Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest opinion.
My favorite covers tend to have pretty dresses on them (s3.5/5-feelings!
Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest opinion.
My favorite covers tend to have pretty dresses on them (see Wither for example) but something about the font for this one immediately caught my interest and had me positively salivating for its release. I'm so glad I've finally had the chance to pick it up!
Now that I've finished, I'm of two opinions. On the one hand, I loved the writing. I found it absolutely atmospheric and arresting, nearly impossible to put down. But I hated the characters and the fact that the plot felt pretty aimless for the majority of the book before ratcheting up the horror.
Violet and her twin brother Luke live in a falling apart mansion unsupervised while their parents pursue their art abroad. Desperate for some cash, she advertises for a renter and soon enough along comes the charming River West. Coinciding with his arrival are some strange occurrences, ones that have Violet mistrusting her senses as River seems to possess extraordinary powers of persuasion. But he's not the only devil in town...
We'll start with the good, which was the beautiful writing. I found myself completely sucked in and nearly incapable of putting the book down for long. I'd set it down after a chapter, intending to do something else but kept finding myself drawn back to find out what would happen next. BUT then we reach a plot twist that would be a spoiler that led to me thinking what was the point?! We were all set up to believe one thing and then that is taken away and twisted. True, that is the point when things really start getting horrifying and really had me clutching my pearls but it also negated a lot of the information that had previously been shared with us. And not in a way that had me doubting the reliability of the narrator, which was already shaky; rather it is in a way that left me upset with the author for this poor contrivance.
Moving on to the distinctly negative, I didn't feel much of anything for any of the characters and when I did, it was anger with them. I never got much of a feel for Violet outside of her relationship with River, Luke is so disgusting with his machismo, and their neighbor/friend Sunshine seemed to be entirely defined by her sexuality without being allowed a brain. River's manipulation rubbed me the wrong way and obviously I hated that other character who shows up.
Overall: Beautiful writing with some truly horrific events, the writing about which only drives home their horror but with poor characters leading the way. I'm still inclined to check out the second book in this two-part series if only to see if the characters can be deepened and redeemed enough for me to care. ...more
After seeing Mimi Valentine's enthusiastic endorsement (and realizing it was told from multiple perspectives, something I adore), I resolved to g3.5/5
After seeing Mimi Valentine's enthusiastic endorsement (and realizing it was told from multiple perspectives, something I adore), I resolved to give this book a try so I reserved it and then picked it up from my library. Weirdly though I got a sense of foreboding from reading the front inside cover that maybe I wouldn't like this book. I can't explain it but it was there. And by the end I knew why.
This is a fun book with a lot to like. It's breezy and moves pretty quickly. The basic plot is that Kylie and Max wake up in Mexico and have to remember how they got there and figure out how to get back for their graduation in San Diego. There is a lot of action that would translate well to the big-screen, evidence of the writers' background in screenwriting. I love the snappy quotes from movies that begin each chapter; all are relevant and it was fun figuring out how that would be. The two main narrators are Kylie and Max but I thought the side characters really stole the show. One is Jake, Kylie's younger brother with Asperger's Syndrome who is obsessed with the San Diego bus schedule. The other is Will, Kylie's only friend whose cross-dressing tries to shake up their staid private school and encourage other students to join him out of the closet.
But they were only secondary characters. Our main narrators are Kylie and Max, the good girl and the bad boy, a dynamic I'm really sick of (not that I was ever a big fan to begin with.) They both had some big hang-ups-Kylie worries about her standing at school, how her family will function when she's at college, and feeling like she's not pretty. Max is aware that he's often a jerk and is putting his passion second to what he thinks his dying dad wants. And these things were repeated...a lot, making what is already a long book feel even longer. Plus their flirtation just did not work for me, which is unfortunate because it takes up a lot of space.
Then there were the three uses of "retarded" that I caught (may have been more). I have a really hard time believing that someone whose brother has Asperger's and has possibly been called a retard before would be so casual using the word with all of its hurtful connotations. More content problems were the rampant drinking and language-this is not a clean book by any means. In fact, there is a lot of drinking, I mean a lot because that is apparently how high school kids celebrate their graduation nowadays?
Overall: These particulars brought down the book's stars for me but they may not bother you.
Cover: These people could be more disheveled and Kylie could be curvier but it's an alright cover....more
As a long-time lover of fairy tales and their retellings, of course I wanted to pick this book up and I was further prompted by Mimi valentine callingAs a long-time lover of fairy tales and their retellings, of course I wanted to pick this book up and I was further prompted by Mimi valentine calling this her favorite book so far of 2012-when a blogger you love highlights a book for such high praise, one has to sit up and pay attention. My (very picky) sister also read this and said it was good.
From the start I was a bit confused as main character Mira does not live in a fairy tale world. Instead she has to run away to find the place and that is where the plot really thickens. She is searching for her parents' graves, seeking some closure with their death before she reaches her sixteenth year of age. But along the way she meets some odd characters, all of whom have similar birthmarks as her. As we discover, the birthmarks represent that the person has a specific destiny in a fairy tale. Mira is the Princess in Sleeping Beauty. She also meets (among others) the Prince in Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Belle, the Beast, and assorted other characters in the stories. While they have this eventual destiny, for the most part they are just living ordinary lives waiting for the blessing or curse (however they consider it) to begin. This results in some humorous moments, my personal favorite probably being how the animals flock to certain characters. I just love picturing that and crack up every time.
Anyway back to the plot. Mira is immediately drawn to two guys who, it turns out, are brothers. One is Blue, a huge jerk, and the other is his older brother Felix, the smooth and charming guy. Their fairy tale fate is a big secret that Mira must unravel over the course of the book. I can definitely see why some people would find either or both of these guys charming but personally I preferred Freddie, her sweet Hero, because I happen to like nice men (and now I want to watch Star Wars).
There is a lot of time spent with each of the guys as well as the other fairy-tale characters. But you know what there isn't very much of? Mira looking for the graves of her parents. That is the whole impetus for her returning to Beau Rivage but once she's there, she almost forgets about it in favor of falling in love with Felix (she thinks) and bantering with Blue. Honestly I was disappointed that she allowed boys to get in the way of her quest for her parents even if in the end she manages to have both.
In between that though there is a lot of good talk about the implications of fate and destiny and if you can change yours. There are questions about family and how to behave and what you might sacrifice for the people you love. And there is a lot of looking at the dark side of fairy tales and life in general. While I tend to prefer a more humorous approach to fairy tales, I did enjoy this different twist on them.
Overall: A fairy tale retelling that does not shy away from the dark edges but instead confronts them and the challenges of escaping your destiny.
Cover: Really perfect with the rose and thorns although maybe some blue would have been nice....more
Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011 295 pages MG; Historical; Fantastical 4.5/5 stars
I originallyKat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011 295 pages MG; Historical; Fantastical 4.5/5 stars
I originally skipped over this because it seemed more middle grade but after reading more about it at Small Review, I reevaluated. And I'm so glad that I did because this was delightful!
Kat is a spunky, headstrong twelve year old who gets into incredible amounts of mischief throughout the book. She hates being left out as her two older sisters Elissa and Angeline have done to her since they entered Society. She is desperate to protect her family from the looming gambling debts of her older brother Charles. She bristles under the guidance of her stepmother and she cannot behave like a "proper young lady." One of the reasons for that is because she has her mother's magic and part of the book is her journey to understanding and learning how to control her powers.
The other part, which intersects, is to save her sister Elissa from the sinister but wealthy Sir Neville and to engage superior suitors for the sisters instead, focusing on true love and merit rather than money. The various schemes surrounding this aim were so funny with Kat's desperate narration over her antics providing the perfect touch.
Despite the middle-grade label, I felt a very real danger from Sir Neville as well as from some other characters who may have other interests in Kat's magic. Although nothing extremely scary happens, there are some frightening moments. Happily Kat saves the day every time with her quick thinking and almost complete lack of fear. I had to keep reminding myself that she'd be safe whenever Sir Neville's presence was felt.
I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel where we should get to see more of her sisters' romances, a more relaxed stepmother, and further instruction for Kat's magic. I'm also expecting another delightful romp in Regency England, battling societal expectations and delving deep into the parameters of the magic world created by Burgis.
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher Greenwillow Books, 1993 216 pages YA; Contemporary 4.5/5 stars
After adoring Whale Talk, I waStaying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher Greenwillow Books, 1993 216 pages YA; Contemporary 4.5/5 stars
After adoring Whale Talk, I wanted to read more Chris Crutcher and Jan von Harz from Eating YA Books recommended this book so I checked it out and I'm so glad I did! Although I've only read two books, I'm already starting to recognize some Crutcher trademarks: sports (especially swimming), straightforward male character, and exploration of some tough issues.
This time our hero is Eric Calhoune, popularly known as Moby or Mobe for his size and the fact that he swims. For years he's been among the fattest kids and on the outskirts of his classmates. But that was okay because he had his best friend Sarah Byrnes, a girl whose father burned her face when she was only a child, permanently scarring it. As they've aged, he has become marginally more popular and she has been in even more danger from her psychotic father. Although Sarah Byrnes is one of the toughest people he knows, Eric cannot leave her to deal with her father all on her own.
Although this is a pretty short book, I thought the pacing was leisurely with time to connect with all of the important characters; I only mentioned three but there are other students and adults, each with a defined personality who reveals hidden depths. Eric is a good guy. He's a decent swimmer, a decent student, a great friend, and in possession of a very determined personality. I also like that there are good competent adults represented in contrast to the crazy father and Religious Right personalities. No one's perfect, everyone makes mistakes but beliefs are challenged and there is an appropriate happy ending.
Overall: A good contemporary, gripping and entertaining....more
Plain Kate by Erin Bow Arthur A. Levine Books, 2010 311 pages YA; Fantasy 3/5 stars
Plain Kate is orphaned early on in the book andPlain Kate by Erin Bow Arthur A. Levine Books, 2010 311 pages YA; Fantasy 3/5 stars
Plain Kate is orphaned early on in the book and left to fend for herself as an extraordinarily talented wood carver. She mostly manages to scrape by but when a witch named Linay comes to town her forces her to give him her shadow in exchange for her heart's wish. Soon after the exchange, she realizes that she needs her shadow back and she sets off to find it.
Admittedly this book caught me at a bad time, I'm really struggling with my future, but it did nothing to lift my spirits. Instead I was overwhelmed with the casual cruelty, greed, and superstitions of most of the characters within this book. Even those who were initially sympathetic to Kate's plight easily turned on her, believing the worst and allowing her no chance to defend herself. Additionally late in the book Kate had to kill her cat, the one bright spot of the book as he acted in such cat ways and made me want to hug my cat. Yes, he is brought back to life but the pain over his initial death was very hard on me. Happily his resurrection brought my rating of this book up to a 3.
Besides the depressing themes, I didn't really connect with the writing style. I felt distanced from most of the characters, except for the cat who was the definite highlight. The world was mystifying in many ways to me: why do people loathe knife-carving so much? Why is there so much eagerness to have witch burnings? It seemed so foreign and the words did not create a bridge to help my understand. I wanted to love the fantasy world but instead I hated it.
Overall: A dark story with little of the cheer I seek in a book. ...more
I've lately been interested in YA books with illustrations included in the pages and combined with my general admiration for Adele Griffin, I figuredI've lately been interested in YA books with illustrations included in the pages and combined with my general admiration for Adele Griffin, I figured this was a no-brainer.
It did end up being a little bit of a mixed bag for me, although overall I liked it. I loved the pictures but there was writing included that I found hard to read especially because it was white font on black background. But the actual pictures themselves were amazing and apparently based on real examples, which makes it all that much cooler to this history nerd. I also loved that it was set during the Civil War (toward the tail-end) as that's probably my third favorite time period.
Then there was the story itself: well-written, good pacing, and plenty of suspense around the presence of the ghosts. However I didn't really feel main character Jennie Lovell. I could sympathize with her plight (unwanted ward of family, frightened of where she'll end up now that her fiance is dead). Most of the other characters didn't endear themselves to me, except for Jennie's fallen fiance Will, whose name I love (there are so many great YA boys named Will).
I also loved the inclusion of some lesser-known Civil War facts revolving around the prison Andersonville, known as Camp Sumter. I did not know that second name so I was confused at first but the author's note helped clarify and expand my knowledge-love it! I also loved the inclusion of spiritualism, a phenomenon gaining strength due to the loss of so many during the war and one that went on for a long time afterward. I've read late 1800s books with spiritualism at the center. It's interesting to imagine the possibilities of contacting your loved ones once they've passed. I also enjoyed that I read this around Halloween but it wasn't too spooky.
Overall: A well-written and illustrated book but not as strong character-wise....more
I had originally avoided this for some reason, but after seeing Small Review's book review and being struck by the similarities to She's the Man, oneI had originally avoided this for some reason, but after seeing Small Review's book review and being struck by the similarities to She's the Man, one of my family's favorite movies, I decided to give it a try, looking for something hilarious.
And this was a really funny book! Natalie writes a relationship advice column that ends up mocked by guys. She decides that she knows nothing about guys and decides to go undercover at the nearby boys' school in order to find out how guys really think. She is aided by her two loyal best friends Darcy and Chloe.
Although this is a pretty ridiculous premise, it is actually a lot of fun with many very funny moments, like laugh out loud and earn weird looks from the people around me funny. I read this in only a couple of hours because Natalie's voice was so clear, distinct, and funny. I was immediately able to root for her as she struggled to make sense of boys and relationships.
There were times when she seemed a little young and naive but she is a high school kid with no relationship experience. I think she could be very relateable to younger teens. However she was a bit of a snob; she was always popular so she had scorned the nerdier guys she meets at the new school. Luckily she has a change of heart, which made me happy because I usually like a nerdy awkward guy.
Overall: A silly, fast-read that should leave you smiling....more
Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg Point, 2011 227 pages YA; Contemporary; Austen 4.5/5 stars
Source: Received an ARC via Amazon Vine in exchange forProm and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg Point, 2011 227 pages YA; Contemporary; Austen 4.5/5 stars
Source: Received an ARC via Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.
This book is pretty much exactly what you would think it is based on the cover and title: a YA contemporary romance inspired by Jane Austen's beloved novel Pride and Prejudice (aka my favorite book!) This one stars Lizzie Bennet and her best friend Jane Netherfield as they navigate the tricky social scene culminating in prom at their boarding school Longbourn and their relationships with Will Darcy and Charles Bingley at the neighboring Pemberley Academy.
Although largely faithful to the novel and bringing its own sense of humor (there were many laugh out loud passages), there were some changes that I simply have to mention!
First it's told from Lizzie's point of view instead of third person like the original. I have found this very common in YA lit and I think it helps you sympathize with the character much faster. Second I found Lydia much more grating in this novel than I ever have in P&P; girl was so annoying! Another change was that Darcy's family is actually accepting of Lizzie although a de Bourgh does still attempt to interfere.
Probably the most important change, in my mind, is that no longer is Lizzie seeking a mate for life and in order to protect her upon the death of her father; instead the big event is prom, which while important to the characters is hardly the same situation. This takes away some of the dramatic tension that has made P&P so beloved. I understand though because it's hard to modernize P&P.
One change I did not entirely like was a very unsubtle emphasis on the snobbery of the girls at Longbourn in their relations with scholarship student Lizzie. It was repeated so many times and I didn't think it needed to be hammered home so much. That would be my only complaint about this book.
Overall: A quick modernization of P&P with an admirable Lizzie and many funny bits.
Cover: I love the bright pink and I feel that the dress conveys a plot point in the book but it's not entirely accurate. ...more