Monday, October 10, 2011

Sabriel



(I know this is an older cover, but it's the one I first picked up and read - for nostalgia's sake!)

For many years Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the random power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who won't stay dead. But now her father, the Mage Abhorsen, is missing, and to find him Sabriel must cross back into that treacherous world - and face the power of her own extraordinary destiny.
from garthnix.co.uk

Beth says 5 Stars...

This book is perhaps the best example I have of an oldie, but a goodie... I can't believe I haven't reviewed it before! I remember the first time I read it that my mother came into my room at midnight to take it away from me since I wouldn't go to sleep until I finished it; that's how good it is. The setting feels like a real world, not just something created on a page. Nix manages to capture the pain and fragmentation of a nation in turmoil as if it existed alongside us. More than that, the plot just plain sucks you in. It goes back to having a fascinating story unlike anything else the readers have seen. The novel falls into some delightfully dark places without becoming terrifying. This I think, really shows in the representations of Death and how it can be conquered by the bells, but eventually must be surrendered to. I also have to mention the magic in the book because I adore the way it takes shape. The combination of the old, traditional mark system with the completely new mythology of the different bloodlines and the charter stones still makes this one of my all time favorite representations of magic.

Then we get to the characters, each of which finds a facet of awesome somehow. The most basic way to describe Sabriel is that she kicks ass. Not that she prefers fisticuffs, but her determination and ability to accomplish tasks no matter what makes her fabulous. I really connected with her because of her imperfections; she does get panicked and make wrong decisions. However, despite it all she has an ability to set herself aside and work things out for the good of everyone. Then we come to Touchstone, who half the time makes me want to hug him and the other time smack him. I think he becomes endearing once his relationship with Sabriel grows (although even at the beginning he's awkward in a cute way), and when you learn how much love and compassion he has for everyone. I'm going to leave off with perhaps my favorite character... Mogget. The sarcasm that drips off his every word makes me smile. He acts as a sort of acerbic reality check for Sabriel, which makes so much sense with the talking cat persona, and teaches her how to survive in the Old Kingdom. At least, when he's not trying to con her into taking off his collar or just flat out attempting to kill her.

This book is nothing new, but still absolutely amazing. If you love YA fantasy and haven't read it yet do so now. Sometimes I'm in the mood for the latest thing, but this is one I've read over and over again. Even though what I got from it at 12 is different from what I learned at 20, the story still haunts and captivates me after all of this time. This should be a classic example of how to create an intense and magical experience that you have to come back for again and again.

Monday, September 5, 2011

So Silver Bright


All Beatrice Shakespeare Smith has ever wanted is a true family of her own. And she’s close to reuniting her parents when her father disappears. Now Bertie must deal with a vengeful sea goddess and a mysterious queen as she tries to keep her family – and the Theatre Illuminata – from crumbling. To complicate it all, Bertie is torn between her two loves, Ariel and Nate.

from amazon.com

Beth says 5 Stars…

First and foremost, I LOVE THIS SERIES. Sorry, but I had to get that out there. It really is one of the most fun and quirky set of books published for young adults recently. The wit and heart (along with the originality) that drew me to Eyes Like Stars remained a constant force, making me chuckle and cry alternatively. This closing act definitely brought it home in more ways than one, with things both predicted and out of left field in the best possible way. I loved that the Theater itself returned to prominence as it feels like an anchor to the books. I actually read this one on a plane, which I think truly testifies to how good the novel is. I completely forgot where I actually was and instead found myself transported to Bertie’s magical world. The plot utterly pulled me in and kept me entertained. I finished it in one sitting, that’s how much I enjoyed it! I will say that this definitely doesn’t stand alone and really relies on the other novels in the series. I personally think that’s a good thing because it made me become invested in the story. I honestly cared what about happened to the characters and how the novel ended.

Oh the characters… all I can say is that parting is such sweet sorrow as far as they’re concerned. Bertie still had her spunk, but showed immense vulnerability in this book. However, her fragility fell on the side of endearing because she became broken, easy as it may have been. Even through all of the tests, trials, and pie, she never completely lost herself and managed to discover her identity without whining about it. The fairies continually delighted me with their antics and loving devotion to Bertie and cakes, cupcakes, puddings… where was I? The interplay between them kept me in stitches without seeming forced. Then we come to the wonderful strapping gentlemen, who spiced up the book. They serve to highlight each other’s strengths and weaknesses as well as Bertie’s. Dependable Nate and tempestuous Ariel both ended up in the best places they could have, which made saying goodbye a touch more bearable.

I’m going to continue recommending this series of books to people looking for something a little different. They’re wonderful, magical, comedic, tragic, and really everything a set of novels should be. If you haven’t read these books you really must, because they’re simply fantastic. I give Lisa Machev a standing ovation for daring to create a wonderful series in the face of Twilight and for bringing these characters to life. As sad as I am to see the curtain close on this cast, I know that they’ve provided me with enough fun and laughter to last through many re-readings.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Touch Mortal


Eden didn't expect Az.

Not his saunter down the beach toward her. Not his unbelievable pick up line. Not the instant, undeniable connection. And not his wings.

Yeah.

So long happily-ever-after.

Now trapped between life and death, cursed to spread chaos with her every touch, Eden could be the key in the eternal struggle between heaven and hell. All because she gave her heart to one of the Fallen, an angel cast out of heaven.

She may lose everything she ever had. She may be betrayed by those she loves most. But Eden will not be a pawn in anyone else's game. Her heart is her own.

And that's only the beginning of the end.
from amazon.com

Beth says 2.5 Stars…

I just couldn’t get into this one. I’d read raves about it and was super excited since it seemed different enough to hold my interest. The premise did hold true to the promise of something a bit off the beaten path, but it never managed to capture my attention. I didn’t find the actual plot highly compelling or particularly well-paced. The book could have used some trimming as far as length, as I found large portions that didn’t move anything forward. It’s not like there was a desperate need for a few more pages because the book’s fairly substantial (over 400 pages). I also believe that the way Clifford disseminated information to readers could use some work. It took me forever to gain my bearings at the beginning of the novel, which then allowed me to get confused later on. I found that quite a few of the details were either unnecessary or never became fully explained. The plot never formed into a cohesive whole that I could lose myself in.

Honestly, the biggest problem I had was with the characters. First of all, I really didn’t like Eden. I know I’ve mentioned my hatred of angst before, which put me at odds with Eden from the beginning of the book. I found the way she handled her relationships with everyone, not just romantic partners, and her trust issues grating. I found the idea of a gay angel delightful and will say that I’m very glad that was a fixture in the story. The other rather large bone I have to pick with the story is the language used. In the dialogue the characters swore… a lot. I’m not morally opposed to cursing in the slightest, but what I do find terrible is using foul language just to do so. It didn’t feel organic to the characters and instead seemed contrived. It was almost as if it were there simply to be there or for shock value. I feel like that cheapens the writing and characters.

I really think this book belongs in the skip-worthy pile. I know that some people adore it, and I can’t argue with them. I just think that the plot lacked anything to compel me, which disappointed the promise shown in the original idea. The gratuitous swearing and less than amazing characters did the book no favors either. All in all, this isn’t a series I’ll be following and I don’t suggest it for you either.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Possession


Vi knows the Rule: Girls don’t walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn…and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi’s future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.
But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they’re set on convincing Vi to become one of them….starting by brainwashed Zenn. Vi can’t leave Zenn in the Thinkers’ hands, but she’s wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous: everything Zenn’s not. Vi can’t quite trust Jag and can’t quite resist him, but she also can’t give up on Zenn.
This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

Beth says 4 Stars…

This is another entry into the realm of dystopian fiction, and one that’s more successful than most. The concept seemed somewhat interesting, despite how similar the description sounded to some other recent novels. By the end of the book, however, the initial little blurb proved itself to be less than completely accurate in terms of the tone and content of the novel. The set up for the world has a very incomplete introduction that does improve with time. I thought the plot was interesting enough and it kept me engaged long enough to have things make some sort of sense. Initially the world confused me, with large amounts of information missing. It didn’t make sense well into the book and I just didn’t gain clarity until the end of the novel. I will say that the plot moved at an absolutely breakneck pace, which sucked me in entirely. It also wasn’t predictable although it of course had some familiar elements that I’ll get to later. I never would have predicted the ending, and I found that highly refreshing.

The main thing about Vi that bothered me centered on her romantic relationships. Personality wise Vi didn’t bother me terribly much; in fact I found her internal conflict between her societal conditioning and her own desires fascinating. What really frustrated me was that she immediately became obsessed with a guy. It really got to the point of intense love within an incredibly short amount of time. It’s an example of something that bothers me in YA currently, which is that the female characters become highly wrapped up in a man and lose their identity in the process. Not only that, but they come to the conclusion quite rashly. Literally, within a few weeks in the time of the novel they manage to fall deeply in love and lose all sense of what they need themselves. This book in particular got me because of how Vi changed her romantic loyalties early on, going for the mysterious newcomer while throwing the guy she’d been with for a while under the bus. I did like the interplay between the characters and how you could never really tell where people had their loyalties.

Despite some major flaws, this novel proved to be an interesting debut and start to a series. The end really threw me for a loop in the best possible way and sets up the potential for later books beautifully. I have higher expectations for the forthcoming novels in the series because now I understand the world and the premise significantly better. Instead of being more than a touch confused, in the next book I can focus more on the ethical issues that I’m certain will continue to be raised. I’m optimistic about this one and can’t wait to see where Johnson takes it!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Dark and Hollow Places


There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister's face when she and Elias left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the horde as they found their way to the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.
Annah's world stopped that day and she's been waiting for him to come home ever since. Without him, her life doesn't feel much different from that of the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Then she meets Catcher and everything feels alive again.
Except, Catcher has his own secrets—dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah's longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it's up to Annah—can she continue to live in a world drenched in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return's destruction?
From carrieryan.com

Beth says 4.5 Stars…

I love this series. I remember when I somewhat skeptically grabbed the first novel, only to get swept up in the story and world. What I really enjoy is how this series keeps it fresh by changing the central character. It shows different facets of how the crisis affected the world. Instead of just seeing one person’s journey you get glimpses inside the lives of several people who have all seem different sides of the catastrophe. The plot in this one didn’t center on any sort of epic journey, differing from the previous two novels in that respect. I feel that the lack of movement made the story even more intense. Instead of giving the release of constant motion to the readers, the lack of forward progression kept me on the edge of my seat. I also found it interesting to finally get a look at the mythical city, which of course had more than a few issues. It somehow managed to not be as bright and shiny as initially thought in previous books.

The one problem I had with the book was how long it took me to connect with Annah. I didn’t find her very likeable in the beginning, and had issues with the barriers she placed around her emotions. However, she opened up after a bit and that allowed me to connect with her. Her emotional problems became fascinating and my respect for her grew as she worked through her issues. You really can take part in her inner journey, which in a way takes the place of a physical trek. I also thought it was great that we could still see what happened to some of the characters we’ve grown to know and love. It allowed for a more satisfying end to their stories. I found the relationships between all of the characters complex, but the one between Annah and Gabry fascinated me the most. As an only child, the interactions between twins are incredibly foreign and interesting.

This series manages to constantly subvert expectations. It’s not just about zombies; it really focuses on what happens when the known world crumbles. The strength and struggles of the remaining humans take center stage, set against the backdrop of a world in chaos. This isn’t really like anything else on the shelves and something you should be reading. If you’ve enjoyed the rest of the series grab this book and if you haven’t read any of the novels, pick them up. They’re worth it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Space Between Trees


Not your everyday coming-of-age novel
This story was supposed to be about Evie how she hasn't made a friend in years, how she tends to stretch the truth (especially about her so-called relationship with college drop-out Jonah Luks), and how she finally comes into her own once she learns to just be herself but it isn't. Because when her classmate Elizabeth "Zabet" McCabe's murdered body is found in the woods, everything changes and Evie's life is never the same again.
From goodreads.com

Beth says 3 Stars…

This novel didn’t sit well with me. Initially I thought it would be a murder mystery filled with intensity and plot twists, but it wasn’t. It ended up as a coming of age type-story, which contrasted oddly with the supposed mystery. Honestly, because I expected something more based on the murder so the plot disappointed me. I also am not the biggest fan of coming of age type novels, so that worked against this book in my eyes as well. I didn’t find the plot particularly compelling or that original. It didn’t pull me in… I could definitely put it down. There weren’t really any shocking twists in the story line, but it seemed convoluted at times and didn’t always make sense to me. I will say that I found the prose enchanting. I really liked the way Williams wrote for some reason, and that’s what really kept me interested in the book.

As far as characters go, I didn’t connect well with Evie. Her compulsive lying and constant fantasies grated on my nerves. Although I did understand that she used them to escape from her reality, it made her seem very weak and I frankly had trouble understanding her. She did grow some, which I appreciated, but she started out in a place where growth was a necessity to accomplish anything. I will say that I thought Zabet was very interesting and I only wish that she had been alive to actually contribute and have interactions with the other characters. Her memory remained one of the most fascinating points of the book, and the survivor’s guilt suffered by everyone else provided more insights into their minds than anything else. Hadley had so many more layers that she interested me more than Evie. Despite the fact that she could be a terrible person more than occasionally, her ups and downs absolutely fascinated me.

I’m still not sure what entirely to say about this book. I came into it with completely unrealistic and mistaken expectations, which hurt the novel in my eyes. If you’re looking for something mysterious this isn’t it at all, despite what the set up leads you to believe. This is for people who absolutely love realistic fiction and can’t get enough of coming of age stories. It wasn’t that bad, but it certainly wasn’t very good. If this isn’t your normal cup of tea then it’s one to skip over.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Crush Control


Willow has spent most of her life as her mother's sidekick in a popular Las Vegas hypnotism show. So when she and her mom move back to their sleepy southern hometown to start over, she thinks she's in for a life of quiet normalcy. Except that her new life turns out to be anything but, when she kinda sorta hypnotizes Quinton, the hottest guy on the football team, to fall madly, deeply, head over heels in love with her. But what started out as an innocent way to make her best friend, Max, jealous soon gets way out of hand, and Willow begins to wonder if the mind - and more importantly, the heart - is something you can really control.
from amazon.com

Beth says 4 Stars...

This isn't a book I would have picked up normally, probably due to the lack of epic magic. I personally don't particularly care for the cover. It didn't really draw me in and wouldn't grab my attention in a bookstore. The story, however, was just a ton of fun. The plot didn't break much new ground or have all sorts of twists and turns. I had a general idea of the end within the first 15 pages, but that wasn't that much of a bad thing. The book wasn't designed as an edge of your seat thrill ride and instead is cute and slightly fluffy. The twist of hypnosis kept the very conventional plot from becoming super boring. It also allowed for some highly ridiculous situations that cracked me up. I mean, a dog who needs to hear Cher to calm down? That wasn't the only wacky thing that happened, but I don't want to spoil anything! I did think that the comparisons to A Midsummer Night's Dream that ran through the book got rather heavy handed. After the first one I got it and didn't need the reminders.

I found the love square partially entertaining and partially annoying. It was a change from the typical love triangle, but it wasn't highly intense. The characters in the book don't have a huge amount of depth, but that wasn't the point for me. They served a purpose and allowed the plot to move forward. I liked Max more than Quinton, although that could have been because of certain plot points that shan't be revealed. I think that this book would be totally perfect for the beach, because it's super adorable. Grab this one for some poolside laughs!
Book from Publisher

Friday, July 8, 2011

Crush Control Book Tour!


Hey all! Here at in BetweeN the pages we're excited to be a part of the book tour for Crush Control. We have an interview with the lovely Jennifer Jabaley the novel's author. We'll be reviewing the book this weekend (it would be sooner, but I have to move out of my apartment... so things are insane!), but as a preview it's super cute and funny. We hope you enjoy Jennifer's responses as much as we did!

What made you decide to write a book about hypnosis?

I was hit with a bolt of inspiration one night when my infant daughter wouldn't sleep. I thought, 'if only I could rock her, and say, you are getting sleepy!' Then I realized that the idea of hypnosis was really unique and interesting and, as far as I know, not yet explored in YA literature. So I began to think about the mind of a teen girl and what she would do if she had the ability to hypnotize people. The possibilities seemed endless.


Have you ever been hypnotized yourself or hypnotized anyone else?

No and no. But I did witness other people being hypnotized at a Las Vegas show.


What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever done to make someone jealous?

Hmmm. I can't really think of anything I did to make someone jealous. I do remember however, a time when, because I was jealous, I took some extreme measures. A boy I liked (in high school) happened to comment that he liked curly hair which prompted me to get a perm. Ok, so maybe that's not extreme, but trust me, if you saw a picture, you'd realize it was not a good look for me :)


Style wise are you more like Willow, more sedate, or her mother, who loves her flash and sparkle?

I'm definitely more Willow. I'm a conservative, preppy, dresser. Maybe a little more girly or feminine than I imagine Willow to be.


If you could star in any Las Vegas show what would it be?

I'd love to be able to sing - especially well enough to fill an arena in Vegas.


Finally, favorite Cher song?

Well, after writing CRUSH CONTROL, I'll never be able to listen to BELIEVE without smiling, so I guess that's my favorite.

A big thanks to Jennifer for taking her time and being utterly delightful!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Enchanted Ivy


What Lily Carter wants most in the world is to attend Princeton University just like her grandfather. When she finally visits the campus, Grandpa surprises her: She has been selected to take the top-secret Legacy Test. Passing means automatic acceptance to Princeton. Sweet!

Lily's test is to find the Ivy Key. But what is she looking for? Where does she start? As she searches, Lily is joined by Tye, a cute college boy with orange and black hair who says he's her guard. That's weird. But things get seriously strange when a gargoyle talks to her. He tells her that there are two Princetons—the ordinary one and a magical one—and the Key opens the gate between them. But there are more secrets that surround Lily. Worse secrets.

When Lily enters the magical Princeton, she uncovers old betrayals and new dangers, and a chance at her dream becomes a fight for her life. Soon Lily is caught in a power struggle between two worlds, with her family at its center. In a place where Knights slay monsters, boys are were-tigers, and dragons might be out for blood, Lily will need all of her ingenuity and courage—and a little magic—to unite the worlds and unlock the secrets of her past and her future.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 4.5 Stars…

I’ve enjoyed all of Sarah Beth Durst’s books, so I had high hopes for this novel. Thankfully, it delivered most of what I wanted. I loved the concept and thought it was well executed. I certainly can’t say that this novel is a derivative of another; it comes on its own term and with its own ideas. Parallel worlds are nothing new, but the delightful little twists put on it made it just different enough. As a student who actually looked at Princeton not too long ago, I could picture some of what she wrote about. The plot itself wasn’t actually that mind-blowingly original, but for some reason it felt fresh. Perhaps it’s because this book is distinctly not a paranormal romance, but it absolutely hit the spot for me. The evil-doer took me slightly by surprise, although I think that some people will catch on much faster than I did. I will say that the world was built very well and the concepts explained readily enough. Having Lily as both ignorant of the reality she was stepping into, but smart enough to figure it out worked well. Thus, readers could attempt to determine what was happening, but then not feel foolish if they couldn’t. Durst’s writing remains as delightful as ever and always manages to pull me in immediately. I find her style similar to a warm blanket and fire on a cold day; nothing fancy, but completely comforting and slightly magical.

Lily delighted me. I really felt connected to her, probably due in part to the fact that we have some very similar personality traits. I enjoyed reading a representation of a focused teenager who put academics high on her list. I will say that she didn’t particularly grow throughout the novel in any way other than increasing her awareness of the reality of the world(s) and her role in it. She didn’t have a huge moral change, or become a stronger and more confident person. She actually started out the book as a reasonably well-adjusted and competent teenager, and didn’t need a dramatic change. I would say that some sort of development would have been nice from any of the characters, but alas, none existed. The “love triangle” was just pathetic. There was never any real conflict with Lily, and honestly the romance wasn’t the driving force behind the novel. Tye amused me greatly and didn’t quite fit the stereotypes of tall, dark, and broody – I’m slightly partial to the snarky rebel, the role he did fall into.

This book is absolutely fantastic. It’s super cute – nice and light for the summer. This could be fun on the beach or in the car during a college search road trip. This falls in line with Durst’s other novels, and is for fans of the rest of her work. I’d recommend this for some nice fluff that’s well written and won’t make you feel dirty after reading it.
Book from Library

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Like Mandarin


It's hard finding beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming, but 14-year-old Grace Carpenter knows it's not her mother's pageant obsessions, or the cowboy dances adored by her small-town classmates. True beauty is wild-girl Mandarin Ramey: 17, shameless and utterly carefree. Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin. When they're united for a project, they form an unlikely, explosive friendship, packed with nights spent skinny-dipping in the canal, liberating the town's animal-head trophies, and searching for someplace magic. Grace plays along when Mandarin suggests they run away together. Blame it on the crazy-making wildwinds plaguing their Badlands town. Because all too soon, Grace discovers Mandarin's unique beauty hides a girl who's troubled, broken, and even dangerous. And no matter how hard Grace fights to keep the magic, no friendship can withstand betrayal.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 3.5 Stars…

If I had to go out and rate this, I’d put it at a solid debut – not good, but not bad. The strength of the book is the descriptions of Wyoming and its badlands. They pull you into the book and allow for extraordinary visuals; I could really see what Hubbard was describing despite spending most of my life in the southeast United States. The beauty that came through in this book made me want to go and visit the badlands to experience it for myself. However, I didn’t feel the pull of the plot, or plots as it seemed. I didn’t feel the pull of the story to keep reading because I couldn’t see where everything headed, when I felt like I should have. The pageant storyline gave me Toddlers and Tiaras flashbacks and could have biased me against it. I’ve been trying to forget that scarring hour of television ever since I watched it so anything with child beauty queens creeps me out more than a little bit. The plot didn’t really capture my interest or flow terribly well. It rather meandered around aimlessly without making terribly much sense. The book instead mainly centered on the developing relationship between Mandarin and Grace, but the side plots felt off to me. They detracted from the main focus without enhancing the story.

I found the bad girl angle of Mandarin interesting, but something that hindered me relating to her. At times her rarely visible vulnerability felt forced. Her attitude, however, seemed highly accurate and realistic. I’m not one to tolerate a teenage bad/rebellious attitude in life or in any sort of media. Sometimes I had a strong urge to shake Mandarin and never really understood why she behaved the way she did. I wished that Grace would be stronger because she often ended up as a doormat for whoever happened to be around her. Her character was well formed, but it just wasn’t one that I particularly enjoyed. I think that’s the problem I had with this book; it wasn’t bad, but I didn’t connect with it. The characters were relatively good and decently three-dimensional yet never made a deep impression on me.

This book shows some promise and has moments of beautiful prose. However, I found the plot unappealing and the characters not very easy to relate to. Some people might really enjoy it, but I’m not one of them. If you absolutely adore realistic fiction then I’d suggest giving this one a try. If it’s not quite your favorite then this might not be the best choice.
Book from Library

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Iron Witch


Freak. That's what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna's own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.
When the darkest outcasts of Faerie—the vicious wood elves—abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend—even if it means betraying everything her parents and the alchemist community fought to the death to protect.
From goodreads.com

Beth says 2 Stars…

As soon as I saw this cover I had to pick this book up – it gave me a serious case of cover lust. Also, I thought that it sounded interesting and different than quite a few of the books I’d seen lately; the alchemist angle isn’t often used. Alas, I was disappointed. The plot didn’t particularly grab my attention and lacked pretty much any nuance. The direction was simplistically straightforward and evident within the first third of the book. Additionally the plot really needed some originality, because the concept ended up falling flat. So much additional information needed to be given out for it to make sense, and Mahoney’s attempts at explaining the lore were clumsy at best. Too much was left either to the imagination or ended up as a garbled mess. I really believe this to be one of the major flaws of the novel and why I just couldn’t pull myself into the story. The writing also didn’t strike me as very good; I’ve read worse, but this still ranks on the low end. If only one area lacked then I think the book could have been salvaged. However, with everything sub-par the book couldn’t manage to be captivating and fell flat.

Oh the characters… for some reason I just felt ambivalent towards Donna. Yes I wanted her to succeed, but only in the “I don’t want to be a bad person and wish ill on this seemingly decent human being” way. Her character never developed into anything particularly complex and entirely lacked depth. I think it was because the entire novel mainly focused on muddling up the original concept and didn’t particularly address the characters. Navin, although likeable, seemed to me like more of a convenient plot device than an actual person important to the story. I wish that he had been more prominent because I honestly found him the most interesting character. Xan did absolutely nothing for me. Yes, he filled the niche of tall and broody, but I found his past and revelations murky. Perhaps I’m just dense, but there was some serious lack of sense making on his part. I think a good bit of that goes back to the poorly built world, because some of my confusion stemmed from my lack of understanding of the lore that supposedly exists in this universe. I thought that the love triangle in this book was absolutely pathetic – it consisted of a couple and then someone who wished they were in it.

This book really let me down. Instead of an interesting and original novel, I found a muddled mess of a world and a lackluster plot. I guess this serves as a reminder that you really can’t judge a book by its cover. This book belongs in the skip pile.
Book from Library

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Entwined by Heather Dixon


Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.
The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.
Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.
But there is a cost.
The Keeper likes to keep things.
Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.
from harperteen.com

Beth says 5 Stars…

I actually fell in love with this cover. Lately there have been some amazing covers and this one just stood out to me. I didn’t particularly pay attention to what it was about, so when I read the summary I got insanely excited. Not only do I adore fairy tale retellings, but this is one of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, my absolute favorite fairy tale of all time. I absolutely loved Jessica Day George’s version, so I have very high standards for this particular story. Dixon did a wonderful job altering the plot to increase its depth and scope. Since I already had a general idea of where things needed to go, I didn’t have any confusion over what was happening and why. The few things that at the time seemed slightly odd worked their way into sense by the end of the novel. For me it explained why the girls needed to go dancing in the first place; not only were they trapped in the house by the mourning period, but they also truly loved to dance. The intensity of their need made it easy to understand why they would do something that otherwise seemed illogical. The darkness of the story drew me in and aged it up for me. No longer could the girls just dance freely without any trouble other than that from their father. The book is also fairly long, coming close to 500 pages. At that length it easily could have had serious pacing issues, yet none existed. Nowhere did the book drag or go too fast and leave my head spinning; I remained constantly engrossed. I’m also impressed because this is Dixon’s debut, which suggests to me that her novels will get even better, something I look forward to because of how amazing this first one is already.

The general version of the fairy tale has the girls all with flower names, but Dixon cleverly enhanced that. The girls were named (all flowers, of course) in alphabetical order, which really helped me keep them all straight, because when there are 12 sisters of varying ages any help with remembering how old they are is welcome. Azalea held the role of oldest sister and heroine well, managing her younger sisters and keeping the peace. I loved how she actually took responsibility for her actions when things began to turn sour instead of playing the delightful blame game. Although there was some romance, it really didn’t take the focus of the novel. Instead it gave way to both grief and love, with the love not necessarily being romantic. The relationships within the family really were delightfully written, and what I would imagine having a large number of siblings would be like. You could always tell that even when the girls were extremely annoyed with one another, the undercurrent of love still remained. They used each other as support throughout everything, but still tried to protect whoever was younger from any harm. Despite the fact that the book centered on Azalea, the other princesses did get some decent page time. Bramble in particular had me in stitches on more than one occasion because of her feisty temper and lack of verbal filter.

This is a complete and total must read. If you grew up loving this original story you won’t be disappointed in this new version. Instead of trying to change it into something entirely new, it just took the best parts of the old and enhanced them will small bits of the new. If you want something dark, lush, and filled with magical dancing grab this now. If not, read it anyway because everyone should. Don’t be scared by the length, because it’s a fast read that makes you wish for more.
Book from Library

Monday, June 13, 2011

City of Fallen Angels



The Mortal War is over, and sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She's training to become a Shadowhunter and to use her unique power. Her mother is getting married to the love of her life. Downworlders and Shadowhunters are at peace at last. And—most importantly of all—she can finally call Jace her boyfriend.
But nothing comes without a price.
Someone is murdering Shadowhunters, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second, bloody war. Clary's best friend, Simon, can't help her. His mother just found out that he's a vampire and now he's homeless. Everywhere he turns, someone wants him on their side—along with the power of the curse that's wrecking his life. And they're willing to do anything to get what they want. Not to mention that he's dating two beautiful, dangerous girls—neither of whom knows about the other one.
When Jace begins to pull away from her without explaining why, Clary is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: she herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace.
Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. The stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels.
from bn.com

Beth says 5 Stars…

When I heard this series was over after City of Glass I was sad, but thought the series had come to a nice close. However, as soon as I knew about this book I became both excited and confused. I couldn’t see where the story would go because it seemed to be so nicely wrapped up. Leave it to Cassandra Claire to prove me wrong and bring fresh life where I thought none could exist. The plot at the beginning had a few expected moments, then went off in different directions than I predicted. The ending definitely had be shaking my head and yearning for more. Like the rest of the books in this series I started it and couldn’t put it down. Every time I pick up a novel of Cassandra Claire’s I end up enraptured by her words and devour the book in one sitting. I love how vivid the world of the Shadowhunters is, with its mythology developed so deeply and fascinatingly. Instead of just resting on the already created, Claire added more details and intricacies to the lore.

The characters still delighted me with their combination of sarcasm and heart. Not many new characters came into the fold, but I didn’t particularly care. I love every new thing, small or large, revealed about the characters and plenty of things came to light. Clary still has her delightful mixture of strength and helplessness, but she’s learning more about her new world. I like her transition from complete novice in the first book to a partially trained force to be reckoned with now. Jace maintained his presence and personality, but this book delved into his mind a bit more. He’s generally so inscrutable that the glimpse this book gave enriched his character development so much. I still adore Simon and how adorkably sarcastic he always manages to be. I will say that there are a few little goodies for those who’ve read Claire’s other series, but my lips are sealed beyond that. The relationships between everyone constantly evolve to become more and more complicated. I love how the characters constantly grow and that their growth touches how they interact with one another.

This is a fantastic continuation of a series I though was finished, and something that I welcome. I can’t wait for the next book because I’m not okay with where this one ended. As soon as it comes out I’m picking it up because I’m fairly certain it will be as good as this one. If you enjoyed the rest of the series this is a must read, but it won’t make any sense if you haven’t looked at them. If you haven’t read the series but enjoy authors like Melissa Marr and Holly Black these are books for you.
Book Bought

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Matched


Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 3.5 Stars…

This is a case in which a book didn’t up to the hype that initially surrounded it. I found the premise highly interesting and wanted it to be absolutely amazing. I came into the book with the desire to like it, completely open. The plot took a while to really get going and never managed to engross me. I felt that I’d read much of the novel before in other books. The whole concept of a society where jobs and romantic partners are assigned is nothing new (oh hey there The Giver), but Condie could have really done something with it to make it her own. She did add some things, but they either made no impact, or they made very little sense. For example, if the pills are so important and some forbidden except on particular occasions, why does everyone carry them around all the time? I also didn’t quite understand how people didn’t know how to write when they could read, even if the things were on screens in digital format. I mean, the obvious thing is to just copy the letters from the screen onto something in order to learn to write, but that just makes sense to me. The plot took a goodly while to get going, and wasn’t the most gripping of stories. The good thing is that this is the first of a series, and I think that some large chunks were set up for the rest of the novels.

The characters are relatively meh. I didn’t love them or hate them. In fact, I found it difficult to muster any strong feelings about any single character. I found Cassia a bit irritating, but she did grow to become less irksome. I think the next book might be where she comes into her own, or at least alters to something more than just tolerable. I also didn’t particularly find either of the boys that interesting. I mean, they ended up being so completely stereotypical that it took away from the little individual character they did have. Honestly, some of that didn’t even get dispensed until the end, by which point I didn’t have more time to invest in them. The love triangle also lacked the fire to make it compelling. It was totally obvious who Cassia would end up with, which left me feeling sorry for the other guy during the course of the entire novel.

Sometimes hype before publication can harm a book, which is what happened here. I went in with very high expectations and found them utterly let down. This will satisfy some readers, and because it’s the summer might be fun to pick up if there’s nothing else around. I think that the series could have potential, so the next book (which I believe comes out in December) will be extremely telling. I’d grab this over nothing at all, but it wouldn’t be my first pick. This foray into dystopian left me wanting, and isn’t the next Hunger Games as it lacks the philosophical depth, instead focusing on a predictably boring love triangle.
Book from Library

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Shadowspell


On top of spending most of her time in a bunkerlike safe house and having her dates hijacked by a formidable Fae bodyguard, Faeriewalker Dana Hathaway is in for some more bad news: the Erlking and his pack of murderous minions known as the Wild Hunt have descended upon Avalon. With his homicidal appetite and immortal powers, the Erlking has long been the nightmare of the Fae realm. A fragile treaty with the Faerie Queen, sealed with a mysterious spell, is the one thing that keeps him from hunting unchecked in Avalon, the only place on Earth where humans and Fae live together. Which means Dana’s in trouble, since it’s common knowledge that the Faerie Queen wants her – and her rare Faeriewalker powers – dead. The smoldering, sexy Erlking’s got his sights set on Dana, but does he only seek to kill her, or does he have something much darker in mind?
from jennablack.com

Beth says 4 Stars…

This series is quickly becoming one of my favorite guilty pleasure reads. First of all, I’m loving that Black is a North Carolina author because I love to support people who are (relatively speaking) local. Now to the point of why these books are delightful; everything’s just flat out fun. Yes there are serious portions; Dana’s mother’s alcoholism is nothing to be laughed at. Yet somehow nothing brings down the tone of the novel. The plot for this had a moment or two that was unsurprising enough, but I didn’t see a couple of the plot twists coming. I got thrown for a loop more than once in the most delightful of ways. I was enthralled by the story and devoured the book in one afternoon, that’s the way I seem to read this series. This falls into the category of page turner; as soon as I finished it I looked around in a daze, thinking that I’d just started the novel. I will say the quality of writing tends to be mediocre. It’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s nothing spectacular either.

The characters in the book are so much fun! I love how the Faerie class system permeates the interactions in Avalon, because it sets the world apart without being too removed. I also think it allows for the generational gaps to be seen nicely without undue effort and awkwardness. Dana still remains a delightful heroine. Although she makes mistakes, she owns to them and does as well as she can. Instead of just sitting and moping about her fate she tries to change things, for better or worse. Also, the romance absolutely sizzles! Ethan has some shining moments, but more than that the tension and fire that should be there when he and Dana are together come through perfectly clearly. There have been an unfortunate number of books built around the paranormal romance theme that don’t have a spark between the potential lovebirds. Not so here… in fact the chemistry is so intense that there are a few things that might be inappropriate for younger readers. Then there’s Keane, whose bad boy image cracks ever so slightly even as he continues pounding on Dana for the sake of teaching her.

Basically this is a perfect summer series. The third book in the series, which looks super intense, is coming out next month which gives everyone time to read the first two to prepare. This is certainly a great summer series for anyone who wants a relatively light novel with a fantasy twist. Take this one to the beach or wherever you’re headed on vacation to fulfill the guilty pleasure quota that comes with summer.
Book from Library

Monday, June 6, 2011

Darkest Mercy



The Summer King is missing; the Dark Court is bleeding; and a stranger walks the streets of Huntsdale, his presence signifying the deaths of powerful fey.
Aislinn tends to the Summer Court, searching for her absent king and yearning for Seth. Torn between his new queen and his old love, Keenan works from afar to strengthen his court against the coming war. Donia longs for fiery passion even as she coolly readies the Winter Court for battle. And Seth, sworn brother of the Dark King and heir to the High Queen, is about to make a mistake that could cost his life.
Love, despair, and betrayal ignite the Faery Courts, and in the final conflict, some will win . . . and some will lose everything.
from amazon.com

Beth says 5 Stars…

I’m so sad that this series is over. I absolutely loved the dark and unexpected world of Marr’s faeries and am rather distressed to leave it. This review will probably be more than slightly biased because of how much I’ve invested in the series, through its ups and downs, which makes it rather difficult to separate this book completely. However, I’m going to do my best to neither wallow in the slight misery of the ending of a favorite series of mine nor gush about the awesomeness of this conclusion. The world Marr created is spellbinding and seductive; enriched and enlarged over the course of the novels. As this isn’t a new world that needs creating entirely, very little expansion of the established ended up being necessary. I think that the main enhancement came in the guise of the characters and not from the settings surrounding them. The plot constantly diverged in different directions, and all of the little threads placed in previous novels came together beautifully. Before reading the book I worried about how having different main characters in the other novels would affect the flow of the plot. I needn’t have been bothered, because Marr shifted focus from one character to another smoothly, entwining their individual stories to make a whole. All I’m going to mention about the actual plot is that I didn’t see the end coming, but I loved it and thought it a fitting close to the series.

The characters didn’t lose their quality and brilliance, and in fact just became more and more fascinating. I enjoying reading about all of the old, familiar friends and foes with just enough new faces throw into the mix to keep it fresh. Some of the characters, of course, fell slightly by the wayside because of the sheer numbers of them, but most of those either weren’t my favorites or had supporting roles previously. It was delightful to see how much Ash changed to meet the challenges of becoming the Summer Queen, much as Donia had in transitioning over to being the Winter Queen. I particularly enjoyed how they functioned as foils for one another to highlight the differences and similarities in the nature of the courts. Then there are the boys, and Marr knows how to make some very delightful fey men. Niall, Seth, and Keenan all had some ups and downs in this book and have changed dramatically since their first introduction. What I love about a series this long is that it allows for remarkable amounts of character development; you really can see an interesting arc.

It’s sad to see this series draw to a close, but I thought this novel a fitting end to it. I’ll miss the faeries and the world they inhabit. I’m excited to see what Marr’s next YA project will be (I know I need to grab her first adult novel soon) and be transported into another world by her. Hopefully it will be as seductive and fascinating as this was.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Wither


What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.


When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.


But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.
from goodreads.com

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Beth says 4 Stars…

I love the concept of this book. I’m all for the surge in dystopian fiction being offered post-Hunger Games because I happen to be a huge fan of the genre. I found the concept of the consequences of science absolutely fascinating because of my love of science. Genetic engineering, its limits, and the morality that comes with it capture my attention and initially helped draw me into the novel. However, there really were only hints at the interesting bits, with more of the science focus being on some possibly unpleasant and secret experiments done by a single individual. I do understand that this makes no real scientific sense, but maybe DeStefano will find some way to make it logical. If not, I hope she at least delves into the consequences of emerging technology. I hope the rest of the series will expand upon the scientific aspects of the world. I will say that the world building needs improvement; everything was in the same vein as the scientific set up. There are hints of a fantastically interesting world – it has a lot of potential. However, quite a bit was either illogical or poorly explained, which really hurt the engrossing power of the story. A huge reason this book rates so highly is the absolute beauty of the prose. It’s so pretty (that was my mature definition)! I got enraptured by the lovely writing, which absolutely sucked me in. This is partly why I think the series has so much potential; this book is a debut, and this caliber of writing right off the bat bodes well for improvement in other aspect of the novels.

Another reason the book was good were the character descriptions. I really felt for all of them, even those who readers didn’t necessarily need to bond with. Rhine had enough spunk to keep me happy and interested, but she was so much more than that. She was fragile without ever breaking and tough without being impervious. I felt as though I had a good feel for what she thought and how she ticked, so it was interesting to see her develop and reveal more about herself as time went on. I loved her relationship with Gabriel and how it defies a good deal of the current conventions of YA lit. So often the two characters meet and a week later are passionately in love, knowing that they’re soulmates. Here they actually build a relationship in what could be seen as a relatively healthy way (considering that one of them is in a polygamous marriage). I also found the polygamy very interesting because it allowed exploration of very different relationships than normal. The wives could have their own unique marriage to Linden within the larger family frame. I also thought that the interactions between the sister wives themselves showed a great deal about the characters’ personalities. I became deeply invested in all of the characters, whether I liked them or not.

Wither is a novel that is both deeply flawed and magnificent. I think that the series has a lot of potential and could be unbelievable, but DeStefano has some things she needs to work on. The main concern is to improve the world building, but if she can do that with her strong writing foundation there could be a gold mine here. I’m excited to see where this story goes and how things develop and look forward to being wrapped in her beautiful prose and intense characters once more.
Book from Publisher

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell


Expelled from thirteen boarding schools in the past five years, seventeen-year-old Jane Fontaine Ventouras is returning to her Southern roots, and the small town of Bienville, Alabama, where ladies always wear pearls, nothing says hospitality like sweet tea
and pimento cheese sandwiches, and competing in the annual Magnolia Maid Pageant is every girl’s dream.

But Jane is what you might call an anti-belle—more fishnets and tattoos than sugar and spice. The last thing on her mind is joining the Magnolia Maid brigade and parading around town in
a dress so big she can’t even fi t through doors. So when she finds herself up to her ears in ruffl es and etiquette lessons, she’s got one mission: Escape.

What’s a hipster to do? Will Jane survive Bienville boot camp intact or will they—gasp!—make a Southern belle out of her yet?
from amazon.com

Beth says 4.5 Stars…

With a title like this one (although the cover is less than amazing), you know the book’s going to be hilarious. That’s actually what drew me to the book, and I must say that it didn’t disappoint. As a Southern girl myself I can relate to some of the scenarios in the book. There’s a whole little section where Jane rants about the use of the phrase “Be sweet,” which is something I’ve heard more times than I can count. There were many more instances of similar hilarity throughout the novel, and the little sayings got me every time. I did find the plot a bit convoluted; at times I couldn’t understand in what direction things were headed. However, although it did get confusing it was still insanely funny. It took me a while to get my bearings because I thought the book would center on the preparations for a beauty pageant, which put me more than a bit off base. I really loved Rumley’s characterization of the South – it was just accurate enough and didn’t attempt to be perfect. The costume descriptions were super vivid and absolutely fantastic. Some of the mental images given to me by the dresses kept me entertained for longer than I should admit.

Jane was so much fun. Although she had some very stereotypical bad girl traits, you still could see the goodness and caring beneath her tough exterior because of her status as main character. The amount of sarcasm that came from her warmed my heart and made me chuckle. I loved how she didn’t just sit down and take things and that her fights managed to lead to odd, yet entertaining consequences. The rest of the characters were equally as much fun to get to know. The radically different personalities that all of the “Maids” had melded into a quirky whole that allowed for lots of non-serious spats.

The only real way to describe this book is sheer Southern hilarity. I was in stitches the whole time while reading it! This is a perfect light beach read. Just be warned that you will laugh (probably rather loudly) when reading this novel, so consider your surroundings before opening the book.
Book from Publisher

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hourglass


One hour to rewrite the past . . .

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn't there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents' death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She's tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson's willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he's around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

Full of atmosphere, mystery, and romance, Hourglass merges the very best of the paranormal and science-fiction genres in a seductive, remarkable young adult debut.
from amazon.com

Beth says 4 Stars…
This book had a relatively normal concept initially that then mutated into something completely different than I expected. I found the change refreshing since I’m always a fan of unexpected directions. There were large portions of the plot that I expected… the arrival of a mysterious, yet attractive stranger. Really? I felt that it also was a bit slow to start, but definitely got into a good flow in the early middle. As far as writing style goes I thought this was a very nice first outing, with a solid base and room to grow. The settings were delightfully lush and well thought out; I could easily picture them with the vivid details given. I liked how McEntire managed to slip in the details without making them obviously placed; they felt natural.

Finally, a heroine I loved reading about! Emerson walked the line between being terrified and courageous extremely well, showing both of those sides in her personally. All of the freaking out that happened tended to the side of completely understandable and never moved into excess. She took things well and in stride, changing when it behooved her without fundamentally altering her personal identity (well, other than her concept of herself and her abilities). Of course Emerson gets into a bit of a love triangle, but it doesn’t take over the story so how odd and silly it is never becomes a major issue. Then there’s Michael, who fills about half of the stereotypes for men in paranormal romance type novels, but has a bit of something extra. Whether it’s the slightly unexpected plot turns or just something about how McEntire writes him, he evolves from the ever-so-obvious tall, dark, and broody male lead into a more interesting character. His interactions with Emerson always managed to entertain in some fashion, no matter if they were silly and casual or intensely revealing. I didn’t want to look away from the page if the two of them were on it together. The peripheral characters seemed interesting enough, and I think that over the course of the series they will deepen and become more of a presence.

Overall I thought this was a solid debut; nothing unbelievable, but very good. The pacing could have been better, but there’s a nice foundation of writing and a fantastic set up (the premise, characters, and setting) to launch a series. There’s some serious potential for epicness here, which makes this a series to watch. This is for people who like paranormal romance, but are tired of reading about vampires/werewolves/whatever else. If you’re in the mood for something that’s just inventive enough this is the book for you! I for one can’t wait for the sequel.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Entice


Zara and Nick are soul mates, meant to be together forever. But that's not quite how things have worked out. For starters, well, Nick is dead. Supposedly, he's been taken to a mythic place for warriors known as Valhalla, so Zara and her friends might be able to get him back. But it's taking time, and meanwhile a group of evil pixies is devastating Bedford, with more teens going missing every day. An all-out war seems imminent, and the good guys need all the warriors they can find. But how to get to Valhalla? And even if Zara and her friends discover the way, there's that other small problem: Zara's been pixie kissed. When she finds Nick, will he even want to go with her? Especially since she hasn't turned into just any pixie. . . She's Astley's queen.
from amazon.com

Beth says 3.5 Stars…
I find this series difficult to describe… I really enjoy reading the books, but know they’re nowhere near amazing. The plots keep getting more and more complicated to the point of confusion. This plot bounced around from one thing to another without emphasizing clarity. I didn’t always know where I was in the story or how the action related to the endpoint of the novel; I actually got a bit fuzzy on the purpose of the story as well. However random the plot might have been, it still managed to be quite entertaining and engaging. The settings could have used a bit of improvement, although I acknowledge the brevity of the characters’ stays in a few locations. I also feel like I haven’t seen any growth in Jones’s writing style, which I rather expected. Not to say that there’s anything particularly wrong with it, but improvement can always happen.

Oh Zara. The angsty conflict that surrounds her grated mightily on my nerves. I really wanted her to make up her mind in her love life, which wouldn’t have had nearly the amount of drama but would have been more satisfactory to me. I also didn’t see an evolution in Zara’s character; she changed more in the first novel than in the second two combined. Nick’s absence caused a large amount of moping and pining, and that was one the biggest sources of angst in the novel. Astley started to grow on me, but I don’t particularly buy their relationship. There’s no heat coming off of the page when the two of them are together, which doesn’t exactly make for the most believable of love triangles. I still love the supporting characters and find them vastly entertaining. The Buffy references slid into the dialogue made me super happy!

I can only recommend this book as fun. It isn’t the greatest literature by any stretch of the imagination and at times falls into mediocrity because of the huge volume of paranormal/fantasy books flooding the market currently. However, I once I started the book I just couldn’t stop reading it. This is a fun and mindless summer series that could work well either on the beach or just sitting attempting to do next to nothing.
Book from Library

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

family


i have always been broken.
i could have. died.
and maybe it would have been better if i had.

It is a day like any other when seventeen-year-old Melinda Jensen hits the road for San Francisco, leaving behind her fractured home life and a constant assault on her self-esteem. Henry is the handsome, charismatic man who comes upon her, collapsed on a park bench, and offers love, a bright new consciousness, and—best of all—a family. One that will embrace her and give her love. Because family is what Mel has never really had. And this new family, Henry’s family, shares everything. They share the chores, their bodies, and their beliefs. And if Mel truly wants to belong, she will share in everything they do. No matter what the family does, or how far they go.
Told in episodic verse, family is a fictionalized exploration of cult dynamics, loosely based on the Manson Family murders of 1969. It is an unflinching look at people who are born broken, and the lengths they’ll go to to make themselves “whole” again.
from amazon.com

Beth says 4 Stars...

This book made me realize that I really don't like verse form in novels. I'd thought that it could have been a particular author's style, but now I know that it's simply the form. Even though this isn't my favorite format, I have to say that the book was good, particularly if you love verse. I'm not sure if it was just the copy I had, but there were some very odd things with the formatting. The change in the type interrupted the visual flow and fragmented the page. Although it made an interesting parallel to Mel's fractured mental state, I did find it distracting. The setting felt very hazy and indiscriminate, which worked well with the atmosphere of the novel. Since Mel had no real clue or care as to where she existed, it made sense that the readers couldn't be certain of anything either. The plot often became garbled and I had a bit of trouble teasing it out at times. It didn't flow particularly well and if a few well placed items hadn't pointed the direction the story was to head in early on I would have been completely lost. The plot sort of meandered throughout the middle of the novel and then barreled forward at a breakneck pace near the end.

It's almost hard to analyze Mel as a character. I felt that I got a good feel for her mentally, but it's hard really say if I understood her thinking because of the verse form. I'm pretty sure nobody actually thinks in verse and I know that I don't. That made it rather difficult to connect with Mel's thoughts. Another issue I had was that although I felt for Mel I never understood her. Her issues and the effects they had on her are so far removed from my own experiences that I had a bit of trouble relating. Also, Mel exhibited relatively little growth over the course of the book. It seemed to be more of an exploration of her scarred psyche and didn't allow her to evolve. She would have made much more of an impact on me if I had noticed some forward development instead of a regression. On the other hand, Henry was a fascinating character. A large portion of it was due to the mystique he had for Mel and the rest of the "family". I also found him particularly well written... I could feel his magnetism through the page, especially how Mel always referred to Him with a capital H. This emphasized how much of a God figure he was to her and everyone around him.

Overall the book was not quite my cup of tea, but I can't deny that it was good. There were some frightening aspects of it, particularly how someone can be so damaged they let themselves be drawn into anything that feels like meaning. This is perfect for someone who loves verse novels or books with intense break downs of characters' minds.
Book from Publisher

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fixing Delilah


First of all, sorry for the absence. The whole finals and end of semester things took over my life, but now it's summer, which means time to read and blog!

Things in Delilah Hannaford's life have a tendency to fall apart.

She used to be a good student, but she can't seem to keep it together anymore. Her "boyfriend" isn't much of a boyfriend. And her mother refuses to discuss the fight that divided their family eight years ago. Falling apart, it seems, is a Hannaford tradition.

Over a summer of new friendships, unexpected romance, and moments that test the complex bonds between mothers and daughters, Delilah must face her family's painful past. Can even her most shattered relationships be pieced together again?
from hatchettebookgroup.com

Beth says 4 Stars...

I enjoyed Ockler's other novel, but even though I'm enjoying realistic fiction more I still go in hesitant. Once again I found the world she created an interesting place to reside for a brief time. The setting felt relatively real, but I found a few flaws as well. I think that Delilah not being as familiar with the town could have been used to enhance the experience for readers. However, we only got a few half recollected memories without the descriptions needed to bring it fully to life. I honestly just expected a bit more and finished the book disappointed in that sense. I predicted a good bit of the ending... it wasn't terribly original. That's not to say it lacked an emotional punch (I totally cried), but it lacked any real inventiveness.

I still have no tolerance for characters that constantly whine and complain, especially when the story centers on them. Delilah got more than a little angsty at points, which gave me the urge to reach into the pages and shake her. I understand that she had some issues to deal with, but honestly would a little more gumption have killed her? I think not, but the bouts of griping weren't overwhelming. I found Patrick and the romantic component of the story sweet. It didn't become overdone, which I feel is a problem in a fair number of novels. The best part of the novel hands down was how Ockler portrayed the relationships between the Hannaford women. Even though there was the huge, central event/family secret from years before the story felt fractured. Instead of fixating completely on what happened, it focused more on the fallout of an explosive secret. I also appreciated how things never magically repaired themselves and any healing that happened had to be earned.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. It would be perfect for a rainy day curled on a couch alone. I wouldn't recommend it for the beach, particularly if you're near the end and have a predisposition towards waterworks like me. If you're in the mood for an interesting family drama with some darkness that never goes too far pick this one up!
Book from Library

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Mockingbirds



Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way–the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds–a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.

In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl’s struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone–especially yourself– you fight for it.
from daisywhitneybooks.com

Beth says 4 Stars...
I wasn't sure about this book initially, but decided to give it a try since it's one of the novels in The Contemps Challenge. I'm very glad I did, which makes me love this challenge even more. Without it I never would have picked this up and missed out on an interesting debut novel. The main issue I thought would come up was the subject matter, as date rape isn't something to be treated lightly. Whitney handled it beautifully, and brought up many points I hadn't dreamed to think of. It didn't just deal with the obviously painful aftermath, but instead emphasized more subtle points. The one that really sticks with me is how Alex became afraid to go into the cafeteria because that's a place where she would run into her attacker. I also found it interesting the detail placed into the Mockingbirds system and its processes. I also agree with the statements made in the book about how administrations can turn a blind eye to the wrongs of students, as they shouldn't be capable of doing wrong.

Alex morphed into a fantastic character who carried both strength and fragility in spades. Her ordeal broke her, and she allowed herself to hurt before dusting off and changing her situation. However, she never made an about face, so her changes were gradual and never felt forced. The rest of the cast didn't flesh out nearly so well, which was the main weakness of the novel. There was nothing severely wrong with any others, but they couldn't jump of the page and lacked the three dimensionality of Alex.

Overall this book definitely surpassed my expectations, something I always appreciate. I'd recommend this to people who have any sort of fleeting interest in realistic fiction, or someone who's lived in a residential/boarding school environment. The poignant portrayal of the fallout of date rape in a closed environment is not to be missed, especially for someone living at school.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tortall and Other Lands


Collected here for the first time are all of the tales from the land of Tortall, featuring both previously unknown characters as well as old friends. Filling some gaps of time and interest, these stories, some of which have been published before, will lead Tammy's fans, and new readers into one of the most intricately constructed worlds of modern fantasy.
from amazon.com

Beth says 5 Stars...

I will make absolutely no effort to hide my absolute adoration of Tamora Pierce here. I've loved her books since I stumbled upon them in my middle school library and refuse to stop reading them now, more than a few years later. Somehow she always manages to make the characters insanely believable without sacrificing the plot. This book is a collection of her short stories, some old and some new. There's one that has no magical elements at all, but the rest fall within the realm of fantasy. I'd read some of these before (The Dragon's Tale rather recently), but that doesn't make the book any less amazing.

I will say that my favorite story was the one about Nawat because it offered a return to the Copper Isles and some beloved characters. Honestly, how can you not love the combination of a crow-man and his wife the spy. I also found it particularly interesting because we finally got to see something from Nawat's point of view. It was definitely different than any other voice I'd read and completely made sense for him. Some of the other stories centered around themes of how to be a woman in an oppressed world, with two girls taking completely different approaches to how to do just that. I really loved the story Lost, which involved a math genius and an adorable Darking. What's not to like? There weren't any stories that I didn't appreciate, but I did find Time of Proving to be rather odd and short. I would have enjoyed it more had it been fleshed out a bit as the characters felt slightly underdeveloped.

Overall this is something that no Tammy fan can miss! As an added bonus there's a brief excerpt from Mastiff in the back, which is just enough to make you want the rest immediately. If there's someone here who hasn't read any of her books, shame on you. Go buy Alanna: the First Adventure as soon as possible, and get on with the glories of Tamora Pierce. Now to begin the agonizing wait for a new book of hers anew...
Book from Library

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Glimmerglass


Dana Hathaway doesn't know it yet, but she's in big trouble. When her alcoholic mom shows up at her voice recital drunk, again, Dana decides she’s had enough and runs away to find her mysterious father in Avalon: the only place on Earth where the regular, everyday world and the captivating, magical world of Faerie intersect. But from the moment Dana sets foot in Avalon, everything goes wrong, for it turns out she isn't just an ordinary teenage girl—she's a Faeriewalker, a rare individual who can travel between both worlds, and the only person who can bring magic into the human world and technology into Faerie.

Soon, Dana finds herself tangled up in a cutthroat game of Fae politics. Someone's trying to kill her, and everyone seems to want something from her, from her newfound friends and family to Ethan, the hot Fae guy Dana figures she’ll never have a chance with… until she does. Caught between two worlds, Dana isn’t sure where she’ll ever fit in and who can be trusted, not to mention if her world will ever be normal again…
from jennablack.com

Beth says 4 Stars...

I had tons of fun reading this book. I'd read a good bit of realistic fiction just before this novel, so the fantasy came as a delightful change of pace. I found the setting a nice blend of the real and imagined. I'd never thought of Avalon in the way it appeared here and I enjoyed its unexpectedness. The plot moved along nicely without any major interruptions, but could have had a bit more engrossing. I did appreciate the way Black gave out information; it didn't feel contrived or forced. Instead of simply dumping it all at once she placed small pieces and had Dana constantly asking for more. I also loved the intrigue component of the plot. I'm a total sucker for court drama so that got my attention quickly. I appreciated the levels that were hinted at, including the rigid class structure and conflict between the courts.

I found Dana to be a much more engaging heroine by the end of the book than I initially thought she would be. At first she rather bothered me for some unknown reason. However, after watching her struggle in a completely unfamiliar environment and not break down into a ball of angst, I turned in her favor. Her narrative was well done and helped bring her out of the page. However, she didn't quite strike me as someone who could be real. Perhaps she'll develop more in the later books; I'm holding out hope for that. Dana's relationship with both of her parents could be classified as strained to say the least, so those both had a feature in the novel. I thought that the romantic relationships were confused and really lacked a spark. It felt as if Black couldn't figure out where she wanted the characters to go and didn't know who need to be with whom. In that aspect the book really lacked appeal; the issue was that it tried to put the romance in but didn't do a good job of it.

I enjoyed this book a good deal. It's not the most amazing thing that I've ever read, but it's fun and quick. I'm also excited that Black is an author from North Carolina, so that makes it even better! I'm always glad to see talent that's close to home for me. This would be good for people who find themselves drawn to authors like Melissa Marr, but without a lot of the darkness, or just love faerie stories like me.
Book from Library

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bitter Mellon


Frances, a Chinese-American student at an academically competitive school in San Francisco, has always had it drilled into her to be obedient to her mother and to be a straight-A student so that she can go to Med school. But is being a doctor what she wants? It has never even occurred to Frances to question her own feelings and desires until she accidentally winds up in speech class and finds herself with a hidden talent. Does she dare to challenge the mother who has sacrificed everything for her? Set in the 1980s.
from egmontusa.com

Beth says 4 Stars...

I found this book rather fascinating and disturbing at the same time. I can only liken the relationship between Francis and her mother to a train wreck; I both wanted to and couldn't look away. The setting of the book was fine, but not that astounding. Although the apartment where Francis lived became relatively well described, most of the actual scenery wasn't terribly well defined. I found it interesting as well that I couldn't tell the time period when the book took place. In fact, if I hadn't read that it was set in the '80s I honestly would have assumed it was meant to be contemporary. I have yet to decide if this is a good or bad thing, because although it allows for a closer connection with readers it shows a lack of definition which could spell trouble in another novel. I will say that it didn't harm the book, but just should be something to keep in mind for future books. The plot did wander more than a bit, but a good bit of that was Francis attempting to figure out what she wanted to do. A highly linear narrative would have made the story feel contrived and pained.

Francis by herself could pass for a respectable character. She did have some depth and didn't fall flat, which counts. The meat of the story was in both her process of self discovery and in the changes in her relationship with her mother. I must say that I couldn't believe that a mother could treat her daughter so harshly. From my perspective it really felt more than slightly abusive. I really hope that this is a case where reality becomes embellished for the sake of a narrative, because if not then that sort of maternal behavior poses a problem. I will say that it made me appreciate my parents all the more for not trying to run my fate. There have always been parameters set, but nothing so blatant as choosing a career for me. I pitied both Francis and her mother because even though they did everything for one another, they had no emotional closeness. All of the other characters merely circled around the two of them in some way, shape or form.

This book surprised me in many ways, both good and bad. I was shocked at the central relationship of the book and how brutal it was. However, I got sucked into the novel and just kept reading it once I picked it up. Also, the cover is fantastic. It's striking and not ordinary in the slightest, which sums up this novel.
Book from Publisher

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Girl, Stolen


Sixteen year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of a car while her mom fills her prescription at the pharmacy. Before Cheyenne realizes what's happening, their car is being stolen--with her inside! Griffin hadn’t meant to kidnap Cheyenne, all he needed to do was steal a car for the others. But once Griffin's dad finds out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes—now there’s a reason to keep her. What Griffin doesn’t know is that Cheyenne is not only sick with pneumonia, she is blind. How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare, and if she does, at what price?
from macmillan.com

Beth says 3 Stars...

There are some books that I just don't care for that much. I can't find any specific sort of huge flaw to point to, but something doesn't quite sit well. That's how I felt about this novel. Nothing was horrendously wrong or specifically lacking, but I couldn't connect with the book. The plot should have been harrowing and nail-biting, however, it wasn't. I could predict a lot of the major twists and turns, which sounds the death knoll for any type of thriller. I will say that the writing itself was fairly good, in particular when it described Cheyenne's view of the world. Instead of constructing a world to be seen, Henry created one from everything else. The detail with which she made the rest of Cheyenne's senses compensate for her lack of sight really was fantastic. I didn't really enjoy how the point of view switched back and forth from Cheyenne to Griffin; it interrupted the flow of the story without adding anything.

Cheyenne didn't have anything really spectacular that came through to me. She did have a vast amount of strength, but it somehow became disconnected. I did want her to escape and be okay, although it was just because I felt it was something good, not because of a powerful connection. The relationship between Cheyenne and Griffin simply creeped me out. Stockholm anyone? I couldn't move past my discomfort to see if what they shared had anything deeper or more profound.

Overall this novel didn't get it quite right. Something felt off throughout the entire thing. I couldn't quite put a finger on it, but I wasn't able to immerse myself completely in the world of the book. It didn't suck me in at all. This wasn't really one of my favorites and I wouldn't really recommend it.
Book from Library