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Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare
Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1)

The Eager Readers, January 25, 2011

Dark, Victorian, Shadowhunter-y goodness! Cassandra Clare has a knack for writing delicious, character-driven stories that I can't put down, and Clockwork Angel is no exception! Tessa Gray is an intelligent, book-loving heroine with a coveted (and creepy) supernatural ability. Although she is new to the world of Shadowhunters and Downworlders, she has an observant nature and does not shy away from asking questions, so she manages to learn quite a lot about their world very quickly. Aside from her newly-discovered talent, Tessa is a fairly typical 19th century young woman. She is much more comfortable quoting Dickens than she is wielding a weapon, but she doesn't cower helplessly in the face of danger either. Her courage, compassion, and insatiable curiosity make her a girl to be reckoned with, and I am excited to see how her character will continue to develop over the course of the next two Infernal Devices books.

Then there are the boys... one dark, one light. Will Herondale is often hilarious, frequently rude, and consistently determined to keep his image as tarnished as possible. He seems to suffer from troubling Hyde-like mood swings that repeatedly propel him toward darkly-amused cruelty, and a secret from his mysterious past has given him a harsh, fatalistic attitude. Only Jem, who never questions Will about his past and who tolerates his mercurial temperament with a calm patience, sees Will's well-concealed vulnerability and heart. Jem Carstairs is thoughtful, even-tempered, and soothingly philosophical. But he has a tragic secret of his own, and it is one that some Shadowhunters do not view with compassion or understanding. I've always had a major weakness for broken boys. In this case, one is emotionally broken, one is physically broken, and both are deliciously swoon-worthy. Will and Jem share a brotherly devotion to one another and both find themselves becoming increasingly attached to Tessa. Have I mentioned that I truly cannot wait to read the second Infernal Devices book?!

Need more reasons to pick up this book? How about the spooky gothic atmosphere of the foggy, gaslit streets and the shadowy interior of the fortress-like London Institute? How about the full cast of well-developed secondary characters with distinct voices and all sorts of weaknesses and hidden agendas? Not convinced yet? Did I mention the nightmarishly horrifying steampunk elements and the complex villains?

Still not convinced? Here are a few more (*SLIGHTLY SPOILERY*) reasons you may want to read Clockwork Angel as soon as possible. This book features the eternally-fabulous Magnus Bane at a Victorian party (wearing breeches and an elaborate brocade jacket). And have I mentioned that two of the main characters are avid readers, so there are lots of excellent (and occasionally worrisome) literary references to books like A Tale of Two Cities, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Pride and Prejudice? Perhaps I also failed to mention the sexy Shadowhunter whose wet white shirt clings tantalizingly to the runic tattoos inked across his chest? Or the Shadowhunter whose hair brushes silkily across Tessa's wrist as he leans down to kiss the back of her hand? Surely I mentioned the glove removal that will have your heart racing? ;-) If any of that appeals to you, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of Clockwork Angel immediately.
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Pegasus by Robin Mckinley
Pegasus

The Eager Readers, November 6, 2010

Robin McKinley's Pegasus is beautiful coming-of-age story about a young girl and the pegasus who becomes her dearest friend. In Sylvi's world, it is customary for every member of the royal family to be ceremonially bound to a pegasus of comparable rank upon his or her twelfth birthday. The pegasus generally serves as an ambassador-like companion, and the pair will attend most formal functions together for the rest of their lives as a symbol of the longstanding alliance between their cultures. Each pair is assigned a Speaker, a specially trained magician, who serves as a translator and interpreter. But even with the Speakers' aid, actual communication beyond formal pleasantries and rudimentary smalltalk has long been understood to be impossible between humans and pegasi.

So when Sylvi, the fourth child of the reigning human king, meets her pegasus, they are both shocked to find that they are able to hear one another's thoughts. Sylvi and Ebon's unique ability to communicate helps them form a friendship that could change the way humans and pegasi view one another forever. But will their friendship make the alliance stronger or tear their cultures apart? Pegasus is the type of richly-imagined fantasy novel that you can't help immersing yourself in, and I found myself thinking about it long after turning the final page. The characters are well-developed, the setting is intriguing, and the story is thoroughly engaging. I really enjoyed it and can't wait to read the second book!

What I Liked:
- The world-building. I loved the way the differences between the human and pegasi cultures were revealed and explored. Although the two races have lived side by side for hundreds of years, the seemingly insurmountable communication barrier has kept humans from truly understanding the pegasi. I really liked seeing the details of both cultures revealed through Sylvi and Ebon's increasing understanding of one another.
- There may be magic and flying monsters in this book, but the characters all feel grounded and genuine. At the heart of this story is a sixteen year old caught in a difficult and pivotal place between two worlds. She is shy, self-conscious about her short stature, and frequently seems to find herself making mistakes in front of large crowds. But Sylvi is also compassionate and observant, and she has a strong sense of justice. She is very easy to sympathize with, whether she is nervous about her first big journey away from home or baffled by how much the world can change in a single moment. I am eager to see what the second book has in store for her.
- I loved Ebon and Sylvi's relationship. Their personalities are remarkably suited to one another. Both are curious and observant, and neither is afraid to question ideas their societies have accepted for centuries. The more they learn about one another, the more they begin to examine their own cultural histories. Sylvi is fascinated by the pegasi culture and some aspects of the book almost reminded me of a colonial love story between a European immigrant and a Native American.
- Even the minor characters in this book are memorable, and their relationships are all believably complex. I found myself growing attached to several minor characters, like Hirishy, Ahathin, and Hibeehea, and I hope to see more of each of them in the second book.

What I Wished:
- I wish the final pages of this book were less torturous. This book ends in the midst of a fairly traumatic development and almost feels as though it cuts off mid-chapter. The abrupt and unsatisfying ending is really my only complaint about this book, so I definitely look forward to reading the second half of the story in the sequel (which I believe is set for publication in 2012).

Pegasus is sure to please fans of Robin McKinley's previous novels. This book made me want to re-read a few of my old favorites, like Beauty and Spindle's End. If you enjoy young adult (or middle grade) fantasy novels like Shannon Hale's or Tamora Pierce's books, you will want to pick up Robin McKinley's Pegasus
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Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
Zombies vs. Unicorns

The Eager Readers, October 23, 2010

Zombies vs. Unicorns is a fantastic YA anthology! If you love zombies, unicorns, or any of the authors featured in this anthology, you are going to want to pick up a copy of Zombies vs. Unicorns as soon as possible. With funny introductions from Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier, this diverse collection of zombie and unicorn stories by a wide assortment of talented YA authors is highly entertaining. It has something for everyone - romance, intrigue, sci-fi, fantasy, tragedy, violence, heartbreak, and humor.

- The Highest Justice by Garth Nix
It seems fitting that this book starts with a story that features both a unicorn and a zombie. This is a tale of deception and revenge about an unfaithful king and a dead queen. It has a scheming sorceress, a touch of romance, and a unicorn who helps dispense justice. Hard not to like that.

- Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson
This author was totally new to me before reading the Zombies vs. Unicorns anthology, but I look forward to searching for more of her work because Love Will Tear Us Apart turned out to be my favorite story in the entire book. This darkly funny, romantic, and intense story is about a teenage boy who finds himself hungering for a handsome lacrosse player (in more ways than one). I'm a sucker for stories about broken boys, and this angsty love story features two broken boys who may just be perfect for one another (so long as one of them can control his cannibalistic urges).

- The Purity Test by Naomi Novik
Hilarious! This is probably the funniest story in the anthology. Team Zombie may have my undying allegiance, but between The Purity Test and Princess Prettypants, Team Unicorn definitely deserves the prize for funniest story. This story is set in modern day New York, where a teenage girl who is down on her luck unexpectedly finds herself helping a unicorn on his quest to rescue baby unicorns from a conniving evil wizard. So funny!

- Bougainvillea by Carrie Ryan
I liked this story a lot. I love the way Carrie Ryan's zombie stories feature people pushed past their breaking points. Plus, the idea of zombie pirates is just plain awesome. Bougainvillea is set in a fully-imagined world in which the zombie apocalypse is upon us, and it cleverly brings to mind questions about how much of your humanity you'd be willing to lose in order to stay alive.

- A Thousand Flowers by Margo Lanagan
For me, this was the weakest story in the anthology, and it definitely features the strangest human/unicorn relationship. There are three different narrators, and unfortunately all three narrators are too disposable and too far removed from the emotional heart of the story for my taste. I really wished that at least one part of the story had been narrated from the princesses' POV. Since I didn't particularly care about the princess and thought her connection to the unicorn was very tricky to believe in, this story wasn't particularly compelling.

- Children of the Revolution by Maureen Johnson
Hilarious and disturbing all at once! I thoroughly enjoyed it. This story is about a teenage girl who spends every penny she has flying to England to work on an organic farm with her boyfriend for the summer. Once her slacker boyfriend ditches her, she finds herself miserable, broke, and stuck in dreary rural England. So when an Angelina Jolie-esque celebrity (who lives in a secluded manor nearby) offers her a job working as a nanny, she quickly jumps at the opportunity. But there is definitely something very odd about those children...

- The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn by Diana Peterfreund
Set in Diana Peterfreund's world of killer unicorns, this story is a must-read for fans of Rampant and Ascendant. It offers a view of the unicorns as both predators and an endangered species in need of compassion and protection. This story also features an angsty best-friend romance that will resonate with lots of readers.

- Inoculata by Scott Westerfeld
An excellent dystopian story about a small community of people who have found temporary refuge from the zombie-infested world by barricading themselves inside an old marijuana farm. When one of the teens survives something that would normally have been fatal, it opens up a new world of possibilities. I really liked this unique take on the zombie apocalypse, and I wish it had been longer because I wanted to see what happened next.

- Princess Prettypants by Meg Cabot
First of all, can you even say the name Princess Prettypants without smiling? I don't think that is possible, and I also don't think it is possible to read this story without laughing aloud. This cleverly funny unicorn story is about a modern seventeen year old girl who is understandably shocked and mystified when she receives a unicorn for her (very disappointing) birthday. This story features a boy-next-door romance (love that!), a unicorn who farts rainbows but goes all demon-eyed when facing down sexist jerks (hilarious!), and a Zack Efron birthday cake (even more hilarious!). Major kudos to Meg Cabot for this totally entertaining unicorn story.

- Cold Hands by Cassandra Clare
This is a zombie story that touches on one of my worst childhood fears - being trapped in a coffin. It is also a love story and the tale of a corrupt leader of a village in which the living and the dead spend their days side by side. It feels like a bittersweet fairytale, with zombies. :-)

- The Third Virgin by Kathleen Duey
This was definitely the most haunting and thought-provoking of the unicorn stories for me. I loved it and was impressed by the way it dealt with the concepts of suicide, loneliness, and addiction from the perspective of an immortal unicorn who has the ability to heal people or steal their lives.

- Prom Night by Libba Bray
This haunting story about a town full of teenagers who outlived their parents in the zombie apocalypse is quite sad, but it is also told with a lot of humor and heart. The teens are all survivors who have tried to stay optimistic and to maintain a sense of normalcy as they've dealt with the tragic deaths of their parents and classmates. An excellent conclusion to the book, which will make you want to hug your loved ones while you still can.

Zombies vs. Unicorns is an awesome anthology. If you have any interest in zombies, unicorns, compelling short stories, or any of the fabulous authors featured in this book, I highly recommend you pick up Zombies vs. Unicorns immediately. Some anthologies have one or two gems in a sea of mediocre stories, but this one is full of great stories.
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Paranormalcy (Paranormalcy) by Kiersten White
Paranormalcy (Paranormalcy)

The Eager Readers, September 17, 2010

Kiersten White's Paranormalcy is a fast-paced fantasy with a sweet and charming heroine, an entertaining assortment of paranormal characters, and a suspenseful mystery. Evie's work for the IPCA (International Paranormal Containment Agency) has made her day to day life anything but normal, and she longs for a typical teenage life with all its novelties - like high school lockers and prom. Then one day she meets Lend, a teenage shapeshifter who catches her eye, and some of that normalcy suddenly feels like it might be within her reach. But there is a mysterious threat brewing. Someone is murdering paranormal creatures and if IPCA can't figure out who is behind these crimes, there may not be any paranormals left to police. Evie must figure out who to trust and uncover details from her own past in order to stop the killer before they strike again. I thoroughly enjoyed Paranormalcy and look forward to reading the second book in this trilogy, Supernaturally, next autumn.

What I Liked:
- The humor! Evie is very amusing. She is a fashion savvy girly-girl who loves makeup, shopping, and watching her favorite teen television drama. Of course, she also spends her days taking down vamps, hags, and werewolves with Tasey, her handy rhinestone-encrusted Taser, so she isn't exactly your typical girl next door. Think Legally Blonde meets Men in Black.
- Lend is a likable guy who doesn't have an ounce of 'bad boy' attitude, which is refreshing in a paranormal romance. He has a unique shape-shifting ability that gives him an interesting edge, and I'm really curious to see what the next two books have in store for him.
- The romantic elements in this book are light and flirty rather than dark and angsty or smoldering and racy. Evie and Lend are both outsiders who have grown up surrounded by paranormals and humans but have never fully fit in with either group. They are instantly intrigued by each other, and it is quite sweet that they are able to see and accept each other for who they truly are. Their chemistry is of the blushing and inexperienced variety, so I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to younger YA readers or even MG readers.
- I was drawn in my the mystery in this book right away, and it kept me guessing chapter after chapter. There is still plenty to be explored in the second book, but I was happy to find that Paranormalcy doesn't end with a frustratingly suspenseful cliff-hanger.
- Evie was brought in to work with IPCA at a very young age, so her supervisor Raquel and best friend Lish are the closest things she has to a family, and I liked seeing that aspect of the story explored. Lend also has an unusual family situation, and I loved the way his family was involved in the story. Kind, supportive parents are fairly rare in YA novels, so it is really nice to see a parent like that pop up occasionally.
- The IPCA (International Paranormal Containment Agency) reminded me a little of Men In Black. They are a top secret agency responsible for monitoring and containing paranormal individuals around the world, and they employ several paranormals to help them get that job done. I liked their high tech, sterile command center and Lish's nifty control room, and I especially liked that they weren't necessarily beyond reproach. I enjoy seeing the gray area between the good guys and the bad guys, and this book touched on that concept a little. I hope we will see that gray area explored even more in the second and third books of the trilogy.
- I liked that Reth, who used to be one of Evie's closest companions, provided tension within Evie's relationship with Lend without ever actually seeming like a rival for her affections. There is not a love triangle in this book, but Reth does have something to offer Evie that only he has ever made her feel.
- I loved reading Lish's monotone computer voice aloud because it made her dialogue so charming and funny. I also loved Raquel's expressive sighs and all of their very specific meanings.

What I Wished:
- The one element that wore a bit thin for me was the way Reth repeatedly popped up and disappeared at key moments throughout the story. After a few of those instances, the lack of answers from him and the way the other characters seemed able to put him out of their minds to focus on other mundane things (like homework, prom, and tv shows) started to grate on my nerves and to feel like a slightly-too-convenient plot device to drag out the mystery.
- There were a couple of moments in which Evie seemed to swing from bursting into tears to feeling giddy with happiness a bit too quickly, particularly in the days following one very sad incident. I felt like I was more depressed than Evie regarding that incident, which was a little odd.

If you like humorous YA fantasies like Rachel Hawkins' Hex Hall or sweet, innocent YA romances like Aprilynne Pike's Wings, you will want to pick up Paranormalcy. If you like mysterious urban fantasies with a variety of paranormal creatures and a heroine who has been kept in the dark about her origins like The Mortal Instruments, then you may want to pick up Paranormalcy. This second book in this trilogy, Supernaturally, is set for publication next September, and I will definitely be picking up a copy.
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Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3)

The Eager Readers, August 25, 2010

Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay is the riveting final book of the Hunger Games trilogy. To say that this book is absorbing is a massive understatement. I carried this book around with me all day yesterday and simply could not tear my eyes off the pages. The Hunger Games was intense, Catching Fire was gripping, but Mockingjay felt like being caught in a heartrending emotional firestorm! The characters are brilliantly drawn, the scope of the action is broader, and the horrors of war take center stage in a remarkably vivid way. If you enjoyed the first two books in this series or if you have any interest in dystopian fiction, novels about war, or stories with courageous heroines, Mockingjay should definitely be on your must-read list!

What I Liked:
- Katniss is still reluctant to see her public image used to promote other people's agendas, but even as she is being manipulated and used, she manages to blaze her own path and make her own decisions. She is still a practical survivor at her core, but she is also a young girl who is tormented by nightmares, wracked by guilt, and plagued by grief. Her insecurities, fears, and sense of guilt are more apparent than ever, but I love that she consistently leads her life with an impressive amount of compassion and courage, even when bombarded by one harrowing challenge after another.
- I expected Mockingjay to have a lot to say about freedom, justice, and personal and political responsibility, but I was surprised and emotionally captivated by this book's incisive portrayal of the horrors of war. Absolutely haunting! Suzanne Collins does not glorify or sugarcoat the bloody atrocities of war.
- The potent effect of media on society and the idea that the people who control the media, control the populace are used more effectively than ever in Mockingjay. In the previous two books, we saw the Capitol controlling every broadcast across all of Panem. This time we get to see two opposing sides airing their own propaganda messages, and the effect is powerful.
- Seeing compassion highlighted as one of Katniss' greatest strengths is one of my favorite themes within this series. In Mockingjay, Katniss gains a much broader view of the whole of Panem, so we get to see her compassionate impulses put into action across a war-torn country.
- The characters in this series learn, adapt, struggle, and sometimes crack under the stress and trauma of their situations. A few of the experiences they encounter do irreparable damage, and every bit of that is achingly painful to endure (as it should be). This series has never shied away from showing characters pushed to their limits (and beyond), and Mockingjay takes that to a whole new level.
- Not only does Katniss learn more about the world in this book, but her understanding of herself and of her own power also grow by leaps and bounds.
- There are so many poignant moments in this book, moments of heartbreak, despair, fury, and tenderness. Mockingjay brought me to tears more than once, but alongside the pain and grief that several of the characters in this book must endure, there is an underlying thread of hope and perseverance, and I loved that.

What I Wished:
- I wanted Peeta to have more time on the page. I know this is a fairly selfish desire brought on by the fact that I love his character and can never really get enough of him. There were certainly valid reasons for his lack of page-time, but that didn't stop me from wishing we got to see more of him in this final book.
- Since this series follows Katniss in first-person present-tense, when her perspective narrows or is overwhelmed by her own situation, our view of her world also shrinks dramatically. I'm finding it difficult to phrase this clearly without revealing spoilers, but basically I occasionally wanted to see more of what was happening all over Panem and not just focus on Katniss' corner of the world.

Mockingjay provides a powerfully emotional conclusion to one of the best YA series I've ever read. It reveals a wider view of Panem than the first two books, since Katniss' knowledge of (and effect on) life in all thirteen districts has grown considerably over the course of the series. The war-time action is brutal and intense, so don't expect a light and fluffy read out of this book, but DO expect to be absolutely riveted to the pages!
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