Saturday, December 17, 2011

Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott


Good Reads Summary

A powerful tale of magic, love, and revenge set in fairy-tale Japan.

Trained in the magical art of shadow-weaving, sixteen-year-old Suzume is able to re-create herself in any form - a fabulous gift for a girl desperate to escape her past. But who is she really? Is she a girl of noble birth living under the tyranny of her mother's new husband, Lord Terayama? Or a lowly drudge scraping a living in the ashes of Terayama's kitchens? Or is she Yue, the most beautiful courtesan in the Moonlit Lands? Whatever her true identity, Suzume is destined to use her skills to steal the heart of a prince in a revenge plot to destroy Terayama. And nothing will stop her, not even the one true aspect of her life- her love for a fellow shadow-weaver. 


My Thoughts
I gush now… (again)

This late in the year, I truly wasn’t expecting another one of these books~ another one of these books that I love. I’ve been on a reading wave of ups and downs and kept things interesting by switching from realistic contemps to paranormals to adult UF’s and to whole a hell lot of ‘dytopias.’ Sure, I’d come across some duds but thankfully there were some really good ones in there as well. This definitely counts among the latter.

Blindsided.  


Two things I am sure of : (1) I was not expecting to feel what I felt for her, for her story this late in the year. And (2) this is definitely a favorite. If the combination of fantasy, romance and a setting that’s Japan inspired doesn’t get you, will me saying it brought a lot of what I felt for Eon/ Eona back do so? (And I love those books. No joke.) What’s better though is how this story kicks things up a notch because the writing is superb. At one point a bit poetic, it was heart breaking; then at other points, was absolutely vivid in description.

Story 


Hers starts with tragedy. That plus everything after it molded her, strengthened her. “My feebleness disgusted me. Who was this trembling idiot of a girl? How had such a weak, stupid little creature survived when others- so much braver, cleverer and more lovely – had not? But the fear the fear lay on me like a second skin, smothering and cold.” But it was her power in particular was quite new to me, that made her just a little bit more.

Characters. 


Truth? Each version of her tugged at me. All aspects of her: the awkward and unsure, the quiet and haunted, the beautiful and seductive mystery, and finally, the avenging guilt ridden one, had me fascinated. Everything she went through, everything she had to do… had me feeling so many things (I was fearing, cheering, tearing up a little for her.)

It’s been likened to that of Cinderella’s. Given that, there’s bound to be a fairy godmother (or two) in it. Those who played said role, had me wanting a little more from them too. Both Youta and Akira San had me waiting for the little tidbits they’d reveal of themselves. It’s safe to say, that I enjoyed the both of them just as much as I did Suzume.

Her mother. When Youta explains a little of what Suzume could do, he unwittingly touches on my issues with her mother. Her mother, her mother… her mother! I don’t know what to say about this woman except that I’m torn. (view spoiler)[ Him saying ‘people trust their eye above all else – but most people see what they wish, or what they believe they should see, not what is really there,’ explained people turning a blind eye to things. And IMO, her mother had time and again turned a blind eye to what blind was to what seemed obvious to me. Or was she, blind to it all I mean. And if she wasn’t could I blame her for finding solace in the creeper? (hide spoiler)]

Plus you all have to get a load of Terayama, the BEST bad guy yet.

THANK YOU NETGALLEY

4.5/5

Note: This is the cover on version to be released April 2012. I stuck in the one I preferred up there.
Shadows on the Moon

Friday, December 16, 2011

Shattered Souls by May Lindsey

Shattered Souls

Good Reads Summary

A thrilling debut story of death, love, destiny and danger

Lenzi hears voices and has visions - gravestones, floods, a boy with steel gray eyes. Her boyfriend, Zak, can't help, and everything keeps getting louder and more intense. Then Lenzi meets Alden, the boy from her dreams, who reveals that she's a reincarnated Speaker - someone who can talk to and help lost souls - and that he has been her Protector for centuries.

Now Lenzi must choose between her life with Zak and the life she is destined to lead with Alden. But time is running out: a malevolent spirit is out to destroy Lenzi, and he will kill her if she doesn't make a decision soon.


My Thoughts

The Good 



The whole protector-speaker thing. They’re basically exorcists. Even if the way Alden explained the in’s and out’s of what they were and what they did come off as a little clumsy to suit my taste, I did enjoy the novelty of it all. She talks to dead people and he protects her. Throw in some reincarnation and then some amnesia, and I thought the whole thing as not bad.



So-so 


Rose thinks she’s schizophrenic. (I think I’d have liked her more if she were.) When compared to her previous versions, Lenzi is so very different from Rose. Where Rose (as told from Alden’s POV) was sure, confident and directed, Lenzi is not any of those things. But who could blame her? Learning what she was and what she could do was done slowly through no fault of her own. Alden was simply too closed off and very careful not to break any rules. The last begs the question of ‘why?’ Why was he so careful? What was there to hide? When we learn of heartbreak and of arrangements and of rules, all things that lead his to behave the way he does, things do make sense.

And then... NO. Just no.

 

Lenzi read weak and selfish to me, her not knowing her past in no way excused how she behaved around the boys. And speak of the boys. Oh, the choice she had to make: weighing between a hot head, enabler, possibly alcoholic pill pusher versus Ghost boy, who pretends not to be controlling but was in fact very controlling. Really, how was a girl to decide? Liking her was made more difficult by the fact that she lied and avoided the truth as often as she could. Should it be enough for me that she admitted these faults to herself? Nope. There’s a world of difference between knowing your doing something wrong and not doing that wrong thing at all.

2.5/5

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Fallback Plan by Leigh Stein

The Fallback Plan
Good Reads Summary
 
A hilarious debut  novel about the tricky period between graduating from college and moving out of your parents’ house

What to do when you’ve just graduated from college and your plans conflict with those of your parents? That is, when your plans to hang out on the couch, re-read your favorite children’s books, and take old prescription tranquilizers, conflict with your parents plans that you, well, get a job?

Without a fallback plan, Eshter Kohler decides she has no choice but to take the job her mother has lined up for her: babysitting for their neighbors, the Browns.

It’s a tricky job, though. Six months earlier, the Browns’ youngest child died. Still, as Esther finds herself falling in love with their surviving daughter May, and distracted by a confusing romance with one of her friends, she doesn’t notice quite how tricky the job is … until she finds herself assuming the role of confidante to May’s mother Amy, and partner in crime to Amy’s husband Nate. Trapped in conflicting roles doomed to collide, Esther is forced to come up with a better idea of who she really is.

Both hilarious and heartbreaking, The Fallback Plan is a beautifully written and moving story of what we must leave behind, and what we manage to hold on to, as we navigate the treacherous terrain between youth and adulthood.

From the Trade Paperback edition


My Thoughts

Odd, her talking panda lives in a world that has a striking resemblance to Narnia. Esther claims to be writing a screenplay. Esther spends hours on end contemplating which disease she’d like contract to allow her to live on disability with her parents. Esther describes the state she's in as that of Weltschmerz (mental depression or apathy caused by a comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state; a mood of sentimental sadness.) Esther uses sentences like “if this were a movie” or if my life were a book.”

And given all that, Esther pissed me off but made me laugh. She pissed me off because~ I WAS her (and every so often do revert back to being like her when the mood hits.) At least she made me laugh. Her directionless self has a tendency to daydream, and it was all of the unlikely scenarios she came up with that had me laughing. What’s better is the funny did not end in her head… because everyone else around her was just as off balance as she was. Jack and Pickle on one hand then Amy, Nate and May on the other. In fact, everyone was so not normal, it was the kid who came across as the most well adjusted:

On Esther and Jack. Depressing. The girl has a tendency to not only imagine but also reminisce. She’d compare her present state to her ideal state enough to have her feeling down. But she also compared her present state to what was, making her just a little more depressed. Seeing her with him was depressing. Her romanticizing what they could, how they could be when in truth he is not that perfect, rather he’s so far from perfect.

On Esther and Amy and Nate and May. Sad. Their situation is sad and that is just about the only thing I can say. Esther enters the picture knowing fully well that tragedy had happened. She still does shitty things but surprisingly all the members of that family come to depend on her, need her. How odd/sad/unlikely is that?

What I liked most about this is how she’s funny and sad but not at the same time. More likely, she’s funny then sad and then funny then sad again. Add the fact that she just doesn't know what she wants. No, not really, she knows what she wants given her head to varied imaginary situations. It’s just all those things were all unlikely to take place.

What I disliked was that she felt too deeply and thought deeply… about herself, what she had, did not have, and wanted. Everything was all about her. There’s lack of perspective on her part that’s equal parts accurate, funny and annoying. Don’t get me wrong I had fun with her, I laughed when I was supposed to, but after some thought a little more consideration, I wanted her to get over it a little. But the thing is she does (get over it) ... eventually ... a little... because with Amy/May around her there's no choice but to do so.

THANKS NET GALLEY! 
3.5/5

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Between Shades of Gray by SuptaRuta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray

Good Reads Summary
 
Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously - and at great risk - documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.


My Thoughts

Powerful.

I don’t think I put it down once I actually got started. It’s got the best and the worst of humanity, but it was the best that had me breathing deep. Elena, in particular stands foremost in my mind. That she clung to hope through every single thing they went through, but what was even was more remarkable was what a good soul she was. A loving mother, without a doubt but it was her treatment of others that sticks out. Forgiving and thoughtful of possibilities seem the most apt descriptive. As it’s these two that became evident in not only how she treated those in her situation but supposed enemy as well.

Her children too showed strengths of their own. Jonas was a wonder to behold as he trucked on despite his age. Yet, as is expected it’s Lina who had me bawling. Her desire to get home, her desire to see her father again; I wanted all those things with her. In fact I might even say I felt what she was feeling, her frustration, anger… fear, all just came clear across.

And though I’m not particularly religious, it’s when they read a verse from Psalms that had me assessing if I wanted to go on. The verse was them you see.

This must needs stressing: Powerful

5/5

P.S. Read the Notes

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard

Paper Covers Rock
Good Reads Summary  

At the beginning of his junior year at a boys' boarding school, 16-year-old Alex is devastated when he fails to save a drowning friend. When questioned, Alex and his friend Glenn, who was also at the river, begin weaving their web of lies. Plagued by guilt, Alex takes refuge in the library, telling his tale in a journal he hides behind Moby-Dick. Caught in the web with Alex and Glenn is their English teacher, Miss Dovecott, fresh out of Princeton, who suspects there's more to what happened at the river when she perceives guilt in Alex's writing for class. She also sees poetic talent in Alex, which she encourages. As Alex responds to her attention, he discovers his true voice, one that goes against the boarding school bravado that Glenn embraces. When Glenn becomes convinced that Miss Dovecott is out to get them, Alex must choose between them.

My Thoughts

On Paper Covers Rock, literal references, symbolism and deep, deep thoughts aside, this is not my favorite book. For starters, Alex, its sixteen year old narrator doesn’t feel like he is a sixteen year old. The story focuses on the aftermath of Thomas’ drowning, it touches a lot on what Alex sees and how he feels. And among his many, many feelings are what he feels for his English teacher.

How he put words to paper, how he put things in general showed a very introspective almost too mature voice. It’s not one I’d expect out of a teenager living in a dorm. But perhaps that was the purpose? To show how such an event (as what had happened to Thomas) could have the likes of Alex folding into himself away from the typical. That said, I felt no real connection to him because mainly, it all got a bit tiresome.

Note that it’s all really well written, all those allusions and references were clever little bonuses. How the story was told, of going from past to present and back again, while not a new things was a clever way to go.

2.5/5

Monday, December 12, 2011

Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson

Psych Major Syndrome

Good Reads Summary

Using the skills you've learned so far in Introduction to Psychology, please write a brief self-assessment describing how things are going in your freshman year.
 
 Presenting Concerns:
 

The Patient, Leigh Nolan (that would be me), has just started her first year at Stiles College. She has decided to major in psychology (even though her parents would rather she study Tarot cards, not Rorschach blots).

Patient has always been very good at helping her friends with their problems, but when it comes to solving her own...not so much.

Patient has a tendency to overanalyze things, particularly when the opposite sex is involved. Like why doesn't Andrew, her boyfriend of over a year, ever invite her to spend the night? Or why can't she commit to taking the next step in their relationship? And why does his roommate Nathan dislike her so much? More importantly, why did Nathan have a starring role in a much-more-than-friendly dream?
 

Aggravating factors include hyper-competitive fellow psych majors, a professor who’s badly in need of her own psychoanalysis, and mentoring a middle-school-aged girl who thinks Patient is, in a word, naive.

Diagnosis:
 

Psych Major Syndrome


My Thoughts

A couple of chapters in and I knew what I was getting. That said I have no problem recommending this to anyone with a penchant for cutesy happy-happy rom/coms. Because basically that’s what PSYCH MAJOR SYNDROME is. The best thing about the book is Leigh, whom I adore!

Leigh has most everything going for her… or maybe not. A girl with the tendency to over-analyze, drag her feet and take her time in everything she did, has compensate elsewhere, right? And she does, she’s funny and made observations that made me laugh. If I had to compare her to anyone, I’d say she’s a bit like Ruby Oliver whose various quirks had me laughing (but cringing too.)

Leigh’s descriptions of her study habits (nil) and habit of stretching the truth are all quite entertaining. And just like Ruby, she’s not that self-aware. While she could see the wrong in other things and nitpick over details like a champion, she never really saw herself. And as she first observed, she sometimes ignored the big things. It’s because of these that her problems got bigger. I enjoyed most every tangle she got in because there was always her humor to count on.

Then there be the boys… oh the boys. Actually, it’s just “the boy,” because from the get I was wondering what was keeping her with Andrew, who read like a douche. But Nathan, my goodness! This time, I can honestly say that it wasn’t the guitar. That boy is positively yum.

Now there are two things one might take issue with~ (a) the unbelievably sweet ending (i.e. unlikely declarations) and (b) how Li and Rebekah were depicted. As to the first, I did say is cutesy sweet rom-com material, so it’s not that big a deal. As to the last, at least it wasn’t as bad as HoN.

3.5/5

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Junk Miles (Brenna Blixen #2) by Liz Reinhardt

Junk Miles (A Brenna Blixen Novel)

Good Reads Summary

Kissing someone other than your boyfriend is cheating.

But what about thinking about kissing someone other than your boyfriend?

What about thinking about it a lot?

Brenna Blixen has the perfect boyfriend. He's sweet, sexy, loyal, and sure that Brenna is the best thing that's ever happened to him. But being the perfect girlfriend isn't as easy as Brenna thought it would be, and the pressure that comes with trying to be Jake's everything is beginning to weigh on her. When her mother surprises her with a trip to Paris over winter break, she's torn. She anticipated spending her vacation snuggling with Jake Kelly, ice-skating, drinking cocoa, and relaxing...but what girl in her right mind would turn down a trip to Paris?

Things only get more confusing when she winds up unexpectedly and unavoidably thrown into Saxon Maclean's arms in the City of Lights. Far away from the comfort and stability she finds at Jake's side, Brenna faces down the feelings that have been swirling through her since the day she laid eyes on Saxon. Is it fair for her to call herself Jake's girlfriend when she has so many unresolved feelings about someone else?

Brenna is determined to figure it all out, even if it means making some of the hardest decisions of her entire life. She also learns that every single thing she does has rippling repercussions, some that fill her with total regret. By the time she figures out what her heart truly wants, she realizes that she may not be able to have it after all.

This book is recommended for Older/Mature YA.


My Thoughts

There were parts that I enjoyed. Brenna is still figuring herself out AND still drawn to both boys. She makes mistakes but so do the boys. Her voice is realistic, if a little self-involved. It’s still geared to a more mature audience, with the sex and exploration and what not, but there is more drama (as to the last, is that a good thing or not?)

Now, faced with the ever present love triangle, do I want to start this by settling on which of her choices was hotter? Should I? Really? If Double Clutch was mostly her being torn between two equally smokin’ choices, Junk Miles highlights precisely what’s not to like in either Jake or Saxon… most especially in Saxon. He has a lot of face time in this one. But as usual, he could be douche. Yet, there were moments when he wasn’t. But, the girl does like her bad boys, *shrugs* Then there’s Jake who showed just how little he thought of himself (reformed bad boy and all that) and how much he thinks of her (too much at times.) And it’s these two things that gives her pause.

I could understand her misgivings, as she made a couple of valid points (really I could.) But, still, I had problems with her choices. A lot of what she thought and a lot of what she did made perfect sense… too perfect as if almost rehearsed. She did not want to be pegged as anyone’s girl; consequently the girl acts, indulges then does some pretty selfish things. Add the fact that her mother encourages her to indulge and stuff. It all sounded right, but there was one thing holding me back… what about the others around her? It was all “I am confused,” or “I don’t know what I want.” And because of those things she ‘branches out’ and tries other things. These is not bad a thing, but it didn’t mean that she had to go about it the way she did, and break so many hearts along the way.

Basically, girl wanting to prove she’s her own woman does not equal being selfish and insensitive.

2.5.5

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Catching Jordan

Good Reads Summary

What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though - she leads them as the captain and quarterback on her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys, and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university. But now there's a new guy in town who threatens her starring position on the team... and has her suddenly wishing to be seen as more than just a teammate.

My Thoughts
 
It’s so darned cute… but not necessarily perfect. The last time I read a combo of a tomboy, football and love off field was with DJ Schwenk in Dairy Queens. Jordan is a little like DJ except that she’s more sure of herself and thus less self-deprecating. I like Jordan’s story; it’s sweet and cute, and easy, but I don’t necessarily like the girl herself. My biggest problem with her is how she saw people. The girl is headstrong and knows what she wants but she also knows what she doesn’t like. It’s here that I call stereotype. The labels she put on the girls around her bugged me a little, and the labels they put on her in turn bugged me a little more. Where one saw the other as dumb, pretty, and flighty; the other saw the female QB as a potential threat, would be slut and worse. Didn’t like it. At. All.

It didn’t help that the boys were a little unoriginal too: getting drunk then getting some all because they’re football stars. I wish there was something more to them because there could have been especially with JJ, Carter and Henry. I caught glimpses of them, not just as teammates but as her support too. I would have loved to see just a little more than JJ’s Casanova football star bit or Carter’s ‘reluctantly living my father’s dream.’ Basically, there’s potential unfulfilled with regard to them.

Now of course there’s the love connection complicated by a BFF who is secretly in love with her. Or not. Because, Blinkers. The girl had blinkers on with everything save her skills in football. Why her dad was the way he was, and why Henry was the way he was… why could she not see these things? I will say I was relieved for the slow realizations she came to. Key word: slow. She’s strong willed, knows what she wants but could be so naïve about other things some times.

The best thing here has to be the connections that they had with each other: Sam and Jordan. Jordan and her brother. Jordan and her team. Jordan and her father... sweet and so darned cute!

3/5

Friday, December 9, 2011

Clockwork Prince (Infernal Devices #2) by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Prince (The Infernal Devices, #2)

Good Reads Summary

In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa's powers for his own dark ends.

With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister's war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move and that one of their own has betrayed them.

Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will; the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?

As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.


My Thoughts

Swoon worthy.

Moving the release from month to month to month frustrated me… but jerking around aside, Clockwork Prince totally made up for the long (read frustrating) wait. Not only are we reunited with the likes of Tessa, Jem, Will and Magnus, but we are also shown a little more of the characters.

I love the people in this one: James Castairs in particular was a big surprise and had I not been on his team from book one, this second installment would have swayed me to him. Jem is confident. Jem is sexy. And present. This is not to say that Will’s shine had dimmed... such a thing is just not possible. It is Will and his history that had me a little misty eyed. Some of his past is revealed, yet tragic as things stood, he still had that cocky hilarious brash side that had me grinning. There was more to Tessa too: her figuring out who she was and what she could do was interesting, but honestly there is no one character that I love more than another because it’s what they were to each other, how they were for each other that reeled me in. Basically, I LOVED their relationships, complicated as they were... these relationships had me rooting for one side then the other then the other again.

Tessa’s dilemma: Love triangle done right. Instead of throwing her to one side or another, Clare offers two viable options. Both sides choices had their own appeal. Both Jem and Will are good. Yet it’s because of the same that her choice is likely to be a little more heartbreaking…with both being good, there’s bound to be one that’s hurt. Beyond Tessa though, there’s that complicated relationship between Jem and Will too. They’re friends, no more than that… they’re brothers. And Oh! My heart broke just a little more for them.

And the story itself? It’s got mystery and twists and turns that I did not expect. I almost killed myself trying to piece things together, figuring out JTS! That it’s UNPREDICTABLE is right. But Dear God, that cliffy!

5/5


Me, on  Clockwork Angel

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

How to Save a Life
Good Reads Summary
 
Jill MacSweeney just wants everything to go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she's been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends--everyone who wants to support her. You can't lose one family member and simply replace him with a new one, and when her mom decides to adopt a baby, that's exactly what it feels like she's trying to do. And that's decidedly not normal. With her world crumbling around her, can Jill come to embrace a new member of the family?

Mandy Kalinowski knows what it's like to grow up unwanted--to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, she knows she wants a better life for her baby. But can giving up a child be as easy as it seems? And will she ever be able to find someone to care for her, too?

Critically acclaimed author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr delivers a heart-wrenching story, told from dual perspectives, about what it means to be a family and the many roads we can take to become one.

  
My Thoughts

I confess I’m a little in love with this story even if the characters are not that sympathetic to begin with. How to Save a Life is painful at times but definitely emotional with them finding what’s been lost and accepting, no, trusting that where they were was the right place to be. Mandy. Jill. Robin all have something to deal with, but none of them really do so. The first runs away. The second freezes everyone out. And the last seems to think a do over is best. At least this is how they all initially seem to be. But none of them were as simple as I had first pegged. And my heart hurt for each of them. As a little more of their history was shown, I saw that just like Once Was Lost and Sweethearts, this is another quietly emotional story of second chances. It’s just that the people could be so hard to like.

Mandy… awkward is what comes to mind. I could tell she wasn’t used to people and it showed. How she latched onto Alex. How she picked Robin. How she asked questions of Jill. Awkward… but sadly never quite that sweet-awkward combination to have me feeling protective of her. She’s awkward. Period. So, I had a difficult time liking her. I suppose there was a sliver of truth in her mother’s observations regarding her social skills (or lack there of.) Except as always, there’s a reason behind it (a reason that’s alluded to time and time again,) that had me unsettled. But there’s little question at the back of my head that’s weighing things she’d done and maybe even thinking the girl… brave. That she stepped out and offered herself to strangers. I would never have the guts to write to a total strange about everything and anything going on the teeny hope that a connection had been made. Brave or not… it was scary anticipating what would happen or more likely what wouldn’t happen because of her action.

Then there’s Jill, who’d frozen everyone out, but was trying to get back to where she and who she was before everything had changed. Reading part of her trying to do these was painful as well. Because there’s so much grief there, so much anger too.

Yet the two aren’t that different. Mandy’s simple wants may not be the same as Jill’s but that fact does not make them any less meaningful. Where she wants handwritten letter to feel connected, the other one wants to find her way back: different desires, but both deeply meaningful.

And Robin. I think it’s her part of the story that delivered the biggest surprise. Her relationship with Jill was heartbreak in action. These are two women who know each other, each other’s quirks, and past. …Or at least used to know each other. There’s particular moment of her and her mother asking why one had changed while the other not at all, that did it for me and had me tearing up. They were fascinating, frustrating and heartbreaking all at once: them, tiptoeing around each other; them, not knowing how to be with each other.

Again, I may be slightly in love with this story

Read this please!
 

4/5

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Legend (Legend #1) by Marie Lu

Legend (Legend, #1)
Good Reads Summary

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills


My Thoughts

I was expecting more. It’s short so it should be no surprise that parts of it were thin. What did surprise me was how similar they were. Told from alternating points of view, the two are really not that different. Both are smart, fast and quick on their feet… except that they find themselves on opposing ends. And then of course the inevitable development of an attraction between them, said fact only made the story a little more similar to other stories already told. Although at one point I found myself comparing him to Robin Hood with the tendency to do good. But, frankly, I’ve read this before.

Not that I’m complaining that loudly because there were good moments: see the action sequences that just wouldn’t quit; see death defying leaps from buildings; see wrestling matches that came out of nowhere. And see two protagonists both strong, both smart, and both motivated by what they think to be right. And it’s because of their actions that so many things happen to them, see: The Making of Legend

Still… I was expecting more. Like I said, while both are good people, sometimes it was hard to differentiate the two… there was a tendency to sound identical. And there’s the fact that world building that left a lot to be desired. Seriously? I feel like I’ve read tons of books with plague here and plague there and a government that knows best. Sound familiar? We see how things are but don’t really get a sense as to what led things to that way. And my biggest problem is how the big reveals were made. Well, I felt it had come too easy… ridiculously easy.

Those things aside LEGEND entertained me with two smart leads in a catch me if you can scenario... too bad it ended too quickly.

3/5

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. king

Everybody Sees the Ants
Good Reads Summary


Lucky Linderman didn't ask for his life. He didn't ask his grandfather not to come home from the Vietnam War. He didn't ask for a father who never got over it. He didn't ask for a mother who keeps pretending their family is fine. And he certainly didn't ask to be the recipient of Nadar McMillan's relentless bullying, which has finally gone too far.

Lucky has a secret—one that helps him wade through the daily dysfunction of his life. Grandad Harry, trapped in the jungles of Laos, has been visiting Lucky in his dreams—and the dreams just might be real: an alternate reality where he can be whoever he wants to be and his life might still be worth living. But how long can Lucky remain in hiding there before reality forces its way inside?

Printz Honor recipient A. S. King's distinctive, smart, and accessible writing shines in this powerful novel about learning to cope with the shrapnel life throws at you, and then taking a stand against it.

My Thoughts

A.S. King has a knack for writing Quirky Characters. His mom, his dad, the bully, his grandfather, Uncle Dave and, Aunt Jodi and Lucky in particular: all are very different from what I am used to.

Squids and Turtles… I love how the boy thinks. How he’s put the people in his life in certain boxes and thinks of them that way and yet all at once he’s is completely right about what he thinks and funny, if veering a little toward the oversimplified. His parents: they not be perfect. It was incredibly frustrating how their talks of doing something as opposed nothing went. There had to be a middle ground, no? At least in the end there’s a reason for their quirks… so now in my mind is a couple trying their best, just not knowing how to go about it.

Mega Quirk: Think of safe places and happy places and one is not likely to come up with a prison camp in jungles of unknown with a grandfather gone missing decades before… but that’s just how Lucky thinks. But it’s in such a place where a version of Lucky that’s sure and confident shows up. (I’m not sure I’m happy about this.) I did appreciate how through this link he gains something.

There be Others... all as quirky as the others. His Uncle is perfect at first… but not so much later. And it’s Lucky’s discovery about him that explains away a lot of Aunt Jodi’s…ergh… quirks. Or Hair, who is perfect and beautiful and confident at night with her crew cut friends and ninja running through parks and yards only later to be whistled to like a lap dog to her mother’s heel. My eyes did buggeth out.

Here’s the thing though: all their quirks have a reason behind them. Am I happy about this… or would I rather have had a bunch of fellows acting the way they did, with no reason in particular? Some of those reasons, by the way: upsetting and unsettling.

I say it again: Unsettling. Despite the unconventional way it's told, there's a lot to take in. Lucky has his issues but he is not alone in that respect. The adults are just as messed up as he is.

READ THIS.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Slide by Jill Hathaway

Slide
Good Reads Summary

Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth—her sister’s friend Sophie didn’t kill herself. She was murdered.

Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn’t actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else’s mind and experiences the world through that person’s eyes. She’s slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed “friend” when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie’s slashed body.

Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can’t bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting off lately, more distant, especially now that she’s been spending more time with Zane.

Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again.

"Jill Hathaway provides a fresh, vibrant voice to young adult literature. Skillfully filled with drama and tension, SLIDE is part mystery, part romance, and wholly engaging with its strong heroine and tornado-worthy twists. I simply could not put this book down." ~Laurie Stolarz, DEADLY LITTLE SECRET

"Heartbreaking and heart-pounding at the same time! A wonderful, intense story, SLIDE had me hooked from the first moment Vee slid into someone else's mind. I stayed up way too late because I had to see how it ended." ~Cynthia Hand, UNEARTHLY.


My Thoughts
 
hmm..my usual complaints of predictability, of having unnecessary elements and of telling rather than showing apply to slide.

vee slides into others consciousness... intriguing at first but not as properly executed as i would have liked. the girl simply had a tendency to jump to conclusions; to be led around too easily, quickly. given a set of facts, she always went to the obvious. which is sadly, unbelievable because looking at the whole thing, i could tell who the real culprit was chapters before the end.

i say unnecessary: a number of things: from her father's heartache of not quite living up to his own standards of perfection. to zane's falling for her. or to her sudden ability to not just slide into another but (view spoiler) while i saw no purpose in the last two, the first bit did make a little sense as it set up everything else that did take place... i just didn't buy any of it.

the one thing i did buy was vee's relationship with sophie. if at first there's resentment, events allow for no other outcome but for vee to become protective. that change was understandable and something i could relate to. their relationship was not an easy one... and that was fine with me.

to reiterate, it's an intriguing concept, but it's just not that well executed. from the love interest to the too easily placed blame to the real culprit behind it all... too many elements that did not quite pull together in the end.

thanks netgalley!
 

2/5

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

The House of the Scorpion
Good Reads Summary

At his coming-of-age party, Matteo Alacrán asks El Patrón's bodyguard, "How old am I?...I know I don't have a birthday like humans, but I was born."

"You were harvested," Tam Lin reminds him. "You were grown in that poor cow for nine months and then you were cut out of her."

To most people around him, Matt is not a boy, but a beast. A room full of chicken litter with roaches for friends and old chicken bones for toys is considered good enough for him. But for El Patrón, lord of a country called Opium -- a strip of poppy fields lying between the U.S. and what was once called Mexico -- Matt is a guarantee of eternal life. El Patrón loves Matt as he loves himself for Matt is himself. They share identical DNA.


My Thoughts

It leaves me feeling a little of what I had felt with UNWIND. Matt is El Patron and El Patron is a doozy. The synopsis clearly states the fact of what Matt is but as to what end one just has to wonder.

All that aside, there are so many intriguing sub plots in this one... each equally shocking as the next one. Take the crots or the eejits- slaves out of mindless drones worked and treated like livestock. And when done with, treated as nothing more consequential than mulch. Cripeys! It brings back little of what scared the bejeesus out of me when I first figured what Soilen Green was about.

But there's Matt too. Why treat him so differently? As knowledge of others  surface, it becomes obvious what he'd been made for. And still, it shocked me. But more shocking was how others like him ended up. Thoughts of unpersons be scary.  


The best part? Tam Lin. I could have more of him. The most terrifyinng? Rosa. Both how she was and what became of her. Then there's El Patron himself whose behavior must never mistaken for benevolence.

Not bad.


3/5

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Someone Else's Life by Katie Dale

Someone Else's Life
Good Reads Summary
 
When seventeen-year-old Rosie’s mother, Trudie, dies from Huntington’s Disease, her pain is intensified by the knowledge that she has a fifty-per-cent chance of inheriting the crippling disease herself. Only when she tells her mum’s best friend, ‘Aunt Sarah’ that she is going to test for the disease does Sarah, a midwife, reveal that Trudie was not her biological mother after all... Devastated, Rosie decides to trace her real mother, hitching along on her ex-boyfriend’s GAP year to follow her to Los Angeles. But all does not go to plan, and as Rosie discovers yet more of her family's deeply-buried secrets and lies, she is left with an agonising decision of her own - one which will be the most heart-breaking and far-reaching of all..

My Thoughts


One not so little secret leads to another then another then another. So where do I start? There was a lot of drama in this one and things did get a bit much.  Both girls found themselves in situations not quite desirable. I do understand why they felt the way they did, and I do understand the jealousies and insecurities that crept up. Still that one sad situation was permission enough for one or both to act the way they did had me frustrated. They could be so selfish; they could zero in on their woes so easily paying little heed to what their actions cost others.

The characters could frustrating as said, but there is no denying that their history is filled with heartbreak: first a debilitating disease, then discoveries of real mothers and real fathers and later still bigger secrets. It’s no surprise that they felt the way they did, but it was an effort to go through each reaction they had. Other than the two though, there’s Andy. This boy could frustrate me too. Because he’s always left behind, he was prone to doing the same. Goodness! I wanted him to pick a path and stick to it. And there were all other people too, other people whose own histories allowed for more drama. ‘Twas a bit much, honestly.

Thanks NETGALLEY!
2.5/5


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Double Clutch (Brenna Blixen#1) by Liz Reinhardt

Double Clutch (A Brenna Blixen Novel)

Good Reads Summary


What happens when you fall for the perfect guy...twice...in one day?

Brenna Blixen spent her freshman year homeschooling in Denmark; now that she's back in the States, she's determined to make her sophomore year unforgettable. And by unforgettable, she imagined awesome classes, fun friendships, and maybe a little romance.

What she got was a whole lot of romance, and all at once.

The same day that dark, brooding Saxon Maclean charmed her with his killer good looks and whip-smart wit, Jake Kelly stole her breath away with his heart-wrenching smile and intelligent, thoughtful focus.

But Saxon is a proud player who makes it clear that he doesn't know why he can't get Brenna off of his mind and out of his system, and Jake's sweet and humble attitude hides a secret past life that might be darker and more complex than Brenna is willing to deal with.

Complicating the matter is the fact that Saxon and Jake were once best friends and are now arch-enemies...and the more Brenna finds out about their connection to each other, the more intrigued and worried she becomes.

Between keeping the peace with her lovingly over-protective parents, designing t-shirts for her high school's rising punk band, keeping up her grades in classes split between academic and technical high school, and running the track like a maniac, Brenna has enough to worry about with out juggling two guys who make her heart thud and drive her crazy all at once.

She has to make a choice, but how is she supposed to do that when giving her heart to one of them might mean breaking the other's?

Recommended Age Group: Older YA.

 
My Thoughts

I see drama in Brenna Blixen’s future, and strangely, me wants it. A good deal of Double Clutch alternates between cute and hot, so I enjoyed this story despite it being yet another one of a girl torn between two boys, each appealing in their own right.

Despite depictions of skanky girls throwing themselves at hot boys, and bad boys with deep dark secrets that they’re reluctant to share, or even a girl with the tendency of wanting to see the good is so obviously flawed boys, the story is good, surprisingly so.

What’s to like? Brenna is direct and frank and just a little bit innocent. At first glance I took her to be another new girl unaware of her charms. She’s not. As she’s actually more aware of who she is what she wants than is common. Being certain about what she wants and how to go about it, she splits time between regular school and tech. It’s this decision that gets her into “trouble.”

I would shelve this with DUFF and Shut Out because all three touch on matters of sex and exploring the same in an upfront manner; there’s no shying away from it. Rather than virginal girls afraid of sex or boys pushing for it, there’s a girl who’s curious, who asks about then acts. While they do touch on a similar topic, I would say that Double Clutch was better with its delivery being less obvious, flowing more naturally from the story, rather than being part of a message. Basically, it’s better being less obvious in away.

But it’s not perfect either. The story was cut right before something big was going to happen. Events near the end had me holding my breath thinking a couple more chapters were to follow. To leave things as they were with that big reveal…left me hanging. It’s good thing the second book is out.

3/5

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

A Northern Light
Good Reads Summary

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. Desperate for money, she takes a job at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown asks her to burn a bundle of secret letters. But when Grace's drowned body is fished from the lake, Mattie discovers the letters reveal the grim truth behind a murder.

Set in 1906 against a backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, this astonishing novel weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, real, and wholly original.

 
My Thoughts

Mattie talks of stories that leave one hopeful and dreamy with their happily ever after’s as opposed to those that leave you shaken. Her’s is a little bit of both. There’s a dash of mystery then some romance and this YA historical leaves me surprised because It’s not something I’d normally read, yet I have to say it had me engrossed. The mystery is just a bonus as it’s a clever tool to introduce Mattie. Northern Light is her story. At first I was likening her to a mix of the March sisters with some of Meg’s mother hen tendencies, Amy’s romantic notions and Joe’s ambition… but she’s not just a mix of those as she’s a woman in the making all her own:

The role of mother had been placed on her. But I enjoyed her more for how ill suited she seemed to it. Her aspirations had me imagining more for her and at first she was imagining more for herself as well. That she felt burdened by her family and held back by her father in particular was of no moment to me. In fact she read a just like Joe in that respect… driven. Until that one thing had her contemplating other possibilities. This one thing? A romantic development that while sweet still had me hoping she’d stick her original plan.

But her story progressed if a little slowly, to reveal to her more of who her father and others really were: That the seemingly emotionally distant father was distant for a reason. That Emmie could be so much more than the impoverished neighbor with a lot of mouths to feed. That Royal is not the romantic hero but rather a man with aspirations and goals of his own. Even Aunt Josie the busy body well-to-do relative was more; it was care of her that there’s even a bit of humor in this one.

Even the absent characters had me thinking. Her mother is most definitely a force in all their lives. She’s what drives the father to behave the way he did. And it’s the change in him that shapes the way the girls carried on. And then there’s Lawton whose absence is most felt and even envied.

Romantic developments aside, the story is more about family than anything else. I love that she’s not the self-sacrificing martyr at first. She takes the role of caretaker reluctantly. I love that she had goals of her own, and at how up front she is in how she feels: feeling held back, burdened. But what I love even more is that she still took the role on. And by doing so, realized that thing she thought true at first might not have been the case after all.

4/5

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles #2) by Melina Marchetta

Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles, #2)

Good Reads Summary

Blood sings to blood, Froi . . .
Those born last will make the first . . .
For Charyn will be barren no more.


Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home... Or so he believes...

Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been trained roughly and lovingly by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds. Here he encounters a damaged people who are not who they seem, and must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad Princess.

And in this barren and mysterious place, he will discover that there is a song sleeping in his blood, and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.

Gripping and intense, complex and richly imagined, Froi of the Exiles is a dazzling sequel to Finnikin of the Rock, from the internationally best-selling and multi-award-winning author of Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca, On the Jellicoe Road and The Piper's Son.

 
My Thoughts

I had re-read Finnikin of the Rock right before jumping into this one and everything that I loved about that one was present in Froi. Both tales involve people, families and how those stories mesh. Each person had a tale his own, but all those intertwined producing a story that’s quite complex and complicated. I loved it.

Froi’s story starts where Finnikin’s ends. Three years after events in Lumatere, Froi finds himself part of it; he is desperate to prove where his loyalties lay. It is this same fact that leads him to Charyn, where learns more of his past. Froi’s mirrors Finnikin’s story with both of them trying to prove themselves. Only Froi’s seemed more painful (what is it with these broken men with dark pasts that fan my desire to give them a hug?) because his history is a chain of heartbreaking things done to one then to another ending with him not knowing precisely who he was and where he came from.

It’s complicated and intriguing but not just those things because there were light hearted moments that eased things a bit. The people in this one were strong and passionate. And they felt deeply, so I in turn felt deeply too- one moment had me laughing even after something else had me tearing only later to have my heart racing.

But what I loved more was how connected and individual the stories were. Each person had a story to tell. Lady Beatriss and Trevanion’s is one of the more affecting ones, second only to Quintana’s. And Lucian’s was probably the one that had me the most frustrated. But again it’s Froi’s that had me feeling so many things.

4.5/5
THANK YOU NETGALLEY!
------
I love this cover:
 

Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles, #2) 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Reckoning (Strange Angels #5) by Lili St. Crow

Reckoning (Strange Angels, #5)

Good Reads Summary

The electric finale in New York Times bestselling author Lili St. Crow’s Strange Angels series!

Nobody expected Dru Anderson to survive this long. Not Graves. Not Christophe. Not even Dru. She’s battled killer zombies, jealous djamphirs, and bloodthirsty suckers straight out of her worst nightmares. But now that Dru has bloomed into a fullfledged svetocha—rare, beautiful, and toxic to all vampires—the worst is yet to come. Because getting out alive is going to cost more than she’s ever imagined. And in the end, is survival really worth the sacrifice?

Dru Anderson’s not afraid of the dark.
But she should be.


My Thoughts


When I started this series, Dru stood out. She was tough and ballsy. But book after book later what I liked in her was overshadowed by a lot of moping over being misunderstood. Once in a while though her old self would shove past all her mopey depressed ‘no one get’s me’ bit as well as past her being torn between good ole Graves and confident Christophe. And this fact is what kept me reading on. That and Graves. Yes, Graves girl, right here!

This last installment has me equal parts satisfied and disappointed.

 On Dru. Yes, as she pointed out herself, she had a tendency to weep. A LOT.  The good thing is when she wasn’t leaking; she was acting. Fighting back and being tough, just like the Dru in Strange Angels. Those moments of her in combat as well as moments of her thinking ahead both proved that she wasn’t the Mopey One in Books two through three. My biggest problem with her was how too focused she was on the physical changes brought forth by her blooming. (I was totally caught by surprise by her pouting over Grave’s failure to comment on the same. What a ridiculously useless thing to focus on! This was not the Dru I liked. That that moment had me shaking my head is. No joke. They’re being hunted by killer vampires and she’s worried about looking hot! That was not the time for such a concern.)

On Graves then Christophe. I get where she’s coming from. When someone blows hot then cold, you kind of want to push them off the edge of a cliff. I get it. It’s just… I love Graves. Considering everything he’d gone through. I love, just love, everything about him. Everything she’d said about him was true. He was her rock. But Christophe was that too. He was there when it counted. Now this fact (that he’d rescue her time and again) is both a good thing and a bad thing for me. Him saving her is good; I just didn’t think she needed all the rescuing. I wanted her to rescue herself more often. And boy, did I get my wish in Reckoning.

I think the best thing about this series is how both the loves have something to offer and both of them are good. Both have histories that suck but when she’s with either what’s good in them surfaces. Am I saying that she made them better? I might be saying that. But they made her a little better too.

Then there’s Chapter 29. It had me weepy. I read this for the kick ass heroine and there I was getting weepy!

But damn it…WHY END IT THAT WAY?
3/5