Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ashes by Ilsa J. Blick

Alexandra knew she needed to get away. Aunt Hannah was all she had left, but then came the deadly diagnosis – a tumor in her brain. Alex has been through enough treatments, including the PEBBLES, nano-sized beads implanted in her brain to help kill the tumor. But Alex has decided to make some of her own decisions, which is why she’s in the Waucamaw Mountains, miles away from her old life, no treatments just serenity….

It’s there that she meets Jack, and older man, his dog Mina, and his granddaughter Ellie, who Alex considers a major brat. What can go wrong does, but then something odd happens. Birds begin screaming, deer jump off cliffs, and Alex’s head feels like it’s about to explode….and then it stops. When Alex picks herself up, she see Jack, dead on the ground, and Ellie scared out of her wits.

Alex also notices a change in herself. She experiences things again that she hasn’t been able to since the chemotherapy started, like taste and smell. More than that, she can sense the mood and energy of things through her sense of smell, and something is definitely not right. This is made all the more apparent when she and Ellie come upon a campsite and see two teens in a grisly situation – they aren’t normal, and they’re killing and eating their campmates…

Soon Alex and Ellie meet up with Tom, and their trek through the wilderness goes from bad to worse. The only thing keeping them alive is the survival skills both Alex and Tom learned and Mina, the faithful dog that keeps close to her. Now, Alex must not only keep Ellie safe but figure out just what happened and how far this eerie phenomenon has gone and why people, especially teens, are changing into monsters…

If your teens are gobbling (pun intended) up zombie books, this one will do your collection justice. Ilsa J. Blick not only reinforces her novel with page-turning action, but also creates a world gone horribly wrong through one energy blast that completely destroys all things humans now take for granted, making Alex’s world even more difficult to survive in. The reader will find himself submerged in the details of this new world after “the Zap” as well as in the plot only to find that what one expects to happen, doesn’t always. The ending takes a complete twist and Blick leaves this book begging for the sequel, which I want RIGHT NOW but sigh…this book doesn’t come out until September 2012. Part horror, part dystopia, this one will grab attention from the first page. Recommended
Published by Egmont, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel

Victor Frankenstein wasn’t always a monster creator. At fifteen years old, Victor lives with his family near Geneva in the Frankenstein home. His father, a diplomat, tends business and travels frequently while his mother stays home. Of all of Victor’s siblings though, it’s his twin brother Konrad that Victor is closest to. Another family member, their distant cousin Elizabeth, has also come to live with them and the three make a lively pair.

Although Victor and Konrad are twins, their personalities are vastly different. While Konrad is gentle and slow to anger, Victor is vicarious, always looking for adventure and prone to anger quickly. Elizabeth, with a fiery temper, is not one to back down, but also realizes the importance of kindness.  And as with all twins, there is definitely sibling rivalry. This rivalry becomes apparent when Elizabeth gives more attention to Konrad than Victor.

One boring day, the three and their curiosity lead them to an old cellar door in the castle where they find the Dark Library. In the stacks are books of alchemy and old magic, including the Occulta Philosphia,  and when the boys’ father finds them there, he forbids them to ever come back. But when Konrad falls deathly ill, Victor will stop at nothing to save his brother, including taking this dark book from the Bibliotecka Obscura, to find a solution.

Without the help of the old magic, both Elizabeth and Victor know they’ll lose Konrad. They soon learn about an alchemist, a dangerous castoff, who is willing to help them if they can procure the ingredients for an elixir to help Konrad. But is Polidori, the alchemist, truly trying to help or using them for his own dark gain?

This is an excellent premise to the birth of Victor Frankenstein in the classic tale by Mary Shelley. Part historical fiction, part fantasy, the reader will be drawn into the adventure, and mystery all the having the opportunity to see Victor become the man known in legend and what circumstances brought him to that dark place. Not only does Oppel create an adventure mystery, but he also adds the element of teenage relationships into the mix, giving this book credence for both guys and girls to pick up and read. Oppel leaves the ending open for another dark look into the making of Victor Frankenstein (this is Book One), but for now, this book does an excellent job of that. Recommended. Published by Simon & Schuster, 2011.  Due out 8/11.