Why Are There All These Blank Spaces?

You may notice that in some of my posts there are blank spaces in the reviews. These are spoilers that I've written so I can remember important details of the books when I want to read the sequel. I've made the text a beige color to blend in with the background so you won't accidentally see something you don't want to. If you want to read it, just highlight the section to make the text appear - although you should really just read the book yourself! :)

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Shifter

by Janice Hardy

I admit it. I picked this book because it's pretty - the cover grabbed my attention in the book store and I picked it up. Read the front flap, and was interested by the story. Book goes on Christmas list, and viola! I now have the shiny new thing in my hands.

The Shifter is the story of a fifteen-year-old orphan named Nya. Years ago all of Nya's family was killed in a takeover of their country and a resulting war, all except her younger sister Tali. Thankfully, Tali is an apprentice Healer - someone who can take injuries and pain away from and individual and then release it into a special stone called pynvium. She has a place to stay, food to eat and a future ahead of her. Things are a little more difficult for Nya. She can also take injuries and pain from others, but she can't release it into the pynvium. Nya must either hold the pain herself, or shift it to another person - a skill that is very dangerous to have. Nya knows that if the rulers found out out her talent, she could be taken to be used as a weapon. However, Nya soon finds it difficult to hide her secret ability. She's out of money, she's been kicked out of her room at the boarding house, and she can't find work anywhere. To top it off, strange things are happening at the League where her sister is training, and some apprentices are going missing. Nya will soon have to decide if it is better to hide her power, or use it, and if she does use it - is it right?

I loved the uniqueness of this book. It was completely different from anything I'd ever read. The characters are likable, and Nya's moral dilemmas are intriguing to mull over. The ending was mostly satisfying while also leaving it open for the sequel. A couple confusing sequences, and a rushed explanation of the political and social battles going on in the background cause me to give it four stars rather than five.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


by Lili St. Crow

This book is the sequel to Strange Angels, a book whose story I enjoyed but I had some reservations over the method of telling.

I have largely the same complaints for the sequel.

Again, Lili St. Crow seems to have a small vocabulary when it comes to words to expresses anger or shock. The only ones she can think of would get bleeped out on cable television. This is frustrating because these aren't words I enjoy hearing - even in my own head, and also because I think it shows a real lack of creativity. Seriously, not EVERYONE in the world uses those words in every sentence. It's crude, and sounds uneducated. I realize these are teenage characters, but I have a hard time believing that all teenagers have such a foul mouth as Dru and Graves do.

Second - the smells! Ms. St. Crow focuses way too much on the way things smell and not enough on other senses. Many sequences are hard to understand and picture in your head because the only information you have is what things smell like. (And yes, Christophe STILL smells like apple pie!) Oh, and by the way, it's mentioned quite a few times that Graves smells like cigarette smoke, as if this is supposed to be a nice thing - um, ew!

Unfortunately, I'm giving this book one less star than it's predecessor. I just didn't find the story as interesting, and it was often confusing! There were a few chapters that I wasn't really sure what was going on and it felt like the author was being intentionally vague.

Will I read the third installment? Probably only if Dani assures me that it's better than this one!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Leepike Ridge

N. D. Wilson

I love N.D. Wilson! This is the third book of his that I've read, and each one is a treasure. Not only are the stories original and interesting, but the way he tells the story is lovely and lyrical and engrossing.

Leepike Ridge
is actually Wilson's first book, and one I've been wanting to read for a while. However, I've never bought it because I didn't like the cover art of the paperback version and could never find the hardback version which I did like the art for (the art pictured). Finally found a copy at an outlet book store though, so it was finally time to buy it and read it.

While I do think I like the 100 Cupboards series better (mostly because it's fantasy and this is realistic fiction), Leepike Ridge was a fun story.

It starts off with this boy, Tom, who sails off down the river on a piece of Styrofoam from a refrigerator box and before he knows what's happening, the river dives under the mountain and Tom is sucked along with it. Once the current stops, Tom finds himself stuck in the pitch-dark and he can't find a way out. He also finds a body, a dog, a flashlight and eventually, a stream traveling farther into the mountain. Meanwhile Tom's mother is desperately searching for her son, and trying to determine who she can trust and who is keeping things from her. Will Tom ever find his way back above ground, and if he does, will he find his mom is safe or in danger?

Saturday, December 19, 2009


by Maggie Stiefvater

Despite this book being a sequel to Lament, it really reads more like a stand-alone novel. The main character and narrator of this book is James, a secondary character in the first novel. The setting has changed, as has all but one of the remaining characters. Dee is still in it, but she definitely takes a back seat in this one. In fact, most of what we know that's going on with her is from "text messages" dispersed throughout the book. And the few times she does appear, she's kind of annoying.

And even though James' narration is funnier than Dee's, the story of Ballad just didn't excite me as much as Lament did. The faeries as a collective group are not a big part of the story until the very end. Many of the newer elements to the faerie myths are not fully explained. Stiefvater has based a lot of her story on actual Celtic myth, so I was able to look some of it up, but I still think she should have included more. I'm teetering on the edge of a 3 or a 4 star rating, but settled on a 3. Not jumping for joy over it, but not regretting taking the time to read it - a solid 3 I'd say.

Friday, December 4, 2009


by Maggie Stiefvater

I've been wanting to read this book for a while. It's one of the regulars on my "Powell's List". Last time I was there I found a used copy - which is my permission to buy it!

Lament is the story of a girl who finds herself caught up in the world of faeries. These faeries are nothing like Tinker Bell though. They are based on old Celtic legends, and are dark, sneaky, crafty creatures. Faeries love to play games, deceive humans, and find ways to spirit them away. Deirdre's first encounter with the faerie world comes when a mysterious stranger comes to her aide at a music competition. Luke is beautiful, charming, a gifted musician, but also hiding something. Deirdre is cautious at first, but then her curiosity gets the better of her.. She finds herself trusting Luke - and it's not long before she learns whether that was a wise decision or not.

Some things I loved about this book:
Luke. Even though you're not sure if Luke should be trusted, he is an interesting character. He's very confident - on the border of cocky, and his exchanges with Deirdre are often amusing.
The faerie lore. I love the sinister undertone whenever the faeries are involved. The characters and the readers have to learn to never trust anything the faeries say, because while it may be true, there is likely some ulterior motive involved.

One slight reservation:
The ended is a little bit ambiguous! I wish the author would just give us a little more explanation and not make the reader assume!

Friday, November 27, 2009


by Ian Beck

I picked this book up on a whim at Powell's the weekend before Thanksgiving. The front flap description sounded interesting. It sounded like shades of Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix and the Stoneheart Trilogy by Charlie Fletcher. Both of which I enjoyed. So I decided to give it a shot. Unfortunately, this book doesn't quite live up to its potential.

Pastworld is a sort of amusement park/historical preserve of 1890s London. The actual story takes place in the future, even though all the events take place within the park of 1890s London, so it's almost like it's set in the past. Confused yet?

The characters don't really do much and thus read as unimportant, even though they are the "main" characters. Eve, who is essentially one of the most important characters of the book does nothing but run away and join the circus (yes I'm serious), where she finds she has an amazing knack for tight-rope walking! (Forgive me if this does not qualify as an interesting character to me).

Bible J is an interesting fellow to some extent but he's given virtually no background and no believable motivation for anything he does.

The Fantom I had high hopes for. From the first page he is mysterious and sinister and all the things a great villain should be. Shortly after though he becomes nothing more than a cardboard murderer who has a penchant for cutting hearts out (and with a little too much detail from the author on that aspect - yuck!)

And the ending!! It was the most bizarre ending. And I'm going to **spoil** it, so reader beware: The "twist" is not fully explained. We learn that Eve and The Fantom were created for the park, but we don't learn much about how and what they actually are. Certainly not mortal since the Fantom jumps off buildings but never dies and Eve was created to be killed and then resurrected. I want to know how this is supposed to work! Also, we're left not really knowing what happened to the Fantom - he just gets away and...that's the end?! The author tries to make it sound like he won't come back, but judging from what we just learned about his nature and origin, doesn't it make sense to assume that he WILL come back? No one is concerned though, so book over! And randomly, Eve is pregnant. Why would they even create her in a way that she could reproduce when her whole purpose was to just die over and over? And did she and Bible J ever even kiss? Where they heck did this come from? It felt oddly out of place in the book. So in the end I was left unsatisfied. **end of spoilers**

It gets two stars because I like the concept and for the first half or so it seemed promising. Second half get 1 star or less - could have been so much better!

Monday, November 16, 2009


by Kristin Cashore

This book gives me really mixed feelings.

I love the premise. Fire is a human "monster". Basically this means she has brightly colored hair and has the power to read others' minds and control them if she wishes. She's also extremely beautiful. She's also the last of her kind. She's always refused to use her power to manipulated people because of the way she saw her father do it. However, soon the kingdom needs her help to uncover whose plotting against the crown. Fire must decide if she will consent to use her power and how far she will go.

Unfortunately, my enjoyment of this book is marred by a few things:

One - Fire (much like Katsa in Cashore's previous book Graceling) refuses to marry. It seems that Cashore has some hatred towards marriage and wants to make her readers agree with her. Not only this but there are many similarity between Graceling and Fire - she should have just named is "Graceling 2.0!"

Two - Fire is (kinda) in love with (and sleeps with) this guy whose a total womanizer. Not only that, but he proclaims his love for her on one page and then a few pages later we learn that he's fooling around with somebody else! (***SPOILER: And then a few pages later we learn that he's gotten TWO women pregnant!) I'm supposed to LIKE this character? What a jerk. (SPOILER AGAIN - I was actually kind of revealed when he died! END OF SPOILERS***)

Three - Fire is totally over-dramatic and self-absorbed. She can't seem to see beyond her own self-inflicted problems to realize there are bigger problems out there. She's so concerned that her power COULD be used for evil that she can't see past her own nose to realize she SHOULD use it to save peoples' lives!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

As You Wish

by Jackson Pearce

Viola feels like she doesn't belong. Ever since her boyfriend broke up with her she's felt different, broken, and like she was missing something. One day at school Viola is feeling so sorry for herself, and wishing so fiercely to feel like she belongs, that she inadvertently summons a genie. The genie, who Viola calls Jinn in required to do as she commands and grant her three wishes. Once her wishes are granted he can return to his country - a place he's desperate to return to. However, Viola isn't quite ready to make her wishes. She wants to make sure she makes the right wish and not waste any. And so, reluctantly, Jinn is forced to wait. Unexpectedly for both, Viola and Jinn start to develop a friendship which may be beginning to turn into something more. The problem? Once she makes her three wishes Jinn will be gone forever and Viola won't even remember he existed.

This book falls into the very common "average teen girl falls for supernatural guy" category of young adult literature. However, it's a clever concept that's mostly entertaining. The end was wrapped up a little too quickly for my taste - I think the book could have benefited from an additional 5 chapters. But it's a pretty good effort for a first novel! I look forward to see what else will be coming from Ms. Pearce in the future.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sucks to Be Me

by Kimberly Pauley

It's another new teen vampire book! However, unlike Twilight and Vampire Academy, Sucks to Be Me does not take itself so seriously. The whole thing almost reads as a spoof of vampires.

Mina finds out in the first chapter that she has to attend vampire class and decide in a few weeks whether or not she wants to become a vampire. This is because the vampire council just found out her parents - who are already vampires - have been keeping her secret her whole life.

So Mina goes to classes, learns new things about vampires, is torn about what to do, meets a few cute guys, etc. It's pretty standard teen book stuff. However, Mina was an enjoyable character with some funny commentary. The other characters were pretty flat, and the ending was wrapped up a bit too tidily. It was amusing though.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Sea of Monsters

by Rick Riordan

Everyone loves these books so much I almost feel guilty giving it only 4 stars. Once again, this second book in the Percy Jackson series is inventive and clever. The way the characters from Greek mythology are woven into modern-day life and geography and such is probably one of the most interesting parts.

I can't really put my finger on what's keeping my from giving it a 5-star rating, but I just don't find myself raving on and on about it and recommending it to everyone I know. So, logically I can say that the story is great, but I'm just not giddy about it yet.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Lightning Thief

by Rick Riordan

In Rick Riordan's wildly popular series Percy Jackson & The Olympians, which begins with The Lightning Thief, 13-year old Percy discovers that his dad is actually a Greek god. Suddenly all of Percy's school lessons on Zeus and Hades, Athena and Ares have come to life, and he is in the middle of a fierce battle brewing between the gods.

I like the concept of this book. Despite being based off centuries-old stories, it's entirely original. The way the author describes the gods is unique and quite often humorous. Percy is likable, although entirely too trusting and sometimes the fact that he doesn't catch on that he's about to walk into a trap is frustrating. However, I can forgive this since he's only supposed to be 13. A promising start to a new series. Hopefully I will have less distractions and be able to read the next one a bit quicker.

Oh, and here's an exciting tidbit: This date marks the one-year mark since starting this blog. In that time I have read and blogged about 78 books!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Kiss in Time

by Alex Flinn

Much like Alex Flinn's other fairytale retelling, Beastly, this book is another fun, modern-day take on a well-known and loved fairy tale. A Kiss in Time is the story of Sleeping Beauty. However, unlike the traditional tale which ends shortly after the climactic awakening kiss, this story only begins there.

Oddly, one of the most enjoyable aspects of this version is that the princess and her "one true love" really can't stand each other at the beginning. Talia the princess is spoiled and selfish and expects everyone to adore her and cater to her every whim; her rescuer Jack just wants to get out of Europe, get back his girlfriend, and have fun partying the summer away. Needless to say after their first kiss the two do a lot of butting heads.

Soon both are forced to start to think about someone besides themselves. And as if that isn't difficult enough, the witch Malvolia, who put Talia under the spell in the first place is convinced Jack was not supposed to break the curse, and she is looking to bring Talia back and enforce her curse once and for all.

This is a sweet, funny book, whose characters really start to grow on you. If you're looking for light, but engrossing fairy tale retelling, this book fits the ticket.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Being Nikki

by Meg Cabot

The continuation of Airhead, Being Nikki is pretty much the same story as before, just the next part of it. This time around it's quite a bit more exciting, with lots of mystery thrown in. Unfortunately, it's also a cliff-hanger - even more so than the first installment. Again, this is still reading like one long book to me broken into lots of parts rather than a series of books that work on their own also. You can't really read this without first reading Airhead, and I can't imagine felling satisfied without continuing onto the next. Too bad I've got to wait a while for that one.

Despite these gripes, I love the story enough, and Meg Cabot's ever-hilarious writing to give it 4 stars and make a mental note to keep my eyes peeled for the next installment!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


by Meg Cabot

I love the plot of this book and the hilarious situation Meg Cabot puts her characters into, however it was just a bit too meandering and then abruptly ended for me to give it a 5-star rating.

Emerson Watts hates all things girly and popular among the teen crowd. However, her little sister Frida does, and when she wants to go to a CD signing at the newest Stark mega-store down the street, Em is forced into accompanying her little sis on the outing. Little does she know that this day will change her life forever. When Em dives at her sister to save her from a giant falling plasma screen, Em ends up being crushed beneath it. She blacks out, and when she wakes up she finds herself, well, not exactly feeling like herself. And suddenly, it seems that everyone is calling her "Nikki"...

This book reads more like the first half of a book than a whole book. There isn't much a climax, just a set up for one to come (perhaps in the next book?). So while I really loved the idea of this book, it just doesn't seemed finished. However, I am looking forward to reading the next installment.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


by Alex Flinn

This book is a cute, funny, modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast told from the perspective of the Beast.

Kyle Kingsbury is a vain, cruel sophomore at a prestigious school in New York City. On the night of the big dance, Kyle puts his mean-spirited plan into action, however things don't go quite according to plan. A few days prior, Kyle convinced a unpopular girl that he wanted to take her to the dance. He asked her what kind of flower she wanted and asked her to meet him there. Kyle however, already has a date to the dance - the most beautiful, popular girl in school. The pair takes great joy in seeing Kyle's fake date show up and be humiliated in front of everyone. Kyle's victim though, has a few tricks up her sleeves.

She appears in Kyle's room later that night and proclaims that she has seen the cruelness in Kyle's heart, and because she is actually a witch, she proceeds to teach Kyle a lesson in the best way she knows how: by turning him into a hideous beast. There is a glimmer of hope: if Kyle kind find someone to love, and love him in return within 2 years, the curse will be lifted. If not, Kyle will remain a beast forever.

Pretty much the standard Beauty and the Beast pattern, but what makes this book interesting is that the Beast is the one telling us his story. At the beginning he's obnoxious, but as time goes on we see Kyle becoming more caring and thoughtful, and when he has a chance at maybe breaking the curse, you are really rooting for him to succeed. A fun book for anyone who loves a good fairy tale retelling.

Friday, September 11, 2009


by Ingrid Law

Savvy could be described as a coming-of-age story. It is also a fun supernatural fantasy geared for the slightly-younger set. But mostly it is a sweet story about family, trust, love, looking beneath the surface, growing up, and finding who you are and what you're good at.

It's not complicated or terribly action-packed, but the characters are so endearing and the narrative so richly detailed that it's really quite a treasure.

Ingrid Law uses LOTS of metaphors and similes through the text, and they just fit! I kept thinking this book would be great to use while trying to teach students to use these narrative tools in a way that is effective. The main character, Mississippi (Mibs) Beaumont (also our narrator) has such a innocent and charming way of telling her story, that you find yourself drawn into this story from the very first page.

You see, Mibs' family is pretty special: on their 13th birthdays the new teenagers develop a special talent called their "savvy". Mibs' eldest brother Rocket can control electricity. Her other older brother Fish can create storms. Mibs' birthday is just three days again and she's hoping for a savvy that can help her save her Poppa, who's very sick in the hospital. When she thinks she may have gotten just what she wished for, Mibs and 2 of her brothers and the pastor's kids stowaway on a Bible delivery bus in hopes of getting to Salina in time. However, when the bus turns north instead of south is when the group's real adventure starts.

*Spoiler* I'm giving this book 4 stars simply because I have mixed feelings about the kids not calling their parents to tell them where they are, and also deceiving the adults who are helping them. I understand the reasoning for it in the story, but if I were to read this book to a class, I would feel it necessary to discuss why this is not a smart choice made by the kids. Unfortunately, at the end the kids don't feel much remorse for making their parents worry for so long while they were missing.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


by Elizabeth Knox

I have mixed feelings on this book. About halfway into it I would have given it 2 stars at best. It was slow and aimless. It seemed like there was no real purpose or point to it anymore. Oftentimes the characters didn't seem to be doing anything, and the times when they were, the description was very vague, which I found frustrating in a book with an otherwise omniscient 3rd person narrative. Because the narration was in 3rd person, the perspective hopped from one character to another, sometimes even in the middle of a chapter. This was usually clear, but it did make it difficult to remember what was happening with everyone at a particular time.

Just as I was starting to get tired of Laura's obsession with her Sandman, all the prep for ball, Cas Doren's mysterious dirty dealings, and Chorley's almost pointless investigations, the book finally picked up some steam, and as we neared the end, we finally got some answers.

The explanation of what The Place is and why it exists was especially interesting - and nothing like what I had imagined. The conclusion had just the right amount of resolution. The second half of this book was so much better than the first half!

I'd actually love to see this book and it's predecessor combined into one abridged version. I think a lot of the unnecessary and confusing parts could be cut out and the stuff that would be left would be an exciting, well-paced fantasy/mystery adventure!

Friday, September 4, 2009


by Aprilynne Pike

Aprilynne Pike's premier novel Wings boasts praise from Twilight author Stephenie Meyer all over it's relatively simple cover. I can see why Meyer liked this book - partially because it's overall flow is very similar to Twlight, and also because it is a creative and interesting story.

Much like Twilight, Wings starts off slowly. The beginning (and larger half) of the novel is mostly spent in character development. We get to know Laurel, her parents, her new friend(/boyfriend?) David, and the mysterious Tamani. We learn along with Laurel and David that she is a faerie, and despite this fact, the pair continue to cautiously pursue a romantic relationship. And at just about the point when you've decided nothing epic is going to happen in this book, the action picks up. Main characters in peril, daring escape, nearly complete defeat of the bad guys - but enough left uncompleted for an easy sequel.

The characters in this book are great! From sweet, scientific David, to mysterious and compelling Tamani, there are lots of things to like about them. I also really enjoyed the author's take on faeries in this book. Some traits of her faeries were similar to folklore, some were completely different. Laurel is a faerie, but she is not Tinkerbell - Pike's faeries are much more inventive than that.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Catching Fire

by Suzanne Collins

Despite this book annoying the heck out of me - it still must receive 5 stars. Why you ask? Well, the book is amazing. (We'll get to that in a bit.) However, the end is a total cliff-hanger (seems that's been a common problem for me lately.) We are left with a few characters in mortal peril by the book's end. And that's just annoying, because I now have to wait another year to read the conclusion to this amazing story!

In The Hunger Games - the first book of the trilogy - Katniss Everdeen finds herself competing in the Capital's annual Hunger Games. Katniss lives in a country called Panem - which used to be the United States. After a destructive war the country was restructured int0 13 districts surrounding the controlling government stationed in The Capital. Years ago, district 13 revolted, but The Capital prevailed. District 13 is no more, and as punishment for the district's uprising, The Capital has set in place an annual games as a reminder that all are under The Capital's power. Each year, a set of teenagers (one boy and one girl) from each of the districts are selected, and sent to compete - to the death - in the Hunger Games. One will prevail and win fame and fortune. The rest will never come home.

Katniss's sister is chosen, but Katniss takes her place. The boy selected from her district is the baker's son - Peeta. The two form a tenuous friendship as they are prepped for the game despite fearing the other may simply be planning a way to kill the other. However, partially as a plot to survive the games and partially due to Peeta's true feelings, the two develop a romantic relationship. And, against all odds, survive the games together. Both refuse to kill the other, and when the gamemakers attempt to force their hand, they threaten to both kill themselves - thus leaving no winner. And so, for the first time ever there are two winners.

However, in Catching Fire, Katniss's troubles are not over. Her desperate act in the arena is viewed by the President as an act of defiance against the capital, and her life and the lives of all she holds dear are threatened by the powerful government. Katniss must try to quell the rebellion she has inadvertently started before it's too late. The question is, does she really want to stop the rebellion? And if she doesn't, where will she hide?

This book is so absorbing it is incredibly difficult to put it down. The characters are endearing. The government is frightening and believable. The descriptions of the outfits and accessories of those in the Capital are outrageous, but funny. And despite the terrible make-me-wait-forever ending, I just adore this series and will keep recommending it to anyone who will listen!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


by Elizabeth Know

One of the more unique books I've read in the past few months, this book still has me wondering...

What's really going on in The Place?
Will Laura ever find her father?
What is Cas up to?
Why a sandman?

This book is part of a duet, and really it feels like it - the ending just ended so abruptly that I felt like I needed to turn the page right into the next book. Unfortunately, I don't have it yet. Hopefully soon I'll be reading it and then be able to more accurately critique the plot and characters. Because, you see, so much is left unexplained or unresolved by the end of the first book. And to give it 5 stars, I feel like I have to have a better idea of what going on, and I don't yet.

However, there were enough good things about this book that makes it close. First, the narrative is very rich and descriptive - it draws you right into the story and the environment. Secondly, the premise of this story is so unique - it's truly like nothing else I've read before. Thirdly, the characters are interesting and varied.

And while yes, the ending is abrupt, it does leave me wanting to read more! So I suppose that's a good thing as well. :)

Sunday, August 30, 2009


by Margaret Peterson Haddix

I'm really loving this series! However I can't really discuss it without some major spoilers for the first book, so beware!

At the end of Found we learn that the adoptive kids who have been gathered together for the fake conference are actually famous missing children from history, who have been taken from their time by some advantageous businessmen in the future to be adopted. However, the plan went wrong and the children were dropped into the end of the 20th century and adopted by a variety of families.

This great tampering with time had caused a ripple effect that one group wishes to repair - and to do that they must send these children back to their own times. In Sent, Jonah and his sister have followed their friends, Chip and Alex back into time - to the 15th century. They must find a way to "fix time" and also save their friends from their inevitable deaths. The hard part - Chip and Alex are really Edward V and Richard - king and prince of England.

What I love about this book:
1) Haddix finds a way to simplify time travel and the time paradox in a way that kids can understand, but not so much that it is boring or silly for adults.
2) The events in the book are based on accurate historical facts, and real historical mystery. No one knows what happened to Edward V and his brother Richard, so Haddix explanation of time travel lends itself well to the historical facts.
3) The book cover is just pretty cool looking. And yes, I admit I'm a sucker for pretty cover-art.
4) There's going to be more! While I'm not sure how many more, Haddix clearly sets herself up for multiple sequels to come. If they are a good as the first two offerings I can see this books as being a great series to introduce to students or read to a class.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Blood Promise

by Richelle Mead

I'll admit, when I read the last book in the Vampire Academy series, I was mad - it's pretty much certain that Dimitri is a Strigoi and Rose now feels she must hunt him down and kill him. It was such a downer of an ending! However, by the time Blood Promise was released I was eager to read more.

For the first time ever Rose has left Lissa behind. She has chosen Dimitri over Lissa, because while Dimitri's life has left him, he is not dead. He has been turned into one of the Strigoi - a type of vampire that kills for pleasure. Once Dimitri told Rose he'd hope someone would kill him if he ever became a Strigoi. And so it is with this conversation firmly in mind that Rose sets out to find Dimitri - to kill him and fulfill his wish.

The first half of the book is a little slow. Rose spends a lot of time vacillating between options of what to do next. All the while she is mourning for Dimitri and trying to push everyone from her old life away. Thankfully, Rose eventually gets herself and gear and continues on her mission. From that point on the book races toward the finish. As expected, Rose does manage to find Dimitri, and her encounter and interaction with him is one of the most interesting parts of the novel.

The ending of this book is less of a downer, while it does easily set itself up for the next instalment - another I'll be eagerly waiting for!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fire Study

by Maria V. Snyder

I have to say I was a little disappointed in this book. As the third book in the Study series it left a lot to be desired. In Poison Study and Magic Study I really enjoyed the character of Yelena - she was strong, fierce, confident, and passionate. Often she jumped into situations without thinking them through, but she thought well on her feet. For most of Fire Study Yelena was a different person. She doubted herself at every moment, she gave up too soon, she was afraid, despairing and seemed to be in a constant state of confusion. I wanted the old Yelena back!

One particular personality trait the manifested itself in Yelena this book was an awkward sort of pacifism. Yelena, the girl who from the onset of the series was a murderer - the girl who spent half of the first book training on how to fight, the girl who always carries a knife strapped to her thigh suddenly doesn't want to harm anyone. The vilest, evil creature is right in front of her - the man who kidnapped, tortured, raped and killed at least 12 girls in the previous book - and after magically shredding his brain and essentially killing him, she feels guilty. Others seem to disapprove of her actions. Funny, I was cheering her on when she did it. Throughout most battle sequences Yelena narrates how she incapacitates one person after the next and then frets as she takes down the next that her blow might have killed the poor guy who was just trying to kill her! I don't want her to be bloodthirsty, but it just seemed weird that she was SO traumatized by the deaths of the creeps who were out torturing and killing people. Get over it girl!

In connection to this, I thought Yelena's new found reluctance to swat a fly made it hard to believe her relationship with Valek. He's supposed to be the most lethal assassin out there, who kills threats first and then asks questions and HE'S the man Yelena loves? If she's now so concerned over NOT killing people, why would she love a man who has killed so many with no apology? It just didn't make sense.

Lastly, I thought the book did not flow well. The first half of the book was rambling and confusing. It was sometimes hard to know or remember what was going on, even though the author repeatedly reminded reminded reminded the reader of what had happened in the previous book through Yelena's odd sounding paragraph-long asides to the reader. It was awkward and annoying because I had just read the previous book - I remembered what had happened well enough and didn't need to read summary after summary of what I'd read a few weeks ago.

Thankfully, on the plus side, the last third of the book did improve. The condescending remembers were fewer and Yelena started to act more like the character I remembered from the previous entries. The characters finally had a plan and a purpose. It reminded me why I liked the first books and finally added something worthwhile to the story. I just wish somebody had edited down the beginning!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife

by Audrey Niffenegger

Yuck yuck yuck! I hated this book! Despite the fact that I still think the premise is quite interesting - the book was just terrible!

I would actually like to see what a different author would do with the idea of a man involuntarily traveling back and forth in time - meeting with his younger self, his wife's younger self, his older child, etc. Preferably an author without such a fondness for all manner of curse words. Page after page after page just littered with profanity - it didn't come across as "realistic" - it reads more like the author was trying to shock us. It makes the author and the characters seem crude and uneducated. In high school one of my teachers informed the class on the first day of school that there would be no cursing in his classroom. He then directed our attention to the quote displayed in the room: "Profanity is a weak mind trying to express itself forcefully." I couldn't help but think of that quote time and time again while reading this book. Really author, are those the only words you know? Because I know some words that you could have used instead that wouldn't make you sound like a jerk trying to impress us with your "tough" language. A few profanities in a book, I can look over, realize that some people do talk that way and let it go, but in this book it was just excessive.

Secondly, and in addition to the profanities, there were many scenes in the book that were intensely suggestive, crude and explicit. I found myself flipping through pages just to find where it ended and it was safe to read again. Henry's and Clare's love wasn't believable at times. Why do they love each other? - the author doesn't really tell us, except that Henry's all Clare's ever known and they have sex a lot. Henry as a 30- and 40-something adult time travels back to when Clare is a child. He meets her, tells her about his time travelling, asks her to keep it a secret, etc. I found the whole exchange to be creepy. In his time he's married to Clare, and sometimes when he's visiting with teenage Clare he has a hard time thinking of her as a child. Ew!

Thirdly, Henry and Clare aren't even that likable. Henry's a cad and an alcoholic. He's selfish, he thinks only of himself. Clare just acts like a martyr. She does nothing but wait for Henry. She takes advantage of her friend's trust. The don't read as real, and I didn't really care what happened to them because I didn't like them. I like to feel like I could be friends with the characters in the books I read, if they actually existed in real life. If I were to meet a real life Henry and Clare I'd try to stay as far away as possible!

And lastly (yes, I have one more thing to complain about!), throughout the whole book the author litters the text with references to obscure authors and artists as if to impress the reader with her great knowledge. Often we are forced to read through sentences, paragraphs of text in French or German. Almost none of these sections are translated. If they aren't important enough to the story to need to be translated, then why include them at all? Again, it gave me the distinct impression that the author was talking down to me, the reader. Pretty much guarantees that I will never read a book by her again.

So to summarize, I thought this book was a tasteless, crude adaptation of what could have been an interesting story. I can't think of anyone I'd recommend it to - in fact, I'd be more likely to warn people not to read it. Yuck. I'm so excited to read something else!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

by Carrie Ryan

Sigh. This book had such potential, and I was so primed to love it after the first 3 chapters and then it was just sort of a victim of itself.

The biggest problem was that it seemed the author couldn't quite decide what kind of book she was writing. Is it horror? Romance? Mystery? Suspense? It tried to be all of these things and then failed to be any of them well.

Initially, this book reminded me of The Village - a group of people live in a pioneer style village surrounded by an intimidating forest filled with disturbing creatures. In The Forest of Hands and Teeth those creatures are basically zombies: a horde of the undead - mindless and hungry for flesh. They are called "The Unconsecrated". Young Mary has recently lost her father to the forest (we never actually find out how he got into the forest in the first place). Then, at the very beginning of the book, she loses her mother as well. Mary is orphaned, and her older brother kicks her out of the house. Mary is then forced to join the Sisterhood - a type of nunnery.

At this point the story becomes a mix of romance and mystery. Mary tends to the sick Travis and begins to develop feelings for him. At the same time, she uncovers mysterious happenings at the church that begin to suggest that there is life outside the Forest and that the Sisters are trying to hide it. Honestly, this is the kind of story I was hoping for. Soon though, our genre shifts.

The Unconsecrated breach the village and Mary manages to escape with her friends Travis, Harry and Cass, as well as her brother Jed, his wife Beth, and a small boy named Jacob. The group has no choice but to set off down the narrow fenced-in path through the forest in hopes of finding civilization on the other side. Now our book becomes more of a horror/suspense novel and mostly stays that way til the end. I'm disappointed.

But more than just the author switching genres partway through - she also drops multiple story lines! At the Cathedral, Mary finds mysterious rooms, overhears whispered conversations, finds a girl from outside the village, and NONE of that gets explained. Ever. Mary doesn't even seem to speculate or wonder about it again.

Also, the romance falls flat because you're not ever quite sure who you should wish she ends up with. She loves Travis, but then she likes Harry after all and is mad at Travis, then she loves Travis again. Then Travis makes her mad, and she misses Harry. I think we were ultimately supposed to like Travis the best, but I liked Harry!

(*SPOILERS*) And then, the end! The end of this book was just terrible! I refuse to call it and end. It felt as if surely the last 10 chapters of the book had been misplaced! We find out the outcome for 3 of the 7 characters (2 because they die). The rest are either just assumed dead or left sitting helplessly in the forest with virtually no food, water or hope for making it out. What is up with that?!

This is how it should have ended - Travis doesn't get bitten. Jed sacrifices himself to the Unconsecrated to help them escape instead of Travis. Travis, Mary, Harry, Cass and Jacob find the path out of the forest and to the ocean. (And the path actually goes all the way to the coast - none of this lame running through the forest and down the cliffs aimlessly in the dark to escape the Unconsecrated). The village has better defences against the Unconsecrated, or perhaps they find that the Unconsecrated are confined to the forest by some ancient spell, or maybe the village has found a cure for the Unconsecrated. Any of those would be better than the non-ending the author came up with. (*END SPOILERS*)

Disappointing. It could have been great. As is, it's just mediocre.