I have read my fair share of the recently popular supernatural-themed books, ranging from the “Twilight”...moreREVIEW ORIGINALLY POSTED ON READER VIEWS KIDS
I have read my fair share of the recently popular supernatural-themed books, ranging from the “Twilight” series to “The Zombie Survival Guide,” some of which were well done, and some of which were... less excellent to say the least. “Fangs and Stilettos” by Anthony DiFiore definitely fell on the excellent side of the spectrum, and was a fun take on vampires and “supernaturals” (a general term for zombies, vampires, werewolves, mummies, oracles, and amazonions, to name a few of the categories).
In “Fangs and Stilettos,” supernaturals have been cursed to never reveal their identities and to only ever work in the fashion industry, all to keep the supernaturals from wreaking havoc on the rest of the world. No one is sure what would happen if a supernatural tried to break the curse, but the international organization Caligae polices all supernaturals to make sure no one ever needs to find out.
Of course, where there is power, there are power-hungry people, and this is only too true at Caligae. The leader of Caligae has a plot to unleash her own power and attain ultimate dictatorial world domination. Into this backdrop are placed an unskilled, naïve set of teenagers, just realizing their places in the chaotic fashion industry. As naïve as they are, they do not have the same fear of Caligae and may be the only people capable of saving the world.
Throughout the book, I found the plot unpredictable, and felt myself carried along by the twists and turns. Many young adult books tend to be driven by weak characters, written with formulaic plots, or dominated by silly love triangles; “Fangs and Stilettos” had strong characters, and it was refreshing to see a plot driven, yes, partially by these strong characters, but also by dramatic schemes of world domination.
The writing was also excellent. I find that there are two types of good writers – those you notice and those you don’t. While I enjoy basking in witty word play, it is also enjoyable to forget that I am reading and just enjoy the story, a task DiFiore did excellently. The pictures painted were vivid, the characters believable, and the story central.
I would recommend “Fangs and Stilettos” to a variety of readers in the late-middle-school to high-school range, particularly those intrigued by fantasy, but looking for a light-hearted unique take. Of course, anyone in love with fashion, or head over heels with supernaturals should also read “Fangs and Stilettos.” Anthony DiFiore has crafted a perfect vacation read, just in time for summer.(less)
“Darla Jade and the Balance of the Universe” by D. L. Reynolds follows an epic fight against evil in an...moreREVIEW ORIGINALLY POSTED ON READER VIEWS KIDS.
“Darla Jade and the Balance of the Universe” by D. L. Reynolds follows an epic fight against evil in an action-packed, fast-paced, fantasy novel. Darla Jade is called from the grave by Striker and sent to heaven to train in the Heaven Sent Academy to become a guardian angel. Among the other souls called up at the same time is Johnny who is sent to help. Darla finds a group of friends – they call themselves 'the guardians' – with whom she makes a pact to fight against evil. Meanwhile, hell is unbearable, and Johnny is determined to find a way to bring evil's wrath and destruction to earth in order to escape hell. The guardians must save the world from Johnny and Brimstone; otherwise, the balance will be turned to evil and the world will be overcome.
Reynolds painted a clear world. From descriptions of Striker’s (somewhat like the grim reaper) bony hands, or the sullen countenance to the keeper of the feather’s many years of work and struggle to hold the feathers, or the enjoyable class Leonardo DaVinci taught on restoring the earth, I was given a clear understanding and picture of the scene. Fortunately, the descriptions were not heavy handed nor did they leave the book full of pages of endless descriptions; the descriptions were often fit into dialogue or actions scenes, keeping the book fast-paced.
The plot was well developed and set up. Many times, small pieces of information, often hidden (just like the descriptions) in more exciting scenes, came back later to carry along an unexpected twist in the plot. “Darla Jade and the Balance of the Universe” as the first book in a series, left many loose strings for the next book, yet still managed to feel like a complete story, enjoyable without book two on the nightstand.
I do have one minor issue with the book. As a Christian, when this book presented certain beliefs which I disagreed with as ‘Christian,’ I felt misrepresented. My biggest concerns were twofold.
First, God was presented as a CEO trying to maintain the “balance” of good and evil according to certain laws, but largely removed from the gritty details. I believe in a God more kingly, glorious, good, and all-powerful, whose plans are for redemption, not just maintenance of a balance. In fact, the balancing concept felt more Jedi or yin-yang than Christian.
Second, I felt that the book present a works-based reality – you go to heaven (or hell) based on good (or bad) deeds. In heaven, success depends upon good grades and good behavior (the more demerits, the less capable of fulfilling duties). I believe the all-powerful God has, in mercy, provided us a way to become our god-created, perfect selves without counting good deeds and thusly producing a “nice and naughty list.”
Any other beliefs I would have disagreed with weren’t large enough to really bother me, and I saw how they added to the world and plot. Although I had some disagreements with the beliefs, I would still recommend the book – with a warning that I didn’t necessarily agree with everything – just as I would a book set in another religious system.
“Darla Jade and the Balance of the Universe” by D. L. Reynolds is an enjoyable epic tale. I would recommend book one of the Guardians series to most middle and high school students, particularly those who enjoy books pitting good against evil, with strong action.(less)
“The Dragonfly Prophecy” by Jacquelyn Castle is narrated by Lexi, a 17-year-old with a perfect life. Lex...moreREVIEW ORIGINALLY POSTED ON READER VIEWS KIDS.
“The Dragonfly Prophecy” by Jacquelyn Castle is narrated by Lexi, a 17-year-old with a perfect life. Lexi is highly intelligent, has loving, caring parents who (mostly) don’t smother her, and she is dating handsome, rich, British William who is taking Lexi and her parents on a surprise getaway to a tropical island. Well, Lexi’s life is perfect apart from her frequent – and worsening – fainting spells, her horrendous dreams of dragonflies, and now she’s hearing voices.
Then, perfect turns on its end. She gets stuck in a fainting spell. While coming in and out of her coma, she hears William and her mom and dad discussing “finding the right person” and yelling, with worry in their voices. Next thing she knows, she’s awake and nobody remembers William and she supposedly doesn’t remember the accident.
“The Dragonfly Prophecy” involves super powers (yes, super powers as in flying, and shooting lasers, and invisibility, and teleportation, and fighting), dual worlds (not parallel exactly, but co-existent), romance, and mystery. Castle has crafted a believable and creative universe for her story to take place in.
The plot was entirely unpredictable. The only thing I successfully predicted was the happy ending, but I had no idea, throughout the entire novel how that would happen, or, for a large part, what it would look like. The plot was intricate, well-crafted, and compelling. Castle kept twists coming that kept me reading far too late into the night. The ending was maybe a little quick, and I didn't feel that the Evangeline subplot was fleshed out, but these are minor irritants in a largely well-done book. The largest fault I found was that the romance often irritated me – particularly with William – as the plot progressed. However, I am often cynical and unromantic, so that dig might just be me.
Overall, “The Dragonfly Prophecy” was a well-written book with good characters, a multi-layered world and plot, and good writing. I would recommend “The Dragonfly Prophecy” to anyone looking for an original and well-done fantasy novel.(less)
"Mistwood" by Leah Cypess opens with the capture of a girl in a forest. Th girl, Isabel, does not know who she is or was. But we soon discover that Is...more"Mistwood" by Leah Cypess opens with the capture of a girl in a forest. Th girl, Isabel, does not know who she is or was. But we soon discover that Isabel is the shifter, an age old creature charged with protecting the king and his family. The shifter can take on many forms, be it a cat or stone, a bird or a wolf. And although she has been doing this for centuries, she does not remember it at all, and she is in a forest, not protecting the monarchy. But now the ruling prince (soon to be king) has reclaimed her for the task of protection.
Isabel struggles to protect Rokan; her powers are not what they were and her ability to shift is severely impaired. (I will admit that I was disappointed that we didn't get to see more action packed shifting, but I was satisfied with the explanation by the end of the book.) She must deal with sorcerers, admirers, doubters, and lies, in addition to figuring out who she was and who she is now.
Leah Cypess employs a descriptive writing style which I enjoyed. Her descriptions of what a person did, where they were, what they saw, or what they were wearing were detailed providing clear pictures of the book, without getting bogged down in showing every detail of everything; the descriptions were not so much as to make the reader feel as if the book was "filmed" in slow motion. However, I did not feel that there were clear depictions of explanations of what characters were thinking or feeling. I could see the characters well, but I couldn't always empathize with or understand them.
The first half of the book wasn't precisely slow moving, but it wasn't exciting or captivating. At first, I felt that the plot was predictable, the characters were black and white, instead of gray, and the stories and motivations and conflicts were flat. I felt as though Cypess was trying to paint a picture to set up for the rest of the book but instead left me waiting for anything to surprise me. The book really took off around chapter nine, when we first meet Kaer. At this point, I read the book very quickly, excited to see what would happen. I was caught up in an interesting story with characters who were neither clearly good nor evil, whose motivations were varied but real. And although I successfully predicted a major plot points conclusion, I was woefully wrong in how we got there. The twists Cypess added throughout the second half kept me reading and guessing, and, happily, guessing incorrectly.
"Mistwood" was an enjoyable read. It was neither particularly intricate, philosophical nor complex, but it had enough twists and turns to keep it exciting. I would reccomend it to anyone looking for a fun, light fantasy book. I plan on reading the sequel, not only to finish the story, but to see more of the characters and plots I saw during the intriguing second half.
Meh... It was cute, but I felt like it should have had a point, or resolved the sub plot's conflict, or delt with the deep ideas regarding memories an...moreMeh... It was cute, but I felt like it should have had a point, or resolved the sub plot's conflict, or delt with the deep ideas regarding memories and dreams and remembering and forgetting. It was a cute story about two sisters, and that was all it was.(less)