November 17, 2012

Review: The Evolution of Mara Dyer

This time of year, I struggle with the balance of reading for pleasure and reading/grading for my students. This hurts my heart because it is imperative that we take care of our minds, our bodies, and our souls. 

While struggling to find time for pleasure reading, there are times when sacrifices must be made. This novel was one of those times when I made the sacrifice. For this novel, I put it all aside, grabbed a blanket, a cup of coffee, and read. 

I do not regret putting off everything to do this - not even a little.

Title: The Evolution of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
ISBN: 9781442421790
Source: personal copy purchased from B&N
Available: NOW at your local bookstore and library

Summary (from the book jacket):

Mara Dyer once believed she could run from her past. She can’t.

She used to think her problems were all in her head. They aren’t.

She couldn’t imagine that after everything she’s been through, the boy she loves would still be keeping secrets. She’s wrong.

In the gripping sequel to The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the truth evolves and choices prove deadly. What will become of Mara Dyer next?

My Thoughts:

I could not put this book down – I chose this over scoring essays. Of course, I think most of us would make the same decision, reading over grading, but still. Those essays were haunting me, but there was no way I was NOT finishing this book. It was that good.

Hodkin does not disappoint with this continuation in Mara’s story. Hodkin left a gasp-inducing cliff hanger in Unbecoming, and this sequel brings that cliff into full view.

The character development of Mara is nicely paced – revelations are made as needed. There is no feeling of rush in any way with her character. Readers are left to absorb, to think, to process – and to draw our own conclusions.

That is a strength in this series, allowing readers the pleasure of making their own conclusions (even if they turn out to be wrong later in the plot) and creating their own back stories in their minds. At least, I found myself doing that. You didn’t? Oh well, maybe Mara and I are destined to be friends, even if just on the page.

Do not expect a lot of character development in this novel for anyone other than Mara. She is our subject, and Hodkin does not stray from that. That was refreshing. In a lot of sequels, authors seem to feel the need to introduce new characters with a lot of back story, taking us off track from where we want to be.

In this novel, the secondary characters serve as enhancers to Mara. Did I have questions about those characters? Of course. But again, this goes back to allowing the reader to draw his/her own conclusions. Until the next novel. I’m sure the next novel will unravel any conclusions I came to in this novel.

I am okay with that. A lot.

Of course, what is a good YA novel without a male counterpart? Noah is back, and he plays a prominent role in the plot, but not in the same way he did in Unbecoming. His character truly knows how to stay back and allow a lady to come full circle on her own, and this is what he does for Mara. He is there to love and protect her, but the message is clear – ladies, we have to learn to protect ourselves. Period.

As for the plot development, wow! A friend asked me to describe the plot of this book, and I found myself staring. How do you describe it? So I came up with this: imagine The Bell Jar meets Stephen King. Seriously.

That is all I can say about the plot because it seems as if even a vague example would give something away. I mean, look at the book jacket summary – it’s vague, and yet it’s not at the same time.  

On a side note, I learned this week that a few students left a note at one of our teacher’s homes that read “We are watching you” (or something like that). When I heard that, I said, “I would be in a mental hospital. I just finished reading The Evolution of Mara Dyer. Have any of you read that series?” I told them they needed to rectify that immediately so they would understand my comment. And I think I’ve convinced them to (1) not look for my house and (2) not to leave me a note like that. OR…I’ve just encouraged them. They are teenagers after all.

For those wondering if this book is right for you…stop wondering and pick it up. This novel will appeal to a wide-range of readers. If you’re still unsure, visit your library for a copy of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and go ahead and reserve this one too because you will want to read it.

Have you read and/or reviewed this novel? Leave your thoughts/link below.

Happy Reading! 

November 13, 2012

Review: Moonlight Mayhem

Title and author: Moonlight Mayhem by Sherry Soule
Date: July 2, 2012
ISBN: 9780615665658
Source: from the Author

Summary (from Goodreads):

Otherworldly Creatures. Dazzling Magic. Fiery Romance.

Shiloh Ravenwolf thought she was getting used to the strange events in Whispering Pines, until the full moon brings another surge of supernatural threats to her coastal town. Ferocious wolves, deadly necromancers, and shambling zombies have descended upon the neighborhood, so Shiloh needs to gain control of her magical abilities—fast!

It sucks that she has a crippling fear of the dark, which for a demon hunter can be an epic problem. But she spends so much time wallowing in the darkness, how can she not become a part of it?

When her classmates are attacked by a mysterious creature and her father is murdered, Shiloh vows vengeance. Forcing her phobias aside, she forms an unlikely coven of supernaturally gifted teens to help her eradicate this menace. Except that’s not all Shiloh has to worry about. She’s battling a different monster within herself and struggling not to become the very thing she fights: evil.

But with demon blood inside her—anything can happen…

My Thoughts:

Werewolves. Zombies. Witches. Oh my!

This sequel packs a punch, that’s for sure! Soule holds nothing back as she thrusts readers back into Shiloh’s world, one full of even more mysteries than the first.

The title is quite revealing in the basic premise, werewolves. Except they aren’t.

Shiloh is trying to rebuild her life in Whispering Pines, but she soon finds herself in deep. She finds herself constantly holding “down” the evil inside her, screaming to get out. And while she is learning to control this element of her power, mysterious attacks keep occurring, specifically to the local high school football players.While the football players are being attacked, other locals are finding themselves mortal victims.

As the protector of the town, Shiloh must seek the truth. But could the truth lead to her own demise, or the demise of those she loves?

Like its predecessor, the setting is what sells this novel’s plot. Whispering Pines is a character unto itself. While Ravenhurst in the first novel was one of the creepiest settings I’ve read in YA, Whispering Pines is quickly giving it a run for its money. The entire time I was reading, all I could think was, “I would move. There is no way anyone could pay me to live here.” 

And the entire novel reminds us all of a very important fact: the woods are not safe. Ever!

As a whole, I enjoyed the novel. It was a fun, easy read full of action. And romance. But mostly action. The zombie element I found comical, which was a nice way to break the tension. I would have liked to have seen more witchery, but that’s because I love all things witchy.

I do have one critique: the dialogue. As someone who has taught juniors and seniors for thirteen years, I always pay close attention to text in YA novels. If I don’t buy it, the kids won’t either. I really suggest eavesdropping on teen conversations while in public. At times the dialogue hindered the storytelling for me.

I recommend this series to fans of the Twilight series looking for something to help fill in the gaps of their lives, especially with the final movie coming out this week.

Have you read Moonlight Mayhem? Thoughts? Leave a comment below, or link to your own review.

Happy Reading!

November 6, 2012

Review: 'After'

Title and author: After by Ellen Datlow
Pages: 384
Date: October 9, 2012
Publisher: Hyperion
ISBN: 9781423146193
Source: NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

If the melt-down, flood, plague, the third World War, new Ice Age, Rapture, alien invasion, clamp-down, meteor, or something else entirely hit today, what would tomorrow look like? Some of the biggest names in YA and adult literature answer that very question in this short story anthology, each story exploring the lives of teen protagonists raised in catastrophe’s wake—whether set in the days after the change, or decades far in the future.

New York Times bestselling authors Gregory Maguire, Garth Nix, Susan Beth Pfeffer, Carrie Ryan, Beth Revis, and Jane Yolen are among the many popular and award-winning storytellers lending their talents to this original and spellbinding anthology.

Table of ContentsI thought this would be helpful to you

The Segment by Genevieve Valentine
After the Cure by Carrie Ryan
Valedictorian by N.K. Jemisin
Visiting Nelson by Katherine Langrish
All I Know of Freedom by Carol Emshwiller
The Other Elder by Beth Revis
The Great Game at the End of the World by Matthew Kressel
Reunion by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Faint Heart by Sarah Rees Brennan
Blood Drive by Jeffrey Ford
Reality Girl by Richard Bowes
Hw th’Irth Wint Wrong by Hapless Joey @ homeskool.guv by Gregory Maguire
Rust With Wings by Steven Gould
The Easthound by Nalo Hopkinson
Gray by Jane Yolen
Before by Carolyn Dunn
Fake Plastic Trees by Caitlin R. Kiernan
You Won’t Feel a Thing by Garth Nix
The Marker by Cecil Castellucci

My Thoughts:

The end of the world in a nice anthology of short stories, and a poem. This book has it all for even the most avid dystopian junkie.

This is almost a survival guide for readers because there is a plethora of topics covered. It's like a buffet for the most avid doomer. Vampires take over the world? Check. Bugs coming for us? Check. Aliens? Oh my! And let me not forget the Cult. This is not even a small test of what the authors have given us.

The one thing I love about this anthology is that I did not have to read it cover to cover, and that is something that many of our teens will find appealing, especially our reluctant readers. These would also be ideal for those of you who read aloud to your students as many of these are short, fast reads.

I enjoyed the variety of scenarios, and I loved to see some of my favorite YA authors take on this task. I cannot pick a favorite from the stories because I really enjoyed all of them. I will warn you: some of them are intense. I found myself not too sure where the author was going to take me and then…cliffhanger ending. 

Yes, that is correct. Most of these ended with a cliffhanger. While that originally drove me a little crazy, I enjoyed it because I like the possibility of deciding the ending for myself. It was quite clever, and in many cases, the level of ananxiety I felt helped bring me into the next story.

After is a must-have for the dystopian reader, but it is also a great introduction into the genre. I feel that this would make a great hook into novels like The Hunger Games fans.

Have you read this novel? What were your thoughts? What kind of reader(s) would you recommend it to?

Have you reviewed it? Share your link below.

Happy reading all!

Review: 'The Raven Boys'

Title and author: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Pages: 408
Date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 9780545424929
Source: NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the
Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.

My Thoughts:

This is another favorite read of 2012. I have one word that describes this novel: WOW!

Seriously, there is no other word for it. The book itself is near impossible to review without giving away major plot points, but I will do my best.

First, hats off to the author for keeping me guessing throughout the reading of this novel. I thought I had everything figured out, until the very end.

With that out of the way, I want to focus on her characters. Blue and Gansey, an unlikely pairing, quickly find themselves a part of one another’s world. No matter how hard Blue tries, no matter how many times her mother warns, she is drawn to Gansey. She must know him, help him, figure out what will bring about his death. This must be the boy she was warned about, right? The one she was told would die if she were ever to give him a kiss. Or is he, because if there is one thing Blue knows, it’s that she doesn’t plan on kissing him. EVER.

While Blue and Gansey were the two driving forces behind the storytelling, it is the minor characters that steal the show, in more ways than one. It was a joy to experience the interaction within this circle of friends – Aglionby boys and Blue. We experience their highs, their lows, their triumphs, their discoveries. And we learn the value of loyalty and friendship, and the true meaning of betrayal.

Without giving too much away, Stiefvater’s plot is nicely executed. The pacing will keep readers enthralled, turning the page, and hungering for more.

This novel will appeal to ya lovers, especially those of the paranormal variety, but also Neil Gaiman fans. This is also a great hook novel for teen boys.

Have you read this novel? What were your thoughts? What kind of reader(s) would you recommend it to?

Have you reviewed it? Share your link below.

Happy reading all!