Saturday, December 31, 2011


   Being a fan of historical fiction, I was intrigued by Jennifer Donnelly's Revolution, which touches on one of the eras I find most fascinating--the French Revolution. But, as with multitudes of other young adult narratives, this one marches forward with only one foot in the past, leaving the other one firmly planted in the 21st century, with all its slang, its technology, and its teenage angst. 
   There is romance, of course, and what is better than romance in Paris, with its dimly lit cobblestone streets, its smoky bars, and its spooky catacombs. Yup, that's right. A lot of time is spent creeping through the musty tunnels of the graveyard of French history, creating a nice bridge between the modern world and the turbulent and bloody times surrounding the events of the French Revolution. 
   I was pleasantly surprised by the level of historical detail and the contrast of worlds displayed as the heroine delves more deeply into events of the past. Revolution was great fun, and I recommend it highly. Keep in mind, though, that it is fairly mature in its subject matter. All in all, a good read!

Friday, December 30, 2011


    Well, leave it to paying attention to a CNN recommendation to have to be faced with this dismal read. Robopocolypse, by Daniel Wilson, had me wondering, as I slogged my way through it, why some books manage to get published and others do not. Ugh. What a waste of my time this one was. What agent thought this story would be worth pursuing? Again, ugh.
   Seriously, imagine EVERY sci fi movie involving robots you have ever seen--especially the bad ones--and that is this book. As I read it, I had the distinct displeasure of having the story run through my head in a cinematic manner, which didn't improve things, as there was a decent bit of blood and gore, something I am not opposed to, on principle, as long as its graphic presence has more than a gratuitous purpose. Normally, being able to "see" a story play out as though it were a movie is usually a good thing, implying that a narrative is so vivid and powerful that it grips your imagination and draws you in completely. In the case of Robopocolypse, though, it distracted from what could have been a premise that had some legs.... mechanical and reanimated, yes, but at least there would have been something upon which to stand.
   Thanks, CNN, but no thanks.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Review--A Mighty Long Way

   This book, by Carlotta Walls LaNier, should be required reading for all students, as classroom studies of the true impact of the struggle for racial equality clearly are inadequate in portraying the true trials and prejudices blacks faced during the Civil Rights period... and surely still face. A Mighty Long Way is Ms. LaNier's first-hand account of one of the most turbulent and significant eras in this country's struggle for civil rights for all.
   As one of the Little Rock Nine, Ms. LaNier documents the emotional and personal side of being one of the famous nine black students to be the first integrated into an all-white school, Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Her portrayal of her dedicated family, the nine brave students, and an anxiety-laced adolescence is heart-wrenching, for the simple reason that Ms. LaNier was nothing more than an ambitious, gifted student, who wanted the best possible education available. She never intended on becoming a symbol of the struggle for racial equality in the very highly-charged Civil Rights era, nor was she comfortable with that role, once it was thrust upon her.
   What comes through most vividly in her gripping account is the terrible emotional toll resulting from the injustices inflicted upon her and the other 8 students.
   Tessa was lucky enough to attend a lecture by Ms. LaNier at Colorado Mountain College, and having read the book, myself, I wish I could have attended, as well. It is pleasing to note that the event was sold out, a testament to slowly improving awareness of the need for equality in this nation and all around the globe, for all minorities.
    I, for one, will treasure the signed book that came home from that evening. It was courageous of the author to write it and speak about it, but infinitely more courageous of her to live it. I highly recommend it to all ages.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Review--Sophie's World

    Thanks to my dear friend Jana, this book came into my hands, and what fun it was. If you are a fan of philosophy, and welcome a new take on a mind-bending subject, give "Sophie's World" a try. Jostein Gaarder's fictional handling of the realm of philosophy is adept and well-thought out, which comes as no surprise, since Gaarder spent years teaching high school philosophy. He probably had so many glassy-eyed students staring back at him over the years, uncomprehending the heady subject he placed before them, that he decided to add a twist that would lighten the heavy load.
    In "Sophie's World", the fictional story quickly becomes secondary, leaving the real meaty essence of the history of philosophy exposed. Truth be told, the "story-telling" is second-rate, but captivating enough, as one persists in turning pages, curious as to how the story will unfold. But, as I said, the narrative becomes unimportant, as the beautiful world of philosophy begins to emerge. 
   Easily read by both young people and adults, "Sophie's World" is a fine way to test the philosophical waters; it left me eager to dive in to deeper pools.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Review--Between Shades of Gray

   Having written my own book about World War II, I was intrigued by Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys. The story was intense and did not disappoint. Similarly to my account of my father's childhood in Sudetenland, this book touched on an aspect of the war that is often neglected: the brutality inflicted upon people (in this case Lithuanians) by the Soviets.
   The story follows the life of a young Lithuanian girl who, along with her family, is sent deep into Siberia to work as a forced laborer. The girl, Lina, is an artist, and she draws the world around her, the better to cope with the terrible situation. Death is everywhere, but so is love and tenderness, all the more precious in the stark winter landscape.
    The characters are well-defined and they evoke an intense emotional response. War is hell; WWII being the lowest level of the scorching fires.
   Between Shades of Gray is at the top of my list of recommendations.
   Read it!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Review--The Black Heart Crypt

   Ugh, ugh, ugh... that's all I can say for this one. Chris Grabenstein's "spooky" Halloween romp, The Black Heart Crypt, was one I was happy to leave behind. Apparently this author has had some success, but I found myself asking... WHY? This book was formulaic, infantile, simplistic, and left me yawning  at each supposedly spine-tingling turn. There were moments of humor, I must say, though a few chuckles were not enough to make this story memorable.
   This book was full of the terrible trap of telling rather than showing, which removes the reader from the action and makes one more aware of the layer of words that are weaving the shallow story, rather than the story itself.
   If you are looking for a fun, spooky read... walk right on by The Black Heart Crypt. There is bound to be better options out there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review: Ender's Game

   Not being a fan of science fiction, I have long avoided reading Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card's well-known and well-loved take on the culture of war, childhood,  and the modern war machine. But after watching both my boys rip through the pages with glee, I decided to set aside my prejudices and give it a try.
   Excellent book, I must say. Just goes to show, sometimes it is good to step outside your comfort zone; you might be pleasantly surprised. Ender's Game was a brilliantly crafted, scathing critique of the  military industrial complex. The idea of young children being trained, brutally and intensely, to live, work, and fight for the "machine" of governance is not new, but Card adds in the unique stellar landscape, where children play the roles of both good and evil, isolated, for the most part,  from adult supervision, though it is understood that the over arching mechanism is still adult-managed and manipulated.
   I found this book to be a fascinating study of the human psyche, and  how a child's role in the world can be entirely manipulated by the adults who pull the strings. It was disturbing in parts, mostly when Ender, the very image of goodness and humanity, found himself participating in brutal practices, unable to stop. There is a primitive quality in all of us, it seems, and it only takes authority to bring it out.
   I highly recommend this book... enjoy!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


   Imagine being able to see the date that someone is going to die... how would life be for such a person? Invigorating? Depressing? A bit of each? For Jem, in Rachel Ward's Numbers, having such knowledge is a curse, one she literally runs from to try to escape. Joined in this mad dash to flee from her "gift" is an unlikely hero, Spider, who is gangly, smelly, and nerdy.
   Wrongly accused of detonating an explosion that kills several, Jem and Spider must find a way to clear their names, while Jem seeks to discover the source of her abilities.
   Numbers was entertaining enough, I guess, but mostly it was forgettable... I know there is a sequel out there, but frankly, I just don't care enough about the characters to go looking for it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Review--Ashes, Ashes

   This might be one of the last dystopia novels for me for awhile, though for a finale, Ashes, Ashes, by Jo Treggiari, was entertaining enough, though entirely predictable. In a world stricken by plague, earthquakes, and flooding, Lucy, our young heroine, must navigate the post-apocalyptic world of New York City, where she is hiding out like a savage in a city that is no longer recognizable. Central Park is now home to roving packs of dogs, all of whom seem intent on hunting the straggling survivors, and Lucy, in particular, for her blood carries something special... a possible cure to what ails the planet.
   Lucy finds herself on the run, teaming up with Aiden, the young man, who in better days would have been the jock that ignored her in the school hallways. Romance ensues, of course, and the book scrambles to an end that leaves the reader hanging, but not entirely caring whether another book is on the horizon.
   So, if you need a quick, fun read, give this one a go, but don't expect too much.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Review: Eve

       This creepy, futuristic novel, Eve, by Anna Carey, comes out in October, and it is sure to captivate many people, especially those who enjoyed Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale. Like that classic novel, Eve touches on the idea that women--or in this case teen girls--are being used as breeding machines in a world that is collapsing. As a young adult novel, I found this to be a heavy topic, but the idea was merely brushed upon and was not the central focus of the book. 
Instead, Eve’s story-line focuses on an intelligent young girl named Eve (surprise, surprise), who is in line to graduate from the secluded all-girls’ school at the head of her class, destined, or so she thinks, for great purpose and great service to the world, whose population has suffered due to plague and apocalyptic unrest. 
She finds, though, that horrors await, with young girls moving no further than to the next walled-in building to become brood mares to help repopulated the planet. Eve makes the bold move to escape beyond the perceived  safety of her confines to the great wild world, where she encounters what the girls have been told to fear above all else--a male, in this case a thoughtful and mysterious boy named Caleb.
Grand adventure begins, and Eve must learn to trust herself and those around her, in the hopes of escaping the ruling powers who are hunting for her. 
I found Eve to be fast-paced with characters that were richly imagined. If dystopia-themed novels are your thing, than look for this book in the fall.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review--The Carrier of the Mark

Ah! Scathing review time! What a magical time of the year! The Carrier of the Mark*, a YA book by Leigh Fallon, was one of the worst and most hilarious books I have read in a while. Poster child of the clichéd paranormal romance genre, The Carrier of the Mark stars rather bland heroine Megan, who has just moved to Ireland, and is suffering all the usual new girl problems. There she meets darkly handsome Adam DeRís,  for whom she feels an immediate and illogical attraction. And, of course, Adam and his family are anything but ordinary.  The characters are nothing special; Megan is nice... but that's it. She has no personality. Adam is gorgeous, perfect, and angsty, but boring. Also, this book had a lot of similarities to a certain popular paranormal romance I could mention. I would not recommend this book. I truly had trouble finishing it.


*Look (or don't) for this book in October, as it is not out yet.

Review--The Circuit

   The Circuit, Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child, by Francisco Jimenez, is a memoir collection of powerful short-stories, detailing the difficult life of a Mexican immigrant during the mid-20th century. Starkly-written and honest, this book educates and enlightens. Not since Grapes of Wrath have I read such a vivd account of the life of transient workers.
   At times amusing and charming, and often heart-breaking and shocking, Jiménez lays bare the ugly underbelly of the idealized American Dream, where bigotry and discrimination run rampant, and poverty and segregation are the norm. As rough as the lives of the migrants are, their sense of hope and their determination to make a better future for their children, is inspiring.
   This book was an eye-opening read for me, and frankly it should be required reading in schools. It's not to be overlooked.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


     Ok, this book really sent my emotions whirling, at times leaving me impressed with the unexpectedly good writing, and at other times disgusted with the subject matter, which happened to be grave-robbing, believe it or not. Rotters, by Daniel Kraus, is a grossly dark read, not only because a good deal of the story is spent six-feet under with too-accurately-described corpses, but even the peripheral events left me gagging and cringing.
     Filled to the brim with mature topics, I found myself marveling that Rotters passed as a young adult book. Though set in modern times, with all its usual problems of drugs, suicide, bullying, and promiscuity, the author threw in the disjointed and disturbing underworld of grave-robbing, which added a Gothic darkness to the already opaque setting.
     I found myself wondering what sort of person this Daniel Kraus is, who can write so vividly and at times eloquently about a world so disconnected from anything modern society would think is normal. That a modern teenager can so easily embrace the life of a grave-robber, with all the side-effects such a life-style entails--the smell of death that lingers, the caked dirt beneath the finger nails, the hooded eyes that have seen too much--well, I found it all just a bit too unbelievable, frankly.
     Unless you are a fan of gross descriptions just for the thrill of the impact it has on your psyche, I would leave this one buried, which saddens me, since the author is clearly a talented writer. Sigh, oh well, onward and UPWARD.

Monday, August 1, 2011


   "Double, double, toil, and trouble...." witches, witches everywhere... in this case, even at the mall. Revealers, Amanda Marrone's modern take on a timeless theme--conniving witches--is entertaining, but shallow. Don't expect too much more than stereotypical teenage angst, albeit with a supernatural twist.
   Definitely for a more mature audience, Revealers reveals to us a world of butt-kicking teen witches who, often against their better judgment, help rid the mortal world of vampires, werewolves, and other similar baddies. All this takes place is the midst of high school chemistry tests, flirtatious romances, and annoyingly controlling mothers.
   This book was a quick summer read at best, and not very memorable, but reading it was at least less painful than being blown to bits by a pissed off sophomore with a pointy hat and a broom.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Review--Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

   Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs, is an odd one indeed, but enjoyably so. This quirky tale of love and adventure is mingled with an bizarre, somewhat creepy, assortment of vintage photographs, and it is these images that truly make the book extraordinary.
   The story on its own is nothing special, in fact it is a tad rambling and disjointed. Rather, it is the presence of the many photos--assembled by the author from the collections of real people fascinated by the unusual moments in time captured in the images--that really adds quite an wonderful perspective to the story. I found myself wondering if the author simply spread out all the photos and built the story entirely around the images, or if a framework for the adventure already existed. I find it hard to believe that it could have happened any other way; the photos are that strange and evocative.
   It seems a second book must be in the works, for the the story was left with many unresolved issues, and I for one am looking forward to what comes next... though, I must admit, I am more curious about the upcoming photos than the story, itself.
   All in all, though, Miss Peregrin's Home for Peculiar Children is worth a read, especially if you are craving something a little... peculiar.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


    Scott Westerfeld's book, Uglies, ended up being much more interesting, engaging, and thought-provoking, than I was anticipating. The title had me concerned; I feared a shallow romp through the teenage land of angst, with  cookie-cutter girls whipping their super-straightened hair to and fro. I was not entirely wrong, but the refreshing surprise came with the vigorous critique of this "culture of pretty".
    In Uglies, our fed-on-television culture has morphed into a world where the only goal in life is to become pretty, which is defined by a computer program that determines the optimal features for each person, whereupon they, as a teenage right of passage, undergo severe reconstructive surgery at the age of sixteen to turn them into members of the biggest clique in history.... New Pretty Town.
    Two-dimensional, air-headed adults populate this new reality, and they party their way through life, all the while being unknowingly controlled by the subtle alterations the doctors have made to their brains. To rebel against this culture is to become an outcast. Who would want to remain an "ugly", when life is so fun as a "pretty"? No more worries, no concerns, just blind faith in those who tell you what to do.
   In this first installment in a series, Scott Westerfeld lays out a blistering condemnation of the throw-away, wasteful, and shallow culture we have become.
   Part environmental rant, part thrill-ride, Uglies was a pleasant surprise, and I can't wait to see where the author takes things in the next book, Pretties, which I promise to review at a later date!


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Review--The Girl of Fire and Thorns

   I cracked open this book, the first in a trilogy, with much excitement, and it did not disappoint. The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson, is a richly imagined fantasy set in a world filled with deceit, romance, fast-paced adventure. Best of all, it sports a complex story-line... thank you, Rae, for not dumbing-down the narrative, a bothersome trend in many young adult books these days.
   The landscape is grand and sweeping, with terrifying forests, forbidding mountains, and barren deserts.The heroine, Elisa, is refreshing and unexpected, an imperfect, over-eating princess, who sets off to fulfill her destiny, to marry a neighboring land's king to keep peace across the borders.
   Expecting her future husband to be old, fat, and unpleasant, she is pleasantly surprised upon meeting her betrothed, who is equally impressed by the unexpected nature of his mate. But, married life between the two secretive kingdoms is not all comfort and romance, for there is a twist, several twists, in fact.
   Elise has something special about her, a faceted magical stone that has been part of her person since birth, but she knows nothing of managing the power that pulses from the Godstone that has the potential to topple kingdoms and turn greedy men to ill deeds. She is challenged at every turn and must dig deeply to find the strength to lead a revolution.
   I am eagerly awaiting Rae Carson's next two books, which I fully anticipate will be as complex and as inviting as The Girl of Fire and Thorns, which hits the shelves September 20th. Put this one on your list! It's not to be missed.

Review--The Other Countess

   As a fan of historical fiction, I was looking forward to reading The Other Countess, by Eve Edwards.  Two pages in, I began to get worried.... here was an Oxford educated author, falling prey to one of my grammar pet-peeves: "Though only two years older than her..." (than SHE, geez!), and I feared more of the same going forth.
   As I ventured further, though, the alluring world of Elizabethan England pulled me in, allowing me to overlook the few other similar stumbles. With each page filled with speeches as flowery as the dresses, I was soon swept up in the pageantry, and the romance that bloomed as the story progressed.
   Following a favorite theme of many classics set in times gone by (Jane Eyre, Tess of the D'Ubervilles), The Other Countess introduces us to a heroine who is immediately appealing, but has the world's weight upon her shoulders, and the cards stacked against her. In a time when love means little, and marriage is merely a contract, being a penniless beauty, with brains, no less, means being at the mercy of the Crown and all those who play Queen Elizabeth's courtly game.
   Rich with period detail and not shying away from the religious conflicts that overwhelmed Elizabethan England, The Other Countess was a pleasure to read, once I forgave the few grammatical blunders. The romance between Ellie and the young earl, Will, was sweet and believable, unlike many obligatory love stories that have been cropping up in books lately. There was conflict, excitement, tenderness, and a thorough understanding of the historical period, proof that Eve Edwards learned something while at Oxford.
   If you enjoy period stories, give this one a try.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Review--The Passage

   And now time for something completely different! I am venturing decidedly outside of the Young Adult genre with this review, but there are plenty of teens who will enjoy The Passage, by Justin Cronin, so here we go.
   I grabbed this book after hearing the author interviewed by David Sirota on the radio. I was taken most by Cronin's description of how he came to write the book in the first place. His daughter challenged him to write a story about a girl who saved the world, quite a tough order, indeed. The Passage--and the books that are destined to follow--are the result of that challenge.
   Let me just get it over with now, so it is out there... this book is about vampires... sort of. Called virals in Cronin's dark futuristic world, these vampires are a result of human experimentation gone wrong, in an effort to make the ultimate fighting machine. Of course, all hell breaks loose, and a new world unfolds, with survivors hiding behind high walls ringed with light, the one thing that can keep the virals at bay.
   At times the book gets a tad flaky, but the concept is intriguing and extremely complex, leaving plenty of room for exciting tangents in Book 2, The Twelve. 
   This book is no Dracula, but it is a thrilling romp through a terrifying world, nonetheless.

Monday, July 4, 2011


   After reading a number of quite mature, edgy novels recently, Entwined, by Heather Dixon, came as a refreshingly innocent contrast. A retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, this charming novel was filled with dance steps and giggling sisters. Magic surrounded the youngsters, as they defied their grieving father, the King, and flouted the rules of mourning, sneaking away to an enchanted pavilion to dance the nights away, leaving their dancing slippers in tatters each morning.
   Of course, the cold, handsome fellow who awaits them each evening is not who he seems, and trouble soon surrounds them all. Led by the eldest sister, Azalea, the princesses have to upset the magical curse that has hung over the palace for generations.
   As delightful as the familiar story line was, I found Dixon's version of it rather disjointed at times, with clarity lacking, leaving me trying to figure out just what was occurring. Hindering the flow, the dialogue was rather simplistic and unimaginative, falling flat on the ears.
   The expected romances were silly and predictable, leaving me nostalgic for a bit more of the edgy teen books I have recently read. All in all, though, Entwined was a charming throw-back to more innocent days of story-telling.
~ Karina

Friday, July 1, 2011

Review: The Book Thief

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, absolutely blew me away. Telling the story of Liesel Meminger, the book thief, and narrated by Death, this World War II story burns with intensity. Spectacularly written in a unique, lyrical style, and full of characters that will touch your heart, this tragic and important story will stay with you long after you have finished it. Just be prepared to be using a lot of tissues. I don't normally cry when reading books, but The Book Thief squeezed more than a few tears out of me.

Death makes for an interesting narrator. Instead of being malicious and mean and enjoying his job, Death is tired of his job and scared of humans, after watching us kill each other for ages. This is an excellent book, the kind that is so good, I want to press it into the hands of everyone I know, and say, "Read this book."


Friday, June 24, 2011

Review--Blink and Caution

   My first impression upon cracking open Tim Wynne-Jones's book, Blink & Caution, was, "Whoa, THIS passes as young adult fiction? Maybe I'm just getting old." If you are looking for an innocent adventure story, this book is not for you. But, if you are a sophisticated reader, accepting of slightly deviant worlds, then dive right in, for Blink & Caution was an enjoyable ride, in the end.
    Within the first few chapters, topics such as drugs, abusive drug-dealer boyfriends, porn, prostitution, and murder had all been covered. Once those tidbits were out of the way, the story actually developed and found its voice, which, despite all the earlier mature bluster, ended up being a sweet romance between two misfit kids. But, don't let the word "romance" scare all you thrill seekers away; Blink & Caution also managed to be a fun story of suspense and intrigue with plenty of action.
    Not overly complex, this is the perfect book for light summer reading, once one gets past all the heavy stuff at the beginning. I found the writing engaging, and the two main characters were unique, both of them   shattered souls, but not beyond recovery. Overall, the message was positive. Thumbs up.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


      Remakes and "Reimaginings" of old tales are all the rage now, and I approached this one with caution, sure that it would disappoint. Remarkably, though, I was pleasantly surprised, even "sweetly" so.
      Jackson Pearce's Sweetly, due out in August, is a delightful second look at the "Hansel and Gretel" fairy tale. Dark and ominous, Sweetly puts a modern spin on an old favorite, but not in a groaningly predictable manner. At times channeling the delightful movie, Chocolat, the book pulls the reader into a world that is filled with mystery, secrets, sugary sweetness, and engaging characters. The expected romance is refreshing, and the heroine is pleasantly well-rounded.  
       With happenstance bringing them to an insular Southern town as they flee a neglectful stepmother and a nightmarish past, sister and brother, Gretchen and Ansel, are faced with a familiar darkness lurking in the forests that surround the stubborn and secretive locals, whose daughters and sisters have been disappearing for years.
       The mystical chocolatier, Sophia and the angsty rebel, Samuel add zest to a story that kept me licking my lips for more. Be ready to taste the sweet decadence in August.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Review--The Hole in the Wall

   Well, this book left me mystified, I must say. The Hole in the Wall, Lisa Rowe Fraustino's environmental commentary cloaked in a novel for the 9-12 year old set, reminded me a bit of another book with hole in the title... Holes, by Louis Sacher. Like that fine book, there was plenty of humor, charm, and goofiness surrounding the main character, 11 year-old Sebby, but the disjointed story-line and "out there" happenings just overwhelmed me, leaving me shaking my head, wondering just where Ms. Fraustino really intended to end up with this story. In contrast, Holes, though filled with plenty of unbelievable events, still managed to captivate and hold together. The Hole in the Wall was filled with... well... holes.
   The idea of a town threatened by some mysterious mining operation appealed to me, as this country is certainly covered with many such places, what with mountain-top removal, "fracking", etc. increasing at an alarming rate, so I was ready for a story that delved into the potential impact of such environmental alterations on a young boy's life. By the end of The Hole in the Wall, though, I was confused and shaking my head in disbelief. It had all just been a bit too much, too unbelievable. Overall, the book left me disappointed. Reread Holes instead.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Review--Those That Wake

   Jesse Karp's Inception-like novel, Those That Wake, was an interesting read, partly because I found it a different sort of world-gone-bad kind of novel, at least compared to other young adult books of that ilk. Rather sophisticated in its delivery, the book was at times dry and confusing, but there was also plenty of action and even a little obligatory romance.
   Conceptually, though, I found it fascinating. Considering that the target audience is teenagers, one can only hope that readers are left pondering the roles our cell phones and other digital media play in separating us from each other as dynamic and creative human beings, who are capable of unique ideas and independent thought, rather than robotic automatons who have lost all sense of self, taken in by whatever overpowering data corporations inundate us with on a daily basis.
   The novel was unconventional and I recommend it for anyone seeking something rather outside of the box.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Review--The Dead

   For those of you not yet sated by the zombie genre in modern literature, then the upcoming book, The Dead, by Charlie Higson is for you. The book hits shelves June 14th. If the author's name sounds familiar, it might be because he has delved into this world before, with the novel, The Enemy.  The Dead serves as a sort of prequel, and in it the world, or in this case, London, has completely fallen apart, with most people over the age of 16 having succumbed to a terrible disease, which turns them into hideous zombies.
   From the opening page onward, the author does not shy away from gore and graphic details. Also, just as one would expect from such a tale, the action is non-stop. In this new world, kids rule, managing to be authoritative, tender, petty, shallow, and child-like all in one.
   Admittedly, my favorite moment was the mention of Monty Python and the Holy Hand Grenade, which made me chuckle, but the rest, in spite of the overload of blood, guts, guns, and action, left me a tad bored. But, if you liked The Enemy, than I imagine you will find this one a fun romp through British zombie-land, too. Enjoy, mate!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Review: Bloody Jack

    Bloody Jack, by L.A. Meyer, is one of the best books I've read in a long time. It is written from the point of view of Mary "Jacky" Faber, a poor orphan living with a gang of children under Blackfriars Bridge, Cheapside, London. When the leader of the gang, Rooster Charlie is killed, Jacky leaves the gang and finds her way onto the HMS Dolphin, a ship in her majesty's royal navy. Hoping only for a chance for better grub, Jacky signs on as a ship's boy by disguising herself as a boy. Adventure and near misses ensue as Jacky struggles to maintain the "Deception". One of the best things about this book is Jacky herself. She is one of the most unconventional and lovable characters I've come across in a while. The  book is written in coarse, realistic dialect that only occasionally falters, and while this can be a little hard to get into, once you do it's fine. While Bloody Jack is largely an adventure story, it also is a good piece of historical fiction, and even has a little romance in it. I would not recommend Bloody Jack to the squeamish reader, but for anyone who loves adventure on the high sea, pirates, and sword fights, this book is a winner. Bloody Jack is also a series, and the next books are just as good (if even better) than the first. I'm already on the fourth book, and I am really enjoying this series. There are eight books so far, and I think Meyer's got at least one more book in him. In conclusion, read these books!


Friday, June 3, 2011

Review--Blood Magic

   If gothic tales of sorcery and creepy graveyards appeal to you, than this recent release, Blood Magic, by Tessa Gratton, is for you. Bloody rituals drip from many pages, but not to overflowing. Reminiscent of classic dark love stories, or favorite Alfred Hitchcock movies, Blood Magic kept me engaged without leaving me disgusted by unnecessary violence and gore. The darkness hung over the book like a fog, the icy tendrils of which seeped in with every word.
   Ancient gravestones, menacing black birds, magic books, and secrets from the past, were all woven together to make this book an enjoyable read. The token romance is not overpowering or sickly sweet, which was refreshing. All in all, Blood Magic was a captivating read.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Packing... lots of books

   As we prep for a cross-country move, I realize just how many books have accumulated over our 16 years at this address, not even counting the many books that have come, been read, and gone on to greener pastures. Not surprisingly, the piles of boxes filled with yet-to-be-read books thrills me, while the equally large pile of other items leaves me wondering how we fritter our money away.
   I will never feel that way about books, though... never. They provide our family with a constant flow of joy, and I look forward to the unpacking of the many treasures tomes.
   As we drive away into the sunset, we leave behind our favorite local bookstore... not a large, big name chain, but rather a small, intimate neighborhood store that has been a part of our lives since my children were babies. It was there that their love of reading was born.
   This store is Cover to Cover (a bookstore for young people), and I yell its praises from the mountain-side, upon which I soon will live. Will I go to the large chain stores and on-line dealers for my books now, since we will be living half a continent away? Sometimes. But, thank goodness for the internet, and the knowledge that I can still order some new and exciting books from people I now call friends.
   Thanks for all the years of wonderful books, Cover to Cover. We look forward to many more. Oh, and thanks for the boxes.

Review: Entwined

 Entwined, by Heather Dixon, is a lush retelling of the classic fairy tale, the Twelve Dancing Princesses, that hits all the right marks. The story is about twelve princesses, focusing on the eldest, crown princess Azalea. The story takes place in the year of mourning after their mother, the queen, dies. When  the girls discover a secret passage that leads to a magical silver forest, they are thrilled and come to dance there every night. But they slowly realize that the mysterious Keeper who lives in the silver forest means deadly harm.
     I really liked the descriptions in this book. They were rich and vivid, and  I could  picture every gorgeous setting. Azalea, the main character, is the kind of heroine I like. Smart, resourceful, and fiercely loyal to her sisters. All of the princess's had distinct and endearing personalities, making it easy to tell them apart. Though the tone in this book was fairly light, there were darker moments of real peril mixed in to keep the pages turning. There were lots of funny characters for comic relief (like Lord Teddy) and a sweet romance that will leave you with a big smile on your face. In short, Entwined is a beautiful fairy tale filled with rustling skirts, magic gone wrong, and delightful characters. Read it!


Sunday, May 22, 2011


   In honor of yesterday's anti-climactic Rapture, I thought I would review Gone, by Michael Grant. This is a romp through a world where a rapture of sorts has taken place in the blink of an eye, just like many people imagined loopy Harold Camping's Rapture would be. In the world of Gone, though, only those 15 years old and above disappear, leaving the young ones behind to deal with a world where nothing is normal.
   Part apocalyptic, part mini-X-Men, Gone is tawdry and disjointed. Immediately and predictably, the children left behind fall into the categories of the good guys and the bad guys, many with weird special powers that threaten to topple the world that the Chosen One will have to reassemble. There is a definite religious undercurrent throughout, with not-so-subtle hints in the names of many of the character: Caine, Mother Mary and Brother John, and the hero, Sam Temple, not to mention twins separated at birth--one good, one bad.
   I would have found the concept of the world-without-adults more interesting without the addition of talking animals and some weird cave-dwelling Darkness, reminiscent of LOST's Smoke Monster confusing things. Too many tangents makes the character development weak, and I found myself not caring what would become of those left to fend for themselves and each-other. LOST this most definitely is not.... nor is it rapturous reading.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My review of "City of Fallen Angels"

       City of Fallen Angels, by Cassandra Clare is the fourth installment in an awesome fantasy series for young adults. I have always liked Cassandra Clare's writing, as well as the humor she includes in her books, and City of Fallen Angels did not disappoint. Though, I feel that the series could have easily ended at the conclusion of the last book, City of Glass, and this fourth book felt a little unnecessary; I love these books, so I shouldn't complain. I enjoyed reading chapters from Simon's perspective, (if you haven't read the previous books you won't know who he is, and I'm not going to spoil it for you--just read the books!) and I like how there was a bit more of a focus on Alec and Magnus's relationship.
    The action was exciting and the pace quick. I do have a complaint, though. This book seemed a little too angsty, especially Jace. Angst can be a good thing, but I feel there was too much: "I don't deserve your love, Clary," followed by: "okay,  maybe I do," and ending with: "Never mind!!! I spoke too soon! I'm a miserable human, you're too good for me!" Well, maybe that is a little exaggerated, but I seriously felt like smacking dear Jace upside the head at times. Still, overall, this was a good read, and I definitely recommend this to fans of the series. I'm looking forward to the next one.


   If you've ever imagined, as a child, what it would be like to survive on a raft on a stormy sea (a blanket under the table), or stranded in a lonely cabin (a pillow fort--under the same table), then this story might be what you would imagine if you still played that game as a teen. Trapped, by Michael Northrop, is a an imaginative romp through a world gone wrong.
   In a time when dystopia novels are all the rage, this little book--at only 240 pages, it felt very short---Trapped tackles a world where it won't stop snowing. Think the New England winter of 2010-2011, on steroids. Oh, and our characters are in a high school, so of course not even frigid weather can turn off hormones and teen angst.
   Since the book was so short, I felt that the story had a lot of ground to cover, and I was left wanting a more complete resolution at the end. I did look forward to discovering what new problem would arise for these kids trapped in the school, but once the problem did arrive--and it always did--I was left wanting more.
   It kept me reading though, and if you you fancy a ride back on that blanket raft, give this one a go.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review: City of Fallen Angels

   City of Fallen Angels, Cassandra Clare's latest Mortal Instruments installment continues to broaden the path  set down in the previous books, allowing secondary characters time to blossom and become favorites. With a movie of the popular first book, City of Bones, on the horizon, fans will be eating this one up.
   Clare writes with humor and clarity, really letting the characters be the driving force behind the action and the angst that inevitably becomes a part of a world inhabited by sexy Shadowhunters, reluctant vampires, father-figure werewolves, and demons whose blood splatters in every imaginable color. In the midst of it all is a sweet love story, of course. Also, Jace Wayland has to be one of the most appealing characters out there, with his enviable, rakish sense of humor, and paradoxically cynical narcissism.
All in all, City of Fallen Angels left me wondering how far down the path of sequels Clare is going to take this series, but I imagine I will enjoy every minute.