Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Review: 'Stravaganza: City of Swords' by Mary Hoffman

Title: Stravaganza: City of Swords 
Author: Mary Hoffman 
Genre: YA, Juvi, fantasy, coming of age, friendship, 6th in series 
Star Rating: 3/5 stars 

 Borrowed from Goodreads, "Desperately unhappy, Laura has resorted to secretly self-harming. But Laura is a Stravagante, somebody who can travel in time and space. When she finds her talisman, a small silver dagger, she stravagates with it to sixteenth-century Fortezza, a town similar to Lucca in Italy, where she meets her Stravagante, who is a swordsmith. But Laura also meets the charming and attractive Ludo, and falls for him. Their love for each other is tested when Ludo lays claim to the crown of Fortezza, and Laura finds herself fighting on the side of the Stravaganti opposing him." 

'City of Swords', what to say... Let me start with this: I really do love the Stravaganza series as a whole. Everything from the characters to the settings to the overall concept-- I love it. 'City of Swords' is the sixth and final book in this under appreciated series by Mary Hoffman. I'll miss jumping into Talia with the Stravaganti for many reasons, most of all because every time I opened a Stravaganza book, it felt like I was back in Italy!

On to 'City of Swords'... Is it my favorite of the series? No. Is it as engaging and entertaining as other Stravaganza books? No. Is it a good read for those who have read the books before it? Yes. Is it a fitting close to a fantastic series? Minus a few loose ends, I think so. The writing style used in '...Swords' seemed different to me than the books before it.

The downsides of the novel? The majority of the story was spent in the real world, rather than Talia. Also, we learned what was going on through long paragraphs of explanation, as opposed to seeing the action or learning it through dialogue. I didn't find Laura's character to be as fleshed out as the rest and her story, strangely enough, didn't hold as much as importance as I would have expected. The romance was between Laura and a certain someone was a nice addition to the story, but we, as readers, didn't get to see it develop enough to care as much as we should about it, I think.

Besides those concerns (that mostly had to do with Laura's plotline), I loved the interaction between the past stravaganti and loved, loved, loved everything that had to do with Luciano! His parts made me smile! Do I wish this had been a more solid read? Of course. However, I'm glad I've taken these trips to Talia, seeing such wonderful places and meeting fun, interesting characters. While the future of the series is uncertain at the moment, one thing is for sure; I'll truly miss following new Stavaganti into the beautiful cities of Talia.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Review: Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger

Title: Keeper of the Lost Cities
Author: Shannon Messenger
Genre: Juvi, fantasy, coming of age, first in series
Star Rating: 5/5 stars

'Fablehaven' by Brandon Mull. 'The Emerald Atlas' by John Stephens. 'Vampirates' by Justin Somper. 'Harry Potter' by JK Rowling. 'Knightley Academy' by Violet Haberdasher. These are all great juvi (middle grade) titles that entertain kids 8 to 108. After sailing through this amazing read, I must add 'Keeper of the Lost Cities' to that list!

'Keeper of the Lost Cities' by Shannon Messenger is a fantastic book. You don't want to miss out on the pure enjoyment found in this debut novel.  'Keeper of the Lost Cities' follows Sophie, a 12 year old girl with incredible smarts and the ability to hear peoples thoughts. She's a bit of an outsider, being a 12 year old high school senior and never really feeling like she fit in completely with her family, either. Until, that is, she meets a mysterious boy who tells her that she is far more than an ordinary human.

I won't lie-- I loved reading 'Keeper of the Lost Cities'. It was the most enjoyable read I've had in a long time. Everything from beginning to end was perfect. 'Keeper of the Lost Cities' literally had a little of everything-- awesome characters, a well paced plot, inklings of future romance, a very cool world and an addicting writing style.

The plot's pacing was perfect. I've found since starting this blog that one of my biggest pet peeves is when the plot is uneven (fast here, slow here, etc), but 'Keeper of the Lost Cities' was perfectly paced.

Another great thing about pacing? There is a complete story told in 'Keeper of the Lost Cities', even though it is the first of three novels. While there are still unanswered questions and there is clearly something happening in Sophie's new world we don't know about, there are other ideas and themes that do come full circle within the 500 pages of this debut novel.

The characters? Love them. Sophie was a 12 year old lead with a voice that was completely readable to readers of all ages. The secondary characters are equally as fantatic as Sophie. Fitz and Keefe, two of the three guys who may or may not find love in future volumes, made my favorite characters list almost instantly after they were introduced. And the good doctor (whose name I am forgetting at the moment)? I found myself looking forward to Sophie getting hurt just so we could have some of that quick witted dialogue between her and him. He might just be one of my favorite adult characters in a juvi novel!

I have no complaints about 'Keeper of the Lost Cities'. It deserves high honors.  I guarantee you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll fall in love, and you'll have a blast while reading.  It's a fantastic read!

'Keeper of the Lost Cities' gets five stars from me (surprise, surprise!).  If you like contemporary fantasy tales with heartfelt characters and great plots, you need to add 'Keeper of the Lost Cities' to your 'to read' list. You won't regret it!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Review: Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore

Title: Angel Eyes
Author: Shannon Dittemore
Genre: YA, Supernatural, Romance, Coming of Age, Religious undertones
Star Rating: 2/5

Taken from Goodreads, "Brielle’s a ballerina who went to the city to chase her dreams and found tragedy instead. She’s come home to shabby little Stratus, Oregon, to live with her grief and her guilt . . . and the incredible, numbing cold she can’t seem to shake. Jake’s the new guy at school. The boy next door with burning hands and an unbelievable gift that targets him for corruption. 

Something more than fate has brought them together. An evil bigger than both of them lurks in the shadows nearby, hiding in plain sight. Two angels stand guard, unsure what’s going to happen. And a beauty brighter than Jake or Brielle has ever seen is calling them to join the battle in a realm where all human choices start. A realm that only angels and demons—and Brielle—can perceive."

'Angel Eyes' by Shannon Dittemore is a supernatural, angel themed YA read with religious undertones.  While I didn't love this novel, there were some aspects I really did enjoy.  Jumping right to the point, I liked that Brielle wasn't your typical heroine.  Normally, our female leads are in a 'fish out of water' position.  In this case, Brielle was coming back from her 'fish out of water' experience.  She had lived and grown before the novel even started.  We are introduced to her when she's at a bit of a low point in her life, coming back from this big, life changing event.  I loved that.

Brielle, as a character, was a solid main character.  Her reactions and thoughts seemed natural and she was a pretty relatable character.  The other characters were also engaging.  Jake, the love interest, seemed to have more of a role in the story than most male leads in past angel themed novels.

The reason I didn't rate this novel higher mostly falls on pacing. The beginning and end were fine, but the middle dragged a bit.  I had to push through it, because I didn't want to give up on 'Angel Eyes' when I liked the characters and the overall storyline.  That being said, it took some skimming through the middle bits to get back to a point where I felt I should read word for word, page by page.

This novel isn't for everyone.  If you don't like books with slight religious undertones, 'Angel Eyes' might not be your cup of tea.  However, the characters and the overall storyline are worth giving this a looksie otherwise!  'Angel Eyes' gets 2 out of 5 stars and is available wherever books are sold.

Review: Starters by Lissa Price

Title: Starters 
Author: Lissa Price 
Genre: YA, Dystopian, Sci-fi 
Star Rating: 3/5 Stars 

Taken from Goodreads, "Callie lost her parents when the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. She and her little brother, Tyler, go on the run, living as squatters with their friend Michael and fighting off renegades who would kill them for a cookie. Callie's only hope is Prime Destinations, a disturbing place in Beverly Hills run by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man.

He hires teens to rent their bodies to Enders—seniors who want to be young again. Callie, desperate for the money that will keep her, Tyler, and Michael alive, agrees to be a donor. But the neurochip they place in Callie's head malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, and going out with a senator's grandson. It feels almost like a fairy tale, until Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party—and that Prime Destinations' plans are more evil than Callie could ever have imagined. . . ."

'Starters' had a lot of hype attached to it. It was being toted as the the next 'big' thing. Admittedly, I may have bought into that hype a bit, because I expected a little more than I got with this novel, 'Starters'. The concept is pretty cool-- the idea that people 'rent' bodies or lifestyles is intriguing and something I wouldn't put past people actually doing if the technology were really there.

As far as pro's, I liked the characters. Callie seemed like your typical 'protector' type. The book is told from her perspective and, while it does get a bit tiring being 'in her head' for so long, she's a pretty good lead character. Her supporting characters, enders in borrowed bodies, were, surprisingly great characters. With the first third of the book taking place in Callie's head, these supporting characters were totally welcome, in my opinion! The 'love interest', Blake, turned out to be pretty shallow in terms of characterization, but I think that might have something to do with the twist revealed later in the novel.

Despite the characters, I found issue with a few things in 'Starters'. While I finished the book pretty quickly, I found myself thinking 'where is this story going and when will we get there' a lot more than usual. The storytelling stalled a bit there in the middle, but thankfully picked up towards the end to a good conclusion with a surprising twist. The other con, I'd have to say, dealt with the world and history. I get that there was a war and that a large chunk of the middle aged population died, but everything else was a bit fuzzy. For example, why do people live so long in her society? The enders aren't just in their 80's or 90's, but in their hundreds. Also, it seemed like the world went downhill pretty quickly after this spore war, which I don't find completely believable.

All in all, 'Starters' was a decent novel with a good concept and some interesting characters, but fell short a bit. Was it a good enough novel for me to continue on with the series? I think so. Would I recommend it to others looking for a dystopian tale? Again, I think so. 'Starters' receives 3 out of 5 stars and is available everywhere books are sold.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review: The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda

Title: The Hunt
Author: Andrew Fukuda
Genre: YA, dystopian, action, slight romance
Star Rating: 2/5 stars

Taken from 'Goodreads', "Gene is different from everyone else around him. He can’t run with lightning speed, sunlight doesn’t hurt him and he doesn’t have an unquenchable lust for blood. Gene is a human, and he knows the rules. Keep the truth a secret. It’s the only way to stay alive in a world of night—a world where humans are considered a delicacy and hunted for their blood. 

When he’s chosen for a once in a lifetime opportunity to hunt the last remaining humans, Gene’s carefully constructed life begins to crumble around him. He’s thrust into the path of a girl who makes him feel things he never thought possible—and into a ruthless pack of hunters whose suspicions about his true nature are growing. Now that Gene has finally found something worth fighting for, his need to survive is stronger than ever—but is it worth the cost of his humanity?"

'The Hunt' is a quick read with a slightly similar storyline to the Hunger Games.  The idea behind the 'human hunt' is that the human population be controlled through means of a battle royale (of sorts) between the thriving alien species and the remaining human population.

As far as covers go, I like the cover design on 'The Hunt'.  It's an engaging cover with some fun elements.  I love the ripped cut out showing the two lead characters.

In all honesty, it's not my favorite dystopian read.  The pacing was off through the entire novel.  The beginning felt slow and the ending felt rushed.  I wasn't surprised at the big reveal 200 pages in, either.  I had it pegged very early on.

The world was crafted well enough and, unlike some dystopian worlds, I had no problem figuring it out.  The world has some unique bits that separate it from other dystopian titles, but also suffers from having too much backstory.

The long and short of it?  While the idea was an interesting one, for me, 'The Hunt' just didn't hold up.  'The Hunt' wasn't my cup of tea and gets 2 out of 5 stars from this little blog.

Review: Meet Samantha by Susan Adler

Title: Meet Samantha
Author: Susan Adler
Genre: Juvi, historical fiction, friendship, growing up
Star Rating: 5/5 stars

Taken from Amazon, "Samantha Parkington is an orpan who lives with her rich grandmother in 1904. There are many servants in Grandmary's busy, bustling household, but there is no one for Samantha to play with. That's why she's so excited when Nellie moves in next door. Nellie has come to work so that she can send money back to her family in the city. Even though their lives are different, the two girls become good friends. One day Samantha discovers that Jessie, the seamstress, is leaving. No one will tell her why. So she and Nellie plan a secret midnight adventure to find out."

It is rare that two hobbies of mine collide, but that is exactly the case with 'Meet Samantha'. An avid doll collector, Samantha is one of my favorite American Girl dolls. Like many, I read this book series back in the early 90's when I was scrimping and saving my pennies for Pleasant Company's American Girl dolls. 2012, it seems, has been a year of re-reading for me, and I thought what better to re-read than Samantha's story?

Set in 1904, 'Meet Samantha' introduces us to 9 year old Samantha. Rich and upper class, Samantha is far from your typical socialite. She's full of spunk and not afraid to get dirty or speak her mind. This first book in this six book series is, for the most part, an introduction to the characters and settings. That's not to say there isn't a story, because there is, but a lot of this book concentrates on relationships.

What I love most about Samantha's story is the setting. 1904 was a time where you could realistically see cars and horse drawn carriages sharing roads. New things were being invented every day. Can you imagine?

I will forever recommend the Samantha book series to young readers.  They are great stories with great themes (ie: friendship, confidence, etc).  Even after all these years, I had a blast reading 'Meet Samantha' and your young reader will, too!  Because of that, this blog gives 'Meet Samantha' 5 out of 5 stars.

You can find 'Meet Samantha' at your local bookstore or library.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Illinois Author Events: RT Convention and Brandon Mull Author Talk

Hi all! Just a heads up that any readers in the Chicagoland area (Rosemont) who are under 20 will want to check out the RT Booklovers Convention website.  They have a special 'teen' day where, for $25.00, you can have access to over 50 YA authors, including Stacey Kade, Stephanie Perkins, and Ann Aguirre.  Teen Day is April 14th, 2012.

I can't go, because I'm 8 years over the age limit.  I age like a vampire, so I could probably sneak in and fake 20, but it falls on a bad weekend, anyway.  You lucky 20 and unders can attend without worrying about the age police hunting you down and taking back your swag!  The price is fantastic for what you get in the ticket package.  This event seems like a great thing to do with your Saturday!

Also, any fans of 'Fablehaven' in the house?  Brandon Mull is vising Skokie Public Library March 27, 2012.  Registration is required.  Call 847-324-3149 for more information on signing up for this author talk.  I've gone to a ton of author talks at SPL and they've all been awesome.  This is something you'll want to check out if you have read any of Brandon Mull's books!   

Review: Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins

Title: Spell Bound
Author:: Rachel Hawkins
Genre: YA, Supernatural, Romance, Action, Adventure, 3rd in series
Star Rating: 5/5 stars

Taken from Goodreads, "Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies—the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium. Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as confident. Sophie’s bound for one hell of a ride—can she get her powers back before it’s too late?"

'Spell Bound', the third and final book (?*) in the fantastic Hex Hall series, can best be described as a whirlwind.  After the crazy cliffhanger found in 'Demon Glass', should I have expected any less?  As expected, Rachel Hawkins has treated us yet again to another funny, engaging, entertaining romp into Sophie's crazy world.

While it isn't without flaws, I had a great time reading 'Spell Bound' and that to me is one of the most important things that can be said about reading.  Without going into plot details (b/c who am I to spoil it for you!), I can say that you won't be disappointed in terms of entertainment value!

I'm giving this book five stars, but want to point out one thing that 'felt funny' about 'Spell Bound'.  The main issue I had was that this story, 'Spell Bound',  felt more like the third book in a four book series instead of the last novel in a trilogy.  There was a big set up (ie: the last few pages of 'Demon Glass') to what should be a big bang conclusion.  When we finally get to that conclusion, however, it doesn't seem as climatic as it should.  Loose ends are tied up, but not in the big bang sort of way I expected based off the other two books in the series.

The plotting issue nonewithstanding, I enjoyed this book immensely.  I can definitely say that Sophie's story is one that will stick with me and will be a 'go to' series for those looking for good YA reads!  'Spell Bound' gets 5 out of 5 stars.

(On a sidenote, I must petition Rachel Hawkins to continue on with this world she's created.  I'd love more books in this series, even if they don't involve Sophie and her gang!)

*I don't ever really recall this series being toted as a 'trilogy', so I'm not sure if this is the end all/be all of the Hex Hall series.  I know the author mentioned something about 'ending Sophie's story', but there are still so many stories to tell!  For that reason, I have inserted the ?'s, because it just doesn't feel like the end just yet!

What are your thoughts on 'Spell Bound'?  Share them in the comments!  (Spoilers ARE allowed in the comments, so newbies, you have been warned!)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Host: Movie News- Extra Photo

One of my top ten favorite reads is 'The Host' by Stephenie Meyer.  The movie started production earlier this month.  While news is slow coming and pictures even slower, a local extra's snapshot recently hit the web.  It shows five girls in 50's style fashions.  It seems this adds fuel to the rumors that the host society has a 'retro' feel to it.

While I never pictured the world in 'The Host' to be at all inspired by the 50's, I can see why the filmmakers decided to go that route.  If you think about it, the hosts values are similar to the idea of the 1950's.  People were taught to be pleasant, amiable, rule abiding, perfect.  A lot like how the hosts.  On a side note, I've always been a fan of 50's fashions, so if this movie brings them back, that would be awesome.

More information on this film can be found at 'The Host Movie News'.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Update/Follow Friday/TGIF

Hello all!  Just a quick update.  Check the main page of the blog for a review of the final book in the 'Vampirates' series and to see the cover of the August 2012 release, 'City of Swords'.

For those that keep track of my Goodreads, you'll notice a lot of older titles being placed on there.  That's because I'm making it a point to go through my book shelves and re-read some favorites of  yesteryear.   

Have a good week!

The Question of the Week: Activity!!! Take a picture or describe where you love to read the most…

Answer: As far as my favorite place to read, the honor would go to the Amish made wooden rocking chair in our living room. It has the perfect amount of cushion and it rocks (both figuratively and literally).

It's similar to this one below, but ours has different cushions. and a slightly different back and base.  On a day off of work, especially a rainy day, I could sit on that chair and read all day long.

The Question of the Week is:  Required Reading: Which book from your school days do you remember reading & enjoying? Is there a book published now that you'd like to see in today's curriculum for kids?

Answer: The only books I enjoyed reading for class were 'Oedipus the King' and 'Faust'. Uplifting, no. Entertaining, yes.  There are a ton of 'modern day' classics that could be introduced into schools.  

Personally, I believe that schools should allow for more 'free choice' reading, especially in high school. High School is when most kids stop reading for fun and if teachers had more 'free choice' reading projects, maybe less would give up on reading during their teen years.

Till next time, friends!

'City of Swords' Has a Cover!

Finally, a cover and release date for 'City of Swords', the sixth book in Mary Hoffmans' Stravaganza series.  The last book in the series hit store shelves back in 2010, so you can imagine why I'm so excited about this!
According to Goodreads, "Desperately unhappy, Laura has resorted to secretly self-harming. But Laura is a Stravagante, somebody who can travel in time and space. When she finds her talisman, a small silver dagger, she stravagates with it to sixteenth-century Fortezza, a town similar to Lucca in Italy, where she meets her Stravagante, who is a swordsmith. But Laura also meets the charming and attractive Ludo, and falls for him. Their love for each other is tested when Ludo lays claim to the crown of Fortezza, and Laura finds herself fighting on the side of the Stravaganti opposing him."

'City of Swords' has a release date of August 21, 2012.  (And I, for one, can't wait!!!!)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Review: Immortal War by Justin Somper

Title: Immortal War
Author: Justin Somper
Genre: Juvi, YA, sixth in series, action, adventure, romance, supernatural
Star Rating:  5/5 stars

Taken from Goodreads, "A bloody war is raging across the oceans, with the Pirate Federation and the Nocturnals allied against the renegade Vampirates led by Sidorio and a heavily pregnant Lady Lola. Meanwhile, Connor and Grace Tempest each have their own important roles to play- He as a pirate warrior at the heart of the battle, she as a powerful healer working with the war-wounded. As the twins face their greatest challenges yet, old allies and former foes return for the ultimate battle..."

I started this book with trepidation.  I loved the first five books in the 'Vampirates' series and knew full well that this was the last full length adventure I'd get to spend with Grace, Connor, Lorcan, and the rest of the Pirate and Vampirate crew.  Now that I've finished it, it is with a touch of sadness and a whole lotta love that I write this review.  I'm going to keep it short and sweet because I don't want to go into heavy spoiler territory by accident!  (It's just *that* good of a series!)

Justin Somper has crafted an epic finale to the series that started very simply with a book about two fouteen year old twins who were forced down two completely different paths.  'Immortal War' has everything-- action, romance, humor, and very readable battle scenes.  That last one is a huge thing for me-- I usually don't read books with heavy action scenes and if they're in a novel I'm reading, I usually just skim the passages.  I didn't do that with 'Immortal War'.  Better still, with so much happening to so many characters at one time, I still found it easy to understand what was going on where and to whom.

The big finale seemed a fitting send off to the characters I've grown to love.  Most loose ends are tied up.  Some are surprisingly left open making me wonder if we'll be seeing a few more novellas or even a companion series.  (Please, Mr. Somper!!!)  There are a ton of secondary characters who still have stories to tell and I, for one, would love to hear them (*cough*cowboy*cough*).

If you haven't read the 'Vampirates' series, go to your local library and tell the librarian you want to read 'Demons of the Ocean'.  You won't regret it.  And to those who have read the series and are putting this read off till 'next time', make 'next time' today.

I'm very happy I decided to follow Grace and Connor on their journey.  I have to laugh at myself-- I was hesitant to start this series back in the day.  'Vampire pirates? What are these authors going to think up next?', I said to myself.  But the beautiful cover and intriguing concept eventually won me over and the hardcovers now sit proudly on my bookshelf, ready for when I want to dive back into the lives of the Tempest twins.

'Immortal War' gets 5 stars and is available online and in stores.

Vampirates Play?!

I just finished reading 'Immortal War', the sixth and final installment of the Vampirates series by Justin Somper. While searching the authors website, I stumbled upon this little nugget of information.  It's old news, but I felt I should share it with you anyways!

It seems like a stage adaptation of 'Demons of the Ocean' has been touring theaters in the UK since October!  From the trailer, it looks like lots of fun.  This is the kind of theater I'd do if I were an actor.  My hope is that this one day gets to the States-- I'd love to see it! My other hope?  That this makes its way into the land of musical theater.  The story and characters in this series totally lend themselves to the musical format-- and I would pay good money to hear Lorcan sing!

What books do you think should be adapted for the stage?  Share your thoughts!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My Billy Shelf

I re-organized my bookshelf today and thought I'd share it with you!

It was a huge mess earlier today, piles of books left and right, spined and lying cover down. Essentially, the definition of messy bookshelf. 

But, look at it now!!!

My Bookshelf
It's sooo much better than it was before.  There's still two rows on a few shelves, but at least I can see more of the book titles.  Click the image to head over to Flickr and see a few notes I added on what you are seeing!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Follow Friday

 The Question is: 
 Which book genre do you avoid at all costs and why?

Answer:  Western, most biographies, and Sarah Dessen, er, contemporary YA/Adult novels.  Why?  Westerns have always bored me.  Biographies just aren't my thing.  And contemporary fiction?  We live contemporary, why do we have to read about it, too?

Review: Pure by Julianna Baggott

Title: Pure
Author: Julianna Baggott
Genre: Older YA, dystopian, dark, gritty, slight romance
Star Rating: 2/5 stars

Taken from 'Goodreads', "We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . . Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run. 

There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. When a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her. 

When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again."

A friend of mine mentioned 'Pure' to me a while back.  Supposedly, it was the talk of the town at a book expo she attended.  Because of that, I decided to take a stab at reading this novel by Julianna Baggott.  Let me tell you first that I, personally, think this novel is best suited to older YA readers.  It's a dark read and might not please the younger YA set, even if they liked 'The Hunger Games'.

The Negatives:

As far as page count goes, this book was *way* too long.  It took me 300 pages (almost exactly) to get to a point where I cared about the story and even then, I wasn't too overly invested in the plot or characters.  Part of my trouble with 'Pure' was the voice.  I can count on one hand the number of books I've enjoyed that are in present tense.  My mind was auto-correcting to past tense throughout the entire novel.  As you can only imagine, that made it really hard to get 'sucked in'.  I finished this book not because I was on the edge of my seat, but because I had pushed through hundreds of pages and felt I needed to at least see the story through.

Pressia lives in a world where people are fused with objects.  You'll walk down the street and see a girl with a dolls head fused to her hand, a man with a fan in his throat, or even a boy with birds stuck to his back.  There were some cring-worthy and shocking combinations described in 'Pure', not all of them easy to grasp.  That was the most difficult part to understand about Pressia's world.

Also, purely subjective, I was a little turned off by how dark the novel was.  I'm okay with dark, but usually like a little happy mixed in.  I'm not talking a musical number, but something-- some little ray of hope.  I didn't get any of that in this novel.  I finished it feeling a lot like I did when I read 'Mockingjay'. 'Pure' started on one note and kind of continued on that same note.  The one tone storytelling made for a pretty lackluster finale.

The Positives:

Who could resist this cover?  The colors, font, and design are just perfect.

As far as characters, I enjoyed them well enough.  Pressia was the most likable character of the bunch, followed by Bradwell, Lyda, and then Partridge.  Lyda's character wasn't explored in much detail, though she plays a major role in 'Pure'.  Still, however, she has more personality than Partridge.  If I were to choose my favorite character, the award would go to Bradwell.  He came off a little flat to me, but you know what, he seemed like a cool guy.  He and Pressia's banter in his butcher shop early on in the book was probably my favorite part of the novel.

Each chapter was told in a certain persons point of view.  Unlike some authors, Baggott didn't try to stick to a pattern.  Personally, I prefer that.  Some novels I've read have had alternating characters point of view and because of that, events felt a little forced.  While some of the events in this novel did seem a bit, er, contrived, the fact that the point of view didn't change in a pattern helped a bit.


I like dystopian novels.  I've read 'Matched', 'The Hunger Games', 'Legacy', and quite enjoyed them. However, 'Pure' just wasn't my kind of book.  I didn't finish wanting to read more or even looking forward to the sequel.  If you like gritty, dark worlds, you may like this novel.  It just wasn't my cup of tea.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Deja Vu Covers! Which do you prefer?

Occasionally (well, all the time), I shelve books at work.  Today, I shelved two books with very similar covers.  I thought I'd share them with you.  Someone who uses Getty Images to make money must have been very excited to see their image on two book covers!

First, let us take a look at 'Mad Love' by Suzanne Selfors, published by Walker Books for Young Readers.  The cherry red umbrella is eye catching and the raining hearts?  They're cute, too.  Do I plan on reading it?  No, but as far as covers go, it's a nice one.

Now, take a peek at 'Struck' by Rhoda Stapleton, published by Simon Pulse.  Are you getting the sense of deja vu?

Two different publishers.  Two different cover designers.  One Getty Image manipulated in two different ways.  (Look closely and you'll see identical water droplets on the umbrella's panel, fourth from the left!) Neat, huh?

My personal favorite is the cover to 'Mad Love'.  I think 'Struck' has too many hearts raining down.  Which do you prefer?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: Marmalade Boy, Volume 1 by Wataru Yoshizumi

Title: Marmalade Boy, Volume 1
Author/Artist: Wataru Yoshizumi
Genre: Manga, Shoujo
Star Rating: 5/5

Taken from 'Amazon', "Talk about dysfunctional! Miki is horrified to learn that her parents have swapped with another couple, and that all four now plan to live under one roof. But when her new stepbrother, Yuu, shows up, he appears to be just the one to ease her mental anguish... that is, until she sees the bitterness beneath his cool exterior. The strange romance that follows would make any love triangle seem ordinary by comparison."

Originally published by the now defunct Toykopop, 'Marmalade Boy' is hands down my favorite manga series.  It's classic shoujo and something you don't want to miss out on!

Volume one introduces you to the main protagonist- Miki.  Miki is your typical high schooler.  That is, until her parents let her in on the news that they're divorcing. Not just divorcing, but swapping partners with a couple they met on a cruise.  Add the other couples high school son and a house they all share and you have some major life complications!

One of the things that makes or breaks manga for me is the drawing style and I love the style used in 'Marmalade Boy'.  Wataru's style is cutesy and comedic, but at the drop of the hat, a character will have an expression on their face that just draws you in.  I love it.

The story found in 'Marmalade Boy' is filled with humor, angst, memorable characters, and true love.  This is a manga you'll want to check out.

'Marmalade Boy' runs 8 volumes.  Currently, most of the run is 'out of print', but you can still find copies used at conventions, online, or in used bookshops.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Follow Friday!

Question: Many readers/bloggers are also big music fans. Tell us about a few of your favorite bands/singers that we should listen to in 2012. 

Answer:  I'll be listening to:

 Hanson- I've loved them since MMMBOP and their new stuff is great!

 Sonohora- I just discovered these guys. I don't speak italian, but love their melodies!

I think this will also be the year of 'oldies'...

 Those are three of mine! Who are yours?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Official Cast of 'The Host'

IMDB has listed the actors who are destined to play the four main leads in 'The Host' movie adaptation. (See my Fantasy Cast here!) We've known Wanderer for quite some time, but now we know who her male leads are!

Playing Ian is Jake Abel, or as I like to call him "the kid from Supernatural". Actually, I think Jake may do a good job.  He's a talented guy.

Playing (obnoxious, pig headed, stubborn-- your pick!) Jared is Max Irons. I haven't actually seen him in anything. Personally, I pictured Jared to be older looking, but we'll see how this turns out. Maybe it will work out well? Fun tidbit, he is the son of Jeremy Irons.

And playing lovable, gun wheeling Jeb is William Hurt. I still prefer my choice for the role over Mr. Hurt, but with a new wardrobe, some make up, and a gun, maybe he'll be the perfect Jeb. Maybe...  (Off topic, he looks an awful lot like the Fifth Doctor, doesn't he?)

So far, no one else has been officially added to the cast.  What do you think of these new additions?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Quick Review: Prized by Caragh M. O'Brien

Title: Prized
Author: Caragh M. O'Brien 
Genre: older YA, dystopian, romance, 2nd in series
Star Rating: 4/5 stars

From Goodreads, "Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, a handful of supplies, and a rumor to guide her, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone survives only to be captured by the people of Sylum, a dystopian society where women rule the men who drastically outnumber them, and a kiss is a crime. In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code, but how can she deny her sense of justice, her curiosity, and everything in her heart that makes her whole?"

Unlike the last 'middle book' I read (ie: 'Crossed'), this one actually had a plot, an interesting setting, and great dialogue! I enjoyed 'Prized' and am looking forward to the third book-- which needs to be published soon... Now, if possible! 

I'm not sure what it is about them, but I really love the characters in this series-- especially Leon. He may have his mood swings, but I'd take him if Gaia gave him up!  My advice?  Don't give up on this 'sleeper' series, it is just getting better!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Chad Michael Murray's 'Everlast'

Did you know that Chad Michael Murray, most commonly known for 'One Tree Hill', authored a graphic novel recently? 'Everlast' is currently being toured around BN's across the US. I stumbled upon this video of a bit of Chad's book talk. Credit for the video goes to 'sgrplmfairy88' on youtube.

Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Title: Cinder
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: YA, Fairy tale, Steampunk, Scifi, Romance
Perfect for: a lazy afternoon
Star Rating: 3/5 stars

Borrowed from 'Goodreads', "Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future."

With loads of five star reviews, I expected a twinge more from 'Cinder'.  There are many points in which I'll give it credit.  As far as putting an original twist on a handful of popular fairy tales?  Author Marissa Meyer gets a gold star.  I loved the almost steampunk elements of Cinder's society and Cinder's own human/cyborg nature.  The world in which 'Cinder' was set was different enough for me to be intrigued by, while not making me terribly confused.

The cover art?  Love it.  That and the title are the reason I decided to read this novel.  

'Cinder' is a mixture of fairy tales.  Not just inspired by Cinderella, it also takes elements from other popular tales, which (without going into spoiler territory) make the story slightly more predictable than I would have liked.  I'd be lying if I said I hadn't figured out the story arc (even the 'surprise' elements) pretty early on.  

What saved the story, in my opinion, were the characters.  As a character, I latched onto Cinder right away.  I found her sarcasm amusing and character arc worthwhile enough to keep on reading, even though I had the story figured out. The good doctor, the Da Vinci of the novel (if I were to relate this to the movie 'Ever After'), was also quite endearing.  I liked him from the get go and look forward to seeing more of him in later installments.

Which brings me to my final point about this novel... It is the beginning of a series and you will know that by the time you get to the ending.  This book had one of those love/hate 'non endings'.  There was an almost ending, but then, boom, us readers are hit with something that takes the story in a complete 180, and then the book is over, leaving us waiting for book 2.  I see the strategy, but wish there had been a more solid ending in place.  Just a little more of a bow would have been great.

'Cinder' is a steampunky fairy tale that will, at the very least, help you get through a rainy or snowy day.  It gets 3 out of 5 stars.