Monday, January 25, 2010

Getting the Girl: By Markus Zusak

Getting the Girl


Cameron Wolfe, first introduced in Fighting Ruben Wolfe, wants a girlfriend. He wants sex. He wants to separate himself from his brothers' shadow. He wants to find himself and be something more than the underdog in the family. And he doesn't know how to go about getting what he wants. He is attracted to a girl who treats him horribly so he stands outside her house at night, hoping for glimpses of her. He likes his brother Ruben's girlfriend-and she treats him like a human being. When she and Ruben break up, Octavia shows an interest in Cameron and even though his brother already has another girlfriend, he beats up Cameron and Octavia walks away. Ruben has some bigger problems, though, and violence is once again his method of solving them. However, this is Cameron's story, and he discovers that he is much more than he ever thought he could be.


Many of you have probably heard of Markus Zusak, and if you haven’t you should have. His most famous books I Am the Messanger and The Book Thief have won countless awards including being named a Printz honor book and Publishers Weekly best book of the year. But of course this review isn’t about either one of those books (which are both sensational books as well), this review is about another remarkable book that is quite a bit less known, Getting the Girl.

Getting the Girl is the sequel to Fighting Ruben Wolff, but it can easily be read as a stand alone. It begins with the protagonist Cameron feeling like he wants more out of life than being the underdog and second string, but not really knowing how to achieve it. He’s in love with a girl who hates his guts, and he doesn’t really connect with anyone outside his family. All in all he’s not doing so well.

But then he starts to write and with the help of his sister and his brother’s ex-girlfriend Cameron starts to turn things around for himself, and discover there’s a lot more to Cameron Wolff than meets the eye.

Getting the Girl is a sensational coming of age story. It takes the lovable yet quiet brother and shows what’s really going on in his head. Teenage readers will truly connect with Cameron’s writing, and while some of it may seem unbelievable at parts, the love and attachment the reader will feel to the characters and the level of writing Zusak exhibits in this book make it a must read to any fan of young adult literature.


Publisher: Push

Published: June 1, 2004

Price: $8.99

Old Man's War: By John Scalzi


With his wife dead and buried, and life nearly over at 75, John Perry takes the only logical course of action left him: he joins the army. Now better known as the Colonial Defense Force (CDF), Perry's service-of-choice has extended its reach into interstellar space to pave the way for human colonization of other planets while fending off marauding aliens. The CDF has a trick up its sleeve that makes enlistment especially enticing for seniors: the promise of restoring youth. After bonding with a group of fellow recruits who dub their clique the Old Farts, Perry finds himself in a new body crafted from his original DNA and upgraded for battle, including fast-clotting "smartblood" and a brain-implanted personal computer. All too quickly the Old Farts are separated, and Perry fights for his life on various alien-infested battlegrounds.


I’ve never been a big military science fiction fan. That said John Scalzi thoroughly impressed me with Old Man’s War. It was the work of a great genius and because of this book I’m now trying to read all of Scalzi’s work.

Old Man’s War takes place in a future where there is an intergalactic force that recruits not from the poor, and not from the young, but from the wealthy nation of the United States’ elderly. These old Americans are then transported to space where their consciousness is transferred into a new and improved body. This body is the one they will go to war with, and if they survive, then they’ll be allowed to retire in another youthful body.

The story quickly turns to the war and we soon discover there are many different species out there and few of them are friendly. As such the band of characters we’re introduced to soon becomes much smaller, moving the story along at a startling pace.

Scalzi has taken a used old idea, the military in space, and turned it into a piece of art. The descriptions are sensational and the story gripping, but what readers will be most fascinated with is Scalzi’s superb writing style. Readers really feel like they are being drawn into battle, becoming mesmerized with each minute detail of the intergalactic war.

As you may have guessed I’m a big fan of this book and all of Scalzi’s work at this point, and as such would eagerly recommend it to anyone who wants an engaging and thrilling book to read.


Publisher: Tor

Published: December 27, 2005

The Gods of Amyrantha: By Jennifer Fallon

The Gods of Amyrantha


How do you go about killing yourself when you are an immortal? Is it even possible? Jennifer Fallon explores this tantalizing puzzle in The Gods of Amyrantha, the second in her Tide Lords series.

The Tide is turning and the Tide Lords’ powers are returning with it. Cayal, the Immortal Prince, hero of legend, was thought to be only a fictional character.

Cayal sure wishes that he was a piece of fiction—anything that would help him shuffle off this mortal coil. But even though he longs for a final death, things in the world keep pulling him back. Such as Arkady Desean, an expert on the legends of the Tide Lords who has discovered the truth about Cayal…and captured his heart.

Yes, the Tide Lords will walk upon the earth once more and, with the power that surges through the cosmos, stand poised to wreak havoc on all that humans hold dear. Cayal will have to decide if he wants to go on living just a little longer and if he is willing to risk his fellow immortals’ wrath in order to save the world.


While readers will initially feel like this is a typical epic fantasy, they would be very far from the truth. The Gods of Amyrantha is a great book that takes into account one of the questions that’s rarely asked, what happens if an immortal wants to die?

But this story is so much more than a simple gods vs humans tale. Its characters are rich and intricate. Its plot full of twists and surprising alliances and the pace of the story moves at an astoundingly rapid beat.

The only downside to The Gods of Amyrantha is that it’s the second in a quartet, and the others are still not all out yet. Other than that I would recommend this book to any fantasy reader wholeheartedly.


Publisher: Tor

Published: July 21, 2009

Price: $27.99

This Is Where I Leave You: By Jonathan Tropper



Judd Foxman's wife, Jen, has left him for his boss, a Howard Stern–like radio personality, but it is the death of his father and the week of sitting shivah with his enjoyably dysfunctional family that motivates him. Jen's announcement of her pregnancy—doubly tragic because of a previous miscarriage—is followed by the dramas of Judd's siblings: his sister, Wendy, is stuck in an emotionless marriage; brother Paul—always Judd's defender—and his wife struggle with infertility; and the charming youngest, Phillip, attempts a grown-up relationship that only highlights his rakishness. Presided over by their mother, a celebrated parenting expert despite her children's difficulties, the mourning period brings each of the family members to unexpected epiphanies about their own lives and each other.


This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. The characters are zany yet realistic, the narration insightful yet humorous, and the story fast paced and engaging. Tropper brings such an off the wall humor to an absurd cast of characters that you feel like you’re in your own family reunion. He has truly captured the awkwardness of a family reconnecting over the death of a loved one. But this story is so much more than that, it’s about; growing up, forgiveness, and the importance of family. This is a sensational book and I would recommend it to anyone I know.


Publisher: Dutton Adult

Published: August 6, 2009

Price: $25.95

Sunday, January 24, 2010

After Ever After: By Jordan Sonnenblick


Jeffrey isn't a little boy with cancer anymore. He's a teen who's in remission, but life still feels fragile. The aftereffects of treatment have left Jeffrey with an inability to be a great student or to walk without limping. His parents still worry about him. His older brother, Steven, lost it and took off to Africa to be in a drumming circle and "find himself." Jeffrey has a little soul searching to do, too, which begins with his escalating anger at Steven, an old friend who is keeping something secret, and a girl who is way out of his league but who thinks he's cute.


After Ever After is told through the eyes of an 8th grade leukemia survivor named Jeffery. Jeffery was the lucky one, the one you hear about on the talk shows like Oprah, about the small town the bands together to support the family that has a child diagnosed with leukemia. And through all their struggles the family made it through and the little adorable cancer kid survived.

But After Ever After isn’t about Jeffery’s battle with leukemia, it’s about what happens after you’ve survived, how you go back to living a normal life with a limp, or being a little bit slower than everyone else because the drugs that saved your life also caused small amounts of brain damage, or growing up in a town where everyone knows you as the “cancer boy” and all you want to do is hide away and be normal.

Jordan Sonnenblick is one of the most talented writers in a rapidly growing genre, and it shows. After Ever After draws readers in and captivates them with a perfect balance between heartfelt and endearing characters that make the reader feel like they’ve known and loved these characters for years and a seamless and intricate plot that moves the story at a pace that allows the reader to experience every high and low while at the same time not bogging down in unnecessary details.

After Ever After is the sequel to Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, but it could easily be read as a standalone. That said, readers who have been lucky enough to read Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie will understand many of the subtle references to that sensational prequel and will enjoy finding out what happened to its lovable characters.

All in all Sonnenblick has done an amazing job capturing the hardships that follow cancer survivors after treatment, and has done so while maintaining the innocence of the character. Because of this and many more amazing qualities this is a must read.


Publisher: Scholastic

Published: February 1, 2010

Price: $16.99

Friday, January 15, 2010

Graceling: By Kristin Cashore



In Katsa's world, the "Graced," those gifted in a particular way, are marked by eyes that are different colors. Katsa's Grace is that she is a gifted fighter, and, as such, she is virtually invincible. She is in the service of her tyrannical uncle, king of one of the seven kingdoms, and she is forced to torture people for infractions against him. She has secretly formed the Council, which acts in the service of justice and fairness for those who have been accused and abused. Readers meet her as she is rescuing the father of the Lienid king, who has been abducted. The reasons for his capture are part of a tightening plot that Katsa unravels and resolves, with the help of Prince Po, the captive's grandson. He has his own particular Grace, and he becomes Katsa's lover and partner in what becomes a mortally dangerous mission.


I had been hearing the rumors about Graceling for months before I finally got off my butt and went out and got it, and let me say, it worth it. Graceling is filled with intense action sequences, great character development, and tons of lovable characters that you just can't wait to hear more about. That said I felt one of the biggest failings of Graceling was its tendency to introduce interesting charismatic characters and then have them serve almost no purpose to the story. Of course if having too many interesting charismatic characters in a story is the worst part of the book, then you know it's pretty darn good.

Graceling is more than just another female warrior off to beat up all the bad guys, and it's apparent in the writing that Cashore thought long and hard about what she wanted Katsa to be. She wanted Katsa to be strong, intimidating, and a scared little girl. Cashore mixes contradicting characteristics and does so in an exquisite fashion that will draw in and captivate female audiences worldwide.

But Graceling is more than just a book for girls. It's a great book that is filled with action and intrigue and and children and adults off all ages will enjoy it.


Publisher: Graphia

Published: September 7, 2009

Price: $9.99

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How to Steal a Car: By Pete Hautman



Some girls act out by drinking or doing drugs. Some girls act out by sleeping with guys. Some girls act out by starving themselves or cutting themselves. Some girls act out by being a bitch to other girls.

Not Kelleigh. Kelleigh steals cars.

In How to Steal a Car, National Book Award winner Pete Hautman takes teen readers on a thrilling, scary ride through one suburban girl's turbulent life - one car theft at a time.


I was very impressed by How to Steal a Car. It had a three dimensional protagonist, a fast moving plot, and a unique and interesting story. But what I was most impressed by was the level of writing that Hautman was able to summon for this book. With only 170 pages Hautman easily gets the reader to connect with the protagonist.

That said, while I was impressed by the character development and the level of writing, I felt Hautman tried to fit to many issues into one book. He went from drugs to rape to divorce to personal issues with being a teenager all in the span of the 170 pages. And while the reader can clearly see how Hautman connects these issues, it just felt like to much to fit in to such a small book.

All in all How to Steal a Car was a very good book and I’d recommend it to any fan of young adult literature.


Publisher: Scholastic Press

Published: September 1, 2009

Price: $16.99

Friday, January 1, 2010

Mistborn (The Final Empire): By Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn (The Final Empire)


The Mists rule the night.

The Lord Ruler owns the world.

Once, a hero arose to save the world. A young man with a mysterious heritage courageously challenged the darkness that strangled the land.

He failed

For a thousand yeas since, the world has been a wasteland of ash and mist ruled by the immortal emperor known as the Lord Ruler. Every revolt has failed miserably.

Yet somehow, hope survives. Hope that dares to dream of ending the empire and even the Lord Ruler himself. A new kind of uprising is being planned, one built around the ultimate caper, one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind and the determination of an unlikely heroine, a street urchin who must learn to master Allomancy, the power of a Misterborn.


I first read Brandon Sanderson’s book Mistborn (The Final Empire) after working at Tor this summer. I had heard Sanderson’s name thrown around before then, when he was chosen to finish the Wheel of Time series, but I’d never read anything by him. Now I know not reading it was an egregious mistake, luckily I’ve since happily rectified that mistake.

Mistborn is the first book in Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy and revolves around a young mistborn named Vin. In Sanderson’s universe a mistborn is a person who can control the different magical properties of metals, and is very rare. The story itself begins with Kelsier, the charismatic leader who went through the hellish mines of Hathsin and came out a full mistborn, destroying an entire plantation single handedly. From here Kelsier discovers and adopts Vin, teaching her how to control her powers. Needless to say from this point on in the book there is nonstop action filled with intricate twists and turns. But this book isn’t just a mindless book of action and violence, it is instead a delicate mixture of subterfuge and memorable characters. I wont mention more about the plot of the book for fear of ruining the surprises held within, but I will say that this is a must read for any fantasy fan. Overall a great book.


Publisher: Tor Fantasy

Published: July 31, 2007

Price: $7.99

The Good, The Bad, and The Uncanny :By Simon R. Green

The Good, The Bad, and
The Uncanny


Things were going so well for P.I. John Taylor, that it was only a matter of time before everything hit the fan. Walker, the powerful, ever-present, never to-be-trusted agent who runs the Nightside on behalf of The Authorities, is dying. And he wants John to be his successor-a job that comes with more baggage, and more enemies, than anyone can possibly imagine.

I've been a fan of Simon R. Green for years now. I've read almost everything he's written and have loved almost all of it. That said I've always had a soft spot for the Nightside series as that was the first thing I read by Mr. Green. Even with that soft spot though I really didn't think The Good, The Bad, and The Uncanny was his best book. Let me be clear, I liked this book and I'd recommend it to any of my friends, but I thought it was more of a bridge between plot lines than anything else, shuffling around old storylines and creating a new adventure that will last a few books such as the Lilith Wars did. If this does end up happening than I couldn't be more excited. I recently went back and re-read the previous Nightside books and I felt like the books featuring Lilith and the Lilith War were some of the best books in the series, so if the introduction of Excalliber can bring back the same level of excitment and plot development that was seen in the Lilith books then this book is worth the lack of development.

Something of a sidenote, I'd recommend readers of this book read Green's other series as well, as Green recently has taken to referencing characters from his other series. These cross series references are not essential to the books, but if you are able to pick up on the references then it makes the series that much more enjoyable.

I would suggest that anyone who wants to read The Good, The Bad, and The Uncanny read the other books in the Nightside series as The Good, The Bad, and The Uncanny is clearly part of a series, but all-in-all I liked this book and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes urban fantasy.


Publisher: Ace

Published: January 5, 2010

Price: $24.95

Death’s Mistress (A Midnight’s Daughter Novel): By Karen Chance

Death’s Mistress (A Midnight’s Daughter Novel)


Dorina Basarab is a dhampir-half-human, half-vampire. Back home in Brooklyn after the demise of her insane Uncle Dracula, Dory's hoping her life is about to calm down. But soon Dory realizes someone is killing vampire Senate members, and if she can't stop the murderer, her friends may be next...


I hadn’t heard of Karen Chance before reading Death’s Mistress, but you can grantee that I wont be keeping her name a secret after finishing it. Death’s Mistress is the second book in Chance’s A Midnight’s Daughter series and while a reader can follow Death’s Mistress without reading Midnight’s Daughter, the first book in the series, it does make the series more enjoyable when read in the proper order.

Fans of Laurell K Hamilton and Patricia Briggs will love this series as Death’s Mistress is filled with nonstop action and detailed sexual exploits. But this series is so much more than an action packed sexual romp, the characters are multidimensional and the plot intricate and full of twists and turns. Chance does a great job of making Death’s Mistress more than just another harlequin vampire novel by giving the half human, half vampire heroine, Dorina, a complicated range of emotions. This pushes the plot along and has Dorina make surprising decisions that the reader might not otherwise expect.

All-in-all Death’s Mistress is a great book, and I’d recommend it to any fan of urban fantasy wholeheartedly.