at parties or are described as drunk
REVIEW: I am planning to take a group of students to see the play Peter Pan next May, so to promote the trip (they ha...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: I am planning to take a group of students to see the play Peter Pan next May, so to promote the trip (they have to read 10 books on a list of 27 books in order to go), I included two Peter Pan spinoffs as possible reading choices. The other book is Peter and the Starcatchers (Barry), and I may also add Capt. Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth (Hart).
Tiger Lily is beautiful and lyrical. I love the descriptions of Neverland and how growing up/old is considered a contagious disease that affects Englishmen. Tiger Lily is strong and courageous, and I absolutely loved her character's quiet power.The author takes her time crafting the story, selecting words carefully and perfectly to suit the emotion of the scene.
I'm not sure if I was supposed to like Peter Pan, but I really wasn't a fan. He is skinny and wild and immature, and I have no idea what Tiger Lily sees in him.
I was a little disappointed that Captain Hook wasn't a bigger player in the story. There is another pirate who plays a minor role for a little while, but even he isn't really much of a threat. The biggest threat to Tiger Lily is her looming marriage to a brute and, of course, Wendy's arrival in Neverland.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A beautifully-written story for fans of Peter Pan or retellings. Prior knowledge of Peter Pan is not necessary.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have one copy and two more on the way. It was mildly popular last year when we got it, but since I added it to our Lone Star Plus list this year, it is very popular. It's been well-received by the students who have read it.
READALIKES: Capt. Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth (Hart); Peter and the Starcatchers (Barry)
Appeal to teens: 4/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Sexuality: mild; characters swim naked, but it isn't sexual; some kissing; some allusion to rape; cross-dressing male
Violence: mild; a mermaid is eaten by a strange beast, one character is a murderer; crocodiles eat a human
Drugs/Alcohol: mild; drunken pirates
REVIEW: In some ways, Lies Beneath is pretty typical of the YA paranormal romance genre. You have the secretive-but-hunky boy/stalker/fish who is trying to control his predatory urges. There's a girl who marches to her own beat and doesn't realize or care that she's mind-numbingly beautiful. Suspicious townspeople and lurking mermaids threaten to forever separate the star-crossed couple. Add to that lots of Victorian poetry and an eerily beautiful Lake Superior setting, complete with lake monsters, watery caves, and 10,000 years of buried history, and Lies Beneath starts to gain some substance.
The two major characters--Calder and Lily--are likeable, if a little boring. Despite several instances of outright stalking (he's a predator, after all), Calder is an unlikely hero trying to control his nature, break free from his mer-sisters' tight grasp, and protect those blissfully ignorant humans. The three sisters, particularly Maris, are deliciously wicked and would make interesting stories on their own. The story reads quickly and will easily hold the attention of teen readers on the constant look-out for their next paranormal romance.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Despite a somewhat typical setup, Lies Beneath is a fun and unique paranormal romance told, atypically, from the boy's viewpoint. Teen readers--especially the girls--will squeal for more Calder and Lily and look forward to the planned sequel. Middle school librarians fear not; sexual contact is limited to a few sweet and beautifully-written kissing scenes. I have no worries purchasing and promoting Lies Beneath in my library.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I've already been talking up Lies Beneath in my library and plan to purchase it when it debuts in June. (less)
REVIEW: Although I read the New Adult genre from time to time, I do not typically review New Adult books on my blog u...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: Although I read the New Adult genre from time to time, I do not typically review New Adult books on my blog unless they are something special. Ten Tiny Breaths is definitely something special, and I am reviewing it here because I think it will make readers out of non-readers. Any book that can do that is worth its weight in gold as far as I am concerned.
As a New Adult book, Ten Tiny Breaths includes intense (but not pornographic) sexual situations. It has plenty of profanity. And sure, there are some high school students who are not yet mature enough to handle that. BUT, for older high school students who can handle it (the majority, in my opinion), Ten Tiny Breaths is an absolute gem. If I had an upper-high school daughter, especially one who didn't like reading, I would totally give her this book.
The characters are well-developed, as is the plot, which tackles post-traumatic stress disorder. This is more than your typical NA read--PTSD is not something I've seen explored in fiction for young adults, and Tucker handles it realistically and with sensitivity.
I loved the romance! For teachers and librarians worried about content, it definitely has mature content. There are multiple sexual situations and some intercourse, but none of it is pornographic. Parents, you know your teens. If your older teen likes romantic movies but doesn't like to read, this book might be just the thing you've been looking for to turn that around.
THE BOTTOM LINE: An excellent choice for adults and older teens who love romance, especially those who do not like to read.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I think this is too mature for most HS libraries to offer in the general collection, but I think parents should consider this book on a case-by-case basis for older teens (like 17+) who can handle mature sexual content. It's a no-brainer for public libraries--get this book now!
Appeal to teens: 4/5--it's NA, so not intended for younger teens
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Language: high--includes multiple sh**, fu**
Sexuality: high--more than Perfect Chemistry, less than 50 Shades Violence: mild; protagonist is a kick boxer and sometimes uses it as a defense/coping mechanism
Drugs/Alcohol: mild; remembered past drug/alcohol use; protagonist works as a bartender but never drinks alcohol; protagonist's loved ones were killed in drunk driving accident years ago
REVIEW: As a kind of Pride and Prejudice for teen readers, Keeping the Castle is a cute, fun romance that I really en...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: As a kind of Pride and Prejudice for teen readers, Keeping the Castle is a cute, fun romance that I really enjoyed. Althea's exploits to win Lord Boring's heart were endlessly entertaining and at times, quite hilarious. I loved all the characters and felt especially sorry for poor Lord Boring, who seemed to have no clue just how important he is to the desperate women of Lesser Hoo. I love Miss Vincy's unconventionally independent spirit and Prudence and Charity's vain selfishness. Though he lacks the social mores of his time, Mr. Fredericks is especially endearing. I love the slow-building friendship between Fredericks and Althea. Very nice.
My only complaint with Keeping the Castle is the way it is written. While the writing style is elegant, beautiful, and fits the historical period, I fear that it may turn off some teen/tween readers who have had little exposure to the language of the Victorian period. Then again, I suppose Keeping the Castle will give them their first opportunity to try it out!
THE BOTTOM LINE: Cute, fun, entertaining. It's a great choice for the 2013 Lone Star Reading List.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. Maybe not for every student, but I'll be recommending it frequently.
I loved this book and am doing a giveaway this Wed (10-10-12). Check my blog between Oct. 10-20, 2012 for details.
REVIEW: Once again, I am so thankful...more I loved this book and am doing a giveaway this Wed (10-10-12). Check my blog between Oct. 10-20, 2012 for details.
REVIEW: Once again, I am so thankful to be an SLJ book reviewer. SLJ introduces me to new books that I might not choose to read on my own. The Goodreads rating on Yesterday is currently pretty low (3.41 average for 110 ratings), and I put off reading it for a couple of weeks because of that low rating. I found the publisher's summary confusing, which did not make me want to read the book. With my deadline looming, I finally jumped in. I went into it unenthusiastically and with very low expectations, but...
There was a George Orwell quote on the very first page (a great start since I absolutely ADORE Mr. Orwell), and...
It reminded me of Rachel Ward's Num8ers trilogy (I LOVED Num8ers), and...
I am SO GLAD I read this! I loved the unique storyline, the run-for-your-life action, the emotionally-cautious romance, the twist at the end. Yesterday is very different from other dystopias flooding the YA market these days. While it starts out in the year 2063, most of the book takes place in 1985. It is a slow-building page-turner; while some parts are more for explanation (particularly the part where Freya remembers her past), these parts are necessary to the story and give insight to why Freya and Garren are being chased. I love how the reader gets answers only as Freya gets them. Freya's confusion is the reader's confusion, and that works very well for this book.
The ending comes to a nice stopping point, but it leaves all kinds of loose ends for the sure-to-come sequel. I loved all the 80s music and cultural references, and it is nice remembering a time when we weren't all so "connected" every second of the day.
As for the low Goodreads rating, I have no explanation for that since I do not read other reviews until after I write my own. My guess is that Yesterday is going to appeal most to fans of Rachel Ward's Num8ers trilogy. The ratings for Num8ers is quite low also (as of today, it has the exact same 3.41 rating as Yesterday), but Num8ers is still one of my favorite YA books of all time. The books do have some similarities (female protag with special powers, a boy and girl on the run, a glimpse into the future, a really cool twist at the end), so if you liked Num8ers, I bet you'll like Yesterday as well. Despite the similarities, the storylines are very different.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Maybe not for everyone, but I absolutely loved it. Features excellent Year 2063 world-building, realistically tentative romance, and lots of 80s music references!
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We don't have it, and sadly, sexual content and frequent profanity make it too way mature for middle school. That's really too bad because I know I could easily sell this storyline to my students.
Appeal to teens: 5/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Language: medium-high; includes a multiple f*** and sh**
Sexuality: high; two scenes with intense body exploration--neither leads to intercourse, but both are described in detail (two references to a "hard on", naked kissing and touching); thinking and talking about sex (the only reason they don't have sex is fear of pregnancy); virtual reality sex (not described in detail); parental infidelity
Violence: medium; some deaths (not described in detail), slavery, gun violence, armed robbery, virus leads to rabid behavior in humans (one scene where a teen gets "bitten into")
Drugs/Alcohol: mild-medium; teens drink and smoke cigarettes at a party, talk of 60s psychedelic drug use (magic mushrooms, marijuana)
REVIEW: When I started this book, I could not stop talking about it! I love the writing style (similar to The Knife of Never-Letting Go and Blood Red Road) and the constant struggle for survival in the snow. About 70 pages into the story, I added it to my Goodreads account and was surprised/saddened to see the mediocre average Goodreads rating. I was bummed; surely if that many reviewers did not like the book, I must be wasting my time reading it. After skimming some of the reviews, I saw that many reviewers did not finish the book or did not like the writing style. Since I did like the writing style and the story, I continued reading, and I am so glad I did.
A character-driven story, After the Snow does have a few slow spots, but it never lasts long. Willo finds himself in plenty of tight-spots where escape seems impossible. Willo's insightful inner-dialogue and unending resourcefulness make him a superhero in my eyes; no matter what mess he finds himself in, Willo has the brains to escape it. I especially love how Willo is no bare-chested, brooding "hottie" so common of male leads in YA fiction. Quite the contrary, he's an odd little duck who wears a dog skull, talks to a dog in his head, and spends lots and lots of time observing nature. Love!
I really, really hope that poor reviews do not discourage potential readers (or worse, the publisher or first-time author). Crockett's writing style is brilliant--simple, insightful, and beautiful. Willo and Mary make a great team, and it seems the story only scratches the surface of these two unique characters and the world they live in. As the months pass and Willo matures, he discovers just how much his parents protected him up in the mountains, away from the filthy, corrupt city. The world-building is slow, and Crockett leaves lots of unanswered or partially-answered questions for both Willo and the reader. The ending does wrap up some loose ends, but it leaves plenty of unfinished pieces for a sequel, which I hope hope hope comes soon. As of this writing, I can find no information about a planned sequel.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Readers who like the style of books like Blood Red Road and the Chaos Walking trilogy should try this little gem. Great characters, world-building, and a sweet potential romance all have me looking forward to a sequel.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY (GRADES 6-8): On order. Yes, it contains some language and crude sexual references, and yes, I am somewhat concerned about that. However, I have a pretty decent audience of smart students--particularly boys--who crave post-apocalyptic science fiction, and I cannot deny them access to this book. After the Snow will be a hit in my school, though I will be careful who I recommend it to because of the content. (less)
REVIEW: "There used to be more of us. I'm certain of this. Not enough to fill a sports staduim or even a movie theater, but certainly more than what's left today. Truth is, I don't think there's any of us left. Except me. It's what happens when you're a delicacy. When you're craved. You go extinct," (p. 1, first paragraph).
Seriously, with an opening paragraph like that, how could I not love this book? Andrew Fukuda has an engaging storytelling style peppered with descriptions that really make readers experience the action. The Hunt is loaded with descriptions and events that make this surreal story come alive.
I love how narrator Gene stops the story to explain the concepts of sweat or singing, as if like the vampires, we readers are so inhuman we couldn't possibly understand those things. I love vampires "liquefying" in the sun and impaled by daggers that "disappear like a spoon into soup" (169). I love heper-hunting horses whose "nostrils gape wide, like a wet, silent scream" (6) when they catch a human's scent. I love the weird vampire rituals like scratching one's wrist to indicate apology or when deferring dominance to another vampire. The armpit/elbow sexual ritual is one of the oddest things I've ever read in any book, but will I remember it? You bet.
The story is mostly well-paced, but it does slow in parts. I had to suspend some serious belief during the final confrontation scene at the end. The surprise at the very end is more of a "huh" moment than a shock. It's as though some editor told Fukuda he needed to add shock-value at the end, even if it didn't make any sense with the rest of the story. Really, how is that last sentence even possible?
While I loved Fukuda's writing style and the story's unique flavor, I will say the characters are not as developed as they could have been. I never really cared for Ashley June, though I could not really say why. She seems okay, but I never connected with her. Sissy seems alright also, but again, I couldn't really say much about her specifically. Gene comes off as cocky and superior at times, and his motives kept me scratching my head. Gene is doing everything he can to simply survive, and at times, I honestly couldn't figure out why. The future holds nothing for him; he can't even smile or laugh or sweat without giving himself away. He lives in total darkness and deals with weird elbow/armpit sexual rituals. What is there to live for except an endless supply of fear, lies, darkness, and nasty raw meat? Just call me vampire kibble; I would never have the iron will required to survive all that.
THE BOTTOM LINE: One of the more unique and memorable stories I've read in recent years, The Hunt is a stand-out in a YA fiction market flooded with post-apocalyptic survival novels. Well-paced and engrossing, The Hunt will be a hit with teens and adults who love intense action and don't mind plenty of gore.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I am on the fence about including The Hunt in my library. On one hand, I know it would appeal to my zombie-loving, post-apocalyptic fiction fans (also known as 8th grade boys). On the other hand, it is incredibly violent and has lots of gore. Will I get it? Probably, but it's definitely not for everyone.
READALIKES:The Knife of Never-Letting Go (Ness); The Hunger Games (Collins); Ashes (Bick)
WHAT I LIKED: Fun, fun, fun! Greta is easy to get into and difficult to put down. Featuring plenty of action, romance...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
WHAT I LIKED: Fun, fun, fun! Greta is easy to get into and difficult to put down. Featuring plenty of action, romance, and ghoul drool, this book will be a hit for fans of Brandon Mull's Fablehaven series and Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series. I have been so sick of paranormal romance lately, but Greta was refreshingly unique and just plain-old good storytelling.
Original world-building! I love Jacobs' descriptions of the frigid, unforgiving land of Mylena. I could picture the warm glow of the bar where Greta encounters Siona, the makeshift stick tents Wyatt and the other boys put together, the drooly ghouls wanting nothing more than a light snack to calm their hungry bellies. I love the looming eclipse and what it does to the animals and creatures of Mylena. I love that the Goblin King and his cousin Siona are not the bony, hideous, grey-skinned creatures from other stories I've read; instead, both are beautiful and strong (and look a lot like humans). Faeries are not the delicate little Tinkerbell-esque flying pixies; they are huge, strong, and fearsome. Just. Awesome.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: There are two potential romances in Greta. Wyatt, a human, is very sweet, accepting, encouraging, and clearly likes Greta. I like him a lot and would love to see Greta end up with him (though I don't think that will happen). Although Isaac the Goblin King is interesting and gorgeous and powerful and understands Greta's personality well, his actions are stalker-ish. Greta is a tough girl who isn't afraid to do what is necessary to survive; I would think her character would be irritated by possessive behavior. While she does resist for awhile, she eventually gives in even though she acknowledges this is not a good relationship for her to be in.
The "I love yous" come way too soon, which always drives me nuts. I prefer characters to have to work for the first kiss and the first "I love you." I like it when the author drags these out a little so I, the reader, can anticipate it and squeal when it finally happens. I didn't have enough time to savor the romance in this one; it was almost as though Greta just gave in to Isaac's advances rather than really wanting him on her own.
The ending felt rushed and confusing. I found myself wondering--what makes Greta and her brother so special? Why does Agramon want them so badly? Perhaps these questions will be answered in the next book.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Fun, fast-paced, and action-packed. It's not without its minor issues, but they are not big enough to distract from the fun of the story.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. My fantasy readers will love this!
READALIKES:The Iron Fey series (Kagawa); Fablehaven series (Mull)
Appeal to teens: 5/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Language: mild--a couple of sh**
Sexuality: mild--appreciation of male chest and body, kissing
Violence: medium--blood, gore, fighting (nothing worse than most teen fantasy novels)
REVIEW: When I finished Legacy, I was not certain I wanted to read its sequel. If it weren't for my love for the character of Steldor and the surprising twist at the end of Legacy, I probably wouldn't have bothered with Allegiance at all. And that would have been a shame. Like Legacy, Allegiance is overlong and needs serious content editing; however, Allegiance has far better pacing than its predecessor. The story moves along at a (mostly) decent clip, and I frequently had a difficult time putting it down. Allegiance has lots of action, and I loved the way the characters of Alera, Steldor, Miranna, and Temerson change over time. Surprisingly, Alera and Steldor's constant quibbling and "marriage of convenience" reminded me a little of Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler. Rhett loved Scarlett all along (as Steldor loves Alera), and Scarlett realizes only too late that, despite everything, she loves Rhett back (as Alera will discover in book 3?). Hmmm...
Kluver's copious attention to detail, while at times a bit much, really gives readers a sense of setting, time, and character. I still love Steldor and rooted for him for the entire book, and I have difficulty understanding how Alera can so easily forgive Narian for his part in the Overlord's atrocities. Even though the Overlord forces Narian's hand and Narian really is trying to minimize the damage, it should have been more difficult for an 18-year old girl to get over his role in so much death and destruction. While Steldor's character is very well-defined in both books, Narian barely appears in Allegiance until the very end, making his character more difficult to understand or care about.
I really enjoyed how spoiled, pampered sisters Alera and Miranna finally get the chance to grow up and experience the world. They are both far less annoying and whiny in this book, and Alera's transition to becoming a strong queen is a refreshing change. The NetGalley version of Allegiance includes the Prologue to the third book in the Legacy trilogy, but I am not certain a third book is necessary. It seems most everything is resolved at the end of Allegiance, and I am once again wondering if I will read the next book.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Though still a bit overlong, Allegiance is a (mostly) fast-paced story of forbidden love, undying friendships, and a kingdom at war. While it is not a must-read, Kluver's beautiful attention to detail and richly-drawn characters make it a worthy investment for libraries and readers who love being swept up in castles, royalty, and romance.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: The book is not yet published, but I do plan to purchase both Legacy and Allegiance for my library. I do have some mild concern about the references to marriage consummation, but the references are infrequent and no sex ever takes place, either on or off the page. Middle school librarians with concerns about sexual innuendo are urged to read the books first.
READALIKES:Graceling (Cashore); The Seer and the Sword (Hanley)(less)