Saturday, October 30, 2010

Supernatural Saturday: Review of Full Moon

I may be promised to another...but thoughts of Rafe consume me. I don't know how much longer I can resist.
Lindsey is wild and reckless, a natural rebel—maybe because her entire life was laid out for her even before she was born. Her parents are among the most powerful members of the Dark Guardians, an ancient tribe of werewolves, and they arranged Lindsey's betrothal to Connor long ago. The next full moon is coming all too soon, and then her commitment to Connor will be final—no turning back. She should be why can't she stop thinking about gorgeous, brooding Rafe?

When a dangerous threat on the pack escalates, so do tensions between Connor and Rafe. A fight over Lindsey is imminent, but will it be to the death?

[from Goodreads]
Rating:   2.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Readers surfing the werewolf wave
High point:  The teasers for the next book
Low point:  Lindsay's indecisiveness
Reader maturity: 13+

If you remember, I gushed over Moonlight, the first in the Dark Guardian series. Though predictable and formulaic, something about the book was comfortable and refreshing.

Full Moon follows the same formula but fails to deliver the same sense of amazement and fantasy. It is, by no means, boring or terrible, but it lacks that special something.

Full Moon follows Lindsay, a Shifter, one who grew up expecting to shift and expecting to spend the rest of her life with her best friend, Connor. However, when a fellow Shifter returns, she realizes Connor may not be right for her after all. It's a classic love triangle, but instead of sympathizing with Lindsay, I wished she'd just make up her mind. I can understand indecision and confusion, but it seemed like she did a lot of things she knew weren't very kind behind her boyfriend's back. It's one thing to feel confused and another to act at someone else's expense. My imagination was also stretched to the limit by the patience of both guys in her life.

On the plus side, the characters introduced in the first novel, Kayla and Brittany and the boys, were included in a very smooth manner, showing up long enough to round out the story but allowing the spotlight to shine on Lindsay. Also, there were a ton of hints about the next book in the series, which I am really excited about. While Full Moon wasn't anything groundbreaking, it's a decent 2nd novel in this series. It may have lacked pizazz, but Dark of the Moon holds great promise if the teasers are anything to go by.

Title:  Full Moon
Author:  Rachel Hawthorne
Genre:   Contemporary Romance
Year:   2009
Book Source:  Purchased

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review of Witch Child

Mary's grandmother is executed for witchcraft, and Mary is forced to leave her home to avoid the same fate. At first she flees to the English countryside, but when the atmosphere of superstition and suspicion becomes all consuming she leaves on a boat for America in the hope that she can start over and forget her past. But during the journey, she realizes that the past is not so easy to escape.
[from Goodreads]

Rating:   2.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Paranormal historical readers
High point: Strong writing
Low point:  Didn't engage me
Reader maturity:  13+

Witch Child follows Mary Newbury as she flees England's wild witch hunts, only to fall into the hands of witch hunters even more zealous and unrestrained in the early American wilderness.

Though I'm usually a fan of historicals (especially when combined with a hint of the paranormal), Witch Child just didn't light the spark of imagination in me. I don't know if I wasn't in the proper mood for a historical or what, but...something was missing. I don't want to dissuade you from trying it out, though, because I feel certain that it's got strong writing and an interesting tale.

In retrospect, I wonder if my tastes have been spoiled by too many witch trial novels when I was younger. Since the ending could have gone one of two ways, I already had an idea where the book was going. Perhaps the anticipation of the known was too much for the hints of danger lurking in the pages.

Whatever the problem, I was more interested in Mary's mother, back in England, than I was with the folks of Beulah. I also wondered, time and again, why Mary did not leave her situation and return to Salem. It seemed that she could have done so and avoided many of the events in the novel. Of course, then where would the story be, right?

Regardless of my lack of excitement for Witch Child, I believe Celia Rees is a good writer, and I'm interested in trying out some of her other work, even if I can't heartily get behind this one.

Title:  Witch Child
Author:  Celia Rees
Genre:   Fiction - Historical
Year:   2002
Book Source:  Purchased

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Want to Read Wednesday: Entwined

Azalea and her younger sisters dance in the mysterious silver forest every night, escaping from the sadness of the palace and their father’s grief. What they don’t understand—although as time passes they begin to get an inkling of the danger they are in—is that the mysterious and dashing Keeper is tightening his snare with deadly purpose. Luckily, Azalea is brave and steadfast. Luckily, a handsome young army captain also has his eye on Azalea. . . . Lush, romantic, and compelling, this debut novel by Heather Dixon will thrill fans of Shannon Hale, Robin McKinley, and Edith Pattou.

[from Goodreads]

This meme is hosted by Boy with Books. I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Review of The Way It Is

To Ellen Manery, a brilliant, introverted, socially isolated fifteen-year-old, there is nothing good about the summer of 1967, especially when her parents decide to move to a small town in the interior of British Columbia. None of the big ideas of the decade – the civil rights movement, the sexual revolution, women’s rights – have had much of an effect on this small community.
Ellen has always been more interested in studying than a social life, but that begins to change when she meets Tony Paul, an eighteen-year-old who is a Shuswap Indian and lives on the nearby reserve. It is Tony’s friendship that gives Ellen the strength to endure the loneliness, racism, discrimination, and antifeminism she must face during her last year in high school. But as their friendship turns into something deeper, they must decide if they can break free of the small minds around them and forge their own future.

[from Second Story Press]
Rating:   4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Anyone who's ever been on the outside looking in
High point:  The history
Low point:  Tony's melodrama
Reader maturity:  13+

When I read the synopsis for The Way It Is, I automatically assumed it would be about sexism, prejudice and racism in the US, so when I opened it to find that it was about Canada's First Nations, I was pleasantly surprised. That's not a topic that occurs often in the books I read, and I knew very little about Canada's history except through Kathy Reichs' mysteries.

The Way It Is is a 1960s historical novel that doesn't feel stuck in the past because the message is as applicable today as it was 50 years ago. The main character, Ellen Manery, has been raised by her parents to buck the norm and be all that she can be, but when her family moves to a small town, the prejudices of the people there begin to infect her own family. In fighting back against small town minds, she discovers that it's okay not to be invisible.

Ellen is a great role model, even for girls of today. She's polite but firm in her dealings with the chauvinists and bigots around her. Her mother, too, is a strong female character, both in the way she raised Ellen, but also in her support of Ellen and Ellen's father.

Tony, the only Indian in Ellen's high school class, was a tad melodramatic, but beyond that, he made some very good arguments about the treatment of the First Nations without sounding preachy or whiny. He teaches Ellen some valuable lessons about blossoming versus just subsisting, while fighting his own battles to overcome his past.

I really enjoyed learning about the 1960s in Canada, not only because that's a time period and setting rarely seen in my YA experience but also because it provides a very interesting backdrop for this type of coming-of-age story. Vivid descriptions enabled the characters to come alive from the pages, as well as the woods surrounding the resort run by Ellen's family.

The writing is solid, the plot is smooth and the message is unmistakable, though it never ventures toward reading like a tract or a history textbook. There are a few awkward moments in The Way It Is that make it suitable for readers in their mid-teens and above but nothing too shocking.

Title:  The Way It Is
Author:  Donalda Reid
Genre:   Fiction - Historical
Year:   2010
Book Source:  Received for review from Second Story Press

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Want to Read Wednesday: Where I Belong

Corrinne Corcoran’s upscale Manhattan life is perfectly on track—until her father announces he’s been laid off and she’s shipped off to Broken Spoke, Texas, to live with her grandparents. All alone in a big public school and forced to take a job shoveling manure, Corrinne is determined to get back to the glamorous life she’s supposed to be living. But as she grudgingly adjusts—making new friends and finding romance along the way—this city girl begins to realize that life without credit cards and shopping sprees may not be as bad as it seems....

In this sparkling debut that flawlessly balances romance and humor, readers will grow to love sharp and sassy Corrinne as she goes on her totally reluctant but completely irresistible journey of self-discovery.

[from Goodreads]

This meme is hosted by Boy with Books. I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review of Old Photographs

Fourteen-year-old Phoebe Hecht is slowly making her way through the long boring days of summer vacation. It doesn’t help that her mom’s marriage to a wealthy heart surgeon means that they’ve left their old, comfortable lives behind – so much so that her mom now seems ashamed at the merest mention of their humble beginnings. Now they live in a fancy Toronto neighborhood where she doesn’t belong, and the only friend she made at her new school, Yuri Kimura, has gone to Tokyo for the summer. The only thing getting Pheobe through the summer is her obsession with Agatha Christie mysteries and her covert spying on Colin, her crush who works at the local grocery store.
A chance meeting with a kind elderly neighbor named Mrs. Tomblin changes everything and brings all Phoebe’s interests together. When Mrs. Tomblin is robbed and assaulted she can’t remember anything about what happened, due to the fact that she is in the early stages of dementia. It is up to Phoebe and Colin to try and solve the mystery of the robbery. Could Mrs. Tomblin’s collection of old photographs be at the centre of the puzzle?

[from Second Story Press]
Rating:   3.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Aspiring young detectives, anyone looking for a solid read
High point:  Phoebe and the writing
Low point:  A little simple
Reader maturity:  10+

Old Photographs is a really cute story about Phoebe, a bored Canadian girl stuck in a new town with no friends for a summer. She's an aspiring detective, inspired by Agatha Christie, and stumbles onto a mystery of her own when she befriends an elderly woman in the early stages of Alzheimer's.

Phoebe is a fun narrator, obsessing just enough over her crush, Colin, and not complaining too much about her new family. She sticks up for what she believes in, helping out an elderly woman and finally finding the strength to tell her mother the truth. The only thing I didn't like about Phoebe is that she lies--A LOT, like it's no big deal. I understand why she lies, but it still bugged me.

At first glance, Colin is too perfect to be true, but it soon becomes clear that the reader's view of Colin is through Phoebe's rose-colored (for Colin) glasses. After that point, her idolization becomes endearing because she's not oblivious but rather blinded by puppy love.

I didn't like Phoebe's new family (and I wasn't supposed to). They were well-written and believably unlikable, with both good and bad traits blended together for realism. Mrs. Tomblin provided an outlet for Phoebe's detective skills and also showcased Phoebe's kind side, which was often hidden under the smothering of her personailty by her mother and stepfather.

Old Photographs provides a strong, if simple, plot to keep the reader engaged. The whodunit is a little predictable, but this novel isn't so much about the end as it is the journey, navigating relationships, finding a voice and growing up. The writing is a little simpler than most YA, so it's probably best for younger YA readers but is also accessible for anyone wanting a solid novel to while away the summer (or fall) hours. It's also completely clean so it's appropriate for anyone able to read it.

Title:  Old Photographs
Author:  Sherie Posesorski
Genre:   Fiction - Contemporary
Year:   2010
Book Source:  Received for review from Second Story Press

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Buy, Borrow or...Are those the only choices?

How do you decide what books to buy? I've got books running out of my ears, and yet I can't stand to be without some of my favorites. Due to book-blogging and giveaway-entering, I've definitely got more books coming in than I have going out of my bookshelves. I now have a rule that I can't buy a book that's not part of a series I already started. If I win a book in a new series, that's fine; I can keep it. But I can't buy it. I won Shiver a few weeks ago, and I'm so excited to dive in because I wasn't "allowed" to buy it! It may seem like a silly rule, but it's the most strict I can be with myself. I just love reading too much to enforce a strict no-buy rule, but I could use some ideas.

What do you do to keep your book pile from growing? Do you borrow from the library or enforce a "book budget"?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Want to Read Wednesday: Steel

When Jill, a competitive high school fencer, goes with her family on vacation to the Bahamas, she is magically transported to an early eighteenth century pirate ship in the middle of the ocean.

[from Goodreads]

This meme is hosted by Boy with Books. I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Review of Pretty Little Devils

Hazel Stone wants nothing more than to be a part of the hottest clique in school, the Pretty Little Devils. She's got the style, she's cool enough, so how did she end up at a lunch table full of high school C-listers? Hazel has resigned herself to life as a nobody, when suddenly everything changes. Sylvia, queen bee of the PLDs, invites Hazel to one of the group's famous soirees—held at the site of their babysitting jobs.
Before Hazel knows it, she's in with the in crowd—and she couldn't be more thrilled!
But popularity comes with a price. Especially when one of Hazel's classmates becomes jealous of her newfound status—deadly jealous.
And you know how school gossip can just rip a girl to shreds . . .

[from Goodreads]

Rating:   1 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Tweens?
High point: The twist
Low point:  Teenspeak
Reader maturity:  15+

What to say about Pretty Little Devils? It really wasn't my thing so I'll keep this short and sweet.

While reading, I had a flashback to grade school, back before (*gasp*) YA could be good literature. Pretty Little Devils felt like a novel for teenyboppers who couldn't be convinced to read anything that wasn't full of LOLs and OMGs and backstabbing gossip.

Though overshadowed by too many abbreviations, the mystery in the book actually isn't half bad. The ending--worthy of Shyamalan if he wrote for people not yet old enough to drive--definitely surprised me. That's really the only redemption for me. I just couldn't get past all the mean-girl spirit.

Title:  Pretty Little Devils
Author:  Nancy Holder
Genre:   Fiction - Contemporary
Year:   2007
Book Source:  Won from Writer's Block Reviews

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Review of The Agency: The Body at the Tower

This is another colourful, action-packed Victorian detective novel about the exploits of agent Mary Quinn. At a young age, Mary Quinn is rescued from the gallows and taken to Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls. The school turns out to be a front for a private detective agency. At age 17, Mary takes on her first case (A Spy in the House). In this, the second book of the series, Mary Quinn sets out to uncover the truth behind a suspicious death at St. Stephen's Tower, better known as the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament. The accident occurred after hours in a highly public part of town and despite the presence of night watchmen. Mary, disguised as Mark Quinn, becomes a builder's assistant to find out the truth about the body at the tower.
[from Goodreads]

Rating:   4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Mainstream YA fans, devourers of historical fiction...anyone, really
High point:  The mystery (of the body at the tower)
Low point:  Not enough James
Reader maturity:  13+

The Body at the Tower is exactly what YA historical fiction should be:  adventurous, exciting, engaging and, of course, historical. Y. S. Lee nailed it again with the 2nd of The Agency series. The main character, Mary, grapples with her differences from mainstream London society and does some pretty awesome things for a woman of any day and age along the way. The budding romance between Mary and James is perfect as well. It buds more slowly than most and in its slow progression, clearly defines the feelings that the two have for each other.

Ms. Lee's portrayal of historic London blends seamlessly with the story, casting a gorgeous (albeit dirty and smoggy and malodorous) backdrop to Mary's adventures. Issues of class and race and poverty are explored in The Body at the Tower, making this not only an entertaining read but an emotional one. Mary's exploits as an errand boy vary from the hi-jinks (fistfights) to the emotionally crushing (hunger and illness). I was constantly amazed at Ms. Lee's skill in entertaining and enlightening the reader, while retaining deliberate historical accuracy with tidbits of events at the time that seem inconsequential but really set the stage for the action.

In my review of A Spy in the House, I commented that the supporting cast was two dimensional. Well, that's certainly not so for The Body at the Tower! All the characters pop off the page, as if running through my living room. It's no easy feat to bring so many characters to life, to give them all a personality and the energy to jump through centuries, but The Body at the Tower delivers with excellence.

Though The Body at the Tower picks up where A Spy in the House left off in terms of Mary's growth and employment, this sequel is complete as a novel in its own right. Readers who haven't picked up the first in the series won't be confused, but readers of the first won't be bored.

The mystery (of the body at the tower) had me guessing until the end and left me both pleased and surprised with the ending. As with the first, the ending paves the way for the 3rd book in the series, and I'll definitely be pre-ordering to read more about the possible shake-up at the Agency and the future of the relationship between Mary and James.

Title:  The Agency:  The Body at the Tower
Author:  Y. S. Lee
Genre:   Fiction - Historical
Year:   2010
Book Source:  Purchased

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Want to Read Wednesday: Desires of the Dead

The missing dead call to Violet. They want to be found.

When Violet Ambrose's morbid ability to sense the echoes of those who've been murdered leads her to the body of a young boy, she draws the attention of the FBI. She is reluctantly pulled into an investigation that will endanger more than just her secret...but her relationship and possibly her life as well.

[from Goodreads]

This meme is hosted by Boy with Books. I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.