March 28, 2010

Review of "The Looking Glass Wars"

"The Looking Glass Wars"
by Frank Beddor


Pub Date: September 26th 2006
Pages: 384

Alice Liddel was an ordinary girl who stepped through the looking glass and entered a fairy-tale world invented by Lewis Carrol in his famous storybook.

Wonderland is real. Alyss Heart is the heir to the throne, until her murderous aunt Redd steals the crown and kills Alyss's parents. To escape Redd, Alyss and her bodyguard. Hatter Madigan, must flee to our world through the Pool of Tears. But in the pool Alyss and Hatter are separated. Lost and alone in Victorian London, Alyss is befriended by an aspiring author, to whom she tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Yet he gets the story all wrong. Hatter Madigan knows the truth only too well, and he is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so she may battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.

My friend at work was bugging me for months to read this book and I am so glad it finally made its way to the top of my to read pile. I loved Beddor's twist on "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass", he was able to take a classic world and make it his own, while still keeping the magic of the original texts intact. Beddor was able to recreate the fanciful Wonderland setting upholding it as a realm where the impossible is possible. His characters were vivid with huge personalities, all of them were unique and really helped bring the book to life. I was going to name my favorite characters; however, I would have ended up listing pretty much all of them. I really love how Beddor used white and dark imagination in the book, it was so cool to read about the battles and seeing how each side harmed their enemies. That sounds kind of cryptic, but Beddor was just so inventive in the fighting scenes.

Alyss's quest to find her place in the world, whether it is Earth or Wonderland, and her identity struggles are concepts readers will relate to. Even Alyss's family issues on Earth and in Wonderland will reverberate with audiences. Redd is a tyrant who rules Wonderland as a fascist state telling people what they will believe and how they should act. Her unethical treatment of citizens and Wonderland's ecosystem reflect some of the major conflicts that our own world has gone through in the last century. Beddor is able to add a lot of substance to the book without slowing down the story or taking away from the fantastical world that is Wonderland.

This book would not have worked if the writer did not have a wonderful imagination and was not intimately familiar with both of Lewis Carroll's Alice books. I am so glad that Beddor took the risk of writing this series because he created pure magic. I have already started the second book and am really enjoying it so far. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of "Alice in Wonderland", as well as to people who enjoy fantasy and adventure.

March 22, 2010

Review of "The Dead-Tossed Waves"

"The Dead-Tossed Waves"
by Carrie Ryan


Pub. Date: March 9th, 2010
Pages: 416

Synopsis: Gabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She's content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry's mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing. One reckless moment, and half of Gabry's generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother's past in order to save herself and the one she loves.

When I first started reading this book I was kind of bummed out because I found it to be very predictable; however, after getting a few chapters in my entire opinion changed. Between the cult that worships the unconcecrated and a twist that I can't give away, I quickly became hoooked on this book. I really love how Ryan creates characters that are believable. They have flaws and fears that help shape the story. Her characters develop and change as they are faced with difficult situations. Even Mary had some surprises up her sleaves and I was glad she played a role in this book. It was really interesting to see how Gabry's life developed because of the experiences that her mother had in "The Forest of Hands and Teeth".

This book was a page turner because of all the action and suspense. Especially once Gabry goes into the forest following her mother's footsteps. The end of the book left me craving the next installment, which I am dying to read! Ryan left me wanting questions answered and with the desire to know the plight of all the characters. In "The Forest of Hands and Teeth" I at least felt safe at the end, but "The Dead-Tossed Waves" has me unsure about the safety of the characters. I really hope the Dark City is part of the setting for the next book. We are teased by it, but never find out that much. Ryan has taken us through a deadly forest, a quiet seashore, and I hope a bustling city will be the next destination.

I would definitely recommend this series to anyone who likes horror, paranormal thrillers, and romance. Check out Carrie Ryan's website for printable bookmarks, events, news, and more information about the series.

March 18, 2010

Review of "The Mark"

"The Mark"
by Jen Nadol


Pub. Date: January 19th, 2010
Pages: 240

Summary: Cassandra Renfield has always seen the mark—a glow around certain people reminiscent of candlelight. But the one time she mentioned it, it was dismissed as a trick of the light. Until the day she watches a man awash in the mark die. After searching her memories, Cassie realizes she can see a person’s imminent death. Not how or where, only when: today.

Armed with a vague understanding of the light, Cassie begins to explore her “gift,” seeking those marked for death and probing the line between decision and destiny. Though she’s careful to hide her secret—even from her new philosophy-obsessed boyfriend—with each impending death comes the temptation to test fate. But so many questions remain. How does the mark work? Why is she the only one who sees it? And finally, the most important of all: If you know today is someone’s last, should you tell them?

I don't know why, but I found this book to be really slow for such a small book. The book was okay, but I honestly only finished it because it was so short. I didn't feel like the book got interesting for me until the last 50 pages and then it ended. I could have done without all the philosophy and more with the family history. I felt like the philosophizing that went on through the book seemed very predictable. I didn't really like the guy that Cassie was seeing; the whole relationship felt very skeezy to me because of the fact that he was technically her TA. I honestly wasn't sure if I liked Cassie's character until the end of the book, which is weird for me because I usually care too much about the characters that I am reading. I felt a much stronger connection to some of the secondary characters, which I wished had played a larger role in the book.

I feel bad because I feel like I am just tearing this book up, but honestly these are only my opinions. There are a lot of great reviews of this book, but for some reason it just didn't click with me. I am going to leave this review where it is just because 1- I don't want to say more than I need to about my feelings... I think they are pretty clear and 2- I would probably end up giving away some of the plot. If this book sounds interesting to you then definitely check it out because you may really enjoy it, it just wasn't the book for me.

March 17, 2010

Review of "The Body Finder"

"The Body Finder"
by Kimberly Derting


Pub. Date: March 16th 2010
Pages: 329

Summary: Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes the dead leave behind in the world . . . and the imprints that attach to their killers.

Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find dead birds her cat left for her. But now that a serial killer is terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, Violet realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.

Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved by her hope that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer . . . and becoming his prey herself.

I absolutely loved this book! I am a slow reader and I read this book in only a few hours, it was THAT good. I really enjoyed the mystery, paranormal, and romance combo. Out of all the books that I've read for the 2010 Debut Author Challenge this was definitely my favorite so far. I thought it was really cool how each soul that Violet sensed had an original smell or taste. Getting glimpses into the killer's mind helped pick up the pace of the story for me. It just gave me chills knowing what was happening before Violet did. Derting was also good at keeping me guessing throughout the story. There were a couple of times where I thought I knew what was happening and then I found out I was completely wrong. I love when I have trouble figuring out what is going to happen next in a book. I like when I don't see things coming and just HAVE to continue to read to find out the next twist. I loved watching the interactions between Violet and Jay. I feel like that's how I act when I like guys, playfully hitting one another and teasing the pants off them.

I've never been the type of person to actively seek out a mystery to read, but this book made me want to delve into the genre. I know that it wasn't a strict mystery because there was a lot more going on in the plot, but I felt it was a good introduction for me. I don't usually plug bookstores or online bookstores, but I just discovered that has an e-book version of "The Body Finder" for only $1.99. I'm not sure if this is a sale price, but I just had to share this fantastic deal with you! I can't wait to see what Derting writes next, but according to her website she does have a book coming out in 2011 called "Desires of the Dead". Here is the book trailer for "The Body Finder" that I got off Derting's website.
Save as Draft

March 12, 2010

Review of "Hex Hall"

"Hex Hall"
by Rachel Hawkins


Pub Date: March 3, 2010
Pages: 336

Synopsis: Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father-an elusive European warlock-only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters. By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect. As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

I thought this book was a lot of fun with great fantastic characters. I read it in only a couple of days because I just couldn't put it down. I really enjoyed Sophie's character, even if I thought she was being a little dense at times. I just felt like reaching into the book and pinching her saying, "Wake up! This is SUCH a bad idea". Sophie has a wonderful sense of humor and a unique voice that hooked me into the story from the beginning. I wasn't sure how I felt about Archer, Sophie’s love interest. He had his moments, but I didn't quite grasp why he was dating Elodie. I hope that he is in the next book because I think he could develop into an interesting character, but right now I don't know how I feel about him. My absolute favorite character in the book was Sophie's roommate Jenna. I have to admit that I love pink so I could relate to Jenna's pink obsession. I just felt she was an interesting character with a lot of spunk.

I can't wait to read the next book in the "Hex Hall" series. Hawkins seems to be taking the next book in a really interesting direction that has potential to be an even more fantastic. It feels weird to predict that the next book will be so awesome, but Hawkins finished the book with some interesting twists that could make it more than just a super fun, but typical supernatural book. It does bother me that there is a black cat on the cover, but there is nothing about animals being a part of the book. Well... other than the shifters, but I don't remember there being a shifter cat in the book. I know this is just being picky, but it seemed unnecessary.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of paranormal fiction, especially if you are looking for a fun page turner. People who like the series "Magic in Manhattan" and/or "House of Night" will enjoy "Hex Hall".

*I received an ARC of this book for free at the ALA conference.

March 10, 2010

Review of "Leviathan" by Scott Westerfeld


by Scott Westerfeld


Pub. Date: October 6, 2009

Pages: 448

Summary: It is the cusp of World War I, and all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet.

Aleksandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn Stormwalker and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With the Great War brewing, Alek's and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way...taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure. One that will change both their lives forever.

I absolutely LOVED this book! It had action, suspense, beautiful illustrations, a fantastic plot, and wonderful characters. Scott Westerfeld created a fantastical world based off the real events of WWI by adding futuristic machines and genetically engineered animals into the conflict. Even though the book isn't completely historically accurate, it does cover some of the political issues going on during and prior to the war. I loved that Westerfeld added an afterword that goes over what is fact and what he fictionalized. Westerfeld made this book appealing to both girls and boys through the fast paced story that followed two main characters of the opposite sex.

As mentioned earlier, Westerfeld has added beautiful illustrations that help the reader to better understand some of the scenes that Westerfeld is trying to portray. I feel like the illustrations really brought the characters and machines to life. The world created is so intricate that it helped having the visuals so I wasn't bogged down by descriptions. I was a bit worried that it might slow down the pace of the book, but I didn't find it to be a problem. It was actually really cool to have a visual of some of the action scenes.

Between "Leviathan" and "Incarceron" I am hooked on steampunk and cannot wait to read more of the sub-genre. If you want to learn more about "Leviathan" just check out Scott Westerfeld's blog. The first chapter and the afterword are available if you are interested, but the afterword does have some spoilers. You can check out the blog here. I highly recommend that people who are fans of fantasy or sci-fi check out this book.

YA Books Reach a Broad Audience

My brother forwarded me an article from the Los Angeles Times discussing why teen books appeal to adults as well as younger audiences. I'm sure a lot of us bloggers are aware of this, but I just thought it was interesting to see what some of the top publishers and authors had to say on the topic. Check out the article here.

March 9, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays

Scott Westerfeld

Excerpt from page 60:
"The Huxley let out a screech above the wind, like the horrible sound when one of Da's air bladders would spring a leak.
'No, Beastie! We're almost safe!'"

I am a little more than halfway through the book and loving it! It is one of those books where you are late places because you can't put it down.

Teaser Tuesdays was started by MizB on her blog. On Teaser Tuesdays participants are asked to grab the book they are currently reading and open it to a random page. Then fist two "teaser" sentences on that page between lines 7 and 12. The key is to entice readers to pick up the book without giving away any spoilers.