Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review: Death Sentence by Alexander Gordon Smith

Death Sentence (Escape from Furnace, book 3)
by Alexander Gordon Smith

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (August 2, 2011)
Goodreads Description:

Alex's second attempt to break out of Furnace Penetentiary has failed. This time his punishment will be much worse than before. Because in the hidden, bloodstained laboratories beneath the prison, he will be made into a monster. As the warden pumps something evil into his veins--a sinisterly dark nectar--Alex becomes what he most fears . . . a superhuman minion of Furnace. How can he escape when the darkness is inside him? How can he lead the way to freedom if he is lost to himself?
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Death Sentence is the third book in the Escape from Furnace series and just like the previous books I was blown away with this one.
This series is amazing and grabs the reader's attention from the start which makes it perfect for reluctant readers (especially boys). Alexander Gordon Smith is one of my favorite authors and writes such a brilliant story that there really is no age limit to who would enjoy these books. This is a young adult series and remains appropriate for that age group but as an adult reading this series I don't feel like I am missing out on anything just because it is YA.

The author's descriptive writing really drew me in. From the beginning I could feel the evil of Furnace like a great weight settling on my shoulders. I felt like I was there with Alex experiencing all the horrors that Furnace had to offer. The Warden has Alex pumped full of the vile dark nectar that transforms him and most of the book is about this horrifying change...both physical and mental. It was shocking and terrifying to read. My absolute favorite part of the book though is learning about how Furnace and these "experiments" started. I can't believe that I never really wondered about that. I just took it for what it was but now that I know, the story is even more intriguing and I am dying to learn more secrets of Furnace.

So many times while reading this I was filled with despair for Alex. He had gone so far only to be dragged back to be turned into a monster. The dark nectar erases who you are and I was worried what would happen to Alex. Would he be able to fight back the darkness or would he fully succumb to it, even embrace it? Part of me was in denial with what was happening. I just kept thinking there was no way the author would do this to Alex...turn him into this thing that was no longer him. But he went there and I love this book all the more for it. In a place like Furnace how likely is it that someone who caused that much trouble walk away unscathed? Alex HAD to go through this. He HAD to experience the wrath of Furnace. If he didn't then the story would be flat and lack the raw grittiness that makes it so enthralling. This macabre story will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Other books in the series:

Lockdown
Solitary

5/5

I was provided a copy of this book for review. Any opinions expressed are my own.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Review: Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz

Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion (June 21, 2011)
Goodreads Description:

From the author of the highly addictive and bestselling Blue Bloods series, with almost 3 million copies sold, comes a new novel, Melissa de la Cruz's first for adults, featuring a family of formidable and beguiling witches. The three Beauchamp women--Joanna and her daughters Freya and Ingrid--live in North Hampton, out on the tip of Long Island. Their beautiful, mist-shrouded town seems almost stuck in time, and all three women lead seemingly quiet, uneventful existences. But they are harboring a mighty secret--they are powerful witches banned from using their magic. Joanna can resurrect people from the dead and heal the most serious of injuries. Ingrid, her bookish daughter, has the ability to predict the future and weave knots that can solve anything from infertility to infidelity. And finally, there's Freya, the wild child, who has a charm or a potion that can cure most any heartache. For centuries, all three women have been forced to suppress their abilities. But then Freya, who is about to get married to the wealthy and mysterious Bran Gardiner, finds that her increasingly complicated romantic life makes it more difficult than ever to hide her secret. Soon Ingrid and Joanna confront similar dilemmas, and the Beauchamp women realize they can no longer conceal their true selves. They unearth their wands from the attic, dust off their broomsticks, and begin casting spells on the townspeople. It all seems like a bit of good-natured, innocent magic, but then mysterious, violent attacks begin to plague the town. When a young girl disappears over the Fourth of July weekend, they realize it's time to uncover who and what dark forces are working against them. With a brand-new cast of characters, a fascinating and fresh world to discover, and a few surprise appearances from some of the Blue Blood fan favorites, this is a page-turning, deliciously fun, magical summer read fraught with love affairs, witchcraft, and an unforgettable battle between good and evil.
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I was really interested in reading Witches of East Ends after reading the blurb and it certainly didn't hurt that it is written by Melissa de la Cruz. Although the story starts off just a tad slowly it really picks up after a bit. This is actually an adult novel but I am sure teens would enjoy this book if they enjoyed the Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz ( there are some sex scenes -not really graphic in my opinion-though so keep that in mind). For the author's first foray into adult novels I think she did an excellent job. The characters were so interesting (Ingrid is my favorite!) and I enjoyed watching events unfold.

The Beauchamps history is intriguing. There were enough descriptions in the story to give a good idea of who they are, but I would love to go even deeper into that. The sisters Freya and Ingrid are like day and night with Freya being the party girl wild child and Ingrid being the more serious and conservative straight-laced one. Their mother Joanna is a little less easily defined. Obviously, Freya provides a lot of the entertainment in the story but Ingrid is the character that really caught my attention the most (probably because I can identify with her more). After not being able to use their magic for so long once they started they just didn't want to stop, and who could blame them when magic is a part of them? You could almost feel a weight being lifted off their shoulders once they decided to continue to use their magic. It was then that I was able to get a really good idea of their character.

There was only one thing in the book that just didn't make sense to me and it involved knowledge of someone's identity. I won't say anything more about that but if you read the book you will probably understand what I mean...or maybe it is just me. Oh well, I was able to get past my confusion and still enjoy the book. There were quite a few surprising turns. I like that I wasn't able to figure everything out from the beginning and I actually didn't see most of it coming at all. I can't wait to read more of this series in the future!

4/5

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher. Any opinions expressed are my own

CymLowell
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Review: Secrets by Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur

Secrets (The Ivy, book 2) by Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books (May 31, 2011)
Goodreads Description:

Reputation, Reputation, Reputation.

You're a student at the most prestigious university in the country, and you've been tapped for the most elite social club. You've made it!

Now Don't Blow It!

Callie Andrews triumphed during her first semester at Harvard: she made incomparable friends, found the perfect boyfriend, and received invitations to the most exclusive secret societies. But she may have ruined every-thing with one ill-fated night. Now she's keeping secrets from everyone, including—

Clint the upperclassman who's too good to be true

Vanessa the best friend turned backstabber

Gregory the guy who's a total(ly hot) mistake

and Lexi the social queen who wants to bring Callie down.

But Callie didn't get into Harvard by giving up, and she isn't about to now. Besides, she's not the only one with something to hide. . . .

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In order to enjoy this book it is absolutely necessary that you read the first book, The Ivy, first or you won't understand a lot of what happens. I really loved The Ivy and was excited to read Secrets. Although I didn't enjoy it as much as the first book I still liked it a lot. This book is filled with drama drama drama. Kind of like watching a train wreck about to happen but you just can't seem to look away.

********Spoilers ahead if you haven't read the first book********




Callie is being blackmailed with a sex tape, her boyfriend wanted them to take a break and she slept with the player across the hall, and her roommate/ex-best friend is now her enemy. Like I said D-R-A-M-A. The lack of communication is what is really doing her in. She is keeping secrets from people and that always spells trouble. So many moments in the story had me wanting to yell at Callie and tell her to talk things through and stop assuming things about everyone. I feel like so many of her problems would have been solved immediately if she had just told someone what was going on.

What I really missed in this book is the roommates and the guys across the hall. Sure they were in it but nowhere near enough. Their antics and personalities are what made the first book shine so much in my opinion and it was sad that they were barely in it. The triangle between Gregory, Callie, and Clint was surprisingly one of the more minor issues in the story so I think that will come more into play in the next book. I guess this book was more about the blackmail situation and the friction between Callie and her roommate/ex-best friend Vanessa.

I was really surprised at how the story ended. Surprised in a good way that is. There are still plenty of problems and drama left over for the next book but many of the main problems were taken care of and the way things ended up was perfect. Not everything is necessarily happily ever after but I think that is a good thing.

3.5/5

CymLowell
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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Razorbill; First Edition first Printing edition (January 11, 2011)
Goodreads Description:

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

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After I finished this book I had step back and contemplate it for a couple of days. It was such an amazing story that I just wanted time to think about it. The story is told from both Amy's point of view and Elder's. It switches off each chapter and the chapters are titled with the character's name whose point of view it is told in. This helps to keep things from getting confusing (which could easily happen when switching back and forth like this). The schematics of the ship is included in the book which I think was an awesome idea. Not only does it look cool, but it also helps to give perspective on where the characters go throughout the story.

Amy is such a strong female character. She had the choice of staying behind on Earth or going to a new planet with her parents and she chose her parents. To give up life as you know it to be frozen for 300 years as you travel to a new planet is an incredible and difficult decision. In addition to that she is woken up prematurely by 50 years...which means that when her parents are finally woken up she will be older than them. Of course she is distraught, but she has to push those feelings aside to find out who is killing the others who were frozen as well before they get to her parents.

Elder is being trained by Eldest to take his place as leader of the ship one day. Eldest is keeping secrets and not teaching Elder the things he really needs to know though. Elder is already starting to question Eldest's behavior but once Amy comes into the picture things really reach a boiling point. There are some pretty twisted secrets aboard the ship Godspeed. Just when I thought I would have everything figured out there would be a curve ball and I would be shocked at how things are even crazier than I first thought.

I have pretty much nothing negative to say about this book other than I hated the way Amy would refer to her father as "daddy." It is something trivial but it grated on my nerves because even though she is in a vulnerable situation she is a teenager and every time she said it it made her seem extremely immature which goes against the strength she shows throughout the story. I think had she used that term once or twice during especially distressing moments it would have had a better effect than the constant use of it.

This is a dystopian story which is extremely popular right now. I would recommend this to those who love this particular genre and also to newbies of the genre. I am so excited that this is just the first book in a series. I think it is actually strong enough to stand on its own but I am definitely not complaining that I get to read more about life on Godspeed. I'm sure there will be many more secrets unearthed and new problems arising from the decisions made at the end of Across the Universe. I look forward to seeing how things come together.

5/5
CymLowell
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Review: Possession by Elana Johnson

Possession by Elana Johnson
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse (June 7, 2011)
Goodreads Description:
Vi knows the Rule: Girls don’t walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn…and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi’s future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.

But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they’re set on convincing Vi to become one of them….starting by brainwashed Zenn. Vi can’t leave Zenn in the Thinkers’ hands, but she’s wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous: everything Zenn’s not. Vi can’t quite trust Jag and can’t quite resist him, but she also can’t give up on Zenn.

This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

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I have very mixed feelings about this book. I love the idea of it, but it is extremely confusing. Hardly anything is really explained and honestly I felt lost for much of the story. I think the story lacked some focus. I also found that Vi's ignorance most of her life about her "powers" just doesn't mesh when so many other people happen to know about hers and their own (and have for awhile). Once she does realize she has these powers half the time she doesn't know what to do but then all of a sudden she knows she can do this complicated stuff but then goes back to not knowing what to do later. It was very back and forth and was a little off-putting. I think had there been more background info given about everything the story would have made more sense and I would really have loved this book.

Usually when there is a love triangle I find myself rooting for one of the guys, but that was not the case in this book. I though both were manipulative jerks in their own ways. Jag and Vi's relationship just didn't ring true for me. He doesn't really come across as sincere. As for Zenn, his situation is a little more complicated because it is difficult to tell what is really him and what is controlled.

Despite my criticism of certain aspects I did still find the book to be very interesting and the ending was pretty good. I'm not sure if there will be a sequel, but it is set up perfectly for one and I would probably read it to see if it things start making sense to me. The mind controlling, rules, technology, and the way society is set up is very intriguing and I hope that if there will be more books that it will explain more about the whys and hows of it all since it was just glossed over in Possession. If you enjoy reading dystopian you *might* enjoy reading this one.

2.5/5

I received an e-galley of this book for review. Any opinions expressed are my own.
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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Review: Wildefire by Karsten Knight

Wildefire by Karsten Knight
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing (July 26, 2011)
Goodreads Description:

Every flame begins with a spark.

Ashline Wilde is having a rough sophomore year. She’s struggling to find her place as the only Polynesian girl in school, her boyfriend just cheated on her, and now her runaway sister, Eve, has decided to barge back into her life. When Eve’s violent behavior escalates and she does the unthinkable, Ash transfers to a remote private school nestled in California’s redwoods, hoping to put the tragedy behind her. But her fresh start at Blackwood Academy doesn’t go as planned. Just as Ash is beginning to enjoy the perks of her new school—being captain of the tennis team, a steamy romance with a hot, local park ranger—Ash discovers that a group of gods and goddesses have mysteriously enrolled at Blackwood…and she’s one of them. To make matters worse, Eve has resurfaced to haunt Ash, and she’s got some strange abilities of her own. With a war between the gods looming over campus, Ash must master the new fire smoldering within before she clashes with her sister one more time… And when warm and cold fronts collide, there’s guaranteed to be a storm.

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When I read the description of this book the first thing that caught my eye was the part that mentions gods and goddesses. Once I read that I knew I wanted to read this. I love all types of mythology. I was expecting the usual Greek mythology but I was very pleasantly surprised that it is actually a variety of mythology as well as the characters being a variety of ethnicity. Honestly most of the YA books I have read feature Caucasians or if they are of a different ethnicity they might mention the skin color once but leave it at that with no more info about it. This is really the first time I can think of that the subject of ethnicity was really discussed. I thought it made the story more interesting because of it. I also would like to point out that the author of this book is male. I have read very few YA books written by a man and I don't thin any of them have written about a female as the main character. He did an excellent job with it and I didn't even realize the author was male until after I finished the book.

Ashline was involved with a terrible accident because of her sister Eve so she transfer to a private school across the country. There she eventually discovers that she and a small group of other students from the school are gods and goddesses. They are in danger in a number of ways but the most immediate threat seems to be Eve who comes after her sister. Eve is extremely dangerous and temperamental. She doesn't seem to really have a consistence at all so there are definitely times in the story that things get pretty nerve wracking. I really don't want to say too much and spoil the story but there is action, a little bit of romance, tragedy, and self discovery. Not something you want to miss out on!

Finding out the names of each of the student's god or goddess felt pretty thrilling as well as finding out what their powers are. This book is really just the tip of the iceberg. I feel like things are really going to get even more intense in the next books and I am anxious to read more. The ending of Wildefire was a doozy and actually quite unexpected. It ends on a note that will keep you in suspense and eagerly awaiting the next in the series.

5/5

I received a copy of this from the publisher for review. Any opinions expressed are my own.
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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Review: The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch

The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Poppy (May 3, 2011)
Goodreads Description:

After the death of her free-spirited mother, sixteen-year-old Alex Lee must leave her home in northern California to live with her wealthy grandmother in Savannah, Georgia. By birth, Alex is a rightful, if unwilling, member of the Magnolia League, Savannah's long-standing debutante society. She quickly discovers that the Magnolias have made a pact with a legendary hoodoo family, the Buzzards. The Magnolias enjoy youth, beauty and power. But at what price?

As in her popular adult novels, Crouch's poignant and humorous voice shines in this seductively atmospheric story about girls growing up in a magical Southern city.
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The Magnolia league really stands out to me. There is something about it that makes it feel different from other YA books. It could just be that the subject matter is not something I have read a lot of. I also like that there is quite a bit of humor and some quirky characters. Just a warning to readers or parents that this book is probably not for younger teens. The main character, Alex, was raised on a pot farm and there is some drug use and underage drinking. It is talked about rather flippantly and that might rub some people the wrong way. Personally, I don't have a problem reading about it but others might.

I think that Alex being raised in a commune/pot farm environment is an interesting way to show what a drastic change occurs in her lifestyle once she moves to Georgia to live with her grandmother. She is honest, cares for the environment, and is not materialistic and that has a lot to do with her upbringing which is the opposite of life in Savannah where wealth, power, and good looks are of the utmost importance. She handles the change poorly in my opinion because of her insecurities and ultimately she starts to become almost a different person. I am interested in finding out just how deep those changes in her are in future installments of the series.

There is a sinister undercurrent throughout the book. The Buzzard family may seem friendly at times but underneath they are dangerous. The Magnolias are playing with fire by interacting with them but they are so caught up in the power they just don't see it coming. It is like watching a fly buzzing around a spiderweb. You know that if the fly hangs around too long it is going to get caught and be made into a meal. It seems inevitable that this will happen to the Magnolias at some point but the who, what, where, when, and why remains a mystery at this point.

Although a lot of info is revealed about the Magnolia League there are still a lot of questions left unanswered. This book was a great starting off point for the series with introducing a lot of information and of course the characters, so I am pretty sure there will be more of a focus on conflict in the next book. With the way this book ended it seems only likely that things will get very serious and crucial in the future.

4.5/5

CymLowell
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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Review: Illusions by Aprilynne Pike

Illusions (Wings, book3) by Aprilynne Pike
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen (May 3, 2011)
Goodreads Description:

Laurel hasn't seen Tamani since she begged him to let her go last year. Though her heart still aches, Laurel is confident that David was the right choice.

But just as life is returning to normal, Laurel discovers that a hidden enemy lies in wait. Once again, Laurel must turn to Tamani to protect and guide her, for the danger that now threatens Avalon is one that no faerie thought would ever be possible. And for the first time, Laurel cannot be sure that her side will prevail.
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By far Illusions is my favorite book in the Wings series. The story felt more rounded out and developed...more complicated and a little less straightforward and obvious. I felt really pulled in with the possible subterfuge going on and even though there probably wasn't technically any more action in this book than the previous ones it seemed like it because it felt like there was a constant threat. I seriously could not put the book down. Aprilynne Pike knows how to leave readers desperate for more. Her books end on cliffhangers that leave me yelling "NOOOOOO! I NEED to know what happens NOW!" and then I have to calm down and realize it is not the end of the world. On the bright side, it means there will be another awesome book to read eventually.

A big thing with YA is the love triangles. Off the top of my head I can't even think of one that doesn't have one and the Wings series is no exception. So the question is Team Tamani or Team David? It is a difficult choice for readers and obviously Laurel. Every time I think she is going to go one way she seems to either do the opposite or backtrack. It is interesting but sometimes it is frustrating because her indecision is often hurtful and seems selfish. She does know that she is being that way but she is torn about it. I don't envy her position in this situation.

I like that Chelsea is around more in this book because her presence in the previous books (especially Spells) seemed random and a little off. She feels more like part of the group now and her presence makes more sense. Shar was also in the story a little more and readers get to learn something interesting about him. I hope that the information comes into play more in the future because I found it to be fascinating.

This series absolutely has to be read in proper order to be enjoyed. If you have read the first 2 and liked it I would be absolutely shocked if you didn't enjoy this one. As I previously said this is my favorite so far and that is saying a lot because the first book always tends to be my favorite when it comes to series.

5/5



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Friday, June 3, 2011

Review: Spells by Aprilynne Pike

Spells (Wings, book 2) by Aprilynne Pike
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen; 1 edition (May 4, 2010)
Goodreads Description:

Six months have passed since Laurel saved the gateway to the faerie realm of Avalon. Now she must spend her summer there, honing her skills as a Fall faerie. But her human family and friends are still in mortal danger--and the gateway to Avalon is more compromised than ever.

When it comes time to protect those she loves, will she depend on David, her human boyfriend, for help? Or will she turn to Tamani, the electrifying faerie with whom her connection is undeniable?
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The story starts off with Laurel going to Avalon to attend the school there to catch up on her learning. It is one of my favorite parts of the book because the descriptions of Avalon and life there is fascinating. I would love to just read an entire book about Avalon and the fairies living there, but this is Laurel's story and she lives most of her life in the human realm.

As for the action in Spells I would say that there is more action than in Wings, but not by much. It seems like just when things are getting started they end almost abruptly. If it was drawn out a little more I think it would be a tad more interesting and would build up suspense. Really, most of the suspense that is created is from who Laurel will end up with, David or Tamani. The ending of the book was awesome and has made me eager to find out what is going to happen in the next book.

Although I do feel that the story could be rounded out with more detail and explanations I still enjoyed it very much and I feel that it is a great follow up to the first book in the series. This series is prefect for teens and adults who like fantasy. This was a pretty quick read once I really got into it.

4/5

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