Sunday, September 25, 2011

New York to Dallas

Author: J. D. Robb
Publisher: Putnam (Penguin)
Released: 2011
Series: In Death
Genre: Futuristic Police Procedural

Lieutenant Eve Dallas has to face more demons in this latest installment of the In Death series. A monster she helped put away in her early days as a cop has escaped and sends a personal message to Eve, eventually drawing her to Dallas, where her worst nightmare resurfaces.

In this one, there are many deviations from the established routines of the In Death books. And I'm somewhat ashamed to admit it, but I think I missed the snarkiness of New York almost as much s Eve did! But the rhythm of the Dallas operation works in its own way.

And the tone of the whole book is also different - more vulnerable, I think, more introspective. Sure, there's still murder and mayhem, but more than the usual percentage of the book is Eve dealing with all the emotional backlash of dealing with a case like this. I like it - last book, Treachery in Death, dealt with Eve's reasons for becoming a cop, and I think New York to Dallas continues the theme of exploring and dealing with her past and her emotions.

The rhythm of the whole operation being different is partly due to the change in location, but also partly due to the fact that there is no "suspect," because they know right off the bat who they're looking for, and it's just a chase to find him, not to identify him. There are a few close calls, and the only thing that let me know the attempt wouldn't work was that there were too many pages left to the end of the book!

As usual, the relationship between Eve and Roarke is stunning. Roarke himself is somewhat vulnerable in this one, because he feels so strongly about what Eve has to go through. They have their huge fight, of course, but the tender moments - and there are a lot of them - are breathtaking.

So while the book left me with a feeling slightly different from the usual In Death feeling, it's still a great book, and it makes me wonder what direction J.D. Robb will take for the next one!

In My Mailbox 22

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.

My brand-spanking shiny new books! For my very own! Because I decided that who needs money, we all need books a lot more than that, right?
Here's what I got:

Love Story, Jennifer Echols
Need, Carrie Jones
Going Too Far, Jennifer Echols
(Look at that cover - so sweet! And I love the stubble!)
Ella Enchanted, Gail Carson Levine
(I read this already, of course, and I know bits of it by heart, but I never owned it, so now I get to have it forever and ever! Unfortunately it's not the cover I wanted, but the insides are still the same, and that's what counts. Most - that's what counts most.)
Shadowspell, Jennifer Black
(Part of the Faeriewalker series, but I haven't gotten the first book yet. Never fear, it's in the mail!)

And I got an ARC!

The sequel to Angel Burn - Angel Fire, L.A. Weatherly
I can't wait to read this one! And it's nice and thick, too! Though I must admit, I'm liking the UK covers a lot better than the US.

Maybe once this is released, I'll buy a copy of the UK so the series covers will match. Yeah, I'm a bit of a book fanatic!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Banned Book Week

This week, the last week of September, is Banned Book Week, when discussion is provoked about books that have been banned, about the idea of banning books altogether. Now, while I understand some reasons for banning books, or more precisely for monitoring at what age and under what circumstances a book should be introduced to a child, most reasons for banning books are simply ludicrous - as the saying goes, it's either laugh or cry. Now that BBW has started, I came across a few pieces that really disturbed me.

One is about Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson. Wesley Scroggins, a professor at Missouri State University, apparently published an opinion piece calling Speak "soft pornography." Apparently, I say, because when I clicked on the links from various sites citing this article, the paper in which the article was published claims no such page exists. I would assume it was taken down, and I'm not sure what I think about that.

But the point is - soft pornography? Are you kidding me? This is a book about a young girl struggling to come to terms with being raped. The term "pornography" is defined by the Merriam-Webster's dictionary as "the depiction of ... behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement." What on earth is "sexually exciting" about rape? 

Laurie responded to the piece on her blog. Read the comments as well - the way they're written, what they say, and who wrote them says so much about the skewed perception of Scroggins. In fact, I would go so far as to say he probably didn't even read the book. 

And ALA's list of banned books quotes a challenge to the book because it “glorifies drinking, cursing, and premarital sex." Again, I'd have to question whether the challenger ever read the book. Because all the bad things that happen in the book are partly a result of excessive underage drinking, so no glorification there. And glorifying premarital sex? Even when it's not consensual? Give me a break.

Banning books like this is just so wrong. Read the poem in the 10th-anniversary edition, or listen to Laurie read it aloud on her blog post about Scroggins. The poem is made up mostly of bits and pieces of responses that teens wrote to Laurie after reading her book. The sheer volume of responses, the many different situations which kids felt the book related to, it all points to the fact that this is an important book for teens of today's world to be reading. 

The main point of the book - as proven by the responses - is not so much the rape (which, as I mentioned in my post about the book, is spoken about in detail only once throughout the whole book), but the victim's response - and that is really important because there are so many children and teens struggling with really big problems, being victimized in ways completely beyond their control, and the thoughts depicted in the book will resonate with them and give them hope and courage.

And does a book that accomplishes this so perfectly deserve to be banned? I think not.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Every Other Day

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Publisher: Egmont USA
Release Date: December 27, 2011
Genre: YA Paranormal
Author's Website:

Buy on Amazon

In their words:
Every other day, Kali D'Angelo is a normal sixteen-year-old girl. She goes to public high school. She attends pep rallies. She's human.
And then every day in between . . .She's something else entirely.
Though she still looks like herself, every twenty-four hours predatory instincts take over and Kali becomes a feared demon-hunter with the undeniable urge to hunt, trap, and kill zombies, hellhounds, and other supernatural creatures. Kali has no idea why she is the way she is, but she gives in to instinct anyway. Even though the government considers it environmental terrorism.
When Kali notices a mark on the lower back of a popular girl at school, she knows instantly that the girl is marked for death by one of these creatures. Kali has twenty-four hours to save her and, unfortunately, she'll have to do it as a human. With the help of a few new friends, Kali takes a risk that her human body might not survive. . .and learns the secrets of her mysterious condition in the process. 

As soon as I began the first words on the first page, I felt Kali's anger. Yes, she's hunting and is controlled by instincts of a hunter, but she's just so angry. And it's pretty clear very soon that her anger comes from a deep place of sadness, frustration, and loneliness. Which means that her journey throughout the book is about facing that loneliness, learning that she doesn't have to be alone and letting others in. And I empathized with Kali completely, so that I wanted her to find peace and was rooting for her all the way through.

The pace of the action is incredible. Every twist and turn, every uncovered detail and bit of action came like a punch, and I actually gasped more than a few times. (Yeah, what the people on the train must've thought as I stare at my iPod and look shocked... But it's New York, everyone expects a certain amount of crazy.) It's really amazing the way, time after time, surprises pop up in one line that flips the trajectory of the story in a whole new direction as Kali searches for answers.

I like that the focus of the book is not so much on Kali finding out what she is, which is a large part of it, but it's more about relationships. And that is so perfect, the build-up of Kali letting people in and dealing, again and again, with the consequences of that. The way she learns about herself - not what she is, but who she is - from her interactions with others, and the way she reacts to what she discovers - it feels so real, and is just as important as what she does to save the world...

What's really interesting is that all the action of the book takes place over the span of only a few days, but everything is shown in such detail that you sort of feel what Kali feels, the way she's always paying attention to time so that time seems stretched. That really immersed me in the story so that I felt like I was watching the action happening, not just reading about it!

And I really like the ending - there's time to catch your breath and settle into the changes that Kali has to face, and I'm pretty sure there will be a sequel to this, because from the last couple of lines, it seems Kali's story is only beginning in this book...

Thanks to NetGalley and Egmont for providing a free digital copy for review.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

In My Mailbox 21

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.

 So the books I got over the past couple of weeks:

Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson
The Taker, Alma Katsu
Crusade in Jeans, Thea Beckman
Blood Rights, Kristen Painter
Every Other Day, Jennifer Lynn Barnes

None of these do I actually own, but I did just go on a huge shopping spree (online) so next week, hopefully I'll have actual physical, shiny brand-new books!


Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Speak (Penguin Group)
Released: 1999
Genre: YA Contemporary

Melinda is starting her freshman year at high school with a new social status and a terrible secret. After she called the police during a party in the summer, she's ostracized and has lost all her friends. But nobody bothered to ask why she called them, and Melinda has not been able to speak about it. In fact, she's hardly able to speak at all. She struggles to keep going, to keep pretending everything is just fine, when nothing will ever be fine again. Her grades fall, her parents still don't pay attention to her, and worst of all, she has to see IT in and around school as well. The only thing that seems to be going for her is her art class, and she feels frustrated even with that. She just can't seem to feel anything, anything at all except fear and terror.

Wow. I'd read a lot about this book and wasn't sure I wanted to read it, since I knew it deals with rape. But this really is a teen book, so the word rape shows up only twice, on the same page, and the way the whole subject is dealt with is perfect for a teen.

I felt every part of the emotion of the story - the dull, plodding-along, non-feeling sliding into crazy-eye terror and a deep, dark ache that doesn't seem to have relief. Melinda tries to shut down everything, but when she can't block it out, the feeling jumps off the page and overwhelms me. It never lets up, but has some interesting interludes when Melinda can't control her laughter - and that brought tears to my eyes more than the rest of it.

The motif of the tree project in her art class is perfect in showing her changing and static emotions and states of mind throughout the book. Though her teacher says art will show emotion, and though he tries to interpret her art, nothing is ever so clear as he might think. Melinda's struggles with how to create good art parallel her struggles to appear normal while not stifling a huge part of herself.

Certain lines in the book capture the matter-of-fact despair that Melinda feels. One line that especially jumped out at me - "Maybe I'll be an artist if I grow up." She constantly says things like this, that show how the incident affected her so deeply that even when she thinks she's being normal, she can't really deal with it. She doesn't think "when" I grow up, but "if" - so much has her thought process changed that she doesn't even notice how off that sounds.

While this can't really be termed pleasure-reading, I think it's a very important book, not only for teens thinking about rape, but for teens struggling with any kind of impossible secret, anything that affects them in this sort of way. The book does not end with a happily-ever-after, nicely tied-up ending - but it does leave a message of hope, of strength and resilience and a light in the dark.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dead Beautiful

Dead BeautifulAuthor: Yvonne Woon
Publisher: Hyperion
Released: September 21, 2010
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Series: Yes
Next Book: Life Eternal
Author's Website:

Renee Winters is reeling from the double death of her parents - supposedly from a double heart attack, but who ever heard of two people in perfect health both having heart attacks at the very same moment? On top of that, her grandfather, now her legal guardian, uproots her from her school and friends and sends her to a boarding school out in the remote parts of Maine. Adjusting to a new place is bad enough, but strange things have happened here, and strange things continue to happen. While Renee makes new friends and starts to fall in love with the most perfect guy, Dante, she tries to figure out what exactly is going on - but the truth may be far more than she ever wanted to know.

Right from the very start, this book is deliciously dark, excitingly dangerous, intriguing and utterly mysterious. The tone is perfect, totally creeping me out most of the time! But it's a good kind of creeping out - it is talking about death, after all, so it is dark and - to quote Renee - morbid. But it completely sucked me in, and I had to finish it all in one sitting, even though that meant I put some of my work on hold!

As a sort-of mystery, the book delivers the perfect dose of clues, leads, and dead-ends. While Renee tries to figure out what's going on, I was trying to as well, and it was just the right amount of frustrating that I had some bits of information which only served to confuse me more, up until when Renee finds out for sure what's going on. And then I was on tenterhooks waiting to see what Renee would do about it!

Renee is a great girl to be going on this ride with. She's sassy and fearless, but she shows real fear when she finds out the truth. She's a real person, with complex emotions, and she's got flaws - plenty of them - but that only makes her more endearing. I love how she refuses to see why Dante would want to be with her, which basically shows how insecure she really is under all that bravado.

And Dante... Sigh... Dante... Apart from the perfect description of his utter handsomeness, he is the consummate gentleman, and Renee is absolutely right in thinking he's perfect. (I seem to be using the word "perfect" a lot here - mean something? You bet it does!) Everything he does, everything he says, made me fall more in love with him.

And what he does at the end - such a perfect ending for the book! I read the last couple of paragraphs a few times, just to savor how absolutely perfect the whole thing is. And now excuse me - I'm going to re-read the last chapter again!

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Supernaturally (Paranormalcy)Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Released: July 26, 2011
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Author's Website:
Author's Blog:
Sequel to Paranormalcy

Evie has escaped the control of IPCA after she found out she completely disapproved of some of their methods. She's trying to live a normal life - finally! - when Raquel shows up again and asks for help in a changed IPCA. They've found a way to bypass needing to use faeries, for which Evie is immensely grateful, but strange things keep happening, faeries show up in weird places, and Evie seems to be under attack from more creatures and more often than ever before. Trying to balance all this with being normal with her boyfriend, Lend, is hard, and Evie wonders if she can ever possibly be anything remotely resembling normal.

I like the little feel of mystery to this book. You're never sure, just as Evie isn't, what exactly is going on. Though I did start suspecting the culprit before the end of the book, I was still kept guessing as to how everything fit together, what the purpose of it all is. The detail in all the descriptions is also really amazing. Whether describing a scene, action, of emotion, Kiersten makes it all come alive and seem so real, like you're standing right there and experiencing it all along with Evie.

This book is more clearly a novel about the search for identity and belonging than Paranormalcy was. And Kiersten portrays this search and confusion perfectly! Evie's emotions every step of the way feel so real, so raw, that I really felt along with her as she found out each of the bits and pieces about where she comes from and where she belongs. Identity and belonging are themes of a lot of YA literature, but the way Supernaturally explores beginnings, personal choices, relationships - it's real and it means something. It's not all answered yet, so I'm waiting for the third book to see how it all plays out!

The arc of this story is nicely self-contained in a single book, but the problem of the whole series is still keeping me waiting for the third book so I can see what happens. What will happen to the faeries after all? What will happen to Evie? Will Vivian wake up? What...? and How...? and When...?