Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Good Week in Books (1)

I think I’m going to make one of these posts every now and then, when I have a week where things just seem to go my way with YA books.
First, I bought myself a signed copy of John Green’s latest: The Fault in our Stars. Then I learned that Marissa Meyer was going to be signing books at my bookstore and my awesome coworkers made sure to save me a signed copy of Cinder!  I also purchased these amazing titles this week: Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien, Hallowed by Cynthia Hand, Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey, Truth by Julia Karr.
And it gets better. I worked the Daniel Handler/ Maira Kalman book signing! I just reviewed their book: Why We Broke Up. And I have determined that Daniel Handler is one of the funniest people I have ever met. I can definitely see how he produced the Lemony Snicket books. But really, I was standing next to him the whole time he was doing the signing, and I think normally this would have been a hard job, but I was literally laughing and or smiling the whole time. I actually left work with my face hurting that night from laughing so much. And the two of them together made an amazing team. I got to see a power point presentation, and hear jokes about onion rings and dolls with real hair. And I loved seeing how enthusiastic their fans are. It was just such a fun night!
So, I also have a signed copy of Why We Broke Up, signed by both Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman. There are some great pictures from that night. And I even asked if I could put them on my blog, and they told me I could. This will just require me to find one of my coworkers on Facebook who is impossible to find. Though, I am not giving up. I will talk to her soon about spelling her name. I have a feeling I will update this again soon, with pictures.
These are the books I received from Netgalley in the past several days: This is not a Test by Courtney Summers, Supernatural Devices (A Steam punk Scarlet Novel) by Kailin Gow, Endure by Carrie Jones, and Partials by Dan Wells.
And then to top it all off, last night, I just won a DAC (Debut Author Challenge) contest from the Story Siren, for a free signed copy of Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse by Lucas Klauss. Thank you Kristi, for hosting the Debut Author Challenge! I’m so excited to read this one. If you want to know more about the DAC, click on my tab at the top called DAC 2012 or this link here: The Story Siren Debut Author Challenge.
Expect a lot of reviews soon, and hopefully some pictures!

New Girl by Paige Harbison

I got this one courtesy of Harlequin on Netgalley. It comes out January 31st. And I really had a lot of fun reading this book.
It’s about a girl who goes to boarding school for her senior year of high school. And it’s not because she did anything wrong or needs to be protected from some mysterious, supernatural force, but because a long time ago she spoke of an interest in attending it –an interest that goes back to Hogwarts. And she couldn’t tell her parents that she would prefer to stay in Florida with her best friend when they had already forked over some serious money to send her to what they thought was her dream school.
I’m not going to say the girl’s name because that is never really mentioned until the end. Or, I’m hoping it wasn’t because then I would know I was the most unobservant person ever. But, really her name is never mentioned till like the last few pages. This is because everyone at her new school refers to her as new girl.
As soon as she gets to her new school she realizes she is replacing last year’s new girl, who is reported to be missing. And she is really replacing her –taking her old room, her old roommate, her old friends, and even falling head over heels for her old boyfriend. The book goes back and forth between the new girl, and Rebecca (last year’s new girl), as she attended the school for the first time. And I loved the comparison of the two girls. This new girl was a lot more self-conscious and definitely had more of a moral compass than Rebecca.
The book is about loss. It’s about a school of teens dealing with the loss of loved one. It’s about idolization. It’s about obsessing over one girl who brought a little teen wildness to a stiff boarding school. And then it’s about the new girl learning to survive all the rumors about her. It’s about trying to learn, love, and grow up in a place that only sees you as a weaker version of someone else.
Both girls seemed really realistic to me. I never really liked either of them, but they were real. It took this new girl way too long to stand up for herself (even to her crazy roommate), and Rebecca was just mean. She really needed to be loved and adored. And when you learn a little about her history (as well as the crazy roommates’) this need does make sense. And I never really felt like I knew the new girl that well. Max (the shared love interest) never really explained how different she was from Rebecca, though he did keep letting her know that she was different. Like what did she like to do besides hide from her crazy roommate and miss the beach all the time? It’s supposed to be a modern retelling of the book Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, Which I read when I was about 13. I loved that book when I read it, but my memory of it is not what it should be.
I do know the original book is about marriage, not about boarding school. And the crazy roommate in this book is like the crazy housekeeper in the original who never gets over wife number one. Both crazy characters talk their Rebecca replacements into wearing something that belonged to Rebecca during a party, the worst possible time. And I’m not 100% sure if I’m remembering this correctly, but I thought Rebecca was murdered by a key character in the original. And I kept waiting for an announcement to be made that this modern Rebecca had cancer or something. Maybe I’m making this up, but I know the two Rebecca’s had very different endings. And so did the main characters and the men. Maybe I need to re-read the original…
Any way, I loved this retelling. I thought the boarding school worked as a great gothic backdrop. And the idolizing interpretation was fascinating. I loved how this one not-so-nice person could have such an effect on so many people, and it really kind of made me think of reality show stars. But, I also wished I liked the characters more. I didn’t find myself caring enough for the new girl’s outcome. She needed more personality and more interest in things.

Also, there were a few little things that nagged at me. I really had a hard time believing that the new girl couldn’t tell her parents that she didn’t want to go. And then I was like, she just didn’t want them to feel bad. But, really? That’s a whole senior year wasted to not have your parents feel bad? And if she cared so much about not making them feel bad, why did she never talk with them? And then there’s the best friend at home. There was a problem with her boyfriend, and nothing ever got resolved with that. Though, I guess all sorts of life experiences are truly involved in deciding on where to go to college. And it could get resolved later. I guess I just wanted more resolution in the ending.
I read the whole thing very quickly. I thought it would be hard to get through because there was a lot of description and a lot of exaggerated teen drama. But, I loved it. The drama was realistic. And while there was no potion classes or invisibility cloaks, there was an intense gothic feel that reminded me a lot of the original. I give it a 8/10.

If you would like another perspective on this one, my friend Christina just reviewed it as well: A Reader of Fictions

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and art by Maira Kalman

I read this as an ARC courtesy of Little, Brown and Company and the amazing bookstore I work in. It did already come out. And the only reason I’m mentioning the ARC is because I didn’t get the full artwork that I know is in the finished copy. I was missing a lot of the art, though I know the pages that the art belongs on (and what’s meant to be on the pages). And the art that was in the ARC was in black and white. So, I didn’t get the full color effect.
Author and artist will be at my bookstore tonight though, so I’m thinking that I might have to buy a finished, signed version.
Any way, the book is about Min explaining to Ed the reasons for why they broke up. She writes him a series of letters that mention all the things in the box she is returning to him. The artwork is about all the objects in the box. Amongst all the explanations for the objects, Min goes over various points in the relationship, like when they first meet, or when her friends first get to hang out with him, when she decides to lose her virginity to him, etc.
And the more you read about Min, the more you have to like her. She’s smart, witty, sarcastic, a film genius, adventurous, confident, so willing to love and be loved in return, and she really doesn’t care as much as everyone else does about what people think of her. I never really liked Ed. Granted, you know from the very beginning that they break up, and it became an almost game to find all the things wrong with him, and even to try to decipher all the times Min explains, “This is why we broke up.”
I loved the idea of this book! I loved the little bits of art I did get to see, and how each moment was connected to an object. I loved that it felt almost like a collection of short stories that were combined. And it also felt like one of those more realistic romance movies (like 500 Days of Summer). The concept was 100% unique. The artwork was gorgeous, yet also a little juvenile in a good way, adding to the YA feel. And it’s clear from the first page of somewhat stream of consciousness teen angst that Handler can write very well. Some of the dialogue is just plain genius, really.
However, there was this large, ever-present disconnect for me. I loved Min; I really did. It’s just she spoke like someone who grew up in the 1920’s, was so intelligent, and so wise beyond her years. And in a way this makes sense because she loved the movies from that generation. Yet, it was so hard for me to see this wise teenager making all these poor decisions about Ed, and then also even making a box of items like this. I can see some of my friends arguing about how smart women can make the dumbest decisions when it comes to guys. And this is true. We can all make mistakes when it comes to love. Believe me, I know. But, when we’re as wise and intelligent as Min, we second-guess more. And to an extent we know while things are happening that they are kind of bad decisions.
Min is oblivious to all her bad decisions! And I just found this so out of character for how she’s portrayed in all other situations. She should have been second-guessing so many things, and thinking more things out. I’m not saying she never should have hooked up with Ed; I’m saying she should have hooked up with him, but still known to an extent how stupid this was. I’m not even feeling the box thing for her. So maybe what I’m saying is that for me to really believe that Min could not know how awful Ed was, and to even blame their break up on things like moments and objects, when the real reason is one big, bad awful thing he did, she shouldn’t have been so wise. All the moments she goes over the relationship are so right, so dead on and beautiful in her understanding that it was hard for me to understand how this is the same girl. Maybe, if she wrote the letters years later and had more than a week to think about her mistakes it would be more believable for me.
Also, sometimes Min’s movie talk got a little tiring (especially considering how all the movies were made up). Were the publishers afraid of copyright infringement? I feel like real old movies and actors would have been better, and maybe even would have educated some young adults about film. Why make something up when there is so much out there waiting to be learned?
I have great respect for Daniel Handler, also known as Lemony Snicket, for his children’s literature. And I definitely have even more respect for him now. He was brave to try something different. And his dialogue was just so dead-on. I just wish that Min was more real to me as a character, or that maybe she became so wise a little later in life. I give this one a 7/10.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Life Eternal by Yvonne Woon

I just reviewed book 1. And I really enjoyed it. This one is an ARC from Hyperion Disney Book Group. I picked it up in New Orleans. And the actual book comes out in two days. I’m glad I had the second book in hand before reading the first one because the first one has a very abrupt ending.
I think I may have liked this one more than the first one. Renee is just so much more powerful. And everyone knows I love a strong female main character!
Be warned that I am about to spoil some things. The first book ends with Renee kissing Dante, after they are all knocked underground, where the undead can’t live. She gives him her soul back. And the book ends with her reliving Dante’s most crucial life moments, including his interesting childhood, his death, and his special moments with Renee. And at first those reliving scenes were confusing because I couldn’t tell Renee and Dante apart, but then I understood that that was the point, and Woon really shocked me with some excellent writing abilities at the end. But then, the scenes stop (right when you get used to them and want to keep learning more about Dante). You learn that Renee has been dead for ten days when she awakens. And the book ends with Dante telling her goodbye and kissing her again (returning their shared soul).
This book begins at Renee’s grandfather’s house. You learn that Renee hasn’t seen Dante since that kiss. But all summer, she received secret notes from him mixed into the letters Renee has been getting from a different undead friend: Eleanor. Apparently, people are blaming Dante for the death of their headmaster, and he needs to stay hidden (especially from all the monitors). The one thing I didn’t like about this book was all the moping moments where Renee misses Dante. I guess they really are soul mates, and Renee can’t really feel as much without him around any more (literally, she doesn’t smell things as well or taste things any more).
Doctors have determined that Renee is definitely alive though. And things really take off when Renee’s favorite teacher is found dead the same way her parents were found dead. Gottfried Academy closes to monitors but remains open to the undead. And Renee is shipped to a different school just for monitors in Canada. She has all sorts of new school drama there. Another boy enters the pictures, but there are a few sizzling, hidden scenes with Dante. At her new school, Renee learned about a group of women monitors who supposedly figured out the secret to immortality. And this myth starts off a new mystery.
Renee does not have a lot of time to come up with a plan B for Dante, who has only a few years left in his undead body. There’s new friends, plenty of snooping, sneaking out, romantic moments, murder, secret riddles and hidden clues, history, scary societies of undead children, and a lot of new information. Renee learns that it’s not common for monitors to die with gauze in their mouths. That death usually symbolizes torture, where information can be had from someone before their soul is slowly taken away.
A lot of this book is about trust. Renee has become amazingly good at monitoring. She can do things that no other monitor can. Add that to some serious visions. And then she’s never sure if the visions are a sign from the monitor sisterhood or if she’s reliving more of Dante’s life. For a while, she’s sure it’s Dante’s life, but then that would mean he was near all of these monitors when they died, and there is a short period of time where Renee is positive that Dante did kill all these people.
Again, it ends rather abruptly, and I’m really hoping for a book 3. It ends with fight scenes back at Gottfried, where a secret is hidden. And it slightly reminded me of Harry Potter, and how the trio had to go back to Hogwarts for a certain horcrux.
Besides all the Dante missing, I loved this one. I loved how different Renee was and how effected she was by the kiss. I love how much stronger she was and how intent she was on figuring everything out, despite the fact that no one, and I mean no one felt the need to fill her in. I liked the new school. I liked all the underground tunnels, and learning more about monitors in general. I liked her new Russian friend, who’s a talented monitor herself. And I loved the mystery again. The supernatural visions and the secret riddles just made everything so interesting! And again, I loved this whole different undead concept.
Let’s hope it’s not going to be a pattern in book 3 to have all of Renee’s new friends die for her. And I’m hoping some things will get answered. I want to know who’s killing everyone. I feel like there has to be more of an explanation. Who’s the leader of that undead society? Why did Dante not have Renee run away with him? What is Dante, and even Renee’s grandfather still holding back from her? Is the one sister still alive? And is the immortality secret true? I give this one a 9/10. And hopefully, Woon plans on coming out with a book 3 soon and hopefully book 3 will have a lengthier, more final ending.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon

It’s been a while since my last post. I actually finished this book days ago, and am already halfway through its sequel. Saying I have had a long week is an understatement. It started with a car accident (where no one was hurt, including me). I have had many trips to the mechanic though and still need one more. My dad then had some more health complications, which will result in more scary surgery next week (so hopefully my next week will be better). Yesterday, I attended a funeral for my cousins’ grandmother (who I’m not related to). And, it’s been one crazy workweek with a lot of events going on. I’m glad I had some quality YA literature to keep me company this week, to say the least.
But enough about me; let’s talk Dead Beautiful. It’s about Renee Winters. The book starts on her 16th birthday. She’s in the car with her best friend, leaving the beach, when she senses something and has her friend pull over. She then runs through a forest, sensing that she needs to, and comes across the dead bodies of both her parents. And even though both her parents had coins on their eyes, and gauze in their mouths, their deaths were determined to be heart attacks.
Renee is then taken in by her wealthy grandfather (who had had a falling out with her parents many years earlier). And he sends her to Gottfried Academy, a fancy boarding school with strict dress codes, no electricity(!), and rules prohibiting any dating amongst the students. Renee is upset about her parents and knows something does not add up about them both dying from a heart attack at the same time. She soon learns that a student at the academy died the previous year, also from a heart attack, and goes on a hunt to find a connection.
Renee has a habit of getting into trouble at school and is continuously found outside of her dorm with Dante, the boy she falls head over heels for. He’s very lonely and almost never speaks to anyone, but immediately befriends Renee, and their connection is strong from almost the first day. He tutors her in Latin, and while she starts to fall for him, she also comes to realize how strange he is. Renee never really gets punished for all her late night escapades (searching for clues and spending time with Dante) because the teachers all seem to love her for the skills she has in her horticulture class, which is all about digging, planting, and finding the right soil. Renee is also very good at finding dead animals. They seem to turn up throughout the whole book.
The book in large part is about murder and mystery, and discovering why so many people around the academy seem to die from heart attacks. It does have a lot of soul mate type romance, but it gives new meaning to the term, soul mate. By the time, I’m almost positive this is another vampire series, I find out that it’s much more complicated than that. I might be spoiling things a little, but I feel I need to in effort to describe what makes the book unique amongst other supernatural YA books.  Dante isn’t a vampire; he’s undead (sort of a mix between a vampire and a zombie). And the reason he is undead is because he died before the age of 21. Anyone who dies before they are 21 (aka: still a child), will come back to life if not buried under ground. And when they come back, they come back with almost no feeling (not taste, no smell, etc.). They don’t eat or sleep, and they generally just feel empty because they are missing their soul.
When a child dies (who’s not buried), their soul goes to someone being born at the exact moment of their death. And the myth is that if the undead child finds the new person who has their soul, and kisses them on the mouth, they will then get their own soul back, and another chance at life. But no one in all of history has been able to track down their soul. And to live longer than the 21 empty years granted to undead children, the undead can kiss anyone on the mouth, steal their souls and kill them, so they can live just a little bit longer.
Once Renee learns about the undead, I knew it described Dante, and I knew that she must have had his soul. The headmaster asked about her birthday earlier, and I was able to put two and two together way faster than Renee. But, that is okay. All this myth, all the mystery, all the new undead plot line, was so different and fun that Renee’s slowness didn’t really bother me too much. There’s a lot of history mixed in with myth here. I loved learning along with Renee about the history of burial. I loved reading what past philosophers said about immortality. I loved the concept of the school. I loved how similar Dante and Renee were, and how well they balanced each other. I enjoyed reading about Renee’s friends. And I found all the details about burial so fascinating and unique.
I didn’t originally think I was going to like this book because of the very rushed beginning. The scene where Renee finds her parents happened too quickly. I wanted more detail, more feeling about how exactly Renee felt to discover her parents. Instead that part was kind of summarized. And while Renee thinks back on that moment a lot in the future, I feel like that scene was too good and too important to rush over like that. I mean discovering the dead bodies of your parents is a YA gold mine. Why fast-forward to after the funeral?
But, I did end up loving this book. Though, I do think the main characters not being able to kiss each other on the mouth is a little overdone. It was not what I was expecting. It was so much better than what I was expecting. I give it an 8/10. And I’m already reading the sequel. I’ll let you know what I think of that one soon!

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Million Suns by Beth Revis

First, I gave the blog a mini makeover. I added some pages and organized my reviews a little better. And I’m feeling proud! Second, working in a bookstore (even only part time) has become kind of dangerous for me. I need to stop buying books, really. However, my life is a lot easier. I’m in the store the day things like A Million Suns come out. Can it get any better?
And third, this is my 88th post to this blog! Some serious celebrating will need to happen when I reach 100. And, with my 100th post, I will have my first contest/book giveaway. I haven’t gotten all the rules figured out yet, but I do know it will just be open to U.S blog followers. I’m fairly certain I cannot afford to ship internationally. And the contest will involve my favorite books of 2011! So, if you aren’t following this blog, now is a good time to start!
To the book! I absolutely loved Across the Universe by Beth Revis. And I was not disappointed with book 2! I always feel like I have to work a little bit harder to sell this one because of its obvious sci-fi elements. For some reason, people see sci-fi and think, “not me.” And I kind of get this. That was me before I discovered Orson Scott Card. People really need just one good sci-fi book like this one or Ender’s Game to realize that it is such a fun, awesome genre. And frankly, I don’t understand why there isn’t more YA sci-fi around.
The book begins right where book 1 left off. The points of view still shift back and forth between Amy and Elder. Elder is afraid of taking on all his new leadership duties now that Eldest is gone. He also knows there is a problem with the ship’s engines, and is worried about figuring out how to fix everything. And Amy is on a mission to discover clues left behind from Orion, the killer from book 1, who wanted to get rid of all the cryogenically frozen people on the ship (including Amy’s parents). He was punished at the end of the first book by being frozen himself to await trial for when everyone “wakes” up and realizes what he tried to do.
Not liking Orion at all, Amy realizes there is still a lot about the ship and the Eldest leadership that has been kept secret, and decides to follow his clues and drag Elder along with her. Both Amy and Elder work together to find out what all the secrets are. But, Amy does most of the sleuthing because Elder spends most of his time breaking up riots, starting police forces, learning about Newton’s laws of motion, solving murders, making sure everyone is getting equal food distribution, and fighting off rebellions. He gave his people back their choice (by getting rid of the drug that turned them into obedient, sufficient workers). And a lot of the book is about Elder dealing with that decision. And the secrets Amy uncovers are huge! The biggest one was not that big of a surprise for me because really there could be no other secret for Orion to keep alluding to that could be that big.
From engine failures, to food riots, to drug patches, to murder, to hidden staircases and locked doors, to weapons and bombs exploding, this book is loaded with action. And it still has all the romance from the first book (though it takes the back seat to the story and the action).  There’s also all the wonderful culture reversals that got me addicted to book one. Amy is the only white person (with red hair) on a ship of people who have only ever known people to look just like them (brown skin and dark hair). For generations, there has been no one like Amy. And many of the people are afraid of her still.
Along with the serious themes of culture and race (and even religion or lack of religion) comes also the topic of rape. Amy was almost raped in the first book and is still greatly affected by what she survived. And a lot of this book is spent trying to keep away from the man who attacked her. That same man also raped a woman who becomes Amy’s friend. And one of my all time favorite scenes is when the two women work together to defend themselves and then actually even pay the guy back.
On top of all the action, mystery, and serious topics, comes the deep philosophical questions good dystopias make readers ask. Like, is one life worth 2000? Or is it more important for the ship to keep running or for people to have free choice? And who makes the best leader?
Elder does a lot of growing up in this book. And he really becomes such a strong character. I love the adventures Amy goes on, but I feel like she’s always risking too much and making stupid decisions, and that she hasn’t grown up that much at all. Though, I guess she had less growing to do than Elder did. I liked how the two of them worked as a couple (both in a romantic sense and in a decision-making sense). I thought the way the people reacted to gaining their free choice back was so fascinating. And everything about the rebellions, the questioning of the leader, and the murders, was just so good! I loved the ending (though I’m dying for the final installment that doesn’t come out till January 2013!)
The only thing that bugged me at all was the part of the ending that involved the rebel leader becoming friends with Elder. I felt like that was unrealistic and too much like Disney happy ending; it didn’t fit their characters at all. I get that they survived, witnessed, and went through a lot together in those ending scenes, but that wasn’t enough for me to believe that they could end on such good terms. I mean the two guys have been punching each other and starting riots that killed people over each other throughout the whole book. I don’t think that’s solved with one informative scene and a death.
But besides that one tie up that was just a little too convenient, I loved this book. I read it super fast (the day it came out). I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to the first book or maintain all of the serious themes the first book created, but it did! It brought more to the table, and it had me guessing the whole time. I highly recommend this one. It definitely gets a 10/10.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

I absolutely loved this book! I’ve known about it for a while because I ordered it for my volunteer library months ago. And I knew from my first glimpse of the cover in that catalog that this was going to be a fantastic read.
It started a little slow for me, mostly because there was no extensive introduction to Cinder’s world. The story just sort of started and readers are meant to figure some things out on their own. And in the long run, I liked this technique, but at first it made my absorption of the story a little slower.
It’s about Cinder, a cyborg (part girl/part machine), whose been adopted into a cruel family. She survived a serious accident and surgery at the age of 11, but has no memories of her life pre-surgery. The man who adopted her died of the plague before she got to know him, and she was left to an evil stepmother, an evil stepsister, and one nice stepsister. Cinder, being part machine, has no legal rights to anything. Her stepmother practically owns her. She can’t leave, can’t keep the money she earns, and can’t even go anywhere without her stepmother knowing her exact location.
Cinder lives in the future, on earth. There has been 4 world wars. And large portions of the earth’s population have disappeared due to the plague. There’s robots, flying cars, space ships, cyborgs, and Lunars (people who live on the moon). The story really takes off when Cinder’s good sister obtains the plague, and the rest of Cinder’s family blames Cinder for it. There’s a frightening scene in the beginning where Cinder is forced to leave her home, and robots drag her to the palace to be a “volunteer” for finding the cure. Cinder thinks she’s going to die, but soon learns she’s immune to the plague.
And of course she’s dragged off after befriending Prince Charming (Aka: Kai). He came to her booth at the market to have his android (not phone, but personal robot) fixed. Cinder is famous for her mechanic skills.
After realizing she is immune, the doctor in charge lets Cinder go and agrees to pay her money (that doesn’t go to her stepmother) as long as Cinder agrees to help him find a cure. Cinder agrees on the note that her sister will get helped if a cure is found.
There’s a ball, some serious spying, mind manipulation, disguises, a lot of mechanical work, and some very interesting cyborg politics. Cinder and Kai have a lot of important decisions to make through out the book about what’s best for the people. Everyone wants a cure to be found. But, soon Kai’s father dies, and the queen of the moon wants to make a marriage alliance with Kai. She makes all sorts of threats to get what she wants.
And the book ends with a cliffhanger, but I know at least three more books are in the works. I know a war is brewing between earth and the moon. And I know it’s up to Kai and Cinder to prevent it.
I loved the world this book took place in. I found everything about this futuristic society fascinating. And I’m grateful that the author allowed for a lot of space for me to imagine my own additions to the world. The characters are excellent. I liked Cinder, I really did. I just wished sometimes that she would stop doubting herself. I was a little sick of all the “How can anyone like me? I’m just a cyborg?” comments. And I predicted the ending pretty much from the very beginning. So I’m assuming I was supposed to guess what I did? But, sometimes what the characters never guessed for themselves was downright ridiculous. And I still don’t get how Kai could have been that blind.
I thought all the tie-ins to the fairy tale were fantastic. The girl left behind a whole foot (as compared to the glass slipper), and who would not find that better? There were still all the embarrassing “Ever After” type realizations that Kai came to. There was Cinder’s late entrance to the ball. And I’m interested in seeing if the author will be tying in other fairy tale elements with the rest of her books (entitled Scarlet, Cress, and Winter –all different fairytale sounding names).
I liked that Cinder was a mechanic and I liked that she wasn’t totally alone; she had the one good sister and her best robot friend too, both of whom I ended up caring for. And I liked that Kai wasn’t the most important element for Cinder. She seemed to value her freedom, her friends, and her sister above all else. And yes, she went back to share some important information with Kai at the end, but I don’t think she would have if it didn’t seem she could save his life. Though, I did find myself wishing for a little more romance. I get why Cinder liked Kai so much, but I feel like Kai's "love" for Cinder kind of came out of nowhere, and he was so persistent for something that came out of nowhere. I'm sure this will be added to with the rest of the books, and I can't wait.
All in all, I really enjoyed this one. And I give it a 9/10.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

So, I love Maria V. Snyder. I’m a fan of her adult fantasy series, and I am a fan of her YA sci-fi dystopia series. Needless, to say this book has been on my to-read list for a while. What made it jump about 10 places in line for me though was the glowing recommendation I got for it from my friend Christina, who didn’t like the dystopia series as much as me.
And really, this was just such a treat. I recommend it to fans of Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore. Thanks, Christina!
The book starts with immediate action (my kind of beginning). It begins with Avry healing a little girl (with her special healer abilities), and knowing immediately that she must run away. In her world, there aren’t many healers left. They’ve all been rounded up and killed for their supposed reluctance to heal plague victims. What the populace doesn’t know is that healers couldn’t help plague victims without dying themselves. One letter was misinterpreted and the whole world thinks healers banned together and just decided not save plague victims. People always need someone to blame.
The mother of the saved little girl catches on to what happened and helps to turn Avry in. Avry has been running for years, always having to leave town when she slips and saves someone (usually a child).  Parents of these children are never as grateful as they should be. But more than the town’s government (which will be rewarded in gold for the capture of a healer), others take notice of Avry’s arrest. And soon everything is reversed. Avry turns from running away, hoping no one will notice her abilities, to running away from people who want to use her for her abilities.
She might be the last healer alive, and all the major kingdoms are soon to be at war for dominance of the post-plague world. They could all use Avry’s help. She’s resuced from her prison cell by a group of men (she soon starts to call monkeys), who want her to heal someone for them. She agrees, but soon learns they want her to heal a royal who has the plague. She doesn’t say what that healing will do to her, but refuses to heal the royal because of his involvement in the destruction of all healers.
She goes along with the men any way, partially because when she tries to escape, Kerrick and his earth magic and can track her down faster than she can get away. She also kind of loves the guys. She teaches them about finding plants for medicine, about cooking with spices, and even how to juggle. They in turn teach her to throw knives and how to walk quietly in the forrest. There’s a lot of hiding, fighting, healing, and laughter on this journey. Avry saves their lives and they save hers. And they all try to persuade her to save the king.
It becomes almost painfully apparent to readers how much Avry and Kerrick love each other, though they are both so stubborn that nothing happens till the end. And that’s the best romance, the kind that builds and begins with friendship. Though, technically theirs started with hatred. There’s hidden archives, underground prison cells, plenty of magic, zombies, economic downfall, family hardships, society dinners, man-eating flowers, plotting royals, and the only awesome fantasy element that was missing I think was dragons (and elves).
I loved Avry. She was just enough martyr, and just enough selfish to be truly believable. Her weakness was children because of the little sister she left behind to become a healer. She had to make a lot of decisions about who was worth saving (and running for), and who was worth giving up her life for. And the healing was awesome! She would take whatever anyone was suffering from and transfer it to herself. She would then take half as long to heal as the original person would have. And I like that it wasn’t all magic. During one of her captures, she takes charge of the enemy’s infirmary, and it’s clear that a lot of her training was also in plants, medicines, and hygiene. It’s not just about magic and the power of her touch.
Though, I wish I got more description for the magic part. It was always very brief, sometimes too brief. When she heals a friend toward the end, she just touches him for a second and that’s it…I feel like that was almost too easy and anti-climatic. I want to know what it feels like to heal someone like that. I see how Avry suffers every time she heals someone, but I’m more interested in the healing itself. I also wish I got to know some of the monkeys better. I got to know about two of them, but the others were sort of just names, and I wanted more character development for them.
I loved the politics, all the double-crossing, the strategy, etc. And I really love the death lilies and learning about the plague that killed so many people. I found the story very believable. A sequel is in the works and I’m glad because I want to learn more about the plague, about what happened to Avry at the end, about the death lilies, and about he future of Avry’s people (aka: who will win this war?). I give this one a 10/10. I loved it!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I love Barnes’ other series about werewolves, and I have already reviewed both of them on my blog. I was so excited to get this net galley, courtesy of Egmont USA.  It just came out (December 27, 2011), and it was the perfect book to take along on my little New Years vacation.
It’s about Kali, a 16-year old girl who’s actually only a human girl every other day. The other days, she becomes a supernatural hunter. She has little control in her need these days to go after zombies, ice dragons, basilisks, and all other types of supernatural creatures. Because of people like her father who promote the study of the supernatural, going after these creatures is actually illegal; they’re on an endangered species list of sorts. Kali is constantly aware of time, and how much of it she gets as a human and how much she gets as a huntress. At first, it seems like she likes being human best, but once readers get to know Kali, it is learned that she much prefers the strength, agility, and healing abilities of her huntress self.
And the story really starts when Kali notices a tattoo on a girl at school that symbolizes a supernatural creature taking over her body. And before Kali can think too much about it, she persuades the creature to leave the girl’s body and enter hers. Her blood, even as a human, draws the attention of all these creatures. All Kali has to do is survive till the next day when she can kill it. The girl is also kind of invincible. Nothing seems to kill her. Fatal zombie bites barely wind her. And she survives broken necks, terrible car “accidents,” chunks of her body being ripped apart, and all sorts of terrible wounds, with barely any pain.
Too bad for Kali, the girl (Bethany) who used to have the tattoo, (that symbolized her near demise), won’t let Kali out of her sights. And along with Kali’s other friend, Skylar (who happens to be a little bit of a physic), the three embark on a very violent journey of discovery. They learn about what the company Kali and Bethany’s fathers work for, really does. They learn about sick experiments with children, what parents are willing to risk to save their children, they learn about Kali’s family history, they learn about vampires, and they learn about friendship.
Eventually, the creature inside Kali that doesn’t go away the next day connects her to someone else like her, Lev, a guy imprisoned in the company. And from him, she learns she doesn’t want to get rid of the creature inside her. The creature makes her stronger, faster, and more capable of healing. All she has to do is feed it every now and then…feed it blood. And the book ends with the ultimate rescue mission. The girls infiltrate the company, fight against all the odds (aka: lot of beasties), and work hard for what they believe in.
I loved Kali. At first I thought I would hate her because the beginning made it sound like she would whine about all her transitions between girl and hunter. But, I was wrong. The fact that she liked being what she was made the whole thing so much better! She also had this constant sarcastic voice in her head that made all of the normal, painful conversations with her father and those around her, so much more fun! She’s strong, sarcastic, brave, and such a fantastic YA main character!
I liked her friends too. Though, Skylar’s many brothers who all conveniently had methods to aid the girls throughout the book kind of reminded me of the seven dwarves, and not in a good way. I feel like they were a little too convenient. Though, I did love the number four brother jokes. I also felt like the dad was a little too unbelievable in his fatherly duties. I get that he’s different, and felt some serious guilt for things, but how could he not notice all the blood, all the changes in Kali, and all the late nights for four whole years?
The world Barnes writes though is fantastic. I like how all this supernatural stuff is rooted in Darwin. And that everyone sees these terrible things all the time (and on the news), but no one believes that Skylar is psychic. The book is layered in fight scenes, blood, action, rescue missions, fast paced dialogue, mystery, and then more action. There was not a lot of romance, but I’m okay with that. There was something hinted at with Lev, but I like that the book, unlike most other YA books in this genre, allowed the story and action to be the main focus as compared to some soul mate, unstoppable, forbidden, love. And I really loved the every other day shifts. I’ve never read anything that dealt with shifts like this, and it really made the story so unique!
I give this one an 9/10. And I look forward to anything else this writer has to say.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Best Books of 2011

I’m back from my little vacation. I hope everyone is having a great new year! It’s time to get back to business. I work at my bookstore tonight. My volunteer library is tomorrow. And my school library is Friday. I see lots of books in my near future. And I have a review to post here too. Maybe I’ll post it late tonight, or tomorrow? But, first things first, I promised my favorite YA of 2011, and here it is.
My rules:
1) Each book listed has come out this past year.
2) It is YA (duh).
3) I also have read the book in 2011 (not later or earlier). And it doesn’t matter if other books in the series have come out earlier.
4) If I have reviewed it on my blog, which I think I have for all but one, it will have gotten at least a 9/10. Though, I think there’s only one here that I didn’t give a 10/10 to.

10) Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

9) Born at Midnight by C.C. Hunter

8) Wither by Lauren DeStefano

7) Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

6) Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

5) Across the Universe by Beth Revis

4) Blood Red Road by Moira Young

3) Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

2) Divergent by Veronica Roth

1) Beauty Queens by Libba Bray