Book Review: Blood Magic

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Blood Magic Blood Magic by
Series: The Blood Journals #1
Published by in 2011
Genres: , ,
Pages: 405

It starts off simply.Draw a circle ... place a dead leaf in the center ... sprinkle some salt ... recite a little Latin ... add a drop of blood ...

Maybe that last part isn't exactly simple. Yet somehow it feels right to Silla Kennicott. And nothing in her life has felt remotely right since her parents' horrific deaths. She's willing to do anything to uncover the truth about her family—even try a few spells from the mysterious book that arrived on her doorstep ... and spill some blood.

The book isn't the only recent arrival in Silla's life. There's Nick Pardee, the new guy next door who may have seen Silla casting a spell. She's not sure what he saw and is afraid to find out. But as they spend more time together, Silla realizes this may not be Nick's first encounter with Blood Magic. Brought together by a combination of fate and chemistry, Silla and Nick can't deny their attraction. And they can't ignore the dark presence lurking nearby—waiting to reclaim the book and all its power.

My Review:

Yet another debut! I’m going to have to stop with the debuts soon so I can get some others read!
This book is decidedly different from anything I’ve ever read. Sure it’s a teen novel and there’s romance to it, but aside from that it’s got a dark flavor to it that I’ve never really seen before. Part of that is the type of magic it deals with – Blood magic almost always has really negative connotations, probably because it’s almost always portrayed like the antagonist uses it in this one. It is almost never considered as something that could be used in a positive way. Even this novel is ambiguous on that point. There are obviously going to be sequels and I’m curious to see if it turns out it really can be used for good or if it becomes too much of a temptation to Silla and Nick.

The thing about featuring something as dark as Blood magic is it’s rarely thought out in the detail that other, less unsavory magics are (probably because it can get exceedingly gory if the author isn’t careful). This gives the writer tons of space to play with the specifics and give us something completely new. The image of the magic supply trunk, complete with small vials of dust and herbs and a blood-letting quill was so vivid that it is still branded in my mind.
Basically, I really enjoyed this book. If you’re looking for something a little bit different, something slightly off ordinary, then this one is for you! I’m eagerly looking forward to the next book!


Review: Anna and the French Kiss

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Anna and the French Kiss Anna and the French Kiss by
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #1
Published by in 2010
Genres: , ,
Pages: 372
Source: ,

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?

My Review:

If I had to think of a word to describe this book it would without a doubt be “cute!” And not in the small children and baby animals kind of way but the “They’re so adorable I might have to squee!” kind of way!

First off, I love the fact that this is not only a boarding school novel but also a foreign exchange novel. I know when I was growing up “foreign exchange” was something people from other countries did to come here. That most certainly is not the case, and I fully support anyone and anything that encourages young Americans to experience other cultures. In a global economy like ours, it is important to understand other cultures, and even make friends with them, and the best way to do that is to experience them for yourself!

But what I really love, love, loved was Anna and Étienne. They have what I would consider the perfect love story. So many novels that involve romance these days are more concerned with the problems that happen after a relationship has started so they have the leading pair fall in love fast and then stay in love through all obstacles. This book focuses on the journey to falling in love instead. It feels so much more realistic to me to have Anna and Étienne be best friends before everything else, and I just loved it!

I honestly cannot find a single negative thing to say about this book no matter how I try. It really is a very fun, cute novel and I’d recommend it to everyone!

Book Review: Ruby Red

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Ruby Red Ruby Red by
Series: Edelstein Trilogy #1
Published by in 2011
Genres: , ,
Pages: 322

Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!
Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon--the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

My Review:

First, let me apologize if my gushing and dribbling comes out of the screen and hits you in the face. Not sorry for the gushing, but sorry if you got wet.

This book has been added to my Favorites of 2011 list – the list is only 3 books long so far, so it’s pretty exclusive. That is how amazing this book is. It grabbed me soon as I started it and I could not put it down. I had it finished withint 12 hours and at least half that time was devoted to sleep! Then, soon as I set it down I went searching for the sequel, and, finding it was only in German, desperately turned to Twitter to find someone to teach me German, so I could read it now! It’s THAT good people!

Firstly, there’s Gwen, the Ruby of the title. She is so painfully normal at first you can’t help but like her. You feel her pain as everything she knows falls apart around her. It is easy to imagine yourself in her shoes, floundering through this new skill and hurting when she gets blamed for something she couldn’t possibly have known about.

Then we have Gideon, the antagonist/love interest. He starts out as such a jerk! At the beginning I couldn’t imagine Gwen ever liking him, despite the hints in the blurb on the back cover. Slowly though we begin to see another side to him. Sure he’s still mostly a jerk at the end of this book but I can see how he might be redeemed and I’m desperate for the rest of the books to find out how they’re going to do it!

And of course I can’t go without mentioning the plot, for what would be an amazing cast of characters without interesting things for them to do? I love time travel stories but I have never seen one like this. The laws of the world are extremely well planned, accounting for the typical problems of time travel with seeming ease. The plot is complicated enough to keep you on your toes, but not so complicated that you have to work to keep up.

And, of course, I must congratulate the translator. The story and language flowed smoothly and I didn’t ever have to step back from the narrative to realize that the story wasn’t originally in my language.

In short, this is a fabulous book that you must find and read, sooner rather than later!

Book Review: White Cat

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White Cat White Cat by
Series: Curse Workers #1
Published by in 2010
Genres: , , ,
Pages: 320
Source: ,

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers — people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn't got the magic touch, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail — he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.
Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.

My Review:

I always seem to forget how unique and entertaining Holly Black’s novels are. I read Tithe and Ironside many years ago and enjoyed them but never got around to reading the rest. Then, after all the hype surrounding Red Glove, I decided I’d better see what all the fuss was.

The first thing that really caught my attention on this one was the setting. Cassel comes from a family of “workers” that live to serve their Mob boss overlords. Even though he’s not a worker and isn’t of any use to the crimelords, everything is about the con for him. He even runs a small gambling pool at school to keep his hand in. Holly Black’s edgy style and modern voice fit this setting perfectly, lending to an extremely interesting Urban Fantasy setting.

I tend to divide the books I read into 3 categories: ones where I can see the ending a mile off, ones where I can see the ending but have no clue how to get there, and ones where I have no clue what’s going on in the first place. They can all be good reads, depending on how well they’re written, but the first can get boring and the last can be frustrating. The most interesting, and yet probably the hardest to write, is the second of the three, and I would unreservedly put White Cat in that category. I could see what had to happen coming but I had no idea how they were going to make it happen without screwing over the future books. I was amazed every time she revealed a tidbit and several times I had to stop and read a section over again.

If you’re still on the fence about reading this book, then I’ll tell you it comes with my highest recommendation. This fantasy is a masterpiece and you won’t regret it!

Disclaimer: Some of the facts I’ve told you about the book turn out to be blatant lies. I just couldn’t bring myself to spoil it for you. The opinions on the other hand, are still and will always be 100% truth.

Book Review(ish): Howl’s Moving Castle

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Howl's Moving Castle Howl's Moving Castle by
Series: Castle #1
Published by in 2001
Genres: ,
Pages: 336

In the land of Ingary, such things as spells, invisible cloaks, and seven-league boots were everyday things. The Witch of the Waste was another matter.
After fifty years of quiet, it was rumored that the Witch was about to terrorize the country again. So when a moving black castle, blowing dark smoke from its four thin turrets, appeared on the horizon, everyone thought it was the Witch. The castle, however, belonged to Wizard Howl, who, it was said, liked to suck the souls of young girls.
The Hatter sisters--Sophie, Lettie, and Martha--and all the other girls were warned not to venture into the streets alone. But that was only the beginning.
In this giant jigsaw puzzle of a fantasy, people and things are never quite what they seem. Destinies are intertwined, identities exchanged, lovers confused. The Witch has placed a spell on Howl. Does the clue to breaking it lie in a famous poem? And what will happen to Sophie Hatter when she enters Howl's castle?

My Review:

I love Diana Wynne Jones. Why? Because every single book or series is different. Sure, there are some I can’t stand but that s because she’s done everything and I don’t like everything. Howl’s Moving Castle is a favorite of mine second only to the Chrestomanci series, and I decided to re-read it in honor of her passing away recently. But go read them both, like yesterday, if you haven’t. SERIOUSLY!

Since I almost always have trouble with reviewing re-reads without gushing all over myself, I thought I’d do something fun and different today. Though there has been an animated movie made, this book is so good it deserves to be made into a Live Action film, so I decided to share my dream cast. (Keep in mind that the story is set in an alternate UK so I tried to keep it an all British cast)

Howl: This is the first read-through that I’ve actually been able to cast Howl, he’s so difficult and quirky. But, finally, I think I have the perfect choice (at least for me).

Quirky and lovable as the 11th Doctor, I could actually hear Matt Smith saying Howl’s lines in my head.

Sophie Hatter:

Emma Thompson is a wonderful actress and I think she could really pull off both young and old versions of Sophie.

Calcifer: (no picture for this one, because it’s just about the voice) Either Andy-Lee Potts, known for his roles in Primeval and Syfy’s Alice, or David Tennant, known for the title role of Doctor Who (though I prefer his scottish accent for this particular role).

The Witch of the Waste:

For those who have never seen Emilia Fox in anything, she does an AMAZING beautiful bad lady. Look her up in Merlin as Morgause. Pretty, yeah, but so evil!

Lettie Hatter:

I actually haven’t seen Holliday Grainger in that much, but I think she’s perfect for the gorgeous younger sister Lettie.

Martha Hatter:

And finally, for Sophie’s youngest sister Martha, Talulah Riley, known for her roles in Pride and Prejudice and St. Trinian’s. It is only too bad that Martha wouldn’t show up as much, because Talulah is an amazing actress.

I could go on (Maggie Smith as Mrs. Pentstemmon, don’t you think?) but that’s the main characters. What are your thoughts on casting?

Book Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society

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The Mysterious Benedict Society The Mysterious Benedict Society by
Series: Mysterious Benedict Society #1
Published by in 2007
Genres: ,
Pages: 492

After Reynie Muldoon responds to an advertisement recruiting "gifted children looking for special opportunities," he finds himself in a world of mystery and adventure. The 11-year-old orphan is one of four children to complete a series of challenging and creative tasks, and he, Kate, Constance, and Sticky become the Mysterious Benedict Society. After being trained by Mr. Benedict and his assistants, the four travel to an isolated school where children are being trained by a criminal mastermind to participate in his schemes to take over the world. The young investigators need to use their special talents and abilities in order to discover Mr. Curtain's secrets, and their only chance to defeat him is through working together.

My Review:

This book was a little out of my comfort zone, but I’d heard good things about it, so I decided to give it a try. It is most definitely an MG novel, which I don’t mind so much as long as it’s well done, and I think this book was one of the best MG novels I’ve read. As an adult reader, I still had some questions, but they weren’t so pressing that they overwhelmed my enjoyment of the book. I think that’s the true test of a novel for a younger genre (either YA or MG) – can the book be enjoyed without all the answers.

Part of the enjoyment, of course, was the cast of characters. I found Reynie very easy to relate to, despite our difference in age. Kate and Sticky were the perfect Ron and Hermione to Reynie’s Harry, and Constance… well Constance was a nuisance as she is supposed to be, but it makes sense once you find out how old she is. And Benedict, dear old Mr. Benedict, is so cute! He really personified that “tired old man” vibe that we get from all the great mentors; Merlin, Dumbledore and all the rest.

But perhaps the best part for me, and one of the reasons I will definitely be recommending it to all ages, is the tone of the novel. One of my hugest pet peeves as a kid was being talked down to just because I was young. I wanted to be treated as an equal by adults, and I hated people, and novels, that just assumed because I was younger, I was ignorant, and unable to understand. This novel not only avoids that tone, it acknowledges the problem. This is the novel I wanted to read in Elementary School, because I would have felt just as put-upon as Reynie when his orphanage master didn’t even let him try to get into another, better school. Granted Reynie is the extreme, but the main point is still one worth listening to: Children are nowhere near as dumb as adults often make them out to be.

If you haven’t read this one yet, then I suggest you immediately put it on your TBR pile. Besides being educational, it’s pure fun!

Book Review: Nevermore

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Nevermore Nevermore by
Series: Nevermore #1
Published by in 2010
Genres: , ,
Pages: 543
Source: ,

Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game.

Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.

Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.

As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind.

Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.

His life depends on it.

My Review:

It seems like I had been looking for a copy of this book for forever. No matter where I went, it wasn’t in bookstores, the library seemed to think it didn’t exist, I just could not find it. Now that I’ve read it, that seems oddly appropriate. It’s also kind of a shame, because this book is pretty awesome!

This book was already set to wow me just from the premise. Anyone who looks at my favorites list would see that I like novels where the characters and stories come to life. Add to that a real life mystery and an interesting love story and I’m in! It was so gorgeously done as well. It’s very obvious that not only did Creagh do her research, she loves the topic.

I will warn you – don’t put this down in the middle. The plot is complicated and twisty, as any book about Poe would have to be, and if you don’t keep up with it as you go along, it can be really hard to get back into it. I happened to get distracted by life in the middle of this one and it took me 10 or 15 pages to remember what was going on and really get back into it. Once I did, I was quite frustrated that I had to put it down to sleep.

My only question now is: How on earth does she expect us to wait until 2012 for the next one? I mean, talk about a cliff hanger! Not fair!

Book Review: Knightley Academy

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Knightley Academy Knightley Academy by
Series: Knightley Academy #1
Published by in 2010
Genres: ,
Pages: 468

Henry Grim is a servant boy at the Midsummer School—until he passes the elite Knightley Academy exam and suddenly finds himself one of the first commoners at the Academy, studying alongside the cleverest and bravest—and most arrogant—young aristocrats in the country. They thwart Henry’s efforts to become a full-fledged Knight of the Realm, but he and two commoner classmates are determined to succeed. In the process, the boys uncover a conspiracy that violates the Hundred Years’ Peace treaty—and could lead to war! Can Henry manage to save his school and country from their enemies—and continue to study at the Academy?

My Review:

When I first saw this book on someone else’s blog, I didn’t know what to think. The post was a guest post from the author, explaining what “Harry Potter Inspired Novel” meant as the term had been used in describing the book. Basically, she explained, Knightley Academy was what came from having practically grown up reading Harry Potter, and desperately wanting something similar to read next. No wands, no magic, none of that stuff, but still Harry Potter inspired. This explanation made me a little worried. How could anyone even try to compare to Harry Potter? I mean, I read fanfics and all, but I didn’t know what to expect from a novel that wasn’t really fanfic at all. That didn’t stop me from checking it out, of course. The chance that it really was just as great as Harry Potter was too much to pass up.

I shouldn’t have worried. From the time I picked up the book, I could hardly put it down. For the first few pages I spent a lot of time just finding the similarities, but before long I was so busy following the story that I didn’t even notice! In fact, by the end of the book, the thing that stood out to me the most was how unlike Harry Potter it was – and yet how I felt so much like I did when I finished a Harry Potter novel. Books always give me a certain feeling, depending on the type of book, and this one was like reading Harry Potter all over again. It was so wonderful to experience that feeling again! It made me wonder why we haven’t seen more of these “Harry Potter Inspired Novels.” There’s plenty of Twilight inspired type novels after all.

But possibly the best thing about this novel is that it addresses a very serious issue; prejudice. Henry and the other two “common” boys are accepted to a school that is normally reserved for the rich and important and they are bullied because of it. They aren’t the only case of prejudice either: The neighboring country is trying to liberate themselves from class prejudice, but they aren’t going about it the right way. It certainly makes you think really hard about our belief systems and why we govern ourselves the way we do.

In short, this isn’t just a book that is inspired by Harry Potter, it’s a book that is in the best tradition of the Harry Potter story. It is a wonderfully entertaining tale that nods towards its predecessor, but stands on its own two feet with a message that makes you think. Definitely give this one a shot!

If you have a moment, I’m still looking for the book in my post earlier this week Missing: HAVE YOU SEEN THIS BOOK? Please help if you can!

Book Review: Clockwork Angel

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Clockwork Angel Clockwork Angel by
Series: The Infernal Devices #1
Published by , in 2010
Genres: , ,
Pages: 476

Magic is dangerous--but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by--and torn between--two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

My Review:

I thought I loved The Mortal Instruments series. I was wrong. While I liked TMI, the term love should have been reserved for Clare’s newest series, The Infernal Devices. What can I say, I’ve come to love steampunk!

It wasn’t the fact that this was nominally Steampunk that made me love this one though.  In TMI the thing I most had to suspend disbelief for was the whole “secret society” bit. I loved it, because it was extremely well done and explained, but I think I will always be a little skeptical of a secret society in this information age. It’s almost impossible to keep something like that out of the papers and off the internet. Put the Clave in Victorian England though, and suddenly you have an extremely believable scenario (with pretty dresses too!) The Pandemonium Club could have happened then, whereas now, people would probably start questioning if they didn’t know who was leading a group they were in.

I also loved the characters in this one. While Will felt like a repeat of Jace for most of the book, Jem, Tessa, Jessamine and Sophie were all wonderfully new. I’m not saying the repeat is a bad thing – this lifestyle does things to a person and it is perfectly believable that Jace is not the only one who ever acted the way he did. And I have to be honest – while there wasn’t any one character I valued over the others in TMI (sorry Team Jace or Team Simon or whatever you call yourselves) I’ve finally found my character to love! I absolutely loved the character of Jem and I would never get tired of him! Oh and I’ve changed my mind since my City of Glass post – Darren Criss can’t be Magnus, because he would make an AMAZING Jem and Magnus is in both!

Clare has left me curious about so many things that I am anxiously awaiting Clockwork Prince perhaps even more than City of Fallen Angels! It is a gorgeous realization of her world as it might have been before, and left me wanting more!

Book Review: Inkheart

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Inkheart Inkheart by
Series: Inkworld #1
Published by in 2005
Genres: ,
Pages: 548

One cruel night, Meggie's father reads aloud from Inkheart, and an evil ruler named Capricorn escapes the boundaries of the book, landing in their living room. Suddenly, Meggie's in the middle of the kind of adventure she thought only took place in fairy tales. Somehow she must master the magic that has conjured up this nightmare. Can she change the course of the story that has changed her life forever?

My Review:

This book has been one of my favorites for what feels like forever – I was amazed to discover after looking through copyright dates on things like the cover etc. that I can’t have bought it any earlier than 2007. That’s way more recently than I thought it was…

Anyway! It’s always difficult for me to pinpoint why my favorite books make it onto a favorite list. There are always so many things to like about the favorites! Number one for this particular book is going to have to be the story, I think. I’ve talked about my love of The Neverending Story here before, and this book is rather similar, at least in my reasons for liking it. Who wouldn’t love the chance to meet their favorite characters, even if they do turn out to be nasty little idiots like some of the ones in Inkheart?

Usually for me writing style plays a part in liking a book. I feel bad talking about it in this instance, because in all likelihood the style is more up to the translator than the writer on a book written in a different language than I speak. But, on the other hand, the translator has to know what they’re doing to do a good job on it, and they do have to faithfully translate the story, so I’d like to think it’s a joint effort, and it is very pretty. The style really suits the novel – it’s not one of those that makes me want to read out loud (and isn’t the story warning enough against that?) but the language matches who the characters are really well. Most of us chronic readers have a pretty extensive vocabulary and aren’t afraid to use it, and that shows really well with Meggie, Mo and Elinor, while Capricorn’s men are completely illiterate and the sections about them show that, even when there’s no dialogue.

The only thing I will warn you about is these are large books. They’re fairly easy to read the first time around, but the size and lack of “gotta know what happens!” made it more difficult to get through this time. I carried it with me in case I needed a book, but given the choice of Inkheart or some other, newer book, I often chose the new book. On the other hand, if you haven’t read this series, you really are missing out. Go find yourself a copy!

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