Review: Memento Nora by Angie Smibert

 

Title: Memento Nora

Author: Angie Smibert

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish

ISBN: 978-0761458296

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Goodreads:

A teen struggles to hold onto her memories-and her identity-in a world that wants everyone to forget-and keep on shopping. Three dynamic teens come together to create a comic book of their memories. Ages 13+

Review:

Memento Nora clocks in at just under 200 pages, and though the book is short on length, it is long on providing food for thought.  Imagine a future United States where the government not only condones, but encourages drug use to help its citizens forget all of the unpleasant memories that might interfere with daily pursuits like shopping.  Got to keep that economy moving somehow!  Have you witnessed a terrorist attack while visiting the mall to spend your hard earned dollars?  Just stop in the local Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic and take a pill to forget the traumatic event! 

When Nora witnesses a terrorist attack while she’s shopping with her mother, her life changes in ways she never expected.  Her first trip to the local TFC doesn’t go quite as smoothly as expected, and after hearing her mother discuss the memory she wants gone, Nora rebelliously spits out her pill.  She doesn’t want her mother to suffer without someone knowing the truth behind their perfect family.  This one defiant act sets Nora on path of underground rebellion, and threatens her future and that of her family.

I loved the concept of this story!  See something upsetting or that you don’t want to remember, and that memory can be gone with a swallow.  It keeps public protests down, too, as outspoken citizens are rounded up and sent to detention centers and their memories are forcibly erased.  Nora never gave much thought to her society as a whole – she is privileged and she has everything she could ever want.  By all appearances, she has the perfect life.  When she hears her mother’s memory, the one she wants to forget, Nora can’t help but want to remember it.  Someone has to.  Someone has to help her mom, and Nora is determined that it will be her.

After Nora gets involved with Micah and Winter, she has an outlet to tell her story.  Micah suggests they create a comic chronicling Nora’s visit to the TFC.  She impulsively agrees to his suggestion, and the two of them are suddenly high on the government’s radar.  If they get caught, they are in great danger of being thrown in a detention center, or having all of their memories erased forever.  Neither can stop what they have begun, however, and they keep creating new chapters for the comic, exposing the truth behind the government and the terrorist attacks.

I found this a very suspenseful read, and I couldn’t put it down.  The story is told through the alternating view points of Nora, Micah, and Winter.  I liked each of the characters, and enjoyed all for their stories.  Nora is the most developed character, though, and her voice drives events forward.  She goes from being blissfully ignorant to quietly rebellious, and her motivations are convincing, and initially selfless.  She doesn’t want her mother’s suffering to be forgotten, and she puts herself at considerable risk to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

Memento Nora is a great start to Angie Smibert’s dystopian series, and I am so curious to see where the story will go next.  Things didn’t look all that promising for our little band of rebels!  Plus, anyone who can work Ninja Warrior believably into their story gets an extra brownie point.

Check back tomorrow for an interview with Angie Smibert!

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis

 

Title: Kat, Incorrigible

Author: Stephanie Burgis

Publisher: Atheneum

ISBN: 978-1416994473

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Katherine Ann Stephenson has just discovered that she’s inherited her mother’s magical talents, and despite Stepmama’s stern objections, she’s determined to learn how to use them. But with her eldest sister Elissa’s intended fiancé, the sinister Sir Neville, showing a dangerous interest in Kat’s magical potential; her other sister, Angeline, wreaking romantic havoc with her own witchcraft; and a highwayman lurking in the forest, even Kat’s reckless heroism will be tested to the upmost. If she can learn to control her new powers, will Kat be able to rescue her family and win her sisters their true love?

Review:

To call Kat incorrigible is to understate the feistiness of this twelve-year-old.  She is Kat the fearless, Kat the unrepentant, Kat the reckless!  I loved Kat!!  She is smart, she has nerves of steel, and she will do anything to protect her family.  She is even willing to risk the wrath of her sisters and her stepmother to stop her oldest sister from making the biggest mistake of her life, and believe me, they are not people you want ticked off at you!

Regency England is one of my favorite time periods, and the setting is what originally piqued my interest in the book.  The dash of magic and the spunky character kept me engaged in the reading experience, and I stayed up far too late in a vain attempt to polish off the book.  I had to stop with about 30 pages left to go, and it was torture the next day waiting for the work day to end!  The fast pacing keeps the pages turning, and kept me wondering how Kat could get into so much trouble!  This kid is a disaster waiting to happen!  She is brave enough to dive blindly into danger, and thankfully, she’s also clever enough to extract herself from all of the messes she manages to leap into. 

I enjoyed all of the characters, even the villains.  Kat’s relationship with her sisters was very convincing to me; they are older, and they both look at her as being just a child.  They exclude her from secrets, and it leaves her feeling frustrated and left out.  To add to their conflict, her sisters remember their mother, while Kat was just an infant when she died, and she never got to know her.  This set of circumstances causes a great deal of tension between the sisters when a mishap destroys some of their mother’s belongings.  I felt so sorry for Kat after she finds her mother’s mirror, because her sister accuses her, quite unjustly, of being spiteful and willfully destroying these precious mementos.

The tone of most of the book is light, with snappy dialog to keep things rolling.  While I loved the banter, I sometimes felt that Kat, based solely on her dialog, sounded older than twelve. That is my only quibble with the book.  I loved the magic, the danger, and most of all, I loved Kat.  I can hardly wait for the next book in the series, to see what kind of trouble Kat finds for herself next!

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton

 

 

Title: Darkness Becomes Her

Author: Kelly Keaton

Publisher: Simon Pulse

ISBN: 978-1442409248

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Ari can’t help feeling lost and alone. With teal eyes and freakish silver hair that can’t be changed or destroyed, Ari has always stood out. And after growing up in foster care, she longs for some understanding of where she came from and who she is.

Her search for answers uncovers just one message from her long dead mother: Run. Ari can sense that someone, or something, is getting closer than they should. But it’s impossible to protect herself when she doesn’t know what she’s running from or why she is being pursued.

She knows only one thing: she must return to her birthplace of New 2, the lush rebuilt city of New Orleans. Upon arriving, she discovers that New 2 is very…different. Here, Ari is seemingly normal. But every creature she encounters, no matter how deadly or horrifying, is afraid of her.

Ari won’t stop until she knows why. But some truths are too haunting, too terrifying, to ever be revealed.

Review:

Darkness Becomes Her is a fantastic read with the kind of heroine I love; Ari is impulsive, gets herself into so much trouble by acting and not thinking, and she always managing to find a way to keep herself alive.  She is tough and it takes a lot to spook her, and when she is terrified, she still manages to keep thinking.  I loved that about her!  I would have curled up into a little ball of misery and given up.  Ari does anything but.

This is the second book I’ve read this month that is set in New Orleans, and I have to say, it’s fast becoming one of my favorite cities.  I want to go there!  With its long history and the voodoo influences steeped in the traditions of New Orleans, it is the perfect setting for paranormal novels.  It’s creepy, mysterious, and even dangerous.  It is like a place set apart from the rest of the country, and that makes it a compelling, realistic venue for the things that go bump in the night. 

Ari is desperate to learn about her mother and her own past, and an impulsive decision sends her past The Rim, back to her birthplace in New Orleans.  She encounters weird and magical moments every time she turns around, and one thing stands out before all others.  Everyone seems to be afraid of her, and nobody is willing to help her remove the curse she is convinced she carries. 

The mix of Greek mythology and paranormal elements hooked me.  I also loved the re-imagined post-Katrina New Orleans.  The characters are convincing, and I grew to really like Ari’s new friends, especially Violet.  She is a cool character who sees the world in a different way, and she takes Ari and her curse in stride.  When everyone else turns on Ari, Violet is there to comfort her and just be there for her.  I hope she gets more page time in the next book, because she deserves it.  I am so curious about her backstory, and will be disappointed if we don’t get more of it in book 2!

Fun read, great setting, awesome characters – you can’t ask for much more, other than – where’s the next book?!

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Human.4 by Mike A Lancaster

 

Title: Human.4

Author: Mike A Lancaster

Publisher: Egmont USA

ISBN: 978-1606840993

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Kyle Straker volunteered to be hypnotized at the annual community talent show, expecting the same old lame amateur acts. But when he wakes up, his world will never be the same. Televisions and computers no longer work, but a strange language streams across their screens. Everyone’s behaving oddly. It’s as if Kyle doesn’t exit.

Is this nightmare a result of the hypnosis? Will Kyle wake up with a snap of fingers to roars of laughter? Or is this something much more sinister?

Narrated on a set of found cassette tapes at an unspecified point in the future, Human.4 is an absolutely chilling look at technology gone too far.    

Review:

What an odd book!  Odd in a good way, too, but Human.4 is hard to classify.  What is this?  Sci-Fi, mystery, psychological thriller?  I’m still not sure what I would call it, but I do know one thing; I could not put the book down, and I polished it off in just a few hours.

Kyle Straker volunteers to be hypnotized by his friend at the annual community talent show.  He doesn’t really want to, but he doesn’t want to see his friend crash and burn when nobody else wants to help him with his act.  Kyle finds himself onstage with three other townspeople, and when he wakes up from the hypnosis, the world is completely different.  He’s not sure what’s going on, but he can tell that it is not the same.  His parents are acting very oddly, and the phone lines are all dead. So are the computers and the television sets.  Is he losing his mind? Or did something happen while he was hypnotized?

The suspense is overwhelming!  I wanted to find out what was going on just as much as Kyle did.  Have aliens invaded? Is he trapped in a nightmare?  Is he nuts?  The narrative is tense and exciting, and the pacing never slows.  The story is so fast-paced, and the short chapters add to the urgency of Kyle’s predicament.  I kept telling myself I would only read one more chapter before I turned the light off to go to sleep, but then I would say – just one more!  I couldn’t stop reading!

Kyle’s narrative kept me engaged in the story, but the occasional editor notes were very jarring.  The narrative is supposed to be a transcription of Kyle’s audio tapes, which described his ordeal.  The premise is unique and I thought it was very interesting, but the research and scientific notes slowed down the pace of the story.  They just didn’t fit well into the narrative, and I grew tired of them very quickly.

The book ends neatly, with all of my questions answered.  I found the reason for Kyle’s extraordinary ordeal to be kind of “meh,” but the run up to the final revelation kept me engrossed in the story.  The ending was a bit of a let down, though, and I don’t want to say much more because it will spoil the suspense of the read.  I think that this book will have a lot of appeal for boys, and readers who enjoy thrillers and mysteries.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch

 

Title: The Magnolia League

Author: Katie Crouch

Publisher: Poppy

ISBN: 978-0316078498

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

When her free-spirited mother dies in a tragic accident, sixteen-year-old Alexandria Lee is forced to leave her West Coast home and move in with a wealthy grandmother she’s never known in Savannah, Georgia. By birth, Alex is a rightful if unwilling member of the Magnolia League-Savannah’s long-standing debutante society. But white gloves and silk gowns are a far cry from the vintage t-shirts and torn jeans shorts she’s used to.

Alex is the first in decades to question the Magnolia League’s intentions, yet even she becomes entangled in their seductive world. The members enjoy youth, beauty and power…but at what cost? As Alex discovers a pact between the Magnolias and the Buzzards, a legendary hoodoo family, she discovers secrets-some deadly-hidden beneath the glossy Southern veneer.

New York Times bestselling author Katie Crouch’s poignant and humorous voice shines in this enchanting and mysterious story about girls growing up in a magical Southern city.

Review:

When I started reading The Magnolia League, I didn’t know what to expect.  I was drawn to the book because of the cover, and the Savannah setting seemed interesting.  Toss in some black magic and a clique of women from old money with powerful ambitions, and I was eager to dive into this one.  It turned out to be an enthralling read, and I finished it in less than a day.  I couldn’t put it down, and I even wanted to skip my much anticipated visit to Red Lobster for their Lobster Fest.  If you know anything about me, you know that the only thing I like better than a good book is a good meal, so that’s saying a lot!

Alex is reeling from her mother’s death and when her grandmother sends for her, she doesn’t want to have anything to do with the old woman.  She has been raised in a commune, and the thought of leaving the only home she has ever known, as well as her boyfriend, Reggie, has her fighting to stay right where she is.  She isn’t given much choice, however, and she finds herself in Savannah, a hot and humid prison compared to the cool ocean breezes and freedom of Rain Catcher Farm.  To make things worse, her grandmother expects her to behavior like a Southern lady, and to stop being so embarrassing.  Her grandmother is a member of the Magnolia League, a debutante society that wields enormous power over their community.  All of the women in the Magnolia League are beautiful and wealthy, and Alex slowly learns that they are also keeping dark secrets as well.  Their prosperity and social standing are due to a pact made with the Buzzards, a family that practices black magic.  Stay on their good side and you thrive, but get on their bad side and suddenly life becomes very, very dangerous.

I loved Alex. She is naïve and so different from her grandmother and the others in the Magnolia League that she might as well be an alien.  She is also flawed, and as she learns more about the magic that keeps her grandmother and her cronies in power, she begins to give in to the enticing pull of the spells.  Her transformation from idealistic crusader of social issues to society belle is convincing due to the gradual shift in her acceptance of hoodoo.  She slowly goes from resisting her grandmother’s expectations and demands, to indifferent acquiescence, to active participation as she is seduced by the powerful charms of the charismatic Buzzard family.  

The conflict between Alex and her grandmother also kept me involved in the story.  Miss Lee is a crafty woman, and you know that she is willing to do anything to keep the power of the Magnolia League relevant in her community.  She’s been in power for a long time, and she likes it that way.  She isn’t willing to give it up, or to let anyone else know the secret that she and her cronies are hiding.  There is too much at stake, and she will sacrifice anything to keep the status quo.  She is a pretty scary old lady!  Alex knows that there is something strange going on, and though she is hopelessly clueless for too long, she does slowly begin asking more questions, and begins to demand some answers.   This was the most frustrating aspect of the story for me; Alex is a smart girl, she has good instincts, but she is too passive for a majority of the book.

I do have to deduct a few points for the ending.  Or non-ending, I should say.  The book closes with a major cliffhanger; nothing is wrapped up, and instead, events are pushed into motion that I wanted at least a few answers for.  The last few chapters are a flurry of activity, revealing more questions, more intrigue, and more danger that just trails off with the last page.  As a reader, I expect at least a little closure – there isn’t any to be found here, and that was very frustrating.  You can bet that I will be reading book two, though, but I disappointed with myself for falling for this over-used publishing ploy.

Grade: B+ (Slight deduction for cliffhanger ending)

Review copy provided by Book It Forward Tours

Review: Clarity by Kim Harrington

 

Title: Clarity

Author: Kim Harrington

Publisher: Point

ISBN: 978-0545230506

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

This paranormal murder mystery will have teens reading on the edge of their seats.

Clarity "Clare" Fern sees things. Things no one else can see. Things like stolen kisses and long-buried secrets. All she has to do is touch a certain object, and the visions come to her. It’s a gift.

And a curse.

When a teenage girl is found murdered, Clare’s ex-boyfriend wants her to help solve the case–but Clare is still furious at the cheating jerk. Then Clare’s brother–who has supernatural gifts of his own–becomes the prime suspect, and Clare can no longer look away. Teaming up with Gabriel, the smoldering son of the new detective, Clare must venture into the depths of fear, revenge, and lust in order to track the killer. But will her sight fail her just when she needs it most?

Review:

Clarity is a fun mystery romp with a down to earth protagonist who just happens to be a psychic.  She’s not alone in her paranormal talents; her mother is a telepath, and her brother is a medium.  Clarity lives in a tourist town, and during the summer, she works at the family business entertaining out-of-towners with readings.  She’s resigned to another summer of being stuck inside instead at the beach when a tourist is murdered.  Her brother, Perry, is the prime suspect, and if Clare doesn’t want to spend all of her weekends in the foreseeable future visiting him in jail, she has to find the real killer.

I loved the family dynamics at play here.  Clare’s mom can read minds.  Think about it.  What if your mom could read your mind?? Do you think you would get away with very much?  Forget about keeping a secret.  Even if you have yourself convinced that you are keeping your thoughts all nice and safe, you are only fooling yourself.  And what if your brother could communicate with ghosts?  That could get kind of weird. 

Clare’s gift can be unsettling, too.  With just a touch, she can pick up thoughts and emotions from objects.  Her gift can be unpredictable, and there are times she wishes she didn’t have it.  Like when she touches something and discovers that her boyfriend has been lying to her.  Now that sucks big time.  But when her brother is suspected of murder, she is going to use her powers to the fullest to clear his name.

The setting is very vivid, and the relationships between Clare’s family and the townspeople is carefully fleshed out.  Few in town believe in their abilities and everyone  thinks that they are cheating the tourists out of their money.   Clare is quite surprised when the mayor asks her for help apprehending the killer.  Then she discovers that the town’s new police detective thinks she’s a fraud, and worse, his drop-dead gorgeous son, Gabriel, has an intense dislike for psychics.  How can they possibly work together to solve the case?

The character interactions were the highlight of the book for me.  Sparks fly between Clare and Gabriel, and you can almost hear them sizzle as you read along.  Clare also has a lot of unresolved issues to work through with her ex, and he is only complicating matters between her and Gabriel.   He hasn’t gotten over her, and it’s questionable whether she’s over him.  The tension between Clarity and her classmates also felt real and was convincing, adding yet another obstacle for her to overcome. 

I don’t usually like mysteries, but Clarity made me reconsider my stance on the genre.  It’s a solid read, with fun characters, a great setting, and a paranormal twist. I am looking forward to the next book in the series, because there are a couple loose ends that have me wondering what is going on.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley

 

Title: Where I Belong

Author: Gwendolyn Heasley

Publisher: HarperTeen

ISBN: 978-0061978845

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Meet Corrinne. She’s living every girl’s dream in New York City—shopping sprees at Barneys, open access to the best clubs and parties, and her own horse at the country club. Her perfect life is perfectly on track. At least it was. . . .

When Corrinne’s father is laid off, her world suddenly falls apart. Instead of heading to boarding school, she’s stripped of her credit cards and shipped off to the boonies of Texas to live with her grandparents. On her own in a big public school and forced to take a job shoveling manure, Corrinne is determined to get back to the life she’s supposed to be living. She doesn’t care who she stomps on in the process. But when Corrinne makes an unlikely friend and discovers a total hottie at work, she begins to wonder if her life B.R.—before the recession—was as perfect as it seemed.

Review:

Corrinne gets an unwanted taste of reality after her father is laid off.  It’s like somebody has pulled the rug out from under her feet.  Good-bye credit card and shopping sprees at her favorite stores, and hello Grandma and Grandpa and the tiny little town of Broken Spoke, Texas.  Corrinne is seething with resentment at the sudden reversal of fortune, and it is going to take more than her grandmother’s delicious home cooking to soothe the sting of her new prospects.  She worked so hard to be accepted into Kent, an exclusive boarding school that she has wanted to attend forever.  Instead, she is going to be enrolled in Broken Spoke High School, a teeny, tiny public school where her grandmother works.  Ugh!  Life just isn’t fair!

At first, Corrinne and I had a personality clash.  I did not like the whining little princess, and I found her selfish behavior inexcusable.  OK, sure, her parents let her get away with anything, and she is clever enough to manipulate them to get her own way, but there were many times that she grated on my nerves.  It wasn’t until after she moves in with her grandparents, and goes head to head with her no-nonsense grandmother that Corrinne slowly begins to see the light.  There are so many more important things than the latest designer shoes, but when you are accustomed to getting everything your heart desires, it is often difficult to see the forest for the trees.

I liked that the focus of the story is on Corrinne and her gradual realization that having material possessions doesn’t mean as much as having good friends and a caring family.  Romance plays a backseat to her character growth.  Instead, Corrinne must come to terms with her new life.  Her grandparents don’t put up with any nonsense from her, and instead take an active interest in her life.  There are chores to do, schedules to keep, certain standards of behavior to adhere to.  I loved the conflict between Corrinne and her grandmother – here are two very stubborn and strong-willed women who clash again and again.  Corrinne doesn’t have much respect for the adults in her life, and her grandmother isn’t going to have any of that.

My favorite relationship in the book is the one between Corrinne and her younger brother Tripp.  Like most big sisters, Corrinne just doesn’t have the time or the patience to hang out with Tripp.  Tripp longs for any scrap of attention from Corrinne, and it was gratifying when she started to look at him, not as a constant nuisance, but as an individual who deserves her time and attention.

Where I Belong is a strong debut, with a compelling storyline, and I am looking forward to reading more by Gwen Heasley.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Cover Shot! Hereafter by Tara Hudson

Ghosts! Ghosts seem to be a bit neglected in the YA paranormal world, especially as protagonists.  I can’t help but wonder about Hereafter – Amelia is dead! How can that lead to a Happily Ever After?  Maybe not all books need one?  I am curious to see what this is all about.

From publisher website:

A stranded spirit, a sudden love…

Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she’s dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she’s trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.

Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that has held her captive for so long.

Thrilling and evocative, with moments of pure pleasure, Hereafter will linger with fans of The Lovely Bones and those who enjoy paranormal romance and dark intrigue set in a very believable contemporary world.

Hereafter will be in stores June 2011