Friday, July 29, 2011

Overprotected by Jennifer Laurens

Ashlyn: A lonely society princess living in New York City.
Daddy hired you to be my bodyguard.
Colin: Childhood enemy, now her protector.
Daddy thought I’d be safe. He thought I’d never fall in love. He thought he could keep me forever.
Charles: obsessed with keeping her safe, keeping her his, he hires the one person he knows she could never fall in love with: Colin.
Daddy was wrong.
A kidnapping leaves a father fanatical about his only child’s safety. A story of obsessive love and the quest for independence.

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that the appealing thing about this book should probably be the romance that blossoms between Ashlyn and Colin. However, the thing that stood out the most to me was the dysfunctional family.

There is a manipulative father whose obsession with his daughter’s safety screams creepy. A mother who seems to be along for the ride, constantly trying to be in the spotlight. Then there is Ashlyn, the poor girl, I can’t help but feel sorry for her. With no social life to speak of, it’s no wonder she reads as immature. I’m a bit surprised that she can interact with people outside of her home bubble.

This book is definitely cotton candy (a termed coined by my bookish friend Anna) but it’s cotton candy followed by a sweet tart.

I wasn’t bowled over by Ashlyn and Colin’s romance, actually, I felt as though their past - and her fear of him - was left unresolved. I also didn’t see the romance grow on Colin’s side, granted we only see Ashlyn’s side of the story, but there wasn’t enough proof to show that he was interested. As a matter of fact, she seemed to throw herself at him, numerous times.

I was also confused about Colin’s education. Was he in school? Taking the semester off? Did he finish early but then decided to go back to school for further education? This mattered little to the plot, but I still wondered because it was mentioned here and there.

Regardless of these inconsistencies, Overprotective stretches the imagination a bit with the psychology behind the family. It’s a quick read and if you want some fluff, it’s perfect for that long train/plane ride.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Reborn by Ley Mesina

Lily Westbrook discovers that being half witch and half vampire is more of a challenge than she thought. When her powers mature on her eighteenth birthday, she unlocks a mystery that many witches thought was a legend.
After moving back to her birthplace in Cedar Creek, MA to attend Kensington University, Lily is instantly pulled deeper into the world she was kept from—the world of witches and vampires—uncovering the truth about her past and discovering who she is meant to be. 

There are several things I absolutely loved about this story. Ley Mesina took an old lore and added her own spin. She attempted to retell a story that is very popular at the moment and she almost made it. 
Reborn has a lot of potential. It’s a story of vampires and witches, yet, it’s mainly a retelling of the origin of Nyx - Greek goddess of the night. 
The idea that witches and vampires are on different sides isn’t new, these stories have been around for a long time. The story of the goddess of the night isn’t new either. I liked the way Ley Mesina took those elements and created a slightly different story. 
Lily is a lovable character. Xander and Drew felt a little flat, but I think in time they will be fleshed out. The story moved quickly and while I appreciated the pacing, I wished certain parts were slower and more detailed. Sometimes it felt as though I was reading about a list of events, as opposed to the events themselves. There were also a lot of issues with tenses, I wasn’t sure whether it was the copy I had or if this was the final piece, but the narrative jumped from past to present so much that I was constantly jarred out of the narrative. This book is self-published so I think that some of these issues might be due to not enough editing. If there was a good editor attached to the story, I think it would be great.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I am Tama, Lucky Cat by Wendy Henrichs and Yoshiko Jaeggi

In many Asian restaurants around my city (and probably yours) you will find the Lucky Cat, a figurine of a cat with it’s paw raised in a wave. I’ve always wondered what it was about and my friends would always say that it brings luck. 

I am Tama, Lucky Cat, tells the tale of the Lucky Cat. It is beautifully illustrated and the story itself is sweet and charming. It is based on the Maneki Neko, and illustrates one of the many stories of origin of the sculpture. It is a great way to understand the legend (or at least one of the many legends) behind the familiar icon. 

This is a very quick read for parents and children to read together. I would recommend it for all children, especially as a tool for broadening cultural boundaries.

[review copy from netgalley]

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Children of the Lost Moon by Gabrielle Blue

Seventeen-year-old Savannah Henderson has but one dream - to hold the Olympic gold in saber fencing. A new fencing coach promises to make her Olympic dream a reality. However, he is not what he seems and she finds her life taking a bizarre, dangerous turn as she is thrust headlong into a war between two impossible, mythical species, one bent on destroying the human race, the other determined to protect it. 

The Children of the Lost Moon is a self published book written by two sisters under the alias Gabrielle Blue. 
I really wanted to love this story, it had a lot of elements that I enjoy, but in the end, I felt as though something was missing. 
There’s a gutsy heroine, a strong hero, a fantastical love story and slew of characters that you want to fall in love with. I couldn’t however, because of the continual reminders that pointed me back to a certain vampire novel.
Narrative-wise, there were a few consistency issues - a name swapped here and there; and a few grammatical issues - I’m not a Grammar Fairy so if I spotted them then Grammar Fairies might cringe. 
The main characters were well developed, however, the romance seemed to happen suddenly and out of nowhere. I couldn’t appreciate the pairing as much since more time was not vested in the building of the relationship and their love for each other seemed to depend on the initial attraction. 
I would have liked to see a little more explanation in the resolution of the story. It seemed a lot of time passed between the last chapter and the epilogue and for a moment I thought I was missing a chunk of story. I am hoping that the next book touches on the missing pieces.
Overall I think there is an audience for this story, if you’re a fan of that popular vampire novel then you will like this as it has similar elements. However, if you’re not a fan, you might not appreciate it as much.

[review copy from author]

Monday, July 18, 2011

Witch Song by Amber Argyle

The world is changing. Once, Witch Song controlled everything from the winds to the shifting of the seasons. But not anymore. All the Witches are gone, taken captive by a traitor. All but Brusenna. As the echo of their songs fade, the traitor grows stronger. Now she is coming for Brusenna. Her guardian has sworn to protect her, but even he can’t stop the Dark Witch. Somehow, Brusenna has to succeed where every other Witch has failed. Find the traitor. Fight her. Defeat her. Because if Brusenna doesn’t, there won’t be anything left to save.

Not only does it have a hauntingly beautiful cover, Witch song is also a hauntingly beautiful story.

Amber Argyle has a way with words.

Witch Song is set in a world where the power of a witch is in her voice. Brusenna lives with her mother, Sacra, away from the villagers who taunt her whenever they see her - witchcraft is different, so it is hated.

The first thing I noticed about the narrative is the descriptive way Amber Argyle writes. The world that Brusenna lives in, though similar to ours, is not quite the same. The descriptive way the story was told helped to flesh out Brusenna’s world but still allowed for imagination. 

The next thing I noticed was that magic was different in Brusenna’s world - not the mainstream idea of magic. I thought the world building and magic complimented each other well.

I especially loved Joshen as a character. Brusenna was your usual heroine - unsure yet headstrong, focused and driven, consumed by the task at hand - but Joshen, her Guardian, surprised me from time to time. He was loyal and steadfast, but also caring in a refreshingly, non-creepy way. I enjoyed his character so much that I wanted to invite him over for tea and a chat (in a non-creepy way).

The story was engrossing from the beginning. It was fast-paced and the characters that were introduced were well developed and unique in their own way, thus memorable. I was extremely cautious while reading this book because I had some high expectations going in; Amber delivered on those expectations and then some. I look forward to reading more of her stories.

[review copy from publisher]

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she discovers something she can't resist- books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found.
With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

The Book Thief is based in Germany, during the reign of Hitler. It follows the story of Liesel Meminger and her life on Himmel Street with her foster family. The first thing you’ll notice is that the story is narrated by Death, which - given the setting of the book - seems very fitting.

Another thing you’ll notice is that Death spoils the story for the reader numerous times. In the beginning I was annoyed at the reveals, but once I read further along, I realised that I appreciated the reveals - I can handle only so much sadness.

Death navigates you through the life of Liesel as she moves in with her foster family, befriends her neighbours and of course, steals books. He spins a poignant tale of love and heartache - I found myself wiping my eyes many times. To say that this book is only sadness would not be doing it justice; there is a lot of sadness, but there is also hope and joy with splashes of heartwarming moments, that weave through the narrative, making it easier to suffer along with Liesel. With just the right amount of tension, I think the story of The Book Thief is a great book for all.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

I am Outcast. The kids behind me laugh so loud I know they’re laughing about me. I can’t help myself. I turn around. It’s Rachel, surrounded by a bunch of kids wearing clothes that most definitely did not come from the EastSide Mall. Rachel Briun, my ex-best friend. She stares at something above my left ear. Words climb up my throat. This was the girl who suffered through Brownies with me, who taught me how to swim, who understood about my parents, who didn’t make fun of my bedroom. If there is anyone in the entire galaxy I am dying to tell what really happened, it’s Rachel. My throat burns.

Her eye meet mine for a second. “I hate you,” she mouths silently.

Melinda Sordino’s freshman year is off to a horrible start. She busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, and now her friends - and even strangers - all hate her. Months pass and things aren’t getting better. She’s a pariah. The lowest of the low. Avoided by everyone. But eventually, she’ll reveal what happened at the party. And when she finally speaks the truth, everything will change.

I would never have picked up Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, if it wasn’t for #YASaves. I saw a post on how this book affected someone’s life and my curiosity got the best of me. So while I waited for my train one night, I wandered into a bookstore, picked it up, flipped through and then decided to take it home with me.

I’m very happy I did.

Speak is a voice for the voiceless. As Melinda tells her story I had to stop and listen. The emotions that seeped though the pages hit me like a wreaking ball. Her withdrawal, her fear, her inability to say anything, to speak up for herself; Laurie Halse Anderson did a great job at capturing these emotions in black and white.

I felt the frustration she felt at not being able to tell her use-to-be-best friend what happened. The numbness when she didn’t know how to explain what happened to her to her parents - would they even listen? Melinda whispered in my ears during the day, telling me her story. She spoke to me at night. She haunted my every move until the very end. As tears streamed down my face and the final page was turned, I found myself wanting more of her story.

I’m very happy that I picked up Speak - whether you need a voice, or you need to learn to listen - it’s a book for everyone.