Category young adult

2013: #15 – The Different Girl (Gordon Dahlquist)

differentgirl

Title: The Different Girl
Author: Gordon Dahlquist
Format: ARC Paperback
Pages: 230
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Source: ARC via LibraryThing
★★☆☆☆ 

Veronika. Caroline. Isobel. Eleanor. One blond, one brunette, one redhead, one with hair black as tar. Four otherwise identical girls who spend their days in sync, tasked to learn. But when May, a very different kind of girl—the lone survivor of a recent shipwreck—suddenly and mysteriously arrives on the island, an unsettling mirror is about to be held up to the life the girls have never before questioned.

Sly and unsettling, Gordon Dahlquist’s timeless and evocative storytelling blurs the lines between contemporary and sci-fi with a story that is sure to linger in readers’ minds long after the final page has been turned.

My thoughts:

This book felt unfinished to me. Though the blurb on the back of the book is correct – it is unsettling. Because the narrator is one of the girls, the tone is very flat and almost devoid of any emotion save confusion. It’s not hard to figure out what the girls are, but why they exist is a question that’s never answered to my satisfaction. I cared about that much more than I cared about May and the drama created by her arrival. If the author wasn’t going to flesh out this world and the situation they were living in, then he should have cut out some of the middle and turned it into a really good short story. Instead, we get a novel with missing pieces.

Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | WorldCat

Other reviews:

  • “I love that this is a quieter novel about thoughts and characters, without much of a driving forward plot but plenty of food for thought.”The Book Smugglers
  • “There was virtually no action, no romance, no twists, and minimal worldbuilding.  If I had a badge for beautiful covers, though, it would definitely earn it, because I adore this cover.”Presenting Lenore
  • “While the novel is not an action-packed read, it does have its moments of suspense and wonder.”Miss Literati

2012: #48 – Abandon (Meg Cabot)

abandon

Title: Abandon
Author: Meg Cabot
Series: Abandon Trilogy #01
Format: Kindle
Pages: 320
Release Date: January 1, 2012
Publisher: Point
Source: personal copy
★☆☆☆☆ 

New from #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot, a dark, fantastical story about this world . . . and the underworld.

Though she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can’t help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she’s never alone . . . because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.

But now she’s moved to a new town. Maybe at her new school, she can start fresh. Maybe she can stop feeling so afraid.

Only she can’t. Because even here, he finds her. That’s how desperately he wants her back. She knows he’s no guardian angel, and his dark world isn’t exactly heaven, yet she can’t stay away . . . especially since he always appears when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.

But if she lets herself fall any further, she may just find herself back in the one place she most fears: the Underworld.

My thoughts:

I’m not going to write much about this book because really, it wasn’t very good. Most of the book meandered along with very little plot whatsoever, other than to listen to Pierce whine and give us drips and drabs of her past that for some reason has to be kept secret from us for so very long. She spends most of her time trying to avoid John, the angel/whatever, until suddenly she’s not avoiding him any longer, she’s making out with him. All of the characters are either boring or blatant stereotypes. This is supposed to be a dark retelling of the Hades & Persephone myth, but I couldn’t tell you anything about it based on this book. Needless to say, I won’t be bothering with the rest of the trilogy.

Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | WorldCat

Other reviews:

  • “This was my first book from Meg and I’m already reading the sequel to Abandon now, that comes out next week – Underworld.”Once Upon a twilight
  • “Although the characters were a bit ho-hum and the first half or so of the book is a little slower paced and oddly structured, when the novel moves into its final act, things really kick up – and certainly left me hungry for the next installment.”The Book Smugglers
  • “Abandon had everything I hate in a book. Controlling, violent, abusive male. check. Submissive, passive heroine with very little common sense. Check. Insta-love. check. Mary-sue. Check. Poor plot. Check.”Cuddlebuggery Book Blog

2012: #45 – Uglies (Scott Westerfeld)

uglies

Title: Uglies
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Series: Uglies Trilogy #01
Format: Paperback
Pages: 432
Release Date: 2005
Publisher: Scholastic Trade
Source: personal copy
★★★★☆ 

Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that? Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. Not for her license — for turning pretty.

In Tally’s world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world — and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

My thoughts:

This book has been sitting on my shelf for a long time, and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it. Tally’s world is physically the same as ours (as in, Earth), but time and an apocalypse (an oil-destroying bacteria) have changed things. Much of the world is uninhabited, and most of those that remain live in segregated cities such as Tally’s. On one side of the river are the young, the Uglies. On the other side, the Pretties.

It was decided, post-apocalypse, that all of the world’s problems were caused by inequality. Not only financial or social, but physical. So, upon their sixteenth birthday, everyone is given plastic surgery to become Pretty. They then spend the rest of their young-adulthood going to parties, basically.

Tally is about to become Pretty, and never thought about doing otherwise before she runs into Shay. Shay doesn’t want to become Pretty. She’s learned of a settlement of people living outside of the city (the Smokes), and she’d rather be a part of that society than the one she’s expected to join. She asks Tally to come with her, but Tally is unsure, until the decision is made for her.

I thought the book had some interesting things to say about conformity and oppressive monitoring by the government. For a heroine, Tally does tend to be rather passive. Most of what happens to her is a result of what other people have either done or made her do, and I have to admit I didn’t love her. But, the story itself is compelling enough that I don’t have to love her to want to see what happens to her.

Overall, it was just an enjoyable story. Westerfeld has created an interesting world, and I’ll definitely be reading more to see what he does with it.

Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | WorldCat

Other reviews:

  • “My copies of all the Uglies books are completely falling apart from me reading them so much, and I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did.” — Zoe’s Book Reviews
  • “All in all, I loved the premise, didn’t love the voice, but thought it’s worth reading if you have the chance.”
    Imaginary Reads
  • “If the rest of the series is as awesome as the first book, I will be thrilled. “Read. Breathe. Relax.

2012: #18 – Once Dead, Twice Shy (Kim Harrison)

Title: Once Dead, Twice Shy
Author: Kim Harrison
Series: Madison Avery #01
Format: Audio
Length: 6 hrs 3 min
Release Date: April 19, 2010
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Categories: young adult, paranormal
Source:  personal copy
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Back of the book:

Madison’s prom was killer—literally. For some reason she’s been targeted by a dark reaper—yeah, that kind of reaper—intent on getting rid of her, body and soul. But before the reaper could finish the job, Madison was able to snag his strange, glowing amulet and get away.

Now she’s stuck on Earth—dead but not gone. Somehow the amulet gives her the illusion of a body, allowing her to toe the line between life and death. She still doesn’t know why the dark reaper is after her, but she’s not about to just sit around and let fate take its course.

With a little ingenuity, some light-bending, and the help of a light reaper (one of the good guys! Maybe . . . ), her cute crush, and oh yeah, her guardian angel, Madison’s ready to take control of her own destiny once and for all, before it takes control of her.

Well, if she believed in that stuff.

My thoughts:

This is Kim Harrison’s first series since her Rachel Morgan series, and being such a huge fan of that one I had to give this a shot. This is a young adult series, so I expected the tone and writing style to be different. It was, but the things that make Harrison’s writing so good were still there – color characters, interesting sidekicks, and a compelling new world.

At first glance, Madison’s world is just like ours. Except, she’s dead. Now, she’s trying to keep from the clutches of the dark reaper who didn’t finish his job, all while learning how to become a reaper herself.

In many ways, this reminded me of the (much too short) Showtime series Dead Like Me, about a group of reapers out to save the souls of the recently departed. But not completely. Madison is a softer lead character than the bitter, sarcastic George of the TV series, and there is more of a good vs. evil feel to the book.

Overall, I enjoyed listening to this, but I do have one major complaint. When the book opens, you are thrown into the story without any real explanation of what’s going on. This is something Harrison does very well in the Rachel Morgan series, but in this case I just felt like I was missing something. So much so that I double-checked that I wasn’t listening to the second book by mistake. I really could have used a slower introduction into what was going on.

I’m not sure if this will end up being as fantastic as the Rachel Morgan series, but I will certainly read on!

Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble  | IndieBound | WorldCat

Other reviews:

  • “Absolutely fantastic – Madison Avery just might be my new favorite YA Urban Fantasy heroine. An engaging, original read and easily a notable read of 2009. Highly recommended.”The Book Smugglers
  • ” If you can make it through the slower first part of the book, I think you’ll really enjoy this read.”The Sweetie Chronicles
  • “Where is the strongly written, fully fleshed out female heroine I know Harrison is capable of writing?  I can barely believe Kim Harrison wrote this.  I want to make a thousand excuses for her – editing pressures, rushed deadlines, misleading advice?”The Blog of Litwits

Past reviews:

2011: Rocket Surgery Made Easy (Steve Krug)
2010: Anthem (Ayn Rand)
2009: China Lake (Meg Gardiner)
2008: Triptych (Karin Slaughter)
2007: Fool Moon (Jim Butcher)
2006: Incubus Dreams (Laurell K. Hamilton)
2005: The Big Bad Wolf (James Patterson)

2012: #16 – Agents of Light and Darkness (Simon R. Green)

Title: Agents of Light and Darkness
Author: Simon R. Green
Series: Nightside #02
Format: Kindle
Pages: 240 (2012 total – 3,859)
Word Count: 54,758 (2012 total – 1,038,983)
Release Date: October 28, 2003
Publisher: Ace
Categories: mystery, private investigator, paranormal, young adult
Source: personal copy
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Back of the book:

I’m John Taylor. I work in the Nightside – the gaudy, meon noir, secret heart of London, where it’s always three in the morning, where gods and monsters make deals and seek pleasures they won’t find anywhere else.

I have a gift for finding things. And sometimes what I’m hired to locate can be very, very dangerous indeed.

Right now, for example, I’m searching for The Unholy Grail, the cup that Judas drank from at the Last Supper.

It corrupts all who touch it – but it also gives enormous power. So I’m not the only one hunting. Angels, devils, sinners, and saints – they’re all out there, tearing apart The Nightside, seeking the dark goblet.

And it’s only a matter of time until they realize that the famous John Taylor, the man with the gift for finding things, can’t lead them straight to it . . .

My thoughts:

I thought this second book in the series was much stronger than the first. The first had altogether too much world-building, but this time we get right to the meat of the story. The Unholy Grail (a cup that Judas drank from that grants its holder great power) is supposedly on the loose in the Nightside, and everyone knows about it. Including the Angels, both from above and below. Taylor is brought in to find it — hopefully before the Angels tear the Nightside to pieces.

Since this is a YA book, it’s a relatively quick read. I felt more connected to Taylor and his unusual associates this time around, and will likely continue with the series.

Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | WorldCat

Other reviews:

  • Recommendation: It’s an interesting place to visit, that’s for sure.”My Years of Reading Seriously
  • Agents of Light and Darkness is a quick, easy read. Don’t read it under the covers at night with a flashlight, though, especially with a vivid imagination.”Jandy’s Reading Room
  • “Verdict:  Check it out from the library.  I’ll say if you like Supernatural Paranormal Urban Fantasy pick it up.  You’ll like it.”Ravenous Biblioworm’s Book Reviews

Past reviews:

2011: The Sound and the Fury (William Faulkner)
2010: Ivory Tower Cop (George Kirkham & Leonard Territo)
2009: Full Speed (Janet Evanovich)
2008: Dead Until Dark (Charlaine Harris)
2007: Flowers in the Attic (V.C. Andrews)
2006: Blue Moon (Laurell K. Hamilton)
2005: The Austere Academy (Lemony Snicket)

2012: #9 – The Dead Girls' Dance (Rachel Caine)

Title: The Dead Girls’ Dance
Author: Rachel Caine
Series: Morganville Vampires #02
Format: Kindle
Pages: 256 (2012 total – 2,470)
Approx. Word Count: 64,000 (2012 total – 695,504)
Release Date: April 03, 2007
Publisher: Signet
Categories: young adult, urban fantasy, vampires
Source: personal copy
Rating: 4 out of 5

Back of the book:

Claire has her share of challenges. Like being a genius in a school that favors beauty over brains; homicidal girls in her dorm, and finding out that her college town is overrun with the living dead. On the up side, she has a new boyfriend with a vampire-hunting dad. But when a local fraternity throws the Dead Girls’ Dance, hell is really going to break loose.

My thoughts:

This book picks up exactly where the first left off. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good if you’ve read the first book recently, because it means no waiting! But if it’s been over two years (like with me), it leaves you a bit disoriented until you can get up to speed again. I actually wonder if these first two books were actually just one that the author was forced to split in two.

But, once you do get up to speed again, this is a decent little book. Claire and her roommates really only want one thing — to be left in peace. But Shane’s father has other ideas, and once the  vampires find out his plans, someone has to pay. I like the group of roommates, though Claire does tend to get on my nerves a bit. She makes some really stupid decisions. I do have to give her a little benefit of the doubt. Just because you’re smart doesn’t necessarily mean you have common sense. (I might just know this from experience.)

Overall, I think this is a good series. I’m interested in seeing where it is going. Maybe this time I won’t wait two years to read the next one.

Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | WorldCat

Other reviews:

  • “DEAD GIRLS’ DANCE is one of the best books in the series and the shocking ending will leave you panting and begging for the next installment.”Karin’s Book Nook
  • “This review has probably come across as a bit harsh and while I didn’t enjoy The Dead Girls’ Dance as much as Glass Houses I didn’t totally hate the book either so don’t let me put you off reading it if you are so inclined.”Love Vampires
  • “The Dead Girls’ Dance was an interesting book that moves the story and the characters forward.”Fluttering Butterflies

Past reviews:

2011: Charm City (Laura Lippman)
2010: Forbidden Falls (Robyn Carr)
2009: Amelia Peabody’s Egypt (Elizabeth Peters)
2008: The Copenhagen Connection (Elizabeth Peters)
2007: Birthright (Nora Roberts)
2006: Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
2005: E is for Evidence (Sue Grafton)

2012: #5 – Stitches (David Small)

Title: Stitches
Author: David Small
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 336 (2012 total – 1,600)
Release Date: September 8, 2009
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
Categories: memoir, graphic novel, young adult
Source: personal copy
Rating: 4 out of 5

Back of the book:

Finalist for the 2009 National Book Award and finalist for two 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards: the prize-winning children’s author depicts a childhood from hell in this searing yet redemptive graphic memoir.

One day David Small awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute. A vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot, the fourteen-year-old boy had not been told that he had cancer and was expected to die.

In Stitches, Small, the award-winning children’s illustrator and author, re-creates this terrifying event in a life story that might have been imagined by Kafka. As the images painfully tumble out, one by one, we gain a ringside seat at a gothic family drama where David—a highly anxious yet supremely talented child—all too often became the unwitting object of his parents’ buried frustration and rage.

Believing that they were trying to do their best, David’s parents did just the reverse. Edward Small, a Detroit physician, who vented his own anger by hitting a punching bag, was convinced that he could cure his young son’s respiratory problems with heavy doses of radiation, possibly causing David’s cancer. Elizabeth, David’s mother, tyrannically stingy and excessively scolding, ran the Small household under a cone of silence where emotions, especially her own, were hidden.

Depicting this coming-of-age story with dazzling, kaleidoscopic images that turn nightmare into fairy tale, Small tells us of his journey from sickly child to cancer patient, to the troubled teen whose risky decision to run away from home at sixteen—with nothing more than the dream of becoming an artist—will resonate as the ultimate survival statement.

A silent movie masquerading as a book, Stitches renders a broken world suddenly seamless and beautiful again. Finalist for the 2009 National Book Award (Young Adult); finalist for two 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards (Best Writer/Artist: Nonfiction; Best Reality-Based Work).

My thoughts:

I’ve been meaning to read this for a long time, and finally got around to it a few weeks ago. We were traveling, and it was a good book to read start-to-finish in the car — only took me about an hour. David Small’s story is rather sad. The second child of a pair of emotionally and physically distant parents, he spent much of his childhood entertaining himself and learning how to best maneuver with the least upset to anyone. When he develops a tumor on his neck, it becomes just one more thing to deal with silently. His parents seem barely concerned, leaving it for several years before finally having it removed when David is 14. Even then they don’t tell him what is going on, just that he’s having surgery. He wakes up with a giant scar and no voice with absolutely no preparation. It’s hard to tell which is worse, the physical scar or the mental one.

The pain that David remembers is evident in his artwork. Black and white and stark, he’s able to not only portray reality as he remembers it, through the eyes of a child, but his fantasies as well. The story may come off as a bit one-sided, but it is a memoir, after all, and is told through the point of view of himself as a child. There is an afterword of sorts, where he addresses his mother’s behavior with the wisdom of age and experience. He may even have managed to forgive his parents. I’m not sure I could.

Some may say they did the best they knew how, but sometimes your best just isn’t good enough.

Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | WorldCat

Other reviews:

Past reviews:

2011: Bolt (Dick Francis)
2010: Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott)
2009: Five on a Treasure Island (Enid Blyton)
2008: I Heard That Song Before (Mary Higgins Clark)
2007: Up Island (Anne Rivers Siddons)
2006: The Big Love (Sarah Dunn)
2005: The Reptile Room (Lemony Snicket)

2011: #46 – Madapple (Christina Meldrum)

madappleBook #46 was Madapple by Christina Meldrum. The back of the book reads:

THE SECRETS OF the past meet the shocks of the present.

Aslaug is an unusual young woman. Her mother has brought her up in near isolation, teaching her about plants and nature and language—but not about life. Especially not how she came to have her own life, and who her father might be.

When Aslaug’s mother dies unexpectedly, everything changes. For Aslaug is a suspect in her mother’s death. And the more her story unravels, the more questions unfold. About the nature of Aslaug’s birth. About what she should do next.

About whether divine miracles have truly happened. And whether, when all other explanations are impossible, they might still happen this very day.

Addictive, thought-provoking, and shocking, Madapple is a page-turning exploration of human nature and divine intervention—and of the darkest corners of the human soul.

This was a sort of bizarre story. Madapple takes place in a Maine I don’t really recognize. Aslaug and her mother live in almost complete isolation in what I presume to be in-land Maine (which, believe it or not, is far different than coastal Maine), living off the land and eschewing all modern conveniences. Aslaug is barely allowed to read, let alone go to school, go shopping, or watch TV. Before her mother’s death, she doesn’t even know she has family living very nearby, and she discovers them rather accidentally. Whether or not this is a good thing is best left up to the reader.

We learn rather quickly that Aslaug is on trial for not only the death of her mother, but for burning down the church where she lived and some people inside. I enjoyed the structure of the novel as it bounced back and forth between the past and the present, revealing tiny pieces of the puzzle along the way. Things the reader assumes early in the story turn out to be far from the truth.

The author connects each chapter from the past with a particular piece of botanical knowledge. I learned about a lot of plants that I never knew existed, but sometimes there was a little too much detail when really, I just wanted to get on with the story.

Overall, I thought this was a really interesting book. It’s not light, and it’s not happy, and it touches upon not only the relationship between religion and science, but on the relationships between mothers and daughters, rape, incest, and abuse. If your book club can get past the fact that it’s technically a young adult book, I think Madapple is a great novel to stimulate discussion.

Other reviews:

Madapple by Christina Meldrum « Harmony Book Reviews
Review: Madapple « Book Addiction
Madapple by Christina Meldrum « Reading Rants! Out of the Ordinary
Confessions of a Bibliovore: Book Review: Madapple by Christine Meldrum
Madapple by Christina Meldrum | Maw Books

Audiobook length: 11 hrs 10 min | Approximate word count: 104,000 (’11 total: 4,433,203)

2010: A Reliable Wife (Robert Goolrick)
2009: Darling Jim (Christian Moerk)
2008: A Treasure Worth Seeking (Sandra Brown)
2007: Manhunt (Janet Evanovich)
2006: Myths, Lies & Downright Stupidity (John Stossel)
2005: In the Cherry Tree (Dan Pope)

Used in these Challenges: Countdown Challenge 2011; 2011 Audiobook Challenge; New Author Challenge 2011; Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge 2011;

2011: #45 – Trapped (Michael Northrop)

trapped Book #45 was Trapped by Michael Northrop. The back of the book reads:

The day the blizzard started, no one knew that it was going to keep snowing for a week. That for those in its path, it would become not just a matter of keeping warm, but of staying alive….

Scotty and his friends Pete and Jason are among the last seven kids at their high school waiting to get picked up that day, and they soon realize that no one is coming for them. Still, it doesn’t seem so bad to spend the night at school, especially when distractingly hot Krista and Julie are sleeping just down the hall. But then the power goes out, then the heat. The pipes freeze, and the roof shudders. As the days add up, the snow piles higher, and the empty halls grow colder and darker, the mounting pressure forces a devastating decision….

This book is based on an outlandish premise: a days-long blizzard literally buries a town, dumping dozens of feet of snow and trapping everyone where they happened to be when it started. In this case, it traps seven kids and a teacher in the high school. Cell phones and land lines aren’t working, vehicles (not even plows) can get through, and it isn’t long before the power is also gone.

What this book really comes down to one question: What would you do to survive? Because these are teens (and young teens at that), different factors come in to play than those that would if they were adults. Will the usual cliques remain? Who, if anyone, is in charge? What are the consequences of breaking the rules? How do they eat, stay warm, and even use the bathroom? These kids have to use every last bit of their ingenuity to survive; not all of them do.

Despite the fact that I struggled with the enormity of the snowstorm (even growing up in Maine, I couldn’t picture that much snow), I enjoyed this story. My only problem with it was the ending. We get a resolution to the immediate problem, but there is no aftermath. I wanted to know what the ramifications of the storm were outside of the school.

This is a good book for those days when it snows and you wonder if it will ever stop.

This book was a review copy.

Other reviews:

Book Review: Trapped by Michael Northrop | leighlights
Trapped by Michael Northrop:Book Review – Rayment’s Readings Rants and Ramblings
Candace’s Book Blog: Book Review: Trapped by Michael Northrop
Slightly Bookish: Book Review (ARC): Trapped by Michael Northrop
Review: Trapped by Michael Northrop | Chick Loves Lit

Page count: 240 (’11 total: 11,673) | Approximate word count: 48,000 (’11 total: 4,329,203)

2010: Shelter Mountain (Robyn Carr)
2009: First Family (David Baldacci)
2008: Grave Surprise (Charlaine Harris)
2007: Through Violet Eyes (Stephen Woodworth)
2006: Eveless Eden (Marianne Wiggins)
2005: King’s Oak (Anne Rivers Siddons)

Used in these Challenges: ARC Reading Challenge 2011; New Author Challenge 2011; Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge 2011;

2010: #87 – Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins)

mockingjay Book #87 was Mockingjay, the third book in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy.  The back of the book reads:

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***

I’m not even going to try to discuss this without spoilers. So consider yourself warned!

First of all, I really liked the book.  I found it to be a mostly satisfying conclusion to the series.  In some ways, I found it more engrossing than Catching Fire, which was mostly a rehash of Hunger Games. But what I really want to discuss is Katniss.

A lot of people read this book and immediately hated what Collins did with Katniss.  They felt like she changed Katniss into someone weak who just waited for things to happen to her instead of taking charge.

I have to say that I disagree! I guess I’ve always felt that Katniss was an emotionally immature character, and was often having her strings pulled by other people — she just didn’t realize it.  When the bodies started piling up, she just wasn’t emotionally mature enough to handle it. I think the only decision she made in the whole series that was truly hers was the decision to step up and take Prim’s place. Other than that, she was always someone’s pawn in the game.  An extremely effective pawn, but a pawn, nonetheless. I think that most of the time, her independence was an illusion.

That’s not to say the book was perfect. My main complaint was the pacing. I think we spent way too much time in 13 and not nearly enough time in the Capitol. The ending was horribly rushed, with Katniss’s trial and banishment just glossed over. I would have loved a better, slower exposure of 13 being just like the Capitol. Especially the part about Coin wanting another Hunger Games.  That’s taken care of in about 4 pages, and it needed to have more impact than that.

Overall, I wasn’t at all surprised by how Katniss ended up at the end.  After 3 books of people manipulating her, a mental break was not completely unexpected.

Other reviews:

#279 ~ Mockingjay (Review in Haiku) : literatehousewife.com
Booking Mama: Review: Mockingjay
Re-Post: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins; Review « Wordbird
Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins *Spoilers* : Bart’s Bookshelf
Presenting Lenore: Book Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Page count: 400 | Approximate word count: 100,000

2009: Best Intentions (Emily Listfield)
2008: The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Agatha Christie)
2007: Carolina Moon (Nora Roberts)
2006: 44 Cranberry Point (Debbie Macomber)

Used in these Challenges: Four Month Challenge – Part 4; 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; 2010 Reading From My Shelves Project; 2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge; Finish That Series Challenge; Pages Read Challenge Season 2;

2010: #77 – The Secret of Ka (Christopher Pike)

ka Book #77 was The Secret of Ka by Christopher Pike.  The back of the book reads:

One minute Sara’s bored on vacation in Istanbul. The next, she’s unearthed a flying carpet that cleverly drags her to the mysterious Island of the Djinn—or genies. By her side is Amesh, a cute guy she has a crush on but doesn’t yet trust. When Amesh learns the secret of invoking djinn, he loses control. He swears he’ll call upon only one djinn and make one wish. The plan sounds safe enough. But neither Sara nor Amesh are any match for the monster that that swells before them. It hypnotizes Amesh, compelling him to steal Sara’s flying carpet and leave her stranded on the island.

Discovering the carpet has sparked a new path for Sara, one that will lead her to battle creatures even deadlier than djinn. In this fight, Sara can save mankind, herself, or the boy she cares for. Who will she be forced to sacrifice?

Christopher Pike and I go back a long ways.  When I was in junior high and high school, I was obsessed with his books, counting his Final Friends series, Chain Letter, and Gimme a Kiss amongst my favorite books.  Every time I was able to visit the Mr. Paperback a half hour from my house, I would go straight to the Young Adult section and hope for a new Christopher Pike book, anxious to fork over my $3.95. I owned every book he published. So it’s not surprising that I was excited to see this new book as a galley offered through NetGalley.

Unfortunately, I found myself disappointed in this.  But I think my disappointment stems more from the book being mis-categorized than with the story itself.  This really didn’t have the sophistication that I remember from the thrillers he wrote in the 80s and 90s. I think it would be better marketed as a middle-grade book rather than a young adult book. I can see 10-13 year-olds reading this, but not 16-18 year-olds.

As far as the story goes, I don’t have too many major complaints, but I don’t have any major kudos either.  It just left me feeling "eh".  Our main characters, Sara and Amesh, really aren’t that compelling.  They both come off as shallow and selfish and immature, and inconsistent. And whatever spark we’re supposed to feel between them just wasn’t believable.  To me, it seemed like Sara didn’t really care about him — liking him was just a way to get attention. I thought the mythology of the djinn was interesting, since I haven’t read many (if any) books with that as a basis. Istanbul started out as an interesting locale, but he could have gone further with it.  I’ve been to Istanbul, and this story didn’t recall the feelings I hoped for. I would have loved to see more of a description of the city, with its mosques and palaces and bazaars and variety of people, and a flying carpet could have given us a really unique perspective.  Instead, the story started to feel like it could have taken place anywhere. The plot gets a little out of control with its twists and turns and double-crosses, but things are mostly wrapped up at the end. I suspect there will be a sequel, at least.

This was the first galley I requested from NetGalley, and I have to say I was disappointed in that as well.  I chose to have the book delivered directly to my Kindle, and the formatting was awful.  I looked at the pdf that was available online, and that looked great, so there was no reason for the Kindle version to be so bad.  Not only were there no proper chapter markings (which I can forgive), the capitalization was completely screwed up.  I don’t think there was one sentence that began with a capital letter, proper names were rarely capitalized, and other letters would be capitalized at random. I don’t know if the fault is with NetGalley or with the publisher, but someone needs to step up and check the formatting before a book is offered via Kindle.

This book was a review copy.

Other reviews:

Kay’s Bookshelf » The Secret of Ka by Christopher Pike

Page count: 416 | Approximate word count: 116,000

2009: Killer Takes All (Erica Spindler)
2008: New Moon (Stephenie Meyer)
2007: Evil Under the Sun (Agatha Christie)
2006: Indigo Slam (Robert Crais)

Used in these Challenges: ARC Reading Challenge 2010; 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; 2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge; E-book Reading Challenge; Pages Read Challenge Season 2;

2010: #57 – Possessed (Kate Cann)

possessed Book #57 was Possessed by Kate Cann.  The back of the book reads:

Rayne can’t wait to start her summer job at a remote country mansion, far from the crowded, noisy London she so desperately wants to escape. But the retreat soon turns into a nightmare — the mansion is creepy, the legends of ghosts keep Rayne up at night, and she doesn’t feel safe anywhere.

Can Rayne figure out why she’s so freaked — before she becomes a ghost story herself?

This was a pretty good little ghost story.  Rayne is the typical teenager in many ways, feeling smothered by both her dependent mother and her boyfriend.  So, like many teens, her solutions is ultimately to run away.  To facilitate this she finds a job in a tearoom at Morton’s Keep, a mysterious English countryside manor with a long, dark history.  I would have actually liked to have learned more about the history of the Keep, and could have used more details such as who the Black Prince was.  Not all of us are up to speed on English history, so thank goodness for Wikipedia! Things are spooky and mysterious, especially with Rayne’s new boyfriend, St. John, and his group of obedient friends.  I actually could have used a little more ghostly activity, since a lot of what happens is more along the lines of "things don’t feel right" than something tangible. All in all, though, I found Rayne to be believable and accessible, and this to be an entertaining read.

This book is a review copy.

Other reviews:

Review: Possessed by Kate Cann | Dark Faerie Tales
He Followed Me Home . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Can I Keep Him
Shooting Stars Mag: Possessed by Kate Cann
S. Krishna’s Books: Possessed – Kate Cann

Page count: 336 | Approximate word count: 50,400

2009: Reunion (Therese Fowler)
2008: Fearless Fourteen (Janet Evanovich)
2007: Windmills of the Gods (Sidney Sheldon)
2006: The Weatherman (Steve Thayer)
2005: To the Nines (Janet Evanovich)

Used in these Challenges: Countdown Challenge 2010; ARC Reading Challenge 2010; 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; 2010 Pub Challenge; 2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge; New Author Challenge; Pages Read Challenge Season 2;

2010: #56 – Chenxi and the Foreigner (Sally Rippin)

chenxi Book #56 was Chenxi and the Foreigner by Sally Rippin.  The back of the book reads:

Love in the time of the Tiananmen Square.

Anna never imagined living in such a foreign place. Fresh out of high school, she has joined her father, who works in Shanghai. She’s eager to see China beyond the bicycle-crowded streets between their apartment, her father’s expatriate community and the art school she’s attending. That’s why she’s thrilled when her father hires a cute local — a fellow student named Chenxi — to be her translator and guide.

Too bad Anna seems nothing but trouble for Chenxi. His ideas about art already rankle the authorities, and he could do without the added attention of being with a wai guo ren — a foreigner. Even so, he is intrigued by Anna’s brashness and the freedoms she takes for granted. But when Anna turns their friendship toward passion, her actions have consequences that are intensified by a watchful regime looking to get rid of disruptive artists.

Set around the time of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and inspired by the author’s time spent in China as a teenager, Chenxi and the Foreigner crackles with emotion, ideas and authenticity.

I have mixed feelings about this.  I think the story has good bones — a privileged Australian teenager spends some time in Shanghai to study art during the lead up to the Tiananmen Square protests — but ultimately fell flat.  It was hard for me to connect with Anna, who is self-absorbed and rather blind to the plight of others. She also lacks any sort of respect for her father, who just flits in and out of the story tossing money at her at every opportunity.  You get some sense of the political climate in Shanghai during this time, but I think that could have been taken further.  I wanted to know more about how the city looked, smelled, tasted. I’m not sure the twist in Anna’s story, the repercussions of her brief affair with Chenxi, were really needed.  It showed some interesting thing about healthcare in China at that time, but ultimately made little difference in Chenxi’s story.  Maybe I expected too much.

This book was a review copy.

Page count: 208 | Approximate word count: 36,400

2009: Dark Places (Gillian Flynn)
2008: How I Live Now (Meg Rosoff)
2007: Basket Case (Carl Hiaasen)
2006: Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
2005: Hard Eight (Janet Evanovich)

Used in these Challenges: ARC Reading Challenge 2010; 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; 2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge; New Author Challenge; Pages Read Challenge Season 2;

2010: #37 – In Ecstasy (Kate McCaffrey)

inecstasy Book #37 was In Ecstasy by Kate McCaffrey.  The back of the book reads:

A best friend sinks into a quicksand of teenage addictions.

Sophie and Mia have been best friends for most of their 15 years. Sophie is popular, so when she suggests they try ecstasy Mia figures it can’t hurt her own chances with the in crowd. Mia is elated when the drug lives up to its name and amazed when Lewis, the hottest guy in school, kisses her goodnight.

Soon Lewis is Mia’s boyfriend, and she and Soph are running with his fast, rich friends, until Sophie is sexually assaulted by Lewis’s drug-dealing buddy. Reluctant to say what happened, Sophie grows distant, leaving Mia to conclude she’s jealous of her popular boyfriend. But to keep Lewis’s attention, Mia grows increasingly dependent on the confidence that only E seems to give her. When things worsen, it is the girls’ strained but solid friendship that finally helps bring Mia back from the brink.

Powerfully told from the alternating points of view of each girl, In Ecstasy is a brutally frank and utterly convincing portrait of the challenges facing contemporary teens.

I read this in the twilight of the read-a-thon, and it was perfect for that.  The chapters alternate point-of-view between the two girls, Sophie and Mia.  Sophie is the popular, outgoing one, and Mia just sort of tags along in her shadow.  One decision at one party changes all that, as Sophie convinces Mia to try Ecstasy.  What follows is a reversal of positions, with some unfortunate consequences. I think this is a good book for young teen girls to read, especially those who are more like Mia. It had some useful lessons about how seemingly small decisions can pile up to become much larger problems, and also about the strength of a good friendship.  On an aesthetic note, each girl’s chapters used a different font, which made it easy to keep track of who was speaking.

Other reviews:

In Ecstasy – Kate McCaffrey
Just Listen Book Reviews: In Ecstasy by Kate McCaffrey.
In Ecstasy – Kate McCaffrey « Tower of Books

Page count: 272 | Approximate word count: 54,400

2009: Whiskey Sour (J.A. Konrath)
2008: Club Dead (Charlaine Harris)
2007: The Survivors (Dinah McCall)
2006: Goodnight Nobody (Jennifer Weiner)
2005: Circus of the Damned (Laurell K. Hamilton)

Used in these Challenges: ARC Reading Challenge 2010; 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; 2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge; New Author Challenge 2010; Pages Read Challenge Season 2; The TwentyTen Challenge;

2010: #28 – Hit and Run Holiday (Carolyn Keene)

hitandrun Book #28 was Hit and Run Holiday, the fifth book in the Nancy Drew Files series started in the late 80s. The back of the book reads:

Nancy Drew’s quest for the driver who mowed down Kim Baylor in broad daylight leads her into extreme danger and an encounter with a murderer.

It’s been many, many years (20?) since I’ve read a Nancy Drew book, and I’d forgotten how much fun they can be.  Nancy, Bess, and George have all they need for the perfect spring break — great weather, nice beaches, good looking guys, and a mystery. Nancy arrives just in time to see her friend run down in the street and witness the friend’s room being searched.  And if she resisted the urge to find out what was going on, she wouldn’t be Nancy Drew. The storyline is actually still relevant, and if it weren’t for the lack of cell phones, this could have been written yesterday.  I have a bunch of these on my Kindle, so I’ll definitely keep reading them from time to time.

Page count: 180 | Approximate word count: 45,000

2009: In the Woods (Tana French)
2008: Midnight Bayou (Nora Roberts)
2007: The Black Echo (Michael Connelly)
2006: Purity in Death (J.D. Robb)
2005: Wicked (Gregory Maguire)

Used in these Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; 2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge; Pages Read Challenge Season 2; TwentyTen Challenge;

2009: #128 – The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)

bookthief Book #128 was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  The back of the book reads:

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

This book is many things. "Haunting" may be an egregiously overused cliche, but it’s difficult to find a better word to describe a book set in Germany during World War II that is narrated by none other than Death himself. People seem to either love or hate this book, and I think most of that has to do with the writing style.  Zusak does things that are generally not done.  Words are spoken about as objects that can slap you in the face or roll to a stop at your feet. Colors come to you through Death’s eyes, so the skies may be blue or yellow or brown or white. And beneath it all is a rhythm that grabbed me and pulled me through Liesel’s world.

"Summer came.
For the book thief, everything was going nicely.
For me, the sky was the color of Jews."

For me, an interesting aspect of this book is the view of the life of a young German living in poverty in Hitler’s Germany. I have read a lot of Holocaust literature, but very little from the German point of view. And there is a good mixture of points of view here.  You have Germans from both sides of the line — those who would help the Jews, and those who would throw things at the helpers and scream "Jew-lover". Yet even the screamers have their softer sides.

Though the book is about Liesel, the book thief, one of the more interesting characters is Hans, her foster father. He is the one who makes it possible for Liesel to develop the love of books and words that eventually saves her life. He makes it possible for Liesel to love anyone at all, with his patience and compassion.  And he’s the subject of one of my favorite descriptions in the entire book:

"Papa sat with me tonight.  He brought the accordion down and sat close to where Max used to sit.  I often look at his fingers and face when he plays. The accordion breathes.  There are lines on his cheeks.  They look drawn on, and for some reason, when I see them, I want to cry.  It is not for any sadness or pride.  I just like the way they move and change. Sometimes I think my papa is an accordion.  When he looks at me and smiles and breathes, I hear the notes."

One of the things that really made this book come alive for me is something that you won’t get if you’re listening to it on audio, or perhaps even reading the ebook (depending on the format).  At one point, Max, the Jewish man living in Liesel’s basement, paints over the pages of his copy of Mein Kampf and writes and illustrates a story for Liesel. In the book you are treated to this story, complete with the faded words of Mein Kampf in the background.  It was something so minor, but so powerful for me.  Here’s an example (illustration snagged from Amazon):

standoverman

There are aspects to the book that are weak.  The whole plot line with the mayor’s wife comes off as a little undeveloped, and when Liesel decides to write her own life story, it’s rushed through and then forgotten in the rubble. There are a few unanswered questions that I really wish had been answered, but I guess it’s those unanswered questions that keep us thinking about a book long after we’ve closed it.  Overall, I loved it.

Other reviews:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak | Maw Books
The Book Thief — So Many Books
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak — In the Shadow of Mt. TBR
At Home With Books: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Review
books i done read: The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

Page count: 550 | Approximate word count: 110,000

2007: Dead Irish (John Lescroart)

Used in these Challenges: The 999 Challenge; A-Z Challenge 2009; Read Your Own Books Challenge; Countdown Challenge 2010;

2009: #118 – The Maze Runner (James Dashner)

mazerunner Book #118 was The Maze Runner, the first book in the Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner.  The back of the book reads:

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

I’m sure that this novel has found itself compared to The Hunger Games, as they are both young adult dystopian novels.  The Hunger Games is a hard title to surpass, but in some ways, The Maze Runner has done just that. From the start of the story, when Thomas wakes up in a strange elevator knowing only his name, you know nothing more than what the characters know.  And the characters don’t know much, which makes everything a mystery.  Where are they?  Why is there a maze?  Who keeps sending them supplies?  Will they *really* die if they stay in the maze at night?  And what is the deal with the girl who suddenly shows up the next day? I found this story to be much more complex than The Hunger Games, even if it isn’t suspenseful in quite the same way.  It certainly kept me reading, and I blew through the second half of the book like someone was going to take it away from me.  The ending is incredible, because just when you think you know what is going on, you find out that you’re completely wrong.  Can’t wait for the next one.

This book was a review copy.

Other reviews:

Book Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner | BOOKS AND MOVIES
Devourer of Books » The Maze Runner – Book Review
THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner – REVIEW « Karin’s Book Nook
Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner
At Home With Books: The Maze Runner by James Dashner – Review

Page count: 384 | Approximate word count: 96,000

2007: Rapture in Death (J.D. Robb)

Used in these Challenges: Countdown Challenge 2010;

2009: #116 – How to Say Goodbye in Robot (Natalie Standiford)

robot Book #116 was How To Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford.  The back of the book reads:

New to town, Beatrice is expecting her new best friend to be one of the girls she meets on the first day. But instead, the alphabet conspires to seat her next to Jonah, aka Ghost Boy, a quiet loner who hasn’t made a new friend since third grade. Something about him, though, gets to Bea, and soon they form an unexpected friendship. It’s not romance, exactly – but it’s definitely love. Still, Bea can’t quite dispel Jonah’s gloom and doom – and as she finds out his family history, she understands why. Can Bea help Jonah? Or is he destined to vanish?

I thought this was a touching story… a little bit coming of age, a little bit romance.  Bea has moved to a new town and is starting in a new school for her senior year of high school.  Fate, the alphabet, and a shared affinity for late night radio call-in shows lead her to a tentative-at-first friendship with the Ghost Boy, Jonah, who has long been the misfit of the class. Bea is a bit of a misfit herself, not really interested in the usual teenaged girl things and saddled with a couple of parents that are far to involved with their own problems to really pay much attention to her. I really liked this story, though the ending is a bit bittersweet.  I did have one problem with it…. I didn’t like how casual underaged drinking was in this book.  I know that it happens, a lot, but I don’t think that a book that is marketed to young adults should treat it in such a "this is normal, everyone does it!" way. And though I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Baltimore, I don’t really believe that there are business establishments in this day and age where 17 year olds can waltz in and buy alcohol on a regular basis.

This book was a review copy.

Other reviews:

Kids Lit » Blog Archive » How to Say Goodbye in Robot
3 Evil Cousins: How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
Killin’ Time Reading: How to Say Goodbye in Robot; Natalie Standiford

Page count: 288 | Approximate word count: 72,000

2007: Straight Into Darkness (Faye Kellerman)

Used in these Challenges: Countdown Challenge 2010;

2009: #112 – Glass Houses (Rachel Caine)

glasshouses Book #112 was Glass Houses, the first book in Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires series.  The back of the book reads:

Welcome to Morganville, Texas.

Just don’t stay out after dark.

College freshman Claire Danvers has had enough of her nightmarish dorm situation, where the popular girls never let her forget just where she ranks in the school’s social scene: somewhere less than zero.

When Claire heads off-campus, the imposing old house where she finds a room may not be much better. Her new roommates don’t show many signs of life. But they’ll have Claire’s back when the town’s deepest secrets come crawling out, hungry for fresh blood.

I found this to be a pleasant surprise.  It’s young adult, so it’s not super gory or super scary, but the girl-on-girl violence is super cruel and unfortunately, probably not much of an exaggeration. And the romances are sweet. I liked meeting Claire and her new roommates.  Caine also makes Morganville a particularly creepy place to live.  The feeling it invoked in me was like one of those dreams where you’re being chased and can’t find a way to escape.  My one complaint about the book is that I didn’t like the last chapter with its manufactured cliff-hanger.  I would have rather had that event open the next book – it didn’t really fit – but it wasn’t enough to discourage me from continuing with this series.

Other reviews:
Rachel Caine: Glass House (The Morganville Vampires Book 1) – Book Review
Just Listen Book Reviews: Glass Houses by Rachel Caine.
Book Review : Glass Houses by Rachel Caine
Just Your Typical Book Blog (Main Site): Glass Houses – The Morganville Vampires Book One by Rachel Caine
MariReads: Book Review- Glass Houses (Morganville Vampires) by Rachel Caine

Page count: 256 | Word count: 74,107

2007: The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
2006: Under the Overtree (James A. Moore)

Used in these Challenges: Random Reading Challenge; Countdown Challenge 2010;

2009: #101 – Cleopatra's Daughter (Michelle Moran)

cleopatra Book #101 was Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran.  The back of the book reads:

The marriage of Marc Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, a tale of unbridled passion with earth-shaking political consequences. Feared and hunted by the powers in Rome, the lovers choose to die by their own hands as the triumphant armies of Antony’s revengeful rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt. Their three orphaned children are taken in chains to Rome; only two– the ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander–survive the journey. Delivered to the household of Octavian’s sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt. As they come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian’s family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires deep within their own hearts.

The fateful tale of Selene and Alexander is brought brilliantly to life in Cleopatra’s Daughter. Recounted in Selene’s youthful and engaging voice, it introduces a compelling cast of historical characters: Octavia, the emperor Octavian’s kind and compassionate sister, abandoned by Marc Antony for Cleopatra; Livia, Octavian’s bitter and jealous wife; Marcellus, Octavian’s handsome, flirtatious nephew and heir apparent; Tiberius, Livia’s sardonic son and Marcellus’s great rival for power; and Juba, Octavian’s watchful aide, whose honored position at court has far-reaching effects on the lives of the young Egyptian royals.

Selene’s narrative is animated by the concerns of a young girl in any time and place–the possibility of finding love, the pull of friendship and family, and the pursuit of her unique interests and talents. While coping with the loss of both her family and her ancestral kingdom, Selene must find a path around the dangers of a foreign land. Her accounts of life in Rome are filled with historical details that vividly capture both the glories and horrors of the times. She dines with the empire’s most illustrious poets and politicians, witnesses the creation of the Pantheon, and navigates the colorful, crowded marketplaces of the city where Roman-style justice is meted out with merciless authority.

Based on meticulous research, Cleopatra’s Daughter is a fascinating portrait of imperial Rome and of the people and events of this glorious and most tumultuous period in human history. Emerging from the shadows of the past, Selene, a young woman of irresistible charm and preternatural intelligence, will capture your heart.

Loved this.  While Moran sticks to her Egyptian roots with her main character, Cleopatra Selene, really this book is about post-Julius Caesar Rome. Selene, her twin brother Alexander, and younger brother Ptolemy are taken to Rome by Octavian (future Emperor Augustus) after the death of their parents, Cleopatra and Mark Antony. They are his trophies, and will live with his sister, Octavia. Soon, Selene finds herself wrapped up not only in the politics of being part of the Caesar’s extended family, but also in the mystery of the Red Eagle, a mystery man (or woman) who fights for the freedom of Rome’s slaves.

Not much is known about Selene’s early life, but I can completely buy that a strong, independent woman such as Cleopatra would have a strong, independent daughter.  She longs for a return to Egypt, but still finds herself wrapped up in the normalcy of a pre-teen/teenager’s life — school, shopping, gossip, and crushes. Through her experiences, we learn what life for a girl in Rome’s aristocracy may have been like. It’s a little bit difficult to keep track of who everyone is and how they’re related to each other (especially the children, who all tend to be either step-siblings or half-siblings with each other), but there is a guide in the front that helps.

Also, this book is being marketed both as a YA novel and as an "adult" novel (whatever that means).  It’s definitely more on the YA side, but enjoyable for adults as well.

This book was a review copy.

Other reviews:
Cleopatra’s Daughter – Book Review – caribousmom
At Home With Books: Cleopatra’s Daughter – Review
Creative Madness that Makes Me Myself: Review: Cleopatra’s Daughter
Becky’s Book Reviews: Cleopatra’s Daughter
Medieval Bookworm » Review: Cleopatra’s Daughter, Michelle Moran

Page count: 448 | Approximate word count: 122,000

2008: Deja Dead (Kathy Reichs)
2007: Night Pleasures (Sherrilyn Kenyon)
2006: Vital Signs (Robin Cook)

Used in these Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge 2009; 2nds Challenge; 2009 ARC Reading Challenge; The 999 Challenge; What’s in a Name Challenge;  

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