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not a review - just a heads up...

just so you know, my dreadful lack of posting as of late is due to the fact that I am re-reading the entire Harry Potter series and am planning on a comprehensive "what i liked, what i didn't like" upon my re-reading. and, you know, it IS the holidays and all.

anyway, thanks for being patient. i hope to be back to active reviewing and posting soon! and it should be very soon, as i'm halfway through book 6. what a ride!

Review: The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking Trilogy, Book Two) by Patrick Ness

(this is the second book in the Chaos Walking trilogy. there will be spoilers for the first book, "The Knife of Never Letting Go", but not for "The Ask and the Answer".

in a sentence or so: Todd and Viola finally arrive to Haven, only to discover that Mayor Prentiss has beat them there, and taken over the town. they are immediately separated, the town is divided over whether to trust the new leadership or to revolt...and then the bombing begins.

this book begins right where the first book left off. like, within seconds of the first book. Todd and Viola finally arrive at Haven, a place they weren't even sure actually existed, just to have their hope and their victory snatched out from beneath them and forced - yet again - into a painful, confusing existence. the antagonist of the first book, Mayor Prentiss, has made himself president of Haven and changed the name to New Prentisstown (a bit of an ego, that guy).

within moments of their capture, Todd and Viola are separated and questioned. told from first person perspective in alternating chapters between Viola and Todd, we learn that Todd is forced to work alongside Davy (president's son, shot Viola, not the best friend of Todd) managing the Spackle, the world's native population. Todd is faced with constant challenges to who he is, how he will treat these slaves, and what choices he will make in order to stay true to the man he has become and the man Viola knows him to be. however, being bullied by Davy and managing a silent work force come with extreme challenges...and that's on top of the loss of Viola and the uncertainty of what the heck is going on in New Prentisstown and what big plans the president seems to have for him.

Viola is sent to a healing center where Mistress Coyle cares for her, and begins to train her as a healer. during her time there, Viola learns that Mistress Coyle has a history of rebellion and fighting against unruly authority. when Mistress Coyle disappears and the bombings start in New Prentisstown, Viola not only connects the dots but is also pursued by Mistress Coyle from the outside of town. eventually, Viola chooses to join the resistance - called The Answer - and reluctantly leaves her broken Todd behind.

to describe this book as heavy and violent is an understatement. President Prentiss is relentless in his desire to rule, manipulate, and gain information from the people of New Prentisstown. however, he is sneaky and manipulative in his methods and seems to have mastered his Noise and the art of influencing other's Noise. perhaps that is why the President is able to slowly get away with segregating the men from the women, enforcing strict curfews, and - when things really start to heat up - banding the women with ID tags used for livestock and torturing potential informants.

the middle book of a series has a tough job - advancing the story, sustaining interest, and being a solid stand alone read. the ask and the answer does that and more. this is highly character driven, emotive, heavy, bursting with hard choices and broken characters where even the good guys aren't squeaky clean. there is a bit of a holocaust-ish feel with the numbering and the torture and the slow acceptance of the people in New Prentisstown to just accept the leadership to stay alive, but this alternate reality created by Ness is original and creative and his characters are so raw and so real that, despite being the middle book of a trilogy, i found myself learning new things about them and wanting to keep reading and keep learning more. the true intentions of others are difficult to determine and deliberately revealed.

i cannot WAIT for the conclusion of this series due to excellent writing, heartfelt characters, and a solid cliffhanger. may 2010 cannot come soon enough.

fave quote: "They treat me as if I'm a little dangerous. I'm slightly surprised to find I kind of like it" (Viola, 257)

fix er up: this is a big ole hunk of a book. at just over 500 pages, this was no easy quest. that may turn some readers off - but if you are into the kind of story that Ness weaves (and believe me, you would be) then clear your schedule and make this happen.

title: The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking Triology, Book 2)
author: Patrick Ness
genre: Adventure, Edgy, Lisa's Faves, Dystopian

Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, #1) by Carrie Ryan

in a sentence or so: think "the village" meets "the giver" set in the context of a zombie apocalypse while fighting for survival, forbidden love, and hope for life beyond the fences.

Mary lives in a village surrounded by a fence. on the other side of the fence are countless number of Unconsecrated (zombies). Mary's dad is missing, and has been for a long time. her mother wanders to the fence to look for him - hopeful that he won't be there (meaning he might have escaped turning into an Unconsecrated) and fearful that he won't be there (at least if she saw him as an Unconsecrated, she would know what happened to him). one day, when Mary is washing clothes in the river and is being asked by Harry to the Harvest Celebration (read: pre-courting ritual), the sirens go off. Mary knows in her core that her mother wandered too close to the fence and that she wasn't there to stop her. sure enough, Mary's mother turns into an Unconsecrated and joins the rest of them in the forest.

Mary's brother blames her for their mother's death, and banishes her from the house. she is unspoken for (apparently Harry rescinds his invitation to courtship) and she has no choice but to live with the Sisters in the cathedral - the mysterious secret keepers who clearly keep knowledge from the rest of the village and are the ultimate authority. it is in her short time there that she mourns the loss of her mother, her father, her relationship with her brother, her future as a Sister, and all of the uncertainty of her life. when Travis, Harry's brother, comes into the cathedral with a broken leg and requires prayers , it is Mary who spends her days with him telling him stories of the ocean, of the buildings so high they touch the sky, and other stories her mother shared with her about a world beyond the fence. a forbidden love starts to blossom just as an Outsider shows up to the cathedral - proof of life beyond the village. almost instantly the Outsider is gone, and reappears as an Unconsecrated on the other side of the fence. why did the Sisters keep the Outsider a secret? did they turn the Outsider into an Unconsecrated? what other secrets are the Sisters keeping?

there is a pretty good amount of set up by the author in developing the characters, the village, the Sisters, the Guardians (the protectors of the fences), and the post apocalyptic life. i was surprised when a bulk of the book was spent on their journey OUT of the village and scrambling for life outside the fence.

Mary is selfish. like, really selfish. it was difficult for me to connect with her personally given the choices she makes and the sacrifices she expects from others. however, i loved her voice, her emotions, and the style of the book overall. Ryan evokes a unique feel for this book that i was totally engrossed in. the book was spooky, unsure, violent, tense, romantic, fragile, and dark. if you're in the mood for a zombie apocalypse attempt at survival bursting with broken relationships, this is for you.

fave quotes: "We know nothing beyond our village except the Forest, and nothing beyond the Forest at all." (27)

"Outside, pure white snow covers the trees and fence, blanketing the Unconsecrated. It is a bright clear day, the sun sparkling off the ice crystals. One of those days when you can't understand why there is such beauty in a world that is nothing but ugly. It is almost too much to bear." (69)

fix er up: for me, Mary's selfishness far outweighed her hope and purpose. i kept expecting she would finally snap out of it...nope. she experiences so much loss and she just endures to get what she wants.

title: The Forest of Hands and Teeth
author: Carrie Ryan
genre: Horror, Adventure, Dystopian

image from http://www.wordle.net
Wordle: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Review: Evermore (The Immortals, Book One) by Alyson Noel

in a sentence or so: Ever is a psychic. she wasn't always a psychic though - not until after the death of her entire family and her own near-death-experience. just as she's learning to cope with the weirdness of knowing someones entire life story by touch, hearing their thoughts, and seeing their aura, in comes super hottie Damen - who lacks readable thoughts AND an aura AND seems to have quite an interest in Ever.

Ever, a junior and recent transfer student from the rainy northwest to the permanent sunshine of Orange County, is not the girl she once was. before the car accident that killed her mother, father, sister, and golden lab, Ever was the stereotypical blond, popular, cheerleader. since her time CA living with her aunt, she's committed do dressing in jeans, hoodies, and hanging with the less-than-cool kids. her two best friends, Haven and Miles, are what you might call socially awkward. Haven is currently cycling through a serious goth phase (although she's nowhere near legit goth) and Miles is absorbed with his Sidekick, trying out for local plays, and talking about his latest boyfriend. i guess you could also count her sister Riley as a friend...as she's been visiting her from beyond the grave ever since the accident.

Ever is getting used to this routine when the aura-less Damen strolls into her life. the more she gets to 'know' Damen, the more mysterious he becomes. no aura, has lived everywhere by the age of 17, and is emancipated from his parents. his mystery only increases when he plays hot and cold with Ever - delivering smoldering looks one minute and giving rosebuds to other girls the next. and THEN there's his mysterious acquaintance of Drina who is also aura-less, drop dead gorgeous, and clearly not a fan of Ever.

a good bulk of the plot is figuring out just who Damen and Drina are, and why they're focused on Ever. another chunk of the plot is Ever wrestling with knowing too much about people and their lives from her psychic ability and spending time with Riley (dead little sister). i felt like the plot moved along nicely, spending equal time on both segments of discovery and awareness. especially how Noel was able to portray how Ever tried to keep it all together, but eventually Ever realizes that her life is a precarious balancing act she isn't able to maintain.

Evermore has elements of healing, forgiveness, acceptance, trust, guilt, addiction, and need. i really liked Ever's battle between inward emotions and how she chose to express those outwardly. so real. i also felt like her friends were lighthearted, funny, and authentic which helped to ground this book and kept it feeling real.

fave quote: "I turn my head and look away. Knowing I do, knowing I love him with every strand of hair, with every skin cell, with every drop of blood, that I'm bursting with love, boiling over, but I just can't bring myself to say it." (262)

fix er up: Damen felt two dimensional for about 80% of the book. i think part of that is because he was intentionally mysterious, but it was still weird to have Ever so entranced by him and not really know what he was about (other than smoldering). also, i felt like this was wrapped up so well that i'm not really sure i'm interested in reading the other books in The Immortals series.

title: Evermore (The Immortals Series)
author: Alyson Noel
genre: Fantasy (Supernatural), Mystery, Romance

image from Wordle.net

Wordle: Evermore by Alyson Noel

Review: Fire by Kristin Cashore

in a sentence or so: Fire is the last of the human monsters, which means her beauty and her mind can take over and manipulate the minds of others. after growing up in relative isolation and seclusion, Fire knows it's only a matter of time before those who have been trying to kill her, use her, control her, and love her will close in.

the novel is broken into three parts, the first of which is Monsters. we discover that Fire has the power to manipulate, both with her mind and her beauty, but that she knows (based on the awful example of her father) she will not live her life serving others by manipulating those around her. a good chunk of this first part is discovering who she is, what her purpose is, and how she fits in a world that simultaneously adores and hates her.

part two, spies, develops as a result of a life-changing decision by Fire. she begins to grow confident in herself and recognizes her independence, albeit in a non-traditional way. she begins to serve the royal family by trying to get information from spies regarding the uprising in the corners of the kingdom. during her time in the court, she becomes increasingly aware of the multi-dimensional characters that surround her...for better or for worse.

part three, dells, is a fitting conclusion. as with Graceling, Cashore doesn't insult the reader or the characters by wrapping everything up in the best possible way. there isn't 100% happiness with everyone, death does happen, people let Fire down, and there is much suffering. however, that doesn't mean that the conclusion to this war-heavy story is bleak - rather it is heartwarming, purposeful, and satisfying.

Cashore seems to have a thing for non-traditional gender roles and relationships, and i dig that. for Fire, one of her biggest frustrations is that people are always amazed at her outward beauty and aren't even aware of her inward emotions and scars. the characters in the book are often in relationships that are far from cookie-cutter; children from affair, children from rape, partner's with children, etc... and going along with the non-traditional relationships are the explorations of tough decision making that many characters have to make where there is no easy or clear answer. there are many 'right' and 'wrong' choices, and Fire continually struggles with what to do, when, how, and why.

overall, i wasn't totally head-over-heels with the war heavy aspects of this book. but what i did love was Fire as a main character, and Cashore's (seemingly) signature quirky take on relationships (including relationship to self) and purposeful resolutions.

fave quotes: "It did not surprise Fire that the man in the forest shot her. What surprised her was that he shot her by accident" (19)
"'I think', she said, 'that sometimes we don't feel the things that we are. But others can feel them...'" (434)

fix er up: with so much of this book being focused on war, i didn't feel the urgency and the reality of the impending showdown. granted, a lot of that was because it was all shrouded in mystery for so long...but i did find myself a little annoyed at the pace of plot revelations.

title: Fire
author: Kristin Cashore
genre: Adventure, Fantasy

image by Wordle:

Wordle: Fire by Kristin Cashore

Review: Creature of the Night by Kate Thompson

in a sentence or so: Bobby, his mom, and his half-brother Dennis are moving to the country to escape Dublin. Bobby needs to get away from his no-good friends (says his mom) and his mom needs to get away from the debt-collectors (says Bobby). but life in the country brings on more mystery than any of them expect - externally and internally.

Bobby is a 14 year old bad boy. and by bad boy i mean stealing cars and torching them after joyriding with his older pals, using hard drugs, stealing as much as possible, and repeating the events ad nauseum. so while Bobby's mom claims that they are moving to Ennis (the country) to escape the bad influences in his life, he knows that a good chunk of the real reason is so that she can continue to duck the debt collectors knocking on their door.

the relationship between Bobby and his mom is bleak, complicated, and all sorts of teen-angsty with a strong undercurrent of anger. he resents her refusal to tell him who his real dad is, he resents her having Dennis (his 4 year old half-brother), and he resents her forcing them to move out to the country. after stealing a car to go back to Dublin, Bobby is forced into a repayment schedule of working on the neighbors farm. it isn't all that bad really, as there is another guy his age there and the family seems to be well meaning enough. plus, they feed him copious amounts of delicious food and have a house cleaner than he's ever known.

between Bobby trying desperately to get back to Dublin (where his friends won't even see him) and fighting with his mom and working off his debt to the neighbors, some strange things start happening. his little brother Dennis insists he has been seeing a little woman in the middle of the night coming in through the dog flap and that she wants milk and cake to eat. of course, he's only 4 and could be making things up...but the neighbors spill the mystery of the previous owner and his family. making the presence of this imaginary friend just too coincidental for Bobby to ignore.

i picked up this book based on the cover alone - i'll admit that. it's a really spooky and intriguing cover. however, it gave the TOTALLY wrong impression. while there is an element of the supernatural and mystery, the plot is centered around Bobby and his self discovery. his voice felt so authentic that i was grabbed from the first page to hear more of his thoughts and his story.

the motives of the characters are never totally clear, which i appreciated. the neighbors are the classic happy family - but they also served as a source of goodness that Bobby needed in his life, even though he didn't realize it. they illustrated the power of purpose and filled a void in his world.

the conclusion of the book, while sensible, totally fell flat for me. and, after poking around at other reviews, i realize i'm not alone in feeling split over Thompson's writing. particularly the epilogue. it felt clunky, abrupt, and a bit puzzling. but even that didn't detract from the rest of the story for me. i really connected with Bobby's voice and was committed to hearing him out. i think having him as the narrator really helped this novel along and helped me to overlook the holes in the plot, the late character twists, and the less than fulfilling conclusion.

fave quote: "It wasn't because of him that I stayed. I think it was just because there was something happening. Even if it was only digging a drain or stacking bales or shoveling shit, it was still something happening. At home, nothing ever happened." (145)

fix er up: i feel like i shouldn't like this book as much as i did. there were so many glaring literary flaws and clunky plot points...but again, Bobby's voice saved this and made it a solid read.

title: Creature of the Night
author: Kate Thompson
genre: Coming of Age, Mystery, Problem Novel

Review: What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

in a sentence or so: Evie, her mom, and her step-dad Joe head to Florida after he returns home from WWII. what Evie believes to be a vacation adventure and potential fresh start for her ho-hum life ends up being a journey from her own naivety to ultimate disillusionment with everyone in her life...herself included.

Evie is insecure, innocent, naive, and unknowingly beautiful. Evie's mom, Bev, is a knock out. Evie is unable to see her own beauty due to feeling eclipsed by her mother's breathtaking good looks and Bev (who has had a hard life being such a pretty gal) is happy to let Evie pass as average. it's not until after they head to Florida that Evie begins to hear and believe herself to be pretty, and begins to dare that the sexy Peter Coleridge, a man from Joe's military company, can actually like (maybe even love) her.

it's important to note Evie's total unawareness of her own beauty because it shows her sheltered and protected existence. so when they go to Florida, Evie begins to hear things, see things, and even sense things that just don't feel right and she isn't sure why. the mysterious Peter Coleridge starts hanging around Evie and her family quite frequently, which she is certainly excited about. but she is aware that there is something funny going on between Joe and Peter. as in, they pretend to like each other but something is going on under the surface and it's really starting to get awkward. she spends her days in Florida getting to know bits and pieces about other hotel guests and daydreaming over Peter while the rest of the characters weave the plot around her. she begins to wonder what Peter's motive is for hanging out with her and her family, why did they really come to Florida, and how long will this facade of a happy and put-together family last?

there is an undercurrent of anxiety and mystery from the beginning. Evie is beginning to emerge from her innocence cocoon and with it she is learning that the people she knows and trusts don't always do things with the best intentions, and that the actions of others aren't always as authentic as she expects them to be. after a tragedy in Florida shrouded in mystery, deceit and lies, Evie comes to the true crossroads of who she is and how she will handle her new found awareness.

the characters are broken. their motives are never quite black and white. while we as the reader are pretty sure what's going on around her, it takes a while for Evie to get the memo and absorb all that's happening. her discovery of self and of others is really the core of this story, and ultimately her internal resolutions at the conclusion of the book justify why her story is one worth hearing. however, i did feel like external resolutions after everything was said and done were a bit hokey. also, the title really does set you up with the two parts of the story - what she saw, and how she lied. simple, yet life-changing for Evie.

fave quote: "I know now how you can take one step and you can't stop yourself from taking another. I know now what it means to want. I know it can get you to a place where there's no way out. I know now that there's no such thing as just one. But I didn't know it then." (42)
fix er up: the ultimate resolution of the characters. the resolution of the plot seemed fitting, but how the characters lives where handled after the fact and their actions were so cheesy.

title: What I Saw and How I Lied
author: Judy Blundell
genre: Historical Fiction, Drama, Problem Novel

Review: The Hollow Kingdom (The Hollow Kingdom Trilogy, Book One) by Clare B Dunkle

in a sentence or so: Kate and Emily Winslow move to Hallow Hill after the death of their father to live with their two great-aunts and one very unhappy (and shady) guardian, Hugh Roberts. within days Kate has attracted the notice of the goblin king Marak, who wants Kate as his bride. and goblin kings always get their bride.

our nineteenth century sisters Kate and Emily aren't crazy about moving out to the remote Hallow Hill, but they do find the woods ripe for exploration and the stars beautiful at nighttime. on one of their first excursions, the girls become lost and stumble upon what they believe to be a band of gypsies late at night in the woods. Emily, the younger of the two sisters, is excited and totally into the mysteriousness of the gypsies. Kate, the beautiful and brainy sister, is instantly wary of these people and feels that something is not quite right. of course, her instincts are spot on. she soon learns of the goblin king Marak's intention to take her away to the kingdom under the hill and make her his bride. Kate does everything she can to stop this from happening...but will it be enough?

the book is broken into 3 parts - starlight, lamplight, and darkness. i can't really review the last two parts without giving away spoilers, but it made sense for them to be separated into parts. while there is clearly a cohesive story, i think this was the author's way of putting a separate focus for each segment and allowing for emphasis on certain characters and motives.

i started off like Kate: appalled, grossed out, and angry at Marak for trying to steal her to take her away to the creepy underworld of goblins and ick. but, much to my own surprise, about halfway through i felt myself warming up to Marak. maybe even starting to root for him! crazy, i know, but true. the author does a wonderful job of creating a complex and sympathetic character in Marak, while still maintaining his freakishness. i loved it. i think what really won me over is that i bought that he genuinely cared for Kate, more than just a "you're pretty, i'll take you away now" care. i didn't expect that turn by the author, but i was pleasantly surprised when it came. this wasn't exactly a romance, but the mystery of what exactly was going on intrigued me greatly.

Kate and Emily's adventure is full of suspicious characters, danger, using their wit, and staying true to who they are. Dunkle creates quite a plethora of creatures and gives each of them due attention by giving them a personal name and detailed portrayal. her elaborate description of the Goblin kingdom compliments her detailed characters and creates a rich fantasy world which i was able to completely immerse. the happy, quirky ending left me wanting more. which is quite something, since there was no cliffhanger. i want to read the next two books in the series out of pure desire in the kingdom and characters Dunkle created, not by a flustered need to quench my curiosity.

fave quote: "There on the roof crouched the squirrel. It sat up, chattering, and waved its tail at her. Kate had a vision of herself chasing it headlong down the gravel track, yelling like a banshee. No, perhaps she'd better not." (53)

fix er up: as this is a children's book, i shouldn't be too harsh on the over-the-top PG feel of the romantic interactions. Dunkle does a solid job of creating "awww" moments without being racy, but the YA lover in me would have appreciated a little kissing scene or something. meh well.

title: The Hollow Kingdom (Book 1 -- The Hollow Kingdom Trilogy)
author: Clare B. Dunkle
genre: Adventure, Fantasy

Review: The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

in a sentence or so: a time traveller shares his experience, 8 days in the year 802,701, with a intimate group of friends.

the time traveller (hereby t-t) invites a group over to unveil his time-travel theories and his model time machine. they are of course quite skeptical...but intrigued. the t-t invites them back for a second time to a dinner where he is nowhere to be found. he eventually shows up to the dinner looking ragged, limping, starving, and smelling something awful. after he cleans himself up and has a bite to eat, he shares with them his story of eight long, frightening, complicated, and unbelievable days in the year 802,701.

the way this story is told is through an unknown narrator, referring to himself only as "i", retelling the story of the t-t. so we get a couple chapters in the beginning with learning others reactions to the t-t ideas, and then the actual time travel experience is shared in story form by the t-t himself. the story-telling model was interesting, and i liked it effect it had on me as the reader as a more intimate sharing of the tale.

the t-t discovers that there are two vestiges of the human race left. there are the above-dwellers - little delicate, child-like people who eat fruit and pick flowers while wearing beautiful robes. and there are the bottom-dwellers - white, ape-like, creepy-nocturnal-eyed creatures that cannot be in the light and that cause some crazy fear in the above-dwellers. within mere moments of going to the future, the t-t's machine is stolen by the bottom-dwellers. he spends a good deal of his time in the future figuring out how to get back his machine. he keeps his story interesting and fresh by interspersing some foreshadowing of events, by explaining his conclusions and making sure that the listener (or in our case, the reader) connects with the emotions and his thought process. the t-t is trying to help us associate with his emotions and frequently provides a real life scenario to compare his experience to, so we might relate. i think it's pretty clear that the t-t gets the time machine back, although i wont spoil how that happens.

overall, i found the experience of the t-t to be interesting, different, and something i (a very inexperienced time traveller) was able to connect with. the foreignness of his situation was countered by his very relatable feelings of frustration, loss, fear, and will to survive and make it home. and i love, love, loved the ending. the unexpected air of mystery to finish the book, total opposite from the rest of the book which tried so hard to help us imagine what it would be like to be in the t-t's shoes, left the reader battling with ambiguity.

fave quotes: "The fact is, the Time Traveller was one of those men who are too clever to be believed: you never felt that you saw all round him; you always suspected some subtle reserve, some ingenuity in ambush, behind his lucid frankness." (13)
"But the problems of the world had to be mastered. I had not, I said to myself, come to the future to carry on a miniature flirtation." (the t-t, 53)

fix er up: it was really weird not knowing the characters names, only their description as the time traveller or the editor or whatever. but, i might deduce that this was so we, the reader, could insert characters from our own experience into those roles.

title: The Time Machine
author: H.G. Wells

genre: sci-fi, classic

Review: Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book One) by Maggie Stiefvater

in a sentence or so: when Grace was 8 years old, she was pulled from her backyard tire swing and attacked by wolves. Grace survived the attack thanks to a mysterious wolf with stunning yellow eyes, who continues to watch her every winter from the woods bordering her house. Grace knows there is something unique about her wolf, and is becoming increasingly aware that there is something unique about her too...

Grace is 17, lives in Minnesota, daughter to absent-minded parents and best friend to two girls with whom she begins to feel a growing distance. Grace has had a thing with wolves, particularly her wolf with the yellow eyes, ever since her attack. her parents dismiss it, as they do just about everything with Grace. when one of the popular boys from Grace's high school is killed, and then his body goes missing from the morgue, the townsfolk begin to blame the wolves and Grace knows she has to do something to protect her wolf from the desperate men looking for answers with their guns. little does Grace know that the answers the men are looking for with their guns will deliver the biggest answer Grace can possibly hope for - her yellow eyed wolf, Sam, at her doorstep. too bad he's bleeding like crazy because he was shot in his shoulder...

Grace and Sam, who have been in love with each other for years...just in an inter-species kind of way...have finally connected. the chapters alternate narrators between Grace and Sam, which gives us a sweet insight into their personality and into their view of one another. but, just because Grace and Sam are finally together, doesn't mean that everything is hunky dory with these new loves. there is a dark element, an impending doom and a sad past that permeates their relationship - not the least of which is the fact that this is Sam's last year to alternate between human and wolf. as the weather continues to drop, Sam get's closer to changing into a wolf and separating from Grace forever.

this truly is a love story. however, this is also a story about brokenness and finding a place where you belong, which Stiefvater weaves into her story naturally and shows the reader that finding our place is different for each of us. this book packs an intensity, particularly near the end, rich with taught emotions and the unsteady dare to hope. without spoilers, i want to say that the conclusion was extremely well done - in plot and in style.

fave quote: "Some days seem to fit together like a stained glass window. A hundred little pieces of different color and mood that, when combined, create a complete picture." (89)

fix er up: i had a tough time getting to form a connection with the characters. i liked their story, but i wasn't emotionally invested until about halfway through. i wasn't sure what made them tick as individuals, only together...but maybe that was the point?

title: Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book One)
author: Maggie Stiefvater
genre: Romance, Fantasy

Review: The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

in a sentence or so: in a timeless "us vs. them" set in the 1960s, the rival groups of the greasers and the socs experience ever-increasing tensions that eventually bubble over and result in death.

the book is narrated in a journalistic first-person style by Ponyboy Curtis. Ponyboy is a 14 year old greaser (lives on the east side, lower income) who lives with his two brothers, Darry and Sodapop. the Curtis boy's parents are dead, which means that they are all they've got left. well, each other and the rest of their gang. life is anything by easy for Ponyboy and the other greasers. especially for Ponyboy, who is a natural athlete and smart, he realizes he is against all odds to make something of himself. he sees the challenges his older brothers face in using their gifts - Darry has to stay home and make ends meet instead of going to college, and Soda, while genuinely loving his job as a mechanic, realizes that he wants more for his brother Ponyboy.

tensions between the greasers and the socs (short for socialite, the upper-class west side kids) have always been high strung, but after Ponyboy and another greaser are spotted with two of the Soc's girlfriends at the movies, it unleashes a rage and sets into motion a series of events that are tragic, intense, and challenging.

what struck me about this book was how much it felt like a character study. each time Ponyboy would discuss someone or introduce a new character, i not only got a description of their hair, eyes, dress, and any distinguishing features, but i also got an insight into the core of their being. each character, especially the greasers, were dissected and evaluated.

something that i really appreciated about this book was how Ponyboy dealt with the stress and trauma of the events. without giving spoilers, i will simply say that how he reacted to the tension and the fallout of the various confrontations fits into the character-study feel to the book overall. we see who Ponyboy really is in how he reacts to the intense drama, and we learn what sets him apart from the other greasers.

fave quote: "'You can't win, you know that, don't you?' And when I remained silent, he went on: 'You can't win, even if you whip us. You'll still be where you were before - at the bottom. And we'll still be the lucky ones with all the breaks. So it doesn't do any good, the fighting and the killing. It doesn't prove a thing. We'll forget it if you win, or if you don't. Greasers will still be greasers and Socs will still be Socs. Sometimes I think it's the ones in the middle that are really the lucky stiffs...' " (117)

fix er up: okay - i realize i am totally in the minority here, but i thought this was slow, cheesy, and predictable (except for the realistic reaction to trauma near the end by Ponyboy). now, i realize that the value of this story is in what it represents (the struggle of us vs. them, overcoming obstacles, finding your true self, etc.) and that it is one of the most challenged books ever because of the repeated drug/alcohol/violence by young people, and i even know that it was written by the author when she was 15-16. that doesn't change the fact that i literally almost gagged when someone told Ponyboy to "stay golden" with his final breaths. yes - i know it was in reference to a poem and it was special...but that seemed cheesy beyond all belief to me. it's not that i don't think that thugs/greasers can't appreciate Robert Frost or even be a fan of sunsets, it just didn't come off as believable to me in this book - despite the fact that they are based on real characters (says S.E. Hinton).

title: The Outsiders
author: S. E. Hinton
genre: Coming of Age, Challenged Title, Drama

Review: Envy (The Luxe Series #3) by Anna Godbersen

be warned: since this is the third in a series (The Luxe and Rumors precede this one), there are spoilers for the first two books. i will ardently avoid any spoilers for Envy.

in a sentence or so: all the drama, lies, bitchiness and (true to title) envy are back in true socialite style in this third installment of The Luxe series.

Envy picks up right where Rumors left off. and i mean that in the most literal way. it had been awhile since i read Rumors, and so it took awhile for me to feel back in the groove as a reader. but it all came back relatively quickly and before i knew it, i was immersed once again in the plush 1900-manhattan socialite life and drama.

Envy's predominant theme is widespread disappointment among all characters. there are ulterior motives for just about everyone in Manhattan, and almost no one is what they seem. the bulk of the plot centers around a Floridian retreat, and around the four main ladies: Elizabeth Holland (whose secret husband is gone), Diana Holland (hopelessly in love with Henry Schoonmaker), Penelope (hbic and wife to Henry) and Carolina (former maid of Elizabeth and Diana and rags-to-riches story). each chapter continues the style of rotating through these women and their individual story lines, which of course, overlap one another quite frequently. the effect, while fun and kept things interesting, came off a bit more like a soap opera than the previous books.

per usual, Godbersen lavishly accounts the dress, style, decor, hair, and all the other details of the guys and gals. not only does it help provide a solid mental image of the time and people, but it also showcases Godbersen's writing and ability to create detail in the readers mind.

all characters are guilty of repeated foils, misguided intentions, selfishness, and of course, envy. i feel like i know what the end result will be (the next book, Splendor, is the final chapter in the series) for most of the characters, but i am still having a blast finding out how we're gonna get there.

fave quote: "She tried to make her eyes widen in a cordial manner, though she still had trouble appearing to like people she did not, which Barnard had admonished as an unfortunate characteristic in both a lady of society and a peddler of secrets" (9 - referring to Diana H)

fix er up: this was an okay book as a stand alone read. it was clearly bridging the gap to the final book, so i have higher expectations for that one. Envy was still worth it for the drama and the absorbing historical-posh-writing style that Godbersen employs.

title: Envy (Luxe Series # 3)
author: Anna
genre: Chick Lit, Historical Fiction

Review: The First Horror by R. L Stine

in a sentence or so: the frasier family moves into what may be the creepiest and dingiest house ever. much scariness ensues.

i checked this out on an impulse during my last trip to the library. i thought, R.L. Stine? Fear Street? yes please! i anticipated a cheesy joke of a horror book that resolved itself and everyone was happy in the end. that's how i thought i remembered them being from when i read them 15 years ago. apparently, i need to get my memory checked.

Cally and Kody (twins), their brother James, and their parents move to 99 Fear Street, Shadyside. not only is the real estate agent a super-creep, the house is a total wreck and it appears to be haunted right off the bat after nearly decapitating Cally the first time she steps on the porch. but, Mr. and Mrs. Frasier (that's right, we never learn their actual names) insist that this will be a fresh start and lots of space for the former New York residents. but as things get weirder, and they discover attacking rats, ceilings dripping with blood, and green vomit coming from the sink...the Frasiers decide to do a little research about what they've gotten themselves into.

what they discover about their house on 99 fear street is unnerving, surreal, and downright creepy. let me tell you, R.L. Stine packed more horror into this book than i thought possible. granted, my bar was set pretty low to begin with, but i was pleasantly surprised by the creepy scenes he was able to create and the fear i felt.

this felt a lot like a script for a horror movie. while there are no token sex scenes (this is the mid-90s and a book for teens after all), there is a long drawn out kiss with the neighbor boy, working in a boutique in town, and hitting up a coffeehouse amongst the stabbings and disappearances. while the distractions may be fun in cinematic form, i found them to be dated and obnoxious in written form. i wanted more action! or suspense. or at least mystery...not wondering what high school was going to be like for them or if Anthony really liked Cally.

this book, while at times horribly dated and a bit hokey, was genuinely frightening. particularly near the end. i went through the first half with few surprises, but by the time i finished, i had to stay awake an extra hour doing other things to distract myself from the creepiness! as if the mere 150 pages wasn't enough to make this a quick read, the fact that every chapter ends in cliffhanger makes it almost unputdownable.

fave quote: "she had no way of knowing she would never see her brother again" (115)

fix er up: okay, i am a total sucker for being scared. so while this isn't the highest quality of literature, it gets the job done. the job being scaring the reader and making me want more!

title: The First Horror (99 Fear Street, No. 1)
author: R.L. Stine
genre: horror

Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

in a sentence or so: well...the title says it all really. the classic pride and prejudice with brain-gobbling
zombies tossed in for humor's sake!

with the same plot as Pride and Prejudice, PP&Z begins with a pretty darn fantastic opening line that sets the reader up with what to expect while on this literary journey - "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains" - a playful integration of the classic Austen writing with the silliness of zombies. Grahame-Smith experiments with acidity of tone with the dialogue from time to time more directly than Austen did. this helps match the overall witty and playful tone of the book, while keeping the demure and regent writing style. status, in addition to being denoted by wealth and family, is determined by one's abilities to slay the unmentionables. needless to say, the Bennet girls are quite known for their zombie-slaying techniques...and still known for their ridiculous mother and sometimes-noticeable lack of propriety.

since this is at it's core the same book as Pride and Prejudice, let me discuss what stuck out to me as i was reading. the characters, other than Jane, Elizabeth, Bingley and Darcy were all exaggerated for comedic affect. and well done too. from Charlotte to Miss Bingley to Mr. Bennet, the characteristics which Austen develops subtly are exploited (much to the joy of the reader) to enhance the satire. while Grahame-Smith does integrate zombies, brain eating, violence, and NINJAS, it is sometimes noticeably forced. but that's okay, because really, who would read this expecting anything shy of at least a bit ridiculous?

overall, Grahame-Smith does a solid job staying true to the original beauty and fantastic-ness that is Pride and Prejudice. his integration of the zombies as a theme provided a fun twist to the classic. even if you have less-than-zero interest in reading this book, at least flip through it to see the illustrations - quite worth your time! a zombie fighting Elizabeth Bennet was something i didn't even realize i was missing in my life, until i saw the illustrations. thank you Seth Grahame-Smith.

fave quote: "'Spoken like one who has never known the ecstasy of holding a still-beating heart in her hand', said Darcy" (directed at an overly-obnoxious Miss Bingley on pg. 44)

fix er up: just fine as it was. it wasn't taken too seriously, and kept true enough to the plot that i was pleased as a Pride and Prejudice die-hard.

title: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
author: Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
genre: Fantasy, Horror, Humor, Classic, Romance

Review: A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd

in a sentence or so: Shell's mam died a year ago. she and her brother, her sister, and her dad have been hobbling along ever since...until Father Rose comes to town and changes the way Shell experiences her life without her mam in the world.

Shell is 15 and raising her brother and sister on her own. sure, her dad is around, but he's either drunk or off collecting for the church's charity (and pocketing some for his booze). on the rare occasion that he is home, he orders Shell and siblings to pick rocks in the field (that he never plows), eats, and passes out. then, one Sunday during mass, Shell discovers a new priest in the pulpit. Father Rose is kind, warm, genuine, and fills Shell with a sense of purpose and love that she hadn't felt in a year.

things seemed to be going well for Shell - Father Rose giving her a new hope and purpose in life, her best friend Bridie and friend Delcan Ronan as solid school companions, and she was balancing being nice to her siblings while raising them at the same time. then, as soon as things become great, they turn sour. Bridie up and leaves without explaining to Shell why she's mad at her, and Declan (her eventual boyfriend) ditches, leaving Shell alone and feeling hollow. again.

i don't want to give anything away plot wise because things i expected to happen in a seemingly predictable coming-of-age-plot turned out not to be that way at all. in fact, there was even a real life gasp+hand over the mouth moment. no joke. this is still a coming of age in that Shell is 15, motherless, raising her sibs, and having to learn the hard (and incredibly awkward) way about periods, bras, and boys. even though i felt the plot was really solid and took some interesting and unexpected turns, it was the writing that really made this book shine.

the opening line -"The place brought to mind a sinking ship"- is vivid and set the tone of helplessness and struggle for the entire book. the writing style was crass and raw, yet tender and emotional. the overarching theme of emotional conflict and spiritual duplicity threaded the multiple plot points together to create a multi-faceted view of Shell and her community. ultimately, this was about Shell figuring out life in the midst of grief and loss, with hope and struggle, failure and success. the thoughtful choice of writing in the Irish vernacular to illustrate delicate and vivid images is icing on this cake. read it, you'll like it.

fave quote : "The place fell silent. Mrs Duggan led her down the aisle to the front. She saw a hundred fork-prong eyes, noses twitching, hands fluttering: like small animals salivating." (260)

fix er up: the resolution felt cyclical to me. like i wound up where i started...even though Shell was in a different place and the events shaped her.

title: A Swift Pure Cry
author: Siobhan Dowd
genre: Coming of Age, Hist Fic, Problem Novel

Review: Ironside (Modern Tale of Faeries Series #3) by Holly Black

(this is the third in a series. beware of spoilers for the first book, Tithe)

in a sentence or so: Kaye decides to tell her mother the truth about who she is - a big green faerie. in the meantime Roiben, Kaye's kinda-sorta-boyfriend and king of the Unseelie Court, is faced with constant battle and trickery by the rival Seelie Court. let the drama of the mortal world and the faerie world unfold!

Kaye is excited, yet unsure, with Roiben's coronation as king of the Unseelie Court. it wasn't too long ago that she lost a friend to the darker creatures of the world, and now her boyfriend is going to rule over them all. to make matters worse, she gets a little too excited about the faerie wine and makes a declaration to him that has deeper implications that she is aware of.

meantime, in Ironside (the mortal world), Kaye and her trusted friend Corny get into more trouble than they know what to do with. Kaye decides to tell her mother that she isn't really her daughter, that she was switched at birth. of course, that does not go well. Corny and Kaye are then on a quest - alone - to switch back the real Kaye AND try to make good on her declaration to Roiben AND try to stay alive in the meantime.

overall, the book takes place over a few short days...but it took me a few weeks to read it. i'm not sure if it was some reader's block or if it was just lack of interest in the story - but either way, i wasn't crazy about this one. i really did enjoy Tithe, so i thought i'd enjoy this one too. it felt like more of the same, but not as great.

fave quote: "Kaye wondered if everyone felt like there was a monster underneath their skin." (264)

fix er up: this just fell flat for me. i didn't care as much about the characters this time around - too many in general which meant that they didn't feel as developed or real.

title: Ironside (Modern Tale of Faeries Series #3)
author: Holly Black

genre: Fantasy

Review: Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess

in a sentence or so: Meredith's dad was put in jail three years ago for molesting children, her included. today is the day he gets out on parole, 6 years early, for good behavior. he's coming home, and her time has run out.

Meredith has been living with her mother and with the shame, embarrassment and fear of her father, the child molester. once he was a beloved coach and mentor of her hometown, now there is hardly a soul in town that hasn't heard about the victims and his offenses. Meredith has been trying to escape the constant harassment by spending time with Andy, the boy across the condo complex, and his mom. Andy is in a wheelchair, but how and why he is in the wheelchair is much more complex than a simple accident.

the entire book is dripping with anxiety and an overwhelming sense of discomfort. even before Meredith's dad comes home (which turns up the heat on the skeezy/anxiety factor), there is a sense of urgency, fear, and uncertainty. the small comforts Meredith is able to find - such as counting in fours, spending time with Andy and his mom, escaping to her grandma's (the mayor) house - are making her feel less and less at ease when she realizes her dad will offend again. it's simply a matter of who and when.

this story takes place over just a few days. but man, are those days packed with struggle and pain. the themes of love & pain and hurt & hope run through as a uniting factor. the desperation of Meredith is made worse by her mother, who is hopelessly attached to Meredith's dad, no matter what.

much like a Lifetime movie, this book has a powerful story in an okay format. the writing isn't fantastic, but it's emotional and thoughtful. there are some inconsistencies with character and plot, but overall, the message is intense and worth hearing. you will absolutely feel for Meredith and absorb her raw emotions as they pulse through the pages.

fave quote: "And I don't want to hurt anymore. I want to be someone who makes it through" (120)

fix er up: i didn't really understand the ending, but i think the main story was the important part anyhow, not the character wrap up.

title: such a pretty girl
author: laura wiess

genre: edgy, problem novel

Review: The Princess Diaries (The Princess Diaries, Book One) by Meg Cabot

in a sentence or so: Mia is your typical tall, awkward, and social outcast high school freshman. typical, that is, until she finds out she's a princess.

Mia lives with her artist mom in Manhattan. her best friend, Lilly, is a smart and socially conscious spirit with her own public access show that takes on the "tough" issues called "Lilly Tells it Like it is". mostly Mia is doing the best she can with being super tall, having huge feet, awkward hair, and surviving algebra. just when she feels like things couldn't get worse...she finds out from her dad that she is the heir to the throne of Genovia.

Mia is then expected to take Princess lessons (in exchange for daily donations to Greenpeace on behalf of her dad), while still doing homework and going to tutoring for her awful Algebra grade. turns out, being a princess doesn't make all your problems go away - it just piles more problems on top. in no time flat she's gotten into a huge fight with Lilly, had all her hair chopped off, humiliated the most popular girl in school, and is constantly swarmed by the paparazzi. yeesh!

Mia's voice was one that i easily related to and adored. she's self-conscious (constantly referring to her flat chest) but sarcastic and witty. she truly cherishes her best friend Lilly. she's wrapped up in the mysteries of boyfriends, crushes, first kisses...typical high school stuff.

i, as well as a majority of the people who would ever consider reading this book, have seen the movie before reading it. the two renditions are really similar, but the main differences are her grandmother, the fact that her dad is very much alive, and we get to have a deeper look into who Mia really is. i truly enjoyed reading her diary and experiencing the storytelling from her point of view. she's pretty clueless, but the reader is definitely able to read in between the lines to gain advantage of what the other characters are like in an honest portrayal.

at about 300 pages, i was still able to pound through this book in less than a week. i'm only sorry i didn't read it sooner! i'll be sure to pick up the next princess diaries novel asap.

fave quote: hard to say - i truly enjoyed so much of what she said and how she said it!

fix er up: having seen the movie, there were no "surprises" in there for me. that was a bit of a bummer, but not enough to have spoiled the read.

title: The Princess Diaries (The Princess Diaries, Book One)
author: Meg Cabot
genre: Chick Lit, Diary format, Romance, Humor

Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking Trilogy, Book One) by Patrick Ness

in a sentence or so: Todd is a mere month from ditching his status as the last boy to become a man in Prentisstown. little does he know, everything he's known - his entire life and history - has been a lie intended to cover up a horrible history that will cause him to run for his life.

Todd's altnernate-reality type world is unlike our own in many ways. for one thing, there's Noise. Noise is best described as hearing others thoughts and seeing the images in others minds. this includes animals. which means Todd frequently hears the thoughts of his dog, Manchee...and those thoughts typically relate to pooping and eating. the worst part about the noise is that you can hear everyone's noise in the whole town all the time. also - no women in Todd's world. none. so when Todd stumbles upon a space of total silence while in the swamp that turns out to be a girl his own age, he knows that his life is going to change.

i'm going to try and give as much of a review as i can without revealing the plot or throwing out spoilers. so much of this book is about slowly peeling back layers of Todd's origins and the mysteries of Prentisstown. essentially, Todd and Viola (the source of the silence he finds in the swamp) are on the run from the down-right evil men of Prentisstown. Todd and Viola quickly discover that people from Prentisstown are not welcome anywhere, and that the men from Prentisstown are relentless in their chase of Todd and have no qualms killing, burning, and destroying whatever and whomever may come in their way.

again - to avoid spoilers - let me just say that this book rocked. the escape from the unknown through the unknown into the unknown was fascinating and absolutely frightening. Noise is emotive as well as a means of conversation, but is also expressed in colors, shapes, and feels almost tangible. this creates an intensity to the characters and overall emotional investment in the plot. at times gruesome, at times hopeful, this read is ALWAYS consuming.

this book was thrilling, mysterious, exciting, scary, sad, and intense. mostly, the main characters - Todd, Viola, and Manchee - are so easy to relate to and care about that i was hooked from the first page and committed to reading about their discoveries of themselves and the world around them. the writing is excellent, the plot is creative and unexpected, and (yes i admit it) i cried while reading it. read this book, you'll love it.

fave quote: "The word was true. It's an army. A whole army. There's a whole army coming after me and Viola." (210)

fix er up: this is by far the most outrageous and nail-biting cliffhanger ending i've EVER read! good thing the next book is out already! i'll be getting my hands on that asap!

title: The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking Trilogy, Book 1)
author: Patrick Ness
genre: Coming of Age, Adventure, Edgy, Lisa's Faves, Fantasy

Review: Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

in a sentence or so: Marcelo is spiritually curious, loves music, has a gift with horses, and has what can asperger's syndrome. after Marcelo's dad challenges him to work a summer at his law firm to gain real world experience - if Marcelo is able to be successful at his job in the copy room, he can go to whichever high school he wants for his senior year - the public high school or his comfortable special private school. is Marcelo up for the challenge? is one summer of suffering worth enjoying his senior year?
best be described as high-functioning

okay, before i can even jump into the review, i need to say that i heard wonderful things about this book. i had really high expectations, and so when it was available almost immediately at my library, i was pretty surprised. also - how friggin' cool is this cover? gorgeous.

okay, on to the review. Marcelo isn't dumb, though most people probably mistake him for being slow or dim-witted. in social situations that require him to absorb a lot of information at once, require a quick verbal response, or working without a set schedule, Marcelo struggles. needless to say, working in the copy room with Jasmine at the law firm, meets every one of his anxieties. Marcelo has to do more than just survive the summer in order to get his share of the bargain, he has to succeed. without being sure what his success is measured by, Marcelo is challenged to learn, adapt, and grow. especially once he discovers a haunting photo related to a particular case being handled by the firm which is not in line with who he believes his father to be.

more than just an overcoming-the-odds story, this book has so many layers its hard to describe and do it justice. its all set from the viewpoint of a different lens than most readers are familiar with. Marcelo is the narrator, and so we read what he thinks, read what he experiences and walk with him as he processes and grows. we also learn about his look on life and infatuation with spirituality and how it affects who he is and the world around him. there are three major parts happening together - Marcelo in the law firm, Marcelo and Jasmine's relationship (and Wendell, the creepy son of another lawyer in the firm), and a big legal case that Marcelo is inexplicably drawn to.

this is a journey of self discovery, discovery of human nature, and grappling with that overwhelming and life-long struggle of what "doing the right thing" means.

this is one of those books that i will constantly encourage anyone and everyone to read! it was downright amazing. my review does not do justice to the immense adoration and love i have for this creative, thoughtful, inspiring, challenging, and incredibly well-written book.

fave quote: "But today - today I will just be." (230)

fix er up: i had a hard time figuring out how some of the smaller plot points tied together into the larger framework. but it didn't distract from the rest of the story.

title: Marcelo in the Real World
author: Francisco X. Stork
genre: Coming of Age, Lisa's Faves

Review: The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean

in a sentence or so: Sym is a bit socially awkward. that could be because she has an imaginary boyfriend
that's been dead for 90 years. or that her main hobby/interest in life is all things Antarctica related. so when her uncle offers her an all expenses paid (and quite suspicious) trip to Antarctica - she's game.

Sym, short for Symone, is a 14 year old who is known by her classmates for her hearing aids and her imaginary boyfriend, Titus Oates. not exactly a social butterfly. often looking inward to hang out with Titus or to reflect with her own thoughts, her efforts to talk to others often involve awkward exchanges and incomplete sentences. Titus hasn't always been a part of Sym's life though. it wasn't until after her father's growing madness and eventual death that Titus became the most real person in her life. that's not to say her mom doesn't love her (she does) or that her Uncle Victor doesn't take care of them (he helps pay the bills).

Uncle Victor (not a real uncle, but the friends-of-the-parents type of uncle) is to be credited for Sym's obsession with Antarctica. it is his life goal to go to The Ice and to take Sym, his right hand girl. so when presented with the opportunity to travel to Antarctica, even though she suspects some weird things are going on, she becomes his traveling companion willingly and enthusiastically. their journey brings them into The Ice with several other travelers, including a Norwegian father and son combo that intrigues Uncle Victor. after mere days of being on The Ice, Sym is resisting suspcisions that Uncle Victor has alternative intentions for their time there. suspicions that turn out to be true.

knowing this was a Printz Award Winner, i had high expectations. i was not disappointed. the plot - past and present, is revealed one layer at a time. some revelations are confirmed suspicions, some were shocks to me. also, the deceit runs thick with these characters. pretty much every character has something to hide - including Sym and her imaginary friend. despite the surface description of Sym, she really grew on me. i viewed her less and less like a weirdo and more like a normal teen as i read on. one of the things i liked the most about Sym was her take on Sigurd, the son of the Norwegian father and son combo. there was no romantic pining, no girlish giggling, no gushy-ness. i really appreciated the refreshing look on relationships and how Sym handled the affections of her constant companion.

this book is bursting with archetypes. most notable are the epic journey through the arctic wilderness, the good natured hero we find in Sym, the deceit running rampant, and how this is most of all a coming of age story. we begin to see Sym more clearly as she sees herself and others more clearly. sometimes that clarity brings pain, sometimes it feels rewarding. overall, a really great read. the descriptions of the arctic were great, the emotions were real, and the writing was solid.

fave quotes: "I like to do my daydreaming when I'm awake; but I didn't say so because that would sound loony. Some nights I don't sleep at all - not from midnight til morning because I'm with Titus and I've got such good imagining going, and, the next day, flashes of delight go through my stomach like electricity - as if something real and marvelous has happened and I've just remembered. But if I admitted to that, Uncle Victor would say that's why I'm so slow witted - because I waste my time and energy daydreaming." (44)

"When the White Darkness sets in, it's such a kindness. All shadows disappear - the sky, the ground - leaving nothing but a milky, trembling nothingness. It's a sweet light, a pleasant light, like lying under a sheet on a summer morning: the presence of light without any of the usual complications - like being able to see. Perfect ignorance was like this, I remember: a feeling of enlightenment without ever quite grasping what was going on. They call it the White Darkness." (305)

fix er up: i felt like it ended a bit abruptly when compared with the journey-tone of the rest of the book.

title: The White Darkness
author: Gerladine McCaughrean

genre: Adventure, Coming of Age

Review: Tithe (Modern Tale of Faeries Series #1) by Holly Black

in a sentence or so: Kaye and her mom move back in with her grandma in Jersey after her mom's latest attempt to be a rockstar doesn't turn out so well. it is when she moves back to the small town of her childhood that she starts to feel faeries on the edge of her existence. she is sure that the world of real life and magic are merging into one when she finds an elf (a pretty handsome one at that) dying in the woods.

Kaye's mom has been the lead singer in many a rock band. this means that Kaye has led a pretty nomadic life and seen her fair share of bizarre, unpleasant, and morally questionable things. but through it all, Kaye has always felt loved and encouraged by her mother. which is not always the case with her best friend in Jersey, Janet. Janet and Kaye go back to the days of elementary school, and so when Kaye returns to Jersey as a sixteen year old, Janet remembers her friend's knack for making up imaginary friends/creatures and seeing things that no one else can see. well, apparently that knack is still with her.

Kaye stumbles upon Roiben, a wounded elf, in the woods. through her help, he is able to stumble back home to his home, the Unseelie court. Kaye is being told by her childhood faerie friends that this handsome elf means to do her harm...something she has a hard time believing. what she can believe is the fact that she is starting to feel strange things happening to her and around her, and that her life is not at all what she thought it to be.

i had a tough time working my way into this book. i think part of that is because this is the first faerie book i've read, so maybe the names and mythology were supposed to be assumed knowledge of the reader and i just didn't have that assumed knowledge. i felt like the framework was established quickly and loosely, and it wasn't until about a hundred pages in that i felt comfortable with the story, the characters, and the direction. it finished strong, so i ended up really enjoying the read.

all of the characters are SERIOUSLY flawed, which is something i dig. they are also seriously humanistic, which is something else i dig. you get why people (faeries, queens, pixies, etc.) act and think the way they do. at times i felt like this wasn't a great read, but overall i enjoyed it more than i expected. after i was hooked into the plot, i was really hooked. i am genuinely interested to read the further adventures of the characters in Ironside.

there are twists and turns a plenty, laugh out loud moments, vivid descriptions of what the faerie realm is like, and the title of the book is the anchor of the plot - which i will not get into because that's a bit spoiler-y. i'd recommend this to fantasy genre junkies like myself for sure.

fave quote: "She smiled ruefully. 'But they never told me. They knew all this time, and nothing - not one hint.'' Kaye looked pensively at the joints of her fingers. Why should one extra joint make them horrifying? It did, though - flexing them bothered her." (119)

fix er up: more explanation on the background of the creatures and the plot development.

title: Tithe (Modern Tale of Faeries Series #1)
author: Holly Black

genre: Fantasy

Review: Roverandom by J. R. R. Tolkien

in a sentence or so: a naughty little puppy named Rover is quite rude to a crotchety magician. the magician, needless to say, does not take too kindly to Rover's rudeness and turns him into a toy pup. will Rover be able to ever become a real puppy again?

Rover, who reminds me a lot of the Pokey Little Puppy (which is like my FAVE children's book ever), ticks off a magician. his journey then begins on finding his way back to becoming a real dog. he is put in a store window and purchased by a mom for her son, Boy 2 (her second child). Boy 2 is smitten with the toy Rover, but Rover is more concerned about become real again, not just being some little boy's toy. one day on the beach, Rover slips out of Boy 2's pocket and waits in the sand for another magician to help guide him on his journey towards real-dog-hood again.

this was a really creative story. and no wonder, i mean it is written by Tolkien and all. Rover spends equal time on earth, on the moon, and in the sea. the writing feels like a parent telling their child a story, which it is. this was written by Tolkien for his son (Boy 2) after he was distraught over losing his toy dog at the beach (Rover). Tolkien draws heavily from Norse mythology in the weaving of his story and has plenty of nods to (then) cultural references. there is a note section in the back of this edition that helps guide the reader who may not be the most familiar with the year 1925 - when this was originally written.

complete with dragons, wizards, and the stuff dreams - and nightmares - are made of, Rover remained a realistic and sweet character. he meets lots of fun people and has lots of wacky experiences along the way, as any good adventurer does. this is a cute, fun, sweet and quick read for people of any age.

fave quote: "The moon-dog did not blush, because he could not; and he did not say anything, but he went and sat down in a corner and wondered how much the old man knew of everything that went on, and everything that was said, too. Also for a little while he wondered what exactly the old man meant; but that did not bother him long - he was a lighthearted fellow." 37

fix er up: i got a bit impatient for things to be wrapped up. i don't really know why...it's all of 80 pages!

title: Roverandom
author: J.R.R. Tolkien

genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle Trilogy, Book One) by Libba Bray

in a sentence or so: Gemma Doyle wants to go to london like every other 16 year old. she finally gets her wish...after she has a vision of her mom (which turns out to be real) committing suicide while escaping a mysterious black shadow beast.

Gemma arrives to Spence Academy in the middle of the year - which means everyone already knows each other, she has last pick of rooms/roommate, and is automatically the odd girl out. as if having weird visions that she can't control doesn't make her odd enough. after some cruel-yet-typical adolescent girl hazing, she finds her way into the popular girl crowd at Spence. her condition upon entering the popular clique is that they include Ann, Gemma's pudgy, boring, scholarship roommate. Gemma and Ann, combined with Pippa (the beauty) and Felicity (the powerful one), they start hanging out in a cave on the school grounds and take to reading an old mysterious diary...and then start doing magic...

though it started off a bit blah for me, things started to build up pretty quickly. especially with Kartik, the mysterious potential love-interest, who tells Gemma to avoid the visions at all cost. which of coruse, she doesn't. there are dark forces out there that are trying to get at Gemma, and she's just trying to figure it all out before it's too late. and keep her friends safe, and her spiritual connection with her mother, and learn how to be a proper british lady all at the same time.

since this is the first book in a trilogy, i think a lot of the novel was set up. a lot of character development, loose ends, and plot development. while i did genuinely enjoy the characters and the story, overall it felt a bit blah to me. not sure if i'll read the next two. maybe if i can read them for free... to be fair, i really did enjoy the wit, creative phrasing, and the feel of the book in general. the characters and the writing were complex, but very easy to relate to and stay in touch with throughout.

fave quote: "This is how fires start. With a spark. And I see the spark catching the wind." (375)

fix er up: just felt a bit blah to me.

title: A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle Trilogy, Book One)
author: Libba Bray
genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Review: Uglies (Uglies Trilogy, Book 1) by Scott Westerfeld

in a sentence or so: Tally is 15 and Ugly. the good news is, on her 16th birthday she gets to have the surgery that makes her Pretty - and then life is one big party! until she meets Shay, a girl who is just fine the way she is and knows of a place where everyone is Ugly. which leads Tally to the question: why would anyone want to stay Ugly for life?

Tally's best friend Peris turns pretty about a month before Tally is able to. while spying on him one night in New Pretty Town, Tally runs into Shay. Shay is also spying on her Pretty friends, but lacks the desire to join them that Tally has. but - they are both currently friendless, and become prankster friends pretty quickly. when Shay tells Tally mere days before their surgery (same birthday = same surgery day) that she intends to run away to the Smoke and stay Ugly forever, Tally is heartbroken her friend will not be there with her in New Pretty Town. Tally has resigned herself to live life without Shay, until Special Circumstances (super creepy organization) decides to use Tally as a spy. Tally is faced with the choice to either become a spy and betray the Smoke - or stay Ugly forever...

i really dug the futuristic / sci-fi aspect to this. it wasn't over the top sci-fi (which, for the record, i am okay with), but had a lot of potential realism in it. sure there were hover boards and dehydrated food and interface rings, but nothing was really that outlandish. which i think was the whole point. but anyway, Tally's journey and decision making was interesting. without being too spoilery, i will reveal that there is a love interest at some point (other than Peris) which is super cute.

while i am interested in the rest of the series (Pretties, Specials, Extras), i was not super in love with this. i think it picked up during the second and third sections, but a lot of it was explaining what things were like, how society had evolved from the Rusties (that's you and me folks) into the society they have now, etc... which was necessary, but not the most riveting thing for me to read. regardless, i enjoyed this book and am looking forward to seeing how the rest pan out!

fave quote: "Sometimes Tally felt like she could almost accept brain damage if it meant a life without reconstituted noodles." (367)

fix er up: i felt like it took forrreevvverrrr to get to the action of the book.

title: Uglies (Uglies Trilogy, Book 1)
author: Scott Westerfield
genre: Fantasy, Futuristic