Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Raven Boys

by Maggie Stiefvater

Goodreads Summary:
"There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark's Eve," Neeve said. "Either you're his true love . . . or you killed him."

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.
Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them-not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.
His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can't entirely explain. He has it all-family money, good looks, devoted friends-but he's looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys.

My Review:
I love most everything by this author. I really enjoyed this story--but I didn't love it. One of the author's strengths is creating characters true to themselves, and true to the 'real world' and I guess I didn't feel that 100% of the time with these characters. At least not to the degree that I felt with Scorpio Races and The Wolves of Mercy Falls series.

That being said, this is a story wrapped in mystery. I am compelled to read the next book. I want to know how Blue will relate to Gansey, and what it means for the future for both of them.



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Long Lankin

by Lindsey Barraclough

Goodreads Summary:
Beware of Long Lankin, that lives in the moss. . . .When Cora and her younger sister, Mimi, are sent to stay with their elderly aunt in the isolated village of Byers Guerdon, they receive a less than warm welcome. Auntie Ida is eccentric and rigid, and the girls are desperate to go back to London. But what they don't know is that their aunt's life was devastated the last time two young sisters were at Guerdon Hall, and she is determined to protect her nieces from an evil that has lain hidden for years. Along with Roger and Peter, two village boys, Cora must uncover the horrifying truth that has held Bryers Guerdon in its dark grip for centuries -- before it's too late for little Mimi. 


My Review:
I just finished the second book in The Monstrumologist series by Rick Yancey, The Curse of the Wendigo, when I began to read Long Lankin. I was looking for something scary, but not as disturbing as that story. On the whole, it delivers. The story starts slowly, and after the first 100 pages I was frustrated. But when the creepy whispers about a monster become true, and Cora seems to be convinced that she is mad, things get interesting.  There were quite a few areas that I had to reread because I was just plain confused. Towards the end, there is a massive unloading of information that seems to make everything fit, that took a few passes for me. Overall, if you can handle the slower parts, there is a payoff in this story.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Shadow and Bone

by Leigh Bardugo

Goodreads Summary:
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. 

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. 

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.


My Review:
When I thought about reading this book, I was a little worried it would fall into the cookie-cutter mold we are starting to see in fantasy/sci fi for young adults (you know-strong but reluctant heroine, some romance, monsters, etc.). And it has those things, but it has much more.

Setting: Ravka is clearly based on Russia. Setting is becoming more important in YA novels, and Bardugo does a great job building a desolate and scary land. It is a land ruled by nobility that is selfish and childish.

Characters: Alina is believable as a heroine, mainly because she recognizes that she is not perfect. She knows that there is much she doesn't know about herself and that she has made-and will make-mistakes. She tries to do what is right for the masses, but knows it won't be worth it unless she takes care of herself, too.  She reminds me of one of my favorite heroines, Katsa from Graceling.

The Darkling is a great character as well...but I'm not going to say much about him since a large part of the experience of this book, for me, was figuring out his story.


The False Prince

by Jennifer A. Nielsen


Goodreads Summary:
In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.


My Review:
This book was suggested to me by Conor L., and when someone has read 60+ books this year and says this is his favorite, well, you listen! I wasn't disappointed by the book, although I was hesitant as I always am with historical fiction. It's just not my thing. This book gave the reader to really have the world-building feeling of a fantasy book, but without the magic. And honestly, I didn't miss the magic aspect (well, too much, anyway).


Sage is a character that any reader can like. He is funny in a self-deprecating way. He tries to make light of every situation, no matter what he faces and how bad things seem to be. This character makes the book flow. Even when there isn't a ton of action, his voice keeps the story interesting. 


Some things are slightly predictable, but I didn't think that took much away from the story. I will be reading the next two books in the series.





Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wonder

by R.J. Palacio

Goodreads Summary:
August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.


My Review:
As a rule, I avoid books that I think will make me sad, or worse cry. (Most of my students know that this means no books where animals are a major part, because, let's face it, they always die). Because of this, I didn't think I would read Wonder. After watching the preview below, and hearing how excited some students were to read it, I knew I had to suck it up and give it a try. I wasn't let down at all. In fact, I read it in one sitting.


Palacio does an expert job weaving a story that could be tragic and heart-breaking into one that makes the reader sad, but also shows the funny and quirky side to kids and the kindness that changes the world. Instead of tearing you down with sadness and pity, it takes those emotions and shows how being an everyday kid kind of rocks, but being different has its moments, too.


Kids should read this book. Adults should read this book. People in generally should read this book. It is genuine and heartfelt. You root for Auggie, but in a weird way you understand some of the people that aren't always kind to him. Heck, he understands the people that aren't always nice to him. And that is why you will love him.


I had to share one of my favorite quotes.
“There are always going to be jerks in the world, Auggie,” she said, looking at me. “But I really believe, and Daddy really believes, that there are more good people on this earth than bad people, and the good people watch out for each other and take care of each other.” 


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Under the Never Sky

by Veronica Rossi

Goodreads Summary:
Since she'd been on the outside, she'd survived an Aether storm, she'd had a knife held to her throat, and she'd seen men murdered. This was worse.

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland - known as The Death Shop - are slim. If the cannibals don't get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She's been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild - a savage - and her only hope of staying alive.

A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile - everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria's help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.


My Review:
I liked the dual-narration that Rossi gives to Aria and Perry. This makes the story relatable and interesting to both boys and girls. It is also necessary-the world of Reverie and the other pods is so different from the world in what they know as The Death Shop, you have to have both sides represented. 


There is romance between these two, but it starts with a hate that is fueled by misunderstanding and misinformation. The characters also push their feelings back because they have many more important things on their minds-mainly the wellbeing and love of their respective families. 


It is an adventure story that wraps people obsessed with their sterile environment and virtual reality with those who are rustic survivors. This is a good book about how changing your views of others helps you realize that you can change who you are, as well.



Article 5

by Kristen Simmons

Goodreads Summary:
New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., have been abandoned.

The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.

There are no more police—instead, there are soldiers. There are no more fines for bad behavior—instead, there are arrests, trials, and maybe worse. People who get arrested usually don't come back.

Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller is old enough to remember that things weren't always this way. Living with her rebellious single mother, it's hard for her to forget that people weren't always arrested for reading the wrong books or staying out after dark. It's hard to forget that life in the United States used to be different.

Ember has perfected the art of keeping a low profile. She knows how to get the things she needs, like food stamps and hand-me-down clothes, and how to pass the random home inspections by the military. Her life is as close to peaceful as circumstances allow.

That is, until her mother is arrested for noncompliance with Article 5 of the Moral Statutes. And one of the arresting officers is none other than Chase Jennings—the only boy Ember has ever loved.

My Review:
I bought and read this book on the recommendation of Thomas, and was not disappointed. The difficult thing about the dystopian story is that can easily get overdone. The trick for the author is to make the story something different, add a twist. While Article 5 has some of the traditional dystopian elements (overbearing government, rebellious citizens, unrequited romance) it added more to this by twisting the story. Chase is not a new boy in Ember's life-she has always been in love with him. But he has changed and she has no idea why. Their personal back story adds to their relationship.  I wish there was more given about what happened with the government. Every time the Moral Statues are mentioned, they are so extreme that I want to know how we got there from where we are now. 

Overall, I would recommend this to people who enjoyed The Hunger Games, Legend, and Under the Never Sky.

Cinder

by Marissa Meyer

Goodreads Summary:
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, the ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.


My Review:
Well, another book that I snubbed for so long, but should have read earlier.  I was not excited at all by the idea of Cinderella-one of my least favorite fairy tales-as a cyborg. It just seemed like it wouldn't work. The amazing thing is that Meyer creates an unforced story that really is enjoyable to read. Cinder is easy to see as a real person; she is witty and funny, hard-working and loyal. She also knows that there are many things about herself that are not perfect. 


This book has romance, but it isn't the suffocating center of the story. It is more about what makes someone a person. The political scheming, battles, and family issues propel the story to an exciting end that makes me sad that I have to wait for the next book (which is rumored to have Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood also making appearances).



Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Avengers Reading List

I saw The Avengers over the weekend, and loved it, so naturally, when I saw a post about what books the heroes would read, I had to cross post. The original article can be found here: 



Comic book fans have something to be excited about this month: Marvel’s Avengers movie has finally come out, after teasers that began way back in Iron Man. (Yes, I stayed in the theater and watched the endclip, why do you ask?) Sure, the Avengers have been taking names and smashing box office records, but here’s the big question: what would members of this superteam read in their free time? Wonder no more!


The Hero: Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff)
The only female member of the movie’s Avengers, Black Widow is an exceptional spy and  infiltrator, skilled in disguise, intrigue, assassination and  hand-to-hand combat. In the comics, she began her career as a Soviet spy but became a valued member of S.H.I.E.L.D. Although she has pursued romantic relationships with many of her superhero colleagues during her comic-book history, including Iron Man and Daredevil, Black Widow remains staunchly independent–this lady is more than capable of taking care of herself.
Like Black Widow, Katsa is a skilled fighter, who, at first, is used by an unscrupulous ruler for his own purposes. Over the course of the novel, Katsa discovers a great deal about herself, including the true nature of her abilities and the strength to stand up to those in power. At the end of the book, when Katsa has the emotional maturity to enter a romantic relationship without losing herself, I’m sure Natasha would cheer her on.

You would not believe how many shirtless pictures there were of this guy.
The Hero: Captain America (Steve Rogers)
Committed to fighting the good fight in World War II, young, sickly Steve Rogers volunteered to undergo an experimental process that turned him into a supersoldier. As Captain America, Rogers kept the nefarious cabal HYDRA from using weapons of mass destruction–until he was lost in suspended animation in the Arctic, awakening 70 years later.
The BookNick of Time by Ted Bell
Young Nick McIver lives on an island in the English Channel, right before England enters World War II. Nick can tell something’s wrong–German U-boats and airplanes are appearing around his beloved island home–and he wants to do something about it. While he and his little sister are spying on the German planes and boats, they find a mysterious golden orb that takes Nick back in time to defend his home against another threat: the ruthless pirate Billy Blood and the French armada. Nick’s gumption and determination to do the right thing will certainly appeal to patriotic and courageous Steve Rogers, as will this book’s good old-fashioned swashbucking adventure. As an accidental time traveler himself, Steve Rogers will certainly relate to a story that takes place in two different centuries.
The Hero: Hawkeye (Clint Barton)
Hawkeye is an unusual hero. As a member of S.H.I.E.L.D., he doesn’t lack futuristic weapons to choose from, but he prefers to use a bow and arrows, achieving incredible results with what others would consider obsolete technology. In his comic-book continuity, Hawkeye was an enemy of the Avengers when he first appeared, but later grew to be a trusted member of the team. Over his long history with Marvel comics, Hawkeye has undergone several trying experiences, such as finding out his wife was actually a shapeshifting alien spy, and death (comics, everybody!), yet he still manages to pull through in a remarkably level-headed way.
The BookLegend by Marie Lu (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
In a future where America has become a war-torn autocracy called the Republic, June and Day have wildly different lives. June is a prodigy, preparing for a life in the military; Day is a criminal, hunted for his acts of rebellion against the government. Their paths cross when June’s brother is murdered, and Day is the prime suspect. In her efforts to find Day and avenge her brother, June finds out that her old conceptions of friend and foe may not be true. Archery prodigy Clint Barton will be able to relate to military prodigy June, and as a person who has had his worldview and allegiance shift dramatically more than once, he will certainly understand June’s confusion when the propaganda she was raised to believe is proven hollow.

HULK BROOD
The Hero: The Hulk (Bruce Banner)
Mild-mannered scientist Bruce Banner was exposed to gamma radiation. Now, if he gets angry or afraid, he transforms into an unstoppable, ferocious, green giant. Despite the strength and power of his alter-ego, the peaceful Dr. Banner desperately seeks a way to either control his outbursts or cure himself completely.
The BookThis Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
When his twin brother falls gravely ill, young Victor Frankenstein goes on a quest to create the Elixer of Life. What darkness will this obsession awaken in young Victor’s heart? Bruce Banner knows personally what effect scientific curiosity without limits can have on people–and has suffered its consequences. As a man whose own dark id has become an actual, physical being, Bruce Banner would sympathize with Victor’s growing inner darkness. (One caveat: this book conveys so much tension and gothic horror that I imagine Bruce would have to put it down frequently–or risk transforming while reading it!)
The Hero: Iron Man (Tony Stark)
A genius, playboy, billionaire, and egomaniac, Tony Stark’s life took a sudden turn when he was wounded in Afghanistan by weapons his own company sold to insurgents without his knowledge. Tougher and more cunning than most billionaires, Tony famously constructed a miniature arc reactor “in a cave, with a box of scraps” and used it to power his revolutionary full-body suit of armor. Then, to his own surprise as much as anyone else’s, he got his company out of the weapons business and became a superhero.
The BookBullet Point by Peter Abrahams
Wyatt has never met his biological father, who is serving a life sentence for murder. But then he ends up moving to the town where his father is imprisoned, and becoming involved with the sexy Greer, a girl whose own father is imprisoned. When Wyatt finally meets his charismatic father, he becomes convinced the man is innocent and is determined to help him–a decision that becomes the biggest mistake of Wyatt’s life. Booklist described this book as “edgy and sexy,” which is exactly the kind of book our favorite playboy would love. This book is also a page-turning mystery, perfect for hooking the inquiring mind of an ADD genius like Tony Stark.

Maybe he's born with it...
The Hero: Thor (Thor)
Hailing from Asgard, Thor is gifted with long life and godlike powers, but when his actions destroy the truce between the Frost Giants and the Asgardians, he is stripped of his powers and sent to Earth. There he learns humility, eventually returning to Asgard to protect his realm and Earth from the schemes of his younger brother, Loki.
The BookFinnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta (2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
When Finnikin was nine, the royal family of his beloved homeland, Lumatere, were brutally murdered. The nation was cursed, and most of its citizens, including Finnikin, were driven into exile, unable to return or even communicate with their relatives due to the magic that isolates Lumatere. Ten years later, Finnikin meets a young woman named Evanjalin who claims that the heir to the throne of Lumatere is still alive and has chosen Finnikin to lead the exiles home. Can Finnikin trust Evanjalin? And does he have the strength to retake Lumatere? As a man who has himself experienced both betrayal and exile, Thor will be able to relate to Finnikin and his struggle. The passionate characters and epic plot will surely catch the heart of the son of Odin.
– Maria Kramer, currently reading Shine by Lauren Myracle

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Virals

by Kathy Reichs


Goodreads Summary:
Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage "sci-philes" who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever. 
As the friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer's scent. 
Fortunately, they are now more than friends they're a pack. They are Virals.


My Review:
This is perfect for anyone who enjoyed the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson since the premise is similar-genetically altered teens. The story introduces another smart and independent heroine in Tory Brenneman. She is uncomfortably smart, in fact, which makes her funny and somewhat receptive to the world around us. She does miss out on some big clues regarding behavior of her friends. She also does have some romantic interest in a few people, but it never runs over the plot. 
Her friends, who become the other Virals, show some great and unapologetic nerdiness-each having their own niche area. At times, this does make them seem compartmentalized, like they each have their thing and when it comes time to do their thing, they do it. I would like to see them develop past that in later books.
Overall, an interesting book if you enjoy forensic science and chasing a 40-year-old murder plot. I would recommend it, and will be reading the rest of the series.