Saturday, February 26, 2011

Daughters of the Sea: May

May (Daughters Of The Sea)Author: Kathryn Lasky
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: March 1, 2011
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Summary from Amazon:
May feels her life drying up. The sea calls to her, but her parents forbid her from swimming. She longs for books, but her mother finds her passion for learning strange. She yearns for independence, but a persistent suitor, Rudd, wants to tame her spirited ways. Yet after her fifteenth birthday, the urge to break free becomes overpowering and May makes a life-changing discovery. She does not belong on land where girls are meant to be obedient. She is a mermaid-a creature of the sea.

For the first time, May learns what freedom feels like-the thrill of exploring both the vast ocean and the previously forbidden books. She even catches the eye of Hugh, an astronomy student who, unlike the townspeople, finds May anything but strange. But not everyone is pleased with May's transformation. Rudd decides that if can't have May, no one will. He knows how to destroy her happiness and goes to drastic measures to ensure that May loses everything: her freedom and the only boy she's ever loved.

 I found it very difficult to "get into" the book and to care about the characters. The bad characters, like May's mother and Rudd, are confusing in their badness. They seem like normal people until there's a flash of hatred or evil. The good characters like May and Hugh are slightly better at being consistent, but they also seem pretty flat and undeveloped. The story itself is a good one, but because of my lack of interest and confusion over the characters, I just couldn't get emotionally connected to the story.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French KissAuthor: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
Released: December 2, 2010
Genre: YA Romance
Author's Website:

Anna is furious at being shipped off to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year, just because her father wants to appear cultured. She arrives with the intention of being perfectly miserable all year, but she immediately meets a great group of friends who help her adjust and even like Paris. And to top it off, part of that group is Etienne St. Clair, the gorgeous guy that half the female student body is in love with. Of course, nothing can happen between them - St. Clair has a girlfriend, and Anna has a sort-of boyfriend back in Atlanta. But their friendship is undeniably something special, and as things progress, Anna finds herself wondering more and more - will anything ever happen between them?

Fun and flirty, sweet and sensitive, insightful and thoughtful - Anna and the French Kiss has all of it! I love how the tone of the story changes with Anna's changed perceptions, and with the events taking place that effect these changes. The beginning of the book is light and funny, just the way new friends in a foreign country would be, and it segues so smoothly into the heavier themes and sadder events of the middle and last parts of the story. I found myself laughing out loud at many points through the middle of the book, and I felt achingly overwhelmed by tears at many points in the latter half of the book. The way Stephanie balances the two is absolutely brilliant and makes for such a rich, fulfilling emotional experience.

The themes of the story are really subtly woven into the story, but they come across quite clearly and strongly when you think about the story. The intricacy of relationships, of who's dating whom and who's available at what point in time, becomes so alive as all the characters, even the peripheral characters, juggle all the relationships in their lives. Many times, especially in YA novels, characters focus on one relationship that defines the story. I love how Anna deals with her father, her mother, her brother, her best friend back home, her ex-boyfriend and maybe-boyfriend in Atlanta, her new friends in Paris, Etienne, and the "other" groups in school. Every character is like that - dealing with myriad relationships - because isn't that the way it is in real life? Stephanie manages somehow to glide from one to the next and make it all come together and bloom with a life of its own.

And I absolutely love the way Anna and Etienne both have to learn lessons of self-knowledge and self-realization. This, again, is incorporated so well into the actual story but is so clear, when they examine their reactions, have huge fights, and have excruciatingly honest conversations. These are some of the parts that made me almost cry, as the two of them deal with betrayal, conflicting feelings, confusing messages, and so much other baggage.

So what started out a light, fun read turned into something so much more substantial, and it is a story that will stay with me for a long long while!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Angel Burn

Author: L.A. Weatherly
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: (US) May 24, 2011
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
On Facebook:

Willow has always been psychic, able to help people make choices by touching them and seeing their possible futures. When she does a reading for a classmate, she finds out that angels do exist - and that they're not at all angelic. She sees an angel feeding off her friend's energy, weakening her until she'd go crazy and die. Alex has been an AK - Angel Killer - for almost as long as he can remember. When he gets a message to kill Willow, he knows there's something wrong, because Willow is not in fact a full angel. Working through their mistrust of each other, Willow and Alex try to work together to figure out what is going on, after the entire Church of Angels wants them dead. Apparently Willow has the power to destroy all the angels, but how will they do that?

Definitely a new spin on angels! Angel Burn threw me when I first saw Alex killing angels, making me wonder what was going on, who was the real villain. But I love the way preconceptions about angels are dealt with and an explanation is seamlessly woven into the story.

The main part of the story - so far, I guess until the action heats up in the next books - is the relationship between Alex and Willow. It is so beautiful, the way they progress from being disturbed by each other, to grudgingly liking, to admitting that they love each other. It's so real, the development so natural. And every scene where they're interacting - which is most of the book - is such a pleasure to read, the way they speak to each other, the way they overcome past emotions and slowly open up to each other. And their relationship is so beautiful - they're my new favorite book couple!

The action builds really well, too. The pacing of the book is amazing, the way things come to a head, fall sharply, have a lull for a few pages, and then build again. The alternating between various points of view works really well for that. I thought that since Willow's point of view is told in first-person, that might be weird, not being in first-person all the time, but it works tremendously in keeping the reader inside Willow's head - she is the main character, after all - but being able to give information about Alex and the angels as well.

I give this book five out of five stars, because it kept me enthralled the entire time, and the pages - 460 of them! - flew by so fast I hardly noticed the length.

Thanks to NetGalley and to Candlewick Press for providing a digital copy for review.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Crossing Lines

Author: Paul Volponi
Publisher: Viking (Penguin)
Release Date: June 9, 2011
Genre: Young Adult (Contemporary)

Adonis is pretty much your typical high-school football player. But when he goes out with a girl who may just become his girlfriend, he slides into being a character she wants to see, not seeing the contradiction between his two "worlds." It takes the arrival of Alan, a new boy in school whose presence challenges the football-players' sense of masculinity with his mode of dress, to force Adonis to see himself as his sister sees him - a faker, someone who doesn't know who he really is. But even that's not enough to make him fully wake up, until things go too far and Adonis must choose to either "stand by or take a stand."

The writing in this book is superb. It's very vivid, and I could feel Adonis' confusion and pull to either side by the vivid scenes described. I also felt for Alan, because I could clearly picture his personality and attitudes, and I liked that there is just enough toughness in him, tempered by just the right amount of vulnerability.

I didn't like that the line was drawn basically between girls and guys, with the girls supporting Alan - with one or two exceptions - and the guys hating on him. Maybe it is that way in the real world, I don't know - do guys automatically feel their manhood threatened by a gay boy? And is it realistic to say that all girls would be automatically welcoming to a guy who joins the Fashion Club?

Aside from that question, I think the book handles the question of peer pressure, standing by or standing up, really well.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ink Exchange

Author: Melissa Marr
Publisher: HarperCollins
Released: April 1, 2009 (paperback)
Genre: Paranormal YA
Series: Wicked Lovely

I broke one of my big rules: I didn't finish reading a book. I just couldn't get into the story, couldn't bring myself to care for the characters. Part of that may be because the main characters in Ink Exchange are peripheral characters in Wicked Lovely - which I expected, but these are really peripheral. Leslie didn't play much of a role in the first book, so I had to approach this like a first book itself, not like the second in a series. Once I did that, actually, I did start caring about Leslie, but there was too much - or too little- else going on to really get my attention. Especially Irial - maybe he gets better later on, but honestly, I couldn't stomach reading so much from the point of view of a sadistic, cruel, unforgivable character. Events start happening pretty quickly in this book, but I couldn't see a clear picture of where they were going, and by the time I get to page 100 of 320 pages and I don't know what the main problem is, what the characters' motivations are, I lose interest, Which is what happened here. I'm not saying that this is a bad book, I'm saying that it might get better further in, but I think a book has to make you want to keep reading until you get to that point.

I'm really disappointed, because I wanted to read more about Aislinn and Kennan and Seth and Donia. But that whole bit is peripheral in this book, so I didn't get to see more of their relationships. So this didn't really do it for me.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

In My Mailbox 17

In My Mailbox is a meme started by Kristi of The Story Siren, with inspiration from Alea of Pop Culture Junkie, in which bloggers post any new books they have on their shelves that week - received, bought, begged, borrowed, or - no. Not that.

Across the Universe
Across the Universe, Beth Revis

From the libraries:
Flirt ClubThe Latte RebellionThe Trouble with Half a MoonFireAnna and the French Kiss
Flirt Club, Cathleen Daly
The Latte Rebellion, Sarah Jamila Stevenson
The Trouble with Half a Moon, Danette Vigilante
 Fire, Kristin Cashore
Anna and the French Kiss, Stephanie Perkins
From NetGalley:
Angel Burn 
Angel Burn, L.A. Weatherly

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Author: Andrea Cremer
Publisher: Philomel (Penguin)
Released: October 19, 2010
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Author's Website:

Calla is ready for her mission as set forth by the Keepers: she will have a union ceremony and mate with Ren, the alpha male of the Bane pack, and as the alpha female of the Nighshade pack, she and Ren will lead a newly-formed pack. But when Calla saves a human who wandered too far into sacred territory, and then the human, Shay, shows up in school and Calla is asked by the Keepers to look out for him, Calla begins questioning all she's ever known. Together with Shay, she discovers terrible secrets, about the Keepers, about the Guardian werewolves, about her own destiny.

Nightshade is a refreshingly new voice in werewolf and love triangle YA literature. Both aspects of the book - the paranormal and the romance - are dealt with in a slightly different angle than most books like this that I've read, and Andrea Cremer not only takes on an old topic in a new way, she does it so gorgeously that it just about blows everything that came before right out of the water!

Here's what I love about the book:

There are lots of layers, all interwoven in an intricate way that is easy to follow throughout the book and leads you from one thread to the other until the point when everything gets tied together. The background of the Guardians and Keepers, Calla and Ren's relationship, Calla and Shay's relationship, the various other relationships going on in the pack - they all are told seamlessly.

Then there's the way Andrea handles Calla's two relationships. At first I was a bit disturbed when Calla thinks about both boys, when she desires both boys, but that lasted only a few pages. Andrea portrays Calla's thoughts so clearly that she is vindicated through the narrative and through her confusion. Nothing outright says - this is why she behaves the way she does. It's unclear, which is how she feels. By the end of the book, I understood exactly why she was behaving the way she was even though it was never spelled out. That's really good!

I really like Calla's character. She's a perfect blend of a leader, as the alpha of her pack, and a confused girl, a regular teenager trying to make sense of confusing emerging facts and of her mixed-up feelings. The way her behavior changes as her role changes is so real and is accomplished in the narrative so naturally.

All the little (and not-so-little) clues littering the path building up to the climax results in a WOW of a scene, the last twenty or so pages of the book, at which point I had to remind myself to just breathe. I love the pacing of it, the way we get to know Calla through somewhat everyday life, though there's always something happening, until we know exactly how she'll react to the major events. And at that point, we care deeply about what happens to her, because we feel for her intensely.

This is a book I'm seriously considering buying (the copy I read was borrowed from the library) because I'll want to read this again and again until the next book, Wolfsbane, is released. Besides, do you see the cover?? So utterly gorgeous, and so fitting to the story!