Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Darkest Night - Gena Showalter

Note: The Lords of the Underworld series is an adult book series. It contains elements of violence, language, gore, sex, and whathaveyou that YA readers may or may not be comfortable with. Please keep this in mind, should you decide to read this review and/or the books.

Romance novels are my dirty little secret, as you may or may not know. That being said, I recently got the urge to read Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld series, a series from which I vaguely remember reading one of the books when I was younger, but can't remember much about. Being as Showalter is a favorite author of mine, when I can get a hold of her books--and a really nice person, for that matter, as I met her at BEA this year--I was pretty hyped to start. This review of the first book in the series, The Darkest Night, begins a series of reviews I will be posting as I do a full series read through.

The Darkest Night is the first book in the Lords of the Underworld, and it introduced the world of the series. In this world, Pandora was not only a real person, but she was a female guard of the gods chosen from a number of other guards to guard a box that contained a multitude of demons. Pandora, however, was not the one to open the box. Rather, her fellow guards became enraged with jealousy that Pandora, a woman, had been selected instead of them to guard the box. They released the demons, intending to show the gods that they had been wrong in choosing Pandora. Instead, however, the gods took these guards who had betrayed the cause and bound them to the demons that escaped, so that each being was mix of immortal guard and demon.

In The Darkest Night, Maddox is the guard who is bound to the demon of Violence. Having been taken over by his demon after they were bound together, Maddox was the one who killed Pandora after the demon release and because of this has been cursed by the gods to be killed in the same manner she was, every night, to spend the night in hell, and to be reborn every morning. Ashlyn is a woman seeking the help of the 'angels' that she's heard the town people talking about. She is gifted, or perhaps cursed, with the ability to hear every conversation that has ever taken place where ever she stands. However, upon meeting Maddox, Ashlyn realizes that the voices are quiet so long as she is around him, and she's willing to do anything in her power to keep the voices quiet.

To put it simply, I liked this book. It wasn't exactly what I'd call 'cute', but it was cool and I simply enjoyed it. That's not to say that I omgloveadored this book, because I didn't. It's not exactly the next big thing, but it's definitely something I consider worth reading, if you like paranormal romance. It's a good first book, and as far as being an introduction to a new series, The Darkest Night did its job: it made me want to read the second book in the series.

I love books with mythology heavily influencing the settings and story, and if you're a mythology nut too, you're probably going to like The Darkest Night. If you like adult paranormal romance, you should at least look at The Darkest Night. And if you liked Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series, or any of Showalter's other books, you've probably already read this book. But if you haven't, it's available at most book stores, and I'd definitely suggest you pick it up.

Review Schedule and Updates

When I posted my review of Bloodlines, I received a request to do a read through of the Vampire Academy series. Thanks to my dear friend, Zenita, I have my hands on the series and will be commencing the read through, with reviews posted as I finish each book. I should be starting this soon, as a side project.
I'm currently in the midst of a first read through, this one being the Lord of the Underworld series by Gena Showalter, a favorite author of mine. It's an adult series, not YA, for those of you keeping track, and the first book's review should be posted in a few hours or less.
That being said, I'll still be posting sporadic reviews of other books as netgalley decides if I am worthy or not, as well as tackling the occasional BEA arc that I've still got sitting around.

On a random note, dear readers, if someone could tell me an estimate of how much it would cost to...oh, I don't know, ship Bloodlines across the country, I'd be grateful.

Thanks, and have a great day, guys.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Guantanamo Boy - Anna Perera

First off, let me start by saying that it took me several attempts before spell check even recognized my mangling of the word Guantanamo to fix it. Never actually needed to spell that before. Anyway, got a hold of an ebook copy of this book from the amazing site that is NetGalley. Needless to say, Guantanamo Boy isn't exactly the sort of thing I normally go in for. There's no fairies, vampires, magic, telepathy, or even trashy romance. But when I read what it was about, I honestly couldn't exist. I love getting my daily dose of learning through fiction!

Guantanamo Boy is the story of Khalid, a British born and raised Muslim boy whose religious dedication doesn't go much farther than a prayer on Fridays. Shortly after 9/11, Khalid's grandmother dies and his family goes to Pakistan for the holidays so that his father can see that his aunts are taken care of. After his father vanishes shortly into the stay, Khalid goes hunting for him and ends up being pulled into a demonstration on the streets. Afterwords, when he can't find his father, he goes back to his aunt's home and plays the alpha version of a computer game his cousin, Tariq, designed: Bomber One. It's while he's playing this game that men break into the house and kidnap him, taking him away from his family and putting him through a series of humiliations, tortures, and various prison bases, before Khalid finds himself in Guantanamo itself, where nobody believes he is a innocent 15 year old boy.

Reading the story of Khalid was a strange experience. He's young, school aged, enjoys playing on the computer and playing games. He could be any random kid playing Call of Duty today. That's what makes the fact that he's taken so horrifying. No matter how reasonable Khalid explains who he is and what he's doing, nobody cares. No matter how much proof he gives that he's only 15, that he really is from the UK, that he's innocent, those in charge just keep asking him the same questions. Reading through his eyes, experiencing every humiliation and injustice as he told it, infuriated me. This book managed something that few books seem able too, anymore: it made me, as the reader, feel what the main character did. It made me furious to read how badly Khalid was treated. The writing of Perera is particularly descriptive at times, to the point that even Khalid mentioning the dinner he was served could turn my stomach.

Despite the fact that the writing was enticing and involving, I honestly can't say whether or not I liked this book. I'm not entirely sure if "like" is really the right word to even use. To me, liking a book is enjoying reading it. Liking is reserved for books that make me feel excited, books that make me want to read them over and over again, and I most definitely do not ever think I will touch Guantanamo Boy ever again. This book is informative, and I'm sure it's a very interesting look into the true stories that it's based on, but that being said, I did not exactly 'like' it. For all that I'm sure it's a 'good' book, it's a good book in the same way that I feel To Kill A Mockingbird or The Chosen One are good books: they're good for the first read, but after that they feel dry. You already know what's going to happen, you've seen the peak into the life or event that the books represent, but there isn't much of a reread value.

If you like books about the injustice of humanity, well, you'll probably adore Guantanamo Boy. If you like books that open up windows into strange lifestyles and retell horrifying events, you'll probably like this book. And most importantly, if you want to read a tale about the events following 9/11 from the side least represented, I'd suggest you pick up Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera when it comes out August 2011.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Between - Jessica Warman

Having just finished this book in the past few hours, I can honestly say that my first overall impression is just. . .wow.

Honestly, I didn't want to read this book. It's been sitting in the bottom of my bag for about a week now, and I've been reading the TrueBlood books instead out of sheer procrastination. Well, Southern Vampire Mysteries. Same difference. But I left my Kindle at work last night and couldn't get it until recently, and I can't go that long without reading, so I started Between after all. I'm kind of glad I forgot my Kindle, now.

Between doesn't sound like my type of book, going by the summary on the back. The summary on the back makes this book sound like a typical murder mystery with the main suspect trying to prove her innocence, just with a YA setting. Being as I rarely like murder mysteries, I honestly would not have touched this book, based on that back cover. If I hadn't gotten this ARC from BEA, I probably would never have ended up reading Between at all, because I wouldn't have had a reason to look at it. That being said, Between is not your typical murder mystery, and the main character, Liz, is most assuredly not the suspect. In fact, she's the victim.

Between is the story of Elizabeth Valchar, who, shortly after waking up from the drug and drink induced coma she and her six close friends fell into after her birthday party, finds her own corpse floating bloated and pale in the water outside her father's boat. The only person who can see her is Alex Berg, a boy who died the year before Liz and who seems to hate her from the moment they start talking. After her death, Liz can't remember everything about her life, and instead has to slowly remember, one memory at a time, to figure out how she died and who killed her. But when she isn't remembering her life, Liz is observing those she left behind. Being an invisible spectator in the lives of her loved ones means the process of remembering and learning, though, is a lot harsher than Liz expected.

As I said, I originally didn't want to read Between. The back cover summary doesn't really touch on what the book is about, besides saying that someone dies and Liz has to figure out what happened. But I'm really glad I decided to read it anyway, because it's a lot better than the summary makes it out to be.

Between has one of the types of plots that I always find hard to put down. I couldn't seem to resist reading just a few more pages, another chapter, to find out what happened to Liz, and what would happen next. I loved speculating as I read, guessing at what I thought had happened only to have those speculations completely crushed or come true. The plot constantly twisted and turned, changing the reader's idea of what's going on in the story at the same time Liz's life view is changed by what she learns. I don't usually say this, but Between really is one of those page turning books that I couldn't put down until I'd finished, because I just had to know.

A lot of dark themes are touched upon in this book, though, and that means that I wouldn't suggest Between to younger readers or to anybody who just wants something light and fluffy to read before bed. Jealousy, eating disorders, murder, and cruelty are only a few of the themes that can be found within these pages. However, Between isn't just some tacky cesspool of a book designed to throw any and every bad thing at the main character as possible, like some other books I've read. (*Cough*Precious*Cough*) Between is also a book about love that's true and lasts, forgiveness, and acceptance.

I could probably sit here and think of half a dozen reasons why Between is a good book, but the simple fact is that I just really liked it. I liked the characters and the plot and the twists and just everything. The only thing I didn't like was the summary on the back of the book!

If you like books that represent an idea of the afterlife, you'll probably like this book. If you like darker YA books, this is something you should look into. And if you liked The Lovely Bones, this is definitely a book you should pick up when it comes out August, 2011.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cinder and Ella - Melissa Lemon

To begin with, I'd like to apologize for a lack of book cover. Having lost internet at home for a few days, I'm writing this from my phone, which doesn't allow for easy formatting. That being said, on to the review.

I got an ebook copy of Cinder and Ella from Netgalley, a site I'd suggest to any current and aspiring book bloggers. As you may know, I have a fascination with any type of twisted or retold fairy tale, so I was excited for this book.

Cinder and Ella tells the story of two sisters of the same names. Cinder is good and sweet and kind, named for her cinder-silver colored hair. Ella is practical, refusing to give in to the whims of their narcisstic elder sister Katrina or their spoiled younger sibling, Beatrice. After their father vanishes, the two become the main caretakers of their home, because their mother never stops spinning to pay for the household expenses. Cinder goes to work in a castle to help pay, which is when Ella realizes that her mother no longer recognizes her. Her mother instead calls for Cinderella, not seeing Ella as her daughter anymore. While Cinder is wooed by an evil prince at the castle, Ella seeks to find her own happiness elsewhere and save the kingdim-and her father.

If you didn't see any of the original cinderella elements in that summary, you aren't the only one. Perhaps the most disappointing part of this entire novel is that, despite claiming to be a twisted retelling of cinderella, the only element from the original is the main characters names. There is no glass slipper, pumpkin carriage, or evil stepmother. There is no prince charming or fairy godmother or, hell, there isn't even a juniper tree or gorgeous gown from a dead mother, as in the true originals.

That isn't to say that Cinder and Ella is a bad book. Taken as a stand alone book, without hoping for cinderella, it wasn't bad. It was a little rushed, and it's not a higher level story with plot twists and subplots, but it's good for what it is. There's romance and action and a devious villian. But for all that, it's very obvious that Cinder and Ella is a children's book, and not one mature enough for me to find much enjoyment in.

If you're looking for a book that you won't be able to put down, well, this probably isn't a book you'll want. But if you're looking for a gift for a younger reader, or a short sweet read that you don't have to pay a lot of attention to, such as something to read at work or on a bus, you should consider picking up Cinder and Ella by Melissa Lemon when it comes out in November 2011.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Aftertime - Sophie Littlefield

To be honest, I'm not really into the whole zombie genre. I saw a few Resident Evil movies, thought they were meh. The only zombie things I ever really have gotten into were World War Z, Fido, and Zombie Nazis with my cousins on COD. That being said, I didn't have the highest hopes for this book. I dislike generic post apocalyptic settings, zombies aren't an appeal, and I'd never heard of the author before BEA. The only thing that really made me want to read this was the cover and the fact that Sophie Littlefield is really nice, and I wanted to give her a shot. I was pleasantly surprised by this book.

Aftertime is the story of Cass, a woman. in a world where bioattacks and genetic mutations have lead to an end of the world setting where zombie attacks are a common threat and civilization as a whole has crumbled. The zombies, known as beaters, were originally infected after eating a freak mutation of a genetically engineered superfood that was designed after bioattacks endangered the food sources of America, but as Cass learns, the disease that creates a beater is also passed by saliva. Cass is taken by the beaters from her safe haven, captured trying to protect her daughter, Ruthie. The next thing she knows, she's alive and sane but injured, with no idea where she is or what's happened. She only knows that she is alone, and that Ruthie is gone. The story of Aftertime covers Cass' frantic quest to find her daughter in a world where nothing is the same, and nothing is safe.

Aftertime is not a generic zombie story, which I appreciated. Although zombies are a big part of the story, the main goal of Aftertime does not consist, like most zombie stories, of a group of people trapped by zombies and trying to survive long enough to be saved/escape. Rather, there is a depth to this story of a mother doing anything it takes to be with the child she loves. There is romance and drama and ongoing subplots that I would forget about until they suddenly popped up again unexpectedly to add a new wave of interest.

I usually hate post-apocalyptic worlds, but the setting in Aftertime was actually really appealing to me. I loved the genetic engineering, the idea of bioattacks and superfoods and genetic mutations that can fuck a society up. I loved the idea of starting new, of scavenging and working and fresh civilizations. I just liked the whole world.

If you do like zombie books, chances are that you'll like Aftertime. If you like end of the world settings, all gritty and off the map, you'll probably like Aftertime. If you like both, then you have a perfect book and you should definitely pick up Aftertime by Sophie Littlefield the next time you go to your local bookstore.

My apologies!

I'm sorry to those readers, if any, who actually check my blog and have come to expect a reasonable update schedule. Thanks to a hectic few days, I pretty much fell off the face of the earth for the weekend. On the bright side, I'm now 18, graduating tomorrow, and I have Black Ops, which I finally see the appeal in.
Expect a new update sometime in the next two days, although I can't promise one tomorrow being as I have no idea how much work goes into the actual graduation day. We'll see.
Again, sorry for the lack of reviews this weekend. It's been a busy weekend.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Kiss Of Shadows - Laurell K. Hamilton

Note: This review is for a paranormal romance novel for adults, not YA. If you are uncomfortable with graphic sex, violence, and language, this is not a review or book that you'd be interested in.

A Kiss Of Shadows is the first book in the Meredith Gentry series by Laurell K. Hamilton. Now this is not a new book. In fact, A Kiss Of Shadows actually came out in 2000, making this book over a decade old. However, thanks to graduation rehearsal, work, and a cleaning fest I've had to undergo in order to host my birthday/graduation party tomorrow, I haven't had time to read one of my BEA books within the last 24 hours. Instead I've decided to review a book from my dirty little secret list of trashy romance novels that I love.

A Kiss Of Shadows is the story of Meredith Gentry. Meredith, or Merry, is a private investigator for a firm that boasts an entirely magical or Fae staff in a world where fairies not only exist, but are accepted and even popular in the current world. Merry has a normal life, with a boyfriend who just happens to have once been able to turn into a seal and a boss who just happens to be a Trow. Well, normal if you ignore the fact that she's the missing fairy princess who vanished three years ago. After a case gone awry, Merry's cover is blown and she is suddenly being hunted down by the queen of the court she ran away from those years ago.

One thing you have to know about Laurell K Hamilton before you decide to read this book is that her series tend to start with really mild to no romance in the first book, then slowly become raunchy, sexual, and kinky-weird at times. The first three books in her other popular series, Anita Blake, were almost completely innocent as far as sexual material, for instance, but that same series a few books down has her with a harem of men and a sex scene every few chapters. So understand that when I say trashy romance, I mean trashy romance. There's an amazing plot, but there's a lot of other stuff too.

The one thing that Laurell K. Haminton excels at the most is her characters, and I've never seen her talent better at work than in the Meredith Gentry series. In A Kiss Of Shadows alone, there's Merry herself, a trow, a Jack-In-Irons, a man known as 'darkness' for the sheer fact that everything about him is pitch black, and dozens of other Fae with unique appearances and powers. There's a man who can bring death with a touch, a girl who can turn anything she touches into an inside out living ball of flesh, and a man who can cause spiders to break from a man's back until it consists of so much meat.

Now, the Meredith Gentry series is not for everyone. It's graphic in a lot of ways, and it's definitely an adult book, not YA or otherwise. If you like paranormal romance, stuff like Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunters or Gena Showalter in general, you'll probably love this series. If you like dark world that don't hide what they are, you might like this book. And if you want to start a new paranormal romance series, and you like the idea of evil Fae, then I'd suggest you pick this book up next time you go to your local bookstore.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

After Obsession - Carrie Jones and Steven Wedel

Is it bad that the reason I picked up this book was because the synopsis on the back mentions a boy having mystical abilities because of his Native American race? I think I might have taken this book because I wanted to see how that was played off. And, hey, pretty cover art! Bonus!

After Obsession is the story of Aimee and Alan, two teenagers with strange, almost magical abilities. Aimee dreams the future and can heal some wounds with a touch. Alan relies on his Native American heritage, complete with a spirit animal to guide and help him. When Alan moves into Aimee's small Maine town to help his aunt and cousin after his uncle dies in a river accident, he's horrified to find out that his new school doesn't have a football team, the girl he seems to like has a boyfriend, and his cousin kind of hates him. Then suddenly his cousin is in trouble and Aimee and Alan have to figure out how to save her from the demon that's trying to possess her, or they risk losing her and setting the demon free on earth.

After Obsession was written between two authors, and each chapter alternates between the authors and their chosen character, Alan or Aimee. It's an interesting way for the story to be formatted and I really liked it. Both Alan and Aimee try to deal with the main problem of the demon trying to possess Courtney--Alan's cousin and Aimee's best friend--but as each chapter chances the perspective between them, there are several subplots that are individual to each character. Aimee deals with the spooky happenings of her own home, her brother and grandfather's bizarre Cheeto sale, and struggles with her mother's death. Alan deals with his heritage problems, the fact that he isn't even entirely sure what flavor of Native American he is, because he was the product of a one night stand, and his mother doesn't support him. It's not a particularly common way for a book to be written, but I liked it, in this case.

One of the flaws that I found in the book, however, was a very rushed and personally unappealing romance. At one point, a character in the book ended up breaking up with their significant other that they've loved, only to rush into another relationship and be in 'love' seemingly with only a few days difference. Admittedly, that does seem pretty true to character of today's teens, but I still would have liked something a little more heartfelt and romantic, instead of the usual teenage "I only met you, but I love you and let's be together forever" sort of love I've sadly grown to see more and more.

Ignoring the romance aspect, though, After Obsession was a pretty cool book. It was a little over dramatic at some points, admittedly, but I still enjoyed it. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes their supernatural YA fiction to have a mystery flavor to it, as well as to anyone who just thinks psychic girls are pretty cool to read about. And if demonic possessions are your thing, then you should probably see about picking After Obsessions up when it comes out September 2011.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight - Jennifer E. Smith

To be honest, this book is nowhere near the type of thing I normally read. I'm used to action, magic, and dark, gritty themes. I picked it up mostly because the word 'statistical' was in the title and I'd just taken an AP statistics test the week or two before. Having read the book, I'm glad I took a chance on it.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is the story of Hadley and Oliver, told over the course of 24 hours. The pair meet each other at the airport, only to find that they're both headed to London on the same flight and actually end up sitting next to each other. The pair bond over a 7 hour flight, only to realize at the end that they have to go two separate ways and they aren't sure they want to.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, besides being a book with an ungodly long title, was actually a really cute story. It's not going to be the next 'big thing' that everyone has to have, but it's really nice for a short, cute read. I personally read this while I was on the bus to and from work, and I think it makes for a good travel book: short and sweet without being so involving that you don't want to put it down to actually get things done. If anything, this book follows the skirt rule: long enough to cover what's needed, short enough to stay interesting.

While I wouldn't gush about The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and demand that everyone read it, I will say that I'd recommend it for people who love normal teenage romances, without all the glitz and magic and vampires that overwhelm today's YA fiction. If you think you'd like reading a light romance with some comedy and drama thrown in for flavor, pick up The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight when it comes out January 2012.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bloodlines - Richelle Mead

I never finished the Vampire Academy books. Hell, I'm not even sure if I finished the first one, to be perfectly honest. I picked it up during the beginning of the vampire craze, and got so bored with vampires so fast I don't think I ever picked it back up. That being said, there is a big chance that I've both missed a lot of the nuances in this book that referenced the other series and spoiled the VA series for myself entirely. But after finishing Bloodlines, I can honestly say I'm okay with that.

Bloodlines is about Sydney, a girl who is part of the organization, alchemists, that is dedicated to protecting humans from vampires. Or at least keeping the peace between the two races, anyway. She was trained for her job in the organization since she was young, being the only alchemist picked out of her three sisters for the job. However, after helping Rose she was shamed and a new mission is the only way she can redeem herself and keep her little sister from having to take up the mantle of alchemist instead. She'll have to live with Jill, a living vampire, and her halfvampire guard in order to keep Jill safe and the current queen of the vampires on her throne. The only problem? In order to keep Jill safe, Sydney needs to go undercover at a high school boarding school in Palm Springs, a situation that suits neither of the two girls involved.

Before I started Bloodlines, my ideas on what to expect were mixed. On one hand, I vaguely remember trying to read VA and not finishing it. On the other, the line for this book was HUGE and ZenitaDee, a fellow blogger and friend of Lost Train of Thoughts, has been gushing over Richelle Mead for years. Plus, you know, I'm a sucker for some gorgeous cover art.

Having now finished Bloodlines, though, I'm really happy I gave it a chance! Despite not reading Vampire Academy, I didn't feel as though I was missing any important details, although ZenitaDee has informed me that I've probably got a tainted view of Rose, since Adrian is your main source of information about her in this particular book. I loved Sydney's character, loved how she struggled to fight against everything when it seemed like everyone and everything in her life was against her. I'm particularly fond of her ideology, although I'd sad to say I was reading this during a slow shift at work, and I don't have the exact quote. If I recall right, it was to the effect of "everyone has a choice. there are no victims here." I love how much of a hardass she comes off as.

One of the random aspects about the book that I particularly enjoyed was the idea of metal bound tattoos. Alchemists are given the same golden tattoo on their faces that gives them slight immunities and strengths while insuring they can't talk about alchemist matters to anybody outside of their circle of knowledge. There are several other tattoos that show up in the book as Sydney finds out about a special tattoo parlor that gives silver and copper tattoos that act as drugs or strength enhancers for a temporary amount of time. The whole system just sounds kind of awesome to me.

I liked Bloodlines a lot, and now that I've finished one of Mead's books and found out how good of a writer she is, I'll definitely see about picking up Vampire Academy and the following books in the series and trying to read it again. As far as Bloodlines goes, though, let's just say I've found out the biggest flaw in reading and reviewing ARCs: there's a much longer wait time until the next book in the series comes out. That being said, I'd recommend Bloodlines to anyone in the supernatural YA fansection, including those who haven't read Vampire Academy. Despite being in the same world, Bloodlines is the start of a spin-off series, and from what I've seen, VA isn't a requirement for enjoyment. If you like vampires, hardass female leads, or plotlines with twists to keep you on your game, pick up Bloodlines in your local bookstore when it comes out August 2011.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Angel Burn - L. A. Weatherly

If I learned one thing at BEA this year, it's that getting in lines with few to no people can be a damn good thing. Going in, I had no idea this book was going to be there, no idea I was going to get it, and probably no idea it even existed. To be perfectly honest, I was bribed by pretty cover art. I have never been so happy to have taken a random chance.

Angel Burn, by L. A. Weatherly is about Willow, a young girl obsessed with cars who just happens to also be psychic. After giving a girl in her school a reading, Willow is torn away from everything she knows when a church dedicated to worshipping angels decides that she is a threat. They believe that she can destroy the angels they follow, and they will stop at nothing to catch her. What they don't know is that Willow IS an angel. Or half of one. At least, that's what the angel killer tells her.

Let me start by saying I adore the premise behind this book. A world in which angels are twisted evil parasites? Yes please. And, to be honest, the fact that Willow is a half breed appeals to that preteen in me who used to read fanfictions where the main character was an all powerful half-elfhumandemoncactus. I was hooked in the first few chapters, and the story didn't disappoint.

Angel Burn is an action romance sort of story, and while the romance was a little cheesy at times, it was still pretty cute. I loved the idea behind angel burn itself--the affliction in the story, not the title--and reading about Willow coming to terms with the fact that she's half divine was my favorite part of the book. The only real flaw I can think of is how easily Alex accepted Willow, considering his reasons for hating angels to begin with, which would probably be why I think the romance is cheesy. I've never been a fan of stories where two characters seem to start disliking or hating each other, and then suddenly are in love without any serious development. Not to say there isn't character development in Angel Burn, but I don't think there was enough for Alex to just suddenly decide he doesn't hate Willow's angel.

With that said, however, I'll still be keeping an eye out for the next book in the trilogy that Angel Burn starts, and I'll still recommend it. People who like stories that twist religion will probably like Angel Burn a lot, and if you're one of those people I'd suggest you consider adding it to your 'to be read' list, if nothing else. Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, hardcore biblethumpers probably need not apply.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Wall Street Journal Response (Or how to write an attention getting article)

(This post is in response to: Darkness Too Visible, a WSJ post at )

It seems like every few months, someone in the media takes the good old fashioned formula for attention grabbing and recycles it. Have you figured out what that formula is, over the past few years? Let me help you with that:
Pick a popular past time of kids--usually videogames, TV, or movies
Pick something to bitch about--usually profanity, violence, or sexuality
Bitch about how dangerous and inappropriate these things are for children and blame it all on the publishers, producers, or creators
Does that sound familiar to you? Because it sounds familiar to me, although I might give points for originality to the writer of the newest YA fiction review on the Wall Street Journal. Most media corporations try to push reading, but I guess everything has to be done once, yeah?

So this new article can be summed up in the above formula. The fill in the blanks, in this case, are young adult fiction and violence, profanity, AND sexuality. And, big surprise, the article targets writers and publishers at being at fault for YA fiction with "Darkness too visible" to the readers.

See, these sort of formula articles tend to make me laugh, because every time someone in the industry is being blamed for providing material that isn't inappropriate for children, which is complete and utter bullshit.

You won't find anything in a YA book that is so inappropriate you won't find it in music, movies, TV, or, hell, the hallways of your precious children's school. Anyone who tells you that your child is going to be corrupted or harmed by reading YA books is looking for a new controversy. That's it.

I've been reading since I was 8. I read Sherrilyn Kenyon's Acheron, a very not YA book about the sexual and physical abuse of a man from childhood until adulthood, including prostitution, incest, rape, and any number of other gruesome and dark topics, when I was fifteen. Before that I read the rest of her Dark-Hunter series since I was ten. I've thrived on dark fiction of all age groups for years. And you know what? It hasn't done a damn thing to me. I'm a reader, a writer, a straight A student. I'm going to college, I had a job, I graduate in less than 2 weeks from high school, I'm not pregnant. I don't cut myself. I haven't attempted suicide. I'm not violent. I'm open minded, something the writer of the article apparently can't say, and I'm responsible. I have my own book blog. And I'm certainly not the only perfectly normal person who broke their teeth on this so called overly dark YA fiction.

But hey, if you are a parent or adult who thinks that children need to be kept away from dark young adult fiction, then fine. Good for you. You're entitled to your own opinions, and to raise your children the way you want. You want your child in a plastic bubble, sheltered from the real world, then do it. But don't blame the publishers because your child is reading something that's a little too dark for your tastes. Instead, why not take some damn responsibility and monitor what your child reads yourself, instead of pushing the blame on someone else?

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Long Long Sleep - Anna Sheehan

I love new takes on fairy tales. I absolutely adore them. The moment I saw the trailer for Beastly, I knew I wanted to see it. Disney was my childhood fodder. I devour twisted fairy tales, books like Enchantment by Orson Scott Card or Sister's Red by Jackson Pearce. Needless to say, when I saw the cover of A Long Long Sleep, I absolutely couldn't resist getting my hands on a copy of the ARC.

As the cover suggests, A Long Long Sleep is a Sleeping Beauty retelling, this time in a futuristic society where hover cars are prevalent, stasis tubes are used to keep the diseased alive until a cure can be found, and your entire life is kept on a computer tablet.

After over 60 years in a stasis tube, Rosalinda Fitzroy is kissed awake by a boy who was rummaging in the basement of the massive company that seems to monopolize almost everything in his world. Rose just happens to be the daughter of the man who started the company so long ago, and now that she is awake, she is the heir to the company as soon as she turns of age. Her parents, her life, and her love are all dead. Rose is all that's left.

A Long Long Sleep is, in my opinion, a pretty good book. The story is played out in two simultaneous parts, telling Rose's stories of before and after the 60 years she spends in stasis, something that worked very well. The reader gets the information she needs, often before she realizes she needs it. I loved how, the farther you get in the story, the better the two stories came together, trivial pieces of information suddenly becoming massively important as the reader is shocked into remembering them.

I thought the plot is pretty epic, even ignoring my own love of fairytale stories. It's full of twists that I wasn't expecting, has a good blend of action and drama, and has some damn good character development, in my opinion. Rose goes from the sweet little child she was for her parents into a strong willed woman, progressively changing the further the story developed. Another interesting thing I found about the story was the lack of overwhelming cliches that modern fiction seems to swim in. There is no instantaneous romance, Rose doesn't wake up, fall in love, and fall into bed with a guy who just happens to adorelovelust after her from the first time he sees her. Her former lover doesn't pop out of thin air, suddenly alive and gorgeous and ready for their happy ending. It's a nice, refreshing change from the twilight-esque romance drivel that seems to populate the YA section more and more recently.

I'd recommend A Long Long Sleep to anyone who, like me, is a fan of retold fairy tales. I'd also recommend it to anybody who wants to read a YA book that doesn't seem like the author took Twilight as a measuring stick for their story.

Janitors - Tyler Whitesides

One of the first things I saw at BEA this year was a group of people scattered around the building handing out flyers for a book with a big, burly magical seeming janitor. Needless to say, getting a hold of this arc was one of my priorities for the day, out of sheer curiosity.

Janitors is a book about Spencer, a sixth grader who one day washes his face with a magical soap that allows him to see the magical beings infesting his school when nobody else seems to be able to--besides the Janitor, that is. Spencer is told that the creatures feed on brain waves of children and in return give off waves that make it impossible for those same children to learn. But when Spencer tries to find out more about the creatures and the janitors, he gets thrust in a war between two different forces, and he isn't sure which one he should trust.

Janitors is a children's book, first off. Keeping that in mind, I felt that the book was really good for what it was. The storyline is clear and simple, and more than a little creative. The idea of Janitors fighting for education is a fun one, and one that I've definitely never heard before. That alone makes me give kudos to the author. There's potential for a sequel as well, and I'd love to see this turned into a series. It wouldn't be a series on par with Harry Potter, but let's be honest: nothing really is. This has the potential to be something great, though, and I'll be keeping an eye on the author.

I'd recommend this to any parents looking for books for children who like to read, to begin with, because it's a really cool story and, being as the story is based around and applies to elementary school kids, it might be a big hit. I'd also recommend it to any older kids and adults who are just looking for a cute, light read. And, hey, I'd recommend it to anyone else who, like me, is just really curious about a story consisting of magical janitor wars.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Shatter Me - Tahereh Mafi

Title: Shatter Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN: 978-0-06-208548-1
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Page Number: 352
Tentative Price: $17.99

Juliette has always been hated for what she is. Her touch is pain to anybody she comes in contact with, hurting them while she absorbs energy that she pretends doesn't feel good. If she holds on long enough, it kills them. After an accidental murder, she is taken and placed into an isolation room where she rarely, if ever, sees other people. She hasn't been touched in 264 days, hasn't spoken in as long. Her days are a routine of staring out a window, bathing when told, and hoping that maybe, just maybe, she'll get fed.

Then he comes and everything changes. A boy is thrown into her cell, a boy that she doesn't recognize--until she does. Suddenly everything in her simple, routine life is changing as she's taken by a leader in her dystopian world's army. He wants to use her, her gift and her curse, as a weapon on his side. But Juliette doesn't want to hurt anyone, and she might be willing to do anything to escape that fate, including trust the man that, once upon a time, she loved more than anything.

Before I picked up Shatter Me, I knew absolutely nothing about it, besides the fact that the line to get it at BEA was huge. There is no cover design on my ARC to give away a story, and I've never heard of the author. However, from the moment I read the back cover, I've was hooked.

Superpowers and dystopia are two of my dirty little loves, something you'll probably figure out quick if you're reading my reviews, and I couldn't wait to read Shatter Me and get them both. And while I thouroughly enjoyed this novel, something seemed strangely familiar about this story from the start. The publisher's note in the beginning of the book mentions a comparison between Juliette and Rouge, which may have set my mindset before I opened the book, but the entire time I was reading I just couldn't help wondering if I was reading an alternate universe x-men fanfiction.

Don't get me wrong, the story was great. Juliette's world seems to be vaguely postapocolyptic, with a mass organization that seems deadset on stamping out everything that makes humanity great, from art to the very language spoken, in the name of reseting and starting over. The world is gritty and real, with the sense of overall poverty and need being very evident. For instance, when Juliette is brought to a headquarters of The Reestablishment, she is shocked by the utter waste used to provide the luxury of the building. Interestingly enough, there are also hints that the world inside the pages isn't a world that seems so far off from the world of today, despite the changes. Juliette, for instance, knows what a microwave is and knows not to put metal in it, although the child she sees doing so doesn't seem to know what a microwave is at all.

The characters were decent, too. Juliette is a girl with massive powers who just wants to be left alone, Walter is a boy who just wants power, and Adam is a boy who just wants his family and loved ones safe. Side characters, though, are almost nonexistant; the majority of nonmain characters were nothing more than cardboard cutouts meant to be thrown into a setting to give it the right feel.

Although romance is a decent part of the storyline, I was pleased to note that it didn't detract from what I felt was the real story, such as Fracture did, but rather enhanced it.

Shatter Me was a pretty good book, and I'd recommend it to lovers of X-Men for sure, and for anybody who likes the superpower genre in general. Dystopian fans might enjoy this novel as well, although I wouldn't push it quite as hard in that direction. I will personally be keeping a hopeful heads up for a sequel sometime in the near future, because I'd hate to think that the story was actually meant to just end where it did, and I'd really like to find out what happens to all the loose ends.