Thursday, January 31, 2013

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis Review

Title: Enchanted
Author: Alethea Kontis
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Woodcutters, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: A modern fairy tale that pays homage to the old ones, Enchanted is a story of love and magic that will entertain fantasy fans, as well as those who love fairy tale reinterpretations.

Sunday Woodcutter is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, a dreamer who loves to escape to the Wood to write tales. The catch? Whatever she seems to write, if it hasn't already happened, happens to come true. One day in her solitude she meets a frog named Grumble, who listens to the story of her family--her parents, sisters, and desire to not be 'cursed with a happy life'. Meeting this frog changes her life forever.

What I enjoyed:
-Sunday--she was my favorite character in the whole novel
-The small homages to different fairy tales
-Sunday's eccentric, but loving family
-Grumble
-the author's writing style, which reminds me of fairy tales--I felt like a child again, reading this modern fairy tale
-the constant surprises and secrets, revealed at a good pace
-the use of fairy magic throughout the novel
-the intimate descriptions of Sunday's sisters
-Velius
-the medieval setting

What I didn't like:
-The seemingly constant references to fairy tales all in the same story

Overall, I really enjoyed this story and anyone looking for a modern fairy tale with nods to the classics will love it, as well as fans of spunky, sweet heroine.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson Review

Title: Tiger Lily
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: A lush, gorgeous retelling of Peter Pan, Tiger Lily is a sweet, sad story that is perfect for romance fans, as well as fans of fairy tale retellings.

Tiger Lily is a sort of unofficial prequel to Peter Pan, telling a version of what happened in Neverland before Wendy came along. It was a sweet, tender reimagining of the obscure character Tiger Lily, a young Native American woman who I had only seen in glimpses in the Disney movie.

What I enjoyed:
-the author's reinterpretation of Peter, Wendy, the Lost Boys, and all the other characters, especially Tinker Bell and Tiger Lily herself
-Tinker Bell's narration of the story, which made it more authentic to me
-The author's fill-in in the holes of the Disney movie
-Tik Tok
-Pine Sap
-the crows
-the way the natives interacted with one another, and the pirates
-The ending, bittersweet and beautiful

What I didn't enjoy:
-Maeryn
-the depiction of the mermaids
-the depiction of most of the creatures in Neverland
-the length of the book, it was relatively small and I would've liked something more

I really enjoyed this novel, though it was somewhat flawed at points--I would recommend this to anyone who loves the timeless story of Peter Pan, as well as anyone who loves their fairy tales with a bright new spin on them.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Announcement.

I started school a few weeks ago, guys, so reviews will most likely be slower than usual. (I'm sorry it's been so slow! Really!) And my forthcoming review, if all goes well, will be Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin Review

Title: The Evolution of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror/Thriller/Mystery
Series: Mara Dyer, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: Packing even more of a punch than the first, The Evolution of Mara Dyer is frightening, thrilling, and one hell of a book.

Mara Dyer is now in a mental institution, as a result of being perceived as mentally unstable. Reluctantly, Mara begins to 'heal'--in other words, lying about what she knows to be true--in order to come home and solve the mystery from the last book, as well as unraveling new secrets about herself, Noah, and others around her. As the book goes on, Hodkin keeps pulling punches, at times sending me grasping for answers. (There were moments in the book where I was in such shock and rage I found myself yelling--literally yelling--to my husband.)

What I liked:
-The further exploration of Mara and Noah's heritages
-The constant surprises--I felt like every time I learned some new information, it hardly mattered, because I was reeling from the next revelation!
-Jude
-Noah's changes throughout the book, and his consistency to stay with Mara
-Mara's family, particularly her mother and brother Daniel in particular
-The way the author kept ratcheting up the fear, prompting me to put it down a couple times
-The surprising, scary ending--I cannot wait for the final book!

What I didn't like:
There was actually very little that I didn't enjoy. The only flaw would have to be the pacing--it went a little fast at times, but I loved it so much! If you guys love mysteries and thrillers, check out The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. It is worth it, and prepare to be scared!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde: A True Story by Rebecca Dana Review (Possible Spoilers)

Title: Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde: A True Story
Author: Rebecca Dana
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: I liked this book about personal faith and enlightenment, and though I laughed and lerned a lot, I still feel like there was something missing in the book.
I received this book from Goodreads as an advance readers copy and finished it last night. I'm still kind of ambivalent about it. Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde: A True Story tells the story of two intertwined lives: that of the author, Rebecca, who has lost her faith in the one thing she believes in, New York and all its promises, and Cosmo, a thirty year old rabbi who has lost his religion, and his sense of self. The book begins with the author explaining her hope to leave Pennsylvania and start a new life in New York City, becoming a sophisticated young woman who has everything she's ever wanted. However, when her whole life starts to fall apart, she moves in with Cosmo, and slowly the two begin to become friends, Rebecca eventually starting to delve into her Jewish heritage, even as the hilarious, mysterious Cosmo begins to move away from it.

What I liked:
-Cosmo, and his craziness (I can't imagine living with him!)
-Rebecca at spots, and how she goes on a search for the meaning of life, even looking deeper into her Jewish identity to do so
-The way I learned about Jewish culture from them both
-Rebecca's motley assortment of friends throughout her journey
-Cosmo saying that being Jewish isn't all that defines him anymore
-Rebecca's descriptions of all the places she went
-The ending and how Rebecca felt satisfied with doing something good and something meaningful, even if that isn't all she does

What I didn't like:
-The way Rebecca seemed to be in despair throughout half the book and it seemed to me she didn't do a thing about it
-Vera
-Chad
-The description of violence in Brooklyn
-Rebecca's irrational thought that she was going to be raped or assaulted on the way home from work

Overall, I enjoyed the book--it was a funny, enlightening journey into finding faith and being loved

Monday, January 14, 2013

Born at Midnight by C.C. Hunter Review

Title: Born at Midnight
Author: C. C. Hunter
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Shadow Falls, book one
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: I didn't like this novel much. I feel like the unique concept was bogged down by a whiny protagonist and a cliched love triangle.

Kylie Galen is a girl up to her eyeballs in trouble. Dealing with the loss of her nana, her ex-boyfriend, and her parents' marriage, she is caught at a party where drugs and alcohol are flowing freely, resulting in her mother sending her to Shadow Falls summer camp, where she learns the secrets of her true self, as well as finding love and friendship.

What I liked:
-The Lucas/Derek deal, and how different the boys were from one another
-Della, Miranda, and Holiday
-Kylie's strange abilities
-The surprise ending
-Lucas's past and how it related to him as a character
 -Miranda's personal issue

What I didn't like:
-Kylie's thoughts and how they were always on a constant loop, as well as her being incredibly whiny for most of the novel
-Kylie's parents
-Fredericka
-Perry
-Burnett for the most part
-The vampire gang
-The way Kylie kept repeating herself with phrases (e.g., 'And damn if it didn't'..)

If you guys can get past Kylie's whiny personality, the mystery itself is worthwhile. But for me to read further into the series, Kylie for me, personally, would have to grow up a little.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Rise by Andrea Cremer Review

Title: Rise
Author: Andrea Cremer
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Rift, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: The second and last Nightshade prequel novel, Rise is even better than the first, offering more action, sensuality, and mystery, as well as an explosive ending.

Rise opens literally the night after Rift ends, with Ember facing the consequences of her choice. As a result, she is led on a frightening, secretive path that proves to test everything Ember stands for. Even more exciting than its predecessor, Rise offers even more information into the origins of Nightshade, as well as a deeper understanding of its characters, particularly Alistair and Eira. (I'm not saying too much because I don't want to give anything away!)

What I liked:
-Deeper understanding in the character of both Eira and Alistair
-The sensuality--how it was necessary to the situation but not overly detailed or graphic
-The way the novel led the reader to the true origins of the Nightshade lore, and the way the reader sees it unfold
-The villain Bosque Mar (I thought he was frightening in the last novel!)
-Rhys
-Agnes and her fate
-Bosque Mar's strange powers
-Cian
-The surprising, explosive ending


What I didn't like:
-Alistair's contradictory manner
-Eira's sudden rise to power and the cowards that so swiftly joined her
-The way Agnes's sister was treated at the beginning of the novel
-The way Ember was sent so suddenly back into the lion's den
-The parts in the catacombs

Overall, despite the few flaws, I really enjoyed the last book in the prequel series as well as Nightshade and its sequels. If you guys like werewolves, magic, war, and strong heroines, go to the library and snag a copy of the first of either series!

Rift by Andrea Cremer Review

Title: Rift
Author: Andrea Cremer
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Rift, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: Rift offers Nightshade fans the opportunity to witness the defection that causes the War of All Against All, in the front row, and the bonus is that it's loosely tied, so it can stand alone!

Rift begins with Ember Morrow chafing against the conventional life offered to a woman of her station: weaving and other household chores until she is married off to one of her father's friends of noble bearing. But that all changes when her best friend Alistair comes to fetch her to serve the mysterious order of Conatus. Thrust into a world full of romance, intrigue, danger and secrets, Ember finds she must make a terrifying choice.

What I liked:
-Eira and Bosque Mar
-Ember and her fierce independence, as well as the way she grows throughout the novel
-Ember's weapons
-Barrow and most of the other knights in the Order
-The choice the initiates are offered
-Cian
-The terrifying creatures at Mar's employ

What I didn't like:
-Alistair and his actions
-Eira's slow abandon of her convictions
-The cliffhanger ending
-Agnes's secret--I wonder if we'll see the reason for it in Rise?
-Barrow's hot and cold behavior

If any of you loved Nightshade, you should check Rift out, it was awesome and kept me on the edge of my seat! (The second novel, Rise, just came out and I'm going to be reviewing that next!)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Gone by Michael Grant Review

Title: Gone
Author: Michael Grant
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Series: Gone, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: Though a little bit slow at first, the first book in a new dystopian series is disturbing, thought-provoking, and full of action and surprises.

Gone opens with a frightening premise: Every adult and older teen in the world is gone, and a barrier has formed around the town of Peridio Beach, leaving every child under fifteen to fend for themselves. As a result, animals and the kids themselves begin to mutate, forming a rift between kids with mutations and without. Bullies rule and chaos reigns.

What I liked:
-Caine, the villain, and Diana
-Sam, and his initial reluctance to lead and become a hero, and most of his friends
-The hidden connections between the kids
-The way, though everything seemed a bit random at first, it tied together gradually
-Astrid and Little Petey
-The cliffhanger ending
-The power ranking system
-The way it revealed the way kids can act under pressure--the way only younger children are left behind
-The way Orc redeemed himself later

What I didn't like:
-Drake
-The way it took almost one hundred and twenty pages for things to come together coherently
-Most of Caine's goonies, with the exception of Computer Jack
-Connie Temple's lies
-The way it didn't mention Sam's father at all, except to say he was out of the picture
-The way Caine went from a powerful leader to a whining child and back again, towards the end of the novel
-Quinn, Sam's best friend, and his shifting loyalties
-The creepy coyotes

If you guys can get past the first part, which seemed kind of sluggish to me, it's worth it, especially if you enjoy dystopian novels, surprise endings, superpowers, creepy villains, and secrets.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin Review

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Mara Dyer, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: Frightening, sweet, and totally shocking, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer had me madly turning pages, desperate to solve its puzzle.

Mara Dyer is a girl who doesn't know what's happening to her. She's seeing things, hearing voices that aren't there, and she is lost, haunted by the memory that she killed her friends, Claire, Jude, and Rachel. After the reader learns this, they journey with Mara through the terrifying mystery that is her accident, and her past, all the while trying to navigate a new school and crush.

What I liked:
-Mara's name, which means bitterness in Hebrew
-Mara's constant dirty language
-Mara's younger brother Joseph
-Noah Shaw, a mysterious boy who seems to know more about Mara than he lets on
-Jamie Roth, Mara's first friend, the black bisexual boy who takes her under his wing
-The pace of the novel and how it seemed to bounce between Mara's normal life and the mystery trying to claw its way out
-The way that one second you emerge from something frightening, only to be plunged in once more in a way you never see coming
-The creepy yet intriguing cover of the novel
-The shocking, scary ending--I can't wait to read The Evolution of Mara Dyer!

What I didn't like:
-Neither of Mara's parents
-Mara's brother, Daniel
-Anna and Aiden
-Noah and Jamie's relationship
-Noah's father

I loved this novel--it kept me on the edge of my seat--and would recommend it to anyone looking for a creepy, spooky diversion. A note, though: This novel is not for the squeamish. Some of it gets scary and more than a little graphic, so read at your own risk!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Selection by Kiera Cass Review

Title: The Selection
Author: Kiera Cass
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Romance
Series: The Selection, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: Though it was slightly predictable, I really enjoyed The Selection, particularly its spunky heroine, America Singer.

America Singer is a Five (the caste system can be explained on the author's website) struggling to keep her secret relationship with a boy in a lower caste under wraps. She reluctantly registers for The Selection, and much to her mother's joy, is picked, along with thirty four other young women. I won't give anything away, but I will list what I did and didn't like, so as to keep spoilers under wraps.

What I liked:
-America, and her commitment to stay true to herself even through the competition
-Maxon, the prince that the thirty-five women compete for
-Oddly enough, the names that were chosen for each of the girls
-America's quirky, lovable family
-America's maids, Anne, Mary, and Lucy
-Marlee and Ashley, two other contestants
-Lady Amberly, Maxon's mother and the queen

What I didn't like:
-Celeste, and how she got to stay in the competition toward the end
-Aspen, both in the beginning and then later--he only redeemed himself in the end for me, and hopefully in The Elite
-Bariel
-The way the contestants themselves were treated, though that could've just been the author creating contrast
-The way that the maids were treated
-Lucy's situation
-Clarkson, Maxon's father, deliberately ignorant of his own country's policies
-The way the girls are kept in the dark during history lessons, hinting at something sinister in the royal family

Overall, I enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to anyone who wants a sort of modern fairy tale with a twist.