Thursday, July 28, 2011

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Title: Revolution
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Random House/Delacorte Press
Release Date: October 12, 2010
Pages: 472 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it in a used bookstore

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.

Jennifer Donnelly, author of the award-winning novel A Northern Light, artfully weaves two girls’ stories into one unforgettable account of life, loss, and enduring love. Revolution spans centuries and vividly depicts the eternal struggles of the human heart.

Review:

I might as well warn you now that I think my review is awful. I've got no clue how to put how I feel about this book into words that make sense and really get across how I feel about it, but I did the best I could. Please don't be afraid to tear me apart for this one. I love contsructive criticism.

Ever since the death of her little brother Truman, Andi has been in a downward spiral. Forced to spend wither break with her father in Paris while he does some work on what's believed to be the heart of Louis-Charles, the lost king of France, Andi has to work on her senior thesis so she doesn't flunk out of school. Upon discovering a diary hidden inside a guitar case, she becomes desperate to learn more about Alexandrine Paradis, the young woman who wrote the diary and lived during the French Revolution. As she reads more of the diary, Andi seems to improve and even make some friends in Paris, but the story begs to be finished, bringing Alexandrine's and Andi's worlds together.

Andi is a very angry, damaged narrator--no sunshine and flowers here. Slowly, she starts climbing up from rock bottom because of the people she meets in Paris (like Virgil, a Tunisian rapper that wants to get out of his neighborhood and make it big; I loved the development of their relationship), the story in Alex's diary, and what her thesis research leads her to. Her actions at the beginning of the novel are over-the-top, like the drugs and parties, and I felt like it was the same way with her feelings about Truman sometimes (only sometimes). Her growth is subtle and by the end of the book, she's doing much better. Some of the supporting characters in Andi's life get a little bit of the spotlight too, like Virgil and Andi's dad.

On the other hand, Alexandrine feels a little unrealistic. Driven by ambition and using the prince by the age of twelve? That strikes me as strange. It could be excused by some readers due to the setting and the pressure put on her, but that doesn't work for me. Nonetheless, her story as the Green Man setting off fireworks for Louis-Charles and a companion to the young prince is a good one. Her narrative voice has distinctive differences from Andi's and yet they're so similar in being scarred, unhappy narrators with a deep connection to a younger boy.

First-person present is far from my favorite narration style, but it worked well with Andi's narration style. Sometimes, the writing started breaking up. Into fragments. Just like this. To be dramatic. A little irritating, but not too horrible Then the book, specifically Alexandrine, gifted me with this quote, which will surely join the exclusive club of my favorite quotes: ""I had done this--made the sad prince laugh. Made his grieving parents smile. None but me. Think you only kings have power? Stand on a stage and hold the hearts of men in your hands. Make them laugh with a gesture, cry with a word. Make them love you. And you will know what power is (Revolution, p. 144)." Revolution was very well-written, to say the least.

The heavy amount of research done for the novel shows. From music to life during the French Revolution and beyond, you don't need to see the lengthy bibliography at the end of the book to tell that a lot of work went into making Revolution authentic. Sure, I'm not a good judge on whether or not the author is pulling all the talk of music out of her butt or if that was really how it was just before and during the French Revolution, but I didn't spot any glaring inaccuracies. The story of these two girls, so similar and different, was just as addictive to me as Alex's story was to Andi within the book, and she was pretty obsessed with that story. I regret it took me so long to read this book, but other books required immediate attention and got in my way.

I've been dying to get a copy of Revolution since it came out in October 2010 and my stressing over it was worth the wait. I got a book that was equal parts good contemporary and good historical. It's got flaws in being over-the-top and a little unbelievable , and it's not OMFG GOOD, but it's still good and worth the read if the blurb interests you at all.

4 stars!
What am I reading next?: Clean by Amy Reed

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (2)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating.

On one hand, the blurb makes my head scream NO NO ASHLEIGH DON'T DO IT THAT BLURB IS SENDING UP LOTS OF RED FLAGS! On the other hand, blurbs can lie. The blurb for Unearthly by Cynthia Hand put me off, but it turned out the blurb made it sound worse than it was because I loved Unnearthly. On another hand (you know, the one I'm borrowing from someone else), it's an angel book. I've read seven angel books so far and only one of them was good (the aforementioned Unearthly).

Then I told myself to shut up and take a risk. It sounds like fun and every now and then, I need to take a risk on a book. Sometimes, I have to go for the books that sound like I might not like them. I can't go on reading books with safe-bet blurbs forever, can I? (Not to mention it's hard finding safe-bet blurbs. Love triangles put me off a little and almost every books has those in the blurb lately.)

A Temptation of AngelsA Temptation of Angels
Michelle Zink
March 20, 2012
288 pages (hardcover)

When her parents are murdered before her eyes, sixteen year-old Helen Cartwright finds herself launched into an underground London where a mysterious organization called the Dictata controls the balance of good and evil. Helen learns that she is one of three remaining angelic descendants charged with protecting the world’s past, present, and future. Unbeknownst to her, she has been trained her whole life to accept this responsibility. Now, as she finds herself torn between the angelic brothers protecting her and the devastatingly handsome childhood friend who wants to destroy her, she must prepare to be brave, to be hunted, and above all to be strong because temptation will be hard to resist, even for an angel.

Michelle Zink masterfully weaves history with paranormal romance to create a gripping tale of love and betrayal.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Supernaturally by Kiersten White

Title: Supernaturally
Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: HarperCollins/HarperTeen
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Pages: 336 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it (because my bookstore is awesome and had the book shelved early)

Evie finally has the normal life she's always longed for. But she's shocked to discover that being ordinary can be... kind of boring. Just when Evie starts to long for her days at the International Paranormal Containment Agency, she's given a chance to work for them again. Desperate for a break from all the normalcy, she agrees.

But as one disastrous mission leads to another, Evie starts to wonder if she made the right choice. And when Evie's faerie ex-boyfriend Reth appears with devastating revelations about her past, she discovers that there's a battle brewing between the faerie courts that could throw the whole supernatural world into chaos. The prize in question? Evie herself.

So much for normal.

Review:

Evie's been enjoying the normal life, her locker (which is still totally awesome), and her relationship with her boyfriend Lend for six months now. Six months of no Reth, Raquel, or IPCA business. Then Raquel comes for a visit and Evie gets attacked by a sylph. Raquel asks Evie for help because the IPCA is so short-handed and that's it's changed from what it did before. Unsatisfied with her completely normal life, she agrees and starts to work with an irritating young man named Jack, who will do flips whenever possible--and she keeps all this from Lend. Then Reth returns, saying he can tell Evie about the past she still doesn't know much about. So much for normal.

Oh, Supernaturally... This is not going to be an easy review. Just as I did with Paranormalcy (which I loved), I read it all in one sitting. But Supernaturally is not as good as Paranormalcy was. Let's just say it had the sequel blues and the middle-book-in-a-trilogy blues.

Just as Evie is frustrated living a completely normal life after growing up among the paranormal, readers are similarly frustrated by Evie living her completely normal life. Part of what made the first book so fun was Evie's IPCA adventures where she bagged and tagged vampires and now that she's living a normal life, it's gone. Evie and the reader alike miss those adventures and the book really starts improving once she's doing IPCA work again.

Upon reading more and more of the book, I was shocked to find myself disliking Evie. In the first book, she was great. Here? She makes a lot of stupid decisions, mostly regarding her relationship with Lend. Speaking of which, what happened? Lend lost so much of his charm, and his relationship with Evie fell flat. Thankfully, she faced consequences for her actions instead of walking away scot free, but I don't think she was punished enough.

She doesn't get out of this book without a lot of development. Considering that I would have quit the series if she hadn't gotten out of her "my boyfriend is mad at me! Helping other paranormals that need it is pointless!" and "I have no future if I don't go to the same college as my boyfriend!" moods, this is good. Those points were where I was most irritated and it was such a relief to see her grow beyond that. The last thing I want is another boyfriend-centric heroine, especially one I once considered awesome. She went through such an emotional roller coaster ride and the text reflects it well in both how it is written and how it takes the reader on a similar ride.

As unsatisfied and frustrated as I was by the characters, the writing was still good, making me smile and giggle more than a few times. On occasion, the writing was even impressive. There were two particular passages that made me go, "Wow, that was kind of cool." One is too long and full of spoilers to quote, so I'll give you the other:

"I didn't have long to wait. A woman, taller than the rest of the faeries by at least a head, glided forward. And in that moment I knew beauty and terror were one and the same, inseparable. How could anything less consuming than true terror ever be beautiful? Her hair swirled like black oil, dark, rainbows undulating as it cascaded down her back. Her eyes were pure black against the alabaster of her skin, her violet lips full, cruel, flawless. Anything that fell from those lips would be pain and pleasure, inescapable, irresistible.

Here, then, was eternity. I would go to her--I had to go to her. In a world ever shifting, ever dying, she was an absolute, she was gravity, she was everything. I wanted to be lost in her forever (Supernaturally p. 267)."
New characters appear (by the way, that irritating guy Jack needs a swift kick in the pants, as much as I understand him) and then fade into the background; subplots pop up once or twice and aren't resolved or even mentioned again the rest of the book. Touching on all of this slowed the book down and without resolution (in this book, at least), it feels like it was for nothing. I felt the expansions on Evie's world and past worked, though. Information about her, the Faerie Realms, and more being dangled in front of me like a carrot is what kept me reading.

I'm still on board for Endlessly, the final book of the trilogy, but I won't be looking forward to it with the same fervor I awaited Supernaturally. Two forgotten plot points about elementals disappearing and some of Evie's paranormal co-workers acting strangely will surely be central in Endlessly's plot. (And hopefully, there will be more Reth. You can't imagine my frustration at how little of him there was when that magnificent creep was one of my favorite things about Parnormalcy. I say NO to having him be a romantic interest, but YES to having more of him in the book.)

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Werelove Dusk Conspiracy by Lakisha Spletzer

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (1)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating.

I picked this one out because it sounds like such a fun thriller and the words "dark side" always attract my attention. Now I want to find out what's up with Colin. Also, this is such a beautiful cover. I'm easily distracted by pretties and this is most definitely a pretty.

Still WatersStill Waters
Emma Carlson Berne
December 10, 2011
240 pages (paperback)


Hannah can't wait to sneak off for a romantic weekend with her boyfriend, Colin. He’s leaving for college soon, and Hannah wants their trip to the lake house to be one they’ll never forget.
 
But once Hannah and Colin get there, things start to seem a bit...off. They can't find the town on any map. The house they are staying in looks as if someone's been living there, even though it's been deserted for years. And Colin doesn’t seem quite himself. As he grows more unstable, Hannah worries about Colin’s dark side, and her own safety.
 
Nothing is as perfect as it seems, and what lies beneath may haunt her forever.

Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor

Title: Lips Touch: Three Times
Author: Laini Taylor (illustrations by Jim Di Bartolo)
Publisher: Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books
Release Date: October 1, 2009
Pages: 272 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it in a used bookstore

Everyone dreams of getting the kiss of a lifetime--but what if that kiss carried some unexpected consequences?

A girl who's always been in the shadows finds herself pursued by the unbelievably attractive new boy at school, who may or may not be the death of her. Another girl grows up mute because of a curse placed on her by a vindictive spirit, and later must decide whether to utter her first words to the boy she loves and risk killing everyone who hears her if the curse is real. And a third girl discovers that the real reason for her transient life with her mother has to do with belonging--literally belonging--to another world entirely, full of dreaded creatures who can transform into animals, and whose queen keeps little girls as personal pets until they grow to childbearing age.

From a writer of unparalleled imagination and emotional insight, three stories about the deliciousness of wanting and waiting for that moment when lips touch.

Review

Lips Touch: Three Times is made up of three short stories. In the first, Kizzy comes from an odd family that believes in all sorts of strange things and she desperately wants to be more than just the plain girl from the strange family. Her want is so strong that it attracts evil to her and it just might be the death of her. In the second, Anamique was cursed with a beautiful voice at birth, but anyone that hears it will die. After finding love with a soldier who knows the real her and that believes her corse is a load of bull, she debates whether or not to take the risk and see if her voice can kill. In the third, Esme and her mother are forced to go on the run when the beings they've been on the run from for much of their lives catch up to them. But is that all there is to it?

This is of little importance and you can skip this whole paragraph if you want to, but I've looking for a copy of this book everywhere for months now. The local big bookstore never had one and I was about to give up and order it online. (Don't ask me why I didn't do that in the first place because I have no clue.) Then I went to a used bookstore with my best friend and finally found a copy. The way I screamed "Jackpot!" and basically spazzed about it was truly a sight. The effort and stressing was worth it. Taylor's stories are amazing.

Di Bartolo's illustrations are beautiful, muted in their coloring except for shades of one specific color. They're unclear at first, but readers will understand them and what's going on in them once they've finished the related story. Maybe it would be better to show you some of these illustrations instead of trying to tell you about them:


Each of the stories, as different as they are from one another in subject, all have in common how the explore strong want or desire. Kizzy desperate desire to be extraordinary and more than the average girl from the freaky family (and she is the character I related most to; it's funny how I can relate more to Kizzy in fifty pages that I can to heroines in books upward of three-hundred pages), Anamique's wish to speak to her loved ones and tempt her curse, and... I can't even begin to approach the third story and talk about that. It's complicated.

The writing is beautiful in almost every way it's possible to be. The closest comparison I can make is to a fairy tale, though these stories are a bit more twisted than most fairy tales. I could flip the book open to a random page and find a poetic turn of phrase. Actually, let's do that so you can see what I mean:

"Drinking in his first close sight of her, James already knew her better than any of those others did. He knew from her diary that if she was biting her lip, it meant she was having one of her bad days.

"He had imagined himself, fancifully, to be half in love with the writer of the mysterious diary, but now, seeing her, that vague fancy was swept away by the exhilaration of actually falling in love with her, not by halves, but fully and profoundly. His heartbeat pulsed in his hands with the desire to reach out and touch her ( "Spicy Little Curses Such as These," Lips Touch: Three Times p. 89)."

The stories fly by quickly and before I knew it, the book was over. I won't be forgetting them anytime soon because there was something about all three that made them memorable: "Goblin Fruit" has Kizzy as a character that I greatly connected to, "Spicy Little Curses Such as These" had its mythology and Anamique's strength, and "Hatchling" had its nightmare fuel factor. Not kidding. "Hatchling" was terrifying for so many reasons, especially the Druj and what Mab was forced to go through. You know those stories that are the kind of scary that make you want to wrap up in your childhood/favorite blanket because you hope it will make it less scary? That's what it was for me.

Taylor has a young adult novel called Daughter of Smoke and Bone coming out September 27 and all the pre-publication reviews I've seen for it so far from those who received ARCs (jealousy levels: off the charts) say it's absolutely fantastic (and ARC excerpts promise the same beautiful writing). Lips Touch only made me want the book more because it shows me she has true talent as an author. I beg you to give this book a try.

5 stars!

What am I reading next?: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wildefire by Karsten Knight

Title: Wildefire
Author: Karsten Knight
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Pages: 400 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: S&S Galley Grab

Wildefire (Wildefire, #1)
Every flame begins with a spark.

Ashline Wilde is having a rough sophomore year. She’s struggling to find her place as the only Polynesian girl in school, her boyfriend just cheated on her, and now her runaway sister, Eve, has decided to barge back into her life. When Eve’s violent behavior escalates and she does the unthinkable, Ash transfers to a remote private school nestled in California’s redwoods, hoping to put the tragedy behind her. But her fresh start at Blackwood Academy doesn’t go as planned. Just as Ash is beginning to enjoy the perks of her new school—being captain of the tennis team, a steamy romance with a hot, local park ranger—Ash discovers that a group of gods and goddesses have mysteriously enrolled at Blackwood…and she’s one of them. To make matters worse, Eve has resurfaced to haunt Ash, and she’s got some strange abilities of her own. With a war between the gods looming over campus, Ash must master the new fire smoldering within before she clashes with her sister one more time… And when warm and cold fronts collide, there’s guaranteed to be a storm.

Review:

After an incident in her hometown leaves a girl dead by a lightning strike (that may or may not have something to do with her sister), Ashline Wilde is happy to get away to Blackwood Academy in California on the opposite side of the country. She just wants a fresh start, the opportunity to be normal, and maybe a romance with that really cute park ranger. Then she gets a bombshell dropped on her: she, a few of her classmates, and even her sister Eve are reincarnated gods and goddesses. When Eve comes back into Ash's life with intentions that aren't the kindest, Ash will have to master her fiery powers and face down Eve once again.

I got pressured into reading this book. Many of my Goodreads friends read it and their opinions fell on both sides of the spectrum with a few in the middle. Some of my friends (and you know who you are) asked me if I'd read it and said I should when I replied that no, Wildefire wasn't in my reading pile. Now I've read it and I'll parachute into that middleground. Not good, not bad, and certainly not a "me" book.

What seemed to attract so many people to it was the promising premise and the diversity of its characters so many readers were wishing for. On those, Wildefire delivered. The premise was a fresh one and the cast had a diversity in races I wish the rest of YA literature could embrace. I love having characters from all different backgrounds--Polynesian, Japanese, Haitian, and Egyptian, to start--but their actual characterization leaves a lot to be desired. None of them have their own distinct personalities that set them apart from one another and they sound almost alike in what they say.

I'm picky about romance in YA books and hardly notice them anymore because I'm not much of a romance person, but I kind of liked what Ashline and Colt had. Yeah, Colt says some pretty creepy things sometimes, but I've seen much worse and I can't expect every character ever to be good at words because some people (including me) are bad at words. Their development is good and their date into the woods at sunset was a great scene both for them and as a scene in a book. Certainly not my new favorite couple, but they're fun to read about.

The first chapter of the book is infamously divisive due to the violence and the book nearly lost me there too. I've read the myths too and I know the goddesses tend to go after the women and not the cheating gods of spouses, but that doesn't mean I can't be irritated. There were more than a few things off with how the characters acted, especially with the principal just standing by and letting a girl be beaten up by two different people. It isn't a book easily judged by the quality of its first chapter, that's for sure.

The prose and writing has its strong moments, especially during action scenes where Ash and her friends have to fight or in Ash's visions of a small girl being studied by scientists. Then it attempts to be pretty prose and only succeeds occasionally. There were more than a few "wait, what?" sort of moments to do with the prose. I would quote them so you could see what I mean, but I would rather not because it's an ARC. Cutting some of the failed pretty prose attempts before final publication would be a great idea.

Wildefire in its first half is somewhat dull. Ash is settling in at her new school, meeting and getting to know all the important players, but very little happens until about thirty-five or forty percent of the way in. Maybe this has to do with how impossible it was for me to concentrate on this book. I never became emotionally invested in the characters or their situations either. It's not a good thing when I have to sit down and force myself to read a book because I can't pay attention to it. It wasn't that I wasn't in a reading mood--I've been reading a lot the past few days--but Wildefire couldn't keep my attention.

The second half is when the story really starts to kick in, but close to the end of the book (and I admit this with shame), I skipped about seventy pages to get to the end because I still wasn't interested and I was ready to get the book over with. I don't feel like I missed anything vitally important. A truly good book is good from the first page to the last; readers shouldn't have to endure a dull first half to get to a worthwhile second half.

I don't know if I've said this before, but I'll close my review by saying it: I WISH PEOPLE WOULD STOP ENDING THEIR BOOKS WITH CLIFFHANGERS. You don't need to use cliffhangers to make people read the next book in your series. If the reader liked the first book, they'll probably read the books that come after it. Ending books with cliffhangers just results in frustrated readers. Wildefire definitely wasn't a "me" book with all its strengths and flaws, but give it a try if you're interested.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade

Title: The Ghost and the Goth
Author: Stacey Kade
Publisher: Disney/Hyperion
Release Date: June 29, 2010
Pages: 281 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it at a used bookstore

The Ghost

It's not my fault that I was born with it all--good look, silky blond hair, and a keen sense of what everyone else should not be wearing. My life isn't perfect, though, especially since I died. Run over by a bus of band geeks--could there be a worse fate? As it turns out, yes--I'm starting to disappear, flickering in and out of existence. To top it off, the only person who can see or hear me is Will Killian, TOTAL loser boy, and he refuses to help!

I need to get control of my afterlife, and fast, before I'm dead AND gone for good. If I can get Will to talk to me, I might have a chance. But that means trusting him with my secrets... and I don't trust anyone, living or dead.
The Goth

My mom thinks I'm crazy. My shrink wants to lock me up. Basically, my life sucks. And that was before the homecoming queen started haunting me. Alona Dare was a pain when she was alive; dead, she's even worse.

Yeah, I can see, hear, and touch ghosts. With just a few weeks of school left, all I want to do is graduate and get out of here, find some place with less spiritual interference. But with a dead cheerleader who won't leave me alone, and a violent new ghost who wants me dead... I'm screwed.

Alona and I might be able to help each other... if we can stop hating each other long enough to try.

Yeah, right.

Review:

Alona Dare just died by--of all the ways to go!--being run over by a bus full of band geeks. Instead of moving on to whatever afterlife there is, she's stuck floating around as a ghost in her thin white gym T-shirt and tiny red shorts. The only one who can help her is Will Killian, the weirdo who wears a lot of dark colors (but he will deny it if you try to call him Goth). Will has been able to talk to ghosts since he was young and the last thing he wants is for Alona, yet another ghost, to start bugging him to help her out. They both need help from each other for one reason or another, but they need to learn how to get along before they can get anything done.

I have not had a fun time lately. I'm seriously considering putting away the novel I wrote until the anti-vampire sentiment dies down, another round of bad moods are setting in after a few weeks of good moods, I've read two very bad books within two weeks of one another (but that's one-hundred percent my fault and I accept that, along with the headaches that resulted), and more has been going on that made things not fun. The Ghost and the Goth made everything better for just a little while and made me laugh. This was exactly what I needed right now.

Oh, Alona. She needs a swift kick in the pants sometimes for her attitude, but I love her. Her personality was likable yet flawed and her situation was very sympathetic. My main problem with the book was when Alona's attitude went too far, like when she called her best friend a slut, a word that I hate seeing characters use for any reason, and how she reacted to finding out something about another character. (But imagine my horror when I read it out loud to myself and discovered my voice fit the preppy voice I had in mind for Alona incredibly well.) I love Will too and managed to sympathize with him a little more than Alona. I can't imagine how tough it would be to be able to see ghosts like he could and be considered schizophrenic. Also, his shrink is an ass. That is all.

When I discovered the book was written in both their points of view, my scepticism acted up. In many cases, it doesn't work out when an author tries to write a book in two points of view, especially when the two narrators are of opposite genders. I was worried that would be the case here, but it wasn't! Alona and Will have very distinctive narrative voices. Will even sounds like a guy during his narrative segments instead of a girl! The book flew by like that thanks to the characters' very readable voices. I hardly even realized how much I had read until I stopped! The meat of the story happens over two or three days, but Alona and Will's connection feels real despite happening so quickly.

The Ghost and the Goth isn't trying to be particularly deep, just entertaining. Instead of Alona and Will's struggles with their past selves, present problems, and future plans with boatloads of angst, it's all light-hearted. Breaks from angst are appreciated. I know that next time I'm in an awful mood or need a quick literary pick-me-up, this book will be in mind and in reach. Its sequel The Queen of the Dead is on my list and I hope to read it soon. Need something funny and ghostly? Give this book a try.

4 stars!

What am I reading next?: Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hades by Alexandra Adornetto

Title: Hades
Author: Alexandra Adornetto
Publisher: Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: August 30, 2011
Pages: 422 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Amazon Vine-provided ARC

Hades (Halo, #2)
Even the love of her boyfriend, Xavier Woods, and her siblings, Gabriel and Ivy, can't keep the angel Bethany Church from being tricked into a motorcycle ride that ends up in Hell. There, Jake Thorn bargains for Beth's release back to Earth. But what he asks of her will destroy her, and quite possibly, her loved ones. Can he be trusted in this wager?

Alexandra Adornetto's Hades has it all--good and evil, angels and demons, romance and heartbreak.

Review:

Almost six months after Halo, Bethany and her boyfriend Xavier are preparing to graduate from high school and go to college. Jake is freed from Hell after some fun with Ouija boards at a Halloween party goes wrong and he easily tricks Bethany into going to Hell with him. Bethany finds herself miserable, but the Lake of Dreams provides a way to see how Xavier, Gabriel, and Ivy are faring. While they try and find a way to break Beth out of the prison called Hell, Jake is working his hardest to seduce Bethany because if he gets his way, she's staying in Hell as his princess.

I can sum up why I felt the way I did about this book in two quick points:
  • Bethany uses a Ouija board. Again, an angel of God uses a Ouija board, a very powerful and dangerous occult item.
  • If Bethany had applied any logical thought to the situation, she could have avoided being tricked and taken to Hell. Everything about the situation, from how they left on foot but came back with a motorcycle to the person's admittance of drinking, should have made Bethany wary of riding with them. It didn't.
This was an error in the ARC that didn't make it into the final copy, but it was such a gem that I want to make sure people know it was there: Jake steps on the gas pedal of his motorcycle at one point. Motorcycles have throttle on the right handlebar that you twist, not gas pedals. Adornetto's lack of experience and inability to do research show, but this no longer counts toward the book's rating.

Are you still unconvinced and feel I need to go more in-depth? Keep reading.

The characters remain nearly unchanged. Bethany has me convinced a side effect of an angel so young coming to Earth is that her brain didn't come with her. Xavier is still a bland love interest with shades of controlling and Jake is still a failure in every corner as a villain. Ivy takes a level in badass and Gabriel manages to change a little too. Molly's growth or likability is debatable, but her dramatics later in the book didn't endear her to me. New characters such as mean girl demon Asia and friendly demons Tucker and Hanna are flat too. Even Lucifer, the legendary fallen angel of legend, falls flat and is unconvincing as someone charismatic enough to make other angels turn against God.

There is a noticeable lack of research and there are discontinuities between Halo and Hades that desperately need correction before final publication. In Halo, Xavier was school captain and there were rugby players; in Hades, he's the class president (the US term for school captain, the latter being what it's called in the author's native country Australia) and they now play football instead of rugby. The motorcycle gas pedal gaffe is another example, and I could go on.

In fact, I will because a lot of the inaccuracies have to do with myths. As far as I know (and supported by one of the BFFs), a third of the angels in Heaven fell with Lucifer. In Hades, only eight fell, which is directly stated because of its importance in the worldbuilding. There were more than twenty-four angels in Heaven in the beginning, I'm sure The river Lethe makes you forget everything, not just the bad deeds you did, and of all the fallen angels to make an Original and a prince of one of Hell's nine circles, Arakiel isn't a good choice. Try Semyaza, leader of the Watchers and Arakiel's superior. (Thanks and credit go to Kira for teaching me that.)

This is a pet peeve and it had no bearing at all on my rating, but I was disappointed at how little research was done into the setting too. Venus Cove is stated as being in the coastal county of Sherbrooke County, Georgia. Sherbrooke County does not exist, but there are approximately 18 coastal counties in the state of Georgia. Maybe this bothers me because I'm a Georgia-born girl and I would like to see my home state get a more accurate spotlight put on it (or maybe the book could just not be set in Georgia at all; that would be nice).

Bethany and Xavier's relationship remains unhealthy as they continue to focus on one another's physical attributes instead of their personalities. Bonus: They both creepily take a whiff of each other's clothing before they go to bed. This book somehow made me more confused as to what they see in one another. Bethany sees how snappish and moody Xavier gets when under pressure and never considers that if she stays with him, she would be the target of his misdirected ire. And there's a chapter early in the book that lacks any significance to the story as a whole; it reads like a "screw you!" from author to reader specifically written for that purpose.

Did you hate how Bethany let Xavier protect and save her instead of trying to protect and save herself? It gets no better. In all her time in Hell, she makes one escape attempt. And of all the reasons one could come up with for wanting to get out of Hell (because it's a terrible place, or because demons are either trying to sex her up (consent optional) or kill her), she wants to leave because she needs her boyfriend fix. She flat-out admits she was content to wait to be rescued. Quotes would be given, but I can't because it's an ARC. In the end, she still ends up the damsel, being saved by others once again and literally hiding behind her rescuers during the climactic scene. We get some purity myth indoctrination too about being worth less or less lovable if you have sex, but I'm not even getting into that. This review is long enough as it is.

Because Bethie isn't around on Earth to narrate what's going on with them, we have the Lake of Dreams plot device, which allows someone who drinks from it to see what their heart most desires and lets Bethany narrate what's going on elsewhere. Someone told me that it could be used for psychological torture when I thought the Lake of Dreams was ridiculous, and that's a valid point. But why isn't it ever discussed as though it were once or still being used for psychological torture? Then we get another dose of deus ex machina where, if Bethany had just done that earlier in the book, so many pages could have been cut from a book that both is long and feels long.

Adornetto's vision of Hell is hopelessly muddled and contradictory. The world she built in Halo and Hades is heavily rooted in the Bible and Christianity. In those, Hell is a place of punishment not only for the humans that sinned while alive and did not gain or attempt to gain forgiveness, but also for Lucifer and the angels that followed him in his rebellion against God. In Hades, Hell is appropriately hellish in one part of it, where the human souls are tortured, but then there are nightclubs and high-class hotels for the demons, undermining what Hell is all about.

Hades. Is. Not. Hell. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Hades is sometimes used to refer to the Greek Underworld, though it is also the name of the god of the Underworld. All souls, good or bad, went to Hades and were then sorted into afterlives appropriately depending on whether the humans were good or bad while alive. The Christian Hell is a place of punishment for the fallen angels and sinful humans, as stated previously. The two are so radically different that trying to call the Hell within this book Hades is irritating because the two are not interchangeable. The attempts at blending the two into one realm, along with the parallels and allusions to the myth of Persephone, didn't work out.

The writing is still as atrocious as it ever was, maybe even more so in ARC form. There is repetitive description and wording (I will scream the next time I see "I know" in a book because it was used that much in Hades), purple prose, unnecessary description to bog down the pacing and scenes, numerous instances of cheating at narration (Bethany talks about how other characters feel or think when she has no way to know that), and one scene so badly worded that I had to reread it two more times to figure out what happened. The narration-cheating gets significantly worse during segments concentrating on Xavier and co.

But I will give some credit where it is due: Hades is an improvement, however slight I feel it is, on Halo. There was an exorcism scene late in Hades that was somewhat enjoyable and the plot took center stage fairly early in the book; I didn't have to wade through seemingly endless amounts of useless fluff to get to the plot like I did with Halo. Little details such as these weren't anywhere near close enough to countering the many problems within Hades, sadly.

I made the bad decision to read Halo, I made another bad decision to read Hades, but nothing short of having my dreams served to me on a silver platter with no strings attached and no possible way for it to backfire on me will get me to read Heaven. Not even to finish the series. Not even to entertain a few friends. I don't recommend starting this series at all, let alone reading Hades. Now I'm going to go watch two hours of Tokyo Mew Mew because when my brain needs relief, good-cheesy magical girl anime is the solution.

0 stars!


What am I reading next?: The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade

Monday, July 4, 2011

Chime by Franny Billingsley

Title: Chime
Author: Franny Billingsley
Publisher: Penguin/Dial Books
Release Date: March 17, 2011
Pages: 361 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it

Briony has a secret. She believes her secret killed her stepmother, destroyed her twin sister's mind, and threatens all the children in the Swampsea. She yearns to be rid of her terrible secret, but risks being hanged if she tells a soul. That's what happens to witches: They're hanged by the neck until dead.

Then Eldric arrives--Eldric with his golden mane and lion eyes and electric energy--and he refuses to believe anything dark about Briony. But he wonders what's been buried beneath her self-hatred, hidden in Rose's mangled thoughts, and whispered about by the Old Ones. And Briony wonders how Eldric can make her want to cry.

Especially when everyone knows that witches can't cry.

A wild, haunting mystery and romance that is as beautifully written as it is captivating.

Review:

Two months and three days. That's how long it's been since Stepmother died and Briony will not let herself forget it, just like Briony won't let herself forget that she's a witch and that her powers harmed both Stepmother and her twin sister Rose. Her plans once involved going elsewhere for school, but now she has resigned herself to staying in the Swampsea, caring for her younger sister, and pretending she can't hear the Old Ones begging her to write stories of them again. Then Eldric arrives and Briony finds herself getting close to him. But she can't do that--wicked witches such as herself can't have friends, right? She's done too much wrong to be allowed a friend. Meanwhile, the Boggy Mun is unhappy about the swamp being drained and unless Briony can do something about it, Rose will die of the dreaded swamp cough.

Due to how the blurb talks an awful lot about Eldric, I almost didn't buy Chime. Blurbs that concentrate on the romantic interest usually don't result in good books for me, but then I saw this review of Chime by the Book Smugglers. Their feelings about a book and my feelings on the same book match up seven or eight times out of ten (and I think they're intelligent in general), so I went for it and bought my own copy (by the way, I love having a print copy because it looks so pretty and feels so pretty and ignore this entire aside, please). I'm pretty glad I did because this was a good book, though not one everyone will love.

Briony was a difficult character to figure out, but I liked her nonetheless. She contradicted herself and had self-hatred issues, but her sense of humor was so much fun ("Poor Petey. I'd like to say I could almost feel a tender spot for poor Petey, but the truth is I'd rather feel at the tender spot on his head and give it a poke." (Chime, p. 112)) and she's very to-the-point, though I didn't believe half of what she said. She was unreliable as a narrator, but she also made for an interesting, fantastic narrator. By the end of the book, I kind of wanted to give her a hug for all she'd put herself through and been through.

I developed soft spots for some of the supporting characters, including romantic interest Eldric and twin sister Rose, and the romance between Briony and Eldric made me go "awwwww." Kind of. The big romantic declarations don't happen until the very end of the book, but the development leading up to it made their declarations, however cheesy the might be, made them completely believable. Can't we have more romance like this, where they start out as friends, get closer, and it becomes more? I'm ready to throw out the old insta-love trope. Buy more books like this so they end up on bestseller lists and send publishers a message. They'll probably misinterpret it, but it's worth a shot, right?

Chime was a slow-moving book, driven by the characters most of the time. If you aren't completely interested in where these characters are going, this will be a slow read, but people invested in Briony will most likely see it fly by so that they can find out what's going on with her and why she is the way she is.

Hints are carefully worked into the book as to what is going on, just sitting on the ground so the reader can pick them up and put the puzzle together, but I didn't get the full picture until it was all revealed at the very end. It felt like it was so obvious and why didn't I figure this out before, but it was all very subtle. I had a feeling something was going on and raised questions to myself about it, but I didn't finish connecting the dots. Now I wish I could read it over again like I'd never read it before and pay more attention and see if I could figure it out on my own.

The style of prose was... unusual. You don't see YA novels written the same way every day. Briony's voice and humor was enjoyable, but it took me some time to adjust to it. While reading, the prose would occasionally lose me and my attention would wander, which is why it took me longer than normal to read this book. (Some of it also had to do with another book scrambling my brain, but that's not the point.) I took a sample from the book, an entire page, so you could see for yourself what it's like and make your own decision on it:

"Life and stories are alike in one way: They are full of hollows. The king and queen have no children: They have a child hollow. The girl has a wicked stepmother: She has a mother hollow.

In a story, a baby comes along to fill the child hollow. But in life, the hollows continue empty. One sister continues lonely and unloved; the other coughs behind the door. I say in the hall. I waited. Father returned from the Alehouse. I waited. He say before the fire in the parlor. I waited.

"Sometimes, of course, the sister's the wicked one, not the stepmother.

"I'd lived in a hollow all the last year. A Fitz Hollow, a Brownie hollow, a Stepmother hollow. When you live in a hollow, your life is small. It's all paper snips, and dust, and cold wax drippings, and the scab on leftover gravy.

"I waited. Father went to bed. No more waiting. Time to go, little witch. Your sister has the swamp cough.

"Wind had replaced the rain. It slammed sticks and scum and willow peels against the far bank, it slammed me across the bridge. The fishermen have a name for the northeast wind. Don't tell Father I know it. They call her the Bitch.

"The Bitch thwacked the Flats with the side of her hand. She thwacked the breath from my lungs.

"The Bitch could easily push a seven-year-old girl from a swing. Was it the Bitch I'd called that day? Was it the Bitch who'd smacked Rose to the ground?

"Probably.

"If Briony Larkin, age seven, wanted to call up a wind, she'd have called up the most powerful wind she could. She might not have been quite aware of what she was doing, but I know enough about the younger Briony to know that when she did a thing, she did it thoroughly." (Chime, p. 160-161)

If you think you'll be able to adjust to that style of prose and this seems like a book that positively screams your name, go for it. Chime was enjoyable, but I see exactly where it could lose other readers and not be a good book for them.

4 stars! Definitely not a book for everyone, but it's one I enjoyed.


What am I reading next?: Wildefire by Karsten Knight