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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner

Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational
Age Recommendation: 14+
Length: Full Length (331 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 suns
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Teen Genius (and Hermit) Carrie Pilby's To-Do List:

1. List 10 things you love (and DO THEM!)

2. Join a club (and TALK TO PEOPLE!)

3. Go on a date (with someone you actually LIKE!)

4. Tell someone you care (your therapist DOESN'T COUNT!)

5. Celebrate New Year's (with OTHER PEOPLE!)

Seriously? Carrie would rather stay in bed than deal with the immoral, sex-obsessed hypocrites who seem to overrun her hometown, New York City. She's sick of trying to be like everybody else. She isn't! But when her own therapist gives her a five-point plan to change her social-outcast status, Carrie takes a hard look at herself—and agrees to try.

Suddenly the world doesn't seem so bad. But is prodigy Carrie really going to dumb things down just to fit in?

Carrie Pilby, a nineteen-year-old prodigy and Harvard graduate, is socially awkward and having a very hard time meeting people that she can befriend or even relate to on a basic level. She consistently looks down on others when they come across as hypocrites based on her moral code or unintelligent based on her search for fellow genius'.

At first I hard a very hard time getting into the book, because I found Carrie annoying with her constant judgment of others. She has strict ideals of what people should be like and when someone fails to follow her holier-than-thou code, she judges them instantly and puts them in the immoral/hypocrite pile never be spoken to again.

After you reach the middle of the book, Carrie soars! The one thing that made me continue reading was the list that her psychiatrist, Dr. Petrov, makes for her to complete. I was intrigued by the list and wanted to see If she could overcome her outcast status and finally make some friends.

1. List 10 things you love (and DO THEM!)
2. Join a club (and TALK TO PEOPLE!)
3. Go on a date (with someone you actually LIKE!)
4. Tell someone you care (your therapist DOESN’T COUNT!)
5. Celebrate New Year’s (with OTHER PEOPLE!)

Following Carrie through the list is the fun part. She finally learns to just try things and that everything isn't truly black and white or good and bad, that there are things she can experience that don't completely break her code. I think the most interesting things to see her try are; joining a church because she feels she can expose them as a cult and she finally gets a temp job where she meets people that accept her for her intelligence and unorthodox behavior.

In the end, following Carrie through her self discovery is amusing and intriguing. She is witty, sarcastic and charming in her social awkwardness. I think in the end you will fall in love with her quirkiness – I know I did.

I think Carrie grew up too fast and was too serious about life at a young age, so she did not have the same youthful experiences that others her age have had. Once she finally works on this list, she truly sees what is it like to live. And well, her Dad was right, “You're cursed. Cursed with a mind. Use it. Don't fear it. But don't let all of your thinking destroy you.”

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Simon & Schuster YA
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Age Recommendation: 14+
Length: Full Length (432 pgs)
Rating: 5 suns
Reviewed by Wisteria

The sequel to the New York Times Best selling phenomenon, Hush, Hush!

Nora should have know her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The farther Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim blood line has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?

Crescendo continues the harrowing story of Patch, a fallen angel and his love interest Nora. Love, heartbreak, and a century old grudge line every page of this amazing novel. If you loved Hush, Hush you will absolutely adore Crescendo.

The book opens innocently enough with Patch and Nora dealing with the decisions they’ve made to tempt fate and be together. It’s very difficult to adequately review this book without giving away some spoilers. But, the basics are Patch has been tapped to be Nora’s Guardian Angel. As such, he’s tempted to love her, but there are those that will do everything they can to destroy Patch. This book, laced with a strong plot, amazing characters, and outstanding writing will suck you in and will not let you go until the very last page. Ms. Fitzpatrick gives us so much information of Nora and Patch’s world, yet so little at the same time. There were times I wanted to throw this novel at the wall and other times I refused to set it down — even when I hadn’t eaten in ten hours.

This book has love, crazed-decision making teenagers, irony and a bit of morality kicked in. It is a must read. If you haven’t read Hush, Hush - the first in the series - I highly suggest both.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Mermaid’s Mirror by L. K. Madigan

The Mermaid’s Mirror by L. K. Madigan
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Age Recommendation: 12+
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 Suns
Reviewed by Aloe

Lena has lived her whole life near the beach – walking for miles up and down the shore and breathing the salty air, swimming in the cold water, and watching the surfers rule the waves – the problem is, she’s spent her whole life just watching.

As her sixteenth birthday approaches, Lena vows she will no longer watch from the sand: she will learn to surf.

But her father – a former surfer himself – refuses to allow her to take lessons. After a near drowning in his past, he can’t bear to let Lena take up the risky sport.

Yet something lures Lena to the water … an ancient, powerful magic. One morning Lena catches sight of this magic: a beautiful woman – with a silvery tail.

Nothing will keep Lena from seeking the mermaid, not even the dangerous waves at Magic Crescent Cove.

And soon … what she sees in the mermaid’s mirror will change her life …

Does the sea draw you to it when you get near? Or do you feel at home when on the beach with the waves splashing over your toes? Did you ever think that maybe something besides the sea might be calling you?

Lena has loved the sea her whole life, and now that she’s coming up on her sixteenth birthday, she’d really love to have her father teach her to surf. She knows he loves the water, but he won’t even step into it any more. Even though it’s her birthday, he again denies her request to teach her how to surf. She wouldn’t even have known how to swim if her stepmother hadn’t taught her how! Lena has friends, though, and they are not as worried about the water as her father is…

L K Madigan has written nicely fleshed-out characters, who are each, strong and determined in their own ways. You can connect with them and share their emotional feelings.

As she comes of age, Lena wonders why her father won’t tell her about her “lost” mother. She has a happy home life with her Dad and step-mother, but feels she’s missing something—although she doesn’t know what. Her parents are kind but don’t want to hurt her. Even though she could get hurt just as easily by not knowing all the facts, her father is afraid to enlighten her.

The truth can’t be hidden forever, though. When Lena goes surfing in a forbidden place, she comes home with a key she has received as a gift, and her whole life changes…

Lena finally learns why her father was hesitant to tell her the truth about her mother, and now she find she must make a choice on which parent she wishes to stay with. She loves them both and her mother’s life is attractive,but is it the best choice? It was easy to empathize with Lena as she struggled with tough choices and decisions she had to make, because as we grow up we all go through this type of experience. I wasn’t allowed to date until age 16, and thought I was really missing out on life. Then I found out how confusing dating could be – and almost wished I could backtrack... Lena’s experience is not that different from my own so I could relate to her situation and feel how tormented she was while trying to make a good decision.

In a related storyline, Lena and her friend Pem are both just discovering boys and kissing. Kissing is a bit strange to Lena, but Pem seems to enjoy her older boyfriend. She almost wonders if they aren’t doing more than kissing. Lena is concerned that her friend is advancing into a relationship too soon and too fast, but she also is feeling her way through a new relationship and is unsure how to proceed. Then she meets another romantic interest and it gets even more confusing...

The Mermaid’s Mirror is an enjoyable read for a young adult just discovering male and female relationships. It’s also a great read if you like to read fantasy novels, or if mermaids intrigue you.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Moonstone by Marilee Brothers

Moonstone by Marilee Brothers
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Genre: Paranormal
Length: Short Story (120 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 suns
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Wry, compelling, heart-warming and just plain fun. Allie Emerson is living in a twenty-four foot trailer with a mother who has decided to Retire From Life. Not exactly the sort of environment you'd expect to produce a girl destined to save the world. Allie's barely managing to survive high school. She hasn't got time to believe in prophecies and evil. Until evil makes it personal.

Moonstone, the first in a series of three YA novels is a fun and quirky jaunt that starts off with sparks and offers a whole different perspective on being ‘different’ in high school. Allie, our main character, is immediately likable. I’m not sure if it's her tough situation, her conversational style, or her always semi-humorous response to the frequently off-kilter events in her life. She never fails to learn from her misadventures (like never wear flipflops on an aluminum ladder.) Sometimes, she makes goofy decisions or takes forever to realize something we long since suspected, but she’s always honest about how she sees things.

She’s often annoyed with her mother (Faye) and so are we! Allie is the sensible adult of the pair, and we can’t help wishing she could be the kid at times. She kicks off a somewhat weird relationship with Trilby too, who just shows up out of thin air. Well – to be honest, Allie has on odd relationship with pretty much everyone. Her friends are perfectly willing to believe in the paranormal (would love to meet a vampire,) but she doubts their capacity to believe in her guardian angel.

Kizzy, her pal the elderly gypsy-slash-witch, helps her identify her unusual abilities in a way I think anyone would question a bit more than Allie does, but there it is. If you haven't much tolerance for magic and the second sight (or the third eye, or the power of suggestion) this book may not be for you. One crush (that might or might not lead to something meaningful) and the High School bully all help to round out a cast of all slightly-unusual personalities.

The rural atmosphere provides a fun background which comes so clearly through when poor Allie has to avoid the cow patties as she plunges off the roof, and has an obsession with garden-fresh produce. Author Marilee Brothers tells us this is a small town -- and then she very believably creates Peacock Flats. And more importantly, she creates Peacock Flats High School and its population: the all too believable high school social scene. Throughout, the setting is clearly there and occasionally humorous, but never intrusive, and never slows the fast paced story line.

Everything about this story is funny and unexpected; from Allie herself to all the events that surprise her. Life is never boring for Allie, and so this tale never suffers one dull moment. It does require a willingness to believe in magic in a world trying desperately to be everyday: it all lends to the overall charm.

The most appealing part of this work is Allie herself, her take on the world, and her usually positive approach to problems. Do read.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Fallen by Thomas Sniegoski

The Fallen (The Fallen and Leviathan) by Thomas Sniegoski
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Age Recommendation: 14+
Length: Full Length (544 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 suns
Reviewed by Tiger Lily

On his eighteenth birthday, Aaron begins to hear strange voices and is convinced he is going insane. But having moved from foster home to foster home, Aaron doesn't know whom he can trust. He wants to confide in the cute girl from class, but fears she'll confirm he's crazy.

Then a mysterious man begins following Aaron. He knows about Aaron's troubled past and his new powers. And he has a message for Aaron: As the son of a mortal and an angel, Aaron has been chosen to redeem the Fallen.

Aaron tries to dismiss the news and resists his supernatural abilities. But he must accept his newfound heritage -- and quickly. For the dark powers are gaining strength, and are hell-bent on destroying him....

What’s better than a guy with a beautiful set of wings? When he knows how to use them.

When I picked up this book (which is really two, but they flow so well together, I forgot it was two), I broke a cardinal rule. I liked the cover. But I have to say, that it was worth it. I don’t read a ton of YA, but this one was indeed cool. Fallen angels, demons, and the ability to speak to animals (or at least understand them); caught my attention from page one. I felt like I was there with Aaron, learning about his heritage, and coming to terms with what he is, the son of a fallen angel and a human female.

This book was hard to put down. Why? It moves at a nice, brisk pace and there are plenty of little details that correlate (sort of) to The Bible. It was rather fun to try to figure out how the main players were manipulated to create this story, and it was totally worth the read.

Aaron, even though he’s not a typical teen, is a good teen for others to read about. Talk about angst. Yeah, the guy has issues. Girls, who he is, frustration, it’s all here, but with a great paranormal twist. I loved his dog, Gabriel. He’s got the best lines. What got to be a bit troubling was the heavy-handed use of passive voice. Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t really in Aaron’s point of view where it would’ve been better to be. Still, it wasn’t enough to detract from the story and make me not want to continue.

I’m glad I read this book. If you want a paranormal that’s a little off the beaten path, then pick up a copy of The Fallen. I give it 4.5 suns.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Secret Society of the Pink Crystal Ball by Risa Green

The Secret Society of the Pink Crystal Ball by Risa Green
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc.
genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Age Recommendation: 14+
Length: Full Length (315 pgs)
Rating: 5 suns
Reviewed by Cholla

In a world where nothing is certain, a little magic couldn’t hurt…right?

When Erin Channing’s favorite aunt dies, Erin is bequeathed a pink crystal ball and a set of weird instructions. Granted, Aunt Kiki (aka Aunt Kooky) always lived “outside the box.” But now Erin and her two best friends are convinced that the pink crystal ball holds the key to their future—or at least the key to getting dates…

Consider Your Fate to Be Sealed . . .

•Absolute knowledge is not unlimited; let the planets be your guide to the number.
•There are sixteen ways to die, but four of them you will never see.
•The future belongs to you alone. Other voices will be disappointed.
•One rotation is as far as you can see. Only uncertainty lies beyond.

High school is all about making choices, hopefully the right ones, too. But what if you had a way to get around making those choices and just make things happen? What would your life look like then? That is exactly what Erin Channing is trying to find out. Armed with nothing more than her two best friends and a pink plastic crystal ball, they embark on a journey that is both mystical, amusing, and emotionally liberating.

Erin is your average high school kid with an above average intelligence. She tends towards the rational and logical in most things, although sometimes she does allow herself to get caught up in the whirlwind that is her two best friends. Considering the fact that she’s in the middle of high school and in the midst of more drama than any one tenth grader needs, she is relatively level-headed and a great kid. I love the fact that she steps outside her comfort zone, no matter how freaked out it makes her, and takes a chance to gain the affection of a boy who was once her best friend and now, possibly more. And while she does make mistakes, they’re always because she had someone else’s best interests at heart. Erin is definitely the kind of kid I’d want to be friends with.

The Secret Society of the Pink Crystal Ball is a wonderfully written story of love, friendship, and wishes that really do come true. Written in a style that makes me think of chick lit for teens, Ms. Green is a master at the art of making you laugh out loud. She knows just how to weave a sense of mystery into an otherwise regular story, adding just a bit of something exciting to keep you reading and wanting more. A sure fire hit with any teen girl or any mom who once was a teen and is now raising one of her own.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Beautiful Dead: Arizona by Eden Maguire

Beautiful Dead: Arizona by Eden Maguire
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Age Recommendation: 14+
Length: Full Length (271 pgs)
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Fern

Darina’s only chance for immortal love is to sacrifice everything for an enemy…

Darina has always loathed prickly, arrogant Arizona but after weeks with no sign of the Beautiful Dead, Darina is willing to put up with anything if it means seeing her undead boyfriend, Phoenix. With less than two months before Arizona’s time is up, Hunter returns with the Beautiful Dead and demands that Darina live up to her promise to help them.

When you read a fantastic start to a series, you can’t help but anticipate the next installment. Thus is the case with The Beautiful Dead. When I read Beautiful Dead: Jonas I was captivated. I told everyone I knew about the book and couldn’t stop gushing about it. So when I finally received Beautiful Dead: Arizona, my one hope was that I at least came close in my enjoyment of the first. Not only did it do that, but the second book, to my delight, was even better.

In this, our heroine and the voice of the story, Darina must uncover the mystery behind Arizona’s death. It’s been nearly a year, and time is running out. As revenants, zombies, and those given one chance to get out of limbo, Arizona must find out what happened to her or face an eternity in flux. Darina helps, although she’s never cared for Arizona, because of her abiding love for Phoenix; her boyfriend and a member of the Beautiful Dead following his death months before. In order to maintain contact with her beloved, she must assist those who died from her high school. Meaning that after Arizona’s mystery is solved it is then Summer’s turn, and then Phoenix’s.

As with Jonas, I couldn’t put this book down. I love the voice of the author and her style of writing. In Arizona, she kicks things up a notch. The mystery of what occurred with Arizona is compacted by a multitude of different things, and Arizona isn’t talking, which means Darina’s job is even harder than before. As Darina enters into dangerous situations, her importance to the Beautiful Dead truly comes into focus. This, I felt, was important as it revealed just how much they need her. Even the head honcho, Hunter, finally accepts what she means to the salvation of those who have turned to her for assistance.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the one thing that pulls me back to the series and will continue to do so until the end -- the complex and heartbreaking relationship between Phoenix and Darina. Theirs is a love affair that is doomed to end tragically. You know it, are fully cognizant of it, but in some macabre way have to know how it ends. With only two books left, I know the answer is coming soon. I just hope that author, Eden Maguire finds some way to mend my heart after she’s broken it.

A definite must read and another Best Book, I loved The Beautiful Dead: Arizona. I recommend this story to a 14+ audience as well as for adults. If you’ve not experienced this phenomenal series, do yourself a favor and purchase a copy. I eagerly await the next, Beautiful Dead: Summer.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Struck by Conscience by C.K Green

Struck by Conscience by C.K Green
Publisher: Whimsical Publications
Genre: Contemporary, Sci Fi/Fantasy
Age Recommendation: 12+
Length: Short Story (48 pgs)
Rating: 4 suns
Reviewed by Forsythia

I, Charisma Mansfield, do solemnly swear that... I never asked to be popular. I never asked to be voted Prom Queen. I definitely never asked to have an invisible pixie perched on my shoulder whispering her opinions into my ear 24/7. But of all the things I never asked for, this is the worst one yet—when brooding but gorgeous Heath Ruvelas (my next door neighbor and the guy I used to be best friends with before jr. high) rescued me from drowning in the school pool. My already bizarre life would never be the same.

When life flashes before your eyes, what do you hope to see? C.K. Green's Struck by Conscience really makes you wonder this very question in the first pages of her book. Charisma Mansfield isn't your ordinary teenager. Not only does her life take a different turn after she nearly drowned in a pool, she also carries around a little sprite on her shoulder named Dahlia since as far back as she can remember. Although that sounds a little far-fetched, Charisma (Risa for short) seems to be a very genuine and strong character. For a short story she is definitely one of the best written characters I've seen in a while. Green's writing helps you get to know Risa and feel everything the character is feeling.

Risa's life came into prospective when she almost drowned in her school gym's swimming pool. As her life flashed before her eyes it seemed so unexciting and mundane! Sure, she was the popular girl in school and every girl wished to be her. She was voted homecoming and prom queen and had her token popular boyfriend at her side. Was this what she really wanted? Why didn't her boyfriend jump in after her? Why was it her childhood friend that she traded in for popularity helped her instead? Now her feelings toward everything started shifting gears. Luckily, she had her little sprite to help her make some decisions.

My favorite thing about this story was the fact that what most teenage girls strive for wasn't what Risa wanted and it made her such a strong character. Torn between life changing moments, confused feelings of love and loss from what she's been so used to, C.K. Green makes Risa feel so real to the reader. The things people might think are important really aren't what defines you as a person. When life takes you to a cross road which road will you take? I think Ms. Green wrote a great heart felt story with little whimsical twists following Risa around. Hopefully, there will be more of Risa and Dahlia to look forward to in the future. It really was an impressive coming-of-age story. It made this reader fall into the story from the moment Risa fell into that pool.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers

Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers
Publisher: Tor Teen Books
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Age Recommendation: 14+
Length: Full Length (365 pgs)
Rating: 5 Suns
Reviewed by Fern

Frannie Cavanaugh is a good Catholic girl with a bit of a wicked streak. She has spent years keeping everyone at a distance---even her closest friends---and it seems as if her senior year is going to be more of the same . . . until Luc Cain enrolls in her class. No one knows where he came from, but Frannie can’t seem to stay away from him.

What she doesn’t know is that Luc is on a mission. He’s been sent from Hell itself to claim Frannie’s soul. It should be easy---all he has to do is get her to sin, and Luc is as tempting as they come. Frannie doesn’t stand a chance. But he has to work fast, because if the infernals are after her, the celestials can’t be far behind. And sure enough, it’s not long before the angel Gabriel shows up, willing to do anything to keep Luc from getting what he came for. It isn’t long before they find themselves fighting for more than just Frannie’s soul.

But if Luc fails, there will be Hell to pay . . . for all of them.

The battle is to tag a girl’s soul for Heaven or Hell. Who will win? The gorgeous and breathtaking Gabe? Or the sinfully attractive and hot as Hell Luc? Thus is the question posed in Personal Demons, the first story in a series about good, evil, and that fine line that exists in between.

When the story begins, we are introduced to Frannie - a girl with a special talent that Heaven and Hell want so badly they have sent their very best to ensure she plays for their team. What they don’t anticipate is just how deeply Frannie’s presence will affect the two men who vie for her attention - and her soul. Told through first person narratives of Frannie and Luc (you’ll understand as the book progresses why you never hear from Gabe), Personal Demons is wrought with angst, witty one liners, and enough anticipation of what awaits on the page to keep your interest from start to finish.

Frannie was a character I wasn’t all that sure I liked until I really got to know her issues. She’s a bit standoffish and hard to relate to. As her shell cracked, and I got a glimpse of her vulnerable exterior, I found that I not only liked her but I could have been her at some point in my life. We all have things that occur that force us to retreat inside ourselves. In Frannie’s case, this something is big, and the guilt is eating away at her soul.

As for Luc and Gabe, well, they are equally intense and unforgettable. Gabe is an angel who will be there for Frannie even if she chooses the wrong path, while Luc is so burn-your-fingers-hot that you’ll want Frannie to fall from grace. I have to say, if there are teams, I’m all for Team Luc. He’s sexy, he’s smart, and in the end, he proves he’s far more than a minion from the abyss who doesn’t deserve redemption or the chance to win Frannie’s heart. That’s not to say Gabe isn’t a sexy force of his own, but rather, the way the story is written you can’t help but root for the “bad” boy.

The writing is very good and, though the start is a tad slow, once you’re immersed in the lives of the characters, you won’t want to stop reading. I recommend Personal Demons for readers 14+ and for adults who have a taste for darker YA with humor, heat, and characters that come to life on the page.