Absolution

Cover artGail Gallant does a nice job of summarizing the first book before jumping into the meat of Absolution. Being able to stand alone is good in a book series.

The novel is a ghost story that has multiple levels. The people are haunted by ghosts who are haunted by their lives or deaths. Amelia’s ability to communicate with ghosts complicates her life.

The story is spooky, suspenseful and sad. The target audience is definitely teens and it’s interesting that even the supernatural characters have regular teen problems. Matt is permanently friendzoned because of his lack of a body, and extremely grumpy about it. His gruesome flashbacks to his death are disturbing.

The unique part of this book is it considers both the perspective of the people who have a ghost in their house, and the ghost who has new people moving into his house. Neither situation is desirable and Amelia has empathy for both.

The mysteries take interesting turns and it the denouement is emotional. Exactly what you want from a book like this.

Life Cycle of a Lie

Life Cycle of a Lie is a novel that manages to be both entertaining and thought provoking. It deals with racism, prejudice about sexual orientation, domestic violence and environmentalism. It tackles all of these subjects in a thoughtful manner that isn’tcover art overly preachy but shows that the author has wrapped her head around the issues.

This novel does what When Everything Feels Like the Movies failed to do in my opinion. This book is more likely to be relate-able to gay teens and to inspire empathy in straight teens. It has the sexual awakening of a young man, who develops feelings for a male friend. It has mature content, describing the physical effect of the feelings- but this is done in a tasteful manner. Jona is a well rounded character who isn’t defined by his homosexuality. He’s also intelligent, well read, kind, and talented. He is faced with prejudice, and has a bit of an identity crisis.

Linc is a First Nations character who faces prejudice because of his race. He is not defined by this struggle any more than Jona is by his homosexuality. Linc is open minded, athletic, compassionate, protective, and a bit naive. He is a lovable character who’s major flaw is he has trouble reading body language, or understanding what his girlfriend is upset about.

Victoria is a character worried about being defined by her dysfunctional family but there’s more to her than her abusive father. She is an environmental activist and more. She makes big mistakes because of her insecurities, but I think readers will forgive her.

Romance, suspense, and character based drama make up this wonderful book.

Tempestuous

I received Tempestuous as a submission for the YABA

It’s been a long time since I read the previous books in this series (well not in terms of time exactly, but I’ve read a lot since then and a lot has changed in my life) so I found myself a bit confused at the beginning of this novel, having trouble remembering where Darklight left off. I don’t think this novel stands well on it’s own, you have to be familiar with the rest of the series for it to work and while I was at one time I have become disconnected and found I didn’t really care about the characters anymore.

I had high hopes for this novel but I slugged through it, not really caught up in the action. The second half was better than the first, because I preferred Kelley’s part of the story to Sonny feeling sorry for himself that Kelley said she didn’t love him. I don’t think that Livingston lived up to her potential with this book. Once Every Never was more compelling in language, plot and emotion.

Contemporary takes on Shakespeare, dark faeries and urban fantasy are very big right now making this an in demand series. However while I love the genre and what this sets out to do I’m not sure this particular novel lives up to the hype.

Betsy Wickwire’s Dirty Secret

* I received Betsy Wickwire’s Dirty Secret by Vicki Grant as a submission for the YABA

It’s pretty rare that I read contemporary, girly, drama. Some of the novel felt cliché, such as the drama at the prom. The boyfriend cheating with the best friend has been done a lot, not in things I read, but I still feel like it’s out there too much. On the other hand, Grant did make me care about Betsy, and I felt her suffering. Dolores Morris was a character that brought some life into the story. She was quirky, blunt and eccentric. I related to her the most, even when she was being over-dramatic. Murdoch was a well developed character too, which is good because in a story like this the characters are all you have.One thing that bothered me a bit was how many unusual names were in the story. I love unusual names but you can’t give them to everyone; it doesn’t feel real.

I liked the awkward moments, the failures, and the ridiculous outfits. The second half of the story was better than the first, in the beginning I was silently screaming at Betsy to stop wallowing over the jerk’s perfect abs and move on with her life.

Forever

cover art of forever*I purchased Foreverby Maggie Stiefvater from Bookingham Palace in Salmon Arm

I think the truest testament to how engrossed I was in this novel is that I didn’t notice the text was in red ink until about halfway through. When I’m really into a story I forget about the physical object in my hand and the individual words and it all just flows like a movie in my mind, only more intimate, like I’m experiencing it. This is how Forever felt for me, although I have to say after a few hours that red text hurt my eyes.

When I reviewed Linger (the 2nd installment in the trilogy) I expressed some disappointment with how the series was progressing but Stiefvater made up for that disappointment by coming through with a fantastic finish.

“I was a radio tuned to all stations at the same time, so many thoughts inside me that none of them counted” (107)

The characters were incredibly relatable, with genuine reactions to the events in their lives, and distinct voices as the narrative shifted. I never had trouble telling who the narrator of a particular chapter was even though it jumps around and I tend to skip over the name above the chapter when I’m really into the action.

I’d always had trouble with Grace, relating more to Sam but I think Grace’s character development blossomed as she struggled with her new identity in this novel.

It’s funny that Cole and Isabel’s relationship began as purely sexual attraction, and Sam and Grace shared a bed for months without going there, but their sexual chemistry was far more compelling.

“She fisted a handful of my T-shirt; the action woke me up instantly and guiltily made me think of at least four things that were not bedtime stories or selfless ways to comfort a grieving girl” (185)

The tension in Sam’s point of view when he’s having feelings for her despite the horrible circumstances and feeling guilty that when they are in danger he’s distracted by how close he is to touching her was really well written. There’s a section where he’s fantasizing about the life he wishes he could have with her, and I loved the first half where he was imagining her studying next to him as he reads, and the simple joy he gets from being in a room for her.

There was quite a bit of action in the novel, with people being torn apart by wolves and the big hunt looming made it suspenseful, however my favourite parts were the introspective moments. Each of the characters struggles with being defined by their history, there is a beautiful balance of their personalities being shaped by their upbringing, and defying what’s done to them. Sam is suspected of being a terrible person because of how he was abused. Someone asks how he could be anything but a monster having been treated as he was by his biological parents, and he wonders himself if Beck has raised him to be monstrous. Grace’s neglectful parents have instilled in her a sense of independence. Cole’s drug abuse and suicidal tendencies and Isabel’s confrontational, cold nature are equally explored.

Being a bookworm myself I enjoyed the various take’s on Beck’s library. All of the narrators view it differently but I prefered Grace’s interpretation.

“a cave of words that I’d made myself” (170)

If you haven’t read this series or if you’ve only read the first installment, I’d say Forever makes it worth the read.I doubt the movie will do it justice.

 

 

 

 

 

Sisters Red Read

Sisters Red cover artWhat if little red riding hood was more like Buffy the Vampire slayer only slaying wolves instead of vampires? Jackson Pearce’s novel Sisters Red is a fabulous contemporary take on the classic fairy tale.

What you can expect from this book:

  • excellent characterization
  • gruesome battles
  • sisterly bonds
  • trapping of family business and the responsibility of knowledge
  • Werewolf mythology
  • Social commentary
    • about how people respond to the disabled and disfigured
    • about the dragonflies (club hopping young women with shiny clothes and little thought of consequences) of western culture
  • Love, & it’s power to motivate change in your life
  • People who never give up on those they care about
  • Creative Use of Plato’s theories
  • A predictable twist (sorry but I knew that was coming when I was barely into the book)
  • Fantabulous cover art- I mean seriously can I hang this on the wall, maybe frame it with Jackson Pearce’s next book’s cover?

If you’re a fan of the show Supernatural (I loved the first couple seasons) you will find that Sisters Red shares some plot lines. I coul hear “saving people, hunting thing, the family business” tagline in my mind as I read. Scarlett is like Dean-completely absorbed by life as a hunter, living for the kill. Whereas Rosie is like Sam and wants a chance at a normal life despite the knowledge of monsters.

Pearce did not choose character names arbitrarily. Aside from the fact that Scarlett and Rosie both have names deriving from shades of red (apropriate for the red riding hood story) each individual’s name is very fitting for their character.

SCARlett is a scarred character. She is physically marred and emotionally traumatized by the violence she experienced at a young age.

Rosie sees the world with rose coloured glasses. She’s an optomist, who believes there is more to life than revenge and work. She is the youthful rosie cheeked sister that is great bate for the wolves.

Silas means “man of the forest”, something his Pa would have named thinking he would keep up the family profession of being a woodsman. This name takes on more meaning later but I’ll try not to spoil things for you.

If you like Sisters Red you might also like

 

Rules of Attraction

Today’s Review: Rules Of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

Rules of Attraction (Perfect Chemistry, #2)The Premise
Rules of Attraction is about Carlos, an ex-gang member who is sent to live with his brother to try to start a new life. At first he has no interest in following rules because he thinks his brother is conforming, abandoning his Mexican heritage and being whipped by his girlfriend. When Carlos is framed for drug dealing he is sentenced to live with a sponsor family and take part in after school therapy group for at risk teens.

This is a sequel to Perfect Chemistry but I didn’t read that I found that Rules of Attraction stands alone nicely

The Narrative

The chapters alternate between Carlos’ POV and the perspective of Kiara, the daughter of his sponsor parents. This is the most successful use of alternate perspectives I can remember reading. In Shiver it was an OK tool to see both sides but Sam and Grace (the characters in that story) did not provide the striking contrast that Carlos and Kiara do.

Carlos is hostile, suspicious, critical and stubborn. It’s very clear from his chapters how he feels about his situation. Carlos’ thoughts about the violence and poverty of the past are necessary to frame the story and explain his rebellious nature.  .

I think Kiara’s perspective makes this book more accessible for middle class or upper-class girls. I think a lot of the high school girls who read this won’t be able to relate to Carlos and the hostility of his POV, so seeing him through Kiara’s eyes helps them feel more connected to the story. 

Watching things unfold from both sides is a wonderful experience, especially because Elkeles avoids too much overlap.

Character Development

Even though I knew Carlos would be a tough guy who turned out to have a sweet side Elkele’s layering of his character was well written. The overall effect was predictable, but the intimate moments where he let down his guard were heart-renching! He felt like a real person, shaped by his experiences. He is incredibly flawed but an awesome person all the same. At first even though I felt bad for him I didn’t like him much. He was too cocky but at the same time had no ambition beyond maintaining his tough image. NOT someone I would normally be attracted to, but he won me over!

Kiera is someone I’d want to be friends with. She’s smart, self-conscious, a good sister, adventurous and brave. Carlos is surprised that she is not afraid to get her hands dirty when working on her car, cooking, hiking or playing sports.

Kiera’s father and Alex are the only two secondary characters that I felt were fully developed. Others like Madison (a girl interested in Carlos), and Brandon (Kiera’s brother) had some meat but many like Tuck were just token stereotypes. I think you get more about Alex in Perfect Chemistry.

Amazing things about this book

  • Carlos and Alex are proud of their Mexican heritage. Elkeles uses Spanish in their dialogue, talks about their homesickness for authentic Mexican food and they argue about what it means to be Mexican.
  • They are not exaggerating when they say the romance in this book is smoldering. The make out scenes are really sexy, the heat between the characters is believable
  • It does a good job at showing that moving and not wanting to be a drug dealer anymore isn’t always enough. I think people scoff at those who feel trapped in those situations, saying they could leave if they wanted, but the way Carlos is forced into the gang scene again is terrifying! Elkeles shows us the mindset of someone in that situation
  • The cover art is fantastic. I think I should make a mural or something out of gorgeous YA covers.
  • Carlos’ transformation doesn’t feel too forced. He doesn’t go from bad ass to good guy in a matter of pages, he makes connections with people, sees possibilities, dares to dream beyond the present because he’s given better options he hadn’t considered possible

Important to have in a library collection because

  • Deals with gangs, drugs and sex, and I think at risk teens or any teens really should be able to see these harsh realities in fiction. It’s also great for them to see that it’s not a dead-end if you want more
  • Diversity of characters. Mexican characters are prominent and gay characters are featured, I think having minorities represented in your collection is really important.
  • A female character who fixes cars and does typically masculine things while maintaining her femininity. I’ve gotten in a few feminist arguments this week haha so I’m happy to see a woman who doesn’t need to be rescued constantly in YA
  • This is going to popular and in demand, so libraries should respond to this demand

Fabulous book overall, even if I found the epilogue to be a bit much.