Saturday, April 30, 2011

Supernatural Saturday: Review of Illusions

Laurel hasn't seen Tamani since she begged him to let her go last year. Though her heart still aches, Laurel is confident that David was the right choice.

But just as life is returning to normal, Laurel discovers that a hidden enemy lies in wait. Once again, Laurel must turn to Tamani to protect and guide her, for the danger that now threatens Avalon is one that no faerie thought would ever be possible. And for the first time, Laurel cannot be sure that her side will prevail.
[from Goodreads]

Rating:  3.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Faerie fanatic
High point:  How easily I slipped into the series
Low point:  Tamani's obsessiveness
Reader maturity: 13+

Illusions was the third faerie novel I read in a week, and I was afraid it would blend into the previous two, Lament and Ballad. I needn't have feared; it was strong enough to hold its own.

After receiving Illusions for review, I hesitated to begin it because I haven't read the first two books in the series, Wings and Spells. I read the synopsis on Wikipedia (totally cheating, I know!) and that was sufficient to catch me up with the goings-on in Illusions. Based on what I read in Illusions, I have no doubt that, while I was able to keep up with the drama, the story would be a much richer experience if I knew the nuances of Laurel's history, both with Tamani and as a faerie. However, Illusions was still riveting (I finished it in one sitting), and after catching up on Wikipedia, I didn't have trouble following the action. Ms. Pike does a good job of including explanations without burdening the book.

Laurel is a sweet, smart, caring main character with just enough flaws to keep her feeling human, even though she isn't. I admired her desire to live as "normally" as possible to be near her family and friends. Her boyfriend, David, is a nice change in that he was [mostly] understanding of her situation and seemed like a really sweet guy. Now, Tamani, on the other hand--he is a little bit obsessed. Fortunately, everyone seems to realize that, especially Laurel, but I kept getting angry whenever he'd pressure her about David. Obsession aside, he is certainly devoted to Laurel and her safety, apart from his feelings for her. My favorite character, though, is her best friend, who is funny and loyal ALL the time but has some bonus moments of greatness.

They're background characters, in Illusions at least, but I'd like to give props to Laurel's parents for being so well-adjusted and laid-back (but still parental). YA parents often get a bad rap, and Laurel's mom and dad are normal parents, loving and a little bit strict when looking out for their daughter's best interests. It's good to see the functional relationship Laurel has with them.

The writing is smooth and subtle, perfect for describing Avalon and Laurel's plant-based experiments. Everything was so vivid; even without having read about it before, I could picture the door into Avalon and the land, as well as Laurel's blossom. The blossom/plant component is pretty neat; I'd never read about faeries as plants or with blossoms. They brought a new twist to the faerie myth. I would love to know more about the different castes of faeries, as well as what happened with Laurel and the trolls (book 2?) so I guess I'll be picking up the first two sometime in the near future!

If you've read Wings and Spells, then Illusions will be an amazing addition to the series, and even if you haven't, it's still a beautiful and entertaining read.

Title:  Illusions (Wings #3)
Author:  Aprilynne Pike
Genre:   Teen Fiction - Faeries
Year:   2011
Book Source:  Received for review from Harper Teen

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Want to Read Wednesday: Forgotten

Each night when 16 year-old London Lane goes to sleep, her whole world disappears. In the morning, all that's left is a note telling her about a day she can't remember. The whole scenario doesn't exactly make high school or dating that hot guy whose name she can't seem to recall any easier. But when London starts experiencing disturbing visions she can't make sense of, she realizes it's time to learn a little more about the past she keeps forgetting-before it destroys her future.

Part psychological drama, part romance, and part mystery, this thought-provoking novel will inspire readers to consider the what-if's in their own lives and recognize the power they have to control their destinies.

[from Goodreads]

With Want to Read Wednesday, 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, April 26, 2011

Review of The Royal Treatment

Desi Bascomb's job as a princess substitute has gotten a whole lot more glamorous now that she's advanced to Level 2 within the Facade Agency. Magical make-up, roller-skating celebrities, and the chance to see Prince Karl again are just some of the major perks. Not to mention, she's landed the role of Fairy Queen in her school's production of Midsummer's Night Dream (opposite her best friend's crush. Which is a little weird, but at least he wears a donkey head during their kissing scene). 
Life should be perfect, but Desi can't seem to shake the feeling that there is more going on with the agency's magic than she's told. Like why is this mind-bending power exclusive to royals? Is it possible that there could be a bigger way to make an impact in both parts of her life?
[from Goodreads]

Rating:   4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Pretend princesses, of course!
High point:  Desi, her jobs, the new direction of the series
Low point:  There's not as much princess subbing fun
Reader maturity:  13+

The Royal Treatment is a wonderful addition to the Princess for Hire series by Lindsey Leavitt. The sequel is as endearing and engaging as the first and further develops Desi Bascomb's character and employment.

While the first, Princess for Hire, was pure enjoyment due to Desi's adventures as a princess, the second explores Desi's feelings about Facade's control of Magic Potential and shows Desi's maturation as a teenage girl and as a substitute princess. I wasn't sure how I felt about that at first, because I was hoping for more princess-of-the-day type mishaps, but after I finished, I think that Ms. Leavitt made the right choice in advancing Desi's character rather than solely providing vignettes of Desi's duties.

Desi is still the same lovable, thoughtful Desi of Princess for Hire. As her experiences increase in number and she finds out Facade's little quirks and mysteries, she begins to wonder about the morality of Facade's actions. She approaches their all-powerful position with the proper respect and a healthy dose of rationality. Genevieve is the perfect ambiguous character and thus the perfect head of Facade. Like Desi, the reader is left wondering whether Facade is right to hold such a tight grip on people with MP, among Facade's other could-be-right, could-be-wrong actions.

I don't want to ruin it so I'll just say that I absolutely loved what happened with Desi and Reed. Desi's best friend also gets a slightly bigger role this time around, and she's just as awesome as Desi.

The Royal Treatment was missing some of the glee that accompanied Princess for Hire, but it's still a great sequel, which is why I rated it so highly even though I was a little disappointed. I'm really excited to see what else Desi will accomplish in her time as a sub.

Title:  The Royal Treatment
Author:  Lindsey Leavitt
Genre:   Fiction - Fantasy
Year:   2011
Book Source:  Received an e-copy of an ARC for review

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Want to Read Wednesday: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Mara Dyer believes life can’t get any stranger than waking up in a
hospital with no memory of how she got there. It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember
that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed. There is.

She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been
through, she can fall in love. She’s wrong.

[from Goodreads]

With Want to Read Wednesday, 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, April 7, 2011

Review of A Song for Summer

In a fragile world on the brink of World War II, a young Englishwoman takes a job as a housemother at an unconventional boarding school in Vienna. Soon everyone at the Hallendorf School, from the headmaster to the mysterious groundsman, relies on her for nurturing, What happens when the menace of Hitler's power reaches this idyllic world makes for a powerfully moving tale.
[from Goodreads]

Rating:  4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Teens, clean romance readers
High point:  The dreaminess
Low point:  It's the last one...
Reader maturity: 13+

A Song for Summer is somewhat bittersweet for me, because it brings me to the end of Eva Ibbotson's novels. Fortunately, it went out with a bang and tied with The Morning Gift as my favorite.

I finally put my finger on how to describe these novels, which are all so alike, it's hard to write an individual review. A Song for Summer is like the best kind of dream, with a virtuous, smart and pretty girl falling in love with a mysterious (but good!) man in a place more beautiful than can be described. This story, in particular, nailed the main character--like all the others, she's sort of, well, perfect, but she's a lot less overtly perfect than her counterparts from the other books. The love interest is also less selfish than his counterparts, making for a much more interesting story. There are so many threads and backstories that weave together in this one.

The students at the school where Ellen teaches help complete the novel. They pop out and grow and change; their excitement is the readers' excitement. I couldn't help but wish to be privy to a viewing of some of their antics.

This will spoil the ending, so if you haven't read anything by Eva Ibbotson, stop here. The ending is happy, of course, which is one reason that makes this the best kind of dream--drama, romance and a happily ever after.

Title:  A Song for Summer
Author:  Eva Ibbotson
Genre:   Teen Fiction - Romance & Friendship
Year:   1996
Book Source:  Purchased

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Want to Read Wednesday: The Vespertine

It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.
When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

[from Goodreads]

With Want to Read Wednesday, 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.