Letters From Wheatfield by Patrick Shannon

Hello readers. So, I've figured out I'm on a list for self-published books looking for review spots on their book tours but I haven't figured out how. I don't remember what all I signed up for when I started this blog besides LibraryThing and a BookBloggers site. But I am and this is one of the books I emailed back about. Sometimes it can be risky depending on how much effort went into a book before it was published but I can say so far I haven't been disappointed. This book is a good example of a well-written and self-published book that readers who enjoy humor when reading will like. Don't miss the interview of Patrick Shannon over on my other blog: author-interview-patrick-shannon.

About the book: What do you do for fun if you live in a small rural town, dauntingly far from the nearest city's plentiful amusements? Upon what resources do you draw to spice up your existence? Letters from Wheatfield provides the answer - and it isn't always pretty.

      The fictitious town of Wheatfield is a tiny island in a vast sea of wheat fields and cattle ranges. Its nearest neighboring towns, similarly small, are well over the horizon. But its isolation has no effect on its inhabitants. Theirs is a society of mirthful, blithe, spritely wags - a condition abetted by the presence of not a few eccentric individuals.

      In Letters from Wheatfield, two transplants from Manhattan write to a cousin back home about the remarkable community that has assimilated and transmuted them - much to their amazement and great pleasure.

I enjoyed reading this book. Then again, I come from a small town in Wyoming that has some similarities to the town in the novel, which the author placed in Montana. I laughed out loud often, even when my stepdad was in the room. And I liked that. I rarely read humor books even though I prefer comedy in tv and movies but it felt good to laugh instead of crying. Not that I don't like emotional books, honestly, it was just a relief to have something different in the mix.

This is not a typical novel. The story is told in letters that are sent which relay stories from the small town that are being sent to a friend who wants to write a book. It doesn't have the arching type of plot or plot-line and part of that comes from the fact that this is a little like a creative nonfiction book with a bit more fiction. Creative nonfiction tends to be mostly true with elements/techniques of fiction while this book, as the author explained in the interview, contains about 40% true stories with the other 60% being the embellished fiction elements. Despite being different, the letter works and weaves an amusing tale of things that can happen in a small town.

A couple times I wished I could say it was unrealistic. Like the gossip that started with a bit of junk mail calling the letter writer a professor that went from "oh he must have taught at Columbia University" to "he must have taught in the country of Columbia where the drugs are" because it's not the brightest twist on a rumor. But I know for a fact that type of rumor situation happens. We once had an issue with medicare since my family owns a medical supply store and at one point the rumor about what was going on morphed into people saying the business was selling drugs to Columbia. Umm... I'm guessing that's the wrong direction of trafficking but some people actually believed it. Not everyone in town is very bright and rumors are just like that sometimes. So, some of the stories really hit home personally and I'm betting readers from the area and neighboring states will enjoy reading this book in particular.

There is only one problem I had with this book. The editing was good, the tales written in letters really did work and I didn't even mind it not having the normal fiction layout. My problem is with the ending. I won't give too many details but the book basically doesn't have a concrete ending. It just kind of stops.... I was reading along, expecting something to sort of provide a conclusion coming up soon and all of a sudden there were no more pages. None. It was just over. No more. I do wish a little that there had been something, a final letter or one that says more will come later, anything. I'm not a fan of the ending that just stop in almost any novel, so it may just be a personal quark.

Still, I liked the book, overall. The voice, the little stories, and the humor were very enjoyable. I definitely recommend this book for people who have lived in small towns, especially in the west, though I bet others will enjoy reading it too.

Dawn's Verdict: 8/10

Port Mortuary, Patricia Cornwell

Patricia Cornwell is one of America's most stimulating and chilling writers of crime fiction. In Port Mortuary we welcome back a voice we haven't heard in years, that of Kay Scarpetta herself. Told entirely from Scarpetta's point of view - and containing secrets from her past that have never before been revealed - this is the return to the voice of one of the world's most intriguing characters.

As the New York Times says - "When it comes to the forensic sciences, nobody can touch Cornwell."

What is Port Mortuary? It is literally a port to receive the dead - and the deaths are mounting, as dangerous secrets from Scarpetta's past come back to haunt her.

The novel begins on Kay Scarpetta's last day at the Dover Port Mortuary where she has been training for six months. She has been mastering the art of 'virtual autopsy' - a groundbreaking procedure that is set to revolutionise forensic science. She is abruptly removed from Port Mortuary to put these new-found skills into practise when a young man is found murdered close to her home. A question is asked - was he alive when he was zipped into his body bag? This is what Scarpetta must ascertain.

Straight off the helicopter, a chilling drive through a blizzard to Boston and into the morgue, Scarletta gets straight to work. She uses revolutionary 3D radiology scans to study the young man's internal injuries. But these baffle Scarpetta and her team. This was definitely murder, not a heart attack as first surmised. The murderer is cunning and cruel. Maybe others have already been killed. She must race to find answers before others die.

In 'A Note to My Readers' at the beginning, Cornwell states that while Port Mortuary is a work of fiction, it is not science fiction. Even though at times it reads like science fiction, Cornwell asserts that all the medical and forensic procedures, technologies and weapons she writes about exist now.

Most of the entities in the book exist, such as the Port Mortuary at Dover Air Force Base and Special Weapons Observation Remote Direct-Action System (SWORDS) and many more. To me, this was quite disturbing news, but Patricia Cornwell uses the voice of Kay Scarpetta to reveal one of the premises of the book:

"Computers, robotics, synthetic biology, nanotechnology, the more off the wall, the better," she says. "... there's no such thing as mad scientists anymore. I'm not sure there's nay such thing as science fiction. Come up with the most extreme invention you can imagine, and it's probably being implemented somewhere. It's probably old news."

A spine-chilling read at times, yet I feel myself falling out of love with Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta. She appears particularly cold in this novel (as do all the other main characters.) I liked her more in her earlier persona where I saw her chopping onions and full of angst over her relationship with her mother, her sister and "phobic and cynical"niece Lucy. I can't warm to her cold-fish husband Benton, (FBI Psychologist) who always appears to be slyly hiding information from Scarpetta. He "died" and rose again in a previous novel. Her long-term love-loathe relationship with detective Pete Marino continues and doesn't get any less weirder. In this novel, her super-rich, super-talented, super Obsessive-Compulsive niece Lucy is just as full-on, and mostly unbelievable. Scarpetta's strange Medical Examiner Jack Fielding who's been holding the fort while she's been away 6 months features a lot in conversations but he's mostly "gone missing."

For all my disappointment with Cornwell's characterisation (and she might think cold characters suit a not-a-science-fiction story) it is still a good page turner and I'd recommend it to those who like to keep up with the latest in forensic science. Well, what do we watch on TV every night? People love it. I'd much rather read about it than see it graphically displayed in the lounge room. Cornwell has certainly done her research and presents these new technologies in a believable way.

L'Aussie's Verdict: 7.5/10

Remedy by Heidi Vlach

Another set of firsts for me. Thanks to my sister for lending me her Nook, this was my first e-book since I don't like reading whole books on the laptop and don't own a reader myself. Also, I haven't read many self-published books as of yet (or non-traditional publishing). Nothing against them, I'm just way behind in my reading is all. I'm sure that more will pepper my book list in the future. Finally, along with this book review the author was kind enough to let me interview her for my writing blog. The interview will be posted today too over at dawnembers.blogspot.com.

From Goodreads: After a century of mining, Peregrine is tired. As an older avian who can't hear a simple conversation for himself, he relies on the help of keen-eared weasel assistants, whom he raises like his own children. But with his two hundred year lifespan, Peregrine has buried four of his dear companions and he will outlive Tillian as well. Convinced that he is robbing Tillian of her brief life, Peregrine resolves to change his profession. He promises himself that he'll set his earferrin free.
      The same day Peregrine takes wing for a messenger job, Rose's village faces an epidemic. Dozens of insect-like people are showing symptoms of gripthia -- and without enough healing magic, they will die. Young and recently hurried into her mage position, Rose can't save her village alone. She sends out a plea for other races to lend their hands. And because Tillian wants to help, Peregrine leaves his other half behind sooner than he ever planned. While innocent people grow sicker, Peregrine wonders whether he can live for himself, whether Tillian wants to live without him, and whether Rose and her villagers will live at all.

For a shorter fantasy that didn't have human character at all, this was a really good story. It felt short but that's probably because the middle grade fantasy book I just read was 446 pages and this adult fantasy novel was only 268 pages. But the page count doesn't matter because it's still a full story. And it was a nice break from the onslaught of first person I face on a regular basis. And while I've never seen someone underline words/sentences so much in a novel, it really made sense once I got used to the reasoning behind it. Overall, it's a book I would recommend to anyone who wants to try this different type of fantasy novel. And look at that cover! I wish this was a printed book because I want a copy with that image on the front. It's one beautiful cover.

This book is told in third person, multiple point of view style. And it works that way. I found every viewpoint character to be different, to have their own personalities and by the end I actually liked all of them. My favorite one hundred percent is little Tillian. I got the most emotional when experiencing her part of the story as she latched hold of me from the very beginning of the novel. Peregrine was good though I became a bit drug down by some of the times he talked down on himself. And I'm always happy to see a young female mage type of character, so Rose was a good character for me. Plus she was one of the main female characters with a very different name than the rest it was easy to not get confused when it came to her character.

Not often do we see a disease as the villain but it definitely worked in this fantasy world. The way the story is laced with the telling of legends made the clutches of the disease come to life. Having to develop a whole new world in order to tell a story is tough to begin with and all the little nuances are part of what makes this a really good story. The disease is only part of the story because the focus is on two characters in particular. Peregrine and Tillian have an interesting type of relationship because they are seen almost as two halves, even though Peregrine's mate is one of his kind named Giala. But there is a special pairing between the dragon kind (more bird than lizard, so he said) and the adorable weasel. The thought of them parting ways and Tillian not having her dear friend was enough to make me cry.

Technical factors:
While this is an e-book, I couldn't help but notice some technical errors. These ranged from minor spelling and word jumbles to an unfinished sentence. There were times when Peregrine would talk about Tillian as if she was there even though she was not that confused me a little bit. As a past copy editor for a college newspaper and current online intern for a small publisher, I tend to notice these things. They weren't enough to detract from the story at all, it just feels like the book needed an outside set of eyes to help with one more edit. The names do get a little confusing at times. Some of them are a little too similar to each other and at one point I couldn't remember who Giala was because a number of characters have the ia in the middle or at the end of their names. And there is a lot of name dropping. Since it's a fantasy world with everything needing to be named from towns to people to deities, it can be a little overwhelming at times.

A good story that people should consider reading. I'm an emotional person in general, and this story didn't help that because I cried and not just at the end. I really cried a number of times. The characters are easy to have an emotional attachment to and that leads to emotional reactions while reading.

Dawn's Verdict: 7.5/10

As You Wish by Jackson Pearce

I'd heard about As You Wish, by Jackson Pearce, in the blogging world previously, so when I found it at Borders, I knew I had to buy it. I'll admit, I'm a fast reader, but I consumed this novel in about an hour and a half. Not because it was short (the length was perfect for a young adult novel), but because it was such a fun read I didn't want to put it down. I don't think I looked up from the pages once while I was reading it!

Blurb from Goodreads:

Ever since Viola's boyfriend broke up with her, she has spent her days silently wishing—to have someone love her again and, more importantly, to belong again—until one day she inadvertently summons a young genie out of his world and into her own. He will remain until she makes three wishes.

Jinn is anxious to return home, but Viola is terrified of wishing, afraid she will not wish for the right thing, the thing that will make her truly happy. As the two spend time together, the lines between master and servant begin to blur, and soon Jinn can't deny that he's falling for Viola. But it's only after Viola makes her first wish that she realizes she's in love with Jinn as well . . . and that if she wishes twice more, he will disappear from her life—and her world—forever.

Jackson Pearce spins a magical tale about star-crossed lovers, what it means to belong . . . and how important it is to be careful what you wish for.

This is yet another book that is written from two first person points of view (I seem to be attracted to them). While it could have been written in 3rd person, it actually works well, being from both Viola and Jinn's POVs. Jinn was definitely my favourite character, probably because he has a touch of 'bad boy' in him. It irritates me in 'real' people, but I loved his moodiness in As You Wish. He is seen to grow through the novel, and becomes more and more swoon-able. Sigh. This is why I love YA novels!

Viola is also a fantastic character (although her preoccupation with being 'invisible' got a little irritating and I wanted to shake her to wake her up to how great Jinn was). While the conflict arises from the fact that her best friend/ex-boyfriend turns out to be gay, she's not really hung up on him. She's more concerned with how it affected her popularity (very shallow, I know). As you'd expect, it's a learning process she needs to go through, and
As You Wish handles the teen angst of it all very well.

Really, it's a sweet tale about discovering who you want to be is who you were all along. It's a wonderful book for teens, although even as an adult I enjoyed it.

Worth picking up! 8 out of 10 from me.

WritersBlockNZ's Verdict: 8/10

Glimmerglass by Jenna Black

The first book for the reading club I manage on writing.com and the first reading club I've even been in, online or in person. I really enjoyed reading a book at the same time as others, that wasn't an actually class for a grade, and being able to discuss each chapter with the other readers.

Also, a quick reminder: This is just my opinion. While this book isn't going to be in my group of favorites any time soon, there are others who really like it.

From Goodreads: It’s all she’s ever wanted to be, but it couldn’t be further from her grasp… 
      Dana Hathaway doesn’t know it yet, but she’s in big trouble.  When her alcoholic mom shows up at her voice recital drunk, again, Dana decides she’s had enough and runs away to find her mysterious father in Avalon: the only place on Earth where the regular, everyday world and the captivating, magical world of Faerie intersect. But from the moment Dana sets foot in Avalon, everything goes wrong, for it turns out she isn't just an ordinary teenage girl—she's a Faeriewalker, a rare individual who can travel between both worlds, and the only person who can bring magic into the human world and technology into Faerie.  
       Soon, Dana finds herself tangled up in a cutthroat game of Fae politics. Someone's trying to kill her, and everyone seems to want something from her, from her newfound friends and family to Ethan, the hot Fae guy Dana figures she’ll never have a chance with… until she does.  Caught between two worlds, Dana isn’t sure where she’ll ever fit in and who can be trusted, not to mention if her world will ever be normal again…

This book had such great potential. Between the creative concept of the Faeriwalker (who is half human and half fae), the splitting between worlds where one has magic and the other has technology, and the different version of Avalon (located inland instead of as a mist shroud island) there was so many things I was hoping to see in this novel. Unfortunately, for me the book fell short of the potential.

Main Character: While the MC, Dana, has an interesting background as a halfling (half human, half fae), she was very hard for me to relate to throughout the whole book. Even when I tried to hone in on my past teenage hood (since I'm 26 it wasn't that far behind), but that didn't work. It would have been better for me in third person, not only because I'm not really a fan of first in general but with a character that is hard to follow, being in first person the whole story doesn't help. Towards the end she does get better but for a good part of the book minus the end and the first chapter, Dana is more of a pawn being moved from place to place. And she was often meeting boys/men, which is fine except she always talked about the three different main guys she meets in a drooling fashion, talking in her head about how hot/dreamy/attractive they were and by the second guy I was frustrated. Especially when a cold, kind of stuck up female friend also sinks to the "he's yum" topic. And for at least one the focus on looks does end rather quickly, almost like it was forgotten but he was older and she later started swooning over his son. There is an implication that she'll learn something to help her in the epilogue but for much of this book she has to be saved often.

Location: I wanted more. It was actually a different approach, having Avalon be the gateway between the human world and the Fae one to begin with. Then she has it be in land, somewhere in England near mountains. Very different than the usual approach to Avalon. I haven't read many books that set in Avalon but even I know the general descriptions of the place from the movie. (Weird movie. Watched it with my girlfriend when we were together. oh Avalon.) But I was left wanting more than I was given. I liked the little details, the change to cobblestones and what not yet there could have been more. It's Avalon afterall, and different so why not show more of it. I do wonder what Fae will look like and if she will go to that world in the next book.

Other Characters: It was hard to see who to trust, which I'm sure was done on purpose to increase the angst or tension. It did a little at first but then it became a bit old rather fast. For some of the readers that caused the ending to not seem as tense as it should have been. There were some interesting characters though. I liked one of the fae near Dana's age, except for the "yum" comment, and then the troll near the beginning of the book. He's not in the story much but he seemed like an okay character, which is good to see for a troll one. The body guard wasn't too bad and the trainer when she finally learned a few moves to protect herself had potential. If the main character is stronger in the sequel, and the other characters are developed more with a better sequencing (it start to feel a bit jumpy and not as connected as it should be) of the scenes then the sequel might be a good book.

Overall: Just not for me. It had some good points and definitely could have been a really good book. I haven't decided if I'll read the sequel or not. Since I'm not reading any sequels right now just because I have so many authors to experience, if I do read Shadowspell then it will be a couple of years from now. I'm more curious about the author's other series. She has published an urban fantasy, adult, series that people seem to really like who often read urban fantasy. I might consider trying one of the other genres she writes in instead.

Dawn's Verdict: 5/10

The Bear With Two Shadows by Roland D Yeomans

At the moment I’m enjoying reviewing newly-released novels by bloggers. Today I’m reviewing the most wonderful book I’ve read for sometime, The Bear With Two Shadows, by Roland D Yeomans. It is an e-book which I read on my free Amazon kindle so I had the benefit of my super-duper large computer monitor. Like many, I’d prefer a paper book in my hands, but to read this and many other e-book-only titles, I’m willing to make the sacrifice and feel so hip.
From an Amazon review by Ann Best: This is a poetic novel, one of the most beautiful stories I have read in a very long time! Such wisdom from the mouth of Hibbs, the Great Bear, a powerful figure, to me, of man on his journey toward Death. Yet along the path, Hibbs voices thoughts that … lift me beyond the darkness and into the Light. At one point I had my own thought: Step into the darkness to see the light.
From an Amazon review by Wendy Tyler Ryan: In the true tradition of the telling of ancient tales, Roland Yeomans brings The Bear With Two Shadows to our hearts. From the virtual campfire that is his ebook, he will transport you to a different time and place. His magnificent and colorful prose drip with the sweetest honey, a master storyteller who will wrap you up in his embrace and keep you warm until the last word. Forever changing Estanatlehi I know is watching with pride, waiting for him to spin another tale.

The Bear with Two Shadows is an epic Native American Lord of the Rings tale. The characters become real, at times more real than the ‘two-leggeds’ we see all around us every day. The most endearing characters to me were Hibbs the Bear, Surt the Fire, Little Brother the Hawk, Leandra the Sidhe, GrandMother the Turquoise Woman. Such wisdom comes from the mouth of Hibbs: "Seeing the light is one thing, while seeing by the light is something else." Might as well enjoy the view "while we walk to death," he says.
Author Roland D Yeomans gives us some background to the story: For nearly two thousand winters, the seasons have flowed inevitably one into another. Life is as it always has been. The Huron war with the Iroquois, the Commanche with the Lakota, and the Apache with everyone.

Across the great waters, the Mongul storm the great wall of Chin. The samurai of Nippon invade Indus. And the vast Collisium lies in ruins, overgrown with vines and olive trees. The deer and bear roam the deserted villages of Gaul. And the lonely wind whispers through the towering monoliths of Stonehenge. The race called Whyte is not even a memory. Except to Estanatlehi, The Turquoise Woman, once named Gaia, Goddess of the Earth, by the People she alone remembers.

All of which means exactly nothing to the young bear Hibbs. For as long as he can remember, he has been raised by The Turquoise Woman, whom he simply calls GrandMother. Trained by her, hunted by the Lakota, accompanied by the strange hawk, Little Brother, Hibbs has happily ambled from mountain to desert to forest, even sometimes across the great waters. Often he has asked GrandMother why she has led him to so many different lands. The answer has always been: Because a moving target is harder to hit.
The novel resonates with the lyricism of Roland D Yeomans. He describes the coming of Spring thus: "He (Hibbs) had been wandering alone to greet the coming twilight, a time when he could enjoy the burst of color from the sun clawing to keep its fiery head above the horizon. The dying sunlight streamed through the hovering branches like glowing arrows, the grass beneath his bare feet was gray, and the spiderwebs gleamed silver. Life pulsed all about him. Spring was coming."
There is an underlying theme of good versus evil in this story as one expects in good literature, and make no mistake, this novel is a classic literary tale to be enjoyed at any age. There is also a powerful theme of light versus darkness (the Darklings). At first Hibbs thinks GrandMother is joking when she tells him why they must keep moving, but it is no joke. Hibbs is the hunted. He has many enemies, such as the Lakota and the Gray Bear. Hibbs doesn’t understand that he is the key to rescuing the Whyte race from certain oblivion. For the Whyte race to live, Hibbs must die.
The superb world building of the author reaches its crescendo in this section of the book. In order to protect Hibbs, he is taken to ancient lands, meets strange beasts, sees wonders. Perhaps he can hide amongst these strange creatures?
Here we see the battle between good and evil. Hibbs is a healer faced with a tyrant and his vast army. Will Hibbs and Little Brother survive? Is Hibbs’ epic journey over?
Desperate struggles are yet to be faced.
This story is currently only available on Kindle. Hopefully Roland D Yeomans will be picked up by an editor and we will see a print version to add to our bookshelves. It is a story to be read to your children at bedtime, yet will be enjoyed just as much by adults. There is a lot to be learned through the characters, as this is a deeply spiritual tale. The fact that Hibbs is a healer endeared him to me for don't we all, in this increasingly dangerous world, need to heal and be healed?
If you never read anything else on kindle (but I hope you do) read this book! I don't often give a perfect score, but I make an exception this time.

L'Aussie's Verdict: 10/10

A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull

This is one of the other advanced reader copies I received, along with Dreaming in English. I have to admit, I have never read a book by Brandon Mull and only recently noticed the whole Fablehaven Series of his. The name of that series does sound familiar at least but I still feel like I'm missing something because of another thing I have to admit. I don't know much about middle grade, not much at all. The comments for this review, I will remind, are just my reactions to the story and others will have different opinions of it. Overall, it has a good rating but I do have a few critical points on the ARC version that may or may not be part of the published version.

Publication date: March 15th, 2011

From Goodreads:   Jason Walker has often wished his life could be a bit less predictable--until a routine day at the zoo ends with Jason suddenly transporting from the hippo tank to a place unlike anything he's ever seen. In the past, the people of Lyrian welcomed visitors from the Beyond, but attitudes have changed since the wizard emperor Maldor rose to power. The brave resistors who opposed the emperor have been bought off or broken, leaving a realm where fear and suspicion prevail.
    In his search for a way home, Jason meets Rachel, who was also mysteriously drawn to Lyrian from our world. With the help of a few scattered rebels, Jason and Rachel become entangled in a quest to piece together the word of power that can destroy the emperor, and learn that their best hope to find a way home will be to save this world without heroes.

This is a long book. The ARC is 446 pages long and the published version is said to be 464 pages according to Goodreads. And of the two covers I've seen, the one with the figure that has a cape and this one with a crown, I actually like the crown more.

Overall: I did like this book. While I have issues with the story that are laid out below, in the end I did enjoy reading the book once I got past the first couple of chapters in particular. It is a well written book that has an incredible sense of world building and imagination. The details and the variety of characters created in order to tell the story are on a level of amazing that is hard for many fantasy authors to achieve but Brandon Mull obviously knows how to spin a tale of this quality.

Genre: If I was asked what genre this book actually was I would tell people epic fantasy. It is book 1 in a series, definitely fantasy and long considering the age range it is marketed towards. Length is one part of the reason. It's no Wizard's First Rule (over 800 pages) but this MG book is longer than the Dragonlance book(395 pages) I pulled off my bookshelf. Both of those are adult books and this one is set for ages 8-12. This is where I mention I don't understand Middle Grade novels. I could almost see 12 year old reading this book, sure, but an 8 year old. Okay, the hippo part yes but the prologue where the prince is being tortured and hearing the screams of someone else being tortured? Anyone I mention that to has almost cringed, even my stepdad raised his eyebrow at that fact. Plus the plot of the adventure is he must destroy an evil emperor. Made me wonder what age group The Eyes of the Dragon was set for since the characters aren't quite adults and it's fantasy too.

It made me wonder if this book would have worked as a Young Adult instead. And I had to quit thinking about it as a middle grade because it was distracting me from reading or enjoying the story. This is definitely a boy book, for those that want an example after seeing all the debates on varying blogs. Even though a girl joins the main character on his journey, it is definitely directed to boys. Stuff like describing weapons on the wall of a room as "super cool" and the fact that he enters the world by being swallowed by a hippo is evidence of that. And we do need books for boys, which is another reason I wondered if YA was considered. People have ranted about how there needs to be more boy books in YA right now and being a genre that teen boys gravitate to when they skip YA for the adult fantasy/sci-fi section, it would have made sense to me. Minor tweak of character details and it would have a home in YA bookshelves.

Main Characters: The first main character, the one most of the story is told through is a boy named Jason. At the beginning of the novel I had issues with him. He is supposed to be in 8th grade (so 14ish), plays baseball, studies hard classes such as anatomy and is rather tall. I honestly forgot part of those details later on in the series because they felt more like details of a high schooler than a boy in junior high. I'm sure there are places that have more than what I have seen in education systems but even my stepdad thought he sounded more like a 15-16 year old. So, it wasn't just me. Those facts get forgotten in the story that unfolds and the story gets more interesting as the real world parts become the past and the focus stays on the other world adventure. Then there is the girl, Rachel, who shows up to help. I liked her and she adds a dynamic for the walking periods that occur in adventure fantasy so that it's not just the main character thinking to himself.

Technical: While the prologue is done from a different character, the prince, most of the novel is from Jason's POV. Until over 250 pages in, where all of a sudden we are seeing things from Rachel's POV. While it needs to be there, it's the only way we would get the information she discovers, it is a bit surprising. I stopped reading for a minute right away because it caught me off guard. I understand having different viewpoints in one story but when it's done so little with the first half+ being from Jason, it felt weird to all of a sudden have Rachel chapter.

World and Story: Wow. This is where the book definitely made up for issues I had. While the first few chapters left me putting the book down, the world and story began to make me want to keep reading. It's obvious that the author did a lot of work on building the world of the alternate place the two "beyonders" find themselves in after entering different portals. The details of it are what really hold strong. There are politics, economic features, and many others that make up a fantasy world. And while the story did feel a little older than what I would expect for a MG novel, the things the characters have to face and endure are well done. While I had a few issues with the copy that I got to read, I do still believe it's a good novel and a story many will enjoy.

Dawn's Verdict: 7/10

Boys Don't Cry by Malorie Blackman

I picked BOYS DON'T CRY up at Borders, glanced through the blurb on the back and knew I had to read it. I scanned the first chapter in store, bought it, sat down and read it in one sitting. While I read most books in this manner, Malorie Blackman did an exceptional job of keeping me enthralled.

Blurb from Goodreads:

This is the explosively page-turning new novel for teenagers from the author of the award-winning "Noughts and Crosses" sequence. You're about to receive your A-level results and then a future of university and journalism awaits. But the day they're due to arrive your old girlfriend Melanie turns up unexpectedly ...with a baby ...You assume Melanie's helping a friend, until she nips out to buy some essentials, leaving you literally holding the baby... Malorie's dramatic new novel will keep you on the edge of your seat right to the final page.

The novel is unexpectedly told from two first person point of views: Dante, who's ex turns up and announces that the baby she's "babysitting" is actually their child, and Adam, Dante's younger brother. The contrast of the two POV's made for a refreshing break at times. Dante was a fantastic character, who showed a huge amount of change throughout the novel. He struggles with the idea of being a father so unexpectedly, and goes through the various stages of coping (denial, anger etc). The most interesting thing about him as a character was the way other people reacted to him once they knew he had a child.

There is a very clear (and perhaps overly-moralistic) lesson throughout the novel, about not judging others on first appearances. Dante is certainly judged by his peers, and by strangers alike, for being so young and having a child. In saying that, he has the most understanding family in the world. Both his father and brother are so enthusiastic about helping him, that at times I almost wished they weren't, just to make things a little harder for Dante!

BOYS DON'T CRY is a fantastic read, and while a first assumption might be that this book is about discouraging teenage pregnancy, it's really not about that at all. Growing up seems to be the theme here (as it is with most young adult novels), but it's portrayed in a rather touching way.

I highly recommend this novel. 8 out of 10 from me!

WritersBlockNZ's Verdict: 8/10

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

I have to admit something here. I started reading this book during summer of last year, 2010, and didn't pick it up for several months. The reason wasn't that I didn't like the book, because I did like it. In fact, there was a question presented at the beginning that I really wanted an answer and hadn't found it yet when I stopped reading. I just wasn't reading much during 2010 and became distracted. I am easily distracted.

From Goodreads and back of book:
"the cold.
Grace has spent years watching the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—watches back. He feels deeply familiar to her, but she doesn't know why.

the heat. 
Sam has lived two lives. As a wolf, he keeps the silent company of the girl he loves. And then, for a short time each year, he is human, never daring to talk to Grace...until now.

the shiver. 
For Grace and Sam, love has always been kept at a distance. But once it's spoken, it cannot be denied. Sam must fight to stay human—and Grace must fight to keep him—even if it means taking on the scars of the past, the fragility of the present, and the impossibility of the future."

In the end, once I'd finally finished reading I liked this book. It's my first time reading a two main character book that is written in first person, though I can guess there may be more in the future (the two main character in particular, I'd love to read some in third person since I'm writing 2 myself). While the first person aspect wasn't my favorite part it didn't detract from me enjoying the novel. And it is my first werewolf book, technically, though I like books that have actual wolves in them.  I also blame this book for the werewolf idea that is now on my list of ideas. Totally Maggie's fault for inducing a dream that had a character and a pack of werewolves as part of the story... okay, maybe not her fault but still.

Characters - I like Grace a little more than Sam, but he has some great qualities. I really started to like Sam more once we got to know little elements like the candy and the music. His interest in poetry and literature is also a very good trait. My one complaint on Sam is that he does sound a bit girly during some of his chapters in the first half of the novel. I mean, I know some guys can be what general public considers "feminine" and that is fine. But knowing the author, and this goes the other way too with guys writing girl characters, it sometimes sounded to me like a female trying to write a male, which isn't easy. In those moments, if I hadn't known they were Sam or if I hadn't known Sam was male (my college debate partner only answered to Sam and she is definitely not male) I might have thought the character is female. Grace also laxed a little close to the middle. I liked the very beginning, and things really picked up after the middle point, just getting there ended up a little slow for me.

The Story - What really kept me reading was one question presented near the beginning of the novel. The very first chapters we see that Grace was attacked by the wolves when she was young but unlike most, she never "turned" and is is what kept me reading through the slower part. I knew that answer would be key to the overall plot though I had no idea how because I couldn't tell where it was going most of the time. I do understand the reason for the slow part. It's the same with the movie "Twilight" for me because that part is needed to believe they have a developed relationship and to move too fast would have been completely out of character for Sam and Grace. So, I'm not saying it shouldn't be in there because the book does make sense the way it is written. Even though I was sure I knew the end, since this is book 1 in a series where I am pretty sure the same characters are in the second book, I was emotionally wrought over the last chapters. I really shouldn't have read it when working at the office but luckily no one came in for oxygen tanks while I was reading.

Overall, a good book. Nice story, interesting characters and a unique concept of werewolves that others should consider reading.

Dawn's Verdict: 8/10

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