Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This Girl is Different by JJ Johnson

This girl is different… That’s what Evie has always told herself and it s true. Home-schooled by her counter culture mom, she’s decided to see what high school is like for the first time for her senior year. And what a year it is.
As it turns out, it’s not just Evie who’s Different. Lots of people are. Many of her assumptions about others are turned on their heads as she makes friends with kids her own age for the first time, discovers what’s good and what’s bad about high school, and learns lessons about power and its abuse both by the administration and by Evie herself.

Evie meets Rajas and Jacinda while out hiking in the forest. She had a sprained ankle and was waiting around for her mother, whom she refers to as Martha, to figure out she’s missing and pick her up.

You never find out what Rajas and Jacinda were doing in the forest, as a matter of fact, you never visit the scene again. However, do you do learn - from Evie’s first person present narrative - that they both go to the high school that she has enrolled in for her senior year.

The books details the clash of cultures as a homeschooler joins the public school system and sees first hand what public school and peer interaction is like. It details her interaction with her teachers and her clashes with authority - something she seems unaccustomed to since Martha, though her mother, is a bit of a free spirit, and while a fun character to read, she’s not much of an authority figure in Evie’s life than a friend. It raises questions on what happens when personal freedom impinges on the freedoms of another, and there is no responsibility for one’s action.

Evie soon finds out that being a part of something is different than reading or hearing about it, that experience can change perspective. Even though I found the initialization of the conflict to be sudden and a little out of character, I found the story to be a quick and easy read, leaving room for some great discussion points on rights and responsibility.

[review of arc via netgalley]

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Meghan Chase has a secret destiny—one she could never have imagined…
Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan’s life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school…or at home.
When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she’s known is about to change.
But she could never have guessed the truth— that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she’ll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face…and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart. 

The one thing I appreciated about this book was that it did not take very long for Meghan to figure out she was half fey. Afterwards, the story continues in a fast pace as Meghan tries to figure out how to get her brother, Ethan, back to the human world - while picking up a few unlikely friends along the way.

I enjoyed reading in Meghan’s voice, she was a tough female lead who was dedicated to finding and returning her brother to the human world. She gave vivid descriptions of the fey world and its creatures, which is necessary for the world building.

The story moves along quickly, but not so quickly that you can’t take a breath. The characters take on a life of their own and the ending is strong. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of books in this series.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

Freak. That’s what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna’s own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.
When the darkest outcasts of Faerie—the vicious wood elves—abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend—even if it means betraying everything her parents and the alchemist community fought to the death to protect.

I went into this book with a lot of expectations. I read the summary and really wanted to read it. First, I love books about the fey and second I thought a plot dealing with an alchemist secret society would be wonderful. The things is, this book does offer that, it is wonderful in some ways, however, there are ways that it’s a bit dreary and before I sing its praises I will list the dreary.

  1. The narration. For some reason, it seemed as though the narration was written in first person and then, at the last minute, it was re-written in third person. A lot of the description used the words “dude” and “guy”, which I would understand from the point of view of a 16 year old narrator. However, as it was not written in the first person it was a little off putting. 
  2. A lot of things happened quickly. The relationship between Xan and Donna started of sweetly enough, but then became unbelievable, especially given Donna’s reactions to Xan. We hardly got to know him through their dialogue. 
  3. Now this last issue has nothing to do with the way the book was written, it’s just my preference. I’m not a fan of books with love triangles, especially when the protagonist is ignorant of the blatant display of affection by their best friend. Also not a fan when the best friend is constantly around and getting into trouble. 

Putting these issues aside, the plot has a lot of potential, and while I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to, I am interested in reading the sequel.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.
When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause. 

Once I started reading this book, I couldn’t put it down. To be fair, I have a soft spot for period fiction. I love reading about the mannerisms and the social interactions from the past. Seeing how much we’ve changed, but yet not changed has always been fascinating to me, so when I read that the book was based in the 1800s I knew that I was in for a treat. 
The story follows Amelia, who has an odd power to see the future at sunset. Her brother sent her from their home in Maine to live with cousins in Baltimore so she could find a suitable match. However, she ends up falling for a man her brother would not approve of and getting into a lot of mischief along the way. 
Amelia and her cousin, Zora, are quite likable. Their friends are quickly introduced and, with the exception of Sarah and Mattie, we don’t find out a lot about them. It would have been wonderful to read more of their relationship with their friends and acquaintances. However, we do see a lot of Thomas and Nathaniel, as well as the whirlwind romance as the two court their ladies. 
I cannot deny that I wished there were more pages to this book. I love the way Saundra described the period and the way the girls pushed the limits of their time. I loved the interactions and insight into how society worked with its rules and etiquette, as well as the parallels that could be drawn with society today. I loved the paranormal twist to the story and the fast paced ending . The Vespertine was a lovely tale, that left me wanting more. 

[review of arc via netgalley]

Friday, March 11, 2011

So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman

When she disappeared from her rural hometown, Wendy White was a sweet, family-oriented girl, a late bloomer who’d recently moved out on her own, with her first real boyfriend and a job waiting tables at the local tavern. It happens all the time—a woman goes missing, a family mourns, and the case remains unsolved. Stacy Flynn is a reporter looking for her big break. She moved east from Cleveland, a city known for its violent crime, but that’s the last thing she expected to cover in Haeden. This small, upstate New York town counts a dairy farm as its main employer and is home to families who’ve set down roots and never left—people who don’t take kindly to outsiders. Flynn is researching the environmental impact of the dairy, and the way money flows outward like the chemical runoff, eventually poisoning those who live at the edges of its reach.

Something happened to Wendy and the town seems satisfied to ignore it. Everyone, except Stacy Flynn, is willing to go on with their lives. Flynn is the local journalist but an outsider, her story of Wendy’s death causes a chain reaction and Alice is right in the middle.

This murder mystery gripped me right from the beginning. I couldn’t put the book down! There is a lot of questions raised on justice, ethics and the doing things for the good of human kind. It explores prejudices within communities, touches on environmental issues and is so realistic that I won’t be surprised if I picked up the newspaper and read about Wendy White and Alice Piper.

The narrative switches from first to third person and from different view points, so the story is fleshed out by all parties. The insertion of the video and audio interviews from some of the minor characters was a great touch and added an extra layer of reality to the book.

Cara Hoffman did an excellent job in this debut novel.

[review book from publisher]

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Where I belong by Gwendolyn Heasley

Meet Corrinne. She’s living every girl’s dream in New York City—shopping sprees at Barneys, open access to the best clubs and parties, and her own horse at the country club. Her perfect life is perfectly on track. At least it was… .
When Corrinne’s father is laid off, her world suddenly falls apart. Instead of heading to boarding school, she’s stripped of her credit cards and shipped off to the boonies of Texas to live with her grandparents. On her own in a big public school and forced to take a job shoveling manure, Corrinne is determined to get back to the life she’s supposed to be living. She doesn’t care who she stomps on in the process. But when Corrinne makes an unlikely friend and discovers a total hottie at work, she begins to wonder if her life B.R.—before the recession—was as perfect as it seemed. 

Corrinne is spoilt. You can tell from the first chapter that she has a very shallow personality, so much so that I didn’t enjoy reading her narration. I think this is what Gwendolyn Heasley was going for - especially based on the prologue - and she achieved it brilliantly.

While in Texas Corrine gradually starts to change, she is influences by the people around her and she slowly becomes a different person for the experience. Of course, there are a few anecdotes along the way.

This was a quick read and a feel good book. I wished we had a bit more time for character interaction towards the end, however, things wrapped up neatly with a little bit left for the imagination. I’d suggest this book on a rainy day.