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review: “bleeding violet” March 29, 2010

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Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves.
Simon Pulse // Hardcover // 464 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Hanna hasn’t had the easiest childhood — she’s never known her mother, her father just died, and she’s a manic depressive. So when she sets out to find the mother who abandoned her, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that her task isn’t as easy as it seems. Rosalee wants nothing to do with Hanna, but agrees to a challenge — if Hanna can fit into the town of Portero, she can stay. But in a town like Portero, it isn’t easy to fit in…even if you are normal.

I loved this book. I don’t know how this review is going to come across, but I suspect it will be just a ton of gushing with an occasional coherent thought.

Hanna is the very epitome of a unique character. She’s bi-racial — black and Finnish — which totally shocked me. (Being Finnish myself, I’ve never come across a YA Finn. Ever! I did a dance of joy and called my father up to pronounce Hanna’s last name for me correctly.) But what’s more is that Hanna is crazy. She speaks to her father. She calls upon a swan to help her out, she only wears purple dresses — and she is an amazingly narrator who sucks you in and refuses to spit you out.

The world that Reeves creates is this horrific, grotesque, complicated, well thought out concoction that literally had me in awe from the beginning of the novel. I don’t want to say much in terms of the specifics so that I don’t spoil the ride for anyone, but this is one of the most unique world builds that I’ve ever come across in YA.

That being said, this novel will not be everyone’s cup of tea. There’s a lot of violence, a lot of sex and sexuality, and it’s weird and it’s definitely a book that I would recommend to mature YAs. Some of my teens got it through the Simon Pulse program and they begged me to buy it for the library. I happily complied with their request.

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Dia Reeves

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review: “the everafter” December 18, 2009

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theeverafter

The Everafter by Amy Huntley.
Balzer & Bray // Hardcover // 256 pages.
Reviewed from library copy.

Madison Stanton is dead. She may be dead, but she has no idea where she is. All Maddy knows is that she’s alone, it’s dark, and she’s surrounded by objects she lost in her former life. When Maddy touches the objects, she’s taken back to the time and place she lost them. And what Maddy soon discovers is that she can manipulate the events and change her history. And if she can change her history…can she change her death?

I’m still not sure entirely what I think about this one, and it’s been a long time since I read it.

But, let’s talk about what I loved — Madison and Gabe’s relationship, the questions this book raised on life and death, the original take on the afterlife. The objects that Madison sees and the memories they are attached to are so real and relatable, they were the perfect way to connect readers to Madison.

Things I didn’t so much love — the cover. The orchids have meaning, but they look liked flowers with skulls on them to me. That’s what I honestly thought they were until I got the book in my hands! But the lasting impression I have of this book, the taste it left in my mouth is what leaves me feeling conflicted still. The way that the book ends does not leave me feeling hopeful or particularly good. And I don’t mind sad endings, but this one was just unsettling.

Overall, I think this novel is well-written and interesting. What I really want to know is how teens are reacting to this book. And I’m still waiting to hear from my teens on it. I can definitely see this novel working for teens, but I think it will definitely have to be book-talked to get it into their hands.

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Amy Huntley

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review: “the tear collector” December 12, 2009

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thetearcollector

The Tear Collector by Patrick Jones.
Walker Books // Hardcover // 272 pages.
Reviewed from library copy.

Cassandra Gray is a different kind of vampire from what you’re used to. Instead of needing blood to survive, Cass needs human tears. What better place than a high school to find the tears she needs to survive? Cass is there for the students, absorbing their tears. But as Cassandra works her way into the high school, manipulating her classmates into sharing their sorrows, she begins to change. Students start to matter to her…

This book was not my cup of tea, at all.

The idea that vampires need tears to survive instead of blood was really intriguing, but unfortunately I felt the plot was the same event over and over again. Cass would find someone who needed to cry, manipulate them into shedding their tears, and then leave them alone. Even when she seemed to care about the teen, I couldn’t believe her. And when she started to have a relationship, I really didn’t believe her.

Her family villain was over the top and I almost found myself rolling my eyes at his antics.

The important thing about this review is that while I didn’t like it, I suspect the reason is twofold.

1. I was expecting a paranormal story and instead got a lot of high school drama and cliques.
2. I am an adult and high school drama honestly does not interest me. I was there, I got teased as a teen, I did some teasing as a teen and I really don’t feel like reliving that particular part of my life.

So, no, I didn’t like this book. I still think it has a place in YA literature. My teens will probably react surprised when they find out it’s not as paranormal as they might expect, but where I wasn’t interested (the high school drama) — they probably will be.

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Patrick Jones

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review: “meridian” November 4, 2009

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meridian

Meridian by Amber Kizer.
Delacorte // Hardcover // 320 pages.
Reviewed from library copy.

Meridian Sozu can’t seem to escape from the dead, literally. All of her life, insects, animals, even humans have died around her. On her 16th birthday, she witnesses a horrible car accident and her body falls victim to terrible pain. Then, Meridian’s family seemingly abandons her and sends her off to Auntie without any explanation. But it turns out that Meridian’s history is complicated and that Auntie is the only one who will be able to help her, and to protect her.

I really liked the idea of this novel, but I had a hard time getting into the book. Meridian as a narrator held me at an arm’s length. I wasn’t pulled into her story and I think the reason why is the speed at which the novel happens. There isn’t enough time for set-up and I feel like the mythology behind the story was never fully explained to my satisfaction. And just as I was getting into the novel and finally feeling like I almost had Meridian’s character in reach, the conclusion abruptly happened.

The biggest problem I had with this novel was I felt it was building to a sequel or series the whole time. And once I finished, I was surprised to learn that there wasn’t a planned sequel in place. (I’ve since learned that the author is working on a companion book.) I would have preferred a better paced story without the sequel looming overhead. However, it does set up a sequel nicely and I think I would still pick up the companion book if/when it does come out.

I didn’t dislike the book. And I know it will have teen readers. But I wasn’t captured by it. I’m an escapist reader, I want to be drawn in and caught up, only to be sad to close the book later on. Unfortunately, I didn’t experience this escape during the course of “Meridian.”

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Amber Kizer

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review: “the splendor falls” October 15, 2009

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thesplendorfalls

The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore.
Delacorte // Hardcover // 528 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Sylvie’s dreams of being a ballerina were shattered by a broken leg just as she had reached the top of her career. After mixing some pain pills and champagne, Sylvie gets shipped off to Alabama to work through her problems. What she didn’t count on was the mystery of her town, two cute boys vying for her attention (and infuriating her at the same time), and a crazy Southern family.

This book is so hard to sum up in my normal summary section because it has so much going on. It’s a slow and steady read, keeping readers interested but with a smooth, quiet build. There’s mystery, history, romance, and a bit of the supernatural. Really, something that almost any teen could find interesting in one book. The different elements are blended well, the book is only the stronger for the mixture.

Sylvie is an excellent character, well-developed, with flaws and strengths. She really worked for me as a leading lady — her heartache over not being able to dance really hit home for me (as a violinist, I had a serious wrist injury in 9th grade…long story, long time ago). I also thought that her family situation was very realistic and that a lot of teens (and maybe myself a bit) could relate.

The history of the novel is well researched and explained throughout the book, but not in an information dump way. The explanations come naturally through a professor and other town members. The supernatural elements in the book might surprise some readers, but there are clues along the way that some may pick up on.

And that brings me to Rhys. Of which I can only basically drool in response. (I’m having a hard time trying to figure out if I like him or Justin [from the Maggie Quinn: Girl Vs. Evil series by the same author] better…)

Only complaints are the cover — I’m still not sure what a purple rose has to do with the book…Sylvie does some gardening, but other than that? And the overuse of Gigi (Sylvie’s dog) as a plot device.

Bottom line? Probably a YA book for older or more patient teens, but a welcome addition to public library collections.

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Rosemary Clement-Moore

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review: “the devil’s kiss” October 14, 2009

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thedevilskiss

The Devil’s Kiss by Sarwat Chadda.
Hyperion // Hardcover // 336 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Billi SanGreal’s life has always been a little off — her father is the leader of the Knights Templar and she is the only female member of the Order. Billi spends her days struggling to stay awake in school and spends her nights fighting against demons and the like. After finally completing her first fight alone, Billi’s life spins around when her old friend Kay shows up again after months of no contact and when a new threat of danger begins to slowly appear around the Order.

I very rarely say this, but I really didn’t like this one. Part of it had to do with the plot and part of it had to do with the character. I am reviewing it here because I know that I can sell it to teens and I know that it will have a YA audience.

As an adult reader who knows a good deal about Knights Templar mythology (being an English major who really liked Medieval and early, early literature), I saw through the character names. I knew who was who right away. I knew the history behind most of the names. This is obviously a problem that teens will most likely not face.

That being said, I still think it’s very obviously who the threat in the novel is from the first page that the villain shows up. Additionally, the villain didn’t scare me. I wasn’t worried for Billi’s life. (I should have been, as someone does actually die in this one! — I was shocked at that.)

I liked Billi’s background story and her family history. I did not like how whiny she was and how she didn’t want to accept her lifestyle, even though she had already accepted her lifestyle. That sounds twisty even to my ears, but that’s how the book went.

Also, as a giant fan of “Buffy,” you really have to have a new take on girl destined to fight the forces of evil to get my attention. But my teens didn’t grow up on “Buffy.”

I think it’s still sellable, but it didn’t work for me. I’ll bring my copy to our next Teen Advisory Board and let them decide from there.

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Sarwat Chadda

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review: “prophecy of the sisters” September 26, 2009

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prophecyofthesisters

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink.
Little, Brown // Hardcover // 352 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Lia and Alice Milthorpe are twin sisters bound together by blood and by prophecy. When their father dies, Lia watches Alice drift farther away from her until her sister is almost unrecognizable. While cleaning our their father’s study, Lia stumbles upon a prophecy…one that is speaking of her and Alice. One twin will guard the gates from being opened; the other will open the gates. Divided, Lia scrambles to discover the true meaning of the prophecy before Alice does.

This book really surprised me. It felt like I hadn’t heard of it at all and then all of a sudden, the entire blogosphere was buzzing about it. I knew that it had to be a winner, so I went ahead and pre-ordered it. And then it didn’t ship until the end of the month. So, I had a minor drama in getting the book.

It was well worth the wait.

I love Lia. I think she is a phenomenal character and one that I definitely look forward to learning and growing with (this is the first in a planned trilogy).

The setting for this novel is a joy to uncover as Zink writes about it. I desperately want to walk in Lia’s world and to explore. I want to experience her time, and her father’s study. (And I’m not a historical fiction reader, so that’s a big compliment from me!)

Lia’s family relationships and history are beautifully woven. I really felt the anguish and confusion Lia did when she discovered the prophecy, when she realized that her mother and aunt also were part of the prophecy.

I would definitely say that this book is a stunning debut. A perfect balance between gothic romance, historical fiction, and supernatural novels. I cannot wait until the next two books are published. I will be sitting here biting my nails until it happens.

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Michelle Zink

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review: “swoon” September 14, 2009

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swoon

Swoon by Nina Malkin.
Simon Pulse // Hardcover // 432 pages.
Reviewed from library copy.

Dice has just moved to Swoon, Connecticut — hometown of her cousin Pen’s. When Pen has a near-death experience, Dice begins to notice that things have changed with her cousin and not for the better. Through her psychic abilities, Dice determines that Pen is being possessed by a wronged spirit, Sinclair Youngblood Powers. Sin, as he’s called, is the very embodiment of his name. Soon, Dice’s town is being controlled by Sin, by the spirit that Dice is falling for.

I waited for this book from the library and I was glad that I did. The cover art is beautiful, and the plot intriguing. But I had a lot of problems with the execution of the novel. I didn’t understand what Dice saw in Sin and I sure as heck didn’t understand why she began falling for him, why she justified his actions and took nearly the entire course of the novel to realize just how far he had gone. In the same vein, I couldn’t like Sin. Even though he had a tragic past, it didn’t excuse his actions.

The supporting characters are flat. Pen is annoying and I didn’t care that Sin was wrecking her reputation. I didn’t care that she was in danger. Dice’s other friends are stereotypical and difficult to relate to. I also had a big problem with the one-syllable names. I kept getting them confused with each other. Particularly with “El” and “Em.”

(Side rant: A lot of people are complaining about the sexual and drug content of this book. It is definitely a book for mature teens, but I don’t agree that this novel isn’t YA. This is a mature YA title, meant for upper high school. Just because there’s sex doesn’t make this an adult novel.)

I liked the mythology, and the back story. That’s what kept me reading until the end. The ending left me feeling unsatisfied again, even though it’s the ending that I wanted in a way.

I will have a hard time selling this in my library. Both to my director (because of the content) and to my teens (because of the characters). This novel will probably be one that is only read by my teens through inter-library loan.

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Nina Malkin

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review: “strange angels” August 28, 2009

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strangeangels

Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow.
Razorbill // Paperback // 304 pages.
Reviewed from library copy.

Imagine being dragged around the country by your demon-hunting father. Picking up, packing up, and moving at a moment’s notice. Now imagine that the father that’s always protected you has been turned into a zombie — a zombie you were forced to kill to protect yourself. And now you’re on your own.

Welcome to Dru Anderson’s life. At least she’s got the touch (some awesome psychic abilities), a new friend, and a mysterious protector to help her out. Or at least there to make life interesting.

I love YA supernatural/paranormal, I really do. But as more and more of it comes out, I’m getting more and more picky about what I read. This book series has a lot of potential, and I did like certain things about it.

But…I didn’t get why Graves was hanging around, I thought that Dru spent too much time thinking and not enough doing, and I don’t really feel like Christopher was all that love interest-y. And I can’t believe the amount of action in the last third of the book. For me, the pacing was off — there wasn’t enough action in the middle of the book and too much in the end. I feel like the author was trying to quickly end the book and leave a hanging ending for a sequel.

(Which leads me into a side rant of how I hate the trend of the paranormal sequel. Some books can be wrapped up in one! I swear! This is not to say that every YA paranormal/supernatural can be wrapped up in one, but for goodness sake’s, literary world, stop trying to find the new “Twilight!”)

This isn’t a horrible book, by any means. I think Dru’s heritage is an intriguing plot line and I think this first novel will set up for a better novel. At least, I hope so. I’ll still be reading the sequel, and I know teens that will eat this up. But still, not one of my favorite paranormal finds.

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Lili St. Crow

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review: “cathy’s ring” June 18, 2009

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cathysring

Cathy’s Ring by Sean Stewart.
Running Press Kids // Hardcover // 144 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

In the final book of the Cathy series, Cathy’s life is once again in shambles. Cathy thinks the only way to save all of her friends and family is to run away and start her life over with Jewel’s brother Denny. Can her friends rally around her and convince Cathy that she really belongs at home with them?

First of all, do not open the evidence packet in this volume before you finish reading the book. It will spell out the ending to you immediately and you will regret it! Needlessly to say, that’s what happened to me.

This last volume was a disappointment for me. Cathy’s decision to run bothered me, her friends convincing her to stay (with a heavy handed “friendship saves all” moral attached) bothered me, and the end result of the villain, Ancestor Lu, bothered me. The whole ending, in fact, brought back echoes of “Breaking Dawn” for me — no one died, but everything was solved. Additionally, the title of the book is obvious — their relationship ends with a ring. And this could send me on a rant about YA fiction pushing marriage and rushing into long-term relationships when the characters are still teenagers, but instead I’ll refrain.

The major problem with this book is that there is no mystery. All the evidence has already been uncovered and the serum is the solution. There is a minor twist with Victor, but anyone who had been paying attention should have been able to guess what happened before it’s revealed to Cathy.

Cathy, for all her wit and humor, once again fails to be the heroine. I think that’s an interesting way to go about writing a mystery series. The problem is that her friends saving her comes with the moral attached — friendship saves. I wanted a bit more of a balance between Cathy needing her friends and her friends needing her. Luckily, there was one lovely moment at the end between Cathy and Emma that saved this book from bombing for me. It was always the relationship between Cathy and Emma that kept me reading and I was so glad I stuck it out.

I’d definitely recommend the series to teens, but I don’t think I’d be picking up another one, unless it concentrated on the immortals.

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Sean Stewart

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