Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Born at Midnight by C.C. Hunter

Kylie Galen has had a lot of crap tossed in her lap. Her parents are getting a divorce. Her boyfriend broke up with her because she wouldn’t put out. Her grandmother died and now Kylie’s acquired a stalker. Unfortunately, she’s the only one who seems to be able to see the stalker. And that gets her sent to a psychologist’s sofa.

The kooky psychologist gets Kylie sent to Shadow Falls Camp. Kylie and her parents think it’s a camp for troubled teens.

They thought wrong.

It’s a camp of supernaturals: vampires, werewolves, fairies, witches and shape shifters. And if she believes the camp leader, Kylie is one of them, too.

Just because she’s seeing ghosts, just because she was born at midnight, does that really mean she’s not human? And if so, what is she? Not even the other supernaturals can tell her.

As Kylie attempts to cope with the realization that these creatures actually exist, and that she might even be one of them, the ever present stalker/ghost appears to have secrets that could unravel the mystery of Kylie’s identity and her destiny.

But getting a ghost to open up is as hard as getting a guy to talk about his feelings.

As Kylie struggles to find answers, two hot guys, a werewolf and a half-fairy vie for her attention. However, Kylie’s determined that before she lets her heart discover a new love, she needs to solve her indentify crisis and unearth the truth of her destiny.

I won a Born At Midnight ARC through the Library Things Early Reviewers. I really had no idea what this book was about when I got it . But I was hooked from the first page. The novel is told from the point of view of sixteen year old Kylie. She's not having a great month. Her parents are divorcing, her boyfriend broke up with her for the same reason boyfriends usually do -she said no, and to top it all off she's got a stalker that no one else but her can see. She's seeing a shrink, but it hasn't helped. When the police raid a party that she's at and the police find drugs and alcohol, her mother ships her off to a summer camp for troubled teens.

This is not a real camp for troubled teens. Kylie learns on the bus to camp that the kids that are "troubled" are very unique. One boy can change the color of his eyes to any color. Another girl with multi colored hair has a toad on her leg. And one very normal looking boy reminds her a lot of her ex boyfriend and she's immediately attracted to him.

Shadow Falls Camp is, she finds out for supernaturals, vampires, werewolves, faeries, shapeshifters,ghosts and anything else she can think of. Kylie doesn't believe she belongs there yet she has blood curdling screaming, night terrors and can't remember them the next morning. And her stalker she finds out is a ghost who literally gives her the chills. Apparently, no one knows what kind of supernatural Kylie is, her parents won't admit to being supernaturals or haven't told her they are supernaturals. Kylie works with the camp counselor to try to figure out if she really is a supernatural which she denies she is throughout most of the book. All the other supers can read each others brain patterns by wiggling their eyebrows (I know but it's presented better in the book) but no one can read Kylie's brain patterns and she can't read anyone else's brain patterns. If she isn't a supernatural, her other options are that she's crazy or she has a brain tumor, two not very promising options, but Kylie prefers them than to being supernatural.

During camp activities, getting to know your campmates hour, names are chosen and Derek, the boy that reminds Kylie of her ex draws her name and leads her to a magical little place near the water where they sit and talk and almost kiss. But her ex Trey is going to soccer camp just a few miles down the road and wants her to forgive him and meet him somewhere. And then there's Lucas -who used to live next door to her when she was young and killed her cat. She remembers him looking over the fence saying, "If you don't want your new kitten to suffer the same fate as your cat, bring him in at night." But this Lucas doesn't match up with the Lucas of her childhood and her memory brings back times when he saved her from bullies and walked her home from school. She has a unique experience with him on get to know your camp mate hour.

Throughout this teenage drama, lurks the FRU, Fallen Research Unit who fund the camp for supernaturals. They wear dark suits and walk around interrogating students about what we don't know until the last bit of the book but everyone is under suscipion, especially Kylie because she can't be read. Tension surmounts between the various supernaturals. Werewolves accuse vampires of crimes, and vice versa. Faeries and Witches are at odds. And FRU is constantly overheard threatening to shut down the camp.

Add in Parents Day on the weekends for some, like vampires who's parents don't know they've been turned. Or witches with pressure to pass exams. Or Kylie who's parents don't know what type of camp Shadow Falls really is. She finally learns to accept the other supernaturals, not as monsters but as friends. Her roommates are a witch and a vampire and they stand up for her when she needs them most. There is a point towards the end where I almost cried.

There isn't a dull moment in this novel. I read it fast, in one day, but it did take all day. I'm sure I'll read it again but I promised to send it on an ARC tour so I needed to get it on its way. This novel has a little of everything romance, adventure, suspense, mystery, and definitely leaves you wanting more. I sure hope C.C. Hunter writes fast because I already want the next one and this one hasn't even been released!

As far as age appropriateness goes, older teen, there is a teen pregnancy scare, talk about sex and a little bit of touching going on. Nothing below the waist!

Heather in Sandwich

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country by Richard Allan Shickman

Zan-Gah and the Beautiful CountryThe prehistoric saga continues in Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country, the sequel to the award winning Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure. In this story, Zan s troubled twin brother, Dael, having suffered greatly during his earlier captivity, receives a ruinous new shock when his wife suddenly dies. Disturbed and traumatized, all of his manic energies explode into acts of hostility and bloodshed. His obsession is the destruction of the wasp men, his first captors, who dwell in the Beautiful Country. When he, Zan-Gah, and a band of adventurers trek to their bountiful home, they find that all of the wasp people have died in war or of disease. The Beautiful Country is empty for the taking, and Zan s people, the Ba-Coro, decide to migrate and resettle there. But the Noi, Dael s cruelest enemies and former tormentors, make the same migration from their desert home, and the possibility develops of contention and war over this rich and lovely new land. (From Amazon)

As I started this novel, I was struck by the extreme sadness and madness that Zan-Gah's twin Dael suffers. Not only has he suffered two years of extreme conditions of torture and starvation that have turned this once laughing, joyous and carefree boy into a truculent, angry young man, his wife and baby die in childbirth. She was the only one that could calm him, soothe his anger, push his memories away of his time of capture.

After her death, he becomes an angry young man. Today we might have a name for his behavior. What, I'm not sure, but all he wants is war and death and when he decides to go after the Wasp people, Zan-Gah goes with him along with two other boys and Zan-Gah's wife, who has never acted like a typical woman. They do not know that their formidable uncle, Chul follows them.  They find the Wasp people all dead of disease or war and only one old woman left alive, Hurnoa.  She tries to tell what happened but she doesn't really know.  Zan-Gah urges Dael to leave her alive, she is weak and dying anyway, but his hatred is so great he kills her over night.

Because the land of the Wasp people is beautiful, food is plentiful, a lake is right there, Zan-Gah decides to put it to the elders that they should move there. They make the long and laborious trek with a few losses on the way.  When they get to the Beautiful Country, they are rewarded with the land that Zan-Gah described. But soon, camp fires appear on the other side of the lake. Dael is still unstable.  He wants to fight the Noi, the group that captured and tortured him.  He has disowned his twin and done things to make himself appear less like him.

Through all this, there are the invention of new weapons, the attempt to grow crops, the discovery of a volcano and a deep abiding love story between husband and wife.  It's also a love story between brothers and how one never gives up on the other. The story pulls you in, even if you think it won't.  Honestly, it took me a little longer to get into the story this time, but once I did, I stayed up until two am to finish it so I could find out what happened.  There is a satisfactory ending and there is definite closure.  I wouldn't mind reading more of the adventures of what goes on in the future.

Again I tried to figure out what Dael's illness was other than Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but it was more than that.  And I felt sorry for him because his anger was on the edge, always and you knew the torture he must have suffered was terrible.  I also tried to figure out what kind of illness could have wiped out the Wasp people.  They lived near a volcano and I wondered if something to do with that could have killed them, but Hurnoa never mentioned gas or a smell or ash, so I guess it wasn't the volcano.  I really enjoyed this novel.  It was compelling once I got into the story and I've left out much of the story.  I'd say anyone that can read the words can read this story.  It's a great prehistoric adventure novel and would be great to be included in middle grade libraries (6-9th).  It's a short novel, 151 pages and the writing is simple and flows easily from chapter to chapter.

I have signed copies but am willing to loan them to anyone that would like to read them.  My email is on my home page.  Email me with your address and I'll mail them out after the holidays.  I just ask that you post your review to Good Reads and let me know the link so I can let the publisher know.  I received these books from Earthshaker books for an honest review.  I was in no way compensated for my review.

Heather in Sandwich.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Zan-Gah A Prehistoric Adventure by Allan Richard Shickman

The hero, Zan-Gah seeks his lost twin in a savage prehistoric world, encountering suffering, captivity, conflict, love, and triumph. In three years, Zan-Gah passes from an uncertain boyhood to a tried and proven manhood and a position of leadership among his people. Themes: survival, cultures, gender roles, psychological trauma, nature's wonders and terrors. (From Amazon)

I received this novel from Earthshaker books to review.  I am not being paid to review it and my review is an honest review of the book.  That being said,  I thought this was a great story!  I don't know how realistic it was but it was easy to read broken down into small chapters and the story really was captivating.  I'm a lover of history, prehistoric history included and though I'd never really heard of anything in this story except the Mastodon, who's bones  Zan-Gah found, it was a very primitive world.

The story begins with Zan's brother having been missing for a year already and Zan feels guilty because he wandered off when the two had a fight.  Before that they had been inseparable.  But Zan can't worry about that at this point because the next day, for the first time, the five clans are getting together to hunt down a lioness who killed a child.  She has to be taken down before more children are killed.  It is an uneasy alliance between the clans who fight usually, but they've called a truce.  Out of sheer luck, Zan kills the lioness when she looks for a weak spot in the circle that is closing in around her and sees him, a young boy.  She heads for him and he holds his spear steady.  She dives right into it and kills herself.  He is named Zan-Gah, Gah being the rock where he killed her.  This is not a big part of the story. 

The majority of the story is his search for his missing brother.  They are twins and he has dreams every night that his missing brother, Dael is still alive.  He fights with his parents over it but in the end, he goes after him.  He discovers many things about the world her lives in and his enemies.  He creates a new weapon purely by accident.  He is captured by the same people that captured his brother for a time.  But his brother isn't with them any longer.  He suffers in the desert and almost dies.  But he continues his search for his brother because he loves him and believes he is not dead even when he believes he, himself is dying.

The landscape is harsh, the people are harsh.  Food is scarce, water is scarcer and you can feel the dryness of the desert, the heat on your back, the ache on your sore bare feet as you walk with Zan-Gah in search of his twin.  You can feel the joy when he finds water and food and feel his desolation when he is so thirsty that his mouth is like chalk.  You can also see the mind of a great leader forming, planning, and beginning to take over what one day will be his nation.

I totally recommend Zan-Gah to anyone, especially teachers, teaching about the hardships faced in prehistoric times.  There is violence in the book, as there would be during that time period.  I'd say fourth grade and up.  It's definitely an easy read at 148 pages so maybe some reluctant readers would enjoy it. I hesitate to allow my ten year old to read it because it's a signed copy, but if he keeps it at home, maybe. For all you librarians out there, I'd keep this one in mind.  Elementary school teachers should also keep this one in mind as well.

There is a follow up novel that I'm reading next call Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country.  I'll be reading it next.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan an Interview with my 10 yr old Jakob

After saving Olympus from the evil Titan lord, Kronos, Percy and friends have rebuilt their beloved Camp Half-Blood, where the next generation of demigods must now prepare for a chilling prophecy of their own:

Seven half-bloods shall answer the call,
To storm or fire the world must fall.
An oath to keep with a final breath,
And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death.

Now, in a brand-new series from blockbuster best-selling author Rick Riordan, fans return to the world of Camp Half-Blood. Here, a new group of heroes will inherit a quest. But to survive the journey, they’ll need the help of some familiar demigods.

Since I haven't finished reading anything to review in awhile, I thought I would do a guest post.  My guest is my ten year old Jakob.  I'd try to put a picture of him up but it would probably take longer than it's worth.  So, you'll have to take my word for it that he's a cutie and he'd make a goofy face if I took a picture for the blog.

Anyway here is my interview and he as always, made it his own.

1.)What was your favorite part of the book?  Parts!!!PARTS!!!! I'd have to say, the part where Leo amazes everybody by riding on a dragon.

2.)Why do you like these books?  There are many reasons I LOVE these books because
  • Rick Riordan makes great hooks (guess what they are learning about in writing class)
  • amazing characters
  • Ever since the last series, he had HILARIOUS chapter names.  For example "I Visit Some Fishy Relatives" or  "I Get a Sneak Peak At My Death."
3.) Would you recommend this book to your friends?  Yes

4.) Do any of the old characters show up in this book?  Well yeah, but mostly just on the side of things.

5.) What is the quest this time?  The quest this time has to do with demigods and the doors of death.  Plus the New Great Prophecy.

6.) Do you think this series will be as good as the Percy Jackson series?  Yes!  I am sure Rick Riordan has outdone himself yet again.  The Son of Neptune (next book in the series) will be GREAT!

7.) Are you going to read the next book?  Yes!

8.)Who is your favorite character in this new series?  Why?  Leo!  I have always been thinking since The Last Olympian how cool it would be to find somebody as nice and funny as Beckendorff (R.I.P. Buddy).  And now there's Leo!

9.)  Anything else you want to say without giving away the ending?  Yes, I call it Character Time with Jakob-
  Annabeth- As smart as ever and surprisingly very worried about (hint: someone who likes blue, has a sword called Riptide and has defeated the Minotaur twice!)_______!

Thank you for your time Jakob and for giving us a look into the world of a ten year old mind!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

Pearce mixes werewolves and classic fairy tales to create a lushly romantic story of two sisters who hunt the Fenris, werewolves who roam in search of adolescent girls to eat. Along with her younger sister, Rosie, Scarlett March was orphaned and nearly killed at age 11 by a Fenris who destroyed her grandmother and left her missing an eye. Eight years later, the sisters have become fierce hunters, avenging their grandmother and protecting unknowing young women with the help of their neighbor, a young woodsman named Silas, who wields a mean axe. Silas loves Rosie, but hesitates to come between the sisters' strong bond. Scarlett and Rosie alternate narrating chapters, giving the reader a clear view of their inner conflicts. Despite plenty of gore and werewolf transformations, it's the compelling love stories that drive the tale—the sisters' affection for each other, the first breathless flush of infatuation between Rosie and Silas, and Scarlett's love of the hunt.(Summary from Booklist taken off Amazon)

I received this ARC as part of a traveling tour from We Love YA Tours.  With a week turnaround time and NaNoWriMo I had to read in every snatch of time I got.  The doctor's office-she asked "And now the most important question Is that book any good?"  She thought it was by Gregory Maguire of Wicked fame.  I live in Massachusetts.  They live for Gregory Maguire.  Wicked is a very big descriptive word up here.  So I'll say this  Sister Red was Wicked Good! 

This is the tale basically of Little Red Riding Hood, in a different version, when she's all grown up and they are sisters.  I'm going to try not to give anything away.  The summary tells you that the wolf eats Oma March and the woodsman takes the two orphaned girls in until their mother comes home to care for them.  She had run away to the circus, but is motherly enough to come back and stay with the girls for a little while.  At least until she can't stand to see Scarlett's scars anymore and then it's off to the circus again.  But the woodsman looks after the girls, he has many children of his own.  And he and Oma March had been good friends.

Scarlett's scars are extensive and criss-cross  her entire body.  When the wolf killed Oma March, she broke a mirror and pushed her sister under the bed and she fought the wolf.  He took her eye and left scars everywhere, except over her heart.  This is significant because the girls, though two years apart in age, believe they share a heart.  They believed when they were little that their heart broke in two because half of them wanted to be born first, Scarlett, and then Rosie braved the world later.  As little girls they believed this but after the attack, the only time their hearts felt as one was when they were on the hunt for Fenris-the wolves that attacked and ate young girls.

This story is basically about the deep love between two sisters, the responsibility Scarlett feels to hunt the Fenris and Rosie's need for something more.  There is a lot of guilt on Rosie's part because her sister bears the scars of protecting her and the hunt and Rosie doesn't feel she can separate from her sister.  But Silas, Scarlett's hunting partner lures her away from a life of hunting and tries to show her a life beyond just hunting.  For Scarlett, anything but hunting is an act of betrayal.  For Silas, he can hunt and still have a life.
For Rosie's a choice between the two people she loves.

But another story going on is the hunt for the Potential, a human that has all the right things to be turned into a Fenris and the Fenris are on the prowl, first in the girls' small town and then when Scarlett, Rosie and Silas head to Atlanta where there are a lot of killings, they hear Fenris talking of the Potential.  But they know so little of this Potential.  What makes him what he is and their greatest resource, Silas' father, the woodsman, is in a nursing home with Alzheimer's.

There is a lot of action in this novel mixed with a little bit of  budding romance and lots of fighting and gore.  Not the kind that turns your stomach, just descriptive enough.  I knew who the Potential was pretty early but you may not guess.  Pearce just left the hint way too soon for it not to be the person I thought it was no matter how far off she tried to lead.  This was fast paced and a great take on the Little Red Riding Hood story.  Each character had something to add, but Silas wasn't a fully developed character.  However, this was after all Sisters Red and the two sisters were given every other chapter to narrate and let us see into their minds.

I'd love to see Pearce do another fairy tale.  I've just recently read Beastly, a take on Beauty and the Beast and the modern telling of the old versions make for really great reading.  I love the grown up versions of Red Riding Hood.  I definitely recommend this to anyone that loves fairy tales, suspense, mystery, YA, or just a good read.  I'd say it's clean enough for any age to read.  Just depends on the gore factor.  And a big  thanks to We Love YA Tours for letting me have a chance to read this one!!

Heather in Sandwich

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Vamped by Lucienne Diver

When Gina makes out with newly hot Bobby after prom, she gets more than she bargained for. Later, her boyfriend Chaz crashes his car and Gina finds out the hard way why the teen death rate is up in her Ohio town. She wakes up and claws her way out of the grave, adjusting quickly to the fact that she is now undead. Bobby meets her at the cemetery and they end up back at her house before sunrise. They are then captured and taken to a secret hideout where they meet Mellisande, a rogue vampire who seeks to build her own army and to fulfill a prophecy. She has turned a group of teens into vampires, but Bobby has special powers, including telekinesis, that the other vamps do not possess. Chaz and Gina's friend Marcy are among the new vamps who are training in combat skills to take on the vampire council, and Gina must step up to save her friends. This quick read is filled with teen slang and fashion consciousness; it's a lighthearted, action-packed, vampire romance story.

At the beginning of this novel, I felt like I'd missed the first chapter or so.  It took me awhile to catch up with things and figure out what was going on.  Even so, I was about halfway into the novel before I felt like I was really into the novel and knew what was going on, who the characters were and where things were headed.  But, once I got there, it was fun.  There was Gina, obsessed with her looks who had no reflection.  Then she's separated from her boyfriend who has some kind of superpowers for vampires.  She's held prisoner and her best friend treats her like she's got a disease, no one is talking to her.  But, Gina isn't going to take it lying down.  She's the kind who takes charge now and falls apart later.  So, she does makeovers.  When Marcy goes missing, she gets out to rescue her.  And she wants to find out why the evil vamp holding them captive is building an army of high school vampires.  Does she even care about them?

When Gina hides out in the head vamps office and hears a conversation she shouldn't, she finds out more of what's going on.  She hopes she can round up the troops to help save Bobby and take their own fates into their hands, but mayhem ensues and retreat is required.  When they are attacked the next night, more mayhem ensues and Gina and Bobby are made an offer they can't refuse!

It's not a hardcore vampire book.  Other than the confusion in the beginning, it was a fun book.  I'm looking forward to reading Revamped.  I like the snarky way Gina talks and thinks and her comebacks.  She isn't at all upset about being a vampire other than the fact that she can't see her reflection.  She's a take charge kind of girl and even though she's not sure if she's making the right decision, she stands behind it so that everyone else believes in her.  And she's got a boyfriend that has her back.  And really knows how to talk to win a girl's heart.

I can't remember any bad language.  Only one scene where Gina and Bobby are in their underwear.  But that's all it says.  I think this would be fine for thirteen and up.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Teagan Wylltson's best friend, Abby, dreams that horrifying creatures--goblins, shape-shifters, and beings of unearthly beauty but terrible cruelty--are hunting Teagan. Abby is always coming up with crazy stuff, though, so Teagan isn't worried. Her life isn't in danger. In fact, it's perfect. She's on track for a college scholarship. She has a great job. She's focused on school, work, and her future. No boys, no heartaches, no problems.

Until Finn Mac Cumhaill arrives. Finn's a bit on the unearthly beautiful side himself. He has a killer accent and a knee-weakening smile. And either he's crazy or he's been haunting Abby's dreams, because he's talking about goblins, too . . . and about being The Mac Cumhaill, born to fight all goblin-kind. Finn knows a thing or two about fighting. Which is a very good thing, because this time, Abby's right. The goblins are coming.

Did you know that Tyger, Tyger has already been released despite the fact that it still says Novermeber 15, on Amazon, it was released October 20th the author told me.  If you look at the reviews on Amazon, you'll see it has four and a half stars.  If you read the reviews, you'll see that most of them tell you why it's so great.
I reviewed it a while back which you can read HERE.  It is in my top five favorite of the year and at the time was my absolute favorite of the year.  This is a book about goblins which I didn't know much about when I read the book and normally wouldn't read about but I understand them now and they aren't the ugly short creatures I imagined them to be.  They are beautiful much like fairies are and vampires are.  And the folklore, Kersten Hamilton knows her Irish Folklore.  If you didn't know it before, you will after reading this and really if you're into fairy talkes, myths, folklore and such, can you ever know enough?

And if you didn't read her story about searching for the origins of Vampires you won't know that they originated in IRELAND.  I never thought of the Irish with those wonderful accents being blood thirsty vampires.   But then who wouldn't be lured in by those accents????  Go figure.  I think you can still click on the link on my sidebar and read her story.  It was fascinating.  Who else believed vampires started with that crazy guy that stuck the heads of all those guys he defeated on pikes in front of his castle?  Too much History Channel for me.  I need to stick my head in a folklore book.  They need a Folklore Channel.  Wouldn't that be an interesting channel.  But then I'd never turn the t.v. off until the infomercials started. 

I digress.  If you want to brush up on your Irish folkore while reading a novel about a strong female main character,  this is the one for you!  It moves at a fast pace.  Some say it skips over a major part without the proper attention paid to it.  I say that year skipped is fine.  We all know what happened during that year.  We can imagine.  It's not central to the story.  You pick up and go on.  That's what I think the author was trying to convey, that they dealt with it the best they could and went on.  No need to dwell on the facts.  What's there to say?  The obvious effects could be seen when the story started up again. 

This story has it all, romance, but restrained, uncertain, action, lots of it, suspense, tragedy, folklore, mystery and monsters.  And it starts out so  normal.  Don't be fooled, things go from normal to not in a page.
There's really nothing left for it to have in it except maybe science fiction which doesn't belong, but who knows what may come later in one of the other books.  You'll kick yourself, if you don't read this masterpiece.  Tyger, Tyger, to me, is a flawless novel and I can't remember using those terms to describe another book very often.

Get it!  Read it!  Tell me what you think!

Heather in Sandwich

You can follow Kersten Hamilton on Goodreads

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Beastly by Alex Flinn

A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright—a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.

You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.

This was a great adaption of the Beauty and the Beast.  It was told from the Beast's point of view and had some interesting plot twists to it.  It was humorous, heartbreaking and fast paced.  The trasformation of the ego centric main character Kyle Kingsbury, Prince of Tuttle Private School to Adrian the kind hearted beast was slow going, but it did happen and not just with the help of a girl.

The beginning starts with the choosing of Prince and Princess of the last dance of the school year.  Of course Kyle knows he'll win.  But a girl in the back of the room pipes up that it is utterly preposterous that they are voting on someone just because of their looks and people should be judged by what's inside.  Kyle doesn't know this girl but thinks she's extremely ugly and vows to get even with her.  At P.E. he ask her to the dance knowing full well he already has a dance with the hottest girl in school.  He shows up at the dance with his date and they all make fun of her.  One faux pas, he brought the wrong type of corsage for his date so he gave it to the ticket taker at the front, she seemed to think it was beautiful.

Later that night, he finds out the girl he tricked was a witch and she turns him into a beast.  She tells him he must find a girl that he loves that loves him that will kiss him to break the curse.  There are some other things attached, but I don't want to spoil it.  His father is a news anchorman and is rarely home, but he takes time off to visit specialist around the country to see if they can help Kyle.  They all say the same thing, "No."  Eventually, he moves Kyle to a Brownstone in Brooklyn with five stories and an 8 foot tall fence.  He doesn't move in with him.  He doesn't want to be seen with Kyle.  Kyle realizes this and makes some demands threatening to go to the news if his father doesn't follow through.

Soon Kyle has a blind tutor and a computer with the internet.  He joins an internet support group for people that have been transformed and meets some of the familiars, the Frog Prince, The Bear in Snow White and Rose Red, and The Little Mermaid who is considering giving up her fins.  They instant message during support group time, it's sort of funny especially since "Froggie can't type very well or fast."  Kyle convinces his tutor that a witch turned him into this beast and finely, after feeling his hair, he believes him.  They study daily and one day, the tutor, Will, brings home rose bushes and all the things it takes to grow them.  Kyle, at first stung by the roses as they remind him of the dance is shocked, but helps plant them and soon takes over the care of them.  He later builds a green house of glass so he can enjoy them all year long.

One night he hears someone breaking the glass of his greenhouse and finds a man coming in to steal from him.  It's the same story, bring your daughter to me in one week or I'll turn you in to the police.  But, Kyle, who calls himself Adrian now has video cameras with tapes to prove the break in and he knows who the man's daughter is and knows she'd be better off without her father.  He spends the week decorating her bedroom, buying out the bookstores and clothing stores and painting and wall papering.  But Lindy hates him for keeping her prisoner and won't even take meals with him, his tutor and maid.  But one night she brings her dishes down and Adrian is in the lounge where the t.v. is.  She gets her first shadowy look and him and doesn't go running.  The next day she comes down in daylight and soon a friendship begins.

Lindy's father is not the kind of father Beauty had and not one that deserves the love Lindy gave him.  Adrian truly transforms and asks for gifts for his friends instead of himself even if the curse isn't lifted.  He is resigned to the fact that he will always be a beast.  But he accepts his fate and is content with it knowing he is better inside than he was as Kyle Kingsbury.  It's a great story and I never felt like I was reading Beauty and the Beast.  It's completely contemporary and feels very genuine except for the witch and  the enchantment.

I really enjoyed it and read it in just a few hours.  I suggest it for anyone that loves the classic fairy tales or wants a simply enjoyable read.  There was some slightly suggestive remarks in the beginning but that was it.
Heather in Sandwich

It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han

Can summer be truly summer without Cousins Beach?

It used to be that Belly counted the days until summer, until she was back at Cousins Beach with Conrad and Jeremiah. But not this year. Not after Susannah got sick again and Conrad stopped caring. Everything that was right and good has fallen apart, leaving Belly wishing summer would never come.

But when Jeremiah calls saying Conrad has disappeared, Belly knows what she must do to make things right again. And it can only happen back at the beach house, the three of them together, the way things used to be. If this summer really and truly is the last summer, it should end the way it started--at Cousins Beach.

Conrad and Belly left things badly.  Or should I say Belly did.  At his mother's funeral, she found him with his head in another girl's lap, the girl who broke his heart, and Belly told him she hated him.  Yes it was childish, but that's what love does sometimes, makes you act childish.  She spends the next few months pining over Conrad but also mourning the loss of Susannah.  She misses the attention she got from her, how she treated Belly and mostly she misses their summer at Cousins.  It just doesn't feel like summer.  Her best friend thinks she's carried on long enough, but she just doesn't understand.  For sixteen years, almost seventeen she'd lived at Cousins trying to fit in with the boys and this year, there was no Cousins, no Susannah.

But that all changes when Jeremiah calls and asks for her help in finding Conrad.  He's gone missing at school and missed two classes and has some exams coming up on Monday.  Jeremiah picks her up and she lies to her mom about where she'll be.  They take off for Brown, where Conrad is attending school.  His room mate is no help.  A quick hello to the RA gives them the information they need when he tells them he said something about going to the beach.  They find him at Cousins, his usual brooding, surly self.  He gives them no reason why he's there and they can't talk him into going back.

It's only when the boy's dad shows up that they understand why he's there.  Belly still loves him, but he is still aloof and she takes no chances on being hurt again until she gets drunk on their last night there.  Then she runs to the beach to swim and Conrad comes after her because she's too drunk to swim.  She taunts him and he tells her he won't follow her in.  She gets distracted and he picks her up and drops her on the beach.  By this time she's crying and apologizes for the way she acted the day of the funeral.  Conrad acts like it was nothing while Belly has carried the shame and guilt of it around for months.  She runs crying from the beach and crawls up to her room where she drunk dials her mom.  She spills her guts, then passes out with the phone off the hook.

The next morning, when Belly's mom shows up, everyone is surprised and they relay the events of the past few days.  She says she'll try to help.  After she leaves, Belly and  the Jeremiah have to help Conrad study for him exams.  They study most of the night and then Jeremiah drives them to Brown while Conrad studies.  Jeremiah has always been in love with Belly and knows he'd be good for her and during one of the times they are waiting for Conrad, they end up kissing.  Conrad sees them and is jealous.  Belly is confused all over again when he says he never loved her.  It's and up and down ride and there will be another book coming out in May next year.  Personally, I'd like to see Jeremiah punch Conrad in the face and Jeremiah and Belly live happily ever after, as much as you can.  Conrad is really detestable.  He strings her along, keeping her on the hook just enough to keep hope alive.  But Belly is the most frustrating.  She lets him treat her like dirt.  He leaves her at the prom, to walk home.  He didn't even bring her a corsage.  He acted like he didn't want to be there the whole time.  He doesn't call her.  Then at the funeral when she wants to be with him, he's with his ex-girlfriend.  But he still makes these flirty comments to her.  So she lets him keep her hoping when even if he does love her, he's never going to be there for her and she's never going to be able to count on him.

That was the frustrating part of this book.  For two books now, she's been mooning over Conrad and though between book one and two he called  her almost nightly, she didn't know if they were boyfriend and girlfriend.  Then there's Jeremiah who told her he liked her and who she can talk to and be with and laugh with.  Hello, wake up Belly!  First change your choice in boys and then change your nickname, you're not a toddler anymore.

I still loved this book and can't believe I have to wait this long to read what I hope will be the last in the series.  I only want it to be the last because I don't like waiting for sequels.  I love the characters and they had the appropriate feelings as to the loss of Susannah in this book.  Each character handled their grief differently, but they were all grieving.  The visit to Cousins helped to heal that wound a little.  If you liked the first novel, you'll love this second one and hate that you have to wait for the third one!  Again, this is PG for underage drinking and a possible swear word or two.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bitter Frost ARC by Kailin Gow

All her life, Breena had always dreamed about fairies as though she lived among them...beautiful fairies living among mortals and living in Feyland. In her dreams, he was always there the breathtakingly handsome but dangerous Winter Prince, Kian, who is her intended. When Breena turns sixteen, she begins seeing fairies and other creatures mortals don t see. Her best friend Logan, suddenly acts very protective. Then she sees Kian, who seems intent on finding her and carrying her off to Feyland. That's fine and all, but for the fact that humans rarely survive a trip to Feyland, a kiss from a fairy generally means death to the human unless that human has fairy blood in them or is very strong, and although Kian seemed to be her intended, he seems to hate her and wants her dead.

I received this ARC as part of the Traveling ARCs Tours who sadly are stopping their tours.  I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review and sadly have to send the ARC on to the next person.  And for the record, the description is hardly accurate.  So don't go by what it says about the book.  Kian seems to hate her for all of two minutes.

First of all, the cover is beautiful.  It looks like the girl on the front has dipped her lip in dark blue iridescent glitter.  Her mouth is formed perfectly, too perfectly, and the skin is so pale that if you look closely you'll see ice on it.  I don't know if that's dark hair behind her or if it's just darkness and I think there are frozen flowers falling from the title.  It's a beautiful cover and it goes well with the story.  I don't know of another author lately that I've read that can paint a picture so beautifully like Kailin Gow.  She is an artist with words.  I have to write just one description so you can understand.  This is on page seven of the ARC in the prologue which you must never skip in a book.  I've said that before and I will say it again.  Much important information is in  that prologue, that's why the writer bothered to write it.   Continuing on:

     "The music grew louder, and I could hear its melody.  It was not like human music-no, not even
      the most beautiful concertos, most elaborate sonatas.  This was the music that humans try to make
      and fail-the language of the stars as they twinkle, they rhythm of the human heart as it beats, the
      glimmering harmony of all the planets and all the moons and all the secret melodies of nature."

Can you not hear that music in your mind and picture those words floating off into the midnight sky, like she wrote them in the air.  She has such a way with words.  If you love descriptions you'll love the way she does them.  But it's not too much.  It's not full of descriptions and nothing else, just when she does them, holy cow!

This is only part of what Breena, the main character dreams of every night. She dreams of playing in a palace with the Winter Prince Kian, and his sister, Shasta in a castle of gold.  She dreams every night of Kian and her, learning as children how to dance their dance for the wedding, for they are supposed to be married.  But then something terrible happens that separates the two courts and makes Breena and Kian enemies simply because of which court they belonged to and their marriage contract was voided.  But their contract runs deeper than paper, its an older contract, one of magic and feelings. Breena believes her dreams are just that, dreams. But,  when she finds a Pixie at her door on her 16th birthday, she finds out the truth.  Feyland is real, she's a Faery Princess of the Summer Court and her best friend, Logan is a werewolf.  What's more, all those beautiful paintings of the faery world she's been painting is a way for her to get into Feyland and Kian takes her prisoner at her house and takes her to Feyland.

Kian's intention is to take Breena to the Winter Queen and have her swapped for his sister Shasta who the Summer Queen has been holding hostage.  The courts have been at war for a long time and much damage has been done.  There is no way now that Breena and Kian can marry, they best they can hope for is that his mother will not torture Breena before he takes her to the Summer Court.  But Breena is only a halfling.  Her mother is human, her father the Summer King.  Will Breena be welcomed by the Summer Court with the Summer Queen in charge?  And a drunk satyr accidentally lets it slip that halflings are stronger than fairies because they can withstand faery magic/kisses and live so they are the strongest of humans and then they have magic as well.

Breena has agreed to go with Kian because she simply has no other choice.  They've already had to battle minotaurs and a Pixie at her house when Kian led her away.  Logan shows up and Breena tries to go with him only to find out that she's made a bargain with Kian. (If you should find yourself with a faery, never make a bargain.  They are ironclad!)  Logan morphs into a werewolf and while the two of them battle, the Pixie King steels Breena away while they can only watch.  Breena works on her magic in the dungeon she is kept in as she pretends to consider the Pixie King's proposal, marriage giving him rights to the Summer Court or become his concubine.  In an escape attempt, Kian is captured and a guilty conscience makes Breena insist she and Logan go back.  In that attempt, Logan is killed and Breena blames herself.  While consoling her, Kian and Breena kiss and find that the magic of love is stronger than a contract on paper or any other kind of magic and they realize their feelings for each other.

But the Winter and Summer Courts have plans of their own.  Both Breena and Kian are in constant danger even though they are in a "safe" house.  They could be discovered at any time.  Kian teaches Breena about Fey customs and history and how to use her magic and how to fight.  Which will come in handy as the Summer Court captures Breena and arrests her because she was banished from Feyland as a baby.  While the Winter Court is capturing Kian and taking him back to the Winter Queen for not bringing Breena to her.  Besides they tell him, they have a much better prisoner.  Who could be better than the halfling banished at birth?  Who will be able to save Breena?  What will happen if there is peace between Summer and Winter?

Magic and love are the two most powerful forces in Feyland in Kailin Gow's novel.  The two combined , to me, would seem to me to be unstoppable.  This is truly a faery tale with magic, love and politics and war.  The next book is already out called Forever Frost and then the next  is Silver Frost which comes out in 2011.  The Sparklesoup website shows a total of five books in the series.

I read this in a few hours.  Definitely a quick read.  It's just a short book with a great love story and the beginning of a great faery tale.  Anyone that loves faery tales should love this.  Very PG rated for the word concubine and maybe some other words with the same meaning.  Nothing else.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer -- they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one wonderful and terrible summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.

I know this one has been around for a little while but I was compelled by the title to read it.  I had my own summer when I turned pretty and I wanted to read about Belly's.  Mine wasn't near as dramatic as hers.  Belly, Steven and their mother had been going to Cousins beach to meet Conrad, Jeremiah, and Susannah at her beach house since before Belly had been born.  And she'd had a crush on Conrad for about as long.  He was of course the dark, moody, silent type.  Jeremiah was the opposite and a buffer between the two of them.  Every summer before,  Belly had always been left out of things, it was always the three guys and her left alone because she was too young.  But this year, things were different.  She was almost sixteen and had turned into a girl instead of just Belly.  Both boys noticed as soon as she got out of the car.  But Conrad was even more unattainable this year and then Belly finds out that Susannah and Mr. Fisher, that's what she'd always called him, were getting a divorce.  And she gets her first boyfriend and she can't understand Conrad's looks at her.  Confessions are made, revelations are made and soon the summer is over.

This is a  quick book to read somewhat lighthearted.  But it deals with some heavy topics, divorce, and the death of a parent.  So I can't really say light reading.  But it doesn't dwell on the fact that a parent may die.  It takes a positive stance and says maybe it won't happen and we'll be back here next year.  The first chapter of the next book is in this book and reveals what happened.  It will make you want to read what happens to Belly the next summer.  I've already placed an order for it.  I read this book for enjoyment and I was entertained.  I was just as confused as Belly as to why Conrad was treating her the way he was.  He seemed to flirt with her and then get a girlfriend just because she had a boyfriend.  I had no idea what was going on with Susannah.  I really loved letting my mind go and being that teenager again.  And remembering my eternal crush.  So I totally recommend this to anyone that wants to reminisce.  There may have been some bad language, but that was about it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready

Best. Birthday. Ever. At least, it was supposed to be. With Logan's band playing a critical gig and Aura's plans for an intimate after-party, Aura knows it will be the most memorable night of her boyfriend's life. She never thought it would be his last.

Logan's sudden death leaves Aura devastated. He's gone.

Well, sort of.

Like everyone born after the Shift, Aura can see and hear ghosts. This mysterious ability has always been annoying, and Aura had wanted nothing more than to figure out why the Shift happened so she can undo it. But not with Logan's violet-hued spirit still hanging around. Because dead Logan is almost as real as ever.


It doesn't help that Aura's new friend Zachary is so understanding--and so very alive. His support means more to Aura than she cares to admit.

As Aura's relationships with the dead and the living grow ever complicated, so do her feelings for Logan and Zachary. Each holds a piece of Aura's heart...and clues to the secret of the Shift.

I have had this novel hanging around for months and always read good things about it.  The author is on the Crossroads Tour and I've been commenting on her interviews saying I am going to read her book next.  Well, I can finally say I read it and I was blown away by it.  Why did I wait so long?  It's the first ghost story I've read since Ruined by Paula Morris and I have to say it was one of the best this year.  It seems like the end of the year is going to go out with a bang as far as what I'm reading.

The story begins with an unsure Aura, racing to her boyfriend's house.  Why is she unsure?  All sixteen year old girls are insecure about their relationships, but Logan, Aura's boyfriend is a huge egomaniac or diva as they call him and musician who gives the audience all they want and more.  So, he has groupies and we all know what groupies do.  And Aura and Logan have never done that before.  But it's his seventeenth birthday and Aura is going to give him the perfect birthday present, herself.  The band has a gig where two record execs show up and both want to sign them, but they can't because of Logan being under eighteen.  So they head home to the after party at Logan's house where he gets drunk and on top of that drinks something called Liquid Stupid.  It's so potent that his finger and toes start to go numb and of course he can't perform.  He can't even properly kiss Aura.  She yells and gets mad at him so he takes a little packet our of the drawer saying it's a sample of shampoo and he goes to the bathroom to take a cold shower and wake up.  Moments later he appears at the foot of the bed, a violet hued ghost.  Aura can see ghosts.  Anyone born after a certain time can.  She is broken hearted and doesn't believe it,  She throws her shirt back on inside out and backwards then runs to the bathroom where his brother and sister are performing CPR and his little brother is  running to get their father's defibrillator.  But it's too late once you're a ghost.  And that's when Aura sees the white lines of cocaine on the bathroom counter.  He used cocaine after all the alcohol.  Of course he's dead.  But she doesn't understand why he didn't cross over.

In the meantime, she's got a sexy Scottish partner for a thesis project that requires them to be alone in the dark.  She loves his accent and the further from Logan's death she gets, the more attracted she is to her partner Zach.  They each have big secrets they are keeping from each other, though and until they come out they can't really become close.  Zach knows she is sleeping with Logan's ghost, but of course they can't do anything.  Logan's family are like walking zombies.  Only his little brother can see him and Logan is starting to go Shade where a ghost becomes so angry and filled with rage that it becomes black and can hide in the shadows.  No one can track it and it can go anywhere it wants, whereas regular ghosts are violet in color and can only visit places they've been before.  To top all of that off, Logan's parents are suing the record company that gave Logan the cocaine and Aura will have to testify as to what she was doing in the room with Logan the night he died.

Smith-Ready builds likable characters-all of them.  Logan, Zach and Aura are the most fully fleshed out but there are a few extras that have minor roles such as Aura's best friend Megan.  Every one's motivations are clear.  Aura's Aunt Gina wants her to move on because she's been through a similar experience and knows it will only end in heartache.  Logan loves her, selfishly, he can't even touch her, he can't protect her, he can't do anything but talk to her.  Zach on the other hand can do more and wants to, but he wants her completely, without her still attached to Logan.  And Aura, she just wants to help Logan cross over.  Whatever it takes.  But she's not sure how and she wants to find out what caused the Shift.  But it seems like that will all be answered in another book called Shift which I can hardly wait for!  It comes out in early May of next year according to Amazon.  I read this novel in a few hours, alternating between tears and laughter and feeling Aura's pain.  I even felt some of Logan's pain but my favorite character was Zach because he told her he was patient, but "no' a saint.'  I love that accent.  I also loved that Logan was Irish and Zach was Scottish.  That rivalry might come up, later, too.  You will not be disappointed with this novel.  Descriptions are crisp, people are likable and the plot thickens as you go along.  It's up there with Paranormalcy, The Duff, Torment and Tyger, Tyger as this years top favorites.  Oh, and Speak.  But I think that one should be in a class by itself.

Heather in Sandwich

Thursday, October 21, 2010

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier.  On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list. Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers

First a BIG THANK YOU!  to Amber at Down the Rabbit Hole for this book.  I won a contest at her blog and in second place, I won this book and  Once Dead, Twice Shy by Kim Harrison that I am currently reading.  You should also visit her site because she has a list of all the current giveaways going on and it's so easy to click from the list to the site and go right back to her site.  Plus she has great giveaways! So thanks Amber!

13 Reasons Why is labeled suspenseful realistic fiction by it's author.  It's gotten numerous awards including Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers.  I first read about this book at Fluidity of Time  back in August.  I knew I wanted to read it, but I put it on the back burner.  It's kind of a heavy topic.  But as the months have gone by, my interest has grown.  I doubted that a man would understand a teenage girl enough to empathize with her and whatever problems he gave her to express her feelings  in a way that was realistic.I think men don't tend to get feelings, certainly not the up and down feelings of a lonely teenage girl trying to fit in with an undeserved reputation.  But I was wrong.  Maybe Jay Asher has emotions that he's not afraid to get in touch with because he wrote about Hannah's feelings perfectly.  It wasn't overly emotional and in the end she took the blame for taking her life, but Mr. Asher is meticulous in pointing out where things started going wrong, how it made Hannah feel and then it took on what Hannah called, "the snowball affect."

Hannah was new to town and she kissed a boy.  And that was it.  And from then on her life was irrevocably changed.  The boy said they did more.  The rumors became more true than the truth and her life was effected by that one little lie.  And then another lie on top of it.  And more things happened and because it was easier to believe the lies than the truth she lost friends and Clay, the boy telling the story is too scared to ask her out because she's more experienced than him.  But he's not sure that's true, because there are only rumors. 

Clay comes home from school and finds this box leaning against the door addressed to him, no return address.  He opens it up and finds cassette tapes inside numbered and lettered.  Clay isn't even sure he has anything to listen to a cassette tape on until he remembers his father's tape player on his workbench in the garage.  He starts listening to Hannah's voice and rejects the idea that he should have received these tapes.  It's a prank.  Someone else should have gotten them until she says something that makes him certain he's on the list.  The rules are simple.  Listen and pass them on.  Clay agonizingly listens to them and talks to her in his head.  He finds out things he didn't know.  Things he would have done to help her.  He swipes a Walkman from his friend's car so he can wander the streets and listen to the tapes.  He goes through a whole range of emotions.  It's truly heartbreaking to see him go through these tapes alone waiting to find out why he is on them and then when he is on them, it's even more heartbreaking.  But he listens to the end.  And it gets so much worse.  At one point he has to vomit, his emotions are so unbearable.  The next morning, he sends the tapes on to the next person, having not slept all night.  Then he heads to school.  He feels awful for sending the tapes, but he sends them anyway.  At school though, there is a girl, a girl he used to have a crush on.  And she's completely withdrawn and changed from the way she used to be.  He sees her in the hallway, does he get involved or does he go to class, he's already late.  The teacher has seen him.  You have to read the book to find out what happens.

 This novel was flawless in the emotions of the characters.  Hannah started out happy and you could see the hope and you heard her voice through the tapes and you felt Clay's emotions and those of some other characters that interacted with him during his wanderings and each one felt real and genuine for that character.  I thought Clay was strong even though he was vulnerable, showing his emotions, crying, reliving her moments on the tapes.  And you could see Hannah slowly going into depression on the tapes, almost as if she had started recording them when she was happy and then progressively her mood deteriorated.  Everyone let her down.  The final let down, was the worst.  She said the words and he still let her go.  The last person to get those tapes will be  the most devastated, but we never see that.  But once you read it, you'll understand why.  In the end, there is barely a mention of how she died, the focus is more on her state of  mind.

I think there should be several copies of this on every middle and senior high school book shelf in English classes as well as the libraries.  It brings up a very difficult subject, and addresses it in a non preachy, non depressing way.  The message basically says, "I would have helped you if you'd only asked for it, or if I had only known."  Our young adults and middle graders need to know that there are people that are ready to help them.  Mr. Asher puts the numbers of help lines in the book.  He also answers some questions about format and how he came up with the idea for the book in the back.  He almost lost a friend to suicide when he was younger.  It also mentions some of the warning signs of what to look for when you think someone is going to commit suicide.  I do not think this novel will spur anyone on to commit suicide.  I think it will nudge them to seek help.

There is a rape scene in it, but it is not graphic.  And another rape scene with a few more details.  So maybe for 8th graders and up.  I don't remember bad language.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Humming of Numbers by Joni Sensel

Aidan is poised to take his monastic vows—until a girl enters the abbey, one who hums of the number eleven. Aidan has the ability to hear the humming of numbers, a buzzing energy given off by living things. He is captivated and tormented by the mysterious girl, Lana, who has some unusual abilities of her own. How can he become a monk when his mind is filled with impure thoughts?

Before he can begin to sort his feelings out, the Vikings raid. Only Aidan and Lana can save the village from certain, violent death—and only if they learn to trust in their mysterious talents.

I picked this book up at the library because the title interested me.  It is YA though it talks about sex and rape. It's almost 250 pages long, but it's a small book so it doesn't seem like that.  It takes place in 10th century Ireland.  That seems bleak enough in itself for me, but the main character Aidan is training to be a monk.  Only he is tempted by women, not that there are any in the Abbey (I thought monks lived in a monastery, but that's what it's called).  He also has a weird talent, ability, thing he can do.  He hears numbers humming from living things and over the years he's developed a theory about what the different numbers mean.  What numbers he can trust, what numbers make a great leader, what number makes a liar, a fighter so when the local nobleman shows up with his bastard daughter looking for her to be taught a lesson for cheating Pilgrims out of their money, he hears a number he's never heard before an eleven.  He is intrigued by her and because of it, his test as a novice is to be responsible for her while she serves her sentence in the Abbey.  But she follows him the very same day he is given this duty, while he is on an errand and in so doing, both their lives are saved because Viking raiders hit the Abbey and the fields and village.

Aidan learns more of Lana while they hide until it is safe, more than makes him comfortable and she won't admit it, but he feels certainly that she is a witch.  She has knowledge of trees and prays for them to protect them and thanks them in prayers just as he would thank God.  And when he is close to her, he has lusty thoughts, ones a monk, a novice rather, should not have.  He leaves her to find out what has happened and finds the Abbey stripped of everything including most of it's monks.  Only a handful remain who insist on sticking to their rigid schedule of prayers despite the bodies all around them.  Aidan leaves in disgust to find his family and finds his oldest brother who has lost his own wife and child as well as their parents, their brother and the Vikings have taken their sister and the nobleman's son and are holed up in the Brewster's Inn.  A plan is formed and with Lana's help Aidan  goes in to rescue the nobleman's son and make the Viking's come out to be ambushed by the villagers.  But, does Aidan have as much faith in Lana's capabilities as he does in his God?

We learn all about Aidan, his thoughts, feelings, desires, hopes from the narrator.  We only know the other characters through what they tell us, but Lana is somewhat easy to figure out.  A young woman who doesn't want to be kept from knowledge just because she's a girl, rebellious and intelligent.  Most of the other characters are so unimportant that they don't matter.

The book was slow to start, and not exactly exciting until the plan was put into action which is only about the last third of the book.  Yes, Aidan did a few exciting things on his own in the middle like sinking the Viking's boats, which I thought was a stupid idea, but the Viking's also had his sister.  In all,  it was okay.  I'm glad I didn't buy it, but the writer has promise.  In fact, I googled her and she has a fantasy series out that is doing very well, so maybe that is more her speed.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Torment by Lauren Kate

How many lives do you need to live before you find someone worth dying for? In the aftermath of what happened at Sword & Cross, Luce has been hidden away by her cursed angelic boyfriend, Daniel, in a new school filled with Nephilim, the offspring of fallen angels and humans. Daniel promises she will be safe here, protected from those who would kill her. At the school Luce discovers what the Shadows that have followed her all her life mean - and how to manipulate them to see into her other lives. Yet the more Luce learns about herself, the more she realizes that the past is her only key to unlocking her future...and that Daniel hasn't told her everything. What if his version of the past isn't actually the way things happened...what if Luce was really meant to be with someone else? (Summary from Good Reads)

I was almost afraid to read this book because I loved Fallen, Lauren Kate's first novel.  There was no way she could top it.  I was mistaken.  If Fallen was great, then Torment was ten times that!  Luce is much more grown up and starting to question why?  She's pouty in the beginning but begins to grow up as she is sequestered in another school once again for her protection. The prologue is a must.  Don't ever skip a prologue in a book.  It often has more information than the whole book itself and this one tells you so much.  If you don't read it, you won't understand what's going on, a little like Luce most of the time. After the prologue,  the novel begins with Luce on a plane suspicious of the man sitting beside her.  She can't wait to see Daniel and she seems to be young, innocent, and in love.  When she gets off the plane, of course, Daniel is there and she feels like she is home in his arms.

They drive off in a car that was hers once in another life time, an Alpha Romero.  But Luce soon starts to pout when she learns she won't be able to see Daniel while she's at the new school.  In fact, she wastes several hours of their drive, not talking at all because she's angry at him.  Finally they talk a little and he flies her in his arms the rest of the way to the school.  It's for Nephilim kids, one parent human, one parent angel.  Most of the Nephilim kids have special powers, some more interesting than others.  And in Nephilim classes, Luce learns for the first time about the shadows that she's run from all her life.  They can show her glimpses into her past if she can learn how to use them.

Though he's supposed to stay away from her, Daniel visits Luce, he's unable to stay away from her.  But they seem to  end up in fights every time as Luce questions him more and more and begins to stop taking things at face value.  Like how many parents and families had to face her death and suffer the grief of her loss because of Daniel.  Could he have just stayed away from her and let her lead a Daniel free life?  And she's being hunted by something that keeps mistaking another student for her.  Two attacks are made on the student until she finally leaves school.  The only thing that saves Luce is her impulsive decision to bleach her dark hair blond.

And then there is Miles, a boy Luce could have feelings for if it weren't for her eternal love for Daniel.  She gets flustered around him and finds so many great things about him.  She compares him to Daniel and finds that he's more open, easy to get along with, friendly, trustworthy, etc... but he isn't Daniel and she's supposed to love Daniel.  I was a little confused about why any boy would go after Luce when they knew the Daniel and Luce story.  Apparently its a bed time story for any kid that knows an angel.  So if you know they are fated to be together, then why try to win Luce's heart.  It would just end in heart break, right?  And the same for Daniel.  Why bother when he waits for her lifetime after lifetime?  Must be something we don't know.  Maybe Luce actually has a choice in this after all.  I don't know.

The end is another battle scene but it's Cam and Daniel and their group fighting against a new opponent at Luce's.  Actually in the backyard at Thanksgiving.  Everyone invited themselves and angels, demons and Nephilim and humans sat down together.  The end is inevitable for Luce.  She's been controlled by Daniel and kept in the dark by everyone and she's tired of it.  She makes a choice and goes with it.  And just as inevitably, Daniel makes his choice as he always will, to be with her.

Don't read the Amazon website for Torment with the questions and answers with Lauren Kate because it has what I consider spoilers for Torment.  Ahh, now I've tempted you.  Just don't read it.  After you finish and catch your breath, read the interview with Lauren Kate.  Sounds like the next book will top this one.  I absolutely don't know how she wove such a tangled story together and I have no idea how she'll weave the next one together but I have complete faith in her storytelling abilities. 

I know people write about character development and plot lines etc, but I just choose to read a book for pleasure.  This book gave me pleasure to read it.  It's all I ask of a book.  Take me away from the swirl in my mind, the troubles in my life and put me in your world.  And I totally was there every step of  the way from Daniel's hug to flying in his arms to the battle at the end, I felt every emotion and saw everything through every one's eyes. That's a great book to me!

Heather in Sandwich

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn't think she's the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her "Duffy," she throws her Coke in his face. But things aren't so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley. Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone. (Summary from Good Reads.)

OMG!  Like you've got to read this book.  Like it changed my life.  Like , I mean you know!  JK!

Actually this book wasn't anything like that.  It was a great book filled with wonderful characters and had a great storyline.  Bianca or B as she is called is sarcastic, secretive and surprising.  That combination makes a great character, but combine it with a story line that goes up and down and set in high school and it makes for a great story.  Casey is B's best friend, an amazon at 6'1" next to B's 5'2" and B considers her to be as beautiful as if she'd just stepped off the cover of teen Vogue.  Casey is always making B open up about what's wrong when B would rather just bottle things up.  So whenever she says, "Every thing's fine." Casey warns her closest friends that means she's lying.  Jessica, the third in their trio of friends is blond and beautiful according to B and tends to look at life just a little too optimistically for B.  She's a realist.  She has to be because life at home isn't exactly rosy.  Her mom, a motivational speaker, has been gone for two months and she and her dad don't talk about it.  She sees the handwriting on the wall, but her dad pretends all is well until the divorce papers show up in the mail.

B  is kind of like the designated driver in this book, though the girls don't drink.  They go to a teen club called "The Nest" where she sits at the bar and drinks Cherry Cokes and talks to the thirty year old bartender, Joe.  She watches her friends dance the night away, never joining in.  She keeps herself from having fun it seems on purpose, setting herself apart from those who are having fun.  She seems to enjoy her misery even when her friends come out of the crowed and ask her to join them.  Then, the hated Wesley Rush plops down beside her and tells her she's the DUFF.  She has no idea what that is until he tells her she's the Designated Ugly Fat Friend.  Soon, Wesley is wearing Cherry Coke all over himself while B's sharp tongue tells him where to go and what to do with himself.  She is so angry she makes her friends leave early and when she explains she got in a fight with him, they both sigh like he's the hottest boy in town.  Which unfortunately he is, though B calls him a man whore.  She neglects to tell them about the DUFF part of the conversation and Casey teases her endlessly about liking him.  But, the next time they're at the Nest, Wesley takes the same seat and pisses her off again and things are so bad at home that for some reason, she kisses him.  She only stops when his hand strays a little too high and  then she slaps him hard.  But she realizes when she's kissing him she can't think about her problems and he becomes, in the author's words "like a drug" to her.

B and Wesley's relationship becomes more complicated as her home life becomes more complicated.  Her father begins drinking again and he is a mean drunk, though she only sees this once.  Wesley and B are assigned an English project together and have to work on it at his house since her father is drinking and unpredictable.  She finds out things about his home life that make them have more in common than she realized.  She continues to visit him even after the paper is turned in and keeps the "relationship" a secret from Casey and Jessica.  Things become more complicated when Jessica's brother comes home because he and B were involved at one time before she and Casey were friends with Jessica.  Then Toby Tucker, B's long time crush suddenly asks her out and she begins dating him, but she can't stop comparing him to Wesley.  And throughout the whole story, Wesley calls B the insulting name of Duffy and doesn't realize it hurts her every time he uses it.

Things get even more complicated for B when her mom returns to confront her father, meet Toby, and then Toby, Casey and Jessica all go to the Nest together.  She's sure Wesley will be there and she's not sure how to handle it.  For once in her life, she doesn't know what to do.  The unflappable B, is a bundle of nerves because even though she doesn't want to admit it, she has feelings for Wesley, not love, "because romantic love takes years upon years to  build upon."  And why would Wesley Rush, rich, handsome, a guy who could have any girl in the school, want her?  After all, he thinks of her as the DUFF.

As far as the characters go, I think they were developed just enough so that we could see them and then they told their own story.  Some weren't very developed, but then they didn't lend much to the story so they didn't need to be, like the best friends.  They were just side dishes to the main course.

I loved this book!  I think Kody Keplinger should not go to college but keep writing.  I think she will have her imagination drained if she goes to college and she's got a great imagination.  The book jacket says she's eighteen and attending Ithaca college.  I hope she makes enough to buy a house, a cozy little writing shack and continue writing.  She doesn't need college when she can write like this!

Now, that being said, this is definitely for older teens definitely high school at least 16 or older.  There is a lot of sex, but not graphic at all.  A lot of swearing but not gratuitous.  It's just the way this character is.  And the issues of divorce and an alcoholic parent are touched on, not really a lesson on how to deal with it.

Heather in Sandwich

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Mackie Doyle seems like everyone else in the perfect little town of Gentry, but he is living with a fatal secret - he is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now the creatures under the hill want him back, and Mackie must decide where he really belongs and what he really wants.

A month ago, Mackie might have told them to buzz off. But now, with a budding relationship with tough, wounded, beautiful Tate, Mackie has too much to lose. Will love finally make him worthy of the human world?

Hmm.  What a great cover!  So enticing calling to me begging me to open the cover.  So, I did.  And I trudged through the sluggish beginning of the book.  My mind started to wander and I decided to go to sleep.  I tried it again last night and forced myself to finish it.  The action definitely picked up, but maybe a little too late to redeem itself.  It might just give Bleeding Violet a run for it's money as one of the weirder novels I've read this year.  Anyway, none of this helps you understand what it's about.

Mackie Doyle is a changeling.  No one has ever come out and said it, but he knows he is not supposed to be here and that he is a freak.  He has a few friends at school and they seem to be good friends.  I have a problem with the characters because they never fall out of their very narrow roles they are given.  Danny and Dennis are the inventors/clowns.  Roswell is the rescuer, but never asks Mackie, "Why are you sick?  What's wrong with you?"  There's this big pink elephant standing in the middle of the town of Gentry and nobody wants to talk about it except for the very determined Tate who's little sister was just buried.  She isn't sad, she's angry because she swears that wasn't her sister, it was a replacement.  Tate doesn't follow the rules.

It seems that Gentry has been having children disappear on a regular basis for years and turned a blind eye to it.  And Mackie gets drawn into the lies and deceptions and doesn't like it when it touches too close to home.  Now, as I said, the beginning of the book is slow.  Mackie is sick all the time and he's lusting after the popular girl and always having to go home early, which Roswell dutiful does.  Pretty boring stuff.  Then things change and get all existential and I have no idea what's going on.  Page 138 here is some of the conversation edited for brevity's sake.  " So we just give them some kind of distraction. (Mackie says) Another lie."
Carlina, an underground dweller we'll call her, says "No, what we're giving them is the unvarnished truth.  They just don't know it.  When you go out onstage, you'll be closer to yourself than you've ever been, and that's a beautiful thing.  It's what they paid to see."  Mackie-"I just feel nervous, though.  I feel weird and freakish and pointless, and nobody wants to see that.  I can't be what they paid for." Carlina- "Then you have to feel like that, then let it go and do your job.  We'll go out onto the stage in a minute, and when we do, you have to make them believe that whatever you show them is the real you because sometimes being believed in is just what it means not to die."  Huh?  If I wanted to think that hard, I'd have read Freud or Nietzsche.  I still don't understand what it all means.

The good news it slowly starts to pick up from there even if doesn't make sense.  In one world it does, in the other world it doesn't.  But then the two worlds collide and Mackie is in the middle and does something so selfless that I thought surely something would intervene.  Gentry's people have all been playing roles just like Mackie's friends and no one has ever questioned the rules.  The rules are to bring prosperity and abundance to Gentry, but it's been raining for weeks and the lake in the town drained before Mackie was born.  And children disappear from their homes and are replaced by look alikes.  And Mackie wants it stopped.  He can't believe it, that people put up with this.  And as the worlds come together on All Souls Day, Mackie has a plan.  To save Tate's little sister before she's sacrificed and save at least one child from being killed from this heinous underground world.  You'll have to read to see if he succeeded and what the plan is and everything that goes on.  The end is touching and makes the reading of it worthwhile and I see why the author wrote it the way she did.  Even some of the existential stuff made some sense, but when you read it in the middle of the book, unless you are very perceptive, you're going to go "What the hell is she going on about?".  In fact, it's probably a book that you need to read twice.  Because once you get to the end, things make sense that didn't before and if you reread it understanding everything, I think I for one would like it much better.  The best thing I can say about it is that Mackie is pure and innocent and truly tries to be the best he can be.  He feels guilty for what he is and tries in every way to make up for it.  And I think that is what drives him to his ultimate gift.  Oh, just read the book.  Twice!

There isn't much profanity and very little sexual reference, some kissing.  Maybe for ages 13 and up but it is very dark so perhaps 14 and older.  It talks about ripping babies throats out and dead living things.  It's, as the cover shows, very dark.  But redemptive in the end.


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