Friday, May 28, 2010


Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

If you don’t know what play the previous words are from I’m fairly certain you are illiterate or at least culturally obtuse. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, a title that sparks a twinkle in the eyes of Shakespeare lovers, a grimace from high school students, and a sigh from young romantics. The one play that just about everyone has to read in school and had been made into more movies than ever necessary. And I hate it.

Yes, I’ve read it. Yes, I’ve seen the movies (all of them, even Romeo Must Die, but purely out of boredom). I’ve even performed scenes from it. Still loathe it. I’m sorry, I always though the two main characters were idiotic children and their co-conspirators inept messengers and friends who ultimately lead the dynamically woeful duo to their early and overdramatic demise. I’m not sorry. I love most Shakespeare. I can quote lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Taming of the Shrew, Henry IV, King Lear, and my personal favorite Titus Andronicus (of which I have full passages memorized), but every time I flip through my copy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare and see this epitome of star-crossed love, I cringe and then roll my eyes. Hey, I have the same reaction when I come across James Cameron’s Titanic on cable. Don’t judge me, most of you do the same thing.

So, Juliet by Anne Fortier; it clearly has ties to one of my least favorite plays, yet I read it, loved it, and passed it on. Who What Where When Why How could I enjoy such a book?

Juliet is the story of Julie Jacobs, a young woman who is drawn into the mysterious world of Siena, Italy and into the very real world of Shakespeare’s warring families. Yes, the actual tale of Romeo and Juliet, or as this novel poses it Romeo and Giulietta, who lived and died in medieval Siena (not Verona) and were the unfortunate pawns of power-hungry families. Their story, however did not end with their demise, but with a curse, one that was fated too affect their ancestors for ages to come. As Julie is drawn to the story of Giulietta (an ancestor) and to her own dangerous and perhaps treacherous Romeo, her life begins to mirror the tragedy and mystery of her namesake.

This was a fast-paced, intriguing story, which brought to mind other fabulous tales that intertwined two time periods and stories to make for one excellent novel, namely Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale, Katherine Neville’s The Eight, and Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth. I liked the complexity of the characters and the wonderful historical research that Fortier put into her story. The plot was clever, the characters usually managing to rise above the idiocy*of Shakespeare’s lovebirds. This was a good read. I finished it in a day and almost wanted to reread Romeo and Juliet. I’m sure many will after finishing this delightful and engaging new book. I was happy to pass a copy on to friends (I had two, my copy will stay on my bookshelf as it is definitely one I will reread) and am looking forward to its release, when other readers will be introduced to this wonderful new novel.

By Anne Fortier
Release Date: August 24, 2010

* Please note, I’m not saying Shakespeare’s writing produced idiots, I’m saying his writing was so good that I truly felt like I was reading about two spoiled teenagers and I just don’t care for the plot.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Penguin Five: Nightshade

By Andrea Cremer
Release Date: October 19, 2010

I am so tired of picking up a book and finding out it’s the first of a series only when I get to the very end. I’ve already ranted about this in a previous entry, but I strongly feel the need to point it out once again. Yes, I know that trilogies and what not are all the rage right now, especially when authors can sell the books as a package which will guarantee that they will have more than one book published, but come on! I would love to pick up a good book and not be left hanging for the next year while the author pens the sequel. I’m already playing that game as we go into season finales for our favorite television shows, must I now have to do it for nearly every YA book I pick up? This is entirely too irksome!

Well with that preface you probably are wondering if I even enjoyed Nightshade. I did. I thought that Nightshade was a fast-paced, original, and entertaining new novel. I loved the concept of the Guardians (wolf shape-shifters), whose job is to protect a mysterious and rather dangerous group of “people” called Keepers. The notion of arranged marriages arises much as it did in Matched, but here the characters defiance is violent, hot, and potentially fatal. There is a very thin veneer of civility within these creatures, violence and for many of the characters, a vile cruelty lurks under the shadows, cracking and finally destroying any concept of humanity. There were a few moments that were irrelevant and irritated me, but they were mostly personal preference and had no bearing on the plot (which is probably why they irritated me). The book does leave you hanging, which drives me nuts, especially as it ends after an endorphin inducing battle of which there is no resolution. I do have to give Cremer credit though, because there is not a doubt in my mind that I will eagerly read the next book in the series.

Stay tuned for the fourth book in The Penguin Five: The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Penguin Five: The Replacement

The Replacement
By Brenna Yovanoff
Release Date: September 21, 2010

A soft horror tale about Gentry, a town that sits over a paranormal underground hive of dead girls, creatures, and horror, that regularly turns its figurative head when these beings steal their children for sacrifice and “replace” them with their own sickened in-human children. Mackie Doyle is a replacement. Somehow he has survived to the age of 16, despite an allergy to blood, iron, and consecrated ground (his father is a pastor), but now he is slowly dying. Trying to fit into a world that he wasn’t meant to survive and avoiding the world of his birth, he struggles on a day to day basis to fade quietly in the background, but when the baby sister of one of his friends goes missing he is drawn into the horrors of Gentry’s past and it’s eerie dependence on its underground society.

Here’s why I loved this book. First, the cover is so utterly fantastic that one couldn’t help, but take a second look. Second, while the story can be grim and frightening at times, it never goes too far. Third, this can appeal to either sex. While the main character is a boy, the emotions and story are relevant and enjoyable no matter which sex you are. Finally, this is well-written, intriguing, one of those books you hate to put down.

So, 2 down, 3 to go in the Penguin Five. Thus far 4 out of 4 stars for this box-set.

Next up is Nightshade by Andrea Cremer.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Past Posts

Hey. I've had a few people ask about some of my past posts (from a previous blog), they are listed under the Past Posts section on the right-side of this blog (or just visit They are all listed by date, with the earliest posts first. Thanks for asking!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Penguin Five: Matched

By Ally Condie
Release Date: November 30, 2010

The first of the Penguin Five, Matched by Ally Condie is a definite hit. This is a clever dystopic novel where the “Society” matches it’s members with their mates at 17, determines when people die (80), chooses people’s food, limits art, history, poetry & songs to a selected 100 (the others were destroyed), and controls the population with the very real threat of marking rebels with the term Aberration and denying them basic human rights. Reading this novel brought to mind Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. The quietly functioning Society, which at first glance seems like a well-ordered Utopia, slowly unravels as Cassia; its narrator discovers and peels away its web-like layers. It’s easy as a reader to become lost within the toxic manipulations of the Society’s Officials, individuals who dress in blinding white and slink themselves into situations much like the serpent with Eve. I loved the emotions I felt while following Cassia on her journey, elation, fear, love, rebellion, hope, decimation, and alone. For Condie to bring her readers to the edge repeatedly, using these emotions as a guidepost is a truly notable fete for a young adult author. High marks for this wonderfully written, truly dystopic novel.

Stay tuned for a review of the next member of The Penguin Five: The Replacement.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Penguin Five

Recently our children’s rep from Penguin Publishing sent the usual advanced reading copies (ARC’s) for the store’s fall buy. Like always, I was eager for a few titles I had already heard about, and even more eager to find new titles that looked fun. What I did not in any way expect was what came out of the box: The Penguin Five. This truly brilliant marketing stunt provided 5 must read books from the genres of fantasy, romance, dystopia, paranormal, and horror all in a single, beautifully laid out, box-set. Never before have I seen ARC’s bundled in such a way. It immediately caught my eye, and after a brief period of begging (not too much, our Children’s Buyer quickly recognized that the contents were exactly to my taste, and therefore would actually be read) I was able to take them home. Much like one might enthusiastically open a present while still protecting the beautiful wrapping paper, I gently handled the box as it was transported to my humble abodes, and then drove at breakneck speeds to finally get home and crack this plastic wrapped bundle open (okay, I didn’t really speed home just to read these…I always speed).

The books:
Matched by Ally Condie
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller
Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

I’ll try to read them in this order. Finishing with Sapphique only because it is the sequel to Incarceron, which I have yet to read. So, stay tuned and I will review each and every one of these Penguin Five. Let’s see if these 5 new young adult novels are truly worth the money spent on this canny new marketing campaign.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Still Missing

You know when you pick up a book thinking that you want to read it, but something about it makes you keep pushing it to the bottom of the pile? That’s how I felt about Still Missing, a debut novel by Chevy Stevens. Centered around an escaped kidnap victim and detailing her capture, incarceration, escape, and ongoing recovery, Still Missing promised to expose those dark horrifying elements that so often appeal to me, but for some reason (probably the thought of reading about something that is all to relevant in today’s times, most particularly here in San Diego) I just couldn’t bring myself to delve into it. This is very unlike me. Usually, the darker the better, I mean who else raves about the beauty of Gillian Flynn’s prose as her character Camille cuts majestic, harsh, and haunting words into her own skin? Maybe there was something wrong with me, who knows, but finally, last week I brought it to bed with me. Not exactly the kind of book you snuggle up with, the imagery is apt to cause a distinct lack of sleep, but I did it anyway. And yes, I did lose sleep, but not for the reasons you think. The lack of sleep was directly related to the fact that I just did not want to stop reading.

Chevy Stevens manages to make a horrific subject matter digestible. Her character, Annie, shows a remarkable dark humor, which she uses to maneuver around a world that is no longer and might not ever be safe. While her captivity could be described in a visceral manner, it is not, rather she (Annie) is upfront with the reader (the book is written in first person as told to her psychiatrist) about her experience; her feelings after her abduction, how she survived mentally during it, and how she now stumbles through life, spending her nights sleeping on a closet in order to feel secure. She manages to convey a delightfully sarcastic, occasionally dark sense of humor that not only endears her to the reader, but also allows us to see how she managed to survive so long in such a horrendous situation, while maintaining most of her sanity. The true genius of this novel is that never was I so appalled that I had to put it down. The transitions between time periods are smooth, and although the acts of violence are described, never are they too detailed or too shocking. When dealing with this type of subject matter it is easy to get engrossed in the brutality, but Stevens manages to convey the acts, while not overwhelming the reader with the vicious details.

This was an engrossing read. It also possesses whit that engages, suspense that thrills, and a twist, which will rock readers. I highly recommend Still Missing to fans of Gillian Flynn, Chelsea Cain, and Lisa Unger, or for anyone who loves a good psychological thriller.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Curse of the Sequel

Ugh, the dreaded sequel. Yes, we yearn for them. How could we not? Readers, movie watchers-people always want “the rest of the story”. Yet how often do we sit in that theater or pick up that book in eager anticipation, only to slink away in disgust and irritation? In an age where everything is a series we too often find ourselves in this predicament. As we head into a summer of mega-sequel films, i.e. Eclipse, Iron Man 2, Sex and the City 2, and a slew of other blockbusters cashing in on previous popularity we must ask ourselves: Is it worth it? This same question could be asked regarding upcoming sequels in the book world. Will Steig Larsson’s The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest be as gritty and captivating as his first two books? What about Scott Turow’s long-awaited sequel to Presumed Innocent or the latest (and final, I believe) book in the Lisa Lutz’s Spellman Files series, will these hold-up to expectations or just make us wish that we never started reading in the first place? Who knows? Well actually, I can attest that new Lisa Lutz, The Spellmans Strike Again is a worthy read, but the jury is still out on the others.

So, what’s my point? Is this a short rant about authors and moviemakers who can’t come up with an original idea so they recycle their characters until you want them to be killed off already? Please, that’s a book in itself. Actually I have a different bone to pick with sequels, namely WTF, don’t leave me hanging! I actually had the pleasure of reading a couple of fantastic sequels and now I am stuck, hanging over that ridiculous precipice, while I have to wait several months, possibly a year in one case to find out what happens next. It’s like watching your favorite drama and getting a To Be Continued… but instead of picking it up the following week when the plot is still fresh in your mind, you have to wait a year or more. By the time the next book comes out you’ve completely forgotten half of the characters, and forget about any subtleties in the plot, those went out the mental door weeks after you finished the last book. So, here I am, I’ve read Linger by Maggie Stiefvater and Guardian of the Gate by Michelle Zink, and I am left hanging literally dangling over the edge of the cliffs, nails bitten to the quick because I don’t even know when third books in these series will be released, oh and did I mention, these two books have not even been released yet! I read advanced copies. Oh curse you writers who have to write a series instead of just putting it all in a 1,000-page book (yes I’d prefer the ridiculously long text to having it handed out in small parcels, patience is not a quality I possess). Wait, Justin Cronin did do that, except of course when I got to the end of those 1,000 pages I came to the frustrating realization that The Passage was going to be a series. Seriously?! Now I’m sitting in sequel purgatory. I’ve read Gail Carriger’s Changeless, another fantastic read from someone who is quickly earning a place on my favorite author list, if not for her wonderful storytelling, but for the fact that she’s not making me wait forever for the next book, Blameless (although I am crying for it now) because glory oh glory, the pub date is in September.

Alright, I’m about done. I must say I’m not ranting in anger, more like saying “these books are so good I must keep on reading to find out what happens next”. I think these authors are wonderful storytellers, I wouldn’t mention them, or sell them for that matter, if I didn’t think so. If anything, I would take the time to blast them for incompetence, because let’s face it, I love to do that. Now, what did we learn from this post? Authors, stop with the series’, unless you can pop them out quickly and if you don’t, beware, I will single you out and the next time it won’t be pretty.