Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mercy by Rebecca Lim

Book:  Mercy
Author:  Rebecca Lim
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Date:  2011
My grade:  C+

An electric combination of angels, mystery and romance, MERCY is the first book in a major new paranormal series.

There's something very wrong with me. I can't remember who I am or how old I am, or even how I got here. All I know is that when I wake up, I could be any one. It is always this way. There's nothing I can keep with me that will stay. It's made me adaptable. I must always re-establish ties. I must tread carefully or give myself away. I must survive.

Mercy doesn't realise it yet, but as she journeys into the darkest places of the human soul, she discovers that she is one of the celestial host exiled with fallen angel, Lucifer. Now she must atone for taking his side. To find her own way back to heaven, Mercy must help a series of humans in crisis and keep the unwary from getting caught up in the games that angels play. Ultimately she must choose between her immortal companion, Lucifer, and a human boy who risks everything for her love.

My Review

I really, really wanted to love this book.  But I didn’t.  I’m glad I finished it, because in the end, it was alright.  But I had to make myself finish reading it.  I’m not sure why because it seems to resonate with so many reviewers and a lot of my book friends who have read it just love it, but I barely liked it.

A lot of it was very, very confusing.  While I understand that when Mercy wakes up in someone else’s body, it is confusing for her, the parts of her own life that she knows are not confusing to her, yet that is what was confusing to me.  It was really hard to follow and stick with the book for the first half of it. 

The only thing that kept me reading was that I’m a sucker for mysteries.  And I wanted desperately to know what had happened to the girls in the story.  I also wanted to know who Luc was and I had some suspicions about Ryan that I wanted to find out about.  I only managed to find out about one of them, but that made it worth reading until the end.

I'm not sure that I really liked Mercy or any of the characters for that matter.  They seemed sort of flat and not very interesting.  I had a hard time caring about any of them.  Ryan is the only one who made an impression on me and that's probably why I kept reading.  I really wanted to find out more about him.

I don’t read a lot of books by Australian authors, but the 2 I have attempted have not been good experiences for me.  I didn’t even finish the other one and I’m wondering if there might be something that is different about an Australian author’s voice that does not work for me.  I certainly hope not and I’ve never had trouble reading British, Irish or even Scottish authors, so I’m definitely ready to try another Aussie book just to test this hypothesis.

Of course, by the end, I was curious about what will happen next, so I will more than likely pick up the next book in the series, eventually.  It won’t be one that I’m waiting to get at the bookstore on the morning it’s released.

My grade is a C+.  It was probably a below average read for me until the last part of the book, which pushed it up to the top of average for me.

Thanks to Netgalley and to Harper Collins for providing the ARC for me.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Hidden by Jessica Verday

Book:  The Hidden
Author:  Jessica Verday
Publisher:  Simon Pulse
Date:  September 6, 2011
My grade:  A-

A love that knows no bounds.

Abbey knows that Caspian is her destiny. Theirs is a bond that transcends even death. But as Abbey finally learns the full truth about the dark fate that links her to Caspian and ties them both to the town of Sleepy Hollow, she suddenly has some very hard choices to make. Caspian may be the love of her life, but is that love worth dying for?

Beautifully spun, emotionally gripping, and irresistibly romantic, The Hidden will leave you breathless.

My Review

Maybe it’s because I LOVED the first two books in this series and I was desperately waiting to get my grubby little hands on this book, but I was actually a little disappointed in this book.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I still enjoyed it and I liked the end a lot, with a few misgivings.  But it felt like this book could have been better.  Actually, it felt like this book was full of a lot of filler because the publishers wanted a 3rd book instead of just 2 books.

This is really starting to annoy me, actually.  I think that after the success of Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games, publishers are starting to see dollar signs.  I think they are asking authors to drag out stories into 3 and 4 books when they could easily wrap up a story in 2 books or even 1.

This book had parts that seemed to drag along and serve no purpose really.  It could have been tightened up a lot.  There were parts where I found myself easily distracted away from the book.

However, as the book started getting closer to the climax and denouement, it did tighten up and I found myself flying through the book. I was actually pleased with the ending.  I kept wondering how on earth she would make this ending anything but tragic and she did a great job of making an ending that did not make me want to slit my wrists open but was totally and completely believable within the context of her world.

I was a little surprised at the sexual content of the book.  I’m no prude by a long shot and I wasn’t distressed about the fact that characters had sex.  I was, however, a bit shocked at the amount of, well, sexual relations that the characters engaged in during a 24 hour period.  Now, there was nothing graphic here and it was not like a “bodice-ripper” novel.  If only I had been able to get this many details from Stephenie Meyer!  (I’m still disappointed that there was no drawn-out description of naked Edward Cullen!  Sigh!)  It was very nicely written and described, but trust me when I tell you that this fade to black did not stop as early as the infamous fade to black in Breaking Dawn!

All in all, however, I closed the book (well, turned off my Nook, really) with a nice sense of satisfaction about how the book ended.  I love this little world in Sleepy Hollow that Jessica Verday has created.  I would like to go visit there myself now, and Abbey’s perfume making hobby had me searching out supplies on Google to make my own perfumes as well!

My grade for this book is an A-.  I played around with a B+ because I did find that there was some dragging out of scenes and a little too much description at times.  However, I think that readers who have enjoyed this series will still be satisfied with this book, even if they find themselves skimming through part of it.  Oh, and Edward may still be my favorite fictional boyfriend, but Caspian is certainly at the top of my ghost boyfriend list!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fury by Elizabeth Miles

Book:  Fury
Author:  Elizabeth Miles
Publisher:  Simon Pulse
Date:  August 30, 2011
 Sometimes sorry isn't enough....

It’s winter break in Ascension, Maine. The snow is falling and everything looks pristine and peaceful. But not all is as it seems... 

Between cozy traditions and parties with her friends, Emily loves the holidays. And this year’s even better--the guy she’s been into for months is finally noticing her. But Em knows if she starts things with him, there’s no turning back. Because his girlfriend is Em’s best friend.

On the other side of town, Chase is having problems of his own. The stress of his home life is starting to take its toll, and his social life is unraveling. But that’s nothing compared to what’s really haunting him. Chase has done something cruel...something the perfect guy he pretends to be would never do. And it’s only a matter of time before he’s exposed. 

In Ascension, mistakes can be deadly. And three girls—three beautiful, mysterious girls—are here to choose who will pay. 

Em and Chase have been chosen.
My Review

Holy cow!  This book is creeptastic!  I was totally surprised by just how, well, scary this book was.  I think that may be why it’s getting some not so great reviews.  This is a book that is probably better suited to fans of Stephen King than fans of Twilight.  It’s being marketed to the Twilight demographic, but it is NOT a paranormal romance type book.

I kept thinking as I was reading that this book would make a good movie because there were so many creepy moments in the book.  The Furies are more like Freddy Krueger with a Hollywood makeover than they are like the Cullens.

Now, about the story.  Well………the second half of the book is what redeemed this one for me.  The first half of the book was sloooooooooooow.  Really slow.  But then, suddenly the action picked up and I couldn’t put the book down.

Now, I can’t say that I really “enjoyed” the book.  I’m a little squeamish and I don’t like seeing people suffer or die, and there is suffering and death in this book.  But some people like that.  For example, my husband owns every Friday the 13th movie ever made.  Personally, I don’t like to watch people get slashed up for no good reason, but he does.

The Furies were similar to those slasher movies, just without the gore.  It felt like there was no justification for what they did, but that’s the point of the horror genre, right?  I think that I would have liked this better if I had known what I was getting myself into.  This book needs a big ol’ cover change and new blurb so that it attracts fans of creepier, more macabre fiction.  There are no sparkly vampires here, people!

Now, however, I can’t wait for the next book to come out.  I know what I’m getting myself into and I can’t wait to see how the characters get out of the mess that was left at the end of the book.  I really don’t like Emily, per se, but I’m curious to see how this all works out.

I’m having a hard time grading this one.  My knee jerk reaction was a C, but then I realized that I did end up liking it more at the end.  I’m probably going to go with a B- on this one, but it might be a C+.  It’s hard to say.  If you like creepy movies and you don’t mind people dying when they probably shouldn’t, you will probably enjoy this book.

Fury will be available for purchase on August 30, 2011.  Thanks to Simon and Schuster for the ARC. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

Book:  A Long, Long Sleep
Author:  Anna Sheehan
Publisher:  Candlewick
Date:  August 9, 2011
My grade:  A+

Rosalinda Fitzroy has been asleep for sixty-two years when she is woken by a kiss.

Locked away in the chemically induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten sub-basement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew. Now her parents and her first love are long dead, and Rose -- hailed upon her awakening as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire -- is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat.

Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her awake, hoping that he can help her to start fresh. But when a deadly danger jeopardizes her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes -- or be left without any future at all.
My Review

Who would have thought that a futuristic retelling of Sleeping Beauty would make me cry?  Or think this deeply?  Or be so beautifully bittersweet?

Certainly not me.  When I started this book, I have to say that I was thinking slightly humorous thoughts.  Random snatches of “Sleeping Beauty in Spa-spa-space”  with the hollow echo in the background and that sort of thing.  Or a scrolling text that starts out with “Once Upon a Time, in a galaxy far, far away….”

But the more I read this book, the less I thought about those things and the more engaged and intrigued I became with this story, until I found myself finally finishing the book and writing this review at 2:23 in the morning.

This book is unlike anything that I’ve ever read.  Now, I love a good re-telling of a fairy tale, which is what attracted me to this book, but wow!  I did not see the plot of this novel coming and it hit me like a ton of bricks, in the best possible way, of course!

This book really attacks some issues within the context of this future Sleeping Beauty idea.  Things like child abuse and neglect, corporate greed and control, science and ethics, human rights and other heavy ideas are all addressed in this story.  Not your Disney princess re-telling, is it?

I am so impressed with this book.  The twists and turns of the story itself were amazing.  The characters were incredible.  I really felt like I knew the characters by the end of the novel.  Somehow, the author managed to create a complex plot line and at the same time create a diverse diorama of characters that the reader could know in very in-depth ways.  I’m very impressed with her ability to create characters with such depth while still maintaining this intricate story.

This is a book that could easily be used in a classroom to explore many issues, most especially the idea of advancements in science and technology and how to balance those morally and ethically.  If you are looking for a light, frolicking fairy tale novel, this is NOT that novel!  But, if you like novels that make you think while still maintaining a fabulous plot and cast of characters, then this is a novel you should DEFINITELY read!

My grade for this book is A+.  The story was incredible!  It made me laugh, cry, get angry and stop and think about the greater questions of the universe.  It was like reading “Hamlet”, only I didn’t have to look at all the footnotes in my Riverside Shakespeare.  If you want to think while you read, go pick up this book right away!

Thanks to Candlewick Press and netgalley for allowing me to read and review this book.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

Book:  The Near Witch
Author:  Victoria Schwab
Publisher:  Hyperion
Year:  2011
My grade:  A
The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

And there are no strangers in the town of Near.
 These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.
As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab’s debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won’t soon forget. 
 My Review

The Near Witch is unlike any book that I have ever read.

I am having a hard time describing this book and even deciding what I thought about it.  This is a book that is to be savored.  It cannot be read quickly.  Although it is written in prose, the words are lush and poetic, evoking images that your brain needs time to create.  This author was unbelievable.  The fantasy element of the book was so enhanced by the almost dreamlike quality of the writing.

The story was compelling and original.  There was something about the writing that pulled me into the world and insisted that I keep reading the story.  I found myself feeling like I was part of the world of the book, which left me feeling rather dreamlike. 

I loved that there was no time or place given for the setting.  It felt timeless, like a fairy tale.  And like a fairy tale, it felt like there were truths hidden in the story.

Lexi was a wonderful leading female character.  She was brave and strong and good.  I also liked Cole and the pull between them was wonderfully written.  Lexi’s mother was another strong female character, although it took much longer to see that.  In the end, I found that I even liked Otto. 

I don’t know if this review has really done this book justice.  My head is still reeling from this book and I feel rather cloudy.  Honestly, I don’t think I can describe this story.  I think that you must experience it for yourself.  Luckily, this book was released last week, so you can!  Do yourself a favor and go get this book.  But make sure you find plenty for your kids to do while you try to read it.  Just like a strong dream at night, you will have a hard time pulling yourself from the dreamy fog of The Near Witch.

My grade is an A.  This book is unique and ethereal.

Thank you to Hyperion books and netgalley for allowing me to review this book.

The Lost Saint by Bree Despain

Book:   The Lost Saint
Author:  Bree Despain
Year:  2011
My grade:  A

A family destroyed. A love threatened. An enemy returns.

Grace Divine made the ultimate sacrifice to cure Daniel Kalbi. She was infected with the werewolf curse while trying to save him, and lost her beloved brother in the process.

Desperate to find Jude, Grace befriends Talbot, a newcomer to town. But as the two grow closer, Grace's relationship with Daniel is put in danger - in more ways than one.

Unaware of the dark path she is walking, Grace begins to give into the wolf inside of her - not realizing that an enemy has returned and a deadly trap is about to be sprung.

Bree Despain delivers sizzling romance and thrilling action in the heart-pounding sequel to
The Dark Divine.

My Review

Is there a secret conspiracy of which I am unaware?  One that forces authors to leave a horrid cliffhanger at the end of the second book in a series?  Because there have been some horrid cliffhangers in second books and The Lost Saint is definitely one of those books!

Now, it had been a while since I had read The Dark Divine, so I wasn’t sure how much I would remember going into book 2.  I didn’t need to worry about anything!  I remembered as I went through and stayed right on top of things without a problem.  I also remembered how much I liked and disliked some of the characters.

Take Jude, for example.  I had forgotten how much I loved him and it was really hard to see him in a different light in this book.  I also forgot how much I disliked Grace’s mother.  That woman is still aggravating as ever!

The story is The Lost Saint was non-stop!  The action was great, there was plenty of mystery and intrigue to be had.  Also, I kept trying to figure out who exactly was being referenced in the title!  That was fun, trying to determine who it was!

I think that I finished this book even more excited about this series than after The Dark Divine.  I had forgotten just how much I liked the first book and this one was even better.  I also think that Daniel Kalbi is now in the running for my favorite werewolf ever! (still a close second behind Derek from Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers series….I think!)

In any case, my grade for this book is an A.  Bree Despain’s writing is great, she keeps the intrigue factor way up and there is a nice bit of sexual tension between Grace and Daniel and possibly others. : )  The story ends on one heck of a cliffhanger though, so beware!  Other than that, it’s a fabulous thrill ride through an intriguing twist on werewolf lore.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour

Book:  Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour
Author:  Morgan Matson
Publisher:  Simon and Schuster
Year:  2010
My grade:  A+

Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew--just in time for Amy's senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she's always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy's mother's old friend. Amy hasn't seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she's surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she's coming to terms with her father's death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road -- diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards--this is the story of one girl's journey to find herself.
My Review

So, after having survived YA lit, I’m back to reviewing for myself! : )  I did learn that I like contemporary realistic books a lot!  So, this is one that I found for a presentation I gave to the class and I couldn’t wait to read it.

This book was perfect.  It was like a York Peppermint Pattie… was slightly bittersweet and refreshing with just a little bite.

This book could have spiraled into a big bunch of fluff.  But, oh no.  In addition to the fun and fluff, this book is about a life-altering experience for 2 young people.  Now, my textbook says that good YA lit should have growth of the characters during the course of the book.

If that’s the case, then this book should be pictured beside of that definition!

It was so wonderful to see the way Amy and Roger both progressed and matured during this trip, both as individuals and together.  I couldn’t help but root for them both as they made this journey that was literal and symbolic.  And the ending left me feeling great, albeit slightly sad that the book was finished.  But, the very last page is perfection!  She could not have done anything better.

Along the way, the characters that Amy and Roger meet are almost as dynamic and engaging as the terrific twosome.  All the friends and people they meet out on the road seem like more than filler.  These people felt real to me.  They were interesting and three-dimensional even though we as readers only catch the equivalent of a glimpse of them.  It was incredible!

Amy and Roger are both magnificent characters in their own right.  Like Amy, I found myself falling for Roger as the trip progressed.  I also found myself loving Amy and hoping that she could find a way to forgive herself and start living again.  Both Amy and Roger had to learn a few things on their trek across America and they did a spectacular job of learning them.

Besides the story, the artwork, photographs, receipts and what not from the road was a great touch to the story.  I recognized the gas station from Asheville, NC.  That was so cool!  And the playlists that Roger created were great!  I don’t know whether to thank Morgan Matson for putting those in there, or curse her for the amount of money I’m about to go drop on iTunes in order to get them all for myself!

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  It’s fun enough to be a fast summer read, but it still has a lot of substance to it.  Do yourself a favor and go read this book as soon as possible.  You will not regret it.

I gave this book an A+.  This may make my top 5 list for the year.  It’s that good!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Drowning in a sea of books.....

Don’t get me wrong.  If I have to go, drowning in books would be my preferred method!  But, now that I’ve read the 30+ books for my YA lit class, I have some SERIOUS catching up to do for the blog and just for my personal reading.  So, I thought that I would share the Neverending TBR List with you!  Here goes:

Review copies to read—
Lost Voices by Sarah Porter
The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross
Mercy  by Rebecca Lim         
The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan         
Fury by Elizabeth Miles
Witchlanders by Lena Croakley
The Hidden by Jessica Verday
Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick
A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies
Queens of All the Earth by Hannah Sternberg
Eve by Anna Carey
The Sleepwalkers by J. Gabriel Gates
Tris and Izzy   by Mette Ivie Harrison
The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa      
The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe   
Ditched by Robin Mellom     

Then, there are the sequels:
Beautiful Darkness
The Iron Queen
The Lost Saint

The Library Books:
Hate List
Amy and Roger's Epic Detour
And this doesn’t even begin to cover the books that have been sitting there staring at me for a year, just waiting to be read!

Oh!  And the bag full of books I checked out from the school library to read over the summer!

So this is my Neverending TBR list.  What does yours look like?