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.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Everafter by Amy Huntley

Grade: High A
Synopsis:

Madison Stanton doesn't know where she is or how she got there. But she does know this--she is dead. And alone, in a vast, dark space. The only company she has in this place are luminescent objects that turn out to be all the things Maddy lost while she was alive. And soon she discovers that with these artifacts, she can re-experience--and sometimes even change--moments from her life.

          Her first kiss. 
A trip to Disney World. 
Her sister's wedding.  
          A disastrous sleepover.

In reliving these moments, Maddy learns illuminating and sometimes frightening truths about her life--and death.

Rating:
Character Development: 8/10
Originality: 8/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 7/10
Plot: 8/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 58/70

Obtained: Borrowed from a friend. :)


Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cursing: Yup. 
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Some references to teen drug use, etc. 
Sexual Content: Vague references. 
Disturbing Images: Murder, psychotic people, death (?)


Review:


As my dear friend who lent me this book said, "It's a diamond in the rough." She's right. The Everafter is a surprising, charming read with a misleading premise. I mean, the afterlife has been done before (again and again and again...), but this is something new. For one, the afterlife world Huntley creates is at once fascinating and chilling (appropriately so), but beyond that she has created a combination of mystery and love-story pieced together through visited memories of the hero's life. Each memory is relevant to the story but also very separate and unique, like our memories tend to be. Masterfully woven.


Though it was a love story (and a great one at that), I thought the most wonderfully true thing about it was that the pursuit of romance was not the focus--instead, it was the development and endurance of their relationship, even beyond death, that took center stage. This book is evidence, I feel, of the existence of true, mature high school relationships, more than the frivolous infatuations a lot of books/movies/stories about teenagers are based on. 


Definitely a book worth reading. A short read, but packed with emotion, deep thought, philosophical ideas, and love of all kinds. With a shocking ending you cannot predict, The Everafter will not disappoint.

LINKS:

Amy Huntley
Blog

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Grade: A+

Synopsis:


Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father’s “bunny rabbit.”
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Laundau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer.
Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society.
Not when her ex boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew’s lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

Rating:

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

Obtained: Library.

Age Appropriate? PG

Cursing: Very limited, if at all.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Teen drinking, references to teen drug use.
Sexual Content: Mild and vague references, nothing more.
Disturbing Images/Violence: None.

Review:

Wow. This book took me by surprise! I have never in my life read a book that was so witty, so charming, so unique! Seriously. I can't tell you how freaking different this was from anything I've ever picked up. The third-person narrative shifted wonderfully between the analytical, academic, slightly ironic tone of a good mystery novel to the human, emotional, teenagery tone of a real high school girl. There were so many fascinating and adorable little anecdotes that added so much to the story and the character of Frankie--who, by the way, is the perfect example of a modern-day ass-kicking heroine.

The Disreputable History is dripping with feminism and social commentary, but in a sense it reminds me of Anna and the French Kiss, in that it is just a regular ol' high school story (that happens to be set in a boarding school) and involves all the hi-jinks that ensue--friends, romance, breaking rules, etc. Only in Disreputable History, Frankie is the mastermind, Frankie is the genius, Frankie is the diamond in the rough that is constantly underestimated by everyone around her. She is alone in her creativity, but it had a sort of Agent Cody Banks excitement to it that was entirely new and fresh and wonderful, and Frankie was a lovely change from your typical bookish girl character. She was awesome. She did things. She had boys and friends and all that, sure, but to her, that was trivial. She wanted the world.

And even though the book ends on a...well, not entirely positive note, it ended right. It ended with power, with a statement. That statement was this: Show them what you're really made of. No matter what it takes. 

WOOOH!

LINKS:
 
E. Lockhart

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Outside In by Maria V. Snyder

Grade: A+ (naturally)

Synopsis:

Me? A Leader? Okay, I did prove that there's more to Inside than we knew. That a whole world exists beyond this cube we live in. And finding that led to a major rebellion--between worker scrubs like me and the snobby uppers who rule our world. Make that ruled. Because of me, we're free. I thought that meant I was off the hook, and could go off on my own again--while still touching base with Riley, of course. He's the one upper I think I can trust. But then we learned that there's outside and then there is Outside.

And something from Outside wants in.

Rating:

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

Obtained: Borrowed from a friend.

Age Appropriate? PG

Cursing: Very little if any.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Nothing too bad as far as I remember.
Sexual Content: Vague mentionings...But really, no.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Some rather graphic torture scenes.

Review:

Another wonderful read from the great Maria V. Snyder! Definitely lived up to--even exceeded--my expectations! Great characters, fast plot, and new twists that added excitement and danger and built wonderfully on the prequel. Fun, fast, and engrossing. Perfect.

Trella started off a bit annoyingly stubborn in this one, but she's just so badass it hardly mattered, and in the end, she did not disappoint. There were a few surprising twists in romance, but as always, Maria is spot-on in that regard--just enough to keep it interesting while staying within the realms of reality.

The concept of this book is strange--stranger than the last one. But at the same time it resounded with a certain truth. Weird as it may seem, I couldn't help thinking as I was reading it that this whole situation was entirely plausible in the far distant future of humanity. The world of Inside (and Outside) is so detailed, and those details (down to the very thickness of the air) made it seem eerily within reach.


LINKS:

Maria V. Snyder
Inside Out - our review
First Chapter of Inside Out
Interview with Maria!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Grade: A+

Synopsis:

Climbing to the top of the school ladder is hard--falling from it is even harder. Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Five, an all-girl clique feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High...that is, until vicious rumors about her and her best friend's boyfriend started going around. Now Regina's been "frozen out" and her ex-best friends are out for revenge. If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day. She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past whom she herself used to bully. Friendship doesn't come easily for the onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend...if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don't break them both first.


Rating:

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

Obtained: Borrowed from a friend (thanks) :)

Age Appropriate? R

Cursing: Quite a bit.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Many, many references to and scenes of teen drinking, drunkenness, and heavy drug use.
Sexual Content: Yes. Lots of it in conversation as well as some scenes.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Near-rape scenarios, extreme teenage cruelty and bullying, eating disorders, depression

Review:

Intense. That's how I would describe this book. Just that -- intense. It wasn't really what I expected, and by the synopsis I would have imagined something gooey with high school cliches and a predictable plot, followed by miraculous self-discovery and healing through love and forgiveness. Ha. But no. This book defies all stereotypes, removes girls from that Mean Girls setting and into something a lot darker, a lot more evil, a lot more realistic.

It was hard to read. The whole thing, from beginning to end, has a certain painful tone to it that is slightly sickening, but so fascinating. From the beginning, every page brings a new horror, another added complication that makes you go, Oh my god, how can this ever be solved? Until the very final page, the whole book is building and building and building into a frenzy of a climax and a cathartic, simple, un-fairy-tale resolution(ish). It was a perfect end.

The characters are perfect -- they're cruel, they're sick, they're a product of their environment. They're high school kids who want more. The thing is, these things exist. They happen, no matter how twisted they are. But beyond being a statement about how animal and cruel girls can be to each other, how messed up high school can be, this is a book about people creating and overcoming problems that seem larger than life, and learning to heal and forgive along the way.

LINKS:

Courtney Summers 


Monday, March 7, 2011

Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt

Grade: Low A


Synopsis:

Payton Gritas needs a focus object--something to focus her emotions on after discovering her father's been hiding multiple sclerosis. Her guidance counselor suggested something inanimate but Payton chooses the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold's head. They've been linked since third grade (Griswold-Gritas, it's an alphabetical order thing) but she's never really noticed him before.


Payton starts stalking--er, focusing on--Sean's big blond head, and her research quickly grows into something a little less scientific and a lot more crush-like. As Payton gets inside Sean's head, Sean finds a way into her guarded heart. But obsessing over Sean won't fix Payton's fear of her dad's illness. For that, she'll have to focus on herself.

Rating:

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

Obtained: Free ARC provided by publisher (Bloomsbury) for blog tour! :)

Age Appropriate? PG

Cursing: Limited, if any.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Mild and vague references to drug use
Sexual Content: None.
Disturbing Images/Violence: None.


Review:

A charming book, Sean Griswold's Head is definitely a new approach to the old topic of high school love. Leavitt captures flawlessly the agony, ugliness, and ultimately sweetness behind high school/middle school crushes. That this relationship develops into something real only adds to the satisfying element of the novel.

However, Payton was extremely immature. I liked her quite a bit most of the time, but it was hard to sympathize with her as she overreacted (like many teenagers do...) to the smallest things. Granted, she was dealing with the enormity of MS in her family, and this element was a great plot device as well as a push for Payton to grow up. Tough as it was to like her, I was eventually very happy to see her mature and discover herself, as well as those that loved her. The ending is satisfying, sweet,  and touching on many levels.

Though not remarkable, Sean Griswold's Head was very honest and multi-dimensional--cute where appropriate, serious when necessary, and often humorous and tender. A worthy read.

LINKS:


Lindsey Leavitt
Lindey Leavitt - Blog

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

2011 Debut Author Challenge

Yes, I have officially decided to join the 2011 Debut Author Challenge, hosted by the ever wonderful Story Siren. Not gonna lie, I'm pretty stoked. Debut authors deserve a chance and a shout out. Making it in the literature business is hard enough, so we humble bloggers must do what we can to help 'em out. This is the first challenge I've participated in, and I think it's an awesome way of showing new authors we support them. Because we do. We want authors to keep writing, because we want to keep reading. So flippideedoo!

This year, at this point in my life, I'm hoping to read...


I have already reviewed:
The False Princess by Ellis O'Neal

So yeah, so far this is a pretty small list. But never fear! It's mostly just because I haven't had the time to research other books. These are ones that I've heard a lot about or have stood out to me. Yesh. Exciting stuff... exciting stuff indeed.

Anyhow, I will stop blabbing on and on (as I tend to do). BUT, I will, once again, say...

Happy Tuesday!