Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Long Long Sleep: Still haunts me 6 months later...

A Long Long Sleep
By Anna Sheehan
Hardcover, 342 pages
Candlewick Press, August 2011

It should have been a short suspended-animation sleep. But this time Rose wakes up to find her past is long gone-- and her future full of peril.

Rosalinda Fitzroy has been asleep for sixty-two years when she is woken by a kiss. Locked away in the chemically induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten subbasement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew. Now, her parents and her first love are long gone, and Rose-- hailed upon her awakening as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire-- is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat. Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her awake, hoping that he can help her to start fresh. But when a deadly danger jeopardizes her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes-- or be left without any future at all.

Pricky's Review
4 Stars on Goodreads (Read in January 2012)

I kept telling my co-conspirator reviewer (Robot) she should read this so I thought I should re-post my Goodreads review here for everyone who might also be interested:

I almost didn't make it to the end. Half-way through, I almost tossed it aside. Half-way through, I had to tell myself to just keep on going and finish. To tell you the truth, it lulled me to sleep a couple of times. 

It wasn't that the writing was dull, it was just a slow...long...trek to uncover the truth behind Rose's sleep. 

Found in a futuristic anti-aging tube in the basement of a wealthy condominium, Rose awakens after more than 60 years asleep. She finds herself suddenly thrust into the public eye as THE HEIR to a powerful interplanetary company. But as she tries to make sense of the present, there are still some unexplained memories in her past she must confront.

Rose is one of those characters that you have to look beyond the surface to see the complexities beneath. Initially, I found her to be quite plain and spineless. Sorry for the pun, but really, she's a fish out of water. Here she is 60 years later, a complete stranger in a new world, and not a single complaint or peep is heard. I wasn't sure where this story was going...because, like I said, I was just trudging along...

But by the end, everything made sense, and it took that long, slow climb to finally reveal WHO Rose truly is, was, and will become.

It's a story of a broken soul who eventually finds herself. 

Unlike the fairy tale (Sleeping Beauty) and refreshingly so, the story does not have the typical "HAPPILY EVER AFTER ENDING," and the PRINCE doesn't sweep her away to happiness. But it does however give a deep and thought provoking look into the life of a scared little girl abused by her parents who still has the will to LIVE ON.

My only complaints to the story are:
1. I wanted a more "futuristic" quality to it: more unique technology and less forced slang.
2. Some scenes seemed unrealistic: when she gets her fingers badly burned, how is it that she's still able to draw?
3. And while the ending provided resolution, it was still sad. But that's not really a criticism but more of me just wanting a "happy ending.":)
4. The addition of the missing brother and sister seemed a out of place and unnecessary. 

But overall, after I closed the book, its story still haunted me into the next day...and even months later, so that's always a good thing. I think this book would make a good book club book as there's a lot to discuss, especially about what is considered "abuse." It is definitely sllllooooow going but if you can keep on it, I think it's a worthwhile/interesting read.

Rated to Read: Between a Maybe and a Yes

Shadow and Bone: A fantasy you don't want to miss!

Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy #1)
By Leigh Bardugo
Hardcover, 358 pages
Henry Holt, June 2012

Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, the one thing she could rely on was her best friend and fellow refugee, Mal. And lately not even that seems certain. Drafted into the army of their war-torn homeland, they’re sent on a dangerous mission into the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh.

When their convoy is attacked, all seems lost until Alina reveals a dormant power that not even she knew existed. Ripped from everything she knows, she is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. He believes she is the answer the people have been waiting for: the one person with the power to destroy the Fold.

Swept up in a world of luxury and illusion, envied as the Darkling’s favorite, Alina struggles to fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But as the threat to the kingdom mounts, Alina uncovers a secret that sets her on a collision course with the most powerful forces in the kingdom. Now only her past can save her . . . and only she can save the future.

Book 10 in the 2012 Debut Author Challengehosted by the Story Siren.

Pricky's Review
5 Glorious Stars on Goodreads

I'm breathless and without words. It's been so long since I've read high fantasy, I'd forgotten how MUCH I miss and love it!

From the first pages of the map, I was pulled into Ravka: A land marked by a dark stain filled with images of gnashing teeth surrounded by intricate designs. Her Russian inspired fantasy world was new and different from anything I'd ever read before.

The storytelling begins with a tale of an orphaned boy and girl who find refuge at the Duke's estate and then leads into Alina's perspective: from a nobody girl to a girl of power.

After reading so many debut books this year, I had almost given up on the possibility of one that would really shine...and I've finally found it in Shadow and Bone. Bardugo has crafted a tale with thought and care. The worldbuilding was done to perfection: the Russian inspired language and landscape transport you to this fantasy world. The details of clothing and scenery so carefully crafted that they seem almost close enough to touch.

Each of the characters are unique and filled with mystery. Alina: Funny and a bit stubborn and insecure. I loved her story and her struggle to understand her place as she gains social status and power. Mal: the cocky childhood friend whose loyalty never falters. The Darkling: the most powerful Grisha (magical elite) whose charisma may or may not be as it seems.

The plot twists and turns with a few dead ends you weren't sure how it could possibly turn out. My hands were glued to this book from the very beginning. Some of the distinctions of class were a little confusing at first, but by the end I understood it all. I CANNOT WAIT for the next installment. This is one story you don't want to miss!

Also, check out this podcast interview with Leigh Bardugo over at Authors are Rockstars!

So what are you waiting for?! This is a definite, absolutely, must-read-it-next book!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Harbinger: A Forerunner for Confusion

By Sara Wilson Etienne
Hardcover, 309 pages
GP Putnam's Sons, February 2012


Girl, Interrupted meets Beautiful Creatures in this fast-paced thriller

When sixteen-year-old Faye arrives at Holbrook Academy, she doesn't expect to find herself exactly where she needs to be. After years of strange waking visions and nightmares, her only comfort the bones of dead animals, Faye is afraid she's going crazy. Fast.

But her first night at Holbrook, she feels strangely connected to the school and the island it sits on, like she's come home. She's even made her first real friends, but odd things keep happening to them. Every morning they wake on the floors of their dorm rooms with their hands stained red.

Faye knows she's the reason, but what does it all mean? The handsome Kel tries to help her unravel the mystery, but Faye is certain she can't trust him; in fact, he may be trying to kill her - and the rest of the world too.

Rich, compelling writing will keep the pages turning in this riveting and tautly told psychological thriller.

Pricky's Review
2 Painful Stars on Goodreads

It's been awhile! Here is Book 9 in the
2012 Debut Author Challengehosted by the Story Siren.

I really really wanted to like this one: Mind Games, Visions, Sleepwalking, A Boarding School, A Mystery, A Dark and Handsome Mysterious Boy? All the perfect ingredients for a great story...

...that fell flat like a homemade souffle.

The main problem with Harbinger were too many lose ends. With thrillers, I am completely prepared for unanswered questions that compel me to turn the page, eager to find the answer. But with this one, when i finally got to the end, all the lose ends just became a jumbled mess.

*****I am sorry but this is going to contain major spoilers.*****
In the beginning, Faye gets dropped off (against her will) at Holbrook, which is basically a school for wayward kids. The world has been destroyed and people live in "cooperatives" (which is never really explained; plus, what happens in the story could've just taken place without that). Faye has visions of drowning which began when she was a child but her episodes are getting worse. Then at Holbrook, she begins to hear drums and mysterious things happen.

The Holbrook Director, Dr. Mordoch plays mind games with the group in order to ensure cooperation: solitary confinement, privileges taken away, etc...Plus, there are pepper-spraying, taser-loving caretakers. Faye meets a host of characters who bond together  like "Survivor Island" against Dr. Mordoch. There's even a ghost. The friends find themselves supposedly sleepwalking and in the morning, their hands are red and there are drawings on the floor.

So of course, I have to know what happens...and in the end, the only things I can gather are:
1) A long time ago, there were a group of people who had power over the earth and had a special meteorite seer stone. (Yes, a meteorite, and I have no idea where they got their power from.)
2) They saw that the earth was going to go to waste in the future so the members transferred their spirit to some relics that were buried. (So they could save the world in the future.)
3) When Faye touched the ocean when she was a child, one of the spirits transferred into her body causing her the visions. (I have no idea how the spirit attached itself to the ocean and what happened to the original Faye.)
4) Dr. Mordoch was being haunted by one of the original tribal spirits. Rita (the ghost/tribal spirit) leaves clues for Faye in the form of a prophecy on Tarot cards.
5) Faye begins to realize her visions as images of the past.
6) Faye, who originally wanted to 'save' the world, now wants to destroy/cleanse it.
7) Her group of friends had been sleepwalking and digging for the relics and become possessed with the spirits of the past and now have powers. They try to prevent Faye from destroying the earth. She ends up changing her mind because of Kel (eye roll).
8) Everyone sings (SINGS!!!) and the pollution from the sea and sky begin to dissipate.

But wait, I never learned more about the "bones" that Faye finds comfort in or why there were creepy Dr.-Who-Like-Weeping-Angel statues at the Academy or how the friends sleepwalked in the first place.

And although the cover says "psychological thriller," I never felt it as psychological as it was more weird fantasy. And my idea of a psychological thriller does not include spiritual possession. It does remind me a little like a Dr. Who episode (surprise, surprise. since Etienne is a fan) but where Steve Moffat's creepy paranormal scenarios are wrapped up nicely, Etienne leaves you with a disjointed and confusing story. I do have to say some of  Faye's lines are a bit humorous but the entire premise was so poorly formed and left me quite angry at the end.

I'm sad to say: Please skip this one.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

How to Save a Life: My new favorite author!

How to Save a Life
By Sara Zarr
Hardcover, 341 pages
Little Brown Books for Young Readers, October 2011

Jill MacSweeney just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she’s been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends—everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she’s somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one.

Mandy Kalinowski understands what it’s like to grow up unwanted—to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she’s sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It’s harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?

As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy—or as difficult—as it seems.

Pricky's Review
5 Sparkly Stars on Goodreads

Let me just start off by saying, I'm not typically a fan of contemporary fiction, let alone chick-lits. I've tried and died so many times that I'd just about given up on the entire genre. (Believe me. I've tried all the "popular" ones.) But then my favorite author Bree Despain gushed about Sara Zarr and then, someone else did and again someone else ...so of course, curiosity got the better of me.

And quite honestly, I only set out to read the first few chapters...

And even after several pages in, I still couldn't figure out how Zarr had lured me in: a teen mom story (which is not exactly my idea of a 'fun' read) involving a small town gal and another who has an "I-hate-the-world" attitude stamped on her forehead with a boyfriend exhibiting a lip ring and eyeliner? Definitely NOT your cast of typical characters.

But Zarr has this amazing ability to pull you into their stories. You're no longer reading it, you're actually hearing their voices. It's as if you're sitting across the table listening to Jill and Mandy's side of the story. All the stereotypes and all the things you thought you knew about the characters begin to crumble as you really look at them for who they are.

Even though it's a story about teen pregnancy, it's a message for all of us, because in life, aren't there times we each wish for a "do-over?"

I highly recommend this gem! While it's a bit predictable (which I guess isn't really a bad thing when what you hope for actually happens--right?), it will carry you through a journey of hope and inspiration that will leave you feeling that you too, are worth it.

How to Save a Life is available at Amazon.com and other booksellers.

****Updated 7/22/2012. The content of the book contains some mature themes (sex, teen pregnancy, adoption, death) along with challenging relationship dynamics. There are several instances of swearing.******

Friday, July 13, 2012

Supernaturally: Something's a little off...

Supernaturally (Paranormalcy #2)
By Kiersten White
Hardcover, 336 pages
HarperTeen, July 2011

Evie finally has the normal life she’s always longed for. But she’s shocked to discover that being ordinary can be...kind of boring. Just when Evie starts to long for her days at the International Paranormal Containment Agency, she’s given a chance to work for them again. Desperate for a break from all the normalcy, she agrees.

But as one disastrous mission leads to another, Evie starts to wonder if she made the right choice. And when Evie’s faerie ex-boyfriend Reth appears with devastating revelations about her past, she discovers that there’s a battle brewing between the faerie courts that could throw the whole supernatural world into chaos. The prize in question? Evie herself. So much for normal.

Pricky's Review
3.5 Stars on Goodreads

If you haven't discovered Kiersten White's blog yet, you really should. It's the reason I picked up her book in the first place.

Supernaturally is the second in the Paranormalcy Trilogy. And having read Paranormalcy almost 2 years ago, my brain had a bit of amnesia. (I really should write up a summary note to my trilogies. Well, either that or just wait until all 3 are out.)

Which will happen in just 11 more days for this one! So if you have memory lapses like I do, now would be the perfect time to start this series (if you haven't already). The last book, Endlessly, arrives on July 24!

Now, back to the review: Supernaturally is fast-paced, funny, light entertainment. Evie's personality, sarcasm, and witty humor are the definite highlights of this series. And as with most trilogies, the "middle book" is always the toughest one for the main character, typically filled with some internal conflict or the like. In this one, Evie struggles with her decision to leave IPCA and take a chance at trying to live a so-called "normal life," all the while being attacked by various paranormals. Something's definitely up as Evie finds herself in life or death situations.

For me, Evie was a little harder to like in this one...maybe because of all her "internal conflicts" and communication problems she was having with Lend. And with my "adult glasses" on, I was getting frustrated with her and could see all the little problems that were happening because of her omissions. I also thought her relationship with her h.s. human friend could have been developed more--all of a sudden, Carlee and Evie are "friends" although I never really experienced or felt much of their friendship. And her relationship with Jack seemed a little awkward--like, why did she let him push her around so much? I think I expected a stronger, smarter girl. And for someone who was supposedly one of the top IPCA Agents, Evie doesn't seem to have a lot of "skills" or "energy level" in this one...(would an IPCA Agent not have the strength to run a lap? or remember to bring Tasey with her everywhere-just in case? I just didn't get it.) It seemed like Evie lost some of her "fight" in this one. Plus, I missed seeing more of Lend and Evie together.

But it's a cute story, and I will definitely be reading the next one; like I said, it's light reading and I enjoy kiersten's writing...even if I did feel like something was missing in this one.

Would I recommend it? Yes! Perfect for that day when you don't want to think about anything serious and just want something FUN.

And for a limited time, Paranormalcy is available on your kindle for only $2.99So if you haven't started the series, now is a great time to try it out!

Posted by Pricky

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Meeting the fabulous Veronica Roth

SJ Kincaid (Insignia), Veronica Roth (Insurgent), Dan Wells (Partials), Aprilynne Pike (Destined)
The Dark Days of Summer Tour strolled by and with Veronica Roth on the panel, how could I not find a babysitter, sit in stop-and-go traffic the. entire. time, almost rear-end the car in front of me, and go?

Of course, after the rear-ending almost-accident, I finally arrived...15 minutes late! Ahhh! The horror. So I walked very swiftly to the back of the audience, only to be reminded by the Barnes & Noble employee every 5 minutes that I'm standing in the "Fire Zone." No I'm not. I'm just looking at this Ricki Lake Biography that just happens to be at the back of the group.

So until I was literally shooed away, these are the itty-bitty bits I noted:

Inspiration: Roth's inspiration for Divergent came during a Psych 101 class when they were talking about exposure therapy.

Characters and their names: Wells uses a lot of people he knows in real life in his stories; in every story there is a Nick and a Steve. One lives and one dies in every book. Roth pronounces "Tobias" as Toe-bye-us vs how I've been saying it: Toe-bee-us. Beatrice came from finding the stuffiest name and being able to shorten it to the coolest name (Tris).

Harry Potter: Wells talked about how in Harry Potter, Hermione figures everything out but Harry gets all the glory. Roth is a huge fan of Harry Potter and will even be attending the Ascendio Conference in FL.

Advice for aspiring writers: Wells produces a podcast called Writing Excuses for aspiring writers. He says to allow yourself to write a bad book. Change your goal in writing: write because you love it, not necessarily because you want to publish. (That was probably the best advice I've heard in a long time...do you write because you need/want to publish or do you write because you love it?)

Also, I wish I got a chance to read Insignia...it sounded really good.

And that's what I gathered before I got herded to THE VERY END of the line. It was very clear that most of the people came for Insurgent. For the next 2 hours, I got to talk to a group of teens and a Dan Wells fan and another woman who went to school with Wells. This is probably my favorite part of book signings: getting to TALK to other people about the books we love, plus gossip about all the Mortal Instruments drama..Plus, I learned a new slang word (ship)...and yes, I DID have to look that up when I got home; I felt really really old.

But finally, I got to meet Veronica!

And as to be expected, whenever I get nervous, I start to embarrass myself with mundane pleasantries. "Hi, I loved your book (duh) and blogged about it (here and here); and uh, do you want my bookmark?" Really? That's the best I had? Why can't I ever think to say something so much cooler...it's not like I didn't have time to think about it...What would you have said?