Saturday, October 27, 2012

Review: The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis

The StorytellerBook: The Storyteller (Der Märchenerzähler)
Author: Antonia Michaelis
Publication Date: January 1st, 2012
Publisher: ABRAMS
Rating: 4.5 Stars

A good girl.
A bad boy.
A fairy tale that's true.
A truth that is no fairy tale.

It begins the day Anna finds the child's doll on the floor of the student lounge. When it's claimed by Abel, the school drug dealer, Anna becomes determined to learn more about this mysterious boy with the military haircut and deep blue eyes. She follows him after school and discovers a secret: Abel is caring for his six-year-old sister, Micha, alone. Anna listens in as he tells her a fairy tale, the story of a little orphan queen pursued by hunters across the oceans for the treasure she carries: her pure, diamond heart.

It's a story with parallels to reality. Social services and Micha's abusive father could take her from Abel if they discover the truth.

Despite friend's warnings, Anna is drawn to Abel and Micha, and falls under the spell of the story of the little queen and her desperate voyage.

But when people Abel has woven into his tale turns up dead, it's Anna whose heart is in danger. Is she in love with a killer? And has she set out on a journey from which there is no return?
"...big, burst droplets of blood the color of poppies. A sea of blood, a red endless sea, crimson waves, carmine froth, splashing color..."

Lately, I've been having this problem. I've been wanting to go to Neverland. I want to experience the worlds of pirates, assassins, princesses, and golden apples again. And I have. But the problem is that I just don't believe anymore.
Somewhere, a fairy is dying...

The thing about The Storyteller is that it made me believe again. It was spellbinding in all the right ways, and it was the perfect book to urge me back into the world of dark fantasy. Michaelis combines a fairytale and reality, and she does it so well that even Abel's and Anna's story seems like something out of a dream, despite all the mentions of study dates and spilled hot chocolate (by the way, if Micha drinks that much hot chocolate, she must be a very happy--and chubby--little girl indeed). It gives this element of reality, yet when Anna and Abel are together, it seems so much more magical. Which is weird, since they're just being coupley. I'm chalking it up to Michaelis's writing style; the fairytale that Abel tells seems to weave its way into reality.

I'm still pretty awed at the genius of the book, the way the fairytale matches up with everything that's going on in Anna's and Abel's lives. Michaelis is essentially tells two stories at the same time, paralleling them exactly. That takes some serious skill (and probably hardcore outlining).

I was surprised at how dark this book is. I mean, you kind of get that from the blurb, but there's other stuff that's not hinted at in the blurb. It really took me by surprise. I had no idea there'd be so many mentions to problems that afflict children and different castes (Abel hates me for saying that word, but I can't think of something else).

It really reminds me of Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma in that there are these momentary gleams of happiness that make the darkness brighter and more real. Because without those moments, can we really count as humans? We need the happiness and the sadness, too. As with Forbidden, this couldn't have had a happy ending. The hope is there, and so is the fairytale, but in the end, reality triumphs. But there is hope that continues in the heart of a little girl.

The mystery added to the darkness, something that always lurked in the background and wouldn't come to light. Michaelis throws out so many different hints, and I totally thought I suspected the right person, but in the end I was still wrong, and I admire her for leading me on such a goose chase. The only thing that's keeping me from the 5 stars is that I didn't like Anna until towards the end. She seemed too fickle and irresponsible, even if she was doing the things she did for Abel. But Michaelis has executed almost every aspect of this story well, from giving all the characters different motives and traits, to making the plot twist and turn but ultimately come to a satisfactory conclusion.

I feel so melancholy now. Going to listen to some Leonard Cohen.
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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review: Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

Girl of Nightmares (Anna, #2)Book: Girl of Nightmares
Author: Kendare Blake
Series: Anna
Publication Date: August 7th, 2012
Publisher: Tor Teen
Rating: 4 Stars

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.
There is no eloquent way to say it, so I guess I'll just come right out and say...


I was pretty ehhh after reading Anna Dressed in Blood. It didn't make that much of an impact on me, so I wasn't expecting much from this one. But WHOA did it blow my expectations out of the water.

The beginning starts off kind of slow, with Cas moping around, thinking about Anna, getting himself into life-threatening situations. Same ol', same ol'. Then there are Thomas and Carmel. I never felt that many warm, fuzzy feelings about Carmel to begin with, so she didn't really please me with her attitude. 

So I was flipping pages, all bored and stuff with my chin on my hand, and I'm leaning on my elbow thinking about school and grades and stressful things that this book is not distracting me from...

When all of a sudden...

I CARE. I care about what's happening. Cas's masculine voice stops moping and starts ass kicking again, and Thomas is wobbling around in the background like his dorky voodoo loving self, and I'm just like WHOAAA shit just got real. 

Because it does. Kendare Blake writes very well from the male perspective, not just because of the well-placed f-bomb or anything, but because Cas thinks like a teenage guy would probably think. It's perfect, and I kept finding myself admiring Blake's writing when he added a quip in an otherwise serious situation.

She also does a spectacular job with the horror aspect, and the description of hell made me shiver down to my toes. It's pretty cold over here, so that might have had something to do with it. But it was still really sharp and hot and red in my mind, so hot and red that I shivered from the image. Whereas with the last book, I was kind of like "h'okay blood and black veins everywhere cool," this time I was freaking out and picturing everything. The Suicide Forest? That is some scary shiat. Especially when the corpses started closing in, and I knew they were going to get out alive because there were still like 50 pages to go, but I didn't know. You know? 

I'm not making much sense right now. I am crippled by grief and sickening excitement, for some strange reason. Also, I'm listening to Taylor Swift.

Anyway, the ending to this was perfect. I love how there's this moral lesson woven in about letting go and just living our own lives. Sometimes, it's too much to care about others when they're doing fine. As Cas says, it's a lie, but it's a damned good one. If this book is anything, it's deliciously horrifying and unique. Kendare Blake has my eternal approval for making me do a complete 180 on my opinion towards her books (not that she cares, since she's awesome anyway).  

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Review: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

My Life Next DoorBook: My Life Next Door
Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Publication Date: June 14th, 2012
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Rating: 4 Stars

A gorgeous debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another

“One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.”

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love, Jase's family makes Samantha one of their own. Then in an instant, the bottom drops out of her world and she is suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A dreamy summer read, full of characters who stay with you long after the story is over.
Wow. Okay. I need a while to digest this book. I actually had to take some breaks from it because of how intense it got.

I expected something way different than what I got. I expected a cute, flirty summer romance with one of those shallow forbidden high school loves. I got that, and more.

From the start, My Life Next Door sucked me in. Something about the protagonist, Samantha, and her sterile life that was so close to crumbling, really got me. She's quirky and different, and her genuine care for the people around her is clearly visible. She definitely doesn't spend time feeling sorry for herself.

Then she meets the Garretts, and everything gets crazy. My favorite Garrett was George and his cute, naive questions. But I liked all of them. They made me laugh. They act exactly the way a loud, boisterous family with so many people would, and they made me want to join them. My family's not all that big, and I always wonder what it'd be like to have so many people always around like the Garretts. Especially contrasted with the silent elegance of Samantha's home, the wonderful disorder of the Garrett house is even more attractive. I think Fitzpatrick's description was especially good in this aspect. Her juxtaposition of these two homes next to each other yet so utterly separate is admirable, especially because it enhances the different facets of each.

Jase is perfect. Jase is actually too perfect to be true. He fixes cars, fixes vacuum cleaners, fixes houses. He's a fixer, and it's interesting to see his own insecurities brought to light, his own desire to do something about his future and not just be the boy from the "wrong side of the tracks." I would've liked to know more about what would happen to him afterwards, but we can't get everything. His relationship with Samantha is stuttered by pain and awkwardness, but I definitely don't think the love in this book is forced. It happens seamlessly, and I wasn't at all surprised when they confessed to loving each other. However, what does surprise me is how easily Jase accepted that Samantha's mother had a problem with him, as well as how easily her mother deals with their relationship. By all the emphasis placed on the Garretts and how they were not to be associated with, I thought Samantha's mom's discovery would be a huge blowup of mega proportions.

Then there's Clay. Clay made me want to punch something. But there's something to be admired in his smooth, Southerner speak, and his total lack of any morals whatsoever. I was pretty deceived too, knowing there was something wrong with him but not able to pinpoint exactly what that problem was. The same with Nan, who I cannot tolerate either, though in a different way. I wish she could've gotten her just desserts in the end, but that's how life works, and I think Fitzpatrick was trying to tell us through her ending that life happens sometimes, and some people get lost in the shuffle.

After all my talking about characters, it's reasonable to assume that the part I liked most about this book was the characterization. Sure, there were inconsistencies, but the people are real. So real that it hurts. I cared about their lives, and I wanted to know what happened. When the plot started taking a turn for the dramatic and serious, I followed along because I cared. Otherwise, I would've just rolled my eyes the entire time.

I really did enjoy this book, especially the Garretts. Although, I wouldn't say it's a fun summer read, or even dreamy, like that deceitful blurb says. You read this book, and you remember what you learn from it.
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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Cover Release: The Elite

I haven't done one of these in a while, but I felt like I had something to say about the new cover for The Elite, which is a sequel of Cass's horrific debut, The Selection.

Title: The Elite
Series: The Selection
Author: Kiera Cass
Publication Date: April 23, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen 
The hotly-anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestseller The Selection.

Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.
I actually really like this color. If there's one thing The Selection's got going for it, it's the covers. Some people have commented about the model looking washed out, or all the red, but I actually really like it. That dress looks like a pain to wear, though.

But that blurb. Oh, God, that blurb. "A devastating loss"? What, she lost her nail polish? Maxon decided to ignore her because she still likes her ass of an ex?

Blechhhh. I don't know if I want to read this, but some morbid part of me wants to see what happens.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Review: Broken by A.E. Rought

BrokenBook: Broken
Author: A.E. Rought
Publication Date: January 8th, 2013
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Rating: 2 Stars

Imagine a modern spin on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein where a young couple’s undying love and the grief of a father pushed beyond sanity could spell the destruction of them all.

A string of suspicious deaths near a small Michigan town ends with a fall that claims the life of Emma Gentry's boyfriend, Daniel. Emma is broken, a hollow shell mechanically moving through her days. She and Daniel had been made for each other, complete only when they were together. Now she restlessly wanders the town in the late Fall gloom, haunting the cemetery and its white-marbled tombs, feeling Daniel everywhere, his spectre in the moonlight and the fog.

When she encounters newcomer Alex Franks, only son of a renowned widowed surgeon, she's intrigued despite herself. He's an enigma, melting into shadows, preferring to keep to himself. But he is as drawn to her as she is to him. He is strangely... familiar. From the way he knows how to open her locker when it sticks, to the nickname she shared only with Daniel, even his hazel eyes with brown flecks are just like Daniel's.

The closer they become, though, the more something inside her screams there's something very wrong with Alex Franks. And when Emma stumbles across a grotesque and terrifying menagerie of mangled but living animals within the walls of the Franks' estate, creatures she surely knows must have died from their injuries, she knows.
Alex FRANKS goes to SHELLEY High. Oh my, could this possibly be a FRANKENSTEIN retelling? Except now the monster has become a hot seventeen year old boy?!?!?
Joker approves.

This would've been a great book if it hadn't been so reminiscent of Twilight horrified. Rought had a lot of things going for her. She had a strong main character, a successfully enigmatic male lead, and a plot that any classic/YA lover would be drawn to. I love retellings, and this is the first retelling of Frankenstein that I've seen. In the first couple pages, I rushed through this book. It was exciting, exhilarating, and I wanted to know more about Daniel and Alex and Em. Even though the GR blurb pretty much ruined the big secret for me, I still wanted to get to the bottom of everything and understand it completely. Also, Rought's writing style? Gorgeous. Sometimes it seems to go into the realm of too dramatic, but most of the time, it contributed just the right amount of haunting beauty and really added to the dark tone that existed throughout the book.

 There didn't seem to be much going wrong in the first, oh, 100 pages. And I thought this book would be great, but as is the case with my crappy badness-radar, I turned out to be wrong.

Alex Franks was great for five pages. Then his whole mysterious, hood-over-face thing got old fast. It's been done so many times before, and besides his apparent good looks (in which case, why would he need the hood? And if the hood was to hide himself and people had already seen his face, what was the point?), there wasn't really much else he had going for him. I know, I know, he's related to Em's old boyfriend, but despite that, I still felt like she was cheating on Daniel. And this sort of bothered me. Also, what was the deal with Josh? He seemed like such a comical mustache-twirling villain that I couldn't take him seriously. On top of all that, he was a ginger. Figures.

The beginning and end were pretty interesting. There's some action and guts in the last couple pages. But the middle is just mind-numbing backwards and forwards lovin' between Em and Alex, with a couple memories of Daniel scattered in to make her feel guilty. I was never sold on the love. Isn't Rought essentially showing that Em only loves Alex because Daniel's in him? That's messed up, man.  What guy wants to be loved because he reminds his girlfriend of her old boyfriend? No one, unless he couldn't get a girl any other way. And given Alex's supposed good looks, I think he'd be able to get someone.

Em is a badass in the first couple pages when she punches people and throws insults, but she softens too much. Sadly, she follows the trend and starts crying a lot. Not that she doesn't have reason to, but sometimes the tears were just unnecessary. I appreciated Rought's integration of Em's mom and dad instead of making her some poor orphan, but I think she really could've done a better job with her characters. None of them really made sense to me.

I recommend giving this book a try, even if it does get redundant in the middle. The end is pretty cliche, but you should just stick with it for the writing style. I think that was my favorite part.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Will Grayson, Will GraysonBook: Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Author: John Green,
Publication Date: April 6th, 2010
Publisher: Dutton Children's
Rating: 4 Stars

This book is one of the strangest combinations of things ever. I mean, if I told you to read something involving a straight guy who watches a girl with an extremely masculine boyfriend he's not sure he likes so much anyway so he can get her locker combo who meets a boy with the same name who suffers from depression and has an online relationship with another guy, and they have in common one extremely large, extremely gay, and extremely musical guy called Tiny, wouldn't you look at me like I've gone crazy?

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a book gone crazy. And with two authors like John Green and David Levithan, I'm not surprised. My English teacher actually recommended this book to me and said that, true to the blurb on its cover, it was rude and crass, but that it was wonderful. I agree with her, to an extent. I guess the hype around this book got to me, so I still have some reservations concerning it.

The book is a quirky mix of characters, and though every person stood out to me, I never felt that connected to any of them. For some reason, I thought Will Grayson, Will Grayson would be about two guys named Will Grayson meeting and falling in love, and I kept expecting that to happen. But it never did. However, one thing that I really admired was the portrayal of Depressed Will's mother, who is one of the best parents ever. Though she isn't used to dealing with her son's troubles, she takes it all in stride and has a courage that I think many parents lack when their children come out to them.

Anyway, I thought this book was about Will Grayson(s). Instead, it ended up revolving more around someone else. I don't know if the authors intended this, but if they did, it worked out well. Still, I expected the two Wills to have more interaction than they did in the book, and that disappointed me a little. In this book, I liked David Levithan's character more, since John Green's wasn't anything unusual. If you've read his books and you read WGWG, his Will is pretty much any of the angsty, philosophical males out of his other novels.

Even though this book is unrealistic, it was somewhat a journey for me, and I liked how everything culminated in a huge, gay musical. It would've been cliche, but it wasn't. And I loved that.

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