For the Guys – Book Review: The Cellar by A.J. Whitten

On Fridays I like to take a step back and focus on a title that would appeal to the boys.  I see tons of “girl” book in YA, but not as much “boy” books.  These aren’t always pure boy books, but they are books that I think boys could/would like.


Today I have a book review.



Title: The Cellar
Author: A.J. Whitten
Publisher: Graphia

Summary

Meredith Willis is suspicious of Adrien, the new guy next door. When she dares to sneak a look into the windows of his house, she sees something in the cellar that makes her believe that Adrien might be more than just a creep—he may be an actual monster. 

But her sister, Heather, doesn’t share Meredith’s repulsion. Heather believes Adrien is the only guy who really understands her. In fact, she may be falling in love with him. When Adrien and Heather are cast as the leads in the school production of Romeo and Juliet, to Heather, it feels like fate. To Meredith, it feels like a bad omen. But if she tries to tear the couple apart, she could end up in the last place she’d ever want to be: the cellar. Can Meredith convince her sister that she’s dating the living dead before it’s too late for both of them?

My Review

You know when a finish a book, you know you should sit down and write the review right away but you don’t?  Well that’s what happened here, so forgive me if this review is a little short. I’m actually going to write it using the 5 W’s to help me remember and focus it 🙂

FIRST THOUGH.  Since I’m writing this review on a Friday my typical For the Guys day I want to address if it’s for the guys. For the Boys?  Even though the main character is a girl – yes I think so!  It’s got that horror movie vibe going, so they might like it!

Who:  The main character Meredith as great.  Strong.  Smart.  Capable.  I liked her quite a bit.  Her sister – not so much.  I get she was going through a very – very rough time but it just wasn’t enough to garner any sympathy for her from me.  I think the story would’ve been better if I wouldn’t felt more for her.  And the bad boy next store, Adrien ?  One word – CREEPY! Ok wait two words – and YUCKY.  He was suppose to be, so those aren’t really bad words.  Because part of the book is from Adrien’s view I do think the boys could buy into this one.

What:  What is this book about? Zombies.  Yup this story is about zombies.  A nice bit different look at them thought.  They aren’t brain dead, drag your feet along and moan zombies, but they are still creepy and yucky. Oh and about love.  But mostly the yuckiness of zombies.

When:  When did I cringe the most?   When they ate – and I don’t mean the two sisters.  I don’t normally cringe when reading but I did here!  It was pretty gross at parts.  That was intended! I showed you what Adrien was really like – and trust me after seeing how he did things you didn’t like him!  And if you’ve got a boy that’s ok with that kind of stuff – this book would be great for him.

Where: Where did the story lose me some?  Towards the end when I think I was suppose to feel something for Adrien .  After seeing how cruel and horrible he was, I didn’t buy into that much.  It was kind’ve a hard switch to make.  Blood and gore at one point, to seeing that he wants love the next.  I just found that a bit hard for me.

Why: Why did I like it and why might both boys and girls?  It was a very interesting retelling of Romeo and Juliet (ok that part might not interest boys).  I liked that it was the whole dieing for love bit with a sick little twist.  And I’ll admit that little twist was a nice change from all the other stories I’d been reading lately.  It took that kinda over-done love story and freshened it up – ok freshened it up with death and bugs and blood, but still it a nice change!  I think boys would like it for the same reason.

How:  How would I rate it?  I didn’t love it.  I didn’t hate it.  Like I said it was a nice change and great to see kind’ve a horror book show up in YA.  I guess I’d rate it a 3 out of 5 stars if I had to.

Final thought:  Zombies – check.  Love – check.  Blood and cringe worth yuckiness – check.  A change of pace – YUP.
Best stick-with-you image:  Adrien’s eyes
Best for readers:  Who can handle some graphic scenes
Best for ages: 13+

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Book Review: The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

Title: The Dark and Hollow Places
Author: Carrie Ryan
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Summary

There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister’s face before Annah left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the Horde as they swarmed the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.   

Annah’s world stopped that day, and she’s been waiting for Elias to come home ever since. Somehow, without him, her life doesn’t feel much different than the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Until she meets Catcher, and everything feels alive again.  

But Catcher has his own secrets. Dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah has longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it’s up to Annah: can she continue to live in a world covered in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return’s destruction?


My Review

Ok I held off a bit reading this one.  I really enjoyed the first two books (the second more than the first) and I didn’t want to be let down.  Thankfully I wasn’t.  I will say though, that at the beginning I wasn’t sure! To me this was the darkest of all the books – the most hopeless.  From the first chapter Annah is thrown into a very dangerous world – more dangerous than we’ve seen.  I kept reading thinking how absolutely hopeless their situation was!  Even what should be bright spots for her (won’t say to remain more spoiler free!) have this heavy layer of distrust and guilt and sadness laid over them.  It’s like everywhere Annah turns is just more and more reason to give up!  I kept thinking about what I’d do in her situation, and I don’t know if I could’ve kept going like she did.  In the first book Mary was strong, and in the second Gabry was.  But I think Annah outshone them in the strength department.  She clung to everything, digging in and refusing to give up.

As for the other characters, to be honest I felt they paled next to Annah.  She really look over the story, and even though she would never agree – she was the one everyone should look up to.  But like most of the characters in this series she is scarred in some way.  For Annah it is both a physical and mental scar that the must fight through in order to survive.  But this gave her the strength to remind people like Catcher what they must do.

The plot of the story is slow moving.  I really saw it as an exploration of hope and how to have it in a situation that says hope is worthless because everything is gone.  Annah and Catcher have to figure out whether hope is worthwhile in their world or is it a waste.  And if you’re going to hope how do you carry that out?  Throughout the story there is a lot of situations that make them question this again and again and again.  It’s not something they can just face once and be done because it is such a tough question for them to answer.  It was fascinating watching them work through it.

Final thought:  An ending that holds true to the series as a whole. 
Best stick-with-you image:  Going through the tunnel of ice
Best for readers who: Can handle a story that seems so hopeless and likes zombies
Best for ages: 12+ for sure

For the Guys?  YES! Ok ok the main character is a girl, but there are lots of boy characters that boys should be able to relate to.

Book Review: Ruby Red

 Title: Rudy Red
Author: Kerstin Gier

Translator: Anthea Bell

Summary

Gwyneth Shepherd’s sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era! Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon, the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

My Review

Ok I’m gonna be up front with you.  When I first started seeing this book around I could NOT figure out what the fuss was about.  And I will admit I based that quite a bit on the cover.  From pictures, the cover just didn’t look interesting.  I really don’t like the girl on the cover.  She looks waaaaay formal and almost uncomfortable.  Now I made myself look into the book further and read some review.  Ok, so it was about time travel (which seems to be the latest thing).  I enjoyed Hourglass, so when I was offered a copy for review I decided to take it. 

Starting it out I still wasn’t sure.  I was a bit confused.  There are many characters all related, and I had a hard time remember who was who and how they were all related.  BUT something about it was hooking me in, so I kept going.  Slowly I was pulled deeper into the story.  I really liked the main character Gwyneth.  She was quirky, smart (in her own way), and not willing to let herself be bullied.  I liked her, and when I like a character I can stick with a story.  So I let Gwen pull me along.  And I’m glad I did!

Now the plot – Again I’ll admit that I found parts of it confusing.  There’s all kinds of half stories told – things Gwen can’t know or doesn’t know or people refuse to tell her.  That, for her and the reader, can be frustrating.  But again how Gwen handled it kept me going.  I wanted to see how she would react to more of what was thrown at her – and mostly I wanted to see her succeed and prove her aunt and others wrong.  None of them like what happens with Gwen, and they are very angry at her and Gwen’s mother.  This made me mad because I liked Gwen, so they shouldn’t be mad at her!  The plot unravels fast but yet slow.  Fast because a lot of information is thrown out at once, but slow because it takes forever for people to be honest with her.  In the end I have a clear understanding of what is going on but I soooooooo need to know more.  And whoa what a shocker at the end!!!

Ok lastly I have to comment on Gideon the boy of the story.  He seems to swing back and forth between being a jerk to being caring, and honestly I don’t know which side to trust.  It’s like I want to trust him, but he’s been a part of this longer than Gwen, so I don’t know his deep knowledge might be used against Gwen’s naivety.  Even what happens at the end – I’m not sure if I can trust it.  I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

For the Guys?  Nah not really.

Final thought:  Ok I get the fuss now. I will be looking foward to the rest of the series.
Best stick-with-you image:  Gwen in the fancy dress
Best for readers who: Like time travel, are ok with being in the dark some
Best for ages: 12+

OH! And about the cover….. still don’t like the picture of the girl, but I do love the red and silver in person.  Super pretty!

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent

Author: Veronica Roth

Summary

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

My Review

I’m not completely sure how to even start this review.  My fear is that this review will just fall into gushing and nothing else!  To put it in the simple form: I LOVED this book.  It has been the first book in a long time that I didn’t want to put down – where I was pulled completely into the story.  I tore through it having to force myself to put it away to sleep!  That hasn’t happened with a book in a very long time. 

Why did I love it? First of all I really liked Tris/Beatrice.  She was smart, strong, brave, funny (just because of how she thought about things), loyal.  And she was so clueless about things that it made her a complete under-dog.  I love cheering for the under-dog, and she was definitely one I could cheer for.  What really helped with this was the thoughts that Veronica Roth let us hear inside Tris.  They way she tried to work through things – her almost complete inability to admit defeat, her willingness to step in and fight for others, her willingness to question who is she and why she is.  I loved it all.  Roth made Tris thoughts so clear and such an important part of the story that I felt I truly knew Tris by the end.  She became utterly real.  And can I let you in on a secret?  I like her better than Katniss <insert gasp here>.  I just did. 

As for the plot – the main focus of this book is really Tris trying to make it through initiation.  Can she do this?  Does she have it in her?  How does she deal with others making fun of her or wanting her gone. This made the plot much more character driven, but that doesn’t mean dull!  There is action.  Fights between the initiates, daring acts – things like that.  They definitely add a thrill and tension to the story, but the real conflict is the one inside Tris.  It just happens to be played out in a very physical way.  There is the whole tension you see brewing between the fractions, and it’s very clear that this will play a huge role in the next book, but this book seems to be setting that up more than anything.  Towards the end of the book, the conflict does switch to outside of Tris, and you really see the set up for further books.

Ok I have to talk about Four, the trainer working with Tris.  He’s fantastic.  And the relationship between him and Tris is great.  For once it wasn’t forced or instant!  I won’t say much more at the risk of giving all things away, but I really did like this part of the story.  I also liked Four’s back story.  It definitely added to his depth and sets up some later events in this book and I’m sure later books. 

I do want to comment about the world they now life in.  The idea of dividing people into fractions that focus on one part of our personalities, or really what makes us human, is a very unique idea.  In the book you can see how this isn’t the best idea – that it’s very hard to take all our natural tendencies and only let one through.  They way I saw it, each aspect of the different fractions should work together in one person.  Even from the start of the book, it’s hinted at that this system is beginning to fall apart around them.  That was once set up on strong ideals have morphed over time into warped beliefs.  At one point Tris reads a part of her fractions manifesto and it talks about courage being brave in everyday acts.  I really think this idea is at the heart of the book – what is courage.  I’m curious to see how it plays out in the rest of the series.

Ok <GUSH ALEART> I love this book.  It was thrilling, sweet, strong, daring, funny, scary and nonstop.  It is the first book in forever that still has me thinking about it after finishing it.  I remember all the character names (ok I’m really bad at that usually), I feel connected to Tris and Four.  I want to know  NEED TO KNOW what is going to happen to them, to the world they live in, to some of the more minor characters that I even grew to care about.  I want to go back into Veronica Roth’s world and feel Tris’s strength and courage.  Four told her she’s so awake when she’s being brave.  I could feel that come through the pages, and I want to read more of it!

For the Guys? YES!!!!!!! Like Hunger Games it should appeal to the boys just as much.

Final thought:  Um, I loved it! 🙂
Best stick-with-you image:  Train jumping
Best for readers who: Like dystopia, strong female characters and cheering for the under-dog
Best for ages: 12+

Book Review: Hereafter by Tara Hudson

Title: Hereafter
Author: Tara Hudson

Publisher: HarperTeen

Summary

Can there truly be love after death?

Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she’s dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she’s trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live.

Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.

Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.

Thrilling and evocative, with moments of pure pleasure, Hereafter is a sensation you won’t want to miss.

My Thoughts

I don’t normally do this, but I have to start this by commenting on the cover.  WOW! I remember the first time I saw it.  I loved it then, and I love it now.  It’s just so pretty, but yet there is this starkness about it – an almost sadness. Now that I know the story – I see how this cover fits it.

This story starts out with Amelia who is lost.  She had died, but she doesn’t remember anything about how or why.  She just drifts through her afterlife.  I was struck by how sad this would be.  To be left literally adrift alone and lost.  I’ve read a lot of books about people who have died and ended up in some sort of afterlife, but this is the first time they’ve been left in almost a mystery.  I really felt for Amelia during this.  I mean, there’s the pain of missing someone, but how hard would it be to not even know who you should be missing!

Then along comes Joshua.  He can see her, and things begin to change.  She is less adrift and actually more alive.  But of course this brings it’s one set of complications.  The relationship between Joshua and Amelia was sweet.  I did have to let go that the “immediate attraction” issue again.  I wasn’t as frustrated by it this time.  I think that had to do with the situation Amelia was in – so alone until Josh, so I could buy the attraction easier.  And maybe it had to do with her being a ghost!  I don’t for sure, but I could buy it a bit better than in other stories I’ve read.

About the plot – it’s pretty slow moving.  At times it dragged.  This is a 400 page book, so it covers a lot.  Sometimes I think it could’ve skipped a bit, but it wasn’t enough to drag the entire book down.  The mystery of Amelia’s past did keep me intrigued.  I wanted to know too what had happened to her and why was she where she was now.  That mystery was nice since it didn’t make it entirely a romance book.  Maybe that’s why the quick attraction didn’t bother me so much!  Anyway – the unanswered questions kept me reading.

In the end I enjoyed the story.  I didn’t LOVE it, but it did hold my attention and it had enough uniqueness to make it stand out. 

For the Guys? Nope. Yes yes some boys would like it, but most of my boys would not be interested.

Final thought:  Not what I expected.
Best stick-with-you image:  Can’t say or I’ll give something away
Best for readers who:  Like a ghost story with romance and mystery
Best for ages: 12+

Book Review: Something Deadly This Way Comes by Kim Harrison

Title: Something Deadly Comes This Way (Madison Avery #3)
Author: Kim Harrison
Publisher: Harper

Summary

I’m Madison Avery, in charge of heaven’s hit squad . . . and fighting it all the way.

When Madison died the night of her prom, she knew her life would never be the same. Now she has a powerful amulet, a team of rogue angels by her side, and the ability to flash forward into the future to see the shape of destiny. And of course, now she’s finally with Josh—a perfect boyfriend who doesn’t even mind that she’s dead.

But being dead has its disadvantages, too. Madison feels caught between the light and the dark, and between her real life and her timekeeper status. When Madison has the opportunity to get her body back—to be alive again—she faces her most difficult decision yet. If she claims it, she could return to being a normal girl—and have a chance at a real relationship with Josh. But would having the one thing she wants most in the world also mean giving up everything she’s worked so hard for?

My Review (could contain spoilers)

I liked this book.  I liked that it was filled with hope – the hope that people can change if we give them the chance.

For those that haven’t read this series you need to know that Madison is trying to change the way heaven has done thing for thousands of years! Not an easy feat.  She has succeeded in her plan once, but no one believes it really possible.  She is definitely fighting an up hill batter.  But one worth fighting for.  Heaven is all about saving souls at all cost.  Madison sees a new way to save them, but it involves some risk too.  Thankfully she has some of heaven on her side – Barnabas and Nakita who use to fight each other are now fighting with Madison.

Ok about Madison – I liked her.  How can you not like a girl that wants to save your soul without killing you! She’s had a lot shoved upon her, but instead of giving up and just doing what the seraphs want she stands up to them and fights.  I loved that about her.  She carried such hope within herself that I think others could latch into it and go with it. 

Barnabus and Nakita were great as usual.  We get to learn a lot more about Barnabus this time around, and that really does add depth to him.  At least you know more why he does what he does.  And Nakita – she was a lot of fun this time around.  She was also growing and learning more about herself and her cause.  Her whole discussion of having a soul was pretty interesting.  It was also interesting to watch her become almost more human – something from the first book I’d never thought possible.

The plot of the story was pretty simple – save the girl and change her life.  At first I thought the girl they were trying to save, Tammy, couldn’t be the only focus but it was.  Of course there are thing mixed in, but her life is what Madison’s success or failure hinges on.  The fight for Tammy’s life moved the plot along not in action but in thought.  The events that happen in trying to help her present all the questions that Madison needs to answer and all the people she needs to unite.  The plot is much less action based and much more problem based.  Madison, Nakita and Barnabas are hit with problem after problem and how they solve them will either change the ways things have been done or solidify they even more.  That tension was very clear!

One problem – once again I had to remind myself over and over the difference between a dark reaper and a light reaper.  I think I finally got it in the end but I did struggle!!  I think the problem was that I always thought that titles should be reversed.

For the Guys? Maybe.  Not much romance.  If I guy could get into the idea of how is it best to save a soul.

Final thought:  I enjoyed the book.
Best stick-with-you image:  The black wings with Tammy in the hospital
Best for readers who: Don’t need constant action
Best for ages: 13+

CymLowell

Book Review: Die For Me by Amy Plum

Title: Die For Me
Author: Amy Plum

Publisher: HarperTeen

Summary

My life had always been blissfully, wonderfully normal. But it only took one moment to change everything.
Suddenly, my sister, Georgia, and I were orphans. We put our lives into storage and moved to Paris to live with my grandparents. And I knew my shattered heart, my shattered life, would never feel normal again. Then I met Vincent.

Mysterious, sexy, and unnervingly charming, Vincent Delacroix appeared out of nowhere and swept me off my feet. Just like that, I was in danger of losing my heart all over again. But I was ready to let it happen.
Of course, nothing is ever that easy. Because Vincent is no normal human. He has a terrifying destiny, one that puts his life at risk every day. He also has enemies . . . immortal, murderous enemies who are determined to destroy him and all of his kind.

While I’m fighting to piece together the remnants of my life, can I risk putting my heart—as well as my life and my family’s—in jeopardy for a chance at love?

My Review

Ok let me start by saying that I didn’t dislike this book.  That said – I didn’t love it.  I wanted to – I really really wanted to.

Why didn’t I love it?  I just felt like I had read the story before.  I DON’T like comparing books to Twilight, but I couldn’t help it with this book because there were actual scenes and details that reminded me so much of Twilight.  From the “family” that Vincent lives with to the fact he doesn’t sleep to when he was born.  It just felt like I had read it before.  Not that the writing was bad – I didn’t find that at all.  The story flowed.  The dialogue was fine – not clunky or anything – it wasn’t that at all.  It just didn’t seem overly original.

The romance?  I had a hard time buying into it.  Vincent and Kate saw each other once, and they were completely “drawn” to each other.  Yes yes this happens a lot in books and usually I can over look it, but this time it seemed even more to come out of nowhere.  This made it real hard for me to feel attached to. 

What did I like?  I loved the setting.  That part was very unique because not many YA books are set in Paris.  I really did like that.  It was neat to see how that played into the story.  I also liked the character of Charlotte.  She seemed the most realistic of all the characters (kind of like Alice in Twilight my fav character LOL! Sorry to keep comparing!!!!).  I also liked the realism in how Kate is responding to the death of her parents.  My heart went out to her in that regard over and over.  I think the author hit her reaction right in that regard.

Who do I think will like it?  My 7th grade girls will LOVE it.  And after all aren’t they more the target audience??  Actually I had a couple of girls pick it up before school got out and they really liked it. 

Again, I didn’t hate this book.  I think I just had higher hopes for it that weren’t reached.  If you love romance books with some action you will love it.

For the Guys?  Nope.  Even with the touch of action they’ll still find it to romancey.

Final thought:  Not for me but others will love it.
Best stick-with-you image:  Paris lit up
Best for readers: Who love paranormal romance
Best for ages: 12+

Book Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Title: Enclave
Author: Ann Aguirre

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends

Summary

In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups–Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear—to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first she thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known.

My Review

This book started out with a ton of action – within the first few pages there is blood and branding! I was cringing.  And for the most part that pace keeps up throughout the rest of the book.  From fighting the freaks, to fighting other dangers Fade and Deuce battle and battle.  I started to feel physically tired for them!  I mean within a few days the whole world Deuce has ever known what turned completely upside down, and she is on the run.

Deuce was raised to follow the rules of the enclave (her underground tribe) – to never question them.  She fully believes that the rules are there to help them survivor and live even if it’s a meager existence.  She proudly becomes a Huntress, so she can protect those rules and the people in her enclave.  And I guess if I grew up where she did I would feel the same.  They know nothing else – except Fade.  Fade didn’t grow up in the Enclave, but he now lives there as a Hunter.  Deuce’s unease around Fade is completely understandable knowing what she believes and how he is an “outsider”.  As the reader I found it interesting to see how and why this feeling begins to change.  I get very frustrated when a character seems to make these huge leaps and changes in beliefs based on nothing.  Enclave doesn’t do that.  You can see and understand Deuce’s rationale.  It seems logical and grounded.

The pace of the plot maintains pretty good throughout the story – even as more characters come in.  What helps is the ever constant presencee of the Freaks.  Freaks are a zombie-like creatures, but they don’t infect others. There is never the fear of being bit like in zombie books.  The Freaks keep the tension high because you never know if they are going to show up, how many there will be and whether they will be smarter Freaks.  At times when Fade and Deuce should feel safe they quickly learn they aren’t.  Very seldom could they completely rest – and as the reader I felt like I couldn’t either.  And when the Freaks arrive so does the fear, blood and action. As other fears come and go throughout the book, the fear of the Freaks remains right up until the end. 

A couple of complaints about the book – I know that in most dystopic stories how far into the feature the story is set is kept pretty vague, and they usually doesn’t bother me.  But in this book the number of years into the future confused me.  Sometimes it felt like generations, but other times it seemed like it hadn’t been that long.  At points this confused me, and I found myself trying to figure that out instead of following the story.  Not a huge problem but not one I encounter much when reading dystopia.

The other was the ending.  It just kind of ended with tons of stuff hanging out there.  Now I know there is going to be another, but it still ended pretty abruptly to me.  I have a ton of questions that I felt could’ve been answered and still left enough uncertainty open for the next book.  It a way this book felt like just a set up for the rest of the series.

Guy Rating:  Four Thumbs up!  Yes there is a bit of romance, but I honestly think a guy could “ignore” that in favor of the blood, fighting gore and action 🙂

Final thought:  Lots of action and freaky Freaks
Best stick-with-you image: The smell of the Freaks
Best for readers who: Can handle tension and blood
Best for ages: 13+

CymLowell

Book Review: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Title: Hourglass
Author: Myra McEntire
Publisher: Egmont USA

Summary

One hour to rewrite the past . . .  For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back. 

So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past. 

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

My Review
I havent’ read a book in a loooooong that hooked me this much.  I found myself doing what I do when I’m really liking the book.  I kept setting it down and repicking it up.  Now that may sound like I don’t like it, but really it means I love it.  I do that (I believe) because I want the story to last, and if I kept reading I’d tear through it and be done with it’s goodness way too soon!

Why did I enjoy it so much?  It kept me so intrigued.  What was really happening with Emerson? Who was Michael and could I trust him?  What was Hourglass and could it be trusted?? And then as the story went on – I was completely kept on my toes from understanding what Emerson really could do to how would it all turn out!  And even though I had the “paranormal” part it was done in a way that was new and refreshing.  It didn’t seem like the same old story just told with new characters.

About those characters: Emerson was great.  Wow did that girl have a lot to deal with! And she keeps thinking she hasn’t or that she’s crazy.  What she doesn’t realize is she’s amazingly strong having dealt with everything and still be there kicking and fighting.  Even though she built up a huge wall around herself, she’s still caring enough to step up and do what she knows needs to be done in order to help people she’s never met.  Over and over her strength screamed through, but in such a realistic way because mixed within that strength was fear and sadness and loneliness.  Without the full package she would not have been as likable.

Michael was great too, but I will admit that he was a bit more one dimensional.  I liked him, but we were kept in the dark more with him, so I found it harder to connect to him.  He was so focused on wanting to do the right thing for the right reasons that sometimes I wanted to kick him and say lighten up!  I will say that by the end of the story he had fleshed out a ton more for me as he let go allowing himself to seem more human.

As for the plot:  Be prepared for tons and tons of twists and turns!  It’s one of those books that you never know how much you can trust.  I love that! And I love how all the pieces came together.  The plot and explanation could have easily fallen apart because there were so many pieces – complicated pieces!, but Myra McEntire did a fantastic job bringing the thread together.  I don’t want to say much more about the plot for fear of giving anything away.  There are so many tiny things that bring a-ha moments, and I’m afraid I’ll ruin some for future readers!  Just be prepared to have what you think turned around on you!

Side note on a favorite minor character:  I loved Kaleb! Loved him! Him personality just jumped off the page and walked around the room.  And trust me he’d be happy to hear that.  I do hope to see more of him in future books.

*********************************

Ok after rereading my review I don’t think I was clear enough.  I REALLY ENJOYED THIS BOOK! It has kept me thinking about the plot and the characters after I’ve finished.  That speaks volumes for me.  I want to know more – I want to go back into the world of the book.  I want to see what happens in the relationship between Emerson and Michael.  I want to see more how Myra McEntire skillfully pulls together a technically difficult plot.  Ok that’s says it better 🙂

Final thought: A great “time” that was a refreshing and an on-your-toes read
Best stick-with-you image:  The description of Kabel
Best for readers who:  Are looking for something new
Best for ages: 13+

Be sure to check out my author interview with Myra McEntire.

Friday is For the Guys Book Review: Scrawl by Mark Shulman

On Fridays I like to focus on books that would be good for boys.  Not that girls wouldn’t enjoy these books, but they are definitely written more for boys.
 
Today I have a book review of:
Scrawl by Mark Shulman
Book Summary

Tod Munn is a bully. He’s tough, but times are even tougher. The wimps have stopped coughing up their lunch money. The administration is cracking down. Then to make things worse, Tod and his friends get busted doing something bad. Something really bad.
 
Lucky Tod must spend his daily detention in a hot, empty room with Mrs. Woodrow, a no-nonsense guidance counselor. He doesn’t know why he’s there, but she does. Tod’s punishment: to scrawl his story in a beat-up notebook. He can be painfully funny and he can be brutally honest. But can Mrs. Woodrow help Tod stop playing the bad guy before he actually turns into one . . . for real?
 

Read Tod’s notebook for yourself.

My Review
I’m always amazed by a book that has as strong clear voice – one that seems to come off the page and almost walk around the room as a real person.  I found that voice in Scrawl. It was the strength of that voice that pulled me through the rest of the story.

The characters:  The main character Tod is a bully.  There is no way around that.  He takes money from others, scares them – all the traditional stuff.  It would’ve been really easy to dislike him, but because the book is written from his perspective you understand the why he is doing some of what he does.  It doesn’t excuse what he does, but at least you understand and can sympathize some (and I believe Tod would hate me saying I had “sympathy” for him!).  What comes through most for Tod is that deep down you know he’s got so much that could be going for him.  He’s unbelievably smart.  He can figure out the “game” that people are playing and play right along or pull it right out from them.  It was interesting, as a teacher, to see what he had to say about teachers and how they treat kids.  Tod’s thoughts did make me step back and look at my own thoughts. 

The other interesting part about Tod was, that even though he was a bully, he still did these things that were sooooo non-bullyish, and he cared about things that people would never in a million years think he would care about.  His personality was not the stereotypical bully personality all the way through.  The cool part – he knew that and sometimes he’d show it just to throw people off – to remind them that the world isn’t always how they think it is.

The Plot:  Much of what put Tod in detention was unclear at the first.  This is mainly because Tod is writing the story, so he doesn’t feel the need to explain the whole thing.  I had to piece things together even at the end when more was told.  I did have a bit of a problem following the story some because I got confused as to whether something happened in the past or just now. 

The story is much more character driven than plot driven, so although you do see Tod conflicted with what to do I felt it was much more focused on who Tod was and the question of who he was going to be.  Every conflict in the story seemed to push that question to the front.  What I liked about this and the plot over all was that it had a clear wrapped up ending for the current situation but not for Tod’s life over-all.  It didn’t end like a Disney movie.  It ended in reality, and that I liked.

One side note about the ending – the very end there is a whole thing about how something is worded. I had to read it several times to get it exactly.  I do worry that some readers (younger ones) might not get that at all and then miss some of the point of the story.

Final thought:  Tod’s voice was so strong it was like I was listening to him read his notebook!
Best stick-with-you image:  The end of the play
Best for readers who:  Like stories that are more about a character and less about a story
Best for ages: 13+
Other books or authors that are similar: Walter Dean Myers