Review: WHERE SILENCE GATHERS

Kelsey Sutton is one of my top 3 favorite authors that I discovered this year. Her debut novel, Some Quiet Place, is one of my favorite books ever, and one of my fave YA of 2014. 

Alexandra Tate has always been able to see personified Emotions, but now she is faced with a Choice. Revenge, her best friend since the drunk driving accident that killed her family, and Forgiveness, a tempting new Choice, compete for her attention. Even six years after the tragedy, Alex struggles with her grief and tries again and again to get justice for her family’s murder. Completing her senior year of high school loses priority as Alex uncovers mysteries about her father’s past, is chased by haunting voices that no one else can hear, and runs from faceless attackers threatening the lives of her remaining family and friends. A poignant, heart-wrenching story of grief, love, and loss, Where Silence Gathers combines an authentic narrative with tantalizing supernatural elements to create a powerful companion novel to Sutton’s debut, Some Quiet Place. It will appeal to fans of paranormal romances like Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Meredith Stoll, and Fallen by Lauren Kate. 

-Review originally published in School Library Journal, March 2014

Some Quiet Place (Some Quiet Place, #1)  Where Silence Gathers (Some Quiet Place, #2)

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Falling in love with – Crash Into You

This is my favorite of Katie McGarry’s books, by far. In fact, I started reading it after I was a few chapters into Dare You To (#2 in the series) and finished it seriously weeks before DYT. Crash Into You has incredible characters that you will fall in love with, a fast-paced, page-turning plot, and a sizzling romance that will quicken your heart. 

Katie really delivers with this book. It is obvious that she worked so, so very hard on crafting Isaiah and Rachel’s story, and all of her hard work shows on every page. The characters are interesting, a little quirky, relatable, and incredibly lovable. Isaiah is a bad boy with a good heart, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s sexy as sin. Rachel is a private school girl with a complicated family, an anxiety disorder, and the looks of an angel. 

Characters from other books in the series make appearances when appropriate, including Noah and Echo, Beth and Ryan, Logan, and Chris. It’s great getting to see them, especially Noah and Beth, from Isaiah’s perspective. Secondary characters like Abby, Ethan, and West are also very strong and stand on their own enough to feature their own stories (at least for West). It’s never hard keeping all the characters straight, because they’re all so different and, again, you’ll fall in love with them. 

The plot is very well-crafted and I don’t have anything bad to say about it. Not a single thing. Rachel and Isaiah first meet at a street race in the bad part of Louisville, and they run from the cops together. It’s dangerous and crazy and exciting right from the start. Isaiah sort of rescues Rachel from that situation, but she rescues him as well. And he never forgets what she did for him. They get into trouble with a local baddie, Eric, who they now owe money to. At first they have to work together to get the money together and keep each other safe from Eric and his craziness. But then they start to like each other. And want each other. And sparks fly.

If you want a fast-paced romance, an urban contemporary story, and a heart-wrenching tale of self-discovery and bravery you should be reading Katie McGarry’s Crash Into You!

REVIEW: Lockwood & Co. – The Screaming Staircase

13555073The Screaming Staircase was a very well done start to what will definitely be a fascinating and exciting series.

Lockwood and Lucy are the top agents in a paranormal/psychological investigation agency. They are ghost-hunters. Ghosts are a plague, an epidemic in London and it’s up to young people like Lockwood’s team to take them out, help them to the other side, and protect people. 

The author knows what he’s doing, and combines great writing skills with well-rounded characters and an interesting almost-dystopic-Britain setting. The language is quirky and complex, with just the right amount of paranormal, ghost-hunting jargon. The protagonists are a perfect pair of mis-matched teens, always at each others throats but ready to take a hit for each other, too. The secondary characters are interesting enough to stand alone. The ghost-infested city of London is altogether creepy and tantalizing.

The cases that Lockwood and his team take on – both to help people and to make money to keep their agency running – are always creepy and compelling page-turners. The mysteries seem a little predictable, but then hit you with a twist. Lucy’s point of view keeps the repetition of the case->adventure->solved->basecamp routine from becoming dull.

Think Harry Potter, Sherlock, and Ghostbusters all mashed together: that’s Lockwood & Co. It’s a great new series that middle schoolers, teens, and adults will love.

March Reading Update

Time for another update on my March Madness Read-Athon status!

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Here’s what I’ve accomplished:

Skim-read and reviewed books for a local library consortium YA interest group. I mean, two of them were the 3rd book in a series and there is simply no way I could read the entire series in time. Sorry!

A Radiant Sky (A Beautiful Dark, #3)Afterglow (Wildefire, #3)One Crow Alone (After the Snow, #0)

Read some new manga! I particularly enjoy Venus Versus Virus.

Is This a Zombie?, Vol. 7Venus Versus Virus Omnibus Vol 1Welcome to the NHK, #1

I read some non-fiction! This is quite the milestone for me. I mean, I read like 2 non-fiction books a year. And I’ve already read a few. Shocking.

Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and WantBeyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out

What I’m reading now! Invisibility is AMAZING. I am listening to the audiobook and I simply can’t get enough. I laugh, I yell, I cry with the characters and I don’t want to get out of my car and make it stop. I drive more slowly to hear more of it. Seriously.

InvisibilityIndigoThe Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism

A violent, honest, insane love story. You know what I mean.

Grasshopper Jungle GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE is a history.

This is all true.

All roads converge at the point of Austin Szerba’s pen poised at the top of a blank page in a leather-bound log-book from the 70s, courtesy of McKeon Industries.

And that was my day. You know what I mean.”

Austin Szerba, a cigarette-smoking Lutheran boy, narrates this post-apocalyptic journey of self-discovery and disaster. He is accompanied by his best friend, who he is completely in love with, Robby Brees; occasionally his girlfriend, Shan Collins, tags along for the ride. He is in love with her, too. It’s all very confusing.

Except it’s not confusing for the reader. The reader perfectly understands Austin’s confusion, because we all experience it, too. This is not a cookie-cutter story about the end of the world and/or being in love. This is a story about how everything can be completely screwed up, but you just have to deal with it.

This is my favorite part of the entire book, right here. It’s not spoiling anything for you, just so you know.

It was warm, and outside the sound of insects in the night was electric.
The music sounded better than anything I’d ever heard.
I had never been so happy in my life.
I played with the little silver medal against my bare chest.
I wrote poetry while we sat there like that in the dark and talked about our favorite poems and books and laughed and smoked.”

By the end of the story, Austin still has no idea what to do. And that is real. That is honest. That is how real life works.
What am I going to do, Ingrid?” Austin asks his beloved golden retriever.

The rest of the story has nothing to do with how real life works.

Some scientists at McKeon Industries try to create Unstoppable Corn to fuel the demand during the 70s. Then they try to create Unstoppable Soldiers for the government. They succeed, and proceed to be almost completely destroyed by their creations: six foot-tall praying mantis-like monsters that only want to do two things.

Austin and Robby inadvertently set those monsters loose on the world, and they must fight back to save their friends, family, and the entire planet. Be prepared for the unabashed sexuality of sixteen year-old boys, the carnage of murder and copulation conducted by the Unstoppable Soldiers, and a general whirlwind of insanity. Like Austin Szerba says, “Everything fell into place, all right. But things dropped into place so hard the entire world broke.”

GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE is gory and profane and brutal and honest and meaningful and it is all true. You know what I mean.

Andrew Smith wrote this book not for anyone but himself, and I respect that so much. Make sure you read the acknowledgements page. Maybe read it before you start the book. Just so you know how it came to exist.

So go out and read this book. Right now. Get an e-book copy. Get on hold for your library’s copy. Buy the thing. Just read it, so that when the Unstoppable Soldiers come, you’re ready.

Shatter Me, again and again.

Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)

Unravel Me (Shatter Me, #2)

Ignite Me (Shatter Me, #3)
 

 

 

 

Let me tell you something about this series. Juliette will get inside your head, and she’ll never leave. Her voice is real, it is heart-wrenching, and it is powerful. You will never forget. You will always want more of Shatter Me. Everything that I ever want a YA dystopian story to do, Tahereh Mafi does that thing. Every type of romance that I want to occur, Tahereh makes it happen.

The Shatter Me series is everything I’ve ever wanted in a dystopian romance, and then some. 

Shatter Me is the story of Juliette, a prisoner of the cruel Section 45 leader, Warner. Juliette lives in a world past the brink of disaster. The Reestablishment has taken over the U.S. and is lead by the cruelest of men, Anderson, who is also Warner’s father. Juliette must escape her prison, she falls in love falls in lust with a soldier named Adam, and later becomes a member of a group of rebels with superhuman powers. While the plot is very well done, the world-building is fascinating and complex, the superpowers are just the right amount of cool and creepy, the best part of the series is simply the characters.

The Shatter Me series is mostly a story about characters. About self-discovery and confidence. About being who you are and hating it being okay with it. About getting stronger, and hurting helping your friends, and being accepted by them. The drama between Juliette, Warner, and Adam centers around Juliette changing from a terrified, weak, pathetic, yet sweet little girl into a confident, strong, outspoken, and wild woman. Yes, she has changed, but here’s the thing: Juliette wasn’t herself before. Adam didn’t fall in love with the real her. Warner was able to see who she really was all along, and he did terrible things to try and help Juliette realize that herself.

And you know what? He did it. “You were right all along,” Juliette says to him in Ignite Me, the final installment in the series. It is amazing how Tahereh made us hate want Warner at first, and so fiercely. Yet now. . .now he is so dear to me. Warner has made an incredible impact on me throughout the Shatter Me series. More than Anderson, more than Juliette, more than Adam or even Kenji, Warner has had the most powerful and complex emotional experiences. I respect him so, so much, and I love Juliette for loving him respecting him, too.

Alright, can we talk about Tahereh’s writing style? Because it is the best thing ever in any YA book. I am so serious right now. Juliette’s stream of consciousness, free-thinking prose is simply incredible. I cannot get enough. It is so powerful, so compelling, and so real. I don’t know how she does it so well, but I know I don’t ever want this series to end. Lately I have been a little fed up with trilogies that could have told the story better in a single novel, but this is not one of them. This story needs even more than 3 books to be complete, and to be told well.

Thankfully there are 2 novellas, first published as ebooks and now available in the Unite Me paperback collection, which give readers a little extra. Destroy Me tells what happens after Shatter Me, and from Warner’s point of view. I was floored by this novella, by Tahereh’s perfect picture from inside Warner’s head. Fracture Me is from Adam’s point of view, and tells what happens after book 2.

So if you haven’t read Shatter Me, you need to go get it right here and now. And make sure you get the second one right away. And have access to an e-reading device so you can read the novellas. Because you need to stop won’t want to stop.

Destroy Me (Shatter Me, #1.5)Fracture Me (Shatter Me, #2.5)

Crimson Empire manga

Crimson Empire Vol. 2: Circumstances to Serve a Noble

Crimson Empire Vol 1: Circumstances to Serve a Noble

After getting so invested in QuinRose‘s Alice in the County of Hearts/Clover/Joker series I didn’t think I would be able to enjoy the other visual novel-based manga series as much. I was delightfully wrong!

Crimson Empire: Circumstances to Serve a Noble is based on a visual novel series by the same name. It follows Sheila, an assassin/bodyguard maid, who is charged with protecting the heir Prince Edvard and occasionally his brooding older half-brother, Justin. I really enjoy the medieval setting, the frilly outfits, the alchemy and potential for magic, the hint of darkness with Michael the demon.

The only part I don’t like, the vast number of attractive male characters that I can’t keep straight, is remedied by the handy character guide at the beginning of each volume. Having that many potential suitors is only natural for a visual novel story, but darn it gets hard to keep up with their pretty faces! As far as recommending this series, if you like the Alice series or you are simply struck by the cover art of Crimson Empire I would say you should read it!

You can find the series on the KCPL catalog over here.