Sunday, January 29, 2012

Shatter Me Book Review

 Author: Tahereh Mafi. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  HarperCollins. ISBN: 9780062085484.
Annotation: Juliette Ferrars has been locked up in an insane asylum for three years for a crime she did not mean to commit. Abandoned by her family and left to rot in her tiny cell, Juliette’s world changes forever when she is given a roommate, Adam, a boy from her past, who isn’t afraid of her deadly touch.
Personal thoughts: I am a very big fan of post-apocalyptic dystopian novels, so I was anxious to read Shatter Me, especially since I had heard so many great things about it. Although it wasn’t my all-time favorite novel, I did find it enjoyable and creative in many ways. It took me a few chapters to get used to Tahereh Mafi’s writing style, and before that happened I wasn’t sure if I could stomach the constant strikethroughs. After awhile, however, I found that it added to the story and in the development of Juliette’s character in a really unique way. I also wasn’t too sure about the dramatic shift in the story from Girl, Interrupted to X-Men, but am curious to see what the author does in the sequel. I would definitely recommend this as a Hunger Games read-alike.
Plot summary: Juliette Ferrars is a monster. Her touch is lethal, her parents abandoned her and society locked her up for a crime she did not mean to commit. She has been in the asylum for three years, trapped day after day in a tiny cell. Her only consolation is in a pen, small notebook and words she uses to cope. She knows she’s not insane, but begins to wonder as the seconds, minutes, days, months and years tick by. Her quiet torment is broken suddenly one day when she is told she has been given a roommate. A boy her age is thrust into her cell, and, for the first time in three years, Juliette has someone to talk to. Juliette soon discovers that her new roommate isn’t just anyone, he’s Adam: the boy she’s known since she was 8-years-old, the only one who didn’t look at her with hate and distrust. Adam doesn’t seem to remember Juliette, and only seems intent on discovering why he has been placed in her cell. The truth behind their connection is soon revealed, however, beginning a chain of events that will change their lives forever.
Review:  Part psychological thriller, part action-adventure, this debut novel from author Tahereh Mafi begins an already successful new dystopian series that is certain to appeal to a variety of teen readers. Set in a post-apocalyptic and not-too-distant future, Juliette Ferrars’ world is broken, just like her. The author uses Juliette’s writing in her notebook as a literary element that permeates the novel. Strikethroughs appear on almost every page, allowing the reader to see Juliette’s thought process. Although it takes some getting used to, Mafi’s strikethrough technique adds greatly to the psychological aspects of the plot, showing Juliette’s inner turmoil as she struggles to deal with her abandonment, imprisonment, and deadly abilities. Towards the middle of the novel, the story takes a dramatic shift from Juliette’s troubled mind to the outside world, complete with action, adventure and romance. This change makes for a read that is very different from beginning to end, but also leaves the story open for sequels, the first of which is set to be released sometime in 2012. Overall, Shatter Me is a creatively written and interesting start to a new series that many readers, especially fans of The Hunger Games or Divergent, will enjoy.
Genre: Science-Fiction
Reading level: Grade 7+
Similar titles: Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Pledge by Kimberly Derting, Legend by Marie Lu.
Themes:  Sanity/insanity, imprisonment, dystopian, trust, abandonment, supernatural abilities, murder.
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist and Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.  
Series Information: First installment in Shatter Me series. Second novel (not yet titled) set to be released in 2012.
Discussion questions: 
-   Did you like or dislike the author’s use of the strikethrough in the novel? Why?
-   Do you think Juliette is insane? Why or why not?
-    Why do you think Warner is so obsessed with Juliette?
-      What would you like to see happen in the next installment of this series?

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight Book Review

 Author: Jennifer E. Smith. Release date: 2012. Publisher:  Poppy. ISBN: 9780316122382.
Annotation: On a flight from New York to London for her father’s wedding, seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan happens to meet Oliver, a handsome college student returning home for the weekend, and the next twenty-four hours change their lives forever.  
Personal thoughts: I’m not usually one for a romance novel that is completely void of any paranormal/sci-fi/fantasy aspects, but I have to say that, after reading The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, I might have to give “real-life” novels a chance more often. I knew when I read the description of this novel that I was going to like it. I really enjoyed how it was set in a span of twenty-four hours. Since the reader knows this going into the novel, it makes for the pacing of the book to be really brisk and enjoyable. The reader knows the action is going to happen quickly, and that everything in terms of the plot is going to need to be wrapped up to some degree in a short time. I was impressed, however, with how much the author managed to include in the story, even though we only “knew” Hadley and Oliver for one day. Hadley’s memories and experiences she rehashes from her childhood are certain to resonate with many readers, especially ones whose parents have either separated or divorced. I plan on recommending this book to anyone who wants something realistic but enjoyable and touching as well.
Plot summary: Seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan is more than a little depressed about flying to London for the weekend for her father’s wedding. She hasn’t seen her father in over a year and has never met Charlotte, the woman he left Hadley’s mother for and his soon-to-be bride. Since her father’s semester teaching at Oxford turned into a permanent move to England, Hadley has been struggling to deal with his absence from her life. Now she’s packed her bags and is about to make the seven hour journey across the ocean to be a bridesmaid for the woman she knows she’s certain to hate. After Hadley misses her original flight by four minutes, she is forced to wait for three hours in a JFK airport terminal to catch the next plane to Heathrow. While she’s waiting, Hadley meets Oliver, a handsome guy about her age who is returning to his home in London for the weekend. A twist of fate puts them in adjoining seats, and the pair spend the flight talking, being more honest with each other than they’ve been with the people in their lives they’ve known for more than a few hours. Although they know they will be separated when they land in their destination, Hadley and Oliver can’t help but wonder if their chance meeting has changed their lives forever.  
Review:  Set in a period of twenty-four hours, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is a sweet and surprisingly poignant novel that accomplishes a lot in such a short period of time. Many readers, especially tweens and teens, are bound to identify with Hadley’s difficulty coping with her father’s marriage to the woman who he left her mother for. This is an all-too-real situation that countless tweens and teens face everyday, and the author does a good job of approaching the emotions Hadley is feeling without making it melodramatic or sugar-coating things. Hadley’s connection with Oliver is also something that readers, both teen and adult, can understand. Oftentimes, it is the most unusual circumstances that allow two individuals to make a difference in each other’s lives, and that is, essentially, what this novel is about. It is a thought-provoking concept that allows for The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight to be a very meaningful read for anyone who has ever needed or found someone to lean on during a hard time. Overall, a quick but pleasing novel for fans of romance and fate.
Genre: Fiction/Romance
Reading level: Grade 6+
Similar titles: N/A
Themes:  Divorce, marriage, romance, love, fate, forgiveness.   
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.  
Series Information: N/A
Discussion questions: 
-   Do you think it was fate or chance that brought Hadley and Oliver together?
-    Do you think Hadley did the right thing in agreeing to go to her father’s wedding? Why or why not?
-   Why do you think Hadley’s returning her father’s novel was so important to her?
-     What do you think the future holds for Hadley and Oliver?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Pledge Book Review

 Author: Kimberly Derting. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Margaret K. McElderry Books. ISBN: 1442422017
Annotation: In the country of Ludania, citizens are divided into classes separated by language, each forbidden to speak to each other in anything but the common language, Englaise. Seveteen-year-old Charlaina “Charlie” Hart has always been able to understand all the languages, something she has had to keep hidden. After she unwittingly becomes involved in the rebellion against Queen Sabara, however, her secret might be the key to ending the cruel oppression of the people of Ludania.
Personal thoughts: I had heard many good things about The Pledge, and, after reading it in the span of a few hours, I now understand the hype! I was surprised by how engrossing the novel was, especially because it wasn’t particularly lengthy. I think the author really knows what she’s doing, and managed to create something thoroughly interesting but also succinct enough to be entertaining for even the most reluctant teen readers. I also think that the concepts in the novel make for a great jumping off point for a classroom discussion about class warfare or oppression in our current society. Overall, a very thought-provoking read that is difficult to put down. I’m really looking forward to continuing this series when the next installment in published!
Plot summary: In the distant future, the world is divided into countries that tenuously coexist. Each is ruled by a queen who oversees their country with an iron fist. The country of Ludania is home to seventeen-year-old Charlaina “Charlie” Hart and is governed by the fearsome Queen Sabara. For centuries, Ludania’s citizens have been divided into four classes: the Counsel class, the Vendor class, the Serving class, and the outcasts. Classes are differentiated by the language they speak, each class having its own language that the other classes are unable to understand. Englaise, the universal language, is the only way for members of different classes to communicate lawfully: if someone from a higher class is speaking in their native tongue, members of the lower classes are forbidden to even make eye contact until they are spoken to in Englaise. For Charlie, life as a member of the Vendor class is fairly mundane: she attends school every day with her best friends Brooklynn and Aron, works in her parents’ restaurant, and helps take care of her little sister, Angelina. But Charlie has a dangerous secret that she’s been keeping since she was a child: she has the ability to understand every language spoken in Ludania. If her ability was discovered by the authorities, she would be executed and her whole family would be put in danger. One night, at one of the underground clubs that Charlie and Brooklynn like to frequent, Charlie meets Max: a handsome and mysterious soldier who speaks a language Charlie has never heard before, but seems to understand. Charlie’s confusion is furthered when Max seems to know her and understand her ability. In the meantime, the threat of revolution in Ludania grows, and Charlie begins to realize that she might hold the key to the future of her country.
Review:  From the author of The Body Finder, comes this first installment in a new series for young adults that takes the always popular dystopian concept and mixes it with magic for a story that is certain to intrigue and entertain readers. The Pledge is set in the very distant future, and civilization as we know it has been replaced by a Bradbury-esque collection of countries ruled with an iron-fist by ruthless queens. The author does an excellent job of creating the world of Ludania, taking care to make sure that the history of the kingdom is clear as are the rules of language that govern its citizens. In Charlie’s school, typical situations like being made fun of by the wealthy and popular girls can turn deadly since the lower classes are not only forbidden to communicate with their higher-ups, but are not supposed to even comprehend the language they speak. Derting creates many tense situations where Charlie’s ability to understand all the languages in her kingdom puts her in mortal danger. This makes for a very suspenseful novel, and greatly adds to the reader’s enjoyment of the story. The secondary characters, such as Charlie’s friends Brooklynn and Aron, Max’s lackeys, Claude and Zafir, and the mysterious Xander, are as well developed as the plot, making for an overall engrossing book that is difficult to put down. The pacing of the story is excellent, particularly once the action really picks up in the second half of the novel. The second installment in The Pledge series, which has yet to be titled, is expected to be published in 2013.
Genre: Science-Fiction
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: Wither by Lauren DeStefano, Divergent by Veronica Roth.    
Themes:  Dystopian, class warfare, language, royalty, war, oppression, rebellion.  
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from VOYA, Kirkus, Booklist and Publishers Weekly.
Series Information: First installment in The Pledge series. Second novel (not yet titled) to be published in 2013.
Discussion questions: 
-    Why do you think language was such an effective way to separate the classes in Ludania?
-    Do you think that language separates different groups from each other in our society? Why or why not? 
-     If you were Charlie, would you have helped Sydney? Why or why not?
-     Who was your favorite character in the book? Why?
-    What would you like to see happen in the second novel in this series?
-     Do you think that The Pledge would make a good movie? Why or why not?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Haunting Violet Book Review

Author: Alyxandra Harvey. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Walker Childrens. ISBN: 9780802798398.
Annotation: Sixteen-year-old Violet Willoughby has spent her life assisting her mother, a fraudulent spiritual medium, in tricking wealthy widowers and grieving mothers out of their gold and silver. After arriving in the lavish country manner of Rosefield, home to the powerful Lord Jasper, Violet begins to see the ghosts of the recently departed, including that of Rowena, a girl her age who mysteriously drown a year earlier.
Personal thoughts: I’ve never read one of Alyxandra Harvey’s books before, but after finishing Haunting Violet, I think I can safely call myself a fan! Harvey lists Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice as amongst her favorite novels, and their influence is clearly felt in Haunting Violet. I am also very fond of the Regency and Victorian eras, and really enjoyed how well she portrayed life in Victorian England. The characters, setting and plot were all well-developed in Haunting Violet, and the story was expertly paced. I look forward to picking up Harvey’s next novel, and highly recommend this one to fellow Austen/Bronte enthusiasts!
Plot summary: Sixteen-year-old Violet Willoughby has spent her life assisting her mother, Celeste, a fraudulent spiritual medium, in tricking wealthy widowers and grieving mothers out of their gold and silver. Life in Victorian England for a former housemaid left expecting a child after an affair with her wealthy employer was not easy for Mary Morgan. After Violet’s birth, Mary adopted the pseudonym Celeste Willoughby, posing as a grieving widow with the ability to speak with the dead. Now “Mrs. Willoughby” and Violet live a life of fraud: pickpocketing, scamming and conning the wealthy into paying them for any solace after the death of a loved one. Violet hates tricking people. Her only consolation is in the comfort of her friend Colin: her mother’s longtime assistant who has grown up alongside Violet and helps Mrs. Willoughby perform her “séances”. One summer, the family is invited to Rosefield, a lavish country estate owned by the very wealthy and powerful Lord Jasper. If they can pull it off, the grand séance they will perform at Rosefield will ensure their place in society, as many members of Lord Jasper’s esteemed acquaintance have been invited especially for the event. Upon arriving at the scene of their next scam, however, Violet makes a startling discovery: she has begun to see the spirits of the deceased, not in the fraudulent way her mother claims to, but for real. Unsure of what to do with her newfound power, Violet is faced with the stubborn and troubled ghost of Rowena Wentworth, a fifteen-year-old girl and former neighbor of Lord Jasper’s who mysteriously drowned the previous year. Rowena seems intent on Violet discovering the truth about her death, but as Violet learns more and more about the secrets floating through the halls of Rosefield, she also discovers that her own life may be in danger.
Review:  This charming novel from veteran author, Alyxandra Harvey, is certain to delight both fans of historical fiction, particularly the Victorian era, and ghost stories alike. The main plot of the story is simple: Violet must help the ghost of the murdered Rowena to reveal who killed her, resulting in an always popular whodunit mystery. Below the surface, however, there is quite a bit more to Haunting Violet than just figuring out who the bad guy is. The relationship between Violet and her con-artist mother plays an important role in the story. Life for women of low social status in Victorian society was grim at best, and the reader can almost sympathize with the devious ways of Mrs. Willoughby, a former housemaid, who wants a better place in the world. The abuse enacted upon Violet by her mother is one of the more thought-provoking aspects of the book, particularly since one can imagine that similar circumstances between parents who live dishonest lives and their children occur on a daily basis in today’s society as well. In actuality, the novel provides just as much of a social commentary on the Victorian era as it does a ghost story, making it an interesting read for teens who are not as familiar with this period in time. Overall, Haunting Violet is an entertaining and well-paced ghost-story that readers of all ages can easily enjoy.
Genre: Mystery/Historical Fiction
Reading level: Grade 7+
Similar titles: The Poisoned House by Michael Ford, Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury, Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber.   
Themes:  Psychic abilities, spiritualism, ghosts, fraud/dishonesty, Victorian era, class warfare, mother/daughter relationships.
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.  
Series Information: N/A
Discussion questions: 

-  Why do you think Violet disliked tricking her mother’s clients so much?

-  Do you think that, in helping her mother to perform “séances,” Violet was just as guilty as Mrs. Willoughby in tricking people? Why or why not?

- Why do you think Violet wanted to keep her psychic abilities secret from her mother?

- Were you surprised by the ending of the novel? Why or why not?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Million Suns Book Review

 Author: Beth Revis. Release date: 2012. Publisher:  Razorbill. ISBN: 9781595143983.
Annotation: Elder is now first-in-command on the Godspeed, and is intent upon giving the people more autonomy while attempting to discover a way to increase the speed of the ship’s engines. Amy is struggling more than ever to survive amongst the ship’s population who grow increasingly more suspicious of her and her relationship with their leader.    
Personal thoughts: I considered myself a fan of Across the Universe but, after reading A Million Suns in a matter of hours, now find that I’ve morphed into an uber-fan. I am so impressed with Beth Revis and what she has created with this series! Across the Universe was a very entertaining and satisfying novel, but, for me, A Million Suns took the trilogy to a whole other level. I absolutely did not anticipate all of the twists and turns in the story, and found my mind completely blown several times as I devoured this book. The most disappointing thing about this novel was the page at the very end that showed that the third book will not be released for an entire year. I will personally be chomping at the bit until January 2013 when I can find out what happens. If you haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy this stellar series yet, I suggest you start ASAP!
Plot summary: Following Eldest’s death and Orion’s capture in Across the Universe, Elder and Amy are now left with a ship full of people no longer under the sedating influence of Phydus. Although Elder has enlisted the help of the Godspeed’s population in solving the problem of the perpetually slowing engines, the people who before were content with working all day to sustain life onboard are now becoming more and more suspicious of the Eldest system, and Elder himself. Central to the problems Elder faces is Amy. Almost everyone on the Godspeed is convinced that she is to blame for the way things have begun to fall into disarray, leaving Amy unsure of who to trust and increasingly longing for the comfort of her still-frozen parents. Everything changes, however, when Amy begins to receive mysterious messages from Orion urging her to learn the truth about the ship. What is the secret that has been so carefully guarded for generations and how will the people of the Godspeed survive one it is revealed?   
Review:  This much-anticipated sequel to Beth Revis’ best-selling Across the Universe, accomplishes the rare task of surpassing its predecessor in almost every way possible. From character development to plot twists to suspense, A Million Suns is everything fans of the first novel were hoping for and so much more. It is difficult to describe exactly how the book manages to be so thoroughly entertaining without revealing too much of the story. What can be said is that there are many unexpected turn of events in the novel, events that test the characters in ways they weren’t in Across the Universe. Some characters that were only minor figures in the first novel take far greater roles in this story, making for many interesting opportunities to learn even more about the Godspeed. As central to A Million Suns as it was to Across the Universe is the ship itself.  Much more is revealed about the Godspeed, leaving the reader to wonder exactly where the author plans to take the story in the third novel, Shades of Earth, set to be released in January 2013. Overall, an excellent book in an excellent series that science-fiction fans young and old can easily enjoy.
Genre: Science-Fiction
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: Across the Universe by Beth Revis, Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan.   
Themes:  Space travel, spaceships, dystopian future, control, rebellion, revolution.
Awards/Reviews:  Sequel to best-selling novel.
Series Information: Second installment in Across the Universe trilogy. First novel, Across the Universe, published in 2011. Third novel, Shades of Earth, set to be released in January 2013.
Discussion questions: 
-  Do you think Elder did the right thing in taking the ship’s people off Phydus? Why or why not?
-   Why do you think the population of the Godspeed was so distrustful of Amy? 
-    What, in your opinion, was the biggest surprise in A Million Suns? Why?
-   What would you like to see happen in the third novel?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dearly, Departed Book Review

 Author: Lia Habel. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Del Rey. ISBN: 9780345523318.
Annotation: In 2195, orphan Nora Dearly lives with her strict aunt in New Victoria where the only aspiration she’s allowed is to marry a rich gentleman who can replace the money her aunt has squandered since her father’s death. When a zombies come knocking on Nora’s door, however, she abandons her fancy frocks for a gun and moves to Z Base, where intelligent zombie soldiers are training to save the world from a zombie apocalypse.    
Personal thoughts:  I was really excited to read this novel when I first heard about it. I was familiar with the steampunk concept, but had never read a novel that incorporated the idea before. I also love zombies, so I was ready to really enjoy Dearly, Departed. Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite so well as I’d hoped. I really liked Lia Habel’s descriptions of New London and the conflict between the New Victorians and the Punks. As the novel progressed, however, I got more and more confused. The changing narration was really difficult for me to get used to, even though I’ve read many novels with rotating narrators, and I felt like the whole New Victorian concept got sloughed off when the zombies entered the story. I think the author had some really great ideas, but fell victim to something I can completely understand, trying to do too much. Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of this novel, I will still pick up the sequel when it’s released later this year. I really think the potential is there, and I hope that the second installment in the series will be what I was looking for in the first.
Plot summary: The year is 2195 and, following the apocalyptic downfall of society in the early 2000’s, America’s population has migrated to the equatorial countries and set up New Victoria: a nation modeled after the sensibilities of the Victorian age but with high-tech innovations like cell phones and electric carriages. Sixteen-year-old Nora Dearly lives with her strict aunt in the years following her parents’ deaths. Nora has a high social standing, since her father was a brilliant scientist, and attends a fancy school with her best friend, Pamela, whose place in society is not so high. The girls feel pressured to make good marriages, especially Nora after she learns that her aunt has squandered her father’s fortune. Everything changes one evening, however, when Nora is viciously attacked by a pack of zombies, only to find herself rescued by another pack and whisked away to a mysterious army outpost known as Z Base. Confused and scared, Nora learns that a zombie plague has slowly been creeping its way up to New Victoria and is being kept at bay by an army of intelligent undead soldiers. It seems that the virus, known as the Lazarus, only makes some of the infected insane and hungry for flesh upon reanimation, others retain their memories and personalities. One of these soldiers, Bram Griswold, is brave and handsome, and explains to Nora about her and her father’s role in protecting the world from a zombie apocalypse. Will Nora be able to keep her wits about her as she struggles to find out the truth behind the Lazarus all while falling more and more for Bram?
Review:  Readers unfamiliar with the term “steampunk” will become more than familiar with the concept of high-tech blended with antiquity in Lia Habel’s debut novel, Dearly, Departed. The author describes herself as a fan of both zombies and the Victorian-era, and that is exactly the plot she has created in her new Gone with the Respiration series. The setting of the novel is, arguably, one of if not the most interesting aspects of the story. The first chapters of the book describe exactly how the world of New Victoria came to be, and establishing the “civil war” that permeates the story between the New Victorians and the Punks, a separate nation that does not agree with the strict rules and oppression in New Victoria. As the novel progresses, however, things begin to get a little muddled. The narration changes from chapter to chapter, rotating between five characters, and this often gets more than a little confusing. The zombie aspect of the story takes over fairly early on as well, leaving the reader wondering what happened to the Lia Habel’s delightful steampunk environment. It almost seems like the author tried to include too many ideas in the novel, creating something that becomes too complicated and unsure of itself. While there are certainly things to be enjoyed in Dearly, Departed, the story will, unfortunately, be likely to confuse many readers. Hopefully the second novel, Dearly, Beloved, can correct some of these problems upon its release in September of 2012.  
Genre: Science-Fiction/Steampunk
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, Megan Berry series by Stacey Jay, Forest of Hands and Teeth series by Carrie Ryan, I Kissed a Zombie, and I liked It by Adam Selzer. The Strange Case of Finley Jayne (Steampunk Chronicles) by Kady Cross.  
Themes:  Steampunk, Victorian era, zombies, post-apocalyptic, dystopian, war, class warfare.
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews on  
Series Information: First installment in Gone With the Respiration series. Second book, Dearly, Beloved set to be released in September 2012.
Discussion questions: 
-   Were you familiar with the steampunk concept before reading this novel? Explain what it means to you.
-   If you were alive in Nora’s world, would you want to be a New Victorian or a Punk? Why?
-    Why do you think the Lazarus made some zombies insane and some not? 
-    Who was your favorite character in the novel? Why?
-    What would you like to see happen in the sequel?  

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Falling Under Book Review

Author: Gwen Hayes. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  NAL Trade. ISBN: 9780451232682.
Annotation: Seveteen-year-old Theia Alderson is shocked when the handsome but mysterious boy from her dreams shows up at her high school one day. Theia isn’t sure what to make of Haden’s professions of love in their nightly meetings, and is even more confused when he seems to ignore her during the day. As she, and her best friends Donny and Amelia, learn more about Haden, however, Theia worries that something sinister is drawing them together.   
Personal thoughts:  I’ve had this book in my “pile” of to-reads for awhile, and I’m kicking myself for not picking it up sooner. I enjoyed the story from start to finish, even though it’s about a topic that is pretty popular in young adult literature these days. I really liked the author’s take on the half-demon, half-human concept and found the romance between Theia and Haden to be very intriguing. I can’t wait to pick up Dreaming Awake and to see what else Gwen Hayes comes up with in the future!
Plot summary: Theia Alderson is seventeen, but lives the life of a ten-year-old with her over-protective father in the small town of Serendipity Falls, California. After her mother died giving birth to her, Theia’s father insisted upon keeping her safe at all times, refusing to allow her to spend a lot of time with her best friends, Donny and Amelia, forcing her to dress modestly in clothes he’s selected for her, even decorating her room for her. Theia feels like she’s trapped, making her shy and reserved, and she wants nothing more than to go unnoticed by anyone but her two friends at their high school.  Everything changes, however, when she begins to dream of a dark but handsome boy who appears to be her age, but is always dressed in old-fashioned finery. Their nightly meetings take place in a beautiful but slightly sinister garden, full of music and grotesque revelers.  Theia doesn’t know what to make of her incredibly realistic dreams, especially when she wakes up to discover black roses placed on her bed. Matters are complicated when a new student arrives at Serendipity Falls High School. The mysterious stranger that has the entire school intrigued turns out to be Haden, the handsome boy from Theia’s dreams. Although he won’t acknowledge that they have been meeting nightly, dancing in his enchanted garden, Haden seems fixated on Theia, her skin tingling anytime he gazes in her direction. Unsure of who, or what, Haden is, Theia worries that his arrival in her waking life means much more than the possibility of her having her first boyfriend.
Review:  The half-demon, half-human concept is something that seems to be appearing more and more in young adult literature recently, some novels doing a better job of creating an original take on it than others. Fortunately, Falling Under, the first installment in Gwen Hayes’ Falling Under series, takes a common plotline and turns it into something fresh, romantic and more than a little macabre, but, above all, utterly enjoyable. Theia Alderson, the leading lady, is like many teens in young adult novels: sheltered, shy, and longing to break free of what she refers to as her “gilded cage.” Her beau, the darkly handsome Haden, however, is another story. His first appearance in the novel is very unusual: his burning, tortured form falls quietly passed Theia’s window one night, drawing her outside to wonder at how such a person came to be on her back lawn. For the remainder, Haden “steals the show” with his dapper apparel, enchanted yet horrifying garden, and mysterious powers of unknown origin. Theia is powerless against his charms, as is the reader who longs to learn more about just who Haden is. This curiosity will cause most readers to plow through the story until the final pages, and yearn for the sequel, Dreaming Awake, which was, thankfully, released on January 3, 2012. Overall, Falling Under is an engrossing start to a series that most fans of supernatural romance will thoroughly enjoy.
Genre: Fiction/Romance
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: The Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent, Misfit by Jon Skovron, Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey, The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff, Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach.    
Themes:  Demons, Hell, father-daughter relationships, death, loss, guilt.   
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from authors Sarah Beth Durst and Rosemary Clement-Moor.  
Series Information: First installment in Falling Under series. Second novel, Dreaming Awake, released on January 3, 2012.  
Discussion questions:
- Why do you think Haden was burning when he first fell past Theia’s window?
- Why do you think Haden was so reluctant to touch Theia? Do you think it was the right thing to do?
- Which of Theia’s friends did you like more: Donny or Amelia? Why?
-  Why do you think Theia’s father was so protective? How would their relationship be different if her mother was still alive?
- What would you like to see happen between Theia and Haden in Dreaming Awake?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Space Between Book Review

Author: Brenna Yovanoff. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Razorbill. ISBN: 9781595143396.
Annotation: Daphne, the daughter of demoness, Lilith, and fallen angel, Lucifer, ventures out of the hot and steely world of Hell to rescue her brother, Obie, Lilith’s child with the biblical Adam, after he goes missing on Earth. To help find her brother, Daphne turns to Truman, the last person she saw Obie with who is also the son of a fallen angel.  
Personal thoughts:  Amongst the swarm of young adult literature, this novel really sticks out as something truly unique. I love the author’s writing style and creativity, especially her clever recreation of Biblical characters in the story. I found her descriptions of Hell fascinating and wish that she would write a companion novel that would feature exactly how Lilith and Lucifer fell in love (what an interesting read that would be!) Overall, The Space Between is something truly different that readers who are okay with the subject matter will happily sink their teeth into. I’m looking forward to picking up Brenna Yovanoff’s next novel!
Plot summary: In the beginning, God made Adam and Lilith, companions who would bring about the beginning of the human race. Adam loved Lilith with all of his heart, but Lilith did not love him back. Before being cast from the Garden of Eden and replaced by Eve, Lilith gave birth to Adam’s son, Obie. Mother and son travelled to Hell where Lilith met Lucifer, a fallen angel, who immediately fell in love with her. Daphne, the daughter of Lilith and Lucifer, now lives with her mother and hundreds of brothers and sisters, the result of Lilith’s affairs with other demons, in the steely city that makes up Hell. Daphne has never been to Earth, but is fascinated by the trinkets that other residents of Hell return with after venturing above to torment and feed-off the human race. Daphne is close with her brother, Obie, who is kind-hearted and spends his time trying to help Lost Ones, the half-human, half-angel children living on Earth. One day, Obie informs Daphne and Lilith that he has fallen in love with a mortal woman and will be leaving Hell forever to live a normal life. Before he goes, Obie helps bring Truman, a Lost One on the brink of death, who’s attempted suicide has brought him to Hell, back to Earth. Months later, Obie suddenly disappears, leaving Daphne and Lilith confused and worried. Daphne decides to venture to the surface, leaving the safety of Hell, to rescue her brother. Seeking the help of Truman, the last person to see Obie, Daphne must face the threat of Azrael, an angel who has made it his mission to destroy all demons who spend too much time on Earth.
Review:  Fascinating, well-written and utterly original, the latest novel from veteran author Brenna Yovanoff is a strangely enjoyable story for readers who are willing to plunge head first into a world filled with demons, fallen angels, betrayal, and redemption. Arguably the strongest part of The Space Between is the author’s description of life in Hell. The first few pages of the novel, which read like pages of the Bible, immediately inform the reader that they are in for something different. One strong word for parents or teachers: this book is not for teens who are offended by demonology, taking liberties with religious history or lore, or who are squeamish about violence, torture and gore. Those who can handle these elements, however, will relish Yovanoff’s descriptions of the steely buildings and streets of Hell, the beauty and horror that are its residents, and the strangely intriguing love between fallen angels and demons. Daphne’s efforts to save her brother and her blossoming feelings for the tragically broken Truman almost play second fiddle to the more minor characters of Daphne’s alluring mother Lilith, her kind mentor, Beelzebub, and her seductive sisters, Myra and Deidre. That is not to say, however, that the primary plot of the novel is anything but entertaining and unique. The author has crafted a detailed and engrossing story that many teens are certain to enjoy immensely. The Space Between is a stand-alone novel as well, so readers will find the lives of Daphne and Truman neatly wrapped up, for better or for worse, in the closing pages.
Genre: Fiction/Horror
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: The Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent, Misfit by Jon Skovron, Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey.      
Themes:  Hell, demons, fallen angels, redemption, betrayal, the Bible.  
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Booklist and Kirkus. Starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.  
Series Information: N/A     
Discussion questions: 
- Name some of the Biblical characters featured in this novel. What role did they play in the story?
- Do you think that Daphne was happy with her life in Hell? Why or why not?
-   Describe Daphne’s relationship with her mother, Lilith. How was it different from a normal mother-daughter relationship? How was it the same?
-   Why do you think Truman was so self-destructive? How and why did he change during the novel?
-   Why do you think Beezlebub did what he did? Was it the right thing to do?