Monday, May 28, 2012

11-22-63: A Novel

Author:  Stephen King
Year: 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Narrator: Craig Wesson

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated and the world changes. King's novel begins nearly 50 years after Kennedy's assassination with Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Maine. To earn extra money, Jake teaches GED classes. He gives his class an assignment to write about the day that changed their lives. One of his students writes about the night that his father murdered his mother and siblings and left Harry handicapped. 

Then, one of Jake's friends, Al Templeton, shows Jake the "rabbit hole" a portal that leads back to 1958. Al recruits Jake to handle his dying mission - stop the JFK assassination. But, Jake also sees a way to save Harry's family. So he sets off back to 1958 where he must wait out five years until 1963 to stop the Kennedy assassination. In those years, he follows Oswald to try and prove that Oswald was the lone gunman. He also makes friends, falls in love and learns what life is all about.

In 11/22/63, Stephen King does what King does best - he tells a story that captivates and ensnares the reader. While I was listening to this book, I wanted nothing more than to continue listening to find out what was going to happen to Jake and the rest of the residents of Jodie, Texas. Would he be able to stop the Kennedy assassination? And, if he did, what changes would it make in the world? Craig Wesson did a wonderful job narrating the book. 

Across the Universe

Author:  Beth Revis
Year:  2011
Publisher:  Razorbill

Amy is cryogenically frozen and put onboard the spaceship Godspeed. She and her parents are part of a team going to terraform and establish a colony on a new planet. She's supposed to sleep for 300 years (until she reaches the new planet); however, 50 years too early, Amy is awakened and it soon becomes obvious that someone tried to murder her. Now Amy is stuck on a ship with a bunch of complete strangers and has now clue who to trust. 

I read this entire book in one sitting. I liked both Amy and Elder and found their plights enthralling and believable. I loved the world that Revis created (even if it was all on board a spaceship). This is a cute fun read.

Shadow Bound

Author: Rachel Vincent
Year: 2012
Publisher:  Mira/Harlequin

Kori Daniels can use shadows to move instantly from one place to another which sounds like the ultimate definition of freedom but Kori is bound to Jake Tower which means that she can't do anything without his permission. And now, after a recent failure, Tower has a job for Kori and if she doesn't succeed not only  her life but her sister's life is at stake. Tower wants Kori to recruit and sign Ian Holt. But Ian's got other plans for getting involved with Tower. He wants to kill Kori's sister. 

For some reason, I had thought this book was going to continue the story of Liv and Cam from Blood Bound but it wasn't. Once I got past that, I loved the book. Rachel Vincent's writing is always fast paced and fun. Her characters are terrific and lovable. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Last Werewolf

Author:  Glen Duncan
Year: 2011
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

Jacob Marlowe is the last living werewolf on earth and it seems that everybody is out to kill him. He's on the run and he's thinking about suicide. This was a very interesting story that took me ages to read. It didn't take so long because it was a bad or boring book because it was neither. It was fast-paced, gritty and unique. Duncan definitely knows how to craft a sentence. I recommend reading this book if you want something different in the paranormal spectrum or just something different altogether. But be forewarned that there is both rough killing and rough sex (sometimes at the same time). It is not a children's book or one for the weak of stomach.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Author:  Betty Smith
Year: 1943
Publisher:  Harper Collins

This is the coming of age story of Frances Nolan. Francie lives in Brooklyn in the early 1900s. Her family is poor. They scrape by for food and make up games to make their meager rations seem like more. Her father is an alcoholic. Francie's mother, a very hard worker, has one goal and that is that her children have a better life than she did. Francie loves school and reading but is a bit of a loner. 

I'm not sure what I expected when I started this book but it wasn't what I got. There is no goal or mission for Francie except for growing up and surviving in the slums of Brooklyn. Yet, the book was engrossing. It was like Betty Smith shot a film of life in Brooklyn during this time period and then translated it to a book. I felt what it was like to be Francie. She is strong, beautiful, smart and thoughtful. She might just be one of my favorite heroines in literature. 

On top of that, Betty Smith had some of the most beautiful writing I've seen anywhere. More than once, there were paragraphs that I had to reread just because they are so beautiful and that there is so much said that I was afraid I missing parts. If you're in the mood to read a classic, then pick this book up and give it a try.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Hunt

Author:  Andrew Fukoa
Year:  2012
Publisher:  St. Martin's Griffin

Gene is a human living in a world of vampires. Every day he has to work constantly at just keeping focus and not doing anything that will give away his secret and lead to his death. One day, he's chosen in a lottery to participate in a Hunt. It's a hunt for hepers (humans). He is expected to train and then go out into the "wild" to hunt down the other humans. The vampire that consumes the most humans wins. 

This story was definitely interesting and nerve wracking. It's The Immortal Rules in reverse but a whole lot more tense. At times I wondered why I was reading the book and at other times, I couldn't put it down. But even though I am on the fence on this book, after that ending, I can't wait to read the next book.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Lost Hero: The Heroes of Olympus, Book One

Author: Rick Riordan
Year:  2010
Publisher: Disney Hyperion Books

Jason, Piper and Leo are all students at a Wilderness School for problem kids when monsters attack and they end up at Camp Half-Blood and learn that they're all three demigods. Leo's great with mechanical things and can control fire, Piper's smart and beautiful and can talk anybody into anything (literally - it's one of her gifts) and Jason, well, Jason doesn't remember who he is. Then the three of them must go out on a quest to rescue Hera.

I liked the way that Riordan tied this this story line in with the Percy Jackson series (and it looks like I'm going to get to see more of Percy in the next book -yay!) but kept it on it's on. I liked Jason a lot - maybe even a bit more than Percy. He's definitely up there with him. I like tying the Roman and Greek gods together. Plus, I'm a sucker for mythology stories and interpretations. Most definitely looking forward to the rest of the series.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Author: Michael Chabon
Year: 2000
Publisher:  Picador

This is the story of Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay. The story begins in 1930s New York City when Joe has managed a Houdini type escape from Prague to end up with his aunt, uncle and cousin in New York City. Sam and Joe immediately hit it off. Together, they create some of the most popular comic book characters of the 30s and 40s. The most popular being The Escapist.

I'm conflicted on this story. The beginning was good, the ending was great but the middle was just so-so. It was like I ran into a brick wall int he middle of the book and I couldn't get around or through it. But towards the end, I got caught back up in the story again. I loved the comics angle and the relationship between Sam and Joe and would have liked to have seen more of that. Despite how much I disliked the middle, I could still see that Michael Chabon has talent and he can craft a sentence. He's a magnificent writer. If you decide to read this book and you, like me, get bogged down in the middle, just skip to the last 100 pages or so and finish the book from there.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Author:  Alethea Kontis
Year: 2012
Publisher:  Harcourt

Sunday is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter - all named after days of the week. Her greatest joy comes in writing stories; however, Sunday's stories tend to come true so she only writes about things that have already happened. One day while writing, she  meets an enchanted frog who listens to her stories and the two become friends. Each day as Sunday leaves him, she kisses him. One night, when she kisses him, unbeknownst to Sunday, he turns back to into the prince - the exact prince that her family hates. 

This story was chock full of sweet, sugary goodness. It was all romance and love. There was never any doubt that the prince loved Sunday and that Sunday loved him. My favorite part of the story was how the author threw nearly every fairy tale in the canon into the book. She also had lots of different, subtle differences in the fairy tales to make them fit her story. It was a very creative and sweet story.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Left Neglected

Author: Lisa Genova
Year: 2011
Publisher:  Gallery Books

I was listening to This is Audible a while back and heard them interviewing Lisa Genova about her new book, Left Neglected. I've got to be honest, I was only halfway listening to it when it dawned on me that they were talking about a condition that my dad had a/k/a left neglect. At that point, I rewound the show and listened to the entire interview with my full attention. In Left Neglected, Sarah Nickerson has it all. She's got a Harvard degree, a high paying job, a loving  husband and three beautiful children. One day while driving to work and making phone calls (something we're all guilty of), she looks away from the road and wrecks. The result is a traumatic brain injury that leaves her with left neglect. Basically, people with left neglect don't realize they have a left side. They will eat everything on the right side of their plate, put make up only on the right side of their face or dress only their right side. 

Lisa Genova did a wonderful job of conveying the condition. I can't count the number of times that I found myself laughing, or nodding or crying because she so accurately described scenes that have happened in my house while I'm caring for my dad. Also, the phrase "look left" is a constant mantra in our house. I felt like she really understood the condition and what it is like for someone to live with it. In one scene, Sarah's husband is telling her how simple it is to "look left" and she's trying to explain to him that to her there is no left. Sarah asks her husband to tell her everything he sees in the room and he does. Then, Sarah says:

"Okay, now what if I told you that everything you see is only half of everything that's really here? What if I told you to turn your head and look at the other half? Where would you look?"
I'm not positive that I particularly like her characters but the book gets an "A" just for the wonderful, and in my experience accurate, portrayal of left neglect. 

Switched, Torn and Ascend

Author:  Amanda Hocking
Years: 2010-2012
Publisher:  St. Martin's Griffin

Wendy Everly always knew there was something a little bit different about her - asides from the fact that her mother tried to kill her on her sixth birthday exclaiming the entire time that Wendy wasn't her child. Turns out her mother was right. Wendy was actually a changeling placed there by the trylle or trolls. Not only is Wendy a troll, but she's the princess. The two troll kingdoms are at war and Wendy is being used as a pawn in the war. On top of that, Wendy has to choose between three wonderful, handsome guys. 

Overall, I liked this series. It's the only book I've read so far featuring trolls. Wendy was a strong character and all three of her love choices were terrific. None of the guys ended up being horrible to help her make her choice. But things ended up right with the happily, ever after. It was very romantic. On the downside, Hocking's writing is just OK. There's no fantastic beauty or poetry to her words, she just tells a story. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Wither and Fever: Books 1 and 2 of The Chemical Garden Trilogy

Author: Lauren DeStefano
Years:  2011 and 2012
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster

Rhine Ellery lives in a world where genetic engineering has caused every newborn child to have a short live (boys die at 25, girls at 20). Girls are kidnapped and taken to be wives for rich men so that they can have more children. At 16, Rhine is one of these girls. Yet, the entire time she is there and is a sister wive, Rhine thinks only of escape. 

First off, these books have awesome covers. They're haunting.  Secondly, this is a fairly original concept for YA literature. The books aren't heart-pounding, edge of your seat reads but they're hypnotizing. DeStefano is a beautiful writer and the books are almost poetic at times. Most of the time, I know where an author is going by the time I finish the second book of a trilogy but this time, I have no idea. I have some clues and nigglings of ideas in my head but there isn't a set or defined goal for Rhine except for finding her brother. What she plans to do once she finds him, I have no clue. Or maybe just finding her brother and reuniting with him is the plan? 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Insurgent: Divergent, Book 2

Author: Veronica Roth
Year: 2012
Publisher:  Katherine Tegen Books

Insurgent begins mere moments after the end of Divergent and jumps right into the action. We get to see more of the different factions and the factionless which are a faction of their own. Insurgent is full of twists and turns and surprises (some I really couldn't believe). We also get a lot of Tris dealing with her actions at the end of Divergent, her parents' deaths and her relationship with Four. Tris also has to decide who she is and what she believes or if she's going to let other peoples beliefs and actions control her beliefs. 

I loved this book. It was fun, exciting, non-stop action and heartbreaking. Tris' grief at the loss of her parents and the treatment of her Abnegation were enough to break my heart but then throw in her struggles and arguments with Four and it was almost too much but really just perfect. I appreciated that Veronica Roth never had Tris and Four saying the relationship is over or I don't love you. Instead she showed their struggles to love each other and accept the other person with all their differences and suicidal actions. I did get a little bit worried about Four towards the end but he kept the faith. 

This is one of my favorite series out there and I definitely recommend it wholeheartedly.


Author: Meg Cabot
Year: 2011
Publisher:  Point

Pierce died when she was fifteen years old. Then she came back to life but not before traveling to the underworld and meeting John. After returning to life, Pierce has problems at her school and she and her mother move to Florida but her problems follow her there - including John. Logically, Pierce wants nothing to do with John but for some reason, she's drawn to him. 

Like The Goddess Test, this is the story of Persephone and Hades. Or at least that's what the back cover says but I never saw too much of the myth in the book. It started off kind of slow and I had a hard time figuring out where the story was going to go but it picked up towards the end and had a good finish. The romance was no where near as good as that in The Goddess Test or the action. Maybe if I hadn't read this book so close to The Goddess Test, I wouldn't be making the comparisons and would have enjoyed this one more but, unfortunately, I did and the comparisons are inevitable. I felt like this book didn't really start until about 70 pages from the end. I like Meg Cabot a lot and will definitely pick up the next book in the series. I just hope it picks up with the action and doesn't have a lot of build up.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Immortal Rules: Blood of Eden, Book 1

Author:  Julie Kagawa
Year: 2012
Publisher:  Harlequin Teen

This is a dystopian novel where the world is ruled by vampires and humans are in the minority and struggling to survive extinction. Allie is one of those humans. She lives with her ragtag band on the outskirts of a vampire city scavenging for food. One night she and her friends are attacked and she must decide whether to die or become one of the monsters she despises. After she turns, Allie is forced to flee the city and teems up with a ragtag bunch of humans searching for Eden and tries to blend in with them and be human at the same time she is fighting her own desires. 

After reading a lot of fey stories that were absolutely horrible, I swore them off but I kept hearing so much good stuff about Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series that I gave them a shot and loved them. Now, I hadn't sworn off vampire stories but, if I had, Julie Kagawa would have given me hope in them again. Allie is a wonderful, kick-butt protagonist and I loved her. Zeke is a wonderful hero and so lovable. (Seems I'm loving the leading men a lot lately, doesn't it?). If you're burned out on vampire stories, give this one a try. It's different and the series has great potential. 

Grave Mercy

Author:  Robin LaFevers
Year: 2012
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin

Ismae is marked as Death's child at birth. At 17, she is forced to flee to the convent of St. Mortain (Death) in order to escape a cruel, arranged marriage. The nuns at St. Mortain offer to let Ismae stay with them and they will train her as assassin for death. Basically, Ismae's job will be to kill the people who are marked by St. Mortain. Ismae is sent out on assignment with Gavriel Duval who the convent suspects of being at traitor; but, as Ismae works with him, she finds herself attracted to Duval and beginning to doubt her own assignments.

It took me a while to get into LaFevers' writing but by about 1/3 of the way into the book, I couldn't put it down. I loved the story, Ismae and, most especially Duval. I thought this was a very original story. After all, how often is our heroine a daughter of Death? I found the idea of an entire convent devoted to killing people novel. By the end of the story, I was proud of Ismae and in love with Duval.