Thursday, March 31, 2011

Follow Friday+ the Book Blogger Hop (19)

Happy Friday! Hello to anyone and everyone stopping by my blog via Follow Friday (hosted by paranormal-blogging queen Parajunkee) or the Book Blog Hop (hosted weekly by Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books).  And a big hello to any of my followers dropping in to say hi. :)  Thanks so much for visiting-- leave me your links and I'll be sure to hop on over to your blogs and follow you back later.  

This week's featured blogger over at FF is: Books Ahoy!
  Be sure to hop by their blog and follow if you haven't already. 

The question is inspired by Twitter's 100 facts about me:

Give us five BOOK RELATED silly facts about you.

My answer:

1. Our featured blogger lamented that she's an ADD reader, reading several books at once.  I can totally relate: I'm reading five books right now, and am just barely able to keep their stories straight.  

2.  My favorite genres have always been fantasy and science fiction, but recently I've really gotten into historical fiction and steampunk (which is a happy, slightly mad Victorian blend of historical and science fic).
3. I own exactly 346 book, at last count, after having donating a couple dozen a few weeks ago.  I'm sure that's nothing to some of you hardcore reviewers, but hey-- for a kid with no independent income, I've really racked up on the books. (And quickly surrendered every bit of money I ever earned to and Borders ;)

4.  My to-read list on Goodreads is about 220 books long.  I wish I was kidding, because once again, things aren't looking so hot for my wallet!

5. I keep a notebook with a running tab of every book I've ever read, its author, and a quick rating of 1-10 on the awesome-o-meter.  I've been doing this for about five years now, and the notebook is really starting to fill up.

The question over at the Book Blogger Hop is: 
"Since today is April Fool's Day in the USA, what is the best prank you have ever played on someone OR that someone has played on you?"

My answer: Hmm... I'm really not much of a prankster, practical-joker type.  In fact, I'm usually wayyyy too serious.  Once I wrapped up a mold of my teeth (my pre-braces teeth, gaps and all, the kind they always give you at the orthodontist) and presented it to my sister as a birthday present.  But that wasn't even on April Fool's Day, so not sure if it qualifies.  I'd love to hear about you guys' pranks, because they HAVE to be funnier/ more interesting than mine!!

Wishing everyone happy hopping and a fantastic weekend!

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

Horsemen of the Apocalypse book #1
(see my review of Rage, the second book in the series)
Genre: YA fantasy/contemporary 
Pages: 177 (paperback)
Published: October 2010 by Harcourt Graphia
“Thou art the Black Rider. Go thee out unto the world.”

Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home: her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power — and the courage to battle her own inner demons?

My Take: 

Lately I seem to have a weird fetish for reading and reviewing books about anorexia-- this is the second one in as many weeks.  (I even created a tag for it, bizarrely enough ;)  ANYWAY, this is the first book in Jackie Morse Kessler's four-book Horsemen of the Apocalypse series.  I loved Rage, the second book, so I had high expectations for the series debut.  The story and overall plot is very similar to Rage: troubled girl attempts to kill herself, but is saved by Death (ironic, much?) at the last moment and charged with being one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who deliver disease, starvation, war, and death unto the people of the world.  

The author went through a period during which she herself was anorexic, and her experience was definitely evident in the way she wrote Lisa's character and the twisted way Lisa sees the world.  She displays all the typical symptoms and characteristics of anorexia: pushing her friends and family away, thinking that she is disgustingly fat and inferior even though the 'obese' girl she sees in the mirror is waif-like and slowly starving.  Anorexia is a serious, horrible condition, absolutely, but I feel like I've already gone down that road as far as reviews.  (See my review of Wintergirls) 

...So let's talk about the Horsemen of the Apocalypse!  To say that Lisa being Famine is a unique spin on the contemporary anorexia tale is an understatement.  Because as somber and sad as the topic of anorexia is, Hunger is a heck of a fun book.  The Horsemen are all fantastic, though I wish we got to see more of the others besides Famine.  (Once again, this book is just too short!)  Death is our resident psychopomp horseman and my favorite character in the series by far.  When not occupied with spiriting the souls of the dead off to the next great adventure or recruiting new Horsemen in the form of troubled teenage girls who he seems to flirt with as frequently as he charges them with the ruin and destruction of mankind, he can be heard singing bits and pieces of Nirvana songs.  Lisa repeatedly tries to remember what dead rock star, exactly, he reminds her of and I just wanted to scream, 'Kurt Cobain!'  Whether he is or he isn't, Death is a character I look forward to seeing more of in future books.  Another little tidbit of awesomeness credited to Death is the way he inserts words like 'Yo' into old English.  Another great character is War, Death's handmaiden and a vicious and imposing woman who threatens Lisa from the start.  The showdown between Lisa and War near the end is positively fantastic.   

Hunger is the story of how Lisa overcomes her self-loathing and eating disorder, most ironically, through her new vocation as Famine.  The book manages to be both sad, as it reveals in excruciating and realistic detail how Lisa imposes starvation on herself and unique, exciting, even funny through the unique mythology and general epicness of the Horsemen.  A portion of all this book's proceeds goes to the National Eating Disorders Association, so check it out for the sake of that if nothing else.  

Cover: 5/5 
Premise: 5/5 
Characters: 5/5 
Plot: 3/5       
Overall Rating: 4.5/5 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (22)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly blogging event hosted at that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week I'm waiting on... 

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
Coming: November 8th, 2011

Not so very long ago Eragon Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider, was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders.
Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hope, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss. And still, the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix. When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him. And if they cannot, no one can. There will be no second chances.

The Rider and his dragon have come further than anyone dared to hope. But can they topple the evil king and restore justice to Alagasia? And if so, at what cost?
This is the much-anticipated, astonishing conclusion to the worldwide bestselling Inheritance cycle.

At loooong last, we have a gorgeous cover and a (rather uncreative) title!! But I'll take what I can get, and have been anxiously awaiting the last Inheritance book along with the masses for far too long!

So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge

 (Book #1 in Iron Codex Series)
Genre: YA fantasy/ steampunk 
Pages: 492 (hardcover)
Published: February 2011 by Delacorte Books 
Recommended for: readers who like any fantasy sub-genre: faeries, steampunk, sci-fi, historical, you name it!

This is a real hodgepodge of a YA fantasy: steampunk, faeries, alternate world, ghouls, and magical powers all included!  In most any other book, I would say that's a few too many things going on at once, but The Iron Thorn pulls off the blending of fantasy spheres to create one giant, Lovecraft-inspired world beautifully.  The pace is slower than a lot of YA books, but I truly enjoyed reading every one of its 500 pages!

Aoife Grayson (somebody on Goodreads said it's pronounced 'ee-fah', and I'm going to take their word for it) resents her mad mother Neressa, locked away in a city asylum, for living in her world of fantasies and delusions.  The Grayson family is cursed to become infected with the necrovirus-- an all-consuming madness on their sixteenth birthdays--, but Aoife's determined to become an engineer, a practical, successful citizen  in the city of Lovecraft, Massachusetts, where steampunk is commonplace and anything even remotely magical is heresy.  But when a note written by her mad missing brother arrives at the School of Engines, Aoife must venture into the unknown in order to find him.  
 With her friend Cal tagging along, Aoife enlists the help of Dean Harrison, a charming and decidedly heretical young man who makes a living leading people outside the grimy city of Lovecraft.  Pursued by Proctors and horrible clockwork crows, the trio make their way to the mansion of the father Aoife and her brother never knew.  There, Aoife must decipher the age-old books in the attic of the clockwork house.  She searches the past for answers about the bizarre power-- called a Weird-- which is manifesting in her, even while her future is ridden with doubt and bleak prospects.  Her sixteenth birthday is fast approaching and when a sinister faerie approaches Aoife, threatening her family and everything she knows, she must learn to harness her great and heretical power-- or lose everyone she loves and eek out the rest of her life in a Lovecraft madhouse.    

The premise of this book and the gorgeous cover immediately seized my attention, and I knew I had to have it!  Caitlin Kittredge writes so beautifully, with prose that makes the whole book unfold like a film in your head.  I love the way she writes both steampunk and the realm of the Fey.  Tremaine is just the coolest, delightfully awful-est villain-- he's the sinister faerie guy, btw, without giving any spoilers away.  The monsters, both faerie and steampunkish, were perfectly eerie and creative.  Aoife wasn't my favorite heroine ever, partly because she was a little wishy-washy, and partly because I had to keep scanning over her impossibly name. (Every time I read it, I sort of went 'blah, blah' in my head.)  Dean, her main love interest, is just beyond awesome and incredibly charming.  I even loved the little maid girl at Aoife's father's mansion.  So definitely a 5/5 as far as characters are concerned! 

The pacing is a bit slow, particularly towards the middle, but I felt this was a story which needed to be 500 pages long, rather than being excessive.  There are plenty of plot twists and shocking revelations along the way, though I saw a few of them coming.  This is the sort of enthralling, all-consuming book which one should savor as much as possible-- perfect for reading by candlelight during a stormy night or lugging along with you wherever you go.  I absolutely loved The Iron Thorn, and cannot wait to see if there's going to be a sequel (as the major cliffhanger ending strongly suggests).    

Cover: 5/5
Premise: 5/5 
Characters: 5/5
Plot: 4/5 
Overall Rating: 5/5

Saturday, March 26, 2011

In My Mailbox (12)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren and inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie. The idea behind IMM is not only to put new books on our radars but also to encourage blogger interaction. IMM explores the weekly contents of our mailboxes: books bought, received, won, and borrowed, along with other goodies and swag.

I braved the current rainy weather to visit the library this week, mostly to search for books to read for my Goodreads book clubs' upcoming Diabolical Reading Challenge.  But, of course, a few books (READ: way too many books) were just too good to be passed over even though they didn't meet the challenge qualifications. :D

Here's what I got:

From the Library:  

For Review:

--Hunger (Horsemen of the Apocalypse Book #1) by Jackie Morse Kessler 
-- Bitter Melon by Cara Chow
-- Sapphique (Incarceron Book #2) by Catherine Fisher 
-- Vixen (The Flappers #1) by Jillian Larkin
-- Cherry Heaven by LJ Adlington 
-- Glimmerglass by Jenna Black
-- The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1) by Patrick Ness
--Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi 
-- Black Juice by Margo Lanagan
-- Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury

Thanks to: 
-- the Gaston/Lincoln Library Branch 
--Simon & Schuster

So, what's in your mailbox this week?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reli Master: The Dark City by Catherine Fisher

(Book #1 in the Book of the Crow series)
Genre: MG/YA fantasy
Pages: 373
To Be Published: May 2011 by Dial Books
Recommended for: readers who liked Incarceron

Welcome to Anara, a world mysteriously crumbling to devastation, where nothing is what it seems: Ancient relics emit technologically advanced powers, members of the old Order are hunted by the governing Watch yet revered by the people, and the great energy that connects all seems to also be destroying all. The only hope for the world lies in Galen, a man of the old Order and a Keeper of relics, and his sixteen-year-old apprentice, Raffi. They know of a secret relic with great power that has been hidden for centuries. As they search for it, they will be tested beyond their limits. For there are monsters, some human, some not, that also want the relic's power and will stop at nothing to get it.
My Take:

The Dark City is the first book in the saga of the four Book of the Crow series books which will be released this summer.  The first book will be released in May, the sequel in June, and the final book in August.  I'm not quite sure how I feel about this strategy of releasing a series.  I mean, yeah, we all complain about having to wait a whole year or longer for the next book to come out, but four books in four months seems a little rushed-- no time to anticipate the sequels!  The good news is the saga have a huge marketing campaign and are giving away tons of review copies, so there will be plenty of time for the word to get out.
There's no doubt that Catherine Fisher is a very talented writer.  She's written nearly 50 books, including the dystopian Incarceron dualogy, which I loved so much, I hosted a giveaway for the two books awhile back.  But for me personally, her books tend to be a hit-or-miss.  Incarceron was a bulls-eye, and so was Darkhenge, but The Dark City was a little meh.  A miss for me, I'm afraid.

The fantasy world within this book is impressive: in Anara, at least two races-- humans and the cat-like Sekoi people-- exist side-by-side.  Anara has the primitive, dangerous feel of medieval times, but then there are the Relics-- advanced technological devices which are regarded with the same solemn sacredness with which people today might regard holy relics or magical objects.  Galen is one of the last Relic Masters in existence.  He guards relics and practices his mystical brand of magic in the safety of the countryside, alone but for his apprentice, Raffi.  When a devious king tricks Galen into giving away one of his most precious relics, the two are forced to set off on a quest to recover a thief who stole from the king.  They end up journeying for the faraway 'Dark City' of Tasceron, where the remaining secrets of the Relic Master Order lie hidden beneath the shadows of the forgotten city.

I had a difficult time connecting with any of the characters, especially Galen and Raffi.  Carys, an orphan girl who is part of an organization dedicating to stamping out the Relicmasters' Order and is sent to assassinate Galen, was deeper and more interesting than either of them.  There were also a few promising characters (the King's thieves were too cool!) that seemed really promising, but hardly got more than a few paragraphs worth of 'screen-time'.  Hopefully they will make longer appearances in the next three books.  This novel is definitely more plot than character-driven, which isn't my style, but it's also pretty much impossible to put down once you pick it up.  It's easy to read in a few sittings, if a couple of hours, and is paced more like a middle-grade book than YA.  I can see how it's intended to appeal to fans of Incarceron, since the mythology and even the characters are somewhat similar, but once again the dividing point is the characters.  None of these people were half as exciting as Finn or Claudia, or half as bizarre and intriguing a couple as Keiro and Attica.  (Oops-- I'm turning this review into propaganda for Incarceron!)

All in all, I enjoyed the unusual storyline and the premise.  This book is worth the read if it sounds like your kind of thing and the writing is excellent, don't get me wrong.  I think it just wasn't my kind of book, and that happens sometimes.  But I probably won't be seeking out the sequel when it comes out in June. 

Cover: 3/5 
Premise: 5/5 
Characters: 2/5 
Plot: 4/5 
Overall Rating: 3/5 

 *Thanks to Dial Books and Library Thing for the review copy!*

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (21)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly blogging event hosted at that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week I'm waiting on... 

The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton 
To Be Released: October 1st, 2011

(from Goodreads):
London, December 1871
Orphaned and picking pockets in London’s Charing Cross station to support not only herself, but her ‘family’ of orphans, sixteen year-old Tiki steals the Queen’s ring and thinks she’s solved their problems. That is, until Rieker, a pickpocket from the North End, suspects her in the theft and tells her that the ring is really a reservoir that holds a truce between the British and Faerie courts.

When he warns her that the fey will do anything, including murder, to recover the ring, Tiki is unsure whether to believe him or not. To complicate matters, Rieker seems to know something about the unusual birthmark on Tiki’s wrist. But when Tiki and her family are threatened the game changes.

In a dazzling debut that takes you from the gritty slums of Victorian London to the glittering ballrooms of the Royal Palace to the menacing Otherworld, you won’t want to miss this thrilling tale of mystery, adventure and romance.

I'm a sucker for a good faerie story... and a faerie tale set in Victorian times is twice the awesome!

So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

 (The Demon's Lexicon Trilogy #1)
Genre: YA fantasy 
Pages: 323 (paperback)
Published: June 2009 by Simon & Schuster
Recommended for: hilarious, totally awesome, epic contemp-fantasy anyone?

Nick and his brother Alan are on the run with their mother, who was once the lover of a powerful magician. When she left him, she stole an important charm - and he will stop at nothing to reclaim it. Now Alan has been marked with the sign of death by the magician's demon, and only Nick can save him. But to do so he must face those he has fled from all his life - the magicians - and kill them. So the hunted becomes the hunter...but in saving his brother, Nick discovers something that will unravel his whole past... 

My Take: 

There are a few books in this world that I feel compelled to re-read every once in a while, like some kind of sacred book-ish pilgrimage which must be made at least once a year.  The Harry Potter series comes to mind, of course, but this is my third time reading the Demon's Lexicon during the three years I've owned the book.  That, guys, is HUGE considering that as a blogger and true reading addict, I have books coming out of my ears (and a few other places, too ;) 90% of the time.  This is a brilliant YA book in a deceptively typical package: none of the covers it has been released under absolutely scream 'READ ME!', nor does the description do the amazingly twisty-turvy plot or the incredible characters justice.  

Nick and his brother Alan are survivors to the core.  For years, they've been on the run with their mad magician mother Olivia, fleeing powerful magicians and their otherworldly demon servants all across the British Isles.  These demons exist on a plane apart from ours and are cold, unfeeling beings who crave nothing more than the ecstasies and pangs of human emotion... except perhaps human life.  When a pair of siblings come to the brothers in dire need of 'occult assistance', kind and intellectual Alan immediately wants to help them, especially since the sister, Mae, is the snarky pink-haired girl he's been crushing on for weeks.  But Nick is less willing to take in the strangers, especially after their foolishness results in Alan getting branded with a demon's mark-- making him a vulnerable target for demons and their magician cohorts.  In order to remove Alan's mark and the mark on Mae's brother, the foursome must hunt down and kill two magicians of the most dangerous magical Order. 

I love all the characters so much-- unreasonably much!  Nick is a refreshing narrator, because he's completely different from most other YA protagonists in so many ways.  He's blunt and sarcastic in his observations, distant without being totally unemotional.  His bond with Alan is the kind of relationship that has you pondering its depths (or lack thereof) at odd moments long after you've read the book.  Alan is one Sumerian-reading, poetry-discussing (and yeah, thanks to his chaotic lifestyle which tends to frequently erupt into demon violence, gun-toting) guy I could so get along with.  Between the two brothers, I find myself firmly on his side-- Team Alan, if you will!  Mae is a pink-haired baby bat (that's a wannabe Goth, not a flying mammal) who would probably think the occult was pretty cool had her brother Jamie not been marked for death by an incubus demon.  She's tough, she's smart, she's hot, and she's fiercely loyal to her brother.  Her connections with both brothers leaves readers guessing as to who she's going to finally end up with.  Jamie is another of the four-way ties for my favorite character in The Demon's Lexicon.  He delivers most of the one-liners and made me laugh about a hundred times with his brave attempts at friendly banter with Nick.  Author Sarah Rees Brennan is pretty darn hilarious, as evidenced by her Harry Potter fanfiction (which unfortunately is no longer on the web due to her being a published author) and her LiveJournal page.   

As for the gigantic twist at the end of the novel, I don't know many people who claim to have seen it coming.  The writing is just plain pretty, bordering on poetic, but the story itself moves along at a near-breakneck pace.  For just over 300 pages, this is a heck of a great story with plenty of detail and endless intrigue.  I fell in love with this book yet again this week, and with the sequel, The Demon's Covenant, and I honestly recommend it a hundred and one percent.

If you have already read the book, then you're free to check out this (SPOILER JAM-PACKED) Lego rendition of the Demon's Lexicon.  It's beyond awesome.

Cover: 4/5 
Premise: 5/5 
Characters: 5/5 
Plot: 5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5    

Saturday, March 19, 2011

In My Mailbox (11)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren and inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie.  The idea behind IMM is not only to put new books on our radars but also to encourage blogger interaction. IMM explores the weekly contents of our mailboxes: books bought, received, won, and borrowed, along with other goodies and swag. 

I got quite a few books these past two weeks, from many different sources and ranging across many different genres, from epic historical fiction to manga to paranormal romance and swag.  It's possibly my most random mailbox ever, and I'm so happy to finally own the complete Hunger Games trilogy!!

For Review:   




-- Picture Perfect: An Expired Reality Novella by David N Alderman
--ARC of Relic Master: The Dark City by Catherine Fisher
-- Catching Fire and Mockingjay, books #1 and 2 of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins 
--Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson  (read my review)
--Swoon by Nina Malkin (read my review)
-- Mirage (aka Scroll of Saqqara) by Pauline Gedge
-- Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 15 by Hiromu Arakawa
-- The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge
-- Awesome bunch of swag and bookmarks featuring tons of YA bestsellers and some of my favorite books (not pictured because my camera is not letting me transfer pictures-- argh!)

Thanks to: 
 -- Jennifer at Extreme Reader Book Reviews 
-- My Aunt D
-- Penguin Group Book Publications
-- David N Alderman

So, what's in your mailbox this week?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Swoon by Nina Malkin

Genre: YA paranormal romance
Pages: 425 (paperback)
Published: 2009 by Simon Pulse
Recommended for: older teens and adults looking for a fun paranormal romance

Torn from her native New York City and dumped in the land of cookie-cutter preps, Candice is resigned to accept her posh, dull fate. Nothing ever happens in Swoon, Connecticut...until Dice's perfect, privileged cousin Penelope nearly dies in a fall from an old tree, and her spirit intertwines with that of a ghost. His name? Sinclair Youngblood Powers. His mission? Revenge. And while Pen is oblivious to the possession, Dice is all too aware of Sin. She's intensely drawn to him -- but not at all crazy about the havoc he's wreaking. Determined to exorcise the demon, Dice accidentally sets Sin loose, gives him flesh, makes him formidable. Now she must destroy an even more potent -- and irresistible -- adversary, before the whole town succumbs to Sin's will. Only trouble is, she's in love with him. What do you do when the boy of your dreams is too bad to be true?

My Take:

After the thought-provoking, dark read that was Wintergirls, I really needed a book like Swoon to remind me that one of my primary goals in reading is to have fun: to fall in love with the characters and laugh every few pages and, after trying to savor the last page, wish that I could magically skip forward in time to the release date of the sequel.  Swoon is a tremendously enjoyable book, perfect for summer reading (and it's really starting to feel like summer down here in the Carolinas!)

Our heroine Dice, a life-long New Yorker who's conservative only in terms of hiding her latent psychic powers, feels out-of-place spending her summer in the preppy Connecticut town of Swoon, where family secrets abound and appearances are everything to the local high school crowd.  When her cousin Pen becomes possessed by the spirit of a seductive and fun-loving young man who was wrongfully hanged in colonial times, Pen suddenly feels inspired to pursue (and thoroughly catch) her crush of a few years, along with a half dozen other guys.  Dice, alarmed by Pen's uncharacteristicly promiscuous behavior, attempts to exorcise the mysterious Sinclair Youngblood Powers from her cousin-- and ends up turning him into a real boy. (Kinda like Pinocchio.)  The town of Swoon falls in love with charismatic, sexy Sin, and Dice herself wonders whether she isn't falling in love with him, but Sin has revenge on the brain.  He crusades to make the town of Swoon open up to their true selves, to make them accept differences and their true, blunt feelings for each other the way their ancestors didn't accept him-- a mistrusted stranger in their mist lynched for a crime he never committed.  Chaos ensues, and while some of the Swanoa High students are happy with their new lifestyles and the unlikely pairings formed by Sin's influences, Sin still has one big fish to fry: the great-great grandson of the man who murdered Sin's first love hundreds of years ago and got him hung, a patriarch whose abuse of his modern-day family may just be stopped too late.

Dice's first-person voice is as funny and refreshingly sarcastic-- these kids actually act and talk like teenagers, unlike the kids in a lot of YA books-- as Sin is charming.  There are a few holes in the plot and a few unlikely events that initially made me relatively scornful (a dead guy possesses you because you fell out of the tree where he was hung, come on).  Also the fact that every one of Swoon's local teens had a one-syllable nickname (Dice, Pen, Sin, Con, Marsh, Duck, you get the gist of it) made all the different characters a bit confusing to follow at first.  But overall, I was able to overlook all the little details and moments like that for the sheer sake of enjoying the book.  This is such a fun, light read, and the 400 pages just fly by.  The writing and characters are completely unique even though the plot summary sounds like something must of us have heard before.  It's also incredibly addicting, like a combination of Gossip Girl and Kelly Armstrong's The Summoning series.  Scandal warning: sex plays a big part in this book, though it's nothing too explicit, just recommended for mature teens and adults who don't mind that stuff like I mentioned before.  This paranormal romance and all-around enjoyable book is definitely going on my recommendations page!

Cover: 5/5 
Premise: 3/5 
Characters: 5/5 
Plot: 4/5 
Overall: 4.5/5   
*Thanks so much to Jennifer at Extreme Book Reviews for this book!*

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: YA contemporary
Pages: 278 (hardcover)
Published: March 2009 by Viking

“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie were best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies. But now Cassie is dead. Lia's mother is busy saving other people's lives. Her father is away on business. Her step-mother is clueless. If she keeps on going this way—thin, thinner, thinnest—maybe she'll disappear altogether.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the National Book Award finalist Speak, best-selling author Laurie Halse Anderson explores one girl's chilling descent into the all-consuming vortex of anorexia. 

My Take:

This was a very difficult book to read at times.  Lia's story is as compelling as the obsessive voice inside her head-- the one that keeps reminding her how many calories are in each orange peel, how gruesomely fat she is even as she looks when she looks in the mirror and sees a fragile mannequin.  Anorexia is a horrible place to be, and like the motel room where Lia's friend Cassie died alone and miserable, it's often an excruciatingly hard place to get out of.

I've read Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak and a couple of her other books (Identical and Twisted), and Wintergirls definitely follows in that tradition.  Lia's first person narration is broken, written in an almost poetic style, with scratched out words she wants to take back scarring the pages everywhere.   I didn't really enjoy reading the style, but having waded through it, I definitely feel this is another poignant, edgy and somewhat disturbing novel from Laurie Halse Anderson.  Lia's pain and never-ending struggle with anorexia is all too real in this jarring page-turner of a book, and there were definitely times when I had to put it aside and read something lighter for a while.  I do love all the symbolism: mannequins and wintergirls and a dead girl walking and matchsticks and a car running on empty for far too long.  The memories of Cassie and Lia as best friends and wintergirls together, each trying to become the skinniest, were what what made the book strong and Lia's character so real, the reason why this 'edgy' book will stand out in my mind among others written about teen anorexia and bulimia.  I would have liked to see a little more of their relationship before Cassie's death (she haunts Lia the entire book, encouraging her to give in to her self-loathing thoughts), because I kept getting the feeling that Lia knew Cassie better than the reader ever gets to know her, so to speak.   Lia's sarcasm gives this dark book a hint of humor, but also gives us a further glimpse into her mistrust of her family and rejection of any help they might offer her.  That was my real pet peeve here: I disliked how nobody in Lia's family, not her father nor her stepmother or her bio-mother, does anything to really help her.  They might make a passing attempt to get the girl to eat, but most of the time it seemed like Lia's little sister was way more clued in than everybody else. 

There's no doubt that this is a beautiful book: beautifully written with beautiful symbolism, beautiful cover... but it's the story of a girl who is so desperate to be beautiful, she cannot see the slow deterioration of her body and mind.  This was a difficult review to write, because I really feel that Wintergirls is a very personal read-- other reviews I've read for it range from unimpressed to enthusiastic raves about profound it is.  Everyone will get something different out of this one, and opinions seem to vary on a wide scale.  Lia's voice captivates from the opening sentence to the timidly hopeful ending, and will likely haunt readers for a long time to come.

Cover: 5/5
Premise: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 3/5
Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Red Glove by Holly Black

(Curse Workers Book #2, Sequel to The White Cat)
Genre: YA fantasy
To Be Published: April 5th, 2011 by Margaret K McElderry
Pages: 320 (hardcover)
Recommended for: people who have read and liked White Cat, which I so recommend for all fans of contemp fantasy

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not read White Cat and plan to, don't read further unless you really feel you must.  There are some mega-spoilers from the first book just in the book's summary.

After rescuing his brothers from Zacharov's retribution and finding out that Lila, the girl he has loved his whole life, will never, ever be his now that his mother has worked her, Cassel is trying to reestablish some kind of normalcy in his life. That was never going to be easy for someone from a worker family tied to one of the big crime families and a mother whose cons get more reckless by the day. But Cassel is also coming to terms with what it means to be a transformation worker and figuring out how to have friends.

But normal doesn't last very long--soon Cassel is being courted by both sides of the law and is forced to confront his past. A past he remembers only in scattered fragments and one that could destroy his family and his future. Cassel will have to decide whose side he wants to be on because neutrality is not an option. And then he will have to pull off his biggest con ever to survive. 

My Take:  

Reading Red Glove inspired me to think up an if-then statement: If Holly Black writes a book, then Kat loves that book.  And that's a fact.  Holly Black really is just that good.  I fell in love with her Modern Tales of Faeries series and the Spiderwick Chronicles way back in middle school, so it's really awesome to read The Curse Workers series, which is very different from her faerie books, but with that same feel of the supernatural and bizarre blending seamlessly into the gritty, modern, urban world.  This is a fantastic sequel to White Cat, and really I didn't expect anything else.   

Seventeen year old transformation worker Cassel Sharpe returns to Wallingford Prep School and his old tricks, but not before his mother-- who uses her curse-working powers to play people's emotions the way a skilled musician plays a guitar-- recruits him to help her snag her latest ultra-rich politician 'catch'.  At Wallingford, Cassel meets up with his friends and fellow outcasts, his roommate Sam and Sam's girlfriend, Pro-Worker activist Daneca.  But there's another old friend anxious to see Cassel: Lila Zacharov, the beautiful mobster's daughter he's been in love with for ages, the girl he thought he'd killed.  The girl who Cassel's emotion-working mother cursed to love Cassel, whether she wants to or not.  Zacharov himself has been putting in appearances around the neighborhood, and the word is that he wants Cassel, an ultra-rare transformation worker, among the ranks of his mob.  When tragedy strikes Cassel's family in the form of his brother's death, he can hardly help but feel just a little relieved... and more than a little suspicious, when every fragment of the crime scene seems to point directly at Lila. 

I love the fantasy of the Curse Workers world.  It's completely unique and reeks (in a good way ;) of the Holly Black touch-- magic interwoven with the gritty reality of the city. Cassel's voice and dead-pan sarcasm make the story constantly entertaining and a fast-paced plot filled with unexpected twists like a roller-coaster's turns and loops does the rest: Red Glove is fantastic.  Cassel's mother is, as ever, my favorite character, what with her bizarre cons and attempted (and mostly failed) maternity.  There are a few big revelations and one big shocker of an event which really threw me off-- these are the kind of plot twists you really can't see coming, even if you consider yourself an expert detective, having spent about half your life watching Monk and Columbo marathons. (Guilty as charged.)  Sam and Daneca are brilliant, and both pretty hilarious in their own rights.  It's hard to say much about the plot without giving anything major away, but I was very surprised quite a few times.  My one complaint is that Red Glove might have 'Middle-Book Syndrome'.  You know, where the middle book(s) in a trilogy or a series is good, but not a lot really happens towards tying things up and more problems are created than solved. (I'm looking at you, House of Night series!)  But it will be impossible to tell for sure until the next book in the series comes out.  Which will hopefully be relatively soon *sigh*, because this one ends on a major cliffhanger.  Long story short: I loved the book, definitely recommend it.  

Cover: 3/5 (don't really love it-- what a weird expression on Lila's face!)
Premise: 5/5 
Characters: 5/5 
Plot: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (20)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly blogging event hosted at that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week I'm waiting on... 

Blood & Flowers by Penny Blubaugh
To Be Released: April 1st, 2011 

(from Goodreads): 
  Three years ago, Persia ran away from her drug-addict parents and found a home with the Outlaws, an underground theater troupe. This motley band of mortals and fey, puppeteers and actors, becomes the loving family Persia never had, and soon Persia not only discovers a passion for theater but also falls in love with Nicholas, one of the other Outlaws. Life could not be more perfect.

Until an enemy with a grudge makes an unfair accusation against the group and forces them to flee the mortal world and hide in the neighboring realm of Faerie. But in Faerie, all is not flowers and rainbows—with bloodthirsty trolls, a hostile monarchy, and a dangerous code of magic, the fey world is not quite the safe haven the Outlaws had hoped for. And they must decide what’s more important: protecting their right to perform or protecting themselves. 

Love the sound of this one-- and the title.  Anything with faeries, and I'm in, but the theater troupe sounds very cool as well.  :)

 So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

Genre: YA fantasy
Pages: 297 (paperback)
To Be Published: April 2011 by Harlequin Teen
Recommended for: paranormal romance fans

(from Goodreads):

Every girl who has taken the test has died.
Now it's Kate's turn.

My Take: 

The Goddess Test immediately caught my eye as a book I absolutely had to get my hands on, what with the promise of a fresh take on Greek mythology and, of course, that fabulous cover.  While a hardcore mythology geek like myself couldn't help but despair over every last thing this fantasy romance novel changed and altered slightly for the sake of its story, this is still an upcoming YA book well worth the read.  

Doctors say our MC Kate's mother won't hold out much longer, and she's as uncertain of what her fate will be as she is determined to pretend all this isn't happening. Kate is wary when her dying mother moves their small family from her beloved New York to the small town she grew up in, especially after the local high school's 'mean girl' tries to pull a prank over Kate's head and ends up busting her head open on the sharp rocks of the local creek.  A mysterious young man, Henry, appears and offers Kate a chance to restore said mean girl's life and prolong her dying mother's as well-- if she only agrees to be his Persephone, spending six months of every year with him within the walls of beautiful Eden Manor.  Kate accepts, not knowing the consequences of her promise-- and that the mysterious Henry is in fact Hades, ancient god of the Underworld.  He has been alone and heartbroken all these long centuries ever since his bride the goddess Persephone left him for the mortal world. Dozens of girls have died facing the seven tests, set up by the Council of Olympus, which are mandatory for a mortal to become Henry/Hades's wife and the goddess of the Underworld. For Kate, literally everything hangs on the outcome of the tests: her awkward relationship with Henry, her mother's life and her future-- and perhaps even the fate of the world-- both the Underworld and the mortal world. 

This book has a remarkable premise, based on one of my favorite Greek myths: that of Hades and Persephone.  The execution is less than positively remarkable, but truly enjoyable.  The major flaw of The Goddess Test is that I figured out the gist of most of the secret goings-on at Eden Manor and among the Olympians long before Kate did, which here was not the result of my awesome detective skills-- it's simple because the story is in places almost painfully predictable.  Plenty of things are left unexplained, which is great for the prospects of a sequel, but not so great when you still have a million burning questions and no conceivable answers after you turn the last page.  All that said, Aimee Carter does a good job weaving Greek myths into a simple and sweet love story, and her take on Hades/Persephone is really unique.  Kate's a great narrator, and her situation with her mother and slow-moving romance with Henry make this book stand out from the YA masses. 

Cover: 5/5 
Premise: 4/5 
Characters: 4/5 
Plot: 3/4 
Overall Rating: 4/5

*I received this book from Harlequin via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, and this in no way affected the contents of my review.*

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

Genre: YA horror/ historical
Pages: 454 (paperback)
Published: 2010 by Simon & Schuster
Recommended for: horror and Victorian readers, readers with a strong stomach

These are the secrets I have kept. This is the trust I never betrayed. But he is dead now and has been for nearly ninety years, the one who gave me his trust, the one for whom I kept these secrets. The one who saved me . . . and the one who cursed me.
So starts the diary of Will Henry, orphan and assistant to a doctor with a most unusual specialty: monster hunting. In the short time he has lived with the doctor, Will has grown accustomed to his late night callers and dangerous business. But when one visitor comes with the body of a young girl and the monster that was eating her, Will's world is about to change forever. The doctor has discovered a baby Anthropophagus—a headless monster that feeds through a mouth in its chest—and it signals a growing number of Anthropophagi. Now, Will and the doctor must face the horror threatening to overtake and consume our world before it is too late. 

My Take:

I was excited to read The Monstrumologist, because I'd heard that it was a Victorian YA where monsters are only too real merciless killing machines and they certainly don't sparkle.  I wasn't disappointed in the least-- this is the gory story of one adventure in the life of Will Henry, a twelve year old orphan who in 1888 became apprenticed to a doctor of the world's gristliest profession: monstrumology, or the science and hunting of monsters.  The book is immediately entrancing, what with its smart prose, sprinklings of humor, and gruesome mystery.  If you don't have a strong stomach, though, I would recommend either scanning over the goriest paragraphs (found myself doing that a couple of times), or leaving this one altogether, because Rick Yancey might just have Stephan King beat in the gross-out factor.   

The story centers around the sleepy New England town of New Jerusalem, a town whose biggest curiosity has long been Dr. Warthrop, the suspicious and fanatic monstrumologist who practices his unusual science with the help of Will Henry, his 'indispensable' apprentice.  When a gravedigger comes calling in the middle of the night, Will is disturbed from a good night's sleep by an urgent issue which requires the doctor's immediate attention-- and something so utterly disturbing, I almost put the book down early on and deemed it just too gruesome.  Turns out the graveyard of this sleepy New England town is home to a pod of Anthropophagi-- terrible, man-eating monsters mentioned briefly throughout Greek myth.  Will and the doctor are in a race against time and the feeding habits of the little-known, deadly Anthropophagi, trying to figure out exactly how the monsters arrived from their native Africa to America and tracking down the disturbing history of their not-so-accidental migration, before the brutal monsters strike again and make victims of the rest of the town.

The Monstrumologist would make such a good horror movie.  The effects would have to be really superb to keep the Anthropophagi from seeming ludicrous and corny, I think, but the creepiness of the monsters' hunting ground and the characters would translate perfectly to the silver screen.  The characters of Will Henry and Dr. Warthrop are perfectly written-- I love their love-hate relationship.  Though the monstrumologist always says Will Henry s 'indispensable' to him as an assistant, he really doesn't treat the poor kid that way, and the fact remains that Will blames the doctor at least partially for his parents' gruesome death.  My favorite character, though, has to be Dr. Kearns, an ex-surgeon from Britain who hunts monsters like the Anthropophagi (Kearns calls them 'poppies') for sport, and who the monstrumologist writes to for help upon discovering the monster infestation.  Kearns seems very charismatic at first-- if more than a little unhinged, but we soon realize he's a man who values human life very little... less than the thrill he gets from seeking out and killing monsters.  He also adds some humor to the book, with his sinister cynicism, bluntness, and weird assuming of unnecessary 'code-names'.  And there is a Jack the Ripper tie-in-- I never squealed out loud when I realized it.  

The pace of the book can seem kind of slow between pages 80 through maybe 150, but things speed right up around the time of the next monster attack and Kearns's arrival.  It can also seem a little wordy sometimes for a YA novel, but that is to be expected for a Victorian journal, which is basically what the story of Will Henry is.  I really enjoyed this one, but didn't realize I was enjoying it until maybe page 300-- it was kind of an odd read in that respect.  Just a FYI: The Monstrumologist won the Printz Honor Award in 2010, so that's cool and, I think, an award well-deserved.

Cover: 5/5 
Premise: 4/5 
Characters: 5/5 
Plot: 4/5 
Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

Genre: YA fantasy
Pages: 290 (paperback)
Published: February 2011 by Flux
Recommended for: paranormal romance people-- though I'd definitely recommend other books over this one!

Freak. That's what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna's own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.

When the darkest outcasts of Faerie—the vicious wood elves—abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend—even if it means betraying everything her parents and the alchemist community fought to the death to protect. 

My Take: 

I always like to start with the pros of a book whenever I have to give a negative or not-so-rave review.  My favorite thing about The Iron Witch is its cover.  Seriously, it's beyond gorgeous, and if I was rating based on the cover alone, I'd have to give it a 6 out of 5.  Other pros: its somewhat-unique mixture of faerie and alchemical lore.  I'm a sucker for faerie stories-- though the wood elves in this book didn't really impress me-- and I've been unhealthily obsessed with alchemy both real and fictional for a long time. (Thanks a lot, Fullmetal Alchemist!)  And because I'm really digging deep to find positives here, I'd like to draw your attention to the really cool script on the title page and on the chapter titles (check out the front cover's title).  It should win an award... for Best Sinister-Yet-Fancy Script in a YA Book, or something.

But that's probably the only award I'd grant The Iron Witch.  The story is one of the most unoriginal I've read in a long time-- I think the author basically copied down the plot skeletons from about fifty different popular YA fantasy novels, switched their ideas around in the manuscript just a little bit and combined them all for a Frankenstein of a fantasy romance. Then she submitted the manuscript without using spell check to edit for grammatical sentence structure. (I found myself marking the pages up with my handy pencil a lot, once again...sigh, maybe I should be a copy-editor.)  The stereotypical plot really bugged me, especially after the ending provided no exciting/intriguing and unexpected plot twist whatsoever, as well as no resolution and no 'hook' to read the upcoming sequels.  It was a little skimpy for my taste, at 290 pages, but that itself has nothing to do with why I didn't enjoy the book.  Donna is a stereotypical teenage heroine with a bunch of stereotypical high school haters (including one blond, cheerlead-ing mean girl, what a surprise), one close, very stereotypical best friend, Navin, one new-and-exciting-and-mysterious-love-interest Xan, and one (also stereotypical) secret: her father, a powerful alchemist, was killed defending her from wood elves years ago, and her mother, now in a mental health ward, became practically comatose after the attack. Because no protagonist's mother has ever gone insane or comatose and been assigned to a psych ward following a traumatic attack (*see Harry Potter, Blue Bloods, The Iron Thorn, even the Mortal Instruments*).

The language was choppy and really sporadic-- one minute the characters were talking like teenagers, with lots of 'like' s and what-not, and the next they were using major vocabulary and sentence structure that wouldn't sound out of place in somebody's thesis paper.  Donna's super-strength was more of a random curiosity than a plot device or actually relevant to her character or the story in any way, as was her alchemical heritage.  We never get to see much of the alchemical 'Order of the Dragon', nor is much explained about its inner-workings and purpose. If the alchemy had been good, that would have been a big saving-grace for this book for me, but it was just another useless fantasy element thrown into the story.  Overall, The Iron Witch was a huge disappointment for me.  I will now sum it up in a haiku:

"This beautiful book
Was one big YA cliche
And a waste of cash."

That said, all this is only my personal opinion and is in no way intended to offend anyone.  I usually hate writing negative reviews, but this one was just so disappointing.

Cover: 5/5 
Premise: 3/5 
Characters: 2/5 
Plot: 1/5
Overall Rating: 2/5

Friday, March 11, 2011

Follow Friday&The Book Blog Hop (18)

TGIF!  A big hello to anybody stopping by my blog for the first time today via Follow Friday (hosted by the awesome Parajunkee) or the Book Blogger Hop (hosted weekly by Jennifer over at Crazy-For-Books).  Leave your link when you comment, and I'll be sure to hop on over to your blog later.

This weeks featured blogger over at FF is

Ashley of Bookaholic Does Blogging

The question is:

Just like Ashley said (love it) "Ashley the girl..." who are You the Boy/Girl, instead of You the Blogger?

My answer: "Kat the girl" is a high school junior who's unhealthily obsessed with books, as well as ancient history and trying to get those perfect grades and test scores for college!  I'm pretty OCD, and that kind of rules over a lot of my life, lol.  I'm constantly busy, but in my spare time I really love to write (mostly fantasy and historical fic), watch nerdy movies and musicals, and ride my beautiful horse, Magic.

The Blog Hop question is:
"If I gave you £50 (or $80) and sent you into a bookshop right now, what would be in your basket when you finally staggered to the till?"

My answer:

I love this question, because I get to have a little daydream about book-shopping (and having actual money!).

As of this moment, I'd have to fill my book-bag (you know you've got one, too!) with these books:
--Revolution by Jennifer Donelly (no, I still haven't read it)
-- The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge (cool Victorian steampunk!)
-- Awakened by PC + Kristin Cast (38 in House of Night series) 
-- Sapphique by Catherine Fisher 
-- Dark Goddess by Sarwat Chadda

... and I'd probably buy the first book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series--everybody's constantly raving about it has made me super-curious!
I wish you all happy hopping and an awesome weekend!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (19)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly blogging event hosted at that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.  This week I'm waiting on... 

Tiger's Quest by Colleen Houck 
To Be Released: June 4th, 2011

(from Goodreads):
Kelsey Hayes is no ordinary college freshman. In fact, the eighteen-year-old girl has just returned from India, where she risked her life—and her heart—to rescue a handsome Indian prince from a terrible curse. Back home in Oregon, Kelsey is determined to move on, despite the lingering feelings she has for the man she left behind. 
She meets Li, a completely average guy who offers the promise of an ordinary, curse-free life. But just when Kelsey is ready to move on, Ren reenters her life, on a quest to reclaim her heart. Danger threatens their newly rekindled love and to save him, Kelsey must journey with someone else—a man who wants her for himself. The saga begun in Tiger’s Curse continues in Tiger’s Quest, as Kelsey finds herself in an epic battle between good and evil. From the shores of the Pacific Northwest to the jungles of India, the mountains of Nepal and Tibet, and the mystical realm of Shangri-la, this suspenseful tale of love, sacrifice, and redemption is not to be missed. 

The first book in this series-- Tiger's Curse-- was a really fun read, so I can't wait for this sequel.  It's gotten so many great reviews on Goodreads. 

So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright

Genre: YA paranormal romance/ movie novelization
Pages: 329 (paperback)
Published: January 2011 by Poppy
Recommended for: fans of retold fairy tales; anyone considering whether or not to see the new Red Riding Hood movie, or anyone who'd rather read it than see it

The blacksmith would marry her.
The woodcutter would run away with her.
The werewolf would turn her into one of its own.

Valerie's sister was beautiful, kind, and sweet. Now she is dead. Henry, the handsome son of the blacksmith, tries to console Valerie, but her wild heart beats fast for another: the outcast woodcutter, Peter, who offers Valerie another life far from home.
After her sister's violent death, Valerie's world begins to spiral out of control. For generations, the Wolf has been kept at bay with a monthly sacrifice. But now no one is safe. When an expert Wolf hunter arrives, the villagers learn that the creature lives among them--it could be anyone in town.
It soon becomes clear that Valerie is the only one who can hear the voice of the creature. The Wolf says she must surrender herself before the blood moon wanes...or everyone she loves will die. 

 My Take: 

Red Riding Hood is closely based on a new movie coming to theaters March 11th, directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) and starring Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!, Mean Girls).  In the past, I haven't exactly loved most of the movie novelizations and movie tie-ins I've read. That's because the book is generally around first, and generally better than the movie ('cept in the case of the Princess Bride), and if the movie comes first, how much hope can there be for the book, right?  That's sad, glass-half-empty logic, yeah, but Red Riding Hood proves me wrong.  Sorta-kinda.  

This book is not the Red Riding Hood story you heard as a kid.  It's part horror movie, along the lines of The Village, part mystery, and part romance.  Valerie lives a quiet life in her medieval village, which is notable only for the monthly tribute the villagers must pay to the Wolf, an age-old beast as terrifying as he is mysterious.  When Valerie's sister is killed by the Wolf during the Blood Moon, the villagers seek a way to destroy him once and for all.  They hire the services of a veteran werewolf hunter, who informs the naive villagers that the Wolf is not a beast-- he is one of their own, a cursed werewolf forced to change every month beneath the full moon.  Suspicion falls on nearly everyone, most of all Valerie, who has always been a 'strange' girl: deep, thoughtful, and unladylike.  Meanwhile Valerie is caught up in her own conflict: her parents have arranged for her to marry Henry, the wealthy blacksmith's son and the most coveted bachelor in the whole village.  But when the woodcutters arrive in town, Valerie is reunited with her childhood friend Peter-- and soon finds that he has become far more than a friend.  Caught between the two young men, Valerie does not expect that the Wolf-- whoever he or she may be-- desires her, too.  For under the Blood Moon, those bitten by a werewolf are doomed to become werewolves themselves.  

Retold faerie tales are best when the similarities between the book and the original tale are subtle, I think, and there were a few places where I thought this book was far from subtle. (ie Valerie tells her grandmother, quite randomly, 'What big eyes you have...')  I liked the way the mystery of the Wolf and the action unfolded, even though the story started out fairly slow and superficial.  There's a lot of death, and a lot of gory death at that, which really can only be expected of this kind of werewolf story.  In the end, I'm still not exactly sure about the holy terror that is the Wolf of Daggerhorn village, but one thing is clear: he's no Jacob Black.  My biggest peeve with the book is the inconsistent and often shallow characterization-- Valerie was alright, but her two love interests held little or no interest, really.  Father Solomon-- the Wolf Hunter-- was nearly awesome enough to make up for all that-- he's such a brooding, vengeful character, and best of all, he's going to be played in the movie by Gary Oldman (!!)  Can't wait to see that...  Anyway, in the end, I enjoyed the read, but do wonder if maybe it wouldn't be a better idea to simply go and see the movie.  That way you get the cool-looking cinematics and the plot, without having to trudge through all of the extensive backstory or (hopefully) bad characterization.  

Cover: 4/5 (white covers are the new thing, it seems) 
Premise: 4/5 
Characters: 2/5 
Plot: 3/5
Overall Rating: 3/5

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