Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races
by Maggie Stiefvater
October 2011
Scholastic Press

Some race to win.  Others race to survive.

I *think* I may have just read a standalone young adult book.  Hallelujah!  There's something so old school about a book that can be begun and subsequently wrapped up completely in one volume.  In a departure from werewolves, but not from folklore, Stiefvater weaves a magical tale based on water horses, which can be found in Irish and Scottish mythology.  Every November, the small island of Thisby that Puck Connolly and Sean Kendrick call home holds the Scorpio Races in which riders compete on the backs of these dangerous horses.  Puck never wanted to race, but due to unforeseeable family circumstances and her own stubbornness she is soon the first girl to ever enter.  Sean, on the other hand, is an undefeated champion of the races, and has been for six years.  Both must fight against prejudice, local hostility, and their growing feelings for one another in order to win the race and acquire the prize money they need to save that which is most precious to each.  This is a truly unique fantasy with a heady and haunting atmosphere that will appeal to horse lovers and mythology buffs alike.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson ★

The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Book 1)
by Rae Carson
September 2011
Greenwillow Books

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Whew boy, this was some book!  Elisa is a chubby, awkward, younger princess with a slender, competent older sister.  She never would have believed herself capable of greatness, or even getting out of bed every day, if it wasn't for the Godstone that she carries in her belly.  Every century, a child is born with a Godstone, a gem with magical properties, and destined to change the course of history.  Married to an extraordinarily handsome, widowed King on her sixteenth birthday, Elisa is expected to use her powers to assist her new husband with his struggling kingdom.  She makes a little effort, but ultimately finds that sitting in her bedroom and stuffing her face with pastries is easier.  (A choice that I can't say I disagree with.)  It is not until she is kidnapped for the stone she carries that she is forced to see the weight of her responsibilities to her people, and to herself.

While the first part of this book moves a little slow, mostly due to the fact that you can't get through a whole page of the whiny Princess's dialogue without trying to suffocate yourself in a pillow, soldiering on is very rewarding!  A forbidden desert romance, unlikely friendships, surprising plot twists, a unique world, and the story of a girl who struggles with her self-image, all make this one of the best books I've read so far this year.

Readers who enjoy stories about magical Princesses who struggle with their weight and self-image may also like Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock.

The Fire and Thorns Trilogy
The Girl of Fire and Thorns
The Crown of Embers (TBR Fall 2012)
The Bitter Kingdom (TBR Fall 2013)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans

The Prisoner of Cell 25 (Michael Vey Book 1)
by Richard Paul Evans
August 2011
Simon Pulse

My name is Michael Vey and there's something you don't know about me; something that scares people more than you would believe.  It's my secret - and it's part of the story I'm about to tell you.

 Richard Paul Evans, bestselling author of The Christmas Box, takes on young adult fiction in this new thrilling, adventure series.  Fourteen-year-old Michael Vey is an average student at Meridian High School.  Students at the school think he is different due to the Tourette's syndrome that causes his face to twitch at inopportune moments.  But Michael has more than just Tourette's;  he has special powers.  Michael thinks he's alone in his ability to control and conjure electricity and keeps his powers secret until the day he discovers that the school's most popular cheerleader, Taylor, may be like him.  Together with Michael's genius friend Ostin, Michael and Taylor set out to discover why they have these abilities.  Unfortunately, while looking for trouble, it finds them first and Michael, Taylor, and Ostin must survive and thwart a plot that goes back to before they were born.

Having never read The Christmas Box or anything else by Evans, I wasn't sure what to expect from an author writing so completely out of his genre and age group.  I was pleasantly surprised, however, and found the book to be fast paced, action packed, and engaging in a way that left me wanting more.  I also appreciated the way that the author highlights Michael's disease and informs readers about something that is often misunderstood and joked about.  Overall, a great series for fans of James Patterson's Maximum Ride and other books about teens with super powers.

Michael Vey Books
The Prisoner of Cell 25
Rise of the Elgen (TBR August 2012)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"You're not like the others."

To ensure that you truly do have the best boyfriend out there, be sure to choose from one of these categories.  He'll be stronger, faster and hotter than you until the day you die and he lives on forever.

Adult (A): Ages 16+
Young Adult (YA): High School Reading (and Maturity) Level
Tween (TW): Between Elementary and High School
Children (C): Elementary and Middle School Reading Levels

Gone are the days when macking with little green men was considered taboo.  Who wouldn't want a lover that's out of this world?  
Whether they're fallen or not, boys with wings are divine.
Also known as fairy, fae, fey, fay, wee folk, good folk, fair folk or pixies.  Peter pan does NOT count.
  • The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley (TW)
  • Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer (TW)
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman (YA)
  • Need by Carrie Jones (YA)
  • The Iron King by Julie Kagawa (YA) 
  • Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev (YA)
  • Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier (YA)
  • Sevenwaters Series by Juliet Marillier (A)
  • Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (YA)
  • The Fever Series by Karen Maria Moning (A)
Can sometimes make intimacy a little difficult . . . unless of course it just so happens that you've been gifted with the power to not only see the dead, but to touch them as well.  Oh là là.  
Gothic Romance
A mysterious setting, a touch of magic, and strangers in the fog create a heavy, Gothic atmosphere where the romance is so good, it's scary.
So your best friend is a witch, your boyfriend is a werewolf, your Mom is a ghost, and your dog is undead?  No problem.  You can hang out with the rest of these groupies in Paranormalville.
Is there anything sexier than the power to raise an undead army at your personal beck and call?  Yeah, didn't think so.
Were you experimented on as a child?  Grow up a little bit too close to a nuclear power plant?  Have delusions of grandeur including the notion that you are the next big thing in human evolution?  If so, you're going to fit in here very nicely.
Sorcerors, Magicians, Seers, and Witches
Pick a lover from this category and you're sure to remain a crowd favorite at parties.  Who doesn't love parlor tricks or a witch hunt had in good fun?
He's an undead bad boy who wants your blood more than your first kiss.
    Werewolves (and any other animal Shapeshifters)
    If he's anything like MJ, I'd join his pack!  Although many paranormal books include werewolves, these books focus almost exclusively on them.
    • Bitten by Kelley Armstrong (A)
    • Nightshade by Andrea Cremer (YA)
    • Firelight by Sophie Jordan (YA)
    • Vanish by Sophie Jordan (YA)
    • Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause (YA)
    • Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey (A)
    • The Shape of Desire by Sharon Shinn (A)
    • The Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater (YA)
    All that rotting flesh and eating brains business has really given these guys a bad name.  But you and I both know that deep down he's still that same guy who used to take you out for dinner.  So go ahead and enjoy a meal together.  Just don't expect to live until dessert.

    To learn more about reading lists, browse the about page.

    *And yes, the title of this reading list was shamelessly hijacked from Katy Perry's wonderful song "Futuristic Lover."  No copyright infringement or disrespect intended.

    Thursday, February 2, 2012

    Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey

    Beauty and the Werewolf (Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms Book 6)
    by Mercedes Lackey
    October 2011

    The eldest daughter is often doomed in fairy tales.  But Bella, daughter of a wealthy merchant, vows to escape the usual pitfalls.

    Book six in Lackey's Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series takes us into the wolfly fairy tales of Little Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast.  Bella is the no-nonsense, eldest daughter of a wealthy merchant who spends her days running her stepmother's household and ensuring that her stepsisters don't make fools of themselves in public.  When she is bitten by a werewolf, however, (after a visit to Granny's house, of course), she is kidnapped by the King's soldiers and forced to live with the beast who bit her until it is certain that she herself has not become infected with the curse.  As I am summarizing this book I find myself thinking "Wow, this sounds like a really good book!"  And it wasn't too bad, but I had two non-negotiable issues with it.

    1. Miss Independent and Mr. Insecurity.  Oookay, so here's the deal.  When a man loves a woman, and a woman loves a man, that love generally grows out of mutual interests, respect, and compatibility with a little bit of lustful attraction thrown in.  What we have in this book is a very independent young woman who knows her own mind and isn't afraid to speak it thrown into a situation with a wussy Duke who can't or won't stand up for himself or his people.  Blech.  There is some minor character development throughout the book, but it didn't stop me from wanting to shake Bella out of her stubborn, too secure with herself pigheadedness and kick the Duke off his royal hiney and force him to do something with his life.

    2. Ewwww!  Look at the cover!  Yeah, yeah, "Don't judge a book by it's cover" and all that but guess what? Sometimes people judge YOU by the cover of the book you're reading.  Hello heaving bosoms!  Now, I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that I've never read a similarly covered romance novel before, because I have.  And I liked it.  But that isn't what this is!  For crying out loud, a chaste kiss is the extent of the "steam" in this fantasy romance.  You can be sure that whoever designed this cover (and most covers) didn't read this book.  The Bella described within would have been absolutely horrified to see her girls on display.

    So there you have it.  It was overall an enjoyable read, but I can't help feeling like so much more could be done with this series in which fairy tales are twisted into fun, new reads.  I still stand by the first book in the series, however, and highly recommend it to anyone who loves fairy tales, romance, and spunky women who aren't afraid to take what they want from the world.

    If you like fairy tales, browse through this list of fairy tale retellings by modern authors!

    Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms
    The Fairy Godmother
    One Good Knight
    Fortune's Fool
    The Snow Queen
    The Sleeping Beauty
    Harvest Moon: A Tangled Web (Novella)
    Beauty and the Werewolf