Sunday, April 13, 2014

Reality Boy Book Review

Title: Reality Boy
Author: A.S. King
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 22, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0316222709

368 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

I've worked in "reality" television, so I know there's a lot of manipulation in creating what the audience sees.

Sometimes it happens during production by influencing what participants are doing or saying. Sometimes in happens in post-production by changing context during editing. It's usually done to build a narrative arc, to streamline the messiness of real life into a half-hour or hour format.

But at least on the shows I worked on, it was never done maliciously. Reality Boy, however, imagines a show that does. Gerald was on a Supernanny-like show when he was five years old and became known as The Crapper because he defecated all over the house, including the dining room table. Millions of television viewers think he's the problem child.

What the camera doesn't show is that Gerald's psychopathic sister, Tasha, brutalizes him and crapping is his way to get attention. All he gets is the wrong kind of attention. The show comes and goes, but the stigma of being The Crapper stays with Gerald. Worse yet, Tasha stays, continuing to terrorize Gerald.

Now Gerald is sixteen years old, full of rage that has him going to anger management, and his parents are still clueless about Tasha. Gerald tries to control his anger by boxing, but he figures he'll likely end up dead or in prison in a couple of years.

Then he meets Hannah, a girl who has problems of her own and who sees beyond The Crapper. How these two people gain strength from each other to change their lives is a compelling read.

I recommend Reality Boy to readers who enjoyed Tangerine by Edward Bloor or Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Book Review

Title: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0316213103

432 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

Tana wakes one morning to find that while she was passed out in the bathtub, everyone else at the party has died.


Well, not everyone has died. There's her ex-boyfriend, Aidan, tied to a bed. And a cute boy she doesn't recognize is chained up.

She decides to rescue them even though Aidan is clearly infected and the cute boy is clearly insane. She decides to rescue them because it gives her something to do instead of going insane herself. Because there's a pile of corpses who used to be her friends in the next room. Because there's a terror of vampires waiting for the sun to go down in the next room.

There's only one place Tana and the boys can go. That's Coldtown, a barricaded city where vampires, the infected, and the desperate go. Tana knows chances are she'll never get out. Chances are she's infected, too. But it's a chance she has to take.

But Tana doesn't know that the mystery cute boy she rescued is an ancient vampire with a vendetta. And surviving has become that much more dangerous.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a fast-paced romp of terror and romance. Tana is no Bella Swan. She is terrified half the time, but she uses the adrenaline to act and she's smart enough to come up with a plan when she's not terrified. Her only weak spot is Gavriel, the mystery cute boy.

The horror is chilling and portrayed realistically. The romance is a little too instant-attraction, but the romance is secondary to Tana just trying to survive. The ending is open-ended enough that a sequel seems likely.

I recommend The Coldest Girl in Coldtown to readers who enjoyed The Diviners by Libba Bray or The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Book Trailer:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Ocean at the End of the Lane Audiobook Review

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Narrated by: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: HarperAudio
Publication Date: June 18, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0062263032

Listening copy via public library

I've written before about my love for Neil Gaiman (and Doctor Who) and fans will not be disappointed by Neil's latest work.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane has tropes familiar to both the author and the Doctor: a thing that is bigger in the inside, transformation of a harmless thing into a creature of terror, an offer to help that is spurned and will lead to the creature's ultimate demise.

And while it is not a groundbreaking work, it is still a delightful mix of the eerie and the everyday.

The unnamed protagonist remembers a time when he was seven years old and he meets a strange girl under strange circumstances who lives at the end of the lane. She has a pond on her farm that she calls an ocean, and the little boy almost believes her.

Together, they come across an ancient thing, a thing that the boy unwittingly unleashes into his own world, a thing that seeks to stay in this world at any cost.

Read by Neil Gaiman, the story unfolds at a leisurely pace. He is an amiable narrator, his placid tone only dropping during the moments of terror.

Highly recommended.

Bonus video: Neil Gaiman discusses audiobooks & The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock Book Review

Title: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
Author: Matthew Quick
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 13, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0316221337

288 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

Matthew Quick has had a lot of heat since the film adaptation of Silver Linings Playbooks came out, and I was as eager as anyone to read Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock.

It's Leonard Peacock's eighteenth birthday and he plans to go to school and kill his former best friend and then commit suicide.

As the day progresses, we learn why Leonard has decided this is the best way to escape the loneliness and hopelessness of his shitty life. His self-absorbed Mom doesn't even remember it's his birthday, so he knows he's not going to get any presents, but he gives presents to four people he thinks of as friends, although he doesn't really have any friends.

These four people react to Leonard's gifts in different ways, including anger and suspicion. But one person, a teacher, realizes what Leonard's gift means. And that one person tries to give the gift of hope back to Leonard.

Although Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock can be bleak and intense, it is ultimately about hope. It is not a book for everyone, but it will be the book to make a difference to many.

I recommend Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock to readers who enjoyed Blankets by Craig Thompson or Winger by Andrew Smith.

Bonus Video: Matthew Quick introduces Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling Audiobook Review

Title: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling
Author: Maryrose Wood
Narrated by: Katherine Kellgren
Publisher: Books on Tape
Publication Date: 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0307711229

Listening copy via Sync

I downloaded The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood last summer as part of Sync's audiobook promotion, and I finally got a chance to listen to this delightful novel.

The Mysterious Howling is the first in The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, a rollicking good read for children through younger YA. Penelope Lumley is the fifteen year old governess from the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females and her first job is to teach three children who were literally raised by wolves until discovered by Lord Ashton and brought to Ashton Place. The children, Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia, are given to howling at the moon, eating their food uncomfortably rare, and chasing squirrels.

But Miss Lumley has the pluck and good sense of a Swanburne girl to take on this challenge and make sure the children learn their manners and the proper use of a globe. The writing gives more than a nod to Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl, with winking prose that acknowledges the reader.

Narrator Katherine Kellgren admirably captures the essence of the different characters, whether it's the sensible Miss Lumley, the aristocratic Lady Ashton, or the wild Incorrigible children who punctuate their words with howls and growls.

Absolute fun from beginning to end!

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling Book Trailer


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