Tuesday, December 23, 2014

the wonder of All Things by Jason Mott

This is a great read by a first time author and perfect for the holidays.  As much as anything its about love, not a male/female love but love of family, of brother for brother, parent for child and more.
Because the main characters are young teens, this is a crossover book, good for adults as well as teens.
The Characters:  Ava and Wash, best friends since childhood, Ava's mother committed suicide many years ago, her caring father, recently remarried and expecting has raised her well.  Wash's grandmother has been raising him since the death of his mother in a car accident caused by his father who could not face the world after that.  they are teens.  Ava's father Sheriff Macon Campbell and his new wife Carmen. Wash's grandmother Brenda and father Tom.  Reverend Brown and his brain injured brother Sam.  Dr. Arnold and his wife, town doctor and nurse.

A plane crashes at an airshow trapping Ava and Wash in debris.  As their rescuers race to reach them, Ava sees that Wash is slipping away.  Panicked by the thought of losing Wash, Ava grabs on to him and holds and thinks hard, memories of her mother flood her mind.  She wakes cold and weak in the hospital being called miracle girl.  She has healed Wash's injuries, saved his life.  And so it is that the town is flooded by reporters and people hoping to be healed by the miracle girl.  Macon is overwhelmed by coping with the mess.  Reverend Brown steps in and guides him.  The reverend could have been a stereotypical televangelist but is a much deeper caring person.  His older brother however is a problem, stalking Ava, trying to get her to cure his brain injury and in the end causing an horrific explosion, killing himself and others.  Sam reminded me of Lennie Small in the novel Of Mice and Men so now might be the time to say that maybe this story or parts of it have been told before, never has the story been told in this manner.  There are tests and more tests to see if Ava is different is some way, always is the question of how?  When she heals a dog's broken leg she loses conscious and wakes up blind.  Eventually recovering, almost.  She grows thinner, and colder every time she heals someone and loses her vision and has a flood of memories of her lost beloved mother.
Even as those close to her want her help, save Carmen's baby, save Wash from cancer, they know it could kill her, something they would never risk.  How do you explain to people in need, people who believe she has a moral duty to help that Ava cannot help them?  There is a first attempt to get Ava to begin what is deemed her duty but she refuses to cure a young child of a brain tumor and instead grabs Wash and runs away.  Ava seems to have come to terms with her "power" with what she can and will do and that is clearly limited to those she loves.  She will risk her own life for them.  And so it is that she heals Wash's cancer without his being aware and heals Carmen's baby, born too early.  But for those outside her tight circle there is no resolution.  JDW 12/14

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Stepsister's Tale by Tracy Barrett

This summer, Disney told the story of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of Maleficent. Tracy Barrett has now told Cinderella's story from the perspective of the stepsister. It's an interesting interpretation of the story that seems a bit removed from the original.

Jane's mother has high standards for her daughters to present themselves as ladies like their ancestors always have. That would be easy for Jane to do, if they weren't living in a house that was nearly beyond repair and she weren't forced to work in the family's dairy so that they could survive. When her mother returns from a trip with a new husband and stepdaughter, Jane thinks this might be the answer to their prayers. However, her new stepsister seems a bit stuck-up and her stepfather has his own set of debts. None of this helps them, especially when he suddenly gets sick and dies. In the meantime, Jane forms a friendship with a family of people who lives in the woods, people that she'd initially been warned by her mother to stay away. Then the prince comes with an invitation for all unmarried women as he seeks one particular lady - a girl he met one day on his travels. Jane realizes he means her stepsister Isabella, and while she would love the opportunity to "get rid of" the girl, she begins to realize the prince might not be the happily ever after they were all looking for.

This retelling of Cinderella feels very removed from the original story that everyone seems to know. Given that it's from the perspective of the stepsister, that's to be expected, but at times it felt like a completely different story. For the most part, it feels like a story about a girl whose class status shifts due to unfortunate events and is now living the life of poverty and how she adapts to this life. It addresses misconceptions about people - Will from the family in the woods thinks she's high and mighty because of her class, which is completely wrong because her family has less than his, and she thinks he's too proud to associate with her; then Jane has a misconception about Isabella who has a misconception about Jane. It's a theme throughout the book about how people aren't what you think and how status and title doesn't make a person good. When it comes to the actual Cinderella parts of the story, there's a nice twist to the whole ball and prince that fits with the themes about misconceptions and makes it more original. For the most part, though, this novel felt like it was Jane dealing with their living conditions and trying to survive and keep her family from falling apart. For a while, I kept wondering when the whole Cinderella story was going to happen. I don't know what to make of the Cinderella character, though. For the most part she comes off as a whiny brat and is barely in the book. I would have like more of her, or seen her character develop more. I had very little sympathy for her. I also would have like a bit more clarity with the epilogue. There's closure for a happy ending, but I thought it was a bit vague in terms of where everyone ends up. I wanted more specifics or nothing at all. 

The novel is an interesting interpretation of the story of Cinderella. It is definitely the author's take on the familiar tale, although that tale is more of a secondary story compared to everything else going on in the novel - so keep that in mind. It was an enjoyable read though.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Promise Me Something by Sara Kocek

I think this could have been a powerful story.  But, the author looses track of her characters a couple of times.  In one spot this made the story totally confusing.  And, she switches directions a couple of times, not in a twisty complicated way but sort of in a "Huh"  way.  

Reyna is new girl in high school.  First day is hard, everyone knows everyone and has someone to eat
lunch with.  So, when Olive encourages Reyna to join her, well, why not?  Olive is quirky and Reyna doesn't know what to think.  So, when another group of girls invites her into their group, Reyna does.
But, they are not really to her liking either.  Well turns out Olive thinks Reyna is gay like she is and Reyna totally freaks and tries to drop Olive as a friend, even making fun of her like the other girls do.  There is a homophobic teacher who is hard on a gay boy in his class both angering Olive and keeping her silent.  Olive is in  a GLBQT group on line and has met other girls like herself.  There is much chatter about suicide.  When there is an actual suicide in town, folks think its Olive as the victim was wearing her coat.  This turns into an opportunity to strike out against the homophobic teacher, an opportunity for Reyna to redeem herself for all she regrets not doing and a few other things as well.  Ok, well I am happy to have finally finished this book.  There are others much better.  Try Julie Peters or Ellen Whittlinger or David Leviathan.
JDW 12/14

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Very Bad Things by Susan McBride

Katie is plagued by nightmares that she swears are not just in her head, that the person calling her name and leaving behind roses is real, but she doesn't have much proof, even though she finds a rose left by her backpack. Regardless of her dreams, a rumor has begun that her boyfriend Mark has cheated on her, and that same day, she receives a package containing something important to the girl he cheated with. Now the girl's believed missing and he's the prime suspect. Katie doesn't know if she can believe in his innocence, not when he can't remember anything about the night he was with this mystery girl. It doesn't help that Katie's best friend has something against Mark and seems determined to prove his guilt, although she claims it's for Katie's own good. Is Mark innocent, even though he claims some guy drugged him, or is there something else going on?

This book is a quick read. For the most part it is a steady mystery with characters who are hiding things. There are three different narrators in this novel - Katie, Mark, and Tessa - although I don't know that switching the narrator adds anything to the novel. They didn't really seem distinct enough to make it necessary. The book is only 225 pages long, so it's a decent mystery with a few twists. The characters probably could have used a little bit more development, but for the limited pages, it's not bad. 

If you enjoy mysteries and are looking for a book you can read in a day or two that is engaging, this is worth picking up.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross

It is nothing new to re-imagine a story, which is exactly what this novel does. It takes the world of fairy tales and puts a modern day spin on the story.

Mirabelle is embarking on her sixteenth birthday and is ready for the truth. Her parents died when she was a baby and she has since been raised by her godmothers who have kept her away from the place of her birth. Given the fact that she's forbidden to return home and the secrecy around her parent's death, Mira's natural curiosity gets the best of her, and she hatches an elaborate plan to run away and discovery the truth by her birthday. When she arrives in Beau Rivage, she realizes that her plan wasn't completely thought out since she doesn't have a place to stay or any idea where to begin looking. She finds herself killing time in a casino and meets a boy named Blue who rudely warns her to stay away from her brother and get out the casino. When she finally leaves, she runs into an older boy who offers her a place to stay and turns out to be the brother Blue warned her to avoid - Felix. However, Felix is too nice and helpful to be bad, so she disregards Blue's advice. While she waits for an opportunity to search for her parents with Felix's help, she finds herself spending time with Blue and his friends, all of whom seem a little strange. When she notices the way animals flock towards one friend and another coughs up flower petals, she realizes that something isn't right with these people. Then she discovers that one friend has a mysterious birthmark identical to her own, which means she's somehow connected to these people. She learns that each mark relates to a curse or blessing, relating each marked person to a fairy tale. In her case, she is marked to prick her finger on a certain object by her sixteenth birthday and fall asleep until an honor-bound person with her same mark comes along to wake her up. Now, while she searches for her parents, she also has to discover what object will be her downfall. At the same time, she has to figure out what to do about her growing feelings for Blue in conflict with her undeniable feelings for his brother. Given the fact that these brothers are cursed and the women they love are affected by this curse, Mira's situation has just gotten a whole lot more complicated.

There are certain elements of this novel which are frustrating, like the fact that Mira is only fifteen and running around with complete strangers and ready to jump into bed with an older boy that she's only known for a day. Just because he's nice to her and helpful is no reason to be hopelessly in love with him. This novel definitely requires you to suspend reality for just a bit. I personally kept forgetting that she was only fifteen since all of them seemed to read more like eighteen or nineteen. Still, it was interesting to see how these fairy tales play out, especially when this novel toys with the idea of fate and how their destiny is already written out for them. She knows who her Prince Charming is, and, unfortunately, it is not love at first sight. Blue and Felix are horribly cursed and there's nothing they can do about it, which is something Mira will not accept. The novel created a really intriguing world and easily sets up future stories. At least one other novel is coming out in 2015- Tear You Apart - which is Snow White's story, but characters for Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid have been introduced. Her website (http://www.sarahcross.com) features a Cinderella story.

If you enjoy fairy tales and can overlook some literary cliches (head over heels in love with a near stranger, bad boy attraction, etc), this is a enjoyable book. It's fun taking a familiar story and setting it in new world with new twists. Come the end of the novel, you are rooting for the characters to have their happily ever afters and looking forward to more from this strange new (yet familiar) world.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Watched - C.J. Lyons

Four years ago Jessie's dad left him, his mom, and his sister Janey.  His uncle, who is a fire fighter, took them in.  Jessie's uncle also made a video of him when he was twelve and gave it to someone named King online.  King can hack into any computer or cell phone to know and hear what someone is doing.  Since that video Jessie has been at King's beck and call even when he's in school.  Jessie is taking a test when King calls.  He gets out of class only to have his phone confiscated and gets detention.  When he gets out of detention King tells him never to ignore him again or else he will harm Janey.  Jessie speeds home and finds Janey alright.  He has a moment to recover when King calls.  He pleads with King to leave Janey alone.  King says he will if Jessie will make new friends and introduce them to King.  Jessie is given the weekend to think about King's proposal.  Jessie asks about an envelope that came and Janey says it was in the mailbox.  When he opens it a t-shirt, cell phone, and a note with a phone number along with the words I can help.  Jesse thinks it's from King and talks to his uncle about King's latest proposal.  His uncle tells him he's got to do it to make money because a fire fighters salary doesn't feed four people.  He says they can go to the auto show over the weekend to look for a new friend.  Jessie feels like he has no other choice.  After dinner he calls the number and is surprised when a girl named Miranda answers.  She is really good with computers and she can help.  She was hurt by King two years ago, and has been reaching out to his victims.  Jessie is the first one who has called.  At first Jessie says he can't help, but when he thinks about all the people King has victimized and will continue to victimize he agrees to help.  They set up a plan where Jessie goes and gets a digital recorder with audio and video, and will find King at the auto show this weekend.  Miranda has narrowed down where King lives and it's not to far away from Jessie and King works for Telenet, the sponsors of the auto show.  Jessie still has his doubts and Miranda tells him to think about as they hang up.  When he gets back to the house he hears his uncle talking on the phone in the garage.  He sneaks around to the front and heads to his bedroom.  He can't sleep and early in the morning he takes a drive towards the woods past school.  He can't remember a time when he was this free.  In that moment he phones Miranda and tells her he's in.  Can they take down King and get their lives back, or will King continue to destroy innocent lives because of one video or picture?  

I enjoyed this book.  It was a good story about what happens when that one picture or video gets posted online and how your life can end up in the hands of someone else.  In this age of cell phones, computers, and tablets we should be mindful about what gets taken with the technology.  You never know who is lurking in cyberspace.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Unchained by L B Tillit

TJ has lived with his drug addicted parents most of his life though he does remember better times before things got bad.  Now his father has overdosed, his drug addicted mother sent to rehabilitation and TJ to a foster home.  As it turns out, a good foster home.  People don't give up on this kid with a tough bully exterior.  TJ has become fast friends with some of his foster family then his mom gets him back.  She is really only interested in the support money she gets supposedly for his care.  So, he is on his own.  He is recruited into a gang though never fully participates but then tragedy strikes the gang in the form of  a shoot out with a rival gang resulting in the deaths of the leaders, folks start looking to him for leadership and he runs.  The rest is the sort of happy ending we could mostly hope for.  This a Saddleback book for teens not yet able to read well.  There is a lot of action and emotion in the story.  It has won awards and it has been asked for in our library.  So, despite the sort of idealistic ending I think its worth reading, it does work as a whole, is realistic. 

The Mosquito Book by Brett Ortler

Ok so this is everything you did or didn't want to know about mosquitoes.  Future entomologists and biologists would definitely be interested in this book.  Its good, fact filled short narrative non-fiction as well, should meet common core standards easily.  I did not know that there were about 63 different species of mosquitoes in our state.  Alaska has quite a few as well.  I did not know that these blood suckers only do this so they can create more blood suckers.  I did not know their Latin genus names mean fun things like useless and unpleasant or that scientists think that perhaps they could be eradicated without hurting the ecosystem.  There is so much more.  Lots of pictures show how different each species is from the next.  The book explains the differences in breeding, breeding grounds, diseases they may carry, what their eggs look like and what research is being done.  It includes a list of repellants and how to use them and what the future holds for repellants and what really works and what attracts them to us!  All this in just 144 jam packed pages!
jdw 11/21/14

Friday, November 14, 2014

Mr. B Gone by Clive Barker

For me this was a really fun book. If you like horror among other creepy things, then you know Clive Barker!

In this book you are not reading a story, the devil trap in it it's narrating it too you! Creepy uh? But wait until you start turning your head to make sure nobody is behind you. Why is your heart beating so fast?? Is he behind you? Don't look!

The narrative really engrosses you into the story and once you pick up the book you won't stop. No matter how many times the demon inside the book tells you to, you just won't find it in you. Not only is it fun, there are moments that will break your heart, others that will warm it. But then you remember that the creature in this book it's a demon, then you would try to make yourself not to feel sorry for it.

If you like horror and you like interactions this book it's a must for you!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Book of Bad Things by Dan Poblocki

Ursula Chambers was a witch or so people of Whitechapel believed. She chased away anyone who approached her scary old house hidden mostly from sight by trees.  Seeing the witch, finding out if she really was seemed like the perfect summer challenge for friends Joey and Cassidy so with Joey's dog along they went up the stairs to the old house only to be chased away in fright.  Unfortunately Lucky grabbed a piece of trash hanging from a low window and later choked to death.  That summer ended badly.  When Cassidy returns next summer, things begin badly.  She is seeing the ghost of Lucky and perhaps other ghosts as well.  Joey won't talk to her.  But there is a new kid in the neighborhood who has also seen the ghost dog.  Talk goes to ley lined and standing stones and other supernatural things.  Joey has also been seeing Lucky but the adults won't believe him.  It takes a bit of convincing for the girls to get Joey to understand that they do believe him.  When Ursula dies, her home is cleared of mountains of trash and a few interesting items.  Anyone who took an item from the dumpster outside the home later was haunted and if they did not return the item they died and became ghostly as well.  Now the kids are seeing more, or perhaps zombies, those of their dead neighbors.  So the trio plus Hal, a teen who wisely returned his stolen item to the house start researching both how to stop the dying of more folks as the trash and stolen items become carried far and wide and and how to stop the haunted zombies.  This is a good stopping point.  What they discover and what they do is the best part of the story!  There are enough funny lines here to keep the story from being too scary for the middle school audience.  Many of us have had ghost houses or witch houses in our neighborhoods, places we were warned away from and we didn't know why.  Here is one possibility.   Enjoy.  

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

All Britt wanted to do was have a great spring break hiking in the mountains with her best friend Korbie and forget about her break-up with Calvin. When she learns that Calvin is going on the trip as a chaperone - since he’s Korbie’s older brother - she’s torn between making him pay for breaking her heart and considering a reconciliation. Before they make it to their cabin in the mountains, however, they are hit by a massive blizzard and forced to abandon their car on the side of the road. Britt and Korbie manage to find shelter with two hikers, but it’s not the salvation they’d been hoping for. Shaun and Mason need to get off the mountain, and Britt is the one to help them. She knows that they’re hiding something, and she slowly begins to realize that they might be connected to the disappearances and deaths of three women in these mountains. Now all she cares about is her own survival and the hope that resourceful Calvin would come to her rescue. It doesn’t help her situation when one of her kidnappers turns out to be the opposite of what she things. Can she trust him or not?

This novel is a romantic suspense novel. Given the whole hostage situation, that makes it a little bit of a Stockholm Syndrome novel, although I think that there is some degree of truth behind her feelings for one of the kidnappers. He does genuinely help her throughout the novel and extreme situations do tend to lead to extreme feelings (at least that’s what seems to happen in novels). Whether or not a relationship between them would work in the real world, it makes for entertaining fiction. In terms of the suspense, I figured it out halfway through the novel, but I’ve been accused of thinking too much when I read, so maybe the big reveal will be more surprising for another reader. Even knowing what was going to happen, the novel was still enjoyable. There are enough turns in their journey to keep things interesting and the reader wondering how they’ll get out of this situation.

Overall, this was a satisfying novel. There’s enough to keep you going to the end as you hope everything works out for these characters and justice is served.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Party Games A Fear Street Novel - R.L. Stine

Everyone in Shadyside knows the stories about the Fear family.  Their ancestors practiced black magic, the whole family is cursed, and the ancestors haunt the Fear Mansion on Fear Island.  The stories alone would keep most people away from the Fear family.  Rachel on the other hand has a major crush on Brendan Fear, and to her he's a popular and nerdy guy.  When he asks her to his birthday celebration on Fear Island she says yes.  Her best friend Amy and her ex-boyfriend Mac warn her not to go.  She doesn't listen and that Friday, she along with Brendan's friends and his cousins board a ferry to Fear Island.  After they get to the island the ferry operator hits his head on the dock loosing a bit of blood.  When they enter the ballroom of the house Brendan greets everyone and the party begins.  Brendan has a few game ideas for the night.  The first is an old fashioned scavenger hunt.  All the guests are given a list of items to find through out the house.  Everyone is  partnered up and Rachel gets to be with Brendan.  He leads her to an elevator taking them to the third floor to begin their search.  As the searching begins they become separated and bats come rushing out of the room at Rachel.  After the bats are gone she looks for Brendan but can't find him.  She comes upon a body hung by the neck with a note on the floor saying "Anyone for a game of hangman?"  She believes it's Brendan, but when he finds her she realizes it's a mannequin dressed in his clothing.  They hear screams and see a crowd outside a bedroom.  Inside Patti is on the floor bent in half with her legs all twisted.  There is another note saying "Twister anyone?"  As everyone tries to figure out what to do the power goes out.  They go to find flashlights, but those have been taken.  Brendan remembers they have a security room and cameras.  When they rewind the footage there are two masked men with hunting rifles breaking into the house.  When one of the guests suggests going to the boat and leaving, everyone agrees and they head to the boat.  When they get to the dock they see the boat leaving with the workers hired for the party on it.  How will they get off Fear Island, or better yet will there be anyone left alive to get off the island? 

It's been almost ten years since R.L. Stine has written a Fear Street novel.  This one comes back with everything I loved in the series when I read them in the late 1980's and the 1990's.  It had the fear of the unknown killer, stories of the Fear ancestors, the Fear Mansion and the point in the book when one of the main characters realizes the killer might be someone he/she knows.  I was also reminded of Ten Little Indians by Agatha Christie while reading Party Games.  In it ten people are in a house on an island and the killer picks them off one by one.  I'm very happy R.L. Stine has decided to go back to Fear Street.  I'm hoping there will be more to come from Fear Street.

T.B. 10/26/14

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Selection Stories: The Prince & The Guard by Kiera Cass

This book contains two novellas that accompany Cass's Selection series. The two stories offer up the same situations that happen in the original novels, but from a different point of view. 

The first novella, The Prince, takes place before the series begins, although the last few chapters overlapping the beginning of the first book in the series. This book is from Prince Maxon's point of view as he prepares for the Selection. You meet Daphne, who is mentioned in one of the later books, as the first girl who had been in his life, and you see his true feelings and fears as he embarks on this journey to find a wife. Then you witness his first reaction to meeting America who is nothing like he expected.

The second novella, The Guard, is from Aspen's point of view and overlaps the second book. It shows his struggle to do his duty and keep up with his feelings for America in response to what happened to Marlee and a fellow guard, as well as her conflicted feelings for the prince. It doesn't help his situation that the rebel attacks are increasing and there's only so much he can do to keep the woman he loves safe.

Both novellas do a nice job of showing the other side of the drama. Since it does take scenes from the original novels, it can feel repetitive and it would have been nice to see more beyond the book. Since it is just a novella, though, neither story is exceptionally long. These are really just a snapshot of what else is happening in this world. A longer book would have given more opportunity for depth and further exploration of these characters' worlds. 

On top of the novellas, The Selection Stories includes a number of bonus items. There is a Q&A with the author that not only delves into the writing of the novels, but further details about how she imagines the characters' lives. There's a list of all of the girls in the Selection and a description of the castes. Then there are the family trees and family histories for America, Aspen, and Maxon. The bonus content ends with "The Official Playlist" for books One and Two of the series. These playlists offer a popular song, a lyric from the song, and scene from the book that relates to the song. It's an interesting and unique way to look at the books. All of the bonus content is worth exploring as it delves deeper into these really enjoyable novels.

For fans of the series, these are a nice treat to keep the story alive. Two more novellas are coming out (The Queen and The Favorite) and a fourth book is planned for next year.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Illusive - Emily Lloyd-Jones

The Meningococcas Krinotas or MK plague of 2017 began in Chad, then spread to Niger, Mali, Algeria, and Egypt.  It was only then when the rest of the world realized how bad it was going to be.  America became infected when one woman stepped into JFK International Airport off of a flight from Egypt.  The MK plague then spread like wildfire throughout the rest of the world.  Six months later a vaccine was developed by Fiacre Pharmaceuticals.  It was rushed through FDA approval and wasn't fully tested.  While there weren't any side effects in most of the people, it gave 0.003 percent of the population super powers.  Ciere is one of these few people with super powers.  She is an illusionist who can change her appearance, and a thief.  Kit, her "Uncle", took her in at the age of eleven and has been sending her out on jobs.  Her latest job, along with her friend Devon, was robbing a bank of $40,000.  On the way home Ciere and Devon run a fowl of the mob who want the money back, as the bank is in their territory.  Ciere agrees to pay back the money, but she needs time.  They put a tracking bracelet on her and give her a week to get the money.  When Ciere and Devon return they don't tell Kit about owing the mob money.  Kit has another job for them.  They are going to rob a lawyers office, and they need a mentalist to do it.  Kit knows someone, but they parted on bad terms.  He sends Ciere and Devon to meet with Magnus.  They meet his assistant at a bar and pay her.  They are taken to a hotel room to meet with him.  Just as the meeting begins SWAT teams pull up to the hotel.  They are looking for someone and Ciere fears it's her.  When an old man is taken everyone else is allowed to leave.  Magnus gives back the money they paid for the meeting and tells them to tell Kit he's sorry.  The next day Magnus shows up at Kit's house wanting to help.  They break into a law firm that holds the last will of Marie Louis and are to deliver its contents to Frieda Fuller.  After Kit and Magnus leave the SUV to head to the meeting point agents from the FBI and UAI (United American Immunities) start firing hitting the SUV.  Ciere runs into Daniel, their former associate, who she and Kit thought was dead.  She realizes he's working with the FBI and not by his choice.  After they escape Kit reveals that Marie Louis is an alias for Richelle Fiacre.  The will supposedly contains the formula to create more super powered people to be controlled by the government.  Ciere tells them that Daniel isn't dead and is working with the government.  They all head back to Kit's house to rest up and figure out what to do next.  Ciere comes up with the idea of selling the formula to the mob as payment.  Ciere and Devon pour over a copy of the will Devon wrote down.  They come across an address in Endicott, New York and go investigate.  Kit follows them and Ciere finally tells him about the mob and the payment she owes.  The house has been raided by the FBI, but their is a hidden room that was missed.  Inside that room contains not the formula, but the last supposedly dead member of the Fiacre family. 

I enjoyed this book.  It was a fun and action packed book to read.  It kept my interest all the way through.  When I got to the end, I wanted more.  According to the author's blog on her website there will be a sequel to Illusive.  When the book described the spread of the MK plague, it seemed very reminiscent of how Ebola is spreading from Africa to the United States and Spain in the last month.  I don't think there will be any super power side effects from the Ebola vaccine, but you never know.  


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

One death, Nine Stories edited by Marc Aronson & Charles R. Smith Jr.

This book is described as a novel told in stories. Each chapter is a separate short story, but they are all connected around one character's death and the idea of "initiation." This is an interesting concept, but I didn't feel it was as successful as it could have been.

Kevin Nicholas is dead and his death touches the lives of many people. There are the few who only know him in death, such as Morris and Nadira who work at the funeral home or Jackson who learns about his death through a cousin on Facebook. Then there are those who knew him intimately, like his sister Lydia or his first love Candy. There are his best friends and friends who had only just begun to know him. Either way, all of these people came in contact with Kevin in one way or another and they all have a story to tell.

While each character has a story to tell, I didn't feel as if there really was a central story. In the Afterword, the editor says this was a "Pick-Up Game, a cross between an anthology and a novel...individual stories written by different authors shifted character and story lines, making each one both a piece in itself and part of a larger whole" (145). While I can appreciate what they were trying to do, to me it felt too disconnected. The only connection was that Kevin died, nothing else. There were three chapters in a row ("Initiation," "Just Once," and "The Next Next Level") that flowed together as similar characters appeared in each story. In those three chapters you saw a history developing, a story forming. Even the next one, "Running Man," helped to build the damaged character of Kevin. After reading those four in a row, I thought it was building to something, the truth behind whatever happened, but then it just died and went off in another direction. I think that's my problem with this book - things are just disconnected and I don't feel that it goes anyplace. I don't feel as if this book gives any closure, even if the Afterword feels like the last chapter brings it all together. The editor also said there was a continual theme of initiation, and while I saw it strong in some, it didn't feel strong enough in others to say that connects the stories. I've read another book along the "Pick-Up Game" concept where multiple authors work together to write a novel - each chapter is a different author but it continues the story, sometimes taking it into a completely different direction, but all connected. I've also read an anthology where each author writes a different interpretation of the same event. This novel tries to combine those two concepts and isn't, in my eyes, successful.

It's not really a novel, but it's too connected to just be considered an anthology. However you want to classify this, is does open you eyes to see how one person's death can affect multiple people, even if it is in the most minor way, and the different situations in which we are initiated and learn something about ourselves.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Selection Series by Kiera Cass

Publishers Weekly captures the my initial reaction to this series: "A cross between The Hunger Games (minus the blood sport) and The Bachelor (minus the blood sport)." While it doesn't have the action that the Hunger Games has, you see similar qualities in the main characters. This is a captivating trilogy that constantly pulls you in different directions but always back for more.

Book One: The Selection
In a future version of the United States (after two World Wars and now known as Illea), the Selection has been established to find a princess for the prince of Illea. Girls of a certain age are encouraged to enter a lottery to be one of 35 girls chosen to be candidates for the Prince's heart. America Singer, has no desire to be a princess. Although she is only a Five, she is currently in love with a Six - a boy named Aspen who is in the caste below her. Everyone knows, though, that getting chosen for the Selection would change everything for her family, so her boyfriend and family both urge her to enter. When she is selected and Aspen breaks up with her, everything does change and a trip to the palace is the perfect escape for her heartache, even though she has no interest in Prince Maxon - a fact she makes clear the first time she meets him. So rather than fighting for his heart, she becomes his friend, which seems to be the perfect solution until Aspen shows up at the palace as a guard and she realizes that she just might have feelings for the prince after all...

Book Two: The Elite
After the Selection was cut down to six, the competition became more serious, as does the conflict America faces between Maxon and Aspen. The decision of which man holds her heart faces multiple obstacle - just when she seems committed to Maxon, something happens that makes her question his true character, but then she also realizes the real consequences of what being caught with a guard in a compromising position. It doesn't help matters that five other girls are monopolizing Maxon's time and affections. How can she be certain of his love is he's also sharing his love with others? On top of the drama of the Selection, the rebels are unhappy with the palace and repeatedly attacking, leaving behind immense destruction and fear. Their displeasure is related to the caste system and how poorly the lower castes are treated, something America is well aware of being the only candidate from one of the lower castes. When given a chance to speak her mind, America finds herself making an enemy of the king who wants her out of the competition, but what about Maxon?

Book Three: The One
America's antics have her walking on thin ice as she has to prove she's worthy of being a princess, despite the fact that she's growing in popularity with the public. After Northern rebels (less violent compared to the Southern rebels) contact Maxon and America, the truth about how little they know about their country's history comes to light and what needs to be changes to create peace. With the king's displeasure mounting against America and the stress of running a country growing, it's time for the Selection to come to an end. While the answer seems clear, it won't be easy.

To be honest, I don't know what it was about this series that I loved so much, but it hooked me and I couldn't put the books down. Even thought the books take place in the future, it feels like the past with kings, queens, princes and a caste system. Whether past or present, it all works to create setting and drama. The first book does a good job of setting America apart from all of the other girls. Come the end of that book, there is the love triangle which initially made me fear that it would be a constant back and forth of who she chooses and it would just make her a wishy-washy character. I thought, though, that the series does a good job of making realistic obstacles for whatever wishy-washiness that arises. She's not just in love with two people, it's history with one and the responsibility of being a princess with another and the fact that he's sharing his "love" with a number of other girls. It's real to be torn and you sympathize with America's struggles. The first book felt the most fluffy - just a romance, but there hints that it would be more and the series delivers in the final two books. The stakes are upped and it's no longer just a competition to win the Prince. Before you know it, you're fully invested in all of these characters, wanting to see a happy ending for everyone and the just desserts for the enemy.

I really enjoyed the series. The first book is nominated for an Abe Lincoln award, which is why I picked it up in the first place. I'm glad I did. This was one of the most enjoyable series I've read in a long time.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

This is a beautiful story with wonderful language and romance and sorrow.  The last line in the book is I fell in love.  Em has been involved in theatre as a set designer for a couple of years while in high school, she's good.  She is just 18 and gets a chance to be the designer, not just an assistant for a new film  She gets a chance to perhaps launch a career.  This happens just as a relationship she thought was forever, she thought was love ends.  She was just finishing scouting estate sales for just the right items for her current job when she comes upon a letter in an drawer written by a recently deceased wealthy, famous actor.  It speaks of a granddaughter he never new and money in a fund set up for the girl.  Em sets off to find the girl, hopefully get her money to her and who knows what else.  It doesn't take long to find Ava in a shelter for homeless teens with the help of a friend.  There is an instant connection between the two girls and Jamal Ava's friend in the shelter.  The teens seek out additional information for Ava.  They gather for food and to watch old movies together.  The new movie is in need of a lead female and Em can see that Ava will fit.  Em's older brother has lent her his apartment while he is out of town telling her that she has to make something wonderful happen there.  Toby's apartment is just right for one of the sets in the movie so perhaps filming part of the movie there will be the something wonderful.  While she is scouting items for the sets of this new film, Filming Ava's audition for the movie, helping Ava find out more about her new found family and face her long time adopted mom who has rejected her, Em is also learning a lot about family, love and infatuation and falling in love for real, with Ava.  That, of course is the something wonderful that happened in Toby's apartment.   JDW 9/14

Saturday, September 13, 2014

This is W.A.R. by Lisa & Laura Roecker

(Soho Press, Inc.)

Willa Ames-Rowan is dead. After climbing into a boat with James Gregory, she is dead. Everyone knows he killed her but since the Gregory family, specifically James’s grandfather the Captain runs the town and the Hawthorne Lake Country Club, no one dares say so. The Gregory family is great at throwing money at their problems to make them go away. Willa’s best friends: Lina, Sloane, Rose & Madge now seek to destroy the Gregory family, not just James but his reckless brother Trip too. They start a war…

Feeling mixed on this book. I was hoping for some more suspense than you really get from it. A few chapters in you know who really killed Willa, it was just too clear. The most frustrating thing is when the girls got together to start their plans for revenge, never did they go over what happened that night to each of them. That would have saved them so much trouble and would have ultimately saved them from some really dumb plans to “destroy” the family. What is beyond dumb is that Madge knows who the real killer is but lets the girl keep thinking its James. Money is thrown around like nothing. The girls are supposed to front $25,000 to enter this war against the Gregory family. I cannot wrap my head around the fact that these teen girls can get a hold of $25,000 without parent permission or interference, insert eye roll here. The author gave the girls each part in the book to sort of dive into who they were. The most likeable characters, in my opinion, are Lina and Sloane. I think they embody and say things that are very relatable for teen girls, but they also grow to accept themselves which is always a good message. The best I can say about this book is that if you like soap operas, this is for you. You’ll get frustrated at characters for not doing the obvious thing and you have the made for TV drama of the scandals at the rich country club.