Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.
She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.
She's wrong.

First line:
"My name is not Mara Dyer, but my lawyer told me I had to choose something."

Interesting plot. Great characters. Good dialogue. Loads of mystery/intrigue.
Mara has PTSD and hallucinations. Her family moves to another state to help her get a new start after her friends are killed.
Noah is the local newbie, bad boy from England. Mara wants to stop the hallucinations and reluctantly accepts Noah's offer to help. Mara makes one other friend at school, a boy named Jaime. He keeps Mara sane (if that's possible) and smiling (me too!). There are the typical cheerleader/jock bullies. The main one is a girl who likes/hates Noah but hates Mara more when they become an item.
I enjoyed the mystery and trying to figure out what was happening with Mara, her memories and her family.
I would've liked to understood more before the end of the book.
I want to read the next book but may not solely because of the language.

The story
I was hooked, had to see how it ended
The cover

Didn't like:
Too many swear words
Confusion at the Mara's "abilities"
It's Book One
(you all know how I feel about reading trilogies that are all out yet.)

Rating: PG 17 (for language) max
S: No
L: Yes
V: No


25% test (p. 113):
Aiden pushed past Jamie on his way out the door, slamming Jamie's shoulder into the door frame. Aiden turned before leaving the room.
"Don't you have a lawn you should be decorating?"
Jamie glared after him and rubbed his shoulder. "He needs a knife in the eye," he muttered, once Aiden was gone. "So. A-holes aside, how's your first week?"
Oh, you know. Saw a dead guy. Losing my mind. Same old. "Not too bad."
Jamie nodded. "Big change from your old school, is it?"
When he asked me that, a still frame of Rachel materialized in my brain. "Is it that obvious?"
"You've got public school written all over you."
"Uh, thanks?"
"Oh, that's a compliment. I've sat in class with these douches for most of my waking life. It's nothing to be proud of. Trust."
"Going to private school or going to Croyden?" I asked as we made our way to his locker.
"From what I've heard from friends at other schools, I believe this level of a**hattery is unique to Croyden. Take Anna, for example, She's only a few IQ points above a corpse, and yet she sullies out Algebra II class with her stupidity."
I decided not to mention that I was probably just a confounded by the homework as she was.
"The amount your parents donate is directly proportional..."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

In this chilling beginning to The Wolves Chronicles, two little cousins are left in the care of an evil governess. They escape and travel 400 miles to London with their friend Simon and his geese.
Lewis Carroll Shelf Award.

First line:
"It was dusk--winter dusk."

Intrigue. Evil governess. One goose boy. Two mistreated girls. Three different adventures. Wolves within as well as outside
Thus is the tale of Bonnie (rich girl) and Sylvia (poor cousin) as their lives intertwine and their adventures begin.
Some of the aspects of the story were a little hard to believe. Three children travel 400 miles on their own?

What I liked:
Bonnie & Sylvia
Bonnie's courage
The story
Characters growth

What I didn't like:
Some aspects of story
Convenience of some good things happening

Rating: PG
S: No
V: scary adults
L: No


25% test (p.45):
"...marched up the stairs and along the passages to the nursery. Sylvia followed, her heart swollen with compassion. She longed to say some comforting words, but could think of none.
"It may not be long, Bonnie," she ventured at length.
Bonnie sat at the table, her hands tightly clenched together. "I will not, I will not cry," she was saying to herself.
At Sylvia's anxious, loving, compassionate voice she took heart a little, and gave her cousin a smile. "After all," she thought, "I am lucky to have Papa and  Mamma even if they have gone away; poor Sylvia has no one at all."
"Come," she said, jumping up," the sun is shining. I will show you some of the grounds. Let us go skating."
"But Bonnie dear, I have no skates, and I do not know how."
"Oh, it is the easiest thing in the world, I will soon show you and as for skates, Papa thought of that already, look..." Bonnie pulled open a cupboard door and showed six pairs of white kid skating boots, all different sizes. "We knew your feet must be somewhere near the same size as mine, since we are the same age, so Papa had several different pairs made and we thought one of them was certain to fit."
Sure enough, one of the pairs of boots fitted exactly,. Sylvia was much struck by this thought on the part of her uncle, and astonished at the lavishness of having six pairs made for one to be chosen.
Likewise, Pattern pulled out a whole series of white fur caps and pelisses, and tried them against Sylvia until she found ones that fitted. "I've hung your green velvet..."

Friday, November 18, 2011

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 terrible and wonderful summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.

First line:
I say, "I can't believe you're really here."

Fun summer read. I often wondered about the people who go to the beach house for the summer. Parties, pools, beach, suntans and cute boys.
This story deals with all of the above plus divorce, death and love. Quick, summer read.

What I liked:
Each character's growth
Belly understanding everything about summer isn't glamouros
Nickname, Belly

What I disliked:
The summer fling guy
Belly's bellyaching (couldn't resist)

Rating: PG 16
S: No
L: Some
V: No

3 1/2 STARS

25% test (p.69):
""Hi, Ste-ven," she said in a singsong voice.
"Hey," he mumbled.
Taylor looked at me and crossed her eyes. Brump, she mouths, emphasis on the p.
Iluaghed. "Taylor, this is Conrad and Jeremiah. Steven you know." I was curious about who she'd pick, who she'd think was cuter, funnier. Better.
"Hey," she said, sizing them up, and right away I could tell Conrad was the one. And I was glad. Because I knew that Conrad would never, ever, go for her.
"Hey," they said
Then Conrad turned back to the TV just like I knew he would. HJeremiah teratedher to one of his lopsided smiles and said, "So yu're Belly's friend, huh? We thought she didn'thave any friends."
I waited for him to grin at me to show he was just joking, but he didn't even look my way. "Shut up, Jeremiah," I said, and he grinned at me then, but it was a quick cursory one, and he went right back to looking at Taylor.
"Bely has tons of friends," Taylor informed him in a breezy was. "Do I look like someone who wuold hang with a loser?"
"Yes," my brother said from the couch. His head popped up. "You do."
Taylore glared at him. "Go back to jacking off, Steven."
She turned to me and sai, "Why don't you show me our room?""

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

Alex has run away and is hiking through the wilderness with her dead parents' ashes, about to say goodbye to the life she no longer wants to live. But then the world suddenly changes. An electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the sky zapping every electronic device and killing the vast majority of adults. For those spared, it's a question of who can be trusted and who has changed... Everyone still alive has turned - some for the better (those who acquired a superhuman sense) while others for the worse (those who acquired a taste for human flesh). Desperate to find out what happened and to avoid the zombies that are on the hunt, Alex meets up with Tom - an Army veteran who escaped one war only to find something worse at home - and Ellie, a young girl whose grandfather was killed by the electromagnetic pulse. This improvised family will have to use every ounce of courage they have just to find food, shelter, while fighting off the 'Changed' and those desperate to stay alive. A tense and involving adventure with shocks and sudden plot twists that will keep teen and adult readers gripped.

First line:
""Where are you?" Aunt Hannah demanded as soon as Alex thumbed TALK. "What do you think you're doing?""

I have to be honest and tell you I haven't read all of this book. I read the first 200 pages, skipped the middle, and read the last 150 pages (there are over 400 pages in this book). 
I'll explain my reasons later.
ASHES is a well-written, intriguing, suspenseful and scary story. Not scary as in "boo!" but as in I hope-this-never-happens scary. An electromagnetic pulse hits the earth, killing millions on impact. Then it affects the nuclear plants which go off and kill more people. In the meantime hundreds of thousand are turned into zombies.
Alex is the main character. She's camping high in the mountains when the EMP hits. A grandpa and his granddaughter are also nearby and the grandpa is killed. Alex reluctantly takes the girl with her to find the ranger station and, hopefully, safety.
I honestly didn't know this story had zombies in it. I was fine with it until a scene where it describes the zombies eating a dead, older woman. It was gross.
Alex meets up with a military guy close to her age who helps her not get killed by dogs. Along the way they tell their stories and grow closer. They also decide they need to get somewhere safe. They understand they will see zombies, dead bodies and killings.
I was worried about the middle of the book. More gore? Sex between the main characters? I honestly didn't want to take the chance.
I also didn't realize this was the first book in a trilogy. I'm don't think I'm going to read the rest of the series.

Rating: PG 17 (max)
S: not sure, didn't read the middle of the book
L: some
V: Yes. zombies killing/eating humans. humans killing zombies.


25% test (p.116):
"Water streamed from the mutt's flanks. Blood bubbled from a slash on its shoulder where it had struck a rock or snagged a branch. But it was there and it was alive, and now the animal went for her face with a flash of fangs, white and deadly.
Screaming, Alex pressed back against the rock, her only working arm--the right--flying up to protect her face. It was instinct, pure and simple--and saved her life. Crabbed on her back, unable to get to her feet, she felt the dog batten down, waited in a slow-motion dread for the jaws to grind and for her bones to break...Or maybe it would go for her throat next, or even push her under the water, hold her there until she drowned. But then her arm did not break, and she realized the dog had misjudged and that all it had was a very big mouthful of sopping wet sweatshirt. The pressure around her arm lessened for an instant as the dog let up and shifted its jaws, trying for a better grip--
Mina sailed across her vision. in an instant, the mutt had let go of Alex and whirled, incredibly fast for such a large dog. The..."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Author interview with Cindy Bennett

Give us your elevator pitch:
Geek Girl is a contemporary young adult novel about a teen Goth girl who bets her friends she can turn a geek boy bad. She soon finds that hanging out with a geek isn’t such a bad thing.

Do you have a snack you eat while writing?
I always have ice water and I almost always have Hershey’s dark chocolate to munch on.

Do you have trouble with distractions while writing? What are they?
 Games on my phone. It’s terrible but as soon as I feel the slightest writers block I pull the ‘Droid out and start playing games.

How do you combat distractions?
I try to put the phone down (lol) and then close my eyes for a minute while I try to get back into my characters head. I picture what point I want to get them to in the scene then start writing them to that.

Do you eat or listen to music while writing?
I sometimes eat while writing if it’s lunchtime or something, but usually it’s hard to eat while typing. I only listen to music if I’m looking for a particular mood for a scene and am having a hard time getting there. I might put on a movie that conveys that mood. Honestly, I’m usually watching TV while writing. I need the background noise.

What would your character do if they spent the day together? (Star Trek marathon? :))
A Star Trek or Star Wars marathon would likely be included, or any number of geek movies. One would have to sneak in there somewhere. They might take Trevor’s brother bowling, or jump on the trampoline. They would definitely spend a lot of time talking, because they really enjoy talking to each other.

Are you a night owl or early bird?
Definite night owl. I do most of my writing between midnight and 4 a.m. I might go to bed anywhere between 4 and 6, and sleep until noon. Nighttime is my most creative time. I’m pretty useless in the mornings. Mornings and I don’t get along at all.

What was your favorite TV show as a child/teen?
Oh, man, this is going to totally date me, but as a kid I loved The Brady Bunch—probably because there was a character who shared my name. And Sesame Street, which I have to admit I still watch on occasion. As a young teen it was all about The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. What great concepts they were. One was about people on a cruise boat. Who wouldn’t want to be on a cruise all the time? How exotic that seemed. And the other, you went to this beautiful, tropical island and had your fantasy granted. I mean, wow. I’d take that any day—even if it meant listening to Tattoo yelling “De plane, de plane.”

Do you have a favorite comfort food?
Chocolate, as cliché as it is—dark chocolate, particularly. Almost any kind of junk food really—cookies, brownies, doughnuts, chips. I only wish I were comforted by carrots and celery.

Any other books in the works?
I’m nearly finished with my newest called Immortal Mine. It’s a little different than the others as it takes a dip into the paranormal pool, though at heart it’s all about the romance—small town girl whose life is disrupted by stranger moving into town, there’s something unusual about him, something she can’t begin to imagine (he’s immortal, but not a vamp or werewolf). And of course it wouldn’t be one of my characters if something tragic didn’t happen to the poor heroine.

What is one piece of advice you would give aspiring writers?
Let the negative stuff roll off. You’re going to get a lot of rejections, you’re going to get bad reviews. They’re heart breaking, but you have to let them go or you’ll get so bogged down by depression that you’ll never be able to succeed. But along with that, learn from the negative stuff. Sometimes bad reviews actually have something constructive within them (:o)).

Anything else you want to add?
I want to send a gigantic thank you out to all of my readers, and to all of the reviewers and book bloggers who have helped my books to have the success that they’ve had. I absolutely love writing; it’s a huge source of joy to me. But if there weren’t people willing to actually read what I write, then I’d be spending way too much time on a hobby (lol).

Friday, November 11, 2011

Geek Girl by Cindy Bennett

"Think I can turn that boy bad?" 17-year-old Jen turns her life upside down when, out of boredom, she makes a bet that she can turn school geek Trevor into someone like her. Instead, the goth girl finds herself sucked into his world of sci-fi movies, charity work, and even-ugh!-bowling. To truly belong with him-and with her new foster family-she must first come to terms with her violent past.

Authors note: Geek Girl has been optioned by Cedar Fort Publishing, and is therefore currently unavailable. It will become available again in December, 2011. Thanks to everyone who has asked about it, and want to know when it will be available!

First line:
"Think I could turn that boy bad?"

Girl gets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy again. This is the basic plot behind GEEK GIRL but it's sooo much more!
Jen is in the foster care system and deals with it by being emo with a crowd of emo friends who like to party. Out of boredom, she bets her friends she can "turn" a geek boy emo too.
Doesn't turn out like Jen thinks it will.
I enjoyed the characters! Jen was quirky, funny, and hiding from her pain. She believes she's unlovable and leaves the foster families before she can get hurt.
Trevor is awesome. Kind, courteous, cute and great dimples. He sees past Jen's black clothes and makeup to who she really is.
Jen soon learns Trev is a great guy. She feels a connection with him and feels herself falling for him which scares her because she's not good enough for anyone.
Loved the sci-fi references. Loved the cute romance. Loved the relationships. Loved the book.

I highly recommend this clean, high school romance to any teen!

Rating: PG
L: None
V: None
S: None


(book provided by Netgalley for review)
25% test (p. 70):
"He turns away from me.
"You thought it was sappy?" He sounds a little upset. I sit up and scoot to the edge of the bed so I can see his face.
"Yeah, I guess I did. but good sappy."
He looks at me sardonically. What, exactly, is good sappy?"
I shrug. "Well, you know, really romantic. That kind of thing."
"You don't like romantic?"
"Do I strike you as someone who likes romantic?"
Now he shrugs. "I think you have a lot of layers that you hide."
"Trev, you really have to stop thinking there's more to me than meets the eye."
"There is." I groan at his words and he laughs. "To tell you the truth, that song was something I've been working on."
I reach out and grab his hand with a gasp.
"That's a song you're writing?" He nods. "And I bashed it." my tone indicates my distress.
"It's okay. Not a big deal."
It is a big deal. I don't want to hurt you."
Even as I say the words that are the truth, I know they are also a lie because Of everything I do now will eventually hurt him, or at least hurt who he is.
He gives me a wry smile and shrugs, self-conscious. "I wrote it for you."
"For me?" I refuse to acknowledge the the feelings that try to push their way to the surface at this.
"Yeah, you know, inspired by you. Dumb, huh?"
I lean my head on his shoulder and place my hand over his, but instead of going stiff as I have come to expect whenever I touch him, re relaxes into me and leans his head against mine." (le sigh)(my note)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Intrinsical by Lani Woodland

Sixteen-year-old Yara Silva has always known that ghosts walk alongside the living. Her grandma, like the other females in her family, is a Waker, someone who can see and communicate with ghosts. Yara grew up watching her grandmother taunted and scorned for this unusual ability and doesn't want that to be her future. She has been dreading the day when she too would see ghosts, and is relieved that the usually dominant Waker gene seems to have skipped her, letting her live a normal teenage life. However, all that changes for Yara on her first day at her elite boarding school when she discovers the gene was only lying dormant. She witnesses a dark mist attack Brent, a handsome fellow student, and rushes to his rescue. Her act of heroism draws the mist's attention, and the dark spirit begins stalking her. Yara finds herself entrenched in a sixty-year-old curse that haunts the school, threatening not only her life, but the lives of her closest friends as well. Yara soon realizes that the past she was trying to put behind her isn't going to go quietly.

First line:
"My shadow stretched out in front of me, making my small build and slight frame seem almost tall--willowy even."

Great way to start out by a new author!

Main characters
Haunted pool house
School curse
Ghost story
No cliff hanger!

How long main characters stayed in ghost form, doing ghost stuff (not that they had a choice)
Bad ghost in human body character
Only the first book!

Rating: PG 13
V: evil ghost
L: No
S: kissing


25% test (p. 76):
"...like she was made of gelatin, rubbery almost, rippling under my touch.
"Cherie," I called, my voice soft and melodious, heavenly almost. I hesitated for a moment, waiting to see if she'd join me, but she didn't. I wasn't sure what to do. Am I brave enough to go further without her?
After a brief moment, I knew me answer. I was.
I turned toward the window, leaned against the pane, and found it solid. Would the same go for the fire-escape? I imagined my spirit spilling through the metal grate like water through a sieve. I tested it first, sitting on the ledge and pressing down with one foot. It felt secure, so I stepped outside and climbed down to the sidewalk below.
the air itself was a complex tapestry of my surroundings and I could smell each thread. Fresh-cut roses, avocados, oranges, and from far away, blooming lilies. It was amazing, and I breathed in deeply, savoring it all.
When I reached the grass, I spun around in a circle with my arms stretched wide. Each star in the sky twinkled brightly as if warmly greeting my liberated spirit. A slight breeze brought in a new bouquet of smell as it gently caressed me.
The night felt like a blank canvas awaiting the first stroke, and I was the artist, picking the color from a newer-infinite palate, able to go anywhere, see anyone, do anything. My personal tastes seemed to drift toward a pair of dreamy brown eyes, and my feet were soon heading toward Brent's room.
Since he cold astral project, too, I thought spying on him might be fair, and I sprinted toward the boys' dorm only slowing when I neared the fire escape. The entire journey had taken seconds, but I didn't feel winded or tired. My plan had one hitch: I didn't have any idea what..."

Friday, November 4, 2011

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone - one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship - tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming

First line:
"Daddy said, "Let mom go first."

Interesting, creepy, claustrophobic story.
First off, I can't imagine being on a spaceship for fifty years let alone hundreds. Can you say claustrophobia?? Seriously, there were times I felt closed in. That's good writing!

The ship, Godspeed, and all it's quirks
Lots of secrets
Learning about the ships social structure

I skimmed the first 1/4 of the book. I don't think the first few chapters were totally necessary to the story. I got tired of Amy's 'poor me' chapters.
Earth's history changed so the leaders have control
I wasn't hooked from the beginning.
Robot-like passengers
Sex in the street, park, steps during the 'Season'

Rating: PG 16
V: Yes, fighting
L:Yes but not our swearing. The ship has it's own like 'frex'
S: almost rape scene, the Season where the shipmates have sex like animals


25% test (p.100):
"...chair I am sitting in at him, not to pull down the walls that surround me. "In fifty years I'm going to be older than my parents, and you're telling me to find a way to occupy my freaking time?!"
"A hobby, perhaps?"
"GAH!" I screech. I lunge for his desk, about to sweep everything on it onto the floor. The doctor stands, too, but instead of trying to stop me, he reaches for the cabinet behind him. there is something so calmly disturbing about this action that I pause as he pulls open a drawer and, after rummaging around for a bit, withdraws a small, square, white package, similar to the hand wipes I used to get from the Chinese restaurant Jason took me to on our first date.
"This is a med patch," the doctor says. "Tiny needles glued to the adhesive will administer calming drugs directly into your system. I do not want to spend the next fifty years medicating you just so you stay calm." He sets the white package in the center of his desk, then looks me square in the eyes. "But I will."
The med patch lies there, a line in the sand that I do not want to cross. I sit back down.
"Now, do you have any hobbies or skills that you could put us on the ship?"
Hobbies? Hobbies are something ninety-year-old men have as they piddle around the garage.
"I liked history in school," I finally say, although I feel like a dork for thinking of school before anything else.
"We don't have school here." Before I can contemplate life without school, the doctor continues. "Not now. And besides, at this point, the life you lived is, well..."
Oh. I see his point. My life, my former life, already is history. What will..."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Finding Hope~Where to Look for God's Help by S. Michael Wilcox

When life's challenges seem overwhelming, where can you turn for help? In this newest volume of the Time Out Classics series, author S. Michael Wilcox offers a profound message of hope and encouragement. Using powerful stories from the scriptures, he teaches that hope can be found in looking past obstacles and moving forward with faith, in looking back at past experiences that may have strengthened us for future challenges, and in looking for times when the Savior walks with us. On those days when we may wonder if Heavenly Father has forgotten us, we have the assurance that each of His servants will receive "the light of the countenance of their Lord . . . every man in his hour and in his time and in his season." And although it may not be your hour now, He will come because He is aware of us, He knows our needs, and He will bless us.

First line:
God spoke to the great prophets of the Old Testament in some rather unique ways, most of them deeply visual."

When life's challenges seem overwhelming, where can you turn for help? Using powerful stories from the scriptures, Michael Wilcox teaches that hope can be found.
This book is a quick, uplifting book. Easy to read and understand. Can be read as a daily uplifting read.


25% test (p. 14):
"Camping on the Beach
There is another story,in the book of Mormon this time, that can enhance the message of the story of the twelve spies. As the Jaredites moved forward toward their promised land, they had to build barges and boats to cross smaller bodies of water. Eventually they came to the ocean, the ultimate crossing. Before we examine what they did at this point in their journey, I would like to point out that all of the major journeys and almost all crossings in the scriptures--be they deserts, wilderness, oceans or the Jordan River--should be read with our own lives in mind. We too are making journey to the eternal promised land, the celestial kingdom. There will be critical..."