Vesper by Jeff Sampson

Monday, February 28, 2011

author’s website: website / blog
release date: January 25, 2011
appeals to: Young Adult
genre: Paranormal
*2011 Debut Author*
: 304 pages
publisher: Balzer + Bray
overall rating: 4.5 stars

*the inside flap*
Emily Webb is a geek. And she’s happy that way. Content hiding under hoodies and curling up to watch old horror flicks, she’s never been the kind of girl who sneaks out for midnight parties. And she’s definitely not the kind of girl who starts fights or flirts with other girls’ boyfriends. Until one night Emily finds herself doing exactly that . . . the same night one of her classmates – also named Emily – is found mysteriously murdered.

The thing is, Emily doesn’t know why she’s doing any of this. By day, she’s the same old boring Emily, but by night, she turns into a thrill seeker. With every nightfall, Emily gets wilder until it’s no longer just her personality that changes. Her body can do things it never could before: Emily is now strong, fast, and utterly fearless. And soon Emily realizes that she’s not just coming out of her shell . . . there’s something much bigger going on. Is she bewitched by the soul of the other, murdered Emily? Or is Emily Webb becoming something else entirely – something not human?

As Emily hunts for answers, she finds out that she’s not the only one this is happening to – some of her classmates are changing as well. Who is turning these teens into monsters – and how many people will they kill to get what they want?

*my thoughts *
The story begins with a transcript of an interview that is being conducted at The Vesper Company. It is clear from the transcript that Emily (our main character) is being interviewed, and that she’s not exceptionally happy about it. The interviewer refers to Emily’s documentation of “the incident” and asks her to explain. That basic introduction leads into a more traditional format, in which Emily tells about how her life changed the night “the other Emily” was murdered. Initially, this seems like a Jekyll and Hyde type of scenario with Emily exhibiting two completely different personalities by day and by night. A strange ingredient in this transformation comes in the form of enhanced abilities that Emily has during her night time changes. She can see more clearly, run quickly, jump great distances, and she has incredibly increased strength. Even more interesting is the acknowledgement that each of Emily’s personalities gives the other. The confident nighttime Emily is annoyed by daytime Emily’s insecurities. And daytime Emily is often envious of the confidence she is able to exhibit at night. As the story continues, Emily becomes more conscious of when and how she will be changing, and she starts to look for answers.

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect when I picked up this book. I hadn’t read any reviews, so my only knowledge of it was the title, author, and the snippet from the inside cover. But I must say that I was more than pleasantly surprised by this story. The combination of murder, suspense, paranormal transformations, and an incredibly well planned plot, came together to create a story that kept me intrigued to the final page (which, I must say, contains a fabulous cliffhanger that makes me want the next book even more!)

In My Mailbox (#20)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme that talks about books that have been bought, swapped, received for review, or borrowed from the library. It is hosted by Kristy at The Story Siren.

This week I did a TON of reading...really...a TON. More snow and ice hit the mid west this week, so instead of teaching, I spent Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday with school cancelled and a huge TBR pile calling my name. I did manage to make it to the library before the snow and ice hit, so here’s what I got:
Delirium – Lauren Oliver
Vesper – Jeff Sampson
Wish – Joseph Monninger
Tangled – Carolyn Mackler
Fairy Tale – Cyn Balog
Siren – Tricia Rayburn

I’ll be posting reviews for most of these books in the next week or so.

Also, be sure to come back on Tuesday for a review of Driven – a debut release by Shellie Neumeier!

Waiting on Wednesday (#2)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It is a place to spotlight upcoming releases and books that you are eagerly anticipating.
*the basics*
: Dead Rules
Author: Randy Russell
Release Date: June 21, 2011
Amazon Link
Summary: (from Randy’s Website)
Romeo and Juliet meets Heathers in this darkly comedic paranormal romance.
Jana Webster and Michael Haynes were destined to be together forever. Of that, Jana was sure.
But Jana just died – in a bowling accident. And when she finds herself in Dead School her carefully planned future unravels. All she can think about is reuniting with Michael, so she decides to take matters into her own hands and bring Michael to her. And nothing – not even handsome, mysterious Mars Dreamcote and his irresistibly warm touch – will distract Jana from making her dreams come true.

*why I’m waiting*
Besides having a fabulous cover, any story described as “Romeo and Juliet meets Heathers” sounds like an entertaining read.

Waiting on Wednesday (#1)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It is a place to spotlight upcoming releases and books that you are eagerly anticipating.
This is my first time participating in WoW, but I’m really looking forward to some upcoming releases, so I thought I’d start!

*the basics*
: Hourglass
Author: Myra McEntire
Release Date: May 24, 2011
Publisher: Egmont USA
Amazon Link
Summary: (from Myra’s website)
Since the age of fourteen, Emerson Cole has seen strange things – dead things – swooning Southern Belles, soldiers, and other eerie apparitions of the past. She’s tried everything to get rid of the visions: medication, counseling, asylums. Nothing’s worked.
So when Emerson's well-meaning brother calls in yet another consultant from a mysterious organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to give it one last try.

Michael Weaver is no ordinary consultant. He's barely older than she is; he listens like no one she's ever met before; and he doesn't make her feel the least bit crazy. As Emerson ventures deeper into the world of the Hourglass, she begins to learn the truth about her past, her future--and her very life.

A seductive time-slip novel that merges the very best of the paranormal and science fiction genres, Myra McEntire’s Hourglass is a stunning debut from an author to watch

*why I’m waiting*
Strange visions + mysterious organizations + paranormal + debut author + time-slipping
ALL are fabulous ingredients for a great story!

In My Mailbox (#19)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme that talks about books that have been bought, swapped, received for review, or borrowed from the library. It is hosted by Kristy at The Story Siren.

This week I spent a LOT of time snowed in. We got about 4 inches of snow into Tuesday, and then got about a foot of (HEAVY!!) snow (mixed with layers of ice – thank you freezing rain and sleet) into Wednesday. Then it all started blowing...
So while I only got a few books, I was able to make quite a dent in my TBR pile!

From the Library:
The Queen of Second Place by Laura Peyton Roberts (amazon)
The Lying Game by Sara Shepard (amazon) My Review (link)
Wanted by Sara Shepard (amazon)

Sleepless by Cyn Balog (amazon) My Review (link)
Evil in Carnations by Kate Collins (amazon)
Sleeping With Anemone by Kate Collins (amazon)

Thomas Jefferson – A Film by Ken Burns
Alice in Wonderland (amazon)

From Jim (who teaches next door):
The Eight by Katherine Neville

I also posted reviews for:
The Lying Game (link)
Sleepless (link)
How NOT To Spend Your Senior Year (link)

What did you get in your mailbox?

How NOT to Spend Your Senior Year by Cameron Dokey

Thursday, February 3, 2011

release date: January 1, 2003
appeals to: Young Adult
genre: Romantic Comedy
length: 304 pages
publisher: Simon Pulse
overall rating: 3.5 stars

*the back cover*
Rule #1: If at all possible, don't pretend to be something you're not. Specifically, don't play dead. Trust me on this one. I did it, so I should know.
Jo O'Connor has spent her whole life moving around. When it comes to new schools, there's not a trick in the book about starting over that Jo doesn't know. But life is about to teach her a new trick: how to disappear entirely.

Rule #2: Always expect the Spanish Inquisition, no matter what anyone else does.
They have to move again. Now. This very night. Jo knows better than to argue. Her dad is the key witness in a major case against a big-time bad guy. But Jo just can't resist one last visit to the school where she's been so happy. All she wants is to say good-bye. That can't cause any problems, can it?

Rule #3: Never assume you can predict the future.
Now Jo's one last visit has landed her smack in the middle of a ghost story. Specifically, her own. By the time it's over, she'll have a whole new set of rules about what's real, what's make-believe, and -- most of all -- what's important.

*my review*
I initially grabbed this book from the library’s paperback shelf hoping for a quick light read...a little plot, a little romance, a little fun, but nothing too extravagant. Boy was I shocked! This story had a much more complex plot than I had counted on, and it actually kept me guessing about what would happen next. Don’t get me wrong...there was still the lighthearted romantic comedy that I had hoped for, there was just a little depth, too!

In “How NOT to Spend Your Senior Year,” we follow the life of Jo O’Conner, who has spent her entire childhood switching schools ALL the time! When we meet Jo, she is ready to start her senior year, and is just hoping to stay in the same place long enough to graduate. She has mastered blending in, and hopes to do just that until she falls head over heals for Alex on her first day at Beacon High. When Jo and her dad have to move again, she is not only frustrated, but decides to take matters into her own hands and offer a possible solution. . .which works. . .kind of.

This book is written as though Jo is telling you all about her senior year and the crazy sequence of events that it contains. She narrates in a lighthearted, somewhat snarky, tone that feels like a conversation with a friend. I appreciated that Jo was down to earth, and even self-deprecating at times. She seems to know her weaknesses, but isn’t always ready to accept her strengths – something most teenagers can relate with.

While this isn’t an overwhelmingly complex book, it is a quick fun read that will keep you guessing, and probably laughing.

The Lying Game by Sara Shepard

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

author’s website: website
author’s HarperTeen website: link
release date: December 7, 2010
appeals to: Young Adult
genre: Suspense / Contemporary
length: 320 pages
publisher: HarperTeen
overall rating: 4 stars

*the inside flap*
I had a life anyone would kill for.
Then someone did.
The worst part of being dead is that there’s nothing left to live for. No more kisses. No more secrets. No more gossip. It’s enough to kill a girl all over again. But I’m about to get something no one else does—an encore performance, thanks to Emma, the long-lost twin sister I never even got to meet.
Now Emma’s desperate to know what happened to me. And the only way to figure it out is to be me—to slip into my old life and piece it all together. But can she laugh at inside jokes with my best friends? Convince my boyfriend she’s the girl he fell in love with? Pretend to be a happy, carefree daughter when she hugs my parents good night? And can she keep up the charade, even after she realizes my murderer is watching her every move?
Let the lying game begin.

*my review*
I was a little hesitant to pick up “The Lying Game” because I have read a few reviews that described it as similar to the Pretty Little Liars series that Sara Shepard is famous for. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the PLL series! But I wasn’t sure that I wanted to read a similar series with different characters. However. . .when The Lying Game came in at the library, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read it, and I am SO glad that I did!

Are there similarities between “The Lying Game” and Pretty Little Liars? In a word, yes. Both books have an unknown killer, rich popular girls as the main characters, and mysterious notes warning that secrecy is the only way to stay safe. BUT if you think about the mystery/suspense genre, ALL mystery stories have the ingredient of an unknown killer – that’s why they are mysteries!

Beyond those minor similarities, I felt that this book was quite different from the PLL series! In “The Lying Game” we meet Emma and Sutton; twin sisters separated for a lifetime, who learn about each other because of a tragic event – Sutton’s murder! Though the story is narrated by Sutton, Emma (who was raised in the foster system, and is two weeks shy of turning 18, when the story begins) is really the main character (since she’s alive). Sutton accompanies Emma in a very interesting way. Sutton can hear and see everything that Emma can hear or see. She can also “hear” Emma’s thoughts and understand her memories. What is even more interesting is that Sutton can’t seem to remember her own memories with the exception of quick images or feelings here and there. When Emma goes to Arizona and is forced into assuming Sutton’s life, there is suspense, excitement, and mystery at every turn.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and read it in one sitting! Having a narrator that knows everything about the main character, but isn’t the main character, gave this book an interesting perspective. (It almost felt like the voice-overs that Mary Alice gives on Desperate Housewives, if you’re familiar with that show.) The story line itself was excellent. The style that Shepard developed in the PLL series of introducing a ton of seemingly minor characters, who will eventually play larger roles, seems to be continued in this series. The secret identity ingredient also adds to the suspense, because throughout, I was just waiting for someone to figure out that Emma wasn’t really Sutton.

Overall, this was a great read, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to the next installment!

*short and snappy*
writing: Character driven and filled with details and suspense, but in a way that was never confusing or tedious to read.
plot: Suspenseful and entertaining with twists galore
characters: The main characters (Emma and Sutton) are obviously well developed, and tons of seemingly minor characters were introduced throughout the story, making me wonder what roles they will play
memorable line: “She swiveled to the computer, clicked the mouse on Sutton’s Facebook status update window, and began to type: Game on, bitches.” p. 204
(*Note: I try to keep the language on this blog clean, but after reading the PLL series, watching the TV show, and now reading this book; there are some times when adding “bitches” to the end of a statement just makes it more powerful. . .not necessarily appropriate, but powerful :) )
judging by the cover: I LOVE the juxtaposition of the twins on the front cover. It is also a fun way to keep the partial portraits that were used in the PLL series.
miscellaneous: The Lying Game website has several fun things including an interview with Sara Shepard

Sleepless by Cyn Balog

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

author’s website: website / blog
release date: July 13, 2010
appeals to: Young Adult
genre: Paranormal
length: 224 pages
publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
overall rating: 4.5 Stars

*the inside flap*
Eron DeMarchelle isn’t supposed to feel this connection. He is a Sandman, a supernatural being whose purpose is to seduce his human charges to sleep. Though he can communicate with his charges in their dreams, he isn’t encouraged to do so. After all, becoming too involved in one human’s life could prevent him from helping others get their needed rest.
But he can’t deny that he feels something for Julia, a lonely girl with fiery red hair and sad dreams. Just weeks ago, her boyfriend died in a car accident, and Eron can tell that she feels more alone than ever. Eron was human once too, many years ago, and he remembers how it felt to lose the one he loved. In the past, Eron has broken rules to protect Julia, but now, when she seems to need him more than ever, he can’t reach her. Eron’s time as a Sandman is coming to a close, and his replacement doesn’t seem to care about his charges. Worse, Julia is facing dangers she doesn’t recognize, and Eron, as he transitions back to being human, may be the only one who can save her. . . .
Even once they’ve become human again, Sandmen are forbidden to communicate with their charges. But Eron knows he won’t be able to forget Julia. Will he risk everything for a chance to be with the girl he loves?

*my review*
In a time when paranormal YA fiction is running rampant, this book was truly a fresh idea. I’ve read tons of stories about vampires, werewolves, fairies, etc. (and love the genre!!) but never a book about Sandmen. Not only was the paranormal “species” new to me, but the author herself was new to me, and I must say that I was very impressed!
In Sleepless, we meet Julia, a “normal” teenager who has just lost her boyfriend Griffin. While Julia puts up a strong front filled with sarcasm and constant verbal sparring (mostly with her friend Bret), her inner dialog makes it obvious to the reader that her hard exterior is just a fa├žade, and she actually has some pretty big confidence issues. Throughout the book, Julia mentions and alludes to an event that happened to her when she was younger that seems to have supplied the confidence issues, but she never goes into the details of what happened.
In alternating chapters, we meet Eron, the Sandman responsible for aiding Julia’s sleep. He has been a Sandman for nearly 100 years, and it is obvious from his dialog and descriptions that he still holds the more “traditional” values. It is also pretty obvious that he is head over heals in love with Julia (at least, it was obvious to me!) Throughout the story, Eron is in the process of training his Sandman replacement so that he can rejoin the human world.
This story is full of emotion, and since the chapters alternate between Eron’s and Julia’s perspectives, the reader gets to experience the full range of emotion from both characters. Even though the novel is relatively short, I was very impressed by the way that this story unfolds. Cyn Balog creates a very realistic world and fills the story with details in a way that seems impossible with such a short page count. I was very satisfied with the ending, but could have kept reading for several chapters if they had existed! Overall, this was a great story that I’d definitely recommend for a fun, quick read, and I’m looking forward to more from Cyn Balog in the future!

*short and snappy*
: Smooth to read and filled with details, but in a way that never feels heavy
plot: I thought it was predictable, but there were a few twists that changed my predictions drastically
characters: Julia and Eron are both likable, and fairly realistic, but Balog also creates a few characters that you love to hate
judging by the cover: The cover is quite simple and doesn’t allude to the plot at all, but it’s pretty
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