Thursday, April 28, 2011

review: nightspell by Leah Cypress

pub date: May 31, 2011
publisher: Greenwillow
pages: 336
source: ALA Midwinter 2011
appeals: ghosts, fantasy, court intrigue, family,
content: clean

This book took me eight days to finish. Which for someone who reads most books in 1-3 days, says a few things:
1) It wasn't a book that enthralled me, one that I couldn't put down. I didn't have to know what was going to happen next.
2) It was interesting enough to finish. If I'm bored with a book, I don't finish it.

I enjoyed Cyress' first book, Mistwood, more than Nightspell. She is an amazing world builder, as apparent in both her books. I also find her ideas very original. There are a lot of ghost books out right now where the main character falls in love with a ghost. I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say, that isn't this book. Cypress creates original worlds and characters and problems. I like that.

However, I thought the plot was a little slow. That it took along time for things to happen. It was more fact gathering than action.

One of the reasons I wasn't enthralled with the story was the lack of romance. I like romance in my books. It doesn't have to be a large part of the plot or even have to do with the main character. I just like it to be somewhere. It was nowhere in Ghostland. I missed it. Lovelessness made it not so enjoyable for me.

The ending was very exciting. I was wanting to know what was going to happen. All that information gathering was coming to an exciting conclusion. Then...the last ten pages. ARG! I wanted it to end differently. I was a little disappointed.

Anyway, solid world building and interesting characters. Great for fantasy lovers who don't care if there are actual lovers in the novel.

A stand-alone companion novel to the much-acclaimed MISTWOOD. When Darri rides into Ghostland, a country where the living walk with the dead, she has only one goal: to rescue her younger sister Callie, who was sent to Ghostland as a hostage four years ago. But Callie has changed in those four years, and now has secrets of her own. In her quest to save her sister from herself, Darri will be forced to outmaneuver a handsome ghost prince, an ancient sorcerer, and a manipulative tribal warrior (who happens to be her brother). When Darri discovers the source of the spell that has kept the dead in Ghostland chained to this earth, she faces a decision that will force her to reexamine beliefs she has never before questioned - and lead her into the heart of a conspiracy that threatens the very balance of power between the living and the dead.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

review: What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

pub date: May 10, 2011
publisher: Penguin
pages: 416
source: ALA Midwinter
appeals: contemporary, SARAH DESSEN, family, friendship,
content: um...I don't remember

What Happened to Goodbye is Classic Dessen. Lonely girl with a problem gathers friends by accident, along with a boy who later becomes more than just a friend. Girl successfully conquers problem and makes peace with herself.

Okay, I'm making it sound like Classic Dessen is bad, but it's not. It's really good. Classic Dessen works. I own most all her books and love them.

The thing is, I'm not sure what to write about this particular book. I liked Dave. I liked the friends Mclean accidentally acquires. I liked Mclean's family, especially how first impressions aren't the whole story. I thought her growth as a character was realistic and I really felt for her. After finishing the book, I kept thinking about her and her story for days afterward.

But that is all I have to say about it.  

Except, "hey, I read a book and it was good. You should read it, too! If you like Dessen, you'll like this one. If you like realistic fiction or problem novels or family drama or reading in general, you'll like this one! You should give it a try!"

Another town. Another school. Another Mclean. Ever since her parents' bitter divorce, Mclean and her father have been fleeing their unhappy past. And Mclean becomes a pro at reinventing herself with each move. But in Lakeview, Mclean finds herself putting down roots and making friends—in part, thanks to Dave, the most real person Mclean's ever met. Dave just may be falling in love with her, but can he see the person she really is? Does Mclean herself know?

Friday, April 22, 2011

review: Strings Attached by Judy Blundell

pub date: March 1, 2011 
publisher: Scholastic
pages: 313
appeals: historical fiction, realistic fiction, mob,
content: pretty clean but some stuff that happened off page

my thoughts:
Very interesting story. I thought it started out kind of slow, but by the end I was into it. I was even crying. It's beautifully written, with well-drawn characters. The historical backdrop was fascinating. It was a time in history I've never read a book about.

Half the story was what took place in Kit's present time, the end of 1950. The other half is told in flashbacks, sometimes only a month or two in the past, other times it was years. How the past was pieced together between the present was really cool and interesting. But by the end, sort of frustrating. I was intent on Kit's present story of what was happening in the fall of 1950, when there was a large chunk of flashback, making me wait to find out.

Once I finished, I thought about the story a lot. Even dreamed about it that night.

From National Book Award winner Judy Blundell, the tale of a sixteen-year-old girl caught in a mix of love, mystery, Broadway glamour, and Mob retribution in 1950 New York.

When Kit Corrigan arrives in New York City, she doesn't have much. She's fled from her family in Providence, Rhode Island, and she's broken off her tempestuous relationship with a boy named Billy, who's enlisted in the army.

The city doesn't exactly welcome her with open arms. She gets a bit part as a chorus girl in a Broadway show, but she knows that's not going to last very long. She needs help--and then it comes, from an unexpected source.

Nate Benedict is Billy's father. He's also a lawyer involved in the mob. He makes Kit a deal--he'll give her an apartment and introduce her to a new crowd. All she has to do is keep him informed about Billy . . . and maybe do him a favor every now and then.

As she did in her National Book Award-winning What I Saw and How I Lied, Judy Blundell traps readers in a web of love, deceit, intrigue, and murder. The result? One stunner of a novel.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

review: Shine by Lauren Myracle

pub date: May 1, 2011
publisher: Amulet
pages: 376
source: NetGalley
appeals: mystery, friendship, contemporary, realistic fiction
content: quite a bit of swearing including the f-word, sexual assault, bigotry, hate crime, alcohol and drug abuse, some other stuff -- Definitely for older teens.

This is a powerful, harsh, realistic, sad, amazing novel. So well written. And interesting. So much of it broke my heart. But there was good mixed in with the bad and the sad. By the end I did feel there was hope, whereas at the beginning not so much. Seriously, broke my heart.

The writing was beautiful. Which was nice since so much of what happened to Cat and her friends wasn't beautiful. I really loved reading how Cat grew during the two weeks or so of the novel. Left on her own she wouldn't have been able to do it. But because of what happened to Patrick, she found the strength to do what she needed to help him.  

I guessed who had hurt Patrick and why, but I still liked the reveal.

When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.

Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

review: Impossible by Nancy Werlin

pub date: September 2008
publisher: Dial
pages: 384
appeals: fairies, curse, romance, young adult, fantasy, family
content: there is some mild talk about sex

This is my third Nancy Werlin this year, and like the first two, I really enjoyed it. There isn't beautiful language or fantastic descriptions, but Werlin has a way of telling a straight forward story that really grabs my attention.

Though familiar with the song Scarborough Fair, I had never listened to the words before. They are rather disturbing. Werlin took the song and created this plausible story to go along with the lyrics.

I loved the way Lucy and her family figure out how to accomplish such impossible tasks in such a short amount of time. It was exciting and suspenseful.

It was easy for me to accept the curse and the fantasy elements of the story. It wasn't as easy for me to accept the romance bit. I liked Zach a lot. I liked Lucy and Zach's platonic relationship at the beginning of the novel. Their romantic relationship was abrupt and developed super fast. It kind of took me out of the story for a bit, but overall I thought it worked well and I really did like them as a couple.

Inspired by the ballad “Scarborough Fair,” this riveting novel combines suspense, fantasy, and romance for an intensely page-turning and masterfully original tale.

Lucy is seventeen when she discovers that the women of her family have been cursed through the generations, forced to attempt three seemingly impossible tasks or to fall into madness upon their child’s birth. But Lucy is the first girl who won’t be alone as she tackles the list. She has her fiercely protective foster parents and her childhood friend Zach beside her. Do they have love and strength enough to overcome an age-old evil?

Monday, April 18, 2011

review: A brief history of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper

pub date: October 13, 2009
publisher: Knopf books for Young Readers
pages: 304
source: Library audiobook
appeals: historical fiction, WWII, family, journal fomat, politics
content: clean

I really enjoyed this book. Sophie is so humorous and honest and likable. I actually listened to it, and the reader added a lot to Sophie and her family and made the book that much more enjoyable.

There is so much sudtle humor in this book. I was laughing through it all, even through the sadness. It wasn't even that Sophie meant to be funny, it was the way she told of experiences and her observations of those around her that made me laugh so much. Her sister Henry was quite hilarious. I really enjoyed Cooper's characters. 

I loved the setting of Montmaray. Sophie writes so honestly of the dire straights of the small kingdom, and also gives a brief history (which is also quite humorous in the telling) of what Montmaray once was.

The cover to the left is is the European paperback cover. I think it very appealing. Sadly, the US ones aren't so much. The hardcover is rather boring, as shown by the picture to the right. A castle on a rock? I like it now that I've read the book, but as a first glimpse of the book, it looks kind of boring. The US paperback is slightly better. I also think the title is a little off putting. A brief history? I think the title appeals to a very small audience, though feel free to disagree. And this makes me sad because I enjoyed the book so much. I want everyone to read it. I just wish it had better packaging.

‘I need to write down what has just happened. I need to set down the truth. If I write lies or if I write nothing at all, this journal is worthless. I must do this, in case anything happens. All right. This is what happened tonight, every single terrible thing that I can remember . . .’

Sophie FitzOsborne lives in a crumbling castle in the tiny island kingdom of Montmaray, along with her tomboy younger sister Henry, her beautiful, intellectual cousin Veronica, and Veronica's father, the completely mad King John.

When Sophie receives a leather journal for her sixteenth birthday, she decides to write about her life on the island. But it is 1936 and bigger events are on the horizon. Is everything Sophie knows and loves about the change?

From Sophie's charming and lively observations to a nailbiting, unputdownable ending, this is a book to be treasured.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

review: Eona: The Last Dragoneye by Alison Goodman

pub date: April 19, 2011
publisher: Penguin
pages: 656
source: ALA Midwinter
appeals: dragons, adventure, war, romance, fantasy
content: very gritty--for older teens. There wasn't sex or swearing, just harsh life situations and war and torture and death

I enjoyed Eon: Dragoneye Reborn. I LOVED Eona: The Last Dragoneye. Loved, loved, LOVED this book. It was so awesome and exciting. Sadness that it's over.  Though I'm really glad it was only a two book series. (1200 pages between them would be enough for five).

Again, I was just amazed by the world building. It fits seemlessly in with the first in the series, Eon, and expands and builds upon the previous story. Eon took place in the capital. This takes place all over the kingdom. We learn so much more about the dragons and Eona's past and her swords and the folios.  

There was also some romance going on here. It was the strangest love triangle I've ever read. I hope that doesn't stop anyone from reading the book, because it was so much more/different then just love. Maybe more of a power triangle? "Love" triangles get on my nerves at times, but this one didn't at all. And it was a lot because of Eona. She was attracted to the men for very different reasons and her feelings were never in question.

It was interesting to see the development of some relationships, and the disintegration of others. Eona has this power, and some people like it and want it, others don't. Relationships that Eona values are put to the test, and some fail. Which was really sad.

Unlike in the first book, Eona was very intellent. She had this internal battle between power and compassion. The tug-a-war, the shifting view of her power was interesting to read. She made me proud. Even as she struggled and sometimes failed, I loved it. I loved her. 

The characters, all of them, were very real to life. Even when I wanted them to behave differently, they behaved like they would in life if they were real. Which was awesome.

Did you notice how many pages this book is? It's HUGE. That is because it takes so long for things to happen. There is a daring rescue that starts on page 243 (of the ARC) and ends on page 337 (of the ARC). One hundred pages for a rescue. It is a very daring rescue and things don't go exactly as planned. But the point is, NOTHING happens quickly in this book (or in Eon, for that matter). I did get impatient at times because I wanted things to happen faster, but I never got bored or felt that the story was dragging or that there was too much description (though there was a lot). I'm just an impatient reader.

I actually wanted more when I finished it. After all that, it just sort of ended and I wanted more of a conclusion. Though honestly, it didn't need one. I wanted more of the world, the characters, the dragons.

Okay, enough ramblings. Just an encouragment: You should pick up these books. They're AWESOME!

In this standalone sequel to Eon: Dragoneye Reborn, Australian author Alison Goodman (Singing the Dogstar Blues) tracks the perilous adventures of Eona, the first female Dragoneye in many centuries. Unfortunately, our heroine finds no time to rest on her laurels: She and her fellow rebels are racing frantically to find a potent black folio while they also attempt to elude High Lord Sethon's pursuing army. Eona: The Last Dragoneye brims with romance, suspense, and surprises. Definitely worth recommending.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

waiting on wednesday: Everfound by Neal Shusterman

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It's meant to spotlight upcoming releases that we're looking forward to. 

I am so excited for Everfound, the last in the Skinjacker trilogy by Neal Shusterman. I LOVE Shusterman. And I love the Skinjacker books. They are CRAZY. When Everwild ended, everything was so topsy-turvey and insane! I can't wait to find out what happens next. Though I am a little worried because Shusterman can't be trusted to be nice to his characters.

Anyway, comes out next month! yippy! I've been waiting a year and a half for this.

Also, did you see that there's going to be an Unwind #2 called Unwholly? Next year sometime. Freakin excited. So double yippy for Shusterman!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

review: Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman

pub date: August 2008
publisher: Viking Juvenile
pages: 536
source: my bookshelf (before that, Barnes and Noble)
appeals: fantasy, dragons, adventure, war,
content: very gritty--definitely for older teens. A lot of war brutality. There aren't any soft punches.

Amazing world building. It blew my mind how awesome this fantasy world was. I loved it. I also loved how information was introduced. There's all this history that gets reveales slowly.

I don't read high fantasy often, so when I think of dragons, I think of them as sort of pets. Like sweet puppies. I'm not sure what fantasy dragons are usually like, but these ones were very different than what I was expecting. In a very cool and original way.

It was rather frustrating because I understood Eona's relationship with her dragon loooong before she did. Which was fun because I felt smart, but it wasn't fun when I figured it out half a book before Eona. Because then Eona just looks stupid. And makes stupid decisions. Which bothered me A LOT. Literally, I was yelling out loud because she was being such an idiot. Luckily, I was at home, alone, so nobody heard my rants.

My frustration with Eona knocked an apple off the wall for this book. I really enjoyed it. Awesome adventure. Wonderful characters. It was just so great. Yet...when I resort to yelling at a fictional character because she's DUMB, it kind of takes away from the enjoyment.

Eon has been studying the ancient art of Dragon Magic for four years, hoping he'll be able to apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune. But he also has a dark secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been living a dangerous lie for the chance to become a Dragoneye, the human link to an energy dragon's power. It is forbidden for females to practice the Dragon Magic and if discovered Eon faces a terrible death.

Monday, April 11, 2011

review: Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

pub date: May 10, 2011
publisher: Henry Holt and Co
pages: 336
source: ALA Midwinter
appeals: time travel, humor, romance, England, mystery, contemporary
content: clean

I loved this book! It was wonderful! It was adventurous, really quick to read, with never a dull moment. I really enjoyed the time travel. The translator did an excellent job.

The characters were great. I liked Gwen an awful lot. She had such an endearing personality and attitude. Her family members were quirky and very entertaining. Though some were more likable than others. I especially loved Gwen's friend Lesley. Their movie addiction was great. It kept me smiling.

There was a little romance in her relationship with Gideon, though it was very abrupt, I'm glad something romantic happened before the end. Because end was rather abrupt, too. The last page was the middle of a scene.  Which made me really want to read the next book in the series. But sadly, I don't read German.

I actually like the German covers much better than the US. Aren't they wonderful?
I love how Gwen and Gideon are arguing in the first, flirting and in the second, and dancing and smiling in the third. There's their relationship illustrated with shadow puppets! (or so I assume since I've only actually read the first). I think the US cover doesn't really reflect the story inside, which is quirky and fun. Though it is pretty, the US cover looks too serious to me.

Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era! Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon, the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Snapshot Saturday: Spring! Spring?

At the beginning of April I put up a display of spring picture books. I feel as if I'm being cruel. Taunting the children and their parents with pictures of babies and plants and gardens, when outside this is what its looked like all week:
Sadness :(

Friday, April 8, 2011

the best place to get books?

At the library we had a binder of book reviews written by teens. It was meant as a way for teens to get and give recommendations. 

I was looking through the binder and a 12 year old girl wrote something like, "Hannah Montana is my idol. I love all of the books about her. If you want to learn more about the Hannah Montana books go to your nearest Wal-Mart."

Huh!?!? Wal-Mart? She's in a library and she's referring people to Wal-Mart?

I laughed pretty hard at that one. I still think it's funny. Sad, but funny.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

pub date: May 3, 2011
publisher: HarperCollins
pages: 496
source: ALA Midwinter
appeals: dystopian,
challenges: Debut, 350 pages

This book was phenomenal. Every good thing you've heard about it is very true. When I read it in January, there weren't any blurbs about the plot, just something vague about a choice transforming you. So I went in blind. Knowing nothing. Which made it that much better. Everything was a surprise.

Certain aspects of it reminded me of other books. It reminded me of The Hunger Games, mostly because of the main character, Tris. She has the same determination and inner strength and brilliance that Katnis does. It reminded me of Ender's Game because of the idea of a battle school. As well as bullying and the bond that forms in a harsh environment. It reminded me of The Giver because of the idea of sorting, of one moment determining the path of the rest of their lives. It reminded me of Matched because of the gated city--what's on the other side?

Even though it reminded me of all of these different books, it stands on its own. It is original and exciting and suspenseful. The dynamics of the different city groups, as well as the different groups within Dauntless, was cool to read. Especially how Tris interacts with them all. How they see her and how she them. How she responds to what happens, internally and externally. It's neat to see a character act one way but feel another.

Tris is an amazing character. She has all these emotions warring inside of her--fear, anger, bravery, hate. But she's very self aware. And she is very motivated to succeed.

Theres a little love story going on, too. Good stuff. The development of the relationship--awesome! The feelings were so much romantic tension. I must say that the kissing scenes in the book were great. I'm just being honest...

Though it's frustrating to be in the middle (or beginning) of so many series right now, I am still glad Divergent is a series. I want to know more...about Tris and her boy, about her family, about the factions, about her friends. Sigh...the waiting begins...

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

pub date: December 2, 2010
publisher: Dutton
pages: 372
appeals: realistic fiction, romance, France!, boarding school, realistic fiction
content: some swearing, a few f-words (like 5 or so?), some mild sexual conversations

I've finally read the book! I've wanted to read it for such a long time. I even bought the book months ago, but I've been hesitant. Mostly because I wanted to like it, but what if I didn't?

I finally bit the bullet. And it was fantastic. Though not what I was expecting at all. I don't know if I ever read the blurb about the book when it was coming out. All I remember are all the blog posts I read about how Anna and St. Claire are such good friends before anything romantic happens between them. So I was expecting a book about good friends who's relationship turns into romance later on. That isn't exactly what happened. They were good friends, but there's this romantic, underlying tension throughout their relationship, from practically the first day. And wow, the blurb is right--there are a lot of near misses. Which actually kind of annoyed me after awhile. I gave the book 4 apples when I first finished it, but I kept thinking about the story for days afterward, so that means it's definitely 5 apples of yummy. 

What I liked:

St. Claire has crooked teeth and is short.

The romance. It was really good.

The ending. It's perfect. Which is should be after all those near misses!

Anna's boarding school friends. St. Claire, but also all the others. It was so real. All of them had these full lives that were individual and unique. Maybe it's because I'm trying to write my own novel and am finding it difficult, but I loved how real they felt.  

Anna's dad reminded me of Nicholas Sparks. Anyone else? I found it very humorous. And enjoyed it a lot.

France! I went to Paris years ago and I visited those places! I remember eating that food! It was fun to read. I kind of wish I went to high school in France.

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets √Čtienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?