Thursday, May 31, 2012

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Pages: 348
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: Chloe's older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can't be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby's friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.
But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.
With palpable drama and delicious craft, Nova Ren Suma bursts onto the YA scene with the story that everyone will be talking about.

I read Nova Ren Suma’s Imaginary Girls closer to its release date last year, but I decided to re-read it in preparation for a library event hosting her for a dinner/discussion/signing last month. I am very happy that I revisited this one!
Chloe’s sister Ruby is the girl every boy wants and the one every girl wants to be. A few words can get her whatever she wants--but not even she can stop Chloe from being sent away after she comes across the body of a dead classmate. Two years later, Chloe returns to vast differences--and shocking similarities to life before finding London’s dead body. What she discovers will have her questioning death and sisterhood until she discovers the truth.
There are so many fantastic things about this book. I loved the relationship between the two sisters and how unhealthy it was. Ruby treated other people like dirt in order to give herself and Chloe whatever they could wish for. She begins acting like a crazy, overbearing mother to Chloe but doesn’t explain why. The fierce adoration between the two is admirable--they are the only ones that truly love one another; other examples of love in the novel are either shallow or forced on the person by Ruby’s very being. This creates a clear internal conflict for Chloe. She knows what Ruby does is wrong, but loves her and sees how she is attempting to protect her. The complexity of the relationship between the two is so well done. I always applaud an author who sets out to create a well constructed relationship between two characters not based in romantic feelings. Friendships and siblings for the win!
I loved that this is another young adult read that utilizes magical realism! I feel like there aren’t enough out there. I enjoyed the basis for the tale being the creepy legend of Olive, a spooky ghost town that exists entirely underwater that sometimes claims souls for their own.
I thoroughly enjoyed Chloe’s almost-unreliable narrator status--the reader can never know what is true because Chloe begins questioning everything she knows. One of my favorite lines: “Ruby’s stories didn’t have morals. They meant one thing in the light and one thing in the dark and another thing entirely when she was wearing sunglasses.” (51)
I encourage everyone to read Nova Ren Suma’s young adult debut Imaginary Girls! It’s a great magical realism tale, a great story about what it means to be sisters, and just a well written book all around. Bonus: it’s coming out in paperback in a few weeks!

Rating: 5 - fantastic, shelf of favorites, you know

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (17)

The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab

Caro Mitchell considers herself an only child—and she likes it that way. After all, her much older sister, Hannah, left home eight years ago, and Caro barely remembers her. So when Caro’s parents drop the bombshell news that Hannah is returning to live with them, Caro feels as if an interloper is crashing her family. To her, Hannah’s a total stranger, someone who haunts their home with her meek and withdrawn presence, and who refuses to talk about her life and why she went away. Caro can’t understand why her parents cut her sister so much slack, and why they’re not pushing for answers.
Unable to understand Hannah, Caro resorts to telling lies about her mysterious reappearance. But when those lies alienate Caro’s new boyfriend and put her on the outs with her friends and her parents, she seeks solace from an unexpected source. And when she unearths a clue about Hannah’s past—one that could save Hannah from the dark secret that possesses her—Caro begins to see her sister in a whole new light.

Release date: October 9, 2012

I really loved Anna Jarzab's first novel, All Unquiet Things, so I can't wait for her next one!

Monday, May 28, 2012

In My Mailbox (21)

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Dark Eyes by William Richter

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Hourglass by Myra McEntire

IMM is hosted by The Story Siren

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Publisher: Egmont USA
Pages: 336
Series or Stand Alone: (as far as I know) Stand Alone
Summary: Every other day, Kali D'Angelo is a normal sixteen-year-old girl. She goes to public high school. She attends pep rallies. She's human.
And then every day in between . . .She's something else entirely.
Though she still looks like herself, every twenty-four hours predatory instincts take over and Kali becomes a feared demon-hunter with the undeniable urge to hunt, trap, and kill zombies, hellhounds, and other supernatural creatures. Kali has no idea why she is the way she is, but she gives in to instinct anyway. Even though the government considers it environmental terrorism.
When Kali notices a mark on the lower back of a popular girl at school, she knows instantly that the girl is marked for death by one of these creatures. Kali has twenty-four hours to save her and, unfortunately, she'll have to do it as a human. With the help of a few new friends, Kali takes a risk that her human body might not survive. . .and learns the secrets of her mysterious condition in the process.

I found Jennifer Lynn Barnes on twitter, thus creating another example of “If you’re interesting and funny on twitter, I’ll most likely read your book.” Her series is about werewolves, so I decided to check out her stand alone first. I’m still not totally sold on werewolves, and this book sounded kind of badass.
Every other day (title plug!) Kali is a not-quite-human demon hunter. With poisonous blood and an extraordinary healing ability, Kali’s every other days are filled with killing supernatural, evil beasts. On the off days, she’s a normal (read: vulnerable to danger) teenage girl waiting to go back out and fight evil. Unfortunately, she notices the mark of a chupacabra on the most popular girl in school on one of her off days. Will Kali be able to help this girl before it’s too late for either of them?
Every Other Day introduced a totally fresh paranormal concept into the world of young adult fiction: Kali is regular girl (albeit a rather unfriendly one) every other day, but when she isn’t she’s a fierce demon hunter with poisonous blood running through her veins. Everything about her is a weapon against dark creatures. Kali takes it upon herself to battle as much evil as she can in order to keep people safe. There’s a lot of science-y genetics talk in this one, what with talks of cross-breeding and whatnot, presumably because Jennifer Lynn Barnes is a science scholar. I thought it was really cool and different to apply a bunch of science-y things to a paranormal book rather than a sci-fi read. Plus, this was a paranormal book sans paranormal romance--something I find to be a rarity in the young adult world these days.
The only issue I had with this one is that I couldn’t really connect with Kali. I liked her attitude and the fact that she was completely and utterly unfriendly, but I found her to be shut off from almost everyone, including the reader (in this case, myself). I find a narrator so totally closed-off rather off-putting, especially since this was told in first person.
Other than my issues with Kali’s openness, Every Other Day was a great, totally different read. If you’re looking for a fresh take on the paranormal world sans romantic entanglements, check this one out. I’m looking forward to reading Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s other books--I grabbed both Raised by Wolves and Trial by Fire on sale for Kindle last week!

Rating: 3.5-4 - fair/good.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers GroupPages: 375Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: Dying of a broken heart is just the beginning.... Welcome to forever.
BRIE'S LIFE ENDS AT SIXTEEN: Her boyfriend tells her he doesn't love her, and the news breaks her heart—literally.
But now that she's D&G (dead and gone), Brie is about to discover that love is way more complicated than she ever imagined. Back in Half Moon Bay, her family has begun to unravel. Her best friend has been keeping a secret about Jacob, the boy she loved and lost—and the truth behind his shattering betrayal. And then there's Patrick, Brie's mysterious new guide and resident Lost Soul . . . who just might hold the key to her forever after.
With Patrick's help, Brie will have to pass through the five stages of grief before she's ready to move on. But how do you begin again, when your heart is still in pieces?

I went back and forth on whether or not to read this one. On the one hand, I thought that the whole dying-of-a-broken-heart-thing was pure cheese. When I gave it a shot, Brie’s voice won me over enough for me to read the whole thing through. Plus, I haven’t read too many dead girl books, so I’m giving the whole topic a shot.
Here’s the deal: Brie’s heart literally splits in half after her boyfriend breaks up with her, sending her to that big pizza place in the sky (I’m serious). With the help of fellow dead person and apparent spirit guide Patrick, a boy who looks like he kicked it in the 80s, Brie observes her family and friends in her absence. At first Brie is snarky, but when she notices how quickly things are falling apart, she becomes devastated and desperate. Once Brie goes through the five stages of grief, she might find that there may be more to her afterlife than she previously thought.
Brie wasn’t your average “dead girl book” heroine--rather than become an ethereal, drifting soul that becomes a wonderful, repentant, serene observer, she remains exactly who she was when she died. She was a teenage girl with a broken heart and a decent amount of anger. She was pissed off, she was pretty snarky, and she was a delight to read--at first.
Her issues with her boyfriend and friends spur on acts of cruelty that did not endear her to me at all. I felt that the physical and mental implications of her actions made her seem almost sociopathic rather than merely upset. This was such a strong read in the beginning, but the story clearly tapered off for me at some point. The middle seemed to lack focus. What I started reading in the beginning in no way prepared me for the ending of the story, which I found to be both a good and bad thing.
Side note: this story reminded me strongly of the “Tale of the Prom Queen” episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark. It made me want to watch it quite badly. Now that I’m talking about it, I want to watch it all over again. Curses!
All and all, I have an entirely mixed review for Jess Rothenberg’s The Catastrophic History of You and Me. However, due to the many benefits the beginning of the story had (and I’ll say the end as well), I’m excited to see what Jess Rothenberg has in store for us next!

Rating: 3 - fair.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (16)

The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee

Sixteen-year-old Rinn Jacobs has secrets: One, she’s bipolar. Two, she killed her grandmother. 
After a suicide attempt, and now her parents' separation, Rinn and her mom move from California to the rural Ohio town where her mother grew up. Back on her medications and hoping to stay well, Rinn settles into her new home, undaunted by the fact that the previous owner hanged herself in Rinn's bedroom. At school, her classmates believe the school pool is haunted by Annaliese, a girl who drowned there. But when a reckless séance goes awry, and terrible things start happening to her new friends—yet not to her—Rinn is determined to find out why she can’t be "touched" by Annaliese...or if Annaliese even exists. 
With the help of Nate Brenner, the hunky “farmer boy” she’s rapidly falling for, Rinn devises a dangerous plan to uncover the truth. Soon reality and fantasy meld into one, till Rinn finds it nearly impossible to tell the difference. When a malevolent force threatens the lives of everyone she cares about--not to mention her own--she can't help wondering: who should she really be afraid of?
Annaliese? Or herself?

Release date: July 17, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tune In Tuesday (4)

Tune in Tuesday is hosted by GReads!

This week's playlist song is brought to you by my musings on (past and present) pop music this past week (which has absolutely nothing to do with how catchy I find those One Direction boys, not one bit).

This week's playlist song is:
"Say You'll Be There" by The Spice Girls

Some songs to accompany this 90's pop retrospective:
"I Want It That Way" by The Backstreet Boys
"He Loves U Not" by Dream
"Tearin' Up My Heart" by *NSYNC
"(You Drive Me) Crazy" by Britney Spears

Top Ten Tuesday (20)

Top Ten Sites I Read that Aren’t About Books:

This was a bit of a struggle for me! Apparently the internet is mostly a vehicle for me to learn about new books and authors. Take that, people who always say that the internet is making books irrelevant! Also, you’re dumb.

ANYWAY, here it goes!
1. Television Without Pity (TWoP): I started reading TWoP many, many moons ago. Their slogan is “Spare the snark, spoil the network,” so you can imagine why I might have been drawn to it initially. TWoP provides in depth, snarky television show recaps, along with awesome lists such as “Hunger Games: The TV Teen Edition” and “Kick Ass Female Characters.”
2. Tumblr: I know that tumblr is words, pictures, videos, and music, but I spend a decent amount of time looking at it. Especially gifs that are amusing to me.
3. Twitter: All right, this could be considered cheating because one of the reasons I have a twitter is to follow authors, publishers, and industry professionals. But I also follow my friends, TV, and music-related people! It counts!
4. SPIN Magazine: I have a subscription to SPIN, but do I actually read it? OF COURSE NOT. I look at the articles on the website, because they conveniently email them to me. Sad but true.
5. Entertainment Weekly: for all of my entertainment news. A hard copy gets delivered to the house, but it constantly disappears before I get to see it, so the website is fantastic.
6. Hypable: it’s the Cliff’s Notes version of entertainment news created by fans of basically everything--television shows like Game of Thrones, superhero movies, books, etc. The people who run the site compile (and credit) important pieces of interviews, which is great because I’d never go searching for them myself.
7. Zap2It: apparently if I’m not looking at things about books, I’m looking at things about TV. I check this one out specifically for their coverage of The Vampire Diaries, but I’ll really look at anything that strikes my fancy. They do recaps and interviews for TV-based things. I follow one of the moderators/writers (@CadleyMack) on twitter because she’s pretty hilarious.
8. Wikipedia: for obvious reasons.
9. IMDB: I’m one of those people that won’t rest until they have figured out that the reason that they recognize that tertiary character on this week’s episode of Law and Order is that they were part of an ensemble cast of some 90’s show on Nickelodeon. I need to figure out those sorts of things, and when I have no choice but to give up, I turn to IMDB.
10. Mars Investigations: I don’t look at this one as much as I used to, but when I first watched Veronica Mars at the end of high school, I was on this site all the time for its quotes, music, and anything else it had to offer.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Monday, May 21, 2012

In My Mailbox (20)

From the Barnes and Noble sale annex, which needs to stop half-pricing their discounted books in order to discourage my ridiculous habit:
Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab
Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes

From my library's book sale, where you can buy a bag for $5 and fill it up with however many books you can fit:
Aimee by Mary Beth Miller
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
Freaky Green Eyes by Joyce Carol Oates
A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle
Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld
In the Woods by Tana French

The List by Siobhan Vivian
Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen

Preordered from B&N on sale!
Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein

Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

This is another one of those posts that just proves I have a problem.

IMM is hosted by The Story Siren

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter

Publisher: Disney*Hyperion
Pages: 265Series or Stand Alone: Book Four in the Gallagher Girls series
Summary: When Cammie Morgan enrolled at the Gallagher Academy, she knew she was preparing for the dangerous life of a spy. What she didn’t know was that the serious, real-life danger would start during her junior year of high school. But that’s exactly what happened two months ago when Cammie faced off against an ancient terrorist organization dead set on kidnapping her.
Now the danger follows her everywhere, and even Cammie “The Chameleon” can’t hide. When a terrifying encounter in London reveals that one of her most-trusted allies is actually a rogue double-agent, Cammie no longer knows if she can trust her classmates, her teachers—or even her own heart.
In this fourth installment of the New York Times best-selling series, the Gallagher Girls must hack, spy, steal, and lie their way to the they go searching for answers, recognizing that the key to Cammie’s future may lie deep in the past.

Since coming off of escaping a kidnapping attempt from a historical terrorist organization, Cammie Morgan has been spending her time in England with Bex and her superspy parents. A second attempt in London makes Cammie realize just how serious the danger around her is--and reveals someone that Cammie trusts to be a double agent working for the Circle. While everyone back at Gallagher Academy is tightening security around her, Cammie isn’t sure about the revealed double agent and must go off in search of answers she may not be prepared for.
This Gallagher Girl book certainly opened with a bang. A person Cammie trusts is revealed to be a double agent, working with the Circle towards Cammie’s capture. I always find it better to jump start these books with a big action sequence, especially one with known characters. This particular one created major trust issues and doubts for the rest of the novel. While there are always secrets in the Gallagher Girls books, I felt like this situation took it to a new, darker level.
I was happy that Zach was a bigger player in this one. I enjoyed hearing more about his past history. It was beginning to feel like the relationship between the two was becoming repetitive; I’m glad the new information kind of strengthened the relationship’s story.
Plus one for mystery! Cammie and her friends have to determine whether the double agent is actually a TRIPLE agent. Only the Good Spy Young is another good addition to Ally Carter’s series with a slight cliffhanger ending that will certainly drive people to read the fifth installment!

Rating: 4 - good!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse by Lucas Klauss

Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 402
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: Phillip’s sophomore year is off to a rough start. One of his best friends ditches him for a group of douchebags. His track coach singles him out for personalized, torturous training sessions. And his dad decides to clean out all of the emergency supplies from the basement, even though the world could end in disaster at any moment... and even though those supplies are all Phillip has left of his dead mom. Not that he wants to talk about that.
But then Phillip meets Rebekah. Not only is she unconventionally hot and smart, but she has seriously great boobs. And she might like him back.
As Phillip gets closer to Rebekah, he tries harder and harder to turn himself into the kind of person he thinks she wants him to be. But the question is, can he become that person? And does he really want to?

I read this book entirely based on how much I loved the cover. I basically had no idea what I was getting into--after I read the description, I thought that I was going to be reading about the wacky adventures of a teenage boy attempting to get the girl he liked. I think that this is one time that the book flap summary is to blame, and not my horrific tendency to skim the summaries and make assumptions without careful reading (hello, The Way We Fall).
Phillip is your everyday teenage boy. He’s not popular, but he’s not unpopular either. When he meets Rebekah, an unconventionally hot girl, he attempts to spend time with her by going to her church’s youth group--something that would make his atheist father’s head spin. Through the people he encounters there, along with memories of his dead mother whose Rapture preparations are still taking up space in his basement and some fights with friends along the way, Phillip ends up learning a lot about himself and what roles faith and religion play in his life--if they have a role at all.
Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse was way deeper and serious than I previously thought it was going to be. Klauss takes on a whole bunch of religion and faith-related questions that run far deeper than what the summary explains. I thought he handled these questions deftly. He doesn’t make grand judgments on religion as a whole. The only thing he took issue with was intolerance in general. I’m not particularly religious at all, but I always appreciate it when someone can question a touchy subject like religion without being disrespectful about it. My favorite quote was:
This was the best handling of religion in a young adult book I have seen since I read Melissa Walker’s Small Town Sinners last year (which I recommend, only don’t be fooled by the title, it’s not as salacious as it sounds).
There were multiple layers to this story. Two of the main conflicts--Philip being introduced to religion after living with his father’s ardent atheism for so long and him dealing with the loss of his mother over the course of the novel--were very interconnected and unraveled in an interesting way. There would be chapters where Philip would flash back to his earlier years when his mother was still alive and explain the familial conflicts that led to their situation. These pieces of the books were very strong and definitely overshadowed Philip’s attempt to attract Rebekah and his failing friendship with one of his two best friends. These were also well developed plot points, but they just weren’t the main focus. Random thought: I disliked Rebekah. If this book is re-released as a paperback, I think that they should revise the summary to explain how important the concepts of religion and faith have major impact on the plot.
Lucas Klauss’s Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse was a great contemporary read with a totally different plot. I also think that you should know about the issues involved with faith and religion before going into it.

Rating: 4 - good.

Waiting on Wednesday (15)

The Thing About the Truth by Lauren Barnholdt

(from Goodreads)
In this humorous love story from the author of Two-Way Street, an unlikely romance is the best sort of surprise—but the wrong secret can ruin everything. Kelsey’s not going to let one mistake ruin her life. Sure, she got kicked out of prep school and all her old friends are shutting her out. But Kelsey’s focused on her future, and she’s determined to get back on track at Concordia High.
Isaac’s been kicked out of more schools than he can count. Since his father’s a state senator, Isaac’s life is under constant scrutiny—but Concordia High’s his last stop before boarding school, so Isaac’s hoping to fly under the radar and try to stay put for a change.
When Kelsey and Isaac meet, it’s anything but love at first sight. She thinks he’s an entitled brat, and he thinks she’s a stuck-up snob. So it surprises them both when they start to fall for each other. Kelsey’s happy for the first time in months, and Isaac’s never felt this way about anyone before...But nothing’s ever completely perfect. Everyone has secrets, and Isaac and Kelsey are no exceptions. These two may have fallen hard, but there’s one thing that can ruin it all: the truth.

Release date: July 10, 2012

I loved Barnholdt's Sometimes It Happens, so I'm really excited for this one (and to catch up on some of her older books soon!)

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tune In Tuesday (3)

Tune in Tuesday is hosted by GReads!

This week's playlist song is:
"If It Were Up to Me" by Rooney (my favorite band!)

Songs to accompany this one:
"Where I Belong" by Motion City Soundtrack
"You're So Damn Hot" by OK Go
"Blankest Year" by Nada Surf
"I Kissed a Drunk Girl" by Something Corporate

Top Ten Tuesday (19)

Top Ten Authors I’d Like to See on Reality Television (and What Show!):

As with some of the other Top Ten Tuesdays, I’m going to mess with this one a bit. I don’t enjoy reality TV, so I try to stay away from it as much as humanly possible (or as much as possible when my mother watches all things Kardashian and Real Housewives). Rather than naming authors and shows, I’m going to talk about...

Top Ten Authors I’d Like to See As Younger Versions of Themselves in Cliched Roles on MTV’s The Real World, Entirely Based Off of Their Books, Their Characters, or How They Appear in the Media:

1. Stephenie Meyer: the slightly delusional girl looking to meet the love of her life on the show. For some reason, she seems to be attracted to every dude at a club in a shiny shirt.
2. E.L. James: the one that made you wish you didn’t complain quite so much about Stephenie Meyer. She basically wants the exact same things as S. Meyer, but is far more vocal and brash about it. She’s constantly in your face.
3. Maureen Johnson: the wacky, fun girl that no doubt starts the whipped cream and ketchup fights at one in the morning.
4. Jonathan Franzen: the loud-mouthed dude who’s constantly attempting to pick fights with the other roommates in the house. Usually about “literature” but any pretentious topic will do.
5. Nicholas Sparks: the hopeless romantic guy that likes to dwell on life’s tragedies. You get tired of the phrase “make love” right fast and hope that he gets less screen time later in the season.
6. Stephanie Perkins: she might oversleep for work, not being a morning person and all, but she’s so bubbly and effervescent that it won’t matter. Her cheerful but realistic attitude will be welcome on the show.
7. Lemony Snicket: he’s totally mysterious and a dash of weird. It seems that the cameras never quite catch him on screen--same with the rest of the cast. He keeps in touch with them via notes he writes on whatever happens to be handy at the time.
8. George R. R. Martin: the guy who is always playing the politics of the house, attempting to align people on one side or another. Things get way more complicated than you expect them to.
9. Meg Cabot: another bubbly girl for the house--only this one rambles on specifically about pop culture. And maybe tiaras or cats. Some might consider her to be a little crazy with her trains of thought, but she’s always a delight on screen.
10. JK Rowling: Nothin’ but class.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

In My Mailbox (19)

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Wanderlove by Kristen Hubbard
Slide by Jill Hathaway
The Story of Us by Deb Caletti
Glimmer by Phoebe Kitanidis

Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Lalala, my book problem appears to be getting worse instead of better. If no one hears from me, I've been buried by an avalanche of books in my sleep with no way out.

IMM is hosted by The Story Siren

Sunday, May 13, 2012

MIDDLE GRADE SUNDAY: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Pages: 272
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: Inspired by the author's own childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam as a refugee and immigrating to Alabama, this tween novel told in verse is sure to capture young readers' hearts and open their eyes.

I snagged a copy of this one at last year’s BEA and had Lai sign it for me, which was awesome. My boss had picked this one out as being her top Newbury contender. While Jack Gantos’s Dead End in Norvelt  (another book that I snagged and had signed at BEA but have yet to read) eventually took the prize, Inside Out and Back Again still gained the Newbury Honor medal and was a great middle grade book that would be perfect for any age reader.
Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out and Back Again tells the story of Ha, a girl that flees Vietnam with her family to move to Alabama. As poor as their conditions were in Vietnam, Ha misses it terribly when she is met with the strange customs of America and the bigotry of the people around her.
I loved this book and think it was entirely deserving of its Newbury Honor status. Lai’s verse created a wonderful story. I felt really connected to Ha’s emotions and story as she moved from one place to another. She was incredibly frustrated academically and socially. I loved that she forged a great relationship with her tutor and eventually found friends deserving of her trust.
The descriptions in this book were beautiful and really brought whatever Ha was talking about at the time to life. I was even more impressed that Lai created such intense descriptions through her short chapters told in verse. While many other writers could create the same picture while being incredibly verbose, Lai managed to create imagery using very few words. I personally liked that better; sometimes if a writer is rambling on too much trying to make me believe the picture they have in their minds, they lose me.
If you’re looking for a wonderful middle grade book, look no further than Inside Out and Back Again!

Rating: 5 - fantastic

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 387
Series or Stand Alone: Book One in the Lunar Chronicles
Summary: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, the ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Cinder was getting a whole lot of buzz before it came out, which makes total sense considering it’s a fairy tale retelling in which Cinderella is a cyborg. Straight up curiosity provided the push for me to read this one. It had the potential to be entirely fantastic or the strangest thing ever.
Linh Cinder is a cyborg, a second-class mechanic stuck living with the stepmonster (for the record, not an actual monster) that never wanted her and treats her like a slave. When Cinder’s beloved little stepsister Peony falls ill, Cinder ends up donated to the imperial research facilities working towards a cure. Her time at the Imperial Palace brings her closer to the handsome Prince Kai, a dangerous enemy from the skies, and secrets about her past that she must uncover before time runs out for everyone.
I really enjoyed Meyer’s first installment of the Lunar Chronicles. Cinder herself was an awesome character. In my memory, Cinderella isn’t exactly the strongest of characters. Cinder was snarky, resourceful, and strong. She stood up to both her stepmother and the leader of the Lunar Empire, even when threatened with arrest and death. How’s that for bravery?
The world that Meyer created was well constructed. The characters would refer to aspects of their world as if the reader already knew it, which I appreciate. It makes it seem more whole and real to me. From the marketplace to the Imperial Court, New Beijing felt like a real place with its deep history.
I would definitely recommend Cinder to fans of fairy tale retellings and sci-fi. Meyer created a strong female character, a broad spectrum of fully realized supporting characters (like the young, benevolent Prince Kai), and a world that felt real even though it was unlike our own. If you go into this one with an open mind, you won’t be disappointed!

Rating: 4 - good!

Macmillan Audio was awesome enough to give me a sneak peak of the Cinder audiobook! Check out the first chapter below!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

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

Publisher: Disney*Hyperion
Pages: 263Series or Stand Alone: Book Three in the Gallagher Girls books
Summary: When Cammie "The Chameleon" Morgan visits her roommate Macey in Boston, she thinks she's in for an exciting end to her summer break. After all, she's there to watch Macey's father accept the nomination for vice president of the United States. But when you go to the world's best school (for spies), "exciting" and "deadly" are never far apart. Cammie and Macey soon find themselves trapped in a kidnappers' plot, with only their espionage skills to save them.
As her junior year begins, Cammie can't shake the memory of what happened in Boston, and even the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women doesn't feel like the safe haven it once did. Shocking secrets and old flames seem to lurk around every one of the mansion's corners as Cammie and her friends struggle to answer the questions, Who is after Macey? And how can the Gallagher Girls keep her safe?
Soon Cammie is joining Bex and Liz as Macey's private security team on the campaign trail. The girls must use their spy training at every turn as the stakes are raised, and Cammie gets closer and closer to the shocking truth.

Cammie’s excited to spend the end of the summer in Boston with Macey and her family, until the girls are attacked on a rooftop and Macey is nearly kidnapped by scary, unknown operatives. Back at school, Macey deals with her fear and the aftermath of her attack by becoming increasingly introverted, while her friends to what they can to find information. The Gallagher girls must become part of Macey’s private security on the campaign trail in order to find out the truth--what the kidnappers were after was nothing Cammie and her friends could have guessed.
This was the first Gallagher Girl book that focused a bit more on one of the other Gallagher Girls. Although Cammie is still the narrator and the driving force of the narrative, a lot more information is given about Macey and her family life because of her kidnapping and the annoyance she demonstrates towards Preston, the presidential candidate’s son.
I find that mysteries are the way to go with these books. The driving mystery in this one is of course, why are the kidnappers after Macey in the first place? There are other, smaller mysteries that provoke intrigue as well, such as why Zach keeps popping up in the same places as Cammie?
This book furthers some of the overarching storylines in Carter’s series. The kidnappers set a fairly big plotline into motion. I find the more that connects these stories, the more I like them. The overarching stories add more depth to Cammie’s life. The first book seems like a superlight stand alone novel compared to the ensuing books.
Another good installment to the Gallagher Girls series, though I think I enjoyed Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy a bit more. The danger is increasing and more information is being revealed about Cammie’s friends and mentors, which can only be a sign of bad things but good plot points to come.

Rating: 3.5 - fair/good

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (14)

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

(from Goodreads)
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.
Her opponents are men—thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the kings council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.
Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Release date: August 7, 2012

CAN WE TALK ABOUT HOW AMAZING THIS LOOKS?! I've been hearing about this one for awhile and think it looks totally brilliant.

In the meantime, everyone should check out Maas's novellas that come before Throne of Glass, which are only $0.99 on Kindle (and I'm sure all the other e-book sources)!
"The Assassin and the Empire" (to be released soon!)

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine