Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Hunger" by Michael Grant

590 pages

It's been three months since everyone over the age of 14 in Perdido Beach disappeared in the blink of an eye and the kids who were left became trapped in a impenetrable bubble that came to be called the FAYZ: Fallout Alley Youth Zone. Sam Temple has been elected mayor of the place, for good reason: in the early days of the FAYZ, he stopped his malicious twin brother Caine's attack on the city and he figured out how people can avoid "the poof" when they turn 15. Now Sam's just trying to hold things together as the food is running out and everyone is getting desperate for something to eat. More and more kids are developing special powers and the "normals" are becoming more and more hostile toward the "freaks." On top of all that, the Darkness in the mine shaft is starting to communicate with kids in their minds and Sam discovers that Caine and his gang are plotting another assault. Sam and his friends don't know if they can handle it all--he's just a kid, after all--but they have no choice but to try.

"If Stephen King had written 'Lord of the Flies', it might have been a little like this." That's how Voices of Youth Advocates (VOYA) describes this book, and I completely agree with the assessment. There's tons of King-like freaky stuff going on: funky mutations, voices in kids' heads, a radioactive monster in a dark cave, nightmares becoming reality, etc. Meanwhile, the kids are turning on each other and getting more savage by the minute. I think that this book is too long (as is "Gone," the first book in the series) and a lot of details could have been cut out. That said, this story kept me on the edge of my seat. I can't imagine how all of the crazy stuff is going to be explained, but I can't wait to read the rest of the books and find out.

"The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things" by Carolyn Mackler

246 pages

Fifteen-year-old Virginia just doesn't fit in with her family. They're all thin and good-looking while she's increasingly overweight and insecure about her looks. Her 24-year-old sister Anais and 19-year-old brother Byron are athletic, suave, and popular; Virginia puts herself somewhere between "regular" and "dork." Although her mother is a hot-shot adolescent psychologist, she can't seem to understand or accept Virginia as she is. On top of all this, Virginia's best friend has recently moved across the country and she's developing romantic feelings for her secret makeout buddy, Froggy Welsh the 4th, but he doesn't seem to want to acknowledge her in public. Then, out of nowhere, Virginia's so-called perfect family is shaken when Byron is accused of an awful crime.

The plot surprised me, in a good way. When I started reading, enjoyed Virginia's funky narration but I thought it would be a typical teen book about boys, friends, parent troubles, etc. Then Byron's incident came out of nowhere and added a lot of depth to the story. It got me thinking on a lot of different levels.

As I was reading this, I was reminded of my 15-year-old self so many times. Although I didn't experience many of Virginia's specific issues, I totally related to her general self-consciousness and her struggle to identify herself as an individual instead of a member of her family or peers. She's trying to figure out how to be herself instead of conforming to the roles that she's always filled with her family and at school, and that's something that teens and adults alike can connect with.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tegami Bachi: Volume 5: The Man Who Could Not Become Spirit

by Hiroyuki Asada, 182 pages

Lag and friends fight a heart-devouring gaichuu in addition to the embittered, frightened townsfolk of Honey Waters. In the process, they discover that the real "man who could not become spirit" is somehow connected to Reverse, an anti-government organization whose marauders have recently been waylaying Letter Bees and stealing their heart-filled letters for mysterious purposes. When Lag himself encounters a cold, emotionless marauder who looks like someone close to Lag's heart but who calls himself Noir, the pint-sized Bee finds his own heart tied in knots.

Oh, Gauche, what has happened to you? Don't make little Lag cry more than he has already. With a heavy heart and new friends Hunt and Sarah in tow, Lag returns to the Hive, uncertain of how to face Sylvette with the news about her brother. But considering his own personality, he shouldn't underestimate the capacity for hope and optimism in others. While Niche learns more about what it means to be a proper dingo to her Bee, they both gain friends who can help them in Lag's mission to recover his friend and bring sunshine to the hearts of everyone around him.

X/1999: Volume 9: Requiem

by CLAMP, 178 pages

Kamui is saved from Kotori's fate by the intervention of another dream seer--but Fuma has seen the newcomer, too, and goes off to track him down and make use of him. Traumatized, Kamui slips into a catatonic state and the only one who has a chance of saving his mind and soul is one who has been in his shoes. Subaru Sumeragi must revisit his own pain by travelling into the depths of Kamui's tortured soul to lead him out of the darkness and back to reality, back to life.

The seven Seals, the Dragons of Heaven, have finally come together. But what do they do now? As the Harbingers, the Dragons of the Earth, assemble below one of Tokyo's landmarks, the distinction between good and evil is as indefinite as ever, despite the violence perpetrated on the latter's behalf. Fate declares that only one can survive--either mankind or the Earth--but how could any future without one or the other be worth all the suffering and sacrifice? Kamui will likely be the one to ask that question--and to bear the burdens that come with answering it.

Send Me

by Patrick Ryan, 310 pages

Once upon a time, Theresa married Dermott and gave him two children, Matt and Katherine. And then he left them. Then Theresa married Roy and gave him two children, Joe and Frankie. And then he left them. These seven lives intersect, part, and ricochet off each other in random yet believable patterns as they each try to make their way, sometimes relying on one another, sometimes hurting one another, over the next forty-odd years. The one thing that will never change, however much they may or may not appreciate it at any given time, is that they are forever a family, and one with Theresa as their anchoring link.

Told in the form of non-chronological, short-story-like chapters, this novel draws the reader into the emotional life of each family member, revealing clues about what they've done in one chapter and hints as to why they've done it in another, letting the reader piece it all together little by little. From the first page to the last, I was invested in the mystery of who these people were and what kept them together and what tore them apart. Art, NASA, the mafia, in-laws, the economy, hurricanes, high school, college, love, death, jealousy, drugs, sex, gossip, Star Wars, Slip 'n' Slides, aging dogs, AIDS, and a million other things all come crashing down on their heads or lift them out of the miasma that is the dysfunctional American family.

And I want more. Ryan has said in recent interviews that he's working on another novel about these characters, and I can't wait to read it. While Theresa is the keystone, and while utterly sympathetic Joe is very loosely based on the author, Frankie is by far my favorite and the one I most want to protect. He is both the most resilient and the most vulnerable. His precocious, adorable childhood obsession with all things science fiction resurfacing as a psychological buoy later in his troubled life just breaks my heart...and comforts me at the same time. At turns funny and sad, surreal and familiar, this touching debut novel promises good things to come (and having read and enjoyed Ryan's three subsequently published YA novels, I speak from experience). It'll make you cry, too, but somehow that's ok.

Vagabond: Volume 16

by Takehiko Inoue, based on the novel Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa, 186 pages

"I won't teach you, Kojirô." So Kanemaki says every time he comes home to his silently beseeching son...right before the boy launches himself at his father and absorbs every lesson the old man unconsciously teaches him. Years pass and Kojirô grows into a deceptively powerful young man as the world outside their tiny village stirs with political upheaval and the tension of impending war. When Kanemaki's former top pupil Ittôsai resurfaces, the gruff swordsman instantly recognizes Kojirô's sleeping strength and barely-held-in-check desire to fight. Afraid he may lose his already fragile grip on his son's elemental nature, the old man tries to protect Kojirô from the other's influence. But although the young man cannot hear, the sword's soul-deep call to battle has been echoing in every fiber of his being since before he can remember. And Ittôsai's push may be all it takes to snap him awake.

I love this series. I love Inoue. *sigh* He makes you feel two or more conflicting emotions at the same time. You want to protect Kojirô, but you want to free him. You love him, but you're afraid of him. It's like you're seeing the world through Kanemaki's soul, then through Kojirô's, and cannot help but sympathize with both. They love and respect one another, but their desires are diametrically opposed. What will happen to them when Kojirô's wild-child inner self finally breaks free? What will happen to Japan...?

I wish Inoue would come and paint murals on my walls. I would never move.

Gakuen Alice: Volume 16

by Tachibana Higuchi, 191 pages

A prank gets a little out of hand as everyone's souls trade bodies randomly and truths inadvertently get revealed to the wrong (or the right) people. In the confusion, Mikan resorts to using her secret "stealing" Alice to save a loved one as background conspiracies continue to stew.

It's still hard to keep all these similar-looking characters straight, but when it tries, the story is engaging and its mysteries deep and dark. It'd be nice to have a little less fluffy filler and a little more plot progress, but oh well.

Eyeshield 21: Volume 35: The World Is Mine

by Riichiro Inagaki (story) and Yususke Murata (art), 213 pages

The Deimon boys haven't rocketed to the top without drawing some attention and so find themselves being recruited for Japan's team in the football World Cup. Sena and Monta join up with former rivals to scout around and build the best team possible in order to take on those most powerful of opponents and the inventors of the game--the Americans. But first they'll have to take on the international competition....

Part of me thinks this series should have wrapped up after the Christmas Bowl. And part of me loves the characters so much that I don't care, as long as I get the chance to watch them be their hilarious, inspiring, awesome selves just a little longer. Besides, seeing Agon the selfish jerk get his head shaved--and his sportsman's fire ignited--by a crazy Militarian kinda made my day. :P

Arata: The Legend: Volume 5

by Yuu Watase, 191 pages

Hinohara finally acknowledges to his friend Kotoha that he's not the Arata she has known and served all her life. Luckily for him, she's got a forgiving nature, although now that they are no longer master and servant he'll get to see a whole new side of her surprisingly tough personality. On the flip side, Arata makes friends with a strange classmate of Hinohara's named Oribe, a girl who's always felt like someone else...and who's the first person to immediately see Arata as himself and not Hinohara. Damaged bully Kadowaki overhears the two talking and struggles with the confusing thought of Hinohara not being Hinohara. If the target of all his rage isn't who he thought he was, then where's the real Hinohara?

The heroes aren't the only ones who can play at switcheroo.... Yay, Arata and the mundane world get much more balanced coverage in this volume as the two worlds collide and crossover even more. I hope the trend continues!

Arata: The Legend: Volume 4

by Yuu Watase, 190 pages

In the magical world, Hinohara faces off with Kannagi, agonizes over whether or not to tell his new friends who he really is, and finds himself and his party trapped on an island populated only by children. Meanwhile, in the mundane world, Arata has run-ins with Kadowaki--Hinohara's bully--and learns a little about what it's like to have a mom.

I love stories of baddies who aren't exactly baddies at heart, so this pleases me. And the story with the island children makes me sniffle. Arata, unfortunately, still only gets two chapters in this volume, which is frustrating. He's unintentionally funny and always so straightforward. We need more of him to balance out shy Hinohara's timidity.

Arata: The Legend: Volume 3

by Yuu Watase, 190 pages

After witnessing--and being framed for--the attempted assassination of his world's princess, Arata runs to the forest where he hides in a hollow tree...and emerges in the modern world, having somehow switched places (and faces) with a boy named Arata Hinohara. A longtime victim of bullies, Hinohara now finds himself a fugitive from the law in a hierarchical magic-based world he doesn't understand while Arata tries to fit in as an ordinary high school student and faces off with his counterpart's victimizing adversaries. Undetected by their own families, friends, and enemies, the two boys do their best to take up each other's missions and take care of each other's loved ones.

In this volume, Hinohara and his companions are working their way back toward the capital in order to foil the unfolding coup and save the princess's life. To do so, they'll have to travel through the territory of Kannagi, the dangerous young ruler who actually wielded the blade against the princess and then pointed the finger at Arata.

Don't let the pretty art and Watase's history with shojo like Absolute Boyfriend fool you--this is a dramatic action series with lots of deadly magic and swords that don't stay sheathed for long. If the first volume didn't get the hint across, this one certainly will. Owy. I've read five other series by Watase, who's usually known for her strong female leads and for not shying away from depicting realistically edgy physical and emotional drama, and so far this one is ranking up there with Ceres, my favorite of hers. She likes her alternate world-jumping and the notion of shared destiny, but as long as she keeps telling her stories with this much care and skill, I don't mind if I see some familiar themes and devices. My main worry at this point is the imbalance between the two Aratas' stories. Hinohara's carrying most of the burden, and getting most of the page-count, so far, leaving poor Arata to do little more than fret over what's going on at home and take notes in class for Hinohara so he doesn't miss anything. I'm hoping Watase gradually gives Arata's role more substance and attention, but I'm happy to keep reading until she does.

In Mike We Trust

by P. E. Ryan, 321 pages

After his boat-loving father's drowning death during a storm, high-schooler Garth spends his time building detailed ship models, wishing he weren't so short, and trying not to give his overly-anxious mother more reason to worry. She's so consumed by fear that, when he tells her he's gay, she begs him to keep it to himself until he's "older"--not because she can't accept it, but because acknowledging it could expose him to the dangers of bullying and hate crimes. She even freaks out when he tries to call a counseling hotline for LGBT youth. So, he hides his sexuality from everyone (except his best friend Lisa), builds his models, and has nightmares about not being able to save his father. Until, that is, his Uncle Mike--his father's fun-loving, estranged twin--shows up at their dingy apartment door asking to crash for a few weeks. Suddenly, Garth has a male role model again, a sage confidante, and a social life. How could Garth's dad have had a falling out with such a seemingly great guy? So Uncle Mike drags Garth into some questionable business ventures...and gets him to lie to his mother...and his best friend...and his new friend.... It's only for a couple of weeks. No big deal, right? Right?

The dangers of lying--whether about where you went today or who you are inside--take center stage in this coming-of-age YA novel. While I enjoyed the story and characters very much, I didn't like it quite as well as Ryan's other teen books. Garth's naïveté and impressionable nature are understandable given his age and home life, but even after he realizes early on that his uncle isn't as ideal as he'd convinced himself he was, the boy still goes along with his schemes, desperate for whatever father-figure-ish companionship he can get. It's frustrating watching the train wreck he knowingly helps make of things as he becomes almost as blame-worthy as his inveterate charlatan of an uncle. One of the things I like about the book, though, is Mike's fairly realistically flawed character. He really cares about Garth and gives him some good advice about being himself, but then turns around and pressures the boy into lying about nearly everything else in his life. He's neither a conveniently perfect role model nor a completely heartless villain. Also, I appreciate that not all of Garth's messes are neatly tied up before the final page. I just wish he had a little more backbone and that his story wasn't so overtly message-driven, as the latter element is distracting and takes away from the book's realism. Quibbles aside, I still wish Garth good things. He's just a kid, after all. And they need all the support they can get.

Saints of Augustine

by P. E. Ryan, 308 pages

Sam and Charlie used to be best friends--until Sam inexplicably broke it off with Charlie and stopped talking to him. A year later, in the summer before their senior year, both boys are struggling separately to deal with their messy home lives, close-kept secrets, and ever-compounding problems. Without one another's support, they're quickly losing the battle for control over their own circumstances.

This is a touching, uplifting teen novel about the power of friendship. The boys are likeable, believable teens with individual personalities and all too realistic problems. The chapters alternate between the increasingly chaotic lives of the two boys as they avoid facing the issues pulling them under. Sam has stopped talking to most everyone, terrified he will lose the love of his friends and already broken family if he tells them he's gay, when it's his silence that's doing the most damage; and Charlie finds himself dangerously in debt to a drug dealer and having to parent his grief-stricken widower of a father without being able to deal constructively with his own sense of loss. Alone, they dig themselves in deeper and deeper while the worried reader holds out hope that if they would just fess up to who they are and what's going on in their lives, they would realize that the bonds of family and friendship, however complicated, are strong enough to see them through.

After reading and enjoying Ryan's Gemini Bites, it dawned on me that I've read very little YA fiction by male authors, very little non-fantasy YA lit, and no other YA books with a gay protagonist (I've come across any number of gay side characters, but few leads). And since Ryan writes all three of those things, and I liked GB, I just decided to read everything he's written (not too hard, as he's only got three teen novels and one adult one under his belt at the moment). Saints is definitely my favorite of his teen books (I talk about his adult one, Send Me, in another review). Ryan's frank, hopeful portrayal of regular kids with real world issues serves as a refreshing alternative to all the dark, magic-propelled plots I'm in the habit of picking up. Plus, he's inspiring me to try to read a little more outside my lazy zone, and that can only be a good thing.


by Veronica Roth, 487p.

Abnegation. Dauntless. Erudite. Amity. Candor.


Beatrice has a big decision ahead of her.  As she chooses her faction, she also chooses traits that she finds most important.  But there is more to life than the five factions, as Beatrice soon finds out.  The story is gripping, the characters are multi-faceted, and danger is around every corner. For me, this is basically a perfect read:  a strong female character, a little romance, actual emotions...  Some people might call this the new Hunger Games, and there are many more similarities.  But Divergent makes the characters much less rigid.  There is no fear of feeling a whole range of emotions, and I don't want to constantly slap the living daylights out of Beatrice (sorry, Katniss, but your martyr-like tendencies really grate my nerves).

Thank goodness this is going to be a trilogy!

Huntress by Malinda Lo

Kaede and Taisin are nearing the end of their time at the Academy of Sages. Kaede has struggled with the academy and has only remained because her father is the King's Advisor. Her strengths lie closer to the earth, no magic. Taisin is one of the most gifted sages the academy has seen. When the sun stops shining, crops fail and the people of the kingdom start to rebel out of frustration and hunger, Oracle Stones are cast and Kaede and Taisin are thrust together on a journey to see the Xi, a fay kingdom that most no longer believes even exist.  Brought together with a single purpose, the two must fight many obstacles to reach their destination and perhaps each other.

While this novel is billed as a prequel to Ash, it easily stands on its own. The coming of age is almost standard in young adult fantasy. The lush details intertwined seamlessly with the character development and a lesbian twist is not. The reader walks away with a strong picture of the world and the creatures that inhabit it. In spite of this, the pace is never slow and the direction the story is going is quickly revealed. What will grab you though is the characters. Not just Kaede and Taisin who are complicated and intense characters but also the side characters that you grow to care about just as much. Ash took my breath away. Huntress has much the fantasy reader will enjoy and GLBTQs will be refreshed by a world where no one cares who you love. 2011, 371 pages.

The Intimates by Ralph Sassone

"At least he and Maize had each other. If they didn't have romance or jobs or money or position or good housing just yet, they had their friendship. Friendship and company while they flailed."

Robbie and Maize have been friends since high school when a brief romantic encounter gave way to friendship with the realization that Robbie was gay. After losing touch in college, the two are reunited and become fast friends sharing everything and living together as they struggle with what they imagined their life to be versus reality.

This book is the oddest little thing. Robbie and Maize are the best of friends yet their friendship is defined by so many moments of this reader going, what? I'd never do that to my friends or seriously? You care that little? Each character "thought" wonderful things about the other but their actions rarely transferred that affection into reality. The moments of the book that hit home were the individual reflections on the status of their life. You know, when you find yourself not settled down or not secure in a job when the rest of your peers are. Life doesn't seem to be working quite right and it is in those moments that friendship shines through. Not a quick read despite its slim size. 2011, 247 pages.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


by Michael Northrop, 232p.

First of all, this is my personal idea of hell.  Being trapped in a school would be horrid, especially being trapped in a school without power of any sort.  When Scotty and his friends decide to stay after school to work on a go-kart, they didn't think that the snow would pile up so fast.  Neither did the four other students who didn't have rides.  Or the teacher that stayed behind.  They don't know if their families are okay or whats going on outside.   They just know that they are trapped in the middle of nowhere with no way out.

Truly and utterly terrifying, but not the kind that will give you the creeps at the next sign of snow.  It does make you think, though.  Lots of what ifs fill the book, which is definitely a great read.

After the Golden Age

by Carrie Vaughn, 304 pages

Celia West has done her best to escape her upbringing as the only daughter of superhero parents.  Unfortunately, her high-profile past catches up to her when her accounting firm needs her help in prosecuting the Destructor, one of the worst villains Commerce City's ever known.  As tensions rise, secrets that Celia would prefer remain buried come out into the open and the quiet life she's built for herself will never be the same.

Carrie Vaughn has a knack for creating characters that I'm invested in by page 2.  The book starts off with Celia being kidnapped, an event that we're told happens pretty frequently.  The bad guys expect her famous parents to bust in and save the day, and Celia is the perfect tool for entrapment.  I expected Celia to turn around and kick some butt, because that's what heroines do when they're kidnapped... but Celia's not that kind of heroine and this isn't that kind of superhero story.  "After the Golden Age" is a compelling tale about a young woman who thinks she's found her place in the world, only to realize that she's done little more than run away from her past.  She doesn't have powers, but she's smart and has a strange type of courage which is all the more impressive for its subtlety.   

Fearless Fourteen

by Janet Evanovich, 352 pages

Dom Rizzi robbed a bank, but no one ever found the money.  Now he's out of jail and has a chip on his shoulder aimed at his distant cousin, Joe Morelli.  Stephanie is responsible for dragging Dom's sister Loretta back to jail and makes this happen by agreeing to babysit Loretta's teenage son while Loretta gets rebonded.  Only Loretta goes missing, and Stephanie's stuck with the self-named Zook, a fantasy gamer with a penchant for spray painting everything including the dog.  Meanwhile, a treasure hunt for the money starts in Joe's backyard.  Stephanie and Joe need to find Loretta and get their lives back to normal, if they ever want to have a full night's sleep again.

"Fearless Fourteen" is another great read filled with new characters, old favorites, and laugh-out-loud moments.

Lean Mean Thirteen

by Janet Evanovich, 352 pages

Stephanie agrees, against her better judgement, to help out Ranger and plant a bug in her ex-husband, Dickie Orr's office.  Now when Dickie goes missing, with only a trail of blood left as a clue, Stephanie is the number one suspect.  Even more irritating, Joyce Barnhart, Stephanie's archenemy, has been seeing Dickie again, and she holds Stephanie personally responsible for his disappearance.  Stephanie will have to track Dickie down, dead or alive, if she wants to stay out of jail.

Dickie is the perfect character that I love to hate.  It seems almost a shame that Stephanie has to invest the energy in tracking him down, but the mystery gets to be bigger than the goal of finding Dickie.  And that's why I keep reading!

Twelve Sharp

by Janet Evanovich, 320 pages

A woman in black rides into town, starts following Stephanie around, and claims to be Ranger's wife!?!  Stephanie suspects that something is off, but she can't get ahold of Ranger to ask any questions.  Suddenly, his picture shows up on the news, and he's wanted for kidnapping.  Stephanie has to get to the bottom of this, not only for her sake, but for Ranger's.

Evanovich raises the stakes in this one with a kidnapping that strikes close to home.  I couldn't wait to find the answers, and "Twelve Sharp" definitely ends with a bang!

Eleven on Top

by Janet Evanovich, 368 pages

Stephanie Plum has had enough.  She's been shot at, spit at, covered in countless noxious substances, and that doesn't even cover what's happened to her cars.  She quits her job as a bounty hunter in search of something a little more peaceful.  Unfortunately, trouble follows her and refuses to leave her alone, and it just might be that becoming a bounty hunter is the solution to her problems after all.

"Eleven on Top" revives old villains along with drumming up some new ones.  The favorite cast of characters are out in full force, and the scene at Cluck in the Bucket is hilarious.  If you've ever thought the grass looks greener in the other job, this is a story for you!

Ten Big Ones

by Janet Evanovich, 352 pages

A debate over what to get for lunch is interrupted when Stephanie and Lula witness a robbery in progress.  The red devil has been cutting a swath through Trenton, NJ, and Stephanie may be the only one who can identify him.  Things get complicated when the robberies are tied into local gang activity and the shooting of a police officer.  Can Stephanie catch the criminals or will she be their new target?

More excitement, more tension, and more fire-bombings... I love these books!

To the Nines

by Janet Evanovich, 352 pages

Stephanie's cousin Vinnie is in a tizzy because he signed an immigration bond on Samuel Singh who has gone missing.  Now it's up to Stephanie to track down Singh, before Vinnie packs up and moves to Scottsdale, AZ leaving Stephanie out of a job. 

"To the Nines" is another thrilling mystery filled with action and humor. 

Twisted Creek

Twisted Creek by Jodi Thomas 454p.

Allie Daniels has never had much. She was left with her Nana when she was 3 and she has pretty much made the best of a bad situation. Then out of the blue, she finds that she has inherited a store (bait and tackle shop) at a place called Jefferson's Crossing. She has no idea who Jefferson Platt was but she knows he wasn't her uncle as stated in the will. Since she has nothing better, she decides to go there and life takes on several new twists. She and her Nana, Edna Daniels make a go of the shop and find themselves becoming part of a very unique community. Entering into the mix is the handsome stranger from next door. Luke Morgan, who turns out to be an ATF agent in search of the real cause of Jefferson Platt's death and the possible involvement of a Meth ring. Much action and a love story to boot. I really enjoyed this nove.

Hell, Yeah

Hell, Yeah by Carolyn Brown 366p.

This was a cute little piece set mostly in a Honky Tonk bar. Chief characters were Cathy O"Dell the owner and Travis Henry an oil engineer that thought he was just passing through. As is often the case. He and Cathy fell in love and she ends up marrying him and selling the bar. I just have to say this author must listen to lots of country music, as she quoted many songs throughout the book.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hard Eight

by Janet Evanovich, 352 pages

When her mother's elderly neighbor asks for help finding her missing daughter and granddaughter, Evelyn and Annie Soder, Stephanie can hardly say no.  Right away, it becomes obvious that the two missing persons are mixed up in something dangerous, and Stephanie has just entered the fray.  Stephanie doesn't need the warnings from Ranger and Morelli to know that Eddie Abruzzi is bad news, but if she wants to find the missing Soders, and Stephanie might not be able to avoid him.

This is such a fun series to read!  No wonder I've had about six patrons in the last two days asking if I had any Fastrack copies of "Smokin Seventeen" yet!  If you haven't read Evanovich, give her a try.  I promise you won't be sorry!

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Long, very, very long!  Seriously, I thought this book was kind of like Stephen King's classic, The Stand, in many ways: the struggle between good and evil, characters that seem to have some special pipeline to the divine and others who seem to come straight from Hell, a journey to save the world, and so on.  But this one has vampires...sort of, anyway.  If you have some time to devote to this book, go ahead.  See what you think.  I was sort of underwhelmed but it wasn't bad.  And that, folks, is how a Pisces writes a review!
766 pp
Kim F

Seven Up

by Janet Evanovich, 352 pages

Eddie DeCooch is charged with trafficking cigarettes and has no intention of letting Stephanie drag him into jail.  When Stephanie finds a body in DeCooch's shed, she starts to think he may be up to more than just smuggling contraband.  The search for DeCooch brings Stephanie back into contact with a couple of former high school classmates: Moonman and Dougie Kruper, now known as the "Dealer".  Maybe these two can lead her to DeCooch, if they don't manage to get killed first.

Evanovich creates more goofy, likable characters, despicable bad guys, and brings back a few favorites with Morelli, Ranger, and Grandma Mazur.  Don't miss the fun in "Seven Up"!

Hot Six

by Janet Evanovich, 340 pages

Carlos Manoso, a.k.a., Ranger, is caught on film moments before the youngest son of international arms dealer, Alexander Ramos, goes up in flames.  Ranger is now FTA, and it's Stephanie's job to find him and bring him to face justice.  Trenton cop, Joe Morelli, is also looking for Ranger, and he suspects that there might be more to the story than what first appears.

Stephanie is forced to pit her skills against the master... it would be sad if it wasn't so funny.  Evanovich has another hit with "Hot Six"!

High Five

by Janet Evanovich, 340 pages

Stephanie agrees to work for her mentor, Ranger, to pick up some extra cash.  Her bumbling bounty hunter skills don't directly translate to being good at security, but a girl's got to pay the rent.  Meanwhile, Stephanie's Uncle Fred has gone missing and the family is relying on her to find him.  Not only that, but homicidal rapist, Benito Ramirez is out of jail, has found religion, and wants to send Stephanie to meet Jesus.  Can she survive the chaos that is her life?

This book is funny and intense in turns and won't disappoint!

Four to Score

by Janet Evanovich, 338 pages

Maxine Nowicki, waitress and car thief, has skipped town, and Stephanie Plum is charged with bringing her back.  Stephanie's first stop is a chat with Nowicki's ex-boyfriend, and owner of the stolen car, Eddie Kuntz.  Maxine has been leaving him scavenger hunt clues, and Kuntz offers to pay Stephanie for her deciphering services.  Stephanie enlists the help of a cross-dressing rock star, Sally Sweet, Grandma Mazur, and former 'ho and plus-size file clerk, Lula.  The hunt gets dangers when Maxine's friend and mother turn up with missing body parts.

Plum relies more on luck than skill and her captures are pure slapstick.  She doesn't cook, but has a creative way with peanut butter sandwiches.  Forget Dog the Bounty Hunter, Stephanie Plum is the way to go!

Three to Get Deadly

by Janet Evanovich, 344 pages

A candy store owner and pillar of the community is on the lam, and Stephanie has been charged with dragging him back to jail.  This may possibly make her the most hated person in the Burg... a fact that doesn't necessarily change when executed drug dealers start showing up, and the candy store owner is fingered for the crime.

"Three to Get Deadly" is funny and exciting.  I love Evanovich, because she keeps me flying through the pages just to see what happens next!

Two for the Dough

by Janet Evanovich, 301 pages

Stephanie Plum is on the hunt for Kenny Mancuso, a FTA accused of shooting his best friend in the knee.  The hunt takes her to Stiva's Funeral home, and Stephanie reluctantly takes a moonlighting project from Spiro Stiva, the undertaker's sleazy step-son, to look for a truckload of missing caskets.  With the help of Grandma Mazur and Trenton cop, Joe Morelli, Stephanie tries to solve the mystery before the body parts start piling up.

This is another laugh-out-loud mystery, full of quirky characters, and past-paced thrills.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Once Upon a Time There Was You" by Elizabeth Berg

280 pages

John and Irene both had big doubts before they got married, but they went through with their wedding anyway. Now it's more than 20 years later and they've been divorced for almost a decade. John still lives in Minnesota, while Irene has migrated to San Francisco. The only tie that still binds them together is their beloved 18-year-old daughter, Sadie. When Sadie is put in danger, John and Irene come together again to support her and deal with the aftermath.

I really got into this story at first but it only held my interest up until after Sadie's incident. I love the way that Berg writes, particularly her use of detail and how she describes people. She creates real characters that I can relate to, even when they are in completely different situations than I am. On the other hand, there just isn't enough going on to entertain me past about halfway through. I liked how it ended, but I thought it took too long to get there.

Monday, June 20, 2011

"Graceling" by Kristin Cashore

471 pages

Katsa lives in a world where some people are born with exceptional skills or powers called Graces. Her uncle, King Randa, rules one of the seven kingdoms of her part of the world, and he uses Katsa's Grace--killing--to terrorize people who get in his way or don't bow to his wishes. Though Katsa's ability to kill and her uncle's use of it disgust her, she feels that disobeying her powerful uncle's wishes is not an option. To redeem herself and use her power for good, she secretly creates and works with the Council, a group of fighters and accomplices who work together to save citizens in all the seven kingdoms from abuses of power. On one of her missions for the Council, Katsa encounters another young "Graceling" named Po who informs her that a king with a dangerous Grace might be behind the some of the problems the Council faces. As Katsa and Po set out to discover the truth and make things right, she discovers that her Grace might involve more than just killing and that there's more to Po than she originally thought.

I love this book! It drew me in right away and I couldn't put it down. Katsa is a really interesting character who changes and grows a lot throughout the story. I really identified with her (even though I don't have any special powers!) and I think a lot of other readers will too because she's struggling to reconcile something dark within her with her desire to be a good person and make a difference. I also like that Katsa is such a strong female character who refuses to be defined or controlled by a man, as is Captain Faun. I think it's great for teens to see characters like that in books. Although the romance part of the story is predictable, there are several twists and turns in the main plot that kept me interested and I cared so much about the characters--including the secondary characters--that I couldn't wait to find out what happened to them. The conclusion is satisfying, but I'm dying for some more books about Katsa, Po, Bitterblue, and the rest! I hear that a follow-up, tentatively titled Bitterblue, is due later this year and I can hardly wait!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"Boneshaker" by Cherie Priest

416 pages

In the early days of the Gold Rush in the Northwest, Russian prospectors hired inventor Leviticus Blue to create a machine that could drill through Alaska's thick ice to reach the precious metals. What he came up with was Dr. Blue's Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Machine. On its first run, something went wrong. The Boneshaker went out of control, destroying downtown Seattle and opening the source of a subterranean gas that turns everyone who breathes it into the living dead. A wall was built to enclose the toxic city and keep "the Blight" contained.

Now it's sixteen years later. Leviticus Blue's widow, Briar, is just trying to make it through each day, living just outside the wall around Seattle and working in a dangerous factory to put enough food on the table for herself and her fifteen-year-old son, Ezekiel. Her late husband's ruined reputation have left Briar isolated and lonely, so Zeke is all she has left. Then Zeke becomes convinced that his father was set up by the Russians and is determined to clear his name. He disappears behind the walls of the devastated city of Seattle to search for evidence, and Briar is forced to go after him. Neither of them could have imagined the horrors of the ravenous undead, criminals, and pirates that wait for them within the city.

I loved every minute of this steampunk adventure and the funky twist it puts on the Gold Rush period of American history. Briar and Zeke are both characters who are easy to relate to, and I was pulling for them the whole way. I really loved some of the secondary characters, too, particularly Lucy and Angeline. Both of them, as well as Briar, are strong, independent females and I like seeing that in books that take place during the Civil War era. My only complaints are that part of the end doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the story (that's all I'll say to avoid spoilers), and some of the dialogue didn't ring true to me (I doubt that anyone said, "Hey man, you're a champ" in the 1860s). Still, I highly recommend this book for fans of either steampunk and zombie fiction.

"I Love Him to Pieces or My Date is Dead Weight or He Only Loves Me for my Brains (My Boyfriend is a Monster #1)" by Evonne Tsang and Janina Gorrissen

123 pages

Dicey and Jack seem like complete opposites. She's the outgoing star of her high school baseball team, while Jack is a shy, brilliant valedictorian-to-be. But after a school project brings them together, it seems that they were meant to be together. Then a strange illness suddenly breaks out--a disease that eats victims' brains and makes them hungry for the living. Dicey and Jack have to work together to stay alive and get to safety so they can live long enough to go on their second date.

I really enjoyed this short, fun graphic novel. The plot isn't anything original--pretty standard zombie stuff--but I really like the characters. I love that Dicey is such a strong person and shows that a girl can excel at a "boys'" sport and still be feminine. Jack is sort of a stereotypical nerd, but he's so sweet that I love him anyway. I want more stories about Dicey and Jack, but they wrap things up pretty well in this story and I think that each book in the "My Boyfriend is a Monster" series is about different characters. Bummer!