Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ultraviolet: So unexpected in a VERY good way...

Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.

This is not her story.

Unless you count the part where I killed her.

Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison's condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can't explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori -- the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that's impossible. Right?

Book Review

Title: Ultraviolet
Author: R.J. Anderson
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Publication Date: September 1, 2011

My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

So unexpected in such a good way. It's impossible to talk about how amazing this book is without delving into spoiler territory, so I'm keeping my recommendation vague and short: READ THIS.

You start with that stellar hook (kudos to R.J. for captivating me from chapter zero) and you think you know what type of book Ultraviolet is going to be, but then it completely twists and morphs through different genres to become an entirely different book. And R. J. Anderson makes it WORK.

(Can I just say how refreshing it is to have a scientific explanation for a character's special abilities? None of this you have these powers 'cuz you just do. Nope. There is a brilliant explanation for everything that happens in this book, and I. LOVED. IT.)

I recommend going into this one blind. I didn't even read the blurb--I just started reading--and that enhanced the experience of immersing myself in this absorbing, mind-bending novel.

Lastly, that GORGEOUS writing. There is some stunning imagery in Ultraviolet that touches all of the senses. I was swept away by the unique, stirring descriptions for the way Alison senses the world. It's unlike anything I've read this year. Where did R.J. come up with so many different ways to describe the mundane things we see and hear every day? Seriously, that's some beautiful writing.

Avoid spoilers like mad and go read this book.

Heart on a Chain: Should be required reading for every mean girl

17-year-old Kate has lived her whole life in abject poverty, with an alcoholic father and drug-addicted mother, who severely abuses Kate. At school, her second-hand clothing marks her as a target. Her refusal to stand up for herself makes her the recipient of her classmates taunts and bullying. That is, until Henry returns.

Henry Jamison moved away six years earlier, just as he and Kate had begun an to develop feelings for one another. He returns to find the bright, funny, outgoing girl he had known now timidly hiding in corners, barely speaking to anyone around her, suspicious of even him.

Kate can’t figure out what game Henry is playing with her - for surely it is a game. What else would the gorgeous, popular boy from her past want with her?

Kate finally decides to trust Henry’s intentions, opening her heart to him. Just when it seems he might be genuine in his friendship, tragedy strikes, threatening everything Kate has worked so hard to gain. Can Henry help her to overcome this new devastation, or will it tear them apart forever?

Book Review

Title: Heart on a Chain
Author: Cindy C. Bennett
Publisher: Self Published

My Rating: 4 out 5 stars

Cindy C. Bennett, you know how to make me cry. I'm not much of a book crier, but you've made me weep through not just one book, but TWO. You have some magic button that just unleashes my tear ducts so that I find myself sobbing while reading. And then, you add these crazy-good, awwww endings that make me smile through my tears. May we have some more, please?

I devoured Cindy's book Geek Girl and couldn't stop thinking about it. Her writing and characters draw me in and make me feel like I'm present for everything--that I'm watching my best friend live these events. I have now read BOTH of Cindy's books in one sitting each because I care so much about these characters that I can't stop without knowing the conclusion of their story.

While Geek Girl is a little lighter, a littler fluffier, Heart on a Chain tackles some serious issues: abuse and bullying. You can't read this book without it making you want to be a nicer, better person. It exposes the effects of bullying in a way that tore at my heart. It showed how a plea for help may be stifled or go unnoticed because bullying has isolated and destroyed someone to the point where there's no one she can trust to protect her from unimaginable horrors at home. A particular conversation between Kate and a tormentor at the end had me WEEPING as the tormentor realized what her bullying had done--how she had made sure Kate had no friends...and thus no one to confide her terrible secret to.

Every mean girl needs to read this book.

Bad boys, move aside. Cindy sure knows how to write the white knight. Her heroes are squeaky clean and devoted, and it's refreshing to see the anti-jerk get some page time. Cindy's boys are so...non-judgy. Henry and Kate share some sweet chemistry, and Henry's epilogue at the end had me awwwwing because it was so adorable. (Yes, Henry, ADORABLE.)

While the events may border a tiny bit on melodramatic at times, Heart on a Chain made me want to stamp out bullying and sprinkle friendship and kind words all around. I can't think of a better way to teach teenagers the effects of bullying. This is a story of abuse, redeeming love, and forgiveness that's unforgettable.

Tiger's Quest: A magical tale of adventure and romance! November has never felt so far away...

Kelsey Hayes is no ordinary college freshman. In fact, the eighteen-year-old girl has just returned from India, where she risked her life—and her heart—to rescue a handsome Indian prince from a terrible curse. Back home in Oregon, Kelsey is determined to move on, despite the lingering feelings she has for the man she left behind. She meets Li, a completely average guy who offers the promise of an ordinary, curse-free life. But just when Kelsey is ready to move on, Ren reenters her life, on a quest to reclaim her heart. Danger threatens their newly rekindled love and to save him, Kelsey must journey with someone else—a man who wants her for himself. The saga begun in Tiger’s Curse continues in Tiger’s Quest, as Kelsey finds herself in an epic battle between good and evil. From the shores of the Pacific Northwest to the jungles of India, the mountains of Nepal and Tibet, and the mystical realm of Shangri-la, this suspenseful tale of love, sacrifice, and redemption is not to be missed.

Book Review

Title: Tiger's Quest
Author: Colleen Houck
Publisher: Splinter
Publication Date: June 7, 2011

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I liked Tiger's Curse, but I LOVED Tiger's Quest. I initially gave this book four stars, but I'm upping it to five because I cannot stop thinking about it. As soon as I turned the last page, I preordered Tiger's Voyage because I am in desperate need of a resolution for that cliffhanger!

Colleen Houck is a storyteller. The writing is not perfect, but I am willing to overlook the flaws because the characters are so compelling, the romance so sizzling, and the quest so epic. Reading this book evoked so many emotions--from swooning to laughter to heartbreak--that I can forgive the book if it's heavy on descriptions or the dialogue's awkward at times. Reading this book makes you FEEL so much, which attests to the strength of Colleen's storytelling.

I felt smothered with details when I read Tiger's Curse, but maybe I'm just used to the writing now because I could not put Tiger's Quest down. Every writer has her strength, and Colleen knows how to write chemistry between her characters. Aaaah, the romance. These books ooze with swoony moments--little fleeting touches, captivating gazes, and delicious kisses that all leave you breathless. (I think I'm starting to sound like I'm 13.) Let's just say Colleen knows how to write a compelling, clean romance between endearing characters.

Yes, there's a love triangle, but Colleen lets it develop so naturally, so believably that I now find myself rooting for both brothers. I can't remember the last time I loved both sides of a YA love triangle this much. The triangle is actually integral to the plot and serves a purpose instead of an author just throwing in another male character to up the amount of kissing scenes and sell Team Whoever t-shirts.

At the end of Tiger's Curse, I didn't know how Colleen was going to make me cheer for Kishan (I mean, I liked him, but it was obvious Kelsey should be with Ren) but Colleen managed to make Kishan so charming and endearing that I now want both brothers to get their happy ending. (And yes, Cait, I had to read the baby part several times because it was just tugging at my heart.) The dynamic between these brothers is riveting, and I'm eagerly anticipating their interactions in Tiger's Voyage. Kishan, I don't know how this can end well for you--you just know there's heartbreak in store--but you made Tiger's Quest entrancing.

Colleen has woven magic, romance, and adventure into this captivating tale of betrayal, redemption, and love. I am so invested in these characters at this point. And after that amazing sneak peek at Tiger's Voyage, November has never felt so far away.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Supernaturally: 5 Seriously Sparkly Stars!

Evie finally has the normal life she’s always longed for. But she’s shocked to discover that being ordinary can be . . . kind of boring. Just when Evie starts to long for her days at the International Paranormal Containment Agency, she’s given a chance to work for them again. Desperate for a break from all the normalcy, she agrees.

But as one disastrous mission leads to another, Evie starts to wonder if she made the right choice. And when Evie’s faerie ex-boyfriend Reth appears with devastating revelations about her past, she discovers that there’s a battle brewing between the faerie courts that could throw the whole supernatural world into chaos. The prize in question? Evie herself.

So much for normal.

Book Review

Title: Supernaturally
Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: July 26, 2011


Oh, bleep! It was SO. GOOD.

Let me just say I was torn between reading at a crazy, feverish, I-am-consumed-by-this-book pace and slowing down to savor each delicious word and laugh-out-loud line.

As I ended up reading Supernaturally in 3.5 hours, I obviously opted to drink from the fire hose instead of sipping daintily from a tea cup.

Kiersten White, you are the word maestro. You really upped the hilarity quotient in this sequel with your clever turns of phrase and laugh-out-loud lines sprinkled on every page. You know that part where Lend gives Evie a gift (which she loves) and Evie says, "Well, you've set a ridiculously high standard for yourself. Should have started out with something tacky."? That's how I felt after Paranormalcy. You'd set the bar so high for yourself (no short jokes intended). Could you do it again?

My answer is a RESOUNDING YES!

It's been six months since Evie and Lend's escape from the International Paranormal Containment Agency. Evie's finally gotten the "normal" life she's always longed for: high school, a job, an apartment, a locker. But Evie's finding that normal is...kind of boring. So when Raquel and IPCA come calling, swearing they've kind of changed their ways, Evie's drawn back in by the lure of the excitement of her former life (and helping out Raquel). The best part for Evie: no more trips through the faerie paths with psychotic faeries thanks to IPCA's newest teenage phenom, Jack.

Oh, Jack. With your cocky attitude, all-kinds-of-funny wit, and dimpled audacity, you had me laughing from hello. Jack, thy name is Cheeky. (I just had to throw that little ode in to one of my favorite new characters of 2011.)

I don't know if Jack has a real-life inspiration, but if he does, heaven help that boy's poor mother.

Kiersten White knows her stuff. She seems well aware of YA tropes and avoids them at every turn with her refreshing characters, unexpected plot points, and authentic relationships. Kiersten seems to know we're tired of love triangles. And clingy, over-dependent heroines. And cliffhangers. (There is no the-building's-burning-and-we-don't-know-who-gets-out-alive for our Supernaturally ending. *ahem, Demonglass*) Kiersten lovingly pokes fun at many of these well-worn YA tropes and creates something fresh and fun--an absolute pleasure to read.

Each moment where I thought the story could descend into predictability, Kiersten White took it in another direction of total awesomeness.

And Evie. I heart Evie. There are YA heroines I respect. Others with which I sympathize. Some I relate to. But Evie, she's in the very tiny category of YA heroines I'd want to be friends with. SUCH A FRESH VOICE. She's sassy and clever and witty and relatable and sparkly. She's tough yet vulnerable. And she likes pink. Kiersten draws these characters with such a vivid hand.

The pacing? Genius. It was unputdownable. And unforgettable. I've read it three times now because it was that good. There was an "oh my gosh, what's going to happen next" read, an "I am so savoring this" read, and a "good parts--wait that's all the book" read. I am an unabashed fangirl at this point.

Fans of Paranormalcy, start counting down to July 26.

P.S. That cover is all kinds of gorgeous.

P.P.S. And Kiersten, I was waiting to see where you'd fit in the usage of "cleavagization" and now I know. =)