Saturday, September 28, 2013

Find Me

Find Me
Romily Bernard
307 pages
Released: September 24, 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Goodreads win!

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

It's been such a long time since I won a Goodreads Giveaway and I was so excited to win something from one of my favorite publishers, I was so sure this book was going to be a hit.  Alas.  It was not.  But, let's start with the positive!  I loved Wick and her sister.  Both characters, despite their inherent differences and outlooks at life, seemed extremely realistic given their circumstances.  On top of that I loved Wick's computer skills.  Was she breaking the law?  Yes.  Was it for a good reason though?  Yes.  But beyond that, I love a YA novel that shows off that a girl can do anything they want.  Wick had mad computer skills and if we could get more young girls interested in computers, math, and science in the U.S. we would be in a much better place.  *steps off soapbox*

So why wasn't this book my cup of tea overall?  This first thing that struck me right away was the lack of character development and plot set up.  I wasn't looking for an info dump - please, we all hate those - but a little more information up front would have been helpful.  I read the first two pages two or three times before deciding to plow ahead and eventually it all fell into place.

A couple other things about the book threw me off, as well.  The overall plot sounded interesting me, but as I read it felt disjointed.  I get that it was supposed to be a mystery, but that plot mixed with Wick's subplot about hacking was too much, I felt like both storylines were fighting each other for dominance.  Interesting concept, but meh execution with this book.

Two stars.  Find Me was okay, but the lack of character development and what felt like a choppy plot at times detracted from the promise of a good story.  Still, if you're intrigued, it might be worth a look.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Quarantine: The Saints

Quarantine: The Saints
Lex Thomas
400 pages
Released: July 9, 2013
Publisher: Egmont
Source: the publisher

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

WARNING: This review contains spoilers from the first book in the series.  Don't spoil it for yourself!  If you want to check out my review of the first book instead, you can find it here.

Quarantine: The Saints picks up right where Quarantine: The Loners left off, Will and Lucy are just about to escape McKingly high and its violent hallways, when the unthinkable happens... a bus slams into the school's exit, trapping the remaining students in the school once again.  But there are new students on the bus and their entrance into the school brings with it the ability to get better supplies, which leads to huge parties and a whole new dynamic in the school.

At first I couldn't get over how Lucy and Will were so close to freedom only to have it taken right from their grasps.  I was concerned that The Saints would be the same thing as The Loners (which don't get me wrong, I loved The Loners a lot and its Lord of The Flies-esque drama) but I was hoping for something more from The Saints.  Happily, I can report I got something even more amazing in The Saints.  The simple introduction of a few new characters completely changed the living situation in the high school.  In fact, it was Gates who changed the whole school.

Oh, Gates.  Gates, the leader of the new group, had a very distinct personality.  I'm quite sure he had some sort of mental disorder going on, but I'm not a doctor so I can't diagnose.  He was very clingy to those he loved, he loved power, and he loved to show off.  As a result, he had the adults of the community, who also show up in this book, wrapped around his little finger.  He demanded all kinds of supplies and used those supplies to throw parties.  Gates' parties were pretty epic at McKinley high, you'll have to read for yourself to find out about all the random things he used to do.

Still, like I said, his presence really changed the school.  With his ability to acquire supplies, the tension around finding food and bartering relaxed, and so did the cliques.  Sure, you still have your distinctive groups, but there was a lot less group-on-group violence in this book.  But don't think this installment is weak - far from it.  There was one death in particular that stuck out to me as particularly gruesome.  Yiiiikes.  Teenagers left to their own devices with almost anything they could ask for - it's a dangerous combination.

And yet, despite it's uniqueness, The Saints still had some of what I loved the most from The Loners, particularly Will and Lucy.  Their relationship continues to be on again off again and I loved watching them, rooting for them to get it together and be together.

Four stars!  Quarantine: The Saints was a superb follow up to Quarantine: The Loners.  I was really impressed with the plot and how the authors were able to change the dynamic at McKinley high simply by introducing a new group of characters.  And the ending of the book!  I'm on the edge of my seat, again, waiting for the next book in the series.  I'm definitely hooked and if you haven't had a chance to check out this series, give it a look; I don't think you'll regret it! 

PS:  When I finished reading Quarantine: The Loners last month, I knew I had to get my hands on the sequel as soon as I could, so I'm grateful to Egmont for sending me a spare galley they had.  Even though the book was sent by the publisher, this did not affect my review and I wasn't compensated in any way.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop!

It's Banned Books Week again!  This week we're celebrating our right to read by reading some books that have been challenged and/or banned.  If you want some information about Banned Books Week, here's a link to the ALA website and a link to a few lists of frequently challenged books.  Peruse those lists because I will be choosing one winner to win a banned book of their choice!  Hooray!  Enter via the Rafflecopter below and be sure to check out those Terms & Conditions when doing so.  Then check out the dozens of other participants in the hop.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 20, 2013

In The Shadow of Blackbirds

In The Shadow of Blackbirds
Cat Winters
387 pages
Released: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Amulet
Source: purchased

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

In The Shadow of Blackbirds was going to be on my reading list regardless, but when my book club begged me to return and told me we were reading this book, well, let's just say it got moved up on my list.  Quick note: it would be so easy to make this review spoiler-ish, but I'm going to try very, very hard not to.  As result, it might be vague.  It might sound kind of blah, but IT'S NOT!  In The Shadow of Blackbirds is one of the best books I've read this year.

When sixteen year old Mary Shelley's father is hauled off to jail for trying to keep young men out of the draft during WWI, she moves in with her aunt in San Diego.  Supposedly the air is better out west and will help keep the Spanish Flu away, but by the time Mary arrives the Flu epidemic is in full swing there, as well.  Anyway, Mary's never believed in ghosts but her aunt is a fan of a photographer who claims to be able to capture spirits in his pictures.  As a result, Mary is sucked into a world with ghosts and a public desperate to reach into the afterlife and speak with the deceased loved ones.  Adding to that, the novel is peppered with a few very creepy photographs, which I adored.

But there's more.  Mary Shelley is in love, but before you think there's going to be a sweet romance in the novel, let me tell you the boy, Stephen - brother to the aforementioned photographer, enlisted in the army and is overseas in Europe.  Still, while the couple isn't holding hands and swooning every other page, their romance is evident through letters and a little background from the author.  The two seem so well suited for each other, I was really rooting for them.

What else can I mention to entice you without giving away dramatic plot points... there are seances!  Those are always good for some old-timey, creepy fun.  And I should mention Mary's aunt, Eva, who is in fact only in her twenties.  Still, for the time period she is something of a spinster and a cat lady, though instead of a cat she has a bird who likes to chatter at people and is actually something of an integral part of the plot.  Eva might have been a little paranoid, but she was a great character.

I have read paranormal books in the past and I have read historical fiction, but never before have a read a novel where the two genres were married together so perfectly.  The book is rich in historical accuracy and the fact that it takes place in such a traumatic, isolated time in American history works so well with the paranormal aspect.  As a result, the paranormal in this novel seems much more realistic than it might have otherwise.  Even if you don't think ghosts could exits, this book will keep you guessing about what's real and what's not.

Five stars!  This book is perfect for this time of year - fall and Halloween is right around the corner, so go pick up In The Shadow of Blackbirds immediately.

Mini Reviews!

You can't tell because my blog has been a deserted wasteland since September 3rd, but I've actually been doing a lot of reading.  I used to be so motivated to blog my reviews, to the point where I refused to start a new book until the review of the previous had been posted.  But... there's a small stack of books next to me that either says I'm a slacker, or simply human.  Either way, it's time to catch you up on some of the fun things I've been reading.  A YA novel, a NA novel, and an adult novel.  A little something for everyone.

Fallen Too Far (link to Goodreads)
Abbi Glines
188 Kindle pages
Publisher: the author
Source: purchased

AH!  *fans self off*  This new adult book was simply steamy and fun.  I purchased it for my Kindle after seeing Abbi Glines speak at the Decatur Book Festival.  She had such personality on the stage and she really sold her stories, so I decided to start with this one.  Nineteen year old Blaire has left Alabama to move in with her wealthy father, but instead she finds Rush, her new step-mother's son, in the house.  It's a whole new lifestyle for Blaire, with huge mansions, lavish parties and country clubs, where she decides to get a job.  Of course, then there's the sexy Rush who is guarding a huge secret (that I saw coming, but still...)  This book was such a guilty pleasure for me, it drew me in and I read it all in one sitting.  The chemistry Abbi creates in her writing is simply palpable.  I really recommend this one for New Adult fans!

Werewolf in Alaska (Goodreads)
Vicki Lewis Thompson
316 pages
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
Source: purchased

Sometimes I just want some fluffy and fun to read, so with that in mind I headed off to Barnes & Noble yesterday.  Yes, yesterday.  I was wandering the romance aisle's new releases hoping for something Christmas-y (don't judge) when I was drawn in by this book's title and cover instead.  I visited Alaska in 2012 and really miss it, plus the description on the back of the book really drew me in - Rachel makes a living as a famous wood carver and lives across the lake from Jake, who is secretly a werewolf.  They've been watching each other for three years across that lake, but it all comes to a head when Rachel is attacked by a bear in Jake saves her in wolf form.  This book started out slowwwly, but picked up in the middle and then had a very rushed ending.  Still, I found Rachel and Jake's romance cute and definitely steamy.  This is a great read if you love mass market paranormal romance.  Evidently it's fifth in a series, the rest of which is probably worth checking out.  The werewolf politics in this series seems really well thought out by the author.  Thompson seems great at world building, though not moving the novel along at constant speed.

The Murmurings (Goodreads)
Carly Anne West
370 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: the library

On a more serious note, I also recently finished The Murmurings, which has been on my radar quite some time because of its delightfully creepy cover and description.  Sophie is mourning the loss of her sister Nell, after she "went crazy."  But Sophie knows there was more to it than that, since she is hearing the same murmurings her sister did and is starting to see those strange things in the mirror, as well.  After finding an unlikely partner in the new boy in town, Evan, they start investigating the hospital where Nell stayed and what the real story is behind the sketchy facility.  While The Murmurings wasn't as creepy as I thought it would be, it definitely had its horror movie moments.  (People dragged up to the ceilings, dangling upside down by one toe?  Uh, hello, scary!)  Evan and Sophie's chemistry was great and reading about Sophie's difficult home life really added to the plot.  I really enjoyed this one and couldn't put it down, even though it made me wonder if I was hearing voices, too... dundundun.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead

By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead
Julie Anne Peters
200 pages
Released: January 5, 2010
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Source: swapped for

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

Daelyn is done.  After her latest suicide attempt failed, she's determined not to fail this time.  She signs up for a social website filled with others determined to kill themselves.  The site gives her ten days before she has to end her life.  

I put off writing this review for a week because I didn't know what to say.  Quite simply, I don't think I have the vocabulary to describe how deeply this book touched me.  This book was excruciatingly difficult to read because of how realistic it is and it's going to be hard for me to write this review as a result. 

Each of the ten days Daelyn has left is chronicled in this book.  Despite the fact that she's already decided to end her life once and for all, her life sort of goes on.  Her parents continue to be annoying, she continues to not take her meds, and she continues to close everyone out of her life.  But she meets Santana after school one day while she waiting for her mother to pick her up and Santana simply won't leave her alone.  He slowly weasels his way into her life, much to Daelyn's chagrin. 

I should mention that Daelyn isn't able to speak.  We learn early on in the novel that she's wearing a neck brace and something has happened that prevents her from speaking.  I assumed it was because of her previous suicide attempt, but I couldn't figure out exactly what happened.  When I finally learned what happened, I just ached.  My heart just ached for Daelyn.  She's obviously fictional, but as I mentioned, the book - and Daelyn's character in particular - is so unbelievable realistic that I yearned to do something for her.  I'm choking up a little bit even now, thinking about it.

Four stars.  This book was extremely difficult to read but extremely worth it.  If you or someone you know has had an experience bullying, depression, and or suicide, I highly recommend this one - with a box of tissues.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer
Katie Alender
304 pages
Releases: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Scholastic
Source: NetGalley

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

You can't deny the catchy cover here, which is mainly the reason I requested this book from NetGalley.  But aside from the eye-catching cover, Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer contains a pretty interesting plot. Colette Iselin - whose family originally hails from France - is headed to Paris on a class trip with her spoiled best friends.  But when the girls arrive in France, they become aware of a serial killer on the lose, who has been beheading victims.  Soon Colette is seeing visions of a young woman dressed in 18th century clothes and with the help of her charmingly adorable tour guide, Colette investigates to uncover her connection to Marie Antoinette and the murders.

This the the first book by Katie Alender that I've read (although I do have Bad Girls Don't Die on my shelf waiting to be picked up) and I wasn't disappointed.  Alender has the ability to weave and interesting and fast paced plot.  I started the book late last night, battling insomnia as usual, but found myself fighting sleep off later to try and finish the book.  (I'm getting too old for this kind of reading, haha!)  What gripped me right away was the mystery between Colette and her relationship to Marie Antoinette.  Before leaving home, Colette found a necklace with a special symbol on it that belonged to her grandmother and then, upon visiting Versailles, Colette starts seeing the symbol everywhere in association with Marie Antoinette.  Could they be related somehow?  The mystery unravels into something of a secret society, something fans of Dan Brown and the like will really enjoy.  And that's not even to mention the murders that tie in as well!

Aside from the gruesome, paranormal murder mystery on Colette's hands, which is sure to be a draw to any reader, I actually found Colette's personal journey much more interesting.  Her two best friends are two of the most spoiled, ridiculous, slap-worthy characters I've ever read in YA literature.  Props to Alender for creating such nasty but enjoyable characters!  Anyway, Colette was headed down the same self-centered path until her parents split and she's suddenly without money.  Reality slowly hits Colette in the face and with the help of said charmingly adorable tour guide, Jules, she really grows as a person throughout the novel.  I love a story where the main character grows like this.  I also love a story with a little romance, which wasn't lacking in this book, either, and reminded me a little of Anna and the French Kiss.

Four stars!  Paranormal fans will surely enjoy Marie Antoinette's new hobby and contemporary fans will drool for the relationship between Colette and Jules.  Marie Antoinette is a fast paced, quick read so add it to your fall reading list!