Thursday, March 31, 2011

Everlost by Neal Shusterman

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: November 10, 2009
ISBN:  978-0-689-87237-2
Pages:  336
Cover Design:  Daniel Roode

Ok, I realize that this book says grade 8 and up, but it's in the YA section.  I would say it's definitely Middle Grade.  Now, keeping that in mind -

I liked it.  I think that for the younger end of YA, it's great!  The characters are strong, the conversation flows nicely, there are some wonderful elements and some "WOW!" moments.

Two families have a collision and one child from each vehicle dies.  Somehow, on their way to wherever they're going, they get lost and end up in Everlost.  Nick and Allie learn that Everlost is where all the lost Afterlights (lost children) end up and live.  They meet a boy living in the forest near where their accident happened and he's been there so long, he doesn't remember his name anymore, so they name him Lief.

Nick and Allie know there has to be a way to get to the end of their journey, although they are assured by Mary that Everlost is their final destination.  Mary lives in the Twin Towers in New York with all the Afterlights that she can gather.  She also writes books on how things work and what to avoid in Everlost.  Are her books skewed a bit to her own thinking and not the truth?  Maybe.  At first 'living' at the Twin Towers seems great, but then Allie realizes that as lost souls, they are very likely to fall into ruts of repetitive behavior.  Allie also believes that Mary WANTS that to happen.  She decides to leave and take Nick and Lief with her.  She is off to find the Haunter - she wants to learn how to affect the real world.

They have several adventures, including figuring out how to send Afterlighters on to their final destination.  They also realize that you can like someone and yet be at opposite ends or be at opposite ends and like someone - either way, it's true.

Of all the characters, Nick starts out as kind of annoying but ends up being the one I like the best - he actually seems to grow and change.  Mary was just a surface character, although she could have been really scary as she's outwardly nice and sweet, but underneath she's awful and she doesn't even know how awful she is.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wayback Wednesday

The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub
Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Publish Date:  1984
Pages:  768

Stephen King and Peter Straub are two of my favorite authors.  To see them write together was amazing.  I read this book as a teen and have re-read it multiple times as an adult.  It never gets old.  If you look at YA books coming out now...a lot of the things in THE TALISMAN are in the current books.  We've got: an alternate universe, a kid saving the world...all the goodies.

Jack Sawyer is a 12 year old boy.  His father is dead and his mother is dying of cancer.  She takes him off to an almost deserted hotel while she lays dying.  As Jack wanders the hotel and grounds, he starts to realize that he could possibly save his mother.  His father and his father's best friend had discovered an alternate world - one called "The Territories".  The people that live there are Twinners (parallel individuals) whose major life events mirror ours.  You can 'flip' into the Territories and inhabit the body of your Twinner.  But some people, like Jack, are 'singles'.  He has to learn to flip back and forth by himself.  He has no other body to inhabit.

My favorite group in The Territories are Wolfs.  They are similar to Werewolves, but not as we know them.  They are herdsman and bodyguards.  Jack quickly becomes friends with one of them, whom he simply calls "Wolf".  Wolf sees Jack as his flock, his responsibility, and cares for him and tries to keep him safe throughout his travels. 

Jack's father's best friend is trying to steal their business from Jack's mother.  In The Territories, the Queen lay dying - she is Jack's mother's Twinner.  Jack needs to find the Talisman to save both of them and save their worlds from going swiftly downhill.

This is a really long book (as most Stephen King books are) but it is well worth reading.  I still have my battered paperback copy from years ago and was overjoyed when BLACK HOUSE came out in 2000.  That is the story of Jack Sawyer as an adult and involves The Territories again.  There are, ofcourse, connections to the Dark Tower books also.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Publisher:  Philomel Books (Penguin)
Publish Date:  October 19, 2010
ISBN:  978-0-399-25482-6
Pages:  452
Cover Design:  Katrina Damkoehler

I'll be honest, I wasn't sure about reading a story about werewolves and romance.  Too many were-mances were passed on to me that were just ridiculous.  But I gave it a chance, mostly because the cover is gorgeous!

Calla Tor and Ren Laroche are Seniors at Mountain School.  They've been chosen to head up the new pack being formed - a combination of the Nightshade and Bane families.  Calla is a Nightshade and Ren is a Bane.

There are several groups involved in the story and it took me a few minutes to sort them out:

Guardians - the werewolves.  They're soldiers and sworn to protect whatever the Keepers tell them to, they can switch into wolves whenever they want to.
Keepers - in charge of the packs, provide everything for the Guardians - homes, food, education, vehicles. They are considered witches or Old Ones, they protect humanity and demand complete obedience and loyalty from the Guardians.
Searchers - they want to take over the sacred sites and use the power (or so we're told) for their own gain.
Humans - They have no idea of what's going on really

Calla knows she has to mate with Ren, but the new boy at school, Shay, is causing her doubts.  The worst part is that while Ren has been able to play the field, she has had to be chaste.  No boyfriends, no kissing, nothing.  Now that the ceremony is close, everyone is on edge.  Add to that the fact that the Keepers have assigned Calla to watch over and protect Shay and it's no wonder she's confused.  As she hangs out with Shay more and more, things begin to come to light that just don't make sense with what she's always believed.

On the night of her 'wedding' to Ren, pieces begin to fall into place and nothing will ever be the same again.

For a book I was really skeptical of, this one turned out to be pretty good.  Calla comes across as a typical teenager with real feelings, while Shay seems pretty normal, it's very believable characterization.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Out This Week: March 28 - April 1, 2011

Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorbin
From Goodreads:  "I don't realize I'm crying until he glances at me. For a moment, I see the look of anguish in his eyes, then he blinks it away and slips off into the water. I immediately think of the gator. It's still down there somewhere..."

A science-class field trip to the Everglades is supposed to be fun, but Sarah's new at Glades Academy, and her fellow freshmen aren't exactly making her feel welcome. When an opportunity for an unauthorized side trip on an airboat presents itself, it seems like a perfect escape—an afternoon without feeling like a sore thumb. But one simple oversight turns a joyride into a race for survival across the river of grass. Sarah will have to count on her instincts—and a guy she barely knows—if they have any hope of making it back alive.

Lost in the River of Grass takes on the classic survival genre using one of the country's most unique wild places as a backdrop. In this tense, character-driven thriller, Sarah must overcome prejudice and the unforgiving wilderness in a struggle to survive.

Entwined by Heather Dixon
 From Goodreads:   Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.
The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.  Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.
But there is a cost.
The Keeper likes to keep things.
Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late. 

Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal 

From Goodreads:  Now with this striking new adult novel from author and creator Francine Pascal, millions of devoted fans can finally return to the idyllic Sweet Valley, home of the phenomenally successful book series and franchise. Iconic and beloved identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are back and all grown up, dealing with the complicated adult world of love, careers, betrayal, and sisterhood. 

The Survivors by Amanda Havard 

From Amazon:  In 1692, when witch trials gripped the community of Salem, Massachusetts, twenty-six children were accused as witches, exiled, and left for dead. Fourteen of them survived. The Survivors is the first installment of the tantalizing tales of the fourteen ill-fated Survivors and their descendants, who have been content in hiding for over three centuries. Isolated on a Montana mountainside, only Sadie, the rogue daughter, dares to abandon the family's sacred hiding place. But no matter how far Sadie runs, something always pulls her back. On a muggy summer night in Tennessee, she witnesses a shocking scene that will change her life forever. It is the first in a sequence of events that will drag her from the human world she's sought to belong to for over a century and send her back to her Puritanical family and into an uncertain future filled with cunning witches, mysterious nosferatu shape-shifters, dangerous eretica and vieczy vampires, millennia-old mythology, and the search for her own mortality. After all... HOW DO YOU KILL A SURVIVOR? The Survivors will steal your heart and invade your mind. Fall into the pages of Sadie's life, a world so frighteningly similar to your own, you'll find yourself wanting to go to the Montana mountains to find the Survivors for yourself. And it is only the beginning.

Department Nineteen by Will Hill

From Amazon:  Jamie Carpenter's life will never be the same. His father is dead, his mother is missing, and he was just rescued by an enormous man named Frankenstein. Jamie is brought to Department 19, where he is pulled into a secret organization responsible for policing the supernatural, founded more than a century ago by Abraham Van Helsing and the other survivors of Dracula. Aided by Frankenstein's monster, a beautiful vampire girl with her own agenda, and the members of the agency, Jamie must attempt to save his mother from a terrifyingly powerful vampire.
Department 19 takes us through history, across Europe, and beyond - from the cobbled streets of Victorian London to prohibition-era New York, from the icy wastes of Arctic Russia to the treacherous mountains of Transylvania. Part modern thriller, part classic horror, it's packed with mystery, mayhem, and a level of suspense that makes a Darren Shan novel look like a romantic comedy.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach

Publisher: Penguin Group
Publish Date: March 31, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-14-241436-1
Pages: 304

Have you ever felt like you just didn't belong?  That's how Caitlin feels in WAKE UNTO ME. Her parents have three rowdy boys involved in sports and they think Caitlin might be a little...unbalanced.  It's not that her parents don't love her, they just don't know what to do with her. See, she has these dreams - sometimes terrifying nightmares and sometimes wonderful escapes into the history of Oregon (where she lives).  When Caitlin gets a full-ride scholarship to a fancy boarding school in France, she jumps at the chance to leave.

But now she's in France and the nightmares haven't stopped.  In facet, now she's dreaming FRENCH history! Ofcourse, the bonus is the boy in (and of) her dreams - Raphael. She knows in her heart that they are bound together..but he's only a dream...right?

This is a great historical fiction, I'm really glad to see historical fiction making a showing in YA. WAKE UNTO ME is well-written with lots of lovely description - it was like watching a movie - Lisa Cach did a beautiful job!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wayback Wednesday

Book & Author:  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Publisher:  Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Publish Date: January 1, 1962 (re-released many many times)
ISBN: 978-0374386139
Pages 256

"There is such a thing as a tesseract."  That line sets us up for a wonderful adventure.  A tesseract is...well, we all know that the shortest path between two points is a straight line, right?  Nope!  It's a tesseract, or 'folding' the fabric of space and time.

This book has been banned off and on in certain areas, but has never been out of print.  Why was it banned?  Because it talks about witches/angels (Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which) and religious liberalism, mostly the usual nonsense.

I first read this book when I was nine years old, I was probably too young for it, but thought it was a brilliant fantasy story.  I read it again as an adult and saw all the political and religious aspects...along with the fantasy story and loved it even more!  The entire series is amazing, but at least read this one!

L'Engle's characters are well-rounded and fleshed out.  It's easy to come away feeling like you know the Murray family:
Mr. Murray - a brilliant scientist on top secret work, missing for 2 years
Mrs. Murray - a beautiful, brilliant scientist; lonely and raising 4 children on her own
Meg - a 'misfit', she's bright, wears glasses, believes she is plain, protective of her family, misses her Dad, gets in trouble and fights in school because she's difficult and is terribly stubborn
Sandy and Dennis - twins, into sports, they're the 'normal' ones in the family
Charles Wallace - everyone in town believes Charles Wallace is retarded, but he actually way above average.  He's 5 years old but has the vocabulary of a teenager.
Then there's Calvin.  He goes to school with Meg and 'accidentally' falls in with the Murrays.  He's bright, athletic and unlike the rest of his family.

Add in three witches/angels, Evil and time travel and you've got an amazing book.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Author Interview - Ty Drago!

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Ty Drago, author of UNDERTAKERS: RISE OF THE CORPSES.  Not only is he an amazing author, but a really nice guy!


Tell us a little bit about UNDERTAKERS: RISE OF THE CORPSES.  How is this different from your average zombie book?

Well, first of all, DON'T call 'em "zombies"! :)

Zombies are slow and stupid.  Corpses, on the other hand, are fast smart and organized.  They’re invaders from another world – possibly another universe – who have come to Earth with conquest on their minds.  Problem is they have no physical form, and so must occupy host bodies in order to get around on our planet.  So they animate the dead, and then project an illusion around themselves so that the human population doesn’t realize how disgusting and horrific they are.  This illusion is perfect, carrying over to photos, T.V., and even fingerprints.  Nobody can penetrate the Corpses’ disguises – except, of course, for the Undertakers.

The Undertakers are rare and “lucky” kids who, for reasons unknown, are able to see the Corpses for what they truly are.  Unfortunately, as kids, no one will believe them.  Worse, if the Corpses find a Seer, they kill them and their whole family to shut them up.  So these kids, the one who survive, must run away from home to protect themselves and those they love.  In Philadelphia, these wayward Seers have banded together to become a resistance movement.

THE UNDERTAKERS: RISE OF THE CORPSES is the first book in the UNDERTAKERS series, and tells the story of Will Ritter, a twelve-year-old boy who wakes up one morning to discover he has the Sight.  It follows his harrowing adventures, first as a runaway, then as an Undertaker in training, and finally as full-fledged soldier in the war against the Corpses.

The original title of THE UNDERTAKERS was THE RUNAWAYS, why the name change?

THE RUNAWAYS was an earlier concept of the same story, more fantasy than horror.  There weren’t any Corpses.  Instead, the villains were horned beasts called Demons.  I shopped the story around awhile without much luck.

In fact, it was your sister, Heather Brewer, who convinced me that what the book needed was a rewrite to turn it into something truly scary.   And so I reworked it completely, adding some new characters, new situations and, of course, the great new monsters.


  You credit your son with helping you get the characters voices and lingo right, how does he feel about your writing?

Andy is seventeen now and has always been hugely supporting of my writing efforts.  He’s read almost everything I’m penned, and has no problem at all telling me when I’ve off base.  Honestly, this book wouldn’t have been what it is without him!

Will there be more about Will and the Undertakers? 

If all goes well sales-wise – yes, there will!  I’m working on Book Two right now.  I’m not going to give anything away, but it takes us deeper into the Undertakers’ world, and introduces us to the new Boss Corpse.  And SHE’S a nasty piece of work!

I really love that Sharyn Jefferson doesn’t come off as girly, none of your girls do…they’re just kids…like Will.  Was that something you intentionally did?  

Absolutely.  From the beginning I took my cues from other resistance movements that have arisen throughout history.  Harriet Tubman and her courageous work with the Underground Railroad are mentioned in the book.  But even more than that, the Undertakers were inspired by the French Resistance during World War II.  This group would regularly execute daring rescues of downed Allied bomber crews, often spiriting them away under the noses of the Nazi occupation force.  And many of those heroes were women.

Being an Undertaker is about bravery under fire, and boys don’t have the monopoly on that!  Sharyn and Helene are two of the best soldiers this army has, and I’m very proud of both characters.

I read that you filmed the book trailer in your basement.  It’s awesome!  How much fun was it to film?  (  By the way, I took the What do you see? Test…I’m packing and heading to Philly right now!  


The day we filmed that trailer was one of the best I’ve ever had as a writer!  The star is a young actor named Griffin Back, who did a fantastic job playing Will Ritter.  The Corpse was played by make-up artist Josh Hahn, and I think his talent speaks for itself!  The staircase footage, which was taken the same day shows three Corpses.  The first is my son, Andy.  The second is Griffin’s father, a plastic surgeon and a great sport.  The third, of course, is Josh, who did the make-up for all three.

You have several jobs, but I’m sure being an author is your favorite…tell us about your other jobs!  

Well, for the past thirteen years, I’ve edited and published an online magazine called ALLEGORY (  We publish science fiction, fantasy and horror from around the world.  Our next issue is due out May 1st.  Sadly, that job doesn’t quite pay the bills either!

In the “other” life, I’m a business analyst.  Now don’t ask me what that is exactly, but I don’t think anyone really knows.  Let’s just say I help large companies identify and fix problems within their own processes.  Not all that exciting, but it keeps the bill collectors off my porch.

Do you have any writing quirks?  You know, like you can’t write without a 5lb container of M&Ms…not that that’s mine…  

I’m a big believer in the inspirational qualities of music and, whenever I start a new book, I look for the right music to help get my creative juices flowing.  Each book is different.  For THE UNDERTAKERS, I leaned toward anthems of one kind or another.  Pat Benatar’s classic “Invisible” was a big one.  So were the much more recent “Sing” by My Chemical Romance and “Uprising” by Muse.  Whenever I’m working on a book, I basically have a playlist on my phone of some twenty or thirty tunes that I listen to on my way to and from my day job.  It never fails me!

What book are you reading right now?  

Right now I’ve loving PLEASE IGNORE VERA DEITZ by A.S. King and HUNGER by Jackie Kessler.  Both are YA titles and I highly recommend them!

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?  

It’s complicated.  I like to get up early, maybe 5:30 am, and do an hour’s worth of writing before work.  But I generally write at every opportunity: evenings, weekends, while sitting in the dentist’s waiting room.  I once got some solid writing done during the traffic jam on the Pennsylvania Turnpike!

Can you tell us a little bit about your other novels?   

I’ve written twelve, but published only three. 

The first was an historical mystery called THE FRANKLIN AFFAIR.  It was published back in 2003 by a small press outfit called Regency Press that, sadly, is not defunct.  The book was well-received, but didn’t get  as much distribution as I would have liked.  Set in December of 1776, it tells the story of sixteen-year-old Henri Gruel, the son of a wealthy French merchant, and his reluctant recruitment by his government to spy on the famous Benjamin Franklin, who is visiting from America.  Henri and Franklin quickly develop a friendship that tests the boy’s loyalties, especially when things start getting dangerous.

My second published book was called PHOBOS, a science fiction mystery (“Science Fiction Noir” was the way a friend of mine described it).  It takes place on Phobos, the largest of Mars’ two moons.  There a research station has fallen prey to an inexplicable monster that roams the deep dust on this tiny, airless moon.  Lieutenant Michael Brogue, native Martian, is sent there to unravel the mystery.  What he finds is a good old fashioned whodunit, but one with potentially far-reaching consequences that threaten the safety of his entire planet!

Thanks again, Ty, for being such a delightful guest!  I look forward to hearing a lot more out of the UNDERTAKERS! 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Out This Week: March 21 - 27, 2011

THOSE THAT WAKE: From Goodreads:  New York City’s spirit has been crushed. People walk the streets with their heads down, withdrawing from one another and into the cold comfort of technology. Teenagers Mal and Laura have grown up in this reality. They’ve never met. Seemingly, they never will.
But on the same day Mal learns his brother has disappeared, Laura discovers her parents have forgotten her. Both begin a search for their families that leads them to the same truth: someone or something has wiped the teens from the memories of every person they have ever known. Thrown together, Mal and Laura must find common ground as they attempt to reclaim their pasts.

 WITHER:  From Goodreads:  What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.

 THE DOOR IN THE FOREST:  From Goodreads:  At the mid point of three towns, in the center of three streams, in the heart of a forest, lies a mysterious island. Encircled by quicksand and sewn shut by vines, it is impenetrable to all but the poisonous snakes patrolling its waters. But Daniel is determined to get there, along with his friend Emily.
Emily is a bit mysterious herself. A girl who seems to know more than she can say, whose mother was taken away by government troops, and whose eccentric grandmother reads the future in her bubble bath.
Enter the soldiers. Their menacing commander is terribly interested in sleepy little Everwood. Is he searching for something? A treasure map? The island? The girl?
Roderick Townley spins a magical tale of lies and truths, of secrets kept and secrets revealed.
Sooner or later, we all must step through the door in the forest.

 THE DARK AND HOLLOW PLACES:  From Goodreads:  There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister's face before Annah left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the Horde as they swarmed the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.
Annah's world stopped that day, and she's been waiting for Elias to come home ever since. Somehow, without him, her life doesn't feel much different than the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Until she meets Catcher, and everything feels alive again.
But Catcher has his own secrets. Dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah has longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it's up to Annah: can she continue to live in a world covered in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return's destruction?

 MY SO CALLED PHANTOM LOVELIFE:  From Goodreads:  I knew the boy was different when I saw him walk on water…

When fourteen-year-old Skye Thackery meets Owen Wicks, it’s not exactly love at first sight. She’s getting over a broken heart and he’s – well – a ghost. But as Sky gets to know him, she can’t help wondering what it would be like to kiss him. Dating a ghost isn’t easy, and things get worse when Owen declares he’s found a way to stay with Skye forever. His plans make her uneasy – the shadowy organisation which claims to be able to help him is bad news, and it seems Nico, her ex, is involved too.
As Owen prepares to risk everything, Skye begins to wonder if she really has a future with him, or if his desire to be more than just a ghost will cost them everything.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Department Nineteen by Will Hill

Publisher:  Razorbill (Penguin Group)
Publish Date:  March 31, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59514-406-5
Pages:  480

We all know there are secret government agencies, right?  I mean, someone has to deal with aliens, monsters and vampires.  That's where Department Nineteen comes in.  Will Hill's debut novel is amazing.  He writes a beautiful historical back story, great characters, kick-ass modern weapons and mean-as-snake vampires.  No sparkling allowed here, these creatures are bloodthirsty and set on revenge..or something.

Jamie's dad is killed one night, in front of the family, and then the family is told a story.  It's one they can hardly believe.  Two years later, Jamie discovers the truth accidentally and is pulled into Department Nineteen.  Remember good 'ol Van Helsing, Harker and the rest of the gang from Dracula?  It would seem that they knew it wasn't going to end there and made a deal with the government to set up a secret agency.  Cool, huh?  Yep, that's Department Nineteen. The tagline is "Department Nineteen: The Reason You're Alive".

Now, the only thing Jamie cares about is in danger and it seems the only way to sacrifice himself.  The chapters go back and forth between the present with Jamie's story and the past with Van Helsing's group.  A lot of questions are answered by looking into the past.  With chapter names like Teenage Wasteland and It's Hard to Breathe with a Hand Around Your Throat, things move along quickly and kept my interest.  The characters are well written: from the military men to teenage Jamie.  Luckily this is the first in a series - I'm looking forward to the next one already.  My favorite thing - the T-Bone.  It's a vampire killing weapon and I can't believe no one thought of it before - GENIUS!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wayback Wednesday

Publisher:  Speak (Penguin Group)
Publish Date: 1967 (originally) re-released many times
ISBN: 978-0140385724
Pages:  192

S.E. Hinton wrote this book when she was just 16 years old.  In 1967 that was just crazy.  I read the book in junior high, like it okay; then saw the movie in high school and loved it.  Ok, maybe that had something to do with the guys in the movie...C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze and Rob Lowe...go look 'em up - I swear they were hot at the time!

Back to the book now:  The story is about two rival gangs in a small midwest town.  The Greasers are the poor kids and the Socs (I always think SOCiety) are the rich kids.  Each gang has their own turf and the other is to stay out, but that doesn't happen.  Much like Romeo and Juliet or West Side Story - one of the Greasers (Ponyboy) falls in love with a Soc (Cherry).  Eventually a major fight breaks out and one of Ponyboy's friends, Johnny, kills a Soc.  Johnny and Ponyboy run away.  While they're in hiding, they witness a school on fire.  They run in and try to save the children.  Johnny ends up burned and with a broken back.  This is where Ponyboy realizes that things could have been different and even though they're (the two gangs) all different, in many ways they're all the same.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

IF I STAY and WHERE SHE WENT by Gayle Forman

Look at that!  A Two-fer!  Since I read these both together and it's important to read the first one's both reviews at once. WHERE SHE WENT comes out on April 5th, so go pre-order it!

Publisher:  Speak (Penguin Group)
Publish Date:  April 6, 2010
ISBN:  978-0-14-241543-6
Pages: 234
Cover Design: Monica Benalcazar

Mia lives with her parents and younger brother,Teddy.  Her parents were total punk rockers when they were younger, but that's not Mia's scene.  She's a classical girl and plays the cello.  So it's even more surprising when she falls for a rocker.  Everything is great until...

Mia's family is in a terrible accident - her parents are killed immediately, she and Teddy go to different hospitals.  Mia's left between life and death, with a decision to make, stay or go.  The story goes back and forth between the hospiatl - what Mia sees and hears - and her life before.

I love Mia.  She's dedicated to her music, yet has a well-rounded life.  She's fun, spontaneous, selfish, worried...all the things that real girls are.  This isn't just a story about Mia and her choosing to stay or go.  It's a love story.  See, her boyfriend, Adam is at the hospital and he's begging her to stay.  Can she leave Adam behind? Adam, who understands her and her music?  Adam, who truly gets her?  It's a difficult choice and she doesn't have long to decide.  This book made me cray.  Not just cry, but actually sob.  Just writing the review made me cry.  An absolutely stunning book, NPR's The Roundtable said it best, "This is an achingly beautiful story."

Publisher:  Dutton Juvenile (Penguin Group)
Publish Date:  April 5, 2011
ISBN:  978-0-525-42294-5
Pages:  208
Cover Design:  Abby Kuperstock

While IF I STAY was Mia's story, WHERE SHE WENT is Adam's story. 

It's been three years since Mia recovered from the accident and left for Julliard...and Adam hasn't seen or heard from her since.

Adam's band, Shooting Star, has taken off and is touring internationally.  Not bad for a small-town rocker, eh?  But Adam is having a rough time - he takes anxiety medication, barely talks to the band and doesn't even stay in the same hotel or travel with them anymore.  He thinks about Mia all the time - how she left, what went wrong - even though he's dating/living with a high-profile actress. 

A chance sighting of a poster on the streets of NY will change everything for Adam.  He doesn't know it yet, but he's getting ready to make one of the biggest decisions of his life.

While this book didn't make me cry like IF I STAY did, it made me look at the relationship from Adam's point of view.  I found myself thinking "Dammit, Mia, what was wrong with you?!"  There's always two sides, y'know?  This was an amazing sequel and I can't imagine it any other way.  Gayle Forman definitely captured my heart with Mia and Adam!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Out This Week

From Goodreads:  Thirteen-year-old Lacey wakes to a beautiful summer morning excited to begin her new job at the library, just as her mother is supposed to start work at the grocery store. Lacey hopes that her mother's ghosts have finally been laid to rest; after all, she seems so much better these days, and they really do need the money. But as the hours tick by and memories come flooding back, a day full of hope spins terrifyingly out of control....

 From Goodreads:  Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment.Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He's as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she's extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn't know.

 From Goodreads:  (Riley Bloom, #2)  Having solved the matter of the Radiant Boy, Riley, Buttercup, and Bodhi are enjoying a well-deserved vacation. When Riley comes across a vicious black dog, against Bodhi’s advice, she decides to cross him over. While following the dog, she runs into a young ghost named Rebecca. Despite Rebecca’s sweet appearance, Riley soon learns she’s not at all what she seems. As the daughter of a former plantation owner, she is furious about being murdered during a slave revolt in 1733. Mired in her own anger, Rebecca is lashing out by keeping the ghosts who died along with her trapped in their worst memories. Can Riley help Rebecca forgive and forget without losing herself to her own nightmarish memories?

  From Goodreads: 
It was a slender length of rusted steel, tapered to a point at one end and jagged at the other, as if it had broken. A thousand people would step over it and think it trash, but not her.  This was the tip of a rapier.  Sixteen-year-old Jill has fought in dozens of fencing tournaments, but she has never held a sharpened blade. When she finds a corroded sword piece on a Caribbean beach, she is instantly intrigued and pockets it as her own personal treasure.
The broken tip holds secrets, though, and it transports Jill through time to the deck of a pirate ship. Stranded in the past and surrounded by strangers, she is forced to sign on as crew. But a pirate's life is bloody and brief, and as Jill learns about the dark magic that brought her there, she forms a desperate scheme to get home—one that risks everything in a duel to the death with a villainous pirate captain.

 From Goodreads:  He is shy. Unassuming. Inexperienced.
She is Subway Girl. Cool. Unattainable.

From the moment he sees her on a Hong Kong subway, Simon is intrigued by Amy, but he doesn't have the nerve to talk to her. When he finally works up the courage, he realizes he can't. Because Amy doesn't speak Chinese, and Simon is failing English.
But somehow, Amy and Simon connect, and they find that they understand each other. Enough for Simon to admit that he is dropping out of school. Enough for Amy to confess that she is pregnant with her ex-boyfriend's baby. Amy and Simon feel lost in a world so much bigger than they are, and yet they still have each other.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Do You See What I See?

In honor of the 3rd book of FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH being released on March 22nd, here are the trailers for the 1st and 2nd books - you might need to catch up!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses by Ty Drago

Publisher:  Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publish Date:  April 1, 2011
ISBN: 978-1402247859
Pages: 480
Cover Art:  Illustration by Ryan Pancoast, Design by Christian Fuenfhausen

I have to say that I really really really love when an author takes a subject that has become popular and makes it his/her own.  Yep, as you can see by the cover, this is a novel about zombies.  But not like any zombies you've read about before or any situation you've read about before.  Mr. Drago has taken a new road for these zombies.

Will Ritter, the main character, is 12 years old.  One day he gets up and as he heads for school finds that suddenly his neighbor, his principal and even some of his teachers are zombies!  Apparently this isn't a new scenario, but not everyone can see the zombies.  Will is special and is about to join a special team - The Undertakers. This means leaving everything and everyone behind. Oh yeah, the Undertakers are all kids.

This is going to be an excellent book for reluctant readers, the chapters are short enough to keep your attention, the story moves along very quickly and the character's 'lingo' rings true.  Ty Drago does credit his son with helping him with keeping the kids' sound right.  Kudo's to him and his son - the lingo is excellent and the characters sounded like they were described.  I really love this one and think it will go over huge with boys as well as girls.  I'm hoping that we'll see much much more of Ty Drago in the coming years.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's
Publish Date:  September 14, 2010
ISBN:  978-1-4424-0232-4
Pages:  458
Art:  Book Design by Laurent Linn, Endpaper Art by Rob Sacchetto

I know what you're thinking - 'Geez, are you serious, ANOTHER zombie book?  Didn't you say two months ago that you're not big into zombies?  We think you're lying!'  No, No, Seriously!  I didn't like zombie stuff!  HOWEVER - there are so many good takes on zombies and how we relate to them right now, that I can't help myself.

In ROT AND RUIN, the zombie takeover started 14 years ago.  We don't know how, but now everyone that dies will return as a zombie (or zom as they're known), unless they're 'quieted'.  To 'quiet' someone, you simply cut the spinal cord so they can't reanimate.  I know, gross.  Benny is turning 15 and lives with his brother Tom in Mountainside.  It's one of the fenced in communities that humans have taken to live in.  Zoms have the rest of the planet, or at least we think they do.  Tom is a Bounty Hunter, he goes out into the Rot and Ruin - the world outside their community - to quiet zoms.  That's his job, he quiets them and receives money for doing so.  Not all the Bounty Hunters work the way he does, some of them are terrible people.

When you turn 15, you must find a job or have your food rations cut in half.  Benny hates his brother and refuses to work with him. He tries every job in the community before giving in and asking Tom to take him on as an apprentice.  Benny believes that Tom is a coward.  This is mostly because Tom doesn't brag about his kills and never fights.  Benny has a lot to learn and Tom is willing to teach him.  What Benny believes is constantly challenged by what Tom shows him until he finally comes to the realization that it may not be the zoms that are the bad guys.

The endpapers in this book are amazing!  There are replicas of the Zombie Cards that the kids in the community collect and they are awesome!  Even the author is on a Zombie Card - fantastic!  This is a great book, I'm really enjoying zoms, even though I never thought I would.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wayback Wednesday - Up In Seth's Room

Publisher:  Delacourt Press
Publish Date:  December 15, 1980 (As close as I can find)
ISBN: 9-780-44099-190-8
Currently out of print, but check your library and your moms and aunts!
Pages:  199

UP IN SETH'S ROOM was really an outspoken book at the time.  There weren't that many good YA books dealing with the issues of teens and the pressures of dating and sex.  In this book: Finn is a 15 year old girl in high school (important to note that she is a virgin) and she meets Seth, a 19 year old high school dropout.  She starts hanging out with him and then starts to like him.  Her parents forbid her to see him and her friends are against the relationship.  As we all know, that usually doesn't make you break up any faster!  It's interesting here to note that her parents weren't speaking to her older sister as she was living "in sin" with her boyfriend.

As the story goes on, Seth starts to pressure Finn to have sex and she's not sure she's ready to do that.  The story is mostly about her struggle to stay true to her belief that she should stay a virgin and her desire to do more and 'prove' her love to Seth.

The character of Seth starts out as very sweet, smart and nice and morphs into...a jerk.  There is a point where it is said that "that's how boys are".  I think that was a sign of the times and really, boys weren't held as responsible as girls were for their sexual conduct.  It makes for an interesting read compared to the things we're all reading now.  Give it a shot and tell me what you thought.  As a teenager I really liked it, as an adult I'm appalled by it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Books Out This Week March 7 - 13, 2011

Release Date:  March 7, 2011               
From Goodreads: Summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him. When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. Those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

 Release Date:  March 8, 2011
From Goodreads:  
The fourth book in this electrifying vampire series has all the romance, suspense, and page-turning drama that have made Claudia Gray’s Evernight books runaway successes.
Having become what they feared most, Bianca and Lucas face a terrifying new reality. They must return to Evernight Academy, Lucas as a vampire and Bianca as a wraith. But Lucas is haunted by demons, both personal and supernatural. Bianca must help him fight the evil inside him, combat the forces determined to drive them apart—and find the power to claim her destiny at last. 

 Release Date:  March 11, 2011
From Goodreads:
A promise.  QuinceaƱera.  A promise that we would be together on my fifteenth birthday . . .

Instead, Nora is on a desperate journey far away from home. When her father leaves their beloved Mexico in search of work, Nora stays behind. She fights to make sense of her loss while living in poverty—waiting for her father's return and a better day. When the letters and money stop coming, Nora decides that she and her mother must look for him in Texas. After a frightening experience crossing the border, the two are all alone in a strange place. Now, Nora must find the strength to survive while aching for small comforts: friends, a new school, and her precious quinceaƱera.
Bettina Restrepo's gripping, deeply hopeful debut novel captures the challenges of one girl's unique yet universal immigrant experience.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Do you see what I see?

I reviewed THE REPLACEMENT recently and seriously love this book.  Mackie Doyle is one of the best characters I've read in YA.  If the reviews haven't talked you into picking it up, maybe the trailer will!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Publisher:  Dial Books (Penguin Group)
Publish Date:  Feb. 8, 2011 (US)
Original Publish Date:  May 3, 2007 in the UK (lucky ducks!)
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3396-1
Pages: 448

A bit of unexpected steampunk-ish mystery.  Nothing is as it seems here.
I think that Catherine Fisher's website has the best synopsis:  Imagine a living prison so vast that it contains corridors and forests, cities and seas. Imagine a prisoner with no memory, who is sure he came from Outside, even though the prison has been sealed for centuries and only one man, half real, half legend, has ever escaped.
Imagine a girl in a manor house in a society where time has been forbidden, where everyone is held in a seventeenth century world run by computers, doomed to an arranged marriage that appalls her, tangled in an assassination plot she both dreads and desires.

From the beginning you want to believe that Claudia is a damsel-in-distress, but she's too strong.

The Warden of Incarceron seems to be the uncaring father and is "in" with the Queen.  But is he?  The father? Under the Queen's thumb?  What a tangled web we weave!

Finn appears to be a child born of Incarceron.  Is he? Or is he a prisoner lately come?

Lord Evian, the Queen's Chancellor, comes off as a silly dandy.  Is he really a dandy or a steely fox?

Why must everything be 17th Century?!  Is Incarceron a Prison or a Paradise? How does the Warden monitor it when he's always either at Court or at home? Why does it need a Warden if it's a Paradise? What happened to Claudia's first betrothed?  Questions upon questions piled up as I read.

Each chapter is prefaced with a quote from an archive or story which add to the mystery.  I look forward to finding out what happens next!  Has anyone read the second book?  Is it as good as the first?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Books out this Week

I have been so crazy busy this week!  I know the week is half over (thank goodness!), but I'm going to post the new books out this week anyhow.  I'm going to try to remember to do this every Monday - maybe I should add it to my calendar?haha

Gwen Hayes website says:  Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life, not allowed the same freedoms as the rest of the teenagers in the small California town of Serendipity Falls. But when a devastatingly handsome boy appears in the halls of her school, she feels every urge she’s ever denied burning through her at the slightest glance from Haden Black. Theia knows she’s seen Haden before—not around town, but in her dreams.

Theia doesn’t understand how she dreamed of Haden before they ever met, but every night has them joined in a haunting world of eerie fantasy. And as the Haden of both the night and the day beckons her forward one moment and pushes her away the next, the only thing Theia knows for sure is that the incredible pull she feels towards him is stronger than her fear. And as she slowly discovers what Haden truly is, Theia’s not sure if she wants to resist him, even if the cost is her soul.

 From Amazon:  Michael Howard and Ronan Glynn-Rowley meet at Archangel Academy, an all-boys school in Eden, a rural town in north western England. Both are outcasts and decried as unnatural, Michael because he's gay, and Ronan because he's a hybrid vampire. But when Ronan, afraid to reveal his true self to Michael, turns him into a vampire against his will, both become drawn into a dangerous new world, where traditional vampires plot to destroy hybrids, and where fellow students, teachers, even their own families have unexpected secrets...

Wayback Wednesday - SPEAK

Publisher:  Penguin Group
Publish Date:  Originally 1999; Platinum Edition 2006
ISBN: 978-0142407325
Pages: 198

I really like that Melinda's life is separated into the marking periods of her high school life.  At the end of summer, right before the first marking period, Melinda is at a party.  Something happens and she calls the police, but leaves before they get there.  Now everyone is mad because she ruined the party and some people got in trouble.  Even her best friends won't talk to her.  Now Melinda has pretty much stopped talking, her grades have dropped and she has started skipping classes.

I really liked that Ms. Anderson doesn't say exactly what happened to Melinda at the party, she just hints at it.  I was pretty sure that I knew what it was just a few pages in.  I had friends that had similar things happen, not in high school, but in college.  It's devastating.  I think that it was handled in a wonderful manner in this book.  This is definitely a must read for everyone.

Have you read it?  What did you think?