Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead Book Review

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead
(Paperback, Razorbill, 2009)

Rose Hathaway is busy learning to be a guardian at St. Vladimir's Academy. She is a dhampir, part human and part vampire, which means she has a super strength and agility that enables her to protect the Moroi (full vampires). Fresh off her first Strigoi (bad vampire) kill, Rose is battling feelings of anger and guilt. To top it off, she's seeing the ghost of one of her dead friends. Rose's teachers and friends believe that she is suffering from stress. Dimitri, her mentor and the secret love of her life, is the only person she can turn to with her problems. But evil is threatening the Academy and Rose must focus on protecting her friends.

I read Frostbite as a panelist for the Cybils Award in Fantasy and Science Fiction late last year. I hadn't read the first book in the series, Vampire Academy, but I decided to dive into Frostbite anyway. Immediately, I was hooked. The combination of 'good' vampires, evil vampires, half-vampires, and magic was utterly fascinating. Shadow Kiss picks up three weeks after Frostbite left off, with Rose still reeling from losing a friend. Rose's character is gritty and strong, and she has enough of a mouth to make her spunky. I love when heroines don't blindly accept the rules and judgments of their superiors. Richelle Mead plays with this idea by having Dimitri be Rose's mentor and her friend. It's fun to watch him battle his conflicting duty to curb her unruliness and his desire to let her rebelliousness break free. One of my favorite things about the series is watching Rose's friend Lissa learn how to control her magic. Lissa's magic is rare and so we learn about it as Lissa does, in little increments throughout the books. Rose's spunk and wit, combined with Mead's intricate world, make this a great series for any fantasy fan. Fair warning though...the ending of this book will leave you begging for Book 4, Blood Promise, which is due out in July 2009.

Read The Compulsive Reader's review . She and I recently swapped our theories about the upcoming book.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My 2009 Book Wishlist

Last year, I posted about the books that I was most looking forward to reading in 2008.  I read all of those and thoroughly enjoyed them, so I'm posting a new list for this year.  I'm sure I've left some books off, but here goes...

I've already read (and loved!) Don't Judge a Girl By Her Cover by Ally Carter and Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart.  Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors and I can't wait to devour Along for the Ride.

My next three wishlist books are ones that I like to think of as my Cybils wishlist.  These are authors that I discovered this year when I was a panelist for the Cybils Fantasy and Science Fiction category .  I read either the first or second book in each series and am now hooked.

I've actually already read Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead and am anxiously awaiting the release of Book 4 in the series, Blood Promise.  Wake was one of the finalists for the Cybils Fantasy and Science Fiction category and Fade promises to be just as exciting.  I was also totally into the interesting concept and plot of The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong and am very much looking forward to adding The Awakening to my bookshelf.

What's on your 2009 wishlist?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak Book Review

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
(Paperback, Knopf)

Liesel Meminger's life is turned upside down when her younger brother dies. Not only is her family torn apart forever but she also steals her first book. Set in Nazi Germany during World War II, Liesel's penchant for stealing books will affect her life and the lives of everyone she knows. Liesel's foster father teaches her to read, little by little each night. When the family hides a Jew in the basement, Liesel realizes that the world is not so black and white, and that words have power beyond anything she could have imagined.

Wow. That pretty much sums up how I feel about this book. It's a bit hard to get into at first, but it's impossible to put down once you get into it. After I finished the book, I asked myself why it was so hard to get into the story. I think that it is because the book is narrated by Death. Death gives us little snippets of things to come as the book progresses. Nothing is ever rushed and nothing is ever a complete surprise. Which makes sense because we all know that our lives will end with death. Death is the antithesis of suspense and Zusak does a good job of creating a story with that in mind. Despite the fact that you know how some characters' lives will end, the book is still a page turner because it doesn't completely reveal everything. Liesel's story is powerful. Not only does it portray average German citizens in a sympathetic light, but it touches on the power of words and books in our lives. I'm not doing the book justice in my description here, but, believe me, if you love books, and I'm sure you do if found your way to my blog, then this book will resonate with you. There are only a handful of books that have made me cry and I was practically sobbing during the last 50 pages of this one. Plus, Death is hands down the best narrator that I've ever read.

In Zusak's words,
"It's just a small story really, about, among other things:
*A girl
*Some words
*An accordionist
*Some fanatical Germans
*A Jewish fist fighter
*And quite a lot of thievery" (p. 5)

In my words,
It's a must-read story about, and so much more than:
*A book lover
*Some small town Germans
*A boy with lemon colored hair
*Some words written in a basement
*A book burning
*And quite a lot of souls

My words about this book are horribly inadequate, so I'll leave you with this vlog from Beth Kephart about The Book Thief.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cathy's Book and Cathy's Key Book Reviews

Cathy's Book & Cathy's Key by Sean Stewart, Jordan Weisman, and Cathy Brigg
(Paperback, Running Press)

In Cathy's Book, Cathy is just about to finish high school. She's an artist with a mysterious older boyfriend. Her best friend Emma is a super-smart girl with big entrepreneurial ideas. When Cathy wakes up with a needle mark on her skin and her boyfriend is the prime suspect in a murder case, Cathy & Emma have to do some hard core detective work. Cathy's Key continues Cathy's story. She's now graduated and is grappling with the idea that her boyfriend is an immortal. To top things off, his immortal dad is stalking her and her own dad may not have died years ago.

Both of these books were fun, quick reads. Written in diary form and containing a multitude of doodlings in the margins, the books sound like something a teenage girl would write. Cathy is sarcastic, witty, and only slightly self-absorbed. There are also websites and phone numbers in the book that teens can actually visit and call. The idea is that these books are a multi-media experience. I didn't actually visit the websites or call the numbers as I was reading, mainly because I was too interested in the story to stop reading. I visited a few of the websites after I finished the books and I wasn't that impressed, but they probably mean more if you visit them as they are mentioned in the books. What I enjoyed most about the books were the drawings. I thought the diary form made the perfect backdrop for the drawings. Cathy draws random pictures associated with her story, sometimes people, sometimes bits and pieces of the setting, and sometimes just scribbles. My favorite were her self portraits. Overall, these were an entertaining twist on the usual detective fare and I'll be checking out the third book in the series, Cathy's Ring, when it comes out in May.

Monday, January 12, 2009

My Pity Party Was Thwarted...by Ally Carter!

So I was having a royally awful day yesterday.  For one, I couldn't participate in In My Mailbox because I didn't get a single book in the mail last week.  I was so psyched because I was finally going to participate (having finally remembered about it...), and then I realized that I got nada, zip, zero books.  Secondly, I hurt my knee playing soccer.  Nothing serious but I did have to ice it and it still hurts a little when I walk.  So, I was all ready to feel sorry for myself for the rest of the evening.

Then, I picked up Don't Judge a Girl By Her Cover by Ally Carter.  I got an ARC awhile back and I had put it aside for a rainy day.  And the book was soooooo good that I couldn't stay in a bad mood.  Within 5 minutes, I was laughing and smiling and excitedly reading about Cammie and her amazing spy school.  I'll post a more complete review later this week.  All I have to say now is, gosh darn, Ally Carter, you ruined my pity party!  :)  

In the meantime, I'll leave you with Miss Erin's review of Don't Judge a Girl By Her Cover and this ugly picture of my bruised knee, which looks like Bex has been practicing the Axley Manuever on it.

Wake by Lisa McMann Book Review

Wake by Lisa McMann
(Hardcover, Simon Pulse)

Janie hasn't been to a sleepover in years. She makes excuses to leave the classroom when a fellow student falls asleep. Whenever possible, she avoids public transportation and libraries. Why? Because when people fall asleep and dream, Janie is uncontrollably sucked into their dreams. Normally, it's just the typical falling dream or standing-naked-in-front-of-a-crowd dream. Then, one day Janie is sucked into a violent nightmare and she's no longer just an observer--she's an active participant.

This book was like a drug. I picked it up and immediately could NOT put it down. Wake is written in present tense which gives the story a feeling of urgency. I immediately liked Janie, even though she was a bit moodier than my usual type of heroine. Of course, that would be understandable if you kept slipping into other people's dreams. Perhaps most compelling is that Wake feels original. It stands out from the current trend of vampire/zombie books. Slipping into dreams sounds like a fun thing to do, but McMann makes it a threatening, offensive part of Janie's life. Janie witnesses a horrible act when she slips into a classmate's dream. When Janie starts to fall for that classmate, Cabel, she treads a fine line between trusting her instincts and behaving recklessly. I just had to read straight to the end to see if Janie's instincts were right. Janie's story continues in the follow-up book, Fade, due out on bookshelves in February.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman Book Review

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman
(Hardcover, Viking)


Eon has been training to take the Dragoneye Apprentice test. Her master discovered her when she was very young and took her under his wing because Eon can do what no apprentice has been able to do--Eon can see all 12 dragons. Normally, a dragon only makes itself visible to its Dragoneye and his apprentice. Girls aren't allowed to take the test, though, so Eon has disguised herself a boy. But Eon is a cripple and the test is physically demanding. Will she be able to call the Dragons and, if she does, will she be able to continue to hide the fact that she is a girl?

This book, at least to me, is a clear example of why you should never judge a book by its cover. Eon sat on my shelf for two months before I picked it up. I'm not sure what I thought it was about...maybe dragons that could talk, or some sort of prehistoric tale, or strange one-eyed monsters. I definitely didn't think it was a teen-centered tale about a sword-wielding girl who could call dragons to her and who would save a kingdom. Eon (or "Eona" when she's admitting that she's a girl) is a fierce heroine, afraid of revealing her true sex and intent on succeeding so she can restore the riches of her master. The story is set in an alternate history that could be feudal China or Japan. I thought that this setting was particularly exciting because it brought in some of the mythology from that area. It actually reminded me a lot of Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn, although I enjoyed Eon quite a bit more. I was never compelled to finish the series by Lian Hearn, whereas I am very excited to read the sequel to Eon. And the best thing about the Eon series is that it's a duology so I only have to wait for Book 2 to come out.

Sidenote: In Australia, where it was originally published, the title is Two Pearls of Wisdom and here is what the Australian cover looks like. I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on the cover. Which one do you like better? If you haven't read the book, what impressions does the US cover give you? If you have read the book, how do you feel about the covers in comparison?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Favorite Books of 2008

I just love reading everyone's best-of-2008 lists and enjoyed posting my favorites last year, so I wanted to continue the tradition. I read over 200 books this year, definitely the most books that I've read in one year in a long time. This year, I want to read 200 more.

Em's Fav Teen Books of 2008 (in no particular order)
The Opposite of Invisible by Liz Gallagher
Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway
Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
How Not To Be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler
How To Be Bad by Lauren Myracle, E. Lockhart, and Maureen Johnson
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn
House of Dance by Beth Kephart
Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
Looking for Alaska by John Green
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I read so many good books this year that it was hard to narrow them down. My favorite part about blogging is talking to other bloggers about their favorite books. So many of the books I read this year were recommended to me by other bloggers. Thanks for recommending such great books and thanks for reading my blog!

The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner Book Review

The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner
(Hardcover, Dial Press, 2008)

Yann is a gypsy boy whose special talents earned him a spot in a traveling magic show. Yann can read people's minds and pitch his voice. His surrogate father Tetu can levitate and move objects. When Yann and Tetu perform at the house of a Marquis, they run into an evil Count and a lonely little girl. Both people will change Yann's life forever.

The Red Necklace is wonderful in so many ways. First off, the novel is set in France during the 1790s, just as France was on the cusp of a revolution. The darkness and madness of the time show in the novel's tone and characters. Count Kalliovski is a truly evil character and the tension builds with every page. The magic in this novel is important but not over developed. Yann and Tetu are gypsies and, thus, we infer that the magic exists because of their heritage. Gypsies have always held a fascination with me (hello, Johnny Depp in Chocolat!), so I was completely enthralled with Yann. I expected this novel to be about the girl, Sido, but it was mostly told from Yann's point of view. Given that and the book's depth, I was severely disappointed in the cover after I finished the book. I know that girls in elaborate dresses are all the rage on teen book covers, but this cover couldn't be more wrong for the book! No boy in their right mind would be caught reading this book in public, which is sad because I think this is a book that a lot of boys would really appreciate. Despite the cover, this book is well worth buying and putting on your bookshelf. (But if you want to share it with a guy friend, I recommend taking off the cover jacket before passing it on to him.)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr Book Review

Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr
(Hardcover, HarperCollins)

Fragile Eternity picks up the story of Aislinn and Seth that was started in Wicked Lovely. Aislinn is now the Summer Queen, bound to Keenan who is the Summer King, and she's still in love with Seth. Normal, un-fairy, loveable Seth. Seth has been a rock for her these past couple of months as she learned to navigate the fairy world and take her place as a ruler. As the summer solstice draws nearer, Aislinn is uncontrollably drawn to Keenan. Seth knows that Aislinn can't help it but he's determined to keep her in his life.

In a fairy tale land, we would have been happy with the ending of Wicked Lovely. We would just assume that Aislinn and Seth live happily ever after. But Melissa Marr's world is not a world of happily-ever-afters. Marr's tales of fairie are dark, disturbing, and utterly fascinating. So we meet Seth and Aislinn as they begin to question their relationship, as Seth pushes against the role of Keenan in Aislinn's life and as Aislinn wonders what will happen when Seth dies and she still has an eternity to live. In Fragile Eternity, we get inside Seth's head a little bit more. I liked that he was vulnerable, uncertain, and a bit jealous. It made his life-altering decision later in the novel seem so much more understandable. This book was definitely a cliff-hanger, though, in a way that Wicked Lovely wasn't. I was glad to read on Teen Book Review's review of Fragile Eternity that there will be another book in this trilogy (scroll down to Melissa Marr's comment for more details on that).

The best thing about Melissa Marr's books? I find myself rearranging characters and loyalties to make everything end up happy. It would tie it all up nice and neatly, but Marr doesn't do that. She isn't afraid to make the world difficult for her characters and her books are so much better and longer-lasting for it.

A word of advice. Read Wicked Lovely, then read Ink Exchange, and then read Fragile Eternity. Although Ink Exchange is a stand-alone novel, the ending of it is revealed in Fragile Eternity. Plus, you'll love Niall's character in Fragile Eternity so much more.

Heartbreak River by Tricia Mills Book Review

Heartbreak River by Tricia Mills
(Paperback, Razorbill)

Alex is expecting a nice, relaxing summer in which she'll think about nothing more strenuous than booking rafting trips for her family's whitewater rafting company. When Sean comes back into town, Alex realizes that she still has feelings for him. But things ended so badly last summer when Alex's dad died. How can she and Sean ever become friends again?

Heartbreak River gives us a different spin on some difficult issues--the death of a parent, the war in Iraq, and the importance of friendship. Alex has shut herself off from most people ever since her dad died, with the exception of her best friend and cousin Mala. I liked that this novel stressed the importance of family and the importance of dealing with your problems. Mala has always been there for Alex and I think alot of Alex's character development revolved around her needing to understand that Mala has problems, too. The one major thing that bothered me is that the details surrounding Alex's dad's death were hinted at but never fully revealed until later in the novel. In fact, there was so much hinting that it almost felt like a sequel to me. However, I was really into the rafting aspect of the book so I think that if you like water sports or outdoor themed novels, you'll enjoy Heartbreak River. I was waffling between 2 stars and 3 stars, and I've decided to give it 3 stars mainly because I enjoyed the setting, a whitewater rafting company, and it's incorporation into the novel.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle Book Review

Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
(Paperback, Speak)


In Let It Snow, John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle give us three interconnected short stories. Taking place (mostly) in a small community called Gracetown, this book offers up three cozy, romantic winter tales. These were fun and quick to read, although I think all of them could have been improved if they had been fleshed out more. Not that I don't love short stories, I just think that, in this case, each story would have been better if the characters had been more developed. I highly recommend this book, though, if you're looking for a light book to curl up with next to a warm fire. Here's a short synopsis of each story:

Jubilee Express by Maureen Johnson. This is the first story in the book and sets the scene. Jubilee is on her way to visit her grandmother for Christmas. When her train gets stuck in Gracetown, Jubilee meets Stuart at the local Waffle House. Stuart forces her to reconsider her so-so relationship with her current overachieving boyfriend by rescuing her from a snowstorm and offering her a bit of winter fun.

A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle by John Green. This one was my second favorite story in the book. Mind you, John Green's full length novels are much better but this short story was still worthy of Mr. Green. Tobin, JP, and Angie (AKA The Duke) have always been best friends. So when Tobin and JP hear that there is a Waffle House full of snowbound cheerleaders, they drag Angie along on their epic quest to make it to the Waffle House. But does Tobin really want a cheerleader or has love been next to him the whole time?

The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle. This was my favorite short story because Addie is such a loveable, messed up heroine. Addie is waiting for her ex-boyfriend Jeb to meet her on Christmas Eve. They had a rocky breakup but Addie is still in love with him. When he doesn't show, Addie is convinced that he doesn't love her back. A weird chain of events puts her in charge of a tiny pig and gives her the opportunity to examine what exactly went wrong between her and Jeb.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson Book Review

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
(Hardcover, Henry Holt, 2008)


Jenna Fox has been in a coma for a year and when she wakes up, she has no memories of her life. She doesn't remember her mom or her dad or her grandmother. As Jenna's strength returns, so does her memory. However, her memory is spotty and there are large gaps in what she remembers, including the accident that put her in a coma. Is Jenna who she thinks she is? Why can't she remember more?

First, the title of this book puzzled me before I started reading it. But it soon becomes clear that Jenna's parents adore her, maybe a little too much. Jenna is an only child and her parents are determined to protect her. This results in some scary, crossing-the-line decisions. Plus, her dad is the head of a biotech firm and has access to revolutionary medical technology. Jenna's accident and resulting injuries are revealed slowly throughout the novel, so that you are expecting the pretty crazy revelation when it comes. I had to read this book straight through because I just had to know what would happen to Jenna, but I did have some doubts as to the validity of the science in this book. The book's strength lies in the fact that Jenna is determined to figure out who she is, a process that most of us go through as teens. Despite the futuristic dystopia and far-fetched medical science, The Adoration of Jenna Fox is a engaging novel that questions just what it is that makes us who we are.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Graceling by Kristin Cashore Book Review

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
(Hardcover, Harcourt, 2008)


Katsa is a Graceling, prized by her king for her fighting skills and feared by his people. Gracelings are marked by their different colored eyes - Katsa's are blue and green - and by their extra abilities. Katsa is Graced in fighting. She has never met an opponent that she can't kill. Week after week, she is sent on missions to coerce people into doing the king's bidding. Little does he know that she has started a Council that helps protect the people of her kingdom and six other kingdoms. Katsa hates that her Grace makes her a savage and it is when she finally meets Po, another Graced fighter, that she begins to realize that she doesn't have to kill people in order to please a king. Katsa and Po set out on a daring adventure to rescue his grandfather and find out who is wreaking havoc in the seven kingdoms.

I devoured this book in a day and a half, and would have read it faster if I hadn't been interrupted so many times. Kasta's world is easily pictured and her struggle is one that we all face in some form or another. Katsa feels as if she has no control over her life. Gracelings are feared in her kingdom and only a few brave and kind souls will look into her strange eyes. However, that isn't enough to make a book great. What Graceling accomplishes is far more than painting a vivid picture of another world or creating a likable, suffering heroine. Graceling gives us a heroine who changes and shifts and grows (and kicks butt at the same time). Katsa has always thought of herself as a brute, an ogre whose only skill is to hurt people. But Katsa's Grace is a little more than being a skilled fighter and as Katsa changes her perception of her Grace, she also changes her perception of herself.

Some reviews that I've read complained about Katsa's eyes, saying it was unoriginal to have them be different colors. I thought this was an interesting way to mark Katsa and the other Gracelings. It served to show that she could never escape her Grace, that people would always judge her for it. I think this heightened her own insecurities and opened a new world to her when she met another Graceling who was accepted in his own society. I did get a little bogged down in the seven kingdoms...kind of wished there had only been 4 or 5 so I could keep better track of where everyone was going. But only a couple of kingdoms really played a part in the book so my memory problems didn't really matter. This book reminded me a lot of Tamora Pierce's writing, which is funny because after I read it, I realized that Tamora Pierce had written a blurb for the back! Cashore's world and characters are very different from Pierce's, but both novelists have strong heroines, just the right amount of action, dashing and fun heroes, and make me wish for a sequel. In Pierce's case, sequels are often the norm. I can only hope that Kristin Cashore continues to write about Kasta and her world.

Although I do have to agree with some reviewers in one regard...Po...what kind of name is that? :)

This was a great book with which to start off the year. Hopefully, this means that 2009 will be fantastic year of reading! And I do believe it will be because up next is Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart .

For more about Kristin Cashore, check out her blog. www.kristincashore.blogspot.com