Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Michael Vey: Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans



From Goodreads: Michael thinks he's unique until he discovers that a cheerleader named Taylor also has special powers. With the help of Michael’s friend, Ostin, the three of them set out to discover how Michael and Taylor ended up this way, but their investigation brings them to the attention of a powerful group who wants to control the electric children – and through them the world. Michael will have to rely on his wits, powers, and friends if he’s to survive

When I first picked up this book, I just just finished reading The Maze Runner (which was non-stop action up until the end), so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. It felt like going from the first Transformers movie and then immediately watching Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.

By the time I finished the book, though, I was surprised how fast and how well the story progressed and how it came to an end. Once it got to a certain point, there was non-stop action in the story and I felt disappointed when I had to put it down to sleep or go to work. Michael shows a lot of determination throughout the book, even though he was always getting in trouble at school and receiving just ok grades. Both Michael and Taylor continue to learn more and more about themselves as they are thrown into different situations, especially how far they are willing to go to feel accepted into a group.


I was surprised by how calm and collected the bad guy was throughout the book. At times you are unsure whether or not he is actually the bad guy or just really hard on the kids sometimes. He is also left to be a pretty mysterious figure, with the sunglasses that he never takes off.


Reading the end of this book will leave you itching for more.

I would recommend this to anyone. It's good for teenagers and adults alike, though sold as a YA novel. Anyone could relate to Michael and enjoy reading about his adventure.

This is the first of a seven-book series.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

SHIFTING by Bethany Wiggins *swoonworthy boy alert*

*happy sigh* 

That's actually what I wrote to the author in the ending margin of the ARC that will be finding its way back to her through many eager hands after mine. 

Here's the blurb: 
After bouncing from foster home to foster home, Magdalene Mae is transferred to what should be her last foster home in the tiny town of Silver City, New Mexico. Now that she's eighteen and has only a year left in high school, she's determined to stay out of trouble and just be normal. Agreeing to go to the prom with Bridger O'Connell is a good first step. Fitting in has never been her strong suit, but it's not for the reasons most people would expect-it all has to do with the deep secret that she is a shape shifter. But even in her new home danger lurks, waiting in the shadows to pounce. They are the Skinwalkers of Navajo legend, who have traded their souls to become the animal whose skin they wear-and Maggie is their next target.
Full of romance, mysticism, and intrigue, this dark take on Navajo legend will haunt readers to the final page.

 The Afterglow:

It continues to amaze me how some authors can craft a tale that makes readers suspect but not quite know. The balance of mystery and logical hints leading up to a revelation is an art I've not grasped as a writer, so I marvel when it's done... well, artfully.

Bethany Wiggins is artful in her modern rendering of this old Navajo legend. I first heard of Skinwalkers when I worked in a desert wilderness therapy program in my early twenties, but none of the more experienced guides would tell me the story behind it - just that it was so scary, I'd wet my wiggy (sleeping bag) if they told me. Needless to say, when I found out Bethany was publishing a YA novel drawing from this legend, I got excited! Finally, I'd get a glimpse of the legend. Bonus: it would be wrapped up in a YA romance.

I am beyond pleased with the results.

Yes, Skinwalkers are wicked scary (I did not wet my wiggy after reading this book). But fortunately, the first half of the book focuses on the main character's paranormal ability and how her strangeness affects her as a trying-to-be-normal high school senior.

From the beginning, I felt both sorry for and proud of the protagonist Maggie Mae. Sorry, because the adults around her spoke about her as if she wasn't even in the room, an occupational hazard of being a foster child, I guess. Proud, because she didn't let people pity her. She saw that she was being ostracized, and embraced the loner flag, always rising above the teasing, bullying, and trickstering of her peers.

There's a HUGE character growth arc in this story. Maggie Mae begins with very real, devastating problems on a contemporary fiction level (bullying, not fitting in, being dirt poor and only having one pair of jeans), and in the end she is dealing with very real, devastating problems on a fantastic, good-vs.-evil level (creatures attacking her whenever she's alone in the dark, people finding out her deepest secret: that she's a shapeshifter).

And from the 17-year-old girl in the beginning to the 18-year-old woman at the end, the growth is striking and satisfying. The change is slow and subtle, but profound, like the romance between her and a certain track star. (Mmm, Bridger.)

I loved that not one element can be said to be the whole story. It's a romance, but it's not just a romance. It's fantasy, but it's not only the fantasy that drives the story. First and foremost, it's about Maggie Mae the character. She's a strong enough protagonist to make any story interesting. It just so happens that she's also a foster child/shapeshifter/girl with trust issues/hunted creature/bully target.

Warning: I cried at least twice in the first half of this story alone. I had trouble putting it down to do things like sleep and (ahem) use the bathroom. And I got weird looks from my husband for laughing randomly.

There were many sighs throughout. But in the end, there was only one:

*happy sigh*

I hope you find this book on your shelf in the near future. (And I hope, hope, hope there's a sequel in the works because I just got a taste of this incredible world and would love to see more.)

p.s. There's an inspiring interview with this debut author at Operation Awesome, plus a review by Michelle McLean.

Friday, September 23, 2011

HOURGLASS by Myra McEntire

One hour to rewrite the past . . .

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.

So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

My Take

I just sat here for a solid five minutes trying to think of how to start this review. I’m pretty sure that has never happened before.

Here’s the thing: When I started this book, I had really, REALLY high hopes. I’d heard SUCH great things about it and I saw Myra at DBF this year, and she is ADORABLE, and I just could not wait to get my hands on her book.

The premise is amazing. It’s a whole new spin on time travel: instead of the person going back in time (which does happen but is not the core of the story), people/things from the past come to her. It’s a great idea, and I loved watching the MC, Emerson, analyze people’s clothes to determine if they were real, or if they were a “rip” (time ripple).

I didn’t immediately click with Emerson, but by the end of the book, I liked her. I’m still struggling to identify with Michael; I just never got a clear picture of him. My favorite character was Kaleb, who’s peripheral, although important.

BUT: The dialogue is funny, the writing is good, and I would recommend this book to others. If you’re looking for something new to read and you enjoy teen fiction, this is a great choice!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

THE BODY FINDER by Kimberly Derting


From Author Kimberly Derting's website:

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

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

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


***
I've been glowing about this book for a week. And recommending it all over twitter. Someone recommended that I read it specifically for the romance arc--so of course I had to! And while the book is probably characterized as supernatural or paranormal or something like that, the romance was so real. So believable. I found myself completely and utterly sucked into Violet's world.


Be warned, parts of it are a little grizzly. But if you can stomach the horror, you won't regret it for the absolute sweet love story.


Happy Reading!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE by Aimee Bender

From Goodreads:


On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein bites into her mother's homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the slice. To her horror, she finds that her cheerful mother tastes of despair. Soon, she’s  privy to the secret knowledge that most families keep hidden: her father’s detachment, her mother’s transgression, her brother’s increasing retreat from the world. But there are some family secrets that even her cursed taste buds can’t discern.


the Afterglow:


I'm glowing with grief and sucker-punched distraught right now.


Just like Rose's curse-gift of being overcome by the emotions of a dish's cook, this book infects you with its emotion.  I spent the majority of it depressed.  And that's exactly what a good book does - it moves you to feel what it wants you to, whether it feels good or not.


In between the heartache, I swooned over the prose.  This woman can turn a phrase.  It's sick, really.  It makes other writers wonder how we'd ever come up with something as brilliant, and give up before we even bother trying.


Just like with Bumped, the ending was such a disgusting knock-out, it erased all sins of pretentiousness that literary fiction commits.


If you want to revel in language, hurt for a week (or however long it takes you to read), and then wander in a lost, aching daze, read this book immediately.  


Recommended for: lovers of magical realism woven in dreamy prose, a la Alice Hoffman.


** Oh I forgot to add:  I LOVE books set in L.A.  We're such an anti-intellectual town (hey, it's true) that when literature - even trashy reads - showcase us, they always get it spot on.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs

YES I get to be the first to review this for Afterglow!

Excerpted summary from Goodreads:


A mysterious island.
An abandoned orphanage.
A strange collection of very curious photographs.
It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience.


The afterglow:


I was never going to read this book.

I'd originally bought it as a birthday gift for my co-vlogger - only she'd bought it four days before in a Border's closing sale.

Here I was, stuck with a creepy book with no easy return.

So I starting reading.

After 30 pages flew by I considered keeping it.

200 pages later I was hooked.  I'd stayed up until 6 a.m. reading books before, but never until 9 a.m.  (Yes, I said a.m.  Granted I didn't start until 5 a.m.)

Aptly published by Quirk, this debut novel at turns charmed, terrified, moved, and nauseated me.  (I don't recommend eating while reading...)

One of the most interesting things is seeing how Riggs wove the photos - all found and unaltered - into a narrative that was not only entertaining, but tightly woven with a terrific twist.  It's like reading an extremely well-written creative writing class prompt that continued until it became an emotionally true story.  The last two photos are just breathtaking; they stun the heart.

Jacob, the protag, has a wonderful voice, and each character is well-enunciated.  This is a rare book that stands out for its originality.  Don't you dare buy this in anything other than its hardcover - there's a cute little surprise on the cover underneath the jacket.

I'm so glad an accident forced me to read this book!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

GRAVITY vs. THE GIRL by Riley Noehren


I’ve been reading this book for over a week, but I’ve taken my time because DARN IT—I didn’t want it to end :)
Synopsis
Samantha Green has just spent an entire year in her pajamas, and she is beginning to regret it. What's more, she is haunted by four ghosts that are former versions of herself. First up is the overachieving and materialistic attorney, who is furious with Samantha for throwing away the career she worked so hard to build. Second is the lackadaisical college student who is high on life but low on responsibility. Next is the melodramatic teenager, who is consumed with her social standing, teal eyeliner and teased bangs. Finally, there is the scrappy six-year old, whose only objective is to overcome gravity so that she can fly. Samantha's ghosts alternate between fighting with each other, rallying around Samantha's budding sanity and falling in love with a string of good-for-nothing drummers. Despite her reluctance to do so, Samantha must rely on these spirits from the past to repair the present and ensure her future.
The Afterglow
I LOVED this book! Maybe it is because I feel like I’m one chocolate bar away from a nervous breakdown most of the time myself, so I could relate with Samantha's meltdown. I can only imagine what my child-self and teenage-self would think of me today.

This was such a brilliant concept and beautifully executed. The writing was lovely and Noehren did a fantastic job of weaving the themes of love, loss, gravity, and change throughout the book.
Even given the heavy subject matter of depression and lunacy, it was light, funny, touching, and insightful. Pick it up you won’t be disappointed. I would read it again in a second :)
-Angie Cothran

Thursday, September 1, 2011

PETER NIMBLE AND HIS FANTASTIC EYES by Jonathan Auxier

This recommendation posted on my personal blog earlier in the week, but I STILL have that afterglow feeling, so I wanted to share it here as well.

I had the fantastic good fortune to win an ARC of this book a few weeks ago from the author, Jonathan Auxier. I also won a t-shirt (note to self, add t-shirts to marketing ideas).

First of all, do you not LOVE this cover? There are so many little details about the story on this cover. From Peter's blindfold, to his burgle-sack, to the ravens. It sort of reminds me of Peter Pan--and while the story is NOT at all like Peter Pan, it does have a really spectacular magical quality and je ne sais quoi. (Did I just use French in this review???)


This is Jonathan Auxier's first novel. Though, from what I've read of his background, he's a screenwriter and journalist. I think he's found his calling in Middle Grade novelist. 

The voice has a little bit of a Lemony Snicket snark (pulling the reader in through a second person "speaking to the camera" style). I also love that the setting is sort of a 19th century London, though the town is never specified.



From Goodreads:


Now, for those of you who know anything about blind children, you are aware that they make the very best thieves. As you can well imagine, blind children have incredible senses of smell, and they can tell what lies behind a locked door- be it fine cloth, gold, or peanut brittle- at fifty paces. Moreover, their fingers are so small and nimble that they can slip right through keyholes, and their ears so keen that they can hear the faint clicks and clacks of every moving part inside even the most complicated lock. Of course, the age of great thievery has long since passed;today there are few child-thieves left, blind or otherwise. At one time, however, the world was simply thick with them. This is the story of the greatest thief who ever lived. His name, as you've probably guessed, is Peter Nimble.

This synopsis from Goodreads gives you a little hint of the voice. 

As you can probably already guess, I loved this book. I loved the character of Peter, with the combination of awesome thieving talent and his little boy naivety. Peter's friend, Sir Tode, is the most unusual sidekick I've ever seen--he's part horse, part kitten, and part knight. It gives him some unusual skills as well as some very difficult challenges (try sailing a ship with hooves when you're the size of a kitten).

There are some relatively violent scenes--I'd put this book firmly in the 10+ Middle Grade range (or younger if you think your child can handle some warring apes, plucky ravens, and homicidal brainwashed adults. Be prepared, creatures die.) 

If you want something different, a great adventure, or a book for reluctant readers (boys and girls), I'd highly recommend PETER NIMBLE AND HIS FANTASTIC EYES by Jonathan Auxier

I've had the pleasure of interviewing the author--stay tuned for that interview coming up on my blog this week or next.