There was a lot of humor in Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality, but there was also a lot that was truly screwed up and not likely to get b...moreThere was a lot of humor in Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality, but there was also a lot that was truly screwed up and not likely to get better anytime soon.
I found it ironic that the author was able to present homosexual infatuation in such a positive light, that Lexi could supposedly learn so much about herself after her own "before" and "after" experiences, yet could still be so disgusted (her word) by her mother's weight (vs. say her atrocious parenting skills). I was disgusted by both of Lexi's parents, and it had nothing whatsoever to do with size.
For me, this book occupies the truly frustrating end of the YA spectrum where "trying to send a positive message" gets really preachy and where kids have to self-implode in order to get their parents' attention. Likewise, the "revenge" part of the story is absent and, in my estimation, was totally undermined by two somewhat spiteful comments--one, in the acknowledgments and second in the author's blurb--where Eulberg takes swipes at the guys who had labeled her and her girlfriends with the "great personality" badge. Seriously, it was high school. What you're communicating to your readers isn't resilience. If it were, you'd allow us to make those connections and not beat us bloody about the head with this "victory." (less)
In rating Dead is a Killer Tune, I am rounding up from 2 1/2 stars. While the story is Book #7 in the "Dead Is..." series, it's really only the second...moreIn rating Dead is a Killer Tune, I am rounding up from 2 1/2 stars. While the story is Book #7 in the "Dead Is..." series, it's really only the second outing for protagonist Jessica Walsh. The town of Nightshade, CA, and many of the characters are familiar from the stories featuring Daisy Giordano in the first five "Dead Is..." entries. Books 6 and 7, however, have shifted the focus away from Daisy who has completed high school (and is presumably no longer of interest to YA readers?) to that of high school freshman Jessica Walsh. In a town overloaded with paranormals and stange activity, Jessica is a female warrior known as a virago. Her charge of protecting Nightshade seems a bit redundant given the large number of other people who are likewise doing their part to protect the town and its inhabitants. The action in Dead is a Killer Tune focuses on a "battle of the bands" competition which unfolds against a Pied Piper of Hamelin storyline. That said, the resolution is all a bit obvious, the on again, off again tension between Jessica and Dominic is more annoying than anything else, and what was so enjoyable with the Giordano family at its center now feels a bit anemic by comparison. I'll give the series another shot, but don't want the feeling of having stayed too long at the party to ruin the positive regard in which I hold the first books in this series.(less)
Pfffft. Weak story, characters reverting to immature behaviors they've supposedly worked past, apparent attention deficit on formerly highly detail-or...morePfffft. Weak story, characters reverting to immature behaviors they've supposedly worked past, apparent attention deficit on formerly highly detail-oriented Claire's part, and two significant continuity errors--one in relation to chronology (i.e., how many days Myrnin's been gone) and the other geographic in nature (i.e., the location where Eve is attacked in relation to Uncommon Grounds) makes for a disappointing outing in post-draug Morganville.
Sadly, no one seems able to keep a thought in his/her head, and I'm not talking about the folks who've been mojo'd by Naomi (who several folks have seen yet no one bothers to discuss its implications despite the fact that many of them know that, like Bishop, she can compel people to do her will). You see a big white tree in your dream and conveniently forget that there's only one big white tree in the entire town? And it's in the cemetery? And when you finally manage to make your way there to check it out you go alone? Days later? WTF, Claire?! (Seriously, maybe you should be happy with that B you're so busy contesting on that physics paper.)
That new "twist" of alternating point of view/perspective from chapter to chapter is no excuse for weak characterization, storyline, and plotting. Moreover, now that it's happened a second time--having made its debut in the previous Morganville book--I'm officially calling flag on the play for having to (re)state in the author's note that readers need to "...be sure to note the chapter headings" so as to know whose perspective they're getting. Really? Isn't that precisely what those ALL-CAPS bold font headers indicate? What else could they possibly mean? Just how stupid do you think your readers are?
Seriously, the nicest thing I can say at this point is Pfffft. (less)
I am rounding up from an actual rating of 3 1/2 stars. Carriger's YA steampunk "Finishing School" series remains super fun. Our protagonist, Sophronia...moreI am rounding up from an actual rating of 3 1/2 stars. Carriger's YA steampunk "Finishing School" series remains super fun. Our protagonist, Sophronia Angeline Timminick is truly finding her way as a covert recruit at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. The action begins as the Sophronia and her cohort are pulled from class and their six-month review administered. It's a charming hodge podge of etiquette and assassinery in a comprehensive exam in which the girls have to apply the assorted lessons they've learned as well as trust their own gut instincts. With that event establishing some of the group dynamic for the foreseeable future, the actual meat of the story is delivered. A new technology is being given a public testing, one watched with keen interest by members of the paranormal community, esp. the vampires and werewolves--some of whom are represented among the patrons and instructors at Mlle. Geraldine's as well as among Queen Victoria's advisors--and the dirigible in which Mlle. Geraldine's exists will travel to London to witness this historical event.
In terms of the links between what readers of Carrigan's "Parasol Protectorate" know of this world, the prequel/backstory aspect of this series continues to be super delightful, most notably as relates to the training of 10-year old inventor-milliner-cross-dresser savant Genevieve (Vieve) Lefoux. The eccentric rogue vampire Lord Akeldama from that same series also makes an appearance and crosses tracks with a couple of our gang.
It is also a welcome development that Sophronia is maturing emotionally in addition to the refinement of her skills as a future "intelligencer" (i.e., socially proper spy and/or assassin). The love triangle put in place between her, the lovable sootie named Soap, and the Brunson's student and young aristocrat Felix Mersey will doubtless develop further in future installments. Given the genre and veneer of upper middle class to aristocratic etiquette, it's fun to see the assorted participants' reactions as well-considered social commentary vs. simply teen angst. Another welcome bit of personal growth occurs as Sophronia applies what she has learned of character assassination, and then must learn to live with the consequences of her actions.
All told, Carriger does a very nice job with this series. Like its predecessor, Curtsies & Conspiracies is a droll, welcome, and fast read. The transitions in perspective are a bit bumpy at times, and might be rendered more smoothly. Mindful that we need a juxtaposition between what Sophronia's thinking/feeling and the broader picture, there were a couple times where the shift was a bit abrupt and drew too much attention to itself. Such instances were fortunately rare, and the overall read was top rate.(less)
While relatively predictable, Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer was a fun little read. It had the usual teen drama, but more than enough fun dialog to m...moreWhile relatively predictable, Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer was a fun little read. It had the usual teen drama, but more than enough fun dialog to make up for it--such as the instance where main character Colette Iselin and classmate Audrey visit the original burial location of some 1,119 people guillotined during the French Revolution where Colette's reaction to the 21st-century presence of a preschool adjacent to the site assumes the form of "Maybe French people aren't afraid of death" is met with Audrey's quick response: "Or they're not afraid of plaques" (p. 197).
For anyone who has visited Paris, Versailles, and/or ever been a teenaged girl, Alender's book makes for a good fun romp. The story reminds us to be thankful that we need not pay quite so literally for our ancestors' missteps and is, likewise, a nice (if somewhat pat) testimony to the importance of forgiveness.(less)
Thief Eyes draws heavily on Icelandic sagas, with a bit of Norse mythology and healthy doses of Simner's vivid imagination tossed in for good measure....moreThief Eyes draws heavily on Icelandic sagas, with a bit of Norse mythology and healthy doses of Simner's vivid imagination tossed in for good measure. In short, it tells the tale of a woman who goes missing while accompanying her husband on a research trip to Iceland. In point of fact, this woman has fallen victim to a spell hastily cast by an ancestor some seven generations in her past who hoped to escape an arranged marriage. The woman's grieving daughter and numb husband return to Iceland where the daughter is made aware of the magical nature of her mother's disappearance. Fun storytelling, intriguing animals, and a healthy blend of magic and realism. And the author's afterword provides great leads for anyone, such as myself, who is keen to locate a copy of Njal's Saga and similar source material. (less)
Part journal, part sketchbook, part 13-entry list of lists, Emily Strange: Piece of Mind is a fun bit of YA fiction. Emily Strange is a curiously bril...morePart journal, part sketchbook, part 13-entry list of lists, Emily Strange: Piece of Mind is a fun bit of YA fiction. Emily Strange is a curiously brilliant, self-reliant, genius inventor in search of her destiny as a Dark Girl. As the 13th girl, in her 13th year, Emily celebrates the culmination of her school year (self-home schooled, naturally) by heading off to the town of Seaside in search of her possible birthright--a talent that would manifest itself as well as the discovery of the source of the liquid blackrock essential to assuming her birthright. Mostly clever, pretty predictable storyline, but fun nonetheless--esp. for the tweener audience for whom it's actually written.(less)
Anyone who enjoyed Carriger's "Parasol Protectorate" series--or who might in a few years grow into a reader of said works--will thoroughly enjoy Etiqu...moreAnyone who enjoyed Carriger's "Parasol Protectorate" series--or who might in a few years grow into a reader of said works--will thoroughly enjoy Etiquette & Espionage, the first in Carriger's "Finishing School" books. Instead of simply mastering the latest dance steps and how to use their feminine wiles to land a suitable husband, students at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality learn the skills necessary to function in polite society as intelligence gatherers and/or assassins in service to an alternate (read: paranormal Steampunk) version of the British Empire. Most of the girls sent to this particular finishing school attend as legacies--members of the aristocracy whose mothers have surreptitiously been engaged in related activities and/or whose fathers are Evil Genius graduates of the brother school, Bunson & Lacroix's Boys Polytechnique. A vastly smaller percentage, like our protagonist Saphronia Angelina Temminnick, are what is referred to as "covert recruits"--invited to the school because they possess promise of meeting the school's unique set of graduation requirements. For this second set of attendees, their snobbish parents mistakenly think they have sent their daughters to a business-as-usual Victorian finishing school.
That said, the curriculum and faculty at Mademoiselle Geraldine's are decidedly distinct. Upon learning that Mlle. G's students learn knife-fighting from a werewolf, for instance, young Pillover, brother to Saphronia's classmate Dimity and student at Bunson's, complains:
"Werewolf? Bully! We don't have any supernaturals here. It's quite a dearth in the deanship if you ask me. Any reputable school ought to have at least one vampire professor. Eton has three. You lot are only girls, and you've a vampire and a werewolf. Holy unfair, that's what I call it" (p. 189).
Classified as YA fiction, E & E is simply good storytelling. It would make a superb way to introduce young readers to steampunk fiction, and contains all the fun adventure elements of the very stories from my youth. Coming to the series as an adult, however, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the younger incarnation and relations of well-loved characters who figure prominently in the Parasol series.
It is all too rare an event, when I read a book imagining just how well it might be adapted to the big screen. Perhaps it was the allure of the altogether attractive cover (yes, I often pull books off the shelf precisely because their covers intrigue me in some way) that drew me to this book, and only later did I realize its connection to other works I had so enjoyed, but the storytelling here is precisely of a Harry Potter, Golden Compass sort--namely, transporting the reader (or viewer in the hypothetical movie scenario) to a world populated by a range of interesting people, empowered women, intricate devices, and outrageous hats. I eagerly await Sophronia's next outing, and recommend this book to YA fans and older readers who appreciate atmosphere, quirky social commentary, and a good story.(less)
The Last Dragonslayer is a great bit of storytelling. Our hero, Jennifer Strange, is a Foundling who has been indentured to Kazam Mystical Arts Magic...moreThe Last Dragonslayer is a great bit of storytelling. Our hero, Jennifer Strange, is a Foundling who has been indentured to Kazam Mystical Arts Magic by the Blessed Ladies of the Lobsterhood in whose trust she was placed as a newborn. As the story opens, Jennifer is off on a job with a handful of wayward, if not down-on-their-luck wizards/esses as she has assumed the mantle of Acting Manager at Kazam as a result of Mr. Zambini's being "unavailable." We quickly get a good deal of world-building, characterization, and tip to the fact that Jennifer is destined for strange, if not great, things. The story is set in the Ununited Kingdom where, we are told, magic is somewhat on the wane, King Snodd IV is power-mad and relentlessly corrupt, and there is an as-yet ill-defined link between dragons and power. Being a reader "of a certain age," the best thing I could suggest to my peers is that the dragons in this story are on a par with Barbara Hambly's in Dragonsbane. So by all means, run do not walk to your nearest bookseller, library, e-reader or bookshelf (if you were fortunate enough to score a copy over the holidays) and gobble up this highly-enjoyable bit of storytelling. (less)
I'm a bit torn here because Hourglass combined two of my favorite bits of fiction: paranormal stuff and time travel. Two for two, no? Well, maybe.
The...moreI'm a bit torn here because Hourglass combined two of my favorite bits of fiction: paranormal stuff and time travel. Two for two, no? Well, maybe.
The set-up is positively inspired. We have a troubled girl, Emerson Cole, who sees dead people. The latest "consultant" in a long line of such persons hired by her well-intentioned brother explains to her that these people are ripples--not so much ghosts as people who have stepped through (either forward or backward) bridges between past, present and future. Of course this consultant works for a semi-shadowy organization known as Hourglass and you quickly suss out that he wants to involve Emerson somehow in his work. Oh, and the character of Emerson's visions is changing--for the first time ever, instead of just the random individual she is seeing entire scenes, ensembles of people (including a jazz combo complete with a piano), and one of them even knows her name. Okay, there is some real potential here.
Overall, I'd say that I enjoyed 85-90% of the story--give or take a few wah-wah-wah scenes in which the spunky pygmy ninja Emerson (she has a brown belt in karate, is not afraid to use it, and reminds us at every given opportunity that she is short--really short) I so enjoyed is channeling Bella from the Twilight series and I want to reach through the pages and throttle her. But then we hit Chapters 47-56, where we seem to just sorta jump the shark (if books can be said to do that). There is some god-awful romantic interest dialogue; unlike the real world, this book appears to only be inhabited by hot, sexy, pretty people; there is the emotional rollercoaster of "We've decided to do this terribly risky thing and we've planned out these steps very meticulously down to the nanosecond, but you didn't return my call when you were off doing this other potentially quite dangerous thing during which any sane person would have turned his/her cell phone off, so I will risk FREAKING EVERYTHING to have a teenage meltdown, tart myself up, and drive my car all over the place hunting your sorry butt down," and while all of this excitement with the oh-so-attractive consultant is going down and Emerson is in the throes of First Love, she all but kicks to the curb her BFF, Lilly, who is the one person who has stood by her through several unpleasant years while she's off having this exciting and potentially fatal adventure. Annoying? Oh yeah!
In fairness, Emerison is only 17, this is clearly identified as YA fiction, so I suppose I could let it all pass if we could only get back to the time travel bit and explain a number of intriguing issues that have arisen over the course of the preceding 300 pages or so. But then--and I'm really not spoiling anything super important here--Emerson has traveled to a particular place and point in time to help rectify a certain situation and she encounters herself. She quickly looks away, nothing bad happens, and it's never explained or mentioned again.
No. Just no.
Authors, hear me now: You cannot set up the physics of why certain things work (in an admittedly "oh I'm too stupid to follow this so could you please dumb it down for me?" fashion) and then commit such a basic time travel sci-fi blunder.
But wait! Any empathy I had for Emerson evaporates irretrievably when we learn that it's not so much the fact that her parents died this horrific death and she cannot do anything to change that fact that is tormenting her. Instead, it's that she remembers this. Got it? Not that the people who gave her life died in a horrible way--that's okay. Instead, the "problem" is that she has to keep that memory. Suck it up, Babe. I'm officially unfriending you. And Lilly should, too!
But the biggest crime of all is that you discover on the last page where nothing important is resolved that, apparently, this is the set-up for a series. Alriiiiightly then. I, however, will not be joining in on Book #2 or anything that follows because I will not allow a writer to treat my admittedly high paranomral/time travel expectations so carelessly.
It's so hard to rate the third book in a trilogy. Am I rating this as a stand-alone? Am I rating it as the culmination of a world created, peopled, an...moreIt's so hard to rate the third book in a trilogy. Am I rating this as a stand-alone? Am I rating it as the culmination of a world created, peopled, and departed at story's end? In the case of Mockingjay, I'd have to imagine it's a little bit of both.
The conclusion to the story arc is, to say the least, bittersweet. I am unable to understand Kat's vote in a group decision made late in the book as it seems so utterly out of character for her. The use of propaganda in supporting the rebel cause, while sickening, is a nice detail to include in YA fiction.
I'm not sad to see this series end. Instead, by the close of Mockingjay, I'm just emotionally exhausted. (less)
I was extremely pleased with Catching Fire on several accounts. First, it's quite rare when the second book in a trilogy is better than the first. Far...moreI was extremely pleased with Catching Fire on several accounts. First, it's quite rare when the second book in a trilogy is better than the first. Far too often, the second book is essentially a hallway or passage to the third and final book, dropping important hints for later. Instead, the ruthlessness of President Snow's administration and the dystopian world of Panem that was well established in The Hunger Games is surpassed in this second outing. Second, Collins does a great job in building on the detail she established in the first outing but varying things enough that the second round of The Games differs enough from the first to be fresh and to instill worry for our characters and their fate. Collins also packs a very fine emotional punch with the assorted obstacles she throws in her characters' way, the horrors she--as writer--is willing to have them undergo, and the level of introspection they elicit. How, for instance, could "victors" of the Hunger Games ever go on to live normal lives? Is it really any surprise that Peeta and Kat's coach, Haymitch, is a raging alcoholic?
The love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale could be oh so annonying, but by casting all male-female relationships against the harsh reality that in a good year any family will be hungry most of the time and in a bad year its offspring are likely to stand as tribute to a government that is guilty of little more than continuous state-sponsored terrorism. Thus, Kat's circumstances are far more complicated than a Team Edward vs. Team Jacob dilemma--and the fact that she'd pretty much written off ever falling in love (let alone marrying) by the time she was 16 is a testament to her pragmatism and observational skills. Kat's also a great judge of character, her own and others', which makes for some very good reading.
Collins does a really great job of conveying how trapped her characters are--and not just by electrified fences and the so-called Peacekeepers. Kat's sheer terror when the circumstances of the Quell are announced rang true and was handled quite well, I thought. I am eager to get my hands on the third and final book, but will be sorry when done with this series only because I don't see anything else quite as good in the offing. (less)
Maggie and her former BFF Lisa attempt to rebuild their relationship via a Spring Break roadtrip to a Texas beach resort. When they hit an already-dea...moreMaggie and her former BFF Lisa attempt to rebuild their relationship via a Spring Break roadtrip to a Texas beach resort. When they hit an already-dead steer in the middle of the night, Maggie's car sistains substantial damage. They are quickly lured into the strange goings-on associated with Dulcina, TX where it would appear that a chupacabra (or worse yet, chupacabras) is stalking this ranching community.
The parallel characters (e.g., Henry: Lisa, Dona Isabel: Gran, Zeke: Justin, etc.) are a bit obvious, but loads of fun nonetheless to watch as their thought processes and values are juxtaposed. The story here is a good deal more complex than its predecessor in the Maggie Quin: Girl vs. Evil series, and that's greatly appreciated.
Bottom line: Rosemary Clement-Moore has a wicked sense of humor and I'm pretty sure that if we were neighbors we'd be spending a lot of time on my porch with quelque chose a boire talking books, movies, and pop culture. That said, I don't see a fourth book in the series yet, so am hoping that Ms. Clement-Moore will return to the well and would be happy to serve as a beta-reader if she ever finds herself in need of another one.(less)
Hell Week is the second title in Rosemary Clement-Moore's "Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil" series. In this outing, college freshman Maggie Quinn has gone...moreHell Week is the second title in Rosemary Clement-Moore's "Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil" series. In this outing, college freshman Maggie Quinn has gone undercover at Bedivere University and is publishing an anonymous expose for the University's newspaper on the ins and outs of rushing a sorority. Things are complicated somewhat by the fact that Mags has the Sight and the particular sorority reaching its tentacles toward her seems to be just a bit "off." Off--as in potentially capital-e Evil. Naturally, Maggie is trying to get the inside scoop without surrendering her own moral compass. It's a fun story, the characters are varied enough that you'll enjoy getting to know them as the series progresses, and it'd make a great TV series--sort of a Joan of Arcadia meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I'm looking forward to reading book #3 in the series immediately and, somewhere along the line, I'll be sure to locate book #1 and see how the whole thing got started.