Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Sweetness of Salt

The Sweetness of Salt by Cecilia Galante

The Sweetness of Salt is such a beautiful and real story, one without the teenage melodrama common in current YA fiction. Galante captures the essence of the family's struggle, giving it depth and importance without making it into a cliche. I loved the simplicity of this story, and especially how real these characters were. I would love to meet them sometime, stopping by the bakery for a cake and a chat. Simply lovely.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Girl Who Chased the Moon

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

I love this book and found it one of the most lovely works I've read in awhile. (Well, months. I've stumbled upon some excellent books lately.)

Allen's books all have that feeling of coming home. They offer beauty and gentleness, told with gorgeously evocative language. While I fell in love with Garden Spells first, and it probably remains my first love among her stories, this is a neck-in-neck second place winner.

Sarah writes the kind of stories I want to write, so I gladly look up to her as an excellent example of effortless and exemplary writing. While her books won't likely win major awards, they offer something more: heartfelt tales and characters and lives that stay with you long after the book closes.

Now I'm just anxious for her next to come out. Spring seems a long way off . . .

The Search for WondLa

The Search for WondLa (WondLa, #1)

The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi

I wish I had better things to say about this book. Of course the illustrations are gorgeous, but writing is not Mr. DiTerlizzi's strength. I imagine Spiderwick worked so well is because someone else wrote the story and he illustrated it.

I wish someone had taken a red pen to about 3/4 of the adjectives he used. The descriptions were so incredibly detailed, with sometimes two or three adjectives, the story takes much too long to tell. Sadly, I think his fame hurt him in this case because it was accepted for publication much too early. If a lot more work had been put into the language of the story, it might have been an incredible book. 

The only thing that (might) entice me to finish is the gorgeousness of the illustrations. If I do keep plugging away, I'll most likely skim the text and enjoy the illustrations. It's very disappointing.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sisters Red

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

I'm really torn on what I think about this book, which is often the hallmark of a good book: it makes you ponder what and how you feel about the characters and plot. The reason I give it 3 stars is because of several weaknesses in the characterization of Scarlett, but many of them could be easily overlooked by someone who really enjoys the story.The sisters' bond actually creeps me out. I read several reviews where it was mentioned that the relationship between the sisters was great and beautiful. I saw it more as an unhealthy possessive and controlling one. Scarlett saved Rosie's life when they were young. Because of that, both of them have come to the conclusion that Rosie should and must devote her life to Scarlett's obsessive need to kill wolves. Throughout, Rosie feels like she's betraying her sister when she even considers having her own life and falling in love.

I actually liked Rosie overall, and Silas was a good guy, so they made an excellent match. That was actually the most enjoyable part of the narrative for me. I loved how two childhood friends went from that to romance, especially with the awkwardness of realizing it and moving from just friends to boyfriend/girlfriend. The author did an excellent job conveying those emotions. I'd actually say that it was the biggest strength of the story and something that the author should explore. The paranormal action wasn't as convincing. I'd love to see Jackson explore writing contemporary YA romance because I suspect she'd be much better at that.

The problem I had through the whole book was with Scarlett. She was so single-minded and driven that she came off as almost one-dimensional, but not completely, if that makes any sense. I didn't enjoy being inside her head and would have much preferred that the story be told exclusively from Rosie's perspective instead of flipping back and forth between the two. Scarlett isn't a very likable character, but watching her and her passions from another person's viewpoint would have softened that tremendously.

I predicted the ending at about 1/3 of the way into the book, even before clues started to be dropped, which is highly disappointing. Other reviews mentioned the twist at the end, but I see it as more of a cop-out. The story would have been more satisfying and realistic had the author taken the hard path. The fact that it all ties up so neatly is something many readers of paranormal romances will love, but it's just not reality.

All of that said, it's definitely an interesting read and one that I would recommend to others. The writing is clean and not wanting for change, but the repetitive nature of several scenes made me wish for they had been trimmed from the manuscript. I did skim the last third of the book because I'd already figured out the big secret and just wanted to see how the book ended.

So long review summed up: a good read but nothing extraordinary.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wicked Lovely Series Book Four: Radiant Shadows

Radiant Shadows (Wicked Lovely, #4)

Radiant Shadows , the fourth installment in Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series, has some very cool new facets (Steeds!), however it is what it is, which is a vehicle for any finishing touches, additional characters, and other set-up for the fifth book, which completes the series.

I'll admit I'm less invested in any WL storyline not primarily involving my personal favorite characters (Ash, Keenan, Donia, Seth, and Niall), and I'm sure that plays heavily with my 'meh' reaction to the book. I felt it was an unneccessary side-trip away from the "real" story, the brewing wars between the various fey courts. If the series weren't set up for each of its key players to have their own volumes, I'd have said Ani's story could have just about filled in two chapters of another book. However, I did see the need for Ani's love interest, Devlin, to have a book to himself, as he is the tie that binds the two strongest of the conflicting fey courts.
I enjoyed the handling of Ani's struggle to become her own person, even when she didn't fit anywhere, and even more Devlin's internal battles regarding his creators and his feelings for someone not precisely of his home realm. The book had the same dark, sparkling aftertaste of all Marr's novels, which I've always liked, and the new characters it adds to the mix for the upcoming book certainly create a whole new set of variables to the final outcome, so I look forward to that.

This is book is sitting right on the border between Buy and Borrow. If you already own the other series books, add this to your collection, but if the others have already come into and gone out of your life, follow suit and Borrow Radiant Shadows from a library or book buddy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel

As a big fan of Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments trilogy, I was thrilled to receive an Advance Reader Copy of Clockwork Angel, the first installment of Clare's upcoming Nephilim prequel series, The Infernal DevicesClockwork takes place around two centuries before TMI series, and deals with that series' predecessors.

I've always adored both Jace and Simon from TMI, loved their sarcasm, sharp insults, and intelligent humor, so it was a difficult for me to really dig into the extremely similar character template of Clockwork's Will (though in the fourth TMI novel, City of Fallen Angels, Clare has one character point out these similarities, so obviously the commonalities were at least somewhat intended).  Unfortunately, for me the ways Will resembles Jace made the book feel repetitive to me.

On the other hand, Clare leaves us dead in the middle of several questions at the end of Clockwork, and if Will's actions indicate anything, it's that he has more of a fighter's spirit than Jace; Jace tends to fill himself with snark to cover over what he sees as his inevitable fate. In short, for now Will reminds me too much of Jace, and Jace did it better, but there's a definite possibility Will could surprise the daylights out of me.

Tessa, the heroine of the series, struck me as a little bland. She was likable enough, but so little of her personality was allowed to show it's hard to really identify with her, and while she seems the focal point of the story, I almost felt as if she were a throwaway character, only there to act as an extra for the real plot-makers, Will and Jem. Let's hope she gets less apathetic about her own role in the following additions.

And speaking of Jem, um hi, LOVE (if you haven't seen it by now, Jem's on the cover of book two in this series, Clockwork Prince, and it might be my favorite cover/coverboy EVAR). Jem's calm, almost-zen-like handling of both his own problems and Will's brawling temper are completely endearing. Unfortunately, Clare likes to twist our hearts, so I wouldn't at all be surprised if she intends to make us fall for the pale, gallant boy just before she breaks us with something monstrous about him.

In general, Clockwork Angel didn't snag me as much as the books of the TMI series, but it's early days, and if there's one thing Cassandra Clare has mastered, it's messing with a reader's feelings, and that is a WONDERFUL kind of catharsis, and that alone is worth giving this new set of characters and conflicts a chance to wrench our guts.

Clockwork Angel gets a Buy rating, due to it's relationship to other Nephilim novels, and in the hopes of subsequent installments adding to its quality.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Scumble by Ingrid Law

If Ingrid Law's debut, Savvy, taught us anything, it's that this writer is adept at portraying humanity at its most basic level. While I loved Savvy, I can't think of an adequate word to describe my adoration for Scumble. Maybe it's because I live in the Mountain West near Wyoming, but something in the story of young Ledge struck home.

What Law does best in both her books is show an everyman struggling with an extraordinary power and coming out more human than before. I can't recommend Scumble highly enough. Pay attention to this story, and it will change you. It changed me.

Take a look at Amethyst's review of Savvy.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Three Quarters Dead

Three Quarters Dead by Richard Peck

The lyrical language and complicated emotions in this book is astounding. The fact that Peck, a well-aged gentleman (and he is a true gentleman, which you can tell upon meeting him), can channel the thoughts and voice of a teenage girl is incredible. You can be sure Richard Peck has found a new fan.