Thursday, July 22, 2010

Homies (WA author):The Line by Teri Hall is only the begining

The Line is a small section of the National Border Defense System set up by the government to protect from outside invaders. At least that’s what they are being told. The National Border Defense System is an impenetrable invisible border surrounding the country. Rachel and her mother live and work on the Property which is far out in the woods near the Line. Stories abound about what exists on the other side of the Line and most of them are scary enough to keep people away. Things get strange for Rachel when a recorder with a message floats into her possession. The broken message is asking for help. Rachel must sort out the fact and fiction to find out what’s really going on with the Line.

Fantastic set-up for the series. The book introduces us to Rachel, her mother Vivian, and the woman they live with and work for Ms. Moore. You have to keep in mind that this is only part one of a series and take it like any other first. Rachel’s struggle with the idealized version of childhood and her growing awareness of the real world makes her question what she has been told. She really wants to do what’s right but has to sort through a lot to find it. This is a big part of growing up and is the fun part of watching (reading about) this age group. The tension builds slowly throughout the book as you move alongside Rachel as she begins to piece together the storyline of her life and how they arrived where they are. There are a lot of secrets that don’t begin to be answered until well into the book and so you keep reading to find out more. The suspense builds and builds and then…you reach the end of the book. I even had a moment where I had thought the pages had stuck together and I actually wish they had. When I got to the end, I wasn’t finished. I wanted more and there wasn’t any. The best part is that I know it’s coming. If the books that follow are better than the first, this is going to be a fantastic series and very intense. According to the website the sequel Away should be released in 2011. I can only hope I get a hold of an advance reader copy of that.  

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce Gets the Man Stamp

Family is one of those things that you can only mess with if you are part of it. If you mess with someone else’s family, you better watch out. Rosie March was just a little girl when the fenris, more commonly called werewolves, killed her Oma (that's her grandma). Scarlett March was old enough to defend Rosie and to remember the whole event. The fenris messed with Scarlett’s family, and she is driven by this event to track down every last fenris and kill them so they won’t hurt others.  Together Rosie and Scarlett hunt the fenris that cross their paths in the small Georgian town of Ellison. Scarlett’s only passion is to hunt, but Rosie begins to want more out of life, and some of that involves Scarlett’s only friend Silas. The sisters work to keep the strong bond they have while finding themselves pulled apart by their desires.

This was my first “werewolf” (yep, werewolf virgin) novel and it was an awesome place to start.  This book was surprisingly action packed and once I sat down to read it, I didn’t put it down. The fight scenes are intense and fast paced. Ok, so there is some hugging and kissing and snuggling, but it’s spread out just enough to make it fit and not feel goofy. Let’s just say that the combo works and it won’t feel too girly for a guy. Now I am going to have to give this book the Caster Rated stamp of approval because like Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness you might not want your buddies seeing you with these books unless you plan to do a lot of explaining, but it’s not a girly book so you’re gonna want to give it a shot. Just get the hardback and take off the paper cover.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (So good I could steal it, but I won't)

You ever sit back and wonder how the holocaust could have happened? Have you ever wondered how Germans could sit by and let Hitler do what he did? The Book Thief shows us the side of the story we don’t often hear. Liesel Meminger, a young German girl, finds herself in foster care at the beginning of World War II. Liesel is drawn to books after she allows herself to steal the “Gravedigger’s Handbook.” She is taught to read in the basement of her foster home by her “papa” Hans Huberman and she can’t get enough of books from then on out. Liesel’s life would be quite ordinary had she not been in Germany during World War II, but the fact is that she found herself smack dab in the middle of all of it and continued to make the most out of it as children often do. Liesle has friends, does crazy things, swears at her friends (especially her best friend Rudy), and steals what she can’t buy. Liesel is a kid growing up in the face of a bleak world and she is not spared from the darkness of those days in Europe. The story is told from the perspective of Death (yes, Death is the actual narrator of the story). So if you expect a happy ending, you probably shouldn’t read a book that is being told to you by Death itself.

Despite its dark beginnings, this book gives you many opportunities to smile. What an amazing frickin’ book. The story makes you aware of the humanness of war, the darkness of war, the unfairness of it all, and the incredible strength of people that is only seen during times of war. You are reminded that there are people with kids, spouses, grandparents, friends, co-workers, siblings, and other relations that are on both sides of the war. You are reminded that many people affected by war are really just trying to live their lives and yet are considered the enemy by where they live. I loved these characters. I loved the German swearwords, not for the swearing but for the realness that it brought the characters. Rudy and Liesel’s adventures together made me laugh and reminded me of my days as a kid (minus the stealing of course). I was reminded that sometimes terrible things happen because sometimes they just do, just like good things. Sometimes in the worst of moments people are just trying to help everyone survive. Liesle and her family reminded me that we are all capable of extremes, not because we are evil or good, but because we are human. This is a book everyone should read at some point in their lives. It’s not action packed, it’s dark, but it’s real. This book definitely deserves the Grand Poobah.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Firelight (advance reading copy) by Sophie Jordan

As a teen you always feel like the world wants you to be what you are not. There are pressures from every side while you are going through incredible changes and trying to figure your own self out. Jacinda is no different than most teens in this respect except she is unique for her species. Jacinda has special abilities for a draki, descendents of dragons who take on human form as a means of survival. Because her ability is so unique, she is being forced to take a position that she does not want to take. To escape her fate, her family flees into the world of the humans where she struggles blend in. She connects with Will, a draki hunter, who she finds herself irresistibly drawn to despite what it could mean to the safety of her and her family.  Jacinda finds herself torn between what others want her to be and being who she feels like she is, especially when who she really is puts others in danger.

I almost didn’t get past Jacinda’s internal pining for Will, but I’m glad I kept reading. I really liked the theme dealing with everyone’s struggle to be the person we are inside. The book doesn’t resolve this issue but has a lot of room to talk about this topic. The thing that worked to keep me reading the book was this tension that results because of the relationship of Jacinda and Will. Jacinda is the prey and Will and his family are the predators and they now find themselves together. Jacinda is afraid that if Will or his family finds out what she really is it may end in her death and the death of her family. The story was compelling and I finished it in one day. I have a sneaking suspicion that the story is not over and I’m happy with that. This book is a great book for anyone that enjoys reading young adult books. I don’t think it will have a great appeal to the boys on the lower end of the young adult scale but I don’t think that should stop them from giving it a chance. I really liked the change up to the whole dragons thing, and setting them in a contemporary setting was fun too. I kind of like the whole modern fantasy stuff and I think I could do with reading more. This book is set to released 9/7/2010. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fahrenheit 451 The Authorized Adaptation (Graphic Novel) by Ray Bradbury

Books make us feel. Books make us think. Books can have opposing ideas. Books can make us unhappy. Books must be burned. Firemen are the book burners and the guardians of happiness. Guy Montag is a fireman but his life is shaken when he meets a strange girl who is so free from the constraints that others around him have. The freedom of life that this girl has and the conviction of people whose books he was charged to burn causes Montag to question the way that life has become. Things are supposed to be carefree and happy with books out of the way but he’s unhappy and so are so many others. Montag must make a choice to play the game or try to change the game they are playing.

The Graphic novel is an authorized version of the book so it is very true to the original story. Like movies, graphic novels don’t have room for all the details but this is very well done. The illustrations are in action hero comic styling and the color is great. Fahrenheit 451  is one of the best classics that I have read and I can’t even put my finger on the reason why. I like that Montag is not content with the status quo (keeping things the same). I like that he keeps asking questions and doesn’t give up in the face of losing everything. I like that this story makes you think about the importance of books and the purpose that they serve in this world. This book can be a bit challenging and is not an easy mindless read. There is a lot here and the graphic novel does not make it any less challenging of a topic. It’s a book worth digging into, whether it is in the graphic novel format or in the original novel format. Here’s my favorite quote: “Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together in garments for us.” That sums up books for me…the magic is in how it is put together and this book is magic. Illustrations were done by Tim Hamilton. 

Homies (OK/WA authors): Knights Of The Hill Country by Tim Tharp

I hope to regularly spotlight young adult authors from the two states I call home (Oklahoma and Washington). This is the first and I chose it because it is written by a local author and sounded Friday-Night-Lightsish. Let’s face it, football is big-time here in Oklahoma and I have watched every episode of Friday Night Lights so this was an easy sell for me.

Friendships are the hardest thing about life. If they are true friendships they always take work and rarely come easy. Hampton Green has had his friend Blaine by his side since he moved to Kennisaw in elementary school. Blaine’s dad became a father figure to him when things weren’t great at home, and most of all they were the reason Hampton got into football to begin with. Blaine is a big headed cocky running back and Hampton is the beastie coolheaded middle linebacker and this is reflected in their personalities both on and off the field. In a small town like Kennisaw, where everyone knows everything, Hampton finds difficulty in being who he wants to be and still fitting in where he always has.

Guys will find the character of Hampton to be familiar. There are a lot of us Hamptons out there that are just doing their thing and liking what they do. He doesn’t fit the stereotype guy high school athlete that is overly aggressive and sex crazed (that would be his friend Blaine). The Blaines of this world become the ones to set the tone for the rest of us guys and that is rather unfortunate because there are more Hamptons out there than Blaines. Hampton is not entirely confident (especially when out of his element) even though he might pretend to be. He’s embarrassed sometimes by his mother’s behavior. He knows he’s not great with the ladies even though they find him attractive. He has a friend that does stupid stuff that gets them both into trouble because Hampton can’t figure out how to be loyal to himself and his friends. There is a girl he likes that isn’t “football player material” that he’s afraid to be with because of how his friends think it looks. Hampton is the everyday guy who happens to be good at what he does, which happens to be football. This was a great story and in the vein of Friday Night Lights. If you are not a fan of football, you need to know that this is not just a football story and you will find lots to like about this story. If you are a fan of football this story will be even better because you’ll enjoy it for the football as well. This book is a recommend for everyone. BTW This story is very true to small town Oklahoma and Texas, which should be expected from someone who grew up in Oklahoma.  

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Zombie Nights Unexpectedly Enertaining (ebook from

You ever wake up feeling like a zombie? Your head isn't clear, you stumble around in the dark, and you smell like death(okay maybe not quite death). Dave Conner rolls over in his grave (quite literally) and starts walking around but has no clue how he got there. He ends up at the house of a family member who takes him in despite his peculiar odors and sloughing skin (and the oozing hole in his abdomen). Dave can't remember anything about himself or the life he had. His story unfolds as he wanders the town at night longing for the familiarity of life.

I had no expectations and nothing to lose in reading this story. I downloaded it for free to my Nook from  because it sounded good. It definitely didn't disappoint. I actually felt for Dave and would have read a longer version with this character's full story playing out. The short story (novella) worked for me and had some good twists and turns throughout. You come to realize that zombies aren't all that bad they're just misunderstood (they don't all want to chase you around until you stumble and they pounce on you and eat your brains out). Zombie fans will like this book for the unique take on the zombie tradition and non zombie fans will like it for the lack of cerebral chomping action and the non-zombie zombie story. This story made me want to check out more from author Tom Lichtenberg. This can also be ordered on Amazon.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Guys Read: Funny Business (Advance Reading Copy ebook)

If talking turkeys. mummy mishaps, and lots of stupid friends sounds like your kind of holiday then this is the kind of anthology (bunch of stories in one book) for you. This book is a collection of 10 stories from some of the funniest guy authors on the planet. There are ten stories written by Mac Barnett , Adam Rex (author of Fat Vampire), Eoin Colfer (author of Artemis Fowl), Jeff Kinney (author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid), Kate DiCamillo (not a guy but equally funny),  Jon Scieszka, David Yoo, David Lubar, Christopher Paul Curtis, Paul Feig, and Jack Gantos. Funny Business wasn’t all funny but it was all business.

The stories in this anthology were good stories that were fun to read, but coming into it with a title like Funny Business I was expecting to be laughing my little booty off, and it just wasn’t happening. Don’t get me wrong, the book is a great book I just think it’s not all that funny for me. I definitely read a lot of parts throughout the stories that will have your 4th grader rolling on the ground. Kid Appeal by David Lubar and “What? You Think You Got It Rough?” by Christopher Paul Curtis were the highlights of book and had me chuckling out loud (not totally laughing but a good healthy chuckle). This book is definitely a middle grade book (4th, 5th, and 6th grade) and a great book to hand to that new reader at that level. If you read it without getting your hopes up about how much you will laugh then you will enjoy it all the way through. Guys Read: Funny Business is the first in a group of books targeted at guys in the middle grades. It will be released 8/21/2010 and later books will follow that will all have a different focus (ie horror, action, and whatever else they come up with.) It is also tied to which is the same group of guys that are trying to get other guys to read by “connecting them with materials they will want to read, in ways they like to read.” 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Magnificent 12: The Call by Michael Grant (Advance Reading Copy)

Phobias, not fears. Mack has phobias. He’s scared of all sorts of stuff. Okay, he’s terrified of all sorts of stuff. Sure, we all have a fear or two but Mack has more than a few. The crazy thing, he’s not scared of stuff he should be, like the bullies in his school. Mack’s lack of fear for things that really should be scary for him puts him in a situation to be an unlikely hero for a particular bully. When weird mud boy shows up at his house and old dude shows up in the toilet (okay, it’s actually just the reflection on the toilet pipe) Mack begins to find out that he is part of the Magnificent Twelve and he is charged with tracking down the other eleven 12 year old Magnifica and stopping someone called the Dread Foe, all while he’s in the potty and just trying to get back to class.

This book is non-stop humor from beginning to end. The humor is reminiscent of movies like The Princess Bride, Robin Hood: Men In Tights, and Monty Python’s The Search For The Holy Grail. I might classify the humor as comedic commentary. I like the way that the comedy flows out between the lines of the book. At no point did I just laugh hysterically, as I have been known to do when the mood strikes, but it had a way of keeping me at a regular chuckle. The book is mostly middle grade material and is good clean fun. There is plenty in the book to keep one entertained even if you find yourself not being twelve anymore (or two or three times that much). If you are a regular reader, you will find it’s a quick read. This is a good book for those middle grade guys that wouldn’t admit they are readers and try to hold true to that in real life. The best part is that there will be more books, so if you like these, there’s more where that came from. The Magnificent 12: The Call is the first book in the series. It will be released 8/24/2010.   

Monday, July 5, 2010

Enter to Win an Advance Reader Copy of Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Cafe Saturday has a contest running until July 19th to win an ARC copy of Nightshade by Andrea Cremer. Just click on the link and fill out the form. Win NightShade ARC

While other teenage girls daydream about boys, Calla Tor imagines ripping out her enemies’ throats. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. Calla was born a warrior and on her eighteenth-birthday she’ll become the alpha female of the next generation of Guardian wolves. But Calla’s predestined path veers off course the moment she saves the life of a wayward hiker, a boy her own age. This human boy’s secret will turn the young pack's world upside down and forever alter the outcome of the centuries-old Witches' War that surrounds them all. {from Goodreads}

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Replacement (Advance Reading Copy) by Brenna Yovanoff is a Braintwisting Tale.

Growing up can be quite a memorable experience. We struggle to find ways to fit in, find out who we are, and find where we belong.  Growing up in a small town comes with its own challenges, and Mackie Doyle’s little town of Gentry is no exception. The people of Gentry have always known that something was different about the way their little town works but nobody wants to talk about. Mackie has always felt a bit strange and out of place but what teenager doesn’t, but with Mackie’s allergies to iron, strange dark eyes, and his sister’s story of him being exchanged in the middle of the night, it’s hard to not feel that you don’t belong. Mackie’s encounter with a stranger on the side of the road launches him on a journey to discover himself and open the doors to secrets that the town of Gentry would rather keep inside.

Let’s start right off by saying that the cover of the book is awesome. There’s just something cool and creepy about the intricately detailed baby stroller with sharp tools hanging over it. There was a lot of confusion for me at the beginning of the story, which I hope was intentional (give it 90 pages or so). The journey was muddy and paralleled the experience Mackie was having in trying to find his own answers.  The book trucked along well after I let go of the confusion and just dwelt in it along with the characters. It was the little details that were difficult at times, especially the iron allergy (struggle for a science teacher because of the prevalence of iron in our surroundings). Apparently this is a common knowledge trait to faery stories, which I never picked up from the book  that this was.  This book is ultimately a story about Mackie finding out that where you come from does not define who you are. This book is a must read when it comes out. It kept me trying to figure it out long after the last page.  The Replacements is an intense novel and is a great launch for debut author Brenna Yovanoff. The book is set to release in 9/10.