2.5 stars An interesting premise and intriguing beginning eventually became bogged down by a stereotypical story, a lack of character development, and...more2.5 stars An interesting premise and intriguing beginning eventually became bogged down by a stereotypical story, a lack of character development, and a story that wasn't really developed to its full potential.
The romance was a major component of this story, and for me, it just wasn't that compelling. Even though the flashbacks to the past life were overall well-written, it was in sharp contrast to what was going on in present day that it was hard to make the connection to the teenagers in the primary storyline. It was also bothersome that there were wasn't an explanation behind Kim's Korean or Vietnamese name, even though most of the influences seemed to be Japanese. It's disappointing, since I was looking forward to reading this, and with a bit more reworking, I might've liked this one a bit more. (less)
Of course in the end, Wendy let them fly away together. Our last glimpse of her shows her at the window, watching them receding into the sky until the...moreOf course in the end, Wendy let them fly away together. Our last glimpse of her shows her at the window, watching them receding into the sky until they were as small as stars.
Searching for another kick-ass urban fantasy heroine? Look no further, because McKenzie Lewis has arrived. Caught in a fascinating war between the fae...moreSearching for another kick-ass urban fantasy heroine? Look no further, because McKenzie Lewis has arrived. Caught in a fascinating war between the fae king and the rebel faction, she is kidnapped by the rebellion, who wants to use her special cartography skills for their own means. McKenzie fights to escape in some seriously great action scenes, but gradually she starts to wonder whether the truth behind the war is even more complex than she ever imagined.
What's intriguing about McKenzie is that unlike most other urban fantasy heroines, she's not a warrior. She has no magic sword, she doesn't have mad martial arts skills, and hell, she can't even fire a gun. But she is an exceptionally gifted shadow reader, a person who can see the trace imprints left behind when one of the fae has teleported to another location. The author does an amazing job of showing us how special McKenzie is, particularly in scenes involving a tracking test that's set up for her by the rebels. This girl is fierce and determined and fearless and funny, and I liked how she actually thinks and reasons. You know how sometimes you want to yell at the page because something should be occurring to the heroine, but it doesn't because the author wants to let the story drag on? It's like McKenzie hears you yelling loud and clear and answers you immediately in her actions. But I also like that she's so very human in the middle of all the powerful magic and power plays exhibited around her. She miscalculates, she doesn't know whom to trust, and she actually bleeds and feels pain in a jarring, wince-inducing way. And I like that in the middle of a blistering attack when her own life is in danger, she stops to rescue a little squirmy kimki animal.
And yeah...there are a couple of really sexy guys in this book. McKenzie's been waiting 10 years for something to happen in her forbidden relationship with the strong and principled Kyol, the king's swordsman; but her rebel captor, Aren, is also strangely compelling, with awesome healing powers and a pesky habit of making her feel things for him that she shouldn't be feeling. (Oh, and he has disheveled, sexy hair, too. :D ) Love triangles are usually equal parts agonizing and annoying, but the romantic entanglements are handled incredibly well here. It's like the Dorian-Kiyo thing (view spoiler)[without the murderous deceptive part (hide spoiler)] but done in a much more sophisticated, non-icky, non-frustrating way. I like that everyone behaves honorably and that fae politics and war add so many complicated layers to the situation; while everyone has secrets and agendas, it's clear why both men are so attractive to McKenzie, because both are certainly very attractive to us. The electricity running under her skin whenever she's touched by one of the men is incredibly hot, especially considering that there is no actual sex in any of these relationships. Yet.
Aren holds on for a moment more, his lips and hands lingering as if this is his last breath. As if this is the only breath in his life that has ever mattered.
"Fine," he says, his words coming out breathless. "I'll save your precious sword-master, McKenzie. But I will never, ever give you back to him."
I'm really happy to find another great series, especially one that features such a smart and funny heroine and a well-plotted story. If you're a fan of Richelle Mead, Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, or Chloe Neill, don't wait another minute! This is urban fantasy series you've been waiting for.
P.S. If you're still not convinced, let me just say that I made the mistake of starting this book when I went to bed late at night and I was so hooked, I couldn't put it down until I finished it at 6 am. By the time I woke up a few hours later, a few of my friends had already purchased it..and it looks like they really enjoyed it, too. Yay!(less)
2.5 stars Fantastic prologue and promising premise, but the narrative jumps around all over the place and loses much of its momentum. I read roughly 1...more2.5 stars Fantastic prologue and promising premise, but the narrative jumps around all over the place and loses much of its momentum. I read roughly 100 pages and skimmed a bit more before deciding that it just wasn't keeping my interest.(less)
Gosh, this book is so freaking cute, I can't even stand it. We all can use a little romance now and then, but not many contemporary YA love stories st...moreGosh, this book is so freaking cute, I can't even stand it. We all can use a little romance now and then, but not many contemporary YA love stories stand out as anything particularly memorable, which is why I normally prefer to see them cloaked among werewolves and angels and other such distractions.
Brenna Blixen doesn't need supernatural beings to keep our attention, however. This smart and focused heroine has plenty of drama in her life, what with starting all over again at her school after being abroad for a year. She's also attracted to two very different boys: the arrogant, too-sexy-for-his-own-good Saxon, and the hot but shy Jake. Both boys pursue Brenna with enjoyable focus, and as things heat up in the two different relationships, she discovers that everyone's hiding secrets...and the two boys even have a complicated history of their own.
I didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did, but it quickly became one of my favorite guilty pleasures. Love triangles are rarely well-done, but it's easy to see why Brenna likes both boys in different ways--and why they like her, too. She's smart-mouthed but kind, responsible but spontaneous, and just seems like an all-around nice girl who'd be fun to hang out with. I liked that even though the story is very much centered on the romance, Brenna has a balanced life and cares about things other than just boys. Her parents and friends are great, she thinks about school and about her future, and she doesn't allow herself to be walked all over. Ever.
I love that Brenna goes on blessedly normal dates, sneaks her boyfriend into her room, and tries to be a good person in handling her attraction to these guys without being a boring old goody-goody. One of the things debut author Liz Reinhardt deserves big credit for is that this is probably the most explicit and realistic depictions of teen sexuality I've ever read. It's also HOT. And fun. And the characters actually talk about sex, which is fantastic.
The two boys are also mouth-wateringly adorable. They're both seriously cute, Saxon with his careless demeanor and how he's attuned to Brenna's personality, and Jake with his sweet uncertainty and absolute devotion. (I almost hate to say this, but the name *whispers* Tucker Avery floated into my head more than once...) Neither boy is even close to perfect, though, which makes for some uncomfortable moments and history, but also some fairly realistic ones, including some wince-inducing bluntness from Saxon in particular. I liked that, aside from a number of hot and heavy make-out scenes, there is also unexpected depth and emotion in this story. These characters are layered and feel very real; this book pushed a number of buttons for me, since it makes me terribly sad to hear about kids who don't have enough to eat, as well as incredibly angry when I hear of anyone being mocked for their lack of education or intelligence.
If there's any room for improvement, I'd say that Brenna might be a little too adult sometimes in her thinking and her actions, even though I really enjoyed not wanting to smack the heroine for a change. Jake's past is also perhaps explained away a little too simplistically, and there are a lot of references to films that might be considered a bit dated when they're all taken together. None of this really bothered me all that much, however, as the narrative voice is so fresh and funny and thoroughly winning. It just worked for me as a YA romance in a way that few others have ever done. The sequel, Junk Miles, wasn't quite as successful for me, but this first installment was one that I really enjoyed.
The next time you're in the mood to wriggle your toes over some adorable dates or swoon over some cute guys, consider giving Double Clutch a try! I think most fans of contemporary YA romance will fall in love with it in a big way.
That's right, this is a self-published novel, and aside from a couple of minor typos, it's actually more polished than many traditionally published books on the market. Although I do support indie authors, I rarely respond to indie review requests these days since I receive so many. What caught my attention about Liz's note, however, was her warm and personalized approach, her reference of the Oxford comma in her author profile, and my sneaking suspicion that Brenna's name was a nod to the writer Karen Blixen, aka Isak Dinesen. I was right about that reference, and I was right to give this book a chance. I hope that if you're a romance lover, you will, too.
Clearly, it's important that books like this are written, not only so that teens who are transgendered have a voice in young adult literature, but als...moreClearly, it's important that books like this are written, not only so that teens who are transgendered have a voice in young adult literature, but also so that our society as a whole has a chance to better understand gender identity and gender expression.
Regan's older brother Liam has always felt as if he was different. Through the years, he's been closer to her female friends than any guy his own age, and he's always been interested in typically "feminine" toys and clothes. Eventually, Liam begins to transform his outward appearance for certain outings and lives a secret life as Luna, who is a reflection of his true female identity. Regan helps Luna hide this secret from their parents and everyone around them, but as social and family pressures start to build, Regan starts to resent how Liam/Luna's choices are affecting her own.
I'd read many glowing reviews of this book, and it was nominated for a number of awards when it came out in 2004. For me, however, this novel wasn't quite the reading experience I was hoping for. Firstly, Luna's story is so interesting that I really wish that the book had been told from her point of view--or even in third person omniscient. Luna's story is the reason I picked up the book, and it became a little frustrating to read everything filtered through her sister Regan's thoughts and emotions. Regan also behaves pretty selfishly and stupidly a number of times throughout the story, and while some of it might be understandable, I really didn't feel deep enough love and support from her for Liam/Luna to make up for it, other than some kneejerk defensive reactions.
I might have felt a little more lenient if this had been a middle grade book, as the level of complexity isn't very deep. The story line is so straightforward that I could probably have guessed its outline ahead of time (I could almost picture the checklist of acceptable terminology that had to be covered) and most of the characters do no more or less than what you really expect them to do. I don't feel as if I'm that well-versed in transgenderism, but none of the revelations or behaviors really surprised me all that much (from Luna or from her friends and family), and most of Luna's personality seems to be pretty stereotypical--she seemed so much more of a symbol to me than a real living, breathing, thinking, emotional human being. The way the story is told is also a little jumbled, and the flashbacks are rather awkwardly inserted into the story in no particular order.
It's nice to see that this is not one of those melodramatic stories that ends on a tragic note, however. I'm glad that teens can find not only struggles to identify with in books like this and Suicide Notes, but that there are also feelings of resolve and hope. Still, I wish that these characters had more emotional depth and that they interacted on a deeper, more meaningful level, rather than just mingling in surface activities (dates, trips to the mall, playing video games) or conversations that center around this topic alone. It would have made for a much richer and much more rewarding reading experience...not to mention a much more realistic one.
I've seen many positive reactions to this story, and if other readers find it more insightful than I did or are moved by it more than I am, then I'm happy that that's the case. This book certainly offers the opportunity to open up a dialogue about some important topics, and there's plenty of value in that. (less)
3.5 stars Once upon a time, a fantasy book came unto the young adult world and set it aflame. Long-time fans of the author swooned. Mainstream publica...more3.5 stars Once upon a time, a fantasy book came unto the young adult world and set it aflame. Long-time fans of the author swooned. Mainstream publications wrote cryptic but positive impressions. And many readers declared that the book was leaps and bounds above all other young adult literature previously published.
It's always a little tricky reading a book that arrives with a crazy amount of hype, even one that's not accompanied by the lavish praise that has been heaped upon this one, as the pressure to love it can be pretty intense. The story of a tattooed, blue-haired orphaned teenager named Karou caught up in an ancient war between angels and demons sounded amazing, however, and I was completely drawn in from the very first page. Karou is a young art student living in Prague, except that the fantastic figures she draws are actually of demons that she has known. She meets them in her strange teeth-collecting errands whenever she's summoned by Brimstone, a beast who has been a father figure to her as long as she can remember.
The first half of the book is simply mesmerizing, with vividly imagined details and the promise of a complex and stirring story. Karou has hamsas tattooed into her palms, she can fulfill small wishes with a necklace with unusual powers, and she dashes through magic portals on her errands to land on the streets of Marrakesh and Paris. But it's a life she has to hide from her best friend Zuzana and everyone at her school, and things get more complicated when black handprints begin appearing on doorways all over the world. Is something brewing in the otherworld that will affect this one?
For me, all that promise remained unfulfilled, however, as the narrative diverted sharply once Akiva, a gorgeous and impossibly perfect angel, appears in the story. He is strangely drawn to Karou, and follows her from place to place until finally they meet in an apparently earth-shattering fashion. “He was the most beautiful thing Karou had ever seen. Her first thought, incongruous but overpowering, was to memorize him so she could draw him later.” Here is the beginning of where I lost interest in the story, as most of the remainder of the book revolves around their overpowering romance, and eventually, why they may not be able to be together.
Readers who find the romance compelling will probably enjoy this book better than I did, but I found it hard to get invested in two such blindingly beautiful and perfect beings for whom there is apparently no other equal--I mean, of course they're going to be attracted to each other! How could they not be? One of the things I found so odd about their relationship is that it seemed to lack any sort of realism or depth; as cartoonishly ridiculous as Karou's ex-boyfriend was, the way she handled him and the dialogue there was at least smart and funny and likably grounded. When Karou and Akiva first meet and all throughout the subsequent chapters when they have their first kiss and so on and so forth, it's written as if the earth is moving and the stars are aligning...but I'm afraid the earth simply didn't move for me. I might have felt differently if their compulsion towards each other was based on something stronger than just physical attraction, but the majority of what I read was about their stunning beauty and their unearthly perfections. Even the promise of "wait, wait, you'll see why they're so drawn together" didn't pay off for me, because I predicted that well ahead of time and (view spoiler)[even back then, their immediate attraction was mostly based on their physical appearances and the a certain amount of unexpected behavior. My good friend Stephanie points out that being in the middle of a war certainly adds an additional element in such meetings, but (hide spoiler)] I would like to have seen more time given to any possible number of layers to a relationship, including admiration for how the person behaves in an extraordinary way, noticing subtle and lovely details about someone's personality, uncovering meaning in someone's words, bonding over shared situations, etc, etc. None of that happened here.
Much of the earlier extravagant detailing (except in reference to their relationship) and humor is abandoned in the second half, and things get further derailed when we get thrust into yet another type of story involving a girl named Madrigal. It isn't until the very end that the book finally gets back on course and we get some decent action scenes and some attention paid to the overarching storyline. Even then, I guessed what Akiva's big secret was, however, so I never really regained my initial enjoyment for the book. The ending was also a typical cliffhanger that is written in a way designed to leave readers in the maximum state of shock. I can't say that I admire that much, and I do think it's possible to write an open-ended conclusion in a way that doesn't feel like you've been...well, pushed off a cliff. And told to wait for another year to see if you'll recover from the fall.
While I certainly acknowledge and even respond to some of the author's imaginative worldbuilding, I can't really say that I went into raptures over it. I can't deny that the book is very well-written and I can appreciate the opulent touches and occasional flights of fancy...but unfortunately, this wasn't writing that I personally found to be particularly deep or moving or meaningful. That's just my own taste, however, since I know many of my friends have loved the writing and story much more than I did. I think in the end, it just comes down to what you respond to as a reader, and I'm really disappointed that I just didn't love this as much as I wanted to.
Still, the book is significantly better than most of the YA that's published right now, and it does hold the promise of a fascinating story that will hopefully get back on track in the sequel. I just wish that it wasn't another book that allowed, yet again, for a moony-eyed, long-fated romance to take over the life of another smart and seemingly level-headed heroine.
I'm afraid I was not a very big fan of this one. The book starts out with a great action scene, the beginnings of an intriguing mystery, and I really...moreI'm afraid I was not a very big fan of this one. The book starts out with a great action scene, the beginnings of an intriguing mystery, and I really liked Deznee's punky look and sarcastic attitude. Unfortunately, I felt as though she believed everything she was told, asked far too few questions, ran away with Kale far too quickly, and she started to get a little too boy-crazy for my taste.
While some of the events are certainly fun and kept my interest at first, they seemed to be so loosely plotted that after awhile it seemed as though they were all just part of a connect-the-dots action checklist, with very little transition or emotional pause in between. The writing was also pretty uneven, the powers seemed underdeveloped, and the betrayals were far too easy to predict.
I would say this might've made a decent middle grade book, except that there is some non-explicit mature content that would make it less appropriate for that audience. Still, a number of my friends seem to be enjoying the book, so it looks like the entertainment factor may carry it through for many readers.
A fun, fast, and fluffy read with lots of humor. I liked Vlad's voice, but the story was a little simplistic for my taste. Hoping to see more plot dev...moreA fun, fast, and fluffy read with lots of humor. I liked Vlad's voice, but the story was a little simplistic for my taste. Hoping to see more plot development in future novels!(less)
What's a bear to do when he's misplaced his hat? He has to ask all the other animals he meets whether they've seen it, of course!
This charming picture...moreWhat's a bear to do when he's misplaced his hat? He has to ask all the other animals he meets whether they've seen it, of course!
This charming picture book caught my eye immediately because of the humorous illustration on the cover, and I'm delighted to say that the contents are just as endearing. This story about a well-mannered bear on a quest to find his missing hat is told in simple language, and shares the same sort of gentle mischief that you might find in Sandra Boynton's books for toddlers. I chuckled quite a few times as I turned the pages, but the artwork is really where this book shines. The author/illustrator Jon Klassen did the lovely drawings for the popular The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, and also served as an animator for the feature film Coraline.
I've included a couple of illustrations below, but if you'd like to see more images from the book or to purchase prints, one of my favorite independent galleries in Los Angeles currently has some of the artist's work available at Gallery Nucleus. You can also watch the short but adorable book trailer (that Jon Klassen made himself, btw!) to get a feel for the tone of the book as well.
I Want My Hat Back is a quick and funny read, and one that should be engaging not only for young book lovers, but entertaining for the adults in their lives as well. I can think of several sets of new parents who would absolutely love it.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.
What happens when a teacher ends a love affair with his student? She goes batshit crazy. But not in a way that's at all interesting or entertaining or...moreWhat happens when a teacher ends a love affair with his student? She goes batshit crazy. But not in a way that's at all interesting or entertaining or even particularly sympathetic.(less)
Essentially Sandra Brown's Breath of Scandal, except the other story, characters, relationships, mystery, etc were all done much better in the other b...moreEssentially Sandra Brown's Breath of Scandal, except the other story, characters, relationships, mystery, etc were all done much better in the other book.(less)
"I speak. I feel. I laugh and cry." She broke off and looked away briefly. "Some things I want so badly...more"When is the DNA surely human? When is it not?"
"I speak. I feel. I laugh and cry." She broke off and looked away briefly. "Some things I want so badly I think I'll die of it. I do worship the Infinite. But to be told everyday that I'm not human..."
In the 400 years since the end of Earth, human society is a vastly different place on the Planet Loka. There are levitating cars, strange monstrous creatures, and babies that are suddenly taken by the government without any explanation. Best friends Kayla and Mishalla were not born of birth mothers in this world, but were designed to be GENS, Genetically Engineered Non-Humans. Each GEN is enhanced with special skill sets that make them desirable workers for trueborns, who are the wealthy, high status members of society. When Kayla is assigned to work for a dying trueborn named Zul Mandel, she must leave her nurture family and the only home she's ever known--and she's forced into close proximity with his all-too-attractive grandson Devak.
The GENs are really slaves, forced into servitude and at the mercy of a cruel caste system that treats them as lower than the lowest born human. Skin color, clothing, jewels, land, drugs, and levitating cars are all blatant status symbols in this world, and it's interesting to see how the author works in echoes of previous shameful world events in the segregation of the GENs, the widely-held belief that touching a GEN would result in shriveled skin or crooked bones, and even in the saying "Work will make you safe," which is of course derived from "Work makes us free" from Nazi Germany and "Be happy in your work" from The Bridge Over the River Kwai. These themes are all intelligently and subtly worked into the book in a way that never feels too blatant or pretentious.
Once the story got going, there are plenty of exciting events and issues to think about. I was fascinated by the well thought-out society as well as the presentation of the two very different religions to which humans and GENs subscribe. There is finely built tension in several "search and seizure" type scenes and there were moments when I felt terrible pity and sorrow for the characters, including the first time Kayla comes upon the gorgeous Mandel house and sees the shocking contrast to the slums where GENs are kept, and Kayla's constant, devastating fear of punishment by being "reset," which wipes out all of a GEN's existing personality but retains his or her body for recycling and reuse.
There are a couple of really nice, slow-building romances in this book, but as the relationships between Kayla and Devak and between Mishalla and Eoghan develop, the young protagonists also discover who they really are and what they really stand for. Some of the best parts of the book are the forbidden, snatched conversations between Kayla and Devak as they discuss what makes someone beautiful, what makes someone kind, and most importantly, what makes someone human.
I do wish that the bookends to the novel were a little longer, as the beginning was a little abrupt and all the new names and rules and creatures took some getting used to. A little more time showing the friendship between Kayla and Mishalla before their Assignments would have helped as well. The ending chapters following the climax could have been a little more developed too, as they felt a little rushed to me and some of the details involving Devak's father were a bit sketchy.
Still, this was an immensely enjoyable dystopian novel with excellent character development, a complex story, and nuanced themes, with everything I had hoped for from A Long, Long Sleep and Matched, but didn't quite get. (view spoiler)[Okay, except for the aliens and killing robot machine! (hide spoiler)] The ending leaves the door open a bit for a possible sequel, and I for one would very much like to visit Kayla's world again.
Tankborn is one of the first books from Lee & Low's new Tu imprint, which is dedicated to publishing YA books with protagonists of color. The majority of the characteristics, society, and customs in this book are derived from South Asian and African-American influences, and if this is an indication of the type of products that Tu will be producing, then sign me up as a dedicated fan. This is the sort of young adult literature we can definitely use more of--books that not only feature more diversity and world views, but ones that are also thoughtfully conceived and exceptionally well-written.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
On the book's official website, you can Visit Planet Loka, where you can see illustrations of the giant arachnid animals that inhabit this unusual world. There's also a free short story download that is set in the Tankborn universe. Enjoy! (less)