Sunday, June 26, 2011

Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

No Spoilers.

Zombies vs. Unicorns
Author: (Editors) Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
Year of Publication: 2010
Genre: Fantasy, Anthology
Pages: 415
First Line: "Since the dawn of time one question has dominated all others: Zombies or Unicorns?"
Summary: Which is better, the zombie or the unicorn?

Justine Larbalestier says that zombies are our own walking deaths. Funny, grim, and terrifying, they cannot be escaped. Unicorns are sparkly and pastel and fart rainbows.

Holly Black says that unicorns are healers, arbiters of justice, and, occasionally, majestic man-killers. Zombies drool and shed and probably carry diseases.

Some of today's finest writers have chosen their side, creating dazzling stories about both creatures. So read on, and decide for yourself: Are you Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

Source: Back/Inside of book

Review: As I've done in the past, I will be reviewing this anthology story by story.

1. The Highest Justice by Garth Nix - Did not keep my attention at all.

2. Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson - Better than the first story but perhaps a bit more adult in content than necessary.

3. Purity Test by Naomi Novik - Humorous, and a little better than the previous two. Would have been better in novel length.

4. Bougainvillea by Carrie Ryan - Confusing.

5. A Thousand Flowers by Margo Lanagan - The beginning was great but it quickly became confusing and I lost interest.

6. The Children of the Revolution by Maureen Johnson - Probably my favorite in the anthology. This story was clear and interesting.

7. The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn by Diana Peterfreund - I lost interest very quickly on this one.

8. Inoculata by Scott Westerfeld - Confusing, but had some interesting elements. Not up to par with the Uglies series.

9. Princess Prettypants by Meg Cabot - Almost as good as Johnson's. Funny and easy to follow.

10. Cold Hands by Cassandra Clare - A step below Cabot's. Different from Clare's usual stuff, but interesting and well planed.

11. The Third Virgin by Kathleen Duey - Intereting, if a bit long.

12. Prom Night by Libba Bray - Bray lost me on this one.

Side note -- the introductions to each story were fun, funny, and interesting.

Worst part: I wasn't a fan of most of the stories. I felt these authors were capable of better.

Best part: Johnson's story.

Grade: C-

Other Books by This Author: None together.

19 / 100 books. 19% done!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

No spoilers.

Clockwork Angel
Author: Cassandra Clare
Year of Publication: 2010
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 478
First Line: "The demon exploded in a shower of ichor and guts."
Summary: When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks, and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, who are members of a secret organization called the Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by -- and torn between -- two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keeps everyone in his life at arm's length. . .everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . .and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

Source: Back/Inside of book

Review: Well, this book to me way longer to read than it should have. I don't know if it was because a lack of interest or what, but I read the original three of this series much faster. (For those who don't know, Clare is doing something like Star Wars did, where she released three modern day novels about a world and is now releasing books that are a sort of prequel but aren't super necessary to the plot of the other set and vice versa.) This novel was hard to follow, and I was not particularly drawn to any of the characters (except, maybe slightly, Jem and Will -- but that's to be expected). I did find the mentions of ancestors of characters in the original three novels interesting, but there was nothing significant. I'm not sure if I will bother with the next book in this series. While I did like the original three, I'm finding this one just not up to par.

Worst part: The book dragged on and on and on and on. . . .

Best part: Jem's situation, which is explained towards the end, is really interesting.

Grade: C-

Other Books by This Author: City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass

18 / 100 books. 18% done!

Trapped by Michael Northrop

No spoilers.

Author: Michael Northrop
Year of Publication: 2011
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 232
First Line: "We were the last seven kids waiting around to get picked up from Tattawa Regional High School."
Summary: Scotty and his friends Pete and Jason are among the last seven kids at their high school waiting to get picked up that day, and they soon realize that no one is coming for them. Still, it doesn't seem so bad to spend the night at school, especially with distractingly hot Krista and Julie are sleeping just down the hall. But then the power goes out, then the heat. The pipes freeze, and the roof shudders. As the days add up, the snow piles higher, and the empty halls grow colder and darker, the mounting pressure forces a devastating decision. . . .

Source: Back/Inside of book

Review: This book was harder to read emotionally than I expected it to be. I don't know if this is because I lived through the ice storm of '08 and a bunch of other bad snow-related weather, but it was kind of rough in spots. The book does not have a "14 & up" note or anything, but if you are a younger teen, it might be wise to hold of on reading this, especially if you don't handle tough stuff and pressure well. That said, it was mostly well-written and Northrop did a good job of making the reader attached to some characters and less so to others, which makes the ending easier. That said, the very ending, I felt, was inconclusive and did not really resolve the entire plot. This is a sort of near-miss book. I almost really liked it, just not quite. It might be different for others, though, so it may be worth a read for you.

Worst part: Some of the stuff did not really make sense, logistically. It was nothing glaringly obvious, but something did not quite fit, which was frustrating. Plus the inconclusive ending was annoying.

Best part: The idea for this really interested me, being a native New Englander myself. (I don't know that it's super original, given the amount of "apocalyptic" YA fiction right now [Life As We Knew It, The Dead and the Gone, Gone, Lies, Plague, etc.])

Grade: C+

Other Books by This Author: Gentlemen

17 / 100 books. 17% done!

Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi

No spoilers.

Gamer Girl
Author: Mari Mancusi
Year of Publication: 2008
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 248
First Line: "Grandma's house was a study of crystal and glass and contained 1,153 unicorns."
Summary: Maddy's life: not so rockin'. Her parents split, she's stuck in a new, small town at a school full of Aberzombies and Haters, she has a crush on someone she really shouldn't like, and she's stuck with the nickname Freak Girl. Sometimes it's enough to retreat into her drawing -- her manga is totally important to her -- but when she gets Fields of Fantasy for her birthday, she knows she's found the one place she can be herself. In the game world, Maddy can transform from regular outcast high school student to Allora, a beautiful Elfin princess with magical powers to take down enemies with a snap of her fingers and a wave of her wand.

As Allora, Maddy's virtual life is perfect, and she even finds a little romance. But a real gamer girl understands that real life comes first -- Maddy can't escape from her IRL problems. She has to find ways to kick back at the Haters, rock her manga, and find the new, real-life friends she knows she deserves.

Source: Back/Inside of book

Review: (Apologies ahead of time for the short review -- my hands are freezing!) Like Mancusi's other novels, I was disappointed and somewhat offended by this book. Mancusi takes a very superficial view of all teenagers -- especially so-called "goths." While the main character claims to be anti-label, etc., she is in fact quite the opposite, calling herself at one point a "goth." She also basically says that having a major crush on Edward Cullen makes you a goth and also a punk rocker. (Sorry, Mancusi, Cullen =\= punk rock. Trust me. Go listen to the Clash or something.) She also does this in other novels I've read. One of the main plots of the story was so predictable, I had it figured out by page 30 or something, so, while I do like to "outsmart" authors, I felt cheated on this one. She didn't even make me chase it a little. That said, it was an interesting idea, but could have been executed much better. Also, it was incredibly annoying to have a character named Chad Murray, as I could not picture anyone but Chad Michael Murray.

Worst part: The superficiality and labeling, etc. was really annoying and, in some ways and cases, offensive (seriously, not all teenagers act like that and I know that my high school did not have some crazy hierarchy with cheerleaders and football studs at the top of the pyramid).

Best part: The idea was pretty interesting. I don't see a lot about MCs who are into manga and, while I'm not, I have friends who are so it's nice to see them represented.

Grade: D

Other Books by This Author: The Blood Coven Series, Razor Girl, Moongazer, News Blues, Karma Kitty Goes to Comic Con, and Zombiewood Confidential

16 / 100 books. 16% done!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown

No spoilers.

Bitter End
Author: Jennifer Brown
Year of Publication: 2011
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 356
First Line: "If I had to describe my best friend, Bethany, in one word, it would be persistent."
Summary: He'd never told me he loved me before.

Nobody had ever told me they loved me before.

When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole -- a handsome, funny sports star who adores her -- she can't believe she's finally found her soul mate...someone who truly loves and understands her.

At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her close friend Zack, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all her time with another boy? As the months pass, though, Alex can no longer ignore Cole's small put-downs, pinches, and increasingly violent threats.

As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose "love" she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose -- between her "true love" and herself.

Source: Back/Inside of book

Review: I am very often interested in books about teenage relationship abuse. I don't know why. Those that I have read on the subject so far have all been well written and this one is not an exception. I loved all the characters in the book and it was all written realistically. I found Bethany and Zack to be especially realistic with how they deal with Alex's situation. I also enjoyed the character of Alex's manager where she works. I don't know that I liked that she didn't have a mother, but this could just be because for the last four books I've reviewed, there was an orphan or half-orphan as the main character, so it feels incredibly cliche at this point. All-in-all I enjoyed this. It was a quick read and worth it.

Worst part: While I loved Zack, he was kind of an idiot.

Best part: I liked that Alex was a writer. I know that some authors avoid writing about writers because some people consider it "desperate" but I think they forget that a lot of their readers are writers and readers like to read about people like them, therefore they like to read about writers.

Grade: B+

Other Books by This Author: Hate List

15 / 100 books. 15% done!

Ivy by Julie Hearn

No spoilers.

Author: Julie Hearn
Year of Publication: 2008
Genre: Historical
Pages: 355
First Line: "When she was born her father took one look at her and spat into a corner."
Summary: Ivy is used to being overlooked. The youngest in a family of thieves, scoundrels, and roustabouts, the girl with the flame-colored hair and odd-colored eyes is declared useless by her father from the day she is born. But that's only if you look at her but don't see. Fore Ivy has a quality that makes people take notice. It's more than beauty -- and it draws people toward her.

Which makes her the perfect subject for an aspiring painter named Oscar Aretino Frosdick. Oscar is dtermined to make his mark on the art world, with Ivy as his model and muse. But behind Ivy's angelic looks lurk dark secrets and a troubled past -- a past that has given her an unfortunate addiction to a dangerous drug. And when treachery and jealousy surface in the Eden that is the artist's garden, Ivy must learn to be more than a pretty face if she is to survive.

Source: Back/Inside of book

Review: I was drawn into this book from the beginning but as it went on, I became less interested. Ivy's character is not very interesting. In fact, there are other characters I'd prefer the book to be centered on because they were more interesting than the main character. This, as you can imagine, as a failing. Despite that, the novel is written with an air of knowledge and it's clear that the research was well done for this historical novel. I appreciated this immensely as it is something I struggle with in my own writing. The dialect was fairly consistent, which helped to keep it from being jarring. The story was interesting but I think parts of the plot were kind of forgotten at different parts of the book and then ignored for the rest. The end was somewhat strange and kind of confusing. I was not really sure where the author got the idea to end it like that, as there was nothing leading up to it suggesting it would end that way and not in a good way.

Worst part:
How the second half of the book had less quality than the first.

Best part: The idea was really interesting and I appreciated the note after the novel that explained where the idea came from.

Grade: C+

Other Books by This Author: The Minister's Daughter and Sign of the Raven

14 / 100 books. 14% done!

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

No spoilers.

Title: Graceling
Author: Kristin Cashore
Year of Publication: 2008
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 471
First Line: "In these dungeons the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind."
Summary: In a world where people born with an extreme skill -- called a Grace -- are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.

When she first meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po's friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace -- or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away...a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

Source: Back/Inside of book

Review: I had a hard time with this book, probably mostly because it dealt so much with politics. In addition to that, I did not find the characters especially compelling or unique. The book did pick up about half-way through, but until then I struggled with even wanting to finish it. I was disappointed in the ending and the fates of some characters, though I suppose I should have seen it coming. I know some people who love this book, but I would not recommend it myself.

Worst part:
The book dragged, especially in the first half.

Best part: I guess the whole idea was kind of cool but it wasn't executed well.

Grade: D

Other Books by This Author: None.

13 / 100 books. 13% done!

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

No spoilers.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz
Author: A.S. King
Year of Publication: 2010
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 323
First Line: "Before I died, I hid my secrets in the Master Oak."
Summary: Is it okay to hate a dead kid? Even if I loved him once? Even if he was my best friend? Is it okay to hate him for being dead?

Vera's spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she's kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.

So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone -- the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? does she even want to?

Source: Back/Inside of book

Review: I really enjoyed this book. Each character was well-rounded and three-dimensional, the dialogue was realistic. There was not a lot of dialogue, but the non-dialogue parts were written in a way that made it easier for me to read. I found this book was a lot like John Green's books, especially Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns. This book is totally different from King's other novel, The Dust of 100 Dogs which was also excellent. It's difficult to say a lot about it without giving much away, but it is definitely worth the time it took to read it and I highly recommend it.

Worst part:
The ending did not explode quite as much as it should have but it was still enjoyable.

Best part: Vera's character was very well done, as was her dad's.

Grade: A

Other Books by This Author: Dust of 100 Dogs

12 / 100 books. 12% done!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Matched by Ally Condie

No spoilers.

Title: Matched
Author: Ally Condie
Year of Publication: 2010
Genre: Fiction/Futuristic Fiction/Science Fiction/Dystopian Fiction
Pages: 366
First Line: "Now that I've found the way to fly, which direction should I go into the night?"
Summary: In the society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.

Cassia has always trusted their choices. It's hardly any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one. . .until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path no one else has ever dared to follow -- between perfection and passion.

Source: Back/Inside of book

Review: Like I've heard suggested before, I will confirm that this novel is a lot like Lois Lowry's The Giver. I found the organization to be kind of strange. I did not feel particularly drawn to any of the characters, but they weren't unlikable, either. To have not read this would not have been a great loss. It is nothing spectacular, it is not horrific, it's just there. Probably worth the read if you like dystopian societies.

Worst part: How random things sometimes seemed.

Best part: The situation concerning death in the Society was interesting.

Grade: B-

Other Books by This Author: Freshman for President, Being Sixteen, Yearbook, First Day, Reunion, and (the sequel to Matched) Crossed

11 / 100 books. 11% done!

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

No spoilers.

Title: Revolution
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Year of Publication: 2010
Genre: Fiction/Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Pages: 472
First Line: "Those who can, do."
Summary: Brooklyn: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She's angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken at the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she's about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights' most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

Paris: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn't want -- and couldn't escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine's diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There's comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal's antique pages -- until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine's words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.

Source: Back/Inside of book

Review: While I had tried to read A Northern Light in the past, I found it uninteresting. However, this novel by the same author is much more enjoyable. Funnily enough, (although it may have been intentional because of the subject matter) it is in some ways like A Tale of Two Cities, in the intricate web of plots and how they are connected. Each character is strong and individual, but still realistic. Some things seemed a little melodramatic but it was in a way that was realistic.

Worst part: The fantasy bit. It didn't seem to fit well with the rest of the novel.

Best part: The way the romantic interest was introduced.

Grade: A-

Other Books by This Author: None, but there is another coming out in 2012 called Live Through This.

10 / 100 books. 10% done!