Monday, March 28, 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano ★

Wither (Book 1)
by Lauren DeStefano
March 2011
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

First off, I just have to say how extremely proud I am of myself for reading a book AND blogging about it in the same week it was published.  It isn't often that my reviews are very current, but I've been looking forward to this book's release for a few weeks now.  This is where things start to get a little strange, so bear with me while I try to describe the premise for DeStefano's fantastic debut novel for young adults.

In the not so distant future, a dystopian society has replaced the world as we know it today.  Through scientific advancements, humans have gained immunity to all diseases such as Cancer, AIDS, and to some extent, aging.  They paid for it, however, when their children were born as ticking time bombs.  All females die at age 20 and all males die at age 25.  No exceptions.  To cope with the threat of humanity's extinction, men who can afford it take many wives to ensure the survival of their families.  Many of these girls are kidnapped off the streets as soon as they are able to bear children and sold to the highest bidder.  They then spend the few remaining years of their lives in false marriages as baby factories with other women they call sister-wives.  Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is one of these girls, captured by the Gatherers and paid for in an auction by her new husband.  Rhine knows she only has four years left to live.  But she's decided she's not going to spend it in a cage.

There is a lot of science in this book that makes no sense whatsoever, as well as a little history that isn't quite true.  For example, Rhine talks about the fact that Christopher Columbus proved the earth was round, which is only marginally accurate.  But I digress . . . despite a few misses with science and history, DeStefano has written a completely captivating account of a world that is rapidly falling apart.  The characters are very well written, and I found myself caring deeply for them and the situation they had found themselves in.  Wither is book one in what will be The Chemical Garden Trilogy.  There is currently no release date or information about future books, but I assure you I will be following up on Rhine's story in the future.

One last thing - kudos for the awesome cover!  Don't know why, but I loved it!

The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal ★

The False Princess
by Eilis O'Neal
January 2011
Egmont USA

We hid the princess away so she would be safe until after her sixteenth birthday.  And we replaced her with another baby, a false princess.  You.

Imagine being told that everything you knew about your life had never been real.  Imagine having to accept that you were a stand in for someone more important than you -- fodder if their life had ever been in danger.  Imagine that, laughably, the man who was once beneath your station is now so high above you that you can no longer even be friends.  This is the challenge that Sinda, formerly known as Princess Nalia, heir to the throne of Thorvaldor is faced with as she is thrown out of the palace with practically nothing but the clothes on her back.  Where do you go?  What do you do?  How do you feel good about yourself when you were raised to be queen, and now must learn to live as a peasant?  Well Sinda finds plenty to do in this very satisfying novel that brings magic, adventure, political intrigue, romance and a classic fairy tale to life in a very surprising way.  For the first time in a very long time, I can say that I desperately wish this had been an adult book with a thousand pages.  I highly recommend Eilis O'Neal's debut novel for fans of high fantasy or simply well written, entertaining young adult literature with a twist.

If you enjoy The False Princess, you may want to try these books for adults:
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Study Series and the Glass Series by Maria V. Snyder

The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray ★

A Great and Terrible Beauty (Book 1)
by Libba Bray
December 2003
Delacorte Books

Gemma Doyle isn't like the other girls.

When I picked up these books the only thing I knew about them was "Victorian boarding school meets otherworldly fantasy."  But these books are so much more.  Yes, there is a boarding school full of petty girls, an old mystery to solve, a romance with a mysterious young man from India, and adventures in a magical yet dangerous world with otherworldly creatures from the realms.  The thing that really spoke to me, however, was the message throughout these books about the liberating carelessness of youth.  Gemma, our heroine, is constantly complaining about her stifling corset and the suffocating rules that guide her life as a young girl about to make her debut into Victorian society.  But when Gemma and her friends step into the Realms, magic makes anything possible.  The girls can do anything or be anyone they want to be -- and it empowers them beyond their wildest dreams.  The themes and issues that this trilogy deals with have not remained in the Victorian past, but are relevant in society today as lessons for girls of all ages.  And by all ages, I actually mean sixteen and up, as there is some sensuality and thematic material that may not be appropriate for younger audiences.

The Gemma Doyle Trilogy
A Great and Terrible Beauty
Rebel Angels
The Sweet Far Thing

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Boxer and the Spy by Robert B. Parker

The Boxer and the Spy
by Robert B. Parker
May 2008

His name was Jason Green and he was dead.

Robert B. Parker, known as the dean of American crime fiction, wrote a few books for young adults before he passed away in January 2010.  The Boxer and the Spy is one of those and would be an engaging read for young fans of the genre.  When fourteen-year-old Jason Green's body is washed ashore, his classmates go to great lengths to prove that Jason's death was not a suicide.  Terry, who is learning how to box, and his very close "friend" Abby, are especially certain that Jason's death was no accident, and that someone has something they'd kill to hide.

As an adult, I found that there wasn't much mystery behind the whodunit, but I was surprisingly hooked on the sections that covered boxing.  Not being a fan of any sport, it was fun to find myself interested in some of the technical aspects of boxing as well as the exciting fight scenes.  The action was definitely superior to the romance and the mystery in this novel.  Young adults looking for something in between the Boxcar Children and an adult suspense thriller won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade

The Hunchback Assignments (Book 1)
by Arthur Slade
September 2009
Wendy Lamb Books

A true wretch of a creature crouched in the cage . . . On the bottom of the cage a plaque read L'ENFANT DU MONSTRE.

I haven't read much literature for younger audiences lately, but the Victorian-steampunk, James Bond cover and description for this book drew me in.  As an infant, Modo, a hunchback, is "rescued" from his life in a traveling freak show by the mysterious Mr. Socrates.  From the age of one, Socrates trains Modo in history, weaponry, languages, society, acting and more to prepare him for life as the ultimate spy.  But these are not Modo's only skills - as a "shifter" he can change his appearance and become anyone he's ever seen or imagined.  From the handsomest prince to the humblest peasant and then back to his misshapen form- it's no surprise that Modo has learned to hide his true self from all.

Modo's face isn't the only versatile aspect of this series.  In addition to covering the Victorian era, and the steampunk and spy genres; it also covers Hunchback of Notre Dame, Oliver Twist, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and a few other classics that I can't quite put my finger on.  Overall, this is an excellent read for younger teens, perhaps in middle school, but it may not quite hold the interest of adult readers.

The Hunchback Assignments
The Hunchback Assignments
The Dark Deeps
Empire of Ruins (TBR September 2011)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead ★

Vampire Academy (Book 1)
by Richelle Mead
August 2007

Learning to decapitate and stake is hard enough . . . 

So don't you just hate it when your incredibly hot, stud muffin of a Russian boyfriend gets turned into an evil, soulless un-dead vampire and then no matter how many times you kill him he just keeps coming back?  Yeah, me too . . .

I absolutely loved this series!  Rose, who is a half-human/half-vampire bodyguard to Lissa, a mortal royal vampire, is one of the most entertaining and endearing characters I've run into in teen fiction in a while.  Not only does she kick some serious behind, but she's also very real and often stumbles and falls in her quest to simply live her life to the best of her ability.  Her loyalty, strength and unbelievably drool-worthy boyfriend (this review interrupted for a brief fangirl moment . . . SQUEE!) make this a must read for fans (ages sixteen and up) of vampires, sexy men (not necessarily mutually exclusive) and stake yielding heroines everywhere.

The Vampire Academy Novels
Vampire Academy
Shadow Kiss
Blood Promise
Spirit Bound
Last Sacrifice
Vampire Academy: The Graphic Novel (TBR August 2011)

Me, Myself and Why? by MaryJanice Davidson

Me, Myself and Why?
by MaryJanice Davidson
September 2010
St. Martin's Press

A modern threesome . . . 

I've been feeling a little bogged down by the teen paranormal quagmire so I decided to read something a little different.  Well, this book certainly exceeded my expectation for something "a little different."  Cadence Jones works for the FBI.  So do her sisters, Shiro and Adrienne.  Cadence Jones is falling in love with her best friend's brother.  So are her sisters, Shiro and Adrienne.  Cadence Jones has multiple personality disorder.  As do her "sisters", Shiro and Adrienne.  And I thought I had problems . . . I very much enjoyed this totally unique take on the detective love story genre.  While both the romance and the "mystery" were pretty weak and sometimes just plain uncouth, the fresh perspective of a gun-toting FBI agent with serious mental health issues was amusing and charming.  Watch for more, as Davidson claims this may be a trilogy on her website.