Thursday, April 23, 2015

Book: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; 2015. 432 pages.

Sarah J. Maas pens another vivid tale full of action, adventure, humor and romance. This retelling of the classic fairy tale, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, will draw fantasy fans into the story from page one with witty and well written storytelling.

Feyre is a human girl forced to hunt to keep her two sisters and father fed. Game has been scarce this winter forcing Feyre to venture deeper into the forest, closer to the wall that separates human lands from the enchanted lands of the fae. With her family in mind, Feyre must make a difficult choice when she looses an arrow to bring down a large wolf, a decision that puts the wheels of fate into motion, catapulting Feyre into the world of the fae.

In order to spare the lives of her family, sacrifices must be made. Feyre goes willingly with the monstrosity that breaks down their aging cottage door; she is taken to the house of one of the fae and told that she must remain there. Life in the mansion and shining lands of the fae is vastly different from what she knows, causing Feyre to be cautious in opening up to her captor, er, host, Tamlin and his friend Lucien. Seasons pass and Feyre gets closer to Tamlin and he slowly reveals the many dangers that are creeping closer to the lands of spring.
When her world is ripped apart, Feyre realizes too late what her feelings truly are and must embark on a mission to save and rescue Tamlin and the other fae trapped underneath a barren mountain, held captive by a dangerous and malevolent queen. How can one human win against cruel and cunning immortal beings who think of humans as insignificant playthings?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Book: Teardrop by Lauren Kate

Teardrop by Lauren Kate. New York, NY; Delacorte Press, 2013. 464 pages.

Living by the humid and watery coast of Louisiana, 17 year-old Eureka is still trying to come to terms with the death of her archeologist mother in a car accident that she herself managed to survive. Eureka's life has changed drastically in response to losing her mother - where she was once the captain of the cross-country team, she is now taking some time removing herself from the world, some ways which are worse than others. Life at home is not perfect either with her father being less than present and supportive and her stepmother being rather uncaring, yet it is her twin half-siblings that keep connected to the present. 

Despite distancing herself from her old life, Eureka finds herself relying in more ways than one on her childhood friend, Brooks as well as Ander, an attractive boy who suddenly showed up and took an interest in her life. Eureka and her friends go about trying to figure out the importance of the items willed to Eureka by her mother. These mysterious items include a locket that cannot be opened, a mysterious rock known as a thunderstone and an old book written in an unknown ancient language that may be the key to understanding Eureka's legacy if only they were able to translate it. As more secrets are revealed, Eureka doesn't know who is truly on her side and whether she can unravel the truth behind everything that has been happening to her.

Throughout her entire ordeal, the one thing that Eureka hasn't really done is cried; once warned by her mother to never cry again, Eureka must gather herself to figure out what her place is on a path not of her choosing without succumbing to her emotions. She must remain stoic.

This book is a quick and easy read that will draw readers into Eureka's world. There is some violence in this book as well as underage drinking. Eureka does make an attempt at suicide and has to attend sessions with a psychologist to work out her problems. There are some slightly sexual situations that go no further than some kissing and groping, but the tension and raging hormones are definitely there. I wouldn't recommend this book for readers that are under 13 as there is a lot in this book to take in.

This is the first book in a trilogy by the author of bestselling Fallen novels: Fallen, Torment, Passion, Fallen in Love, and Rapture.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Book: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Across the Universe by Beth Revis. New York, NY; Razorbill, 2011. 448 pages.

What would life be like if you were one of 100 cryogenically frozen travelers on a space ship and you are woken from your slumber before the scheduled 300 year timeframe? Her parents still frozen, Amy finds herself alone on the Godspeed, having chosen to accompany her parents and leave her friends behind on a dying Earth. Upon waking she connects with Elder, the son of the slightly tyrannical Eldest who has claimed the role of dictator and has segregated and assigned follower roles to those on the ship. Many of the others that are awake are not fit company for a seventeen year old girl, making the journey all the more difficult who feels that she doesn't belong in this new lemming-like culture; soon Amy realizes that others are being awakened on purpose and left to die. Amy has to make some decisions about what to do and whether she can rely on Elder or go at it alone to unravel the lies on this space ship in the middle of nowhere.

There is some cussing and nudity in the book and the ship's inhabitants go into a mating season in order to create more worker-bees which might offend some. The freezing process and way that Amy wakes may not be for the faint of heart or younger audiences. The book starts of well but soon becomes clich├ęd in the way of predictable characters (think of a blah Bella and an overly-sparkly Edward) and the lack of character development hurts the story.

This book would appeal to Sci-Fi readers; Across the Universe is book one in a trilogy of the same name.

I give the book 2 stars... but it would definitely have mass appeal to teens looking to jump on the dystopian romantic trend and the second and third books could possibly improve upon the story since this is a debut novel.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Book: Wild Animal Neighbors by Ann Downer

Wild Animal Neighbors: Sharing Our Urban World by Ann Downer. Minneapolis, MN; Twenty-First Century Books; 2013. 64 Pages.

This book asks the question about how our lives as humans have affected the wildlife that previously roamed free around the areas that we now call home, areas that we have turned from forests and meadows into cities and suburbs. The book introduces readers to the urban wildlife conundrum with a story of a black bear that despite being removed from Cape Cod by wildlife officials, it soon returned to a populated suburb of Boston.The biggest question throughout the book is why? Why do wild animals continue returning to populated cities or choose to try and make their home in a place clearly different from their natural habitat?

The concept of the city as an ecosystem is introduced next to readers, covering the many reasons an urban area may be seen as a potential home to wildlife. The book dissects "artificial cliffs" created by skyscrapers that become inviting to hawks as well as the "heat island effect" which basically states that cities, with their concrete and metal barriers, are often warmer than the surrounding wilderness, and thus a more pleasant place to raise young. Divided into roughly seven stories that show examples how wild animals have been spotted amongst the hustle and bustle of cities. Wild Animal Neighbors uses raccoons, mountain lions, crows, coyotes, flying foxes, turtles, and alligators as examples of wildlife that has been spotted in territories now claimed by humans. The book discusses the reasons that an animal may decide that it prefers a more urban setting than its natural habitat, stating reasons that make its foray successful in terms of survival. Also covered are the ways that animals change their behaviors and become urban citizens.

Wild Animal Neighbors combines short and interesting stories of how animals have crept out of their natural habitats into our more densely populated areas along with facts that are presented in an appealing way. The photographs included are pulled directly from the reported stories themselves, creating a book that will have readers turning the pages to learn more about our new neighbors.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Graphic Novel: Welcome to the Tribe! by Grimaldi and Bannister

Welcome to the Tribe! (Tib & Tumtum) by Grimaldi. Illustrated by Bannister. Minneapolis, MN; Graphic Universe; 2013. 48 pages.

Tib belongs to the Big Rock Tribe of cavepeople. Despite being a member of a tribe, he feels as though he doesn't really belong - it mostly has to do with the odd-shaped, red, round birthmark on his eye - which all the other kids in the tribe make fun of. Tib's parents just don't understand, so he wanders off into the woods to be alone for a while and runs head-first into a dinosaur! Just one problem... aren't dinosaurs supposed to be extinct? This dinosaur in particular seems friendly enough as he begins to follow Tib around, which is when Tib realizes that they both have similar markings on their faces - wait until all the members of his tribe see his dinosaur! No such luck. Just when Tib thinks that he will be able to share his dinosaur, that same dinosaur manages to find a way to hide! Tib tries every trick in the book to get members of his tribe to meet his him, but he is just too good at hiding. Nevertheless, Tib and Tumtum the Dinosaur still end up having many fun adventures together - even though everyone thinks he doesn't exist!
The comic book is very funny and the accompanying illustrations just add to the hilarity. Grimaldi's story is very thoughtfully put together with an important message about friendship and not caring what somebody looks like on the outside. Bannister's drawings are clever and full of action, bringing Tib and Tumtum to life on the pages. Readers of all ages will enjoy this color-panel comic.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Book: Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols

Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols. MTV Books, 2013. 288 pages.

Bailey Mayfield has been playing music alongside her younger sister since she was very young, believing she'd eventually have a future in the industry with her sister as a duo. Unfortunately for Bailey, it is her sister, Julie, that gets the music contract; when the sisters are split up, it sends Bailey into a tailspin. She never meant to be a wild child, but things got a bit out of control and she was sent to live with her grandfather while her parents tour with her sister in preparation for her debut.

According to the rules set by her sister's record company, Bailey isn't supposed to be playing music at all and is to remain out of any spotlight, both positive or negative as not to ruin Julie's chances at stardom. Bailey's grandfather, thinking only to keep her occupied and out of trouble, gets her a job as a backup musician for music artist impersonators at the local mall. Bailey seems happy to be playing music, even if it means working with an overzealous Elvis wannabe and wearing ridiculous costumes and bad wigs.

It is during one of those pseudo concerts at the mall that Bailey meets hottie musician and guitarist Sam Hardiman, who instantly spots Bailey's talent with the fiddle. Even though Bailey is warned that Sam is a bit of a player, she still gravitates to his side and discovers that they both have a passion and ear for music. Sam is very nice and flirty with Bailey, but he doesn't reveal his true motives behind asking her to sneak out of her grandfather's house to and play with his band. As Bailey gets drawn into Sam's world, she tries to stay out of trouble and resist his charm, but as we all know, resistance is futile. 

Bailey really begins to question what she wants in life as Sam draws her out of the funk she's in. There are decisions to be made and consequences to be weighed; what if her grandfather or parents discover her activities,  or she gets in trouble by hanging out in the wild crowds drawn to the band she's in with Sam and his friends? 

This book manages to tease readers with the possibility of Sam and Bailey and then takes a step back as both teens reveal or learn something about themselves. Bailey is a complex character who has to struggle with the way her family has practically abandoned her and told her she isn't allowed to play music at all in public, and whether that means that she should abandon her dreams. Jennifer Echols does a wonderful job keeping the momentum going as the night of the big performance draws near and Bailey has to make some important choices. The cast of characters works well together in helping and motivating Bailey to do what she needs to do. This book is a good bridge between young adult novels and adult romances, with just the right amount of drama, romance and relationships. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Book: Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. Greenwillow Books; 2012. 448 pages.

Elisa has been taught that she will be the savior because she bears the Godstone, a stone that grows inside her stomach that marks her as one destined to do work in God's name. Elisa also bears the title of Princess, something that sets her even further apart from everyone.
At sixteen, she is married off to Alejandro, a King from a neighnoring kingdom in return for military aid; war is coming again. Elisa knows that her role will be an important one, she just can't figure out what an overweight and pampered Princess can possibly be expected to do. Her new, handsome husband won't even acknowledge their marriage, asking her to keep it a secret and his people do not respect her in any way, shape of form. Living in this new kingdom proves to be eye opening, especially when the local priest reveals ancient texts written by the first bearer of the Godstone, texts that she had never even knew existed.

It turns out that there are already plans in place for her; in her kingdom Elise was kept ignorant of the true prophecy, never fully learning her purpose and never being fully appreciated for herself. Elise's role is greater than she ever expected, something that she learns only when she is kidnapped by rebels and forced to see that there is more to this war. It is during that time spent living in the hills that she formulates a plan to stop the invading army.

Elise must learn some harsh lessons along the way about herself and life; war is never without casualties, yet the brave and honorable will persevere if they take a stand and fight.
This book was very interesting. It did draw me in, despite having a few minor issues. There is a strong religious presence, sometimes a bit overdone, but it works to aid the story and make Elise's journey all the more believable. The heroine, Elise, undergoes an unexpected transformation from plump, overweight princess to a warrior woman with a cause. Elise underestimated her own strengths, which will make readers cheer for her when she stands up to a great and powerful evil that threatens the kingdom. Who knows what kind of brave warrior lives inside of us if we don't go out and try new things and believe in ourselves?!

I did have issues with the world-building; it could have been done a bit better so that readers had a more solid understanding of the different religions/belief systems/history/governments. I also kind of laughed at the idea of a living stone planting itself in her belly button...