Sunday, July 8, 2012

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

THIS IS THE REVIEW FOR BOOK FIVE, SO UNLESS YOU'VE READ THE ONES BEFORE IT, EXPECT TO GET VARIOUS PIECES OF THE PUZZLE SPOILED.
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pages: 534
Series or Stand Alone: Book 5 in the Mortal Instruments series
Summary: Can the lost be reclaimed? What price is too high to pay for love? Who can be trusted when sin and salvation collide?
Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge.

Darkness threatens to claim the Shadowhunters in the harrowing fifth book of the Mortal Instruments series.

Review:
THIS! The reason I re-read the first four Mortal Instruments in a haze of Shadowhunters and demon ichor! I finally got to read City of Lost Souls! (Due to me being extremely busy and neglectful of my blog as of recent times, this was actually like a month and a half ago, but here’s the review!)
Jace is gone, and the Clave has pretty much decided to worry about everything else they have to worry about. Clary has gone off to save him from the dark side, though it turns out that maybe someone is liking the dark side? Only time will tell. Isabelle is dealing with some heavy family issues in addition to the problem of her adopted brother, while Alec is delving into deals with consequences that he is way not prepared for. Simon continues to be an underrated badass intent on helping everyone. This book was pretty much non-stop action and emotional breakdowns, so a lot happened in the 500+ pages.
I have to hand it to her: Clary kicked ass and took names in this book. I heard some complaints about her character before I was able to read it, namely that she obsesses far too much over Jace. Since he was trapped in a forced connection to the dark side, I could understand her concern and single-mindedness when it came to his rescue. And frankly, she did a great job at keeping her head throughout this mess.
Clare dealt with some difficult, incredibly emotional and touchy issues in a very realistic way. The situation with Clary and the information Isabelle deals with are presented with interactions and reactions that make complete sense. I’m being totally vague here, but I’m trying not to speak of spoilers just in case.
Magnus and Alec’s relationship continued to be the best handled in the series. Though I was also very pleased with the way things are going between Isabelle and Simon, especially since Isabelle is such a stubborn, proud female character. It was good to see the development of her trust issues and how she is dealing with past information about her family.
BONUS: Even MORE references to the Infernal Devices, which makes me so happy. I cannot WAIT for Clockwork Princess, regardless of the fact that it’s still like 250 days away.

Rating: 5 - this might actually be my favorite of the Mortal Instrument books so far!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

DO NOT READ THIS UNLESS YOU'VE READ THE FIRST THREE BOOKS IN THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS SERIES. HERE BE SPOILERS.
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon and Schuster)
Pages: 424
Series or Stand Alone: Book 4 in the Mortal Instruments series
Summary: The Mortal War is over, and Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She's training to become a Shadowhunter and to use her unique power. Her mother is getting married to the love of her life. Downworlders and Shadowhunters are at peace at last. And—most important of all—Clary can finally call Jace her boyfriend.
But nothing comes without a price.
Someone is murdering the Shadowhunters who used to be in Valentine’s Circle, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second bloody war. Clary’s best friend, Simon, can’t help her. His mother just found out he’s a vampire and now he’s homeless. Everywhere he turns, someone wants him on their side—along with the power of the curse wrecking his life. And they’re willing to do anything to get what they want. At the same time he’s dating two beautiful, dangerous girls—neither of whom knows about the other.
When Jace begins to pull away from Clary without explaining why, she is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: She herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace.
Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. The stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels.

Review:
So close to City of Lost Souls! I’m actually really glad that I re-read these, it made me appreciate them more than I remember.
This book kicks off with the good! Jocelyn is awake and engaged to Luke! Jace and Clary can be together without it being super effing weird! Simon is adjusting to life as a Daylighter sporting the Mark of Cain with the help of not one but two superhot girlfriends! Alec and Magnus are traveling the world like the bosses they are! Of course, this lasts for like two and a half seconds. Jace is pulling away from Clary and she doesn’t know why. Simon’s mother finds out his secret and kicks him out in a flurry of fearful prayers. On top of everything else, someone is out there killing former Circle members--someone no one expected to see. The Shadowhunters aren’t able to rest easy for long.
As complex as the original three Mortal Instruments book are, the next ones take it to a new level. The relationships and feelings between the characters are becoming even more complicated since they’re maturing. One of the best things in Clare’s series is the relationship between Alec and Magnus. The portrayal of Alec’s jealousy and the issues that would occur between a mortal and immortal are well explored.
I enjoyed that Simon became more of a central character. When I first read these books, the sheer level of jealousy and possessiveness that Simon had in regards to Clary got to me. Since I re-read these and focused on the characters rather than the straight up plot, I had more sympathy for Simon, especially when I saw the way the Shadowhunters treated him. I love that by this point, he has gained the respect of the Shadowhunters and fits more into their world than he did when he was human. This book explores what it means for him to be a vampire who can walk in the sun, sporting Heaven’s Mark.
The focus given to Jace and Clary’s relationship was a little much for me when it came to this book. Jace started to annoy me because he didn’t just speak to Clary about what was going on, instead hiding out by protecting Simon. Clary started to annoy me because rather than ask Jace for the majority of the book what his deal was, she obsessed over it. She redeemed herself later by demanding an explanation, but for a good chunk of this book I was like, “Girl, there is more to life than Jace, ask what his deal is or get over it.” I understand that they’re this epic couple, but for real now.
However, BONUS: the appearance of Camille Belcourt and her references to William Herondale. INFERNAL DEVICES REFERENCES FOR THE WIN! I love seeing the connections between the two series!
While City of Fallen Angels is probably my least favorite installment of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, it is still a highly entertaining novel. It provides the set up for the new trilogy utilizing the characters that were already explored in the previous trilogy, with the addition of a few new ones (Kyle, Camille Belcourt) and a new villain that is certainly a force to be reckoned with.

Rating: 3.5/4 - good.

Friday, July 6, 2012

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW IF YOU HAVE NOT READ CITY OF BONES AND CITY OF ASHES. THERE ARE SPOILER-Y THINGS GOING ON.
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pages: 541
Series or Stand Alone: Book 3 in the Mortal Instruments series
Summary: 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 Shadowhunters 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.

Review:
And so the re-read continues...
The secret to healing Clary’s mom is in Alicante, so to Idris we go! Except Jace is trying to prevent Clary from getting there. A last minute demon attack makes him successful--but then Clary gets there the illegal and highly dangerous fashion, meaning it would have been better for her to just go with them how it was intended. Simon gets dragged along and thrown in Shadowhunter jail, because no one trusts a vampire that can walk in the sun. Mysterious new Shadowhunter Sebastian wants to help Clary--and perhaps be a little bit more, a prospect that makes Jace more than a bit touchy. When information is revealed about Clary’s family history and Valentine’s plan, the Shadowhunters realize that it’s necessary to work alongside Downworlders in order to save everything they have.
We’ve reached it! The highly dramatic culmination of the original trilogy! Almost the entire story takes place in Idris/Alicante, which is a break from the previous two novels that took place in New York City. I loved the different setting and how the plot unfolds in the Shadowhunters’ homeland.
BONUS: more parent backstory I love when Clare does backstory for the adults, it’s always all tragic and salacious and stuff. Hearing more about Valentine, Jocelyn, Luke, the Herondales, the Lightwoods, and how they got to the point they’re at is always welcome. (See other examples: any time JK Rowling showed a peek of teenage James Potter, Lily Evans, Snape, and the Marauders)
Epic good versus evil battle! I love me some end of days battle scenes. As the original closing book of the trilogy (that turned into six books instead of three), City of Glass provides for a very satisfying concluding story if you choose to stop there or want to use this one as a breaking point before tackling the other three (one of which isn’t even out yet). I’d suggest going further--the story only gets crazier from here.

Rating: 5 - fantastic!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW IF YOU HAVE NOT READ CITY OF BONES. IT’S LIKE CITY OF SPOILERS UP IN HERE.

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon and Schuster)
Pages: 464
Series or Stand Alone: Book 2 in the Mortal Instruments series
Summary: Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what's normal when you're a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who's becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn't ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary's only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.
To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?
In this breathtaking sequel to City of Bones, Cassandra Clare lures her readers back into the dark grip of New York City's Downworld, where love is never safe and power becomes the deadliest temptation

Review:
I’m speeding through reading the rest of the Mortal Instruments again in preparation for City of Lost Souls!
So...Jace and Clary were revealed to be siblings. How awkward. Anyway, Ma and Pa Lightwood have returned to the Institute, and former Circle member Maryse is pissed at Jace for being Valentine’s son. The Clave Inquisitor is gunning for Jace in some sort of misplaced vengeance against Valentine. Clary is still dealing with her mother’s magical coma and her newly blooming relationship with best friend Simon, who ends up having quite the problem. Meanwhile, evil villain Valentine is after the Soul Sword, number two of the three Mortal Instruments, along with the blood of murdered Downworlder children in order to work some dark magic on the angelic instrument. So yeah. The heroes of our tale have some stuff to deal with.
I find that sometimes the sequels in a series can be just as good, if not better--in a world as complicated as the Shadowhunters’, it’s nice to have the background out of the way so the “FOOT-STOMPING, HEART-POUNDING ACTION ACTION ACTION” (credit to the early 90’s Nickelodeon show Roundhouse to that quote) can begin. This book introduced a host of new conflicts in addition to the old ones. Clary has to figure out where she fits in amongst Shadowhunters since she was raised as a Mundane. She and Jace must try to reconcile as siblings rather than love interests (ick, right? How sucktastic). Jace has to cope with his adoptive mother’s distrust. The Shadowhunters (along with Luke, Magnus Bane, and Simon) as a whole must stop Valentine from getting full use of another Mortal Instrument for his nefarious purposes. I love all the conflicts and the complicated relationships that exist in these books!
More demons = more demon-y action scenes! Clare can write action scenes that are very intense but aren’t so chaotic that I can’t figure out what’s going on. I can usually picture them quite well and I appreciate it.
Bonus: more Magnus Bane! He’s introduced in the first book, but he gains more backstory and involvement in this one. I especially love the slightly complicated relationship that he and Alec share. Fantastic character all around.
City of Ashes is the even more action-packed sequel to Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones. With the characters established, Clare was able to concentrate even more on the plot and the fight between the Nephilim and Valentine. Great installment to the series!

Rating: 4.5 - awesome!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Pages: 496
Series or Stand Alone: Book One in the Mortal Instruments series
Summary: When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder -- much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing -- not even a smear of blood -- to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?
This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know....
Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare's ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end

Review:
RE-READ ALERT! I read the original Mortal Instruments trilogy in the summer of 2009, so it’s been awhile. I wanted to revisit the books in order to truly enjoy City of Lost Souls after it came out. I remembered bits and pieces, but not any overarching story, which made reading City of Fallen Angels kind of lackluster. Now that I have more free time to read, I decided to avoid a repeat of that experience with a re-read!
When Clary Fray encounters tattooed teenage fighters attacking someone at the Pandemonium Club, she throws herself directly into the situation without too much concern for her safety. She was previously unaware of their world--the three teenagers, Jace, Alec, and Isabelle, are Shadowhunters, warriors charged with keeping the world safe from demons and rogue Downworlders. A demon attack and her mother’s magically comatose status make it impossible for Clary not to be drawn into the world she was apparently born for.
City of Bones is a great introduction into the young adult urban fantasy genre. Clare is a clever worldbuilder, exploring the traditions, knowledge, and places of the Shadowhunters within New York City. I really enjoy the paranormal lore that provides the structure for these stories. Since Clary is new to the world, the reader is able to see it revealed through her eyes, with her questions as a guide. Clare does a wonderful job setting up the wide variety of vibrant characters in this first installment, my favorites including Alec and Isabelle Lightwood and the High Warlock of Brooklyn, Magnus Bane.
Clary Fray, despite her abominably cutesy name, is a fine protagonist. She’s fierce and does not take the slightly condescending crap (which they unfortunately tend to dole out to “mundanes” or humans) from the young Shadowhunters she meets. One of my favorite moments is when she finds out that Jace did something that had a 90% chance of saving her and a 10% chance of turning her into a soulless Foresaken, she slaps him and explains that it’s for “the other ten percent.” You go, girl. Your life should not be used in a guessing game and I’m glad you knew that. Basically, I like that the girl’s got rage and a fighting concern for her comatose mother.
For anyone who hasn’t read these books (except my sister, who was unfortunately around the first time I read them, sorry for spoiling it for you by loudly complaining!), there’s a pretty big twist at the end of this one. I give props to Cassandra Clare for having the guts to pull that one, yikes. Talk about uncomfortable.
If you haven’t read them yet, Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series is a fun, drama-filled urban fantasy read. City of Bones serves as a brilliant introduction into the world of the Shadowhunters.

Rating: 4.5 - awesome!

Waiting on Wednesday (22)

The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell

Having already survived six years at the Tildor’s top military academy, sixteen-year-old Renee De Winter is determined to graduate, training day and night to compete with her male classmates. When the boys overpower her parries, she works harder. When a bully sabotages her gear, she fights without it.
But when an underground crime group captures her mentor for its illegal gladiatorial games, she must choose between her career and her conscience. Determined to penetrate the group’s inner circles, Renee will leap from academia to the crime filled streets, pick up a sword, and weigh law against loyalty.

Release date: January 10, 2013

Gladiatorial games! Swords! Loyalty! Badass female protagonist! I'm so excited for this one!


Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (24)

Top Ten Books for People Who Love Sarah Dessen:
When people ask me for teen recommendations at work, Sarah Dessen is usually the author they name most often as a point of reference for things they like. I present a list of contemporary, sometimes issue driven YA books for Sarah Dessen fans that want to branch out a bit!

1. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
2. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
3. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
4. Sometimes It Happens by Lauren Barnholdt
5. Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
6. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
7. The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson
8. How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
9. Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt
10. Going Underground by Susan Vaught

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Monday, July 2, 2012

In My Mailbox (26)

BOUGHT:
Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
Rampant by Diana Peterfreund
Timepiece by Myra McEntire

LIBRARY:
Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Scumble by Ingrid Law
Stunning by Sara Shepard

IMM is hosted by The Story Siren

Sunday, July 1, 2012

MIDDLE GRADE SUNDAY: Savvy by Ingrid Law

Publisher: Puffin Books
Pages: 342
Series or Stand Alone: has a companion novel called Scumble
Summary: For generations, the Beaumont family has harbored a magical secret. They each possess a "savvy" -a special supernatural power that strikes when they turn thirteen. Grandpa Bomba moves mountains, her older brothers create hurricanes and spark electricity . . . and now it's the eve of Mibs's big day.
As if waiting weren't hard enough, the family gets scary news two days before Mibs's birthday: Poppa has been in a terrible accident. Mibs develops the singular mission to get to the hospital and prove that her new power can save her dad. So she sneaks onto a salesman's bus . . . only to find the bus heading in the opposite direction. Suddenly Mibs finds herself on an unforgettable odyssey that will force her to make sense of growing up-and of other people, who might also have a few secrets hidden just beneath the skin.

Review:
There’s magic, secrets, and a great family story in this one. The whole idea of the “savvy” was really cool--there were abilities that seemed totally human, like Mibs’s mother’s ability to do everything perfectly, but also supernatural ones, such as her brother’s control over electricity. I love the idea that everyone, even the non-magical ones, have some sort of savvy that affects the people and environment around them.
Mibs is an awesome protagonist. She doesn’t fit in very well at her school, but she knows that once her savvy kicks in, she’ll probably be pulled from her school anyway so she doesn’t worry about it. She tries to ignore the bitchy girls and stay true to herself and her family. For example, when the girls mock her youngish dress, she doesn’t let it bother her too much because her father bought it for her birthday.
The close-knit relationship Mibs’s family had was really the strong point of this novel. Her love for her father drives the entire story, considering Mibs, her siblings, and friends run away in an attempt to visit him while he’s in the hospital. It was great to see such a great family dynamic in a middle grade book.
Ingrid Law’s Savvy was a wonderful middle grade story with a touch of magic. I’ll definitely be reading Scumble!

Rating: 4.5 - great!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Tessa Masterson WILL Go to Prom by Emily Franklin & Brendan Halpin

Publisher: Walker Children’s
Pages: 257
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: Lucas and Tessa’s friendship is the stuff of legend in their small Midwestern town. So it’s no surprise when Lucas finally realizes his feelings for Tessa are more than friendship and he asks her to prom. What no one expected, especially Lucas, was for Tessa to come out as a lesbian instead of accepting his heartfelt invitation. Humiliated and confused, Lucas also feels betrayed that his best friend kept such an important secret from him.
What’s worse is Tessa’s decision to wear a tastefully tailored tuxedo to escort her female crush, sparking a firestorm of controversy. Lucas must decide if he should stand on the sidelines or if he should stand by his friend to make sure that Tessa Masterson will go to prom.
Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin tackle both sides of a ripped-from-the headlines story to show that true friendship will triumph after all.

Review:
I’ve heard bits and pieces about the Constance McMillen prom fiasco that occurred in the very recent past and wanted to check out a fictionalized story based on it. I found this one particularly intriguing because it flipped points of view between the girl at hand and her best male friend.
Lucas finally decides to let his best friend know that he’s in love with her and wants to take her to prom in a very public way--just in time for her to admit to him that she is gay and wants to take her secret girlfriend to prom. Lucas is enraged and embarrassed that his best friend wouldn’t confide something like that to him and accidentally sets off a media fiasco in the town. Lucas and Tessa must figure out how to fix their friendship in the midst of prejudice, boycotts, and other ridiculous behavior their small-minded town feels the need to act on in order to prove that they’re traditional or something.
Tessa Masterson WILL Go to Prom follows a storyline similar to the real life Constance McMillen case, only it’s directly from the girl’s point of view. We also get the point of view of Lucas, her best friend, who has some choices of his own to make in regards to Tessa’s situation.
I loved that Lucas and Tessa were very believable teenage characters. The problems and emotional reactions to things within the story made complete sense--Lucas was angry that his best friend kept a secret that resulted in his embarrassment. Tessa worked really hard to fade into the background to keep her secret, but once she was out she didn’t feel as if she needed to entirely fade out. She felt like she could finally be herself and enjoy life the same way everyone else did.
I found the story to be well-developed, but the characters aside from Tessa and Lucas were not so developed. The plot didn’t really require the other characters to be developed, but I thought it would flesh out the story just a little bit. I also wanted to see more of Tessa’s family--I knew that they supported their daughter and how the town’s behavior affected their business, but I would have liked to see how they dealt with it at home and away from the public eye.
While I would have liked to see more about some of the characters in Franklin and Halpin’s collaboration, I thought they did a great job with their subject matter. They told a fictionalized account of the story that everyone should know about. Franklin and Halpin work well together to create a seamless joint effort--I’ll definitely be checking out their other book, Jenna and Jonah’s Fauxmance.

Rating: 3.5 - good


Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson

Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 304
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: The funny thing about stop signs is that they're also start signs.
Mayzie is the middle sister, sent to private school because of her brains. Brooks, the oldest, is a beautiful athlete who's conflicted about her two loves: softball and Dave. Palmer is the youngest, tentative in all but her blistering pitches as the only freshman on varsity softball. Though very different, the Golds are sisters through and through.
When the unthinkable happens -- the death of their father -- a year passes in shattered silence. Brooks begins drinking, Palm withdraws, and May is left to fend for herself. She gets a job at a coffee spot, and hits the books. But the one thing she can't do alone is learn to drive. That's when Peter, her lifelong nemesis and all around thorn-in-side, assumes a surprising new role in May's life: he teaches her to drive, and the connection between them changes from childhood animosity to one that May can't understand, or doesn't yet want to.
As May slowly starts to pick up the pieces of her life, her sisters struggle with their own demons. The Gold sisters have been changed irrevocably, and they are all but lost to one another, until the key is found. The key to their father's Pontiac Firebird.

Review:
I have wanted to read this book since I heard Maureen Johnson’s name back in high school--probably circa 2006. I finally took it out from the library like three months ago. Of course, I waited as long as possible before I actually read it. I don’t get my deal sometimes. Whatever!
May’s father died while she and her sisters were out pulling a prank on their neighbor, Pete. After his death, May’s older sister Brooks turned to partying with a bad boyfriend, her younger sister Palm threw herself into softball and an empty television, and May completely committed herself to succeeding in school and work. Since it seems the only thing she can’t do is learn to drive, formerly-annoying neighbor boy Pete is around to help her out. When May realizes that she can’t hold their family together alone, the three girls come back together with the help of their father’s Firebird.
The Key to the Golden Firebird is very character-driven, so if you’re a plot person I wouldn’t completely recommend this one. Johnson’s story explores how three daughters, along with their mother, deal with the aftermath of their father’s death in entirely normal ways. While Johnson’s early novel isn’t the most memorable of stories, it’s a well written exploration of teenage loss.
I really loved May as a protagonist. With the protagonists I’ve previously read about in Johnson’s books (13 Little Blue Envelopes and The Name of the Star) I didn’t entirely connect with them. Straight up personality-wise, May and I were similar, both being Type-A academically minded with a tendency to be prickly rather than overtly friendly. Her bitchy attitude made it so she wasn’t just a martyr figure, attempting to take care of the family whilst no one else cared. Even when her father was alive, she felt that she didn’t fit in their athletically inclined family. She was entirely relatable and awesome.
I loved the relationship between Pete and May. I found it to be fascinatingly normal--they grew up as family friends and enemies until Pete starts showing up more to help their family out after May’s father died. They had good, subtle chemistry and I wanted to see them work it out!
The Key to the Golden Firebird is a great read about grief and coming together as a family. Johnson created a great protagonist in May, along with a believably flawed/entertaining cast of characters surrounding her.

Rating: 4 - good!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Pages: 354
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: Allie lost everything the night her boyfriend, Trip, died in a horrible car accident—including her memory of the event. As their small town mourns his death, Allie is afraid to remember because doing so means delving into what she’s kept hidden for so long: the horrible reality of their abusive relationship.
When the police reopen the investigation, it casts suspicion on Allie and her best friend, Blake, especially as their budding romance raises eyebrows around town. Allie knows she must tell the truth. Can she reach deep enough to remember that night so she can finally break free? Debut writer Jennifer Shaw Wolf takes readers on an emotional ride through the murky waters of love, shame, and, ultimately, forgiveness.

Review:
Jennifer Shaw Wolf’s debut novel was on my Spring TBR list! Since I had only read two books on that list (I have trouble when my reading habits are expected to follow some sort of structure) I decided to revisit it before summer made itself known.
Allie is broken after a car accident scarred her and killed her boyfriend, Trip. What’s worse is that Allie isn’t entirely sorry Trip is gone--their abusive, controlling relationship was wearing on her life. The new investigator in town begins to suspect that something is up with the accident when Allie begins seeing her best friend and the town delinquent, Blake. Allie has to work through her hidden memories in order to solve the mystery of why Trip is dead and who she can truly trust in her life.
Breaking Beautiful falls under the increasingly popular “amnesia girl” books, in which the protagonist cannot remember past events that affect her current situation. Throughout the book, she must attempt to remember, usually resulting in bits and pieces of the whole story being unraveled to the reader. This was perfect for the mystery of Breaking Beautiful. Allie has little idea as to where Trip’s body is and why he’s missing/presumed dead. I read through this one really fast because I wanted to figure out who was responsible for the couple’s accident. Even though I didn’t buy into the misdirection (or red herring, if we’re going with true mystery speak), I couldn’t figure out who was responsible until I was told. Well done, JSW!
My issue with this one is that the drama stretched a tiny bit too far. The antagonistic characters were too one-dimensional-evil for my taste. There was absolutely nothing redeemable about Trip or his father to make them well rounded characters. They seemed like soap opera and silent film villains--not really humanized at all. The bad was very black and white when it comes to these people. While abuse is a very black and white issue--it’s straight up bad and shouldn’t be happening--people in real life are rarely so. For this reason, I found the mystery to be a stronger aspect in the story than the character study.
Jennifer Shaw Wolf’s Breaking Beautiful is a mystery-driven story with a darkly human twist. While I thought that the characterization needed some work, the mystery was well-plotted and kept me reading quickly!

Rating: 3.5 - fair/good.




Waiting On Wednesday (21)

Venom by Fiona Paul

Cassandra Caravello is one of Renaissance Venice’s lucky elite: with elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, her own lady’s maid, and a wealthy fiancĂ©, she has everything a girl could desire. Yet ever since her parents’ death, Cassandra has felt trapped, alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape.
When Cass stumbles upon a murdered woman—practically in her own backyard—she’s drawn into a dangerous world of courtesans, killers, and secret societies. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a mysterious artist with a mischievous grin... and a spectacular skill for trouble. Can Cassandra find the murderer, before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiancĂ©, or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?
Beauty, love, romance, and mystery weave together in a stunning novel that’s as seductive and surprising as the city of Venice itself.

Release date: October 30, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

This is SO Not Happening by Kieran Scott

DO NOT READ THIS UNLESS YOU HAVE READ THE FIRST TWO BOOKS IN THE SERIES. SPOILERS ALL UP IN HERE FOR SHE’S SO DEAD TO US AND HE’S SO NOT WORTH IT.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Pages: 320
Series or Stand Alone: Book 3 in the She’s So/He’s So trilogy
Summary: After their long summer apart, Ally and Jake were hoping for a drama free senior year. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like things will work out that way...again. — It turns out that Chloe is pregnant and says that Jake is the father. Hammond is pissed at his best friend, but mostly can't believe that Ally would stay with Jake. But Ally is tired of being apart from Jake and is willing to make it work. But that is easier said than done when Jake starts blowing Ally off to go to doctor's appointments with Chloe and Ally joins the school play and meets a new cute guy.
But as graduation approaches, things get more complicated as new secrets come out and Ally realizes maybe Jake isn't the guy she thought he was. After everything they've been through can Ally and Jake get out of Orchard Hill with their relationship intact?

Review:
I’ve been waiting for the conclusion to Kieran Scott’s contemporary teen drama series since I read them last October/November! I ordered it as soon as it was listed in the library system.
This is SO Not Happening starts where the last one left off--Jake in the midst of getting the crap beat out of him by Hammond, who just told Jake that he knocked up Chloe. HIGH DRAMA! The gist of the book is that Jake has to deal with the whole Chloe-having-a-baby thing, while Ally has to deal with sharing Jake with the mother of his baby--if it’s actually his baby (dun dun DUUUUUN). It sounds ver soap opera-y, and I suppose it is, only in a teenager-y way.
This is SO Not Happening provides the closing chapter in the story of the Cresties and the Norms. I enjoyed seeing how the friendships came full circle from Ally’s less than welcome return in the first book. Reading about when all the girls come together, then everyone comes back together by the end was reminiscent of the end of a Gossip Girl season, when the original four best friends work together to help someone or pull a scam over on the villain of the moment. Kieran Scott really captured the comings and goings of tumultuous friendships that can occur during high school well with this series.
I would have liked to see a bit more about the other characters not directly involved in the Chloe-Jake-Ally-Hammond drama. Shannen, who is probably my favorite character in these stories, was demoted to a plot device rather than a character that has her own storyline going on. She became the friend that shed light on the situation for Jake. In the first two, Shannen was a decently big character, but by the third the pregnancy storyline and Jake and Ally’s relationship overtook other issues previously involved in the story.
Kieran Scott’s This is SO Not Happening was a satisfying conclusion to the She’s So/He’s So trilogy. I enjoyed these contemporary teen dramas, but I’m happy that their stories have come to a close. I like that she had them conclude with high school graduations and not go into an unrealistic vision of a communal college experience (ah, the downfall of a lot of teen television shows).



Rating: 3.5/4 - good

Monday, June 25, 2012

In My Mailbox (25)

LIBRARY:
Underworld by Meg Cabot
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
If I Stay by Gayle Forman

KINDLE:
Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper
The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver
Evermore by Alyson Noel
Hereafter by Tara Hudson

IMM is hosted by The Story Siren

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti

Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Pages: 268
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: Best friends Lani and Erin couldn't be more different. Lani's reserved and thoughtful; Erin's bubbly and outgoing. Lani likes to do her own thing; Erin prefers an entourage. There's no possible way they could be interested in the same guy.
So when Erin starts dating Jason, Lani can't believe she feels such a deep connection with him--and it may be mutual. The more Lani fights it, the more certain she feels that it's her fate to be with Jason. But what do you do when the love of your life is the one person you can't have?

Review:
I used to think that I wouldn’t enjoy a book about someone who goes after their best friend’s boyfriend. I assumed that any character in that position would try to justify it with lame excuses and half-apologies. After I read Lauren Barnholdt’s Sometimes It Happens, I saw that this wasn’t true--Hannah was a great character and the story was crafted so that the situation was complicated. She never provided a lame excuse. She knew what she did and she knew it was wrong--but she also stuck to her convictions. Anyway, since I enjoyed that book and am interested in reading Melissa Walker’s Unbreak My Heart, I figured I’d give this one a try, despite my loathing of the cover.
Lani and Erin are best friends that are clearly growing apart. Erin spends her time with a big group of friends doing service projects, whereas Lani spends all of her time with either Erin or her in-the-closet friend Blake. When Erin starts dating Jason, Lani suddenly begins thinking they might have more in common.
Unfortunately, I do not have the same good feelings for this book as I did for Sometimes It Happens. I prefer these types of books to know what they are. This one started off with Lani claiming that she could NEVER even like the same person as Erin, a conviction which falls to pieces as soon as Blake tells her she should be interested in Jason. I need my book to be more self-actualized than that.
There was not all that much to the plot of this one, but it’s clearly more of a character study so that’s fine. However, I couldn’t stand Lani. Lani was a judgmental environmental activist with an obsession with fate and astrology. I felt like she explained her incredibly selfish behavior by invoking fate, which is crap. I don’t care what you think your cosmic plan is, your actions are your own and you have to take responsibility for them.
While I didn’t really enjoy Lani from the beginning, I knew that I was done with her when she said the following quote: “This is too much. It’s like we don’t even have a choice about being together. Fate decided this for us a long time ago.” (139) Ahem, no. If it’s one thing I cannot abide by, it is people and characters that claim they have no choice in their behavior. If a friend said this to me, I’d tell her that she was full of it.
The good thing about this book was that it did attempt to have more than one plot thread--the B-plot involving Blake and his verbally abusive dad was far more interesting and tolerable than Lani’s woes over dating her best friend’s ex-boyfriend. Blake, you should have been the narrator of this book. You’re a better character than Lani was and I’d like to hear about this from your point of view.

Rating: 2 - meh.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (20)

Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr

(from goodreads)
In a city of daimons, the Carnival of Souls hosts a deadly competition. Once in a generation, every citizen can fight to join the ruling elite. Without the competition, Aya and Kaleb would both face bleak futures—if for different reasons. For each of them, fighting to the death is the only way to try to live.
In our own world, Mallory knows that her father—and every other witch—fled the daimons’ city long ago. She trains to be lethal because it’s only a matter of time until the daimons catch up with them.
While Mallory possesses little knowledge of The City, every inhabitant of The City knows of her. There are plans there for Mallory, and soon she, too, will be drawn into the decadence that is the Carnival of Souls.
From Melissa Marr, bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely series, comes a brand-new tale of secrets, love, and the struggle to forge one’s own destiny.

Release date: September 4, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (23)

Top Ten Books on My Summer To Be Read List!
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Two Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
In Honor by Jessi Kirby
Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown
A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger
Ferocity Summer by Alissa Grosso

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish