Thursday, December 30, 2010

Incarceron - Catherine Fisher

Incarceron is a prison so vast that it contains not only cells, but also metal forests, dilapidated cities, and vast wilderness. Finn, a seventeen-year-old prisoner, has no memory of his childhood and is sure that he came from Outside Incarceron. Very few prisoners believe that there is an Outside, however, which makes escape seems impossible.
 
And then Finn finds a crystal key that allows him to communicate with a girl named Claudia. She claims to live Outside- she is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, and doomed to an arranged marriage. Finn is determined to escape the prison, and Claudia believes she can help him. But they don't realize that there is more to Incarceron than meets the eye. Escape will take their greatest courage and cost more than they know.

Let me start by saying that this is not typically the type of story I read.  It's a touch sci-fi in nature, which doesn't usually appeal to me.  However, this book's blurb really caught my interest because I was intrigued by the idea of two people from different worlds communicating through a device.  I wasn't disappointed.

This was an incredibly interesting story, and Fisher's descriptions of Incarceron were so compelling that I felt like I could really invision this prison, even though the idea of some of the descriptions are so outlandish, you'd think it would be difficult to suspend disbelief.  Not at all.  I found myself sucked in.

Claudia was such an interesting character.  She was incredibly smart, resourceful, and strong.  She played the part of a helpless and obedient girl, but behind the scenes when her father wasn't looking, she wasn't taking her fate lying down.  With the help of her tutor, she was determined to make changes, especially after finding Finn.

Finn's character was intriguing, even though, from the beginning, the reader can pretty much make some pretty good guesses as to his true origin.  There was no real surprise there, at least for me.  His determination to find the Outside never wavered, despite obstacles, and despite so many people telling him that his dreams and ideas about an Outside world were unfounded and ridiculous.  He had to become strong in order to follow his quest for escape and discovery.

I don't want to say much more or else I would be giving the plot away too much.  It's one of those stories that, if you know even a little bit about one part of it, it would give away the whole story.  So I'll stop there.  I will just say that this was a very good book, and it contained at least two surprise twists near the end that had me utterly shocked.  They were totally unexpected and were things I never would have thought of.

I am looking forward to reading the second installment, Sapphique. 

If you liked this book, you might also like:
Just released on
12/28/2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Revolution - Jennifer Donnelly

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.


This was a fascinating book on so many levels.  First of all, I love studying about the French Revolution.  It was a sad, bloody, horrifying time in history with so many different layers of political and social intrigue.  I can't help but think of the story, The Lord of the Flies, which demonstrated the mob mentality that a group of people (in that case children) can fall under when there is nothing to prevent personal desires from overriding morals.  Revolution and its subject matter really reminded me of that.  You could tell how much research Jennifer Donnelly put into this book.  It was rich with detail, and she succeeded amazingly at putting you directly into the setting and making you feel like you were really there.

As far as the protagonist, Andi, is concerned...it would have been very easy not to like her.  Handled by a less talented author, Andi would have come across as a little whiny and self-pitying, but Donnelly weaved this character so well, that Andi came across as tortured and beaten, but oddly strong at the same time.  The journey this character travels internally is amazing, complex and up-lifting.  The other main character, Alex, was equally complex and travels an equally awakening journey.  She changes from a self-absorbed, ambitious girl to a selfless one who will do anything to show love to a doomed and imprisoned prince. 

Aside from the characters themselves, Donnelly deserves recognition for her writing style and the beauty of her language.  She even managed to make Andi's internal narrative come out with an almost poetic loveliness, while still managing to make her sound like a disturbed 17 year old girl.  Amazing.

If you have not read this book, I highly recommend it.  It was a true accomplishment, and well worth the read.

If you liked this book, you might also like:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Eve!!

Just a quick note to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. I'm still reading Revolution and hope to have a review posted right after Christmas.

In other news, I was allowed to open one present early. It was a Nookcolor!!! I'm really stoked! I had always said that e-readers would never replace a traditional book to me. I love the look, feel and smell of a book, but I think I'll also really like the convenience of electronic. I'll let you know.

What about you? How do you feel about e-readers?

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Boyfriend List - E. Lockhart

Fifteen-year-old Ruby "Roo" Oliver is having a tough year at Tate Prep. Through a series of social debacles, she loses her best friends, her boyfriend, her dignity, and the respect of her fellow Taters in less than two weeks' time. Following nearly half a dozen panic attacks, Roo starts to spend some quality time on Doctor Z.'s couch, where she makes (at her shrink's urging) a list of boyfriends past and present, official and unofficial, and starts on a journey of self-discovery. Along the way, Ruby begins to think about patterns in her life and ways that she might be more like her mother than she'd care to admit. Fortunately, Ruby survives her traumatic exile and lives to tell the tale.

Doctor Z asks Roo to create "The Boyfriend List," as she suspects it might be a good place to start in figuring out where Roo's panic attacks are coming from.  A reasonable assumption considering the fact that Roo had her first attack right after her boyfriend, Jackson, broke up with her.  Thus the "list" is born and contains over 15 names, from serious relationship-worthy boy interactions to inconsequential ones. 

Each chapter is about a boy on the list, as Roo takes the reader through the progression of why and how the boy made the list.  You would think this would create a random and disconnected story, but it's actually quite the reverse.  It doesn't seem, at first, that these random boys and their encounters with Roo will ever end up relating to anything, but when it's all said and done, each one contributes to the story's "big picture" in a significant way.  Kudos to Lockhart for being able to take something that is seemingly so random and to make such excellent connections that move her story forward and bring Roo to self-discovery.

Although the story is, as stated previously, largely focused on Roo's journey of self-discovery, Lockhart is able to take us through that journey in such a way as to have me, literally, in tears... from constant laughter.  There are very few books out there that actually make me laugh aloud, but this was definitely one of them.  Roo's first person narrative is so hysterical.  Just the way she phrases things, the irreverent bluntness of her internal thoughts...it's refreshing, honest, and extremely entertaining.

This is the first of a four book series of Roo's adventures through her boyfriend list and her panic attacks, leading the reader to the final conclusion yet to come.  I will be picking up the other books.  This one was definitely worth the read!

If you enjoyed this book, you might also like:

Forget You - Jennifer Echols

WHY CAN’T YOU CHOOSE WHAT YOU FORGET . . . AND WHAT YOU REMEMBER? There’s a lot Zoey would like to forget. Like how her father has knocked up his twenty-four- year old girlfriend. Like Zoey’s fear that the whole town will find out about her mom’s nervous breakdown. Like darkly handsome bad boy Doug taunting her at school. Feeling like her life is about to become a complete mess, Zoey fights back the only way she knows how, using her famous attention to detail to make sure she’s the perfect daughter, the perfect student, and the perfect girlfriend to ultra-popular football player Brandon. But then Zoey is in a car crash, and the next day there’s one thing she can’t remember at all—the entire night before. Did she go parking with Brandon, like she planned? And if so, why does it seem like Brandon is avoiding her? And why is Doug—of all people— suddenly acting as if something significant happened between the two of them? Zoey dimly remembers Doug pulling her from the wreck, but he keeps referring to what happened that night as if it was more, and it terrifies Zoey to admit how much is a blank to her. Controlled, meticulous Zoey is quickly losing her grip on the all-important details of her life—a life that seems strangely empty of Brandon, and strangely full of Doug.

Warning: There are spoilers in this one.

Let me just say right away that I've already read this book twice in two months. That should speak for itself on how much I really really loved it. This author is incredibly talented, but in two areas especially: 1. She's awesome at characterization and really getting her reader thoroughly invested in each character's story and personal desires; 2. her pacing is great. The book reads quickly, but you don't feel rushed at all. Everything seems to happen at exactly the right moment that it should happen. There is a slow but steady progression of the relationship between Zoey and Doug that had me biting my nails but cheering things on also.

Zoey's character is very genuine. Her personality is exactly what I picture for a teenage girl with her particular circumstances but there's nothing fake or prissy about this girl. She's strong, while still making her fair share of mistakes. Far from detracting from her likeability, though, I liked her more because even when she made a mistake, she was able to think her way through it and come to the right conclusions eventually.

Doug is probably one of my favorite male characters I've read in a while. He has flaws, but when he's good, he's really good. In a bad boy kinda way. :-) He's the kind of guy that, in high school, made your toes curl when he looked at you. Who wouldn't love to read a character like that? Deeper than that though is Doug's ability to care and love.

These two characters share some of the steamiest scenes I've read in a teen book in a long time, but they were completely appropriate, very realistic, and were there to progress the story further. They accomplished that. Great sexual tension between these two.

If there was one thing I might have changed about the story, it would have been to have Zoey figure out the Brandon thing a little sooner. She's too smart for it to have taken so long. Otherwise, the author handled the mystery very well. She dropped hints throughout the story, but didn't lead the reader around by the nose. Zoey's discoveries of the puzzle pieces gave the reader just enough at just the right times.

This is definitely a must read. I loved it, loved it, loved it!


If you liked this book, you might also like:

Right Behind You - Gail Giles


Redemption is often confused with forgiveness. To redeem yourself you must change, become stronger; sometimes you must make amends if you have caused harm. Forgiveness - well, I have my own views on forgiveness.

Kip McFarland is living with a painful secret: when he was nine, he set Bobby Clarke on fire. And Bobby died.

After four long years in a juvenile ward, Kip is rehabilitated. He's got a new "perfect" life. But no one knows he's got a past. No one knows about the nightmares and the guilt that torture him. They don't even know his real name.

What do you do when your past catches up with you again and again? When the journey to salvation always leads to a dead end? When the person you're most afraid of, the person you'd move anywhere to escape...is yourself?

Let me start out by saying that I was prepared to hate this book. I have very strongly held opinions on certain things, and one of them is that it's completely unforgiveable for someone to murder a child, even if the perpetrator was a child himself. I often cling to my beliefs and stubbornly refuse to be swayed, even, I'm ashamed to admit, when someone can logic me out of them. This book shook my beliefs.

I found myself becoming so sympathetic to Kip/Wade, even if I didn't want to. There were extenuating circumstances, of course, that made Kip's act slightly different than one that might be committed by a truly sociopathic kid in training. Kip was intending to destroy something when he did it, and the fact that the victim caught fire was not intended. Does that make the act any easier to forgive or forget? No. Does it make it more excusable? No. Does it make it all right? No. But it does make the resulting journey to redemption more believable and desired.

Kip/Wade spends his years after emerging from juvenile, moving around with his family, as, just because the doctor's say he's rehabilitated, the angry public do not agree. He takes on a new name, a new home, and must begin his life again battling the guilt and shame of what he did. If his journey were portrayed as anything less than grueling and remorseful, it wouldn't have been as easy to forgive him and begin to root for him. The author handles this progression through Kip's many stages of growth so thoroughly and well, that by the time the end comes, you are fully in Kip's corner.


Kudos to Ms. Giles for tackling such a difficult topic. A short Q&A is at the back of the book, in which she stated that she had received so much hate mail, mainly from outraged adults, regarding this book. The fact that she had the courage to tell such a controversial story in the face of such disapproval is great, because I would not have wanted to miss this book.


If you liked this book, you might also like:

Boy Toy - Barry Lyga

Boy Toy by Barry Lyga has to be one of the most disturbing but great books I've ever read.  The subject matter is unsettling, to say the least, but the way the author handled it amazed me.  The fact that this subject was handled so delicately and exertly by a male writer was phenomenal.

The story begins with 12 year old Josh carrying a private crush on his History teacher, Eve.  Large for his age, Josh is sucked into a very adult and inappropriate relationship with Eve.  The truth emerges when Josh attends a birthday party for one of his friends, Rachel, and a game of spin the bottle gets out of hand.  Due to his actions in this scenario, Josh's secrets comes out to devastating results.

Now, years later, Josh is 17 and about to graduate high school without ever having a normal, healthy relationship, especially not one with a girl his own age.  He is angry and hostile, and fights his own inner feelings about Eve, even while battling a growing attraction to the very girl, Rachel, who started the downfall of his affair long ago. 

Being inside Josh's head as he battles his inner thoughts, desires, guilt, and new feelings is inspiring, unsettling, and at times, very uncomfortable.  Although this book is labeled for teens, I would definitely not recommend it for younger teens, as the nature of the subject matter is very adult, and some of the scenes are extremely frank and gratuitous.  This story, however, is definitely worth the read.

I had a very difficult time putting it down and ended up reading it in one sitting.  At the end of the book, you find yourself feeling sad for Josh's discoveries, but also very satisfied for his future. 

Welcome

So this is my blog where I get to tell you all about the books that I have read and am reading.  I read quite a few on a regular basis, so I'm hoping that my blog entries will be frequent.  Although, sadly, I must admit there are some weeks that I'm not really pleased by any of the books that I read.  I hope I don't have too many of those weeks, however.

What types of books will I blog about? Glad you asked.  I'm not really a John Grisham-y mainstream type of reader.  My tastes are eclectic, including everything from David Eddings fantasy to Dean Koontz horror (his earlier works, not so much the later ones) to vampire romance a la J. R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood to Teen and YA Novels.  I'm on a YA/Teen kick right now (blame Twilight) and so at first you'll probably see a lot of reviews and information on that genre, as I seem to be reading it rather exclusively right now.  But this changes frequently.  So just stick around.

If you read a review you like, agree or disagree with, or if you have a recommendation for me on a book you think I should read, by all means, comment and let's discuss.
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