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Every Day April 29, 2013

Filed under: Books — Heather @ 6:25 pm
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Every Day by David Levithan

every day levithan

Each day we wake up, get ready, think about what that day may hold.  Not A.  Every day A wakes up in a different body.  This has happened every day of his/her existence.  Another day, another body, another family, another set of problems.

It has taken A time to adjust to this lifestyle.  At first, he thought everyone experienced the same thing.  As time went by, A realized he/she was merely a visitor in someone else’s body.  To eliminate complications A developed rules to live by.  Mainly – don’t get involved.  Just like the saying goes, A attempts to “do no harm” while inhabiting countless bodies.

That was never a problem until A woke up in the body of Justin.  A meets Justin’s girlfriend Rhiannon and his existence completely changes.  A does everything in his power to keep Rhiannon in his life, despite the fact that it’s not always A’s life being involved.

Despite what I will call being corporeally challenged, A and Rhiannon manage to attempt a relationship. Can Rhiannon get past the fact that A is in a different body every day?  Girl, boy, fat, thin, etc.  Can A find a way to stay in one body and stay will his one true love?

David Levithan has given us more than a few things to think about.  What is it that makes us love a person?  What makes us who we are?  What would you do if you were a different person every day?

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Beautiful Darkness

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

BeautifulDarkness_GarciaandStohl

The second installment in the Caster Chronicles continues where the Beautiful Creatures left off.  Let’s do a little recap for those of you who may have forgotten.  Gatlin, South Carolina was turned upside down last year when beautiful Lena Duchannes came to town.  After being drawn to Ethan Wate, Lena lets down her guard and falls in love.  Fearful of her sixteenth birthday, Lena reveals her true self to Ethan.  She comes from the Ravenwood family, Casters with tremendous supernatural abilities.  On her birthday, Lena must claim herself, thus maturing in her powers.  The only catch is she must decide if she’s Light or Dark – basically good or evil.  After facing the wrath of Gatlin’s bible-thumping DAR, Lena and Ethan came face to face with Sarafine, Lena’s Dark Caster mother.  Lean was able to resist her urges and not claim herself at the sixteenth moon.  But all’s well that ends well, or so they say.

Beautiful Darkness opens with Ethan, recovered from the past events, attempting to return to normal life in Gatlin.  But that’s impossible now that he know what lurks in the Darkness.  Despondent over the death of her uncle, Macon Ravenwood, Lena falls into a spiral of darkness.  Ethan, the love of her life, is trying to keep her afloat and remind her she’s not evil.  As the seventeenth moon fast approaches, the Dark Casters in her family are targeting in on Lena.  Her cousin Ridley and mysterious newcomer John Breed seem to be luring her away.

Meanwhile, Ethan is having visions again.  Discovering the death of his mother may have more to do with the Casters than he realized, Ethan is determined to save Lena.  There is also a new girl in town.  Liv is interning with Marian the librarian and training to be a Keeper, like Ethan’s mother.  Amma, her ancestors, and a mischievous cat are there to assist Ethan in his quest.  Ever faithful sidekick, Link is on board to fight for Lena and their very lives.  Will Ethan’s love again be enough to save Lena from her family curse?  Not if Sarafine, Hunting and Blood Incubus Abraham Ravenwood have anything to say about it.

Wow!  I loved Beautiful Creatures, but I think Darkness is even better!  Still present are the lush descriptions and multifaceted characters, dripping with southern charm.  The plotline has thickened, giving us even more details to devour.  Garcia and Stohl have integrated a fantastic supernatural romance (not too mushy) with a Gothic tale of family bloodlines so thick you’ll keep referring to the Ravenwood family tree.  There’s no way to draw out the experience of reading this book because you simply can’t put it down.  On to the third…

 

The Body at the Tower

The Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee

The Agency 2

Mary Quinn is back in this exciting sequel to A Spy in the House.  Now, a full-fledged member of The Agency, she is given her first official assignment.  She is to pose as an apprentice builder to investigate the suspicious death of a bricklayer at St. Stephen’s Tower- the unfinished Houses of Parliament.  Thankfully petite Mary is able to don the ragged garb, chop off her hair and pose as a young man.  As “Mark” she introduces us to the world of the working poor.  Mary’s assignment brings forth memories of her own difficult childhood on the streets of London, where she once dressed as a boy for her own safety.

Mary is thrust into this underbelly of squalor and depravity.  She attempts to aid Jenkins, another young worker on the job site while investigating the mysterious case.  If all that wasn’t difficult enough, Mary’s old sparring partner James Easton is again in the picture.  Back from India, a weakened James coincidentally enters Mary’s building site.  Will James keep her secret or blow her cover?  And more importantly, will their acquaintance lead to romance?

Lee again makes Victorian London a focus of this novel.  Through Mary the reader is able to view the horrors of poverty.  Reminiscent of Dickens, the back alleys and dark basements roil with filth and sadness . Class distinctions and gender roles pigeon-hole many of the characters.  Through her work for the Agency, Mary is able to transcend these. Identity is a major theme in this novel.  As Mary hides her femaleness by cutting her hair and binding her chest, she is also hiding deeper secrets.  Described as exotic, we learned that Mary is half Chinese in the first installment of The Agency.  Her real last name is Lang, but was changed to better assimilate into British society.   She has so far shunned this part of herself, shutting out memories of her past. While distancing herself from her Asian roots, Mary has also learned to use her heritage to her advantage. She easily treads the boundaries of class, race and gender.

I have already said I am a fan of this series. Victorian England, mysteries, and intriguing protagonist, Lee delivers another winner. Through the course of the first two novels, Mary has matured.  I am curious to see Mary as she grows in age, experience and confidence.  The third book in The Agency series, The Traitor and The Tunnel is next on my list.

 

Boy 21

Boy 21 by Matthew Quick

boy21

Finley, known as “White Rabbit” to his teammates, loves basketball.  His earliest memories are of shooting hoops under the night sky.  It may be his only chance of escape from Bellmont, a gritty town ruled by the Irish mob.  He and girlfriend, Erin hope to leave for a brighter future by way of college scholarships.

Russell Allen was star ball player and top college recruit.  That was until his parents were murdered and he moved to Bellmont to live with his grandparents.  Now he wants to be known as Boy 21 – and he doesn’t want to play basketball.

Finley is asked by his coach to take Boy 21 under his wing since they both share mysterious and violent pasts.  This unlikely pairing just may be the best thing for both of these stargazers.

Hooked from page 1, I loved every minute of this mesmerizing story.  Not a sports fan?  No worries when picking up this one.  Matthew Quick, author of Sorta Like a Rockstar and The Silver Linings Playbook delivers another emotional and touching story of redemption and the celebration of life.

 

A Spy in the House April 25, 2013

A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

agency

An orphan in Victorian London.  The possibilities are endless.  In Y.S. Lee’s debut novel, we meet Mary Quinn.  After being sentenced to hang, twelve-year-old Mary is whisked away by a prison guard, sparing her from the gallows.  Her savior is really Anne Treleaven, mistress of Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls.  Mary is welcomed and given an education befitting a proper lady.  Upon graduation, Anne reveals the school is really a front for The Agency, an all-female detective group. Now seventeen, Mary joins their ranks.

Her first assignment is to infiltrate the household of the Thorold family, rich merchants.  While posing as paid companion to the daughter Angela, Mary attempts to discover what happened to Thorold’s missing cargo ships.  While undercover she encounters James Easton, brother to Angela’s fiancé.  He is also snooping around, trying to find cause for his brother not to marry.  Mary discovers everyone has secrets.  She even has some of her own.

I am happy to say I have a new favorite series.  A lover of Victoriana and mysteries, The Agency is right up my alley.  Mary Quinn is a charming character; smart and spunky.  There is just the right amount of drama, mystery and romance to appeal to any reader.  Fans of period fiction will love Lee’s descriptions of 1850’s London, “Great Stink” and all.  I am pleased to announce the second and third books, The Body at the Tower and The Traitor in the Tunnel are already on the shelf and eagerly await reading.

 

Suspect

Filed under: Books,Staff Pics — Heather @ 10:12 pm
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Suspect by Kristin Wolden Nitz

suspect book

Seventeen-year-old Jen is fresh from junior year of high school and a break-up with her boyfriend.  A fun-filled summer now awaits her-working at her Grandmother’s bed and breakfast.  Grandma Kay’s Schoenhaus lies among the vineyards of Missouri (who knew Missouri was know for its wine?), and will give Jen a much-needed break.  She’s even on board to play a role in the murder mystery weekend at the B & B, until she learns it may include solving a real-life mystery- her mother’s disappearance!

Jen’s mother abandoned her and her father fifteen years ago.  Periodically receiving gifts and letters from her absent mother, the contact came to a halt a few years ago.  Jen has lived her entire life without a mother, holding on to a few fleeting memories while trying to move on with her life.  Now Grandma Kay suspects Ellen didn’t really leave at all.  She thinks she was murdered!  Could it be true?  Could her mother really have been dead all these years?  Then who’s been sending the presents?  And even more frightening, who could have killed her?

All these questions are answered in this delightful tale.  I am a die-hard mystery fanatic and I suspect the author is as well.  Rarely do you find a well-crafted mystery (without some kind of supernatural beings) in young adult novels.  The teen characters are realistically portrayed.  The plot is engaging.  From the moment I picked it up, this book didn’t leave my hands.  Okay, maybe I had to go to the bathroom once, but that’s it!  I found myself literally on the edge of my seat, not able to read the pages fast enough to reach the satisfying climax of this novel.  Suspect is a great way to introduce teens to the wonderful world of murder and mayhem every mystery lover craves.  I can only anticipate future winners from Ms. Nitz.

 

Beauty Queens

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

beautyqueens

WARNING:  THIS REVIEW IS NOT APPROVED BY THE CORPORATION

Attention all Miss Teen Dreamers!  Get your sequins and self-tanner ready.  It’s time for the most hilariously LOL book you’ll read all year.  Not that you read books, right? Because beautiful people don’t read, of course.

What happens when teenage pageant contestants are trapped on a deserted island?  Imagine Lord of the Flies meets Gilligan’s Island – with superb product placement and corporate endorsed dictatorship.  The surviving Teen Dream contestants must battle hunger, snakes, and exploding hair remover.  Each girl has their own agenda, their own hopes and dreams.  Some enter the pageant because it’s a chance at scholarship money, some to prove just how sexist pageants are, and some because looking good is the only thing they think they’re capable of.  As the girls battle the dangers of the island, they cope with their own insecurities and learn they’re much more than what society and their families expect.

Libba Bray has once again given us a cutting edge satirical commentary on our world.  The Corporation, Ladybird Hope and MoMo B. ChaCha are all too familiar characters, or caricatures of recognizable figures.  The there’s a girl to fit every stereotype, but there’s more than meets the well made-up eye.  Bray pokes fun at these conventions by showing us just how ridiculous they are.  A champion of the strong female character, Ms. Bray gives us several to choose from.  A riot from beginning to end, with a serious message

For even more laughs, check out the audiobook version voiced entirely by the author.