The Book Blag

Book reviews over anything and everything

Review: The Replacement December 12, 2010

Filed under: Book Reviews — Tara @ 7:26 pm
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The ReplacementThe Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff was a refreshing read after my last young adult read. This book is hard to describe, so I’ll let a quoted description suffice: “Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world. / Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate’s baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.” — Description from Goodreads.

Brenna Yovanoff has written a fantastic, eerie YA story as her debut novel. The characterization in The Replacement is excellent, and each voice was unique. I often complain that teenagers in YA books written by adults sound younger than the age they are supposed to be, but the teens in this book sound spot on. Although they are exposed to situations that could threaten their lives, their priorities are on crushes and social activities like parties. Alcohol was present at a party Mackie attended, which is realistic for a high school party, and he and one of his romantic interests had a hot-and-heavy make-out scene that included a little more than kissing. There are a few curse words in the book, but they do not seem overpowering and are appropriately placed in emotional scenes.

Gentry, the fictional town where the story takes place, was eerily real to me as I read the book. Yovanoff’s imagery is precise and simple as she creates an almost tangible setting for the reader without boring potential readers with long bouts of prose. Gentry is a terribly gloomy place, and it is so wrapped up in the plot line of the story that it would be inappropriate to place the story in another setting. At the end of the book, potential for change exists in Gentry. I was left wishing for more, to know what happened next, which is what every novel writer should want his or her readers to do at the end of the book.

My rating: 4.5 stars

Where did I get this book? ARC won through Melissa’s Books and Things Halloween giveaway! 🙂

2010. New York: Penguin Group Inc. 343 pages.


Review: Mercury November 6, 2010

Filed under: Book Reviews — Carrie @ 10:13 pm
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Mercury follows the stories of two young girls; Tara, a present-day teenager who is struggling with the recent loss of her home in a fire, and her ancestor Josey, living in the house in the 1800s. Events unfold in Josey’s life that lead to treasure being hidden on the land, which Tara eventually discovers. Mercury is a combination of graphic story-telling, history, and magical realism.

This is a good introduction to graphic novels for those who are unfamiliar; it’s light reading and well-illustrated. I really had to plug away to get to the meat of the story… it’s worth reading to the end, but at times it feels like the story isn’t going anywhere. However, the illustration is captivating and the glimpse into 1800s Nova Scotia is enough to keep the reader engaged. I enjoyed the nuggets of Canadian slang footnoted in the various panels.

Elements of romance permeate both the historical and present-day plotlines, as well as typical teenage angst and self-discovery. Girls aged 12 and up will enjoy this story – there isn’t much out there for young girls in the realm of graphic novels; I’d recommend this for any YA or school library collection.

My rating: 3.5 stars


Review: Girl, Stolen October 24, 2010

Filed under: Book Reviews — Tara @ 9:54 pm
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Girl, Stolen by April Henry is a young adult book about a 16-year-old girl named Cheyenne who is in the backseat of her stepmother’s car when it is stolen. Cheyenne is blind due to an accident three years earlier, and sick with pneumonia. The boy who stole the car, Griffin, did not realize Cheyenne was in the back seat and returns home to his father’s chop shop unsure of what to do. The story unfolds from here.
The story is told from third person point of view and alternates between focusing on Cheyenne and focusing on Griffin. Although Griffin’s dad and his friends are clearly “bad,” it is really hard not to feel sorry for Griffin. “Good” and “bad” are not clearly defined in this character. He seems to be doing bad things only out of a desire to be accepted by his father, and he feels an inner conflict between this and his desire to protect Cheyenne.
I had only two real problems with this book. It is classified as a young adult book, and Amazon lists it for grades 7-10. The book is such an easy read, and I was reading adult novels in grades 7-10. The writing seems more appropriate for ages 9-12. On the other hand, there is definitely one part of the book I wouldn’t want my 9-12 year old reading due to violent sexual language. Cheyenne seems like a wise character because she has been through so much since she became blind. I was very appreciative of the backstory so we could better understand what happened to her. However, Cheyenne and Griffin’s language felt younger than 16, having been 16 myself within the last decade. The second issue I had with the book was the ending. I enjoyed the fast-paced climax toward the end of the book, but just one or two more lines tacked on to the end of the last chapter would have left me so much more satisfied. It was not a cliffhanger, but I wanted a little more information.
That said, the book was an enjoyable read, and I liked it more than I disliked it. I think this would have been a book I would like in late elementary school. A relatively fast reader can read it in its entirety in a few hours.
My rating:  3.5 stars
Where did I get this book? ARC received from publisher through Goodreads

2010. New York: Henry Holt and Company. 213 pages.


In My Mailbox October 10, 2010

Filed under: In My Mailbox — Tara @ 12:31 am
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In My Mailbox is a weekly meme sponsored by The Story Siren. Today, I received my first ARC I won through Goodread‘s First Reads program:

Girl, Stolen by April Henry
Sixteen year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of a car while her mom fills her prescription at the pharmacy. Before Cheyenne realizes what’s happening, their car is being stolen–with her inside! Griffin hadn’t meant to kidnap Cheyenne, all he needed to do was steal a car for the others. But once Griffin’s dad finds out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes—now there’s a reason to keep her. What Griffin doesn’t know is that Cheyenne is not only sick with pneumonia, she is blind. How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare, and if she does, at what price? (From the Publisher, Macmillan)

It looks like a great YA book. Stay tuned for book review!


Review: The Hunger Games October 6, 2010

Filed under: Book Reviews — Carrie @ 9:17 pm
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Once known as North America, Panem is comprised of 12 districts under the control of a callous dictatorship. Citizens of Panem are poor and starving, and two children from each district are forced to compete in an annual televised fight to the death — The Hunger Games — as punishment for an uprising long ago. The story follows sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take the place of her little sister, Prim.
The Hunger Games takes a hard look at the effects of political unrest and oppression on young people. The author’s take on this concept is fascinating, and the characterization of the protagonist is positively gripping. Katniss is a survivalist. She carries a manner of stoicism about starvation and death — the intriguing part of her characterization is the transition from indifferent acceptance of the Capitol’s power over her situation to the spark of rebellion that rises up in her as she experiences the injustice of the Games.
Speaking of the Games… once we’re in the arena with Katniss, this book turns into a non-stop thriller. Danger, fighting, desperation, sneakiness, mercy, cold-bloodedness, and even some cool sci-fi elements comes into play here (mutated animals and creepy medical advances are a couple of examples).
The author, Suzanne Collins, manages to include the requisite romantic component (between Katniss and her male counterpart in the Games from District 12, Peeta, as well as her undefined relationship with best friend back home, Gale) present in most young adult fiction aimed at girls. The interesting thing about this romantic twist is that Katniss is playing a part. It’s obvious there are some stirrings of true feeling, but for the most part Katniss is worried about staying alive and using the relationship with Peeta as a survival technique (I won’t go into more detail for fear of spoiling the story).
At times the romantic element feels forced and unnecessary — the concept behind The Hunger Games is so compelling on its own — but the plot is definitely driven by the circumstances between Katniss and Peeta. Compared with other popular young adult novels, this one deals with teenage romance in a very mature way, and thankfully, ooey-gooey feelings do not dominate the storyline.
This is a modern classic in the making… I was reminded of Ayn Rand’s Anthem when reading this book. It is riveting and horrifying. The novel makes serious issues of injustice, death, and oppression palpable for young people. Excellent characterization, eloquent writing, and poignant moments pervade The Hunger Games. This book kept me up at night, and gave me nightmares (but in a good way). I don’t believe in censoring books from children, but ages 12 and up will probably take something profound away from the story more so than those younger… it may be extra frightening and the message might be lost on the very young. Great book for getting non-readers hooked.
My rating: 5 stars