Tuesday, May 31, 2011

what happened to goodbye by Sarah Dessen

I am actually behind on my Sarah Dessen reading. I will read Along for the Ride soon because I own it. I read this book first (her lastest one) because I found a copy at the library I’m volunteering at, and knew I should snag it while I could. I am not the biggest Sarah Dessen fan, but I keep reading her books because I read them when I specifically want a teen girl coming of age story. They all sort of follow the same plot devices. And they all have a romantic element that usually overshadows the quirky family, abusive boyfriend, divorced parents, or other sort of stereotypical teen problem.
This book follows Mclean, a girl named for a basketball coach.  Mclean and her father lived and breathed basketball (literally; they played, watched, talked in basketball lingo, knew all the stats, etc.) until Mclean’s mother leaves her father for the coach, Mclean’s replacement: Peter Hamilton. Mclean (girl) then ventures off with her father on his new job of restaurant saving. He travels to different restaurant and spends time with staff and managers trying to improve profits. Mclean likes moving around with her dad because with each restaurant and town, she becomes someone new. She even changes her name with each school she goes to –giving herself various personality makeovers.
This town and this restaurant that she starts the book in are different somehow. Mclean finds herself giving people her true name and actually telling the truth to her new group of friends. She sort of falls for the boy next door (who seems like a male version of the main character described on the back cover of Dessen’s Along for the Ride). He’s a boy-genius who decides to lead a more normal life in a public high school and an after school job as compared to his college courses and work in a science lab with his mother. He was fascinating. All of Mclean’s friends were amazing. And I really felt like I understood her family. In this new town, with the boy-genius and the seemingly random truths she hands out, Mclean finally begins to come to terms with her issues with her mother and her parents’ divorce. She even comes to pick up a basketball again toward the end. However, the only harder thing for Mclean than forgiving her mother seems to be permanence. How long can she stay in this town before her dad needs to move? And is it worth all the honesty and the heartache if she knows it won’t last?
What Dessen always caught me with, were her characters. They are amazing. From anyone from the love interest to a restaurant waitress, Dessen really understands people and the way they think. The dorky over achiever isn’t just a stereotypical, YA, dorky over achiever; she’s brilliant and knows a lot about tattoos and playing the drums and what to say to get people interested in something. In other words, while Dessen may write the same kind of plot over and over again with her books, her characters are what make each story different. They never come off as stereotypical teens as many characters in other YA books do. Everyone in Mclean’s life is real and affects her in a different way.
I also loved Dessen’s earlier books better. I’m not sure if this is because they were actually better stories, or if there weren’t enough yet for me to know the Dessen plot formula, or if it’s because I read them when I was younger and at the age of audience they’re meant to be for. Whatever it is, her later books have not been as good as Someone Like You, Keeping the Moon, and Dreamland.
The two things that really irked me about the book were: 1) the lack of romance, and 2) the dad never noticed that his daughter, who he was attached to the hip to, kept changing her names and personalities. At the end of the story, when all is out in the open, as it usually is in that part of a Dessen book, the dad says he had no idea about Mclean’s other names. I just don’t think this is possible. It’s like Dessen couldn’t decide how to factor the dad into the multiple personality aspect of her main character, and then she just neglected it completely with no adequate explanation.
There was a little romance. There really has to be with these books. But, there just wasn’t enough. There does not have to be romance in a book for me to love it. You just come to expect things with the Dessen plot formula. And frankly, her books just work better with the romance aspect balancing all the teen angst. In other words, there was not enough balance here, and way too much teen angst for me. Mclean was altogether too gloomy. I get why she felt the way she did about her mother, and I get that teenagers aren’t the best at getting over tough family situations, but for an 18-year old girl to be that depressed all the time about a divorce seemed at times too much for me. He life could be so much worse. She had both her parents alive, she was well off, and was always capable of making new friends. If I knew Mclean personally, like as a good friend, I would suggest some therapy. I guess Dessen usually uses the love interests as a kind of way to have the main character have someone they can talk to (a form of therapy in itself), and when the romance isn’t enough, the main character’s sanity seems lacking as well.
I give this a 6/10. I did not hate it. I still read it in less than two days. I still loved Dessen’s characters. I just know it could have been better.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

This book won the 2011 Michael L Printz Award. If you don’t know what that is, it’s pretty much the biggest award that can be given to a Young Adult book. The honorees get a big silver P plastered on the cover, and this one (the winner) gets a big gold P. I feel like more people are familiar with the Newberry Award, which is the award granted to Children’s books. Any way, I pay attention to this stuff. I’m a librarian at heart. I also read a lot of book reviews. And pretty much everywhere I turn, this book is praised. It even had good customer reviews on Amazon.
The only negative thing I found at all was from a customer on Amazon, who said this might be more of an adult book than a YA book because the issues were so dark. Clearly, this customer is not familiar with The Hunger Games, or much of any dystopias, or the fact which is thrown at you (in BOLD lettering) at library school that kids/teens thrive on tough issues. Tough issues get reluctant readers to read. And more than that they’re truthful. Pretending that the world has no problems only makes teens mad; they know. We all know. Pretending doesn’t make problems go away.
Any way, this book is fantastic! The story follows Nailer, a boy who simply tries to make it from each day to the next. He lives in what used to be New Orleans. The world seems to be run by oil companies, scavenging for what little resources remain. And Louisiana seems to be split into pieces due to all the hurricanes that the characters refer to as “citykillers.” These hurricanes happen frequently making everyone’s impoverished survival even harder. What Bacigalupi does that at first made me angry, is not explain everything when you need it. For instance, the knowledge of all the hurricanes and devastated cities doesn’t come till the middle of the book. The beginning leaps into action with Nailer scavenging a ship for copper wires for his light crew to sell so they can earn something to eat for the night. I soon came to appreciate the writing style though because it felt real and less forced. If the author took the time to explain every detail in the beginning, like I come to expect, it would be too wordy, and out of character for Nailer, who the book is most about.
In the beginning Nailer falls through the ship he is on into an oil spill and barely survives. He’s considered lucky to have made it out alive and that same night he’s forced to survive a citykiller. This leads to him and his best friend, Pima coming across the luckiest find they could hope for, a fresh “swanky” ship loaded with silver and all sorts of treasures. The kids rescue a girl from the ship, and that’s when the story really takes off. From kidnappings, to machete fights, to jumping trains, to pirating ships, to rescuing friends, and all the fights to the death these characters endure, this is one action-packed book.
Is it dark? Yes, but certainly not more dark than The Hunger Games. Nailer’s father is an abusive alcoholic/drug addict. There are some slightly mentioned political issues involving people referred to as “dogs,” who are forced into a servitude to one master. There’s plenty of mention of harvesters, people who sell body parts on the black market. There are strange religious groups, and all of society seems to be placed into one gang or another. And like The Hunger Games, readers are witness to a society that doesn’t particularly value or care much for children. I’m not used to reading about main characters in YA novels who live in shacks that are known for flying away in bad storms either. Tough issues are dealt with here that involve poverty, trust, and power. And the best thing is that Bacigalupi writes these issues in a way that’s not too preachy. Sometimes it’s clear YA authors are writing to tell kids how to ask for help, but Bacigalupi isn’t doing that. The book isn’t even focused on these issues. It’s about Nailer, and how he grows as a person, and survives.
Despite all of the action, it took me a little longer than expected to really fall into the story. It was hard for me to imagine the ships and the abandoned oil rigs because I have no real knowledge of what they would like. And it took me a long time to relate to Nailer because of how different his life is from mine. A lot of times writers like to play the pity card to get you to like a character right away. (Like Rowling wrote Harry to be an orphan living with cruel relatives and within a couple of pages I felt so bad for him, I had to love him). Bacigalupi doesn’t do that; it’s like he wants you to come to like his characters on your own terms. Yeah, I felt bad for Nailer, but not in the same way I felt pity for Harry Potter (and I’m not insulting Rowling in any way –I love her– I’m just making clear a difference in styles). I came to love Nailer on my own terms, the more I got to see who he was and the kind of decisions he made.
The book was like a mixture of Hinton’s The Outsiders, Collin’s The Hunger Games, and the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. I give it a 10/10.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Twilight Betterthans

Anyone who has every worked with teens, and kids (too) will get this question: If I liked Twilight, what else might I like to read? I even got asked this question by a co-worker at the daycare I currently work at.  (Little tidbits about me: I work in childcare, I volunteer at a library, and I’m applying for library jobs).
Anyway, I don’t feel like tackling the Twilight topic quite yet. Eventually, I will make a post dedicated solely on my opinions of the books, the movies, and the fad. I mean how could I have a YA blog that never discussed it? At the moment, I would like to just share the books I recommend to people who liked Stephenie Meyer’s books. A lot of librarians would call this list Twilight Read Alikes. My own Nori-coined phrase is Betterthans.  I’m not a Twilight hater, but all of these books I’m about to list are definitely better. Also, all of the books listed are the first in a YA series, so when I keep talking about books (in the plural tense) it’s because I am talking about the whole series.
1) The Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

I read these books faster than I read any of the Twilight books. And it’s not because they were short. I read two in a row on one train ride (from Pittsburgh to NYC). And when I got to NYC to see my ex, I made my ex (boyfriend at the time) drive me to Barnes and Noble, so I could buy the next two in the series. The last two weren’t out yet. They are addictive. There’s vampires, there’s those who are chosen to guard the vampires, there’s love triangles, there’s royalty, there’s insane fight scenes, there’s magic, there’s politics, and best of all, the main character kicks serious butt. She’s brave, strong, independent, and the best friend a girl could hope for. Rose is kind of like a modern day, violent version of Elizabeth Bennet. She always questions the rules that mark anyone as inferior. Even if you did not like Twilight, but love YA, by any means possible, pick up these books!
2) City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

I have already reviewed the latest one in this series and discussed one of the covers in this series in my favorite YA book covers entry. Clare’s writing style can easily be compared to Meyer’s and that’s not a huge compliment…yet, for me and a lot of YA readers that’s not the most important thing. I mean come on, I apparently can’t stop blogging about the woman’s work, one way or another.  Clary (the main character in the series) is more like Bella than Rose is; however, by the last book I reviewed in the series, Clary has developed into a much stronger leading lady. These books are great for all the city dwellers out there. It’s amazing urban fantasy. And I highly recommend it to any fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The books are loaded with vampires, werewolves, fairies, demons, and all sorts of creatures living in NYC.  The romance sort of reads like a junior high Manga, but even that gets better as the books go along. Cassandra Clare grows as a writer with each book.
3) Blue Bloods by Melissa De La Cruz

This series (not to be confused with the HBO show, True Bloods) was published less than a year after Twilight first came out. I had read both of the first books in this series around the same time. I really enjoyed both, but liked this one more! This was before Twilight was a movie, became a fad, or even was much of a series yet. Again, this one takes place in NYC and it tells of a different kind of vampire. One that is reincarnated throughout time and that is connected to fallen angels. It mixes Dante, mythology, history, and vampire books all together. It’s creative, and the romance throughout the series is fantastic! This book even beat the next YA craze: fallen angels. There’s upper class NYC teens, amazing dances, murders, ancient history, and even explanations for why all the famous people of the world are as beautiful as they are (they’re vampires…duh).
4) Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

These books are more focused on the romance element than anything and switch points of view between the guy and the girl. They focus on werewolves (not vampires), but I think what I love most about these books (2 so far) is how real the characters are. Edward and the Cullens were fascinating to me, but almost too fascinating. There was a (most likely purposeful) separation from them and the average teen. The characters in Shiver, werewolf or human, just feel like people you know, people you could be friends with. These books were a little less action packed than the others, but definitely weren’t boring. Maybe this helped add to the real-feeling factor.
5) Shadowland by Meg Cabot

It’s been a long time since I read these books (The Mediator series). But like all of the others I have listed, I have read them all multiple times. They involve a girl who can see ghosts. She sees her dad’s ghost. And she sees ghosts all the time; it sort of becomes her job to help them find peace, while simultaneously trying to pass high school. How is this romantic? Well, she kind of falls hard for the ghost who haunts her house (originally her bedroom), and eventually a love triangle happens with another mediator. There are spooky moments, murders solved, and eventually time traveling. I recently had a discussion with one of my friends from library school (Christina), about why everyone loved Cabot’s Princess Diaries books so much more than these...We just don’t know why. Though, it probably has a lot to do with the Disney movies. These books are amazing and have been published a few times, so most libraries should have one publication or another.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting

So, I really did not wait that long before going out and finding the sequel to Derting’s The Body Finder. I don’t think it was as good. If you don’t know what I’m talking about in my review, please read my earlier posting called The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting, where I reviewed the first book in the series.
It starts off not too long after the last one finished. Violet is still finding dead people, and someone from the FBI doesn’t take too long in figuring out that Violet has a gift. She is soon caught up in a couple of murders, one involving the family of her boyfriend’s new best friend. And because Violet is now dating Jay, she feels like she cannot confide in him the same way as she did before when they were just friends. Violet does a lot of things on her own in this book. And there’s a lot of extra side teen drama with her friends and the new guy (Jay’s new bff). There’s even a fun weekend getaway in the snowy woods.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the whole girl with dark powers thing. And I love that she’s finally dating Jay. And I love that she never lets Jay boss her around and tell her what to do. She wouldn’t even speak to him for a week when he said he didn’t believe her about something. So, I love that she stands up for what she believes in. She’s strong to go through everything she does. She’s just kind of dumb. And there were moments in this book, where I was so annoyed by her rash, dumb decisions that the awesomeness that was the dark supernatural murder solving was almost not worth it. 
When I say dumb, I mean that Violet kept repeating the same mistakes she made from the beginning in book 1. Characters really need to grow and learn from past mistakes for me to not to think of them as dumb. Why does she continue to go off in the woods by herself? Why does she not confide in the people who love and support her? She kept saying she didn’t want to worry them, but really, I felt like screaming “Who cares? You are the kid. They are supposed to worry about you.” And how many more times does Jay need to prove himself before you can trust him?
Also, my favorite thing about book 1 was the back and forth point of views between Violet and the killer. Here, the back and forth is between Violet and another girl, who granted has a tough life, but who just isn’t as interesting as the killer from book 1.
So yes, the main character bothered me more in this book than in the previous one. And there was no interesting point of view side story of the killer. But other than that, I did read it in one sitting. I still needed to know the outcome and I still hoped the best for all the characters involved.  I give it a 6/10.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

This book definitely falls under the younger side of Young Adult.  The oldest of the main characters is 12. And the main, main character is 11. However, a young Mr. Potter began his YA succession at age 11 as well. And unless this book comes highly recommended, I don’t see many “young” young adults picking it up. This is mostly because of its size; It’s 486 pages, which again is hitting Harry Potter territory. I also feel that the cover is more appealing to girls. It features an old (almost haunted looking), giant house with kids hanging out outside it, but from afar it looks almost like a castle, and I can see how boys might see this cover and think “Not for me,” or “Too fairy-tale like.”
On the contrary though, this book would be perfect for boys, especially reluctant readers. They would just have to get over the cover and the size (two generally and profoundly important things to young readers). And by all means, before the boy puts down the book or walks away, have them read the back; the back might be the only thing to first draw them in. I’m sensing a pattern with my publishing comments. Clearly, publishing companies need to work with librarians before posting their final book covers.
The story starts with an ad in the paper asking, “Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” And from there we follow an orphan named Reynie who decides he is a gifted child looking for special opportunities. Reynie takes a succession of tests, all of which he passes with flying colors, and all of which are passed by only 3 other children. Everything is tested from problem solving to resourcefulness, to creativity, to bravery, to his ethical sense of right and wrong. The testing is fun because the reader can test him or herself too (both while reading and then after reading because there is a test at the end of the book –with an answer key).
Soon the four children learn they are all parentless (for various reasons) and all extremely talented in different ways. Sticky has a photographic memory. Kate used to be a part of the circus! And she has amazing gymnastic/resourceful skills. Reynie is quickly asked to step forward as leader and is extremely intelligent and quick to solve hard problems. And Constance’s skills aren’t too clear till the end of the book, but once known are possibly the most important of all.
The kids are all brought together by a man named Mr. Benedict, who gives them a secret mission that involves stopping a mass mind control experiment. It’s up to the kids, they soon realize, to save the world from being completely controlled by one person. And it’s a mission only extraordinary children could pull off.
The book is loaded with amazing YA plot devices like mysterious parentage, bullies, disappearing people, unwanted children, secret passages, machines that can both control you and give you exactly you want most, and best of all kid power! I love reading books where it’s clearly the kids who have the most power, and not the adults. The kids in this book are much smarter than the adults. And the adventures they go on can keep anyone up late in the middle of the night guessing clues and figuring things out. The book might even inspire me to learn Morse code. I give it a 9/10 and I highly recommend it for boys and reluctant readers, though I think everyone can find something to love here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

I received a text message not too long ago (maybe a month ago) from a good friend from library school, asking me if I had read either The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting or Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins. It is not that often that I have friends asking me if I have read not one, but two YA books that I haven’t. My friend continued to tell me that they both were Nori-type books, and that I should give them a try. So, thank you Abby. Hex Hall will be read soon, and The Body Finder was definitely my type of book.
The book begins with the main character, Violet, remembering the first time her “ability” took her to a human being. Her ability is to find dead things (animals and people). And her memory was of being drawn to something in the woods, and digging up a dead body, when she was eight years old. Now, she’s a teenager who is in love with her best friend. The only people who know what she can do are her parents, and her best friend. They help her maintain her cemetery. Once she gets drawn to something dead (usually an animal) she doesn’t feel right, or close to normal again until she can burry it. Also, she can tell which people, anywhere, have killed before and connect them to those they have killed. She doesn’t like being around anyone in the military or police. And most cemeteries are hard for her too.
In the midst of Violet’s relationship with her best friend, the other relationship she has with a different guy, and all the standard juicy teen drama, is the story of the serial killer, slowly making his way around Violet’s town and surrounding neighborhoods. When the killer actually kills someone Violet knows, she decides it is time to put her ability to good use.
The thing that absolutely sealed the deal for me with this book was the point of view switches. I talked about how a lot of YA authors are doing books in the point of view of the girl and the guy now, switching off between them. What I have yet to see done anywhere else but here, is the author switching from the point of view of the main character to that of the villain, or in this case the serial killer. The serial killer sections were short and far between Violets’ sections; however, they were the sections that kept me up late at night worrying. I kept reading the serial killer’s point of view, thinking his next victim was Violet because Derting would end a chapter with Violet getting into a car, and the serial killer’s section would start with a girl getting into his car. I kept waiting for the girl to be Violet.
There was a twist that I did not expect, a high school dance, teen parties, a shoot-out at school, a mass search party, some special ability covering up, juicy romance scenes, and a lot of teen horror movie type suspense. This would definitely be a good book to give to reluctant readers (though, I would suggest girls).
The being in love with her best friend thing did get a little old a little fast. The first quarter of the book reminded me a little too much of Dawson’s Creek, with the best friend obsession thing. However, it gets better. And Violet got major points from me for being able to stick up for herself against those she loved. Yes, she loved Jay, but that didn’t mean she never got mad at him.
I would group this book along with Meg Cabot’s 1-800 Where Are You? series and Kelley Armstrong’s first YA series that started with The Summoning. This book is sort of a mixture of those two books, plus the show Dexter. I give it an 8/10.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Entwined by Heather Dixon

This book made it to my post about the best YA book covers. And it also budged two books in line in my To-Read pile. Was it all that it was cracked up to be?
I enjoyed it. And, I want to be a children’s or YA librarian, so I guess it makes sense that I have a soft spot for fairy tales. And this book is made after a fairy tale I adore that does not get all that much attention: The Twelve Dancing Princesses.
The book is about Azalea, the oldest of the twelve princesses. Like another fairy tale I love, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, the book begins with the death of the main character’s mother. Azalea makes a promise to look after her younger sisters. And she does. The girls are required to endure a year of mourning for their mother, where they are not allowed to leave the castle (which is actually pretty bad considering their economic situation). They also have to cover all the windows, stop all clocks at the time of their mother’s death, and have no real contact with the outside world except for R.B (Royal Business), which is mostly the priority of the king. And oh, the king/their father leaves for war almost immediately after the funeral.
Azalea has to decide if mourning is more important than the livelihood of all her sisters. The book is layered with different types of dancing. The mother loved dancing. The girls all love dancing, and for them to all be denied dancing for a whole year is pretty tough. They come across a secret passageway that leads them to a magical place, where they all can dance as if in a ball. The place is monitored by a man named Keeper, who of course is not who he appears to be. There’s romance, there’s dancing, there’s magic tea sets, secret passage ways, and all sorts of other elements thrown in to make this story read like a classic fairy tale.
However, there is a “but” coming. It was magical, but it took me a long time to get into. It’s one of those stories where the main character is almost too good. She puts her sisters before herself. She doesn’t want to let anyone down. She listens to her parents. And I didn’t much care for her unrealistic “goodness.” Eventually, she stands up against her father. And I think that was the moment where I actually grew to like her character. She questions what she does later, but I don’t care. She stood up for what she believed in, and that’s when the story took off!
She fights to the death for her sisters. She stands up to Keeper and even manages to save her kingdom. The characters who never did manage to impress me: most of her sisters. I kind of got to know the second two oldest girls (Bramble and Clover) through their differences in character and romantic interests. But the other sisters were merely just names, like the names of the Lost Boys in Peter Pan. And I know I have said this about other books too, but why am I supposed to care so much about all these girls if I don’t even know them? I mean why should I support all of Azalea’s sacrifices if I don’t really know who is benefitting from them? And okay, I get that it is hard to make 12 different princesses each have their own distinct personality –12 is a lot. But then maybe, change the tale from 12 sisters to 4?  And if that is stretching it too much, at least try to get me to care for the younger a little bit more.
The only other telling of this tale that I loved to pieces and that I definitely think was more successful in detailing all the princesses was Juiliet Marillier’s Wildwood Dancing. However, this book definitely has the prettier cover.
I know I complained about Azalea’s goodness earlier, but I guess this goodness also worked as a positive impact on the piece as a whole because it did make the book seem more like a classic fairy tale then say, Levine’s Ella Enchanted, which had more modern views about women and cultures. This book really felt like it could have been told along a campfire a century or so ago.
All in all, I give it an 8/10. Once I came to like the main character more, it read rather quickly. I especially recommend it to anyone interested in ballroom dancing and anyone in need of a little fairy tale magic.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

I was really excited for this book to come out. I first found it on a book list on Goodreads for upcoming YA books. And before reading any reviews, seeing any blurbs, or anything, I added it to my To-Read list. I was two steps away from preordering it on Amazon.  It took me a while to get around to reading it because the book is pretty massive, and lately I have been favoring ebooks and paperbacks that I can stick in my purse and bring with me to read during my lunch break at work. It’s not super long; it’s 398 pages. It’s just largely shaped and a little heavy.
Any way, I was not disappointed. The book read like a mixture of Maria V. Snyder’s Inside Out and Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron. There were elements of a lot of standard YA dystopias here. Yet, the whole thing was refreshingly unique.
The book starts with Amy, the main character, leaving behind everything she knows –literally, everything. Her parents got themselves chosen to be cryogenically frozen for a 300 year space travel mission to a new planet. Apparently Earth has used up too many resources, and scientists have found another planet to send people that has oxygen, water and all things needed to survive. The thing is, it takes 300 years to travel to this new planet. So, specific people were chosen (for various abilities and specialties in things like science and military) to help start a new life on the new planet. Two of those important people are Amy’s parents, who insisted on bringing Amy as well. She leaves behind her friends, her family, her home, her boyfriend, and everything she knows to be frozen for 3 centuries.
This is one of those books that switches points of view between the main girl and the main guy character. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. It works really well here. The guy is Elder, the future leader of the ship Amy and her parents are frozen on. Any way, it soon becomes clear someone is out to murder the frozen people on the ship, and several (including Amy) were taken out to become unfrozen and die. Elder manages to save Amy though. Too bad for her, she can’t be re-frozen, and it’s doubly bad that the ship is not supposed to land for another 50 years…
The book is part murder mystery, part romance, part science fiction, and part dystopia. The society on this ship is fascinating. All 2000 something people living on the ship, in their various communist style jobs, are all of the same race, ethnicity, skin color, eye color, and sameness; they all have olive skin, with dark hair and brown eyes. And they are taught that differences is what brought all the problems, wars, famines, crusades, apartheids, and anything bad on earth. Amy is pale-skinned with red hair. Many of the people walk around with weapons when she is near by. Others are out to get her for being different. And most try to pretend she doesn’t exist. And it’s really hard to find a murderer when you stand out so much, especially when the current evil dictator seems really bent on just getting rid of you.
Serious topics were addressed here about sex, race, and survival. And the risks and sacrifices people are willing to take to survive. Revis took a not-too impossible sci-fi idea and weaved it into a complicated, moving, believable story. I give this a 10/10.
If you want another perspective on this book, please check the entry on it in another great blog: http://readeroffictions.blogspot.com/. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Favorite YA book Covers

I am not going to lie; one of the biggest appeals to me of any book is the cover. And YA books have some amazing covers. A pretty cover is what draws me in originally, though of course it usually takes more than a cover to persuade me to read something. And yes, there are some really ugly book covers for some really amazing books. For instance, until the last few years, author: Tamora Pierce (one of my top five favorite authors of all time), has had some really ugly/cartoon-like covers for her amazing books. And for some reason, they never seem capable of producing a nice looking cover for Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game in all of its many publications.  And vise versa, not all pretty books have amazing stories to go along with them. Not all of the books I’m about to list (bottom-up) are my favorites; they’re just my favorites to look at.
Number 10: Beautiful Creatures by Kimi Garcia and Margaret Stohl

The cover is kind of simple, but there’s something about the way the font of the letters combine with the tree in the background that just works so well. It promises something dark and gothic. Sometimes simplicity is beautiful. For me, the book did not disappoint either. I love this book and I will probably talk about it again later this year when the third in the series comes out. 

Number 9: Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
I first picked up this book the summer before I entered high school. And it’s one of those books that even after reading and purchasing, I still was drawn to at bookstores. The colors appealed to me, I guess. But looking at all of the books in this series (that only recently ended) all along my bookshelf, I know the publisher was on to something. They are all so anesthetically pleasing to look at, without any real obvious reason. None of the photos on the covers are spectacular, but they all have a bright background for the title. And they all screamed to be picked up by me (especially when I was a teen).

Number 8: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

So…all of her covers are pretty to look at. They all feature an attractive teen main character with a certain city that’s hazy in the background. I think this one is my favorite because of the obvious time period of the character’s dress, and also the city is London. I love urban fantasy. I really love any fantasy in NYC, but there’s just something magical about the history of England.

Number 7: Impossible by Nancy Werlin

This one just has a beautiful photograph. And there’s something about the wind blowing a girl’s hair all over the place that I can just relate to. 

Number 6: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
The cover of this book looks best when on a shelf next to all the other books in the series. Why? Because the cool thing about these covers is that they extend past the front of the book, past the spine, and go slightly on to the back. And this first book, splices up the girl’s face so half is on the cover, nose and mouth are on the spine, and most of the other half is on the back. Also, the photo is great (and kind of simple again), and it’s even greater having read the books because it’s amazing to see the main character before any of the changes she goes through throughout the series.

Number 5: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

So, this cover looks a little Davinci Code-like, but still, I love it. The book is all about two girls, one in today’s time and one from the past. So, I guess the thing I love most about this cover is that it really does a wonderful job of representing the book because as I will talk about for number 4, not all covers and titles adequately show and explain what the book will be about. 

Number 4: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

I absolutely adore this book. When I first read it, as a teen, I felt that the author specifically wrote it just for me, because it had everything I loved about books in it. However, as I mentioned previously, this cover has very little to do with what the book is about. And years later, I still don’t fully get why it is titled what it is. A great and terrible beauty is how I would describe one of the girls in this book, but certainly not the main character and certainly not one of the most relevant/important characters. It could represent what the girls in this book are capable of doing, and ever more broadly all women at this time period, but still…it always kind of bothered me. Any way, I loved the book, and I really loved the cover. I remember the day I bough it in the store because people saw it in my hands and looked at it. Two different people at Barnes and Noble even asked me where I found it in the store, so they could go look at it themselves.

Number 3: Bloody Valentine: a Blue Bloods book by Melissa De La Cruz

This book is the latest in the Blue Bloods series. Between the giant flower, the mini drops of blood, and the lacy framework at the bottom, I can’t stop staring at this book. I also waited impatiently for this one to come out because it involved a certain wedding I was really looking forward to and whenever I look at this book now, I can almost feel that anticipation again.

Number 2: Entwined by Heather Dixon

 I actually haven’t read this one yet. It is two or three books away on my To-Read pile. I just can’t help looking at. The Beautiful gown that turns into the silver vines at the bottom is gorgeous! And there’s a blurry image of a castle toward the top, and so much green for the girl to run through. The vines and the castle also make their way around to the back of the book as well. What girl in her right mind would look at this cover and not want to at least pick it up to read the side-flap summary? It screams of fairy tale! I am really excited to read this, so excited (by how pretty it is) that I might make it budge a book or in two in line. 

Number 1: Darkest Mercy by Melissa Marr

All of the books in Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series have beautiful covers. This is the final book in the series and the first book to show Donia (one of my favorite characters) on the cover. I am sort of seeing a pattern here of silver vines on YA books, but apparently silver vines are a good idea because they made it on to 3 titles on my list…Also, flowers are big on this list too…Why is this cover my favorite of them all? It’s got more to it than the vines and the flower. It’s about frost and magic, and finality. And it’s one of the covers that I think does a good job of representing the story (even though it’s not all about Donia).

Monday, May 2, 2011

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

I sort of have this problem where I keep reading books in a series, even when I don’t like the first one. I really did not like book 1: Hush Hush. The only reason I read it is because it kept showing up for me on lists, on YA read alikes, on all my Amazon recommendation and suggestions pages, and so on. So finally, I picked it up at a Barnes and Noble and just read it in the store. It was not terrible. It could easily be compared to Twilight in the sense that the main character needs a lot of saving and continues to fall harder for this guy who seems terrible (and clearly because of the cover must be a fallen angel).  I’d probably give the first book a 4 or 5 out of 10.
So why did I bother with book 2? I came across both books in a thrift store where YA books are always limited. Both looked fairly new and I spent six dollars for both of them (less than the amount of the first one in paperback).  And okay, I guess I have a book-buying problem. Who buys a book they don’t like that much, along with its sequel? Maybe it was optimism that it would get better. Maybe I need to know how things end, despite how much the story was not that great. Maybe I feel like since I invested my time in reading the first book, I deserve to know what happens, or I deserve something better in the sequel. Who knows why I bought them. But, I am super glad I did!
Crescendo started out in much the same lame way as book 1. The main character stays comparable to Bella Swan. However, as the story continues, Nora is anyone but Bella. She even accomplishes the one thing Bella was never able to do; she breaks up with the creepy guy who is not looking all too good for her! I love Nora’s best friend who has more personality than most YA heroine best friends. I especially love that her best friend kept telling her to back off from the creeper. So, in book 2 Nora became much stronger! Also, the story became a whole lot more interesting. Secrets about Nora’s parents are revealed. You learn about the death of Nora’s father, you learn why the mean girl is so mean to Nora (there is actually a plausible explanation for the cruelty of the mean girl), you learn about these deadly fallen angel cults that force teenagers to join them. You learn about the war between the angels and which angels actually care about the lives of humans (it’s not what you expect). And most of all, the book works like one giant action movie from one kidnap, to a breaking and entering, to a party, to another kidnap, to running for your life, to so much more!
And okay, you learn that the creepy fallen angel love interest isn’t actually the creepy guy he appears to be, but still…just the fact that the main character could put the guy’s bad qualities above her soul mate, crazy love for him, at all, made me give this author a whole new form of respect! Girls need to know that their safety should come before love! Thank you, Becca Fitzpatrick for writing that!
For once, my optimism paid off and I really enjoyed this book (a whole lot more than the first one). I am excited for the third book to come out! Maybe there’s actually a rule that when it comes to fallen angel YA boks, the sequel is always better than the first one. This was also the case with Lauren Kate’s books: Fallen and Torment. Torment was a lot better than the first one in my opinion. Any way, I give this an 8/10.