OVERALL RATING: Wavered on rating--I'd say it's a 3.5 stars
WHAT I LIKED: Eventually, The Way We Fall is a page-turner. By the middle of the book, I enjoyed telling my husband about the storyline and thought about it when I was not reading. The concept of a virus that wipes out almost everyone is frighteningly believable and could certainly happen any place, any time. I really did want to find out if they found a cure, and who manages to survive the deadly virus.
I love the growth of Kaelyn's character. For about the first half of the book, Kaelyn is annoyingly whiny, self-absorbed, and scared of other people and what they think of her. She automatically thinks people don't like her, just because they don't talk to her at school. She is so obsessed with Leo that the entire story is told in lengthy, detailed letters to Leo that she knows she will never mail. The Kaelyn in the first half of the book never goes out on a limb or takes a chance. By the end of the book, Kaelyn has been through so much on the island that she is actually somewhat likeable. I like how slowly her growth occurs because it is realistic--people don't change overnight, and it takes a catastrophic situation to make Kaelyn grow up and become a better person.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Whew, a slow start. I had to force myself to read for about the first 100 pages, partly because I had no clue what had happened with Kaelyn's fight with Leo or who had moved where or when or why. The book definitely picks up, but Kaelyn's pining over her lost best friend Leo (and trying to piece together what had happened to separate the two) really gets old.
For me, the journal/letter format of The Way We Fall is its biggest downfall. I think if the book were just partly Kaelyn writing in her own journal or if it were told from alternating character perspectives, The Way We Fall would have been much stronger. I kept thinking that Leo would come back somehow and become a major character, but Leo remains insignificant to the reader, an unnecessary character who never really appears in the action. Further, the journal format is by definition a retelling of the action, which removes some of the tension and suspense from the story. The reader knows Kaelyn stays safe in the dangerous situations she encounters because she at least lives long enough to tell us about it afterwards. It also seems unrealistic that anyone would quote that much dialogue, that precisely, in a journal.
UPDATE: According to author, Megan Crewe, there will be two sequels to The Way We Fall, and Leo will play a bigger role in the sequels. That is so great to hear, and I look forward to reading the next installments!
Language: moderate; language especially increases in latter half of the book
Sexuality: mild; some kissing
Violence: mild-moderate; some medical gore, two murders
READALIKES: The Dead and the Gone (Pfeffer)
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: The Way We Fall does not come out for a few more months, but I do plan to purchase it for the library. My students love post-apocalyptic stories, and I think there is definitely an audience for this one at my school....more
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 didI'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....more
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....more
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"]>...more
WHAT I LIKED: May I please move to Candlewax? The world-building in this book is incredible! From majestic castles to burning forests of Candlewax trees to the unforgiving land of Cinna, the fantasy world is breathtakingly beautiful and cold and evil at the same time.
Well-paced. I was sucked into the story right away and, for the most part, had a hard time putting it down. Sims provides plenty of conflict to keep the story moving; there were times when I wondered, "How on earth are they going to get out of this mess?"
Strong characters. Princess Catherine, Bessie, and Cyril are all likeable, brave, and clever. Readers will love to hate thoroughly evil characters such as Kallik, Warren, Julia, and Magnus. Even though King Cyril is a bit of a "golden boy," I liked him anyway. His feelings for Catherine are so obvious and shy and sweet, and I especially love how Cyril is not the typical "bad boy" love interest so prevalent in today's YA literature. Though their romance is fairly new, Cyril and Catherine seem to be the kind of couple that lasts.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The battle scene at the end is a little drawn-out, and I found myself skimming the last 40 pages or so. I like how the story wraps up but leaves a few loose ends for the sequel, Tebrek. Maybe Bessie will find love in that one; I felt kind of sorry for her, always having to look on as Catherine and Cyril grow closer and closer.
BOTTOM LINE: Despite a slightly sluggish ending, fans of Cashore's Graceling or Golding's Dragonfly will love this!...more
REVIEW: The massive praise for Cinder is well-deserved. The story of a cyborg Cinderella is certainly unique, and, as 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.
WHAT I LIKED: Sigh. Katana really had so much going for it. Samurai warriors. Reincarnation. Kicking butt with a side of romance and eternal love. Sounds like my kind of paradise. I give Gibsen major props for an original premise; I love the idea of past lives melding together and making us who we are today. Ever since I saw the movie Dead Again with my baby-doll Kenneth Branagh back in the 90s, I've been in love with the idea that we are constantly reincarnated. I love the idea that we encounter the same souls in every lifetime, that our souls have the same friends, enemies, and lovers every time, no matter where fate decides to take us. Even though I didn't always understand them, I enjoyed reading about Rileigh's dreams of 15th Century Japan. Katana's premise has huge potential, and I am really so sad that I disliked it as much as I did.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: I did not like one character. Not a single person. I disliked self-absorbed, naive Rileigh so much that even the spelling of her name bothered me. She and her best friend Quentin only talk about Rileigh's problems, relegating poor Quentin (who might have otherwise been an interesting character) to stereotyped sidekick status, his only raison d'etre being to support/ analyze/ comfort/ fawn over Rileigh.
Supporting characters are equally aggravating. Rileigh's mother really has no business even having a child; she is a selfish, stupid hag of a mother who truly possesses not one redeeming quality. Love-interest Kim, who somehow owns a successful dojo at age 18, is simply creepy. He stalks Rileigh at her home, her job, in the hospital; I cannot for the life of me fathom why Rileigh would trust him or do anything but run fast in the opposite direction.
The other love interest, Whitley, is equally creepy. Why would Rileigh, who had just been attacked a few days before, 1)wait for weirdo Whitley outside, alone, in the dark and 2) stick around for more than two seconds after Whitley says he feels "drawn to her" on their first coffee date? Ugh. Add incredibly stupid to the list of reasons Rileigh gets under my skin.
Characters aside, how many corny cliches can we fit into one book? We have the news report that alerted the bad guys to Rileigh's powers, the ransacked room (that mom never notices), the stolen artifact, the conveniently-left-behind wallet, the mysterious box delivered by UPS (yet opened anyway despite numerous physical attacks--seriously?), a bad guy who gives away all his plans on the cell phone right outside Rileigh's open window. Not to mention the damsel-in-distress, the flamboyantly gay best friend, the fighting biker chicks, the protective boyfriend-stalker, the absent and irresponsible mother...
THE BOTTOM LINE: Despite tremendous potential and originality, Katana's irritating characters and numerous cliched "plot twists" make reading it almost as exhausting and obvious as watching an hours-long marathon of Scooby Doo. Just say NO....more
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 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.
Beautifully written with plenty of action, Trafficked hooks readers quickly and keeps them riveted all the way to the heart-pounding finale. Hannah is a believable and sympathetic protagonist, but she is also strong-willed and determined to escape her dire situation. It is easy to see how despite being warned all her life about human trafficking, Hannah is excited for the opportunity to work in America--after all, it's a suburb in AMERICA. Hannah is used to working hard, and there are laws against human trafficking in America, right? The villains, particularly Paavo and Lillian, represent evil at its purest; like Hannah, readers will suck in their breath when Paavo or Lillian enter the room.
I actually expected the children, Maggie and Michael, to be spoiled and mean-spirited, but like Hannah, they are innocent victims of Lillian's cycle of wrath and neglect. I especially appreciate how Colin, the teen boy next door, is not described as a drop-dead gorgeous, fearless hero (as the boy so often is in YA books). Although his life is not nearly as complex as Hannah's, he is a normal American teenager who has problems and insecurities of his own. Colin's frustrations with his parents contrasts with Hannah's constant struggle to keep her mind and body intact, which may cause American teens to question whether their own family situations are really as bad as they make them out to be.
An author's note at the end includes statistics about human trafficking and lists resources for further information.
Middle school librarians, the sexual content is, in my opinion, too high for the general collection. I am pretty liberal with the books I buy for the library, and I do not plan to include this one.
For high school librarians, I recommend it highly. It will be easy to "sell" to students, including reluctant readers. High school librarians concerned about the sexual content might want to read it first, but if I were a high school librarian, I would definitely include it. Teens need to be aware that human trafficking occurs and that situations that seem "too good to be true" probably are.
READALIKES:Nanny Diaries (Emma McLaughlin); Sold (Patricia McCormick)
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. ...more
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: 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)...more
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"]>...more
WHAT I LIKED: Page-turner alert! Diana Peterfreund has really pulled off something incredible here: a post-apocalypti 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: 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. ...more
With realistic characters and a believable story, Unbreak My Heart is a standout among realistic fiction for teen girls. Author Melissa Walker does not simply tell the reader about Clem's depression, she skillfully allows the reader feel it as well. And while not all teens may experience Clem's self-loathing, plenty of close girlfriends stumble when a boy comes between them. As someone who works closely with teens every day, I know how volatile even the strongest teen friendships can be, especially when two girls are fighting over a boy they both like. Many, many female readers will relate the emotional trauma of Clementine and Amanda's argument; while neither girl is totally blameless, their actions and behavior are completely normal and occur in high schools every single day. Walker's sensitive treatment of Clem and Amanda's fragile friendship avoids casting either girl as catty or 100% at fault. Both girls care deeply for one another and are hurt by Clem's betrayal.
I love how Unbreak My Heart focuses on the importance of family and friendship. Clem and James both love their parents (imagine that!) even though they sometimes get upset with them or need time away. Clem's emotional outbursts are numerous, but her family handles them tenderly without feeding into her self-pity. Clem's sister Olive is the complete little sister; she is a funny, sensitive, sometimes pouty, intuitive little girl who adores her big sister and always wants to tag along. Even though much of the story focuses on Clem's romance with James, family and friendship are what really helps Clem get through this dark time in her young life.
THE BOTTOM LINE:Unbreak My Heart's realistic portrayal of teen friendships, guilt, depression, and divorce are spot-on portrayals of real teen life. Lots of teens will relate to Clem and Amanda's pain after a boy that tears their friendship apart.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I will purchase this for the library when it comes out in May. Realistic, beautifully written, and utterly relatable. ...more
REVIEW: Honestly, Transcendence was just okay for me. It has some page-turning moments (mostly toward the end), but it aMore 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. ...more
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)
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: What's not to love? Shadow and Bone has everything I crave in a YA fantasy: magic, romance, extravagance, goo 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)
REVIEW: Let's start by saying that, in this case, I am a biased reviewer. I read my first Lurlene McDaniel novel as aMore reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants
REVIEW: Let's start by saying that, in this case, I am a biased reviewer. I read my first Lurlene McDaniel novel as a sixth grader, around 25 years ago. I loved her then, and I love her now. McDaniel has decades-long staying power for a reason: she knows how to make readers feel her stories. I recommend McDaniel's books in my library frequently; being short, interesting, and full of romance, her books are an easy sell for girls looking for problem fiction.
Red Heart Tattoo will not disappoint readers who love serious circumstances infused with hope and healing. While inspirational, Red Heart Tattoo is not religious or secular; it makes no mention of God or church, which helps to widen its general audience. McDaniel holds back lots of surprises and gives just enough hints for many readers to figure them out before they are revealed. I love the way Morgan tackles her blindness and, despite some moments of weakness, doesn't let it hinder her goals. I also love how some characters adjust to their new disabilities better than others, but eventually, all the characters work toward healing.
While Red Heart Tattoo started off a little slowly for me, I had difficulty putting it down once the bomb detonated. The first 80 or so pages give multiple characters' back-stories, and it is a little hard keeping them straight. I kept wondering whose story was the main one (I initially thought it would be Kelli's story), but that resolved itself after the bomb detonation. The characters are pretty stereotypical (the popular girl, the jock boyfriend, the troubled cheerleader, the "bad" boy, the goth chick, etc.), but readers will grow to care about the them, especially as some manage to break out of their stereotypical roles.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Despite stock characters and a somewhat slow first section, Red Heart Tattoo ends up a page-turner with characters that readers will care about. An inspirational with a message of hope after a life-changing and senseless tragedy.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: Oh, I will so be getting this book when it comes out in July. The development of "good" girl Morgan's relationship with "bad" boy Roth makes this a great middle school alternative to Elkeles's Perfect Chemistry, which I believe is too racy for most middle school libraries.
READALIKES: anything by Lurlene McDaniel, Hate List (Jennifer Brown), Nineteen Minutes (Jodi Picoult), Shooter (Walter Dean Myers)...more
REVIEW: I really enjoyed River Run, but I wish it were about 300 pages longer. That's right, folks, I actually think 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:Grave Mercy is really easy to get into. Having never read anything by Robin LaFevers, I could tell 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
WHAT I LIKED: With its beautiful and eerie island setting, Wrecked is easy enough to get into. I love the descriptionMore reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
WHAT I LIKED: With its beautiful and eerie island setting, Wrecked is easy enough to get into. I love the descriptions of Whym Island's sandy beaches, salty winds, crashing ocean waves, and evening storms. I love all the island superstitions about the sea witch, who turns out to be real. When the boating accident happens, readers can really feel Miranda's survivor guilt and her self-doubt about how the accident happened.
The sea-lore, the stories of Sephie, and the island superstitions really helped set the story's eerie tone. I love the premise of a "betwixtman" who illegally saves a human girl marked for death and who is given a week to "right his wrong" against the sea witch by killing the girl. I wish the sea lore and history of betwixtmen were better explored; it would have enriched an otherwise unremarkable story.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: I struggled with the way Miranda's classmates and teachers treat her after the accident. I can see some kids being openly mean to her; it's high school, after all. But for her teachers, coach, guidance counselor, and principal to isolate her the way they do (one teacher even skips her when handing out tests!), is absolutely not realistic. There is no reason to suspect that Miranda's boating accident was anything but an accident. Miranda's pain is physically obvious--she loses weight, won't eat, has dark circles under her eyes and tangled hair. She's on crutches with a long, red scar twisting its way up her leg. It's clear this young girl is in serious emotional pain, yet no one bothers to be anything but hateful to her. The townspeople even isolate the grandmother and Teddy, who clearly have done nothing wrong. I just don't buy that so many people would be that horrible, even on a small, tight-knit island community.
Miranda's insta-romance with Christian lacks chemistry. I get that Christian is cute and saved her life, but really, shouldn't it bother Miranda that he seems to be homeless, wears the same cargo pants every day (no mention of a shirt), does not attend school or have a family, and doesn't appear to have a last name? Their conversations are stilted, consisting largely of Christian repeating Miranda's questions back to her. Miranda snuggles up to him and sleeps on his chest after they only met a few hours before. The next day, she kisses him out of the clear blue, even as her beloved boyfriend lies comatose in the hospital.
Finally, we come to the editing, which is so poor and sloppy that I found myself paying more attention to errors and inconsistencies than I did to the actual story. Errors in syntax include misplaced quotation marks and at least two instances of "different than" (a pet peeve of mine). When reading dialogue between two characters, I often had to reread passages because I couldn't figure out who was talking or when the speaker stopped talking (end punctuation sometimes missing entirely). In other passages, two paragraphs of dialogue could be from the same character, even though the first paragraph might be only one sentence. Overuse of phrases like "I'm fine" or "it's fine" or simply "Fine" made me roll my eyes every time I saw them, and I groaned every time a character ended a sentence with a question mark. And could we please, please stop shushing each other? As a librarian, I am opposed to shushing in any form, and several characters, especially Christian the Word Wizard, "shh" each other repeatedly.
Editors also missed lots of problems with plot details. For example, during one of her nighttime swims, Miranda is swimming in her bra and panties, but a couple of paragraphs later (in the same scene), she is wearing an old Speedo bathing suit. Christian twice notices the boat Sephie for the first time, and I don't know how Christian's eyesight is sharp enough to see a woman's platinum hairdo and the gilt-painted name on the side of her boat from a long distance. I expect errors when reading ARCs, but I read the publisher's hardcover. How many editors read this book before publication? Why did no one catch such glaring inconsistencies?
THE BOTTOM LINE: Seafarer's lore and Miranda's psychological turmoil in the story's first half are not enough to redeem the rushed romance, syntax errors, and plot inconsistencies of the second half. Not recommended at all.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: So not getting it. If I still taught English, I might use it to demonstrate the importance of good editing.
REVIEW: I LOVED this book! I read it in almost one sitting (my Nook battery died at 1AM, so it had to wait until the n More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants
REVIEW: I LOVED this book! I read it in almost one sitting (my Nook battery died at 1AM, so it had to wait until the next morning).
Hopkins does a fantastic job setting up the romance realistically. These are two teens madly in love, and yes, it is melodramatic. There is crying and plenty of intense kissing and declarations of love, which won't appeal to everyone. I could really feel Rose and Noah's closeness, and the intimate scenes between the two of them were beautifully written. I rooted for them, even though Rose is a bit spoiled and Noah is quite rigid. It works for their characters and helps to define the insurmountable odds keeping them apart.
The big question throughout the story is, how can they possibly be together, considering their very different cultures? It reminds me a bit of Twilight (which I loved, despite all the Twi-haters), how Bella cannot truly be with Edward unless she turns vampire. The same is true for Rose and Noah: They really can't be together without one of them giving up everything they know and believe. What had started as a simple, sweet summer romance quickly turns into something infinitely more complex, leaving readers wondering how this could possibly be resolved.
An interesting twist at the end sets up a second book, which I am not sure is entirely necessary. Contemporary romance does not typically scream for a sequel, unless it is more a spin-off of different characters (as with Elkeles's Perfect Chemistry trilogy). The NetGalley copy I read includes the first chapter of the sequel, which interestingly, begins with Rose's brother Sam's perspective. He doesn't come off as a very sympathetic character, so I am curious to read his viewpoint. Without giving away the ending, I can't see how the solution proposed at the end can possibly be a permanent solution. Noah and Rose's romance really faces some serious hurdles, and I can see where their conflicts cannot be resolved in 396 pages. So while I don't think a sequel is entirely appropriate for contemporary romance, I have no doubt that I will be reading it when it is published.
THE BOTTOM LINE:Temptation is not for everyone, but readers who enjoy books with forbidden or secret romances will be riveted.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: It's not published yet, but I'll probably get it. Because of lots of intense kissing and talk of sex and getting pregnant, Temptation is for more mature romance readers. Still, I have quite a few girls who I know would love it.
Appeal to teens: 4/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Language: mild; three sh**
Sexuality: medium; lots of intense kissing and talk of intercourse; Rose's father has an out-of-wedlock sexual relationship; some allusion to Rose's brother's promiscuity
Violence: mild; one scene has lots of animal blood
Drugs/Alcohol: mild; teens drink at a party
REVIEW: I've been told more than once that Ashen Winter is even better than Ashfall, and I have to disagree with that. More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants
REVIEW: I've been told more than once that Ashen Winter is even better than Ashfall, and I have to disagree with that. I loved Ashfall so much that I included it on my "Best of 2011" list when I presented at Region XI Service Center in September 2011. And while I didn't love this one nearly as much, I did like it enough to finish nearly 600 pages in only four days (that's fast for me considering I read between working full-time and going to my kidlet's baseball games/practice).
Once again, I loved Alex and Darla together. Both are tough survivors who complement each other well and absolutely refuse accept defeat. As in Ashfall, there are heartbreaking moments, horrifying acts of desperation, and incredible (if unbelievable) acts of strength, courage, and humanity. Mullin keeps the nonstop action intense with nail-biting sequences in nearly every chapter. Despite a few stumbles, readers who enjoyed Ashfall will enjoy Ashen Winter. Reading Ashfall first is essential to fully understanding Darla and Alex's relationship; without that foundation, readers will not fully comprehend Alex's devotion to Darla and his motives for doing what he does.
When I read Ashfall, I found very little that I disliked. Ashen Winter, while action-packed, lacks some of the magic of its predecessor. For example, I don't remember the obvious "hooks" at the end of each Ashfall chapter; if they were there, I didn't notice them. But in Ashen Winter, I noticed them every single time. It reminds me of Jerry Spinelli's Crash, which I used years ago to teach my seventh graders about making the reader want to continue to the next chapter. Hooks at the end of EVERY CHAPTER are fine in a novel for less sophisticated middle grade readers (who might abandon a book the second it gets boring), but the Ashfall books do not fall into that category. I promise, in this case, readers will continue on to the next chapter without those one-sentence hooks.
I also found myself saying "Yeah, right" a lot more in Ashen Winter. How many times can Alex and Darla possibly escape cannibalism, rape, imprisonment, serious injury, frostbite, illness, and death? Truly, Alex defies all odds. Like a superhero, Alex survives being dragged underneath a truck and riding on top of a truck at high speeds. Guns trained at his head always miss and infection stays away even though he ingests only a fraction of his antibiotics. At one point (the truck-dragging), I thought for sure his leg was broken, but a few pages later, he was walking on it. And while others stay imprisoned and starving in the FEMA camps for months, Alex finds a way to get himself and his friends out unharmed. Twice. Seriously, HOW is he still alive and whole?
THE BOTTOM LINE: While I do have my issues with Ashen Winter, I enjoyed it for the most part. Action-packed with plenty of heart-stopping moments, readers who enjoyed Ashfall won't be disappointed. I am anxiously awaiting the third installment and have no doubt I will read (and review) it as soon as it is available.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have Ashfall in our "high school collection" (no parent permission required but not on the general shelves either), so I'll be purchasing Ashen Winter to go along with it.
READALIKES:The Dead and the Gone (Pfeffer); After the Snow (Crockett)
Appeal to teens: 5/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 4/5
Language: mild; a couple of sh** and da**
Sexuality: medium; girls are traded as sex slaves (nothing explicit), one "off the page" intercourse scene, kissing, failed seduction attempt
Violence: extremely high; cannibalism is frequent and discussed often (it's a major threat for the characters); human bodies stripped of skin and hanging on hooks; frequent instances of gun violence
Drugs/Alcohol: very mild; medical drugs (Tylenol, antibiotics)
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 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: Ever wonder what would happen if "The Bachelorette" took place in a politically uncertain future with royalty More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: Ever wonder what would happen if "The Bachelorette" took place in a politically uncertain future with royalty, palaces, rebels, and a caste system? What if, before she met the prince, Cinderella secretly loved another boy, and society was determined to keep them apart?
The Selection attempts to answer these "what ifs" and is absolutely one of my favorites of the year! I swallowed this book whole, reading it in two days during a school week. I'm a fairly slow reader, so that is lightning speed for me! I just could not get enough of America and Aspen and Maxon, and I can hear the cries of Team Aspen or Team Maxon already. At school, an eighth grade girl and I discussed the merits of Aspen versus Maxon (I prefer Aspen; she prefers Maxon). Though the publisher's trailer isn't all that intriguing, I've talked this one up so much that my students are putting The Selection on-hold faster than I can keep it in. I recently ordered two more copies to help satisfy the high demand.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A must for middle and high schools. I plan to add it to my Lone Star Plus reading list for next school year.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We currently have one copy and are awaiting two additionals. So far, it's a hit at my school.
Appeal to teens: 5/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Language: none to mild--I don't recall any language (I read it so fast, I may have missed something though!)
Sexuality: medium; talk of intercourse, virginity, and the repercussions of an unplanned pregnancy; intense horizontal kissing; one character was previously raped (gives no details)
Violence: mild; some rebels storm the castle, resulting in some deaths of non-characters (castle guards)
Drugs/Alcohol: mild; some social champagne/wine drinking
REVIEW: Let's just say I didn't love it or hate it. On the plus-side, upper-elementary and middle school readers will More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants
REVIEW: Let's just say I didn't love it or hate it. On the plus-side, upper-elementary and middle school readers will probably eat this book up. Wendy Mass is ever-popular in my library, as are fairy-tale retellings. Mature content is nearly non-existent; I am comfortable recommending Beauty to readers of any age who are able to read it.
I also love the way Beauty's and Riley's families take their unfortunate circumstances in stride. Both families deal with some serious adversity, and both families immediately circle the wagons to protect their own. Riley's family remains positively chipper about their son being turned to a beast for no apparent reason while they themselves become completely invisible to everyone except Riley. While Beauty's family lost everything in a fire, Beauty and her sister Clarissa miss their formerly lavish lifestyle but quickly learn to move on. All the characters complain a little bit but quickly focus on finding solutions.
Pacing is my biggest complaint with this one. It takes FOR. EV. ER to get to the actual Beauty and the Beast story, which finally starts after 200 pages. In the meantime, Beauty gains and loses several jobs, makes two friends, and goes on a long and meaningless quest to find a missing necklace. Before he meets Beauty, Prince Riley attempts to find a cure for the curse while his family makes jokes and tries to keep Riley's spirits up. It all just really takes too long; there are just too many pieces and not enough story.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Though pacing is a problem, I believe Beauty will be popular in my library. My girls especially love Wendy Mass, and fairy tale retellings are always a huge hit. It's not the best example of its genre, but Beauty definitely has its audience.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. They'll definitely check it out, but the real question is, will they finish it?
READALIKES:Sleeping Beauty: The One Who Took A Really Long Nap (Mass); Rapunzel: The One With All the Hair (Mass); Beastly (Flinn); Cloaked (Flinn); A Kiss In Time (Flinn)
Appeal to tweens: 4/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 2/5--It's not the length as much as the lack of anything really happening
Sexuality: very mild--a few very sweet kisses
REVIEW: So here's the thing: I usually know a 5-star book within the first couple of chapters. A 5-star book is, first More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants
REVIEW: So here's the thing: I usually know a 5-star book within the first couple of chapters. A 5-star book is, first and foremost, a page-turner. I have to care about the characters, who cannot annoy me or seem fake or typical. A 5-star book is unique and stands strong above books that are simply "good." Five-star books do not have to be best-sellers, but they are written in such a way to appeal to any reader, despite his or her genre preference. Put simply, five-star books are storytelling magic.
Without a doubt, Crux is a solid 5-star book. I'll be honest--urban fantasy is not a genre I'm crazy about. But when I started reading Crux on my Nook during a five-hour car trip, I was entranced from the very first page. I could not put it down! Birdie and love-interest Grey are some of the most-likeable characters I've met in recent reads; Birdie is tough, street-smart, funny, and knows herself well. She is beautiful but truly does not care--she has much bigger worries than her physical looks. Best of all, I actually liked her--she isn't annoying AT ALL. Grey is her smokin' hot counterpart who is adamant about joining Birdie on her journey, despite Birdie's numerous objections and attempts to lose him. I love how Birdie truly seems to want Grey to go away for his own good; she does not pretend or make it easy for him to stay with her. She does what she does to protect his normal life, and, surprisingly, her motives and actions are totally believable.
The nonstop action is unpredictable. I really never knew what was coming next and constantly wondered if the three men chasing Birdie were simply three street thugs after her new money or if they were ancient warriors after the amulet. The Snatcher and the fate of Birdie's homeless friend Shondra is another storyline that will keep readers guessing.
I honestly enjoyed every minute of this short-but-fabulous debut from Julie Reece. Sequel, please?
THE BOTTOM LINE: Action-packed with a memorable cast of characters, Crux will easily appeal to teen and adult readers, whether or not they love urban fantasy. The short length and quick pace will appeal to reluctant readers without sacrificing plot or dumbing-down the story.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: Oh, yeah, I'm so getting Crux for my MS library! Human sex trafficking is a major part of the story, but no sex acts or crude sexual talk take place in the story at all. Some MS librarians might object to the trafficking references, but really, the human trafficking serves mainly as one of the many threats Birdie faces in her life on the streets. No activity takes place beyond the violent kidnappings of attractive young girls. I also think the inclusion of the trafficking has the added bonus of showing potential runaways the reality of life on the streets for young girls.
Appeal to teens: 5/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Sexuality: mild--some kissing; human sex trafficking is a major part of the story
Violence: medium-high--lots of fighting and a few bloody deaths; girls kidnapped off the streets; gun violence