Thursday, December 30, 2010

Rules of Attracton by Simone Elkeles

No spoilers.

Rules of Attraction
Author: Simne Elkeles
Year of Publication: 2010
Genre: YA
Pages: 324
First Line: "I want to live life on my own terms."
Summary: Carlos Fuentes idolized his older brother, Alex, when he was a member of the Latino Blood. So when Alex chose to get jumped out of the gang for a chance at a future with his gringa girlfriend, Brittany. Carlos felt shocked and betrayed. Even worse, Alex forced Carlos to come back from Mexico to join him on the straight and narrow path. Trouble is, Carlos just wants to keep living on the edge. And ties to his Mexican gang aren't easy to break, even hundreds of miles away in Colorado.

In Boulder, Carlos has to live with one of Alex's college professors and he feels completely out of place. He's even more thrown by his strong feelings for the professor's daughter, Kiara, who is nothing like the girls he's usually drawn to. But Carlos and Kiara soon discover that in matters of the heart, the rules of attraction overpower the social differences that conspire to keep them apart.

Source: Back of book

Review: I love this series. I understand a third one is going to be coming out and I absolutely plan on reading it. Elkeles is really good at getting into the heads of her characters and does a great job giving each of them personality. This may not be the Great American Novel, but it is really entertaining and generally wonderful to read.

Worst part: The whole Michael thing was kind of odd. It could have been dealt with differently, I think.

Best part: Elkeles is great at creating chemistry between her characters.

Grade: A

Other Books by This Author: Perfect Chemistry, Leaving Paradise, Return to Paradise, How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, How to Ruin My Teenage Life, and How to Ruin Your Boyfriend's Reputation.

75 / 50 books. 150% done!

Spells by Aprilynne Pike

No spoilers.

Title: Spells
Author: Aprylynne Pike
Year of Publication: 2010
Genre: YA, fantasy
Pages: 359
First Line: "Laurel stood in front of the cabin,scanning the treeline, her throat constricting in a rush of nerves."
Summary: Although Laurel has come to accept her true identity as a faerie, she refuses to turn her back on her human life -- and especially her boyfriend, David -- to return to the faerie world.

But when she is summoned to Avalon, Laurel's feelings for the charismatic faerie sentry Tamani are undeniable. She is forced to make a choice -- a choice that could break her heart.

Source: Back of book

Review: I don't think Spells was any better or worse than Wings. It was just a (below-) mediocre book. Pike has a lot of opportunities to really improve this series, but she makes other decisions. I'm not a fan of the whole trolls thing, but they're obviously a big part of the story. The characters in the novel could also be more interesting. Most of them come across as very generic and without personality. In many ways, this series is like Twilight, where the book is certainly not any great literary achievement, but it accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish -- it is entertainment for young teenage girls and nothing more. I'm not sure this book moved along the central plot all that much as far as the series as a whole goes, but parts of it were still fun and if you plan on reading the entire series, you should read this as well.

Worst part: I'm not a fan of David. I dislike most of the characters, but something about David really bothers me.

Best part: Anything that took place in Avalon was cool, except for the whole tree thing.

Grade: C

Other Books by This Author: Wings and Illusions

74 / 50 books. 148% done!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Anastasia's Secret by Susanne Dunlap

No spoilers.

Title: Anastasia's Secret
Author: Susanne Dunlap
Year of Publication: 2010
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Pages: 330
First Line: "We are surrounded by guards."
Summary: For Anastasia Romanova, life as the privileged daughter of Russia's last tsar is about to be torn apart by the bloodshed of revolution. Ousted from the imperial palace when the Bolsheviks seize control of the government, Anastasia and her family are exiled to Siberia. Yet even while the rebels debate the family's future with agonizing slowness, and while the threat to their lives grows more menacing, romance quietly blooms between Anastasia and Sasha, a sympathetic young guard she has known since childhood. But will the strength of a love that exists in secret be enough to save Anastasia from a tragic fate?

Source: Back of book

Review: So the Romanovs totally interest me. But it seems all the fiction books I read about them are unimpressive and, in some ways, annoying. This book moved particularly slowly and I considered giving up several times. I found Anastasia to be a somewhat generic (maybe stronger than the average character, but...) character which was irritating. I did like the details which Dunlap included which she claimed, in the author's note, were as exact as she could manage. She also provided a link to a site which is supposed to have a lot of information on the Romanovs. I have yet to check it out. The book definitely could have been better. Very little happened throughout. When things were happening, I felt it was very understated and made it feel like nothing was happening at all. Not sure I would recommend this one.

Worst part: The pace almost killed me.

Best part: The historical and character details included in the book were interesting and well-placed without seeming forced.

Grade: C

Other Books by This Author: The Musician's Daughter.

73 / 50 books. 146% done!

The Devouring by Simon Holt

Minor spoilers.

The Devouring
Author: Simon Holt
Year of Publication: 2008
Genre: YA
Pages: 231
First Line: "On Sorry Night, just a few days before Christmas, you have to snuff the lamps, douse the flames in the fireplace, and spend the night in the cold and dark."
Summary: The Vours: Evil, demonic beings that inhabit human bodies on Sorry Night, the darkest hours of the winter solstice.

When dark creeps in and eats the light,
Bury your fears on Sorry Night.
For in the winter's blackest hours
Comes the feasting of the Vours.
No one can see it, the life they stole,
Your body's here but not your soul...

Source: Back of book

Review: The first-half of this book was better than the second-half. I found it interesting that other characters seemed to perceive a relationship between Regina and Aaron, but I did not see it that way at all. I was much more interested in the fantasy side of the book, as opposed to the horror side. I once tried reading The Demonata Lord Loss by Darren Shan and was almost immediately turned off by the gore. This one was similar towards the end, but because of the more fantastical element, I was able to read through the end (and might read the rest of the series, if only for Aaron, who reminds me of myself in several ways). I wasn't really able to relate to Regina's character very well, but I think a lot of her personality is a result of the situation with her mother. There were parts of the story which were not tied up or explained to begin with very well, but I expect they will be in the sequels. Nothing spectacular, but good enough to finish.

Worst part: I was disappointed the only part of the book The Devouring in the book we got to see was in the beginning. I would have liked more "entries" throughout the book.

Best part: The characterization of the Vour in Henry was very well done.

Grade: C+

Other Books by This Author: Soulstice and Fearscape.

72 / 50 books. 144% done!

Monday, December 6, 2010

But Is It Garbage? by Stephen L. Hamelman

Spoilers. . .but it's nonfiction.

But Is It Garbage?
Author: Stephen L. Hamelman
Year of Publication: 2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Pages: 272
First Line: "American culture is trash culture."
Summary: Hamelman says that "analysis of rock as trash is needed because it reveals a fundamental yet complex interrelationship between trash, both literal and figurative . . and rock music and culture." Given that premise, one might expect lively discussions of Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, and George Clinton, whose lyrics revel in life's trashy aspects. One would be disappointed, however. Hamelman instead lavishes attention on the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed, and their hoary chroniclers, the likes of Dave Marsh and Greil Marcus. Hamelman apparently suffers from the view that most of the most important rock was produced by bands popular in the late 1960s, and he oddly avoids black rock other than Hendrix's. If you can forgive that attitude, that sin of omission, and Hamelman's overwhelming fascination with Lou Reed's Berlin (thank Jah it's not Metal Machine Music), Hamelman's framework for discussing rock's cultural appeal makes for a fairly worthwhile book.


Review: Written by professor of English at Coastal Carolina University and drummer Steven L. Hamelman, But Is It Garbage?: On Rock and Trash explores the connection between rock ‘n’ roll music, lyrics, and lifestyle, and literal, tangible trash. The piece comes in three parts: Trashed, Wasted, and Saved. Each of these sections explains how lyrics, musical style, musician’s attitudes and lifestyles, and the disposability of the media on which the music is released reflect trash culture, particularly of the United States.

Much of “Trashed,” the largest and opening section in the book, discusses the literally disposable and wasteful natures of the media on which rock ‘n’ roll is and has been recorded. Hamelman cites records (and their tendency to warp, thus becoming useless), cassette tapes (and how often the tape is “eaten” by a player), and CDs (which, while fairly durable compared to the former media listed, are wasteful in packaging). The author includes statistics which illustrate how wasteful the packaging of CDs is, as well as pointing out how the consumerism of America results in rock ‘n’ roll being produced at uneconomical rates and quantities, thus creating even more waste.

In “Trashed,” Hamelman profiles songs as well as artists, as he creates a list of “Top Trash Forty,” listed in chronological order. Some of these songs include Sewer Trout’s “Garbage,” Korn’s “Trash,” and Marilyn Manson’s “Disposable Teens.” Helman admits this list does not include every trash-related song, but offers forty songs with a brief illustration of each song and their context. When speaking of specific artists, much of the author’s focus is on Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground. Hamelman also concentrates largely on the Beatles, spending a length of the text on the members’ opinion on their music – often, unsurprisingly, believing it is “trash.” John Lennon specifically is said to have trashed not only his own work, but also that of Paul McCartney, even in McCartney’s solo work. The quality of the music as well as its tendency to not last in the case of any rock ‘n’ roll artist is, according to Hamelman, essential to the trash culture which surrounds the genre and its many subgenres.

In the second section titled “Wasted,” Hamelman explores the “wasted” lives of rock ‘n’ roll, including Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. He explains how their talent was wasted as both, among others, died at young ages before, he argues in Hendrix’s case, the peak of success and talent had been reached. Both artists, as well as others who ended similarly, would have gone on to create even more artistically significant works, had they not died so young, thus their talent was wasted. Throughout this section, Hamelman also points out to readers that death is a common theme in the lyrics of rock ‘n’ roll. The theme of death is also related to trash culture as death and decay are often considered to be the same thing and anything that is decaying must be waste, according to mainstream culture.

Finally, in “Saved,” Hamelman discusses the artistic merit of many of the rock ‘n’ roll performers he spoke of in previous sections. One instance he mentions is how one teacher “incorporated” Rage Against the Machine into lessons on The Grapes of Wrath. He compares some rock ‘n’ roll artists to well-known and respected composers and novelists. Much of this section also discusses the similarities of “Paul’s Case: A Study in Temperament,” a short story by Willa Cather, and the characteristics of rock ‘n’ roll, thus drawing the conclusion that rock ‘n’ roll is more or less designed for adolescents, as Paul, who exhibits many of the same characteristics, is an adolescent. Hamelman also points out how just as Paul was saved by art – the story was written before the time of rock ‘n’ roll – so were many of the rock ‘n’ roll artists including Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Patti Smith, and Keith Richards.

Hamelman’s study of rock ‘n’ roll and its relation to garbage is a thorough, academic piece. Hamelman avoids using “et cetera,” making his lists as complete as possible and explains the rock ‘n’ roll and garbage conceit as fully as possible. His argument is clear as is his process. Readers will find themselves thinking about the work’s implications and what Hamelman’s arguments mean for the future of rock ‘n’ roll. Readers familiar with today’s music and technology should question what iTunes and similar non-physical music media means for the trash culture, or what covering – and therefore recycling – songs fits into Hamelman’s thesis, in order to make the piece all the more thought-provoking.

Worst part: I felt the argument was a little far-fetched.

Best part: Despite that it was far-fetched, the idea was really original.

Grade: C

Other Books by This Author: None.

71 / 50 books. 142% done!

My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr

No spoilers.

My Heartbeat
Author: Garret Freymann-Weyr
Year of Publication: 2002
Genre: YA
Pages: 154
First Line: "It's after midnight when I hear James leave."
Summary: Ellen loves Link and James. Her older brother and his best friend are the only company she ever wants. She knows they fight, but she makes it a policy never to take sides. She loves her brother,the math genius and track star. She is totally madly in love with James, his long eyelashes and hidden smiles. "When you grow out of it," James teases her, "you will break my heart."

Then someone at school asks if Link and James might be in love with each other. A simple question. But the answer is far from simple, and its repercussions affect their entire lives.

Source: Back of book

Review: While this book got off to a somewhat slow start, I really loved all of the characters and the plot. Everything was very realistic and I enjoyed the relationships between the characters. Freymann-Weyr's simplistic writing style reflects her characters' age, but she still manages to make profound observances that make readers of all ages think. This book will not bother those squeamish with gay topics -- it is addressed in a way that is not graphic or anything else (at least in terms of same-sex relationships). A simple concept that makes for an interesting and heartfelt story.

Worst part: I felt Link was slightly underdeveloped.

Best part: I loved James. His character was by far the most interesting.

Grade: B+

Other Books by This Author: When I Was Older, The Kings Are Already Here, Stay With Me, After The Moment, Pretty Girls and French Ducks in Venice.

70 / 50 books. 140% done!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What I Wore to Save the World by Maryrose Wood

Major spoilers for the first two books in the summary.

What I Wore to Save the World
Author: Maryrose Wood
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 276
First Line: "'And so, in the immortal words of Polonius--'"
Summary: Senior year's coming up fast and I still have no clue about college or a career -- the whole rest-of-my-life thing is basically a blank. Maybe it's because I spent this year obsessing about Colin, the hot Irish guy I fell for last summer (that was right around the time I discovered that I'm a half-goddess from the days of Irish lore -- trust me, you had to be there). I even saved Colin from a nasty enchantment, but he doesn't know that. Colin doesn't believe in magic, not even a little.

But now a mysterious message has reunited me with Colin, who turns out to be caught up in the biggest faery-made disaster ever. We're talking the end of reality, and I don't mean reality TV. To save the world, I'm going to have to tell Colin the truth about my half-goddess mojo. But if he doesn't believe in magic, how will he ever believe in me?

Source: Back of book

Review: Better than the second, not as good as the first. I feel like a large part of the plot was missing because the plot-arc did not flow well. I still love Colin and Wood's writing style is unique -- though I don't know if I like it or not. Pick up the first book for something fun to read and then pick up the sequels if you're still interested.

Worst part: Whatever that missing piece was.

Best part: I liked the whole three crowns thing a lot.

Grade: B-

Other Books by This Author: Why I Let My Hair Grow Out and How I Found the Perfect Dress.

69 / 50 books. 138% done!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

No spoilers.

War for the Oaks
Author: Emma Bull
Year of Publication: 1987
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 332
First Line: "By day, the Nicollet Mall winds through Minneapolis like a paved canal."
Summary: Guitarist Eddi McCandry has just dumped her boyfriend and their band when she finds herself running through the Minneapolis night, pursued by a sinister man and a huge, terrifying dog. As she soon discoers, the two creatures are one and the same: a phouka, a faerie being who has chosen Eddi to be the mortal pawn in the age-old war between the Seelie and Unseelie Courts.

Eddi isn't interested -- but she doesn't have a choice. For more than her own survival is at stake. To save the city -- and man -- that she loves, Eddi must face off against the Dark Queen of the Unseelie Court in the ultimate duel of music and magic.

Source: Back of book

Review: My all-time favorite book. I really don't have anything to say about it. It's brilliant. It's fantastic. I love it. Read it.

Worst part: The dream sequence doesn't work with the rest of the book, I think.

Best part: All of it. It's my favorite -- I can't choose!

Grade: A+

Other Books by This Author: Finder and Bone Dance.

68 / 50 books. 136% done!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Maggie Stiefvater's FOREVER

Maggie's new book is coming out soon, and you can preorder it! Yay!

I highly recommend doing so, because her books are fantasmible.


Preorder here:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Harry, a History by Melissa Anelli

Can you have spoilers for a non-fiction book?

Harry, A History
Author: Melissa Anelli
Year of Publication: 2008
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 334
First Line: "Within twenty-four hours, everyone would know."
Summary: During the brief span of just one decade, hundreds of millions of perfectly ordinary people made history: they became the only ones who would remember what it was like when the Harry Potter saga was still unfinished. What it was like to seek out friends, families, online forums, fan fiction, and podcasts to get a fix between novels. When the potential death of a character was a hotter bet than the World Series. When the unfolding story of a boy wizard changed the way books are read for all time.

And as webmistress of the Leaky Cauldron, one of the most popular Harry Potter sites on the Internet, Melissa Anelli had a front row seat to it all. Whether it was helping Scholastic stop leaks and track down counterfeiters, hosting live PotterCasts at bookstores across the country, or touring to Edinburgh to interview J.K. Rowling personally, Melissa was at the center of the Harry Potter tornado, and nothing about her life would ever be the same.

The Harry Potter books are a triumph of the imagination that did far more than break sales records for all time. They restored the world's sense of wonder and took on a magical life of their own. Now the series has ended, but the story is not over. With remembrances from J.K. Rowling's editors, agents, publicists, fans, and Rowling herself, Melissa Anelli takes us on a personal journey through every aspect of the Harry Potter phenomenon -- from his very first psell to his lasting impact on the way we live and dream.

Source: Back of book

Review: Almost as emotional as reading Deathly Hallows for the first time. I really loved Anelli's style. It was engaging and interesting. Her insight is fantastic and she lived the dream of many Potter fans -- more-or-less befriending J.K. Rowling. As I was fairly young during the entire Potter phenomenon (I was seven or eight when the first book came out), much of this information is new to me or shown in a new light. I really enjoyed this book and it gave a lot of interesting information about the phenomenon as well as the books and J.K. Rowling. Even the parts concerning Anelli's life were interesting and I looked forward to those bits. Definitely worth checking out, even if you aren't (gasp!) a Potter fan.

Worst part: The arriving at the release day and such was kind of abrupt. But I think it's okay to have it this way, because that's how it felt.

Best part: J.K. Rowling's forward was really touching. I really enjoyed it.

Grade: A

Other Books by This Author: None, but she runs the Leaky Cauldron.

67 / 50 books. 134% done!

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

No spoilers.

The Bell Jar
Author: Sylvia Plath
Year of Publication: 1963
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 229
First Line: "It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York."
Summary:Esther, an A-student from Boston who has won a guest editorship on a national magazine, finds a bewildering new world at her feet. Her New York life is crowded with possibilities, so that the choice of future is overwhelming, but she can no longer retreat into the safety of her past. Deciding she wants to be a writer above all else, Esther is also struggling with the perennial problems of morality, behaviour and identity. In this compelling autobiographical novel, a milestone in contemporary literature, Sylvia Plath chronicles her teenage years - her disappointments, anger, depression and eventual breakdown and treatment - with stunning wit and devastating honesty.

Source: Here

Review: I liked this a lot more than I expected to. I found it to be a lot like The Catcher in the Rye. The style was very similar, and, the more books I read with this style, the more I enjoy it. It's very conversational and simple, but somehow timeless. Plath wrote realistically, taking much from her own life and inserting it into this novel. It's a spectacular book and if you haven't read it, you should.

Worst part: Some of the characters were tough to keep track of. It was a bit like an Austen novel in that way -- I always have a hard time keeping track of characters in books like this.

Best part: The ending worked really well for this book.

Grade: A

Other Books by This Author: Various selections of poetry.

66 / 50 books. 132% done!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Minor spoilers.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Author: J.K. Rowling
Year of Publication: 2007
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Pages: 759
First Line: "The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane."
Summary: We now present the seventh and final installment in the epic tale of Harry Potter.

Source: Back of book

Review: Not my favorite in the series, but I still love it. I don't really know how to review this, I mean, it's Harry freakin' Potter (Very Potter Sequel, anyone?) but, yeah. Read it. But read the others first.

Worst part: The switch from tenttenttenttenttenttent to battle!!!!!!! was kind of abrupt.

Best part: J.K. Rowling is a genius. 'Nuff said.

Grade: A

Other Books by This Author: The entire Harry Potter series.

65 / 50 books. 130% done!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Changeling by Delia Sherman

Limited/Minor Spoilers.

Title: Changeling
Author: Delia Sherman
Year of Publication: 2006
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Pages: 289
First Line: "'Wake up, Neef. Spring cleaning today. Cobwebs to sweep, mice to relocate, turtles to wake up and polish. And you have to clean your room."
Summary: Neef is a changeling, a human baby stolen by fairies and replaced with one of their own. She lives in "New York Between," a Manhattan that exists invisibly, side by side with our own, home to fairies, demons, mermaids, and other creatures of Folk lore. Neef has always been protected by her fairy godmother, Astris (a very lovely white rat), until she breaks a Fairy Law. Now, unless she can meet the challenge of the Green Lady of Central Park, she'll be sacrificed to the bloodthirsty Wild Hunt. Neef is a native New Yorker, and she's determined to beat the rap -- but New York Between is a maze of magic and magical rules, and time is running out....

Source: Back of book

Review: I found this story to be really enjoyable. Unlike a lot of other modern fantasies I've read, it has a very story-teller feel to it. It has all of the elements of a fairly tale (except romance, which, while I was disappointed when I realized there was none at first, I gradually came to accept and even enjoy it as a fresh change). The writing style is very simple, but the text is appropriate for all ages. One of the nice things it that Neef's age is never quite explained. Her counterpart, it seems, is about twelve, but because of the aging difference, it's difficult to say how old Neef is. That way, if you only like to read about characters your age or older, you can easily imagine Neef to be at least fifteen, maybe even seventeen or eighteen (though I wouldn't say beyond that). The characters in this book were a lot of fun, for the most part. I would definitely love to live in Neef's world. I also found the story to be interesting, aside from the beginning, which was fairly slow. Definitely recommended, particularly for very young adults (11+) who are looking for a way to get into larger "chapter books."

Worst part: The only character I really didn't like was the antagonist (the Green Lady). Usually I really like this character in fiction, but I found she wasn't quite what I was used to. Fairly unrefined and with a heavy New York accent (apparently), which I felt was the total opposite of what she should -- and traditionally is -- be.

Best part: I like that the Changeling was made out to have a mental handicap, which could have been a result of -- or the misunderstanding of -- her being one of the Folk.

Grade: B

Other Books by This Author: Through a Brazen Mirror, The Porcelain Dove, and The Fall of the Kings.

64 / 50 books. 128% done!

Also, I miss you all! I hope everyone is doing well and having fun at the library! I'll do my best to stop by when I'm home in December, or at least at the end of the school year in May! Keep reading!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Jane Auten in Scarsdale by Paula Marantz Cohen

Title: Jane Austen in Scarsdale (Or Love, Death, and the SATs)
Author: Paula Marantz Cohen
Year of Publication: 2006
Genre: Fiction, romance
Pages: 275
First Line: "'So you want your kid to go to Harvard? Or maybe it's Duke or Stanford? Well, I"m gonna tell you how to do it!'"
Summary: Anne Ehrlich is a dedicated guidance counselor steering her high-school charges through the perils of college admission. Thirteen years ago, when she was graduating from Columbia University, her wealthy family -- especially her dear grandmother Winnie -- persuaded her to give up the love of her life, Ben Cutler, a penniless boy from Queens College. Anne has never married and hasn't seen Ben since -- until his nephew turns up in her high school and starts applying to college.

Now Ben is a successful writer, a world traveler, and a soon-to-be married man, and Winnie's health is beginning to fail. These changes have Anne beginning to wonder. . .Can old love be rekindled, or are past mistakes too painful to forget?

Source: Back of book

Review: If you are looking for something actually related to Jane Austen's pieces, this is not it. While the structure, plot, etc. is very like an Austen novel, there are very few mentions of her/her works. After reading the book, I feel like part of the plot was missing -- perhaps something having to do with more insight to Ben and Anne's past. All-in-all it was not a bad read, just something that wasn't great, or necessarily well-planned out in terms of plot. Characters were pretty well-done and I was very satisfied with how Kirsten was dealt with (you will understand if you read). Again, though, if you are looking for something that has a lot to do with Jane Austen, this is not the book for you.

Worst part: That thing the book was lacking -- I have no idea what it was, but it was definitely lacking something.

Best part: Anne was very real to me. Ben, of course, wasn't. But it was nice to have a very real character rather than a Mary-Sue. She did have her Mary-Sue moments, but generally I feel she was a three-dimensional and realistic character.

Grade: C+

Other Books by This Author: What Alice Knew, Jane Austen in Boca, and Much Ado About Jessie Kaplan.

63 / 50 books. 126% done!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Curse of the Romanovs by Staton Rabin

No spoilers.

The Curse of the Romanovs
Author: Staton Rabin
Year of Publication: 2007
Genre: Fantasy, historical fiction, YA
Pages: 271
First Line: "'Mama! Mama! -- it hurts! Please, God! Mama, come kill me!"
Summary: Alexei Romanov, heir to the Russian throne, is in deadly danger.

It's 1916, the struggling Russian people are tired of war and are blaming their Romanov rulers for it, and some are secretly plotting to murder the young heir and his family. But nobody outside the palace knows that Alexei suffers from a terrible bleeding disease, hemophilia, which threatens to finish him off even before the family's enemies can. The only person able to help Alexei is the evil and powerful religious mystic Rasputin -- and now Rasputin is trying to kill him too! Desperate, Alexei flees through time to New York City in 2010, using a method taught to him by the mad monk himself.

In New York, Alexei meets smart and sassy Varda Rosenberg, and discovers she is a distant cousin. Varda is working on a gene therapy cure for hemophilia, as the disease still runs in the family. When Alexei learns that history shows that his entire family will be assassinated in 1918, he and Varda travel back in time to the Russian Revolution, with Rasputin hot on their heels. Will they be able to rescue Alexei's family before it's too late?

Source: Back of book

Review: First, let me just apologize for the typing quality of my last review. Having just copy/pasted to use the template for this review, I saw there were numerous typos. For this I am sorry. Now, the book about which this review is, was not bad. It seemed to take forever to get going but once it did, I was fairly satisfied and interested. Rabin admits to altering many of the historical facts and dates in numerous pieces after the book (which are interesting, for the most part -- if you read this book, read the pieces after the actual story) which was somewhat disappointing to learn, but she does justify many of the alterations with reasons. The book is "rated" for readers 12 years and older, but if you are a parent of a 12-year-old, I may give the book a read through first, just to be sure the child is emotionally ready for it, particularly the pieces after, but the ending of the book as well as other parts sprinkled throughout. It can be a difficult book to read emotionally if the reader becomes attached to the characters. Recommended for those interested in the Romonovs' history.

Worst part: The grandfather complex was not discussed at all. I really felt it should have been.

Best part: The last few parts were very well written (aside from the very end) and definitely served to increase the emotional bond with the characters.

Grade: C+

Other Books by This Author: Betsy and the Emperor and Black Powder

61 / 50 books. 122% done!

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Minor spoilers, if any.

Title: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Author: Rebecca Skloot
Year of Publication: 2010
Genre: Nonfiction, biography, science
Pages: 328
First Line: "There is a photo on my wall of a woman I've never met, its left corner torn and patched together with tape."
Summary: Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells -- taken without her knowledge -- became one of hte most important tools in medicine. The first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If ou could piel all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they'd weight more than 50 million metric tons -- as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb's effects; helped lead to important advances like in virto fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions

Yet Henrietta Lacks remins irtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the "colored" ward of Johns Hopkis Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with greezers full of HeLa cells, from Henrietta's small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia -- a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo -- to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

Henrietta's family did not learn of her "immortality" until more than twenty years after hder death, when sicentists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliant shows, the story of hte Lacks family -- past and present -- is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

OVer the decade it took to uncovery this story, Rebecca became enmeshed int he lives of the Lacks family -- especially Henrietta's daughter Deborath, who was devastated to learn about her mother's cells. Deborah was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned herm other? Had they kille dher to harvest her cells? And if her mother was so importnat to medicine, why couldn't her children afford health insurance?

Source: Back of book

Review: My first college assignment for Hollins University. Although it was an interesting read, I found myself easily distracted through the first quarter of the book or so. Afterwards, it was difficult to put down, except during the bits concerning law and scientific history, which interested me less than the story of Henrietta herself and her family. Deborah is a very likable person, and Rebecca's narration of her journy with the Lacks makes you feel as if you were there, too. I'm not sure I learned a whole lot from this book -- at least, I'm sure I won't remember much of the technical things. But it was terribily interesting while reading it. Anyone should read this -- black, white, North, South, East, West, male, female (although I have a feeling a woman might get more out of it than a man), this book is really something everyone should read.

Worst part: Definitely the medical/scientific/law history stuff. That didn't keep my attention at all.

Best part: I was particularly interested in Deborah's life, especially as a teenager and the situation involving Galen. I also really liked Bobbette, Deborah's sister-in-law.

Grade: B++

Other Books by This Author: None, but she has written several articles for various publications.

60 / 50 books. 120% done!
So, just a little note, guys. I'm not officially a part of the TAG any more because I'm officially too old -- I'll still be stopping in when I'm in the neighborhood, although it won't be too often, because I will be going to school in Virginia. However, I will still be posting reviews here as I intend to keep reading! I will be majoring in creative writing at Hollins University (for those of you who don't already know) and then getting a master's degree in library science. In any case, I will continue to review as much as possible, partly because I'll be doing it anyway for my personal blog, and partly because no one else does! (But please do, anyway!) Thank you all for reading, if anyone does.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey

Title: Jekel Loves Hyde
Author: Beth Fantaskey
Year of Publication: 2010
Genre: YA, Science fiction, romance, fantasy, literary
Pages: 282
First Line: "I buried my father the day after my seventeenth birthday."
Summary: Jill Jekel has always obeyed her parents' rules -- especially the one about never opening the mysterious old box in her father's office. But when her dad is murdered and her college savings disappear, this good girl is tempted to peek inside, because the contents just might be the key to winning a lucrative chemistry scholarship.

To better her odds, Jill enlists the help of gorgeous, brooding Tristen Hyde, who has his own dark secrets locked away. As the team of Jekel and Hyde, they recreate experiments based on the classic novel, hoping not only to win a prize but to save Tristen's sanity. Maybe his life. As things heat up in the lab, though, Jill's accidental taste of a formula unleashes her darkest nature and will compel her to risk everything -- even Tristen's love -- just for the thrill of being...bad.

Source: Back of book

Review: I really liked this. Saccharine when it came to the romance, but I didn't feel it was in an obnoxious way. Cute and interesting. Well put-together. Jill was maybe slightly crazy for forgiving Tristen so many times, but both characters were fairly human in everything they did. The story was really original, if not a little drawn out in some ways. I felt too many things happened and the book really should have ended about half-way through, but, of course, with the scenes which had already happened, extended. Definitely worth picking up. You don't have to read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to enjoy, but it might give you slightly more insight.

Worst part: Jill was slightly inconsistent in her character and personality. Just enough to notice. But I really felt the whole thing about her being under the potion was kind of unnecessary.

Best part: Okay, seriously -- authors need to stop creating such attractive fictional characters. Unless it becomes possible to make me a fictional character as well. (IE -- I loved Tristen.)

Grade: B+

Other Books by This Author: Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side.

59 / 50 books. 118% done!

Also, congratulations to everyone who participated in the Summer Reading Program, as well as those of you who won a gift certificate! Thanks to Friends of the Derry Public Library!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford

Minor spoilers.

Title: Jane Bites Back
Author: Michael Thomas Ford
Year of Publication: 2010
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 299
First Line: "It was not, of course, exactly what Jane had written to her sister that long-ago Christmas Eve, but the sentiment was the same."

Summary: Two hundred years after her death, Jane Austen is still surrounded by the literature she loves -- but now it's because she's the owner of Flyleaf Books in a sleepy college town in Upstate New York. Every day she watches her novels fly off the shelves -- along with dozens of unauthorized sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations. Jane may be undead, but her books have taken on a life of their own.

To make matters worse, the manuscript she finished just before being turned into a vampire has been rejected by publishers -- 116 times. Jane longs to let the world know who she is, but when a sudden twist of fate thrusts her back into the spotlight, she must hide he real identity -- and fen doff a dark man from her past while juggling two modern suitors. Will the world's most beloved author b able to keep her cool in this comedy of manners, or will she show everyone what a woman with a sharp wit and an even sharper set of fangs can do?

Source: Back of book

Review: Entertaining. Not a literary masterpiece or anything, but told with an enjoyable style. The second half of the book (maybe the last two-thirds, I'm not sure) were definitely better than its counterpart. Fairly original, aside from the fact that it's about vampires -- it was well executed in that respect, I felt. This is the second book I've read that had Byron as a vampire, though. I couldn't find anything about legends of him being a vampire, so I don't know what's up with that trend. I actually found a quote from him (at least it said it was from him) which said he didn't like the idea of vampires or whatever. In any case, a pretty fun read with decent characters. I'm interested to know how close they are to the real people. Worth a read, and will probably pick up the sequel.

Worst part: Jane's attraction to Kelly felt extraneous and irrelevant. I wish it hadn't been included.

Best part: I felt the bookstore really came to life, especially with Lucy. Also, it was easy to forget that a man had written the book.

Grade: B-

Other Books by This Author: Jane Goes Batty, The Road Home, What We Remember, Suicide Notes, Changing Tides, Full Circle, Looking for It, and Last Summer.

58 / 50 books. 116% done!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

No spoilers.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Author: Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre: Classic, fantasy, humor, romance
Pages: 317
First Line: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains."

Summary: As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen on the quiet English village of Meryton -- and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers -- and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield. Can Elizabeth vanquish the spawn of Satan? And overcome the social prejudices or the class-conscious landed gentry?

Source: Back of book

Review: Oh, God. So fantastic. Brilliant. I've read the original at least twice, and I've read all of Austen's other novels, except for Northanger Abbey. And I love this book. It was funny, clever, interesting, and insightful as far as the original goes. I feel like I got a lot more out of this than the original. Granted, I was twelve when I read P&P the first time, but this is so good. A lot of people may feel that it is a sort of defiling or something of Austen's original, but it's really great. I loved this. Definitely worth a read, although I think you'll get more out of it and enjoy it more if you've read the original. I honestly hope this is made into a movie. Also, the discussion questions which follow the novel are hilarious and meant for entertainment; so be sure to check that out as well.

I will note that the characters are slightly different, or at the very least severely exaggerated, in this book. The illustrations even add to that. I feel if this was made into a movie, it would be even more difficult to recognize it as P&P solely because of the differences from the original characters, but they're different in a way that makes it fantastic.

Worst part: There were some lulls in the text that seemed zombie-less and I felt a few places could have used a little more zombie action.

Best part: The idea itself is brilliant but the general execution was wonderful as well.

Grade: A+

Other Books by This Author: Quirk Classics published other books such as Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Android Karenina.

57 / 50 books. 114% done!

Friday, July 9, 2010

I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It by Adam Selzer

No spoilers.

I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It
Author: Adam Selzer
Year of Publication: 2010
Genre: Fantasy, YA, humor
Pages: 177
First Line: "Watching a vampire make out with an idiot is kind of like going to the farmers' market and noticing just how many farmers have lost fingers in on-the-job accidents."

Summary: Eighteen-year-old Algonquin "Alley" Rhodes doesn't need to watch Twilight to know what it's like to be around vampires. Her school is teeming with them -- along with zombies and werewolves, of course. A few years ago, all the post-humans "came out of the coffin," and now they're just a normal part of life. But the movies don't tell the real story. Real vampires are brooding, self-absorbed jerks who run around acting all emo. That's what Alley thinks, anyway.

Then one night Alley goes to the Cage to review a local band, the Sorry Marios, for her school's blog. Alley's known for her sarcastic wit, and she can't wait to rip apart the band's set. But when a special guest singer, Doug, hits the stage, his soft, crooning voice stops her heart. He seems like a real goth, not like the lame wannabes at her high school. And for the first time, pale skin and black clothing are hot to Alley.

When she and Doug start dating, Alley's so swept off her feet she doesn't suspect anything, despite a few odd signs: he never changes his clothes, his head is a funny shape, and he says practically nothing out loud. Finally, her best friends clue her in: Doug isn't just a really sincere goth. He's a zombie.

Alley knows she has to break up with Dough but soon learns that zombies are awfully hard to get rid of. And the school's vampire clique, a group as tightly knit as the Mafia, has its own plans for Alley's future. will Alley survive her little experiment in dating the undead?

Source: Back of book

Review: A truly amusing book. Not fantastic literature or anything, but a quick and fairly rewarding read, poking fun at pop culture's recent fascination with vampires, werewolves, zombies, etc. The ending, while I won't give it away, is more what I wish Meyer had done with the Twilight series. Original and very funny, plus easy to read. I understand, from the author's website, that IKAZAILI has been optioned by Disney for a Disney Channel Original Movie. I imagine that its quality would suit the book well, as it's not worth it for the silver screen, but I'd love to see a film production of this.

Worst part: I felt the vampires were really irrelevant, and thrown in there just for kicks.

Best part: The 1930s references. Considering my own obsession with the era, I was pleased.

Grade: B

Other Books by This Author: Get Suspended and Influence People, Pirates of the Retail Wasteland, I Put a Spell on you, Andrew North Blows Up the World and The Smart Aleck's Guide to American History.

53 / 50 books. 106% done!

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer

Vague spoilers -- some spoilers for the entire Twilight saga.

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Year of Publication: 2010
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Pages: 178
First Line: "The newspaper headline glared at me from a little metal vending machine: SEATTLE UNDER SIEGE -- DEATH TOLL RISES AGAIN."

Summary: Bree Tanner can barely remember life before she had uncannily powerful senses, superhuman reflexes, and unstoppable physical strength. Life before she had a relentless thirst for before she became a vampire.

All Bree knows is that living with her fellow newborns has few certanties and even fewer rules: watch your back, don't draw attention to yourself, and above all, make it home by sunrise or die. What she doesn't know: her time as an immortal is quickly running out.

Then Bree finds an unexpected friend in Diego, a newborn just as curious as Bree about their mysterious creator, whom they know only as her. As they come to realize that the newborns are pawns in a game larger than anything they could have imagined, Bree and Diego must choose sides and decide whom to trust. But when everything you know about vampires is based on a lie, how do you find the truth?

Source: Back of book

Review: In true Meyer fashion, her characters are below average, as is the writing style. Just like her other novels, however, the story itself is original, creative, and interesting. With this novel, she does a better job at forming the universe which readers missed out on in the Twilight saga. Though I haven't compared the end scene with Bree's scene in Eclipse, I'm curious to. I feel some parts in this were added to the conversation which didn't take place in its mother novel, but I could be wrong. I was very interested in Fred's character and somewhat shocked by Riley's. He is not as I imagined him in Eclipse. The added Volturi plot was very interesting as well. It's a quick read and definitely worth it if you've read the rest of the series. You could even, for the most part, read and understand without having read Twilight. This made me wish Meyer did this for other characters, as well, especially Quil and Claire.

Worst part: The characters were flat as always with Meyer.

Best part: The idea of the story. Meyer is a great story teller. Many people won't admit to it, but it's true. She's great at weaving plot lines -- just not great with characters and the actual words.

Grade: B (almost a B+)

Other Books by This Author: The Host, Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and (the failure of all enders), Breaking Dawn Fail.

52 / 50 books. 104% done!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Title: Hex Hall
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Year of Publication: 2010
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Pages: 323
First Line: "Felicia Miller was crying in the bathroom. Again."

Summary: 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 start to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

Source: Back of book

Review: So, really, this book was scattered, and basically everything was stolen from Harry Potter. Sophie managed to be a mix of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, as she was the main character and living in an unconventional family situation (Harry), was teased by everyone (Ron), and always went to books for help (Hermione). Aside from that, there was the whole bathroom scene, quite like HPatCoS, plus all the ghosts, one of which reminded me of Moaning Myrtle. I won't say I was disappointed in this, because I hadn't had a lot of faith in it to begin with, but seriously, it was blech. Not really worth the time or effort, in my opinion.

Worst part: None of it seemed to be original.

Best part: There were some characters, such as the faeries and some shapeshifters, that I liked, but they weren't in the book much. I also liked that the school was located on Graymalkin Island. I'm not sure how many people got that Macbeth reference, though.

Grade: D

Other Books by This Author: No others at the moment, it seems.

51 / 50 books. 102% done!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Zombie Haiku by Ryan Mecum

Some spoilers.

Zombie Haiku
Author: Ryan Mecum
Year of Publication: 2008
Genre: Poetry, sci-fi/fantasy
Pages: 139
First Line: "To whoever might find this, my name is Chris Lynch, and I'm pretty sure I'm dying."

Summary: What you hold in your hands is a document from the early days of the zombie plague. Little is known about the author before his infection -- only that he was a poet. This facsimile of his actual journal recounts the events of humanity's darkest hours, through the intimate poetry of haiku. Inside you'll find increasingly disjointed and terrifying three-line poems (all in the classic 5-7-5 syllable structure), and follow the undead poet on a journey through deserted streets and barricaded doors.

Experience every eye-popping, gut-wrenching, flesh-eating moment of the eventual downfall of the human race from the point of view of a zombie, and gain insight to help you survive -- if you can.

Source: Back of book

Review: Really interesting, to be totally honest. I was surprised at the ability to give so much plot with a series of haiku. I was also particularly impressed with how the plot circled from Chris Lynch to the poet and back to Chris Lynch. Very creative and very quick. Definitely worth the hour or so. Plus, the illustrations are interesting.

Worst part: It was hard to believe a zombie sitting to write this stuff down as it happened. But if you can over look that, it's awesome.

Best part: One particular haiku was just "brains" five times, then seven, then five. That was funny.

Grade: A

Other Books by This Author: Vampire Haiku and I understand Werewolf Haiku will be available in September.

50 / 50 books. 100% done!

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

No spoilers.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Year of Publication: 2008
Genre: YA, sci-fi
Pages: 265
First Line: "I used to be someone."

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox has just awoken from a year-long coma -- so she's been told -- and she is still recovering from the terrible accident that caused it. But what happened before that? She's been given home movies chronicling her entire life, which spark memories to surface. But are the memories really hers? And why won't anyone in her family talk about the accident? Jenna is becoming more curious. But she is also afraid of what she might fin out if she ever gets up the courage to ask her questions.

What happened to Jenna Fox? And who is she, really?

Source: Back of book

Review: Not spectacular but not horrendous. The writing style was vaguely annoying, and I hated the poems that were sprinkled around, but it didn't ruin the book. None of the characters were very dynamic but they weren't awfully flat, either. Just a mediocre book in general, I think. The idea was interesting but I think it would have been executed better by another author. Scott Westerfeld comes to mind, specifically because of the Uglies series. Probably not worth the time unless you're really stuck for something to read.

Worst part: The lack of description of technology other than what was directly related to Jenna's story was annoying. It made it difficult to imagine her world. Also, the Dane thing confused me.

Best part: I liked Alyss a lot. She was a cool character.

Grade: C+

Other Books by This Author: The Miles Between, A Room on Lorelei Street, Scribbler of Dreams and David v. God

49 / 50 books. 98% done!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Long Night Dance by Betsy James

Vague/small spoilers.

Long Night Dance
Author: Besty James
Year of Publication: 1989
Genre: YA, fantasy
Pages: 199
First Line: "It was a crazy place to have built a house, on the western cliffs where the wind was incessant, but Ab Drem had gotten the land cheaply in trade."

Summary: Fifteen-year-old Kat is more her father's housekeeper than his daughter. Just like all Upslope women, Kat is required to stay close to the hearth and as far away from Downshore and its savage people as possible. Kat must remain respectable -- and that means covering her read hair, finding a husband to care for, and never singing, swimming, or dancing.

But Kat knows there must be more to life -- she can feel it in her heart. She can hear the call -- the sound of drums beating, drawing her to the forbidden beach. When Kat can no longer resist the call, she discovers what she thinks is a fatally injured seal washed up on the shore. Instead, she has found a Rig, one of a charmed race of mythical seal people. The only way to save this mysterious man is to defy her father and her community and seek aid in Downshore. But does Kat have the strength to stand on her own?

Source: Back of book

Review: Betsy James focused so much, I think, on the way her words sounded that she ignored the rest of the book. Plot was underdeveloped, characters were relatively flat, and the point of the book was totally lost. I have read another book about selkies (the "mythical seal people" or "Rigi" in this book) called Seven Tears into the Sea and it was much better. I may read the sequel to this if I have time, only to see if it's any better. All in all, I was disappointed. Too many things were missing from this book.

Worst part: Betsy was more trying to write pretty phrases than actually get a good story out.

Best part: I liked Nall's name. That's...that's about it.

Grade: D

Other Books by This Author: Dark Heart and others.

48 / 50 books. 96% done!

Also, congratulations and good job to everyone who participated in the Open Mic Night!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd

Very vague spoilers.

The Vast Fields of Ordinary
Author: Nick Burd
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre: YA
Pages: 309
First Line: "I spent a good part of my senior prom drawing DH + PS in a giant heart in the last stall of the Cedarville High boy's bathroom."

Summary: It's Dade Hamilton's last summer before college. He has a crappy job at Food World, a "boyfriend" who won't publicly acknowledge his existence (maybe because Pablo also has a girlfriend, one of the most popular girls in school), and parents on the verge of a break-up. Add to all this the case of Jenny Moore, a nine-year-old whose disappearance has gripped his Iowa town, and Dade's main goal is just to survive until he leaves for school.

Then he meets the mysterious Alex Kincaid, a dreamy-eyed misfit with all the wrong friends. Alex breathes new life into the suburban wasteland that Dade can't wait to escape -- but real love, like truth, has consequences, and its power soon sets in motion a tragic chain of events that will change Dade's life forever.

Source: Back of book

Review: The beginning of the book is a bad representation of the rest. The rest of the book is a million times better. I'll be honest -- there's not a whole lot of plot going on, and it's a whole lot of nothing for the most part. But it's pretty interesting. There were some loose ends at the end (one in particular that was annoying, having to do with Alex), but other than that I was pleasantly surprised with this. It wasn't the best book I've ever read by any means, but it was enjoyable.

Worst part: Probably that loose end about Alex.

Best part: I loved the main character, Dade. And the description of kisses was somehow fantastic.

Grade: B

Other Books by This Author: None, but he's working on others.

47 / 50 books. 94% done!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci

No spoilers.

Title: Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd
Author: Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre: YA, anthology
Pages: 403
First Line: --

Summary: With illustrated interstitials from comic book artists Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O'Malley, Geektastic covers all things geeky, from Klingons and Jedi Knights to fan fiction, theater geeks,a nd cosplayers.

Source: Back of book

Review: Like I did for The Poison Eaters I will be doing this by individual story.

1. "Once You're a Jedi, You're a Jedi All the Way" by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci. Not wonderful. I felt there was something missing throughout. And I was kind of confused through a lot of it. But it wasn't awful, either. I probably wouldn't have started off an anthology, as an editor, with one of my own stories, especially when the anthology had better ones to offer, but, whatever.

2. "One of Us" by Tracy Lynn. I don't remember this one. I'll have to flip to the story to refresh myself. (I say that because I think the memorability of a story is important. And I'm doing this only by looking at the table of contents.) OH! OH! This was actually a really good one. Very interesting and pretty funny. Maybe memorability isn't a great judge? No, it is, but, this one was good. Really.

3. "Definitional Chaos" by Scott Westerfeld. I was totally expecting more from Westerfeld. This story was super confusing throughout.

4. "I Never" by Cassandra Clare. Awesome. I loved the idea of this (although it's a total "don't do this at home, kids" story). It was super cute.

5. "The King of Pelinesse" by M.T. Anderson. Uh-oh. I don't remember this one, either. Oh. This one was odd. An interesting idea, but I'm not sure I liked it. Kind of creepy.

6. "The Wrath of Dawn" by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith. Well. No. This was disappointing, also. It wasn't horrendous, but I wasn't impressed.

7. "Quiz Bowl Antichrist" by David Levithan. This story was pretty awesome. Sometimes I really like Levithan, other times I don't. This time I did. Fairly original, very funny.

8. "The Quiet Knight" by Garth Nix. A great idea. I loved the main character. I was annoyed that Nix changed the spelling of one of the character's names towards the end for no reason -- like, it was a typo/editing issue. And it was annoying.

9. "Everyone But You" by Lisa Yee. I vaguely remember this. But not really. Oh, right. This was weird. I felt like it didn't belong in this anthology. Or any anthology, really. I didn't really see the point. I mean, I did, but...I don't know. Not impressed.

10. "Secret Identity" by Kelly Link. Also not remembering. Okay. I just didn't know the title. This was totally creepy. Like, woah, ew. It was an interesting idea, but oh my God, so gross. Far too forgiving of the main character, I think. And some parts didn't really make sense to me.

11. "Freak the Geek" by John Green. I was really looking forward to this one but was disappointed. It's the only thing I've ever seen written by John Green (and I think I've read it all) in a girl's point of view. There was a reference he made that I was all excited about, but other than that, I was not impressed.

12. "The Truth About Dino Girl" by Barry Lyga. I loved this until the end. The end was awful and horrific and I hated it. Seriously. You'd have to read to understand, but it was just really awful. (And not in a "bad writing" kind of way, the character was just. . .oh my God.)

13. "This Is My Audition Monologue" by Sara Zarr. Totally weird. Indulgent. Disappointing.

14. "The Stars at the Finish Line" by Wendy Mass. I. Loved. This. It was super. Interesting idea, good characters, I loved it all.

15. "It's Just a Jump to the Left" by Libba Bray. Another creepy one. And not because of the RHPS references. It was just. . .Cawley was odd, and, just, ugh. Creeps. Anyway, unimpressed again. Characters were annoying.

Overall: The stories that were good were REALLY good. Aside from that, I was disappointed.

Worst part: The creepiness of so many of the characters. Seriously.

Best part: Mass' story. Wonderful.

Grade: C+

Other Books by This Author: Black and Castellucci each has individual novels as well as work they've done with others. I'm too lazy to list it.

46 / 50 books. 92% done!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Wings by Aprilynne Pike

Vague spoilers.

Title: Wings
Author: Aprilynne Pike
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre: YA, fantasy
Pages: 294
First Line: "Laurel's shoes flipped a cheerful rhythm that defied her dark mood."

Summary: Laurel's life is the very definition of normal. . .until the morning when she wakes up to discover a flower blooming from her back. As it turns out, nothing in Laurel's life is what it seems. Now, with the help of an alluring faerie sentry who holds the key to her true past, Laurel must race to save her human family from the centuries-old faerie enemies who walk among them.

Source: Back of book

Review: Not fantastic. Something about the style annoyed me -- it seemed very fake or something. The story itself wasn't bad. I'm not sure how I felt about the "wings" and what they were made of, but that could be because I've never heard that take before and I've read a crazy amount of faerie stories. This definitely isn't the best faerie book I've read, but not the worst, either. Maybe worth a read? It gets better as it goes on and it makes you, or me, at least, want to read the sequel, but I'm not about to go out and buy it.

Worst part: The first half was weird. Or the first third? I don't know. It didn't work as well as its remaining parts. Those weren't mind-blowing, either, but they were certainly better. And then the whole thing about Laurel's age bothered me. Especially when it came to the situation with David.

Best part: Tamani. The faerie boys are ALWAYS the best part.

Grade: C

Other Books by This Author: Spells.

45 / 50 books. 90% done!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Good Neighbors: Book One, Kin by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh

No spoilers.

The Good Neighbors: Book One, Kin
Author: Holly Black and Ted Naifeh
Year of Publication: 2008
Genre: YA, fantasy, manga
Pages: 117
First Line: "My name is Rue, like kangaroo or like 'you'll rue the day we met, mwa-ha-ha!'"

Summary: Rue Silver's lief isn't at all what it appears to be. Her mother has disappeared -- and her father is being blamed for a murder. Is he guilty? Or is there another truth beneath it all?

Rue digs deeper into her family's past and makes a startling discovery: Her mother is a faerie, and she has vanished back into the faerie realm because of a broken promise. In order to get her back, Rue must plunge into the depths of her own identity -- and must follow the sinister twists of her own fate.

Source: Back of book

Review: I love the idea for this, but I felt like it was missing something throughout. Usually I'm a big fan of Holly Black, but this book was definitely missing something -- it was as if she was relying too much on pictures to tell the story, which didn't work well at all. The graphics themselves were good in some ways -- the background and passerbys were pretty great. But the main characters weren't so much. They were DRAWN well, but the physical appearances of the characters didn't represent the characters personalities well. Because of my sick obsession with faerie, I will read the sequel, but I'm not expecting much from it. Maybe worth a look, if only for some of the faerie depictions?

Worst part: That missing part of the story. I still don't know what it is.

Best part: The ending was pretty surprising, I thought.

Grade: C

Other Books by This Author: (All Holly Black) Tithe, Valiant, the Poison Eaters, Ironside, Spiderwick Chronicles, the White Cat: Curse Workers series, and others.

Other Notes: Again, I am only counting graphic novels as 1/2 (half, .5) of a book for my count.

44 / 50 books. 88% done!

Hamlet: The Manga Edition by Adam Sexton and Tintin Pantoja


Title: Hamlet: The Manga Edition
Author: Adam Sexton and Tintin Pantoja (and William Shakespeare)
Year of Publication: 2008
Genre: YA, drama, manga
Pages: 185
First Line: "Has this thing appeared again tonight?"

Summary: The sudden death of the king, later revealed to be murder. The queen's all-too-sudden remarriage to the king's brother, the murderer. The grieving, suspicious Prince Hamlet. Supernatural visitations. Deception, manipulation, and soul-searching deliberation. Plots, leaks, and counterplots. Poisoned wine. A rigged sword fight. Revenge.

Source: Back of book

Review: This is the first graphic novel I've ever read. I lovelovelove Hamlet, so I decided to give this a try. (As this is my first graphic novel, I'm not sure how to review it, but I will do my best!) I'll start with the actual graphics. All of the characters seemed age-inappropriate. Gertrude, Claudius, Hamlet, and others seemed far too young. The only one whose age was right, I think, was Polonius. Il oved the depiction of Elsinore, though. It isn't what I prefer for the castle (I like the brighter, more palace-like building in Branagh's version), but by itself, it's pretty awesome. As for the actual dialogue, etc., some of how it was written was spectacularly interesting, if you've read/seen the original play. Certain words were emphasized and stuff like that so it made it a little more accessible to Shakespeare!noobs (not that I'm any expert). I will say that it's fairly difficult to understand if you haven't read/seen the play already and understood it. I have both read and seen it and done a lot of work with it for school, and even I was a bit lost/confused at some parts. That might have just been the graphics, though, which were sometimes so abstract that it was impossible to say, really, what the artist was getting at. A fun read if you've already been exposed (extremely, that is) to Hamlet.

Worst part: Those abstract images drove me insane.

Best part: The fact that it exists?

Grade: C-

Other Books by This Author: (All Adam Sexton) Macbeth, Julius Caesar and Romeo and Juliet.

Other Notes: 1. This is not a substitute for actually reading/seeing the play! If you are a student and are trying to find a way around actually reading/seeing it, this is not the way to go. Besides, it's so fantastic, it's worth just reading/seeing it anyway (and I highly recommend Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet).

2. I am only counting graphic novels as 1/2 (half, .5) of a book for my count.

43.5 / 50 books. 87% done!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga

No spoilers.

Goth Girl Rising
Author: Barry Lyga
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre: YA
Pages: 388
First Line: "My mother and I both spent a lot of time in hospitals."

Summary: After six months in the Maryland Mental Health Unit, Kyra Sellars, a.k.a. Goth Girl, is going home. Unfortunately, she's about to find out that while she was away, she lost track of more than time.

Things seem normal at first. Roger's his typical pain-in-the-ass, fatherly self. Jecca and Simone and the rest of the goth crowd still do their thing. And Kyra is back in black, feeling good, and ready to make up with the only person who's ever appreciated her for who she really is.

But then she sees him. Fanboy. Transcended from everything he was into someone she barely recognizes.

And the anger and memories come rushing back.

Fanboy. The Spermling. Miss Powell. Roger.

Her mother.

There's so much to do to people when you're angry.

Kyra's about to get very busy.

Source: Back of book

Review: Another fantastic book by Barry Lyga. A great and realistic story with a plot that is more real-life than fiction. I say that because Lyga focuses on a string of problems and every day life, rather than just one large conflict. One large conflict IS in the book, but it sort of lingers in the background as it builds up. I loved this book and I feel reading it again would be like reading an entirely different book. Definitely worth checking out.

Worst part: I'm not sure Lyga does a spectacular job getting the female voice right.

Best part: Aside from the femininity question (or getting the female voice "right") of Lyga's voice, I love KYRA'S voice. I can't quite explain it. It felt like she was actually talking to you. Lyga does a great job with keeping a consistent conversational tone, diction, etc.

Grade: A-

Other Books by This Author: The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, Hero-Type, and Boy Toy.

Other Notes: 1. Some pretty mature themes, but nothing extremely graphic.

2. This is a sequel to The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl. Despite this, it may be possible to read GGR without reading tAAoFaGG. It wouldn't be easy, and I certainly recommend reading tAAoFaGG if only for the fact that it's awesome by itself, but it is possible.

3. I recently read two graphic novels. Do you guys include those on your lists for 50? I'm considering counting them as .5 each. These are the first graphic novels I've ever read, so . . . Let me know your opinions!

43 / 50 books. 86% done!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

No spoilers.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Author: John Green and David Levithan
Year of Publication: 2010
Genre: YA
Pages: 310
First Line: "When I was little, my dad used to tell me, 'Will, you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose.'"

Summary: It's not that far from Evanston to Naperville, but Chicago suburbanites Will Grayson and Will Grayson might as well live on different planets. When fate delivers them both to the same surprising crossroads, the Will Graysons find their lives overlapping and hurtling in new and unexpected directions. With ap ush from friends new and old -- including the massive, and massively fabulous, Tiny Cooper, offensive lineman and musical theater auteur extraordinaire -- Will and Will begin building toward respective romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history's most awesome high school musical.

Source: Back of book

Review: Oh, God. So much love. John Green and David Levithan are AMAZING. I've read novels from both of them before, and this one is really spectacular, just like the others, but this time, their talent is combined. Green's Grayson seems to be much like characters in his other book, but I love that character all the time, so it's okay. Levithan's Grayson is a sweetheart. I love him. Seriously a funny, heartwarming, and philosophical book.

Worst part: While the combined talents are awesome, I felt like Green's characters (ie Will Grayson, Jane, sometimes Tiny) were more real than Levithan's (ie Will Grayson, sometimes Tiny, Gideon, Maura).

Best part: Will Grayson. Both of 'em.

Grade: B+

Other Books by This Author: They have yet to write anything else together.

Other Notes: 1. Language is pretty harsh in this book. As are the themes in general. I wouldn't say a thirteen-year-old should read it. I'm 18 and even felt it was a bit much. Just be aware of that. (We're talking the f-bomb, the c-word, the p-word, it's got everything).

2. This book does center, in part, around gay characters. So if you're not into that, be aware.

42 / 50 books. 84% done!