Monday, July 28, 2008

Airhead by Meg Cabot

I had no clue what was going on for the first 65% of this book. And then it all started coming together in a rush of "wow thisseemsreallyimpossiblebutisstilltotallyawesomeofanide." I was prepared for some pretty intense character development awesome that always comes from the marvelous Meg Cabot. And (surprisesurprise) it happened.

Emerson Watts is a girl with a boy's name who doesn't know what to do with herself. She can't (or won't) live up to her sister's shallow expectations. She has completely fallen for her best friend, Christopher, and doesn't have the confidence to tell him. And her opposition to big-name and big-business isn't supported by anyone close to her. So when her younger sister Frida wants to go the grand opening of the Stark Mega-Store in their SoHo neighborhood, their is no escape for a reluctant Emerson. And when Frida goes off in pursuit of the store's top model for an autograph, her sister is forced to pursue.

A plasma screen television detachs from the ceiling and begins to fall. Emerson lunges to save her sister, a solitary few feet from the shoes of Nikki Howard, the Stark model. Next thing she knows she is waking up in a hospital bed, being abducted by people who seem to have mistaken her for Nikki, and coming to the realization that maybe- just maybe- Emerson Watts is no more.

I was suitably confused for most of this, but was still pretty devoted to finding out what was going on. The mystery of the connection between Emerson and Nikki was completely engrossing. And through the constant discoveries you see more of Emerson coming through. She isn't just your average we-have-read-this-all-before, politically active, who-cares-what-they-think teen girl. She struggles with the things that most people do, which makes her much more easy to relate to. Plus, Meg Cabot has a very particular talent for writing emotions.

The main plot twist was very...err...twisty. At least, I didn't see it coming at all. People of greater intelligence and discernment probably will figure it out before I did, but its still a HA! moment. It also opens up space to a whole new level of character interaction that is really hard to find in "realistic-fiction", even though I'm not sure if this really qualifies for that particular genre title.

I am actually extremely eager for the second book (I won't reveal the name here because it practically tells all) and I can say with confidence that this is my favorite Meg Cabot book so far. Once again, she shows herself flexible and extremely capable of branching into the unexplored nooks and crannies of female-targeted realistic fiction (Has anyone read Jinx?).

I give Airhead 6 out of 7 lightnings. And am pleased that it has opened the door to reading science-fiction once again. Oops. Have I said too much?

Hoping that I Haven't,


Friday, July 25, 2008

Genesis Alpha by Rune Michaels

You know those books that you see all the time and think to yourself in a slightly distracted manner, "Oh, that looks interesting" and then *BAM* out of nowhere you see the shiny new cover of that book that you've been dying to read forever and it jumps off the nearest library shelf into your arms?... Well that might happen to me more often than most people seeing as I practically live at a library... anyways... Genesis Alpha is one of those books. No, not the jumping off shelves kind, but more of the sitting patiently for well deserved attention variety. I swear I've looked past this book at least fifty times before deciding to pick it up and actually... you know... read it. But I'm glad I did.

Jack adores his brother Max. Max is exactly the type of person Jack wants to be when he gets older. He's smart and cool and totally kicks ass at the popular (and addicting) online game called Genesis Alpha. They get together almost every day (Jack in his room afterschool and Max from a computer lab on his college campus) to quest across the land exterminating all kinds of foul beasts and evildoers and such. One day, during the game Max's character kind of freezes up and turns into a statue, something that happens when the person playing just shuts off the game without logging off. A while later, Jack finds out why. Max has been arrested, suspected of brutally murdering a young woman named Karen. Jack's first reaction is one that most of us would have, to assume that it's all been some awful mistake... but... when Jack meets Karen's little sister Rachel (when I say "meets" I mean, finds her in the cat shed hell bent on getting revenge) he starts to question his brother's innocence, and finds clues to what really happened in some...surprising places.

This book was quite short (less than 200 pages *gasp*) but it's brevity didn't seem lacking in any way. I found Genesis Alpha both twisted and gripping. It certainly left me with more questions than answers in a good way (food for thought, not nasty plot holes) and a bit of suspicion of those people who go to the library to use the internet instead of... you know... books. Seriously... some of those laptop users... sitting in their corners... hissing if I get too close (kidding, they haven't done that... yet). As I digest this leftover feeling of paranoia, I give Genesis Alpha a well earned 6 out of 7 lightnings.

From the Shadows,

P.S. I really want to call this book Dark Genesis. Honestly, I've had to backspace over that typo a ridiculous amount of times. And I have no idea why I keep calling it that.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How to Be Bad by E Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Myracle

Now I know that if you are a blog-hopper like myself, you have probably seen about 976 reviews for this particular book (even one of them on this site, although that was written by a different set of bloggers-who just so happen to be amazzzzing). But let's make it 977 as I say that the reason you have seen so many reviews is because it is so totally awesome (or because the people who are handling the publicity are wizards). Could we expect any less from the likes of E Lockhart (The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks makes me want to fan-girl scream), Lauren Myracle (Rhymes With Witches- creepy girl clique pwnage), Sarah Mlynowski (confession- I have no idea who this is- but I am determined to find out), and E Lockhart?

Jesse has just discovered an earth-shattering secret about her mother. And its changed her whole perspective. Suddenly, she's gone gung-ho for religion and is so obsessed with keeping the revelation silent that she is building walls between herself and her best friend, Vicks. But Vicks is having troubles of her own. Her boyfriend has moved on to college and left her loveless in no-where-ville, Florida. And then there is Melanie Fine. New to Florida and missing Canada, she can hardly stand living in her hyper-critical wealthy household. Solution for all of the above problems? To steal Jesse's mom's car and drive down to seek out Vick's boyfriend at college, of course. But our three heroines could never have predicted the adventures and (cough) experiences, that wait for them on the road.

I really loved this book. The characters were fabulous and all had their own unique voice through the combined creativity of writing styles in every chapter. I loved watching them grow, throw hissy fits, break into museums, overcome fears, and find/lose/find love. And it was all done with hilarity thrown throughout. There were many moments I found myself laughing, only to be stared at strangely by the people on my porch. But it wasn't all fun and games. The sad things were handled as well and excellently. Those times gave a lot more depth to the backstory and the unpredictable plot line.

I supremely hope that these three authors will write together again some time in the future. And I will miss the protagonists of How to Be Bad as well. And I think alot of the charm in their story was because they were written so well and felt just like your friends. That mixture you adore and would go on a road-trip with in an instant. It was really great how HTBB wrapped up the feeling in 321 pages.

7 out of 7 lightnings. woahwaitwhat? 7? yes. 7.

Finding Sarah Mlynowski Books,


Monday, July 21, 2008

Peeled by Joan Bauer

Aaaah. The country homesy feeling. The apple trees swaying in the wind. A town ghost. A small-time newspaper. For some reason, this entire novel felt like Little House on the Prairie goes upstate New York. And I couldn't shake the feeling.

Hildy Biddles father is dead. But she can remember him through the art of journalism that he loved so well in life. So when the town ghost starts acting up more than usual (knocking small people off of their bikes, appearing in windows, leaving sharpied signs on the front lawn, etc.), she knows she must report the truth for the good of the town. Unfortunately, she only has access to the school newspaper and who would ever take her word over that of the illustrious Pen Piedmont of the town newspaper, The Bee? Is there more to the town ghost than meets the eye? Or has it simply been blown out of proportion and propagandated to sell papers? It seems as if it is all up to Hildy to find out.

I read many positive reviews of this novel and was eager to get started reading it. And when I saw the cover, I was even more intrigued (yes yes. I am one of those people who has an initial reaction based on the cover of a book -sigh-). So I took it out and started. The beginning was alright and I read on. But that was it. It was just alright. I had trouble finding anything that really inspired me or interested me to a point beyond meer polite attention span until the last few chapters. And by that point it was already too late.

I found Hildy to be something of an unbelievable character. She seemed so perfect and obsessed with the legacy of her town. Think Trixie Belden or a younger Nancy Drew. No serious flaws, just some fluff to carry out a plotline. And the characters around her weren't much better. I felt they just weren't any deeper than the page they were on. And I have loved Joan Bauer's work in the past, which made this read all the more disappointing for me.

The plot seemed uncreative and overused. A discarded (or re-run) episode of the Waltons (which I happen to think is a great show). And I say with great sadness that I was wanting so much more overall.

Still, the way the town banded together against the evils of big-city ideals was classic and fun to read at times. It seems that tons of books these days are vampire-slayer-zombie-werewolf-evil faerie- slam bang- alchoholics- suspense- crazy romance fiction. Reading Peeled was almost refreshing in its aura of "sweetness". So I would save it for a rainy afternoon when it's just sitting on the shelf, not expecting (or desiring) more than the quaint, back-country tale it is.

I give this book a 3.5 out of 7 lightnings.

Ze end.

Aella Siofra

Monday, July 14, 2008

Secret of the Sands by Rai Aren & Tavius E.

Well, isn't this one for the record books, I reviewed two times in a row *crowd gasps*. Here it is, the review for Secret of the Sands by Rai Aren and Tavius E.

Secret of the Sands introduces us to Mitch and Alex, two archaeologists excavating a site near the Sphinx. Alex quite literally stumbles over what could be the key to lifting the veil on the Sphinx's mysterious origins. She trips over a chest long buried in the sands. When she and Mitch open the chest, they find two strange cylinders inside, made not of stone but a puzzling metal that they find (thanks to Jack and Bob, their lab-dwelling sidekicks) isn't a known element. Inside the cylinders they find scrolls written in an unknown form of glyphs. Alex and Mitch try to decode their findings while attempting to evade the prying eyes of the conniving Professor Dustimaine.

Alternating with the view of the two Egyptologists is the story of Traeus, a King from the time that the metal cylinders were first made. He struggles to maintain peace, keeping his brother and over-ambitious wife from undermining his work, and finishing the Amsara project (a massive monument to their god-lion).

Keeping in mind that this book was written by a pair of debuting authors, I have to say that I found the book entertaining. However, the dialogue felt awkward at times and there were points where the story didn't really hold my attention. It wasn't awful or anything, but it wasn't spectacular either. I think though, that these authors will improve with time and I look forward to reading more from them (maybe the sequel, Destiny of the Sands). I'm giving Secret of the Sands a solid 4.5 out of 7 lightnings.

From the Shadows,

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Lamplighter by D.M. Cornish

This is the second novel in D.M. Cornish's Monster Blood Tattoo series (the first is called Foundling). We find our hero, Rossamund (a young man constantly made fun of for possessing a girl's name), beginning his training to become a Lamplighter in the Emperor's service. On one of the training patrols, the division of Lamplighters in training is attacked by a group of monsters in pursuit of a carriage of calendars (women dedicated to fighting monsters). It is during this attack that Rossamund first encounters Threnody, a young wit who has yet to master her newly acquired abilities. The combined efforts of the Lamplighters and calendars prove sufficient to turn back the beasts and the Lamplighters are able to return home. They take Threnody with them, who wishes to become Lamplighter, more an as act of rebellion against her mother than out of a desire to serve the Emperor.

Threnody becomes a companion of Rossamund's, mostly because he is the only one who puts up with her arrogant and condescending nature. Rossamund also encounters friends, old and new, on his adventures. Among them are Sebastipole the leer, Doctor Crispus, Numps, and of course Europe (also known as the Branden Rose). They are some of the only ones who can help him when he starts to experience odd happenings around the barracks. Rossamund takes part in nighttime pig deliveries from the intimidating kitchen mistress to the creepy, attic-dwelling surgeon as well as helping Numps the slightly crazy seltzerman repair lanterns.

Rossamund comes to find that not all men in the Emperor's service are as noble or trustworthy as they ought to be and tries to puzzle out his own opinions on teratology. Dangerous opinions that may lead to his being branded a sedorner (monster-lover *gasp*).

This second installment in the Monster Blood Tattoo series did not disappoint. Though it is a long one (over 600 pages), the book never lagged or wanted for action. Just at the times when I thought it was going tame on me there was a monster ready for battle right around the corner. I loved that some of the characters from the first novel returned and became real before my eyes. This fabulous tale earns the full 7 out of 7 lightnings *zing-kapow-zap, etc.*

From the Shadows,

P. S. Did you know that D.M. Cornish not only wrote this novel, but illustrated it as well? Click here to find out more.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Compound by SA Bodeen

This book gets a prize for extremely short plot summary that still intrigued me enough to take it out from the library. The inside cover summarizes the suspense and sheer awesome of how it is executed throughout the pages. The following five sentences are the courtesy of the inside flap:

Eli and his family have lived in the Compound for six years.
The world they knew is gone.
Eli's father built the Compound to keep them safe.
Now, they can't get out.
He won't let them.

Eli has everything anyone could wish for. A never ending music collection, a billionaire father, his own personal gym, and a family of virtuosos in their own right. But (excuse the cliche) there is trouble in paradise. Especially the fact that it is all underground. Eli hasn't seen any human being other than his family members for six full years and there are still nine to go until the time lock will release on the doors of the Compound. Even worse, his twin and grandmother were caught "up top" when the nuclear bomb fell. And however much his father tries to deny it, food supplies and morale are getting low.

When Eli finds the laptop, all his pent in doubts come rushing to the surface. Is it possible that there is still a human remnant in the world outside? Is it even possible that there was never any cause for hiding away in the first place? And what of the Supplements, the young children held captive in the mysterious yellow room? Eli can't bring himself to love them, but could never bear using them to further his survival. The choice seems clear, but if he plans on helping anyone, he'll have to surmount his own personal issues and explore the truth behind the deranged mind of the father that has become a madman.

I haven't read such a twisting suspense novel in a long time. Even if it clocks in at 245 pages, there was enough material to confuse and then delight any mystery fan. I was rooting for freedom the entire time, even when the characters seemed ready to give up. And yet, at the same time, I wanted to figure out what was going on in the Compound for real before anyone else (Inner Aella: Don't look on the last page...don't...don't, Outer Aella: B-but, I gotta know *whining*) The ending was exciting enough to cover the interesting events leading up.

My main complaint about this book was in Eli. At times, he was irritating, mean spirited, cowardly, and rebellious. But then again, perhaps that was what made the entire novel so believable. He was a very real character, though I feel this could have been accomplished with a little less emphasis on the protagonist flaws. This was redeemed by the well-thought out plot and intricacies of the characters he interacts with.

It was very difficult for me to believe that SA Bodeen was a first time author and I reallyreallyreally hope that she will write more books. CRACK-ZING-BAM! 6 out of 7 lightnings!

Expect more reviews than ever before in the coming months,

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Dragon's Keep by Janet Lee Carey

Rosalind was born into an ancient prophecy. Merlin had predicted that one day a "21st queen would end war with a wave of her hand". So it seems a cruel trick of fate when the 21st queen in question is born with a dragon's talon as the fourth finger of her left hand. And after years of insane treatments from every sage, witch, wizard, sorcerer, seer, and wise person in the kingdom it seems that there will be no hope for Rosalind's future as anything other than a witch-marked mistake of birth. At the same time she must deal with her mother's increasing obsession with the secret in relation to the dragon attacks of Wilde Island (their kingdom).

But all of that fades when she is kidnapped by the last dragon and taken to the island of Dragon's Keep to raise his eggs as a sort of governess. Abused, hated, exhausted, and still cursed, Rosalind begins to see the repercussions of her mother's own personal secrets and the treachery on both sides of the Dragon/Human War.

I had read a negative review of this book a few months ago and was prepared to not enjoy it, which isn't really a great way to go into reading a book. Sure enough, the heroine was cowardly, whiny, and in denial for a good half of the book (granted- she goes through more than I could ever imagine). But I can still see how that would turn off a few readers (understatement). Due to my love of dragons, I read on and began to note huge changes in Rosalind, although they came almost too late. Close to the end, the writing and plot really picked up as well. Still, the writing was really very beautiful from the beginning. It just got more beautiful in progression. It all felt very Fairytale-y-ish and Grimm-esque. And as you might have noticed, I am obsessed with the Grimm-esque.

Taking the above into consideration, I would have to give
Dragon's Keep a 5 out of 7 Lightnings. Hesitant Readers Beware, Dragon-o-philes Enjoy!

Hunting For Carey Books I Haven't Read,

Even if I wasn't particularly fond of this Janet Lee Carey book, I really enjoyed the Beast of Noor! It was exceptionally fawesome. Wenny Has Wings was fabulous as well. OHOH! And she has a blogger account and blog!