Vampires are popular. It is an irrefutable fact of life (at the moment anyway. Fads are subject to change after all). Vamps are popping up all over the place, mostly in books aimed at young adults (I’ve reviewed quite a few myself) or as part of the Supernatural Romance erotica. Finding a well written horror novel about vampires isn’t that easy anymore.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova falls into a true horror novel. There’s also Dracula, which is just the cherry on top. The Historian is a novel that has three separate storylines, all connected in some manner, connected through old letters and storytelling, and it feeds into one overall, mysterious plot. The plot centres around historians trying to uncover the truth behind the tales of Vlad the Impaler, and if the Dracula myth is more than just a figment of Bram Stoker’s imagination. It beings with finding a book, and that books is what leads to all the questions and the mystery (and some mysterious deaths and disappearances on top of that). The main character, and she is following in her father’s (and his mentor’s) steps, searching for Dracula, and by extension, trying to find her missing mother (the dad is missing at this point as well).

What I like most about this book is that the characters use research methodology that an actual, real life historian would use. It comes across as legitimate field work and research (at least in the context of the story), and that lends a touch of realism to the story, which is given the fact it’s about vampires, is a feat in itself. What adds to that realism is the way that Kostova blends historical fact with her fiction. If anyone was going to able to convince me that Vlad Tepes was really Count Dracula, it would be here.

I will admit, the book was slow at first. I found that the first half drug on and could, at times, could be hard to read. But once I hit a certain point around the middle, everything picked up and kept going at full throttle. If you’re having a tough time getting into the book, just keep going- it’s totally worth it. This is the best Draculas I’ve seen since Stoker’s. Seriously.
I know, I know. The “Harry Potter” series (both books and movies) ended awhile ago. It’s still popular of course, but it’s still a fan favourite. More importantly, it’s one of my favourites, and now that “Chamber of Secrets” had been released on Pottermore (if you don’t know what Pottermore is then I seriously must ask what rock you’ve been living under), it’s inspired me to inform you all why it’s one of my favourites.

Harry Potter is the Boy That Lived. Back when he was a baby, the evil Dark Lord Voldermort (He Who Shall Not Be Named) tried to kill him with a killing curse. Instead of killing him, the curse rebounded and took out Voldermort instead. That is where Harry Potter’s story begins. We come into that story when Harry, who had been living with his abusive aunt, uncle and cousin, gets accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Then he spends the next seven years battling the same dark wizard and his various cronies with his two best friends, Ron and Hermione (plus even more friends and various allies). There’s betrayals, deaths, tears, adventures and magical beasts galore. It all ends with the wizarding battle to end all battles (along with a highly contested epilogue, but that’s another story).

Everything about “Harry Potter” is spectacular, and quite frankly I’m not doing it justice. Each book honestly does deserve an individual review instead of a broad overview of the entire series. This series quite literally has something for everyone- adventure, magic, angst and in the later books deep felt romance. It’s considered a children’s series, but it’s so much more that that. There are very deep themes and messages in these books, everything from love and friendship to experiencing and dealing with grief. The series takes a dark turn in book five (“Order of the Phoenix”), and begins to take on some real world gritty feel from then on. By “Order of the Phoenix” it’s far less children’s literature and far more grown up.

The character development from book one to seven is wonderful. The world Rowling created is even more so. It would have been easy to say ‘Hey! Magic exists!’, but Rowling created a wizarding world that had it’s own history, laws and pop culture…and then she makes sure that it will still fit into the ‘real’ world. That amount of imagination impresses the heck out of me.

I grew up heading “Harry Potter”. The first book came out just before I went into middle school, and I read it by borrowing it from a friend who has since passed. I read the last one the year I graduated from high school and only a few days after I got out of the hospital from my surgery. New books aren’t coming out anymore, but I cherish the ones I’ve read, and I think that you should too.
Oh Shakespeare…the nightmare of high school students everywhere. Reading Shakespeare creates abject fear in English classes everywhere. Not for me of course, since I’m a huge geek (and high school has long since ended), but that’s another story. It was Kaitlyn going on about ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ for her own English class that made me remember reading it back when I was in tenth grade.

‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ was the first Shakespeare play that I ever read, and it has remained my favourite. Unlike his more famous tragedies, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is one of his comedies. Even though the definition of a comedy was a bit different back in the Elizabethan era, this play is still downright hilarious.

‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is a tale of love, most of all unrequited love. The way it unfolds? It’s pretty much a soap opera. Here’s the deal: Hermia and Lysander are in love, but father is forcing her to marry Demetrius, who doesn’t love her so much as think he’s entitled to her. Then there’s Helena, Hermia’s friend, who is in love with Demetrius, who doesn’t give her the time of day.

And that’s only the human side of things. Out in the forest is fairyland, where there is another set of love related problems. Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairies, are fighting. Oh, and Puck, the classic trickster figure, is running around with love spells and making people fall in love with each other. When Hermia and Lysander run away into the woods, followed by Demetrius and Helena, the two worlds collide and things get even crazier. There are love spells, a man being turned into a donkey, fairy mischief, a very bad play within a play, and so much more.

‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is ridiculous and hilarious. Yes, it can be hard to read. It is written entirely in poetic, theatrical form. There are words and phrases in there that haven’t been used in a very long time, and thus can go right over a reader’s head. I highly suggest reading a version that has references in the margins- those really help.

This is Shakespeare at his best. ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ has his amazing writing, but unlike the work people tend to be more familiar with (‘Romeo and Juliet’ anyone?), it is light hearted, funny and best of all, comes with a nice happily ever after.
If Tolkien wrote it, I’m going to read it. If it has anything at all to do with Middle Earth, I’m not only going to read it, I’m going to obsess over it and most likely read it multiple times. In case you haven’t realized it yet, I’m a Tolkien geek (and proud of it!), which is why, when I realized that “Children of Hurin” had been released, I bought it then and there.

“Children of Hurin” isn’t a new story, but an expansion of a tale mentioned in “The Similarion” (which I have previously reviewed). The story takes place long before “Lord of the Rings”. It tells the story of Hurin and his descendants (his wife, son and daughter). It’s a pretty complicated story, intertwined with the rest of the events of Middle Earth. This is right in the middle of the war against Morgorth, and actually has a pretty important place in that war. Honestly, that’s about as much of a plot summary I can give, because there’s just too much to talk about. The sheer expanse of the tale is amazing, but I can also say that this is a tragedy (this quite possibly the most unlucky family in Middle Earth) of Shakespearean proportions.

Like all of Tolkien’s other works, this story is world building at its best. The description is beyond belief, the history epic. I’d HIGHLY recommend reading “The Similarion” first, otherwise you will be so lost it’s not even funny. This is just a side story amongst a much larger one, and you need that larger one in order to make sense of this one.
So, I could give a bunch of reasons why you should read “The Children of Hurin”, but it all comes down to one point in the end. It’s by Tolkien, and that makes it awesome. That’s all you really need to know.
Stephen King apparently has a hate for cell phones. Or at least you come to assume so after you’ve finished reading one of his newer books, appropriately named ‘Cell’.

The book takes place in a semi-post apoplectic world. On October 1st at 3:03 pm cell phones rang and brought insanity. Everyone who answered turned into a ‘phone crazy’- which is King’s version of your classic zombie.
Like any good zombie story, it focuses on a group of survivors who are trying to make their way to safety through all the death and carnage. Of course, this is also a zombie story written by Stephen King, so that means that there’s going to be a lot more to it than that.

The zombies’ intelligence levels seem to grow as time passes (though not intelligence the way we see it per say), they have to ‘recharge’ every night, travel together in huge bird-like flocks and best of all? They’re telepathic as a group. Oh, and there’s no eating people.

Again, not your average zombies. You also have strange dreams telling the ‘normies’ where to head for potential safety (much like another King classic, ‘The Stand’) and a very blunt look at what makes up the very essentials of human nature. All and all, King at his best. Another thing that makes ‘Cell’ such a great novel? After reading it you’ll be a little leery of answering your cell phone next time it rings.
I love fantasy. I also, despite a bit of embarrassment on my part, love romance. Put them together in a well-written story and chances are I’ll check it out. One of said stories is PC Cast’s “Divine by Mistake” (in first publication is was called “Goddess by Mistake”. The story begins in Oklahoma with English teacher Shannon Parker buying a vase that she finds herself drawn to. Turns out that the vase had a spell on it and pulls Shannon into a new, mythological world. In this other world, everyone has a doppelganger (person who looks just like you) and Shannon’s double Rhiannon is a bratty priestess who got bored, so went and switched places with Shannon, leaving Shannon to take her place and pretend to be a chosen priestess in order to stop things from falling apart. Of course Shannon really doesn’t have all that much idea what she’s doing and it doesn’t help that Rhiannon has a completely different personality. She’s engaged to a shape-shifting centaur who can’t stand her alter ego and evil creates are trying to take over…not exactly the best time to be thrown into all the drama. “Divine by Mistake” takes numerous mythologies and mixes them all together; Epona is a Celtic goddess, centaurs feature in Greek mythology. I love mythology and it’s exciting for me to read something that features it so predominately (Yes, I am a huge geek). The book has a good storyline, a good romance and a great amount of good ‘ol fantasy. If that’s your cup of tea, then “Divine by Mistake” is totally the book for you.
As much as I love fantasy, it seems that I don’t read nearly enough books that take place in (to quote Star Wars) a galaxy (or realm/world/dimension/land) far, far away. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I read quite a lot (you’ve seen me gush about Tolkien already), it’s just disproportionate to the rest. That said, this month’s review, ‘Silver’s Edge’ by Anne Kelleher, does indeed take place in a land far, far away.

The land that Kelleher creates is a dual one, with the mortals on one side and the Sidhe (a fancy term for elves, fairies and other Fair Folk) on the other, the two of them separated by a magical boarder that is supposed to keep both sides separate (and it does, for the most part). That boarder is now failing, with goblins spilling out into the mortal realm and war breaking out in both worlds (rebellion of course, because what’s a fantasy story without a good rebellion?). It all comes down to the Silver Caul, which is a magical item that was made by both mortals and Sidhe a few centuries ago to keep the boarder intact and separate. There’s something wrong with it, and it’s leaking the fantasy-type equivalent of toxic radiation that is having an adverse affect on both realms, and the bad guys are using it for war.

The book is written with the old interpretation of the world in mind, where people of the past truly believed that the realm of fairy existed right alongside ours, and the fairy played roles in the lives of the average mortal, usually not for the better. It’s fun to read with this in mind. The fantasy aspects are extremely well written, especially when dealing with the Sidhe. While Kelleher’s take on the Fair Folk is nothing new, that doesn’t take away from how interesting she makes them. The intrigue going on in the Sidhe court is of the very best kind, and it is so very wonderfully written. The characters are also strong points of the story, especially the three lead females. With them, you seem to get examples of the token female characters that make an appearance in most fantasy books/movies/video games/etc. First there’s Nessa, the mortal blacksmith who’s a tomboy and the one driven into action. Then there’s Delphinea, the elf maiden who is all elegance, beauty poise and strength. Finally, there’s Celicy, the mortal queen who has a Guinevere-Lancelot type forbidden romance while trying to protect her land/people. Those three characters fill cliché spots, but they are written without being cliché themselves.

All in all, ‘Silver’s Edge’ is a well-written, otherworldly fantasy novel. It’s a bit of a dark read, but it’s still a fairly easy one with an intriguing plot, characters and world building. If you ever feel like stepping into a realm/land/dimension/etc far, far away, I’d recommend Silver’s Edge to do it.
Before a friend suggested it to me, I had never heard of Richard Marsh’s “The Beetle”. It came out about the same time as Stoker’s “Dracula” (it was actually initially successful than “Dracula”) and gad many of the same horror elements. After reading it, I not only understood why it was so popular, but why my friend would recommend it.

“The Beetle” is all about revenge. The novel is set in Victorian era London, and though none of the actual actions (with the exception of a few flashbacks) takes place there, the shadow of Egypt plays a large part in the story. Politician Paul Lessingham came back from Egypt with a curse on his shoulders. He went and desecrated a tomb (never a good idea) and now a follower of an (highly fictionalized) ancient Egyptian religious cult, has come a calling. The story is the account of the terrorization of Lessingham, told from the point of view of multiple narrators, who all get caught up in the revenge plot through different means.

This book, without a doubt, is one of the creepiest things I have ever read. The mysterious bad guy (The Beetle- and wow is that ever loaded with symbolism) is creepy. The reader doesn’t even know if he’s actually human, because he does some very, very inhuman things. The creepiest part is the flashback descriptions of what happened to Lessingham back in Egypt. I take it back- it’s not creepy, it’s down right terrifying! After reading that, I can understand why there were some people (or so my friend told me) were way too freaked out to finish the book.

For those of you who aren’t too keen on non-stop horror, there’s also some mystery (a la detective story), romance and action to get you through. Each of those elements adds a little something to the plot. The plot can drag sometimes, but once the action gets going, it really gets going. Last summer, a good friend recommended “The Beetle” to me. This summer, I’m recommending it to you. Enjoy.
It was a few years ago now that my best friend told me that I just had to read Christopher Moore’s “A Dirty Job”. Not only because it was a good book, but because it was also a hilarious book. Now, I was a little sceptical- how could a book about the Angel of Death be hilarious (I had no doubt that it was good, because Courtney has impeccable taste in literature)?

“A Dirty Job” begins with Charlie Asher, a ‘beta-male’ who runs a second hand store and is pretty happy with his life. Then, his wife suddenly dies after giving birth to their newborn daughter Sophie. So far, a complete tragedy, am I right? Basically, things get strange from that point on. There’s a man at his wife’s bedside, and Charlie really shouldn’t be able to see him. Why? It turns out the man is a quasi-Angel of Death, and it turns out that Charlie has just been recruited for the job.

The best part of the book, for me, was Moore’s take on Death. Unlike most interpretations, Charlie here is not Death per say. Instead, it’s Charlie’s job to collect items which contain a newly dead person’s essence, and protect it from the forces of evil (who show up and cause trouble for everyone with a great deal of frequency) and make sure those items get where they need to go. Charlie doesn’t cause death, but merely picks up afterwards. It’s a different take on the Angel of Death character, and it’s a well done one at that.

The shenanigans that these characters get into, especially when it comes to gathering items and raising Sophie (who, in fact, does have the powers of a true Angel of Death, showing that Moore hasn’t completely done away with the traditional image), really are hilarious. That is the strong point of the book. There is conflict, drama, bitter sweetness and a touch of heart warming, but the strongest selling factor of the book is still the humour. Even scenes that have no business being funny, are hilarious. So, to sum it up, Courtney was right- I loved the book
I’m a sucker for a book that takes a well known, black and white story and turns it on its head. One of the best examples is ‘Wicked’ by Gregory Maguire. ‘Wicked’ tells the story of Elphaba, AKA the Wicked Witch of the West, featured in ‘The Wizard of Oz’. The story follows from her birth all the way to that fateful say that Dorothy drops a house on her sister. Despite the conflicting emotions about her character as a whole, most of the book we’re meant to, in a way feel sorry for her; the story touches on how hard it is to be different from everyone else. One of its most poignant and yet so simple moments is Galinda’s (the good witch) initial reaction –which is horror- at being forced to share a room with Elphaba at a boarding school…just because the other girl was born green. Elphaba is far from an average hero, but she isn’t a complete villain either; at times we hate her and at times we love her. That’s where the beauty of this story lies; it makes the reader question what makes a person evil and what makes them good. More importantly, can a person be born evil? Through out the book Elphaba states that she has no soul, and what makes Maguire’s writing spectacular is that instead of telling us if she speaks the truth or not, he leaves it up to us to decide.
We had to read this book for English so I assumed, along with the rest of my classmates, that it would be as boring as most of the pervious school novels had been. I complained along with the rest of the class (this book is huge), but in the end the book delivered just what the teacher said it would; a powerful story of suffering, joy and love that can touch even the hardest of hearts. Set in poverty stricken India, ‘A Fine Balance’ focuses on four different people who are brought together through drastic circumstances. Never before have I read a book that has documented such pain and suffering that has affected me so much. What makes this such a masterpiece is how Mistry is able to show that amid all of the extreme suffering there are moments of simple and yet great joy that can be found. Even in his writing style he emphasis the joyful moments; when something gut wrenchingly horrible happens he writes it as a simple fact, and saves the greatest detail to the happy moments. ‘A Fine Balance’ really hits hard for someone in our part of the world, who can’t help but find it impossible to understand that this kind of suffering actually does happen in other parts of the world; it’s almost like a slap in the face with a dose of reality that just can’t be ignored. Mistry makes us see just how real it is. One word of advice; don’t read ‘A Fine Balance’ if you’re in a mood to be cheered up, because it will do the complete opposite. But if you want to read something that will open your eyes and make you feel, this book is for you.
For the most part, Philippa Gregory's books are told from the perspective pf the big historical characters- Mary Boleyn, Catherine of Aragon, Anne of Cleves, etc. The main characters are true characters, which is part of the appeal of her books. That, however, is not always the case. Gregory's "The Queen's Fool" is that exception.

"The Queen's Fool" chronologically takes place after "The Boleyn Inheritance". While the book deals with the Tudor children, it's told through the eyes if the completely fictional Hannah Green. Years before the book began, Hannah and her father fled Spain in the wake of her mother's burning at the sake by the Inquisition (they're Jews). They run all the way to England, where they open a bookshop, and Hannah has the 'Sight', which allows her to see things- a scaffold behind a man who would hang a year later. On business, Lord Robert Dudley and John Dee (real people) see her, find out about her and recruit her to be their own spy. They send her into the court of Edward VI (Henry VIII's son with Jane Seymour) to spy on the Princess Mary (yep- that Mary). Hannah, while watching the historical events pass by - Edward's death, the nine days queen, Elizabeth's potential betrayal, Mary's cruelty- develops a close bond with Mary, and has a number of complicated relationships with Princess Elizabeth, Robert Dudley and even her own faith. The book follows the near end of Edward's reign to the fall of Calais, and all the world changing politics in between.

Hannah as a main character is interesting. She's a mass of contradictions, both rebelling and obey at different points. Hannah's mother was burned at the stake by religious fanatics, and yet she stands by Mary's side when she goes on her own inquisition. She's interesting because Gregory has so much leeway with her. She's not real, and neither were her family members, so there could be more creative licence taken. The love story she also finds herself in is also an interesting one, and it more than anything shows Hannah's character growth.

I liked Hannah and I liked the plot, but Gregory's crowning achievement with "The Queen's Fool" is the fact she managed to make the woman who went down in history as 'Bloody Mary' sympathetic. She makes you like Mary, even as you're horrified about what she's doing. Gregory portrays Mary as a fanatic and a woman drowning, a woman who's still suffering from what she went through as a child...a woman whose whole reign is a reaction to what was done to England because of Anne Boleyn. Mary is still a bad guy, but she's a sympathetic bad guy nonetheless. "The Queen's Fool" isn't my favourite Philippa Gregory novel, but I will agree that, for the sheer fact that an original character is in the lead, it makes it stand out from the rest.
One of my first reviews was a write up about Scott Westerfield’s “Uglies”. That was quite a while ago now, and if any of you took the stellar advice written in my review, you’d have read “Uglies” and found out that it ended with quite the cliffhanger. So I went and decided that I should go and let you all know how I feel about “Pretties”, the sequel to “Uglies”.

At the end of “Uglies”, Tally returned from the wild and told the people in charge to make her pretty. So they did-Tally is now a bubbly Pretty living the partying life that comes with it. She and Shey are both there, their memories of The Smoke drastically altered and far away. Tally doesn’t remember the reason she allowed herself to be brought back and Prettified in the first place, not until her old friends from The Smoke show up to remind her. That of course leads to some more running away into the wild and away from the crazy government agents doing their best to stop them from completely toppling the structure of civilization, as they know it. There are even more in the way of romantic subplots, and even a full fledged love triangle (a real one, not just one in Shey’s mind).

“Pretties” is one of those fairly rare books that are just as good as the original. This book has more action than the first, which isn’t surprising given that Westerfield took a good chunk of “Uglies” world building. The romance in the book is a step up from the first, and in another shocking turn of events, the incoming potential romantic interest is just as likeable (a bit more so actually, in my not so humble opinion) as the original. Honestly, this is probably the only book ever where I’ve rooted for both couples equally (that is fairly big for me- I usually choose one pairing and stick with it even if I’m going down with the ship). Basically, “Pretties” is a spectacular continuation to Westerfield’s series and I highly recommend it.
Stephen King is my all time favourite author, so I’ve decided to pay tribute to that fact by reviewing what I consider to be his best book; some may disagree, but in my opinion that would be ‘Carrie’. Compared to some of King’s other, much larger works, ‘Carrie’ comes off seeming so simple…but that simplicity is what makes the story so wonderful. It is the characters that makes ‘Carrie’; they’re characters that we can easily recognize when we look back on our own school days: the bullies, the outsiders and everyone in between. Carrie is that outcast, and despite the fact that she goes all crazy and homicidal, it’s so easy to feel sorry for her. Look at all she goes through, all that she’s put through, and then try to hate her. It’s so easy to identify with her; most of us have had that one (or if you’re totally unlucky, more than one) humiliating moment…and then wished that we could get back at the person who caused it. We know how she feels and how it is not entirely her fault what she becomes, and that casts Carrie as a tragic hero more than anything else. And let’s face it, no one can help but love a tragic hero and the story they find themselves in.
Vampires are big at the moment. In all honestly vampires have been popular since Bram Stoker gave us all the masterpiece that is Dracula, and said popularity has only gotten bigger, especially in the last decade or so (I know people remember the popularity of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it was still on). But let’s face it…Twilight brought it all to a whole new level. Since I’ve loved vampires for forever and I’ve already reviewed Twilight, I’ve decided to review another young adult vampire novel, which I personally thinks blows Twilight out of the water (sorry Twilighters, but after months of listening to girls giggle over Edward, the book has fallen out of favour with me).

PC & Kristin Cast’s (mother and daughter writing team) “Marked” is the first in the House of Night series. Zoey Redbird has just been marked as a fledging vampire and must go to The House of Night, a sort of vampire finishing school. There she will learn to become a vampire and prepare to become a full-fledged one. Of course this is still high school so you get all the regular teen drama angst, just add a little vampire magic. Aphrodite is the top girl in school, potential priestess to the vampire goddess Nyx and an all around mean girl. She loves to make Zoey angry because her ex is into her and because Zoey is different from the others. Zoey is stronger, more magical and in touch with the vamp goddess herself.

There is of course some romance there, but the whole plot doesn’t revolve around it by a long shot (again, sorry Twilight fans, I’m really not meaning to bash). There is more action, intrigue and mystery in the plot than romance (rest assured though, there is plenty there). It’s a great read if you want to read another new take on vampires (the Casts add their own quirks to the mythos) and yet stay close to tradition. “Marked” is the perfect mixture of new and old when it comes to vampires, and once you’ve finished you’ll want to go straight to book two.
Even for those who find history boring will admit that Henry VIII and his six wives is quite the intriguing tale. Out of all those wives, Anne Boleyn is by far the most famous…but did you know that even before Anne was in the picture, Henry had an affair with her sister Mary? Well, that where Philippa Gregory’s ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ comes in. Being the king’s mistress was a well sought after position, and with a nudge (more like a forceful push) from her family, Mary ends up getting the title. Their affair only lasts so long before his attention begins to wane…and then eventually land on Anne. Anyone else would be satisfied with mistress, but Anne wants it all…she wants to be queen. Mary, who comes off as the most innocent in the whole family, gets entangled in the schemes and betrayals that get her sister to the throne…and then the desperate attempt to keep it. Part of the charm of the book is that it is so historically correct without being dull, which can be a hard thing to find when encountering historical fiction based on real people. Gregory always manages to portray most of the characters in a good light, despite all the back stabbing, lying and betraying they end up doing. But it is the relationship between Anne and Mary that make the story so compelling; they are polar opposites in everyway, and at times completely jealous of each other, but yet they remain close beyond measure. This closeness combined with the resentment and jealously that lurk just beneath the surface make this semi- tragic plot line team with life. Even those who profess to hate history will be unable to resist the brilliance of ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ and will not be able to help becoming completely enthralled.
With this particular review I’ve decided to dive into the realm of ‘young adult’ (AKA teen) fiction, which happens to be unfairly disregarded and severely underrated (in my opinion, some of the best books I’ve ever read are in this genre). But anyway, ‘Uglies’ by Scott Westerfeld is my choice because not only is it a book for the young, but the themes are ones that have an impact on all ages.

In a futuristic world –one that has been rebuilt after we go and destroy ours (a second, not so subtle theme also breached in the book)- when one turns sixteen, they are given an operation that makes them ‘pretty’, which is a generic and conformist ideal of beauty (though Westerfeld never exactly describes what exactly what that ideal beauty is, but leaves it up in the air). With the operation they get to go one to a ‘perfect’ life of fun and party. Of course, it wouldn’t be a good story if things were exactly as they seemed; Tally has waited her whole life to be pretty, but when a friend runs away to avoid the operation, Tally gets thrown into a scheme that would force all the runaways (the ones who want to stay ‘ugly’) to be turned, and for very devious reasons.

‘Uglies’ very blatantly forces you to look over society’s idea of what beautiful is, and how far we’ll go to achieve it. Are we willing to completely change ourselves? To betray people we love? What aren’t we willing to do? While those questions are strong and forceful, the book doesn’t come out sounding overbearing. It’s an easy read despite the deep themes, and thankfully isn’t all that preachy either. Young adult or not, everyone who reads it should be able to enjoy ‘Uglies’ for what is; an awesome story.
"Bitten" is in the first book in Kelley's Armstrong's thirteen-ish book series entitled "Women of the Otherworld". I didn't actually read this book first. I came across the third book and loved it, so I went back to the beginning of the series. I'm so very glad I did, because "Women of the Otherworld" quickly became my favourite paranormal book series ever.

"Bitten" is a story about werewolves. In particular, the only female werewolf in the world. Elena was turned unwillingly by her boyfriend Clay a number of years ago, and eventually left the North American Werewolf Pack. Elena wants to live as a normal person, and she's doing her best to do just that...but, of course, it's not going so well. When there's a problem with the pack (the governing body of werewolves in North America), Elena goes back to help. There's a problem with 'mutts', werewolves not in the pack, killing humans. It's the pack's responsibility to eliminate the man eating mutts, because they risk revealing the werewolves to the world. Elena gets caught up in the investigation, and starts realizing that that normal life might not be what she wants after all.

"Bitten" shines when it comes to portraying conflict. I don't mean external conflict (though the plot is excellent as well), but the internal ones. Elena is a mess of contradictions. She's torn between the wolf and the human in her. She's torn between the family she has with the pack, and the desire to be normal. She's torn between the love she feels for the man who turned her into a werewolf, and the betrayal that he did it without her consent. She's torn between the life she tells herself she wants and the one where she's truly accepted.

"Bitten" has a great mythology, an interesting plot and characters, a great love story and a wonderful story dynamic. "Bitten" is a spectacular read, and one every lover of paranormal fiction needs to read.
I have to admit that this is not a book I ever would have picked out myself. It’s a young adult fiction novel that has bats as the main characters. Yes- bats. I don’t know what possessed Mom to look at “Silverwing” let alone to pick it up as a gift for me, but I’m very glad she did.

“Silverwing” tells the story of Shade, a newborn runt of a Silverwing bat. He’s one of those kids that just won’t take ‘because’ as an answer. The question in this case is why bats are forbidden to see the sun (to sum it up: a long time ago there was a war between the birds and the beasts, and the bats decided to play Switzerland and stay neutral. When the war ended they were punished by not being allowed to see the sun on pain of death). Shade of course catches a glimpse of it and (again of course) is caught doing it. Instead of turning him over to be killed, his clan takes the consequence- the complete destruction of their nesting area. They’re forced to leave for their hibernation site earlier and Shade gets separated from the group on the journey. Now he has to find a way to get there without being killed along the way (which happens more than you’d expect actually). He picks up

Marina, a Redwing bat who was chased out of her clan and Goth and Throbb, two tropical bats who double as psychopaths. All three were captured by humans and were given mysterious metal bands that nobody knows the purpose of, and adds a level of mystery to the classic journey story.

Yes, the main characters are bats. Those bats happen to be written better than quite a few human characters I’ve read. Oppel gives these bats personality. He gives them history, culture and all of those things you really don’t think would go together with bats. More impressively, he makes two distinct bat cultures (Shade’s vs. Goth’s) and then takes it a step further by making distinctive cultures for other animals, most obviously the rats and the owls.

I was honestly surprised that I enjoyed this book, especially that I enjoyed it as much as I did. It might not sound like a book you’d pick up on your own, but I’m hoping you’ll take my word for it and give “Silverwing” a try.
I remember when this book first came out, and I remember how everyone from Oprah to my teacher was raving about it. Everyone was going on about how amazing a memoir it was, about how horrifically it described addiction and rehab. I also remember when, not long after that, it came out that good chunks of the book weren't as true as Frey claimed. I hadn't read the book at that point, so I didn't feel the disappointment many readers did. Yet, only semi-fictional or not, my interest was piqued (controversy does that for me).

'A Million Little Pieces' begins with Frey (as a memoir, it is told from his point of view of course) waking up on an airplane, injured, and having no idea how either of those things happened. He ends up being checked into a rehab centre (he's been an alcoholic and crack addict for years). The books follows Frey through a very painful rehab, where he meets some really intriguing, equally messed up people, all of who show the reader that, unlike what we may think, there's no one 'type' of addict. They're all different, have different pasts and from different walks of life- there's no one stereotype that fits them all. There's Leonard, the Mafia boss who is far more wise than one would expect. There's Lilly, the damaged and doomed girl who fits into what the general public thinks of when they hear the word 'addict', but who is so much more than that, as shown in the kind of forbidden relationship Frey has with her. The books ends with Frey's release from rehab, with a (rather heartbreaking) post-script about what happened to the others we meet throughout the course of the book, once Frey was gone.

The main focus is on the rehab process and the mental state of someone going through it. It doesn't spare any gruesome detail. The part that still stands out to me was when Frey was required to have multiple root canals- all without anaesthesia, because he couldn't have any drugs in his system. I still shudder, thinking about that. Some of the events Frey writes about may be fabrications (or maybe just elaborations), but that doesn't stop it from being a powerful thing to read. Addiction is far flung from my reality, but reading 'A Million Little Pieces' gave me a painful, heartbreaking glimpse at it. It was like getting a slap in the face, one that has stayed with me all these years later. The lack of truth doesn't make the writing any less powerful.

'A Million Little Pieces' can be hard to read (not only because the gruesome details and heavy subject matter) because of its style. It's written with stream of consciousness and with random nouns capitalized. I will admit to finding that annoying, even if I get it (it's being told from the perspective of an addict- it being confusing and oddly written makes sense). Between that and the subject matter, this is a hard read. I won't lie and say I enjoyed 'A Million Little Pieces', but I am glad I read it.
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