Cover Impressions: This cover is so beautifully intricate. It is not the type of cover t This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: This cover is so beautifully intricate. It is not the type of cover that jumps off the shelf but it is the type that encourages the reader to stop and study it. I am already intrigued to see the artwork for the next in the series.
The Gist: The kingdom of Goredd holds a tenuous balance between it's human citizens and the dragons who can take their form. As the 40th anniversary of their peace treaty approaches it seems that someone is determined to tip the scales and renew the old conflicts. Seraphina straddles the line between humans and dragons. When a member of the royal family is found beheaded, she becomes an integral part of the investigation - if only to try and keep her own secrets hidden.
Review: Oh God. These are always the hardest reviews for me to write. I can rant all day about books that I hate, pointing out the slow plot, annoying characters and writing that would fit quite well in my stack of grading from grade 7. Those reviews are my bread and butter, they flow through my fingertips like water, gracing the page with WTF's and FFS!'s.
Every now and then, however, I come across a book that was just so fan-fucking-tastic that I can barely put into words why. Seraphina was one of those books. The world building is complete and unique. The characters are fully developed, sometimes flawed and remarkably human (even when they are not). The writing is polished and elegant, begging you to savor every word. The plot never lags or races but maintains a pace that keeps the reader enthralled (seriously - as soon as the baby went to bed I begged my husband to just leave me alone and go watch sports or something so that I could read).
Seraphina is easily one of my favorite characters thus far this year. She is intelligent, talented, brave, vulnerable, and loyal. She struggles with her own self worth and undergoes remarkable growth. The secondary characters are also not to be missed. Hartman has not allowed for one dimensional characters here. Between the members of Seraphina's garden, the dignitaries at court and the dragons in human form, there was always someone intriguing to watch and someone else to wonder about.
Hartman creates a world that is wonderfully strange yet oddly familiar. Though the people and dragons of Goredd negotiated a peace treaty nearly 40 years ago, there is still a great deal of animosity and racism on both sides. The hatred and anger between these peoples was palpable and created some of the most tense scenes in the novel.
The writing in Seraphina flows beautifully. The one thing that I did not enjoy (and this is a criticism of fantasy in general rather than this book in particular) is that choosing not to explain certain terminology in the text and to rely on a glossary is fine in a physical book, but I find it becomes rather tedious while reading an e-book.
This novel easily makes the list as one of my top books of 2012. Now, when is that sequel coming out???!!!
Age: 13 and up Gender: Both Sex: Implied at Violence: Death by be-heading, Knifeplay, Swordplay, Death by Poisoning Inappropriate Language: Bastard Substance Use/Abuse: Drinking of Wine...more
I read this for the second (or third) time for my student book club. Looking at it through their eyes, I can see how it would be confusing. This is anI read this for the second (or third) time for my student book club. Looking at it through their eyes, I can see how it would be confusing. This is an amazing book for a book study because it is so full of symbolism and metaphor, but that is the same reason that it might be inaccessible for the average teen reader. I am excited to see how much of the deeper meaning my students actually got, having read it on their own without a teacher to explain as they went (the way that I had it for my first reading.)...more
Cover Impressions: This cover fits really well with the first in the series. The girl haThis and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: This cover fits really well with the first in the series. The girl has a seriously intense and chilling stare and begs the reader to ask whether she is emerging from the door or protecting what is within. While her expression is dark and menacing, her outfit is sweet and child-like, presenting a wonderful contrast. The scroll work on these covers always adds a delicate detail that adds interest.
The Gist: Alexis has spent the last few months in blissful normality. That is, until her sister Kasey is released from the mental hospital and promptly finds a group of friends who are a little too perfect. Worried that Kasey may be in over her head again, Alexis and her friend, Megan, join the Sunshine Club in order to protect her. The girls quickly learn that you never get beauty, poise and a launch up the social ladder without sacrifice.
Review: Alender really knows how to write her ghosts. First the evil doll-obsessed little girl and now a spirit that feeds on the teenage obsession to be pretty and popular. The novel starts off slowly, as each girl takes small steps towards "self-improvement" but features some truly chilling moments once the girls begin to depend on supernatural influences and to forget how they survived without them (the scene with Emily in the bathroom - HOOO BOY, that freaked me out a little).
Alexis is still a fairly unlikeable character. She mistrusts her friends and is reluctant to make any gestures of compassion and friendship towards her sister (she just got out of a mental hospital - invite her to some parties and don't make her eat lunch by herself - it is not that hard!). At one point she even asks herself when she turned into "The kind of person I claimed to hate" but doesn't appear to change her behavior. This gets worse as she begins to think and act like a teenage Stepford wife. Alexis' continued flaws did, however, allow me to see things from Lydia's point of view which may or may not play out in her favor in the final book.
Though this novel is the middle book in a series, I believe it could stand fairly well on its own. It does not suffer the same flaws as many middle books - where big secrets are rarely revealed and the plot only serves to prepare for the last novel. Here we have a real clear ending to one story, and the hint of the beginning of the next which made me want to jump right into As Dead As It Gets. Which is exactly what I am going to do as soon as the sun goes down!
Age: 13 and up Gender: Female Sex: Kissing Violence: Self harm with curling iron, hand to hand fighting, knifeplay Inappropriate Language: None Substance Abuse: None
“Rule one: Don’t be friends with ghosts.”
“I felt the oddest combination of emotions – happiness and apprehension at the same time. Like my heart inflated and then ran away and hid under the bed.”
“Look on the bright side, I told myself. It might not be ghosts. Maybe it was just drugs. Or blackmail.”...more
Cover Impressions: The colors here are beautifully muted and soft. The scrollwork adds aThis and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The colors here are beautifully muted and soft. The scrollwork adds a delicate detail and reflects the lace curtain. The image of the little girl hiding in lace is just creepy enough to set the tone, without over-doing the "freak out" factor.
The Gist: Alexis lives in the quintessential Halloween Haunted House. She has always liked it, until her sister starts acting strangely. Suddenly the house appears much more sinister and Alexis must enlist the help of those she least expected in order to save her sister and banish the evil that surrounds her.
Review: This is my second time reading Bad Girls Don't Die. Even so, I could only read it in bed if my husband was there. Katie Alender does an excellent job of creating that delicious sense of suspense that only truly great scary stories can achieve. She is also incredibly skilled at writing scenes that begin with the easily explained and end with the truly terrifying.
The story falls on the shoulders of Alexis who is, at best, a deeply flawed character. She is usually callous and sometimes mean. She often goes out of her way to spread rumors about those who have hurt her in the past. This is not the character you root for from the beginning. This is the character that you realize has a lot of growing up to do and hope that she does. I have encountered these types of character before, but I am very pleased that in Alexis' case, all of her growing up does not occur within the first book. She continues this development and I hope by the third book in the series will have become a character I can be proud of.
Alender also does quite a good job of painting realistic relationships, between Alexis and her "arch enemy", her crush and her sister. The cheerleader is not all villain, there is no insta-love and the sisters do not bond over boys and shopping. Instead, we see these relationships grow and develop (albeit under extreme circumstances) and Alexis begins to see the value in each, especially the love for her family.
There are far too few truly creepy YA books out there. We tend to gorge ourselves on this genre in younger years, with Goosebumps and Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark, but we seem to lose it as we get older. Thank you Katie Alender for bringing me back to those childhood moments of sneaking a flashlight into my room and reading beneath the covers.
Age: 13 and up Gender: Both, though leaning a little more toward the females Sex: A kiss Violence: Attempted poisoning, death by gas, fire Inappropriate Language: None Substance Abuse: None
"Preps are like cheerleaders, only with less jumping"
"A Kasey-size shadow as way back in the darkest corner of the room, near the long-abandoned tool bench, making clanking noises as it dug through piles of discarded junk. Werewolf, my brain said. Zombie!" ...more
Title: Fog Magic Author: Julia L. Sauer Publisher: Puffin Release Date: 1943 Rating: 5/5
Cover Impressions: This is my favorite cover of this book and theTitle: Fog Magic Author: Julia L. Sauer Publisher: Puffin Release Date: 1943 Rating: 5/5
Cover Impressions: This is my favorite cover of this book and the one that I remember. It gets the old fishing village just right and has the beautiful, soft and ethereal quality of the fog.
Review: When I was a little girl I discovered this book on the shelf of my tiny school library. I read it at least twice a year for the rest of my time at that school. It was my go-to book when I was feeling sad or lonely (which, to be honest, was quite often) and I was the perfect book for a foggy, Newfoundland day. Recently, while perusing the shelves at my favorite second hand bookstore, I came across Fog Magic and just about squealed in delight. I am so happy to get to read this wonderful story again.
Fog Magic is the Newberry Award Winning book of Julia L. Sauer. It is set in rural Nova Scotia in a tiny fishing village. The main character is an eleven year old girl named Greta. Greta has always had an unexplainable fascination with the fog. From the time she could walk, her mother was constantly trying to stop her from wandering off into the mist. While walking one grey, foggy day, Greta discovers that the fog doesn't simply hide her from the world, it also reveals a new world to her. The fog allows her entrance to Blue Cove, a place that holds only remnants of a community in the bright sunshine but is alive with the hustle and bustle of life within the fog.
I always love the magic behind Fog Magic. I grew up in the fog, I saw how it will creep and sneak along the ground one day and roll in as if swallowing you up the next. I loved the idea that you could walk into the mist and come upon something that was never there by the light of the sun but could exist in that liminal space that fog can create. Sauer does an excellent job of describing the mystery of the fog and the rules of this world are fairly well defined. The fact that Greta can only reach Blue Cove through the fog and that time is different there allows the story to move quickly through a year without being bogged down with day to day details.
The story is a simple one, but is enchanting in its simplicity. We are able to see some of the key events in the lives of the people at Blue Cove and can really feel Greta's sense of other-worldliness in having prior knowledge of the outcome of these events but no way to change them. She develops a simple and sweet friendship with Retha and becomes close with her family, who appear to know more about this mystery that Greta does herself. I do wish that some of the minor mysteries, like what happened to make everyone leave Blue Cove or who Anthony really is, were answered as these are the questions that keep me wondering and wishing there was a sequel to this book.
This book will always be a favorite of mine and it makes me happy simply to see a copy resting on my shelves, awaiting the next grey, foggy day.
Notable Quotables: "Most of us live in two worlds - our real world and the one we build or spin ourselves out of the books we read, the heroes we admire, the things we hope to do."
Title: Wildefire Author: Karsten Knight Publisher: Simon & Schuster Release Date: July 26, 2011 Rating: 3/5
Cover Impressions: Oh so pretty. I absoluteTitle: Wildefire Author: Karsten Knight Publisher: Simon & Schuster Release Date: July 26, 2011 Rating: 3/5
Cover Impressions: Oh so pretty. I absolutely love this image. The colors are dark, but stunning and the unassuming title font doesn't take away from the beauty of the smoke curls. Even better, the physical book feels almost velvety to the touch. I have no idea what treatment they used on the book jacket, but I love it.
This is a re-read for me and I seem to remember enjoying it a whole lot more the first time around. Perhaps my tastes have changed or, perhaps, most of the allure of the book comes from not knowing what is going to happen next.
When this book opens, we meet Ash, who seems, at first glace, to be a badass. We are quickly shocked by her sister, Eve, who swoops in a creates a great deal of havoc and seems to thrive on violence. It bothered me that, despite the fact that Eve becomes a very important character, we never really get to know Eve's backstory or why she is so angry with the world. In the wake of Eve's destructive powers, Ash escapes to a private school and we jump forward several months to see her partaking in a night of debauchery. When a mysterious call for help is only heard by a select group, she discovers that she may not be quite as ordinary as she thought.
I really enjoyed watching the kids as they stepped into their powers and using my (somewhat limited) knowledge of mythology to try and guess which teen would be which god. I did think that the kids seemed to accept this whole god thing rather quickly and they went from using their powers during one catastrophic event to using them skillfully and at will. I would have enjoyed seeing some of this progression as they practiced these newfound skills. They also seem to jump straight from complete and total strangers to a tight knit group of friends a bit too quickly to seem realistic. Even my beloved Raja, queen of the withering looks, morphed into a dress-lending, advice-giving uber bestie.
Some of the kids are awesome and I had entertained the thought that perhaps the next book would follow a different teen (come on Raja!) but, alas, we are to leave those kids behind and continue to listen to Ash whine. She is not a particularly interesting character and I quickly bored of her woe is me attitude and her lackluster flirting. The relationship between her and Colt is not exactly insta-love but it does progress rather quickly and I could not quite get over the fact that he is an adult man and she is a 16??? year old girl. That is far too creepy for me.
I am definitely on board for the next book, Embers and Echoes because I have a copy of the third book waiting for review.
Age: 16 and up Gender: Both Sex: Sexual Activity (no intercourse) and vulgar language Violence: Violent Death Scenes, Gunplay, Knifeplay Inappropriate Language: Piss, Bitch, Whore, Pussy, Fuck, Dick, Ass, Bastard, Shit, Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking ...more
Cover Impressions: I really like this cover. The 'eye in the sky' grabs your attention a This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: I really like this cover. The 'eye in the sky' grabs your attention and works well with the color scheme. The city and marshland add to the tone and set this novel clearly as a dystopia. In my physical copy, the title and author's name are raised, giving the book a polished, expensive, feel.
The Gist: The world has split into factions based on what each group values above all else. Each teenager will be tested for aptitude in each of factions and then must choose one. This means leaving behind everything they have ever known, including family. Beatrice Prior makes this choice and struggles to conform to a new set of ideals in a world that isn't as secure as she once thought.
Review: Tris (Beatrice) is not your typical YA character. She doesn't wait for the boy to save her, she doesn't plot and scheme or use her womanly charms to survive. She kicks ass and takes names. She doesn't start off as strong, she doesn't have some special ability that lets her play with the big boys, she works at it, she practices and this is why I love her. Tris walks the line between compassion and ferocity. She is able to empathize and show mercy one moment, while being hard nosed and unforgiving in the next. Her reactions speak to me as Human, no where near perfect, but trying to survive while upholding her own set of morals. Some of the other characters are not featured as well and do come off as a little one-dimensional, but I have hopes for redemption on this point as the trilogy continues.
Roth creates a very distinct and interesting world. It is one that appears calm and orderly on the outside but, after further investigation, begins to show the cracks underneath. Once those flaws begin to be revealed, the novel moves from slow and steady tension building to all out downhill run. The last 100 pages or so are impossible to put down (unless, like me, you have an infant who waits for the best part of the book to decide that he needs you NOW NOW NOW!). There are scenes that are hard to read, there are deaths that I wish didn't happen and others that I wish did. There are also a few things that I found unbelievable (but can't discuss without spoilers) but I was able to move past them and concentrate on the action.
This book was hyped. And I mean HYPED with all caps. I believe it deserves some of that hype. It is not the be-all, end-all of dystopian novels, but it really is a fun, exciting and exhilarating read. Both boys and girls will love the adventure and the fast pace. I do have some concerns about the level of violence and would not recommend it for young readers. The groping scene has caused some controversy but I do think it was written well, though I would have liked to see Tris reflecting on it now and then.* The kissing scenes get a little steamy but nothing above PG13 (I will be reviewing Insurgent later and have a feeling that things may get a little more racy).
Age: 16 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing, Unwanted groping Violence: Death by falling, knifeplay/stabbing, death by drowning, gunplay, execution-style murder, mind control. Inappropriate Language: None Substance Abuse: Drinking
* For those teachers out there, Veronica Roth wrote a blog post about it, discussing the mistakes that writers make, that may be interesting for older students to explore. It can be found HERE
Closing Thoughts: This is my second reading of Divergent and I enjoyed it just as much this time around. Veronica Roth has gained a fan in me and I am sure I will continue to read anything that she decides to write. ...more