Category : Book Review

This month’s Spotlight Week features STRUCK by YA Author Jennifer Bosworth.

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Struck by Jennifer Bosworth

384 pages, Hardcover

Genre: YA, Ages 12 and up

Published on May 8, 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

ISBN-10: 0374372837

ISBN-13: 978-0374372835

 

Synopsis:

Mia Price is a lightning addict. She’s survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her.

Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come.

Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn’t who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything.

 

My Review

First line, Prologue: “When you’ve been struck by lightning as many times as I have, you start to expect the worst pretty much all the time.”

The book has an eye-catching (and really cool cover), but its real draw lies in its premise: Mia Price is a lightning addict. I’ve heard of lightning survivors, but a lightning addict? It was such a cool concept I just had to read the book.

And I’m glad I did.

I love that this post-apocalyptic story was set in Los Angeles. As a local, it was easy for me to imagine the all the little areas of downtown L.A. which the author so vividly described.

Mia Price isn’t the smartest main character, but her fierce love for her family and her determination to protect them, make her a lovable heroine. After a devastating earthquake hits the city, Mia has to deal with a lot of things kids shouldn’t have to face. Her mom’s worsening mental health forces her to grow up and act as the head of the family.  She has to worry about where to get their next meal, how to protect their family’s home from looters, and how to keep her family safe from the two opposing cults that want to claim them.

The book has an overarching religious theme thanks to the two warring cults who are locked in a battle for the future of Los Angeles. The black-clad Seekers and the white-clad Followers both want Mia for unique ability to not only survive lightning strikes, but to harness its electrical energy. Mia doesn’t want to get involved with either of them, but she’s forced to make a choice when one of the cults decides to recruit her younger brother.

Of course, it wouldn’t be YA without some romance thrown in the mix. Mia’s love interest, Jeremy, is mysterious, and the author takes great care to keep her readers guessing about him until the end. The other characters were just as intriguing. I found it easy to imagine the characters as real, three-dimensional people, thanks in part to the awesome book trailer which I had watched several times before reading the book.

The story itself unfolds with speed, thanks to the “ticking clock” element which author Jennifer Bosworth cleverly employs. The story was fast-paced, but easy to follow, and had a lot of suspenseful moments which made my heart race.

What I loved most about the book was its ability to blur the lines between good and evil. Mia was a reluctant hero, primarily because her past mistakes continue to haunt her and make her question if she is capable of actually helping others instead of hurting them. Mia’s experiences and the way she responds to the various obstacles thrown in her path makes us question what it is that truly makes a person good.

Struck is an awesome read! I recommend it to anyone who loves dystopian novels with strange plot twists seen through the eyes of a wonderfully conflicted heroine. 

 

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While everyone else is featuring YA Author Gretchen McNeil’s latest book, TEN, I’ve opted to do a review on her awesome debut novel POSSESS.

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Possess by Gretchen McNeil

400 pages, Hardcover

Genre: YA Horror, Ages 13 and up

Published on August 21, 2012 by Balzer + Bray

ISBN-10: 0062060724

ISBN-13: 978-0062060723

 

Synopsis

Fifteen-year-old Bridget Liu just wants to be left alone: by her mom, by the cute son of a local police sergeant, and by the eerie voices she can suddenly and inexplicably hear.  Unfortunately for Bridget, it turns out the voices are demons – and Bridget has the rare ability to banish them back to whatever hell they came from.

Terrified to tell people about her new power, Bridget confides in a local priest who enlists her help in increasingly dangerous cases of demonic possession.  But just as she is starting to come to terms with her new power, Bridget receives a startling message from one of the demons.  Now Bridget must unlock the secret to the demons’ plan before someone close to her winds up dead – or worse, the human vessel of a demon king.

 

 

My Review

First Lines:

Bridget stared at the clock on the wall and cursed its painfully slow progression toward three fifteen. Was the big hand even moving? She slipped her cell phone out of her backpack for cross-reference. Damn. Seven more minutes. It was so like a Catholic school to make Latin the last class of the day. Institutionalized Purgatory.

These first lines don’t give a clue as to how much excitement this story really has, but it does give us a taste of the main character’s witty sarcasm and her unique voice.

And Bridget Liu is unique in so many ways. First, she’s a fifteen year-old girl who has no best girl friends. Instead, she hangs out with a geek whose crush on her borders on stalker, her gay best friend, and his crush of a jock. Second, she’s half-Chinese and half-Irish—and completely Catholic. Third, she’s had to deal with her dad’s mysterious murder, and lastly, she’s a teenage exorcist.

I don’t see too many Asian main characters in YA, so I was quite glad to discover that Bridget was part Asian. I could totally relate to Bridget’s school life, having gone to a Catholic school myself. And while I knew a little bit about the Catholic rites of exorcism, I was still pleasantly surprised to learn a few new things while reading the book.

Bridget is an intriguing character, one that all teens can easily identify with. Author Gretchen McNeil does a great job with dialogue and word choice. She makes Bridget sound exactly like a 15 year old, albeit, one who has to deal with a lot of things, including her mom’s dating life and her own newly discovered ability to talk to and banish demons.

San Francisco is the perfect setting for this paranormal story, what with all the fog and cold. Many scenes are set outside of Bridget’s house and school, so readers can get a feel for just how nightmarish the city can get. I was particularly creeped out by the scene set in the doll shop. Dolls in themselves are not at all scary, but combined with the author’s mastery of suspense and description, they can be really frightening.

The story in itself is fast-paced, and the plot twists and turns are ones which I could never have predicted. Even if I’m a big scaredy cat when it comes to the horror genre, I found myself actually enjoying the story. It helped that there were light, funny moments scattered throughout, and that the usual YA love angle kept me on my toes.

If you’re looking for a Paranormal/Horror YA to get your pulse racing, this one’s for you. Suspenseful, mysterious, creepy and yes—fun, Possess is a book you need to read under the covers, preferably on a dark and stormy night, with a steaming mug of hot chocolate to warm your bound-to-be chilled insides.

 

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Tune in this Wednesday for the 2nd installment in this Spotlight series, where I feature an interview with author Gretchen McNeil!

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Happy Halloween everyone!

Halloween is the time for all things scary and creepy. The usual scary suspects include monsters, ghosts, and undead creatures. And while these beings do haunt our nightmares, we have yet to encounter them in real life.

The really scary folks are the ones who lurk around in the daylight, people who look human, but are really monsters inside. Murderers, rapists, serial killers—and blackmailers. They’re scary because they’re real.

That’s why I decided that Halloween would be the perfect time to review ONE-EYED JACK by Christopher J. Lynch. It doesn’t deal with murderers, but it does deal with some particularly nasty and even vile people.

ONE-EYED JACK

230 pages, Paperback

Genre: Adult, Suspense/Thriller

Published on June 13, 2012 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

ISBN-10: 1475174438

ISBN-13: 978-1475174434

 

Synopsis:

Professional blackmailer John Sharp, aka One Eyed Jack, is a man who knows how to keep a secret – for a price. But when a routine case of infidelity takes an unexpected detour, he soon finds himself caught in a tangled web of double-blackmail, commodities manipulation, and trying to rescue the woman that had once been his target.

 

My Review

I was a bit hesitant when Chris approached me to ask for a book review. First off, my To Be Read pile was just threatening to topple over. Second, I don’t normally review adult books that aren’t in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre.

Chris is a member of my group, CBW-LA, and I’ve also seen how hard he works at self-promotion, plus his trailer was just so cool, I thought I’d give the book a try.

And I’m glad I did.

ONE-EYED JACK is a fascinating story about a professional blackmailer. Blackmailers are usually minor characters, and often vilified or painted in a bad light. And though One-Eyed Jack does blackmail people for a living, I found him a likeable and sympathetic character. He’s a blackmailer with a heart—a three-dimensional character who chooses his victims according to his own moral code.

The story is set in the often ignored South Bay section of Los Angeles. I live in this area, so I love that I could recognize all the locations Chris uses in his book. I had a fun time following Jack through his various missions, and could easily imagine his environment at any given point in the story. And it’s not just because I’m familiar with the South Bay. Chris does a good job of describing the setting enough so that the reader can picture it very clearly in his head.

Plotwise, the story was intriguing and fast-paced. At no point in my reading did I feel the need to take a break or put down the book. The plot just hooked me from beginning to end. I felt that the book was well-researched and I was fascinated by the protagonist’s methods and abilities, and by the technology he uses to spy on people. Technology that is real and currently out there.

I loved getting into the main character’s head, and being able to see the inner workings of a professional blackmailers mind. One-Eyed Jack is an intelligent, streetsmart and savvy protagonist, and his methods are so realistic they’re creepy. I can just imagine a regular person being able to do what he does, with the proper motivation.

I rarely venture outside the realm of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, but I’m always glad when I do find a fun story that takes hold of my imagination in more realistic settings.

ONE-EYED JACK by Christopher J. Lynch is an action-packed, exciting and thrilling read. I’m already looking forward to the next book in the series!

You can get ONE-EYED JACK in both a kindle, and paperback versions.

 

 

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This month’s Spotlight Week features LEGEND by YA Author Marie Lu.

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Legend by Marie Lu

336 pages, Hardcover

Genre: YA, Ages 12 and up

Published on November 29, 2011 by Putnam Juvenile

ISBN-10: 039925675X

ISBN-13: 978-0399256752

Synopsis:

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

 

 

My Review

“My mother thinks I’m dead.”

With a mere 5 words, Legend author Marie Lu managed to reel me in, and throughout the rest of story, she never let up.

The story is told from the perspective of the two main characters June, and Day. Their alternating POV’s throughout the book gave me a clear picture of dystopian world from two very distinct points of view. June comes from a privileged military family, while Day was born in the slums. The two are from completely different worlds, yet as their adventure progresses, they begin to find that they share certain similarities, and perhaps even a common enemy.

The dystopian world Marie Lu creates is an intriguing one. The once great nation United States of America is now mere legend, and its eastern and western halves locked in a constant war. Violence and the pain that comes with it is to be expected. The war between the Colonies and Republic has dire social, physical, and psychological consequences on the general population, and none feel the effects more than the two main characters, Day and June.

Day and June’s developing relationship throughout the story made for an enjoyable read. It certainly created lots of social conflict, and pushed the characters to question their own identities.

Legend has a variety of thrilling action-packed scenes. One that stands out in my mind is the Skiz fight scene. Marie Lu writes in a visually descriptive way. I could easily picture the action unfolding like a movie in my mind. The story’s first person, present tense POV adds a lot of immediacy and excitement to the story’s many plot twists and turns.

All in all, Legend is a fast-paced, action-packed, emotionally catching read. I’m eager to find out how Day and June’s story develops over the next two books in the trilogy. Prodigy, the second book in the series, is slated for release next year, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

 

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Tune in this Wednesday for the 2nd installment in this Spotlight series, where I feature an interview with author Marie Lu!

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This month’s Spotlight Week features HARBINGER by YA Author Sara Wilson Etienne

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Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne

320 pages, Hardcover

Genre: YA, Ages 12 and up

Published on February 2, 2012 by Putnam Juvenile

ISBN-10: 0399256687

ISBN-13: 978-0399256684

My Review

Fantasy writer and living legend Tamora Pierce had this to say about HARBINGER: “Heart-wrenching, terrifying, hot, and un-put-down-able!”

Tamora Pierce was right, of course. I read the book in two hours simply because I couldn’t put it down.

Sara Wilson Etienne drew me in with the strength of her prose. Sara paints with words the way her character Faye paints with pictures—with vivid imagery and an attention to details that allows for surrealism.

Faye is beleaguered by visions of blood and of a rising wave, and finds herself strangely drawn to dead animals’ bones.  She thinks she’s going crazy, and she’s not alone. Her father tricks her into enrolling in Holbrook Academy. It’s a school for disturbed teens, but it feels more like a prison for deranged criminals—thanks in part to the suffocating school program and the often times rough way the students are handled by the (care)Takers.

Nestled between the sea and a dark forest, Holbrook Academy is a downright creepy place. It succeeds in magnifying the ominous and eerie tone already set by the main character’s personal experiences.

At Holbrook, Faye’s visions intensify. She forms a tenuous friendship with five other teens who seem to share the same nightmarish dreams as her. She begins to unravel the real reason behind these dreams and visions. The plot twists and turns, and every revelation comes as a surprise.

Faye herself makes for an intriguing main character. She has an observant nature and an eye for detail.  Her ability to describe what scares her is what makes the book a fascinating, and at times, scary read.

I especially loved the addition of riddles hidden within tarot cards, and the element of secret clues strewn throughout Holbrook. I also love the fact that HARBINGER is a stand alone book, so I didn’t have to wait at all for the book’s conclusion.

The story’s fast pacing and its ever-increasing mystery makes for quick page-turning.  It’s hard to classify what kind of genre HARBINGER really belongs to.  It is part psychological thriller, part mystery, part suspense, and part supernatural fantasy.

Sara Wilson Etienne has succeeded in offering an interesting new genre for teens and adults alike to enjoy: Supernatural Suspense.

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Tune in this Wednesday for the 2nd installment in this Spotlight series, where I feature an interview with author Sara Wilson Etienne!

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