Wednesday, January 28, 2015

All Those Broken Angels by Peter Adam Salomon

When Richard was six years old, his friend Melanie disappeared during a game of hide-and-seek. That night he was visited by a strange shadow that became his new best friend. For years, this shadow, that Richard was convinced belonged to his best friend, kept him company. Ten years later, a new girl shows up claiming to be the very Melanie that disappeared. His shadow, however, isn't too happy with Melanie's appearance. When the truth about Melanie and her disappearance comes to light, Richard realizes there an even deeper mystery involving this shadow, a mystery that he's determined to solve.

This is a weirdly interesting novel. The shadow is creepy as it engulfs Richard and controls him and at time seduces him, which is a bit odd. It's not creepy scary - as in it will give you nightmares - just creepy out-of-the-ordinary. There's definitely intrigue in finding out what's really going on with the shadow and its connection to Melanie. I felt that the revelation was a bit predictable given that there were only so many players in the novel, although there was one twist that I found interesting. Even though it was a bit obvious, it was still an enjoyable ride and a quick read.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Loteria - Mario Alberto Zambrano

For just eleven years old Luz Maria is experiencing so many family hardships. In order to cope with her older sister Estrella in the ICU and her father in jail and her been taken into the custody of the state, she uses a popular Mexican game called Loteria. This Mexican game features riddles and spirited images and each card represents a different memory creating recollections that focus the joy and pain of the young girl's life, and the events that led to her present situation.

I was impressed with the beauty of this book has thick pages and full page images of Mexican Loteria. Loteria is similiar to bingo, except that images are used instead of numbers. There are many Spanish phrases throughout the book, which makes the book fun but translations of the Spanish words would have been helpful to those that do not speak Spanish. 

An easy and delightful read and I thought it provided welcome insight into Mexican-American culture.  It was beautifully written and so creative.

RPA 1/26/2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

Suspicion - Alexandra Monir

In the summer of 2007 Imogen and her parents are visiting family in England.  Not to long after they get there is a fire that destroys part of Rockford Manor.  Imogen's parents along with her cousin Lucia's parents are killed in the fire.  It is stated in Imogen's parents will she go back to New York and live with her parents best friends Carole, Keith, and their daughter Zoey.  Seven years later Imogen has grown accustomed to living in America, and has put England in the back of her mind.  As graduation nears, Imogen starts getting calls and letters from England.  After Keith hangs up on a call and Carole takes away a letter addressed to Imogen, she begins to wonder what they are really hiding.  The letter is from Harry Morgan, who is the Rockford Manor Estate Manager.  She calls his office and finds out he is in America wanting to speak with her.  She sets up an appointment at her friend Lauren's house after school.  Harry tells Imogen her grandfather is dead and also her cousin Lucia.  This means she has now inherited Rockford Manor.  At dinner Imogen confronts Carole and Keith about why they kept all this information from her.  They did it to protect her and to shield her from anything that would reminder of the horrible day seven years ago.  When Imogen agrees to stay through graduation, Carole and Keith realize they can't stop her from going back to England.  Word starts to spread around school that Imogen is going to be a Duchess.  As those last few weeks go by quickly Imogen realizes that her life will never be the same again.  Everyone welcomes Imogen back to Rockford Manor with open arms.  The first night she sees Lucia's ghost and hears someone singing Lucia's favorite song.  Imogen's first public appearance as Duchess of Wickersham is at a polo match, which Lord Sebastian Stanhope, her childhood friend, is a part of.  Things are tense between Imogen and the Stanhope family when she greets them after the match.  They invite her to dinner to welcome her back.  Imogen brings a gift to the Stanhope's, but when it is opened Sebastian runs from the room.  The statue she brought was of Lady Beatrice and it belonged to Lucia, who Sebastian was dating at the time of her death.  After Imogen gets back from the disastrous dinner Maisie tells her about Lady Beatrice.  She had the power to summon the elements with just one touch.  Imogen does some research on Lady Beatrice.  She also finds out Sebastian and Lucia were researching her as well for a project.  Lady Beatrice's last words get Imogen thinking maybe the deaths of Lucia's parents, her parents, her grandfather, and Lucia were not a coincidence.  It seems like someone was trying to get Imogen back to Rockford Manor at the right place and time.  Imogen remembers what her father said all those years ago "There is something hidden in the Maze".  What is hidden in the maze that has brought so much suffering to Imogen's family and will the spirits at Rockford Manor ever be at peace?

As I was reading this book it reminded me of Princess Diaries with a supernatural twist.  It was an enjoyable read.  I liked the reveal toward the end and it made a few things in the beginning of the story make more sense.  I didn't know this was Alexandra Monir's third book, until I read the author bio on the book jacket.  This one is a stand alone and not connected to her first two books as far as I can tell.  The first two books sound interesting so I'll be reading them at some point in the near future.


Friday, January 16, 2015

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow

Anda the main character of the book, really loves the online game Coarsegold. A big multy-player online game.  There she can be anything she wishes, a leader, a fighter, anything you can think of. This game is what she plays mostly on her free time.

However not everything is all fun, once she befriends a gold farmer, whose player is a poor chinese kid. Something which is considered illegal in the game. Things start to drifting down hill for Anda.

Anda soon starts to question what's right and wrong, specially when the livehood of someone in real life is at stake.

This book has really cute and wonderful art, totally a must read.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Now that you're here - Amy Nichols

Danny and Germ have been doing random jobs tagging buildings and getting paid for it.  The jobs first started out small, but became bigger.  Once they realize it's Red December, a group of extremists, calling the shots they agree to do one more job and are done.  An evacuation order is given and everyone runs for the secure zone.  Danny tries to find Germ, but gets caught by a security officer.  There is one explosion, and then a second enveloping Danny in a white light.  Eevee is really smart and likes numbers as they don't change.  As she sits in English class thinking why short stories can't be more like geometric puzzles, Danny Ogden bolts up in his seat.  He recognizes Eevee and then bolts from the classroom.  Danny tries to find Germ, but ends up back at school getting picked up by someone who isn't his dad.  Danny shows up at Eevee's house later that night telling her he can't find his parents house or Germ, and nothing looks like the Phoenix he knows.  Her father lets him stay at his place, and as much as he's grateful for the hospitality he leaves to try and find his parents.  Danny shows back up on Sunday night.  After a shower and dinner Eevee's father says he can stay provided he doesn't run away again, and helps Eevee with her English homework.  While Eevee heads to school, Danny goes back to the foster home to grab clothes and money.  He goes to the local library to look up his parents only to find they died when he was 11 and was placed in a foster home.  Eevee talks to her friend Warren about Danny.  She tells Warren about how different this Danny is to the one they knew growing up.  She thinks he's from the future and wants Warren's help to find out what is going on.  Warren agrees to help, but is still skeptical about Danny as he was bullied by Danny back in the sixth grade.  Eevee talks him into going to school until they figure a way to get him home.  He does better than this Danny ever did, which leads to some of the teachers to think he's cheating.  After school Danny and Eevee go to Warren's and Danny explains what happened to him.  Warren comes up with the idea that Danny might be from a parallel world.  Warren puts a post on the Dark Web to see what other people say.  They agree to tell their teacher Mac about Danny and see if he can help since he used to be a NASA engineer.  The next day at school there is a substitute for Mac, so they decide to do their own research.  They look into EMP pulses as a possible explanation for what happened to Danny.  As the days progress the people from the Dark Web say it was an EMP detonation that sent Danny over to this parallel world.  Eevee and Warren come up with plans for their own machine to emit an EMP pulse.  The machine theoretically will send Danny back to his own world.  Will their plan work, or is Danny stuck in this parallel world? 

Any book that has Star Trek and Doctor Who references along with a parallel worlds storyline makes for an enjoyable read for me.  I do enjoy a parallel world story because it makes you think of what could be different if you were to choose another path, instead of the one you are on.  How different would the world be if America had lost the Revolutionary War or if the Berlin Wall hadn't come down?  There will be a companion novel coming out in August called While You Were Gone which tells the story of slacker Danny in the other Danny's world.  If you enjoy Now That You're Here I also recommend Fair Coin by E.C. Myers and Shift by Kim Curran.


Monday, January 12, 2015

the good sister by Jamie Kain

I never liked this book, struggled to get through it.  I did not care about the characters.  I felt like the author was rehashing stories by Jodi Picoult and maybe Sebold's Lovely Bones to name a couple.
There is lots and lots of teenage trauma drama, swear words, sleeping around but not really loving or enjoying it.  There is a cancer victim/survivor. There are speakers from the dead.  And many oddities such as Rachel being called a cross dresser, out of no where, about 40 pages from the end of the story.  There is an edgy scene between two of Rachel's casual boyfriends near the end as well that no one would miss if it had been edited out, think its filler to meet a page number contract.  A blood stained silk shirt, a clue as to the mystery surrounding Sarah's death, suddenly becomes a tunic.

The basics is that apparently Sarah's fight with leukemia was the only glue holding a dysfunctional family together.  When Sarah dies under odd circumstances (called an accident but was it?)  her sisters,  middle forgotten child Rachel and beloved little sister Asha are set adrift.  Mom is dating yet another guy and the girls don't know how serious the pair has become.  Father is working hard and often out of state so not around to be part of the girls' lives.  Asha begins staying at friends or sleeping in a park or whatever rather than going home and nearly drops out of school at 16.  Maybe the climax is when mom decides to leave her daughters without support to marry her current boyfriend, or maybe its when Rachel tries to commit suicide or maybe when the story of Sarah's death is revealed or whenever.  I talked with some folks about the great reveal and we agreed that it is doubtful that it would have played out the way it did in the book, in real life.  We thought teens were smarter than depicted or at least more likely to run by events in a sort of what if this happened what would you do way than to tightly hold on to a "terrible" life destroying secret. Things begin to turn for the better in the end.

Folks on GOODREADS are rather raving with only a couple of exceptions.  I am with the minority.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

This is a great second novel to series that will definitely have you coming back for more, although it is important to read these books in order. The book, like the first, is Criminal Minds for teens.

The Naturals program is a group of five extraordinary teens who help solve cold cases. The narrator Cassie is a profiler, as is Dean. There's also Sloane who is amazing with numbers and facts, Lia who can detect lies, and Michael who reads emotions. Together they work to solve cases that the FBI hasn't cracked and only cold cases because this program is a bit hush-hush and you can't have teens involved in active cases. But when the latest killer seems to be a copy of the murders Dean's father committed, it's impossible for the teens to take a backseat on this case. Even with the threat of someone shutting down the program, they break and bend the rules to help a friend and solve the case before some else dies. 

I know a number of people who hear "Young Adult" and don't want to give a book another shot. They think that given the teen audience, the books aren't as developed or might come off as superficial - they just don't have the depth that an adult book would have. While I have seen that in some books, that does not happen in this novel. I felt like this book had a great balance of teen connection with enjoyable and quirky teen characters, but it has the depth and development and complexities of an adult murder mystery. You feel for the characters, there are twists and turns with the story, and it is an overall enjoyable ride. Just make sure you read the first book first. Things that happen in the first book are brought up throughout this novel, so it is important to have that background knowledge. Sure there are enough references to get you through if you didn't read it, but it would be best to start this series at the beginning. 

I really enjoyed this novel and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a good murder mystery. It's not just blood and guts and whodunit. This novel does a great job getting into the mind of the murder and characters. Definitely pick this book up.