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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Eramane by Frankie Ash

So it turns out that I know the author (who kindly provided me a free copy in exchange for an honest review), however, I was 90% finished with the book and already formed my conclusions before she revealed that we knew each other. She is a delightful woman who has written a wonderful book. Eramane is full of complex characteristics - being strong one minute and the next being vulnerable.

The sibling love is well done, although there were times when Samiah needed a good shake for being so reckless. I liked the touch of adding that he is a pending father. It made his rashness seem all the more flawed. His pursuit of his sister was endearing and made me like his character even more.

The premise is unique. I am not sure that I have ever read a book where the heroine goes against all her beliefs and does something unforgivable. Eramane does just that in order to survive. I struggle with a bi-polar disorder and have behaved in ways that make me ashamed. I understand doing things that goes against your values, and I feel that Frankie Ash did a great job of showing the conflict and shame that one feels after you have behaved in a way that is unbecoming.

I did want Eramane to demand more answers though. She would just accept the little tidbits that were fed to her by various people and not relentlessly pursue information. But that is just me imposing my personality on the character. I really enjoyed Eramane's journey as she matured, and I look forward to seeing more of her in the rest of the trilogy.

There was some mild violence, no language and no sex.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi

4.5 stars
What a great book on all levels!  The writing was excellent, and the merging between text and illustrations was seamless and intriguing.  The story had great characters, great plotting and great sentences. My copy was a digital ARC and some of the words in the comic section were unreadable, but I imagine editing will fix that for actual copies sold.  The violence is real and brutal. Avasthi rips the band-aid off quickly, but the pain of watching a family break apart is still there.  The trauma stays with you long after the last page is flipped.  I think this is an important book to examine and discuss the grief process. Letting someone go is never easy, and this is such an honest appraisal that I think it would be a beneficial read.  I am very excited to learn that the library has the author's other book as I will definitely be reading it.

There is a great deal of violence and some profanity including the f word.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender

So far I have some serious issues with this book. It pits woman against woman in a competition for men that is cut throat and vicious. When will women learn to stand together if the books they read perpetuate the ideology that women are competitors? In addition, I think this book is giving girls a wrong image of weight and thinness. Pillar is the token "fat girl" but really she is described as being a size 10 which is the average size of women in the United States. Also, check out this passage... "Was it Giancarlo's fault that Monique had gained fifteen pounds, while Rochelle had stayed thin and beautiful?" There are so many things wrong with that statement. First, in what world does 15 pounds automatically make you ugly? The implication is that since Monique is no longer suitable material for men because she gained a little weight, nor is she beautiful any longer. Second, what kind of man dumps his girlfriend because she gained a little weight? Not the kind I would want.

I will continue with the book, but I don't foresee a change in my attitude toward this book. I am not even sure that I want to know what happens. Maybe Marie Antoinette is coming back from the grave to destroy her competition. That wouldn't surprise me at all.

I finished, and I have to give it three stars because the protagonist grows in the end. I still think this book could give girls the wrong impression. All of the pretty girls (who were murdered) are mean and conceited. The "nice" girls had no fashion sense, wore frumpy clothes and basically were unattractive. The idea of Marie Antoinette coming back from the grave to kill people is a really cool idea, but I felt the book was trying to make a statement about choosing your friends carefully more than trying to be a thriller. I didn't completely hate this book, but I wasn't mesmerized by it either.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Enchantment by Orson Scott Card

Weaving Russian folklore with a modern day prince, Card writes a unique look at the sleeping beauty tale.  Ivan is ten years old when he finds a sleeping princess in a meadow in Communist Russia.  The image stays with him as he and his family flee to the United States.  Years later, Ivan returns to what is now Ukraine and finds the princess again.  She is not only sleeping under an enchantment, but she is from 900 A.D.  Coincidentally, Ivan can speak with her since he has studied her language all his life and is currently writing his dissertation on the language.  That and some other instances in the book highlight and enforce the one man meant for one woman scenario found in the Perrault version.  There was a lot of magic used in the fight against Baba Yaga who in this instance was the entity who placed the sleeping curse on the princess.  Fate also played a big role as certain things happened that could only be attributed to something outside of the character’s actions.  This would make a great study on Russian folklore and to examine closely what elements make a sleeping beauty story.  

Roses, Briars and Blood: A Gothic Retelling of Sleeping Beauty by Alyne de Winter

This started so wonderfully. The language was rich and evocative full of mystery and tension. I shivered with anticipation as I dug in. Unfortunately, the ending didn't quite live up to the beginning. It was disjointed and quick. There were places that I wasn't really sure what was happening. I thought the overall concept was brilliant - a sorceress who needs a younger body and a queen desperate enough for a child to defy the church. I think had the story been longer and some things clarified, it would have been much better. There was also abrupt changes in time from one paragraph to the next. I read it on my Kindle, so perhaps it just didn't recognize a break from one thought to another. I did enjoy the tale, and I think that it is definitely a unique take on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. I just wanted a little bit more - more information,more development of the nine fairies who were very mysterious, and more world building. I did love the introduction which gave great motivations for character decisions and why the sorceress would doll out so great a punishment.

All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry

4.5 stars
The voice of Judith captured from the moment I started this book. She was everything you want in a protagonist along with her own mysteries and secrets. The imagery with which Julie Berry writes is poetic and evocative. I felt like I could drown in her words and die a happy woman. Never once did Judith's voice falter. The beauty that she spoke with was a stark contrast to her silence in the physical world.

The plot was simple and straight forward, but it is not the plot that you should read this book for. This is a character driven book, and the characters will melt your heart and delight you. It is a hard story to read about Judith's struggle. The hardest part for me was her mother's reaction to her after she comes back unable to speak. As a mother, that part broke my heart.

I loved that the time frame and location of the story were somewhat of a mystery. It was almost reading a fairy tale with the charm and atmosphere all its own.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for characters to fall in love with. It is not easy reading because the author slides back and forth between times and subjects. But that is part of its charm. Once you pick up on the rhythm, it becomes poetic and beautiful.

The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton

4.5 stars
I appreciated this book so much more than recent forays into grown-up suspense (think Gone Girl). There were plenty of adult themes, but they weren't peppered with obscenities. In other novels, I feel that using the f-bomb every other word is extremely distracting, and while this book did use language, it did so in a seemingly natural way rather than a jarring one. Aside from that, this book was extremely well done. It had me on the edge of my seat biting my nails and flipping the pages as fast as I could on my Kindle.

The omniscient narrator worked well since we get a chance to see the bad guy up close and personal. I think Carla Norton had a good handle on what it must be like inside a twisted and sadistic person's mind. But she also nailed the mind of the victim or rather survivor. I think Reeve would prefer to be called a survivor.

I liked Reeve a lot. There were some things that were started like her ritual in getting to the doctor's office that seemed to magically disappear when she began talking to Tilly. I would have liked to see her deal with her issues while reaching out to the family. She was tough without being bitter, and that is a hard balance to write a character who has been affected but not warped by her mistreatment.

This book deals with serious and disturbing issues so if things like sexual abuse of children bother you, you might want to skip this one. But everything was handled well and really shines a light on missing girls and their experiences. I can't wait to see what the author has in store for her next book.

Sia by Josh Grayson

This was an inspiring read that tells the reader that you can make a difference in the world. It only takes a spark kinda thing. It also tackled bullying and being kind to one another. The mean side of things that happen in every high school, but are seldom talked about. My only quibble with the book was that everything was too neat. Problems are resolved with either a conversation or within a day's time. I do think this is a great book for opening the conversation about how students treat one another. Sia has a great voice and a very determined attitude about how people should be treated. Carole was a great touch and was disappointed not to read more about her.

I also loved how the book portrayed kids making a difference to their community. Kyle is a very admirable young man and has his priorities in the right place. I am a sucker for epilogues and am so glad the author included one.

You Are Mine by Janeal Falor - Best Book of the Year!

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. Sometimes that is a tricky situation - if the book is bad, how do you review it without hurting the author's feelings, but if the book is good, then people think that you are just saying that because you got the book for free. I try very hard to be honest in all my reviews, but this one is especially honest.

This is the absolute best book I have read this year! Everything that makes a great book was stuffed in this book and then some. The world building was phenomenal and believable. The characters were expertly drawn and full of life.

Currently I am taking a gender and children's lit class so this book's theme was an added bonus. It highlights the oppression that women used to live under and makes you think about gender equality in today's world. Serena is a perfect character to explore this through. She has just the right amount of rebellion to be believable and the perfect amount of fear for you to realize that things were bad for her. I also appreciated the pressure that Serena faces from the females in her life to conform. So many times we, in our modern thinking, assume that every woman was discontent with how things were. Serena's mom is one the biggest proponents to obey and toe the line.

The writing draws you in from page one to the last one. Janeal Falor has a gift with words as well as character development. I wish I could convey with my meager words how well done this book was. I think nearly every fantasy lover will find something to love about this book. I am going to recommend it to some of the daughter's friends. I am also going to purchase a copy of this book. I seldom buy books that I have a Kindle copy of. I reserve that for only the best of the best which this book definitely is.

Beauty Sleep by Cameron Dockey

This novel keeps true to the traditional tale while incorporating a full back story replete with characters who are important throughout the story. The twist on the tale in the enchanted forest is original albeit confusing. It was never explained why Aurore didn’t need to sleep for one hundred years. This would be a great discussion starter on what constitutes a good ruler as Aurore and her father do things differently than previous rulers by their interest in the common folk. The writing was engaging, but the plot was a little confusing.  You have basically a time travel book, but no explanation as to how or why the time travel existed.  I am not gifted in physics, but I would have liked at least a little explanation. 
There was nothing objectionable in this novel - no language or sex - so it would be a nice, clean read for younger children who are advanced readers.

Sorry it's been awhile...

Life has gotten in the way of my writing good, solid reviews.  I am back in the swing of things, but you should be warned that I am working on a project for a children's lit class I am taking.  So you will probably see a lot of books that are based on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale.  I am excited to be reading so many variations of the tale and to share my thoughts with you about them.

Watching the Roses by Adele Geras

Caution: This book contains a rape scene as well as discussing the aftermath.  It is handled in a sensitive way without explicit details.

A metaphorical Sleeping Beauty tale which has a young lady raped on her eighteenth birthday due to a curse from one of her numerous aunts.  Unable to overcome the shock, she lies in her bed day after day almost in a comatose state.  The house she lives in is surrounded by roses which her father allows to become overrun since the rape of his daughter.  A young man she has been corresponding with, overcomes the rose mess and wins her back to reality.  This is a heavy book even though it is very short.  It deals with mature matters as the protagonist, Alice, asks herself whether she is the cause of the rape.  Elements of the old fairy tale are present, but the book is brilliantly told in first person as journal entries from the “sleeping” girl.