This was an interesting retelling of the Cinderella story, darker and sadder in many ways and with a twist at the end. The beginning was quite slow bu...moreThis was an interesting retelling of the Cinderella story, darker and sadder in many ways and with a twist at the end. The beginning was quite slow but the second part of the book redeemed the story for me. I might have given this a 3 if it hadn't picked up. I think those who appreciate the language and style of a fairytale will appreciate Lo's writing. Her descriptions are at times vibrant and real. In some ways I would have wanted more of the world of the Huntress and the history of the Huntress' role in the King's court (so to speak). Though it may not be a top favorite of mine, I do believe that those who like this genre of story will thoroughly enjoy it if they hang in at the beginning.(less)
In an effort to write a spoiler-free review, I am going to focus on how Shadow Hills lives up to my "this is a good book" criteria. My criteria looks...moreIn an effort to write a spoiler-free review, I am going to focus on how Shadow Hills lives up to my "this is a good book" criteria. My criteria looks at readability, characters, twists on the paranormal theme, and ease in recommending it.
There were two things that quickly jumped out at me while I was reading Shadow Hills. An author should write in a way that engages the reader from the first chapter. I am pretty adamant about this. There are too many good books out there to waste time struggling through the first 100 pages of a book waiting for something to happen or for it to become interesting. Just as with reading the first chapter of the book, when I was able to finally sit down and read Hopcus's novel, I didn't want to put it down. I wanted to find out more about Persephone “Phe” Archer and the world of Shadow Hills. Part of what really gripped me was how Hopcus is able to reveal her characters' secrets without confusing me or irritating the heck out of me.
As for Anastasia Hopcus's characters, may I just say one word - Zach. Yes, hot boy with powers. I truly think I have a new fictional love interest. Despite Zach's hotness factor, what really is brilliant on Hopcus's part is that both Phe and Zach are equally matched. I am not going to reveal too much because I would then be spoiling it for readers, but let's just say that Phe is no wimpy teenage girl. I will also say I loved all of the secondary characters. There are some characters that you should really dislike and some that you should really like. Plus, I liked Phe's friends despite their very realistic flaws.
My third criteria is a difficult one for many books. There seems to be only so many twists or variations on the same theme. Shadow Hills was refreshing in that I didn't feel like I was reading the same vampire/werewolf/faery/angel book that populates the shelves of bookstores in over abundance. The history of Zach, his family and the townies and the evolution of their gifts and abilities was fascinating. Phe's ability is different than Zach's but presents with its own unique history. Though the connection between the two was not fully developed, I truly sensed that this was intentional and that in the next book we will gain a deep understanding of the connection between the two.
Can I recommend Shadow Hills? That would be a definite YES! Enough said!
After reading the book, I did have one thing I struggled with but you will probably laugh when you hear it. Let me just say, I grew up in New England. I went to college in New Hampshire and I lived in Massachusetts. And I have lived in Los Angeles. October is cold in Massachusetts. After all these years living in Southern California, when I go home, I freeze. Phe is from Los Angeles. When I think about her clothes, I just kept wanting to run after her with a jacket or a heavy duty sweatshirt yelling "You forgot something." See I told you that you would laugh?!
Shadow Hills is a great debut novel, and I am already pining for book 2. I am totally looking forward to seeing how Phe's abilities grow and how she learns more about her connection to Shadow Hills. And well, yeah, I want more Zach but that goes without saying. (less)
I loved this book so it is hard for me to write an objective review. I loved the characters especially Molly and Spill. I loved that the story was alm...moreI loved this book so it is hard for me to write an objective review. I loved the characters especially Molly and Spill. I loved that the story was almost several stories in one. You have Molly's relationship with her family and with Spill but you also have what society has become in the future and how that is impacting Molly and her need to get her grandparents up to Canada. It has a little bit of mystery and some intensity, but it is just a wonderful story. Loved the short chapters which really helped keep the story moving. And would love to hear the "soundtrack" for this one...the fiddle music would be great. Wonderful debut novel and look forward to reading more from this author.(less)
Jacqueline Houtman's debut novel is about Edison "Eddy" Thomas, a middle school student, who loves to tinker with inventions but struggles to understa...moreJacqueline Houtman's debut novel is about Edison "Eddy" Thomas, a middle school student, who loves to tinker with inventions but struggles to understand innuendos of those around him. The story opens with Eddy, as he prefers to be called, at his school's science fair. Quickly, the reader learns that Eddy is not your typical middle schooler. He knows the scientific names of what seems like everything as well as recites the elements on the periodic table to calm himself. Each chapter also contains facts from the "Random Access Memory of Edison Thomas" which are unusual facts that connect in some manner with the chapter. The random facts were probably one of my favorite things in the book.
When Eddy comes in third in the Science Fair and he cannot imagine how he did not win first place. Even though his third place win has secured him a spot as an alternate to the Regional Science Fair, he is extremely disappointed. At school the next day, Eddy discovers that the crossing guard for the elementary and middle school is losing his job due to budget cuts. This greatly upsets Eddy and he decides to apply his skills as an inventor to coming up with a way to alert cars to slow down thus preventing potential disasters.
As I read through the story of Eddy, I found myself really becoming quite enamored by this quirky student and his friends particularly Justin, an academically gifted student that befriends him. Houtman does a remarkable job at portraying Eddy, who likely has Asperger's Syndrome though this is never specifically identified in the story. She captures Eddy's struggle to understand facial expressions, deal with sensory information, and social situations. This is often showcased through both his misunderstanding of the actions of one of the popular students who seems to enjoy ridiculing Eddy, and in his lack of responses to the social initiations of several other students. The story has a satisfying ending as Eddy learns many lessons about friendship, standing up for himself, and even what he may have in common with Thomas Edison.
When I read a book that is intended for middle grade readers (grades 4th to 7th), I attempt to read the story in two ways. First, how will students in these grade levels receive the book. Who is the story geared for and will the specific audience be attracted to it? Next, I think about how the story may or may not be used in a classroom, or be a resource to parents and teachers. On the first point, I believe that students particularly on the upper age range of middle grade readers are the ones who will best relate to Eddy. This is in part due to the vast amount of scientific references and language in the story. Some younger readers may be overwhelmed by the vocabulary. However, since bullying and struggling with friendships is very much part of the school experience for most children, all readers will relate well to this element of the story. Second, as an adult reader and educator, I can see the story being used to discuss issues regarding social struggles, differences, and finding solutions to your problems.
All in all, I think this is an enjoyable debut novel by Jacqueline Houtman. I look forward to sharing Eddy's story with students and teachers as well.(less)
I don't know why I nevery added my review here?! Go figure, but better late than never.
If a book holds my attention and I can't put it down even when...moreI don't know why I nevery added my review here?! Go figure, but better late than never.
If a book holds my attention and I can't put it down even when reading it at night, then I usually consider it a great book. THIRTEEN TO LIFE was one of those books that I started late in the evening and kept reading until I finished it. Fortunately, I didn't have work the next day or I would have been one very tired educator. I was not deadline to get it finished and I was actually on break so there wasn't exactly a lot competing for my attention, and yet, I really wanted to find out how the story was going to turn out.
I do have a soft spot for Urban Fantasy/YA Paranormal stories. And ones with hot boys with accents - well that is always an added benefit. To be fair to the author there were certainly more than just hot boys with accents. The story is about Jess, a high school junior, who has recently suffered the loss of her mother in an accident. Jess is a bright student who loves horses and has a crush on one of the boys in her high school. Pietr is a new student at school with a mysterious background. Pietr resides with his older brothers and twin sister. Jess lives on a farm with her father, and younger sister. I liked Jess and Pietr. I liked them together, and I liked the parts of the story with them together. Of course, the story would be pretty boring if there wasn't some conflict surrounding their being together. It is difficult to discuss this part without giving too much away. I will say that I had the feeling that Delany was looking for a more unique twist on the expected love triangle. Unfortunately, the one area of the book that may not have worked for me was Sarah's tie in on with the love triangle. Sarah is a friend of Jess who has an interesting connection to what happened to Jess's mother. Though this storyline did not always work for me, it didn't distract me from the main focus of the story. However, I predict that I haven't seen the last of Sarah and expect that there will be some interesting developments in later books.
Some additional thoughts about the minor or secondary characters. One of the things I can't help but notice are the adults in YA novels. I am always curious how they will be portrayed and what kind of relationship will the main character have with them. Jess' relationship with her father was believable. She had a variety of feelings about the teachers and staff at the school which was also believable and her feelings towards her father's possible romantic interest was also something that seemed natural.
I am not giving anything away in saying that the story is about werewolves. So it isn't surprising to the reader to discover that Pietr and his family are werewolves. I did enjoy Delany's explanation behind how they had come to be werewolves. The Cold War and Russian tie-ins were a nice change from some of the other werewolf stories.
I loved when a story has some humor to break up the tension or conflict. THIRTEEN TO LIFE had quite a few times when I found myself either laughing out loud or snickering at a line or a scene in the story. And I especially loved that Shannon found ways to even have a little fun at the expense of paranormal stories within the story.
THIRTEEN TO LIFE will appeal to readers who are fond of YA paranormal romance. Will it persuade a die-hard vampire fan to become a wolf fan?! I am not sure I can answer this for anyone else, but I can say that this vampire girl certainly enjoyed the wolves in the story.(less)
Sienna "Sea" Jones lost her mother to a plane accident three years ago. Her father, a psychiatrist who does relief work in underdeveloped countries, d...moreSienna "Sea" Jones lost her mother to a plane accident three years ago. Her father, a psychiatrist who does relief work in underdeveloped countries, decides that maybe a trip to Indonesia to help with children victims of the Tsunami will help her heal from her own loss.
I have to say I truly loved this book (and that is saying a lot since I really prefer fantasy/paranormal books). I really liked Sienna and all the other characters in the book. I felt like the relationship Sienna had with her dad was well portrayed. And the journey Sienna make personally and emotionally is mirrored through the physical journey of the plane ride to Indonesia and throughout her experiences there and then Sienna's return to California. And for those who like a little romance...that is there too (Ah, Deni! Ah, Spider!)
The shortish chapters, and easy writing style will make this book something that even reluctant readers can quickly get into. It would work for tweens or teens and even students of various cultural backgrounds will find ways to relate to Sienna's story.
What a fantastic debut novel from Heidi R. Kling. I look forward to future books by her.(less)
Debut novelist, Lauren Oliver, delivers an all too real account of life in High School from the narrator, Sam. She is popular, and mean. But is that a...moreDebut novelist, Lauren Oliver, delivers an all too real account of life in High School from the narrator, Sam. She is popular, and mean. But is that all there is to her and her friends. One fatal night, an car accident changes everything for Sam. She dies, but when she wakes up again, she finds herself re-living the same day. Can she make changes to her day? And what will happen if she does? Despite the "groundhogs day" premise, Oliver does a remarkable job with the re-telling of the days' events. It is hard to like or relate to Sam and her gal pals in the beginning, but as the book proceeds, the reader finds themselves more engaged in the story. By the last 200 pages, I couldn't put it down. A satisfying, albeit it sad, ending wraps up the story. Note: I would recommend this for 10th grade and up.(less)
This is a fun Middle Grade book. Children will enjoy the characters and all of the situations that Abbie and her little brother Munch get into because...moreThis is a fun Middle Grade book. Children will enjoy the characters and all of the situations that Abbie and her little brother Munch get into because of their magical abilities. There is some interesting pieces of science and history in the story which added a little more depth. The one thing that kept this from being a 5 for me was that I thought there may have been a "little too much" magic (gasp, I know the story is about a 5th grader who is a witch) which at times is too convenient of a solution. However, my guess is children will overlook it and just enjoy all of it.(less)
I am not sure where to start without spoiling the story. Debut author, Judith Graves, does a wonderful job setting up her paranormal world in UNDER MY...moreI am not sure where to start without spoiling the story. Debut author, Judith Graves, does a wonderful job setting up her paranormal world in UNDER MY SKIN. The first in a trilogy finds Eryn in a small town in Northern Alberta. This was suppose to be a quiet place where she could lay low after the disappearance of her parents and instead she finds herself face to face with a werewolf. Eryn's story is one where she is attempting to learn about herself as a half-wolven, paranormal. She soon finds herself a part of a group of teens who hunt and fight paranormal beasties. And if it wasn't enough to have one resident hottie in the form of Alec Delacroix, hunter, she finds another part of herself attracted to Wade, a vampire and equally hot.
UNDER MY SKIN has great characters (I liked all of them), humor, action, and pending romance. What more can you want?! (less)