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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown

I'm a sucker for a good mermaid story, but this has killer mermaids so I knew that I had to read this one. It was a great story and even though I hated Victorian Poetry when I took it for a class, it really worked here in the story. The idea of these mermaids (and merman) and their history were engaging. And I loved that Lily is a smart girl and was able to show off her figure it out smarts.

The whole notion of promises really stuck with me. These mermaids are ruthless killers, but it is against their honor to break a promise. Anne Greenwood Brown did a great job of getting me to believe her world. The fact that all these mermaids had consistent in their lives is a promise really screwed with each of their minds. The promise became so super important, that they forgot about their own happiness. I have an aunt who made a promise to my grandmother before she died that she would never get a tattoo. Of course, my aunt wants a tattoo very badly. Would it be such a crime if she went ahead and got one? Probably not, but for my aunt she holds to that promise as a means to stay close to her mother. I think that is what these mermaids are doing. They have devoted their lives to the promise rather than really living. And when Calder finds another reason - a different reason - to live he suddenly sees how unimportant that problem really is.

This was a great first book, and I very much am looking forward to reading the next one.

There was a couple of expletives - no sex and minimal violence although one character dies.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Death Sworn by Leah Cypess

Ah, Leah Cypess, first you mess with my mind with all the intrigue and then you stomp on my heart at the end. This woman is one of all time favorite authors, and she keeps proving that she is incredibly talented. This book has it all - intrigue, danger, magic and assassins. Need I say more? Yet even with all the florishes, Leah manages to make real characters with real flaws. As always with Leah's books, you never know who to trust or who is the real villain. By the end of the book, you are all topsy turvy. Illeni is one tough cookie even if her magic is waning. I thought the struggle she is going through was realistic. The only thing left to say is how magical the world is written. The opening chapters are brilliant because there is subtle references to the construct of the world, but there is no info dump at any point. The complexity of the world is given to you as it is blended into real thoughts and conversation. I thought the beginning of this book was a near perfect as you could get. But did it have to end that way? I certainly hope that Leah is hard at work on the next one because I need it ASAP. I think I would buy any book that this woman has written.

There is violence in the book, but no swearing.  There is a scene where the protagonist reflects on a situation with a male character, but nothing inappropriate.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Dead Letter Office by Kira Snyder

Remember those old Choose Your Own Adventure Stories? They were great for an afternoon read when you were a kid. However, there wasn't any substance to the characters in those books. This book has it all. I was a tad worried when I heard this was an interactive book. Sometimes, interactive means weak story, but this is so not the case for Dead Letter Office. The book is fun and spooky. Celia has a great voice as narrator, and you feel invested in her journey. The choices were agonizing though. It doesn't feel like it should be difficult to chose this or that, but I wanted to see some of the characters more, and I knew that my choice would determine who I would get to read about. After I finished the novel, I went back and selected the other choices to see what I had missed. There was little that changed except that you got to hang out with different characters, and you learned some bits of information that weren't important to the story as a whole, but did contribute to the enjoyment of the story.

The mystery was a little weak and some conclusions required a great leap of faith. However, the book more than makes up for this with really intriguing characters. I loved Tilly, and she was one reason that I was hesitant to read in the first place. I'm not really into witches and was very skeptical about reading a book that contained one. Tilly won me over with her enthusiasm and pluck. Donovan and Luc seemed interchangeable, but I am thinking that is because of their minor roles in the book. I am hoping to see more of both of them in the sequel. All in all, these are very minor quibbles with the book. I thought it was a good, solid read. Even if the story weren't interactive, it would be a great read. I definitely plan to get the next book in the series.

When Rose Wakes by Christopher Golden

A nice take on the Sleeping Beauty tale blending modern times with a medieval French kingdom. This included many elements from the original story and even wove in an affair between one aunt and Charles Perrault. The added elements enhanced the motivations of the evil fairy giving the reader a solid reason for her hatred of Rose. This would be a good way to explore multi-dimensions of characters and address behavior that is not fully explained in the fairy tales. 

I wasn't sure what to expect since a co-publisher was MTV.  I did have an occasional curse word, but nothing too serious.  There were some steamy scenes, but no sex.  It engaged in a frank discussion about the two main characters wanting to have sex.  The only problem was they had only known each other for a week, and there was really no truly responsible talk.  There is a disturbing scene at the end when one of the characters is thrown through a window with crows stuffed in their mouth.  

Backward Glass by David Lomax

My advice to people reading this book is to pay attention. You need to read closely and remember names and the year that they live in. I powered through and made out ok though. This is the first book in awhile that had a male protagonist. It was great to see a guy who was one of the good guys. I hate how the bad boys are always glamorized like they should be the role models for our girls. It seems to give the message that if only you love him enough, he will change or that underneath the bad boy exterior is something worth saving. Sometimes a guy is just an abuser, but the bad boy myth perpetuates the belief that girls need to stick it out to find the good boy underneath.

The characters in the book were all interconnected and woven together so expertly that you really need to step back from the ball of yarn and admire the handiwork. David Lomax does a great job of making characters distinct and deep. This many characters and time frames could have been a mess in the hands of someone less skilled.

I also appreciated Luka as being a great character. She is the master of her fate and the captain of her destiny (I know I butchered that, sorry, David). She is no shrinking violet and has the skill set to get things done. I loved that she was proactive about her own destiny.

A job well done - I will be looking for more titles from this author.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

4.5 stars
Maybe I'm a little biased because Mindy McGinnis is a librarian, and I practically worship the ground librarians walk on. I have been looking forward to reading this for a long, long time. I finally allowed myself to indulge and read it in between class assignments. Classes which I hope will someday allow me to become a librarian. I love Lynn. There is no other way to express it. She has become the standard for which all tough girls are now judged. What a brilliant character! She is not a white washed, run of the mill girl. She is angst and anger, sadness and sassy, toughness and gentleness all rolled into one incredible character. Her growth process was beautifully written and realistic. My favorite part is at the end when (view spoiler). I'm not bloodthirsty, it was just a defining moment for Lynn, and I am impressed that McGinnis didn't shy away from that aspect of Lynn's personality. She did exactly what Lynn would do in that situation. My least favorite part was at the end as well when (view spoiler). Why, oh why, Mindy? I thought all of the book was excellent and well written, but Lynn was my favorite part of the book. She ranks up there with Katniss (ok, I think I like Lynn better than Katniss - no it's a tie). I can't wait to see what is in store for Lynn and Lucy in the future which was hinted at in the last chapter.

There was swearing from almost all of the characters.  No sex, but there was a sweet and tender kiss.  Also, there was a lot of violence, but it was depicted in a setting that required the use of force.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pawn by Aimee Carter

4.5 stars
If you are going to read this book, then I suggest you just buckle up your seatbelt and hang on for dear life. There is not a moment without something happening or someone agitating the situation. Kitty is more than up for the challenge, but there were times when I thought she was in over her head. So many lies and deceptions, and just when you thought you knew where it was headed, it would shoot off into another direction. I really want (or need depending on how you look at it) the next one in the series soon! This is my first Aimee Carter novel, but it won't be the last. I love how she deftly combines intrigue and danger with real world problems. This may be the future United States, but the problems of class equality, learning disabilities, and corrupt government are very prominent today. Every nation that has had a class disparity that we are moving towards, has ended in revolution. It is a real problem, and I am glad to see a YA book that addresses this issue head on.
There was one use of the word Christ and no sex in this book.  There was a pretty violent scene at the end.

This title will release on November 26th, 2013.

These Broken Stars by Aimee Kaufman and Megan Spooner

4.5 stars
Amazing! This was heartbreaking beautiful. Once I finished I didn't want to leave the world so carefully crafted. The whole book was so tightly woven together and kept the story going at such a frenetic pace that you didn't have time to catch your breath. I realized about 10% of the way in that this book was going to be a huge hit in 2013, and everything that came after that supported this. Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner are brilliant and talented, but the thing that stuck with my the most was how genuine and likeable the characters are. She has a real gift with real (and flawed) characters who get under your skin and make you cheer them on. I always am tickled to read a dualing POV book, and this one was a real treat as we get the perspectives of both main characters and their different way of thinking things through. I think this book will be on everyone's Christmas list this year (or at least should be). I recently reviewed a book that contained a lot of language and sex. This book also had those and while I could have done without the couple of expletives, the sex in this book was handled tastefully. Other YA authors should take note that if you must have these elements, they can be done in a way that is not so offensive to those of us who are prudes.

This book will be released on December 10, 2013 in the US.