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!