Pirouette just didn't do it for me. At first glance, a Parent Trap-style twins-seperated-at-birth premise just seems too fun to pass up. Factor in the...morePirouette just didn't do it for me. At first glance, a Parent Trap-style twins-seperated-at-birth premise just seems too fun to pass up. Factor in the fact that they're twin ballerinas sent off to dancing summer camp (dancing + summer camp too of my favorite story things) where they meet for the first time this book just sounds like it's full of win.
It's not. The problem with this book is that it expects you to set aside your suspension of disbelief way beyond what is possible AND the main characters are supposed to be smart, but so obviously aren't. My problems start when Hannah, the outgoing happy twin, is delayed at the airport by a day which allows her to arrive a day after all the other students so she can meet her sister in private. It's contrived and feels contrived. Another problem, is the speed with which Hannah (who has just met Simone) agrees to the switching for the summer despite the fact it'll wipe this prestigious dance camp off her resume (and she has aspirations of being a professional dancer).
I tried to set that aside as hokey fun. But when Simone, the smart shy twin, begins googling information about DNA tests the bottom kind of fell out for me. There's this whole section where Simone tries to figure out if a DNA test could prove they're identical twins and insists on doing a mail-in DNA test to prove they're twins. Let me break this down for you. Simone (through google) learns that identical twins have identical DNA. She wants to do a DNA test to prove to their parents they are twins. If Simone and Hannah have identical DNA there's no way for the lab where they're mailing the tests to be able to tell that the samples came from two people. For all they know Simone could've sent in two samples of her own DNA and received the same results. As far as proving this her parents, it's a waste of over $300. Also, after going through all the trouble of taking the test and getting the results it's never mentioned again throughout the novel.
(For the record, I did some basic googling about twins & DNA. Apparently they are coming up with tests that might be able to differentiate between identical twins genetically, but we're talking about a mail-in paternity test here).
After the DNA section disappeared and they decide to continue the switch after-camp, the book hit a pretty good stride. Fooling the family and friends while learning more about the others. These sections were the best of the book, enjoyable and fun as they walk, occasionally stumbling, in each other shoes But then, near the end there's another section that's way too hard to believe. To say more would be spoilers, but it's something that would never happen.
Overall this book was not realistic enough for a contemporary YA and the characters weren't enough to carry the story. For younger YA readers, borderline middle-grade, it would probably be more enjoyable than for older YA readers.
I received an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review. (less)
Very rarely is a book as much fun as Palace of Spies. Peggy Fitzroy is an orphan living in her bossy and overbearing uncle's house. But since she has...moreVery rarely is a book as much fun as Palace of Spies. Peggy Fitzroy is an orphan living in her bossy and overbearing uncle's house. But since she has nowhere else to go, she trudges through trying to ignore his increasing insults. Everything goes awry when her uncle announces her sudden betrothal, she meets said fiancee (he doesn't deserve our Peggy) in unfortunate circumstance and ends up kicked out of her uncle's house into the streets.
Before she knows it, Peggy is swept into impersonating Lady Francesca, one of the lady's in waiting at King George I's court. A clever girl, Peggy doesn't understand why she's been brought into this scheme but through observation and some snooping, she discovers that Lady Francesca may have been murdered and begins fearing for her own life.
This book is a romping adventure, not that there are pirate ships or lots of sword fights, but it feels like a romping adventure. Filled with politics, intrigue and the drama of life at court, Palace of Spies is feisty and fun. In some ways the style of writing reminded me of Gail Carriger, (minus the fantasy elements) and the book has a great sense of humor and snark.
Peggy, too smart for her own good, carries the book. She's everything you want in a main character, intelligent, funny with a knack for getting herself into sticky situations. I liked how this book dealt with female characters all-around, rather than making them vapid for wearing pretty dresses and flirting with boys it presented them as master strategists. Whether it's Peggy, who you have to cheer for, or conniving Sophy, the women of court aren't just eye candy or pawns but playing their own political game.
Whenever I read books filled with mystery and court politics, I always wonder why there aren't more YA novels set in royal courts. It just seems such a natural fit, royal courts are filled with scheming young beautiful people and someones always plotting treason. This book has it all, a mystery that keeps you guessing, a heroine to cheer for, handsome young men and mischievous plotting by almost every character in the book.
I received an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review(less)
Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story was not what I expected. As a boy, William Bellman kills a rook with a slingshot. He's the type of jovial youth who...moreBellman & Black: A Ghost Story was not what I expected. As a boy, William Bellman kills a rook with a slingshot. He's the type of jovial youth who's always up to something, but smart and hardworking, the type of person everyone wants to be around. His life is nearly perfect, working at his Uncle's mill, marrying a beautiful girl, having children of his own until slowly one-by-one those around him start to die. At every funeral he sees the same unknown man dressed in black smiling at him.
I expected this story to be scarier, a more clear-cut ghost story, but it leaves you guessing for most of the book. Are William Bellman's friends and family dying because he killed the rook or are they just dying because eventually everyone does? Not even Bellman himself can be sure whether he's cursed or his luck as turned.
"I see misery and suffering and despair. I see the futility of everything I have ever done and everything I may ever do! I see every reason to do away with myself right here and now, and be finished with it! Forever!"
For me, the book was more sad than creepier or scary. We see Bellman build an enviable life for himself, then watch it fall apart as he loses everything he loves. His desperation, his attempts to bargain with death, are very real and familiar emotions to anyone who has ever lost somebody they loved. And always in the background, always looming is the man in black and this sense of doom and paranoid that Bellman develops over time.
The writing is very atmospheric, setting the place and tone of the novel, and even though the story is slow-moving, it works for this particular novel. This book is not a sprint, but a marathon, the haunting story of living, losing, paranoia and the potential price of a childhood mistake.
I received an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. (less)
Julie Kagawa, I just can't quit you. The Iron Traitor is not my favorite of Kagawa's works, but she did enough that I find myself shelving the 3rd in...moreJulie Kagawa, I just can't quit you. The Iron Traitor is not my favorite of Kagawa's works, but she did enough that I find myself shelving the 3rd in the series to be read on Goodreads and wondering where the story goes from there. Because that ending, be warned, is a whammy of an ending.
My problems with The Iron Traitor are similar to my problems with The Lost Prince. As much as I wanted to like Ethan, that little boy Meghan sacrificed so much to save, I just do not connect with him that much. He's brooding, angry and surly, whereas Meghan was wide-eyed and innocent when she stumbled into faerie. Ethan puts up walls to protect himself, which makes it hard for other people to connect with him (both characters and readers).
The biggest problem for me continues to be his relationship with Kenzie. There is too much bickering about their relationship, too much him telling her not to come to protect her and her getting angry and insisting on making her own choices. Too much Kenzie calling him "tough guy" and me groaning because pet names can get really annoying when they are repeated. For all of Kenzie's being superglued to Ethan's side, she doesn't really do anything throughout the whole novel, except bossing Ethan around. She's pretty ace at shouting at Ethan but if she's going to be in the story I'd like her to be relevant.
As far as plot, the relationship drama dragged down the story. Once they arrived in faerie and the action really started, the book hit it's stride from their meeting with the deliciously evil Queen of the Seelie Court, to frolicking Puck showing up and the original brooder Ash even makes an appearance. All of that leads up to an ending that took me completely by surprise. Will you like this sequel? It probably depends on how much you liked the Ethan/Kenzie dynamic in the first book.
I received an advance reading e-book in exchange for an honest review. (less)
I look forward to every book Mira Grant writes (or Seanan McGuire, her urban fantasy alter-ego) and Parasite was no exception. The story follows Sally...moreI look forward to every book Mira Grant writes (or Seanan McGuire, her urban fantasy alter-ego) and Parasite was no exception. The story follows Sally Mitchell, an amnesiac who was declared clinically brain-dead then somehow, miraculously woke up. Doctors credited her Intestinal Bodyguard, a genetically modified tapeworm that is culmination of modern medicine, with saving her life. Almost every human has one, a parasitic tapeworm that enhances the human immune system, which has been too sanitized by years of medicine, and distributes necessary medications and immunities into it's the human system.
This book is very different from Feed and Sally is a very different main character from Georgia (If you've read Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy). Sally can only remember the last six years of her life. So despite being an adult, sometimes she's also very young and naive. She's pushed around by almost everyone, SymboGen Corporation, who want to figure out her miraculous survival, and her parents who have guardianship over her. She lives with the ghost of a girl she can't remember but everyone expects her to be.
In some ways that makes Sally hard to connect with. There were huge gaps of her life, and thus pieces of her personality missing. Even though I rooted for Sally, I didn't really feel her experiences on an empathetic level until the end of the book. However, by the end of the book I REALLY felt them.
From the onset, the idea of a symbiotic tapeworm living in everyone's intestine, this book is creepy. The science seems crazy impossible, yet well-researched and feasible. What scares me the most about Mira Grant books is that they don't seem that far-fetched, like we're a few twists of science away from parasites trying to take over the human race. Like her other books, the complexity of the world-building continues to impress me. Not only is there the basic plot-line, but inset interviews from magazines, autobiographies and the creepiest children's book known to man, that make the world feel layered and realistic.
While Parasite might not be as good as Feed, it's still a very good book and a series with a lot of potential. By the time I finished the last page I cared (and it's driving me nuts not knowing what happens next). If you're looking for realistic medical-based science-fiction, then once again Mira Grant has written a winner.
I received an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.(less)
For quick NanoWriMo research this book served it's purpose perfectly. Gave me political/historical background with inset stories of female athletes. V...moreFor quick NanoWriMo research this book served it's purpose perfectly. Gave me political/historical background with inset stories of female athletes. Very interesting stuff. I could read more about Title IX. (less)