Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Review: Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard

Title: Paper Covers Rock
Author: Jenny Hubbard
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Poetry
Publisher: Delacorte Press, Random House Inc.
ISBN-13: 9780385740555
ISBN: 0385740557
Release: June 14, 2011
Rating: 3/5

Tagline(s): ~None~


Sixteen-year-old Alex has just begun his junior year at a boys' boarding school when he fails to save a friend from drowning in a river on campus. Fearing the consequences if they reveal the whole truth about what happened, Alex and his friend Glenn, who also witnessed the accident, decide to lie. Plagued by guilt, Alex takes refuge in the library, telling his tale in a journal he hides behind a copy of Moby-Dick.

But the boys were not the only ones by the river that day. In the midst of their panic, Miss Dovecott, a young English teacher fresh out of Princeton, happened to arrive.

Over the next few weeks, Miss Dovecott begins to recognize poetic talent in Alex; she helps him find his voice, and he is thrilled by his teacher's special attention. But when it becomes obvious that Miss Dovecott has noticed glimmers of guilt in Alex's writing, Glenn is convinced that she is out to get them. Now Alex must choose between his friend and his mentor. But every decision has it's consequences.

Jenny Hubbard has drawn on her skills as poet, playwright, and teacher to create this poignant story, which captures a world where the line between the code of silence and the code of honor is not always clearly drawn.



Alex Stromm was one of four boys at the river the day Thomas died. Unlike Glenn, Alex isn't in the spotlight, nor does he want to be. But Alex's talent for writing poetry gains him attention from his English teacher. He uses this talent to work through his guilt over Thomas' death.

Glenn Everson is the Golden Boy, always in the spotlight. Perfect in athletics and academics; he's someone everyone respects and looks up to. Suspecting that their English teacher knows more than she's letting on about what happened at the river, Glenn comes up with The Plan to get her out of the school.

Haley Dovecott is Alex and Glenn's English teacher. She notices promising talent in Alex and becomes like a mentor to him. She also happened to be near the river on the day Thomas died. She heard yelling and went to see what was wrong. Not knowing what she really saw, she subtly tries to get more information from Alex and Glenn.

Thomas Broughton was told to jump off the rock, not dive. But having drunk way more vodka than he should have impaired his judgment. He dove and hit his head on the rocks in the river and died. He is survived by his parents and younger brother, Trenton.


In this book Alex struggles with whether he should keep his silence or let the truth be known about that day at the river and Thomas' death. Alex feels guilt over Thomas' death because he believes he didn't do everything in his power to save him. But in a way, Alex does break his silence when he writes about that day, and the events after, in the journal his father gave him. Whether that is good enough is up to interpretation. I believe that speaking out is too hard for some people, but if they can find another way---like Alex with his writing---it's just as good as actually saying the words. It's out there in some way, shape or form.


The main element in this story is Alex's guilt. The author [Jenny Hubbard] has Alex express and work through his guilt in writing. Whether it's in his journal or homework assignments---his poetry. She even has his use running on the cross country team as a way to work though it. For a lot of people writing is the best and easiest way for them to express themselves, and I thought that that was the best way the author could have used to show Alex coming to grips with this subject. It's realistic and honest.


The book takes place at Birch School, an all boys' boarding school.

Alex doesn't like the image a boarding school gives those who attend, because people automatically think you're a delinquent and are there because you did something wrong.

There is a sense of brotherhood within the dorms. Since you're with these guys everyday a bond is formed. Though it's not a place that's easily accepting of those who are gay.

For Alex, the river represents death and the loss of innocence. Though he does go back to the river after Thomas' death, it's not easy for him.

And the cross country track is a place where Alex can just let it all go for a while and run. There's also a sense of achievement as Alex's run times continue to improve.

My Final Thoughts:

I was kind of surprised when I began reading that it takes place in the 1980's. Most recent releases I've read have either taken place in the present or the future. I liked how the author used writing as a way for Alex to express himself. Although the poetry was a little difficult for me to understand, but I've never really been good at understanding poetry, so it's not a real negative for the story. All in all, I really liked this book.


Chapter Seven, Page 72

"Writing is about making choices, Miss Dovecott says. One word or phrase or title over another. So many options that they're almost overwhelming. Which is why it is sometimes so easy to grab the cliche, to reach out to what is familiar. But don't. Because metaphor is all about the comparison of two unfamiliar, unlike things."

About this Author:

In the summer of 2009, Jenny spent ten happy days at Vermont College of Fine Arts under the expert tutelage of Kathi Appelt, to whom much is owed. A published poet and playwright, Jenny taught English to high-school and college students for seventeen years before retiring to write full-time. Her first novel for young adults, Paper Covers Rock, will be published by Random House in 2011. (You may visit her at Represented by Jonathan Lyons of Lyons Literary LLC, Jenny is currently working on young-adult novel #2 in Asheville, North Carolina, where she lives with her math-teacher husband. When not at her desk, Jenny enjoys taking walks, going to plays, and working the New York Times crossword puzzle.

Review: Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Title: Texas Gothic
Author: Rosemary Clement-Moore
Genre: Young Adult Supernatural
Elements: Witches, Magic, Psychic Abilites, Ghosts
Publisher: Delacorte Press, Random House Inc.
ISBN-13: 9780385736930
ISBN: 0385736932
Release: July 12, 2011
Rating: 4.5/5

Tagline(s): You can't escape your inner witch...


Amy Goodnight knows that the world isn't as simple as it seems---she grew up surrounded by household spells and benevolent ghosts. But she also understands that "normal" doesn't mix with magic, and she's worked hard to build a wall between the two worlds. Not only to protect her family, but to protect any hope of ever having a normal life.

Ranch-sitting for her aunt in Texas should be exactly that: good old ordinary, uneventful, hard work. Only, Amy and her sister, Phin, aren't alone. There's someone in the house with them---and it's not the living, breathing, amazingly hot cowboy from the ranch next door.

It's a ghost, and it's more powerful than the Goodnights and all their protective spells combined. It wants something from Amy, and none of her carefully built defenses can hold it back.

This is the summer when the wall between Amy's worlds is going to come crashing down.



Amy Goodnight, legal name Amaryllis, refers to herself as the Gatekeeper. She tries to keep the paranormal world her family lives in, and the normal world everyone else lives separate. Although she denies being a witch, since she began house-sitting for her aunt, she's shown an affinity for ghosts. An affinity she wishes very much would go away.

Phin Goodnight, legal name Delphinium, is Amy's older sister. She's a genius when it comes to chemistry and physics, but she can be pretty aloof when it comes to things outside the sciences: such as guys, namely Mark Delgado. Every Goodnight gravitates toward a certain affinity, but Phin's closest fit is Kitchen witchery, although she's really all about the science and gadgets.

Ben McCulloch is the son of the McCulloch Ranch owners. He's Amy's hot cowboy neighbor, and their first meeting isn't exactly smooth. They are constantly bickering every time they see each other, mostly about the Mad Monk of McCulloch Ranch. Ben doesn't believe in the supernatural and wants nothing to do with it. And don't even think about getting his family involved.

Mark Delgado is a member of the dig team excavating the bones found on McCulloch Ranch. He's got a thing for Phin and when things get ghosty, he goes with the flow. He doesn't say whether he actually believes in the supernatural, but when things start going south he decides to stick around and help out.

The Mad Monk of McCulloch Ranch is a legend (or perhaps not) about the ghost of a monk, or possibly a priest-soldier, who smacks people about the head to protect a treasure. This story has been told by word-of-mouth for years, so the details are questionable. Is the Mad Monk Amy's ghostly apparition?


One theme in this book is denial of true self. Amy denies that she's a witch or that she has any supernatural talents. Even though it's evident that she has an affinity of ghosts, otherwise the ghost wouldn't have come to her. Eventually, when she can no longer deny who she really is, she accepts that she's a true Goodnight.

Another theme is denial of the supernatural world. Whether the supernatural is real is up to your individual interpretations. But in the world of the book it's very much a reality. And Ben can't accept that. Even when the evidence of it is freezing him to death. I can't say whether he ever really believes the supernatural is real after the events that transpired, but I do think he's a little more open to it.


A lot of ghost stories are in the genre of mystery and suspense, and this one is no different.

We have a ghost---who is either real or legend---that wants to be found. He wants the truth about himself to be known. But who is he really? Is he really the Mad Monk or was his identity lost to time? And if he's not the violent treasure hoarder, what's his real story? This is the mystery Amy needs to find the answers to. But that's not necessarily going to be easy.

Enter the greedy complication. Someone wants the gold very badly. So badly they'd desecrate human remains in their search. The very remains that could have shown up more clues to the identity of Amy's ghost had the site not been destroyed.

Add Amy's detective work and the greedy gold miner, and you've got some very suspenseful moments. Not to mention dangerous and life-threatening.

All of these elements in the plot---the mystery and suspense; the complication and resolutions (which I will not say a word about because there would definitely be spoilers)---mix very well together. It's a well-balanced plot.


There are three distinct settings in this book: Goodnight Farm, the excavation at the river, and the bat cave.

Goodnight Farm, with it's lavender fields and fresh, green smells, are a place of comfort for Amy and Phin. It's the one place they feel truly safe. Although the tree-climbing goats are a source of irritation for Amy.

When Amy first heard about the excavation she didn't want to go anywhere near it. For Phin it presents an opportunity for her to gain data for her experiments. And for the diggers it's a chance to learn about something that happened so long ago, and the excitement of a new discovery. But for the McCulloch's it's just a nuisance.

The bat cave is a small cave that Amy accidentally fell into thinking it was just a shadowy spot. This cave makes Amy feel scared. She fears that she'll die in a grave of bat poop if help doesn't come to get her out. Her ghost also pays her a visit  here and warns her to be careful. Of what? Well, you'll just have to read the book to find out.

My Final Thoughts:

I really liked the humor and banter between Amy and Ben. I thought that the moments when they were actually couple-like were few and far between, almost like a teaser. But even though the romance element is lacking the rest of the plot more than make up for it.


Chapter Fifteen, Page 175 

"The paranormal touched people's lives, even if they didn't realize it. Sometimes it was good, sometimes it was bad, and mostly the Goodnight's tried to make sure it was good." 

About this Author:

I can't remember a time when I wasn't writing, even when I should have been doing algebra homework. Despite this, I managed to earn a master's degree in communication, and an ecclectic resume, mostly because I couldn't decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was interested in so many different things. The thing I like best about being a writer is that, for the space of a novel, you get to be whatever you want. Astronaut, detective, ballerina...

I went into theatre--it's all storytelling, in its own way--but now I put my drama queen skills to work writing books, which is awesome, because I don't have to stay on a diet, and I get to work in my pajamas and take breaks to play Rock Band. (Sadly, this is the only video game I can play, as most of them make me rather seasick. I suspect this seriously reduces my gamer nerd credibility.)

My interests and obsessions change frequently and without notice, but I pretty consistantly obsess about dogs, horses, sailing (despite the sea sickness thing), history, archeology, Gilbert and Sullivan, BBC America, Star Wars, movies with swords and explosions and Russell Crowe, and of course, books.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Review: Blood of the Wicked by Karina Cooper

Title: Blood of the Wicked
Series: Dark Mission #1
Author: Karina Cooper
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Elements: Witches, Magic
Publisher: Avon Books, Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN-13: 9780062046857
ISBN: 0062046853
Release: June 2011
Rating: 4/5

Tagline(s): Can love exist in a world that is truly hell on earth?


When the world went straight to hell, humanity needed a scapegoat to judge, to blame . . . to burn.

As an independent witch living off the grid, Jessie Leigh has spent her life running, trying to blend in among the faceless drudges in the rebuilt city. She thought she was finally safe, but now she's been found in a New Seattle strip club—by a hard-eyed man on a mission to destroy her kind.

A soldier of the Holy Order, Silas Smith believes in the cause: trawling the fringes of society for the murderous witches who threaten what's left of the world. Forced into a twisting web of half-truths and lies, he has to stay close to the most sensuous and electrifying woman he has ever seen and manipulate her into leading him to the witch he has to kill: her brother. Silas doesn't know that Jessie's his enemy, only that he wants her, needs her, even as he lies to her . . . and must protect her until his final breath.



After her mother's murder, Jessica Leigh spent her life on the run, raising her younger brother, Caleb, hiding and learning how to lie. And she has become very good at it. With the possibility of being caught by the witch hunters, she's become wary and mistrusting of those around her. Though, when she meets Silas, even as she knows nothing will change and it will only end in heartbreak, she begins to trust and care for him.

As a missionary of the Holy Order, Silas Smith believes in the cause and his duty to rid the world of witches. And he has seen some of the most monsterous acts done for their rituals. These acts help fuel his belief and desire to fulfill his duty. When he meets Jessica in his mission to find and kill her brother, Caleb, he doesn't know that she's a witch, as well. But he begins to trust and care for her. And when he finally finds out that she's a witch, too, he needs to decided between his duty to the Holy Order and his love for Jessica.

Caleb Leigh is a soothsayer, someone who sees visions of the future, whereas his sister is a seer of the present. When he sees a vision of Jessica's death, he decides to leave her and tells her not to look for him. He joins a coven hoping to eventually bring it down, but in the process has murdered many to gain the power he needs to do so. These acts bring him to the attention of the missionaries of the Holy Order.


Can love exist in a world that is truly hell on earth?

Blood of the Wicked has the theme of love lasting in a seemingly impossible situation. It's been used in many classic tales , as well as newer stories, so we're quite familiar with it. In Blood of the Wicked, we have the impossible situation of a witch hunter, bound by belief and duty, falling in love with a witch, the sister of the witch he's on a mission to kill, in a world that wants to destroy them both. They both have enemies on both sides closing in on them. What will ultimately decide the outcome is the hunter's choice between his duty and the woman he loves. Will he kill her or save her life?


The world of this book, as well as some of it's inhabitants, is shrouded in mystery. There's about five paragraphs that tell us a little about the world of the story. A number of disasters ravaged the planet, bringing about destruction. Before the quake that devoured Seattle, witches weren't completely accepted, but they didn't have to hide, either. But once the Holy Order took charge to bring the world to order, with the aid of the government and the Mission, the witch hunts began. What caused the destruction? What exactly is the Holy Order? We know that the Mission was once an extremist terrorist group before the quake, but what was their mission and why did they join with the Holy Order?

Even some of the characters have the shadow of mystery over them. One in particular is our main male character, Silas Smith. We learn a little about his past when he tells Jessie about his first mission, and in an off-hand comment that he never knew his mother, but that's about it. What I really want to know is how he injured his knee.

The main plot is told from the alternating perspectives of Jessica Leigh and Silas Smith as they try to locate Caleb Leigh and survive enemy attacks. But there is a small sub-plot narrated from Caleb's point of view. We see his interactions with the Coven of Unbinding, and his own secret strivings for more power. Whether his want for power is really as unselfish as he claims is up to interpretation. Eventually, the main plot and the sub-plot merge toward the end.


There are two main settings in this story. There is New Seattle, which Jessica describes the structure as being built like a "layer cake." And then there's Old Seattle, which is the ruins of Seattle before the quake, a mass tomb for those who never made it out.

The lower levels of New Seattle are where the dregs of society dwell. It's like one big red light district. It's a place where the sun rarely, if ever, shines, and the perfect place to go if you want to hide. The upper levels of New Seattle are where the rich, privileged, and powerful make their home. On the very top of New Seattle is the Glass City. To many, the Glass City would be awe-inspiring, but for those in the lower levels, it's just a reminder of what they don't have. And for witches it represents their death.

Old Seattle is located deep within the trench created when the San Andreas Fault split and swallowed the city. It's a mass tomb for the two million plus who couldn't make it out of the city. It's dangerous and unstable and avoided, unless you have a death wish. But what Jessie finds there makes her feel an indescribable joy. In the forgotten city that should have abandoned all hope, the earth is reclaiming. Moss and roots are overtaking and bringing the city life again.

There is a sub-setting that takes place at Matilda's home. It's a secret sanctuary that only Matilda knows that way to. The only thing we know about the location is that it's in the trench somewhere. The sanctuary is a beautiful place with hot springs and flowers not seen in New Seattle. A truly mysterious and awe-inspiring place that is a true oasis for those Matilda allows entry. There's only one rule in Matilda's home: lies are not tolerated. And you are to never reveal it's existence to anyone.

My Final Thoughts:

I gave this book a 4 out of 5 because I truly loved it. I like stories where love is tested. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. Add to that the supernatural element of witches, the historical element of the witch hunts, and a dash of dystopian rule, and you've got a really entertaining story.


Chapter Eighteen, Page 241

"Nothing in this world is black and white. One is merely the absence of color, which is boring, staid  and without life. It is stagnancy. The other is every color, which is chaotic. Untrustworthy, unpredictable, and unstable. Neither will bear life."

About this Author

Born from the genetic mash-up of lesser royalty, storytellers, wanderers and dreamers, Karina Cooper couldn't help but be a writer. After writing happily ever afters for all of her friends, she eventually grew up (kind of) and fell in love with paranormal romance. Because, really, who doesn't love hot men and a happy ending?

When she isn't writing about murder and mayhem, Karina designs Steampunk and neo-Victorian couture for gentlemen hobbyists and ladies of questionable reputation. She lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with a husband, four cats, one rabbit, the fantasy of a dog and a passel of adopted gamer geeks. She adores hearing from readers, so grab a cup of tea and visit, or follow her on Twitter via @karinacooper