Friday, August 31, 2012

Short-Straw Bride


Short-Straw Bride is the newest inspirational historical romance from Karen Witemeyer.

Twelve years ago the now twenty-two year old Meredith Hayes fell in love. Or, at least she felt like she did. Perhaps now she’d call it a youthful crush – but it’s sure stayed with her.

She’d always been warned about the dangerous, reclusive Archer boys. They never left their land and guarded it with guns and vicious guard dogs. Yet when she braved crossing the boundary to retrieve her lunch bucket and got herself in a painful situation – Travis Archer saved the day, with an unexpected kindness in his eyes.

That’s why all these years later, though she hasn’t seen neither hide nor hair of him since, Meredith knows that she must warn him of the threat to Archer land. She overheard her intended fiancé (not intended by her) plotting to burn the Archer’s off their land to force them into selling.

So, propriety be damned! Meredith can’t let that happen!

But when her worthy cause turns into a potentially serious injury, Travis Archer finds himself allowing Archer land to permit the damsel yet again. Yet Meredith’s shredded reputation may require an even more gallant sacrifice…

I don’t feel like I want to give too much more than that away of the Short-Straw Bride plot. You might be able to guess more from the title, but you won’t hear it from me!

I really, really loved To Win Her Heart, Karen Witemeyer’s last historical fiction novel. So, I was very excited to read Short-Straw Bride.

And in it, we do get a spunky, brave, limping Meredith – a character to root for. Plus, the Archer brothers and their steadfast loyalty to their land and each other is certainly unique and admirable.

Short-Straw Bride provided some unexpected turns of events that created a story where I couldn’t automatically guess where it would go – refreshing! So, as the charming, involving, fiery, flirty, romantic misunderstandings run awry I found that Short-Straw Bride was about more than romance and marriage but also friendship.

However, despite some of the reviews I’ve seen – Short-Straw Bride was not as dynamic to me as To Win Her Heart. At times, Meredith became tiring in her extremely feminine ways, and her near constant slew of injuries and illnesses gave the impression of a damsel in distress in need of a big, strong man. I can handle that when done properly and in small doses, but something about it in this novel didn’t sit right with me.

I did like Short-Straw Bride, but I was surprised to find it a little on the cliché side when it came to the characters and their relationship to each other. Definitely a novel that’s fun to read – but not necessarily memorable…

*I received a copy of Short-Straw Bride 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.

The White Glove War


The White Glove War is the second Magnolia League book, a paranormal series, written by Katie Crouch and Grady Hendrix.

As this is the second book in a series, you know what I’m going to say don’t you? If you haven’t read The Magnolia League, you should not read this review as it will contain inevitable spoilers. You can check out my review of The Magnolia League here instead.

Now, if you HAVE read The Magnolia League, feel free to continue reading…

Being a member of Savannah’s Magnolia League has never been so dangerous.

The beauty, money, popularity of its youngest members might look envy-worthy, but those spells, potions, and conjures from the Buzzard family come with a price.

When Hayes, one of the nicest girls in the Magnolia League who struggles to meet expectations of her bossy grandmother and boozy mom, starts to be followed by something – something that feels inherently evil – she realizes that magic can’t fix everything. She’s in danger.

They all are.

Meanwhile, Alexandria, the California transplant, is trying desperately to free her mother’s trapped spirit – and in doing so has to pretend to be THE Magnolia. Planning parties, dressing in her grandmother’s preference of clothing, and acting all-together not like herself is a small price to pay to help her Mom.

But every time to sees Thad she remembers how much she’s already lost because of it.

As dark magic sweeps through their lives, can the youngest members of the Magnolia League find the strength to save their families… and themselves?

I very much liked The Magnolia League – there was a distinctly Southern tone to the magic and mayhem that I found unique. Here in The White Glove War that tone is continued.

Sadly I didn’t have time to reread the first book, but thankfully the authors of the sequel saw fit to provide a bit of a refresher early on.

The White Glove War is a worthy sequel, upping the drama as the snobby, relatively frightening, threatening Southern matriarchs wreak havoc on the lives of the younger generation. This is a book that is non-stop in its plot full of intrigue and magic. A great sequel!

We’ve got backstabbing, family rivalries, forced social niceties and a hefty helping of hoodoo/voodoo to make for a sudsy soap mixed with the supernatural. It’s creepy and full to the brim with mysteries both familiar and paranormal!

I found it to be suspenseful, scary, and successful at keeping me on my toes. The White Glove War left me wanting more. There’s something to be said about a book that is plain fun and easy to read – and that’s what you get with The White Glove War.

I can’t wait to read more of this addictive series!

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Alchemyst

The Alchemyst is the first in the YA fantasy adventure series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott.

I know I’m late to this series. Very late. But the fact that the sixth and final novel in the series, The Enchantress, recently came out that my long-held interest in the series came to a head. So, here I am! I’ll be getting caught up on this series, one book a month until I get to The Enchantress!

Let’s be honest: As much as a bibliophile wants to be able to read every book as it comes out, it just ain’t possible! ;)

And maybe you also happen to one of the few book lovers’ that hasn’t had a chance to dive into this series yet – so, let’s learn a little more about it… Opinion to follow, of course!

Sophie and Josh Newman, fifteen-year-old twins, have been enjoying their summer in San Francisco. Sophie’s working at a cute café right across the street from her brother who’s working as an assistant at a slightly eccentric bookstore owned by Nick Fleming, so it’s all good.

That is, until she spies a bunch of indistinguishable men head toward the bookshop, all wearing sunglasses and heavy black coats – strange in eighty degree weather. Suspicious, even.

Thing is, Josh and Sophie don’t know it yet, but Nick Fleming is actually the immortal Nicholas Flamel. Born in Paris in 1330, he “died” in 1418. But his tomb is empty. As is that of his wife’s, Perenelle.

All those years ago, Nicholas became the guardian of an ancient tome, the Book of Abraham the Mage. In it is ever changing information, a small part of which provides the secret of eternal life – the one thing in the book that Nicholas and Perenelle have taken advantage of.

But there is much more in the mysterious book. Things that could be incredibly dangerous in the wrong hands. Possibly even the power to destroy the world…

What Sophie doesn’t know as she watches the unusual men enter Nick’s bookstore is that her and her twin’s lives are about to change forever. Because a treacherous man named Dr. John Dee is planning on taking the Book of Abraham the Mage – and kidnapping the guardians.

And Sophie and Josh just happen to be part of a prophecy – a prophecy that will throw them right in the midst of this ageless battle…

That’s the basic gist for a synopsis!

What did I think?

Well, The Alchemyst was instantly action-packed, providing us with an initially awkward intro to magic and secrets that rather quickly morphs into genuine intrigue and suspense.

One of the things I was most interested in when I heard about this series is the fact that Michael Scott has absolutely no fictional characters in the books besides Josh and Sophie. Everybody else is a figure of history or mythology. Very cool. And I did love the way the author was drenching The Alchemyst into historical and mythological depths while providing a fun, blockbuster feel.

My only problem was that it was so fast-paced from the get-go that I felt a disconnect between myself and the characters. And a slightly cheesy tone that I hoped would dissipate. Which it did, mostly.

The awesome thing about The Alchemyst is that this is a large-scale, cinematic, extremely visual, entertaining book. Despite my continued desire to connect more with the twins, I can’t deny the fascination The Alchemyst provided!

So, onto book two – The Magician!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Twice Upon a Time: Sleeping Beauty, the One Who Took the Really Long Nap

Twice Upon a Time: Sleeping Beauty, the One Who Took the Really Long Nap is the second middlegrade fairy-tale retelling by Wendy Mass.

Princess Rose has grown up under constant supervision. After all, when she was just a tiny baby in a crib she was cursed by a cranky old fairy – therefore all sharp objects have been banished from the kingdom.

Of course… that doesn’t mean she won’t still get pricked, does it?

Yep. Being a princess isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The Prince hasn’t had the easiest time of it either. He’s never been properly named because his mother the Queen has some ogre blood and he had the misfortune of being born on the second Thursday of the month.

Let’s just say… it was a close call.

So though The Prince survived his birth, the oddness of his family has left him rather lonely. But his walks in the woods are a comfort.

That’s where he finds a hidden castle. One that looks exactly like the one he lives in, but not camouflaged by leaves. He’s determined to solve the mystery.

Will Princess Rose and The Prince’s lives collide?

As much as I liked Wendy Mass’ first Twice Upon a Time book, Rapunzel, I was much more enchanted by Sleeping Beauty!

Sleeping Beauty, the One Who Took the Really Long Nap was, in my opinion, far funnier in a more relatable way and had a bit more nuance to the comedy.

This is a candy-coated retelling with enough maturity and soft melancholy to become invested in the characters and the story among the charming, zany fairy-tale imagination of it all. I enjoyed it very much!

Sleeping Beauty is sweet, fun, fast-paced (without feeling rushed), romantic, and perfect for any age group who wants a short, entertaining read.

For me, it was a big improvement on the first in the series – leading me to look more forward to the latest addition, Beauty & the Beast, or the Only One Who Didn’t Run Away!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Dying to Read

Dying to Read is a humorous mystery novel, and the first in the Cate Kinkaid Files, by Lorena McCourtney.

Out of work longer than she expected, a messily broken engagement, nearing that dreaded “30” and a really bad haircut are what bring Cate Kinkaid to accept a temporary job from her PI uncle.

She has absolutely no experience in the world of private investigating – and no instincts that she’s aware of (or else how would she have ended up in her current life situation). But her uncle assures her that all she’ll be doing is routine, unexciting, uncomplicated assignments until she can find work elsewhere.

Cate’s first task sounds simple enough: find out whether a certain woman named Willow lives at a certain address. No biggie. Even Cate should be able to complete that job successfully.

But when she arrives at said address, a fairly spooky looking old Victorian, she discovers a rather snarky group of ravenous mystery novel lovers quite disgruntled at having their book group meeting delayed… and a dead body.

And no Willow.

Suddenly, Cate begins to wonder if her “routine” PI job is going to be anything but…

I’ve always loved a good whodunit! Problem is, so many of the books out there are crime fiction instead of cozy-feeling mysteries. And, okay, I know that there is something really weird about finding a book about murder “cozy”, but any of you whodunit-loving bibliophiles will know what I’m talking about.

Dying to Read lit all kinds of lights that hadn’t been lit for me in a long time!

Besides the awesome title, Dying to Read immediately grabbed me with the snappy, modern, fun-sounding voice of our narrator, Cate. I loved the fiery, vivacious personalities popping off the page from the get-go, ranging from our protagonist to multiple secondary characters.

Along with reminding of why I was such a fan of a good sleuth murder mystery, Dying to Read had me laughing very quickly and very often. I was invested in our relatable, likable, ordinary gal PI in no time!

There’s lots of clues and suspects in this truly puzzling, entertaining mystery – and happily kept me guessing all the way through.

To be honest, this was probably one of my most enjoyable reads this year – featuring a ton of memorable, hilarious scenes, a splash of romance, and fantastically awesome moments of Cate referring to a cat for advice – and more!

Alright, I can see already that I’ve been throwing the word “awesome” around like a hyper pre-teen. But I can tell you truthfully that I am “dying to read” book two!!

Yes, I went there.

If you’re a fan of Meg Cabot’s Size 12 is Not Fat series or any other fun mystery novels, Dying to Read will be a great addition to your bookshelf!

*Available August 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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

Rapture

Rapture is the fourth and final book in the YA angel fantasy Fallen series by Lauren Kate.

Happy TGIF! Today I'm providing you TWO reviews! Occasionally this is gonna happen - and today is one of those days!

As always (feel like I’m saying this a lot lately – lots of sequels this year!), don’t read this review if you haven’t read the three previous books. It’ll only cause spoilers and possibly influence your opinion of the earlier novels.

Instead, read my review of Fallen here, Torment here, and Passion here. Then there was that little in-between book called Fallen in Love, which I reviewed here.

Now, if you are all caught up with the series, feel free to continue and find out what my thoughts were as this popular series came to a close…

It seems like a lot of us have felt the Fallen quartet has gone off track. Passion was still good for me, but none of the books ever were as good as Fallen was, in my opinion. Like some other series (for example The Maze Runner) each successive book felt like it got less and less amazing. Which is really too bad.

I didn’t mind Passion. As you can see in my review (link above) I actually was pretty fascinated by it. But I did read all three of the first ones one after the other with no interruption. This one I waited almost a year and I haven’t reread the series since, so it’s kind of strange how my opinion might have been altered by that.

I’m not really going to give much info here on the plot. If you’ve invested this much time into a series I kind of assume, as a bibliophile, you’re going to want to see where it all ends up.

So what did I think?

Well, because I didn’t have time to reread the entire first three books, I did find I was pretty confused at first as I started Rapture. I also was surprised to find how disengaged I was. Where in Fallen I was invested in Luce and her strange, unexplainable pull toward the attractive, mysterious Daniel – I found I had no connection this time around.

In fact, I found Rapture to be a little pushy on the mushy-type romance. I was always still hoping to be wowed but in the first 380 pages or so I was consistently exasperated with the storyline and characters, found there was a lot of repetition in words and scenes, and a load of dry descriptions that fell flat.

Now, this was just me. I really, really hope that you feel different. So don’t go taking it off your To Be Read list!

Especially since right around the point where there was only 70 pages left (at that 380 page mark), Rapture suddenly kicked in gear. It was still nothing like the hypnotic, dark Fallen, but there was a definite increase in drama and plot. And there were a couple of big twists I did not see coming!

Sadly, Rapture fell into a category of a little too little, a little too late for me. I was happy that the last few pages provided a relatively good, unexpected end to the series. But the way it got there, in my opinion, was uneven, tedious, and sometimes hopelessly cheesy.

The series I began with Fallen was much edgier, much more enigmatic than what it all ended up being by the time of Rapture. I don’t know. I just kinda hoped for a lot more.

I’d love to hear what you think!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Chamber in the Sky

The Chamber in the Sky is the fourth and final book in M. T. Anderson’s amazing sci-fi/fantasy Norumbegan Quartet.

If you haven’t read the other books in this series, please check out my reviews of The Game of Sunken Places, The Suburb Beyond the Stars, and The Empire of Gut and Bone.

Read the books in order, and I’ll be surprised if you won’t be scrambling for book four like I was! But, please, PLEASE don’t ruin it by reading this review! So, check out M. T. Anderson’s awesome novels and come back on Friday for a TGIF double-review!

Last warning to avert your eyes if you haven’t read books 1 through 3…

All right! Very little synopsis will be found here, as I don’t want to even kinda spoil your own enjoyment of The Chamber in the Sky.

Childhood friends Brian and Gregory are on their way to find someone who can help them stop the Thusser invasion of Earth. The privileged, fluffy-brained Norumbegan’s refuse to believe they’re in any danger, even as Brian and Gregory see the Thusser’s move in and turn everyone’s minds to mush.

So, along with the regal Gwynyfer, the two boys search for a long-shunned Norumbegan that left the courts in disgust at their lack of attention to the Game. They are hoping for an off switch to the chaos as their family is falling prey to the Thusser on Earth and their troll friend Kalgrash helps to defend the Thusser’s next target.

Will Brian and Gregory be able to save the world?

As you can see, I gave very little information about what will actually happen. After all, if you’ve read the first three books, I figure you’re invested enough not to need it. Right?

The Chamber in the Sky continues M. T. Anderson’s tradition of remarkable, creative, classic-feeling adventure that imagines entirely new civilizations, disasters, and solutions. This is truly an original treat: scary, funny, awesome, and exciting!

There are many types of characters, some delightfully amusing to dislike, and some impossible to not whole-heartedly root for. The Chamber in the Sky is extremely clever and smart with writing that shines brightly.

However, I will admit that I was surprised at how upsetting and disturbing The Chamber in the Sky was at times. The dramatic moments are made more powerfully affective by the skill the author pens it with. It worked, but all that combined with the continually degrading friendship of our leads was distressing.

The Chamber in the Sky has a bittersweet, understated end to an always unpredictable series that really brought a grounded seriousness to the series as a whole. The Norumbegan Quartet is an honestly diverse, stunning inspired masterpiece.

I’m not fully formed on my opinion of the end, but definitely leans toward “wow”.

So: Wow.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ladies in Waiting

Ladies in Waiting is a YA historical fiction/romance novel by Laura L. Sullivan.

Three young women are entering the court of King Edward II’s scandalous court.

There’s Eliza whom her father wants married off to someone with power and privilege inside the royal circle, as despite their immense wealth they have no say in affairs of the country. Yet he’s held back and frustrated by a promise he made Eliza’s dying mother to let her choose her own husband.

Eliza, though, doesn’t have an interest in marrying at all. What she most looks forward to as she enter the Queen’s service as a lady in waiting is the nearness of other playwrights – which is exactly what she wants to be.

Beth has been groomed to, against her will, flaunt her beauty of face and form but keep her purity guarded fiercely by a willful, abusive mother that is determined to attach her daughter to someone that will lift them from their place of utter poverty. But she has dreams of true love, and escape from her cruel mother.

Zabby has always been a girl with a scientific, mathematical mind – and those skills lead to, almost accidentally, saving King Edward II’s life. Those days of closeness, of seeing behind the royal veil have led her to feel stirrings of something like love, something like obsession. Yet she is a lady in waiting to his new, sweet Queen Catherine and must resist her unseemly feelings.

Okay then! So it’s pretty obvious from the premise that Ladies in Waiting is essentially a soapy novel taking place in a historical time. That can be a lot of fun, when done right.

And though it is most definitely frothy, the continual switching of mental viewpoints between the characters, even sometimes including Queen Catherine, without organization or page break threw me off constantly. I had a hard time ever connecting to one character or really knowing what was going on when one second I was privy to one girl’s thoughts and the next second someone else’s. It was odd, to say the least.

Ladies in Waiting has a bit more of an edge than I was expecting. The king is embittered and has a twisted sense of right and wrong. Sometimes the book came across as a tad sleazy, though I know the time period and general behavior of many involved may be reflected rather realistically.

This was still a fast-paced read, though. And there’s more than enough drama to keep me at least semi-interested among the unfamiliar, discomfiting writing style. The storytelling did feel a little all over the place for me, though, and I was never particularly fond of any of the three girls. I also never outright disliked them, either.

Ladies in Waiting, for me, was a rather incomplete, dissatisfying novel overall – but certainly entertaining in its own way and sure to be enjoyed by many a sudsy-fan, yet I wouldn’t myself call it a necessarily fun book.

Which is really too bad. Check it out for yourself though, if this is the kind of book you usually go for!

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Ear, the Eye and the Arm

The Ear, the Eye and the Arm is a middlegrade sci-fi/fantasy novel by Nancy Farmer.

In the year 2194, the three children of Zimbabwe’s chief of security are feeling the tingling need for adventure. Their father has kept them essentially cloistered within the secure walls of their estate, worried about what the dangerous city of Harare would do with them.

But they figure sneaking out for one day of fun and then hurrying back won’t be so bad.

Shortly after leaving, though, they disappear.

Their parents call in a detective agency, one of the only ones left, called the Ear, the Eye and the Arm. Their exposure to nuclear waste has given them special powers that will help them find the children faster – or so they hope.

The children, meanwhile, are getting a much bigger, far more dangerous adventure than they expected…

The Ear, the Eye and the Arm features an intriguing futuristic world full of household robots and Praise singers that hypnotize you with happiness to make you feel better. It’s an odd future, but very interesting and inventive.

A surprise twist to the kids rather sly trip outside their father’s estate came out of nowhere, in a good way, for me. I was pleased to find that The Ear, the Eye and the Arm is a zany, spirited tale instead of one that is pulled down by the darker sides of this future world. It was fun in an entirely new way, rather innovative.

Yet, after a while, what made The Ear, the Eye and the Arm endearing began to become tedious. The continual near-misses and jaunty tone went on longer than I felt necessary and watered down the enjoyment of it. I think, personally, it could have been much better if shorter.

I was happily charmed with, I’d say, the first half of it… then had to skim the second half. That’s a regrettable result of what was really a fun children’s book.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dear America: Behind the Masks

Dear America: Behind the Masks, The Diary of Angeline Reddy, Bodie, California, 1880 is a middlegrade historical fiction novel by Susan Patron.

Angeline Reddy has been living the authentic Wild West life. Her father being a renowned criminal lawyer in the highly criminal town of Bodie proves to be never dull, and often dangerous.

So, when Angie’s father is declared murdered – she knows deep in her heart that it isn’t true. She feels it’s up to her to figure out what is really going on.

But with her mother ill and the gang of vigilantes called the 601 trying to take control of the town, it’s more complicated than it seems in novels.

Yet with the help of new friends Ellie and Ling Loi, Angie believes she can solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance… and the shadowy apparition that seems to be a ghost that is showing up!

I read a lot of Dear America books when I was younger, and loved most of all of them. So, this was a bit of nostalgia for me.

Behind the Masks has an involving mystery with Angeline’s father and excellent details of the hard-working, difficult life experienced back then. I think it’s great for this generation to realize how easy they have it, and appreciate that. This gives them that opportunity.

The reading level is set for younger readers, but the lively, tough narrator of Angeline and the interesting history makes it entertaining still. Plus, there’s a touch of a ghost story, family drama, racism difficulties, and crime – making for a stuffed but clearly well-researched story.

Dear America: Behind the Masks is a smart, fun way of teaching the economics of an 1880 mining town to really any age. Who would’ve thought that was even possible?

And with the smile-worthy, cute end and awesome epilogue, Behind the Masks hits all the right notes for what is expected of the Dear America series.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Kitty Steals the Show

Kitty Steals the Show is an adult paranormal novel by Carrie Vaughn.

First off, I do want to let y’all know that is the latest book in the Kitty Norville series – of which this is the 10th book. Though I did read it as my first foray into the series, I wouldn’t recommend it. My suggestion is to look into the series and grab the first book, Kitty and the Midnight Hour, instead.

That was just a brief disclosure; as this review will inevitable contain some spoilers from the past nine books.

Anywho…

Werewolf and radio personality Kitty Norville has been selected to be the keynote speaker at the First International Conference on Paranatural Studies. She gets to travel all the way to London, where it’s taking place, and dodge protestors and activists while pretending to understand all the scientists.

It’s definitely interesting; as the conference is bringing a whole bunch of supernatural beings to one location, including vampires. Kitty, her husband Ben, and close friend Cormac are right in the thick of it.

Thing is, the vampires are having a conference of their own – providing Kitty a glimpse into the Long Game, a power struggle that has been in effect for centuries and behind which, she is certain, is one particularly evil-minded vampire named Roman.

Bringing so many territory-focused individuals with special powers into one localized area isn’t looking like the best idea…

Okay! I’ll admit that the idea of an urban paranormal novel trumped my long-standing devotion to reading series’ in order… And kind of backfired.

I was pretty confused as I jumped into a well-established world – and couldn’t shake the unfamiliarity and discomfort it caused. Once we got to London, it got a bit better. The sense of Kitty’s buoyant personality and chemistry with her husband Ben began to warm me up a little – but I was still so unsure about the details of the supernatural mythology that my interest, which would occasionally spark, would also wane.

There’s a heavily political, philosophical part of Kitty Steals the Show that, while not bad at all, didn’t appeal to me. And part of the reason could be that the conference had such a complicated hierarchy of paranormal beings so previously imbedded in the story that I felt left out.

But I don’t want to give a negative impression! When we got to some good old-fashioned romantic tension between Kitty, Ben, and her old flame Luis – fun! Or when Kitty spends her time asking ridiculous, crazy, kinda awesome questions to ancient vampires – fun! Kitty is a tough, ambitious, sassy gal!

Plus, Kitty Steals the Show is clearly a well thought-out and detailed tapestry of information bursting at the seams. Unfortunately, joining the series so late in the game left me feeling like an outsider – I have a feeling that starting from the first book would be quite the overarching thrill.

One thing I want to call out is that I really appreciated that for an adult fantasy there was no graphic sex or gratuitous obscenities. Classy. Plot oriented. I like that.

Kitty Steals the Show works as a more adult companion to the phenomenal YA likes of Kelley Armstrong and Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

There was a sweet end – definitely a worthy read. Just was more tedious than it would have been had I had any idea what was going on within the big portions of it!

The File on Angelyn Stark

The File on Angelyn Stark is a YA contemporary fiction novel by Catherine Atkins.

Fifteen-year-old Angelyn once had a neighbor that cared. She was almost like a grandma. But when her real grandson saw something – or thought he saw something – and lied about it, Angelyn’s whole life was ruined.

Now, her mother hates her. It seems everything is blamed on Angelyn.

Her stepdad won’t even look at her anymore.

Rumors swirl around the school that encourage her boyfriend to treat her like crap – and gets all of her friends to abandon her.

The only person that seems to like her – to think she might be worth something – is her World Cultures teacher, Mr. Rossi. He tells her she’s smart, that she just needs to try. He’s nice – like her neighbor used to be, before her Mom bullied her out of the neighborhood.

He doesn’t even act like a teacher.

He acts like a friend…

I read Catherine Atkins’ When Jeff Comes Home many years ago and have never forgotten its haunting impact. It was an amazingly disturbing, convincing novel about readjusting after years of being a kidnap victim. Quite something.

The File on Angelyn Stark puts you in an uncomfortable position from the get-go. When Angelyn is with her “friends” she’s an unlikable bully. But as more layers are revealed you begin to see her as an incredibly damaged, neglected girl that is horribly confused.

Catherine Atkins is good at making books distressingly painful, the darkly realistic nature highlighting people at their worst. It’s so very sad as more and more is revealed of Angelyn’s past. This is definitely a unembellished, uncompromising portrait of an abused girl.

It was a fast read and in many ways gripping, but the ending felt incomplete to me. I was left wanting more. I didn’t feel as satisfied as I wanted, it just kind of cut off. But that’s just my opinion.

The File on Angelyn Stark is well-written and heartbreaking, but – for me – not as powerful as it could’ve been if it had had more pages.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Troubletwisters #1: The Magic

Troubletwisters #1: The Magic is a middlegrade fantasy novel by Garth Nix and Sean Williams.

Practically overnight, Jack and Jaide’s lives are turned upside down. They seemed to cause a mysterious explosion, or rather implosion, of their house after their dad returned from a enigmatic trip. Before they know it, their dad takes off and their disgruntled mom, who refuses to answer their questions, takes them to a relative they’ve never met – Grandma X.

What the X is for, the twins almost don’t even want to ask.

Grandma X’s home is most definitely strange – weather vanes point in the opposite direction of the wind, doors you saw one day might be gone the next, and weirdest of all… cats talk.

Jack and Jaide are clueless as to what’s going on – but it appears there’s some kind of magic in them. They’re troubletwisters.

And as an evil force is growing, it’s time they learned about what they can do to stop it.

I really wanted to like Troubletwisters: The Magic, but I for some reason I never could.

It has an odd, eccentric start that in explanation sounds like the kind of story I’d like – yet it never grabbed me. I do believe part of my issue was the continued use of the term “troubletwister” and the rather stilted dialogue. It began to get tedious because of my lack of interest, sadly.

Troubletwisters has an adventurous feel to it that I’m sure many middlegrade readers (and perhaps even adults) will embrace, but my continued lack of connection to the characters or plot made it difficult.

There’s strange strangers, secretive doors, unanswered questions, and confusing distractions galore – but there seemed to be nothing cohesive or truly inviting about the vibe. Hopefully, you’ll disagree.

I hope to get the chance to reread it someday and give it another shot, but for now I was not captivated like I wanted to be.

Please do give it a try youself, though!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Take a Bow

Take a Bow is a contemporary fiction YA novel by Elizabeth Eulberg.

Emme writes songs – really good songs – and Sophie sings them. That was their blueprint as kids, and that’s the way it’s always been. Her friends in her band tell her Sophie’s using her, but they’ve been friends too long to believe that. Anyway, it frees Emme up to write on a deeper level when she knows that Sophie will be the one singing, not her.

Sophie won’t let anything get in the way of her dreams. She will be a star. Snagging rather famous Carter as a boyfriend and cozying up to her best friend Emme to make sure she keeps the songs coming is only part of that plan.

Carter has long lived in the shadow of his childhood-star status. He thought going to high school, even a performing arts school like they’re attending, would help him feel normal – but all it’s done is get him special favors in the drama department that he doesn’t want. Maybe normal doesn’t have anything to do with fame for him anymore.

Ethan has been a songwriting prodigy since he arrived, but he’s also always had darkness in him he can’t shake. He sabotages his personal life on a regular basis, which tends to inevitably spill over to his professional/student life. And because of his past mistakes he knows that there’s no way he’ll ever get the one thing he truly wants… Emme.

As all four students enter their senior year at their performing arts high school they face auditions that can shape their future…

Take a Bow has a zipping pace and an interesting look at ambitious, entertainment-industry minded students. It’s a fun bit of escapism and drama. You get switching viewpoints of all four of the main characters (I liked how with Carter’s sections the dialogue was written like a screenplay), to get a better idea of each of their personalities…

My only problem is their personalities didn’t pop all that much. They were a little cookie cutter, a little cliché. But the backstabbing, unrequited and unrealized love, newly recognized dreams, themes of friendship and loyalty and quest for super stardom do make for a light, easy read. The romance element was really the strongest, in my opinion, because otherwise the characters never really grabbed me.

Yet for a perhaps generic but relatively entertaining read, Take a Bow is certainly not bad. It just lacked the charm and cleverness of Elizabeth Eulberg’s Prom and Prejudice, which I found to be superior.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Green Heart

Green Heart is the combination of two YA novels Green Angel and Green Witch by Alice Hoffman.

The day it happened, fifteen-year-old Green was angry and refused to speak to her family as they left. She had wanted to go with them to the city, but they needed her to stay home.

Her father, mother, and sister all died in the terrible disaster – leaving Green all alone, and plagued by the memory of her last moments with them.

She struggles to survive in a world turned topsy-turvy, a place where nothing wants to grow among the ashes. Green becomes one with the thorny, lifeless realm of her garden – but finds she must allow herself to open back up to life, to possibility… to magic.

Even though all she can see is pain.

Green Heart was a majestic read!

I read The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman years ago and was dumbfounded by it – so I had high expectations, and, my, were they reached!

The haunting, mournful, poetic sentences create an almost ethereal, atmospheric tone – a poem that goes on and on with grace and elegance.

As I read the Green Heart, or I should probably say absorbed, I hoped for a happy end, for healing, but I knew that anything Alice Hoffman created would be more complicated than that, more real.

Green Heart is a novel of lovely, wistful, staggering simplicity of words that brings a quiet power to this otherworldly tale. This is especially true when it comes to the allure and hypnotic pull of nature and animals (Animal lover, here!). There’s a sense of magic, of wonder, of hurt and hope intertwined.

Both Green Angel and Green Witch are beautiful, the sequel taking us deeper into a surprisingly revealing and exquisite story that is tonally the same.

If you’re a bit sick of reading about the apocalypse, various dystopias, that really just kind of depress you (I know that I have started to be), Green Heart is a refreshing read.

Here we have a book that is touching, transcends genres, and brings lightness to the dark.

If you haven’t already, you should definitely read Green Heart!

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Calling

The Calling is a YA urban paranormal novel, and the second in the Darkness Rising trilogy, by Kelley Armstrong.

Oooh boy. Okay, any regular readers of the Bibliophile Support Group will know that I am a HUGE fan of Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers trilogy and really loved the first in the Darkness Rising trilogy The Gathering. Well, here we go again. Get ready for the love!

First of all, though, I strongly suggest that anyone who hasn’t read the The Gathering to stay away from this review! I actually would recommend you read the Darkest Powers series first, too – but that’s not as necessary for reading The Calling, just creates the best, in my opinion, overall experience.

Anyway, go read the other books! Do NOT spoil the awesome entertainment of them by reading this review first! You can read my review of The Gathering here.

Now, all you lucky ducks who have read The Gathering (and hopefully the Darkest Powers trilogy too), feel free to continue…

As you’ll recall, sixteen-year-old Maya Delaney had a lot of shocking information thrust on her by the end of The Gathering. She found out that her long admired paw-print birthmark is actually the sign of being a skin-walker – which comes with cool abilities like running faster, hearing better, seeing well in the dark, connecting with animals and nature, and eventually Shifting into a cougar and losing her more human mental capacities. Possibly for good.

That last one isn’t so cool. In fact, it was about ready to freak her out, except for the fact that so much else was going on to distract her. For one, there was a lot of evidence coming to light that the other kids she’d grown up with in this area of Vancouver Island also had surprising talents.

Also, by the end of The Gathering her beautiful home and the forests of Salmon Creek were enveloped in fire – which seemed to be purposeful – putting everything, and everyone, she cared about in danger.

Last we saw them, Maya and her fellow Salmon Creek friends were on a helicopter, including Rafe, the guy who is also a skin-walker and may have stolen her heart. It was all chaos as they lifted off to safety, hoping to return for her parents and others in the town.

And I’m not saying another word about the plot. The jacket does indeed say more, but I believe if you loved The Gathering like I did, you should be able to jump in with no idea where it’s going, like I did, and have a lot of fun! So, why know more?

I was able to reread The Gathering before bounding into The Calling, which was great. I found that I liked it even better the second time around.

Then, when I started The Calling – whoa! The breathless, explosive, action-packed thrill ride of an opener boldly defied the idea of a traditional “middle” book! And the insanity and excitement didn’t stop – ever!

While I still desperately want more of Chloe, Derek and the rest of the Darkest Powers crew, Maya, Daniel, and Co. continued to grow on me throughout The Calling. They are awesome in their own right.

The level of suspense and stakes has definitely been raised. Really, wowza! My mind was swirling with all the twists, romance, supernatural mystery and danger.

The Calling is involving, scary, funny, and delves deeper into the mythology of both of Kelley Armstrong’s YA trilogies. Maya’s confidence, humor, and love for animals (especially her dog Kenjii) make her an excellent heroine for me!

With the electrifying conclusion of The Calling I am just dying for book three!

For anybody who felt The Gathering was slower than they wished (and I felt that way a bit too, but still loved it – just didn’t feel like it was AS good as the Darkest Powers books) The Calling will change that. This is a fast-paced, crazy-good book!

The Calling set up the stage for what I think will be one of the best books of the year – hopefully no later than 2013!!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Numbers #3: Infinity

Infinity is a YA dystopia/sci-fi book, and the third and final book in the Numbers series, by Rachel Ward.

If you haven’t read Numbers or The Chaos, books one and two, then you definitely shouldn’t read this review!

If you have, read on! :)

It’s been two years since the Chaos that tore the world apart and revealed Adam’s ability to see the day each person will die when he looks them in the eye.

For two years now he and Sarah, her two little brothers, and Sarah’s daughter Mia have been a makeshift family – moving around almost constantly to stay safe from those sure to pursue him.

But Sarah’s done running. She’s ready to pick a spot and stay. She’s tired of the numbers and the sadness and the loss. And she knows Adam is too. Her heart yearns for stability, privacy, and a chance to build a life together.

Yet people are after them – but is it Adam they are after, or Mia? After all – they’ve never truly understood the implications of that night when Mia’s number changed…

It’s a secret that some are ready to do anything to get - and the reason why is even more chilling…

My summary of the plot is definitely lacking in details – as always, when it’s a series that you’re already attached to, you don’t want to know too much – nor do you need to. Usually you’re already hooked. I know I was!

Infinity presents a darker, grim, almost hopeless world rife with destruction, illness, and fear – but the love in their unorthodox family gives them something to survive for, something to protect. Rachel Ward is, as she has been in each Numbers novel, more than proficient in expressing the emotions and impact of this.

Quite often this finale of a novel was upsetting, frustrating, and suspenseful as it’s realized just how dangerous general knowledge of special abilities are among the world building. There are horrifying, edge-of-your-seat twists and turns in Infinity that nearly exhausted me but kept me on my toes.

This is a fast-paced, well-written read that isn’t always happy – but is always affecting and gripping. Rachel Ward presents us with a terrifyingly inhuman villain and an array of nightmarish consequences, yet managed to sweep me away with a lovely, beautiful end to what will be a memorable trilogy.

Infinity was unexpected, unpredictable, and in many ways, astounding.