Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: Everneath


Title: Everneath
Author: Brodi Ashton 
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: January 24, 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins, Balzer + Bray
Source: Audiobook
Narrator: Amy Rubinate

Genre: Young Adult, Action-Adventure, Fairy Tales-Myths, Fantasy

SUMMARY: Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath. Now she’s returned—to her old life, her family, her boyfriend—before she’s banished back to the underworld . . . this time forever. She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these precious months forgetting the Everneath and trying to reconnect with her boyfriend, Jack, the person most devastated by her disappearance—and the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s just one problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who enticed her to the Everneath in the first place, has followed Nikki home. Cole wants to take over the throne in the underworld and is convinced Nikki is the key to making it happen. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back, this time as his queen.

As Nikki’s time on the Surface draws to a close and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she is forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s queen.


REVIEW:

An interesting and original exploration of mythology.

Everneath
 may or may not be just another PNR trilogy, but I'm leaning toward not since there is actual depth and dimension to the characters and their relationships. 
The expression of human emotion weighs so heavily through throughout the book, it might as well be its own character. 

The plot is totally predictable, but the story is engaging enough to read through what happens. The audiobook version is impressive, so I will likely read the next installments when they are available in audio format.


CONTENT:

Profanity: 
Mild
Sensuality: Mild-Moderate (kissing, suggested images)
Violence: Moderate


This review also appears on Goodreads.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Review: The Fault in Our Stars


Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green 
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: January 10, 2012
Publisher: Dutton House
Source: Hardcover, 318 pages 
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Awards: Odyssey Award, Goodreads Choice Award (Best YA Fiction), ALA Teens' Top Ten Nom., Indies Choice Book Award for YA, The Inky Awards for Silver Inky, Abraham Lincoln Award Nom.


SUMMARY: Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

REVIEW:

Witty, eloquent, endearing, profound - this book gets all the good descriptive words - but if I could sum up The Fault in Our Stars in one word, it would have to be: 

Important
.

John Green is one of my favorite people in the world, so naturally I adore his books. This one just might be my favorite.

The message TFiOS conveys about the resilience and underestimated intelligence of teenagers in our world today is powerful and imperative. John Green does not shy away from deeper subjects and the moving use of metaphor, despite - rather, because of - his primarily young readership. That says a lot.

This is more than a book about cancer that will make you cry - even though it will. It is a thoughtful commentary on the importance of life and the significance of every little detail and interaction if we only take the time to observe.

And you know it's a John Green book when you're in tears one minute and laughing hysterically the next.

Plus, this entire book is quotable. There is probably a line in here relevant to any aspect of life.

John Green sets a high standard for contemporary literature now as well as for how we will regard "classics" in the future.


CONTENT:

Profanity: 
Moderate (occasional swearing)
Sensuality: Moderate (kissing, sensuality, suggested images)


This review also appears on Goodreads and brailynnecorr.com.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: Prized


Title: Prized (Birthmarked #2) 
Author: Caragh M. O'Brien 
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: November 8, 2011
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Source: Audiobook
Narrator: Carla Mercer-Meyer

Genre: Young Adult, Action-Adventure, Dystopian, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Awards: Junior Library Guild Selection, YALSA Best Fiction for YA Nom.


SUMMARY: Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, a handful of supplies, and a rumor to guide her, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone survives only to be captured by the people of Sylum, a dystopian society where women rule the men who drastically outnumber them, and a kiss is a crime. In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code, but how can she deny her sense of justice, her curiosity, and everything in her heart that makes her whole?

REVIEW:

The Awesome:

There are parts of this book that are memorable and wonderful


Like BirthmarkedPrized discusses several difficult and important subjects, including abortion, gender equality, government control, etc.

The world building for Sylum is fascinating and scary and real. I could genuinely feel the pretense of safety and underlying danger in this society, and it is distinct from the openly overbearing Enclave from the first book.

The Not-So-Awesome:

Seriously, a love square?


Part of what I admire most in the first book is Gaia's unyielding sense of justice and her level-headed determination to fight for what is right. Birthmarked is not a dystopian romance with a dash of ethics on top -- it is rooted in eliminating the injustice of the existing system, in changing the world for the better.

Sadly, it feels almost reversed in this sequel. Gaia changes too much and too quickly in this book, but maybe that's just how a girl her age who has been so physically suppressed her whole life, and is now discovering the possibility of love would act -- maybe she would fall for 3 different guys. I was just sad to see it happen.

Gaia does regain a little more of herself near the middle and end of this book, however, and I am so glad for that.

The Verdict:

Overall, I think this is a good series for young adults as it raises questions applicable to our own society and allows the reader to see both sides to several arguments.


CONTENT:

Profanity: 
None
Sexuality: Mild-Moderate (kissing, some sensuality/suggested images)

Violence: Moderate (intense, disturbing images of death, birth, government violence and rebellion, weapons)

This review also appears on Goodreads and brailynnecorr.com.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Review: The Disenchantments


Title: The Disenchantments 
Author: Nina LaCour 
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: February 16, 2012
Publisher: Dutton Children's Books
Source: Hardcover, 307 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

SUMMARY: Colby and Bev have a long-standing pact: graduate, hit the road with Bev's band, and then spend the year wandering around Europe. But moments after the tour kicks off, Bev makes a shocking announcement: she's abandoning their plans - and Colby - to start college in the fall.

But the show must go on and The Disenchantments weave through the Pacific Northwest, playing in small towns and dingy venues, while roadie- Colby struggles to deal with Bev's already-growing distance and the most important question of all: what's next?


REVIEW:

Artistic, wise, profound...

Nina LaCour deftly captures the real, broken parts of humanity in this coming-of-age novel.


These are just average teenagers trying to understand how they fit into the world, making choices big and small, and experiencing the consequences of their decisions. We follow them on their outcastic, outlandish adventure meeting people in all walks of life and learning some difficult truths right along with them. Folks, THIS is how you use a metaphor!

The entire book is beautiful, but the ending is absolutely incredible. It's perfect. Everyone finds a part of themselves through the journey - everyone changes.

This is one of the most deceiving book covers ever, though. The tone of this book is much like her first novel Hold Still - morose, almost depressing, which serves to make the hopeful revelations more poignant. But this is not a "happy roadtrip" book.

I recommend this for fans of contemporary literature, music, art, or life in general. Anyone who reads this, or anything else by Nina LaCour, will be changed for the better.


CONTENT:

Profanity: 
Moderate-High (occasional casual use, F-word, S-word used)
Sexuality: Moderate (kissing, some sensuality, suggested images)
Violence: Mild-None

Drugs/Alcohol: Moderate (teen drinking)

This review also appears on Goodreads and brailynnecorr.com.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Review: The Golem and the Jinni


Title: The Golem and the Jinni
Author: Helene Wecker 
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: April 23, 2013
Publisher: Harper
Source: Audiobook
Narrators: George Guidall

Genre: Adult, Mythology, Fantasy, Historical, Magic-Paranormal

SUMMARY: Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master-the husband who commissioned her-dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free-an unbreakable band of iron around his wrist binds him to the physical world.

Overwhelmed by the incessant longing and fears of the humans around her, the cautious and tentative Chava-imbued with extraordinary physical strength-fears losing control and inflicting harm. Baptized by the tinsmith who makes him his apprentice, the handsome and capricious Ahmad-an entity of inquisitive intelligence and carefree pleasure-chafes at monotony and human dullness. Like their immigrant neighbors, the Golem and the Jinni struggle to make their way in this strange new place while masking the supernatural origins that could destroy them.

Surrounding them is a colorful cast of supporting characters who inhabit the immigrant communities in lower Manhattan at the turn of the nineteenth into the twentieth century: the café owner Maryam Faddoul, a pillar of wisdom and support for her Syrian neighbors; the solitary Ice Cream Saleh, a damaged man cursed by tragedy; the kind and caring Rabbi Meyer and his beleaguered nephew Michael, whose Sheltering House receives newly arrived Jewish immigrants; the adventurous young socialite Sophia Winston; and the mysterious Joseph Schall, a dangerous man driven by ferocious ambition and esoteric wisdom.

Meeting by chance, Chava and Ahmad become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing nature-until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful threat will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice. 

REVIEW:

Absolutely captivating! One of the best books of 2013. 

If you like Jewish or Islamic lore, I highly recommend this.
If you like historical fiction, I highly recommend this.
If you like to read at all, I highly recommend this.

The cultural awareness presented for both Jewish and Arab communities is part of what makes The Golem and the Jinni such a significant story for our ethnically/racially/religiously-divided world.

Wecker is a natural story-teller. The book genuinely feels as though it is being told to me by an old Jewish grandfather and that this tale of a golem and a jinni has been passed down verbally through the ages. It truly is a memorable experience.

I have to convince myself that part of my life was not spent in the Jewish and Bedouin quarters of 19th Century New York! The story unfurls as effortlessly as a memory. The vivid imagery and attention to distinguishing cultural detail create a clear landscape for the reader to explore and get lost in.


Every character you encounter leaves an impression, and they will stay with you long after you finish reading. The secondary cast seamlessly weaves in the many layers to our protagonists, Chava and Ahmad, both of whom are magical enough to fascinate, and flawed enough to be relatable.

The characters in this book struggle through questions of faith, purpose, and morality--all of which are applicable issues to modern readers. 

The audiobook narration is fantastic! If you want full-immersion into this world, with expertly-executed accents (since this is a very culture-based book), then take the audio route. I'm so glad I did.

Definitely looking forward to more from this author.


CONTENT:

Profanity: 
None
Violence: Mild-Moderate (some disturbing images, physical fighting, suicide referenced)
Sexuality: Mild-Moderate (kissing, some sexuality)
 

This review also appears on Goodreads and brailynnecorr.com.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review: False Memory


Title: False Memory 
Author: Dan Krokos 
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: August 14, 2012
Publisher: Hyperion
Source: Hardcover, 336 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Action-Adventure, Dystopian, Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery-Suspense, Sci-Fi

SUMMARY: Miranda wakes up alone on a park bench with no memory. In her panic, she releases a mysterious energy that incites pure terror in everyone around her. Except Peter, a boy who isn’t at all surprised by Miranda’s shocking ability.

Left with no choice but to trust this stranger, Miranda discovers she was trained to be a weapon and is part of an elite force of genetically-altered teens who possess flawless combat skills and powers strong enough to destroy a city. But adjusting to her old life isn’t easy—especially with Noah, the boyfriend she can’t remember loving.

Then Miranda uncovers a dark truth that sets her team on the run. Suddenly her past doesn’t seem to matter... when there may not be a future.


REVIEW:

Interesting read. I love that the villain is female. Some of the sci-fi elements are pretty cool, too. And there's definitely no lack of action here -- it's pretty much a non-stop, on-your-toes, wham-bam fight-fest -- which totally rocks.

However, the plot is a bit too "general sci-fi dystopia" for me when it could have been quite fantastic or profound with some more original additions. I mean, the "amnesiac protagonist discovers she has superpowers and is the key to a government experiment, blah blah" --been there, read that. The writing and character development also leaves something to be desired.

Nevertheless, this book is entertaining and gripping and hard to put it down despite its cliches and somewhat awkward, unbelievable romance. If you are looking for a fast-paced YA thriller, this one will definitely scratch your itch. 


CONTENT:

Profanity: 
Mild-Moderate
Sexuality: Mild (kissing)

Violence: Moderate (fight scenes, explosions, weapons, disturbing images)

This review also appears on Goodreads and brailynnecorr.com.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Review: The Book of Broken Hearts


Title: The Book of Broken Hearts
Author: Sarah Ockler 
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Publisher: Simon-Pulse
Source: Audiobook
Narrator: Zilah Mendoza

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

SUMMARY: When all signs point to heartbreak, can love still be a rule of the road? A poignant and romantic novel from the author of Bittersweet and Twenty Boy Summer.

Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath—with candles and a contract and everything—to never have anything to do with one.

Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle—which means hiring a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas?

Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away—no way would she fall for them. But Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak…unless her sisters were wrong?

Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking.


REVIEW:

Heartbreaking, sweet read.

If you are looking for a light-hearted contemporary romance, there are parts of The Book of Broken Hearts that will more than satisfy.

But the surprising emotional depth makes this book valuable enough to surface from under the "summer read" umbrella and truly shine in the spotlight it deserves.

This is a story of heartbreak in all aspects of life and how love can both cause and conquer the pain. Lessons of first loves, first losses, and what it means to be a family are the highlights of this book. Sometimes YA novels suffer from "missing adult syndrome," but thankfully Ockler incorporates realistic adult role models for Jude.

The account of Alzheimers through Jude's eyes make for the most heart-breaking scenes in this book. Her reactions are believable and admirable and really shape her into a likeable protagonist. It is also refreshing to not have a white lead female for once!

Fans of The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants series will love this book. The friendly bonds and fond bickerings among Jude's sisters receive a lot of attention-- well-deserved for these bold and cooky characters!

The romance is innocent and sweet, and reminds me of a way toned down version of Perfect Chemistry. Pretty much my only scruple with this book is the number of times Emilio's dimples are mentioned. I get it -- he has adorable, distracting dimples!

I'll be adding this to the list of books I reread when I'm feeling sad and girly. 


CONTENT:

Profanity: 
Mild
Violence: Mild (disturbing images)
Sexuality: Mild (kissing, brief sensuality)


This review also appears on Goodreads and brailynnecorr.com.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Review: The Rules for Disappearing


Title: The Rules for Disappearing
Author: Ashley Elston 
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Source: Hardcover, 320 pages 
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery-Suspense

SUMMARY: She’s been six different people in six different places: Madeline in Ohio, Isabelle in Missouri, Olivia in Kentucky . . . But now that she’s been transplanted to rural Louisiana, she has decided that this fake identity will be her last. Witness Protection has taken nearly everything from her. But for now, they’ve given her a new name, Megan Rose Jones, and a horrible hair color. For the past eight months, Meg has begged her father to answer one question: What on earth did he do – or see – that landed them in this god-awful mess? Meg has just about had it with all the Suits’ rules — and her dad’s silence. If he won’t help, it’s time she got some answers for herself. But Meg isn’t counting on Ethan Landry, an adorable Louisiana farm boy who’s too smart for his own good. He knows Meg is hiding something big. And it just might get both of them killed. As they embark on a perilous journey to free her family once and for all, Meg discovers that there’s only one rule that really matters — survival.

REVIEW:

frightening and suspenseful glimpse into the world of a protected witness.

With a well-paced plot, interesting characters, and a colorful Southern setting, The Rules for Disappearing stands out in the summer line-up this year.

What impressed me the most about this debut were the masterfully executed elements of suspense. I was legitimately afraid throughout this book--as in darting eyes, looking over shoulder, keeping feet on the bed kind of afraid.

This is a truly spine-tingling thriller. 

The plot twist is somewhat predictable, but still totally fun to unravel. 


I definitely was not expecting the impact of this book, but what a pleasant surprise! I will be reading more from this author.

CONTENT:

Profanity: 
Mild
Sexuality: Mild (kissing)
Violence: Moderate


This review also appears on Goodreads and brailynnecorr.com.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Review: Sky On Fire


Title: Sky on Fire (Monument 14 #2)
Author: Emmy Laybourne 
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Release Date: May 28, 2013
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Source: Hardcover, 212 pages 
Genre: Young Adult, Action-Adventure, Dystopian-Post-Apocalyptic, Fantasy-Sci-Fi, Survival

SUMMARY: Trapped in a superstore by a series of escalating disasters, including a monster hailstorm and terrifying chemical weapons spill, brothers Dean and Alex learned how to survive and worked together with twelve other kids to build a refuge from the chaos. But then strangers appeared, destroying their fragile peace, and bringing both fresh disaster and a glimmer of hope.

Knowing that the chemical weapons saturating the air outside will turn him into a bloodthirsty rage monster, Dean decides to stay in the safety of the store with Astrid and some of the younger kids. But their sanctuary has already been breached once. . . .

Meanwhile, Alex, determined to find their parents, heads out into the darkness and devastation with Niko and some others in a recently repaired school bus. If they can get to Denver International Airport, they might be evacuated to safety. But the outside world is even worse than they expected. . . .


REVIEW:

Frightening, suspenseful, and shockingly realistic.

In Sky on Fire, the pursuit of survival continues in split-narrative between Dean and his brother, Alex. We got to know Dean in the first book, Monument 14, through his sarcastic wit and hopeless obsession with the beautiful Astrid.

Alex has a distinct and endearingly OCD voice. We need his perspective to complete the picture of the Monument kids' journey to stay alive. He makes note of every little detail as he travels with the group heading to Denver International Airport. Some readers seem irritated with this specificity, but that is just part of who Alex is and how he assesses the world around him. No one else could provide the vivid account of the terrors these children experience on the road--a wise executive decision for Laybourne.

One aspect I love about this series is the wide cast and the range of ages. Too often in this approach, the characters tend to bleed together into a collective secondary presence with multiple names. However, each person in the Monument series is well-developed and has distinguishing mannerisms--which is wholly realistic, since kids have such strong personalities in real life--and Laybourne uses this to her advantage in a potentially confusing plot that is surprisingly easy to follow along.
 I also worried I might have forgotten who all the characters were since it had been so long since I had read the first book, but everyone left an impression that carried through to Sky on Fire.

Laybourne balances the intensity of the story with a savvy blend of wry humor and gentler moments. This book had me in tears by the end, as most survival books do. I'm a total sap when it comes to the breakdown of humanity to its core values. Emotional investment in these characters follows naturally as we encounter the many twists, turns, tragedies, and terrors of their world.

If you want a character-based survival/adventure book, look no further than this series. The sequel does not disappoint, so if you have read Monument 14, then you owe it to yourself to read Sky on Fire. Looking forward to the next installment!


CONTENT:

Profanity: 
Mild (nothing too intense)
Violence: Moderate (disturbing/frightening images, physical fighting, weapons)
Sexuality: Moderate (kissing, some sexuality)
 
Drugs/Alcohol: Mild (references to drug abuse)

This review also appears on Goodreads and brailynnecorr.com.
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