Monday, April 25, 2011

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

Title: The Demon's Lexicon
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Publisher: Simon and Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pages: 336 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Read it on my Kindle

Nick and his brother, Alan, have spent their lives on the run from magic. Their father was murdered, and their mother was driven mad by magicians and the demons who give them power. The magicians are hunting the Ryves family for a charm that Nick's mother stole -- a charm that keeps her alive -- and they want it badly enough to kill again.

Danger draws even closer when a brother and sister come to the Ryves family for help. The boy wears a demon's mark, a sign of death that almost nothing can erase...and when Alan also gets marked by a demon, Nick is desperate to save him. The only way to do that is to kill one of the magicians they have been hiding from for so long.
 
Ensnared in a deadly game of cat and mouse, Nick starts to suspect that his brother is telling him lie after lie about their past. As the magicians' Circle closes in on their family, Nick uncovers the secret that could destroy them all.
 
This is the Demon's Lexicon. Turn the page.

Review:

Alan and Nick Ryves are no strangers to sudden moves with their unbalanced mother, who carries a charm the magicians want and constantly pursue the family for. While staying in Exeter, the brothers are approached for help by two local teens. Pink-haired Mae and her little brother Jamie have a problem--one related to demons, the very beings Nick and Alan regularly fight. Jamie has been marked by demons and Mae is willing to do anything to save him. Nick does not plan to help them, but reluctantly agrees to do so after Alan is given a demon's mark too. After discovering that Alan has been lying to him, Nick will stop at nothing to uncover what's been hidden from him and may find more than he wants to know.

I have serious love for the characters in this book. All four main characters in this book have great characterization and are the kind of memorable that most other authors never achieve. First there's Nick, the bad boy who is actually a bad boy and has difficulty connecting to anyone around him. This peek inside the head of a bad boy. Alan's love for his brother knows no bounds and his lies are near-perfect, unrealized sometimes by even the people closest to him. (I normally don't take sides on this kind of stuff, but I know which boy I like better.)

Mae was a great female lead, spunky and brave and willing to give anything for others. The whole reason I read this book was so I could get to The Demon's Covenant, the second book in the series and a book she narrates through third person point-of-view. Jamie is less memorable than his counterparts, but his easy interactions with Nick and the revelations about him near the novel's climax make me want to see more of him.

The plot, while it wasn't able to grip me at first, did eventually get me interested as the four sought out magicians to cure Alan and Jamie of the demon marks, going everywhere from the Goblin Market to a house for possessed humans. My favorite part of the plot was the contrast between Nick and Mae during the efforts to find magicians and cure Alan and Jamie. One character is almost emotionless; the other is overly emotional at points, even without Nick's narrative bias. Despite this, they share the same single-minded determination to cure their brothers of the demon marks. I have no clue why it did this, but that little thing stuck out to me as one of the strongest points of the book: how two people, different as they are, become the same through how much they care for their family.

The plot and characters may have been strong points, but they were not enough to keep me glued to the story. You know some books capture you and make you finish reading it in one sitting, or how they may at least make you think about the characters when not reading and then sneak away to read about them when you have the chance? The Demon's Lexicon was missing that essential spark. I planned to finish it on a certain day and I put it off for three more days. There was literally a moment where I said to myself, "I have to stop reading this book." And not because it was too much for me--I just got so sick of reading it. Good books aren't supposed to make you do that, right?

The writing had its weak points, too. Some of you may know of Cassandra Clare and her unusual similes. I ,for one, remember hair being compared to the startled tendrils of an octopus in the half of City of Bones I could stand to read before I gave it back to my friend because I got bored. It appears that her writer friend Brennan picked up this penchant for similes, though hers did not leave me asking "what the hell?" the way Clare's did. Simile overdoses happened to me a few times in the course of The Demon's Lexicon where there seemed to be a simile for at least every other description! Simile haters will want to avoid this book.

The final flaw may be a subjective one that is influenced to all the research I did before picking up this book, but I just have to mention it. I came into the book with the ending twist spoiled for me, but I feel that if I had come into the book unspoiled, I may have been able to call that twist early on. I know how to connect two and two. Considering Nick's narration and... I wish I could talk further about it, but I don't want to turn this into a spoiler review and I may have given away too much already.

With such feelings for The Demon's Lexicon, I'm not as sure I want to read its sequel The Demon's Covenant anymore, though Mae narrates that one and I love Mae. I guess I'll keep it in mind, but it won't be a priority read. So many delicious threads left hanging, but the fear of another book that will lack the ability to keep me reading...! Oh, what a dilemma! Something tells me that fans of Supernatural might enjoy this book and demon fans would too.


What am I reading next?: Fallout by Ellen Hopkins

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Touch Mortal by Leah Clifford

Title: A Touch Mortal
Author: Leah Clifford
Publisher: HarperCollins/Greenwillow Books
Release Date: February 22nd, 2011
Pages: 416 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: through Amazon Vine


Eden didn't expect Az.
 
Not his saunter down the beach toward her. Not his unbelievable pick-up line. Not the instant, undeniable connection. And not his wings.
 
Yeah.
 
So long, happily-ever-after.
 
Now trapped between life and death, cursed to spread chaos with her every touch, Eden could be the key in the eternal struggle between heaven and hell. All because she gave her heart to one of the Fallen, an angel cast out of heaven.
 
She may lose everything she ever had. She may be betrayed by those she loves most. But Eden will not be a pawn in anyone else's game. Her heart is her own.
 
And that's only the beginning of the end.

Review:

For some reason, all of Eden's friends and family are forgetting her. Her dreams of getting out of her tourist town and living on her own are going up in smoke and death isn't looking too terrible. Then along comes Az, a guy she meets on the beach and who drops her such a ridiculous pick-up line that she went out with him. Two weeks later and in love, she discovers his big secret: he's an angel, part Fallen and struggling to keep from finishing his Fall. Shortly after, she dies and awakens as a Sider, someone with the power to spread Touch to humans. She is trying to gain control of her unusual powers, but her connection to Az means that she will not be left alone.

The book's biggest problem is in its premise, specifically how people become Siders when they commit suicide. After their death and sometimes before, their friends and family will forget who they are. This apparently leads to their fate, in many cases. Was there a good reason all the Siders had to be forgotten? Couldn't their family and friends have remembered them after they died? The only reason I can think of against this is that it would make it difficult for the Siders to start over elsewhere. But the message that people who kill themselves are forgotten? Not funny. As someone who has experienced suicidal urges before, this is upsetting. Imagine how that might be for someone who still struggles with those feelings!

There were still a few holes in the mythology when I finished the book, mostly having to do with why Siders exist, but I did appreciate that some questions were answered. Why Eden is a special Sider? That does have an answer, though it doesn't come out until the very end. It's no case of Unreasonable Special here, folks. The mythology used in the novel was an interesting one, but my irritation with most of the cast kept me from enjoying it fully. The vocabulary of Siders, Upstairs, Downstairs, Fallen, etc. was easy to connect and follow. It does make me wonder why the author couldn't just use Heaven and Hell because we all know that's what they were.

The characters. Where do we start? Eden. What I did like about her was that she was rightfully angry when it came out that Ass Az and Gabriel knew what her future was and didn't try to tell her about Luke. It makes my blood boil when I see heroines be okay with other people doing "what's best for them" without ever talking to them, and the way no one ever seemed to trust her with anything made me angry with her.Then she would act high and mighty over other Siders and I would want to scream at her. Being able to kill them does not put her on a pedestal above them because she's still a Sider just like they are. Due to how they become Siders, I don't see how one would be superior to another.

Ass Az did not win much favor from me either, what with how he manipulated Eden and planned to make her kill herself "for her own good." How is it that a centuries-old immortal acts like a fourteen-year-old boy when he falls in love, by the way? I find that an little unrealistic (and don't say anything about realism in a fantasy novel because I've already heard it). All we see is their first date. There's a two week time skip and now they're in love. The romance is a big motivator for Eden and Ass Az, so this needs to be believable for it to work. Without development, their romance is unbelievable and the story suffers for it.

Just about the only member of the cast I liked was Kristen because she was delightfully unbalanced and interesting. Everyone else, from Adam the possessive boy toy (seriously, lay off--the girl chose you and you should trust her, not get possessive every time Ass Az comes around) to Gabriel the angel (who constantly said Eden should get back with Ass Az or else he would Fall--way to pressure her, man) to Libby the other Sider, got on my nerves. I would only read further books if they were about Kristen and how she runs her household.

I will give A Touch Mortal credit where credit is due. In the last fifty pages, I was honestly interested in what happened. I knew Eden and Az would be fine and one of the villains would die, but I wanted to see what else would happen. One big twist was visible from a mile away, but the other was completely unexpected and left a lot open for the sequel. The way all the Sider and Upstairs and Downstairs stuff goes without explanation can annoy some readers, but I liked that. I got the hang of it easily and appreciated that the author seemed to think their readers intelligent enough to figure it out themselves. I'm sick of authors talking down to me with stuff like that.

According to what I found on author Leah Clifford's website, this is the first book in a planned trilogy. Because of my dislike of most of the characters and the suicide thing mentioned much earlier, there is no way I am going to read the next two books. Feel free to try it for yourself, though. Maybe you'll like it more than I did. I should have known better--angel books and I don't mix. At least the mythology and angels weren't what made me mad this time.

2 stars!


What am I reading next?: The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty

Title: The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Publisher: Scholastic Inc./Arthur A. Levine Books
Release Date: October 1st, 2006
Pages: 488 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Checked it out from my school library (which took me two and a half years to discover!)

Bindy Mackenzie is the most perfect girl at Ashbury High. She scores in the 99.9th percentile in all her classes. She holds lunchtime advisory sessions for her fellow students. She keeps careful transcripts of everything said around her. And she has been Kmart casual Employee of the Month for seventeen months straight.

No wonder somebody wants to kill her.

Bindy is horrified to learn she must take part in the Friendship and Development Project--a new class meant to provide a "life raft" through "the tricky seas of adolescence." Bindy can't see how airheaded Emily Thompson, absentminded Elizabeth Clarry, mouthy Toby Mazzerati, malicious Astrid Bexonville, silent Briony Atkins, narcissistic Sergio Saba, and handsome, enigmatic Finnegan Blonde could ever possibly help her.

(Well, maybe Finnegan could.)

But then Bindy's perfect life begins to fall apart. She develops an obsession with the word "Cincinnati." She can't stop feeling sleepy. She fails an exam for the first time ever. And--worst of all--she just doesn't care.

What could be the cause of all these strange events? Is it conspiracy? Is it madness? Is it... murder?

Lots of people hate Bindy Mackenzie--but who would actually kill her? The answer is in Bindy's transcripts. The detectives are the members of her FAD group. But Bindy has made every one of them into an enemy... and time is running out.

Review:

Number one in all her classes for years, Bindy Mackenzie believes herself to be above all the drama and silliness of teenage years, saying more than once that she is not a teenager and never has been. When thrown into the Friendship and Development class with seven other people she does not know or care for, Bindy is unsurprisingly unhappy. After a few months and occasions where she upset pretty much everyone, strange things start to happen to Bindy. She feels unwell and her grades are quickly diving. Could someone be trying to kill Bindy? The evidence doesn't look good.

There is rarely anything more uncomfortable for me than reading a character that is almost exactly like me. Because I am... unique, as many people have called me in both the good and bad ways, this almost never happens, but Bindy reminds me so much of me that I wanted to throw the book and scream at it. (I didn't, if you're curious; I don't do that to books I get on loan.) Bindy did many things I know I do, like scoff at teens and think of how I'm above all that stuff, and I hated it. The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie showed me through its main character all the things I hate about myself and the way I behave. Her inability to connect to others mirrored my own, but I'm not sure I'll ever be able to learn how the way she did in the course of this novel.

Sorry about that little tangent. Back to the book. Bindy is a layered character that despite her unlikability, is easily sympathetic, especially when her dad enters the picture. Treating your daughter more than a little bit like an employee? Not cool. It's kind of strange and more than a little sad to be in this girl's head because even though it's so obvious that she's really judgmental and disconnected from others, she honestly believes she's helping other students and being nice to them. Supporting characters like bubbly Emily (who is apparently a main character in another novel, as is Elizabeth) won me over too.

Epistolary novels don't come my way often and it leaves me wondering why the heck not. The mixture of memos, letters, emails, transcripts, and reports, all written by Bindy (except for some bits near the end, but forget about those) come together to form a more entertaining story than I thought there would be. Bindy's unorthodox (for a teenager) narration style made me smile at more than a few points. In my head, I could hear Bindy's dramatic shouts of formal language. Other, more urgent books were laying around, but Bindy and her story wouldn't let me go.

And then out of almost nowhere in the end comes a big mystery! I saw one review call it preposterous, but I thought that it worked quite well. When going back and looking through everything related to the mystery, it all ties together and makes a surprising amount of sense. This does provide a nice case of reader whiplash, though--it's a sometimes-funny, sometimes-painful story of a brainiac realizing her flaws one minutes and a tense mystery the next where everyone's scrambling to find out what's wrong with Bindy and whose fault it is.

It's a good thing my library has Moriarty's other books too! Despite being the third book in a series that (thank goodness, or else I would have messed up) doesn't need to be read in order, The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie was good enough to make me want to read the other three books in the series. But which book of the series to read next? Decisions, decisions... Even without reading the other books, I can happily recommend this series and especially The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie. It's definitely more than the average teen-problems novel.

5 stars!


What am I reading next?: A Touch Mortal by Leah Clifford

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Flecks of Gold by Alicia Buck

Title: Flecks of Gold
Author: Alicia Buck
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc./Bonneville Books
Release Date: May 8th, 2010
Pages: 282 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Christmas gift.

Mary's life has always been pretty normal--aside from the fact that her mom cycles through relationships like she's changing channels on the TV. But when one more bad break-up forces them to start over in another new town, Mary realizes that maybe this place won't be like all the others. There's something different about one of her new classmates, and it's not just the fact that he's incredibly cute.

What Mary doesn't know is that her attraction to Kelson isn't exactly... natural. And when Kelson suddenly kidnaps Mary's mom and takes her to his home world, Mary will have to rescue her by relying on something she never knew existed--magic.

Get lost in this spell-binding world where enchantments are commonplace and electricity unheard of. Flecks of Gold is a thrilling blend of fantasy, action, and romance that's a must-read for anyone who's ever believed in magic.

Review:

After a violent confrontation with her mother's boyfriend Joe, Mary and her mother flee to Arizona to get away from him. Immediately, a strange boy named Kelson locks onto her. Despite her attraction to him, she remembers every now and then that something might not be right here. Then he shows off some magic and kidnaps her mother. Without a second thought, she mimics the same kind of magic he did and goes from Earth to Esa, a land on an alternate plane of reality. With a newly-acquired teacher named Breeohan in tow, Mary sets out to get her mother back from Kelson.

Let's get this out of the way immediately: I hated this book. It was badly written, see-through like the clean windows of a house, and as dull as a monotone lecture on toe fungus. Solitary drops of water on a tabletop are deeper than this book ever was! The only nice thing I have to say about this story is that the idea of the magic lacings was a new one that was kind of interesting. Otherwise, Flecks of Gold was insulting to my intelligence, written without any life to it, and didn't bring anything new to the table. It was just a collection of fantasy cliches with pretty packaging.

Let's start with out heroine Mary. I wanted to cut off her head so no one would have the time to heal her with lacings. This girl was a perfect Mary Sue heroine and if you look through my reviews, you can see that I don't throw around the writing term "Mary Sue" lightly! She's supposed to be so mature because she handles all the bills for her mother and takes care of the money, but this girl is nothing but an immature little brat who gets everything handed to her. I mean it--everything is so damn convenient for her. She just happens to land in the chicken coop of a mage willing to help her learn magic. Then she runs into another mage who is willing to teach her magic. Despite how dangerous it is to experiment with lacings and how rare it is to see full lacings, Mary does both of these easily.

She doesn't have to work hard to do anything or makes sacrifices. It really is unusual for mages to see complete lacings, let alone experiment with lacings, but she does it all so easily. This isn't interesting to read about! I want to see the heroines struggle and work hard to become powerful because that is interesting and seeing them work so hard to get what they want makes me feel warm inside. When they do what Mary does and are just perfect at it despite knowing little about it at first, I don't want to read about it.

Another thing heroines should do is adapt when thrown into unfamiliar surroundings because it indicates strategic thought. Katniss of The Hunger Games fame did it and she survived. Chloe of The Summoning did it for her own benefit. Even Rose Hathaway of Vampire Academy had to adapt when she and Lissa escaped from their school to live in the human world and it worked for two years. Mary adapts when forced to and otherwise acts like she's back home. She's experienced for herself thanks to her special golden eyes that the abnormal is scorned. Then she spends all her time acting abnormal without any thought of how they might treat the abnormal in this obviously different world.

One of the biggest sources of "conflict" (this is in quotations because it was such a manufactured conflict that it doesn't count in my eyes) was her romantic troubles with her magic teacher Breeohan. She thinks he likes this one mean girl, and then he thinks she likes this friend of his they're traveling with. This "conflict" is kept up for two hundred pages, only kept going because they won't sit down and talk to each other for five minutes about it. This is not how you do romantic conflict, people. Give them a bigger problem than being too stupid and hard-headed to sit down and talk.

Speaking of Breeohan, he was about as see-through as a pane of glass. There was never a question of whether or not he liked Mary like there should have been; there was also never a question about whether or not she liked him. The entire cast was one-dimensional! I would call them two-dimensional, but that would be an insult to cardboard characters. These guys aren't even close to that. From Avana the rude noblewoman to Kelteon/Kelson the villain to our two main characters Mary and Breeohan, no one gets any depth whatsoever. We never find out why these people do the things they do or are the people they are.

And to finish, I will say that I have never been so insulted by a book in my life. Mary spends the entire book narrating with huge hints like "he looked at me intently" (which soon became a sign that there was way more to it) and "it was like (scenario here that later turns out to be true)." Fifty pages in, I called every single twist in the book (and I mean every twist; no exaggeration here) and how it was going to end because there was were these blinking-sign hints for all of the twists. It made me feel like the author was talking down to me, thinking me so stupid that I needed all these obvious hints to understand when I could figure it out just fine.

When applied to a book, the word "execution" often means how well an element of the story was written or pulled off. A book that had a well-written plot might have the sentence "The plot was executed well" said about it. Another definition of "execution" is one where it means someone dies, like a criminal is executed. This is one instance where I would say this book's idea was executed and mean the second definition. If written better, this idea could have gone places and made me fall in love. Instead, this high-potential idea was executed without mercy. Can someone else please read this to see if they find the same problems I did?

0 stars!

What am I reading next?: The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver

Title: The Demon Trapper's Daughter
Author: Jana Oliver
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: February 1st, 2011
Pages: 340 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: through Amazon Vine.

Rebellious teen Demon Trapper Riley Blackthorne just needs a chance to prove herself--and that's exactly what Lucifer is counting on.

It's the year 2018, and with human society seriously disrupted by the economic upheavals of the previous decade, Lucifer has increased the number of demons in all major cities. Fortunately, humans are protected by trappers, who work to keep homes and streets safe from the things that go bump in the night.

Riley has always dreamed of following in her father's demon-trapper footsteps. But when tragedy strikes and a top-level demon murders her dad, Riley finds herself in for a much more dangerous future than she ever could have imagined.

Review:

In 2018 Atlanta, the city and the United States as a whole is pretty much bankrupt, demons are everywhere, and trappers and hunters are hard at work to keep demons off the streets so they won't kill people or claim souls for Hell. Riley Blackthorne is a demon trapper apprentice, the first female demon trapper in Atlanta, and her dad is the infamous trapper Paul Blackthorne. She's got plans to get places in the city, even after Grade Five Geo-Fiend comes along and kills her dad. Now left to fend for herself, Riley's in danger. The demons know her and will do anything to get her. Beck, a good friend of Riley's father and her pseudo-guardian, is trying to help Riley survive and stay safe, but she's not having any of it.

Going into this book, my expectations were low. For no reason at all, I read the acknowledgements and found two people being thanked for helping the author with her book: PC and Kristin Cast (the latter of whom apparently helped fine-tune some of the dialogue). I believe them to be below-average writers, and the thought of those two having a hand in a book with so much promise in its premise, led to me making a face like this:


(Except with longer hair, not naked, and without ducks.)

Thankfully, I saw very little influence from the Casts within the novel. Overall, The Demon Trapper's Daughter was a fun book and just on itself a new fan, most likely for the entire trilogy.

Riley was a tough girl and I came to find myself caring about her after the first few pages. I had to put my book down during the funeral scene because I just couldn't bear to see her and Beck going through that right after reading about how Paul died. Her actions were not always smart, but she tried to do what she thought was best. Even better, there was less angsting than expected. Despite her father's death, Riley did not let the grief take over. She had to make money and keep going, after all.

The romance also managed not to take over the book. Riley has three dudes around her that look like romantic interests: Beck, former crush and aforementioned pseudo-guardian; Simon, a very religious trapper; and the mysterious Ori, who does not show up until about three-fourths of the way through the book. With this many guys, romance drawing attention away from the plot could be so easy. Thank God it didn't happen! I had a few complaints about how quickly and unbelievably her relationship with Simon developed, but considering what could have happened, I'm okay with that. I'm sure it won't last anyways.

The narrative voices of both Riley and Beck, our constantly switching narrators, were both entertaining and easy to read. They sounded very similar, but I'll excuse this because the book was in third person, not first. If it had been in first person, that would be a pretty bad flaw. Sarcastic narrators are like kittens for me: I love them and want to cuddle the no matter how much they try to protest. The demons running around, both large and tall, were so much fun or very terrifying, depending on what level they were. I had a soft spot for a little demonic thief living in Riley's apartment. Speaking of that Klepto-Fiend, what happened to it? Is it still living in her apartment? I missed it.

For the first hundred pages, the pacing is almost dead slow. Her dad dying, staying at his grave every night to keep the summoners/necromancers from getting him, etc. Pretty boring. And I kept asking, "Hello? Does anyone remember how demons are calling Riley 'Blackthorne's daughter' every time they see her? Not even you care, Riley? This is really bad, you know! You should tell some people what's going on because maybe they'll know." It takes until page 260 (out of 340) before someone finally hears about it and bothers getting worried, and it isn't Riley. Methinks that girl had a few touches of Too Stupid to Live at times.

Even by the end of the novel, people are only just starting to pay attention to the fact that hey! Demons are after Riley and know who she is! This might be a really bad, really important thing! How little attention this BIG thing gets was so frustrating!

I felt a little annoyed that poor Beck, who told just as much of this story as Riley did, was never advertised as the co-protagonist, which he most definitely was. This guy, excuse the pun, went through hell in this book! Give him some credit where credit is due, blurb writer. His dialogue, specifically the way "you" was replaced with "ya" and "your" was "yer" every time, killed me. All the author needs to do is mention sometimes that he's got a Southern accent. There's no need to literally spell it out; for many readers, this is a huge pet peeve. The dialogue of some of Riley's classmates was also over-the-top stereotypical. I'm still in high school and I swear, girls are more intelligent than this. They do coo over hot dudes on TV, but not as badly as these fictional girls do.

If pacing had been evened out, the big thing hadn't been made such a little thing, and the dialogue hadn't made me want to gag myself sometimes, this book would have been perfect. Despite having three guys interested in her, Riley didn't let romance take over her story and I like that. However, I'm a little scared that it's going to do that in the next novel. I'm sticking around for this whole trilogy and if you think it sounds like your kind of book, go for The Demon Trapper's Daughter.

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: Flecks of Gold by Alicia Buck

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mercy by Rebecca Lim

Title: Mercy
Author: Rebecca Lim
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion/Hyperion
Release Date: May 17th, 2011
Pages: 269 pages (Adobe Digital Editions document)
How I Got the Book: From the publisher through NetGalley (and thank you very much for that!)

Mercy in an exile from heaven with shattered memories of who she used to be. She's doomed to "wake" repeatedly on earth in a new body, each time assuming a new life. During the day she survives in the human world on instinct and at night her dreams are haunted by her lost love, who pleads with her to find him.

But this time is different. When Mercy wakes up she meets Ryan, an eighteen-year-old reeling from the loss of his twin sister, Lauren, who was kidnapped two years ago. Only Mercy and Ryan believe his sister is still alive. For the first time since she can remember, Mercy has a purpose: she can help. So she doesn't understand why the man in her dreams cautions her not to interfere. But as Ryan and Mercy come closer to solving the mystery of Lauren's disappearance, danger looms just one step behind.

Will Mercy be able to harness her extraordinary power in time?

The first in a dazzling new series, Mercy masterfully weaves romance, mystery and the supernatural into a spell-binding tale that readers will devour.

Review:

For Mercy, it's normal to wake up and have no idea who she is or where she is. She's cursed to souljack the bodies of teenage girls for a reason unknown to her and not knowing what else she can do, she tries to help the girl she is possessing. This time around, Mercy is now Carmen Zappacosta, an eczema-afflicted soprano with a gifted voice. On a trip with her chorus group to Paradise, Mercy rooms with the Daley family and discovers their plight: Their daughter Lauren disappeared two years ago and hasn't been seen since. Her brother Ryan is desperately looking for her and believing this is part of why she's here, Mercy helps him. The key to it all is the music they hear; will they find Lauren before something worse happens?

Right off the bat, I came to like Mercy. Hardened by the many hardships she's lived while possessing other girls and all the time that has passed, she has to rely on her own strength to get by and do as she thinks is best. She doesn't let romance and hormones cloud her thoughts and even when the man she loves tries to tell her what to do, she doesn't let what he says dictate what she does. Her almost single-minded drive to find Lauren keep the pacing of the book from slowing down too much and becoming boring. (This may just be me, but I always have a soft spot for heroines that know their sarcastic quips well the way Mercy does.) For people tired of the trend in young adult paranormals where the heroine puts her guy above everything else, then Mercy is the perfect heroine for you! We need more girls like these in the genre right now!

However, I didn't like the way Mercy's strength as a heroine and a woman was emphasized by the weakness of the supporting female characters. There were only two other girls that got semi-regular page time: Tiffany and Brenda. Tiffany is jealous of Carmen and constantly puts her down; Brenda's got a one-track mind on her ex-boyfriend Ryan and at one point says to Mercy/Carmen, "Maybe you're not such a waste of space, after all." This is NOT OKAY, okay? It is possible to create a strong heroine without turning all the girls around her into evil little harpies. It always disappoints me to see such a great heroine and then be let down by the way other girls are characterized. A strong female novel is defined by all of the girls in the story, not just the heroine.

The descriptions of the town of Paradise are understated and work perfectly, keeping the novel from becoming overfluffed with unneeded description. Sometimes, this isn't always for the best; a few scenes needed rereads just so I could figure out what was going on there. The high points are definitely the descriptions of Mercy/Carmen's chorus/choir practices, the way everyone's dropped jaws and amazement are described while Mercy and Carmen's combined voices soar and sound downright (excuse the pun) angelic. Something knew what they were talking about or at least had some fun with it!

Tired of romance overtaking a fresh plot in young adult paranormals? Mercy ignores that stereotype too. Romance is so far on the backburner that forgetting about it wasn't hard. Ryan isn't always a sweetheart and I wondered what Mercy saw in him sometimes, but I came to like him by the end and the ending just about broke my heart. In general, I'm not a big romance girl. I read young adult romance more than is probably healthy, but I rarely ever care about it because love is not a concern for me. I love coming across books that make me care where their romance goes and I feel like they might even last in the long run.
Hints are dropped throughout the book about who took Lauren but pinning down exactly who did it is difficult. Everyone acts suspiciously at one point or another and for a while, that kept me guessing.Whether you figure it out halfway through or have no idea until the big reveal, the culprit's identity is a shock. And the other little inklings of plots in why Mercy has to souljack people and who the Eight and Luc are? If you were looking forward to those, they aren't heavily touched on, left to be covered in the next two books, Exile and Muse.

This book almost gave me hope for the angel genre, but I've decided now that I'm an one-hundred percent through with angel books. I'll keep following this series to see how everything ends and discover more about Mercy's situation, but no more new angel books for me. No more! But I look forward to seeing Mercy, Ryan, and hopefully Lauren (I want to see how she recovers and acts in the outside world after what she's been through) again when Exile comes out on... Well, whenever it comes out in the US. Anyone looking for a young adult paranormal not ruled by romance and constantly-boy-minded girls might want to check this out.

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: Putting Makeup on Dead People by Jen Violi

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Glass by Ellen Hopkins

Title: Glass
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Simon and Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date: August 21st, 2007
Pages: 681 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.

Crank. Glass. Ice. Crystal. Whatever you call it, it's all the same: a monster. Kristina thinks she can control it. Now with a baby to care for, she is determined to be the one deciding when and how much, the one calling the shots. But the monster is strong, and before she knows it, Kristina is back in its grip... and it won't let go.

Review:

Three months after her son Hunter's birth, Kristina is going insane and stir-crazy without crank and the freedom to do as she pleases. Leaving her baby boy Hunter in the dust, she jumps right back into her old habits and gets even worse. This time around, the monster doesn't want to let her go. Taking her everywhere from her own home to the arms of a fellow addict to that fellow addict's cousin, Kristina's in deeper than ever before. Still deep under Bree's influence, Kristina might only be stopped this time by jail or death.

After a quick, slightly dull recap of what happened to Kristina in Crank, we jump to her current situation and experience it as she goes stir-crazy. If you thought you saw a downward spiral in the last book, you haven't seen anything yet. At least she lived in her own home the entire time in the last book! Everything gets that much grittier. The drug use is heavier, the drug dealing happens more often, and sex is everywhere. Parents probably don't want the little ones seeing this book. As out-of-this-world Kristina's life gets this time around, the knowledge of just how close to truth this novels is constantly hangs over the head of readers.

Kristina's character definitely takes a beating this time around and I don't mean just figuratively. As soon as she's back on meth, it takes over worse than before and it's really kind of sad. Everything lies forgotten while Kristina's high: her family, her future, and even her baby Hunter, the little boy who only wants to love his mother and be loved in return. In her quest to find met and love, Kristina ends up neglecting the one person who's there and ready to love her if only she'll be around and love him the way she should as his mother. Her narration of her life's twists and turns are often supported by the creative arrangements of this free verse novel. She'll say one thing and when reading between the lines, the good girl trapped inside speaks the truth.

The romance between Kristina and Trey is not a healthy one at all, but it's incredibly interesting and hard to look away from, like a fight in a school hallway or a car crash on the side of the road. They fight, they make up, they apparently have earth-shattering sex on a regular basis, and they are sure in their love for each other, which is probably helped by all the meth they're doing together. Every so often, I wondered how their love affair would fare if the meth was gone and it was just Kristina and Trey, not Kristina, Trey, and the monster. Just how much does meth influence how they feel for one another?

Knowing that this story is loosely based off what happened to the Hopkins' daughter gives the novel a strange sort of sense about it. How much of what is written is fiction, something the author made up for Kristina's story? How much of it is something that happened to Cristal, or a fight that happened between Hopkins and Cristal? Imagining that any of this happened to the author and her family is... There's no way to describe it, really. Powerful isn't enough of a word to express it.

The one catch in this book happens early on, when Leigh and her girlfriend Heather come for a visit and to be at Hunter's baptism. Kristina is so utterly focused on the fact that Leigh likes girls that it drives me bonkers, to use an aged phrase. Every other thought when Leigh is around or even mentioned seems to be "Leigh is a lesbian, Lesbian Leigh, lesbian lesbian lesbian lesbian lesbian..." I get it! There's no need to repeat it a thousand times! Really, I've got no problem with Leigh being a lesbian. My problem lies with Kristina's refusal to tell us once and leave it at that. No, she's got to repeat it a thousand times in however many pages Leigh is around.
Still as terrifyingly real and engrossing as the first book in the trilogy, Glass gets a lower rating only because of that whole repetitive "Leigh is a lesbian" thing. Books aren't going to win my favor over being repetitive like that. The final book Fallout is on my shelf, but I have a few other books to read first. It's a good thing exams are coming up--I'll have something to read while everyone else works or isn't there!

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Here Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison

Title: Here Lies Bridget
Author: Paige Harbison
Publisher: Harlequin/ Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: January 18th, 2011
Pages: 271 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: through the Amazon Vine program.

What do you do when the five people you meet in limbo all want you to go to hell?

Bridget Duke is the uncontested ruler of her school. The meanest girl with the biggest secret insecurities. And when the new girl Anna Judge arrives, things start to fall apart for Bridget: friends don't worship as attentively, teachers don't fall for her wide-eyed "who me?" look, expulsion looms ahead and the one boy she's always loved--Liam Ward--can barely even look at her anymore.

When a desperate Bridget drives too fast and crashes her car, she ends up in limbo, facing everyone she's wrong and walking a few uncomfortable miles in their shoes. Now she has only one chance to make a last impression. Though she might end up dead, she has one last shot at redemption and the chance to right the wrongs she's inflicted on the people who mean the most to her.

And Bridget's about to learn that, sometimes, saying you're sorry just isn't enough...

Review:

Bridget Duke, daughter of a famous former athlete and current sports commentator, rules her school with an iron fist. Everyone knows her name and either loves or fears her, and that's just how she likes it. After a new girl comes to school and Bridget's popularity/power begins to wane and be exposed for what it is, she does something stupid and ends up crashing her car. It almost kills her, but not quite. Instead, she goes to limbo, where six people wait to judge her. Through their eyes, she sees all that she's done and feels how much she hurt them. She has a chance to return to life and right her wrongs, but that's only if her judges decide she deserves a second chance.

I hadn't heard anything about this book or even gone looking for anything like it until I saw it pop up on Amazon Vine and I decided it sounded like a fun read. It sounded a little bit like a famed YA book called Before I Fall (which, I shall clarify, I have never read), but I was willing to give it a try. Thank goodness I did! I have a new favorite, readers, and its name is Here Lies Bridget!

You won't mistake Bridget for anything but a mean girl for a second. If the blurb doesn't make it clear, the way she acts towards people in it will. Treating her well-meaning stepmother like a pile of dung, embarrassing her teacher and getting him in trouble, getting others into big trouble for things they never did,... This list could go on for a while, people. I'm not sure it's possible to read this book and not hate Bridget. I think she was a great example of how to write an unlikable character and make them interesting enough to keep reading about. Oh, and how to write teens that actually sound like teens. Authors should takes notes on this one and you bet I'm taking them, both as a future author and a teen. Because of Bridget, I'm seriously reconsidering how I treat people.

While my jaw spent the first half of the book on the floor at the horrid things Bridget does, I spent the second half bawling like a newborn child. It was always over little, sentimental things too. Bridget and her stepmother watching a movie and eating fondue together. How Liam missed the girl Bridget used to be. Bridget calling her dad. Meredith's... well, that would be a spoiler, so I won't say it. Mr. Ezhno's embarrassment by Bridget and other students. Bridget's missing her friendship with Liam. Every other thing made me cry and I swear, I don't normally cry this much. I keep saying that in my reviews and I swear, it's true. In the last eight months, I've ran across more books that made me emotional than I did in the sixteen years and seven months before it. This a good sign not just for my reading choices or this book, but for the young adult genre as a whole.

The funny thing is that in real life, I know about five Bridgets. There's probably a proper trope name for it, but I define a Bridget (n.) as a person who is popular through putting others down and using that to get to the top. Students and teachers alike are forced to endure their antics for fear of being the next target or receive worse treatment than before. However, the Bridget is only tolerated for a certain amount of time. It may be funny at first, but it gets old quickly and then their actions don't get the same reaction as they once did. They Bridget may or may not adapt to this. Might I add that four of the five Bridgets I know are male?

The ending was where a few issues popped up and started bugging me. I felt that the last twenty pages of so were rushed; the book needed to be a little bit longer so the reader could see more of a long-term effect. All of her apologies are given in the span of twelve hours and we needed more than just that. How did Mr. Ezhno and Brett respond to Bridget's apologies? We don't know. What about her dad?

Readers are also left with little to no idea of who or what Anna Judge is or was. Is she a manifestation of karma? Was she a real girl once, one of the mean girls now cursed to help other mean girls see what they did to others and leave when her job is done? The idea of Anna and who/what she is would make an even better story and seeing Harbison one day write a book to cover that would make me the jump-around-and-scream kind of happy.
This book is (and I hope I'm using the word correctly) a paradox. It was so good that I want to reread it until I'm sick, but I'm scared to read it a second time because I'm scared it won't have the same emotional impact it had on me the first time around. Bridget is an interesting character, but she is also very unlikable. If you have trouble putting aside the dislike of a narrator or main character for the sake of an interest, be wary of this book. I did it and found a book I never expected to love yet love anyways. Let's just hope I don't start calling the Bridgets in my life Bridgets out loud!

5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Glass by Ellen Hopkins