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Book Review: Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz February 9, 2011

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Book Series, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult.
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Hey folks,

It’s book review day again.  I have quite a few books on my list of things to review, but this most recent read hopscotched to the front of the line.  Unfortunately it didn’t jump forward for all good reasons.

Blue Bloods is a YA book detailing the lives of a group of elite New York teenagers as they come into their own as vampires and look to solve the mystery of the death of a classmate at a local hot spot.  As a summary that doesn’t sound too bad and is part of why I picked the audio book up.  I drive about 45 minutes each direction to work and I’m finding that I lurve listening to audio books during the trip – which reminds me that I need another one for tomorrow now…hrm.

Anyway…I’m digressing, back to the book.  This book is a classic example of show versus tell done totally in the wrong way and drove me completely crazy.  I kept waiting for a real rise in the action and it was just reveal after reveal mostly in the form of someone telling someone else what was going on.  Our lead character Schyler never actually figures anything out by herself, she just has people tell her stuff.  AAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHH.

As well these pampered rich kids make me want to kick them.  this may come, I realize, from never having been one of the rich beautiful people in the way everyone in the book is.  I was never driven around in a Silver Rolls Royce or towncar.  I have never purchased $4000 jeans…that’s like THREE house payments!  So this world of a gazillion fashion terms, day spas and power yoga is just so foreign without help that adding an urban fantasy twist to it just made me frustrated.

The urban fantasy twist, by the way, is the best part of the book.  It’s a fairly unique take on the vampire mythos, painting them as fallen angels who live through a full life from baby to ancient and at the time of their death a drop of blood is gathered and put into the next incarnation.  During the ‘sunset years’ of teens the angels come vampires learn about their heritage and begin to unlock the memories of all of their past lives.  Much of this book ties back to Egypt and Plymouth rock and the settling of America.  It’s interesting and generally well done, except very brief because they have to get back to parties in expensive dresses!

The other problem that comes with this mythos is a fairly high ick factor as people born twins are often an incarnation that is to be mated with the other.  So you get a really heavy incest vibe even if it is explained away in that they have the memories of all these other lives and vampires can’t procreate by normal means, only the implant of the blood and such, but still…if incest bothers you you’ll want to steer clear.  As well though it’s listed as YA and has teen aged protagonists there’s a lot of accepted behaviors that may be of concern to parents, namely under aged drinking, smoking and sexual activities that are just accepted as being part and parcel of the life of the glamorous and vampiric.  For being beings searching for redemption they aren’t particularly angelic.

All in all I was disappointed in the book because I really wanted to like it.  There are some questions I’d like answered and I have some interest as to how the mythos plays out it’s not enough to get me over the relatively weak writing and the show versus tell issues, which keeps me from wanting to read the other books in the series.


Genre: Urban Fantasy/Chick Lit

Age: 16+

Content: Violence, sexual content, teen smoking and drinking

Overall: 2/5  stars


Book Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan December 15, 2010

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Book Series, Young Adult.
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So it’s been a while since we’ve put up a review.  Crazy lives all the way around.  🙂

My choice for this review is The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.  This is a YA book which I listened to as a book on tape, over about three days.  I have to give a lot of credit to the performers as it was very well done and an engaging performance.

The idea behind The Forest is a post apocalyptic world where zombies roam unchecked and a lone village, most of the inhabitants believing they are the only living people on earth, is protected by high fencelines.  When the story begins Mary has lost her father to the Unconsecrated, which is what they call zombies, and soon looses her mother.  These events start a chain reaction of events where Mary comes to question everything about the way the village is run and the very people who protect their way of life.  As well she faces the romantic advances of the man she loves and the man who loves her.  All of this leads her on a wild adventure seeking the ocean and a life beyond the forest.

The plotline is one that generally works for me.  I found the way the village was run to be believable and the characters very interesting.  My biggest problem with the story is Mary herself.  I know I was supposed to be sympathetic to her, but through the whole book she made me angry.  She was selfish and lazy and unlikable and I didn’t like watching others get hurt of killed trying to defend her when she did nothing to deserve the protection.  In the end I was kinda hoping she’d get eaten, and while she does not the ending was very unsatisfying as she got some of what she wanted but it didn’t really answer the questions I had. I’m disappointed because I really really wanted to love these books, but I won’t be reading the second one or buying this one.


Genre: Horror

Age: 15+

Content: Violence, limited sexuality, threatening situations, deaths

Overall: 2/5  stars

Book Review: Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson July 7, 2010

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Children Books, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult.
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Hey folks!  Hope everyone in the stats had a great 4th of July weekend.  For our family it was a time of fireworks, memories and really good food.  Beyond that we also finished the book we’ve been reading together, Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson, so I decided it would be a good review today.

We’ve been reading Alcatraz a chapter at a time for about the last 2-3 months.  My husband is our reader and myself and our two boys, ages 9 and 13, are the erstwhile listeners.  To give credit where it is due I think part of the joy of this reading is listening to my husband who is a very good reader and creator of various voices, but it certainly helps that the story he was reading was a delight in and of itself.  Alcatraz is told from a first person point of view, but it’s from a future version of Alcatraz looking back to tell how his story got started.  The narration is irreverent, humorous and filled with delightful forshadowing of upcoming events in completely unexpected ways.  Sometimes a rutabaga is far more than just a rutabaga.

Alcatraz himself is a character walking the line of deciding what kind of person he is going to be.  He addresses the bad things he does with the same honesty that he acknowledges bravery and love.  He’s a boy who has been raised in the foster system and who has an unnatural ability to break everything he touches.  Come to find out that the ability is a Talent and his whole family has them.  His thirteenth birthday begins with a present in the mail, the arrival of his grandfather, who has the Talent to be late, and a gun toting librarian because…of course…the world is not what we think it is and Alcatraz is thrust into the middle of a war between the Hushlands and the Free Kingdoms all while learning more about himself, his talent and what it means to be a family.

The book was delightful.  Some folks might get annoyed with the interjections by the narrator and moments when he’s purposefully poking fun at writing conventions, but I found them hysterical.  The language of the book is very accessible for middle grade readers and young adults, but there are enough twists to how the language is used that adults can be delighted by a whole other level of what’s going on.

We’re buying book two and three now cause we have to know what happens next to the boy that breaks things and his family.  And we’re still curious about the sacrifice on a stack of outdated encyclopedias!

Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians

Genre: Modern Fantasy

Age: 8+

Content: Minor violence

Overall: 5/5 paws

Book Review – Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George January 27, 2010

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Fantasy, Young Adult.
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It’s another blustery snowy day in the mountains of Utah and I’m wishing I could be at home reading instead of at the day job, but I like getting a paycheck so here I be.  🙂

Today we’re talking about Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George.  This is a fairytale retelling…well…a fairytale fleshing out is likely more accurate.  She follows very closely the traditional lines of the East of the Sun, West of the Moon fairytale, fleshing it out by adding more breadth to the characters and some detailing.  All in all it’s an enjoyable read.  George has a good knack for fairytale language and the book flowed well.  I found that I liked the ‘lass’, since she doesn’t have a name, for the most part.  I liked that she was industrious and generally sensible, for example when she finds she needs new clothing she doesn’t ask for clothing from the servants but rather cloth so she can make clothing herself.  Her prince suffers from what a lot of prince’s suffer from which is a lack of real character development.  He’s handsome and falls in love with her and was a third son but doesn’t feel particularly lucky, so ideal for a fairytale love, but leaves me wondering if they’ll get home to his golden palace and she’ll discover he still farts like a bear.

There are a few other places where the author sets up a clue which didn’t get the pay off that I was expecting.  I found this a bit disappointing, since such a big deal had been made through the whole book and in the end it didn’t matter.  I’m trying not to be spoilery here, but that’s a tall order.  Let’s just say the power of naming should have been more important in my opinion.

All in all I’d read another of Ms. George’s book, but I definitely consider it fairly light reading.


Genre: Fairytale

Age:  10+

Content: True lurve, adventure, romance

Overall: 3/5  paws

Book Review: The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins September 30, 2009

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Book Series, Science Fiction, Young Adult.
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It’s a cold bleak kind of Wednesday around these parts.  The first big storm of the fall season is pounding down on us and looks like it’ll keep it up for the rest of the day and stay cold from here until sometime in March.  I have a love hate relationship with this time of the year.  I hate being cold, but at the same time I love the feeling of the whole world being close and cozy.  It makes me want to curl up with good books, hot chocolate and a warm blankie…a warm husband is pretty dang nice too, but I digress.

Today’s book up for review is The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.  I was introduced to this one through a book club, though now that I’ve read it I want to know how I missed it earlier.  Book two of the series, it’s scheduled to be three books long, is called Catching Fire and recently released.  Book three is scheduled for Septemberish 2010.

The Hunger Games is a near future science fiction/survivalist story, though I’m not sure either of those terms really fully wraps around everything this book is about.  It’s young adult friendly and the protagonists are both teenagers, but I’d prolly lean towards 14+.  My friends called it a ‘girl book’, but I think there’s plenty of action and smartness which would appeal just as well to the male of the species.

The Hunger Games is a story about the teenager Katniss who lives in the impoverished District 12 in the country of Panem, a dystopic nation which exists where the US once did.  The 12 Districts are kept under control by the Capitol district where the wealthy and affluent use technology and social training to keep the haves and the have nots far apart.  Rebellion has happened before and been harshly put down.  As a result of the previous rebellions there has also been the creation of a yearly televised tournament in which two teenagers from each district are forced to fight to the death.  For the winner, and their district, there are great rewards.  The losers often don’t even have a body sent home.

Katniss isn’t selected for the games, but when her sister is she volunteers to go in place.  The games require every survival instinct she has and every trick she can come up with, even if that means playing to the crowd when she’s not sure of her own feelings, particularly when it comes to her male counterpoint from District 12, Peeta, a boy who has saved Katniss before and is trying to do so again.

The book was brilliant in the way it explored the themes of mass media and control of the population, as well as just how far one would go to survive.   The politics come fast and heavy, even though the book itself focuses on the games and how they’re played.  Nothing is without a double meaning and the cameras are always watching.  Katniss is prickly, but also has beautifully caring moments where I found myself really rooting her on and wanting her to succeed.  Peeta I loved from the get go…particularly when he comments that he wants to die who he is and never let the games change him into a monster.

There are some pretty gruesome deaths and injuries in this book, though they’re dealt with very tastefully.

I’m likely going to purchase both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire in hardback, which is likely the strongest recommendation I can give it because I don’t usually buy hardback, but I don’t want to wait!


Genre:  Science Fiction/Survival

Age:  14+

Content: violence, mild romance – kissing

Overall: 5  paws


Book Review: Vampire Academy – Richelle Mead September 9, 2009

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult.
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I don’t have any excuses for the amount of time we’ve spent away from the blog.  However, the time has been well spent in reading a LOT of stuff.  I love the library, though my ‘to buy’ list for the next time I’m at the bookstore is getting hefty.

I picked up Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead on a whim.  I wasn’t sure I’d like it.  Vampires in school can go so many different ways, but I’m happy to say this one worked for me.  The pages flew by and while there were a few moments when I was rolling my eyes for the most part I enjoyed every minute.  I think the eye rolling was mostly a matter of teenagers being teenagers.  If I think about it I’m pretty sure the teenagers I know would do the same petty things.  The games of popularity and trying to figure out who you are and how you fit in really represent that time in life.  It doesn’t actually get easier when you’re an adult, but teenagers are more honest about it.

I have to give Ms. Mead props for the relationships she builds between the characters, particularly between Rose and Lissa.  It’s a hard balance to strike to get the friendship and devotion without the two characters melding into a muddy sameness.  I believed in the friendships and the attractions and the rivalries and the twist as to who was behind many of the problems worked for me.  I only figured it out about a page before it was revealed, so I’m impressed.  The plot was very consistent with the world Ms. Mead presented and it’s a world I’m looking forward to visiting again.

I’ll go jogging with Dimitri any day.  Vavavoom.


Genre:  Urban Fantasy

Age:  15+

Content: violence, animal deaths, blood feeding, minor sexuality and smooching

Overall:  Buy


Book Review: Book of a Thousand Days August 21, 2009

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Fantasy, Young Adult.
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This wasn’t the book I was going to review, but it’s sticking in my brain, so there you have it.

Book of a Thousand Days is a young adult book by Shannon Hale.  I’ve long loved Ms. Hale’s books and this was no exception.  Book of a Thousand Days is written journal style from the point of view of a lady’s maid who is bricked up in a tower with her Lady, who has refused to marry the man her father has chosen.  The two are to stay there for seven years or until the Lady comes to her senses.  So the book is split into two.  The time in the tower and what happens afterwards.

This is a charming book with a lot of fun fairy tale aspects and some twists which keep you guessing as a reader.  There are some fun cultural aspects built into the story which give it a feel of being something very foreign, not simply the Westernized fairy stories most of us are accustom to.

I got this one from the library, but it’s on my list to purchase the next time I’m at the bookstore.

Genre:  Fairy Tale

Age: Young Adult

Content: mild violence, mild romance, mild scares

Overall:  Buy

Book of a Thousand Days

Book of a Thousand Days

Wednesday Book Review: The Ribbajack July 15, 2009

Posted by kmcalear in Book Review, Children Books, Fantasy, Young Adult.
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Genre:  Short Story/Mild Fantasy/Spooky

Age: Adolescent/Young Adult

Content: mild violence, mild romance, mild scares

Overall:  Buy or borrow

I really enjoyed The Ribbajack, both because Brian Jacques is one of my favorite authors and because the short stories are engaging and easy to read. Most of them have some sort of classic moral or didactic purpose to them which shows they’re classic cautionary tales with an interesting twist on them. They range from “the Ribbajack”, which is a cautionary tale about the danger of revenge, to “The Mystery of Huma D’Este” where a bully gets his comeuppance and “Rosie’s Pet” where a girl only learns to behave once she becomes a werewolf. The stories touch on themes children will face from bullying, abuse, and disobeying parents. The language is very regional British, which may give trouble to some readers, but the book would be a delight to read out loud. I think the tales would also be great fresh stories for any storytellers to use.

From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8-Jacques offers six original ghost stories to follow up on Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales (Putnam, 1991). The title story is more grotesque than scary, and the ghost in “A Smile and a Wave” is inexplicably evil, existing only to scare the main character into wearing her detested coat. The most satisfying selections are “Miggy Mags and the Malabar Sailor,” in which a mongoose champions a young girl against her abusive uncle, and “Rosie’s Pet,” a preadolescent werewolf love story. The heavy northern English dialect used in the tellings would work well in an audio book, but may deter some readers. While this is an acceptable addition to general collections, true fans of the scary and strange will find more satisfaction in the short-story collections by Australian writer Paul Jennings, such as Unreal! (Formac, 1992).
Farida S. Dowler, formerly at Bellevue Regional Library, WA
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