Posts Tagged: book review

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

December 16, 2011 Books 7

“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”

Hi there. So. Here we are again. You wondering what I think of a book. Me, tongue-tied, totally not knowing how to convey just how much I adore a book. Thank you for trusting me to tell you this.

Same story, different book. And oh, what a book.

Karou is seventeen, living by herself in the city of Prague. She goes to school, she’s an artist, and she collects teeth. Yes. Teeth. Not for herself, but for her foster “father” Brimstone. What Brimstone does with the teeth she doesn’t know and really doesn’t seem to care. She does it for the wishes. Small things, these wishes, powerful enough to color her hair to blue, turn the beautiful-yet-horrible girl in her class into a wooly eyebrowed thing,

I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t go down easily. I’ve read quite a bit of YA in the past few years and, like most genres that become super popular, formulas begin to pop up. There is the beautiful, unattainable yet totally attainable guy. Self-conscious, unbecoming-feeling, but totally capable girl (with the exception of Bella) who is actually quite beautiful, smart, etc. She just. doesn’t. know. it. She needs HIM to tell her. There is always some sort of paranormal element. And (all together now) it’s LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. And Daughter of Smoke & Bone, when starting out? Feels a LOT like this.

*sigh*

But then. Oh, then. It comes down to character for me. In particular, Karou. I just love this quirky, blue-haired, artist of a girl. This orphaned girl raised by monsters, who moves seamlessly between worlds. Who knows how to defend herself against, well, almost anything. Who would burn a wish on something as vindictive as turning a beautiful but horrible girls eyebrows into wooly worms (oh come on, you know you’d do it if you could) yet supports her best friend in the wild endeavor of a street performance as a puppet ballerina.

I know I’m making this sound strange, it is strange, but in Laini Taylor’s hands, it doesn’t feel at all strange. It feels right. It feels beautiful. Her writing. It’s like…reading velvet. That sounds corny. Very corny. Here. I mean, listen, lines like this?

Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.

And this?

Karou wished she could be the kind of girl who was complete unto herself, comfortable in solitude, serene. But she wasn’t. She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and…cancel her. She craved a presence beside her, solid. Fingertips light at the nape of her neck and a voice meeting hers in the dark. Someone who would wait with an umbrella to walk her home in the rain, and smile like sunshine when he saw her coming. Who would dance with her on her balcony, keep his promises and know her secrets, and make a tiny world wherever he was, with just her and his arms and his whisper and her trust.

Um…melt?

More? Okay. I have lots.

It is a condition of monsters that they do not perceive themselves as such. The dragon, you know, hunkered in the village devouring maidens, heard the townsfolk cry ‘Monster!’ and looked behind him.

The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century—or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Motzart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.

Happiness. It was the place where passion, with all its dazzle and drumbeat, met something softer: homecoming and safety and pure sunbeam comfort. It was all those things, intertwined with the heat and the thrill, and it was as bright within her as a swallowed star.

See? See what I mean? I. Love. Her. Writing. I’m so glad I have Lips Touch, Three Times. I will be reading it very, very soon. Last one, I swear:

Until a few days ago, humans had been little more than legend to him, and now here he was in their world. It was like stepping into the pages of a book — a book alive with color and fragrance, filth and chaos — and the blue-haired girl moved through it all like a fairy through a story, the light treating her differently than it did others, the air seemed to gather around her like held breath. As if this whole place was a story about her.

Okay, I lied. Last one. I can’t help it, I wrote down so many!

She had a sadness that was so deep, but it still could turn to light in a second,and when I saw her smile I wondered what it would be like to make her smile. I thought…I thought it would be like the discovery of smiling.

It comes down to this. Daughter of Smoke & Bone is different. It’s unique. It’s worth your time. Come meet Karou. Come meet her maker, Laini Taylor. I promise, you will not regret it.

icon
iconDaughter of Smoke & Bone

By Laini Taylor
ISBN-13: 9780316134026
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Publication date: 9/27/2011
Pages: 432

Source? Barnes and Noble dudes. That cover grabbed me as I walked by the display.

They did it better:

Bookalicious  | The Book Bind | Bewitched Bookworms | A Novel Source

 

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A Must Read – Shine by Lauren Myracle

April 26, 2011 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 16

Shine is one of those books. One of those books I loved so much, so utterly to pieces, that I don’t quite know where to begin in telling you all about it. I feel like I know this book so intimately, so personally, so completely and totally… yet I am tongue-tied.

I will soldier on, because Lauren Myracle told me to. And because you have to read this book.

Our main character is Cat and I have known a few Cats and I expect you have too. Pretty and, at one time, popular, something bad has happened to her and Cat slowly disappeared. She doesn’t talk to anyone, her old friends, her family, even her best friend Patrick. She has almost completely cut herself off from everyone she knows to protect herself. Cat is in pain. She has no one to go to.

And then Patrick gets hurt. Nearly killed.

In a hate crime.

Because he is gay.

While Patrick lies in a coma, Cat seethes. She quickly recognizes that the area police are not going to do much of anything to find Patrick’s attacker. They want the problem to just disappear. Cat will not allow that. She decides to investigate the attack herself. Her search will lead her to question friends, family and all she holds dear, in more ways that one. She will “look straight into the ugliness and find out who hurt him.” Will she find the attacker? Will she bring Patrick justice?

And more importantly, will she begin to heal herself?

I invite you to find out.

Shine is set in North Carolina, in my own “backyard” it felt like. I’m a Tarheel, born and bred (and I little ticked off that Firefox wants to spell check Tarheel!) and wow, did Myracle get it right. She knows North Carolina like I know North Carolina. It’s not often I get to read a book set in my home state, in my part of the state, and took my own personal reading experience to another level. I felt so at home in this book. I’ve read books set in the more metropolitan areas of NC and, well, those are rare compared to the parts of NC Myracle is writing about here. Like all states, NC has been hit hard by poverty. Mill towns, tobacco towns, they are all closing down. People are moving away to the cities or just staying there, hoping something will come along. Drugs are rampant. So is violence. Intolerance is just a matter of course. Homophobia is (I’m shaking my head, it’s so bad. And sad. And I don’t know how to describe it except to say that).

This is the first book I’ve read by Lauren Myracle but I know it won’t be my last. Her writing is tight, honest; she doesn’t pull punches with her characters. She’s not afraid to push them. And she has a great way with dialogue. Just hearing these characters “talk” I would have known they were from the South. She’s great with the little details (something I always appreciate), she paints a picture of a dying mountain town on the bring of combustion when something happens to one of their own, a something that many want to ignore. And she’s dealing with issues that are so important. Issues that people are ignoring just as hard as the people in this book and we need to stop ignoring them. People should NOT be hurt or persecuted or made to feel inferior for who. they. love. The characters are so wonderfully written. I dare you not to adore Cat by the end of the book. Months later, I still find myself thinking about this book and to me, that is some of the highest praise I can bestow.

What they thought:

Overall, this is a must-read book- it’s raw, realistic, and just deserves to be read by everyone. I am extremely proud of Lauren for writing this book because it needs to be told, especially in these times. -  Book Chic Club

Cat’s investigation takes her on a healing journey as she faces her fears and the skeletons in her closet. Cat is a likeable character that has some personal obstacles to overcome. Her story is empowering, and she is someone I think many readers may be able to relate to. – The Reading Date

All in all,  Shine packs a hard punch.  It was an intense, emotional, tear inducing journey – but one that I am so glad I took.  It realistically captures and explores issues like sexuality, rape, prejudice, violence and addiction.  It was dark, it was raw, it was captivating.  Read it! – All about {n}

Incidentally, isn’t that a GREAT cover? Beautiful, just beautiful.

Product Details

Shine by Lauren Myracle

  • Pub. Date: May 2011
  • Publisher: Amulet Books
  • Format: Hardcover , 376pp
  • Age Range: Young Adult
  • ISBN-13: 9780810984172
  • Source: Netgalley

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The Classics Circuit: The Lost Generation

April 1, 2011 Audio Books, Book Reviews, Books 4

I have often said that The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books, while is probably a little dishonest of me. I usually only say that about books I’ve read many times. Definitely more than once. That’s right; at 33 years of age, I have only read The Great Gatsby one time and claimed it as a favorite book. Definitely in the top ten. Now, I wasn’t trying to be pretentious. I just really loved that book when I read it… when I was a teenager… in high school…

Give me a moment. I just realized that I read this book for the first time almost 20 years ago.

Okay.

Anyway. When The Classics Circuit announced The Lost Generation Tour, I immediately knew what I wanted to read. Save the Last Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald. What? you say? Yes! I did not intend to read F. Scott’s work, but that of his wife Zelda. Poor Zelda. Alas however, I could not find my copy (still haven’t, come to that. Hmmmm…) and then I remembered that Jill (Fizzy Thoughts) (softdrink) (whomever she is today) (love ya Jill!) reviewing The Great Gatsby not to long ago and she had listened to an audiobook production of it. Read by the actor Tim Robbins. Score! And lucky me, the library had it. I promptly downloaded it and plugged in.

It was interesting revisiting this classic of my (gulp) childhood. I was surprised by how much I remembered of the story. I remembered it very well, down to Dr. Engelberg’s eyes! I was not surprised by how much better I understood it. I’m not trying to knock my halfway decent public education or my poor, harried, miserable English teachers, but I think there is something to be said for reading classics as you get older. You know, life experience and all that. What surprised me as well, was how well I identified with Gatsby this time around. The first time I read it, Gatsby seemed this elusive figure, off to the side, never really engaging with anyone, including me. This time, I know what it feels like to be the outsider wanting in, to have fought for acceptance, to have worked to realize dreams, to want something so much I’d be willing to do anything to get it. Gatsby lives in the past though, he’s fighting for dreams that have died. I felt sorry for Gatsby this time. Gatsby is the naive one, in my opinion, in thinking that Daisy would come away with him. Is he really “better than the whole damn bunch of them” as Nick says? He does seem the most honest.

Another surprise is how much I didn’t care for Nick Carroway. Our storyteller is a hypocrite. He tries to come off as the honest one, the good one, the one better than all this richness, intrigue, lying, and such, when by the end, he’s just as bad as the rest of them. He sees what’s going on and he does nothing to help. Except talk about it. He judges everyone, but himself. Well, at least until Jordan calls him out on it. At least once he sees she’s right, he decides to get away from all that and go out “West” and make a fresh start. But does he? The fact that Nick is telling us this story after it is all over shows that he is still obsessing over it, still living in the past. I wonder if he became another Gatsby like figure, in trying to recapture the past.

The women and Tom Buchanan. The innocents in white. So deceptive. Rich, careless, privileged. Careless seems the perfect word to describe the lot of them. They don’t care. About anyone, not even each other really. The only thing they seem to care about is perception. No, I take that back, because obviously Tom doesn’t care about perception that much. Everyone knows he cheats, regularly, on Daisy. And what is it about Daisy anyway? What makes her so special to Gatsby, Tom and even Nick? Sure, Daisy is beautiful, mysterious, a sassy flirt, and has her “full of money” voice, but what is the draw? I don’t see it, myself. She’s rich, spoiled…just as flawed as the rest of them and none of them are innocent.

How much of my perceptions this time were shaped by Tim Robbins? A lot, I’m sure. Tim Robbins gave a pretty great performance. Each character, no, each sex, had different voices and he performs the heck out of the book. My only problem with him is he doesn’t know how to control his volume. This is one of the few audiobooks I’ve listened to where I was constantly adjusting the volume. His women are loud! And his men tend to mumble. Yet I enjoyed it so much I didn’t care. All in all he made this a fun listen. The final section includes letters between Fitzgerald and his agent (and others) about the publication of the book. These are read by the wonderful Robert Sean Leonard and are very interesting.

Please see other stops on the Lost Generation Tour by visiting The Classics Circuit.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Read by Tim Robbins
Published by HarperCollins Audio
Duration: 5 hours, 54 minutes
ISBN: 9780060824587
Acquired from the library

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The Magician's Elephant

November 17, 2009 Book Reviews, Books 12

magicianselephantThe Magician’s Elephant
Written by: Kate DiCamillo
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Candlewick; 1 edition (September 8, 2009)

When I saw that Kate DiCamillo had a new children’s book coming out, I knew I had to get my hands on it.  I absolutely adored The Tale of Despereaux and I was getting that same vibe from The Magician’s Elephant, just from looking at that delightful cover.   I bought it about a week before the readathon, but I couldn’t wait.  I read it the next day.  And, as I figured I would, I loved it.

When ten-year-old Peter Augustus Duchene is sent to the market for fish and bread, he spends it at the fortuneteller’s tent instead.  He is seeking his long-lost sister, and he is told

“You must follow the elephant.  She will lead you there.”

Understandably, he is confused and heartbroken, because he doesn’t know what that means and thinks his search is over before it really began.  But that very night, at the Bliffenendorf Opera House, a magician’s spell goes haywire and, instead of conjuring what he meant to conjure, he conjures an elephant.  The elephant falls through the ceiling and lands on the lap of a very distraught Madam Bettine LaVaughn.

The landing of the elephant in Madam Bettine LaVaughn’s lap sets off a magical novel about hope and loss, love and heartbreak, home and loneliness, and the desire to find out the truth for oneself instead of believing what others want you to believe.  The gorgeous illustrations by Yoko Tanaka make this dreamlike tale come alive.  It is yet another timeless fable from the incomparable Kate DiCamillo, one that begs to be read aloud to your children, or just to entertain yourself.  Young and old can appreciate this tale of love, hope, and longing, written by that magician herself.

Author also wrote:

Because of Winn Dixie | The Tale of Despereaux | The Tiger Rising | The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane | Great Joy | Mercy Watson Collection | Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken

Also Reviewed by:

Stainless Steel Droppings | Maw Books | Stuff As Dreams Are Made On | and more…

I am a Book Depository Affiliate and will make a very small profit if you buy a book through one of my links.

I bought this book for myself.

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In a Perfect World

October 29, 2009 Books 18

In a Perfect World

In a Perfect World

In a Perfect World
Written by Laura Kasischke
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 edition (October 6, 2009)
Language: English

It seems like I’ve been reading a lot of end-of-the-world/dystopian type novels this year.  I’m not sure why, other than I love the freaking heck out of them!  I guess there is something appealing about reading about people living in the face of the end or difficult circumstances or things of that ilk.  It’s just fun, people!  Crazy!

Kasischke’s book, In A Perfect World, in another in a proud line of such end of the world tales.  Jiselle is finally the bride, after being the bridesmaid six times.  She has married pilot Mark Dorn – handsome pilot, widower, and father of three.  Jiselle gets to quit her job as a flight attendant and leave behind all the irritation and grumbling from the job.   Ever since the outbreak of the Phoenix flu, passengers have become even harder to handle (and put up with) than ever.  She moves into Mark’s beautiful log cabin and begins to help him raise his three precious children.

Marriage, and instant motherhood, are not all they are cracked up to be.  Jiselle finds she is frequently alone with Mark out on flights and she’s lonely.  She thinks the children hate her.  And the Phoenix flu, once thought of as a passing threat, will change everything about the life Jiselle thought she had into something more life altering – and threatening – than she ever dreamed.

I am sooooo close to finishing this one. I would have finished last night, but we HAD TO carve pumpkins – daughter’s emphasis.  I feel that I can give my opinion on the novel at this point though.  As a parent whose children have had the DREADED swine flu, I can say that this is one freaky read.  The basic abandonment of America by the global community was unsurprising and saddening.  The descent of Jiselle’s own life is depressing when used with this pandemic as a counter point.  This novel is more than a dystopian look at a potential future for our world; Jiselle’s struggle for her identity when faced with the new life she has chosen is also sobering.  It is a power look at the choices women face when entering an already established family especially in those situations when the children dislike the new interference to their lives.  The family dynamic is the main focus of this story and, even though I feel like the Phoenix flu angle takes away from that main focus at times, it still makes for a compelling and interesting story.   If you like a story that focuses on the difficulties of the dysfunctional family dynamic and learning about yourself in new and challenging endeavors with perhaps a little bit of apocalyptic, end of the world as we know it type stuffs, I recommend you grab a copy of In A Perfect World.

From what I hear and what I’ll know in a few chapters, there is a somewhat ambiguous ending, which are either hit or miss with me, but wanted to forewarn you.  If you don’t like those type of endings, you may want to think twice.  I know some readers love them and some hate them.  I can go either way and will probably update this review with a note once I finish it.

Thanks to the publisher for supplying my copy of this book, to TLC Blog Tours for their general AWESOMENESS and you, for reading!  To see other reviews of In A Perfect World, check out these other sites:

Monday, October 12th – Starting Fresh
Wednesday, October 14th – BookNAround
Thursday, October 15th – Book Club Classics!
Monday, October 19th – A Reader’s Respite
Friday, October 23rd – The Book Nest
Monday, October 26th – Galleysmith
Monday, November 2nd – Word Lily
Tuesday, November 3rd – Books on the Brain
Thursday, November 5th – Write Meg

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Killer Bunny Hill

September 1, 2009 Book Reviews, Books 2

killerbunny

TITLE: Killer Bunny Hill
AUTHOR: Denise Robbins
PUBLISHER: L&L Dreamspell, July 2009
ISBN: 978-1-60318-130-3
PAGE COUNT: 258 pp
GENRE; SUB-GENRE: Romantic suspense
BOOK FORMAT SENT FOR REVIEW: Trade Paperback

A killer is on her bunny trail. Shot while snowboarding, Samantha Spenser lands on a stranger’s doorstep without her memory, but with a shooter on her tail. Even after the stranger saves her from the gunman and offers her refuge, Sam begins to fear for her life when Max, holding a gun to her head, demands to know the location of his abducted brother. Is the man with the whiskey-colored eyes her savior who will protect her, or the shooter who wants her dead? If Samantha trusts the sexy man to unravel the mystery of her amnesia, will he discover she is an innocent bystander or a deceitful criminal?

The last thing he wants or needs is the complication of a gorgeous snow bunny half dead from bullet wounds on his doorstep. Frustrated by the lack of clues and even more discouraged by the lack of help from his agency and his brother’s, special agent Maximilian Stone sets out in search for his kidnapped brother. First, he must solve the mystery of Samantha, the intriguing woman sleeping in his bed. Is there a connection between Snow Bunny and his missing FBI brother? Or was she brought in by a darker enemy to destroy Max before he can find them?

I have to admit, this is not my usual genre.  I’ve read a few though and enjoyed them.  So when Denise Robbins asked if I’d like to read her book, I thought, sure, why not?  And I’m really rather glad I did.  For Denise has written a funny, witty, fast-paced book full of secrets, romance, intrigue and quite a few thrilling moments that was definitely fun to read. There were a few moments where the writing faltered just a tiny bit, but no more than you would expect from a first novel.  No, here the real show is the characters.  Samantha Spenser, or Sam, and Max are, without a doubt, HOT.  There is a little bit of sex in this book, but don’t let it put you off.  The real fun is the romance between the two characters.  Watching how it all unfolds makes for great reading.  I recommend this if you like a little romance with your suspense, or suspense with your romance.  It’s great fun.

Thanks to Denise, for sending me a copy of her book.

You can read an excerpt of Killer Bunny Hill here.

Denise has her own website at: http://www.deniserobbins.com/index.html

And her blog is at: http://deniserobbins.blogspot.com/

Also by Denise Robbins

It Happens in Threes | Connect the Dots (2010)

Also reviewed by

Cafe of Dreams

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City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

July 29, 2009 Book Reviews, Books 4

cityofglass

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

Title: City of Glass: The Mortal Instruments
Written by Cassandra Clare
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 560 pages
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (March 24, 2009)
Rated: 5/5

This is the third book in a series.  Please seem my reviews of City of Bones and City of Ashes.  Please keep in mind, as book three; there may be spoilers in this review for the first two books.

In case you just magically stumbled upon my blog, you already know I loved City of Bones and ADORED City of Ashes.  Well, folks, I absolutely freaking loved and ADORED and was miserable after I read City of Glass.  Miserable because IT WAS OVER.

I really feel like I can’t stand much about what this book is ABOUT if you haven’t read the first two.  And really, why haven’t you read the first two? Go on; go to Wal-Mart, where I hear they have the trilogy for like 8 bucks a pop.  

You may thank me later.

Okay, stop twisting my arm! If you really want to know what the book is about, here is the product description.

Product Description
To save her mother’s life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters — never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.

As Clary uncovers more about her family’s past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadow-hunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadow-hunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he’s willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City — whatever the cost?

Love is a mortal sin and the secrets of the past prove deadly as Clary and Jace face down Valentine in the final installment of the New York Times bestselling trilogy The Mortal Instruments.

One thing I really want to say about this series, and it isn’t something I can honestly say about a lot of series (or trilogies for that matter) is that each book is better than the last.  Thats right, BETTER.  It feels pretty obvious to me that these books were conceived as a trilogy.  It doesn’t feel like “oh, well your first book did so well, can you continue the story?” when the story was quite obviously done in the first book (cough, Twilight, cough) and it made for such a better story.  Clare knew where she was going folks and it SHOWS.  The writing is superb; funny, fast, and witty.  No stone is left unturned, no plot is dropped, the characters grow, they actually CHANGE with the storyline, the guys aren’t marble, perfect pansies, and the only problem is you’re left WANTING MORE.  It’s a great summer read, heck, it’s a great, any day read.

As an aside, I did, I promise, I actually did like Twilight.  I did!  That doesn’t stop me from making fun of it at every opportunity.  Because it is excellent fodder to be making fun of.

Anyway, and thank the Lord, Clare is writing another trilogy, this time set in VICTORIAN ENGLAND and I hear that she has notes for a sequel series about SIMON!!!  Can I get a squee??? I cannot wait.

Also by Cassandra Clare:

City of BonesCity of Ashes, Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, Vacations from Hell

Also reviewed by:

Karin’s Book NookMelissa’s Book Shelf YA Reads | Em’s Book Shelf | bookshelves of doom | Necromancy Never Pays | Love Vampires | Reader Rabbit | Persnickety Snark | Becky’s Book Reviews | The Story Siren | And more…

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Forgotten Friday

July 24, 2009 Book Reviews, Books 9

locke

Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill

Title: Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft
Written by Joe Hill
Reading level: Adult/Graphic Novel
Hardcover:
Publisher:
Rating: 3.5/5
Author website
Follow Joe on Twitter

I read this back in January, enjoyed the heck out of it, and promptly forgot all about it. 

Locke & Key is a new, well WAS a new, graphic novel by the author of Heart-Shaped Box and 20th Century Ghosts.  The story is about the Locke family and their attempts to reconstruct their lives after the death/murder of the father/husband by a local high school student.  The family moves to their uncle’s family home in Maine.  Everyone is dealing with their own share of grief, guilt and confusion. 

Soon, however, the youngest Locke finds a curious door and an even curiouser well that contains a someone or something that desperately wants to get out and will do anything to gain that freedom.  And I mean anything.  What follows is one of the creepiest graphic novels I’ve ever read. 

If you like Joe Hill’s or his father Stephen King’s, stories, I think you would enjoy this tale of the macabre and the insane.  I can’t wait to get the next installment, coming in September.  

Also by Joe Hill

20th Century Ghosts, Heart-Shaped Box and Locke & Key: Head Games coming September 29, 2009

Also reviewed by

Uh…couldn’t find any!

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Graceling by Kristin Cashore

July 23, 2009 Miscellaneous 23

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Title: Graceling
Written byKristin Cashore
Reading Level: Young Adult
Published byHoughton Mifflin Harcourt (October 2008)
Hardcover: 488 pages
Rated 4.75/5
Author Blog 

You know how when you read The Hunger Games, (WHAT? You haven’t read The Hunger Games? Go, right now and buy it.  Then sit down and read it. For goodness sakes, what am I going to do with you?) how you thought Katniss was the youknowwhat, so tough and strong and superior to any man around?  

Well, let me tell you, she ain’t got nuffin’ on Katsa.  She is the new youknowwhat.  For you see, Katsa is a Graceling, one of the unusual people born in her land with an extreme talent and identified by their unusual different colored eyes.  Since the age of eight, Katsa has been able to kill a man grown with her bare hands.  All Gracelings by law belong to the king, so Katsa lives with her uncle King Randa and becomes his thug – delivering his messages and carrying out all his punishments.  Katsa hates this and to help balance the bad, she creates a Council, who help people behind the king’s back.  It is during one of these missions for the Council that she meets Prince Po.

Prince Po is from a neighboring country – and is also Graced.  As they come to know each other, to fight, to confide and to become friends, Katsa’s life begins to change in ways she never expected, or dreamed.  She learns new truths about herself and finds the courage to break out of her bondage and become the woman she was meant to be.  Along the way she makes new friends, discovers friends she didn’t know she had and helps uncover a sinister secret.  

And wow, Prince Po is something else.  Can you say HOT?

Aside – Have you noticed how the male roll in YA books seems to be changing?  I’m pondering a separate post on this, but he typifies this new male character I’ve been seeing emerge in the last few YA books I’ve read.  I like it.

Anyway.

Awhile back, Kailana at The Written World and my reading twin, dared me to read this book.  This was back before this “I Dare You” challenge thing that’s going around, but anyway.  I take her opinion pretty seriously so I got it from the library.  I was still somewhat dubious, I have no idea why, but last Friday night I thought “what the heck!” and picked it up.  I am usually a fixture on Twitter on Friday nights, but you may have noticed I was suspiciously absent.  I was lost in this book!  I barely put it down until I finished it Sunday (I had to put it down a few times, I had birthday parties to begrudgingly attend).  

This is a thoroughly well-crafted first novel. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought Ms. Cashore had written many more novels.  The characters are all well-rounded and well-thought out.  Katsa is a excellent adolescent heroine, confident in her strengths but still unsure of her weaknesses.  Her growth as a character through the story is pronounced and feels accurate.  No action goes without consequences and it has such a satisfying ending.  Well, satisfying except for leaving you wanting more!  Which, incidentally, the next part in this trilogy, FIRE, will be coming out soon!  I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Also by Kristin Cashore

The soon to be released companion to Graceling – Fire

Also reviewed by:

Bookshelves of doom | Kailana | Becky’s Book Reviews | Melissa’s Book Shelf | Teen Book Review | Book Nut | Karin Librarian | YA Fabulous | Reading the Leaves | YA Book Nerd | and lots more …

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The Story Sisters

July 21, 2009 Book Reviews, Books 25

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The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman

Title: The Story Sisters
Written by Alice Hoffman
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books (June 2, 2009)
Reading Level: Typical Alice Hoffman magical realism, more in the adult vein
Rated: 2.5/5 which means I liked it okay

Dear Ms. Hoffman, Hi there.  I hope you are not reading this. Let me assure you, I am a NOBODY.  I haven’t written anything (well, I haven’t published anything). I do have a degree in English, but it‘s from a small university, nowhere of note.  I am just a lowly nobody who is not worthy of your attention.  Okaythanksbye!  ~ Heather

So, in case you can’t tell from my missive to Ms. Hoffman, I was not a big fan of The Story Sisters.

The Story Sisters follows the lives of three sisters, Elv, Megan, and Claire Story, and their mother Annie.  When the girls were very young, Elv created a whole other world for them to live in.  She created a whole history, a language, and a code by which to live.  But when Elv has to do the unthinkable to protect Claire; she spirals out of control into years of drug addiction, rebellion and self-destructive behavior.  Tragedy and misfortune haunt the family for years and years, until it becomes almost too much to bear.  Elv is committed to a rehab center by her parents, a simple spring drive through the country turns deadly, a fatal illness claims a loved one and there is betrayal after betrayal.  When the last bit of the novel turns to Claire; a girl so damaged by the family’s terrible hardships that she won’t even speak, to anyone, the small glimmer of hope and goodness that comes with her story is almost too little too late.

The unrelenting sadness and calamity of the Story sisters lives were the main part of my problem with this book.  It was like a bad soap opera; just when things start to look up, someone dies, someone gets sick, someone goes to jail, death, sickness, jail, death, sickness…you get the idea.  It was just one bad, horrible, terrible thing after another.  It came to the point where a new character was introduced and I wondered when he would die.

Hoffman’s prose is just as lovely as ever, as are the lovely bits of magical realism she throws in, but it’s just not enough this time.  One of the few bright spots were the girls’ grandmother who lives in Paris, and her friend Madam Cohen, who come together to help save Claire.  If only they could have saved them all!  The Story Sisters simply outlive their welcome about halfway through the book and I was so disappointed because the premise sounded so good.  And I love Alice Hoffman’s writing so much.
One other quibble; I didn’t like feeling left hanging at the end. And at this, I give a SPOILER ALERT because I just have to get this OFF MY CHEST. Drag your mouse across to read this.

At this point, Elv has been estranged from her family for years.  Claire is getting married and invites her sister and her niece.  Here it is; a beautiful opportunity, the chance to see these two sisters reconcile, to have some freaking HEALING here and what happens?  We don’t even get to see the sisters talk.  They approach each other, they see each other, it’s about to happen, they are RIGHT THERE…and Hoffman cuts to grandmother and Madam Cohen.  To which I said WTF and threw the book out of the tub.  Really.  I did.

This was another co-read with Kailana of The Written Word, who liked it better than I did.  Here is her review and here are a few questions she had for me.

1. How does this book compare to other Hoffman novels? Would you recommend this one or are there others you would recommend first?

I think you should read it.  If you love Alice Hoffman, magical realism, or are just curious about the book.  Give it a fair shot; you may like it more than I did.  It could have been a mood thing with me, or my violent reaction to Elv.  It could have been timing.  But definitely give it a read.  It did have its good parts.  I recommend Blackbird House (LOVED IT), The Probable Future, Practical Magic, and her YA novels Aquamarine and Incantation.  They are fantastic.

2. During our conversation while you were reading this book, you mentioned that you didn’t like Elv. What were your complaints with her? Did your opinion change by the end?

She was the biggest, shallowest, most self-centered character I’ve ever seen.  She didn’t care about anyone or anything, other than herself and her horrible liar of a boyfriend.  I’m sure Hoffman is trying to show the perils of drug-use and sexual abuse, but wow, she was one piece of work.  I admit though, later in the book, she did manage to redeem herself slightly.   I obviously can’t say why, it’s too big of a spoiler, but yes, by the end my opinion did change.

3. Do you feel that the use of magical realism enhanced the story?  In what way?
I think magical realism should enhance the story, give and not take away.  I’m not so sure that the magical realism here really added anything.  Sure, we have Elv’s fairy tales that she spins for her sisters, but there is no evidence that the world she constructs is in any way real.   The first mention of something tangible, something real, is at the end, where it comes off as an afterthought.  It was surprising to me, since Hoffman is one of the masters of magical realism, and yet another disappointment.

Also reviewed by:

Bookopolis | The Indextrious Reader |

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