Sunday, September 30, 2012

From What I Remember

From What I Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas
3.5/5 stars
Hyperion, 2012
462 pages
YA Contemporary Multiple POV

Source: Picked up from library to review.

After seeing Mimi Valentine's enthusiastic endorsement (and realizing it was told from multiple perspectives, something I adore), I resolved to give this book a try so I reserved it and then picked it up from my library. Weirdly though I got a sense of foreboding from reading the front inside cover that maybe I wouldn't like this book. I can't explain it but it was there. And by the end I knew why.

This is a fun book with a lot to like. It's breezy and moves pretty quickly. The basic plot is that Kylie and Max wake up in Mexico and have to remember how they got there and figure out how to get back for their graduation in San Diego. There is a lot of action that would translate well to the big-screen, evidence of the writers' background in screenwriting. I love the snappy quotes from movies that begin each chapter; all are relevant and it was fun figuring out how that would be. The two main narrators are Kylie and Max but I thought the side characters really stole the show. One is Jake, Kylie's younger brother with Asperger's Syndrome who is obsessed with the San Diego bus schedule. The other is Will, Kylie's only friend whose cross-dressing tries to shake up their staid private school and encourage other students to join him out of the closet.

But they were only secondary characters. Our main narrators are Kylie and Max, the good girl and the bad boy, a dynamic I'm really sick of (not that I was ever a big fan to begin with.) They both had some big hang-ups-Kylie worries about her standing at school, how her family will function when she's at college, and feeling like she's not pretty. Max is aware that he's often a jerk and is putting his passion second to what he thinks his dying dad wants. And these things were repeated...a lot, making what is already a long book feel even longer. Plus their flirtation just did not work for me, which is unfortunate because it takes up a lot of space.

Then there were the three uses of "retarded" that I caught (may have been more). I have a really hard time believing that someone whose brother has Asperger's and has possibly been called a retard before would be so casual using the word with all of its hurtful connotations. More content problems were the rampant drinking and language-this is not a clean book by any means. In fact, there is a lot of drinking, I mean a lot because that is apparently how high school kids celebrate their graduation nowadays?

Overall: These particulars brought down the book's stars for me but they may not bother you.

Cover: These people could be more disheveled and Kylie could be curvier but it's an alright cover.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Samurai Awakening

Samurai Awakening by Benjamin Martin
3.5/5 stars
Tuttle Publishing, 2012
318 pages
YA Paranormal

Source: Received an e-ARC via the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

After reading Stormdancer, I was in the mood for other stories set in Japan, happily chancing upon this one while browsing. The title was definitely appealing although the cover doesn't do anything for me. Perhaps it will appeal to youngsters?

The first surprise for me was that this book was not narrated in first-person. This is especially surprising to me as the book continued and there were a lot of scenes where I think diving into David's head would have given me more insight into him as well as cleared up confusion about what exactly was happening. The third-person narrative felt more formal to me and less engaging so I was ultimately pretty disappointed with that.

The second surprise (because I didn't really read the synopsis) is that this book is about an American thirteen year old doing an exchange program in Japan (without speaking a word of Japanese-how did the organizers let that happen?) who is selected to be something incredible. There are so many things in that sentence! I really can't believe they let a thirteen-year old do a foreign exchange program without being able to speak the language; I think it's too young and quite frankly irresponsible. He was barely passing his classes. Next I was not sure what was so special about him that he was chosen-he has a good heart, true, as well as a strong work ethic but I don't know why someone in his host family couldn't have been selected. And I sometimes felt very protective of him and his host siblings (all thirteen). They were so young and I feel like I would have been more comfortable had they been a bit older (say, sixteen).

But a third cool surprise was all of the mythology and history included. Martin has studied Japanese culture extensively according to his bio and Tuttle Publishing has been focused on Asia-set books so if you're looking for something for a young person to read that has accuracy, this might be good for them. I could definitely see it being a read for school.

Overall: Decision to narrate in third person kept me very disengaged with the text as I crawled through it.

Cover: I do not like those colors-I think he kind of looks like a zombie.


Friday, September 28, 2012


Speechless by Hannah Harrington
4/5 stars
HarlequinTeen, 2012
282 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Received an e-ARC via the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I had somehow originally confused this author with someone else and had avoided the book because I didn't like that author. Then I started seeing reviews for this book, which reminded me that actually I did like Hannah Harrington's debut Saving June, a standout in the dead sister subgenre as far as I'm concerned. So what's this one about?

1. Chelsea is a blabbermouth, the class gossip, and lackey/bff to most popular girl Kristen.
2. Chelsea sees a male classmate making out with another guy and blurts this news out while drunk at a New Year's Eve party.
3. Kristen's meathead jock boyfriend and friend beat up said gay guy in a parking lot.
4. Chelsea tells the police about their intentions.
5. Chelsea is ostracized at school for hurting their athletic chances and for upsetting Kristen and in response decides to take a vow of silence.

I think the vow of silence idea is so cool! First it makes me think of the Day of Silence, designed to bring attention to the literal silencing of LGBT people. Second I love the idea of this girl who is so careless with her words, starting to pay attention. Once something is out there, it can't be taken back. We need to value our words and be more aware of how they affect people (I think I might be preaching to the choir a little bit here as we're all readers and a lot are also writers-we care about words and their meanings). And third I love that this was inspired by a National Geographic article Chelsea read about a Buddhist monk's vow of silence. Although Chelsea does not manage to go for years without speaking, the time that she does spend allows her some serious time for reflection while also making new friends who actually care about her and aren't judgmental controllers.

Unlike some reviewers, I liked Chelsea from the beginning. I strongly sensed that she had a good heart even her actions didn't always line up and I'm also predisposed to like the narrator as long as she isn't whiny or annoying and I would not classify Chelsea as either of those things. She's just young and maybe hasn't experienced many negative repercussions up until this point in time. Despite Chelsea's vow of silence, because she narrates, we still get a lot of funny moments as well as deep insight into how Chelsea is coping.

As for her supporting cast, I loved them a lot too, especially sweet Asha, the first person to reach out to Chelsea and the one who welcomes her to a new crew including cutie-pie Sam. I mostly liked the way their relationship developed but an incident at the end had me bump my rating down half a star (I didn't think it was very respectful to her parents).

Overall: A must-read for lovers of contemporary especially if you don't usually read "issue" books. Although talking about some important things, this book seamlessly weaves them in without coming across as preachy. There are also a lot of fun moments and the writing is flawless so you should be able to lose yourself pretty easily in the narrative.

Cover: Love it! The white is a big risk but its plainness helps set it apart while also staying true to teh story.


Thursday, September 27, 2012


Hidden by Sophie Jordan
4/5 stars
Harper, 2012
260 pages
YA Paranormal Dragons

Source: Bought

I loved Firelight. Just loved it. I knew there were flaws and I mentioned them in my review. But I just adored Will and Jacinda as a couple and eagerly looked forward to Vanish. As Vanish ramped up Jacinda's feelings about Cassian, I found myself less enthused but still looking forward this, the conclusion. I was so excited about it that I preordered the book in February and made sure to block out a place for it in my reviewing schedule.

After finishing Hidden, I'm not entirely sure why I was so excited. Was the promise of Firelight really that high? Did I love Will that much? (Answers: not sure and yes, obviously). I mean, I read all of these books in a matter of hours but that is because they are not difficult reads, not so much because I was heavily invested in the characters and their journeys.

The good news for this book is that Jacinda is way less annoying. Her dithering over Cassian and Will in the second book drove me crazy and while there is definitely some of that here, for the most part Jacinda got with the program and is firmly on Team Will. Her future is linked to his and they must work together to protect the secrets of the draki.

The less good is that I was anticipating an epic confrontation between the draki and the draki hunters and while there were some good fights, for the most part, I don't feel like I got the conflict I was imagining and desiring. If you're going to give action scenes, you gotta go big! There are some stunning betrayals and revealing of secrets though if that's your kind of thing.

Other than that, I don't really have a lot to say. I think it's a pretty fitting conclusion to the trilogy, with people ending up where they should and it is very much in-line with the style of the previous books (ie action > character.)

Cover: Very striking; reminds me of Tempestuous by Lesley Livingston with the striking red hair.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Dearly, Beloved

Dearly, Beloved by Lia Habel
3/5 stars
Del Rey, 2012
482 pages
YA Zombie

Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

Well, I have a lot of feelings about this book so I'll try not to ramble. My immediate thought is that your opinion of this book will probably hinge on your feelings about Nora and Bram, who I liked and tolerated respectively in the first book Dearly, Departed. Although there are also four other POVs (for a total of six, an increase of one from last time), the bulk of the story rests on them. And quite frankly I did not like them very much this time around.

I actually preferred the other narrators: Nora's best friend (and my favorite character in Dearly, Departed) Pamela, suffering from PTSD and consequently not as kick-ass as before; Laura, a new character who uses her decaying zombie body to grow plants and whose naivety helped set her narrative apart; Vespertine, a rival of Nora, whose past is sort of revealed and yet there were some confusing moments where she seemed to be at war against herself; and Michael Allister, would-be suitor to Nora, fervently anti-zombie, and kind of deranged. And yet I much preferred him to Bram, because in all honesty, I am icked out by the idea of a human/zombie romance. That this reanimated body is moving around while also still decaying in on itself and moving closer to the permanent death it should already be in-it's hard for me to wrap my mind around. I also found Bram and Nora a bit sickening together as established couples sometimes are with Nora abandoning Pam in her moment of need and basically having indistinguishable narratives. The main way I could tell their chapters apart was who "I" was gushing over and if Bram thought about being a zombie.

Another minus was the interminable length-it seemed like it took FOREVER for something to happen. A plus though is that I expected certain plots to go one way but then they went a different way, so at least there were some surprises in store for me. I just wished this novel had been a bit more condensed. I don't think everything needed to be included.

Overall: A letdown after the enchanting freshness of Dearly, Departed; I'm left hesitant to pick up the third part next year.

Cover: I really preferred the pink of the first book. This has the same model, I believe, but I don't like the colors as they don't stand out the same way to me.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Yesterday by C.K. Kelly Martin
3.5/5 stars
Random House Books for Young Readers, 2012
352 pages
YA Science-Fiction

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Hmm...this is a difficult review for me to write as I'm pretty neutral about C.K. Kelly Martin's latest offering. I've seen some of her other books around and was thrilled to grab this new one. But while the words tend to flow when I have specific praises or criticisms about a book, they dry up when I have neutral feelings about a book, which is the case here.

I do give Martin props for her writing, which helped lift a middling tale in my opinion. Some elements of the book felt very familiar. For example, the book starts in the future with a rebellious daughter, difficult relationships with parents, and the pending threat of government security. But then there are the more unique elements, like the fact that the girl Freya wakes up in 1985 having received a mind wipe that was unfortunately ineffective. During the parts where Freya can't quite remember, this is a strong realistic fiction offering. Then she sees a guy and realizes that he means something; this remembrance sets them off on an adventurous path to uncover the truth.

Gosh, I even feel lackluster sharing that part of the plot. I think one of my problems is that we are left wondering about the specifics of Freya's remembered life but we already know the basic outlines from the prologue. I wonder if this could have been a stronger entry had the book just opened with Freya in 1985, struggling to remember something that is just not right about her life. Then once she does remember, we have a massive info-dump chapter. I am someone who has a high tolerance for that and I kind of liked having some of my guesses confirmed as well as having Martin's vision for the future elaborated upon but it does freeze the book while all of that information comes out.

Another problem for me was the romance. Freya had feelings for the guy Garren in their future and those feelings are not dormant in 1985. But since I didn't feel much for either character, I didn't care for the romance. I also tend to find it weird that they can focus on that while being hunted and chased but I guess that makes it all the more important to cradle and fight for what really matters.

Overall: Decidedly meh-I cannot recommend this book although maybe you speculative fiction lovers would find more to enjoy.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Runaway Princess

The Runaway Princess by Hester Browne
4/5 stars
Gallery Books, 2012
431 pages
Adult Chick-Lit Romance

Source: Received an e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This book caught my attention because of the titile. Additionally the author's name seemed vaguely familiar. After some checking, I confirmed that she had written the Little Lady series that I had enjoyed so much, which made me all the more excited for this book. Beloved author plus royalty romance plot? That sounds like an automatic win!

And for the most part, this book met or exceeded my expectations. I wasn't sure how main character gardener Amy Wilde was going to meet her literal prince but it was very cute and the beginning of their romance was so sweet. Amy is such an awkward young lady and I could really empathize with her shyness in social settings. I loved her best friend/roommate Jo, an amazingly gregarious fun lady who supports Amy through everything. Of course I also loved the prince, Leo, who Amy meets without realizing just how wealthy and connected he is. Because she doesn't know, she can almost relax and share her fun personality; then she does discover the truth and she freaks out but she still keeps falling for him. But they move forward in their romance, something that hits speed bumps as he ends up closer to the throne and her family's tangled past and qualms about his tendency to throw money at problems.

That last point is something that I did not feel was sufficiently resolved even as Amy and Leo do commit to each other. She is very uncomfortable with that aspect of his world and I never thought that they had it out about her feelings. They do work through some other issues and I am satisfied enough with them as a couple to be fine with the conclusion.

Takeaway Points:
1. Cute characters with a lot of sweet moments
2. Fast resolution with not everything resolved to my satisfaction (such as money issues)
3. If this sounds like your kind of read, it probably is :)

Cover: Not my favorite-I mean, I love the tiara but I'd like something a little more flashy with maybe a pretty dress.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Why YA Realistic Fiction #4: The #Giveaway

Time for what you've been waiting for: the giveaway! It's pretty simple, just enter and leave the name of a book you might want. You are not required to select that book; I am just nosy and want to know what books people are most interested in.

Some suggestions of realistic books I love:
Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt
Confessions of an Angry Girl by Louise Rozett
Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

1. There will be 1 winner, who must have a mailing address in a country where Book Depository ships. So this contest is international :)
2. You must be 13 years of age or older or use parental information to enter.
3. You do NOT have to follow although I appreciate it; I have a couple of extra entries because I am experimenting with giveaway requirements but all it takes to enter is to input a valid email address and a book.
4. Contest ends October 6 at midnight, EST per Rafflecopter standards
5. Winner will be contacted via email by October 7 and will have 48 hours to respond with book selection and address or else I will move on to the next person. I pledge to keep your address confidential and to delete it as soon as I have shipped your book.
6. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or email me at

 a Rafflecopter giveaway


Saturday, September 22, 2012

What Came From the Stars

What Came From the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt
3.5/5 stars
Clarion Books, 2012
293 pages
MG Science-Fiction

Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine.

After adoring Okay For Now, one of my top reads of 2011, I was excited to see another book from Schmidt and eagerly requested it. I was thrown by a loop to see that it was not a straight contemporary but I wanted to see it through despite the inclusion of fantastical elements. Unfortunately it ended up really not being what I wanted. For my review, I want to divide it into two parts: one for the contemporary and one for the sci-fi sections. The book is also roughly divided into that with italicized chapters detailing another world and regular font for our world although the two increasingly overlap as the book progresses.

Let's start with the contemporary, which I loved. Sixth-grader Tommy lives with his painter father and bubbly younger sister after the death of his mother. Unfortunately the father no longer paints and the sister no longer speaks due to grief even as their house is under assault by a mega-corporation eager to snatch up its land and develop it. Amid this melancholy, Tommy receives a chain from Valorim and soon finds himself speaking its language to the bafflement of his classmates and embarking on its defense. I loved just about everything that was realistic in this book-the sad family attempting to move on without a vital part of itself, the kids at school as well as their teachers and staff, Tommy's battle against the realtor. It was great stuff!

But the fantastical elements were SO hard for me. I dreaded every time I reached a chapter set there (they alternate). There are many made-up words, which are included in a glossary in the back, but they never fully sunk in to my brain so even as I approached the end, I had to keep flipping to check on their meaning. Then there was the fantasy world itself; I understood its basic conflict with evil Lord Mondus using treachery to gain power but I was a little confused on the names of the people around him (were the Valorim and the Ethelim the same people?) I got a very Lord of the Rings vibe from this part with the way names are deployed except that I love LOTR and did not care for this.

Overall: I did not want Schmidt to try something new and was very thrown by the science fiction elements to the point that they distracted me from the overarching themes of the story.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things

Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things by Kathryn Burak
3/5 stars
Roaring Brook Press, 2012
233 pages
YA Literary Mystery

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Claire has been through so much that she’s pared her life down to one goal–to get out of high school (finally)–until the night she wanders into Emily Dickinson’s house and finds everything suddenly changing.

Claire, new to Amherst and desperate to get out of high school, vows she’ll try to be invisible. She retreats deep into thee poetry of Emily Dickinson to help her understand her mother’s suicide and best friend’s disappearance, until one night, when she finds herself running through the woods in the poet’s dress. The next morning she starts a different life, one with totally new complications.
I picked up this book with pretty high expectations. I love mysteries and have enjoyed seeing more pop up in the YA genre; I have liked books from this press before; and the ratings on goodreads are pretty high. However the book I read did not quite align with those expectations. I would say this is very much a case of book not meshing with reader.

That would stem largely from the writing style, which I found very confusing and distancing. I admire the poetry in it (and indeed there is a mix of poetry from I believe Emily Dickinson and the author's own construction) with the prose but it is very much not to my taste. Additionally there is a surreal blending of the past and the present, which only gave me more confusion. I guess I expected a more straightforward story and it took me nearly half the book to feel situated in what was occurring.

As for the titular "missing things," we have Emily's dress, actually accidentally stolen by Claire who sneaks into Emily Dickinson's house some nights to cope and ends up running out while still wearing the dress. Other missing things are Claire's best friend Richy whose disappearance heavily impacted Claire and Claire's mother, whose suicide haunts the family still. I thought the mystery around Richy was the part that worked best for me. After a year, Claire puts herself to the task of solving it and does so to my delight.

Part of the way she solved it was through sharing her grief in writing to her English teacher and a student teacher. The latter pushes her on it and they sort of develop a romance. He's a junior while she's a second-year senior, having needed to repeat after losing Richy. I think this is supposed to make the age difference more palatable but it did not appease me. For those who do like romance though, Claire's father receives a paramour and good for him to go after some happiness after years of mourning.

Takeaway Points:
1. Poetic writing that is not my cup of tea
2. Mystery was by far most satisfying aspect
3. Icky romance for MC but cute one for her father.

Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things is scheduled for release October 2, 2012. This review is based on an e-ARC received from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Eve and Adam

Eve and Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate
3/5 stars
Feiwel & Friends, 2012
291 pages
YA Sci-Fi

Why did I read this? Well just look at the cover. It is simply stunning in my opinion. Plus the synopsis sounded cool and I'm always up for some science fiction. I am also a sucker for alternating narration.

We are introduced immediately to Evening, usually called Ev, beign hit by a car. Then her terrifying mother Terra Spiker, business mogul billionaire, insists on Evening being moved to Spiker's medical facility...and for good reason as it runs out (I'm not going to spoil it here). However this move does not work out quite the way Terra planned as Eve meets Terra's ward Solo (immediately invoking Star Wars for me). Solo is an orphan whose parents died, accidentally in a car accident but also possibly on purpose as they were former business partners who crossed Terra. Thus Solo waits and bides his time until falling for Eve and inviting her into his plot.

For her part, Eve is preoccupied with her friend Aislin who has the worst taste in guys leading to several exciting action scenes in addition to an order from her mother to create the perfect man using experimental technology. Eve creates a guy, suitably dubbed Adam. I thought the sequences around the genetics were fascinating. Although I'm not a science person, I have always had an interest in that branch and enjoyed the brief time spent exploring it.

Due to the alternating perspectives, I thought the book moved quickly through its story with each chapter leaving me wanting more. But the characters really slowed me down toward the end. I liked Eve for the most part although I got pretty mad at her toward the end for her treatment of Aislin who did not deserve that. Unfortunately I was less enamored with Solo which, as I observed in a goodreads status update, made some sections of the book difficult such as his burgeoning feelings for Eve and her reciprocation (I do not get what she sees in him). Also as an "older" reader, I often find myself more sympathetic to the parental figures in a book. This was actually such a case. I thought Terra was being demonized and felt somewhat justified in those feelings as the book reached its conclusion. She's not a great parent by any means but she's not the awful person originally presented.

Takeaway Points:
1. Cool sci-fi concept and discussions
2. Fast paced read kept me turning the pages
3. Villain mother was ultimately more sympathetic to me than so-called hero. This clash of assessments with how the authors' presented them ends up being the main reason for my 3 star rating.

Eve and Adam will be released on October 2, 2012. Click here for more information. This review is for an e-ARC provided by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Scorch by Gina Damico
3.5/5 stars
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's, 2012
332 pages
YA Paranormal

Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

This book is the sequel to Croak, which ended with a pretty big spoiler that fuels Lexie's anger with her new power of being able to damn and has caused her to be a pariah in the small town of Croak. The Seniors led by Heloise and Norwood are keen to ostracize Lex, the other Juniors, and the current mayor Uncle Mort. They end up having to escape to another Grim town DeMyse (something teased on the back cover) but which does not happen until more than halfway through the book.

I really loved the scenes in the decadent DeMyse (somewhat like Las Vegas) as well as our continued insight into the unfolding mythology of the Croak world. Some crazy stuff is going down, both exciting and less exciting. In the former camp, there are some fun new characters introduced and no one is safe. In the latter camp, I am fervently against Lex's damning ability and the decisions she makes in regards to those powers; I hope the error of her ways will be revealed to her in her next book.

One thing I really didn't like was the continued romance of Lex and Driggs. While I didn't really buy their romantic chemistry in Croak, I was really grossed out with the way the author described their very physical relationship. They smush their lips together, they stick their tongues down each other's throats, etc. It was super gross to me although I did believe in their romance more this time around. I'm not opposed to that kind of intensity; I was just disgusted by the way it was written. I was also disappointed by Lexie's continued use of "slut" and other such words in regards to Sofi who is displeased that Driggs likes Lex so much. I'll admit that Sofi is not gracious in defeat but I don't think she deserved such words (she does deserve some other words...)

Overall: A bit of a disappointment although the humor continues and the promise for some epicness remains for the third book: all-out war.

Cover: I love the blue for the title especially against the orange fire in the background. Glad to see the scythe reappear.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Something Red

Something Red by Douglas Nicholas
3/5 stars
Emily Bestler Books/Atria, 2012
Originally published 2010
317 pages
Adult Historical Paranormal

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I came into this book with high expectations. It has received a lot of praise and I enjoy historical fiction, especially when a fantastical element is added as this one teased.

However I did not find this to be the most accessible text. It is set in approximately the thirteenth century during a long cold winter and although I believe the English is somewhat modernized, I still really struggled to follow what was going on. Of course, as the book progressed, I became more comfortable with the writing style but I prefer not to have to read so far before becoming immersed in a book.

Our primary characters are young Hob who becomes a man over the course of the novel, Molly, an Irish healer who is the head of the operation, Jack, the muscle, and Molly's granddaughter and heir Nemain. They are traveling with their three wagons meeting up with other travelers, seeking solace within a monastery, an inn, and eventually a castle where everything comes to a head.

The most exciting part was definitely the part of the book that involved a battle between two creatures, a battle to the death, and the reason why this book ventures into the paranormal category. I thought that section was incredibly well-done: gripping and almost worth the excruciating wait to reach that point. I also appreciated the incorporation of the color red and all its shades into the writing. Given that red is in the title, I was on the lookout for any and all references to the color.

I think this story would have had more resonance with me if Hob and Nemain had turned out to be the young version of some mythic couple I know about. Like how young Wart is revealed to be King Arthur in The Sword in the Stone. I kept expecting some reveal that would make this story bigger and to leap off the pages. But I did not get that and thus end my relationship with this book, feeling very ambiguously toward it.

Overall: Lacking that extra something for me and mired in difficult language that kept me at a distance, this was not a win for me.

Cover: Very atmospheric and subtle (note what's peeking out of the trees below the R).

Monday, September 17, 2012


Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
4/5 stars
Thomas Dunne Books, 2012
322 pages
Adult Steampunk Fantasy

Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

This has been one of the most anticipated books of the fall, I would say, capturing the attention of the YA community from what I can see despite it being technically an adult novel. All of this buzz of course had me intrigued so I was pleased to receive a copy, hoping to add my voice to those praising it.

Unfortunately I did not immediately fall into the world. This was partly because I was sick when I started and my attention span was limited but also due to the writing style. The first chapter is set toward the end of the story and just drops us into it but then the next chapter goes to the beginning introducing a flurry of characters and the world-building. The setting reminded me of Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin, where pollution has destroyed the earth and the air. The wealthy wear masks; the poor deal with kerchiefs and goggles to protect themselves from the filth.

But the plot is vastly different: basically the all-powerful emperor wants a griffin, an arashitora so that he can be a stormdancer like mythic emperors of yore. Problem is that they are presumed extinct due to that pollution that is destroying the earth. However his royal hunter dutifully sets off bringing along his companions including sixteen-year old daughter Yukiko who was introduced in that confusing first chapter. They do manage to find, capture and clip the wings of one during a storm but their ship goes down, stranding Yukiko with the griffin who she names Buruu and presumably leaving everyone else dead. Now the pair have to band together in order to survive.

That's the beginning but the book still has more plot to reveal, following fairly predictable paths. I wasn't super surprised by any of the twists the book took but I think the real strength is supposed to be in the world and characterization. Due to my struggling with the writing, I didn't get much of a sense of that in the first half. Fortunately as the book continues, the story moved into the forefront and the writing was less confusing. I especially ended up loving the emperor's sister Lady Aisha with her beauty and kindness.

There is also a very lackluster romantic love triangle. Yukiko lusts after one guy who was nothing special as far as I could see while a second languishes in the background.  I would have been okay for Yukiko to have no romance but to have such a disappointing one kind of wrecked that whole angle.

Overall: Confusing writing style slowed my entry into the world but compelling characters kept me going.

Cover: I love seeing the griffin and the reds although I wish Yukiko got to be wailing on someone instead of being poised to inflict massive violence.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Why YA Realistic Fiction #3: Relationships

Aragorn with toy
Welcome to post #3 in my September Weekly Discussion Posts focusing on YA Realistic Fiction and why it rocks. Many times I feel like contemporary and historical books are overlooked in favor of the paranormal, fantasy, and dystopia around the YA blogosphere. This is just a little attempt on my part to bring to your attention some of the great things about YA Realistic Fiction. I'm going to have three weeks of posts and then the fourth week will have a giveaway so be sure to stop by!

This week I am thinking about the kinds of relationships featured in books. The main type that also seems to garner the most attention is the romantic and why not? Romance is great and I am drawn to books with a strong romantic element. However I have found myself becoming increasingly picky about my romance (and very anti-love triangle). Thus I hope for a book with strong friendships and ideally some parental involvement. Where do I turn? Realistic fiction.

Now I'm speaking very generally here about stereotypes but I feel like when I am looking for those kinds of non-romantic relationships, they are more likely to be found in realistic fiction. I feel like this might be for two main reasons. First, it is reflecting real-life where we tend to have those kinds of relationships. Everyone has parents although the involvement varies and most people manage to have some friends outside of a romantic relationship.

The other main reason I can think of is just the focus of realistic fiction. A lot of dystopia and fantasy have to introduce new rules of the world in addition to romance and that cuts down on the page-time for other relationships. The one exception I feel would be for mentors to the main character (I'm thinking of Orma in Seraphina and Kanin in The Immortal Rules particularly). When the focus of the story is defeating tyranny or just plain surviving, that cuts down on the time that can be spent developing other kinds of relationships. But realistic fiction already has rules established and usually lower stakes leaving more time for a girl to just relax with her friends (or obsess over schoolwork, activities, college, boys, etc. with friends). Because I remember how important my friends were to me in high school, I always like to mention when I feel like a book does a particularly good job capturing that.

What do you think? Do you think my ideas about the reasons have any truth? What other reasons can you think of?

Thus concludes my discussion posts for this theme. Remember to come back next week to enter a giveaway :) Honestly that's the best part of these discussion posts!

A peek at the week ahead: A lot of disappointment on my end. I wanted x from books and they kept giving me y. Expect 3 and 3.5 star reviews, on the lower end of the ratings (usually I DNF a book that would earn less).

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Underworld by Meg Cabot
3/5 stars
Point, 2012
318 pages
YA Paranormal Greek

Source: Picked up at library for review

Last year I read the first book in this trilogy Abandon and found it to be a more a return to form for Cabot after being disappointed with several of her books. Thus I thought I would be easily swept away by this sequel, no matter the other people who were disappointed.

Alas that was not to be. The book opens with Pierce in the Underworld with John Hayden, with the pair assuming the roles of Persephone and Hades in their famous myth. However I doubt Persephone has the neuroticisms of this typical Cabot character. Boy is Pierce a bundle of them and they're all so familiar to me as a long-time reader of Cabot. I honestly think that is my big problem. If I was coming at this with fresh eyes, I probably would have been charmed. But as it is, Pierce reminds me of other Cabot heroines I like more and thus I find her boring and frustrating.

Another problem is the constant miscommunication between the couple. Each hints at something and the other misunderstands and reacts based on that misunderstanding. I don't get why people can't just say things out in the open. The reader basically knows what is going on and, at least in my case, gets super frustrated with the annoying people. Plus I'm not entirely sure when they became boyfriend/girlfriend, a term that seems a bit unsatisfactory when you consider that neither will be able to leave the Underworld for any extended period of time ever again. Pierce was debating whether to stay but then all of a sudden, she's committed. I just don't see when that happened.

Saying that, there were some cool secondary characters in the Underworld who have known John for ages and who added a lot of color to the story. This is also good as most of the characters I liked in the first book only make brief appearances here. I also liked getting to know some more about John's duties and how he got to that point. But the interplay between the main couple and actually almost everything involving Pierce drove me bonkers.

Overall: A lot of talking without necessarily a lot of understanding, ending with a cliffhanger.

Cover: I do quite like this cover; I read a bit about how it was made and thought that was so cool. I also love the dark blue/purple colors.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The List

The List by Siobhan Vivian
4/5 stars
Push, 2012
332 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Picked up for review from the library.

I think Vivian has done an excellent thoughtful job of examining the life of young woman, the pressures, the feelings, etc. such as in her book Not That Kind of Girl and after seeing several rave reviews of this book, I was excited to give it a read although I was worried about juggling the eight (!) girls it follows.

Those worries were not unwarranted as I didn't feel like we really got enough insight into them. There are eight girls and 332 pages, which means that each girl only gets about forty pages and it didn't even seem like each got the same amount of page-time. Fortunately I was able to keep referring to the front inside cover, which listed the girls as well as their basic conflict upon being placed on the list as either the prettiest or the ugliest grade in their respective grade.

As is my wont, I ended up being most drawn to the stories that featured sister-sister relationships; prettiest freshman Abby and prettiest Bridget find themselves struggling with their role on the list and how it impacts their relationship with their sister who did not make the list. Abby and her older sister Fern definitely had some moments that made me reflect on my relationship with my younger sister.

But I think my favorite storyline was Danielle, who is anointed ugliest freshman and derided as manly. See Danielle swims and has an athletic body with muscles; she's good enough to make varsity. However this body shape makes her feel less than when compared to the typical body shape that seems to be prized in contemporary American society. These feelings are compounded by her insecure boyfriend who can't take the teasing from his stupid friends. But happily Danielle makes more friends with other swimmers and appreciates all that her body can do.

Another interesting plotline was that of seniors Jennifer and Margo (labeled ugliest and prettiest respectively) who are former friends. There were some twists and turns I didn't predict and a few shocking moments. This storyline did not turn out the way I expected and I appreciated the surprises that Vivian was able to pack in here.

Overall: A slightly overstuffed book but still a very appealing one that tackles life as a female in amid the craziness of an American high school.

Cover: I really like the color of the lockers behind the students although I wonder if eight could have fit to represent how many are focused on in the book.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Arise by Tara Hudson
3.5/5 stars
HarperTeen, 2012
404 pages
YA Paranormal Romance

Source: Picked up from the library for review.

Last year I read the first book Hereafter and discovered that I kind of like ghost love stories; actually ghosts are probably my favorite kind of paranormal creature, way ahead of the oh so popular vampires, werewolves, and zombies. Thus I requested my library stock this second book and hurried to pick it up to find out what happened next for Amelia and Joshua.

Admittedly I couldn't remember much about them although some details came flooding back as Hudson dropped tidbits to remind the reader and my own memory kicked in. Still though I had trouble connecting with the characters whose love story I had previously been so invested in. Much as I love ghost romances, they are very impractical and wrong. Amelia will always be as she is while Joshua should grow up and change. Plus there are some dark forces after her, prompting her to attempt to leave Joshua.

However first they meet Gabrielle who promises them that she can do something to help them. What she does is far beyond what I expected and changes the rules of the game leading to the big confrontation of this book. Once Gaby got really involved in the story, it was so much better but that wasn't until about halfway through and I was more than a little disengaged by that point. So my biggest criticism is how long this book is. I really felt those 400 pages and when I love a book, I don't.

Gaby is a kick! She has mysterious powers and opens Amelia to some new possibilities. As I mentioned, I felt the story perk up once she became involved. There are also some other new characters in Joshua's family but, except for one, I didn't think their roles were that important other than as just pieces of the plot. By that I mean, they didn't have personalities that imbued the plot, they just did things.

Overall: First half would get about a 3, second half a 4, averaging to a 3.5 in the end.

Cover: I do like the cover. I feel like it connects to the first book and I love the change in colors as we explore the voodoo world and the white dress is actually what Amelia wears so I always give points for accuracy. Plus Amelia is more solid, for good reason.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Beyond: A Ghost Story by Graham McNamee
4/5 stars
Wendy Lamb Books, 2012
226 pages
YA Horror

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I'm not entirely sure why I requested this as horror freaks me out but I do like ghost stories and I am trying to be braver. From the start, I found myself intrigued immediately connecting with the writing style.

I can't share too much about the plot as that is so integral to enjoying the story for yourself. Basically Jane has a shadow that is trying to kill herself. But I can also say that everything builds on itself, making for a more multi-layered story and increasing the stakes. As a horror story, it starts out deceptively calm with passages increasingly taking a turn for the creepy as we go to the big climax and conclusion.

One of the elements that I really appreciated was Jane's friendship with Lexi. Lexi unquestioningly accepts Jane and her weirdness and the two provide vital support to each other during the difficult teenage years in addition to the bizarre things that are affecting Jane. I loved that friendship played such a prominent role with just a sprinkle of romance in appropriate places.

Another part I loved was the inclusion of ghosts; I don't want to get too specific but I loved some of the imagery around there. I also really appreciated that this was a standalone with good resolution. Loose ends were wrapped up and we know where people are. Those who survive to the end can look optimistically to the future, which is how I like my books to end.

Overall: A twisty intense emotional thrill-ride with a compelling main character and an awesome best friend.

Cover: Very scary-I actually feel like a more subtle cover would have been appropriate because of the way that the story rises.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
3.5/5 stars
Random House Books for Young Readers, 2012
370 pages
YA Paranormal

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Long ago on the blog I reviewed Sarah Rees Brennan's The Demon's Lexicon, The Demon's Covenant, and The Demon's Surrender with decidedly mixed feelings that left me unsure if I would ever read another book by her. But then the collaboration on Team Human surprised me with its funny quips and heart so I decided to pick this book up.

I can easily compare this book Unspoken, the first in the Lynburn Legacy series to my experiences with those other books. On the one hand, it has many hysterical lines a la Team Human. All of the characters are pretty snappy but especially main character Kami whose odd sense of humor has kept her somewhat separated from many of her classmates. Another element that has contributed to that isolation is the fact that she has a boy in her head. No, not an invisible friend but the ability to communicate mentally with Jared despite their very different lives, he in America, she in English town Sorry-in-the-Vale. Although this is an odd circumstance, it's been working for them. Until the day that Jared shows up in town along with his mother, his aunt, his uncle, and his cousin, the Lynburns who basically run the town. This unexpected arrival leads to all sorts of complications including mysterious murders in the woods, which Kami sets out to investigate along with her motley crew.

I did not have a problem with the beginning of the book. Right away I thought Kami was hilarious and I loved her best friend people-hating Angela as well as new friend Holly. Their families also had some great moments. But while I was laughing, I was wondering where the story was going. When the Lynburns show up, it adds a jolt and some direction but not enough and not quickly enough. A large portion of the book is Kami freaking out over meeting the boy in her head. Jared poses as your stereotypical bad boy although he would basically do anything for Kami and their relationship is mighty complicated.

That's where the book and I started to differ: first in the way the relationship between Kami and Jared is handled and then in the secret behind the Lynburns return. The adults actually play a large part in making this book paranormal and it was just not engaging me. I could not decipher why the plot was twisting the way it was. I managed to finish the book but it was halfhearted. This is the same way I ended up feeling about The Demon's Lexicon trilogy, just a complete inability to invest in the direction Brennan was taking the story.

Overall: I am very aware that my problems with the book are my unique problems and that it is very hard for me to pin down the exact reasons why. So I'll just say that this was a case of author/reader mismatch: I want x things and she gave me y things.

Cover: Very beautiful-relevant to the story while also eye-catching and enchanting. I think it stands apart from a lot of other colors and I bet it will look very nice on a shelf.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
3/5 stars
Bloomsbury, 2012
404 pages
YA Fantasy

Source: Picked up from the library for review.

This was one of my most anticipated books of the year, even garnering some comparisons to one of my favorite books Poison Study by Maria V Synder in some positive reviews. Girl assassin competing with some mysterious magical powers being riled up? How awesome does that sound? However then I started reading some of the negative reviews and I became anxious. This anxiety increased as I read and instantly saw where their criticisms were coming from.

First Celaena is both immensely cocky and incredibly annoyingly inconsistent. As the most infamous assassin, she was sentenced to labor in salt mines for the rest of her life. However she is pulled out to serve as the Crown Prince's entry into the brutal king's competition to find a King's Champion. In the first few pages, she brags about how great she is at killing, admires the looks of the Crown Prince despite his family being the reason she's stuck in chains, and is rude to the Captain of the Guard who doesn't answer her stupid questions AND then is rude to him for not answering her much more stupid questions. It doesn't let up. Celaena dismisses her competitors based on appearance and then bristles that they are all dismissing her on appearance-um, what? She is given pretty free reign despite her own confidence in being able to kill whoever-if I'm in power, I keep dangerous people much more securely watched over. And I don't let them wander the kingdom at will even if they are supposed to kill people under more orders; I did not get why the king thought this was a good plan.

But the worst part for me was a complete eye-roller when a character has his first kill despite being in a position where he almost certainly should have had to kill people before. This happens later in the book when I had somehow managed to have some sympathy for Celaena although I still struggled.

Because actually I lied, the worst part was the romance as both the Crown Prince and the Captain of the Guard somehow fall for Celaena with her experiencing some conflicting feelings in return. I know who I like more (Chaol) but I'm not really comfortable with either of them involving themselves with her nor was I comfortable with all of their actions around her nor their simmering jealousy of each other over her. Since the two men are best friends, a romance will stir up big problems.

Although Celaena is at the core, there is also some ancient magic stuff going on. This is dark and scary and thoroughly enjoyable. When Celaena was investigating that, I found myself much more engaged. But it's more toward the end, so if you DNF early, you won't get to see the parts that helped to partially redeem Celaena.

Overall: An abrasive main character will probably be the deciding factor in how much you enjoy this book. I also recommend lowered expectations as it is definitely not like Game of Thrones and its epicness as well as a high tolerance for love triangles. I am kind of interested in checking out the prequels since I heard they were better but, well, I like when the prequels are free and these aren't.

Cover: I think the cover model looks rather a lot like the author picture we see. One element I didn't notice at first is the dagger on Celaena's arm-something that adds a lot more danger.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Why YA Realistic Fiction #2: World-Building

Welcome to post #2 in my September Weekly Discussion Posts focusing on YA Realistic Fiction and why it rocks. Many times I feel like contemporary and historical books are overlooked in favor of the paranormal, fantasy, and dystopia around the YA blogosphere. This is just a little attempt on my part to bring to your attention some of the great things about YA Realistic Fiction. I'm going to have three weeks of posts and then the fourth week will have a giveaway so be sure to stop by!

This week's topic is World-building and is perhaps a bit more relevant to contemporary rather historical fiction. I was reminded of this as I started reading Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff this week. This is an adult steampunk fantasy novel that is filled with unfamiliar words and governmental structures; I really struggled in the beginning. To me, this experience is a great reminder of how fast I can slip into a contemporary novel. Most of those I've read are set in high schools or the summer in America-something I am very familiar with. Even those set in Australian or British schools have their familiar elements.

This also applies to all of the little details: what do people eat? What does their clothing and housing look like? What role does the government play? A lot of those answers can be taken for granted in a contemporary novel and it certainly helps me slide into the world and start to connect with the characters, my primary purpose when reading.

These thoughts are not an excuse for realistic fiction writers to skimp on details that enhance our understanding of character because they assume we know already. The right information about character clothing or class selection can prove illuminating. But I think it's a great thing for us readers to not have to wade through pages of description and info-dumps before we can get to the real heart of the story.

Do you agree that the worlds of realistic fiction often pop quickly more than those that are constructed whole-scale from the author's imagination?

Be sure to join me next week for the third post about relationships.

Look what I treated myself to:
Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt
Confessions of an Angry Girl by Louise Rozett
Two great books that you could win September 23 when I unveil my accompanying giveaway!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Last Dragonslayer

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
4/5 stars
Harcourt Children's Books, 2012
284 pages
YA Fantasy

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

While I love Jasper Fforde's writing, I entered this book with a bit of a grudge. Not because I don't like his stories but because I've been waiting for the sequel to Shades of Grey for over 2 years and every book that is released in that time but is not the sequel has left me frustrated. Now it looks like that sequel is finally coming out in 2013 and you can expect an excited review upon release.

Back to this book, if you have enjoyed previous Fforde books, I bet you will like this one. It has that same quirky writing style and a lot of funny moments. I believe this one has been labelled YA because the main character Jennifer Strange is only fifteen (but soon to be sixteen) and it is perhaps less dense with literary allusions as say the Thursday Next series. Regardless, I think adults will still find plenty to enjoy as it is very typical of his writing while also being its own fun story.

In this world, magic used to be abundant and useful for many things but unfortunately magic seems to be running out, causing a problem for Jennifer Strange running Kazam, an asylum of sorts for wizards, which is in dire financial straits. But the prophecy of a dragon dying unleashes a crazy chain of events that is best read.

Jennifer is an appealing character: ethically sound, honor-driven, and brave to the point of crazy in my opinion. I really enjoyed hanging out with her during this book. Most of the other characters are lovably or frustratingly eccentric as Jennifer is the grounding force at the heart of the story. The way everything ties together is perfect and yet not what I predicted, thank goodness-it's a much better ending than I anticipated.

Overall: Great fun-it looks like a sequel has already been published in the UK so I hope it's brought over here too as I definitely want to read it. In short, if you like previous Fforde works, I think you'll like this one too. If you haven't read any previous Fforde works, this would serve as a fine introduction especially for those who enjoy dragon stories.

Cover: Since I read this based on previous experience with the author, I didn't look very closely at the cover. However I really appreciate seeing the dragon's scales and the car is present in the book.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Soldier's Secret

A Soldier's Secret by Marissa Moss
3.5/5 stars
Abrams, 2012
387 pages
YA Historical

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I requested this book because I love the history of the American Civil War and I was not familiar with any stories about women disguising themselves as men in order to serve as soldiers although I knew that it had happened.

In this case, we have a novelized version of the story of Sarah Emma Edmonds, undercover as Frank Thompson from even before the war. She fled an abusive father and forced marriage in Canada, exchanging petticoats and corsets for the freedom of pants and lived as a traveling salesman before managing to enlist in the Army of the Potomac. Her story is unique in several ways: most of the other women who enlisted were following husbands or fiancees, giving them a person to confide in-Sarah did not have that. She also served not just as a soldier but also as a nurse, aide, and spy. Thirdly was the time spent as a man before serving-most of the others took up the disguise only upon war breaking out.

These three unique factors along with Sarah's remarkable bravery and patriotism help her stand out. This book takes her story, drawing heavily from her memoir to weave a new narrative for today's audience, incorporating contemporary pictures.

I love the idea behind this as well as the setting. Some of the most exciting moments were when Frank went undercover as a spy as well as seeing her craftiness in tight spots. There are some lags as the army sits around under various vacillating generals, true to the spirit. I had some trouble following the month/year although certain battles serve as touchstones for me. I am more familiar with the end of the war so to get to read more about the beginning was good for me.

But I had a lot of trouble connecting with Sarah/Frank, mainly due to her disguise and her conflicting feelings about gender. She's happy not to have the constraints of a woman's costume but she also falls for a fellow soldier, putting him in a tight spot. She also strongly stereotypes other women as dumb and boring, which surely some are but surely others had the same capacity to do cool things as Sarah if not possessing the nerve and motivation to actually do them. I guess I struggled with the mostly negative way she thought about womanhood as I am someone who has always felt very comfortable being female.

Overall: A cool, little-told story-how many fantasies have you read where the girl masquerades as a boy? And here we have one grounded in historical fact-it can be done! But drags a little and I had trouble connecting with the MC.

Cover: I think this cover is really well-done-I love the mix of masculine top with skirt bottom.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Last Free Cat

The Last Free Cat by Jon Blake
4/5 stars
Albert Whitman and Company
270 pages
YA Dystopia

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I think I've made no secret that I love cats so the title and picture intrigued me, right off the bat. As I learned more, I discovered that the future is an awful place. See, a deadly cat flu has caused most cats to disappear and the few that do exist are strictly controlled and available only for the welcome. But who wouldn't welcome an adorable bundle of fur?

Jade sure would and thus, despite the risks, she welcomes a beautiful girl cat into her home and heart, unsure of how this cat is free but pleased to have her. The cat is named Feela and there are some amazing pictures painted about the delight of petting, holding, and loving a cat, sure to thrill cat-lovers. I assume Blake has cats because he captures the experience perfectly.

Unfortunately, this being a dystopia, that's not all there is to the story. The government, which is basically controlled by one mega-corporation that is the only company to breed cats, takes a very harsh view of disobedience, sending Jade on the run with Feela and a surprising companion. Throughout their travails, the number one priority is saving the cat and inspiring hope in those who want free cats again. There is a good mix of fast-paced action and slower resting spots. Although I don't always enjoy books where the main characters are on the run, their love and concern for Feela mingled with mine for a thrill ride.

I especially liked the ending-it feels very British to me, appropriate given the author's nationality, but what I mean is that I don't think an American author would have ended the book like that. If you've read the book, do you agree? It's not how *I* would have chosen to end the book but it's better than some of the alternatives I feared.

Overall: A refreshingly new take on the dystopian world, great for animal lovers.

Cover: Very simple and striking-just the two colors and then the black; I love that the cat is what catches your eye although I, of course, would have preferred a red tabby even if that's not true to the book!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Blog Tour: Sulan

Back in July, I received notice about a book being promoted by Virtual Author Book Tours with the following blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Sulan Hom can't remember life before the Default-the day the United States government declared bankruptcy. As a math prodigy, she leads a protected life, kept safe from the hunger and crime plaguing the streets of America. She attends the corporate-sponsored Virtual High School, an academy in Vex (Virtual Experience) for gifted children.

Beyond the security of Sulan's high-tech world, the Anti-American League wages a guerrilla war against the United States. Their leader, Imugi, is dedicated to undermining the nation's reconstruction attempts. He attacks anything considered a national resource, including corporations, food storage facilities-and schools. When Sulan witnesses the public execution of a teenage student and the bombing of a college dorm, she panics.

Her mother, a retired mercenary, refuses to teach her how to defend herself. Sulan takes matters into her own hands. With the help of her hacker best friend, Hank, Sulan acquires Touch-an illegal Vex technology that allows her to share the physical experience of her avatar. With Touch, Sulan defies her mother and trains herself to fight.

When Imugi unleashes a new attack on the United States, Sulan finds herself caught in his net. Will her Vex training be enough to help her survive and escape?
 I was intrigued and responded with a request to be part of the tour. Soon I received my date and my copy of the book and set about reading.

Sulan by Camille Picott
4/5 stars
Pixiu Press, 2012
290 pages
YA Cyperpunk

Source: Received as part of blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

As I said, I liked the sound of this book but once I actually picked it up, I struggled a bit. Sulan wants desperately to be a warrior, to have fighting skills and I've always been a bookworm so I did not understand her desire. If I had her mathematical skills, I'm pretty sure I'd be content. Just saying. I was also having trouble imagining the virtual experience Sulan undergoes. While I've read and seen other stories with that element, I just had trouble focusing on it this time.

I kept going though, telling myself, "Just one more chapter." Well one turned into two turned into finishing the book in one night. I would describe the length of the chapters as short-medium length which is pretty much perfect for me and everyone ended with a tease that made me have to continue. While the beginning is a little slow with (necessary) setup, the middle and end are fast-paced and jam-packed. Although the story is partly resolved, there are still many threads that will be addressed in the sequels I hope are coming.

Sulan, although opposite to me temperamentally, is very sympathetic and has good reasons for wanting to be able to defend herself giving the chaotic world in which she lives, where students are daily at risk of being killed by guerrilla warriors.  I also really loved her pet/guard Riska who is drawn as a bat/cat hybrid in the back. Fierce, protective, and fuzzy-does it get any better? Her friend Hank was also a particular favorite of mine-very smart girl (actually pretty much every character is super smart, no face-palming here!) with believable motivations and actions.

Overall: A really fun introduction with solid world-building and loads of action-worth checking out!

Check out the home page for the tour for more links to the stops on this tour!

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