Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, #1)
Synopsis (From Goodreads):
There were no surprises in GatlinCounty.
We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere.

At least, that's what I thought.
Turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong.
There was a curse.
There was a girl.
And in the end, there was a grave.

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.


My Review:

This book is great, though a little slow for most of it. It wasn't dreadfully dull, but it was no thriller - great for when you don't have a huge list of books to be read and you're bored. Don't get me wrong with all this talk of how slow it was, I really did enjoy it and think that these two authors have a bright career ahead of them in writing, I just couldn't get into it for a little while.

The end, however, was really exciting, but I was a little disappointed by the ending. It wasn't exactly a cliff hanger, but it did make me shout "WHAT?!" in the middle of my class ... :) , so it caused a bit of a reaction from me and earned my disapproval ;) .

Its written from a male's perspective which I thought was a nice change from all of the other teen books out there, maybe this will be a hit with guys as well as girls .... I found the characters to be realistic, though they seemed to leave most of the physical appearance to the reader's imagination.

The setting is in Gatlin, a small town in the middle of nowhere. Nothing really changes there and everything is predictable and boring. Ethan Wate (the main character) is desperate to leave the town that seems as if its suffocating him, until Lena Duchanes, Old man Ravenwood's niece, moves to town and throws him into a different Gatlin (not literally), a Gatlin where there are magical beings and creepy books that burn mortals when they try to touch them and cursed lockets that transport you to a different time through visions. Suddenly Gatlin doesn't seem so boring and predictable.

Basically, its an awesome book and i love it, but it can be a little slow at times. I really enjoyed the magical vibe it gave off and the thought that there are Casters and other magic creatures out there just waiting to be discovered. I'm not sure if I'll read it again though. The male perspective was nice, but at times reaching (he seemed more feminine than a guy's brain should be, but I wouldn't really know since I've never been in a guy's head). I liked the characters and how they brought out my emotions (I got P.O.ed at Emily and Mrs. Lincoln ;) and sad at the end when ... stuff happened), they seemed pretty real to me. It was a good story, I enjoyed reading it and I recommend that you read it too. :)

My Rating of This Book:

Profanity: Mild (like, one swear word, if that)
Sexuality: Mild (Some kissing)
Drugs and Alcohol: None
Violence: Mild

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gimme A Call

By: Sarah Mlynowski
Book received from RandomBuzzers.com

Synopsis (From Goodreads):  A new life is just a phone call away!

Devi's life isn't turning out at all like she wanted. She wasted the past three years going out with Bryan—cute, adorable, break-your-heart Bryan. Devi let her friendships fade, blew off studying, didn't join any clubs . . . and now that Bryan has broken up with her, she has nothing left. 


Not even her stupid cell phone—she dropped it in the mall fountain. Now it only calls one number . . . hers. At age fourteen, three years ago! 


Once Devi gets over the shock—and convinces her younger self that she isn't some wacko—she realizes that she's been given an awesome gift. She can tell herself all the right things to do . . . because she's already done all the wrong ones! Who better to take advice from than your future self? 


Except . . .what if getting what you 
think you want changes everything?

Fans of Sarah Mlynowski's Magic in Manhattan series will love this hilarious new novel with a high-concept premise.

Julie's Review:
To be honest, this book had a rough start for me. The first few pages felt quite heavy with play-by-play description of actions and the writing was just a little clunky. The dialogue also seemed to be trying too hard to sound like teenagers. I prepared myself for a read that would be manageable and just okay. Much  to my surprise, after the first 10 pages or so, I was sucked into a premise so delightful and full of opportunity for 'newness' that I didn't even notice when the writing became smooth because I was so enjoying the story of Devi and her froshie self.

The concept could easily have gone wrong but Mlynowski did a great job of keeping it fresh and reliably  connected. Devi is able to call her freshman self and get her to change all of the things Devi thinks she's done wrong over the years. Devi is careful not to give too much away because she doesn't want the butterfly effect to kick in, but she wants to use this opportunity to change her own life and that of her friends. Mlynowski was very clear in explaining the rules of the situation and the effects of freshman Devi's actions in Senior Devi's life. She also gives the characters realistic reactions to the situation and time to adjust. (One thing I despise is when characters too easily believe that some new, previously impossible thing is now perfectly normal!) There are some interesting scenarios where, of course, young Devi's actions don't have the intended effects. Also, senior Devi sometimes chooses to lie to her younger self, thinking she knows better. But what happens when your younger self refuses to listen to you and is tired of taking your directions?

Mlynowski refrained from going over the top with morals and lessons about choosing your path and finding what is most important, etc., but still managed to give readers some food for thought. I wouldn't say that this book was one of my recent favorites, but with it's high-concept plot, interesting characters, and cleverly written back-and-forth between freshman and senior Devi, this book is definitely a fun and enjoyable read

Julie's Rating:


Profanity: Mild
Sexuality: None
Drugs and Alcohol: None
Violence: None

Book-a-likes:

Friday, June 18, 2010

Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus: Review


By: Anastasia Hopcus
ARC received from EgmontUSA

Synopsis (From Goodreads):  
His love captivated her... his secrets might kill her.

Since her sister’s mysterious death, Persephone “Phe” Archer has been plagued by a series of disturbing dreams. Determined to find out what happened to her sister, Phe enrolls at Devenish Prep in Shadow Hills, Massachusetts—the subject of her sister’s final diary entry.


After stepping on campus, Phe immediately realizes that there’s something different about this place—an unexplained epidemic that decimated the town in the 1700s, an ancient and creepy cemetery, and gorgeous boy Zach—and somehow she’s connected to it all.


But the more questions she asks and the deeper she digs, the more entangled Phe becomes in the haunting past of Shadow Hills. Finding what links her to this town…might cost her her life.

My Review:  When I first read the synopsis of the book, I thought, "Oh great, ANOTHER paranormal romance." Is anyone getting a little burned out by this recent trend? Anyway, I am happy to report that there are no vampires, werewolves, or faeries in this story. Everyone is human.

The setting of this book was really beautifully done. Private school, creepy graveyards and mysterious secrets all made for a very good beginning. Time after time I was so happy to read that Persephone was just so normal. She studies, has friends that are girls, likes to listen to music, and is a generally likable person.  Actually, from what I've read and seen of Anastasia Hopcus, she and Phe are very much alike.  Anastasia, if you're reading this, would you agree?

Speaking of characters I liked, I was really surprised by how much I liked Adrianne, the preppy, spoiled rich girl. I was so impressed that Anastasia Hopcus was able to write a character that is so fundamentally unlikable and really make her likable. Did that make any sense? Adrianne is a character that walks a thin line of being loyal while still looking out for her own interests. Surprisingly complex for such an on-the-surface shallow character.

Unfortunately, I didn't like Zach. He was really one-dimensional and really didn't hold me interest. I think part of the problem was one of the first things he says to Phe is how dangerous he is and she should stay away. Lines like that make my eyes roll into the back of my head. But, as it turns out, he really isn't dangerous at all. He's really quite nice. On the other hand, Trent, his cousin, is a total jerk and every one should stay far away from him.  In fact, a few times as I was reading I thought, "Gee, harassment much?" Phe needed to go to a teacher or counselor and talk about the way Trent was treating her.

The next part of this review is semi-spoilerish.

One other thing that bothered me a little was that the main question of the book wasn't answered.  We never do find out why she is drawn to Shadow Hills and what was behind the mysterious death of her sister. I understand there is going to be a sequel to this book, so it wasn't a huge deal. But, I would have liked to at least see some of the questions answered before starting up a whole round of new ones.
Anastasia Hopcus is a promising debut author. I will definitely pick up the next book in this series.

My Rating:
 




Profanity: Moderate
Sexuality: Moderate
Alcohol and Drugs: Moderate
Violence: Mild

Book-a-likes:

Want to win an ARC of Shadow Hills? Enter at Emily's Reading Room!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells

I had the pleasure of meeting Dan Wells. Know this: He is not scary. He is not a serial killer. He is a great guy...albeit with telekinetic book-signing abilities. (More about that at the end of the post...)


First Sentence: Mrs. Anderson was Dead.


A Favorite Passage: The dark thoughts were still there, underneath, but my actions stayed clean. In other words, I was really good at pretending to be normal. If you met me on the street, you'd never guess how much I wanted to kill you.


A Brief Summary: Dead bodies are normal to John. He likes them, actually. They don’t demand or expect the empathy he’s unable to offer. Perhaps that’s what gives him the objectivity to recognize that there’s something different about the body the police have just found behind the Wash-n-Dry Laundromat---and to appreciate what that difference means. 
Now, for the first time, John has to confront a danger outside himself, a threat he can’t control, a menace to everything and everyone he would love...if only he could.


What I Liked About This Book: I liked John Wayne Cleaver, the main character. A lot. He is brutally honest about who he is - and he knows himself well. Going into this book I thought it was pure contemporary, and when an element of "otherness" was mentioned I was not pleased. (Hang on - this turns into a thing I like!) When the, um, "other" element manifested itself, it was done so masterfully that I was literally rocked off my socks - and loving it! I also like that John's "disability" became the exact ability he needed to attempt to save his small town. And the ending - very touching!


What I Didn't Like About This Book: There was a lot of exposition (with a couple of dead bodies thrown in - nice!) for a pretty hefty chunk of the beginning of the book. The action didn't really start until page 98; the first major (and I mean major) plot twist happened two pages after that. For me, this was the "tipping point" - when I could not stop reading until I got to the end. But it would have been nice if some action had come sooner. Also there was a "major" plot twist that I figured out early on...and it bugged me that as smart as John Wayne Cleaver is, it took him forever to figure out.


Book-Alikes: Instead of comparing this to books (which will give too much of the plot away) I'm going to do an Author-Alike: J.D. Sallinger meets Stephen King


My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


Profanity: None
Drugs and Alcohol: None
Sexuality: None
Violence: Oh Yeah! Not for the faint at heart.


About the telekinetic signing abilities. When I met Dan at a conference he was signing books - but I had bought his book the day before and left it home. When I told him, he said not to worry - he would sign it telekinetically. He closed his eyes, put fingers to brow, concentrated hard, then looked right into my eyes and assured me it was signed. When I got home, guess what? His signature was on the title page.


~Suzette~

P.S. This book was read as part of the 2010 Debut Author Challenge.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder


Synopsis (from mariavsnyder.com) STORM GLASS (GLASS BOOK 1)
As a glassmaker and a magician-in-training, Opal Cowen understands trial by fire. Now it’s time to test her mettle. Someone has sabotaged the Stormdancer clan’s glass orbs, killing their most powerful magicians. The Stormdancers—particularly the mysterious and mercurial Kade—require Opal’s unique talents to prevent it happening again. But when the mission goes awry, Opal must tap into a new kind of magic as stunningly potent as it is frightening. And the further she delves into the intrigue behind the glass and magic, the more distorted things appear. With lives hanging in the balance—including her own—Opal must control powers she never knew she possessed... powers that might lead to disaster beyond anything she’s ever known.

My Review:
First, let me say that it was Emily who first turned me to Maria Snyder. It was her review of Poison Study (a most excellent book) that led me to check out from the library it's sequel, Magic Study, and put on hold the third book in the Yelena series, Fire Study.

While I waited for the third of that series to become available, I also checked out both Storm Glass and its sequel, Sea Glass. These both feature Opal Cowen, a character we meet in the second of the Study series, and take place 5 years after the end of that series. While it's not necessary to have read the Study series first since Snyder does a good job of reviewing important information, it might be handy to read them first so that you don't get any spoilers.

One of the things that I love about Snyder's books is that she does a great job of creating realistic characters with a depth and complexity of emotions. Unlike fierce and determined Yelena, Opal Cowen is a young magician with some serious self-confidence issues. She's never totally sure of her abilities and doesn't put herself forth as a powerful person. She's certainly not a pushover, though. I don't think I could like a character like that. Opal's growth through the story is believable and interesting, and her sense of ironic humor adds a little sparkle to the narration.

Another thing that is wonderful about the book is the relationship between the characters, particularly Opal and the two men in her life, Ulrick and Kade. As you read in the synopsis, Kade is mysterious and 'mercurial'. As a Stormdancer with his share of tragedy in his past, he keeps himself distant and pushes himself away from Opal without seeming like, let's face it, just another emo hero that our YA heroine's keep falling for. As readers, we know we like him, but he isn't really available. Ulrick, however, is a fiercely protective and loyal friend who is willing to take it slow. It's fun to watch the development of these relationships and I loved that the book didn't have a totally straightforward romantic plot and that it wasn't all about 'does he like me or doesn't he?'.

Dialogue is also something Snyder does well in this book. Opal engages in some witty and playful banter that I imagine must have been fun for Snyder to write. And although there is a lot of travel back and forth between locations, the book doesn't seem like a travelogue, which is something that has bothered me with a few books I've read recently.

About the only thing I can think of that I didn't really like in the book is that Opal occasionally gets a little mopish, and I wish I could slap some sense into her, but I think that's the way good books are. You have to feel like the characters are real people, insecurities and all, and love the people anyway. And I most certainly do. I've gorged on 4 Snyder novels in the last two weeks and I'm having some serious adventure withdrawals waiting for the third in the series to be released.

Also, remember that this is not categorized as YA fiction. There is a fair amount of violence, although it is not necessarily gruesome, and there are allusions to some pretty tough things that characters have undergone in their pasts. Danger in the book is real, as are the consequences of being a female in some tough situations, but nothing of this sort is written in a graphic or descriptive manner.

My Rating:
4 Stars

Profanity: None
Drugs and Alcohol: Moderate
Sexuality: Moderate
Violence: Moderate (no gore)

Related Links:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Body Finder By: Kimberly Derting

By: Kimberly Derting
Synopsis (From Goodreads):

"A serial killer on the loose. A girl with a morbid ability. And the boy who would never let anything happen to her.

Violet Ambrose can find the dead. Or at least, those who have been murdered. She can sense the echoes they leave behind... and the imprints they leave on their killers. As if that weren't enough to deal with during junior year, she also has a sudden, inexplicable, and consuming crush on her best friend since childhood, Jay Heaton.

Now a serial killer has begun terrorizing Violet's small town... and she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him."

My Review:
I can't even tell you how excited I was to get a finished copy in my mailbox from HarperTeen. I did a happy dance all over my living room. I read the first few chapters on HarperTeen's website and I was hooked. 

Kimberly Derting did a lot of things right with this novel. It was engaging, suspenseful, and just a tad creepy.  I liked that Violet didn't have this secret that she was trying to cover up, like in other paranormal novels.  Her family knew about her ability, and so did her friend, Jay.  They were all there to support her and help her as she learned what she was supposed to do with her ability. Just like a normal family would act. Or at least I like to think so.

I especially loved reading from the point of view of the serial killer. It added a very interesting flavor to the book and certainly added to the suspense. I think for the most part Kimberly nailed the psyche of a killer. It was very believable. My only complaint is that I wanted to see more of his thoughts. I know, I must be really weird or morbid or something, but sometimes I thought the book went too long without checking in with the killer.

There were so many awesome and wonderfully crafted passages in this book. I wanted to share one of my favorites:
She reached in again, this time not to dig, but to sweep away the thin layer of dirt to get a better view of what lay beneath.  She had captured her father's interest, and he leaned over her, looking into the shallow hole.
Violet worked like an archeologist, carefully sifting and brushing across the top of her discovery, so as to not disturb what might be buried there.
She heard her father gasp at the same time she recognized what she had uncovered.  She felt his strong hands reaching for her from behind, pulling her firmly by the shoulders away from the fresh dirt and gathering her into his strong, safe arms... away from the sound that was calling to her...
And away from the girl's face staring up at her from beneath the soil.
Now, about Jay and Violet's relationship. Some aspects of it I could really sympathize with. One of my most significant crushes of high school was on my best friend. We liked each other on and off for most of high school, but couldn't ever quite connect and gave it up... Anyway, while the does-he-like-me-like-I-like-him was believable, it did get a little old. I found myself wanting a lot more of the suspense and drama of the murder and less of the suspense of who Violet was going to go to homecoming with.  And, I was really bothered by Violet and Jay using other people to make each other jealous. Even though the people they were using were not the nicest of people. Still, it seemed a little sleazy to me.

Also, I felt like there was a surprising amount of profanity in the book. Generally, I just overlook it, and it doesn't bother me. For the most part I was able to do that with this book, but there were a few times where it really interrupted the flow of the story for me and it would have seemed more natural just to leave it out.

This was a fantastic book. I saw on Goodreads that there is going to be a sequel. I'm definitely going to pick it up. I think there is a lot more than can be done with this story, and I'm anxious to see where Kimberly takes it.

Book-A-Likes: The Mark by Jen Nadol, Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

My Rating:

 4 Stars!

Profanity: Moderate
Drugs and Alcohol: Moderate
Sexuality: Moderate
Violence: Moderate

Monday, May 17, 2010

New Blog Features!

We're making some fun changes to the blog and wanted you to be aware of them.

We now have a paypal donate button on the blog, located in the left-hand sidebar. All the funds received through paypal will be used to fund our activities, supplies and books. We'd love any support you can give us in our efforts to promote literacy throughout our community.

We also have a new events page. Here you can view our google calendar and see when upcoming events are scheduled. We will also have updates on local author events in the area. If you have an event that you'd like to put on our blog, please contact us!

Thank you for all your fantastic support!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Amaranth Enchanment by Julie Berry: Review

By: Julie Berry
Synopsis (From Goodreads): When Lucinda Chapdelaine was a small child, her parents left for the royal ball and never returned. Ever since, Lucinda has been stuck in perpetual servitude at her evil aunt’s jewelry store.
Then, on the very same day, a mysterious visitor and an even more bizarre piece of jewelry both enter the shop, setting in motion a string of twists and turns that will forever alter Lucinda’s path.
In this magical story filled with delightful surprises, Lucinda will dance at the royal ball, fall under the Amaranth Witch’s spell, avenge her parents’ death, and maybe — just maybe — capture the heart of a prince.

My Review: This book was on the verge of being something I totally loved, but for some reason it fell flat. I really can't figure it out.  There wasn't anything horribly wrong with the story, the writing or the characters, but there were little flaws in each that added up to something that came very close to being a favorite book.

First, the dialogue was a little strange. I found it switched from being old-style english to modern-day slang too often. It probably would have been fine either way, but the combination of the two was really weird for me.

Second, the characters weren't quite engaging enough for me. I didn't really like the prince, and it didn't seem believable to me that Lucinda would like him. It seems like the only thing she liked were his looks. And she didn't seem like the type of girl that would only care about that.

Characters I did like: Dog and Peter. Peter was so much fun. I liked his boldness and the way he instilled confidence in Lucinda. He was very charming and interesting. Much better than Gregor if I must say so. Lucinda's goat, Dog, was so sweet and loyal you couldn't help but love him.

The ending wasn't quite what I wanted it to be. A lot of things happened that were a little hard to believe, and didn't quite flow with the rest of the story.  There were two twists in the story that I really liked, and one even made me audibly gasp.

Overall, it wasn't a bad book, just not a fantastic book. I think a younger audience might like it better than I did.

My Rating:
I gave this book 3 stars

Profanity: None
Drugs and Alcohol: None
Sexuality: None
Violence: Mild

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Impossbile

By Nancy Werlin


Summary: (from nancywerlin.com)

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 beside her. And she has Zach, whose strength amazes her more each day. Do they have enough love and resolve to overcome an age-old evil?
Inspired by the ballad "Scarborough Fair," Impossiblecombines suspense, fantasy, and romance.






What I liked:
I had heard from a friend that this book was amazing, and I have to agree. I really liked it.It was a beautiful blend of contemporary fiction and fantasy. Lucy is such a real character, and while she is very different from me, I understand why she does what she does. And what's nearly as important is that all of the supporting cast was very well-crafted as well. For a book that is based in reality with elements of the fantastical, the supporting characters had to have realistic reactions to Lucy's belief that she has been cursed by the Elfin Knight. I appreciate that Leo believed Lucy, but that all Soledad could bring herself to believe was that Lucy believed in the curse, and that was enough. Werlin allowed Soledad to remain true to herself and still be there for her family at the same time. Family, Love, and Unity are all important to the survival of Lucy, and I appreciate a book that can give us an example of a mixed, modern family that functions as a family ought to.
I also loved that this book had a 'good guy' as the romantic lead. Zach is a guy that you can be happy for Lucy to love. He's decent, and honorable, and straight-forward. He stands by Lucy in, let's face it, the oddest of circumstances. What a relief compared to so many of the bad boys who have to waffle in their affections, concerned that they're not good for the heroine.

What I didn't Like:
There's really not much to put in this category. I didn't feel that the villain was a strong as he could have been. Manipulative, certainly, but I didn't fear him or feel that he was really as malevolent as he could have been, which is odd because his actions certainly are devilish. I also felt the ending was just the tiniest bit lackluster, but that's probably just me and the type of endings I prefer.

Recommendation: 4 out of 5 stars
I've already passed this book on to 3 women, and all have just loved the book and recommended it to others.
Rating:
Profanity: very mild
Drugs and Alcohol: some references to drinking at the Sr. Prom
Violence: Lucy is raped at the prom, but Werlin does a good job of leaving it to implication and not description. I was comfortable enough with this that I still gave the book to my younger sister.
Sexuality: Mild. Again, a reference to the prom, but nothing that I personally found offensive.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Synopsis (from Mindful Musings blog): Gemma, 16, has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother's death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls' academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique.

Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions "for a bit of fun" and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the "others" and rebuild the Order.

My review: I must admit, this book is one I read grudgingly. I tend to shy away from books that are incredibly popular but poorly written (Twilight, Eragon) and so I only read it because my library had it. To my delight, it was very well written. I was immediately drawn into the world of Gemma and found her a likable character. Though she began as rather spoiled, she quickly became grew up in the face of tragedy.

I enjoyed the portrayal of strict Victorian England. It was written in a way that made it easy reading (especially for the teenage audience) while still capturing the strictures the society place on girls in that era. And I loved Katrick. What a great male lead, although he was not in the book quite enough.

While I liked the setting, characters and writing very well indeed, the plot, particularly the phantasmagoria, was lacking just enough credibility to make me a fan. (In other words, the author didn't quite make me believe in the other-worldly elements.)

It takes a lot for me to want to pick up a sequel, and while I enjoyed the book very much I do not think I will pick up the sequel...well, perhaps I will if I see it on the library's shelf!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars, simply because it was refreshing to read a well-written book with likable characters!

Profanity: None
Drugs and Alcohol: The girls do drink a stolen bottle of wine
Sexuality: Tame
Violence: Minimal

I would love your thoughts on GOING BOVINE!

~Suzette~

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

Brightly Woven
By: Alexandra Bracken

This book was read and reviewed as a part of the 2010 Debut Author Challenge hosted by the Story Siren

The Story Siren

Synopsis (From Goodreads): Sydelle Mirabil is living proof that, with a single drop of rain, a life can be changed forever. Tucked away in the farthest reaches of the kingdom, her dusty village has suffered under the weight of a strangely persistent drought. That is, of course, until a wizard wanders into town and brings the rain with him.

In return for this gift, Wayland North is offered any reward he desires—and no one is more surprised than Sydelle when, without any explanation, he chooses her. Taken from her home, Sydelle hardly needs encouragement to find reasons to dislike North. He drinks too much and bathes too little, and if that isn’t enough to drive her to madness, North rarely even uses the magic he takes such pride in possessing. Yet, it’s not long before she realizes there’s something strange about the wizard, who is as fiercely protective of her as he is secretive about a curse that turns his limbs a sinister shade of black and leaves him breathless with agony. Unfortunately, there is never a chance for her to seek answers.

Along with the strangely powerful quakes and storms that trace their path across the kingdom, other wizards begin to take an inexplicable interest in her as well, resulting in a series of deadly duels. Against a backdrop of war and uncertainty, Sydelle is faced with the growing awareness that these events aren’t as random as she had believed—that no curse, not even that of Wayland North, is quite as terrible as the one she herself may carry.

My Review: I was really intrigued by the synopsis of this book and I was so excited when I got a copy of this book in the mail from Egmont. First of all, the cover is gorgeous, don't you think?
But, beyond the beautiful cover, this was a fantastic book! My favorite books are the ones that have deep characters and complex relationships. This book had plenty of both. Sydelle was a wonderful heroine. She was compassionate, but always stood her ground with North when necessary. It was really refreshing to read the different ways that she was able to get herself and others out of trouble.

North was fascinating. In many fantasy books I've read, wizards are almost invincible and infinitely wise. That was not the case in this book. North's character flaws were glaring, but not so much that he was a despicable person. Despite his shortcomings, it's obvious that he's a caring person and really tries to do the right thing.

The one complaint I had about this book is that there wasn't enough of Henry or her family from back home. I would have liked to have seen a little more interaction and a pull from home keeping Sydelle conflicted.

Overall, this was a wonderful fantasy book by a very promising debut author. I am really excited to read more of her work in the future. This book was released today, March 23, and it's definitely worth buying/checking out.

Book-A-Likes: Howl's Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones (Wizard with a temper); Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George (Weaving and sewing talented heroine)

Rating:

I gave this book a hearty 5 stars!
Profanity: None
Drugs and Alcohol: Mild; North doesn't have a lot of control when it comes to alcohol
Sexuality: None
Violence: Moderate; Some of the fighting descriptions were a little graphic

Acknowledgement: I was sent a copy of Brightly Woven to review by Egmont USA. I was not compensated for this post, and all opinions are my own



Thursday, March 11, 2010

Shiver


Okay, I'm just going to say it...I've been becoming a wee bit tired of "my boyfriend is SOOO dangerous he wants to kill me, but I love him anyway..." and tired of wimpy female protagonists. Which is why I was hesitant to pick up Shiver by Maggie Steifvater. Before I tell you what I thought of the book, I'll tell you more about it:

From Publisher's Weekly: For years, Grace has been fascinated by the yellow-eyed wolf that saved her from its pack when she was a child. Sam, bitten by a wolf as a boy, is that wolf. Long obsessed with each other at a distance, they finally meet after a wolf hunt (inspired by the apparent death of a local teen) sends a wounded and temporarily human Sam into Grace's arms. Their young love is facilitated by Grace's hands-off parents (“Once upon a time, I would've leaped at the rare opportunity of curling up with Mom on the couch. But now, it sort of felt like too little, too late,” Grace muses), but threatened by two linked crises: the fact that Sam will soon lose the ability to become human and the instability of a new lycanthrope.

My review: I loved this book. LOVED IT! I was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful, fresh descriptions, and the honest-to-goodness good writing. I loved that Grace knew who she was and what she wanted, and wasn't afraid to be strong. I loved that even though Sam was a wolf, he had a very tender side. As for the "werewolf factor" I was so relieved that it wasn't werewolves-as-superheroes. It was a very realistic take on what turning into a wolf would mean to a human, and what sacrifices it would require. If I had to think of things to complain about, only one comes to mind. There were times when the plot lagged ever so slightly, and I wished it would move a bit faster. But overall, THIS ONE IS WORTH BUYING. (And I don't say that lightly!)


Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Profanity: Mild
Drugs and Alcohol: None
Sexuality: Mature but tastefully alluded to
Violence: Some, but surprisingly tame for the subject matter
Book-a-likes: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (both are beautifully written) and The Dark Divine, which is also has a main character named Grace who falls for a werewolf.

~Suzette~

Monday, March 8, 2010

House of the Scorpion

Synopsis: Matteo Alacrán was not born; he was harvested. His DNA came from El Patrón, lord of a country called Opium — a strip of poppy fields lying between the United States and what was once called Mexico. Matt's first cell split and divided inside a petri dish. Then he was placed in the womb of a cow, where he continued the miraculous journey from embryo to fetus to baby. He is a boy now, but most consider him a monster — except for El Patrón. El Patrón loves Matt as he loves himself, because Matt is himself.

As Matt struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by a sinister cast of characters, including El Patrón's power-hungry family, and he is surrounded by a dangerous army of bodyguards. Escape is the only chance Matt has to survive. But escape from the Alacran Estate is no guarantee of freedom, because Matt is marked by his difference in ways he doesn't even suspect.

Review: I really liked the book, it was the type that you just can't put down till you get to the end. I really liked the story because it does not follow any of the classic forms of stories, it is not predictable in any way. I found it at the library and decided to read it because of all the medals on the cover; anything with that many awards has to be good to read.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5
Profanity: Yes, in Spanish
Drugs and Alcohol: LOTS! the story takes place on an Opium farm.
Sexual content: Mild
Violence: Plenty

Monday, March 1, 2010

In Our Mailbox

In My Mailbox Monday was started by Kristi at The Story Siren.

This week we were so excited to get some swag from Kimberly Derting promoting her upcoming book The Body Finder. Kimberly was kind enough to send enough stuff for all the Literati, plus a little extra that we are currently figuring out the best/most fun way to distribute.
Our awesome swag from Kimberly Derting
Kimberly sent us posters, bags, stickers and bookmarks. The bookmarks and posters were signed, which was AWESOME! We are still awaiting word from HarperCollins to see if we get an ARC to review. We've got our fingers crossed that we'll get the book. If not, we'll definitely be picking it up as soon as it's available on March 16. How awesome is the synopsis of this book?
A serial killer on the loose. A girl with a morbid ability. And the boy who would never let anything happen to her.

Violet Ambrose can find the dead. Or at least, those who have been murdered. She can sense the echoes they leave behind... and the imprints they leave on their killers. As if that weren't enough to deal with during junior year, she also has a sudden, inexplicable, and consuming crush on her best friend since childhood, Jay Heaton.

Now a serial killer has begun terrorizing Violet's small town... and she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.
Chilling, right? Thanks again to Kimberly for the awesome stuff. We're so excited to help her promote her debut novel. Be looking for a review from us soon!

If you are an author or publisher looking for a group of awesome teens to help promote your book, get in touch with us at literati.read@gmail.com

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

M or F?
By Lisa Papademetriou and Chris Tebbets






Description (from back of book):

When Frannie is desperate to get the attention of her crush, her fabulous (and gay) best friend Marcus suggests that Frannie chat with him online. Too bad Frannie's terrified. She won't type a word without Marcus's help.
In the chat room, Marcus and Jeffrey hit it off. But the more Marcus writes, the more he's convinced that Jeffrey is falling for him not Frannie.
Whose romance is this anyway?

Review:
When I found this book at the bookstore, I read about two pages before I knew I needed to buy it. It's a cute story about both characters finding love, and it's a light read if you need something to cheer you up. I laughed often enough my mom kept ducking into my room to see what I was doing.
Its highschool setting is easy to relate to; typical, with it's ups and downs all over the place. Any girls out there can relate to Frannie as she tries to impress Jeffrey, and instead just makes herself feel dorky and a bit embarrassed.
I was not able to predict the end of this book- I honestly did not see it coming, and it made a wonderful and sweet twist.
Rating: I gave this book 3 1/2 stars out of 5 (but I was very, very close to giving it 4)
Profanity: miniscule, if any.
Drugs and Alcohol: None
Sexual content: None
Violence: None

Friday, February 19, 2010

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield

Leviathan
By: Scott Westerfeld

Description (From Goodreads):Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

Review: I didn't even know that the genre of steampunk existed until about a month ago. I must have been living under a rock or something. But, I've noticed it has become an increasingly popular genre, and this book is a good indication of why.

The illustrations in this book were really neat and one of my favorite parts. There was a new illustration every 5 pages or so, and they really added a depth to the story without being overly "cartoonish." (A reason why I could never really get into Manga). Here is an example of this awesome art:
I really liked the character and story of Deryn. I'm also up for a good story about a girl pretending to be a boy and kicking some trash. Deryn certainly did so. She had a lot of spunk and spirit, but also a good dose of compassion, especially at the end of the book.

Aleksander's story went in a little different direction than I had originally thought. While Deryn's story was pretty predictable, I was never quite sure where Aleksander was going to end up.

Sometimes telling a book from two perspectives really doesn't work for me. However, in this case, Westerfeld handled it beautifully. I wasn't as impressed with "The Uglies" series as I wanted to be, so it was nice to have a book by Westerfeld that I really enjoyed. I think this series is going to do really well. This book got a lot of buzz at the end of last year, and I can definitely see why.

Book-A-Likes:
Alanna by Tamora Pierce (For the "girl pretending to be a boy" story)
City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (For the machinery aspect, and the boy working with girl story)
If you like other books in the Steam Punk genre, you'll like this one.

Rating:
I gave this book 4 stars.


Profanity: Like all steampunk, the slang evolves into something different from our culture. So, nothing you'd recognize
Drugs and Alcohol: None
Sexuality: None
Violence: Moderate. This is WWI (or an alternate version), so there is a battle that is described.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Princess and the Hound


by Mette Ivie Harrison

Story:
(from back cover:) "He is a prince and heir to a kingdom threatened on all sides, possessor of the forbidden animal magic.

She is a princess from a rival kingdom, the daughter her father never wanted, isolated from all except her hound.

In this lush and beautifully written fairy-tale romance, a prince, a princess, and two kingdoms are joined in the aftermath of a war. Proud, stubborn, and bound to marry for duty, George and Beatrice will steal your heart—but will they fall in love?"

Prince George possesses the gift of speaking to animals, a gift which is forbidden and feared in the kingdom of Kendel. After his mother's tragic death, he has spent his life hiding this ability and forcing himself to follow wherever duty leads him.

Princess Beatrice spent her childhood ignored and neglected by her father and looked down upon, yet her fierce nature keeps her trying to win his approval. But she also has a hidden secret.

When the two royals meet for the official betrothal intended to bind the two countries, something about Beatrice and her only close relationship with her hound, Marit, draws George to her and to the part of himself that he has denied his whole life. The pair face many obstacles, such as George's dying father and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his illness, the sense of being duty bound to marry one another, and Beatrice's own untrusting nature. They struggle to trust each other and mostly themselves.


Review:

This is a beautifully written story. The characters are complex and wounded people who strive to form complete relationships and conquer their personal battles. The hound, Marit, is delicately written and the relationship between the Princess and the Hound will capture the curiosity of readers.

While the characters do go through great emotional growth and face what is within themselves, for some reason I didn't find that my emotions were as captured as that of other friends' who have read the book. Something about it didn't quite make the emotional connection for me, but I know that most readers out there will feel an intense connection to the characters and their trials.

A smoothly written book with strong 'old-world fairytale' overtones, this is a book I definitely recommend for anyone who enjoys this genre. The characters were particularly well-developed, more so than in some other fairytale books that I've read.


Book-a-likes: any Robin McKinley, Jessica Day George, Donna Jo Napoli book.

My rating: **** 4 stars, 4.5 if this is your favorite genre


Violence: mild

Profanity: none

Sexuality: none

Drugs/Alcohol: none

~Julie~

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Author Signing

Hey all! Happy Valentines Weekend.
The Literati went to meet author Bree Despain at her signing at a local Barnes and Noble. We have had the fun opportunity of being part of her 'Underground Street Team' just before and after her debut novel, The Dark Divine, came out in December. It's a fabulous paranormal romance. (Read our review here.)

It was very exciting to meet this author we'd done so much work with and to hear her read from the book. We gave her some presents and some 'twisted valentines': letters from Twilight characters to her characters and from her characters to her. We had a blast writing these quirky valentines and going over the top on the smoochiness, but they quickly turned a little creepy. :) She's posted a picture of all of us who could attend as well as links to some of the letters we wrote. Feel free to visit her blog and check it out!

One of our favorite poems:
from Edward Cullen to Grace Divine

Roses are red,
You're veins are blue;
I'll slit my wrists
If I can't be with you.

P.S. What characters would you like to see write letters to one another? (The Literati girls always love a good writing challenge; maybe we'll try our hand at some!)