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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

REVIEW: Chrysalis, by Michel Prince

 In the annals of dysfunctional families, the Chisholm’s are working their way to the top. Drug abuse, an unwed mother with multiple fathers, and the questionable cash flow for the 'pretty one'.   All this from a seemingly normal, two parent middle class family. But were the choices truly made of their free will?
            Bad choices are a Chisholm family trait, one that confounds the youngest child, Ellie, who's trying to separate herself by making smart decisions. And falling for Oscar Jeffreys, the hottest guy at school, would be number one on the list of  Chisholm family disasters.  Yet the crazy part is it’s not a one sided attraction.  Somehow Ellie has caught Oscar Jeffreys’ eye.   Sure she could see the barriers between them.  Race, age, popularity.  They were at opposite ends of the spectrum.  But a demon set to destroy her family? She can't see that.  
            Oscar provides security and acceptance Ellie never imagined she deserved.  As the passion of first love grows, Ellie honestly believes she has a chance to beat the odds and live a happy, normal life. Then her world collapses around her. With the help of a guardian angel, Ellie learns of a world that has unknowingly surrounded her for years.  And she'll have to find strength buried deep inside to save not only her future, but flush out and stop the demon in her midst.
            And Ellie will have to learn that sometimes the hardest lesson about growing up is accepting that you're worth more. 

The cover throws me...really, there's not that much centered around Ellie playing volleyball. At least, not enough to make me think the cover works. I suspect it's to draw in a certain set of readers. I also feel like the high school age/setting is moot. It doesn't feed the actual story. Does that make sense? 

(I happen to think if you're going to use "high school" as a setting and "16" as a character age, then it needs to matter to the story. It doesn't in this book.)

Ellie and Oscar are an interesting pair, but far too grown up for high school. Granted, they've dealt with more mature issues in their futures, but they don't behave the way I think high school kids behave (and since I spend 187 days a year with high school kids...). I also felt like Prince got too descriptive in the physical bordered on light erotica, and I'm really not that okay with that in this book. I like my YA romance to be less descriptive. 

The first part of the book is contemporary romance with some crazy things thrown in. Then, you get to why the story is paranormal. And then everything is driven by that. Oh, and teenagers struggling with sex too much for the rest of the story to be important.

Oh..and then the story ends. I see that it's set to be the first of a trilogy, but it's not even really a cliffhanger, it just stops. I even read the last couple of chapters twice to make sure I didn't miss the cliffhanger. 

Overall, this would've been fine as an adult paranormal romance. It doesn't work as a legitimate YA story line for me.

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Goddess Fish Promotions. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

REVIEW: The Rules, by Stacey Kade

The Rules

1. Never trust anyone.

2. Remember they are always searching.

3. Don't get involved.

4. Keep your head down.

5. Don't fall in love.

Five simple rules. Ariane Tucker has followed them since the night she escaped from the genetics lab where she was created, the result of combining human and extraterrestrial DNA. Ariane's survival--and that of her adoptive father--depends on her ability to blend in among the full-blooded humans, to hide in plain sight from those who seek to recover their lost (and expensive) "project."

But when a cruel prank at school goes awry, it puts her in the path of Zane Bradshaw, the police chief's son and someone who sees too much. Someone who really sees her. After years of trying to be invisible, Ariane finds the attention frightening--and utterly intoxicating. Suddenly, nothing is simple anymore, especially not the rules.

You grab this thinking it's some sort of dystopian/sci-fi thriller YA novel. And, yes, there's some of that in there. Instead of being strictly that, The Rules is also some romance, some high school clique-drama, and some rather bizarre and intense situations all rolled into one story. Really, it's well done. And it's not like Kade's other books--which come off a little silly to me.

Ariane is in a typical teenage state--finding herself. But also, finding out the truth of what happened to her when she was younger. She's a great character, and one I enjoyed getting to know, and pulling for. She's sharp, without being too much so, and still vulnerable, like all teenage girls are at the core.

Zane is the great guy next door, who has his own skeletons in the closet. Again, really that good, good, guy that any father would love to see his daughter with. But the relationship is organic, and not forced or fast (like so many YA romances are). 

Great story line, never slows down. Every time a twist pulled up, I really had no idea it was coming. It kept me on my toes, and was a "finish in a sitting" book. It is the first in a series (Project Paper Dolls), but it's one that could stand alone and leave you satisfied.

Sadly, the next book is over a year away...perhaps someone could suggest that Stacey Kade hurry up, a bit?

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Disney Book Group through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

REVIEW: Real Justice: Sentenced to Life at Seventeen, by Cynthia J. Faryon

Real Justice: Sentenced to Life at Seventeen
David Milgaard was a troubled kid, and he got into lots of trouble. Unfortunately, that made it easy for the Saskatoon police to brand him as a murderer. At seventeen, David Milgaard was arrested, jailed, and convicted for the rape and murder of a young nursing assistant, Gail Miller. He was sent to adult prison for life.

Throughout his twenty-three years in prison, David maintained that he was innocent and refused to admit to the crime, even though it meant he was never granted parole. Finally, through the incredible determination of his mother and new lawyers who believed in him, David was released and proven not guilty. Astonishingly, in hindsight the real murderer was obvious from the start.

This is the true story of how bad decisions, tunnel vision, poor representation, and outright lying and coercion by those within the justice system caused a tragic miscarriage of justice. It also shows that wrongs can be righted and amends made.

True crime stories are sort of a favorite of mine. I love to read about how the mind works, and how crimes are managed and solved. (I'm also a HUGE Criminal Minds fan). 

This is the story of David Milgaard, sentenced to live in prison in the late 1960s, for a crime he didn't commit. Clearly, there was a lot of mis-managing in this case. MANY details were obvious, from my many years removed perspective, yet completely ignored or never discovered by the police. Sad.

It's a compelling story, but this particular telling of it is definitely geared more for a YA reluctant-reader set. There are kids that love the CSI and Criminal Minds-type shows but can't yet manage a higher level reading version of that type of story. This one will fit the bill.

I tend to look for more detail, less glossing over. And not that the author particularly left things out, she just pared down the information to make it more approachable. (I'm speculating here..the fact that the publisher made sure to note the Fry Reading Level--4.3--tells me this wasn't intended to be a higher level reader book.)

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from James Lorimer & Company through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

REVIEW: Broken, by Susan Jane Bigelow

Broken (Extrahumans)
In a post-war future world where First Contact has been made, humans are colonizing the stars, and the nations of Earth have been united under a central government, Extrahumans are required by law to belong to the Union. When a young man with visions of the future sets out on a mission to define the course of human history, he encounters a devastated former hero, a fascist dictatorship bent on world domination, and the realities of living in a society where affiliation is everything.

Broken figured she was done with heroics when she lost the ability to fly and fled the confinement of the Extrahuman Union. But then the world started to fall apart around her, and the mysterious Michael Forward entered her life, dangling the possibility of redemption and rebirth.

Michael Forward can see the future, but all he wants is to escape the destiny he has struggled against all his life. When the moment comes, though, he finds he can't refuse. Now he needs the help of a homeless ex-superhero to save a baby who may be the key to humanity's freedom.

Monica had a good life with her large family, until two strangers and a baby showed up at her door. Now her family is gone, her life is in ruins, and she's on the run from the law.

In a time of spreading darkness, when paranoia and oppression have overtaken the world, can three unlikely allies preserve a small ray of hope for a better, brighter future?

There's A LOT happening in this book. It's by no means an easy or quick read and you have to be prepared to focus and dedicate time to it.

There's a kid who is in his over his head. There are people considered "extra" human. They are basically human, but have some extra special ability (in any other "world," we'd call them superheroes.) One of these extrahumans is Broken. It's not only her name, it's her psychological condition.

We never learn specifically how the world has come to be so dismal, so dystopian and dark. And while you wonder, it's not a hindrance to the story. The world is dark and needs to be saved. You can tell that it became this way because of a natural progression.

These are powerful characters. They radiate pain, but also hope. The extrahumans aren't your usual superheroes (they're even more dark and disturbed than
Hancock). They don't resemble any character I've read in YA dystopia--which is refreshing since there's A LOT of YA dystopia around these days. I honestly loved Broken, Micheal, and Monica. They were easy to connect with, believe in, and empathize with.

Bigelow's story-telling is choppy, and while that may annoy some readers, I see it as a masterfully used technique to keep the reader on his toes and enthralled. And I was. I didn't see the end coming. Not the "end" itself--although even Michael didn't see that end coming--but the end of the book. I was so caught up, that the last page surprised me. I felt sure there was more on the next page!

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Enter Text Here through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

REVIEW: In the Shadow of Blackbirds, by Cat Winters

In the Shadow of Blackbirds

In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to seances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Winters has PACKED this novel with so much. There's the first World War going on, the flu epidemic of 1918, and the Spiritualism craze that's taking over a hurting country. 

Oh..and then there's a love story and a mystery surrounding the death of the main character's love.

Just one of those things would've made this an amazing read. Winters has done an amazing job of building a story world that is as incredibly real as can be. I was instantly--instantly!--caught up in the story and setting and was so sad to reach the end. The care given to minor details (a description of a parrot that just, by chance, happens to be in the house, for example) is tremendous. You cannot read this novel without being completely settled neatly (if not comfortably) in 1918.(see my note below.)

The story itself is haunting and creepy. It is not your typical YA ghost story in which everything seems to flow into a neat line. Rather, Mary Shelley Black's ghostly visitor is haunted, in a much more dramatic sense than Mary Shelley is. He shouldn't have died when he did, nor how he did--let alone in the manner that his family claims.

If I did stars or other symbols, this would be an easy 5 stars. Cat Winters has crafted a fabulous debut novel--and I really can't wait for more from her.

NOTE: This isn't a "pretty" story, nor is it "nice and tidy." Winters doesn't gloss over the atrocities of war injuries when her character is volunteering in the soldiers' hospital. Neither does she hide the images of the flu epidemic--with bodies stacked in wagons, and wooden coffins. It's honest, which may suggest that you think strongly about younger readers before handing it over.

What do you think??

Shop Indie BookstoresDisclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Amulet Books through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, April 1, 2013

REVIEW: Spellbinding, by Maya Gold

Salem is the bewitching backdrop to this lush, fast-paced tale of one girl discovering the source of her powers.

It is during a routine school project that Abby Silva--sixteen and nearly friendless--makes a startling discovery: She is descended from women who were accused of witchcraft back in 1600s Salem. And when Abby visits nearby Salem, strange, inexplicable events start to unfold. Objects move when she wills them to. Candles burst into sudden flame. And an ancient spellbook somehow winds up in her possession.

Trying to harness her newfound power, Abby concocts a love potion to win over her longtime crush--and exact revenge upon his cruel, bullying girlfriend. But old magic is not to be trifled with. Soon, Abby is thrust headlong into a world of hexes, secrets, and danger. And then there's Rem Anders, the beautiful, mysterious Salem boy who seems to know more about Abby than he first lets on.

A reckoning is coming, and Abby will have to make sense of her history--and her heart--before she can face the powerful truth.

Spellbinding is a coming-of-age-discover-I'm-a-witch-can't-figure-out-the-hot-guy-I-like story. The cover gave me the impression that I'd see stuff. And it's set in Salem, Massachusetts. I feel like I needed it to be...more.

It starts out great. Abby is interesting and the approachable sort, you'd be friends with her. Her friends, new and old, are likeable and develop Abby's character well, even if there's is a little missing. It's, of course, interesting that she's taking a part time job in Salem, in a witchy kind of store. But just became a same ol'-same ol' kind of story. It all even wrapped up neatly and nicely.

But, to be fair, when you're looking for escapist reading, same ol'-same ol' works. It's a good story and something I wouldn't hesitate to share with readers.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Scholastic Point through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  

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