Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey

This book will be available in January 2010.

Grade: B


Synopsis:

Solange Drake always knew she was destined to become a vampire queen. And as the only female vampire ever born, not made, she is surrounded by danger on all sides--from vampire suitors who want to join with her lineage to bounty hunters who are set on destroying her and her family. When she is kidnapped, it's up to her older brother Nicholas and her human best friend, Lucy, to save her. But can Lucy save herself from Nicholas, who tempts her with his every look? And what will be Solange's own fate if she surrenders her heart to the vampire hunter helping her survive the deadly intrigue at the royal court?

Rating:

Character Development: 8/10
Originality: 5/10
Overall Enjoyment: 6/10
Ending: 8/10
Voice: 7/10
Plot: 6/10
Setting: 6/10
Total Score: 47/70

Obtained: Free copy provided by publisher.

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cussing: Quite frequently.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: None.
Sexual Content: Suggestive comments, but no actual scenes.
Disturbing Images/Violence: A lot of supernatural violence, murder, blood, gore, etc.

Review:

Hearts at Stake surprised me. Vampire romance novels, while they seem to be the craze, are not my kind of book. And this was not my kind of book, either, but I actually found myself enjoying it. The plot was exciting and interesting, though occasionally confusing, and Alyxandra Harvey managed to incorporate the vampires without being too cliche.

Though the romance at times seemed unrealistically fast-paced (characteristic of this genre), the actual content and development was quite believable. I didn't care much for many of the characters, but their story was a good one.

The story is told through the alternating perspectives of Lucy and Solange. While their voices were strikingly (and confusingly) similar, the two characters were excellent protagonists. Most of the time I preferred reading Lucy, but toward the end Solange had the more interesting chapters.

I will probably not read the second installment in The Drake Chronicles, but I will pick up Alyxandra Harvey's next books, a Gothic Victorian series. Her writing is attractive and well-constructed, and she managed the whole superhuman-vampire thing with grace. So if you are one of those people that simply adore this genre, this would be a fantastic book for you to choose. If not, well...better luck next time.

LINKS:

Alyxandra Harvey

NOTE: There are two trailers for this book, but I chose not to include them because I think they give a bad representation of the book. And they're just annoying. But, if you really want to see them, click here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Going Bovine by Libba Bray


Grade: A


Synopsis:
All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school—and life in general—with a minimum of 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 totally sucks. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible 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 a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most.

Ratings:
Character Development: 9/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 6/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 6/10
Plot: 8/10
Setting: 9/10
Total Score: 57/70

Obtained: Free copy received by Delacorte Press.

Age Appropriate?
Cussing: Lots.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc.: Teen use of illegal drugs and teen drinking.
Sexual Content: Yes.
Disturbing Images/ Violence: An array of things, none too bad.

Review:
This book is a huge bundle of wackiness and hilarity. Yet the amount of randomness was just a bit too much, causing a loss of laughs and a lot of confusion. Reading this, I felt like I was swimming through water and watching a blur of scenes pass me by while I struggled to reach the surface.

Libba Bray is a good writer. There is no doubt about that. Her characters and plot are spot on. But, for me, Going Bovine was just too much craziness. Of course, I'm not much of a comedy reader, so the joke may be on me for not enjoying this book. I can see this book being turned into an uproariously funny movie though. You are probably thinking How can she enjoy a movie version, but not the book? Because this kind of humour seems meant to be said aloud.

Going Bovine is quite an epic tale... a whopping 480 pages of intense plot, randomness, and goofiness. I thought I would love this book (I am a very goofy and random person... and I adored Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle Trilogy), but it didn't hit home for me. Though it was not my pot of honey, I would not discourage you from reading it, because you may really enjoy it.

LINKS:
Interview Video

Libba Bray's Site

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Full Moon by Rachel Hawthorne

Grade: A

Synopsis:
Lindsey has always known that Connor was her destined mate, but this summer as her full moon approaches, she finds herself dreaming about darkly handsome and silent Rafe. When the others are captured by their enemies, she and Rafe must work together to save them. As they spend time together, Lindsey will come to realize that some dangers come from within as she is forced to face her true feelings for Connor and Rafe. One is a friend. The other is her true love. But listening to her heart could cost her everything.

Ratings:

Character Development: 6/10
Originality: 5/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: 7/10
Voice: 6/10
Plot: 7/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 49/70

Obtained: Bought at B&N.

Age Appropriate?
Cussing: Occasionally
Drugs, Alcohol, etc.: Teen drinking.
Sexual Content: None.
Disturbing Images/ Vi0lence: Murder.

Review:
Full Moon wasn't as big of a hit for me as Moonlight was. I'm not sure if it's a change in my reading opinion or that this story was lacking what the other had.

Lindsey's voice was somewhat annoying to read. The repetition of her thoughts throughout the book was tiring; not much variety. Her character fell completely flat for me, as did many of the secondary characters.

In the end, everything worked out a bit too perfectly. Which is a little obnoxious to me... in real life, is everything perfect? Is everyone happy? Not really...

But the truth is, this book is still simply a fun read. It's dramatic, romantic, and quick to read. This series is something to check out when you're in the mood for a lighthearted, enjoyable book.
LINKS:
Moonlight Review (Yeah, my views are a bit different...)

Rachel Hawthorne's Site

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

CAPTIVATE CONTEST!


Were you captivated by Carrie Jones' first novel, NEED?

Are you pining for the sequel?

ENTER TO WIN
an ARC of Carrie Jones' January 2010 release


CAPTIVATE

Synopsis:


Zara and her friends knew they hadn't solved the pixie problem for good. Far from it. The king's needs grow deeper every day he's stuck in captivity, while his control over his pixies gets weaker. So when a new, younger pixie kind shows up, war is imminent. The new kind, Astley, claims he's not evil, that his pixies can coexist peacefully with humans and weres. Zara's boyfriend, Nick, isn't buying it; no pixie could possibly be good guy. But Zara is half pixie herself, and she is just starting to think Astley could be right when Astley lets her in on another secret: he believes Zara's relationship with Nick is about to come to an end -- and that she is fated to be his queen...

CONTEST DETAILS:

Open worldwide.

Comment to enter!
(be sure to include an email address or contact information)

+1 for old and new followers!

+1 for promoting this contest elsewhere

CONTEST ENDS JANUARY 1st.
Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

This book will be available in the US on December 22, 2009 and in the UK on January 1, 2010.

Grade: A+

Synopsis:

Nimira is a music-hall girl used to dancing for pennies. So when wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to sing accompaniment to a mysterious piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it will be the start of a better life. In Parry's world, long-buried secrets are about to stir. Unsettling rumors begin to swirl about ghosts, a madwoman roaming the halls, and Parry’s involvement in a group of corrupt sorcerers for whom the rules of the living and dead are meant to be broken for greater power. When Nimira discovers the spirit of a dashing fairy gentleman is trapped within the automaton, she is determined to break the curse. But even as the two fall into a love that seems hopeless, breaking the curse becomes a perilous race against time. Because it's not just the future of these star-crossed lovers that's at stake, but the fate of the entire magical world.

Ratings:

Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 8/10
Voice: 10/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 67/70

Obtained: Free ARC provided by publisher (BLOOMSBURY)

Age Appropriate?

Cussing: Some, but very little.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Some references to drunkenness, but very little.
Sexual Content: None.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Not much... Nothing that sticks out in my mind, anyway.

Review:

Magic Under Glass defies all of my expectations! It is an enormous reminder of all the things that make literature awesome -- magic and intrigue and adventure and true love and culture and war and sorcerers, oh my! As I read this book, I was brought back to the earlier years of fairy tales and princesses. But Magic Under Glass isn't a book for wishful middle grade readers. It is a fairy tale with bite!

Set in a world that makes me step back and say "whoa" with my mouth hanging open, this novel follows many of the same paths as Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, but it also resembles steam-punk literature and fantasy. It is a strange mixture, to be sure, but Dolamore certainly pulled it off beautifully. Her detailed world is at once easy to imagine and impossible to comprehend, yet I was never confused or bored by her narrative. Her writing is thoughtful, intelligent, and graceful. I was hooked from the start.

For all that it is a "fairy tale" (of sorts), Magic Under Glass was utterly cheese-less. Nothing was cliche, nothing had me rolling my eyes or sighing. The whole thing was as original as it gets. Forget Prince Charming! Instead have a cursed automaton! Away with damsels in distress! Here's a foreign dancer trapped in the dregs of society! Think fairies are cute and twinkly? No! They're just magical people who may or may not be completely evil!

Prepare to be blown away.

LINKS:

Jaclyn Dolamore
Dade W. Bell (to whom the book is published and creator of the trailer below--might be interesting)
Jane Eyre review

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Exodus by Julie Bertagna

Grade: A+

Synopsis:

Less than a hundred years from now, the world as we know it no longer exists. Cities have disappeared beneath the sea, technology no longer functions, and human civilization has reverted to a much more primitive state.

For the residents of Wing, an isolated northern island, time is running out. As the sea swallows precious acres and threatened to claim their very lives, they must look beyond their tiny island home for refuge.

Only fifteen-year-old Mara has the vision and the will to lead them all in search of a new beginning in this harsh, unfamiliar world. She learn of sky cities that are safe from the storms and rising water, and she is finally able to convince the islanders that finding their way to New Mungo, the closest of the New World cities, is their only chance for survival. But upon reaching the mysterious high-tech civilization, they are shut out of the city, blocked from their only chance at sanctuary. Mara must find a way past the walls to save her people, even if it means risking everything.

Ratings:

Character Development: 8/10
Originality: 9/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 9/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 63/70

Obtained: Public Library.

Age Appropriate?

Cussing: Some, but very limited.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: Few mentions of alcohol.
Sexual Content: None.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Plague and famine, graphic death, child slavery.

Review:

What a vivid book! Though it took me a LONG time to read for no apparent reason (it's not very long), I never lost interest in it or considered giving it up. The story was a fascinating look at our future if we continue to kill the Earth. I am impressed by Julie Bertagna's predictions and the way she contained this message in a book that isn't dry as a bone by any means, but exciting and fascinating.

The world of 2099 flooding Earth is a strange one indeed, but it makes for an epic storyline. Mara was a wonderful character that I connected with on many levels, and her journey was realistically paced yet enthralling. The many sides of this devastated world that she sees provoke thought. From the one-time haven of the island of Wing to the dark and dreary netherworld where life manages to flourish to the hypertechno New World cities in the sky, this world was created with a wise scientific eye.

Fans of The Hunger Games would love this book, I think. It has the same brilliant adventure-story feel to it and the futuristic scene is not overwhelming. I laud Bertagna for this creation! Read it.

LINKS:

Julie Bertagna

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Interview with Shannon Hale!

Shannon Hale is the author of some fantastic young adult fiction, as well as adult,
including The Books of Bayern,
Princess Acadamy,
Book of a Thousand Days,
and Austenland.
She has also collaborated with her husband to write the graphic novel, Rapunzel's Revenge.

What has been the most challenging aspect of your writing?

Just doing it every day. There are a thousand easier things to do with my time. I’d love to use a spare hour to read, or watch a show, or nap, or cook or clean up my crazy house. But ignoring all the other pestery and tempting demands and just writing is always the challenge.


Which of your books have you most enjoyed writing?

Book of a Thousand Days. Dashti was such a joy to spend time with. She’s very different than I am, but so precious to me now. And I really liked doing diary format, though that was challenging. I loved working on Rapunzel’s Revenge, too, because collaboration is so rare in the lock-myself-up world of novel writing. Getting to plot with my husband was such fun. And receiving pages from illustrator Nate Hale was like Christmas. Also, my book for adults The Actor and the Housewife was a delight to do (except that one part…).

How has writing about other characters taught you about yourself? About people in general?

Getting inside a character’s head as a writer is different than as a reader. As a reader, we can sometimes fool ourselves, make the character more like us, ignore some and create the story in our own heads. But as a writer, I’m forced inside the head of another character in a very intimate way. I have to see the world through her eyes and understand why she does what she does. I do think this has made me more tolerant, less quick to judge or condemn others. After all, if I knew their whole story, I’m sure I would understand.


What is your writing process?

Sit down and do it. And maybe eat some candy.

How do you come up with the names for your characters/places/things?

In the first draft, I write the first name that pops into my head. Then later in rewrites when I know the characters better, I question all the names and change most of them. Often I use names from a particular culture when I want to invoke that culture into my setting. Mongolian root words became the names in Book of a Thousand Days, Scandinavian names for Princess Academy, Germanic for the folks from Bayern, etc. Some I just make up.

What was your inspiration for each of your books?

Oh boy, that’s a really involved question. I’ve written ten books, and each has many sources of inspiration. I have lots of information on my website about how each of my books came to be: http://www.shannonhale.com/


What are your interests outside of the literature world?

I have two little kids, so playing with them and taking care of them makes up most of my life. I like hanging with my husband and kicking his butt at video games (or vice versa...usually vice versa).


What things could you not live life without?

Food, water, oxygen, the usual. I would prefer not to live without a bed and indoor plumbing. I wouldn’t want to live without my family. Then there’s also the matter of the ancient Egyptian amulet that extends my life beyond a mortal’s years and grants me inhuman strength, if you want to get nit-picky.

Who or what most inspired you to become a writer and when?

I always loved making up stories. In fourth grade, our teacher, Mrs. Spackman, got us writing stories and poems and I first declared that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

What is most unique about your writing?

The fact that all of the words are edible. Each one can be peeled off the page and sucked on the tongue. Not all are delicious, but many have a slightly sweet or tangy flavor, and some are downright spicy. And every once in a while, you get a word of indescribable flavor, so delicious, so filling, the essence of it lingers for hours and makes your belly feel full.


Coming January 2010 from Shannon Hale...


A sequel to the highly acclaimed Rapunzel's Revenge, team Hale has delivered an all-new, hilarious tall tale about Jack, his beanstalk…and his best-friend-with-wicked-braids, Rapunzel.

Jack likes to think of himself as a criminal mastermind…with an unfortunate amount of bad luck. A schemer, plotter, planner, trickster, swindler…maybe even thief? One fine day Jack picks a target a little more giant than the usual, and one little bean turns into a great big building-destroying beanstalk.

With help from Rapunzel (and her trusty braids), a pixie from Jack's past, and a man with inventions from the future, they just might out-swindle the evil giants and put his beloved city back in the hands of good people ….while catapulting themselves and readers into another fantastical adventure.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

NOTE: This is a classic.

Grade: A

Synopsis:

Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person-- no mean feat for a black woman in the '30s. Janie's quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots.






Rating:

Character Development: 10/10 (whoa)
Originality: 9/10
Overall Enjoyment: 7/10
Ending: 6/10
Voice: 10/10
Plot: 7/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 59/70

Obtained: Bought on Amazon.com

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cussing: Frequently throughout.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Some drinking and drunkenness. A limited amount of smoking.
Sexual Content: Some erotic moments and implied sexual content.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Illness, madness, domestic violence.

Review:

This is probably one of the best books I have had to read for school. Seriously, if you have the choice, read Their Eyes Were Watching God. Though it is the reason my life has been on hold for a week (hence the lack of posts...) it was completely worthwhile.

In order to enjoy this story, you really have to cage up the grammar freak within you. You have to kick the perfect-diction nerd out of your mind and let the rolling Southern tongue capture your heart and paint the perfect pictures in your head. Hurston effortlessly bleeds thoughts into narration, poetry into storytelling, and symbolism into everyday life. She tells the story of an independent woman who is caged in by those who think they know best for her. I can see why it's a classic. I mean, who can't identify with that?

Janie's story is touching and extremely enthralling. Her practical yet passionate voice easily captures the audience. The story itself may seem a little boring, but when combined with Zora Neale Hurston's masterful storytelling, a plethora of universal themes, crafty symbolism, and Janie's lovable character, a very memorable novel is born. Read it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Heat Wave Contest

Ready for another contest?
Enter to win Heat Wave by Richard Castle

Synopsis:

A New York real estate tycoon plunges to his death on a Manhattan sidewalk. A trophy wife with a past survives a narrow escape from a brazen attack. Mobsters and moguls with no shortage of reasons to kill trot out their alibis. And then, in the suffocating grip of a record heat wave, comes another shocking murder and a sharp turn in a tense journey into the dirty little secrets of the wealthy. Secrets that prove to be fatal. Secrets that lay hidden in the dark until one NYPD detective shines a light.

Mystery sensation Richard Castle, blockbuster author of the wildly best-selling Derrick Storm novels, introduces his newest character, NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat. Tough, sexy, professional, Nikki Heat carries a passion for justice as she leads one of New York City's top homicide squads. She's hit with an unexpected challenge when the commissioner assigns superstar magazine journalist Jameson Rook to ride along with her to research an article on New York's Finest. PulitzerPrize-winning Rook is as much a handful as he is handsome. His wise-cracking and meddling aren't her only problems. As she works to unravel the secrets of the murdered real estate tycoon, she must also confront the spark between them. The one called heat.


LINKS:

abc.com (preview the book here)

Amazon

CONTEST INFO:

Leave a comment with your name and email to be entered.

Winners will be determined with the Random Number Generator.

Contest ends January 2, 2010

Good luck!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Being Nikki Winner

The winner is...
Addicted Book Reader
Congratulations!

Keep posted, everyone, for new contests coming up. :)

Book Swim

"Request, Receive, Read, Return: Repeat!"
BookSwim is a new book rental program, the first online library. It's sort of like Netflix, book style.
Information:
  • No due dates, no late fees.
  • You can rent up to seven books at a time
  • Large book selection
  • Free shipping
  • If you like the book, you can purchase it
  • Billing starts at $9.95 a month

For additional information and to find out if BookSwim is something you'd be interested in, head over to the site: http://www.bookswim.com/index.html.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman

Grade: A

Synopsis:

Persephone lives in the most gorgeous palace in the world. But her mother's a goddess, as overprotective as she is powerful. Paradise has become a trap. Just when Persephone feels there's no chance of escaping the life that's been planned for her, a mysterious stranger arrives. A stranger who promises something more--something dangerous and exciting--something that spurs Persephone to make a daring choice. A choice that could destroy all she's come to love, even the earth itself.

Rating:

Character Development: 7/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 7/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 6/10
Plot: 9/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 58/70

Obtained: Bought from Recycled Books.

Age Appropriate? PG

Cussing: The (seemingly random) use of the "D" word. It was quite out of place, but oh well...
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: None.
Sexual Activity: Implied.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Child slavery.

Review:

An interesting twist on a rarely-twisted tale. This book is not what I expected. It's very Ancient Greek without being dry, very mythical without being distant or unbelievable, very accessible despite being a retelling, and surprisingly interesting. It tied in well with the original story, though at some points I felt Persephone's motivation was lacking. Or maybe that was just her being naive... It was hard to tell sometimes.

While I did genuinely like Persephone, I thought that she was a fool. The author often manipulated the character into being a spokesperson for certain themes and morals that felt incongruous and unnecessary to the plot. At times, this caused a childish "Mother Goose Effect" that occasionally made me shudder. But, aside from this small detail, the characters were very well executed, particularly Hades; his and Persephone's relationship was wrought with care, depth, and understanding. This was probably my favorite aspect of the story.

Unfortunately, I had a small issue with the writing. The narration was mostly flawless, very clean-cut and honest. It was the voice that grated on my nerves. The story would be gliding along pleasantly with the tone of a Greek storyteller and then BAM! Out of nowhere would come a random modern phrase or term that would take me out of that world altogether and leave me staring confusedly at the page.

But for those of us with a passion for Greek myth and an interest in retellings, there is no better book. Emily Whitman has created a unique version of Persephone and her story, but remains deeply respectful of the myth itself. No prior knowledge is necessary, for this book will give you a decent understanding of the Grecian way of life, an avid interest in their myths, and a love for their gods.

LINKS:

Emily Whitman
Persephone - The Original

Monday, November 30, 2009

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

Grade: A+

Synopsis:

It's hard not to notice Terra Cooper.

She's tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably "flawed" face. Terra secretly plans to leave her small, stifling town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college, but gets pushed off course by her controlling father. When an unexpected collision puts Terra directly into Jacob's path, the handsome but quirky Goth boy immediately challenges her assumptions about herself and her life, and she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find her true path?

Rating:

Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 9/10
Overall Enjoyment: 10/10
Ending: 10/10
Voice: 10/10
Plot: 9/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 68/70

Obtained: Bought from good ole Barnes & Noble. :-)

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cussing: Some, but nothing too bad...
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: A small amount of teen drinking.
Sexual Content: Implied sexual activity; speculation, narration, images, etc, but nothing too too explicit.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Graphic images of poverty.

Review:

North of Beautiful is a book that will redefine your concept of beauty.

It was such a mind-blowing experience, reading this story. Justina Chen Headley has something to say, and she says it well with the heartfelt, deep voice of Terra, who has suffered through life believing that she is hideous and unlovable because of a mark on her cheek and a tyrannical father. We can all relate, I'm sure.

The characters of this novel were carefully, perfectly crafted. All of them were fascinatingly real, decidedly human. Flawed. And all the better for it. Jacob was positively enthralling, completely unlike any boy I've every met in fiction. He was wise and thought-provoking, yet young and broken like everyone else. His and Terra's relationship was achingly real, tangible, tear-jerking...beautiful.

This book will touch you. It will change you. It will make you so unbelievably happy and so unbelievably sad. The vivid settings of average-American Colville and busy-and-bright China will take your breath away. The frighteningly powerful character of her father will terrorize you, just as the gentle helplessness of her mother will distress you, and the lively, wonderful character of Jacob will revitalize you. This book will hold you, peel back the layers of your life, and make you really see the world for what it is: a beautiful thing.

LINKS:

Justina Chen Headley's site
The Find Beauty Challenge!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dawn by Kevin Brooks

(American version titled DAWN; cover image not available)

Grade: B


Synopsis:

Dawn Bundy lives in a cave. In her head. Where she's been hiding for two years.

Hiding behind headphones. From the two hottest girls at school, in their impossibly short skirts and unbearably tight tops, their razor-sharp cheekbones and taut, smooth shoulders close enough to touch.

Not talking to her mother, not about what matters.

Not thinking about her dad, the drug addict, the ex-con, born-again but far gone.

Two years is a long time. Enough for the cave to grow so small that her breath feels like stone in her throat.

Two years is no time at all. Nowhere near enough to forget. To pretend that nothing happened. Deep one perfect morning.

Rating:

Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 9/10
Overall Enjoyment: 5/10
Ending: 5/10
Voice: 6/10
Plot: 7/10
Setting: 7/10
Total Score: 49/70

Obtained: Finished copy sent by publisher (Chicken House--SCHOLASTIC USA)

Age Appropriate? R

Cussing: Quite frequently, some rather offensive language.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Lots of teen drinking and drunkenness; a lot of smoking and drug use by teens and adults.
Sexual Content: Implied rape and some same-sex speculation, etc.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Murder, graphic images, rape.

Review:

There was something very feverish about this book, some kind of hazy fogginess to the writing. It wasn't difficult to read, but the distant tone made it hard to read with a clear head. It was almost like a dream at some points. This quality was directly related to Dawn's situation, to her character, and it made the book frighteningly believable, even if it was a little disconnected to reality.

Kevin Brooks' writing is curious. Although technically the book is written from Dawn's point of view, I would argue that it is written from the perspective of Dawn's brain. There is so much rambling and thought-process and random memories and sensations that aren't usually included in writing, but here made it all the more effective. By weaving in song lyrics and themes related to the 80's band The Jesus and Mary Chain, Brooks creates a poetic, emotional story of struggle, pain, forgiveness, and love.

Dawn (or Killing God in the UK) has cynical religious undertones (hence the UK title. cough cough) that really put in perspective Dawn's personal struggle. It was a touch that added interest, intrigue, and a little horror. Why does she want to kill God? Why does she ostracize herself from society? Why is there a cave in her head? There's only one way to find out...

LINKS:

The Jesus and Mary Chain Official Site
Darklands (JAMC, 1987) Lyrics

(this is the album that is most influential in the novel)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Book Drum

Check out this awesome new site, taking the steps to add another dimmension to this beautiful world of literature we all love!

And they're looking for people to help.

Do you want to be a part of it?

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle

GRADE: A+

Synopsis:

Hallow Hill has a strange and tragic history. For thousands of years, young women have been vanishing from the estate, never to be seen again. Now Kate and Emily have come to live at Hallow Hill. Brought up in a civilized age, they have no idea of the land’s dreadful heritage. Until, that is, Marak decides to tell them himself.

Intelligent, pleasant, and completely pitiless, Marak is a powerful magician who claims to be a King—and he has very specific plans for the two new girls who have trespassed into his kingdom.

Rating:
Character Development: 8/10
Originality: 9/10
Overall Enjoyment: 10/10
Ending: 10/10
Voice: 9/10
Plot: 8/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 64 /70

Obtained: Birthday present from family.

Age Appropriate? PG
Cussing: I can't remember any...
Alcohol, drugs, etc.: None.
Sexual Content: No scenes.
Disturbing Images/ Violence: Gory and disgusting details of violence

Review:
This was my second time to read The Hollow Kingdom, and the second time was just as good, if not better, than the first. This is a fantastical story like no other. Dunkle's writing is beautiful, true, and easy to read. The world she paints in her readers' mind will forever be imprinted there and will be practically impossible to escape from.

The characters are so intriguing and so believable. You are constantly learning new things about them that make you love them even more! Kate is a strong female protagonist that is impossible to dislike. And Marak, the goblin King, is a masterfully created character.

The magical kingdom of Hallow Hill is enchanting to read about, and its inhabitants even more so. I suggest that you give this trilogy a try. You won't be disappointed.

LINKS:

Clare B. Dunkle's site

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Can't Keep My Own Secrets by Teens Famous + Obscure


Grade: A+

Synopsis:
One life. Six words. What's yours?

True tales of love, loss, good friends, and bad hair days filled Not Quite What I Was Planning, the New York Times bestselling first book in the Six-Word Memoir series—and an international phenomenon. Some of the most compelling were by teens, so now SMITH Magazine has compiled a book written entirely by these bold, brash truth-tellers. From cancer to creativity, prom dates to promiscuity, and breaking hearts to breaking laws, the memoirs in this collection reveal that often the youngest writers have the most fascinating stories to tell.

Obtained: Mooched from Jill (Reading is Bliss)

Age Appropriate? PG
Just a couple curse words.
Brief mentions of sexual content.
Brief mentions of drugs.
Some sad/somewhat disturbing six words.
Overall, it's not bad.

Review:
It is amazing how, in only six words, an entire heart can be read, an entire story can be told. Phenomenal. Reading about other teens in this way will assure you that you are not alone. It will force you to become aware of the mental turmoil people are in around you. It will make you laugh, and it will make you wonder.

This collection of words is like no other. Six words hold the deepest thoughts and feelings of real life teens. Buy it. Own it. Read it.

LINKS:

SMITH magazine Six Word Memoirs
(submit your own!)
SMITH TEEN Six Word Memoirs

Friday, November 20, 2009

Breakfast at Bloomingdale's by Kriten Kemp

Grade: C

Synopsis:

Cat's come to New York City with a dream: to be a fashion designer and see her name on a label at Bloomingdale's. But she soon finds that the competition--and the city--is tougher than she expected. It's not a perfect fit, but she's willing to make adjustments. Because after all, there are friends to be made, boys to flirt with, amazements to be found, and the possibility that all her dreams might just come true.

Rating:

Character Development: 6/10
Originality: 6/10
Overall Enjoyment: 4/10
Ending: 5/10
Voice: 6/10
Plot: 4/10
Setting: 7/10
Total Score: 38/70

Obtained: Free copy sent by publisher (POINT)

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cussing: Quite frequently throughout.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Teenage drinking and drunkenness, references to drug use, smoking, etc.
Sexual Content: No actual scenes, but lots of narration/discussion/speculation/etc
Disturbing Images/Violence: Some mentally disturbed characters.

Review:

My expectations for this book weren't high, and they were met. Reading this book was like watching a bad Chick Flick movie on TV--very little character, almost no emotional connection, and idiotic characters. Cat, the protagonist, was a moron. She is exactly the kind of person that, in real life, I would avoid because of her shallowness, girly-girl-ness, and whiny nature.

The story attempted to provoke emotion, but I was dead inside. I didn't care about the characters, I didn't care about any of it really. Mostly I just wanted to finish the book so it would be over and done with. However, the author did a wonderful job of describing New York City and clearly had a vast knowledge of the fashion industry and sewing craft. It was fascinating, some of the descriptions of clothing being designed and put together. I envy Cat's skills, if nothing else.

Overall, if you're into quirky, mindless reading with mild suspense and interesting, if shallow, characters (and if you're interested in fashion design) Breakfast at Bloomingdale's is a good book for you.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Beautiful Creatures Again!

I read this book back in June, and loved it so much that I posted my review then. Beautiful Creatures will be in stores December 1, and I want to share my thoughts with you on it once again! So here you go:

Synopsis:
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps, and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.


Rating:
Character Development: 8/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 10/10
Voice: 8/10
Setting: 8/10
Recommendation: 10/10
Total Score: 63/ 70
Grade: A+

Age Appropriate?
Cussing: Yes, occasionally.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc.: Not where the main characters are involved.
Sexual Content: Suggestive in conversation, depends on interpretation.
Disturbing Images/ Violence: Bloodiness in some scenes.

Review:

Kami Garcia and Margret Stohl have crafted a brilliant start to The Caster Chronicles. The flow from scene to scene is seamless, even if time elapses between them. The uses of flashback and foreshadowing were well placed and very effective. And the plot! The plot was masterly constructed, its depth and believability was obvious from the first chapter. This book is 626 pages, but not one of the pages holds boredom for the reader.

The setting, a small Southern town, was unbearable at the beginning. But as soon as I got further into the novel, I realized it was supposed to be. Ethan didn’t like Gatlin; we didn’t like Gatlin. It was almost suffocating to read; which was exactly the effect that I think the authors were aiming for. As soon as Lena came, Ethan’s life changed, and though his outlook of Gatlin was the same, it was easier to bear because Lena was with him. This made it less of a burden for the reader, as well.

The characterization of the main characters was amazing. The secondary characters were very stereotypical, but this method helped to set the main characters apart and different than the rest of the town.

The themes incorporated into Beautiful Creatures were perfectly portrayed: that everything in life is balanced. Happiness is balanced with sadness, fate with choice, darkness with light, gold with green. This book will disappoint no one. As soon as you read this, you will be anxiously awaiting the second installment in The Caster Chronicles.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tess of the D'urbervilles by Thomas Hardy


Grade: A+

Synopsis:
When Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D'urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting her 'cousin' Alec proves to be her downfall. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer her love and salvation, but Tess must choose whether to reveal her past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future.


Rating:
Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 7/10
Overall Enjoyment: 5/10
Ending: 7/10
Voice: 7/10
Plot: 8/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 64/70

Obtained: Bought.

Age Appropriate? PG-13
Cussing: Some, but very limited.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Drinking.
Sexual Content: Implied sexual activity/ rape.
Disturbing Images/Violence: A few graphic deaths.

Review:

As classical novels go, I actually enjoyed this one. Though the pages seemed eternal and there were tedious details of every little thing, this novel was written beautifully and contains a tragic and heartbreaking story.

The intense character development was obvious. The inner turmoil of each character was honest, believable, and frustrating (in a good way). When the hugest of changes came about in the characters, it was authentic and convincing.

The plot was also extremely detailed. Every minuscule event had a purpose to be discovered later on. The relationships between the characters and theirs to the plot was flawless and true. My only complaint is that some conflict was drawn out to the point of exasperation; and some events seemed to repeat themselves multiple times in different settings.

The ending is unnerving and powerful. The novel is dark and passionate. The story takes forever to read, but is worth it. :)

Being Nikki Contest

Enter for a chance to win Being Nikki by Meg Cabot:
Comment with
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Contest ends DECEMBER 1
Winners will be determined with the random number gernerator.
LINKS:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Mark by Jen Nadol

This book will be available January 19th, 2010.

Grade: A+

Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Cassie Renfield has always seen the mark--a light glow reminiscent of candlelight--but it's not until she follows a man to his death that she understands what it means. Cassie can see when a person is marked for death. She doesn't know how or where, only when: today.

When the mark appears on Cassie's grandmother, she tries and fails to change her fate. The mark seems utterly useless, but Cassie can't ignore it. Desperate for answers, she searches her memories, her summer philosophy course, even her new boyfriend, Lucas, for any clue that might explain her fate each time the mark appears. Cassie's not entirely sure she should use the mark like this, but with each occurrence, she finds answers she needs--answers she never expected.

Rating:

Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 8/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 10/10
Plot: 8/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 64/70

Obtained: Free ARC provided by publisher (BLOOMSBURY)

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cussing: Littered throughout.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Some teen drinking.
Sexual Content: Implied sexual activity.
Disturbing Images/Violence: A few graphic deaths; one suicide; some rather disturbing images of insanity, etc.

Review:

I expected this book to be good--and it was. Enjoyable, intriguing, tortured, and dramatic, this book is deep, thoughtful, and philosophical while simultaneously being a seriously good piece of writing. The Mark is an intense two-hundred-something pages, and each one is worth it.

Cassandra was a perfectly likeable character, just good enough to be endearing, just flawed enough to be human, just confused enough to be a real teenager, yet mature enough to be one too. Her thought-process and narration were believable, easily relatable, and made for a good story. Her relationship with other characters, particularly Lucas, was so realistic as to be almost frightening. As her feelings toward him changed, mine did--and it was wholly through characterization that I felt this way, through his own actions and Cassie's reactions.

Jen Nadol's debut is an earthbound story that questions life, ethics, happiness, and love in a smoothly riveting way. It's not just another supernatural love story or a cliched "Sixth Sense"-like fantasy novel, but a statement about our world and our fate. The magic and the twisted reality and the hot guy aren't what's important in this novel. The journey, the depth, the insight--that's what carries the weight of The Mark.

LINKS:

Jen Nadol

AuthorsNow

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

Grade: B

Synopsis:

If Naomi had picked tails, she would have won the coin toss. She wouldn't have had to go back for the yearbook camera, and she wouldn't have hit her head on the steps. She wouldn't have woken up in an ambulance with amnesia. She certainly would have remembered her boyfriend, Ace. She might even have remembered why she fell in love with him in the first place. She would understand why her best friend, Will, keeps calling her "Chief". She'd know about her mom's new family. She's know about her dad's fiancee. She never would have met James, the boy with the questionable past and the even fuzzier future, who tells her he once wanted to kiss her. She wouldn't have wanted to kiss him back.

Rating:

Character Development: 6/10
Originality: 8/10
Overall Enjoyment: 6/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 7/10
Setting: 8/10
Plot: 6/10
Total Score: 50/70

Obtained: Library.

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cussing: Some throughout.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: Teen drinking and drunkenness, teen smoking and drug use.
Sexual Content: No actual scenes, but a lot of discussion/narration/etc.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Teen depression and attempted suicide.

Review:

I have heard both great things and terrible things about this book. As it turns out, it falls directly between the two for me. While I enjoyed reading it, I was disconnected from any kind of emotional feedback through the whole story. I didn't care what happened to Naomi. I hated both of her love interests, Ace and James. I hated her.

The writing style was very accessible and smooth, mimicking the voice of a teenage girl perfectly. Naomi's troubled seemed realistic enough, but her actions and emotions seemed false. She was pretty bipolar, moody, unfaithful with her feelings that it made keeping up with her rather difficult.

However, there were some good points to the story. Her past, her history, the amnesia--these things added depth and insight and made reading it not only bearable but acceptably interesting. While I was expecting the amnesia to be slightly more important, it certainly added to the book. Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac turned out to be a charming modern-day love story with lots of quirks.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte


Grade: A+


Synopsis:

Poor and plain, Jane Eyre begins life as a lonely orphan in the household of her hateful aunt. Despite the oppression she endures at home, and the later torture of boarding school, Jane manages to emerge with her spirit and integrity unbroken. She becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she finds herself falling in love with her employer--the dark, impassioned Mr. Rochester. But an explosive secret tears apart their relationship, forcing Jane to face poverty and isolation once again.

Rating:

Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 7/10
Ending: 8/10
Voice: 9/10
Plot: 9/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 63/70

NOTE: As this book is a 19th century classic, these scores aren't entirely reliable.

Obtained: Bought from Barnes & Noble Booksellers

Age Appropriate? G

Cussing: Very limited.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: Some drinking and drunkenness, but not much.
Sexual Content: None.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Some time-period child abuse (meaning, we consider it abuse, they don't), etc. Small amount of violence and some graphic imagery.

Review:

Jane Eyre is a classic for a reason. I was shocked at the ease of reading. Charlotte Bronte writes with a voice and a diction that, while somewhat archaic, is not yet incomprehensible (like, say, Charles Dickens, etc). This is a masterfully crafted novel that I believe everyone should read whether they like classics or not (generally, I hate them).

The characters of Jane Eyre were a fascinating lot. Jane herself has become one of my favorite protagonists of all. She is strong, likeable, and flawed, and her thoughts and decisions are clear and sensible. Mr. Rochester--wow. He is the perfect foil to Jane's easy calm and inferior, modest attitude. His sarcasm and wit were hilarious, and their conversations will make you fall in love with him. I thought it was a nice touch (and a big statement) that both Jane and Edward were ugly people. Yet Bronte doesn't write with scorn for the beautiful or any kind of prejudice. Indeed, she writes with intimacy and truth, much like our authors today.

If you fancy a novel full of beauty of the heart and mind, intelligence, and grace, read Jane Eyre--but be prepared for a slightly tedious undertaking (it has taken me a week of non-stop reading just to read 500 pages! Gah!). But it is completely worth it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Book Trailers

Sorry for the recent lack of posts, everyone. School has been keeping us busy with reading classics (Jane Eyre, Tess of the D'urbervilles), if only we were reading warped classics instead...

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies



Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
Visit Seth Grahame-Smith
http://www.facebook.com/people/Seth-Grahame-Smith/574919993
http://twitter.com/sethgs



And here is a quite entertaining rap trailer for Perfect Chemistry
http://www.simoneelkeles.net/index-web.html



Eternal
http://cynthialeitichsmith.com/



A Curse as Dark as Gold
http://www.elizabethcbunce.com/elizabethcbunce/Home.html

Monday, November 9, 2009

Interview with Bree Despain


author of the upcoming YA novel
The Dark Divine
(December 22, 2009)

Interested?


Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared—the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in blood. But she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night really held. And when Daniel returns three years later, Grace can no longer deny her attraction to him, despite promising Jude she’ll stay away.

As Grace gets closer to Daniel, her actions stir the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind Jude and Daniel's dark secret . . . and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it—her soul.


Here's the INTERVIEW:

How did your experience working with underprivileged kids doing theater influence your writing?

Great question. Writing plays in Philadelphia was what made me realize that writing made me happy, and that it was what I wanted to do for my career. It also showed me that writing for kids and teenagers was a lot of fun, that it was where my voice was, and that the audience themselves were pretty awesome.


You mention a car accident in your bio. How did this affect you as a writer?

This was another life changing moment for me. I had decided a few years before the accident that I wanted to be a writer, but I hadn’t accomplished a whole lot. I had let life take over as I was working full time and had just become a new mother. But when I woke up in the hospital, I realized that if I had died, my two regrets would be that I would not be with my family anymore, and that I had not seriously pursued my dream of becoming a published author. I shared this with my husband, and the next day he brought home a used laptop and told me I had better start writing. I still look back at that moment, trying not to forget the lessons I learned from that experience. It reminded me that passion should always be a part of your life and that you should never let the day-to-day get in the way of pursuing your dreams.

What is your favorite thing about being a writer? Least favorite?

The best is when I get in a really good groove and the ideas just flow. The story just comes and I get really excited about the characters and what is happening. The high from feeling inspired is incredible. On the flip side, my least favorite part is when I get completely blocked. It is a hard, lonely, and frustrating place to be when the ideas just won’t come. The trick is to just keep writing, though….whichever way the coin lands.

BREE DESPAIN was interviewed by READING ROCKS on NOVEMBER 8th, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Revised Reviewing

Elise and I have conferred, and we have decided to revamp our reviewing style. The number and letter ratings are staying, as well as the Age Appropriate stuff, but we're just adding in things that we think are necessary. If you agree, let us know! If not, let us know that too so we can perfect this thing. Thanks! :-)

EDIT 11/5/09: We are removing the "Recommendation" portion of our number reviews to keep our number ratings consistent and easy to deal with. Besides, with Overall Enjoyment as a category, Recommendation is somewhat superfluous. And it's what the review is for, right? :-)
____________________________________________

Changes are in orange.

REVIEWING FORMAT:

BannerFans.com

Release date (if not yet released).

Grading Scores: A+:61-70 pts= Fantastically amazing! A: 51-60 pts= Great B: 41-50 pts= Good C: 31-40 pts= put-downable D: 21-30 pts= Not so great F: 0-20 pts= Ew
(moved from below Rating to make it more accessible for at-a-glance readers)

Synopsis: from the jacketflap.

Rating:
Character Development: x/10pts
Originality: x/10pts
Overall Enjoyment: x/10pts
Ending: x/10pts
Voice: x/10pts
Setting: x/10pts
Plot: x/10
Total Score: x/70

Obtained: Where did we get it?

Age Appropriate? G/PG/PG-13/R

Cussing: Keep in mind that we are doing this based on a Young Adult audience.
Drugs, alcohol, etc.:
Sexual Content:
Disturbing Images/ Violence:

Review: My thoughts; both positive and negative things about the book. See below for Review Policy.

LINKS: We will now provide links to author or book sites that are relevant, as well as to related posts and reviews on Reading Rocks.

REVIEW POLICY:
This is our updated review policy that now has a cozy little place in the sidebar!
  • We do not review e-books.
  • Young Adult books take priority over others.
  • Books that we did not specifically ask for or agree to review will have low-priority.
  • We cannot guarantee that books that are not specifically YA (i.e. Middle Grade, Adult, nonfiction, etc) will be reviewed.
  • However, if we do request or agree to review a book, it will get reviewed.
  • We will always be honest in our reviews, despite any personal contact with the author or publisher.
  • We will abide by the wishes of the author or publisher as much as possible regarding dates and times and content.
  • We will maintain a professional attitude at all times, in regard to all things.
PS - keep your eye out for edits, because this is completely subject to change!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hunger by Michael Grant

Synopsis:

It's been three months since everyone under the age of fifteen became trapped in the bubble known as the FAYZ. Three months since all the adults disappeared.

Gone.

Food ran out weeks ago. Everyone is starving, but no one wants to figure out a solution. And each day, more and more kids are evolving, developing supernatural abilities that set them apart from the kids without powers.

Tension rises and chaos is descending upon the town. It's the normal kids against the mutants. Each kid is out for himself, and even the good ones turn murderous.

But a larger problem looms. The Darkness, a sinister creature that has lived buried deep in the hills, begins calling to some of the teens in the FAYZ. Calling to them, guiding them, manipulating them

The Darkness has awakened. And it is hungry.

Rating:

Character Development: 9/10
Originality: 9/10
Overall Enjoyment: 10/10
Ending: 10/10
Voice: 10/10
Setting: 10/10
Recommendation: 10/10
Total Score: 68/70

Grade: A+

Age Appropriate?

Cussing: Some
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Teenage alcoholism, child drug use.
Sexual Content: Nothing explicit; some speculation.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Lots of blood, murder, graphic images, child-against-child violence, and psychopathy/sadism (in one disturbing character). Teen bulimia and anorexia.

Review:

If possible, I loved this second installment in the GONE series even more than I loved the first one! HUNGER is a very different book than its prequel--darker, more depressed, more internal, a different kind of struggle all together. Where the battle in GONE is one against disorder and chaos, HUNGER's struggle is based on the hopelessness of the situation, the overwhelming task of being a leader in this strange world. So much stuff happens in these pages, and it is enough to shatter your expectations.

I was surprised to find how little this story has to do with Sam. Of course, he plays a huge role throughout, but the length of time we actually spend in his head is very limited. There's more jumping around between the many intertwined storylines and less focus on Sam himself. Caine even had a larger role in this book than in the previous one, and now I'm surprised to say that I like him. Wow. Did I actually say that? But it's true. He's more human, less...despicable. Even if he does make some stupid decisions.

With heavier content and lots of high-stress high-emotion situations, Michael Grant has created yet another brilliant and fascinating novel in HUNGER. The world he created is unbelievably vivid and real. It's easy to believe that if the a world of under-fifteens existed, this is exactly how it would play out. Grant's writing has a way of infecting the reader with fear, tension, and dread, but at the same time with hope, and laughter, and beauty. It's fantastic--read it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Winter's End by Jean-Claude Mourlevat (translated by Anthea Bell)

THIS BOOK WILL BE AVAILABLE ON NOVEMBER 10th, 2009.

Synopsis:

Four teenagers escape from their prison-like boarding schools to take up the fight against the tyrannical government that murdered their parents fifteen years earlier. But only three of the friends make it safely to Jahn's restaurant, the headquarters of a secret resistance movement, where they discover the astonishing power that one voice can have in the fight for freedom.

As the battle rages, the three friends are in a race against time to save their companion, who has been forced to participate in a deadly, ancient game for the amusement of his captors. Will this new generation prevail, or are they destined to meet the same grisly fate as their parents?

Ratings:

Character Development: 6/10
Originality: 8/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 10/10
Setting: 9/10
Recommendation: 8/10
Total Score: 50/70

Grade: B (though bordering on an A)

Age Appropriate?

Cussing: Very little.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: A limited amount of drinking, lots of smoking.
Sexual Content: One scene; the rest is implied. Not very gruesome.
Disturbing Images/Violence: A LOT of bloody images and graphic murders, deaths, and torture stuff. None of it was extremely affecting, but beware.

Review:

Winter's End is such a strange book. I have a feeling that this has something to do with the fact that it's originally French. :-P Being a student of the French language, I can see how the writing style fits the cadence of that tongue, and the culture resembles theirs. In some ways, I could tell that it was aimed at a much different audience than the American one, but in others I was amazed at the beauty and universality of the tale.

'Weird' is a good word to describe the setting. It was...disconcerting. Though I had no trouble imagining the actual physical surroundings of the characters, the time period and the atmosphere were a little askew. Reading it felt like being in a mixture of an Anastasia-and-the-Russian-Revolution story, eighteenth-century London, and modern-day Europe. I could never decide how I felt about the setting, whether it fit or it didn't. At some points I was wrinkling my nose in distaste; at others I was pining for it. Make of that what you will.

The characters were another bizarre aspect. While the rest of the novel was down-to-earth and almost melancholy, the four main characters seemed to have walked out of a fairy tale. Or a 1940s movie. They were naive and immature for seventeen-year-olds, at least at first. From the start, I hated them. I never warmed up to Helen or Milena, and only began to like Bartolomeo slightly by the end. In fact, the only main character who gained my love by the end was Milos, and he was my least favorite at first. Of the four of them, he was the only one I believed was actually in love with his counterpart. While Milena and Bart's relationship was more believable, they were flat characters and not really likeable.

If you have trouble with tedious stories, beware. While quite engrossing, the pace is slow and the book is a lot longer than it looks. At some points, I wanted to fall asleep and just stop reading, but at others, I was eagerly turning pages. It took me a while, so if you're a slow reader, maybe this isn't the best option. On the plus side, the book was very imaginative and freakishly, almost outlandishly, different. The plot was invigorating and intense, and the third-person omniscient perspective gave it an ethereal, mysterious air. This is an excellent read for brave, determined, and diligent readers.