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Saturday, June 26, 2010

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Title: I Am Number Four
Series: The Lorien Legacies Book 1
Author: Pittacus Lore

Release Date: 30th August 2010

My Rating: 4/5

Nine teenagers and their guardians are hiding on Earth … protected by a charm that means they can only be killed in numeric order, three are already dead. John Smith is Number Four. And his mortal enemies, the Mogadorians, are hunting him down.

The only way to keep off their radar is to keep moving, never staying in one place for long. Now in the firing line, all he can do is adopt the guise of a student and pray his unusual gifts, his legacies, stay hidden long enough for him to settle into this new community.

But others seem to sense his otherness and when small-town life sucks him into its intrigues, it’s only a matter of time before his true nature is revealed. And that means there’s no space for love, friendship or a future if it means protecting not only himself, but the other five as well...

My Review:
I was a bit hesitant at first when picking this up as my advanced readers copy did not have a blurb, only 'We were nine. Three are dead. I am number four'. Yes this was intriguing but when I went and had a look online, all I could find was that it was an alien sci-fi novel (in fact there is very little information about the book available online). Now aliens and outer space are not my thing. Firstly, I don't think I have ever seen a movie set in space or concerning aliens that I have really enjoyed, same goes for books, so I just don't bother looking at them any more. Yes I prejudge and yes I am sceptical but hey, that's me. Secondly, I can't get the image of a little green man with a big head out of my mind. Needless to say I wasn't highly enthusiastic about the prospect of diving into the book. But, a friend of mine who was reading it, said she was really enjoying it and that I should give it a go. So I did.

As I am sure you have guessed, based on my defensive ramblings (and my rating above), I loved I Am Number Four. First and foremost, it is not set in outer space, from the blurb you will see it is set on Earth, and the aliens are not little green men. Reminiscent of t.v. shows like Heroes, and Michael Grant's series Gone, I Am Number Four is about a group of teenagers, with unnatural abilities who live among normal people with their guardians, hiding from another alien race who want them dead. It is very well written, incredibly suspenseful and exciting. From the first page it is gripping and action-packed as we witness the demise of Number Three.

Our main characters, Henri and Number Four, also known as John, are very likeable and John's frustrations are so easy to relate to. While some of the characters such as Sarah, Sam and Mark are the typical supporting characters, they, and the story, are still somehow unique. I love the character of Sam, John's new best friend, and I think this might be because I have such a soft spot for the geeky but loyal side-kick type character he portrays.

The only thing that is stopping me from giving this book 10/10 is that there were certain reactions to events I found to be unbelievable. Sometimes, the way Henri reacts to the way John behaves is not how I image Henri should react. The same goes for some of Sarah, Sam and Mark's reactions. I'm sorry this is cryptic! As much as I would love to talk about certain things that happen within the pages, I refuse to post spoilers (but please feel free to email me).

This is one of those books that is getting a lot of pre-release hype online and already a movie adaptation is in the works, currently being filmed starring Alex Pettyfer as Number Four. The author Pittacus Lore, which is a pseudonym, is perhaps one of the worst kept secrets. Aside from the fact you will find a reference to the name Pittacus Lore inside the book, it is also the writing team of James Frey (best know for A Million Little Pieces), although he is yet to confirm or deny this, and newcomer Jobie Hughes.

I am so glad I finally picked up this book and am highly excited that there are to be six books in the series. As I have said in previous posts, the only downside to getting advanced readers copies is that I now have to wait even longer for the sequel to come out. Bring it on!

For another review, that explains the storyline in more detail, click here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Infinity By Sarah Dessen

Title: Infinity
Author: Sarah Dessen

Release Date: 7th June 2010

My Rating: 3/5

'Lately, I don't dream about Anthony. I dream about the roundabout...'

Sometimes it's hard to make choices and decisions, and to know which way to go.

My Review:
Puffin, the children's branch of Penguin Books, turns 70 this year. In celebration of this, amongst other things, they are releasing 10 short stories by well-known children's authors. These are known as Pocket Money Puffins and consist of a short story by an author, plus one or two extracts from previously released titles by that author. They are a great size and price. As the name suggests they are both pocket-sized and only $7.95 (Australian $$)

In this case, Sarah Dessen has written a short story (only 33 pages) about the choices in life, something that, as young adults grow up, they are constantly having to do. While this story focuses on a 16-year-old girl who tries to conquer her fears on the road, as well as put up with a pushy boyfriend, the end message is something that applies to all; when making a choice or decision, as long as it is your own, it doesn't matter how long it takes you to do so. Make your own choices in life. They may not always be the right ones, but they will be yours.

I love Sarah Dessen. One of her novels, Just Listen, is one of my all time favourite books. While Infinity wasn't long enough to satisfy me, it makes a great taste-tester for those new to her writing. The two extracts included are from Just Listen and That Summer.

For more titles in the Pocket Money Puffins series click here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

Title: The Cardturner
Author: Louis Sachar

Release Date: 1st June 2010

My Rating: 4/5

My mother put her hands on my shoulders, looked me straight in the eye, and gave me her best motherly advice: 'Don't screw it up, Alton.'

When Alton's ageing, blind uncle asks him to attend bridge games with him, Alton agrees, mainly because his mother reminds him it is good to be on the right side of your rich uncle. Not expecting much from the outings, Alton soon finds himself getting to know a lot, not only about his uncle and his family's history, but also about himself. As one mystery unfolds, another is discovered in this brilliant and funny novel.

My Review:
Although I loved The Cardturner, I'm really struggling to find the right words as to why. First and foremost, it is about a game called bridge. Most people, if they have heard if it, generally associate the game with the elderly. All I knew about it, before reading The Cardturner, was that it was a card game, and that my Grandma played it with 'The Bridge Girls' once a month. I love reading books that have been inspired by authors' quirky interests. Louis Sachar wanted to write a book about bridge. He wanted to share his love of the game and also hopefully entice younger people to play. And that is exactly what he has done. Thankfully for us readers, the story is told from the perspective of 17-year-old Alton, who gets a summer 'job' turning the cards for his blind great Uncle, four times a week, at his bridge club.

Bridge aside, The Cardturner is about family: family relationships, family secrets, family money and a mystery (that turns out to be quite heart-breaking). There is also the normal adolescent difficulties with friends and the opposite sex but, thankfully, these do not suffocate the book, although I suppose the other way of looking at it is that the game of bridge does suffocate the story.

There is a lot of detail concerning bridge. Alton explains the rules at intervals throughout the book as he learns something, or decides that we are now ready to learn that particular move. And then we often get detailed descriptions of a particularly awesome, or terrible, play. Thankfully, Sachar/Alton understands that not everyone will be as crazy about the game as he is, and starts the explanations off with a little symbol so that we are aware that there will be a short summery of what he has described at the end of his explanations, meaning we can skip forwards and read it in three lines in layman's terms, and still understand what is happening. It can end up being quite funny.

I loved the characters that Sachar has created. Alton is a fantastic protagonist. He is so easy to relate to and is very likeable. After finishing, I felt as if Alton was my friend and/or that I wish he was. Leslie, Alton's younger sister is a really cool kid and I enjoyed the relationship between brother and sister. It is unusual to have siblings that like each other, treat one another well and stand up for each other (unless that is the whole point of the story), especially when it is a 17-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl. Trapp was also a great character, with his random philosophical comments and questions, and his sporadic "hah's!". The only character that really annoyed me was Cliff. I think most readers will agree with me.

Funnily enough, I now have the urge to sit down and play bridge with my Grandma. I would even re-read The Cardturner, not just because I loved the story, but because I wouldn't mind trying to learn more of the rules of bridge again (some of the terminology was lost on me the first time around)!

In regards to creating interest in bridge for the younger population, mission accomplished Mr Sachar.

This is suitable for all ages. While it is aimed at young adults, there is no adult content so would be ok for kids aged 11+. This is purely because it can get quite complicated and might be difficult for younger readers to grasp.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sneak Peek...Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Lauren Oliver's debut novel, Before I Fall, was absolutely amazing! Now, we are able to get a sneak peek at Delirium, her new book, due out in February 2011. Courtesy of our friends over at Harper Teen, you can have a read of the first chapter.

Have a peek, it's intriguing to say the least!

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that one love -the deliria- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey

Title: Jekel Loves Hyde
Author: Beth Fantaskey

Release Date: 1st June 2010

My Rating: 3/5

Jill Jekel has always obeyed her parents’ rules – especially the one about never opening the mysterious, old box in her father’s office. But when her dad is murdered, and her college savings disappear, she's tempted to peek inside, as the contents might be key to a lucrative chemistry scholarship.

To better her odds, Jill enlists the help of gorgeous, brooding Tristen Hyde, who has his own dark secrets locked away. As the team of Jekel and Hyde, they recreate experiments based on the classic novel, hoping not only to win a prize, but to save Tristen’s sanity. Maybe his life. But Jill’s accidental taste of a formula unleashes her darkest nature and compels her to risk everything,even Tristen’s love, just for the thrill of being… bad.

I haven't read Beth Fantaskey's first book, Jessica's Guide To Dating On The Dark Side, which everyone says I should, so I may just do that after reading Jekel Loves Hyde. Jekel Loves Hyde is a dark, slightly creepy, suspenseful thriller with a murder mystery and budding romance in a high school setting. It is what happens when a good girl meets a bad boy, and tries to save him. Will she succeed in saving him before it's too late? And will she lose herself in the process?

The character of Tristen is mysterious, dangerous and sexy. But does he have a hidden softer side? I fell for Tristen after the second line he spoke, 'Trust me'. If you read the surrounding text, I'm sure you will see why. There is just something about bad boys (think Patch in Hush Hush, Adrian in Vampire Academy, Jace in City of Bones). *sigh*

One of the great things about this book is that we get to read it from both Tristen and Jill's perspectives, which gives us so much more insight into their characters, especially since both of them change, and grow, quite a bit through the story. While Jill is initially seen as a timid little pushover, we eventually see her crawl out of her shell and become quite the strong willed person that was always hiding inside, which I think is probably my favourite thing about the whole book. With Tristen on the other hand, we get to experience his anguish as he is constantly battling internally with himself, over his good side, and his dark side, in his attempt to become the person he desires to be, and not succumb to his legacy.

The novel is based on the classic story by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It's wonderful when today's authors take classics and work them into current YA fiction. Classic authors such as Jane Austin and the Bronte' sisters and titles such as Catcher In The Rye and The Great Gatsby are often referred to in today's fictions but it's also nice when other less popularised titles such as To Kill A Mocking Bird, and in this case, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, are also bought into the popular YA fiction of today. It's a great 'shout out' to the works of yesteryear and a great way to create interest in titles that would possibly not have as much intrigue to today's young adult market.

My only disappointment was the epilogue. I feel there were too many clich├ęs and it seems like Fantaskey was trying to wrap the story up too quickly.

Ages 14+

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer

Title: The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner
Series: An Eclipse Novella
Author: Stephenie Meyer

Release Date: 5th June 2010

My Rating: 3/5

Bree Tanner can barely remember life before she had uncannily powerful senses, superhuman reflexes and unstoppable physical strength. Life before she had a relentless thirst for blood...life before she became a vampire.

All Bree knows is that living with her fellow newborns has few certainties and even fewer rules: watch your back, don't draw attention to yourself and, above all, make it home by sunrise or die. What she doesn't know: her time as an immortal is quickly running out.

Then Bree finds an unexpected friend in Diego, a newborn just as curious as Bree about their mysterious creator, who they know only as her. As they come to realise that the newborns are pawns in a game larger than anything they could have imagined, Bree and Diego must choose sides and decide who to trust. But when everything you know about vampires is based on a lie, how do you find the truth?

Die-hard fans of the Twilight series will not be disappointed with this short story spin-off from the third book in the series, Eclipse. For those of you who do not remember, Bree was the newborn vampire at the end of Eclipse who Carlisle gave the option of surrendering after the fight with the other Seattle newborns. Meyer had originally written this short story as a piece to be included in her yet to be released Official Twilight Saga Guide. Upon completing the novella, it was discovered it was far too long to include in the guide and it was suggested it be released as a separate title. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner was released world-wide on the 5th June to mixed reactions. It will also be available for a limited time from 7th June to 5th July to read for free online. You can find it here.

I had mixed reactions after finishing it. I was really interested in reading about the newborn vampires, their habits and exploits, but once we got up to the part where Bree comes into contact with the Cullens, my interest was lost. I think this was because I already knew what was going to happen and while I know the point was to see it from Bree's perspective, all I discovered was how sorry I felt for her. I think what I would have preferred was the release of a story about a newborn, with no mention of the Cullens. Bree is a very likeable character and there could have been a great novel created using her, rather than wasting that character on someone who ends up dead. I also loved the introduction of the character Fred and would have enjoyed reading how his story evolved.

My other gripe was with all the hype in Eclipse about how terrible newborns are. The ones in the novella weren't really that violent. Sure, they killed people, but I was expecting more.

Maybe I'm over Twilight. Maybe I just don't like the idea of anything trying to attach itself to the four Twilight books...or maybe I really would have just liked a completely separate book using the characters of Bree and Fred, or even Fred's own story, with NO mention of the Cullens...

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Title: The Sky is Everywhere
Author: Jandy Nelson

Release Date: 1st June 2010 (Australia)

My Rating: 5/5

"I do not think this is how normal people mourn..."

Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to centre stage of her own life—and, despite her non-existent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding.

I loved The Sky is Everywhere. After finishing it, all I wanted to do was pick it up and read it again right from the start. I don't think I have ever had the urge to reread a book straight away after finishing it. It is a fantastic story from first time author Jandy Nelson about life, love, loss and healing.

Despite it's morbid premise, this is a humorous novel about finding yourself, coping with grief, and allowing yourself to be happy again. It is about the tragedy of losing a sister and finding first love, and all the emotions that come with those experiences: the sadness, the confusion, the passion, and the feeling that your heart is going to burst into a million pieces.

Poor Lennie, she is so lost after the death of her 19-year-old sister Bailey. She copes by shutting out her friends and those around her as she doesn't think they can relate to her or understand what she is going through. What she forgets is that they also have lost Bailey. The supporting characters are crazy, eccentric and absolutely loveable; Grams and her roses and the Spotted Lennie Plant, Sarah and her animal vocabulary explosions, and Big and his dead bugs and Pyramids.

Lennie is a 'young' 17-year-old, always having hidden behind Bailey and has about zero experience with boys. When she falls for new boy Joe Fontaine, she immediately feels guilty for moving on and not spending every second of the day feeling depressed and mourning her sister. Her confusion over her feelings for Toby are also understandable. What we as the readers realise long before Lennie, is that she and Toby are drawn together over the enormous grief they share over Bailey's death, not by her having some strange attraction to her dead sisters' boyfriend.

The Sky is Everywhere is beautifully written. The words are so lyrical, they swallow you up and you get lost inside them.

We walk in silence then through the woods and it snaps me back into my senses. The stars and moon are mostly hidden over the thick tree cover, and I feel like I'm swimming through darkness, my body breaking the air as if it were water. I can hear the rush of the river getting louder with every step I take, and it reminds me of Bailey, day after day, year after year, the two of us on this path, lost in talk, the plunge into the pool, and then the endless splaying on the rocks in the sun-

"I'm left behind."

I also loved Lennie's random scattering of poems throughout the book that she leaves all over town. They helped give more insight into how she is feeling and also her relationship with Bailey.


A must read for ages 14+.
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