Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Christmas Treats #2 - Santa's Nice List
Hello, Christmas! With December just a day a way, boy do I have a treat for you! Christmas Treats #2 - Santa's Nice list is the perfect anthology for this amazing holiday season! Maggie Devine, Darlene Fredette, and Liv Rancourt rocked the pages with their witty chick lit ways! This holiday delight is perfect as a gift, or just for a nice light read while the snow falls!
Here's a sneak peek at the stories!
Mistletoe Accomplished by Maggie Devine
“Cross a faux fur mink mogul with a sexy chef, a little bit of deception, and taste the seduction.”
Chocolate Kisses by Darlene Fredette
"When Jackson Frost returns to Redford Falls, Candi Cane knows he’s not only after her chocolate kisses.”
The Santa Drag by Liv Rancourt
"Things aren't always what they seem, and this shopping mall Santa has a secret that only the love of her life can reveal."
This was the CUTEST anthology I've ever had the pleasure of reading! Delicious from beginning to end! Each author as talented as the last! My heart is still warm and filled with love! Christmas Treats Anthology: Santa’s Nice List was amazing from beginning to end!
Mistletoe Accomplished was a delicious read! Grab your cocoa and let the snow fall in the background, this short story is sure to bring warmth into your heart. What better way to start the holiday with a delightful tale of an ex-food critic and a marvelous chef falling in love with one another. Maggie Devine had me salivating for decadent foods and a hunky hero. I loved every little morsel.
Fredette’s Chocolate Kisses is sure to leave you in a candy coma! This delectable tale of love will have you running for all the goodies you can find this holiday season. Candi Cane and Jack Frost are more than just cute names, these spicy characters are sure to leave your heart toasty! Nothing like a fake marriage to heat things up! This duo will leave you giggling at their silly arrangement, signing divorce papers for playing Santa. You’ll want to share this with a loved one!
The Santa Drag. There’s nothing worse than seeing your Ex, while you’re dressed in a Santa costume. Rancourt had me laughing in this adorable short story. She shows that even in the weirdest of circumstances, when you’re in love, nothing stops the connection. PS – for those who love an extra treat, this Santa is a little past the milk and cookies and has a hankering for beer and cold pizza, what’s not to love?
- Review by Jen Daiker
Care to read Christmas Treats - Santa's Nice list OR Santa's Naughty list? Stop by Still Moments Publishing. You might find that you don't only want to read fabulous books, you might also want to submit one yourself!
Monday, November 28, 2011
THE NEXT DOOR BOYS by Jolene B. Perry
Sunday, November 20, 2011
LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins
Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.
When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.
I know, I know, I just reviewed a book on Friday, but I had the wonderful good fortune to read AFTERGLOW books back-to-back.
I loved LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR. I finished it at 12:30 last night after reading it in one sitting. I think I might have even loved it a little bit more than it's companion book ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS (which I also loved). Here's my review of that from June.
So, what did I love about Lola? Well, I'm a child of the 80's and she reminded me forcibly of Molly Ringwald's character in PRETTY IN PINK. And this time, the character ends up with her best friend, not the wildly inappropriate guy. Which I love! Not that the storyline is at all the same, but the characters share some characteristics. Lola makes her own clothes, and she has a very eclectic style. Cricket (the boy next door) is quirky, nerdy, hot, and brilliant, all at the same time.
I loved her gay parents. I loved Anna and St. Clair from the other book are a part of this book. I loved her friend Lindsay. Oh, and I want to be Stephanie Perkins.
If you love contemporary YA (or even if you don't) read this book. It's perfect.
Friday, November 18, 2011
MOONGLASS by Jessi Kirby
I read once that water is a symbol for emotions. And for a while now, I've thought maybe my mother drowned in both.
Anna's life is upended when her father accepts a job transfer the summer before her junior year. It's bad enough that she has to leave her friends and her life behind, but her dad is moving them to the beach where her parents first met and fell in love- a place awash in memories that Anna would just as soon leave under the surface.
While life on the beach is pretty great, with ocean views and one adorable lifeguard in particular, there are also family secrets that were buried along the shore years ago. And the ebb and flow of the ocean's tide means that nothing- not the sea glass that she collects on the sand and not the truths behind Anna's mother's death- stays buried forever.
This was a delicious book. Lovely prose, really poetic in some areas, and a beautifully described setting. I could really picture the beach where Anna and her dad live, even though I don't live near the ocean. I loved Tyler (love interest), and I really like the complex relationship between Anna and her father. I read it because Anna is an athlete and I have a particular affinity for books that feature girl athletes--the sport was nicely tied in, even though it wasn't the main focus of the book.
If you're a fan of contemporary YA, this is a must-read.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
FAR FROM YOU by Lisa Schroeder
what solitude was:
Her father—remarried with a newborn
in the icy embrace
of a deadly snowstorm,
Alice faces the true meaning of loneliness.
may not be as far away
as she thinks....
Monday, October 24, 2011
POSSESS by Gretchen McNeil
Fifteen-year-old Bridget Liu just wants to be left alone: by her mom, by the cute son of a local police sergeant, and by the eerie voices she can suddenly and inexplicably hear. Unfortunately for Bridget, it turns out the voices are demons – and Bridget has the rare ability to banish them back to whatever hell they came from.
Terrified to tell people about her new power, Bridget confides in a local priest who enlists her help in increasingly dangerous cases of demonic possession. But just as she is starting to come to terms with her new power, Bridget receives a startling message from one of the demons. Now Bridget must unlock the secret to the demons' plan before someone close to her winds up dead – or worse, the human vessel of a demon king.
Honestly, I didn't know what I was going to think of this book. From everything I'd heard, it was written very well, but it just didn't quite sound like something I would enjoy. But my online book group (YA Today on goodreads, they're awesome!) decided they wanted to read this spooky book for October, so I gave it a go.
It was so not what I was expecting. Even though there were plenty of scenes that made me jump, I was still able to sleep last night because of the humor she included. The characters were believable, and all unique--I especially liked Hector, who I hope we see more of if there's a sequel (I hope there's a sequel)!
And here's the gold: Gretchen McNeil did her research. It's true that I am not a member of the Catholic Church, but from reading others reviews and just from the consistency in the book, it's obvious that she put a lot of hard work into making sure she was accurate. I admire that so much and it made the story so much more enjoyable to read.
There was a little too much language for me at some points, and some of the adults acted too young for their age, but I've been seeing both a lot in YA nowadays. If you're looking for a thrilling read for Halloween, or any other time of the year, pick this book up! I couldn't put it down!
Thursday, October 20, 2011
SHATTERED DREAMS by Ellie James
Trinity arrives on her aunt’s doorstep in New Orleans with virtually no knowledge of her mysterious heritage. She begins settling into life at a new school and even starts making friends. But all too quickly her dreams accelerate; twisted, terrifying visions of a girl locked in a dark room. And when the head cheerleader, Jessica, goes missing, Trinity knows she has no choice but to step forward with what she’s seen.
But people believe that Trinity has information about Jessica’s disappearance not because of a dream, but because she is involved. She is kind-of dating Jessica’s ex-boyfriend, Chase, and Jessica did pull a nasty prank on Trinity. Revenge seems like the likeliest scenario.
Nothing prepares Trinity for the dark odyssey that ensues while searching for Jessica, including the surprising romance she finds with Chase, or the shocking truths she learns, not just about the girl who has gone missing, but the past that has been hidden from her.
There is so much to love about SHATTERED DREAMS. First, the setting: New Orleans is so vivid in this story, you can practically smell it. And I was fascinated by the post-Katrina images the author gave us. I also loved the concept of a girl who sees visions of people's deaths before they die. Others have complained that this idea is not original.
Most ideas are not original. Find me a completely original plot ANYWHERE, and I'll buy you a Coke.
I enjoyed the author's take on this concept of foresight. It occurs in a teen girl, Trinity, who has always been told that her gift is a curse--and that's on the rare occasion she's told anything at all. Her grandmother, who has recently died, never told her anything about her parents. Not even how they died. She refused to discuss Trinity's visions and treated her ability as something dangerous rather than something to be explored.
Now, there were a few things I didn't completely adore. The dialogue didn't always seem "teen" to me; Chase, the love interest, was not attractive to me; a few scenes were a bit too unbelievable and I just didn't buy them. Also I would prefer a bit more punch at the end--it fell a little flat for me.
BUT. Overall, I really enjoyed the story. I looked forward to reading it every night and was excited to see how it would end. I do think a lot of people would enjoy this book; I know I did. It's a fascinating story and a quick, fun, mysterious read.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
UNEARTHLY by Cynthia Hand
In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees . . . .
Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.
Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.
As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?
Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.
So, seriously, I finished this book a few minutes ago. And then I googled Cynthia Hand to find out when the next one comes out. (January 2012). I've never read an Angel book before. But this had such a great mix of contemporary romance and paranormal coolness...I loved everything about it. The boys are real. Clara's angst and confusion feels real too--even though it's totally annoying (in an adorable girl-next-door sort of way) that she's so angelic-ly perfect and doesn't have a clue. And there's even a little twist at the end that makes you scream--I CAN'T WAIT UNTIL JANUARY TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!!
Friday, October 7, 2011
DESTINED by Jessie Harrell
When Psyche receives a prophecy gone horribly wrong, she learns that even the most beautiful girl in Greece can have a hideous future. Her fate? Fall in love with the one creature even the gods fear.
As she feels herself slipping closer into the arms of the prophecy, Psyche must choose between the terrifyingly tender touch she feels almost powerless to resist and the one constant she's come to expect out of life: you cannot escape what is destined.
Destined is a fresh and heartachingly romantic retelling of the Cupid & Psyche myth from debut novelist, Jessie Harrell.
Jessie Harrell's debut novel was FABULOUS. It won't matter if you know Greek Mythology or not this tale of romance will sweep you off your feet. The retelling of Cupid & Psyche is heartwarming and filled with the inability to put it down the minute you start it.
Psyche is far from ordinary, if a princess isn't enough from the get go she's visited by none other than Aphrodite herself. Given the opportunity to be the daughter of Aphrodite, a very special honor, Psyche isn't ready for all the fame that comes with it... or the rules. She breaks the only rule that Aphrodite had for her when Ero's, Aphrodite's son is the one Psyche must marry. Manners is the last thing he possesses leaving Psyche wanting to be alone rather than spending even a day with him. Of course, as all stories go, disaster strikes, Aphrodite ALWAYS gets what she wants, and the two who don't expect to fall in love do.
Harrell is a mastermind in this tale as you get to enjoy both Ero's and Pysche's points of view. With each passing chapter the romance is even more captivating leaving you to curl up on the couch until it's finished and even then you'll wish it were longer.
I cannot wait to see what Harrell writes next.
And because I loved it so much I've decided to giveaway a copy of this fabulous book!!! It's due out November 17th but you'll have a pre-ordered copy! This is open internationally, I don't care where you are, this book should be devoured! Just put your email in the comments and I'll choose a winner next week!
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Michael Vey: Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans
Reading the end of this book will leave you itching for more.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
SHIFTING by Bethany Wiggins *swoonworthy boy alert*
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.
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:
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?
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.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE by Aimee Bender
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.
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
Excerpted summary from Goodreads:
A mysterious island.
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
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.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
PETER NIMBLE AND HIS FANTASTIC EYES by Jonathan Auxier
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).
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.
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.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Ghost Medicine by Andrew Smith
Ghost Medicine was Andrew's debut novel way back in 2008. It's my favorite of all his books. Those of you who've read The Marbury Lens might be shocked by that statement, and it's certainly hard to compare any novel to that literary phenomenon, but I want to point out that I didn't say Ghost Medicine was his best novel, just my favorite.
It would be impossible to call one of Andrew's books better than the any of the others. They're all great. Now, I know I review a lot of Andrew's books, and I promise to some day start talking about books other than his, but not today. Before I get to what touched me about this story, let me give you the jacket copy:
The summer before Troy Stotts turns seventeen, his mother dies. Troy and his father barely speak, communicating instead by writing notes on a legal pad by the phone. Troy spends most of his time with his closest friends: Tom Buller, brash and fearless, the son of a drunk; Gabe Benavidez, smart enough to know he’ll never take over the family ranch; and Gabe’s sister, Luz, whose family overprotects her, and who Troy has loved since they were children.
Troy and his friends don’t want trouble. They want this to be the summer of what Troy calls “ghost medicine,” when time seems to stop, so they won’t have to face the past or the future. But before the summer is over, their paths will cross in dangerous and fateful ways with people who will change their lives: Rose, a damaged derelict who lives with a flock of wild horses and goats; and Chase Rutledge, the arrogant sheriff’s son.
Troy and his friends want to disappear. Instead, they will become what they least expect —brothers, lovers, heroes, and ghosts.
I loved this book from the very first paragraph. I stepped into Troy's skin the moment I met him. It may be because I basically was Troy at his age: distant father, dead mother, in love with a beautiful girl above his station. The only thing Troy had that I didn't was a strong male relationship. Two of them, actually.
If you thought Jack and Conner showed you how much two young men can mean to each other, wait until you read about Troy Stotts and Tommy Buller. Tom is the strong one, the big brother figure who is at Troy's side everywhere, and who loves Troy and their other best friend, Gabe Benavidez, with a fierce loyalty that only the optimism of youth can inspire. I would have given anything for friends like Tommy and Gabe when I was young, scared, and alone.
The characters in this story jump off the page at you, and kick you in the face with their humanity. I'm not going to give anything away here, but I can tell you there was a moment when I emailed Andrew just to say "you better not." You'll see what I mean when you read this book.
Ghost Medicine also takes place in one of the most beautiful settings I've ever read. In an unknown town in the mountainous west, Troy's father owns a farm next to the Benavidez horse ranch. They're surrounded by mountains, alpine meadows, and deep granite lakes. It reminded me of my own youth, and the time I spent in the mountains, which was beautiful.
I've seen this book compared to Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses, and I don't think that's a terrible argument, since they're both full of lovely imagery and poetic language, but I think it's unfair to classify and pigeonhole this book that way. This book is more accessible, more immediate, and ultimately, I think, tells a more powerful tale.
I could probably go on, but I've made my point. I finished this book over a month ago, but the afterglow still warms my heart.
I've talked about Andrew enough that you guys probably know where to find him by now, but just in case, two links:
Ghost Medicine on Amazon.
Oh, P.S. There is one moment in this book that absolutely took my breath away. Email me when you read it, and I bet you'll feel the same way.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Forbidden by Tabitha Sazuma
Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.
I think I originally picked up this book out of sheer, morbid curiosity. But I was immediately hooked, drawn into this tragic story to the point that I couldn't put the book down. The book follows a family of five siblings who have been all but abandoned by their mother. Lochan, the strong "man of the house" at home, is brilliant and driven but so terrified of public speaking he can barely utter a single word to anyone outside of his own family. Maya, the mother-figure, peacemaker, and loving sister is the nurturer her siblings desperately crave. Kit, headstrong and angry, acts out as many teenagers will. Tiffan, a hyper but lovable child, is the whirlwind of the family. And little Willa is sweet, adorable, and made me want to jump into the book and scoop her into my arms. I fell in love with each and every one of them and distinctly experienced every joy and pain throughout the story right along with them.
When the romantic aspect of Maya and Lochan's relationship began to develop, I was sympathetic, a bit appalled yet understanding, scared, and heartbroken for them all at once. It was actually difficult not to wish they could have a happily ever after - something I didn't expect at all.
As I got closer to the end of the story, I found myself reading slower, not wanting to reach the inevitable end to a truly beautiful, tragic story. I cried through the last two chapters of this book and I think this will be one of those stories that will haunt me forever.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
REVOLUTION by Jennifer Donnelly
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 angry at the world for taking her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And her father has determined that Andi's accompanying him to Paris over winter break is the solution to everything.
But Paris is a city of ghosts for Andi. And when she finds a centuries-old diary, the ghosts begin to walk off the page. Alexandrine, the owner of the journal, knew heartbreak also, and Andi finds comfort in the girl's words. Until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.
The blurb just does this book no justice whatsoever. The blurb is simply interesting. The book is gorgeous. Ms. Donnelly juggles several different themes here - the past's relationship with the present, the parallels between Alex and Andi's lives, and the different ways the characters channel their grief - and she weaves them together with haunting, beautiful prose.
I was particularly impressed with Andi and Alex's distinct voices. I appreciated that even though Andi is a troubled character, Ms. Donnelly never went for the cheap teen angst. Andi has lighter moments as well, and I was truly sympathizing with her and rooting for her. I'm surprised at how much I ended up loving Alex, though. I loved that she didn't start off as a particularly good person, but she becomes such a quietly inspiring figure by the end of the book. The supporting characters were well-drawn, and though I'm notoriously hard to please when it comes to romance, this one really won me over.
This is not the sort of book to tackle if you're looking for something light - even in the book's happier moments, there's an undercurrent of melancholy. But overall it was a very uplifting, very engaging read. I highly recommend it.
And on an unrelated note, hi! I'm Becky, and I'm happy to be the newest member of Afterglow. I'll do my best to make these reviews coherent!
THE BLACKHOPE ENIGMA by Teresa Flavin
When fourteen-year-old Sunni Forrest visits the tower and sees her stepbrother Dean disappear, seemingly into the painting itself, she must find him and risk being drawn into the heart of the Blackhope Enigma.
LOVED this one! Not only do people live inside the painting; there are layers of worlds, in which the inhabitants are unaware of how much time has passed outside the painting. Arcadia--the "main"world, I guess you could say--is too perfect to ever leave.
I loved the idea of Arcadia; how it seems so perfect on the surface, but once you dig a little deeper, you find some darkness lurking in the corners . . . wonderfully creepy!
This book releases August 9--just a few days away!
Monday, August 1, 2011
True Spirit by Jessica Watson
Jessica spent years preparing for this moment, years focused on achieving her dream. Yet only eight months before, she collided with a 63,000-ton freighter. It seemed to many that she’d failed before she’d even begun, but Jessica brushed herself off, held her head high, and kept going.
Told in Jessica’s own words, True Spirit is the story of her epic voyage. It tells how a young girl, once afraid of everything, decided to test herself on an extraordinary adventure that included gale-force winds, mountainous waves, hazardous icebergs, and extreme loneliness on a vast sea, with no land in sight and no help close at hand. True Spirit is an inspiring story of risk, guts, determination, and achievement that ultimately proves we all have the power to live our dreams—no matter how big or small.
I followed Jessica's journey while it was happening through her blog, and was inspired with every post. So it's no surprise I bought her book as soon as I heard it was out. Seriously, folks, AMAZING. The book was written by Jessica herself, pulling from her blog posts, and I loved that the story came out in Jessica's own voice.
The book is so full of hope, enthusiasm, and encouragement, I feel like it's practically a self-help book on achieving your dreams. Only so much better, because you get an incredible story into the bargain. It's well written, engaging, and TRUE. I was tugged along for an emotional, exciting ride with Jessica and felt lucky I got to share even a little bit in something I'd never be able to do: sail solo around the world.
I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun, enlightening, and enthusiastic read.
Friday, July 29, 2011
ANGELFIRE by Courtney Allison Moulton
First there are the nightmares.
Every night Ellie is haunted by terrifying dreams of monstrous creatures that are hunting her, killing her.
Then come the memories.
when Ellie meets Will, she feels on the verge of remembering something just beyond her grasp. His attention is intense and romantic, and Ellie feels like her soul has known him for centuries. On her seventeenth birthday, on a dark street at midnight, Will awakens Ellie's power, and she knows that she can fight the creatures that stalk her in the grim darkness. Only Will holds the key to Ellie's memories, whole lifetimes of them, and when she looks at him, she can no longer pretend anything was just a dream.
Now she must hunt.
Ellie has power that no one can match, and her role is to hunt and kill the reapers that prey on human souls. But in order to survive the dangerous and ancient battle of the angels and the Fallen, she must also hunt for their secrets of her past lives and truths that may be too frightening to remember.
I. Love. This. Book.
I haven't been this excited since the seventh Harry Potter book came out! (And that's saying something!) It seriously may be my new favorite book. Oh my gosh. Not only is the plot interesting and original, the writing is vivid and descriptive and I felt as if I was watching a movie. I wouldn't be surprised if this does turn into a movie someday. The characters were gripping and realistic, and I found myself attached to them almost from the very beginning.
This book is action packed. There's not a moment of it that is dull. Not only are the scenes full of adrenaline, they are easy to envision. I found myself taking notes for the battle scenes in my own books, but I don't think I could ever match ANGELFIRE.
The love story----Oh. My. Gosh. I felt as if my heart was going to break in almost every chapter. Can I please have Will to myself? Please please please?! That would be the best present ever. I think I love him--no, I know I love him.
So, that's all I'm going to say about it....I don't want to spoil everything, and if I keep typing much longer I will. If you love action-packed YA fantasy, and even if you don't, pick this book up. Tomorrow if possible.
When WINGS OF THE WICKED comes out next year, you will find me at the store the next day. I guarantee it.
BEAUTY by Robin McKinley
A strange imprisonment.
Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.
When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, "Cannot a Beast be tamed?"
When I went to Borders yesterday to take advantage of the liquidation sale, I saw this book sitting on the shelf and immediately picked it up. It had been recommended to me before, and Beauty and the Beast is my favorite story ever told. My favorite version is the French tale, and I knew this book was a retelling of that.
What I didn't know was how much I would enjoy it.
Not only did it beautifully retell the story I know and love so well, it went into far more detail than I was used to, and I loved it! I loved learning more about the enchantments and the Beasts' family history from McKinley's point of view, and I loved the twists she added to the story. For example, in the original tale Beauty's sisters are vain and selfish, while in BEAUTY they are kind and selfless.
The twist I loved the most was the fact the Beauty herself is not beautiful. She is very plain looking at the beginning of the book, and is constantly avoiding her reflection in the mirror. I have always felt a kinship with Beauty, but I couldn't get over the fact that she was so beautiful and I didn't see myself that way. Reading this book from her point of view, I could relate to all of her insecurities, and it made me fall in love with the story all over again.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
SONG IN THE SILENCE by Elizabeth Kerner
Her family mocks her that dragons are just a silly myth. A legend. But Lanen knows better. And she means to prove it. One day she sets out on a dangerous voyage to the remote West to find the land of the True Dragons.
What she discovers is a land of real dragons more beautiful—and surprising—than any dream she could have imagined.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
SUPERNATURALLY by Kiersten White
|Find it on goodreads|
FIRST LINE: "Oh, bleep. I was going to die."
Evie finally has the normal life she’s always longed for. But she’s shocked to discover that being ordinary can be . . . kind of boring. Just when Evie starts to long for her days at the International Paranormal Containment Agency, she’s given a chance to work for them again. Desperate for a break from all the normalcy, she agrees.
But as one disastrous mission leads to another, Evie starts to wonder if she made the right choice. And when Evie’s faerie ex-boyfriend Reth appears with devastating revelations about her past, she discovers that there’s a battle brewing between the faerie courts that could throw the whole supernatural world into chaos. The prize in question? Evie herself.
So much for normal.
Middle books in trilogies, in my experience, are a crapshoot. Typically, they have problems with pacing and character arcs and leave you feeling like you just read a patch between Book 1 and Book 3.
Not this book! It did surprise me by the pacing, which was different from Book 1 (Paranormalcy), but really it fit Evie's predicament. Sort of like the 5th Harry Potter, Evie is dealing with a lot of crap, and hence has a lot of introspection. But the delightful dialogue that made me fall in love with the characters the first time around was back in full force.
There were even a couple new characters to love or hate. Jack falls distinctly in the, well, actually I couldn't figure it out which category to put him in even at the end. White did an amazing job fleshing out his character and making him a truly sympathetic being. The many unexpected twists kept me on my toes and turning the pages. There were several laugh-out-loud or giddy-in-love-with-Lend moments that made my husband wish I wasn't reading in bed next to him.
And the ending! THE ENDING!! It's probably the best pay-off I've ever experienced in a middle book. I was expecting some kind of cliff hanger, and dreading it. And in a way, there is a lot left in the air, but Evie has such an amazing arc in this book, you hardly notice the details about faeries and vampires that hang ominously in mid-air at the end. Of course I still want Book 3 (Endlessly), like, yesterday! But I'm not shaking my fist at the author for leaving me hanging (Suzanne Collins! *shakes fist*).
Just like Paranormalcy, Supernaturally is a sweet, scary read - the perfect blend of adorable and kick-ass. I recommend it to all ages 13+.
Courtesy her awesome publishers: