Sunday, May 29, 2011

"Graceling," by Kristin Cashore

Katsa, niece to a king, is a Graceling, a person born with an extreme skill. In her case, she is capable of fighting an army of grown men without any harm to herself. This makes her invaluable to the king, who uses her as a thug to hurt people and keep them in line. She believes herself a monster, and it isn't until meeting a young man, Po, who appears to also be Graced with a fighting skill, that she realizes she may not be a bad person after all.

At 471 pages, this book was entirely too long. It's a book about journeys--physical, emotional, mental. There isn't much action at all, which made the plot drag a bit. My interest was kept by the characters and their growth through the novel, but it really wasn't the most exciting story I've ever read. It's not one that I could recommend to others because what could I say about it? "They travel here, then they travel there, then they go there, then back again ..." Still, I cared to find out what happened next. I just feel this could have used some direction from an editor.

3 stars

"Zombies Vs. Unicorns," by Holly Black, ed., and Justine Larbalestier, ed.

YA authors Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier engaged in a heated debate online about which was better: zombies or unicorns. So many people added to the argument that they rounded up other well-known YA authors to write stories for a collection to end the debate.

Frankly, I don't know why it's even up for discussion. Hands-down, zombies win. This collection only underscored that fact with the zombie stories being clever, funny, frightening, and vastly memorable to the pallid unicorn stories.

One of my faves was from Carrie Ryan, who took readers back to the same world as her "Forest of Hands and Teeth" takes place, not long after the infection raged across the earth. Her story, "Bougainvilla," was well-crafted and could very well have been molded into its own novel.

I also quite enjoyed "Love Will Tear Us Apart," by Alaya Dawn Johnson. A male zombie looking just for sex and brains falls for a young man who has been trained in weaponry to kill monsters. The language is graphic, the band references excellent, the nature of the story unapologetic.

Some of these stories definitely made me want to check out the authors' novels. Fun read.

4 stars

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Desires of the Dead," by Kimberly Derting

Follow-up to “The Body Finder,” this second offering by Kimberly Derting finds Violet still afraid to let anyone in on her secret: she can sense dead bodies, animal and human. These bodies call to her in various ways—smells, sounds, flashes of light—and can wreak havoc on her senses. Only when the body is found and given a proper burial can Violet find peace from the calling. These imprints, as she calls them, even remain with the person who has done the killing. This was what got her in trouble in the first book.

This time around, Violet anonymously calls in a tip for authorities to locate a body and finds herself under the watchful eye of an FBI consultant, Sarah Priest. She avoids contact with the woman as much as possible, pretending not to know anything about having a special gift. But Sarah Priest has a secret, too, that has to do with a cute, intense boy named Rafe.

Meanwhile, Violet is navigating new territory with best friend and new boyfriend Jay. And someone else is very unhappy with their relationship, someone willing to try to scare Violet away from Jay.

It’s been a while since I read “The Body Finder,” but I recall enjoying it a lot. Though I did like “Desires of the Dead,” I found myself getting annoyed by Violet. She came off controlling at times, even emasculating boyfriend Jay. Whenever their “homework” sessions (i.e. making out) got too serious and Jay pulled back, Violet would taunt him with “you’re such a girl” or make comments about he was the girl and she was the guy. It was like because Violet is female, she can get away with putting pressure on her boyfriend for sex. Not just that, but calling him names at times. I’m sure the author thought this was harmless, something to add levity to serious situations, but it put me off the character immensely.

However, Violet wasn’t consistently acting like this, so it didn’t pull me away from the story completely. I still enjoyed the book and would read the next Body Finder novel. I just hope the author takes into consideration the message she’s sending via her character. Strong female voices are important, especially in young adult fiction, and Derting has an opportunity and a responsibility to present the kind of heroine to which other young women can aspire.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I Solemnly Swear ...

... to do a better job of updating this blog.

As a punishment, I spent the last three hours posting reviews of all the books I've read so far in 2011. Hope you can find some good suggestions for yourself amongst them.


"The Enemy We Know," by Donna White Glaser

Letty is a fantastic character, a therapist struggling to keep her professional life professional and her personal life sober.

New to AA, Letty is on a path of regaining control of her addiction to alcohol, but a stalker aims to trip her up at every step. The strength of this character is that she relies on her humor to make the best of the situation, to get her through hard times. It's also a double-edged sword because it helps her deflect from the very real danger she is in.

Author Glaser kept me chuckling throughout, even out-right guffawing in parts. To be completely honest, I was hired to proofread this book, so any mechanical errors to be found are completely my fault. You see, the book was so compelling that I sometimes found myself not working, but racing through pages to see what happens next.

Great first book, and I absolutely cannot wait to read the next Letty Whittaker mystery! Visit Donna's website here and sign up to win a free copy of "The Enemy We Know."

5 stars

"The Dark & Hollow Places," by Carrie Ryan

Let me tell you something. Carrie Ryan knows how to write a book. Her writing is so fine-tuned, there isn't a single sentence that should be cut. She knows how to build and break tension, how to amp up horror, how to give moments of utter peace, and how to create a world so unique, terrible, and lonely that it breaks your heart. Yet you cheer on the characters, your heart races along with theirs, your muscles tense as if to join their fight, you hope against hope for a happy ending.

Carrie Ryan knows how to write a book.

In this third offering, a companion to "The Forest of Hands and Teeth" and "The Dead-Tossed Waves," Annah survives in a world that is nearly completely overcome by plague rats--Mudo, Unconsecrated. Zombies. Left on her own for nearly three years as Elias (first seen in "Dead-Tossed Waves") joined up with the Recruiters, Annah has learned to take care of herself. She blends in with crowds, keeps to herself, and lives with the guilt for having once left her bleeding, frightened twin sister, Abigail, in the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

As she's about to set off to finally find her sister, convinced Elias will never return, Annah sees her sister in the Dark City as she is taken prisoner by the Recruiters. Meeting up with Catcher (also from DTW), they find Elias just as a horde of the Mudo break down the barriers to the Dark City. In order to save themselves, Catcher, who is infected but immune to the disease, making him unnoticed by Mudo, turns himself in to the Recruiters in exchange for the safety of the others. Catcher uses his ability to walk among the Mudo unscathed to scavenge for supplies and is kept in line by the threat of harm against Annah, Elias and Gabry (Abigail).

The backdrop of millions of undead clamoring for their blood serves only to highlight the cruelty of the Recruiters as they kill other humans for sport and try to use Annah and Gabry for their own sick pleasures. Annah and the others are left to wonder what kind of world they are trying to survive for if what's left is so poisoned.

5 stars

"The Dead-Tossed Waves," by Carrie Ryan

This book wasn't as wonderful as "The Forest of Hands and Teeth," but it was still pretty excellent.

A companion to "Forest," this novel is told from the point of Gabry, daughter of the first book's main character. Unlike her mother Mary, Gabry is frightened of almost everything. She wants to keep her safe life at the lighthouse where she's grown up, but a single decision puts in motion a world of changes.

When a Mudo attack leaves a few friends dead, her best friend captured for punishment, and her crush Catcher infected, Gabry tries to make sense of it all. When her mother leaves the city to return to the Forest of Hands and Teeth in order to search for those she left behind so long ago, Gabry feels abandoned and seeks help from Elias, a young man beyond the barrier who is on a mission of his own.

Catcher realizes he is immune to the infection and can move among the Mudo undetected. He uses this ability to stage a fake breach of Mudo to create a diversion among the militia in order to rescue his sister from her imprisonment. When the militia, called Recruiters, realize Catcher is immune, they stop at nothing to capture him and use him. Catcher, Gabry, Elias and Cira escape to the Forest to find Gabry's mother and to try to elude the Recruiters.

Like Carrie Ryan's first book, "The Dead-Tossed Waves" has a great love triangle, intense heartache, and a terrifying and lonely world that is difficult to forget.

4 stars

"City of Fallen Angels," by Cassandra Clare

This book was a major letdown. It's mostly a lot of lead-up to the ending with nothing happening through the rest of it. I'm glad Simon and Isabelle were featured more, but the Jace and Clary drama was just ridiculous. Granted, most teenagers are ridiculous in their angst and hormones and their feelings of "no one will ever understand me!" But characters should rise above that, not wallow in it.

Jace tortures himself over and over again about his upbringing, his father Valentine versus his real father Stephen Herondale, his feelings about his feelings (I know, right? Annoying much?), how he doesn't really deserve happiness with Clary.

Clary doesn't understand why Jace is pulling away from her, so she decides to stay away from him. More drama and doubt and zero communication.

And then there's the sickly sweet reunion between them before, shocker, Jace turns dark inside again.

Basically, the whole book is like a place-holder for Clare's next book. If the first three in the series weren't so darn good, I'd be severely annoyed at having wasted my time reading this one. The only saving grace was that we get more involved in the lives of Simon, Isabelle, Maia, Jordan, Alec and Magnus.

Sorry, Cassandra Clare. I love this series and your writing talent, but this falls far short of what you're capable of.

2 stars

"City of Glass," by Cassandra Clare

Second time around reading this book in preparation for "City of Fallen Angels."

There was plenty of action in this third installment of the Mortal Instruments series, as well as tension for Jace and Clary as they struggle with their feelings for each other. Valentine's diabolical plans are clear: to infiltrate the City of Glass and take down the Clave. How he hopes to accomplish this isn't so clear, at least until the end.

The introduction of possible new love interests for Jace and Clary serve as a way they can rid themselves of inappropriate feelings toward each other. Simon is also given a chance to become more of the story, proving to the Shadowhunters that he is strong and trustworthy.

I felt this was a strong book and would have made a great end to a great series. Unfortunately, Clare's "City of Fallen Angels" prolonged the storyline, and not in a good way. I can only hope the fifth book brings back the action and amazing level of writing talent I know that Clare possesses.

5 stars

"Sh*t My Dad Says," by Justin Halpern

I followed "Sh*t My Dad Says" on Twitter for a while before Justin Halpern got his book deal, so I knew I had to eventually read the book. It was really nice to get some back story on Justin and his 73-year-old father, Sam Halpern. Between his dad's profanity-laced quotes on everything from life and girls to pets and sports, young Halpern chronicles his relationship with his straight-talking, tough-love-style father.

This book isn't for the easily offended or for those who have no sense of humor. Sam Halpern, like it or not, doesn't mince words. And it's not always easy to take. It's definitely hard to imagine liking someone so blunt and who thinks nothing of dropping f-bombs when speaking to his 6-year-old. There's a lot more to the elder Halpern, though; his love for his family is evident.

Fave quote:
On Getting an Internship at Quentin Tarantino's Production Company
"That is one ugly son of a bitch ... Oh, yeah, no, congratulations. If you see him, try not to stare at his face if you've eaten anything."

4 stars

"City of Ashes," by Cassandra Clare

**Spoiler alert** Don't read this review if you haven't read the first book yet.

Book 2 in the series finds Clary dealing with the emotional fallout of learning Jace is her brother. She turns to best friend Simon to lose herself in something resembling love, but pretending does neither of them well. Her mother is still in a comatose state and her father, Valentine, is still perpetrating horrific acts of violence and destruction in the attempt to collect all three Mortal Instruments.

Clary and Jace each begin to realize the special gifts Valentine has given them while negotiating the minefield of their feelings for each other. Adding to their difficulties is the conviction of the Clave's Inquisitor that Jace is secretly helping Valentine.

Lots of action in this book. Kept me up until 2 a.m. to finish, even though I've already read it once before. That's good writing, folks.

5 stars

"City of Bones," by Casssandra Clare

Re-reading series since the fourth book just came out. Still love this as much as the first time I read it.

After her mother suddenly disappears, Clary discovers the world is inhabited by demons, vampires, werewolves and other Downworlders and that she, herself, comes from a line of Shadowhunters. Created by an angel, Shadowhunters protect humans by dispatching demons back to their own worlds. But one dark Shadowhunter long thought dead has come back with a new plan to rule the world as he sees fit.

Clary must search for and find the Mortal Cup before it ends up in the wrong hands. She joins Shadowhunters Alec, Isabel and Jace, along with her best friend Simon, as they battle vamps, a Greater Demon, and each other in their quest.

Complicating things is the attraction Clary and Jace have for each other, while poor Simon has been in love with Clary for years. An additional complication involves Valentine, but I won't spoil it for new readers.

Very "Harry Potter" meets "Twilight." Except with all the great writing of HP and none of the constant damsel in distress of "Twilight."

5 stars

"To Kill A Mockingbird," by Harper Lee

I'm glad I reread this as an adult because I can appreciate the social commentary and message better. The story incorporates class struggles as much as racism, told by a young girl trying to figure out what keeps everyone separated. What a clever way to explore these themes without being preachy. After all, who can blame a child for her innocence and questioning?

Just as compelling is the mystery of Arthur "Boo" Radley. We meet him only once, at the end, yet his presence is missed throughout the novel.

It was difficult to read the "N" word at all, let alone as frequently as it was used in the book. But I stand by the author's use to show the times, the location, and the ugliness of those using it.

These admirable characters--Atticus, Jem, Scout, Boo, Calpurnia, Tom Robinson, etc.--will stick with me. Already I wonder what lives they led after the book's closing. That's the mark of fine craftsmanship.

5 stars

"Cloaked," by Alex Finn

Takes on several old fairy tales: the shoemaker and elves; princess and the frog; the tailor who kills the giants; the old man and the magic fish; the six swans, etc.

This is more of a juvenile book than YA. Not a lot of substance, dependent mostly on magic to move the plot along.

A princess asks Johnny, who fixes shoes at a fancy Miami hotel, to find her brother-turned-frog. In exchange, Johnny gets money (his family is poor, so he desperately needs it) and her hand in marriage. He accepts and goes off on a journey filled with witches, magic cloaks, talking animals, murderous giants and paparazzi. Best friend Meg helps him and reveals some magic powers of her own.

Cute book for preteens. No swearing, harmless kissing scenes, moral wrap-up.

2 stars

"Beastly," by Alex Flinn

I thought it would be fun to read the book before seeing the movie "Beastly." Major difference, though, is that in the book, Kyle is literally turned into a beast. Hair covering his whole body, clawed hands, long snout. But he walked upright and talked like a human. From everything I've seen of the movie trailer, the curse just turns him into a tattooed version of Powder. (Yup, I just rocked a 1995 reference. Old school.)

Also, Lindy, the girl Kyle, who renames himself Adrian, falls for, is supposed to be very plain looking, with crooked teeth. Of course, not the movie version.

This was just an okay book. Entertaining, sure, but not likely to stay with me or to be something I'd recommend. I found it irritating that the more Adrian changed to a better person, the more he talked like a proper gentleman in British novels.


3 stars

"The Night Season," by Chelsea Cain

Serial killer Gretchen Lowell wasn't featured much in this book, but she's set up to reappear in the next one. Whenever that will be.

I wasn't as pulled in to "The Night Season" as I was with Cain's other books. Not sure why. Still like it a lot, but it didn't have that pull. Maybe because Gretchen had nothing to do with the killings in this plotline? They weren't as scary, either, or as gruesome.

Still love Archie and Susan. Man, I hope these are turned into movies. I love Archie's journey to recovery of being Gretchen's victim, of abusing drugs, of forgiving himself for mistakes. He's a very rich character.

4 stars

"Evil at Heart," by Chelsea Cain

Second time I've read "Evil at Heart."

I love the way Chelsea Cain writes. She's pretty sick. I don't know how she can come up with the gruesome ways her serial killer, Gretchen Lowell, tortures people. It's pretty disturbing and off-putting to read, but in the most absorbing, addicting way.

You have to love main characters Archie Sheridan and Susan Ward. They're so compelling, especially Archie, who'd been Gretchen's only surviving victim. He suffers from sexual Stockholm Syndrome, is addicted to pain meds, and desperately wants to regain control over his life. Susan... Well, she just wants to be a journalist, not a reporter. She also wants Archie. Looking forward to see if that will play out in Cain's newest book, "The Night Season."

If you're a mystery book fan and aren't reading this series, you are big-time missing out.

5 stars

"Black Swan Rising," by Lee Carroll

"Lee Carroll is a pseudonym for the collaboration between Hammet Award-winning mystery novelist Carol Goodman and her poet and hedge fund manager husband, Lee Slonimsky."

Parts of it reminded me of Neil Gaiman's "American Gods," but in a more reader-friendly sort of way. Several times I thought, "If Neil had written AG *this* way, I'd have loved it!"

Carol Goodman always has a way of weaving history, art, literature into her novels that make them feel alive. Even creating a story unlike her usual literary mysteries, she couldn't break away from that habit. And the story is richer for it.

I didn't fully feel the connection between Garet (Marguerite) and the vampire Will, but I guess it's explained in her living more than one life. Still... Eh. I wish there'd been more about her friend Jay.

There were times my eyes glazed over when reading about "transmigration of atoms" and changing to water, wind, etc.

Will definitely read the follow-up (I assume there will be) to see Garet's quest to find Will and the Summer Country (land of the fey).

4 stars

"The Radleys," by Matt Haig

Super boring vampire novel. I kept thinking, "It'll get better." It didn't.

1 star

P.S. Sorry I couldn't put more effort into reviewing this book. I just didn't give a crap about the characters, so why bother?

"Breathers: A Zombie's Lament," by S.G. Browne

A romantic zombie comedy--Rom Zom Com.

Andy fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a tree. He and his wife died, but he reanimated a few days later. Now he lives in his parents' basement, stinking up the joint with his decomposing body. His mother refuses to touch him, and his father frequently threatens to send him off to a zombie zoo or research lab. Andy goes to therapy and attends a zombie support group. He is frustrated with his unlife and the way he's treated by society--no rights, no freedoms, no protection from Breathers.

When Andy meets a new zombie friend who turns him and the support group onto the pleasures and benefits of eating human flesh, things take a turn for the better. Injuries heal, his heart begins to beat, he finds confidence and love with fellow support group member Rita.

If only the Breathers would acknowledge the zombies' rights to existence...

Great social commentary, funny, entertaining.

4 stars

"Clockwork Angel," by Cassandra Clare

There wasn't really much about the clockwork angel--the necklace Tessa wears--in the book. Mostly that she wore it, then a brief scene toward the end when it animates and helps save her life. Didn't even seem to be that surprising to the main character.

Love the triangle with Tessa, Will and Jem. Even more so that it's so subtle between Jem and Tessa. Pretty sure only Will really notices. Should make for great scenes in next book.

Love the world of Shadowhunters. So much freedom for story lines, yet Clare sets rules and keeps it believable.

The villain isn't as scary as Valentine was in the first series, but there's room to grow.

Can't wait for next book!

4.5 stars

"The Other Side of Dark," by Sarah Smith

Don't know where to start....

Katie sees ghosts ever since her mother died a year ago. A ghost of a young man, George, befriends her and tells her he guards an important treasure inside a condemned historic house. Meanwhile, Law Walker, who used to have a crush on Katie, finds himself interested again.

This book really takes on some tough issues--race, class, society, education, reparations. It also weaves Boston history into a haunted story--one all the more disturbing because of its basis in true events.

The writing didn't feel like a YA book, really. But with high school characters, what else could it be classified as? Very interesting book that would make excellent discussion for a book group.

4 stars

"The Lost Saint," by Bree Despain

I liked the protagonist, Grace Divine, better in this second book. She goes to a darker place, struggles with her inner wolf versus the need to do good. Frankly, the first book had too much lovey family-ness for my taste. I kept picturing this really religious family in my town. I think Grace's struggles in this book made her much more relatable as a character than previously.

With boyfriend Daniel acting strange and disappearing often, her family life upside down, Grace begins to fall under the influence of Tal, who seems to know what she's going through. He helps her tune into her superpowers, but this leads her to begin losing herself to the wolf.

Daniel and Gabriel fight to keep her safe, but brother Jude--who has allowed the wolf to take him over--delivers Grace into the hands of a monster.

With a pretty decent cliffhanger, I'm left disappointed I don't already have the next book in hand.

4 stars

"Blood Song," by Cat Adams

I don't think the two authors who collaborated in the writing agreed on what kind of book this was supposed to be. The first half was mostly serious with an occasional smartass remark by the protagonist. The second half had a lot more sarcastic, going-for-funny lines. Felt like I was reading MaryJanice Davidson's Betsy Taylor series. At least MJ Davidson had that style from the start and throughout her series, so you know exactly what the tone was supposed to be.

Protagonist Celia is bitten by a vampire and becomes an abomination--part human/part vampire. Many people/creatures want her dead. Very serious in the beginning, then suddenly Celia's always cracking jokes.

The revelation near the end of the book that she's part siren serves to 1) get her male help when she needs it and 2) to set up a sequel. Also, there were too many character names. I shouldn't have to think for several minutes on who each person is or who's being referenced. I'd probably read the sequel, but I'd be hoping the authors have settled on a set style.

3 stars

"Dances With Wolves," by Michael Blake

I'm impressed with the author, who read books on Indian history for years and years before writing this book, his first novel.

I've long enjoyed reading about Native Americans, and keeping their history alive in the minds of the collective public is incredibly important. This book portrayed Comanches, though the movie portrayed Sioux. Blake noted the difference in the afterword but also said he felt the change was okay because their "essential components of spirit and wisdom" are the same.

Other difference--Dunbar is 29, Stands With A Fist is 26. Kevin Costner and the leading actress were greatly older. The book ending has Dances With Wolves and Stands With A Fist staying with the tribe. The movie shows them leaving camp so soldiers wouldn't track them down. I think the movie ending was much more heartfelt and heartbreaking. I have a feeling Blake couldn't bring himself to tear apart his characters. He was too close to them. Great book, though.

4 stars

"Mockingjay," Suzanne Collins

** spoiler alert ** I am not at all satisfied with this ending. It feels too crushing. More heavy that it needed to be.

In the first two books, I raced through, enthralled by the action, the horror, the love triangle. The good/repressed/poor determined to defeat the bad/indulged/rich. The reader fell in love with all of the characters. This time around, there wasn't much more than our beloved characters being tortured, maimed, used, killed. A war waged between two powers, neither good, with the blood of citizens, merely pawns, soaking into the ground they fought over.


And our hero? Katniss? Broken, burned, traumatized nearly beyond recognition. Did the author need to kill Prim? Need to isolate Katniss? It just all felt so heavy-handed. I invested in reading three books, put in a lot of caring. That much darkness can't be relieved by a two-page epilogue showing children and a vague happiness (or at least not a bone-crushing sadness) 15 years down the line.

3 stars

"Catching Fire," by Suzanne Collins

I'm glad I waited until this trilogy was all published before I started reading it because I think I'd go crazy waiting for each next book.

With the Capitol still pulling strings, Katniss and Peeta were forced to enter the arena again for the Quell. This time there's a stronger background of not just underlying fury with the Capitol, but full-out riots and uprising. And Katniss is the districts' symbol of resistance, of hope. Whether she likes it or not.

I so love the character of Peeta. He's earnest, honest, warm, loving. I want Katniss to love him back, and I'm afraid of Gale--also a great character--ruining their relationship.

Tomorrow I start the final book in the trilogy. I anticipate war against the Capitol, lots of bloodshed, and at least one broken heart.

5 stars

"The Hunger Games," by Suzanne Collins

Read it in two days. Loved everything about it. Katniss is a fantastic protagonist, strong but with room to grow. In a future United States, natural disasters have claimed most of the land and just 13 districts survive, ruled by The Capitol. Due to a failed uprising, The Capitol keeps its districts in line by annually holding the Hunger Games, in which one boy and one girl from each district are all forced to face off against each other in a televised fight to the death.

I was warned by several people about how disturbing this book is. It certainly isn't for the faint of heart, but I had not problems with its graphicness. It felt like a warning about those in power, about the battles we choose to fight. But I'm sensing that with growing anger and with citizens being fed up of being poor and hungry, there could be another uprising. Can't wait to read the next two books!

5 stars

"Thirteen Reasons Why," by Jay Asher

OMG. This book is so disturbing!

Hannah Baker decides to kill herself, but first she records on tape all the reasons why she's made this decision. Next, she sends these tapes to the 13 people who've pushed her to this choice.

Alternately, we get the point-of-view of ninth listener Clay, a boy who had a crush on Hannah. While on one hand we see all the ways Hannah reached out for help, we also get the ways she didn't reach out. The ultimate theme is that everything affects everything else.

Poor Clay, hearing the voice of a girl he'd cared about describe all the terrible ways people had hurt and traumatized her--but hearing it much too late to help.

This book will stay with me for a long time to come.

5 stars

"Infinite Days," by Rebecca Maizel

The book started out great, really putting a twist on the YA vampire niche. Lenah had been a vampire for 600 years before becoming human again through a magic ritual performed by her maker, Rhode.

I loved how Lenah wasn't sweet and innocent or needy. She reflected a lot on her evil past, the coven she'd created, the thousands she'd slaughtered. But halfway through, it just started getting typical YA/Twilight. Very disappointed by the killing off of a favorite character. I hate when authors kill off the best characters.

Also, I felt like the author relied on "magic" to explain everything. It allowed too much for her character to get away with without really having to account for the how. I liked the characters, though, and will definitely read the follow-up, out sometime this year.

3 stars

"April & Oliver," by Tess Callahan

I disliked the 3rd person, present tense; it was distracting. There were too many character names, plus their nicknames, to keep track of. Also the author was too vague at times about ages of characters at all the different times they were shown.

I liked the dysfunction and pull of April and Oliver to each other. Interesting that Callahan didn't make April's abusive boyfriend wholly evil, but broken from life experiences.

I thought Bernadette was a strong character. She wasn't a one-dimensional girlfriend who is always insecure or a nag. She doesn't abuse April for the way Oliver feels about her. And I liked that Oliver didn't stray from Bernadette just because his feelings for April grew, changed, warped. He still loved her while being drawn into his past feelings for April.

I really liked that Oliver--so together, on the right path--found his world become confusing and unsure, unstable. He couldn't really have a future with April--the screw-up, bad decision-maker--while still looking at her as someone who messed up her life. He'd hold all the power. He had to find his life come unraveled as well--law school, the piano, Bernadette.

I liked the ending. No long, drawn-out explanation of what happens next. Just an extension of communication from Oliver to April. Leaves the reader with a hope that finally these two can be who they want and need to be with each other and for themselves.

3 stars