Saturday, July 30, 2011

Supernatural Saturday: Review of The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker

Learning the truth of her mythic past and that of the reincarnated souls called The Guard is only the beginning, for young Percy Parker’s destiny is to defend both the world and true love from the gathering undead minions of Darkness. 
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   2.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Paranormal fans of many ages
High point: The creepy gatekeeper
Low point:  How very slooooow it was
Reader maturity: 13+

The first book in this series, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, was magical and floaty, carried away on the dreams of Miss Percy Parker herself. The sequel, however, The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker, missed the mark on the airy, mysterious quality of the first book.

The pacing felt incredibly slow to me and I was irritated every time Rebecca (one of the Guardians) appeared in a scene. Percy didn't seem quite like herself in this one; she was missing some of the hesitation and uncertainty that made her so charming before. This novel also had fewer monsters-of-the-week (or night, depending on their frequency) and had more to do with prophecy fulfillment, which didn't hold my attention as easily (much to my disappointment, as I had been looking forward to this chapter of Percy's adventures). Parts of it were great literary entertainment, like all the action in the underworld and the creepy gatekeeper, and I enjoyed seeing a more of the Guard and their group dynamics.

While this wasn't one of my favorite paranormal novels, it has a decent plot and firm execution--it just wasn't for me. However, I'm still really interested in the Guard, and I want to pick up The Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess when it comes out.

Title:  The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker
Author:  Leanna Renee Hieber
Genre:   Fiction - Supernatural
Year:   2010
Book Source:  Purchased

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review of Impossible

Lucy has nine months to break an ancient curse in order to save both herself and her unborn daughter. Inspired by the ballad “Scarborough Fair,” this riveting novel combines suspense, fantasy, and romance for an intensely page-turning and masterfully original tale.
Lucy is seventeen when she discovers that the women of her family have been cursed through the generations, forced to attempt three seemingly impossible tasks or to fall into madness upon their child’s birth. But Lucy is the first girl who won’t be alone as she tackles the list. She has her fiercely protective foster parents and her childhood friend Zach beside her. Do they have love and strength enough to overcome an age-old evil?

[from Goodreads]
Rating:  2 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Paranormal/contemporary fans
High point:  The premise
Low point: How uncomfortable it made me
Reader maturity: 15+

Ever since I read the premise for Impossible, I knew I had to read it. I finally rescued an ARC and jumped in. The strongest feeling I have about Impossible is how uncomfortable it made me. I didn't notice any faults with writing or characterization and I still find the plot interesting, but every page turned with a bit of a grimace, knowing I was subjecting myself to another hundred words of awkwardness.

I can't really explain why, whether it's due to the creepy Padraig Seeley or the means by which Lucy finds herself with child or if it's because she's so young and just takes it all (the craziness, the Elfin King, the pregnancy) in stride. Even though I was intrigued by Lucy's solutions to the riddles and thought her family was incredibly developed and supportive, something about Impossible just really bothered me.

I'm still interested in Nancy Werlin's work and would like to try Extraordinary. Hopefully, it will be a much more pleasant read.

Title:  Impossible
Author:  Nancy Werlin

Genre:  Teen Fiction - Girls & Young Women
Year:   2008
Book Source: Purchased

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Supernatural Saturday: Review of Shiver

the cold.
Grace has spent years watching the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—watches back. He feels deeply familiar to her, but she doesn't know why.

the heat.
Sam has lived two lives. As a wolf, he keeps the silent company of the girl he loves. And then, for a short time each year, he is human, never daring to talk to Grace...until now.

the shiver.
For Grace and Sam, love has always been kept at a distance. But once it's spoken, it cannot be denied. Sam must fight to stay human—and Grace must fight to keep him—even if it means taking on the scars of the past, the fragility of the present, and the impossibility of the future.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   2.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Werewolf phenom fans and (it feels like) everyone else
High point:  The writing
Low point:  How worried I was about Grace being crazy
Reader maturity: 13+

Oh, dear. Shiver is one of those books that I feel that, as a book blogger, I'm compelled to like, based on how awesome it seems like everyone else thinks it is. And I didn't dislike it, but I didn't connect with it either. I'm still a little bummed out about it because after I fell for Lament and Ballad, which are about faeries, which I don't even like, I thought for sure I'd LOVE Maggie Stiefvater's take on werewolves. But unfortunately, it wasn't to be.

[This is SPOILER-filled so if you haven't read the book, you might want to skip this!] I'm trying to figure out what I didn't love about it and why I didn't connect with it...the best I can come up with is that I don't quite understand how Grace could fall in love with a wolf. A wolf. The girl falls in love with a wolf. While he is in wolf form. Before she realizes he's human sometimes. A wolf who is part of a pack that tried to eat her. And then they're magically soulmates once they're finally able to talk to each other. Although with parents as negligent as hers, I suppose a wolf who stares at her all the time isn't much of a leap...

[END SPOILERS.] So I guess my problem lies in the character and plot details and not in the writing, which was emotional and turgid, sweeping me along--or at least, I'm pretty sure it would've if I hadn't been so caught up in worry over Grace's mental state. From a distance, I'm able to recognize the skill of wordcraft, and I was certainly eager to find out what happened next as I was reading. I liked Isabel's character and Sam's back-story so parts of the book were really enjoyable. Since the author is a good writer (and I've read some of her other work and enjoyed it), I'm going to try and pick up Linger and see if I can get into it a little more. Shiver was just a little bit beyond me.

Title:  Shiver
Author:  Maggie Stiefvater
Genre:   Fiction - Supernatural
Year:   2009
Book Source:  Won from YA Books Reviewed

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review of Prom & Prejudice

After winter break, the girls at the very prestigious Longbourn Academy become obsessed with the prom. Lizzie Bennet, who attends Longbourn on a scholarship, isn’t interested in designer dresses and expensive shoes, but her best friend, Jane, might be — especially now that Charles Bingley is back from a semester in London.
Lizzie is happy about her friend’s burgeoning romance but less than impressed by Charles’s friend, Will Darcy, who’s snobby and pretentious. Darcy doesn’t seem to like Lizzie either, but she assumes it’s because her family doesn’t have money. Clearly, Will Darcy is a pompous jerk — so why does Lizzie find herself drawn to him anyway?
Will Lizzie’s pride and Will’s prejudice keep them apart? Or are they a prom couple in the making? Whatever the result, Elizabeth Eulberg, author of The Lonely Hearts Club, has concocted a very funny, completely stylish delight for any season — prom or otherwise.
[from Goodreads]

Rating:   2.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: P&P junkies
High point:  The new...Caroline Bingley!
Low point:  The constraint of following the original P&P
Reader maturity:  13+

The Good:  Elizabeth Eulberg is a great writer--her characters are incredibly down-to-earth, a little flawed, and have a very human element. Her books are funny and insightful and are a really great way to spend an afternoon. Prom & Prejudice is an updated take on Pride & Prejudice (betcha never saw that one coming!) that brings the classic tale into the 21st century. The main character, scholarship student, Lizzie Bennet, is hard-working and sensible, as well as loyal to a fault to her best friend, Jane, and mean girl Caroline is a great re-imagining of the original Caroline Bingley.

The Not-So-Good:  In an attempt to parallel Prom & Prejudice with Pride & Prejudice, the story felt a little constrained and the characters seemed limited, especially Will Darcy and Jane. To me, Lizzie's assumptions in Pride & Prejudice were merely mistakes, made innocently enough but proved wrong in the end. In Prom & Prejudice, it felt like Lizzie kept making the same erroneous assumptions about Darcy and Wickham without learning anything.

I really, really wanted to love Prom & Prejudice because of how much I enjoyed Elizabeth Eulberg's The Lonely Hearts Club, but a few things kept it from being as charming as I'd hoped.

Title:  Prom & Prejudice
Author:  Elizabeth Eulberg
Genre:   Fiction - Contemporary
Year:   2011
Book Source:  Won from Consumed by Books

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Supernatural Saturday: Review of Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side

The undead can really screw up your senior year ...

Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year “get-a-life” plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancĂ©. Armed with newfound confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war—and save Lucius’s soul from eternal destruction.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:  4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Supernatural fans who tire of the usual vampire novel
High point:  The uniqueness
Low point:  The cheesy ending
Reader maturity: 13+

I thought that Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side was going to be a read-once, throwaway novel, but I was so, so wrong. JGDDS even managed to banish the vampire-novel ennui that's been creeping up on me. In short, I was hooked.

What I love most about JGDDS--other than the title--is the tongue in cheek tone, most aptly summarized in the title of the fictitious novel-within-a-novel, Growing Up Undead. JGDDS isn't a comedy, but it doesn't take itself seriously, even though it got pretty intense at times. The coming war and violent past are counterbalanced by Jessica's  eco-fanatic parents and her best friend.

Jessica is my favorite type of YA heroine--smart, down-to-earth, and not afraid to stand up for herself (usually). Her intended, the pompous Lucius, is every bit the cliche vampire--at first. Slowly, the layers of his vampiric psyche are peeled away, revealing the most human vampire I've ever read about.

The ending was kinda cheesy (it brought the movie, Van Helsing, to mind, actually) and I wish it had been a little less over-the-top, but I got the ending I wanted (eventually). The book actually felt like it was going to end several times, so more than once, I checked to see how many chapters I had left. I didn't want JGDDS to end!

Title:  Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side
Author:  Beth Fantaskey
Genre:   Fiction - Supernatural
Year:   2009
Book Source:  Purchased

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review of A Heart Most Worthy

The elegance of Madame Forza's gown shop is a far cry from the downtrodden North End of Boston. Yet each day Julietta, Annamaria, and Luciana enter the world of the upper class, working on finery for the elite in society. The three beauties each long to break free of their obligations and embrace the American dream—and their chance for love. But the ways of the heart are difficult to discern at times. Julietta is drawn to the swarthy, mysterious Angelo. Annamaria has a star-crossed encounter with the grocer's son, a man from the entirely wrong family. And through no intent of her own, Luciana catches the eye of Billy Quinn, the son of Madame Forza's most important client. Their destinies intertwined, each harboring a secret from their families and each other, will they be found worthy of the love they seek?
[from Goodreads]

Rating:  2.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Historical fiction fans
High point: Learning about a society debut
Low point: Confused Clara
Reader maturity: 13+

It's taken me a long time to get around to writing my review because I'm not sure what to say. I wanted to love this book; I really, really did. I so thoroughly enjoyed Siri Mitchell's She Walks in Beauty that I leapt at the chance to review A Heart Most Worthy. Unfortunately, it didn't possess the same charm and beauty as its predecessor.

A Heart Most Worthy follows three shopgirls of completely different personalities and backgrounds, joining them as they navigate family, life and love. My favorite is Annamaria; she's sweet and kind and is learning when it's good to be rebellious. My least favorite is Julietta, by far; I found her to be dense and selfish, rather than fiery and passionate, and she made it hard for me to connect with her. Because the book is written from several points of view, Julietta also made it hard for me to connect with the other characters because every time I read through one of her sections, she yanked me out of the illusion.

While A Heart Most Worthy wasn't really my kind of book, I still enjoyed learning about Italian immigrants in America. I didn't realize that the people we consider to be Italians considered themselves to be grouped by region, not country, e.g. Sicilians, Avellinos, Calabrese. The little nuances of Italian life were also surprising and unique touches to the novel.

Siri Mitchell is, without doubt, an excellent writer, but this book just didn't appeal to me the way I'd hoped it would. However, if you like historicals and Christian fiction (this one is much more religious than She Walks in Beauty), then A Heart Most Worthy would be worth picking up.

Title:  A Heart Most Worthy
Author:  Siri Mitchell
Genre:  Christian Historical Fiction
Year:  2011
Book Source:  Received for review from Bethany House Publishers

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Supernatural Saturday: Review of Hexbound

Lily Parker is new to St. Sophia’s School for Girls, but she’s already learned that magic can be your best friend…or your worst enemy.

They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. Turns out, even a little magic can turn you to the dark side. That’s why Lily has to learn how to control her newly discovered paranormal abilities, on top of avoiding the snobs who think they run her school, nursing a crush on a cute sophomore with a big, werewolf-y secret, and fighting the good fight with her best friend Scout as they take on Chicago’s nastiest nightlife—including the tainted magic users known as Reapers.

Then Lily’s invited to a private meeting with Sebastian. He’s hot, powerful, and offering to help her harness the magic flowing in her veins in a way no one else can. He’s also a Reaper. Lily can’t hide her suspicions. But she’ll soon find out that the line between good and evil isn’t always clear…
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: YA paranormal fans
High point: Lily and Scout
Low point: The quasi-love-triangle and the token mean girls
Reader maturity: 13+

I made sure to treat my copy of Hexbound with more respect than I afforded the first in the series, Firespell. And I was amply rewarded for my efforts.

Hexbound is another fun, adventure-filled romp through Chicago's underworld, this time complete with slimy...oh, wait, I probably shouldn't ruin that for you. It's all awesome though, in the same vein as Firespell, except even better. My complaint with Firespell is that there was so much foundation-building that I got a little weary of it. Hexbound skips right past that part (and really, I mean skips, because I read Firespell not too long ago and it still took me a while to remember/figure out what exactly firespell is. I guess that means that you should really, really read Firespell before you jump into Hexbound.) and throws the reader into the foray, along with Lily, Scout and all the other Adepts.

Though some of the plot points were a little unbelievable and slightly campy/dramatic, that's just the kind of series this is, and Hexbound works the whole boarding school/supernatural underworld/cliques bit with astounding deftness. Lily is, of course, the heroine, and even though she doesn't seem hard-core enough to do half the things she does, it's fun to tag along with her anyway.

As stated above, I didn't like the quasi-love-triangle, and I think I better leave it at that, lest I spoil something for someone (although I was very proud of Lily and one of the boys at the end; thankyouthankyouthankyou for being a level-headed teenage girl, Lily! We need more YA characters with as much common sense as you possess.). The other thing that bugged me was Veronica, aka a Token Mean Girl. And I'll just let that be, as well, because there's only so much one can say about cliche mean girls. On the plus side of this equation, all the other characters are awesome, and it was cool to get to know a little bit more about them while they were learning a lot more about the Dark Elite and while Lily was finding out what her parents are up to.

All in all, Hexbound is an awesome sequel to Firespell, and I'm eagerly awaiting Chloe Neill's next installment!

Title:  Hexbound
Author:  Chloe Neill
Genre:   Teen Fiction - Girls & Young Women
Year:   2011
Book Source:  Purchased

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Review of Mad Love

When you're the daughter of the bestselling Queen of Romance, life should be pretty good. But 16-year-old Alice Amorous has been living a lie ever since her mother was secretly hospitalized for mental illness. After putting on a brave front for months, time is running out. The next book is overdue, and the Queen can't write it. Alice needs a story for her mother—and she needs one fast.
That's when she meets Errol, a strange boy who claims to be Cupid, who insists that Alice write about the greatest love story in history: his tragic relationship with Psyche. As Alice begins to hear Errol's voice in her head and see things she can't explain, she must face the truth—that she's either inherited her mother's madness, or Errol is for real.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:  2 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Contemporary fans
High point:  The sensitive representation of bipolar disorder
Low point: Alice's "friends" and Cupid
Reader maturity: 13+

While I appreciate Suzanne Selfors' respectful portrayal of bipolar disorder and the effect that it can have on a family, Mad Love didn't do much for me in the way of literary entertainment. I quickly grew weary of Alice and her lies and didn't believe for a second that so many people who supposedly loved her (and knew her situation) would lie for her and allow a teenage girl to live on her own, dealing with money and legal problems on her own. The character of Cupid was also incredibly depressing, and I flip-flopped between annoyance and pity for him.

On the more positive side of things, the writing had the ability to make me genuinely feel sorry for Alice and everything she was struggling with--the lies, her trouble ceding responsibility and the alienation she experienced. I was glad she had a few people around who cared about her, but I was really, really mad at them for allowing her to go through what she did. Alice is a child, and she shouldn't have to act like an adult, especially when there are adults around who know what's going on. The portrayal of Alice's mother is approached with sensitively and neutrality, which I admired. But as for all the other people in Alice's life--!

If you're looking for a love story or a fun summer read, look elsewhere. Mad Love is a serious (albeit with the addition of Cupid) look at the effect of bipolar disorder on families and their loved ones.

Title:  Mad Love
Suzanne Selfors
Genre:  Teen Fiction - Girls & Young Women
Year:   2011
Book Source:  Won