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I read, I write, and I majored in German and Muggle Studies. my favorite genres are historical fiction, science fiction, and fantasy. Lookout for reviews of the YA and MG persuasions!

Review: The Tyrant's Daughter Commands Attention

The Tyrant's Daughter - J.C. Carleson

 

Fifteen-year-old Laila finds herself beginning a new life in the United States after her family is deposed from its position of power and influence.

 

Normally I am not that interested in reading contemporary YA, but this book hooked me right from the start. How many of us felt alienated and alone during our high school experiences? Yet it cannot compare to Laila’s story. She is, if nothing, a realist, and her determination to survive in the strange, new world of the United States is both genuine and inspiring. Not to mention, the book is prescient considering current events and politics.

 

As a protagonist  and narrator Laila shines. She is intelligent and committed to her family, not to mention her sense of what is right and what is wrong. She might name herself "the Invisible Queen," but Laila springs right from the pages.

 

The secondary characters in the book, mainly Emmy, and Ian, are interesting reflections of American culture that will probably prompt knowing nods from those of us who have ever experienced high school. Laila's little brother Bastien, the would-be-king of their country, is as innocent a little monarch as there ever was, while Laila's crafty mother is at times both a manipulative villain and caring, worried defender. Amir, an ex-pat from Laila's home country, is mysterious and brooding, but ultimately just as committed to his family as Laila's.

 

Tyrant's Daughter offers us an intriguing alternative to "princess" books. Laila's country was not ruled with a just or merciful hand, and she feels responsible and endeavors to correct this error. She ventures involuntarily past the castle walls, so to speak, and makes her mark.

 

Laila's narration moves quickly, and does not linger too long in any one place; the book’s tone hovers somewhere between conversational, confessional, and poignant.

 

This book would appeal to fans of Meg Cabot who want a slightly darker read, or to readers interested in reading fiction concerning the Arab Spring.

 

**Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Children's for providing an e-copy of this book in exchange for honest feedback. **

WOW.

The Tyrant's Daughter - J.C. Carleson

This book has got me hooked.

I was almost late to work!

Review: The Pentrals--A Thought-Provoking Reflection

The Pentrals - Crystal Mack


After staring at the artistic and alluring cover, the concept of this story was what really caught my attention. A book narrated by a shadow? I was intrigued.

Antares spends her days mimicking her charge’s movements with all the precision and fluidity of an artist--she is a shadow, bound to her task as a form of punishment. Both part of, and not part of Violet’s life, she witnesses  the tragedies that have prompted Violet’s downward spiral. But in one moment, their situations are reversed, and worlds collide.

The more I thought about Antares’ situation, though, the more horrified I became. What must it be like, I thought, to watch somebody constantly, to be there whether you like it, or not, and watch them slowly wither away? Admittedly the pacing and plot were at times slow, but the emotional grip that spawned in my imagination kept me reading.

The book has an interesting take on its dealings with image and human character. These days, with so much of our lives scattered about in cyberspace, we really do walk a fine line. Are we really in control of how others see us?

For me the plot became predictably dystopian, but I still enjoyed the concept presented in the story very much, and I will be eagerly awaiting the sequel in the series. There is a whole lot to the world that Ms. Mack wrote into this book that will (I hope!) be explained in the second volume.

Teen readers who enjoy books with hints of magical realism, or light science fiction would probably enjoy the story; there is plenty within the pages about friendship and its meaning, not to mention the imaginative atmosphere.

**note: Thank you to Apologue Entertainment and Netgalley for providing me with a copy for review purposes.



SPOILER ALERT!

Review: Totem

Totem - Jennifer Maruno

In Totem, an orphaned boy who has known nothing but the school he resides in finds himself transported through time and culture in the Pacific Northwest.

 

I wanted to be excited about the characters and the setting. But right from the start, I was very, very confused about the time period and plotting machinations. This could very well stem from my ignorance of the regional history, but then again, the target audience would be relatively ignorant of it, too, unless this book is perhaps somehow meant to accompany curriculum. From the mention of the motorboat, I deduced that the present parts of the story happened following the advent of the internal combustion  engine, and that was about it.

 

There were other small details that had me very puzzled. I thought wolves have yellow eyes, for example?

 

I waited pages and pages for the main character, Jonny Joe, to solidify, but he never did. The adventure in the story never really appeared--it seemed to peek its head around the corner when the boys initially escaped, but after that, I was really very bored. The lack of explanations at crucial points also hindered my appreciation and understanding of Jonny's journey.

 

**note: thank you to Dundurn and Netgally for providing me with a copy for review.

 

 

flying through one page to the next!

The Mark of the Dragonfly - Jaleigh Johnson

I wished a few weeks ago that I would find an exciting fantasy that made me recall my joy of reading Tamora Pierce... And the world-building and characters in this book have really shone!

 

Needless to say, starting a book with a meteor shower is one way to capture my attention!

SPOILER ALERT!

Review: The Plagues of Kondar

The Plagues of Kondar - Lynne Kositsky

{note: this review contains several small spoilers}

 

This science fiction story follows young Arien's story after a devastating accident completely upturns her way of life. Blindsided by a neighbor's betrayal, she must come to terms with a new way of life and all the challenges that come along with it.


Arien, a young woman roughly fifteen years old, narrates the story from first person. She makes for a convincing narrator who grows throughout the story. She is genuine and tough, not to mention selfless and admirable in times of great trial.


Arien's world, though, left me perplexed. The first few chapters were peppered with quite a few new words that distracted from the story as opposed to pulling me into it. I found myself confused by the world presented--I never felt as if there was enough information for me to picture it all clearly.


While the pace  eventually quickened to a lively trot, I found the plot to be relatively predictable, and there were quite a few questions I had that were not really addressed. Arien’s telepathy was mysterious, as was her father’s before her, but did it run in their blood? Were they chosen for some reason? I was unsure. The concept of different colored blood based on ancestors was intriguing, but the story of their ancestors’ origins was left out altogether. I had hoped to be immersed in the unique setting of the Planet Kondar, but I was not entirely convinced.


That being said, a reader looking for a quick, light science fiction read featuring a strong, spirited, and determined heroine would definitely enjoy the read.

 

**note: Thank you to Dundurn and Netgalley for providing a copy for review!

Between Shades of Gray film--is this really going to happen?

Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys

Because if so... Wow.

Siberia: A Novel - Ann Halam

I don’t make a habit of putting books down after picking them up. It bothers me to leave a book unfinished, but this particular book became so tedious that I had to stop.

The reader wants for answers, and badly. More than halfway through the book I still don’t have any to speak of. The main character isn’t very likable, and neither is anybody else in the story. The world-building was bizarre -- I  faltered to make sense of it and piece together the implications. The plot is meandering and slow. By the time I reached a segment with significant action, I found that I had ceased to care about the main character’s fate.

After wrestling with the frustrating world-building and faint plot for several hours, I gave up altogether.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore - Robin Sloan

Don’t we all wish that we could happen to walk by a bookstore and get a job working inside?

I enjoyed this book immensely. It’s been quite a while since I read anything in the “straight-up literary fiction” area, and boy am I glad I took a temporary detour from fantasy. I've been meaning to pick this one up for ages.The plot was delightful without being merely quirky, and the pace was lively enough to keep my interest steady throughout.

Another plus? It’s a blended appreciation of what’s new and what’s old, and I think that sometimes we can become too preoccupied with praising one to the detriment of the other.

It’s a fantastic read for a book lover, and should appeal to the inherent curiosity in all of us.

Out of The Easy - Ruta Sepetys The Knife of Never Letting Go  - Patrick Ness The Opposite of Hallelujah - Anna Jarzab

my three favorite reads of 2013

It's time for an obligatory, late "end of year" post!

 

The three books I enjoyed the most this year are all in the YA category-- Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, and of course, The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab. Three completely different genres, but all for the YA/MG audience.

 

The first rests squarely in the historical fiction category. I've never been to New Orleans, and I certainly have never been to the 1950s, but Ruta Sepetys recreated the atmosphere in a really enchanting way--and the story was poignant as well.

 

The second title orbits the speculative/sci-f-/dystopian category, and in this case, I fell in love with the narrator's distinctive voice. It was sharp, it was vivid, and it might as well have been fueled by liquid hydrogen--not to mention that the plot was fascinating!

 

Normally I don't pick up many contemporary YA titles, but The Opposite of Hallelujah really grabbed me. It wrestles with a subject that many teen books go out of their way to avoid--religion--in such a heartfelt and intelligent way that I was suitably impressed. Not only that, but the family within the pages was nearly a living, breathing organism itself.

 

What am I looking forward to this year?

I want to read a really gripping YA fantasy that recalls my excitement at picking up a new Tamora Pierce book at my school's library. If only!

 

new science-fiction, fantasy and horror imprint

Interesting!

 

Especially the note about "for YA readers and above"--does this mean it will include New Adult titles? Previously in the article it mentions "for all ages"--hmm.

DELIA'S SHADOW -- A Captivating Read Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt

Delia's Shadow - Jaime Lee Moyer

 

It's been nine years since the 1906 quake in San Francisco. Delia has been plagued by something more than just the pain of losing her loved ones--a ghost she nicknamed Shadow follows in her wake and grows only stronger as Delia returns to her hometown of the City by the Bay. There, she finds her good and energetic friend, Sadie, preparing for her wedding while tending to her ill and dying mother even as she hatches matchmaking scheme between her fiancé's partner, Gabriel, and troubled Delia. But Shadow has been acting up. The two detectives are entangled in a horrifying case of a serial killer who threatens to murder during the festivities and splendor of the Panama and Pacific Exposition--and even worse--puts those who Gabriel and partner Jack have come to love most in danger.

 

The main cast of characters are likable and charming. Delia endeavors to be strong, despite her loss and fear of the spirits that haunt her. Her friend Sadie, far from being a beautiful fool, is a dutiful, caring daughter and friend who tries her utmost to make those about her happy. Gabriel does brood somewhat, but given his work it is not difficult to understand why, and his lonesome nature can be traced back to his own tragic loss of years before.

 

The setting and chosen time drew me in. Delia's Shadow proves that a story set in the twentieth century's formative years does not necessarily have to be set in England to be interesting. The fair of 1915 provides an alluring backdrop for the additions of seances, ghastly spirits, and suspense.

 

The plot progresses at a steady pace, although I felt as though certain cogs were very easy to predict, and the reveal of the criminal responsible for the grisly crimes did not seem as climactic as I thought I would be. However, the growing love between Gabriel was sweet to read, while the descriptions of San Francisco were enchanting. Ms. Moyer recreates a very tangible world for the reader to enjoy.

 

This book would appeal to older teens who enjoy historical mysteries, especially ones with a paranormal twist to them. Fans of the show Downton Abbey might like it as well, or readers with a particular interest in the American Edwardians.

 

I hope to see a sequel from Ms. Moyer hit the shelves soon!

 

note: I recieved a digital copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for honest feedback.

 

THE TALE OF MALLY BIDDLE -- An Endearing Tale

The Tale of Mally Biddle - M.L. LeGette

 

Young Mally Biddle's adventurous foray into the world outside her town is both charming and sweet. While the story itself is predictable, the cast of characters are lovable enough to make up for it.

 

The Kingdom of Lenzar suffers from a plague of knights who amuse themselves by terrorizing its citizens. Things were not always this way--but the tragic deaths of the royal family years before ensured that more sad events would come to pass. A group of angry and righteous citizens decide in their desperation to discover what they can about the death of the infant princess--and so young peasant Mally Biddle becomes a servant in the tricky, dangerous Bosc Castle.

 

Mally is an enchanting protagonist--she makes mistakes, she often makes decisions based upon her emotions and impulse instead of logic, and she has a good head for what is right and what is wrong. Her spunk and quirkiness aren't too much--they're just right. The other protagonists in the books aren't quite as developed as Mally, but they are still interesting enough to keep the reader focused on the book.

 

There seem to be long stretches in the narrative where there isn't much action, but the other little mysteries kept me reading.

 

That being said, there are a few things that could have made the story stronger. There is a Christmas celebration in the book, but no mention of any of the characters ever attending a church or service. I felt as though the ends tied up a little too quickly and neatly at the end of the book (although the story has a fairy-tale like feel, it was still too quick of an ending). Seeing as how Bosc was in trouble internally with the horrible behavior of the knights, I wondered about the other kingdoms--any at all--and wished for some inclusion of a foreign element in the book.

 

This book would appeal to middle grade readers who love tales of castles, princesses, and or fairy tales. The plot might be a little too simplistic for older teens who favor stories with a little more heft and detail. But overall, The Tale of Mally Biddle is an innocent, fun read--the perfect sort of read on a rainy day with a cup of cocoa nearby.

 

•note: I recieved an e-copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for honest feedback.

 

a book horror story, in pictures.

when you see this wonderful, happy thing:

 

 

and find this:

 

the story has a happy ending, as amazon has sent me a new copy.

but.

it will take days to arrive.

DAYS.

 

there's nothing like a book swap between friends.

The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking #2) - Patrick Ness The Knife of Never Letting Go  - Patrick Ness Monsters of Men: Chaos Walking: Book Three - Patrick Ness

just finished chaos walking--and had to celebrate with my favorite character--

angharrad.

Currently reading

Incarnate
Jodi Meadows
Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary
J.R.R. Tolkien
Progress: 168/425 pages