Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Returning by Christine Hinwood

Grade: A+


Synopsis:

The war between the Uplanders and Downlanders is over. After six years of fighting, Cam Attling is the only one from his tiny town of Kayforl to return, and suspicion surrounds him. When his betrothal to Graceful Fenister is called off and his entire role in the community questioned, Cam leaves to find the Uplander lord who maimed him but spared his life, seeking answers and a new place in the world.

But this is not just Cam's story, it's about all those whose fates entwine with his. Graceful Fenister, who will go on to marry the last person Cam would expect. Cam's sister, Pin, who grows into a young lady who embraces Uplander culture. Lord Gyaar, who is haunted by Cam and the resemblance he bears to his own brother. Diido, who lost everything in war too, but finds a new life for herself when she meets Cam.

Ratings:

Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 8/10
Voice: 10/10!
Plot: 9/10
Setting: 10/10!
Total Score: 66/70

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cursing: Some.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Some drinking and drunkenness.
Sexual Content: A few scenes, mostly mild.
Disturbing Images/Violence: References to rape/prostitution, domestic violence, images of war.

Review:

When I contemplate this story, one word comes to mind: Beautiful. The world is stunning, one of the most vividly imagined and complete universes I have experienced in writing. The characters are unique, deep, sometimes painfully true. And the voice Hinwood has created in them, their speech, their mannerisms and cultures--it is startling, captivating...beautiful. She somehow manages to portray the struggle and pain associated with the aftermath of war in an almost gentle way, with honesty and reality, that is all the more powerful for that. And what a beautiful cover, no? All in all, a breathtaking and mature read from a talented and imaginative woman. Can't wait for those to follow.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

RETRIBUTION Giveaway!

Today is the official release date for Sherrilyn Kenyon's book RETRIBUTION, the next in the Dark-Hunter Series:


...Harm no human…
A hired gunslinger, William Jessup Brady lived his life with one foot in the grave. He believed that every life had a price. Until the day when he finally found a reason to live. In one single act of brutal betrayal, he lost everything, including his life. Brought back by a Greek goddess to be one of her Dark-Hunters, he gave his immortal soul for vengeance and swore he’d spend eternity protecting the humans he’d once considered prey.
Orphaned as a toddler, Abigail Yager was taken in by a family of vampires and raised on one belief- Dark-Hunters are the evil who prey on both their people and mankind, and they must all be destroyed. While protecting her adoptive race, she has spent her life eliminating the Dark-Hunters...

Reading Rocks has been given the opportunity to GIVE AWAY A COPY OF THE BOOK TO ONE LUCKY WINNER!
CONTEST ENDS AUGUST 12th. 
To enter, fill out the form below. US/Canadian addresses only please. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

XVI by Julia Karr

Grade: A

Synopsis:

Every girl gets one. An XVI tattoo on the wrist--sixteen. They say they're there for protection.

Some girls can't wait to be sixteen, to be legal. Nina is not one of them. Even though she has no choice in the matter, she knows that so long as her life continues as normal, everything will be okay.

Then, with one brutal strike, Nina's normal life is shattered; and she discovers hat nothing that she believed about her life is true. But there's one boy who can help--and he just may hold the key to her past.

But with the line between attraction and danger as thin as a whisper, one thing is for sure...for Nina, turning sixteen promises to be anything but sweet.

Ratings:

Character Development: 6/10
Originality: 9/10
Overall Enjoyment: 7/10
Ending: 8/10
Voice: 7/10
Plot: 9/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 56/70

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cursing: Some.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Some references to drug use, I believe, especially drugging by the government.
Sexual Content: Sex plays a very big role in this book, especially where teens are concerned. Also, rape and references to porn and sex slavery.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Domestic abuse, murder.

Review:

While I very much loved the author's dystopian perspective on our future--a future filled with advertising manipulation, a "tier" class system, and a corrupt government hiding behind a facade of protection--I simply could not connect with the main character, Nina. Her emotions were wild and unformed, and I did not believe her motivations. On the one hand, she would rant to herself about how obviously spoiled the government was and how she knew that free speech was being tamped down, but then she would passionately defend it in a conversation with another character. Also, the way she handled sex was whiny. Sex, particularly the teen variety, played a big role in this book, and while, yeah, the government of the future stamping girls with tattoos that  make them free game for guys is totally conceivable, but the way Nina dealt with it was totally beyond me. All in all, she didn't really come across so much a strong heroine as an angsty, feeble-minded child. But that's just me.

That aside, I thought the author's concept and execution of the future was great and totally unique--definitely something I was interested in reading about. She wove enormous amounts of mystery and intrigue into the exposition of the story that is gradually revealed as the story progresses--marvelous! Because of this, I will most certainly be returning for the sequel.


LINKS:

Julia Karr (read the first chapter here!)
Truth, the sequel, available 1/19/2012:


Friday, July 1, 2011

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Grade: A+


Synopsis:

Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the spaceship Godspeed. She has left her boyfriend, friends--and planet--behind to join her parents as a member of Project Ark Ship.

Amy and her parents believe they will wake on a new planet, Centauri-Earth, three hundred years in the future. But fifty years before Godspeed's scheduled landing, cryo chamber 42 is mysteriously unplugged, and Amy is violently woken from her frozen slumber.

Someone tried to murder her.

Now, Amy is caught inside a tiny world where nothing makes sense. Godspeed's 2,312 passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader. And Elder, Eldests' rebellious teenage heir, is both fascinated with Amy and eager to discover whether he has what it takes to lead.

Amy desperately wants to trust Elder. But should she put her faith in a boy who has never seen life outside the ship's cold metal walls? All Amy knows is that she and Elder must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets before whoever woke her tries to kill again.

Rating:

Character Development: 9/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 8/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 65/70

Obtained: Library.

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cursing: Very limited.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: Some drugging, some drunkenness, but nothing too bad.
Sexual Content: Lots, but it's all very animal and portrayed with a certain distaste. Also, near-rape.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Suicide, murder.

Review:

Incredibly action-packed and fast-paced, Across the Universe had me hooked from the start. Beth Revis manages to capture the immense and conflicting emotions surrounding the choice to leave Earth behind and life on a spaceship of limited size. The book is filled with tension, hopelessness, and loneliness, but is also a testament to the importance of the human spirit. I think Revis, best of any sci-fi YA author, has imagined the problems, internal and external struggles, and development of a society trapped in space extremely realistically, and her creativity is evident throughout. And through all of it, as is the nature of the genre, she speaks not only of the people of Godspeed, but of what it means to be human, to lead, to be alone in ways that are totally applicable to life on Earth--Sol-Earth, that is.

This, combined with the interesting cast of characters and the alternating perspective of Elder and Amy (two individuals with strikingly different worldviews but who are nonetheless full of the same vivacious humanity), creates a mysterious and fascinating story. I am so glad there are two more to come.

LINKS:


Beth Revis
AcrossTheUniverse.com
The Interrobangs talks about the controversy surrounding the cover

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Grade: Low A


Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Gwen lives with her extended--and rather eccentric--family in an exclusive London neighborhood. In spite of her ancestor's peculiar history, she's had a relatively normal life so far. The time-traveling gene that runs like a secret thread through the female half of the family is supposed to have skipped over Gwen, so she hasn't been introduced to "the mysteries," and can spend her time hanging out with her best friend, Lesley, watching movies and talking about boys. It comes as an unwelcoming surprise then when she starts taking sudden, uncontrolled leaps into the past.

She's totally unprepared for time travel, not to mention all that comes with it: fancy clothes, archaic manners, a mysterious secret society, and Gideon, her time-traveling counterpart. He's obnoxious, a know-it-all, and possibly the best-looking guy she's seen in any century...

Rating:

Character Development: 7/10
Originality: 7/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: 7/10
Voice: 8/10
Plot: 7/10
Setting: 9/10
Total Score: 53/70

Obtained: Free finished copy provided by publisher (Henry Holt)

Age Appropriate? PG

Cursing: Some, very limited.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: None.
Sexual Content: None.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Some murder and violence.

Review:

All things considered, this book was fairly charming. It wasn't nearly as juvenile as the trailer made it seem, but nor was it a masterpiece. Gwen is mildly annoying at times, but has her moments of being quite cool. Gideon is, well...a guy, and there is absolutely nothing disguising the fact that he's "the One". But the concept of the magic is quite interesting, and I am relieved that this book is a trilogy, because there's simply too much intrigue to fit into one book of this length.

Was it worth the read? Definitely. The story is fast-paced but easy to follow, and there are some truly lovable characters you meet along the way. Gier also managed to keep the reader as ignorant as Gwen as far as who to trust, with no dramatically ironic clues whatsoever, a trait of the book that keeps it interesting and unpredictable. I honestly have no idea where the next two books are going, but I will certainly look forward to finding out!

LINKS:


Book Info

Thursday, June 23, 2011

POTTERMORE!



Last night, in possibly the coolest video ever, J.K. Rowling made her eagerly-anticipated announcement:

"Pottermore is a free website that builds an exciting online experience around the reading of the Harry Potter books."

As vague as that is, readers still have to wait to find out more--Pottermore isn't open to the general public until October, but a lucky few will be given the chance to enter early on July 31st!

Probably the most exciting part of this ordeal is J. K. Rowling's teasing remark that she will be contributing "information [she has] been hoarding for years about the Harry Potter world"

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Possession by Elana Johnson

 Grade: High A


Synopsis:

Vi knows the rule" Girls don't walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the rules more than Zenn...and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi's future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.

But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they're set on convincing Vi to become one of them...starting by brainwashing Zenn. Vi can't leave Zenn in the Thinkers' hands, but she's wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, dangerous--everything Zenn's not. Vi can't quite trust Jag and can't quite resist him, but she also can't give up on Zenn.

This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

Rating:

Character Development: 6/10
Originality: 8/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 6/10
Voice: 8/10
Plot: 8/10
Setting: 8/10
Total Score: 53/70

Obtained: Purchased from the Yankee Bookshop in Woodstock, Vermont (an adorable place that you should visit if you're in Vermont)!

Age Appropriate? PG

Cursing: Limited.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Umm...no.
Sexual Content: Very mild.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Nothing too bad. Some violence and murder, but it's never uncomfortably graphic.

Review:

Possession made me very, very excited. There were a lot of things about it that were perhaps a bit mediocre or sub-par. It isn't the best of it's kind for sure--but where it shined, boy, did it shine! It definitely stood out from the crowd and made me quite happy. An excellent, worthwhile read that was easy to forgive for its shortcomings.

Let me explain. It's biggest shortcoming was lack of clarity/believability/consistency in plot, narrative, and character relationships and development. Sometimes I was confused by what was happening or had just happened (but honestly, maybe that was just me) and the narrative often jumped around oddly. And character relationships... At the start, the romance was progressing at a natural speed, meaning it was going slow. Then, suddenly, they were like an old couple, completely spontaneously smitten and all over each other in love. It was cute and fun, but truly unbelievable. And finally, the "magic" (that really isn't magic at all, but I have nothing better to call it) wasn't ever really explained fully. It just suddenly existed. Poof! and she was a master. It was a bit odd and unsettling.

Now, all of that was minor in comparison to the main excellent thing about this book--the ass-kicking, real-life, strong-as-a-god heroine, Vi. The synopsis kinda makes her sound like a waffling girl-child, but really, she was great. Unlike so many (especially sci-fi) heroines--even ass-kicking ones--she was not overly, annoyingly emotional. I loved how she took everything in stride, didn't spend the entirety of the narration moaning about boys and feelings and instead just survived. And though she had emotions and internal struggles and all that, it wasn't overwhelming, it wasn't angsty the way so many YA girl-narrations are. She was tough the way she seemed. She was awesome. And she made the book very much worth reading (though the boy was certainly kinda fantastic too ;-)).

LINKS:


Elana Johnson
Elana Johnson - Blog

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pottermore


"Following the completion of the seven Harry Potter books and eight films, J.K. Rowling has something new to announce. Even though this is not a new book, we have been informed it is something equally exciting." -Mugglenet

So what is it? Well... no one really knows. But! We're gonna find out soon!


Do any of you wonderful readers have an inkling to what's happening on the wizarding front? Share your thoughts!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Miss Peregrine's Trailer


From Amazon:
As a kid, Jacob formed a special bond with his grandfather over his bizarre tales and photos of levitating girls and invisible boys. Now at 16, he is reeling from the old man's unexpected death. Then Jacob is given a mysterious letter that propels him on a journey to the remote Welsh island where his grandfather grew up. There, he finds the children from the photographs--alive and well--despite the islanders’ assertion that all were killed decades ago. As Jacob begins to unravel more about his grandfather’s childhood, he suspects he is being trailed by a monster only he can see. A haunting and out-of-the-ordinary read, debut author Ransom Rigg’s first-person narration is convincing and absorbing, and every detail he draws our eye to is deftly woven into an unforgettable whole. Interspersed with photos throughout, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a truly atmospheric novel with plot twists, turns, and surprises that will delight readers of any age.

Find out more!

Also, check out this behind-the-scenes video from the trip the author took to make the above trailer:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

New STUFF!


On Facebook? 
LIKE our new page!



On Twitter?
FOLLOW us for updates!
Follow ReadingRocks4me on Twitter

What are YOU reading this summer? 
Got any great suggestions?
Want to see us do something AWESOME?

Head on over to our new Suggestions & Feedback page and give us your ideas!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ruby Red GIVEAWAY!

We are GIVING AWAY ONE COPY of



Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!
Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon--the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.


Listen to an excerpt here!

TO ENTER:

Fill out the form below. Entrants must reside in the US/Canada. CONTEST ENDS JUNE 15th!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Everlasting GIVEAWAY!

We are GIVING AWAY ONE COPY of


The sixth and final installment of the epic love story that has enchanted readers across the world. Ever and Damen have spent centuries facing down bitter rivals, jealous friends and their own worst fears—all in the hope of being together forever. Now in Everlasting, their destiny is finally within reach.


Visit Alyson Noel's site to learn more!

TO ENTER:

Fill out the form below. Entrants must reside in the US/Canada. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers

Grade: A+

Synopsis:

When Eddie Reeve's father commits suicide, her life is consumed by the nagging question of why? Why when he was a legendary photographer and a brilliant teacher? Why when he seemed to find inspiration in everything he say? And, most important, why when he had a daughter who loved him more than anything else in the world? When she meets Culler Evans, a former student of her father's and a photographer himself, an instant and dangerous attraction begins. Culler seems to know more about her father than she does and could possibly hold the key to the mystery surrounding his death. But Eddie's vulnerability has weakened her, and Culler Evans is getting too close. Her need for the truth keeps her hanging on...but are some questions better left unanswered?

Rating:

Character Development: 10/10
Originality 9/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: 7/10
Voice: 8/10
Plot: 9/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 61/70

Obtained: Gift from a friend. :)

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cursing: Yeah.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Teenage drinking, drunkenness, and drug use.
Sexual Content: No scenes, but references and some discussion.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Suicide is a major theme.

Review:

Like Courtney Summers' Some Girls Are, this novel is powerful. Though less intense than Some Girls Are, Fall for Anything is still very moving, eye-opening, and captivating. Summers has a definite gift for evoking empathy from the reader, for getting inside the head of the grief-stricken and those who face a life of terrible burdens alone. Her writing is beautiful, real, and though there are a ton of books that touch on similar subjects--suicide, new and old romances, grief-- Summers does it with a fresh twist, a new, startling insight into this girl's mind.

This book does not exist to give the reader what they want. It is not sympathetic to the reader's desires, but instead tells only what needs to be told, however unpleasant or shocking that might be. The ending especially may be quite unsatisfying to certain readers, but I found it refreshingly realistic.

Fall for Anything is a book that will astonish, surprise, and move. It stands out among its fellows as a very worthy read.

PS - Plus ten points for the beautiful cover!

LINKS:

Some Girls Are review
Courtney Summers

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland

Grade: A+

Synopsis:

Louisa Cosgrove is Louisa Cosgrove--not Lucy Childs. Or, is she?

A horse-drawn carriage takes her to the wrong place: Wildthorn Hall, an asylum for the insane.

This must be a great misunderstanding. They strip her naked, of everything--undo her whalebone corset hook by hook. They take her identity. But she is still seventeen--still Louisa Cosgrove--isn't she?
To untangle the mysterious, wretched present, she remembers the past.

I wished I were a boy.


Locked away in the dingy bowels of the hall, she feels a fire burn inside her. She remembers her cousin. She remembers Papa.

I want to be a doctor.

She is determined to escape--and only love will set her free.

Rating:

Character Development: 8/10
Originality: 9/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: 10/10!
Voice: 7/10
Plot: 9/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 61/70

Obtained: Bought second-hand.

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cursing: Some, perhaps, but it's Victorian-style, so...
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: References to opium and alcoholism.
Sexual Content: Limited to one scene.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Gross abuse of patients, insanity, tales of rape, familial abuse and neglect.

Review:

Though it started off kind of slow, this book became a fascinating and wild ride through the Victorian era in the eyes of a high-society rebel. I doubted how much I would like Louisa at the start of the book, as her voice seemed at first to be kind of whiny and childish, but by the end I adored her spunk and determination. There is a big twist in her character that I felt was better executed here than most books, and I was slightly surprised to find that I loved the book all the more for it!

The one thing I wished was more developed in this book was the confusion of the heroine's identity. I wished she struggled with it more, perhaps questioned her sanity more, instead of struggling so completely against what they tell her. While yes, it is a testament to her character, I felt this would have added another layer of intrigue to this already intrigue-ridden book.

Still, the setting was fascinating, her choices as a character very well-made, and the plot exciting and infuriating. It's easy to believe that this has happened, perhaps hundreds of times, to unfortunate women in the Victorian era. And then the ending--so satisfying, so perfect. Just the right mix of reaching a resolution and compromise. Definitely a surprising, beautiful read. I recommend it. 

LINKS:


Jane Eagland

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

OyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy

Grade: C


Synopsis:

Ellie Taylor loves nothing better than a good argument. After all, she's been arguing with her Zeydah (grandfather in Yiddish) since she could talk. So when she gets accepted to the Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts summer camp, she's sure that if she wins the final tournament, it'll be her ticket to a scholarship to the best speech school in the country. Unfortunately, the competition at CSSPA is hot--literally. His name is Devon and whether Ellie likes it or not, being near him makes her sizzle. Luckily she's headstrong and confident enough to take on the challenge--until she begins to suspect that the private scholarship's benefactor has negative feelings toward Jews. Will hiding her true identity and heritage be worth a shot at her dreams?

Ratings:

Character Development: 6/10
Originality: 8/10
Overall Enjoyment: 5/10
Ending: 6/10
Voice: 6/10
Plot: 4/10
Setting: 6/10
Total Score: 41/70

Obtained: Free ARC provided by publisher.

Age Appropriate? PG

Cursing: Limited.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: None really.
Sexual Content: None.
Disturbing Images/Violence: None.

Review:

I am unimpressed by this book. I mean, sure, identity and religious conflict, especially among young adults, is a topic generally unexplored by YA authors. But still. Once you get past the main conflict (I'm Jewish pretending to be Christian in love with this hot jerk who totally likes me!) it's pretty predictable. The stakes aren't very high, the characters are annoying, and the message is clear from basically the first page. Heck, even the synopsis makes it clear--be true to yourself and all that jazz.

Honestly, the story is kind of boring. Every conflict that arises is resolved with little to no build up. Important scenes are skipped over, while unimportant anecdotes are dragged out. The main character is annoying and self-centered, and the whole speech-debate-oratory element just added unnecessary cheese and fluff. Sometimes the speeches they gave were okay, but most of the time it seemed like they were either unbearably cheesy or you were just supposed to assume they were awesome because the author didn't want to actually write them.

Overall, an unremarkable book. Maybe better for a younger audience (middle school age, perhaps) or students that particularly struggle with religion and identity. But really, then it might just make you mad because of all the obviously stupid decisions Ellie makes. Even the romance made me kind of queasy, because Devon is just the perfect mix of "perfect" and total waste of time, yet Ellie falls so perfectly and completely in love with him and it's just ick!

I guess it's kind of a cute, original story, but OyMG just did not sit well with me.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Grade: High A

Synopsis:

In Deuce's world, an enclave deep underground, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed "brat" has trained to join one of three groups--Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear--to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading the ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She's worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing's going to stop her, not even a brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce's troubles are just beginning.

Fade doesn't like following orders. Deuce has never known a boy like him before, someone as likely to touch her gently as use his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce's perception shifts, so does the balance in the battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat due to their sheer numbers, now show signs of cunning and even strategy...but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. No matter how hard she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carried her far from the only world she's ever known.

Ratings:

Character Development: 8/10
Originality: 8/10
Overall Enjoyment: 7/10
Ending: 6/10
Voice: 3/10
Plot: 9/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 51/70

Obtained: Free finished copy provided by publisher (Feiwell and Friends)

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cursing: None?
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: None.
Sexual Content: Blatant references to rape and forced breeding.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Murder, rape, graphic violence, lots of gore and blood, apocalypse, child abuse, child neglect, starvation, poverty, etc...

Review:

A fascinating novel for sure, though I would recommend it more to fans of Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth than The Hunger Games as the cover claims. But hey, if you love post-apocalyptic novels of any sort, give it a try. I very much enjoyed Enclave and came to love the characters, even if Deuce could be a bit dense. She was tough, though, and it paid off.

The plot drives this novel for sure. Full of intense, unpredictable twists, it's quite an exciting read. My only complaint is that the narration, the voice, lacks something. Maybe the stakes weren't high enough, or Deuce just never had enough personality. But whatever it is, the voice is often dull and two-dimensional, and because of this any change of events can take the reader by surprise and one can end up quite befuddled. I can't quite put my finger on what exactly it is that is so off-kilter about the writing, but especially at the beginning, it was a slight turn-off. It improves as the story progresses, however, and the book was certainly worth the read!

It has all the elements of a good story--the array of characters, the badass heroine, the dangerous landscape, the unpredictable future, and that little touch of romance that I hope will blossom into something I want to read about--and I hope the second installment picks up with the momentum the story ended with. Honestly, the end was a bit abrupt for me, but the knowledge that a sequel is in the making is reassuring, though the story does not necessarily need it to be fairly satisfying.

LINKS:


Ann Aguirre


NOTE: Outland, sequel to Enclave in the Razorland Series, projected to be released in Fall 2012.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Flawless by Lara Chapman

Grade: B-


Synopsis:

Sarah Burke is just about perfect. She's got killer blue eyes, gorgeous blond hair, and impeccable grades. There's just one tiny--alright, enormous--flaw. Her nose. But even comparisons to a beak don't bother her much. Sarah's got the best best friend and big goals for print journalism fame.

But on the first day of senior year, Rock Conway walks into her journalism class and, well, rocks her world. Problem is, her best friend Kristen falls for him too. And when Rock and Kristen stand together it's like Barbie and Ken come to life. So when Kristen begs Sarah to help her nab Rock, Sarah does the only thing a best friend can do. She agrees. For someone so smart, what was she thinking?

Ratings:

Character Development: 6/10
Originality: 8/10
Ending: 8/10
Voice: 7/10
Plot: 6/10
Setting: 4/10
Total Score: 39/70

Obtained: Free ARC provided by publisher.

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cursing: Maybe a little.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: References to and scenes of teen drinking.
Sexual Content: Vague references only.
Disturbing Images/Violence: None.

Review:

Though charming, there was something a bit off about this book. I appreciated the very well reinforced message about beauty and self-image, and I probably even like the main character. Or would, if I understood anything about her. I feel like her character is developed solely through her relationship with other characters. For instance, I know a lot about her relationship with her mother, with her best friend, and with Rock (the boy), but when I think about it, I can't come up with an image of her, an understanding of her character, a feeling that I know her. Maybe I'm just being picky, but it's kind of unsettling, not being able to form any sort of opinion about the narrator and hero I spent 240 pages listening to.

Flawless is a retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac. I love the tale and have never encountered another retelling, so I was excited to see how this was done. It was done well, I guess. But I felt that instead of strengthening or expanding on the story, the Cyrano connection just made it predictable. Despite being based on one of the most famous love stories of all time and being a high-school book, Flawless was incredibly un-dramatic. I mean, stuff happens--important stuff, plot-altering stuff, serious stuff--but it's either dealt with in twenty pages or just accepted (however grudgingly) by the narrator and the story moves on. This continues until the resolution, which is equally anticlimactic, when all the problems just kind of...end.

What irked me by far the most, though, was the weird lack of description. Sure, there was the frequent "She was beautiful, with her long blond hair and blue eyes" or "his muscles stretched taut under his shirt", but honestly, there were no distinguishing features between any of the girls or any of the guys of this story. Also, it was set in "Houston". I am well acquainted with Houston, and half the time the setting I was imagining could have easily been in Oregon or North Carolina or basically anywhere but Houston. Despite references to Houston locations, there was no mention of the terrible humidity or the density of the city or the sounds of traffic. It could have been suburbia, which, if you know Houston, is a ridiculous statement.

However, in spite of my criticisms, the book was fairly enjoyable and satisfying. Though two-dimensional, it did have a good message I thought was conveyed pretty well. Give it a try if it sounds good, but don't expect a life-altering piece of work.

LINKS:


Lara Chapman

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott

Grade: C

Synopsis: 

Everyone knows the unwritten rule: You don't like your best 
friend's boyfriend.

Sarah has had a crush on Ryan for years. He's easy to talk to, supersmart, and totally gets her. Lately it even seems like he's paying extra attention to her. Everything would be perfect except for two things: Ryan is Brianna's boyfriend, and Brianna is Sarah's best friend.

Sarah forces herself to avoid Ryan and tries to convince herself not to like him. She feels so guilty for wanting him, and the last thing she wants is to hurt her best friend. But when she's thrown together with Ryan one night, something happens. It's wonderful...and awful.

Sarah is torn apart by guilt, but what she feels is nothing short of addiction, and she can't stop herself from wanting more...

Ratings:

Character Development: 5/10
Originality: 2/10
Overall Enjoyment: 5/10
Ending: 6/10
Voice: 7/10
Plot: 6/10
Setting: 8/10
Total Score: 39/70

Obtained: Borrowed from a friend. 

Age Appropriate? PG-13ish

Cursing: Some, not very much, but a few f-bombs. 
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Maybe a few vague references to teen drinking...?
Sexual Content: Vague references, one almost-scene.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Child neglect. 

Review:

Maybe it was the fact that this book has the exact same plot as Flawless (down to the main character's name), maybe it was that I've seen Elizabeth Scott do so much better (see Grace, below). Or maybe it's just that something about the whole I'm-in-love-with-my-best-friend's-boyfriend-but-I'm-too-"nice"-of-a-friend-to-do-anything-about-it thing that peeves me. Either way, this book was a letdown. 

Through the whole thing, through every single page of miserable, self-pitying rants about how beautiful and awesome Ryan is and how horrible the narrator is for loving this boy and how awful her best friend is to her (boo hoo!), I was wondering why the heck nothing was happening. Just rants. For pages and pages. And then--oh, was that--? Could it be...plot development?! ...Oh, wait, no. False alarm. back to the rants. And the whole time this girl is pining for Ryan (Ryan this and Ryan that), the idiot boy is leading on two girls at once and neither of them notices or cares. What?

I shouldn't be so harsh. My friend loved the book, and she's a reasonable, good reader. I'm sure it has redeeming qualities. My problem was that I read the same book with a different cover a week ago and it wasn't fantastic then. So...I don't recommend it. But if you absolutely love Elizabeth Scott and stories like this...I guess give it a try.  

LINKS:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Grade: A+!


Synopsis:

In America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota--an hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life...

Rating:

Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 9/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 66/70

Obtained: Library

Age Appropriate? R

Cursing: Quite a bit.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Frequent references to and scenes of severe drug and alcohol addiction, drug and alcohol-induced violence, drunkenness, child drinking/drug use, abuse of dangerous substances, etc.
Sexual Content: Frequent references to prostitution, rape, etc.
Disturbing Images/Violence: A lot of blood, fights, graphic murder, child abuse, slavery, etc.

Review:

My God, what a ride! To be honest, this book blew away my expectations. I've been hearing some good things about Ship Breaker, and something about the synopsis drew me to the book from the start. (Have I mentioned that this book has one hell of a good synopsis? Just the right amount of plot hints without giving anything important away, and it's short and to the point--but that's a topic for another post.) The point is, this book is good. The very peak of dystopian/sci-fi/post-apocalyptic YA.

One of the most fascinating things about this book, though, is that it's borderline not dystopian or sci-fi. It's almost just an adventure book about the near future. And while Nailer's world is post-apocalyptic, the "apocalypse" these people have survived is not some huge catastrophe, it's the evolution of our own world, a direct result of the way we live now. Yet the point is not only to provide some sort of wake-up call to readers--no, this book is a story. A really good story, too.

It has everything! A plot that will never--hear me, never--give you time to breathe, characters that are so conflicted and real and heartbreakingly honest yet strong at their cores, circumstances that are shocking but so close to reality, and of course, just a touch of romance to carry you through the rest of it. Beautifully done, and probably one of the few young adult books that truly caters to both male and female audiences without fail. Seriously, guys and girls alike will get caught up in the rawness, the sheer intensity, of this awe-inspiring story. I've heard rumors of a sequel. Ah, I hope it's true! This is a world (a downtrodden, miserable world that creepily resembles our own...) that I don't want to see the end of.

Update: There IS in fact a sequel, coming this year, called The Drowned Cities. Yay! :)


LINKS:


Interview with Paolo Bacigalupi about another of his novels, The Windup Girl

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Enclave Trailer!



Ann Aguirre, author of the Corine Solomon Series & the Sirantha Jax Series, releases her first -ever Young Adult dystopian novel
ENCLAVE



New York City has been decimated by war and plague, and most of civilization has migrated to underground enclaves, where life expectancy is no more than the early 20's. When Deuce turns 15, she takes on her role as a Huntress, and is paired with Fade, a teenage Hunter who lived Topside as a young boy. When she and Fade discover that the neighboring enclave has been decimated by the tunnel monsters—or Freaks—who seem to be growing more organized, the elders refuse to listen to warnings. And when Deuce and Fade are exiled from the enclave, the girl born in darkness must survive in daylight, in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs. As the two are guided by Fade’s long-ago memories, they face dangers, and feelings, unlike any they’ve ever known.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

Grade: A+!


Synopsis:

There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister’s face when she and Elias left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the horde as they found their way to the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.

Annah’s world stopped that day and she’s been waiting for him to come home ever since. Without him, her life doesn’t feel much different from that of the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Then she meets Catcher and everything feels alive again.

Except, Catcher has his own secrets—dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah’s longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it’s up to Annah—can she continue to live in a world drenched in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return’s destruction?

Rating:

Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 7/10
Overall Enjoyment: 10/10
Ending: 10/10
Voice: 10/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 67/70

Obtained: Borrowed from a friend. :)

Age Appropriate? R

Cursing: Not really. Maybe a little.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: Some references, but few.
Sexual Content: None really...
Disturbing Images/Violence: A warning to the squeamish--approach this book with caution. Filled to the brim with gruesome images of zombie-hacking, murder, violence, desperation, starvation, hopelessness, misery...I could continue.

Review:

Wow. I just...wow. Never before--never before--have I read a book that was quite this...impactful. I still can't quite let go of the enormity of this book, not in that it is so very life changing, but that the scope is so much larger than before, so much more universal than I could have expected from a book about the zombie apocalypse. I mean, it's been done before, right? How much different can this book possibly be?

That statement couldn't be more wrong.

If you thought the last book was stressful, hold onto your seats. The Dark and Hollow Places isn't exactly as nerve-racking as its prequel--no, this book is simply earthshattering. Heartbreaking. The misery, the sheer and utter hopelessness of it is almost too much to bear, but...you have to. You have to because the characters are so important. They become everything. And the absolute desolation that is their world only makes the rare moments of bliss all the more sharply poignant.

Carrie Ryan has several talents. One is using a changing perspective to her advantage. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is narrated by Mary, Dead-Tossed Waves by Gabry, and finally, The Dark and Hollow Places by Annah--three very distinct, very strong young women whose trials are all very different yet fundamentally the same: the fierce battle of survival, the fight against the endless onslaught of death. Never, at any point in the series, did the styles of narration overlap, and each of the characters gains depth by the new perspective. It's interesting how Ryan can manipulate my feelings based on the narrator and reveal so much more about the outside characters. For instance, in the last book, I definitely favored Elias because Gabry found the good in him and saw the bad in Catcher, but in this book, I lean heavily toward Catcher, because Annah sees him from a different light.

All in all, a powerful read. Huge. Hopeless. Miserable. But totally worth it, every page, every impossible obstacle, every tense moment, every undead-head-slashing and horror that came their way--it was worth it. Because ultimately, though it is drenched in death, it is a book that celebrates life, celebrates love, celebrates happiness--perhaps louder and more triumphantly than any other book I've read. Success.


LINKS:

Carrie Ryan
The Forest of Hands and Teeth
The Dead-Tossed Waves

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stay by Deb Caletti

Grade: A+!

Synopsis:

Clara’s relationship with Christian is intense from the start, and like nothing she’s ever experienced before. But what starts as devotion quickly becomes obsession, and it’s almost too late before Clara realizes how far gone Christian is--and what he’s willing to do to make her stay.

Now Clara has left the city—and Christian—behind. No one back home has any idea where she is, but she still struggles to shake off her fear. She knows Christian won’t let her go that easily, and that no matter how far she runs, it may not be far enough....

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

Obtained: Borrowed from Jill at Reading is Bliss

Age Appropriate? PG13
Cursing: Yep.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc.: Mentioned, I believe.
Sexual Content: References
Disturbing Images/ Violence: Obsessive Relationship (leads to some violence)

Review:
A story of truth, a story of love, of fear, of change, of growth. A story that does not disappoint. Absolutely astounding.

Deb Caletti incorporates the rawest of emotions, the wittiest of dialogue, and the truest of characters in Stay. Everything in this book is real. Clara is a strong, likable character, and her narration is perfect: interesting, easy to follow, and still intensely true and relate-able.

The strong use of figurative language isn't overwhelming or over-used. Every sentence, metaphor, allusion, is absolutely necessary to understanding the beauty of this story. Each contribution adds to the reader's interpretation of the entire mosaic of the characters, setting, and whole dynamic of the story. But it does it in such a way that the understanding slips into the reader; and a deep care for these characters is implanted; then soon the emotion and turbulence of the story takes hold and does not release its grip.

Once again... absolutely astounding. Raw and true. Pick it up, read it, and you will not be disappointed.

LINKS:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wild Roses by Deb Caletti

Grade: A+


Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Cassie Morgan has a secret: she’s living with a time bomb (A.K.A., her stepfather, Dino Cavalli). To the public, Dino is a world-renowned violin player and composer. To Cassie, he’s an erratic, self-centered bully. Dino has always been difficult, but as he prepares for his comeback concert, something in him begins to shift. He seems more high-strung than ever, set off by any little thing. He stops sleeping, starts chain-smoking. And he grows increasingly paranoid, saying things that Cassie is desperate to make sense of, but can’t. So she does what she thinks she must: she tries to hide his behavior from the outside world. Before, she was angry. Now, she is afraid.

Enter Ian Waters: A brilliant young violinist, and Dino’s first-ever student. The minute Cassie lays eyes on Ian she knows she’s doomed. She tries everything to keep away from him, but is drawn to him in a way she’s never felt before. It should be easy. It should be beautiful. It is not. Cassie thought she understood that love could bring pain. But this union will have consequences she could not have imagined.

As the novel crashes through two irreparable events and speeds toward its powerful end, one thing becomes clear: in the world of insanity, nothing is sacred. Not talent, not spirit, not love.

Rating:

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

Obtained: Library.

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cursing: Yes, quite a bit.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Some drinking/drunkenness, chain smoking (though not illegal, definitely disgusting and I guess worth mentioning)
Sexual Content: Very vague references, but it's there.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Insanity/infirmity of the mind?

Review:

Deb Caletti certainly displays her talent for creating stories that are at once painful and beautiful in Wild Roses. If you like The Nature of Jade (which I did), you'll love this. Infused with fascinating facts about artists throughout history, the book really does make a statement about the devastating side of genius even as it builds a strong theme of the endurance of family and love despite all odds.

The characters--wow. Dino Cavalli is masterfully created as a character, so that you alternately hate him and admire him and pity him and love him, and then finally hate him all the more for that. He is a force, a human force, the incarnation of genius, and Caletti manages to translate all of that into her clever narration and dialogue and plot. Wow.

However, my favorite part of Caletti's writing, especially in Wild Roses, is how she seamlessly manages to incorporate all of this philosophy into her narrative without distracting from the plot or the characters--in fact, while adding to it. She somehow subtly integrates all of these deep, expressive ideas into Cassie's thoughts, but does it in a way that seems natural for the contemplative person that she is. Caletti is able to get so much meaning into her writing and widen the very specific plot complications--things that are certainly not everyday problems for the average reader--and make them universal, all-encompassing, and inescapable. A breathtaking read.

LINKS:


Deb Caletti
The Essay: What the Author Says about the Book
Wild Roses Excerpt

Wild Roses by Vincent Van Gogh (referenced in the book)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Some Trailers and Exciting news!


INVINCIBLE (2nd book in the Chronicles of Nick) by Sherrilyn Kenyon will be released MARCH 22!




SHIMMER by Alyson Noel will be released soon!  




AND FINALLY, SOME EXCITING NEWS....
To help tide you over during 2011 – the first year since her debut that there is not a new Shannon Hale book – BLOOMSBURY has a special offer for you!  THE GOOSE GIRL, the award-winning debut by Shannon Hale, is available wherever eBooks are sold as a $1.99 eBook download now through March 31 ONLY!!

Get it while it lasts! Tell you friends! Enjoy!

And keep an eye out for the Forest Born Special Edition hardcover with Alison Jay jacket art coming in October!


Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life listening to her aunt's stories and learning the language of the birds, especially the swans. As she grows up Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but is never comfortable speaking with people, so when her silver-tongued lady in waiting leads a mutiny during Ani's journey to be married in a foreign land, Ani is helpless and cannot persuade anyone to help her. She becomes a goose girl and must use her own special, nearly magical powers to find her way to her true destiny.

From the Grimm's fairy tale of the princess who became a goose girl before she could become queen, Shannon Hale has woven an incredible and original tale of a girl who must find her own unusual talents before she can lead the people she has made her own.