Saturday, June 30, 2012

Review: Ripper - Amy Carol Reeves

Ripper
by Amy Carol Reeves
Young Adult
Read From: June 19, 2012 - June 21, 2012














Review
~~~~~~~~~~~
Cover Blurb: It isn’t the most wonderful out there, in my opinion. It has the quality of a self-published novel, the girl on the front looks as if she belongs on one of those cheap Christian novels, and it simply tries too hard to be mysterious and foreboding with the Ripper standing in the background. I do, however, like the title font; the end of the R turning into a blade is a nice little touch, and I like that the brotherhood’s crest is shown on the back so we Readers know what it looks like when we first read about it in the story.

What I Liked: The storyline itself is interesting, even with its paranormal aspect. I don’t normally go for a paranormal twist on actual historical events, but in this case it was acceptable. The two leading male characters, William and Simon, were both likable, their dislike for one another not getting too much in the way of things. Simon is the typical young, caring doctor, while William is the character who starts off dismissive of Abbie, but begins to respect her as he learns of her strengths. Abbie herself is an acceptable protagonist. She’s not faint of heart, she doesn’t tote around an attitude, and she does what needs to be done. I also liked that the love triangle actually worked rather than got annoying. Abbie isn’t constantly agonizing over, “Oh, do I like Simon or William better?” She loves one of them and likes the other as a friend, so it works.

What I Disliked: The Ripper’s identity was too obvious. As soon as he was introduced as himself - that is, as not the Ripper, - I knew he was the Ripper. It was also painfully obvious that the only reason the Author made William a bit of a jerk was to create tension between him and Abbie. William didn’t seem like a genuine jerk, so when he said something mean, it felt off. And Abbie’s very sudden attraction to William was annoying because it only served to make her seem like a flake. Seriously; she just met him in the middle of surgery. Attractiveness would be the last thing on my mind.

Believability: The Author has clearly either been to London or has studied a lot of maps. Either that or she is very good at faking like she knows London, because it felt like she knew what she was talking about when she talked about London geographically. As far as historical events go, she has definitely done research there, and she actually did a fair amount of in-depth reading into the Ripper cases (you’d be surprised at how many Authors haven’t). But I question how much research she did when it comes to Victorian social conduct. While I could accept that Abbie is rough around the edges because of her upbringing, I could not ignore that all of the other characters ignored social protocol as well. The way the men behaved around Abbie, their familiar use of her first name without invite (and I’m not referring to Dr. Bartlett, since his forwardness is explained), and such things as that. There was just things one did not do then, like nowadays, and none of the characters followed this. Lack of attention to such day-to-day details detracts from a story’s authentic feel. Two minor historical infractions that also bothered me were 1)Dr. Bartlett says that though he is a physician (and therefore knows better), he must indulge his smoking habit. In 1888, they still thought smoking was healthy for a person. And 2)Abbie’s grandmother is using a quill pen. While there were certainly probably a few people who still used quill pens in 1888, the fountain pen had been invented and was in popular use. These are minor faults, as I said, but they just personally irritated me a little bit.

Writing Style: The Author isn’t a bad writer. She knows how to write creepy scenes. Plenty of Abbie’s run-ins with the Ripper are literally hair-raising, and I even felt paranoid going to bed. The murders were gristly without being overly graphic. However, the majority of dialogue was not in keeping with 1888, having a very modern structure and some modern words. And like with all modern Authors, she sometimes indulged in superfluous details. Why do we Readers need to know the exact substances that caused the different stains on Abbie’s apron? Why do we need to know that it was specifically the middle finger of her right hand that was burned? Why do we need to be reminded that the jellyfish glow every time Abbie enters the room?

Content: For the most part, it was light. Clearly, there is violence, what with the story involving the Ripper. But as was said earlier, it isn’t overly graphic. There is 1 g--damn and 1 f-word. And Simon randomly informs Abbie that a super-minor character, one that we Readers don’t even meet, has a collection of pornography hidden within his library. This is also something that goes under What I Disliked, simply because this little tidbit of information was completely irrelevant to anything that happens in the book. Why did we need to know this about this character we never even meet?

Conclusion: Typical. Abbie finds herself in a creepy dark house with a bunch of murderers trying to kill her, and all she has to rely on is a knife and a few miscellaneous household items, like flammable liquids, ancient and unreliable guns, and a tank full of poisonous jellyfish. The “chase” wasn’t as ridiculous as some I’ve read, but it came perilously close to one of those scenes at the end of a horror film, where the protagonist keeps trying to kill the villain(s), and is constantly unsuccessful. It also ends with the promise of a sequel. I’m divided about whether or not I’m pleased with this news. This could have so easily been a single book, but so long as the Author doesn’t stretch it past two, I think it could work.

Recommended Audience: Mystery fans, of course, and people who love stories about the Ripper - or just murderers in general. And historical-fiction fans who don’t mind a paranormal twist. It’s more of a “girl read” than a “guy read,” and definitely intended for an older teen audience, though adults would enjoy it just as much as the teens.

Others in This Trilogy:
1)Ripper
2)Renegade

Friday, June 29, 2012

Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs
Young Adult
Read From: June 17, 2012 - June 19, 2012















Review
~~~~~~~~~~~
Cover Blurb: Love it. It’s creepy and intriguing and just shouts READ ME! Everything about it is attention-grabbing. It’s also a cover that you have to turn over so it’s not constantly staring at you and giving you nightmares. And I love the title’s font.

What I Liked: Like everyone else who has read this book, I loved the pictures. They added a very unique flair to the story’s atmosphere, and the fact that they are all real vintage photos just makes them all the creepier. I loved the story’s prologue - it was very engaging, promised a lot, and essentially did everything a prologue is supposed to do. And I loved the story’s premise. Jacob is also a pretty good protagonist. Given his recent family loss, and having his entire family thinking he might be losing his mind, Jacob’s slight attitude is understandable, though I honestly think he accepts his family’s opinion on his sanity pretty darn well.


What I Disliked: The story really didn’t deliver. Not in the way that the prologue, photos, and synopsis lead you to believe. I expected a psychological thriller, or at least a story with tons of twists and turns, a cliffhanger ending (because I already knew there was a sequel), and an overall spooky story. A perfect summer read. The story is spooky. At first. But the Author reveals all the plot-twists way too soon and all at once. And once the Reader “sees” the monsters - the hollowgasts - they are no longer scary. Not even a little bit. There’s also the romantic relationship between Jacob and Emma. In a story like this, any romantic relationship is going to feel sudden and rushed, and this one is no exception. There’s also the fact that while Emma is stuck in a time loop and therefore doesn’t age, there is still a HUGE age difference between her and Jacob, and she had romantic attachments to Jacob’s grandfather. Sorry, but that’s just weird.


Believability: Considering the nature of this story, it’s hard to talk about believability at all. But supposing for a moment - for just a moment - that this could happen, the Author did do a good job in creating an environment where it might be possible. An isolated little island in Wales is a perfect setting for weird events like this.


Writing Style: The Author’s writing is nothing to complain about or praise. It worked for the story, and was entertaining. The dialogue read the way people actually talk, so it was realistic.


Content: This was not something I was expecting. 5 g--damns and 9 s-words. The majority of it is in the beginning half, then once Jacob goes through the time loop, the language pretty much goes away, except for a couple of words. But I intend to take a little black marker to my personal copy when I buy this book.


Conclusion: It’s exciting enough, but I get the sad - and horrible - feeling that the second book is just going to dissolve into a new version of the zombie-smashing storyline. There’s no zombies, but the hollowgasts aren’t too far off in many ways. It’s looking less and less like a mind-twisting story and more like a horror story. Still, I can’t accuse the first book of being boring, and there were enough aspects that I liked to give it three stars.


Recommended Audience: Mystery Readers who like supernatural/paranormal-like mysteries would probably enjoy this, as well as horror story fans. Definitely an older-teen audience, and a girl and guy read.


Others in the Miss Peregrine's Series:
1)Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
2)Hollow City


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Review: The False Prince - Jennifer A. Nielsen

The False Prince
by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Middle Grade
Read From: June 11, 2012 - June 13, 2012














Review
~~~~~~~~~~~
Cover Blurb: I actually really, really like it. I love the blue and the broken crown; it communicates a lot about the story. And of course the title’s font is big and bold and gold, and that’s always attention-grabbing.

What I Liked: Sage is sarcastic and cheeky without having an attitude. When he said something snarky, I pictured him saying it completely straight-faced, without a hint of humor in his voice. He’d be one of those people that if you didn’t know sarcasm, you wouldn’t be sure if he was serious or pulling your leg. And I loved his realism and perceptiveness. I would be skeptical of any other character who figured out what was really going on as soon as he did, but with Sage it was somehow totally believable that he knew. The other characters were a good mixture of different personalities, and their interactions were interesting. The whole setup for the story, too, was very intriguing, and the twist was excellent. And I loved the lack of magic! There was absolutely no magic!


What I Disliked: My main complaints go under Writing Style, so the only complaint I will put here is a very, very minor one: I always associate the name “Sage” with a female character.


Believability: I can’t say too much here because all of the believability has to do with the twist, and I don’t want to give that away. All I can really say is, if everything happened the way it did in the book, then I could see something like that actually happening. The Author also did a good job in portraying physical injuries.


Writing Style: The style itself was pleasant enough. The flaw lies in some of the plot executions. A friend (Hazel) and I had a fairly long discussion about this particular topic, and I will refer to some of the things she said. One of the things that Hazel didn’t particular like was how Sage was constantly pulling things out that he had stolen, and the Reader didn’t even get to “witness” the theft. This actually didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. Most of the things Sage steals - money, a dagger - are minor things that, if the Author had related their theft, would cause the Reader to wonder why that was important. When Sage pulls the things out of his pocket, he explains where he got them, and I personally think that that was the smoothest way the Author could insert his thefts. There are two particular thefts, though, that I think the Reader ought to have been privy to: when Sage takes back his fool’s gold, since this little incident causes the relationships between the characters to change dramatically; and when Sage retrieves a particular sword. Given the importance of these two objects, the Reader definitely ought to have “witnessed” their retrievals. My friend also felt that as the protagonist - and narrator, - Sage kept far too many secrets from the Reader. I’m divided on this issue (and sadly, I cannot be explicit, since this concerns the story’s twist). On one hand, the narrator really oughtn’t keep so many secrets from the Reader. But on the other, this particular twist has been done so many times that it was nice to be kept in the dark as thoroughly and as long as we were. I think, though, that the Author could have given a few more hints, so that the Reader didn’t feel so left out, but it still might have come as a surprise. The revelation was a bit sloppy and could have used some work; that I definitely agree on. But it’s still a good twist, and while I guessed it easily (I was on the lookout for it), it’s still satisfying and won’t be as apparent to some people as it was perhaps me, because some people won’t have a friend who has already read the book.


Content: Nothing to complain about.


Conclusion: Obviously there will be a sequel - it’s a trilogy, after all. As a whole, the conclusion was satisfying, the villains get what they deserve, and as I said earlier, the twist is good. I liked that while everyone else had plans for Sage, he had his own secret plan, and he was able to carry it out in full, completely pulling the rug out from under the feet of all those conniving jerks. Sage is going to be a very satisfying protagonist for the rest of the trilogy.


Recommended Audience: There isn’t a single person I wouldn’t recommend this book to. It’s a girl and guy read, all ages would enjoy it, and since it neither falls in the fantasy nor the historical fiction category - or romance, for that matter, - I think anyone would enjoy it.


Others in The Ascendance Trilogy:
1)The False Prince
2)The Runaway King

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review: My Family for the War - Anne C. Voorhoeve

My Family for the War
by Anne C. Voorhoeve
Young Adult
Read From: June 13, 2013 - June 16, 2012














Review
~~~~~~~~~~~
Cover Blurb: I personally like it, especially how there’s an old-style photo depicting the same picture, and I like how the title is done. But I can see how some people would think that it’s boring.

What I Liked: Really, I liked everything. Frances is easy to like and connect with, and she’s a terrific protagonist to travel the whole of World War II with. The story starts out with a young girl scared and confused by the changes in her world, but she’s also a young girl who conquers her fears to get what she wants. And as the story progresses, I could feel her growing up into a mature young woman who now knew that running wasn’t the answer to everything. I loved the family dynamics of the people she ends up staying with, and I loved that Gary immediately adopts her as his little sister.


What I Disliked: This is really one of those books where you can’t criticize anything about it. I could root up some little phrase that wasn’t very well written, but there’s no reason to.


Believability: Everything about it is entirely believable. The Author has so very clearly done tons of research, while other aspects of the story feel as if she might have personal experience on her side to guide her writing. Her portrayal of Jewish beliefs felt entirely authentic. I also liked that the Author chose a girl who was of Jewish heritage, but was Protestant in her beliefs. A lot of WWII stories told from a Jewish point of view that are written nowadays - especially in teen literature - seem to be told from an entirely non-religious person’s point of view. It was nice to have a character who did believe in something, and then began to learn and understand her Jewish heritage, but also didn’t give up her Protestant beliefs.


Writing Style: It was good. The Author put a lot of emotion in her writing; she brought the Blitz to life in a way that made me, as a Reader, feel what it was like in a much closer way. And with Frances receiving news about what was going on in Germany, and what was happening to the Jews, through letters and newspapers, it felt much, much more intense and eerie and horrifying.


Content: Nothing.


Conclusion: It was realistic, which is the sort of ending a book like this needs. Not everything is sad and depressing, but it isn’t 100% cheerful, either. And it’s not at all disappointing.


Recommended Audience: Historical fiction fans should definitely read this, especially if you’re fond of WWII books that cover the war through the eyes of the “home front,” and not through the front lines. I would encourage all ages to read it, though it’s probably more geared towards girls than guys.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: The Faerie Ring - Kiki Hamilton

The Faerie Ring
by Kiki Hamilton
Young Adult
Read From: June 16, 2012 - June 17, 2012













Review
~~~~~~~~~~~~
Cover Blurb: Love the title’s font, love the colors, love the glowing ring. But I do wish you could see the girl in the background just a little bit better, because that’s the only indication - visually - that this takes place in a historical setting.

What I Liked: Rieker; I liked him. He could have come across as creepy, but he didn’t. I felt that he genuinely cared about Tiki and the other orphans. I loved the time period, of course, and I liked the sense of peril and mystery.


What I Disliked: Tiki’s name. Why, in the name of reason, could the Author not just call her by her full name: Tara? It’s the same amount of syllables, and not annoying. Tiki is annoying. I barely made it through this book simply because of the protagonist’s name, and that’s not good. Out of all the nicknames the Author could have chosen, she chose Tiki . . . I want to read the book’s sequel, but I’m not sure I can do Tiki’s name for a while. I also got tired of Tiki jumping to all of these conclusions about Rieker - and then acting irrationally upon them. She doesn’t even once consider that maybe the villains are manipulating her; she just jumps up and does something stupid. The romantic relationship between her and Rieker felt rushed, especially since Tiki was so hell-bent on not trusting him. Tiki can also magically read Gaelic, though the book gives no indication of where she learned to read it, and if it’s meant to be a strange ability she has, the book doesn’t indicate that it is a strange ability. She can just do it.


Believability: First off, the break-in into Buckingham Palace. It seemed far-fetched, and the Author didn’t once convince me that just maybe it could happen. Tiki attending the ball was a bit more believable because it’s indicated that Tiki has had a somewhat aristocratic upbringing. Many of the characters also ignored social conduct - the princes especially, and they would be the least likely to ignore social protocol, and other people definitely wouldn’t ignore social protocol around them. Tiki wouldn’t be calling Prince Leopold “Leo.” I don’t care if the Prince told her to; it wouldn’t happen. Other than those aspects, the Author’s depiction of street life was realistic.


Writing Style: It wasn’t the greatest. The dialogue was not authentic, and the whole tone clearly shouted “modern author.” Nothing particularly bad stands out; there was just nothing terribly remarkable about the writing.


Content: Other than a demented faerie boy chasing after Tiki, and wanting to use her, nothing. The Author doesn’t even say in what manner the faerie wants to use Tiki, though the Reader can come to conclusions well on their own.


Conclusion: The end is exciting enough, and the Author leaves enough questions hanging to have plenty of material for the sequel. I got tired of Tiki jumping to so many conclusions about Rieker, which dragged the ending out far longer than was necessary, and overall there was just something unsatisfying about the whole story. I’m not entirely certain what it is, but I got a sense of slight disappointment when I finished.


Recommended Audience: Historical-fantasy fans and romance fans. It’s definitely a girl read, and young teens could definitely read it.


Others in This Series:
1)The Faerie Ring
2)The Torn Wing
3)The Seven Year King

Monday, June 25, 2012

Review: Bewitching Season - Marissa Doyle

Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle
Series: Leland Sisters Trilogy #1
Genre: YA, historical fantasy, romance
Published on April 29, 2008
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Pages: 352
Read From: 6.10.12 - 6.11.12










SYNOPSIS
In 1837 London, young daughters of viscounts pined for handsome, titled husbands, not careers. And certainly not careers in magic. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Review: The Lost Crown - Sarah Miller

The Lost Crown
by Sarah Miller
Young Adult
Read From: June 7, 2012 - June 10, 2012














Review
~~~~~~~~~~~~
Cover Blurb: It’s pretty and attractive, and thankfully doesn’t leer at me. The title font isn’t anything exciting, though I like how half of it is in purple. The style of the cover might deter hardcore historical fiction fans, though, since it looks a lot like a historical romance. I honestly expected a girly book when I first picked it up.

What I Liked: So many books on this topic are always, always told from Anastasia’s point of view, and while I certainly love it when Anastasia is the protagonist, it was really nice to read from the point of views of her sisters as well. It would have also been interesting if the Author had told a few chapters in Alexei’s point of view, but just the sisters worked for me fine.


What I Disliked: Quite honestly, nothing. I suppose I could be super nit-picky and find some small sentence that bugged me, but I won’t.


Believability: I will confess that I don’t actually know a whole lot about the Romanov family, but given the massive Author’s Note in the back (complete with pictures), I am pretty confident that the Author really did do a lot of research. The fact that she admits there are a lot of holes and lots of different opinions about what sort of man the Tsar was tells me that she took the time to look in history book and archives.


Writing Style: It is present-tense. But considering everyone dies in the end, I suppose the Author really couldn’t choose any other tense. Each chapter being told by a different sister was nice, and the Author gave each girl a very distinctive narration voice, so it didn’t get confusing. Her portrayal was also not at all one-sided or felt like it was clouded by her own personal opinions. The opinions voiced in the book clearly felt like the girls’ opinions; it felt like the Author was saying, “This book is told from the sisters’ point of views, and this might be what they thought of their mother and father.”


Content: I have nothing to neither report nor complain about.


Conclusion: Needless to say, it’s sad. This isn’t an alternate history where the Author writes about the theory that maybe Anastasia survived. Everyone dies, and the Author does a tremendous job in making this scene dramatic (but not overly so), realistic, and very much a “frozen time in history.”


Recommended Audience: Historical fiction fans. This isn’t a romance novel, despite its cover.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Review: Fortune's Fool - Kathleen Karr

Fortune's Fool by Kathleen Karr
Genre: YA, historical fiction, romance
Published on May 13, 2008
Published by Knopf
Pages: 208
Read From: 6.5.12 - 6.7.12










SYNOPSIS
Conrad the Good, orphaned and left to make his own way as a court jester, has received one too many beatings at the hand of his lord, Otto "the Witless." So Conrad sets forth on a quest to find a wiser and worthier master, taking from Otto's realm only his wit, his noble horse, Blackspur - and his beloved, the servant girl Christa the Fair. 
But enlightenment and acceptance are rare in medieval Germany, and along with their quest comes newfound hardship. Fierce winter storms follow them through plague-stricken villages; there are bandits on the roads and wolves in the woods; and there are lords far more wicked than Otto in the world. But with Christa's disguise as a boy and Conrad's resourcefulness, they pass as traveling entertainers, and for all the hardships they encounter, there are as many unexpected joys and friendships found in surprising places. 
As always, their destination lies just beyond where they can be free to be together and be themselves.


Review

Cover Blurb: The only reason it caught my attention is because it was clearly either historical fiction or fantasy, and if it was historical fiction I wanted to read it. I like the idea behind it being like a stained-glass window, but I wish it actually looked more like a real stained-glass window, rather than a colored picture.

What I Liked: Conrad was an awesome protagonist. He was funny, but was also capable of being serious. The romantic relationship between him and Christa didn’t feel rushed because the story began with them already in a relationship. The storyline, while simplistic, was entertaining enough. A good, short little read for when you have nothing else on your shelf.


What I Disliked: It could have, and should have, been longer. A journey story needs to have more happen in it.


Believability: Clearly the Author has done research on the era and circumstances she is writing about. And she wonderfully doesn’t ignore the fact that religion was a big part of the Middle Ages. So many modern Authors will have their protagonist undecided about what they believe spiritually - or just conveniently not bring religion up at all. That doesn’t work if one sets it in an era where religion was so important, like the Middle Ages. It lessens the authenticity of one’s character and overall story. Conrad questions some of the things that the Church teaches, but his questions aren’t “out of sync” with the time period. I imagine there were a lot of jesters who questioned why they couldn’t have the sacraments simply because they were entertainers.


Writing Style: It’s nice; it fits the story’s simplicity, and the dialogue is in keeping with the era without being difficult to read at the same time.


Content: Conrad is always wanting Christa in a sexual sense, and his longing for that gets tiring to read about. But nothing comes of it.


Conclusion: Again, I think this story ought to have been longer. But the conclusion was satisfying enough.


Recommended Audience: Anyone who is looking for a short historical novel. A younger teen audience could read it, even with Conrad always wanting Christa (the Author isn’t detailed about his wants). Both girls and guys would enjoy it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Review: The Wicked and the Just - J. Anderson Coats

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Published on April 17, 2012
Published by Houghton Miffin Harcourt
Pages: 345
Read From: 6.2.12 - 6.3.12













SYNOPSIS
Cecily longs to return to her beloved Edgeley Hall, where her father was lord of the manor. But now he has completely ruined her life. He is moving them to Caernarvon, in occupied Wales, where he can get a place for almost nothing, since the king needs good, strong Englishmen to keep down the vicious Welshmen. At least Cecily will get to be the lady of the house at last - if all goes well. 
Gwenhwyfar knows all about that house. Once she dreamed of being the lady there herself, until the English came and destroyed the lives of everyone she knows. Now Gwenhwyfar must wait hand and foot on this bratty English girl who has taken what should have been hers. 
While Cecily struggles to find her place among the snobby English landowners, Gwenhwyfar struggles just to survive. And meanwhile, the Welsh are not as conquered as they seem. Outside the city walls, tensions are rising ever higher - until finally they must reach the breaking point.

Review

Cover Blurb: I like how the early morning light also looks like fire, and displays the girl’s silhouette. Except, I’ll admit, every time I glance at the cover, I always, always assume that she’s carrying a flashlight. The title font is beautiful; it is what originally caught my attention, if I’m to be honest.

What I Liked: Gwenhwyfar is a good protagonist. Some would say that she’s a jerk, but given the oppression she and her fellow Welshmen have suffered at the hands of the English, it is very hard to fault her for any of her behavior. She’s a good example of the proud Welsh spirit, and she’s a strong young woman who bows as little under the English yoke as she possibly can. The storyline itself is good; it’s hard not to praise a story taking place in such a fascinating era.


What I Disliked: Cecily is a four-star brat, and she remains thus throughout, right to the very end. She’s mean, selfish, cruel, spoiled, a liar, a horrible tease, and a jerk. There is not a single thing about Cecily to like; not at all. And I didn’t get the sense that she learned her lesson at the end of the book. It was hard to feel sorry for her even when really bad things happened, because she’s just so horrible, and I wanted to smack her when she was mean to Emmaline, who is a sweet girl. There also wasn’t enough interaction between Cecily and Gwenhwyfar, which is really what I wanted to read about.


Believability: The Author has definitely done research. Geographically, historical events, day-to-day living, social conduct, laws, et cetera. She’s looked it all up. Her portrayal of English-occupied Wales is accurately brutal, and she doesn’t shy away from describing the worst of it. She makes it easy to hate the English, and to sympathize with the Welsh. But she also doesn’t do a one-sided portrayal; the Author also talks about some of the horrible things the Welsh did to the English when they temporarily took back their lands.


Writing Style: Each chapter alternates between narrators: Cecily and Gwenhwyfar, and I liked this. The Reader gets to see both sides of life easier this way. Unfortunately, the Author writes in present-tense, but Cecily’s sections almost read like a journal. It isn’t written in the style of a journal, but it kind of has the same feel, so the present-tense was easy to ignore. Gwenhwyfar’s narrations, however, were difficult to follow at times, and in many ways read like stream-of-consciousness, which can be annoying.


Content: Gwenhwyfar is constantly being felt up by guards. It’s realistic; that sort of thing happened all the time, especially to the Welsh because no one would bother to protect a Welshwoman, and if she protected herself, she’d be arrested. But the Author really didn’t need to mention every bloody time it happened. There are 2 g--damns and 1 s-word, and Cecily is almost raped, but there are no details.


Conclusion: This isn’t a feel-good book. It’s a gritty, open-your-eyes, historical novel. And therefore, the ending isn’t a happy one. Cecily doesn’t seem to have learned any lessons, so it’s hard to be happy about her rescue from Caernarvon after the Welsh take it back. And anyone who knows anything about the history of Wales will know that the Welsh rebellion is put down and they don’t gain their freedom. I wasn’t disappointed with the end, though. I expected nothing less from the sobering conclusion that it has, and if it had ended all happy, I would have been terribly put out.


Recommended Audience: Fans of historical fiction that has been well-researched. This could be both a girl and guy read, and definitely geared towards an older teen audience, though adults would enjoy it, too.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review: Divergent - Veronica Roth

Divergent
by Veronica Roth
Young Adult
Read From: June 1, 2012 - June 2, 2012














Review
~~~~~~~~~~~
Cover Blurb: The fiery eye is definitely intriguing, and the cover definitely promises a gritty, inner-city-type story - only in the future. I love the title font, and I like the simplicity. For the type of book it is, it works, and it isn’t misleading about what one might expect from it.

What I Liked: Tris, the protagonist, is good. She’s a tough cookie without being a macho-chick, and I applaud the Author for being able to put Tris in the setting that she did without turning her into one of those. I liked the relations between the different factions, as well as how the new recruits into Dauntless treated one another, depending on their faction. The kids didn’t feel united all of a sudden because of their initiation; they still held some loyalty to their old factions. Four is also an awesome character; while I wish there wasn’t a romantic relationship between him and Tris, it didn’t get too annoying. At first. The Author is also not afraid to kill of characters, and that’s always a plus in my book. For a story to be both exciting and dramatic, some people need to die.


What I Disliked: If this book is claiming to be dystopian, then the society should have been more obviously utopian. I get that the “failed utopia” came from how the factions were created to keep people with different opinions on how one should live separate, thus no one will have a reason to fight. And this, of course, isn’t working. But it simply did not feel much like a dystopian story. It felt more like an urban-fantasy/grunge set in the future. I think that maybe the second book (which I haven’t read yet) will have a more dystopian feel; we’ll see. I didn’t find Dauntless a very convincing military, and after a while the romance did get annoying.


Believability: Again, not a very convincing totalitarian government. It did become a bit more believable once war broke out, though, and the government started using military force. But I did like that the Author seemed to know that the human body is not invincible. When her characters got beat up, they spent a good amount of time in the infirmary and sometimes even sustained permanent injuries.


Writing Style: She followed the fad with dystopian and wrote it in present-tense. And like with most books, it didn’t really work. Too movie-ish, lots of short phrases; nothing beautiful about the writing. It was entertaining, but it wasn’t beautiful. I loved some of the twists she had; there were a couple that I was not expecting, and they were good. And right when the book threatens to get boring, the Author throws in a new revelation about Divergent or one of the character’s pasts, which keeps the Reader engaged.


Content: Once Tris and Four get their feelings out in the open between each other, they get clingy when they’re alone, and they have to resist bedding each other. Nothing happens, there are no details, but I found it annoying simply because it’s like characters can no longer fall in love in a book without at least one of them wanting to jump straight to the bed.


Conclusion: It definitely promises an exciting sequel, and there’s nothing dull about the final steps of the plot. It’s exciting, fast-paced, and every inch engaging. I whipped through it quickly.


Recommended Audience: Dystopian fans, though with a cautionary message that compared to The Hunger Games or Matched, it’s not as dystopian as one might expect. People who like combat stories with teen protagonists. This is both a guy and girl read, though perhaps a bit more of a girl read than a guy one because of the romance and female protagonist.


Others in This Trilogy:
1)Divergent
2)Insurgent
3)Allegiant


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review: The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll & Mademoiselle Odile - James Reese

The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll & Mademoiselle Odile
by James Reese
Young Adult
Read From: May 23, 2012 - May 30, 2012













Review
~~~~~~~~~~~~
 I was wary of this book when I picked it up - people always take a lot of liberties with R. L. Stevenson’s famous short story. But considering that this is supposed to be a “prequel” to The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll & Mister Hyde made what liberties the Author took much more bearable. At least he got Hyde moderately correct. So many movies and retellings depict Mr. Hyde as a giant ape-like person, when in fact he wasn’t at all. Hyde was a short and stocky young man. The Author kind of depicts Hyde like that, but not quite as badly as others, so I excused it.

Odile is a great heroine: strong and resourceful. While she makes many mistakes, she tries her best to set them right. I’m still not entirely certain how I feel about the Author making Doctor Jekyll into such a weasely and deceitful person. He seems to completely ignore the whole point behind Jekyll’s experiments - to separate the good in man from the evil - and claims that Jekyll is just trying to impress the Royal Society. But, again, this being a prequel, one can theorize that Jekyll did not begin to have such an intense interest in the nature of man until later.

The backdrop for the story is a good one, and lends to the excitement and gritty feel of the story. The writing style, too, is fairly good. At times the sentence structure is a bit strange, but it lends to the feeling that Odile is verbally telling her story to someone, rather than writing it out, and while I don’t normally like that particular style, it worked for this story. The Author also uses many French words in the dialogue, but thankfully he offers in-text translations, and it adds to Odile’s authenticity rather than bogging the narration down.

The end of the story is more than a little sudden, as are a couple of the twists. They are good twists, but they are delivered in a way that leaves the Reader blinking in confused surprise. I can’t help but wonder if there is going to be a sequel, since it more or less ends on that sort of note.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Review: Matched - Ally Condie

Matched by Ally Condie
Series: Matched Trilogy #1
Genre: YA, dystopian, romance
Published on November 30, 2010
Published by Dutton Books
Pages: 369
Read From: 5.21.12 - 5.24.12












SYNOPSIS
In the Society, Officials decide everything. Who you love, where you work, when you die. Cassia has always trusted their choices. It's hardly any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one. . . .until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path no one else has ever dared follow - between perfection and passion.

Review

Yet another book that I was anticipating to be bad, but I was pleasantly surprised! Yes, the world of Matched reminded me a lot of The Giver, but the Author had enough of her own originality in it to keep it from feeling like a rip-off. The Giver is a very good totalitarian world to copy because it is convincing, and this government was convincing. They monitored absolutely and positively every bloody thing in everyone’s lives, and if someone started acting abnormal, they paid a little visit to that person, and monitored them even closer. What made this government even more convincing was they never admitted when they made a mistake; they always claimed that they meant to do that; that it was part of a plan. And they had everyone perfectly brainwashed into believing that the Officials were there to help them. Out of all of the dystopian books I’ve read so far, this was the most believable.

I also really liked that Cassia started out totally convinced that the Society knew best. So many dystopian books have their protagonist knowing that their government is corrupt and doesn’t have their best interests at heart. Or if they do believe their government, it doesn’t take them long to realize that they’ve been lied to. Cassia’s faith in the Society is slowly, but steadily, shaken as the story progresses, until she finally learns the truth, and then she knows what the Society is really about. Not only did this lend to the mystery and eerie atmosphere of the story, but it was also believable. Some people might say that her sudden interest in Ky is a stupid way for her to begin questioning the Society, but that isn’t what caused her to start questioning their authority. Society never makes mistakes - or so she has been led to believe, - and yet they made a mistake with her Match. How could this happen? Why did this happen? I would start questioning, too.


The romance is surprisingly not irritating. Cassia’s interest in Ky doesn’t start out as a romantic attachment, but rather curiosity. She has just seen his face in connection with an error that the Officials would never make, and she wants to know more. As she knows him better, her relationship grows into something more, and I am perfectly okay with a romantic attachment occurring like this in a book. It’s true that Cassia thinks about Ky quite a bit, but it isn’t in romantic terms - not at first - and Ky isn’t a 100% total stranger; they go to the same school.


One thing I definitely agree on with people who have given this book a negative review is the Author does try to sound too profound at times without making it clear as to what exactly her point is. This is an issue that is a little hard to explain in full, but Readers will understand what I mean when they read the book. The Author also repeats a word to make something sound more dramatic more often than she should. However, on a very surprising note, I actually liked the present-tense narration. I hate present-tense usually, but it really worked for Matched.


The end to this book was perfect, and in keeping with how things would go for people who had defied a controlling regime. If it hadn’t ended the way it does, I would not have liked it so well. But it was realistic, exciting, a definite turning point, and I really look forward to the sequel.


Others in This Trilogy:
1)Matched
2)Crossed
3)Reached


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Review: The Springsweet - Saundra Mitchell

The Springsweet
by Saundra Mitchell
Young Adult
Read From: May 21, 2012 - May 23, 2012













Review
~~~~~~~~~~~~
I did not have high hopes for this book. The Vespertine didn’t need a sequel, and all I anticipated was a complete disaster. I was wrong, and as much as I dislike to admit when I am wrong in general, I’m always relieved to say that when it comes to books (unless, of course, I anticipated the book to be good, and then it was turned out to be bad). The Author was clever when she wrote The Springsweet. It doesn’t follow the “continued” adventures of The Vespertine’s heroine, Amelia, but rather follows Zora’s life after the tragic events of the previous summer. I would, of course, encourage people to read The Vespertine before picking this one up, so Readers can understand how Zora came to be the way she is, and The Springsweet also ends with more than a hint towards the third book connecting back to Amelia’s life.

In many ways, I liked Book Two better. Emerson was easier to like than Nathanial. Emerson never struck me as untrustworthy, unlike Nathanial, who just seemed a little bit creepy. Zora is every bit as good of a narrator as Amelia, and considering the loss of her fiance, it is easy to sympathize with her, especially when Zora discovers her own magical abilities and begins to understand what Amelia went through herself. My main complaint about characters concerns Theo. I wanted very badly for him to be a villain. From the beginning, I was suspicious of him and the Author had a perfect setup for him to become the book’s antagonist. But it was wishful thinking and thus the book has a shocking lack of bad guys. The one character that causes some problems, Royal, isn’t in the book enough to really count.

The writing itself is just as good and beautiful as in The Vespertine. The Author has great talent when it comes to weaving clear pictures of scenery, characters, and costume. But I wish she hadn’t had Zora so focused on Emerson’s muscles and handsomeness. I’m perfectly okay if a heroine wants to mention, once or twice, that another character is handsome and strong. But not constantly, and certainly not every bloody time she sees him without his shirt, or when it is raining. It just makes the heroine seem shallow.

Apart from that, however, I liked The Springsweet, and I am looking forward to Book Three!

Others in This Trilogy:
1)The Vespertine
2)The Springsweet
3)The Elementals

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Review: The Council of Mirrors - Michael Buckley

The Council of Mirrors by Michael Buckley
Series: The Sisters Grimm #9
Genre: Middle Grade, fantasy, fairy tale retelling
Published on April 24, 2012
Published by Harry N. Abrams
Pages: 337
Read From: 5.19.12 - 5.21.12












SYNOPSIS
Sabrina, Daphne, and the rest of the Grimms - except for Granny Relda - fight for the freedom of Ferryport Landing in the series' grand finale. As war rips the town apart, Sabrina consults a team of magic mirrors, who prophesy that the only way the good guys will win is if she leads the army. Sabrina has always wanted to be taken seriously, and now she controls the fate of all the Everafters, the very people who have made her life so difficult since she and Daphne arrived in Ferryport Landing. Will they listen to a Grimm? And can she really save them?


Review

As a whole, I liked the conclusion to this wonderfully original series (though it doesn’t seem original any longer, I want to give Michael Buckley the credit for being the first to really do this idea). There are many surprises, things don’t end all happily-ever-after, there are a proper number of deaths, and Sabrina isn’t nearly as annoying in this book as she has been in previous volumes. Fans who are dying to see a wedding won’t be disappointed - not entirely. Some might fuss about how short the wedding is, but I liked that the Author spent so little time on it. Any longer and it would have become a little awkward and drawn-out.

So what didn’t I like? Well, the Grimm sisters’ parents, for one. The biggest problem with parents being in a story is they are always trying to keep their children out of danger, which means they are always preventing their kids from going off on adventures. Any Reader is going to be annoyed with anyone who is constantly telling the kids, “You can’t come because you might get hurt!” or, “You’re grounded because you disobeyed me.” While this is a perfectly natural reaction from a parent, it gets in the way of a good adventure, ergo parents should never be in a book (Inkheart is an exception).

As for Mirror’s defeat, I’m still a little unsure how I feel about it. On the one hand, I am not a fan of evil villains being killed off with compassion or their own remorse. It’s always disappointing, unrealistic, and a rip-off. True villains don’t feel remorse; any villain that does isn’t that evil. However, in this the Author did constantly hint that the reason Mirror did what he did was because he had never felt love or compassion in his life, and thus if he had, he would not be hurting people. It’s hard to say that Mirror is totally evil because I did get this constant feeling that he was a bit remorseful, but was just so desperate to leave Ferryport Landing that he was forced to drastic measures. So in some ways, his demise worked. In some ways. I still kind of feel cheated out of a good death. Especially since he just kind of turns into an essence - he doesn’t necessarily die - and then he just sort of . . . disappears.

So I guess my conclusion is that while The Council of Mirrors definitely delivered in many areas, it fell down in other ways. Still, it’s worth reading.


Others in The Sisters Grimm Series:
1)The Fairy-Tale Detectives
2)The Unusual Suspects
3)The Problem Child
4)Once Upon a Crime
5)Magic and Other Misdemeanors
6)Tales from the Hood
7)The Everafter War
8)The Inside Story
9)The Council of Mirrors

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Perfect Graduation Gift

It's true that I don't graduate from college until Friday. But I wanted a friend to be able to come along on my "special" graduation trip, so I went a week ahead of time. Where did I go? Powell's City of Books, of course! $89.50 in my pocket (part graduation gift from my parents and part from after I sold a few paperbacks at Powell's), I was feeling the need to buy some books. While this month's haul wasn't a motherload, it was still a pretty good one, and I'm pleased with the books I got. Of course, once more my shelves are overflowing, but what to do? I haven't had time to work on my new shelf (hopefully I will this summer, cross fingers!). So I guess it's back to having the Leaning Tower of Books on my floor. Anyway, here's what I got!
  • The Inside Story by Michael Buckley
  • A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
  • The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
  • Nobody's Princess by Esther Friesner
  • Stowaway by Karen Hesse
  • Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm
  • Doomed Queen Anne by Carolyn Meyer
  • The Empress's Tomb by Kirsten Miller
  • The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight by Gerald Morris
  • Daughter of Venice by Donna Jo Napoli
  • Drowned Wednesday by Garth Nix
  • A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
  • An Unlikely Friendship by Ann Rinaldi
  • The Secret of the Rose by Sarah L. Thomson
Five of them were to replace some worn paperbacks (yes, I'm still working on replacing everything from paperback to hardcover; it takes a while), and the rest were new buys. The only faith-buy I did this time was Ann Rinaldi's book, but it was an informed faith-buy because I've never once read one of her books that I was disappointed with. Sadly, my next trip to Powell's won't be until Christmas. Any graduation money I get from relatives and the like will have to go towards new released (September is looking busy for new books!).

Happy shopping, Readers!
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