Tuesday, May 31, 2011

(45) Past curses, family secrets, and superstitions

Title: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garci & Margret Stohl
Publisher: Little Brown Books
592 Pages
Genre: YA Supernatural

Synopsis: Ethan Wate is struggling to hide his apathy for his high school "in" crowd in small town Gatlin, South Carolina, until he meets the determinedly "out" Lena Duchannes, the girl of his dreams (literally--she has been in his nightmares for months).

Review: Ethan finally meets the girl of his dreams, literally.  When Lena Duchannes moves to Gatlin the whole town starts talking about the weird new girl. Lena doesn't fit in and doesn't try but what Ethan is drawn to more than her originality and mystery is that he has been dreaming about her for years.  As Ethan and Lena become closer he finds that people he thought were friends start treating him differently and small town life can be extremely unpleasant for those who don't fit in. Not to mention that small town Gatlin where nothing every happens has a lot more going on than most people think.

More than just a romance this story shows that not every family is what it seems and that every family hides their own secrets. Its about tolerance and fear of the future, fear of the unknown, friendship and trust. A modern story that has historical roots since what is happening in the present relies on the past.  The past of both Ethan and Lena and the hope that history doesn't repeat itself.

Well written and developed characters this is a great start to a trilogy.

Monday, May 23, 2011

(44) Once Upon A Time....

Title: Don't Breathe A Word by Jennifer McMahon
Publisher: Harper Collins
464 Pages
Genre: Mystery

I received this book as an advanced electronic galley from netgally.com.  

Synopsis: Family secrets and fairy lore create a shifting reality in McMahon's unsettling novel about the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl who longed to become Queen of the Fairies. Fifteen years after Lisa goes missing, her younger brother, Sam, gets a strange phone call that leads him and his girlfriend, Phoebe, to discover a book, supposedly written by the King of the Fairies, that Lisa used as her bible to cross over, and which prompts Sam and Phoebe to meet up with Sam's cousin, Evie, to see if they can figure out what happened to Lisa. Nothing is as it seems from that moment on, and Phoebe's longtime fear of a dark man in the shadows seeps back.

Review: Fairies aren't the cute little pixies you imagine playing in your yard, they are scary creatures that steal babies and replace them with dopplegangers, seduce you and cause havoc. Jennifer McMahon has crafted a spooky story that unfolds in glimpses of the past and stories of the present.  There is an underlying tension that permeates throughout the book and when Sam and Phoebe meet up with Sam's cousin things get even stranger.  Slowly McMahon unravels fairy lore, and what may be happening in the present.

If you were ever scared of the woods this book is sure to amplify that fear and if you weren't scared of them maybe you should be.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

(43) A warning for the digital generation

Title: Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
320 pages
Genre: YA

I received an advanced electronic copy of this book through netgalley.com.  It is set to be release May 23, 2011.

Synopsis: Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether it’s to go to school or on a date, people don’t venture out of their home. There’s really no need. For the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life—until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her.

Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside her—a feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking.

In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space.

Review: This book is a warning to the digital generation.  A fictionalized warning similar to the Winter of our Disconnect but aimed at the younger generation.  In Maddies world everything is digital, school, college, walks, dances.  You never need to leave your house.  Dates are virtual and people meet online instead of in person.  Sound familiar?  Thats what this world is coming to.

When Maddie meets Justin he teaches her to disconnect, to live in the world and interact with real people instead of virtually and she realizes what she's been missing.  She Awaken's from her digital coma and realizes that while her head has been stuck in a screen life has been going on around her.

What an enormous wake up call for this generation! How often do you find yourself checking your phone when you are out? Even at the gym there are tons of TV's to stimulate you while you work out. We are rarely without some type of technology.  We interact through facebook and dating sites instead of going out and actually interacting in person.  People hide behind their digital persona's believing that they can be someone different than who they are when they are online, but why? Whats wrong with who you are? And if you don't like it, hiding isn't going to change it.  I wonder if the surge in depression is a result of our digital addiction, kids don't know how to play without an electronic device.  What happened to board games and imagination?

Awaken is a wake up call for us all and following Maddie's enlightenment makes you think about how you live your life, or really how you don't.

Monday, May 16, 2011

(42) Secret Societies, Murder and Epitaphs

Title: The Restorer by Amanda Stevens
Publisher: MIRA Books
Genre: Historical Fiction

I received this book as an advanced electronic galley from netgalley.com . This book was set to be published April 26, 2011


Synopsis: My name is Amelia Gray. I’m a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I’ve always held fast to the rules passed down from my father. But now a haunted police detective has entered my world and everything is changing, including the rules that have always kept me safe.

It started with the discovery of a young woman’s brutalized body in an old Charleston graveyard I’ve been hired to restore. The clues to the killer—and to his other victims— lie in the headstone symbolism that only I can interpret. Devlin needs my help, but his ghosts shadow his every move, feeding off his warmth, sustaining their presence with his energy. To warn him would be to invite them into my life. I’ve vowed to keep my distance, but the pull of his magnetism grows ever stronger even as the symbols lead me closer to the killer and to the gossamer veil that separates this world from the next.

Review: I am a total sucker for secret societies and murder mysteries so I was extremely happy to discover that this is the start of a series.  I was sucked in from the beginning which starts out with Amelia as a young girl.  There were a few questions that were opened in this book that weren't brought to a resolution but knowing that this is at least a trilogy I'm hoping that she comes back and gives us answers. For example apparently Amelia is adopted, so how is it that she has the same ability to see ghosts as her father?  There are other subtle things that are just thrown out there that weren't wrapped up.

Amelia has spent most of her life in graveyards, playing in them as a child and now restoring them as an adult.  They have always been a place of quiet sanctuary to her, well except for the ghosts that sometimes lurk around which she was taught never to acknowledge. After a dead body is discovered in a  graveyard she is working in, Amelia finds herself drawn into the investigation and her relationship with the ghosts she sees starts to change.  Her fathers solid rules of how to interact with ghosts don't seem to be working for her anymore and she finds herself on new ground.

I think this was a really great start to a new series.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

(41) Coming of Age

Title: Shine by Lauren Myracle
Publisher: Amulet Books
376 pages
Genre: YA

I received this book as an advanced electronic copy from netgalley.com.  It was released May 1, 2011. 

Synopsis: When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.

Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery.

Review: Cat has distanced herself from her friends and her family but when her best guy friend Patrick gets beaten in what looks like a hate crime Cat starts to re-examine her life, what is important to her and finding herself and her inner strength.  By investigating who may have hurt her friend Cat has to interact with those people that she has pushed away coming to terms with the hurt she caused and finding forgiveness for herself and others.

Set in a small impoverished town where unemployment and drugs are taking over.  Cat and her friends try to find and accept themselves as well as those around them.  Patrick being gay in the small Southern town is almost a side note but it pulls the story along routing out secrets, betrayals and the destruction drugs can do to you.  Fabulous book that was hard to put down.  I highly recommend it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

(40) Mazes and Buried Treasure

Title: Unearthed by Jordan Gray
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Mystery Fiction

I am a little backlogged at the moment but I received an advanced electronic copy of this book via netgalley.com.  The book was release April 27, 2011. 

Synopsis: The fourth and final installment in the Mystery Case Files program! Secrets are at the heart of Blackpool....

Behind the colorful charm and vibrant history of the English seaside town of Blackpool is a legacy of secrets. Secrets people have killed to keep hidden. But for Michael and Molly Graham, finding the truth has become personal. Their friend clings to life in a hospital—shot to keep him quiet—and the couple is driven to uncover what he would risk his life for…and what someone would murder for.

But the pieces of this puzzle are as disparate as any they’ve faced—a sunken pirate ship, a one-legged skeleton, vengeful curses and a grim family legacy. And if they put the pieces together, will they only be digging their own graves?

Review: Michael Graham, a British videogame designer (his video game designing really does play into the plot of this story), and his American wife Molly, have relocated to the small English coastal town of Blackpool. Molly has successfully obtained grants for redevelopment of the enchanting little town of Blackpool, and is overseeing the project.  While they've been in Blackpool the Grahams have found themselves involved in various mysteries and investigations that have led them to help the local police.  The chief of police, Inspector Paddington would really like to just finish up his career quietly but with the Grahams around that doesn't seem likely.

When this final installment of this series opens, Michael is watching over his friend Rohan Wallace who was shot breaking into the home of Alister Crowe, one of the richest men in town whose family was said to have been involved in illegal slave trafficking and stolen treasure.  No one is sure why Rohan broke into Alisters home but they speculate that it has something to do with the lost treasure that is said to still be hidden somewhere in Blackpool.  Alister's family built the town and created a series of tunnels and caves that are said to hold the lost treasure but no one has yet to find it.

Even though I didn't read the first three books in this series I didn't feel lost, there is a lot of background information so that you don't really need to read the others to enjoy this one. The characters are well developed and it was a fun quick read.

Monday, May 2, 2011

(39) Mysterious Man of Fire

Title: Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
304 Pages
Genre: YA

I received this book as an advanced electronic book from netgalley.com.  This title is set to be released May 3, 2011

Synopsis: Set in Calcutta in the 1930s, The Midnight Palace begins on a dark night when an English lieutenant fights to save newborn twins Ben and Sheere from an unthinkable threat. Despite monsoon-force rains and terrible danger lurking around every street corner, the young lieutenant manages to get them to safety, but not without losing his own life. . . .

Years later, on the eve of Ben and Sheere's sixteenth birthday, the mysterious threat reenters their lives. This time, it may be impossible to escape. With the help of their brave friends, the twins will have to take a stand against the terror that watches them in the shadows of the night--and face the most frightening creature in the history of the City of Palaces.

Review: Carlos Ruiz Zafon is one of my favorite authors and his young adult books are just as entertaining. Written when he was in his twenties, along with The Prince of Mists.  The Midnight Palace starts off quickly and never really slows down.  Zafon creates stories that are filled with atmosphere that you can almost taste. You can sense the characters emotions and feel like they could be someone you know. I was drawn in from page one.

Who is the man who shoots fire from his fingers and is determined to kill Ben and Sheere?  Why is he hunting them and can Ben and his friends defeat this mystery man and save Ben and Sheere?  A ragtag bunch of orphans who bound themselves together in a secret society swear to protect their friends Ben and Sheere at all costs.  Each has their own talent and strength and it will take all of them if they are to make it out alive.

This story shows that family doesn't just mean those related to you and that each person has a talent and a strength all their own.  Just because you aren't good at drawing doesn't mean you aren't good at something else.  Everyone is necessary and anger and bitterness will consume you like fire. Brilliant story telling.
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