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Mind Games
Mind Games
by Kiersten White
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.76
102 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as Good as Paranormalcy, But Still Good, April 2, 2013
This review is from: Mind Games (Hardcover)
I will start this review by saying that I loved Kiersten White's Paranormalcy series, and Mind Games was nothing like it. It is almost like a different author wrote Mind Games. That's not to say that I didn't like it. I did. Just not even close to as much as I did the former. Now, with that out of the way, I can get down to my reasons why I liked Mind Games, but also why I didn't LOVE it... I'm a bad-news-first type of person, so I will start with the things I didn't like.

First off, I really wasn't into the format. There were two points of view, Fia's and Annie's, and the chapters alternate between the two of them. That is something I can deal with, and even like in most cases. What I didn't like was that along with the alternating POVs, the story also jumped between past and present. I found it very confusing. I found it too hard to keep track of both whose POV I was reading and when it was taking place, at the same time. Another thing that bothered me was the fact that it took a good bit of time get into this book. That said, I suspect that had something to do with my getting used to the format. I will say that once the story picked up, it was quite riveting. Finally, I have to say that I thought the ending wasn't great. I felt like there were too many question left unanswered and not enough closure. I know this is the first book in a series, but there were some questions that I felt needed to be answered in this book. Hopefully, book number two proves me wrong, and that there is good reason for my lack of closure, but right now I see it as a flaw. (I will totally retract this statement if I'm given good reason to in book number two!) Now, on to the "likes"...

First and foremost, I LOVED the cover. I always rave about HarperTeen's covers, and this one is no exception. Absolutely stunning. So what about what's between those pretty pieces of cardboard? Well... I loved the premise of this book. A private school for girls with special abilities- seeing the future, reading minds, feeling the emotions of others- to name a few. I loved the secrecy behind who the man funding the school was, and what happens to the girls upon "graduating". I loved that no one could see him, and I loved that no one knew what his motives were. Those questions kept me turning pages. I also liked the characters. I really liked James a lot, right from the beginning, but I especially liked him when we learned more about him toward the end of the book. I think I like Fia, although to be honest, I still have too many questions about who she is to say for sure. We never really find out exactly why she is so important, and that bothered me. Annie was alright. I didn't dislike her, I just thought she was maybe a bit bland. I liked her enough, but she wasn't very exciting. We didn't get to know Adam very well, but I have a good feeling about him. I feel like there is still loads of development left to go on all of the characters, but so far, so good. The pacing went both ways. I mentioned earlier in my review that the story was slow to start, but it really did pick up abut 1/3 of the way through, and when it did, it really did. The action was really well done, and I was on the edge of my seat for most of the 2nd half of the book. Of course, writing action is one of Kiersten's strengths, as evidenced by the Paranormalcy books, so I wasn't expecting anything less.

Overall, I would say that although Mind Games didn't hold a candle to Paranormalcy, I still really enjoyed it. It was a short, quick read that left me wanting more (both in a good way and in a bad way). I will definitely pick up the second book of the series next year because there is no way I am going through life without knowing the answers to all of my questions!

Rating: 3.5 stars

Grade Level Recommendation: This book was pretty clean. There were a few make-out scenes, and a good bit of violence, but it was pretty benign otherwise. Appropriate for 6th grade and up (ages 11 and up).

If You Find Me: A Novel
If You Find Me: A Novel
by Emily Murdoch
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.57
70 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Harrowing Tale of Heartbreak and Hope, March 27, 2013
Lately I've been in a weird pattern when it comes to books; It seems that almost every book I've picked up recently has been really slow to start. I can't tell you how many books I have on my nightstand that are set aside 1/3 of the way in because I wasn't feeling the pull that I like to feel. (Actually, I can... That number is eight.) Although the slow starters that I have been able to finish have ended up being very good, I think I will always prefer the early hook. I am attentionally challenged, and if there isn't something to grab me early on, I lose patience. I'm sure I miss out on a great number of amazing books because of this, but I also think that gives me an advantage when reviewing books that target the teen audience, because teens are very instant-gratification oriented. But we can save all that for another post. My point here is that I think If You Find Me has gotten me out of that slow-to-start funk. I was drawn into this book from the very first chapter, and it did not let me go until the final page. In fact, If You Find Me still hasn't let me go. It is a story that is as happy as it is heartbreaking, and I found myself experiencing a broader range of emotions in 256 pages than I ever thought possible. Fear, joy, anger, excitement, heartbreak, love, loss, happiness, grief, inspiration, disgust, optimism, melancholy. And that list doesn't even come close to covering them all...

The story begins with Carey and Nessa fending for themselves, living in a camper, deep in the Obed Wild & Scenic River National Park, waiting for their meth-addicted mother to return from a trip to the nearest town to get supplies. Carey is full of worry because it has been over a month since she left, and they are running low on food. It's not their mother who comes to their rescue, though. It's a social worker and Carey's father, the man their mother kidnapped Carey from, ten years prior. Carey has only vague memories of life before the woods, and Nessa knows nothing else. The girls are taken from the only life they know, harsh as it had was, to a modern world, overnight. They go to live with their father, his wife, and her daughter, and although these changes are all for the better, Carey is as fragile as she's ever been. She has deep, painful secrets, physical and emotional scars, and a great deal of internal conflict. She knows the changes she and her sister are going through are best, especially for six year-old Nessa, but she doesn't know how to trust that it isn't all a dream- a rug ready to be pulled out from under them. Her story is an intense emotional rollercoaster, as debut author Emily Murdoch deftly alternates her present situation with her memories of life in the woods- the good ones and the horrifying- in a voice that made Carey seem so real and vulnerable; This book read more like a memoir than it did fiction. If You Find Me touched me deeply, as I felt every one of Carey's emotions to my core.

This was very much Carey's story, but she wasn't the only phenomenally drawn character. Nessa was amazing as well. She was a picture of the resiliency of small children, and it brought me a tremendous amount of joy to see her grow as a result of the love that surrounded her, after having such a harrowing start to her life. It was wonderful to see that growth through Carey's eyes, because in reality, Carey was the the mother that Joelle, their biological mother, never was. I adored Melissa, their stepmother, who went well above and beyond, and as a side note, I thought it was great to see a stepmother portrayed in a positive light. Carey's father was a character that took me some time to warm to. I had a great amount of admiration for him because of the fact that he never treated Nessa any differently than he did Carey, despite the fact that she wasn't his, but otherwise, I was unsure of him because I was viewing him through Carey's eyes, and she only had the lies her mother had told her of him to go on. Initially he was rather closed off, but as he opened himself up, it became clear that he was the way he was was because of the uncertainty he endured for so many years. As a parent, I can't even imagine being in his shoes. What I liked best about his portrayal was that much of what we learned about him came from the snipes and jabs that seemingly self-absorbed stepdaughter Delaney threw out from time to time. And speaking of Delaney... She was such an important character, and although she was so unlikeable much of the time, I thought Emily Murdoch did a flawless job making sure that the reader understood why she was the way she was. In the end, I was almost as sympathetic toward her as I was toward Carey and Nessa, because although her life was a cake-walk compared to theirs, she had to endure her own feelings of inadequacy in the shadow of the kidnapped (and then found) daughter, and that could not have been easy. Finally, there was Ryan. I don't want to spoil, so I won't say much about him, but his character was great, and a perfect addition to Carey's story.

If You Find Me is hands-down, one of the best books of this nature that I have ever read. It is a heartbreaking story that ends with a message of hope. Although I would love to know more about what Carey's future holds, I feel like I got proper closure to this chapter of her life. One thing I know for sure is that I will be on the lookout for more of Emily Murdoch's writing, because she has talent I have a good feeling will endure.

My Rating: 5 stars+

Grade Level Recommendation: This is a tough one. First I want to say that I think there is great crossover appeal to the adult market, as I know many adults (non-YA readers) who would like this book. There are somewhat graphic descriptions of the sexual abuse, prostitution, and sexual assault of children. Carey endured horrible things, much of the time with the knowledge that if she didn't do them, Nessa would have to. That said, I think that this book has a very positive message of hope and the possibility of overcoming any obstacle. If I had to make a blanket statement, based on content, I would say this book is for ages 15 and older (grades 10 and up), but I would also encourage the evaluation of each reader as an individual, because I feel like many younger students would have the maturity to handle the graphic parts of the story. I am able to say this; This book is not appropriate for anyone younger than 8th or 9th grade.

by Bridget Zinn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.27
72 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Fantasy For All Ages!, March 13, 2013
This review is from: Poison (Hardcover)
What a breath of fresh air this book was! Seriously. When it came in the mail, I looked at the cover, and immediately (mis)judged it as something that was going to be really silly and juvenile, and I am happy to admit (as long as no one tells my husband) that I was totally wrong. Poison is a really well-written YA Fantasy that will likely have a very broad readership. It's got great characters, a well paced plot, an innocent romance, lots of unexpected twists, and a whole lot more. Also, it is squeaky clean, so it's perfect for those advanced elementary school age readers who want to venture into some more challenging books, without losing their innocence. Poison is one of those all-ages reads that would be great as a read-aloud to kids, but also engaging and smart enough for the most jaded YA readers, myself included.

So you get it... I have much love for this book, and although I briefly mentioned my reasons above, her is where I will elaborate. I thought this book was a lot of fun. The themes weren't heavy, and I didn't go to bed hashing the events I just read out in my head. The story was fast-paced and full of action and adventure, with a lot of funny events along the way. The story went back and forth between adventure and fun, with little twists here and there to keep the reader on her toes, but not so many that it became confusing. It was fresh and original. There was no real love triangles or insta-love, which is almost unheard of in YA. I would like to give you an overview, but there is too much potential for spoilers, so I will leave it at this... You will want to keep turning the pages because you are intrigued by the story and at the same time, having fun.

The characters were also great, and there were many, but I'm only going to talk about a few. Kyra is a pretty kick-ass heroine; Lethal with her poisons, a well trained fighter, and super smart, but she is also kind of awkward and insecure, and I loved that. Over time on the run, she had become a very solitary person, so when Fred comes along, she doesn't quite know what to do with him. And speaking of Fred... Such a cutie. I could not, for the life of me, figure out why she was always trying to get rid of him, because I thought he was just great. He made me laugh, and he got her out of more than one bind. My favorite was Rosie the pig though. I wish I could reach into the book and grab her to keep as my own pet. She provided just what this book needed to keep it light, and fun. I mean, come on, what is there not to like about a tiny, magical pig?

The last thing I must mention is the world in which this story took place. I thought the author did a great job drawing the reader in by really bringing the setting to life with her words. Her descriptions were great, and she really captured not only the physical environment, but the emotional climate. The main characters covered a lot of ground in their travels and adventures in this book, and I always thought the world-building was solid. In the Fantasy genre, worlds are often either way overdone, or not built up enough. This book had a whole lot of "just right" going on.

The only thing that sucks about this book is that it will be the only one. Sadly, the author, Bridget Zinn, passed away shortly after writing Poison. It is such a tragedy that her life was cut short, before she got to share more of her amazing talent.

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Grade Level Recommendation: Like I mentioned before, this book is squeaky clean. No cursing, sex, or other inappropriate content. This book is 100% suitable for all ages.

by Claudia Gray
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $10.79
71 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Unique Witch Story!, March 13, 2013
This review is from: Spellcaster (Hardcover)
I will start this review by saying that although I had Spellcaster on my TBR, I wasn't eagerly awaiting it like a lot of bloggers I know. That's not to say I wasn't excited when it came in a random, unexpected package from HarperTeen one day. You see, although I'm not quite a fangirl of Claudia Gray's (yet), I am slightly familiar with her work, having read her werewolves-on-the-Titanic stand-alone, Fateful, which was very good. I've never read her wildly popular Evernight series, but I have to say that after reading Spellcaster and Fateful, I'm inclined to pick it up (if I ever get caught up on my review reading). That statement alone should tell you that I enjoyed Spellcaster; It did have a few problems for me, but overall, I thought it was a great read. So, without further ado...

I guess I will start with the things I didn't like, which are few. First off, I feel like HarperTeen let me down with that cover. I mean, it's okay and it's pretty, but I expect a lot more from them. The first thing I think of when I think of HarperTeen as a publishing house is that they consistently have the best, most eye-catching covers. I have more HarperTeen titles on my shelves for the covers alone, than any other publisher, and I've DEFINITELY read a huge number of their titles that I might not have otherwise read, because of the covers. (Yes. My name is Karis, and I am a cover whore.) The next thing on my list of "things that bothered me" was that I felt like the first third of the book was a bit on the predictable side. There were several things I saw coming a mile away. That said, after the first wildly unpredictable revelation, they really just kept coming, right up until the end. And that leads me to my final gripe, which is the ending. It's a doozie of a cliffhanger, and while I usually enjoy a well-done cliffhanger, I felt like this one was just cruel. I was left with so many unanswered questions, and really, no answers to speak of. So there are my "things I needed to bitch about". Now for the good stuff...

I really enjoyed Claudia's writing style. She writes in a kind of poetic way. I usually don't write down quotes, but I found myself doing just that while reading Spellcaster. My favorite? "Something else looked through the crow's stolen eyes and recorded it all. The crow flew on, unknowing, enslaved, and blind." That line made my skin crawl, and was definitely the one that hooked me. Also, Claudia doesn't dumb things down. She uses big words and in doing so, makes me feel like she believes her readers to be intelligent. That makes me happy. So much YA is written with content for teens and up, but at a 4th grade reading level. I love it when an author gives her readers some credit. They DO read books for FUN, for Heaven's sake. They must be smarter than average, right? I also loved the way this story flowed. For the most part, it moved at a pretty even pace that kept me turning pages well into the night. There were a few slow points, but in hindsight, they were necessary. The buildup really made the big moments stand out.

The characters and the story itself were the highlights of this book for me. The story was equally character driven and plot driven, so I'll start with the characters. I really liked Nadia and Mateo, and I loved Verlaine and Elizabeth. Nadia was interesting because she was so insecure, but so strong-willed at the same time. It was like she was in constant conflict with herself. As for Mateo, I found him a bit whiny at first. "Oh, the curse. Oh, I'm doomed to go crazy." Blah, blah. But it was like, once he found out that the curse was actually a real thing, he manned up, and then I liked him. Verlaine was headstrong and she made things happen, and I love characters like her. That girl had a tough life, but she never let her circumstances undermine her. Elizabeth was just... Well, read the book, and you'll see. The story? Well, it is a witch story, which is my favorite kind of Paranormal. That said, it was very unique (I don't think it is anything like Hex Hall or The Caster Chronicles, both of which I adored, by the way.). I was really intrigued by the idea of the Steadfast, and I thought it was brilliant that the ingredients for each spell were a series of personal memories. Witches could only gain strength as they lived life; That was cool. I also thought the rules of being a witch were interesting, and I am curious to see how they come into play in the next two books. I'm also quite intrigued with the mystery surrounding Nadia's mother, who is also a witch, and who unexpectedly left her family in the middle of Nadia's training. There was a lot of foreshadowing going on in reference to her, but no answers at the end. I predict she will play a huge role in the continuation of this story.

Overall, I thought this was a solid beginning to a trilogy that I am really going to enjoy right up to the end. I have a lot of unanswered questions right now, and although I find that somewhat bothersome, given my impatient nature, it guarantees that I will read book number two, Steadfast (March, 2014).

My Rating: 4 stars

Grade Level Recommendation: This book was pretty clean. There was some teen drinking, but other than that, it was pretty mild. There was very innocent romance, no sex (although it was alluded to at one point), and no language. I would say this book is fine for grades 6 and up (ages 11+).

Me, Him, Them, and It
Me, Him, Them, and It
by Caela Carter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.05
51 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreakingly Honest, March 8, 2013
This review is from: Me, Him, Them, and It (Hardcover)
If I'm going to read and like YA Contemporary, I'm inclined more toward the issue-based type than the romantic type. There are a lot of "issues" facing teens today, and I like it when they can read about them, and (hopefully) avoid making some of the same mistakes that the characters in the books make. I'm a sucker for teachable moments, and books like this are full of them. That being said, I went into Me, Him, Them, and It looking for a dramatic story about teen pregnancy, but I wanted it to have a subtle message too. Did I get it? Yes and no. It wasn't a super dramatic story because the protagonist, Evelyn, was not a dramatic person. She acted out a lot, hoping to get some kind of rise out of her self-absorbed, disconnected parents, but she was more passive-aggressive about it than she was dramatic... This story actually takes place more inside of Evelyn's head than out, and it was extremely compelling, even without the drama. As for the lesson? Well, it was subtle, and not at all preachy to any side of the debate on whether Evelyn should keep the baby, put it up for adoption, or abort. The decision was entirely hers, and it took the entire 320 page book for her to work it out. I liked that. It made sense that it wasn't an easy decision for her, and the emotional rollercoaster ride she was on was written in a very real, very sincere way. I think everyone has their own opinion when it comes to the pro-choice/pro-life debate, and I thought Caela Carter did a really good job keeping her personal opinion out of the story. What I mean when I say this is that I would not be able to guess her stance from reading this book, and I know I would have a difficult time doing that.

Evelyn is a smart, pretty, upper middle class girl who wants to make her parents pay for the ways that she feels they have wronged her. How does she do this? She parties, quits track, and starts acting slutty (although Todd is the only one she actually sleeps with). When Todd ends up getting her pregnant, she really doesn't know where to turn or what to do. She talks to a counselor at Planned Parenthood, and is given her options, but Evelyn doesn't want to deal with any of it. She doesn't want to tell her best friend, her parents, or Todd. She goes through a range of emotions; Denial, anger, indifference, sadness, guilt. She is unsure what to do or where to turn, and there is only one thing she knows for certain... She just wants it all to be over so that she can go back to living her life the way she was, graduate valedictorian of her class, and go to college. At the same time, she knows that no matter what her choice, she will be forever changed, and THAT is her biggest struggle. Aside from the internal struggles about what to do with "It", I also liked how Evelyn observed the changes she was going through physically. As a parent who wanted her children, I found it interesting to read the account of a girl who had this foreign, unwanted "thing" growing inside her.

Honestly, this book was better than I expected it to be, and I think that has a lot to do with how Caela Carter presented the situation. I have to wonder if she related on a personal level, because the way the situation was written was so heartbreakingly real. I think this book would be a great class discussion book for high school students because boys and girls alike would get something from it. Todd and Evelyn were both changed forever by the situation they found themselves in, and would have been no matter what Evelyn's choice was. For me, the only part that didn't work was the ending. It was just a little too clean and easy. I suppose things could have worked out the way they did, but in the real world, I find it doubtful. Even so, I think Me, Him, Them, and It was a great read, and one that I would recommend to anyone.

My Rating: 4 stars

Grade Level Recommendation: Obviously, there is some mature content in this book, but I think the benefits of reading it far outweigh any content concerns. It think this is a great book for students grades 7 and up to read (ages 12+); Even better if they can discuss what they've read with an adult.

Notes from Ghost Town
Notes from Ghost Town
by Kate Ellison
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.99
35 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Ghost Story/Romance/Murder-Mystery!, March 5, 2013
This review is from: Notes from Ghost Town (Hardcover)
Okay, I'm not going to lie and say that I loved Kate Ellison's debut, The Butterfly Clues, because I didn't. Honestly, I'm not sure I even finished it; Goodreads says that I didn't... I'm certain I started it, and found myself underwhelmed, but that was over a year ago, AND I know it got starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal, plus it has an almost 4-star average rating on Goodreads, so I know other people liked it, so I may go back and give it another go. Why? Because Kate's second novel, Notes From Ghost Town, was UH-MAY-ZING! I really, really loved it. A lot. I just did a giveaway of both books, and the winner of that giveaway is one lucky girl!

So... Why did I love this book so much? Well, for starters, it was a ghost story. I really like ghost stories, and I like romantic ghost stories in particular. This one was better than most, though. You see, this one felt more real to me because even though the ghost boy and the living girl loved each other, there was no continuing the romance from the other side because, are you ready for this? HE. IS. DEAD. And you can't carry on a relationship with someone who is dead. As much as I loved book series' like Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake and Hereafter by Tara Hudson, this one felt more real than fantasy... I also liked that there was the whole schizo, psychotic break thing to add to the drama. Is Olivia really seeing Stern, or is she just as bats*** crazy as Mom? I mean, she did also go colorblind when she kissed him right before he was murdered... Because I had to work all of this out, I felt compelled to keep reading this book, and it did not disappoint...

Another reason this book was so awesome had to do with the characters, of which there were many. That said, I'm only going to mention a few. I already mentioned Olivia, the protagonist, a very real picture of a teen girl who is dealing with WAY too much for a girl her age- bats*** crazy mom, trying to hide the fact that she might be right there with her, the fact that her mom is going on trial for the murder of her BFF/love-of-her-life, the upcoming nuptials of her dad to someone he met in "My Significant Other is Crazy Support Group", and more. The poor girl. No wonder she's such a mess... There is also Raina, the third in her and Stern's BFF trio, and her only real remaining friend. Raina is a mixed bag of good friend and self absorbed, but much of that has to do with how well Olivia is hiding her possible-crazy. Stern is complicated, mostly because he is a ghost who can't remember details, but who knows he loves Olivia, and also that her mom didn't kill him, but not how to clear her. There's Wynn, the stepmom's little girl, who Olivia adores, and who, more than once, helps Olivia hold it together just by existing. Finally, there's Austin Morse. He is the son of Olivia's dad's boss, way over-privileged, super-hot, and suddenly, inexplicably into Olivia. I loved how well drawn the characters were, but also, how their details were fed to us over the course of the book; Woven into the plot seamlessly.

Finally, I loved the story and the manner in which it was told. Kate Ellison knows how to write a Murder-Mystery! This book would make an excellent movie, because it was thrilling, and the pacing was phenomenal. I loved that the romantic element was there, but not the entire plot. There were familial issues, mental health issues, social issues, and legal issues as well. Everything was rolled up into this story that could have gone so wrong, had just one little thing been off. Fortunately, that was not the case at all. I don't often cry during books, but I must say that the final pages of this book slayed me (and before you rush to back of the book to read them, understand that it was because of the content of the ENTIRE book leading up to them). I actually cried when I read them. I loved the way this book ended, and I am always happy when an author writes a stand-alone that is THIS good.

Overall, I have to say that Notes From Ghost Town has been one of my favorites this year, which is something I never expected considering my experience (or maybe, non-experience) with The Butterfly Clues. Because of this, I think I will go back and give that book another go!

My Rating: 5 stars

Grade Level Recommendation: There's some teen drinking, and Olivia makes some poor choices that are more implied in this book, than outright stated, but I would still say this is a book for upper middle school aged students and over. Grades 7 and up (ages 12+).

Breaking Point (Article 5)
Breaking Point (Article 5)
by Kristen Simmons
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.56
80 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A Plausible, Yet Disturbing Dystopia. Very Well Done!, February 23, 2013
I waited until right before this book released to read its predecessor, Article 5, and I'm glad I did. Article 5 ended with a serious cliffhanger, and it was awesome to be able to go right into the sequel without having to wait. That said, where has this series been all my life? Frankly, I'm a little over the whole dystopian thing, just as I was over the vampire and werewolf thing in the wake of Twilight. That said, I've really loved the genre since reading 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 a gazillion years ago, and am more apt to give these books a chance than I was the paranormal stuff; I just do so with a wary eye. Well, I went into this series with a good number of reviews in the back of my mind- some great, some scathing, and a bunch in between- and no firm expectations... I ended up really liking Article 5, and although there were a few flaws, I felt like it was a solid start to what I expected to be a really good series. I gave it four stars. Needless to say, that after reading Article 5, my expectations going into Breaking Point were a little higher. I'm happy to say that Kristen Simmons totally delivered!

First off, I enjoyed Ember a lot more in this book. In Article 5 she had her desire to reach her mother driving her actions, helping her to do a lot of the more kick-ass things she did. In Breaking Point that motivation wasn't there, but she continued to be kick-ass. She became strong and independent, with a mind of her own, and she wasn't about to let anyone tell her what to do if it was in compromise with what she thought was right. Not Chase, not Wallace, not the government. And speaking of Chase (*swoons a little*), I'm glad Ember still managed to have a mind of her own when he was around. I'm not sure I would have been that disciplined...

Further on the Chase subject, because his character was, honestly, one of the main things that kept me from giving Breaking Point five stars... I think Chase is great in some ways, don't get me wrong. He is certainly super-hot, and he has his sweet, protective side that makes me go, "Awwww", but he also got on my nerves. A LOT. You see, I really wasn't into his, "Don't touch me, Ember. I'm damaged and I don't want you to get hurt," broody nonsense. Yes. We get it, Chase. You've been through a lot, but guess what? So. Has. Everyone. Else. Get over it, and man up... I actually still really liked Chase for the most part, but I did find him annoying from time to time. Then there was Tucker. Still not sure about him, but I would like to think the changes are legit. I'm hoping that we get a whole lot of Tucker in book number three, because good-guy or bad-guy, he's become one of my favorite characters. Another favorite for me was Sean. I would have never predicted, while reading Article 5, that this would be the case, but he kind of grew on me, without my realizing it, and that is the best...

"Now, what about the plot and pacing and all that stuff?", you ask. Well, you know I can't give spoilers, but I can tell you this. Breaking Point kicked some serious ass in that regard. There was a ton of action, and the story went in a direction that was entirely different from where I thought it would when I finished Article 5. There were a lot of surprises, the biggest of which was that Kristen Simmons is not at all afraid to kill off important characters. I love it when authors kill important people for a couple of reasons, but the most important one is that by doing so, they keep me on my toes. As far as twists go, the only thing I saw coming was who the dishonorably discharged soldier Sean was talking about in the first chapter was. (I only give you even this tiny spoiler, because it was so obvious.) Otherwise, I was taken off guard at several turns throughout the book.

In the end, I think the thing I liked best was the imagining of what this society was like, and what it would be like to be a part of a fringe rebel group. I thought it was an accurate, and rather disturbing one. Of all the dystopian fiction I've read, I felt like this series had the most plausible scenario. No natural disaster or plague caused the crazies to gain control. The horrors of war helped a religious zealot get control of our country and over time, he basically dismantled the structure of our system of checks and balances through fearmongering, and under the guise of morality. The people bought it because he was such a principled, moral guy and they craved structure after so much destruction. I have no doubt that something like this could happen in our future. Let's hope Kristen's writing isn't as prophetic as it is compulsively readable!

I felt like Breaking Point well outdid Article 5. I liked the character development more (although there were a few, who are now dead, who I would have liked to know more about), and as I stated before, I liked that the scenario was so rational. It was action-packed, with lots of death, so I felt like it would have just as much appeal to boys as it would to girls (and we all know books like that are few and far between in YA). There was an underlying romance, which I liked, but it was never overpowering because the characters involved were exceptionally strong individuals, and able to function solo. There were no love triangles either!

Overall, I am super happy that I finally started reading this series. I am eagerly awaiting the third and final book in this series (that as of now, has no title or release date). I can't really imagine where the story will go from here, but I am positive of one thing... It is going to be one hell of a ride!

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Grade Level Recommendation: There are a few makeout scenes, but nothing graphic. As far as sexual content is concerned, this book is pretty clean. There is a good bit of violence, some of it graphic in nature, but not overly so. I would say both Article 5 and Breaking Point are appropriate for grades 6 and up (ages 11 and up).

The Madman's Daughter
The Madman's Daughter
by Megan Shepherd
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $11.99
74 used & new from $0.54

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Gothic Novel" Defined! Brilliant!, February 20, 2013
This review is from: The Madman's Daughter (Hardcover)
If you looked up the definition of "Gothic Novel", you might find a picture of The Madman's Daughter, but while this book may be just that, it is so much more... I will admit that when I decided I was interested in reading this book for review, I had no idea what it was about, or even which genre it fell into. I liked the cover. And I liked the little blurb on the cover, "In the darkest places, even love is deadly." Between those two things I was pretty much sold. It didn't matter that I'm not really into Gothic Thrillers or Historical Fiction. It didn't really matter to me that it was inspired by The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells, a book I never really liked much. I gave The Madman's Daughter a chance because I liked the cover. That is something HarperCollins does so well; They lure me in with their gorgeous covers, making me want to read books I normally wouldn't pick up, and you know what? I've yet to be disappointed, and this book is no exception. The Madman's Daughter was phenomenal! I could not put it down, and now I am chomping at the bit for the as-of-now unnamed, second book in the trilogy, which will be based upon The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (which I did quite enjoy). So... What did I like so much about The Madman"s Daughter? Let's see...

First off, the characters were great! I really liked Juliet. She was strong and independent, and she had a lot of spunk for a girl living in the era that she did. As for the love interests, I adored everything about Montgomery. It seemed like Megan wanted us to have mixed feelings about him, but I never did. As for Edward, I just always knew there was something off about him, but I never expected him to be the man he turned out to be. Juliet's father, Dr. Moreau was brilliantly written as well. His descent into madness (well, further descent, as it becomes clear that he has always been a bit mad) was an awesome ride. I would have to say that the "natives" of the island were the most interesting characters though. They were so key in the unfolding of the mystery and the pace of the story, that collectively, they were a single character, in addition to their own individual stories. Which brings me to the next reason I loved this book! The story- it was creepy as hell. The world building is so good, that even the parts in London had me feeling like there was something lurking in every shadow, but London was nothing compared to the island. Then there was the fact that Megan Shepherd is really a master at writing suspense. I spent much of the time reading this book with knots in my stomach, ready to jump at the turn of the page. All that aside though, it was the story that made this book. It starts out by painting a picture of what Juliet's life has been like since her father had been run off with accusations that he performed a number of unnamed medical atrocities. First she lived with her mother, who out of necessity, became the mistress of a wealthy man- basically a high-class prostitute. When Juliet's mother died, she was turned out onto the streets to fend for herself, as her extended family wanted nothing to do with the daughter of a madman. She got a job cleaning at the university and a room at a boarding house, but things were far from easy for her. While spending the evening out with some students at the university, she inadvertently comes across one of her father's drawings, and this sparks the hope in her that he is still alive. She traces the drawing back to a pub where she finds not her father, but the now grown house boy from her childhood, Montgomery, who is in town getting supplies to take back to the island inhabited by her long-lost father. After a situation occurs that puts Juliet on the run, Montgomery is forced to take her along with him, to the island in the Pacific, where her father is staying. Well, the island is full of surprises and oddities, with the natives being the only a small fraction of it. The story unfolds with surprising fluidity given the fact that this is Megan's debut, and I found that even the unbelievable ended up appearing completely plausible. There was action, romance, mystery, and intrigue, and I could not stop turning the pages. In the end, I was left, mouth agape, wondering what had just happened. Then I experienced a bit of denial, looking for more pages that HAD to be there. Then I was just heartbroken... I do hope for resolution in book number two, but something tells me it will take a totally different direction than I expect it to, and that I will be singing its praises because of it...

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Grade Level Recommendation: I think this book is fine for middle school and up, although I think older readers will appreciate it more. For this reason, I say it's best suited for grades 8 and up (ages 13+).

Uses for Boys
Uses for Boys
by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.03
78 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling, Thought-provoking Debut for Fans of Ellen Hopkins, February 19, 2013
This review is from: Uses for Boys (Paperback)
Uses For Boys came as a total shock for me. I've mentioned before that YA Contemporary is not my favorite genre, and although the genre seems to top my annual "Best of" list every year, and although there are several authors of the genre who I call favorites, I dislike far more YA Contemporaries than I like. It has to be something special for me to love it. When this book arrived in my mailbox unexpectedly, I thought, "Oh! Pretty cover!", but I wasn't sure I would read it. Then I saw it was blurbed by the fantastic Ellen Hopkins, who happens to be one of my favorites in any genre, and I was sold.

Here's the deal. Uses For Boys is ugly. It's raw, gritty, real, and heartbreaking. The protagonist, Anna, is one that just tears you up. She is disconnected and naive. She is so lonely and desperate for love and attention, and she relies heavily on the only guidance she has ever received... The poor example of her self-absorbed, bed-hopping, several times married mother. Her reality is stark, cold, and unforgiving, and although she experiences a small bit of light and hope through her sometimes friendship with Toy, and fledgling relationship with Sam, as the reader, I was left wondering if it would ever be enough. When I picked this book up, my expectations were based on the cover, and the cover told to me expect a YA Romance. Well, nothing could have been more misleading. This book is a coming-of-age story about a girl who is coming of age under the harshest of circumstances. Anna's voice was tragic and and crushingly despondent. I had so many feelings while reading this book, and I have to say, that the good ones were few and far between. I can't say that I enjoyed this book, because much of it was difficult to read, from a subject-matter standpoint, but I found it compelling nonetheless. I thought it was extremely well written in a beautifully simple way that is not often found, especially in YA.

My Rating: 4 stars

Grade Level Recommendation: This book is for high school students and up. There are harsh circumstances, many instances of drug and alcohol abuse, abortion, and many sexual encounters, including sexual assault. I would say this book is best suited for ages 15 and up (grades 10 and up).

by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Edition: Hardcover
36 used & new from $0.14

4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing!, February 7, 2013
This review is from: Nobody (Hardcover)
When I got the review request for Nobody, I was really excited. I had only ever read one of Jennifer Lynn Barnes's books, Every Other Day, and I LOVED it. I was super-excited when I received it in the mail, and then I went to Goodreads to mark it as a "Currently Reading" book, and stopped dead in my tracks... There were some downright awful reviews on this book, and many were from bloggers I know and respect. That left me torn. Do I read it because I've already committed to it, even though I really don't want to now? Do I just skip it, and read something else? What to do? Clocking in at 400 pages, it was a book I was really reluctant to bother with if I was going to hate it... Well, the conscientious side of me won out- I accepted the review request, and I was going to keep my word, and at the very least, read it... Well, I'm glad I did, because I really liked Nobody (I also affirmed my policy to not post reviews of 2-star and lower books on my blog for fear of turning off someone who might have loved the book I hated). I didn't love it quite as much as I did Every Other Day, but I thought it was a great, entertaining story that was well worth the time spent, even at 400 pages.

I found the premise of Nobody quite intriguing. Basically, Nobodies are people that go through life without the world around them noticing that they are even there. They aren't physically invisible, but they might as well be. They can even commit murder in a crowd of people without anyone even processing that they were present. No witnesses, which makes them perfect assassins... Nix is a Nobody and has been trained his entire life to be just that. He is unparalleled at what he does, until he is sent to take out Claire. Claire is also a Nobody, although she has gone through life without knowing this. All she knows is that people, even her parents, don't seem to notice her. Then one day she gets this feeling that someone is watching her- a feeling utterly foreign to her- and she sees her would-be assassin, and he sees her. They REALLY SEE each other, and that doesn't happen to either, EVER. Because Nix is so thrown by this realization, he botches the attempt, and the story moves forward from there... We learn there are other types of people besides Nobodies; There are Nulls, who are their opposite- larger than life, charismatic, and can bend anyone to their will without any effort at all. Then there are the Sensors, who are the only ones who can see Nobodies and Nulls for who what they are. The Institute has a long history of using Sensors to keep the normal people, the general public, blind to such abnormalities. The Institute, however, is rife with corruption and secrets, and as things unfold in this book, it becomes a very compulsive read, and I found it nearly impossible to put down for a variety of reasons. The plot moved quickly and made sense of what could have come across as nonsensical if it hadn't been so expertly executed. Claire and Nix were great characters, and both grew on me tremendously as the story progressed. Some reviewers complained about their inability to connect with either of them, but I think that was part of the appeal for me. It's hard to connect with a person who has never really experienced any kind of human connection. That person is going to seem somewhat flat to people who have had the joy of human bonding and the myriad of emotions that go along with it. I found myself really absorbed in the growth both characters showed through experiencing a bond with another human for the first time. I enjoyed seeing things through their eyes, feeling how they felt going through life alone and unnoticed, and then finding one another, and for the first time feeling seen, and more importantly, feeling connected. Normally, I detest insta-love or attraction, but in this case it is more than reasonable. This book isn't all romance though. Not even close. It is action, conspiracy, mystery, and a full on story of survival. Anyone who enjoys a fast-paced sci-fi adventure, that really makes you wonder if things aren't always as they seem, will enjoy Nobody. I honestly can't, for the life of me, figure out why the negative reviews...

My Rating: 4 stars

Grade Level Recommendation: This book was graphically violent at times, and there was some sex, although not graphic in nature, by any stretch. I would say this book is best suited for grades 7 and up (ages 12+), although as a more liberal parent, I would gladly allow my 6th grader to read it.

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