Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard

splintered

SPLINTERED by A.G. Howard
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Publisher: Amulet Books
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 371

RATING: 4 STARS

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

SPLINTERED is not my normal YA fare, but it just goes to show that a gorgeous cover and a compelling blurb can turn a contemporary-loving reader into a fantasy one. I was intrigued by A.G. Howard’s fresh twist on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and within a few pages into this book, I was hooked.

A.G. Howard’s lyrical writing draws you in, and her fantastic descriptions on the dark and creepy creatures in her version of Wonderland are so vivid I often felt as if I could reach out and touch them. Alyssa is a strong and clever heroine, one that is easy to identify with, and Ms. Howard does an amazing job of seating the reader firmly in Alyssa’s head for the entire, white-knuckled journey.

Though I’m not a big fan of love triangles, and could’ve done without this one, the plot is fresh and exciting, with twists and turns and betrayals throughout, the voice is compelling, and the romance is emotional and well done. I will definitely be on the lookout for future books by A.G. Howard.

Review: Welcome Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriell

chloe

WELCOME CALLER, THIS IS CHLOE
Shelley Coriell
Amulet Books
May 1, 2012
ISBN: 978-1419701917
Contemporary Young Adult
Hardcover

Rating: 5 STARS

Vibrant, outgoing Chloe Camden looks as if she has it all—that is until her best friend shreds her reputation and her fabulous independent study project is nixed. Forced to come up with a new project stat, or risk failing her junior year, Chloe finds herself joining the high school’s struggling radio station. But even in the land of misfits, Chloe is still an outcast. Dealing with her pariah status and her Gram’s dwindling mental deterioration, Chloe takes solace in hosting a call-in radio show. But when the show brings more trouble, Chloe realizes just how much the station means to her.

WELCOME CALLER, THIS IS CHLOE is one of the most unique young adult books I’ve read. I love the fact that Chloe isn’t the typical meek, bullied heroine who’s just trying hard to survive high school. She’s confident with herself and she’s not afraid to show it. Her boldness is absolutely refreshing and one of the reasons I’d give this book six “klovers” if I could!

The other reason is Duncan Moore, the quiet tech and all around fix-it at the radio station. Duncan is a total lost soul who gravitates toward Chloe like a beacon in a storm. Their relationship is so well written and realistic. I loved how Chloe helped Duncan come out of his shell and I also loved the fact that Duncan’s quiet personality made Chloe a better person.

This book has so many life lessons, from dealing with change and loss and the trials of family, to learning that sometimes being the center of attention isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes, what you really need is to sit back and listen—to others, and most importantly to your heart.

WELCOME CALLER, THIS IS CHLOE, is an amazing debut. Chloe wormed her way into my heart, and this book is one I know I will read over and over again. I’m hoping for more adventures of Chloe, but if not, I know I’ll be keeping an eye out for future books by Shelly Coriell. This one’s a highly recommended read!

 

 

Review: Cheesie Mack is Cool in a Duel by Steve Cotler

cheesie

CHEESIE MACK IS COOL IN A DUEL
Steve Cotler
Random House Books for Young Readers
June 26, 2012
ISBN: 978-0375864384
Middle Grade Fiction
Hardcover

Rating: 5 STARS

Cheesie and his best friend Georgie are off to summer camp in Maine. They’re looking forward to their last year as Little Guy campers. As the ‘top dogs’ they’ll get to make campfires, choose sports teams, and all kinds of fun stuff. But disaster strikes as soon as they arrive and find that they’ve been shoved into a cabin with the Big Guys.

Not only are they the youngest and smallest of the group, they’re also stuck with Kevin Welch, Cheesie’s nemesis. Cheesie knows the only way to fight Kevin is to outsmart him, so he challenges the bully to a ‘Cool Duel’. Can Cheesie win?

CHEESIE MACK IS COOL IN A DUEL is a fun, page turning adventure that middle grade boys will absolutely love. Told from Cheesie’s perspective in his imaginative and totally unique way, this book is guaranteed to become a favorite read for children of all ages. Each chapter puts Cheesie into grander schemes and scrapes as he tries his hardest to win the right to be called the coolest boy in the cabin.

Steve Cotler manages to pepper the narrative with interesting facts and vocabulary words that teaches in a fresh and entertaining way. And Cheesie’s sense of fairness and honor imparts life lessons as well. Both of my boys loved this book and immediately asked to pick up the first book, CHEESIE MACK IS NOT A GENIUS OR ANYTHING. We are definitely on the lookout for further adventures from Cheesie Mack!

 

Review: Indelible by Kristen Heitzmann

indelible

INDELIBLE
Kristen Heitzmann
Waterbrook Press
May 3, 2011
ISBN: 978-1400073108
Inspirational Romantic Suspense
Trade Paperback

Rating: 4 STARS

When Trevor McDaniel rescues Natalie Reeve’s nephew from the jaws of a mountain lion, their lives become inexplicably entwined, attracting a mysterious admirer. Now the peaceful mountain community of Redford is threatened by a strange soul who views Trevor as both an archangel and an adversary. This menacing foe will go to great lengths to capture Trevor’s attention—even if it means targeting the most helpless and innocent victims.

I’ve always really enjoyed Kristen Heitzmann’s books in the past, especially the ones that include a dash of romantic suspense, so INDELIBLE immediately caught my eye. Ms. Heitzmann is known for bringing great characters to life, and this book is no exception.

Natalie is a sculptor with a special ability to remember even the smallest details she sees, a talent that also allows her to see into a person’s soul. The only way for her to purge these emotional visions is by putting her hands to clay. I really loved the way Heitzmann portrays Natalie throughout the book. She brings Natalie’s struggles and emotions to life in a way that gripped me from page one.

Trevor is also a bit of a tortured soul, and by pairing him up with Natalie, we get a solid couple that both have to overcome some difficult conflict as the book progresses. The interactions between Trevor and Natalie are definitely my favorite part of the book, and even though I would have liked to see a little more glimpse of the romance, I felt Heitzmann did a wonderful job showing these two emotionally battered characters becoming whole again.

However, I had an extremely hard time with the villain passages in the book. I appreciate Heitzmann’s attempt to parallel the villain with Milton’s Paradise Lost, but these scenes became an exercise in frustration and confusion for me, and I found myself skipping over them more often than not. I also had some difficulty with the fact that this book is not as stand-alone as it could be. Having not read INDIVISIBLE, there were times (especially revolving around Jonah Westfall) when I felt like I was missing something important, and I never felt fully grounded in the story.

All in all, Heitzmann still manages to pull off an intriguing story with likeable characters. I look forward to seeing her next book.

Review: Don’t You Wish by Roxanne St. Claire

dontyouwish

DON’T YOU WISH
Roxanne St. Claire
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
July 10, 2012
ISBN: 978-0385741569
Contemporary Young Adult
Hardcover

Rating: 5 STARS

Plain, unpopular Annie Nutter longs to be one of the ‘in crowd’, so when one of her dad’s wacky inventions zaps her into a parallel universe, Annie’s dream comes true. Now she’s Ayla Monroe, fabulously rich and reigning queen of her new high school. But life as one of the elite is not all that it’s cracked up to be, and as Annie/Ayla navigates this strange new reality, she is forced to decide who she wants to be.

DON’T YOU WISH is an amazing young adult debut from romantic suspense writer Roxanne St. Claire! I was hooked from page one, so drawn into Annie’s world and her heart that I couldn’t stop reading.

When Annie first wakes up as Ayla, she has a wardrobe full of designer clothes, a huge bedroom, and all the minions at school bowing down at her feet. The Miami mansion is a far cry from her small, rundown, cluttered house back in Pittsburgh. But the more Annie learns about Ayla, her alter ego, the less she likes. The outside may have changed, but inside her new gorgeous body, she’s still the same Annie Nutter.

As life gets more and more complicated, Annie begins to realize that she likes who she is on the inside. But to give up her life as Ayla, means giving up Charlie, the quiet, genius, unpopular boy who has somehow stolen her heart.

The idea of wanting to be rich and popular, especially as a teenager, is not a new one, but Roxanne St. Claire manages to put such a fresh spin on the struggle to fit in that even just reading the blurb for this book made me desperate to read it. Annie’s voice is dead on, the pace is perfect, and the plot gives just enough twists and turns to keep you guessing how it’s all going to work out. DON’T YOU WISH is a completely captivating tale that definitely earns a spot on my keeper shelf. Even if you’re not a young adult reader, give this one a try. You won’t be disappointed!