Friday, August 26, 2011

Envy (Empty Coffin #1) by Gregg Olsen (ARC Review)

Genre:Young Adult, Mystery, Crime
Publication.Date  September 6th 2011
Published By:  Splinter
WebsiteGregg Olsen | Empty Coffin

Envy - Goodreads
My review copy:Provided by the publisher (thank you!)
Where to get: Barnes and Noble | Amazon      | Book Depository

Murder is such a dirty word…New York Times bestselling adult true crime author Gregg Olsen makes his YA debut with EMPTY COFFIN, a gripping new fiction series for teens based on ripped-from-the-headlines stories…with a paranormal touch.
Crime lives--and dies--in the deceptively picture-perfect town of Port Gamble (aka “Empty Coffin”), Washington. Evil lurks and strange things happen--and 15-year-olds Hayley and Taylor Ryan secretly use their wits and their telepathic “twin-sense” to uncover the truth about the town's victims and culprits.
Envy, the series debut, involves the mysterious death of the twins' old friend, Katelyn. Was it murder? Suicide? An accident? Hayley and Taylor are determined to find out--and as they investigate, they stumble upon a dark truth that is far more disturbing than they ever could have imagined.
Based on the shocking true crime about cyber-bullying, Envy will take you to the edge--and push you right over.

Please note:  Quotes are from an ARC and will be verified against a published copy.
“Merry Christmas, loser,” she said.
She pulled inside of herself, into that place where there was only a little relief.
The bathtub was nearly full. Steaming. Just waiting.
Katelyn had no idea that, not far away, someone else was doing the exact same thing—just waiting for the right time to make a move.
As fresh tears rolled down her cheeks, Katelyn took off the rest of her clothes, threw them on the floor, and plunged herself into the tub.
The fifteen-year-old was slumped over the edge of the old claw-foot tub, her eyes tiny shards of broken glass, her expression void of anything. Her long, wet hair dripped onto the floor.
“I’d rather know how. I mean, really, an espresso machine in the bathtub? That’s got to be a first ever.”
Taylor nodded, brushing away her tears. She could see the absurdity of it all. “Some snarky blogger is going to say this is proof that coffee isn’t good for you.”
“And write a headline like ‘PORT GAMBLE GIRL MEETS BITTER END,’” Hayley added.
Neither girl knew it right then, but the night Katelyn Berkley died was the beginning of something that would change everything.
Every. Single. Thing.
     Envy is a Young Adult debut novel from the fantastic New York Times bestselling true-crime author, Gregg Olsen. It’s one deliciously dark and eerie read. I devoured it, thoroughly enjoying its creepy atmosphere! Most importantly, the content of this book lives up to its gorgeous cover, which means that if you’re one of the judge-the-book-by-its-cover readers (like me!), you can rest assured - you won’t be disappointed! In fact, you’re in for a quite a treat! 

     Katelyn Berkley, a 15-year-old girl from the small town of Port Gamble, Washington is found dead in her house. Her body, discovered by her alcoholic mother, is slumped over the edge of the old claw-foot tub. There’s also a mini espresso machine floating in the bathtub. An ESPRESSO MACHINE in the BATHTUB – how weird is that? What could possibly have happened? Did Katie commit a suicide? Why would she choose to electrocute herself with a coffee maker of all things? Or maybe it wasn’t a suicide at all? Sure, she was depressed lately due to the falling out between her and her best friend. And no, her family is not by any means a perfect one, but was it enough to make her want to end her life? Or is there something more to the story? Is there SOMEONE else behind her tragic death? 

    Sounds like a typical whodunit story? Well, it’s not! There’s so much more to this book than just the mystery of Katie’s death (which BTW is not what you’d originally assume – in the words of Stephen King, do not assume, assuming makes an ass out of you and me! Get it? Ass+U+Me)! What we have here is a solid, well thought-out and skillfully executed plot, rich palette of really intriguing characters, whole bunch of unexpected twists and turns and a breathtakingly gritty atmosphere. All that sprinkled with a bit of supernatural (not too much,though, just a tiny little bit!) to top off the already delicious read! 

     The lead protagonists of this story are twins, Hayley and Taylor Ryan. These two are not your typical teen girls, although you might not be able to tell that at first. They both attend the local high school and are busy with the regular day-to-day teenage stuff: boys, friends, homework. Their father is a well-known and successful crime book writer and their mother used to be a psychiatric nurse at a state mental hospital in Seattle. The world of crime, murder, mystery and creepiness is nothing new to them. Daily dinner talks about stranglers, serial killers, murder plots and thousand ways to die are basically a routine around the Ryan’s family household. There are very few things that could possibly disturb or shake them, but unfortunately a sudden death of a class mate is one of them. See, there’s something very special about Hayley and Taylor – not only is their sisterly bond extremely strong, but they can also sense certain things. A sixth sense?  An ability to communicate with the dead? Some other mysterious paranormal power? We don’t know that yet, but whatever it is, it makes them very sensitive to their surroundings. They are able to feel things that no one else can detect. Sometimes they’re drawn to certain objects, other times they have visions. Neither twin can explain the sensations, but they both know one thing for sure– they are never wrong. And when they visit Katelyn’s house, they get a feeling that Katelyn did not want to die. Something happened here, someone did that to her, and Hayley and Taylor are now the only ones who can uncover the mystery of Katie’s death. Will they be able to find the person responsible for their friend’s death? To find the answer to this and other questions you are going to have to read the book yourself! And don’t expect to have everything served to you on a silver platter. Gregg Olsen is the master of mystery. He will keep you guessing all the way to the end and even when you hit the back cover you still won’t have all the answers. Quite to the contrary, you will be left with even more burning questions and painful craving for the next book in Empty Coffin series

     Hands down, this was really one awesome read. It’s definitely not your typical YA book. There are no vampires, faeries, zombies, angels or any other mystical creatures. There isn’t much of the paranormal stuff, either. It’s a good old crime mystery with a sneak peak of something truly dark and supernatural lurking in the dark. The supernatural part is very vague and almost non-existent, but that only makes it spookier. Olsen did a really great job balancing it out, focusing mainly on the crime mystery and letting us get to know the lead characters in the process – brilliant move! At the same time, the way the book ends suggest that we’re about to step into an unknown, scary and possibly supernatural territory. That makes me want to read the next book even more! Oh, and did you know that the murder mystery is based on an actual cyberbullying crime that took place back in 2006? Go get yourself a copy! It’s worth every penny.

❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

Vacation Special: 

me reading Envy on top of the mountain in Glacier National Park, Canada.
I carried it all the way up to the top.
And it was WORTH IT.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley (ARC Review)

Genre:Young Adult, Fantasy
Publication.Date  August 30th 2011
Published By:  Atheneum (Simon&Schuster Canada)
WebsiteLena Coakley | Witchlanders
Witchlanders - Goodreads
My review copy:ARC received from the publisher
Where to get: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Book Depository

     High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future. It’s all a fake.
     At least, that’s what Ryder thinks. He doubts the witches really deserve their tithes—one quarter of all the crops his village can produce. And even if they can predict the future, what danger is there to foretell, now that his people’s old enemy, the Baen, has been defeated?
      But when a terrifying new magic threatens both his village and the coven, Ryder must confront the beautiful and silent witch who holds all the secrets. Everything he’s ever believed about witches, the Baen, magic and about himself will change, when he discovers that the prophecies he’s always scorned—
Are about him.

Please note:  Quotes are from an ARC and will be verified against a published copy.
"It's time to put out that fire, Mabis", he said, suddenly feeling awash in frustration. "The witches didn't come because you have nothing to tell them. It's all nonsense. There's no stranger in the mountains, no assassin. You're just a farmer's widow gone mad on maiden's woe!"?
 One woman was like him, blond and blue-eyed, while the other, like the girl in white, clearly had Baen blood. Ryder knew they were witches, though, both of them. They both wore the mark of Ayase on their throats: two red slashes depicted in crimson stone, the symbol for the vow of silence.
"I saw something. Something I wasn't supposed to see. Something.. I was going to say horrible, but it wasn't really. Something I couldn't understand. There are secrets in the coven, Ryder. Secrets valley people could never guess. Secrets even many of the witches don't know".
     Lena Coakley uses her writing to weave a potent and unforgettable story, filled with magic, adventure, love, betrayal, revenge and long-buried secrets. Witchlanders is not only beautifully written and absolutely compelling, but with its unique take on witchcraft, fantastic characters and exquisite winter scenery, it is a true gem among the Young Adult fantasy books of recent years. 

     The main protagonist, Ryder, works hard in the field to make sure his mother and sisters have enough food to survive the winter. He’s a practical, simple guy, who doesn’t care much for the witchcraft. In fact, he doesn’t even believe in magic and he definitely doesn’t like the fact that every year he’s forced to pay tithes to the witches. The witches live high in their mountain covens. They claim that they’re protecting the village by praying to the Goddess and throwing bones to predict the future.  Ryder thinks it’s all fake and he’s extremely irritated when his mother, Mabis, starts throwing bones herself, foretelling the arrival of an assassin and other hard-to-believe events. He refuses to believe in her visions, convinced that they’re nothing more than hallucinations caused by the maiden’s woe, a highly addictive river plant.

     The attack of man-shaped creatures made of packed brown earth makes Ryder realize that he was wrong about many things. Everything he’s ever believed about magic, witches and, most importantly, himself will change forever. Nothing will ever be the same again and the most shocking discoveries are yet to come. 

     Witchlanders is a beautiful and mesmerizing tale of friendship and brotherhood, revenge and betrayal, love and trust. It was the shortest 411 pages I have ever read and how I wish I could jump into reading the second part straight away. Waiting for the sequel has never been more painful! I loved every word of this book. Lena Coakley has a great talent for words, her storytelling is flawless, smooth and very flavorful. I am a huge fan of fantasy in general and there are plenty of great YA fantasy books out there, but this one really stands out. I enjoyed the original take on magic – weaving the spells through a song, throwing bones, visions, etc. The world building was superb and I was amazed at how much effort Cloakley put into developing both the setting and the characters. I loved the breath-taking mountain scenery! Lena’s descriptive passages really brought everything to life, I had no problem whatsoever imagining all the places – the village, the mountain covens, the snow-covered fields, the caves and secret underground passages. Most importantly, the characters were absolutely fabulous! I liked Ryder from the get-go. I liked that he was skeptical about the whole magic-thing and had trouble accepting his fate. It was very realistic and added a lot of depth to the story. I really loved Falpian, too! He is such a likable character! Not to mention the interactions between these two, they were fascinating, and often hilarious. 

     And what about the romance? Well, there is no romance, and thank goddess for that! Lena Coakley managed to write a very emotional, touching story without spoon-feeding us with cheap and forced love-at first-sight BS. There is a potential love story here, though, but thankfully Lena didn’t go there yet. It turned out to be a great decision and, in my opinion, it made this book even more awesome.  

     Overall, Witchlanders is a fantastic read. The writing is captivating, the story intelligent, deep and entertaining. I couldn’t bring myself to put it down and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in the series. It’s a must-read for any YA fantasy fan.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Scepter of The Ancients (Skulduggery Pleasant #1) by Derek Landy (Review)

Genre:Middle Grade, Fantasy, Adventure, Magic, Supernatural
Publication.Date  May 1st 2009
Published By:  HarperTrophy | @HarperCollinsCa | Facebook
WebsiteSkulduggery Pleasant | Derek Landy

Scepter of the Ancients - Goodreads
My review copy:Provided by the publisher (thank you!)
Where to get: Barnes and Noble | Amazon  | Book Depository

Meet Skulduggery Pleasant
Ace Detective
Snappy Dresser
Razor-tongued Wit
Crackerjack Sorcerer
Walking, Talking, Fire-throwing Skeleton -— as well as ally, protector, and mentor of Stephanie Edgley, a very unusual and darkly talented twelve-year-old.
These two alone must defeat an all-consuming ancient evil.
The end of the world?
Over his dead body.

Previously published as Skulduggery Pleasant

“Think of it as an adventure,” he said brightly. “Why should I do that?” “Because if you don’t, you’ll just become really, really depressed. Trust me. Now hop in!”
 “Every solution to every problem is simple. It’s the distance between the two where the mystery lies.”
“I’ve fought just about every type of opponent you could name,” Tanith said, “but I’ve never been attacked by a tree. Well done.”
 “Serpine is used to the Elders taking forever to make their calm, thought-out decisions,” Tanith said. “So he won’t be expecting anything as amazingly rash and reckless as this.” Ghastly nodded. “That’ll teach him to underestimate stupid people.”
 “What is it?” Stephanie whispered. “That, my dear Valkyrie, is what we call a monster.” She looked at Skulduggery. “You don’t know what it is, do you?” “I told you what it is, it’s a horrible monster. Now shut up before it comes over here and eats us.”
“There’s no such thing as winning or losing. There is won and there is lost, there is victory and defeat. There are absolutes. Everything in between is still left to fight for. Serpine will have won only when there is no one left to stand against him. Until then, there is only the struggle, because tides do what tides do—they turn.”
 “I’m placing you under arrest for murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and, I don’t know, possibly littering.

     Reading Scepter of the Ancients by Derek Landy is an unusual experience! Quite unlike anything else I’ve read, although it reminded me of some of my favorite Middle Grade books, like A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle or Noah Barleywater Runs Away by John Boyne. The easiest way to describe this book would be to say that it’s a mix of Harry Potter and Indiana Jones, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t do the book justice because Scepter of the Ancients is so much more than just that! Highly amusing, refreshingly unique, adventurous and magicalthis is a really great read

     Gordon Edgely’s sudden death came as a shock to everyone - especially to his 12-year-old niece, Stephenie. Gordon was a writer. His tales of terror and magic were always ranking very high on the bestseller lists. Despite the popularity of his books, not many people attended his funeral, as he didn’t have many friends in the world (let’s just say he wasn’t the nicest person, with all his mean jokes and such). There was, however, one particular attendee, who caught Stephenie’s attention. This mysterious gentleman in the tan overcoat, wide-brimmed hat covering his frizzy hair, and with a scarf carefully wrapped around his face, is no one else but Skulduggery Pleasant, a living skeleton, a mage and a detective. Now Stephenie has become a side-kick to the most extraordinary detective on the planet and together they will try to uncover the mystery behind her uncle’s death. They will also have to face the evil Faceless Ones and find the Scepter of The Ancients – a super powerful weapon that could destroy the world! Nothing in Stephenie’s life will be the same again, say “bye, bye” to normality and prepare for a wild ride into the world filled with magic, walking (and talking) skeletons, ghouls, vampires and a whole lot of other supernatural awesomeness

     Now onto what I thought about this book..
     It was a really good, enjoyable and fast-paced read. There’s so much going on here, sometimes it was hard to keep up with all the action! I admit, when I got this book from HarperCollins Canada, I wasn’t all that excited to start reading it – it looked great, the synopsis intrigued me, but I never thought it would be anything more than a silly Middle Grade story with magic and some cheesy mystery to solve. Obviously, I was wrong! It didn’t take long for me to get totally caught up in the storyDerek Landy’s witty and clever writing style captivates the reader right from the get-go. There’s something insanely fun about this novel that kept me turning the pages – I didn’t want to put it down. I wanted to solve the mystery and find the Scepter of the Ancients!

     It’s a children’s book, but I think many adults will get a huge kick out of reading it, too. I’ve heard awesome things about the audiobook version (read by the incredible Rupert Degas), so you might want to consider listening to it together with your kids. As a matter of fact, the audiobook made it to the Goodreads’ best audiobooks list, so it’s definitely worth checking out.

     The characters in this story are… well, fascinating, to put it simply! How often do you get to read about a skeleton-detective with magical powers?! And Stephenie is such an interesting protagonist, too! She’s sassy, brave, curious (maybe even too curious sometimes, with her endless flow of questions!) and absolutely cute. Together they make one extraordinary team and reading about their adventures is worth skipping a meal or two
     Landy’s writing, considering that this was his debut novel, was quite impressive, too. I wouldn’t say that it blew me away, and I definitely feel that some things could have been done better, but it was still better than most of the debut novels out there. I really liked the dialogues between Stephenie and Skulduggery – they were hilarious and so full of character! I was often laughing out loud. 

     Overall, I had a great time reading this book! It was a rich and complex story, filled with unforgettable characters, thrilling escapades and lively sense of adventure. So far there are five books in the Skulduggery Pleasant series and I am looking forward to reading all of them soon!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Watched by Sharde Richardson (Review)

Genre:Young Adult, Paranormal Romance
Publication.Date  May 30th 2011
Published By:  Jolt
WebsiteSharde Richardson
Watched - Goodreads
My review copy:From the author ❤
Where to get: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Book Depository

     Mikayla doesn’t want much: just to rock out to her favorite band, become the next Kwiki Stop video gaming champion, and keep her Q-tip habit under control. What she does want is the sight of the sudden inexplicable dark auras around everyone to stop. Problem is, those auras are demons and Mikayla is the last trait holder with the power to ban them. Which is a total buzz kill.

To make matters worse, the town folk of Sulphur Springs don’t look the same, and her classmates are a little dark in the eyes. There are murders, suicides, reckless skinny-dipping, gratuitous use of Q-tips, and newfound powers that Mikayla must learn to control.

Her past becomes present when a shape-shifter tells her what her true identity is, and how to keep the demons of Hell from nipping at her Converse. Through him she’ll discover who to trust, who to kiss, and how valuable her abilities are to the right beings. Because the evils of Hell aren’t staying down without a fight.

Or without her soul.

I looked over my shoulder for the screeching bird. A ginormous freaggin’ black bird flapped on the ground near a tree. I sucked air through my nose like I couldn’t get it in fast enough, hopped down and walked over. “Jeez, aaaren’t you s-s-supposed t-ttooo fly t-to Florida or sssomething like that during wa-wa-winter?”
 You see, I suffered from a condition in which bitchiness was a side effect at the mere mention of bullshit. “Sure. Just excuse me while I think of a polite way to say hell no.”
“You think this could be the start of some psycho serial cannibal killer’s wet dream? You know, like the little Irish man in that movie Back Two Tha Hood.” I shrugged. Chevy tugged at his ear. “I hope not, because I need my heart. And my penis. Probably my penis a little more than my heart.”
 I saw a special on the History channel once, said ‘educate’ stemmed from the root word ‘punish’ in ancient Egyptian.
“Man up, Chevy,” I insisted. “You’re acting so tweetable right now. Hashtag: growapair.”
Bea began a series of finger points and head nods around the room. “Warlock, witch, witch, Demoted, werebear, leprechauns—ugh, never get in a relationship with a leprechaun, can we say ‘possessive’. Oh, and never party with the Fae either, man. They go rock star hard and by the end of the night, you’ll be licking the nipples of a unicorn. Mind blowers,”
In the end, we were all just freaks. We went through the motions at school, attending classes on subjects that would never be applied in real world applications, eating processed cafeteria food, and staring at each other wondering if it was okay to smile. Could we smile? Should we smile? We waited for the puppet master to pull the strings, but what would be the point when someone always burst into tears. It was all some sinister test in will power. Of which most of us failed.

     Watched by Sharde Richardson is the perfect example of how you shouldn’t judge the book by its cover. I absolutely loved the cover from the moment I first laid my eyes on it – it’s fabulous, dreamy, colorful and just looking at it makes me happy. Judging by the cover I expected some sort of a fairytale retelling. I thought something along the lines of a big, bad wolf and red riding hood. I did not at all expect it to be a thrilling demon story with kick-ass characters and wild, breath-taking twists! This book rocked my socks! 

     The main protagonist of the story is Mikayla, a snarky teenager with a weird q-tip habit, known in town as “the girl with the stutter”. Although she doesn’t remember anything that happened to her before her thirteenth birthday, she considers herself to be just another teenage girl, no more, no less. 

     The story kicks-off with a total jaw-dropper. I actually had to re-read the first chapter twice to make sure I got everything right.  Mikayla is about to go ice-skating to celebrate her seventeenth birthday, when suddenly a weird looking stranger appears right in front of her and attacks her with a knife. Stabbed, Mikayla passes out and wakes up in the local hospital. But that’s just the beginning of it! Ever since her near-death experience, Mikayla can see weird auras around people. These auras, as it turns out, are the signs of demons and Mikayla is able to see them because she is a demon Hunter! That’s not all, though! There’s another weird fella following her around, only this one seems to be rather friendly and far more handsome! Plus he seems to know a lot about Mikayla and her newly acquired ability. There’s a lot more going on and the story just keeps on getting crazier with every chapter! 

     It is an absolute MUST READ for any YA fan. Now, I am about to say something that will send hordes of Cassandra Clare’s fans chasing after me with pitchforks, but you know what? I actually liked it better than Cassie’s Mortal Instruments. Don’t get me wrong, Mortal Instruments series is awesome and I love it, but this book.. This book is just phenomenal! It’s a wild thrill ride right from the get-go. It’s also snarky, sharp and filled with hilarious quotes. The characters are really, really great. Mikayla is bright, tough and witty. She’s the kind of girl you would love to have as your best friend. She’s just endlessly awesome. The story is told from her first-person perspective and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It was so fun to see the world through her eyes. The way she thinks and the things she says.. top notch! I was constantly highlighting quotes from this book! The whole book is like a giant, insanely hilarious quote. You just have to read it! 

    And one more thing I’d like to talk about is the romance part of this book, which is very subtle and almost non-existent. Sharde Richardson brilliantly laid the foundation for something that could be a really beautiful romance, but she didn’t force it. Instead she focused on developing her characters and letting us get to know them better. I can’t express how thankful I am for that, Sharde! I am so fed up with all the cheesy love stories in YA novels. This was a great refreshment! 

The bottom line is: Go get yourself a copy. Period.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Enclave by Ann Aguirre (Review)

Genre:Young Adult, Adventure, Dystopian
Publication.Date  April 12th 2011
Published By:  Feiwel & Friends
WebsiteAnne Aguirre | Enclave

Enclave - Goodreads
My review copy:Provided by the publisher (thank you!)
Where to get: Barnes and Noble | Amazon  | Book Depository

In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups–Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear—to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first she thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known.

I have your back. I didn’t mean only when it’s easy. All the time.
 “We weren’t always inclined to credit the truth around here, if it ran counter to our experience.
People’s value came from their actions. In the enclave, the strong and the physically perfect survived, but if you were strong, you protected the weak until they had an opportunity to grow into their own power.
 “I never belonged anywhere until I met you
 “Fade had told me about the pricks of light above; he didn’t know what they were, exactly. I imagined they were torches from a city built on high. It would take a bird to reach it, so maybe the people who lived up there had wings. They would be pale and beautiful with ivory feathers and starry hair.
I wished I had the ready words of a Breeder or the ability to comfort with a soft touch. I didn’t. Instead I had daggers and determination. That would have to do.
 “There were different kinds of strength. I knew that now. It didn’t always come from a knife or a willingness to fight. Sometimes it came from endurance, where the well ran deep and quiet. Sometimes it came from compassion and forgiveness.

     Enclave by Ann Aguirre is definitely MY kind of book. To put it simply, I loved it. I don’t even know where to begin describing how much and why. I loved everything about this book! It’s a fast-paced, bone-chilling adventure set in a post-apocalyptic /dystopian world, where people are forced to live in underground enclaves and rarely live to see their 25th birthday. 

     Deuce, the main protagonist of this story, is not a nameless brat anymore. Today is her birthday. She did it, she proved that she’s capable of surviving in the cruel world of the second holocaust. Today she will become a Huntress, she will be marked and named. The naming ceremony is the most important event in every brat’s life. So many kids don’t survive the first few years of their lives that naming them seems pointless. They are called Boy or Girl, along with a number. Only those strong enough to survive will be assigned their names and they will also get their scars. Hunters get six scars, Builders get three, and Breeders get only one. In Deuce’s world everyone has a specific role to play, there’s no place for weakness or sentiment. Only the strong ones survive. 

     Deuce is a Huntress now, which means she will be sent on daily patrols to hunt for meat and to fight Freaks (zombie-like creatures with razor-sharp teeth and claws instead of nails). Freaks feast on the dead, but they also like fresh meat and they don’t shy away from attacking humans. Hunters are responsible not only for finding food for their enclave, but also for protecting people from Freak attacks. 

     Hunters are patrolling the underground tunnels in pairs. Deuce is matched with Fade, a mysterious, handsome Hunter, who, unlike most, hadn’t been born in the enclave. No one really knows where exactly he came from or how he managed to survive entirely on his own. He doesn’t talk about his experiences in the tunnels, doesn’t try to make friends, but he’s a great fighter and that seems to be the only reason for  him being allowed to stay. 

      When Deuce and Fade get in trouble for saving a starved, blind brat, as a punishment they get sent to a neighboring enclave (Nassau) to check out the rumors about it being attacked by Freaks. They discover that the zombie-like creatures are not as brain-dead as everyone thought they were. In fact, they are growing more and more organized, showing signs of intelligence. The elders, however, refuse to listen to warnings. Things get even worse when Deuce is accused of stealing and hoarding, and together with Fade they’re exiled from the enclave. What will happen to them now? Can they find a way to survive? What will they find when they reach the surface? 

     This was a really great, gut-wrenching and exciting read. I enjoyed it A LOT. It reminded me of all the great dystopian/zombie movies, like I Am Legend, 28 Days Later or Resident Evil, and yes, I am a huge fan of those and I had a huge kick out of reading this book! The characters were well developed and I liked them a lot (especially Stalker, don’t judge me!). Deuce was AWESOME. I don’t think I ever read a book with a more likable, kick-ass protagonist. The plot line was just fabulous, perfectly balanced and full of tension! I loved that the romance part was tiny and really well-served, not overwhelming, very subtle and with a great build-up! That’s exactly how I like it! (I’m pretty sick of all the love-at-first-sight-BS). 

     Aguirre's writing style is marvelously hypnotizing and irresistible. Ann does not beat around the bush, she goes straight to telling us about the frightening reality of Deuce’s world. Through skillfully crafted first-person narrative, we can see everything that Deuce is seeing, it’s realistic and intense. 

     The cliffhanger ending left me wishing I wouldn’t have to wait the whole year for the next installment in the series. It will definitely be an agonizing wait, I so want to find out what happens next!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sherry and Narcotics by Nina-Marie Gardner (Review)

Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Publication.Date  May 1st 2011
Published By:  Future Fiction London
WebsiteNina-Marie Gardner

Sherry & Narcotics - Goodreads
My review copy:From the author (thank you!)
Where to get: Barnes and Noble | Amazon      | Book Depository

Mary is in a very fragile place after the death of her father, distance in her relationship with her mother, and a tenuous sobriety which has long slipped away but for her hiding it from her family. It’s under such inauspicious timing, while living in London, that Mary starts up a correspondence with a dreamy poet, but from the very beginning things are far from how they appear.

“Thinking about him on the train makes her giddy, sends a shudder down her spine. Has her craving her drink, a cigarette.
 “Wakes up at nine in panic. First thought is how much did she have to drink the night before? Starts counting them down in her head: glass of Merlot at the bar, bottle of wine in her room, Carlsburg on the train. Not so bad - she feels better.
Things blur, they are running. Jake holds her hand. Both of them breathing hard, coughing - all the cigarettes. Yet she is glad for the wind that presses them close.

     Nina-Marie Gardner’s Sherry & Narcotics is one extraordinary debut novel. The author’s virtuosic storytelling achieves a tone at once passionate and detached, and the result is as curious as it is convincing. The hypnotic narrative captivates the reader from the first sentence to the last paragraph of this beautifully written novel.  It is breathtaking, intense and nerve-wracking. You might want to hold onto your seats.
     Mary Cartwright is a young playwright from United States who, shortly after her father passed away, decided to move to England to have a fresh start on life. Her income consists of money she makes rewriting essays for non-native English speakers. Although it is not the highest-paying job in the world, she likes it, mainly because it gives her freedom and keeps her brain sharp.  She’s free to travel/live anywhere she wants as long as she can access the Internet to upload her work. 

     One day Marry gets a message through My Space from Jake, who claims to be deeply impressed with her plays. They start exchanging emails and text messages, and things quickly get intense between them. They’re fascinated with each other, she likes his poems, he likes her writing. There’s a great chemistry between them and a strong, almost unhealthy pull. Marry doesn’t think twice before deciding to move to Manchester. She wants to be close to Jake, get to know him better, be a part of his life.  But things don’t always work out as we want them to. Sadly, there will be no “happily ever after” in this story, just plenty of heartache, disappointment and pain.  

     The true, almost nightmarish beauty of Sherry & Narcotics is the all too crystal clear mirror it holds up to its readers. Nina-Marie Gardner has written a sublime and clear-as-glass book, a book of almost frightening transparency and openness. Reading this book felt like observing someone else’s life through a spyglass, invading their personal space, eavesdropping, hacking into their brain and shamelessly stealing all the intimate secrets. The strong narrative pull will keep you engrossed in the story until the heartbreaking ending. It’s a thought-provoking masterpiece that will make you wonder about life, love, trust and –inevitably – addiction.  

     Practically from the get-go there’s an overwhelming sense of impending doom. We know that something bad is about to happen. We sense that this story won’t end well, not for Marry, not for anyone. The loneliness, sadness and hopelessness drips from the pages and we find ourselves wishing there was something we could do to fix it. But of course, there’s nothing that can be done. We can only sit and watch, and it’s truly gut-wrenching

     I read this book in a single sitting. I read it ravenously, not wanting to stop turning the pages, not wanting to put it down, and even though I knew it would break my heart, I can totally see myself reading it again. I liked everything about it, the setting (England!), the explicit narrative voice, the original take on the subject of drug abuse and alcoholism, even the broken and hopeless characters. It was painfully real yet magical in a way. This book has a very artsy feeling to it and I can picture it being made into a great movie, or perhaps adapted into an even better play. Reading it reminded me in part of Dreamers (2003) and in part of Catfish (2010).

     Nina-Marie Gardner is a writer of rare intensity and she definitely knows how to elicit a strong emotional response from her readers. Sherry & Narcotics is a book about trying to find your place in life, struggling against devastating addiction, doing your best to keep it together, loving, hoping, losing, and falling… falling…
It’s a powerful book, treasure it.

❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

About the Author
Evie is the Blogger behind Bookish. She enjoys reading many different genres, especially YA, Paranormal, Contemporary Fiction and Fantasy.
She loves talking to authors and is always happy to welcome them for interviews, and guest posts. She also likes spreading the love for awesome books and  chatting with fellow book-worms.
You can find Evie here: Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Shelfari | The Library Thing
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