Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fallen vs. Hush, Hush

By Lauren Kate

Fallen is another book with a lot of hype (good publicist!) about the newest trend in YA literature, fallen angels.  I bought this book at the same time that I bought Hush, Hush in order to compare the two. 

In some ways, the books were quite different. As I said in the Hush, Hush review, it has a modern take on the fallen angel theme.  Fallen is definitely more gothic, although also set in present times.  The majority of action in Hush, Hush occurs at school or in the small town outside of Portland.  In Fallen the setting is a school for juvenile delinquents called Sword & Cross.  The campus is old, dark, and crumbling, creating an undertone of danger, deception, and a touch of the paranormal, which is only enhanced by the quirky and mysterious students and faculty.  It seems bleak and desolate. 

Video cameras supposedly monitor student movement within the buildings and throughout the campus, but there are many instances within the book when it seems the author forgot about the cameras, because much of what occurs should be caught on film. The students seem virtually without supervision, allowing them to get away with anything.  Very unrealistic.  I was disappointed in the author’s inconsistency on this point.

There are also differences between the two main female characters.  Nora, from Hush, Hush is a good student who basically raises herself since her mother is away often for her job.  Luce, on the other hand, has been enrolled at Sword & Cross by her parents after an incident with her ex-boyfriend (which never gets fully explained) and because she suffers from bouts of what is believed to be paranoid schizophrenia as she sees dark shadows flying above her.  Nora is strong and capable, while Luce is troubled and susceptible  to manipulation.  Of the two, I found Nora to be more likeable. 

In both books, the girls are inexplicably drawn to the “bad” boys (in Hush, Hush it is Patch; in Fallen it is Daniel), which I find very Twilight-esque, but I also understand that most romances, adult or young adult, seem to begin this way.  Also, in both books, the love interests try very hard to stay away from the girls.  The boys’ hesitation to get involved with these ladies is for differing reasons, but explaining them would give too much away.  I will say that in Fallen, reincarnation plays a part in the plot. 

Fallen seemed to move at a slower pace, but was darker and more twisted.  The ending left me with a lot of questions and some confusion, but the climax was more intense.  In Hush, Hush, the main conflict involved a couple of angels and Nora.  In Fallen, it is evident that a full-scale battle between fallen angels is about to commence. 

Overall, Hush, Hush – while it had its cheesy moments – was still fun, while Fallen had a more complex plot. 

If you like paranormal teen fiction, you might want to give them a chance.  

Let me know if you disagree. Feel free to give feedback!



See what Lauren Kate has to say about the series:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Great Used Book Store in Las Vegas

Dead Poets Books

I am not always impressed with stores that only sell used books.  I remember my experience in Cloudcroft (see Bookstores in Need of Improvement page) and was expecting the same, especially here in Las Vegas where the store itself is located in the middle of a strip mall.  No, the outside of the shop did not have the charm which usually drives me into a store, but once inside, I was pleasantly surprised.

The bookstore itself is an eclectic blend of quirky chairs, sofas, lamps, and of course - books!  The atmosphere was a bit dark and had the typical musty smell of any used bookstore.  But it did have a large selection of books, was organized according to genre, and even had rare editions, pottery, albums, and DVDs.  There literally is something for everyone.  

I immediately found numerous books I wanted to take home with me - and all of them were great deals.  Unfortunately, I was limited on my time and could only grab three before checking out.  But trust me, I will be back.  I simply cannot afford to keep buying books full-priced from chain retail stores.  And, I hate to admit it, but I also cannot remember to return library books, so that is not always an option for me either.  This is a great solution.

Things I liked about the store:
1.   The crazy furniture and knick-knacks.  It has character and as a sign reads at the front of the store, "Characters welcome!"  It seems appropriate.
2.   A large selection.  There are new and old books.  I like that it is not limited to just paperback books.  There is hardcover and new edition softcover as well.  They have everything from fiction to a military section.  
3.   The woman who worked there.  Now, I did not get her name.  She could have been the owner, but regardless, she was extremely pleasant.  We struck up a conversation about authors we like and don't like.  She genuinely knows her books and it is always a joy to meet other book-lovers.  This personal touch is not something you usually find at Borders or Barnes and Noble.  

Things I didn't like:
1.   I would have liked to see a section for just young adults.  The children's section is quite small and not geared at all toward the teenager.  That could use some updating.
2.   They need a website.  There is a MySpace page, but the information is limited.  I would like to learn more about the activities going on at the store.  For example, the sci-fi book club, the poetry readings, and any other activity they are in the process of starting.  It would also help to get the word out about their store and generate more business.

All in all, it was a good experience.  It was a bit dinghy, as most used bookstores are, but full of character.  The staff is extremely pleasant and if you truly love books, I have a feeling you won't leave empty handed.

The MySpace Page:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Hush, Hush

Hush, Hush
by Becca Fitzpatrick
Hush, Hush

After the vampire, werewolf, demon phase of young adult reading comes the fallen angels.  I’ve noticed a bit of a trend towards this new subject of paranormal fiction and decided to try it out, although a bit hesitantly.  I bought two books by two different authors, assuming that they’d be very similar, but wanting to compare them, regardless. 

I found the styles of the books, as well as the plots, to be very different.  Hush, Hush is a very modern take on the theme and at first, I believed it to be a little too similar to Twilight.  The main character, Nora, is paired with a mysterious new guy, Patch, in science class and feels an inexplicable draw to him, although he tries very hard to make her dislike him and keep his distance.  Sound familiar?  But, I stuck with it and did end up finding it entertaining.

Nora begins experiencing frightening hallucinations.  For example, a guy with a ski mask jumps in front of her car and tries to attach her by bashing in the window, but when she attempts to show her best friend the damage to the car – after having escaped, of course – there isn’t even a scratch.  She suspects Patch, but there are other unsavory characters popping up suddenly in her life.  Who is trying to scare her?  Who is trying to hurt her? 

While there is some predictability to the book, there are also a lot of surprises.  It is fairly action-packed and does provide a satisfying climax and resolution.  As a character, Nora is strong and feisty – far more interesting than I’ve ever found whiny Bella to be.  Patch is the stereotypical bad boy love interest that we, women, have all seemed to fall for at one time or another. 

An element that I was particularly interested in uncovering was how the author could make a fallen angel – an angel banished from Heaven – into a character with redeeming qualities.  The history of angels and their half-breed children, Nephilim,  are explained well enough, but I still felt a bit of confusion about the order of things, as well as the rules associated with being an angel trapped on Earth. 

Overall, it was a good escape from the world for a few hours.  I could never put it on my list of favorite books, but I did enjoy it, which surprised me.  If you are looking for an exciting, quick read, this may be one you want to pick up.  I do think you’ll be entertained.  

And if you want to read more, the book is part of a series and the second book, Crescendo, has already been released.  

As for how it compares to the Fallen series by Lauren Kate, I’ll have to keep you waiting for that review.  Stay tuned!

Author's website:

Check out the trailer:

Great video about how the character Patch came to be through the revision process:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Final Book in the Inheritance Cycle is Announced!

Inheritance (The Inheritance Cycle)

It is hard to believe that the original book of the Inheritance Cycle was first published by Knopf in the fall of 2003.  This book - still popular eight years and a movie later - is called Eragon.  Actually, on a side note, author Christopher Paolini first began writing this series when he was 15 years old and initially self-published the book before Knopf picked it up.  Needless to say, the series has been an enormous success.  (And if you haven't read it, please do and if you saw the movie, please forget it.  There is no comparison.)

This series has sold 25 million copies worldwide and Random House announced that the fourth and final book will be released November 8th, 2011, with 2.5 million copies in the first printing.

Here is the order of the books for those of you unfamiliar with the series:

1.  Eragon (2003)

2.  Eldest (2005)

3.  Brisingr (2008)

And the fourth book will appropriately be called Inheritance.  

The story is about a boy named Eragon who finds what he thinks is a blue stone in the forest.  He discovers that it is much more than a stone when it hatches and he meets his dragon - Saphira.  Secretly, he raises her and they build a telepathic bond.  Suddenly, Eragon finds himself a dragon rider - perhaps the last dragon rider, as the only remains of the dragons and their riders in the Empire have been the stories passed down through the years.

Young Eragon and Saphira find their lives in danger as the Empire seeks to destroy them.  In fact, while away, Eragon's home is destroyed and his uncle killed by the evil king's minions.  With limited advice and guidance given by the storyteller, Brom, they set off for revenge, also hoping to draw the king's wicked servants away from his hometown.  This leaves his cousin, Roran, behind to fight for the village's safety.  Roran, known for his strength and bravery, eventually plays a central role in the quest for freedom under the king's tyranny.  While many other characters are introduced, the books mostly follow Eragon, Saphira, and Roran.

If you haven't noticed, I am something of a science fiction/fantasy nerd.  (It's genetic. I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation with my family on Saturday nights!)  I love most genres, but this one tends to be my favorite as it captures my imagination and allows me to truly escape from the world for a while.  I loved reading Eragon.  I was completely sucked in from the beginning of it.  The other two books were good as well, but became - understandably - more complex.  I really look forward to the final installment as it will surely answer all questions and bring to a close this exciting adventure.

I highly recommend reading Eragon and if you like it, continue with the series.  They make for great entertainment!  Besides, how cool is it that such a young man wrote a series of books that made millions of dollars?!

Check out the website:

Picture of Christopher Paolini:


Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain
By Garth Stein
Daphne really related to Enzo  :)

If there is one book you read this month or year, it should be this book.  I realize that this is a strong statement.  I’ve reviewed and strongly recommended other books to you throughout the past few months, but this book has touched the deepest corners of my heart.  If you’ve ever loved a pet or ever met an animal that seemed to possess an unusual amount of wisdom and humanity, then you will connect with this book.

I passed this book numerous times at the book store, but never picked it up.  First of all, the narrator is a dog, Enzo.  That seemed a little bizarre to me and while I enjoyed Marley & Me, I guess I expected a carbon copy of that novel.  I couldn’t be more wrong.  There are elements that compare to Marley – the strength of love and companionship between man and dog, but Enzo tells the story of his family’s joys and pain, weaknesses and strengths.  He loves them and studies them on a desperate quest to understand humanity, because he believes that in his next life, he will become a man.  And he wants to represent the best of mankind.

Life is compared to car racing in this book, as Enzo’s owner – Denny – is  a talented racer.  What Enzo learns through his and Denny’s shared love of racing applies to life.  One particular statement made by a driver becomes a major theme of the novel:  “That which you manifest is before you.”  It is a lesson in racing and a lesson in life.  There is a beauty in the analogy and in the writing itself.  Enzo’s perception of humanity is astute, unbiased, and profound, as only a bystander’s could be.  The book is a lesson in living.  We could all learn from Enzo.

Anyone who has ever owned a pet has probably had an Enzo in his life.  For example, I’ve had many cats and dogs throughout my life, but it is my current cat, George, who most reminds me of Enzo.  He possesses an intelligence and human understanding that I’ve never witnessed before.  Like Enzo, he is almost human.  Also like Enzo, he has been my best friend, confidante, and companion through the best and worst times of my life.  He was my shoulder to cry on during my husband’s two deployments.  He is over twelve years old now, but he is as perceptive and loving as ever.  I would like to believe, as Enzo believes, that he has lived long enough as a cat and will become human in his next life.  Of course, George probably expects to be reborn as royalty as he is a bit more arrogant than the sweet Enzo.

Please, read this book.  Even if you aren’t an animal lover, you will learn something about life and living. 

But, don’t be surprised if you need a box of tissues nearby.  It is a beautiful story, but every story about real life will have some tragedy, as well as humor. 

And if you love it as much as I did, let me know.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!  

The author discusses his book:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Jane Eyre (Movie hits theaters tomorrow!)

Okay, so not everyone is a huge fan of the classics. I'm certain that my husband would rather watch paint dry than read Jane Eyre or even see the film version.  I, however, just happened to read this novel for the first time over the summer and was impressed.  While the Bronte sisters are known for being a bit bleak and morose in their writing, this novel actually leaves the reader feeling satisfied because justice is served and good is rewarded.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Jane becomes an orphan at a young age and is raised by her aunt who resents her and treats her with cruelty and disdain.  She is eventually sent to a school where her circumstances are not much better.  She meets characters who represent both goodness and greed and manages through it all to keep her composure and focus on her studies.  She eventually becomes a teacher, then answers an ad to be a governess.  This position brings her into the more gothic, mysterious world of Mr. Rochester, who is the guardian of the young French girl Jane is to instruct.  Well, I can't give away the story, but it is full of life and death, love and loss, mystery and thrills.

What struck me the most was the intelligence and strength of Jane's character, which was unusual for the time period during which this was written. Jane is described as plain but her intelligence and determination make her shine. Jane Eyre is truly a heroine ahead of her time, which is such a credit to Charlotte Bronte.  It is obvious through the characterization and the writing that Charlotte, too, was far ahead of her time.

The movie is to be released TOMORROW in theaters throughout the country, so literature lovers, have a girls night out and enjoy!  (Guys, you may like it, too.  Give it a chance.  You never know until you try!)

Some details about the film:

1.  While it is based on Charlotte Bronte's novel, the screenplay was written by British-born Moira Buffini.
2.  The director is Cary Fukunaga, whose previous work has been cinematography and the direction of short films. (Here's hoping this full feature is a great success for him!)
3.  The actress playing Jane is Mia Wasikowska.  She was in Alice in Wonderland, The Kids are All Right, and Defiance.

The following is a trailer for the film.  It looks exciting to me!  (Of course, my very favorite movie is Pride and Prejudice, so I am all about British period pieces.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

Last year, my high school students introduced me to Sarah Dessen’s work.  I’ve been hooked ever since.  Not only does she create complex, believable characters, she tackles real issues that affect teenagers today – such as teen pregnancy, eating disorders, neglect, child abuse, divorce, abandonment, and even the extreme turmoil of emotions involved in first love.  But she does it with grace and teaches lessons with subtlety.  I think what I love most is the way her words flow almost poetically at times.  Her characters show insight and depth that most people, mistakenly, don’t associate with adolescents.  But as a teacher, I know that they can be just as unique, perceptive, and complicated as Dessen portrays through her characters.  This is why she has such a loyal following. 

The conflict of the novel revolves around a senior in high school dealing with the divorce of her parents, adjusting to the lives they’ve created without her, and her overall sense of abandonment.  Auden, the main character, has spent her life trying to please her parents.  Well-educated and successful, they have raised her in a very adult world and she, being a serious child, never truly gets to experience a childhood or even adolescence and the many firsts that come with being a typical kid or teenager.  Having few friends at home due to her intense focus on her academics, she decides to spend the summer at the beach with her dad, his young new wife, and their newborn baby.  An expert at keeping people at a distance in order to save herself from hurt, she reluctantly finds herself becoming involved with the people of the small town of Colby – particularly, the loner, Eli.  And slowly, she gets to experience life as a “normal” teenager. 

I enjoyed Along for the Ride.  It was a quick read and as usual, the characters were well-developed.  However, I can’t say that it was my favorite of Dessen’s novels.  There were moments when I thought the plot dragged or when I wanted to shake Auden or her father and mother for their lack of commitment.  Ultimately, however, the conflicts were resolved and I was left feeling satisfied and uplifted.  But somehow, Dessen’s words struck me as a bit less prosaic, symbolic, or meaningful as her previous work. 

This is a worthwhile read, but I would wait for the soft cover edition.  In case you’re interested, Keeping the Moon, The Truth about Forever, and Lock and Key were some of my favorites and I definitely recommend them.  Actually, I can't really think of one of her novels that I didn't like!


In this video, Sarah Dessen explains how she came to write Along for the Ride:


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Red Riding Hood (How the book and movie came to be)

George was trying to get tips on how to defeat the wolf.

Walking through Barnes and Noble, I noticed this book displayed with other young adult literature.  What captured my interest was the fact that it has been made into a movie that will be released to theaters very soon.  Also, the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio is the mastermind behind the book intrigued me.  Most of us only think of him as an actor.  Now, he is a creator, too. 

I learned a few things after purchasing the book that both interested me and disappointed me. 

1.  This book is based on a screenplay – not the other way around.  I would normally shy away from this type of book, but in this case, simply didn’t think it through clearly when picking the book out.  Even knowing the DiCaprio thing, I didn’t put it together (duh!).

2.  I have never read a book that was originally a script, so I decided to look at this as a new experience – a learning experience.   I might even like it. 

3.  I love fairy tales – the original versions are so much creepier than the stories we’ve been taught as children.  (Did you know the stepsisters in Cinderella had their eyes pecked out at the end of the original version? Huh.  I wonder why Disney didn’t stick that part in?)  I simply couldn’t resist reading about a well-known fairy tale from a different perspective.  If you’ve ever read Gregory Maguire, you’ll realize that it can make for great reading. 

DiCaprio, with the hopes of targeting the Twilight audience, approached David Leslie Johnson with his idea: retell Red Riding Hood in a new way – make it gothic, scary, and follow the thoughts and actions of the girl.   Johnson was the screenwriter for the recent movie Orphan, which looks far too scary for me to watch, and was production assistant for the brilliant, poignant film The Shawshank Redemption

Once the script was written, Catherine Hardwicke – director of Twilight – was brought on as director.  She decided that the full complexity of the story couldn’t be fully portrayed through one film and approached a young writer, Sarah Blakely-Cartwright, to adapt the screenplay into a book. 

In a nutshell, this is how the book was born.

Stay tuned for the actual book review to be posted tomorrow.  I have a lot to say and don’t want to overload my wonderful readers.

Check out these books by Gregory Maguire if you want a fresh take on familiar fairy tales.