Friday, November 13, 2009

Why I Fight by J. Adams Oaks

Wyatt has been traveling with his uncle since he was twelve years old, when Uncle Spade spirited him away from neglecting parents and took him on the road. They travel constantly, Spade selling goods and visiting his 'ladyfriends' with Wyatt in tow.

When Spade realizes the fighting potential for tall, hulking Wyatt, the teen is dragged into a world of violence and self-destruction. He tells his story directly to the reader in a brutally honest narrative. Not so much about the fighting he does, but why he does it.

Wyatt narrates in the spirit of Forrest Gump, telling his story to someone as he leaves it all behind. The style is difficult to read at first (Oaks uses dashes instead of quotes, and Wyatt's grammar reflects his erratic schooling), but once I got used to it, I was dragged into the story he told.

Food for thought:
  • Spade rescued Wyatt from seriously neglectful parents, but how much better was this option? He didn't go to school, had no friends, and essentially lived in a car during his teen years. He worships Spade, but is it justified?
  • Spade also brought him into fighting, seeing a monetary opportunity in his powerful physique. Wyatt was constantly bloodied and bruised, but he was on top...for a while.
The visual aspects of this novel were powerful additions. The cover reflects Wyatt's gritty story beautifully, and there are blood spatters at the beginning of every chapter. You will not forget that this is a survival story.

The Bottom Line:
Even if you're not a fighter, Wyatt's story is worth learning. Read it when you want something serious.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Crashed by Robin Wasserman

Lia Kahn is done pretending to be normal. She is a mistake, a replacement for the real Lia Kahn that can never be the original. It doesn't matter that she thinks like Lia or acts like Lia, because she is a machine. And she embraces it, living in a refuge for mechs that allows them to be themselves - whatever that is anymore.

But when someone with Lia's face commits mass murder, she is faced with more condemnation than ever. Even worse, the most prominent hater is Auden - Auden, who had accepted her, loved her. Can she overcome the hatred?

Thoughts on the world:
This series is very definitely sci-fi. So how far away are we from uploading our brains into machines? What about self-driving cars, zones (think facebook), and behavior-modifyers? When will we wreck the earth so badly that the sun rarely appears through the smog of pollution?

Thoughts on the characters:
  • Lia isn't perfect, and she's not pretending to be perfect. She's just trying to feel something. Why should she care about injury, or even complete destruction of her body, when she'll just be uploaded into a new one?
  • We learn more about Jude, Riley, and Ani in this book. Wasn't it nice of the BioMax people to give them working, Caucasian bodies as a consolation prize for being lab rats? Also, venturing into the city has given us a glimpse into the lives of the unfortunate. The world is perfect for those who can afford it...
  • Lia's dad bailed her out of jail. Why? If he doesn't think that she is his Lia, why bother helping her?
If you like this series:
  • The Adoration of Jenna Fox
  • Uglies
Add your own questions, comments, suggestions...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Linger" cover revealed

Get the full story from The Compulsive Reader's post.

It certainly holds in the art themes of Shiver...the image of the wolf and girl are much more clear on this cover than the wolf is for Shiver. What could the imagery mean? It looks like the girl is walking away from the wolf, which has my plot-predictors running on overdrive.

Linger will be released in the fall of 2010. It's too long!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NaNoWriMo and other news

Hey, all! November is approaching, which means it's almost time for National Novel Writing Month. The short story: we attempt to write a 50,000-word novel in one month. It won't be pretty, and it certainly won't be publishable (yet), but at the end of the month we can call ourselves novelists.

This is perfect for writers who can't finish a story. Before NaNo-ing, I'd never finished a novel-project before. However, I've won the past two years! It's an amazing experience and people really get into it. And if you win, you get a pretty button like this...So if you even think you want to try it out, go to and sign up. I'll see you there!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

"All sixteen-year old Cameron wants is to get through high school - and life - with a minimum effort. It's not a lot to ask. But that's before he's given some bad news: he's sick and he's going to die. Which sucks.

Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possilbe hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure - if he's willing to go in search of it. With the help of Gonzo, a death obsessed, video-gaming dwarf, and a yard gnome who just might be the Viking god Balder, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America of smoothie-drinking happiness cults, parrallel-universe-hopping physicists, mythic New Orleans jazz musicians, whacked-out television game shows, snow-globe vigilantes, and disenfranchised, fame-hungry teens into the heart of what matters most."

I had to take that directly from the book jacket, because nothing I said could describe it better.

Going Bovine is pretty trippy, and you can't go into it expecting a serious read. Cam is living a whirlwind of lifedeathtruthlies that just don't contribute to sense. But at the same time, everything makes sense: once I found the pattern, and went back to reread, every hyper-crazy moment became clear.

And for the record, since I didn't know it myself before reading: Bovine=cow, which is perfect because everything starts with Cam getting mad cow disease.

The Bottom Line: Read it!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Soulstice by Simon Holt

What do you fear?

The second book in The Devouring picks up six months after Reggie saved her brother from the Vours. With the summer solstice approaching, Reggie thinks she's safe from the fear-demons...until someone from the past reappears with grim news. The Vours are not done with Reggie; not even close. She must overcome new challenges - and not all are mythical - if she wants to survive.

The Devouring series is one of few horror novels in YA. These are the books you want to read in the dead of night, but for Soulstice, the dead of night is needed to keep it scary. It certainly has the creepy factor, with haunted house-like settings and descriptions, but it didn't quite measure up to its predecessor.

Reggie ventures into not one but two horrorscapes in this installment, and the psychology of it all is mind-boggling. What are the terrors of a person? The fearscape moves from basic childhood horrors to deeper, darker fears, fears that are locked away so that they can't be found consciously.

In addition, while she's battling the Vours, Reggie must also deal with the humans around town. Quinn's disappearance has police swarming the town, and Reggie's dad still thinks she's acting out. Also, she's not the only one who knows the Vours exist...

Despite this review being somewhat neutral, Soulstice is definitely a book to pick up this month.

Monday, October 12, 2009

After by Amy Efaw

Devon is on trial for the worst of crimes: attempted murder of her newborn baby. No one expected it - not even her. That's right; she didn't know she was pregnant. As she faces trial and a life behind bars, Devon slowly recalls fragments of the last nine months and, through the help of a determined lawyer, understands why she did what she did.

This is a heavy topic, no doubt about it. The concept of abandoning a child is heinous to us, but the first person POV helps to explain how sincere Devon's claim is. She is expected to be perfect in every way, and getting pregnant doesn't even make a blip on that list.

The majority of the plot takes place in jail. It's fascinating to see the juvenile system, as well as all the psychological stuff she has to go through. We only see the trial that decides which court she will be tried in - juvenile or adult - but that in itself is extensive and emotional.

After is amazing. Devon is the type of character who you form emotional attachments to because she feels so real. This isn't just another teen pregnancy novel - it's a story about self-discovery.

A note on the cover: The illustration is deceivingly simplistic, but it represents Devon's situation. There's the self she thinks she knows, and the self that she's been hiding from, that's being thrown into her face now. (incidentally, I didn't notice that her reflection was pregnant until after I finished reading. The eye sees what it expects...)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Meeting Steve Vander Ark

So, if you're love of Harry Potter ever took you online, you may recognize this:

The HP Lexicon is the first and largest fansite for Harry Potter, and it was all started by a book nerd. Steve Vander Ark was a library media specialist when he first read the series, and found himself making lists: lists of spells, lists of places, lists of people...essentially, anything that Jo might have returned to in a later book. When he put it all on the internet, a haven for fans was born.

This weekend, I got to meet Vander Ark at a small author event for his new book, The Lexicon. It is not the same as the site; instead, it is literally a big, huge, list. Think of a dictionary or encyclopedia for Harry Potter, and this is your book.

He began with a bang, telling everyone that we were going to have fun tonight. It wasn't about a lecture; it was about exploring Harry's world. He actually talked more about his other book, In Search of Harry Potter (available in the U.K. --darn!) because for it, he toured Britain to find the exact real-world locations of places in Harry's world. The results were astonishing. He showed us pictures of the Leaky Cauldron, found between a music and record store on a particular street - just as Jo described it. He found a real place called the Burrow, in the correct spot. And the most extraordinary part? Hogwarts. Really, truly. Though there was no castle in sight, everything else was perfect.

You should be getting an idea of how the night went. My friend and I agreed that we could have listened to his stories for hours. It was completely obvious that he was as much of a fan as any of us, getting giddy over HP discussion and skirting spoilers for audience members who haven't finished book seven. At some point he mentioned that he's read the whole series at least 40 times!

Just think...without the internet, none of this would have been set into motion.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Persistence of Memory by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Erin has spent most of her childhood in the psych ward of the hospital. Whenever she is under extreme stress, her violent alter-ego Shevaun takes over and paves a path of destruction, which Erin can never remember later.

But Shevaun is more than a part of Erin's imagination. She exists as a powerful, centuries-old vampire. Shevaun is fierce, independent - so nothing good could come of the two actually meeting.

Nearly 10 years after her first novel was published at age 15, Atwater-Rhodes is still going strong. Persistence of Memory is not labeled as part of a series, but it ties together the Kiesha'ra and Den of Shadows with a few well-planned characters. I had that "aha" moment in one particular scene that said, "Yeah, shapeshifters and vampires and witches all belong in the same universe."

As far as the characters and plot are concerned, I was captivated. Erin and Shevaun are totally different people - thus the alter-ego horror - but there is actually a strange similarity to them. In addition, the supporting cast have complete backgrounds and personalities, which are fit comfortably into the main plot. And the plot? Loved it. Go read to see why.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Right to Read

It's that time of year again: the chance for avid readers are able to express their outrage at censorship in "the land of the free." I'm talking about Banned Book Week, people. For various reasons - religious or political agenda, explicit material, substance abuse, etc - libraries and schools have stripped their shelves of the most thought-provoking, realistic portrayals of life They hope to shield their young readers from thinking new thoughts (*gasp*!), thoughts that may change their life positively.

This week, we celebrate our freedoms. Freedom of speech and expression are part of the U.S. Constitution, and close-minded, loud-mouthed leaders cannot change that.

Personally, I am lucky to have a school library that embraces controversial topics. Yesterday when I walked in there, an entire display case was devoted to BBW. I've made a point to read the controversial books that my library has to offer, and every one of them has a worthwhile message.

Here's some books that have been censored. Have you read them? Have they scarred you for life or opened your eyes? I've read all of them, and each had a powerful message.
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
  • Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Clause
  • Cut by Patricia McCormick
  • Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  • Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  • Glass by Ellen Hopkins is being challenged right now

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Welcome to the 74th annual Hunger Games! After North America was destroyed, after the small country of Panem rose from the ashes, after the districts tried to revolt but were put down by the capitol... the Hunger Games were constructed. They are to serve as a reminder of the Capitols complete control. Every year, two tributes from each district are selected to participate in a fight to the death. Every year, Katniss prays for safety for herself and her loved ones.

This year, Katniss is a tribute
She must survive on her instincts and her skills, outwitting the other twenty-three contenders as their fight is broadcast live across the country. But more importantly, Katniss must hold on to her humanity when she must kill to win.

I mentioned this book a couple weeks ago with the Buckeye Book Awards. There is no doubt that it belongs on that list. It isn't clear how far into the future the book is set, but Katniss's world isn't much different than ours. District Twelve is poverty-stricken, so we don't get a feel of the technology until we reach the Capitol, and even then they still have trains and televisions. In this setting, Collins has constructed a desperate society. The Games are not named only for the contestants who struggle to keep themselves fed as well as injuring their fellows. It is the hunger of the people, who may be entered in the pool extra times in exchange for much-needed food. It is the hunger of the Capitol to control their domain, oppressing its citizens and turning a blind eye to their plight.

I'm avoiding turning this into an essay, but there are countless factors at work here to create a terrifying post-apocalyptic world. These meticulous details are woven into a high-action plot and a fair amount of character development. I ran across some fragmenty sentences on occasion, but they were a minor annoyance that hardly stopped me from reading.

The Hunger Games is a phenomenal book, and I'm hoping the sequel lives up to expectations!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Don't Judge a Girl by her Cover by Ally Carter

Going to support your best friend while her father is nominated as a candidate in the presidential election isn't usually what show up on What I Did This Summer essays. Neither is a kidnapping attempt by highly trained, unidentified agents - unless, of course, you are a Gallagher Girl.

If you are a Gallagher Girl, it is perfectly normal for your teachers to stage an attack in the middle of your vacation to see if you've been practicing evasion tactics; it fits in with the curriculum of fourteen languages and covert operations.

But this is not a planned attack, and Cammie Morgan goes into her junior year of Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women (aka spy school) with the unshakable worry that her school is no longer safe. As she and her friends look for answers, Cammie must use all of her skills to keep her friends safe.

The third installment of Cammie's exploits, Don't Judge doesn't disappoint. As always, Cammie throws herself into her mission with both seriousness and humor. I love her voice, which dismisses the unusual teachings of her school as if it were standard high school procedure.

There's more at stake than grades. I'm talking real danger for our favorite spies. Plus, for the first time, the mystery doesn't end with the last page. Let's cheer on the writing of GG4!

The cool, often-updated website:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Interview with Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance

It's a tactic the best generals couldn't predict: making the move from school newspaper to the cheerleading squad! Bethany isn't quite certain how it happened herself. So how is she supposed to be prepared to become one of the most visible girls at school - and in such a short skirt?

Geek Girl is a fun read, but it also questions the "natural order," as Todd likes to call it. Why can't you be a nerd and a jock at the same time? And what is it about pom-poms that makes girls popular? What about her super-hot new boyfriend; would he like her if she was still her invisible self? Abandoned by the Geek Squad, scorned by the Cheer Squad, Bethany is forced to wonder these things as she struggles through cheer season.

Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance have created an engaging story about defying the norm, doing an excellent job of keeping it light while weaving in serious undertones.
Charity and Darcy kindly consented to answer a few questions for me, so let me present my first author interview!

Even the popular kids have their own issues beneath the surface. Where did you draw so many emotional backgrounds from?

C: We’ve either known someone like the characters in the story, or we’ve been where they’ve been. I know people are surprised to hear that I spent six years on active duty in the Army, but I did. I pull a lot of my “guy knowledge” from that experience.

D: And I pull a lot of my dork knowledge from, well, being a dork. But seriously, you're right. Even the popular kids have issues -- sometimes even more of them than the less popular kids do. There is a lot of pressure at the top of the social strata. Kids there have to hang on really tight and be aware of every move they make because there are so many people who would like to take their place. I didn't know that when I was in high school, but it is a lot easier to see as an adult who works with teen volunteers. Nobody gets out of school unscathed.

Bethany often missed her deadlines for her column in the newspaper. How do you deal with writing deadlines and (more importantly) procrastination?

C: I don’t know if Bethany missed her deadlines so much or if it was a case of Todd being Draconian (or more likely, a bit of both). I work as a technical writer for a software company, so my days are filled with deadlines--which are often moving targets. Right now, while we have projects in the works, we don’t have anything under contract. On the upside, the work won’t feel rushed and we’ll have ample time to revise. Downside? Oy. We could maybe use just a teensy bit of rushing to finish up a few things.

D: I am an expert at procrastination. When I do have a deadline to meet, I usually have to treat myself like a three year old child -- remove all distractions and promise a cookie when it's done.

Do you have any other books in the works?

C: We’re both working on various things, together and on our own. I have a solo project I’m revising. We both want to continue to work together, and have a couple of projects in the works.

D: A couple of those projects that Charity mentions are geek girl type stories. They're coming along s-l-o-w-l-y, but they are a lot of fun to write. Charity's solo project is a little more serious -- a really wonderful story that I can't wait to get a chance to read again when she's done revising. I've started a wacky non-fiction project for middle graders that I am hoping to entice Charity into working on with me.

Did you consider yourself a geek in high school?

C: Very much so. The premise for Geek Girl’s Guide came from an experience I had in high school. I was never the cheerleading type, but a friend convinced me to try out. And yes, we both made the squad. Sadly, my life was far less interesting than Bethany’s. The rest of the story is purely fictional.

D: I was (and still am) a geek at heart. I had friends from a lot of groups though and really, they weren't all that different from each other underneath the interests and social status that kept them separated. All of us are always just looking for someone else to connect with.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Ever since she was attacked by wolves as a child, Grace has been fascinated with them. There is one wolf in particular who appears in the woods behind her house, watching her watching him. In the winter months, he is always there, company in her lonely existence.

Even when the animal takes over, Sam cannot forget the girl. She is the reason he holds on to his humanity, the light of his existence.

When unforeseen circumstances finally bring human Sam to Grace's door, they become part of a comfortingly familiar story of love, even as Stiefvater molds it into something never before known.

I wrote several notes after finishing Shiver: it was haunting, especially as a subtle metaphor for death rose to the surface. Switching from POVs was effective, because each had a strong voice and cliffhangers kept me racing through. The werewolves are unique among all the paranormal fiction out there right now - the change is controlled by the temperature.

All of those are reasons why it's an amazing book, but none are exactly why I loved it. It's been a long time since I was drawn so deeply into a book on the first read, but I can't tell you the precise formula for success. Stiefvater's writing is thoughtful and sensitive, and the story of this pair is heart-warming and -wrenching at the same time. But what is my final, concise response?


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Buckeye Book Awards

If you live in Ohio, now's a great oppertunity to recognize some awesome books! The Buckeye Book Awards are here, and the books were nominated by teens across Ohio.

  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

  • City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

  • Dance With a Vampire (Vampire Kisses #4) by Ellen Schreiber

  • Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix

  • Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins

The voting runs from September 1 to November 10, so you have plenty of time to go read all of the nominees and decide the best for yourself! Click here to vote.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Social Vibe: Support Peta2

Blogger has this new feature called "Social Vibe." Basically, it gives US the chance to make a difference. How? In the sidebar is a widget that links to a sponsor vid. When you click on the link and watch the vid, the sponsor will donate to the charity of my choice - in this case, Peta2. If you really care about the cause, go add the widget to your own blog!

Peta2 is the youth offbranch of PETA, aka People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. They work to raise awareness of animal rights - learn more at their website

So, start clicking, and lets see if we can make a difference

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Blood Promise by Richelle Mead

The fourth installment of Vampire Academy is finally here! I swear I have an amazing excuse as to why it took me so long to get the review out: I didn't get the book until this week. Why? It is possible to buy a signed, personalized book through Richelle Mead's website! If you are moderately patient, this is an extraordinary opportunity. If not, you should check out the website and the Official VA Website for cool extras.

Dimitri is a Strigoi, no longer the man Rose loved. Yet she can't help but love him still, and she remembers the promise she made to him as a dhampir. Now she scours Siberia, his homeland, with the intent to find and kill.

In Russia, Rose finds not Dimitri, but his family. Finally, we get a glimpse into Dimitri's origins, and it throws Rose's "blood whore" assumptions out the window. While Dimitri's mother watches out for her, Rose is finally able to work through some of her emotions, which I felt was important to her character.

At the same time, on the other side of the world, Lissa is having her own troubles. Rebellious and angry, there is more tearing her up here than just the disappearance of her friend. The transitions between the Rose and Lissa plots went well, especially since we still got Rose's opinions on the situation. Between the shadow-kiss connection and Adrian's dream-walking, there was plenty screen time for old characters even though they were on another continent.

I don't want to delve too far into the book for the sake of spoilers, but rest assured, it is a juicy addition to the VA series. Fangirls, prepare to squeal.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Tricks by Ellen Hopkins

What is love? Is it primal lust, passion? Or something deeper, meant for forever?

Five teens traveling paths different, but also the same, must decide for themselves. Eden, Whitney, Cory, Ginger, Seth: Each is looking for a forever love, but all end up in a place far from it.

Words are power, and Ellen Hopkins is their master in this poetry-story, blending five separate lives together seamlessly. It can be difficult to remember who's who, but even that animosity adds to the message Hopkins is conveying. Each narrator has different dreams, and somewhere in one of them you will find yourself - which only means more heartbreak when they fall into prostitution, because Hopkins pulls out all the stops. There are no blunted blows, no softened corners; she tells it raw and true. Real-life victims don't always find their happy endings, and Hopkins is not known for promising them, but it is worth loving these characters to find out for yourself.

Lock yourself away and cancel all other engagements, because Tricks will suck you in and hold you captive to the last page.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Buffy Vs. Edward

I'm going to veer away from book reviews for a moment here and go into a more opinionated realm (is that possible, considering the nature of reviews?) Recently, I found this video on Youtube. As fan of Buffy and Twilight, I loved it immediately.

Basically, the video summarizes what I realized while watching the Twilight movie: Edward is actually kind of creepy. After a year's obsession with him (I'm Team Jacob these days), I know what I'm talking about when I say it is eye opening to get a different POV.

(sorry the screen's too big, I couldn't get it any smaller)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Immortals by Alyson Noel

After a horrible accident that claims the lives of her family, sixteen-year-old Ever Bloom can see people's auras, hear their thoughts, and know someones' entire life story by touching them. Going out of her way to avoid human contact and suppress her abilities, she has been branded a freak at her new high school - but everything changes when she meets Damen Auguste. Damen is gorgeous, exotic, and wealthy. He's the only one who can silence the noise and random energy in her head - wielding a magic so intense, it's as though he can peer straight into her soul. As Ever is drawn deeper into his enticing world of secrets and mystery, she's left with more questions than answers. And she has no idea just who he really is - or what he his. The only thing she knows to be true is that she's falling deeply and helplessly in love with him.

Does that last line sound familiar? I found Evermore to be unsettling similar to Twilight, at least at first glance. Damen isn't a vampire, but his theme song should be "Hot 'n' Cold," the way he treats Ever. Despite their deeper connection, it felt wrong for her to fall for el jerko so unquestioningly.

Despite the predictability of the supernatural boyfriend, there were enough unique elements to keep my interest. Ever's aura-reading increased the mysteries of Damen, mostly because she couldn't read his. Plus, her conversations with her dead sister made me laugh - becoming a ghost doesn't change sibling rivalry. Overall, I'm pretty neutral on the first book in the series...

...but it just so happens that I bought both books on my last Borders run. And I am truly glad that I did, because otherwise I would have missed out on some serious immortal drama.

Blue Moon picks up a while after Evermore ends. Ever is exploring her new powers as an immortal and cuddling up with Damen, always keeping their relationship relatively chaste. But as Ever grows into her abilites, Damen's powers seem to be waning, along with his memory. Ever must travel to Summerland, the mystical in-between place, to discover the secrets to saving him.

Finally, some original plot! I enjoyed discovering the powers of the immortals, both good and bad, and Roman is just made to distrust. The drama in this installation is much more original: instead of trying to figure out if a mysterious guy likes her or not, Ever has to deal with Damen acting like she's some stalker he's never met before!

My opinion of The Immortals is mixed, but I will definitely pick up the third book when it comes out next year... from the library.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Good Witch of the West

Fifteen-year-old Firiel Dee has always lived a simple country life with her father the Professor and her childhood friend Rune. So she expects going to a royal ball to be fantastical - but it goes farther than that! A special necklace identifies her blood as royal - and that she is a candidate to become the next Star Queen! Firiel is swept away to a world power and deceit, and though she is followed by Rune, he may make her life even more complicated. Can the innocent Firiel survive with so many eyes on her?

The Good Witch began as a novel written by Noriko Ogiwara, and I found that this greatly enhanced the manga. Many manga, however good their concept, tend to have lots of filler chapters that have nothing to do with the main plot. These series are usually published in a monthly mangazine like Shonen Jump or Shojo Beat, so the author gets more money if the series is longer. Good Witch already had a plot. I haven't read the novel, but I suspect that's why there is action and plot advancement on every page.

As far as the story itself, I love it! Finding out you're a princess isn't a new idea, but Firiel is a fiery chic who will do anything to protect Rune... and it's totally fun to watch her realize Rune's true feelings for her. I actually harped at her a couple times for being so blind! (Yes, I talk to the books...fess up, you know you've done it, too ~_^)

Of course, we can't forget what makes manga, manga. Haruhiko Momokawa does a beautiful job with the artwork; it's one of my favorite drawing styles of the manga I've read. The cover art above is just the beginning.

There are currently six volumes of the manga out, and it's been made into an anime, too! The story's not finished, though, so keep an eye out for Vol. 7...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Shadowland by Meg Cabot

Suze is a mediator - she can see ghosts, talk to them, punch them if need be - and it's her job to help them move on to wherever they go. Unfortunately, she can't seem to rid herself of hot ghost who's haunting her bedroom.

There are bigger problems than her new roommate, though. A vengeful spirit is wreaking havoc at school, and people will die if Suze can't stop it...

I loved this book. Suze's voice rings loud and clear with details such as her nicknames for her stepbrothers: Sleepy, Dopey, and Doc. And the plot itself feels a lot like an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is just fine by me.

Shadowland is the first in the Mediator series. Ninth Key, here I come!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Anna lives for her sister. She was concieved to be a perfect genetic match to Kate, who has acute promyeloctyic leukemia. From moments after her birth, Anna has been giving up parts of herself to keep her sister alive. Now thirteen, Anna wants her body - and her life - for herself.

This book is absolutely amazing. Several of my friends have raved about Jodi Picoult, but it wasn't until the movie came out that I picked up a copy. I quickly discovered:

The raves were just.

Picoult is a master of emotion. MSK is told in alternating POVs between all of the central characters, and each one has a distinctive voice. It helps that each POV is printed in a different font, but I would be able to tell anyway when Anna is speaking, or her mother, brother, or her attorney Campbell (incidentally, I loved Campbell. His ironic joking is timed just right amidst the emotion-laden plot. Plus, Judge pwns.)

Weaved in with the court action and Kate's current medical crises are intricate flashbacks, subplots, and musings. Anything a character rambles about is symbolic (my English teachers would love it). In addition, the relationship between Campbell and Julia is artfully included and there are always more secrets to uncover.

As with other book-turned-movies, My Sister's Keeper has recieved a lot of press attention lately. I look forward to seeing the movie, but you'd be doing yourself a disservice to miss out on such amazing writing.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I'm that nerd who puts book release dates on her calendar instead of date-dates. In case anyone else loves the anticipation of a new release, I've added the "Waiting for..." in the sidebar. However, I have no idea how to make a countdown widget; the ones I have up were already made by gifted book lovers TT-TT

If you know how to make a countdown widget, I'd appreciate it if you left a comment or sent me an email. There is something immensely satisfying in watching the seconds tick down when you know you have at least a month's wait, and I would really love to add that to the awesome books in the queue.


Death by Bikini by Linda Gerber

Aphra Connolly has spent the last four years living on a secluded island resort, a favorite retreat of the rich and famous. The downside? Guests come and go but there are no other teens to hang out with. So when sexy Seth Mulo checks in with his family under mysterious circumstances, Aphra wants to know more.

What she finds is mystery...and danger. Seth is not who he clames to be, strange people are showing up on the island, and to top it off, one of the guests washes up dead on the beach! Apra has no idea what she's in for.

Before you assume this is one of those snooty, glitsy-girl books, here's a heads-up: Aphra works at the resort. She is both levelheaded and kind, and it's exciting to get into her head as the drama unfolds. And it's amusing to see her muddle through her feelings about Seth, especially when she learns some startling truths.


This weekend, I got to meet Linda Gerber!! It was a small gathering, which means she was able to answer all of our questions. Topics ranged from Aphra's love interests (definitely spoilers there) to publishing books to how she writes (on a laptop, by the way. It's much faster than longhand). Apparently, the series was originally about vampires, but it became the fang-free version out on shelves. Unfortunately, I forgot to pull out my camera >.< but she did sign my copy of DBB!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

One Lonely Degree by C.K. Kelly Martin

Finn knows she's an outcast. She only has one friend (although sometimes Audrey feels like an extention of her) and nothing close to a boyfriend. Admittedly, after The Party, she doesn't intend to change the latter status.

Everything changes when Jersy, the Beautiful Boy that she knew as a kid, moves back into town. The changes are infinitesimal, but definitely there. Despite haunting memories of The Party, she finds herself liking Jersy and then liking Jersy - a huge taboo since he's dating Audrey. And when Audrey goes away for the summer... Finn's resolve quickly begins to fail.

Adding Finn's emotional trauma to an already uncertain love relationship adds that much more depth to One Lonely Degree. Fans of Laurie Halse Anderson will recognize the source of her pain, but Martin's presentation is unique. And combined with all of that drama, Finn must also deal with her parent's imminent separation, leaving her alone when she needs advice the most.

Cover comments: Totally perfect for the book. That hand on the left leads to a picture of Jersy on the back cover. I love how their fingers are just barely touching - it's a perfect snapshot of their relationship.

My only disappointment was the ending. It felt very...unfinished to me, like there should be several more pages in there. It was probably pretty realistic (not that I would know), but it felt like it was missing something definite. However, it was still totally worth the read.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Need by Carrie Jones

After the death of her stepfather, Zara is exiled to live with her gram in Maine. But soon Zara notices a man stalking her around the same time that people start disappearing from the small town. There are magical forces at work, and Zara's stuck in the middle of it.

Yes, the "move to a small town and find mythical beings" beginning is getting rather cliched (and unless you've been hiding in the basement for the last couple years, you know where it originated from). But I assure you, there are no masochistic vampires in this one.

In fact, I really enjoyed the surprises of our supernatural stars. Pixies as the bad guys? Don't underestimate the power of the fey. My only complaint there is how easily Zara believed in them, but she made up for it when it came to the pixies' natural enemy. And as for their identities... the good guys are startling and the bad guys even more so.

One last comment: Zara's phobia obsession. Each chapter title is a phobia, and Zara lists phobias to calm herself down. It's a funny quirk that gives her character another dimension.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Pendragon by D.J. MacHale

Bobby Pendragon never thought he would save the world. In fact, he never thought past winning the county semifinals in basketball or kissing Courtney Chetwynde. So when his Uncle Press drags him into another world, he's understandably upset, shocked, and outraged. But there are bigger issues than basketball or even Courtney. There is a great evil at work on Denduron, the alternate dimension Bobby finds himself in, and he is expected to stop it.

The Merchant of Death is the beginning of a ten book series by D.J. MacHale, with one book per world (known as a territory). Throughout the series, Bobby realizes his destiny as a Traveler...saving the universe. Of course. It sounds corny, but MacHale unfolds the intricacies of Halla in a way that leaves you one step behind, and looking for more. The separate conflicts of the territories are tied together by the scheming of Saint Dane, certified Bad Guy, along with the other Travelers that Bobby meets. Most enjoyable are the distinct cultures with their own people, technology, and problems.

Written in journal format, Pendragon is a gripping read. Bobby's snarky comments can go overboard sometimes, but usually make me chuckle aloud. It's definitely worth the read, and even more so for fans of Harry who need a little magic.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated community without questioning the fact that her father has three wives and she has twenty brothers and sisters, with two more on the way. That is, without questioning them much--if you don't count her secret visits to the Ironton Coutny Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with Joshua, the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her.

But when the Prophet decrees that she must marry her sixty-year-old uncle--who already has six wives--Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family forever.

This tale is absolutely extraordinary. Powerfully written, it hits many themes, many of them controversial. The most dominant is religion, and when it goes too far: Kyra's community runs on the belief that for a man to get into heaven, he must have at least three wives and many children; a woman can only reach heaven with her husband's assistance. In addition, women have no choice about whom they marry: the match is either decreed by the Prophet or chosen by the man as one might pick a horse.

Sounds like something from centuries ago, right? The Chosen One is set in modern times, complete with computers (not that most of the Chosen get to use one) and Harry Potter (banned along with all other books that aren't the Bible).

Kyra's struggle for love and for freedom brings her off the page and into the heart.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Invitation Only by Kate Brian

She had to break all the rules to do it, but Reed is finally a Billings girl. Finally the best of the best at the elite Easton theory. In truth, the so-called friends that got her into Billings are still making her play Cinderella.

If that weren't enough, her boyfriend Thomas is still missing, and she's caught the eye of the most powerful student in school. Reed has plans to have it all, both acceptance and her perfect man, but will the means justify the ends?

This is the second book in the Private series. To be honest, I almost didn't pick it up because the first book was all about Reed losing her morals to become friends with cruel snobs. Invitation Only continues that theme, but I kept reading because I wanted to know how low she would sink next.

And wow, did she sink. Using a guy who totally loves her to find her missing boyfriend, even though a)she's disgusted by the guy, and b)said boyfriend broke up with her in a note? No one ever said high school was about the grades.

However, don't let my criticism of Reed's character stop you from reading. The novel was well-written, so if you like Clique-styled books, you'd probably enjoy it. There are many fashion details, and of course the Billings girls are keeping a wealth of secrets...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Seven Tears into the Sea by Terri Farley

Beckon to the sea,
I'll come to thee...
Shed seven tears,
Perchance seven years...

As a child, Gwen lived by the sea. One night, she met a mysterious boy who told her a haunting rhyme. Soon after, her family moved away, but she never forgot the boy.

Now, seven years later, Gwen is returning to her childhood home at the request of her nana. But by the sea, old dreams--and fears--are resurrected...

Powerful and compelling, Seven Tears is the type of book that is simply captivating. It dives into mythology, pulling on the Celtic myth of selkies, which are seals that can shed their skins to become human.

Apart from the mythology element, the characters are deep and well thought out. Gwen is understandably different when compared to her ten-year-old self, and she proves it when confronting Zack. And just as she is no longer the sweet little girl who fixed his bike, Zack is no longer afraid to take action. Their fights with their personal demons feed well into the overall plot.

The ending is not what I expected, and it's intense to the last page. For more discussion on it, keep reading.

SPOILER ALERT! I tried to make it harder to accidentally read the ending. Remember NOT to read until you've read the book!!!

Ohmygosh, this is a sad ending. I mentioned in my last post that I was traveling while reading these; on the airplane I was pounding my head with the book muttering "This can't happen. This can't happen." (If anyone thought I was crazy, at least I'll never see them again.) I realized what was about to happen several pages before Gwen did--as soon as the poem was fully explained--and I was trying to convince myself there would be a happy ending.

No luck. In the last six pages, my hope of Gwen and Jesse getting their happy ending died. I should have remembered from a selkie book I read years ago: selkies will always love the sea. Jesse didn't have a choice in the matter; he had to return. And even through my denial, I realized Gwen exhibits true love when she lets him leave.

Finally, switching to Jesse's perspective, past, present, and future are tied together, and leaves the hope of reunion.


How to Ruin a Summer Vacation by Simone Elkeles

I didn't get to post anything last week because I was on vacation. But long flights and longer layovers means I got to read quite a bit... On another note, I'm playing with my sidebar. Like the book release countdowns? I think I'll limit it to a couple at a time. (If anyone knows how to use, please let me know in the comments!) Now, on with the review...

Amy's father has no place in her life. He's usually good for a visit on her birthday, but that's about it. So when he announces that he's taking her to Israel, his homeland, Amy is rightfully ticked. Summer vacation has become summer torture, complete with intense security (she is in a war zone, after all), a cousin named after boogers, and a boy who is determined to hate her.

Amy's story is a fun read for the summer. She's a hilarious narrator, and she comments on everything. Even though it sometimes feels like a report for school (you know the classic, What I Did on My Summer Vacation), it's very readable and I actually learned some things about Israel.

Admittedly, I did find the storyline a bit predictable. Boy hates girl, girl doesn't know why, girl is attracted to guy, guy eventually softens up... wow, when put that way, it's like Twilight without the vampires! (just kidding)

But if you're looking for a light read, definitely check this one out. It has also expanded into a series, with sequels How to Ruin My Teenage Life and How to Ruin Your Boyfriend's Reputation(Oct '09)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Katsa has the gift of killing. In her world, people can be born with extreme skill, known as a Grace. Graces can be anything from archery skills to sensing storms to climbing trees, but Katsa is unlucky enough to be skilled at murder. Forced to serve her uncle, King Randa, she is feared by all as the king's killer.

In a world where people are born with an extreme skill--called a Grace--are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.
When she first meets Prince Po, who is graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po's friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace--or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away...a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

Not since Tamora Pierce have I read such a good sword-and-sorcery fantasy. The concept of Graces is unique, and varied enough that not all Gracelings are super human. These skills can range from fighting to climbing trees. And because of the more violent Graces, any Graceling is looked down upon and feared, no matter how innocent her Grace may be.

Katsa herself is a feminist heroine in a male-dominant time period. She is capable of taking down an entire army with ease, but balks at marriage because it would tie her down. At one point while she and Po are traveling together, she remarks, "You're welcome to do the hunting yourself. Perhaps I could stay by the fire and mend your socks, and scream if I hear any strange noises." Yet throughout the novel, Katsa must fight her inner demons and learn how to love.

For lovers of fantasy and strong female protagonists, this is definitely a must-read. It is also satisfyingly thick with 471 pages!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Naughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

In a world of racism, black Cross and white naughts just don't mix. Crosses are upper-class citizens, while naughts are just as their name suggests: nothings. Under these circumstances, Cross Sephy and naught Callum shouldn't be friends...and they definitely shouldn't love each other.

Callum and Sephy are forced to meet in secret. But when Callum's family becomes involved in a naught liberation movement, their differences cannot be ignored any longer...

Blackman's alternate reality is alarmingly similar to the real world. Crosses hold the powerful government positions. They control the justice system and the school system. When Callum goes to school as part of an integration attempt--1960s, anyone?--he notices that all the historical figures are Crosses. In addition, there are movements for equality. Some are nonviolent, but the Liberation Militia isn't afraid to bomb a shopping mall to get the message across.

At times, I found the writing style awkward--I felt like contractions were used at the oddest times, and character dialogue could seem a bit forced. However, it did not detract from the powerful plot line. There is also a huge twist at the end, which kept me on edge until the last page.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Midnight Predator by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Though she was once a happy teenager with a wonderful family and a full life, Turquoise Draka is now a hunter, committed to no higher purpose than making money and staying alive. In a deadly world of vampires, shape-shifters, and mercenaries, she'll track any prey if the price is right.
Her current assignment: to assassinate Jeshikah, one of the cruelest vampires in history. Her employer: an unknown contact who wants the job done fast. Her major obstacle: she'll have to hide her strength and enter Midnight, a fabled vampire realm, as a human slave...

From the first book I read by her, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes captivated me. Not only was she first published at 15, her books are good. The Den of Shadows series is an intricate world of vampires, and although they share the same rules, each is a stand-alone story.

We see many sides to Turquoise as the book progresses. The first impression is a dedicated and deadly hunter. Once in Midnight, however, her reality is shaken by meeting Jaguar; at the same time flashbacks show how Turquoise entered the world of vampires and why she needed to freeze her heart.

Midnight Predator captivated me, and I have gone back to reread it several times. It's simply delicious for vampire lovers.

***Edit: The cover above is actually a reprint. Which appeals more to you, the newer version or this original artwork? I think that's Jaguar on this version, and Turquoise on the newer one. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

The Journey Begins

I am a reader. I read like I am starved for words, like my hunger can never be sated. I am also a writer. I have tried my hand at poetry, short stories, even full-blown novels. Now I am attempting a new style of writing: book reviews.

I will be reviewing YA books, primarily fiction. I favor fantasy and realistic fiction (how's that for a tension of opposites?), but will try nearly anything. On occasion, I may even review Japanese manga.

I invite you to join my on this journey.