Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Iron Thorn - Caitlin Kittredge

Title: The Iron Thorn (Book 1 in the Iron Codex series)
Author: Caitlin Kittredge
Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2011 (Hardcover)
Length: 492 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Steampunk, Dystopian Fiction, Fantasy
Started: April 29, 2011
Finished: April 30, 2011

From the inside cover:
In the city of Lovecraft, the Proctors rule and a great Engine turns below the streets, grinding any resistance to their order to dust. The necrovirus is blamed for Lovecraft's epidemic of madness, for the strange and eldritch creatures that roam the streets after dark, and for everything that the city leaders deem Heretical—born of the belief in magic and witchcraft. And for Aoife Grayson, her time is growing shorter by the day.
Aoife Grayson's family is unique, in the worst way—every one of them, including her mother and her elder brother Conrad, has gone mad on their 16th birthday. And now, a ward of the state, and one of the only female students at the School of Engines, she is trying to pretend that her fate can be different.
Her future seems bleak. Until one day she receives a letter that reads simply: Find the witch's alphabet. Save yourself.
Aoife knows the letter is from Conrad, but the last time she saw her brother was the day he lost his mind and attacked her before going on the run from the Proctors. Could it be that he is sane somewhere and warning her to get out while she still can-or is the note simply a message from a rambling madman?
To save herself, Aoife must find her brother. And to do that, she must leave Lovecraft and venture into a world of Heretics and air pirates, night creatures and dark family secrets...before thr clock winds down, and she too succumbs to the necrovirus.

An alternative, dystopian, steampunk 1950s world, complete with fairies and magic...this book is nothing if not ambitious. The plot intrigued me: a virus that causes madness, a girl trying to change her own fate, all wrapped up in 3 different genres, I was set. Unfortunately the book just didn't grab me. Flat characters, writing that takes forever to get to the point, and the book being far too longer than it needed to all made this read more tedious than enjoyable.

Aoife (which is a really awkward name that took a lot of getting used to) is nearing 16 and that very fact worries her. Her mother went mad at 16 and has spent the years since then in various asylums. Her brother Conrad shared the same fate and Aoife hasn't seen him since her tried to cut her throat and ran from the Proctors two years ago. When the academy where she is studying Engineering expels her just before her birthday, Aoife receives a letter from her brother that instructs her to go to their father's estate, called Graystone. There she will find the answers that will allow her to save both her brother and herself from the madness that threatens to consume her.

It was interesting how the author melded three genres into one. I've seen dystopian and steampunk together before, but never with fantasy elements like magic and fairies as is done here. Although it was admirable to see the attempt, the ensuing plot was fairly predictable, taking cliche elements from each of the three genres and combining didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out where things were headed. The characters, especially Aoife, weren't very well developed. Cal was to a certain extent, but after a while Aoife and Dean become more of a focus rather than Cal, and they were so flat that I thought it would be more interesting if Aoife did descend into madness because at least then I'd get some sort of reaction out of her. For a book that's nearly 500 pages long with a plot that in my opinion was fairly simplistic once it got going, the writing gets to the point of verbal diarrhea at times. There were sections where I skimmed pages at a time and didn't miss much. I prefer books where you can't skip a single sentence because every word is carefully chosen and so loaded with meaning. This was not one of them. If the writing had been more concise, the book could've probably been cut by at least a hundred pages or so, which would've been a lot less tedious in the long run.

Didn't absolutely hate it, but didn't fall in love with it either....not quite sure what to make of it except for the fact that it tested my patience.

Thoughts on the cover:
I don't get this cover. Aside from being all moody and dark and such, it doesn't have much to do with the story. This cover image depicted here is slightly different from the actual cover in that Aoife's peasant top/shirt is higher up on her shoulder in the actual cover, but her right hand is still clasped as if she's trying to hold her shirt up. I don't know why the initial image had her shirt halfway off her shoulders, it doesn't really have anything to do with the story, and the sexualized image where it needn't be is probably why it was changed.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hush - Eishes Chayil

Title: Hush
Author: Eishes Chayil
Publisher: Walker Publishing Company (Bloomsbury), 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 359 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: April 27, 2011
Finished: April 28, 2011

Inside the closed community of Borough Park, where most Chassidim live, the rules of life are very clear, determined by an ancient script written thousands of years before down to the last detail and abuse has never been a part of it. But when young Gittel learns of the abuse her best friend has suffered at the hands of her own family member, the adults in her community try to persuade Gittel, and themselves, that nothing happened. Forced to remain silent, Gittel begins to question everything she was raised to believe.
A richly detailed and nuanced book, one of both humor and depth, understanding and horror, this story explains a complex world that remains an echo of its past, and illuminates the conflict between yesterday's traditions and today's reality.

Hush is, to say the least, a very powerful novel. Some people have had issues with it because they believe it encourages anti-Semitism based on how the Orthodox Jewish sect is portrayed, but the author never fails to condemn the act and the abusers, not necessarily the community that shelters them, because if there's one thing we know it's that abuse happens everywhere, as well as cover-ups.

Gittel lives in the area of Borough Park in modern day New York where her whole community of Chassidic Jews live. As an orthodox sect, life is very different: everything must be kosher, the kids don't watch tv, boys and girls are separated from an early age, arranged marriages at age 18 are the norm, and families are willing to turn a blind eye in order to save their reputation. The story is narrated via alternating chapters by present-day Gittel as she's about to be engaged and married at age 17/18, and also reminisces back to when Gittel was a child. When 9-year-old Gittel discovers that something horrible is happening to her best friend Devory (but she can't really identify it because the girls are so sheltered sexually that they don't realize what's happening is sexual abuse), she's not really sure how to help her, and all the adults around them ignore or punish Devory for her recent irregular behaviour. When things get even worse and Devory commits suicide, Gittel is devastated. When she tries to explain the reason why Devory did what she did, the adults tell her to keep quiet, mainly so as not to cause more humiliation for Devory's family, and also not to tarnish her own family's reputation. 10 years later, Gittel still suffers from witnessing Devory's sexual abuse and suicide, which affects her ability to have a healthy relationship with her new husband. It is only when she receives some support and finally reveals what she witnessed does she begin to heal.

I think what really makes this book amazing is Gittel's dual perspectives as a child and an adult. Although this book is so haunting, it also made me laugh while reading the chapters with Gittel as a child because the voice is so genuine. As a teacher, I know exactly how kids both big and little think, act, and speak, and this author got it hands down. As far as people complaining that the author is purposefully bashing the Chassidic community, I honestly don't think she's doing that here. Number 1, the author's name is a pseudonym, and explains everything in such detail that leads me to think that she either grew up in a Chassidic community, or still lives in one now. Not that someone that grew up in a certain type of community doesn't end up bashing that community as an adult, but the author also describes the good aspects of the community like Gittel's amazing father. It only shows that the community is just that: a could replace the Chassidic community with any other and the abuse scenario could still happen. In this case the abuse happens to occur in a Chassidic community, but that's just the author's experience so that's what she chose to write about.

One thing I should caution readers about that did bother me a bit. Again, I'm coming at this from a non-Jewish perspective and mean no disrespect, but this story does caution against the blind faith and tradition of religion. The girls' lives revolve around religion to the point where they aren't allowed to do anything that isn't sanctioned. Their skirts must be so many inches below the knee (I'm all for modest clothing but there's a limit), their hair must be covered once they're older (I'm sorry but the hair on a woman's head isn't a sex symbol, it's just hair), they are forced into arranged marriages when they're barely legal, are so sexually sheltered, and if it isn't in their vocabulary it doesn't exist (like sexual abuse). The comments about never trusting a non-Jewish person and that a non-Jew would kill and poison them if given the chance were insulting but more funny at the same time...I teach my students that religion doesn't make or break a person, and that good people can be from all walks of life and a person's personality and actions should dictate whether they are a good person or not...and I teach in a Catholic school. I'm of the mindset that religion sometimes must change with the times, and this book, in addition to exploring the issue of covering up abuse no matter what community it occurs in, also explores the damage done to a person when they are not given the ability and knowledge to think for themselves.

Haunting and beautiful at the same time, this is an amazing book that needs to be read. The book does deal with rape and suicide of a young child (granted not explicitly), but it's still there, so readers beware.

Thoughts on the cover:
Very simple but very appropriate considering the themes of the story.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Plague - Michael Grant

Title: Plague (Book 4 in the Gone series)
Author: Michael Grant
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins), 2011 (Hardcover)
Length: 492 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Dystopian Fiction, Science Fiction
Started: April 24, 2011
Finished: April 27, 2011

From the inside cover:
It's been eight months since all the adults disappeared. GONE.

They've survived hunger. They've survived lies. But the stakes keep rising, and the dystopian horror keeps building. Yet despite the simmering unrest left behind by so many battles, power struggles, and angry divides, there is a momentary calm in Perdido Beach.

But enemies in the FAYZ don't just fade away, and in the quiet, deadly things are stirring, mutating, and finding their way free. The Darkness has found its way into the mind of its Nemesis at last and is controlling it through a haze of delirium and confusion. A highly contagious, fatal illness spreads at an alarming rate. Sinister, predatory insects terrorize Perdido Beach. And Sam, Astrid, Diana, and Caine are plagued by a growing doubt that they'll escape - or even survive - life in the FAYZ. With so much turmoil surrounding them, what desperate choices will they make when it comes to saving themselves and those they love?

Plague, Michale Grant's fourth book in the bestselling Gone series, will satisfy dystopian fans of all ages.

After reviewing Gone, Hunger, and Lies last year, I knew the Gone series was a freaking knockout one. I adore these books, the author doesn't suffer from what you normally see in a series where one or two of the books are amazing while the rest just seem like fillers while you're waiting for the end. Every single novel in this series is action-packed, continues with the ongoing plot as well as subplots that are relevant, and each one is just plain amazing. Honestly, I can't recommend this series enough.

Plague, like all the previous novels, has a bunch of different events going on all at once that all come together in the end. Sam, Dekka, and Jack are sent by Albert to the north end of the FAYZ to investigate new sources of water. Sam and Astrid have a falling out over a decision regarding sex. A mysterious illness that literally causes kids to cough up their internal organs is devastating the population. A hoard of mutant bugs use the children's bodies as nesting grounds, ripping their bodies in half as they emerge. Drake/Brittney escapes from the dungeon prison and creates chaos in Perdido Beach. Astrid is trying to deal with her murderous thoughts towards her little brother. Caine and Diana are hanging out on their island paradise and not causing trouble for the most part.

The unique thing about Plague that you didn't see with the three previous novels is a bit of a deviation in the narration. The majority of the novel is still in third person that addresses each character's perspective as it focuses on each person, but you also get a first person narration from Little Pete every so often. This was really interesting since Little Pete is autistic and we've never really heard anything from his perspective before.

The main issue in Plague is of course the two plagues that the children face: the coughing sickness and the bugs that bury themselves in human bodies. This upgrades the squick factor in this novel as opposed to the previous ones, things get pretty descriptive and gruesome and there is a lot of death and general suffering. In addition you have the search for water, the development with Drake's escape and the gaiaphage, plus the subtle moral issues. I think one of the reasons I love these books so much is the issues they face: Drake/Brittney is deluded by the gaiaphage and believes it to be a god that requires a certain human sacrifice, which the characters have to admit is wrong regardless of whether a god tells them to do it or not. Astrid and Sam have the issue around sex; Astrid refuses to commit that sin but at the same time is tempted to kill Little Pete because she thinks killing him will get rid of the FAYZ...yeah, these kids have issues. Also, I was waiting for the point where the older kids would resort to rape, and it was mentioned here. Nobody actually raped anyone, but it was threatened, so things are getting more realistic. There's also consensual sex, but saying between who would be spoiler territory.

Just like the previous books, the ending will raise more questions than it answers, so yet again, I'll be waiting with bated breath for the 5th book next year, which I'm pretty sure is called 'Darkness'.

This series is pure gold, it's made of so many kinds of awesome I can't describe them all. If you've read the previous three novels, then pick up Plague, it's just as good if not better. If you haven't read this series, pick up Gone, Hunger, Lies, and Plague, and read them!

Thoughts on the cover:
I'm pretty sure the girl on the front (the same girl on the cover of Lies) is supposed to be Lana. I think the boy on the front is Drake, the boy on the back is Sam, and the girl on the back is Brittney.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Deadly - Julie Chibbaro

Title: Deadly
Author: Julie Chibbaro
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011 (Hardcover)
Length: 293 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Historical Fiction
Started: April 23, 2011
Finished: April 23, 2011

mysterious outbreak of typhoid fever is sweeping New York.

Could the city’s future rest with its most unlikely scientist?

If Prudence Galewski is ever going to get out of Mrs. Browning’s esteemed School for Girls, she must demonstrate her refinement and charm by securing a job appropriate for a young lady. But Prudence isn’t like the other girls. She is fascinated by how the human body works and why it fails.

With a stroke of luck, she lands a position in a laboratory, where she is swept into an investigation of the fever bound to change medical history. Prudence quickly learns that an inquiry of this proportion is not confined to the lab. From ritzy mansions to shady bars and rundown tenements, she explores every potential cause of the disease. But there’s no answer in sight—until the volatile Mary Mallon emerges. Dubbed “Typhoid Mary” by the press, Mary is an Irish immigrant who has worked as a cook in every home the fever has ravaged. Strangely, though, she hasn’t been sick a day in her life. Is the accusation against her an act of discrimination? Or is she the first clue in a new scientific discovery?

Prudence is determined to find out. In a time when science is for men, she’ll have to prove to the city, and to herself, that she can help solve one of the greatest medical mysteries of the twentieth century.

I love learning about plague, disease etc., call it a morbid fascination of mine. Deadly is historical fiction based on the figure of 'Typhoid Mary' in the early 1900s in New York City.

Prudence Galewski is 16 in 1906 and manages to find a job working for epidemiologist Mr. Soper, who is investigating a recent outbreak of typhoid fever. When they finally pin down what they believe is the source of the outbreak, they are faced with a moral dilemma: do they quarantine Mary Mallon, an otherwise healthy person who doesn't even realize she's a carrier of the disease, or do they respect her liberty and allow her to remain free and continue to infect everyone she cooks for?

I really liked how Prudence was very different from most girls of that time period. Her parents encouraged her to learn and think for herself, and specifically to learn about science. Ever since her older brother Benny died of infected wounds, she has had an obsession with figuring out how people get sick and how that spreads. The writing is excellent, written in the form of Prudence's diary entries, so the vocabulary reflects the language of the time period quite well. I also liked the sub plots of Prudence's little crush on Mr. Soper and finally grieving for her father, those two actually tie in together in the end and it makes sense why the author included them. The moral dilemma is really well expressed through Prudence, who assumes that if she can't make a decision for the good of society, then she doesn't have the constitution necessary to become a doctor like she wants to be.

Excellent historical fiction, especially if the subject matter interests you.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like the little germ images in the woman's silhouette, but the yellow and black colouring is kinda bleh.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Timeless - Alexandra Monir

Title: Timeless
Author: Alexandra Monir
Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2011 (Hardcover)
Length: 280 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Science Fiction, Historical Fiction
Started: April 22, 2011
Finished: April 22, 2011

When tragedy strikes Michele Windsor’s world, she is forced to uproot her life and move across the country to New York City, to live with the wealthy, aristocratic grandparents she’s never met. In their old Fifth Avenue mansion filled with a century’s worth of family secrets, Michele discovers a diary that hurtles her back in time to the year 1910. There, in the midst of the glamorous Gilded Age, Michele meets the young man with striking blue eyes who has haunted her dreams all her life – a man she always wished was real, but never imagined could actually exist. And she finds herself falling for him, into an otherworldly, time-crossed romance.

Michele is soon leading a double life, struggling to balance her contemporary high school world with her escapes into the past. But when she stumbles upon a terrible discovery, she is propelled on a race through history to save the boy she loves – a quest that will determine the fate of both of their lives.

I have to admit, this book surprised me in a good way. I honestly didn't think I would like it at all, and went into it expecting the worst. Granted, I wasn't completely blown away by it and I still have issues with certain things, but all in all I have to say it's an entertaining novel that I'll definitely be picking up the sequel to.

Michele and her mother Marion live a bohemian lifestyle in California. When her mother dies in a car accident, Michele is sent to live with her mother's parents in New York City. Her grandparents are the Windsors, one of the oldest and richest families in the city, and Michele has never met them before. While trying to adjust to life as a blue blood and coming to terms with her mother's death, Michele discovers a key that accompanies an old diary that belonged to a previous Windsor girl named Clara in 1910. The key and diary allow her to travel back in time to 1910 where she meets her female ancestor as well as Philip Walker, a boy with blue eyes that she's dreamed about for years. When Michele and Philip begin to fall in love, they must come to terms with what their relationship means and how, if at all, they can make it work.

First off, the things that bugged me about the novel. The time traveling was strange, Michele could only go back in time if she had an object relating to the year or the specific date (the diary entries, Lily's record albums, letters, etc.) I'm pretty sure this was created to conveniently fit into the plot, but oh well. Also, when Michele travels back in time she can only be seen by Philip and whatever female ancestor is around her age during that time....which made no sense at all. Again, it seems to exist purely to work conveniently into the plot, but it still didn't make much sense. The romance between Philip and Michele happened a little too quickly, but there was a fair bit of build-up so I could see how they could get to that point. Also, Philip didn't act like a well-bred boy from 1910 at all, so suspension of disbelief didn't happen there.

On to what I liked. I loved how the author had Michele travel to 3 distinct time periods: 1910s, 1920s, 1940s. The history behind each time period was well explored and I was really satisfied with what Michele had to learn/accomplish in each time period. I liked the music aspect: Michele writes lyrics, Philip composes, Lily sings, you could tell the author has music in her background since the characters speak so passionately about it. Though some people I'm sure would disagree with me, I kinda liked how the romance between Philip and Michele progressed and how it was resolved (not going to say more due to massive spoilers). Granted this all led to the most infuriating cliffhanger ending of all time, so needless to say, I'll be needing the sequel.

A book about time traveling and history that pleasantly surprised me. Huge cliffhanger ending, so you might want to keep in mind from the get-go that there will be a sequel.

Thoughts on the cover:
Eh, your typical YA cover with a girl on it...the curve of her shoulder really bugs me for some reason. I do like the back cover with who I'm assuming is Philip looking up at the moon.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Warped - Maurissa Guibord

Title: Warped
Author: Maurissa Guibord
Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2011 (Hardcover)
Length: 337 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: April 21, 2011
Finished: April 21, 2011

From the inside cover:
Tessa Brody doesn't believe in magic. Or fate. But there's definitely something weird about the dusty unicorn tapestry that she discovers in an box of old books. The wild, handsome creature enchants Tessa, and frightens her too.

Soon after the tapestry comes into her possession, strange things begin to happen. Tessa experiences vivd dreams of the past filled with images from a brutal hunt-one that she herself may have played a part in. When Tessa pulls a loose thread from the tapestry, she releases a terrible secret. She also meets William de Chaucy, a young sixteenth-century nobleman with gorgeous eyes, an odd accent, and haughty attitude to spare. Will's fate is inextricably tied to the tapestry as Tessa's is. And though Will might be hard to get along with, he's equally hard to resist.

Together, Tessa and Will must correct the wrongs of the past. But time is running out. The Norn sisters, also known as the Fates, have stepped in and begun to make a tangled mess of Tessa's life. Unless she does their bidding and defeats a cruel and crafty ancient enemy, everything, and everyone she loves will be destroyed.

I am probably not the best person to review this book because it essentially fits my checklist for an almost perfect fantasy book, incredibly cliched though it may be.

Tessa, the heroine complete with a crazy-weird 'real' name, comes into possession of an old tapestry through an auction that just happened to previously belong to a witch-like character named Gray Lily, who wants her property back. In the meantime, Tessa dreams of a medieval unicorn hunt where a girl that looks eerily like herself is the virginal bait for the mythical creature. Tessa is drawn to the tapestry in ways she cannot explain, and when she pulls a thread from it, she releases the unicorn from his prison...and it turns out he's not really a unicorn at all. William de Chaucy, imprisoned for hundreds of years, must now adjust to Tessa's world while they try to figure out how to avoid the wrath of Gray Lily. Then it turns out Gray Lily has powers she obtained in a less than honest manner, so the Fates (the mythical sisters with the scissors that cut people's threads of life) demand that Tessa defeat Gray Lily or else they will cause her life to crumble around her.

I liked how Tessa had a past life connection with Will, it made their relationship more than just the usual fantasy fare, especially because of the trust issues involved. I got Tessa's character, but Will's fell a little flat, I would have liked to see something more about him, especially about him adjusting to Tessa's world, doesn't matter if he did spend hundreds of years as a unicorn, I don't buy that he adjusted so well to 21st century life without some issues that Tessa might have had to help him with. Same with their happened a little too fast and I would have liked to see a little more development before they gushed the I love you's.

In spite of all these little annoyances and the cliche storyline, I really enjoyed the book. I'm a sucker for fantasy stories with a 'guy from another time period' element, so I loved Will, although I could've loved him more if he'd been more developed. The inclusion of the Fates sisters and previous lives subplots I think really added to the depth of the story. There's even a unique type of weaving magic in the novel that Gray Lily and Tessa to a certain extent can do. It was really original and I wish the author had given some more detail, especially about Tessa's ability to do the magic.

Typical fantasy plot at first, but enough originality to make it stand out in the end. Despite my annoyances with some aspects like the romance and character development, I really enjoyed the novel, and I think others will too.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like how the image of the girl is a painting and not a photograph, and how the image of the tapestry bleeds into the girl's face so they almost blend together.

XVI - Julia Karr

Title: XVI
Author: Julia Karr
Publisher: Speak (Penguin), 2011 (Paperback)
Length: 325 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Dystopian Fiction
Started: April 18, 2011
Finished: April 21, 2011

Nina Oberon's life is pretty normal: she hangs out with her best friend, Sandy, and their crew, goes to school, plays with her little sister, Dee. But Nina is 15. And like all girls she'll receive a Governing Council-ordered tattoo on her 16th birthday. XVI. Those three letters will be branded on her wrist, announcing to all the world - even the most predatory of men - that she is ready for sex. Considered easy prey by some, portrayed by the Media as sluts who ask for attacks, becoming a "sex-teen" is Nina's worst fear. That is, until right before her birthday, when Nina's mom is brutally attacked. With her dying breaths, she reveals to Nina a shocking truth about her past - one that destroys everything Nina thought she knew. Now, alone but for her sister, Nina must try to discover who she really is, all the while staying one step ahead of her mother's killer.

I don't know what it is with my dystopian choices this month, but like The Water Wars, XVI is a novel with a really awesome premise and themes but is just poorly executed.

Nina is about to turn 16 and lives in a world where people are grouped into a caste system of tiers and women have few rights. Every girl gets an "XVI" tattoo on their wrist when they turn 16 to signify that they are legal and officially sexually available. The media uses propaganda to make girls want to be a typical "sex-teen", essentially turning teenage girls into whores. With very few options as a low tier-two family to advance themselves, Nina doesn't want to end up in FeLS, a program only for lower tier girls that are still virgins, mainly because nobody knows what happens to those girls after joining the program. When her mother is killed and tells Nina a secret, it unravels everything she knew about her parents and her life. While trying to keep her little sister safe, Nina must also get a message to her father that can make a big difference in their lives.

The premise and themes here are amazing. Nina and her friend Sandy are leered at by men constantly and are asked to show their wrists, you just wonder what would happen if they actually had their tattoos at the points when they were asked, would they be raped, assaulted? Is there any ramification for rape? The idea that the media essentially wants these girls to be oversexed is so close to our reality now it's scary. Girls are targeted with sexual messages at younger ages even now, and XVI just shows us how twisted these practices can be when done in extremes. The girls mention at one point that men have first rights when it comes to their biological children, just one of the many cases where women in this world have had many of their rights removed. It never really says how things got this way, either the lack of women's rights or the tier system, and it would have been nice to know how it all happened and how the justice system got so muddled.

Although the themes are really relevant and thought-provoking, the execution of them left me unsatisfied. The plot threads seem to be thrown together to the point where half the time I didn't know exactly what was going on detail-wise. It also took my forever to figure out that "trannies" meant cars/ shouldn't have taken that long to figure out the slang. The world-building wasn't nearly explained enough to make me invested emotionally, as explained above. The characters aren't very well-developed. Nina's mom and grandparents seem very one-sided and almost too perfect, the love interest Sal seemed so flat...even Nina's reactions seemed unrealistic at times, and I could accept that perhaps they would be considering the world she grew up in if I'd been given more information about that world to see how someone would react, all back to the world building.

Good premise and themes but poorly executed.

Thoughts on the cover:
If the girl on the front is supposed to be Nina, she seems too dolled up to be her considering how much Nina rejects those kinds of things.

Monday, April 18, 2011

200+ reviews, woot!

Wow, I've been in such a reading frenzy this past week I didn't even notice that I surpassed the 200 review mark! I hit my 100 review mark at the end of June 2010, so it took about 10 months to double it, which I'm relatively happy with.

Thanks to everyone who reads, comments, follows, and links/recommends the blog to others, you guys are the best ^_^

Fall For Anything - Courtney Summers

Title: Fall For Anything
Author: Courtney Summers
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin, 2010 (Paperback)
Length: 230 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: April 18, 2011
Finished: April 18, 2011

From the back of the book:
When Eddie Reeves’s father commits suicide her life is consumed by the nagging question of why? Why when he was a legendary photographer and a brilliant teacher? Why when he seemed to find inspiration in everything he saw? And, most important, why when he had a daughter who loved him more than anyone else in the world? When she meets Culler Evans, a former student of her father’s and a photographer himself, an instant and dangerous attraction begins. Culler seems to know more about her father than she does and could possibly hold the key to the mystery surrounding his death. But Eddie’s vulnerability has weakened her and Culler Evans is getting too close. Her need for the truth keeps her hanging on… but are some questions better left unanswered?

After reading Some Girls Are a couple months back, I was excited to pick up the author's new book, Fall For Anything. Luckily, the author's reputation for pure awesomeness precedes her, and Fall For Anything was nothing short of amazing.

When 17-year-old Eddie Reeves is the first one to discover her father's body after he commits suicide, it plunges her into a downward spiral of grief. Her mother shuts down, her mom's bitchy best friend takes over managing the household, and Eddie is consumed with the question "why?". When she meets Culler Evans, her father's 20-year-old photography student, they bond over their shared experiences of Eddie's father, and discover that Mr. Reeves he left a final message at the locations of the last places he photographed. They embark on a road trip to said locations to finally get an answer to why her father killed himself, and Eddie learns that sometimes, regardless of what answers we may or may not find, it doesn't change the outcome of a certain situation, and that some things are better left alone because they'll drive you crazy trying to uncover them.

The author's depiction of Eddie's and her mother's grief are remarkably well explored here. Eddie appears fine on the outside, but is so grief-stricken that those around her can't really tell how badly she's suffering. Eddie's mother shuts down and literally goes into zombie mode in a housecoat all day, so Eddie really only has her best friend Milo to rely on. I like how Milo knows details of the night Eddie found her dad and refuses to tell her because he's suffering too and doesn't want to talk about it, it shows how people can be affected by grief even though the connection to the person might not be as strong as that of a spouse, child, or relative. I love books that show the various ways people grieve a loss, I think they're necessary to show that there's no correct way to grieve and that people need to be tolerant of the ways a person can express grief. The author does a wonderful job of conveying Eddie's strong yet vulnerable voice, and even gives a well developed voice to Milo and Eddie's mom even though they don't get as much spotlight as Eddie does. Appropriate for the story, the ending isn't really resolved, cause really, there's no way to really resolve Eddie issue, but we do see her coming to terms with her dad's suicide and coming to accept what it means for her life now that he's gone.

Like Some Girls Are, Fall For Anything deals with some pretty heavy stuff, but is a must-read, incredible on all counts.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like how the photography element is worked into the cover, and quite nicely I might add.

The Water Wars - Cameron Stracher

Title: The Water Wars
Author: Cameron Stracher
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire, 2011
Length: 240 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Dystopian Fiction, Adventure, Science Fiction
Started: April 17, 2011
Finished: April 18, 2011

From the inside cover:
Would you risk everything for someone you just met? What if he had a secret worth killing for?

Welcome to a future where water is more precious than oil or gold...

Hundreds of millions of people have already died, and millions more will soon fall-victims of disease, hunger, and dehydration. It is a time of drought and war. The rivers have dried up, the polar caps have melted, and drinkable water is now in the hands of the powerful few. There are fines for wasting it and prison sentences for exceeding the quotas.

But Kai didn't seem to care about any of this. He stood in the open road drinking water from a plastic cup, then spilled the remaining drops into the dirt. He didn't go to school, and he traveled with armed guards. Kai claimed he knew a secret-something the government is keeping from us...

And then he was gone. Vanished in the middle of the night. Was he kidnapped? Did he flee? Is he alive or dead? There are no clues, only questions. And no one can guess the lengths to which they will go to keep him silent. We have to find him-and the truth-before it is too late for all of us.

I loved the concept of this book when I first read it, a dystopian novel based on a world where water is a rare resource. In spite of the fact that it turned out to be more of an adventure story than dystopian, I was disappointed with what I read. The concept and the world presented here hold a lot of promise but the execution falls short.

We meet our narrator, Vera, and her brother Will right away, as well as Kai, the mysterious boy whose behaviour baffles them. Almost as quickly, we find out that Kai has been kidnapped for some reason, and Vera and Will make the hasty decision to go after Kai and rescue him. After encounters with friendly pirates, world governments, and evil corporations, things wrap up rather conveniently with a happy ending...all in less than 250 pages.

Needless to say, the world has a wonderful concept: water shortages, rations, rampant sickness, synthetic food, political turmoil; but nothing is developed enough to make it believable or make the reader invested in the outcome. Vera, Will, Kai, and the other characters are very one-dimensional. I couldn't care less about Kai being rescued, and after a while, I thought Vera and Will were morons for running off after him without knowing a heck of a lot about him. Everything happens way too fast and falls oh so conveniently into place, I had a really skeptical look on my face the whole time I was reading it. Plus, the whole thing was more of an adventurous romp rather than a more serious take on the themes (water as a precious resource, political control over water), and I think I'd have had more respect for this book if the wonderful themes had been handled more appropriately.

Wonderful premise, but really poorly executed. I would love another author to take this on.

Thoughts on the cover:
Really pretty and eye-catching. Ironically, the cover is the best part of this novel.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

All You Get Is Me - Yvonne Prinz

Title: All You Get Is Me
Author: Yvonne Prinz
Publisher: HarperTeen, 2011
Length: 279 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: April 14, 2011
Finished: April 14, 2011

From the inside cover:
A summer of love, loss, and justice.

Things were complicated enough for Roar, even before her father decided to yank her out of the city and go organic. Suddenly, she’s a farm girl, albeit a reluctant one, selling figs at the farmers’ market and developing her photographs in a ramshackle shed. Caught between a troublemaking sidekick named Storm, a brooding, easy-on-the-eyes L.A. boy, and a father on a human rights crusade that challenges the fabric of the farm community, Roar is going to have to tackle it all—even with dirt under her fingernails and her hair pulled back with a rubber band meant for asparagus.

When I read The Vinyl Princess by the same author last summer, I loved it to pieces, so picking up her new title was a no brainer.

Aurora, called Roar, already has had to deal with her mom abandoning the family and her dad deciding to move to the country to become a farmer. This summer starts out with Roar and her dad witnessing a car accident where an illegal immigrant was killed, leaving behind a husband and child. Roar's dad, a former human rights lawyer before turning farmer, decides to take on an unprecedented case where an illegal immigrant sues a US citizen for wrongful death. Then Roar happens to fall for the son of the woman responsible for the crash, which complicates things further....not to mention how the farming community is all up in arms about her dad's case, so they're receiving threats as well.

I didn't love this book as much as Vinyl Princess, but purely because of the subject matter. The book is still wonderfully written, and the characters are quirky, but the plot just didn't grab me. I liked the subplot about Roar's mom, but the whole thing with the illegal immigrant workers and the trial and the forbidden love thing with Forest just didn't make an impression. Maybe it's because we don't have illegal immigrants in Canada....well we do, just not to the extent that the States does. We have issues with people resenting legal immigrants for taking away jobs and such, but most people are aware that the jobs that our legal immigrants do are jobs no one else wants and therefore no one has the right to complain. So all these issues about illegal vs. legal citizens in the book didn't make a lot of sense to me because people here wouldn't have an issue with an immigrant sueing someone for the wrongful death of his spouse, so it's probably just a mindset difference. I have a feeling that people that lived in or are familiar with southern California would get a lot out of this book: the farming, the hippy qualities, the all-natural lifestyle, I'm sure the author did it justice, but again, not something I can appreciate from growing up in an ethnic area of Ontario where vegetarians still aren't all that common.

Not my cup of tea plot-wise, but still a very entertaining book. There's a little bit of sexual content (Roar does lose her virginity), but even though it's not explicit that might be an issue for some.

Thoughts on the cover:
I love how they pictured Roar with her camera, it's a very natural pose, very appropriate for the book.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Weird Sisters - Eleanor Brown

Title: The Weird Sisters
Author: Eleanor Brown
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books (Penguin), 2011
Length: 318 pages
Genre: Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: April 12, 2011
Finished: April 13, 2011

From the author's website:
The Andreas sisters were raised on books – their family motto might as well be, ‘There’s no problem a library card can’t solve.’ Their father, a renowned, eccentric professor of Shakespearean studies, named them after three of the Bard’s most famous characters: Rose (Rosalind – As You Like It), Bean (Bianca – The Taming of the Shrew), and Cordy (Cordelia – King Lear), but they have inherited those characters’ failures along with their strengths.

Now the sisters have returned home to the small college town where they grew up – partly because their mother is ill, but mostly because their lives are falling apart and they don’t know where to go next. Rose, a staid mathematics professor, has the chance to break away from her quiet life and join her devoted fiance in England, if she could only summon up the courage to do more than she’s thought she could. Bean left home as soon as she could, running to the glamour of New York City, only to come back ashamed of the person she has become. And Cordy, who has been wandering the country for years, has been brought back to earth with a resounding thud, realizing it’s finally time for her to grow up.

The sisters never thought they would find the answers to their problems in each other, but over the course of one long summer, they find that everything they’ve been running from – each other, their histories, and their small hometown – might offer more than they ever expected.

This is probably one of the most human, charming stories I've read in a long time, I loved this book.

Rose, Bean, and Cordy are all failures in their own way: Rose is afraid of change and is tied down by the perpetual responsibility of being the eldest and taking care of everyone. Bean was fired from her job and has come home in shame to figure out what to do next. Cordy finds herself pregnant after traipsing around the country like a nomad, so decides to return home to plan her next move as well. The sisters, in their late twenties to early thirties, don't exactly get along well either, but they band together in compromise temporarily when they're all home to help care for their mother who is diagnosed with breast cancer. As each sister suffers her own problems in silence, they each begin to uncover the reasons why the other sisters have come home and the overdue sisterly understanding and bonding kicks in.

This is a book that thrives purely because of the characters, since not much actually happens in terms of plot except for the developments in their mother's illness and Cordy's pregnancy. Each sister has a completely developed personality that's wonderfully explored with plenty of quirky anecdotes from the past, and how they interact with each other is hilarious. I loved how their dad was a Shakespeare prof and named them after heroines from the plays, not to mention their family way of communicating in random quotes from the plays that relate to what they're discussing. I also liked how each sister was messed up in ways that were believable: Rose is afraid to leave the familiar despite being well into her thirties, which eerily reminded me of a friend of mine. Bean has screwed up royally but got lucky, and doesn't know what direction to take next. Cordy is pregnant and barely feels able to take care of herself and decides she needs to finally grow up at the age of 27. Each sister finds closure in their own problems by helping each other, as well as picking up the slack regarding their mother's care, so the book is not so much about the end result (you know things will end well), but more about the journey it takes to get there.

Utterly charming. If you're looking for a character-driven read that's heartwarming and soul-searching, read this!

Thoughts on the cover:
Kinda boring, but then again it is an adult cover, they're not exactly known for being dynamic. I do like the shade of green used for the title font and the vines growing out of it.

The Ice Princess - Camilla Lackberg

Title: The Ice Princess
Author: Camilla Lackberg
Publisher: Free Press (Simon & Schuster), April 2011 (Paperback) (Review copy is an ARC from the publisher)
Length: 389 pages
Genre: Adult; Mystery
Started: April 10, 2011
Finished: April 11, 2011

From the back of the book:
In this electrifying tale of suspense from an international crime-writing sensation, a grisly death exposes the dark heart of a Scandinavian seaside village.
Erica Falck returns to her tiny, remote hometown of Fjallbacka, Sweden, after her parents' deaths only to encounter another tragedy: the suicide of her childhood best friend, Alex. It's Erica herself who finds Alex's body-suspended in a bathtub of frozen water, her wrists slashed. Erica is bewildered: Why would a beautiful woman who had it all take her own life? Teaming up with police detective Patrik Hedstrom, Erica begins to uncover shocking events from Alex's childhood. As one horrifying fact after another comes to light, Erica and Patrik's curiosity gives way to obsession-and their flirtation grows into uncontrollable attraction. But it's not long before one thing becomes very clear: a deadly secret is at stake, and there's someone out there who will do anything-even commit murder-to protect it.
Fans of Scandinavian greats Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell will devour Camilla Lackberg's penetrating portrait of human nature at its darkest.

I put in a request for this title when I saw it advertised in Shelf Awareness mainly because I figured if I liked Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, then I might like this one.

Erica is 35 years old and has returned to her small seaside hometown of Fjallbacka to settle her parents estate after their death. Trying to deal with her parents' deaths and her younger sister's abusive marriage is bad enough, but then Erica discovers Alex's body and gets caught up in what ends up being the investigation of her murder (they quickly realize it's not a suicide). There's a ton of subplots going on aside from solving Alex's murder, so there's a lot of material to keep readers from possibly getting bored with the main storyline, and they're all practically related to the building and breakdown of relationships and marriages.

The main plot of the story (Alex's murder) isn't too difficult to figure out, but it's all the subplots which really make the story shine, even though some of those are easy to figure out as well. The story is very dependent on the relationships between the primary and secondary characters actually, and is almost more focused on those than the plot (in that way it's very different from Stieg Larsson's books). If you're a fan of Stieg Larsson and want to explore some more Scandinavian true-crime/mystery novels, you might like this, but be prepared that it is a very different experience: the focus on the relationships more than the plot, it's easy to figure out what's going on, and the nature of the crimes and the motivation behind them are nothing astounding (I guess watching Law and Order and Criminals Minds has desensitized me to the usual crimes and reasons for them). This was still an enjoyable novel nonetheless, and one I'd recommend.

If you're looking for a Stieg Larsson clone-book, you might be disappointed; but if you're looking for a decent mystery with a lot of subplot and great characters and relationships, read this!

Thoughts on the cover:
It's okay all things considered. A silhouette of Alex laying slack in the bathtub against a black/blue background with some frost effect would have been better though.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Illyria - Elizabeth Hand

Title: Illyria
Author: Elizabeth Hand
Publisher: Viking (Penguin), 2010
Length: 135 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Historical Fiction
Started: April 8, 2011
Finished: April 8, 2011

From the inside cover:
Madeline and Rogan are first cousins, best friends, twinned souls, each other's first love. Even within their large, disorderly family—all descendants of a famous actress—their intensity and passion for theater sets them apart. It makes them a little dangerous. When they are cast in their school's production of Twelfth Night, they are forced to face their separate talents and futures, and their future together.

This stunning short novel, winner of the World Fantasy Award, is the perfect introduction to Elizabeth Hand's singular voice. Her many novels offer a window into what it means to create art, to experience it, to feel passionately about the world. Illyria throws her talent into high relief-it is magic on paper.

I can really appreciate novels like these that are very short but still manage to pack a proverbial punch.

Maddy and Rogan are first cousins growing up in the 1970s in upstate New York, more like half siblings since their fathers are twins, which makes the love factor in this story a little more icky. Although the whole family's descended from a great actress, Maddy and Rogan are the only ones to really inherit any of that love and talent for the theatre. And even then their respective talents are different; Maddy is a more conventional actress, whereas Rogan is literally passion on fire, a bit of a flight risk. When Maddy and Rogan are cast in their school's version of Twelfth Night, their family has different reactions to their performances, which leads them to separate the two, both out of concern for their growing affection for each other and to encourage one and ignore the almost unworldly talent of the other.

This novel is wonderfully written, and in a style you don't often find in YA novels, which works really well here. It gives off a fantasy feel in a story that isn't really a fantasy. The author captures Maddy and Rogan's passion, both for the theatre and each other, beautifully. The whole love affair between the two of them is handled quite well, not explicit at all, but portrayed with a deep intensity. I love how the author portrayed Rogan's character, how being so artistically gifted is seen as a gift but also as a curse.

If you're looking for a short novel that makes a big impression, or if you're a big theatre buff, read this!

Thoughts on the cover:
The guy doesn't really look like Rogan, but the girl could pass as Maddy. I like how they're shrouded and the title font is all blurry.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Out Of My Mind - Sharon M. Draper

Title: Out Of My Mind
Author: Sharon M. Draper
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 295 pages
Genre: Children's Realistic Fiction
Started: April 7, 2011
Finished: April 7, 2011

Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there's no delete button. She's the smartest kid in her whole school—but no one knows it. Most people—her teachers and doctors included—don't think she's capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows . . . but she can't, because Melody can't talk. She can't walk. She can't write.
Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind—that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice . . . but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.

From multiple Coretta Scott King Award winner Sharon M. Draper comes a story full of heartache and hope. Get ready to meet a girl whose voice you'll never, ever forget.

I love it when books focus on sensitive issues, especially when they're written for kids. Out of My Mind reminded me of Terry Trueman's Stuck In Neutral, which some of our schools use for our grade 7s and 8s. The story is similar if anyone's familiar with Stuck In Neutral, except Melody in Out of My Mind doesn't have to worry about a parent wanting to 'put her out of her misery' like the boy in Stuck In Neutral.

Melody has cerebral palsy, and as such, she can't walk, talk, and has limited control over her body movements. However, Melody's incredibly smart, and has a photographic memory. The only thing is, nobody knows this except her. Even her parents, who suspect she's quite bright, don't know exactly how smart she is. Melody suffers through dumbed-down lessons in her special education classroom and yearns to be able to speak her mind. When her aide Catherine comes across a machine that will allow Melody to speak by selecting words they program into it, Melody knows this is her opportunity to be able to express herself. But with Melody able to prove how smart she really is, will she be accepted by the other kids, who can't see past her disability?

This book shines in a few areas, but I have issues with some things. The author does a wonderful job of describing Melody's limitations on a day-to-day basis and her frustration with it: not being able to feed herself, needing someone to help her in the bathroom, and the limitations of her communication board. Melody's education experience isn't very realistic in my opinion as a teacher. I understand not every school board practices inclusive environments for special needs kids (I work for a Catholic school board, so we do), but even so, Melody making progress with one teacher's methods would've been documented in her IEP (Individual Education Plan), which forthcoming teachers cannot ignore like the 3rd grade teacher she mentions not reading the records. Plus her file would be reviewed on a yearly basis to accommodate her growing needs and understanding, so there'd be no excuse for Melody's frustration with doing the alphabet in grade 5 if she's at the level where she could do novel studies with accommodations. So that part wasn't really believable as far as I was concerned. The antagonists were really bad cliches that were pretty one-dimensional, which I get that the focus is on Melody, but kids need to know that people that they think are mean aren't always so one-dimensional, that they might have a reason for feeling the way they do that's at the root of their actions. I really liked the crisis with the quiz team at the end, it shows that people can indeed be cruel and there's no excuse for it, and people need to be called out on when they're cruel to others. The incident with Melody's sister at the end I could've done without, it seemed like the author was just adding to the drama with more drama and it felt like overkill at that point.

This is a wonderful book that shows our biases about what we think certain people are capable of, and that when we underestimate people, we should be prepared to have our biases thrown back in our faces.

Read this. It's truly a wonderful book that will change how you view people. A must-have for classrooms too.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like the image of the fish purposely jumping out of the bowl, which Melody mentions in the book, it fits with the story quite well.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Howl's Moving Castle - Diana Wynne Jones

Title: Howl's Moving Castle
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books, 2009 (Originally published in 1986)
Length: 302 pages
Genre: Children's Fantasy
Started: April 2, 2011
Finished: April 7, 2011

From the back of the book:
In the land of Ingary, where seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, Sophie Hatter attracts the the unwelcome attention of the Witch of the Waste, who puts a curse on her. Determined to make the best of things, Sophie travels to the one place where she might get help - the moving castle which hovers on the nearby hills. But the castle belongs to the dreaded Wizard Howl whose appetite, they say, is satisfied only by the hearts of young girls...

I read Howl's Moving Castle eons ago and decided to read it again since the author recently passed away (which is a loss the literary world will mourn).

Howl's Moving Castle breaks down like so: in a world that looks a lot like Victorian-era Europe where witches and wizards exist, Sophie is the eldest of three and set to inherit the family business as a hatter until the Witch of the Waste curses her, turning her into a 90-year-old woman instead of an 18-year-old girl. Trying to find a new situation, Sophie becomes Howl's cleaning lady after bargaining with his fire demon, Calcifer that she will break his enchantment if he'll break hers. So she gets tangled up in Howl's life of multiple personas to match the many places the castle's main door can lead to, masquerading as his mother in front of the King, and cleaning up after the insanely vain wizard.

As much as I love this book for the sheer imagination, setting, world-building, and writing, I still think the Ghibli anime movie version from 2004 is an amazing adaptation, and it's probably one of the only times I'll admit to liking a film version better than the actual book. The changes to the plot make for a much more exciting story with more urgency to it, versus the book version I find is more of a fun romp.

My favourite parts, even after so many years, are Howl's hair-dye incident and his resulting tantrum; and when he catches a cold, he's such a typical crybaby male when he gets sick.

If you're looking for an amazing fantasy with wonderful characters, unique setting, and excellent writing, read this!

Thoughts on the cover:
I love the cover redesigns that all the author's books got a few years back, these are nice and dynamic and whimsical at the same time.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pluto's Ghost - Sheree Fitch

Title: Pluto's Ghost
Author: Sheree Fitch
Publisher: Doubleday Canada, 2010 (Paperback)
Length: 256 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: April 2, 2011
Finished: April 5, 2011

From the author's website:
"Murderer. It's one kick in the belly of a word isn't it? Has a taste, too. It tastes like barbed wire and has wild hyena eyes. Murderer. Murder-her. Did he? Did I? That's when I remember what I want to forget."

Jake Upshore has loved Skye Derucci since before he can remember. Volatile, complex and frustrated (he's got a label disorder from all the labels he's been given) at the best of times, Jake's on a desperate quest to find Skye before she aborts the baby he believes is his. As he hurtles headlong toward certain tragedy, Jake relives the fatal choices he's made and the powerful forces that have led him to this to end. A gripping thriller and a heart-wrenching love story, Pluto's Ghost is a raw and powerful novel about anger, escape, and redemptive love.

Jake has issues. He's been labelled so many times, he's got a complex from all the labelling. His anger at the world really affects the perceptions of everyone around him, but he has a decent support system to help him out when he needs it, including his therapist Shep, his dad, and Skye. When Skye disappears with her mother and rumours abound that she's pregnant with Jake's baby and she's gone to Halifax to have an abortion, Jake resolves to find her and support her in any way he can. It's the least he can do for all Skye's done for him, being his reason for existence and everything.

I love this book purely because the author has managed to write an amazing character in Jake. He's angry, jaded, and confused; yet loving and protective of Skye, and that's a hard combination to get across in a teenage boy. As you can tell, the writing is excellent, and Jake's voice is unique and appealing. There's not a lot to the plot to be honest, but if nothing else, the book is a wonderful character study of Jake.

If you like excellent writing and are big on character development, read this!

Thoughts on the cover:
Considering there's not much that you could put on this cover to really fit with the theme of the story, the hands are okay. I like how Skye's hand is on top, which corresponds to how Skye really controls Jake, not because she consciously does it, but because Jake loves her dearly and would do anything for her.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Outside In - Maria V. Snyder

Title: Outside In (Sequel to Inside Out)
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Publisher: Harlequin Teen, 2011 (Paperback)
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction
Started: March 29, 2011
Finished: April 2, 2011

From the back of the book:
Me? A Leader?
Okay, I did prove that there's more to Inside than we knew. That a whole world exists beyond this cube we live in. And finding that led to a major rebellion - between worker scrubs like me and the snobby uppers who rule our world. Make that ruled. Because of me, we're free. I thought that meant I was off the hook, and could go off on my own again - while still touching base with Riley, of course. He's the one upper I think I can trust. But then we learned that there's outside and then there is Outside. And something from Outside wants In.

When I reviewed Inside Out last year, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. A heavily science fiction based dystopian set of books, Inside Out and Outside In deal with scrubs and Uppers that live in a giant cube known as Inside, and the revolution against the ruling class Travas, led by Trella. After the events of the first book, the revolution has succeeded and Trella has discovered exactly what lies beyond Inside. A newly formed committee tries to keep the peace between the scrubs and Uppers, but with the Uppers not willing to work as hard as the scrubs and the scrubs' resentment towards the Uppers, rebellions soon occur. Then, Trella and company discover that part of the attacks are a result of Outsiders that are trying to invade.

Outside In is essentially similar in vein to the first book. There's a lot less exposition than in the first book, and the whole thing's very focused on plot rather than character development. The plot moves along at a good pace, and there aren't any real slumps where things are considerably boring. The idea that the scrubs and the Uppers can't compromise and work together even after gaining their freedom is an interesting one, which ties into the fact that Trella is afraid to have a bigger role in the committee's actions for fear of making things worse. I liked the focus on the aftermath of the revolution, since most dystopians don't really show you what happens after the fact and how people change the rules and get everyone to cooperate.

More of a good thing; if you liked Inside Out, you'll like its sequel Outisde In.

Thoughts on the cover:
I don't like this one as much as the first cover, but I do appreciate how they tried to incorporate the feeling of going outside to in like they did with the first cover, just vice versa.