10/30/12

What Came from the Stars

Author: Gary D. Schmidt 
Pages: 304 
Publisher: Clarion 
Format: Hardcover (ARC) 
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): The Valorim are about to fall to a dark lord when they send a necklace containing their planet across the cosmos, hurtling past a trillion starsall the way into the lunchbox of Tommy Pepper, sixth grader, of Plymouth, Mass. Mourning his late mother, Tommy doesn't notice much about the chain he found, but soon he is drawing the twin suns and humming the music of a hanorah. As Tommy absorbs the art and language of the Valorim, their enemies target him. When a creature begins ransacking Plymouth in search of the chain, Tommy learns he must protect his family from villains far worse than he's ever imagined.



Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.


My Summary: While sitting in the cafeteria one day, Tommy receives an unexpected surprise. He doesn't know it yet, but the necklace that dropped into his lunchbox during lunch contains an entire planet. And while he may think nothing of it, their are powerful villains who will stop at nothing to get the chain back and make the planet of Valorim theirs at last.

My Thoughts: This book was a little bit of an oddity, but I still enjoyed it. As a fan of books and series like The Lord of the Rings, I enjoyed the complicated twists and narration style. Tommy and Patty's grief after their mother's death balances out the more sci-fi elements, making for a very balanced story - sci-fi, but with a definite human element.  

I really liked the fact that there was a glossary of terms included in the back. It made for a much easier reading experience - I'm glad I checked!  

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel if you are a fan of fantasy novels and sci-fi, and although it is being marketed as a MG novel, I'd recommend it for the older end of MG (even those who read YA already). Check it out for a read that is sure to keep you entertained. 

10/28/12

Who Could That Be At This Hour?

Author: Lemony Snicket 
Pages: 258 
Publisher: Egmont 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): In a fading town, far from anyone he knew or trusted, a young Lemony Snicket began his apprenticeship in an organization nobody knows about. He started by asking questions that shouldn't have been on his mind. Now he has written an account that should not be published, in four volumes that shouldn't be read. This is the first volume.





My Summary: Thirteen-year-old Lemony Snicket has just graduated from the school where he received his rather unorthodox education. As part of his graduation requirements, Snicket was told to chose a mentor to apprentice for. It is during this apprenticeship that he learns the consequences of asking all the wrong questions.

Dragged to a dilapidated town known as Stain'd by the Sea, Snicket and his mentor are hired to investigate the theft of a mysterious family heirloom. Snicket seems to have solved the mystery within a few hours... but even the most seemingly simple cases can shake the foundations of this tiny town.

My Thoughts: I'm still in a little bit of a state, as I've just finished reading this wonderful novel. But I'll try guys, I'll try.

This book encompassed everything I loved about A Series of Unfortunate Events! All the mystery, the intrigue, the shadows, the deceit, and atmosphere of VFD and the Baudelaires' woeful tale. From the time I was about seven I adored A Series of Unfortunate Events, so you could say this novel has been long-awaited. My expectations were this high [holds up hand to shoulder level] and Snicket (Handler) delivered on all of them! I adored this novel, and I cannot wait to get my hands on the second volume in the series.

I also adored the style of this novel. The amazing black and white and blue illustrations really added another level to the atmosphere, making it feel a lot more eerie and mysterious. I'll miss Brett's amazing illustrations, but Seth's are definitely on the same level.

Final Thoughts: If you loved A Series of Unfortunate Events, you should definitely check out Who Could That Be At This Hour?. If you've never read one of Snicket's books, get yourself to a library/bookstore as fast as your legs can carry you and GET THEM. 

The Book of Styling: An Insider's Guide to Creating Your Own Look

Author: Somer Flaherty 
Pages: 160 
Publisher: Zest Books 
Format: Paperback (ARC) 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): This guide explains the what’s, why’s, and how’s of styling; so whether you’re looking to update your wardrobe or curate your closet, this book has the answer. Accomplished stylist Somer Flaherty helps readers figure out what their look is (or ought to be), and how to tailor that look to their own particular body type. Also, for all of the future Rachel Zoe’s out there, Flaherty helps readers understand the skills that are necessary to style others, and to even turn styling into a real career.




The Book of Styling was a really fun read! As a self-proclaimed fashionista I didn't think I'd learn a lot, but boy was I wrong! I followed the tips in this book and re-vamped my closet, and I can say in all honesty that I've never been happier with the result. After learning all the little tips and tricks contained in this book, finding something to wear is a snap. If you guys haven't heard of "The Rule of Threes" I definitely recommend you check out The Book of Styling and take control of your out-of-control wardrobes!

10/25/12

The Circle

Author: M. Strandberg & S. Elfgren
Pages: 592
Publisher: Hammer
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Only together can they survive. Engelsfors. A beautiful name for a scrubby little town in Sweden where six girls have just started high school. They have nothing in common -- except they are all hunted by an ancient evil. The autumn semester has just started when a student is found dead in one of the school toilet cubicles. Everyone suspects suicide. Everyone except those that know the truth. One night, when a mysterious red moon fills the sky, the girls meet in the park. They don't know why or how they were brought there but they learn that they need each other in order to survive. They are told that they are witches. An ancient prophecy states that they are The Chosen Ones. From this day on, high school is a matter of life and death. They must learn how to work together despite their differences and they have to master the forces that have awakened within them. Time is running out. Something is hunting them and if they don't find it and defeat it, it will kill them.



My Summary: In a little town surrounded by trees, six teenaged girls begin to experience strange phenomena. Terrified and confused after the death of a fellow classmate, the six are drawn to an abandoned fairground on the night of a red moon. There they are told that they are witches - members of a "circle". Each has their own unique power, and it is their job to utilize their power and stop whatever is killing their friends.

But the girls don't take this warning seriously, choosing instead to ignore what they've been told. As a result, one of their own is brutally murdered by the mysterious evil.

Now, with one less member and only so much time left, these polar opposites must band together in order to control their abilities and destroy the evil haunting their town.

My Thoughts: The Circle was one of those novels that made me sit back and stare blankly into space after I finished. I loved every minute of it! The authors have truly hit the jackpot with the slow-to-build plot and their ability to mix both contemporary issues with the paranormal - each character was complex and real, and you really felt like you got to know each and every one. This novel was the perfect book for fall - a lot of horror and paranormal, set in a spooky small town. A winning recipe. I devoured it.

What I loved most was the insane twists and turns. Usually with paranormal books I can usually predict what is going to happen, but when it came to The Circle I was at a loss (in a good way!). It kept me up late into the night reading, but I regret nothing.


Final Thoughts: If you're looking for a great Autumn read or just love a good paranormal YA mystery, check out The Circle

Blink Once

Author: Cylin Busby
Pages: 304
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): West is a high school senior who has everything going for him – until an accident leaves him paralyzed. Strapped down in his hospital bed, moving in and out of consciousness, West is isolated and alone. Until he meets Olivia. Olivia is the girl next door – though not the typical girl next door. She is in the hospital room next to his, and before long, she’s sneaking into his room to talk with him. Only Olivia seems to know what he’s thinking, and even dreaming about. Yet certain questions haunt him: Why is Olivia in the hospital? And how is she connected to the terrible dreams he’s been having? But the biggest shock of all comes when West must face the possibility that the girl he’s fallen in love with – and who’s done more to aid his recovery than anyone else – may not even be alive.



My Summary: West thought he had the perfect life - an amazing girlfriend, great friends, an a competitive BMX biking career. That is, until the accident.

Now West is a vegetable -  completely paralyzed and unable to move. His future looks bleak in comparison to what he used to have... until he meets Olivia. Strange, intense, and mysterious, Olivia helps West on the path to recovery faster than any miracle drug ever could have. But what will happen to their relationship when West is released and things suddenly take a turn for the worst?

My Thoughts: I had no idea what to expect when I began reading Blink Once, but I'm so glad I took a chance on it and stepped out of my comfort zone.

This novel was one of those ones that grabs you and doesn't let go. From the moment I started, I couldn't put it down  - I absolutely had to know what happened with West and Olivia. They were both such complex characters, and I loved the way the author portrayed them both in such a great way.

Final Thoughts: I can't really say more without giving something away, but I'll leave you with this: if you love contemporary literature and YA, you need to get yourself a copy of Blink Once!

10/20/12

The Mark of Athena

Author: Rick Riordan
Pages: 608
Publisher: Hyperion
Format: Hardcover
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Annabeth is terrified. Just when she’s about to be reunited with Percy—after six months of being apart, thanks to Hera—it looks like Camp Jupiter is preparing for war. As Annabeth and her friends Jason, Piper, and Leo fly in on the Argo II, she can’t blame the Roman demigods for thinking the ship is a Greek weapon. With its steaming bronze dragon masthead, Leo’s fantastical creation doesn’t appear friendly. Annabeth hopes that the sight of their praetor Jason on deck will reassure the Romans that the visitors from Camp Half-Blood are coming in peace. And that’s only one of her worries. In her pocket Annabeth carries a gift from her mother that came with an unnerving demand: Follow the Mark of Athena. Avenge me. Annabeth already feels weighed down by the prophecy that will send seven demigods on a quest to find—and close— the Doors of Death. What more does Athena want from her? Annabeth’s biggest fear, though, is that Percy might have changed. What if he’s now attached to Roman ways? Does he still need his old friends? As the daughter of the goddess of war and wisdom, Annabeth knows she was born to be a leader, but never again does she want to be without Seaweed Brain by her side. Narrated by four different demigods, The Mark of Athena is an unforgettable journey across land and sea to Rome, where important discoveries, surprising sacrifices, and unspeakable horrors await. Climb aboard the Argo II, if you dare. . . .  



My Summary: It seems as if Annabeth's prayers have finally been answered - they've located Percy, and are on their way to the Roman camp to retrieve him. While they're there, Annabeth and the others hope to solidify their rocky relationship with the rival camp and get their help fighting Gaea before it's too late.

But Gaea has other plans, and instead of creating peace between the camps, Annabeth and her friends accidentally start a war with Camp Jupiter. But that's the least of their worries - if they don't find Hazel's brother Nico before the First of July, he'll die.

Now with Percy and his group in tow, the demigods must find a way to get to Nico and stop Gaea's plan before it's too late - all while fighting against their would-be friends. But can they possibly succeed with the odds stacked against them?

My Thoughts: I just... wow. I finished a while ago, and yet I still can't seem to form completely coherent opinions about this one. Well, I can... kind of. IT WAS SO GOOD! I loved every minute of it - I even bought the ebook version so that I could read it when I wasn't home and had a few spare minutes between classes and such. Every aspect was absolutely wonderful. We got to see a lot of character growth and relationship strengthening, and we also got some revelations about the gods themselves. I, for one, was close to tears after that ending... I mean seriously, talk about a sucker-punch to the feelings! Thanks Mr. Riordan, that was just what I needed today.

Final Thoughts: I definitely recommend checking out the entire series, starting from The Lightning Thief. You will not regret it!


10/16/12

Beautiful Creatures Movie Trailer

If you haven't been to the movies in a while or just haven't heard, the trailer for Beautiful Creatures was just released the other day! I had no clue until a friend of mine mentioned it this morning, so for my fellow flighty / distracted bloggers, here it is:



Is anyone else freaking out? I'm so excited! Only a few more months!

For fellow fans of the series: let me know what you think so far!

10/9/12

Sons of the 613

Author: Michael Rubens
Pages: 320
Publisher: Clarion Books
Format: Hardcover (ARC)
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Isaac's parents have abandoned him for a trip to Italy in the final days before his bar mitzvah. And even worse, his hotheaded older brother, Josh, has been left in charge. An undefeated wrestler, MMA fighter, and bar brawler, Josh claims to be a "Son of the 613"—a man obedient to the six hundred and thirteen commandments in the Tanakh—and he has the tattoo to prove it. When Josh declares that there is more to becoming a man than memorization, the mad "quest" begins for Isaac. From jumping off cliffs and riding motorcycles, to standing-up to school bullies and surviving the potentially fatal Final Challenge, Josh puts Isaac through a punishing gauntlet that only an older brother could dream up. But when Isaac begins to fall for Josh's girlfriend, Leslie, the challenges escalate from bad to worse in this uproarious coming-of-age comedy.



Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

My Summary: Isaac and his brother Josh don't exactly see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. Ever since Josh became a "Son of the 613", things have been a little... weird, to say the least. And when their parents decide to go on a last minute trip to Italy - leaving Isaac in the care of his brother just days before his bar mitzvah - things take a turn for the worse. And when Josh notices his brother's feelings for his girlfriend, he decides that Isaac is in need of some 'training' before he can truly be called a man... and Isaac learns just what it means to cross a Son of the 613.


My Thoughts: This book was hilarious. Josh's 'training' of his brother (let's just call it torture for now) was totally reminiscent of Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid. I found myself chuckling just trying to imagine what Josh's next 'lesson' for Isaac would be.

Although the characters were quirky and fun, I had a little bit of trouble relating to the main character - of course, this could be due to the fact that I am not and never have been a thirteen year old boy. So no worries there! (My little brother snagged my copy after I was done with it, and he loved everything about the book. It has received the seal of approval).

I also really liked the way Rubens dealt with religion in this novel. A lot of books lately seem to dance around the idea of their main character having a belief or strong faith, and I feel as if the author handled it really well.

Final Thoughts: I recommend this to any boys (and girls) who enjoy YA. Isaac's story will definitely keep you laughing.

Girl of Nightmares

Author: Kendare Blake
Pages: 332
Publisher: Tor Teen
Format: Hardcover
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): It's been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can't move on.

His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they're right, but in Cas's eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

Now he's seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he's asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong...these aren't just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn't know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn't deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it's time for him to return the favor.



My Summary: It's been almost six months since Anna disappeared into Hell, taking with her almost ever ounce of sanity Cas had left. Now he's seeing her everywhere, bleeding and tortured and dismembered. It's obvious that something is wrong with Anna, and Cas is determined to fix it, no matter who tells him to forget it and move on.

Soon Cas, Thomas, and Carmel are on a quest to find a mysterious group known as The Order of the Black Dagger - the makers of Cas's knife - and enlist their help to open a portal to Hell. But getting the Order's help just might mean the end of Cas's ghost-hunting days... along with releasing the horrible monster that Anna died to protect them from.

My Thoughts: This book... just... I can't even form completely coherent sentences at this point. I just finished reading Girl of Nightmares, and already I'm itching to grab Anna Dressed in Blood and start the series all over again. It was that good. Amazing, actually.

Although this novel was a tad different than its predecessor, I still loved every minute. Cas and the gang have grown since the first book, forming a tight-knit group. I really liked that the characters maintained their sense of individuality even when they were faced with the crisis of getting Anna out of Hell: they don't just follow blindly. Thomas and Carmel really shone as characters in this book. I'm a little disheartened that it was the last in the series... I totally wouldn't have minded another book. Just putting that out there.

And oh, the ending. It wasn't your typical fairy-tale ending with the rainbows and the flowers and the singing birds in the distance, but it was fitting. An awesome way to end an awesome series. This was one of those rare endings that just fits.

Final Thoughts: I definitely recommend  Girl of Nightmares to anyone who enjoyed the first book in the series, and I recommend the entire series to anyone who enjoys paranormal YA, adventure, and some edginess with their ghost stories.

10/8/12

Scorch

Author: Gina Damico
Pages: 332
Publisher: Graphia
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby is a teenage grim reaper with the bizarre ability to damn souls. That makes her pretty scary, even to fellow Grims. But after inadvertently transferring her ability to Zara, a murderous outlaw, Lex is a pariah in Croak, the little town she calls home. To escape the townspeople’s wrath, she and her friends embark on a wild road trip to DeMyse. Though this sparkling desert oasis is full of luxuries and amusements, it feels like a prison to Lex. Her best chance at escape would be to stop Zara once and for all—but how can she do that from DeMyse, where the Grims seem mysteriously oblivious to Zara’s killing spree?



My Summary: A few weeks after attending her twin sister's funeral, Lex is feeling a little off. After getting her Damning ability Culled by Zara, she's a bit of a pariah around Croak - the last place she thought she'd feel like an outsider. But things are getting crazy in Croak, and no matter what Lex seems to do, she can't seem to catch a break with the townspeople.

When things start to go south, Uncle Mort gathers all the Junior Grims and gets them to safety - away from Croak. But Zara is on their tail, and she won't stop until she gets what she's after: Lex.

My Thoughts: I've been waiting for this book to come out since I read the very last page of Croak. And now, having read it, I can say without any doubt: this series is freaking amazing. I adore everything about it - the hilarious dialogue, the amazingly well-developed characters (even minor ones!) and the hardcore plot twists.

I was a little worried about this installment, thinking that nothing could possibly compare to Croak, but fortunately I was wrong. Scorch delivers just as much of everything you loved about Croak - with a little more action and a few heart-stopping scenes thrown in. I loved every minute.

Final Thoughts: I definitely recommend this series to anyone who enjoys some humour with their paranormal YA, and anyone looking for an all-around amazing read.

10/7/12

Unspoken

Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Pages: 384
Publisher: Random House
Format: Hardcover
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads)Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?



My Summary: Kami has lived in the quaint little town of Sorry-in-the-Vale her entire life. And for her entire life, Kami's been hearing a boy's voice in her head - a boy named Jared, whom everyone has named her imaginary friend. Kami doesn't care what anyone thinks about her or her connection to a boy she's never met, but it hasn't won her very many friends over the years - then again, neither has being a budding journalist, interviewing people and demanding to get to the bottom of things. Still, she likes her life the way it is.

But when the Lynburns come back to town, everything changes. Kami's imaginary friend isn't so imaginary after all, leaving her to wonder: what is the cause behind her and Jared's connection? And as she falls hard for the boy inside her head, she can't help but wonder: could he possibly be responsible for the mysterious deaths occurring in her cozy little town, or is he being framed?

Who is she without him? And what would she be to him if their connection were severed?

My Thoughts: I am currently in that state of shock you experience after finishing an amazing book, having your heart broken and dreams shattered, then running to the computer to make sure that it's not a stand-alone novel so you can put yourself back together and make yourself move on, trying to distract yourself until the next installment comes out.

You guys know what I mean, right? Of course you do. It's a reading thing.

I picked this novel up from the bookstore on my way home from work on a whim, and I am so glad I did. I finished it in less than 6 hours, stopping only to eat and execute normal body functions such as going to the washroom. Sarah Rees Brennan sucked me into the world of Kami and Jared and Sorry-in-the-Vale, and she did not let me go until she broken my heart. Kami and Jared are probably my favourite pairing in a YA novel over the past year. I loved the premise of their relationship: what happens when you know someone too well? Is it ever possible to be involved romantically? Especially with someone who can hear what you're thinking? I loved the tension of their relationship... which probably makes no sense to you if you haven't read the book yet.

Brennan created an amazing setting for this novel. I loved the way she described Kami's town, despite the sinister undertones. The flow of the story was perfect and never felt rushed, and the dialogue made me laugh out loud so many times I lost count. My favourite quote was probably:

(Kami): "I don't know what I'm supposed to do about a guy who only wants me for my mind."
(Holly): "I can honestly say that has never happened to me."

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys gothic literature, romance, and a good mystery. This was my first book of Sarah Rees Brennan's, but it definitely won't be the last!

10/6/12

Dead is a Killer Tune

Author: Marlene Perez
Pages: 204
Publisher: Graphia
Format: Paperback (ARC)
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): A diabolical pied piper comes to town in the the seventh installment of this hot paranormal mystery series. High school freshman Jessica Walsh is a virago, a woman warrior who must protect her hometown from danger. And in the unusual little town of Nightshade, California, trouble is always lurking. At Nightshade’s Battle of the Bands, Jess’s boyfriend Dominic and his band Side Effects May Vary are up against Hamlin, a band so popular that their fans follow them everywhere. Soon, Nightshade’s musicians are doing risky, illegal and even fatal things—and claiming that strange music they heard right before falling asleep told them to do it. Could a diabolical pied piper be sabotaging the Battle of the Bands? It’s up to Jessica and her friends track down the tuneful tyrant.



Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

My Summary
: Jessica Walsh is a virago - a female warrior responsible for keeping paranormal critters in check to keep the residents of her hometown safe from things that go bump in the night. Life as a virago isn't exactly ideal for Jess - a high school freshman - but she's managing as best as she can.

Until strange - er, stranger - things start happening to her boyfriend's band and their rivals. The boys behaviour seems to escalate daily, pitting them against each other in ruthless pranks with almost-fatal consequences. Jess knows there has to be something paranormal responsible, and as her town's protector, it's her job to save the bands - from each other and from themselves.

My Thoughts: Marlene Perez's books are amazing in the way that I will never not want to read them over and over again. They're light, quick reads with enough humour and action to keep any reader hooked. I really liked the way Jessica's character has matured since the last novel - I was disappointed when the series shifted from Daisy to Jess, but after a few books I think I may prefer Jess.

I really like the way the author makes sure to incorporate home life and school and all the little mundane parts of life into her books. Most novels (especially in the paranormal YA genre) tend to gloss over the details and make them seem unimportant, which really irks me. I mean seriously, these things make up who you are as a person - they shouldn't be ignored.

Final Thoughts: Marlene Perez's Dead Is series is perfect for anyone looking for a light, quirky read - especially fans of the paranormal genre.

10/4/12

Follow Friday!

Happy Friday!

Question: What do you hope to accomplish with your blog?

To be completely honest, I'm not hoping to accomplish much of anything. My blog is really just a place I like to use to keep track of my books and my opinions on them. All the extras - ARCs, emails from authors and other awesome opportunities - are just icing on the cake, you know? :P

How about you guys?