Heading into Royal Street, I was a little hesitant: Hurricane Katrina is still fresh in Americans' minds and I was nervous to see how the author would handle using a devastated New Orleans as a backdrop.
Drusilla Jaco - DJ, thank you very much - is a wizard in the order of Green Congress and her specialty is emphatic magic. She has the ability to take on the feelings and emotions of those surrounding her. Given she's in the heart of post-Katrina New Orleans, her ability is so not enviable.
I had read a few reviews saying Royal Street was boring. I found the opposite to be true: I was excited to read this book. The plot progressed at a wonderful pace with just enough action thrown in before the Big Fight to make me eager for more.
The characters were great. I'm normally not a reader of Paranormal/Urban series, but I do know a lot of the heroines tend to be tough-as-nails, kick-butt sort of girls. Not so in DJ's case. She's barely able to cast the weakest of spells before losing energy, but her faults made me enjoy her character and truly care about her. Jake and Alex, cousins and possible love-interests, were an absolute joy to read. In fact, I liked their characters so much, I'm torn on who to root for (& typically I'm not a fan of love triangles).
Alex is part-FBI, part-shapeshifter, whereas Jake is a regular ol' human. Alex is a hulking, monosyllabic brute, while Jake is a sweet, wounded Marine. Throughout the story, they both grow and it's so wonderful seeing more sides to their characters.
As much as I enjoyed Royal Street, it does come with a few faults of its own. I'm still a little confused about the castes. Green Congress wizards are weaker than Red, but stronger than Yellow? I truly have no idea. I do know each comes with a different set of abilities and strengths, but apart from that, not much detail was given. As with any series involving a magical system, explanations are an absolute necessity.
Royal Street is a strong debut and I'll definitely be picking up the next book in the series. Also, any book where an undead Louis Armstrong is a spy is one worth reading....more
You know how there are certain authors who are practically deified their fans worship them so much? I'm not one to give in to hype - I've definitely been let down in the past. That said, guys. I wish someone would have given me a thorough shaking and forced Libba Bray upon me earlier. The Diviners was my first introduction to Ms. Bray and I can assure you it will not be the last.
Naughty John has come home. And he has work to do.
With an eerie childhood-lullaby-gone-wrong, John Hobbes announces his presence. It has been over fifty years since he was last among the living and he's ready to make up for lost time.
Meanwhile, in a tiny Ohio town, Evie O'Neill is eager to sprout wings and fly away. Her thoroughly modern ways are too much for the town and after a parlor trick exposes secrets, Evie finds herself on a train bound for New York to live with her uncle. Not that she minds of course. New York is far more her scene. She has big dreams and she certainly won't reach them back home in Zenith.
However, life isn't all fun and games for Evie and her friends. A string of gruesome murders happens and Evie's uncle finds himself in the midst of it all.
It's no secret I'm a HUGE fan of the 20s. The blog's name, after all, pays tribute to Gatsby! The Diviners sounded absolutely fantastic and it exceeded all expectations. The writing is flawless, the imagery and slang make you feel like you're actually there, and the horrors can feel all too real in the middle of the night.
"If you feel strongly about it-" "I do." "Then you may do what scholars do when they feel passionately about a subject." "What's that?" "You may visit the library," Will said.
There were a lot of characters in this book. Normally this leads to cardboard cutout, stock personalities. I'm overjoyed to say that is not the case with this book. Each character is beautifully fleshed out, from Evie and her Uncle Will all the way down to the minor characters who only show up for a few chapters. I really have to hand it to Ms. Bray: she knows what she's doing.
I was incredibly impressed with the explanation for how a dead man was able to return to life and continue his mission. A lesser author would have fallen flat on that one, but Libba Bray had an entirely believable story.
All the little shout-outs to things happening in the world at that time were great. The Fox sisters, the sudden popularity of Ouija boards, the Scopes Trial. Small things like that not only made me smile, but also showed Ms. Bray really did her research.
"Prohibition? I drink to its health whenever I can!"
The only thing about this book that bothered me was just how much Evie liked to drink. At times it seemed she was bordering on addiction. She accepts bribes of alcohol, and multiple times she goes on about how desperate she is for a drink. By the end of the story it seemed that this slowed a bit, but for that first half it felt as though all Evie thought about was gin.
I'm still a bit unsure of my feelings for Jericho's secret. The story behind it was fantastic, but I sort of feel as though the book strayed into steampunk territory. That said, he's still a wonderful character and I was left speechless at the end of the book.
Clocking in at nearly 600 pages, The Diviners is a lengthy book for any genre, let alone Young Adult, but I was captivated the entire time. I actually felt I read it a little too fast! This book could have been a few hundred more pages and I would have gladly gobbled it up.
If you still haven't yet read The Diviners, I urge you to do so. I absolutely loved this book and that cliffhanger of an ending will make the wait for the second book absolute torture....more
I feel like I live in a world right after the big party. Like, everything was amazing and alive and people were having the time of their lives way back when, and now when I live is like the next morning, and everything is broken and trashed, technology and ideas just lying around empty, and it's like we missed it.
The Earth Owen Parker knows is drastically different from the world we currently live in. Radiation levels have elevated to highly dangerous levels - so dangerous that humans (and animals, for that matter) can no longer live "normal" lives. Over 70% of the population has been wiped out, countless species have gone extinct, and lakes and oceans have been drained or are rapidly drying up.
In an attempt to save themselves, civilization has resorted to seeking refuge inside domed cities. While the majority of people live in these Edens, there are communities - like Owen's - that live underground.
When Owen is selected to leave the Hub and attend camp in EdenWest, he discovers he holds the key - literally - to an ancient past and what lies in store for the future.
But the body is a simple machine. It doesn't plan for you being underwater when you need air. It figures you wouldn't be that stupid, I guess. And if you were, well, then there were three billion other humans out there who probably wouldn't make the same mistake, so your genes clearly weren't worth passing on.
The Lost Code kicks things off with a bang. Owen drowns within the first few pages and when he's rescued he finds out he was actually underwater for much longer than what was originally thought. Much too long for any human to survive.
As the story progresses, Owen discovers those "scratches" on his neck are gills. He grew gills. And he's not the only one: the group of older kids in charge of the camp also have gills and they'd determined to find out why - and if these changes are in any way linked to the strange disappearance of fellow campers.
While The Lost Code was enjoyable, I had two huge issues: Owen's age and the year. Owen's age is never given, but judging from the cover, I assumed he'd be 17/18. ...the way he sounds in the book, however, I could easily mistake him for 12/13. In fact, all of the characters I'd peg for tweens or early teens. Although there isn't any sex in the book, Owen wonders whether or not his crush and her ex were 'screwing.' I don't know any 18-year old who says that. The whole summer camp setting combined with the way the characters spoke made it really difficult for me to think of them as being the age of the models on the cover of the book.
We stayed away from the Strip, but I remember being able to see the fire from my window, watching it go for days, and almost thinking it was beautiful. I mean, not actually beautiful but...you know how you feel like if the world is going to end, you want to be there to see it? You want to know what comes next?
The other issue I had was with the year the story takes place. Again, it's never stated, although there were some clues. One of the leaders reads a story to them (a little hard to picture older teens being read to). That story is The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, the only novel Poe wrote. It's mentioned that it was ~like, 250 years old~ (Another problem I had with the novel was the overabundance of the word 'like.') I'm a HUGE fan of Poe's, guys. LOVE him. Hearing that this new world is only 250 away from one where Poe lived was mildly confusing. Poe lived between 1809 & 1849. So The Lost Code takes place somewhere between 2059 and 2099. ..2059 is only 47 years away. The Earth changed that much in less than 50 years? SEVENTY PERCENT of the population (7 billion people, y'all) wiped out in a few decades?
Also, assuming this book takes place in 2059, I'm a little confused as to why there were cryos - kids at the camp who were frozen before the world went to hell. Lilly said she was born in 2046. Seeing as how she was frozen as a teen, does that mean her parents paid an insane amount of money for her to be frozen for only a few years? This baffled me even more when Lilly (along with the other cryos) reminisce about fruits and vegetables that used to exist. Owen would have been well aware of those foods.
In the large stretches of blank ocean were little sea monster sketches. Things with serpent backs or giant mouths. Paul didn't seem like the type to waste his time doodling. Maybe he had brought in a cartographer or something. Maybe the monsters were because it got boring sitting down here drawing for hours on end.
Seeing as how the series is called The Atlanteans, you'd think Atlantis would be pretty prominent, right? HA. It's not until the end of the book that Atlantis turns up and even then it's only through odd visions of Owen's. The Atlantis aspect was what originally drew me to this book and, sadly, the parts I found myself skimming over.
I couldn't connect with any of the characters; the only person at the camp I held some interest in was Leech, the cabin bully. But even he came across as a chubby little child in my mind. I just cannot picture these characters as adults.
While reading other reviews, a few readers said they figured things out way before Owen. I can say that's certainly the case, though I hadn't realized it due to lack of interest on my part. I couldn't bring myself to care about these people. It's clear readers are meant to get emotional during certain scenes and I just...didn't.
And that romance? It was certainly a case of instalove on Owen's part - Lilly is a beautiful, older girl with green bangs. One day they're strangers, the next she's flirting with him and he starts daydreaming of them running away together.
With all the complaining I'm doing, it sounds like The Lost Code is a terrible book and it's not. It was fun and I enjoyed it. However, it's not without it's flaws and certain aspects (if the world outside the domes is so dangerous, how is it the kids are fine laying out and looking at the sky at the end?) made it hard for me to stay in the story.
Although it was amusing while it lasted, I can't see myself continuing with the series....more
It's always unnerving to see how an author follows a wildly successful debut. Ms. Howe's first novel, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane was massively popular and I had mixed emotions going into her sophomore novel. On the one hand, YES ANOTHER BOOK!! However, on the other, there was that tiny wave of trepidation, that little voice wondering whether she could possibly top her first release.
Turns out, yes. Yes she most certainly can.
The House of Velvet and Glass takes place during 1915. World War I has yet to reach America, though coverage is on the front page of all the papers. Just three years earlier, Titanic - a legend even during her existence - sank on that fateful night in April, 1912.
Sybil Allston lost both her mother and her younger sister when the ocean liner sank. Being the oldest, Sybil was the first to make her debut, spending hours upon hours attending parties and mingling with the best of Boston's society. She was the talk of town and everyone was certain it was only a matter of time before Benton Derby would propose. Unfortunately, he suddenly married a frail woman named Lydia, took off for Italy, and Sybil was destined for spinsterhood. Her mother, Helen, wasted no time in turning her attentions on Eulah, Sybil's younger sister.
Eulah was everything Sybil wasn't: outgoing, funny, flirty, headstrong. She fiercely defended her position on suffrage and insisted women be given the right to vote. She was a girl ahead of her time and Helen was determined to see her daughter married off to one of Boston's finest. So determined in fact, that she had her husband, Captain Lan Allston, purchase two tickets for the famed Titanic, in order to take Eulah around Europe. (In the afterword, there's a really interesting tidbit: in 1912, a first-class ticket for Titanic cost $4,350. Today, that same amount would be over $90,000!!)
Naturally, Sybil harbors anger and resentment at being cast aside. She's barely in her mid-twenties, yet at that period in time, girls were expected to already be married and raising a family at her age. After hearing about the sinking, she feels a sick sense of relief that she wasn't brought along, and the thought overwhelms her with guilt.
One year later, a spiritualist gathers a group of surviving relatives and holds a seance. Each year Sybil returns in an attempt to make contact with her mother and sister and winds up receiving a small glass ball. A scrying glass, the medium calls it. It is with this glass (along with a little help from opium) that Sybil begins having visions.
The House of Velvet and Glass is told in three parts: flashbacks aboard Titanic, flashbacks during Lan Allston's time spent in China as a young sailor, and from Sybil's perspective in 1915. While I adored the novel as a whole, it was those brief moments on Titanic that I especially loved. With each new scene I held my breath, anxious to find out if that was the moment the liner hit the iceberg.
The entire cast of characters were beautifully fleshed out. Harlan, Sybil's younger brother; Lan; Dovie, Harlan's girlfriend; Professor Derby. Even the minor character were wonderful and I felt a connection to every single one of them.
I was particularly pleased with the romance. Perfect. I was never a fan of instalove and the slow pace of the romance in this novel was a delight.
I could truly go on and on for days about this novel. Haunting and richly detailed, The House of Velvet and Glass is an absolute joy. Not a lot of action takes place, but there was never any need and at no point did I find its quiet pace to be lacking. Looking back, there was never a dull moment or any scene where I felt bored or wanted to set the book down. Quite the opposite, in fact. I didn't want to set it down at all. It was all I could do to keep myself from calling in to work sick just so I could continue reading - and that's really saying something.
The House of Velvet and Glass's release comes at a perfect time: this week will be the 100th anniversary of Titanic's sinking. This novel went above and beyond all of my expectations and I highly recommend it. ♥
An interesting note: it seems the e-book will include an essay by Howe, a Q&A, and the original article from the Boston Daily Globe of Titanic's sinking from April 15, 1912!
Of course, it was rather a hard lot, to be cherished. The beloved can so easily disappoint when the inevitable prove to be human.
Lannie felt himself to have come from an old place. Salem was a long-memoried town, its streets stalked by ghosts. As a boy his mother told him of witches who liked to fillet disobedient children, and even though he knew she was spinning fairy stories he nevertheless grew up with the weight of past generations on his shoulders. He carried the burden of tradition with a mixture of pride and disquiet, or even resentment. Every choice bore the implied judgment of these ancestors he never knew, whose memory must not be sullied, whose expectations for him must not be let down.
Her breathe escaped her mouth and nose in a cloud of warmth, and she grinned, imagining that it was her soul that she could see, moving in and out of her body, instead of her breath.
Hot on the heels of his wildly successful Robopocalypse, Daniel H. Wilson delivers Amped, another near-future sci-fi thriller. Going into Amped, I had no idea it took ploace in Pittsburgh! That's where I live and I love reading books with my city as the backdrop; I love being able to know exactly where a particular character is, know exactly what building they're looking at or which restaurant they're eating in.
You make a tool to fix a problem, right? But - and I've thought about this - it's the boundaries that define us. Bold, black lines that can't be crossed - the limits of human ability. Lately, the edges have been torn off the map.
In Amped, major breakthroughs have been made in technology. Amputees have regained limbs. Mentally challenged children are now able to keep up with the rest of their class, if not surpass the other kids. All because of a tiny, asprin-sized piece of metal (known as an amp) inserted into a person's brain. The amp sends out a constant stream of electrical stimulation, resulting in a heightened - or amplified - state of intelligence, concentration, strength, speed, you name it.
It was new life for kids in need. Until one day an amp kid threw a football hard enough to snap ribs. A high school debate championship got cancelled when the judges realized two-thirds of the participants had amps. A new generation of children was arriving, smart and fast and strong enough to send chills down your human-spine.
At first, no one bats an eye at the new breed of humans. Initially, it was done for strictly medical purposes. Our main character, Owen Gray, received his amp due to seizures. Parents wanted to cure their children and give them a shot at a decent life.
Things slowly changed, however. The amp children were suddenly far stronger and smarter than regular children - or reggies as they're called in the novel. It escalated to such proportions that the Supreme Court became involved. There was discrimination on all levels - reggies didn't want amps in schools, reggie adults felt their jobs were being taken away by amps since they were able to work harder and longer without tiring.
Senator Joseph Vaughn was at the forefront of the Pure Pride movement. Again, initially, it started out as harmless protests. Then things turned violent and a full-scale war was launched.
I wonder what kind of doctor could do this to a man. Ninety-nine percent of amps are regular people who happen to have a dot on their temple. They are mothers and fathers and children. This is something I've never seen or even fathomed - a harbinger of a new world, populated by new people who I can hardly recognize as human.
Upon his father's murder, Owen discovers what he really is: a secret, unknown Zenith. There were originally twelve Zeniths, a classified unity of soldiers created by the Army. When Owen was 14, he suffered a terrible accident and in a desperate attempt to save his life, his father had stolen the technology used in Zenith amps and inserted it into his son. Yes, it did help with the seizures, but Owen is so much more than he had ever dreamed. And now he's the most wanted man in America.
All over the United States, tiny communities are popping up, safe havens for amps and their families. One such community is Eden, deep in the heart of Oklahoma. Before he dies, Owen's father instructs Owen to go to Eden and find Jim, an old colleague. Owen will be safe there and possibly discover some insight as to what he truly is.
Amped was a great book. The technology was beautifully described and enough details were given that at no point did I feel lost or confused. Once Owen awakens his Zenith and consents to its abilities, things got crazy. In a totally awesome way. I could vividly picture each level, particularly toward the end as Owen reached down deeper and deeper.
The only qualm I have with this novel are the fights. Once Owen gives in to his Zenith, it felt as though it was one fight after another. The story never took a backseat to the fighting, but it almost became a chore to read and seemed unnecessary.
I can definitely picture Amp as a movie, particularly given the recent surge in popularly of sci-fi films. Until that happens, though, I'm perfectly content enjoying this book & I can't wait to see what Daniel H. Wilson will give us next.
It's a science-lab nightmare that could make Dr. Frankenstein piss his lab coat.
"Plants, animals, men, angels, then god. Difference between men and angels is that men are stuck in a body. They feel pain, hunger, thirst. But me and you, we don't have to feel them things. Body diagnostics come on level one. Easy. We can turn off the human condition. So maybe we're closer to angels, you know?"
"This is our army. Our people. Strong and hurt. We're the wounded supermen of tomorrow, Grey. It's time you got yourself healed. New world ain't gonna build itself. And the old world don't wanna go without a fight."
2012 is the year of retellings and until now, I can't think of any other retelling of Hansel and Gretel. The moment I heard about this book, I desperately needed to read it. Luckily I was provided with an ARC (thank you, thank you, thank you!!!) and were it not for work - and, trust me, I was seriously tempted to call off - I would have finished The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy in one sitting.
Lorelei Robinson is an eleven year old girl harboring a terrible secret. Since the death of her mother a year earlier, she's felt alone and ignored by her older brother and father. And her new stepmother Molly is an absolute terror.
When her school burns down, there's talk of where to send the now-schooless children. Over the weekend a new school suddenly is built and the only one who seems to notice just how quickly it appeared is Lorelei. Despite the costs of a private school, Lorelei's father agrees to check it out (much to the dismay of Molly; she'd much rather spend that money on herself).
Splendid Academy is unlike any other school. Not only does it have a pretty fantastic playground, but there are hardly any rules and it's nearly impossible to get in trouble. Students are free to wander the halls or leave their classroom if a particular lesson doesn't interest them. There are bowls of candy on every desk. Multiple recesses a day. Feel like playing with your phone instead of learning math? Go right ahead!
Even with these unbelievable perks, Splendid Academy's claim to fame is the food. Oh, that food. Students are encouraged to eat as much as they'd like and upon touring the school, they were asked about their favorite foods. In many cases, students eat better at school than they do at home.
The only one who seems to suspect something strange is going on is Andrew, a boy in Lorelei's class. Andrew is overweight and over the summer his mother had sent him off to camp. It was there he learned about controlling his eating and how to avoid cravings. While all the other students are stuffing their faces with plate after plate of food, Andrew is able to fight the temptation - and winds up dealing with the repercussions of going against the plans the school has for him.
Without giving too much away - although, given this book is a retelling of Hansel and Gretel, what do you think will happen? - The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy is a dark, delightful tale. I tore through this book, not just because of the quick pace, but because it was seriously that good. This book is described as Hansel and Gretel meets Coraline and that alone should send readers running to preorder it.
The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy is the reason I love Middle Grade. :)...more
This one's a little older (how sad that I think of 2009 as old!), but the moment I heard about it - and subsequently saw it on a shelf at work - I knew I needed to read it. A cop-turned-agent who can solve crimes by eating people? Yes, please!
Due to bird flu, the government has banned the sale of chicken. Instead, there are chicken-flavored products, but let's face it, there's nothing like the real thing. Tony Chu, an officer with the Philadelphia Police Department, is on a stakeout with his partner in an attempt to bust chicken smugglers.
Instead of catching some black market dealers, Tony gets himself a taste - literally - of a serial killer and secures a shiny, new promotion: FDA agent.
Tony is a cibopath - he get psychic impressions from anything he eats, be it fruit, vegetable, or flesh. Oddly enough, the one food he's able to eat without receiving any impressions are beets. ♥ My kind of food. Mmm.
There are only three known cibopaths (foreshadowing???) and Tony's new partner, Mason Savoy is one of them. He's a big, hulking man who loves his $10 words.
There are five chapters/stories in this volume and they were all great. The one I liked least was problem the fourth chapter: Russian vampires (?) living near the Arctic in a giant telescope.
Taster's Choice was a great introduction to a totally original series and I can't wait to read more!...more
When Becca Chandler saves a fellow classmate getting beat up in the parking lot after school one day, her only thought was to help him. Unfortunately, her simple act of kindness dragged her into a world she never knew existed: the world of Elementals, people who are able to control the elements. And the world of people trained to kill them.
Storm is a novel that seems to be taking the YA world by, well, storm. To be honest, I was so turned off by the cover (there's something about it I find hideous and unprofessional), that I wasn't even going to bother with it, despite all the praise it's currently receiving.
A few days ago at work, I noticed we had a copy and curiosity got the better of me. It turned out Storm was exactly the book I hadn't realized I wanted to read. These past few weeks I've been on a bad streak with books and had been looking for something, though I couldn't put into words just what I was craving. Storm was just what I needed.
The first thing people discuss about Storm are the boys. The Merrick brothers (yes please!) are still trying to adjust to life after their parents' death. The oldest, Michael, has taken on the role of parent while still trying to be a brother and he comes off as overbearing and overprotective. He cares about his brothers and knows that, unless he keeps them in line, he'll lose custody.
Gabriel and Nick are twins and huge playboys. It's not unusual for them to bring a different girl home every night. They're gorgeous and they know it. Unfortunately, they also have a penchant to getting into fights.
Chris, the youngest, was adorable. Storm alternates between his POV and Becca's and seeing things from his perspective allowed me to get to know him and discover his true feelings. I adored this boy and my heart broke for him so many times throughout the novel.
The last boy (and, because this is YA, other love interest) is Hunter. He's a mysterious new student who doesn't care about the rumors Becca's ex has spread.
The pacing is blindingly fast - there honestly wasn't a moment where I was bored - and the chapters are all extremely short, so reading it was a breeze. However, the book is not without its faults.
Becca's ex-boyfriend Drew has been spreading rumors about Becca and by the end of the novel, I wasn't sure who was really to blame. Becca was the one who got drunk at that party and she even admitted she wanted to make out with all of his friends. It wasn't until she was nearly gang-raped that she wanted out. Now the whole school believes she's slept with the entire soccer team and she has to put up with their daily tormenting.
I was completely taken back when she practically threw herself at Hunter the first night he stayed at her house. & the whole party with Drew? That was only a mere SIX WEEKS before! I had assumed it was the previous school year or at the very least a few months ago. But, no. Just a few weeks. And now here she is, throwing herself at a boy she's only just met while trying to figure out whether or not she likes Chris.
Despite this huge annoyance, I really enjoyed the book. Yay for having a best friend (though by the end of the book I was a little fed up with Quinn) and I liked Becca's mom. It was pretty obvious who the bad guy was, but overall I liked Storm. ...more
Even though this book has all the makings of a paranormal romance novel - hello, living woman from the present and dead man from the 1860s fall in love - it doesn't read like one. In fact, if it weren't for the constant reminders Tristan's dead, Spirit of the Rebellion could easily be hailed as a regular ol' romance novel.
I'll keep this one short and sweet: our two main characters, Shae and Tristan, meet when Shae takes a position translating Civil War documents. She moves back to the United States (she had been living in Norway for the few years prior) and is given temporary residence at the Starling Plantation.
It's no secret Starling is home to multiple spirits. People don't enjoy spending time there and anyone who attempts to settle in has been driven out quite forcefully by a particular spirit. Unfortunately for him, Shae is as stubborn as they come and having papers scattered about her desk isn't nearly enough to scare her off.
As Shae comes to know the spirits (I loved how she introduces them to modern technology - they have movie nights, for example, and 12-year old Timothy is particularly intrigued by Lord of the Rings), she uncovers the truth regarding Tristan's past and the cause of his death. History branded him a traitor and as she translates documents, she discovers what really happened.
I have an extremely large interest in the Civil War and was eager to read this novel. Its faults are few and the writing is gripping. The story moves very quickly and the chapters are all fairly short (around 10-ish pages). Unfortunately for me, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. lol multiples times I fell for the trap of "I'll only read one more chapter!" and, because the chapters are so short, wound up sneaking a couple more in. Before I knew it I was halfway into the book!
Somebody killed my father. I don't know who did it or why, but I'm going to find them.
I'm a girl.
I'm a witch.
I'm a Shadowcull.
Someone is going to pay.
I went into this book fairly blind - I had never read any book by Sean Cummings prior to Poltergeeks nor was I a big paranormal reader. The plot intrigued me and having a strong mother-daughter relationship was a definite plus. Now that I've read it, I'm glad I took that chance.
Julie Richardson is your average 15-year old. Except for the fact that she's a witch. And can see spirits. Her best friend Marcus is her constant companion and one of the few people who knows what Julie truly is.
What initially seems like a typical poltergeist turns out to be far more menacing. An attack on her school has left Julie shaken and her mother in the hospital comatose and under a powerful (and fatal) spell. In an attempt to save her mother's life, Julie makes a deal with an immortal and with the help of her guardian and some friendly advice from the spirit of her father, Julie prepares to face down her demons. Literally.
Poltergeeks is a fairly short book that can easily be read in an afternoon. It was a pretty average read - nothing horrible, but nothing remarkable - and there was a cute romance (and no love triangle!). Unfortunately, I felt the Big Reveal was a bit of a letdown and more than once I was confused and not quite sure what was going on or why the villain did what they did.
It doesn't seem like Poltergeeks will be a series, but the ending is written in such a way that it's certainly possible.
Over the course of the novel, the writing style seemed much more suited to a Middle Grade novel, yet there's quite a bit of profanity thrown about. Originally I would have definitely said Poltergeeks would be right at home with 10-ish year olds (mainly due to the writing style), but once multiple f-bombs were dropped, I reconsidered.
Fans of paranormal YA will most likely enjoy Poltergeeks. There's nothing mind-blowing about this novel, but it's a quick, enjoyable ride nonetheless....more
I'm relatively new to the world of audiobooks - prior to Storm Front I had only listened to one (Manhunt, which I HIGHLY recommend!). This wasn't intentional, it simply never crossed my mind. I can easily be seen as the target audience for audiobooks: I'm always listening to my ipod on my daily commute and when I exercise. It only seems natural that I'd enjoy audiobooks.
At work, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series is pretty hot right now. Customers ask about the books on a regular basis and multiple co-workers have read the series and really enjoy it. I came across the audiobook one day and decided to give it a shot. I'm SO glad I did!
Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is one of the last wizards in existence and the only professional wizard-for-hire (he's even got himself an ad in the Yellow Pages). Harry has a tiny office in Chicago where plays Private Investigator while occasionally taking on freelance work with the Chicago PD. It is in the first chapter that the police ask Harry to take a look at a crime scene - the gruesome display could have only been the work of dark magic.
While attempting to solve the crime and track down the culprit, Harry mingles with faeries, has a delightful conversation with a vampire, crosses the wrong mobsters, dukes it out with a demon or two, and gets relationship advice from Bob, an age-old spirit trapped in a human skull. And still manages to find time to feed his gargantuan cat.
One problem I had with the book was how every single female character was described not by her personality or characteristics, but by her make-up and figure. If a female character wasn't trying to sleep with Harry (which happens quite often despite Harry adamantly insisting he has no luck with women), then she was too busy being a weeping mess somewhere or she as the bitchy, tough-as-nails cop Murphy. A number of readers have written off the series as misogynistic, but I'll refrain from passing further judgment until I've gone through a bit more of the series.
Although plenty of things happened in Storm Front, there wasn't much action. Fortunately, that wasn't much of a letdown for me. The book did a fantastic job of setting up the world Harry lives in and was a great start to the series.
As far as the narration goes, I thought James Marsters (of Buffy fame) did an outstanding job. He was perfect as Harry and came off sounding exactly as I imagined the wizard. I was equally as impressed with his female narration. I was a bit wary of how he would do female voices, but he was great and didn't sound annoyingly high-pitched at all. An all-around fantastic job....more
I don't know what it is about dads and leather recliners, but it seems like every dad I know has one. Is it something you get at the hospital when they hand you the baby? "Congratulations sir, it's a boy, and here is your leather recliner."
What's with the lack of MG/YA targeted toward boys? SO many times I've had boys come up to me at work and ask for help finding books and wind up leaving with a Rick Riordan novel, a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, or an adult sci-fi novel that's far too mature for them. I'm pretty excited that I now have another series to recommend: Nate Rocks.
Nathan Rockledge, or Nate Rocks, is a typical 10-year old boy: his 13-year old sister drives him crazy, his mother's cardboard pasta will be the death of him, and he would much rather do just about anything than be paired up with a girl as his science partner.
When the going gets tough, the tough...whip out their sketchpads and save the world. Nate's done it all: save Earth from an asteroid, rescue a woman tied to train tracks, help take down evil villains. Throughout the book Nate has daydreams about being the hero and those were so much fun to read!
Nate Rocks the World is fairly fast-paced, but it works and I think that's a plus for its target audience. Well-written, relatable characters made this book a joy to read and I know boys will absolutely LOVE this series....more
"The Marked have community. Boil everything else down and that's what you're left with. That's what they have right now that we don't."
Sneak, the sequel to Swipe (published earlier this year) is what I consider dystopia lite: a middle grade-friendly post-apocalyptic novel without all the excess gore and violence of the series that are currently in the spotlight. I'd say readers are better off having read Swipe before jumping into Sneak (or at the very least have a decent amount of knowledge as to what the first book/this series' world is all about). For the most part Sneak does a decent job getting readers up to speed, but there were multiple times where I found myself lost and confused. Totally my fault, by the way. This was not the book's fault.
Sometime in the future there's a war and, once again, America finds itself torn apart. The result: Marked citizens (literally. These folks get a barcode-type mark when upon turning 13) and the Markless (who live their lives in hiding).
Sneak kicks things off with Logan Langly, the one and only boy to escape DOME facilities. He's now on the run and determined to find his sister (who has been kept in a prison for the past five years). Logan's an interesting character. It's clear he's made out to be a savior symbol; he becomes a beacon of hope for thousands of Markless who have never even met the boy. On the other hand, for countless people he's seen as someone who's made life much more miserable. Since Logan's escape, DOME has really been tightening the reins and amping up their security. Markless have to CONSTANTLY move from place to place.
One idea I thought was neat was an Underground Railroad-esque system set in place to aid Markless on their way to a safer place. This system has a nautical theme however, and I liked it! A hook meant there was danger nearby (usually in the form of untrustworthy Marked who appear to want to help), an anchor announced a secure shelter, a captain meant there was someone close who could transport Markless to the next spot, etc.
"My job is to cover our tracks," Shawn said. "Completely. I'm not about to cut loose just because of a surprise along the way. I don't work like that." And Erin looked at him admiringly. From one hacker to another. "Besides," Shawn said. "I don't like free rides if I don't know who's driving. You wanna know who's helping us, don't you? Don't you think it'd just the tiniest bit suspicious?"
There are quite a few characters packed into this short novel. Unfortunately, because of the book's length, the sheer number of characters, and the extremely quick scene changes (multiple scenes per PAGE at times!) it became a little hard to get to know this group of kids. For the most part I felt as though I was a mere spectator, watching the drama unfold from afar. I never felt that I was there in the midst of it all. With some of the more minor characters, I completely forgot about them until they were mentioned and even then I couldn't recall the first thing about them.
My biggest complaint about Sneak would be the setting. I know it takes place in the future - not sure on the exact date; it's never stated in this novel (perhaps in the first book?) - but some things just didn't add up. I get that it's post-apocalyptic. Technology changed. Yet the parents all knew (and said they grew up with) radios...and somehow the children had never heard of them before. Same with cars. I can't imagine the world could change that drastically in the span of a single generation. Also, at one point a Bible is found, yet the group doesn't know what it is and writes it off as just another book. Again, a single generation?? It doesn't make sense.
All-in-all, Sneak was a solid book and a good dystopian novel for children who want to get into the genre but aren't yet ready for the violence that typically goes along with it. Don't make the same mistake I did: I highly recommend checking out the first book before reading this one....more
You don't go through things with people and not love them more for it. It's like those guys in the army who fight in muddy trenches and drag each other out of harm's way and are blood brothers for life because of it all. Only in our case, my mom and I faced eviction notices and power shutoffs together.
Guys, I wasn't at all prepared for The Waiting Sky. I went into it expecting a super fun book about storm chasers with maybe a little issue-story in the background. Instead, The Waiting Sky was like a punch in the gut, an unapologetic view of the self-destruction of an alcoholic and her teenage daughter left to hold it all together.
Let it be known that I am not a fan of issue novels or books dealing with heavy topics (this is most likely the reason why I tend to shy away from contemporaries). However, I ADORED this book and completely devoured it in no time.
I can click my heels together all I want, but there's just no place to go.
Jane lives in Missouri in a tiny apartment with her alcoholic mother. Despite only being in high school, Jane's role is reversed as she is the one who has to step up and get a job in order to scrape enough money together each month to pay to rent and other bills. Unfortunately, her mother has a way of finding Jane's money stash and it's not uncommon for her to come home from school and discover the power or water has been shut off.
SO many times throughout The Waiting Sky I wanted to reach through the pages and comfort Jane. Ever since her older brother left she's only had her mother and that makes it even harder for her to attempt to get her mother the help she needs. Jane gives in and believes every single lie and half-hearted promise from her mother and it broke my heart.
Cat shook her head slowly, her shock beginning to fade. "No, she's not fine. This is not fine. It's not okay. You-you almost killed us. Because you were drunk. You picked us up and you drove the car drunk."
The final straw - at least as far as Jane's best friend Cat is concerned, happens when all three get into a car accident. All because Jane's mother was driving drunk. After that Cat, perfect, rich Cat, writes a checklist of things Jane needs to accomplish in order for the pair to remain friends.
Not long after, Jane finds herself in a van alongside her brother and his group of storm chasers as they drive throughout the midwest tracking tornadoes. As emotionally invested in Jane's home life as I was, I loved this part of the story just as much, if not more.
Jane's brother Ethan is a part of Torbros - Tornado Brothers, a chaser group founded by, wait for it, two brothers. I loved every last member of Torbros and my only complaint is that I didn't get enough. I wanted to get to know them more (especially adorable, nerdy Mason!). While I don't believe The Waiting Sky is the first in a series, I certainly wouldn't mind reading more about these characters. Each one was wonderfully fleshed out and they had their own personalities and traits - not at all like the cardboard cutouts that litter the majority of YA today.
Also tracking the storms are the Twister Blisters, a rival team and one that has been picked up by a television channel. Their whole entourage - complete with camera crew and shiny, black Escalades - travel from town to town, a constant reminder to Torbros of what they could be one day.
Sometimes I think it's easier for me to see things, period, if I have the camera in my hand. It's borderline magical to me, the way a camera can take something that's ugly - a pile of bills on the counter, say - and just by adjusting the tilt, the zoom, turn it into something beautiful.
After a tornado touches down in a town (and a member of Torbros receives some really awful PR) both groups find themselves working together in order to provide aid and a helping hand. Jane finds herself getting closer and closer to the Twister Blisters' young intern, Max. Their relationship was a bit rushed, but I didn't mind it, and it never became overwhelming. Not once did I feel the romance took centerstage while Jane's relationship with her mother and brother was tossed in a corner.
The ending was also a little rushed and everything was wrapped up a bit too nicely, but ultimately I really, really enjoyed The Waiting Sky. ...more
I am a HUGE fan of retellings and, lucky for me, there's no shortage of them these days. Fairy tale retellings are a dime a dozen, but I haven't come across a Mexican retelling of the Odyssey before and couldn't wait to dive right in.
Summer of the Mariposas (butterflies in Spanish, and that's just the first of dozens of words sprinkled throughout the book) tells the tale of the five Garza girls, cinco hermanitas: Odilia is the oldest and the narrator of the story; Juanita, the second oldest and the most headstrong; Velia and Delia are the twins, connected by their own bond, yet just as close to their other sisters; and Pita, the baby of the family.
Due to their Papa running out on the family, the girls' beloved Mama has been struggling to make ends meet and, as a result, the girls are more often than not left to their own devices. One day while they're swimming in their favorite spot, they spot a body drifting along in the current. Unsure of what to do, the girls decide to bring the body back to his family. With a little help from ancient Aztec goddesses and Llorona, the five sisters leave Texas and journey into Mexico.
While Summer of the Mariposas deals with highly fantastic elements (the girls battle witches, chupacabras, and trickster demons, to name a few), this is ultimately a story about family and bonds that can never be broken.
I absolutely adored this book. Everything about it, from the sisters and magic to that GORGEOUS COVER (!!), Summer of the Mariposas was a complete homerun. The imagery was beautiful, the wording was remarkable, the characters were fleshed out so well I felt as though I knew them.
Definitely keep an eye out for this book. You won't be disappointed....more
My love of cozies knows no bounds. They're such a guilty pleasure and when I heard about this new series, I immediately pounced on it.
After Ella Mae LaFaye discovered her husband of seven years in an elevator entertaining a pair of redheaded twins, she grabbed her dog Chewy and left New York. She headed for her own of Havenwood, Georgia where her mother and aunts welcomed her back and wasted no time helping Ella Mae get back on her feet.
Years of culinary school left her with a burning passion for baking - and a dream of opening her own bakery. Luckily for Ella Mae, the perfect location just went on the market. With customers just short of beating down the door, business is booming until a well-respected doctor is murdered - and Ella Mae's rolling pin is found at the scene.
Pies & Prejudice was a ton of fun! Going into it, I hadn't realized it was a paranormal mystery, though I guess that little fact was glaringly obvious. With character names like LaFaye and a villain's license plate reading SIREN it goes without saying I figured things out a little quicker than Ella Mae. :)
Hands down, the best thing about this book were the pies. MMM, pie. Shoofly, Chocolate Bourbon Pecan, Banana Pudding, I was drooling all over myself while reading. Thankfully there are recipes included at the end of the book (I know what I'll be doing on my days off)!
The characters were nearly as rich and vibrant as the pies. I loved Ella Mae and Chewy. Her mother and aunts were ridiculously awesome as well. Loralyn, Ella Mae's childhood rival, had the Mean Girl act down to an artform. I would have loved to have seen something come out of the budding romance with Hugh (high school crush), but I suppose that will have to wait for the next book.
Ella Mae's A-HA! moment was a little heavy on the cheese factor and it's so frustrating when the villain turns out to be a character that hadn't been in the story until the big reveal. Apart from those minor setbacks Pies & Prejudice was a fun - and funny - start to a new series and one I'll be sure to continue!...more
When you think about it, I'm like my 45. Liz is my A side, the song everybody knows, and Gabe is my B side - not played as often, but the song's just as good.
Like I mentioned in my review of The Waiting Sky, I really shy away from Novels With Issues. Whereas with other genres I can pick up a sci-fi book or a mystery whenever I feel like it. That's SO not the case with books dealing with heavy topics. I need to be in a certain mood for those, but Beautiful Music for Ugly Children caught my eye and, like The Waiting Sky, I'm so glad it did. You know, I'm two-for-two now, so perhaps issue novels aren't something I should be so weary about.
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children centers on Gabe Williams, a soon-to-be-graduate and, quite frankly, he couldn't be more eager to get out of there. Just a few months ago Gabe told his BFF Paige the secret he'd been hiding his entire life: he never felt like he was Elizabeth Mary Williams. He wants to undergo the transition to become the man he always felt he was. Unfortunately, when he came out to his family, he didn't have the same acceptance and support than he received from Paige. Since then, his brother has barely said a word (despite the two being close prior to his announcement) and his parents refuse to look his way - and insist on referring to him as Liz.
What's life without loud music in your car?
The only thing that gets Gabe through the week is the thought of his radio show, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. When he was 10 a new neighbor moved in next door and John quickly became a grandfather figure for Gabe. Gabe had always prided himself on being a self-professed music nerd, but John has taken it a step further. Their Friday Night Fights (topics include Johnny Rotten vs. Sid Vicious, for example) aren't uncommon and the two can spend all day going through John's 6,000+ LP collection.
John was a legendary DJ and the first to interview Elvis. He's secured Gabe a spot on the local community station and it's in those early hours of the morning that Gabe shines. For his first few shows he wasn't sure whether to introduce himself as Gabe or Liz - especially knowing numerous classmates are listeners. Ultimately he decides not to hide anymore and Gabe makes his public debut.
Got it, world? I'm a guy. A scared guy, though I try not to show it, and a guy with a long freaking road ahead of him. But, still. Just a guy.
I could seriously go on and on about this book. I loved Gabe and John and music played such a huge part in this book. I loved that Gabe doesn't scoff as "mainstream" music and plays Flo Rida and Prince right alongside 50s classics. Also, the chapter titles are so awesome and all involve Elvis: T-Pain is the new Elvis because he's on a boat, motherbeepers, and Elvis probably wanted a boat too, Rush Limbaugh can't be the new Elvis; he's too mean, Conan O'Brien is the new Elvis and he has the hair to prove it, etc.
One thing I wished would have been done differently in this novel is the romance. Not one, not two, but three girls are suddenly involved with Gabe and I just wasn't feeling it. My pick for him didn't work out, and one of the girls came out of nowhere. I couldn't understand why she was suddenly showing interest when she hadn't said a word to him before.
Another fault this book had was the ending. It was very After School Special in that everything wrapped up nicely and everything was resolved and the world was a happy, sunshiney place. There were also things that seemed huge to the story, yet were never mentioned again.
So despite its faults, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is a wonderful, beautifully-written book that will stick with me long after I move on to other books....more
Goodreads' Awards broke me. I have NO discipline whatsoever when it comes to the library - I can usually telthis review will go live on the blog11/25
Goodreads' Awards broke me. I have NO discipline whatsoever when it comes to the library - I can usually tell ahead of time what my reading schedule looks like for the week and what reviews need to be written, so I tend to know what wiggle room I have for library books. More often than not, I grab ALL THE BOOKS and wind up taking the majority back unread because I borrowed too many. When the voting was open, I basically used to nominees as my own personal recommendations: there were so many wonderful books I had missed out on this year! I immediately requested a handful from my library and The House Girl was at the top of my stack.
Have you ever come across a book that felt as though the author wrote it with you in mind? That this book was written for you? The House Girl was that book for me. It featured so many of my favorite things in novels: dual narratives, different eras, ART!
Alternating between the present day (2004) and the 1850s, The House Girl tells the tale of Josephine Bell, a slave whose artwork had been credited to her mistress, Lu Anne Bell. Lina Sparrow is a young lawyer hoping to work her way up through the ranks. Long hours and a good track record have won her the approval of her boss, but she's looking for that one case that'll make her career. That case comes in the form of a lawsuits seeking reparations for descendants of slaves. Lina's tasked with finding the 'perfect plaintiff,' one person who will able to represent the millions.
As she's working the case, her research brings her to Josephine's story and she soon finds herself immersed in this young woman's life - and the night she made the decision to run.
I absolutely loved The House Girl. While reading I couldn't help but compare it to two other books I equally adored: The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes (while the stories were different, both books dealt with dual narratives/timelines and art) and The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro (for the art obvs). Both books rank among my favorites - The Art Forger was one of my top reads of 2012! - and have been recommended multiple times over. I can easily see The House Girl following suit. Already I've told numerous people about it and can't wait for more people to read this wonderful book.
While I am a huge fan of dual narratives, I tend to prefer one storyline over the other and that holds true with The House Girl. I was so caught up in Josephine's story that I found myself quickly reading Lina's chapters in order to get back to the 1800s. That's not to say Lina was any less interesting! I enjoyed her story, but I never found myself as invested in her relationship with her father/dealing with her mother's absence as I was in Josephine's life. My favorite parts of Lina's chapters were the scenes that dealt with the case - and therefore, Josephine.
The insight into Josephine's world: her ache for freedom, the whippings that were just another part of life, the realization that her son was alive, were heartbreaking and I couldn't tear myself away. The House Girl is a dangerous book in that I could only read it at home when I was able to devote large blocks of time to reading. This definitely is not the type of novel that can be read in small doses, a chapter here and there. The moment I finished one chapter I needed to keep reading.
The ending played out different than I had hoped - particularly Lina's story - but it didn't detract from the rest of the novel. Don't be surprised if The House Girl makes an appearance on my Top Reads of 2013 list!...more
The Menagerie is a book that caught my attention the moment I first heard of it. I recently discovered my library had a copy and immediately requested in. I was absolutely delighted that no one else had put a hold on it or had it checked out; I could get started right away!
Logan Wilde is having a pretty crummy summer. His mother left home one day and later sent a postcard stating she wouldn't be returning home to Logan and his father. Naturally the two are hurt and heartbroken and Logan's dad makes the decision to quit his job as a lawyer, pack up, and move to a tiny nowhere town in Wyoming - hoping to find some sort of clue as to where his wife went.
Now Logan is stuck in Xanadu and can't seem to make a friend out of the whopping 24 students in Seventh Grade. That all changes one day after overhearing Zoe's - the weirdest girl in school - and Blue's - the most popular boy in school - frantic worries about Zoe's missing dog. Zoe and Blue are the last two people Logan would ever imagine talking to, let alone hanging out with, and offers his aid in locating the missing pet. As if that wasn't strange enough, Logan comes home to discover a baby griffin in his bed. A baby griffin that can talk to him.
Griffins, strange conversations, and stores missing their entire stock of food? Just what on earth is happening in Xanadu?
Okay, be honest: who wouldn't want to find out griffins, yeti, and unicorns are real? & not just that, but they're all being housed in your own town! Logan's reaction to this realization is, naturally, pure shock. Ultimately his initial surprise wears off and is simply in awe of the creatures he sees. Zoe's house is in near-total seclusion on an enormous area of land. The Menagerie can be found there and it's under the protection of Zoe's family. And Blue...well, turns out he's half merman. And, yeah, about the lost 'dog.' Somehow six griffin babies escaped their pen in the middle of the night and it's up to Zoe's family (along with Blue) to find them. Having griffins run amok in town would be a cause for panic anytime, but the SNAPA - SuperNatural Animal Protection Agency - are set to drop in for an inspection and if those griffins aren't found by the end of the week, the Menagerie could be shut down. Or worse.
Giant hellhounds who are actually big, loveable, and slobbery; a mammoth named Captain Fuzzbutt; and an ADORABLE griffin named Squorp (who happens to love hamburgers) made The Menagerie an absolute joy. Add in shout-outs to Diana Wynne Jones, Men in Black, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and SO many more. This book was a ton of fun, although I will say there was a downside: everything wrapped up a little too nicely for me. Logan just happened to be right - on the first try - anytime he guessed at a location for one of the griffins. Also, the ending was a total cliffhanger and there were multiple plots left hanging. There were a lot of questions I had that weren't answered, but I have high hopes for the sequel!...more
Sixteen-year old (almost seventeen, thank you very much) Lori Chase has just made the move from a swanky hotel in Philadelphia to history-obsessed Gettsyburg, PA. Her brother is stationed in Ghana and her parents thought it would be fun to renovate a Bed & Breakfast. Once July rolls around, business is booming: spectators and reenactors alike flock to the town for the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. For three days 1863 is alive and well: the townsfolk are decked out in giant hoop-skirts and Union blues and replica rifles send the scent of gunpowder into the air.
Lori is less than enthused with her new home - until the night she captures a ghost on film. A Skype session with her brother must have been all-too tempting for the young soldier, for an image appeared on the screen. Lori wasn't alone in her bedroom. After a few more encounters with the boy, Lori learns his name is Nathaniel Pierce. He grew up in Punxsutawney and enlisted as a member of the 93rd Pennsylvania regiment when he was nineteen. He shocks Lori by sharing with her the true nature of his death: it wasn't the battle that killed him. He's convinced he was murdered and needs her help solving the mystery. Unfortunately, he only has three days - once July 3 comes, the reenactors will pack their things and Nathaniel will depart as well.
Okay, guys. It's SO not a secret that the Civil War holds a special place in my heart. I've gone to Gettysburg multiple times - yay for only living a few hours away! - so right off the bat this book and I got along well. Allow me to fly my bias flag: if a book deals with any of the battles (particularly Gettysburg), you can bet I'll be reading it. It's one of my things. A YA dealing with a Civil War soldier and his suspicious death? SIGN ME UP!
When I read, I'm constantly doing research or googling certain figures/events/paintings/what have you. In Rebel Spirits a great deal of the novel was devoted to the Kalunga Line, something I had never heard of before! Basically, it comes from certain religions in the Congo and refers to a 'line' stretching across the Atlantic Ocean that was the path between the world of the living and that of the dead. I'm all about stuff like this and absolutely loved its inclusion in the book.
As for the characters, there were quite a few, but they were fun and well-developed. Lori's parents are ever present and that was a refreshing change from the usual absentee parenting typically found in YA. Nathaniel was a sweetheart, but I just couldn't get into the romance aspect. Over the course of three days the two only met a handful of times for a few minutes at most. Yet somehow they fell in love. Sorry, but no. It was cute when Lori tried to explain modern technology and I easily could have accepted a friendship, but more...? I'll admit I delighted in Lori's dad calling her out on her insta-love!
Any reader of historical fiction knows research can make or break a novel. There were a few things Nathaniel didn't know about that would have existed during his day. Punxsutawney Phil/Groundhog Day as we know it didn't officially begin until the 1880s, yet it's origins go back to Celtic tribes and Germany's Candlemas Day. I suppose that could be splitting hairs, since Groundhog Day wasn't a part of American tradition until German settlers came over in the 1880s, but it's certainly been around for quite some time. Anything thing unknown to Nathaniel was the word cahoots. Unfortunately, a quick google search shows this word first entered the English language in the 1820s - 40 years before Nathaniel's death.
Apart from a few tiny issues, I had a lot of fun with Rebel Spirits. I'd say the mystery was more Middle Grade in nature - it's pretty obvious from the start who the bad guys were - but I was able to overlook it and go with the story. If you enjoy Civil War settings, or want a fun story to entertain you for an afternoon, pick up a copy of Rebel Spirits....more
Title:The Infects Author: Sean Beaudoin Pub. Date: September, 2012 Summary:Seventeen-year-old Nero is stuck in the wilderness with a bunch of other juvenile delinquents on an “Inward Trek.” As if that weren’t bad enough, his counselors have turned into flesh-eating maniacs overnight and are now chowing down on his fellow miscreants. As in any classic monster flick worth its salted popcorn, plentiful carnage sends survivors rabbiting into the woods while the mindless horde of “infects” shambles, moans, and drools behind. Of course, these kids have seen zombie movies. They generate “Zombie Rules” almost as quickly as cheeky remarks, but attitude alone can’t keep the biters back. Genre: YA, Horror Rating:
Survival is for the ruthless. Everyone else is a hippie poet.
Nick is your average high school student: he lives at home with his dad and little sister (ugh, more on her later), is madly in love with a girl he can barely speak to, and has a crappy job at a chicken factory. It's not until he's fired from his job and swiftly arrested that his world turns upside-down.
Names don't apply at Nick's juvenile detention center. Instead they all receive nicknames. Nick becomes Nero and is known as Nero throughout the rest of the book. On an outing the group wakes to find their two camp counselors have turned into zombies and some unlucky boys were their dinner.
Naturally the boys don't stick around to see who's going to be the next to be eaten. They hightail it out of there and run through the woods in the direction of where the girls were going to be camping.
"It's eatin' time, Busta Rhymes!"
It took me about 100 pages to really get into The Infects, but once I did I devoured (ha!) it. This is a book that can easily be read in a sitting despite it's near 400-page length. The story is blindingly fast-paced and the writing is simple. Also, Nick/Nero's inner voice is reason is The Rock.
That said, a lot of the writing got to me. At first I thought it was because I'm not a 16-year old boy. However, as I read more, I saw that it wasn't me, the jokes and dialogue are just awfully immature. There's a character called Mr. Bator, y'all. Also, is Busta Rhymes still a thing? Is he still big enough that kids nowadays would know and like him well enough to reference him in an everyday conversation?
While I'm still on the topic is Things I Did Not Like, let's discuss Amanda, shall we? Nick briefly mentioned in the beginning of the story that part of the reason why he's working is to help cover the cost of her medicine. I don't remember what the illness was (if it was even stated), but reading entire scenes like this was WAY too much for me to handle:
"Amanda!" "Nick? Is that? You? Thank God, thank God, thank God, thank God. "Yeah, it's me. Listen-" "Miss you? Nick? Are you? Coming? Home?" "No, Boo. I'm really far away. Are you okay?" "Yes? Of course? Why?" "Is there...anything happening outside?" "Dunno? Can't go? Outside?" "Why not?" "Dad says? Not to?"
An unturned knob is like a collection of Hungarian folk poems or discount sushi: best left alone.
Once the zombie horde really gets going, there are awesome factoids sprinkled throughout the story. I. Loved. These. They were all really funny and basically called out every terrible cliche in zombie movies (don't pause to kiss your girlfriend; a zombie is guaranteed to be standing right behind you).
Like I said before, The Infects doesn't dilly-dally. The main bulk of the action takes place over a single night. The quick story and humorous moments (and The Rock) ultimately led to an enjoyable book. The night I finished I had a dream about a zombie breakout, so I suppose that should count for something....more
There's no crime in copying a painting - obviously, as this is how I make the money I dutifully report to the IRS every April - the criminal part doesn't come until a copy is put up for sale as the original. Ergo, the seller, not the painter, is the crook.
A few years ago Claire Roth had been blacklisted by the art world. Once an up-and-coming artist with the very real opportunity of having her own show, she's now living in her tiny studio and making ends meet by selling copies of famous works for Reproductions.com.
One day she receives a visit from Aiden Markel, renowned art dealer and owner of the famous Markel G gallery. The two hadn't spoken in years - not since her plummet from grace. Markel offers her the chance of a lifetime: paint a copy of one of Degas' works that had been stolen in the 1990 heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Have her copy authenticated and not only will she receive a nice wad of cash, but Markel will also give her the show she's been dreaming of.
I'll be the first to admit I know virtually nothing about the art world - I can rattle off names like Michelangelo, Monet, The Scream, but when it comes down to it, I'm clueless. This book takes the very real theft (in 1990, over ten works of art were stolen and to this day, the pieces haven't been recovered and even with the $5 million reward, no one has stepped forward with any information) and uses it as the backbone of the story.
Claire had always been a Degas fan and when she was little her mother would take her to the museum and she would spent hours in front of After the Bath, staring at it, drawing it, marveling over it. Obviously she hadn't seen it since 1990 when it was stolen, so when Markel mails it to her door, she's more than a little shocked. Naturally she battles with herself over what to do. Markel assures her that after they sell her copy he'll give the original back to the museum where it belong. In the end, and multiple reassurances that she's doing nothing illegal, Claire agrees.
"We can only talk about the bad forgeries, the once that have been detected. The good onces are still hanging on museum walls."
Interspersed with the main story are two side-plots. One is Isabella Gardner's, told only through letters to her niece. I'm a big fan of historical fiction, so this story I really enjoyed. Isabella tells about her introduction to Degas, which eventually turn into lunches with Degas, trips to Degas' house, visits to the racetrack with Degas, and ultimately Degas' request that she pose for a painting. Not just any painting, but one in his Bath series.
The other story is one I also really enjoyed and would have loved to have seen a little more of: Claire's backstory and What Really Happened. When Claire was in grad school she was involved in a relationship with one of her professors. He left his wife for her and, for a while at least, they were happy. Every so often, however, Isaac would go into terrible bouts of depression. Unfortunately, one of these episodes happened to coincide with a deadline and he had neither the motivation or the inspiration to paint. Claire stepped it and painted 4D. Neither of them expected it to receive the attention it did. Isaac's career skyrocketed - there were trips to the Today show, shows in galleries, MoMA was even interested in 4D becoming part of their permanent collection. Everyone wanted to know more about Isaac Cullion.
At first Claire was thrilled for Isaac. After he broke up with her and returned to his wife, however, she decided the truth needed to be known. She was 4D's painter, not Isaac. Her accusation rocked the art world and split it in two, leaving only a tiny handful of people who believed Claire. It only gets worse when Claire discovers Isaac took his own life.
The main bulk of The Art Forger is equally fascinating! Claire eventually discovers the 'original' she had been copying from is itself a copy. Things swiftly move from bad to worse once the painting is sold - and discovered during an airport security check. The police and FBI step in and the trail leads back to Markel and Claire.
The only way to free themselves is to find out just what happened to Degas' original and time is quickly running out.
A writer friend once told me that when she walks into a library anywhere in the world, the smell makes her feel instantly at home.
Guys, seriously, The Art Forger is phenomenal. What's even more mind-blowing is that the author is not an artist! WHAT. Shapiro wasn't messing around when it came to her research.
Despite The Art Forger being a novel, this book isn't an action-packed, edge-of-your-seat nail biter. Even still, I devoured this book in just two sittings; it's that good....more
I'm not a particularly fast reader. I tend to average around a book a week, although if I'm really enjoying a book I can finish it in a few days.
This book? I read it in one sitting. Reading an entire book in a matter of hours is virtually unheard of for me, guys. The last time I read a book straight through was for a book tour and even then it was a struggle (and resulted in a LOT of skimming). Not so with Spark. I hung on to every word and loved every minute.
Spark picks up where Storm left off, only this time around, Becca & Chris are pretty much out of the picture. Especially Becca. (Confession: I totally didn't mind.) Instead, this book is Gabriel's story and his feeling of guilt over Nick's injuries.
While reading it became apparent to me that this is not a series where the reader can jump in at any book. Spark assumes you have already read Storm and therefore Know What's Up. Even when Gabriel is telling Layne about his fire ability it's all done off-screen. So a brief recap of the story for newbies to this series: in this world there are Elementals, people who can control certain elements. The Merrick brothers (Michael, Gabriel, Nick, and Chris) are able to control earth, fire, air, and water respectively. There are rare individuals who are able to control all of them and Becca (Storm's main character & now Chris's girlfriend) as well as Hunter (Storm's other love interest) are such individuals. A war has been raging for years with the Elementals, resulting in multiple deaths, including the Merrick brothers' parents and Hunter's father and uncle.
Even though I tore through Spark, it had the feel of a side story. In the very beginning the group meets up with Becca's father - a Guide - and they hatch out a plan to lie low for a while. After this scene, the plan is rarely brought up and the whole point of Storm isn't addressed again. Naturally this was a bit of an annoyance, but I was enjoying the book so much I let it slide.
Spark introduces a new character and right off the bat I really liked her. Layne is a super-smart girl who dresses pretty drab and keeps to herself. I was hoping this wasn't going to turn into a makeover story and I was very pleased that it wasn't (although there was a makeover scene featured..) The chemistry between Layne and Gabriel was fantastic and I adore everything about them. They're both hiding secrets and are longing for someone to simply be there. :) They were great and I'm hoping to see more of them in the next book.
The party scene felt a little too repetitive for my tastes (the same thing happened in Storm, right down to the assault) and I easily figured out who was the real culprit of the string of arson the minute the character showed up. Despite these issues, I lovedSpark! Much like I mentioned in my review of Storm, the chapters are extremely short and the pace doesn't let up for a second. Part of the reason I read the book in one go was because I couldn't find a good stopping point!
I'm so glad I put my initial reservations aside and started this series. If you haven't read these books yet, I urge you to do so. You will not be disappointed!
It's no secret I have a huge love of cozies. They're so fun and silly and make the perfect afternoon read. They're also fairly easy to follow which makes jumping in at any book in a series totally doable. So despite never having read the first five Home Crafting Mystery books, I leaped at the chance to review this newest addition.
The best thing about cozies is that they're so unique. My favorite series, for example, is about a psychic detective. There's a series about a White House chef, a cheese shop, you name it, there's a series for it. This series deals with organic farming and homemade products like soap and lip balm. An interesting fact about me: I'm actually really interested in learning how to make my own soap. This book only solidified my curiosity.
Sophie Mae lives with her husband Barr (a police officer), her best friend Meghan, and Meghan's 12-year old daughter Erin in a quiet rural community. The Turner family owns and operates a large farm and for a yearly fee members can collect a portion of the harvest. Sophie Mae helps out on the farm and it's there a body is discovered in a compost heap.
In the past Sophie Mae has helped out with cases and it's only natural for her to want to join in on the investigation. Ignoring the concerned advice from her husband and friends (particularly since Sophie Mae and Barr are trying to have a baby), Sophie Mae jumps in and winds up getting for than she bargained for.
Deadly Row to Hoe was a mere 250 and the pacing makes it feel like half that. Cozies are typically easy to figure out and this one was no exception (although early on I had suspected a different character of being the killer). The characters were fun and even minor characters like Sophie Mae's two employees were fleshed-out and I got a real feel for their personalities.
Whether you're already a fan or are completely new to this series, Deadly Row to Hoe will make for a great read. Lightning fast with lots of humor, it's definitely a book that will hold your attention and can be finished in one sitting. Throughout the story there were lots of great backstory details that not only helped me get to know these characters, but also piqued my interest in the rest of the series. :) Don't be surprised if you see reviews for the first five books soon!...more
If you're a long-time follower of The Pretty Good Gatsby, you know I basically adore the Romanov family. Tsarist Russia holds a special place in my heart and the end of the Romanov dynasty is both fascinating and heartbreaking. For decades rumors surrounded the survival of one of the royal children - Anastasia in particular - and it was only a few years ago that the rumors were finally laid to rest when, in the summer of 2007, the final two skeletons were discovered. Despite evidence confirming the deaths of the entire family, we remain a society full of What Ifs. One of my favorite mystery/thriller 'sub-genres' if you will, is the survival of one of the children (and name me a little girl who watched Anastasia and didn't fantasize about being a long-lost princess). Naturally, when I came across The Romanov Cross, I zeroed in on it and needed it in my life.
"If any relation to your family takes my life, then woe to the dynasty. The Russian people will rise against you with murder in their hearts."
Grigori Rasputin knows his time is coming to an end. He utters a prophetic message to the Grand Duchess Anastasia and shortly after, he is murdered. The Imperial Family's days are numbered and the political climate in Russia is chaotic. Numerous factions are vying for control and once Nicholas II abdicates, the family is carted around the country before a swift execution and careless burial - if it can be called that - in a large grave in a forest.
In the present day, Dr. Frank Slater's days are also numbered. After recklessly punching a superior officer, he's stripped of his Major rank and declared an average citizen. It's only because he's among the best in his field (Epidemiology - the study of diseases and how they're distributed) that he's kept on and soon finds himself taken from the hot desserts of Afghanistan to a frozen tundra in Alaska. St. Peter's Island, home to a long-forgotten Russian colony and a pack of wolves, is suddenly one of the most dangerous places on the planet. When the loose soil released a coffin into the sea, it was discovered Spanish Flu had claimed the body. Worried that the virus might still be alive and well - albeit in a frozen state - Slater quickly arranges a team and, with the utmost secrecy, heads to the tiny island.
Unfortunately for Slater, Port Orlov, the closest town, is home to Harley Vane, disgraced fisherman and petty burglar. It was one of the crab pods on his boat that hauled in the coffin and when Harley peeked inside, he saw a nice prize: a silver cross with giant emeralds. The rocky shoreline of St. Peter's Island sunk the boat and as the sole-survivor, Harley found himself an instant celebrity. The citizens of Port Orlov, however, know the reputation of the Vane brothers and aren't quite buying Harley's story.
The Romanov Cross was a chunkster of a novel. The past few books I've read have been quick, easy novels barely over 300 pages. This one clocks in at 500. Despite it's length, the book chugged along and I got through it without any difficulty. Three main storylines: the Romanovs imprisonment, Slater and his team, and Harley Vane, all converge on the small coastal town of Port Orlov, Alaska. The community is rich with history and many of the citizens are descended from the original Inuit tribe who called the land home. Those same Inuits were said to be among the only survivors of the Spanish Flu, a deadly 1918 pandemic that claimed the lives of an estimated 100 million people. A few of the townsfolk have suddenly developed coughs and it's looking like history will be put to the test once more.
While I enjoyed this novel, there were a few things that bothered me: for a novel about the Romanovs, their chapters were few and far between. I had expected alternating chapters, or at the very least, every few chapters. Sadly, there were only a handful of Romanov scenes. Also, I was a bit confused. Was this supposed to have supernatural elements? Granted, you can't mention Rasputin without entertaining the notion that he had otherworldly powers, but Anastasia is alive and well on this island. Anastasia was born in 1901. She's well over 100 in the book and living on a desolate island in the harsh Alaskan wilderness. It was mentioned in a chapter that Rasputin said she was unlike the others and gave her a cross to protect her. Was it enchanted or somehow able to prolong her life? That part confused me, as well as the wolves (the souls of the other Russians who had died on the island) and the multiple appearances of ghosts. If The Romanov Cross was intended to be a supernatural or paranormal novel, okay. If not, I'm left scratching my head.
This book has a huge cast of characters and, surprisingly, they're all very well developed! It always worries me when books have such a large amount of characters, but The Romanov Cross put my fears to rest. Each character - whether they were a central figure or minor townsfolk - had a distinct personality and individual traits and strengths. I really enjoyed that.
The ending definitely seemed rushed and a bit too tidy. However, The Romanov Cross was still an entertaining read and definitely one to spread out over a relaxing weekend....more
Linus and Ophelia had roped poor Walter into serving hors d'oeuvres with them, believing fully in the old adage that misery loves company. In other words, if you have something you'd rather not do, you might as well bring your best friend along and let him suffer as well.
Guys, this series is growing on me. A lot. I had a few problems with the first book, Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I'm pleased to say those problems have all but vanished in this sequel. Twins Linus and Ophilia Easterday have been shipped off to live with their aunt and uncle (also twins) while their parents hunt butterflies on a remote island in the South Pacific. Their good friend Walter resides in the nearby boarding school after more than his share of picked locks back home in London.
Aunt Portia owns a bookshop and in its attic the trio discovered an enchanted circle that can bring literary characters into our world. Naturally this comes with some rules: they have sixty hours before they need to return, the circle only opens once a month, etc. In their previous adventure with the circle, they met Quasimodo. This time around they set the bar a bit higher: Moby Dick's Captain Ahab.
Meanwhile, Aunt Portia didn't care about the Moby Dick theme at all. She figured it was a water party and mermaids live in the water, so it stood to reason that she could fudge a little bit.
Every single character is great. They're funny, they're flawed, they have their own distinct personality and I love it. I'm also very pleased to say that Walter's love of exercising isn't shown to the extent it was in the previous book (during a pretty important scene in the first book, Walter randomly started doing push-ups.
Whereas Quasimodo was sweet and kind, Ahab is anything but. He's a man on a mission and is blinded by his revenge. He also doesn't take too kindly to being ordered around by three 14-year olds. That said, his fascination with modern technology (indoor plumbing, computers) is hilarious and I loved the scenes where he's wrecking havoc on message boards on a whaling website.
We also see more of Cato Grubbs, the mad scientist who previously owned the house/bookshop before suddenly disappearing. In Saving Moby Dick we discover a bit more about him and his relationship to the twins.
The only drawback to this book (and this series as a whole) is the narrator. Bartholomew Inkster works in the English Department of Kingscross University and while I enjoy him 90% of the time, his constant need to define words can be a bit grating. This series is targeted toward the 9-12 crowd. I highly doubt they need words like ingest, clear-cut, or fumble explained.
"Curse that foul tome!" he roared. "I curse the day it was ever written, this Herman Melville reaching down into my soul and displaying it for all the world to see."
Saving Moby Dick is a wonderful display of what a sequel should be. It's issues have all been ironed over and since the world-building and magical rules have already been introduced in the first book, the story can finally get down to business. Short chapters and a quick pace make this book a breeze. Also, one of the characters is a bounty-hunter-turned-hippie-priest. How could you pass that up??...more
People jog at dawn for a reason. If they wait, their brains will wake up and convince them there are things they'd rather do. Like have oral surgery.
The first book in the series, Royal Street was something I picked up on a whim. I'm a total sucker for pretty covers and, although I'm not a big fan of the genre, paranormal/urban fantasy tends to have SUPER SHINY OH-SO-PRETTY covers.
To my complete surprise, I loved it. Much to my delight I didn't have to wait long at all for the sequel - less than a year! Guys, I'm extremely pleased to announce River Road does NOT suffer from Middle Book Syndrome. In fact, I'll go so far as to say it's even better than its predecessor!
River Road takes place three years after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to New Orleans in Royal Street. I was a bit surprised by the time lapse (I'm not used to such large gaps between books!), but from the very first page the book is off running.
If you're new to the series, Drusilla Jaco - DJ - is a Green Congress wizard, meaning that while she can do magic, her abilities are limited. Alex Warin, shape-shifter extraordinaire is her ex-enforcer partner and his cousin Jake is a recently-turned loup-garou: the biggest, baddest breed of werewolf. Add in the centuries-old undead pirate Jean Lafitte and you're set. Especially when all three men are unsure of their feelings for DJ (just as she's equally unsure of her own feelings for them).
Jean Lafitte informs DJ of an odd illness afflicting mermaid clans and upon investigating, two bodies of Green Congress wizards are discovered. It's up to DJ and crew to find out what's going on and just who is behind the attacks.
The plaque on the enormous clock claimed it has been hand-carved of mahogany in 1909, about 130 years after the birth of the undead pirate waiting for me upstairs. They were both quite handsome, but the clock was a lot safer.
Needless to say, I love this series. With the first book, I was a little worried about how the author would handle Katrina's aftermath. After reading, I realized I had nothing to worry about: Suzanne Johnson took a painful subject still fresh in mind and approached it delicately and respectfully. River Road is no different: New Orleans is still struggling to regain its footing and Johnson tells it like it is. No sugar-coating here, folks.
River Road introduces a few new species (mers, nymphs) and I loved getting to know them! That said, even though there are plenty of new characters, all the old ones get plenty of screen time, so to speak. I especially enjoyed Jean's scenes (I'm totally Team Lafitte, by the way!) and absolutely cannot wait to see him again!
Having three super-hot, though not exactly human, love interests might seem like overkill, but I loved it. Jean Lafitte, eternal flirt and gentleman, seems to genuinely care for DJ; Jake has made no secret of his feelings, though his inability to control his loup-garou form makes him hesitant; and Alex is definitely changing their "we're-much-better-as-friends" relationship. I loved seeing the interactions with each guy and I actually GASPED at that final paragraph! Oh man. Talk about an ending!
Guys, seriously. If you're looking for a fun, funny urban fantasy, look no further!...more
So let's take a second to fawn over that absolutely GORGEOUS cover, okay? It's beautiful on screen and even more amazing in person. I'm a huge fan of the retro cartoon-y look and the color pop like you wouldn't believe. So pretty.
Mothership is not my typical read. A bunch of pregnant teenagers is not my idea of a fun, lighthearted book. That said, much to my surprise, I found myself enjoying it.
It's 2074 and Elvie finds herself pregnant at sixteen after a one-night stand with the head cheerleader's boyfriend. Elvie is unprepared to be a mother, particularly since her own mother died shortly after Elvie was born and never got to go on all the adventures she had planned.
Elvie's father and her 100% awesome best friend Ducky try to make the best of the situation (Ducky goes so far as to insist on sharing whatever it is Elvie's craving, be it fried-pickles-and-peanut-butter or olives-and-yogurt). After hearing about Hanover School for Expecting Teen Mothers - a repurposed luxury yacht in outer space - Elvie packs and prepares for a school year in space.
What she wasn't counting on however, was one of her classmates being Britta. AKA Cole Archer's girlfriend. AKA the girl carrying the stepsibling of her own baby. Throw in 40 other hormonal, pregnant teens and some alien attackers and it's shaping up to be a long year.
So, um, invaders. That's new. The first thing that happens, of course, after processing that our ship is being attacked by dudes toting guns and wearing space helmets, is that I feel an overwhelming desire to crap myself. But I refuse to be captured with soiled Underoos. Dear God, how embarrassing would that be?
Mothership was an interesting book. Like I said, this is so not the kind of book I normally grab. Despite 60+ years of advances in technology this novel felt pretty contemporary. Sure there are cures for cancer, space entertainment, new cars. Overall, though, it didn't feel very different than if the story had taken place in the present day.
Minus the aliens, of course.
The thing that bothered me was Elvie's undying love for Cole. I didn't get it. She sat behind him in class for a few months and had only spoken to him a handful of times before sleeping with him. The day after he found out she was pregnant he skipped down, refusing to answer every single phone call and blink (text). Yet Elvie still loves him (she even called him the love of her life). Even after finding out about his lies she's still convinced he's a good guy and that he even loves her in return.
I also wasn't a fan of Elvie herself. Sure she found herself in a pretty crappy situation, but her constant snarky comments and one-liners in life-or-death situations got old real fast. There are times when sarcasm needs to take a backseat and I'd say finding yourself under attack by aliens in a ship that's quickly losing oxygen is definitely one of those times.
Despite my attitude toward Elvie and Cole, I enjoyed the other characters. Ducky was phenomenal, Elvie's dad was funny and super cool, Ramona was great. Even the bad guys were fun.
Even though Mothership wasn't something I thought I'd enjoy, I had fun with it. It's a pretty short book (308 pages) and the writing is blindingly fast....more