Friday, June 29, 2012

Brad About Books: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

Published: September 30, 1999
Publisher: Harper
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 162 pages
Source: McKay's Used Bookstore
Series: Series of Unfortunate Events, #1

In this first book, readers are introduced to the unfortunate Baudelaire children -- 14-year-old Violet, 12-year-old Klaus, and their infant sister, Sunny -- when they learn they've just been orphaned by a terrible house fire.

The executor of the Baudelaire estate -- a phlegm-plagued banker named Mr. Poe - sends the children to live with a distant relative: a conniving and dastardly villain named Count Olaf, who has designs on the Baudelaire fortune. Count Olaf uses the children as slave labor, provides horrid accommodations for them, and makes them cook huge meals for him and his acting troupe, a bunch of odd-looking, renegade good-for-nothings. When the children are commandeered to appear in Count Olaf's new play, they grow suspicious and soon learn that the play is not the innocent performance it seems but rather a scheme cooked up by Olaf to help him gain control of the children's millions. 

All this bad luck does provide for both great fun and great learning opportunities, however. Violet is a budding McGyver whose inventions help the children in their quest, Klaus possesses a great deal of book smarts, and Sunny -- whose only real ability is an incredibly strong bite -- provides moral support and frequent comedy relief. Then there are the many amusing word definitions, colloquialisms, clich├ęs, hackneyed phrases, and other snippets of language provided by the narrator (a character in his own right) that can't help but expand readers' vocabularies. Though the Baudelaire children suffer myriad hardships and setbacks, in the end they do manage to outsmart and expose Olaf's devious ways. But of course, with luck like theirs, it's a given that Olaf will escape and return to torment them again some day. If only misery was always this much fun.

In this tale of grief and despair, Lemony Snicket (A.K.A. Daniel Handler) captivated me into the story and invested me into the characters and the wickedness of a person that is Count Olaf.

The writing style is probably the best middle grade writing style. When “big words” appear in the book, Snicket takes time to explain to the reader the definition of that word. The style in which Lemony Snicket writes the book is filled with sorrow and sadness, but for some reason, it’s so much fun to read about and I seriously couldn’t put it down. 
Count Olaf is one of my favorite villains of all time. His comebacks to anybody he talks to is very entertaining, and the way that the Baudelaire children try to escape from his cruel ways are very powerful. They had me cheering them on! 
And the whole ending of the book had me on the edge of my seat. I hate it when a book has an unrealistic ending because the author needed a way for the problem to be solved. I just knew that that strategy would be used in this book, but I was so wrong. This would be a great book to go back and re-read to understand the foreshadowing that slipped under my nose while I read it.
And the illustrations in the book were fantastic. I’m not sure who drew the pictures (I probably should have looked that up), but they did a great job and really represented the story amazingly.
Overall, THE BAD BEGINNING was an excellent middle-grade with misfortune, funny dialogue, and a wonderful ending that was very realistic. This series is going to be great! 

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Brad About Books: Hereafter by Tara Hudson

Published: June 7, 2011
Publisher: Harper Teen
Format: Harper Teen
Page Count: 404 pages
Series: Hereafter, #1

Can there truly be love after death?
Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she's dead. With no recollection of her past life--or her actual death--she's trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but "will" him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.
Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.
Thrilling and evocative, with moments of pure pleasure, "Hereafter" is a sensation you won't want to miss.
HEREAFTER is a thrilling and gripping story about finding out who you can really trust when you’ve lost everything. 
Tara Hudson’s writing style is a very poetic but fast-paced style, which made me fall in love with the book instantly. I adore it when an author makes you want to care about the characters; makes you want to find out what will happen next. 
And the author did one of the most awesome things: she made the romance between the two characters realistic. They truly cared for each other and wanted to help each other in any way possible. Props to Tara Hudson for that!
One word: Eli. Eli the creepy stalker. Eli the weirdo who’s life mission is to own Amelia (The main character). Eli who is troubled and needs somebody there for him. How did this character come to be? 
He’s one of those characters that you hate so much . . . then the next chapter, you feel for him and cheer for him. But wait, you forgot that you hate him. I love it when authors make characters like that!
And the ending is so full of action and epic. Tara Hudson had me on the edge of my seat with my fingers crossed that nothing horrible would happen to the characters that I have come to love. And the final chapter is so perfect. Loved it!
One more thing before I go: the snarky character that is Grandma Ruth. Oh gosh, how much I loved her sass in HEREAFTER. She had me laughing out loud at some parts, then had me so furious with her at others. Again, Tara Hudson is one of the best character creators ever.
Overall, HEREAFTER was an excellent debut with a great storyline and exquisite characters. So stoked to read ARISE! 

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Brad About Books: Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber

Published: August 5, 2003
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (Harper)
Format: Harper
Page Count: 197 pages
Source: Library
Series: Vampire Kisses, #1

The mansion on top of Benson Hill has been empty and boarded up for years. But a new family has moved in. A family that never ventures out during the day. Who are these creepy people -- especially the handsome, dark, and elusive Alexander Sterling? Or rather, what are they? Could the town gossip actually be true? Are they vampires?
Raven, who secretly covets a vampire kiss, both at the risk of her own mortality and Alexander's loving trust, is dying to uncover the truth.

VAMPIRE KISSES is just purely a fun novel. Definitely could be a pool side read or a scary Halloween read! 
Ellen Schreiber’s writing style is one of those “easy-going” writing styles: enough description to keep the reader entertained throughout the novel. I would definitely give this book to reluctant readers, mainly because I feel that they could connect very easily to the main characters and really care for them. I know I sure did!
I read VAMPIRE KISSES in under twelve hours. Even though it’s only two-hundred pages long, it’s a very quick and fast-paced read that kept me relaxed and enjoying the novel one chapter, then on the edge of my seat the next chapter. VAMPIRE KISSES is full of ghoul-y surprises that kept me wondering what would happen to Raven in her boring town nicknamed “Dullsville”. 
Raven is one of those characters in YA who you rarely see anymore; she’s diverse and different, she doesn’t give a crap what anybody thinks about her, and she does what she likes to do, wear the clothes she wants to wear without thinking that people will judge her, and is strong enough to take care of herself. Props to Ellen Schreiber for weaving together a strong heroine that many people could look up to!
And I really liked how the suspense scenes in VAMPIRE KISSES were really well done and plotted out, and Ellen Schreiber put these characters into mad situations that seem impossible to get out of, but they eventually do. Loved that trait about VK.
Overall, VAMPIRE KISSES is one that all fans of paranormal romance should read. Can’t wait to continue Raven’s story! 

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Brad About Books: A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young

Published: June 21, 2011
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (Harper)
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 267 pages
Series: A Need So Beautiful, #1

We all want to be remembered. Charlotte's destiny is to be Forgotten...

Charlotte’s best friend thinks Charlotte might be psychic. Her boyfriend thinks she’s cheating on him. But Charlotte knows what’s really wrong: She is one of the Forgotten, a kind of angel on earth, who feels the Need—a powerful, uncontrollable draw to help someone, usually a stranger.

But Charlotte never wanted this responsibility. What she wants is to help her best friend, whose life is spiraling out of control. She wants to lie in her boyfriend's arms forever. But as the Need grows stronger, it begins to take a dangerous toll on Charlotte. And who she was, is, and will become--her mark on this earth, her very existence--is in jeopardy of disappearing completely.

Charlotte will be forced to choose: Should she embrace her fate as a Forgotten, a fate that promises to rip her from the lives of those she loves forever? Or is she willing to fight against her destiny--no matter how dark the consequences.

The title says it all with this book: beautiful. A NEED SO BEAUTIFUL is raw, powerful, and thought-provoking beyond belief.
Let me just start with saying that this is one of the most saddest books I’ve ever read. The reason being is that people gradually start to forget her . . . imagine your own best friend starting to forget memories with you! I had to set the book down at one point because I couldn’t handle the grief and tragedy that Charlotte (our main character) went through.
Suzanne Young’s writing style is so addictive. I couldn’t put this book down, and even stayed up until two in the morning to finish it. Her prose in this book is magnificent, and this book definitely lived up to its hype.
And can I just say that this whole concept is original and brilliant? Suzanne Young really hit it out of the ballpark with this one. I felt attached to every single character, especially Charlotte. The reader journeys along with Charlotte, discovering secrets about her life along the way with her, and the way the Suzanne Young sets this book up to the absolutely major cliffhanger was just pure awesomeness. 
That being said, I didn’t really care how Charlotte was just so naive for a little bit of the book. I mean, I totally understand how it would be hard to understand that people are going to forget you, but when your skin starts to flake off to reveal a plate of gold, I would start listening up more and try to figure out a way for people to keep remembering you.
And I loved how every character grew stronger somehow in the novel. Suzanne Young’s characters are one of the most diverse and complex characters I’ve ever read about, and I really appreciate her for putting that great quality into A NEED SO BEAUTIFUL.
Nonetheless, Suzanne Young’s captivating and wonderful novel exceeded my expectations. So pumped to read book two!

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Brad About Books: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Published: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (Harper)
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 525 pages
Series: Divergent, #2
Read From: May 2 to May 4, 2012


One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

INSURGENT was even better than its predecessor for me! Veronica Roth has proved herself to be an outstanding author that can turn a second book into an action packed and suspenseful novel, while avoiding the “second book curse”. 
The only problem with INSURGENT is that is barely any flashbacks as to what happen in the first book, DIVERGENT. I forgot some of the characters (Will, being the main one), but soon, I remembered everything that had happened in DIVERGENT.
Veronica Roth is a literature genius. Her dialogue between the main characters is exceptional, the pacing is perfect, and the action scenes were totally epic, but not to the point where it feels overwhelming. I can officially say that Roth is one of my favorite authors of all time.
And I’m so happy that Tris stayed a strong character! She didn’t mope around or suddenly become super lazy; she still stayed her fearless and brave self, and I appreciate Veronica Roth keeping her character the same.
The character development in INSURGENT is brilliant. Every character somehow grows and matures in this book. Everybody learns a lesson of their own at the end of the book, and they all become stronger in their actions that they committed in INSURGENT.
The ending! Is Veronica Roth trying to murder us all while having to wait until Fall 2013 for book three?! I had to re-read that final page one last time, making sure I got every single detail. I’m now dying for book three (and I’m sure everybody who’s read this book wants book three in a passion).
Overall, INSURGENT did not disappoint at any levels. Props to Veronica Roth for crafting a great sequel!

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Timepiece by Myra McEntire

Published: June 12, 2012
Publisher: Egmont USA
Format: ARC
Page Count: 336 pages
Source: Publisher
Series: Hourglass, #2

A threat from the past could destroy the future. And the clock is ticking... 
Kaleb Ballard's relentless flirting is interrupted when Jack Landers, the man who tried to murder his father, timeslips in and attacks before disappearing just as quickly. But Kaleb has never before been able to see time travelers, unlike many of his friends associated with the mysterious Hourglass organization. Are Kaleb's powers expanding, or is something very wrong? 
Then the Hourglass is issued an ultimatum. Either they find Jack and the research he's stolen on the time gene, or time will be altered with devastating results. 
Now Kaleb, Emerson, Michael, and the other Hourglass recruits have no choice but to use their unusual powers to find Jack. But where do they even start? And when? And even if they succeed, it may not be enough... 
The follow-up to Hourglass, Timepiece blends the paranormal, science fiction, mystery, and suspense genres into a nonstop thrill ride where every second counts.

I loved the first book in this series, HOURGLASS. I was so afraid that the "Sophomore Slump" would hit Myra McEntire and affect my feelings of TIMEPIECE. Myra McEntire came back strong when entering this world again and she actually made this book better than the first!

Myra McEntire has a writing style that captured me into the story. Her lyrical prose entertained me while all of this crazy time-travel storyline kept rolling. And can we talk about the originality of this story? I have never read a story like this, and I have recommended it to so many people. If you're looking for an original YA book with a great writing style, definitely pick up this series.

I love how TIMEPIECE is told in Kaleb's point of view. He was on my favorite characters in HOURGLASS; he was snarky, rebellious, and he had a background story that was interesting. I thought it was great how the reader gets to see this insane story through another character's mind. Also, Emerson isn't the main female protagonist in TIMEPIECE; her best friend Lily is. Can I just say that I adore McEntire's characters? She is a brilliant storyteller, and I can't give her enough credit for creating this great story. 

Myra McEntire has crafted together an amazing sequel that did not disappoint whatsoever, and the horrendous Sophomore Slum did not get to her writing style. I wish that I could travel back into time to relive this awesome book!  

Friday, June 8, 2012

Brad About Books: Cold Fury by T.M. Goeglein

Expected Publication Date: July 24, 2012
Publisher: Putnam (Penguin)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 313 pages
Source: Around the World ARC Tour
Series: Cold Fury, #1

Jason Bourne meets The Sopranos in this breathtaking adventure

Sara Jane Rispoli is a normal sixteen-year-old coping with school and a budding romance--until her parents and brother are kidnapped and she discovers her family is deeply embedded in the Chicago Outfit (aka the mob).

Now on the run from a masked assassin, rogue cops and her turncoat uncle, Sara Jane is chased and attacked at every turn, fighting back with cold fury as she searches for her family. It's a quest that takes her through concealed doors and forgotten speakeasies--a city hiding in plain sight. Though armed with a .45 and 96K in cash, an old tattered notebook might be her best defense--hidden in its pages the secret to "ultimate power." It's why she's being pursued, why her family was taken, and could be the key to saving all of their lives.

Action packed, with fresh, cinematic writing, Cold Fury is a riveting and imaginative adventure readers will devour.

COLD FURY is a fast-paced thriller that kept me turning pages, but the beginning fell a bit flat.

T.M. Goeglein has this way that made me want to know what in the world was going to happen to Sara Jane. T.M. created this huge situation that could end up getting Sara Jane killed. As if that didn't entice you enough, her uncle may not be who he says he is. 

The writing style is a bit different than your typical YA novel. While the voice of Sara Jane is very intriguing and fast-paced for the most part, some parts have awkward dialogue and the style can jump from super fast to slow and boring. But for the most part, this story was all over the place with crazy action scenes and suspense that makes for a great novel.

And the masked assassin in this book was just plainly epic. This is the part where COLD FURY shines most; the suspense in this novel is unbearable. I had to know what would happen to our main protagonist! I'm so excited to see where T.M. Goeglein will take Sara Jane's adventures in the next book. And the ending was such a killer finale. 

But the one thing I didn't like about COLD FURY: the beginning. I didn't connect with the characters at first, and the storyline was moving very slowly. The prologue is very fast-paced, but then, the rest of the book is told in flashbacks. I couldn't really stand that part about COLD FURY.

Overall, COLD FURY was an excellent novel, but did have its flaws.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Brad About Books: Plague by Michael Grant

Published: April 5, 2011
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (Harper)
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 497 pages
Series: Gone, #4

It's been eight months since all the adults disappeared. GONE.

They've survived hunger. They've survived lies. But the stakes keep rising, and the dystopian horror keeps building. Yet despite the simmering unrest left behind by so many battles, power struggles, and angry divides, there is a momentary calm in Perdido Beach.

But enemies in the FAYZ don't just fade away, and in the quiet, deadly things are stirring, mutating, and finding their way free. The Darkness has found its way into the mind of its Nemesis at last and is controlling it through a haze of delirium and confusion. A highly contagious, fatal illness spreads at an alarming rate. Sinister, predatory insects terrorize Perdido Beach. And Sam, Astrid, Diana, and Caine are plagued by a growing doubt that they'll escape - or even survive - life in the FAYZ. With so much turmoil surrounding them, what desperate choices will they make when it comes to saving themselves and those they love?

Plague, Michale Grant's fourth book in the bestselling Gone series, will satisfy dystopian fans of all ages.

I’ve come to conclude that the GONE series is my addiction. While some characters don’t developed at all, something is put into these books that makes me want to know what in the world is going to happen next in the FAYZ. 
Michael Grant, when people say “I’m so sick, I could cough up a lung”, they do not actually mean to cough up a lung! PLAGUE was definitely one of the most disturbing books in the series, but it’s the FAYZ, so everything is pretty disturbing in this world.
We have some plot change in PLAGUE! Some scarier things start to happen (including freaky bugs that almost gave me nightmares) and Michael Grant makes some characters like Sam, Diana, and Astrid develop and mature in this fourth book.
The bugs in PLAGUE were downright creepy. They’re frightening, morbid, and freaky to the point that makes you want to set the book down and keep reading at the same time. I have never had that experience happen to me, so props to Michael Grant!

Overall, PLAGUE was one of the best books in the Gone series, in my opinion. So looking forward to reading the fifth book, FEAR! 

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Brad About Books: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Published: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Greenwillow (Harper)
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 320 pages
Series: Red Death, #1


A devastating plague has decimated the population. And those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles to pieces around them.

So what does Araby Worth have to live for?

Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery make-up . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.

But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club. And Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither boy is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

And Araby may find something not just to live for, but to fight for—no matter what it costs her.

I have to be honest in saying that MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH disappointed me. It did have its great moments of epic scenes or tragic losses, but for the most part, I just didn’t connect with this book.
Although, one of my favorite parts of MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH was the writing style. Bethany Griffin has a poetic writing style, along with some dashes of the new modern style.  I was hooked on this story from the very first page just because of the way that Griffin set up this world.
The reason I didn’t connect with this book is because of the lack of action. Our main characters must stop a madman from taking over what’s left of the world, and that’s almost all of the action that MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH has (in my opinion, anyway). But I did really like it when the infected came out to hunt for Araby (our main protagonist). 
I thought that Griffin did an excellent job re-imagining a Poe short story. “Masque of the Red Death” is one of Poe’s shortest stories, and Griffin has created two novels out of that short story. That is some serious talent.
And the cliffhanger at the end of the book left me speechless. It ends in such a way that makes you want to go out and buy book two when it’s available. It was that big of a cliffhanger.
Overall, I expected too much from MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, but due to the big cliffhanger at the end, I will probably read the sequel.

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