January 27, 2013

Review: Every Day

First I want to say that I bought this book because David Levithan wrote it and I knew it would be full of awesomeness. I was not prepared for what happened between the cover.

You need to add this book to your mound of reads.

Title: Every Day
Author: David Levithan
ISBN: 978-0-307-93188-7
Pages: 322                          
Available: NOW at your local bookstore or library

Summary (from the book jacket):

Every day I am someone else. I am myself—I know I am myself—but I am also someone else. It has always been like this.

Every morning, A wakes in a different person’s body, a different person’s life. There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

With his new novel, David Levithan has pushed himself to new creative heights. He has written a captivating story that will fascinate readers as they begin to comprehend the complexities of life and love in A’s world, as A and Rhiannon seek to discover if you can truly love someone who is destined to change every day.

My Thoughts:

What a concept – what would happen if someone woke up every day as someone else? What would life be like: exciting or lonely? In A’s case, he is complacent. It has always been this way. There is nothing to be done. There is no cure. But is he the only one like this? Are there others? I was pleased to see that Levithan did in fact address these questions because I had them before I opened the book to start reading.

I want to comment on the plot first because it was wacky and wild. I mean, waking up every day in a different body without any rhyme or reason as to why this happens? Crazy. And wonderful. But mostly crazy. What a concept for teens, a concept many of them will be able to connect to with their own lives. This concept is what makes the book worth your read.

Each chapter is labeled by the day we are on in A’s “life” and I thought this labeling worked well with the story. It allowed me to know how “old” A was as well as follow along with time. Sometimes I read YA novels and I feel lost because time is not always established in any real way. Thank you Levithan!

A’s character was fascinating because he’s not really a character, is he? He is an idea. A being of some sort. I’m not too sure what A is. Is he a metaphor for something greater? Is he an alien? Is this a punishment from the Gods?

But you know what…none of that matters because I loved A. The way he dealt with his new person each day was intriguing. He learned how to cope with his situation. There was no anger, no sadness. It just is. His goal was always to do the right thing, even in matters of the heart. 

I appreciated that he was able to feel love in his “life” when he thought he never would. It brought new meaning to the idea of a soul mate, that’s for sure, because I kept wondering if he and Rhiannon were. It would explain his attraction/connection with her. 

Rhiannon is the one I had an issue with, and it is for a silly reason, but she was too easily swayed to believe A. In a modern world where girls need to constantly be on their guards with all the crazies out there, she was too willing to believe that A was the same person in all of these bodies. I mean, I was waiting for her to open a basement door or something because in a horror movie, she would go first with her trusting nature. But this isn’t a horror movie. It’s a beautiful story. I get that, but still.

On the other hand, I applaud Rhiannon’s questions and curious nature, and the many encounters she had with A in all his different bodies were quite comical. You’ll have to read it to see what I mean. I don’t want to spoil any of those for you.

As a whole work, Levithan has really delivered a unique piece of YA literature to readers. I was surprised with how well Levithan played out the story because I have to be honest, I was skeptical when I began reading it.  

I did not feel that this was written for a teen audience but more for the adults who tend to lean toward that genre. I don’t know how to explain it, but the “feel” of the book was more mature than most other YA reads.

This novel should not go missed by any of you who regularly find yourselves in the YA aisle. I understand it makes a great audio book as well.

Have you read Every Day? How do you interpret A’s character?

Did you review it? Leave a link to your review below.

Happy Reading!

-          The Hodgenator

January 13, 2013

Review: Alice in Zombieland

Down, down, down the rabbit hole we go...except in this story, there is no rabbit hole. There are woods and graveyards that contain zombies. Does that count? I didn't think so.

I originally purchased this book for two reasons: (1) the cover and (2) the assumption that it was a retelling of Alice in Wonderland. After reading Pride & Prejudice & Zombies a few years ago, I really had to talk myself into reading this. I was not ready to jump back into the gory zombie world, but that is not what this book offered.

I read it during the holiday break and cannot believe I waited that long. From the clever chapter titles to the intriguing presentation of zombies, this book was a whole package for me, and I am disappointed that I have to wait so long to read the sequel.

Title: Alice in Zombieland 
Author: Gena Showalter 
ISBN: 978-0-373-21058-9 
Pages: 404                                    
Available: NOW at your local bookstore or library 

Summary (from the book jacket): 

She won’t rest until she’s sent every walking corpse back to its grave. Forever.

Had anyone told Alice Bell that her entire life would change course between one heartbeat and the next, she would have laughed. From blissful to tragic, innocent to ruined? Please. But that’s all it took. One heartbeat. A blink, a breath, a second, and everything she knew and loved was gone.

Her father was right. The monsters are real.

To avenge her family, Ali must learn to fight the undead. To survive, she must learn to trust the baddest of the bad boys, Cole Holland. But Cole has secrets of his own, and if Ali isn’t careful, those secrets might just prove to be more dangerous than the zombies. 

My Thoughts:

I felt a little tricked by this book. First, it takes place in my home state, which is quite rare in YA lit. Second, it has nothing to do with Alice in Wonderland. I really thought this was going to be like Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. But it wasn’t. And I still loved it.

The author takes no time grooming her reader into the world of monsters. Nope. We are thrown right into the mix. What is portrayed as a mentally ill father actually turns out to be quite correct. There are monsters, but not everyone can see them. The years he has spent keeping his family safe are all for naught in a single moment. That’s all it takes.

And Alice is to blame. After all, she is the one who convinces the family to step out, and they are unable to return home before dark. Reading their death was heartbreaking, but what a powerful way to open the novel and to introduce us to what Alice will become. It is her guilt that drives her. Or is it her destiny? Both? Yes. I am going with both.

I really enjoyed this book—all elements. From the plot to the character development. I thought the book itself was paced quite nicely. My heart was pumping when it needed to, but it was also allowed time to rest and renew, which is important to me when I read zombie tales. Yes, I am a wimp, and I don’t care who knows it. I love zombies, but I do not love the gore they tend to leave behind.

The characters of this novel are what made it a fun read for me. They were clever and kick-ass. Kat was my favorite “minor” character because she really brought out the best in Alice. Loyalty is her middle name in this book. She stands by Alice, even when Alice cannot share her darkest secret. When Kat is on the page, watch out. She will pelt you with clever dialogue, dagger eyes, and true friendship to Alice when Alice needs it the most. I feel that the author saved all the best lines for Kat, and I am okay with that.

I absolutely loved Alice’s character. She really wants to do what is right, avenge her family, no matter the cost. Even if it means it will cost her life.

She wants to train to be a zombie killer, and she will not take no for an answer. She can feel that it is her destiny. She asks questions, is curious, and really wants to learn. But she is torn. After the death of her parents, she is living with her grandparents. How will they take to her new life? So she keeps it secret. As a result, she becomes the typical "bad" teenager who needs rules and boundaries. Sometimes sharing the most dangerous secret with those you love is the way to go. And sometimes it is not. I liked the way the author addressed this and tried to create a balance. This is something a lot of teens struggle with: balance (just, minus the zombies. I hope).

Alice's first battle scene is by accident. She is in the wrong place at the wrong time. And of course she won't listen to Cole. She is strong minded and stubborn. She wants answers. She deserves answers. She believes Cole is the one with those answers.

Her training sessions were a lot of fun to read because they were full of sweat, trash talk, and drama. Alice is not the only one with her eye on Cole, and this brings tension within the zombie fighters. There is a scene with a treadmill that elicited a giggle from me because (1) it was ridiculous plausible and (2) it was a fight. Who doesn't love reading a good fight, especially between two girls? 

Her fights with the zombies were an interesting take on zombie battles, different from what I’ve read in the past and seen in movies. Her heart and soul were in every battle, thirsty for more. Or were those the zombies?

And where would our story be without a hero? Cole. He was steaming up the pages. His “bad boy” image was made of legends. It reminded me of Patrick Verona in 10 Things I Hate About You. If you have seen that movie and enjoyed Verona, you will love Cole. They have the same level of likeability while still being mysterious.

Cole is a nice compliment to Alice. When he first appeared on the page, I was not too sure what to think of him. Based on what the book jacket, I knew he was going to be an important player within the plot. He was. And is. And the chemistry he has with Alice is hot. Yep. Hot. That is about all I can say about Cole without ruining important plot points, but I look forward to seeing where the author will take him in the next book.

As a whole work, I really this novel. While it was not what I originally expected, it was a delightful surprise. I read it in a day because I could not put it down. I wanted to know where the author was going to take me—well, technically Alice—next and how she was going to develop the world of zombie killers.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is unsure of zombie storytelling. It is an intriguing look into that world without being gross and gory. It offered just enough suspense to keep readers engaged and turning the page. I did not find an element of the storytelling that lulled, not even a little bit.

What’s your favorite zombie tale?

Happy Reading!
     - The Hodgenator

Review: The Second Spy

I really enjoy reading children's books, especially series. This is fast becoming one of my favorite series for children, especially mystery. 

This is such an interesting mystery: living in a house where the characters can go in and out of Elsewhere, AKA paintings. It's a clever idea, and I am curious to see where the author takes me in the next one.

Title: The Second Spy 
Author: Jacqueline West 
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3689-4 
Pages: 296                                    
Available: NOW at your local bookstore or library 

Summary (from the book jacket): 

What lurks below the house could be as dangerous as what's hidden inside . . .

Some terrifying things have happened to Olive in the old stone house, but none as scary as starting junior high. Or so she thinks. When she plummets through a hole in her backyard, though, she realizes two things that may change her mind: First, the wicked Annabelle McMartin is back. Second, there's a secret underground that unlocks not one but two of Elsewhere's biggest, most powerful, most dangerous forces yet. But with the house's guardian cats acting suspicious, her best friend threatening to move away, and her ally Morton starting to rebel, Olive isn't sure where to turn. Will she figure it out in time? Or will she be lured into Elsewhere, and trapped there forever? 

My Thoughts: 

This is my favorite in the series so far.

In the third installment of West’s tale, Olive is starting middle school. If that’s not scary enough, strange occurrences are happening not only in her home but also in her art class. She’s dealing with unexplained notes, missing items, and a betrayer in her midst.

The plot of this novel is well-developed and nicely paced. The mystery unfolds at all the right spots, building suspense and then popping the suspense bubble. Who is leaving Olive letters in her school cubby? Where are the missing items? Who is the betrayer among them? The answers to these questions will surprise seasoned readers of Olive’s story.

Olive is such a delightful character. Very little rattles her. She just wants to seek the truth, find Morton’s parents, keep her best friend from moving, and to be rid of Annabelle McMartin once and for all. Is that too much to ask? Yes. Yes it is.

I enjoy Olive because she is a loyal friend, she is curious, and she does what she feels is right. Sometimes these qualities get her in trouble, but ultimately these are the qualities that will keep readers coming back, cheering Olive on as she tries to defeat the McMartins.

Readers of the first two novels will not be disappointed, but I feel that the first two novels aren’t a necessity to read before diving right into this story. West has a delightful way of reminding readers of the events of the past two novels.

This series will appeal to those who enjoy children’s mysteries. It is not scary, and the illustrations that accompany the writing really enhance the storytelling. I could see readers of the Magic Tree House series really engaging with this one as they grow.

Have you read the The Books of Elsewhere series? What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below.

Happy Reading!