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The Cellar by AJ Whitten

Sunday, January 9, 2011
Source of ebook: NetGalley
Thanks to HMH Books for giving me the chance to read The Cellar! The copy I read was an uncorrected proof.

Meredith Willis is suspicious of Adrien, the new guy next door. When she dares to sneak a look into the windows of his house, she sees something in the cellar that makes her believe that Adrien might be more than just a creep—he may be an actual monster.

But her sister, Heather, doesn’t share Meredith’s repulsion. Heather believes Adrien is the only guy who really understands her. In fact, she may be falling in love with him. When Adrien and Heather are cast as the leads in the school production of Romeo and Juliet, to Heather, it feels like fate. To Meredith, it feels like a bad omen. But if she tries to tear the couple apart, she could end up in the last place she’d ever want to be: the cellar. Can Meredith convince her sister that she’s dating the living dead before it’s too late for both of them?

The story deviates from the summary and the phrase on the cover 'Romeo and Juliet meet the living dead in...The Cellar'. The situation between the lovers in the book bared a only very slight resemblance to Romeo and Juliet's forbidden love and sad fate.

Heather and Meredith are sisters and their family are undergoing complications in coping with losing a loved one. One day, Heather, who is in a state of depression encounters Adrien, a mysterious new guy at school who she connects instantly with. He has the whole school's female population at school under his spell. When things seem to become bright for Heather, Meredith feels something is not right and warns Heather but Heather takes it the wrong way; she thinks her sister doesn't want her to be happy.

Meredith takes it into her hands to confirm her suspicions of Adrien who lives next door that there is something very strange about him, by spying through his windows of his house's cellar at any chance. What she finds terrifies her and convinces herself that she must tell Heather and get her away from Adrien. However the worst thing has happened: Heather and Adrien become closer and closer, lands in the main leads of the school play 'Romeo and Juliet' and Heather won't believe a thing her sister says.

The book is told in various perspectives. Third person for everyone except for Meredith where first person narrative is used. Because of the changing narratives, the book felt a bit choppy and didn't flow very well when events of an earlier time were explained once again, but I could see it would have be restrictive for the story had only Meredith's point of view been presented.

The writing is so vivid you get to live through the dread and nausea Meredith experiences. While the atmosphere of the book was mostly glum, I liked how in Meredith's narration, she threw in some funny comments. Furthermore, there is blossoming feelings between Meredith and a childhood friend/sister's ex-boyfriend Sam which was nice break from the never-ending gloominess.

I couldn't ship the relationship that brewed up between Adrien and Heather. Not only because of Adrien being the repulsive 'monster' but also because of all his actions. Their relationship was manufactured and didn't run it's natural course- I felt that Heather was a pawn in Adrien's game and Adrien controlled every move. I just wanted her to snap out of it! By the end of the novel, I still couldn't make myself like this character and believe his love for Heather.

The major thing I disliked in the book was how the cousins (Tad and Ted) in the story are twins and they were poorly characterised and stereotypical (being a twin I felt strongly about this). I mean seriously, Tweedledee and Tweedledum are their nicknames? Finishing off each other's speeches? I couldn't take another bite of it (pun intended)!

The ending was a welcome twist I didn't see coming! Overall, The Cellar is a spine-chilling read but it hangs onto you, never letting go until you finish. (In my case, I had to because some time at around 3am while I was reading, my table light flickered off and wouldn't turn back on so I finished it the nextsame day!)


Shrinking Violet by Danielle Joseph

Sunday, January 2, 2011
High school senior Teresa Adams is so painfully shy that she dreads speaking to anyone in the hallways or getting called on in class. But in the privacy of her bedroom with her iPod in hand, she rocks out -- doing mock broadcasts for Miami's hottest FM radio station, which happens to be owned by her stepfather. When a slot opens up at The SLAM, Tere surprises herself by blossoming behind the mike into confident, sexy Sweet T -- and to everyone's shock, she's a hit! Even Gavin, the only guy in school who she dares to talk to, raves about the mysterious DJ's awesome taste in music. But when The SLAM announces a songwriting contest -- and a prom date with Sweet T is the grand prize -- Sweet T's dream could turn into Tere's worst nightmare....

I liked reading about the main character Teresa coming out of her shell. I was a bit peeved at how she came out of her shell; she gets an open slot at her stepdad's music station by her relations. The stepdad basically goes 'Just turn up on this day and see what it's like.' after an argument erupts with Tere and her mum. I should mention that her love and knowledge of music (which she declared to her stepdad and mom and is clear to us) made her a perfect candidate but still, no interview and she got the job?!

Other than this annoyance, the development of Teresa was enjoyable to read. She has to deal with an English class oral presentation, bullying, a discouraging mother (who tries to make her something she's not) and hiding her radio identity from her secret crush Gavin, while also becoming closer to him.

The radio station setting was unique and insight into the radio business made the books' cliches not too bad. A bunch of characters made the book the opposite of dull for example DJ Derek from the station who manages to make any situation strangely uncomfortable and front desk receptionist Pop Tart/Kelly who is much more than her outward appearance.

The last half of the book was pretty much predictable when a contest is held for a local aspiring songwriter/singer to take Sweet T to her prom - I was just waiting for my predications to happen. Nevertheless, it was still exciting to read when the event unfolded. Shrinking Violet was a cute and fast happy-ending read.