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Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

Publisher (Publication Date): Graphia (10/18/10)

Pages: 180

Where to Purchase: Amazon, B&N, , Book Depository, Chapters, IndieBound.

Earlier this month, I discovered entirely by chance a little website called NetGalley. On this site, publishers give out e-books to reviewers for free in exchange for reviews of said e-books. I asked my friend and resident book blogging mentor Kim (of Twisted Fates’ Café) if she’d ever heard of NetGalley and whether it was legit. She laughed and said she’d been using it for a while and had just forgotten to tell me. In order to atone for her serious transgression, Kim was charged with giving me a recommendation on what book to request first. Her answer was Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler.

Hunger is the story of Lisabeth Lewis, a seventeen year old anorexic. On top of that, Lisa is also Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The story follows Lisa as she combats her own eating disorder while trying to face both the gluttony and the starvation of the world. The e-book version I received was 177 pages, so it was quite a change of pace from the 400 page bricks I have been reading. (Sidenote: One day I want to have a library in my house. And in this library, I want the arched doorframe to be made entirely of books, arch included.)

The book is very enlightening when it comes to eating disorders. I have never had anorexia or bulimia, but to date this book is the most vivid explanation I have ever gotten on the subject. And I had 10th grade Health class. It spared no expense when detailing exactly what it is to be anorexic. You have to deal with the inner demon (named the Thin Voice) just as much as Lisabeth does as it regales her with caloric value of every food she thinks of and how much she will have to exercise to work it off. It follows as her parents remain clueless, one friend enables her disease, and another friend and her boyfriend worry for her safety. My only warning on this subject is that when I say it is very detailed, I mean it. When I say you get to experience what it is to be bulimic, I mean that vividly and accurately. You know what that means. So to the queasy, be wary.

The other half of the story focuses on Lisa’s appointing as Famine by Death. Death is easily my favorite character. What person that grew up in the 90’s isn’t going to be charmed by a Kurt Cobain look-a-like that says things like “Thou art famine, yo”? And he even sings one of Nirvana’s songs. But enough about Death, let’s talk about Famine. I have never in my life read any fiction about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Even my biblical knowledge on the subject doesn’t go much farther than ‘they’re bad.’ I couldn’t even think of all four of their names! (Death, Famine, War, and who?… Pestilence.) The Horsemen plotline was a nice change of pace from the Lisabeth plotline. As Lisa, you deal with the self-centered issues of a main character, as you would expect, but as Famine, you deal with the worldly issues and what you can do to change them. It puts into perspective how bad the world can be, how great the world can be, and how little ten pounds affects the world around you.

All in all, Hunger was a great Saturday read. It is however a difficult read. The main characters struggles are very real and not to be taken lightly. The action kept it exciting and the character development kept you involved. The humor was well-placed and oft times laugh out loud funny. If you’re wondering, yes I did laugh out loud to “Thou art Famine, yo,” because of how ridiculous it is. If you have a free day, I recommend picking this book up. Do expect to finish it that day though, because as previously mentioned it is only 177 pages. That was the main shortcoming of this book, I feel like there could have been more. Its sequel Rage will be coming out in April so perhaps more of the story has been written. I’ll let you know. A portion of the proceeds brought in by Hunger will be donated to the National Eating Disorders Association which provides support to those suffering from eating disorders as well as their families. You can call NEDA toll free at 1-800-931-2237.*

In keeping with the story, I am giving Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler three scales out of five. I am not giving it a four (which was my initial reaction) because it isn’t a book that I can recommend for everyone (I don’t recommend it if you’re squeamish for example). The other main reason I didn’t give it a four was length. I felt the story could have been fleshed out more and at parts it seemed the storyline was rushed.

The sequel Rage releases April 4, 2011.

For the comments, did you know all four of the Horsemen before I told you?

*NEDA information from the Author’s Note at the end of Hunger.

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Full disclosure: the author of this book is a close personal friend of mine and has been for two years. I am not however reviewing the book as his friend, I am reviewing it as a book blogger.

Bran Hambric: The Specter Key, released 10/10/10, is a great addition to the Bran Hambric series. It is exponentially better thanThe Farfield Curse, which was a very good book. Part of this can be credited to the second installment being able to build off of the first. There was much less world-building and much more story, as can be expected. In The Farfield Curse, the author had to create the world before being able to tell his story, but in The Specter Key he could just let the world be a given from the previous story and go straight for the plot. Which he does very effectively.

The book immediately sucks you in by starting with a point of view that isn’t the main character’s. You being expecting to hear the wit and charm of Bran Hambric, and are instead met with the malice of Elspeth. It is these shifts, twists, and changes that keep you interested throughout the rest of the novel.

The characters from the first installment are still great, but the best thing about The Specter Key is the new characters that come with it. There are three new characters that stand out in my mind: Thomas, Gary, and Nim. I won’t tell you who they are or their importance of course, but now you know who I mean. Thomas is one of those characters that I expect to never fully understand. He has a complexity to him that is rare in stories lately. Gary has a very Macon Ravenwood (a la Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl) feel to him that immediately makes me love him. Nim has a very small part in the story and says very little, but she is such a lovable character that I had to include her on my favorites list.

The plot line for The Specter Key had everything a reader would want in a story such as this. It had plenty of action, more suspense, and a healthy dose of relationship drama. The magic battles (and other battles as well) are written so that you can always tell what is actually happening. Often, the real choreography of a true battle is lost in the clutter, but that is not so here. The suspense of not knowing what will happen, who is good who is bad, how it will end, or who will survive keeps you glued to the pages. You’ll find yourself playing the ‘one more chapter’ game for hours. The biggest factor that will keep you reading however, is the relationship drama. The father-son and girl-boy relationships will make you want to skip ahead to the end just to see how it all turns out (though that is not condoned).

Obviously, I would suggest reading The Farfield Curse before The Specter Key, so I am hereby recommending them both to you. In keeping with the story, I am giving Bran Hambric: The Specter Key 4 nimble dandelions out of 5.


Sidenote: Check the acknowledgments page. You might see someone you know. (Hint: My name is Zane.)

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Ellen Hopkins’ Crank

I am writing this review assuming that you have read the book. I believe in order to fully review Crank, I may have to give some spoilers. If you have not read the book, you have been warned.

Banned Books Week ends in two days (October 3rd). In celebration of the freedom I enjoy to read whatever it is that I want to read, I picked up Crank by Ellen Hopkins. I had heard a lot about the book, but most of it I ignored because I don’t believe anything someone says condescendingly. I had heard complaints about the drug use (it’s literally named after a drug, guys) and sex. So for my review, I will tell why those complaints are unfounded, wrong, and even ridiculous.

First off, drugs. People have complained that they didn’t want their children reading this book because of its main character’s repetitive drug use. My question in response is, would you rather your kid know what drugs do or find out themselves? That’s what books are for. They are a fictional means of finding things out for yourself. I am not a parent, but I imagine that I would much rather my child read about what drugs do to you than let drugs do it to them. Ignorance is not a desirable state. Ignorance leads to curiosity. And curiosity is far more dangerous than a book.

Second, sex. This is the most understandable complaint pertaining to this book. It’s the most understandable not because it is right but because I can see why the parents want to avoid it. Letting their child read Crank would mean explaining to them what sex is. Fun fact to know and tell: if your child wants to read this book, I can almost guarantee they are ready for the sex talk. It takes a mature mind to want to read Crank because it isn’t a desirable story. This is not something you want to lose yourself in. It is a book to read for understanding, not enjoyment. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book, but I got more understanding out of it than enjoyment. And just to be clear, the sex in Crank is a pretty clear example of what drugs do to you. The character has unprotected sex and gets pregnant. Her mistakes had consequences. She even keeps the baby, deciding against abortion. So let’s review that: this book tells the reader to be careful with sex, shows the consequences of sex, and the main character doesn’t have an abortion. Do you see anything in there that would make you think reading this would lead to bad as it pertains to sex? It gives a pretty realistic view on the subject in my opinion.

Crank does not glorify drug use. It does not glorify sex. It does not promote unhealthy activities. It does not condone lying, stealing, dealing, using, or whoring. It is a real look at what can really happen. The only reason anyone would think this needs to be banned would be that they are out of touch with reality or wish they were.

In keeping with the story, I am giving Crank by Ellen Hopkins 4 Marlboros out of 5.

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A few weeks ago my girlfriend Amy and I made a day trip to Decatur, GA for the Decatur Book Festival. We forgot to take into account that Georgia is Eastern Time whereas Alabama is Central Time, so we were an hour later than we’d planned. We just managed to make it into the church where Cassie Clare was giving her talk.

And that was when I first saw Jackson Pearce. She was wearing a wig and rainbow tights. She was introducing Cassie, and she walked out onto the stage dressed as one of Cassie’s characters, Magnus. Now I haven’t read Cassie’s Mortal Instruments series yet, though it is on the list, so most of what happened next I didn’t understand, but I did get to see how hilarious and charismatic Jackson Pearce is in person though, so I knew exactly where we were going after Cassie’s signing (which we were at the end of): Jackson’s signing.

Because we were at the end of Cassie’s line (which stretched a block… outside.. in the Southern heat) we didn’t get to attend the panel on Sibling Rivalry with Jackson Pearce, Robin Benway, and Michelle Zink. We did however get to be first in line (inside, air-conditioned, sitting down) for the signing afterward. And that is where I picked up the book I am now reviewing, Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce.

The story follows a pair of sisters named Scarlett and Rosie and a friend named Silas. The sisters and friend are hunters of creatures called Fenris, which are basically werewolves. They spend their time protecting others from the Fenris by killing them before they hurt someone. Obviously this leads to isolation from the world, desperation to save it, and constant exhaustion from their efforts.

The first thing I need to say about this book is that it is amazing. It has just the right mix of action and romance and lore to keep people from very different demographics all locked in on the story. It takes from the story “Little Red Riding Hood,” gives it an urban twist, and empowers the women within. The product is an undeniably well-written story. It almost reads like a comic book, with the characters feeling like super heroes. It has a good balance between characters as well. There isn’t one of the trio that is the Aquaman to the others’ Superman and Wolverine. Each of the three have their own characteristics that make them powerful as well as their weaknesses that make them rely on their partners.

The action in Sisters Red is perfect. It is descriptive enough that the battles seem real without being too grotesque or gory. The battles seem real, not choreographed or what the author thinks a battle would be like. The tactics and strategy and reliance on reflex and instincts is what gives it a unique and concrete feel. But even more so than the action, the relationships are real. I say relationships and not romance, because it isn’t just about a romantic relationship. This story contains and highlights many relationships, from grandmother to granddaughters, girl to boy, sister to sister, wolf to world, hunter to wolf, hunter to world.

I highly recommend this book as well as Jackson Pearce. If she ever comes near you for a signing, event, festival, or perhaps even fast food, you should definitely meet her. You can find her event information on her website. In keeping with the story, I am giving Sisters Red 4 axes out of 5.

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Today is August 24, 2010, and if you are active at all in the world of YA, this is a national holiday. Today marks the official release of the third and final installment in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy, Mockingjay. I have not been lucky enough to get my hands on it just yet, but soon. Very soon. In honor of Mockingjay‘s release, I am going to review the first in the trilogy, The Hunger Games. When I first read The Hunger Games, I hadn’t read a lot of YA fiction yet. It’s possible that my only YA experience was Stephenie Meyer. So it is safe to say that Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is the reason I got so in to YA fiction.

This was my first novel set in a dystopia. First of many in fact, because I love the way that dystopian novels read. This particular novel contains my favorite dystopian world. It is my favorite not because it is the most believable (which is Uglies in my opinion), but because it is the most engaging. This book makes you feel down-trodden. It makes you feel resentment towards the Capitol. It makes you feel empowered. You become a citizen of District 12. You become a tribute. It is that connection one gets to the story that makes The Hunger Games as marvelous as it is.

The characters in this story set it apart from the pack as well. Katniss is not your average girl though she thinks she is. There seems to be a slight trend in YA to write the main character vague so that the reader can see themselves in them, but Suzanne Collins doesn’t do this. She writes Katniss as strong as can be, and makes the reader see themselves in her strength not her weakness. Gale and Peeta are both so well-written. Either could be the perfect love interest for Katniss. They are alike in that aspect, but that’s about it. Gale and Peeta are just about as polar opposite as you can get, yet they are both perfect for Katniss. That has a huge impact on the relationship storyline throughout the book. The minor characters also give the world life. Rue, Cinna, Prim, and Haymitch all add their own little flair to the story that makes it varied enough to seem real and awful enough that you hope it never is.

This book is one that if you haven’t read yet, you should. It’s sequel Catching Fire is out and as of today so is the final in the trilogy Mockingjay, so if you start now you won’t have to wait for the next book ever. You don’t understand how envious I am of that. In keeping with the story, I am giving Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games five mockingjays out of five.

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This review requires a bit of back story to put into context. I have an obsession with angels. Obsession. It sounds cliché, but I blame my mother. She collected angels in my childhood, so everywhere I looked in our house I saw an angel. As I have gotten older, her obsession has become my obsession. So you can imagine my glee when I discovered Alexandra Adornetto’s Halo. The book doesn’t come out until August 31st, I was able to get hold of an ARC. Keep that in mind as you read my review, I am reviewing the ARC. Here is the description of Halo according to Amazon (and also the back of the book):

Three angels are sent down to bring good to the world: Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany, a teenage girl who is the least experienced of the trio. But she is the most human, and when she is romantically drawn to a mortal boy, the angels fear she will not be strong enough to save anyone—especially herself—from the Dark Forces.

Is love a great enough power against evil?

Another side note for your consideration, I have a cat named Gabriel (Furthering my angel obsession? Maybe). I was very excited to start this book. I mean, it’s about angels, what could go wrong? The answer to that meant-to-be rhetorical question was evident within the first thirty pages. In those first thirty pages, I began to feel like this book was more Christian fiction than teen fiction (as the back of the book says it is). It seemed almost like the book was wishing to convert me to Catholicism. I managed to get past that, and as I did I began to get into the story. It took me a week to read thirty pages; it took me two days to read the rest.

The greatest asset of this entire book was the likability of the characters. Bethany and her love interest that shall remain nameless are both such genuine characters. You find yourself hoping for them, wanting for them, and wishing for them. The supporting cast helps as well. Gabriel and Ivy provide a contrast to the rest of the world. And the villain, oh the villain, is so well thought up, I could actually hear the malice in his words. But there was one crippling, continuous mistake throughout the book that kept pulling me out of the story.

There were countless editing mistakes that were so distracting from the story that at one point I was reading for them. The mistakes varied from saying ‘to’ instead of ‘too,’ to calling characters by the wrong name, to obvious sentence edits gone bad by leaving remnants behind. (For example on that last one: It would be like writing this sentence then going back and changing it. It would be like be writing this that sentence then back going, changing it.) Bear in mind, I was reading an ARC, so I cannot say for sure whether this is how the actual book will read, all I can say is that it interrupted my experience.

All in all, I liked the storyline, liked the characters, but the execution set it back. As much as I found wrong with it, I will be reading the sequels (Hades [Fall 2011] and Heaven [Fall 2012]). The story is too good not to continue. I can only remain hopeful the execution improves with time.

In keeping with the story, I am giving Alexandra Adornetto’s Halo an angelic three feathers out of five.

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Two weeks ago, the network site Page to Premiere was taking applications for reporters for books becoming movies. The day of the deadline at 11:15 or so PM, I decided to apply. The owner of the site, Kimmy West, graciously took me on. The only problem was, there wasn’t a book I had read that needed a reporter. So I said, “Well what books need reporting on?” and she replied “I have someone for all of them but Beautiful Creatures.” And that did it. I became the Page to Premiere reporter for all things Beautiful Creatures movie. So, of course, I immediately ordered the book and (im)patiently waited for it. Well now that I have finished it (in 3 days, reading only before bed/instead of sleeping), I’m going to make a statement right now that might catch you off guard. This is your warning, prepare yourself.

Beautiful Creatures is my favorite book.

Do you know what that means? That means that this book beat out Harry Potter, Looking for Alaska, and The Hunger Games. I didn’t think it was possible, but it happened. This books is nine kinds of amazing. No really… fine, here they are.

1) It’s Southern. Hello? I’m from Alabama. A = Of.

2) Best supporting cast ever. Macon and Amma made the book for me.

3) The girl is the supernatural one, not the guy. Sorry Eddie-puss.

4) It is the most truthful showing of what it is like to go to high school in a small town in the South that I have ever read (and living in the South, you get that a lot).

5) The allusions to To Kill A Mockingbird (by Harper Lee).

6) The romance between Lena and Ethan, how all supernatural romances (and regular ones, too.) should be.

7) Awesome librarian character? Yes, please.

8 ) The magic. Effortless, no wands, no studying.

9) The writing. It was exquisite. It was well-written and engaging and near-impossible to put down.

The worst part about the book: it ends. If I could just always have the next part of the story on hand, I think I would be supremely happy. This is the kind of book where you finish it and immediately hand it to the closest person so they can read it. Go buy this book. And buy an extra so your friend doesn’t have to wait. You know what, get as many as you can. You’re going to want them. The hardest thing about reading this book was not talking about it while I wasn’t reading it. I am glad that the sequel Beautiful Darkness comes out in a mere 88 days. Write that on your hand so you don’t forget.

In keeping with the story, I, a mere mortal, am giving Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl a happysad-contentwanting-darklight five half moons out of five.

This is where I usually say what book I will do next, and I will, but first I want to clarify some things. It has been a while between my last review and this one. And it isn’t because I haven’t been reading. I’ve started 2 other books in between these, but didn’t like them. I won’t be reviewing books I don’t like. Which means you’ll never see anything less than a two out of five on here. Yes, rating bad books would give me more range and make me seem less partial, but I’m not doing it. Every author deserves to have their book read, and I won’t be the reason someone decides not to read a book. So my ratings go from two to five. Two means the story is okay, but there were flaws in the writing style, inconsistencies, etc. Three means it is a good read, and if it’s your style of book you would like it. Four means it’s a very good read for most people, recommended. Five means this book is a must read, not in the you have to read it way, but in the you should want to read this no matter what because it is that good. So I hope that clarifies things. My tentative next review is of Halo by Alexandra Adornetto, which comes out this September. Until then, keep your countdown going, 88 days and less.

Sidenote: At some point I will be doing a giveaway. You know, once I figure out how. So, heads up.

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