books

Happy Birthday, SOME QUIET PLACE

This is the day I've been working towards ever since I was, oh, maybe five years old. Even then, I was writing stories. Granted, the handwriting was horrible and the plot was pretty much nonexistent, but I kept at it. And now, all these years later, I can walk into a Barnes & Noble and find a story I actually wrote on the shelf. It's an overwhelming feeling, seeing that. Surreal and wonderful and terrifying all at once. I won't tell you guys about my path to publication - it's been told so many times before - so I'll just leave you with this:

Don't give up on your dreams. Even when it seems like it's never going to happen, it's just too far out of reach, keep going. Keep fighting and hoping and believing that something amazing will occur and the impossible is possible. Because something like this could come out of it.

Elizabeth Caldwell doesn’t feel emotions . . . she sees them in human form. Longing hovers around the shy, adoring boy at school. Courage materializes beside her dying friend. Fury and Resentment visit her abusive home. They’ve all given up on Elizabeth because she doesn’t succumb to their touch. All, that is, except beautiful Fear, who sometimes torments her and other times plays her compassionate savior. He’s obsessed with finding the answer to one question: What happened to Elizabeth to make her this way?

They both sense that the key to Elizabeth’s condition is somehow connected to the paintings of her dreams, which show visions of death and grief that raise more questions than answers. But as a shadowy menace begins to stalk her, Elizabeth’s very survival depends on discovering the truth about herself. When it matters most, she may not be able to rely on Fear to save her.

Praise:

Starred Review

“Haunting, chilling and achingly romantic.”—

Kirkus Reviews

 (starred review)

"An utterly original, compelling story—with maybe the most irresistible love interest of all."—

Claudia Gray, 

New York Times

bestselling author of the Evernight series

"...teens will find this a haunting and fresh psychological thriller."—

Publishers Weekly

Buy the book!

Review: Switched by Amanda Hocking

Release Date: January 3, 2012

Publisher: St. Martin’s

Age Group: Young Adult

Pages: 293

Source: ARC from publisher

Buy the Book:

Amazon

,

Barnes & Noble

Goodreads Summary

:

When Wendy Everly was six-years-old, her mother was convinced she was a monster and tried to kill her. It isn't until eleven years later that Wendy finds out her mother might've been telling the truth. With the help of Finn Holmes, Wendy finds herself in a world she never knew existed - and it's one she's not sure if she wants to be a part of.

Wendy has always been different. She was an unruly child hated by her own mother and only grew up to become a sullen teenager no one but her aunt and brother could truly love. But it isn’t until Wendy meets Finn Holmes that she wonders – really wonders – why this is. And Finn has answers for her. Although what he has to say isn’t what she wants to hear, Wendy knows that he’s telling the truth. This new knowledge sends her to an exotic new place that’s more frightening than it is a relief.

Forbidden love. Court intrigue. Danger. Wendy’s challenge isn’t just learning the ways of this bright, new world… it’s also staying alive.

It was hard to write this review without giving too much away, which is why it's so short. I’m going to be honest. I had a really, really hard time getting into this book. I put it down a few times. Since I hate to leave a book unfinished, however, I pushed on.

And I am so glad I did.

Once I hit the halfway point, I couldn’t stop. The story sank its claws into me and didn’t let go. I love this world Hocking has created. The rules and society are different from what I usually see in young adult. The characters grew on me and they lingered after I flipped the final page. So while the beginning was typical, I give this novel a high recommendation because of the last half.

I will definitely be buying the sequel.

Review: Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach

Caitlyn Monahan knows she belongs somewhere else. It's what her dead mother's note suggested, and it's what her recurring nightmares allude to.

Desperate to flee these terrifying dreams - and her small town - she accepts a spot at a boarding school in France. Only, when she arrives, her nightmares get worse.

But then there are her amazing dreams, so vivid and so real, with visits from an alluring, mysterious, and gorgeous Italian boy from the 1500s. Caitlyn knows they are soul mates, but how can she be in love with someone who exists only in her dreams?

Then, as her reality and dream world collide, Caitlyn searches for the real reason why she was brought to this school. And what she discovers will change her life forever.

Caitlyn has never fit in. High school is never easy, especially when your fellow peers call you Moan-and-Groan. Not to mention the horrible nightmares that plague her nearly every night. All Caitlyn has are her goals, and those goals are simple: To get out of her small town and get a scholarship to an amazing boarding school in France.  

Wonder of wonders, it all happens the way Caitlyn imagined it would. She gets a letter of acceptance to the prestigious school, and before she knows it she's on a plane to France. Maybe the nightmares will stop. Maybe she'll make close friends. Maybe everything will be better.

Of course not. Caitlyn's dreams just become more intense, and there's a boy she keeps seeing. It's terrifying, and it's affecting her schoolwork and her relationships with her new schoolmates. But after a time of having the dreams, Caitlyn finds herself wishing they were real, despite the consequences. The boy wakes something inside of her she hadn't realized was there.

Caitlyn begins to discover that nothing is as it seems at her new school. There are rumors of buried treasure, and some of the other girls claim to have seen a ghost walking the halls. They call her the Lady in Black. It all raises more questions for Caitlyn. Why was she really brought to the school? Who's this Lady in Black? And will she be able to stick it out in France?

As I read the first chapter, I was having some doubts about how much I would like the book. But I kept reading, and I quickly came to the conclusion that

Wake Unto Me

is... riveting. I picked it up and I didn't put it down. It's been a long time since I've come across a book I loved this much. What I enjoyed most was the mystery. Lisa Cach knows how to create plot, and, while I found the girls' ages - fifteen - to be a bit unrealistic, Lisa also knows how to create characters so real I felt like I wasn't reading a book, I was inside it. There are unexpected twists and the description is lovely.

Wake Unto Me

is set to release in March of 2011. I highly recommend this one, guys. It's officially on Kelsey's favorites list.

Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants is a novel of passion, historical integrity, and intrigue. It’s received glowing reviews from sources such as

PeopleChicago Tribune, and Entertainment Weekly, and it was recently made into a movie that was a box office hit. There’s an element for every reader to enjoy, whether it’s a murder mystery, some twisted comedy, or a heated romance. In short, this book will grab you and never let go.

The story opens in an assisted living home. An old man named Jacob Jankowski is our main character, and the narrative is unique in that he tells us his story in flashbacks, from modern times back to the Depression-ridden year of 1931. The very first line, which happens to be my favorite line, reads, “I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.” It gives you a taste of the story’s tone. I admired how Gruen managed to make the old man cantankerous and comical while his past voice reveals itself to be uncertain and speculative, as most young people are. The pacing of each chapter is graceful and consistent, making both parts of the tale enjoyable and easy to slip into.

When Jacob was a young man, his parents died suddenly, causing him to flee from his empty home in shock and grief. He gave no thought to the upcoming exam that would earn him his veterinary degree. His only instinct was to escape reality. He didn’t know where he was or where he was going; he just wandered. After a long night, he happened to come across a train. Without thinking, he leapt aboard, and thus began Jacob Jankowski’s gritty, whirlwind adventure into the world of the American circus.

Because of his skills with animals, Jacob was given a position on the Benzini Brothers caravan. But the job wasn’t as simple as it might have seemed. Jacob couldn’t help but notice the director’s beautiful wife. It was also hard to miss the way the man abused some of the animals. Workers weren’t being paid, and some were randomly disappearing…

It would be impossible to summarize the intricate, haunting plot that Gruen has weaved. From rich equestrian detail to the delicious realities of a city speak-easy, from gaining rough friends and making deadly enemies, Gruen explores nearly every possibility and effortlessly guides us through this time. The characters are well-rounded and diverse. There’s a dwarf, a grotesquely overweight woman whose poster covers the side of the train, an awkward young man, a beautiful woman with a love for horses, and an elephant that is too intelligent for its own good.

To put it simply,

Water for Elephants

is one of a kind. This book was so gripping that I started and finished it in one day. The author has clearly done her research for this era and setting. Even the dialogue is true to the time. While the syntax is not elaborate, Jacob’s voice is authentic, both as a young man in the throes of love and as a despairing old man withering away in an assisted living home. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened this book, but I let out a satisfied sigh when I turned the final page.

Review: Matched by Ally Condie

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

Cassia is the perfect citizen: Obedient, trusting, and satisfied. She's excited for her life to begin with her Match, the man Society will choose for her to marry and bear children with. And even though she can't be more surprised when that man turns out to be her best friend Xander, she takes this in stride, too.

Then something happens that's like pulling a brick from a dam. Cassia sees a different face on the screen where Xander's is supposed to be. The face of a boy she's known for years and has always been curious about. Ky Markham. Silent, handsome, mysterious, rebel, he's everything the Society doesn't want for her. But she can't help but watch him and wonder... What if?

So Cassia disobeys the Society for the first time in her life; she approaches Ky against their orders. What seems like an innocent friendship blossoms into something far more dangerous. There are eyes everywhere, and as Cassia digs deeper into the indiscretions of her family's past and Ky opens up to her as no one else ever has, she realizes just how much could be at stake. How far should her and Ky go? The consequences just might be too much for them to take.

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I began the book, but it definitely wasn't this. While Matched was a bit of a slow starter, the language is beautiful, the world Condie has created is real, and the characters are amazing. The romance is rich and made me stand on my tip-toes. Set to release on November 30th, I highly recommend this one.

Review and Author Interview: The Singer of All Songs by Kate Constable

Calwyn has lived all her life behind the high ice-wall that guards the sisters of Antaris from the world of Tremaris. The sisters practice ice chantment -- one of the Nine Powers of chantment, a form of magic worked through music. But when Calwyn finds an Outlander man fallen, wounded, through the wall, she is drawn to him ... and drawn into a wondrous, dangerous adventure that takes her outside the wall and to the limits of her own powers, as she, the Outlander Darrow, and others unite to defeat the sorcerer Samis, who seeks to claim all Nine Powers and become the Singer of All Songs.

Calwyn's future is mapped out. Isolated with dozens of other women behind their huge ice wall, Calwyn knows what's expected of her, and she thinks she wants what her sisters do. She loves her abilities to sing the chantments of ice.

It isn't until Calwyn is walking along the wall and stumbles on an  injured, strange young man that she begins to discover desires deep within herself. Different desires she didn't know she had. What lies beyond the wall? Who is her father? What had her mother found that had made leaving the wall behind worth the risk?

Calywn is assigned to the task of nursing the young man back to health. Darrow tells her stories about his world and makes her hunger even more for answers to her questions. But his world isn't all wonders and new discoveries - there's danger, as well. Darrow is running from his best-friend-turned-enemy, a powerful sorcerer called Samis. It is Samis's goal to become the Singer of all Songs, one being with the ability to sing all nine chantments. The songs of Ice, Iron, Beast, Wind, Fire, Tongue, Seeming, Becoming, and the unknown ninth power. Samis is the one that hurt Darrow and forced him into hiding.

Healing both his body and his spirit, Calwyn convinces Darrow to gather an army and fight Samis back. So when it comes time for Darrow to leave her icy land, Calwyn follows him.

Suddenly she is thrown into a world where nothing is safe and everything is unknown. As her and Darrow travel over seas and strange lands to gather the forces they need to face Samis, Calwyn learns what real pain and joy is. And not only is Samis following them and thwarting many of their efforts, but suddenly Calwyn is finding that she has unexpected abilities beyond calling ice.

Maybe Samis isn't the one meant to be the Singer of all Songs...

This is one of my favorite trilogies. These books have everything: Romance, mystery, suspense, a richly detailed world and wonderfully real characters. For those of you who like fantasy, I highly recommend this trilogy.

About the author: Kate Constable spend much of her childhood in Papua New Guinea, without a television but within reach of the library, where she "inhaled" stories. She studied Arts/Law at Melbourne University before beginning her life as a writer. Constable lives in Thornbury, Australia, with her husband and child.

1) Who’s your favorite character in the book and why?

Well, I love them all, that's like asking who is your favourite child! I guess I have to choose Calwyn, she is very close to my heart and I didn't think about her too hard before I started writing, so I think there is probably a lot of me in her. I really adore Halasaa too. Oh, and Mica. And Trout... oh, I love them all
2) What was the hardest part about writing this trilogy?
Finishing it! I would like to write at least one more Tremaris book one day, I have some vague ideas for a story swirling in my head, and I don't feel as if Calwyn's story is over yet. The Taste of Lightning, which is a sort of sequel to the trilogy, will be released in the US in October, so if enough people want another book to follow, I will get to work.
 
 
3) Did you always want to be a writer? What else have you done?
 
 
I did want to be a writer from when I was pretty young, I remember telling someone when I was eight, "I want to be an author." But I lost sight of that for a while in my twenties and thought I wanted to be a lawyer or a diplomat, neither of which came to pass! I have worked as a doughnut girl, a newspaper seller, a waitress, a data entry operator for a betting agency, and I worked for a few years in the record industry. But most of the time I was being paid to punch in orders or check catalogues, I was thinking about stories I was writing...
 
 
4) Would you mind sharing a little bit about your writing process?
 
 
I am a planner (perhaps it's the Virgo in me). I'm not the kind of writer who can just sit down and start writing and see what comes out. I do a little of that doodling early on, while I'm still figuring out what the story is about, and getting to know my characters, but I feel anxious without the scaffolding of an outline behind me. I like to have the setting very clear in my head before I start, often my idea for a story begins with a place. I write lots of drafts. With my current work-in-progress, I'm up to draft nine or ten, and this is the first "real" draft I've started (or so I'm telling myself!)

I work at my laptop sitting at the dining table in the big, light room at the back of our house which looks out onto the garden. Both my daughters are at school now, so in theory I have the hours between nine and 3.30 to write, but somehow it rarely works out that way... okay, never!
 
 
5) Care to share what you're working on right now?
 
 
I won't tell you too much about it because I'm superstitious about talking about what I'm writing while I'm writing it, but I can say that it's not a fantasy, and it's a book set in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s (which is where I grew up). It's taking a long, long time to come together, but I think I've found the right shape for it now.
Thank you so much for your time, Kate! Can't wait to read your next book.

Review: Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Sixteen year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of a car while her mom fills her prescription at the pharmacy. Before Cheyenne realizes what's happening, their car is being stolen—with her inside! Griffin hadn’t meant to kidnap Cheyenne, all he needed to do was steal a car for the others. But once Griffin's dad finds out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes—now there’s a reason to keep her. What Griffin doesn’t know is that Cheyenne is not only sick with pneumonia, she is blind. How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare, and if she does, at what price?

Cheyenne's stepmother thinks it will be easier if they just leave her dog at home.  It's only a quick trip to the pharmacy to get Cheyenne's pneumonia medicine, and then they'll go right back home. Fast, safe, and easy. That's what the night is supposed to be like.

Cheyenne will always regret leaving her dog behind.

Everything would have been different. If Phantom had been in the car, the boy would have avoided it, ignored the taunting keys hanging there in the ignition. He wouldn't have jumped in the driver's seat and taken both Cheyenne and the car far away from anything safe.

Cheyenne has a disadvantage that most girls in her situation don't - she's blind. There's no way of knowing where Griffin - her kidnapper - is taking her, or what her captors looks like. But the men Griffin hands her over to are clearly not sympathetic, and Cheyenne begins to worry that they might not let her go at all. Even when they find out that her father is the president of Nike.

They tie Cheyenne up and give her a glass of water. While the men aren't around, she breaks the glass and tucks away a piece of it... just in case. But as the hours pass, it becomes apparent that Griffin isn't like the others. He actually seems worried about the fact she's sick, and he talks to her like an equal.

Why is Griffin being so kind to her? Will he really kill her in the end? And, the piece of glass burning a hole in her pocket, will Cheyenne have the willpower to do what she knows she must?

Girl, Stolen was a short read. I had mixed feelings about this book. I thought it started off kind of shaky. The emotion wasn't coming through for me, and though I liked the alternating points of view, there were times when I thought the dialogue and the writing were a little overdone. But, never one to focus on just the negatives, there were some good things about Girl, Stolen. The climax was riveting, and the author had clearly done her research on what it is to be blind. That aspect of the story was interesting to learn about.

This novel isn't on my favorites list, but it did hold my attention. While I was reading it, I got the impression that it was directed towards a younger audience. So I definitely think anyone can read this.

Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

Strange things are happening in Maya's tiny Vancouver Island town. First, her friend Serena, the captain of the swim team, drowns mysteriously in the middle of a calm lake. Then, one year later, mountain lions are spotted rather frequently around Maya's home—and her reactions to them are somewhat . . . unexpected. Her best friend, Daniel, has also been experiencing unexplainable premonitions about certain people and situations.

It doesn't help that the new bad boy in town, Rafe, has a dangerous secret, and he's interested in one special part of Maya's anatomy—her paw-print birthmark.

Life used to be simple for Maya. She knew everyone in her little town, she understood the rules, and she had her place. The research company her parents work for provided for everyone. But Maya’s security is shaken when her best friend – the captain of the swim team – drowns in the lake. Maya was in the water at the time, but she knows that the feeling of hands around her ankles had to be the panic talking, didn’t it?

A few months after Serena’s death a news reporter comes town, poking her nose where it doesn’t belong. Why does she seem to only be interested in the teenagers?

And then there’s Maya’s affinity for animals. They seem to trust her more lately, seeking her out when they shouldn’t.

In the midst of all this change, Maya finds herself drawn to the new boy in town, Rafe. His reputation is shady and her friends don’t approve, but there seems to be something more to him than the bad-boy vibes he gives off. What kind of secret is he hiding? What does it have to do with her?

Suddenly the death toll in their tiny town begins to rise, leaving Maya with more questions and more determination to find them. She realizes that Serena’s death may not have been an accident, and there’s something inside of her that’s growing stronger, yearning to break free. There’s the smell of smoke on the horizon. Will what she finds hurt her, hurt her friends and family? It’s a risk Maya might have to take…

While Kelley’s Darkest Powers trilogy still holds the number one spot in my heart, her writing in this newest novel is solid. There is quite a bit of set-up, understandable for any beginning. I think the strongest aspect of the story is the world she’s created. It’s very easy for the reader to become part of it, and this new group of characters is interesting and dimensional.

By the time I got to the end of the book, I was curious. There are so many questions to be answered and I wonder where the story will go. The Gathering is set to release on April 12.