Title: House of Ivy & Sorrow Author: Natalie Whipple Publisher: HarperTeen (HarperCollins) Release Date: April 15, 2014 Rating: 3/5
Cover Impressions:Title: House of Ivy & Sorrow Author: Natalie Whipple Publisher: HarperTeen (HarperCollins) Release Date: April 15, 2014 Rating: 3/5
Cover Impressions: Very pretty. I love the title, though it is a little misleading. I do feel like the cover is missing some focal point and I find myself trying to figure out if there is some pattern to the image behind the writing.
The Gist: Josephine Hemlock is a young witch in training living with her grandmother in their mysterious and powerful house. The last of the Hemlock line, she is constantly in fear of the curse that took her mother and the witch that cast it. When a mysterious stranger comes to town covered in a darkness Jo has never seen before, she realizes that it is time to stop hiding and time to start fighting. But, the spell is stronger than she ever realized and fighting it may not only put her in danger, but also all the people that she loves.
First off, a disclaimer. In order to enjoy this novel, you have to realize that, despite the gothic title and the fanciful cover, this is not a dark and sorrowful tale. I believe this was poor marketing as it is setting readers up for one type of story and leaving them disappointed when they get another. If you can accept that this is not an author attempting to give Poe a run for his money, you can settle in and enjoy a fun story with some interesting world building and enjoyable, if not all that well developed, characters.
The best part of this novel was the world building. It had an interesting take on witches and magic where nothing came without a sacrifice. This led to some pretty gruesome scenes where characters yanked out handfuls of hair, chopped off pieces of flesh or even (YUCK!) pulled out their own fingernails. I really liked how the witches had to sacrifice for what they wanted and that it made them think about how much they were willing to give up, as opposed to many other books where the witches cast spells willy nilly.
Title: A World Without Princes Author: Soman Chainani Publisher: HarperCollins Release Date: April 15, 2014 Rating: 4/5
Cover Impressions: I love, love, loTitle: A World Without Princes Author: Soman Chainani Publisher: HarperCollins Release Date: April 15, 2014 Rating: 4/5
Cover Impressions: I love, love, love the cover art for this series. The expression of distrust and wariness on the girls' faces is perfect and the colors are just stunning. There is so much detail that I keep picking up on things that I never noticed the first time around. Anyone know who the artist is?
Review: Sophie and Agatha are back at home, but things have not ended so happily ever after. Sophie is fighting to stay the centre of attention as her father plans to re-marry and Agatha is secretly dreaming of the price that she left behind. When she secretly wishes for a new ending, Agatha re-opens their story and re-writes the rules of their fairy tale world. Back at the School for Good and Evil, girls are fighting against boys and no one is getting a happy ending. Agatha and Sophie must steal the Storian and finish their story once and for all, but how can they work together when they don't really want the same things?
I really love the premise behind this series. Fairy tales are even more fun when they are turned on their ear and Chainani does an excellent job of re-writing the rules for a new generation. I was so dismayed to see what had happened to the school, standing on the brink of war between the genders and so thrilled to see that the Three Witches were the only ones not taken in by the new roles. Still, I NEED MORE WITCHES, Hester, Anadil, and Dot were my favorite part of the first book and, though they play an important role in this one, there is still just not enough. Can I get a side story or novella that just features them?? I am also a big fan of how the evil in this story did not take on the traditional form and came from a more unexpected place.
Cover Impressions: Very nice, if a little cutesy. I understand that it is middle grade, This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: Very nice, if a little cutesy. I understand that it is middle grade, but I usually prefer for these books to have an appeal to older students as well. The background images are beautiful and the crest and banner title are very well done.
The Gist: For hundreds of years, the children of Gavaldon have been going missing. Every four years, two at a time, one beautiful and one ugly. After a time, the children of the town realized that these former playmates were appear within the pages of their favorite fairy tales. Sophie has spent her entire life preparing for this day, maintaining a beauty routine, sewing dresses and doing good deeds. Agatha, on the other hand, would do anything to remain at home with her gravestones and evil pet cat. When the two are swept away, they find that a serious mistake has been made and their fortunes have been reversed. Beautiful Sophie to the School for Evil and ghastly Agatha to the School for Good. As they try to fight for their hearts' desire, the girls learn about themselves and the barrier between Good and Evil.
Review: The School for Good and Evil opens on the eve of the night when children regularly disappear from their homes. Most children are trying to make themselves as undesirable as possible, while Sophie attempts to flaunt her assets as a princess. She is determined to be spirited away from her home to the School for Good where she will meet her prince charming. Along side her, will certainly be her friend Agatha, the child for whom the term "witchy" was coined. As her counterpart, Agatha will enter the School for Evil and the two will find a way to maintain their frienship despite the rivalry of their schools. The premise for this book is very unique and charming. The thought of children being stolen from their homes only to show up in the pages of storybooks is both wonderful and terrifying. I do wish that we were able to spend a little more time with Agatha and Sophie within their village and to learn more about the mysterious town from which no one can choose to leave.
This novel features some fantastic characters. Sophie was difficult to like, but that was kind of the point, while Agatha did lose a little of herself by the end of the novel. Sophie's roommates where a fantastic addition. They had the best lines and often left me laughing out loud. These characters could easily hold a story or series of their own (hint hint!).
The School for Good and Evil was a beautiful mix of Wicked, Harry Potter and the humor of Roald Dahl. It was really fun to see the juxtuposition between Good and Evil. The schools were truly equal but opposite, down to the smallest detail. I must admit, I had more love for the School of Evil as they had more interesting characters and it was enjoyable to watch them revel in the dank, dire and disgusting. The world building is truly fantastic and well fleshed out, though it is a little difficult to keep track of all the rules and the names of the students. This was aided by the alternating point of view which worked well to show the thoughts and feelings of both girls as well as to give a glimpse into the inner workings of both schools.
The plot was a little predictable, but enjoyable nonetheless. The ending was a little strange, and I can't wait to see how this plays out in future books. I am very excited to see this on film. I think that it will translate really well and that the setting will play out beautifully on the big screen. Overall, an excellent addition to the Middle-Grade section of my classroom library. I cannot wait to jump back into this world in 2014.
Age: 10 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing Violence: Magical Violence Inappropriate Language: None Substance Use/Abuse: None ...more
Cover Impressions: The cover has some beautiful elements but, for me, it feels like it i This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The cover has some beautiful elements but, for me, it feels like it is missing something. The script is stunning, the trees create a fantastically creepy atmosphere, but I keep looking for something else to rest my eye upon and there just isn't anything. If I were designing this cover - I would have added a full moon so we at least had a focal point.
The Gist: Ethan Wate is counting down the days until he can escape the small town of Gatlin. He spends his days barely tolerating his classmates and his nights struggling to hold on to a girl that he has never met. When Lena Duchannes arrives at Stonewall Jackson High School, everyone can tell she is different. Ethan finds himself seeking her out and will soon discover that they have a mysterious and powerful connection.
Review: I have encountered this book (and the others in the series) off an on throughout my forays through the world of YA. In reading the synopsis, however, the whole mysterious romantic connection turned me off from picking up the book. Then I encountered the trailer for the movie to be released in 2013 and it looked so good I just had to give the book a shot and decided to try the audio version.
Let me tell you, it was loooooooooong. Normally, I find audiobooks make my commute better and make dealing with traffic a heck of a lot easier (just more time for the book!). But this one left me frustrated. I found myself yelling at the characters as they whined about their lives. Boo hoo, my home town is boring (Ethan) Wah Wah my life is weird and full of magic (Lena). I swear, if I heard Lena say "I am going to go dark" one more time I was going to throw my ipod under the wheels of a semi. It was even more irritating because the underlying plot was great. It had lots of mystery, great settings and interesting characters. But it seemed that just as I was getting some answers and seeing the plot progress, we would revert to moody Lena, queen of complaining. I really wanted to shake her - you have super-fun powers, DO SOMETHING WITH THEM! While Beautiful Creatures had a wonderfully creepy setting and some fantastically exciting scenes, there was just too long in between them and I got tired of waiting.
I was not a huge fan of the narrator, though he was competent enough. However, at one point, the narration switches to Lena and a female voice. I did not like her at all! This new narrator displayed little to no emotion and it completely pulled me from the world that the author had created. Because this occurred during a particularly important and action-filled section of the book, it was incredibly jarring and ruined those emotional moments for me.
This book is also guilty of perpetrating one of my pet peeves: the uncaring school. As a teacher, I take a real offense when I encounter books that feature teachers and administration who turn a blind eye to the blatant bullying that occurs in their school. I take a special offense when the teachers and administration become and active part of the problem. Yes, there are bad teachers out there. Yes, there are bad principals out there. But the majority of us did not get into this profession so that we could ignore the obvious distress of our students.
The ending of Beautiful Creatures left me unsatisfied. There were just too many questions left unanswered and, while I want the answers to them, I am just not willing to read/listen to the next book just yet. Especially as other reviewers have noted that it is even more angsty than the first.
Age: 13 and up Gender: Female Sex: Kissing Violence: Fist-fighting, Magical attacks, Stabbing Inappropriate Language: Bitch, Piss (there may be others but I forget) Substance Use/Abuse: Underage drinking, cigar smoking ...more
Cover Impressions: OOOOOOOHHHHHH PREEETTTYYYY! I really like this cover. The silhouetteThis and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: OOOOOOOHHHHHH PREEETTTYYYY! I really like this cover. The silhouette effect creates a sense of mystery and the font adds a fantastical charm. I cannot wait to see if/how this theme continues with the next book in the series.
The Gist: For as long as Kami Glass can remember she has heard a voice in her head. She has lost friendships and the other citizens of Sorry-in-the-Vale avoid her gaze but she has never been able to give up her imaginary friend. When the mysterious Lynburn family returns to town, Kami is faced with the realization that Jared is not so imaginary and that if their connection could be real, perhaps Sorry In the Vale might also hold more sinister secrets.
Review: Unspoken is based on a really interesting premise. Kami and Jared have been able to hear one another since birth, but have convinced themselves that the other was not real. When they finally discover each other, one might think that they would fall in the ultimate insta-love and proceed to sicken us with their every move. BUT Brennan would not do this to us. No, No, instead she wrote characters who recoiled at the thought of a real, physical person knowing their every intimate secret (who wouldn't?!). To complicate matters, Kami is investigating the return of the Lynburn family, whom the townspeople speak of with both awe and fear and the sudden violence that has erupted in Sorry-in-the-Vale.
The true strength of Unspoken lies in its characters. There are no one dimensional characters here. Each and every person, from Kami, to her friends, to her parents and brothers and the Lynburns, have unique and interesting qualities. My favorite has go to be Angela, Kami's outspoken best friend. She loathes nearly all people and covets a laziness that can only be matched by her brother, Rusty. Angela has a quick wit and says whatever is on her mind. This often leds to moments that have me literally laughing out loud such as:
"Angela spared a glare for Kami and then resumed her marathon glaring session at Jared. 'I'm not calling you that,' she announced flatly. 'It's too weird. I'm going to call you Carl.' Jared scowled. 'I don't want you to all me Carl.' 'That's interesting, Carl,' said Angela, cheering up."
I also had a special place in my heart for Holly, the girl who hit puberty a little too hard and found herself shunned by most of the girls her age. She is incredibly sweet and it is clear that she has tried to make friends with Kami and Angela for quite some time. Even she gets a few great lines:
"'Right,' said Holly, 'Well. If the unicorn is pink, about two feet tall, with a sparkly mane, we'll know my imaginary friend is real too.'"
Believe me, there are LOTS more examples of this fantastic dialogue, in fact, a number of quotes from Kami's dad can be found in the Notable Quotables section below. In fact, in writing this review and reading others I have seen quote after quote after quote and hardly any repeated. THAT is how good the dialogue is.
The plot of Unspoken moves smoothly as secrets are revealed and the danger heightens. The story was not bogged down with the typical insta-love and love triangle that could have happened if Brennan when the easy route. I did feel that Kami made some stupid decisions (creating a few "What, what, what are you doing? moments) and a few things could have been fleshed out further (such as the encounter with Henry Thornton) but overall, the action was exciting and suspenseful.
I feel I must discuss the ending. ABANDON HOPE OF NOT BEING SPOILED, ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE: Kami's ultimate decision was unexpected in terms of the actions of most YA heroines, but was completely in line with who she is as a character. Jared's reaction surprised me and broke my heart a little. Endings like these are frustrating in that I feel unsatisfied. Secrets have been revealed, plots uncovered and bad guys identified, but nothing has been solved. That being said, it also accomplishes the author's purpose, which is to create in the reader a voracious longing for the next book!
Yes, yes, yes! to reading the next book the moment I can get my hands on it!
Age: 13 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing Violence: Knifeplay, ritual sacrifice, murder Inappropriate Language: Asshole, Hell Substance Use/Abuse: None
Note: There are TONS of awesome quotes from this book but I thought I would pick a few from Kami's dad because parents hardly ever get the great lines in YA.
"Kami, I know all the other kids are throwing themselves down wells right now, but your mother and I have a firm policy of no danger sports until you're eighteen."
"'Why are you putting on lip gloss, my daughter?' Dad asked. 'Trip to the library? Trip to the nunnery? I hear the nunneries are nice this time of year.'"
"'Wearing that? Wouldn't you fancy a shape-less cardigan instead? You rock a shapeless cardigan, honey.'"
Kami and Jared seemed to be able to block each other at times, so why doesn't Kami employ this strategy during awkward moments, such as when she is on a date with someone else?...more
Cover Impressions: The cover is pretty, and I like the dark tone and colors but it doesnThis and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The cover is pretty, and I like the dark tone and colors but it doesn't really stand out from all the other "pretty girl in a pretty dress" in YA. If it wasn't for my slight obsession with witches and fairy tale re-tellings, I probably never would have picked up this book.
The Gist: Bewitching spins together a number of fairy tales as it follows Kendra, a witch who tries to help people but, inevitably, makes things worse.
Review: I thoroughly enjoy books that re-tell or take a different spin on fairy tales. This book should have been right up my alley, but there was something about it that just didn't click. First of all, I wasn't a fan of Kendra (does anyone else think this is an odd name for a character that originated in the 1660s?). We never really learn anything about her motivations. The story opens with her escaping a plague ridden town with her brother in tow and being captured by the witch from the Hansel & Gretel story. This witch teaches Kendra how to control her powers but we see very little of these lessons nor do we learn anything else about the history of that witch or Kendra. Eventually, the brother disappears - for no apparent reason and we abruptly shift to the Cinderella story of Emma and Lisette.
In Emma, I see a character that I could enjoy (despite her being ANOTHER YA character who is obsessed with classical novels - puhleese!). She grew up in a priveledged household, but it ultimately just a lonely little girl. When her stepfather brings home a daughter Emma never knew about, she hopes to gain a friend and instead finds Lisette to be a mastermind at manipulation. A few things bothered me: 1) we never find out why Lisette lived in abject poverty while Daddy Warbucks spoiled Emma and her mother 2) the father seems like a decent guy, but while bonding with Lisette he COMPLETELY neglects Emma - FOR YEARS!
Just as I am getting interested in Emma and Lisette's story, there is yet another interlude while Kendra tells us another story. The shifts in time and narrator changes made for a very choppy storyline and left me annoyed. Each time one occurred, I was tempted to put the book down and never pick it up again. In the end, it felt like the author started this book with a handful of short stories and then concocted a weak storyline in order to link them all together into one book. Perhaps, if the entire story had been told from Kendra's point of view (or at least switched between just Kendra and Emma) it might have flowed better.
In the end, I found this novel unsatisfying. While the novel may be exactly what some readers enjoy (and judging by many of the reviews, it is) it was simply not for me and I do not think I will be continuing with Kendra's story through any subsequent books.
Age: 15 and up Gender: Females Sex: Kissing, Violence: Death by drowning, Inappropriate Language: Bastard, Slut Substance Abuse: Underage Drinking, Marijuana Use ...more
Cover Impressions: So pretty and creepy and oh so enticing. This cover fits very well wi This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: So pretty and creepy and oh so enticing. This cover fits very well with the previous Anna book and they both look lovely on my shelf - I just keep staring at them.
The Gist: Cas can't say goodbye to the girl who sacrificed her soul to save the lives of him and his friends. When images of Anna start invading his life like waking nightmares, he realized that he will do anything to get her back - even walking into the depths of Hell.
Girl of Nightmares is one of those books that, no matter how busy my life was, I couldn't bare to put it down. I loved Anna Dressed in Blood and was really looking forward to jumping back into this world.
I was little disappointed with the amount of time that was dedicated to Anna. I understand that we had to be introduced to a new character (will she get her own spin off?), but I wasn't particularly fond of Jestine and I missed my Anna! Cas was his old sarcastic self, but a little more angsty as he tries to figure out his feelings for Anna and whines a little more about how no one will give him any information. Thomas and Carmel continue to be great characters, though they don't get a lot of action in this book.
In comparison with Anna Dressed in Blood, this installment is much more of an adventure or mystery than a horror story. There are horrific elements right from the beginning, but no real action or re-action to them until about halfway through. That being said, the inclusion of The Suicide Forest (which I can only assume was based on the forest in Japan) was fantastically done and super creepy. Once Cas managed to make his way into Hell (if that is what it was), things fell off for me. I felt like things happened a little too quickly and I was unable to stop and take a breath. I really wanted a minute or two to spend with Anna and for her and Cas to re-connect, but everything was a bit too fast-paced for that to happen.
As a teacher, I have a bit of an issue with the amount of swearing that Cas does. I understand that it is unrealistic to expect teenagers not to utter that famed four letter word, but Cas' swearing is a little too frequent and a little too varied. Because I am constantly worried about the reaction of parents to the books that I provide for my students, this alone is enough to stop me from keeping the Anna books on my shelves - and that disappoints me, because I have students that I think would really love them.
Age: 16 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing Violence: Blood-letting, Torture, Knifeplay, Battle with Supernatural Entities Inappropriate Language: Shit, Ass, Piss, Fuck, Dick, Jesus, Bastard Substance Use/Abuse: Smoking
Notable Quotables: "It's the Monday of the last week of the year and if I have to sign one more yearbook I'm going to sign it in the owner's blood."...more
Cover Impressions: On it's own, this cover might have been ok. The imagery is nice, theThis and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: On it's own, this cover might have been ok. The imagery is nice, the colors work well together and the runes invite further examination. But when compared with the cover for its predecessor, it is less than impressive. I do not like it when the covers of a series do not fit with each other and this certainly does not fit with the gloriously gothic and unique cover for Blood Magic.
The Gist: Mab Prowd has been raised to be the Deacon of her family's blood land. Magic to her is as natural as breathing and she has dedicated her life to the practice. When she stumbles across Will Sanger and inadvertently allows him a glimpse into this world, Will finds both beauty and terror and Mab finds herself embroiled in the fight of her life.
Review: During the first half of The Blood Keeper I was disinterested but I couldn't quite pin down why. The characters were ok, the writing was ok, the premise was ok. As I continued, the fact that I neither loved nor hated ANYTHING got to be more and more annoying. When I read Blood Magic, I was a little underwhelmed, but I gave points for originality and willingness to be a little more dark and delve into the nitty gritty of sacrifice in exchange for power. However, with the second book in the series, these things are simply not enough. This time, I expected strong characters, an exciting plot and some serious magic. I did not get these things.
The Blood Keeper does not follow the same characters as Blood Magic. Instead, we meet Mab - a child raised to be keeper of the land and master of magic and Will - a regular kid from a nearby town. That's right, that is all I have to say about Will. There is really nothing special about him that I could see and the time spent developing his family drama bored me to tears. His family is suffering from the loss of their middle son to a car crash and the return of their oldest from Afghanistan. This is the perfect backdrop for some moving scenes and serious character development. However, that is not what we get. Instead we have to suffer through Will's whining about how everyone wants him to join the Marines and his incredibly tame arguments with his parents. Mab is only slightly more interesting, though she spends an inordinate amount of time discussing her love for the land and mooning over Will. I did enjoy her quirkiness and lack of concern with how she is viewed by the more mainstream families (and teens) in town.
While this is not exactly a sequel to Blood Magic, I would have appreciated some re-cap so that I could remember who the other characters were (they appeared as minor characters, popping in and out of the story). As it was, I actually went back and re-read the last few chapters of Blood Magic and found that that helped me re-orient myself. The narration switches between Mab, Will and Evelyn. Evelyn's story is told through letters to Arthur, the former Deacon, and the change in narration style is a little jarring. For their part, Will and Mab blended a little too well. If I was away from the book for a time, it was difficult to tell who was speaking without going back to the beginning of the narration change.
The plot seemed to be split between three problems 1) The repercussions from Will's encounter with Mab's spell 2) Will's issues regarding his parent's desire for him to join the marines and 3) Lucas' curse from his father. Both 1 and 2 seem to be resolved by the end of the book but 3 simply got a band-aid solution. It bothered me that there wasn't further momentum on this issue, but perhaps it will be further explored in a third book? I also felt that the plot seemed to get bogged down in ridiculously long magical preparation, from planning, to gathering ingredients, to prepping the area - only to culminate in a lackluster spell with very little in the way of excitement.
By the end of this book, I found myself skimming the pages. I cared enough about the characters that I wanted to see what happened to them, but not nearly enough to put up with pages and pages of Gratton's flowery prose. The Blood Keeper did not provide the emotional or entertainment pay-off that I was expecting and I do not think I will hang in there for a third in the series.
Age: 15 and up Gender: Female Sex: Kissing Violence: Bloodletting, Knifeplay, Poisoning, Violence towards animals Inappropriate Language: Dick, FUBAR, Bullshit, Bitch, Douchebag, Shit Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking ...more
The beginning of this book was so slow going that I made up a drinking game:
- You are reminded of something that happened in the past (The beginning of this book was so slow going that I made up a drinking game:
- You are reminded of something that happened in the past (long series - lot of past events to explain) - The author uses the word Moulage (WTF Harrison? Word of the day much?) - Rachel feels guilty - Rachel whines about her magic (or lack thereof) - Rachel whines about her friends - Rachel whines about her love life - Rachel does something INCREDIBLY STUPID (like forgetting to check her gun is working, or that the guy she knocked out is actually knocked out, or running off on her own, leading to the next point) - Rachel gets herself captured - Vampire Pheromones are mentioned - Rachel worries about Jenks being cold - Rachel mistrusts the good guy and trusts the bad guy
I could have made a much longer list but by the time I was a quarter through the book I would be Jersey Shore drunk and, while my infant son was sleeping I didn't think he would appreciate waking up to Snookie passed out on the couch muttering "Moulage" over and over.
If you can push through the first half of the book it does get better (view spoiler)[after Rachel takes off the stupid bracelet and starts listening to Trent (hide spoiler)]. It was a decently enjoyable read but, I didn't see much character growth or story progression. In a series as long running as this, we already know the characters and the world building has already been established. As such, I expect the author to use her 400+ pages in order to move the larger storyline along rather than let our characters sit stagnant. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I am getting less and less involved in this series as it goes on. The main character continues to annoy me and her love life bores me to no end. The pI am getting less and less involved in this series as it goes on. The main character continues to annoy me and her love life bores me to no end. The plot plods along with little to no comic relief and, perhaps the most irritating, for a book that is often shelved with paranormal fiction or modern fantasy - There were no elements of the supernatural whatsoever! ...more