Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review: Witches of the East End

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Meet the Beauchamp women of North Hampton Long Island. Joanna, the mother has a talent for life. Ingrid, older daughter, with a talent for charms and talismans, kind of personifies the stereotypical librarian, hair in a tight bun, glasses, strict and straight, unbendable. Freya, younger daughter with a talent for potions and love magic, bohemian, rule breaker, believes in love and falls in it often.

Freya is due to marry Bran Gardiner and is caught in a love triangle. Ingrid is lonely, not having had a love in her life for centuries, and Joanna has fallen in love with the 4yr old son of her home’s caretakers, becoming his “grandmother” for lack of a better word.

Life in North Hampton goes along just fine until the events of Fourth of July weekend, where people suddenly disappear, there is an underground explosion in the Atlantic that releases a oil like substance that is spreading. Dark forces are definitely at work

I have enjoyed Melissa de la Cruz’s Blue Bloods series and was pleasantly surprised to see a cameo of the blue bloods show up in Witches. The characters were highly developed and the story moved along. There were a lot of references to the Salem Witch Trials, but she didn’t take us there and belabor the story. Melissa assumed we knew about it and just added what she needed to to drive the story.

I didn’t realize this was going to be a series until I read the epilogue. While this book was a veiled re-telling of Norse mythology, it set the stage. The epilogue was the springboard for de la Cruz to take the story and start running with it. We know what the major plot point for the next book will be and it should prove entertaining. Can’t wait to read it!!

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Review: The Gathering

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

16 year old Maya is adopted and has no information about her birth parents, she appears to be of Native American descent. Maya also has a strange paw-print shaped birthmark on her hip. She lives in a very small town where her Dad is the ranger for a national park.

Strange things have started happening in her very small town, owned by a medical research company…suspicious deaths, mountain lions seeming to loose their fear of humans, a new mysterious boy in town, and her best friends new found talent for feeling out people and situations.

This was a perfect set-up for a trilogy. We were just starting to really get into all the questions popping up and the book ended. ARGH!!!!! Now I have to wait for the next book to start to see any answers to questions…I love and hate when that happens!

I loved Kelley’s characters. Maya was my kind of girl…animal lover, with a gift for healing them, smart, curious, strong, loving and a touch of sarcasm. I love the exchanges she has with her folks. Maya’s best friend Daniel is her perfect “straight man”…he compliments her beautifully and Rafe is the oh so mysterious new boy who brings with him all kinds of questions and hints at knowing Maya bio-mom!! Can you say, “Suspense filled”, I knew you could!

It’s gonna be tough to wait for the next installment. But if this is anything like Kelley’s other series, it will be worth the wait!

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Review: Linger

Linger (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #2)Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In “Linger” we pick up with Sam and Grace right where “Shiver” left off. Sam is adjusting to human life…constantly waiting for the other shoe to fall and shift back into a wolf. When Grace becomes ill, her parents discover that Sam in Grace’s room. Forcing Grace to defy her parents when they decide to start acting like parents rather than roommates they have been up until now.

I did like this story despite the mediocre reviews it received when it first came out. One of the things Maggie Stiefvater does well is tell a story from multiple viewpoints.

I loved Grace and Sam even more during “Linger”. Maggie writes such human characters. With the shifting storytellers we learn more about what drives each character. They are so relatable.

“Linger” had a slower start and was a bit harder to get into, but the new character, Cole really helped move the story along and provided a scientific spin on the whole shifting process.

“Forever” can’t come out fast enough…I really can’t wait to see how beautifully Maggie ties everything up. I will be sad to see the series end.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: Hereafter

Hereafter (Hereafter, #1)Hereafter by Tara Hudson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Amelia is dead...she knows she's dead. But she has no memory of her life or anything else prior to her death. But everything changes when she saves Joshua from drowning. Joshua can see her, feel her, and his touch awakens the long sleeping memories from her life. As Amelia and Joshua get closer, a malevolent spirit named Eli, does everything he can to tear them apart.

I didn't really care for this story. For some reason all I could envision was some poor guy making out with someone no one else could see and I would cringe. Cringing through a whole book was not fun. So maybe this isn't a fair review, but it's how the book made me feel...and frankly it's all I can remember. I'd usually like to write more in a review...but just can't with this book.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar ChildrenMiss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 STARS!!!!

I would have given it 5 stars but I just don't see this as a book I would re-read a million times.

Jacob is incredibly close to his Grandfather. Grandfather fills Jacob full of stories from his childhood spent in an "orphanage" for lack of a better word. Grandpa Abe was sent to a small island off the coast of Wales from Poland just before the rest of his family was carted off to the concentration camps. As Jacob grows older he realizes his Grandfather's "Monsters" are the Nazi's and the pictures he shares of the other kids in peculiar poses are trick photography. Grandpa's dying words to Jacob send him on a quest to the "home" where Abe spent his childhood and to learn the truth...which is far different than Jacob could have ever imagined.

I loved the was very different and one of the things that set it apart was the "found" photos the author incorporated into the story (see book cover).

There are collectors out there that collect old photos they find, especially peculiar ones. These photos pepper the story. It made for really cool little asides as well as having a visual to accompany the description you just read. It made reading the book "fun".

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Blood Red Road (Dustlands #1) by Moira Young

Blood Red Road (Dustlands #1) by Moira Young
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Pages: 459
Grade: B

GoodReads SynopsisSaba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.
Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. 

Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.
Blood Red Road has a searing pace, a poetically minimal writing style, violent action, and an epic love story. Moira Young is one of the most promising and startling new voices in teen fiction.

Review:  This book has really been hyped, and I've been dying to read it. I would say, overall, that the hype is valid!  I thought it was great! A Quest of epic proportions.

I found this book very challenging in the beginning.  For lack of a better explanation, it was written in "hillbilly". For example:

"It was all set in the stars the moment the world began. The time of yer birthin, the time of yer death. Even what kinda person yer gonna be, good or bad."
The other part of the writing that was challenging was that there were no quotation marks around the you couldn't just pick it out by sight.

*Confession Time - Some authors spend a lot of time describing things, which I don't have a ton of patience for! So I tend to skim over those descriptions.*

Because there were no quotation marks it forced me to read every word so I didn't miss any dialog. The writing took a little bit of time to get used to, but it fit with the story, so it was tolerable. BUT, the beginning was very slow. I worried that I'd made a huge mistake in choosing to read the book but kept going anyway. I was glad I did...the story really picked up, for me, about 50-75 pages in and I was totally engrossed.

What I did like was Saba...her strength and obstinance, I saw myself in her. I loved watching her grow and change from the "what I want" immature girl, to the strong, forward thinking yet fallible young woman. 

Overall I thought this was a wonderful adventure with great characters. I believe it's planned as a trilogy. I'm hopeful the subsequent books are as engrossing as Blood Red Road was.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Misfit by Jon Skovron

Misfit by Jon Skovron
Publisher: Amulet
Release Date: 8/1/11
Pages: 382
Grade: D

Synopsis (GoodReads)Jael Thompson has never really fit in. She’s changed schools too many times to count. The only family she’s ever known is her father, a bitter ex-priest who never lets her date and insists she attend the strictest Catholic school in Seattle. And her mother—well, she was a five thousand year old demon. That doesn’t exactly help. 

But on her sixteenth birthday, her father gives her a present that brings about some unexpected changes. Some of the changes, like strange and wonderful powers and the cute skater boy with a knack for science, are awesome. But others, like the homicidal demon seeking revenge on her family? Not so much. 

Steeped in mythology, this is an epic tale of a heroine who balances old world with new, science with magic, and the terrifying depths of the underworld with the ordinary halls of high school.

Review: I wanted to love this book so much! Couldn't wait to get my hands on it and my eyes running over it!! And what a disappointment! I love YA literature, especially the supernatural stuff!!!!

I do love the look of the book...the page edges are marked and chapter pages are grayer, providing an antiquey look and feel. That is what grabbed me initially...then the whole demon aspect is what made me want to read further.

Sadly, the characters are severely under-developed! The reader doesn't learn anything about Jael that isn't school or demon related.  And then there is her father.  In flashbacks we see how happy he is to have a daughter and how much he loves her...but in the present he is at best apathetic to her, and at worst almost abusive.  But we, the reader, have no idea what is causing this...we can speculate, but even those speculations don't really apply given what we know.  There is some great comic relief, and the only highlight of the book, by a demon Uncle named Dagon. 

I found the story to be inconsistent. For example Demons are stronger in Hell. Yet the Boss Demon engages Jael in a battle on Earth. Now before you say that he couldn't take her to Hell for the battle, let me say the battle takes place shortly after he takes her to Hell for a tour! HELLO! It doesn't make sense.  This is just one example.

I'm sad I couldn't write a more positive review...the story had great potential that just never materialized.

Rage (The Horseman of the Apocalypse #2) by Jackie Kessler

Rage (The Horseman of the Apocalypse #2) by Jackie Kessler
Publisher: Harcourt Graphia
Release Date: 4/8/11
Pages: 213
Grade: C

Synopsis (GoodReads)Missy didn’t mean to cut so deep. But after the party where she was humiliated in front of practically everyone in school, who could blame her for wanting some comfort? Sure, most people don’t find comfort in the touch of a razor blade, but Missy always was . . . different.

That’s why she was chosen to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War. Now Missy wields a new kind of blade—a big, brutal sword that can cut down anyone and anything in her path. But it’s with this weapon in her hand that Missy learns something that could help her triumph over her own pain: control.

A unique approach to the topic of self-mutilation,Rageis the story of a young woman who discovers her own power and refuses to be defeated by the world.

Review: This story was basically "Same Stuff, Different Characters" as "Hunger"...the names and places were changed. The only real difference in this book was that the Horseman War is Death's there was a bit of sexual tension between Missy and Death.  If you need more of a review, check out the one I wrote for "Hunger", because they are the same.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hunger (Horsemen of the Apocalypse Book 1) by Jackie Morse Kessler

Hunger (Horsemen of the Apocalypse Book 1) by Jackie Morse Kessler
Publisher: Harcourt Graphia
Release Date: 10/18/10

Pages: 177
Grade: C+/B-

GoodReads Synopsis: “Thou art the Black Rider. Go thee out unto the world.”

Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home: her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power — and the courage to battle her own inner demons?

Review:  This was an interesting story...not really what I was expecting. The author's writing style was ok, it didn't really grab me. The story was interesting in that an anorexic, Lisa, was chosen to be "Famine", and that when she was working as Famine if she ate or drank, those around her starved or were thirsty.  I loved that Lisa had to work to find a balance and that she had to learn to find comfort in her own strength. While the book, itself, didn't really grab me, I did appreciate the message relayed! I will be adding this one to my little library in the hopes that other young people can experience and hopefully learn from the message.

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Release Date: 5/10/11
Pages: 324
Grade: C

GoodReads Synopsis: Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era! Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon, the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.
Review: I SO wanted to love this book.  I've loved every novel concerning time travel thus far and with all the International acclaim for this book I knew it was going to be a winner! Unfortunately it didn't live up to the hype in my mind...which made me very frustrated.

My challenges with this book start with the fact that it's 300+ pages that only span 4 days. So it moved very slowly.  It moved so slowly because the author was providing so much background. The story didn't really start until about the last 30-50 pages.I've read many series where the first book was primarily spent laying groundwork for the rest of the series ("Mayfair Witches" by Anne Rice is the first one to come to mind), and I went on to love the rest of the series. I'm sincerely hoping that will be the case with this series.

The book ended with a cliffhanger and a kiss...a bit of romance will always suck me in.  What I enjoyed the most was the epilogue...It hinted that everyone may not be who they *think* they are. Which really has my curiosity piqued.  I am anxiously waiting for the next novel in the series which is due out Spring 2012...I'm holding out hope that it and the third novel of this trilogy will live up to the hype in the media as well as my imagination.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Wither (Chemical Garden Trilogy Book 1) by Lauren DeStefano

Wither (Chemical Garden Trilogy Book 1) by Lauren DeStefano
Published by: Simon and Shuster
Release Date: 3/22/11
Pages: 358
Grade: B+/A-

GoodReads SynopsisWhat if you knew exactly when you would die? 

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out. 

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home. 

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.

Review:  One of the many things I liked about this book, and that struck me immediately was that most dystopian novels are so bleak and dark in their environment.  Meaning, that it's usually post-apocalyptic, everything is grey, crumbling, a total lack of color.  The Manhattan that Rhine starts out in has this feeling, but the Florida Mansion she is transported to, against her will, is beautiful...from the mansion and it's furnishings to it's garden and grove surroundings.

I was very impressed with the degree of humanity the author was able to imbue in Rhine without it coming off as insincere or self-righteous. Regardless of what is done to Rhine she manages to still care for others, including the the husband she has been forced to marry. Rhine is drawn to her captor in a way she finds surprising and is astonished to realize he is as much a captive as she is.

Wither is beautifully written! DeStefano draws the reader in and leaves you with a lot to think about! I'm really anxious to see what Rhine does...with what time she has left. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Abandon by Meg Cabot

Abandon by Meg Cabot
Release Date: 4/26/11
Pages: 320
Grade: B

GoodReads SynopsisThough she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can't help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she's never alone . . . because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.

But now she's moved to a new town. Maybe at her new school, she can start fresh. Maybe she can stop feeling so afraid.

Only she can't. Because even here, he finds her. That's how desperately he wants her back. She knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly heaven, yet she can't stay away . . . especially since he always appears when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.

But if she lets herself fall any further, she may just find herself back in the one place she most fears: the Underworld.

My Review:  Let me say, first, that this was my first Meg Cabot book. I knew her as the writer of the "Princess Diaries" which Disney made into a couple of movies I loved. It was probably more because of those movies that I ended up picking this book up.  I'm so glad that I did.

I had read another, decidedly different, retelling of Hades and Persephone earlier in the year. I had loved that book and found I loved the Hades/Persephone story so I went into Abandon with some knowledge of what was likely to happen. What I didn't expect was how much I was going to love Cabot's storytelling style. Throughout the book I felt like I was a friend, huddled in close, hearing an amazing story told in an excited whisper...the kind where when someone walks by you stop talking until they are out of hearing range.

Cabot's style is like the proverbial onion with mere pieces of back story and main story being peeled back tantalizingly slow layer after tantalizingly slow layer. And where she stopped that story...WOW! I'm going to call her the "Queen of Cliffhangers". Absolutely loved the book and really can not wait to see where she goes with the second installment of this planned trilogy. Now I just have to be patient.

Quantum (Portal Chronicles Book 3) by Imogen Rose

Quantum (Portal Chronicles Book 3) by Imogen Rose
Publisher: Imogen Rose
Release Date: 11/16/10
Grade: D

GoodReads SynopsisA whole year has passed. It’s October again… or is it? 

As California teen, Arizona Darley, contemplates traveling back through the portal to seek out her dad, her life is plunged into a whirlwind ride through the unknown. 

But this time, she doesn't disappear through the portal. 

Has Arizona been kidnapped–again? Is Raj Sen to blame? Could Dillard have taken her? 

As Kellan, David and her parents launch a frantic search with the help of the Wanderers, it becomes apparent that things are much more complex than they seem – for all of them. While investigating her daughter's lastest disappearance, Olivia faces shocking revelations about the Wanderers and her life with Rupert. 

In the meantime, what's happening in New Jersey? Are both of Arizona's worlds about to collide? 

Review: OK...I just gotta say it...KIDNAPPED?!?!?! AGAIN?!?!?! REALLY?!?!?!

OK, now that I got that out of my system! I couldn't believe we were dealing with kidnappers again. This time it wasn't human kidnappers, and where the author devoted a whole book to the first kidnapping (see: Equilibrium), this kidnapping had so many possibilities and yet was over so quickly it was almost a non-issue! The only real purpose it served was to provide the back story for Arizona's Step-Dad, Rupert...and the answer to the question posed at the very beginning of the first book, Portal: "Come and find me two years ago."

Then, to add insult to injury, we find out that there is another Arizona Stevens...In the same dimension that the original Arizona was taken out of at the age of 8.  How the heck did that happen? I was terribly frustrated by this book.  Instead of answering questions I was left with a whole lot of new ones in addition to the ones that I still had. UGH!

After I finished reading Quantum, I did discover that there is going to be a fourth installment called "Momentum".  I will read it, if only to find out answers, I just hope some or all of my questions are addressed!?!  When I do read it you will find a review here.

Equilibrium (Portal Chronicles Book 2) by Imogen Rose

Equilibrium (Portal Chronicles Book 2) by Imogen Rose
Publisher: Imogen Rose
Release Date: 7/14/10
Pages: 358
Grade: C

GoodReads Synopsis:  It's not every day you see a naked body slumped by the side of the road.

This ominous sight is just the beginning of a mystery that will span two dimensions.

When California teen Arizona Darley and her siblings go missing, their mother, Dr. Olivia Darley, discovers that the time-travel portal she invented has been hijacked.

Is the hijacker responsible for the disappearance of her children? Have the children been transported to another dimension? If so, the police and FBI will never be able to find them, and Olivia Darley must find a way to rescue her children on her own. How will she do this without access to the portal?

Review: Equilibrium picks up, literally, right where Portal stopped. Like this was originally one 700 page book and they cut it in half.  Because I read Portal and this book back-to-back, it didn't bother me, it would otherwise.

When we left my review of Portal, Arizona had just had a long talk with her Mom about her "Steven's existence in a Darley Environment"...But before Arizona has a chance to come to terms with what her Mom told her, she, her boyfriend, and siblings get kidnapped. REALLY??? I felt like the author couldn't come up with a plausible way for Arizona to deal with her feelings and her Mom so she threw in the kidnapping to avoid it. By the time kidnapping scenario is resolved, Arizona has totally forgotten about everything that led up to the kidnapping.  To deal with the kidnapping, the author introduced a new aspect to the "time traveling".  Also, new for this book was the addition of storytelling from multiple perspectives...I guess I like an old-fashioned "omniscient" perspective rather than six different voices and viewpoints.  I probably would have graded this lower except for the fact that I do like the characters as well as the authors style (for the most part). I have the 3rd book from the series and will read it next to see where we go from here.

Portal by Imogen Rose

Portal (Portal Chronicles Book 1) by Imogen Rose
Publisher: Imogen Rose
Release Date: 1/10/10
Pages: 350
Grade: B

GoodReads SynopsisCome Find Me Two Years Ago... 

Six words that propelled ice hockey playing tomboy, Arizona, into an alternate dimension. 

She suddenly found herself in the past. In one moment she went from being an ice hockey playing teenager in New Jersey to a glamorous cheerleader in California. She found herself transported from a happy life with her dad, Dillard, to a new, strange one living with her mother whom she hates. Apparently it's a life she's always lived in. 

Everyone knows her as Arizona Darley, but she isn't.  She is Arizona Stevens. 

As she struggles to find answers she is certain of one thing- that her mother Olivia, a brilliant physicist, is somehow responsible. 

Review: Ever since reading "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffennegger, I've wanted to read anything that had time travel involved. And this story came at it from a slightly different angle in that it involved time travel as different dimensions, which made for interesting possibilities.

I thought the author did a great job of posing questions that made me want to keep reading for the answers. Arizona's fight to reconcile her Stevens' self with the Darley environment posed interesting tension. However I was frustrated that once Arizona did find out what happened she didn't get to confront her Mom about her feelings because that is where this story ended. Another frustration was how the author did spend a lot of time on would bring the story to a screetching halt. Overall I loved the story and it's interesting possibilities. Can't wait to see what the next installment brings.