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Nobody

by

Nix is a nobody. Less than shadow, less than air. When he walks into a room, people barely notice he is there, and if they do notice, they quickly forget about it. He is not capable of making an impression on somebody else, which is why he makes the perfect assassin. When a teenage girl, Claire, becomes his next target, he soon realizes that he does not know everything that goes on in the institute he calls home. I'm not going to kid you, this novel took me a long time to get into it. It starts off interesting, but it soon becomes quite slow. I kept waiting for things to pick up, and for a while there, I thought they never would. But it does! It does pick up, and once that action starts, I couldn't wait to see how it ended. Adding to the awesome is the feeling that you cannot quite be sure how the action is going to go down. It is not predictable at all, which I enjoyed. The whole concept of this novel is one I've found myself thinking about for a while after I finished reading. Everyone feels like they don't matter at some point, but can you imagine feeling like that every moment of your life? Not just feeling, but knowing that you are nothing? I found it amazing that these characters even found a drive to live. One of my favorite aspects of the story was that the romance was toned down. Claire and Nix have an instant connection, but that connection is a sort of biological thing (I don't want to ruin it!), not "instalove". It takes a while for them to feel comfortable around each other, to really trust each other. They do have some romantic interactions during this process, but it isn't a we kissed, now we're in love type of thing. They put their relationship on hold because they have more pressing matters, which was good for the story. Actually, once the characters make that decision, that is when things ultimately start picking up. Overall, this was a very interesting read. Do not give up immediately if you find it slow, because it does pick up, just give it a few chapters.
This Is What Happy Looks Like

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THIS, my friends, is what happy looks like. I'm sorry... I told myself I wouldn't play off the title like that, but I had to. And it just so happens to be true. It all starts when a teenage boy sends an email to his pig sitter... Only he gets the email wrong, and actually sends it to a random girl across the country. This conversation does not stop once the mistake is realized, but rather the girl and boy end up forming a pen pal relationship of sorts. Little does the main female, Ellie, know that the boy she has spent so much time thinking about and talking to is teen heartthrob, Graham Larkin. Will their relationship be as easy going as the anonymous one online when they meet in real life? What if being seen together has unexpected consequences for both of them? I was a big fan of the author's last novel, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight ( see my not so eloquent review ), so I had high hopes for this one. Actually, that is an understatement. This is one of the books that I was jumping up and down with excitement and anticipation for, jumping every time I overheard someone mention it. Thankfully, it is even better than I had hoped. The story is told in a very interesting and extremely fun way. The prologue is the actual exchange of emails that starts the relationship. From then on, the story is told in alternating POV's, and at the beginning of each chapter is another email or exchange from the continuing relationship.I was amazed by how much one little email could warm (or break) my heart. I found myself looking forward to the next email as much as Ellie did. I only have positive things to say about this novel. I tore through the first half and then forced myself to take it slow and savor the story. This is one of those stories that have really great atmospheres - a story that you love to live and immerse yourself in. It takes place in a small Maine town, and as cheesy as this sounds, it feels as if the town reaches out and wraps you in a hug. I felt at home in the story. There are little images that I can't get out of my head. Like a souvenir shop with handwritten poems in all the picture frames. And whoopee pies. I want a whoopee pie really badly. In fact, I think my new mission in life is to try one. Just read it, okay? You'll thank me.
The Madman's Daughter

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I did not write my review immediately upon finishing this novel because I wanted to be able to explain my feelings on this amazing story rather than have the equivalent of an emotional freakout in front of all of my readers. However, it is now over a week later, and excitement and amazement about this story has not worn off. The Madman's Daughter is everything I ever hoped it would be, and so much more. That is such a cliche statement to make, but it is SO true in this case. The story had me eagerly devouring each sentence, all the while cringing over vivid descriptions of mutilations, immoral surgeries and a plethora of other violent and disturbing scenes. Throughout the story, I was searching for some semblance of good, just like the main character, and no one was more surprised than me at each new twist. Often times I see everything coming, but these characters charmed me - fooled me. If you like your description vivid, blood a plenty, mystery dangerous, romance complication, and morality questioned, The Madman's Daughter will blow you away. The story opens with the main character, Juliet, living as little more than a orphan roaming the streets of London. She has fallen from her former grace, being the daughter of a wealthy and brilliant doctor. But accusations started to fly, her father disappeared, and after her mother's death, her life now shows no resemblance to the lavish existence she once lived. Following in her father's footsteps, she has been studying medicine and anatomy in-between working as a maid a Kings College. Her father's "death" never quite made sense to her, and years later, she is still searching for answers. When she stumbles upon group of schoolboys preforming an illegal vivisection (knowledge searching operation on live animals) with the directions bearing the initials of her father, she finds out that everything she has been told about her father's death is a lie. What comes next will change her life forever... if she gets out alive. I did not know when reading that this story was based off of The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G Wells, so I read it as a work entirely its own. In addition, I have not read the aforementioned story, so I do not know which aspects directly relate. All I can say is that The Madman's Daughter is amazingly original and unlike any other YA book I've read. It is gory, it is scary, it is romantic, it is both hopeless and hopeful, moral and immoral. The story delves right into the center of the question, what makes us human? What is it exactly that is separating us from animals - from monsters? The line is continually blurred and redrawn throughout the course of the novel. Even the characters who are decidedly monstrous have heart-wrenchingly human qualities. Dr. Moreau, the villain of the novel, if there ever was one, is as charming as one can be. I loved him upon his first lines, even though I hated him at the same time. I seriously loved to hate him. But it was more than that, I was rooting for him in some strange, twisted way. I wanted him to pull through his issues, to mend the relationship with his daughter, to see the wrong in his way... that may have been too much to ask (I'll let you find out what happens), but I'll say that each emotion Juliet goes through with respects to her father, I experienced those as well. While reading, you want to decide this character is "good" or this character is a "monster", but there is so much more to each one. The levels of complexity just took my breath away. Shepherd's writing style is flawless. The only aspect that I felt kind of "blah" about was the romance. I did not feel the connection between Juliet and Montgomery, however, this accumulates to a very minor part of the story. I loved Juliet and I loved Montgomery as characters, I just didn't quite see them together. Other than that small aspect, I cannot think of another complaint. I almost wish it was a standalone because it was seriously that perfect, but I will definitely be picking up the next installments of the series. If you have half a brain (or two halves of different brains...) you should pick up this novel as soon as possible.
The Seeing Stone

by and

I seriously cannot explain how much I love these books! If you haven't read the series, I highly recommend you do. Even if you read it as child - read it again. If you think you're "too old", then you are boring and no fun. These books are timeless, perfectly appropriate for every age. In the last installment, the Grace family had moved into their great aunt's old mansion and discovered some pretty storage things. Jarod had found a field guide containing mysterious knowledge about the magical beings living all around them. Too bad such knowledge comes with a lot of danger that they were not prepared for. In this installment, Simon disappears... was he taken? If so, by what? Regardless, Mallory and Jarod have to find him. What does this mean for the magical world they have discovered? My favorite part about this book is that Mallory finally starts to believe her brother. She had witnessed the strange goings-on, and unlike her mother, she knew they were not her brother's fault. However, she has been quite reluctant to admit that something magical was going on. I loved seeing Mallory start to come around to the truth. She may seem like an annoying big sister at times, but she does bring some good points to the table! (Which is why everyone should listen to their older sisters... if only to have good arguments when you later prove her wrong.) As far as the series goes, this may be my least favorite installment. Don't get me wrong, I love all the books, but I find The Seeing Stone to be the least entertaining of the five. However, it does set up well for the next book (which may be my favorite).
In the Shadow of Blackbirds

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I love historical fiction, it is by far my favorite genre, but sadly, it is the genre I read the least. I think part of the problem is that far too many historical fiction novels take place in a historical time period, but read like contemporaries. In the Shadow of Blackbirds stays true to the social and political aspects of the the early Twentieth century, creating an intriguing look into into the past of a hugely devastating epoch in American history. Everyone has a general idea of what happened during World War I. Similarly, most people have at least heard of the Spanish Influenza outbreak. However, what many people failed to realize is that these two catastrophes were existing at the same time. Not only were young men being sent off to fight in foreign lands and returning in coffins, but people were no longer safe in their own homes. People feared the Germans, but at least with the war, people had a tangible enemy to point to. The flu was unpredictable, it was in the air, and science was not advanced enough to significantly stop the epidemic from spreading; they just had to let it run its course. With death bombarding individuals at every moment of the day, it is no surprise that they started to feel a need to find proof of an afterlife. They needed clear, scientific evidence, that their loved ones have passed on to somewhere else and have not just ceased to exist. They needed comfort in knowing that if - or when - the flu takes them, they will pass on to this new plain too. In the Shadow of Blackbirds puts an emphasis on the spiritual effects of these two coinciding terrors. From spiritual photography and seances, to controversial experiments, Winters gives readers a taste of the absolute desperation and consuming need to prove the unknown. Historical photographs and propaganda are woven throughout the novel to fully immerse the reader into the terror and desolation the generation had to face. Yes, this novel does have pictures, but that does not put it in some lesser category. Pictures does not equal simplification and it does not equal less words. These images instead serve an emotional purpose that words cannot describe. Reading about characters clenching their face masks, hovered around tables calling out to ghosts, or seeing propaganda guilting people into joining the war efforts create one type of emotional response. However, putting historically correct photographs alongside these descriptions create an unparalleled depth to the emotional experience. These images are a huge strength of the novel. My only criticism is that there were some times when I found myself pulled out of the story by a word or sentence that sounded a bit too contemporary. This is a silly example, but at one point the main character relates something to the feeling you get on a Ferris Wheel. The Ferris Wheel (the original design which held over 2,000 people) was invented in 1893 for the World Fair in Chicago and was destroyed in 1906. That same year, the Eli Bridge Company started to distribute a smaller, more effective version of the wheel to other places around the country. The book takes place in 1919. I do not think that at this point in history, the feeling you get on a Ferris Wheel would have been a commonly understood concept. Like I said, this is silly and pretty much inconsequential, but there were little moments when it felt like I was being addressed as a contemporary audience, rather than a reader in 1919. However, this was not a big problem in the text. Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It was not exactly what I was expecting it to be, which was interesting as it made the plot unpredictable. Also, I clearly have illogical responses to things, because the constant mention of onions (which were thought to ward off the flu) made me really want to make some French onion soup. Anyone else? No? Just me? Oh... okay.
Altered

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I was disappointed in this one. It seemed like it would be a fast-paced sci-fi that really made you think, and while it does contain the plot outlined above, I found it to be lacking suspense. There was a sense of intrigue that followed me throughout my reading; I wanted to see what happened, but I didn't real care . I was not rooting for any of the characters, as I did not feel an attachment to any of them. I felt like a spectator throughout. My biggest problem with this novel is not with the plot, but the main character, Anna. She finds herself in a high stakes situation and her thoughts and worries are so shallow and self-centered she made me want to buy mugs at goodwill just so I could break them. The love interest, Sam, has severe memory loss, and once it is discovered that he might have been in a romantic relationship years ago that he cannot remember, Anna cannot think of anything else. She debates withholding information and doing strange things that would end up hurting everyone just because she wants Sam for herself. I mean... really? People have died in front of her, she has no idea what is going on in the home she left, her future is uncertain, people are looking to capture and/or kill her and her friends... and she is worried about another girl possibly taking away Sam's attention? It just did not seem realistic to me. Although I do have my share of criticisms, I did like the story. I do wish that I could have connected to the characters, because I think that is the link that would have made the action seem more dire. However, the plot made sense and I like how it came together like a puzzle. Sam, before becoming involved in whatever happened in the lab, had the foresight to put together a plan in case his memory was to be wiped. Seeing the bits and pieces of words, letters, pictures, and other miscellaneous clues come together to realize both the individual and collective history of the group was enjoyable.
The Lost Girl

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The heros and heroines of YA novels often start out feeling misplaced, confused, or angry, with a general feeling that the control of their lives is slipping out of their fingers. For Eva, the feisty, headstrong heroine of The Lost Girl, she was never in control to being with. She was manufactured by the weavers, in an effort to ensure that if her first, Amarra, ever dies unnaturally, Eva will be there to take her place. Eva must memorize every aspect of Amarra's life, including following a rigid schedule of what to read, eat and wear each day. But Eva has always been different, nonconforming. She is unable to follow the weavers' strict rules, and it may just cost her her life. Or, it could save her. As I was reading, the story reminded me of Beta by Rachel Cohn. If you read my review of that novel, you will know that I was not a fan at all. I thought it was a really great idea, but poorly executed. Mandanna did it right. Eva is essentially a clone of Amarra, but she has her own thoughts and feelings. She is struggling between duty to her first's family and doing what she wants. However, it is not as simple as a decision between the two. If she choses the first, she is relinquishing all control of her life - she must continue to do what Amarra would have done. But if she choses for herself, she is breaking all of the most sacred rules of the loom and that means an almost certain death. But are not both choices one form of death? This is what Eva is struggling with. And is she even human enough to deserve her own choice? The plot was definitely slow at times, but I was continuously intrigued by supporting characters. I loved learning about all the different sides of Eva's guardians; you can never really guess what they are going to do. As the story progresses there is a bit of predictability in terms of Eva's decisions, but the supporting characters keep things interesting. Overall, the story is an intriguing exploration into one of the most basic questions: what makes us human?
The Collector

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This is one of those novels that I enjoyed reading and I cannot pinpoint what exactly it was that grabbed my interest no matter how hard I try. One of those books where I was annoyed by certain things, but that still didn't deter me from wanting to finish the book, to see what happens next. There is something in this book that attached itself to me, and unlike the soul-stamps that do a lot of attaching in the novel, that is not a bad thing at all. As always, let's start with my criticism: inconsistencies. Dante Walker, the main character, is a collector, essentially a demon who is granted permission to walk the Earth after death to collect souls and mark them for Hell once those bodies die. The soul marking is essential because if/when judgement day comes, down under wants to make sure it has as many souls as possible to win the battle between Heaven and Hell. A collector gathers these souls by attaching stamps to human souls once they sin, and when the soul is completely covered in stamps, and therefore has no more light left in it, the soul can be collected for the Boss Man. The inconsistencies lay in what exactly warrants those soul stamps. Dante is able to give it to someone for being a rude employee, and for petty shop lifting, but why can't he give them out for people who underage drink, abuse drugs, bully, lie, and have otherwise general "sinned"? I also didn't understand them in reference to Dante's newest assignment. I will not give anything away, but in vague terms, the soul he is sent to collect is collected in a different way. What I don't understand is why that means a.) he couldn't give her stamps when she sinned, and b.) why she could only do one thing per their agreement. That may not make a lot of sense if you haven't read the book, but long story short - inconsistencies. Confusion. However, I got over it. These things bothered me when they showed up, but the next sentence later I forgot about them for the time being because I was enraptured with the story. I wanted to know what happened next, I wanted to know the decisions Dante made. The writing also has some pretty funny moments, which was an interesting way to lighten up a novel about damning souls. I also love male point of views. It might just be because I do not have one... but regardless, they are like semi-precious gems in the YA world. Dante is a really fun main character in that way. Not just because he is a boy, but because his internal monologue is beautifully messed up. He is a damned soul who believes he has no conscience left, no lightness, but - shocker - he's wrong. When he discovers this, unlike most people, he tries to convince himself he's been mistaken, that he is not good. Dante doesn't want to be good. He's not a good guy. He's actually striving to be bad. Which was something fun to experience. Call me a cynic, but you do not know how many times I've wished the bad guy(s) would win. Obviously I would like the good guys to win in real life, but in fiction, I want things to be mixed up! I'm not telling you who comes up on top, I'm just saying that seeing life through the "bad side" was definitely a fun ride.
Fuse

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I really enjoyed the first book in this trilogy, Pure (you can read my review here ), but I found myself constantly struggling to remember what happened in the previous installment. The story is told through alternating points of view of numerous characters: Pressia, Partridge, Lyda, El Captain, and Bradwell. The characters and their roles started to come back to me, but there were always some grey areas where I knew that there was something I was forgetting, but I never really got clued into what it was. This was hard for me because I really wanted to love this novel. I love the descriptive nature of Baggott's writing and the world she created, I just wish there was a little bit more recapping or refreshing on what happened in the previous novel. Other than that factor, I really liked getting to explore the post detonation world again. Whereas the first installment was more dealing with the immediate struggle and finding out information that starts Pressia and Partridge on their quest, this installment allows the action and suspense to build heavily and includes much more romance than the previous. One of my favorite aspects of this novel, in opposition to the first, was that the reader really gets a feel for the complexity of each character. El Captain was portrayed as tough and brutal, but there is a much softer and vulnerable side to him as well. Same goes for Lyda; she was portrayed as being a snotty product of the Dome, but she is damaged too. This novel really delves deeper into all of the characters and the setting to show that nothing is exactly what it seems. My biggest criticism with the novel (other than the factor mentioned above since that can really be considered my own fault) is that everything comes a little to easily. The characters are living in a brutal, dangerous world, so I do not mean that the setting makes it easy for them, but there are tools that he author employs to move the characters from one idea to the next that seem to good to be true. There is a piece of technology in Bradwell's possession that basically holds the answers to their quest and an infinite amount of knowledge. It spits out definitions, coordinates, and other information with more ease than typing it into google. I tried to let go of these thoughts and enjoy the story - because I did enjoy the story. I tried to ignore the fact that in the reality of the world they are living in, it is unlikely something so perfectly helpful would be there for them. When it comes down to it, I do not have a suggestion on how the plot would have moved with out it, I just wish it was a little bit more difficult to use or narrow in its knowledge. However, in the end, this was a story that I really enjoyed. I have read many a dystopian or post apocalyptic story, but nothing quite compares to the world that Baggott has created. This is a cross over title, so the writing is just different than YA stories - this is something that I really like, but also something many people have had trouble with. All in all, I really enjoyed it and I cannot wait to see how the series finishes with Burn . PS: The film rights to Pure have been acquired by Fox 2000.
Field Guide, The: The Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 1

by and

I devoured these books when I was younger. They might as well have been fused to my body because they were not just something I read, they were the only things I read. Every elementary school project was somehow made to reference these books. I even made my own field guide once (wish I REALLY wish I still had). I was glad to find, that upon reading the first book again, almost ten years later, I was just as wonderstruck as with the first read. What is amazing about this book - and the series as a whole- is that the authors don't talk down to the reader. I recently discovered that my parents thought I was slow when in elementary school, which is comical when compared to my current stature. But the reason they thought this is because I was so damn stubborn that I would not do any work if I felt condescended or did not see the point. Which basically amounted to me coasting until middle school, which is when I decided I would start working, and brought back straight A's all three years. The point to that little anecdote is that these books provided me with that place to feel mature. To feel powerful and how an escape to be considered intelligent. The fantastical world is consuming. At one point I remember hiding the books in my closet at night because I was afraid the bad monsters would get me for reading them. The world the authors create is suspenseful, intriguing, and incredibly scary. They don't shy away from scaring young children, and that is a huge part of why I respected and loved (and still do) these books so much. This first installment takes place when the Grace family moves into the home previously occupied by their great Aunt Lucinda. Lucinda is currently residing in a mental hospital, after claiming the existence of numerous magical creatures. After a series of strange occurrences, one of the Grace twins finds a field guide by Arthur Spiderwick, chronicling all he knows about the magical world around him. This book sets off a series of misfortunes and life-threatening events. Owning the book puts them in great danger, but now that they have it, there is no safe way to get rid of it. Apart from the lovely writing style, this book is adorned with beautiful gothic style drawings. Some are full color, others are black and white, but all of them are equally gorgous. Each is taken from a specific line in the chapter, and they really add to the story experience. If you didn't read this book as a child, you definitely should pick it up. It took me only about an hour to read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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