Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Blind Spot by Laura Ellen

Blind Spot by Laura Ellen

Blind Spot would be a B-  grade novel.  It definitely had potential with its dark story of perceptions and consequences. 
There’s none so blind as they that won’t see.

Seventeen-year-old Tricia Farni’s body floated to the surface of Alaska’s Birch River six months after the night she disappeared. The night Roz Hart had a fight with her. The night Roz can’t remember. Roz, who struggles with macular degeneration, is used to assembling fragments to make sense of the world around her. But this time it’s her memory that needs piecing together—to clear her name . . . to find a murderer.

This unflinchingly emotional novel is written in the powerful first-person voice of a legally blind teen who just wants to be like everyone else.” –Goodreads.com
See?! Potential!  Murder mystery is mixed with a handicap that creates even more problems, because Roz cannot see things as clearly.  What I liked about his novel is the take on handicapped people and how others treat them and also how sometimes to prove a point they can harm themselves trying to be independent.  Unfortunately, in this story Roz actually harms others while she is trying to be independent. 
Roz is friendless and now must take a Special Ed course on how to deal with your handicap and the outside world.  Of course Roz hates being labeled handicapped and feels like the class is only meant for people with mental disabilities, not her.  The reality is that Roz has isolated herself trying to be independent.  Because she doesn’t use the label, handicapped, most people do not know she has a disability.  All people know is that she avoids eye contact (which makes her seem rude and obnoxious) and that she wears ridiculously thick glasses. 
Enter Jonathan, I believe he is compared to a Greek god, he is popular and just what Roz thinks the doctor ordered.  Jonathan being the actual douche bag that he is is really using Roz and her feelings for him.  Along with Jonathan comes Tricia, an emotionally disturbed student in Roz’s new class.  Tricia is definitely out there; however, since she actually talks to Roz and Roz feels superior to her Roz accepts this classroom “friendship”.  Then there is Dellian, a HS coach and the teacher in the handicap class.  His major job is to push Roz’s buttons.  A night out at an underage party leads all 4 into a disastrous calamity.
Tricia is now missing, Roz cannot remember anything (except an argument with Tricia) and Jonathan has confirmed that Dellian might be responsible.  Now Roz must uncover the truth about Tricia.  Did the teacher do it?  Are they having an affair?  Did Tricia runaway?  What happened that night and why can’t Roz remember? Told through time (days before incident, days after incident) the reader along with Roz will discover how everyone is connected to what happened to Tricia, but not before accusations and crimes are committed by those that are responsible for that night.
Major potential; however, the story was missing something… I don’t know what exactly but when I finished this book I was not overly impressed but I wasn’t completely disappointed.  The themes were clear and so was the story, perhaps Laura Ellen’s next novel will be better.

Thanks NetGalley!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Gathering Darkness by Lisa Collicutt

The Gathering Darkness by Lisa Collicutt


The Gathering Darkness is a fun ride.  Founded on the concept of reincarnation, it is a story of two soul mates running from a jealous jilted lover.  At first the story is slow in unfolding.  The characters Brooke Day, Samantha (her cousin), Marcus Knight, Evan Knight, Maggie and Jenny are a few of the main characters.  Brooke is sent to her cousin’s house after an issue that occurs back home.  She feels this is a torturous trip, especially since every time Brooke visits Deadwich she has night terrors and a creepy feeling around the Ravenwyck Inn (owned by Maggie).

After adjusting to a new school and meeting the key characters, Brooke discovers that there is something in Deadwich connecting her to the Knight Brothers, specifically Marcus.  As they get close to one another stranger connections are revealed and even stranger stories are being thrown at them.  So even though there is a slow beginning, the story quickens it pace.  At some points I felt much like Brooke, she couldn’t trust anyone but Marcus because everyone was suspect.  Not until the end of the book do you realize how interwoven everyone is in this story.

My biggest surprise was the twist at the end.  Considering the players and who they were during the beginning of the story it was difficult to see that connection.  However, when all was revealed at the end I was more like “WTF, no way!”  Definitely a fun and mysterious novel in the ever popular paranormal romance YA genre.

Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder

Scent of Magic (Healer, #2)



Maria V. Snyder strikes again. Author of such series like the Study series, Glass series and the Insider series, Maria does it again with her Healer series. Scent of Magic is the second book in the Healer series. Avry, the main character is introduced in the first book, Touch of Power. In the first book Avry is described as a young woman with healing powers, unfortunately thanks to the plague and the actions that the Healer’s Guild refused to take during the plague as warranted outcast standing for all healers that remain.  Even more unfortunate is the decree sent out by King Tohon, of one of the 15 realms, where he places a bounty on healers dead or alive.  After being on the run for 3 years Avry is rescued by Kerrick, who is looking for a healer for his friend Prince Ryne.  After many adventures, setbacks and discoveries Avry, Kerrick and his group of men accomplish the impossible.

Scent of Magic, picks up right where the first book ended.  Avry and Kerrick decide to separate, even after they have figured out their feelings.  Avry, now presumed dead after helping Prince Ryne wants to figure out Tohon’s dead soldiers.  She needs to see the link between the death lilies and his touch.  Kerrick needs to find Ryne and the others to deliver the news of Avry’s “death.”  What everyone now has to focus on is Tohon and his conquering of the other realms.  He is too strong for Ryne to defeat and other realms have fallen to him or have signed over their land and people in order for “peace.”  Avry goes into Estrid’s army in disguise and proves to be a great teacher, since she can’t heal.  She teaches the soldiers Kerrick’s techniques in moving silently in the woods.  She also tries to explain about the dead soldiers but no one believes her and she and Prince Ryne must discover a way of defeating this squadron of the dead.

What really stood out in this book from all of the others, including other series by Synder is that fact that both Kerrick and Avry’s point of view was displayed.  I had an arc so was not sure if it alternated every other chapter or just jumped from one side to the other.  This lead to more action and more storytelling, as the story doesn’t take place with just one of the characters.  Not once did I think, this book would be better without all of its content.  The characters remain sturdy and loveable/hate able, depending on the character.  New revelations on the connection between the death lilies, the peace lilies and mages are brought to light and while there is blood and carnage there are some surprising twists and reappearances of former characters from the first book.

To add to that this book is also full of deceit, witty humor, sarcasm, gross implications and forgiveness.  I generally love most of Synder’s books, with the small exception of the Glass series, but this series by far has the surprising situations that characters like Yelena and Valek got into, but with more “umpf”.  I don’t know how to describe it but it is almost as if this is a final draft of the story that helped the Study series take off… which in simple terms it’s BETTER!!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dark Star by Bethany Frenette


Dark Star
Dark Star is the realistic hero story.  Set in the Twin City the novel tells the story of a modern hero, Morning Star, and her daughter Audrey.  Audrey is the main character, she’s a bit rough around the edges and a joker, oh also she is somewhat psychic.  She has lived all her life with the reality that her mother is a superhero at night, thankfully her best friend, Gideon, also knows this secret.  Gideon is the perfect personality to counter Audrey rough edges.  Not only is her mom a superhero but she also has a sidekick, Leon, who happen to appear to them 3 years prior to the opening of the story without warning. 

Audrey starts to notice things changing.  First there are the missing girls.  Girls are going missing around town and neighboring places and no one knows why.  After her friend is hurt, Audrey must figure out what is going on.  Because she repeatedly ignores her mother and Leon’s warnings, she gets attacked by a Harrower.  That’s right; her mother doesn’t fight crime of the stealing and killing kind, but of the demon kind.  This opens a can of worms that Audrey didn’t realize existed.  Not only do demon exist but there is also a group of demon fighters that exist, a clan if you don’t mind named The Kin, and Audrey’s mother, father and grandparents are part of the Kin, so is Leon.  Audrey is now the key to something and the harrowers want her dead… it will take a lot of self-discovery and perseverance to defeat those that haunt her.

Dark Star reminded me of the adaptation of Batman by Christopher Nolan.  Granted they are both on different playing fields but if we strip things away and sticks to the basic concept, both stories are similar.  It is the journey, the inner discovery and the sacrifice that make both stories important.  The main heroes of both stories aren’t superman, they have big Achilles heels and can be swayed for good or bad; however, the change comes from within them.  Audrey had not considered herself to be superhuman or even just psychic, she hadn’t seen her life going into this direction but after some soul searching she is ready to take on what comes at her. 

With a strong MC and supporting characters Dark Star is a great book.  Especially with reach gems like: “He never got bullied nor had his head dunked in a toilet or whatever else the little cannibals in elementary school come up with when they decide to eat their own.” Or great character profiling/descriptions “Detective Wyle chuckled.  He looked tired and even scruffier than the last time I’d seen him.  He certainly knew how to play the brooding antihero, all rough edges and stubble and dark rumpled hair.”  For her first book I think Bethany Frenette hit the nail on the head and wrote something that will be able to keep people excited and intrigued. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why
5 stars

This one of the toughest books I have ever read. I started getting teary-eyed by the prologue... I was like, "Really? You need to get a grip!" I was already aware of the content in this book, but like most didn't have a clue as to why this young girl killed herself and then decided to make tapes and pass them along, to specific people. I really loved her story.

I really didn't look forward to reading this book because of the whole suicide issue. I don't care how self assured you are in your adult life, chances are you felt alone at least once in your adolescent life. I am not saying I was suicidal but I can understand wanting to be done, thankfully, I am strong willed and let this roll off my skin. Unfortunately, now that I work in the public school system (not that that makes a difference in teen suicide) it is hard to brush off someone’s anxiety about life and being alienated. I do remember growing up and saying that kids took things too seriously, bullying was not bullying when I grew up; it was accepted and also thought of as character building. But now with the world as connected and voyeuristic as it is, this generation has to deal with things differently than the past.

I do not approve of suicide, but who am I to judge? If a person says they are done, they are done. It’s like trying to get someone to quit an addiction; they need to want it too. Hannah did want it, but so many little actions done/not done caused her to disconnect to the world. (view spoiler)[What if Justin didn’t spread a stupid, seemingly harmless rumor? What if Alex didn’t stop being her friend, and in turn make Hannah and her other friend Jessica butts (no pun intended) of his joke to earn some cool points? What if Jessica wasn’t a total tool and didn’t believe the beginning rumors? Oh hey, what if Tyler wasn’t only not a creep but also a not a creep that took incriminating photos of Courtney and Hannah? (Although, Hannah should have probably stopped to think about some of her actions.) Ooo, what if Courtney was a total bitch and played with Hannah’s vulnerability to make friends (once you are a slut to the rest of the school it’s hard to take back)? Marcus Cooley, really how about you are not a dirt bag and try to touch a girl in the first 10 minutes of your date… Zach, #7, he’s one of the biggest roles in this. Hannah did make a point of trying to share out what she was feeling and because she didn’t want to be with him he stripped that away from her. I don’t think people realize how difficult it is to admit to wanting to commit suicide. Not only did he take away the only encouraging human contact but he also ignored her last real plea for help. Ryan, what did he do? Well, what if, instead of using her poem for his paper, he tried to be a friend and talk it out with her? Oh, wait what if he told a guidance counselor? (Very simple things to do.) Clay, well you’re just awesome. She clearly states that Clay doesn’t belong in this list, but maybe their last encounter made her feel like he needed to know why she did it. And thankfully Clay is not as dense as most people, and he got that, hence why he didn’t blame himself…DUH. Justin again…surprise…. Jenny, well this is kind of the representation that even those we find to be human can sometimes lack humanity. I think Jenny embodies Hannah’s lack of faith in humanity and in herself as well. (At this point Hannah is pretty committed to dying…) Bryce… if I have to single out how he plays a part in cracking Hannah, well, I feel bad. (Also, Hannah mentions her lack of involvement, she understands it is her fault as well, I don’t forgive her for that but I also don’t hate her for being scared.) Why did Hannah let him “rape” her? She didn’t, she was already gone, she had already let go. Like she said she became what they had all told her she was. (If it feels like she wanted to commit suicide… then you clearly didn’t realize that she had already decided it at this point. There is no reading between the lines she did admit to it.) Mr. Porter… he is another Jenny. At that point the decision was made, but Hannah wanted to see just one more time if there wasn’t a mistake in her plan. She wanted someone to show concern. Yes, suicides are about attention, because normally the person who will kill themselves are lacking in people caring, or in people treating them like they can be cared about. Mr. Porter, I dislike him the most! As a professional in education, I cannot believe that sometimes these troubled students have to deal with idiots like this. THERE IS AN EFFIN SOCIAL WORKER ON STAFF; you don’t know what to do: CONTACT THEM! (hide spoiler)]. There is nothing ridiculous about Hannah and her experiences. When people find insignificance in suicide, then they prove why that person committed such an act. Just like her peers that scoffed at the student note about suicide. Judge lest ye be judged… This book is meant for those that can be understanding and sympathetic. Suicide has become a huge issue in our culture. Kids are getting better at alienating each other and people are getting better at blaming those that are alienated. Turning a blind eye to obnoxious behaviour leads to more accepted obnoxious behaviour, which leads to alienation, that leads to depression and feeling closed off from support, and eventually can lead to suicide. However, this book shows us that we all have a possible role, big or small, in helping someone from suicide. It shows the importance of human compassion and makes us all question our past actions and transgressions. And if you feel, at the end, like this wasn't your experience, then I feel eternally sorry.

I am not a religious zealot, nor do I own a soap box that I perch on, I am just a regular person who hopes that I did not commit something as vile as the characters in this book. I hope because I am human, and being human I will err and there is nothing I can do about that. Just hope that I didn't not err to greatly, and never ended up on any one's list of why they killed themselves.

I Hunt Killers By Barry Lyga

I Hunt Killers (Jasper Dent, #1)



Okay, where to begin?  Well I would like to first start out by saying that when I was around 16 or so I discovered a particular website that peeked my deep dark interest of murder (www.crimelibrary.com).  I would like to state for the record, that everyone is interested in death, because (hello!?!?!) we are all going to die.  I am not so much interested in death, but in what motivates human beings to bring about death, in an untimely and unnatural manner.  One last point I would like to state is that out of all the stories in the Bible the most I think about and quote (loosely of course) is the story of Cain and Abel, the first murder. 
Anyway, after stumbling upon the website, I devoured as many stories as possible about notorious murders and serial killers.  On occasion I look at the stupid crimes, because they are hilarious in a non-I-am-demented kinda way. I was completely addicted to finding the quirks in the the stories of each murderer and loved reading the mistakes that led to their downfall.  Billy Dent is right, when a killer gets caught it's on purpose.  Too many simple things lead to the arrest of notorious and albeit veteran killers.  <u>I Hunt Killers</u> does for me what www.crimelibrary.com did for me so many years ago. 
I don't shy way from gruesome things, nor do I sit around and act completely crazy; I just like puzzles and interesting things that deal with the human condition,which isn't always pretty.  Jazz, is like my guilty pleasure sharing bff.  He knows everything anyone needs to ever know about the hunt, the techniques, the urges because his father coached him.  He also has to deal with asking himself if it is healthy to be overloaded with curiosity and knowledge on serial killers, much like I felt when I was younger. "Is this creepy that I spend my time reading about murders?" I've even been accused (I use this term very loosely)watching too many shows on murderers, because I am planning to be one (totally not true.) 
I like the way Lyga took the idea of this young person, growing up with a serial killer for a father and basically made it a natural evolution of Jazz's overall character, in the most unnatural way.  I say unnatural because most people are inclined to believe that raised in a similar situation a "normal" child would be broken in character or even try to emulate their parent.  Lyga was like "Nope, Jazz is going to have issues, but he's not stupid and he's going to be a survivor. Will he survive himself? I don't know but shoot I am going to make this an interesting ride!" That's one of the main reasons why I like Jazz.  He's smart and inclined to think like a killer, he has to deal with his "dark passenger" and he really wants to save people because of what he wasn't capable to do for his father's victims.  He's effed up for sure and that is very relate able. 
IF you like Dexter, think of this as a young Dexter growing up with a serial killer for a dad, instead of a nice cop (albeit one who cheats on his wife).  This young Dexter still does not have a clear calling, except that he knows he has a dark passenger and that he will do anything to keep it from taking control!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Beta by Rachel Cohn

Beta (Annex, #1)

"Elysia is created in a laboratory, born as a sixteen-year-old girl, an empty vessel with no life experience to draw from. She is a Beta, an experimental model of a teenage clone. She was replicated from another teenage girl, who had to die in order for Elysia to exist.
Elysia's purpose is to serve the inhabitants of Demesne, an island paradise for the wealthiest people on earth. Everything about Demesne is bio engineered for perfection. Even the air induces a strange, euphoric high, which only the island's workers--soulless clones like Elysia--are immune to.
At first, Elysia's life is idyllic and pampered. But she soon sees that Demesne's human residents, who should want for nothing, yearn. But for what, exactly? She also comes to realize that beneath the island's flawless exterior, there is an undercurrent of discontent among Demesne's worker clones. She knows she is soulless and cannot feel and should not care--so why are overpowering sensations clouding Elysia's mind?
If anyone discovers that Elysia isn't the unfeeling clone she must pretend to be, she will suffer a fate too terrible to imagine. When her one chance at happiness is ripped away with breathtaking cruelty, emotions she's always had but never understood are unleashed. As rage, terror, and desire threaten to overwhelm her, Elysia must find the will to survive.
The first in a dazzlingly original science fiction series from best-selling author Rachel Cohn, "Beta "is a haunting, unforgettable story of courage and love in a corrupted world."- Goodreads.com

Beta is the first novel of the series "Annex" by Rachel Cohn.  I have not read many of the novels that have made Cohn a success to the general public (i.e. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Dash and Lily's Book of Dares and the Cyd Charisse Series).  Before reading this book I read a few Goodreads reviews and became nervous, nothing like being pumped to read a new book, get it as a galley and then read terrible things about the story/characters/writing/author.  I am sure those opinions are warranted; however, it makes readers nervous.  I almost got rid of Beta from my TBR list, but clearly that didn't happen. 

SO my journey into Beta-world was... interesting.  I think that at first it was difficult to understand why Elysia existed, why this island existed, and where was the rest of the world in conjunction to this Utopian island.  This is because Cohn just jumps to Elysia and how she is the "first" successful Beta (teenage clone/driod... apparently teenagers are volatile with the whole hormone thing and so they do not make a successful clone/droid).  As the story progress, glimpse of answers to the how and why this Utopian world exists and why it's so God awful expensive.

It took awhile to find the corruption in this book, obviously it is a series and Cohn ends the book in a cliff hanger... so nicely done because I will be reading the second book to figure W.T.F is going on here!  I won't say that the story is ingenious, because many times I thought "I am reading The Host... no wait is this some other YA novel."  I could see many similarities to books that I have already read, and that frustrated me; however, towards the end I was like "Nooo She Ditin!"  For those few moments I saw that perhaps I don't quite understand what Cohn is going to do with the characters. 

The end helps, there are a lot of twists and turns that are offered for those readers looking for excitement; however, there is recreational use of drugs and flippant sex also there is the whole "Clones/droids are not good enough to be considered as having rights and they aren't people, but we can take advantage of their bodies for our own pleasures...SWEET (NOT!)."  There are undercurrents to the ideas of right and violations of rights in this book, so I cannot completely knock it for it's relevance and for trying to have a message... but you have to have an open mind about it. 

I know there is not enough substance about the story in my review but I feel that right now all I could say is: there is a girl MC who is a genetically made clone of a dead girl, who is bought by one of the rich families on the island to entertain them.  She hangs out with her "siblings" and their friends.  Meets a boy, falls for said boy (even though she is having flashbacks of her First's love), said boy had an accident a year ago... he is acting weird, flashback lover some how is on the island, girl starts experiencing human emotions and experiences, girl gets abused by the system and her "family", girl runs away, girl who is a clone might not be just a clone... but human? Right! That's what I thought... a "No She Ditin" moment!

My advice, stop comparing YA novels, or all fiction work to the classics... because a book cannot become a classic the day it is published, it becomes a classic due to it's perseverance and relevance to the test of time (key word...TIME).  Have FUN with the book, don't judge it until the last sentence and then you can either have a moment like I did "What?!?! Is she crazy? Now I have to wait to see what that was all about... and what do you mean the clone/non-human is...? NO. SHE. DITIN!" Or  you can say "Eh, this was crap..." It's up to you.


I gave Beta a 3/5 stars because it can be better, there is room for improvement, similarities to other stories are too uncanny; however, there are surprises that make you think!

This book was provided by the publisher through Netgalley.com.  No money was exchange for this review.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

The Assassin's Curse (The Assassin's Curse, #1)

The Assassin's Curse is a great add to the YA novels that have been launched over the past decade and a half.  A lot of the YA novels have some parts romance and some parts supernatural/myth woven into them, and this novel is no exception. 

We begin this journey with PIRATES! That's right pirates.  As soon as Ananna of the Tanarau clan is introduced I was hooked.  She is betroth to a handsome son of another pirate clan, in hopes to create an allying bond; however, after meeting this person Ananna is too disappointed.  She wants to command her own ship and crew (of course this is not possible since she is a girl and the pirate clans do not favor women in leadership roles.)  Too annoyed with the situation, she runs out on him and the union to be.  Here enters... the real conflict.

After disgracing her clan and the clan of her suitor, his family sends out an assassin to take care of her (b/c why not right?)  Ananna must now use proverbial words from wizards and her own common sense to survive, except something happens that she or anyone else could not have foreseen.

Enter Naji, the assassin.  He is amazing at what he does and almost succeeds, but when Ananna fails to run away from his attacks and helps him from a snake attack (that would have killed him) both become tied to each other.  Naji must now serve and protect Ananna no matter what! (This is the curse).  The rest of the book follows the two of them trying to break the curse and separate from each other's hold (if Ananna is away from Naji too long intense suffering is placed upon him.)  During their journey for separation they encounter good wizards and bad ones... apparently there is battle going on, connected to people like the assassin.  Ananna's suitor also makes a reappearance that will make you laugh and also wince. 

 I loved the chemistry between Naji and Ananna.  The witty conversations and one liners were refreshing, too.  I'm not too sure yet how the wizards are going to attack them in the next installments to come but it is safe to assume that this strong heroin and her assassin will be ready to take it on, all the while bickering with each other.  This was such a breath of fresh air, and the back drop of the middle east is perfect (especially if you are tired of the supernatural just lurking in people's high school!)


***NOTE: Copy of this book is provided by publisher via NetGalley. Thank you.
I'm not paid for writing reviews.