Review: The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys
Maggie Stiefvater
2012
Scholastic
9780545424929

Blue Sargent has grown up in a household of clairvoyants. Each year, she and her mother go to the churchyard on St. Mark’s Eve to see the progression of those who will die within the coming year. Blue, whose presence makes others’ psychic powers stronger, has never seen the dead herself, until this year when she sees a boy named Gansey, a wealthy student at nearby Aglionby Academy. Blue typically sees such boys as trouble and to be avoided at all costs, but something about him and his friends and their quest to find a long-buried king intrigues her. Blue has always been warned that she may kill her true love with a kiss. She’s never worried about this before, but the more time she spends with the Raven Boys, the less sure she is.

I  really wanted to love The Raven Boys given how much I loved Stiefvater’s other books, but it didn’t quite measure up for me.  I don’t mind a bit of paranormal fiction but I feel all the talk of ley lines and spirit worlds was perhaps a bit much for me. I was much more interested in learning more about the Raven Boys themselves and their backgrounds, such as Adam the scholarship student and hotheaded Ronan. Stiefvater’s ability to create compelling characters is where this book shines. I do want to know if Gansey is indeed Blue’s true love despite her burgeoning romance with Adam. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.


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Review: Austentatious

Austentatious
Alyssa Goodnight
2012
Kensington
978-0-7582-6743-6

Straitlaced engineer Nicola James has had her entire future mapped out since the age of thirteen. “The Plan” leaves little time for romance and certainly no time for magic journals that write back. But that is exactly what she finds when the journal she buys at an antiques stores, hidden among a set of Jane Austen novels, offers up its own critiques of her innermost thoughts. A self-professed “Janeite,” Nicola wonders if the spirit of Jane Austen, whom she dubs “Fairy Jane,” is somehow wreaking havoc on her love life. Fairy Jane’s advice leads her into a passionate romance with sexy Scotsman Sean MacInnes, forcing Nic to choose whether to follow her plan — or her heart.

I picked up this book because I am a huge Jane Austen fan. Unfortunately, I didn’t find Nicola overly likeable as a character and certainly not worthy of comparison to an Austen heroine despite the frequent attempts made to compare her situation to Elizabeth Bennett’s. I don’t think the analogy really worked. Sure, Nic is hesitant to get involved with Sean at first, but he is never rude to her the way Darcy is to Lizzie, quite the opposite in fact. I found Nicola’s anal-retentiveness exasperating at times. Also, I get that she loves cupcakes but is it really necessary for her to bake them every day? And still go out the cupcake bakeries for more? Seriously, how is this girl not obese? But I digress. My complaints aside, Austentatious is a light read perfect for the beach, a piece of sugary fluff, not unlike one of Nicola’s prized cupcakes, that will satisfy your craving for romance.

Review: Born Wicked

Born Wicked
Jessica Spotswood
2012
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
978-0-399-25745-2

Cate Cahill and her younger sisters, Maura and Tess, are witches. With their mother dead and their father oblivious to their powers, the three girls must learn to control their magic and keep it hidden from the watchful eyes of the Brotherhood, a group of priests who form the town council and are known to persecute women they suspect of witchcraft. Cate vows to protect her sisters, but a secret prophecy revealed in her mother’s hidden diary could make that impossible. Cate must choose between marriage to her childhood friend Paul or joining the Sisterhood, a group of ostensibly pious women who are actually a group of witches determined that Cate join their ranks. Complicating matters further is Cate’s intense attraction to Finn Belastra, a man whose lower social statues makes him an unsuitable match. Now, Cate must figure out how to protect her sisters and herself from those would seek to harm them.

I really enjoyed Born Wicked. At first I feared this book, the first in a series, would be too predictable. It seems obvious Cate does not love her childhood friend Paul and will not be able to marry him, and that somehow she’ll find a way to be with Finn. However, there are enough twists and turns to keep readers interested, including the revelation that there are more witches in town than Cate thought, and the identity of some of these witches is surprising. I look forward to book two.

Review: The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers

The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers
Lynn Weingarten
2012
HarperTeen
9780061926181 

When Lucy’s boyfriend, Alex, breaks up with her on the first day of school after a summer apart, Lucy is heartbroken. She can’t understand what went wrong and is determined to win him back. A mysterious trio of girls offers her a solution: break someone’s heart within seven days, and become part of the magical Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers, never suffering from a broken heart again. How far will Lucy go to get what she wants?

Unfortunately, this book wasn’t nearly as intriguing as its premise had me hoping. Alex seems like a jerk right from the beginning and not worth fighting for. And of course, it’s glaringly obvious whose heart Lucy will break. Although Lucy finds happiness at the end of the novel, the reader is left with an icky feeling over the turn of events in the final few chapters. Not a very satisfying read.

Review: Linger and Forever

Linger                                               Forever
Maggie Stiefvater                           Maggie Stiefvater
2010                                                   2011
Scholastic                                         Scholastic
978-0-545-12328-0                    978-0-545-25908-8

The follow-up to Shiver, Linger finds Sam firmly a human, but now Grace’s future is uncertain as she begins to fear that one day she will shift. Linger also introduces Cole St. Clair, famed musician turned werewolf. Chapters from Cole and Isabel’s points of view are interspersed with chapters from Sam and Grace. I found this a welcome change, since to me Isabel and Cole were much more interesting characters. This book felt very much like a second book in a trilogy – the main characters and plot are established but nothing much happens until the end, when it’s time to set up the finale.

In Forever, Grace is now the wolf while Sam is the human. Tom Culpeper, still angry over his son Jack’s death, wants to do an aerial hunt to eliminate all the wolves. Now, Sam, Grace, and Cole must come up with a plan to save the wolves. Meanwhile, Cole looks for a cure to keep them human. Of the three books in the trilogy, I liked this one the best by far. There was a lot more at stake, so the pacing was a bit quicker. We also got to see Cole and Isabel develop more and of course the romance between Sam and Grace is as endearing as it is tragic. I’m a fan of Stiefvater’s writing style and her ability to create believable characters even while writing in four different voices. I look forward to reading her newest novel, The Scorpio Races.

Review: Shiver

Shiver
Maggie Stiefvater
2009
Scholastic
978-0-545-12326-6

As a young girl, Grace was attacked by wolves. She could have died, except that one wolf saved her, forcing the others to back away. Ever since then, Grace has looked out into the woods to catch a glimpse of her wolf. But this is no ordinary wolf. During the spring and summer, Sam turns human. But only for a few years, until one year he will remain a wolf forever. He and Grace fall in love instantly, but as the temperature drops, can they find a way to keep Sam human forever?

It took me a long time to get around to reading this book, but I am glad I waited, because now the third book is out and I won’t have to wait to find out what happens to Grace and Sam. At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book. Grace’s obsession with wolves seemed a little odd to me. But what won me over was the relationship that developed between Grace and Sam. Even though they have only just met as humans, the love between them is believable and heartbreaking because we know it can’t last. Or can it? I
look forward to reading books two and three to find out.

Review: Once Every Never

Once Every Never
Lesley Livingston
Penguin Canada
2011
978-0143177951

Clarinet Reid’s boring trip to visit her aunt Maggie in London turns out to be anything but when a close encounter with an ancient artifact sends her spiraling back in time. As Clare, her super-smart best friend Al, and hot nerd/genius Milo try to figure out how this happened, Clare becomes increasingly entangled in events of centuries past. Now, she must right a wrong and keep a priceless artifact out of the hands of a thief.

I was looking forward to reading this book after reading the Wondrous Strange trilogy. I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much, but that might be in part because of the subject matter. I prefer Shakespeare to Druids, what can I say? Still, I appreciated the sharp and funny dialogue and I enjoyed learning about the warrior queen Boudicca. The book was fairly fast-paced, with lots of action to keep things moving between Clare’s exciting time travels. Highly recommended for fans of paranormal YA who want something different from the standard vampires and werewolves.

Review: The Darkest Powers

This was originally posted on another one of my blogs that I no longer update.

The Darkest Powers Omnibus (includes The Summoning, The Awakening, and The Reckoning)
Kelley Armstrong
2010
Doubleday Canada
978-0385670517 

I was very excited to read Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers trilogy. Why? Because she’s well-known, successful Canadian author, and until  recently, I had never read any of her books. This trilogy was on my “must-read” list for some time, but school kept me from reading them for a while.

The books tell the story of Chloe, a teenager with a special ability – she can raise the dead! Chloe’s newfound powers lead to some admittedly strange behaviour that lands her in a group home. But Chloe isn’t the only one who’s special. Her new friends have their own special abilities, too, and now an organization called the Edison Group is hunting them down to try to control their powers. Can Chloe and her friends escape?

What I liked about the series is that unlike some YA heroines, Chloe is fairly competent. She can take care of herself anf stand up for herself. Her stuttering did get old after a while, especially as her confidence build. At times she’s a bit too much of a “good girl” but overall she’s a strong character. The books were full of twists, which kept me turning the pages. Although one of the characters is a werewolf, it was nice to read a supernatural series that wasn’t all about werewolves and vampires. A necromancer is an interesting choice for a heroine and gives teens who love paranormal something a little different. Also…

*spoiler*

I also liked that Chloe didn’t end up with the obvious love interest. It was refreshing that Armstrong didn’t go the predictable route.

Review: The Gathering

 

 

 

The Gathering
Kelley Armstrong
2011
Doubleday Canada
978-0-385-66851-4

Maya Delaney lives in a small medical research town. She’s adopted and doesn’t know much about her birth parents, other than she is part Native. She has a unique birthmark in the shape of a paw print on her hip, which seems fitting given the way animals respond to her. Aside from her innate ability to nurse injured animals back to health, Maya seems like an ordinary teenage girl. Until strange things start happening in the tiny town of Salmon Creek.  Her best friend drowns despite being a star swimmer. A reporter shows up and is found dead shortly after. Maya keeps attracting the attention of the cougars in the nearby woods. And the new guy at school, Rafe Martinez, known for being a player, is taking a sudden interest in Maya for reasons that will shock her.

I was quite keen to read this book after reading and enjoying Armstrong’s Darkest Powers trilogy last year. I found this book to be quite similar in premise, which is great for fans of Darkest Powers who want more stories in the same vein. What I didn’t realize when I picked up this book is that it is actually connected to the Darkest Powers trilogy. I look forward to seeing how this plays out in the subsequent books as well as possible appearances by Darkest Powers characters.

In terms of the book itself, while I enjoyed it, it did leave me with a lot of unanswered questions. I suppose this is to be expected since Armstrong is setting up the following parts of the story. I did enjoy reading about a heroine of a different ethnicity and the small-town, middle-of-the-woods setting was a refreshing change from big cities. The book is fast-paced and keeps the reader anxious to know the truth of Maya’s mysterious heritage as well as the mystery surrounding the town. I did find Maya slightly tiresome at times in that she was a bit too perfect and seemed to expect the same from everyone around her. Thankfully, she is called on this later on in the novel so perhaps we’ll see her grow in the next books. I’m also not sure where her relationship with her best friend, Daniel, is going. I kept expecting hints of a love triangle between Maya, Daniel, and Rafe, maybe because this plot device is used so often. So far, Maya and Daniel seem platonic and I am hoping Armstrong keeps it that way as it would be nice to see a male/female friendship that doesn’t need to be anything more. I’m sure lots of others readers would disagree, though, and may be rooting for a Maya/Daniel hookup,but personally I want to explore Rafe’s character more. I guess I’ll just have to pick up the second book, The Calling, due in April 2012, to see what happens next!

Review: Sisters Red

Sisters Red
Jackson Pearce
2010
Little, Brown and Company
978-0-316-06868-0

Sisters Red is a retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood story. As children, two sisters, the aptly named Scarlett and Rosie, were attacked by a Fenris – a man who turns into a wolf – at their grandmother’s cottage. In an effort to protect her sister, Scarlett lost an eye fighting the Fenris and is now covered in scars. Now, seven years later, the two sisters and their woodsman friend Silas are hunters who make it their mission to hunt the Fenris who prey on unsuspecting young women.  Scarlett and Rosie share an intense bond, but will it be broken by Rosie’s growing feelings for Silas?

At first I found this update on a classic tale intriguing. The story alternates chapters between Scarlett’s and Rosie’s point of view, so the reader understands the motivations of each character. Unfortunately, as I continued reading, I began to get bored. A large portion of the novel consists of a series of hunts, some of which are important to the plot but many of which I could have done without. It doesn’t help matters that I guessed the major plot twist early on and so was not surprised to see I was right. I also found the relationship between Rosie, who is 16, and Silas, who is 21, somewhat disturbing. I had to keep reminding myself that Rosie and Scarlett, 18, are teenagers because they seemed much older, but in reality Rosie is still a child. I was also confused as to why Rosie and Scarlett were always wearing cloaks. Yes, it ties in to the Red Riding Hood theme, but who really wears cloaks? Finally, Rosie, Scarlett, and Silas use various knives and hatchets to fight the Fenris, having to stab them repeatedly in order to kill them. Pearce never really explains why they don’t simply use guns. Do guns not work on Fenris?

I do think Pearce does an excellent job of illustrating the tension between the two sisters. Scarlett and Rosie are both compelling characters in their own right and I sympathized with both of them. I didn’t love Sisters Red but I will still check out Pearce’s next book, Sweetly, a retelling of Hansel and Gretel due out in August.