five windows


Mary’s entire world is a tiny village surrounded by tall fences. Outside the fences is the Forest of Hands and Teeth, filled with the Unconsecrated. Zombies. Anyone they bite becomes one of them, and fear of the Unconsecrated has ruled the world since the Return. As far as the villagers know, they are the last living people in the world. The rules of their tiny society are strict, and above all, they are ruled by the Sisters, a religious order that controls every aspect of life, and hides what could be vital knowledge from the people. Their society is about order and commitment and rules, but Mary dreams of more. She dreams of the wider world, and of love, which comes second to duty and commitment in the village (if it is to be considered at all). She dreams of seeing the ocean, just like the picture her mother used to show her, a place without the Unconsecrated that reaches as far as the eye can see. 

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a beautifully written book. From page one, I was simultaneously marveling at the gorgeous, eloquent words, wanting to slow down and savor them, and holding my breath, racing to find out what would happen, in the end, to Mary, the strong, determined heroine. My one complaint with this book is that Mary is so real, so believably conflicted and wonderful, that the other characters were eclipsed and felt largely like paper dolls characterized only by their interactions with Mary; however, this is an acceptable consequence of the consuming first-person narration. 

It is dark and captivating and ultimately hopeful (and devastating). It’s about a lot more than zombies; to me, this felt first and foremost like a survival story, but it wasn’t just about the actual survival of the characters, but also the survival of Mary’s soul. The events that set off the story have Mary deeply questioning her faith and her world and her dreams, and the struggle to hold on to her dreams is as evident and important as the struggle not to be lost to the Unconsecrated. This is very much a complex, multilayered story, and honestly, I think I’d need to read it at least once more (slowly) in order to fully soak it all in. 

There is a romance here, too, but as two corners of this love triangle are secondary characters, they are not entirely real, and while Mary’s perspective on the romance was interesting, I didn’t feel like this book really was much of a romance. The cover blurbs that say it is are a bit misleading.

The ending was open, and I hope there’s more to come. Whatever Carrie Ryan next writes will be wonderful, as the lyrical writing style that makes her debut shine would make even the most trite story into lovely reading. I still need to reread this book at some point in the future to take it all in, but I’ll say right now that it’s amazing. Also, I am going to have nightmares about the Unconsecrated. 

Five out of six windows:

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Astrid has always thought her mother was crazy. Lillith believes in unicorns (though she says they’ve been extinct for over a century), and she believes that an ancestress of theirs killed the last one, because Lillith’s unicorns aren’t tame, fluffly creatures from storybooks, but rather, bloodthirsty, man-eating beasts.. She thinks that they come from a family of unicorn hunters–can you see why most people think she’s crazy? 

When Astrid’s boyfriend is attacked by a unicorn, however, she’s forced to admit that perhaps ber mother isn’t as crazy as everyone else thinks. And apparently, despite her desire to just be a normal sixteen-year-old girl and not kill things, it’s Astrid’s destiny, as a virgin descendent of Alexander the Great, to hunt them down. 

To fulfull this destiny, at her mother’s command, she joins the other unicorn hunters in Rome, at the falling-apart cloisters that were the training grounds for hunters hundreds of years ago. In Rome, she encounters a number of unforeseeable mysteries and problems, as if she doesn’t already have enough to deal with, being a reluctant unicorn hunter and all. 

Rampant is quite a departure from Diana Peterfreund‘s other books, and I love it. She’s a great writer, and, just as with her other books, I had a difficult time putting this one down! Astrid is a seriously awesome heroine, and the other characters are well-drawn and complex as well. Even though the book was obviously focused on Astrid, I think that we got a nice feel for the personalities of the other characters, too, which is great; I hate flat background characters.

The setting had enough of a presence to where it felt like they were in Rome rather than suburban Connecticut or something, which is definitely something I look for, loving settings as I do (would have enjoyed more of it, but this is not a travel book on Rome). I liked how the history of the city was woven into it as well.

This book also addressed what I was worried about: I am a huge animal lover, and even if they’re killing people, I have difficulty with the idea that we should wipe out a whole species. Luckily, some of the characters felt the same way, and it was discussed (though not resolved). There was also the moral conflict of killing the unicorns when a unicorn of a tamer breed was living at the cloisters, and was in fact quite cuddly; it was difficult to think about killing them all when the unicorn we saw all the time was like a puppy (around the hunters, not other humans), and I’m glad that this wasn’t taken too lightly in the novel.

The story itself has a fantastically unique premise (I challenge you to point me to another book about a girl who hunts killer unicorns, seriously), combined with engaging writing and wonderful characters, which all adds up to a book that you really should not miss. Even better? There are some unresolved threads to the story, enough to hint at a sequel (but not enough to make me angry and say this isn’t a complete story on its own), which I can’t wait for (even though this book isn’t out for several months!). 

Five out of six windows:

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Also read my reviews of Diana’s other books: Secret Society Girl, Under the Rose, and Rites of Spring (Break).

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Parker Fadley used to be perfect. Perfect looks, perfect boyfriend, perfect grades, perfect life. She was head cheerleader, she was popular, and she had it all. And then, something changed. Parker showed up to school drunk, failed her classes, broke up with her boyfriend, quit the cheerleading squad, neglected her appearance, alienated her friends–anything she could do to ruin her life, she did. She became self-destructive and hated and is now in danger of not graduating. 

People think it’s a plea for attention, but all Parker wants is to be left alone. With the way she’s acting, though, that’s impossible. People are demanding the truth, but Parker will never give it to them. Chris, her ex-boyfriend, won’t leave her alone, and neither will the new kid, Jake. She has weekly meetings with the guidance counselor. Her parents are afraid she’ll hurt herself irreversibly. She’s not the Parker anyone knew a year ago, and her deepest secret, the one everyone’s trying to pry out of her, is the why. But she can never, ever tell the truth about what happened. 

Cracked Up To Be is an excellent and intense debut novel. Courtney Summers mixes the present with mysterious flashbacks to the past, to the events leading up to Parker’s transformation, in order to keep the suspense, and it’s intriguing, but I wasn’t reading to find out what happened as much as I was reading for Parker. The author’s characterization of Parker is spot-on; her actions don’t always make sense, but that’s why she does make sense. It’s part of what makes her real. Real people don’t act like characters whose places in a story are neat and follow a consistent chain of events that makes logical sense. And characters who don’t make logical sense seem unrealistic. But in this novel, Courtney Summers is able to balance that perfectly with Parker, who makes sense even when she doesn’t. Parker’s voice, too, is fantastically well-done. It’s distinct and fits her personality well. You can see Parker’s downward spiral, her uncaring attitude and the way she lies to herself, and even as so many awful things happen, you’ll laugh at Parker’s wry, witty observations. You’ll laugh, and then you’ll want to cry, because this book is heartbreaking.  

Courtney Summers’ sharp, engaging prose combined with a dark, haunting story and excellent characterization makes this book one that you really shouldn’t miss. To me, it was character-driven but with a plot I couldn’t tear myself away from, too–the best kind of book. This is a captivating and powerful novel that is difficult to put down. 

Five out of six windows:

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Anke is like furniture at home. She’s always there, but almost always ignored. Her father abuses her older siblings, but he doesn’t even notice Anke. She’s invisible, and her mother and brother and sister just stand by and let the violence and other kinds of abuse take over their lives. Anke knows she doesn’t want to be abused, but she also doesn’t want to be invisible, and in a twisted way, she feels like her father doesn’t love her as much as her brother and sister. It wasn’t always like this; Anke has happy memories of her family, too, from long ago. 

When Anke starts high school, she also joins the volleyball team and learns to come out of her shell. She learns to talk to people , to shout, and to take control of her life on and off the court. Finally, she doesn’t know if she can maintain her silence anymore–but she’s afraid. Confronting the situation in any way could tear her family apart, but what can she do? 

Because I Am Furniture is a gritty, lyrical, and thought-provoking verse novel about one girl’s struggle with abuse–or, rather, with not being abused. This is a quiet but intense book on a difficult subject, and though the issue is the focus of this book, it felt real enough not to be a complete issue book. It felt like a story about Anke as much as a story about her abusive father, and it wasn’t the in-your-face issue book I was afraid of. 

Anke is a realistic, sympathetic heroine who feels invisible, feels like it should be a blessing, but also feels unwanted; it’s complicated and sounds a little crazy, but Thalia Chaltas makes Anya’s feelings and her silence make sense. The author does very well at conveying a real feel for the personalities of all the characters, and the intense emotion of this heartbreaking (but ultimately hopeful) story, in a few well-chosen words. 

This is a powerful, observant, and harshly honest debut. It’s shocking in some ways, but it doesn’t feel like it was written at all for its shock value; it’s about truth and honesty (and I get the feeling it might have been based on the author’s own experience–the dedication is to her mother, sister, and brother, and says “I write/now/what I could not do/then.” But I could be wrong about this) and figuring out what to do in a very difficult situation. 

After such a dark and painfully real book, the ending was a little too neat and happy for my taste. Although something too far on the other end of the spectrum would have been unnecessarily depressing and melodramatic; I would have preferred something that was more of a balance between a happy-ever-after and an ending in which everyone dies (I hate those). 

Overall, my issues with this book were minor, and it was an intense and compelling read. Thalia Chaltas’s excellent use of verse and characterization were impressive, and I look forward to her next novel.

(I would also like to note that I am blaming Thalia Chaltas for my Statistics grade; I spent the entire class period this morning reading her book from cover to cover.)

Five out of six windows:

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In this tenth and final installment in the Princess Diaries series, it’s been awhile since we last heard from Mia, and her life is drastically different from what it was in most of the series. Why has it been awhile? Mia’s been too busy to write in her journal because she’s written a historical romance novel! She’s now trying to get it published under a pen name. She hasn’t told anyone about it; they think she’s been writing a senior project on Genovian olive growing. A four hundred page project on Genovian olive growing. Anyway, she’s collecting quite a stack of rejections as Daphne Delacroix when Michael asks to read the project (still thinking it’s about Genovian olive growing), and Mia is less than thrilled with the idea of her ex-boyfriend reading her romance novel. With sex scenes.

Michael has been in Japan for two years. He and Mia tried to stay friends, but it’s really just been infrequent emails, and they’re far from close. In fact, he doesn’t even tell her when he comes back to Manhattan, but of course it’s all over the news, because the project he went to Japan to pursue is a major success. Awkward situations ensue. 

It’s even more complicated because, even though she’s been going out with JP for two years, Michael’s return makes her rethink their relationship and JP, and see everything in a new light. On top of all of that, Mia’s also about to turn eighteen, and Grandmere is planning her party–never a good idea. She’s also going to graduate high school, and she still has to figure out where she’s going to college next year. Oh, and if that’s not enough for Mia to deal with at once, her father’s run for Genovia’s first Prime Minister isn’t going as well as she had hoped. And she’s only got about three weeks to sort out all of this!

In Forever Princess, Mia’s life is as crazy and confused as ever. Mia is herself, but I love how she’s grown as the series has progressed, too. She’s definitely a different girl than she was in book one, or even book nine, and it’s wonderfully realistic. As always, I loved every minute spent in Mia’s head. There are books I’m reluctant to put down, and then there are books that I literally cannot put down and must read during dinner–this one was definitely the latter type! I laughed loudly, I cringed in embarassment, I wanted to beat some sense into Mia for being so stupid sometimes (but still completely understood why she thought and acted as she did). That’s one of the many things I love about Meg Cabot–her characters always make sense. They’re always just like real people. Even more so in Mia’s case, perhaps, because Mia’s voice is so much like the author’s natural one (read Meg’s blog and you’ll see what I mean–it’s no surprise that the inspiration for these stories came from her own journals!). These are people, though, not just characters, and I’ve loved getting to know them over the past ten books (plus the short side stories). I’m sad to see them go. I wish that this book was not the last in the Princess Diaries series, but at least I have Ransom My Heart, Mia’s romance novel, sitting next to me, too! 

Meg Cabot is at her best here; this book is funny and well-written and still manages to feel fresh and new despite its predictability. I seem to remember Meg saying once on her blog that she still thought she wrote romance novels (correct me if I’m wrong), and it’s true; I love the romances in her stories. However, there’s a lot more to these books than romance (not to sell romance novels short or anything, as most of them are more than the romance, too)–these are books about life. And, sure, Mia’s the princess of a small European country, but she’s also very much someone you could imagine meeting at school or in the library or at a protest march. She’s someone you could imagine hanging out with and talking to. She’s trying to figure out herself and her future, just like most high school seniors. She’s a very relatable and still very interesting character. I’m sorry to see her go, because even though there’s a nice ending to this story, Mia’s so real that it feels like her story is far from over. I feel like she and the rest of the people in her life are out there somewhere in the world, and it’s a rare author who can make their characters feel that real. 

Five out of six windows and a heart:

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When Laurel, who has never been quite a typical teenage girl, moves to a new town and starts public school (she’d previously been homeschooled by her hippie parents), one would think that meant her life was becoming pretty ordinary. While she misses being outdoors all the time, she’s getting along pretty well at her new school, and she’s made a couple of friends. All seems to be going okay, but that’s not exactly the truth; when Laurel’s family moved, her life was unknowingly taking a turn for the not-so-normal.

This becomes apparent when Laurel sprouts a giant wing-like flower on her back. When Laurel was three, she was left on her parents’ doorstep in a basket, with no knowledge of where she came from–but no one could have predicted this. It turns out she’s not even human; she’s a faerie. 

She was sent to her parents to guard the land that they lived on, land that holds something very important to the faeries, but when they got an offer to buy the land and her family moved to a new town, things suddenly became dangerous for the faeries. The gate to Avalon that they have protected for ages is now threatened, and Laurel must help save the faeries’ secret, protect her family, sort out her confused feelings for a classmate, David, and a faerie, Tamani, and figure out her own identity and place in both worlds. 

Wings is a lovely debut novel. Aprilynne Pike is a wonderful writer, world builder, and storyteller; it grabbed me immediately, and I was completely absorbed in this story and unable to do much of anything else until I finished it. 

The characters seemed so real, particularly Laurel’s friend Chelsea; I probably would have been quite annoyed with her if I’d had to hang out with her in real life (though I suspect I’m similarly tactless sometimes; it’s something I’m working on), I loved Aprilynne Pike’s ability to write a character who was so believable. David, however, was a little inconsistent sometimes, and while I liked him, he was sometimes elusive; I still don’t feel like I got a real feel for who he was. I can use some adjectives that describe him, but I still don’t have a full grasp of his personality. That’s the best way I can put it. As for Laurel, I liked her, too, but I also felt like she made some weird decisions and missed the obvious sometimes! For example, SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER STOP READING SPOILER AVERT EYES when her father was sick, and she had found out that her faerie power was making potions, it never ocurred to her to try to make a potion to cure him. Even if it probably wouldn’t have worked, I can’t believe she never thought of it. END SPOILER END SPOILER END SPOILER. I also thought it was a little surprising that, despite her close relationship with her parents, she didn’t tell them about the growth on her back, especially when it was just a big lump and she thought it might be cancer or something. However, regardless of how I felt about Laurel’s stupidity sometimes, it did not significantly detract from the excellency of the novel. 

I really enjoyed this book. I loved the characters and the story and the writing (and the cover!), and I was thrilled to read on Aprilynne Pike’s website that this is one of four books about Laurel, because even though this story felt complete on its own, I still didn’t feel like Laurel’s story was over. 

Five out of six windows:

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In this promising debut novel, Deirdre is a gifted musician who throws up before every performance. When Luke Dillon steps out of her dreams and into a girls’ bathroom to hold back her hair, she has no way of knowing the danger she’s in, or the tangled, mysterious faerie world that she’s now a part of, willing or not. 

Deirdre is gifted at more than music, though. For one thing, she’s a cloverhand, someone who can see faeries (though that is not a gift anyone would want to have if they knew what it meant). That has brought Luke into her life, though, and she’s falling for him–and then she finds out that he’s the cruel faerie Queen’s captive assasain, bound to her for the past thousand years by his soul that she keeps in a cage. 

This revelation comes with many others as she tries to discover the truth about herself, and save the people that she cares about–not just Luke, because she has a human life, too; she cares about her family and her best friend, James, and the faeries’ interest in her puts them in danger. Deirdre is racing to save herself and the people she loves, and, in a race against homicidal maniac evil faeries, the odds don’t seem to be stacked in her favor. 

Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception is a book that, once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. It fueled my bad habit of reading during class. I loved it. It was lovely and complex and complete, and you know I’m a sucker for a story with a sequel that doesn’t feel like it needs to be a story with a sequel. Sequel-feeling-sequels are my pet peeve, and I was glad to see that Maggie Stiefvater didn’t fall into that trap. I’m thrilled that there’s going to be a sequel, too; it’ll be called Ballad, and while the story felt complete, there were also things that I would have liked to see explored more thoroughly–I’m hoping these things (it would be a  little spoilery to go into detail) will be addressed. 

I loved the characters here; Deirdre was a sympathetic and realistic heroine. She also grew as a person, becoming a little more aware of other people and the rest of the world, which was good. I loved her best friend, James, and her Granna, in particular; they were awesome. I was also highly entertained by Sara, Deirdre’s coworker at Dave’s Ice. The characterization was wonderful for the most part, though Deirdre’s other family members (parents and aunt) could have been better developed. 

Just as in real life, faeries were not the only issue in Deirdre’s life. She also dealt with her relationships with her mother and best friend, and her struggles as a performer.  On the faerie side of her life, she also handled her confusion about her budding romance with Luke. It added a nice touch of realism to the story, because in real life people’s entire lives are not generally consumed by one thing the way they sometimes are in fiction, but I would also have liked to see a little more depth to some of the other storylines (besides the faeries and the romance). I actually think this book could have used 50-100 more pages to tell this story, but it was fine as is, too. 

I also wanted to mention the illustrations and quotes that began the different sections of the novel. They were lovely, and fit well into the book. I enjoyed them; the artist did a wonderful job. 

Maggie Stiefvater told a gorgeous, multilayered story in her first novel. About fifty pages from the end, I realized that I really didn’t know what was going to happen, or how the story was going to sort itself out, and that was awesome; unpredictable seems so rare sometimes! This is a wonderfully told story, and I love the way the words flow (lyrical might also be an appropriate adjective). The incorporation of music into this story is a nice touch; it helps to add an extra dimension to this faerie story, which is always nice as faerie stories become increasingly common in YA literature. I thoroughly enjoyed and definitely recommend this well-written, compulsively readable story. And I can’t wait for the sequel! 

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