Archive for Book Review

Book Review: Etiquette & Espionage

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Etiquette & Espionage Etiquette & Espionage in 2013
Pages: 307

It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners—and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.

My Review

For a book that I anticipated so much (boarding school and steampunk are two of my favorite elements in a YA novel) it sure took me a long time to get around to reading it! In any case I am happy to say that it most definitely did not disappoint!

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Book Review: Jenny Pox

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Jenny Pox Jenny Pox in 2010

Eighteen-year-old Jenny Morton has a horrific secret: her touch spreads a deadly supernatural plague, the "Jenny pox." She lives by a single rule: Never touch anyone. A lifetime of avoiding any physical contact with others has made her isolated and painfully lonely in her small rural town.

Then she meets the one boy she can touch. Jenny feels herself falling for Seth...but if she's going to be with him, Jenny must learn to use the deadly pox inside her to confront his ruthless and manipulative girlfriend Ashleigh, who secretly wields the most dangerous power of all.

My Review

I have to admit, I have a tiny bit of prejudice against self-published works. I’ve been burned a little too often, and I am rarely even prepared to accept recommendations anymore. But so many people said Jenny Pox was amazing that I finally broke down and tried it. Remind me to listen to you guys more often!

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Book Review: Team Human

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Team Human Team Human in 2012
Pages: 352

Residing in New Whitby, Maine, a town founded by vampires trying to escape persecution, Mel finds her negative attitudes challenged when her best friend falls in love with one, another friend's father runs off with one, and she herself is attracted to someone who tries to pass himself off as one.

My Review

For a long time it felt like everyone but me had read and raved about Team Human. I don’t know why I put off reading it for so long – it certainly sounded like it was right up my alley! While I wouldn’t say I loved it quite as much as some of you do, I did enjoy it, and I can see why some people would really love it.

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Book Review: Black Heart

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Black Heart Black Heart in 2012
Pages: 296

In a world where Magic is illegal.

Cassel Sharpe has the most deadly ability of all. With one touch, he can transform any object - including a person - into something else entirely. And that makes him a wanted man. The Feds are willing to forgive all his past crimes if he'll only leave his con artist family behind and go straight. But why does going straight feel so crooked?

For one thing, it means being on the opposite side of the law from Lila, the girl he loves. She's the daughter of a mob boss and getting ready to join the family business herself. Though Cassel is pretty sure she can never love him back, he can't stop obsessing over her. Which would be bad enough, even if her father wasn't keeping Cassel's mother prisoner in a posh apartment and threatening not to let her leave until she returns the priceless diamond she scammed off him years ago. Too bad she can't remember where she put it.

The Feds say they need Cassel to get rid of a powerful man who is spinning dangerously out of control. But if they want Cassel to use his unique talent to hurt people, what separates the good guys from the bad ones? Or is everyone just out to con him?

Time is running out, and all Cassel's magic and cleverness might not be enough to save him. With no easy answers and no one he can trust, love might be the most dangerous gamble of all.

My Review:

Wow! What an ending for an awesome series! I have always loved the premise of the Curse Workers – mobster magicians! What’s not to like?! But what really carried the story through to the end of Black Heart for me were the interpersonal problems.<!–more–>

The really big issue that threads its way through everything is the repercussions of prejudice. Everyone in the Workers’ society is incredibly prejudiced against them. It’s to the point that most workers have no choice but to go into gangs, just so they can protect themselves. Even though the series is thoroughly fictional, the dynamics of the society are an incredibly interesting commentary on prejudice and its effects on society. Let’s face it – as interested as we are in abolishing prejudice in our country, we still deal with it on an almost daily basis. Just look at the reports of anti-Muslim hate crimes after the Boston bombings and you know it’s true.

It’s really hard to review a third book without spoiling the rest of the series, so all I’ll say is this: I think Black Heart wrapped the series up perfectly. There were still a lot of unknowns for the imagination to play with, but I don’t desperately need another book in the series. That’s not to say I wouldn’t read more if it became available – I think it’d be fascinating to read a second trilogy, set a couple of decades in the “future” perhaps with Cassel’s kids as the main characters. But I will be perfectly content without more as well.

In short, this is one of my favorite series EVER and if you haven’t read it, you should ASAP!

Book Review: The Demon King

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The Demon King The Demon King in 2009
Pages: 506

Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for his family. The only thing of value he has is something he can't sell - the thick silver cuffs he's worn since birth. They're clearly magicked - as he grows, they grow, and he's never been able to get them off.

One day Han and his clan friend, Dancer, confront three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to keep him from using it against them. Soon Han learns that the amulet has an evil history - it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.

Meanwhile, Raisa ana’Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. She’s just returning to court after three years of freedom in the mountains - riding, hunting, and working the famous clan markets. Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea - the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But her mother has other plans for her - including marriage to a suitor who goes against everything the queendom stands for.

The Seven Realms tremble when the lives of Han and Raisa collide, fanning the flames of the smoldering war between clans and wizards.

My Review:

After how much I loved Cinda Williams Chima’s Warrior Heir series, I was incredibly surprised at how long I waited to try The Demon King. I actually waited until the ENTIRE SERIES was out, you guys. No torturous wait between books – I can read them as fast or as slow as I want! Unfortunately, though, reading Demon King didn’t inspire that “Gotta have the next book NOW” feeling quite as much as I’d hoped. Read more »

Book Review: Power Under Pressure

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Power Under Pressure Power Under Pressure in 2013
Pages: 390

Steampunk superheroes in Victorian-era New York! The Society of Paragons is gonedestroyed from within by traitors and enemies. With the death of The Industrialist and the rebirth the Iron-Clad as a monstrous half-human creature known as The Shell, Lord Eschaton now has almost everything he needs to cover the world in fortified smoke and rebuild it in his imageeverything except for the mechanical heart of the Automaton.

My Review:

Have you ever read a series that you thought was so clever and original when you started, but realized by the end that once the brilliance of the idea has worn off the rest just isn’t that great? That was this series for me, and Power Under Pressure was just the last straw.

When I first started the Society of Steam series, I thought the idea was SO COOL! I love steampunk, I love superheroes, a mash-up of the two ought to be the best thing since sliced bread, right? The first book certainly seemed like it. I loved the Batman-esque steam-powered costumed crusaders and their Automaton sidekick. I identified with Sarah’s need to escape her father’s shadow and create her own identity, and I felt for her when she went through all of those losses.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way that inspiring story got lost. The narrative began to meander when there wasn’t much going on, vacillating between “life sucks” and “people suck” – sometimes it even began to sound like a morality play, preaching a certain kind of “right” over wrong. By the time I finished book three, everything seemed so depressing! No matter what the good guys did, the bad guys won, and the final outcome definitely wasn’t a “happy ending” (not that all books have to have a happy ending, but I want the depressing endings to have a reason, besides “life sucks, happy endings are unrealistic,” at least!)

I hate to say all bad things, though. I mean, I did finish it, so it can’t have been that bad right? And it wasn’t, I guess. Thinking back I can see some pretty interesting moral themes – for example, the main conflict is between the forces of smoke and the forces of steam. Smoke is portrayed as the “bad” substance, but honestly it isn’t so much the substance as the person wielding it. Lord Eschaton forces his test subjects to undergo transformation by tying them down and forcing them to inhale the smoke, while the society of steam takes only those who choose to put together their own steam-powered costumes. I’m sure there’s plenty of issues for psychological analysis there.

But the truth is, this was a really depressing ending to a series that had such promise. I’m glad I read it, and I’m glad I finished it – but I’ll always be on the lookout for a better version of this idea.

Book Review: Bewitching

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Bewitching Bewitching in 2012
Pages: 336

Bewitching can be a beast. . . .

Once, I put a curse on a beastly and arrogant high school boy. That one turned out all right. Others didn't.

I go to a new school now--one where no one knows that I should have graduated long ago. I'm not still here because I'm stupid; I just don't age.

You see, I'm immortal. And I pretty much know everything after hundreds of years--except for when to take my powers and butt out.

I want to help, but things just go awry in ways I could never predict. Like when I tried to free some children from a gingerbread house and ended up being hanged. After I came back from the dead (immortal, remember?), I tried to play matchmaker for a French prince and ended up banished from France forever. And that little mermaid I found in the Titanic lifeboat? I don't even want to think about it.

Now a girl named Emma needs me. I probably shouldn't get involved, but her gorgeous stepsister is conniving to the core. I think I have just the thing to fix that girl--and it isn't an enchanted pumpkin. Although you never know what will happen when I start . . . bewitching.

My Review:

I loved loved LOVED Beastly, the first book in this series, and I was so looking forward to reading this one. I love fairy tale retellings and Alex Flinn’s are usually particularly full of fluffy cute fun-ness! Unfortunately, though, Bewitching just didn’t compare. Read more »

Book Review: Illuminate

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Illuminate Cover

Title: Illuminate (Gilded Wings #1)

Author: Aimee Agresti

Summary: [from GoodReads]

Haven Terra is a brainy, shy high school outcast. But everything begins to change when she turns sixteen. Along with her best friend Dante and their quiet and brilliant classmate Lance, she is awarded a prestigious internship in the big city— Chicago—and is sent to live and work at a swanky and stylish hotel under the watchful eyes of a group of gorgeous and shockingly young-looking strangers: powerful and alluring hotel owner Aurelia Brown; her second-in-command, the dashing Lucian Grove; and their stunning but aloof staff of glamazons called The Outfit.

As Haven begins falling for Lucian, she discovers that these beautiful people are not quite what they seem. With the help of a mysterious book, she uncovers a network of secret passageways from the hotel’s jazz-age past that leads her to the heart of the evil agenda of Aurelia and company: they’re in the business of buying souls. Will they succeed in wooing Haven to join them in their recruitment efforts, or will she be able to thwart this devilish set’s plans to take the souls of her classmates on prom night at the hotel?

My Review

This was one of those rare books that I hadn’t heard of before picking it up off the shelf at the library. I didn’t really know what to expect – the blurb I saw hardly gave anything away. So I was delightfully surprised to find Illuminate was one of those books I just could NOT put down.

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Book Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars

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For Darkness Shows the Stars Cover

Title: For Darkness Shows the Stars (For Darkness Shows the Stars #1)

Author: Diana Peterfreund

Summary: [from GoodReads]

It’s been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth–an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret–one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.

My Review

My goodness it seemed for a while there that everyone and  their dog was reading and loving this book! And who can blame them? A sci-fi retelling of Jane Austen sounds awesome!

While I wouldn’t say I loved the book quite as much as some people did it was really good. Read more »

Book Review: Raven Boys

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Raven Boys Cover

Title: The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle #1)

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Summary: [from GoodReads]

 “There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

My Review

Maggie Stiefvater is one of those authors that I have a kind of love/dislike relationship with. Every time I read a synopsis for a book she’s written it sounds like the most awesome book every and I am dying to get my hands on it. Then, when I finally do read them I’ve hyped them up so much that they seem kind of mediocre. I’d been burned a little too often so when it came to The Raven Boys I just kept putting off reading it. I shouldn’t have been worried though – finally I found one that lived up to its fullest potential!

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