Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cheryl Rainfield - PARALLEL VISIONS - A Review of a Teen Psychic Novel 1

TITLE: Parallel Visions

AUTHOR: Cheryl Rainfield

RELEASE DATE: November 20, 2012

FORMAT/PAGE COUNT: Kindle/146 pages

PUBLISHER: Rain & Sun Press

PURCHASED: Amazon

SYNOPSIS:

Visions can kill you. Would you risk your life to save someone else's?

Kate sees psychic visions of the future and the past—but only when she's having an asthma attack. When she "sees" her sister being beaten, she needs more visions to try to save her, along with a suicidal classmate—but triggering her asthma could kill her. Parallel Visions is the story of one brave, caring girl whose unusual gifts put her own life in danger. (From GOODREADS)


REVIEW:

Parallel Visions was one of those books I just wanted to devour in one sitting. It grabbed this reader from the first sentence! 'My chest hurts like my ribs are scraping my flesh with every breath, and I can already hear the wheeze.' Kate, the narrator of the story, has chronic asthma. Growing up with a brother who suffered asthma, that opening sentence practically made me hold my breath so I could listen for Kate's. What Rainfield did with the already present drama surrounding bad asthma attacks is pump up the severity of the action by adding foretelling visions to the character's attack experience. And she did it well!

A short read, Parallel Visions more than makes up for its size with its action packed goodness. The way Rainfield began the story with the immediate action of an asthma attack was a brilliant way to get the reader to become invested in the narrator. And the narrator's fears for what she 'sees' happening to the characters around her causes the reader to become invested with them as well. Kate sees a bleak future during her opening asthma attack...a future where death and mayhem occur. With her visions, Kate introduces us to a teen who is struggling with the destruction of her life at the hands of merciless and violent bullies. The visions also show us Kate's own sister, whose life is spiraling out of control at the hands of an abusive husband. The tone of the novel is set with the visions Kate experiences in this opening asthma attack. And the pace is put into full throttle as we move forward in a race against the possibly inevitable future Kate's visions have given her. But wait...this attack also introduces the reader to a possible hero (and love interest) in Kate's classmate, Gil. Gil is not only her classmate, but the brother of the teen Kate sees suffering at the hands of bullies. This draws Kate and Gil together, as they team up to figure out a way to save the day.

Rainfield is an excellent storyteller, and conscientious of the struggles facing today's teen community. Her books always deal with these hot-button topics in such an amazing way...a way that is neither preachy nor condescending. She makes her stories and characters approachable and real. She takes these issues and weaves wonderful stories around them. Readers can see her passion for justice and equality in every word...and they get a wonderful fast-paced ride of excitement thrown into the deal. Parallel Visions is no exception. This story deals with bullies, homophobia, abuse, rape, individuality and the struggles of being different. But beyond the task of tackling these tough issues, Rainfield delivers an exciting read. One you will remember for a long time. This is a story with bite. Just don't be surprised if you feel yourself gasping for breath along the way. Rainfield writes asthma like one who has experienced it in one way or another. Being someone who grew up around it, I constantly found myself panicked in the face of Kate's attacks. The writing is true and urgent.

MY REVIEW OF CHERYL RAINFIELD'S HUNTED

MY REVIEW OF CHERYL RAINFIELD'S SCARS


SIZE: 5




Thursday, December 6, 2012

Matthew Quick - The Silver Linings Playbook - Review

TITLE: The Silver Linings Playbook

AUTHOR: Matthew Quick

RELEASE DATE: Originally released in September, 2008. 

FORMAT/PAGE COUNT: Kindle

PUBLISHER: Macmillan USA

PURCHASED: Amazon

SYNOPSIS:
 
Meet Pat Peoples. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure him a happy ending—the return of his estranged wife, Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent several years in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat’s now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he’s being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he’s being haunted by Kenny G! ~ from GOODREADS

This was a re-read.
 

REVIEW:

 


I recently re-read The Silver Linings Playbook in an effort to re-familiarize myself with the story prior to seeing the movie. I loved this story. I’m always looking for quirky characters and Quick does an excellent job in creating them for this story of broken couples and broken people.

This is the story of Patrick’s decline. It is also a reluctant love story. Patrick’s friends and family want him to get better. After losing so many years to ‘the bad place’, all Patrick wants to do is get back with his wife Nikki. He wants the ‘apart time’ to be over so that the two of them can return to their normal life. What Patrick doesn’t realize is that he’s been locked away from the real world for a lot longer than he thinks. Life has moved on without him.

Enter Tiffany…another broken character. Tiffany and Patrick are set up on a date by family and friends. So begins the reluctant love story. This story is an exquisite look at how people can program themselves to think they’ll make it…that things don’t change if they don’t want them to. It’s a beautiful story of brokenness. The reader will love following Patrick along on his somewhat confusing journey from being lost to being on the mend. And Quick has given us some great characters to meet along the way. Not the least of whom, is Cliff Patel…Patrick’s new therapist, who eloquently crosses the line from therapist to friend simply by standing. The two share a love for a football team…and become regular tailgate party friends. Quick crossed this doctor/patient friend line effortlessly…I didn’t question the validity of this happening even once. And yet, it is something one couldn’t imagine happening in real life.

The relationship/non-relationship between Patrick and Tiffany is so brilliant. These are na├»ve people who have had some hard knocks. Their families don’t understand them. Their friends no longer get them. They are both navigating minefields…and neither have overly supportive people on their side. It seems the world can put up with broken for only so long before it gets frustrated by it. Quick is a master at painting the way relationships crumble under the stress of mental illness. But he is also a master at making the reader suspect that the crumbling will stop and the walls will be shored up. But nothing is certain in a Matthew Quick story.

I loved this story! I’m sure that if you pick it up, you’ll find yourself immediately immersed in its pages. I was rooting for Patrick all the way…and wildly frustrated with him for continuing to wait for ‘apart time’ to be over between him and his wife, Nikki. Quick is a master at bringing out a reader’s emotions…and having them want to read on to see the cracks filled and the dents pounded out. If you do snag this novel, and like it, don’t forget to check one of Quick’s YA offerings, Boy21. It’s another unique story, well told. These two books have made me a staunch Matthew Quick fan.


Now if I can just get to the movie on a day that it's NOT sold out!

SIZE: 5 -- I suggest you try this book on for size!




 


Thursday, October 11, 2012

NORMALISH by MARGARET LESH - A Review


TITLE: Normalish

AUTHOR: Margaret Lesh

RELEASE DATE: October 5, 2012

FORMAT/PAGE COUNT: ebook/175 pages

PUBLISHER: Musa Publishing

PURCHASED: Amazon

SYNOPSIS:

Fifteen-year-old Stacy questions the strange world of high school, love, her role in a harsh universe, and life, in Normalish.

People tell you high school's so great and wonderful, but they're lying. It's mostly horrible and full of disappointment. It sucks. Your best friend abandons you. The jerk you're in love with pretends to be into you, and then the big dump. The boy you've really clicked with as a friend decides to go all crushy over you, so you break his heart just like yours was -- smashed into little pieces. Your sister goes mental, and you get involved with a guy who’s even crazier than she is (who you know is a very bad idea, but you do it anyway). Math only adds another stink of failure to the whole thing.

High school blows. Just ask freshman Stacy. She’d want you to know. (From GOODREADS)



EXPECTATIONS: I know the author through Absolute Write and we also share a publisher. I expected a great read! I've been intrigued by Normalish ever since I first read the synopsis.

MARKET/GENRE: Young Adult/Contemporary. This also had romantic elements and skated occasionally on the fence of MG...but thematic elements prevent it from landing comfortably there. 

REVIEW:

"When I was twelve years old, I learned not to talk about death." ~ Stacy, Normalish

So begins a story of a young girl who eventually talks about everything. Stacy is a character I immediately liked. She's vulnerable and on the page, just like every great young adult character should be. She isn't afraid of telling the reader how she feels...it's her vulnerability that drags the reader in. We immediately trust her. This trust allows us to settle into the story and discover where it leads us.

Where the story leads us is onto a roller coaster of events that any young girl of fourteen/fifteen would be lucky to make it out of in one piece. As Stacy is so raw and forthcoming with her emotions, so straightforward with where she stands on everything, we the reader are confident she'll make it through to the other end. But it's still a roller coaster, there's still edge of the seat moments where you hold your breath and hope for the best.

When Normalish opens, the reader is given a few quick insights. Stacy does not have a best friend, she does not have a boyfriend and her father has passed away. These are big obstacles for a fourteen-year-old. She's dealing with the loss of her father, while attempting to ride the wave of no-best-friend-ness, while pining for the day she can say she has a boyfriend. Put into this complicated mess the fact that her sister--the one she shares her bedroom with--is going insane, and you have quite a life to navigate through.

Stacy takes us with her through every step of the story. We are there when the boy she has been losing sleep over finally makes his move and we are there when the wrong boy makes his move. When her sister is temporarily institutionalized, we are there to see Stacy discover yet another boy. As she falls head over heels, we are happy for her. But, of course, we are also reticent. She does, after all, meet this third boy in the institution where her sister is recovering.

I mentioned that Normalish skates on the fence of MG. I say this because Lesh does such a fantastic job of keeping Stacy's voice at her age level. I can't imagine how difficult that would have been. Stacy is fourteen when the story begins and fifteen when it ends. She goes through some pretty tumultuous circumstances in the story, yet she keeps the voice of a young girl at her age level. If not for the serious elements involved, I would suggest this would fit into middle grade as comfortably as it fits into young adult. It's only the issues that Stacy deals with that bumps it into YA only. And Lesh does an amazing job dealing with these issues. Stacy said at the stories onset that she learned not to talk about death, but then she walks us through her story. It is such a poignant look into the harsh reality that some young teens live.

I would happily recommend this book to anyone. I can't really go too far into the story without giving away certain elements. Just know that if you choose to read it, you can trust that Stacy will do a magnificent job telling you what happens to her. She will share the intimate details of her life and her pain...and eventually, her joy. Trust me, you'll want to be there when Stacy tries to discover what it is to be normal...or normalish. Lesh is a fine storyteller...one I will be looking for more from in the future!

Expectation: Met and exceeded. Stacy's story will stay with me for a long time. Her vulnerability makes her a powerful young adult character...a great female lead who is not afraid of being an honest and strong individual. She shows the reader that no matter your circumstances, it does get better. I loved this story.




Monday, October 1, 2012

Musa Publishing Blog Hops: MUSA Turns 1... and we are celebrating.

Just a quick note of a blog-hop giveaway. I don't usually post about my own works here at Try This Book, but this is a publishing house wide giveaway with over 70 giveaways---Books, Swag, a Kindle Fire. You should check it out!



The publisher of my 2nd novel, SEBASTIAN'S POET, is having a 1st Year Anniversary Blog-Hop! The hop starts at the link below and it includes about 70 blogs. Enter everywhere to increase your chances of winning. You will find my author blog somewhere in the mix...and I will be giving away copies of Sebastian's Poet on my blog. Enjoy and Good Luck! 

Musa Publishing Blog Hops: MUSA Turns 1... and we are celebrating.: Musa Publishing launched a year ago October 1st with a simple mission-- offer good books at a fair price and be completely open with our aut...

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Spotlight/Interview with MG author Joanne Levy!


A few weeks ago I posted a review for the amazing middle grade title, SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE (I trust that you have since read and enjoyed it).

Today, I'd like to shine a little spotlight on the author of Small Medium at Large. Joanne Levy was kind enough to humour me and answer a few questions for my readers. Enjoy!





1. In relation to Small Medium at Large and writing the story...I'm just curious how the CAUSE came about for Lilah's new ability. Was there a struggle for you to discover a way to give Lilah her new ability to communicate with ghosts? Or is this something that came to you right away...the lightning idea?

I first wrote the book many years ago and I honestly can’t remember if I struggled with the how of Lilah getting her new ability. But I can tell you that when I first wrote it, the book was intended for an older, YA audience. So in the first scene, Lilah was at her mom’s wedding and had stolen away with her new step-brother and was about to kiss him when she gets hit by the lightning. I thought that was a really funny scene and set the stage for a lot of almost-but-not-really incest jokes for the rest of the book. Obviously, that all had to go when I aged the book down a bit. I hated having to cut some of my ‘for a more mature audience’ jokes that were in the book, but still managed to come up with lots of opportunities for humour throughout.



2. I really like what you did with Dolly. Bully stories very seldom turn out the way this one does. I know bullying is not the major theme of this story, but it does play an excellent role in it. I would just like to hear your thoughts on how this whole thread in the story came about. I found it so fascinating that Lilah was able to be compassionate towards a person who's go-to action was repeatedly to be mean to Lilah and her friends. Was it hard for you to construct this aspect of your story...the heroine reaching out and rescuing her bully? Was it liberating? Any thoughts you would like to share would be awesome. I think you did an amazing job with this concept...it's a lesson your target audience could really benefit from. And yet you pulled it off in the least preachy way I've ever seen.
Thank you! Bullying is so prevalent these days in so many forms and although I didn’t want to get into really deep issues with this light book, I did want to accurately portray what it’s like for kids of this age. I remember when I was in middle school, there were some girls who seemed to go out of their way to chip at my self-esteem and try to make me feel inferior. I had been very okay with who I was and truly never had self-esteem issues until other people pointed out my failings. One girl, in particular, was relentless in making me feel not cool. I distinctly remember a moment in sixth grade when she said, “I bet you don’t even like Rick James (sadly, it was the 80s)!” Truly, I didn’t even know who he was, but I went out and bought his album (which I hate to admit, I kind of liked, even though the lyrics probably weren’t appropriate for me at that age). And even though there was no physical threat, it was still very hurtful in a different way.
As for making Lilah compassionate towards her tormentor. Well, she does have a few thoughts about revenge, which is natural, but in the end, she does the right thing. And I kind of modeled her on Elle Woods from Legally Blonde. Her character faces discrimination and vitriol at every turn, but she is only ever positive and helpful, even to those who try to trip her up and ruin her. I loved that about her—in the end she is loved because she never lets anyone really change her from a good person, even though it would be very easy for her to retaliate. That’s what I wanted for Lilah.  I wanted her to be human and have thoughts about revenge, but in the end, do the right thing and show that you can be a good person and turn things around.

 

3. You appear to be very busy with events to promote your book Small Medium at Large. Do you want to share a bit about how that feels? Are you getting fan feedback at events from those who have already read the book? Tell us a bit about your experiences on the circuit. (-:
It feels exhausting! I’ve been doing a lot of local signings and also participate in local networking events, which, on top of the day job, has presented challenges as far as finding time for new writing and you know, sleeping. For a debut, it’s hard to drum up big crowds at events, but I have had some Twitter friends show up at my signings and that has been amazing! I made a commitment to myself very early on that I wanted to do whatever I could to help get the word out about my book; the long term goal is to write full-time, so any investment into this first book is a big stepping stone towards that. I’ve learned a lot and am getting more comfortable in my own skin when standing at a table in a bookstore (a tough, tough thing to do for an introvert) but it’s necessary to get out there and talk to people if I want to sell books to more than just my family.
One of the funniest things has been the running joke about helping people find the bathroom in bookstores. My husband and I were joking about it, but then at my last event, I actually did have to help 3 separate people find the bathroom. Hey, at least I’m useful in the down times. ;-)


4. What are you reading? Want to share some awesome reads you found over the summer?
I wish I had more reading time, but over the summer I read and adored Jennifer Nielsen’s THE FALSE PRINCE, (fellow Canadian) Jocelyn Shipley’s HOW TO TEND A GRAVE and Lynne Kelly’s CHAINED. I highly recommend all of these books. And I’m just about to get into Lisa McMann’s ISLAND OF SILENCE, the second book in THE UNWANTEDS series and am eager to start (also Canadian) Vikki VanSickle’s WORDS THAT START WITH B.



5. What are you writing now? Can your readers expect to see another book coming soon? If so, could you share a little bit about your next book--or the one you are working on now?
I have a lot of balls up in the air right now, but nothing concrete just yet. I’m hoping to continue Lilah’s adventures in a sequel to SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE and I’ve written another MG about a boy who gets lost in the woods when his family’s camping trip goes very wrong. Also, I’ve been tinkering with some other ideas, but with the first book coming out over the summer and all the marketing/events I’ve been doing, I haven’t been actively writing for a while. Things should calm down after November and then I plan to really hunker down and will hopefully have a clear idea of what I want to work on by then. Keep an eye on my website joannelevy.com and Twitter @joannelevy as I’ll post any news there.


Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Joanne! I’m sure your readers will appreciate your thoughtful responses. So interesting to hear how Small Medium at Large began, now that we can see the finished version. And I’m sure those who read Small Medium will be thrilled to learn that Lilah’s adventures will continue. Lilah is a great character for middle grade kids to sink their teeth into—thoughtful, intelligent and humourous. We’ll be sure to keep our eye on your website and twitter feed! Thank you so much!

 


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Living Underground by RUTH E. WALKER - A Review


TITLE: Living Underground

AUTHOR: Ruth E. Walker

RELEASE DATE: September 2012

FORMAT/PAGE COUNT: ARC/264

PUBLISHER: Seraphim Editions

PURCHASED: Not Purchased. From the Author in exchange for an honest review.

Available at: CHAPTERS/INDIGO, AMAZON.CA, AMAZON.COM, BARNES & NOBLE

A Portrait of the Author as a Little Girl - There are a few places in all the world where a writer becomes giddy with word-love. This is Ms. Walker at home in the tiny nook labelled "Poetry" inside the world-famous bookstore, Shakespeare & Company. 


SYNOPSIS:

“Sheila Martin’s dismal childhood is irrevocably transformed when Sigmund Maier, the family’s enigmatic German tenant, introduces her to opera, music and much more. When he reappears in her ordered and successful adult life, Sigmund asks for her help with an immigration issue. Will she now discover the truth of why he vanished years ago?

Sheila soon discovers that “truth” has no clear definition and memories are nebulous as she is drawn into the turmoil and accusations surrounding his life before and during World War II. As she struggles with her own issues and family conflicts, she is forced to finally confront the secrets she has held for over 30 years.

Moving back and forth in time, this novel explores the ambiguity of human emotion – how our natures can embody both the ideals and delights of love alongside the most base and dispassionate sensibilities.” –Seraphim Editions

On Goodreads


EXPECTATIONS: I am friends with Ruth. I had high expectations for Living Underground, simply because I am familiar with the calibre of her work. I was a fan prior to reading her debut novel. Ms. Walker is also a poet and short story writer. It is HER fault my expectations for Living Underground were through the roof. Her exquisite writing has preceded her debut novel. (-:


MARKET/GENRE: I would say this is a literary work. I believe it to be cross-over in terms of both market and genre. Not sure if I would pigeon-hole it. Is EVERYONE a market?

REVIEW:

(Trigger Warning: Living Underground contains a scene that could potentially trigger CSA survivors.)

Favourite Quotes:



'“There are people who think I am someone I am not. They have been looking for this man for a long time, and they think they have found him. But they are mistaken.”' ~ Sigmund Maier (Living Underground), Ruth E. Walker

'"If you want to see opera, true opera, you must hear it in Europe, go and see it there. Here, they imitate. In Germany they have echoes of all who went before. It is so much richer."' ~ Sigmund Maier (Living Underground), Ruth E. Walker


'Hilda washed her mother's body and dressed her in her second-best tea dress. Her best dress and Hilda's amber brooch were sold to pay for the coffin. Her mother's several pairs of shoes and gloves were bartered for grave diggers.' ~ Living Underground, Ruth E. Walker



'As she struggled with the tension of her guts, her shortness of breath, Sheila continued to stare at the kids on the bridge. Observed them cross over, a bunch of hyper teens, making those large, flung-arm whirls and dashes of kinetic energy, the shoulder-hits of camaraderie, the heads-back and crow calls of those who know they are watched.' ~ Living Underground, Ruth E. Walker




This is a beautiful book. I can't remember the last time a story had such a powerful impact on my day-to-day life. No matter what I was doing throughout my day, I had Sheila and Sigmund on my mind. I felt so emotional for those two weeks, like I was always one step away from tears. I actually had to give myself some time before I could get my thoughts down on paper. Only a handful of times in a reader's life do they come into contact with a book that causes such a rift in their sense of reality. Living Underground is one of those books for me. It left me breathless at every turn.



Sheila Martin's childhood is anything but wondrous. When a new tenant moves into her mother's basement apartment, Sheila is given the maid duties of keeping the apartment clean. Little by little, a communication is created between the tenant, Sigmund Maier, and Sheila. It begins when Sheila loses herself in her radio station one day, while going through her cleaning duties. Soon Sigmund is leaving music out for Sheila to discover and Sheila feels herself opening up to a whole new world she didn't even know existed.



Ms. Walker creates such a vivid picture of this unlikely couple and how they become connected--first as mentor and student, and then as more. The reader will delight in the way Walker seamlessly sews beautiful music into the exquisite and tightly woven fabric of this wondrous story. Sheila's eye-opening to the world of opera and classical music and the finer things she would never have otherwise been exposed to is soul-lifting. The reader is lifted with her, and almost grateful for Sigmund's presence in her young life. And such a proper, well-put-together gentleman is Sigmund...the real key to making this story sing was Walker's ability to make the reader believe in Sigmund Maier and his essential goodness.

Living Underground spans decades. The reader is taken along to Sigmund's childhood in Dresden, Germany, where an even stronger connection to this character is made. We see inside the world in which he grew up--a despicable grandfather, a mother who bends to her father's will and later finds an admirable strength and independence. From there, the reader steps into the adult life of Sheila. She is a wonderful and powerful woman. She is in the midst of building a music store empire (a product of Sigmund's influence on her earlier life), but her personal life seems to be in a state of chaos. Then the reader is taken into the dark world of suspicion and doubt. Could the man who gave the young Sheila a thread of hope when she needed it most...could he possibly be the same man as the monster being accused of heinous war crimes in Nazi Germany?


From the moment you pick up Living Underground, you will be enthralled. It burrows into your heart with a powerful and uncontrollable velocity...and it stays there not just until you reach the end of the story, but long long after you have reluctantly put it down. A book like this comes along every once in a blue moon. I guarantee you, once you get to the end you will want to embrace it. It's that kind of book. In my opinion, Ruth E. Walker has a well-deserved masterpiece on her hands.


EXPECTATION: I could NOT have expected what would happen to me as I read this book. To give you an example--At one point, my wife walked into our family room to find me in pieces. She was a bit skeptical as to how a book could hit somebody so powerfully. I read about 20 pages out loud to her. When I was finished, I looked over at her...and found her in pieces. I'm not exaggerating when I say this story got inside me. Even knowing Walker's ability to write beautiful prose and poetry--even knowing her mastery of the language and the subtlety of her pen--I was not expecting this. You can't expect a book like this one. You can love it, once you find it...but you can't expect it. GET THIS BOOK!


SIZE: 6 (I know this is like turning the amp up to 11, but I had to give it something I gave no other book on this site. I connected with these characters and this story too strongly to give it anything less.)





Thursday, September 13, 2012

Favourite YA of the Year? Maybe! UNDER THE MOON by Deborah Kerbel - REVIEW






TITLE: Under the Moon

AUTHOR: Deborah Kerbel

RELEASE DATE: January 2012

FORMAT/PAGE COUNT: Kindle/200

PUBLISHER: Cormorant Books


PURCHASED: Amazon

FROM KERBEL'S WEBSITE - A LIST OF HER BOOKS AND WHERE YOU CAN FIND THEM.

SYNOPSIS:

A girl who's lost her sleep...
A boy who's lost his dreams...
And twenty-six nights that change their lives.
Fifteen-year-old Lily MacArthur has trouble sleeping. In fact, she doesn't sleep at all--at least, not since the death of her aunt. As the days turn into weeks, Lily becomes convinced that death-by-exhaustion is around the corner and searches the moonlit nights for a way to save herself from the long, dark hours of solitude.

Can her new friend, Ben, help her find her sleep? Or do secrets from Ben's past mean that he also needs saving? (From GOODREADS)




EXPECTATIONS: High expectations. I was pleasantly surprised by Kerbel's Mackenzie Lost and Found. After reading it, I knew I had to read the rest of her stuff...both published and not-yet-published.

MARKET/GENRE: Young Adult/Contemporary (This is definitely a cross-over...would appeal to adults)


REVIEW:

15-year-old Lily MacArthur is not sleeping. Ever since her eccentric romance novel writing Aunt Su passed away, she's been wide-eyed and counting the days left of her existence. Lily knows humans can only live so long without sleep (she's Googled it). While the clock of doom counts down her dwindling seconds, Lily makes the most of her time left on Earth.

Lily is such an adorable character. She's saucy and introverted and looking for wonder. Her Aunt Su is a pivotal character in her life--the polar opposite of Lily's rigid domineering mother. Su wore muumuus, smoked (and grew her own) pot in her segregated cabin in the woods. She was worldly and she had a shelf full of best-selling romance novels under her belt to prove it. Clearly, Aunt Su is who Lily strives to be. She wants to be nothing like her control-freak mother, whom she not so endearingly refers to as General MacArthur.

Lily’s sleepless nights lead her to wandering the streets of her small town. And this leads her directly to the all-night fry place's drive-thu window and the new boy in town. She is immediately drawn to the morose Ben Matthews, who has a mystery she’s willing to get to the bottom of. Kerbel did a great job with the emotional landscape of this Ben character. He brushes the line of inappropriateness so often, it leaves the reader waiting to like him, but ultimately cautious. With whatever it is he’s going through clearly weighing deeply on his soul, Ben tends towards meanness when speaking to Lily. Kerbel set this up PERFECTLY because the reader is—by the time Ben shows up—completely invested in Lily. We are protective of her, as much as we are excited for her.

So, we have an interesting storyline that pulls us along at a great pace. Lily’s aunt dies—Lily stops sleeping and knows that eventually this could kill her—Lily meets the new town hottie before anybody else gets a chance to—Lily’s mother is a control-freak with a daughter who seems on the cusp of rampant disorder. These are all intriguing storylines. Throw in the fact Aunt Su willed everything she owned to Lily, the fact that new social movement—a movement Lily is none to impressed with—attempts to bring Lily into its fold and the dark tale of loss spiraling out behind Ben that is about to put him in very real and immediate peril and you have a fantastic novel in Under the Moon!

Kerbel establishes a wonderful character in Lily…one the reader is compelled to love. And then she takes her (and the reader) on a wonderfully quirky adventure. I won’t say this novel is perfect—there are no perfect novels—but I will tell you I loved it. I couldn’t put it down. There are a couple coincidences in the story that are a bit timely…but they are EASILY forgivable. Lily is a character you will remember for a long time after reading her story. Which is what I think you should do right now—you’ll have to find out for yourself if things work out for her. After breaking the world record for staying awake longer than the last person who died of sleeplessness, there’s not a lot of options for Lily. Kerbel does a phenomenal job of making Lily’s future look bright while simultaneously keeping her perilously awake and in danger of dying. Enjoy the read!
 


EXPECTATION: We don't pick our favourite books...we just look for a good story and hope--with every book we pick up--that we have found one. To date, Under the Moon is my pick for favourite YA of 2012. Satisfied! 100% Awaiting the next Kerbel!


SIZE: 5 (1/2)

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson - Review (Rippermania is about to gitcha!)


Title: The Name of the Star (Shades of London, Book #1)

Author: Maureen Johnson

Release Date: September 29th, 2011

Format/Page Count: Kindle/372

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile

Purchased: Amazon

Synopsis:

The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities. (From GOODREADS)


Expectation: To be honest, I didn't have any expectations with this one. It's another Twitter thing. I follow Maureen Johnson on Twitter. She's pretty entertaining. I just thought that it was time for me to read one of her books. This one appealed to me the most.

Market/Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal, Contemporary, Mystery (As usual, I'm classifying this as I see it. This is a total cross genre AND cross market book). I heard somewhere that it was also considered a romance. My opinion? NO.

REVIEW:

I want to get the book-love out right away, because I feel like I might have been a bit snarky in the Expectation/Market/Genre sections. So, I ABSOLUTELY LOVED this book. As soon as I started reading it, I knew it was one of those rare books that both my wife & I would love. I wasn't even finished when I told her she had to check it out. She downloaded it and read it in a flash...and loved it as much as I did.

Favourite Quotes:

"Something about her suggested that her leisure activities included wrestling large woodland animals and banging bricks together."

"Sometimes you have to see the bathroom to know the hard reality of things."

"That prospect seemed unlikely after my display tonight, unless English people were really into people who could eject food from their throats at high velocity."

"The wind was kicking up a fury, spinning leaves and trash around us, and I remember thinking, This is it. I am walking into forever. It was almost funny. Life seemed downright accidental in its brevity, and death a punch line to a lousy joke."

"It's not that I am extremely brave--I think I just forgot myself for a minute. Maybe that's what bravery is. You forget you're in trouble when you see someone else in danger."

I adore this book and I am thrilled that it's book one in a series. My hat is off to Ms. Johnson for the unimaginable amount of research she must have had to do for this story. And none of the info was given to the reader as a dump...I never once felt like I was being force fed facts. The voice was perfect and the story never lagged. I was hooked from word one to the last and I would have no problem recommending this book to anyone, any age, any gender.

Rory, the narrator of this tale, is someone the reader can really love. And that's the trick of a great book...getting that emotional connection to the narrator created early on. Ms. Johnson accomplished this with a perfect narrator voice and an amazing sense of humour. Once that solid attachment is established, the author has the reader by the throat. A good writer is not afraid to take the reader to difficult and hair-raising places once that connection is made.

I just love this retelling of the Jack the Ripper story. The best historical retelling novel I've ever read. There's a great deal of the original 1888 Ripper story interwoven with the modern-day NEW Ripper story in which Rory finds herself firmly ensconced. What was really exciting--in a peculiar way--was the Rippermania created by the media and the people of London. It was done so perfectly that the reader could actually believe it 100%. In today's instant internet age, this mania would absolutely occur. The excitement almost overshadowed the blood. People were getting murdered and the public was showing up at 1888 Ripper murder scenes, ready to party and await the next throat-slashing. It was pretty epically real.

You may have noticed I didn't really tell you much about the book itself. I don't want to give anything away. I'll just sum it up really quickly for you. Rory goes to London to attend a boarding school--she almost chokes to death while being an awkward American (funny scene!)--Jack the Ripper appears to have come back from the grave and begins to recreate the deaths of his 1888 rampage in modern-day London--Rory gets caught up in the Ripper case, first as a result of having a little crush on one of the prefects of the school who is obsessed with the case and then as a result of the Ripper targeting her as a possible victim--as the only witness in the Ripper case, Rory gets noticed by an underground department of the London Police force. It is an exciting ride! If you pick it up, you won't want to put it down until you finish. Ms. Johnson will captivate you with this story...she will OWN you.

Enjoy! Here's where you can pick it up RIGHT NOW!

There's a reason Ms. Johnson is the Queen of Teen!


Expectation: Yeah. I loved it. I was shocked today to see a 1-star review of this book on Goodreads. Only a brainless yit would not find something to love in this book. Please...trust me. Get it. Read it. Love it. My expectation for book two in this series is just ridiculous! I cannot wait. And neither can my wife. (-:

Size: 5