Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A&L DO SUMMER by Jan Blazanin

YA Contemporary
288 pages
Available Now
Review copy provided by publisher


I'd like to say something clever, but my tongue is paralyzed. This guy is tall and built and -- okay, maybe he's not exactly handsome. Wait, that's not true. He is exactly handsome. From ten feet away I can see the electric blue of his eyes. All of that put together makes him the Superman of redheads.


After a year in rural Cottonwood Creek, Iowa, city girl Laurel is still adjusting to a place where parties take place in barns, guys ride around in pickup trucks, and a killer senior prank involves getting pigs into the principal's office. Fortunately, she has her best friend Aspen in her side. The real problem is that neither the country girl nor the city slicker have boyfriends, nor any prospect for getting them. Clearly, they need to raise their profiles -- and they have a summer to do it.


After I tell you how cute this book is and how it's a great summer beach/pool/lake read (it was!), I have to point out that this blurb just doesn't fit the book (of course, I did get the blurb off the back of an ARC but it's also like that on Amazon, so I'm not sure if they changed it for the printing or not). First off, while Laurel is one of the two main characters, she's not the one telling the story. That quote in italics up there? Is from Aspen, the main-main character and the one telling the story (in first person). Now, Laurel, she's the spark plug, the "naughty" (more adventurous and bored than anything) one who drags Aspen into all kinds of trouble over the summer but she's not actually doing any of the telling.


Oh, how I love summer books. There's just something about the lightness, the freedom that comes with summer -- heat, sunshine, lemonade, crappy summer jobs so you have enough money to buy the clothes you want rather than what Mom'll buy you, flirting with cute boys, and freedom. This book speaks to all that (though Aspen and Laurel do manage to lose their freedom several times during their summer adventures) and made me long for summer.


Aspen reminds me a lot of myself when I was her age. She's got one best friend who she does everything with, she's kind of easily influenced and talked into things that aren't always the best ideas, and she has a hard time standing up for herself and saying no. This gets her in all kinds of trouble with her parents, the police, Laurel, and the local bully-boys (Holy cow, I hate them. Mean as snakes, those boys are! Yes, I'm channeling my inner Yoda.). But she learns from her mistakes and grows as an individual through those experiences.


Then there's the boy. Clay. The ginger with the electric blue eyes. He sees her at her very worst (Stinking of pig poop? Check. Busted by the cops? Check. Puking her guts out after too much Jungle Juice? Check.) and still likes her. All throughout the book, we're teased by the possibility of a relationship. Aspen's brother keeps telling her that Clay likes her. Aspen melts when she sees him. But nothing happens for the longest time. So frustrating! (But realistic, especially in regards to this character.)


Aspen and Laurel are very cute teens just trying to have a good summer before their last year in high school. A&L DO SUMMER is a fast, sweet, funny story that had me cringing (uhg, when Aspen drank so much at that barn party -- poor girl. Been there, tossed my cookies like that.) and rooting for the girls. I definitely recommend this one.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!

This is a little late in coming and the day's almost over but:


HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY! 
Thank you so much to all those who've served and given of themselves in defense of our country.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday Quickie: THE GATHERING by Kelley Armstrong

YA Paranormal
359 pages
Available now
Review copy purchased


Sixteen-year-old Maya is just an ordinary teen in an ordinary town. Sure, she doesn't know much about her background - the only thing she really has to cling to is an odd paw-print birthmark on her hip - but she never really put much thought into who her parents were or how she ended up with her adopted parents in this tiny medical-research community on Vancouver Island.

Until now. Strange things have been happening in this claustrophobic town - from the mountain lions that have been approaching Maya to her best friend's hidden talent for "feeling" out people and situations, to the sexy new bad boy who makes Maya feel . . . . different. Combine that with a few unexplained deaths and a mystery involving Maya's biological parents and it's easy to suspect that this town might have more than its share of skeletons in its closet. 



I'm going to do this the way we did in elementary school, with three positives and a wish.


Positive: Maya. She's a strong, independent girl who has interests and abilities that make her into an interesting individual. She isn't a limp dishrag when it comes to guys and doesn't let anyone walk all over her. She's a genuinely caring person who looks out for her friends -- both human and animal. I'm curious to know more about her and her abilities. 


Positive: The setting. A remote island in Canada that's also part of a large national park? Yes, please! A mysterious medical company and small town of locals who are fiercely protective of their island? Sign me up.


Positive: The family dynamic. Maya's parents genuinely loved and cared for Maya and she felt the same way about them. Their relationship is a positive one, not like many YA books where the parents are neglectful or absent or, yanno, dead.


Wish: The plot's pacing. I wish that this book had less set-up and more action. While I enjoyed getting to know Maya and all that, I came up with too many questions and not enough answers (yes, I know it's a trilogy but surely *some* questions can be answered!). Still, it's well-written enough to keep me intrigued, and I'll definitely be picking up the next novel in this series.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Teen Talk: Dystopian/Apocalyptic Novels

So my students have been reading dystopian/apocalyptic novels in class (some rather reluctantly, I might add). I book-talked about 13 different novels for them including some classics and many brand-new ones, as well as a couple from their high school summer reading list. After they'd read a couple of chapters, I asked them why they chose that particular novel and what they thought about it, now that they were into it. Here are some of their answers from the most popular of the novels:

HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins
“I was surprised how quickly they got into the story.” –Rebecca

“The author holds my interest with the elements of suspense, characters, and the Hunger Games itself.” –Amber

“[This] was my choice of book not only because of the recommendations I received from teachers, peers, and others to read it, but…how easily I was able to pick it up and read.” –Brendan
 
FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan
“I have never wanted to read a novel in this genre but this book got me hooked from the start.” –Corrine 

“I though this book would be super-boring. Like just dry and everything. Come to find out, I was COMPLETELY wrong. I think I’m in absolute love with this book.” –Anna

THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner
“[After reading the blurb], I knew it was the book I wanted to read. So I basically immediately got hooked on it! And, of course, when I picked it up, I couldn’t set it down!” –Basil 

“It had a really good rating on GoodReads. I’m glad I chose it; it’s a really good book so far. It’s extremely suspenseful.” –Jessica

DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver
“Delirium was not originally my first choice…[But] After a classmate told me what the book was about and how amazing it was, I was sold.” –Taylor

WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams
“I did not really get to choose this book…but I am actually kind of happy that I got stuck with [it]. …I am so excited to see what will happen to the burrow and the author really has me sitting on the edge of my chair for this reason.” –JC
 
FAHRENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury
 “This novel had me from the first page, which is always a good sign. It started out with the words: ‘It was a pleasure to burn.’ As soon as I read that sentence, I knew I was going to have fun reading this book.” –Cody

UNWIND by Neal Shusterman
“This book just appeals to me because it is creative and different. There are also so many unique components.” –Zane
 
ENCLAVE by Ann Aguirre
“Enclave so far has been a very great book. The way this book has sort of a mysterious feeling, really has me wanting to keep reading…I can’t wait to finish it.” –Michael

EPITAPH ROAD by David Patneaude
“I chose this book because it sounded like it would be adventurous and mysterious.” –Ashley

Thursday, May 26, 2011

THE GIRL IN THE STEEL CORSET by Kady Cross

YA Steampunk
336 pages
Available now
Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley

In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one…except the "thing" inside her. When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch….

Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.
Griffin's investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help—and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.

But The Machinist wants to tear Griff's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on—even if it seems no one believes her.


I wish there were more steampunk books out there like this one because I really enjoyed THE GIRL IN THE STEEL CORSET! There's something about the steampunk genre that I really like though I'm not sure if it's the fussy little mechanicals or the steam-powered vehicles (Steam horses FTW!) or the hint of a supernatural element that threads its way through the genre. Probably a combination of all these things.


This novel has all those things plus a naughty villain with plans to take over the world, a two-sided/dual-natured heroine, and a little clan of crime-fighting teens all set in a steampunk version of Victorian England. Awesome! I really liked Finley, who just jumped off the page with her bad-arsed fighting skillz and fear about her "darker side" making its appearance.


Of course, there's a love triangle between Finley, the duke, and the bad boy, something that seems to have become a YA romance staple (not a fan myself, usually. Every once in a while, sure. 99% of the time, not so much. Anyway...) but, despite the author being a romance writer (under a different name) as well as a debut YA author, it doesn't dominate the entire story. Instead, our intrepid heroine and her new partners have to figure out who The Machinist is and what he was doing -- then save England from animatronic domination (ooh, doesn't that sound awesome? Fun to say, too!).


Despite having this book in ebook form, I pre-ordered it so I could have it in physical book form, too, and I have to say--it's such a cute little book! It's a hardback but it's the size of a paperback. I don't know if this is a nod to the author's romance paperback roots or what but I kind of like it for a change from the trade paperbacks dominating my shelves. 


I'm really looking forward to Kady Cross's next book in her Steampunk Chronicles!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

HOURGLASS by Myra McEntire


YA Paranormal Romance
397 pages
Available June 14, 2011
Review copy provided by publisher for honest review

One hour to rewrite the past . . . 
For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.

So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past. Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

Wow. This story was super-cool and so very different than anything I've read in quite a while. The main character, Emerson, is awesome. She's completely vulnerable at times but with an iron core of strength that makes her so appealing. And her family -- her older brother and his wife -- are fantastic. They care so much about each other and are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to make each other content and comfortable.

For the longest time, Emerson thought she was crazy because she saw things that weren't there. People from times gone by would sit around and chat with her, if she let them. People who would disappear as soon as she touched them.  She still doesn't really know what they are or why they appear to her and not her brother or his wife but, by the time we meet her, she's tired of being poked, prodded and medicated. Even though they still freak her out, she's somewhat resigned to her "visions" existing in the same space as her. 

Then her brother hires someone new who claims he can help her. Michael says he knows what she's going through, that he sees what she can see and he understands. Emerson is reluctant, especially considering all the other charlatans her brother's hired in an effort to help her with her problem. But Michael's cute and he proves himself to be the real deal. Except...he's got secrets. Secrets he's very reluctant to share, though he wants to know everything about Emerson.


Like Emerson, I wasn't sure what to think of Michael at first. He set off my BS-meter, especially with his overreaction to Emerson's attempt to find out more about Hourglass, the mysterious organization where Michael works. But serious fireworks explode between Michael and Emerson. Even though Michael acts like he's so much older than Emerson, he's really only a couple of years older. He's so unwilling to let Emerson in, she practically has to get out a ladder to scale his walls. And it's not like she doesn't have walls of her own. 


There's such a great story going on here. Time travel, magic, plots within plots, betrayals, and so many twists and turns, you won't be able to put the book down until the very last page. Then, you'll beg for more and, lucky for us, there will be! (Thank goodness there isn't a cliffhanger--those drive me nuts.) I highly recommend HOURGLASS.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

THE WITCHES OF EAST END by Melissa de la Cruz

Adult Paranormal
288 pages
Available June 21, 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

The three Beauchamp women--Joanna and her daughters Freya and Ingrid--live in North Hampton, out on the tip of Long Island. Their beautiful, mist-shrouded town seems almost stuck in time, and all three women lead seemingly quiet, uneventful existences. But they are harboring a mighty secret--they are powerful witches banned from using their magic. Joanna can resurrect people from the dead and heal the most serious of injuries. Ingrid, her bookish daughter, has the ability to predict the future and weave knots that can solve anything from infertility to infidelity. And finally, there's Freya, the wild child, who has a charm or a potion that can cure most any heartache.

For centuries, all three women have been forced to suppress their abilities. But then Freya, who is about to get married to the wealthy and mysterious Bran Gardiner, finds that her increasingly complicated romantic life makes it more difficult than ever to hide her secret. Soon Ingrid and Joanna confront similar dilemmas, and the Beauchamp women realize they can no longer conceal their true selves. They unearth their wands from the attic, dust off their broomsticks, and begin casting spells on the townspeople. It all seems like a bit of good-natured, innocent magic, but then mysterious, violent attacks begin to plague the town. When a young girl disappears over the Fourth of July weekend, they realize it's time to uncover who and what dark forces are working against them.

Though this story started out rather slow for me (I think, perhaps, it would have been better to lose the prologue. As often is the case, the prologue just bogged things down.), by the end of the first chapter, I was sucked into a world of old magic, immortal witches, a "hidden" town, and star-crossed loves. Once I was caught up in it, this book didn't leave my hands until I finished it.

It all starts with Freya. She's the youngest daughter of Joanna Beauchamp and engaged to Bran, a handsome philanthropist (too bad she can't keep her hands off his brother, Killian, a smoldering hottie). Despite the restriction against her kind using their powers, she can't help but whip up a cocktail with a little extra oomph for a friend whose heart is breaking. After all, a little magic never did any harm, did it? Then her sister, Ingrid, uses her magic to help a friend "unknot" herself and get pregnant. Soon, the whole town knows that Freya's cocktails make the night so much more fun and Ingrid can help cure those niggling ills. Joanna is a bit more reluctant to use her magic but she does to put a smile on a little boy's face -- and to bring a friend back from the dead. (Zombies and griffins and vampires, oh my!) But this story isn't just about these three women. No, there's something rotten in the town of New Hampton and it's up to the women to find out what's causing the trouble before the townspeople decide it's the witches who are the problem.

While I would have liked to get to know the characters a bit more individually, each woman is distinctive in her personality and in her brand of magic. Freya is the wild child, full of fun and sex and power. Ingrid is the staid librarian (literally and figuratively), winding and unwinding spells to create happy, healthy people. Joanna is the matriarch, able to bring back people and other living things from the brink of death. I look forward to seeing them develop in the next book of this new series.

Melissa de la Cruz artfully blends Norse mythology with witchcraft and the Salem Witch Trials to create the Beauchamp family. I really liked how she wove together threads from the myths and magic and, since she had several of her Blue Blood characters wander into this story, I'm wondering how far she'll blend her two worlds. Her first foray into the world of adult novels, de la Cruz takes the reader on an intriguing ride. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

HEXBOUND by Chloe Neill

YA Paranormal
224 pages
Available now
Review copy provided by publisher


Lily Parker is new to St. Sophia’s School for Girls, but she’s already learned that magic can be your best friend…or your worst enemy.

They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. Turns out, even a little magic can turn you to the dark side. That’s why Lily has to learn how to control her newly discovered paranormal abilities, on top of avoiding the snobs who think they run her school, nursing a crush on a cute sophomore with a big, werewolf-y secret, and fighting the good fight with her best friend Scout as they take on Chicago’s nastiest nightlife—including the tainted magic users known as Reapers.

Then Lily’s invited to a private meeting with Sebastian. He’s hot, powerful, and offering to help her harness the magic flowing in her veins in a way no one else can. He’s also a Reaper. Lily can’t hide her suspicions. But she’ll soon find out that the line between good and evil isn’t always clear…


Lily and her BFF (best friend forever), Scout, are part of the Dark Elite, kids who fight the evil crawling around Chicagoland. During the day, they're your typical boarding school teens, lusting after cute boys, snarking about the local queen bee/mean girls, and going to classes. I really like these two characters. They have their own quirks and flaws but are still trying to do the right thing, despite the fact that, if they don't give up their powers when they get older, they'll turn evil and become Reapers, ex-Elite who suck the magic out of (and ultimately kill) other Dark Elites. Yes, it's a tangled web. One that gets even more tangled when you factor in Sebastian.

Sebastian is a Reaper but it seems like he's trying to help out Lily. In the first book, he did help her learn a bit about her powers and, in this story, he's always skulking around, appearing to feed Lily little tidbits of information. Some of this information is useful and some is just confusing. Plus, Lily's got feelings for Sebastian and she's not sure what to do about it. He's bad, right? That's what I want to know. It's like Neill is teasing me with the lack of information about Sebastian, enjoying my frustration. He's an intriguing character and, like Lily, I want to know what his deal is.

I like how Neill introduces aspects from her adult vampire novels (Chicagoland Vampires—and awesome series if you haven't read it!). There are some new baddies in town, slimy, vamp-like, slug creatures (yes, they're as pretty as they sound) and the kids have to enlist the help of another group of Dark Elite as well as get some info from the vamps. The answer to the mystery is rather obvious, with the clues dropping like breadcrumbs in front of the kids.

There's great potential in this series, potential that I don't think it's quite reached yet. Because this series is done episode-style, much like Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampire series, there's a major mystery surrounding Lily's parents, the company they work for, and Lily's boarding school itself, including the headmistress. So, the set-up is there but it's a bit too unclear at the moment. However, I have the feeling, as we progress, the pieces will start to fall into place.

All in all, a fun, fast read with great characters and a mysteriously dark city for 
them to play, love and fight in.


Cross-posted to The Book Binge.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saturday Quickie: ABANDON by Meg Cabot


YA Paranormal Romance
304 pages
Available now
Review copy purchased

Though she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can't help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she's never alone . . . because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.
But now she's moved to a new town. Maybe at her new school, she can start fresh. Maybe she can stop feeling so afraid. Only she can't. Because even here, he finds her. That's how desperately he wants her back. She knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly heaven, yet she can't stay away . . . especially since he always appears when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most. But if she lets herself fall any further, she may just find herself back in the one place she most fears: the Underworld.



Now this is how you take a myth and spin it to modern times. Abandon was great--I loved the main character, Pierce, with her struggles and issues. Despite those, she still worries about others first. And the mysterious guy...I do love a good mysterious guy, especially one who sticks to the shadows but leaps forward to help out his girl if she needs it (but did his name have to be John? It just didn't seem to fit him. Maybe that's just me.)


This story can get a tad bit confusing because Pierce relives parts of her difficult past through a series of flashbacks but they're important because they explain who she is, what happened to her and why her mother felt she needed a fresh start. Plus, it explains a lot of her motives for doing what she does in the present. 


As always, Meg Cabot tells a great story in ABANDON. I can't wait for the next book in this trilogy. (Oooh, bring on the Furies -- they're bad, bad, bad!)

Friday, May 20, 2011

BEAUTY QUEENS by Libba Bray

YA Contemporary (Satire)
400 pages
Available May 24, 2011
Review copy provided by publisher


From bestselling, Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray, the story of a plane of beauty pageant contestants that crashes on a desert island.
Teen beauty queens. A "Lost"-like island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to email. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives underground in girls, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count.



If you liked GOING BOVINE, this book's for you. If you like over-the-top social satire with a side helping of snark and wit, this book's for you. If you laughed when you saw the cover (a bandolier of lipstick? Love!), this book, yep, it's for you. Libba Bray's newest offering, BEAUTY QUEENS, isn't for everyone but personally, I enjoyed the heck out of it (if my snorts of laughter were any indication).


When a plane load of girls in the Miss Teen Dream beauty pageant (sponsored by The Corporation) crash-land on a not-so-deserted island, the beauty queens must survive until someone comes to rescue them. Led by Taylor Rene Krystal Hawkins, Miss Teen Dream Texas (the state where dreams are bigger and better), the girls scavenge the wreckage of the plane for supplies and survivors. Only fourteen of the fifty states survived and, besides some very essential beauty products like teeth-bleaching trays and flatirons, a few bags of pretzels and bottles of water. What's a girl to do? Why, practice the Miss Teen Dream dance routine, by golly! As Taylor says, they have to be ready for the judges when the rescue boats come though Adina, Miss New Hampshire and first runner up to Miss Texas, would disagree.


But the girls soon realize they need more than beauty and the perfect wave if they're going to survive. They need food and shelter and they'll have to use their ingenuity and hidden talents to do it. Talents which aren't considered very lady-like or Teen Dream-y by The Corporation and, in turn, by America.


BEAUTY QUEENS is most definitely a social satire, poking fun at the ridiculousness of judging people based on looks and trying to fit them into little boxes, the over-the-top advertising and products, the political arena as a whole, the eye-popping reality TV shows, and the corporate bailouts that are so prevalent in our society today. The pageant contestants themselves are like political cartoons, their stereotypical backgrounds and not-so-natural looks blown out of proportion: the dumb one, the smart one, the lesbian, the cheerleader, the transsexual, the Indian one, the African American one, the poor one, the rebellious one...all stereotypes. 


However, on that island, away from the influence of parents, TV, advertisements, and The Corporation (which has a hand in every aspect of these girls' lives), the girls start to break out of these stereotypes. They find themselves under all that makeup, hair care products, and brainwashing. They go feral -- and it's awesome. I wanted to stand up and cheer, especially when they go all Swiss Family Robinson and build huts, latrines, a water filtration system, and figure out how to hunt and take care of themselves and each other.


There's a lot more to this story than a bunch of girls getting all empowered on the beach (Grrl power!). There are also hot pirate boys, dirty politicians, a secret facility hidden in the island's volcano, man-eating snakes, exploding depilatory cream, and a stuffed lemur named General Good Times. Again, awesome.


This book is not for younger teens. There's some strong language, sex (though it's not very graphic), violence (if you call a girl snapping a man's neck violent), and a variety of topics that are not appropriate for less mature teens (really). Besides that, as with most satire, it requires a more mature, more aware, and open mind to fully appreciate the humor, in my opinion. 


BEAUTY QUEENS takes all that's wrong with the world and makes it oh, so right.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

THE RUNNING DREAM by Wendelin Van Draanen


YA Contemporary
352 pages
Available now
Review copy purchased

Jessica thinks her life is over when she loses a leg in a car accident. She's not comforted by the news that she'll be able to walk with the help of a prosthetic leg. Who cares about walking when you live to run?
As she struggles to cope with crutches and a first cyborg-like prosthetic, Jessica feels oddly both in the spotlight and invisible. People who don't know what to say, act like she's not there. Which she could handle better if she weren't now keenly aware that she'd done the same thing herself to a girl with CP named Rosa. A girl who is going to tutor her through all the math she's missed. A girl who sees right into the heart of her.
With the support of family, friends, a coach, and her track teammates, Jessica may actually be able to run again. But that's not enough for her now. She doesn't just want to cross finish lines herself—she wants to take Rosa with her.

Y'all. This book. Is. Amazing. I so love a good triumph-over-the-odds story and this one totally fits the bill. Wendelin Van Draanen has such a way of both telling a story while getting to the heart of her characters, it's awe-inspiring. And, instead of babbling on and on about how much I loved this book, I'll leave you with this quick video -- the guy at the end is how I pictured Jessica:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

SERPENT'S STORM by Amber Benson

Adult Urban Fantasy
320 pages
Available now
Review copy provided by publisher


Calliope just wants to make it big in the Big Apple like any other working girl. But Callie is also Death's Daughter, no matter how much she tries to stay out of the family business. And now her older sister has made a deal with the Devil himself to engage in a hostile takeover of both Death Inc. and Heaven-once they get Callie out of the way.
THIS BOOK IS RATED:
The third book in the Calliope Reaper-Jones series, SERPENT'S STORM certainly packs a punch. While Callie's experiencing…well, shall we say, the bliss of coupledom with her hot man, her psycho sister, Thalia, escapes from Purgatory and heads out to wreak havoc with the Devil at her side. 

So, Callie trots off to work, totally unaware that her entire life is about to transform. Normal? That's just not gonna happen for poor Callie, no matter how much she may want an average life. Death's Daughter's life is about to change completely—starting with several rather shocking deaths.

Amber Benson certainly enjoys putting her characters through Hell (and Purgatory and Heaven). Callie doesn't have time to recover from one blow when another knocks her upside the head and sends her reeling. Unfortunately, she doesn't take the proactive approach, and I really wish she would. It's understandable that she doesn't want to get too involved in her father's business; it is all about death and running Purgatory, after all, and she'd love nothing more than to be normal. But she has more of a duck-and-cover attitude rather than stepping up and learning about her powers, her father's job as Death, and all the intricacies of this paranormal life she's a reluctant part of. Really, there were so many times I just wanted to shake her and tell her to stop acting like such a wimpy, airheaded girl.

Daniel (Callie's hot boyfriend) pretty much disappears for much of the book, leaving Callie in the lurch. She really could have used his help and his knowledge. Of course, it's not really his fault but still. So I guess it's no wonder Callie's intrigued by this new, scruffy guy who shows up while she's running around trying to save Purgatory from Thalia and the Devil. But even if this dude is cute in a Seattle-Grunge-Scene-in-the-80's way, doesn't she see how skanky he is? (See, this goes back to my belief that she's an airhead.) Stick with Daniel, girl. He's a good guy who's trying to turn his life around, and he really, really likes her. Maybe even loves her.

Despite Callie's general cluelessness, she's an awesome character who can really kick butt when she has to. I'm looking forward to see her grow and mature as a character. She's already made some huge steps forward in this story (she still has a ways to go but I have faith) and, with all that she has to do after what happened (Gah! I want to talk about everything that happened but I can't or I'll wind up giving the plot away. Just go read it so you know what I'm talking about.), she'd better learn all that she can quickly so she's ready. 

SERPENT'S STORM puts its characters through the paces and drags the reader along for a crazy ride. I look forward to seeing how much abuse Callie can take in the next installment of this series.



Cross-posted to The Book Binge.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

MY LIFE, THE THEATER, AND OTHER TRAGEDIES by Allen Zadoff

YA Contemporary
320 pages
Available now
Review copy provided by publisher


High school sophomore Adam Zeigler, who lost his father to a sudden accident two years ago, thinks the best way to live life is behind the spotlight. As a member of the theater crew, he believes he's achieved it all when he wins the coveted job of spotlight operator. But that was before a young actress, Summer, appeared in his view. Instantly smitten, Adam is determined to win her over. But to do so, he'll have to defy his best friend and break the golden rule of his school: techies and actors don't mix.


Set against the backdrop of a high school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Zadoff's latest is a bromance, a love story, and theater story in one. The politics of love and high school collide as Adam struggles to find the courage to step out of the shadows and into the light.


I think I'm completely in love with Egmont USA. Their 2011 releases are absolutely fantastic and Allen Zadoff's latest is no exception. Filled with humor and insight into the experience of growing up, MLtTaOT (yep, that's the novel's super-long but oh-so-descriptive title condensed) tells the story of Adam Zeigler and his quest to regain control over his life. Ever since his artist father died in a car wreck, Adam's been plagued by nightmares and a crippling fear of the dark. Funny how his fear led him to a job in his high school theater group's lighting department. Of course, his best friend, Reach, might have had a hand in that decision, too.


Up on the catwalk with his precious lights, Adam can observe the world at work, without getting completely involved. Until he meets Grace, a techie who's fallen from grace (pun intended) since she dated actor-cum-student-production-designer Derek, and Summer, the actor who captures his heart. Suddenly, he's on the wrong side of Derek the Wannabe Director and his BFF. The actors think Adam's sabotaging the production but he knows it's Derek and his amazing ego that's blowing things up.


I can totally get behind Adam and his difficulties. He's so affable, so much an everyman that it's almost impossible not to root for him to get the girl, to defeat the bad guy (in this case, it's that arrogant arse, Derek, another great character), and save the entire production.  In the beginning, Adam's such a doormat, just lying down and letting everyone, including his best friend, walk all over him. But once he starts to stand up for himself even just the littlest bit, I wanted to give him a standing ovation, just to encourage him.


MLtTaOT is a book you will not want to put down until you've absorbed every last drop of it. A fabulous read.

Monday, May 16, 2011

RMT: Pirate Queens #3 of 10 Jacquotte Delahaye

Jacquotte Delahaye


Jacquotte Delahaye was a 17th century French pirate, or buccaneer, and her hunting ground was the Caribbean Sea. She was originally from Haiti. Her mother was Haitian and her father French. Background history is sketchy but legends about the elusive islander blame the death of her family for her career in piracy.

Her mother reportedly died in childbirth, her brother suffered from mild retardation and needed care; this was left to Jacquotte after her father was killed. With no family and no fortune, like many others who took their chances with the sweet trade, she faked her own death and lived under an alias, dressing as a man. Eventually her origins were discovered and she continued as a brigand, this time under her own identity. Because of her mane of red hair and seeming ability to return from the grave at will, her nickname was 'Back from the Dead Red.'
Image: Promo still from Back from the Dead Red, a Melbourne Fringe Fest sketch based on the life of Delahaye,
written by director Justine Campbell and starring Annie Last in the title role.
Check out this super-cool paper doll outfit for Jacquotte Delahaye from Liana's Paper Doll Blog as well as more info on Back from the Dead Red.


Meet more dastardly pirates in Random Magic! Click HERE to see the book trailer.
"Black Jack stared in disgust at what the crew of King of the
Storm had managed to dredge up; a gangly blond with enormous blue
eyes, who looked like a puff of wind would knock him over, and a wiry
little thing with unruly dark hair, a pointy chin, and bright, wary
eyes, like dark green glass. None of which did much for her, in his
opinion."
Browse or buy: Print edition | Kindle


*****************************
RANDOM MAGIC by Sasha Soren
When absent-minded Professor Random misplaces the main character from Alice in Wonderland, young Henry Witherspoon must book-jump to fetch Alice before chaos theory kicks in and the world vanishes. Along the way he meets Winnie Flapjack, a wit-cracking doodle witch with nothing to her name but a magic feather and a plan. Such as it is. Henry and Winnie brave the Dark Queen, whatwolves, pirates, Struths, and fluttersmoths, Priscilla and Charybdis, obnoxiously cheerful vampires, Baron Samedi, a nine-dimensional cat, and one perpetually inebriated Muse to rescue Alice and save the world by tea time.
This book was a wild ride! As Winnie and Henry look for Alice of Alice in Wonderland fame, they run across a quirky cast of characters and trouble every time they turn around. I have to say, when I got this book, I had no idea what to expect. The cover (holy cow, is that Nicole Kidman?!? No--just an example of the random RANDOM MAGIC has to offer), the characters, the plot are all so incredibly original, it's hard to explain. The plot is fast-paced, filled with puzzles and wild adventures. Winnie and Henry do not follow a straight path -- they tend to bird-walk (a Southern expression meaning to leave the beaten path, get off-topic). It got confusing at times, much in the way Alice's Adventures in Wonderland could be (Lewis Carroll's version, not Disney's). I would have liked to get to know the characters a bit better. It didn't feel like there was enough time, given the wild journey, to stop and really connect with Winnie or Henry. However, if you're looking for something completely different, something quirky, and a read like you've never read before, RANDOM MAGIC will be right up your alley. 



*****************************

Bonus: Pirate puzzle
Here be a tiny pirate game to play during Random Magic Tour: Pirates!, if ye like to fix problems and solve mysteries.

The heroine of Random Magic, Winnie, is a fighter, and has no problem using her fists to defend herself. She’s also resourceful, inventive, and a thinker -- if she can puzzle her way out of something instead of fighting, she’ll take the smart solution over the uncertain brawl. She needs an inventive solution to a tricky problem when she meets Charon, the ferryman of the dead. He can only ferry the deceased across the water, and Winnie is most decidedly alive. Does she figure it out without dying? 

Click HERE for a quick pirate puzzle to solve, as a fun little diversion on Random Magic Tour: Pirates!

If you’d like to find more cool pirate-y things, feel free to join us on the tour, there’s a lot going on -- features about pirate grub, gear and eats, music and games, a great art series, an interesting series on pirate queens, lots of prizes and a fun treasure hunt. Set sail with us! Browse the tour schedule.
Here's another interesting tour feature you might also enjoy:
The main Rum + Plunder treasure hunt is open internationally! Here’s a fun way to win something piratey and cool: Browse prizes and join the hunt…
Click HERE
Bonus: Find even more pirate plunder with Little Pirate Prizes. These aren't marked on the schedule and they're not part of the hunt, but they’re out there for visitors to find and they could be ANYWHERE. Find some Little Pirate Prizes! Have fun and good luck!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Random Magic Tour Schedule: May 10-30



Random Magic Tour: Pirates!
May 10-30, 2011
About: Random Magic
Tour organization: Lyrika Publicis
Triton Tavern proprietress and guest relations: vvb32
Contact the tour: @RandomMagicTour
Rum + Plunder Treasure Hunt (May 11-30)
Win some marrrrrvelous plunder! Browse prizes and Bonus: Little Pirate Prizes Cool surprise treasures scattered throughout the tour…

May 10
Mermaid’s Cove Musical Blog Hop
Shiver me timbers! Here be a round of jolly tunes about the sweet trade.
Twitter: @Misha_1989
Songs for: Bold pirates
Twitter: @blodeuedd83
Songs for: Gloomy pirates
Twitter: @MeriGreenleaf
Songs for: Accidental pirates
Twitter: @vvb32reads
Songs for: Saucy pirates
Twitter: @truebookaddict
Songs for: Scary pirates
Twitter: @BooksAtTinas
Songs for: Pirate queens
Twitter: N/A
Songs for: Poetic pirates
Twitter: @cerebrate
Songs for: Brave seafarers of every kind, and a moment for all the lost ships.
Twitter: @eatingyabooks
Songs for: Jovial pirates
Songs for: Ominous pirates
Twitter: @LiederMadchen
Songs for: (Delightfully) campy pirates

May 11
Twitter: @lianaleslie
Design doll: Queens of the Sea: #1 of 10
Voting: May 26-27
Twitter: @vvb32reads
Triton’s Tavern opens: Tour updates
Rum + Plunder tour hunt opens
Rum + Plunder: Join the hunt

May 12
Twitter: N/A
Feature: Discussion: Seafaring culture and beliefs
Feature: Pirate Queens: #1 of 10: The Lioness of Brittany
Twitter: @lianaleslie
Design doll: Queens of the Sea: #2 of 10

May 13
Twitter: @ladyviolet3
Video review, Random Magic
Feature: Video reading, Random Magic
Feature: Pirate Queens: #2 of 10: Lai Choi San

May 14

Twitter: @hatshepsut0011
Review (Dual language: English, Italian)
Feature: Arrrgh! How to talk like a pirate Plus: Random Magic and unusual grub
Bonus: Free audio book, The Pirates Own Book (Contemporary usage:The Pirates’ Own Book)
Twitter: @lianaleslie
Design doll: Queens of the Sea: #3 of 10
Twitter: @vvb32reads
Feature: A Dandy in Distress (Part 1 of 3)

May 15

Review Interview Feature: Cinematic Swashbucklers
Bonus: Free audio book, Buccaneers and Pirates of our Coasts
Twitter: @vvb32reads
Triton’s Tavern meet-up Tour tidbits and pints o’ grog
Feature: A Dandy in Distress, the preposterous piratical melodrama continues (Part 2 of 3)

May 16

Twitter: @marybrebner
Review Feature: Pirate Queens: #3 of 10: Jacquotte Delahaye
Bonus: Pirate puzzle
Twitter: @lianaleslie
Design doll: Queens of the Sea: #4 of 10
Twitter: @vvb32reads
Feature: A Dandy in Distress (Part 3 of 3)

May 17

Twitter: @theEPICrat
Review Feature: Grub and Bumbo
Feature: Pirate Queens: #4 of 10: Anne Bonny
Bonus: Free audio book, Among Malay Pirates and Other Tales of Peril and Adventure
Twitter: @lianaleslie
Design doll: Queens of the Sea: #5 of 10

May 18

Review Feature: Gallery: Sailing the Seven Seas
Feature: Pirate Queens: #5 of 10: Grace O’Malley
Twitter: @LiederMadchen
Review Feature: Finding Starboard
Bonus: Color-Me-Pirate
Twitter: @lianaleslie
Design doll: Queens of the Sea: #6 of 10

May 19

Twitter: @vvb32reads
Feature: Music: Takes on pirate tunes
Feature: Pirate Queens: #6 of 10: Awilda
Twitter: @haleymathiot
Feature: Under the Black Flag
Twitter: @lianaleslie
Design doll: Queens of the Sea: #7 of 10

May 20

Twitter: @TaraMQ
Video review, Random Magic
Feature: Post Like a Pirate Feature: Pirate Queens: #7 of 10: A Salmagundi of She-Pirates
Twitter: @lianaleslie
Design doll: Queens of the Sea: #8 of 10
Twitter: @vvb32reads
Triton’s Tavern meet-up More tour tidbits and pints o’ grog.

May 21

Twitter: @Nafizaa
Review Feature: Literary Brigands
Feature: Pirate Queens: #8 of 10: Anne Dieu-Le-Veut
Bonus: Free audio book, The Frozen Pirate
Twitter: @snowdropdreams
Review Feature: The Lost Ship
Bonus: Free audio book, Treasure Island

May 22

Twitter: @LexieVamp666
Feature: Discussion: (Video) Real-life pirates
Bonus: Free audio book, Great Pirate Stories
Review Feature: Casting Random Magic
Feature: Pirate Lairs: Ocracoke Inlet and the legend of Blackbeard’s ghost
Bonus: Pirate karaoke

May 23

Twitter: @lianaleslie
Design doll: Queens of the Sea: #9 of 10 Review
Bonus: Quiz: Find your Random Magic twin
Twitter: @vvb32reads
Feature: Radio show: Captain Blood
Twitter: @iheartreads
Review (Dual language, Flemish/English)
Bonus: Video lecture about pirate queen Grace O’Malley
Bonus: Game: Blackbeard’s Gold

May 24

Twitter: @lafemmereaders
Feature: Kick-Ass Women
Twitter: @Bonnie_Sparks
Review Feature: By Land or Sea (Vintage maps)
Feature: Pirate Lairs: Tortuga, Port Royal, New Providence and the Brethren of the Coast Bonus: Game: Pirate Chains
Twitter: @lianaleslie
Design doll: Queens of the Sea: #10 of 10

May 25

Twitter: @Gofita
Review Feature: How-to: Pirate makeover
Bonus: Free audio book, The Sea Hawk Bonus: (Video) Pirate movie night
Twitter: N/A
Review Feature: Songs from the Sea (Sea shanties)
Feature: Pirate Queens: #9 of 10: Winnie Flapjack
Bonus: The Pirate Modiste (Dress-up doll)

May 26

Twitter: @lindsiking
Video review Feature: Grog and Sangaree
Feature: Pirate Queens: #10 of 10: Mary Read
Bonus: Color-Me-Pirate
Twitter: @christina_622
The Book Addict video channel
Video review Feature: (Video) Top five Random Magic quotes
Feature: (Video) Reading from Random Magic
Bonus: The Mermaid Maker (Dress-up doll)
Twitter: @lianaleslie
Design dolls: Queens of the Sea Voting for favorite design doll (May 26-27)

May 27

Twitter: @MissIrenne
Feature: Discussion: Top 10 fictional corsairs and buccaneers
Bonus: Free audio book, Captain Blood
Bonus: Pirate karaoke
Twitter: @lianaleslie
Design dolls: Queens of the Sea Voting for favorite design doll (May 26-27)

May 28

Twitter: @SplashOOWorlds
Feature: Video discussion, Random Magic and pirates (Int’l: Greek language, English transcript) Bonus: Free audio book, Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates
Bonus: Game: Pirate’s Quest
Twitter: @lianaleslie
Design doll: Queens of the Sea: Fave design revealed, winner selected (May 28)

May 29

Sea Wolves Reading Circle Ahoy, matey! Here be a treasure chest of great piratey reads, plucked from shelves by a scandalous crew from near and far.
Twitter: N/A
Twitter: @MissIrenne
Twitter: @heynocupcake
Twitter: @cerebrate
Twitter: @Misha_1989
Twitter: @vvb32reads
Twitter: @BooksAtTinas
Twitter: @LiederMadchen
Twitter: N/A

May 30

The Parting Glass Tour summaries and a pub sing Wrap day!
Feel free to visit all the cool blogs on tour to browse wrap day posts.
Rum + Plunder: Final tallies
Little Pirate Prizes: Final tallies begin
Winners announced: June 6