Cassia lives in a perfect Society. Her government makes sure that life is lived optimally, pre-planning everything from birth to death so that everyon...moreCassia lives in a perfect Society. Her government makes sure that life is lived optimally, pre-planning everything from birth to death so that everyone can have the best life that they can have. Cassia is seventeen and everything is about to change for her. She is being matched to her optimal spouse, she is about to be assigned to her career, and her grandfather is turning eighty and going to die. The happiest night of her life is when the cracks start to show. She is matched to her best friend Xander, but later a different face, an acquaintance named Ky, is shown as her true match. Her grandfather shows her banned poems before his death, poems that make her wish that she could create instead of organize. Cassia's life is crumbling as she has to decide whether freedom of choice is worth the safety of everyone she loves. Her family is being watched, the Society seems to be pushing measures of equality further than are comfortable, and as Cassia starts to fall in love there are whispers of dissent.
When I started reading this I was strongly reminded of The Giver by Lois Lowry: sorting children into proscribed paths, pills to keep the masses calm, and how the the need for choice and independence of mind will eventually buck under a dictatorial government. Unfortunately the similarities ended there. There were good points, I enjoyed Cassia's interactions with her family and the burgeoning realization that she needed more out of life than what she was receiving. But I felt that the romance side was rather weak, which unfortunate as this is essentially a romance in the trappings of a Utopian dystopia.
Cassia is supposed to be in a love-triangle between Xander and Ky, but it was difficult to feel any tension when Xander isn't present for most of the book. Xander is made to be so perfect and good that it makes me question how Cassia can fall in love with anyone else? That and the mystery of Ky wasn't really intriguing enough to keep my attention, in fact I might even go as far as to call him boring. Who wants a perfect non-love interest and a boring love-interest? This wasn't helped that the pacing of the book was also extremely slow for the first three-quarters, I ended up skimming through a good portion of it. But it was almost made kind of worth it the last couple of chapters. Almost. Let's hope that the sequel will ratchet up the action, a lot, and Ms. Condie will make Ky actually worth caring about. I don't know, maybe I'm being too critical. I did read this one after Clockwork Angel so maybe I was just so blinded by that book's awesomeness that I wasn't ready for something else. I'm sure that there'll be some crowd of girls between the ages of 13-16 that will enjoy this book and relate to the oppression that they 'suffer' with their parents with the governmental oppression that Cassia experiences. (less)
Tessa Gray is sixteen and heading to Victorian England to meet her brother after the death of her aunt and guardian. Once she arrives, she is kidnappe...more Tessa Gray is sixteen and heading to Victorian England to meet her brother after the death of her aunt and guardian. Once she arrives, she is kidnapped from the docks, the life of her beloved brother is threatened, and Tessa is tortured until she can control a power she never knew she had: the ability to transform into another person and retain their thoughts and emotions. She soon learns that her abilities are to be harnessed by the evil Magister and it is only by marrying him that she can save her brother. At her darkest hour she is rescued and introduced to the world of demons, angels, Downworlders and Shadowhunters. It is in the safety of the Institute that Tessa tries to understand this new culture with the help of dark Will, gentle Jem, self-absorbed Jessamine, motherly Charlotte, and absent-minded Henry; but is distracted by anxiety for her brother and the growing attraction she has for Jem and Will. Unfortunately her own emotions and confusion must be put aside as the Magister sets a trap and all that Tessa holds dear is put at risk.
I LOVED THIS BOOK. I'm not sure how else to put it. Cassandra Clare has written a previous series, The Mortal Instruments which is equally awesome and therefore I was so excited to not only get the ARC of Cockwork Angel but also get it earlier than most at the ALA conference. One part that just made me laugh (I promise this isn't a spoiler) is the fact that Tessa is supremely naive and basis much of her street knowledge on the novels that she's read and enjoyed. Cassandra Clare has a gift of being able to develop characters and emotions, but also maintain underlying plot tension throughout the book. There is never a dull moment, never a page that you don't feel bad about scanning, never a angst-ridden dialogue that you won't go back and reread. Most excellent. I had high hopes for this book and they were all exceeded, I can't wait until the sequel Clockwork Prince comes out. Sidenote: while this is in the same universe as her previous series, this is a standalone and can be read before or after The Mortal Instruments; Clockwork Angel comes out Aug. 31st. If you haven't read The Mortal Instruments series yet I would strongly recommend it just because it is also fantastic. (less)
Falling In is the not so quintessential story of a girl that doesn't fit in. Isabelle Bean ponders the beauty of dirt, doesn't like to shop with her m...moreFalling In is the not so quintessential story of a girl that doesn't fit in. Isabelle Bean ponders the beauty of dirt, doesn't like to shop with her mother, considers spilled jam beauty marks, feels like she is always precariously standing on the edge of something new, and hears a consistent buzzing noise rising from the floor. Isabelle isn't crazy, it turns out she belongs in a different world! It is in this new world where she is able to make friends and understand that her daydreaming can be an asset. But she is soon given the difficult task of helping the people there overcome their fears and push herself to learn new skills to save children.
I think it's fascinating that this is Frances O'Roark Dowell's first foray into fantasy. Her characters grabbed my attention, I loved Isabelle's descriptive inner monologues, and her creative breaks in the action through the use of new chapters. It was all so innovative and fun! Unfortunately somewhere in the middle I think I became a little innovated and funned out, as I found myself skipping ahead. While I appreciated all the pieces that Ms. Dowell brought to the book and how these pieces made an inspired book, it also started to seem a bit same-y. On the bright side I was able to finish the book and was overall pleased with it until I realized there wouldn't be a sequel (weird huh? I've been looking for a great standalone book and once I've got it I'm disappointed that it is. That's another blog entry all together). I was overwhelmed with the thought, "But I still have questions!" Usually I'm OK with questions at the end, but for some reason with this book I really wanted it all wrapped up like a present. I think that this shows that while I might have lost a little faith in the middle, this book comes through in the end. At least it did for me. (less)
Thirteen year old Tanya has grown up being able to see faeries. She is able to pass off their tricks as clumsiness, practical jokes, and bad luck, unt...more Thirteen year old Tanya has grown up being able to see faeries. She is able to pass off their tricks as clumsiness, practical jokes, and bad luck, until her mother fed up with her misbehavior sends her to her grandmother's estate. That's right; not a house, cabin, shack, or apartment, but the large estate and manor that Tanya and her mother usually vacation at for a week during the summer. To say that Tanya and her grandmother have a disconnected relationship is an understatement, and the prospect of living with a woman who views with seeming disgust for unnumbered days is not a prospect that Tanya looks forward to. This is especially clear to Tanya as the faeries are become more malicious, the disappearance of a girl fifty years ago is related to her own family, and the only person to help her is weirdo Fabian the caretaker's son.
I have to admit that I don't know what expectations I had before I started reading this book, but I know that I had some. Perhaps I expected more action, greater intrigue, more sinister villains, or perhaps a faster plot pace; in the end it didn't really matter because none of these things happened. I didn't dislike this book, but I didn't enjoy it either. There were parts that were pretty exceptional, i.e. the description of the rather mundane faeries and the history of her family, but generally I felt that the story was a bit flat. The plotline a bit disjointed, and the pacing slow. I'm sure that they're setting up for a sequel, considering the fact that it's called 13 Treasures and they kind of explain what the thirteen treasure but they really hold no relevance to this story, and I would probably check it out to see if they could rectify the mistakes in this book.
I feel like the book had potential and after having read it I still feel like the book has potential. Unfortunately I don't want to feel that way after finishing a book, I want to see the book fully realized and be able to walk away with a strong opinion about it. 13 Treasures made me feel like I was still holding my breath in anticipation of the plunge that never happened. (less)
So I finished The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman about a week ago. Enter Elizabeth, our heroine, whose life somewhat reflects the fairy tales that she...moreSo I finished The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman about a week ago. Enter Elizabeth, our heroine, whose life somewhat reflects the fairy tales that she loves so much: distant father, horrible stepmother and stepsisters, and not a friend in the world. Enter Mr. Mauskopf (who I couldn't help visualizing as having a mouse on his head) who recommends that Elizabeth gets a job at the Circulating Material Repository. This is a library like no other, instead of specializing in books it loans out things! Rugs, wigs, tools, music, and things only whispered about that come from the Grimm Collection. Just as Elizabeth is figuring things out, making friends, and gaining the trust of those she works with disaster strikes when items are being stolen and friends are being threatened. The horror! Elizabeth must rise to the occasion or lose everything that she has worked for.
I have to admit that I didn't love it. The premise is great, who doesn't love the idea of an outsider finding her place at a quirky magical library? But what should really have been a more plot driven tale, I felt was bogged down by unlikable characters and a fractured storyline. I can't help but wonder if Ms. Shulman can either fix the book before publishing or grab enough attention to create a better sequel? I didn't hate it, but honestly I had such high hopes that I ended just being disappointed. (less)
Fantasy is my favorite genre. I love fantasy of all kinds, from high fantasy (your Lord of the Rings, your Wheel of Times) to f...moreDear Mr. Shusterman, No.
Fantasy is my favorite genre. I love fantasy of all kinds, from high fantasy (your Lord of the Rings, your Wheel of Times) to fantasy light (your Harry Potters), to books with fantastical elements (all those books with a kid just like you EXCEPT...). I think fantasy must be fun to write, because it allows you to create your own world and rules. As with many things, with the great power comes great responsibility. Probably the most important thing when creating a fantasy book or a book with fantasy elements, is adhering to the laws of the universe you've created. As soon as you start breaking your own universe's laws, you lose your reader. Why should I suspend my disbelief when your world doesn't make sense? Just because it's a world that doesn't actually exist doesn't mean it does not have to make sense. It does. It so, so does.
So with that being said, you can probably guess what my main issue with this book was. But first! Brewster has a bad reputation. Tennyson (yes, his name is Tennyson) is not pleased when his sister, Bronte (yes, her name is Bronte) starts dating Brewster "Bruiser" Rawlins. It's a bit confusing as to how Brewster got this violent reputation, since he's never been in a fight, or physically hurt anyone. Not even bugs. When he begins to care about people, Brewster takes on their pain. Both their physical pain, and their emotional pain. Because of this, Brewster is a loner. The more people he cares about, the more pain he'll be in.
To get right to it, the major issue I had was that it's quite clear the Brewster takes the pain of the people he cares about. Brewster's little brother is devastated that their pet bull died. He cries for a couple seconds, then is totally fine while Brewster is having a break down because he has taken his brother's sadness. Bronte twists her ankle. It hurts for a couple seconds and then Brewster is the one with the limp. It's also made clear that Brewster has to be close to the people who he cares about in order to take their pain. When Bronte figures out what's going on, she storms off and walks about a block before she can feel her anger. OK. Clear rules. Brewster takes physical and emotional pain of those he cares about. He needs to be close them to do it. The more he cares, the faster he can take their pain. Got it.
But it doesn't hold. Brewster's uncle beats his little brother, which doesn't hurt the little brother of course, but Brewster. Their uncle is angry through most of the book. But he shouldn't be, should he? Because Brewster should take his anger, just like after the scene where the uncle beats the little brother and then is all remorseful and apologetic about it and Brewster can feel himself start to take his sadness, so he leaves, because he wants his uncle to feel the sadness himself. That confused me the entire book until the very end where it was thrown in that if they really, really tried, they could keep their feelings around Brewster. But they had to really, really want to. Oh really? There was nothing to suggest that. It felt like it was thrown in.
Brewster shows Bronte his black and blue chest and torn up back from all the new friends she's introduced him to that he now cares about. But he shouldn't be all black and blue, should he? His range seems to be about a block. If Bronte could feel her anger after walking a block, and Brewster supposedly loves Bronte, and the more he cares the quicker he takes stuff, then once he gets away from those people, shouldn't they take their pain back? Unless all their friends are living in the neighborhood. Which I doubt. Or when it talked about his little brother breaking his arm and Brewster taking it, wouldn't when he went to school his little brother should get the broken arm back? This just doesn't make any sense! I could go on with the examples, but this is getting long
Besides that I had other issues with the book. Tennyson and Bronte are both self-centered snobby pains and I just didn't care what happened to them. The scene where their parents decided that the first time their daughter has her boyfriend over for dinner is the time to start yelling about how they both had affairs was ridiculous. And Brewster's sections (the book was told in the alternating points of view of Tennyson, Bronte and Brewster) were written in blank verse. Well, it was suppose to be blank verse. But just because you put odd breaks in your lines and use slightly more descriptive language then with your other characters (who sounded the same) does not a poem make. I think it was suppose to make Brewster seem deep and mysterious. It just annoyed me.
But then why should I buy in when the world that was created made no sense at all? (less)
This is the second in a series, the first being Once Dead, Twice Shy, and it's not a series you want to come in in the middle of. There's a lot of bac...moreThis is the second in a series, the first being Once Dead, Twice Shy, and it's not a series you want to come in in the middle of. There's a lot of back story, and Harrison doesn't spend a lot of time rehashing what happened in the previous book. If you didn't read it, it's going to be really confusing and you'll probably spend about half of Early to Death, Early to Rise trying to figure out who everyone is and what's going on and why Madison is dead, but doesn't seem dead, and so on.
I enjoyed this, and I think it would be a good series to suggest to kids who like supernatural lite - vampire romances, angel romances, etc. It's not really a romance (yet, there are suggestions), but it has a similar feel. Kids just like you but with angels! Or vampires, whatever. I liked Madison's voice, her worry and frustration rang true. The character of Ace threw me a little bit. I understand why it didn't explain in depth, but his anger was so intense and I just didn't understand where it was coming from. Man, he was a lousy person. Harrison certainly did a good job creating a character that we would feel no sympathy for and make it easier to understand the dark reaper's point of view.
While many kids might not go this deep into it, I really liked what Harrison was doing with looking at choice and fate. When you start reading the book, it seems clear that dark reapers are bad, and light reapers are good. It's all there in their title! But dark reapers aren't actually evil, per se, they're trying to save a person's soul before they can destroy it by doing something evil. The light reapers protect the person's body by giving them a guardian angel and the right to make their choice (even if it harms other people), but then the person is protected in all the bad choices they might make. How important is free will? What if other people die because of the choices one person makes? Should that person be allowed to make those choices, or should they be stopped? There are some really interesting ideas going on in these books, I hope they get to be explored more at the same time Madison is running around looking for her body and trying to get people to make good decisions.
However, bad title. Really, really bad. The first one was bad too. Let's try for a well titled book for the third, shall we? Carry on. (less)
The Norumbegans and the Thussar were at war for many years before deciding there was a more civilized way to settle their territory dispute: play a ga...moreThe Norumbegans and the Thussar were at war for many years before deciding there was a more civilized way to settle their territory dispute: play a game. Each race chooses a human to represent them in the Game, a kind of labyrinth. The winner of the Game creates a new labyrinth for the next players. In the first of this series, The Game of Sunken Places, Brian and Gregory have been chosen to participate in the Game that Gregory's cousin, Prudence, has created. Brian was representing the Numrumbegans and Gregory was representing the Thussar and the boys worked out that they really, really wanted the Norumbegans to win. What with the Thussar being kind of really evil.
Now, Brian and Gregory are hard at work creating the next round of the Game, when an alien tries to kill Brian. Something seems to have gone wrong. The Thussar have become tired of the Game, and seem to be going for straight invasion. But sneakily. Brian and Gregory try to contact Prudence to find out what's going on, but Prudence has disappeared without a trace. The boys head back to Vermont to search for her, and find that the invasion is already well underway.
This was not quite my cup of tea. I have not actually read The Game of Sunken Places, and maybe that would have helped. There was enough explanation to get a pretty good idea of what had happened in the first book, but perhaps I would have understood the characters better. As it was, Brian seemed like an indecisive wimp and Gregory was an attention seeking, whinny, pain in the behind. My biggest issue with the book was that the writing seemed kind of...amateur. It was choppy, dragging in some places, speeding ahead in others, and the boy's dialogue was awkward and unrealistic. Reading this book and comparing it to Octavian Nothing is a considerable contrast, although they were obviously written for very different audiences.
However, this would an excellent choice for middle school boys. It has action, adventure, quests, war, aliens doing gross things, and boy heroes. It would also be a good high-low choice for a high school boy reading at a middle school level. It's quite short and zips right along, ending on a cliff hanger so clearly another book is coming.(less)
You know that house down your street that everyone always knows about, refers to as "that house," and is just generally creepy? Olive has just moved i...moreYou know that house down your street that everyone always knows about, refers to as "that house," and is just generally creepy? Olive has just moved into that house. Her brilliant (read dippy) mathematician parents are delighted with the architecture and the lighting of the library; Olive on the other hand is fascinated with the old clothes, glass medicine bottles, and the paintings - especially the paintings. She soon discovers that she can go into the paintings and interact with the subjects, but there's something menacing watching her. With all the information gleaned from a small scarecrow boy, a lovely young woman, and three talking cats, Olive doesn't know who she can trust or what the truth is. What she does know is that there's something coming after her, someone who doesn't welcome Olive and her parents into the house.
I really enjoyed this book. As I was reading, I kept comparing the atmosphere that West created with Neil Gaiman's Coraline. The book grabbed my attention and kept it, just when I thought the plot was going to fall into some overly done trope it took a bit of a turn and renewed my interest. That isn't to say that there weren't a few obvious plot twists, but given the overall awesomeness of the book it's easily forgiven. Needless to say, it took me about two hours to plow through the 235 pages of fast-paced adventure.
This book is coming out June 30th (though on West's website it lists the release date as June 15th), it's a series and I hope that the second follows quickly on the heels of this exciting first book. (less)
A quick read, and interesting. When you read the two pages of Eclipse that Bree is in she just seems like a half crazed, uncontrolled newborn, which s...moreA quick read, and interesting. When you read the two pages of Eclipse that Bree is in she just seems like a half crazed, uncontrolled newborn, which she actually isn't. At all. If you've read Twilight you know you're going to read this one anyway so I think I'll leave it at that. (less)
So…I don’t know what to tell you. The book flap describes this book as a “gothic tour de force,” but this is not a Gothic horror book. Gothic horror i...moreSo…I don’t know what to tell you. The book flap describes this book as a “gothic tour de force,” but this is not a Gothic horror book. Gothic horror is like Dracula. Everything is done in the shadows, there’s no real blood and gore. This was full out, detailed, blood and gore. For example, after the monster has attacked and killed a family of six, we get a detailed description of the scene, down to the scooped out brains and flesh and bone scattered around the room.
I do not like horror. So I did not enjoy this book. I was too grossed out the whole time. Because of this, I don’t feel like I can accurately judge whether this was a good book or not. I just don’t know. I did like what Yancey was doing with the “when does a man become a monster?” psychological aspect.
What I am sure of is that my theory that the committee in charge of the Printz Awards this year was trying to be hip and edgy is holding true. I will continue to make my way through the Printz winners I haven't read (and had never heard of until they won).
In conclusion. Ew. If you don’t like horror, DON’T READ THIS BOOK. If you do like horror, well, have I ever got a book for you!(less)