Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab Review

I enjoyed Anna Jarzab’s debut novel, All Unquiet Things, so I was excited for the opportunity to read her second novel. Jarzab departs from the mystery format and offers readers a work of contemporary fictions.

The Opposite of Hallelujah
October 9, 2012
Random House Children’s Books
464 pgs

Caro Mitchell was a just young girl when her older sister, Hannah, left home to join a cloistered convent. Hannah never really explained her reasons for becoming a nun and now, eight years later, she is not offering an explanation for her sudden arrival back home. Caro has gone from feeling like an only child to sharing her home with a stranger. The sisters’ relationship is strained and awkward, to say the least. Caro’s inability to cope with and understand her sister causes her to lie to her friends and new boyfriend. When her lies are revealed her carefully compartmentalized worlds collide and things really fall apart. It is not until Caro inadvertently uncovers the secret Hannah has been keeping that true healing begins. Caro seeks solace in an unexpected source and this person helps to not only restore Caro’s own faith, but also help her to understand Hannah’s loss of faith.

I have not come across many YA novels that tackle the issue of religion and faith and Anna Jarzab does so with grace. The story is as much about loss, grief, and family as it is about faith, religion, and god. There are so many things that I liked about this story. I am a big fan of a flawed character who grows and develops over the course of a book. Caro and Hannah both fit the bill perfectly. Caro is pretty bratty and even unreasonable in the beginning, not that I can really blame her. Meek and passive Hannah has single-handedly destroyed the comfortable family unit Caro is accustomed to and now no is happy. As for Hannah, she is so broken and closed down that she can not function. Both sisters have a lot of work to do. I love the romance between Caro and Pawel. The work required to make their romance possible is refreshingly realistic, especially when so many teen books are riddled with couples who instantly fall head-over-heels in love and overcome all obstacles together. I also found Caro’s love of science and the discussions of the relationships between religion and science interesting. Teens will be able to relate to any number of issues addressed in this novel. The religious aspect is not heavy-handed, preachy, or off-putting. Teens looking for books about faith will welcome this novel. Teens who enjoy books featuring family conflict and drama will also enjoy this book. Readers should be aware that there is underaged drinking involved, though the teens are responsible about not driving after drinking.

This book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley.com

Happy Reading!

˜Megan

Top Ten Tuesday-Characters Who Remind Me of Me

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, brought to you by The Broke and The Bookish, was a doozy. They have asked us to think of characters that remind us of ourselves or people we know. Well, guys, I swore I wouldn’t talk about this, but apparently someone is bound to drag it out of me. My life is so much like Cammie Morgan’s (Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter) that it is scary! Spy school, kidnapping, memory loss…it’s tough. But, all that saving the world business is totally worth it when I get to head home and have my aching feet rubbed by my super dreamy vampire boyfriend. Am right Bella? You know what I am talking about! Like I always tell my fashion-forward BFF Evie (Paranormalcy by Kiersten White), life is good but the whole time-travel thing can really mess up my weekend plans. Sigh. Happy now? You know my secrets.

But seriously. I really struggled with this one because 1. I love YA and I am so not a YA and 2. I like to read about people who are not like me. My life is not glamorous, dangerous, and/or full of paranormals. Thank god. However, there are a few characters that I share characteristics with, so here you go. It’s a short list.

Jessie need to find new friends. She takes a long look around…and finds the nerds. Sounds about right.

Ruby Oliver is much quirkier than I am, but am no stranger to anxiety. Hang in there Ruby!

I am so not science-y, but like Calpurnia, I am much more interested in learning than being a proper lady!

Oh, do I love a good prank and Frankie Landau-Banks is a Grade-A prankster. Also, I have a friend who calls me Frankie.

Nose in a book, bossy, and a really great friend? That’s me…and Hermione.

I wish that I had access to a secret library (the library I do have access to is pretty great, but a secret library? How cool is that?). Daniel’s desire to read everything by a particular author is a familiar feeling.

I am sure I’ll think of more later. Once I put my fire-breathing dragons to bed I will ponder it further. Until then, don’t tell my friends; they think I am just a thirty-something librarian who reads a lot, watches too much tv, is stuck in an endless battle of the wills with a dog, and loves to hang out with her family. I’d like to keep it that way!

Happy Reading!

˜Megan

 

 

Mondays With Megan, aka Meme Central! It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? And Recommend A…(#1)

Howdy Friends! I don’t know about you, but I had a really great weekend. I hung out with a couple of my sisters and their kids, I tried a new restaurant with friends, I did some much-needed yard work, and I did a lot of reading. I actually feel pretty good heading into this new work week! So good that I decided to add an extra meme to my Monday morning routine.

I will start with the new one.

Recommend A… is hosted by Chick Loves Lit. Each week participants are asked to make a recommendation based on a prompt. This week we are looking for a laugh and were asked to Recommend A…Book I Thought Was Funny. I of course, will cheat and list two.

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz is the first in a hilarious series starring the Spellmans, a quirky, semi-dysfunctional family of private investigators. Truly laugh-out-loud here!

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White is the first in a series featuring Evie, the tough, hilarious, and fashion-forward heroine who is an expert at bagging and tagging rogue paranormals. As Evie would say, this series is bleeping funny!

Moving right along, it’s time to show off all my weekend reading!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Book Journey. A children’s/YA version is brought to you by Teach Mentor Texts. This meme is a great way to see what other people are reading and recommending. It’s one of the reasons my TBR list is so unruly!

Finished:

Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (illustrator) is my current favorite graphic novel obsession. I finished the third and fourth volumes and am all twitchy waiting for the fifth volume. This series is about the Locke family, teens Tyler and Kinsey, and their little brother Bode. They move back to their father’s childhood home after his brutal murder. They quickly learn that Lovecraft is no ordinary mansion. Rather, it is full of mysterious keys that open doors to a world of magic. They also discover that there are dark forces seeking the magic of the keys. This series is dark and magical and thrilling. The characters are well-developed and a little bit heartbreaking and the illustrations are true works of art. I highly recommend this series!

Flock is the final book in the Stork trilogy by Wendy Delsol. I was so lucky to get a sneak peek…it’s so good! While you wait for me to write a review, check out my thoughts about Stork and Frost.

The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab was also an ARC, so there will be a review up this week as well. This book is a thoughtful look at religion and faith and after an initial slow start (all my fault, just didn’t have a chance to dive into it), I ended up really liking the story.

Little Lady, Big Apple by Hester Browne is the second book in the Little Lady trilogy. Fun, British rom-com. I am looking forward to the last book.

Will Finish Today:

The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi. Wow. This is a scathing commentary on war and the impact it has on children. I am half way through the last disc and the tension has reached an unbearable climax…I have to know what happens. Right. Now.

Still plugging away at:

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin. I am in trouble. Kim has moved on to book 5!

Up Next:

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith is my next BOCD. I have heard the book is great. I have heard the movie is great. Time to see for myself!

It’s also time to start working on my Summer Reading list! I think I will start with the last book in the Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa.

In the spirit of finishing what I’ve started, I will be taking The Little Lady Agency and the Prince by Hester Browne home with me tonight. There is no urgency to finish this one, so I will make it my bedtime story for the next few weeks.

I would also like to start either Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein or From Bad to Cursed by Katie Alender. Of course, you never know what book with come across my desk that will cause me to drop everything! I’ll let you know next week what I decided!

What are you working on this week?

Happy Reading!

˜Megan

The Curse Workers Series by Holly Black

The Curse Workers series by Holly Black has appeared on at least six of my Top Ten Tuesday lists over the course of the past year or so. I love this series and recommend it to everyone, and yet I have never blogged a review. Now that the series is complete I thought I would do a quick series review. I enjoyed doing that with the Ruby Oliver series, so here goes.

  

Oh wait, this isn’t how the series looks. Someone thought that it would be a good idea to change the cover for the third book in the trilogy. So really, this is what you will see on shelves everywhere.

  

White Cat and Red Glove got redesigned to match, but I feel like it’s a waste of money to replace the first two just so they match (and I am talking about my own personal copies as well as library copies). So, until something horrible happens to the first two (gosh is would be awful is they went missing or accidentally soaked up a cup of coffee, or whatever. These things happen.), I am going to have this ugly mismatched collection. I am totally cheesed about this. And I kind of hate the new covers. To be fair, if the new covers were awesome I may not actually have a problem shelling out so everything matched. But, that is not the point. The point is, no matter what the stupid cover situation is, the story inside is amazing.

I am going to do my best to keep this spoiler free, so the descriptions of the second and third book may be vague, but it’s for the best. You really need to unwrap all the secrets for yourself.

White Cat
2010
310 pgs

Set in an alternate reality New Jersey, the population is divided into two groups: curse workers and non-curse workers. Curse workers are people who have the ability to manipulate magic. Workers can affect everything from dreams, luck, memories, and emotions with a simple skin-to-skin touch. There are also a rare number of workers who can kill with their touch.  Cursing is illegal, but the that doesn’t stop everyone from wielding their power. Meet Cassel Sharpe, the youngest in a family of curse workers, grifters, and con artists. Cassel is the black sheep in his family, and it’s not because he recently killed his best friend. Haunting dreams of a white cat lead Cassel to search for answers about the night his friend died. What he discovers rocks his world and everything he has ever believed.

Gritty, dark, and thrilling, this book will have you on the edge of your seat. Cassel is an amazing character. He has the bad-boy thing down pat. He is clever because he is a con artist. He is lonely because he is an outcast. He is full of guilt and self-loathing because he is a murderer. He’s got a lot going on and all he really wants is to feel normal. The world-building is complex and compelling, with the perfect blend of mafia and magic. Think Sopranos meets Harry Potter. Lucky for you, there is no long wait to discover Cassel’s fate!

Red Glove
2011
325 pgs

Cursing and conning is the Sharpe family business and there are no such things as personal boundaries. After spending the summer with his con-artist mother swindling the rich and powerful, Cassel is back at school, where he struggles to come to terms with everything he learned about his family and his past. A growing political movement demanding worker rights and another murder certainly don’t help matters, but it’s the fact that both the Feds and the mob are interesting in recruiting him that has made Cassel’s life a living nightmare.

Red Glove picks up where White Cat left off. The line between right and wrong continues to remain blurred for Cassel as he struggles to make the best decision he can. Poor Cassel remains a tortured soul, but you can’t help but love him. I really enjoyed the politically charged storyline about worker’s rights as well as getting to know some of the secondary characters a little better. Also, those worker mob families do not mess around!

Black Heart
2012
296 pgs

The con is second nature to Cassel Sharpe, as natural as breathing, but he is trying to be good. As usual, his family, particularly his mother, is making that difficult. In an attempt to do the right thing, Cassel is working with the Feds on a new case. He is also trying to figure out how to protect his love interest from the mob. With all this going on, will the con artist see the con before it’s too late?

Threats, secrets, blackmail, and danger abound in the thrilling and satisfying conclusion to The Curse Workers series. That’s really all I can say. I am pleased with the ending and more than a little sad to see Cassel go. I would definitely read more! This series is solid start to finish, will appeal to both male and female teen readers (super thumbs up bonus, in my opinion), and I highly recommend you check it out.

Readalikes: There really aren’t any, but for another strong, tortured male protagonist you may enjoy I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga and The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith. Both of these books are pretty intense, and not for everyone. For more of the mafia world check out All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin. For awesome world building try Divergent by Veronica Roth, Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi or The Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix.

Happy Reading!

˜Megan

Top Ten Tuesday: My Summer To Be Read List

1. The City of Lost Souls Cassandra Clare. I am a little nervous about a certain sibling relationship…

2. Insurgent by Veronica Roth. I  own this one, which for me means that there is no urgency. But I really really want to know what happens next.

3. Graceling by Kristin Cashore. I really have been meaning to read this one for ages. I tried the audio, but discovered that I am not a fan of full cast productions. One of my teens just read it and highly recommends it, so I promised her I would give a read this summer.

4. Prized by Caragh O’Brien. I have been making an effort to finish reading series that I have started. This one is the sequel to Birthmarked, which I really enjoyed.

5. The Emperor of Nihon-Ja by John Flanagan. I have been dragging my heels with the this one because I don’t want the series to end. But now, I really want to start his new series, The Brotherband Chronicles, so it’s time to say farewell to The Ranger’s Apprentice. *sniff*

6. The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa. Do you see how serious I am about the series? I mean it! It’s time to read the final chapter of the Iron Fey…so I can start her new vampire series…and so I am ready for The Lost Prince. *sigh*

7. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. I loved Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour and I am excited to read this sophomore novel by Matson.

8. Blood Moon by Alyxandra Harvey. Have I mentioned lately how much I LOVE The Drake Chronicles? I don’t think I have! I LOVE this series. Best. Vampires. Ever. Love. I am totally up to date with this series, that’s how great it is. This is not an “I’ll get to it eventually” series. This is an “OMG, when is the next one coming out and whose point of view do we get this time?” series.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. This is another one that I own. I have heard great review and I can’t wait to finally get to it.

10. The Ask and The Answer by Patrick Ness. Again, focusing on the series. I really liked The Knife of Never Letting Go and look forward to getting back into Todd’s world. Heck, I may even get a little crazy and read Monsters of Men when I am done!

Bonus: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin. I am working on it now and at my current pace it will take me ALL summer to read. I think a day off is in order!

I am excited about my summer reading list! What’s on yours?

Happy Reading!

˜Megan

Mondays With Megan-Summer Throwdown and What Are You Reading?

Did you ever wonder who reads more, teachers or librarians? Well, we will finally learn the answer to that burning question! The gauntlet has been thrown and the summer throwdown was born! You can find all the details here, at Heise Reads and Recommends. I am all signed up and ready read!

What am I reading for the throwdown? Funny you should as because it’s time for another reading list check in. Thanks to Book Journey for hosting It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? and Teach Mentor Text for offering a children’s/YA version.

 

I finished: (these don’t count for the throwdown)

The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore. There is something about this series (start with I am Number Four) that compels me to continue. There are some pretty big flaws and yet, I need to know what happens next. I am totally ready for The Rise of Nine.

Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart. This is the final installment of the Ruby Oliver series. It’s fun and charming and offers a satisfying end. Also, I feel relief at finishing a series. I need to keep chipping away at my incomplete series.

Locke & Key, vol 2: Head Games by Joe Hill. The mysteries of the keys continues to unfold as the Locke family continues to explore Lovecraft. Not as bloody as the first, but very creepy and suspenseful!

Gave up on: 

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi. Despite the rave reviews, after 10 chapters I still didn’t care. I didn’t like any of the characters and I really disliked the names. While I admire the detailed world-building, I would have liked more explanation as to why. I tried, but this one just wasn’t for me.

Listening to: (this counts)

The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi. This is a loose companion to Ship Breaker. I am excited to learn more about Tool and I am looking forward to getting to know Mahlia and Mouse, the main characters of this story.

The Technologists by Matthew Pearl. This one is a bit slow-moving, but I have read a few reviews that say it picks up after a slow start, so I am hanging in there.

Reading: (these totally count too!)

Flock by Wendy Delsol. I am so lucky to have an ARC of the final book in the Stork trilogy!

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin. Confession time: I am a neglectful friend. I got my friend Kim started on this awesome series and then abandoned her. She is already on book 4, with no one but a battle-crazed guy at work to talk to about the series and I am putzing around with book 2. It is my solemn vow to get crackin’!

I think this will keep me busy for a while. What are you reading? Are you joining the throwdown? What are your predictions for the outcome?

Happy Reading!

˜Megan

The Ruby Oliver Series by E.Lockhart Review

Hey y’all it’s Friday! I’ve had a great reading week so far (despite the Friday Night Lights marathon sessions that have been keeping me up past bedtime and causing me to say things like hey y’all. Sorry.), I am right on pace with my yearly reading goal, and I am pleased with my decision to stop listening to a book that just wasn’t working for me (Under the Never Sky). The book I replaced it with is fantastic so far (The Drowned Cities). My point is that knocking out a few book reviews will be the perfect way to end this week. I started The Ruby Oliver series in January and I just finished the fourth book this week, so here is a series overview for you.

 

The Boyfriend List, 2005
The Boy Book, 2006
The Treasure Map of Boys, 2009
Real Live Boyfriends, 2010

In The Boyfriend List readers are introduced to 15-year old Ruby Oliver. Ruby is a scholarship student at a private school in Seattle. She lives on a houseboat with her performance-artist mother and retro metal-loving father. She loves films, vintage clothes, swimming, and is a vegetarian. She also has panic attacks. The attacks land Ruby in therapy with Dr. Z. Through her sessions Ruby starts to work out why she is having these attacks. The items on her long list include breaking up with her boyfriend, losing all her girlfriends, and intrusive parents. Sound familiar? Pretty typical teen stuff. The second book of the series, The Boy Book, is all about Ruby enjoying her new-found freedom as a licensed driver. She also continues her quest to gather and interpret data about that mysterious creature known as the teenaged boy. She deals with a damaged reputation, girlfriend issues, and of course, boy drama. In The Treasure Map of Boys, Ruby juggles work, school, and extracurriculars. She struggles with the loss of a long-time friend, conflicting feelings for an ex and potential new boyfriends. The series concludes with Real Live Boyfriends. Poor Ruby, just as her social life seems to be on the mend, her family goes into full-on self destruct mode! She needs Dr. Z’s help as much as ever, even though she notices her panic attacks have disappeared. Followers of the series will certainly be rooting for Ruby and they won’t be disappointed, despite the roller coaster of ride.

I really enjoyed this series and I think it will appeal to a variety of teens. The books themselves are small and slim, making them a quick read. Ruby is quirky and funny, but really she is just an average teen dealing with average problems. There are no super powers. There are no Earth-shattering disasters. There are no hotter than hot hotties. Just boys. Average boys. And pod-robots, but you’ll have to read the books to learn more about that. Do not mistake average for boring. There is plenty of conflict. This series is chock full of conflict of both the external and internal variety. Who wouldn’t angst over losing a boyfriend, and best friend, and a good reputation? And while Ruby does suffer from a touch of self-loathing and can be a little neurotic at times (again, who among us isn’t?), she struggles through her problems and comes out in the end a little bit older, much wiser, and definitely happier. Movie aficionados will love the film references, retro-metal lovers will find themselves head-banging with Ruby and Hutch, romance lovers will rejoice with all the kissing, and animal lovers won’t be able to stop themselves from falling for Robespierre, the pygmy goat.  And if you like Ruby Oliver, you will love Frankie Landau-Banks, the title character from my favorite E. Lockhart book, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. I encourage you to treat yourself to a little Lockhart-fest!

You may also enjoy The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler and The Confessions of Georgia Nicholson series by Louise Rennison.

Happy Reading!

˜Megan