Tag Archives: paranormal

“Doll Bones” by Holly Black


The book you recommended to me was a book that seemed really cool for someone who likes creepy books. Holly Black’s Doll Bones is about three 12 year olds who play a never ending story-type game. The dolls are Lady Jayne, William, the mermaids, and the queen. The kids are Zach, Poppy, and Alice. The dolls are all free except the queen. The queen is a china doll. Bone china, in fact. She is worth a lot of money, so Poppy’s mother keeps her locked in a glass cabinet. The main goal of the game is to find a way to unlock and free the queen.

One night, the queen goes to Poppy in a dream. She tells Poppy that she is real. She died when she was a little girl. She tells Poppy that when she died, her father could not take the thought of his daughter in the ground. So, he took her body to the doll factory where he worked and cremated her. He turned her into a doll, with her bones as the doll’s and her hair as the doll’s, too. The queen told Poppy that she needed to be buried in the cemetery where her casket was, just under a willow tree in Ohio. Poppy takes the doll and shows Zach and Alice. In the doll are the girl’s ashes. They set off on the trip, but the queen is still haunting Poppy’s dreams.

I would tell you what happened next, but I got too creeped out, so I put it down. It’s not every day that I put a book down. Anyway, thank you for recommending this book to me.


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Posted by on March 22, 2013 in Uncategorized


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“The Raven Boys” by Maggie Stiefvater


Man, do I love me some Maggie Stiefvater. If you haven’t read “The Scorpio Races” yet, (a) for shame!, and (b) do yourself a huge favor and get on that immediately. [Read my rave review here if you don’t believe me!] Maggie’s latest book, “The Raven Boys,” will be published by Scholastic in September 2012. Fortunately for me, I was in the right place at the right time during the daily 9 am Book Expo stampede o’ booths and was able to snag an advanced copy. “The Raven Boys” is a story about boarding school boys and a somewhat clairvoyant girl who use magic to wake a sleeping Welsh King. I know. I KNOW! But it’s really a story about friendship and sacrifice, and it is just so phenomenally written — just so expertly conveyed on every possible level — that what may seem like a silly premise underlies a wondrously captivating story.

I’ll try to do some gentle, non-spoily plot summary. We start on St. Mark’s Eve, as teenage Blue and her psychic aunt, Neeve, are recording the names of those who will die in the coming year as their spirits pass by. Blue acts like an amplifier for her aunt’s talents, in much the same way she does for her own mom, Maura, and a houseful of eccentric psychics. Blue is not a seer, so she is startled to encounter the spirit form of a boy from nearby Aglionby Academy. The tormented boy says his name is Gansey and “that’s all there is.” Neeve warns Blue that seeing Gansey can only mean one of two things, that she is either his true love, or that she will kill him. Gah! Because, folks, being Blue’s true love is no great prize either, as it’s been long prophesied that Blue will kill the first boy she kisses. Kinda awkward, right? 😉

Shortly after St. Mark’s Eve, Blue, while working her part-time job at a pizzeria, encounters a very much alive Gansey — think a teenage politician, “shiny and powerful” — as well as his friends: hostile, anguished Ronan, with a neck tattoo and a world of anger radiating off him; stalwart Adam, an off-campus tuition student from the wrong side of the Henrietta, VA tracks who bears abuse and responsibility like he does everything else, quietly and painfully; and the “smudgy” Noah, a sort of loving puppy dog type who always hangs on the periphery of the group. Gansey leaves behind his rather impressive journal detailing his efforts to locate a ley line (a surging line of magical power) and raise the sleeping King Glendower, who will grant him a favor. As Blue befriends the boys — and falls for Adam — she quickly discovers that the Glendower quest is Gansey’s entire life, and, for better or worse, a mission shared with equal zealotry but for very different reasons by Ronan, Adam, and Noah.

Blue is drawn into the quest herself and helps the boys discover where the ley line lies in Cabeswater, an eerie time bubble in the woods. In Cabeswater, thoughts and wishes can appear in corporeal form before your eyes; whole seasons pass while time on the outside remains still; trees communicate (in Latin!), issuing vague warnings and advice; a haunted beech provides visions of the future, including a fatal near-kiss between Blue and Gansey; and if someone performs an unspecified — but deadly! — sacrifice, the long dormant ley line will awaken and Glendower will most likely be theirs.

There’s much more going on in “The Raven Boys,” including the mystery of Blue’s father, who disappeared years before, and the dark magic behind Neeve’s visit to Henrietta. There is also an old, unsolved murder and a villainous Latin teacher who seeks Glendower for his own. If this all seems a bit out there, well, it is. I can’t and won’t argue that point. I will say / shout from the rafters that Maggie crafts this story so beautifully, slowly revealing secrets (Noah!) and adding layer upon layer of complexity to her characters. That’s what I loved the most about “The Raven Boys,” that these characters are compellingly crafted and so stinking real. Ronan, in particular, is incredibly complicated; he’s in so much pain that he has become a powder keg of volatile rage and raw physicality, yet he can break your heart with his tenderness to both his friends and a tiny raven foundling. And Gansey … oh boy, where can I even start? Gansey, the supremely wealthy and capable teen who was nearly killed by hornets as a child, is a strange combination of strength, poise, and fear. Gansey is terrified that he will fail his friends, his family, and his quest, and his struggle to be responsible for everyone and everything ends in disastrous results.

While “The Raven Boys” ends rather abruptly — which, I get, first book in a series, but it’s REALLY abrupt — I can live with it. This book is so achingly beautiful, filled with such evocative descriptions, amazingly rendered characters, and lovely explorations of friendship, that I can forgive the somewhat jarring ending. You must read “The Raven Boys” when it releases in September. Promise me, ok? Then you can join me in this awful anticipation as we wait until 2013 to find out what happens to Blue, Adam, Gansey, and the gang!

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Posted by on July 16, 2012 in Uncategorized


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“Shatter Me” by Tahereh Mafi


The good people at HarperTeen are beside themselves with joy over debut novelist Tahereh Mafi's dystopian novel "Shatter Me," which publishes in November 2011. Don't believe me? Check out this Publishers Weekly article about the book deal for Mafi's planned trilogy. And they're not the only ones keen on "Shatter Me." Movie rights have already been sold to Twentieth Century Fox, although, in the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that this particular studio is owned by News Corporation, the same parent company that owns HarperTeen.

I was saying … ? Right, so there's already a whirlwind of buzz surrounding "Shatter Me," which I was lucky enough to read in ARC form with a copy obtained at Book Expo America. Should you believe the hype? Yes and no. This is a powerful dystopian thriller / love story that is written in a unique, if at times overwrought, style. It can be quite gripping and chilling, and the consistent pace makes the pages fly by. My biggest problem here is how much of the concept and plot of "Shatter Me" is lifted straight from the "X-Men."

We meet 17 year old Juliette in an insane asylum, locked away silently in a room with a tiny, murky window. Juliette has had no companionship — has not even spoken aloud — for 264 days. Suddenly, a new inmate is tossed into her room. Juliette, who has spent her time keeping a secret journal and counting tiles, meals, and steps, is frightened by the newcomer, despite his strange familiarity. Over time, we realize that the handsome boy is her old schoolmate Adam Kent, the son of an abusive alcoholic.

The asylum scenes are spellbinding. We completely understand Juliette's pervasive, all-consuming fear at her terrifying conditions and her depraved, unseen captors. We also share in her overwhelming sense of isolation and her bone-deep loss of humanity, both of which have resulted from her accidental killing of a small boy. The asylum and its murderous psychological effects constitute the very definition of terror. It's powerful stuff to read.

So is Juliette a monster, as she has long believed? Hardly. This broken, unloved, exiled girl is just profoundly different, somehow able to harm people through her mere touch. If you're a fan of the "X-Men" comics or films, then you may immediately think of the mutant Rogue, whose touch can drain the very life from another individual and who must, accordingly, always wear gloves and remain distant from other humans. In Juliette's future world, where a savaged, fractured society is being "reestablished," she is seen as both a threat to be controlled, and, later, as a potential weapon to further terrorize a frightened populace. (Like, ahem, Rogue in the "X-Men." Just saying.)

The brutal young dictator Warner, who seems to run a small fiefdom in this new world, takes on Juliette as his pet project, goading her into succumbing to the evil within. He and a battalion of soldiers — including, surprisingly enough, Adam — take Juliette to an opulent mansion within a protected compound. Here, Juliette's every need is catered to … while she is also constantly monitored, tested, and manipulated. I have to admit that I got a huge kick out of the creepy Warner. There's something intoxicating about his malevolence, something charming in the sick way he idolizes Juliette. Warner alone understands the part of Juliette that enjoys the rush and power of harming someone with her own hands, a feeling Juliette won't even admit to herself. Warner is handsome and thoughtful but also unbelievably cruel and violent, killing a soldier and torturing a toddler without a moment's hesitation. He is, above all, a deeply compelling character whose "love" for Juliette is striking and disturbing. Because so much of the ravaged society is never revealed to us, Warner must represent all the danger, violence, and despair of this future world. He does so, in spades. (Side note: For a dystopian novel, there is precious little worldbuilding in "Shatter Me." We are told about, but rarely shown, the infertile land, apocalyptic weather patterns, and decimated animal species that have so frightened people and led society to cede so many basic rights to this shadowy, militaristic government.)

The bulk of the novel involves a clandestine love affair between Juliette and Adam — c'mon, you had to see this coming — and the planning and execution of the pair's escape from the compound. Adam is one of those super compassionate, sexy, understanding, perfect guys who always show up in YA novels, dystopian or otherwise. If you're a fan of romances with lots of "I love you's" thrown into the mix, then you'll probably adore this relationship. I personally found the Adam / Juliette scenes somewhat repetitive — how many times can they secretly kiss and exchange whispered sweet words? — but I might just be jaded. 😉 Considering these two characters never sleep together, there is a surprising amount of steaminess in their makeout scenes. At least that part isn't boring!

By novel's end, Adam and Juliette — along with a young surprise character (I won't spoil!) and a fellow soldier named Kenji — end up in an underground lab that is, spot on, a ripoff of the "X-Men." Without spoiling too much, I'll say that Juliette isn't alone in her unusual talents. A revolutionary force is amassing under the leadership of a caring, extremely intelligent leader (hello, Professor X!) who wants to harness these strange abilities for good. Yup. Bunch of kids with otherworldly talents, ostracized by society and now being led to stand with each other and save the world? If that's not the "X-Men," I'm not sure what is.

As I said, I found the entire concept here, despite its smart execution, to be utterly derivative. When you're simply repeating a story — even when you're doing it well and adding your own touches — it loses its freshness. As such, we readers can never really be transported away. That's a shame. What perhaps sets this book apart and saves it — though not fully — is author Mafi's writing style. Much of Juliette's narrative is told in a stream of consciousness style, with run-on sentences, evocative metaphors, and the regular use of strikethroughs for unwanted or unacknowledgeable thoughts. While Mafi can sometimes use one too many over the top descriptions ("My throat is a reptile covered in scales" or "I'm a cumulonimbus existence of thunder and lightning"), these literary devices wonderfully convey the rich, ethereal, and fractured world within Juliette's own mind. That's a powerful technique, and it helps further develop this captivating, wrenching main character. Does it compensate for the "X-Men" retelling? Probably not. But this writing style, coupled with a truly original concept, could create an absolutely groundbreaking novel. Maybe that's something to look forward to?

"Shatter Me" will be released in November 2011. I'm sure you'll see loads of promotion, since the folks at HarperTeen are geniuses at marketing a YA book. While I have my reservations, I think there's a vast audience of primarily teen girls — based on the main character and the love story here — who will eagerly scoop up this novel. In fact, one of my teen readers in Kinnelon, who also read the ARC, completely — and I mean completely — LOVED this book. So take my opinion with a grain of salt.

PS – I have no cover photo to insert in this entry, since the cover art is still being designed. Check back to the Amazon page. I'm sure they'll post the cover image as soon as it's ready. Until then, enjoy the book trailer below!

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Posted by on June 11, 2011 in Uncategorized


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“Demonglass” by Rachel Hawkins


I loved "Demonglass." This is not just a great sequel, but it's a great book on its own. There are so many twists and turns — and so many unexpected events — that I had to keep reading. This is a fantastic book. Make sure you read the first book in the series, "Hex Hall," before reading "Demonglass."


"Demonglass," which as our reviewer said is a sequel to "Hex Hall," arrives in bookstores in early March 2011. Happy reading!

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Posted by on December 17, 2010 in Uncategorized


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“Chime” by Franny Billingsley


I really liked "Chime." It was hard to follow and confusing at first. I'm so glad I stuck with the story, because it made a lot more sense as it went along. This book was an interesting, different type of romance. Once I got past the beginning, it was easy to read and exciting.


Chime, described by its publisher as a "wild, enchanted romance," will be released in March 2011.

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Posted by on December 17, 2010 in Uncategorized


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“Beautiful Creatures” by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl


"Beautiful Creatures," released in 2009, is the first book in the "Caster Chronicles." So, yes, if you're thinking paranormal romance trilogy — just like every teen novel out there today! — you would, in a sense, be correct. But thankfully "Beautiful Creatures" isn't just like every other teen novel around; it has a male protagonist (woot!), a lushly detailed Southern setting, a pervading sense of family, a bevy of Civil War references, and an intriguing cast of secondary characters. To me, it reads more like a Southern gothic novel than generic teen paranormal fiction … and that's a very good thing.

We're in the tiny town of Gatlin, South Carolina, where 16 year old Ethan Wate lives with his grieving father (mom died last year in an accident) and nanny / housekeeper / cook / surrogate mother Amma. Dad spends most of his time locked in his study, so Ethan must deal with his pain on his own, with a stern yet loving hand from Amma. Ethan is a popular basketball star with a charmingly goofy wannabe rock star best friend, Link. Gatlin's restrictiveness — people's roots go back hundreds of years, causing some very fixed opinions and outlooks — frustrates Ethan, who longs to get away from a place where everyone knows (and judges) everyone else.

Enter Lena Duchannes, the niece of eccentric loner Macon Ravenwood, who moves into town. Macon owns the last surviving plantation house in Gatlin — also named Ravenwood — but is never seen around town. Macon is a ghost, a whisper, an eternal source of gossip, the kind of spooky outsider reviled in a small town. (Heh … clearly, Macon understands this; his dog is named Boo Radley!) Lena drives Macon's hearse, and with her curly black hair, Converse sneakers, and overloaded charm necklace, she's as different as possible from her prim Southern belle classmates.

Ethan is immediately drawn to Lena, because, among other things, he's been dreaming about her for months. Before he ever met her. When Ethan discovers that Lena has been dreaming about him, too, Ethan begins to learn just how different Lena and her family are. Turns out Lena is a Caster — in the simplest terms, a kind of witch — while Uncle Macon is an Incubus who feeds on hope and dreams. Members of Lena's family are claimed light or dark when they turn 16, which for Lena is mere months away. Lena's impending Claiming freaks her out — cousin Ridley went to the dark side and is an evil siren now — so as Ethan and Lena become closer, he spends a lot of time reassuring her that she will be claimed light. Admittedly, this becomes a wee bit tedious. But Ethan also helps Lena research other methods of avoiding her Claiming, including an old family locket that transports the two back to the Civil War, when neighboring plantation Greenbrier was burned by Union soldiers. Throw in a creepily foreboding song, the shadowy Book of Moons, Macon's erratic behavior, Amma's secret powers, Link falling under Ridley's spell, Mom's messages from beyond the grave, a shocking betrayal, and a hidden supernatural library, and you've got a textured, lively story that goes way beyond the "boy loves supernatural" trope.

Speaking of which, Ethan — the boy! — is our narrator here, which is so unbelievably rare in a teen novel, let alone a teen paranormal novel, that I'm still kind of shocked. In a good way! Co-authors Garcia and Stohl absolutely nail a teen guy's voice, and they perfectly portray the quiet rules of male friendship in developing Ethan and Link's relationship. They also make Ethan believably strong yet vulnerable in his burgeoning romance with Lena. I really dug how hard it was for Ethan to express his feelings for Lena, even when they were so ridiculously obvious. His hesitation and uncertainty rang true.

I loved the precise details of the Southern setting, including Amma's decadent food; the smells (rosemary and lemons figure prominently in the story); the local traditions, including a Civil War reenactment; the courtly manners; and the unique use of language. The setting grounded this magical story, adding layers to the plot and shading the characters — many of whom have their own Southern quirks — in believable ways. Indeed, the minor characters, including Ethan's batty great aunts and a whip smart, empathetic librarian, give the book a depth and vitality that often make the words leap off the page.

My only complaint is that I was a bit let down by the ending. After spending hundreds of pages creating three-dimensional characters, suddenly the authors have them acting like complete knuckleheads in service of the plot. (Fiercely protective Uncle Macon is easily duped, Ethan constantly does the wrong thing, powerful Lena suddenly becomes weak and cowering … huh?) The authors' use of a Claiming "loophole" also frustrated me, as it seemed like a contrivance to justify another book in the series. Since I've just started the sequel, "Beautiful Darkness," I guess I'll find out if I'm being too harsh on this point.

I absolutely recommend "Beautiful Creatures" to fans of paranormal romances, as well as those looking for an intriguing, rich story of Southern life, family, loss, and love. This book is remarkably clean, so unless you're put off by the magical elements, I'd say older middle schoolers should be fine. And please don't be turned off by the book's considerable length. Truly, the pages fly by. Enjoy!

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Posted by on December 8, 2010 in Uncategorized


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“Paranormalcy” by Kiersten White


Kiersten White's "Paranormalcy" isn't just another teen paranormal romance. Ok, yes, it is a teen paranormal romance, in which an Empty One and a Shapeshifter fall in love — I'll explain, I promise! — but it's also lively, funny, and charming. I read "Paranormalcy" at the beach, and I found myself completely engrossed by this winning novel.

Quick plot rundown. Our teen heroine is Evie, who besides being a smart, spunky orphan, also possesses the rare ability to see through the glamours of paranormals (vamps, werewolves, hags, etc.). Evie can see the true being beneath whatever pretty face is being shown to the world, which is handy at a time when the government is capturing and neutralizing paranormals to protect human society (heh … they are "bagged and tagged!"). Evie works for — and has basically been raised by — a secret government agency called IPCA, the International Paranormal Containment Agency. Under the guidance of director Racquel, Evie is dispatched around the globe to locate paranormals, confirm their hidden nature, and tase them for shipment back to IPCA.

Evie isn't particularly brave or strong — in fact, she's often frightened and vulnerable — but she bucks up and gets the job done. Along the way, she has to dodge the increasingly icky advances of a fairie named Reth, who's like a stalker with a backstage pass (fairies can pretty much open portals anywhere for transport along the fairie paths). Reth is seductive and creepy, but not necessarily evil. Or is he? I loved the shading of Reth's character and how we're never quite sure if he's helping or hurting Evie.

After a shapeshifting teen named Lend breaks into IPCA, Evie finds herself questioning everything she thought about paranormals, their containment, and her own status and nature. Why can she see through glamours? Is she a resident at IPCA … or a captive? Evie slowly begins a relationship with Lend, who can wear bodies like others wear clothes but still lives in the normal world. Lend shows Evie the wonders of high school life and the prom, and, besides the watery appearance part, this sweet, nurturing boy is probably most girls' dream guy. 🙂

Oh, yeah, there's also some big evil heading Evie and Lend's way, a beautiful Empty One who is massacring paranormals and sucking out their souls. Cool! Vivian has a strange connection to Evie, even entering her dreams, giving the story a nice bit of tension as it ensures that Evie is never really safe … even when snuggling on the couch with Lend.

I loved the snarky touches here — Evie is addicted to a teen drama and bonds with an unreformed vamp over it; she bedazzles her taser and nicknames it "Tasey" — as well as the real moments of intense action and gripping suspense. It's a great mix, and author White pulls it off brilliantly. Yes, some of the secondary characters are cardboard — Evie's best friend Lish, Racquel — but that's a minor complaint. "Paranormalcy" is a wonderful blend of action, romance, humor, and the paranormal, and it's sure to be a hit with readers in middle school and up. I hope you like it as much as I did!

PS – Check out the book trailer!

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Posted by on September 23, 2010 in Uncategorized


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