Catherine Wendell grew up in America, but after a family tragedy, her mother uprooted the whole family to England. While on vacation, she meets Porche...moreCatherine Wendell grew up in America, but after a family tragedy, her mother uprooted the whole family to England. While on vacation, she meets Porchey or Lord Porhester, the man who is eventually going to become the 6th Earl of Carnarvon. Porchey's father, the famous Lord Carnarvon who discovered King Tut's tomb along with Howard Carter, died suddenly making Porchey the next Earl rather quickly. Although he should find a rich American bride to help maintain and pay for Highclere Castle, his ancestral home, he can't deny that he is in love with Catherine, a charismatic and beautiful young woman, but not independently wealthy. The couple marries and fortunately they find a way to keep Highclare Castle and survive life after WWI, thanks to some help from his mother Lady Almina. However, WWII is coming and along with England's precarious position, Porchey and Catherine are having problems as well. Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon is a fascinating glimpse into what life was like for the residents of Highclare Castle in the tumultuous time of the 1920-1930s.
Catherine is someone that I was immediately captivated by. The events of her childhood along with her climb to become Lady Carnarvon was very interesting. I find the time period of the Roaring Twenties as well as 1930 to be equally fascinating, so I completely devoured Lady Catherine, the Earl and the Real Downton Abbey. On the other hand, Porchey is an insufferable womanizer that I didn't care for. Their relationship disintegrates, thanks to his philandering, and of course as the years go by, he struggled to find someone to replace Catherine whereas she was able to move on, but not without dealing with some of her own demons first.
The author, Countess of Carnarvon, includes a lot of historical details, but not so many that it becomes tedious. She did a great job helping readers to understand what was going on in the world at the time and how it impacted Highclare Castle. I also like how she included tidbits about the servants as well as the "upstairs" residents of Highclare. There are also photographs included in Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey, which I thought was a nice touch and added to the authenticity. Although this book is considered non-fiction, it never was bogged down like a history book, but instead was entertaining, gossipy, and downright fun, especially if you are a fan of Downton Abbey.
There's something comforting about reading memoirs or biographies. It's nice to know that people throughout the ages have dealt with both the good, the bad and the ugly in their lives and have lived to tell the tale. I love reading about the ups and downs of a person's life, how they coped, and how they eventually overcame obstacles. Even though Lady Catherine spent most of her life in the lap of luxury, I liked that she dealt with trials and tribulations, just like a normal person.
It comes as no surprise that I am obsessed with Downton Abbey, so I really enjoyed Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey. I can't wait to check out Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, which is all about Porchey's mother. If you are a fan of Downton Abbey, you must check out these books. They would be the perfect holiday gift for the Downton fan in your life. (less)
At the beginning of 7th grade, Macallan is assigned to a new boy at school, Levi, with the hopes of introducing him to teachers, students, and showing...moreAt the beginning of 7th grade, Macallan is assigned to a new boy at school, Levi, with the hopes of introducing him to teachers, students, and showing him around the school. Levi is a little weird at first. He has long hair, is from California, and is really interested in fitting in, but instead, he finds himself hitting it off with Macallan. They both love an obscure British television show, love to engage in witty banter, and plus, their families immediately hit it off. As the years go by, they remain steadfast friends, through the ups and downs of high school, dating other people, the inevitable betrayals that high school brings, but there's one trial that ultimately tests their friendship: it's the big question lurking in the background. Can they Levi and Macallan ever be more than best friends or is it just too complicated? Elizabeth Eulberg's Better Off Friends is an adorable contemporary romance that tugged on my heartstrings and is a light, feel good read that I thoroughly cherished.
The Torn Wing picks up where The Faerie Ring left off. Things in Tiki's world are never calm and she realizes that the fey have returned to London. Ri...moreThe Torn Wing picks up where The Faerie Ring left off. Things in Tiki's world are never calm and she realizes that the fey have returned to London. Rieker and Tiki realize that there's an intense war going on in the Otherworld. Her life as well as the Queen's are at stake. To complicate matters even more, Tiki has a mark on her arm that obviously means something important; she must get to the bottom of the mark and its meaning. Once Tiki does, her world will be changed irrevocably. Kiki Hamilton's second book in The Faerie Ring series, The Torn Wing, is an action packed romp through Dickensian London that's the perfect blend of fantasy, historical fiction, and a sweet romance.
Did I tell you guys how much I love this time period? Well, I do. Dickens' London is such an interesting time period and the setting is so atmospheric. Hamilton does an excellent job of weaving the magical world with Victorian London. Just as in The Faerie Ring, Hamilton expertly shows us the realities, both good and bad, of the time period to life.
However, things are much better for Tiki and her entourage of former homeless orphans in this novel as opposed to their situation in The Faerie Ring. They are shacked up in Rieker's beautiful town home, but Tiki realizes her issues with the fey aren't over. She can't escape them, particularly Larkin, and of course, Tiki has a constant reminder that she's different: her birthmark on her wrist.
Rieker and Tiki have such a delightful romance. It's not the type that is overly steamy, but it's sweet and heartwarming. I could easily put this series on my classroom bookshelf and not worry about its appropriateness.
The Torn Wing focuses on Tiki's journey of self-discovery. What is the mark on her arm? What are the implications? Tiki truly finds herself in this book and comes to learn some life altering information about herself and her heritage.
Book three, The Seven Year King, comes out in May of 2013 and I can't wait to see what is in store for Tiki in the next installment.(less)
Geeky Quentin Jacobsen lives a normal high school existence, but he just so happens to live next to the very popular Margo Roth Spiegelman. When they...moreGeeky Quentin Jacobsen lives a normal high school existence, but he just so happens to live next to the very popular Margo Roth Spiegelman. When they were children, they used to play together, go to the park together, and they even shared a scary event together when they were young. Things have changed though. Margo has elevated herself into the upper echelon of high school hierarchy and only hangs out with the cool kids, whereas, Quentin, or Q, is the polar opposite. They haven't talked in years, but one night that all changes. Margo enters Quentin's room on a whim and is dressed in black. She has a plan to get back at her ex-boyfriend and a few others, but needs Q to drive. Of course taking his mother's car without permission and staying out all night terrifies him, but he decides to accompany her on her all-night plan of revenge. Hilarity ensues while Margo and Q reconnect again. Q thinks that maybe things will change and perhaps she will hangout with him at school before they graduate. However, things are never as they seem and after their night together, she disappears. John Green's Paper Towns is a stellar read for those who love a little mystery, young love, an adventure, and a smart read. One thing is for sure: Green writes young adults like no other author out there.
Q is on a mission to find Margo and his adventure is all-consuming in Paper Towns. There's even an epic road trip involving Q and his band of nerdy friends. Their antics, trash talk and witty dialogue had me laughing out loud. My favorite characters are Ben and Radar, Q's best friends. Their one-liners and comments are laugh out loud worthy. Even though I really couldn't connect with Q and his obsession with Margo, I think Green really captures young adults and how that first love is all consuming.
Green captures what teenagers have to go through so well...probably better than any other young adult author out there. Paper Towns is a funny read, but it also has an important message and is so insightful. His writing one minute has me spewing coffee, because it's THAT funny and the next wanting to write down a quote that is so beautiful. Here are some of my favorite quotes from Paper Towns:
* “What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.” * “It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.” * “When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.” I had no idea what "paper towns" were until reading this story and going on Q's quest with him. By the end of the novel, readers will understand the deeper meaning and true meaning of "paper towns," which I thought it was pretty interesting. Green really knows how to make a reader think.
Even though Paper Towns isn't my favorite read, I can't deny how much I love Green's writing style and the way he tells a story. I plan on reading more of his books in the future; I'm a huge fan!(less)
As a child, Genevieve learned that her enemy is Francois, the King of France. She has been told that he is responsible for her parents' death and in t...moreAs a child, Genevieve learned that her enemy is Francois, the King of France. She has been told that he is responsible for her parents' death and in turn, she make it her life's work to avenge their death. Her aunt raises her to be unconventional. She learns how to read and decipher codes, how to hunt and kill, and how to shoot an arrow expertly all while masking these talents with innocence, charm, and beauty. Henry VIII enlists her as a spy in the French Court and she becomes a maid of honor to the King's mistress. During her time at the French Court, she is put into many compromising situations and difficult circumstances; however, she must remember why she is there in the first place. Donna Russo Morin's To Serve a King is an exciting tale that transports readers to a world full of opulence, deception, and suspense. Fans of historical fiction will love living in this exciting world!
The heroine of the story, Genevieve, is before her time. She possesses the ability to shoot an arrow with the best of them and also exude charm like the other courtiers. Clearly, she is the perfect combination of feistiness and beauty. She is not just a pretty face at court and part of the fun is how, initially, many people underestimate her.
Also, Russo Morin brings the time period to life through her her descriptions, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Whether she was describing a fancy dress, a specific setting, or the furniture in a particular room, it was extremely vivid.
I am mostly familiar with stories involving the Tudors, so I was pleasantly surprised to learn more about the French Court. Russo Morin recreates the French Court, which is just as fascinating as the Tudor Court. I really liked how she incorporated many famous figures into the plot, such as Nostradamus, which made it even more historically accurate. Being familiar with Tudor history and lately, a bit bored by many books focusing on Henry VIII, To Serve a King was an interesting and a welcomed change.
Fans of historical fiction will love To Serve a King, because it has historical settings that truly come to life, it has a nest of intrigue, exciting romance and a lot of suspense. Donna Russo Morin is a "new-to-me" author and I plan on checking out her other novels--The Courtier's Secret, which also takes place in France and The Secret of the Glass, which takes place in 17th century Venice. Yes, please! There's nothing like curling up with a fascinating historical fiction when it's cold outside. It's the perfect escape!(less)
The story opens with Maddie, the protagonist, in an awful situation. She finds herself being attacked and right before she thought it was all over for...moreThe story opens with Maddie, the protagonist, in an awful situation. She finds herself being attacked and right before she thought it was all over for her, she taps into her special abilities. Through this experience Maddie finds out that she has incredible powers, but has trouble controlling them. She ends up at Ganzfield, which is a school for other students like herself, with the hope that she can learn how to control her new powers. As the story progresses, Maddie develops and explores her ability as a minder or telepath. She finds Ganzfield to be not much different than her high school back home, because there are cliques and social hierarchy. You've got the charms, who run the school, because of their ability to "charm" people into things; if you are a vampire fan, think of glamour. There's also the sparks who hold a special ability with fire and then there are the minders as well as people who are telekinetic, but they are rare. On the first day, she already makes a few enemies by sticking up for herself against one of the charms who tried to compel her. Maddie finds that it doesn't work on her as minders are immune to their ploys. This throws the school social structure off balance, because now someone at Ganzfield is stronger than the charms. Meanwhile Maddie meets and befriends Trevor, who also has special abilities; she finds that they have an instant connection. Minder, the first book in the Ganzfield series, by Kate Kaynak is engaging and fans of superhero fiction will enjoy this one immensely.
I feel like there's been a lot of books about young adults with special abilities lately, which I think is a nice break from the usual werewolf/vampire novels. Who doesn't wish they had a superpower like telekinesis? I think most young adults often dream of having a superpower and living in Maddie's world can fulfill many teenager's fantasies. I like Kaynak's take on young adults with special abilities and the history of Ganzfield. She made it believable! Also, Kaynak's writing style immediately pulls you into Maddie's world and keeps you entertained. I must discuss the opening of the novel. I don't think I've read such an intense opening to a novel....ever. It was nail biting and extremely suspenseful. She throws the readers right into the center of the action.
Maddie and Trevor's relationship is extremely sweet. Trevor is the perfect boyfriend and their connection was immediate. Perhaps that is because she could communicate with him without ever having to say a word and could read his thoughts. For me, that sounds like a nightmare, but they make it work. There's no guessing as to whether Trevor likes her or not, which saves a lot of time with the "I like you, do you like me?" talk. Because of this instant connection, I felt that their relationship progressed too quickly. That is my only complaint regarding the novel, but, if you have read my other reviews, it seems to be my complaint about many YA novels lately....so perhaps it is just my issue?
There was a sneak peek of Adversary, Kaynak's second novel in the Ganzfield series, in Minder. WOW! I didn't think Kaynak could write a more intense opening than she did for Minder, but, boy, was I wrong! Kaynak may be the queen of intense chapter ones! Thankfully, Adversary already came out on August 20th and the third novel, Legacy, comes out January 28, 2011. (less)
Before I started this book, I didn't know much about spiritualism. I actually had to look it up. According to the dictionary, "Spiritualism- noun- a s...moreBefore I started this book, I didn't know much about spiritualism. I actually had to look it up. According to the dictionary, "Spiritualism- noun- a system of belief or religious practice based on supposed communication with the spirits of the dead, esp. through mediums." It's crazy to think this all started in 19th century America with two young girls, Maggie and Kate Fox. They didn't intend to create this "religion," they actually wanted to spook their annoying niece. It obviously developed into something more. Maggie often feels bad with how this all came about and how she feels she is deceiving the public, but Kate, on the other hand, knows she has a "gift" and doesn't feel remorse at all.
So, you are probably wondering how they deceived first their family, their neighborhood, and then the world? They engaged in spirit rapping. For example, people would ask the spirits a question and one rap would be "no" and two raps would be "yes." The Fox sisters used everything from cracking their joints to various "high-tech" contraptions to covey the spirit's message. Maggie and Kate, with the help of their meddling older sister, Leah, springboard into fame and gain a lot of attention, as well as money from their spirit rapping. Famous people call on their household to sit for a spirit circle, such as the president's wife. This is a huge change for a once poor family. All is status quo until Maggie meets Philadelphia's Dr. Elisha Kent Kane. Their romance blossoms and he encourages her to leave spiritualism and her family behind. Essentially, he tries to groom her to be his wife, but how can a famous explorer be associated with someone engaging in spiritualism? Will the rich and famous Dr. Kane convince Maggie to leave spiritualism and her family behind? Dianne Salerni's debut novel, We Hear the Dead, is one that is well-researched and very engaging. I was engrossed in Maggie and Kate's story from the beginning.
First, I would like to say how unbelievable it is that these two girls fooled so many people. Incredible! You can learn more about Maggie and Kate Fox by reading this article from Salerni's website. It's truly remarkable. As I was reading this novel, it was very clear to me how much research and effort Salerni put into it. We Hear the Dead is filled with so much information and little anecdotes from the time period. She did a brilliant job portraying spiritualism and the 19th century. What is so inconceivable to me is the fact that you can "google" these two girls and their stories come up as well Dr. Kane's. Personally, I love historical fiction so I found it fascinating, especially when parts of the story incorporated some local experiences from Philadelphia. It was a lesson in history that, for once, I didn't mind learning!
The characters, especially Maggie and Dr. Kane, were compelling. Salerni writes most of the chapters from Maggie's point of view, but every so often there would be a chapter from Kate's, which was a nice touch. I enjoyed the character of Kate. She had more spunk to her and more grit. In fact, I wish that there were more on Kate in the novel. Interestingly, she claims to have the "second sight" and predicted many things, such as someone's untimely death.
Conversely, Maggie played by the rules a lot. She often edited herself, because what she wanted to say wasn't ladylike, which I found to be frustrating. At times I was proud of her gumption and then other times I wanted to slap her a la Moonstruck and yell, "SNAP OUT OF IT!" She's an emotional character and readers often found her in bed for days after dealing with an "excitable" event. This happened mostly when dealing with her sweet-talking beau, Dr. Elisha Kane.
Dr. Kane is from a well-off Philadelphia family. He is known as an adventurous Arctic explorer and many consider him a hero. However, I can't help but think of him as a mama's boy. I wanted so desperately to like him and to believe him when it came to Maggie, but he was ultimately ruled by his family as many from that time period were. I was hoping Maggie would needlepoint a pillow that said the famous adage, "Actions speak louder than words" and then hit Kane over the head with it, but that's my personal fantasy. Maggie never gave up on him; this was her "Mr. Big" if you will. I don't want to give too much away, but once you read this book, you'll know what I'm talking about. I feel Kane lost out on many things in his life in order to keep his family happy and his reputation stable. I can't help but wonder if in the end it was all worth it? Yes, he received many awards and medals during his time, but as of late, he has earned a stamp with his picture on it. So have The Simpsons. Just sayin'.
Dianne Salerni is a local author and a teacher (WOOT!). I was lucky enough to meet her at a book signing and she was so friendly and nice. Fortunately, I grabbed an extra signed copy for one lucky reader. As you know, I love supporting local authors! I also found out through Dianne's website that We Hear the Dead as been optioned for a film. I know that this novel would translate to the big screen perfectly. Fans of historical fiction will love We Hear the Dead and I can't wait to see what Dianne Salerni has up her sleeve next. Perhaps another local mystery? (less)
For me, there is nothing better than a ghost story with some historical romance, some mystery, and some paranormal mixed in. It's pretty much the reci...moreFor me, there is nothing better than a ghost story with some historical romance, some mystery, and some paranormal mixed in. It's pretty much the recipe to some of my favorite books and when I came across this book, I knew it would be something that I enjoyed, because it possesses all of those characteristics. Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown's novel, Picture the Dead, is a haunting ghost story that I couldn't get enough of.
The main character, Jennie, is in a tough place when we first meet her. Not only is she an orphan, but she was also sent to live with her aunt and uncle, who I found to be extremely disagreeable, along with her twin brother, Toby. Like I sad, her aunt and uncle aren't the warmest people; however, that can be overlooked since her cousins Will and Quinn live there as well. As time goes by, Jennie falls in love with her cousin, Will, and becomes engaged to him. (Yes, marrying your cousin wasn't unusual during that time period....think Ashley and Melanie from Gone with the Wind.) Everything seems to be looking up until Jennie's world is shattered, along with many others during that time period. The Civil War is upon them and Will, Toby and Quinn enlist. Unfortunately, Quinn is the only one that comes back alive and Jennie is faced with the fact that she not only lost her brother, but her fiance as well. Jennie wants to know exactly what happened to Will and of course, seeks out Quinn for information. Shockingly, Quinn reports that Will didn't die honorably in battle as was originally told to her, instead he went crazy and became violent at one of the horrid prison camps. With this new information, Jennie is heartbroken, but something doesn't seem right. She pieces together this mystery by meeting with a spiritualist photographer, which was all the rage back then. She also gathers clues in her scrapbook, which is expertly illustrated by Lisa Brown. Jennie doesn't know what to believe, but the answer was right in front of her all along.
One of the things that I enjoyed about this book is the scrapbook portion before each chapter. I loved the detail and the mystery that surrounded it. I would examine it looking for clues and read the letters to piece together the Will's death which seems shrouded in mystery. It was as if I was following Jennie's every move and was experiencing it right alongside of her. The illustrations also included an eerie wallpaper-ish page separating each chapter, which was a nice touch. Plus, check out the cover! It's so ghostly; I'm reminded of Disney's Haunted Mansion ride, which, by the way, I love!
I am a fan of historical fiction, so immediately I was engrossed. I love the Civil War time period and I felt Jennie really captured what some women had to endure during this unfortunate time in our history. During this time period, spiritualism and medium photographers were a hit and learning more about that was also intriguing. The book also highlights the horrors of prison camps like Andersonville. When I cover a few examples of Civil War literature with my 8th graders, most of them aren't aware of the horrible conditions at the prison camps. I liked how this book touches on important aspects of history, while still captivating the readers with some sprinkles of mystery, romance, and the paranormal. I found Griffin's combination of all this to be the perfect formula, if you will, and I'm sure my students would agree, too.
Jennie is a character that I found myself rooting for immediately. She is the underdog and she isn't afraid to stand up for what she believes in. At the same time, you could also feel the pain she was dealing with adjusting to the loss of her twin and her fiance. The character of Quinn is extremely mysterious and I was very surprised by him. He is definitely complex and there is more to him than meets the eye. Additionally, Jennie's aunt is an insufferable character and I felt strong animosity towards her, which is only a testament to Griffin's superb writing.
Adele Griffin is a local author; she grew up in Wayne, PA, which is not far from where I grew up. (WOOT!) I love supporting local authors and I was so glad that I got to meet her, as well as Lisa Brown, at a recent book signing. I plan on reading more of Griffin's novels this summer. And I can't say enough about Lisa Brown's illustrations. They are fantastic and really add to the novel. I must say I was hesitant to read this book at first, because I am not usually a fan of illustrations in young adult literature; however, Brown truly added to the book's meaning and brought the mystery to life. I am now a fan and I hope that they will collaborate together in the future. In sum, Picture the Dead is the perfect book to curl up with on a hot summer night, but don't blame me if you spend most of your time looking over your shoulder for an unexpected ghostly visitor. (less)
Aislinn appears to be a normal teenage girl; however, she sees faeries. Faeries walk around our world, but they are invisible to most humans unless th...moreAislinn appears to be a normal teenage girl; however, she sees faeries. Faeries walk around our world, but they are invisible to most humans unless they have the Sight. The hardest part of having the Sight is the fact that Aislinn has to pretend that she doesn't see the faeries and must simply ignore them. This becomes incredibly hard once a particular faerie King, Keenan, starts following her. He has been searching for a queen for years and is convinced that Aislinn could be the one. If she is, she would have to pass the test and give up her mortality. If the test doesn't go well, she would end up as a Winter Girl and spend her days cold and miserable, like Keenan's former prospect, Donia. To make matters worse, Beira, the evil Winter Queen as well as Keenan's mom, is plotting against Keenan and his possible new queen. Lovers of urban fantasy will enjoy this captivating first installment in the Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr.
Marr's writing style is compelling and I found myself flipping the pages quickly in anticipation. I liked her take on faeries and I also liked her portrayal of the protagonist, Aislinn. She wasn't too helpless and was a believable. Readers can really feel for her predicament. Her interaction with her best friend and love interest, Seth, was also appealing. I really liked how their relationship developed (they were friends first); however, at times I felt like Seth was too good to be true. Personally, I wouldn't say Seth was swoon worthy, because he has a bunch of tattoos and piercings, which are definitely not my style, but he was an extremely good guy nonetheless.
I can see why this series is so popular, but it was a bit too edgy for me as well as my classroom library. I thought it was entertaining, but to be honest, I will probably not read the other books in the series. I give this book three out of four stars though, because the writing is entertaining and the premise is captivating. Like I said, It's just not for me, but lovers of urban fantasy and the fae myth will really enjoy this dark fantasy.(less)
Aura lives outside Baltimore with her aunt in a world that is very different than ours because of the Shift. If you were born after the Shift, you can...moreAura lives outside Baltimore with her aunt in a world that is very different than ours because of the Shift. If you were born after the Shift, you can see and hear ghosts and Aura, being born after it, struggles with this daily. No one knows how or why the Shift occurred, but Aura really wants to get to the bottom of it. Other than her ability to see and hear ghosts, Aura is a normal teenage girl. She has a supportive and loving boyfriend, Logan, who has been one of her best friends since childhood and a group of friends she loves. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes and Logan makes a serious mistake which costs him his life. Consequently, Aura's world is turned upside down. Logan has come back as a ghost and although it is comforting to have him back in her life, she knows it can't and shouldn't last forever; it's not healthy for both of them. Logan needs to move on and to top it off, she has met Zachary, who reminds her everyday that he is alive and has the potential to be a "real" boyfriend. Jeri Smith-Ready's Shade is brilliant and one of the best paranormal novels novels I've read in a long time.
Smith-Ready's writing style is captivating. I know when I am into a book when I can't put it down, regardless of what is going on in my life, and if you wanted to communicate with me these past two days, you had to literally pry the book out of my hands. I was hooked. I must admit that at first I was a tad skeptical concerning this book as I've read my fair share of paranormal novels that lack that something special; however, Smith-Ready took me by surprise. In fact, I wish I had read this book before the end of 2010 as I would have added it to my Top Ten Favorites of 2010 list.
Ever since traveling to Ireland last year, I've been pretty much obsessed with all things Irish and Smith-Ready incorporates a lot of that in the character of Logan as well as other aspects of the book. I loved and savored her many Irish allusions. Aura and Logan's relationship, although they are young, felt real and genuine. I'm definitely a fan of Logan. Additionally, the hottie Scottish/foreign exchange student, Zachary, was also swoon-worthy. I kept imagining a younger Gerard Butler in my mind; lets just say that Smith-Ready did a great job of making him dreamy. I mean who doesn't love a good accent?
I also thought this novel really dealt with serious issues of death, forgiveness, letting go, and moving on. I think it's a fascinating premise that Smith-Ready came up with for Shade. It really made me think; plus, communicating with ghosts has long been one of my personal interests. Don't get me wrong--I'm not a professional Ghost Hunter (Ok. I'll be honest. Once I tried it when I was in middle school.) but I find the idea of communicating with ghosts extremely riveting. Needless to say, I found the world that Smith-Ready created to be both engrossing and unique.
In sum, Smith-Ready provides a compelling tale that I was absorbed in. I can't wait to read the next book in the series, called Shift, which comes out this May. One thing is for sure: Jeri Smith-Ready is one of my favorite "new-to-me" authors!(less)
Orphan Tessa Gray finds herself traveling from New York to London, because her guardian, Aunt Harriet, has died and her brother has been in London wor...moreOrphan Tessa Gray finds herself traveling from New York to London, because her guardian, Aunt Harriet, has died and her brother has been in London working. He has sent for her and she is hoping to start a new life. However, Victorian London is running rampant with Downworlders and she realizes this once the Dark Sisters kidnap her. Tessa finds out that she possesses a rare ability that many Downworlders are interested in and the Dark Sisters are training her for a special purpose unbeknown to Tessa. Finally, the Shadowhunters, just like in the Mortal Instruments series, intervene and she finds shelter and friendship amongst them. There's Jem, the genuine good guy, but is harboring a secret, and there's Will, the deliciously good looking "bad" guy. Also, Tessa has become friendly with Shadowhunters Charlotte and Henry, who run the London Institute, and they promise to help her find her brother who has gone missing. Tessa also finds out that someone is after her for her rare ability and she finds herself in a dire situation. After all, she just wanted to find her brother! Cassandra Clare's first installment in The Infernal Devices series, Clockwork Angel, is another home run. Clare definitely hit it out of the ballpark with this novel!
As I've expressed before, I feel that Clare is a brilliant author. She is one of the best storytellers. Just like The Mortal Instruments series, Clockwork Angel was riveting. Even though it was almost 500 pages, I was completely engrossed. When it comes to Clare's plots, I can always count on her to weave a fascinating web; in fact, I never saw any of it coming. I was completely blindsided.
Tessa is a likable character. I enjoyed the fact that she could stand up to people and wasn't overly concerned with her appearance, unlike Shadowhunter Jessamine. It was interesting to watch how the limitations of Victorian England influenced everyone's behavior, but Tessa didn't let that hold her back too much. Then there's Jem. Hmmm. I'm still undecided about this whole Team Will/Jem debate. Jem was a good guy. My heart goes out to him. I wanted to like him and root him on, but Will, his polar opposite, is just so darn intriguing. Like Jace from Mortal Instruments, Will is cocky, abrasive at times, and extremely good looking. He played too many games, for my taste. He was a big fan of mixed signals and he treats women like dirt, but, much to my dismay, I found myself rooting for him?! Halfway through, I realized that I needed to remedy this situation and perhaps join Team Jem. Just when I thought I was going to climb aboard Team Jem, I got to wondering about Will, especially after I read the epilogue. If you've read the book already, tell me what you think!
I adored Clare's references to Victorian Literature. I loved the poetry she put at the beginning of each chapter. Tessa makes a lot of allusions to Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities and even my literary boyfriend, Mr. Darcy, was referenced. Tessa's a bookworm and often thought about what a hero from her beloved novel would do, which ultimately conflicts with reality, especially when dealing with surly Will. As some of you may know, I thoroughly enjoy a good historical fiction and I was beside myself when I realized this novel was going to be set in Victorian London. What is better than vampires and other grotesque creatures, along with Shadowhunters, running around foggy London lit by gas lamps? For me, it was the perfect backdrop.
The ending of Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Angel was incredibly suspenseful and I can't wait to get my hands on The Clockwork Prince, which, unfortunately, doesn't come out for another year. The third book, Clockwork Princess comes out in November of 2012, which seems like a dreadfully long time from now. Clockwork Angel left us with many unanswered questions and I'll be waiting on the edge of my seat to find out what is going to happen next! (less)
Teagan McNeel is an average teenage girl that often gets bullied by the mean girls in her school, but thankfully, she has a reliable BFF, Claire, and...moreTeagan McNeel is an average teenage girl that often gets bullied by the mean girls in her school, but thankfully, she has a reliable BFF, Claire, and a caring mom. According to Teagan's mom, Teagan's dad "disappeared" when she was just a little kid, but Teagan figures that it's code for he walked out on them. A new guy, Garreth, transfers to Carver High School and he's super good looking, charming, nice, and is the quintessential good guy-- he even has a rosary in his car! Much to Teagan's disbelief and the mean girls at school, Garreth actually pays attention to Teagan. As they get to know each other, she notices a star on his hand and his other mysterious ways. She comes to find out that Teagan is an angel, but not just any angel....her guardian angel. Garreth warns Teagan of a dark angel that will cause some problems for her. But Teagan wants to know what on earth a dark angel would want with her? On top of that bad situation, the more that Garreth tries to protect Teagan, the more energy he loses, which puts him in a compromising position. Teagan realizes the seriousness of the situation at hand; she must not only protect herself, but also her friends and family, and maybe even Garreth. Jennifer Murgia's debut novel, Angel Star, is an engaging read that fans of angels will delight in.
It's no surprise that I am a fan of angels. After reading Hush, Hush, I became even more of a fan of angels in literature; I definitely will take them any day over vampires or werewolves. So, needless to say, I was a fan of Murgia's use of angel mythology in Angel Star. I liked her take on angels, especially guardian angels. There's really something special and magical about guardian angels and Murgia truly portrays that. Garreth is exactly how I would picture a guardian angel to be.
Regarding the plot, it's definitely fast paced. I finished this novel quickly and there were moments that were suspenseful. Murgia definitely surprises her readers at a few points in the novel, which only increased my suspense. It's the perfect combination of anticipation, romance, and fantasy. Lastly, I really like the fact that I can easily recommend this to my students as it isn't too edgy or inappropriate, which is always good to know.
My only issue with this novel is how quickly the relationship formed between Garreth and Teagan. Now, don't get me wrong. I think Garreth and Teagan's relationship was extremely endearing and romantic. But for me, it didn't seem believable at times and was rather rushed. Historically, I complain about this a lot when it comes to relationships in YA so maybe it's my problem? Lately in YA, it seems that boy and girl meet, boy and girl talk, and immediately boy and girl fall in love. I know some readers enjoy this immensely, but it always irks me. I recognize that this has worked for Shakespeare with Romeo and Juliet and countless other stories, but in most YA novels, it's just not believable. My students probably enjoy the whole love at first sight or syllable scenario, but I am a sucker for the type of relationship where the boy and girl are friends first and gradually fall in love as they get to know each other. But that's just my personal preference and I know a lot of bloggers that disagree with me. To each its own. And keep in mind that this slight issue will definitely not deter me from reading the sequel entitled Leminscate, which is due out March 21, 2011.
All in all, Jennifer Murgia's Angel Star is a strong debut that fans of not only angels will enjoy, but fans of the paranormal genre as well. I mean, really, who doesn't love angels? I look forward to meeting Jennifer at Bring YA to PA later this month! (less)
**spoiler alert** Rose Hathaway is in prison for a crime she didn't commit and not just any crime....the crime of killing Queen Tatiana. Things are lo...more**spoiler alert** Rose Hathaway is in prison for a crime she didn't commit and not just any crime....the crime of killing Queen Tatiana. Things are looking pretty grim for Rose. She needs the help from her friends in order to clear her name. They figure out a way to stall her execution, but in order to do that, Lissa must put herself in the running for the position of Queen, which brings a whole set of its own problems as well. Rose is feeling the pressure, because time is running out. She on a journey to clear her name all the while trying to figure out who actually killed Queen Tatiana. Last Sacrifice, the final book in the popular Vampire Academy series, is a heart-stopping adventure that I simply couldn't put down.
Rose Hathaway is one of my favorite heroines of all time. By book six, readers will feel like they truly know her. I never get sick of her kick butt and take names attitude. Unfortunately, she is still dating Adrian, (sorry-- I am Team D!) but deep down, she is still attracted to swoon-worthy Dimitri. I mean, who wouldn't be? Dimitri is fantastic in this book. In some of the other previous books, I found myself getting frustrated with his character, but in this book, he definitely redeems himself.
Even though Rose and Lissa are apart, readers are still able to experience what Lissa is going through due to their bond and Rose's frequent "visits." I found this to be especially captivating since Lissa was going through the process of becoming a possible Queen as the Moroi have their own secret trials to see which candidate is truly worthy of the special title. As usual, I adored Lissa and Rose's friendship and I must admit that they are my favorite BFFs in any young adult novel. Hands down.
I'm sure I've stated this before, but Richelle Mead is brilliant. The way that she is able to weave a tale and really surprise the readers with more and more twists and turns....it's incredible. And let me tell you, this novel definitely has a few! Other than Suzanne Collins, I am not sure who does an end of chapter cliffhanger better!
I am BEYOND sad that this series is over; however, I am thrilled with the ending. I won't say anything, but I think readers will be happy with it. I am usually upset by series' endings, such as Harry Potter or Hunger Games (TEAM GALE!), but this was picture perfect for me. The spin-off series, Bloodlines, will be coming out this summer/fall, but it will be based on some minor characters and *sigh* only a cameo from Rose. The one hope I have is the fact that Richelle Mead said (at a recent book signing I attended and more on that later) that maybe she would revisit the character of Rose again some years down the road. I'll keep my fingers crossed for that possibility as well as a Vampire Academy movie! Meanwhile, maybe I'll get into the Georgina Kincaid series (her adult series) which I hear is quite good, but for now, there is definitely a void to fill. (less)
**spoiler alert** As we know from City of Ashes, Clary's mom is in a coma/spell and the only one who can save her is Clary. Clary needs to travel to t...more**spoiler alert** As we know from City of Ashes, Clary's mom is in a coma/spell and the only one who can save her is Clary. Clary needs to travel to the City of Glass to save her mom and meet with the only person who can undo this spell. Things aren't as easy as that though. Jace is dead against Clary going to the City and it seems everyone is giving her a hard time. On top of it, Simon ends up there as well and the Inquisitor decides to put him in jail, because she is choosing to use him as the scapegoat for all the chaos that has been happening with Valentine. She is blackmailing Simon and trying to get him to say that he has ties to Valentine. Speaking of Valentine, he is still up to no good and devising his Hitleresque, evil plan to take over the Clave and destroy Downworlders and disloyal Shadowhunters. The tension between Jace and Clary is still mounting and the family secrets only make it that much more suspenseful. This book revealed many, many secrets and answered all the questions I had concerning the family dynamics. Clare brilliantly placed small clues in the previous books that come to fruition in this book. I was blown away by some of the expertly placed clues that I never picked up and/or simply overlooked! With that said, City of Glass by Cassandra Clare is compelling novel and first-rate addition to the Mortal Instruments series. This series is one of the best series I have read. Ever.
Clare is an amazing writer. I say this in every review and I'm sure I am repeating myself. My feeble attempt at applauding her is never going to do her justice. In my eyes, she is from the same vein as J.K. Rowling, except edgier and has cooler hair. It's safe to say that I adore this series just as much as Harry Potter. It's truly gripping. I read the 541 pages in a few days, which for me is not the norm, so this says a lot about Clare's writing style. I don't think I have read that much since the summer of 2007 when I was surgically attached to the final Harry Potter book. To me, a great book makes you ponder the characters and situations long after you read the final page. That's what this book did for me. Yes, some parts were a tad predictable, but I didn't even care. And the ending? Amazing. Even if the series ended here, I really like the ending. It provided me such closure.
My fellow bloggers informed me that Clare is writing a fourth book. Thank GOD, because it's not often you feel sad after you finish a book; I am not ready to part with Clary, Jace, and Simon. The fourth book entitled City of Fallen Angels is out March 31, 2010. And I'm sure you've heard about The Clockwork Angel, which is the first in the Infernal Devices trilogy. This book is a prequel to the Mortal Instruments series and is set in 19th century London. I love that time period so I'm even more pumped for this book, which comes out August 31, 2010.
Lastly, I had the distinct pleasure of attending Cassandra Clare's book signing when she was at my neighborhood Barnes and Noble. She signed my copy of City of Ashes and even gave me a signed poster of The Clockwork Angel made out to my English class! I also snagged a Clockwork Angel excerpt for chapters 1-4. I will post pictures of this on Sunday for my "In My Mailbox" post. Oh, and Holly Black was there as well, which was pretty cool! But I digress. This series is amazing. I have been talking non-stop about it and have even convinced my friends and husband to read it. Simply said: Books like this are the reason I love discussing books and teaching reading.(less)