"Mortals. I envy you. You think you can change things. Stop the universe. Undo what was done long before you came along. You are such beautiful creatures."
There are very few things that can compel me to move a book - especially one clocking in at nearly 600 pages - to the top of my To Read list, but I'm a total sucker for Jeremy Irons. Naturally I had heard of this series and even went so far as to include it in my list of series to read in 2013. A few months ago I saw the movie trailer and thought it looked interesting and a few days ago saw it again while Matt & I saw The Hobbit. A second dose of Mr. Irons was more than I could handle and I promptly went to my library and checked out the first book.
Going into this series I knew nothing about the story. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Imagine my surprise when it relies heavily on a Civil War-era plot! (The Civil War was my area of focus in school and any book about the War - fiction or non-fiction - is a must-read for me). Add in multiple references to To Kill a Mockingbird and you've got yourself a triple whammy.
There wasn't much we wanted to know about any town but our own, and if your granddaddy or great-granddaddy couldn't tell you, chances were you didn't need to know.
Beautiful Creatures was a delight to read for the simple fact that the narrator was a boy. Ethan Ware, sixteen, one of the star players on his high school basketball team. I was overjoyed at a male perspective, although the more I read, the more I realized that the only things separating his POV from the countless female protagonists in YA were the pronouns. Once the action started and especially once the romance began developing, Ethan could have easily been any female MC. He just didn't sound like a 16-year old boy. That said, I liked him.
Ethan lives in the tiny town of Gatlin, famous for its buttermilk pie and a Civil War battle. The previous year his mother died in a car accident and since then his father has been shut inside his study, still too hurt to return to his old life. Amma, Ethan's nanny? housekeeper? practically raised him and I enjoyed her immensely.
"Harlon James's been injured, and I'm not convinced he ain't about ta pass over." She whispered the last two words like God Himself might be listening, and she was afraid to give Him any ideas. Harlon James was Aunt Prudence's Yorkshire terrier, named after her most recent late husband.
Gatlin is a town very set in its ways. It's a town where everyone knows everyone and has for generations. There is a DAR group as well as the Sisters of the Confederacy and the famed Southern hospitality is alive and well.
One day a new girl arrives to the town and immediately her name is on everyone's lips. Lena Duchannes. Macon Ravenwood's niece. Despite the Ravenwood being the founding family of Gatlin, the residents still treat Lena as a complete outsider and her taste in black clothing doesn't help matters.
Of course Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and the two discover they can communicate telepathically, which instantly brought to mind Kami and Jared's relationship in Unspoken. What Ethan doesn't know is that Lena is a Caster - a witch - and on her sixteenth birthday she'll be forced to take part in a Claiming ceremony where her future will either be one filled with Light or Dark.
Macon Melchizedek Ravenwood was the town shut-in. Let's just say, I remembered enough of To Kill a Mockingbird to know Old Man Ravenwood made Boo Radley look like a social butterfly.
Other reviewers make mention of the abundance of Southern stereotypes, but I didn't see Beautiful Creatures that way. I was thoroughly sucked in and tore through this massive book in just a few days, which is really saying something, considering the time it usually takes me to read and factoring in the holidays. I absolutely enjoyed this book and can't believe it took me this long to read it.
I'll admit that toward the end the plot lost a bit of its steam and started throwing in plot twist after plot twist, ultimately leaving me with more questions than answers (so what really did happen to Ethan's mom?). I'm hoping these loose ends will be tied up in the following books.
As you all know by now, I'm a BIG fan of dual narratives. Ethan and Lena's story was intertwined with the story of a Confederate soldier and the Caster girl he loved and although theirs was only told through flashbacks I adored it.
I had spent so many hours in it as a kid, I'd inherited my mother's belief that a library was sort of a temple.
While Beautiful Creatures did have its flaws (hello, super-insta-love!), I wholeheartedly, absolutely, utterly loved it. It got to the point where I stayed up well past a reasonable hour just to keep reading. I'd reward myself after doing housework by reading a chapter or two.
Its enormous size could definitely have been shed a couple hundred pages and the deus ex machina ending made me roll my eyes, but I savored every moment and there's no doubt in my mind I'll be continuing the series.(less)
People jog at dawn for a reason. If they wait, their brains will wake up and convince them there are things they'd rather do. Like have oral surgery.
The first book in the series, Royal Street was something I picked up on a whim. I'm a total sucker for pretty covers and, although I'm not a big fan of the genre, paranormal/urban fantasy tends to have SUPER SHINY OH-SO-PRETTY covers.
To my complete surprise, I loved it. Much to my delight I didn't have to wait long at all for the sequel - less than a year! Guys, I'm extremely pleased to announce River Road does NOT suffer from Middle Book Syndrome. In fact, I'll go so far as to say it's even better than its predecessor!
River Road takes place three years after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to New Orleans in Royal Street. I was a bit surprised by the time lapse (I'm not used to such large gaps between books!), but from the very first page the book is off running.
If you're new to the series, Drusilla Jaco - DJ - is a Green Congress wizard, meaning that while she can do magic, her abilities are limited. Alex Warin, shape-shifter extraordinaire is her ex-enforcer partner and his cousin Jake is a recently-turned loup-garou: the biggest, baddest breed of werewolf. Add in the centuries-old undead pirate Jean Lafitte and you're set. Especially when all three men are unsure of their feelings for DJ (just as she's equally unsure of her own feelings for them).
Jean Lafitte informs DJ of an odd illness afflicting mermaid clans and upon investigating, two bodies of Green Congress wizards are discovered. It's up to DJ and crew to find out what's going on and just who is behind the attacks.
The plaque on the enormous clock claimed it has been hand-carved of mahogany in 1909, about 130 years after the birth of the undead pirate waiting for me upstairs. They were both quite handsome, but the clock was a lot safer.
Needless to say, I love this series. With the first book, I was a little worried about how the author would handle Katrina's aftermath. After reading, I realized I had nothing to worry about: Suzanne Johnson took a painful subject still fresh in mind and approached it delicately and respectfully. River Road is no different: New Orleans is still struggling to regain its footing and Johnson tells it like it is. No sugar-coating here, folks.
River Road introduces a few new species (mers, nymphs) and I loved getting to know them! That said, even though there are plenty of new characters, all the old ones get plenty of screen time, so to speak. I especially enjoyed Jean's scenes (I'm totally Team Lafitte, by the way!) and absolutely cannot wait to see him again!
Having three super-hot, though not exactly human, love interests might seem like overkill, but I loved it. Jean Lafitte, eternal flirt and gentleman, seems to genuinely care for DJ; Jake has made no secret of his feelings, though his inability to control his loup-garou form makes him hesitant; and Alex is definitely changing their "we're-much-better-as-friends" relationship. I loved seeing the interactions with each guy and I actually GASPED at that final paragraph! Oh man. Talk about an ending!
Guys, seriously. If you're looking for a fun, funny urban fantasy, look no further!(less)
Linus and Ophelia had roped poor Walter into serving hors d'oeuvres with them, believing fully in the old adage that misery loves company. In other words, if you have something you'd rather not do, you might as well bring your best friend along and let him suffer as well.
Guys, this series is growing on me. A lot. I had a few problems with the first book, Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I'm pleased to say those problems have all but vanished in this sequel. Twins Linus and Ophilia Easterday have been shipped off to live with their aunt and uncle (also twins) while their parents hunt butterflies on a remote island in the South Pacific. Their good friend Walter resides in the nearby boarding school after more than his share of picked locks back home in London.
Aunt Portia owns a bookshop and in its attic the trio discovered an enchanted circle that can bring literary characters into our world. Naturally this comes with some rules: they have sixty hours before they need to return, the circle only opens once a month, etc. In their previous adventure with the circle, they met Quasimodo. This time around they set the bar a bit higher: Moby Dick's Captain Ahab.
Meanwhile, Aunt Portia didn't care about the Moby Dick theme at all. She figured it was a water party and mermaids live in the water, so it stood to reason that she could fudge a little bit.
Every single character is great. They're funny, they're flawed, they have their own distinct personality and I love it. I'm also very pleased to say that Walter's love of exercising isn't shown to the extent it was in the previous book (during a pretty important scene in the first book, Walter randomly started doing push-ups.
Whereas Quasimodo was sweet and kind, Ahab is anything but. He's a man on a mission and is blinded by his revenge. He also doesn't take too kindly to being ordered around by three 14-year olds. That said, his fascination with modern technology (indoor plumbing, computers) is hilarious and I loved the scenes where he's wrecking havoc on message boards on a whaling website.
We also see more of Cato Grubbs, the mad scientist who previously owned the house/bookshop before suddenly disappearing. In Saving Moby Dick we discover a bit more about him and his relationship to the twins.
The only drawback to this book (and this series as a whole) is the narrator. Bartholomew Inkster works in the English Department of Kingscross University and while I enjoy him 90% of the time, his constant need to define words can be a bit grating. This series is targeted toward the 9-12 crowd. I highly doubt they need words like ingest, clear-cut, or fumble explained.
"Curse that foul tome!" he roared. "I curse the day it was ever written, this Herman Melville reaching down into my soul and displaying it for all the world to see."
Saving Moby Dick is a wonderful display of what a sequel should be. It's issues have all been ironed over and since the world-building and magical rules have already been introduced in the first book, the story can finally get down to business. Short chapters and a quick pace make this book a breeze. Also, one of the characters is a bounty-hunter-turned-hippie-priest. How could you pass that up??(less)
It's no secret I have a huge love of cozies. They're so fun and silly and make the perfect afternoon read. They're also fairly easy to follow which makes jumping in at any book in a series totally doable. So despite never having read the first five Home Crafting Mystery books, I leaped at the chance to review this newest addition.
The best thing about cozies is that they're so unique. My favorite series, for example, is about a psychic detective. There's a series about a White House chef, a cheese shop, you name it, there's a series for it. This series deals with organic farming and homemade products like soap and lip balm. An interesting fact about me: I'm actually really interested in learning how to make my own soap. This book only solidified my curiosity.
Sophie Mae lives with her husband Barr (a police officer), her best friend Meghan, and Meghan's 12-year old daughter Erin in a quiet rural community. The Turner family owns and operates a large farm and for a yearly fee members can collect a portion of the harvest. Sophie Mae helps out on the farm and it's there a body is discovered in a compost heap.
In the past Sophie Mae has helped out with cases and it's only natural for her to want to join in on the investigation. Ignoring the concerned advice from her husband and friends (particularly since Sophie Mae and Barr are trying to have a baby), Sophie Mae jumps in and winds up getting for than she bargained for.
Deadly Row to Hoe was a mere 250 and the pacing makes it feel like half that. Cozies are typically easy to figure out and this one was no exception (although early on I had suspected a different character of being the killer). The characters were fun and even minor characters like Sophie Mae's two employees were fleshed-out and I got a real feel for their personalities.
Whether you're already a fan or are completely new to this series, Deadly Row to Hoe will make for a great read. Lightning fast with lots of humor, it's definitely a book that will hold your attention and can be finished in one sitting. Throughout the story there were lots of great backstory details that not only helped me get to know these characters, but also piqued my interest in the rest of the series. :) Don't be surprised if you see reviews for the first five books soon!(less)
I'm not a particularly fast reader. I tend to average around a book a week, although if I'm really enjoying a book I can finish it in a few days.
This book? I read it in one sitting. Reading an entire book in a matter of hours is virtually unheard of for me, guys. The last time I read a book straight through was for a book tour and even then it was a struggle (and resulted in a LOT of skimming). Not so with Spark. I hung on to every word and loved every minute.
Spark picks up where Storm left off, only this time around, Becca & Chris are pretty much out of the picture. Especially Becca. (Confession: I totally didn't mind.) Instead, this book is Gabriel's story and his feeling of guilt over Nick's injuries.
While reading it became apparent to me that this is not a series where the reader can jump in at any book. Spark assumes you have already read Storm and therefore Know What's Up. Even when Gabriel is telling Layne about his fire ability it's all done off-screen. So a brief recap of the story for newbies to this series: in this world there are Elementals, people who can control certain elements. The Merrick brothers (Michael, Gabriel, Nick, and Chris) are able to control earth, fire, air, and water respectively. There are rare individuals who are able to control all of them and Becca (Storm's main character & now Chris's girlfriend) as well as Hunter (Storm's other love interest) are such individuals. A war has been raging for years with the Elementals, resulting in multiple deaths, including the Merrick brothers' parents and Hunter's father and uncle.
Even though I tore through Spark, it had the feel of a side story. In the very beginning the group meets up with Becca's father - a Guide - and they hatch out a plan to lie low for a while. After this scene, the plan is rarely brought up and the whole point of Storm isn't addressed again. Naturally this was a bit of an annoyance, but I was enjoying the book so much I let it slide.
Spark introduces a new character and right off the bat I really liked her. Layne is a super-smart girl who dresses pretty drab and keeps to herself. I was hoping this wasn't going to turn into a makeover story and I was very pleased that it wasn't (although there was a makeover scene featured..) The chemistry between Layne and Gabriel was fantastic and I adore everything about them. They're both hiding secrets and are longing for someone to simply be there. :) They were great and I'm hoping to see more of them in the next book.
The party scene felt a little too repetitive for my tastes (the same thing happened in Storm, right down to the assault) and I easily figured out who was the real culprit of the string of arson the minute the character showed up. Despite these issues, I lovedSpark! Much like I mentioned in my review of Storm, the chapters are extremely short and the pace doesn't let up for a second. Part of the reason I read the book in one go was because I couldn't find a good stopping point!
I'm so glad I put my initial reservations aside and started this series. If you haven't read these books yet, I urge you to do so. You will not be disappointed!
I finished Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm last night and I've been chewing over this review since then. The summary isn't exactly correct: Pullman collected his favorites, but apart from a few tiny details, he left the stories intact. Being a Pullman newbie (Matt's determined to get me to read His Dark Materials and I swear I will!), this wasn't the best way to get a feel for his writing.
I've struggled in the past with reviews, but this one takes the cake. I'm seriously at a loss here, guys.
Pullman shares the tale and at the end lists the ATU class, similar tales, the source (more often than not, a family friend of the Grimms told the tale), and then gives his thoughts. This I enjoyed immensely! The reader is provided a little peek into Pullman's mind as he discusses the moral of the story or, in some cases, why he wholeheartedly disagreed with the judgement passed (be it punishment or reward). Also, for the few stories he expanded on, Pullman explains his addition and what it brought to the story.
Admittedly, many of these fairy tales were completely new to me. I obviously was familiar with the well-known tales (Snow White, Rapunzel, Rumplestiltskin), but there were countless others I had the pleasure of reading for the first time (The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers, The Singing Bone).
While reading, I quickly came to the conclusion that this is not a book to be read in a sitting. It needs to be chipped away at a little at a time and over the course of far more than a weekend. By the halfway mark I was getting a little bored with the repetition: unequivocally good farmer/miller/soldier is sent away from his home, meets up with a witch/giant/the Devil, passes multiples tests of bravery and strength, and is rewarded with the hand of a princess.
And guys, if insta-love is not your thing, stay away. Seriously.
That said, the fairy tales in this book were the absolute perfect length. I think only one or two were longer than ten pages, with the majority being around 5. This made reading on my lunchbreak/during commercials very easy and led to me finishing the book much sooner than I had expected.
Fans of the recent surge in popularity of shows like Grimm & Once Upon a Time will be sure to enjoy this book as well as fairy tale newbies (is there such a thing??) Pullman's collection features an excellent variety of stories and there's something in it for everyone. Tales of revenge, love, murder, hope. Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm is a book that's sure to be cherished and revisited for years to come.(less)
There's no crime in copying a painting - obviously, as this is how I make the money I dutifully report to the IRS every April - the criminal part doesn't come until a copy is put up for sale as the original. Ergo, the seller, not the painter, is the crook.
A few years ago Claire Roth had been blacklisted by the art world. Once an up-and-coming artist with the very real opportunity of having her own show, she's now living in her tiny studio and making ends meet by selling copies of famous works for Reproductions.com.
One day she receives a visit from Aiden Markel, renowned art dealer and owner of the famous Markel G gallery. The two hadn't spoken in years - not since her plummet from grace. Markel offers her the chance of a lifetime: paint a copy of one of Degas' works that had been stolen in the 1990 heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Have her copy authenticated and not only will she receive a nice wad of cash, but Markel will also give her the show she's been dreaming of.
I'll be the first to admit I know virtually nothing about the art world - I can rattle off names like Michelangelo, Monet, The Scream, but when it comes down to it, I'm clueless. This book takes the very real theft (in 1990, over ten works of art were stolen and to this day, the pieces haven't been recovered and even with the $5 million reward, no one has stepped forward with any information) and uses it as the backbone of the story.
Claire had always been a Degas fan and when she was little her mother would take her to the museum and she would spent hours in front of After the Bath, staring at it, drawing it, marveling over it. Obviously she hadn't seen it since 1990 when it was stolen, so when Markel mails it to her door, she's more than a little shocked. Naturally she battles with herself over what to do. Markel assures her that after they sell her copy he'll give the original back to the museum where it belong. In the end, and multiple reassurances that she's doing nothing illegal, Claire agrees.
"We can only talk about the bad forgeries, the once that have been detected. The good onces are still hanging on museum walls."
Interspersed with the main story are two side-plots. One is Isabella Gardner's, told only through letters to her niece. I'm a big fan of historical fiction, so this story I really enjoyed. Isabella tells about her introduction to Degas, which eventually turn into lunches with Degas, trips to Degas' house, visits to the racetrack with Degas, and ultimately Degas' request that she pose for a painting. Not just any painting, but one in his Bath series.
The other story is one I also really enjoyed and would have loved to have seen a little more of: Claire's backstory and What Really Happened. When Claire was in grad school she was involved in a relationship with one of her professors. He left his wife for her and, for a while at least, they were happy. Every so often, however, Isaac would go into terrible bouts of depression. Unfortunately, one of these episodes happened to coincide with a deadline and he had neither the motivation or the inspiration to paint. Claire stepped it and painted 4D. Neither of them expected it to receive the attention it did. Isaac's career skyrocketed - there were trips to the Today show, shows in galleries, MoMA was even interested in 4D becoming part of their permanent collection. Everyone wanted to know more about Isaac Cullion.
At first Claire was thrilled for Isaac. After he broke up with her and returned to his wife, however, she decided the truth needed to be known. She was 4D's painter, not Isaac. Her accusation rocked the art world and split it in two, leaving only a tiny handful of people who believed Claire. It only gets worse when Claire discovers Isaac took his own life.
The main bulk of The Art Forger is equally fascinating! Claire eventually discovers the 'original' she had been copying from is itself a copy. Things swiftly move from bad to worse once the painting is sold - and discovered during an airport security check. The police and FBI step in and the trail leads back to Markel and Claire.
The only way to free themselves is to find out just what happened to Degas' original and time is quickly running out.
A writer friend once told me that when she walks into a library anywhere in the world, the smell makes her feel instantly at home.
Guys, seriously, The Art Forger is phenomenal. What's even more mind-blowing is that the author is not an artist! WHAT. Shapiro wasn't messing around when it came to her research.
Despite The Art Forger being a novel, this book isn't an action-packed, edge-of-your-seat nail biter. Even still, I devoured this book in just two sittings; it's that good.(less)
Title:The Infects Author: Sean Beaudoin Pub. Date: September, 2012 Summary:Seventeen-year-old Nero is stuck in the wilderness with a bunch of other juvenile delinquents on an “Inward Trek.” As if that weren’t bad enough, his counselors have turned into flesh-eating maniacs overnight and are now chowing down on his fellow miscreants. As in any classic monster flick worth its salted popcorn, plentiful carnage sends survivors rabbiting into the woods while the mindless horde of “infects” shambles, moans, and drools behind. Of course, these kids have seen zombie movies. They generate “Zombie Rules” almost as quickly as cheeky remarks, but attitude alone can’t keep the biters back. Genre: YA, Horror Rating:
Survival is for the ruthless. Everyone else is a hippie poet.
Nick is your average high school student: he lives at home with his dad and little sister (ugh, more on her later), is madly in love with a girl he can barely speak to, and has a crappy job at a chicken factory. It's not until he's fired from his job and swiftly arrested that his world turns upside-down.
Names don't apply at Nick's juvenile detention center. Instead they all receive nicknames. Nick becomes Nero and is known as Nero throughout the rest of the book. On an outing the group wakes to find their two camp counselors have turned into zombies and some unlucky boys were their dinner.
Naturally the boys don't stick around to see who's going to be the next to be eaten. They hightail it out of there and run through the woods in the direction of where the girls were going to be camping.
"It's eatin' time, Busta Rhymes!"
It took me about 100 pages to really get into The Infects, but once I did I devoured (ha!) it. This is a book that can easily be read in a sitting despite it's near 400-page length. The story is blindingly fast-paced and the writing is simple. Also, Nick/Nero's inner voice is reason is The Rock.
That said, a lot of the writing got to me. At first I thought it was because I'm not a 16-year old boy. However, as I read more, I saw that it wasn't me, the jokes and dialogue are just awfully immature. There's a character called Mr. Bator, y'all. Also, is Busta Rhymes still a thing? Is he still big enough that kids nowadays would know and like him well enough to reference him in an everyday conversation?
While I'm still on the topic is Things I Did Not Like, let's discuss Amanda, shall we? Nick briefly mentioned in the beginning of the story that part of the reason why he's working is to help cover the cost of her medicine. I don't remember what the illness was (if it was even stated), but reading entire scenes like this was WAY too much for me to handle:
"Amanda!" "Nick? Is that? You? Thank God, thank God, thank God, thank God. "Yeah, it's me. Listen-" "Miss you? Nick? Are you? Coming? Home?" "No, Boo. I'm really far away. Are you okay?" "Yes? Of course? Why?" "Is there...anything happening outside?" "Dunno? Can't go? Outside?" "Why not?" "Dad says? Not to?"
An unturned knob is like a collection of Hungarian folk poems or discount sushi: best left alone.
Once the zombie horde really gets going, there are awesome factoids sprinkled throughout the story. I. Loved. These. They were all really funny and basically called out every terrible cliche in zombie movies (don't pause to kiss your girlfriend; a zombie is guaranteed to be standing right behind you).
Like I said before, The Infects doesn't dilly-dally. The main bulk of the action takes place over a single night. The quick story and humorous moments (and The Rock) ultimately led to an enjoyable book. The night I finished I had a dream about a zombie breakout, so I suppose that should count for something.(less)
Curiosity might have killed the cat, but little girls usually fared much better.
The Secret Keeper is one of those wonderful - and rare - books that latches on tight and stays with you long after you've turned the last page. I'm a relative newbie to Kate Morton; I've only read one other book (The Forgotten Garden) and I've been aching to read more ever since.
Despite its length - nearly 500 pages - The Secret Keeper is a fairly fast-paced novel. Told with dual-narratives (which seems to be a thing with Morton), the book travels through time (2011 and WWII-era England) as a daughter tries to uncover a mystery that has haunted her for fifty years and a mother makes peace with her actions as a young woman.
Fifty years ago, Laurel told a distant patch of stars, my mother killed a man. She called it self-defense, but I saw it. She raised the knife and brought it down and the man fell backwards onto the ground where the grass was worn and the violets were flowering. She knew him, she was frightened, and I've no idea why.
Within the opening chapters a man is murdered and young Laurel - sixteen at the time - witnessed the entire episode. On the day of her brother's 2nd birthday Laurel hid in her treehouse and watched her mother stab a man, ultimately killing him.
Fifty years later, Laurel is a world-renowned actress and, along with her sisters and brother, has returned to Greenacres for her mother's ninetieth birthday. Dorothy's healthy is rapidly declining and Laurel is eager to finally find out who the man was and what he could have possibly done to make her mother react in such a violent manner.
It was strange indeed, to find herself within this place of childhood memories and see her grown-up wrinkled face staring back at her. Like Alice falling through the rabbit hole; or else falling through it again, fifty years on, only to find herself the only thing changed.
Again, The Secret Keeper is told through a dual-narrative (though, technically, I suppose it's more of a dual-era). If you're not a fan of more than one POV, Kate Morton will definitely change your perspective. She's absolutely brilliant when it comes to dual-narratives and executes this technique flawlessly. The only complaint is that, just when you're this close to uncovering a clue, the chapter ends and suddenly you find yourself back in 1940s.
Normally I'm all about spoilers in my reviews. I'm someone who loves spoilers and they naturally come out in my discussions of books. However, The Secret Keeper's final chapters were so shocking and unexpected that I'm determined not to ruin it for anyone. Everything falls so smoothly into place - it all makes sense why Dorothy was the way she was as a child and why the change was so drastic as an adult and her reasoning for killing a man is understandable.
Laurel found him on the Internet, though. Opposite problem there - one couldn't disentangle oneself from that net for all the love and money in England. Henry Jenkins was one of millions of ghosts who lived inside it, milling wraithlike until the right combination of letters was entered and they were briefly resurrected.
Writing multiple POVs isn't Kate Morton's only area of expertise. Countless sentences were so beautifully written I got chills reading them. Whether it was a sentence about trying to track down an author online or a chapter about air raids, Ms. Morton's writing never lets up. I felt myself sitting beside Laurel in her treehouse, I felt the fear coursing through the veins of everyone running for the safety of fallout shelters. Morton's writing will never cease to amaze me.
One of the things I have come to know most surely in my work is that the belief system acquired in childhood is never fully escaped; it may submerge itself for a while, but it always returns in times of need to lay claim to the soul it shaped.
After having read two Kate Morton books now, I'm confident enough to say she's among my favorite writers. Not to toot my own horn, but I'm someone who can recognize a plot twist coming from a mile away. That said, The Secret Keeper's reveal came out of nowhere and it hit me like a truck. I was not expecting it in the slightest, yet it worked. Lesser authors would have failed, but it was an entirely believable situation in Morton's hands.
If you haven't read Kate Morton before, I highly recommend doing so and The Secret Keeper is a wonderful starting point.(less)
When Kira was just ten year old she saved her cousin, Prince Taejo, from a demon and since then she has been Taejo's personal bodyguard. Unfortunately, her reputation and golden eyes have not made her popular among the kingdom's citizens. It's no secret they're disgusted by and frightened of her; behind her back she's referred to as Demon Slayer.
When the King is brutally murdered in front of his family, Kira, Taejo, and a swarm of guards flee the city in search of three sacred items named in an ancient prophecy in the hopes of protecting those they love and saving the kingdom from the Demon King.
I was really looking forward to Prophecy. It sounded totally kickass and I was extremely intrigued by the Korean influence. The author definitely did her research and it shows. Also, she's definitely not afraid to kill off characters - seriously, don't become attached to anyone! Sadly, that's where my praise falters.
Let's start with the characters. 12-year old Prince Taejo and his dog Jindo were the most likeable, along with a handful of monks met along the way. Everyone else came across as your basic stock personalities: there were Bad Guys, a Mysteriously Vague Old Monk (described as - and named!! - Master Roshi), Noble Captain, I could go on and on. Those that weren't cardboard cutouts were so thinly written that I couldn't get a feel for the character (Seung, for instance).
Jaewon and Shin Bo Hyun are the Love Interests in a romance that really didn't go anywhere (I'm assuming it'll come to light in the following books). Kira is betrothed to Bo Hyun and, let's face it, he's kind of a jerk. But a jerk that truly does like her...? The author made it seem that way, along with hints of attraction on Kira's end, but again, I couldn't get a real feel for it. I did enjoy Jaewon however. He's got a decent backstory in a novel where backstories were either quickly presented or forgotten altogether. That said, his attitude towards Kira (multiple times he mentioned he'd do anything she'd ask/go anywhere she said) bordered on obsessive and was downright confusing. Why was he so willing to follow her? They had only had one conversation by the time he began saying these things. I didn't get it.
Prophecy followed your typical Fantasy Novel model perfectly, right down to it's title. There's a prophecy, sacred objects that give the possessor unimaginable power, a quest to find those objects, an evil (in this case, demon) king who wants that power for his own, etc etc. There wasn't much about Prophecy that was original, but for some strange reason I did enjoy it. The writing was very quick and easy and I noticed this was a dialogue-driven story. So much dialogue.
Despite a relatively harsh review, I had a good time reading Prophecy. Hardcore fans of the genre might want to check it out, but if you're looking for a unique story, I'd suggest looking elsewhere. Also, for a book targeted toward teens, the writing was extremely simple and could have easily been in a book written for a much younger crowd.(less)
They said it when they were wishing for crops not to fail and storms to pass, but she realized now she'd heard her mother say it when something happened to scare her, as if to reassure herself: The Lynburns are gone.
Kami Glass has lived in the tiny English village of Sorry-in-the-Vale her entire life and has grown up hearing tales of the Lynburns. One family loomed over the town, creating laws - and enforcing them. Though Aurimere Manor now stands silent and empty on the hill, the family's presence can still be felt and the family is just as feared.
Apart from hearing these stories since childhood, Kami has also heard a voice. A boy's voice. Jared has been her imaginary friend for as long as she can recall and she still continues to speak to him even though she's well past the age where having an imaginary friend is acceptable.
Her world turns upside-down the day the Lynburns return. Regal Lillian Lynburn is the heir to the legacy and she's brought her family with her: her husband Rob and son Ash, and her sister Rosalind and Rosalind's son Jared. Suddenly Kami isn't so sure her imaginary friend is only in her head.
Sorry-in-the-Vale's records date back to the 1400s. Six hundred years do not go by without someone doing something nefarious.
I couldn't wait to jump right in and adore Unspoken. Everyone seems to be obsessing over it and it definitely has all the makings of a book I'd love: ancient family, dark secrets, a quiet town.
I tore through the first half of this book. I loved everything about it! The premise was phenomenal, the writing is stunning, the local legends gave me chills, and the characters - with the exception of Angela - were wonderfully done. Even the backstory was done in a way that didn't feel like a massive infodump.
Jared's appearance came as no surprise, though I still have no idea what his issue was with touching. Even when he was protecting Kami he would barely touch her and his avoidance of contact was never explained. That said, save for a few minor problems, Kami & Jared's dynamic was great. It was an interesting, new take on the genre and I ate it up.
"Put the jerk in the south wing, you won't see him for weeks at a time. Or lock him in the attic. The law will not be on your side, but literary precedent will."
A lot of reviews have mentioned the humor in Unspoken and while I enjoyed it, I felt it could have been toned down a lot. Particularly Kami's father. I liked his character, but did he ever say anything that wasn't a witty one-liner? Even when he walked into Kami's bedroom one morning and found both Kami and Jared asleep in bed, the only thing he had to say was some wisecrack.
Unfortunately, around the halfway mark, Unspoken really started to lose steam. Oddly enough this was right around the time when Things Started Happening. A classmate was murdered (and was never really brought up again), and the secret of the Lynburns' is finally revealed. All of this should have kept me on the edge of me seat. Although I still plowed though, I definitely did not do so with the same fervor I had in the beginning.
The other families say, 'My way or the highway.' The Lynburns said, "I am unfamiliar with the concept of the highway, so that leaves you with only one choice.'
So much was happening by the end: the will-they-or-won't-they angle, a huge fight scene, Kami's life-altering decision, Angela's secret. Everything was happening so fast and the sudden stop at the end - and I do mean sudden (that was so NOT a cliffhanger, that was right in the middle of the scene!) - that it got to be a little jarring. There were so many questions left unanswered, particularly in regards to Kami and Jared, that I feel a little cheated. I want that sense of closure. Yes, there's another book coming out, but even in a series novels should wrap up nicely enough that reads aren't left in a state of confusion and frustration.
I hate that I'm in the minority with this one, guys. I really, really do. I loved the idea for Unspoken and the beginning was FANTASTIC. I'll be reading the next book when it comes out, but I don't think I'll be giving in to the hype next time.(less)
When you think about it, I'm like my 45. Liz is my A side, the song everybody knows, and Gabe is my B side - not played as often, but the song's just as good.
Like I mentioned in my review of The Waiting Sky, I really shy away from Novels With Issues. Whereas with other genres I can pick up a sci-fi book or a mystery whenever I feel like it. That's SO not the case with books dealing with heavy topics. I need to be in a certain mood for those, but Beautiful Music for Ugly Children caught my eye and, like The Waiting Sky, I'm so glad it did. You know, I'm two-for-two now, so perhaps issue novels aren't something I should be so weary about.
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children centers on Gabe Williams, a soon-to-be-graduate and, quite frankly, he couldn't be more eager to get out of there. Just a few months ago Gabe told his BFF Paige the secret he'd been hiding his entire life: he never felt like he was Elizabeth Mary Williams. He wants to undergo the transition to become the man he always felt he was. Unfortunately, when he came out to his family, he didn't have the same acceptance and support than he received from Paige. Since then, his brother has barely said a word (despite the two being close prior to his announcement) and his parents refuse to look his way - and insist on referring to him as Liz.
What's life without loud music in your car?
The only thing that gets Gabe through the week is the thought of his radio show, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. When he was 10 a new neighbor moved in next door and John quickly became a grandfather figure for Gabe. Gabe had always prided himself on being a self-professed music nerd, but John has taken it a step further. Their Friday Night Fights (topics include Johnny Rotten vs. Sid Vicious, for example) aren't uncommon and the two can spend all day going through John's 6,000+ LP collection.
John was a legendary DJ and the first to interview Elvis. He's secured Gabe a spot on the local community station and it's in those early hours of the morning that Gabe shines. For his first few shows he wasn't sure whether to introduce himself as Gabe or Liz - especially knowing numerous classmates are listeners. Ultimately he decides not to hide anymore and Gabe makes his public debut.
Got it, world? I'm a guy. A scared guy, though I try not to show it, and a guy with a long freaking road ahead of him. But, still. Just a guy.
I could seriously go on and on about this book. I loved Gabe and John and music played such a huge part in this book. I loved that Gabe doesn't scoff as "mainstream" music and plays Flo Rida and Prince right alongside 50s classics. Also, the chapter titles are so awesome and all involve Elvis: T-Pain is the new Elvis because he's on a boat, motherbeepers, and Elvis probably wanted a boat too, Rush Limbaugh can't be the new Elvis; he's too mean, Conan O'Brien is the new Elvis and he has the hair to prove it, etc.
One thing I wished would have been done differently in this novel is the romance. Not one, not two, but three girls are suddenly involved with Gabe and I just wasn't feeling it. My pick for him didn't work out, and one of the girls came out of nowhere. I couldn't understand why she was suddenly showing interest when she hadn't said a word to him before.
Another fault this book had was the ending. It was very After School Special in that everything wrapped up nicely and everything was resolved and the world was a happy, sunshiney place. There were also things that seemed huge to the story, yet were never mentioned again.
So despite its faults, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is a wonderful, beautifully-written book that will stick with me long after I move on to other books.(less)
"Find us a king," the corpse called out. "What? Why?" "You stole his place. You are in our debt."
The Corpse-Rat King opens with a bang: Marius, a professional thief, and his assistant Gerd, are combing through a battlefield, looting whatever valuables they could find. Unfortunately, Marius comes upon the corpse of the King and quickly finds his life changed forever. Within minutes Gerd is brutally slain and Marius finds himself in the Kingdom of the Dead - mistaken for the dead king.
Needless to say, the dead are not pleased to discover Marius is, in fact, not their king. Also, he's not exactly as dead as they originally thought. They send him back to the surface with a task: find a new ruler.
Marius was not a fighting man. A thief does not enter the profession because he wants to fight. He was a slinker, a tip-toer. He lived for the time after the fight, when the victor had departed and all that remained were the easy rewards and sightless eyes.
With a fascinating plot, The Corpse-Rat King is unlike any story I've read. The lines between the living and the dead are blurred in Marius's world and I loved that. Once he returns to the surface he notices changes to his body. For starters, he doesn't have a heartbeat. His vision in the dark has also changed - for the better. At times his skin will be grey and withered, yet other times his flesh will be rosy and pink. This aspect was really neat and I enjoyed all the possibilities.
Also, the author has a way with words. The writing was absolutely beautiful. Sadly, this also led to me skimming page-length paragraphs of descriptions. Vivid, lovely descriptions, but descriptions nonetheless.
Early explorers found nothing there to recommend the place to anybody, and indeed, early maps show a simple ovoid outline with the words "Don't Bother" written inside.
Marius meets an entire cast of characters throughout his journey: dead kings, an untrustworthy captain, an island of natives. Each one was wonderfully fleshed out and their own person. Again, I cannot say enough about Battersby's penchant for writing: he is a magnificent writer (with over 70 stories to his name!).
However - and I wish there wasn't a however - once the book hit the halfway mark it felt like the story came grinding to a halt. It felt like I was reading the camping part of Deathly Hallows all over again! Marius is on this exciting, event-riddled journey. I shouldn't be skimming entire pages!
Then he remembered the autumn of his tenth year, when Nandus had ordered that the forests along the Borghan peninsula be set on fire so the squirrels wouldn't get cold, and seven thousands peasants had died in the winter snows.
Some of my favorite characters showed up only to never be heard from or thought about again. The dead King Nandus was fantastic and I could easily have read an entire book solely featuring him.
Keth, the love-interest-that-wasn't is another example of a character that seemed to play a huge role, but then simply vanished. At one point Marius has a Big Revelation and realizes that she's loved him this entire time. He turns her into a mission (find the dead a king, then get back to his home, profess his love, buy Keth a house, have a bunch of kids, and live Happily Ever After), yet not long after that moment, Keth is never thought of again. She doesn't appear again - either in person or in conversation - for the duration of the book.
Gerd, the bumbling sidekick, had the personality of the real hero while Marius could have easily been the sidekick instead. Marius put Gerd through so much - and told so many lies - that it was hard NOT to feel for Gerd.
With no external stimulation, he turned inwards. He tried singing, but there are only so many bottles of beer that can fall before the entire liquor industry goes on strike...
There were multiple lines that made me giggle, but even the humor doesn't hide the fact that there are many things missing from this book. Gaping plot holes, unsympathetic characters with no redeeming qualities, and too-long paragraphs combined to make what initially started out as a fantastic book, an ultimately disappointing and lackluster one. I finished The Corpse-Rat King with a resounding meh.
From the author notes it seems a sequel is in the works. Hopefully the issues I had will be addressed and corrected.(less)
My love of cozies knows no bounds. They're such a guilty pleasure and when I heard about this new series, I immediately pounced on it.
After Ella Mae LaFaye discovered her husband of seven years in an elevator entertaining a pair of redheaded twins, she grabbed her dog Chewy and left New York. She headed for her own of Havenwood, Georgia where her mother and aunts welcomed her back and wasted no time helping Ella Mae get back on her feet.
Years of culinary school left her with a burning passion for baking - and a dream of opening her own bakery. Luckily for Ella Mae, the perfect location just went on the market. With customers just short of beating down the door, business is booming until a well-respected doctor is murdered - and Ella Mae's rolling pin is found at the scene.
Pies & Prejudice was a ton of fun! Going into it, I hadn't realized it was a paranormal mystery, though I guess that little fact was glaringly obvious. With character names like LaFaye and a villain's license plate reading SIREN it goes without saying I figured things out a little quicker than Ella Mae. :)
Hands down, the best thing about this book were the pies. MMM, pie. Shoofly, Chocolate Bourbon Pecan, Banana Pudding, I was drooling all over myself while reading. Thankfully there are recipes included at the end of the book (I know what I'll be doing on my days off)!
The characters were nearly as rich and vibrant as the pies. I loved Ella Mae and Chewy. Her mother and aunts were ridiculously awesome as well. Loralyn, Ella Mae's childhood rival, had the Mean Girl act down to an artform. I would have loved to have seen something come out of the budding romance with Hugh (high school crush), but I suppose that will have to wait for the next book.
Ella Mae's A-HA! moment was a little heavy on the cheese factor and it's so frustrating when the villain turns out to be a character that hadn't been in the story until the big reveal. Apart from those minor setbacks Pies & Prejudice was a fun - and funny - start to a new series and one I'll be sure to continue!(less)
With the upcoming election, I thought Election! would be a good book to check out. Even though it's a children's book, the facts and explanations were presented in a way that adults could enjoy it - and learn - as well. The writing never felt dumbed-down over over-simplified.
My major area of study was the Civil War and while I have a fairly decent grasp on other aspects of American history, politics is an area that has never really interested me. I love history and discovering what really goes into the way American government was formed (and continues to run) caught my eye.
The chapters in Election! are broken up into various aspects of the election process: choosing a candidate, voting, Election Day, etc. Instead of a constant narrative, the book is comprised of questions and answers and I really enjoyed the direct, no-fuss approach.
Because this is a book geared towards kids, some of the questions seem a little obvious and silly, but overall I thought this was a great book and I'll admit I definitely learned a thing or two (an 1882 election came down to ONE vote!). Whether a child is curious about how the presidency works or an adult is interested in brushing up on forgotten knowledge, Election! is a fun and informative book that can easily be read in a single setting.(less)
I am a HUGE fan of retellings and, lucky for me, there's no shortage of them these days. Fairy tale retellings are a dime a dozen, but I haven't come across a Mexican retelling of the Odyssey before and couldn't wait to dive right in.
Summer of the Mariposas (butterflies in Spanish, and that's just the first of dozens of words sprinkled throughout the book) tells the tale of the five Garza girls, cinco hermanitas: Odilia is the oldest and the narrator of the story; Juanita, the second oldest and the most headstrong; Velia and Delia are the twins, connected by their own bond, yet just as close to their other sisters; and Pita, the baby of the family.
Due to their Papa running out on the family, the girls' beloved Mama has been struggling to make ends meet and, as a result, the girls are more often than not left to their own devices. One day while they're swimming in their favorite spot, they spot a body drifting along in the current. Unsure of what to do, the girls decide to bring the body back to his family. With a little help from ancient Aztec goddesses and Llorona, the five sisters leave Texas and journey into Mexico.
While Summer of the Mariposas deals with highly fantastic elements (the girls battle witches, chupacabras, and trickster demons, to name a few), this is ultimately a story about family and bonds that can never be broken.
I absolutely adored this book. Everything about it, from the sisters and magic to that GORGEOUS COVER (!!), Summer of the Mariposas was a complete homerun. The imagery was beautiful, the wording was remarkable, the characters were fleshed out so well I felt as though I knew them.
Definitely keep an eye out for this book. You won't be disappointed.(less)
You don't go through things with people and not love them more for it. It's like those guys in the army who fight in muddy trenches and drag each other out of harm's way and are blood brothers for life because of it all. Only in our case, my mom and I faced eviction notices and power shutoffs together.
Guys, I wasn't at all prepared for The Waiting Sky. I went into it expecting a super fun book about storm chasers with maybe a little issue-story in the background. Instead, The Waiting Sky was like a punch in the gut, an unapologetic view of the self-destruction of an alcoholic and her teenage daughter left to hold it all together.
Let it be known that I am not a fan of issue novels or books dealing with heavy topics (this is most likely the reason why I tend to shy away from contemporaries). However, I ADORED this book and completely devoured it in no time.
I can click my heels together all I want, but there's just no place to go.
Jane lives in Missouri in a tiny apartment with her alcoholic mother. Despite only being in high school, Jane's role is reversed as she is the one who has to step up and get a job in order to scrape enough money together each month to pay to rent and other bills. Unfortunately, her mother has a way of finding Jane's money stash and it's not uncommon for her to come home from school and discover the power or water has been shut off.
SO many times throughout The Waiting Sky I wanted to reach through the pages and comfort Jane. Ever since her older brother left she's only had her mother and that makes it even harder for her to attempt to get her mother the help she needs. Jane gives in and believes every single lie and half-hearted promise from her mother and it broke my heart.
Cat shook her head slowly, her shock beginning to fade. "No, she's not fine. This is not fine. It's not okay. You-you almost killed us. Because you were drunk. You picked us up and you drove the car drunk."
The final straw - at least as far as Jane's best friend Cat is concerned, happens when all three get into a car accident. All because Jane's mother was driving drunk. After that Cat, perfect, rich Cat, writes a checklist of things Jane needs to accomplish in order for the pair to remain friends.
Not long after, Jane finds herself in a van alongside her brother and his group of storm chasers as they drive throughout the midwest tracking tornadoes. As emotionally invested in Jane's home life as I was, I loved this part of the story just as much, if not more.
Jane's brother Ethan is a part of Torbros - Tornado Brothers, a chaser group founded by, wait for it, two brothers. I loved every last member of Torbros and my only complaint is that I didn't get enough. I wanted to get to know them more (especially adorable, nerdy Mason!). While I don't believe The Waiting Sky is the first in a series, I certainly wouldn't mind reading more about these characters. Each one was wonderfully fleshed out and they had their own personalities and traits - not at all like the cardboard cutouts that litter the majority of YA today.
Also tracking the storms are the Twister Blisters, a rival team and one that has been picked up by a television channel. Their whole entourage - complete with camera crew and shiny, black Escalades - travel from town to town, a constant reminder to Torbros of what they could be one day.
Sometimes I think it's easier for me to see things, period, if I have the camera in my hand. It's borderline magical to me, the way a camera can take something that's ugly - a pile of bills on the counter, say - and just by adjusting the tilt, the zoom, turn it into something beautiful.
After a tornado touches down in a town (and a member of Torbros receives some really awful PR) both groups find themselves working together in order to provide aid and a helping hand. Jane finds herself getting closer and closer to the Twister Blisters' young intern, Max. Their relationship was a bit rushed, but I didn't mind it, and it never became overwhelming. Not once did I feel the romance took centerstage while Jane's relationship with her mother and brother was tossed in a corner.
The ending was also a little rushed and everything was wrapped up a bit too nicely, but ultimately I really, really enjoyed The Waiting Sky. (less)
"The Marked have community. Boil everything else down and that's what you're left with. That's what they have right now that we don't."
Sneak, the sequel to Swipe (published earlier this year) is what I consider dystopia lite: a middle grade-friendly post-apocalyptic novel without all the excess gore and violence of the series that are currently in the spotlight. I'd say readers are better off having read Swipe before jumping into Sneak (or at the very least have a decent amount of knowledge as to what the first book/this series' world is all about). For the most part Sneak does a decent job getting readers up to speed, but there were multiple times where I found myself lost and confused. Totally my fault, by the way. This was not the book's fault.
Sometime in the future there's a war and, once again, America finds itself torn apart. The result: Marked citizens (literally. These folks get a barcode-type mark when upon turning 13) and the Markless (who live their lives in hiding).
Sneak kicks things off with Logan Langly, the one and only boy to escape DOME facilities. He's now on the run and determined to find his sister (who has been kept in a prison for the past five years). Logan's an interesting character. It's clear he's made out to be a savior symbol; he becomes a beacon of hope for thousands of Markless who have never even met the boy. On the other hand, for countless people he's seen as someone who's made life much more miserable. Since Logan's escape, DOME has really been tightening the reins and amping up their security. Markless have to CONSTANTLY move from place to place.
One idea I thought was neat was an Underground Railroad-esque system set in place to aid Markless on their way to a safer place. This system has a nautical theme however, and I liked it! A hook meant there was danger nearby (usually in the form of untrustworthy Marked who appear to want to help), an anchor announced a secure shelter, a captain meant there was someone close who could transport Markless to the next spot, etc.
"My job is to cover our tracks," Shawn said. "Completely. I'm not about to cut loose just because of a surprise along the way. I don't work like that." And Erin looked at him admiringly. From one hacker to another. "Besides," Shawn said. "I don't like free rides if I don't know who's driving. You wanna know who's helping us, don't you? Don't you think it'd just the tiniest bit suspicious?"
There are quite a few characters packed into this short novel. Unfortunately, because of the book's length, the sheer number of characters, and the extremely quick scene changes (multiple scenes per PAGE at times!) it became a little hard to get to know this group of kids. For the most part I felt as though I was a mere spectator, watching the drama unfold from afar. I never felt that I was there in the midst of it all. With some of the more minor characters, I completely forgot about them until they were mentioned and even then I couldn't recall the first thing about them.
My biggest complaint about Sneak would be the setting. I know it takes place in the future - not sure on the exact date; it's never stated in this novel (perhaps in the first book?) - but some things just didn't add up. I get that it's post-apocalyptic. Technology changed. Yet the parents all knew (and said they grew up with) radios...and somehow the children had never heard of them before. Same with cars. I can't imagine the world could change that drastically in the span of a single generation. Also, at one point a Bible is found, yet the group doesn't know what it is and writes it off as just another book. Again, a single generation?? It doesn't make sense.
All-in-all, Sneak was a solid book and a good dystopian novel for children who want to get into the genre but aren't yet ready for the violence that typically goes along with it. Don't make the same mistake I did: I highly recommend checking out the first book before reading this one.(less)
I don't know what it is about dads and leather recliners, but it seems like every dad I know has one. Is it something you get at the hospital when they hand you the baby? "Congratulations sir, it's a boy, and here is your leather recliner."
What's with the lack of MG/YA targeted toward boys? SO many times I've had boys come up to me at work and ask for help finding books and wind up leaving with a Rick Riordan novel, a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, or an adult sci-fi novel that's far too mature for them. I'm pretty excited that I now have another series to recommend: Nate Rocks.
Nathan Rockledge, or Nate Rocks, is a typical 10-year old boy: his 13-year old sister drives him crazy, his mother's cardboard pasta will be the death of him, and he would much rather do just about anything than be paired up with a girl as his science partner.
When the going gets tough, the tough...whip out their sketchpads and save the world. Nate's done it all: save Earth from an asteroid, rescue a woman tied to train tracks, help take down evil villains. Throughout the book Nate has daydreams about being the hero and those were so much fun to read!
Nate Rocks the World is fairly fast-paced, but it works and I think that's a plus for its target audience. Well-written, relatable characters made this book a joy to read and I know boys will absolutely LOVE this series.(less)
I'm relatively new to the world of audiobooks - prior to Storm Front I had only listened to one (Manhunt, which I HIGHLY recommend!). This wasn't intentional, it simply never crossed my mind. I can easily be seen as the target audience for audiobooks: I'm always listening to my ipod on my daily commute and when I exercise. It only seems natural that I'd enjoy audiobooks.
At work, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series is pretty hot right now. Customers ask about the books on a regular basis and multiple co-workers have read the series and really enjoy it. I came across the audiobook one day and decided to give it a shot. I'm SO glad I did!
Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is one of the last wizards in existence and the only professional wizard-for-hire (he's even got himself an ad in the Yellow Pages). Harry has a tiny office in Chicago where plays Private Investigator while occasionally taking on freelance work with the Chicago PD. It is in the first chapter that the police ask Harry to take a look at a crime scene - the gruesome display could have only been the work of dark magic.
While attempting to solve the crime and track down the culprit, Harry mingles with faeries, has a delightful conversation with a vampire, crosses the wrong mobsters, dukes it out with a demon or two, and gets relationship advice from Bob, an age-old spirit trapped in a human skull. And still manages to find time to feed his gargantuan cat.
One problem I had with the book was how every single female character was described not by her personality or characteristics, but by her make-up and figure. If a female character wasn't trying to sleep with Harry (which happens quite often despite Harry adamantly insisting he has no luck with women), then she was too busy being a weeping mess somewhere or she as the bitchy, tough-as-nails cop Murphy. A number of readers have written off the series as misogynistic, but I'll refrain from passing further judgment until I've gone through a bit more of the series.
Although plenty of things happened in Storm Front, there wasn't much action. Fortunately, that wasn't much of a letdown for me. The book did a fantastic job of setting up the world Harry lives in and was a great start to the series.
As far as the narration goes, I thought James Marsters (of Buffy fame) did an outstanding job. He was perfect as Harry and came off sounding exactly as I imagined the wizard. I was equally as impressed with his female narration. I was a bit wary of how he would do female voices, but he was great and didn't sound annoyingly high-pitched at all. An all-around fantastic job.(less)
Somebody killed my father. I don't know who did it or why, but I'm going to find them.
I'm a girl.
I'm a witch.
I'm a Shadowcull.
Someone is going to pay.
I went into this book fairly blind - I had never read any book by Sean Cummings prior to Poltergeeks nor was I a big paranormal reader. The plot intrigued me and having a strong mother-daughter relationship was a definite plus. Now that I've read it, I'm glad I took that chance.
Julie Richardson is your average 15-year old. Except for the fact that she's a witch. And can see spirits. Her best friend Marcus is her constant companion and one of the few people who knows what Julie truly is.
What initially seems like a typical poltergeist turns out to be far more menacing. An attack on her school has left Julie shaken and her mother in the hospital comatose and under a powerful (and fatal) spell. In an attempt to save her mother's life, Julie makes a deal with an immortal and with the help of her guardian and some friendly advice from the spirit of her father, Julie prepares to face down her demons. Literally.
Poltergeeks is a fairly short book that can easily be read in an afternoon. It was a pretty average read - nothing horrible, but nothing remarkable - and there was a cute romance (and no love triangle!). Unfortunately, I felt the Big Reveal was a bit of a letdown and more than once I was confused and not quite sure what was going on or why the villain did what they did.
It doesn't seem like Poltergeeks will be a series, but the ending is written in such a way that it's certainly possible.
Over the course of the novel, the writing style seemed much more suited to a Middle Grade novel, yet there's quite a bit of profanity thrown about. Originally I would have definitely said Poltergeeks would be right at home with 10-ish year olds (mainly due to the writing style), but once multiple f-bombs were dropped, I reconsidered.
Fans of paranormal YA will most likely enjoy Poltergeeks. There's nothing mind-blowing about this novel, but it's a quick, enjoyable ride nonetheless.(less)
Although I finished the book last week I sat on this review for a few days. Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace is the type of book that needs to be digested slowly and given careful thought. Personally, I adore those kinds of books and am absolutely ecstatic I found this one.
My misery is a woman's misery, and it will speak - here, rather than nowhere; to my second self, in this book, if I have no one else to hear me.
Wilkie Collins; Armadale
The book opens in 1850 in Edinburgh, Scotland and introduces Isabella Robinson, the 36-year old wife of Henry Oliver Robinson. Isabella had remarried after the death of her first husband and was left with no inheritance as he willed everything to a son from an earlier marriage.
Isabella's life with Henry was not a happy one (her only joy came from her three sons) and it was her unhappiness that led to her infamous diary.
'Dreaming all night of absent friends, romantic situations, and Mr. Lane,' ran another entry. 'Oh! Why are dreams more blest than waking life?'
Edward Lane had been a family friend for quite some time before becoming the target of Mrs. Robinson's affections. He and his wife are very close with Isabella and on multiple occasions their children stayed with Isabella and her own sons while the Lanes were away.
Over time, however, Isabella's marriage rapidly weakened and her friendship with Edward developed into something more - at least on her part. The two would spend countless hours discussing philosophy or literature and, from what Isabella mentions in her diary entries, the two seemed very compatible.
One thing I loved about Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace was that the book doesn't waste any time getting to the story. Things start happening from the very start and I think that would certainly help in keeping the attention of a reader who typically doesn't go for non-fiction. Many times I've picked up a non-fiction book (although fiction definitely applies as well!) that sounded absolutely fascinating, only to be bogged down with technical jargon the average reader wouldn't understand or to have the story start so slowly I've had to force myself to continue. I'm extremely pleased that this isn't the case with Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace.
Oh, thought I, each of these roofs conceals human life with all its mysterious joys and sorrows. Doubtless, many a sojourner in these dwellings has a private history, thrilling, exciting, strange.
Not only does the book have a wonderful pace, but the writing is simply remarkable. At times I completely forgot I was reading non-fiction. Despite the lack of dialogue, I never once felt the story lacking. In fact, I feel I got to know the characters extremely well!
George argued that in women, as in men, 'strong sexual appetites are a very great virtue...If chastity must continue to be regarded as the highest female virtue, it is impossible to give any woman real liberty.'
While Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace is Isabella's story, there were a few other story lines woven in and it all came together beautifully. After struggling with his own issues, George Drysdale published a rather radical-minded book on sexuality. Phrenology and hydropathy were two courses of medicine very much in vogue. A new divorce court had made it much easier for couples to end their marriages. Each story line had its center-stage moments without losing focus of the main story and it was great.
All the guests were encouraged to walk in the park. 'I strolled a little beyond the glade for an hour & half & enjoyed myself,' reported Charles Darwin in a letter to his wife, '-the fresh yet dark green of the grand Scotch firs, the brown of the catkins of the old Birches with their white stems & a fringe of distant green from the larches, made an excessively pretty view. At last I fell fast asleep on the grass & awoke with a chorus of birds singing around me, & squirrels running up the trees & some Woodpeckers laughing, & it was as pleasant a rural scene as ever I saw, & I did not care one penny how any of the beasts or birds has been formed.'
One thing I was extremely surprised to discover was that Isabella was an acquaintance of Charles Darwin! I really enjoyed reading the chapters where he played a role. Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace largely took place before and during his theories on evolution and reading his thoughts through letters was interesting.
The above quote was from Darwin's time spent at Moor Park, a hydropathy spa opened by Edward Lane. Isabella also spent time there and it was at Moor Park, after years of spurned advances, that Edward Lane finally returned Isabella's affections and the two shared a kiss.
'All day,' she wrote, 'this dream haunted my brain. "I never loved any one as I did thee, both mind and body," I had said in my dream, and in my waking moments the same idea was breathed still in my ear.'
While Isabella doesn't go into detail (and it is this lack of detail that ultimately leads to the court's decision at trial), she does mention multiple trysts until Edward ended things one day.
At his sudden rejection, Isabella fell ill and it was while she was bedridden that Henry discovered the diary. That scene was easily one of the most exciting in the whole novel. And how it ended! The moment Henry came across Isabella's diary and realized what it was, the first part of the novel ends. Such a fantastic finish to book one. Loved it!
'We can colonise the remotest ends of the Earth...we can spread our name, and our fame, and our fructifying wealth to every part of the world, but we cannot clean the River Thames.'
The second part of Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace focuses on the trial. The divorce court was still in its infancy and in cases of adultery, the odds were definitely stacked against the wives. Multiple witnesses and evidence were required in accusing a husband of adultery, while husbands accusing wives had hardly any opposition at all. Also, accused wives were not permitted to attend the trial, so Isabella's diary had to speak for her.
The summer of Isabella's trial saw record temperatures and with the heat came the stink. I can't even begin to imagine what that must have been like!
Though the journal contained elements of melodrama and sentimental fiction, the judges considered that as a whole it told a nuanced story, rendered credible by its self-recrimination, disappointment and doubt. Its exaggerations and excesses were those familiar to any diarist, to any desperately unhappy person or to anyone in love. It was ultimately not a work of madness, but of realism, an account of the limits of romantic dreams.
In the end Isabella won her case, although she lost custody of her children along with any inheritance. She also found her reputation in tatters and her own mother disowned her. As her children came of age however, they chose to break ties with Henry and live with their mother.
While Isabella's story doesn't end on a particularly high note, her trial certainly made waves. Numerous books were published afterwards depicting unhappy wives taking on secret lovers. Diaries saw a surge in popularity. Laws changed to enable incompatible couples (as well as abused wives) ways to separate.
Ms. Summerscale definitely did her research. I was shocked when I reached the end of the book: there were still nearly 100 pages left! Those pages were notes and references and a bibliography! Almost 100 pages!
I was so excited to read Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace and it didn't disappoint at all. I absolutely loved it. (less)
Even though this book has all the makings of a paranormal romance novel - hello, living woman from the present and dead man from the 1860s fall in love - it doesn't read like one. In fact, if it weren't for the constant reminders Tristan's dead, Spirit of the Rebellion could easily be hailed as a regular ol' romance novel.
I'll keep this one short and sweet: our two main characters, Shae and Tristan, meet when Shae takes a position translating Civil War documents. She moves back to the United States (she had been living in Norway for the few years prior) and is given temporary residence at the Starling Plantation.
It's no secret Starling is home to multiple spirits. People don't enjoy spending time there and anyone who attempts to settle in has been driven out quite forcefully by a particular spirit. Unfortunately for him, Shae is as stubborn as they come and having papers scattered about her desk isn't nearly enough to scare her off.
As Shae comes to know the spirits (I loved how she introduces them to modern technology - they have movie nights, for example, and 12-year old Timothy is particularly intrigued by Lord of the Rings), she uncovers the truth regarding Tristan's past and the cause of his death. History branded him a traitor and as she translates documents, she discovers what really happened.
I have an extremely large interest in the Civil War and was eager to read this novel. Its faults are few and the writing is gripping. The story moves very quickly and the chapters are all fairly short (around 10-ish pages). Unfortunately for me, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. lol multiples times I fell for the trap of "I'll only read one more chapter!" and, because the chapters are so short, wound up sneaking a couple more in. Before I knew it I was halfway into the book!
Tell me a book is comparable to Neil Gaiman and I'm all over it. Tell me a story flows just like a Neil Stephenson novel and I'll drop everything I'm doing. Tell me the writer is similar to Philip Pullman and I'll race to the closest bookstore to grab a copy of their book.
Unfortunately, Alif the Unseen didn't enchant me nearly as much as it did other readers. It certainly wasn't a bad book - not in the least! However, it definitely started out a bit slow for me before things really took off. To me, rather than comparing the novel to Gaiman or Stephenson, I see it as more of a Dan Brown novel set in the Middle East with a little magic thrown in. Now, granted, others might balk at the Dan Brown comparison, but I don't see it as anything negative. His novels are all extremely fast-paced and entertaining and I can't recall a moment in Alif the Unseen where I felt the story dragged.
Alif is a 23-year old hacker working for whoever asks: feminists, communists, Islamists. Because the Hand keeps a close watch on all Internet activity, Alif goes to great lengths to protect both himself and his clients. Unfortunately, he has a momentary lapse in judgment (naturally brought on by a girl) and creates a computer program that leads to disastrous results. Alif quickly finds himself deemed a terrorists and wanted by the government.
Along with his childhood friend Dina, Alif discovers himself on the doorstep of a jinn: Vikram the Vampire. As a good-bye, the girl Alif loves gave him a book, Alf Yeom (or, The Thousand and One Days), a book recounting the jinn's history and tales. After teaming up with an American woman (who Vikram may or may not be in love with), it's revealed the book is the long-lost original. 700 years old. What's more, the book is true. Jinn are real as Vikram's existence proves.
Interspersed throughout the book were snippets of tales from The Thousand and One Days and those were an absolute joy to read. I'm a huge fan of age-old fairy tales and fables and these were great.
The Big Battle toward the end felt a bit rushed to me and it seemed like a lot of the technical ~coding~ explanations were simply glossed over and told as a matter-of-fact (Alif typed so-and-so and this happened).
Despite not falling madly in love with Alif the Unseen, I enjoyed it very much! Once I got into the swing of things, I devoured the book in just a few days.(less)
When Becca Chandler saves a fellow classmate getting beat up in the parking lot after school one day, her only thought was to help him. Unfortunately, her simple act of kindness dragged her into a world she never knew existed: the world of Elementals, people who are able to control the elements. And the world of people trained to kill them.
Storm is a novel that seems to be taking the YA world by, well, storm. To be honest, I was so turned off by the cover (there's something about it I find hideous and unprofessional), that I wasn't even going to bother with it, despite all the praise it's currently receiving.
A few days ago at work, I noticed we had a copy and curiosity got the better of me. It turned out Storm was exactly the book I hadn't realized I wanted to read. These past few weeks I've been on a bad streak with books and had been looking for something, though I couldn't put into words just what I was craving. Storm was just what I needed.
The first thing people discuss about Storm are the boys. The Merrick brothers (yes please!) are still trying to adjust to life after their parents' death. The oldest, Michael, has taken on the role of parent while still trying to be a brother and he comes off as overbearing and overprotective. He cares about his brothers and knows that, unless he keeps them in line, he'll lose custody.
Gabriel and Nick are twins and huge playboys. It's not unusual for them to bring a different girl home every night. They're gorgeous and they know it. Unfortunately, they also have a penchant to getting into fights.
Chris, the youngest, was adorable. Storm alternates between his POV and Becca's and seeing things from his perspective allowed me to get to know him and discover his true feelings. I adored this boy and my heart broke for him so many times throughout the novel.
The last boy (and, because this is YA, other love interest) is Hunter. He's a mysterious new student who doesn't care about the rumors Becca's ex has spread.
The pacing is blindingly fast - there honestly wasn't a moment where I was bored - and the chapters are all extremely short, so reading it was a breeze. However, the book is not without its faults.
Becca's ex-boyfriend Drew has been spreading rumors about Becca and by the end of the novel, I wasn't sure who was really to blame. Becca was the one who got drunk at that party and she even admitted she wanted to make out with all of his friends. It wasn't until she was nearly gang-raped that she wanted out. Now the whole school believes she's slept with the entire soccer team and she has to put up with their daily tormenting.
I was completely taken back when she practically threw herself at Hunter the first night he stayed at her house. & the whole party with Drew? That was only a mere SIX WEEKS before! I had assumed it was the previous school year or at the very least a few months ago. But, no. Just a few weeks. And now here she is, throwing herself at a boy she's only just met while trying to figure out whether or not she likes Chris.
Despite this huge annoyance, I really enjoyed the book. Yay for having a best friend (though by the end of the book I was a little fed up with Quinn) and I liked Becca's mom. It was pretty obvious who the bad guy was, but overall I liked Storm. (less)