Monday, January 19, 2015

Suspicion - Alexandra Monir

In the summer of 2007 Imogen and her parents are visiting family in England.  Not to long after they get there is a fire that destroys part of Rockford Manor.  Imogen's parents along with her cousin Lucia's parents are killed in the fire.  It is stated in Imogen's parents will she go back to New York and live with her parents best friends Carole, Keith, and their daughter Zoey.  Seven years later Imogen has grown accustomed to living in America, and has put England in the back of her mind.  As graduation nears, Imogen starts getting calls and letters from England.  After Keith hangs up on a call and Carole takes away a letter addressed to Imogen, she begins to wonder what they are really hiding.  The letter is from Harry Morgan, who is the Rockford Manor Estate Manager.  She calls his office and finds out he is in America wanting to speak with her.  She sets up an appointment at her friend Lauren's house after school.  Harry tells Imogen her grandfather is dead and also her cousin Lucia.  This means she has now inherited Rockford Manor.  At dinner Imogen confronts Carole and Keith about why they kept all this information from her.  They did it to protect her and to shield her from anything that would reminder of the horrible day seven years ago.  When Imogen agrees to stay through graduation, Carole and Keith realize they can't stop her from going back to England.  Word starts to spread around school that Imogen is going to be a Duchess.  As those last few weeks go by quickly Imogen realizes that her life will never be the same again.  Everyone welcomes Imogen back to Rockford Manor with open arms.  The first night she sees Lucia's ghost and hears someone singing Lucia's favorite song.  Imogen's first public appearance as Duchess of Wickersham is at a polo match, which Lord Sebastian Stanhope, her childhood friend, is a part of.  Things are tense between Imogen and the Stanhope family when she greets them after the match.  They invite her to dinner to welcome her back.  Imogen brings a gift to the Stanhope's, but when it is opened Sebastian runs from the room.  The statue she brought was of Lady Beatrice and it belonged to Lucia, who Sebastian was dating at the time of her death.  After Imogen gets back from the disastrous dinner Maisie tells her about Lady Beatrice.  She had the power to summon the elements with just one touch.  Imogen does some research on Lady Beatrice.  She also finds out Sebastian and Lucia were researching her as well for a project.  Lady Beatrice's last words get Imogen thinking maybe the deaths of Lucia's parents, her parents, her grandfather, and Lucia were not a coincidence.  It seems like someone was trying to get Imogen back to Rockford Manor at the right place and time.  Imogen remembers what her father said all those years ago "There is something hidden in the Maze".  What is hidden in the maze that has brought so much suffering to Imogen's family and will the spirits at Rockford Manor ever be at peace?

As I was reading this book it reminded me of Princess Diaries with a supernatural twist.  It was an enjoyable read.  I liked the reveal toward the end and it made a few things in the beginning of the story make more sense.  I didn't know this was Alexandra Monir's third book, until I read the author bio on the book jacket.  This one is a stand alone and not connected to her first two books as far as I can tell.  The first two books sound interesting so I'll be reading them at some point in the near future.


Friday, January 16, 2015

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow

Anda the main character of the book, really loves the online game Coarsegold. A big multy-player online game.  There she can be anything she wishes, a leader, a fighter, anything you can think of. This game is what she plays mostly on her free time.

However not everything is all fun, once she befriends a gold farmer, whose player is a poor chinese kid. Something which is considered illegal in the game. Things start to drifting down hill for Anda.

Anda soon starts to question what's right and wrong, specially when the livehood of someone in real life is at stake.

This book has really cute and wonderful art, totally a must read.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Now that you're here - Amy Nichols

Danny and Germ have been doing random jobs tagging buildings and getting paid for it.  The jobs first started out small, but became bigger.  Once they realize it's Red December, a group of extremists, calling the shots they agree to do one more job and are done.  An evacuation order is given and everyone runs for the secure zone.  Danny tries to find Germ, but gets caught by a security officer.  There is one explosion, and then a second enveloping Danny in a white light.  Eevee is really smart and likes numbers as they don't change.  As she sits in English class thinking why short stories can't be more like geometric puzzles, Danny Ogden bolts up in his seat.  He recognizes Eevee and then bolts from the classroom.  Danny tries to find Germ, but ends up back at school getting picked up by someone who isn't his dad.  Danny shows up at Eevee's house later that night telling her he can't find his parents house or Germ, and nothing looks like the Phoenix he knows.  Her father lets him stay at his place, and as much as he's grateful for the hospitality he leaves to try and find his parents.  Danny shows back up on Sunday night.  After a shower and dinner Eevee's father says he can stay provided he doesn't run away again, and helps Eevee with her English homework.  While Eevee heads to school, Danny goes back to the foster home to grab clothes and money.  He goes to the local library to look up his parents only to find they died when he was 11 and was placed in a foster home.  Eevee talks to her friend Warren about Danny.  She tells Warren about how different this Danny is to the one they knew growing up.  She thinks he's from the future and wants Warren's help to find out what is going on.  Warren agrees to help, but is still skeptical about Danny as he was bullied by Danny back in the sixth grade.  Eevee talks him into going to school until they figure a way to get him home.  He does better than this Danny ever did, which leads to some of the teachers to think he's cheating.  After school Danny and Eevee go to Warren's and Danny explains what happened to him.  Warren comes up with the idea that Danny might be from a parallel world.  Warren puts a post on the Dark Web to see what other people say.  They agree to tell their teacher Mac about Danny and see if he can help since he used to be a NASA engineer.  The next day at school there is a substitute for Mac, so they decide to do their own research.  They look into EMP pulses as a possible explanation for what happened to Danny.  As the days progress the people from the Dark Web say it was an EMP detonation that sent Danny over to this parallel world.  Eevee and Warren come up with plans for their own machine to emit an EMP pulse.  The machine theoretically will send Danny back to his own world.  Will their plan work, or is Danny stuck in this parallel world? 

Any book that has Star Trek and Doctor Who references along with a parallel worlds storyline makes for an enjoyable read for me.  I do enjoy a parallel world story because it makes you think of what could be different if you were to choose another path, instead of the one you are on.  How different would the world be if America had lost the Revolutionary War or if the Berlin Wall hadn't come down?  There will be a companion novel coming out in August called While You Were Gone which tells the story of slacker Danny in the other Danny's world.  If you enjoy Now That You're Here I also recommend Fair Coin by E.C. Myers and Shift by Kim Curran.


Monday, January 12, 2015

the good sister by Jamie Kain

I never liked this book, struggled to get through it.  I did not care about the characters.  I felt like the author was rehashing stories by Jodi Picoult and maybe Sebold's Lovely Bones to name a couple.
There is lots and lots of teenage trauma drama, swear words, sleeping around but not really loving or enjoying it.  There is a cancer victim/survivor. There are speakers from the dead.  And many oddities such as Rachel being called a cross dresser, out of no where, about 40 pages from the end of the story.  There is an edgy scene between two of Rachel's casual boyfriends near the end as well that no one would miss if it had been edited out, think its filler to meet a page number contract.  A blood stained silk shirt, a clue as to the mystery surrounding Sarah's death, suddenly becomes a tunic.

The basics is that apparently Sarah's fight with leukemia was the only glue holding a dysfunctional family together.  When Sarah dies under odd circumstances (called an accident but was it?)  her sisters,  middle forgotten child Rachel and beloved little sister Asha are set adrift.  Mom is dating yet another guy and the girls don't know how serious the pair has become.  Father is working hard and often out of state so not around to be part of the girls' lives.  Asha begins staying at friends or sleeping in a park or whatever rather than going home and nearly drops out of school at 16.  Maybe the climax is when mom decides to leave her daughters without support to marry her current boyfriend, or maybe its when Rachel tries to commit suicide or maybe when the story of Sarah's death is revealed or whenever.  I talked with some folks about the great reveal and we agreed that it is doubtful that it would have played out the way it did in the book, in real life.  We thought teens were smarter than depicted or at least more likely to run by events in a sort of what if this happened what would you do way than to tightly hold on to a "terrible" life destroying secret. Things begin to turn for the better in the end.

Folks on GOODREADS are rather raving with only a couple of exceptions.  I am with the minority.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

This is a great second novel to series that will definitely have you coming back for more, although it is important to read these books in order. The book, like the first, is Criminal Minds for teens.

The Naturals program is a group of five extraordinary teens who help solve cold cases. The narrator Cassie is a profiler, as is Dean. There's also Sloane who is amazing with numbers and facts, Lia who can detect lies, and Michael who reads emotions. Together they work to solve cases that the FBI hasn't cracked and only cold cases because this program is a bit hush-hush and you can't have teens involved in active cases. But when the latest killer seems to be a copy of the murders Dean's father committed, it's impossible for the teens to take a backseat on this case. Even with the threat of someone shutting down the program, they break and bend the rules to help a friend and solve the case before some else dies. 

I know a number of people who hear "Young Adult" and don't want to give a book another shot. They think that given the teen audience, the books aren't as developed or might come off as superficial - they just don't have the depth that an adult book would have. While I have seen that in some books, that does not happen in this novel. I felt like this book had a great balance of teen connection with enjoyable and quirky teen characters, but it has the depth and development and complexities of an adult murder mystery. You feel for the characters, there are twists and turns with the story, and it is an overall enjoyable ride. Just make sure you read the first book first. Things that happen in the first book are brought up throughout this novel, so it is important to have that background knowledge. Sure there are enough references to get you through if you didn't read it, but it would be best to start this series at the beginning. 

I really enjoyed this novel and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a good murder mystery. It's not just blood and guts and whodunit. This novel does a great job getting into the mind of the murder and characters. Definitely pick this book up.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

the wonder of All Things by Jason Mott

This is a great read by a first time author and perfect for the holidays.  As much as anything its about love, not a male/female love but love of family, of brother for brother, parent for child and more.
Because the main characters are young teens, this is a crossover book, good for adults as well as teens.
The Characters:  Ava and Wash, best friends since childhood, Ava's mother committed suicide many years ago, her caring father, recently remarried and expecting has raised her well.  Wash's grandmother has been raising him since the death of his mother in a car accident caused by his father who could not face the world after that.  they are teens.  Ava's father Sheriff Macon Campbell and his new wife Carmen. Wash's grandmother Brenda and father Tom.  Reverend Brown and his brain injured brother Sam.  Dr. Arnold and his wife, town doctor and nurse.

A plane crashes at an airshow trapping Ava and Wash in debris.  As their rescuers race to reach them, Ava sees that Wash is slipping away.  Panicked by the thought of losing Wash, Ava grabs on to him and holds and thinks hard, memories of her mother flood her mind.  She wakes cold and weak in the hospital being called miracle girl.  She has healed Wash's injuries, saved his life.  And so it is that the town is flooded by reporters and people hoping to be healed by the miracle girl.  Macon is overwhelmed by coping with the mess.  Reverend Brown steps in and guides him.  The reverend could have been a stereotypical televangelist but is a much deeper caring person.  His older brother however is a problem, stalking Ava, trying to get her to cure his brain injury and in the end causing an horrific explosion, killing himself and others.  Sam reminded me of Lennie Small in the novel Of Mice and Men so now might be the time to say that maybe this story or parts of it have been told before, never has the story been told in this manner.  There are tests and more tests to see if Ava is different is some way, always is the question of how?  When she heals a dog's broken leg she loses conscious and wakes up blind.  Eventually recovering, almost.  She grows thinner, and colder every time she heals someone and loses her vision and has a flood of memories of her lost beloved mother.
Even as those close to her want her help, save Carmen's baby, save Wash from cancer, they know it could kill her, something they would never risk.  How do you explain to people in need, people who believe she has a moral duty to help that Ava cannot help them?  There is a first attempt to get Ava to begin what is deemed her duty but she refuses to cure a young child of a brain tumor and instead grabs Wash and runs away.  Ava seems to have come to terms with her "power" with what she can and will do and that is clearly limited to those she loves.  She will risk her own life for them.  And so it is that she heals Wash's cancer without his being aware and heals Carmen's baby, born too early.  But for those outside her tight circle there is no resolution.  JDW 12/14

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Stepsister's Tale by Tracy Barrett

This summer, Disney told the story of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of Maleficent. Tracy Barrett has now told Cinderella's story from the perspective of the stepsister. It's an interesting interpretation of the story that seems a bit removed from the original.

Jane's mother has high standards for her daughters to present themselves as ladies like their ancestors always have. That would be easy for Jane to do, if they weren't living in a house that was nearly beyond repair and she weren't forced to work in the family's dairy so that they could survive. When her mother returns from a trip with a new husband and stepdaughter, Jane thinks this might be the answer to their prayers. However, her new stepsister seems a bit stuck-up and her stepfather has his own set of debts. None of this helps them, especially when he suddenly gets sick and dies. In the meantime, Jane forms a friendship with a family of people who lives in the woods, people that she'd initially been warned by her mother to stay away. Then the prince comes with an invitation for all unmarried women as he seeks one particular lady - a girl he met one day on his travels. Jane realizes he means her stepsister Isabella, and while she would love the opportunity to "get rid of" the girl, she begins to realize the prince might not be the happily ever after they were all looking for.

This retelling of Cinderella feels very removed from the original story that everyone seems to know. Given that it's from the perspective of the stepsister, that's to be expected, but at times it felt like a completely different story. For the most part, it feels like a story about a girl whose class status shifts due to unfortunate events and is now living the life of poverty and how she adapts to this life. It addresses misconceptions about people - Will from the family in the woods thinks she's high and mighty because of her class, which is completely wrong because her family has less than his, and she thinks he's too proud to associate with her; then Jane has a misconception about Isabella who has a misconception about Jane. It's a theme throughout the book about how people aren't what you think and how status and title doesn't make a person good. When it comes to the actual Cinderella parts of the story, there's a nice twist to the whole ball and prince that fits with the themes about misconceptions and makes it more original. For the most part, though, this novel felt like it was Jane dealing with their living conditions and trying to survive and keep her family from falling apart. For a while, I kept wondering when the whole Cinderella story was going to happen. I don't know what to make of the Cinderella character, though. For the most part she comes off as a whiny brat and is barely in the book. I would have like more of her, or seen her character develop more. I had very little sympathy for her. I also would have like a bit more clarity with the epilogue. There's closure for a happy ending, but I thought it was a bit vague in terms of where everyone ends up. I wanted more specifics or nothing at all. 

The novel is an interesting interpretation of the story of Cinderella. It is definitely the author's take on the familiar tale, although that tale is more of a secondary story compared to everything else going on in the novel - so keep that in mind. It was an enjoyable read though.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Promise Me Something by Sara Kocek

I think this could have been a powerful story.  But, the author looses track of her characters a couple of times.  In one spot this made the story totally confusing.  And, she switches directions a couple of times, not in a twisty complicated way but sort of in a "Huh"  way.  

Reyna is new girl in high school.  First day is hard, everyone knows everyone and has someone to eat
lunch with.  So, when Olive encourages Reyna to join her, well, why not?  Olive is quirky and Reyna doesn't know what to think.  So, when another group of girls invites her into their group, Reyna does.
But, they are not really to her liking either.  Well turns out Olive thinks Reyna is gay like she is and Reyna totally freaks and tries to drop Olive as a friend, even making fun of her like the other girls do.  There is a homophobic teacher who is hard on a gay boy in his class both angering Olive and keeping her silent.  Olive is in  a GLBQT group on line and has met other girls like herself.  There is much chatter about suicide.  When there is an actual suicide in town, folks think its Olive as the victim was wearing her coat.  This turns into an opportunity to strike out against the homophobic teacher, an opportunity for Reyna to redeem herself for all she regrets not doing and a few other things as well.  Ok, well I am happy to have finally finished this book.  There are others much better.  Try Julie Peters or Ellen Whittlinger or David Leviathan.
JDW 12/14