Friday, September 30, 2011

Deeply Devoted


Deeply Devoted is a historical romance novel written by Maggie Brendan, with Christian readers in mind.

It's 1887 and Catharine and her two sisters, Greta and Anna, are making a risky trip to Wyoming, leaving their home of Amsterdam, Holland behind for a fresh start. For these three lovely European ladies it's a both painful and hopeful change of pace - the memory of their recently deceased parents lingering in their hearts. They couldn't bring much with them, though Catharine made sure to keep her mother's set of Blue Willow china - even though there aren't many pieces left that are whole.

The only reason they've been able to make the trip to America is that Catharine is a mail-order bride. She's corresponded with Peter Andersen, a wheat farmer, for six months after reading his ad - and has agreed to marry him. But he doesn't know she's bringing two sisters with him. Nor does he know the anguished, and possibly shameful, past that she is hiding. If she were to tell him everything, surely he would not marry her. And if he didn't, how would she fulfill her vow to take care of her sisters?

When Peter and Catharine meet, Peter is delighted with her beauty and sweetness - though he's not too happy with the surprise add-ons. Can he support three more mouths? He'll do his best. But despite their mutual attraction - can they find a deeper connection? Can love really form when both may be keeping secrets? Maybe the only way will be by trusting in God...

I'm a huge fan of inspirational historical fiction! I always wish that Jane Austen had written more, as I love that witty, fun, insightful romance in a time period that is rich and full. I'm open to trying almost any time period - though not every book can be as awesome as Miss Austen, of course.

In Deeply Devoted we meet Catharine and her sisters right when they are about ready to step off the train in Wyoming. The town that will now be their home is quaint and small, though not so tiny as not to have a nice inn and restaurant. We immediately get placed in the midst of this whirlwind marriage. The initial meeting doesn't go off without hiccups, however, as Catharine's rather large omission of bringing her sisters' along is revealed.

There's an interesting dynamic is having the two sisters with Catharine and Peter, as that's not a common occurrence in mail-order bride stories. Not that I've read a ton of them, but it seems like a fresh little difference. Greta and Anna are definitely individual and likable, and I couldn't help but wonder if the next books in the series Deeply Devoted starts off (The Blue Willow Brides) will be centered on each of them.

I liked Deeply Devoted - but I kind of had a hot/cold relationship with it. For example, the characterizations of Peter and Catharine were a bit bland and monotone for me. They lacked a spark, both chemistry-wise between the two and personality-wise as individuals. Catharine's secret pain (which we only get hints of for a long time, until an anguished reveal) gives her a bit more depth of the two, but for a long time Peter was doing absolutely nothing for me, unfortunately.

I think what it might have been, in my opinion, was Peter's eagerness. In so many ways he just seemed like a wide-eyed little boy, instead of a hardworking man that resorted to a mail-order bride to fulfill his loneliness. I'm perfectly fine with a good guy - someone who is kind and sweet to women, but he just seemed a little... unrealistic to me. Now, you may completely disagree! He could be your absolute dream man - and you may think I'm crazy - I encourage you to read Deeply Devoted for yourself!

But before you go and think I only had negative thoughts about Deeply Devoted, stick with me here. As the novel continued, more conflict was introduced in a subtle way. Most of it was by the disruption of Peter's mother, who was none too happy to find out she had a new daughter-in-law, and Catharine's continued lie of omission. And eventually Peter became more attractive to me, funnily enough it was right around the same time Catharine started thinking the same thing. He grew on me slowly, though I would never say he's a favorite male lead of mine.

Yet there was enough gentle day-to-day interactions on the farm and slow-burn closeness developing between the two, that when things started to fall apart - I cared. In fact, the best part by far, for me, was the last quarter of the book. Both characters began to show their flaws and true selves, whether they wanted to or not, and Catharine seemed to grow more of a backbone than she'd shown up to that point. I was turning pages quite swiftly, worried about them and finally feeling more involved in the story.

I did very much enjoy Deeply Devoted, and was never once bored. It flew by, as romances are apt to do. The conclusion was touching and I would be more than willing to read the next novel in the series - it's just too bad I never felt the connection to the characters that would have made Deeply Devoted ten times better for me. Again, that's just my personal opinion - and you should read the book for yourself!!!

Available September 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

*I received a copy of Deeply Devoted from the Baker Publishing Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ravenwood


Ravenwood is a YA fantasy adventure from author Andrew Peters.

Ark, a fourteen-year-old apprentice to his plumber father, hears something he shouldn't hear.

Something that could get him killed.

Arborium, their huge, mile-high tree of a country, is being plotted against by Maw, a country of glass and steel and technology. Maw sees Arborium as a gigantic gold mine, as wood is now a natural resource even more precious than that very substance.

And the plot is coming from the inside. From those who are supposed to be the most trusted advisors to King Quercus.

It was just a terrible time to be fixing a pipe.

Next thing you know, Ark is running for his life - and trying to figure out how he can save his tree home before Maw comes with axes and evil intent!

A fight-or-flight opener throws us right into the action of this unique tree world of Arborium and immediately has an espionage/thriller tone. Andrew Peters doesn't waste much time!

The idea of an entire country living an enormous, carved tree was fascinating to me and I looked forward to learning more about it in Ravenwood. There's an entire culture and vocabulary that Andrew Peters has invented to match up with this different way of life. It's fun and inventive.

Then we find out that ravens are as big (if not bigger!) than people! I was having a hard time figuring out how exactly this all worked, but in the end I just accepted it - because after all, it's a fantasy! And we are being presented with a fleshed-out, intriguing world!

Ravenwood is definitely a lively fantasy adventure with a plot that thickens at each turn of the page. For example, there's a mystery to Ark's birth/roots and an entire mythology/religion to Arborium that may or may not be true. Plus, there's an inspirational bent to the novel as well as we see Ark's low-level, rather unpleasant job in sewage and see how he may be destined for greater things.

It's easy to enjoy this nonstop suspense roller coaster! Ravenwood has a strong focus on friendship and family, which is brightened by the fact that the characters are excellently portrayed and joyful - they make a delightful journey all the more delightful.

As the novel continues and revelations occur, the cloak and dagger fun and magical fantasy mystery give way to a surprisingly bloody and weightier final quarter. At first I was a bit taken aback, because Ravenwood is also given to being quite silly and lighthearted - the sudden (I felt) change to a darker tone was unexpected. Some of the new twists were a bit heavy and muddy, in my opinion, but the classic hero battling evil and facing important, moralistic choices was still highly enjoyable and well-done.

In the end, Ravenwood had more grit and patriotism, with highlights on the honor of sacrifice for one's country, than I at first expected from this action adventure. Yet it strengthened its depth this way, and made it more epic. Though I may have been more taken with the fun, lighter aspects of the earlier tone - a reread may very well change that.

A good choice for any age that's a fan of this excellent genre!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Guardian of the Dead


Guardian of the Dead is a YA horror/supernatural novel by Karen Healey.

Seventeen-year-old New Zealander Ellie is getting through boarding school one day at a time. Though she's never had a tough time making friends before, here she just can't seem to gel with any of the other girls. But she does have Kevin, one of the male students. And their close bond is unshakable.

But then a stunningly beautiful, mysterious, and in Ellie's opinion, creepy woman enters their life and seems unusually focused on Kevin. What's even stranger is the way Kevin acts when she's around.

Of course, maybe the way he acts around her is no more odd than how Ellie acts around Mark, a handsome, quiet guy that only goes to the school during the day. In fact, maybe she should be more worried about how after they interact in any way, Ellie feels a little fuzzy headed and when trying to remember what exactly happened in their encounter gets a terrible migraine and throws up.

Or maybe she should worry about both.

Before she knows it, Ellie finds herself thrown into a world of revenge, magic, Maori mythology come to life, and a bloody battle for immortality.

And she may have a vital role.

Guardian of the Dead was instantly alluring and interesting with strong vibes of untold stories, especially as murder rumors abound and send chills down your spine. The disturbing details of the vicious killings throughout New Zealand and startling moments with the attractive, crush-worthy, mysterious Mark gives an ominous and suspenseful tone quickly. Plus, I loved Ellie and Kevin's frienship - an awesome best friend bond that feels authentic.

The lush New Zealand setting feels perfect for a scary story, a great contrast between beauty and fear. And then we have Ellie who has a likable, self-deprecating humor and relatable personality. Following her through the fog and confusion is compelling, frightening, and intriguing. You feel like there's always something more going on in the corner of your eye, something unexpected and unsettling. Perfect for a bibliophile that likes a little horror before bedtime.

Ellie finds herself in the midst of some pretty darn spooky legends, giving a breathless tone of terror and suspense. I'll admit that I did get a bit confused by the complicated mythology, but the grounded believability of Ellie is refreshing and kept me hanging in there.

A stunner of a surprise near the end took the romance side of the story (of which there is, I was remiss not to mention it thus far) and gives it one heck of a fairy-tale twist. I was flabbergasted by the turn of events!

Though unfortunately I do still feel like I need to reread Guardian of the Dead to sort out some plot details that must have flew over my head in a more tired moment, the intricate plot was clearly well thought-out and haunting.

Creepy? Check. Eerie? Check. Requires daylight to read without jumping? Double check.

Guardian of the Dead was heartbreaking, hopeful, empowering, bittersweet, magical, and majestic in scale. Truly quite the debut and an author to watch!

*I received a review copy of Guardian of the Dead from Hachette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Rip Tide


Rip Tide is the sequel to the YA underwater thriller Dark Life, written by Kat Falls.

I recommend avoiding this review and reading Dark Life, if you haven't already. Otherwise, continue...

Fifteen-year-old Ty has lived his entire life in the ocean - a life choice made by his family to pioneer in the depths instead of make due in the fried Earth above. But this choice has led to some unintended consequences. Ty has an ability. So does his sister. And people don't like things they can't explain. Because of this, they tend to keep their talents quiet.

Yet despite the ocean being a dangerous place, Ty has never come across something as horrifying as he does one night as he's out with his friend Gemma (whom maybe he'd like to be more than friends). An entire township sunken - with people inside - apparently on purpose. Because how else would you explain it being chained to a downed airplane?

Before they know it, Ty and Gemma find themselves unraveling a mystery that has claimed the lives of hundreds - and before they even get a chance to try and solve it, two lives that are close to Ty and Gemma are endangered.

It's a race against time and muddy politics as Ty and Gemma fight against the authorities, criminals, and all the natural predators of the ocean to save the lives of not only their loved ones, but the many more in danger of falling victim to a vicious cycle that certain individuals don't want getting out...

Dark Life was an excellent undersea adventure that presented a lively, unique setting - and Rip Tide is a wonderful follow-up. I don't know if any more books are planned in the series or not, but I hope there are!

Rip Tide is a fast-paced, suspenseful, thrilling action-adventure YA novel with sensitive, introspective character development and light, yet involving, romance. The way Kat Falls deals with Gemma's fear of the water and how this effects her relationship with Ty, whose life is water, is lovely and understated. And Ty is refreshingly mature, though still realistically frustrated occasionally, and understanding in a way that just really makes you love him. These are endearing characters that have spunk and fire, providing us readers the ability to root for them as they fight against the odds.

The plot of Rip Tide is interesting, compelling, always multilayered and surprising. The political intrigue and corruption in this futuristic world governed by an unjust emergency rule that has long since overstayed its welcome but refuses to go away is fascinating. There's always more I want to know about this life, not only below the sea but also above it.

I was holding my breath through the action-packed, nail-biting conclusion and impressive villains, while other times smiling through the banter, friendships, warm family relationships, and hesitant kisses.

I was very happy with it and refuse to give away any more details, in case I accidentally give away something big! So go read Rip Tide! It should calm your book addict cravings for a good while. ;)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Veiled Rose


Veiled Rose is a grown-up fairy-tale appropriate for all ages by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.

Being as this book in the second in a fairy-tale/fantasy series called Tales of Goldstone Wood, I would recommend reading the first book (Heartless) first - though I personally didn't get the opportunity to do that and still found Veiled Rose to be easily read as a stand-alone novel.

Eleven-year-old Leo doesn't want to stay indoors watching his boring cousin read research novels - he wants to go out on adventures. After all, what's the point of having a summer in the country if you don't go out in the country? And the rumors of a monster in the woods is growing more rampant - so Leo sets off to hunt the monster with a beanpole.

But he doesn't find a monster. Instead, he finds a girl named Rose Red who is entirely covered in ragged veils. Not a tiny bit of her appearance shows. She lives in the forest with no one but her beloved nanny goat and her kind father. Leo isn't a big fan of girls, but the two hit it off and begin having daily adventures - Leo practically forgets that Rose Red is shrouded in veils.

However, not everyone has forgotten about the monster in the woods - there are those who seek it. And it is not yet clear to the children what danger awaits them both as their friendship is tested.

Terror awaits...

Veiled Rose has a lovely, sweeping use of adjectives that painted a vivid and magical picture of the story in my mind. It initially sets up a fantasy quest from the prospective of the future and has a charming, instant flashback to Leo's childhood, in which we see him as a stubborn, adventurous boy not fully realizing that he is setting off a course of events that will last many, many years.

I thoroughly enjoyed the classic tone of this enchanting tale. The prose wrapped me up in the story. And Rose Red is a mysterious little figure that I was quite intrigued by and was happy to follow to her eccentric home to learn more about her. Anne Elisabeth Stengl provides the readers' with a sweet, interesting, unique, motley crew of characters!

As the story continued, some creepier bits with Rose Red and her dark, eerie dreams began to offer up more questions and mysteries - which is, of course, fun! I loved the way Stengl tells the tale in a patient, yet constantly inventive and magnetic, manner. Veiled Rose has an epic feeling to it, a larger-than-life scale with a sensitivity and genuineness to it that is refreshing and original.

Veiled Rose spans about ten years worth of time and is truly a wondrous journey of monumental proportions with subtle faith-based metaphors. Now, with some of the late plot developments I think I would still strongly suggest reading Heartless first (again, that is the first book in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series) but it is still fine to read it alone. I know I'm looking forward to going back and reading Heartless very soon, though!

Yet with all this praise, I do feel like I have to say the end left me torn. I, of course, will not give away anything here - no spoilers at the Bibliophile Support Group! But, there was a certain way I was hoping for Veiled Rose to end and it did not happen. Now, is that a bad thing? No. In fact, I love that Anne Elisabeth Stengl continued to keep Veiled Rose absolutely unexpected and cliche-free. However, there was a sadness and a bittersweetness that left me feeling a bit down at the conclusion - when I was hoping to feel happier. Was this conclusion more poignant and meaningful? Perhaps. But it didn't change the fact that I had been hoping for a happier end.

Again: this is only my opinion - what may have been considered happy to me doesn't mean it would be happy for you! Read Veiled Rose for yourself and don't take this as any sort of sign of how it will end, because this is very much an individual opinion!

This is the thing - there is going to be another book in the Tales of Goldstone Wood coming out next year called Moonblood. I believe (from the excerpt) that it will continue this delicate yet strong story - so it really isn't an end at all.

I strongly, strongly recommend Veiled Rose as a brand-new, beautiful, inspirational and heartrending fantasy that gives a mature perspective. It's a wonderful story that I believe you should read as well, especially if you're a fantasy or fairy-tale lover looking for something new and different!

*I received a copy of Veiled Rose from the Bethany House Book Reviewers program, which you can check out here. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Sons of Liberty #2: Death and Taxes


Death and Taxes is the second book in a YA graphic novel series called The Sons of Liberty. It is written and created by Alexander Lagos and Joseph Lagos, with art by Steve Walker, and coloring done by Oren Kramek.

The makings of the Revolutionary War are beginning to fall into place. High taxes, tyranny, and a bunch of very unhappy Americans are starting to realize they want to be free of England's yoke. Amongst the many Philadelphia residents are Graham and Brody, escaped slaves for many years now. They've mostly kept their heads down and worked hard, avoiding getting involved in any of the debates and demonstrations.

But they don't just avoid these situations because of their previous lives as slaves, but because they have successfully hidden their powers for many years now - and they don't want to reveal them now. Yet things are getting violent on the streets, and they find they can't ignore how they can help. So, Graham and Brody don masks and use their abilities to help... though they aren't always sure what side they are helping...

This graphic novel takes a new twist on American history in the years before the Declaration of Independence.

Alrighty! I'm not someone who has read too many graphic novels. I was a big fan of Archie comics when I was younger (and probably would still be, if I was still reading them), but have only read a couple graphic novels. And those were still usually somewhat comedic or mystery oriented. This one, Death and Taxes, is kinda violent and crazed - didn't really meet my particular tastes and felt more male-oriented. I'm not saying, of course, that no girls would go for it - I'm just saying my impression was that it would appeal much more to guys.

This is just my personal opinion, but I myself was a bit bored with Death and Taxes. It seemed to lack a real plotline and patriotism. It was hard for me to tell what was going on, who was who, who I was following, and why I would care. Now, I did miss reading the first novel in The Sons of Liberty series, and that may have been a hindrance.

For me, the fact that about 99% of the people represented in the novel were presented as mad and bloodthirsty and so many of the squares feature people with maniacal expressions - well, that just wasn't so pleasant for me. It's definitely intense, and I'm sure many fans of graphic novels will love Death and Taxes! It just wasn't my "cup of tea".

But don't listen to me! If you love graphic novels, and like your reading material to have a darker twist - you should read Death and Taxes for yourself! Our reading tastes are not the same!!! And I would love to hear differing opinions!

BONUS REVIEW:

Now, I may not have been a huge fan of this particular graphic novel, but comics in general are awesome! So for all of you fans of manga or aspiring manga artists out there, I have another new release I want to quickly mention to y'all. It's called Young Artists Draw Manga and it is a step-by-step guide on how to draw your own manga!

It's written by Christopher Hart and has some excellent tips to try - and will probably keep you entertained for quite a while. There's specific help on drawing feet, hands, and different movement - for example walking, winking, etc. Definitely a fun book - and an educational one at that!

Again, if you've been wanting to learn how to draw manga, or you have some time on your hands and would like something diverting to do - pick up Young Artists Draw Manga!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Passion


Passion is the third novel in the Fallen series, an ambitious YA angel saga by Lauren Kate.

Again, this review will have inevitable spoilers for Fallen and Torment - don't read it unless you've already read the previous books in the series. You've been warned, bibliophiles!!!

After the breathless events at the conclusion of Torment, Luce is in a state of desperation. It seems that the cycle of losing her life will never end - though this time she won't come back. It would truly be the end. What's the point of it all? Why is Daniel cursed? Beyond his immeasurable attractiveness, why does she love him? How does it all end?

It is with all of these questions in her mind that Luce opened up an Announcer and stepped in. She was told repeatedly how dangerous that is, how she should be trained heavily before ever attempting such a thing - but in that moment she couldn't care less. What really mattered was to learn - to learn the secrets Daniel wouldn't tell her, to connect with her past selves and the tragedy that touched all her past families, and to finally break the cycle.

All of the angels, not to mention the Outcasts, are trying to find her. Of course, none as frantically as Daniel. But going on a search through time is not easy - she could be anywhere. She's had reincarnations through thousands of years!

But what if Luce gets lost in time? Or worse - what if she changes things so dramatically that she'll have never existed in the current time - or change herself completely?

This time it may truly be the end to Daniel and Luce's star-crossed romance...

Passion sets up a plot that definitely got my attention: Luce is going to start visiting her past! Ooooh - I like it!

It was fascinating and amazing as Luce takes an agonizing trip through time. It's quite a journey - mixing historical times and puzzling mysteries, never letting us forget the terrible danger we've been warned she's in while doing this! It's one heck of a unique plot! Hats off to Lauren Kate for spinning us quite the tale.

There's a real sense of answers coming - big ones. And as the pace and revelations accelerated, we were indeed given some. Being a Christian, I'm not a huge fan of creating fiction out of angels and God - but Lauren Kate did present in such a way to make me feel that it was truly a fantasy - and I set that sentiment aside.

Passion is an exhilarating adventure with a romantic, tragic twist. It's riveting, spectacular, and singular with an originality that makes it shine. Unlike the previous two books, there is very little time spent with secondary characters like Arriane, Shelby, Miles, etc. Yet we get a ton of valuable info, and the emotional impact of getting to see, first hand along with Luce, the past lives that she experienced but does not remember.

Quite something! I will be waiting for the fourth and final book, Rapture, with bated breath - how on earth will this all end?!?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Torment


Torment is the second book in the YA supernatural series Fallen, written by best-selling author Lauren Kate.

You know the drill, bibliophiles. If you haven't read Fallen yet, the first book, then reading this review is only hurting your overall experience of Fallen. Make a wise choice and avoid it, if that is the case. Otherwise, you've been warned! :)

Luce is still reeling from the revelation that Daniel and many of her other Sword & Cross classmates are actually angels. But even that is easier to get over than the fact that apparently Luce has been reincarnated over and over again since the beginning of time, doomed to fall in love with Daniel, only to die suddenly and dramatically before she ever reaches eighteen.

But this time... this time it's different. She can see the Shadows that lurk like ominous prophecies. That's never happened before. She's also never before survived finding out what Daniel is, let alone so many passionate kisses.

Yet she is still in danger. There are others who want her dead. Outcasts, blind immortals whose motives she's not entirely aware - among others. In order to protect her, to hide her, Daniel insists she go to a California school called Shoreline - without him.

Shoreline couldn't be more different from Sword & Cross - breezy, easygoing, and filled with Nephilim, children of a mixed lineage of angels and humans, all of which have abilities beyond the norm. It is here that Luce finds out what the Shadows actually are, and how she could use them to learn more about her past lives...

And this becomes vital to Luce - as she wonders if her love for Daniel is merely a tragic, destined cycle and really without reason or cause. After all, he is hiding something from her - something dangerous... and she wants to know the truth.

Okay, so anyone who read my review of Fallen on Monday knows I was impressed - Torment took me a bit longer to connect, but I eventually did. Thing is, I love Luce. In Torment she makes some dumb decisions, in my opinion, that threw me off a bit - that disappointed me, but I could kind of understand it. Also, there was a lack of that all-encompassing, engrossing mystery feeling that Fallen presented in spades - which I had to get over.

Torment's setting of sunny Shoreline is a surprising change from the dank and dark Sword & Cross - but with time and patience I began to see how the contrast was interesting and brave on Lauren Kate's behalf. It served many purposes, as well. We get to see Luce interact with more, ahem, "normal" classmates - in the sense that they were kind and supportive. And she began to learn more about the epic battle she's been thrown in.

What I especially found refreshing was how Daniel's cryptic words, secrets, and overall confusion-causing demeanor with Luce began to place little, painful cracks in their budding, intense relationship. Luce begins to question their connection and tire of her undeniable pull towards him - realizing a lack of substance and meaning. I found this both understandable and awesome - you don't get that often in YA.

Because of all the final twists in Fallen there's a nice paranoia in Torment - though not quite as palpable. And I was still missing the dark, simmering mystery and thrills of the first novel - but with patience it finally begins to seep in. There is a fight for independence and a resistance to blindly submitting to her fate that Luce brings to Torment. I really began to be convinced that Torment was going to be awesome too - and I was right! In my opinion, that is.

There was a slow-burning creativity to the plot of Torment, especially regarding the Shadows. Plus, our mythic Daniel gets a little competition when it comes to Luce's attentions. Lauren Kate continues to resist the superficial cattiness of female relationships, as well, and presents us instead with a deeper bond of friendship and mourning that is lovely.

I became increasingly intrigued as Torment began to have more and more electrifying turns and plot developments! With great, dynamic characters and a stunning, breathless, memorable end I was absolutely happy with the end result of Torment!

I think you will be too! Now on to Passion (third book)! Read my review of Friday! ;)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fallen


Fallen is a YA supernatural novel by Lauren Kate.

I want to acknowledge the fact that a lot of you may have already read this book - I know I'm late to the game. But when Passion came out in June (the third book in the Fallen series) I found myself in a position to finally read these novels. Better late than never, right?

So, what is the basic, spoiler-free synopsis of the plot?

Luce, a seventeen-year-old honor student, is haunted by what happened to the first boy she had a real, serious crush on. Not only by the events that cost him his life, but by what she saw that night - the very same dark shadows that have continued to hover in the water and elsewhere for years, to the point that she knew she had to shut up about them - or else she'd be on anti-psychotics by now. They were there that night - before the fire.

Of course, she couldn't explain that to the police. It wouldn't help her case any to appear crazy on top of already being the only suspect in a possible arson. Instead, Luce finds herself sent to Sword & Cross boarding school in Savannah, Georgia - a reform school. Definitely not a place she ever thought she'd end up.

There's no cell phones, security cameras watching their every move, long, excruciating classes with unenthusiastic teachers, and a bevy of threatening, possibly dangerous fellow students - some of which even wear shock bracelets.

But one student catches her eye almost immediately - Daniel Grigori. The superficial reason is obvious - he's flat out gorgeous with golden hair, gray eyes speckled with violet, and an admittedly nice physique. Yet that's not the only reason Luce can't keep her eyes off of him... He just seems so familiar. So much so, that Luce feels herself inexplicably drawn to him like a moth to a flame - despite his disinterest and apparent dislike of her.

Another student, green-eyed Cam, actually seems to genuinely like her and have an interest in her as she navigates the ways of such a strange, lonely school like Sword & Cross - she actually starts to make a few friends. But no matter how nice and good-looking Cam is, Luce can't stop trying to figure out what Daniel is hiding...

And that very well may be Luce's doom...

Alrighty, first off I must say how eye-catching and lovely the cover of Fallen is! And each cover after that in the Fallen series (Torment, Passion), are just as great. I don't mention covers often, because I like to focus on the contents of the book - but when one is this cool, I gotta mention it! :)

The start of Fallen was extremely interesting to me - it had a darker tone than I initially expected as Luce entered this dank, hopeless-feeling, suffocating reform school. I almost immediately liked Luce - she's down-to-earth, self-aware, damaged, and fascinating as a main character. Plus, her past makes her sympathetic but not an object of pity. She felt fresh, what with not being superhuman confident nor a blubbering mess of insecurity.

All the more reason to be affected by her first meeting with Daniel. For all of you fellow book addicts who have yet to read Fallen, I don't want to give away even the small scenes of this novel - but I will say that I felt her hurt and shock. And to have such an intense, almost obsession-like magnetism toward Daniel, a guy that seems to so obviously want nothing to do with her - the pain is palpable, as well as the confusion. Because, yet again, Luce is conscious of how unhealthy her focus on him is - and though she can't seem to disconnect herself from it, she wonders why she is so attached to him. Excellent.

Tonally, Fallen also scored high for me. It felt so different - despite maybe some comparisons to Twilight or other paranormal sagas. It is actually an entirely original story and done with a larger intent on mystery. I was very, very into it and the pages were flying. In fact, I read Fallen in two days - now considering the novel is 452 pages and I was working full-time each day, that is saying something!

At it's core, for me, Fallen is a romantic mystery thriller with a phenomenally unique setting and astonishing, deep character development. The pure, raw anguish that Lauren Kate portrayed was done so well - sometimes subtle, sometimes overt. Many shocks and risks, in my opinion, were taken in the final 100 pages that paid off enormously for me and convinced me that this is much more than a story about a hapless girl obsessed with an attractive, brooding boy.

Fallen is absorbing, hypnotic, surprising, suspenseful and eerie. I found it to be a fantastic, enveloping opening to a YA fantasy series. I am only relieved to know that Torment and Passion are on my shelves ready to be devoured just as quickly. That's one of the good things about joining a series late in the game - less waiting! :)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Texas Gothic


Texas Gothic is a new YA paranormal by Rosemary Clement-Moore.

The Goodnight family is made up of almost entirely of witches. Not scary, broom-wielding, wart-infested witches but positive magic, helpful spells, and the occasional psychic or two. This is Amy Goodnight's upbringing. Only she learned early on that it is not everybody elses. And in order to protect her lovable, crazy, aloof but talented family, she tries to be the "normal" one. She's worked hard to try and give herself an ordinary life.

That's part of the reason why she was so ready to join her sister Phin in helping out her Aunt Hyacinth's farm while she took her first vacation in a long time. So, she's feeding the goats and washing the dogs and enjoying the plain-old-fashioned normal of it all. Except for, of course, long deceased Uncle Burt's gentle ghost continuing to be among them at the farm, the magical protections around the house, and Phin's paranormal experiments.

But then there's a ghost. And he's not as kind and loving as old Uncle Burt. Nope. Of course not. And he's gotten past all of the Goodnight protection spells in order to be in the house with Amy and Phin - which is not good. It means it's more powerful than them all combined. It's focus? Amy.

Go figure. "Normal" just isn't in the Goodnight blood.

So, amongst trading barbs with the frustrating, argumentative, incredibly hot cowboy neighbor, dealing with suspicious residents that aren't so fond of the Goodnight's, and trying to keep Phin from exploding the house while she's testing out one of her mad-scientist ideas, Amy is now saddled with trying to figure out how to get rid of her ghost.

Yeah. "Normal" is out of the window.

So far I have thoroughly enjoyed each book I've read by Rosemary Clement-Moore, so I had high expectations going into Texas Gothic. And happily, I was immediately presented with Rosemary's trademark humor (and dog-loving), not to mention an unusual, funny situation for Amy, in which to meet her. Plus, we get startling, quick revelations about the Goodnight family's abilities and we are off to a raring start!

Texas Gothic is FULL of awesome scenes, one of my favorites being a hilarious escapade involving livestock and cherry underwear. Yeah, you don't get any more details until you read the book. Which you better! But beyond the fun stuff, we also get small, but ominous, occurrences that begin to hint at something bigger and scarier coming - a haunting perhaps?

Clement-Moore is great at creating dynamic characters and really strong, cliche-free chemistry between her love interests. She presents a very human, relatable struggle for Amy between her family loyalty and being true to herself and the desire for fitting in and being normal. As an author, she really brings it all to the table to give us yet another excellent read!

Texas Gothic is creepy and suspenseful, but most of all a fast-paced mystery with expertly crafted supernatural elements. It's sexier, deeper, ghostier Nancy Drew-like fun! It's crackling with tension - both the sexual and the paranormal - and I was glued and totally invested in both the characters and the plot!

Totally awesome, diverting, exciting, and entertaining - I can't wait for even more from Rosemary Clement-Moore!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Titanic: S.O.S.


S.O.S. is the third and final book in Gordon Korman's middle-grade Titanic trilogy.

This is the third book in a trilogy, book addicts! You must, I repeat, must read the first two books (Unsinkable and Collision Course) before you read this review. Otherwise you are just going to ruin all the twists! Sure, we know the Titanic sinks - but the surprises that are revealed about our characters, among other things, should not be spoiled!

But all of you that have read the first two books (which I hope are many of you, because this a great series), can rest assured that I won't spoil anything from S.O.S. itself - just a basic recap and my opinion.

Here goes:

The Titanic is sinking. No one wants to believe it, but the bow is almost imperceptibly starting to dip into the freezing Atlantic Ocean - and our four main characters are thrown into a race for survival.

Paddy is locked up below deck, having finally been caught as a stowaway. In one cell over are the very criminals that wish him dead. And his feet are slowly starting to get wet...

Juliana can't persuade her father to get away from the gaming tables and get to the lifeboats -- he's finally on a winning streak and can't seem to hear a word she says...

Sophie can hardly recover from an attack from a man that may be Jack the Ripper himself before the realization that the unsinkable ship may very well be sinkable...

And Titanic employee Alfie is desperate to get his Da out of the boiler rooms and up to the higher decks where he met have an actual chance of survival...

None of our characters are guaranteed survival. And Gordon Korman brings to the table such a breathless suspense, startling realism and utter terror to the scene before us! There are quite a few similarities in S.O.S. to moments in the movie Titanic, but there is such an urgency to follow what we hope is a chance at survival for the characters we have come to love that it doesn't even matter!

Paddy, Juliana, Sophie, and Alfie all give us a different perspective of the disaster and different levels of privilege. Sophie and Juliana, being female first-class passengers, have a shot at lifeboats early on (though I'm not saying they get on, I'm just stating facts here), while Paddy as a locked up stowaway and Alfie as a White Star Line employee feel doomed (again, not saying they are - just stating the situation at hand).

I was stunned by how effective and horrifying Gordon Korman portrayed this tragedy - I wasn't sure how far he would go, this being a middle-grade series by definition. But without being graphic, S.O.S. is most assuredly grim and startling with its believability. He brings a sense of gravity and respect to a monumental, terrible, incredible moment in history and all the lives that were lost.

There's a real maturity, in my view, in the way S.O.S. is concluded - and all I can say is that I was riveted, fascinated, on the edge of my seat, and biting my nails every step of the way!

Like I've said before, if you are a fan of historical fiction or are interested in the Titanic - this is most surely the trilogy for you. Read all three: Unsinkable, Collision Course, and finally S.O.S.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Down the Mysterly River


Down the Mysterly River is a new middle-grade fantasy novel by Bill Willingham.

Max "the Wolf" prides himself on being an excellent young detective and highly aware of his surroundings as a lauded Boy Scout - but he has no idea where he is, and no memory how he got there. It's a forest - that's clear. But he doesn't remember being on a camping trip, and he can't hear any fellow Scouts.

Then Max meets a badger named Banderbrock, a black bear named Walden, and a feisty barn cat called McTavish the Monster, whom all have the ability of talking - and aren't the least bit surprised about it. The thing they find the most strange is that Max can understand them.

But they all share the same problem: they don't remember how they arrived in this wood.

And then when determined hunters, called Blue Cutters, begin to pursue them doggedly, carrying with them dangerous blue swords, they find themselves fighting to survive - or fighting to survive as they are. Because the blue swords seem to be able to change the very essence of their prey into something unrecognizable...

Down the Mysterly River has a great tone of humor and straightforwardness. Each character introduced is fun, vibrant, and likable with their colorful personalities and the different traits they bring to the mysterious adventure. It has a bit of a whimsical fairy-tale feeling - but with a little edge as the Blue Cutters enigmatic threat creeps ever nearer.

I was very interested and entertained - primarily by the intuitive Max and the delightful talking animals! But as some of my natural assumptions became twisted and unexpected turns threw the plot out the window to reveal a shocker of an ending - I was surprised how effective the near tear-enducing conclusion was! The resolution made Down the Mysterly River more than just a thrilling, fun, fantasy adventure - it became a charming, moving, bittersweet tale that features bravery and friendship.

I'd say Down the Mysterly River is for any of you bibliophiles that are young at heart!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Jane Jones: Worst. Vampire. Ever.


Jane Jones: Worst. Vampire. Ever. is Caissie St. Onge's first novel, and a YA one at that!

Jane Jones is a vampire - but she totally sucks at it. (Pun not intended.) First of all, she's not gorgeous and magnetic. She's not filthy rich and living in a magnificent mansion. She doesn't have a hot boyfriend. And she sure as hell can't drink blood.

That's right. Jane Jones is a glasses-wearing, average-looking, middle-class, blood-intolerant nerdy vampire. Awesome, right? Sooooo not. She got turned before she could fully, ahem, "grow" and she has no friends - she can't fit in with humans, and she can't fit in with the other high school vampires.

And she's set to continue this delightful life for, oh yeah, FOREVER.

But then all of a sudden the truly smoldering, extremely attractive vampire Timothy seems to be noticing her AND her American History paper partner Eli, who's geeky but sweet, seems to have a hard time talking to her - as though he's nervous - and Jane can hardly believe it! Two boys interested in HER, a pathetic, sickly (for lack of blood), never-been-kissed vampire dork?

Yet before she gets a chance to really revel in this happy turn of events, her History teacher starts to act alarming... and Jane wonders if she can ever just have a trouble-free life?

Oh my gosh, oh my gosh!!! Jane Jones: Worst. Vampire. Ever. is an absolutely hilarious, awesome, superlative, original take on vampirism! Who ever heard of a geek vampire? Well, we've got her in Jane Jones! The world's first relatable vampire!

Jane is fun and likable - plus super sympathetic. She's allergic to blood, for goodness sake! She's stuck going to high school over and over and never getting a chance to go to college, for fear of attracting too much attention. Plus, despite her advanced age, she still have an overprotective Mom that insists on going over a safety checklist before leaving the house and remains concerned about walking around after dark - even though Jane's immortality kinda trumps some thug at a street corner.

I was entertained from start to finish! You've got possible romance, laugh-out-loud characterizations, fantastic dialogue and first-person narration, an amazing, supportive, so-not-threatening vampire family, and an entirely unique YA novel! Then, you get some surprisingly shocking (and even sad) twists nearer the end that I wasn't expecting - which brought Jane Jones: Worst. Vampire. Ever. to a whole new level of awesomeness! You start to get suspense that ups the ante even more and makes the plot deeper! Wowza!!!

If you were to read Jane Jones: Worst. Vampire. Ever. with the likes of Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris and Sucks to be Me (and it's sequel Still Sucks to be Me) by Kimberley Pauley, you would be absolutely delighted and happy for days on end!

Oh, how I want a sequel to Jane Jones! This is a super fun, fast-paced, endearing, and hysterical YA novel that should be read again and again! Check it out you hungry bibliophiles!!!

**BIBLIOPHILE ALERT**

Here we are in the last week of August (good-bye, summer! Hello autumn!) and I just want to give all of you awesome readers a head's up: the Bibliophile Support Group will be back to only Monday, Wednesday, and Friday reviews starting on September 6th. This will continue for the foreseeable future. Still a ton of books to read and talk about - but let's give ourselves a bit more time to talk about each one! I encourage you all to comment and read as often as you can - this blog is here for us all to support each other in what is, in the end, quite an addictive lifestyle after all! ;)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dael and the Painted People


Dael and the Painted People is the third book in the prehistoric YA series by Allan Richard Shickman.

This is a follow-up to Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure and Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country. So, if you haven't read these first two books, you should avoid reading this review for risk of inevitable spoilers. You've been warned! :)

Dael's anger and instability have driven to leave his people and the Beautiful Country. He has decided to find the crimson people he's seen before, a people who paint themselves red. He wants to find relief from his guilt - relinquish his anguish and give way to peace.

The mute girl from his people, Sparrow, whose heart had been broken by her unrequited love for Rydl, joined him. It was a dangerous choice, but she had always been an outsider among her people because of her lack of communication anyway - so why not?

The two try to make a fresh start among the painted people - only to find that trouble seems to follow Dael...

Since the first two books were so emotionally charged and full of adrenaline, I was looking forward to this third book. I wasn't disappointed at all. Dael and the Painted People is a great follow-up, telling Dael's story in almost entirely third-person narration, with next to no dialogue. The fact that A. R. Shickman can pull this off without making it boring, just goes to show you his excellent storytelling skills.

Dael and the Painted People is riveting, inspiring, and interesting - a story of redemption, forgiveness, and love. Though it was sometimes a bit slow moving, or difficult to read because of the setbacks that hurt your heart, it is a novel that is easily identifiable to all the human flaws that are still recognizable to this day: jealousy, bitterness, hatred, and greed.

Somehow I felt that there was a bit of a predictability to the final quarter of it, which is surprising to me. But it didn't bother me too much. After all, it's a very good, fascinating story that made me almost want to cry. Here we have a very damaged individual in Dael - watching his attempts at healing was touching, and the final moments of Dael and the Painted People tugged at my heart.

The conclusion was satisfying enough to wonder if this will be the last book. I wasn't astounded by this book, but I was pretty close to it. An admirable choice for any bibliophile looking for something different - something prehistoric, a bit savage, and yet very much human.

**BIBLIOPHILE ALERT**

Here we are in the last week of August (good-bye, summer! hello autumn!) and I just want to give all of you awesome readers a head's up: the Bibliophile Support Group will be back to only Monday, Wednesday, and Friday reviews starting on September 6th. This will continue for the foreseeable future. Still a ton of books to read and talk about - but let's give ourselves a bit more time to talk about each one! I encourage you all to comment and read as often as you can - this blog is here for us all to support each other in what is, in the end, quite an addictive lifestyle after all! ;)