Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe

Take one Meg Cabot Novel. Add mystery. Set in Las Vegas. Sprinkle with glitter. Voila! Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe.
Jasmine is a girl with a talent for sleuthing. When she is dragged to Las Vegas for a family vacation, what can she do but encounter a mystery and try to solve it?
Usually when I read mystery novels I know exactly who did it and how chapters before the main character, and I just end up throwing the book across the room in frustration at the protagonist's stupidity. In Bad Kitty, I really didn't know the answer-- but I thought the protagonist was acting stupid anyway. Is it too much to ask for a main female character to be an intelligent person who doesn't jump to random, preposterous conclusions at the drop of a hat? The only time I've seen this done right was in Veronica Mars, where even if she was wrong, she was logical about it.
Aside from this, though, Bad Kitty is an entertaining, if not particularly deep, book. The main character is almost someone I might like, and the mystery is engaging and fun.
Bad Kitty is a good book to read if you want something light that doesn't require a huge amount of thought. The best thing about it is that, though it's a girly book (see sparkles on cover for proof), the characters aren't self-absorbed privileged, er, witches a la Gossip Girl. If you're a fan of Meg Cabot, you'll like this book. If you're not, you won't.

I give it 3 daggers.

Slightly angry, wishing that Veronica Mars hadn't been cancelled, and yours,


Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey by Margaret Peterson Haddix

I had already read and liked "Running Out of Time" by Margaret Peterson Haddix, but "Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey" has made her one of my very favourite authors. In Mrs. Dunphrey's class, students are writing in a journal for a school assignment. Mrs. Dunphrey promises she won't read any entries marked "Don't Read." For Tish Bonner that is not enough. Tish's life is falling apart in every way possible, the bills can't be paid and her mother is useless. Tish tests Mrs. Dunphrey by writing rude comments about her and other teachers. When Mrs. Dunphrey passes, only then does Tish start trusting in her journal and her difficult life starts to unfold entry by entry.

Tish's mother acts more like a child than an adult. All she does is sit and cry all day over her abusive husband not being home. In order to keep herself and her eight year old brother, Matt, fed and clothed, Tish Bonner has to work part-time at a restaurant, Burger Boy, with a lecherous boss. She also has to juggle school and her own typical teen problems such as boys and friends. Tish is very skeptical of the teachers and councilors at her school. She doesn't trust them with knowing the truth of how precarious her life is. Her brother Matt is all she has and she can't bear the thought of being separated from him.

One day when Tish returns from work, she finds her mother has left them to go to California to find their father. Now, Tish and Matt are in danger of losing their utilities, house, and even each other.

Throughout this book I kept feeling like I couldn't read fast enough. I was so worried about what would happen to Tish and her brother. Though this book is only 125 pages long, it has definitely made it to my list of books "you must read before you die." It has made my outlook on my life a little less gloomy. I grant it the full five daggers. If I had more, I would gladly give them up.
--Twyla Lee


The Decoding of Lana Morris by Laura and Tom McNeal

Lana Morris does not belong here. Something about living with an evil foster mother and a bunch of Special Needs Kids (Snicks, for short) just isn't her cup of tea. Called "Foster" by K.C., Trina, and Spink--three of the four other teenagers in the area-- she is without friends. And, to top it all off, she's been having some rather forbidden feelings for her foster father--ones that he encourages.

One day, sick of minding the Snicks and fed up with her foster mother's constant harassment, Lana takes a ride in the trunk of K.C.'s green LeSabre, too desperate to get out of the house to care that she'l be hot, uncomfortable, and ignored. They take a bumpy ride out in the middle of nowhere, ending up in the town of Hereford. While K.C. and company get lunch, Lana wanders into a strange little antique shop. She is fascinated by a drawing kit, for which she ends up trading the thing she holds most dear. Soon, Lana discovers that the drawing kit is far from ordinary. Whatever she draws on the paper comes to be. When she erases, it is undone. This, of course, has some unexpected consequences.

The Decoding of Lana Morris was a quick and not very memorable read. It was written in the third person present, which I found rather awkward. The story itself was at times beautiful and tender, but the magical element of the drawing kit (which, I'll admit, drew me to the book in the first place) bothered me. There was no rhyme or reason to it, really. What Lana drew always manifested itself differently, and a bit inaccurately.

To be completely honest, I just wasn't engaged by the story. It had potential...but did nothing to draw me in.

Three out of five daggers.

Suffering from mild book apathy...


Cassandra Clare, Author Extrordanaire, Answers Our 13 Evil Questions

We are happy to present to you an interview with Cassandra Clare, author of City of Bones and the upcoming City of Ashes (you can read our review here) Enjoy! (That was obnoxious, wasn't it? Enjoy? Since when do any of us say things like enjoy?)

Interviewingly yours,

PS City of Ashes comes out on March 25! Read it, it's good! Also, Cassandra Clare is going on tour soon-- look here for dates. And now, for our feature presentation...

1. What made you want to write urban fantasy/YA?

It is quite simply the best genre there is. Okay, maybe that's entirely subjective, but urban fantasy is my favorite genre. I like the incursion of magic and the supernatural into the world we know. Urban fantasy incorporates a lot of my favorite fictional tropes: the Secret World, the Secret Society, the Alternate History, even the Creepy Town or Creepy Neighborhood.

2. Zombies or unicorns?

Team Zombie.

3. You were a popular fan fiction author before you became a popular non-fan-fiction author. What's the biggest difference, for you, between writing fan fiction and writing original fiction?

Well, fanfiction is in large part a community experience — it's an act of fanship, of appreciation for a particular canon or media property. It's a dialogue, in a way, and the readers and writers of it are by and large the same people (I'm generalizing here.) Writing original fiction is not a community experience, not in the same way. It's not about sharing a world, but creating your own world. It requires you to exercise a different writing skillset than fanfiction does — worldbuilding, character creation, etc.

4. Who would win in a fight: Optimus Prime, or Sailor Moon?

Optimus Prime would crush Sailor Moon like a bug. Also I used to have a roommate who was in love with Optimus Prime. She used to claim that he was so good-looking. I was really disappointed when I found out he looked like a truck. I mean, EXACTLY like a truck.

5. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

A lot of people think "learning to write" is about acquiring this one monolithic skill, but it's actually about the acquisition (and hopefully mastery) of an interlocking set of skills. So you don't have to burst out of the gate perfect at everything. Maybe you're great at dialogue, but your pacing needs work, so work on that separately.

6. What was your favorite book as a teenager?

I would like to say it was something really awesome like Jane Eyre, and I did absolutely love Jane Eyre, but when I was thirteen it was totally Flowers in the Attic. Oh, what a bad book that was.

7. What was your favorite YA novel of 2007?

I'm going to answer the question "What was your favorite YA novel of 2007 that was not written by someone you know?" instead. In which case it was probably Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey. A better title for it might have been 'You Are So Owned, Hogwarts' except I think that would infringe copyright. It's all about the most brutal magic school in history, where the professors basically murder the students.

8. What book-to-be-released-in-2008 are you most looking forward to?

The sequel to Octavian Nothing by MT Anderson is due out this year. Also Paper Towns by John Green.

9. Create your own question! And answer it, of course.

"Do you have a demon hand?"

10. If you were to take over the world, how would you do so?

I'm a big fan of slipping hallucinogenic drugs into the world's water supply and then taking advantage of the resulting confusion. And then I want to rule from one of those island strongholds that's shaped like a head, except I don't want it to be my head. I want it to be someone else's head.

11. Would you prefer to travel via magic carpet or flying motorcycle? Explicate.

Carpet, so I could nap while I fly. I'm all about those fully reclining airplane seats on overnight flights.

12. If you could spend a day with anybody (living/dead/fictional, etc.) who would it be and why?

My grandfather. He died right before I sold The Mortal Instruments and I'd like to be able to tell him how great everything's been going with it. That's why I dedicated the first book to him.

13. What is your favorite kind of cookie?

Snickerdoodles all the way.


Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr is a creepy, haunting urban fantasy that fully lives up to the standard set by Marr’s first book, Wicked Lovely… though it isn’t quite as good.
Ink Exchange is the story of Leslie, a girl who wants to get a tattoo to reclaim her body as her own (though you’ll have to read the book to find out why she feels the need to do so). Leslie’s family is broken—her mother is gone, her father drinks, and her brother is high all the time. She feels distant from her friends, particularly Aislinn (the main character of Wicked Lovely), who seems to be changing in ways that Leslie cannot explain or understand.
Leslie’s tattoo is beautiful—a pair of winged eyes on her upper back. But, as it turns out, it is not a normal tattoo. Leslie has become the subject of an Ink Exchange, something which ties her to the King of the Dark Court, Irial. This bond, as well as her friendship with Aislinn and a growing romance between she and the faery Niall, plunges Leslie into the strange and dangerous world of Faerie.
As I said before, Ink Exchange is good, but not quite as good as Wicked Lovely. One reason for this, I think, is Leslie’s relationship with Niall. Ink Exchange is the story of a damaged girl attempting to regain control of her life, and I felt that her romance with Niall was superfluous, unnecessary. At times it was even melodramatic— earning a very teenage roll of the eyes from me (though I do tend to roll my eyes a lot). It also created a Niall-Leslie-Irial love triangle that was a little too similar to the Seth-Aislinn-Keenan love triangle from Wicked Lovely.
All in all, though, Ink Exchange was a gorgeously executed, fabulously dark urban fantasy—just what I would expect from Melissa Marr. Irial made me shiver (creepycreepycreepy) and Leslie was a believable and interesting main character. So read this book. It’s good.

I give it four daggers.

Shivering, creeped out, happy, and yours,

The Dark Court's nature is terrifyingly brutal. Its king, Irial, is icily cruel and oddly compassionate by turns. And Leslie--accidentally tied to them by the tattoo meant to set her free--is confused. Her will is not her own these days, and she has no idea why.
This is the world of Ink Exchange. It's scary, beautiful, and well imagined. Admittedly, it isn't as good as Wicked Lovely, but is quite enjoyable nonetheless. I didn't find the Niall-Leslie love shape quite as superfluous as Aislinn seemed to. He (Niall) is quite a good character.
I bestow three and a half out of five daggers on Ink Exchange.

Looking over my shoulder for faeries...

Ink Exchange comes out on April 29.