Thursday, August 19, 2010

Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier

The chieftains of Sevenwaters have long been custodians of a vast and mysterious forest--one of the last refuges of the Tuatha De Danann, the Fair Folk of ancient story. Human and Otherworld dwellers have existed there side by side, separated by a thin veil between the realms and sharing a wary trust--until the spring when Lady Ashling of Sevenwaters finds herself expecting another child, and everything changes.

With her mother pregnant, Clodagh fears the worst, since Aisling is well past the safe age for childbearing. Her father, Lord Sean of Sevenwaters, faces his own difficulties as warring factions threaten his borders. When Aisling gives birth fo a son--a new heir to Sevenwaters--the responsibility of caring for the infant falls to Clodagh while her mother recovers.

Then the family's joy turns to despair when the baby is taken from his room and something unnatural is left in his place. To reclaim her brother, Clodagh must enter the shadowy Otherworld and confront the powerful prince who rules there. Accompanied on her quest by a warrior who may be more than he seems, Clodagh will have her courage tested to its breaking point. But the reward may be far greater than she ever dreamed...

My Rating: 8/10

My Thoughts:
Books like this, where it's series predecessors are so good, are hard to review because I end up comparing it to them, rather then judge it based on its own merits.

With that said, I liked it. I loved being able to catch up with all the characters we met in other books and seeing what they have been up to. Almost like visiting old friends. Plus on top of that, we get to witness a new epic love story. Who could ask for more.

Unlike the other books, this one takes us into the Otherworld, and we learn more of the peculiarities of all the peoples that live there. While the Fair Folk have played a major part in the other books, they were always coming out of their world to manipulate the mortals. Here we have a mortal who is going to manipulate the Fair Folk.

I was slow to like both Clodagh and Cathal, but as the story gets going, both characters become much more likeable.

It was so fun to revisit Sevenwaters after believing the series was over, and now I can't wait for the next book to come out in December!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In The Woods by Tana French

Three children leave their small Dublin neighborhood to play in the surrounding woods. Hours later, their mothers' calls go unanswered. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children, gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

Twenty years later, Detective Rob Ryan--the found boy, who has kept his past a secret--and his partner Cassie Maddox investigate the murder of a twelve-year-old girl in the same woods. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him, and that of his own shadowy past.

My Rating: 7/10

My Thoughts:
Warning, possible spoilers....

First off, I love the cover. It was what initially made me pick this novel up.

I have mixed feelings about this book. The first half was really, really good. The mystery surrounding Robs childhood was marvelously creepy, and then the new murder being possibly connected really interested me. Plus on top of that I loved the relationship between Rob and Cassie. Their interactions were really fun, and they just seemed like cool people I would want to hang out with. And at about half way through, I was kicking myself for waiting so long to pick this book up. However...

The second half. GAH! Everything just falls apart. Cassie and Rob's relationship, the murder case, Rob's state of mind. The story just started to drag, and everything the book had going for it just went wrong. Plus I kinda figured out who the murder was way early. (And how could Tana French just leave us hanging on the mystery of Rob's childhood??? I mean, I understand leaving it a little ambiguous, but it's more like she forgot that his mystery was even part of the book and left us with nothing!) Ok, done ranting. So even though I kept reading to find out how it was going to end, I just wasn't impressed with the second half.

I don't know, maybe I'm just not getting the intellectual subtleties of the symbolism or something. Or maybe not. I've read a lot of reviews where people loved this book, so I guess I would just recommend reading it and deciding for yourself.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High--from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.

Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death--and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

My Rating: 9/10

My Thoughts:
LOVED IT! And I wasn't sure I would. I thought Sam was going to be really unlikeable and overall the story would be really morbid, but it wasn't. You get to see Sam's despair, and then growth as a person as she deals with the realization that she is repeating her last day over and over.

This is one of those books that makes you think. You think about your own life and what you are doing with it, and you think about how you treat other people around you. Books that make me think are the reason I read YA.

Though this book is sad, it's also hopeful. None of the characters are all bad (like, Sam's best friend) and none of them are perfectly good either. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone has their own personal issues they are dealing with. And that's how real life is.

Plus there is a hint of romance.

Go out and read this one, it's worth it.

Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) by Justina Chen Headley

Not quite a banana (Asian on the outside but white on the inside), and not quite an egg (a white kid who gets off on all things Asian), half-and-half Patty Ho has never felt completely at home in her skin. Life at House Ho is tough enough between her ultra-strict Taiwanese mom (epic-length lectures and all) and her Harvard-bound big brother. But things get worse when a Chinese fortune-teller channels Patty's future via her belly button... and divines a white guy on her romance horizon. Faster than Patty can add two plus two, her mom freaks out and ships her off to math camp at Stanford. Just as Patty writes off her summer of woe, life starts glimmering with all kinds of probabilities...

My Rating: 6/10

My Thoughts:
So this is the third and final Justina Chen Headley book that she has written. It was the first one she wrote, but the last one I read, and probably my least favorite. But that's not to say it doesn't have merit.

Patty is half Taiwanese and half Caucasian, and I enjoyed this different perspective. She struggles to fit in completely with either side of her ethnic background because each group views her as slightly other. There were many humorous parts, especially the Chinese fortune-teller and the smelly soup, and it's fun to read about people who's every day life is so different than my own, but at the same time so similar.

The things I didn't really like were, and you guessed it, it lacked romance, and a lot of it took place at a math camp. But these are mostly just personal perspectives, not faults that have to do with the writing or plot holes or any other aspect that would constitute a bad novel. I just don't like math, so maybe this book is for you. It just was not for me.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley

Everybody thinks Syrah is the golden girl. After all, her father is Ethan Cheng, billionaire, and she has everything any kid could possibly desire: a waterfront mansion, jet plane, and custom-designed snowboards. But most of what glitters in her life is fool's gold. Her half-siblings hate her, her best friend's girlfriend is ruining their friendship, and her own so-called boyfriend is only after her for her father's name. When her broken heart results in a snowboarding accident that exiles her from the mountains--the one place where she feels free and accepted for who she is, not what she had--can Syrah rehab both her busted-up knee and her bruised heart?

My Rating: 7/10

My Thoughts:
After reading North of Beautiful, I decided to check out all that Justina Chen Headley had to offer. Unfortunately Girl Overboard fell short.

I think if I had read Girl Overboard first, it wouldn't have seemed as disappointing, because don't get me wrong, it wasn't a bad book. It just wasn't as good as I hoped.

What I did like was the book was about a very, very rich girl who was very down to earth and real. She had the same problems that many of us face every day despite the fact that we are not rich. She wants simply to fit in and be liked for who she is, and I thought it was kind of refreshing to read about this from her particular perspective.

What I was hoping for was more romance. It seemed to have a promising love story in the beginning, but then drifts away from that story line. I am pro love story, and will almost always rate a book with a good love story higher. But that's just my personal bias.

Overall, it was an entertaining story, I just had the misfortune of reading it right after North of Beautiful and because of this had greater expectations.

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

It's hard not to notice Terra Cooper. She's tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably "flawed" face. Terra secretly plans to leave her small, stifling town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college, but gets pushed off-course by her controlling father. When an unexpected collision puts Terra directly in Jacob's path, the handsome but quirky Goth boy immediately challenges her assumptions about herself and her life, and she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find her true path?

My Rating: 9/10

My Thoughts:
I know I say this a lot, but I LOVED this book. The first half takes place in Washington, and being from Oregon, I consider this local, and I love books that take place near where I live. Then the second half takes place in China, which I want to visit so so so bad, so I really enjoyed reading about that. (There are not enough YA books where the characters travel to foreign countries) Plus, Terra is an artist, and I have a thing for characters who are artists.

Besides the setting, the thing that made this book for me was Jacob. He was so sweet and fun and comes to Terra just when she needs him. I have a major crush on this guy.

However, as much as I love Jacob, the opposite is true of Terra's father. I have never despised a character more in a book. He is nasty, petulant, unfair and childish. You just want to scream at Terra's mom to stop putting up with everything, and stand up for herself. (And Terra's mom's journey is a major, and awesome subplot, and is yet another reason why this book exuded awesomeness)

This is a book about coming to terms with things you can't change, and when you can making changes for the better, even if it's difficult. Overall it was very uplifting and sends a good message about inner beauty, friendship, and love. Plus the cover is beautiful.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey

The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of unsurpassed beauty and grace. It is said that the angels found the land and saw it was good, and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: love as thou wilt.

Phedre no Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye and sold into indentured servitude as a child. Her bond was purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with a very special mission--and the first to recognize her for who and what she is:one pricked by Kushiel's Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.

Phedre has trained in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Having stumbled upon a plot that threatened the very foundations of her homeland, she gave up almost everything to save it. She survived, and lived to have others tell her story, and if they embellished the tale with fabric of mythical splendor, they wern't far off the mark.

The hands of the gods weigh heavily upon Phedre's brow, and they are not yet done with their charge--for while the young queen who sits upon the throne is well loved by the people, there are those who believe that other heads should wer the crown. And those who escaped the wrath of the mighty are not yet done with their schemes for power and revenge. To protect and serve, Phedre will once again leave her beloved homeland.

From the sun-drenched villas of La Serenissima to the wilds of old Hellas, from a prison designed to drive the very gods mad to an island of immutable joy, Phedre will meet old friends and new enemies... and discover a plot so dreadful as to make the earth tremble, masterminded by the one person she cannot turn away from.

My Rating: 9/10

My Thoughts:
This is the second book in one of the greatest fantasy trilogies of all time. Though it's not quite as good as the first one, it comes really, really close. We are again faced with dire political intrigue and national crisis. Like in Kushiel's Dart we get to experience not only the beautiful country of Terre d'Ange, but we get to explore many other of the countries that had previously been only mentioned.

My biggest gripe (and possibly spoilor-y) is my favorite blond warrior priest spends most of the book either really, really pissed at Phedre, or seperated from her. The first time I read this book, the seperation worried me so much I flipped ahead just to make sure his name appeared later in the book, reassuring me he was in fact going to come back into the picture. He does.

Overall, this series is so, so amazing. Go read it now.