Raider's Ransom Book Review

Raider's Ransom by Emily Diamand

It is the 23rd century and much of England is underwater, split apart by political absence, feuding raiders, and water. Lilly wants nothing more than to be left alone with her gray seacat, free to fish. However, when Lilly's village is attacked and the Prime Minister's daughter kidnapped, Lilly goes off to rescue them since the Prime Minister firmly believes the villagers are responsible and wants them to be put to death. On her journey, Lilly runs into Zeph, the conflicted son of the raider chieftain who has the kidnapped little girl. Perhaps the worst part is that the "jewel" Lilly stole for the child's ransom turns out to be a gaming computer from a time when computers were not considered evil.

Raider's Ransom is a fascinating postapocalyptic book with a smart and daring heroin. Diamand builds a world that is both believable, primitive, and fun to imagine. The characters are realistic There are Viking-like raiders with their warring houses. Scotland with their technology that they are not sharing. A maddening bad guy in the form of the Prime Minister who believes everyone but the rich are conniving, dirty scoundrels.

Be warned, despite being an intermediate read, there are definitely some very intense scene, one involving Lilly rotating on a wheel while having knives thrown at her. The logic says if she isn't hit by the knives then she isn't guilty. Lilly does not take this very well. There are moments that are so suspenseful that I found myself wanting to rush ahead simply because I couldn't take it. However, I was a good reader and did not. There are many unanswered questions that point to the sequel which releases in April.

Raider's Ransom is a full force action filled beginning with memorable characters, an unforgettable setting, and a plot that will leave you gasping for more.

Blessed Book Review

Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith

In this third installment of Smith's vampire series, we are reintroduced to Quincie, restaurant owner, self sufficient, and newly made vampire. With her boyfriend, werewolf Kieran, off to wolfpack camp, Quincie is left to deal with the ramifications of a mass vampire infection on unsuspecting humans. She has only a few weeks to hunt down Bradley (the one responsible for the infection) and figure out how to save the souls of all those unsuspecting soon-to-be-vampires. She is soon joined by Zachary, a fallen guardian angel, a werepossum, a former vampire servant and a current one, along with the new staff of Sanguinis, Austin, TX premier vampire themed restaurant.

The premise of this story may sound ridiculous here, but it is truly one vampire packed story that you can sink your teeth into to. No, all jokes aside, the story is a nice addition to Smith's vampire series, paying beautiful homage to Bram Stoker's Dracula, the plot following THE original vampire story with just enough plot twists to surprise even the most loyal Stoker fa. Smith makes the story her own, crafting the mythology of vampires into something that is both compelling and real. Quincie is a strong character to come back to and I was glad to be in her head once again. I must admit that although I love Zachary, angel extrordinaire, I do miss Miranda.

This is a great story for all those who love vampire books, but cringe at the word Twilight. Although if you're a fan of those books, then I imagine these will thrill to the core. Did I mention I do not love the Twilight series? At all. But clearly by the cover, Candlewick is trying to draw in the Twilight crowd. Rest assured this is a well-written vampire series with twists and turns that will leave the reader begging for more. Good thing there are three of them.

Trapped Book Review

Trapped by Michael Northrup

When Scotty Weems agrees to stay at school during a snowstorm with his friends, he has no idea what a huge mistake he has made. At first he and the other six students are hopeful, sure that their parents are on the way and soon they will all be home, warm in their beds. But the snow doesn't stop and no one is coming. Worse yet, they are all certain no one knows they are at the school. As the snow continues to grow, becoming the largest snowstorm on record, Scotty comes face to face with his own mortality and wonders if he has what it takes to be a survivor.

When I was a kid, there was a game I used to play whenever it snowed, and that was that the snow wouldn't stop and if we had to find ways of surviving. I would play this game for hours on end in the snow, digging tunnels and imaging the looting that would happen by me as I searched for warm clothes. Or how would I stay warm if the electricity shut off. We had a fireplace, so I was fairly confident that we would not freeze to death although we may have to burn the encyclopedias in the living room.

As such, I thought this story was well imagined. Seven kids stuck in a school together? Where do you get blankets, food, water? While things are less dire, the social clicks, whispering girls, and posturing are ever present, but when it becomes about survival those things are forgotten. Almost. Here's a question...if you could eat anything in the school cafeteria, would you still not eat the mystery meat?

There was the right amount of suspense and drama, teen angst and friendship to really give this story a heartbeat. As the snow keeps falling, filling the windows and entombing its inhabitants, the reader feels the same dark oppression and you find yourself turning the page just a little faster. In the end Scotty made me wonder, what would I have done if I had been in a similar situation?

Girl Parts Book Review

Girl Parts by John Cusick

In the middle of the night, 750 teens sign-on to their computers to watch a girl commit suicide. David is one and despite the horrific act, he is completely unfazed. The adults in his life are shocked by his apathy and using new technology they decide to treat his disassociative disorder through the use of Rose, an attractive girl robot designed to reconnect David with the world through a rewards and punishment system. With her help, they all hope David will learn to love and feel. Charlie lives across the lake from David and although he cares, he has no idea how to show it and lives the life of a loner, hoping somehow to connect with the world. David however sees Rose as nothing more than a sex doll, a fact that presents a problem for Rose was created with no "girl parts", and the minute he becomes aware of this flaw he tosses her away. Together Rose and Charlie stumble into the world and discover what it means to be connected and how a girl can be more than the sum of her parts.

There are a lot of different layers to this book. The obvious one being that technology is detaching our young people from the world, that things like on-line suicides are so blase that not a single person reported it. Worse yet, although some other kids may have been bothered by it, David doesn't care. Rose, is nothing more than another computer and all he cares about it winning the game, whatever the game is. The minute it is clear that he can't win with his usual tactics, he gives up.

But there is more to it than that. There is the fact that Charlie is the antithesis of David for he is disconnected from the world completely and desperately wants to connect. He needs someone like Rose to show him how human a girl can be.

Or that David never really changes. He never gets it. He sees girls as nothing more than sex toys and Rose is no different. How terrible for the girl, but in the end you feel really bad for him. Even after sex, there is no happiness, only emptiness. He will forever be lonely and sad, searching for that human connection that he will never find because he doesn't know how to connect to other human beings.

There were a few moments where I got lost on who was telling the story as it sometimes happened mid chapter, but the characters were different enough that I was able to make the switch rather quickly.

Girl Parts is a clean, crisp, story full of truth and honesty in a way that guys can really connect with. Cusick grasps the complexities of his characters, human and non, and brings humor to serious subjects like depression and sex. Although the ending was kind of open, I understood it for in the end we need to see how Rose changed Charlie and David as much as they helped change her. Sometimes we don't realize the change that has happened until the person who initiated the change has gone.