Monday, June 30, 2014

The Cracks in the Kingdom

The Cracks in the Kingdom is a YA contemporary fantasy and the second novel in the Colors of Madeline books by Jaclyn Moriarty.

These books are just too fantastic to muddle up by reading out of order! Definitely read A Corner of White first and only proceed with this review if you have already done so!

Understood?

At the conclusion of A Corner of White we found out that in the Kingdom of Cello dimwitted teenage Princess Ko might not actually be as dimwitted as she’s led everyone to believe – that instead she’s been pretending the rest of the royal family hadn’t disappeared without a trace a year ago and has been running the government all by herself, secretly, in the meantime.

Outwardly running a Royal Youth Alliance as a cheerful publicity stunt, Princess Ko has roped Elliot into her scheme to find her family – and her strong belief that they were taken to the World.

Though Elliot really just wants to look for his own missing father, he’s essentially forced to help Princess Ko – as she knows that he has been corresponding with a girl from the World – Madeline – via a small crack back at The Farms, which he never reported. This is a crime punishable by death.

So, Elliot and two other teens – each with surprising hidden talents – begin to try to solve what appears to be an unsolvable case with almost no idea where to start.

The stakes are higher than ever – and Elliot’s tie to Madeline becomes vital in more ways than one…

Oh my, my, my!!!

Jaclyn Moriarty – do you WANT me to be desperately in love with you?!? Because it’s working!!!

Yet again, I am astounded by just how extraordinarily refreshing Jaclyn’s novels are!

The Cracks in the Kingdom is ticklingly funny (I literally laughed out loud multiple times), searingly touching, fascinatingly different and startlingly original – I absolutely LOVE The Cracks in the Kingdom!!!

The Colors of Madeline books are turning out to be tremendously exciting and thrilling – with emotional depth, three-dimensional characters and delightful quirkiness that makes you wonder just how Moriarty manages to pull it all off – and pull it off so remarkably well!

There’s something so NEW in Moriarty’s writing, it intoxicates me!

The Cracks in the Kingdom progresses the plot of A Corner of White in unexpected, wonderful ways – advancing the fantasy element and spending more time, it seems, in the Kingdom of Cello. We get a phenomenal, suspenseful story, lots of fun, and characters that just settle in and matter to you as the reader.

It is unpredictably moving, has startling anguish and deep, deep sadness. It’s truly a stunning, remarkable, brilliant, memorable novel!!!

I cannot wait for book three.

Neither will you, I bet!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Bad Luck Girl

Bad Luck Girl is the third novel in the YA historical fantasy American Fairy Trilogy by Sarah Zettel.

To get the full impact of the story, and not spoil the fun, you’ll want to make sure and read the trilogy in order. The first book is Dust Girl and the second is Golden Girl – click on the titles to read my reviews.

I trust only those who have read the first two books are continuing to read…

Callie LeRoux, half human and half fairy, finally has her family together.

Having rescued her mother and father, who she’s never met until now and who is a prince of the Unseelie court, from their enemies – things should be peaceful and happy now, right?

Not at all.

Now she, her family and her best friend Jack must run for their lives.

The war between the Midnight Throne and the Sunlit Kingdoms is brewing and reaching an apex – and Callie, and the prophecy she embodies, is at the center of it. She is more pursued than ever – and all of those around her are in jeopardy.

Despite the prophecy, Callie doubts that she save anyone.

After all, her nickname among the fairies is Bad Luck Girl.

That’s proven true so far…

The American Fairy Trilogy has been an terrific read – taking an awesome perspective of Depression-era America in 1935 and spanning across the Dust Bowl to Hollywood and now to Chicago. Mixing just the right amount of historical detail with a fresh fairy fantasy plot creates an original, enjoyable, very readable story!!!

Bad Luck Girl
keeps up that trend!

It’s suspenseful and nerve-wracking with a sense of real danger. One of my favorite things about this trilogy is how disturbing the fairies can be – and the various other fantasy creatures involved – and the psychological impact or their influence. It can be quite chilling!

Bad Luck Girl made me smile, made me sad, made me scared – it kept me invested in this excellently drawn cast of characters and this overarching plot.

Sarah Zettel has created a unique, fully-realized fantasy realm and imagined distinctive beings to populate it. These books offer one of the more fleshed-out, better written fairy stories, for sure!

I felt that Bad Luck Girl was a great finale, making the American Fairy Trilogy a wonderful one and making me ready to keep an eye out for more Sarah Zettel!!!

Monday, June 23, 2014

All the Wrong Questions #2: When Did You See Her Last?

When Did You See Her Last? is the second middle-grade amusing mystery novel in Lemony Snicket’s All the Wrong Questions series.

If you haven’t read Who Could That Be at This Hour? the second book may be confusing to you, as it does have follow-up and a continued storyline. So I’d recommend reading the books in order!

Nearly thirteen years old and graduated from an enigmatic school, Lemony Snicket finds himself still in the nearly empty town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea and still apprenticed to the crazy-haired S. Theodora.

When a request comes in to investigate the disappearance of a young, brilliant chemist named Cleo Knight who also happens to be the daughter of the wealthy family of Ink Inc. fortune, Lemony and S. Theodora are on the case.

But sightings of Cleo taking off in a taxi and advising she was off to join the circus have come in, and S. Theodora calls it a closed case.

Yet Lemony is most definitely not certain of that. After all, there is the issue of Cleo’s expensive, abandoned Dilemma, a purchase of cereal, and the poor eyesight of the only grocer in town.

Clearly this is not a closed case, and Lemony will continue to investigate – even if he does ask all the wrong questions…

Just as in Who Could That Be at This Hour?, When Did You See Her Last? Is a delightful, nonsensical clue-finding entertainment of a novel.

Lemony Snicket as a character is solemn, secretive and quite clearly intelligent. Certainly not the average pre-teen. His humor is often sarcastic or witty, and the characters surrounding him are often ludicrous.

Stain’d-by-the-Sea is the most bizarre little town; it’s an excellent place to situate a fun, crazy little mystery such as this. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I look forward to more in the series and can’t help but hope for more hints of Lemony’s future investigating the Baudelaire orphans.

Fun, silly, quick read!!!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Secrets and Lies

Secrets and Lies is the second book in the YA thriller trilogy Truth or Dare by Jacqueline Green.

As a page-turner trilogy, these books are full of twists – so you definitely need to read the first book, Truth or Dare, first.

Please don’t spoil yourself by reading this review of the second book, Secrets and Lies, beforehand!

Final warning…

It’s been a month since the disastrous boat crash claimed two lives in an accidental drowning, adding to the list of teens who’ve died off the rocky coast of Echo Bay.

Tenley, Sydney and Emerson know the truth, however.

There was nothing accidental about those deaths.

The twisted truth or dare game that had blackmailed the girls into doing unspeakable things seems to be over. It should be – since the perpetrator died with her murder victim.

Yet it is starting again…

Tenley, Sydney and Emerson are determined to not be caught up in the perverse game a second time but find that they can’t refuse. Their lives are in danger yet again – and apparently the deaths on Echo Bay did not quench the darer’s bloodlust.

Someone is still out there – someone is still daring them…

Truth or Dare was a fun, suspenseful Pretty Little Liars kind of book – though with a bit more substance, I felt.

Secrets and Lies is a great follow-up – continuing the trend of being fast-paced, juicy, creepy and gripping. Yet again Jacqueline Green manages to make these very different characters likable and sympathetic without things getting TOO ridiculous.

Plus you get a little romance, thrills, danger and horror thrown in the mix. Sadly, the most innocent of all is a victim in Secrets and Lies – you’ll know what I mean when you read it.

With Red Herrings, excitement and plenty of opportunities to form your own theories, Secrets and Lies is a lot of fun! There were a couple times it was a tad predictable – but not enough to ruin the overall entertainment factor.

I’ve got my theory and I’m sticking to it! For now, anyway.

I’ll definitely be reading the final book to come out in 2015 – argh – called Lost and Found!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Beautiful Chaos

Beautiful Chaos is the third novel in the Caster Chronicles/Beautiful Creatures YA supernatural contemporary series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

You know that if you haven’t read the first two books, Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness, that this review will inevitably cause some spoilers for you – so DON’T READ THIS REVIEW.

If, however, you HAVE read the first two books – proceed.

Final warning…

Now that Ethan, Lena, Ridley and Link are all returned to Gatlin and out of the Tunnels, things are different.

Of course there’s the very big change of Link now being a quarter Incubus – and much more appealing to the ladies – if not the only one he truly wants.

But there are a lot of other changes…

Such as swarms of black locusts, extreme heat, terrible, localized storms and a sense of unease. A feeling that things just aren’t right.

Many of the small population of Gatlin, with their mix of religion and superstition, are ready to call this time the End of Days.

Ethan is starting to worry that may not be too far off.

After all, even the Caster’s are being affected by the chaos.

It seems everything is pointing to Lena’s claiming of both Light and Dark – and how that has thrown the Order of Things off balance.

And it’s getting worse…

I have to say, I’m quite taken with the cast of characters in the series at this point. Beautiful Chaos happily puts them all front in center. There’s enough character development and quiet, thoughtful moments in Beautiful Chaos (and the two prior books) to really come to care for them, which to me is very important.

The results of Lena’s out-of-the-ordinary claiming are creepy and absorbing, essentially making Gatlin a horror show. Then, without going into details that will spoil the progression of the plot, there’s a lot of worrisome stuff going on with Ethan. There’s a slow building, nerve wracking suspense in this.

To me, it seems like the series is getting better and better with each book. I feel like I am seeing more layers of the Caster world and the plots keep building upon each other to become rather epic.

I can’t say I didn’t kind of see the big twist at the end of Beautiful Chaos, but it was peppered generously with surprising revelations and intense, touching moments.

The end of Beautiful Chaos left me wondering what on earth is going to happen in the final book. Beautiful Redemption. I’m really quite intrigued…

Also, since I had the paperback version of Beautiful Chaos, it featured a short story at the end that took place immediately before the third book called Dream Dark. It’s brief, but a great little novella about Link’s realization that he was no longer mortal. Good extra pages of reading.

Now, I’m going to go make sure I don’t have to wait long to read Beautiful Redemption thankyouverymuch.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Manor of Secrets

Manor of Secrets is a YA historical upstairs/downstairs drama by Katherine Longshore.

Lady Charlotte Edmonds follows her cold mother’s directives, even though it’s getting harder and harder to do.

Now that she is of marriageable age, Lady Charlotte’s mother is determined to get Lord Andrew, heir to an earldom, attached to her.

Secretly, Lady Charlotte is far more interested in adventure, writing and the world she has yet to see – and has no interest in marrying a boring son of an earl.

She’s far more interested in the very handsome footman Lawrence…

Janie Seward spent her early years away from her mother with very little to eat. That’s why, when she and her mother were reunited at The Manor, the estate of the Edmonds, as chef and kitchen maid, she has found she has embraced The Manor as her home.

She is constantly reminded, however, that The Manor is not her home – that she is only a servant, and a replaceable one at that. The thought of change frightens her…

When Charlotte sees Janie stepping a toe out of line, it’s the first time their paths truly overlap amidst the gilded halls and dark corridors of The Manor.

And their meeting, and what comes of it, will bring secrets to light that will change both of their lives forever…

Manor of Secrets, after what I initially felt was a bit of a clunky intro, turned quickly into an addictive upstairs/downstairs delight.

Both Charlotte and Janie are likable, neither spoiler nor resentful – one yearning for change, one yearning for stability.

This has a fun Masterpiece Theatre vibe with a slight mystery, romance and plenty of social manners.

Early on I had a guess regarding Charlotte’s visiting aunt and the length of time she had been absent, and I did end up being partially right – but it didn’t change the enjoyable play out of the plot in Manor of Secrets.

I really ended up thoroughly enjoying Manor of Secrets! It was fun, involving and made me feel the era.

Plus, it’s super romantic – which I liked.

Monday, June 9, 2014

All the Wrong Questions #1: Who Could That Be at This Hour?

Who Could That Be at This Hour? is the first book in Lemony Snicket’s All the Wrong Questions series, a middle grade mystery humor story.

Are you a fan of A Series of Unfortunate Events?

If your answer was no – what’s wrong with you?!

Ah, just kidding! Though, seriously, I don’t understand that – but we’re all different.

Anywho, I personally love A Series of Unfortunate Events and look forward to reading those ridiculous, ingenious books again and again when I have all the time in the world.

If that ever happens.

So, when I found out that “Lemony Snicket” was writing a new series about his mysterious younger years – well how could I not be ecstatic?

Here we find newly graduated from an enigmatic, clearly out-of-the-ordinary type of school, thirteen-year-old Lemony becoming an apprentice to an agent involved in an organization that is also enigmatic.

Hopeful that by picking the lowest-ranking agent on the list he’ll be able to pursue his own secretive designs in the city, he’s displeased to find out that her wildly wrong techniques are more of a hindrance and she’s pulling him away from the city and instead to a town by the sea, where there is no longer a sea.

They’ve been called to locate a stolen item and return it to its rightful owners.

But it’s not really stolen.

This is a story full of ink, some screaming, a relatively good library, a set of fake parents and an ugly statue that is wanted by those who don’t have it and not wanted by those who do – causing all sorts of wrong questions…

Oh, Lemony. How I have missed you!!!

Who Could That Be at This Hour? is actually quite awesomely intriguing on top of all the clever Snicket oddness we (i.e. me and many others) love. I found myself quite interested in the numerous little oddities and questions arising, and pleased with Lemony’s superior skills.

There are a couple of little tie-in’s to A Series of Unfortunate Events that drove me crazy! I must know more, you understand?!? And of how I need to reread those books…

Who Could That Be at This Hour? takes place in the strange, mostly abandoned town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea in which the sea has actually been completely drained in order to access the town’s most vital resource – ink. It’s kind of a ghost town, and it’s hilariously preposterous in the most fun of ways!

This first foray into All the Wrong Questions is entertaining, amusing, extremely witty and actually quite absorbing. I am very much looking forward to book two and more madness!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Alliance

Alliance is the second book in the Paladin Prophecy, a YA contemporary fantasy series, by Mark Frost.

Just like always, if you haven’t read The Paladin Prophecy first this review will contain inadvertent spoilers. Be kind to yourself – read my review of the first book here!

After a whirlwind devastation of fleeing his home, being pursued by mysterious men, losing his parents and escaping to an exclusive prep school called the Center, Will West’s adventures didn’t end there.

Now that he and his roommates uncovered a dangerous secret society within the school called the Knights of Charlemagne they are now also more aware than ever that they are… different.

Experimenting and testing their growing mental and physical powers, time has passed since the day they rescued Brooke and came face to face with fantasy made reality.

Will thinks that needs to change.

When a lead on the Center’s past, the Knights of Charlemagne’s influence on the past and possibly the future, he and his roommates realize they have only just begun to discover what is truly going on – and that they can’t stop investigating it until they learn the truth.

When I went into Alliance I remembered being very entertained by the first book, The Paladin Prophecy. But I didn’t remember a lot about the book itself.

Alliance does give a bit of a refresher, but sadly my memories of liking the characters didn’t really follow through here… It certainly wasn’t a terrible book, but no matter how much I tried I could not connect with the characters or the plot of book two.

Unfortunately, I just could not get into it. Alliance seems to be stuffed full of info and clues into the Center, yet the writing didn’t manage to make me care… Maybe Alliance needs to be read immediately after The Paladin Prophecy to be fully enjoyed?

For me, The Paladin Prophecy was fast-paced and Alliance wasn’t – with this and my general lack of interest after over 150 pages, I finally started skimming it.

After all, what is a bibliophiles main problem?

Too many books, not enough time!!!

In that mystical time called “the future when I have lots of free time”, I may want to re-read both books in succession to give it another chance.

Remember, if you were a fan of The Paladin Prophecy – don’t let me keep you from reading Alliance!!! C’mon, son! Make up your own beautiful, book-lovin mind, ya hear?

*If there are any fans of the TV show Psych reading this who recognized my reference – you’re extra awesome!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Beautiful Darkness

Beautiful Darkness is the second book in the YA Southern supernatural Caster Chronicles series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

As I said when I reviewed Beautiful Creatures, I know I’m a bit late to the party on these books – but I’m sure I’m not the only one! Therefore, if you haven’t read the first book in the series, avoid this review of Beautiful Darkness like the plague!!!

Spoilers are NOT your friend!!!

I trust only those who have read Beautiful Creatures are still reading…

Ethan Wate’s life in small Southern town Gatlin, South Carolina has always been quiet, never changing.

With the arrival of beautiful, mysterious Lena Duchannes that was all turned upside down.

He now knows there is a whole secret world that has been hidden in plain sight all this time. A world of magic, of Casters, of secrets.

Gatlin is not nearly as boring as he thought.

Right now, though, Ethan and Lena are still reeling from the tragedies of her birthday – the loss that is now haunting Lena.

And she’s starting to pull away from Ethan.

Concerned over what this might mean to Lena and her Claiming, he tries to piece together information that he’s getting from vivid visions and risks the dangers of the underground passageways of the tunnels.

After all, now that he knows about the darker side of Gatlin, he can’t go back…

Okay, so I really liked Beautiful Creatures but – you know what? – I liked Beautiful Darkness even more!

First off, as I entered into book two I was very hopeful I’d get a more clear understanding of the Caster mythology. For me, clarity was missing in Beautiful Creatures – or maybe I was extra tired while reading those paragraphs, ha!

Anywho, I knew I needed a better grasp of the magical/paranormal goings-on.

Happily, Beautiful Darkness did that for me! The world of Casters began to feel large and full of undiscovered revelations, just how I like it!

As with the first book, Beautiful Darkness has a leisurely paced Southern drawl to it – atmospheric and mournful as we are made upset by Lena’s changes.

All the tension and uncertainty was causing me some serious suspense. I really enjoyed it, and became more and more glad that I purchased all of the remaining three books in the series after reading Beautiful Creatures!

There’s a captivating darkness and compelling sensitivity in the novel. At times I saw startling similarities to Harry Potter or Twilight, yet somehow it manages to be its own original story.

Don’t even try to get me to explain that one.

I really like the characters and the male perspective in a supernatural romance.

As I said, to me, Beautiful Darkness was even better than Beautiful Creatures!

If you’re also late to join this bandwagon, bibliophile – join it with me!