Sunday, July 31, 2011

If I Stay

Have you ever had someone give you a detail about something and at the time thought, well, that can't be very important.  Then you were wrong.  So very wrong.  That's exactly what happened to me just before I started Gayle Forman's If I StayAs I began reading and got the gist of what was happening, I knew that that small detail made my continuation futile.  But you know me, I pressed right through up to the very end.  So, what I will tell you is that there is absolutely no way in this world that I would divulge that detail here.  However, I would love to share with you the premise of If I Stay (watch the trailer) with you.

In If I Stay, Mia is trucking along with her life as she knows it.  She and her family are treated to some unexpected time together due to a snow day that frees her, her brother, Teddy, her father, a teacher, and her mother, who refuses to work if her family isn't, from the usual.  The family chooses to visit Henry, Willow, and their daughter, friends of the family with whom they don't spend enough time.  On the way to visit, the family is in a terrible car accident.  At first, Mia believes she has escaped unscathed as she sees the devastating injuries her mother and father have.  Then, she sees herself.  She watches as paramedics work to try to save her and transport her to the hospital.

Mia is in "grave condition" and learns that she must choose whether she will go on to the next life with her family or is she will stay in this one with the people who are left here.  As we learn about Mia's condition, she inserts memories about her life, relationship with music, and other things that make her who she is.  This all builds up to the choice she must make. 

This is a read that I think those who have a passion for music would really love.  Mia is a star cellist who has hopes of attending Julliard.  Her boyfriend is a member of an up-and-coming rock band.  Her father is a former member of a punk band.  Music plays an important role in the novel and helps Mia make her choice.

Now, I must tell you that there is a sequel.  It's called Where She Went.  I will tell you that the Where She Went is told from Adam's, Mia's boyfriend's point of view.  That's it.  Not another peep.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Flavia de Luce Series

Who doesn't love a young girl who is obsessed with concocting poisons, solving mysteries with chemistry, and exacting well-deserved revenge on her sisters?  Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce is an amazingly interesting character.  Flavia is the main character in Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag, and A Red Herring without MustardShe is truly unforgettable. Watch a trailer for Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie here.

Flavia is nearly eleven years old and lives in rural England with her father and two sisters, Daphne and Ophelia (great names, I KNOW!) during the early 1950's.  Flavia's father is a devoted philatelist (stamp collector--just one of the perks of the book is the amazing vocabulary readers can learn).  Her sisters are the typical older sisters who are determine to make Flavia believe she is adopted.  Flavia's mother was killed in an accident shortly after Flavia's birth.  Even though Flavia doesn't have any memories of the beloved Harriet, she certainly feels the absence of what she never had.

Buckshaw, the name of the de Luce home, is surrounded by a small community, that despite it's seemingly isolated nature certainly experiences lots of excitement.  During the series, Flavia solves a murders using what every girl should- CHEMISTRY!  You see, Flavia spends most of her time in the abandon chemistry lab inside her home.  She is a self-made chemist and conducts experiments to solve her mysteries and sometimes to give her sisters skin problems.  It's brilliant.  She does everything from sneak around to gather samples to catch a killer to injecting chocolates with vomit inducing poisons.  Ahhhh, Flavia, you are my hero.

In my experience, these books are quite underappreciated.  They are so smartly funny!  Flavia insults her sisters with such flair, and she has even named her bicycle Gladys.  Seriously- amazing.  The first three books are available now; and the fourth installment, I am Half-Sick of Shadows, will be released on November 1, 2011.  So, you see, you have plenty of time to catch up before the new book is released.  I particularly love the stocking cap on the skeleton on the cover.  Are you kidding me?  That is awesome.

Flavia and Gladys....awwwww

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bad Girls Don't Die

I can sum up my impression of Bad Girls Don't Die for you in one word.  Scary.  And by scary, I mean the  creepy kind of scary like the old horror movies.  The movies that kind of get in the back of your mind and creep you out when you get out of bed in the middle of the night and your house is dark.  CREEPY!  Katie Alender, you certainly know how to write a thriller.

In Bad Girls Don't Die (watch the trailer), Alexis is just trying to figure out who she is.  She is determined not to fit in with anyone.  After her best friend, Beth, was bullied unmercifully and moved away, Alexis is not open to friendships with those left behind at her school, particularly the popular cheerleaders who are responsible for torturing Beth.  She withdraws into her photography and being a friend to her younger sister, Kasey.  Their parents are wrapped up in their own lives and do not seem to care that both of their daughters are becoming increasingly distanced from their peers.

Kasey, well, Kasey is what some people I know would call a WLK (weird little kid).  She is 13, but she is obsessed with dolls.  Not the cute Cabbage Patch type, but the creepy antique kind that seem to stare at you when you enter the room.  Alexis worries that this isn't going to bring Kasey out of her shell any time soon, but she feels that Kasey is misunderstood until one day Pepper (I KNOW!), Alexis's nemesis, accuses Kasey of breaking her little sister's arm.  Alexis was under the impression that Mimi had broken her arm accidentally while she and Kasey were running in the house.  When Alexis questions Kasey about this, something about Kasey begins to change, and change, and change.... Alexis must solve the mystery of a tragedy that happened long ago in their home and forge a relationship with an unlikely ally to try to save Kasey from what seems to be happening to her. 

Have I mentioned that this book is creepy?  Well, it is.  I love it!  Even better news is that the sequel, From Bad to Cursed became available last month, and a third will be available next year.  Let the creepiness continue!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Secret Society & The Trust

As you know, I love a good book.  I cherish it; I recommend it; I talk about it...the whole works.  But, if there is one thing I love more than a good book, it's a good, free book.  It's like winning the lottery to me.  I'm talking about one of those scratch off tickets, not the Power Ball of course.  I love it.  Through one of these amazing free experiences, I came across the Secret Society novels by Tom Dolby.  You too can try your hand at scoring free books if you become a fan of Harper Teen on Facebook.  Their frequent contests reward the faithful clickers with ARC's.  What could be better than getting a free book that can't even be bought yet?  I can't think of much.

After snagging an ARC of The Trust (which is now available), I purchased Secrect Society in order to get the full experience.  It had me at hello.  In this book, readers attempt to figure out the mystery as Nick, Patch, Lauren, and Phoebe, students at the exclusive Chadwick School are immersed into the dangerous, secret world of the Society.  Society members do not attempt to join, but are selected and notified by mysterious text messages they are expected to follow. 

After receiving the first mysterious message the initiates become part of a world they could have only imagined existed in New York.  Suddenly doors are open for them they would never have expected, but at what cost?  Membership in the Society appears as permanent as the tattoos its members are marked with during their initiation.  Ohhhhhh, good stuff.

In The Trust the characters continue to try to solve the mystery of the Society.  As they do this, they begin to learn how deeply involved their families are and how much of their lives they are expected to give to the Society.  The price of membership seems quite high, but it doesn't seem likely that anyone can leave.

These two books are really exciting.  Dolby weaves information from Egyptian mythology into the mystery and creates characters that are quite complex.  Tom Dolby has also written The Sixth Form (among other things), which is also about the prep school scene.  I'm planning to read this soon.  Note: Secret Society and The Trust are for older teens. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Eternal Ones

East Tennessee, New York City, crazy family members, reincarnation, and snake handling...yep.  Who wouldn't love this all rolled into one exciting story?  The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller offers readers all of that, and more.  Sometimes the setting of a story just grabs me.  When I began this book and realized that Haven, the protagonist, lived in a fictitious town of Snopes City, Tennessee, I was hooked.  Miller describes this as being a sleepy town in the mountains of East Tennessee.  I love books that happen in my area, and as if that weren't enough, Haven leaves East Tennessee to find her destiny in New York City.  Have I mentioned that's another place I love?  Well played, Kirsten Miller.

In The Eternal Ones, Haven Moore has always had a feeling that this was not her first experience on earth.  She has always had flashes of the life of a girl named Constance, whose great love was a boy named Ethan.  Unfortunately for Haven, her very strict grandmother considers the exploration of these visions to be an abomination and insists that Haven be cured of them.  But, when Haven feels certain she and Constance are linked because of her unexplained reaction to the celebrity, Iain Morrow, she turns her back on her family to discover her past.  Haven finds herself involved with the mysterious Ouroboros Society, a group who claims to understand those who connect with past lives.  However, this proves to be dangerous business.  As Haven learns more about Ethan and Constance, she fears she and Iain are doomed to repeat the past, and not just once, but again and again. Plus, I've got to tell you those Ouroboros folks, well, they're mean.  Scary!
I loved this one and am really excited about the release of the sequel, All You Desire, which will be available August 9.  According to information about All You Desire, Haven must struggle to help her best friend from Snopes as well as unravel more mysteries about the Ouroboros Society.  Sounds exciting, and just around the corner!  So, it would seem to me that if you haven't read Eternal Ones you should waste not even one minute starting it so you can be ready for the release of All You Desire

Click here to read my review of All You Desire.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How to be Popular

I have expressed my love for Meg Cabot before, so I am excited that I am celebrating what is in my little world called "Meg Cabot Eve."  Yep, you've got it.  I'm going to meet the great Meg tomorrow during her Overbite tour.  I am very excited to begin reading Overbite soon, but on this Meg Cabot Eve, I'd love to discuss one of my favorite, albeit under appreciated (in my opinion) books, How to be Popular.

In How to Be Popular, Steph Landry made a serious error as a sixth grader, which she has been paying for ever since.  She had the misfortune of spilling a cherry big gulp on Lauren Moffat's white Dolce & Gabbana skirt.  Now, five years later she is determine to overcome "being such a Steph Landry." 

This girl's got a plan.  She is going to totally own her junior year with the help of a book entitled How to be Popular.  Oh yes, she's read it cover to cover.  She's taking it seriously.  She will follow every rule.  The only problem is that this book was written in the 1950's...right down to the clothing recommendations.  Steph Landry has it under control.  This story explains how Steph follows this advice, struggles to maintain her friendships, and find out who she really is.

One of my favorite things about a Cabot book is her sense of humor and how she brings pop culture into the story to make it even more hilarious. How to be Popular may be one of the most hilarious examples of this to date.  Read this quote from the book:
Clearly," Jason said, "you are not doing nothing. You are most definitely doing something. What it looks like you're doing is pouring packets of sugar on Lauren Moffat's head."

Shhh," I said. "It's snowing. But only on Lauren." I shook more sugar out of the packets. "'Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter,'" I called softly down to Lauren in my best Jimmy Stewart imitation. "'Merry Christmas, you old building and Loan.'"

Jason started cracking up, and I had to hush him as Becca saw my sugar supply running low and hastened to hand me more packets.

Stop laughing so loud," I said to Jason. "You'll spoil this beautiful moment for them." I sprinkled more sugar over the side of the balcony. "'Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night."
Meg Cabot (How to Be Popular)

If you are not laughing now, you should seriously consider counseling.  This is funny stuff! So, while I plan to dream of sugar plums on this Meg Cabot Eve, I wish the old building and loan my best!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dark Divine

Do you love those classic stories with a new twist?  If so, Dark Divine, by Bree Despain should darken your door.  In this novel, the parable of the prodigal son, monsters, and love unite to form a triangle of intrigue!  Dark Divine addresses that perfect family everyone wants to be part of and allows the reader to see beyond the perfect facade.

In Dark Divine, Grace Divine (amazing name!) struggles to be as good as her older brother Jude.  Grace and Jude attend the same high school where Grace does her best to do her best, but Jude is impossibly perfect.  Their father, the idolized pastor in their small town, and their mother expect their children to live up to the name Divine.  Everything seems wonderful, but there is something mysterious they just don't talk about.

Jude's best friend, Daniel, disappeared three years before the start of the novel.  Daniel came from an abusive home and spent some time living in the Divine household while his mother tried to piece together her life.  But one day, Jude comes home covered in his own blood; Daniel disappears, and no one will talk about what happened.  Grace isn't able to let go of her memories of Daniel or her questions about that day.  When Daniel shows up, her family cannot understand the attraction Grace has for Daniel.  But when mysterious killings start up in the nearby city, Grace cannot help but question Daniel's role in it all.

I really liked how Bree Despain set the paranormal tale in the home of a pastor.  Grace uses her religious beliefs to make decisions about how to deal with her relationship and her father is seen as a hero to her and others as well.  I also like how Despain explained the existence of monsters.  I thought it was really interesting.  Dark Divine is followed by The Lost Saint, which is available now.  The Lost Saint (warning!  These two links have spoilers for those of you who haven't read Dark Divine)  promises to introduce new characters and continue Grace's struggle to come to terms with what she learned in Dark Divine.  The third installment will be available in December of 2011.

Another positive for this tale is the endorsement by Becca Fitzpatrick on the back of the book.  You know my love for the Fitzpatrick!  She loved this book, and I agree.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ruby Red

We've all been told we inherited something.  Maybe its our mother's eyes or our father's love for reading.  But what if there was more?  What if our genes could also determine those out of this world abilities we've all dreamed about?  What if time travel didn't require a machine, but instead it required a gene?  Sound crazy?  Well, its been identified, people.  Reference this very scientific illustration for confirmation. 

OK, well, it may not be that simple.  However, this is the premise for Ruby Red by Kerstin GierRuby Red (watch a cool trailer here) ,which was first published in German in 2009, has been gathering fans all over the globe.  The 2011 United States edition was "Translated from the German" (I love that it says that) by Anthea Bell. 

In this first installment of a time travel trilogy, Gwyneth Shepard has inherited the time traveling gene, despite everyone in her entire family (including Gwyneth herself) spending the last sixteen years thinking her cousin Charlotte inherited the gene instead.  The Guardians who seem to be the stewards of the two families who possess the time travel gene prepare time travelers for what they might encounter in their travels back in time.  Since no one thought Gwyneth had inherited the gene, she is not prepared to meet the dangers she confronts in the past.  However, the Guardians seem to be more than kind caretakers of time.  Gwyneth's mother is very skeptical of their practices and warns Gwyneth not to trust anyone.  As she moves into the past more often, she begins to question who and what she can believe. 

The Guardians have a way of keeping track of the travelers which assigns each a gem.  Since the ruby is Gwyneth's gem, I hope Sapphire Blue (available in the U.S. in the Spring 2012) will explain the tale of Gwyneth's rebel cousin Lucy.  The final installment is entitled Emerald Green.  If my gem theory is accurate, this should give readers the details of the mysterious and dangerous Count Saint-Germain.  Scary!

I really like the way the time travel and suspense is sprinkled with funny scenes.  For example, Gwyneth's friend Lesley is amazing.  She is always preparing files Gwyneth can use to prepare herself.  Also, the fact that Gwyneth's whole family is so mad at her for stealing Charlotte's gene cracks me up as well.  How dare she?  I mean, really.  Gene stealer.