September 24th, 2013


Book Reports (82-89)...

For those of you who happened to Google your title and ended up here, please know that one star is not a bad thing in Robin's world -- just the fact that I picked up your book and started it means that somewhere it's getting good buzz (or that your blurb was really cool). 'R' means it's a re-read. Brackets mean it's an ARC (linked to Tattered Cover's book page) or e-galley.

If you'd like to see my recent four-plus- and five-star YA recommendations, visit Robin ReadsnWrites.

* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good -- probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.

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Gated, by Amy Christine Parker ****+ This was definitely intriguing. It captured my attention right off, and I like how Parker very quickly moves into the confrontational part of the story. I think the portrayal of folks who might follow a cult leader is pretty accurate, and I like how Lyla questions and then berates herself for questioning -- that seemed realistic too. It reminded me a bit of The Chosen One (Carol Lynch-Williams), although I think this had a lighter feel to it (perhaps because she wasn't born into the cult like the MC of the other book). The story: Lyla and her community are preparing for the end of the world. They've built an underground bunker, and their leader, Pioneer, has spent years helping them train. Lyla loves her life, but she doesn't like the idea of fighting. She wonders if the people outside are simply ignorant -- and when she meets the sheriff's son, those ideas take even deeper root. Lyla can't believe that Cody is a bad person, but when Pioneer pushes up the date of their departure (to the underground bunker), Lyla's time runs out. During a final supply run to town, and after being 'punished' with her friends (for sneaking out during the night), Lyla is hit by a car and taken to the local hospital -- where questions begin to open Lyla's eyes to some of Pioneer's manipulations. Will she have the strength to save her parents, her friends, and herself? (YA suspense, released 8/13, publisher: Random House)

The Last Academy, by Anne Applegate ***- This was intriguing, but it got very confusing very quickly. It was obvious I was missing something, and when that something wasn't revealed, I lost patience (ha) and read the ending. Even then, the middle didn't all gel for me, and although I think the premise is interesting, I only skimmed. The cruelty of many of the characters (complete lack of empathy, in some cases) also didn't work well for me. I kind of understood why that had to be, but not enough to enjoy it, I suppose. Plus, Camden, the MC, seemed a little wishy-washy to me. I would've like to see her be a little less selfish and a little more compassionate. The story: Camden attends one last summer party, where she and her best friend get into a fight and her friend pushes her into a hot tub in a fit of anger. Then, Camden's parents send her to a school across the country, and Camden has to meet new people (never her forte) and learn to fit in. The school is strange from the get-go, and Camden finds herself befriending girls who clearly have many secrets. But when those girls begin disappearing and strange images flicker in and out, Camden discovers there's much more beneath the surface of her new school than she ever imagined. Will she ever make it through? (YA paranormal suspense, released 4/13, publisher: Point)

Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality, by Elizabeth Eulberg ***+ I definitely like this, but the subject matter isn't my favorite. At the same time, I did find the insight into child pageants intriguing. I suspect I'll pick it up again eventually and read it more thoroughly. Until then, I liked Lexi's spunk, and I really like her best friends. And even though it's annoying that people treat those who look a certain way differently, I do think it's realistic. I found that Lexi's changing awareness of the world around her as the book went on was also realistic. The ending is bittersweet, in many ways, and even though I prefer a happy ending, this was also realistic and right for this tale. As always with Eulberg's books, I do like the moments of humor and lightness in the midst of a serious issue. The story: Lexi's little sister is on the beauty pageant circuit, and Lexi is tired of watching the tantrums and fake world around her. She's especially tired of watching her mom get fatter and fatter and ignore her more and more while catering to her younger sister. On a dare from one of her best friends, Lexi sets out to prove that it won't make any different in her life if she attempts to dress herself up a bit -- and discovers just the opposite. People who never gave her the time of day now sit up and take notice, including the mean girl at school who never felt threatened before now. How long will Lexi keep it up? Will she champion her younger sister when she tires of the pageants? What about the boys who suddenly think Lexi is someone they need to know? (YA contemporary, released 3/13, publisher: Point)

Dance of Shadows, by Yelena Black ** I picked this up because of the beautiful cover and the jacket flap. I'm not really into dance books (because I'm not a dancer, to me, they all sound very similar), but this one definitely had an unusual intrigue. The prologue hints at something even deeper, something paranormal -- and I liked that element, though at the same time, it added some confusion. Ultimately, despite my curiosity, I only skimmed through the book. I think it's a great fit for those who love the details of ballet and still enjoy a paranormal mystery, however. The story: Vanessa attends the premier ballet school in NYC simply to find her missing sister (who disappeared 4 years previously when she was at the school). Although she loves dancing, it's too much of a reminder of her sister for Vanessa to throw herself into it like the other girls do. At the same time, Vanessa clearly has a gift, and when she's chosen to play the lead role in The Firebird, her life gets complicated very quickly. The male lead, although years older, begins to woo her; other kids offer warnings, and Vanessa experiences strange emotional and even physical changes while dancing. When the dance starts to envelop her, will she be able to keep herself strong enough to discover what truly happened to her sister? And can she fight the evil that seems to lurk in the dance itself? (YA paranormal mystery, released 12/12, publisher: Bloomsbury)

How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True, by Sarah Strohmeyer ** This sounded very sweet and light, but it didn't take long before the combination of the 'fantasy' amusement park and the 'real-life' competition had me confused. I did like Zoe, and I enjoyed her strength and loyalty, but I found the game a little annoying/silly. Still, the romance was sweet, and Zoe's behavior admirable (and humorous). The story: Zoe is hoping to win money (a grant) and a step-up to the future through a competition at a fantasy-themed amusement park. But when she discovers what her role will be (helping the 'Queen' by caring for her dog), along with the lengths some of the other 'contestants' are willing to go, she's not sure she has what it takes. When she falls for one of the other players, Zoe finds she has to decide between her desire for the grant and what she knows is right in her heart. But can she sacrifice enough to make it work? (YA contemporary, released 4/13, publisher: Harper Teen/Balzer & Bray)

Earthbound, by Aprilynne Pike ** Here's another that I thought I'd like much more than I actually did. In all fairness, I loved Pike's Wings series, so I think it's simply the subject matter in this one which doesn't quite work for me at this time. It reminded me quite a bit of Eternal Ones, which was interesting -- but I'm just not in the mood for a soulmates-meeting-throughout-periods-of-time story right now. :) However, Pike's take on it is always unique, and the book (the part that I read) definitely had that romantic feel to it. I'll probably try again when I'm more in the mood. The story: Tavia is the sole survivor of a plane crash. AFter, she goes to live with her aunt and uncle in a new place. While there, she makes one good friend, a boy named Benson. She also begins to see images of another boy -- a boy who tells her she must leave. Tavia resists until she discovers her aunt and uncle may not be as loving as she first thought. Still, how can she leave Benson? And why does she feel such a strong pull to the vision-boy? (YA paranormal romance, released 7/13, publisher: Razorbill)

Frog, by Mary Calmes ****+ I definitely enjoyed this, as I always seem to do with Calmes' books. As usual, the MC is beloved by all, but in this case, Web has a pretty strong problem with self-acceptance, and I thought that added some interesting aspects. I also liked how much Cy changed when Web was around -- how much they clearly needed each other. With all of Calmes' books, the supporting cast is wonderful, and I really enjoy her supportive family feel (even though it might be a bit unrealistic). The story: Web is tired of drifting, but he doesn't feel he deserves anything else. With no family left, he finds ranch or rodeo jobs to bring in enough money to survive -- and not much beyond that. But he always finds himself returning to Cy for interludes. Cy, a wealthy doctor, is Web's opposite, and Web doesn't believe he deserves Cy's attention or love. Cy, however, loves Web like he's never loved another -- and now, he's decided he will find a way to keep Web with him and convince him of his love. (Adult M/M Romance, GLBT, released 4/12, publisher: Dreamspinner Press)

Cover Up, by KC Burn ****+ This is a companion to Cop Out, and I not only enjoyed the new characters (Ivan and Parker) but also reading about the characters from the first one (Kurt, Davy, and Simon). There's a third, and I might end up getting that too, just because I truly do enjoy this world. I especially liked Parker here, with his insecurities and innocence. He is a sweet character, and it was tense seeing him caught up (completely unaware) in the crimes around him. Although I didn't think the resolution here was as well covered (too much happened off-screen) as in the previous book, it was still enjoyable throughout. The story: Ivan has been pulled off active duty while also being asked by his boss to do a secret, undercover assignment. His boss wants him to befriend a young man who is suspected of being part of a Russian drug ring. Ivan takes the job, mostly because he doesn't want to deal with his past trauma. When he meets Parker (their suspect), however, he begins to think something is wrong. Parker doesn't seem like the kind of person who'd be involved in anything illegal...and his apparent innocent nature begins to pull Ivan in. Before he realizes it, Ivan has fallen for Parker -- but he still has a job to do. When evidence appears which ties Parker to the Russians, Ivan is devastated, and his focus changes from breaking the ring to saving Parker. Soon, however, Ivan discovers something about his boss which puts the entire operation into jeopardy -- along with his and Parker's lives. (Adult M/M romantic suspense, GLBT, released 12/12, publisher: Dreamspinner Press)

Currently Reading: Bitter Kingdom -- I'm loving it!

On Deck: United We Spy, among others :D