Friday, March 30, 2012

Happy Birthday to You is an ending with a BANG!

The last book in Brian Rowe’s Happy Birthday series does not disappoint. Rowe ended his second book of the series, Happy Birthday to Me Again, with an ending I was not expecting. So I was excited that I was asked to review the third book in the series and be able to find out what happens to Cam and Liesel when the entire world suffers from the same aging spell as Cameron did in the first book. I was impressed that Brian Rowe was able to transform his series into something totally different from the first two books. He includes a series of short stories throughout the entire book that enable the reader to see what’s happening to the rest of the world while Cam and Liesel are trying to save it.

In the third installment of the Happy Birthday series Cam and Liesel have managed to escape Liesel’s evil sister and finally be together. But not until Cam finds that Liesel has another secret that she must tell him and oh yeah, the entire world will begin to age an entire year everyday they are alive. Now Cameron and Liesel must save the world and Cameron will have to come to terms with a destiny he never saw coming.

Cameron is no longer the arrogant teen boy from the first book. Rowe has managed to take an unlikely hero that would normally be hated by most and turn him into someone that a reader can feel protective of. Cameron now is a fighter for what he loves and does not take anyone in his life for granted. He loves Liesel more than ever and I as a reader felt so bad for the things that Cameron goes through in this book. He’s punched in the stomach over and over with emotional hits that I would have never expected. I think with age people have a way of learning from mistakes and become better versions of themselves. Cameron has this quality now because of his past experiences with the aging spells. That’s why I have the buy in when it comes down to his nobility in Happy Birthday to You.

I was so happy that Liesel was included more in this book. She certainly seemed to wear the pants a bit more in the relationship this time. She does seem a little bit colder when it came to the loss in the world at times but I think that’s to be expected considering the amount of loss she herself has suffered from in her past. Liesel has been hurt a lot, way before she met Cam so she has to have a bit more bite when it comes to her character. I liked that she pushed Cameron to see the ultimate task at hand.

I loved the individual short stories that tied the book up. They sort of reminded me of the first Final Destination movie. You know everyone’s fate but you have to see how it’ll play out no matter how bad it looks. I think Ryan’s story was the most OMG moment of the book. The suspense was written perfectly. Then came the story about Cameron’s dad and I had to literally stop and read it again just to make sure author Rowe did what I think he just did! It was so awesomely gruesome and weirdly perfect. Now I want to check out Mr. Rowe’s horror story Townhouse just because of these great individual stories.

Happy Birthday to You had great pace and was a quick read. It is very different from the first two books but it works. This is the book that should be different only because it’s the one closing up the series. Brian Rowe pulls out all the stops in Happy Birthday to You, and pushes the characters his fans are invested in to their limits. The series closes out beautifully and the ending, even though hard, had to happen. It wouldn’t have been good otherwise. So take a look at Brian Rowe’s series and check out his other books if you want a fun rollercoaster read.    

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters is a sidesplitting good time.

I agreed to review Meredith Zeitlin’s debut book simply because it seemed so adorably hysterical. Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters is an entire year of embarrassing and awkward moments for Kelsey Finkelstein. This book read like a television show that I would religiously DVR every week. Do you remember your freshman year at high school? The most important task of the day was to blend in without risking any of the humiliation that could follow you forever. I remember my first day in high school and the moment I touched a staircase handle and was grossed out to find something greasy on the bar. Come to find out that the upperclassman would slather Vaseline on the bars so that they could decipher who all of the freshman were. Of course Kelsey has to go through far more worse than a class prank her freshman year.

Kelsey Finkelstein has big plans for her freshman year. She sees an opportunity to make her mark and is determined to make it happen. Her to do list includes acquiring a first string position on her soccer team, and dating her middle school crush. Of course the universe screams back with a big fat NO by putting a bully in her path, embarrassing photos in the school newspaper and an unexpected role in the school play. With Kelsey’s plans now crushed she will face the unexpected and have you laughing out loud as she tries to finish her first year of high school without further humiliation.

Kelsey is undeniably a target for disaster that just happens to be funny. Her na├»ve nature never hinders her as a character. It only makes her youthfully realistic. Kelsey is a girl who has to learn things the hard way. I cringed whenever she would talk with her crush Jordan because I was getting all the signals that poor Kelsey wasn’t. Then her first kiss was so incredibly bad that I had to laugh at the sloppy detail of it. Kelsey has this way of setting her mind up for this fantastic build up of what she wants to only suffer a huge let down. Lets face it that happens a lot in high school. What I admire most in Kelsey is her ability to just get through it. When she’s cast in the school musical she just does it. Even though it’s not quite the part she wanted she doesn’t act bratty about it. She knows she needs to finish what she started. The best thing about Kelsey is that she doesn’t run away, she finishes what she started.

What I was most surprised about while reading Zeitlin’s debut book was the amount of content she covered in an entire school year. It had such a great flow that I never doubted all the endless hysterics that Kelsey goes through. Zeitlin made this a fun read that I was able to escape into. I don’t know if there are any plans for a sequel but there are so many possibilities for Kelsey’s entire time in high school.

I recommend Freshman Year & Other Disaster’s to anyone who wants a fun escape. I think readers will identify with Kelsey and find her delightfully different than the teen characters that are trying to save the world. Kelsey is just a girl trying to get through the freshman year that didn’t quite go as planned and will satisfy your funny bone. Take a look at the trailer below. 


Thursday, March 15, 2012

I Could Read Tara Kelly's Amplified Over, and Over Again!

Yet another cover that called to me in the store shouting “Read me now!” I adore books that involve music, period. Amplified satisfied completely. Author Tara Kelly was able to incorporate a band that had characters that made me laugh out loud and seemed vividly real. The book being set in Santa Cruz was another plus since I live in California. I couldn’t put this book down the moment I started. It gets started immediately with the lead characters Jasmine and Sean meeting for the first time in front of the auto shop Sean works at. There meeting is hilarious and very Darcy and Elizabeth.

Jasmine is a high school graduate wanting to start her musical career now, rather than start college. After her father kicks her out of the house because of her decision she heads to Santa Cruz to pursue her dream. She didn’t expect to be carless, jobless, and homeless the first day. She manages to find a place offering a room and a spot in their band C-side. She has to convince them that she is the lead guitarist that they need and convince her self that she can perform on stage. Except Sean the bassist isn’t going to make it easy since he can see right through Jasmine and her stage fright. 

Jasmine is your typical fish out of water character. Just when you think she’s going to sink she manages to pull something out of her hat. You would think someone who is able to play the guitar so well would be flooding with confidence, but not Jasmine. While reading Amplified I could see that she always had the confidence but just needed to find it I guess. She was the cowardly lion I suppose. Tara Kelly was able to describe Jasmine so well that I could see her running along the streets of Santa Cruz, after spending a night in her car, sweating while holding her only assets, her guitars, desperate to get to her job interview. Jasmine seems desperate at the beginning of the book, but in a good way because you can see how bad she wants her dream.

Sean Ramirez the bassist in C-side is pretty awesome. I love that he doesn’t tip toe around Jasmine, he’s pretty judgmental in the beginning. His sister Veeta, the lead singer is more nurturing towards Jasmine and really wants her in the band but Sean just isn’t convinced. He calls it like it is, always. He speaks his mind whether it’s good or bad. His intention in the book just isn’t a love interest for Jasmine but I think more of someone who can push her buttons. Everyone needs someone in their life to tell them that they are doing something wrong, or even convince them that they are doing what they were meant to do. Sean is able to see Jasmine in a different light than she does and because of his hard edge nature he’s just the person to do this for Jasmine.

I respect the fact that author Tara Kelly incorporated a hint of detail to Sean Ramirez’s family. His mom Tina and sister Veeta would occasionally speak in Spanish to each other in Tina’s psychic shop and the conversations where able to show that this family was really close. So even though Sean is a bit closed off you can see that he is also caring. I would also like to add that the writing that involved C-sides rehearsals and stage performances was perfect. I love listening to music but have no clue on how to create it. The scenes are described from a musicians perspective and are done well enough that you sense what this band had to go through in order to achieve this type of perfection, and really what all bands may have to go through in order to achieve the sound they want to project. I can also see the characters. Sometimes you can’t do that while reading a book. You get an idea but not a true clear picture. I see Veeta and her blazing red braids, Jasmine and her tomboy style with the girly blonde hair that counters it, Felix who has blue hair and wears make-up like he belongs in The Cure. I can practically see the band poster.

All I can say is that Tara Kelly wrote one of my favorite books. I already want to read it again…and again. I think Amplified speaks to anyone who feels passionate about music or someone who wants a change from paranormal reads should give this a try. I think if you like movies like Scott Pilgrim or Reality Bites you would like it as well. It’s not for the faint of heart though. It’s a gritty teen book for a mature audience. But come on, you have to expect that with a band living together!           

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Chris Raabe's Phenomenon

I was given the book The New Phenomenon for review and have to say that if I was simply browsing in a bookstore that I would have picked up this book just because of the cover. It really does tell a story and tempts you to pick it up. I love to get my hands on a book that is from a male point of view, as I have said many times before, but seriously this is a book that I will have the young men in my family read. Christian the lead character is so naturally kind and thoughtful and this comes out when he faces obstacles within the book that you don’t doubt his integrity. There is a buy in with Christian that keeps you reading intensely.

After a life threatening accident on the way back home from a fishing trip with his grandfather, Christian Pearson’s life will change forever because of a secret that will soon be no more. He is a normal teenager just trying to fit in on his first day as a freshman in a small town high school. He is the new guy in school and on the football field and rather then being seen as a teammate he is seen as a threat. That is until three teens that start the school year late catch Christian’s attention. They seem to be oddly connected to him and may even be aware of the secret that Christian has managed to keep under wraps until now. Will he find help with his secret or a life that could threaten his family?

Christian Pearson is an undeniably likable character. Whether it’s how he treats a girl or even helps a friend out of a jam he is a true golden boy. I think that’s why I felt sort of a protection for him when he goes through the challenges like bullying, or even trying to stand up for his friends, or helping an enemy. He is just a great character to read. I wish there were more kids out there with the mindset that Christian has learned from his family. They constantly go through his mind when making a decision and it always puts Christian in this noble light. He never tries to be perfect, only tries to make the right decision. So when you read about this supernatural power he has it’s almost like in comic books when you feel the right person was bestowed the ability, almost like they were chosen for a reason. Christian’s ability is pretty simple, not something as magnificent as flying but you get this constant feeling that something great is in his future.     

I think what I liked most about Phenomenon was the description of Christians family. His mom, dad and little sisters were a strong part in Christian’s life. You get the sense that this family would really do anything for each other. And boy do they! My heart literally broke in half when Christian’s grandfather and dad have to help him face his destiny and the sacrifice that goes with it. This book has major twists and turns involving the secretive “Three” and how they need Christians help and didn’t even know it themselves! Phenomenon has deception, action, and heart pounding left turns with a little romance that it really was impossible to put down. I think I must have stayed up until 3:00am more than once. I cannot wait until the sequel comes out because author Chris Raabe left me on a serious cliffhanger that had me emotionally attached to Christian Pearson.

I would also like to add kudos to author Chris Raabe. I normally don’t get drawn into sport genre books but when the storyline had to involve football I was never lost. I was in it! I was given a play by play that allowed me to really be part of the story and in Christian’s world. At first I felt girly because even though everyone knows the game of football, I don’t think I was aware of how much detail was involved in being able to include them in an actual play. Chris Raabe does a really excellent job of this throughout Phenomenon.

I would recommend this book to any person who is a fan of Superman, comics in general, and is drawn to anything supernatural or conspiracy theories. Phenomenon really does have a large audience that I believe it can satisfy fully. So if you have trouble finding your male teen a book that doesn’t involve vampires, magic, or gooey love stories than I suggest you buy a copy of Phenomenon because it really is a fresh voice in the teen market that I feel deserves a chance. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Star by Javi Araguz and Isabel Hierro

A young man marked by a curse.

A village hiding the biggest secret ever to be kept.
A love as dangerous as it is impossible.
A world whose surface is forever undergoing changes… when getting lost is the equivalent of death.

Authors Javi Araguz and Isabel Hierro have written a book entitled The Star. They contacted me curious to see if there was an interest in their book being translated into an English publication. La Estrella (The Star) has a huge following in two languages across twenty countries and deserves a chance here. After reading the first chapter to be translated into English I must read this book. It is categorized as Young adult, green punk, fantasy and romance. I didn’t even know there was a category for green punk! The trailer is amazing and I encourage all readers to check out the website for more info and to request the book in English. After reading the first FREE chapter you will be hooked and want more. So do your part and request for The Star to be published in English so that we can all read and talk about it as soon as possible.

Excerpt From Chapter One of The Star

         A huge tree almost fell on top of her. The quaking of the ground was becoming increasingly turbulent. The Particles were emitting a buzzing sound, like that of a wasps' nest. The girl thought everything was lost, until she heard the little boy whimpering on the other side of the Safe Limit; then, without thinking twice, she battled against the wind to get to him.

         At that very instant, Ivar realized he was not alone.

         A shiver coursed through his entire body. The boy was crying disconsolately, as if the stranger who had grasped him by the shirt were hurting him. The girl's blood froze. The figure seemed indifferent to what was happening, as if he had everything under control. His eyes glowed through the fog, like a cat's when it hunts at night. He was a dangerous sort, there was no doubt about that.

         "A kidnapper!” concluded Lan, remembering the countless legends about child-snatchers that parents in Salvia used to tell their children to keep them from crossing the Limit.

         The girl knew that crossing the frontier meant risking not being able to get back, getting lost like her father did, and leaving her mother all alone.

         The darkness was turning solid. Everything was still falling to pieces. She had to make a decision. She looked at Ivar; the child, on seeing her, tried to run to her, but the abductor caught hold of his hand and stopped him before he could reach her. Lan couldn't face leaving him, he was only five years old, so she closed her eyes, took a deep breath and … leapt across the forbidden Limit.

         Once she was on the other side the forms began to lose shape; the image of the forest became diluted like a water-colour painting. Lan lost her balance and fell on the stranger, who quickly took hold of her arm and shoved her aside. In that brief instant, their eyes met, and the girl saw that the kidnapper had the features of a boy not much older than herself, clean-cut and serene; his inscrutable gaze might just as well be expressing sadness as pleasure and, as she had noticed previously from a distance, his iris shone bright silver.
         The wind buffeted the two of them so fiercely that it almost knocked them over. Lan felt an electric tingling where the kidnapper was holding her. Her whole body tensed and became racked with the pain of wrenching spasms. She tried to break free from him, but he had hold of her very tightly. Then she saw a small,
star-shaped tattoo on the back of her adversary's hand, just at the base of the thumb. The girl was certain she had seen that symbol somewhere else, but was incapable of thinking clearly. Her head was spinning and she was dazed. She opened her mouth to try and say something …

And then everything changed.