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! :)

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.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side

by Beth Fantaskey

If you've read Twilight, this book will remind you of it.

If you've read Pride and Prejudice - Lucius will remind you of the way you felt towards Mr. Darcy at the beginning.

That said, Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side is not a copy-cat novel. Jessica is quite different from Bella, and while Lucius has his Darcy/Edward moments - he is neither of the two.

Let's start at the beginning.

Jessica is quite ready to just have a normal Senior Year. She hoping to maybe start a relationship with cute, nice Jake - the boy who came into the diner where she worked often during the summer. She plans on continuing riding her horse, competing in 4-H and math competitions. However, Jessica's plans get all turned around when a mysterious stranger appears at her bus stop one morning whispering her name. Not Jessica - but her old name, Anastasia, the one she had before she was adopted as a baby, the name that no one but her parents and her best friend Mindy know. Understandably Jessica is creeped out when the guy appears behind her in her English calls - condescendingly and creepily announcing to the whole class that his name in Lucius Vladescu. Even more shocking, is when Jessica's mother invites the boy over for dinner. It is during this dinner that Jessica learns that she is the daughter of a powerful pair of vampires in Romania, who died shortly after her birth. She is a vampire princess, and has been betrothed to Lucius since their births.

Saying much more would spoil the story, but I will say that Lucius is just ANNOYING at the beginning. I was reading it thinking why in the world the author thought we were going to like this creep! Then I was reminded of one of the most annoying male leads in a novel - Mr. Darcy. And indeed, like Mr. Darcy, somehow along the way you find yourself starting to like Lucius. Even after the fact it's hard to remember the point where you started to like him. One aspect of the book that does help this along though are Lucius letters to his uncle - which are interspersed throughout the novel. Through these we see Lucius sense of humor and also sympathize with the difficult place in which he finds himself.

Jessica in turn is a relatively strong character. She won't let Lucius push her around. However, she does have the problem common to many female protagonists - the unwillingness to confide in anyone! Many times she avoids telling her parents her problems (which I can understand, as she is a teenager and many teenagers don't feel comfortable talking to their parents about everything) but she also never confides in her best friend, instead opting to keep her out and eventually push her away.

I was really liking this book and read furiously to the end. However, I was just a little disappointed by the end. It seemed rushed, and not completely explained. In fact, it was if the author picked up Jessica's habit and kept the reader out of the loop. I wasn't sure what was going on until Jessica explains it to Lucius, and even then I was thinking, "Wait. What?" I didn't think it was entirely convincing and actually I found myself liking certain characters just a little bit less because of their reaction to things going on around them.

Good book, could have been great if the ending had just been a little more fleshed out.

Magic Study

by Maria V. Snyder

Magic Study is the second book of the Study series telling the tale of Yelena: formerly about to be executed for murder but instead offered the opportunity to become the Commander's food taster, now a newly-discovered magician, on her way into the southern lands of Sitia to practice the art of magic.

Yelena's life in Poison Study was always fraught with peril, and Magic Study is no different. On her way through Sitia, she meats her spiteful brother, gets captured by a group of soldiers who believe her a spy, is despised by First Magician, finds herself the target of a masked madman, and is captured by an equally mad and murderous woman.

The story surges from one point to the next and I found myself not able to turn the pages fast enough. The one negative thing that I can say about this book is that the author's reminders of the events that occurred in the previous book were a bit heavy-handed. I've read a few sequels lately where these hints were so seamless integrated into the story that you hardly noticed them. However, in this book they almost felt like they belonged in parenthesis. I could almost imagine the author, as if on a stage, turn her head, partially cover her mouth and whisper an aside to the audience ("This is what happened in the last book, readers. Remember it? Good.") Not a terrible problem, but something noticeable.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Curse Dark As Gold

by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Sometime in my browsing of books online I came across this title. Billed as a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, I was immediately intrigued. I enjoy reading fairytale retellings.

So I had high hopes for this book. In ways, it worked, and in some, it fell short.

To start, the book begins very slowly. For the first 100 pages or so I was only half-heartedly interested. I was almost to the point of abandoning the book when it finally started to get interesting.

I think part of the reason I had trouble was that so much of the beginning chapters of the book focus on the workings of the mill. The author tells us about looms, spinning wheels, spindles, water wheels, and tenterhooks were virtually no explanation as to what these things do or what they look like. It was very hard to have a vivid picture in my mind of what was going on.

Things I liked: the way the author tells the story is very lyrical, almost flowing from one page to the next. Also, the magic in the tale is very different from standard YA fantasy novels. However...

There are many rituals and instances of magic that are never fully explained. Why is the character doing this? How did they know to do it?

The main character, Charlotte, is stubborn and independent, but too much so. She confided in no one; insisted upon handling all problems that arose on her own. Even her husband, she pushes away despite his urging for her to let him help.

Lastly, I was mildly disappointed that our mysterious man's name didn't end up to be Rumpelstiltskin, and the name that he did have, wasn't that important. The biggest aspect of the original Rumpelstiltskin, to me, is that the miller's daughter is forced to discover this man's name in order to save her child. However, in this story, the things she needed to break his curse were much different.

All in all, it was interesting, but there were too many confusing parts to it for me to whole-heartedly recommended it to a friend.