Book Review: Beautiful Dead: Jonas


Book Review: Beautiful Dead: JonasBeautiful Dead: Jonas by Eden Maguire
Series: Beautiful Dead #1
Release Date: March 2010
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc.
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher

Darina has just entered the world of the Beautiful Dead. A world that contains four of her classmates...her dead classmates, including her boyfriend Phoenix. This world is supposed to be secret from those of the living, but Darina makes a deal in order to be the exception. She must help solve the mysteries that surround each of her classmates' deaths.

Jonas was the first to die and the first to need her help. Darina must discover the real reason that Jonas crashed his motorcycle, causing his death and crippling his girlfriend. He was an experienced and cautious rider, could Jonas have really been driving too fast and risking himself and his love? Or was there something more that happened on that tragic day? And more importantly, will Darina be able to discover the truth and finally allow Jonas to pass on in peace?

The Short of It: This is one of those liked, but didn’t love. And honestly, it’s really hard for me to say why. There was a lot of potential, but it kind of fell short. I felt like the world could have been fleshed out a bit more, but it was still a decent read overall.

Plot: I will warn you, that you are instantly thrown into the plot. There is no introduction, no hello this is where you are…you’re just there. I know many have not liked this, but I didn’t mind it too much. Although, I was a little confused as first and had to go back and reread a few pages to understand what was going on.  And I really do wish things had been fleshed out a bit more, but I’m hoping the future books will help with that issue. Other than that, I thought the plot was an original concept; I would have never thought of making zombies beautiful, intelligent, and almost like they had been before they died. The mystery behind the deaths is interesting, although, Jonas’ death was a little predictable. Then again, I’m not sure it was supposed to be hard to guess as Darina was calling it long before the end of the book. This book is truly just one slice of the pie and am I interested to see where Maguire plans to take it.

Characters: I’m sort of indifferent when it comes to the characters. I didn’t feel like I got to know them well enough to care what did or did not happen to them, especially Jonas. I mean, I didn’t want him to disappear without having his mystery solved, but I also wouldn’t have cried any tears if he had. And he seemed like a nice, loving boy, but I never felt like I knew him. To me, he was some casual person I knew in passing and nothing more, which made me a little sad since it was his book.

Honestly, I think the book focused a little too much on Darina and Phoenix – like it was really more their book and Jonas was just in the background. Still, I’m not sure I really know them. Darina is close, but I’m still not sure what really makes her tick. I want to know if there is a reason, beyond Phoenix, that she’s willing to help them out. I just wanted more about her and her life in general. Right now, she feels more like someone who is just there to fill a role – not a true character, but I have hope that that will change as the books progress.

Romance: This one is really hard to talk about. After all, by the time we meet Phoenix he’s already dead. It is obvious that they care a great deal about each other, but their time together is very limited. What we learn about their relationship is mainly through Darina’s reflections on the past, which I’m not sure if it can be taken as accurate or a girl in love shading the truth. Although, you can tell that Phoenix is protective of her and wants her to be happy. I only worried that in his new zombie-state the emotions he sends are not real. There have been several hints at that, but it’s impossible to say for sure.

Before I move on I do want to mention Jonas and Zoey’s relationship. What tiny bit we saw of it was truly sweet, but tragic. He truly did love her, even if she did doubt it a little after the accident. Although, I think deep down she knew he did. It was a relationship that seemed to be blooming and was kind of sad that it ended before it really began. I am glad that she was able to find closure though.

Writing: I didn’t think the writing was bad. Some of the descriptions and dialogue felt silted, but nothing that made me shout and scream in frustration. I know I had a couple of eh moments, but nothing that had me ranting.

Librarian-Mode: This is a hard one for me. It’s unlike any zombie book I’ve ever read, so I’m not sure the normal zombie-lovers would like it. There’s no gore or brain eating here. I don’t really think this book can sit neatly in a niche, but I would try recommending it to other paranormal lovers.

You can see other reviews by tour participants at the Teen Fire Ning

Book Review: Lockdown


Book Review: LockdownLockdown by Walter Dean Myers
Release Date: 2010
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher

Reese has had to learn the hard way that one stupid act can land you where you never wanted to be. Now serving time at Progress Juvenile Facility, he is doing his best to keep himself out of trouble and get back home. And his good behavior hasn't gone completely unnoticed; he has been chosen for a new work-release program at Evergreen, an assisted living center for seniors. Matched with Mr. Hooft, Reese struggles to gain the man's respect and to prove he's not some hoodlum from the streets. The lessons he learns from Mr. Hooft are invaluable, but will they be enough to keep him on the straight and narrow road; especially if keeping out of trouble means turning his back on a friend in need? Can Reese turn his life around or will he be bound to spend the rest of his life in and out of prison?

The Short of It: I really did enjoy this one. I must confess I’ve only read one other Walter Dean Myers book, which was Monster. While they have the same sort of feel, Lockdown was more straightforward and easier to read. I liked how the little life lessons were mixed in without feeling overwhelming/beating the reader over the head with them.

Plot: This book is brutally honest. The only way Reese is going to get himself out of the dead-end lifestyle is if he works for it himself. Most of the adults in his life are not going to give any help. In fact, he would have been sent upstate long ago had he not been chosen for the juvenile facility’s work-release program. Pulling him out for his “bad behavior” would only make the warden and others involved look bad. And Reese already knows that those around him will only tug them back down to their level. No one wants to see another escape when they themselves are still trapped. This story is about Reese finding that motivation to keep him alive and going.  Nothing comes easy for Reese, but isn’t that so true to life? And while Reese may not get the easy way out of jail, I think the life lessons were worth the extra struggle. I have hope that Reese’s life back in the real world will be a good one and that he’ll accomplish all that he sets his mind to.

Characters: I have to admit, I kind of felt sorry for Reese. Yes, he did something kind of stupid, but I’m not sure the action warranted the punishment he got. Basically, he was a scapegoat for someone doing crap way worse than him. Not only that, but then all the punishment he got for defending a friend seemed unfair, too. He didn’t start the fights, he was just trying to protect a weaker kid. But I guess a fight is a fight in prison no matter how/why you were involved. However, I felt that underneath it all he really was a good kid. The bad decisions he kept making were to help out people he cared about.

Romance: None in this book. But the poor boy is in jail and is trying to set his life back on track, so romance really is the last thing on his mind!

Writing: Myers is quite skilled in weaving a story together. It takes a special skill to tie in the parallels and life lessons without feeling preachy and still make the read enjoyable. I really had no complaints in this department. The pacing and style were well done and I never felt bored. I also want to mention how smooth the actual storytelling was. I can remember in Monster having a couple moments of confusion because of the style/flashbacks, but there was none of that in Lockdown. If you have teens who kind of liked Monster, but were thrown off by the style, I would give them Lockdown. Chances are they’ll like the straight-forward storytelling much better.

Librarian-Mode: This is definitely more of a boy book, but I think that girls can enjoy it just as well. If they’re fans of Myers’ books, especially Monster, they’ll love this one as well. This type of book isn’t my normal reading, but it kind of fits in with those nitty gritty true life books, so it go over well for fans of Ellen Hopkins and Paul Volponi.

 

 

Book Review: The Real Real


Book Review: The Real RealThe Real Real by Emma McLaughlin, Nicola Kraus
Release Date: May 2009
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 310
Source: Publisher

Imagine that an MTV-like station wants to film a reality documentary in your high school. Would you prefer you be a star or just a face in the crowd? Jesse O'Rourke would love to fade into the background, but a $40,000 check for college tuition is hard to turn down. Now she finds herself living a life that is not her own; pretending to be rich and being best friends with girls she barely likes. The only bright spot is that her crush, Drew, has been chosen to be one of the cast members as well. This may finally be her chance to make him part of her life. However, the manipulations and scheming of the production team threaten to ruin that and much more. Will Jesse be able to regain control of her life or will it all go down in flames?

The Short of It: I have a confession, this book completely and utterly surprised me. I honestly didn’t think I would like it, but decided to give it a try for reader’s advisory sake. Don’t let the Gossip Girl-ish cover/description throw you off as it did me. This book is full of intelligent and realistic characters that are sure to win your heart.

Plot: I dare you to look at reality shows the same way after reading The Real Real. While I’ve never personally been in a reality show, the manipulation and “scripting” seems quite accurate. I love how Mclaughlin & Kraus show how an average, every day girl’s life can be turned upside down as she becomes a star in front of millions. How the life that the viewers see is nothing like the life she used to lead. How perfect dates could be cheeseburgers backstage while waiting to shoot the perfect-TV date. It makes you realize that the reality shows that most of us can get addicted to are nothing compared to the true reality we live everyday. No matter how many times you redo a scene it’ll never be as good as the real thing.

Characters: I simply adored Jesse. She really was your average, every day teen. Yes, she made mistakes. She let money get her into situations she never wanted to be in the first place. (But can you blame the girl? College money is hard to come by for most!) Yes, she even did some things she wouldn’t have never done without the help of alcohol and emotional distress. However, I feel like at the very core she never lost who she truly was. She dealt with the consequences to her actions the best she could, especially with millions now tracking your every move. I cheered as Jesse stood up for herself, but not sure I agree with the deal she struck. I only hope she learned her lesson from the first time around.

I also want to make a quick comment on the secondary characters. Mclaughlin & Kraus could have easily let the popular crowd be superficial, rich kids and let Jesse have all the spotlight. However, I’m very glad they didn’t. It was nice to have Jesse realize that these people who she thought had fairy-tale lives had problems of their own. From school & home pressure to parents who are hardly ever there/don’t care, the teens were painted in a way that anyone could relate to. There were even times where I felt amazed by their strength or pitied the situation they were in. Kudos to Mclaughlin & Kraus for going that extra step, making all the teens believable and relatable.

Romance: There is no easy romance for Jesse and Drew. Instead it is full of roadblocks, bumps, and lots of wrong turns. It would be easy to say the problems they faced were all due to the production team, but really a lot of it was due to them being human (especially teenage ones). However, when they work they really do work well. I found myself cheering them on and booing when something screwed up their blooming relationship. I would love to see where their relationship would lead. (sequel maybe?)

Writing: I can’t say that I had any real complaints here. And if I did, they were small enough that I’ve already forgotten them. Mclaughlin & Kraus do a good job at keeping the reader entertained and wanting to read more. I really liked how they decided the book into four sections: The Real, The Reels, The Real Reel, & The Real Real. It was a nice way to divide up Jesse’s life by what was happening.

Librarian-Mode: This is an easy one to throw into the chick-lit recommendations. Intelligent, sassy characters with lots of drama will reel in a variety of readers. The Real Real will easily appeal to those who like authors such as Dessen and Elkeles, but also has enough juiciness to pull in those who love Gossip Girls and The Clique as well.

 

And  guess what, I was given an extra copy to give to one of you!

So here are the rules, fill out the  Contest Form to be entered by Feb. 11th @ 11:59pm and must be in the US (International if you have someone to ship in US that’s fine,too).

You can earn extra entries for the following:

+1 for being/becoming a follower
+1 for blogging/putting on blog
+1 for posting on social network (Twitter – make sure to include @awaitinserenity, Goodread, etc)

Good Luck and don’t forget to fill out the Contest Form…no comment entries will be counted!

 

Book Review: Candle Man: The Society of the Unrelenting Vigilance


Book Review: Candle Man: The Society of the Unrelenting VigilanceThe Society of Unrelenting Vigilance by Glenn Dakin
Series: Candle Man #1
Release Date: Sept. 2009
Publisher: Egmont USA
Pages: 312
Source: Publisher

Theo's life has been ruled by the number three. Thanks to a mysterious "illness", he has found himself in the care of three people who rarely allow him beyond his three locked rooms. The only time he's let out of his rooms is on his birthday, which is usually only to walk around a graveyard. Yet, this last birthday, promises to change everything. His life is about to be shaken up like the snow in the odd snow globe left by an unknown person. Theo can sense that there's someone out there that knows more about him, but will they have the answers that will finally unlock the truth? Or will he just be trapped in a new sort of prison?

The Short of It: I’m still not sure what to think about Candle Man. I enjoyed it overall, but often found myself frustrated by not knowing what the heck was going on. Even so, I’m pretty sure I’ll pick up book two once it’s out to see where Dakin takes it.

Plot: If I had to sum up the plot for Candle Man in one word it would be complicated! Half the time I had no idea what was happening or how it would all tie together. There are a lot of characters and plot twists that a reader has to keep track of. I was never quite sure who to trust, who the good guys were, and what the heck Theo was/what was happening to him. Ok, so maybe I did figure those things out along the way, but there were times I wanted to doubt that the good guys were really the good guys. And really, I still kind of have my doubts and will be interested to see where Dakin takes the series.

Characters: Honestly, I didn’t have a strong like or dislike to most of characters. No instant BFFs here. Theo has been shut up since birth and really has no concept of how to interact with others normally. (Does anyone know how old Theo is?!) He’s pretty socially awkward and relies heavily on good manner books that Dr. Saint has given him over the years. I can see a lot of potential in what Theo can be, but right now I really still see him as an infant. He has a couple of choices of roads he can travel and that could drastically change him. It will be interesting to see how much of his innocence is sapped away as he’s pushed into a role he doesn’t seem to truly want.

And then there is Chloe. Talk about a girl with a lot of spunk that is not afraid to leap. She’s the one that I’m most looking forward to getting to know more. There are still a lot of secrets surrounding Chloe (and most of the other characters) and I hope Dakin continues to unravel them. I was kind of sad when her presence left and really wished she had been around more. (Trying to be careful about how much I say here) I can only hope Book One is not the last we see of her!

Romance: None. Theo has a hard enough time trying to deal with normal human interactions let alone a romance! I could see a possible hint of one though, but we’ll see if it actually goes that way in the up-coming books.

Writing: Writing is very simplistic, but then Candle Man is aimed at a younger audience. I’ve read my fair share of JUV books and Dakin fits solidly among them. The writing is easy enough that 4th & 5th graders will be able to read it but still something older kids will enjoy. The only thing that really bothered me was the “That’s so nice of you, Mr. Nicely” & “Very saintly of you, Dr. Saint”. The first time I saw it I kind of chuckled, but after that it got kind of annoying. I was glad that Dakin did seem to use it less frequently as the story moved along.

Librarian-Mode: On the back of the book they mentioned Percy Jackson, but I’m not sure that Candle Man quite falls into the same category. Some Percy Jackson fans may like it, but I have a feeling it would do better among those who like Series of Unfortunate Events or The Mysterious Benedict Society. Those who love mysteries and lots of fast-paced steam punk action will love this book.

Ok, now it’s your turn! Have you read Candle Man? If so, what did you think?

 

 

Book Review: Little Black Lies


Book Review: Little Black LiesLittle Black Lies by Tish Cohen
Release Date: Oct 2009
Publisher: Egmont USA
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher

As the new kid at Anton High, a school for wealthy geniuses, eleventh-grader Sarah Black knows she has stepped into a world she doesn't belong. She may have the brains, but her downfall lies in her lost and found uniform and OCD janitor father. But when a little confusion over where she's from allows her to escape her unfavorable past she jumps aboard. After all, a few little lies is nothing in the quest to be popular, right? Sara will soon learn that even the smallest web of lies can get out of hand and one little slip could end it all. Will Sara be able to hold her ground among the Queen Bees or will it all come crumbling around her?

The Short of It: I really liked Little Black Lies. It was a quick read that was very hard to put down. Cohen creates very believable characters and setting. I finished the book with no real complaints making this an easy recommend book.

Plot: I thought the story line for Little Black Lies was very believable. I never found myself thinking that her lies or the storyline were too out there. In fact, the only part that made me go really? was the whole petting couch thing. (Think a puppy pile of teens with wandering hands on a couch) But the more I think about it, the more I remember things we could get away with in high school, so it’s really not that far fetched. In fact, everything else was so dead on that I could easily see this story happening in almost any high school across the nation. Kudos to Cohen for that!

Characters: Even with all her lies, I really liked Sara. I could easily put myself in her shoes and sympathize. Sometimes the desperation to fit in takes us to drastic measures. But even in the midst of her lies, Sara still tried to reach out to others. I think the way she talked to the maids and drivers proved that at the core she was still the same old Sara. And with the guilt and consequences from her decisions I think it’s safe to say she won’t do it again. She learned her lesson and realized that being herself was all she ever needed to be.

The only slight complaint I have is the relationship between Sara and her parents. Neither one is particularly healthy. While Charlie does indeed love Sara, his OCD has taken over his life. And while his future does have a promising outlook, I only hope he gets professional help. And then her mother? Oh man, don’t even get me started there. She was the only character I wanted to like, but couldn’t. She had such a selfish attitude and I wish Sara would have stood up to her. However, while I could have wished that everything was perfect, real life never is. Part of me is kind of glad Cohen didn’t make it a white house with picket fences. It was refreshing to see an honest look at real life that didn’t end up all fairy taled.

Romance: There’s not much to say here. There’s a little underlying romance that goes on, but it never really fully blooms. There’s a couple of kisses and promises of something more and that’s about where it ends. The story was not about falling in love though, so the relationship was not a big part of the story. It was more of a natural result thing then the big to-do. However, if Cohen plans to do a sequel, I would love to see where it goes.

Writing: Honestly, no complaints here at all. There was nothing I stumbled over or made me go huh? Cohen writes a tight story. Pacing was good and I never felt like a scene was too long. There were one or two scenes that I wish had been a little longer, but nothing that really bothered me. I also liked the little tidbits about ants before each chapter. I think it added a certain charm to the book.

Librarian-Mode: Overall, I think this will be an easy sell to girls. Although, I’m having trouble deciding what category I can throw it in. There’s not a lot of romance or BFFs so I’m not sure it really fits into the chick-lit category. And while it deals with some imperfect living situations, it’s no Ellen Hopkins read-a-like. But I think if you like honest realistic fiction with a little sass Little Black Lies is the perfect book.

Ok, now it’s your turn! Have you read Little Black Lies? If so, what did you think?