Monday, March 26, 2012

Some Great Books You May Have Missed!

It was Spring Break last week so I had to prepare for my trip to Mexico by downloading several books on my Kindle.  I decided to look at some of Amazon's recommendations for me and purchased a couple of those titles even though they were a bit older.  I was pleasantly surprised with both Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler as well as Poison Study by Maria Snyder.

Twenty Boy Summer was published in 2009 and I am not sure how I missed this jewel.   The story is set during the summer in Zanzibar Bay, California.  Anna and her best friend Frankie go on a three week vacation with Frankie's family where the girls decide they must meet 20 boys during their trip.  But this novel is anything but a light and airy teen romance. This novel is about tragedy, grief, secrets and healing.  I highly recommend it.

Poison Study was published in 2004 and is the first in a trilogy.  Again, I don't know how I missed this book.   Yelena is about to be executed for murder when she is offered a choice.  She can become the commander's food taster and learn how to recognize the different poisons that may taint his food instead of being executed.  Of course, Yelena realizes her death is immenient; however, she reluctantly agrees.  Thus begins a wonderful fantasy full of intrigue, romance and plot twists.  Yelena is such a strong female character and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her evolve from a terrified girl to a strong and capable woman.  I cannot wait to get my hands on the second book.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

I have just finished Born Wicked which is the first book in the Cahill Witch Chronicles.  This book is utterly absorbing but I am absolutely irritated with the ending.  I haven't been this annoyed since I read Twilight, which I might add was long before all of the movie hype.  I had to wait many months for New Moon which was utterly frustrating.  And now, I will have to suffer long months before I can read Book 2 of the Cahill Witch Chronicles. 

This book is set in New England during the late 19th century.  But this is an alternate New England where witches used to rule but have been overthrown by The Brotherhood.  Women are not allowed an education and can choose only to marry or join The Sisterhood.  And any woman who is a witch must hide it or risk being sent to an asylum. 

Cate, Maura and Tess Cahill are sisters who are witches.  Their mother has died before teaching them to use their magic.  Their mother's dying wish is for Cate to take care of her sisters. Cate  tries to protect them at all costs but she is thwarted at every step.  Magic has a way of showing itself and the sisters are in great peril.

Besides carrying the burden of protecting her sisters and their secret, Cate must choose between marrying a respectable man she doesn't love or loving a man she can never have.  Cate carries the world upon her shoulders and only she can protect those she loves from ruin. 

This is an exceptional story that kept me riveted.  The plot is unique and unexpected and the characters jump off the page and into your heart.  Cate's independent nature makes her a heroine you want to believe in.

I absolutely love this book but I may die of curiosity before the second book is published! I've put the link below so you can watch the trailer.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is the most disconcerting novel I have read in some time.  The plot coils and twists so much that I never really knew what would be thrown at me next. When I finished the last page, I was left wondering what had just happened and where did the ending originate.  This novel intrigues me and I am still trying to figure out all of the details. 

The story begins with the main character Mara waking up in the hospital after an accident.  Her best friend Rachel along with Claire and Claire's brother Jude have died after the building they are in collapses, but Mara escapes unscathed other than a bruise on her face.  The problem is Mara cannnot remember anything about the accident or how her friends died.  So begins the spiraling story of Mara Dyer. 

Mara and her family relocate to Miami after Mara cannot handle life after the accident. She enrolls at a fancy private school and meets Noah who has a reputation as a womanizer and user.  Mara is drawn to Noah but has bigger problems because she is hearing voices and seeing her dead friends in mirrors and classrooms.  Not to mention, Mara imagines people's deaths and then finds them dead in exactly the same way she pictured it.  And this is only the beginning of the mystery surrounding Mara Dyer.

Part mystery and part horror with a healthy dose of fantasy mixed in for good measure, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer will keep you perplexed until the last page.  And be prepared, there will have to be a sequel in order to tie up the very unexpected ending.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Beautiful Between

The Beautiful Between  by Alyssa B. Sheinmel is a novel I just happened upon while browsing my local library's e-book selections.  Because I am a sucker for the melodramatic, this story intrigued me.  The summary describes a fairy tale like book complete with a boy and girl who share secrets but this summary really did not do The Beautiful Between justice.  This novel has much more depth and substance.

 The story centers on Connelly Sternin, a self-described Rapunzel who goes to school and studies for her SAT's in her spare time.  Connelly doesn't have a father.  She knows that he died when she was two but she doesn't know why or how.  In fact, she knows so little about her father that  she has told her classmates her parents are divorced and her father lives in Arizona.  Connelly and her mother have a repressed relationship in which they really don't talk to one another or spend any time together. Then Jeremy Cole enters the picture.  Connelly describes Jeremy as the prince of their posh New York school.  When he offers to tutor her in physics, Connelly is utterly confused by Jeremy's sudden interest and attention but agrees to the tutoring anyway.  Thus begins a unique friendship between Jeremy and Connelly and eventually Jeremy's younger sister Kate.  It turns out Jeremy and Kate have some secrets of their own and Jeremy has befriended Connelly because he believes she can provide comfort  for Jeremy's situation.  But as the novel progresses, Jeremy ends up helping Connelly find the answers and the closure she needs. 

This novel is a jewel.  I thought I would be reading a  run-of-the-mill love story with a bit of drama sprinkled on top.   But The Beautiful Between is a touching look at true friendship grown out of suffering, the broken relationship of a mother and her child and the healing that can occur when death is confronted.  I truly enjoyed this poignant novel.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Anna Dressed in Blood

 Author Website
I love a good ghost story and Anna Dressed in Blood definitely delivers. I think this novel is different from some of the more recent teen horror because Anna focuses on plot details and description instead of  just blood and gore.  Don't misunderstand, Anna is definitely gory but because the story is so strong, the violence has more impact for the reader. 

I also loved this book because the ghost is one of the main characters.  Although she is a ghastly specter, she also is just a lonely girl who didn't choose to die and certainly doesn't want to kill the living.  And for Cas, the boy whose ghost hunter heritage compels him to search out and destroy ghosts, Anna is a problem. 

There are so many wonderful details that enhance the story.  For instance, the cover of the book is spot on.  I hate to admit it because as a librarian I really shouldn't choose a book just because of the cover, but this cover drew me in.  And the cover really does justice to this book.  The house is an integral part of the story and the description of Anna matches the girl depicted on the cover.                                      

Another great detail is the font in which the book is printed.  The font is not black in color but instead a rusty brown.  This color makes the reader think immediately of dried blood  and this serves to set the mood even before the first word is read.  This is an interesting and unusual detail that truly enhances the story.

Anna Dressed in Blood provides plenty of twists and turns to satisfy horror fans but it also tells a beautiful story of friendship, sacrifice, and true love.  In the sea of paranormal and horror fiction, Anna  stands out.

This one is for 9th grade and up so you won't find it in our middle school library. 


Friday, February 17, 2012

Awesome Discovery!

I was reading one of my library listservs this morning and I ran across this really cool cool post from Naomi Bates.  I am totally blogjacking her stuff but I read up on blog etiquette and as long as I give her credit I should be in the clear.  But thanks Naomi for such a cool idea. 

Naomi has created a YA novel road trip which includes favorite YA books and the state where the story takes place.  She even includes book trailers.  How cool is that?  I am including the link to her blog. Enjoy!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Legend by Marie Lu

Legend is another novel in a long line of post-apocalyptic dystopian novels.  Although I enjoyed the novel, I don't feel the need to gush about it.  Unfortunately, I think dystopian fiction is going the way of the vampire.  The market is oversaturated and I think I am growing weary.  With that said, let me tell you a little about Legend.
  The novel is set in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles.There is a war raging between the Republic and the Colonies.  Natural disasters are the norm and the plague runs rampant throughout the poor areas of the city.  There are two main characters and the novel is narrated by each character in alternating chapters.  Day is an outlaw, somewhat like a modern robin hood. He has grown up poor and has failed his trial.  The trial is a test all ten year olds must take and it alone determines a peron's future. Day has no future after failing the trial so he has escaped the republic and now causes all kinds of trouble.  However, Day has never killed anyone and goes out of his way to keep people safe.  He eludes capture because no one truly knows what he looks like.  June' on the other hand, scored a perfect score on her trial test.  She has grown up in a wealthy family and is finishing up her military training.  Her parents are dead but she has a beloved older brother, Metias, who is a military captain. June is a genius with just a  bit of a rebellious streak but she believes in the Republic and feels like the Republic is justified in their tactics for fighting the war.

June and Day should never meet but when Day is accused of killing Metias, June is assigned the job of catching Day.  Along the way June discovers nothing is as it seems and perhaps Day really didn't kill her brother.  There is also the discovery that the Republic is not justified in its treatment of its citizens and that the plague may not be accidental.  In the end, June must make a decision that will destroy her future in order to save Day.

Although I liked this novel and found it entertaining, I didn't really find it unique.  There are certainly variations in the dystopian novel formula but I just didn't find myself saying "Wow!"

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dystopian Fiction


If you loved The Hunger Games series like I did, then you are scrambling to find other books to feed your addiction for dystopian fiction.  Many of you may not even be familiar with the term.  You just know  The Hunger Games rocked and you want more books like it.
So what is dystopian fiction anyway?  There a lots of definitions out there but there is  one that sums it up best.

 Dystopia can be defined as an ideal or perfect society with one fatal flaw.  In other words, the society has been created and touted as the “perfect” society.  There is order, calm, and everyone is happy.  But in reality, that society is flawed and is not as perfect as it appears. In many dystopian stories, the main character starts out believing his society is perfect and  the rules must be followed.  But as the story progresses, the main character begins to recognize the flaws in the perfect society and even chooses to rebel.
Some dystopian stories I have read recently follow this format even if the plot is drastically different.  For instance, I just finished reading Lauren Oliver’s Delirium.  The premise of the story is the United States has found a cure for love and now on your 18th birthday, you will be given a procedure that will cure you from”amor deliria nervosa” or the love sickness. Lena, the main character, is counting down the days to her procedure.  She cannot wait to be cured because then she will be safe.  After all, love is a banned word in this society.  Love causes all kinds of evil including war, the loss of the mind, the loss of order and peace. Love creates chaos.  But as in every dystopian novel, Lena soon learns her perfect society isn’t so “perfect” and maybe everything she has been taught is not true.  Check out this link for more information.
Another dystopian novel I read recently is called Divergent by Veronica Roth. Here is a link where you can read about the book in the author’s own words.
Divergent and Delirium have similarities and differences but they are both great examples of dystopian fiction because all of these books share a common theme:  No society is perfect and when personal freedom and free will are taken away, chaos ensues.
 Here are a few other titles you might want to check out in order to feed your addiction for dystopian fiction at its best.
The Maze Runner series by James Dashner
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Unwind by Neil Shusterman
Uglies series by Scott Westerfield
Feed by M.T. Anderson
Enclave by Ann Aguirre.  Check it out–

I just finished Legend by Marie Lu and I will be telling you about that shortly.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

I have to admit  I became a big fan of Stephanie Perkins after reading Anna and the French Kiss.  I absolutely devoured Anna.  I loved the characterization and I loved the setting of Paris.  I have never been to Paris but Perkins described it in such a way that I  felt like I was walking around Paris with Anna.   Needless to say, I loved this book and will be taking a trip to Paris sometime soon.

Which is why I was so excited to see Lola on the shelf at my local library.  I took it home anticipating such joy and excitement.  Unfortunately, Lola did not deliver the reading experience I was hoping to have.  The main character Lola is a quirky girl who loves dressing up in costume every day.  She wears wigs, extravagant make-up and elaborate outfits.  She lives in San Francisco with her two dads and is dating Max, a 22 year old lead singer in a band.  But complications arise when her next door neighbors move back to town and we meet Cricket, their 18 year old son, who just happens to be the boy who broke Lola's heart. 

Personally, I never really developed a relationship with Lola.  I don't  feel empathy for Lola and I never want to root for her.  I am troubled by her relationship with Max and I just don't understand why she wants to hold onto someone who is such a terrible match.  I find myself wanting Lola to hurry up and get on with her story whereas I never wanted Anna and the French Kiss to end. I understand  Lola is a more complicated character than she appears on the surface but I am just not invested enough to care.

Overall, Lola and the Boy Next Door provides an entertaining read but ultimately has little depth or substance.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

On first glance, this book is about a horse race. However, The Scorpio Races is about so much more than a simple horse race. I am enthralled by this novel because of Stiefvater's ability to create a multi-layered story rich in characters, mythological creatures, and universal themes. 

The setting is the imaginary island of Thisby where every November mythical waterhorses, bloodthirsty and dangerous, emerge out of the ocean.  Sean Kendrick and Kate "Puck" Connolly become unlikely allies in a contest where people die and only one of them can win the race.  The stakes are high for Sean and Puck. If Sean wins, he can buy his beloved waterhorse, Corr.  If Puck wins, she can save her  home and perhaps her family as well.

The relationship and budding romance between Sean and Puck is central to the plot . But it is the relationship between Sean and his waterhorse Corr as well as Puck with her horse Dove that intrigues me.  Sean and Puck love their horses and see them as much more than animals.   Dove and Corr are characters in their own right which makes the story even more interesting and appealing. 

There are many plot twists and turns in this novel.  Sean and Puck both have enemies who want to keep them from winning the race. Death is always at the forefront and the descriptions of violent death both for humans and animals alike are disturbing. Stiefvater brings the reader close to death where the reader feels the pain and sadness up close and personal.  Therefore the violence is not gratutious but instead an integral part of the story. 

I love this novel because it is unique.  Stiefvater blends myth and legend with fully developed characters to create an inspiring story full of brutality and beauty.  A jewel!

Today is my first blog.  Well, technically I have a blog for my school library but it is a bit more informational in nature.  This blog is for me to share my passion with the world.  I absolutely love books and reading.  I have always been an avid reader.  In fact, I can't remember not being able to read.  And now I am working in my dream job and I get to read books as part of my job.  How cool is that?

I hope you will find this blog interesting and informative.  Hopefully it will evolve into something worthwhile and entertaining.