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! :)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Amaranth Enchantment

by Julie Berry

I checked this book out from the library a few months ago, but didn't get around to reading it before I had to return it. But it still seemed interesting to me, so I decided to give it another try.

I did get around to reading it this time. However, I'm kind of wishing I hadn't bothered. This book wasn't the most terrible thing I've read, but I really didn't like it much. The characters were either flat or just uninteresting. All the good plots were unexplored and the ones that made up the bulk of the book were silly and frustrating.

Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers galore to follow! Read on at your own risk!

When Lucinda was a young child her parents left for a royal ball and never came back. After their deaths she was forced to move in with her aunt and uncle. While her uncle genuinely cares for her, her aunt seems to harbor an unexplained hatred toward her. On one particularly eventful day her uncle's jewelry shop gets a visit from the "dreaded Amaranth witch", the crown prince and a common street thief all of whom play a part in the events of the rest of the story. However, things in Lucinda's life go from bad to worse when Lucinda's uncle dies and her aunt kicks her out onto the streets. She has no choice but to seek help from the Amaranth witch.

Now doesn't that sound like a great villain? The Amaranth Witch. In fact, we are even told on the flap and in the text of the novel that she is "dreaded". I was SO disappointed when it turned out that this witch was not the teeniest bit scary. Not evil, not fierce, not even self-confident. She is little more than a whining, crying middle-aged lady. Why in the world do people dread her when she isn't even the slightest bit intimidating to a 15-year old homeless girl?

Secondly, Lucinda is STUPID! Through the whole book she was doing things that she really shouldn't have, and then, of course getting caught and in BIG TROUBLE. First, she lets the thief Peter stay in her house the night he bangs on her window (he steals from her). Then, she decides the best way to get the witch's (Beryl's) stone back is to pay Peter to teach her how to STEAL it from the prince (she gets caught, thrown in prison and nearly executed). Next, she decides to go see the prince after she escapes prison (she gets lucky on that one). But then, when the prince pardons her and asks her NOT to come to the royal ball, what does she do? You guessed it! She goes to the ball. With Peter. They cause a commotion, she has to run away in fear, the fact that there were only 50 pages left in the book is probably the sole reason that incident ended up working out all right in the end.

Oh, and by the way, Beryl's not the villain. We knew that pretty early on. The real villain is not revealed until at least two-thirds of the way through the book. And then when he is, he's supposed to be this great scary menacing thing. We just learned his name! That's not the way to create fear of a character! Big ol' meany's catching up to Lucinda and I'm thinking, "Meh, she'll be fine." He's setting fire to her house and I'm wondering when the goat's going to take him down. Seriously, he's not scary.

And then, to top it off - the back and forth of Beryl. She's not from our world but she can never get back to hers (sniff). But wait, then all of a sudden she did get back to her world! Lucinda is noble and tells her to stay. "I'll just go back to face my big bad villain, and oh, thanks, I'll take your stone that you gave me even though we both know that's what big baddy is after!" Why didn't she just leave it?! It's because she's stupid. So is Beryl. Ugh!

But then, of course, Lucinda's in trouble - "Beryl, help me!" So Beryl comes back. (Nice of you to figure this out after all those years Beryl.) How to get rid of baddy? Can't kill him. Why not? Because he's not from this world either. The only way to get rid of him is to send him down a magic well. Yup. But somebody has to go with him - sacrifice himself or herself to make sure he goes. Can you guess who? I bet you can.

There was one slightly redeeming plot point at the end of the book that I found interesting. It wasn't ever explored properly though to make up for all the things that annoyed me. Disappointing book.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Poison Study

by Maria V. Snyder

I should have written this review sooner, as I've already forgotten some of what I was going to write. Hopefully it will come back to me.

Recently I came across Poison Study on Goodreads and thought it sounded like, well.... a good read! Checked it out at the library and was pleased to find that it did live up to my expectations.

Poison Study is the story of a young woman, Yelena who in awaiting her execution for the murder of the prince. Within the first few pages Yelena is dragged from her cell to be brought to the gallows (or so she thinks). Instead, she finds herself in the office of the chief of security about to be offered an amazing reprieve. She may chose to accept her execution, or become the Commander's newest food taster and live - although in constant danger of someone attempting to poison the Commander's food. As Yelena puts it, "Only a fool would refuse" and so she begins her training in the art of detecting poisons.

One of the things I most enjoyed about this book was the style in which the author revealed Yelena's past. Right at the beginning we learn that Yelena committed murder, and while we assume there must be a reason (because really, who wants to root for a cold-blooded killer?) we don't know much of anything about why she did it. Snyder does eventually reveal Yelena's whole story, but the way it is spread out makes it more interesting and less shocked for the reader. Some aspects of the tale are a bit gruesome and not having it all dumped on you at once makes it easier to read.

While this book is the start to a trilogy, it had a satisfying ending that also made me eager to read the next book!

Sunday, July 19, 2009


by Michael Grant

After reading Gone I was upset by the cliff-hanger ending - then I realized that it was not a stand-alone book as I'd thought, but rather the start to a series. Hunger in the second book.

There were a lot of things that happened in Gone, and at the start of Hunger I was afraid I'd forgotten too many of them. And while the author used practically the whole length of the book in reminding readers of the back story, I did feel it was pretty effective, without feeling like I was reading something redundant.

One of the reviews on the back of this book states, "If Stephen King had written Lord of the Flies, it might have been a little like this." (VOYA (starred review)). I think this is actually a pretty good way to describe the feel of the series. It has a dark, menacing creature that taunts its victims mercilessly - all set into the back story of an entire town of kids who suddenly find themselves living in a world without adults. Everyone over 15 has simply vanished. The kids who are left have to find a way to survive and coexist. Food is scarce, arguments erupt, and soon they are the brink of war with each other.

My biggest complaint for this book was that you were never quite sure who was dead and who was alive. Sometimes a kid would die and it would almost be glossed over as if the author was afraid to say it. Pages later I'd find myself thinking, "Wait. They're dead?" On the opposite side of the problem though was that many characters were pronounced dead in the narration, and then only pages later it's proclaimed that they were not QUITE dead after all. Cue Lana: magic healer girl who can fix all sorts of mortal injuries! I half expected Magical Max from the Princess Bride to pop out and tell us that they were "not all dead, only mostly dead". Not that I wish for lots of deaths, but don't tell me they're dead if they're not!

I do love the concept of this book though. I'm excited to see how the creation of the FAYZ will be explained. I also am looking forward to reading how the kids create order in their town. Will Sam continue to lead? Will they finally set up some sort of monetary system? Can they ever find a way to work with each other? I'm looking forward to seeing where the rest of this story leads!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fame, Glory, and Other Things on My To-Do List

by Janette Rallison

This is my 4th Janette Rallison book, and once again she has made me laugh out loud one minute and cringe the next as her characters do ridiculous things and find themselves in even more ridiculous situations.

In Fame, Glory, and Other Things on My To-Do List, Jessica wants to get the lead in her high school play, graduate, move to Hollywood and become a famous actress. When mysterious new guy Jordan turns out the be the son of a famous actor, Jessica's dreams seem that much closer to becoming a reality. However, through a series of mishaps, Jessica manages to make Jordan mad at her as well as miss out on a major part in the upcoming musical "West Side Story".

A large part of this book is taken up by rehearsals and the performance of the play. Rallison does a pretty good job of describing the scenes, although I do think it would have been helpful to have actually seen the play or movie "West Side Story" before reading this. However, despite this it was still an enjoyable book. Jordan and Jessica are hilarious, as are the various other student actors and actresses. Rallison's got me hooked - I plan on reading more of her books soon!