Review: The Line by Teri Hall

 

Title: The Line

Author: Teri Hall

Publisher:  Dial Books

ISBN: 978-0803734661

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

An invisible, uncrossable physical barrier encloses the Unified States. The Line is the part of the border that lopped off part of the country, dooming the inhabitants to an unknown fate when the enemy used a banned weapon. It’s said that bizarre creatures and superhumans live on the other side, in Away. Nobody except tough old Ms. Moore would ever live next to the Line.

Nobody but Rachel and her mother, who went to live there after Rachel’s dad died in the last war. It’s a safe, quiet life. Until Rachel finds a mysterious recorded message that can only have come from Away. The voice is asking for help.

Who sent the message? Why is her mother so protective? And to what lengths is Rachel willing to go in order to do what she thinks is right?

Review:

I enjoyed The Line, but it left me a bit disappointed at the same time.  This is another case of the book not having a concrete ending, and it feels very incomplete because of it.  Many more questions were raised, especially at the end, than were answered, and that left me feeling a little frustrated, knowing that I will have to wait until September to pick up where the author left off.  I don’t feel that the book stands well on it’s own, so if you are interested in reading it, I would suggest holding off until Away, the next book in the series, hits store shelves later this year.

Rachel is a great character.  She is intelligent and hard working, and she wants to understand the world that she lives in.  That’s not going to be an easy task, because the government censors and controls most of the information available to her.  Her mom home schools her, and tries to keep her curiosity in check. Rachel’s mom has a few secrets that she is desperate to keep from everyone. When her past starts to catch up with her, it’s Rachel’s turn to be supportive  and brave, and believe me, she is.  At first she is upset with the furtive, almost cowardly woman  her mother has become, but then she realizes that all her mom is trying to do is protect her.  Everything she has done since the death of her father was all designed to keep her safe.

I found the world of The Line a very fascinating place.  To keep the border closed from an invading army, the government secretly erected a barrier to keep everyone out.  It also serves to keep everyone in.  All the better to oppress the populace.  The people on the other side of The Line were abandoned in Away, left to deal with a war that they were not expecting.  Terrible things happened in Away, and that is the story that interested me the most.  Too bad I have to wait for the next book in the series to have some of my curiosity satisfied.

The events unfolding in The Line are all character driven, so it is a good thing that I liked all of the main cast.  Even the stern Ms. Moore became more sympathetic, after bits and pieces of her past are slowly revealed during the course of the narrative.  Though the pacing is a bit slow and the narrative a tad dry at times, my attention never wandered from the story.  I thought The Line was a very compelling dystopian, and I am looking forward to reading more about Rachel.

Grade: I am waffling between a B and a B- because I was disappointed with the abrupt ending

Review copy purchased from Amazon

Review: Intrinsical by Lani Woodland

 

Title: Intrinsical

Author: Lani Woodland

Publisher:  Pendrell Publishing

ISBN: 978-0982729700

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Sixteen-year-old Yara Silva has always known that ghosts walk alongside the living. Her grandma, like the other females in her family, is a Waker, someone who can see and communicate with ghosts. Yara grew up watching her grandmother taunted and scorned for this unusual ability and doesn’t want that to be her future. She has been dreading the day when she too would see ghosts, and is relieved that the usually dominant Waker gene seems to have skipped her, letting her live a normal teenage life. However, all that changes for Yara on her first day at her elite boarding school when she discovers the gene was only lying dormant. She witnesses a dark mist attack Brent, a handsome fellow student, and rushes to his rescue. Her act of heroism draws the mist’s attention, and the dark spirit begins stalking her. Yara finds herself entrenched in a sixty-year-old curse that haunts the school, threatening not only her life, but the lives of her closest friends as well. Yara soon realizes that the past she was trying to put behind her isn’t going to go quietly.

Review:

Though I thought that the pacing could have been a bit smoother, I found Intrinsical an interesting read.  It reminded me of an old school gothic romance, with a character driven storyline.  There is tension and suspense in abundance, but Yara’s strong personality moves the plot forward.  As she is forced to accept what she is, she finds determination and confidence, but this is not an easy achievement for her.  She has spent most of her young life afraid of people judging her, and this fear defines her identity for herself.  She lets the fear of being branded by outsiders to rule her life, and almost allows it to kill her.

Yara’s Brazilian grandmother is a Waker. She can see and communicate with spirits.  This gets her labeled a nutcase, and though Yara loves her, she is also embarrassed by her.  As a result, Yara refuses to have anything to do with spirits of the dead. She ignores her grandmother when she tries to teach her about the gift, which manifests in the women in the family.  Yara has even convinced herself that the ability to see ghosts has skipped her.  More than anything, she wants to be normal, and to her, seeing ghosts is about the worst thing that could happen to her.

Yara does a pretty good job of pretending to be normal, until she enrolls at Pendrell, an exclusive boarding school.  Her parents are out of the country working, and Yara didn’t want to go with them, so off she heads, with her best friend, Cherie, to a school steeped in mystery.  It was actually Cherie’s wish to attend the school, because, unlike her friend, Cherie is all about the supernatural.  Pendrell is supposed to be cursed, with students dying suddenly and very mysteriously, and she is determined to find out why these tragedies are occurring. The girls quickly make friends with Steve and Brent, two boys at the school, and quicker than you can say “Boo!” they are embroiled in danger as the curse raises its ugly head, claiming another victim and putting them all in harm’s way.

Despite the plot being a bit too convenient, I liked the creepy setting.  I also liked the characters, especially Cherie.  She gives Yara a much need kick in the pants several times, and she can also roll with the punches like nobody’s business.  What’s that?  You see a ghost?  Cool!  Cherie embraces the occult where Yara shuns it, and it’s her friend’s enthusiasm and acceptance of ghosts that saves Yara’s hide.  Cherie is an unsung hero, and she deserves props.  Lots of them.

Yara is much more level headed and reserved, until you get her angry.  Then watch out.  She doesn’t take no for an answer, and she never gives up, traits I always admire in a protagonist.  I enjoyed reading along as she works her way through the dangers that threaten her, and as she finally accepts who she is.  That’s when she can finally get down to business; after finally embracing what she’s capable of doing, there is nothing that can stop her from saving the people she loves from danger.

I don’t want to give away much of the plot, because the strength of the book comes from Yara slowly unraveling the mystery surrounding the Pendrell curse.  The pacing is occasionally too leisurely, but just when my attention started to wander, events began careening forward, pulling me along to the adrenaline-laced conclusion.  The ending is satisfying, all of the loose ends are tied up, but I could easily see Yara embarking on another adventure while working to further hone her skills.  Maybe this time with her grandmother in tow?

Grade: B

Review copy provided by author

Review: The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams by Rhonda Hayter

 

Title: The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams

Author: Rhonda Hayter

Publisher: Dial

ISBN: 978-0803734685

 

You can enter to win a copy of The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams by clicking here – contest ends January 9th!

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Abbie Adams and her family come from a long line of witches, and she’s having a tough time keeping it a secret from her best friend and the rest of her school. Especially the day her little brother morphs into a wolf and tries to eat his teacher.

That’s also the day her father brings home a kitten. Abbie’s been begging for a cat for months, and she falls in love with that fluffy fuzzball right away. But there’s something peculiar about this kitten, and it just might take a witch like Abbie to figure out what it is.

Review:

Gosh, I enjoyed this book!  I didn’t even mean to sit down and read it, but when it fell out of the TBR stack, I couldn’t help myself.  I got caught up in Abbie’s witchy worries from the first page!  The poor girl is a great kid, and she was doing double time trying to keep her unruly younger brother under control at school, and keep the fact that she’s a witch a secret from everyone, including her BFF.  I was totally charmed by Abbie, and I hope there will be more chances to spend time with her.

Rhonda Hayter’s characters cracked me up.  Abbie’s dad gets as excited as her little brother, and colored smoke puffs out of his ears, or he zooms around the house in a fit of excitement.  Her mom is calm and cool next to the rest of Abbie’s family members.  Though stern, she is also so understanding, which makes Abbie’s rare lapses in judgment even more compelling.  Abbie knows that she is making a mistake, but she is so overwhelmed that she can’t help herself.  I adored the relationships and the family dynamics in the book.

Abbie’s world is one of wonder and magic.  She goes to a regular school so she can better understand her non-magical peers, but she also has to study up on her witchy skills, too.  She is one busy girl!  She also is not perfect, and that is what I liked best about her.  She gets in trouble for not doing her homework, trying to cover for her brother Munch, and for inadvertent discharges of built up magic.  She even gets sent to the Principal’s office!  More than once! 

When a stray kitten causes new complications in her life, her entire family gets involved to solve the tiny black feline’s problems.   For a light-hearted MG read, flush with magic and great characters, look no further than The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams.  It really is a lot of fun to read.

Grade:  A-

Review copy purchased from Amazon

2010 Debut Author Challenge – Wrap-up Post

The 2010 DAC is really the first reading challenge that I have attempted, and I had a wonderful time discovering new authors and new books to enjoy.  I kind of lost steam halfway through the year, and my skills at keeping organized for the challenge need work!  I ended up reading 45 titles, and I had so much fun that I signed up for the 2011 Challenge.  This time I plan to keep better records of my reading, and my goal is to read over 50.

For a list of books that I read for the 2010 Debut Author Challenge, click here.  There are a few more reviews that I need to post, so I will leave the page open until the end of January.  Then I will retire it so I can concentrate on 2011!

If you want to join in on the fun, visit The Story Siren for all of the details.  Thanks to Kristi for hosting this again!  If you are interested, my preliminary list of titles, though May,  is here.

Review: The Mourning Wars by Karen Steinmetz

 

Title: The Mourning Wars

Author: Karen Steinmetz

Publisher:  Roaring Brook Press

ISBN: 978-1596432901

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Based on true events, THE MOURNING WARS is a gripping, powerful, and utterly memorable historical novel. In 1704, Mohawk Indians attacked the frontier village of Deerfield, Massachusetts, killing 50 and kidnapping 112 more, including John Williams, a Puritan minister and prize hostage, and his children.

This is Eunice’s remarkable story, fictionalized but based on meticulous research, about a seven-year-old girl’s separation from her family, harrowing march to Canada, gradual acceptance of her new Native American life, and ultimate decision at 16 to marry an Indian and reject her stern father’s pleadings to return to the fold.

Review:

When I saw this book, I immediately wanted to read it.  I love books about Native Americans, and the setting looked like something right up my alley.  I admit that reading it was rough going at first, because I found it difficult to immerse myself in the third person, present tense narrative, but as I continued to read, I was caught up in Eunice’s new life with the Mohawk family that adopted her.  This was a great read, and Eunice’s struggle to understand who she is and where she belonged was very, very compelling.

When Eunice was 7, the small settlement of Deerfield is attacked by a group of Mohawks warriors.  During the nightmare journey that follows, she loses her mother and several of her siblings as they are marched to Canada through the freezing snow.  Eunice is separated from her father, a preacher and esteemed member of the Deerfield community, and she’s adopted by Atironta and Kenniontie.  The couple lost their daughter to an illness, and the raid was sanctioned by the tribe’s leaders to replace people who died from sickness or from the clashes between the warring French and British colonists whose European war has trickled to the colonies. 

Eunice at first waits for her father to pay a ransom for her and take her home, but as the years stretch forward and she hears nothing from her English family, she begins to settle into her new life.  She is always troubled by her feelings of abandonment, and this continues to eat away at her, even as she finds contentment with her new family and friends.  As she begins to feel comfortable and at home, she begins to fear that her father will come and get her.  This constant internal struggle was heartbreaking.  Even though Atironta and Kenniontie love her unconditionally, Eunice is still stung by the thought that her father has forgotten her.  There is an emptiness inside of her that nothing can fill, and this emotional turmoil kept me glued to the pages.

The Mourning Wars unfolds through little slice of life activities.  They slowly build together to create a fascinating snapshot of what life might have been like before Twitter, Facebook, and, heck, even the USPS.  Though occasionally the narrative was a bit too textbookish, I enjoyed this story.  A lot.  There is so much emotion packed into these pages, as a brave young girl works through who she is, and where she’s meant to be. 

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Matched by Ally Condie

 

Title: Matched

Author: Ally Condie

Publisher:  Dutton

ISBN: 978-0525423645

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

Look for CROSSED, the sequel to MATCHED, in Fall 2011!

Review:

I was transfixed by this book.  For me, it lived up to the hype.  Cassie’s utopian world is sterile and orderly, with the Officials making all of the decisions for everybody.  Cassia is content with her regimented life, and she is excited to attend her Matching banquet when she turns seventeen.  She is shocked and delighted to learn that her best friend Xander has been chosen by the Officials to be her Match.  Life couldn’t be any more perfect, she thinks, until a computer blip makes her question everything she has ever known.

Like the Society she lives in, Cassia’s narrative is sterile and unemotional.  She doesn’t know how to be anything else.  Emotional outbursts are not acceptable, and could very well get you branded a social deviant.  Obedience is everything, and independent thought is expected to be quickly squelched.  In a Society where Officials dictate everything about your life, from who you will marry, to where you will work, to when you will die, individualism brings immediate, unpleasant repercussions.

I liked Cassia a lot, despite her robotic narrative.  As she begins to see her world for what it really is, she begins a subtle rebellion against the dictates of her Society.  This took so much courage.  Punishment, swift, immediate, and unpleasant, would extend to her family as well as herself.  It’s this fear, of condemning your family as well as yourself, that kept her actions in check for so long.

My one quibble about Matched is with the ending.  The pacing felt off; rushed, abrupt, unsatisfying.  This is the first in a trilogy, so I expected to not be happy with the ending, but I was still unprepared for it.  It will be a very long wait until the next book!

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by publisher


Review: The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

 

Title: The Replacement

Author: Brenna Yovanoff

Publisher:  Razorbill

ISBN: 9781595143372

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate’s baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.

Edward Scissorhands meets The Catcher in the Rye in this wildly imaginative and frighteningly beautiful horror novel about an unusual boy and his search for a place to belong.

This was so not what I was expecting, but that turned out to be a good thing.  Many times, when you see a cover for a book or read a blurb about it, you build an incorrect expectation about it.  In this case, the read was better than I imagined.  I was not expecting a vulnerable protagonist searching for a place he belonged.  The Replacement is a gripping read, with a very likable lead, a little touch of horror, and an emotionally fulfilling coming of age story.  I read it in a couple of hours, and was literally glued to the sofa until I reached the last page.

Mackie is a young man who doesn’t belong.  Anywhere.  He has a secret, and it’s one that might destroy him.  He is a Replacement; he was left in the crib of a human baby who was snatched in the middle of the night by very scary creatures.  Mackie has to keep a low profile and he must stay hidden in plain sight so that the people of Gentry don’t suspect that he is anything other than human.  With his violent reactions to blood and iron, it is surprising that nobody has caught on.  His skin starts to blister if he steps on consecrated ground, making life even more difficult for him; his family, like many of the townspeople, are active in the church, a place where Mackie can never enter.

Man, this kid has it rough!  Iron is poison to him, and when you think about it, iron is in pretty much everything.  He’s sick all the time, the smell of blood is like kryptonite, and he is under pressure to just be normal.  But in Gentry, what does that mean?  There is no normal here, but everyone is skilled at pretending that it is.  Children aren’t being snatched away in the middle of the night, replaced with creatures that aren’t human.  That’s just not happening.  Gentry is a prosperous town, and it is quickly apparent that there is a horrible price to be paid for its good fortune.

When a classmate’s sister is snatched away in the night, Mackie starts to learn the sinister truth about himself and the place where he lives.  When he learns that Tate’s sister is alive, but soon to be sacrificed by the dark creatures of Gentry’s underworld, he has choice to make.  Pretend that everything is all peachy and let a little girl be murdered, or take a stand, find the courage  and the strength to save her, and quite possibly put himself in danger instead.  Like the townspeople who live around him, Mackie sees that it is easier to do nothing and to pretend that nothing is wrong.  But can he live with himself if Tate’s sister is murdered?

Despite a few pacing issues, I thought The Replacement was a great read.  I loved Mackie, especially when he made a bad decision, realized that he’d made a mistake, and then did everything in his power to make things right. The Mackie at the end of the book is a far more mature version of himself than at the beginning, and the character growth was convincing and felt real.  I can hardly wait to read more by Brenna Yovanoff.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by We Love YA Tours

Review: The Limit by Kristen Landon

 

Title: The Limit

Author: Kristen Landon

Publisher:  Aladdin

ISBN: 978-1442402713

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

An eighth grade girl was taken today . . .

With this first sentence, readers are immediately thrust into a fast-paced thriller that doesn’t let up for a moment. In a world not too far removed from our own, kids are being taken away to special workhouses if their families exceed the monthly debt limit imposed by the government. Thirteen-year-old Matt briefly wonders if he might be next, but quickly dismisses the thought. After all, his parents are financially responsible, unlike the parents of those other kids. As long as his parents remain within their limit, the government will be satisfied and leave them alone. But all it takes is one fatal visit to the store to push Matt’s family over their limit—and to change his reality forever.

Now this is a timely book, and it’s one that I don’t see getting much buzz.  I wouldn’t have known about it if it wasn’t one of those Amazon suggestions that they email out about once a week.  When I read the synopsis, it sounded like something I would like, so I was tickled when I received a review copy.  The book did not disappoint, and though some of the characters were one-dimensional, I found the story very compelling. 

A trip to the grocery store changes Matt’s life forever.  His family has never worried about money, or about going over the government limit set on their bank account.  When a shopping cart full of food and other merchandise puts them over the top, it’s Matt who has to pay the price.  In his reality, kids are detained by the Federal Debt Rehabilitation Agency to pay off the family debt. Thanks to the Federal Debt Ordinance, kids are now expected to bear the burden of paying down the financial obligations of their parents.   Think of the implications of that law if your parents didn’t want to be stuck raising you, and all they cared about was stuff – cars, appliances, vacations at five star resorts.  You would be the one footing the bill for their fiscal indiscretions!

Quicker than Matt can blink, he gets dragged off to a workhouse, where he is stuck until he turns 18, his wages going to the family debt.  Matt is one of the lucky ones whose test results earn him a room on the top floor.  Only the brightest and the best are allowed to work up there, and he is suddenly living the life of luxury, tackling homework in the morning and complex job tasks in the afternoon.  He finds all of his work engrossing and stimulating, and though he misses home, things aren’t all that bad.  Well, at least not until he hacks into the facility’s computers and learns a little more than he is supposed to know about the program, his wages, and what is really going on at the workhouse.

I enjoyed The Limit, and liked Matt a lot.  He’s a smart kid who wants to do what’s right for his family, but he wants them to do what’s right for him, too.  There are painful lessons to be learned, about conspicuous consumption and financial responsibility.  I got so caught up in the story that I didn’t want to put the book down; I needed to know what happened next!  With the current economic landscape that we all face, the plot seems very plausible, and that made it even more compelling. 

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by the publisher