All tagged 2012 Releases

Review: Sanctum by Sarah Fine

When Laura and I chatted with the folks from Amazon Children's Publishing at the ALA Midwinter meeting earlier this year, they were heavily pushing Sarah Fine's Sanctum as "the next Angelfall." While on some level I understand the comparison--Angelfall features angels who are quite demonic, Sanctum is set in an afterlife full of demon-like creatures--the two books aren't read-alikes and likely don't share a audience. 

With that said, as a fan of adult urban fantasy, Sanctum hits where so many other young adult novels billed as urban fantasy miss; it's a creative and unique novel I'd recommend to fans of the genre, teen or adult. 

Lela Santos, who's spent much of her life in the foster care system, is finally settled into a good life at the beginning of Sanctum. She's thinking about college--something she never believed possible; she has an unlikely best friend in the form of Nadia, who's the popular girl Lela never believed would be her friend; she has a stable life in a safe home. That crumbles when Lela's best friend kills herself in a bout of depression Lela didn't see.

Racked with grief and guilt, Lela begins to have visions of her friend tormented in a horrible place.  In her distraught frame-of-mind, she tries to find closure about Nadia's death, but instead (stay with me here--this sounds a bit wacky, but it all makes sense in the story) she winds up dead thanks to a freak accident. Lela plummets into a terrifying underworld, the same place she saw in her visions. Determined to find Nadia and figure out a way for them both to escape, Lela enters the Dark City, a terrifying, shadowy place where lost souls wander. 

This city is a scary place. Food is inedible, demon-like creatures called Mazikin wander the streets looking for bodies to possess, and the guardians of this creepy place are pretty scary too.

Audio Review: Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone

Between my blog post about audiobooks and a desperate cry on Goodreads and Twitter for audiobook recommendations, there were several suggestions of Tamara Ireland Stone's debut novel, Time Between Us. I'd been curious about this book anyway, as I am a tremendous sucker for time travel or parallel universe-type stories (I lay the blame for this squarely on Fringe). 

I figured giving this particular book a whirl, since I had a couple of gratis Audible credits, and while I had extremely mixed feelings about The Time Between Us, I still enjoyed it quite a bit and am definitely onboard for the sequel, because there's something about this story that's extremely engaging and entertaining--and this was very much bolstered by the narrator's performance. 

Time Between Us is set in 1995 Evanston, Illinois and is told in the first person present perspective of Anna, a 16-year old avid runner who works in her father's bookstore and dreams of traveling the world. She meets Bennett, a boy she first spots at the track where she runs and later enrolls as a temporary student at the private school she attends. 

The two embark on an intense, whirlwind of a romance, culminating in Anna's discovery that Bennett has a big secret: he's from 2012, not 1995 and has traveled through time in search of someone from his present. 

Much of this premise mirrors the plot of the hordes of paranormal YA novels that exploded in recent years: average girl, mysterious book, special powers, etcetera, etcetera. However, despite that the basics of Time Between Us are nothing new, there's something fresh and fun in the writing and the engaging pace of the story. Some of this is because of the travel-meets-time travel aspect which we see through Anna's enthusiastic, very (in a good way) teenage eyes. But it's also because the wintery Evanston setting is well done and Anna has friends whose characters are well-developed and important to the story. She has a rich life before Bennett--she simply dreams of more.

Unfortunately, as much as I was swept up in Anna and Bennett's story and the question of if and how they could possibly be together, there is much in this story that's problematic.

Review: I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

The cover of Barry Lyga's I Hunt Killers asks,

"What If The World's Most Notorious Serial Killer . . . Was Your Dad?"

Told from from the mind of the son of said notorious killer, this book's creepy question hooked me from the first page and held me until the end.

Lyga created a complex character, Jasper known as Jazz by family and friends, whom most of us can relate to. Not because he's the son of a serial killer, but because he struggles with memories of his growing up years.

He tries to understand them and to sort through his memories to know himself for who he is, rather than what others may think he is or who his father tried to craft him into becoming.

A haunting question is seared into his mind by his experiences: Are memories dreams or are they real?

A river of images and thoughts and feeling, dirtied and polluted so that no one could drink from it without gagging... Jazz knew killers. Billy [ Jazz's father] had studied the serial killers of the past the way a painter studies the Renaissance masters. He learned from their mistakes. He obsessed over them. And he passed his knowledge down to his son. Lucky Jazz--those were the things he remembered from his childhood.

Jazz wonders about his lineage. Perhaps, he muses, caring for his grandmother whose mind flits randomly from one thought to another in a crazy zig-zag that often coalesced into cruelty causes Jazz to wonder about his relationship with her.

Twofer Review: Shatter Me & Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

One of my favorite things about the book blogging world is that sometimes it gives me the shove I need to read books I would have normally passed up. Such is the case of Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me, which came highly recommended by the lovely Angie, whose taste is very similar to my own. 

Frankly, I'd assumed that ​the Shatter Me series was yet another in a long series of dystopian copycats that are just okay. (I'm looking at you, Divergent, Legend, Delirium, et al.) However, to my surprise, I was absolutely sucked into the--and I mean this in a good way--absolute weirdness of the writing style and narration.

​Juliette has spent her teen years locked away in a prison because her touch is fatal--she's killed before. Her family has shunned her and the system doesn't care about her. So she sits in a cell. Alone. Abandoned.

All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.

She frantically scribbles her semi-maniacal thoughts in a journal, until one day, she's no longer by herself. A new prisoner is locked up in her cell--it's Adam a boy from her past who has secrets of his own. ​

​Eventually (intentional vagueness here to avoid spoilage), the story's location shifts to the compound of the regional government, where the young madman Warner, hopes to figure out how to use Juliette's power for his own destructive purposes. 

In both Shatter Me and its sequel, Unravel Me, Warner steals many of the scenes.