Monday, October 4, 2010

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

by Lish McBride

Overall: YYY
Action: aaa
Comedy: aaa
Drama: aa4
Romance: aa4
Suspense/Mystery: aaa
Tragedy/Tear-worthy: a

Explanation of rating

***Hold Me Closer, Necromancer will be released October 12, 2010***

Summary: Sam is a barely-college student making a not-so-extravagent life working at Plumpy's, spending his time playing Potato Hockey and "Guess What I Put in the Fryer" with his co-workers/friends: Ramon, Brooke, and Frank. One day a rogue potato shot hits an expensive car belonging to Douglas Montgomery and Sam's life gets a little complicated. That night he is attacked in the parking lot and left with long scratches down his back.

Back in his apartment with his friends, using his mom's hippy/herbalist medicines to heal his cuts, a package is delivered. The boys open it up to discover Brooke's severed head... her talking severed head (she's none too happy about it either). A note tells Sam to meet at the zoo the next day.

When he shows up next to the panda exhibit, Sam meets Douglas again and discovers his own hidden ability to raise the dead. Douglas gives the boy one week to decide to become an apprentice, or die. Through that week, Sam discovers more and more about his hidden ability and just how much his own mother has kept from him.

All during this[the narration switches most chapters], Douglas also has a hand in the kidnapping of Brid, a werewolf/werehound hybrid who is the heir to lead the pack. He does experiments on her and hints at previous tests on other creatures. Sam is kidnapped as well and is held captive in the cage with Brid [did I mention that she's naked?], occasionally being let out and forced to learn and use his power.

With twists in the classic bad-guy-underestimating-the-good-guy, this is a unique story sprinkled with the undead.

"'So, you see the dead and stuff, huh? How very
Sixth Sense of you.'"


Opinion: My friend, Dorothy Donne, attended the 2010 Book Expo America and nabbed several books for me (reviews to come, I'm sure). Not having heard any talk about Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, she chose it purely from the title - so the book definitely has that going for it! Other than that, though, this is nothing spectacular.

McBride definitely has talent, however. She present great detail and sprinkles in small events that the characters mention from their pasts - it makes them seem more real and gives a greater dimension to each person. And her sense of humor is evident on every page.

There's so much potential to be greater than it is... And I'm honestly unsure if there will be a sequel or not. The ending leaves us with a possibility, but not a guarantee. If there happens to be a second book to Sam's Necromancy skills, I'll absolutely pick it up in hopes to see its potential filled.


For School? (Hey, I'm a teacher, I think about this stuff!) I wouldn't teach it, but I'd recommend it to the more reluctant readers, particularly the boys. The only problem, aside from the whole Necromancy thing that I'm sure many religious families would have a problem with for no real reason aside from never having read a fiction book before, is there is a quick-barely-there sex scene that isn't even described, just alluded to.

Friday, September 24, 2010

My friend and sorority sister Dorothy Donne is the creator of the official Cassandra Clare fansite, She has recently made-over the entire layout and is updating like a little fiend!
I am now a Contributor for the site and I absolutely recommend everyone to check it out! The detail Dorothy has put into it is astounding :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Girl in the Arena

by Lise Haines

Overall: YYYY
Action: aaaa
Comedy: aaa
Drama: aaaa4
Romance: aa4
Suspense/Mystery: aaa
Tragedy/Tear-worthy: aa

Explanation of rating

Summary: Eighteen-year-old Lyn G. is the daughter of seven gladiators - her birth father having been an original Glad, and after his death her mother Allison married six more - all champion Glads in the quickly-popularized sport. In this barely-futuristic time, the fighting matches have fit their way into the world's culture and hold a reality-tv-like popularity [a step above that, actually. Snookie has less power in Haine's world]. Lyn's mother bases her identity upon the Glad culture and pressures her daughter to immerse herself as well... which doesn't sit well with our protagonist (a self-proclaimed passifist).

Lyn's most recent father, Tommy G., is also the most popular of the Glads and probably the only one that Lyn has actual affection for. He genuinely helps care for her little brother, Thad, who has a mental disability [I'm thinking Autism or Asperger's but I'm not positive] and is an occasional oracle - giving predictions that often come true. Leading up to his match, Tommy seems less sure of himself than usual. Concerned, but unable to openly voice her worry due to the Bylaws that dictate all of Glad life, Lyn gives Tommy her dowry bracelet as a good-luck token.

In the match, Tommy must fight the rising young star Uber. The summary on the back of the book already tells us that Tommy is killed - Uber picks up the bracelet that has fallen off of his opponent's wrist. It is leaked through the media that the accessory is actually Lyn's dowry and, due once again to the Bylaws, she must marry the man who just killed her father. ("No man is allowed to hold your dowry bracelet, except your father. If a man holds your dowry bracelet he's required, according to the GSA law, to marry you, Bylaw 87.")

Ceasar Inc., the agency in charge of the Gladiator Sports Associaton, essentially says Lyn must marry Uber or lose her family's home and any support previously promised for being such high-standing Glad family members. Uber tries to win Lyn over despite her aggression towards him, and Mark (Lyn's best friend) gives obvious hints about his own feeling.

The entire world has pressure on Lyn and it wears her down while she simply wants to live on her own terms. Her family is being ripped apart and she chooses to fight Uber for her right to stay single - giving Ceasar Inc. a media-frenzied event they want.

Everything builds up to the final battle the story is based upon - giving a stage for friendships, family, and morality to come into play.


Opinion: Once again I read a book purely because of the author herself. She friended me on Facebook, and since then hasn't just been "Buy my book! Buy my book!" at me - she's commented on statuses and showed that she actually reads what people have to say. Because of her personableness [ten points for vocab], I did buy her book!

It definitely was not what I originally expected. I kept hearing a lot of comparisons to The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - but now that I've read GitA, I'm confused as to how people are so adamant about that! Sure, both settings are in the future (HG significantly more so), both have a powerful agency in control, both have a strong female protagonist... but all of those comparisons are so generalized! There are hundreds of novels with the same premise and just because HG is popular, people's minds jump to it more quickly. Girl in the Arena is much more unique than people give credit! You need to, shockingly, read the book to really understand what I mean.

I was waiting for a lot more action scenes, mainly because of the cover and all of the summaries I've read were focused on Lyn's fight in the arena. Instead Haines developes the relationships Lyn has with her mother, brother, friends, and Uber. The story is less about the actual fighting and more about the motives behind the gladiator sport, Lyn's power to choose for herself, and the power Ceasar holds and is gaining over people's natural rights.

Some people are aggitated over the lack of violence [you'll notice I still gave four checks for action - when there are fights, they are intense], but go into this book with a mind set for character development and growth of relationships and you won't be disappointed!

p.s. It's ironic that the sport was originally started to have boys release aggression in a safe way and maybe reduce the amount of wars fought... that didn't go according to plan obviously. I didn't know how to fit this into the review, but I just had to say it lol

p.p.s. Uber is fricken adorable.


For School? (Hey, I'm a teacher, I think about this stuff!) The writing is fantastic! The style is different from what most people are used to (i.e. No quotation marks!) but there is no confusion between what a character is actually speaking and what their actions are. This is a great example to show students how to keep voices separate and easily identifiable.

On another note, I'm a huge fan of inter-curriculum learning (using the same/similar topics in more than one subject to better re-enforce the content/concepts)! I can easily see middle-schoolers learning about Ancient Greek and Roman mythology and having this book in their Language Arts class - pointing out the similarities, the metaphors and allusions... I'd love to teach this along side a Social Studies course!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Clockwork Angel

by Cassandra Clare

Overall: YYYY4
Action: aaaaa
Comedy: aaa4

Drama: aaaa
Romance: aaa4
Suspense/Mystery: aaaa
Tragedy/Tear-worthy: aa4
Explanation of rating

***Clockwork Angel will be released August 31, 2010***
Clockwork Angel is now in stores!

Summary: Taking place in London in the last quarter of the 1800s, American-born Tessa Gray comes to England after her aunt dies to live with her older brother, Nathaniel. Upon arriving, she is taken in by two women, the Dark Sisters (as they like to be called), who have a letter from Nate, telling Tessa to trust the women to bring her to his home. Surprise, surprise, this doesn't go as well as expected.

The Dark Sisters kidnap Tessa and force her to learn an ability she never knew she had. Turns out, she is a Downworlder, potentially a warlock, with the power to shape-shift - changing into any person and gaining insight into their personalities and memories. Every day she is forced to push herself further in this training all for the sake of the mysterious Magister, whom the Dark Sisters are working for. Once Tessa discovers she is actually being prepared to marry the Magister, she begins to make her escape... and fails. But then she escapes again [she's really a bit clever throughout the book] and is simultaniously rescued by William Herondale [does the name ring any bells?], a beautiful young shadowhunter with a knack for witty comebacks.

Taken to the London Institute, Tessa is introduced to the other Shadowhunters that inhabit the church: Charlotte, the head of the Institute struggling to gain respect as a powerful woman; Henry, an wonky inventor with a mild case of ADHD [love him!]; Jessamine, who only wants to have a normal life for a woman of the time without the demon blood on her clothes; Jem, Will's parabatai and the more logical and calm of the pair who easily befriends Tessa; and Thomas, Sophie, and Agatha, each Mundanes who have the Sight and work for the Clave. Throughout the book, other characters come into play as well, including a couple of Lightwoods and Magnus Bane himself [If you are wondering: yes, it is possible for him to be as incredibly fabulous in the 19th Century as he is in the 21st, just less sparkly.].

It's hard to continue with a spoil-free summary after this, because Clare jumps into some pretty intense [and rather descriptive] action. In essence, the Shadowhunters agree to help Tessa find her brother as long as she, in turn, uses her shape-shifting abilities to uncover evil-doings of the Pandemonium Club and the people/Downworlders behind the recent influx of mechanical beings with a tendency to kill.


Opinion: First of all, remember to suggest amazing books to amazing people - you will always be rewarded. Several years ago, I told one of my most fabulous friends, and sorority sister [w00t Phi Sigma Sigma], Ashley about The Mortal Instruments [Cassie's first series... duh]. She kind of fell in love and created the official fansite a few days later. In return, I read City of Glass in advance when she let me borrow her copy, and now she gave me a advance copy of Clockwork Angel (only 300 of which were given out at BEA
). So, I devote this entire paragraph to you, Ashley ;)

Moving on...
This story is completely different from what we all knew and loved in The Mortal Instruments that I even dislike trying to vaguely compare character roles. Will does not equal Jace; Jem does not equal Alec; Tessa does not not NOT equal Clary. It will be hard to convince the more stubborn readers out there that this is true, but within the first few chapters it's obvious.

The only reason I gave this book 4.5 Ys rather than 5 is because I felt as if it was setting me up for something even better. It's like climbing up the ladder for a high dive - you reach the top and can see out over the lake; you get to the end of the board, look down and realize where you are and take in the weird feeling in your tummy that is telling you "Hey, this kind of goes against basic survival instincts. Just sayin'," but you ignore that silly little tummy of yours and you want to jump.

This book basically ends there. I want to jump sooooo bad, because that's the best part. Clockwork Angel is more like climbing the ladder: I absolutely laughed a bunch of times [we all know Cassie has the best one-liners, and Will delivers them perfectly], I held my breath during some pretty intense fights [really brilliant descriptions], and I definitely cried [Cassie always makes me cry]. And I love that there is going to be something even more amazing in the books to come. Throughout this first installment, there are little details that are sure to play a bigger part (especially the reason behind the title 'Clockwork Angel'), again making me more excited to read the rest of the series!

p.s. I'll have you know, I am pretty decisive about "teams." I'm Team Peeta, for the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I'm Team Draco, as in Hermione/Draco [blame Cassie for this one too...]. Hell, I am even Team George when it comes to the Weasley twins. But this book.... From Cassie's cookies, I thought Jem. But after actually reading it all, I'm not sure. And you know what? I love this story even more because of my indecisiveness. This really just means that Cassie was able to present two equal and well-deserving characters - nothing blatantly sided like it was for Jace/Clary.


For School? (Hey, I'm a teacher, I think about this stuff!) How do I say no to Cassandra Clare? While this isn't generally something a regular English class would probably study, any properly tailored course could do wonders with this book - especially if the class were to compare the story of The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices. The way Clare is able to use a basic premise (Shadowhunters) and create two very different
stories is something I don't get to read often. Many authors fall into the same story, just with different names and setting; it gets boring. Cassandra Clare is never boring. #fact

Realistically though, this book is purely for entertainment and should be kept that way.

p.s. Happy Birthday, Harry Fricken Potter!

Monday, June 7, 2010


by Linda Gerber

Overall: YYYYY
Action: aaa
Comedy: aaa

Drama: aaaaa
Romance: aaaa
Suspense/Mystery: aaaaa
Tragedy/Tear-worthy: aaa
Explanation of rating

***Trance will be released October 2010***

Linda Gerber quotes part of my review on her blogspot! [/edit]

Summary: Several months after being in a horrible car accident, which resulted in the death of her mother, Ashlyn is trying to get back to normal. The only problem [okay, one of the problems] is that she was never "normal" to begin with. Her sister Kyra and she have always had visions - flashes of the future that never made complete sense until the things they saw came to pass. When they have these visions, they blackout and go into a trance and their hands write down confusing numbers and equations. Together the sisters had always tried to complete each of their visions (Ashlyn would only get certain parts of a vision, while Kyra got certain other bits). What they see is never good.

The back story slowly fills in as Ashlyn goes through her current life and grieves the loss she feels she could have prevented. She thinks back to the accident, memories growing up with the trances, and how she and Kyra learned early on to keep the truth a secret or risk sociel alienation and fear.

Kyra has recently moved out and cut all contact with her sister, and their father isolates himself in his office and on business trips. Ashlyn feels completely alone despite her efforts to connect with her father and find her sister. She struggles with allowing people to understand what is really happening inside her head. She hides the truth from her best friend and literally runs away when Jake, a sweet boy with a passion for music and his crappy motorcycle, tries to get close with her. He keeps a persistant and [mostly] patient watch over Ashlyn, wanting to help but also having his own past.

As the story progresses, Ashlyn tries to grab a handle on her trances and to understand the numbers she writes down. Her pregnant, snappy co-worker, Gina, gives some numerology insight that just might help Ashlyn prevent the next terrible event that keeps repeating in her trances. She feels real hope for the first time in ages that she might actually have some power in her life.

With the small pieces coming together, all Ashlyn needs to do is be at the right place at the right time and find the right person and stop a scarily similar tragedy she should have prevented months before. The story shows just how the universe can work in mysterious ways and still give the answers and the people a person needs to keep going.

"Never use limitations as an excuse for mediocrity."


Opinion: I honestly don't know the best words to describe this book! I am in complete awe right now. I finished reading this in less than a day. I couldn't put it down. I read while I ate. I read while I got my lunch ready for work the next day. The only break I took was to watch the MTV Movie Awards preview of Harry Potter [nothing is more important than Harry Potter. Sorry, Ms. Gerber]. And now I am still digesting the intensity that is Trance.

The summaries I have read reminded me a lot of the WAKE trilogy by Lisa McMann - I love that series [though I have yet to read Gone! Don't spoil it for me!]. While on Twitter, when I mentioned the similar-sounding premise, @Lisa_McMann even told me "Trance is an awesome book and quite different from WAKE in the best possible way." I hadn't even begun reading at that point, so I got right to it! And McMann was right: Best. Possible. Way.

The writing keeps the reader in constant suspense from the very first page. The fluid way in which Gerber inserts memories to fill in Ashlyn's earlier life gives answers at just the right moments without allowing the reader to completely predict everything. The characters are automatically likable [Jake? So cute!] and the more drama that occurs the more you want to hold your breath until things work out for them all [basically I was light-headed from not breathing much].

The story is in constant motion because everything Ashlyn does is affected by her trances and her reactions to them, or even to the mere possibility of them. Gerber sprinkles in aspects of school, the characters' hobbies/passions, and creepy neighbors in perfect measurement to remind the reader that these people have entire lives that aren't even touched upon in this one plot - that there is so much more to this world. It makes the book something more, giving tiny insights for each character. And all that extra information is kept mostly out of reach, especially at the end. A lot of writers seem to find it difficult balancing the background world with the focused story, but Gerber definitely doesn't have a problem.

It's a heart-racing, breath-taking, unstoppable read that leaves you in your own trance with this book in your hands. [how's that for a blurb? lol]

And that ending? I obviously can't describe it without spoilers... but.... Ugh. Just get this book when it comes out in October. Sooner, if you're able to.


For School? (Hey, I'm a teacher, I think about this stuff!) Unless it is for a writing course (for suspense/not-giving-every-piece-of-information-right-away writing), I don't see it being studied in-depth. This is purely for entertainment, something that I would absolutely recommend to any of my students - especially because it isn't too "girly," as some of my kids would say.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


by Kody Keplinger

Overall: YYYY
Action: aa
Comedy: aaa

Drama: aaaa
Romance: aaaaa
Suspense/Mystery: aaa
Tragedy/Cry-worthy: aa
Explanation of rating

***The DUFF will be released September 2010***
The DUFF is now in stores!

Summary: The first two chapters set up the basics for the rest of the novel. Bianca Piper is a cynical, chubby high school senior and her two best friends, Casey and Jessica, are gorgeous - tall, great boobs, school-spirited, etc. Wesley Rush, a well-known sexy man-whore at the high school, takes to talking to Bianca one night at the local teen hotspot, The Nest. He's flat-out blunt with her - making it known that the only reason he was sitting by her is so that he could seem sensitive to the "Duff' of her group, thereby giving a better chance for him to hook up with Casey or Jessica [charming, right?]. His research is that girls like it when boys are nice to their Duff. It only takes a quick explanation that Duff means the "Designated Ugly Fat Friend" in every group of girls for Bianca to get pissed. She tosses her drink at Wesley and storms out of the club, dragging her friends with her.

At home with a mostly-absent mother and a formerly-alcoholic father, Bianca looks for an escape. Of course, Wesley shows up at just the right time and she finds herself kissing him. She's quick to realize her mistake, but as high school fate would have it, she is paired up with the obnoxious asshat for an English project. While attempting to work on their paper, the two get... distracted. Bianca makes it clear that she only wants to use Wesley, and Wesley makes it clear that he is perfectly content with just that. Wesley Rush doesn't chase girls, and he definitely is not chasing her.

As stress at home becomes more intense, Bianca finds herself spending more time hooking up with Wesley and less time even talking to her best friends - trying to avoid the ugly "truth" of her crumbling home-life and being the Duff, while being constantly reminded of it each time she is with the boy who first labeled her. When she starts to notice that Wesley isn't as soulless as she had believed, the time with him becomes less nauseating. And the situation only becomes more complicated when Bianca's long-time crush, Toby Tucker [one of my favorite lines: "Aside from the tragic alliteration, he was perfect in every single way."], takes notice of her too.

With several poignant scenes, Bianca also realizes that she needs to stop doing anything she can to escape reality and to simply face it. She used to think being the Duff was a good way to avoid boy-drama, but suddenly she is caught up in more than she ever imagined with the two least-likely guys in her high school; and her gorgeous best friends are making her realize that she isn't necessarily the only one who can complain about looks.


After the first few pages, I hate to now admit that I was prepared to severely dislike this book... At first, the characters were pure stereotypes [my least favorite thing to read nearly 300 pages of] - you had the gorgeous best friends, the cliques of jocks, the sluts... And, of course, you have the snarky, concieted, Greek-god-like bad boy with a reputation.

But then there was a break in the clouds. The characters started to take unique shapes, to show the different aspects of themselves behind the common high school labels. From there, the story really took off and it rescued itself from being banned from my bookshelf [a rare but serious event in my room lol]. Once I realized that the major stereotypical writing in the beginning was only giving better cushion for the deeper understanding of each of the characters and a more forceful view of the main theme, I didn't want to put this book down. I read until the early hours of the morning just to finish it, flailing slightly in bed each time something adorably sweet and unexpected occured. I still smile at one damn line that I want to gush about with someone... but I can't until September [damn ARC! The line is on page 243 for anyone else who has read the ARC].

Being a new and still-young author, Keplinger writes a realistic description of what it is like to be in high school. She makes it a point to realize that everyone - girl, boy, all shapes and sizes - has felt like the Duff, and we shouldn't be ashamed of it.

Plain and simple, this book makes me smile :D


For School? (Hey, I'm a teacher, I think about this stuff!)
Book banners will have a field day with this novel - meaning, basically, that it would be good in a classroom. There is a lot of mention of teenage sex and sexual activities - making it casual and not so much a burn-in-hell sin - but Keplinger doesn't force any judgement on the opinions of sex, it's simply just a part of the book (nothing graphic either, just allusions to).

The overall theme of accepting yourself and realizing that everyone isn't what they seem is perfect for a high school setting; through this, character developement is wonderfully shown. The writing is in the voice of a teenager, making it relatable; and there are mentions of current events (Obama as president, music taste, television shows) that might make this book seem out of date in a decade or two, but is great for right now. Even if it doesn't get the chance in a classroom, I absolutely recommend it to every person who has ever felt like the Duff.

Friday, June 4, 2010


by Heidi R. Kling

Overall: YYYY4
Action: aaa
Comedy: aa
Drama: aaaa
Tragedy/Tear-worthy: aaaa
Explanation of rating

***SEA will be released June 10, 2010***
Sea is now in stores!

Summary: After a brief prologue (that takes place near the end of the story), the book begins on Sienna Jones' fifteenth birthday. A former California surfer-girl, she is now fearful and angry at the ocean that swallowed her mother's plane three years earlier. Sienna's parents were volunteers for international relief work, but since the death of her mother, her father Andy has stayed home to work as a psychiatrist to the spoiled rich people of the West Coast.

After a major tsunami hits Indonesia, Sienna's father "surprises" her with a plane ticket for across the Pacific Ocean to help the newly-made orphans cope with the tradgedy. While she is reluctant to agree at first [actually, she down-right refuses], a documentary about the orphans and her former-ish friend Spider (someone she's been distant with since her mother died) help persuade her.

Sienna, Andy, and his two co-workers (one a woman, Vera, who definitely has the hots for Andy; the other a family-friend who provides the occasional comic relief) take a plane across the ocean to Yogyakarta [no, it doesn't get any easier to pronounce the more times you read it], Indonesia. It's a terrible flight in Sienna's mind, spotted with variations of her recccuring nightmare. When Team Hope (the name they've given themselves in honor of Sienna's mother) arrives at the orphanage, she is immediately attracted to Deni, one of the boys affected by the tsunami... and he notices her too.

In the two weeks that Sienna is meant to be at this pesantren (orphanage) she bonds with the younger girls through art therapy and the older teenage girls in group therapy (both along side Vera). She hears about the tragedy and loss straight from the ones who experienced it, especially Deni. With the strict Muslim culture, it is a controversy for Sienna and Deni to even sit alone together, which makes their moments of sneaking away (sometimes out of the pesantren) more important to them.

It's hard to describe what continues to happen in the book, because it would be with the same words - bonding with the orphans, becoming attached to Deni, coping with her own loss - but the subtle changes in thought and emotion are what makes the story move.

It's during the climax of the story, with Deni of course, that Sienna herself realizes her growth and knows she can go home and let life finally move forward - for her father, for Deni, for Spider, and for herself.


Opinion: This is another ARC I received while at the Teen Author Carnival! A few weeks before the event, when I went online to see what each author had written, I knew right away that I wanted this book... Too bad it wasn't released yet. At TAC, it was one of my main goals to grab it any way I could.... Success. [hint: always participate in question/answer sessions! Authors will remember you, probably like you, and you can get free stuff from the people running the event!]

Kling [which, by the way, might be one of my favorite names ever] didn't create this setting with simple Google research, and that shows. Her husband had experienced first-hand the effects of the 2004 tsunami and through her connection with him, she is able to give the readers an even more personal connection.

If a book can make me cry, I automatically love it because that means the characters are relatable, or at least understandable, enough to really feel for them. Hell, for Sea, I even teared up a little as the girls in the group therapy scenes re-told their stories. When keeping in mind that there are lives like this across the world, it is hard not to feel touch and heartbroken. It's hard not to want to help in some way, especially now with so many recent earthquakes around the world. Kling's writing is able to express that in even a fictional story.

Her descriptive writing is creative and suits each scene perfectly - she is able to truly paint the images in a reader's mind without spending pages and pages with unnecessary words. Kling also has a specialty for writing the senses (like smell and touch) that make the setting even more real, as opposed to just sight. From the very first sentence of the prologue I was in love with her style; then at the very end of the book, she reintroduced the first page with the same image: "Flying creatures buzzed around my head. Too late, I slapped them away." It's a description that sticks in your mind, and once you read it again 300 pages later, you sit up and take notice that the writing has come around full-circle.

I realize that this might be more an opinion of Kling's writing rather than her book, but the story is already extremely intense and attention-grabbing. It takes a great writer, however, to make it something people will want to read and pass on to their friends.

p.s. I love the cover!


For School? (Hey, I'm a teacher, I think about this stuff!) Yes. Plain and simple, it has so many aspects that teachers look for! The fact that this is based off a true occurance easily ties in with a current-events curriculum - especially the effects of natural disasters on children in "under-developed" countries. The mentions of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), cultural differences, and the respect of diversity could create days of discussions. For the more "English" aspect, the writing is beautiful; character development is subtle, while still obvious in the end; the integration of true facts with fiction is a great example for writing; and the narrator's voice is consistant and understandable. I would love to teach this one day!

Guardian of the Gate (Prophecy of the Sisters II)

by Michelle Zink

Overall: YYYY4
Action: aaaa
Drama: aaa

Comedy: aa
Romance: aaaa
Suspense/Mystery: aaaa

Explanation of rating

***Guardian of the Gate will be released in August 2010***
Guardian of the Gate is now in stores!

[edit] Michelle Zink likes this review!
Aside from Twitter, she has mentioned it on her official website! [/edit]

Summary: The storyline picks up nearly eight months after Prophecy of the Sisters ended . Though a lot of time has passed, Zink very easily catches the reader up on the details by subtly slipping explanations into the characters' conversations (something that doesn't waste or take time out of the present setting). While Luisa is stuck at school in New York, Lia and Sonia have spent their time training and preparing their powers for when they will be needed - especially Lia, since she is, afterall, the Gate. It is understood (through Zink's aforementioned subtle-explanations) that the two girls in London have been attending casual gatherings of the magical sort at the Society - this is a slight introduction to the less-than-normal world Lia is entering with her place in the Prophecy.

Not far into the book, Aunt Virginia, Luisa, and Edmund (the long-time family driver, friend, and confidant) arrive in London only to begin another journey to the ever-important Altus, the home of the Sisters and Grigori (the law-enforcers of the Otherworld), to see Aunt Abigail, whom Lia hopes holds more information about the missing page of the Prophecy. [How's that for a run-on sentence...]

The adventure to Altus is full of fast-paced action. Luisa has been segregated from Sonia and Lia's friendship, so the drama and tension begin right away. The Souls and Samael, even Alice, are still after Lia, causing chases and fights that test all of those affected by the Prophecy. One of these scenes, though, brings in a new manly character [I won't say his name just because when he first appears, he isn't what he seems]. After the lack of James, he's an unexpected occurance in Lia's life but one that also keeps her sane while her friendships with Sonia and Luisa are measured.

Actually being in Altus is a whole new test for Lia and what she wants in her new life. There are more people supporting her just as much as more people are against her. The suspense continues after Lia is able to speak with her Aunt Abigail who can only give a vague answer of help (frustrating the reader as much as it does Lia).

Just when the young girls are just getting used to Altus, Lia must leave again to continue her search for the missing page of the Prophecy. More chasing, more fighting, and more omgomgomg moments ensue - finally ending with one of Zink's favored one-liners-of-shock-and-awe.

Overall, there is deception within the people that Lia thought she could trust; there is a love-interest that definitely was not expected; and there is shock after shock that proved Lia might not know her parents as well as she thought she did. Anything that might have been left out of Prophecy is more than made-up for in Guardian.


Opinion: I received this ARC from the Teen Author Carnival on May 24, 2010. Michelle Zink was there, spoke and answered questions in a panel of other authors, and stayed around to sign books. Afterward, since I'm all buddy-buddy with one of the people in charge of TAC, I was waiting around outside the building and had the pleasure of really talking to Zink. Turns out she's pretty fantastic (even her kids are awesome - though I'm a teacher, so I'm biased). To all you authors out there, this just goes to show: Be nice to people who read! They will like your books even more! Of all the books I recieved and bought at TAC, Guardian of the Gate was the first on my list to read mainly because of the author herself.

As for my opinion of the book itself, it is everything a sequel should be, but what many authors somehow slack on with the middle book. When reading a series, it is usually the second book that lags because it can't have too much information (as it was all introduced in the first book), but it can't be too awesome (or else it spoils the predictably amazing third book).

I admit that with Prophecy of the Sisters I was able to take my time with it - I even set it aside for nearly a day (rare in my case) and continued reading later. With Guardian, I didn't. Want. To stop. Where Prophecy was focused on the discussion of the mysteries and the Otherworld, Guardian is full of action - the characters becoming active in their roles whether they will it or not. Almost like clockwork, every 50 pages [yes, I noticed something like that] had something shocking that would throw in a new twist or breath-taking chase. The unexpected occurs, and the expected is constantly held at the end of a fishing rod - dangling in front of our faces, just barely out of reach.

The only issue with having an ARC is that now I have to wait even longer than the average reader to get my hands on the third and final installement of this series... Unless, of course, Ms. Zink would like to grace me with an advancement on that too ;)

p.s. I'm Team James.


For School? (Hey, I'm a teacher, I think of this stuff!) Probably not what would be approved by an English department to be formally studied, but it is definitely a book young-adult readers would enjoy. The aspects of suspense are consistant, as it was in Prophecy, and the easy-flowing transition of time is something that many beginning writers should take example from.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My Rating System (subject to change)

Overall: out of FIVE hearts(YYYYY). An arrow (4) indicates that it has the potential for being a full heart higher, but isn't quite there.

[all below are out of FIVE checks (aaaaa)] [alphabetical order!]
Action: Obvious. How many fighting/chasing/action there is
Comedy: This is my favorite part of any book. It must make me laugh out loud!
Drama: Intense moments - think of a soap-opera or, you know, a high school clique and you've got it.
Romance: Can be anything swoon-worthy, or just a really awesome fictional love-interest.
Suspense/Mystery: If it keeps me needing to read the next page just so I can figure out WHAT is going to happen... or if it simply keeps me guessing
Tragedy/Tear-worthy: If a book makes me cry, I love it even more - that means it had to have been good.
[I've discovered that Firefox dislikes symbols... Sorry about that!!!]

Summary: A short-ish overview of the plot and characters. As spoiler-free-ish as I can make it!

Opinion: An explanation of what I really thought that couldn't be automatically seen from the ratings

For School? I'm a teacher! (or I'm trying to be one, once I get a job) When I read I book I like to think about how it would be studied in a classroom - writing style & techniques, character development, themes, etc. all count in this. It doesn't necessarily affect my opinion!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Prophecy of the Sisters

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

Overall: YYY4
Action: aa
Comedy: a
Romance: aa
Suspense/Mystery: aaaa
Tragedy/Tear-worthy: aaa

Summary: For me, it wasn't even the summary that sold me on this book - it was really the cover. Every time I stepped into the bookstore, this cover popped out. It's unique and unmistakable on the shelves with rows and rows showing cut-off torsos of teenage girls on brightly colored covers. Prophecy of the Sisters looks dark, and the story is dark.

The book is set in the late 1800s and follows Lia Milthorpe right after the death of her father (and a few years after the death of her mother) - each parent dying with mystery shrouding the real causes. Lia, her twin, Alice, and their wheel-chair-bound younger brother, Henry, are left in the care of their Aunt Virgnia. Lia becomes friends with a girl from school, Luisa, and a young spell-caster/fortune-teller, Sonia. Each of them play a part in the little-understood Prophecy of the Sisters, but mainly leaving Lia on the good side of the story, with Alice on the opposite.

The Prophecy itself basically says that two sisters (obviously Lia and Alice) will battle for the outcome of whether Samael (the evil-overlord of the Souls) can enter their world and reign with his evilness. One sister is the Gate that will allow Samael to come to power, the other is the Guardian who must try and keep the Gate closed. The regular concepts of these roles have become confused with the birth of Lia and Alice - much of the shock and surprise comes from Lia's continued understanding of what the Prophecy truly means and exactly how much of her life and the past has been affected by this Prophecy.

The cover-summary does mention "a boy" who, within the first few pages, is known to be James (the son of a family friend and the love-interest of Lia). With this mention on the all-powerful Flap-summary, I was expecting a bit more action from this character... maybe that's just what reading so much YA literature has led me to prepare for. But if you're looking to read this book for a little bit of romance, you will be disappointed. Sure, there are some cute scenes, but Zink focuses the story on the sisters, their choices, and the Prophecy that surrounds their lives - she doesn't put any fluff in, which is a great thing. I did ask Zink about James when I met her at TAC (the Teen Author Carnival on May 24th in NYC) and she explained that we shouldn't count him out of the story all together. He'll be back :)

Opinion: After the initial 100 pages, the story seems to slow down. There is little action - admittedly this is the life of a young girl at the turn of the century so not much action really allowed - but the mystery is consistant. The story mostly continues with discussions and riddle-solving, leaving a tense scene for the very end between Lia and Alice (this is where my Tragedy ranking comes in - I definitely cried).

The characters are very easy to distinquish between each other, and the fact that Zink uses girls from different backgrounds (each outcasts in their own way) makes them much more appealing. They are each different and so they each compliment each other. Alice is the driving-force of the drama, though, and I looked forward to when she appeared in the story. The best thing about all the other "minor" characters is that even if you think you can toss them to the side, they eventually come into play in a major way.

While reading Prophecy, it is easy to tell that it was building up to something more (the coming sequels). In one way that's a good thing, I definitely wanted to read to see what happens. However, many times I just wished something would happen - I almost got tired over reading at parts. It is one of those books (if you are like me and generally aren't a mystery fan) that you need to read to the end just to see what happens in the next part. I made the goal and I followed through - I absolutely do not regret it because I know that the next book will be something even better now that the introduction is over.


I read. A lot. And so do my friends.

What I've realized though is that I never get a chance to really speak about what I think about books in detail because my friends and I live busy lives (mostly reading... hehe). So here I am, being a follower and giving my opinions of old/new/yet-to-be books... and anything else that crosses my mind.