Monday, September 30, 2013

Review of The In-Between by Barbara Stewart

St. Martin's Press
The In-Between
by Barbara Stewart
3 Scribbles

To be released, November 2013

The new house in Pottsville was supposed to be a fresh start for Elanor Moss, a place to put her failed suicide and unpopularity to rest. Instead, the new home becomes a place to recover from the tragic car accident that left Ellie near death and half of her family dead. However, Ellie’s new home does offer one good thing—her new best friend, the captivating and mysterious Madeline Torus.  With Madeline’s help, Ellie may have a chance to be a new and improved version of herself. 

Ellie has always struggled with depression and loneliness; according to her mother, Ellie is “up and down like a yo-yo.” But when Madeline arrives, Ellie has hope for her future. Madeline is the girl Ellie has always wanted to be; she has good taste, good looks, and loves Ellie for who she is. Teens may identify with Ellie’s feelings of angst and isolation, as well as her fear of losing Madeline. But Ellie’s voice is not to be trusted, especially when it comes to her relationship with Madeline. Very short chapters move from choppy descriptions of Ellie’s life at school, and the changes she is making, to lovely, yet dark, sections of prose poetry that provide insight into her character. An insight however, that is suspect because in her own words Ellie is an actor who could “win an Academy Award” for the person she has fabricated to play her part. I found myself feeling more and more hopeless as Ellie becomes numb under the influence of medication and she falls further and further into depression. But then in a brilliant move on the part of the writer, Ellie’s mother discovers a photo of Madeline—a photo that casts doubt on Ellie’s mental instability. Is Ellie actually mentally ill or is she being haunted? I had to keep reminding myself that the story is told in the voice of Ellie—is Ellie to be believed? And while this uncertainty adds depth to the story, it frustrated me because I needed to know whose narration was trustworthy—and I simply could not know this to be certain. What I also found a bit perplexing about the story is the family’s lack of support. Ellie’s mother is so solid, yet, despite her drive and talent, Ellie’s family is unusually isolated—as evidenced by the cemetery scene. Even if the Mosses moved a state away from their previous home, don’t they have any family or friends to come to their aide? If this is the case, then Ellie’s family is just as isolated as she is—no wonder she feels so alone. Or perhaps when there is a tragedy of such great magnitude in a family, one is truly alone, and the solitary cemetery scene demonstrates this. Either way, it just seems odd that no one from their old hometown cares a lick about them. Readers who enjoyed The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher will likely enjoy this eerie work about a truly tortured girl, although they may walk away with more questions than answers.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Review of The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead


The Indigo Spell (Bloodlines #3)
by Richelle Mead
5 Scribbles

The female students at Amberwood Prep are in trouble. There’s a murderer in town, killing the youngest and prettiest of girls. Mrs. Terwilliger suspects it’s a witch intent on absorbing the girls’ youth, power and beauty, but because she has personal connections to the witch in question she must rely on Sydney’s help to find the killer. Can Sydney overcome her aversion to magic long enough to come to Terwilliger’s aid and put a stop to the killings?

As a die-hard Mead fan, I hesitate to review Mead’s work because it’s always so engaging and the plotting is so well done! Truthfully the main conflict above only scratches the surface of the massive amounts of action that occurs throughout. And the character development taking place in this book is superb. The conflict between Sydney and Adrian that began at the conclusion of The Golden Lily is set aside in the wake of the murders, and the two return to their established friendship to try and catch a killer. Or do they? The romantic tension between these two is palpable—will Sydney finally grow a backbone and realize that the doubts she has about the Alchemists and the intolerance she has been taught is not the whole truth? Will she realize that magic may have a place in the world, and that not all vampires are evil? And more importantly, will playboy Adrian finally abandon his partying ways and stick to his new-found chivalrous ways? While markedly different from the romance between Dimitri and Rose in the Vampire Academy series, this potential romance packs just as much heat—in fact, it’s probably a relationship that many of us find we can relate to more easily, because the protagonists are, for the most part, everyday people. Yes, they may be witches and vampires, but neither has any real super-skills or can fight like a ninja! The difference from our reality is that Sydney risks everything and everyone she has ever known and trusted to grow that backbone and “have” Adrian. For many of us, such loss would not be worth it. Additionally, a new little romance is blossoming—will Eddie and Angeline stay together or will Jill take the plunge and reveal herself to Eddie? And just when you thought it was all being worked out, a new character is added to the mix that will shake up Amberwood, and Sydney, in a way the reader never anticipated! I’ve already pre-ordered The Fiery Heart, set to be released November 19, 2013.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Review of A Million Suns: Across the Universe #2


A Million Suns: Across the Universe #2
by Beth Revis
5 Scribbles

The killer in book one has been captured, and Elder is beginning his leadership on board Godspeed in the aftermath of the discovery that Godspeed will never see the new planet. However, when Elder’s first command—discontinue the mind-control drug FIDIS and let the people function as free individuals—is executed, all hell breaks loose. Now Elder must try to manage the chaos and find out who is now killing people on Godspeed. And Amy? Amy discovers clues left for her by the killer in book one, clues that may help them land on their new home sooner than anticipated.  

Book two in the series focuses on two main conflicts. First, there is a new killer on the ship, and second, Godspeed is in turmoil. The plot examines life after a dictatorship and the problems that ensue. Elder struggles to keep ship functions running smoothly with a community of individuals unaccustomed to thought, let alone free speech, and Elder’s former friend Bardy does nothing to facilitate the transition. Flaws begin to surface on Godspeed, and the previously drawn utopian ship is revealed for the prison it was. With the ship falling apart, food production slowing, and a new murderer on the loose, Elder has little time to invest in his relationship with Amy, yet Revis skillfully allows Elder and Amy to grow as individuals while at the same time exploring their relationship with one another. Elder struggles with his feelings of inferiority as a leader, feelings that are well-earned. Truthfully, Elder is a very poor leader, and at times it’s difficult to empathize with him or even root for him, but it does allow the reader to wonder if they would do better in his situation. Amy, on the other hand, never loses faith in Elder, even when facing her own grief and a life she never imagined living aboard Godspeed. What I love about the developing relationship between these two is that it is slow to grow. Amy realizes that she doesn’t have to love Elder simply because he is the only guy around her age. All of this being said, it may sound like this book is a bit on the dull side. Not so! Revis, in the same riveting style of book one, manages to weave in two mysteries rather than one! And when both are solved, a tantalizing conclusion makes the reader (myself included) scour the library for book three. Truth be told, I’ve already read book three! I gobbled it immediately after I finished this one! This is one series I would totally love to see hit Hollywood. The special effects would be amazing, and the conflicts engaging enough to guarantee a following.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Review of The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancy

Putnam Juvenile

The Fifth Wave
by Rick Yancy
5 Stars!
Ever wonder what it would really be like if Earth were invaded by aliens from another planet? I have, and my imaginings always ram somewhere between the aliens from Tom Cruise’s version of War of the Worlds and Will Smith’s Independence Day. Thankfully, Rick Yancy has a much more realistic and riveting imagination.

Cassie is a little freaked out when the mother ship appears over her neighborhood. But, after a week or so nothing happens so, whatever. Then the lights go out and a few people die in accidents and whatnot because there’s no power. After some more time passes and people are used to seeing the ship in the sky the tsunamis come and devastate the planet, but Cassie is in Ohio, so her family is spared. When the plague comes and infects many around her, she starts to feel real terror, but where are the aliens? Where are the aliens indeed?

The novel is a brilliant and perhaps very realistic imagining of what might happen if a superior race chose to invade and claim our planet, besides being an intuitive study of human behavior. The brilliance of the work is the slow terror that develops through the action; instead of a series of explosions, the story focuses on the psychological toll of a slow, stealthy invasion that confuses and divides. How do you fight a war when you can’t see the enemy or you see them but cannot identify them? How do we band together when every “wave” drives us further and further apart? The story is told primarily through the eyes of Cassie, but also alternates between two other main characters, Evan and Ben, both victims in their own right of the alien invasion but in markedly different ways. It is impossible not to become invested in what happens to all three characters, impossible not to plow through the chapters in order to see how the fates of these three might become later entwined. I was riveted to the story, glued to the idea of children being used as a “vanguard and weapon,” Lord of the Flies style, and amused by the homage (we won’t call it a blatant rip off) to the film Full Metal Jacket via the character of Reznick. Even in such a horrifying tale it seems there is room for—indeed there has to be—humor. Perhaps most enthralling for me were the themes that kept me wondering. How do you face death on a daily basis when there is no hope?  How long can humanity survive in isolation from one another? We are social creatures after all. And lastly, how might an alien force rid the earth of humans? Maybe Cassie, and our own Earth’s history, has the answer, “rid the humans of their humanity.” This is one novel I would be anxious to read a second installment of, but I’m not sure one is needed. This novel stands as a testament to the genius of Yancy, and I for one, recommend it to anyone who is up for a sophisticated, engaging read unlike any that have come before it.