Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review of THE TESTING by Joelle Charbonneau

Do you miss THE HUNGER GAMES? I sure do. I wish Collins could somehow extend the story...but I've got a quick for your hunger cravings.

This week I'm reviewing THE TESTING by Joelle Charbonneau. Curious about THE HUNGER GAMES reboot? Then read on, readers, read on.


Book Trailer:


Summary:

 Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same?

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies--trust no one.

But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.


***

So what are my thoughts? On Goodreads, I gave THE TESTING 5 out of 5 stars. I really wanted to give it 4.5, since the plot is so close to HUNGER GAMES in so many way, but it definitely warranted more than 4 stars. And it was worth rounding up. 

Charbonneau book has a likable main character with an easy to read voice. Her writing is clear, clean, and she does a great job of bringing her dystopian world to life. I liked Charbonneau's government--and the book was unique in this way--because, though it's definitely a dystopian society, the government and its citizens have done some astounding work to bring their world back to life. 

I liked the love interest, but I won't say anymore than that because I don't want to spoil the plot. Likewise, I'll keep a bit of the end that didn't settle well with me as secret, so you can make your own decisions on whether or not you liked it. 

Overall, I definitely recommend this book as one of the summer's must-reads. I'm looking forward to the release of the last two books in the trilogy. Whether or not I get ARCs to review, I'll be reading and reviewing these books as well. 

THE TESTING is set to debut on June 4th of 2013, and Houghton-Mifflin plans to give the book a big publicity push, so you'll want to secure a copy as soon as you can. Otherwise, it might be hard to get your hands on one for awhile. 

You can learn more about the building anticipation of the book's release at Charbonneau's website.

As always, if there's a book you'd like to see reviewed, leave a comment below, and I'll be sure to do that. I'll see you same time next week!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Review of SKY ON FIRE by Emmy Laybourne

Without the sun, we'd all die. It doesn't get much grimmer than that--although I could argue SKY ON FIRE, the newest addition to the Monument 14 series by Emmy Laybourne manages it. To learn more about Emmy Laybourne and her series, click here.

Before I started SKY ON FIRE, I should have done a bit more research. I thought I was picking up a short middle grade novel (It's got a school bus on the front, for Pete's sake!) that would not only be a fun and fast read, but a funny one. Laybourne, after all, is a comedian!

I had no idea what I was getting myself into...Intrigued about the plot of the book and my thoughts? I've even got a sneak peek about a possible movie for you. So read on, readers, read on.


Sneak Peek:


Summary:

In this sequel to MONUMENT 14, the group of survivors, originally trapped together in a superstore by a series of escalating disasters, has split in two. Most of the kids are making a desperate run on their recently repaired school bus for the Denver airport where they hope to reunite with their parents, be evacuated to safety, and save their dying friend.

But the world outside is dark and filled with dangerous chemicals that turn people into bloodthirsty monsters, and not all the kids were willing to get on the bus. Left behind in a sanctuary that has already been disturbed once, the remaining kids try to rebuild the community they lost. But when the issues are life and death, love and hate, who can you really trust?


***

So it's always exciting to me when an author has the potential to not only write a sequel to a series but also might get a movie made. However, I'm not sure I'll go back and read the first book, and if I do decide to see the movie, it'll be at home, not at the theater. On Goodreads, I gave SKY ON FIRE 2 out of 5 stars. 

Reading the first book probably would have helped me feel a little more centered in book two, but I'm a firm believer that books need to be able to stand alone. For those of us who haven't read the first book in the series, the author should fill us in on what's already gone on. I felt pretty lost at first, and I never got totally centered in the world. What exactly happened to flood the US (the world??) with killer compounds? How are we explaining the science behind some parts of the world being affected and others not? What's the white mold? How can anything be sealed enough--other than an airtight vault--that allows the characters to be able to remove their face masks? 

I don't like it when questions like the ones above don't get answered. I also felt like this book was rushed. The beginning felt well edited, but the further in, the more needless repetition of words I saw. I saw hardly any variation of sentences. I had a hard time getting a feel for the setting. And I couldn't tell the voices of the two brothers apart, even though they've got three years of an age difference. It's a good thing Laybourne uses different font and labels the chapters with who the viewpoint character is because otherwise I would have been lost. 

I found the world interesting, if not well-explained. And the kids were plucky. They never gave up, which is admirable. So with those elements, I decided to throw in the extra star on Goodreads.

But I won't be reading the next book in the series. When SKY ON FIRE comes out on May 28th, I recommend you save your money. 

I'll be reviewing a SLEW of wonderful books in June, so wait until then to stock up on your summer reads.

See you next week, when I'll be reviewing THE TESTING by Joelle Charbonneau. Houghton Miffin's answer to THE 5TH WAVE.

As always, if you'd like to see a book reviewed, leave a comment below, and I'll do it!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Review of THE SHAMBLING GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY

I like funny. I can't do funny--I'm a doom and gloom kind of writer, but I love it when other authors do funny and do it well. Mur Lafferty, author of THE SHAMBLING GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY, knows funny inside and out. Learn more about Mur here.

So it's been a tough couple of weeks, but having SHAMBLING GUIDE to act as an escape is pretty much a book at its best: an escape from real life into something way better.

That said, I'm not sure how I'd feel if a world with "zombies, vampires, and golems, oh my!" was reality.

So what's SHAMBLING about? When does it hit the shelves? And even more importantly, should you buy it?



Book Summary:

Because of the disaster that was her last job, Zoe is searching for a fresh start as a travel book editor in the tourist-centric New York City. After stumbling across a seemingly perfect position though, Zoe is blocked at every turn because of the one thing she can't take off her resume --- human.

Not to be put off by anything -- especially not her blood drinking boss or death goddess coworker -- Zoe delves deep into the monster world. But her job turns deadly when the careful balance between human and monsters starts to crumble -- with Zoe right in the middle.


***

Are you interested? Because you should be. On Goodreads, I gave the book 5 out of 5 stars, and really, I don't do that too often.

I loved Lafferty's books for several reasons. I'm a fan of comic books, conventions, cheap sci-fi, and cheesy effects. It's obvious that Lafferty is as well. She knows her genre inside and out and thus can write a little tongue-in-cheek. I liked the book because the main character (besides being an awesome badass) is an author, and while sometimes I find that to be a little cliche or a cop-out on the author's part, Lafferty's MC really couldn't be anything better. This character fits her story.

The story itself has been woven seemlessly together. All the characters, if not likeable, make a standing impression in the reader's mind. I can see Lafferty's world becoming a cult classic.

Lafferty also researched her "monsters" well, and she's taken that knowledge and applied it to a version of New York City that almost seems plausible.

Beyond these levels of craft and skill that Lafferty so obviously has, the book is also just plain fun. And if you find yourself having a crappy week like me, I can't recommend anything better.

SHAMBLING comes out on May 28th, 2013, so order a copy now. It'll be a purchase you won't regret.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Review of SPIRIT AND DUST by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Here in the Midwest, the weather's taken a turn for the cold again. Fitting, as SPIRIT AND DUST by Rosemary Clement-Moore has a definite chill factor. Visit the author's website here.

A few notes before I hop into the synopsis, show the cover art, and run the book through the review wringer: Don't be deceived by the cover I show you! This book is fun and funny. I definitely hope the book does well, and the graphic design team reboots the jacket.

But you don't yet know what I'm talking about! So read on, readers, read on.






See?? Such a gloomy, cliched cover.

But let's get to the synopsis:

Daisy Goodnight can speak to the dead. It’s not the result of a head injury or some near-death experience. She was just born that way. And she’s really good at it. Good enough to help the police solve the occasional homicide.

But helping the local authorities clear cold cases is one thing. Being whisked out of chemistry class by the FBI and flown to the scene of a murder/kidnapping in Minnesota? That’s the real deal.

Before the promotion can go to Daisy’s head, she’s up to her neck in trouble. The spirits are talking, and they’re terrified. There’s a real living girl in danger. And when Daisy is kidnapped by a crime boss with no scruples about using magic—and Daisy—to get what he wants, it looks like hers is the next soul on the line.


***

SPIRIT AND DUST comes out May 14th, 2013. Should you run out and buy it? How many stars did I give the book on Goodreads?

I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars. I wanted to give it 4.5, but that wasn't an option. I also think it passes the buy test. Out of all the books debuting in May, you should give this one a whirl. 

SPIRIT AND DUST has a quirky main character and a hugely quirky climax. This might not be my usual, serious cup of tea, but I enjoyed this read. I liked the main character a lot; I even liked the love interest. And I kept turning page after page after page. 

If you're looking for a light, paranormal mystery tale to read this summer by a new author, then Rosemary Clement-Moore has definitely written the book for you.

I marveled at the author's technique to drop clues for our main characters and have everything fit together--and not the way you expect--at the end. When I got to the heart of the climax, I had a "WHOA" moment because I definitely didn't see what was coming...

Mysteries always seem a little formulaic to me, but 1. I couldn't write one to save my life and 2. I know a lot of readers dig the structure of the mystery novel. When combined with Clement-Moore's clean writing style and hilarious main character, it makes for a good, quick, fun read.

The only drawbacks to the novel were that pesky mystery structure, which is totally my opinion alone, and at times, I felt the author tried just a little toooo hard to make us laugh. Readers don't always have to be laughing, especially when times gets tough. 

One thing that made SPIRIT AND DUST great though is it's a stand-alone novel. Sure I'd like to read another book with the same protagonist, but I don't HAVE to, to find out the ending of the story. And it helps me, as a reader, feel like I really accomplished something.

All good things!

Again, SPIRIT AND DUST comes out May 14th of this year, so pre-order your copy now!

I'll see you same time next week when I'll be reviewing A GATHERING OF WINGS by Kate Klimo, the second book in the Centauriad series. 

As always, if you'd like a book reviewed, leave a comment below, and I'll jump on it!

See you next week!


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Review of A GATHERING OF WINGS by Kate Klimo

Are you a fan of Tamora Pierce? I fell deeply in love with fantasy after reading her LIONESS quartet. (And now we're Facebook friends!) So naturally when I saw that Tamora Pierce read and reviewed A GATHERING OF WINGS by Kate Klimo, I knew I'd have to do the same.

For a sneak peek of the cover, a summary of the plot, and my thoughts about the book, read on, readers, read on.



Summary:

 In A Gathering of Wings, Malora leaves the safety of Mount Kheiron for the bush and the bustling city of the Ka in search of Sky, the stallion who used to lead Malora's herd of horses. Accompanied by her closest friends, Malora is faced with making decisions about her future in new ways.

***

As for my review, I wish Klimo could have written this book about ten years ago. Because if you're any older than 13, the book may not hold up for you--I definitely don't think that it should be marketed as young adult fantasy, especially since so many adults read YA.

So I'm going to call this a middle grade novel and review it as such.

For young readers, I'd give this fun, quirky, sweet adventure story 4.5 stars on Goodreads. If you're in that target readership or know someone who is, especially if you or your loved one can't get enough of horses, then book II of the Centauriad series is for you.

Though to me, the science behind the fantasy didn't make sense--such as why hybrid creatures would be mating with hybrids of a different sort and why humans would create hybrids and allow them to take over the Earth--and I felt the same way about the way the plot developed, I wasn't ever bored. I kept turning the pages, and I definitely liked all the characters. We have a plucky main character and an entourage of other interesting personalities.

The writing was generally clean and flowed well, though sometimes I felt the Klimo told rather than showed, and I wondered if the story would have read better were it told in past tense, instead of present.

BUT I don't think most young people would notice these small flaws, or care. As well they shouldn't have to. Klimo tells a good, clean story that I'm sure I would have eaten up in middle school. Again, if you know someone in this age group, or are a kid at heart, then go for it!

It's a perfect summer read. I'll probably go back and read the first novel as well as read any subsequent novels that Klimo writes, just as I read all of Pierce's new books for old time's sake.

A GATHERING OF WINGS will be available wherever books are sold on May 28th, 2013. Pre-order a copy now to avoid the rush of Klimo's avid fans of which I'm sure there are many.

I'll see you next Wednesday, when I'll be reviewing THE SHAMBLING GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY by Mur Lafferty. And as always, if you have a title you'd like to see reviewed, leave a comment below, and I'll get on it!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Review of THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE CURSED by Page Morgan

I've always wanted to read a great romance with gargoyles! If supernatural creatures were real, my first pick of a lover would be a zombie. Gargoyles definitely make the top 5. (I know. I'm morbid. Now you know what kind of books I'm working on.)

And THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE CURSED, Page Morgan's debut novel, has some steamy human/gargoyle scenes. So when can you get your hands on this title? May 14th, 2013. Visit Morgan's website here to learn more info.

Besides my review of the book, I've also got a summary of the plot and a sneak peek of the cover, so read on, readers, read on!

Summary:

Fans of Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series and Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy will devour The Beautiful and the Cursed, a wholly original interpretation of gargoyle lore.

It was bizarre and inexplicable, and after it happened, Ingrid Waverly was forced to leave her life in London behind. She had to trade a world full of fancy dresses and society events for exile in gothic Paris with her mother and her younger sister, Gabby.

In Paris there are no grand balls or glittering parties, and disturbingly, the house rented by Ingrid's twin brother, Grayson, isn't a house at all. It's an abbey. A creepy, old abbey with a roof lined in stone gargoyles that could almost be mistaken for living, breathing creatures.

And to top it all off, Grayson is missing.

Yet no one seems to be concerned about Grayson's whereabouts save for Luc, a devastatingly handsome servant who has some deep and dark secrets of his own.

There's one secret about the city that even Luc can't keep hidden, though: there's a murderer on the loose. And every day that Grayson is missing means there's less chance he's still alive.

Ingrid is sure her twin isn't dead—she can feel it deep in her soul—but she knows that he's in grave danger, and that it's up to her and Gabby to find him before all hope is lost.

And yet the path to him is more dangerous than she could ever imagine.


  ***

So should you reserve a copy of THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE CURSED?

Yes.

I think this book is one that will delight readers--teens or adults. This may be Page Morgan's first novel, but she's got the imagination and world-building skills to make sure she gets a deal for another.

Will I read the next book when it comes out?

If I get an ARC, I certainly will.

I loved the world, the characters, and the story Morgan created so much that the minor flaws--word choices (double verbs), certain word usage that most experienced novelists avoid (dead verbs and such), and some sentence structure repetition--didn't distract me for long.

I admit I went into the novel apprehensively. I normally don't like books about spoiled, rich girls. But Morgan's spoiled girls have personality and SPUNK. They read like real girls, and I love that.

I also liked the love interest, human and otherwise.

I felt slightly gypped by the ending. What exactly was it that the characters accomplished in the first book, except fuel us toward the next? But I enjoyed the rest of the read so much that I didn't mind the somewhat anticlimactic climax. At least there WAS a clear climax, unlike in Speer's new book, NATURAL BORN ANGEL.

So if you're looking for a book to take to the lake or to curl up with on a relaxing rainy day, I definitely recommend THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE CURSED.

Again, buy it wherever books are sold on May 14th, 2013, or better yet, preorder a copy. I bet this book goes fast. And the movie's only a deal away...

Next Wednesday, I'll be reviewing SPIRIT AND DUST by Rosemary Clement-Moore, another Delacorte book with a cover very similar to this one. And as always, if you'd like to see a book reviewed, whether it's out now or not, leave a comment, and I'll do it!

See you next week.