Monday, January 31, 2011

The Mysterious Lady Law

The Mysterious Lady Law by Robert Appleton
Carina Press, 2011
104 pages
Steampunk
Ebook Challenge; British Books Challenge
3.5/5 stars

Source: Netgalley

Summary: Lady Harriet Law has solved over 600 cases so when she offers her services pro bono to Julia to investigate the murder of her sister, Julia eagerly accepts.  But the solution offered is suspiciously pat and Julia with the aid of new beau constable Al Grant will investigate for herself the mysterious Lady Law in this steampunk novella.

Thoughts: I have been very interested in steampunk after seeing loads of reviews of awesome books so I hoped this would serve as another step into the world of steampunk.  I enjoyed what I read but felt that something was lacking.  I'm not sure if it was the length or the mystery but I was not completely satisfied.

I did love Julia, a dancer and waitress trying to make do with her sister in London and hoping for love who is terrified when she arrives home to discover her sister murdered.  She is pleased to make the acquaintance of Al Grant of the police who seems interested and might finally fulfill that hope of hers but she also wants to know why her sister died.  Lady Law's offer seems too good to be true.  When Julia is attacked later, she becomes even more frightened.  The action in the scene where she was attacked was a bit confusing; there was various machinery that was beyond my ability to picture.

The other part of the puzzle is Horace Holly whose protege was friendly with Julia's sister and who was also murdered.  As his path and Julia's intersect, they begin to figure out Lady Law and her (I feel) nefarious movements.  She has a very steampunk answer behind her ability to solve all of those mysteries.  However I was hoping for a different ending so perhaps therein lies my dissatisfication.

Regardless I would still recommend this for people looking for a quick steampunk read although perhaps not as an introduction.

Cover: I really like the cover-I think it's very beautiful with the airships and what I believe is Big Ben.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Love Remains

Love Remains by Kaye Dacus
Barbour, 2010
315 pages
Romance; Contemporary; Christian
Read as part of Ebook challenge
4/5 stars
First in Matchmakers Trilogy

Source: Through Netgalley

While this is a dreaded reunited first-loves book, I actually really enjoyed it. I usually find Kaye Dacus's books adorable and with characters that make me happy and this was no exception.
Zarah is as shocked as anyone when she sees her first love Bobby at a church singles' event.  They had shared a brief love when she was 18 and forbidden by her military father to date any enlisted men and Bobby was 20 and in the army.  They were separated by her father: Zarah thought that Bobby ditched her so as not to jeopardize his career while Bobby thought that Zarah chose college over him.  Each has not had any significant relationships since then but both are still hoping.

Of course they are constantly thrust together because they are active in the same church and their grandmothers are best friends.  In fact those grandmothers have decided to become matchmakers in order to ensure the birth of great-grandchildren.  Additionally Bobby's new job in Tennessee crime investigation brings him closer to Zarah because she is one the suspects.  Besides those factors, Bobby knows he still cares for Zarah and Zarah admits to the same.

The biggest issue separating the two is how her father interfered in their relationship initially and her own father issues.  Throughout her childhood, he constantly belittled her and destroyed her self-worth.  Probably my favorite part of the book was when God spoke to her and claimed her as His daughter. While her earthly father lets her down, her heavenly father will always love her and be there for her.

There is somewhat of a mystery as Bobby tries to figure out who has financial improprieties under his or her belt but it's not the largest part of the story.  Side characters provide additional fun including Zarah's friend Caylor who looks like she will be starring in the second book, The Art of Romance.

Overall: Another great read from Dacus!

Cover: Zarah does have big curly hair but I'm not sure this cover is the most accurate representation of the story within. I'm just not sure that I like the book being held by Zarah.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Promise

Promise by Kristie Cook
Smashwords, 2010
264 pages
YA; Contemporary; Paranormal
Read for Ebook challenge
2/5 stars

Source: Free ebook

Summary from goodreads: "Alexis Ames decides to learn who she really is, with or without the help of her mother, who guards their secrets closely. After meeting Tristan Knight and discovering that he s not normal either, the secrets begin to unravel. Their union brings promise to the future of mankind. But it also incites a dangerous pursuit by the enemy. Because they are a match made in Heaven and in Hell."

I think the simplest way to sum this book up would be that it is very like Twilight which, coming from me, is not a compliment.  If you like Twilight, you would probably like this book.

However I thought there were too many points that reminded me negatively of Twilight:
  • Multiple descriptions of the incredible attractiveness of the guy and the comparative plainness of the girl
  • Guy far older than girl; he looks between 19 and 24 despite being born in the 1700s
  • Girl's attainment of powers will render her very powerful but until then, she's pretty vulnerable
  • Girl unaware of most of the mythology and thus reader is also unaware
  • Long lead-up to the action-filled parts
  • Youthful marriage and strenuous honeymoon 
  • Repetition of certain words, in particular "promise"
I started off intrigued but once she meet Tristan, I thought the book went way downhill quickly.  I think these kinds of books are not to my taste; I prefer straightforward contemporaries without the paranormal aspect in general.

Cover: I like the purple of the flower but not the cover as a whole.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Healer's Apprentice



The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson
Zondervan, 2010
243 pages
Fairy Tale; YA; Historical; Romance; Christian
3.5/5 stars
Read for ebook challenge

Source: Free ebook from Barnes & Noble

I did not realize that this was a retelling of Sleeping Beauty so that was a pleasant discovery for me.  I also did not realize how much Christian content there was, a not unpleasant discovery but the way it was deployed was less pleasing to me, more on that later.

Rose is the daughter of a poor woodcutter but has been fortunate to be taken in by Frau Geruscha as her apprentice in the healing arts.  She has also caught the eyes of Lord Hamlin and his younger brother Lord Rupert.  Sadly Lord Hamlin is already betrothed to a duke's daughter who is under threat from an evil magician but he struggles with his feelings toward Rose, knowing they are inappropriate as he is unavailable. I approved of his efforts to forget Rose but far too much time was spent on that struggle.  Instead Rupert pursues her, attempting to overcome his womanizing ways.  Rupert's wooing did not appeal to me, especially in light of the strong character of his brother.

The Christian content comes in to play as the characters pray to God and rely on His providence for the future.  The climax of the story is that Rose ends up afflicted by demons and the solution is found in God; that answer paled in epicness to, for example, Disney's "Sleeping Beauty."

Overall: An interesting retelling of Sleeping Beauty but not my favorite.

Cover: I picked this book solely because of the cover (I especially love the font for "Healer's" and the dress) so obviously I think it's pretty solid.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Follow Friday and Book Hop



What is/was your favorite subject in school?
While I am a history major, I've recently been thinking that I almost always preferred math except for my year of calculus; algebra I & II, geometry, pre-calc, and statistics were some of the best classes I ever took.  However I also realize that I loved them so much because I had amazing teachers-that certainly makes a big difference!

Book Blogger Hop

What book are you most looking forward to seeing published in 2011? Why are you anticipating that book?
 Super easy-Wither by Lauren DeStefano.  Because I'm kind of shallow that way, I'm anticipating it solely because of the cover-one of the most beautiful covers I've ever seen.

I'm also looking forward to the new Elizabeth Scotts, Sarah Dessen, and loads of other YA.

The Jesus Inquest

The Jesus Inquest by Charles Foster
Thomas Nelson, 2010
262 pages
Non-fiction; Christian
Read for ebook and British Books Challenges
4/5 stars

Source: Received a free egalley from Thomas Nelson via booksneeze.com in exchange for an honest review.

I hope I can review this book well because I am a very amateur scholar of Christianity.  Additionally I am a Christian so arguments against the resurrection do not sway me although I was very interested to read what the specific arguments were against.

Each chapter is divided into two parts as X argues against the resurrection and Y follows up with a rebuttal in favor of the resurrection.  Foster is a barrister in England and thought that this method would serve as a chance for X and Y to interact fairly.

The chapters trace the full resurrection sequence: death, burial, empty tomb, and post-resurrection appearances.  Each calmly argues his position, which is one of the best parts. I feel like if you watched a debate between a diehard atheist and a true believer, it could get virulent but as a book, it was more low-key and I had time to digest and consult the footnotes.

I was very interested to see the points against the resurrection because as a believer, it's not something I really consider.  Some of the arguments seemed ridiculous to me, ideas that were conspiracy theories and were complicated unlike the simplest solution (to me) of Jesus died, was resurrected, and then ascended to heaven.  The story is simple because it's true.

Overall: A well-written exploration of the resurrection: for and against the rising of Jesus Christ. Recommended for the curious non-believer and believer alike.

Cover: I don't think this cover would encourage me to read this book as I don't really like the black and white with the yellow box on the front.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Deeds of the Disturber

The Deeds of the Disturber by Elizabeth Peters
Atheneum, 1988
289 pages
Mystery-Fifth Amelia Peabody book
4/5 stars
Read for Cozy Challenge

Source: Library

Although I read the first four Amelia Peabody books out of order, I was determined that I would read the rest as they were written.  When I was last at the library, I remembered to look up what the fifth book was called and luckily it was on the shelves.

This book is different from the previous because the setting is London rather than Egypt.  I really liked that change especially as I'm a bit of an Anglophile but not an Egyptologist.  Still I enjoy following Amelia, her husband Emerson, and their startlingly precocious son 'Ramses.'  Other recurring characters include Irish newsman Kevin O'Connell (who I quite adore), butler Wilkins, and Emerson's brother and wife.  New characters also appear: newswoman Miss Minton, mysterious woman from Emerson's past Ayesha, new butler Gargery who is quite in raptures over Emerson, and Amelia's niece and nephew plus more people intimately involved in the mystery.

That mystery begins when a watchman dies before a "haunted" mummy case at the British Museum followed by another death and the appearance of a man dressed as an ancient Egyptian priest to terrify the observers.  As always Emerson rails against Amelia involving herself but both set off on the track of the murderer with many amusing complications.  While I usually love the tone of the books, I found it somewhat overwhelming.  Amelia's writing, the story is supposed to be adapted from her journals, works best for me in small doses so I will wait awhile before I pick up the sixth book.

Cover: Um, it fits but I really don't like it.  The mask doesn't make any sense until almost the very end.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Once Upon a Scandal

Once Upon a Scandal by Delilah Marvelle
Harlequin, 2011
378 pages
Romance; Historical
Second in Trilogy
Ebook Challenge
4/5 stars

Source: Netgalley

While this is the second in a trilogy, I believe it can be read standalone as I did without missing anything.

At first I wasn't sure how I'd feel about this book because it features a trope I don't like: boy meets girl, boy and girl are separated for years with him giving her no reason why-just that it has to be, boy comes back to discover girl is not receptive to his advances (because he was such a jerk!) but I didn't mind it this time.  First I was very invested in their relationship to start and second because Thatcher was very much in love with Victoria all of those years and it was well conveyed to the reader. Victoria's heartbreak was real but she was also using those feelings as a defense mechanism after losing her mother, her brother, and, slowly but surely, her father so I easily rooted for their feelings to accord once again.

That's not to say that I thought the journey would be easy. Victoria is essentially forced to marry Thatcher in order to retain her nearly 100,000 pound inheritance and she does not want to give him another opportunity to break her heart.  Thatcher is battered after his five years of service to brutal Venetians as a cicisbeo, a man who serves a married woman as champion, protector, lady's maid usually in a non-sexual way, and his poverty that led to that situation.  The practice sounds so bizarre to me but Marvelle mentions its ubiquity.  He is a complete romantic while she is more practical and I loved that combination.

In order to win her over (and I think he does manipulate her in order to do this), she must accompany him to Venice where she can meet his stepsister and her family and fall in love with the city as he has.  They will also have to confront the past especially his male pride when his former employer appears; I did not like those scenes. But of course everything works out so they can live happily ever after.

Note: There were several references to Napoleon that made it sound like he was still terrifying Europe, despite being set in the year 1829 when Napoleon was already dead. I suppose they could have been referring to when he was Emperor but the way the references were used made it sound more like he was still in power.  Has anyone else read this who can clarify my understanding?

A quote from their pre-separation times: "How could she not adore this man when all he continued to do was try to get her to adore him?" (page 52 of Netgalley egalley edition, October 29, 2010.)

Cover: I like the creamy colors but his head looks really ugly and that angle in general looks quite uncomfortable.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots

Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots by Abby McDonald
Candlewick Press, 2010
293 pages
YA; Contemporary
4/5 stars

Source: Library

I mostly enjoyed McDonald's earlier book Sophomore Switch (review from the very early days of the blog) so I immediately added this to my list when I saw it was coming out.

Jenna is part of the Green Teens, an environmental club at her New Jersey high school so when her parents want to ship her off to Florida, she scrambles to come up with a better prospect, eventually suggesting visiting her godmother Susie in Canada.  When she gets there she has her worldview rocked by the small town, nature, and the people she meets.

Among those people are the snotty stepdaughter of Susie, named Fiona, and three (cute) guys, Adam, Grady, and Reeve.  Fiona was absolutely awful but she mellowed as Jenna's constant perkiness wore her down and showed her the eventual consequences of always being grumpy.  One of those three guys becomes a romantic interest for Jenna but all help open her eyes to the realities of her environmentalism, such as how it leads to a mill being closed and economic stagnation.

Jenna also struggles in her relationship to her parents.  Her father and mother seem headed for divorce and she does her best to avoid any discussion of that fact.  Her best friend Olivia, also an environmentalist, radicalizes and further causes Jenna to question herself and what the right path is.

Overall, she grows up, mellows out, and becomes a very changed person due to her experience.  Her naive idealism is replaced with a more nuanced understanding.  This is a cute and clean contemporary but nothing outstanding.  Pick this up for a fast read.

Cover: I really like the cover; I think there's a good balance and I love the pink although I'm never a fan of cutoff heads.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jane

Jane by April Lindner
Poppy, 2010
365 pages
YA; Classic Retelling
4.5/5 stars

Source: Library-I've been very impressed with its selection of YA reads lately!

Summary: A retelling of Charlotte Brontë's classic story Jane Eyre set in the 21st century with college dropout Jane Moore and rockstar Nico Rathburn in the roles of Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester. Possible spoilers for Jane Eyre.

Thoughts: I really wasn't sure about this book because I'm not a big fan of the Brontës (Austen>Brontë) and I read the author's note and she's obviously somewhat crazy for preferring Charlotte Brontë to Austen (I can't see how sense of humor could not beat dourness every time) but she had a good point about how their works have not been adapted (perhaps because Austen is universal (and awesomer!))  Also the fact that Rochester is considered sexy is crazy; compromising the morals of the woman you claim to love by attempting bigamy and then to make her your mistress? Not sexy! However I loved this adaptation (and I'm getting psyched about the new film version)!

Because of Jane's parents' death, she is unable to afford her expensive college so she decides to apply for a nanny position.  She is placed as the nanny to rockstar Nico Rathburn's daughter because of her lack of celebrity knowledge.  While there she slowly falls in love with the daughter and with Nico himself despite their considerable age difference.  When they confess their love to each and prepare to marry, their wedding day is spoiled with most unwelcome news.  She flees and has to find her purpose again.

As far as my remembrances of Jane Eyre, which I've only read twice, the story as a whole lines up well.  I particularly liked the end although I don't want to spoil it.  The changes Lindner made were fantastic-perfect updates to reunite Jane and Rathburn.  Also in case you were wondering, the age difference (at least 15 years by my reckoning, possibly as many as 20) was not creepy. I was worried about that but it didn't really bother me although of course tabloids within the book make sure to mention it.

I was also wondering about how a modern woman gets forced into a situation like Jane Eyre's and I thought that was handled well.  Jane's family situation is heartbreaking and really helps explain how she acts and how her character was formed.  She is morally worthy and loving and a character I loved.

Rathburn, as a former debauched rock-star, has some problems from the past but he is attempting a comeback while also trying to handle his role as a father to a child who only reminds him of the pain her mother caused him.  Jane's guidance helps mold him into a better father and helps heal the daughter's confusion over a mother who abandoned her and a father who acts inconsistently.

One odd detail I noticed was repetition of Jane being thirsty and drinking water.  Something about that picked at me although I don't think those instances hindered the story in any way.

Overall: One of the best retellings I've ever read; recommended if you've read Jane Eyre or will soon.

Cover: Stormy and atmospheric although I would have preferred to see Thornfield because the setting actually isn't that stormy.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Savor the Moment

Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts
Berkley Books, 2010
325 pages
Romance
3.5/5 stars
Third in Bride Quartet

Source: Library

Summary: Laurel enjoys baking cakes for Vows...and pining after Del, the only man she's ever really cared for.  But she knows that he lumps her into the category of "my girls" that he has to take care of-until a passionate kiss between the two of them opens a new aspect of their relationship.

Thoughts: I thought this was a slight improvement on the second book; Laurel and Del were marginally more appealing characters.  I also preferred reading about her baking more than Emma's flowers.  But again her issues irked me.

She is hung up on two main issues when it comes to Del.  1. That he acts as if all of the girls are his sisters (only Parker is) and thus clumps them all together like he is responsible for them and must interfere in their lives.  2. That he is rich and only dallying with her because she's available.  Both are wildly inaccurate but they provide the driving conflict between the two.

Again I preferred reading about the girls rather than the romantic elements.  They care much more about each other and have an innate understanding that far surpasses the connection they have with any of the guys.

I was excited for Happy Ever After, the last book in the quartet because Parker is my favorite character but I have not been impressed by her love interest Mal.  He seems like a cocky jerk-I hope that reading the book changes my opinion but I'm not confident.  I will read and review HEA when I can get it-all the library copies around me have at least 20 holds.

Overall: An okay story but still not as good as the first.

Cover: Um, yummy! That cake looks delicious.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bed of Roses

Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts
Berkley Books, 2009
335 pages
Romance
3/5 stars
Second in Bride Quartet

Source: Library

Summary: After Mac and Carter have announced their engagement, the ladies of Vows are thrilled to plan her wedding including Emma, in charge of flowers.  Of course, she would also like a wedding of her own but that will come in time when she meets Mr. Right.  Jack, an architect, is an old friend of theirs who has been around for a while and lately he's been thinking more intimately about Emma.  But will his commitment-phobic ways end them before they start?

Thoughts: I will try not to compare this book to the previous one (Vision in White) because I want to judge it on its own merits and each book could be read standalone without the context of the others.  Regardless I did like this book much less.

And that was mainly because of the main characters. I loved reading about the friendship between the ladies (and Mrs Grady) and about their business.  Of course this time there is a lot about flowers rather than photography this time.  We also see more about Mac and Carter from the first book as well as hints of the future romances.  One particularly annoying repeated phrase was how lucky they were to work weddings because of how happy the days are; this general idea was repeated so many times that it started to grate on me.

Now back to the characters.  Emma has parents with an amazing romantic love story and she wants the same thing.  While she has always been attractive to men, the main man she likes is Jack, an old friend of the girls.  I felt that neither character came off well in the story.  Emma has a hissy fit because she thinks Jack is too scared of the commitment that she wants (namely implying that he should have given her a key to his house after three months of dating and without asking for a key).  Jack is brusque with her, crinkling his mouth in displeasure if she so much as leaves a hairpin around his house and thus legitimately annoying her. I also didn't think he sounded very appealing.

Overall: Main characters general awfulness annoys this reader.

Cover: Beautiful flowers and dress.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Mysterious Mr. Quin

The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie
Bantam Books, 1930
234 pages
Mystery
3/5 stars
British Book Challenge

Source: Library

Summary: A collection of short stories featuring Mr. Satterthwaite and Mr. Quin as they unravel various mysteries.

Thoughts: I wasn't sure what this was as I am just endeavoring to read every Agatha Christie.  I was pleased to discover that they were short stories because I usually enjoy her short story collections.  I was less pleased with the mysteries on offer and I ended up confused regarding Mr. Quin.

What happens in each story, basically, is that Mr. Satterthwaite is an observer of the human drama and when Mr. Quin appears, he encourages Satterthwaite to think things over and figure out what the solution to the mystery is.  In several cases, he prevents a suicide and in all he improves the lives of the innocent.  Because of their shortness and the fact that he was reviewing cases from years previous, there was a lack of urgency and less satisfaction than I'm used to feeling at the end of a successful conclusion to a mystery.

The confusing part to me was the character of Harley Quin who is like a harlequin.  A harlequin is apparently a comic servant who helps unravel romantic entanglements, which Quin does.  I had thought he was an angel or something because he appears when there's need of him and then magically disappears at the end of each story.  I am wondering if this is a British element and thus I didn't understand it or if harlequins were popular in the 1930s and thus I didn't understand.  But that element really put me off the stories.

Overall: Unsatisfying mystery stories and confusing element.

Cover: This cover drives home the point about harlequins.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Insatiable

Insatiable by Meg Cabot
William Morrow, 2010
451 pages
Paranormal
3/5 stars
First in series

Source: Library

Thoughts: I used to adore Meg Cabot but the conclusions to the Princess Diaries series and the Queen of Babble trilogy deeply disappointed me so I took her off my auto-buy list.  But I thought this looked good-a vampire story featuring a main character who hates vampires-so I checked it out of the library.  Unfortunately I was disappointed.

The main source of disappointment was Meena, who rants against vampires and the stupid girls who fall for them.  Then she sleeps with a vampire and becomes one of those stupid girls who wants to protect her vampire lover.  She was so interesting at first.  She can see how people will die, she works as a dialogue writer for her favorite soap, and she tries to be a good person. But after he bites her during sex, she falls under his sway and pissed me off.  Admittedly I'm pretty anti-vampire to start but I hoped that something would make me love the story.  However Cabot's style is still breezy and readable which is how I was able to finish this book despite my outrage.

Despite my loathing of the main character, there were some secondary characters I didn't hate.  Meena's unemployed brother is living with her and he is psyched about the idea of killing some vampire butt; his enthusiasm is catching.  Her neighbors turn out to be vampires and they are enjoyable fun.  Then there is Alaric, a vampire killer and more than worthy mate for Meena; I wonder if Cabot plans to move in that direction.  The vampire Lucien was unimpressive to me.  He has to fight a vampire war while in New York City.  I didn't like him.

Overall: Bleh-cannot in good conscience recommend.

Cover: Eh, ugly tattoo but striking red.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Barnes and Noble, 1920
293 pages
Classic
4.5/5 stars
FITG Challenge

Source: Own

Thoughts: I put this on my list because I wanted to read the first Pulitzer winning-novel by a woman; after enjoying Old New York, a collection of four short stories, I had high hopes for this.  And they were mostly fulfilled.

I loved the pictures painted by Wharton; every detail seemed carefully chosen to convey the taste and wealth of the characters although I'm sure I didn't fully appreciate those details, given my 21st century sensibilities and understanding.  I loved being enmeshed in that world and slowly journeying through it toward completion.

The part I didn't like was the character Newland Archer.  He is torn between duty to his fiancee May Welland and passion for her cousin, the scandalous Countess Ellen Olenska who left her husband.  I was caught up in that and I supported his choice.  But I hated his musings on the innocence and conventionality of May-how was she to be different? I think that he is a stand-in for Wharton who was raised in that kind of environment but obviously had a sharp intellect of her own.  Over the course of the novel though, I grew annoyed with him.  I did not want to spend as much time with him as I did; I think I would have preferred this novel from a female point of view because Archer grated on me.

I would also like to see the movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer (j'adore her), and Winona Ryder.

Overall: Beautifully written; I definitely consider myself a fan of Wharton now.

Cover: Pretty gallery-I'm a big fan of the Barnes and Noble editions.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Paranormalcy

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
HarperTeen, 2010
335 pages
YA; Paranormal
4.5/5 stars
First in Trilogy

Source: Bought

Thoughts: After seeing almost universal acclaim for this book around the blogosphere, I knew I wanted to read this.  I was not disappointed because I mostly loved this book and I am super excited for the sequels.  I figured I would like it because I really enjoy her blog and I recommend that you follow it.

For me, the most outstanding part was the humor.  Most paranormal books I've seen are not intentionally humorous although there may be cheesy elements that make the ironic among us laugh.  This book is meant to make us laugh and is very successful.  Furthermore it combines a wide variety of magical creatures: werewolves, vampires, hags, faeries, mermaids, etc who live under the aegis of IPCA, a unique organization made possible mostly by the discovery of one little girl.

That girl is Evelyn or Evie.  When she was eight, it was discovered that she could see paranormal creatures despite the mask they might wear.  Since then she's lived in an IPCA center and helped them tag and track various paranormal creatures.   While she longs for a "normal" life like that depicted on her favorite teen soap drama, she is mostly happy with her life except for her fears of the faeries.  They can technically be controlled if their true name is known but they are exceptionally good at working around that especially Reth, a sort of one-time boyfriend of Evie's who is still obsessed with her and who frightens her.

Early on in the book, a mysterious teen named Lend is captured within the IPCA building.  He is a shape-shifter who treats Evie like just another teen, giving Evie her first real taste of human friendship and starts her questioning the role of IPCA as benevolent or malicious entity.  These thoughts are accelerated by a mysterious paranormal force who looks suspiciously like Evie.  She must find the courage to question all that she has ever known, look for love, and believe in herself.

I really liked Evie and Lend, separately and together.  She acts like a total girly-girl with her love of pink and sparkles but can take down a vampire pretty easily.  Lend shifts his appearance but she can see beneath his glamor to what he really looks like.  They challenge and complement each other very well.

Overall: Bleeping awesome-highly recommended!

Cover: What a pretty dress-can you tell that Evie has gray eyes? That's important.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Firelight

Firelight by Sophie Jordan
Harper, 2010
323 pages
YA; Fantasy
4/5 stars

Source: Bought

Link to Goodreads for more info

Thoughts: I'm not usually one who swoons over boys in books; I don't know why, it just doesn't usually happen.  But that must be because those boys weren't Will. *sigh* I love Will (who incidentally is the only main character with a normal name).  I loved reading about his beautiful eyes, about his instinctive connection with Jacinda, and about his struggle to be part of a family far different from himself, just like Jacinda is.  He's sensitive and he treats her well, despite her own indecisiveness over whether she should become involved with him.  When I picture Will, I kind of think of Peter in "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" (not the sequels) who incidentally also fits my image of Peeta, so I guess it makes sense that I'd love Will too.

But there is a lot to love about this book besides Will (although he is my number one reason!)  The mythology of the draki greatly interested me.  Although we didn't spend that much time with the pride, what was revealed tantalized me.  Basically they are descendants of dragons who have evolved the ability to demanifest themselves, meaning they can turn themselves into a human which helps protect their secret.  Additionally they all have specific powers.  Some are sleek and strong in the water; others can confuse humans with fog; Jacinda is rare and special because she can breathe fire.  She is the first one in her pride in several hundred years and they are desperate to keep her, especially because the younger generation of draki are not exhibiting those characteristics, thereby threatening the very continuance of them.  If she stays, she would be mated with the future alpha Cassian, with or without her consent.  Then there is the additional threat of human hunters who value the various properties of the draki.  It is very dangerous for Jacinda.

But Jacinda's mother and twin sister do not have this draki power and in a desire to protect Jacinda from the avaricious pride take her away to be enrolled in a normal high school where she connects with Will, feeling that instant connection.  They moved to the desert in order to kill Jacinda's draki so that she can be normal; however being with Will actually keeps hers alive.  She is torn between a desire to be with him and the wish to return to the pride.  Upping the stakes are Cassian, seeking to bring her back to the pride and Will's family, hunters of draki who would love the addition of Jacinda's skin to their collection (don't worry-Will is not restraining himself from killing her; he is as disgusted with his family's hobby as she is).

While I mostly enjoyed this book, I thought Jacinda was a bit annoying with her back and forth.  She was so indecisive and whiny.  Her family also bothered me.  Her twin Tamra delighted in being the "normal" one and was very unsupportive of Jacinda's struggles and her mother withheld important information from her.  Despite this flaw, I am eagerly anticipating the second book Vanish, which seems to be due later this year.

Overall: An enchanting debut; highly recommended

Cover: One of the reasons I bought this book, besides the good reviews, was the cover.  I think the scales at the corner are very beautiful and I love the font on the title-so elaborate and gorgeous.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Mockingbirds

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
Little, Brown and Company, 2010
332 pages
YA; Contemporary
4.5/5 stars

Source: From my sister

Summary: Alex wakes up naked in a bed with no memory of how she got there and a naked boy next to her. Her life at her beloved boarding school is shattered. Feeling she has no recourse through the school's administration or the police, she turns to the Mockingbirds, the hand of justice at the school.

Thoughts: I really loved this book.  Alex was a very sympathetic character; she loves piano and Beethoven and is a pretty good student.  She likes to have fun with her friends and her favorite ice cream flavor is mint chocolate chip just like me.  She did make some very stupid mistakes that led to the date rape and I was appalled by her behavior after, in that she didn't want to go to the police (see later paragraph).  But overall I liked her and it was easy to be on her side.  I liked seeing her friends and later a love interest who supported her implicitly even if they weren't as vividly drawn as Alex.

The part of the book that probably has most intrigued potential reader is the club the Mockingbirds.  The rules and regulations of the Mockingbirds captivated me.  The machinations within the club seemed very well-designed to avoid corruption, to preserve a system of checks and balances, and to implement justice to the aggrieved. Of course the name comes from To Kill a Mockingbird with the beloved character Atticus Finch's sense of right and wrong inspiring its founding.

The only part I didn't really like was because I was very uncomfortable with their system of justice: not including the school or police concerned me-I would have liked to see the students reaching out and trying to incorporate them in the process.  I have trouble believing that the school wants date-rape and such to occur there and Alex's insistence that the police not know about a crime really bothered me.

The author's note revealed that Daisy Whitney was date-raped herself.  I'm amazed at her strength in standing up for herself after it happened and to promote awareness through her writing.

Overall: A powerful read-highly recommended.

Cover: Nice cover although I've seen better.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The King's Speech

The King's Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi
Sterling, 2010
229 pages
Non-fiction; Book to Screen
3/5 stars

Source: Christmas present from my sister

Summary: The story of Australian commoner Lionel Logue, the speech therapist who helped the future King George VI, or Bertie,  overcome a speech impediment as well as their friendship.

Thoughts: I loved the movie so of course I was pleased to see the historical account of the men.  I know that movies often compress and distort a story so I wanted to read a more in-depth version.  Unfortunately I was disappointed with this book.

On the one hand, the book draws out the story instead of the somewhat compressed storyline in the movie.  It covers all of the years that Logue knew Bertie and how their friendship grew and continued to the end of King George's life.

On the other hand, the writing was very repetitive and the focus was a bit too narrow.  I would have liked more of a traditional biography of both men included, which would have made this a much longer book, admittedly.  Most of the points were repeated many times without variation and without adding anything to my knowledge.  There were also several editing errors, I guess because they wanted the book out for the holiday season and the release of the film.

Overall: If you are very, very interested in the film, maybe try this; otherwise skip.

Cover: Geoffrey Rush + Colin Firth = Awesome!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Storm Front

Storm Front by Jim Butcher
Roc, 2000
352 pages
Contemporary; Paranormal; Magic; Mystery
1st in the Dresden Files Series
4/5 stars

Source: Birthday present from one of my best friends-she had told me about the series but I hadn't gotten a chance to read them so she sent me the first one for my birthday.

Summary: Harry Dresden is the only visible wizard in the United States as most prefer to keep their abilities under wraps; thus he investigates all manner of paranormal activities in Chicago.  When such an event occurs making him the prime suspect, he knows he must investigate before the police and the council that oversees magic both catch him.  Furthermore he call tell that whoever did the gruesome murder used black magic, making him/her exceedingly dangerous and driven.  All in a normal week's work!

Thoughts: I thought this was a very easy, quick read.  There was a bit of everything-world creation, magic, romance, mystery, action, humor in the form of a skeleton named Bill who is also a repository of magic knowledge.  I really enjoy that in a story.

Unfortunately the characters didn't really connect with me.  Harry was the only well-drawn character, with the other people displaying very little personality.  While I am sure that more will be revealed about them through the other books in the series, the lack left me feeling unconnected to the story in general.  The female characters in particular were generic types  Also the story is supposed to be set in Chicago but I think it could have been in sent in any generic city; I feel like it could have been more evocative.  If you deliberately pick a city, I think it should be easily identifiable. 

Despite the presence of many elements, they were also underdeveloped.  The magic world was a bit confusing with changing rules throughout; the mystery was almost easy enough for me; and since the female characters were lame, the romance subsequently sucked.  I did appreciate the humorous elements though.

I am interested in the rest of the series; also want to check out the TV series (on hulu.com) although I've heard it's not very good.

Overall: Fun escapist read but not outstanding-hopefully because it's the start of the series.

Cover: Accurate-seems very manly.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Oliver Twist Readalong

Allie at A Literary Odyssey is hosting a readalong for Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens through the month of Feburary!  This is one of the Dickens books that I own but haven't read yet so I'm very excited to sign up for this.

Because the book is divided into three sections, there will be three postings on the following dates:
Post about Book 1 on February 10th
Post about Book 2 on February 19th
Post about Book 3 on February 28th

Plus Allie has an extra copy so if you live in the US and sign up by Sunday NOON, you could win your own edition.  I already have the lovely Barnes and Noble copy pictured above but if you would like to win, go hurry on over and sign up!

Silver Phoenix

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
Greenwillow Books, 2009
338 pages
YA; Historical; Fantasy
4/5 stars
1st in series

Source: Library-I was so happy to see that my library had the gorgeous original cover instead of the new, less attractive one.

Summary: Ai Ling ought to have been married by now but no one wants her, bringing dishonor to her family.  Later when her father has been gone for six months with no contact, she flees a bully and journeys to find him, discovering her own strength and purpose.

Thoughts: I really liked Ai Ling-she is smart, curious, and brave.  She leaves to find her father and when she comes across various challenges, she rises to them.  She fled because of a man who was trying to make her mother give him Ai Ling as a fourth wife in exchange for a supposed debt of her father's.  Two women alone are weak; in general Ai Ling is vulnerable being a lone female traveling. Another reason for leaving was her newfound ability to read people's thoughts, understandably terrifying.

Luckily she soon meets the (swoony) Chen Yong who rescues her from drowning.  He sounded hot!  But he was also smart, determined, and supportive of Ai Ling as she traveled toward her destiny.  I hope future books explore a romance between the two of them.

The main part I didn't like was the obstacles that kept appearing in Ai Ling's way.  There were just too many and it was overwhelming.  I know that part of the book is about all of those obstacles but it was relentless and somewhat unnecessary to the plot.  I feel like several of the incidents could have been cut without loss.  I also would have liked more historical context; the novel is set during the Xian dynasty, the first recorded dynasty in Chinese history and a fascinating time.  This reminds me that I need to read more non-fiction about China because it's so interesting and I just don't know as much as I would like.

Warning: Will probably make you hungry-Ai Ling is a healthy eater and there are many descriptions of the food eaten throughout the book.

Overall: An enthralling fast-paced fantasy-recommended!

Cover: Gorgeous-the pink is bright and eye-catching and the other colors are very beautiful too.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Sittaford Mystery

The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie
Bantam Books, 1931
201 pages
Mystery; Cozy
3.5/5 stars
British Books; Cozy Mysteries

Source: Library

Summary: After a seance that predicts the death of Colonel Trevelyan, Major Burnaby journeys to his friend's house only to discover him dead.  His nephew John Pearson is soon arrested as the most likely suspect but his fiancee Emily Trefusis is determined to solve the mystery and prove him innocent.

Thoughts: When I think about Agatha Christie mysteries, I mostly judge based on two aspects: the solution to the murder and the characters especially the main one.  This Christie failed on both levels for me although until the end I was finding the story to be a very strong one.  I think that was because it was one of her earlier ones-from 1931 as you can see.

The murder solution was unsatisfactory because I really liked the murderer and I thought the motive was stupid although heavily foreshadowed.  I am also uncertain that there were really enough clues to understand his/her chance to kill the victim although again there was plenty of motive around.

I also did not like the main character, Miss Emily Trefusis who is engaged to the presumed murderer James Pearson and starts investigating to clear his name.  She is a manipulative, strong-willed young woman who I disliked as insincere and as wasting her time on an unworthy man.

However the other characters are very colorful such as the invalid and bossy Miss Percehouse, journalist Charles Enderby, voluble Mrs Curtis, and Inspector Narracott.  I did confuse a feel of them because they had less distinct personalities but overall I enjoyed spending time in Sittaford. 

Overall: A strong mystery that is pretty good but I disliked some parts and that ruined it for me.

Cover: I was surprised to see a seance at the beginning although as they called it "table-turning" I was at first confused.  That seance is so important.

Monday, January 10, 2011

After the Funeral

After the Funeral by Agatha Christie
Black Dog & Leventhal, 1953
303 pages
Mystery; Poirot
4/5 stars
British Book Challenge

Source: Library

Summary: After the funeral of Richard Abernethie, his sister Cora posits the theory that he had been murdered, causing a ripple of shock throughout the gathered family.  The next day Cora is found, having definitely been murdered with a hatchet.  Presumably the same person did it but who can solve the mystery? Well the famous Hercule Poirot can!

Thoughts: What a puzzler!  The final conclusion was so startling and I kind of wonder if it could have been solved.  I really feel like one of the major clues was based on intimate knowledge of the characters' looks and mannerisms which it is difficult to gain merely through reading.  I had high hopes that I could solve the mystery since there were only about six possibilities for the murderer, by my count, but of course I didn't because of that pretty big twist.

There is not very much Poirot in the story.  Consequently I did not feel that he was very annoying.  He hardly spoke in his annoying French italicized words and he was often background as the Abernethie family spoke over him.  Indeed the bias of Britons against foreigners is seen in their reaction to the strange "Frenchman" (he is of course Belgian.)

One especially interesting aspect was the historical context provided.  Despite the year (1953), it seems like wartime rationing was still not over [eggs] which is difficult for me to comprehend as that year is among America's brightest.  The lack of quality servants is also bemoaned; additionally one character's hopes of running a tea shop was ruined by the onset of war.  The tragedy of WWII kind of hangs over the entire story in a very interesting way.

Overall: Average-not too much Poirot but the mystery was really interesting. Not recommended for the Christie newbie.

Cover: Of course I love these covers and this is no exception although that blue is not my favorite shade.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Half-Life of Planets

The Half-Life of Planets by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin
Hyperion, 2010
247 pages
YA; Contemporary
4/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: This is another book with chapters alternating perspectives, this time between Liana Planet and Hank Rollins.  If you were going to sum them up with one word, you might choose "slut" and "Asperger's" respectively but that would be inaccurate because there's so much more. The book as a whole covers about one summer and traces the evolution of their relationship, their ups and their downs.

Thoughts: As I said, the chapters of this book alternate between the two characters, a technique I've seen a lot lately and which I like.  The problem is that usually I prefer one character to the other.  In this case it's Hank.  I loved his music trivia and his voice-he uses proper English with no slang and is a polite young man.  He is often baffled by the way people act but he wants to be part of the dating scene and to get closer to Liana.

Now I don't exactly know why as Liana was kind of annoying and boring.  I liked that she was interested in science and her family dynamic-her father is a hypochondriac workaholic and her mother is an uptight baker psychologist.  That stood out in the sea of stupid girl YA paranormal romances.  She's mostly okay but she spends an awful lot of time worrying about the note she received saying "slut."  Her chapters dragged on as I waited for the return to Hank's voice.

Overall: Cute story but I strongly preferred one voice to the other and that dragged the rating down.

Cover: It's okay-I picked it after seeing that it was written by two authors and completely ignored the cover.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Nothing But Ghosts

Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart
HarperTeen, 2009
278 pages
YA; Contemporary
4/5 stars

Source: I had seen several titles by Kephart around the blogosphere so recently I decided to see what titles my library had.  They had four and after reading the summaries of each, I decided that this one sounded the most interesting and so I checked it out.

Review: I was intrigued by this book because of the mention of a mystery.  I love mysteries and love trying to puzzle them out even though I usually can't.  The main mystery in this book is about a reclusive lady known as Miss Martine who has been shut up in her house for fifty years for no reason anyone knows.  But another mystery is about disappearing.  Miss Martine of course is well hidden but Katie's mom died leaving behind a grieving husband and daughter and other sections link too.

I didn't feel much of a connection with any of the characters.  Katie is the main character, a young girl working in Miss Martine's garden for the summer who becomes intrigued by the mystery and is still missing her mother desperately.  She seemed okay but maybe because both of my parents are still living, I had trouble identifying with her.  Then there was her father, an art restorer and amateur chef par excellence who was interesting to read about but sometimes seemed to disappear too.  I think my favorite character was Ms. McDermott, a glamorous librarian who wears the most beautiful clothes and has a broken heart.  She sounded cool but didn't make the biggest impression.

Overall: Quick, quiet, lyrical read but not a favorite.

Cover: I guess the coloring links to ghosts but I don't really like it (that's why I chose based on plot summary, not cover).  I do love the font for "Ghosts" though-I love curlicues!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Fasting

Fasting by Scot McKnight
Thomas Nelson, 2009
132 pages
Inspirational; Non-fiction
4/5 stars
Read for the Ebook Challenge

Source: Received as a free ebook from booksneeze in exchange for an honest review.

I wanted to read this because I've been thinking about my relationship with food lately and because I didn't know much about fasting, biblically and in more modern times.  I was hoping to learn a lot more through reading this book--and I did!

First McKnight outlines why we fast.  There are two main reasons; one is in response to a grievous spiritual moment such as a recognition of our own sin or death of a family member.  The other main reason is through scheduled weekly fasting.  Early Christians generally fasted on Wednesday and Friday to distinguish themselves from Jews fasting on Monday and Thursday.  The most important point is to not fast in order to get something from God-that is exactly the wrong mindset to have.  The idea of weekly fasts really intrigues and I'm thinking of implementing that this year.

Another point McKnight makes is about how many Westerners experience a disconnect between body and soul which hinders them when practicing this spiritual discipline.  Oftentimes the body is considered unimportant and thus fasting is not practiced.  This is wrong, argues McKnight; we need to bring the body and soul together, something that fasting can do.

Of course, fasting can also be dangerous and McKnight includes a chapter about the health risks excessive fasting can impose.  It might be wise to fast from breakfast to dinner, which is how I'm going to start, rather than just jump into long-term fasting.  That would be dangerous to your health!  If there are any health concerns, a doctor should be consulted.

Overall: An intriguing and illuminating look at the ancient practice of fasting: how it was practiced and how we might practice fasting now.  I want to incorporate fasting in to my spiritual journey.

Cover: I'm not a big fan of the picture; I chose the book solely based on the concept.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters

Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford
Scholastic Press, 2010
313 pages
YA; Contemporary
4/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: When Grandmother Sullivan announces that the rest of her family is cut out of her will, everyone knows it's due to the transgressions of one of the three sisters.  Norrie, Jane, and Sassy have all pushed their grandmother hard in the past few weeks.  If they want to inherit a tremendous amount of money, they have to submit a confession.

Thoughts: I have really been reading a lot of alternating perspective stories lately.  This one has each sister telling her story one by one in quick moving chapters.  Each has a distinct voice and wrestles with different concerns.  Some incidents are recounted in each section but each girl interprets them differently and they play different roles in their narratives.

Norrie's transgression is falling for an older man (she's 17 to his 25 grad school self) and running off to New York with him for three days instead of being a debutante. Jane wrote a blog revealing family secrets to the world in the most negative light possible. Sassy thinks she's indestructible and that she's killed her grandmother's husband.  My favorite was Jane's because she's so caustic.  I also liked Sassy's relationship with a girl she's trying to tutor in math.  My least favorite was Norrie because that is a huge age difference and I was left with the impression that she thought he was her true love, which made me uncomfortable.

This is a very easy read with some cute lingo and interesting characters but really nothing more than that.

Overall: Emphasis on family makes for a sweet read. I would recommend this book to people who like YA contemporary but don't always want a romance.

Cover: Three sisters in front of a mansion? Very appropriate.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

StarCrossed

StarCrossed by Elizabeth C Bunce
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2010
351 pages
YA; Fantasy
4.5/5 stars
First in series (Sequel to be called Liar's Moon, probably out later this year)

Source: Library

I enjoyed Bunce's A Curse Dark as Gold so I knew that I'd want to read this book by her.  I didn't know know anything about the story going in, beyond what's on the book flap so I was caught by surprise about everything.  It starts with Digger running from a bad situation and she falls in with a group of young nobles who rescue her and bring her home.  The two men in the party leave the story but the two women Lady Merista Nemair and Phandre continue as the family of the former welcomes Digger, now known as Celyn, to go to their estate to prepare for Merista's entrance into adulthood.  This part was somewhat confusing and slow as many characters were introduced but nothing really happened.

It was at the estate that the story kicks in to gear.  Digger attempts to steal an item from Lord Daul but he catches her and makes her become his informant so he can spy on the people at the estate, who incidentally were all collaborators in a rebellion against the king to restore some freedom of religion.  As Digger searches for secrets, she finds much more than she had bargained for and the sequel is perfectly set up.  

One of the most interesting aspects to me was the history, politics, and religion of the land.  The current king outlawed anything but Celys for worship, especially the magic of Sarists.  He also has two nephews who could be heir.  One is even more extreme and fanatical while the other is more tolerant and is the hope of the Nemairs and other Sarists.  While I found it fascinating, there were some difficult parts as I struggled to follow the names and relationships of everyone-there are a lot of characters but by the end, I knew them.

I also liked that there was very little romance.  Digger/Celyn did have feelings for Tegen, a mysterious shadow in her past about whom I want to know more and there were some other relationships but romance was not the main focus, allowing me to focus fully on the mystery.  Lord Daul wants Digger to uncover many secrets and bring him a lot of information; because of that experience, she leaves her professional shell behind and begins to become attached to people and to become concerned with politics.  She becomes more of a hero instead of a creeping thief, a pleasant transformation to see.

Overall: Rich world created, lovable main character, and an engaging mystery!

Cover: This picture is a little blurry but I like the design-that is a seven-pointed star which is important to the story. While that girl is pretty, she's not gorgeous and thus is less likely to be noticed suiting Digger's profession.

Goodreads page

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Unearthly

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
HarperTeen, 2010
256 pages
YA; Fantasy; Angels
4/5 stars
First in Unearthly Trilogy
Read for YA Debut and Ebook Challenges

Source: Via Netgalley

Summary: Clara is part angel (through her mother) and has lately been having visions of a mysterious boy in a forest fire; the upside is that her family will uproot itself from California to Wyoming so she can be prepared for this vision, her purpose.  Once there she meets the boy Christian as well as another part angel and a cute, decidedly not angel boy, all of whom will complicate her life.

Thoughts: I wanted to read this because of the gorgeous cover and the twist of angels.  I've never read a book featuring angels (I'm pretty sure) so I was interested to see how it would be a different kind of paranormal.

Of course it still fulfills one of the main paranormal tropes: that of the love triangle.  Immediately she is drawn to Christian, the boy in her vision who she must protect and save.  But she also meets the jerky, cocky Tucker (I also don't like his name) who acts toward her in the manner of a grade-school crush.  Although he is mostly redeemed through his behavior later in the book, I hated how he teased her and did everything he could to rile her just because he had a crush on her. I'm not saying that high school boys are at all mature but I found his behavior annoying.

The mythology of the angel world was tantalizingly revealed throughout the book because while Clara's mother is of angel-blood, she tells Clara very little and thus we, the readers, know very little.  I also want to know more about the rules governing angel behavior.  Why does the angel's purpose come between 13 and 20? Is that all angels do on earth? Are they immortal unless someone kills them like Tolkien's elves? And lastly I wanted to know more about the dark characters in the book, the Black Wings or fallen angels; one makes a short appearance but I want to know more!

I thought Hand did an amazing job with descriptions of Jackson Hole, Wyoming as well as how it feels to have wings and fly.  I've had trouble imagining how angels manage their wings (where do they go when they're not using them?) but I thought Hand did a really good job.  She also was very evocative of the outdoor activities one can do in Wyoming, including skiing, fly fishing, and horseback riding among others.

The other aspect I want to briefly mention is her family.  Her father lives in New York, I wonder how much he knows about angels, but her mother and brother are closely involved in her life.  She and her mother begin with a sort of Gilmore Girls relationship (as Clara admits) that fractures as Clara approaches the time of her vision and draws closer to Tucker.  She also discovers that her mother has been hiding much of angel lore from her, which leaves her feeling wounded.  She has a younger brother named Jeffrey who isn't too important but as he ages, his angel powers may play an important role.

Besides the love triangle, something I'm generally not a fan of, the ending was less than anticipated.  There was a big buildup to the vision which has a twist but it ends up being a let down.  However many questions arise, some of which I have listed below in a spoilers section.  I am really curious to see what happens next in the trilogy.

SPOILERS-questions I have for book 2
What has Jeffrey been up to that turns his wings so black? Is Angela on the side of good? What does it mean that Christian is an angel? What is draining Clara's mother? How is the war between the angels and the Black Wings going? Do angels do anything once they've completed their purpose? Was the vision Clara had not her purpose because Christian is also an angel or are they supposed to have kids and help the number of angels in the world grow?
END SPOILERS

Overall: An interesting debut with an overarching back-story that should sustain the trilogy although the ending was not as suspenseful as it could have been.

Cover: I've also seen a blue cover, I prefer the purple. Kind of makes me think of Natalie Portman

This book was released today; here are links for

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Brightest Star in the Sky

The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes
Viking, 2010
466 pages
Fiction
4/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: At 66 Star Street lives four unusual tenants.  Katie turns 40 and ends up kicking her workaholic boyfriend Conall to the curb; Jemima whose foster son Fionn is coming to Dublin to have a gardening TV show; Lydia living in a small room as a tenant of Poles Andrei and Jan; and Matt and Maeve a married couple with a terrible secret.  Keyes weaves their stories in and out to show the highs and lows of life.

Thoughts: I have read and enjoyed most of Keyes' previous books so I was looking forward to reading this hefty tome.  Despite its length, it moved very quickly (much faster than say Pegasus) and I mostly enjoyed it.

There was an odd framing device that counted down from day 61 to an epilogue.  The countdown worked but when the reason was revealed, I found it really weird although once you know, the reason connects to some passages in the book and makes sense.  It was just really, really weird.  I did enjoy the epilogue which tied up loose ends including a very satisfying revenge scene.  The chapters alternate perspectives among the four apartments to provide the full story.

Now I read some reviews that felt there were too many characters.  There are a lot of characters but I felt that I had just about the right amount of time with all of them although I would have spent more time with Katie and Conall.  Speaking of Conall, his name as well as Fionn's jarred me; I guess they are traditional Irish names but I've never heard of them.  So obviously Katie was my favorite.  But I loved Lydia's brashness and Jemima's heart and I felt for Matt and Maeve. Their story has a strongly sad element that is carefully unpeeled on the way to the end.  I enjoyed seeing how the characters intersected.

Overall: I really enjoyed this-it left a big impression on me.

Cover: Nothing extraordinary-it's difficult to tell in this picture but there are little golden pictures that reflect plot points.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Pegasus

Pegasus by Robin McKinley
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2010
404 pages
YA; Fantasy
3/5 stars

Source: Library

Because of a thousand-year-old alliance between humans and pegasi, Princess Sylviianel is ceremonially bound to Ebon, her own Pegasus, on her twelfth birthday. The two species coexist peacefully, despite the language barriers separating them. Humans and pegasi both rely on specially-trained Speaker magicians as the only means of real communication. But it's different for Sylvi and Ebon. They can understand each other. They quickly grow close-so close that their bond becomes a threat to the status quo-and possibly to the future safety of their two nations.  From Goodreads.

Thoughts: I am so glad that I read Allie at A Literary Odyssey's review which warns that the plot moves slowly because I would probably have dropped it.  It is so slow-I kept waiting for something to happen but there are only sporadic action sections and a lot more building a world through description.

A problem with those descriptions is when the pegasi attempt to describe things to Sylvi such as the caves which are really only understood through seeing and experiencing them.  I found the description useless in those cases and it only added to my boredom.  Then there was my confusion as the beginning of the story is Sylvi reading the history of her land before a sudden shift to the story proper.  Frequently the setting shifts between when she is 12 to when she is almost 16 without a clear delineation leaving me confused.

Some parts were great though.  I was very intrigued by the political manipulations; I enjoyed scenes with Sylvi's father King Corone and how he was negotiating against his opponents.  The parts between Sylvi and her pegasus Ebon were interesting as they share a special relationship.

But there wasn't enough suspense to sustain the story; just a lot of talking.  Ordinarily I do like "talky" novels but this did not do it for me.

Overall: So slow until the rapid cliffhanger that prepares the reader for a sequel.

Cover: Gorgeous-pegasi are magnificent and the landscape is lovely.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Year End Stats

2010 Summary:
I'm starting to be pretty proud of my blog-I'm still thinking about a custom blog design and debating what I want it to look like. I've grown in followers and I've followed a lot more blogs than I did at the start of the year. I can't wait to see what happens next year, to meet more bloggers, to participate in readalongs and challenges (although for the first half of the year, at least, I'm keeping them pretty minimal.)

Top 12 Books (Favorite Book from Each Month)

January: Candide by Voltaire (This was surprising to see-I don't remember picking that)
February: What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
March: Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
April: House Rules by Jodi Picoult
May: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
June: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
July: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
August: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
September: The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
October: Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar
November: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
December: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
The Year: Anne of Green Gables (I received the set of all eight Anne books this year for Christmas so hopefully I will be able to read them all this year)

Total Pages Read: 86,976
Total Books Read: 277
Average Length of Book: about 314 pages (pretty long)
Average Rating of Book: 3.4 stars

This is the first year that I tracked how many and what books I read; I've probably had similar reading habits before this but I cannot confirm this.  I can't wait for next year to compare!

Break-down by Genre
Non-fiction: 76
Classic: 14
YA/MG: 88
Mystery/Thriller: 44
Sci-Fi/Fantasy: 14
Romance: 16
Historical Fiction: 16
Short-Story Collection: 4
Other: 4

Other fun stats:
Number of Agatha Christies Read: 21 (a goodly number)
Number of Series started: 34 (some I finished)
Number of ebooks: 15 (will be much higher this year due to my nook)
Books I read specifically because of other bloggers: 37 (sometimes I can't remember so this may be lower than actual)
Number of people I got to read The Hunger Games: 4 (and three of them finished the trilogy!)
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