Friday, July 18, 2014

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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Title: Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Fiction/Sci-Fi/Fairytale Retelling/Everything
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: Scenes of death from an epidemic
Premise: "As plague ravages the overcrowded Earth, observed by a ruthless lunar people, Cinder, a gifted mechanic and cyborg, becomes involved with handsome Prince Kai and must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect the world in this futuristic take on the Cinderella story" (King County Library System).
Opinions: This book is AMAZING.  Take Cinderella, combined with a little Anastasia, and make into a sci-fi futuristic story with cyborgs, lunar people, and place it in a newer version of Beijing, China. How can you get more brilliant than that. Okay, add in three dimensional characters, incredible plot twists, bio-electric manipulation and an epidemic.  Do I have your attention now.  This book is worth reading. So go get it now. Read it. And then tell me if you loved it as much as I did.  As for me, I have to go and immediately put my name on the wait-list for book #2, Scarlet, at my local library.  See ya!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull

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Title: Sky Raiders (The Five Kingdoms #1)
Author: Brandon Mull
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Mid Grade Fantasy
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "Whisked through a portal to The Outskirts, an in-between world, sixth-grader Cole must rescue his friends and find his way back home--before his existence is forgotten" (King County Library System) .
Opinions: Okay, I am never going into a haunted house again (like I'd have gone before reading this book, but really. . . not happening now). I love the vividness and imagination that Brandon Mull creates in this new series. I love the concept. I'm intrigued by the varied characters. And I love the cool and amazing equipment and abilities that they come up with to use in this book. Seriously, I want to be able to shape, have a jumping sword, and about a dozen other awesome things.  I love Cole as a main character and I'm intrigued by Mira, Jace, and Twitch. I want to raid a sky castle and try and rescue my friends.  Plus, each of the five kingdoms is unique opening up the reader to imaginative locations like giant playgrounds, lakes of milk with floating cookies and much more.  This has to be my favorite of Brandon's books since his Fablehaven series. So go pick it up and read it with your kids. Make it a family adventure. You'll enjoy it.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

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Title: The Dark Unwinding (The Dark Unwinding #1)
Author: Sharon Cameron
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Historical Mystery/Suspense/Steampunk
Rating: Love
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "In 1852, when seventeen-year-old Katharine is sent to her family's estate to prove that her uncle is insane, she finds he is an inventor whose work creating ingenious clockwork figures supports hundreds of families, but strange occurences soon have her doubting her own sanity" (King County Library System).
Opinions: My husband read The Dark Unwinding first and then told me that he thought I would like it. I loved it. It was an intriguing mix of Jane Austen and Alfred Hitchcock with a touch of steampunk thrown in for good measure. The mix of characters was fascinating and I loved Katherine as she works to figure out what is the right thing to do while ensuring her own welfare. I loved watching her struggle to understand her role, insanity, propriety and the causes of the underlying sense of horror. Mostly I was fascinated by the location - Stranwyne. It became a character all of its own in a little way.  Overall, I am impressed with this book and am eager to read more by this author.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Zombie Kid by J. Scott Savage

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Title: Zombie Kid (Case File 13 #1)
Author: J. Scott Savage
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Mid-Grade Horror
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: None unless your kid is highly sensitive to zombies and voodoo.
Premise: "The Halloween plans of monster enthusiasts Nick, Carter, and Angelo are thrown into turmoil when a magical amulet acquired from Nick's voodoo queen aunt turns Nick into a zombie and prompts an uproarious effort to break the curse" (King County Library System).
Opinions: I LOVE this book and I hate zombies. This book is an awesome cross between a mystery, Halloween horror, and just plane awesome sauce. It is perfect especially for pre-teen boys who love to be grossed out by limbs falling off of the undead, practical jokes, and learning that your relatives have spooky secrets. And for a zombie book it was incredibly clean and fun to read. There was great character growth, proof of awesome friends, and fun humor.  I'm still dying over the creation of a food substitute for zombies who crave brains.  I'm intrigued by the concept and look forward to reading more about Nick, Carter, and Angelo in book #2, Making the Team.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Air Keep by J. Scott Savage

To read my reviews of other books in this series click here: Water Keep and Land Keep.

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Title: Air Keep (Farworld #3)
Author: J. Scott Savage
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Mid-Grade Fantasy (or YA depending on your library)
Rating: Love
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "Marcus and Kyja continue to search for the Elementals they need to unite to open a drift between Earth and Farworld, but the Air Elementals have a strange sense of humor and with Farworld in the grip of a terrible drought and daily earthquakes, the two friends face untold challenges" (King County Library System).
Opinions:  I love this series, but I made the mistake of keeping this book in my car. I have a habit of always having a book in my car for when I'm stuck in a drive-thru somewhere or waiting for kids to come out of school.  The problem is that I've changed the way I eat and the kids are out of school for the summer, therefore I have to wait in far fewer lines.  So I finally wizened up and brought the book into the house. I was half-way when I did that, and I just finished reading it. Once I had the dedicated time to focus on it I could not put it down.

My favorite character by far in this book, the third in its series, is Kyja. I love her more than ever. She is passionate, determined, talented and flawed. She's great. As Marcus' health/emotional state is tied in with the health of Farworld he felt weaker in this book, but it was totally intentional. Marcus had to learn to open up and be honest and some other stuff I can't tell you without spoiling the story.  I loved the unveiling of the air elementals.  The uniqueness between the different types of elementals is intriguing, especially when it comes to their weaknesses. And who wants a racing snail. . . um, me please. The snail and Mr. Z were fascinating, mysterious, and I want to see more of them.  So yea, when is Fire Keep coming out?  According to GoodReads it isn't until October, but Amazon shows it as July 1st.  As for me, I sure hope Amazon is right.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

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Title: Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Fiction
Rating: Love
Alerts/Warnings: Reference to previous teen sex, mild language, secondary characters in same-sex relationship
Premise: "If Naomi had picked tails, she would have won the coin toss. She wouldn't have had to go back for the yearbook camera, and she wouldn't have hit her head. She wouldn't have woken up in the ambulance with amnesia. She would have remembered her boyfriend, Ace. She might have even remembered why she fell in love with him. She would understand why her best friend, Will, keeps calling her "Chief." She'd know her mom's new family. She'd know about her dad's fiancée. She never would have met James, the boy with the questionable past and the even fuzzier future. But ... Naomi picked heads. -- After a nasty fall, Naomi realizes that she has no memory of the last four years and finds herself reassessing every aspect of her life" (King County Library System).
Opinions: This was a book I picked up from my library when I was in a totally random mood. I went into the YA section and picked the first book in the letter A's and the last book in the letter Z's.  From the moment I picked up this book I was pulled in. The premise was fascinating and the characters compelling and relatable for me.  I was intrigued by the idea of how a personality can change if your memory had been wiped clean for the last four years.  I felt drawn into Naomi's personal emotional/physical struggle with all aspects that the amnesia affect her.The decisions a teen makes based on the need to feel accepted, successful, etc. might totally change.  Then having to re-deal (or in some cases deal for the first time) with a parent's divorce and remarriage could totally be up in the air.


For those of you concerned about what your teens read this book does talk about serious depressions, friends thinking of suicide, friends with same-sex relations, divorce, drugs, teen sex, etc.  In spite of that, or maybe because I've had friends/family go through some similar instances, I found them personal and made the story more relatable to me. I maybe not have made some of the same choices as Naomi if I were in her shoes, but I was drawn in by her willingness to change even though she remembered less.  I would recommend though that parents who are uncomfortable with how these topics might impact their children read the book for themselves first.


As for me, once I started reading Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac I couldn't put it down and was up until almost midnight (even after taking two Tylenol PM) finishing the story. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Character Sympathy by Jordan McCollum

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Title: Character Sympathy: Creating Characters Your Readers Have to Root For
Author: Jordan McCollum
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Non-Fiction
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "IS YOUR CHARACTER WORTHY OF YOUR READER? CHARACTER SYMPATHY hooks your readers and gets them on your character's side from the very start. Often we think of sympathetic characters as those we love or envy or pity, but character sympathy runs deeper than simply liking or feeling sorry for a character. Sympathy in this sense is truly feeling what the character feels, worrying over the same things he worries about, and wanting him to succeed against all odds. If we can get our readers to fully sympathize and identify with our character, our readers will enjoy that journey with our character and then clamor for more. CHARACTER SYMPATHY will help you: Learn what events, actions and characteristics create true sympathy for a character. Engineer your character's motivations and goals to maximize her sympathy. Avoid cliched methods for creating reader identification. Foster sympathy for heroes, antiheroes, villains and everyone in between. Observe and analyze master storytellers' techniques to create character identification. Character sympathy isn't automatic or easy, but it's necessary for readable fiction. Applying these principles can strengthen any story and any character. Hook your readers with a character they can really root for!" (GoodReads.com)
Opinions: For the last month I've been reviewing feedback from my beta readers on my current writing work in progress. I've then spent the rest of the time studying various authors lectures and books on different techniques for improving my writing and fixing my weak areas. I just finished reading this book yesterday. It's a quick read, but I recommend keeping a pen handy. I frequently underlined tips and ideas that will help make my story tighter and increase my characters connection to the reader. So if you are a writer and are looking for information on how to improve your story I recommend this book.  It also references a lot of other books, blogs, and authors with great advice.  I'm looking forward to going through the additional reading section and learning more.