Friday, April 29, 2011

Living Hell by Catherine Jinks

Living Hell by Catherine Jinks
Release Date : April 2010
Publisher : Graphia
Age Group : Young Adult
Pages : 256
Source : Barnes and Noble
Rating : 5/5

"The smell was the first thing we noticed.  It was a terrible smell that made us all cough: a smell with another stench overlaying it.
     Then we saw Firmus standing by the door.     He pointed.     "Something is trying to get in," he rasped.

What happens when a single moment changes everything?  For seventeen-year-old Cheney, life on earth exists only in history books.  He and more than one thousand other people have known life only aboard the spacecraft Plexus: self-contained, systematic, and serene.  But that was before the radiation wave.
Now Plexus has suddenly turned on them, becoming a terrifying and unrecognizable force.  As the crew dwindles under attack, Cheeny and his friends need to fight back before the ship that's nurtured them for so long becomes responsible for their destruction."

Cheney has lived aboard the spaceship Plexus his entire life.  Plexus is a ship sent out to find a habitual planet for the human race to survive on.  Every four years his shift goes into an incubation period while another set of people wake up and run the ship.  Cheney has no memory of Earth; he is a shifter, meaning he was born during one of the four year periods.  He has lived on this ship all his life and only knows of Earth through books and simulations.  Plexus has been running smoothly for around 30 years but then they run into a cloud of radiation they can’t possibly avoid.   Once the ship travels through this radiation it starts to come alive.  The whole ship turns itself into an animal with the humans inside like the bacteria in our intestines.  The humans and the ship seem to be in harmony for a couple minutes but soon the ship turns on the humans and starts to kill them.

Cheney’s character grows and matures throughout this book.  When the book starts Cheney is at a birthday party.  All he is thinking about is how annoying the boy he is a “big brother” too and how to catch the eye of his long-time crush.  But when Plexus becomes an animal Cheney suddenly finds himself in charge of protecting a group of children.

Because of this book Catherine Jinks is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.  I have read Evil Genius and Genius Squad by her and while I liked them, I found them to have a very slow pace.  Living Hell was very different it was fast paced and squeezed into fewer pages.  The writing was action-packed and the plot was thrilling and solid.  If you have tried Catherine’s books before and found that you liked them but they were too slow for you, I would definitely urge you to give this stand alone novel a try.  I would also suggest this book if you were looking for a good sci-fi/horror book.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Face On The Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney

The Face On The Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney
Release Date: April 30th, 1991
Publisher: Laurel-Leaf Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 184
Source: Barnes and Noble
Buy the Book: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

"No one ever really paid close attention to the faces of the missing children on the milk cartons.  But as Janie Johnson glanced at the face of the ordinary little girl with her hair in tight pigtails, wearing a dress with a narrow white collar - a three-year-old who had been kidnapped twelve year before from a shopping mall in New Jersey - she felt overcome with shock.  She recognized that little girl - it was she.  How could it possibly be true?

Janie can't believe that her loving parents kidnapped her, but as she begins to piece things together, nothing makes sense.  Something is terribly wrong.  Are Mr. and Mrs. Johnson really her parents?  And if not, who is Janie Johnson, and what really happened?"

First off, how great is the idea for this book?  I've seen those ads looking for kids who disappeared years ago and its true who would recognize the child except the person themselves.  This plot had me hooked from the very beginning.  

Janie is just a normal, lactose intolerant girl.  She has a crush on her next door neighbor Reeve, a great life with parents who love her and she loves them back.  But then she sees herself on the milk carton and her world is turned upside down.  Did her parents kidnap her?  Are they horrible people or was it just a lapse of judgement?  Who is this other family of hers in New Jersey?  What if they want her back?  What if she has to leave her parents who she still loves?

I, for one, LOVE the Hannah twist but I'm not going to say anything because it is a little spoilery...

I liked how Caroline used flashbacks through out the books.  I liked how Janie slipped into them and didn't realize what else was happening around her.  In other books I've read, flashbacks happen while the character is sleeping so it is not noticeable to the other characters.

Even though I didn't love this book I will definitely read the rest of the series.

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway
Release Date: April 10th, 2008
Publisher: Razor Bill
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 320
Source: Barnes and Noble
Buy the Book: Amazon
Rating: 5/5

"It's the song everyone's singing.  And it's about her! But for Audrey, becoming famous overnight equals total, life-changing disaster."

After Audrey breaks up with her boyfriend Evan, lead singer of the Do-Gooders, she is surprised to hear them play a great song called Audrey, Wait! at their concert later that night.  Suddenly the song is worldwide with the Do-Gooders touring in Japan.  Girls start to show up at the ice-cream store Audrey works at asking for autographs.  Evan has written a song about their break-up launching Audrey into the land of celebrity.  Audrey's phone is ringing off the hook, her email gets thousands of hits a day, and the paparazzi is paying for photos of her.

Audrey just wants the fame to go away.  She is stuck doing her schoolwork in the office everyday. The principal thinks she causes too much of a distraction in class. But Audrey's best friend, Victoria, wants to take advantage of this new found fame.  She wants Audrey to use her fame to obtain free tickets to concerts, make-up and a car.

On top of the fame, Audrey is developing a love interest in her co-worker James.  Victoria says they would be perfect, but Jame's shyness makes Audrey unsure.  Also if they started going out the tabloids would explode.  It doesn't help that Victoria and Jonah, Audrey's best friends, are the perfect couple.

Many of the books about fame are told from the point of view of the lead singer of actor.  This story is told by a normal person who just happened to date a singer.  It's a completely different take on the fame that surrounds everyone.  Audrey was thrown into a new crazy world and is just trying to stay herself.

At the start of every chapter there is a lyric to a song.  I wanted to look up all of these songs.  I wanted to be able to sing along with Audrey when she was blasting music in her bedroom.  And now that I have finished this book, I just want to dance around my room with the music so loud I can't hear my own voice

I absolutely loved this debut by Robin Benway and I'm really looking forward to reading more books by her.

Monday, April 18, 2011

I Don't Want To Be Crazy by Samantha Schutz

I Don't Want to Be Crazy by Samantha Schutz
Release Date: July 1st, 2006
Publisher: Push
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 280
Source: My library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Rating: 3/5

"The harrowing, remarkable true story of one girl's struggle with anxiety disorder.
This is a true story of growing up, breaking down, and coming to grips with a psychological disorder.  When Samantha Schutz first left home for collage, she was excited by the possibilities - freedom from parents, freedom from a boyfriend who was reckless with her affections, freedom from the person she was supposed to be.  At first, she reveled in the independence - but as pressures increased, she began to suffer anxiety attacks that would leave her mentally shaken and physically incapacitated.  Thus began a hard road of discovery and coping, powerfully rendered in this poetry memoir."

This book chronicles the author's struggles with anxiety disorder during her collage years.  It is written in a poem format with short choppy thoughts.  

Samantha leaves her home for collage and is instantly plagued with anxiety attacks.  She lives in constant terror of when the next attack will come.  When they do come there is nothing she can do but hide in the bathroom and wait it out. They follow her all through her life.  They come with her to Europe and new jobs.

I think that this book portrays anxiety really well.  The fear of never knowing when the next one will be and how it will tear you apart is pictured well.  But the book never really grabbed me.  In fact I found it boring.  I do understand that it is a memoir and everything is true but I was really craving the main character to do something.  It just seemed that the same thing was always happening and Samantha never did anything.  Sure she went to psychiatrists and got medication but thats all she did.  I know there isn't much you can do in real life but it made a really boring story.

If you want to learn more about anxiety attacks, what causes them, and how they affect people, I would recommend this book.  But if your looking for a new book like Ellen Hopkin's I wouldn't look here.

Chime by Franny Billingsley

Chime by Franny Billingsley
Release Date: March 17th, 2011
Publisher: Dial Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 361
Source: My library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Rating: 5/5

"Briony has a secret.  She believes her secret killed her stepmother, destroyed her twin sister's ming, and threatens all the children in the Swampsea.  She yearns to be rid of her terrible secret, but risks being hanged if she tells a soul.  That's what happens to witches: They're hanged by the neck until dead. 
Then Eldric arrives - Eldric with his golden mane and lion eyes and electric energy - and he refuses to believe anything dark about Briony.  But he wonders what's been buried beneath her self-hatred, hidden in Rose's mangled thoughts, and whispered about by the Old Ones.  And Briony wonders how Eldric can make her want to cry.
Especially when everyone knows that witches can't cry.
A wild, haunting mystery and romance that is as beautifully written as it is captivating."

Chime is a young adult, paranormal, historical, romance with a style of writing I have never encountered before.  This story is set in a small English village right before the industrial revolution.  The characters range from mortals to the witches, brownies and Bogey Man in the forest.  This book personifies the movement from the old thinking of witches, magic and religion into the new age of machines and humans.

 The book cover for Chime has to be given massive props.  I am a cover whore.  In my brain if the publisher couldn't bother to make a great cover than the book can't be that good right?  Well this cover is gorgeous.  It perfectly captures the old time ness about the book but still has a hint of paranormal that is just perfect!

Leaving the cover to be glorious, the writing drew me in from the very beginning. Granted, I was a little lost in the descriptive sentences but once I slowed down, I loved it.  Have you ever read a historical fiction book but never felt that it was set in a different era because the writing was the same?  You won't have that problem with this book.  The tone, dialect and diction chosen by the author is perfect for when the book is set.

Briony's character reminds me of a broken girl dealing with drugs in a more contemporary book.  Except her drug is the fact that she's a witch.  She is secretive and doesn't trust anyone. She's been raised to hate herself and convinced she is a witch by her late stepmother.  She is certain that every tragedy that befell her family is her own fault.  You get the feeling that she wants to change but is uncertain she can.  She definitely filled my need for a can-do girl.  She never sits around for an answer.  She creates her own story and doesn't need anyone else.

Eldric is my new, fictional love.  He is the typical gentlemen of the era.  The boy who always can get the girls to swoon.  He treats Rose and Briony like they are ladies.  He is charming but has his bad boy moments as well.  The most amazing thing about Eldric is the way he can get people to open up. 

Rose, Briony's twin sister, is the one who never fits in.  Briony blames herself for a terrible accient that happened to Rose when they were younger.  Rose screams when something is wrong and is very repetitive.  I found her strangeness compelling and I wanted to know everything about her.  I was very happy to find out she is much more clever then I first thought.

This book, even though it wraps up perfectly, left me wanting another.  The writing and characters were so perfect that I never wanted to leave.  I wanted to live in Swampsea with Eldric, Rose and Briony for the rest of my life.  Chime is a must read!  Go to your local bookstore and pick it up as soon as you can.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Off The Shelf Book Challenge 2011

Now, I know its a little late to start a book challenge for 2011 but I don't really care.  I recently went through my bookshelf and found out that I have a little over 200 books on my shelf that I still haven't read.  So when I stumbled upon this book challenge I though it was perfect.

I'll be attempting the Challenge Level 'On A Roll' which is to read 50 books you've owned since before January 1st 2011.

I'll try to review all the books I will read even though most of them will be a couple years old.  In the review I will say I read it for this challenge.

If anyone is interested in this challenge here is the link to all the information.

Off The Shelf!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Wish You Were Dead by Todd Strasser

Wish You Were Dead by Todd Strasser
Release Date: October 13th, 2009
Publisher: Egmont
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 247
Source: Bought
Buy the Book: Amazon
Rating: 3/5

"No one at Soundview High takes the recent death wishes of an anonymous blogger seriously, until the very students talked about start mysteriously disappearing.  After dropping off Lucy following a night of partying, Madison is wracked with guild when her popular classmate vanishes.  And Madison makes it her mission to discover what really happened..."

This story is told through the eyes of Madison.  A popular, nice, rich school in a neighborhood where nothing ever happens.  So when Madison's friends start getting kidnapped, everyone freaks.  This kidnapper targets the elite 'mean' kids in order to show them what it feels like to be bullied and unpopular.

To say it bluntly, this book just didn't scare me.  I started it hoping to get scared and jump at each and every shadow I saw while reading this.  It never delivered on that front.  I went to bed after reading this book with absolutely no problem and I had to go sleep with my parents after watching Paranormal Activity.   

Another problem was the characters.  In the summary in the back it says "Madison makes it her mission to discover what really happened" and that is so untrue.  Madison never did anything except sit back and act afraid until someone else came up with a lead.  In fact all but two characters just acted afraid.  It was almost as if everyone in the book was so worried and scared that I didn't have to be.  I missed yelling at the character because they're doing the stupid yet brave act that will get them captured and/or hurt.

I have to give it props that I didn't figure out who the killer was before it was revealed.  Although there were other twists about the blog and the characters that I could pick out a mile away.

Overall, I think the only redeeming fact about this book is it's cover.  If you see it for less than $3 then get it other wise just let it sit.

Teen Angst? Naaah.... by Ned Vizzini

Teen Angst? Naaah... by Ned Vizzini
Release Date: 2000
Publisher: Random House
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 254
Source: Borders
Buy the Book: Amazon
Rating: 5/5

"Ned Vizzini is just your average teenager, fighting everyday battles with school, parents, street people, rock bands, friends, fame, camp, sex (sort of), Cancun (almost), prom, beer, Nintendo, the New York subway system, and more.

With wit, irony, and honesty, Ned shares his take on high school conundrums, extracurricular disasters, and the big moments that adults inevitably manage to build up and sell short at the same time.

Written by the author of It's Kind of a Funny Story and Be More Chill when he was nineteen, this collection of essays (in which names have been changed "so I don't get yelled at") never fails to bring out the humor and truth of growing up."

     What is so great about this book is the truthfulness in it.  You can really tell that all of this stuff happened to this author.  It's just on the cuff of unbelievable but yet you can see it happening to you in a moment.   Everything is incredibly easy to relate to.  If you've been to high school or are in high school you will be able to relate to at least one of the twenty stories .

     This book is also not written like a memoir.  It never feels like the author is saying "When I was your age..." because he can't.  He wrote these essays when he was a teen.  There is not glorification.  It's all there, the ugly bits included because that is what happened.

     I also really enjoyed the footnotes.  At times they were unneeded but when they directed me online to watch the video which I was reading about I LOVED them.  It was really exciting to see the deadly turtle movie right after reading Ned's experience with the movie.

     I also really liked the normality of it.  With all the books today the focus on the extremes of drug usage and drinking this all too familiar, true to life story was a welcome reprise.

   If you've read any of Ned's other books, looking to find a more real book or simply want to laugh till your lungs protest check this book out.

Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow

Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow
Release Date: 2005
Publisher: Antheneum Books For Young Readers
Age Group: Independent Reader
Pages: 529
Source: Unknown
Buy the Book: Amazon
Rating: 2/5


Welcome to Ratbridge.  But beware - for there is skulduggery afoot.  Young Arthur has fallen foul of the appalling outlaw, Snatcher, and is trapped alone in the town with every way home sealed.  Meanwhile Snatcher and his men are working tirelessly in secret on a fiendish and dastardly plan to take over - and destroy - the entire town.  With the help of Willbury Nibble, QC; some friendly boxtrolls and cabbageheads; Marjorie the frustrated inventor; and the rats and pirates from the Ratbridge Nautical Laundry, can Arthur thwart Snatcher's evil plans - and find his way home?"

     I've had this book for a couple years now.  I remember buying at Borders back in either 2005 or 2006 when I was 9 and read probably twice as much as I do now.  I also remember never being able to finish this book.  There was something about it.  Maybe I just didn't find it interesting then or maybe it was the 500 page length of the book.  Whatever it was, I could never finish it.

     I couple days ago I found this book on my bookshelf and decided to give it another read.  I still didn't like it.  The main problem I found was the extremely slow pacing of the book.  I bet I could write the same book in which the same thing happened in, at most, 200 pages.  Another problem was the non-human characters.  They just weren't interesting.  Boxtrolls where simply people who wore boxes instead of clothes.  Cabbageheads, people with cabbages attached to their heads.  It wasn't enough to keep my enthralled.

     Even with all that negative stuff I will probably keep the book.  Why?  The illustrations.  Alan Snow, who wrote the book, also illustrated it.  You might know his work from How Dogs Really Work!, one of my favorite books from my childhood.  His illustrations grace every page and are the only reason I could complete this book.

In My Mailbox (1)

In My Mailbox is a meme started by The Story Siren. The idea is to post all the books you got this week from any source.  The library, bought, gifted or other sources.

I Bought
Teen Angst?  Naaah... 
     by Ned Vizzini

my review

From My Library

by Orson Scott Card

by Samantha Schutz

by John Smelcer

by Chester Aaron

by Franny Billingsley

by Kee Malesky

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog

Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog
Release Date: June 23rd, 2009
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 248
Source: Unknown
Buy the Book: Amazon
Rating: 5/5

"Morgan Sparks and Cam Browne are a match made in heaven. They've been best friends since birth, they tell each other everything, and oh yeah- they're totally hot for each other.

But a week before their joint Sweet Sixteen bash, everything changes. Cam's awkward cousin Pip comes to stay, and Morgan is stunned when her formerly perfect boyfriend seems to be drifting away.

When Morgan demands answers, she's shocked to discover the source of Cam's distance isn't another girl- it's another world. Pip claims that Cam is a fairy. No, seriously. A fairy. And now his people want Cam to return to their world and take his rightful place as Fairy King.

Determined to keep Cam with her, Morgan plots to fool the fairies. But as Cam continues to change, she has to decide once and for all if he really is her destiny, and if their “perfect” love can weather an uncertain future."
This novel is completely addicting.  I brought it to school today and was reading it hidden under my desk all day.  I had to know what happened.

I loved the fact that the book was written from the human's point of view.  Morgan is seeing the change but not actually experiencing it.  I'm surprised that Morgan being psychic isn't talked about in the blurb.  Especially because she bases a lot of what she thinks on what she sees in her visions.  Morgan's character is also very captivating and impressive.  She completely underestimates herself but it just makes her much more real.

The love triangle in this book was captivating.  As were the characters themselves.  Pip's willing and naive nature really sets him apart from a 'normal' person. His too tight jeans and pencil case doesn't help him either.  While Cam's perfect boyfriend and footballer nature is entirely high school.  Cam and Pip's transformations throughout the books are amazingly written.  It is easy to picture the drastic change that happens to them both by the end of the book.

While the faeries in this book do have a darker side, they are much lighter than the faeries in written by Holly Black and found in other modern faerie novels.

If you're looking for a new version of the classic changeling fairy tale check this book out.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Devilish by Maureen Johnson

Devilish by Maureen Johnson
Release Date: September 7th, 2006
Publisher: Razor Bill Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 288
Source: Free from Bookmooch
Buy the Book: Amazon
Rating: 5/5

"Jane Jarvis and Allison Concord, seniors at Saint Teresa's Preparatory School for Girls, have always been too quirky to be popular, but at least they'll always have each other, right?  Not so much.  After a hideously embarrassing disaster, Allison comes to school transformed.  Suddenly she has cute hair and clothes, speaks fluent Latin, and won't even look at Jane.  With the help of a strangely wise freshman boy, Jane discovers the incredible truth: Allison has sold her soul to the devil.  Now Jane will have to save Allison before the bizarrely exclusive Poodle Prom, a party of biblical proportions that just might blow apart the world as Jane knows it."

This book was totally not what I expected but I really liked it.

When I sat down to read it I was ready for a very different type of book then it actually was.  I've read other books by Maureen Johnson and I hadn't read the summary on the back.  I thought it would be a girly romance type book without anything paranormal.  So, the demon/devil character was a surprise for me.

I think the best part of this book was the fact that I never knew what would happen next.  Most of the time in books I can guess what will happen but for this one everything I guessed was wrong.  Though out the book I had difficultly determining who would emerge victorious, the demon or Jane.

I also thought that the characters were very easy to relate with and had good flaws.  No one likes a perfect character. I thought that the point in the book where Jane understands her ex-boyfriend's character completely was one of the best parts in the book.

I do think that the ending of the book was rushed and hard to understand.  I still have no clue how Jane figured out what to do.  But it was still well written and a good read.

Overall, I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a paranormal read about dealing with the devil.      Fans of Maureen Johnson may be slightly surprised by the book's direction but will love it just the same.