Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lauren Oliver's Pandemonium


So I finally read Pandemonium, the sequel to Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series, and I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as the first book, but I am anxious to read Lauren Oliver’s third book in the series. The book did take me a while to get into. However, it really did pick up towards the end but didn’t have the same intensity as Delirium did throughout. Lauren Oliver is an extremely great author. She sets up a scene like no one else and commits to getting her readers to care about her characters. I think I just cared too much about Alex to be convinced that Lena could care about anyone else. I guess I’m just too loyal.  

So Pandemonium leaves right where we left off. Lena not wanting to be cured of deliria, the disease of love has crossed over to The Wilds. But without the love of her life Alex, who has been killed by the cured during their escape. Lena learns how to survive with the help of a few new characters and has to figure out how she will go on without Alex. Lena is reborn as a tough as nails girl who will face even harder choices then before that will have her facing even more secrets on both sides of the fence.

In Pandemonium we get both versions of Lena. The book is written in chapters of then and now. Then chapters describe Lena’s story right after her escape and at her most vulnerable. The now chapters take us to Lena after she has a bit of a thicker skin and more survival training. I preferred the now chapters just because they had a faster pace when it came to Lena’s story.

Of all the characters Raven struck me the most. At first I didn’t like her that much but when I found out more about her and her backstory I thought she was a remarkable character. You like her one-minute, then she makes a mistake that may forever blemish her but then she redeems herself like no one else. I’m not saying that the characters lack humanity but I just feel Raven’s story is thoughtfully realistic to what Raven has seen as a young woman. I can see why she is harder on Lena because she was Lena once.     

Julian a boy who lives with the cured is a lot like Lena just before she met Alex. Julian is at the brink of deciding what he should fight for and if it’s worth the risk. He has a hard past but I feel his story is more unpredictable and original. I was expecting his personality, but not his story. His father’s ideal of perfection is Julian’s curse. As a reader I think Julian’s purpose was to simply make Lena stronger. If Lena convinces Julian that there is a better life, then somehow she hasn’t let Alex go entirely. He sort of goes on living because he started Lena on this very path. I think that’s why I carry a soft spot for Alex. He challenged the lead character in the series to change. Sorry Julian.

I think the characters in the book were insanely good. Each one had a unique story that complimented the lead character Lena. Raven the girl she could become, Julian the person she was, and finally Lena who is a reflection of Alex and what he did for her that would forever change her life. That’s fantastic writing when characters have that much power over a story. BUT, I am afraid the story took to long for me to get into. I finished the second half of the book in a day or two because of…well life. The first half took about a week to finish. I think in a movie it would have had me glued to the screen. When watching a movie I think there is just a bit more patience. When reading a book that is slow you can just close it and go back to it. A major character dies in the previous book! You just expect the next book to start with a bang. This isn’t just my opinion either. I spoke to a couple of other followers of the series and they agreed…regretfully. Seriously their faces cringed. BUT, the ending of Pandemonium is so juicy good that I will be reading the third book. Lauren Oliver you pulled me back in. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Casey Barnes Eponymous

I really need to thank E.A Rigg for contacted me to review her book. Now I must shout from the rooftops on how good it is! I get giddy when I can read a book that involves anything about music in the plot. It just forms a different reading experience once a song is attached to a moment in a book. So I LOVED it when Casey Barnes the silver tonged lead makes anonymous thought provoking playlists for students, then hides them mysteriously for the person to later find. After reading this quippy book from author E.A. Rigg I wanted Casey to make me my very own playlist too.

It’s the beginning of the school year and music junkie Casey Barnes will get a second chance with her popular guitar playing ex-boyfriend if everything goes according to plan. Of course it doesn’t after rumors service about her ex and gossip circulates the halls of school. As things get more chaotic Casey is face to face with her own musical endeavors and she will have to make decisions that could risk her original plan.

Casey is an original honest teen character. Her dialogue is amazing, and she had me laughing so much because she is so honest with everyone. She is a bad ass who has the heart of a teen girl who gets the chance to be with the guy of her dreams. Author E.A Rigg did a great job of making Casey vulnerable at times. Casey has moments when she is actually telling herself to not be herself, because of how it would make a guy feel. I believe every girl has done this. Sorry but it’s true. I wanted to tell Casey not to sell herself short and that she was an amazing girl and not to change. Casey has tiny moments like this in the book but way more moments when you wish you could say the crazy off the wall things she says. Her banter alone with her best friends mom was jaw dropping. I only wish I could have heard her musical rendition of Beowulf as Elvis.        

Casey is not the only quick witted conversationalist in the family. Her big brother Yull who she walks in the shadow of at times is also a stand-alone character. He is an over achiever and the often advice giver that Casey would of course, rather not hear. He is her voice of reason and gives honest brotherly ridicule that I as a reader wanted to tell her myself.

E.A. Rigg has a cast of characters that I could envision in a movie that I would watch again and again. The story flows extremely well with drama, witty humor, romance and friendship. There are small side stories that are going on with Casey’s circle of friends that build up to an ending that will keep any reader entertained.

One of my favorite scenes written in the book is the one that involves Casey, Yull and her friend Ben. They are arguing about whether or not Leigh, Casey’s best friend, is sleeping in the basement and hiding out from her angry parents punishment. I have even included and excerpt of E.A.’s Rigg’s work because it made me laugh so much.

“You think Mom’s not gonna know there’s another person living under her own roof?” Yull asked.

Casey waved a hand in the air. “Please. Keeping a secret from that over-programmed workaholic’s as easy as drinking water.”

“This is not going to end well,” Yull said.

“What am I supposed to do? Stand by and let my best friend get shipped of to hell?”

“Has she attempted swaying the ruling of her elders with fresh baked pies and cookies?” Ben asked.

“Good idea,” Casey said, “I’ll mention it.”

Yull sighed. “She better remember to hide from the cleaning lady. Today’s her day, you know.”

She nodded. “The stowaway was informed. She plans to loiter in the public library during household cleaning hours.”

If you are serious when it comes to music and possibly worn out your copies of The Breakfast Club, Some Kind of Wonderful and loved Nick and Norah then buy this book now and thank me later. It’s only available as an eBook but if you are an avid reader that shouldn’t be a problem, so buy it now! And looky here, I’ve included links so that you can do just that and a link to author E.A. Rigg’s blog so you can find out more about this talented author that I hope to see more of in the YA world.

Monday, April 16, 2012

I Survived Scary School and I'm Anxious to Return

I received Scary School for review from author Derek Taylor Kent AKA Derek the Ghost. It is a middle grade horror/ comedy series published through HarperCollins that I found exceptionally imaginable and funny. I usually don’t read children’s books unless it screams read me, this one did. Amazing illustrations by Scott M. Fischer are webbed throughout the book that will captivate any young reader. This book has every monster you can think of attending Scary School. It really is unique and will feed any little horror fan including their parents.

Scary School is told from Derek the Ghost’s perspective after he unfortunately dies and decides to write a book about the school he attends. Readers prepare to read about half zombie, half snake gym teachers, dragon professors with strict classroom rules and students who consist of werewolves, sasquatches and three girls named Rachael, Raychel, and Frank (pronounced Rachel).  The main objective for all students who attend Scary School is to survive. They are hosting the Ghoul Games this year and each student is required to participate, however the winners will eat the loser of each game! 

This book has SO many different characters that kept me reading every word. Derek Taylor Kent is incredibly talented because he is able to keep a very detailed story interesting to any reader. Scary School has a short story vibe to it because each chapter is dedicated to a student or teacher that never detours away from the main plot of the story, which is the Ghoul Games. The best part of the book is that Derek the Ghost is telling the story directly to the reader, even letting the reader in on clues of what to expect in the second book. I love books like this because it makes it more personal.

Two of the characters that grabbed my attention were Mr. Snakeskin and Penny Possum. Mr. Snakeskin is half zombie and half snake. He actually sheds his skin to reveal the insides of his body explaining how the heart, digestive system, and respiratory system work. He actually removes parts of his body as he explains with a proud smile. It sounds gross but it actually put a smile on my face.

Penny Possum is the shy girl who plays dead in class whenever she’s called on to answer a question by a teacher. This comes in handy when she walks into Dr. Dragonbreath’s classroom that has a tendency of eating his students, turning them into dragons later on of course.

This book’s target age would be age ten and up, but anyone who likes to read the occasional children’s book would be entertained by Scary School as well. Derek Taylor Kent provides an imaginative escape with a tour of Scary School that will satisfy the funny bone and entice any young horror fan. This is a book that a parent can read with their child and be able to talk and laugh about it together. I personally feel that any family that enjoys any Tim Burton movie would get the humor in Scary School and find Scott Fischer’s artwork charming. So get a jump on reading a copy of Scary School before the second book is released in June entitled Scary School #2: Monsters on the March. For tons of fun stuff about the Scary School series click here.    

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Get Hooked With Divergent

I took my time reading Divergent only because it’s a series and I wouldn’t have to wait as long for the sequel Insurgent that is due to be released in May. I did find Divergent to be entertaining enough to find out what happens to Tris and Four. The details that are involved in Divergent are the basic bones of a dystopian style teen book with a bit of a tormented family twist. Teens must go through a simulation process to determine which faction they would be best suited for. They then must announce at a choosing ceremony whether they plan to stay with their family in their own faction or decide to live in another, leaving their family behind and in shame of their decision of their choice to leave.

Set in dystopian Chicago, Beatrice/Tris loves her family very much but will have to decide if she wants to live life the way her family expects her to, or decide to live the life her heart tells her to choose. Tris’ choice will not only shock her family but also herself. Making this choice will lead her down a path of dangerous questions that will challenge how her society lives.

Tris is a character that I can actually see. Which I feel should have been hard to do considering the amount of transformation she goes through. She is extremely timid in the beginning with a tiny snarl that gives a whisper of what to expect at the end of the book. I kept seeing her warped and bruised face while she went through her faction training exercises and her tattooed story upon her neck and arms. She is way stronger than she thinks she is and I enjoyed reading how she grew throughout Divergent. My favorite Tris moment was on the Ferris wheel during a game of capture the flag. She climbs the entire ride without fear, while Four her trainee, who is scared of heights, follows behind. Even though it’s predictable, that’s the moment you realize that something is going to happen with these two characters.

Four I feel stole the book. He is the typical mystery but with a couple of unexpected turns. Each time I read I kept finding out more new stuff about Four that kept me interested. I had an idea of why he got the nickname Four and when it was confirmed, his character just got that much better. Whenever I discuss this book with people the first thing people comment on is how much they liked Four. I was upset that his fate in the book was so predictable. I was hoping that a character with this much guts had a better ending. I even included one of my favorite excerpts in Divergent that sums up Four, but also predicted his ending for me.

“Two things you should know about me. The first is that I am deeply suspicious of people in general,” he says. “It is my nature to expect the worst of them. And the second is that I am unexpectedly good with computers.”

I love this about Four, and it is why I am looking forward to reading about how his family dynamic will change considering his situation at the end of Divergent. 

My final thoughts are that I recommend this book to anyone who has read Hunger Games or loves dystopian books. You’ll like Divergent but you won’t love it like Hunger Games, but you will be hooked enough to want to read the next book just because of Four and the curiosity of Tris’ future. So you have the time now to start Divergent and finish it just before Insurgent comes out. It’s an entertaining read full of adventure and has a Greek tragic like story that will peak anyone’s interest. Don’t forget to take a look at the trailer for Insurgent below. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Torn, This Month's Hot Buy

So the funny story is, Ashley submitted her book to me for review and thank the heavens she did. I started to read it and was already about five chapters into the book and hadn’t even told Ashley that I would review it yet! I was just too captivated by her lead characters Tristan and Isadora that I couldn’t stop reading. I love books that you don’t have to keep convincing yourself to continue to read. I couldn’t wait to steal a chance to finish Torn and was just simply impressed with Ashley S. Morgan’s story. You think you have an idea of what you are about to read but then the entire story changes in a unique and original way that I loved.

Isadora Rivers a student at one of the top art schools in the country is a young aspiring actress who has a bit of a reckless streak. Being emotionally sensitive she seems to absorb other students behavior around her, which include posers, jocks, queen bees and wannabe gangsters. Of course Isadora channels this through her outstanding acting and hopes this will be her ticket to a bigger than life future. While riding her bike at a reckless speed she nearly gets hit by a car. The driver Tristan Blake winds up being the new guy at school who is a mystery that Isadora is determined to solve. Tristan is a young man who is wiser than most teens and has a rebellious quality about him that captivates Isadora, striking a connection that will ultimately decide Isadora’s fate for her future. If she wants to change her future she will have to push away Tristan the boy she now loves.

Isadora is a girl who acts on her emotions first never thinking before. This gets her into trouble and leads her to wrong conclusions. Without spoiling the book when I realized what her future could be I thought that it wouldn’t happen in a million years. It was too far fetched but then after author Ashley S. Morgan laid out the reason for her supposed future it made complete sense. Plus while the incident was occurring I was cringing inside because I actually started to like the character that was involved. Isadora is a pretty likable girl and because the book is written from her point of view I was able to see things as she did. So when she would see Tristan talking and laughing with the school Barbie doll Tara, I was also a bit judgmental of Tristan.

Tristan is altogether awesome. He has a huge mystery about him but when you find out his backstory and his reason for pushing Isadora away you just feel so sad for him. He keeps trying to fix Isadora’s future, trying to change the outcome of an important decision that Isadora will make that will change her life forever. He’s so tormented that he wants to stay away from her because he believes he is the reason for her destined future, yet he tries out for the same school play as Isadora possibly to keep an eye on her too.

Torn is a very quick read and entertaining. I do have to comment on some of the reviews that I have read stating that the plot comes a bit late in the book. It simply has to in order to make sense. You have to build curiosity in what Tristan knows and tension between Isadora and him. Then when you find out what is really going on and how unobvious it is you have to keep reading. I think Ashley S. Morgan did a great job keeping me involved in the story and surprising me. I love that in Torn no one has superpowers or supernatural abilities. These two people are just given a chance to change things and that’s it. Who wouldn’t want the chance to change a wrong decision?

I recommend this book to anyone who has read The Future of Us, Tempest, and The Time Travelers Wife. It is only available on Kindle for only $2.99 so far but will soon be available for Nook and through Smashwords. Do not pass this book up. Torn is the perfect teen indie read that is uniquely entertaining that I can read over again and again.      

Read an excerpt from Torn by Ashley S. Morgan by clicking here.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry

I wanted to review this book simply because author Mary Pauline Lowry had peeked my interest in her work. Her bio alone was job dropping that I had to read this book. I mean a young American teen girl who runs away to Mexico, on her own, and her main purpose is to find Jesus a man who was employed as her families yard man after he was deported. I have never crossed a book like this and feel anyone who is a thought-provoking reader and able to read through the gritty turmoil that a character has to go through for self-discovery will want to read Earthquake Machine.

Rhonda a fifteen-year-old girl is about to have a horrific nightmare hit her household and her only friend, Jesus the yardman, who is able to help her emotionally, has been deported. Rhonda will take the opportunity to flee and runaway to Oaxaca Mexico where Jesus spoke of living before he came to America. With only the gift of a knife and the Spanish Jesus taught Rhonda she will make the long mournful journey to the only friend that she can bare her soul to.

Rhonda is a tender young girl with a power keg ready to go off inside. She has to deal with all the ugliness the world has to offer at once that you worry if she’ll come out okay. The gritty life lessons of death, betrayal, sex, and identity will hit poor Rhonda between the eyes in a way you wish no one had to. This is what sends Rhonda off running to Mexico with the new name Angel. Angel carries all of Rhonda’s baggage and a new identity to cloak her with. Not wanting to be found she has to hide in the shadows of Mexico so to speak. This is where Rhonda’s story became very real because this is how she comes across a lot of the dangers of drugs and crime that happen in the country. But Rhonda/Angel sees only the beauty of Mexico and embraces the culture that her friend Jesus told her stories about. Using both sides of the coin that is Mexico, Angel manages to harden Rhonda’s skin and give her the strength to challenge her demons.

I will warn readers that this book even though with a teen lead character has a mature sexual explicitness that may make some readers uncomfortable but after finishing the book I came up with my own explanation of why. While Rhonda is on the run she has no physical guidance of family, no one to protect her. So all the good and bad things about real life make there way in with every detail imaginable, it was hard for me to read at times but it’s the real world that you don’t want a child to see, but I cared about Rhonda too much to stop reading. Author Mary Pauline Lowry is a courageous writer who had complete faith in her story and was able to take me through Mexico with Rhonda and tell the story of a broken and battered girl who became a strong woman who takes control of her life.

Without spoiling it for readers, the scene that had me shed a tear was when Rhonda sneaks off to visit the La Virgin in the cathedral and the outcome of that fateful visit. Mary you seriously broke my heart with every word. I could see Angel in that awful moment and truly felt her pain.

I do believe that Earthquake Machine requires a special type of reader, which is someone who is willing to challenge themselves with the harsh reality that we live in today. Things are so in your face now that you can’t ignore them. Mary Pauline Lowry’s writing was so visual that as I read her book I kept thinking how it could be a great indie/foreign film that people would praise. Who knows maybe it will.    

Mary Pauline Lowry has worked as a forest firefighter, screenwriter, open water lifeguard, construction worker, and advocate in the movement to end violence against women. At 15, she ran away from home and made it all the way to Matamoros, Mexico. She believes girls should make art, have adventures, and read books that show them the way.