Thursday, February 28, 2013

Theater Thursday: The Maze Runner

Well, next Valentine's Day is looking for YA book to movie adaptions.  A few weeks ago I talked about the adaption of Vampire Academy, scheduled to come out Feb. 14, 2014.  Well, it's not the only YA book adaption scheduled for that particular date.  We now also have The Maze Runner by James Dashner.  Even though both of these coming from YA books, they're very different types of movies, so I'm hoping they'll both do well. Since Maze Runner is another dystopia book, similar to Hunger Games and Divergent, it's seems like a pretty good release date.  Catching Fire comes out in November, and Divergent the end of March, so there shouldn't be too much competition between the three.

There isn't a lot yet on The Maze Runner.  We know Wes Ball is going to be the director, and I think James Dashner himself is doing the screen play(with some help from Noah Openheim), which is awesome.  If an author can do their own work, I always feel like the adaption turns out better because they really understand the story they were trying to tell.  It's not that other people can't do an amazing job, but I find a lot of times they put a few of their own ideas into the mix, which sometimes ends up telling a completely different story (Ella Enchanted anyone?).

Here's a quick summary of the book.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every thirty days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. 
Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind. Quoted from Goodreads

Doesn't that sound like it will make a great movie?  Currently they're in the process of casting the main characters, and I'm excited to see who they get.  There's all sorts of fun fan speculation out there, but I haven't heard about anything concrete yet. If you want to read more, here's a link to James Dashner's blog where he talks about what he knows.  If you want to have some fun, type in the Maze Runner book trailer on youtube.  There's about a dozen different fan-made book trailers, and it's kind of fun to see all the different versions.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Book Review: The Trouble With Flirting

Franny's supposed to be working this summer, not flirting. But you can't blame her when guys like Alex and Harry are around. . . .

Franny Pearson never dreamed she'd be attending the prestigious Mansfield Summer Theater Program. And she's not, exactly. She's working for her aunt, the resident costume designer. But sewing her fingers to the bone does give her an opportunity to spend time with her crush, Alex Braverman. If only he were as taken with the girl hemming his trousers as he is with his new leading lady.
When Harry Cartwright, a notorious flirt, shows more than a friendly interest in Franny, she figures it can't hurt to have a little fun. But as their breezy romance grows more complicated, can Franny keep pretending that Harry is just a carefree fling? And why is Alex suddenly giving her those deep, meaningful looks? In this charming tale of mixed messages and romantic near-misses, one thing is clear: Flirting might be more trouble than Franny ever expected. Quoted from Goodreads

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Every once in a while, I just want to read a cute, straight up chick-flick contemporary romance, which makes The Trouble with Flirting just about perfect. Plus it's loosely based on Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, which is also an excellent book (I mean, it's Jane Austin, need I say more?).

I absolutely loved this adaption.  I enjoyed Claire LaZebnik's Epic Fail (a retelling of Pride and Prejudice) but I felt it followed the story a little too closely.  Don't get me wrong, it's a classic for a reason, but it made the book just a little too predictable for me.  Mostly I wanted to see how she would modernize a particular scene or idea (like the horror of Lydia's elopement).  The Trouble with Flirting takes all the bones of Mansfield Park and creates a completely different creature, and I loved it.  I loved how it was set at an acting camp and how all the major characters were there, but then she twisted everything in a way that kept things unpredictable.  I won't tell you exactly how she twists the story, but I sort of love what she did with it.

I also really liked Franny (of course, the author had to change her name. I mean, Fanny?  Can you imagine?).  She was smart, rather sarcastic, hard working, with a good voice, and her own insecurities that make up who she is. She wasn't perfect but she was good and sincere and owned up when she made mistakes.  She's the kind of person you could absolutely be friends with.

Then there's her two love interests. I've read Mansfield Park, seen the movie, so it should have been obvious who I was supposed to cheer for, right? But she did such a good job of painting the two characters.  I started totally Team Alex. I mean, he's the equivalent of Edmund in the book, so no brainer.  But then I started to fall in love with Harry.  He was funny, sweet, and a maybe a little overly dramatic and a huge flirt, but I loved reading about him, and I adore what Claire LaZebnik did with both of their very different characters.

But it's not just a book about one girl and two boys.  There are a whole handful of other characters I found to be a lot of fun.  I liked seeing which characters stayed true to Mansfield Park and which were totally different.  For example, I loved how Mrs. Norris, re-imagined as Franny's costume designer aunt, is redeemed   She's still a bit harsh and follow the rules, but she's also a rather sympathetic character by the end.

Basically this is a light, fun, cute book, absolutely a 4 star contemporary romance, and just what I was looking for.  If you like Jane Austen retold or just funny moments and quirky characters, you need to check this out (just ignore the cover.  I don't really thing it's doing the book any sort of service, and it was a much cuter story than the cover portrays).

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Book Review: Pivot Point

Knowing the outcome doesn’t always make a choice easier . . .

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without. Quoted from Goodreads

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This book is such a fun, unique read.  I know I said that about yesterday's book, but it really is.  I loved seeing Addie's two different lives as they played out.  I really enjoyed watching how so many of the events happened whether she was there or not, but at the same time, how she changed things.

So this book starts in a school for paranormals, and it could have been more of an X-men type read, and there are a few elements of that, but mostly it's a character driven book. It's Addie choosing how she wants to live her life, what secrets she can keep, and who ends up being the most important to her.

First, I loved the concept.  I've seen shows (Sliding Doors comes to mind) where one small thing changes the course of a person's life, but never with this paranormal twist.  It allows the author to explore what it would be like to have secret abilities and keep them hidden from your friends and not having to hide them.  Addie has a great ability.  I mean, she's basically a regular girl, but she can get extra insights when she needs them.  That being said, it's not without a price.  She actually lives both lives, so she ends up with memories of events that never happened, potentially looses good things if both options are wonderful, and in Groundhog Day fashion, sort of has to live the same day twice.

Then there's Addie's relationship with Trevor.  I loved it. It was sweet and slow and realistic.  At first Addie only wants him for her best friend, and then she begins to realize she wants it to be more.  It's also a great contrast to the relationship she gets in her other life.  It's not that it's so bad, but it highlights how good Trevor is for her.

Still, it's not just a paranormal chick flick.  There's a mystery going on in both lives, that occasionally crosses across Addie's different experiences. I think it's hard enough writing a mystery in one scenario  so I have to give Kasie West props for doing it across two. It could have been really easy to give away what was really going on, and while you get different clues in each life, I still didn't expect what happened in the end. 

In the end, Addie has to choose which reality she wants, and it's heartbreakingly hopeful.  Either choice forces her to give up something she loves, and not just the parent who won't be there.  This is a fabulous read--absolutely stunning 4 stars for me.  It's unique, and with two plots constantly switching back and forth, keeps you on the edge of your seat turning pages and anticipating the next book in the series.    

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Book Review: Mind Games

Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future. 

Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways… or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey.

In a stunning departure from her New York Times
 bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy, Kiersten White delivers a slick, edgy, heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller about two sisters determined to protect each other—no matter the cost. Quoted from Goodreads

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This is such a delightfully unique book! It's always hard starting a new story from an author you really like.  Their character's voice is different, the story is different, and if you loved the books before, your mind has to sort of switch over.  Mind Games is a little bit like that.  I loved Kiersten White's Paranormalcy series, and this definitely isn't it.  Yes, Fia is a strong, interesting character, but she is no Evie. And that's okay.  In fact, it's better because it makes Mind Games completely separate and amazing in it's own right and a book you should absolutely check out.



If that trailer didn't sell you, nothing will.  Honestly, I think it's one of the best book trailers I've ever seen and fits this book perfectly.  It shows how broken Fia is, portrays how much she sacrifices of herself to save her sister, and what she's willing to do to keep her safe.  I absolutely loved her as a character, messed up as it is, and can't wait to see what she does next.  Plus, I love her ability: perfect instincts. It's a brilliant, unique idea that sounds so simple but so completely interesting.

Then there's Annie. I talk about Fia like she's the main character, and most of the action does take place with her, but Annie's equally represented.  Even though she's blind and trapped, she's just as willing to fight for her sister. Granted, I did at times get frustrated with her character, but I still liked her.   

I really enjoyed the flashbacks.  I liked slowly learning what made the two sisters the way they were.  I also liked the family loyalty, though I hated the way it was used against them.  The British version  of this book is called Sister Assassins  which I don't really thing fits at all.  To begin with, Annie isn't an assassin, just the leverage used to make Fia into one, and Fia's kills mess her up so badly, the usually use her for other things.  Mind Games, on the other hand, fit's perfectly, since they are constantly surrounded by people who can read thoughts and emotions and try and manipulate them into doing what they want.

Also, everyone is so ambiguous.  First there's Adam, who seems like the sweetest person in the world, but . . . well, I don't want to give any spoilers, but he has his own secrets, and there's a reason Fia was sent to kill him.  Then there's James.  In some ways I absolutely loath him.  He's secretive, manipulative, and in so many ways not a good person.  But then he might actually be a good (sort of) guy, who's just as broken as Fia.  Maybe.  The beauty of this book is I don't know.  All you really know is that Fia and Annie would do anything for each other.  Everything else, well, you have to wait for the next book for some solid answers.

All in all this book is a fun, 4 stars for me.  I love how unique Fia's powers are and how the driving force behind everything is her love for her sister.  There are hints of romance with other characters (I'm actually hoping Annie and Adam get together, though by the end of the book they've still never met, but that's pure conjecture on my part at this point), but nothing that comes close to touching that bond between the sisters.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Flashback Friday: The Clockwork Angel

Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.
Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all. Quoted from Goodreads


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Okay so this is going to be kind of hard for me to review without pulling a little bit of The Clockwork Prince in here too.  I'll try, but because it's been a year since I read this, I may blur the lines a little bit.  

First off, I should say I love this book.  I really liked Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments, but I love this series even more.  Maybe it's because I relate to Tessa more than Clary.  Maybe it's because there's no "incest" or the fact that I feel this love triangle is actually a triangle, not just two boys who hate each other in love with the same girl. Regardless, I love this book, and since the third book in the series comes out next month, I figure this would give you all time to read it if you haven't yet.

What I loved most about this book?  To begin with, Tessa.  I really like her voice.  She's thrust into a new situation and betrayed over and over again, but comes out on top.  It's not that she isn't hurt, but she doesn't turn whiney and play the victim like she could have. Plus she's a reader. I obviously read books.  I adore them, to be precise, so it's really easy to relate to her as a character. No, I cannot, unfortunately, turn myself into another person like she can, but she is easy to befriend and admire.

Then there's Will and Jem.  Like I said before, this is just about a perfect love triangle. Yes, I have my favorite, and I will admit I will be very put out if he doesn't end up getting with Tessa, but I love the way the whole love triangle was crafted.  First, neither of the two boys know the other is falling in love with Tessa.  Plus, they are best friends and would never want to hurt the other person, so it's one of the first books where I actually buy the love triangle label.  And it avoids horrible issues like the Author, Lancelot, Guinevere love triangle where she's married, so I really never felt any kind of sympathy for Lancelot and Guinevere's "epic love." It just comes across as extremely selfish and  stupid. 

Okay, sorry about that little side rant.

Finally, I enjoyed the semi-steam-punk, half Victorian world Clare created.  It was a great setting, with a really fun bad guy and mystery that they're all facing.   I also really like Tessa's personal quest to figure out what she is exactly and why the main villain wants her.

All in all, this is an amazing book.  If you loved the Mortal Instruments, this is a must read. If you didn't, or just sort of liked  it, I still say pick this one up. It avoids a lot of issues that bothered some people in the first series, and the new setting may just win you over.  All in all, this is a terrific 4 stars for me, and the Clockwork Prince earned 5 in my opinion.  Basically you have a month before The Clockwork Princess comes out, so check out this series. It's absolutely, amazingly worth it.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Theater Thursday: The Selection and Delirium

So this week I'm not actually going to talk about a YA book movie adaption coming out. Instead, I'm just going to mention the fact that there are two TV pilots out there based on young adult books that I'm hoping make the cut and get turned into real TV shows.

The first is The Selection by Kiera Cass for the CW.  I read the book last year and thought it was a lot of fun.  Plus, with the success of The Bachelor and Hunger Games, I think it could do really well.  They tried last year, and it didn't get picked up, but they do have a few people cast, such as Sean Patrick Thomas for Sylvan Santos. Here's a quick summary and a preview for the BOOK.  Not TV show, unfortunately, but it should give you a flavor. If you're interested, you can read more on Kiera Cass's website.

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.
Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself--and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined. Quoted from Goodreads

The next book being made into a possible TV series is Delirium by Lauren Oliver for Fox.  It already has Emma Roberts cast as Lena, which would be amazing, and Gregg Sulkin as Julian. That's about all I have, but here's a description of the book and the BOOK trailer in case you're interested in checking it out.

They say that the cure for Love will make me happy and safe forever

And I've always believed them.

Until now.

Now everything has changed.

Now, I'd rather be infected with love for the tiniest sliver of a second than live a hundred years smothered by a lie.
Lena looks forward to receiving the government-mandated cure that prevents the delirium of love and leads to a safe, predictable, and happy life, until ninety-five days before her eighteenth birthday and her treatment, when she falls in love. Quoted from Goodreads


So, yeah.  That's about it. Remember, these may never make it past the pilot episode. A lot of shows don't.  Personally, I would enjoy watching both of these next year if they're well done.  Of course so many things go into TV shows, I think they're harder than movies to adapt.  You have to take a concept and just kind of run with it because a faithful adaption of the books would, at most, result in a mini-series.  Now these could be wonderfully successful, like Vampire Diaries, or they could fizzle and die after a season, like Secret Circle, if they're picked up at all.  It all depends on the writers, actors, studios, etc.  Still, I would love to see what studios could do with the concepts.  If nothing happens, well, the sequel to The Selection, The Elite, comes out April 23rd, and Requiem, the third book in the Delirium trilogy comes out March 5th.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Belated Valentine's Day Gift

I know that this is a little bit late, but here's a treat for all you out there who love Rachel Hawkin's Hex Hall series.  As a V-Day gift to all her fans, Rachel shared a story of "a certain couple" enjoying Valentine's Day together.

***This excerpt does have some spoilers, so if you haven't read  the Hex Hall Series, and/or don't want to know who Sophie ends up with, beware.***

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”So.”
“Yup.”
“This is Applebee’s.”
“It is indeed.”
Archer frowned as he turned the pages of his menu. “I didn’t expect so much of the food to come in skillets.”
Laughing, I stabbed at the lemon in my ice water with my straw. “I don’t think you properly prepared for the glamour that is Applebee’s, Cross.”
He was still puzzling over his menu. “They really like the word ‘sizzlin.’”
“It was your idea to come here,” I reminded him. “I told you we didn’t need to do Valentine’s Day-,”
“Oh, we are doing Valentine’s Day.” Archer laid down his menu and linked his fingers, studying me across the table. His dark hair was falling over his forehead and he was grinning, and ugh, it really was unfair for one guy to be that cute.
“Jenna said Valentine’s Day is a really big deal,” he continued, and I shook my head, taking his hand.
“Jenna said that so you’d give her an excuse to put even more pink in our dorm room.”
At that, Archer grimaced a little. “She did go kind of overboard with the decorating.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Kind of? Cross, I couldn’t even get into my room this afternoon because it was filled with roughly ninety bajillion pink balloons. And we’re not even going to get into the current Glitter Situation.”
It must have been a trick of the light, but I could’ve sworn a flush rose up Archer’s neck. “The balloons are actually my fault. Jenna said she’d get them, but then it didn’t look like there were quite enough, so I…,” Trailing off, he wiggled his fingers, and I gave a startled burst of laughter.
“You used magic to make balloons?”
“Okay, when you say it like that, it sounds dumb.”
“Because it is,” I giggled, and after a moment, he smiled back.
“You’re right. I mean, the least I could’ve done was use my powers to make them into especially romantic balloon animal shapes.”
I nodded somberly. “Nothing says love like a balloon giraffe, let me tell you.”
Archer gave a theatrical sigh and leaned back in his seat. “Alas, traditional human dating rituals clearly elude me.”
He looked at me again, and while he was still grinning, I could see…something move across his face. Just the littlest moment of uncertainty. “But you felt loved, right?” he asked. ”Adored and appreciated and all the other things the commercials say you’re supposed to feel?”
Squeezing his fingers, I nodded. “I did. And also a little claustrophobic.”
“A natural side effect of True Love.”
***************************************************

For the rest of this Valentine's Day story, check out Rachel's tumblr, and if you're new to the Hex Hall series, I suggest you pick these up to read:



Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Book Review: A Witch Alone

Where do you go when your heart has been ripped out?

For Anna there is only one answer; into her past, where the truth about her mother, her power, and her real identity lie hidden.

But as Anna delves deeper into her history, she begins to fear that the truth about what set her mother running may be darker than she ever suspected. With the witches of the world on the brink of war, Seth gone, and her friend Abe wanting more from her than she can possibly give, Anna is in crisis.
As the clouds around her gather, Anna is torn between friends, family and rival tribes of witches and – at the last – between love and magic. Quoted from Goodreads

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So another trilogy comes to a close. This has been a fun little series, and I'm kind of sad to see it end.  Still, all good things . . .

What I probably enjoyed most was how very British his book is.  Yes, a good chunk of it takes place in Russia, but they didn't bother to change British terms for American ones like they did in Harry Potter, and I think it served the story better that way.  It isn't as if we can't all figure out what a jumper is.

Plus, the action was revved up a notch in this last installment   The first book dealt more with the problems of casting a love spell and the fall out therefrom.  This one is more focused on the search for Anna's mother and the attack on the Ealdwitan.  Anna's world is falling apart, and she is desperate to find some way of putting her life back together and solving the mysteries of her past.  This leads to Russia, crazy witch covens, random attacks, river demons, spies, sacrifice, and deaths, all of which combine together for a great story.

Then there's the romance aspect of the book. Despite it's title, Anna really isn't ever alone.  Yes, Seth is gone for the first part of the story, but Abe is more than happy to try and pick up the pieces.  I suppose you could label Anna's relationship with the two boys as a love triangle, but it never felt that way to me.   I won't give away what happens in the end, but I thought it pretty consistent for the series, and I like the way everything was resolved.

This book is a fun 3.5 stars for me.  It was an excellent ending and a must read for anyone who read the first two books.  If you haven't, don't dismiss this  because it sounds a bit cliche.  It's a fun, delightful series, full of hard choices, crazy attacks, and sacrifice, all of which get bigger and better as the series progress.  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Browse Inside Mind Games by Kiersten White

Tomorrow Mind Games comes out, and I'm sure I'll do a review about it shortly thereafter.  Honestly, I loved Kiersten White's Paranormalcy series, so I'm excited to see what she's come up with next.  If you're interested, here's the first five chapters of her new book, so check it out.


Browse Inside Mind Games by Kiersten White

Book Review: Nobody

There are people in this world who are Nobody. No one sees them. No one notices them. They live their lives under the radar, forgotten as soon as you turn away. 

That’s why they make the perfect assassins.

The Institute finds these people when they’re young and takes them away for training. But an untrained Nobody is a threat to their organization. And threats must be eliminated.
Sixteen-year-old Claire has been invisible her whole life, missed by the Institute’s monitoring. But now they’ve ID’ed her and send seventeen-year-old Nix to remove her. Yet the moment he lays eyes on her, he can’t make the hit. It’s as if Claire and Nix are the only people in the world for each other. And they are—because no one else ever notices them. Quoted from Goodreads

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I love the concept of this book.  It's not that it's new, exactly, but this is the first time when I've personally seen an entire plot based on the idea.  Honestly, I have a lot of mixed reactions. I really enjoyed parts of it, especially the last third, but there were other things that irritated me.

So, the good?  It had an excellent ending.  It wasn't perfect or tied up in a neat bow, but it was satisfying and I wouldn't change a thing about it.  It had action, suspense, sacrifice, confrontation, a deal with the devil, etc.  If you get to the ending, this book redeems itself.

Okay, that made the book sound like it was bad.  It wasn't.  At the same time, this is one of the most severe cases of insta-love I've ever run across.  Nix is trying to kill Claire for the first quarter.  Then he realizes she's just like him, and suddenly he can't.  He believes her to basically be a soul-sucking monster, but then is instantly in love with her when he finds out she's not?  Same thing for Claire.  The guy who stalked her and almost kills her goes from attractive assassin to the great love of her life in about six hours.

To be fair, neither of these characters has experience anything remotely approaching friendship even.  For example, Clair's parents have to leave notes around the house to remind them that she exists at all, so I get that they're messed up and why actually being seen by someone would be amazing.  That's fine, but I wish there would have been a little bit more to their relationship besides good looks and similar ability.

I also had a little bit of a problem with the pacing in the beginning.  You know from the blurb that Nix is going to go after Claire and that she isn't the monster he is told she is, but it takes almost a fourth of the book for him to realize that.  I get the need to establish background with these characters, but because I knew he wasn't going to kill her, it didn't build up any kind of suspense for me. I just kept waiting for them to meet and start taking down the Institute.  

Still, I don't want to discourage you. Like I said, I did enjoy this book.  It has a fabulous concept and an amazing ending that I loved.  You just have to get through the beginning and past the insta-love to the action at the end.  There are a few cute scenes between Nix and Claire I appreciated and wished they would have come before they started making out and deciding they have found their one true love.

This book was a fun 3 stars for me.  Honestly, if we were taking the beginning, I would probably have been 2, but the last half would have been 4.  Again, A+ for concept.  I just wanted the first half to live up to the last half.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Flashback Friday: The Thief

I've been at a writing conference these past couple of days, and it's been interesting. The highlight has absolutely been meeting and listing to the various authors.  Today, I actually got to meet Megan Whalen Turner, who is absolutely amazing, so I thought I'd choose her first book The Thief for today's Flashback Friday.

The king's scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king's prison. The magus is interested only in the thief's abilities. 
What Gen is interested in is anyone's guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses. Quoted from Goodreads

If you're looking for a good adventure with amazing characters and twists and turns, look no further.  This is the book for you.

Honestly, everyone should read this book.  Let's start with the writing.  It's rich and beautiful without becoming lost in itself.  It always takes her a couple of years for her to come out with her next book (I think it was 4 years between The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia), so you know she spends time on her craft, and it absolutely pays off. She does such a good job of describing her world and her characters.  There is a nitty-gritty realistic feel to the entire series that is rarely duplicated, and while this is a fantastical world, it never feels like one.  It's almost like an alternate greek history, and I think it's delightful.

Then there's Gen himself.  He's a delightfully irreverent thief and slightly unreliable narrator who you can't help but love, and he only gets better as the books go on.

The beginning develops the characters and the world, and it almost comes across more as a character driven plot than an actual adventure.  Then the action starts and we get chases, fights, betrayal, tragedy, and an excellent ending.

This is a wonderful 4 stars for me. It's hard because it's been several years since I read it, but I'm thinking about reading it again soon. If you're looking for a YA book that is perfect for adults as well, this is it.  Then, of course, you have to read the next one in the series, which is possibly even better.  And that leads to the third one, and the fourth one.  And finally you can join the ranks of us who suffer waiting for the fifth one to come out (but don't worry. Each book is complete in itself, so you aren't stuck with a horrible cliff hanger.  You just want another chance to experience Turner's world, writing, and characters).

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Book Review: The Indigo Spell

In the aftermath of a forbidden moment that rocked Sydney to her core, she finds herself struggling to draw the line between her Alchemist teachings and what her heart is urging her to do. Then she meets alluring, rebellious Marcus Finch--a former Alchemist who escaped against all odds, and is now on the run. Marcus wants to teach Sydney the secrets he claims the Alchemists are hiding from her. But as he pushes her to rebel against the people who raised her, Sydney finds that breaking free is harder than she thought. There is an old and mysterious magic rooted deeply within her. And as she searches for an evil magic user targeting powerful young witches, she realizes that her only hope is to embrace her magical blood--or else she might be next.Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, the Bloodlines series explores all the friendship, romance, battles, and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive—this time in a part-vampire, part-human setting where the stakes are even higher and everyone’s out for blood. Quoted from Goodreads

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Here's the short version: I loved it.  It has everything I love in a series: action, multiple conflicts, romance, mystery, character growth, humor, twists,  and a cliffhanger that doesn't kill you while still leaving you anxious for the next book.

If you're still not convinced, here's the longer version of why I adore this book.   Last Thursday when I talked about the Vampire Academy movie, I stated that I enjoyed that series, but I love this one.  Sydney's a big part of that. She starts out as such a limited character.  She grew a lot in the VA series, but those were baby steps to what she goes through in these books, and in the Indigo Spell she finally comes into her own.  We learn more about the shady dealings of the Alchemists,  there's a serial-killer witch on the loose, and of course there is Adrian.

All the walls Sydney has been struggling against finally get knocked down in this book.  Yes, she still has qualms about different things (magic, vampires, wearing bright colors . . .), but she is finally able to embrace what she believes for herself instead of what she's been taught all her life.  Plus she gets to shine in a fight.  She actually throws some good punches, and then there's her own magic showdown . . .  She's no Rose, but she's not supposed to be, and I admired her strength in dealing with all the crap thrown at her.

I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of the two completely separate conflicts in this book. She's constantly flipping back and forth between the two, and you know it's only going to get worse before it gets better. There's Marcus and his quest against the Alchemists  and while he wasn't at all what I was expecting (and thank goodness there is no love triangle forming), he's still a fun, interesting character.  I especially like the insights he gave Sydney into her tattoo.  In contrast, we have Ms. Terwilliger's mysterious witch, who is hunting down young witches to steal their youth and power.  The idea's not new, but I still found it tense, with good twists and a sort of "dun dun dun" (cue music) cliffhanger of its own.

Adrian.  Everyone loves Adrien, but I especially liked him in this book.  He could have been all sighs and puppy-dog eyes after the Golden Lily's ending, but he's not.  He loves Sydney, but he's not all mopey about her rejection at the end of the second book. He's simply there for her whenever she needs him. Plus, he's starting to live up to his potential.

You can tell The Indigo Spell is something of a turning point in the series.  While there has always been outside conflict in each of the books, half the battle was Sydney vs. herself and her upbringing.  The next three books will be different.  Not only is she facing all sorts of problems (including that lovely cliffhanger twist at the end), but they are building, and you know there's some bad stuff coming.

I adored this book.  It's a strong 4.5 stars for me.  I'll be honest, part of me is afraid for the next one because I hear it has a horrible cliffhanger. A small part of me wants to wait until the next three are out, then I could read them all together.   It will never happen, of course, but I'm kind of really enjoying the mostly happy feeling at the end of this book.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Amanda Monday: The Love Triangle Trend

Most of my life I've known what styles and trends are.  They're bell-bottoms, perms, stirrup pants, slap-on bracelets, boy-bands, etc.  What I didn't realize until my well-read twenties was that books, like hair, makeup, and clothing, follow trends as well.
So in honor of this upcoming Valentine's Day, let's talk about love triangles.  I'm willing to bet that if you thought for about 10 seconds, you could drum up at least one love triangle you read about in a recent book.  If you can't, let me refresh your memory:
1. Team Edward vs. Team Jacob from The Twilight Series.  I award this love triangle the most obvious and popular of the trend.
2. Gale vs. Peeta from Hunger Games.  A slightly more complex and subtle love triangle, but still one that I could see coming.
3.  Tucker vs. Christian from the Unearthly series.  This one is by far my favorite love triangle because, as Rachel put it in her review, it is truly difficult to tell who was going to win out in the end.
4. Mr. Darcy vs. Mr. Wickham.  This last one came from my husband in response to the question, "can you think of a famous love triangle?" (I asked him because he is a reader of all things having NOTHING to do with YA fiction and/or romance, so I figured any love triangle famous enough for him to know might be worth mentioning.)  I have to give him props for this one, because while Pride and Prejudice isn't a book based around a love triangle conflict, nor is it recent, it does bring up the fact that this archetype has been popping up for centuries, and has therefore stood the test of time.

Soooooooo . . . what makes a good love triangle?

1.  A character who can't make up their mind.  In most books the protagonist undergoes a journey of self-discovery, whether mental, emotional, etc.  Often times a love triangle helps illustrate options along the journey, and the outcome usually reflects how the character has changed along the way. (Edward vs. Jacob)

2.  Two strong candidates.  Nothing can flatten a love triangle like a character you know from the very beginning won't be chosen (Tucker vs. Christian).

3.  Two candidates who are foils of each other.  A literary foil (anot the tinfoil variety) means a character that contrasts another. (Hale vs. Nick from the Heist Society series by Ally Carter.)

4. The right choice is a hard choice.  It's not really a good love triangle unless the main character is choosing to give up some very good things in order to be with the one she wants.

Those are my criteria for a good love triangle.  Now I want some feedback from you.  Do you have any stories with a great love triangle to add to my list?  Any criteria you'd like to add to my list of "love triangle do's"?  If so, leave me a comment, and have a great week!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Book Review: Unravel Me

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tick

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it's almost

time for war.

Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.

She's finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.

Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.

In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me
, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam's life. Quoted from Goodreads

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So do you want the good news or the bad news first?


I'm going to start with the good, so if you're a bad-news-first sort of person, you can skip down a couple of paragraphs, then jump up to the beginning.  So, good news:  Tahereh Mafi's writing. I thoroughly enjoyed the way she has of putting words together.  Sometimes her images are a little far fetched, but they are vivid and unique and help transport you to Juliette's world.  Second, I love the numbers.  It was more pronounced in the first book, but her habit of counting seconds, fingers, whatever, gives helps build Juliette's unique voice--and again, it helps with the imagery.  Then we have all the crossed out sentences/lines/words.  I love that. It's such a fun, distinctive way of writing and viewing Juliette's thoughts, and the thoughts she doesn't want to have.

Second: Kenji.  I am not team Kenji (at least if you view teams like I do, which means that's who you want the main character to get with), but I absolutely adored him in this book.  In the first one he was the slightly obnoxious, comic relief.  In this one,he  steps up to become the voice of reason.  He's kind of the person I was hoping Castle would become.  He's the one who calls Juliette on her crap, forces her out of herself, and isn't attracted to her at all--thus avoiding all the angst. 

Warner.  Yes, he was the creeper, the bad guy that somehow some readers decide to fall in love with in the first book.  In this second book, his character is expanded.  We get tortured-soul Warner, with a lot more backstory and insight into why he is the way he is.  I really liked what they did with his character.  I'm still up in the air whether I believe he's an actual contender for love-triangle-winner, because he is very, very messed up, but at least we understand what horrible things went into making him that way, and he has become much more interesting.

Supreme Commander Anderson.  Talk about an excellent bad guy.  Yes, he is a bit one dimensional  which is disappointing since so many other characters are much more fleshed out, but he is absolutely a delight to hate.  Plus, I'm hoping we get a bit more about him in the next book. He kind of plays the Emperor to Warner's Darth Vader. The question is can Warner really be redeemed, and will Anderson ever be anything more than evil incarnate?

The bad.  So at the end of Shatter Me, we see Juliette in a new situation where she is accepted and relatively safe, no longer abused and free.  I was really excited to see what would happen, but for most of the book Juliette is broken.  Kind of like Katness in Mockingjay,  Juliette has all sorts of problems that brings the book down.  I understand her situation would make it difficult to make friends, and then there's her heartbreak with Adam, the only boy who's ever really been her friend, but still . . . she spends so much of the book wallowing or hating herself or feeling conflicted about Warner I got a little exhausted.

The good news in all of this is that in the end Juliette decides to finally take control of her life, hopefully for real this time.  She has the potential to be such a strong character, that I can't wait for her actually come into her own and be the person everyone believes she can be.

Then there's Adam.  He doesn't go in the bad category, but he's not quite in the good either.  The problem is so much of this book focused on Warner, all Adam really does is suffer. It makes it hard to remember how much I loved him in the first book, and while a few startling revelations keep him interesting, his relationship with Juliette isn't really developed like I'd hoped.

I did quite enjoy this book.  Yes, I have a few hang-ups with it, mostly involving Juliette and some of the decisions she chooses to make, but it's still a fun series.  I award this book a lovely 3.5 stars, and can't wait for the third book to come out. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Book Review: Altered

When you can’t trust yourself, who can you believe?

Everything about Anna’s life is a secret. Her father works for the Branch at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to the four genetically altered boys in the lab below their farmhouse. There’s Nick, Cas, Trev . . . and Sam, who’s stolen Anna’s heart. When the Branch decides it’s time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape, killing the agents sent to retrieve them. 

Anna is torn between following Sam or staying behind in the safety of her everyday life. But her father pushes her to flee, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs. There’s just one problem. Sam and the boys don’t remember anything before living in the lab—not even their true identities.

Now on the run, Anna soon discovers that she and Sam are connected in more ways than either of them expected. And if they’re both going to survive, they must piece together the clues of their past before the Branch catches up to them and steals it all away. Quoted from Goodreads


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This was one of those books I couldn't put down.  It was basically all chase scene/mystery, so while it's over 300 pages, it didn't ever feel that long and left me excited for the next one.

Like I said, everything is action, move on, more action, find a clue, move on, more action.  I thought Jennifer Rush did a good job with the pacing and the clues they followed.  There were one or two I thought a little obvious, but then there were others that were genius, and it made for a fun ride. Plus there were some awesom twists I never saw coming, some of which left me a little stunned.

Probably the most interesting part, for me, was the genetic modifications, super stregnth, how they manipulated the relationship between the subjects, and especially how they planned to control them.  There is still plenty of mystery  left and I have all sorts of questions for the next two books, but I found what they did kind of fascinating. I won't give too much away, but it's an interesting idea. Now I'm excited for even more back story.  

Since none of the boys remember their lives outside the lab, much of the book is still a mystery, but at the same time everyone had known each other for years.  Anna is thrown into all this craziness, but it's with people she knows, plays games with, and made cookies for. So often a girl meets the new boy, and that's what changes her life, adds the mystery, etc.  Here, she knows the characters, or at least thinks she does, but at the same time they are forced to face something completely new.  

Each of the characters is very distinct,with their own voice and personality that they bring to the story.  I found Anna to be a fun, strong character who did a good job handling the constant pressure of almost being caught by people she always trusted, and the boys, Trey and Cas, were just as good.  Even Nick, who is so often a pain, never came off as one dimensional.

Then there's Anna's relationship with Sam.  What's a young adult book without a little romance?  And this one delivered perfectly.  Their relationship built slowly throughout the book, but on top of that, they've known each other for four years.  Yes, they still have a bunch problems to work out, but Jennifer Rush gave them a solid base, and I really enjoyed it.

So, yeah, here's another author to add to the list of people whose books I should always read.  Altered for me is a fantastic 4 stars, and I can't wait for the next book to come out. It's light, high-speed fun and I enjoyed it.