Tag Archives: supernatural

Book Catch-Up 2011 Part 1

A lot of the books I read in 2011 have gone unreviewed. I had grand plans to give each one the proper treatment, but that’s never going to happen. So here’s some brief thoughts on five

Bunheads by Sophie Flack: This is a little reminiscent of the movie Center Stage, but I enjoyed it. Ms. Flack is honest about the life of a dancer: the time devoted to the craft, the toll it takes on the body, the love/hate relationships among competitors, and the passion that keeps dancers going. Having interned at The Juilliard School for a year, I enjoyed recognizing Lincoln Center. A fun book for anyone interested in dance and/or the life of a NYC performer.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins: LOVE! I have to admit that Lola falls a little short of the glory of Anna and the French Kiss, but it is still fabulous! Lola crosses paths with Anna and St. Clair so you do get an update on those two. Lola is a fun, unique girl. She has two gay dads, and I love that this is not a “thing.” Ms. Perkins writes angst and tummy-flip-flop scenes like no one else.

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin: I picked this up specifically because of the blurb on the cover promoting it to Downton Abbey fans. The time period is similar, but not much else. It reminded me more of Brideshead Revisted then Downton, just because of all the angst and need for appearances while still misbehaving. (This is not destined to be a classic like Brideshead.) The characters aren’t very likable, which is another reason I didn’t see a Downton similarity. The main character, Cora, ends up being pretty sympathetic, if not likable, which was surprising because I expected to find her shallow. The best character is Bertha, Cora’s maid, who moves to England with Cora to continue in her employment. She is African-American and gives a unique perspective on the difference between discrimination in the United States and England. Despite the unlikable characters, I could not put it down; the plot kept me enthralled. The details about daily life in the time period are especially enjoyable.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson: Very fun suspense novel! Rory is an American attending a boarding school in London, and some of the book is devoted to character development and Rory’s adjustment to boarding school.  The mystery builds when Jack the Ripper copycat murders are happening in the city, and Rory could be the only person who has seen the murderer. The details about the real Jack the Ripper mystery make this especially interesting. This is the first in a series – can’t wait to read more!

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles: Set in NYC in the late 1930s, it centers on Katey, a young lady in a secretarial pool. She hits the jazz clubs with Eve, her boarding house roommate at night, counting out their nickels and dimes to buy drinks and still have a late night snack on the way home. The two young ladies befriend Tinker, a wealthy young man, one night; the three friends are soon partying with lots of society-types. I really enjoyed this. The time period is an interesting one: the Depression has been around for a while, and the reader knows WWII is coming. NYC is so well-depicted it is a main character. I liked experiencing Katey’s life; she’s ambitious and works hard, but also enjoys a good time. When a wrench is thrown in the works, the escapades of the three friends are not meant to last. I always enjoy a novel that gives insight in to the lives of the early 20th century wealthy: the loyalties, betrayals, scheming, and lush details.

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The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan. Read in January 2011. Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers. ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2011.

A Fast Five review:

1. The Forest of Hands and Teeth remains my favorite in this trilogy just because I was so enveloped in the setting, but I did like this one more than the second.

2. Set in New York City, the location creep-factor is completely different from the other two. If you are familiar with NYC, you know the landmarks and it feels that much closer to home. I love that Ms. Ryan put all three novels in such different settings: forest, beach, and big city, but NYC is known which ups the ante.

3. Annah, the twin sister of Gabry from book two, is the main character here. I really liked Annah, certainly more than I liked Gabry. She’s had a much rougher go at it than Gabry has, and is damaged from her experiences, but also much stronger.

4. I really enjoyed the way Ms. Ryan handled the romantic relationships in Places. Each is allowed to grow on its own; there are no triangles or other silliness.

5. I thought this was a great ending to this series. I never would have expected to read a zombie trilogy and enjoy it so much. The last 75 pages (or so) had me glued to the book. I stayed up far too late to finish it because once I hit a certain point, sleep was just not an option. The ending is hopeful without cleaning the big zombie-mess up…which is also a little terrifying to know that any future the survivors face will still have the Unconsecrated within it.

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The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan; read in February 2010.  ARC provided by Random House at ALA Midwinter.

  1. I have to admit up front that I did not like this as much as I liked The Forest of Hands and Teeth.  I think it boiled down to not liking Gabry.  Her perspective was less interesting to me, and I found her to be very self-involved and capable of making extremely dumb decisions.
  2. The differences between Mary’s life in the forest and Gabry’s life at the ocean are interesting.  I wondered if some of the differences could be related more to the passing of time since Mary was a teen, or if it was location.  For instance, the zombies are called Mudo, not the Unconsecrated.  A different type of zombie is explained; it was a mystery in the first one, but understood here, so I wondered if that was a zombie evolution over time?
  3. There is a crazy religious cult that gave me the creeps!
  4. Carrie Ryan builds this world further, and the back story explanations and developments kept me enthralled.
  5. Because of that, I will read the planned third book.  I assume it will not center on Gabry as this did not center on Mary (confirmed), so I can’t wait to see the further developments in Ms. Ryan’s zombie world.

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Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl; read in August, 2010.  ARC provided by Little, Brown at ALA Annual 2010.

I’ve been pondering this review for the past week because all I want to do is gush, and I am not sure lots of gushing really equals a “review.”  Instead, I’m giving Beautiful Darkness a “book hug.”

Beautiful Darkness picks up shortly after where Beautiful Creatures left off.  Ethan and Amma attend a pre-dawn burial service for Macon.  Lena is taking the loss of her uncle very hard, and despite how Ethan reaches out to her with understanding from the loss of his mom, she starts to pull away from him.  He grows more concerned when Lena begins to spend more and more time with Ridley and a mysterious guy, John Breed.  Enlisting the help of Link and Liv, a British girl interning at the library with Marian for the summer, Ethan sets out on a quest to save Lena before it is too late.  Along the way, he receives help from surprising sources, but can a rag-tag trio of mortals really fight the powerful Darkness drawing Lena in?

Love, love, love this book!  Garcia and Stohl build on the world they created in the first book, layering in even more.  If you thought the Caster world was intriguing in Beautiful Creatures, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  I read most of this book at the Jersey shore beach and pool, but I have little memory of my vacation time in those settings as I was transported away from the water and sand into southern Gatlin and its mysterious corners.  Ethan’s journey takes the reader through some incredible places.

And Ethan…aw, I love Ethan.  I love his heart.  I love his kindness and patience, particularly for his aunts.  I love how he loves the people in his life.  But I particularly love how he loves Lena.  I love that even when he doubts their future together, he cannot doubt the Lena he knows and will do anything to help her see her own heart.  Ethan’s quest is truly a hero’s quest, and would be a great modern tie-in for students studying the hero’s quest throughout literature.  I can see it being a great choice for teen girls who might want more romance than some male-centric hero’s quest stories deliver.

The characters in Beautiful Darkness all make me love them even more than I did before.  There is much more than meets the eye in so many of the Gatlin residents, and some of the people that come forward to assist Ethan in his quest may surprise you. Or they may not, if you read this one with the reminder of the two sides of Gatlin and how those sides intermingled.  Link continues to be a favorite, and I think fans of his will love his development here.  Amma is wonderful, and her love of Ethan knows no bounds.  The Aunts are hilarious and continue to develop as individuals.  Boo isn’t seen as much, but another animal fills in the gap.  While it doesn’t replace Boo (you can never replace an awesome dog), I did not miss him much due to the awesomeness of this animal.  (I’ve never been a huge fan of this animal type, but this character made me want to get one of my own!)

My only slight concern from Beautiful Creatures – the lack of immediate fire some readers think they need in romance – is remedied here.  Even when Lena is drawing away from Ethan, she still can’t resist the physical pull between them.  The passion between the two is hot!

Do you see why I am calling this a book hug?  I can’t stop gushing!  I don’t want to say much more because this one should not be spoiled before you wrap yourself in it.  The ending does set-up book # 3 in an awesome but gasp-worthy way.  When I finished it, I couldn’t believe I have to wait another year to know what happens next.  This series is solidified as a favorite of mine, and I HIGHLY recommend reading Beautiful Darkness.  I can’t wait to order the released copy for my school library, and purchase a copy for my own personal shelves.

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The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting; read in December, 2009.  ARC provided by publisher.

I am really ashamed to only now be posting my thoughts on Kimberly Derting‘s The Body Finder.  It’s been so long, it’s going to have to be another Fast Five.

  1. I’ll start with the one thing I didn’t like: I had a REALLY hard time believing that Violet could be THAT oblivious to Jay’s romantic interest in her.  She also makes some stupid decisions in the book that, unfortunately, leave her looking like a world-class idiot, but most of the time, she seems like a smart, independent girl.  I could never reconcile this.
  2. That being said, I loved the relationship between Violet and Jay.  LOVED it.
  3. I REALLY loved Jay.  Talk about a boy who makes you feel twitterpated.
  4. It is a great mix of real life, mystery, and fantasy.  I think the book will appeal to a wide range of fans because of the great mix of elements.
  5. Violet’s parents are around (which doesn’t always happen in YA books) and they are aware of her gift.  This made the book feel some what “real” since it wasn’t Violet’s deep dark secret, yet she also doesn’t come from a gifted family.

I’m looking forward to the sequel, Desires of the Dead.

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Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver; read in February, 2010.  ARC provided by Harper Teen at ALA Midwinter

Description from GoodReads:

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined.

I have to admit that before I started the book, I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it through Before I Fall.  As Samantha Kingston is forced to relive – over and over – a day that originally ended with a fatal car crash, I grew worried that the repetition would bore me.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that Sam, fully aware of the do-over but not having any idea why it is happening, changed her decisions each day so no day ever plays out the same.  The author does the reader a favor by not feeling the need to remind the reader about the day’s details that never change, which helps keep the pace steady.

Sam is a very realistic character, sometimes so real that the reader might find her unpleasant and unlikable.  She is a member of the popular girls and together, they can be mean and judgemental.  She is very self-centered, but as she wakes to face the same day again and again, she begins to think about her actions and observe how others are affected by her.  Is she reliving this day to serve a purpose?  Is there something she needs to fix?

I grew more fond of Sam as the book came to a close, although I never fell in love with her, nor her friends.  The one person I came away liking was Kent, a classmate that Sam was friends with when she was younger but is now not cool enough for her crowd.  His charms are immediately evident.  When I closed the book at the end, I was more concerned with Kent’s future than any other character.

I think that Before I Fall will appeal to fans of If I Stay – it has the same “lingering between life and death” without a noticable involvement from God, angels, or any other power.  I personally like seeing these types of books that give young adult readers an opportunity to consider life’s choices, death, and the afterlife without relying on one religious viewpoint.

I have already purchased a copy for my high school library and look forward to recommending it to students.

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Everwild by Neal Shusterman

Everwild by Neal Shusterman; read in December, 2009.  Copy purchased for my high school library.

Description from Borders (GoodReads offered too short a description for me):

There was the rumor of a beautiful sky witch, who soared across the heavens in a great silver balloon. And there were whispers of a terrible ogre made entirely of chocolate, who lured unsuspecting souls with that rich promising smell, only to cast them down a bottomless pit from which there was no return. Everlost, the limbo land of dead children, is at war. Nick the “Chocolate Ogre” wants to help the children of Everlost reach the light at the end of the tunnel. Mary Hightower, self-proclaimed queen of lost children and dangerous fanatic, is determined to keep Everlost’s children trapped within its limbo for all eternity. Traveling in the memory of the Hindenburg, Mary is spreading her propaganda and attracting Afterlights to her cause at a frightening speed. Meanwhile, Allie the Outcast travels home to seek out her parents, along with Mikey, who was once the terrifying monster the McGill. Allie is tempted by the seductive thrill of skinjacking the living, until she learns a shocking secret.

Sadly, my memories of this book have fallen through the cracks over time, so I do not have a lot I can say.  (I really need to get better about reviewing books soon after reading them.)  Shusterman develops the world of Everlost further and adds a lot of twists to the story.  It is a satisfying sequel to Everlost, but I was felt myself less emotionally involved in this one.  I blame this on myself, though, feeling more attached to the story behind “Hightower” than any of the settings Shusterman reveals in Everwild.

I loved Allie just as much in this book, and Mary continues to give me the creeps in an irresistable way, but Nick was a disappointment.  I thought, from the first book, that he was a stronger person than he turns out to be.

Regardless, I look forward to the final book of the trilogy.

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