Friday, February 22, 2013

Blaze (or Love in the Time of Supervillains) by Laurie Boyle Compton

Book:  Blaze (or Love in the Time of Sbupervillains)
Author: Laurie Boyle Crompton                     
Publisher:  Sourcebooks Fire
Date:  February 1, 2013
Source:  Publisher via Netgalley
My grade:  A

Blaze is tired of spending her life on the sidelines, drawing comics and feeling invisible. She's desperate for soccer star Mark to notice her. And when her BFF texts Mark a photo of Blaze in sexy lingerie, it definitely gets his attention. After a hot date in the back of her minivan, Blaze is flying high, but suddenly Mark's feelings seem to have been blasted by a freeze-ray gun, and he dumps her. Blaze gets her revenge by posting a comic strip featuring uber-villain Mark the Shark. Mark then retaliates by posting her "sext" photo, and, overnight, Blaze goes from Super Virgin Girl to Super Slut. That life on the sidelines is looking pretty good right about now...

Initial reaction
This book rocks!  I love Blaze and I want to be her BFF!

Cover story
I love this cover and title.  In the world of prom dress covers, this one stands out.  It’s so unique and I think it captures the spirit of this book.  Two big thumbs up!

What’s the Story?

So, Blaze has a loser for a dad and a mom who works too much, so she becomes surrogate mother to her middle school brother and all his soccer friends, hauling them around in an old, brown minivan.  She’s shy and doesn’t have a lot of friends, but she loves comic books and draws her own comics all the time.

Enter Mark, popular soccer coach extraordinaire.  He starts paying Blaze attention and soon she falls for all his moves, hook, line and sinker.  She makes a really bad decision and one of her supposed best friends sends Mark a pic of her in lingerie.  Then chaos ensues.

I loved this novel and I couldn’t put it down.  I was so proud of Blaze for not just letting Mark walk all over her.  The revenge comic that she draws and passes out was like revenge for every girl who has ever been used by a guy!  It was a wonderful moment!  Even though Mark came back with a vengeance and the book didn’t necessarily end with everything all wrapped up in a happily ever after, I felt good because I know that Blaze is a smart girl who will be alright.

Mark was your typical douchebag high school player.  He didn’t add anything new to the character, but he played it well.  I really loved Blaze’s brother and his friends.  They often stole the show in places.  The deadbeat dad in this book will make you want to reach into the pages and smack him.  Some of the characters were clichés, but really, the clichés are there because they represent real people, right?  I see these kids in the halls of the high school where I work every single day.

I think that Crompton did a good job of addressing some very relevant issues and showing the consequences of bad choices without being preachy and heavy-handed.  I think that teens will appreciate that.  There are plenty of girls who, unfortunately, make some of the same decisions that Blaze did.  Maybe seeing the consequences of those decisions will stop some of them from making the same mistakes. ::shrugs::

I’m not sure how much “non-geeks” will understand all the comic book references, being a geeky girl who loves comic books myself.  However, I don’t think you need to get all the references in order to enjoy this book.  I think that every girl will stand up and cheer Blaze on as she tries to stand up for herself and hold Mark accountable for his actions.

Just as an aside, I did see a reviewer on Goodreads who said that this book was “porn”.  Now, I’m not sure how she got that, but be aware that there is a “sex scene” though it is not graphic and there is one part where Blaze keeps thinking to herself that she doesn’t understand why she can’t stop looking at someone’s crotch.  Of course, the middle school boys all talk about boobies all the time, but that is just the way middle school boys roll.  I didn’t see anything that I felt was too offensive or even graphic and it certainly isn’t even close to being “porn”.  If you’re not sure, read it yourself before you hand it to your kid, but I’ve been trying desperately to get my 15 year old daughter to read it because I think it has a great message.

Overall, I thought this was a book that was sometimes fun, sometimes cringe-worthy and right on target for its audience.  I’ve already ordered a copy to put in my library.


Superman by Five for Fighting

Flavor of the Weak by American Hi-Fi

Barely Breathing by Duncan Sheik

Come On by Lucinda Williams

Feeling Good by Muse

Over You by Daughtry

Respect by Aretha Franklin

The Final Grade
My final grade for this book is an A.  I loved it.  I thought it dealt with some real issues in a way that is timely and realistic.  The author was able to weave together high school issues, parent issues and self-esteem issues into one completely mind-blowing story that I think worked.  I can’t wait to start recommending this book to people.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black

Book:  Dance of Shadows
Author:  Yelena Black
Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books
Date:  February 12, 2013
Source:  Publisher via Netgalley
My grade:  A

Dancing with someone is an act of trust. Elegant and intimate; you're close enough to kiss, close enough to feel your partner's heartbeat. But for Vanessa, dance is deadly – and she must be very careful who she trusts . . .

Vanessa Adler attends an elite ballet school – the same one her older sister, Margaret, attended before she disappeared. Vanessa feels she can never live up to her sister's shining reputation. But Vanessa, with her glorious red hair and fair skin, has a kind of power when she dances – she loses herself in the music, breathes different air, and the world around her turns to flames . . .

Soon she attracts the attention of three men: gorgeous Zep, mysterious Justin, and the great, enigmatic choreographer Josef Zhalkovsky. When Josef asks Vanessa to dance the lead in the Firebird, she has little idea of the danger that lies ahead – and the burning forces about to be unleashed . . .

Initial reaction
This author MUST be a dancer because only a dancer could understand how transcendental that moment of dance can be.

Cover story
GORGEOUS!  I love the title because it’s mysterious and the cover is absolutely beautiful.  Every girl who has ever dreamed of becoming a ballerina and even those of us who have worn those gorgeous costumes will appreciate this cover. 

What’s the Story?
Wow! There are some scathing reviews of this book, but I absolutely loved it. I couldn't put it down. I thought that the premise was intriguing, the story was mysterious and engaging and the descriptions of the dance were amazing. Vanessa's naïveté is totally believable to me because she is a 14 year old girl. As the mother of a 14 year old girl, I have to tell you that they live in the town of Gullible in the state of Pretty Dumb. At least they do when it comes to dealing with people, especially boys. So that never bothered me.

The dance premise is what attracted me to this book.  I have been a dancer most of my life and I have taught dance for years and years.  I love dance, so when I saw this book mixing two of my favorite things in the world, dance and paranormal, I just couldn’t pass it up.  I was worried when I started to see some negative reviews of it, but I can’t believe those people read the same book that I did!

One of the things that I loved is exactly how realistic all the dance descriptions were.  I read a review where the reviewer was disgusted by the fact that the author described how good the boy smelled when he was sweating.  I have to say that dancers probably view sweat and feet a lot differently than the normal person.  Eventually, you become used to the smell of sweating at a rehearsal and the smell starts to remind you of something you love.  Scientists say that the sense of smell is actually our strongest sense in terms of triggering memory and reaction to memory.  I believe this because every time I smell diesel fuel in rain, I remember my first ever trip to Paris, so I love that smell.  Weird, right?  I think that dancers probably feel the same way about the studio smell.  People, it smells like rosin, sweat and feet in there!  But it causes a visceral reaction and I think that Yelena Black captured that reaction.

The other thing I loved is how well she wove the transcendental feeling of dancing into the storyline and how it became a major plot point.  Again, maybe it is the dancer in me that identifies with that, but I know exactly what she is talking about when Vanessa describes that moment when everything comes together perfectly and how it seems to move the dancer beyond.  I think that dancers who read this book will understand that moment too.

I loved the way that the author rolled out small bits and pieces of the mystery and I found myself wondering who I could trust.  Sometimes I felt that Vanessa was too trusting with certain people, but I think that a 14 or 15 year old girl could easily be overwhelmed by an attractive older guy who says all the right things.  Been there, done that!  I started figuring things out before Vanessa did, but it didn’t bother me that she seemed a little naïve about certain things.

I was so glad when I got to the last page and realized that there would be another book in the series because I am dying to jump back into this world.  I’ll catch up on my occult reading and practice my plies while I wait for the next installment!


What If I Told You by Jason Walker

On My Own by The Used

When You Taught Me How to Dance by Katie Melua

Sweet Sacrifice by Evanescence


Here’s Where We Begin by Joshua Radin

The Final Grade
My final grade for this book is an A.  I really loved this book.  I loved the dancing, the mystery, the scary bits…..just all of it.  I can’t wait for the next installment!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Underworld by Meg Cabot

Book:  Underworld
Author:  Meg Cabot
Date:  available now
Source:  purchased
My grade:  A+

Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.

Seventeen-year-old Pierce Oliviera isn’t dead.

Not this time.

But she is being held against her will in the dim, twilit world between heaven and hell, where the spirits of the deceased wait before embarking upon their final journey.

Her captor, John Hayden, claims it’s for her own safety. Because not all the departed are dear. Some are so unhappy with where they ended up after leaving the Underworld, they’ve come back as Furies, intent on vengeance…on the one who sent them there and on the one whom he loves.

But while Pierce might be safe from the Furies in the Underworld, far worse dangers could be lurking for her there…and they might have more to do with its ruler than with his enemies.

And unless Pierce is careful, this time there’ll be no escape.

Initial reaction
::runs to Nook store to see if book 3 is available already by some miracle.  Cries when it is not::

Cover story
I like the coloring of the cover, but the actual picture?  Not so much.  The girl looks strange, sort of like she’s wrapping her breasts with bandages so she can go undercover as a boy or something.  The title is good.

What’s the Story?
This one picks up where Abandon left off and it jumps right into the story.  And it doesn’t stop, not even at the last page!!  I really liked the first book, but this one was even better!  I couldn’t believe it when I realized that I had already read the last page.  I really did click right over to the shopping icon on my Nook to see if I might be lucky and the third book had just released.  I wasn’t lucky and now I’m DYING to get my hands on that third book.

This book gave us all the background on John and I must say, his story made me really love him.  I mean, before I thought he was hot, with his brooding, bad boy persona, but now I think I may be totally in love with him.  He’s not a bad boy at all!  His story was sort of heartbreaking.  And best of all?  You guys, he has an English accent!!  Swoon!

I like Pierce as a character.  I think she’s a good lead female character.  She’s strong, but she doesn’t come across as fake the way some fantasy lead female characters do.  I don’t expect her to show up in black leather with a whip and I think that’s a good thing.  The new characters were so much fun and I really loved all of them.

I have not read a lot of Meg Cabot before.  In fact, this is only the third book of hers that I have read, but I have loved all 3 of them.  I think that I really need to read more of her stuff. 

This book had everything I love in a good book.  It had a non-stop story that kept me up late into the night turning pages, it had really interesting characters with great back stories, and it had a sweet romance and 2 lead characters that are very engaging and believable.  Plus, it has the added bonus of Greek mythology.  If you like the current trend in mythology retellings and you like swoon worthy guys who have heartbreaking stories, you will love this book.


Arms of a Woman by Amos Lee

All of My Days by Alexi Murdoch

Just Stay Here Tonight by Augustana

Be My Only by FM Radio

The Final Grade
My final grade for this book is an A+.  I mean, come on.  This is Meg Cabot, so if she writes something, she’s going to write it well, right?  I loved this book as much, if not more than the first one and I am dying to get my hands on the third book!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Broken by A.E. Rought

Book:  Broken
Author:  A.E. Rought
Publisher:  Strange Chemistry
Date:  January 8, 2013
Source:  Publisher via Netgalley
My grade:  A

Imagine a modern spin on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein where a young couple’s undying love and the grief of a father pushed beyond sanity could spell the destruction of them all.

A string of suspicious deaths near a small Michigan town ends with a fall that claims the life of Emma Gentry's boyfriend, Daniel. Emma is broken, a hollow shell mechanically moving through her days. She and Daniel had been made for each other, complete only when they were together. Now she restlessly wanders the town in the late Fall gloom, haunting the cemetery and its white-marbled tombs, feeling Daniel everywhere, his spectre in the moonlight and the fog.

When she encounters newcomer Alex Franks, only son of a renowned widowed surgeon, she's intrigued despite herself. He's an enigma, melting into shadows, preferring to keep to himself. But he is as drawn to her as she is to him. He is strangely... familiar. From the way he knows how to open her locker when it sticks, to the nickname she shared only with Daniel, even his hazel eyes with brown flecks are just like Daniel's.

The closer they become, though, the more something inside her screams there's something very wrong with Alex Franks. And when Emma stumbles across a grotesque and terrifying menagerie of mangled but living animals within the walls of the Franks' estate, creatures she surely knows must have died from their injuries, she knows.

Initial reaction
Dude!  I didn’t think anyone could pull off a modern-day spin on Frankenstein, but this author did it!

Cover story
I like this cover.  Yes, it’s the dreaded girl in the dress, but this one seems different.  First of all, the red is a great choice and I love the way the title is part of a gate.  And the dress actually is part of the story in this one.  Overall, I think this cover would make the right people pick up this book.  You know, the people who like supernatural story lines.

What’s the Story?
This book is billed as a “modern spin on the Frankenstein story”.  Now, I have to admit that I was skeptical.  I mean, really, in Mary Shelley’s version, a mad scientist sews together random body parts from dead people and re-animates a person.  How would that translate to the 21st century in a believable way?

I can’t tell you, obviously, or I would give away the entire plot, but let me just say that the author totally nailed it!  The way she made the story work was brilliant!  Of course, I started figuring it out at a certain point, or at least having suspicions, but that’s ok.  I don’t mind if I start figuring out parts of the book before I reach the end.  To me, that says that the author is putting things together in a way that makes sense, even if the main protagonist doesn’t always see it as soon as I do. 

This book really is a gothic romance.  It is dark and creepy and had me biting my nails (yes, literally) in many places.  I could not get to the end of the book fast enough.  I liked Emma and Alex as characters.  Of course, Alex is the hot, mysterious loner, but would anyone really read a book about an ugly loser with an acne problem and bad breath?  No. 


Thirteen by Big Star

Echo by Jason Walker

What I’ve Done by Linkin Park

Nice Day for a Resurrection by Necromantix

Sorry, I couldn’t resist this one….Weird Science by Oingo Boingo

First Time by Lifehouse

I Knew I Loved You by Savage Garden

The Final Grade
My final grade for this one is an A.  I thought it was an interesting novel that used a classic for inspiration.  Obviously, it is not just like the first one, but it takes an interesting look at what could happen with similar circumstances in the modern world.  I really enjoyed it.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Book:  Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author:  Laini Taylor
Publisher:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Date:  Available now
Source:  purchased
My grade:  A

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
Initial reaction
Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!!!   ::runs to buy sequel on Nook::  Whew!  Ok, now I can review this book.

Cover story
I love, love, love this cover like a fat kid loves candy.  It is absolutely gorgeous and it’s mysterious and dark but not in the least little bit embarrassing.  The title is wonderful as well and then when I saw how it fit into the story, it made me love it even more.

What’s the story?
This book seemed so different from the things that have been going on in YA fiction.  There is Karou, a solitary teen who lives in Prague.  She is very lonely because she only has a strange family of beast-humans and they don’t even live with her.  She goes to art school and lives in an apartment all alone and sometimes she has to leave and go on mysterious errands to pick up teeth for Brimstone, her monster father figure.  See what I’m talking about?  When is the last time you read anything even remotely resembling that???

I don’t really know where to begin with reviewing this book because I don’t want to give away even one single plot point.  The story just grabbed me and sucked me in and I felt like I was holding my breath until the last word, waiting to see what would happen next.  Taylor creates an entirely new world and mythology that puts the idea of angels and demons in a completely different light.  I was awed by the way she spun the tale and flawlessly weaved it together with our world.  She took an idea that we are all familiar with and gave it so many twists and turns, yet they all made sense.  It was incredible.

This book has been put on so many lists that it’s not even funny.  It is a YALSA top pick for teens, a Kirkus reviews best book and was nominated for many more awards.  There’s a reason that it has received that much recognition.  And to make it on the Kirkus list really impresses me because they never give anything a good review! Ha!

Just go read this book.  You won’t be sorry.


Dreams by Brandi Carlile

Orange Sky by Alexi Murdoch

White Blank Page by Mumford and Sons

Orange Sky by Alexi Murdoch

Where the City Meets the Sea by The Getaway Plan

Stars and Boulevards by Augustana

Somewhere Only We Know by Keane

The Final Grade
My final grade for this novel is an A.  I loved this story and I loved how different it was.  I may just have to push all my review novels to the side in order to read Days of Blood and Starlight because I don’t think I can wait much longer.  If you want a beautiful story that is not like anything else you’ve read, pick up this book.  Hopefully, you’ll fall in love with it too!