Sunday, May 3, 2009

Beastly by Alex Flinn

What if the tale of Beauty and the Beast happened in todays world? How would people react to the Beast? Would Beast be more or less likely to get his Beauty? That is the story Flinn tells in Beastly. Kyle Kingsbury, one of the most popular guys at his exclusive private school, plays a mean prank on a not-so-popular girl in his class. The prank backfires as she is a witch- a real witch that is- and turns Kyle into the Beast. Kyle soon learns what the people he used to ridicule went through, and then some. The few people who see Kyle are terrified, and Kyle's own father, a famous news anchorman on TV, is so embarassed about his son that he sends Kyle away to live by himself in the family's vacation home. The once popular Kyle suddenly finds himself to be an outcast.

The witch gives Kyle two years to find someone who will look past his beastliness and fall in love with him. The story becomes a little predictable here. Kyle blackmails a girl from his school to be his prisoner in his home. But how can he not only get her to look past his ugliness but to also get her past the fact that he is holding her captive? Of course, Kyle finds himself falling for the girl. Kyle never becomes the scary and mean beast like in the Disney version, which might make it easier for him to get the girl.

Of course we know the ending throughout the story, but Flinn still manages to keep her readers on their toes. Maybe she won't stick to the usual story after all! In spite of the fact that this is a well known story, this retelling is perfect for young adults and adults who are tired of the children's version. It is also fun to read the story in a modern setting. Kyle is not so isolated as he has Internet access and is in an online support group for people who are going through changing from one thing to another (one is a mermaid who wishes to become human- gee, I wonder who that could be?). It's a quick read and lots of fun. I recommend this for guys and girls (it's told from Kyle's point of view).

Book; 13+; ISBN 9780060874186; New York: Harper Teen, 2007

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Minister's Daughter by Julie Hearn

Witch trials and unwed mothers in the same book?! In 1645, Nell’s grandmother is ailing and Nell must quickly learn to take over as her town’s healer. However, in this time of Puritanism and witch hunts, it is a dangerous profession for women to be midwives and healers. When the minister’s eldest, and unmarried, daughter, Grace, becomes pregnant, she goes to Nell to terminate the pregnancy. Nell refuses to terminate the baby because the baby was conceived on May 1st—under pagan tradition, babies conceived on May Day are sacred children called “merrybegots.” Unable to admit her failing to her father and the town and wanting to get rid of the person who knows her secret, Grace, with the help of her sister, Patience, contrives to blame her condition on Nell and her grandmother. In this time when the Puritan church was fighting against old, pagan beliefs, it was not difficult to get the town riled up about the “witches” in their midst.

While piskies (pixies) and fairies have some minor roles in this story, the story is more historical fiction than fantasy. Set before the Salem witch trials of 1692, this story gets into the psychological background of the witch hysteria that took over New England in the late 17th century. While not a big page turner, the story will still hold your interest to the end.

Book; 13+; ISBN 978-0689876912; New York: Atheneum books for young readers, 2005

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

This untypical Victorian tale is a great mix of fantasy and mystery. After the death of her mother, Gemma Doyle moves from India to England to live nearer to her remaining family and to go to the exclusive Spence Academy, a boarding school. But don’t dismiss this book as yet another private school clique story; Gemma Doyle has visions—she even foresaw her mother’s death. Furthermore, a mysterious young man has followed Gemma from India. Is he there to protect or harm her? Or, is he there to keep her from learning the mystery of her mother’s death? At Spence, Gemma encounters the usual group of mean girls—the beautiful girls everyone wants to hang with at Spence. When Gemma protects her roommate from the girls, she gains their attention and is invited to join their “private club.” In spite of their initial animosity and general suspicion of each other, the rivals form a tight group centered around a diary that Gemma had found at Spence after following one of her visions. The diary was written by Gemma’s mother and tells of two former Spence students and a secret order that found their way into an otherworld called the Realms. Gemma and her friends use the diary to find their own way into the Realms unaware of the dangers that wait for them there. For the girls, who live during the strict confines of Victorian London, the Realms offer a freedom they know they will never have after they marry. Each girl finds her own fantasy in the Realms not knowing that a dark danger lurks and would follow them back into their world if they were careless enough to let it. In the middle of this story, Gemma searches to solve the mystery of her mother’s death. While the girls merely follow Gemma into the Realms, it is Gemma who has the power to go there. Exactly what are Gemma’s powers? Will Gemma go along with the expectations of her times and become wife to a wealthy man? Or, will she maintain her individuality and independence?

This tale is dark but very enjoyable. It is mildly supernatural and does not quite fit in with the other run-of-the-mill supernatural books out there. The writing is beautiful, and the author never insults her reader's intellegence. This is a good book for teens to adults so don't be surprised if your mother/aunt/oldest sister tries to steal it. The book isn't a total chick lit book, so guys, don't be afraid to pick it up and read it too!

Book; 14+; ISBN 9780385732314; New York: Delacorte Press, 2005

Friday, May 1, 2009

Marked by P.C. & Kristin Cast

Imagine a world where vampires (or rather vampyres as it's spelled in this story) live openly among humans. That's the world in which Zoey Redbird lives. Zoey lives an average teen life near Tulsa, Oklahoma. Then one day at school, she is Marked. That means Zoey will turn into a Vampyre- unless she is unable to survive the change from human to vampyre. In Zoey's world, becoming a vampyre is not cool. Her society is generally prejudiced against vampyres, and Zoey is horrified to have to admit to her friends and family that she will become one. Plus, being marked a vampyre means Zoey will have to leave her family to go to House of Night, a vampyre boarding school where fledgling vampyres learn how to be, well, vampyres.

Zoey finds strength in her Cherokee heritage as she tries to deal with the loss of her prejudiced family and friends and learns the ways of her new life. However, she must deal with the extraordinary details of life as a vampyre fledgling. Zoey has unusual powers for a new vampyre, and this causes jealousy and suspicion among some of her new classmates at House of Night- especially Aphrodite, the leader of the Dark Daughters, an exclusive club. Compounding her problems, Zoey's ex-boyfriend becomes obsessed with her. Luckily, Zoey gains a new group of supportive friends and a mentor to help her navigate through her first days at the House of Night.

Marked is the first book in the House of Night series so don't expect all of Zoey's problems to be solved in these pages. I was worried that with two authors, the book would be disjointed and difficult to follow, but that is not the case. The story unfolds smoothly and it is difficult to put down without trying to peek at the next chapter. Some parts did feel a little long to me. For example, the rituals are described and more detail than I cared for, but that might just be me. I tend to like my books to get to the point quickly. Overall however, I enjoyed this story and look forward to reading the next installment.

Book; 13+; ISBN 978-1742141862; New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2007

Evermore by Alyson Noel

Wouldn't it be cool to be able to read minds and know the moods of those around you? Ever Bloom can, but she is not so happy about it. Ever has lost almost her entire family in a car accident and now lives with her older sister, who is a successful lawyer in southern California. Ever almost died in the accident too, and, after a near death experience, has been able to read people's minds and see their auras. Unfortunately, she cannot turn her power on and off at will. School is sometimes overwhelming with the overload of her classmates' and teachers' thoughts, and has gone from the popular teen she once was to a reclusive girl who hides under hoodies and constantly has her iPod's earphones blocking out the world around her.

Then, one day, the hot new guy, Damen, sits next to Ever and she finds relief from the onslaught of thoughts. She is also unable to hear Damen's thoughts or see his aura. Gradually, Ever realizes that Damen is not a normal human either. As she falls for Damen, Ever finds herself in danger as someone else also wants him, and this girl will stop at nothing to claim the guy she believes is destined to be hers- even if it means killing Ever. Talk about crazy stalkers!

In the beginning, this story seems like another Twilight wannabe- down to how Ever and Damen meet in science class. However, after a few chapters, it develops into its own story line. To explain how the story is different would give away one of the surprises of the novel so you'll have to read it for yourself. It does stand out from all the other vampire and supernatural books that have inundated bookshelves in the past couple years. It is an addictive read and will have you staying up late to read "just one more chapter."

Book; 13+; ISBN 978-0312532758; New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2009.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer was my first foray into young adult books. Well, my first foray since I was maybe 20. I expected this YA book to be predictable and unchallenging, like most of the books from my own teen years I had outgrown. Surprise! I love this book! I couldn't get enough of it and devoured it. Oh yeah, in case you actually haven't heard of Twilight, or read it yet, Meyer's first book is about a young woman and her relationship with a vampire. Don't care about vampire stories? Give this one a chance. The story is amazing, if a bit fluffy. It has a good mix of love story and adventure. Bella Swan moves from sunny Phoenix to the rainiest place on Earth, Forks, WA to live with her father after her mother remarries. Since there is very little sunshine in Forks, the place is a great spot for vampires to live. Super clumsy Bella finds herself falling in love with Edward, a member of the local vampire family. I'll let you read for yourself to see how Bella and Edward navigate the dangers of love between a vampire and a human.

If you love this book, I recommend reading the rest of the series. Also check out Stephenie Meyer's website I enjoyed reading about how she came up with the idea for the Twilight series and her experiences getting her first book published. But, beware of spoilers!

Book; age 12+; ISBN 9780316160179; New York: Little Brown & Co., 2005