Thursday, December 22, 2011

Review: Ashes by Ilsa Bick

  Despite the fact that I am Team Unicorn ALL THE WAY (if you do not understand this reference, go read Zombies vs Unicorns. You're welcome) I really loved Ashes.

Alex, the main character, has a brain tumor that is slowly killing her. She can't take it anymore, so one weekend she goes up to the Waucamaw Wilderness, where she used to go all the time with her parents before they were killed in a car accident, with the intention of spreading her parents' ashes on the lakeshore. (I'm guessing that the Waucamaw Wilderness is fictional, because all of the Google hits for it are related to this book.)

She doesn't get the chance to do that, however, since an electromagnetic pulse rips through the area and destroys all of her electronics. Alex is forced to care for Ellie, an eight-year-old girl who has some serious attachment issues, and her dog, Mina, a former bomb-sniffer.

This book is similar in tone to Maureen Johnson's The Name of the Star, and Alex really reminded me of Tris from Divergent. It was really on the violent side for me, (some of the descriptions I had to skip) but the plot was really engaging.

I thought that the relationship between Alex and Tom proceeded at a realistic pace. I did think that Ellie was incredibly dumb and annoying at times, but I think that was the point. I thought that the explanations for everything were reasonable, and for the first time in a while, I only figured things out AS Alex did, even though the clues were there, if I had looked. I also loved how well the title fit the book -- I thought Alex's parent's ashes would come into play a bit more than they actually did, but the world was in ashes, Alex's parent's were ashes, so on.

 So, in short, I really liked it. Despite the fact that there were zombies. The sequel cannot come soon enough.

Ilsa's website can be found here.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I'm Good At Making Excuses: Why I Haven't Posted Much

The title says it all. Basically, I've overloaded myself with writing projects (I'm choosing to focus just on November right now, we'll get to the other months later) and as a result, none of them are being done adequately.

For the last three Novembers (2008, 2009, and 2010), I've done NaNoWriMo. I only won last year. The other two years, there were various technological issues that slowed my progress, and by the time they were resolved, I felt it was too late to catch up and quit. This year, I was bound and determined to finish again, carefully allotting how much I should write each day so I wouldn't have to write during week three. (Two words: tech week.)

And then, on November first, my English teacher informed us that we would be doing our research papers. During November, due December 5th. Suddenly my NaNoing seemed less viable. And clearly, writing the various pieces of the paper are far more important than writing my NaNo, because my grade kind of depends on it.

So that's why I haven't been posting this month.

For all of August, my excuse is I went back to school and was settling back into my routine. September, I felt like I hadn't read anything I could write a lengthy post about. (Yeah, maybe my goals should change... Hm...) October was break and schoolwork, and November is now.

But I'll be better about posting! I have an interview with Victoria Schwab (plus a giveaway!) going up Tuesday!

Seriously, I will post it. I promise.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Review: Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

 I first saw Invincible Summer in May on a display of teen summer books at my local bookstore. I generally don't like "summer books" or "beach reads," Sarah Dessen's books being the notable exception.

I still glanced at it, because the cover kind of confused me (she's on her back, by the way, if that helps.) and I know that covers don't always accurately represent the words in a book. I flipped the book over, determined to at least read the summary, and found it far too fluffy and romancey, so I put the book down. This was clearly not my kind of book.

Then, in mid-July (July 21st, to be exact), Lauren DeStefano urged everyone on Twitter to follow Hannah Moskowitz. I clicked over to Hannah's feed  and saw a link to a blog post she wrote about a cover redesign contest for IS. About halfway down the page was a link to another blog post from earlier this year, about the controversy surrounding the cover. I read that post. And I was absolutely horrified with myself.

I  had convinced myself that IS was some vapid summer book, and then I promptly forgot about it. This was obviously not the case. This was a book that had a devoted fan base, a cover controversy, and, what really made me interested, it was about sign language. Hannah said something in that post that really drove me to get a copy of the book. What she said was, "When you don't pick up a book because of its cover, you are not punishing the design team.... You are punishing the author."

I went and ordered it from the bookstore soon after. This in itself was a huge leap of faith for me. I only buy books I am very sure I will read a million times and cherish and love. I did not know that Invincible Summer would be one of those books, but I was determined to give Hannah Moskowitz and her book a second chance, since I didn't really give either a first one.

It took absolutely forever to arrive, and when it finally did, I waited to begin it until I could give it my undivided attention. I quickly realized I needed to have a pencil handy while reading it, as it is one of those books that begs to be marked in, like required reading that you grow to love. A lot of the marked passages are just Camus quotes, but a fair bit is writing in the margins in response to a character or underlining lines that hint at a greater truth.

Don't go into Invincible Summer expecting a beach read. It isn't one. The closest comparison I have is Shiver in the summer with sand instead of snow, and sibling-love instead of romantic-love. IS is the kind of novel that finds truth and rips it open even further to find an even deeper truth. It's the kind of book I want to recommend to everyone I know or see, but I know that for most people, it will be "too something," and they will not read it.

IS is a rare kind of book. I hate that because of closed-minded people like past-me who won't read it, it is likely to be lost in the shuffle. And that would be an enormously wasteful tragedy. So ignore the back cover summary and the tagline. This book is not about Melinda. Melinda is a distraction. She isn't the one on the cover. That would be Claudia. Claudia, the 11/12/13/14-year old who gets in trouble for wearing makeup and indecent exposure and kissing a waitress and not reading Camus. Claudia, who is both so so young and so so old. You-as-the-reader want to plead with her to cling to her innocence.

I think that at its core, Invincible Summer is about the loss of innocence and our struggle to accept it. It is also about love and acceptance and being yourself and trying, no matter how hard it may be. It's the kind of book I would love to have the chance to pick apart and analyze in a critical essay.

Don't just take my word for it. Go check it out of the library , buy it, or borrow it from a friend. Then, when you're done, pass it on. A story like this deserves to live on forever. Or at least, as long as summers hold a special place in our hearts.

hannah's blog, formspring, Twitter, and website.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Review: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

I'm having a very difficult time explaining why I like this book so much, so it might be easier if I just made a bulleted list.

Why I liked Hourglass, in ten points.

  • It took me FOREVER to figure out that the cover image was of a girl standing on a wall. After I figured that out, I suddenly liked the cover a lot more, and felt the image was a lot more striking.

    • Basically, this whole book is like that. You start reading it, you think it's pretty nice, fairly good, a good read... and then you figure things out and it's like WHAM. It gets about three times as awesome.

      • I really loved Emerson's voice. She reminded me a lot of Evie from Paranormalcy, in the best way possible. 

        • The time travel explanation MADE SENSE.  It also didn't establish that the future is already set, which I liked.

          • Michael! This love interest is a gentleman. A rare thing to be seen in YA now, apparently. He reminded me of movie-Michael from the Princess Diaries, which is, you know, a HUGE compliment.

            • I really liked Lily. Her best-friend-ness isn't fake at all, and it seemed like the relationship between her and Emerson was completely true, without being too "We share EVERYTHING with each other!" 

              • Some twists I saw way ahead of time, but others bowled me over. One, in particular, nearly made me chuck the book across the room, but I didn't, because I needed to know what happened next.
              • Thomas and Dru were awesome characters. Like Reese in Blood Magic, they balance between well-meaning parents and understanding sibling/sibling-in-law, but it's a role that is under-appreciated in the books I've read lately. 

                • Hourglass is set in the South, yet it doesn't feel overly Gothic or drawly to me. A few books I've read that are specifically set in the South always feel too overwrought to me, but this is managed perfectly.

                  • I hesitate to compare Hourglass to The Time Traveler's Wife, but... they are similar. It isn't near as depressingly sad, but the writing is just as vivid, there's the time travel - of course - and the love story is, well, lovely.

                  Myra McEntire's blog, Facebook, and twitter.

                    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

                    Review: Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

                    Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

                    It didn't take me very long to figure out that I would like this book. First of all, the cover is GORGEOUS, and I think it fits the tone and location of the book rather well. Second, Kiersten White had a blurb on it, and since I really liked Paranormalcy, I thought I would probably like Starcrossed.

                    And I did! The characterisation is what really grabbed me. I felt like each character was a real person, fully believable despite their... abilities. The setting (Nantucket) really felt like a character of its own, and all of the descriptions -- of everything -- were perfectly spot on and I could close my eyes and feel like Helen must have felt at that moment in the story.

                    I loved loved loved the flying bits. I also really enjoyed challenging my poor summer-ified brain to figure out what famous mythological heroes the characters were named after, and Creon stumped me until five minutes after I finished the book (way past my bedtime) and was trying to fall asleep. And to think, that was a name we actually learned in school. Hm...

                    My only issue was, I never quite untangled the Delos family tree. I understand that Castor is married to Noel, and they're the parents of Luke and Cassandra, but I really struggled as to how Pandora fit in. I've also heard a lot of comparisons to Twilight, but honestly, they aren't even in the same ballpark. The relationship between Helen and Lucas felt realistic, and not at all co-dependent or obsessive.

                    Even though there have been a lot of re-done myths lately, Starcrossed is really special. The writing style was like Maggie Stiefvater crossed with Cassandra Clare with a sprinkling of Stephanie Perkins. I am very excited for the sequel, even if I do have to wait nearly a year for it. If it's anywhere near as good as Starcrossed, it will be worth the wait.

                    Josephine Angelini's blog, Facebook, twitter, and website.

                    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

                    Review: Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

                    Format: Hardcover from local library

                    Summary from Tessa's website:
                    For Nick Pardee and Silla Kennicot, the cemetery is the center of everything.

                    Nick is a city boy angry at being forced to move back to the nowhere town of Yaleylah, Missouri where he grew up. He can’t help remembering his mom and the blood magic she practiced – memories he’s tried for five years to escape. Silla, though, doesn’t want to forget; her parents’ apparent murder-suicide left her numb and needing answers. When a book of magic spells in her dad’s handwriting appears on her doorstep, she sees her chance to unravel the mystery of their deaths.

                    Together they plunge into the world of dark magic, but when a hundred-year-old blood witch comes hunting for the bones of Silla’s parents and the spell book, Nick and Silla will have to let go of everything they believe about who they are, the nature of life and death, and the deadly secrets that hide in blood.

                    My thoughts: I originally put this book on hold because Tessa is one of Maggie Stiefvater's crit partners, and since I love Maggie's books, I figured that I would like Tessa's. I wasn't disappointed. Blood Magic is really well-written, with a couple of twists that I never saw coming.

                    On the whole, the book was excellent. There was one scene, however, that seriously grossed me out. I think that in just about any other book, this scene would have been close enough to the start of the story that I would be able to put the book down and walk away. But I wasn't able to. I did put the book down for a minute, but then I picked it back up, saying to myself, "No. This book is too good to put down just because of one ooky scene."

                    That being said, I really loved the dual narrative, which felt totally natural. I loved Silla's relationship with her brother Reese (Yay for healthy sibling relationships!), and I felt bad for Nick and his issues with his stepmother Lilith. At first, I was kind of confused as to why Lilith's name would be so obvious, but it made a certain sense that your (evil) stepmother's name would be the same as that of the mother of all demons

                    I felt that Nick and Silla's relationship progressed as naturally as you would expect it to when magic was involved, and I really liked that Nick wasn't controlling or manipulative or anything like that. He had his own problems, as did Silla, and it was nice to have the romance as an underlying plot instead of The Main Reason the story happens.

                    In short, Blood Magic is a fantastic book, and you should definitely read it. It's creepy, not enough so that it will keep you up at night, but enough that you'll be watching people's eyes very closely for a couple of days.

                    Tessa's blog, Facebook, Goodreads, twitter, and website. (There will be a companion novel, Blood Keeper, set to be published summer 2012.)

                    Saturday, July 09, 2011

                    Review: Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

                    Format: ARC won at the San Francisco this is teen event

                    Release date (hardcover): Tuesday, 12th July, 2011

                    Summary from Goodreads:  
                    When Sam met Grace, he was a wolf and she was a girl. Eventually he found a way to become a boy, and their love moved from a curious distance to the intense closeness of shared lives.
                    That should have been the end of their story. But Grace was not meant to stay human. Now she is the wolf. And the wolves of Mercy Falls are about to be killed in one final, spectacular hunt.
                    Sam would do anything for Grace. But can one boy and one love really change a hostile, predatory world? The past, the present, and the future are about to collide in one pure moment - a moment of death or life, farewell or forever.

                    My thoughts: I have tried to write this review at least four times now, and everything I come up with doesn't come anywhere close to describing the sheer awesomeness of this book. 

                    Forever was everything I wanted in the conclusion to the Wolves of Mercy Falls, and it had scenes and descriptions and plot events that I never even knew I wanted. For example, Isabel doesn't like Tuesdays. Cole turns into a mad scientist. And so so many other things, including a wonderful scene with the Northern Lights that Maggie said was based on something that she did as a child.

                    You will cry while reading this book. I would advise having tissues with you for at least the last half. I cried three times in long stretches, and nearly cried a few more. But then, I laughed out loud, startling my family, more than a dozen times (and managed to stifle my laughter on five other occasions).

                    I feel as if I'm not doing the book justice at all, but trust me when I say it's awesome. And worth the wait, and heartbreaking, and exhilarating, and just plain beautiful. Basically, if you've read Shiver and Linger, you'll love Forever even more. If you aren't already planning to buy this book on the day it comes out, you need to rethink that.
                    Also, a moment (narrated by Sam) that I found particularly funny out-of-context, and wanted to share with anyone desperate for small tidbits: "In my pocket."
                    Cole looked down.
                    "I'm not wearing my pants anymore," I said.
                    Cole looked at the step. "No, you aren't."

                    Find Maggie Stiefvater on her blog, Facebook, Goodreads, twitter and website.  

                    Thursday, July 07, 2011

                    First Post

                    Hello to anyone who is reading this. I started this blog as a way to reach a wider audience when discussing books, and also to connect with other book bloggers and authors that I look up to.

                    Since this is all new to me, my reviewing style may vary wildly, but over time, I'll find a style I like, and (hopefully) stick with that.

                    Thank you so much for visiting, check back again soon!