Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Making of the Modern Monster

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The Making of the Modern Monster

Hades is an adult book, which is not what I usually blog about, but I think it would appeal to a sector of YA readers who have grown up watching CSI. Think Hannibal Lector. Think Dexter. But skip the boring parts and jump in with a book that tells you how monsters are made. Maybe it was the near fatal blow to the head. Maybe it was the shock of watching both parents brutally murdered. Whatever it was, it definitely created a warped brother and sister duo who only play at being normal when they are wearing their uniforms.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, and I’m really glad I did!

Brother and sister, Eric and Eden, are raised by a “fixer” for the criminal world after they survive the murder of their parents. They become cops when he decides it will be the best place to disguise their murderous impulses and misguided sense of justice. In this book, they are looking for a serial killer who plays a cruel game of survival of the worthiest. I really enjoyed this book. It definitely evokes Dexter, but it begins with the essential — the genesis of the modern monsters. That is always the part that I find most interesting, and this book didn’t make me wait for it like so many others in the genre do. I thought the narrator, Frank, Eden’s new partner, was unlikeable for the majority of the book, but I understood the rationale behind making him a less than stellar human by the end. There were flaws, but I thought this was ultimately an enjoyable book. If you enjoyed Dexter or the Hannibal books, this is one to put on your TBR list. Language and situations make this appropriate for adult readers.

Goodreads Summary Read the rest of this entry

Primitive Culture, Mystical Powers and Some Pretty Vicious Sheep

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Primitive Culture, Mystical Powers and Some Pretty Vicious Sheep

Ever Darkening by Janeal Falor looked like something I would love to read. Alas, it fell flat for me. I don’t know how a book with insane attacking sheep failed to wrap itself around my heart, but it just did. Perhaps you will like it more — many reviewers seemed to.

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Goodreads Summary
Perfection. Goodness. Elimination of evil. It’s what seventeen-year-old Kaylyn has trained her entire life to achieve. But no one is prepared for the consequences of her actually defeating all evil people on the planet. Finally successful in her mission, Kaylyn faces an unfamiliar world, full of good people doing good things, in which she no longer has purpose.

When the skies grow dark, and a stranger from another village pleads for her help, her instincts roar to life. It turns out their perfect world isn’t exactly what it seems. Kaylyn’s new quest, harder than any she’s been on before, will rip apart her friendships, her life, and her soul more than any evil man ever managed to.

Ever DarkeningEver Darkening by Janeal Falor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. After Kaylyn kills off the last evil being in her world, something she’s been training for since childhood, she uncovers the unexpected consequences of her actions. Guilty and afraid, Kaylyn struggles once again to save the people she has always been charged with protecting. This is exactly something I would read, but it fell flat for me. I liked the primitive vibe I got from the people and their society. I liked the insane attacking sheep. I liked the supernatural power that Kaylyn and her people have, and I loved Kaylyn’s intense loyalty to her sister. However, I think the purity of the main character makes it hard to really feel a connection with her. Balance is key in everything, and her light never has a real moment when it falters, and that weakens the very internal struggle that is suppose to fuel the plot. The fact that people in the book are either wholly good or wholly bad messes with the overall theme. At times, the dialogue was stiff and the prose was choppy. The language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+.

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Did you know a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer wrote a YA mystery? I’m Glad I Did is a sweet little hit.

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Did you know a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer wrote a YA mystery?  <em>I’m Glad I Did</em> is a sweet little hit.

You would be hard pressed to find a cleaner read on the YA shelves these days, but what I’m Glad I Did lacks in edge, it makes up for in engagement. The author is Cynthia Weil (you would recognize the songs she wrote), and I think she brings a real insider’s experience to this book. Carole King is the blurb on the front!

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I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Sixteen year old JJ wants to be a songwriter in 1960’s New York, but comes from a family of lawyers who think the music business is bad business. When she lands a 3 month contract as a writer and assistant at a music company, she makes a deal with her mom and embarks on the beginning of everything she ever wanted until murder gets in the way. This was a nice, clean YA mystery with lots of interesting complications and characters. It is a book about family, secrets, and lies. I loved the setting and the way that the author incorporated the civil rights movement gently into a story about the musical world where race had already begun to be moot. It was an easy and fast read, and had a little of everything — romance, mystery, history. Themes of finding your voice, learning to forgive, and reaching for your dreams add a nice depth. My only reservation is the lack of edge — I kept waiting for the moment when the protagonist would experience real danger, and it just didn’t materialize. The language and situations are completely appropriate for all ages. There are always students looking for a book that is not “dark,” and that can be hard to find in the YA stacks these days.

This book is available in the MHS library.

Mind you wife. Mind your kids. Aliens Abductin’ Erbody Out Here

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Mind you wife.  Mind your kids. Aliens Abductin’ Erbody Out Here

They thought she was dead. It had been five years. People had moved on. Then Kyra shows up. She hasn’t aged. She can’t explain where she has been. Sometimes the simplest answer is the hardest to swallow.

If you want something engaging and a little strange, this is the ticket. I read it straight through. Near the end, it strained even my ability to suspend disbelief, but I promise I’ll be reading the next book in the series. Fans of The X Files, The 4400, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind will enjoy.
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Goodreads Summary

A flash of white light . . . and then . . . nothing.

When sixteen-year-old Kyra Agnew wakes up behind a Dumpster at the Gas ’n’ Sip, she has no memory of how she got there. With a terrible headache and a major case of déjà vu, she heads home only to discover that five years have passed . . . yet she hasn’t aged a day.

Everything else about Kyra’s old life is different. Her parents are divorced, her boyfriend, Austin, is in college and dating her best friend, and her dad has changed from an uptight neat-freak to a drunken conspiracy theorist who blames her five-year disappearance on little green men.

Confused and lost, Kyra isn’t sure how to move forward unless she uncovers the truth. With Austin gone, she turns to Tyler, Austin’s annoying kid brother, who is now seventeen and who she has a sudden undeniable attraction to. As Tyler and Kyra retrace her steps from the fateful night of her disappearance, they discover strange phenomena that no one can explain, and they begin to wonder if Kyra’s father is not as crazy as he seems. There are others like her who have been taken . . . and returned. Kyra races to find an explanation and reclaim the life she once had, but what if the life she wants back is not her own?

One Time I Was A Fangirrl of something that wasn’t a book. Now it has a book. Haha! Life is sweet!

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One Time I Was A Fangirrl of something that wasn’t a book. Now it has a book. Haha! Life is sweet!

Veronica Mars. Such a smart show. Such an excellent character — she had outsider status, a sassy attitude, and a quest for the truth. I fan girrrled, even though I was a grown woman. When I found out another English teacher’s son had a small part in an episode, I almost lost my mind with excitement (I never met Robert Baker — he played a college age villain that trapped Wallace’s girlfriend in a scam — his mother deduced my mania and, alas, she kept him from school grounds until I moved away. I would have played it cool, though. Seriously). When the movie actually came to fruition, I plotted and planned how I could abandon my husband and children to get to a town big enough to screen it (crisis averted by Amazon Prime’s same day release). When I found books (BOOKS!!!) that followed V’s life after the movie, I had to have them. I got super lucky with the second one and got an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. If you, too, are a fan, even one a little less obsessed than me, you are going to want to read Mr. Kiss and Tell. It’s not perfect, but I just can’t resist.

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Mr. Kiss and Tell is the second book following the movie, and you are going to be flying blind if you don’t start with the first, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line. The books are true to the characters and the snappy, snarky dialogue is the same as always. I love how I hear character voices when I read these books! While it is very nostalgic for me to revisit characters I loved and hated, I particularly like how, though true to their original characters, time and maturity has impacted most of them in some way. In this particular book, it was really interesting to see those results play out in both the character of Logan and the character of Weevil. As usual, just when I thought a case was solved, it twisted around and surprised me, so the plot won’t disappoint. I did think a lot of the character development slowed the plot down this time, but that isn’t really a problem if you are reading for characters anyway. I was glad to see a Manning, as Meg has haunted me for years, and the image of little Grace in the closet can still be brought up vividly in my mid’s eye. While fans of the show will find this book very appealing, I’m not sure how well it would work for readers who haven’t had exposure to VM. I, myself, will eagerly await the next book!

Aliens Kidnapped My Brother

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Aliens, decimated human population, and a strong female protagonist on a quest are the key components of Broken Skies by Theresa Kay. I find all of those things compelling, so I started this book with high expectations. It didn’t take me long to get through this book, and I enjoyed it well enough. It wasn’t until it was time to reflect that I realized exactly how many times this book sidestepped great opportunities to develop a more fully realized world. YA readers who enjoyed Blood Red Road or The Fifth Wave will probably be interested in this book, but they will find Broken Skies a little anemic regarding world building and emotional punch when compared side by side with either of those books
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Broken Skies (Broken Skies, #1)Broken Skies by Theresa Kay
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Jax lives in a future where 90% of the human population died out and aliens occupy a portion of the lonely world. The aliens keep to themselves for the most part, but in a chance encounter, Jax’s brother is kidnapped by them and she is left saddled with a wounded alien. The mission to get her brother back will require Jax to ally herself with this enemy. This is a mix of things I like — strong female protagonist, journey through a deserted and dangerous world, alien encounters. The romantic elements that develop are not the overly emotional ones seen in a lot of YA, and the relationships that Jax forms with others hold true to her character. I loved that the deep felt mistrust between humans and aliens wasn’t erased by a few days of knowing each other and kept me from ever really knowing who was trustworthy. As with many abrasive characters who can’t seem to follow directions given for their own good, it was hard for me to like Jax in the beginning. She eventually grew on me, but it took awhile. The action and pacing were uneven — the journey, especially, rushed and dragged in intervals. The language and situations are appropriate for 7th grade and up.

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Rat Runners is a lot of what you love in your futuristic SciFi but is still inexplicably unique

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Rat Runners is a lot of what you love in your futuristic SciFi but is still inexplicably unique

I really wish there was a book trailer for Rat Runners by Oisin McGann because it is hard to get a real sense of what the book is about from either the title or the cover. Street smart kids outwit the mob bosses who coerce them into committing crimes in a 1984esque future. But that falls flat, too. It is tense and smart and full of high tech spy gadgets. You should read it. That is really the best I can do, boys and girls. For those of you not in the womb during the mid nineties, it reminded me of Hackers. Do you remember that? It had young, young Angelina Jolie and Johnny Lee Miller and it was about teen hackers outsmarting the adults. I felt so subversive just watching it!
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My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. In the future world, the only people who can escape the intense scrutiny of the government surveillance system are young teens. Mob bosses use these rat runners to carry out jobs through coercion and fear. When one group of runners discovers an invention that could change everything, they decide to use their street smarts and tech skills to keep it out of the hands of their boss, but the boss has more than just a few kids on his side, and he is willing to kill to get what he wants. While I initially struggled with this book, it became much more engaging once all of the players were introduced. The teens in this book were smart and resourceful, and, despite their association with illegal activities, they had a sense of right and justice. I think YA readers of both genders will enjoy this book. While the overall plot is not like Alex Rider, the Bourne books, or Mission Impossible, the secret and covert missions carried out are just as tense and the bad guys are just as threatening. Readers who enjoy books along that line and are willing to stick through the introductory chapters will be glad they did. The language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+.

Don’t believe me and my “old lady” (read: mid thirties) opinions? See what a real YA had to say. http://www.teenreads.com/reviews/rat-runners

If you could see someone’s death date, what would you do with that knowledge?

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If you could see someone’s death date, what would you do with that knowledge?

A contemporary YA suspense with a touch of the supernatural. Perfect for fans of Lisa McMann’s Wake and Crash series.

Goodreads Summary
Maddie Fynn is a shy high school junior, cursed with an eerie intuitive ability: she sees a series of unique digits hovering above the foreheads of each person she encounters. Her earliest memories are marked by these numbers, but it takes her father’s premature death for Maddie and her family to realize that these mysterious digits are actually death dates, and just like birthdays, everyone has one.

Forced by her alcoholic mother to use her ability to make extra money, Maddie identifies the quickly approaching death date of one client’s young son, but because her ability only allows her to see the when and not the how, she’s unable to offer any more insight. When the boy goes missing on that exact date, law enforcement turns to Maddie.

Soon, Maddie is entangled in a homicide investigation, and more young people disappear and are later found murdered. A suspect for the investigation, a target for the murderer, and attracting the attentions of a mysterious young admirer who may be connected to it all, Maddie’s whole existence is about to be turned upside down. Can she right things before it’s too late?

WhenWhen by Victoria Laurie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first half of this book was slow going for me. It was just full of despair, and I felt real fear for Maddie. It wasn’t until the second half that I began to really enjoy the book because there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel for the main characters. I had no idea who the killer was until Maddie did, yet it was a believable twist, and I was impressed because I usually figure it out quickly, especially in YA suspense. The death dates were a concept I had never encountered before, and, though I usually like to understand why someone has a special ability, I was glad the author didn’t come up with an explanation and just played it off as a wonder of the universe. There were interesting themes in this book that I think a YA crowd will respond to — having to be the parent when your own parent falls short is a more common problem than most people probably realize. I thought the depiction of bullying was spot on. As much as I was frustrated by Maddie’s lack of response, it was true to her character and to many victims of bullying. I liked the way the author chose to end the book, and I wasn’t prepared for the final bit of serendipity, but I was pretty pleased when I turned the last page. I think my students will enjoy the book, and I am adding it to my classroom library wish list. The language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.
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Revenge is Sweet, Until it Isn’t in Gone Too Far

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Revenge is Sweet, Until it Isn’t in <em>Gone Too Far</em>

So, my last days of being a high school senior saw me seeking my own form of revenge on the Queens of my high school. I might have left a little message about them . . . In spray paint. It felt so empowering until it didn’t. That sick-making feeling Is still something I can recall. Listening to those girls at graduation practice accusing a bunch of sophomores for my stunt sent me into a panic. The main character in Too Far Gone experiences a similar emotion, but a little cover up paint can’t hide her mistake.

The first book by this author was disappointing, but Gone Too Far was a tense and suspenseful read that I will happily recommend to my high school students. The vaguely menacing vibe that wafts through every page of this book kept me reading, and the tendrils of mistrust wormed deep – I suspected every character in this book, and I was not disappointed by the ending, even when I realized the answer had been there all along. If you are a grown up, chances are that this book will bore you with its angst about popularity and teen relationships. If you are a teen reader, this is a pretty plausible scenario with some lessons about empathy, sympathy, and the best of intentions. As far as contemporary YA suspense goes, this is a pretty good read – four stars in my opinion. While there is mention of a sex tape, the depiction isn’t graphic, and it is a timely issue for high school students today. Language and situations put this in the grade 9+ bracket.
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Gone Too Far Natalie D. Richards
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 6th 2015 by Sourcebooks Fire

Goodreads Summary
Keeping secrets ruined her life. But the truth might just kill her.

Piper Woods can’t wait for the purgatory of senior year to end. She skirts the fringes of high school like a pro until the morning she finds a notebook with mutilated photographs and a list of student sins. She’s sure the book is too gruesome to be true, until pretty, popular Stella dies after a sex-tape goes viral. Everyone’s sure it’s suicide, but Piper remembers Stella’s name from the book and begins to suspect something much worse.

Drowning in secrets she doesn’t want to keep, Piper’s fears are confirmed when she receives an anonymous text message daring her to make things right. All she needs to do is choose a name, the name of someone who deserves to be punished . . .

The Book that made me Horrifyingly Nostalgic About My Awkward Teen Love Life

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The Book that made me Horrifyingly Nostalgic About My Awkward Teen Love Life

I attempt to block out most of my own teen years, but every once in a while, something slips past my defenses and I find myself waxing nostalgic: the “Teen Spirit” video plays, an episode of The Wonder Years shows up, my Doc Martin’s surface from the closet at my mom’s house. We Should Hang Out Sometime was one such stealth attack. It isn’t a perfect book, but I thought it was a funny, honest, and heartfelt narrative. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I realized I was thinking about a certain seventh grade kiss-that-was-planned-but-never-meant-to-be. It was suppose to happen on the small bridge that spanned the toxic waste-filled creek flowing through the apartment complex next door to my house. Super romantic. It didn’t happen. I decided the romance was going nowhere and broke it off the next day in the choir room at the junior high. Seriously. Grown Woman thinking about junior high. Anyway, this was an ARC I received from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for my honest review. I honestly liked it a lot.
We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a true storyWe Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a true story by Josh Sundquist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Told in an engagingly humorous narrative voice, Josh rehashes his awkward attempts at romance from his early teens to his young twenties to decipher exactly where he went wrong and how he managed to be twenty before his first kiss. This is such a funny and endearing little nonfiction read. There are hilarious infographics and a faux scientific method charting his continued failures at connecting with the girls he loved. I was delighted and sympathetically laughing all the way through, cause this guy just couldn’t read a signal to save his life! I don’t ever willingly read nonfiction, and I didn’t realize this was nonfiction until I was hooked, but this book was worth every minute I spent reading it. It evokes nostalgia in me, a former awkward dater, but I think my high school students will find this funny and inspiring and comforting in a world were they believe everybody is hooking up and they are the only ones who can’t seem to get it right. This is a clean read — like I said, first kiss at twenty, so it is appropriate for grades seven and up. I’m adding it to my high school classroom library wish list
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