lampson_juliaJoe’s twin brother, Alvin, disappeared. And with him went Joe’s tenuous grip on real life. The rest of it: the road trip, the maybe-murder, the burned-down house–all of that came later.

At eighteen, Joe is stuck in limbo. Directionless and simple, he blows through his inheritance playing poker and eats only cheeseburgers, pizza, and guacamole. Then his twin brother, Alvin, disappears–and Julia, Alvin’s tempestuous girlfriend, takes Joe on a whirlwind road trip from L.A. to Tennessee. There, he’s thrust into the dysfunctional dynamic of her wealthy family. For the first time, Joe has a job. He has a suit he wears every day. And he’s in love with a crazy, beautiful girl who only talks honestly in her sleep. Joe’s so blinded by his seductive new life that he almost misses the truth about what happened to his twin…

Maybe Joe can’t grow up–but he can love.

Paperback, 232 pages

Published February 2nd 2012 by Razorbill

 

Now here is a story that threw me for a loop. It’s a contemporary tale with a light mystery atmosphere, and it is a curious read – the main character we follow is in a limbo state, and ‘simple’ is a kind way to describe him (as the summary does). He is introduced to us about six months after his twin brother has run off with a girl. They have never been separated before, and Joe has taken to ‘speaking’ to his brother through hallucinations. He now lives with his older brother Marcus, and their personalities clash.

Joe spends his time playing poker, gambling away his $100 a day inheritance, eating at McDonalds, and wandering. Those are the only things on his mind and, when he is out of money, he wanders home. His brother, Marcus, had to raise the twins after their parents died, and is strict and always thinking about the future. His life is planned out and the fact that Joe doesn’t seem to care about anything but Alvin, frustrates Marcus no end. Alvin appears out of the blue one day and takes Joe to dinner, also inviting him to sail around the world with him. But by morning he is gone, and Julia appears. They decide that Joe will return with Julia to her home in Tennessee and work Alvin’s old pool boy job.

It seems that all of the characters are attracted to Joe because of his simplicity; he is always ready to go along with whatever is happening and only speaks up regarding his ‘special diet’ from which he will not stray. Julia likes the quiet, unassuming Joe who doesn’t judge her or ask too many questions. They fall into a romance of lazy days and comfortable, relaxing nights, which is a good way to describe the atmosphere of this story: very laid back, breezy, and uncomplicated. The story peaks towards the end as the real mystery comes to a head: where did Alvin go?

Each character introduced into the story plays a pretty major role in the plot. There are few minor characters as Joe’s world is pretty small. We get to know each of the characters well and they all come full circle as the story-lines unravel. The pacing is steady throughout and I felt like I was a part of the story, easily losing myself in the events, and sometimes feeling like I was in a dream-like state while reading.

What I liked about the story was that it was unusual. I never thought that a character who has no character could make for an interesting novel. The author pulls us in by introducing a complicated circle of ‘other’ personalities who make up for it. That is the reason I’d recommend it; I don’t read a lot of contemporary romance, but this was not your usual…



lowry_the-giverJonas lives in a world without war, poverty, hunger or violence. Safety is all that he has ever known; but it is also a world without choice. All decisions are made by the Elders. From the names that the children are given, to the clothes that they wear and the careers they take on as adults, every aspect of Jonas’ life is in the hands of more qualified individuals.

When Jonas is skipped at the Ceremony of Twelve – the ceremony where he and his classmates all receive notification of their future careers – he fears the worst. What he gets is beyond anything he could have imagined. He has been chosen to be the next Receiver of Memory – an occupation that means taking all of the experiences off the current Receiver. It means being able to see in colour, being allowed to lie, and being able to experience emotions far deeper than that of anyone else in the community. What it also means is pain, loneliness, and the ability to analyse a community that might not be so perfect after all.

First published in 1993, The Giver is one of the earlier dystopian novels aimed at a younger audience. With a twelve-year-old protagonist and point of view, this is aimed at more of a middle-school age group. The themes, however, will resonate with people of any age.

The world in The Giver is a darkly fascinating and terribly believable one. A world so intent on achieving utopia that it destroys anything or anyone that deviates from the ideals set. Like any truly good dystopia, we see echoes of these sentiments in the real world. The one great lesson in The Giver is to question everything. It’s not a preachy novel, but it shows that utopia has a price – just not necessarily one paid for by the people privileged enough to live there. The importance of empathy and the dangers of being emotionally stunted to the horrors in the world is another thing that is touched on.

There are times when the world’s logistics don’t work. Mathematically, a huge proportion of women would have to be birth mothers if each couple got two children and birth mothers had three children each. It doesn’t seem as though the majority of women are birth mothers though. Aside from this, the ideals of the novel are sound.

The Giver is one of those remarkable books that leave a reader wanting more. It’s not that the book itself is not enough, but that the ideas are complex and need more room to unravel.

 

The Giver – Lois Lowry

Harper Collins (1993)

ISBN: 9780007263516



Meet another one of our wonderful staff members, Krista McKeeth. Krista is a book worm who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah and has her own website over at Cubicleblindness



Belinda_kisses_tnBel:

blake_Girl-of-NightmaresCover

We see Anna reaching back towards us in the black, white, and red picture of a rather daunting backdrop. It reflects the story really well.

Characters

We get to meet one of the major characters from Anna Dressed in Blood, and a new threat comes to the fore.

Favourite

Jestine, mainly because she kicked ass, and kept her word.

Least Favourite

The Order. Sometimes the hive mind isn’t the way to go.

Beginning

Months after the final scene in Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas and his friends are struggling to come to terms with how things played out.

Storyline

Cas makes moves to rectify the problem, and heads to England.

Ending

Nothing is quite what it seems.

Thoughts

I don’t know about the others, but I felt no real sense of dread. No heart stopping urgency. Perhaps this could have been rectified by covering Anna’s point of view for a part of the book.

I did like the male, female relationships and I’m glad Cas’ Mum wasn’t as pointless as some other YA parental units.

I enjoyed the story, and as a sequel it was entertaining.

Quote

“For a professional ghost killer, you sure ask a lot of numb-nut questions.” ~Morfran talking to Cas.

 

Krista McKeeth_2_tnKrista:

Blake_anna dressed in blood

Cover

Very Manga cartoon-like imagery of Anna…in hell?

Characters

Our main character, Cas and his friends Thomas and Carmel are the major roll players in this series. Cas is a ghost hunter who, with his special knife, is able to send the spirits onto other worlds. He has a strict rule of only hunting those ghosts that are dangerous to humans and can cause harm.

Favourite

Tie between Anna and Cas; they both do very selfless acts, admirable.

Least Favourite

Well there is always the villain to hate, but I didn’t really dislike any of the characters in this story.

Beginning

Cas is obsessed with where Anna might have gone since the events in the first book. She has been calling to him.

Storyline

When his schoolwork is done for the year, he convinces Thomas to travel to Ireland, to the group that made the Athame, and ask for their guidance on how to rescue Anna from Hell.

Ending

We see a much more determined Cas in this book than the first. When he really sets his heart on something, he’s a force to be reckoned with.

Thoughts

I like the idea that there are these powerful weapons that are made out of a metal not available on earth. I enjoyed the fact that Cas got to do some overseas travelling in this one. It brought a lot of atmosphere to the novel. There are some dangerous moments, a lot of world building; especially with the group and the history behind the weapons they use to banish the spirits. Plus more blood than we saw in the first book with very humorous dialogue and relationships between the characters.

Quote

“She crossed over death to call me. I crossed through Hell to find her.”

Lisa-Smith_tnLisa:

kendare blakeCover

I’m actually a big fan of the covers in this duology! I think they portray the story inside very well; it’s not too scary or brutal, just a bit creepy like the story.

Characters

Overall, I thought the characters were alright. We don’t meet too many new people, just a few random characters who take smaller roles. I don’t think I want to name the only new main character we are introduced to! Why? Because he makes the story what it is, and I don’t think he is mentioned in the first book; meaning, I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you!

Least Favourite

She wasn’t my least favourite in the first book, but in Girl of Nightmares she is. Carmel was the sweetest girl in Anna Dressed in Blood but completely changed in this second instalment. I loved her so much, so I was a little disappointed to see this kind of change in her. She spent the whole first book wanting to be a part of everything. In the second book, she leaves the two boys in the dust, without truly explaining why. Obviously, she does later in the story, but after she breaks Thomas’s heart.

Favourite

This is a hard one! I have a few favorite characters including Cas, Thomas, and the new character introduced in this book who I cannot name…he’s not from Harry Potter if that’s what you’re thinking! But both of these boys are interesting! Cas with his knife and the ghost killing thing and Thomas with his witch powers!

Beginning

Girl of Nightmares takes place a month or two after Anna Dressed In Blood ends. Anna has gone, Cas can’t help his feelings towards her and misses Anna, and Thomas and Carmel are still working out their entire “relationship”; if you can call it that.

Middle

Cas can’t deny the feelings he has for Anna, and has to get her back from the other side. He seems to see her everywhere he looks, and even starts to think that he might be going crazy. He finally tells Thomas and Carmel about this, and asks them to help bring her back. While they might not believe this is possible, both agree to help Cas in any way.

Ending

Bringing back Anna turned into something WAY bigger than the three could have imagined. It affected the entire witch and ghost hunting community, and it even stretched across the world! Who knew getting back the girl you love could start an entire war?

Overall

Before I started this duology, I was told many times how creepy it was. So when I finally got around to reading Anna Dressed In Blood I was a little disappointed at first. The story wasn’t horrifying or scary. Anna wasn’t as bad as she was made out to be in all of the reviews I’d read, but, nonetheless, I enjoyed the story.

When I started reading Girl of Nightmares, I didn’t read any reviews, and decided to just jump in right after finishing Anna Dressed In Blood. Again, I enjoyed this one as well. The entire story was a crazy roller coaster ride, dragging the group from one place, and one person, to another. I was strapped in and ready for the ride! I do have to say that the ending wasn’t very satisfying, but realistic, which I liked. Obviously, I spent the whole time cheering one the three best friends, and hoped the best for them, but things don’t always end up that way.

If you haven’t picked up these books, I recommend you do. I don’t promise that Anna is absolutely terrifying, but you will experience an entirely new perspective on the paranormal!

Joelene_tnJoelene

blae-ungodlyCover

The cover was what made me buy Anna Dressed in Blood, the first book in this series. I like the second cover even more. With Anna standing on the precipice of Hell, it’s more dynamic and the colour scheme is amazing.

Characters

All of the characters that I loved in Anna Dressed in Blood are back in Girl of Nightmares. They’re still amazing, but what they’ve been through has changed them.

Favourite

Cas maybe? Or Carmel? Possibly Thomas? I don’t know. I love how the characters interact with each other more than loving each of them on their own. They’re such a good team that I couldn’t imagine how things would work without one of them.

Least Favourite

This is even harder. The easy answer would be Colin Burke; not because I hated him, but because he was a bit of a non-entity.

Beginning

Anna has sacrificed herself to save Cas and his friends. He is trying to come to terms with life without her. He might even manage it, if she wasn’t coming back to haunt him at the most inopportune times.

Storyline

When Cas becomes convinced that Anna’s soul is not at peace, but being tormented in some hellish alternate plane, he is determined to find her and bring her back. Not everyone thinks that the dead belong in the world of the living, and there are some who would enforce those convictions to the bitter end.

Ending

Bitter and sweet? At some point when reading about a romance between one person who’s living and one who’s dead, there is the realisation that however this ends, it’s not going to be rainbows and unicorns.

Thoughts

I loved the direction that Blake took Carmel’s and Thomas’s characters. They don’t stagnate and they’re not just silently there to have Cas’s back whenever he needs it. Thomas’s power has grown considerably since the first book, and he has more confidence in it – though he still manages to be awkward around the cooler kids at school. Carmel refuses to compromise her social life to support Cas and Thomas – she’s as independent as she ever was. She’s also more prone to question the things that Thomas will accept.

I wasn’t dissatisfied with the ending, but Anna came into the book far too late and played too small of a role. I liked Jestine, but I would have traded her for Anna in a fraction of a heart-beat.

Quote

There’s smoke, and wind, and screaming, and it’s impossible to tell which side it’s all coming from. I lower my voice. “Anna. What do you want me to do?”

For a second I think she’ll stonewall. She takes quaking, deep breaths and with every exhale bites down on her words. But then she looks at me, straight at me, into my eyes, and I don’t care what she said earlier. She sees me. I know she does.

“Cassio,” she whispers. “Get me out of here.”

 

Discussion Topic:

Question: Would you give up your way of life to fight against demons who cause danger to human lives?

 

 



aveyardThe poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers. To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.
Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the center of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control. But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

The Silvers hold the highest ranks in society; they are privileged, rich, and beautiful. Mare, however, is a Red; she steals money for her family and they work for the Silvers or are sent to war. Mare has some ideas about how to steal more money to help her family in a desperate time, but these go awry. Instead of being executed or punished, she finds herself in a job at the palace, thanks to a compassionate man she meets on the street. But it turns out that working in the palace isn’t a stroke of good luck after all.

There is a fantastic ensemble of characters in this book, from the cruel and snobbish Silvers, to the bitter and enraged Reds. Nobody is happy in this society where there is constant war and attacks on both groups. There is an added element of technology with most of the Silver King’s guard consisting of sentinels, security, and soldiers. We have the King, the Queen, their two sons, and the rest of the royal court. They are privileged and have been trained by the best. Their powers are strong and used on everybody, and there are not many secrets in the Palace.

Mare is trained for a higher position in the court, which strengthens her powers. She is mostly hated by the royal family, but seems to have found a friend in Maven and a love interest in Cal; both are Princes and both want change. There is as much focus on the characters as there is on the world building. With the addition of technology and powers, the battle and training scenes are fantastical and large, with some taking place in arenas. There are many people that get hurt, die, and there is a constant paranoia that you can never trust anybody.

The narration is all told from one perspective: Mare’s. There are plenty of action scenes and the characters are unrelenting and set in their ways. When there is powerful magic involved, it can be intimidating and challenging. Mare has just discovered her powers and everybody around her has been trained since birth, leaving her reliant on anybody who seems trustworthy. We get a fully rounded world with its history to draw us into the story.

Having recently read the Selection Series by Kierra Cass, and Pawn by Aimee Carter, I often found myself trying to compare the stories. Red Queen stood out among the others due to the greater detail in the world building and the complexity of the unravelling story. There were fun plot twists, along with a couple of shocking ones that have driven me crazy because I want to read more. I was impressed with the way this story was put together and I was flying through the pages of the last third of the novel to see how it ended. It’s a bit sci-fi and a bit fantasy, with battling kingdoms and servant standing against their rulers. Red Queen was an entertaining story that I definitely recommend you read.


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