Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Boy Book by E. Lockhart

Title: The Boy Book
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: September 26, 2006
Pages: 193 Pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Christmas gift.

Join Ruby Oliver at the start of her junior year at Tate Prep as she confronts:
  • the secret about Noel
  • mysterious notes from Jackson
  • the interpretation of boy-speak
  • the horrors of the school trip
  • new entries in The Boy Book
There are Fruit Roll-Ups,
There is upper-regioning,
There are so many boys to choose from!
And there are penguins.

Cringe, laugh, and cry with Ruby Oliver in the fabulous companion to The Boyfriend List.

Review:

Now a junior at prestigious Tate Prep, Ruby is slightly less of a leper than she was the previous year. She has a good friend in Noel and Nora is her friend again too (but not Cricket or Kim). Her new school year starts off with a bang as Nora's hooters get a close-up, Noel and Ruby form the Hooter Rescue Squad to help her, Ruby gets an internship at the zoo, Jackson starts giving her notes while he steps out with a girl other than Kim (who is in Japan), and November Week approaches, bringing with it expensive trips. In between all this, Ruby is still spilling her guts to Doctor Z and the readers. Back with as frank a voice as ever and a new set of problems to deal with, Ruby continues her tale of misery in The Boy Book.

The problem with sequels is that sometimes, the characters start acting strangely for no reason and being untrue to the personalities they were given in the first book. The Boy Book has no such problem. Ruby is still a frank teenage girl who speaks well, screws up, and struggles with her feelings; other characters are still who they were when we were introduced to them. Some of them, such as Noel, get fantastic development over the course of the novel. Thee footnotes are still there and each chapter but the final one opens with a segment from the in-story Boy Book. Some scenes are still hilarious, others will tug at the heart strings a little, and still others will being a big smile to the reader's face.

This book focuses less on romance (though that focus isn't exactly getting neglected; it gets plenty of page time) and more on friendship than its predecessor The Boyfriend List. Ruby's main struggle is with right and wrong in friendship: whether or not it is right to tell someone that their boyfriend is cheating on them when it isn't your business in the first place and the rightness of going for a guy you have a mutual attraction to when your friend has already expressed that she likes him, among other things. After a massive screw-up like the Spring Fling Debacle in the previous novel, Ruby is trying to do the right thing and make the right choices so that she won't hurt her friends and ex-friends. She does manage it for most of the book, but as she says near the very end of the novel, "I made the right decision. But that doesn't mean I don't have any regrets."

At various points in this book, I wanted to yell at Ruby and Meghan and various other characters to stop lingering on feelings and just cut them out completely until I realized that they just couldn't do that. Ruby might not be Jackson's girlfriend anymore or Kim's best friend, but her connections to them meant so much to her that she can't get rid of them just like that. Same with the rest of the cast. Some people are fortunate enough to have the ability to turn off their feelings for someone when they want to, but Ruby is not one of those people. She has trouble getting over her connections to people she once cared about; she's realistic, experiences some character growth, and is just like any teenage girl I could find in my classes.

Unlike the previous novel, I think this one had a set antagonist: Jackson. He made Ruby feel awful when they were dating, he still does for most of this novel, he cheats on his girlfriend Kim (which causes Ruby pain in a way that would take too long to explain here), and he even lies about her relationship status to people. His confusing gestures to Ruby kept her from getting over him for most of the novel. By this point, I am firmly anti-Jackson because he is not a good person and should not be allowed anywhere near Ruby. That's just my opinion, of course. Everyone's got their own.

Readers who liked The Boyfriend List will enjoy The Boy Book just as much and maybe even a little more, depending on whether or not they appreciate the switch of the main focus to friendship. The next book in the series, The Treasure Map of Boys, will surely be just as good as the two books that came before it.

5 stars!


What am I reading next?: The Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart. Review by Friday evening and that is the last you will see of her for about a week (or a half-week, depending on how fast the book travels to me).

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart

Title: The Boyfriend List
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: March 22nd, 2005
Pages: 229 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Christmas gift.

Fifteen-year-old Ruby Oliver has had a rough ten days. In the past ten days she:
  • lost her boyfriend (#13 on the list)
  • lost her best friend (Kim)
  • lost all her other friends (Nora, Cricket)
  • did something suspicious with a boy (#10)
  • did something advanced with a boy (#15)
  • had an argument with a boy (#14)
  • had a panic attack (scary)
  • lost a lacrosse game (she's the goalie)
  • failed a math test (she'll make it up)
  • hurt Meghan's feelings (even though they aren't actually friends)
  • became a social outcast (no one to sit with at lunch)
  • had graffiti written about her in the girls' bathroom (who knows what was in the boys'!?!)
But don't worry--Ruby lives to tell the tale. And make more lists.

Review:

In ten days, Ruby Oliver has lost her friends, boyfriend, and social standing, then gained panic attacks and a therapist with an ugly poncho named Doctor Z. As an assignment from Doctor Z, Ruby has to make a list of all the boys that were boyfriends of any sort: almosts, wish-they-weres, rumored, and every other kind. That totals up to fifteen guys (only about four of whom she actually did anything with) and she has to tell Doctor Z the story behind each and every one of them. Meanwhile, she also has to talk about the Spring Fling and Xerox incidents that led to her current situation, her current status at school, and how her parents refuse to shut up and let her talk. Will she survive? Of course, but not without some mortification!

I was almost positive I would like this book because it sounded like mindless, hilarious fun and I'm all for that after encountering some not-so-good books. The Boyfriend List was hilarious and fun like I expected it to be, but it was anything but mindless. Maybe I'm thinking more into it than most people because I worship another book of hers that deals with a lot of big issues, but I found the book to be a fascinating, unable-to-put-down book examining the dating game, friendship, the interactions between boys and girls, and that complicated thing called love.

Despite being a fictional girl relating her guy and friend problems to a therapist, Ruby felt remarkably real and so did everyone else in the book that had at least some level of interaction with Ruby. It felt as though I could go to Seattle and see Ruby at the B&O Espresso and see her dad working on his plants on their houseboat, even though I'm completely aware that's impossible. Unless they were a minor character with maybe five lines in the entire book, everyone had another side to them. Depending on who is reading and how they view the story, Jackson could be either a guy who has no idea how to deal with girls properly and screws up just like everyone else or a mean slimebag that Ruby should never ever consider getting back with. Kim could be either a catty girl who manipulated the rules of friendship to steal her best friend's boyfriend or a deep romantic who followed the friendship rules to get the guy she thought was perfect for her from her best friend.

Ruby's voice is utterly entertaining and for once, the teens in the book sound like actual teenagers! I could see myself having conversations with my friends similar to the ones Ruby and her friends had. She could stay on-topic in the story and ramble on both importantly and unimportantly in the footnotes (oh, and this book is written with plenty of footnotes, so this is a little bit of an alternative style compared to most novels). As much as I hate to admit this, being a teenager means worrying about what other people think of you in most cases. I don't worry about that, but I know others do. Ruby's mind is always on other people; in one chapter, the guy of the chapter is literally just a footnote while she talks about how Jackson's actions made her feel insecure about herself.

Normally, I'm not one who cares that much about the romantic entanglements of the main character. So she likes this guy, but this guy likes her and she just might like him back? Okay, fine. It's her choice, not mine. If it turns out that ones of the guys is a creep and treats her badly, I start caring, but that's only every now and then. Since this book is all about Ruby's romantic entanglements, it's no wonder that I started taking sides. By the time I finished the book, I knew which guys I liked with her, which ones I wanted to toss into a fire pit before they got anywhere near her, and which ones I didn't care about one way or the other.

Perhaps the best thing this book did was that it made me question slut-shaming, where people label certain girls as sluts for stuff ling being promiscuous or dressing sexily. They get condemned for expressing their sexuality in an effort to bring them down because women just aren't supposed to be that openly sexual. This happens to both Ruby and Meghan--Ruby for the Xerox incident, Meghan for multiple reassons--and just as easily as it happens in real life, it happens in this book. We get chewed out on the Internet for it, but that doesn't happen so much in real life. Heck, even I have done some slut-shaming and I realized just how wrong it was of me to do that after reading this book. People can try to justify it, but nothing will ever make it the right thing to do. Ruby slut-shames Meghan for a while and falls victim to it herself. Once she realizes how wrong the practice is, she stops thinking of her friend that way and takes a stand for her right to be sexual. Seeing her put those fishnets back on made me beam at the book.

My only problem with The Boyfriend List was how much the timeline bounced around. First we're at an appointment with Ruby and Doctor Z, then we bounce back to when the incident with the boy on the list happened, then we're in the not-so-distant past when Jackson and Ruby were together, then we're in the present again at school, then back at an appointment with Doctor Z, where the cycle starts over again. Maybe it's because I was reading this book at one in the morning, but I had a hard time putting each piece of the timeline where it belonged in my head.

Some might read this and find a story about a cynical girl whining about her vapid guy and friend problems. Others might find a fluffy read about a girl and the many boys she has interacted with. Me? I found a social commentary on love and the dating game, how complicated the two are, and how happy endings are hard to find. I look forward to reading more about Ruby's troubles and don't have to worry about waiting--the next two books are already in my possession and I will have the fourth book in my hands in about a week. Whether or not you're looking for a trip through the mind of a teenage girl and how there is so much more to everything that happens to her, pick up this book and give it a try.

5 stars!


What am I reading next?: The Boy Book by E. Lockhart, the sequel to The Boyfriend List. I started it this morning and already got halfway through! Review by Wednesday evening.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

On My Radar, or Future Reviews

So at my house, Christmas is over for the year and I am the incredibly happy owner of about twenty new books, all of which will eventually get reviewed. It would take me far too much time to dig up covers for all of the books and post quick summaries, so what I will do is leave you with the names of all the books so you will know what you might be seeing in the future:

Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor
Everlasting by Angie Frazier
The Deadly Sister by Eliot Schrefer
Eon by Alison Goodman
Jane Slayre by Charlotte Bronte/Emily Browning Erwin
Moonshine by Alaya Johnson
This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas
Flecks of Gold by Alicia Buck
Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Intrinsical by Lani Woodland
Steampunk by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
The Grimm Legacy by Polly Schulman
21 Proms by about 21 different authors.
The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart
The Boy Book by E. Lockhart
The Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart

So what will I be reading first? Hm... I'm not sure. Well, considering that its third sequel will be coming out on December 28th and I am almost positive I will love the series and desire that fourth book for my seventeenth birthday, my first read out of this gigantic new TBR pile will be...

The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart!

This book is incredibly short and I'm already loving it after just the first chapter, so expect a review within a few days. I'm absolutely sure it will take me no longer than a week to get a review up. Happy holidays everyone, and I hope you all have a wonderful new year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Crank by Ellen Hopkins

(Yeah, I'm going to normal titles now. The corny ones cause my brain much pain when I try to think them up and they're just plain silly. I'm nearly seventeen now! I suppose it's time to grow up. I apologize if you liked them.)

Title: Crank
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: October 5th, 2004
Pages: 537 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Borrowed it from my Newspaper teacher

Kristina Georgia Snow is the perfect daughter: gifted high school junior, quiet, never any trouble. But on a trip to visit her absentee father, Kristina disappears and Bree takes her place. Bree is the exact opposite of Kristina--she's fearless.

Through a boy, Bree meets the monster: crank. And what begins as a wild, ecstatic ride turns into a struggle through hell for her mind, her soul--her life.

Review:

Kristina Snow has only ever been a good girl. Good grades, good behavior, never associated with the wrong crowd--she doesn't take after her drug addict father at all. Or does she? When she goes to visit him due to a court order, her alter ego Bree, a girl who is fearless and her own person, comes out to play and together, they take on the monster: crank, or meth, or any of the million names you can call it. When she returns home to Reno, the addiction she picked up in Albuquerque comes back with her. School, her old friends, and her family suddenly become unimportant to her--all that matters is crank: the connections she must make to get it, the rush she gets from it, and the people she meets because of it.

Before August, I had no idea who Ellen Hopkins was and had not heard of her books. At that time, I heard about the incident where she was uninvited from the Teen Lit Fest in Humble, Texas because a librarian and some parents protested it. I wanted to see what they were fussing about, but it took me until now to get ahold of one of her books because it lingered in the back of my mind. I can now say I have read an Ellen Hopkins book and plan to read many more.

The verse prose of the book could put a reader off at first, but the story takes hold fast and the form it comes to the reader in no longer matters. Personally, I believe that this story has more impact written in the poetic form it appears in than in the conventional form of most novels. The reader is forced to pay attention to exactly what they're reading because the form changes all over the place. This unusual form (which takes up much less page space than the usual novel) and the fast pace make Crank a novel someone can dive right into and not surface from until they read the last page.

Not only is Ellen Hopkins a wonderful writer, but she is also a wonderful storyteller: using experience gained in her own life from when her daughter was addicted to crank, she tells the tragic story of a girl who lost herself to drugs in about six months and makes the reader care. Her descent from good child to drug user to drug dealer is a terrifying one and despite not ever being an addict herself, Hopkins captures Kristina's thoughts perfectly and if I am to believe other reviewers, accurately; I have seen many readers who formerly used crank/meth comment on just how realistic the text is. It appears that Hopkins had many talks with her daughter about what her experience was like.

People who demand that every little thing is detailed, down to the stains on the carpet and the poster on the wall in a room, might be annoyed by this book. All of the detail is concentrated inwards on Kristina's experience with crank and what it is turning her into. Despite the lack of details in most situations (one of the few settings detailed well is Kristina's room), the scenes are easily pictured within the mind. Kristina spouts just enough about what is around her for the reader to put the picture together and that is it. Little else is said because why would she care about that? She's more concerned with the drugs.

Reading Crank, I wondered what this kind of novel might have done for a former friend of mine named Shelby. We were best friends when we were younger and then she went away to a private school for eight years. The next time I saw her, she was hooked on all sorts of drugs due to her family, all of whom are a special kind of messed up. I heard her talk about doing ecstasy, just as Kristina does in this book, acid, she smoked marijuana at our bus stop (which is pretty much my mailbox) one morning before school... She even overdosed at school once and was in the hospital for a few days. Sixteen years old and a drug addict, just like Kristina. She recently moved away and we haven't kept contact. How many children has this author and this book helped? Who knows. Maybe if she'd had a book like this, it could have helped her too.

Now I'm wondering what took me so long to read an Ellen Hopkins book. I wish I could go pick up the sequels Glass and Fallout right now, but it's Christmas and I don't exactly have the money at the moment. Good thing my birthday is so close! After that, I'll advance onto Ellen's other novels, written in the same prose form and tackling the same issues. Even if books about drugs make you uncomfortable the way they way they do me, get your hands on this book and read it if you haven't already done so. The time you spend reading this book with be nothing but worth it.

5 stars!


What am I reading next?: I have no clue. I have no new books left and I don't plan to start any old ones since I'll be getting more books in two days. My next post will be about what books you can expect me to review in the future.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Delcroix Academy: The Candidates by Inara Scott

Title: Delcroix Academy: The Candidates
Author: Inara Scott
Publisher: Hyperion
Release Date: August 24, 2010
Pages: 293 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: On loan from a friend

Dancia Lewis is far from popular. And that's not just because of her average grades or less-than-glamorous wardrobe. in fact, Dancia's mediocrity is a calculated cover for her secret: whenever she sees a person threatening someone she cares about, things just... happen. Cars skid. Structures collapse. Usually someone gets hurt. So Dancia does everything she can to avoid getting close to anyone, believing this way she can suppress her powers and keep them hidden.

But when recruiters from the prestigious Delcroix Academy show up in her living room offering her a full scholarship, Dancia's days of living under the radar may be over. Only, Delcroix is a school for the child geniuses and diplomats' kids--not B students with uncontrollable telekinetic tendencies. So why are they treating Dancia like she's special? Even the hottest guy on campus seems to be going out of his way to make Dancia feel welcome.

And then there's her mysterious new friend, Jack, who can't stay out of trouble. He suspects something dangerous is going on at the Academy and wants Dancia to help him figure out what. But Dancia isn't convinced. She hopes that maybe the recruiters know more about her "gift" than they're letting on. Maybe they can help her understand how to use it... But not even Dancia could have imagined what awaits her behind the gates of Delcroix Academy.

Review:

Since childhood, Dancia has had a strange power. When she gets upset, things happen. Like when a guy threatens her grandmother at the hospital, he gets thrown into a wall and ends up in a coma. She tries to fly under the radar and not make friends so that she wouldn't have anyone to defend. Then comes an invitation to the famous Delcroix Academy, a school that has turned out some pretty well-known people. With insistance from her darling grandmother and a convincing argument from a boy she's developing a serious crush on, Dancia accepts the invitation and starts to make friends, including Jack Landry. Once Jack starts pointing out the strangeness of the academy to her, Dancia wonders if there is more going on at the school than meets the eye.

The cover of this book is striking and the summary is too, in its own special way. I never had the opportunity to read this book until a friend bought it and gave it to me on loan so I could read it. The first four chapters did not capture me, so I put it away for a few months and got back to it only when it was finals week, I needed a book to read, and had nothing left that I hadn't read other than this book. No more books are going to get loaned from that friend for a while because that is now four awful books she has given me in a row.

I disliked Dancia. The people around her care more about her than she cares about them. She decides to hate one girl (Perfect Girl, later given the name Allie) for absolutely no reason and even her friends get no nice treatment. At one point, her friend Esther is described as "clucking" when she is trying to comfort Dancia about something. The connotations of words matter and you do not use the word "clucking" when describing a friend unless you're trying to make the narrator mean. I kept having to tell myself, "She's just fourteen, you were just as bad when you were her age" but I stopped doing that after a while because a reader should not be forced to use an excuse like that for as many times as I had to. Even when I was fourteen and an absolute monster, I wasn't as bad as she gets at points in this novel. Dancia does not think for herself at all and I just could not stand her.

People in the novel kept calling Dancia tough and honest and great, but I never saw what they were talking about. All I found was a girl who was obsessed with a fake boy, decided to hate a girl she didn't know for no good reason, and needed a serious attitude adjustment. I disliked almost every character for one reason for another; even Jack, the character I could stand the most, did a lot of stuff that made me angry.Worse yet was the portrayal of almost any girl who was not Dancia. Catherine? Control freak bully who puts down Dancia for not being from a good family like she is. Anna? Jealous ex-girlfriend who makes it obvious that she doesn't want Dancia and Cam near each other. In this book, if you're female and your name isn't Dancia Lewis, you're either a mean girl or a clucking friend. (Yes, I am sticking with the clucking! That was awful.)

One technique I use when reading to make sure I get as much from it as possible is to stop reading and go over the major events of the novel. This helps me remember what happened for when I review the book later and it makes me remember the book. When I pulled that technique for this book, I could remember very little of what I'd read only an hour before. Writing this review is difficult because it is taking serious effort to remember what I had issues with while reading. Bad sign? Most definitely.

I'm more interested in everything the book didn't say. It's obvious already that the program isn't going to be as clean as it is explained in this book. It will turn out that it is corrupt and instead of sending people around the world to help during disasters, they will be going to the highest bidder and the governments might even be using some of the talented people for not-so-good means. I would rather read about that. If it turns out that the program is that black and white (which I don't imagine it will be due to some hints at the end of the book), then I will be even more disappointed than I already am.

Maybe this story wouldn't have been so bad if I didn't have to read through Dancia's unnecessary explanations (Why do we need to know your grandfather was a logger? Get back to the story because I don't care!) and lovestruck point of view. Since this book is written in first person, the reader is stuck dealing with her obsession with Cam for 293 pages of misery. Words cannot express how many times and how badly I wanted Dancia to shut up about Cam and get back to telling the story. Cam this, Cam that, Cam wouldn't want me to do this, but Cam and I are meant to be (that last part is a direct quote from our fourteen-year-old main character, by the way)--I don't see what the big deal about the guy is about! He felt as fake as counterfeit money.

The only thing about this book that made it worth reading was Jack, and even he hit my pet peeves. Do I need to say this in Caps Lock? I think I do. STALKING IS BAD, PEOPLE! I think I need to make a tag for that and a few other things. Jack lost serious points with me when it was discovered that he'd started following Dancia after she helped him. I don't tolerate that when I read. I'm having one of those moments where I wonder if I missed the point completely or if I'm just being picky. After all, if so many other people have nice things to say, how am I able to find all these negatives? Then I remember that reading is quite subjective and the world needs negative people to make it go around. I don't recommend this book, but I won't tell people not to read it.

1 star!


What am I reading next?: Crank by Ellen Hopkins. It's already turning out much better than the awful book I just reviewed.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford

Title: Jane Bites Back
Author: Michael Thomas Ford
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: December 29, 2009
Pages: 299 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it online because it sounded like fun

Two hundred years after her death, Jane Austen is still surrounded by the literature she loves--but now it's because she's the owner of Flyleaf Boos in a sleepy college town in Upstate New York. Every day she watches her novels fly off the shelves--along with dozens of unauthorized sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations. Jane may be undead, but her books have taken on a life of their own.

To make matters worse, the manuscript she finished just before being turned into a vampires has been rejected by publishers--116 times. Jane longs to let the world know who she is, but when a sudden twist of fate thrusts her back into the spotlight, she must hide her read identity--and fend off a dark man from her past while juggling two modern suitors. Will the world's most beloved author be able to keep her cool in this comedy of manners, or will she show everyone what a woman with a sharp wit and an even sharper set of fans can do?

Review:

Two hundred years ago, Jane Austen was turned into a vampire and ever since, she has been hiding among humans under many names, her current one being Jane Fairfax as she lives in New York and owns an independent bookstore called Flyleaf Books. She has spent the time since her "death" to try and get her final novel Constance published, only for it to be rejected every time until one house in the present time finally accepts it. Just when that happens, the vampire that turned Jane arrives in town to see her and she starts to develop some boy problems. Walter, the guy who fixes up homes for a living, wouldn't mind fixing her heart and she's got maybe just a teeny tiny crush on her new editor, the unfortunately-named Kelly. Accusations come forth that she plagiarised someone in her novel and sooner or later, all this pressure just might make poor Jane's head explode.

The premise was one of the most grabbing I've seen in recent months. A satire on the industry of Austen with a vampire Jane Austen that is trying to get a book published and defend it when a blogger calls it plagiarized? Sign me up! Unfortunately, there was a large gap between what I was expecting to read and the actual content of the novel. My imagination gave this book too much hype and it was an underwhelming read, though it would not have been a great novel for me even without the hype.

I should have suspected this would be the case from the mention of the dark guy from her past and two modern suitors, but I didn't realize how much of the book would be concentrated on Jane's romantic dilemmas. What did I expect? A satire of the Austen industry where a vampire Jane Austen is trying to get her book published, has to fight back when someone accuses her of plagiarism, and oh yeah, has some guy problems. It was more along the lines of Jane has guy problems and oh yeah, is trying to get a novel published and gets accused of plagiarism on it.The satire part is mostly confined to the first few pages and less than five one or two line reappearances in the rest of the novel. I kind of wanted a break from so much romance after reading a little too much bad or bland romance, but it turned out that I read more of it with this novel.

Almost every time something comes along that might distract from Jane's guy problems, something else comes along to get rid of it or the problems come to her. The blogger that accuses Jane of plagiarism? Yeah, that problem is eliminated shortly after it arrives. No more plagiarism claims. Traveling away from the boys? One of them comes to her! The romance overtakes the plot and makes what could have been a fantastic book if there had been less lovey-dovey nonsense a so-so read.

There isn't much else to say about this novel. It was not particularly good, but there was nothing that annoyed me other than the lack of a few things I would have liked to have seen in the story that the back cover made me think might be there. There were a few things I enjoyed, like how the novel took the war between Austen and the Brontes to a whole new level and Jane's wit, but otherwise, there was little that stood out to me. I wanted to put the novel down at one point because of Byron's monstrously creepy behavior (any pun that might be there may or may not be intended) but then I realized that for once, it was not being romanticized and it became a little more bearable.

Maybe I'm the problem for once. After reading this, I suppose that a read of at least one of Austen's novels and some knowledge of her would be required to fully enjoy the novel. I know very little about Jane Austen and I have never read any of her books (even though I plan to within the next year; it's on my list). Reading without that knowledge behind me could have made me miss the fun of the novel and may do the same to other readers.
Ultimately, this novel was underwhelming for me in some unexplainable way. Considering how interested I was in the premise, this is sad. Perhaps I should have known due to the genre of this book that Jane would be too busy trying to fix her Leaky Faucet of Boy Problems to unfreeze the pipeline above her that the plot was coming from. This is more about Jane Austen's boy troubles as a vampire than anything else. Anyone looking for more may get little doses of it, but it doesn't get enough focus to matter. Will I pick up the sequel Jane Goes Batty when it comes out in February 2011? No.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Delcroix Academy: The Candidates by Inara Scott

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland

Title: Wildthorn
Author: Jane Eagland
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Release Date: February 9th, 2009
Pages: 350 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it in a bookstore

Louisa Cosgrove is Louisa Cosgrove--not Lucy Childs. Or is she?

A horse-drawn carriage takes her to the wrong place: Wildthorn Hall, an asylum for the insane.

This must be a great misunderstanding. They strip her naked, of everything--undo her whalebone corset hook by hook. They take her identity. But she is still seventeen--still Louisa Cosgrove--isn't she?

To untangle the mysterious, wretched present, she remembers the past.

I wished I were a boy.

Locked away in the dingy bowels of the hall, she feels a fire burn inside her. She remembers her cousin. She remembers Papa.

I want to be a doctor.

She is determined to escape--and only love will set her free.

Review:

Louisa Cosgrove wants nothing more than to become a doctor like her father. Being that she lives in 1800s England, this is difficult because women still have their entire lives decided by the men in their lives and no medical school will take in women because they should be learning the womanly arts instead. She is on her way to the house of someone she will be acting as a companion and she is instead taken to Wildthorn Hall, an insane asylum. Treated as just another lunatic, Louisa struggles to keep sane and make someone believe that this is all a mistake and that she does not belong here while with the way she is acting, it only seems more and more like she does need a place among the residents and hellish halls of Wildthorn Hall.

I bought this book because someone I practically worship because of her literary critic skills and our similar reading tastes was gushing over this book. When I got it, I had no idea of the adult content in this novel except for one detail about Louisa that later emerges as a plot twist (and that was only because someone spoiled it for me a day after I bought the book). This novel is outside of my reading tastes in multiple ways and if I had not bought it blind, I would have passed this over for another novel. Thank God for going in blind because this novel was worth it!

I loved Louisa as a character. She was layered, had her flaws (impulsive to the extreme), and had her screwups. I felt for her when she tried to convince her doctor and the attendants that she wasn't crazy, she didn't belong there, and that her name was Louisa, not Lucy, but each time she did so, it made her seem more and more like a lunatic. That was quite the trap she was caught in and quite realistic. I can't begin to imagine how many other women were caught in the same hellish trap back then. Her plights were entirely sympathetic because none of them were truly her fault. She wanted to be who she wanted to be, not who everyone else wanted her to be.

What makes this story so terrifying is the reality of it. Men could easily have the women in their life locked up in the insane asylum for reasons such as not wanting them around the house or because the woman wants to become studious when women are not supposed to do that. Women had very little control over their lives and if a man decided to send a sane woman to an asylum for whatever reason, the woman was trapped. They had little to no hope of being freed. This was not just a fictional, dramatized account of a rare case; this was a fictional account of something completely nonfictional and even halfway normal.

A lot of adult subject matter gets brought into this novel that is a dark shadow in society that everyone knows about now, but was practically taboo to even think about back then. For example? Homosexuality, child pornography, rape, and teenage pregnancy. And that is only the beginning of it. I'm not sure why this is categorized as a young adult book because such subject matter exactly the things popular young adult lit is made of (at least within one novel). I'm fine with that because we need something different in the young adult world every now and then, but yeah. Not your average young adult novel. I wouldn't hand this to a fourteen-year-old kid or anyone younger than that. I might not even give it to a fifteen-year-old unless I felt they were mature enough!

I thought of this novel as predictable when I got to the three-hundredth page and in the course of those next fifty pages, what I thought I knew got revealed as being something completely unexpected. Isn't it wonderful when books do that and make sense while doing so? I do, and that is just what Wildthorn did.
I found it a bit sad that the thought was never explored that maybe Louisa actually was Lucy Childs and was ill enough to think she was someone else. The reader and Louisa are always certain that she is Louisa and not someone else. Even if it was just a quick bout of such an identity crisis, that little touch would have made a great book even greater.

Normally I wouldn't notice this, but it happened so many times throughout the novel that it stuck out like a sore thumb: if someone wronged Louisa at some point, they are screwed at a later point, like her older brother Tom and the attendant Weeks. This made me giggle because I remember seeing an item on a Mary Sue litmus test one that went just like that. Louisa certainly isn't a Sue, but the thought of that item came to mind and refused to leave. it didn't count against the book either; it was just fun to keep count of how many times it happened.

5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead (but if I cannot finish the novel by the afternoon of December 7th, the next book I review will be Last Sacrifice by the same author because that is the day I get it and when it comes out. I fangirl Richelle's books like you have no idea.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Title: Once a Witch
Author: Carolyn MacCullough
Publisher: Clarion Books
Release Date: September 14th, 2009
Pages: 292 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: PDF Copy

Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and on the day she was born, her grandmother proclaimed that she would be one of the most Talented among them.

But Tamsin's magic never showed up.

Now, seventeen years later, she spends most of her time at boarding school in Manhattan, where she can at least pretend to be normal. But during the summers, she's forced to return home and work at her family's bookstore/magic shop.
One night a handsome young professor from New York University arrives in the shop and mistakes Tamsin for her extremely Talented older sister. For once, it's Tamsin who's being looked at with awe and admiration, and before she can stop herself, she agrees to find a family heirloom for him that was lost more than a century ago. But the search--and the stranger--prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the past sins of her family, and unleash a power so strong and so vengeful that it could destroy them all.

In a spellbinding display of storytelling, Carolyn MacCullough interweaves witchcraft, romance, and time travel in a fantasy that will exhilarate, enthrall, and thoroughly enchant.

Review:

The Greene family is chock-full of witches and people with magical powers, or Talents. Tamsin Greene, though she is from this family, seems to have no Talents at all when others like her sister Rowena have Talents in spades. If she hadn't been announced as a child who would be one of the most Talented the Greene family had ever seen, maybe that wouldn't be so bad. In a family where abnormal is good, she is the normal one. When she is home from boarding school and working in her family's store, a man named Alistair comes in and asks her to find a clock that belonged to his family, but was lost long ago. She should hand the job over the her sister, but Tamsin wants to do it because she was the one he asked (though he thought she was Rowena). Her hunt for the clock will take her through time itself and uncover more secrets than she might want to know.

To be honest, I didn't realize I was going to read this book today. I'm in the middle of another novel that I'm loving, but I saw this book on Amazon and got curious. I like witch books but very rarely find any that I want to read. I almost skipped over this one because of Cassandra Clare's (hiss...) being on the cover, but it sounded so good. From the time I found a  PDF copy to the minute I finished it, I took no breaks, even when my eyes were burning. Thank goodness I decided to read Once a Witch because it was worth it!

Very early on in the book, I realized that despite all the magic and Talents, this book wasn't about about magic. It was more about Tamsin and her family, Tamsin's efforts to be something other than the disappointment she perceives them to think of her as. She would have been unusual in the first place because she lacked any Talents, but it's especially because she was supposed to be so great and ended up being so... well, so not great, that Tamsin is so hurt. She does what she does at first because she wants to impress them and make them think she is something other than a disappointment. She has serious issues with her family and seeing her work them out provided as much of a good read as the well-paced and very interesting plot.

The book's narrative was utterly readable and Tamsin's voice felt authentic as a teenager, both in actions and voice. I am normally not a fan of stories told in the present tense after one series ruined that for me forever, but I think that chosen narrative method added to the story. It made me feel like I was right there with Tamsin as she met Alistair and went searching for his clock and the details felt just a little more vivid than normal. I do not believe the story could have been told another way and still get me as involved as I eventually got.

While Tamsin got a lot of development and felt so real, no one else really came to life for me. There were a few characters I had a certain fondness for, like the grandmother/matriarch Althea and Aunt Beatrice, but even they had little development. The story itself more than made up for that by keeping me swept up in all that was going on so that I did not question or even notice how flat the secondary characters were while reading. It didn't hit me until I was finished reading and trying to compose this review.

I have no clue why some people were concentrating on the romance. Tamsin's romance was cute and all, but it was nothing extraordinary. It was obvious what was going to happen after she met her love interest and though the did have some chemistry together, most of the romance before the big kiss came from someone outside (like Tamsin's roommate Agatha) hinting that he liked her. Could that have been shown instead of told? Probably. It wasn't the worst romance I've ever read nor the best, but it wasn't anything remarkable or special.

Another time early in the book, I wanted to slap Tamsin across the face because she hit one of her younger relatives over the head with a teddy bear when he was being bad (he had taken a girl's teddy bear and was running away with it) and when Rowena came to see her at one point, Tamsin tried to splash water all over her. She took her sour mood out on a child! That is not okay whether or not he is already being bad. Tamsin lost some serious points with me and it took her the majority of the book to win them back. The water-splashing was also not okay because while Rowena had her not-so-nice moments with her sister, that was not one of those times.

I'm also suffering some confusion about how the family itself works, triggered both by the book and the website for the book. It seems that it is unusual for Greenes to marry someone who is Talentless or outside of the family. From what I found on the website, Aunt Lydia was somewhat of an outcast for marrying the Talentless Uncle Phil, which implies that it is not exactly normal. Rowena herself was marrying a third cousin of hers named James. Does the Greene family often run across other Talented people to marry? If so, why did we not meet some of these unrelated Talented people? Do they often marry Talentless people outside of the family, like Aunt Lydia? Do they often marry distant relatives in the family, like Rowena? I imagine you can only marry within the family for so long before it turns into a severe case of inbreeding because everyone is so closely related. The entire situation with that is unclear and the mechanics about that have been bothering me nonstop since I finished reading.

Once a Witch was worth the five hours I spent reading it. I already knew there would be a sequel because I saw that too while browsing on Amazon, but the ending made it that much more obvious. I'm hooked on this series and am eagerly awaiting the release of Always a Witch in August 2011. That's a long wait, but I think I can stare at the cover to satisfy myself until then.

Isn't that a pretty cover? I'm jealous that some other book reviewers got review copies and already got to read it! Back on subject, I recommend Once a Witch to anyone willing to read it.

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: Wildthorn by Jane Eagland (I mean it this time. This will be the next book I review.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

'Salem's Lot by Stephen King

Title: 'Salem's Lot
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: October 17, 1975
Pages: 631 pages (mass market paperback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it in a used bookstore

Stephen King's second novel, 'SALEM'S LOT, is the story of a mundane town under siege from the forces of darkness. Considered one of the most terrifying vampire novels ever written, it cunningly probes the shadows of the human heart--and the insular evils of small-town America.

Review:

Many years after living there with his aunt, author Ben Mears returns to Jerusalem's Lot (or 'salem's Lot, as many of the townspeople call it) to face his childhood fears of the imposing Marsten House and write another book. While he is there, strange things begin to happen: one boy goes missing and another boy, the former's brother, dies of what seems to be anemia. Other townspeople begin to die too in the same strange way and at a rate much to fast for a small town like 'salem's Lot. Ben and other townspeople who realize what is going on arm themselves for a fight against vampires as the residents of the town are turned one-by-one into soulless creatures of the night.

I like vampire novels and with something on the back title that says it is considered one of the most terrifying vampire novels ever written, how could I resist? Evil vampires who actually seem evil are a real treat due to today's trends in vampire literature. I saw this in a used bookstore and snatched it up just like that. I enjoyed my time in 'salem's Lot, for the most part.

As I expected, there were some scenes that gave me genuine chills because this is a Stephen King novel, after all. If he doesn't give the reader chills at least once, he has failed. There is one scene involving a teen mother named Sandy McDougall that I remember vividly, even though I read that scene about two weeks ago and have poor memory. To preserve the shock factor of that scene and other chilling scenes for those who have not read the novel, they will not be thoroughly discussed, but there are quite a few of them. The corruption among the townspeople is evident and quite saddening because it is just as bad in real life right now, if not even worse. The back cover of my copy made it sound overrated and in some ways, it was. When it came to the probing-the-shadows-of-the-human-heart thing, this novel was most certainly not overrated.

I almost didn't make it to some of these more chilling scenes. The novel starts out extremely slow--it takes about 200 pages before the story gets going. Before that mark, I had seriously contemplated putting the book down and leaving it as a DNF, but I only do that now if the book is truly torturing me. I'm glad I stuck it out because the story really got going... then slowed down, then got going again, then slowed down again, and then got back going and stayed going until the last page. Sometimes, it pained me not to read the book; other times, I wondered to myself, "When is this going to end?" I have gotten through books with 800 to 900 pages with no problem staying interested, so this cannot be blamed on the impressive length of the edition I have.

The characterization was a little bit weak to me. Just about every character (except for Mark, who I kind of liked) was rather... blah, I guess you could say. None of the characters stood out to me. Ben and Susan's love had me rolling my eyes. Why were they in love? what had they done together that would constitute them being in love? I excused that latter point somewhat because King is not a romance writer and does not try to be one, but that does not excuse the bland characterization of everyone else. Even then, he may not get the excuse because even if one is not a romance writer, they should make some effort at being realistic at romance.

Personally, I don't care much for King's writing style. I was fine with it when I read Carrie a few weeks ago, but that book was significantly shorter than 'Salem's Lot. I could only take his distant (in my opinion, so please don't bite my head off for this) style for so long before I wanted to put the book down. Where was this mark? Around 350 or 400 pages. If it bothered me me with this 600 page novel, reading the 1,000 word Under the Dome would be truly murderous on me!

To reiterate, this novel was a good one that sent chills up my spine, but the slow pacing that pulled a few stop-and-go kind of deals brought down the quality of the book, along with the weak characterization for most of the characters. Despite this, I recommend 'Salem's Lot to any vampire fan with the warning that they will need to stick it out to get to the good parts and not put it down, no matter how mind-numbingly boring the first 200 pages or so might get.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Wildthorn by Jane Eagland

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Misguided Angel by Melissa de la Cruz

Spoilers for the entire Blue Bloods series! In case you're one of those people who checks reviews of an entire series before trying it (like me), you have been warned.

Title: Misguided Angel
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Publisher: Hyperion
Release Date: October 26, 2010
Pages: 265 pages (hardback)


After inheriting the dark Van Alen Legacy, Schuyler fled to Florence with her forbidden love, Jack. Now the two of them must embark on the mission Schuyler was destined to complete: to find and protect the five remaining gates that guard the earth from Lucifer, lord of the Silver Bloods.

Back in New York, Mimi has been elected Regent of a crumbling coven. Struggling with her heartache over the loss of Kingsley and with her overwhelming desire to destroy Jack, she must focus all her energy on a perilous new threat. Vampires are being abducted and their captors are planning to burn them alive online... for all the world to see. Help arrives in the form of Deming Chen, a Venator from Shanghai, who must untangle the web of deceptions before the killers strike again.

As the young vampires struggle for the survival of the coven, they uncover a deadly secret, a truth first discovered by Schuyler's mother during the Renaissance but kept buried for centuries. As the Blue Blood enclave weakens yet further, fate leads Schuyler to a terrible choice that will ultimately map the destiny of her heart.

Review:

Picking up a month or so after The Van Alen Legacy, Schuyler Van Alen and Jack Force are on their journey to find the five gates that keep Lucifer in Hell and secure them so that he may not escape through them. Their first stop: the Gate of Promise. Back in New York, Mimi is leading the coven and dealing with the loss of Kingsley and Jack. The coven is crumbling; few want her as their leader and some are even planning to break from the coven to go underground. Once a young vampire is abducted and someone threatens to leave the Blue Blood dead forever by way of black fire, Mimi knows that saving this vampire and finding the culprit will make all the difference. Deming Chen, a Chinese Venator with an impressive resume, is brought in to help find the kidnapper and also to stop the coup d'etat so that the New York coven will stay together and remain some sort of safe. New information about the Silver Bloods comes to light.

After the fantastic Van Alen Legacy, I had a lot of expectations for Misguided Angel and its new narrator Deming Chen. Because the story is separated into three (technically four, but I count it as three) segments with three different narrators, I will be grading this pretty much by each section.

***Obligatory spoiler warning now. If you want do not want a good part of Misguided Angel spoiled for you, steer clear of my review***

Schuyler's section of the book was... well, I'm not sure enough happened for it to be anything. Jack and Schuyler escaped from the Countess and her Venators, met up with this pirate guy who helps them out, and they go to look for the gate. There's a little more to it that I will keep quiet from being all spoily, but that's pretty much all there was to it. It's not just Schuyler's section that is short; the entire book is short. I read an almost-400-pages-long book and then it scales back to 250 pages, which is a short read for me. The lack of action really brought this section down for me.

The true highlight of Misguided Angel was Mimi Force's segment. In five books, Mimi has evolved from a mean, blond, and spoiled stereotype there just to be mean and stand in Jack and Schuyler's way to a sympathetic character in her own right. It has been firmly established that Mimi is not a nice girl. She is spoiled, mean, and bossy, but she will do what is right and answer the call to duty, even if that isn't what her heart wants. She can have sympathy for others and isn't as heartless as she was once portrayed. Right now, Mimi is my favorite Blue Bloods character and anti-heroine. In this book, she had to deal with the all the feelings from Kingsley's death and Jack's breaking of their bond and has to try and do what's best for her coven when they don't really want her leading them. Her developing friendship with Oliver was a good read and her desperation to solve the murders of her Blue Bloods is palpable, along with her hatred of Jack and the heartbreak of both Jack's betrayal and what happened to Kingsley.

I knew long before the summary of Misguided Angel was released that there would be a new narrator in this book. I recognized Deming Chen's name from Masquerade and was hoping for a narrator who was the average Blue Blood (as average as they get): they weren't Lucifer's daughter like Bliss, a half-blooded Blue Blood like Schuyler, or the newest incarnation of a legendary figure among Blue Bloods like Mimi. I wanted the average Blue Blood's perspective on the events going on.

Did I get that? Nope. As it turns out, Deming is just as special as Mimi, Schuyler, and Bliss. She's a respected figure herself among Blue Bloods and could do things the average vampire couldn't, like see auras without help from the glom. Her narrative was rather dull and distant to me, but I could tell that one of her personality flaws was her distance, so that latter half didn't bother me so much. I rather enjoyed her section in terms of story... until it got to her romance. Deming's romance with Paul Rayburn was the most inauthentic romance I've seen in a while. They had no connection at all! No romance would have been preferable to what readers got.

I loyally follow Mrs. de la Cruz's blog and I saw in her June 11, 2010 entry titled "Having a Life" that she said, "Misguided Angel for some reason was really difficult to write, but in the end it was exactly what I wanted it to me." With this in mind, I gave the book a little bit of leeway. When a book is hard to write and deadlines force the author to write, good ideas might not always happen. I can certainly tell in parts that she had a hard time; they don't quite flow well for me. The storyline itself was as it usually is and she made a small expansion to the Blue Bloods universe that I think was worked in well. I have heard about the idea of Nephilim before and can't wait to see what else Mrs. de la Cruz will do with it.

I saw some people take issue with how there was no mention of Bliss, Allegra, or Charles. I expected no resolution with Allegra and Charles in this book because where they are right now, none of the narrators would be able to plausibly get into contact with either of them. Long prior to the release of Misguided Angel, I knew Bliss was going to be getting a spinoff (Wolf Pact, due out in 2012, I think) that would chronicle her adventures as she tried to get help from the Hounds of Hell. Logic decrees that because of that spinoff, she would not narrate Misguided Angel.

One last point: I'm getting a little irritated with the vampire superiority thing going on in this series. Many people in the series who are mentioned to be important or rich are revealed to be Blue Bloods; humans and what they do are often spoken of pejoratively for just about anything the vampires can think of. What's next, the President of the United States is a Blue Blood too? In all fairness, the vampires of this series are more powerful than humans and because we're seeing it through the experienced and somewhat cynical Blue Bloods' eyes, we're seeing their thoughts about humans. They're not necessarily fair. The only series worse about vampire superiority was the House of Night series; anyone who is well-known in our world (Melissa Marr, for instance) is a vampyre in the House of Night series, which delivers a message that in that world, humans will always be inferior to vampires. That message is nowhere near as blunt in the Blue Bloods series, but still there.

This wasn't a bad book at all-- I was entertained, especially during Mimi's section-- but after how fantastic the Van Alen Legacy was, Misguided Angel was a letdown. I'll let some of this be excused by the aforementioned statement from Mrs. de la Cruz, but that doesn't let her get away with everything. I'm definitely going to read Lost in Time when it comes out next year, though.

4 stars!


Friday, October 29, 2010

First Test by Tamora Pierce

Title: First Test
Author: Tamora Pierce
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: May 23, 2000
Pages: 206 pages (paperback)

In the medieval and fantastic realm of Tortall, Keladry of Mindelan (known as Kel) is the first girl to take advantage of the decree that permits females to train for knighthood. Up against the traditional hazing of pages and a grueling schedule, Kel faces only one real roadblock: Lord Wyldon, the training master of pages and squires. He is absolutely against girls becoming knights. So while he is forced to train her, Wyldon puts her on probation for one year. It is a trial period that no male page has ever had to endure and one that separates the good-natured Kel even more from her fellow trainees during the tough first year. But Kel is not a girl to underestimate, as everyone is about to find out...

Review:

It has been ten years since the decree was made that women could train to become knights in the realm of Tortall and one girl is finally taking advantage of that: Keladry of Mindelan, a ten-year-old girl with three other knights in her family. The chauvinistic Lord Wyldon, who is a fantastic teacher despite his attitude towards Kel's wish to train for knighthood, forces Kel to undergo a one year probationary period to determine whether or not she can keep up with the boys and go on with the rest of her training or go home.

I've heard many good things about Tamora Pierce both through the Internet and through friends that have read her books, but I haven't thought to pick up any of her books until now. I saw First Test in a used bookstore (that I've gotten a lot of my recently-reviewed books from) and curious, I bought it to see what the fuss was about. I see just what everyone was praising and I'm glad I got this book.

I love stories with feminist themes, in which a girl in a male-dominated world is able to become an equal to the men that have been "better than her" for most of her life. First Test and many of Tamora Pierce's other books (according to those good friends of mine and the Internet) has exactly the wonderful feminist themes I was hearing about and hoping for. Kel was a heroine I could relate to and Lord Wyldon was also an interesting character due to his bias towards women becoming knights and how he overcomes that.

I had no idea that this was the third quartet that takes place in Pierce's Tortall realm. I just saw this book, recognized the name, and picked it up. I came into this book with no information whatsoever on the mechanics of the world, but I wasn't confused even once about how it worked. This is certainly a testament to Pierce's talent. If someone can start where I did and not need to read the previous two quartets to understand what is going on, the author is doing something right.

This book is very short- only 206 pages- but it delivers a lot of good material in such a short time. This book is probably longer to others, but I'm so used books that are anywhere from 300 to 850 pages long that this is a quick, short read for me. Better yet, I got through so quickly because I didn't want to put it down to do something else. As the first book of a series, it does a fantastic job of setting up everything within such a short amount of time. She can do in 206 pages what it takes some authors 400 or 500 pages to do with a world that is decidedly less expansive than this one.

I had to stop reading at the beginning because of a scene in which an immortal spider-like monster called a spidren had a bag of kittens and ate two of them. None of you would know this (or do you? I don't think I've mentioned it yet, but my memory is terrible), but I love cats. I have five and I love them all very much. Once I'm able to buy my own cats, I will have as many as the law and decency will allow me to have. The visual imagery of the spidren eating those kittens upset me greatly because cats mean so much to me and I had to put it down for about ten minutes. Form there on, it was smooth sailing, but the image stuck with me and I still get a little queasy about it. This scene had significance--to give Kel another good motivation to become a knight, to make her want to be a "protector of the small" animals and people like kittens--so at least it wasn't gore for the sake of gore like some other authors might do.

I also felt that some of the characters fell a little bit flat. This was mostly applied to the more minor characters like the first-year pages Kel is taught with and the antagonist, Joren of Stone Mountain and his friends. Part of this is due to the short length of the book, leaving less time for development, and partly because they're just that minor. The mystery of who was sending Kel those gifts wasn't much of a mystery either. Before I peeked ahead to confirm my guess (yes, I do that sometimes), I was already sure I knew who it was and I was right.

Like I said, it did a wonderful job as the opening book, but a few parts fell flat. I'm going to seek out the next books and read those too at some point because if a book is this good in its first entry, the next few must be even better!

4 stars!


Ghost Town by Rachel Caine

Title: Ghost Town
Author: Rachel Caine
Publisher: NAL Hardcover
Release Date: October 26, 2010
Pages: 338 pages (hardback)

While developing a new system to maintain the town's defenses, Claire discovers a way to use the vampires' powers to help keep outsiders from spreading news of Morganville's "unique" situation once they've crossed the city limits.

But the new system has an unexpected and possibly deadly consequence: People inside the town start forgetting who and what they are--even the vampires. And when Claire's boyfriend, Shane, and her best friend, Eve, start treating her like a perfect stranger, Claire realizes she has to figure out a way to pull the plug on her experiment--before she forgets how to save herself... and Morganville.

Review:

After the tumultuous events of Fade Out (book seven) and Kiss of Death (book eight), Claire and her insane(ly awesome) vampire boss Myrnin are hard at work, trying to come up with a new system that will keep people from leaving Morganville and wipe the memories of anyone who is lucky enough to be able to leave. Just as they get one working, it appears that it not only affects the people leaving town, but anyone living within Morganville's boundaries. The memory loss seems to strike at random and Claire must find a way to shut down the machine because she might be the next to forget and that will be the end.

This was one of my most anticipated books of the year because I love the Morganville Vampires series. It is suspenseful and amazing and everything someone could want from a vampire series. The vamps are even terrifying! I wasn't too happy that the book found its way to me later than it was supposed to, but I got it all the same, read it within the space of about five hours, and my reaction to this entire book can be summed up with this: OH MY GOD! (I would use more exclamation points for emphasis, but that's not my style. Just know I was loud in my exclamation. Ask my mother.)

A lot of things happened in this book and I mean a lot. Morganville practically falls apart at the seams and there is another major change in how it's run. Actually, there two big changes. One doesn't last for long, but the other seems like a lasting change. Despite these changes, the law of Morganville is still in place and even if they have more freedom, there are certain crimes that humans can't get away with, as Claire finds out early in the book.

A little more is revealed about the unusual relationship between Amelie and Oliver. Though not as jaw-dropping as what we'd been subjected to in Kiss of Death (well, I found it jaw-dropping; I don't know about anyone else), it's still something. I find the relationship quite interesting; I would love to read a little more about it in later books and I believe I will. The bigger, more confirming hints didn't start coming until later books, but the way Oliver would always support Amelie even when he didn't like what she was doing spoke volumes. Would that be accurate foreshadowing? Maybe.

The amnesia plot is one that has been well-used and that has almost become banal, but Rachel Caine takes it and make it her own. I never stopped to roll me eyes at almost everyone forgetting the last three years of their lives. It worked well instead of being boring or a cliche and I applaud the author for that.

Myrnin! Good God, Myrnin. He's one of my favorite characters in this series, along with one of my overall favorite fictional characters. I have a soft spot for the eccentric ones and if anyone is eccentric, it's him, Mr. Vampire Bunny Slippers (and yes, fans who might be reading; the slippers make a reappearance, much to Eve and my's delight). In this novel, the machine that causes the rest of the town to lose their memories also makes Myrnin lose his mind and he becomes--le gasp!--the antagonist! And he does such a good job of it! The evil, crazy Myrnin was just as utterly readable as the good, crazy Myrnin.

I swear, Mrs. Caine is trying to kill some of her "sensitive" fans with the ship tease between Myrnin and Claire. Even the densest fan could see that Myrnin and Claire care about each other, but in this book, it's shown just how much they care for one another. It's not romantic caring, but there are so many little things these two do (such as having Claire admit to herself that Myrnin is pretty hot at one point, but that's about as far as it gets on her end) that it's near-impossible not to notice. I haven't seen ship tease like this since Zuko and Katara in Avatar: The Last Airbender! I am well aware that Myrnin and Claire would never actually happen, but if there's a crack couple out there that actually has some ground, it's this one.

And the ending! That was where most of the "Oh-my-God" factor came from. I mean, come on! Once you get there and read it for yourself, you will probably react in a similar manner. The implications of that are huge, you hear me? HUGE! There's no chance of me revealing the ending and ruining the surprise, so go see someone else about that.

This book in the series was just as fantastic as all that came before it and may have even taken its place as one of the best entries. I certainly enjoyed it and couldn't put it down. I'm looking forward to Bite Club, which is the next book in the series. The aftermath of what happened can't just be swept under the rug this time and I want to see how the situation will be dealt with. I highly recommend the Morganville Vampires series to anyone who wants a good, suspenseful read. Start with the first book Glass Houses and work your way up to Ghost Town from there.

5 stars!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Door in the Hedge by Robin McKinley

Title: The Door in the Hedge
Author: Robin McKinley
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: April 1, 1981
Pages: 216 pages (paperback)
Because this is a short story collection instead of a novel, I will be grading it in a different form than normal. There will be no summary because there pretty much is no summary on this book.

Review:

The Stolen Princess

In the last mortal kingdom bordering the lands of the faeries, children are stolen from the people on a regular basis. Baby boys and of-age girls are stolen away from their families and no one is safe- not even the royal family. First, the Princess Ellian was stolen at seventeen and her twin sister Alora barely recovered from that. Then Alora gave birth to her solitary heir Princess Linadel and on Linadel's seventeenth birthday, she too was stolen away by the faeries.

This story was 77 or so pages long and I didn't like it very much. It dragged on for too long and even for a fairy tale, the love-at-first-sight of Princess Linadel and Donathor wasn't very convincing. In the end, everything tied up in a pretty little bow so that the two could be together without one of them having to give up their own kingdom. I know it's a fairy tale, but this happy ending was just a teaspoon too sweet for my tastes. For one reason or another, the royal family seems to be having psychic dreams all over the place. Fantasy excuses that too, but it's still a little strange because there's no attempt at an explanation.

The Princess and the Frog

When Princess Rana receives a necklace from Prince Aliyander, she accidentally drops it in a special body of water near her palace and the malevolent magic that charmed it disappears. Knowing that she cannot return without the necklace, Rana enlists the help of a talking frog sitting by the lake. In return, the frog asks to live in the castle and because she knows that she must grant his request for helping her, she agrees.

This was a slightly darker retelling of the tale of the same title which most of us are familiar with, but instead of it being about a spoiled princess getting her ball back and learning a little bit of humility along the way, it's about a princess and a frog defeating an evil, magical prince. The loss of the great moral affects the story and while it's still enjoyable, it's not quite the same. At the end, Rana has the time to run all the way outside and get a "flagon" (whatever that is; I'm sorry, but I'm not quite educated enough to know that word) of water from the pond she dropped her necklace in, and pour it over Aliyander, which kills him. It's a stretch enough that she knew the pond water would defeat him, but the they hadn't moved at all when Rana got back. There's no way they would have paused to wait for her while she got the key to killing Aliyander.

The Haunting of the Hind

There is a horse running through the lands known as thee Golden Kind, one that is so beautiful that men will chase after it and if the come home, they are scarred and have lost their minds. When Princess Korah's beloved brother follows the Hind, he is one of the lucky ones and comes back with both his mind and his sanity, but he is slowly wasting away and dying. Willing to do anything to help the brother who has loved her unconditionally when so many people loved her half-heartedly, Korah sets out to find the Hind and save her brother's life.

I preferred this original story over "the Stolen Princess." It was shorter at about thirty pages or so, which meant it was more concise and concentrated on the present time instead of the history of the world. The beginningof it was good, but lost steam at the end. Princess Korah has to leave behind all of her feelings, face down the wizard that traps the hind- a horse who was originally a woman- and ask him to release the hind and her brother. Really? No tricks beyond that? You'd think a wizard would put up more of a fight than that, but he doesn't. The hind's brother- so unmemorable that I already forgot his name- got paired up with Korah at the last second. That was his entire purpose for existing, it seemed. Why did Korah have to be paired with a guy? Couldn't she have stayed single? That would have been a nice divergence from the previous two stories, where the princesses both got guys. It's okay to have some variety- really.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses

A middle-aged soldier, weary from fighting for his kingdom for twenty years, hears of a plea from the king: discover where the twelve princesses of the kingdom are going every night to dance, for the are bewitched and the only thing that can save them from the spell is for a man not of the princess' family to follow them to where they go and tell the King after the sun rises. He takes it and with the help of an invisible cloak given to him by an old woman he helped, he just might succeed.

And here was some of the variety that I wanted. Instead of having to read the princess's point of view, we are in the point of the of the soldier, who is never given a name. What's wrong with naming him? Then again, no one has a proper name in this story, so I'll let that slide. This one follows closely to the original tale while still adding its own twist and once again, the added twist kind of messes things up. You remember the old woman that gives the soldier the invisible cloak, don't you? In the original story, she only gives him the cloak and warns him not to drink what the princesses give him. In this one, she informs the soldier of exactly what bewitched the princesses, why, and what he must do to save them. Isn't that strange? In the original story, one can assume she would put together her warnings after hearing others who have taken on the task talking once they failed. How does she know so much in this tale?

Ultimately, this collection of stories wasn't very good. All of the princesses fell flat, each story was the worst kind of long-winded, and they just weren't memorable. I doubt that I will be coming back to reread this book in the future and most likely, I will sell it off once I acquire too many books again. I did enjoy the stories for at least a short time, so they are saved from a worse rating.

3 stars!