Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The 2010 YA Romance Challenge

Read six YA romance novels between April 1, 2010 and November 30, 2010.
Romance should be a strong element with the story. But it doesn't have to be the only element.
All genres are allowed.
They can be part of a series, or stand-alones.
They can be long or short.
Audio books are allowed.
Some re-reads are allowed, but try to have at least two new-to-you books.

To sign up for the challenge, leave a comment. If you'd like to contribute reviews to this blog, let me know. I'll be happy to send you an invite. But I'll need your email address. (It is not a requirement that you join the blog or that you write reviews.)

The challenge host is Becky from Becky's Book Reviews.
The challenge blog is

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Katsa is a Graceling, a dangerous one. In the Seven Kingdoms, sometimes children are born with mismatched eyes, a sign that they have been blessed (or cursed) with an extreme skill in some area...climbing trees, baking, juggling, mind reading, killing. This last one is Katsa's Grace and she has been manipulated into using it to carry out her uncle's (the king of one of the Seven Kingdoms) orders, mainly killing and torture. But then during a mission she encouters a man, Po, who is obviously Graced in combat skills and it was a tough fight for her to win. Though she should have killed him she let him live. This decision would alter the course of Katsa's life permanently...and she's not at all sure it's for the best.

Okay, I LOVED this book. Loved it. I loved Katsa and Po and how their relationship develops. I love how Katsa herself changed and things she learned about herself on her journeys. The only thing I didn't love is that it seemed that Katsa was so completely anti-marriage that it almost felt like the author was trying to tell me what she thought about marriage and it probably only caught my attention because I am all about marriage. :) Still, that's one minor thing compared to the whole wonderfulness of the story. Kristin Cashore has apparently two more books planned that are set in this world. I can't wait.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Forest of Hands and Teeth

Ryan, Carrie. 2009. (March release. Available Now) The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Random House. 310 pages.

My mother used to tell me about the ocean. She said there was a place where there was nothing but water as far as you could see and that it was always moving, rushing toward you and then away. She once showed me a picture that she said was my great-great-great-grandmother standing in the ocean as a child. It has been years since, and the picture was lost to fire long ago, but I remember it, faded and worn. A little girl surrounded by nothingness.
Our heroine, Mary, has a dream. A dream to leave the safety of her village and find this ever-mysterious ocean her mother romanticized through stories. Mary has always been taught that her village is all there is. Well, all that remains of pure humanity at the very least. Her village is surrounded by a forest--the forest of hands and teeth. Outside the fences and walls of her village, the Unconsecrated roam. Zombies. They're an ever-present threat, but as long as the fences hold. As long as the guardians protect the borders from breaches, then life goes on normally. They're raised to respect the Sisterhood, respect the Guardians, respect the rules of society. And one of the rules is that all young people should make the commitment to family and marriage. All eligible young men and all eligible young women should go through the strict rituals and vows and settle down, start families of their own. Mary has always assumed that her life will follow this course. But after several years of being passed over, she fears that she may have to join the Sisterhood and dedicate her life to God. The idea doesn't thrill her--or the Sisters.

On the day when a young man, Harry, does ask to court her--and courtship almost always leads to marriage--the siren interrupts her response. A breach. The zombies. The two rush to safety. But in a way, it's too late, Mary's life is forever changed. Her mother, Mary's mother, has been bitten by the Unconsecrated. The decision remains...kill her now out of mercy, or let the disease overcome her and release her into the Forest. Her mother's choice? To join her husband who is among the Unconsecrated. Days later--after her mother's release into the Forest--her brother returns angry and vindictive. Jed. He kicks Mary out of his home. Forces her to join the Sisterhood. Harry, it seems, has not gone to her brother. He has seemingly withdrawn his interest to court her, to marry her. While she did not love Harry, she did have a long friendship with him, with his family--his brother, Travis, and his sister, Beth.

But she's being forced into the Sisterhood...forced to dedicate herself to a God she can't believe in. How could God have allowed both her father and mother to have become Unconsecrated? How could God have allowed her brother to turn his back on her? How could God have allowed her sister-in-law, Beth, to miscarry? In just a few days, her life have become a mess, a disaster. It soon becomes apparent--within minutes really--that the Sisterhood is not what she thought. They are more than what they seem. That there are dangerous secrets. That the Sisterhood poses a threat to her very life.

What's a girl to do when there are no choices that can lead to a happy ending?

How could I ever do justice to this book? Seriously. It's so intense. It's so exciting. Full of danger and secrets and betrayals and hopes and fears and love and loss. It's incredibly fast-paced, near-impossible to put down. It's dark and dangerous--not light and cheery. But it's so compelling, so well-written, that I just have to sing its praises.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Cashore, Kristin. 2008. Graceling. Harcourt. 471 pages.

In these dungeons the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind.

I loved this book. I did. It's YA Fantasy at its best. A story of seven not-so-perfect kingdoms: Nander, Wester, Estill, Sunder, Monsea, Middluns, and Lienid. The story of the Graced--and those royalty who seek to control and manipulate them. A story of a girl, Katsa, and the boy that loves her, Po. A story with secrets and betrayals. A story with plenty of punches. A bit violent? Maybe. But that's because our heroine, is "graced" with the power of killing. Or is she?! Who are the graced? Well, the graced are those born with two different eye colors. For example, Po has one silver eye, one gold eye. I can't quite remember what two colors Katsa has...(don't hate me!) but I know that those that are graced are often ostracized by others. It's hard for others to look them in the eye, to treat them as "normal." The graced are those with special abilities, enhanced traits. The power might be a gift with livestock or the power to read minds. True, a large part of the people's fear... for both Po and Katsa... is that both are graced in fighting, in combat. Po is the Prince--seventh prince--of Lienid. Katsa is the niece of the king of Middlun, Randa.

When we first meet Katsa she is on a mission. A mission to save an old man, a Lienid, a man in the royal family of that kingdom who has been kidnapped and held prisoner; he is the grandfather of Prince Po, though when she seeks out to rescue him, she doesn't know of Po. It is on her way out--mission successful--that she stumbles into Po. Though she knows that it would be safer if she killed him--he's a witness to her "crime" after all. Yet something about him makes her hesitate. She gets a feeling that they're on the same side. That he is not her enemy--witness though he may be. So she merely bonks him on the head and lets him be.

Doesn't sound quite like love at first sight, does it? Yet as these two born-fighters struggle with each other, train with each other, struggle with their feelings, a great love is born...but is it a love that can last?

I won't go into all the details. I don't want to spoil the plot. But life seems to have thrown these two together for a reason...and it will take everything they have for the good guys to win...this is one exciting read!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Eyes Like Stars

Mantchev, Lisa. 2009. (July Publication) Eyes Like Stars. Feiwel and Friends. 368 pages.

Part of me knows that it's mean to tease you. To taunt you with how very very wonderful a book is...and then reveal that it isn't going to be available until July. But. I can't resist. Why? Because I am head over heels in love with this book. I didn't just love it. I didn't just love, love, love it. I LOVED it. Take my normal enthusiasm of a book that I've gushed about in the past and multiply it a couple of times. Then you'll begin to understand how giddy this book made me.

The fairies flew suspended on wires despite their tendency to get tangled together.

Who are these fairies? None other than Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed. (These four are from Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream). Our heroine, Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, counts these four fairies as her closest friends. And they do have a bit in common: they're all mischievous. (In a good way.) Beatrice--as far back as she can remember--has lived in the Theatre. Her bedroom? One of the sets. Her friends? The characters from all the plays ever written. Her love interest? A minor player, a pirate from The Little Mermaid. (He's only ever had one line.) Her forbidden playmate whom she loves-to-hate and hates-to-love? Ariel from The Tempest.

When we first meet Beatrice, she's in trouble and doesn't even know it. The Theatre Manager has decided that it is time--past time really--for Beatrice to go. To leave her home, her friends, the only life she's ever known. His excuse? She's not contributing to the theatre. She--and others along side her--plead with him; he grants her a few more days to prove that she has what it takes, that she belongs there.

Her idea? To be a director! Though their productions generally never require a director--after all the originals know their lines backwards and forwards and then some--but if she were to change it up, change it around...then...maybe just maybe she'd find her place. Thus she seeks to recreate give it an ancient Egyptian setting.

But life is never this easy, right? You know there are bound to be conflicts! I am not going to say much more. I don't want to spoil it. But it is oh-so-magical. It is fun and playful. It is giddy-making.

Here's the blurb--in case I haven't already persuaded you to put this on your wish list:

All her world's a stage.
Beatrice Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater.
She's not an orphan, but she has no parents.
She knows every part, but she has no lines of her own.
Until now.

Welcome to the Theatre Illuminata, where the characters of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Theatre by The Book--an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family--and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.

Great premise, great characters, great writing, great cover...this book has it all.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Zombie Queen of Newbury High

Ashby, Amanda. 2009. Zombie Queen of Newbury High. Penguin. 199 pages.

Mia Everett was doomed.

Fun but ever-predictable, this one is a light-hearted read that I tended to enjoy. Predictability. It isn't always a bad thing. Yes, I knew who our heroine would end up falling for by page seven--and I can guess you might as well. But did I enjoy it? Yes. Mostly. Mia is a not-so-popular girl who wants to hold onto her popular boyfriend. Despite the fact that they've been dating for several weeks--five dates and counting--she's insecure in the relationship. Feels threatened, and perhaps rightfully so since her guy is being pursued by a cheerleader who doesn't know the word no. So Mia and her best friend, Candice, seek out a spell--a love spell--to keep Rob, her boyfriend, right where he belongs: by her side. But this spell has some unintended side effects. It's not a love spell at all. And it doesn't just effect Rob--it infects the whole senior class and the teachers who were present at the senior assembly. Fortunately for Mia, someone is there, a witness to it all. Someone who will do anything and everything to keep the situation contained. His name is Chase. And for better or worse, Mia and Chase have to work together or life could get very very messy.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Book of A Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

306 Pages.

In this book, Lady Saren and her maid, Dashti, were sentenced to be locked in a tower for 7 years because of Saren refusing to marry the man her father chose for her. Dashti takes care of Saren while they are in the tower, even conversing with Saren's true love, Khan Tegus, for her when Saren was too depressed to. The two girls eventually escape the tower before the 7 years were up, and find Lady Saren's kingdom destoyed, and her family murdered. They make their way to Khan Tegus' land, where it will take courage, caring, and wit to defeat the bad guy and get a happily ever after ending.

This book is based on a Grimm fairytale "Maid Maleen", which I have never heard of. I enjoyed the story. In this story, the maid Dashti was a very strong, nuturing, loyal character, who was willing to help the Lady Saren long after most people would have abandoned her. Hale does a good job of describing the tower, and the darkness within it.

One thing that I did not like was that the timeline was confusing to me. The book is written in diary form, and the days are numbered, but after they escape, Dashti starts back at Day 1 (as a symbol of their new freedom). It therefore made it hard for me to follow how long things took, time-wise. Other than that, there wasn't much that I didn't like about this book.

While this was not my favorite Shannon Hale book, I do think that it was a really good read, and recommend it to everyone.