Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Welcome to the Dark House is a scary novel that employs classic horror movie tricks and brings nightmares to life. It is a twisted story to see who survives and, as the start of a new series, leaves the reader with a cliffhanger.

Ivy Jensen has never gotten over her parents being killed and is frequently haunted with nightmares of that night. She desperately wants to get over her fear and signs up for a horror contest in hopes of doing just that. Once she wins the contest, she and six other winners travel to a "the Dark House" in order to meet the famous horror director and face their nightmares. Their first evening is filled with horror movie stunts to startle them like eerie messages on the wall and scary props. When one of the winners goes missing, along with the housekeeper, Ivy and company start to get suspicious. Then they travel to the set of the director's latest movie, only to discover that they are the movie and in order to make the final cut, they have to survive their nightmares.

Each chapter alternates between six of the contestants (you don't hear anything from the one who went missing). Initially it seemed like the author tried to make them all unique - Natalie is has deep issues, Shalya is perky, Garth is creepy, Ivy is scared, Parker likes films and Frankie...I can't remember what was exceptionally unique about Frankie because as the story went on, the guys all blended together, especially Frankie and Garth. The only reason Parker remained unique was because some of his chapters would be written like a script. Natalie and Ivy were the strongest written characters. In terms of the story as a whole, though, it felt like a classic horror movie where a group of kids are trapped somewhere scary and one by one they are "picked off". The villain of the novel was a creation of the director's,  "The Nightmare Elf" who steals your nightmares and makes them come true. For the most part it felt like your typical horror story, although not so scary or twisted enough that I was on the edge of my seat. 

To be completely honest, the ending bothered me. The book does not come out and say this, but it will be a series - which explains why there is no closure and the eerie message, "See you for the sequel" (333). That's all well and good, maybe we'll find out what really happened to all of the characters and why this happened (If this wasn't a series I was going to be very mad at the author for leaving me hanging. I want to know why this happened!). The problem for me, though, came with the epilogue. Aside from the eerie message about a sequel, all it was was the contest stories each of the six contestants wrote. I personally thought there should be some sort of hint as to where the sequel might go - maybe six new stories from new contestants who would have to face their nightmares and it was up to this survivor to save them all (Just an idea, but who am I to dictate how a story ends). Regardless of how I thought the story should end, these last few pages felt pointless to read. We'd already gotten the gist of these stories from their nightmare experience and conversations throughout the book. They didn't seem to reveal anything come the end. I simply didn't get it...Then again, maybe it will all make sense in the next book. 

If you are a fan of teen horror movies and facing nightmare situations, you'll enjoy this book. It captures the soul of the "trapped and trying to escape" storyline. If you want closure, though, you're going to have to wait for the next book. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Sketchy by Olivia Samms

This is the first book in the Bea Catcher Chronicles.  Bea was hanging with weed smoking, pill popping Aggie until someone got her wasted and she was sent to rehab.  While there she made things bearable by drawing using pens she kept hidden in her nappy big hair.  Bea is multiracial and daughter of two artist.  She inherited their artistic ability and their hair.  She became aware that she was drawing not the person she focused on but the thoughts of that person while in rehab.  Now out of rehab and with her realistically distrusting parents she begins to investigate the rape and beating of a classmate, popular cheerleader Willa Pressman who has many secrets to keep including her unwillingness to help identify her attacker.  It is not uncommon for victims to be afraid in this way.  Bea, however inadvertently gets the image of the man from Willa.  Since there have been other deaths and rapes including Aggie, she believes he is a serial killer and she is determined to get him caught, even without Willa's help.  While searching for the man in her sketch, she returns to old haunts and resists temptations getting clues as to the identity.  Eventually the mystery is solved but not without Bea being in danger.  Although the story deals with serious issues including drinking, and doing drugs and rape its mostly a fast exciting read.  Bea is sort of a mature Nancy Drew.  She is a very likeable hero. I look forward to her next adventures.  JDW 8/22

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mindwar Book One - Andrew Klavan

Rick was the star quarterback.  He used to run with his girlfriend, Molly, who was on the volleyball team.  He would hang out with his friends, go to parties, and do what he wanted to.  That is until the accident which left him crippled.  Now he sits around in his room playing video games all day.  He barely talks to his mom and younger brother.  He also ignores calls, texts, and e-mails from all of his friends, especially Molly.  When he decides to go for a walk he fails to notice the green van watching him and Rick is abducted.  He wakes up and Rick is told about the MindWar realm which is being used to launch a cyber-attack on the United States.  Rick has been tasked with entering into the Realm, and it is up to him if he wants to accept or not.  The catch is if he dies in the Realm he dies in real life.  If he stays in too long his mind will disintegrate and be left in a vegetative state in the real world.  After thinking it over Rick agrees to go in.  For the first trip in Rick has an hour to explore and get out.  His mission is to find where Kurodar's outpost is and come back.  He encounters Favian and Mariel along with a spider-snake monster.  Rick defeats the monster and finds where the outpost is.  After Rick comes back he heads home to rest up before his next trip into the Realm.  As he's sleeping someone puts a gun to his neck and demands to know where his father is.  Raider, his brother, comes in and is threatened by the intruder.  Juliet Seven and Miss Ferris come in and take care of the intruder.  Rick is furious at Miss Ferris for allowing someone to come in and threaten his family.  Despite being angry Rick re-enters the Realm.  He is supposed to get as close to the fortress as he can and find out as much as he can.  He's given 75 minutes this time around.  Rick and Favian explore near the fortress and see creatures of the air protecting it.  They also see an exit portal up in the sky.  Just as they are trying to figure out how to get to the portal the dragons attack.  Rick is able to bring one down and get on it to fly to the portal.  He gets to the portal, but it's after the 75 minutes so his mind begins to disintegrate.  He is pulled out, but confused for a little bit afterward.  He's taken home to rest and begins to feel like the next time in will be his last.  Rick begins to say good-bye to the people that mean the most to him.  Does Rick have enough strength to defeat Kurodar, or will Kurodar prevail and launch an attack that will cripple the United States?

I enjoyed this book as I have enjoyed all of Andrew Klavan's other YA books.  This book had a bit of real feel to it.  I don't think its to far-fetched for someone to make a cyber-world and launch an attack on the real world.  Just look at the cyber-attacks that have happened over the years.  This is the first of a trilogy, and the second book is coming out in the spring of 2015.  I will be eagerly awaiting its release. 


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Along the same lines of Ghostbusters and Supernatural, Anna Dressed in Blood is about exterminating a ghost. When the ghost is an attractive teen aged girl and the hunter is a teen aged boy, things get a little complicated.

Cas Lowood is following in his father's footsteps, which means killing ghosts. After his father was murdered by the ghost he was trying to kill, Cas takes over his job and travels the world dealing with the local haunts who have a habit of not resting peacefully. If a ghost is responsible for mysterious deaths, you can count on Cas to handle the problem. His latest target is "Anna Dressed in Blood," a teen aged girl who had been killed on her way to a dance and now dismembers her victims who dare to enter her house. Cas first meets Anna during a prank gone wrong and was startled - not by the appearance of the ghost, but by the fact that she didn't kill him, unlike other unsuspecting prey. He soon discovers that Anna isn't exactly what she seems and that other forces are at play. With the help of new friends, Cas works to free Anna and to come to peace with the monster that killed his father years ago.

This was an enjoyable book. Supernatural books aren't my usual genre, but there's nothing like a creepy ghost story that makes you double check under your bed before going to sleep. This novel has a good amount of creep factor, although I don't think it will keep you up at night. It's intriguing, though, because like Cas, you start to feel sorry for Anna as you discover this struggle she's dealing with since she feels guilty about killing. As a romance blossoms, you realize that this book appeals to both males and females. Overall it's an enjoyable book. In light of it being an Abe Lincoln award nominee, I'm not as impressed compared to the other Abe books I read. This one is a good story, I liked reading it, and I might even consider reading the sequel Girl of Nightmares. Thinking of it as a book up for an award, though, I feel like there needs to be more to it - something that I walk away with when I finish the book. I didn't feel that way with this book. It's a great story and I enjoyed it, but I don't think there's enough behind it to make it an award winner.

If you're looking for an enjoyable ghost-busting, local-lore-hunting novel, this is the book to pick up. It's a great story that pulls you in with likable characters that you want to see succeed. It might not keep you up at night trembling in fear, but it is a great story.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

I heard of this book from my younger sister, this was her big series after the harry potter books. Its an adventure book with the main focus being on a young boy named Will. Will was always short for a 15 age old, the fact that he never knew his parents made life in Castle Redmont worst. After a big war between King Duncan and Morgarath, children where left without both parents. Arald, Baron of Castle Redmont gave these kids a home and on their 15 chose a job for them to become apprentices. Rangers have always scared Will, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways. The villagers believe that the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. What he didn't know was Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. Because of the village rumors when Will found he was chosen to be a Rangers apprentice, he first thought this was a punishment. Will soon learned, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. And this time, he will be hard to stop. I really liked this book and I'm reading the rest of the series of Ranger's Apprentice. I would give this book to anyone who likes Harry Potter or Hunger Games.

The BODY in the WOODS by April Henry

Give this to a reluctant reader interested in mysteries.  It is a quick and easy read.  Search and rescue crews out to find an autistic man who had wandered off stumble on a dead body of a young female.  Although they were teens and had no adults with them they had been well trained in both CSI procedures and in search and rescue operations so immediately went into action recording what they had seen along the way and what they saw at the scene.  Adults take over and interview the group together and separately.  They provide trauma counseling as well.  The group cannot stay out of the murder investigation, for the girl had been murdered.  They saw similarities in other recent murders, they investigated the others they had met on the trail that day.  They came to their own conclusions, some correct and some not.  One of their group nearly becomes a victim herself, the local law enforcement personnel weary of their meddling and slow to respond.  The mystery is interesting enough to hold ones attention but it seemed like there was a disconnect between the way the teens talked and their ages, about 16 and with jobs and driver's licenses.  It bothered me.  I kept wondering if Ruby was Asperger's Syndrome for instance.  Except for the murder, not graphically depicted, this book is without any of those worrisome things like sex, violence and language.  The book got excellent reivews but I would put it at mediocre at best.  JDW8/18

we were liars by e lockhart

Three cousins joined by a nephew of one of the adults lived all summer long on an island off Martha's Vineyard, their own island with three huge houses and two beaches, with motor boats, kayaks and cooks and servants. They never talked about their lives off the island, at school. They always obeyed their parents. No one had problems, or if they did these were not spoken of. They are the liars. Something changed the summer of fifteen (the year they were fifteen). It wasn't just that grandmother had passed away the previous winter. It wasn't just that Cady was madly in love with the nephew and grandfather did not find him acceptable. It wasn't just that the aunts were angry and arguing. But that was part of what happened.

As the story opens Cady is back on the island the summer of seventeen not having been there the previous summer and not remembering much of what happened that fateful summer of fifteen and suffering horrible migraines. There is a gleaming new house where once there was an old wooden mansion filled with memorabilia, all of which is gone. One aunt roams the island all night long. One of the little cousins has terrible nightmares and the liars meet at one house where slowly Cady's memories return and the awful events of summer fifteen are revealed and Cady recovers from selective amnesia and grieves inconsolably. The reader remembers along with Cady and is horrified along with her and left a bit breathless in the end. And perhaps we come to understand just a bit the importance or lack of importance in things, money and what controlling, manipulating others can lead to. Definitely read this, even if your background isn't that of the incredibly wealthy.

JDW 8/18

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Graduation Day - Joelle Charbonneau

Cia finds out the truth about The Testing, and realizes the rebellion isn't what she was lead to believe.  She heads to meet with President Collindar. Cia tells the president what she knows about about the rebellion.  The president believes Cia even when she thought the president wouldn't.  President Collindar gives Cia a list of twelve names including, Symon, the rebel leader.  The names include Dr. Barnes, the head of The Testing, and his close associates.  At first Cia thinks the president is going to eliminate the names on the list.  When she tells Cia she wants her to eliminate them, Cia can't fathom it.  The president tells her that she is best one to do this and trust no one, echoing the words her father told her.  As Cia thinks things over she knows she can't do this alone.  As officials search every building on campus for a missing student, Cia makes of list of people she can trust to carry out the mission.  When she runs into Tomas she brings him up to speed on what the president wants her to do.  She knows Tomas is with her, and decides to make up tests for the others.  If they pass then they can be trusted.  She puts a tracking device on Ian's bag, and Stacia is on board from the get go.  They make a fake radio to test Raffe.  If he "listens" to it the radio will explode.  She gives it to Raffe after class telling him not to listen to the recording.  When she meets up with Raffe later Cia shows him the list and he marks five names off.  Those five want The Testing to end as much as they do.  Dr. Barnes, his father, and the others have to die.  He gives back the radio and has passed Cia's test.  Cia, Tomas, Stacia, and Raffe meet at the library to discuss what needs to be done.  When Will and Enzo interrupt their meeting Cia and Raffe go walk around campus to find a good escape point.  When they head back to the dorm there is an explosion and smoke coming from Cia's room.  Inside she finds Enzo covered in burns from the radio.  As officials come to investigate Raffe helps Cia escape.  She heads an abandoned house in Tsou City to wait for Tomas, Stacia, and Raffe.  Will they be able to carry out the assassinations and end The Testing, or will Dr. Barnes and Symon take over the government and continue The Testing?

I have enjoyed this series and I loved how the final book wrapped everything up.  The theme of trust no one has been a constant through out the series.  As Cia finds out no matter what you are given some tasks are to great to do on your own.  You have to trust at least one other person to help you out.  Some that you think can be trusted may betray you, but that's how life is.  Not everyone can be trusted.  If everyone trusted everyone else I think we would have more of an utopian society.  Actions speak louder than words and those actions are what we use to decide who to trust.