Book Review: Starcrossed

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Starcrossed Starcrossed by
Series: Starcrossed #1
Published by in 2011
Genres: ,
Pages: 487

How do you defy destiny?
Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is—no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it's getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she's haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood . . . and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they're destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.
As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together—and trying to tear them apart.

My Review:

I. Love. This. Book! It’s got all my favorites – Mythology, a sizzling romance, a twisty complicated plot – I just loved it!

I have to admit it wasn’t always like that. At first I did a lot of eye rolling. The first 40 pages or so read like a semi-retelling of Twilight – New guy moves into town with his strangely reclusive family and the girl “doesn’t care” though you know she’ll end up with him somehow. Before long, though, that “been there, done that” feeling pretty much blows up in your face.

From the time Helen meets Lucas this novel is extremely fast paced and action packed. I finished the book before I even realized it and was left turning invisible pages looking for more! And Lucas! I’d take him over a vampire any day! He’s kind, thoughtful, smart and loyal, and of course absolutely gorgeous!

I realize I haven’t actually said that much about what’s actually in  the book so far. In fact, I don’t think I will. One of the things I enjoyed so much about this book was how it kept me on my toes constantly and every twist took me completely by surprise. If I say much more, I could be spoiling a wonderful experience for someone else. Suffice to say it is a fabulous book that you NEED to read now!


Book Review: A Tale of Two Castles

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A Tale of Two Castles A Tale of Two Castles by
Series: A Tale of Two Castles #1
Published by in 2011
Genres: ,
Pages: 328
Twelve-year-old Elodie dreams of becoming a mansioner--an actress. She journeys across the sea to the town of Two Castles in hopes of becoming an apprentice to a mansioning troupe, but things do not go according to plan. In spite of Elodie's great talent, the troupe already has plenty of apprentices. Elodie is out of luck: She has no money, no apprenticeship, and no home.
But an opportunity arises. The wise dragon Meenore is in need of an assistant to proclaim ITs powers of deduction and induction. Elodie is in need of a position. And so she becomes the dragon's assistant. When the town's hated ogre, Count Jonty Um, seeks the dragon's help in finding his stolen dog, Elodie is sent to the ogre's castle to get to the bottom of the mystery. More is afoot than just a missing dog. The ogre is in grave danger, and Elodie must use her mansioning skills and her powers of deduction to discover the source of the threat.

My Review:

I have loved Gail Carson Levine for a very long time. Ever since I read Ella Enchanted back in elementary school I knew I had to read anything I could manage. So, when I saw this book up on NetGalley for review, I jumped at the chance.

I will admit, I’ve grown out of MG novels, in general. Even when I was the right age for them, I was very picky – I hated books that were condescending (or that I thought were condescending) just because they were geared toward a younger audience. Levine never does that, and that was why I loved her. And I still love her, but it did take me a while to readjust to a MG novel after not reading any for many years.

This book did not disappoint. Levine sets up her cast of interesting characters well, leaving just enough mystery to keep us interested. I particularly enjoyed the character of Meenore – hints of Sherlock Holmes ran through it’s characterization, but they all seemed to fit really well. I also really enjoyed the juxtaposition of the “monsters” and the “people” and how the definitions of both change through the book.

But the best thing about this book for me, was the story. I genuinely enjoyed this book simply for the pleasure of hearing a story told (or reading one, rather). I enjoyed the twists and turns of the mystery, felt sorry for Jonty Um the ogre, and felt hurt with Elodie. This book was pure fun all the way through, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a decent story!

Book Review: The Last Little Blue Envelope

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The Last Little Blue Envelope The Last Little Blue Envelope by
Series: Little Blue Envelope #2
Published by in 2011
Genres: , ,
Pages: 282

Ginny Blackstone thought that the biggest adventure of her life was behind her. She spent last summer traveling around Europe, following the tasks her aunt laid out in a series of letters before she died. When someone stole Ginny’s backpack-and the last little blue envelope inside—she resigned herself to never knowing how it was supposed to end.

Months later, a mysterious boy contacts Ginny from London, saying he’s found her bag. Finally, Ginny can finish what she started. But instead of ending her journey, the last letter starts a new adventure, and Ginny finds she must hold onto her wits-and her heart. This time, there are no instructions.

My Review:

When I read 13 Little Blue Envelopes I was a Freshman in college. I was young and naïve. I’d only ever been overseas on tours with music groups and even then we didn’t do much outside our itinerary. I loved to travel though and the idea of traveling around the way Ginny did really impressed me. I was sure I could never do what Ginny had done, but I sure wished I could.

Oh, how things can change.

4 years later, here I am about to graduate and I have a totally different perspective. I have now spent a year abroad and wonder of wonders, I had my own Little Blue Envelopes trip (though not quite so extreme). I’ve grown as Ginny did, and now I can relate to her again, in a different way.

First stop: Paris. Such a glamorous city! Aunt Peg is right, there is no way you can “know” a city from just one visit. This time instead of being green with envy, I was able to sit back a bit and recognize some of the places I’d been and reacquaint myself with them. I like to think Les Petits Chiens was just around the corner from the Hostel we stayed in, next to the quaint little bookshop I had to visit. You can really tell that Johnson has done this at some point and it is so wonderful that she can share the experience so vividly through her characters’ eyes.

But my perspective was not the only new thing this time. I really loved the addition of Oliver to the cast. He was pleasantly frustrating and mysterious, and his story was part of the reason that I couldn’t put the book down.

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I was never very sure about Keith the first time around and I am so glad that Ginny didn’t end up with him forever. Oliver seems so much better for her than Keith would have been, even if he did some things I don’t really approve of. We all do things like that sometimes. Ellis was also a nice addition, though her character was used mostly for Keith/Ginny conflict. She seems like the kind of girl I would love to be friends with, even if she was dating the guy I still had a crush on

In the end, this wasn’t just a book about traveling. It’s about creativity and art and finding beauty where you least expect it. As an artist myself this really spoke to me. Two quotes from Aunt Peg really stuck with me and I’d like to leave you with them:

“People always say they can’t do things, that they’re impossible. They just haven’t been creative enough.” – pg. 48 (advance e-proof copy, page numbers may not be the same in finished copy) The Last Little Blue Envelope, Maureen Johnson

“I think something is art when it is created with intention.” – pg. 156 (advance e-proof copy, page numbers may not be the same in finished copy) The Last Little Blue Envelope, Maureen Johnson

Thank you, Maureen Johnson. You inspire me to find my art, no matter what anyone else thinks, and that is the greatest inspiration any artist can have.

Book Review: Beastly

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Beastly Beastly by
Series: Kendra Chronicles #1
Published by in 2007
Genres: , ,
Pages: 304

I am a beast.

A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright—a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.

You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.

My Review:

This is my second novel by Alex Flinn, and I have to say, the first one (A Kiss in Time) wasn’t exactly my favorite. I thought it was clever, and a really good novel, just not quite my thing. But I’ve been told by many people that Beastly was their favorite, so I thought I’d try it. I’m so glad I did.

I should probably mention that I’m a bit prejudiced, because I absolutely love the story of Beauty and the Beast. It was my favorite Disney film, mostly because I saw myself in Belle and I wanted the Beast’s library so bad! I was excited to read a modernization of this novel, since I’ve read many different versions, but haven’t read one that would really count as “today” modern – the most modern one was during World War I.

The very beginning had me a bit skeptical. The set-up was necessary, but I got a little bored. Now that I’ve finished it, though I’d like to go back and re-read it, just to see if the same is true. At the time, I really wanted to just get past the set-up and get to the good stuff. I was more curious about how she did the “invisible servants” and the Father giving up his daughter (cause in our society that is just not ok).

The wait was so worth it. I got to the “good stuff” and I just could not put the book down. I think I read straight from 7 pm to 11 last night just to finish it. I loved the way Flinn got around the “magic” in modern day, though of course it couldn’t be avoided completely. I loved the characters, once Kyle got past his hoity-toity attitude. Will was especially one of my favorites. I had a very vivid picture of him in my mind, better than any of the other characters, even Adrian.

Interestingly, the imagery was much more vivid for the house and garden. I wanted to be Lindy, discovering the huge library, walking through the gorgeous greenhouse full of roses and playing in the snow at the house in the mountains. Maybe I’m being a little superficial, but the imagery was so vivid that I wanted to be there. I enjoyed the bits I was supposed to enjoy, and I was on the edge of my seat when I was supposed to be. The suspense was held right up to the end, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

My only complaint was that between each section, Flinn broke it up with “transcriptions” of IM conversations between various modern fairytale characters. I would guess that a majority of them are from her other novels, though I haven’t read any other of the characters that were included. I can see why she did it – it’s an easy way to advertise for her other novels, and it keeps the setting firmly in the present. But it bothered me, and by the end I mostly just skipped those couple of pages. I didn’t feel they were necessary to the plot, and I just wanted to keep reading the actual story.

Honestly though, that wasn’t too much of a detriment. I plan on buying a copy of this as soon as I can, and I’m so excited to re-read it someday!

Book Review: Ink Exchange

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Ink Exchange Ink Exchange by
Series: Wicked Lovely
Published by in 2008
Genres: ,
Pages: 328

To 17-year-old Leslie, the tattoo is a thing of indescribable beauty, a captivating mark that she must make her own. But this subtle web of eyes and wings brings with it a transformation that no sweet young girl would ever imagine or welcome.

My Review:

This was an interesting one for me. After loving the first one, I was desperate to get my hands on more, but at the same time, I was skeptical about having completely different characters. While I really enjoy the technique of telling the continuing story from a minor or unknown character’s point of view, it’s actually really difficult to do well (see my review of The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie).

One of the things I love about Marr is her language. Some authors have a very distinct language that just begs to be read – J.K. Rowling’s language begs to be read so much that I often end up reading her novels aloud to myself when no one’s around to hear how crazy I sound. Marr’s language is just as distinctive but in a different way – it begs to be listened to, in the same way that Rowling’s begs to be spoken, and I spent far too many late hours unable to stop listening to it.

Then we have the amazingly colourful new(ish) character, Leslie. She was friends with Aislinn before the events of the previous book, so in a way, she is telling the sequel to Wicked Lovely but she is so wrapped up in the events that it really is her story. She is so well thought out that she seems like a real person, and I spent much of the novel wishing I could reach through the pages and give her advice.

I also enjoyed the depth she gave to Niall, a rather minor character from the previous novel. The only complaint I have is that I wish I could have had a hint of the agony that was coming in the previous novel. His history is never even touched on in Wicked Lovely, and while I suppose it has not place there, it is so central to this novel that it felt a little out of the blue. Even if she had just hinted that he had a darker past somehow. (There is always the possibility that she did hint at it and I missed it – I read very quickly and don’t always catch everything, especially if I don’t think it’s relevant.)

Anyway, overall, I’d say a wonderful sequel and I’m looking forward to finding the next one.

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