Friday, February 25, 2011

A Tale of Two Castles

A Tale of Two Castles
by Gail Carson Levine

At just twelve years old Elodie leaves home and sets off aboard ship to the town of Two Castles where she hopes to become a mansioner (actor).  But fate has other plans for her.  She instead becomes the assistant to the town dragon who is an expert in inductive and deductive reasoning.  By paying close attention to her new masteress's teachings and to the world around her, can Elodie figure out who has betrayed the town ogre and poisoned the king?

Final thoughts:  It's a short book talk because the book was just bland.  Levine tried so hard to create this whole new world with new words and a new system of government and education that she completely overshot and made it boring.  I struggled through this one and barely made it to the end.  Honestly, I should have shelved this one after the first couple of chapters.  I have really loved some of Levine's previous work, but this one was just not worth the read.

Rating: 2/5

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Silver Bowl

The Silver Bowl
by Diane Stanley

Molly has been independent and willful ever since she was a little girl.  When she gets in trouble one too many times, her father sends her to Dethmere Castle to be a scullery maid.  As she leaves, her mother gives her some good advice: never let people know what you can see.

Molly, and her mother, have the gift of "sight".  They can see the future and the past.  If anyone ever finds out, Molly could be branded a witch.

So Molly heads out at just seven years old to work at the castle.  In the beginning, she gets in as much trouble as ever.  But slowly, she learns her place in the world and becomes a respected member of the staff.  She's even trusted with polishing the King's silver, which only one other person in the castle is allowed to do.

However, Molly's trouble really begins with the silver bowl that she must polish and the secrets it holds within.  Can she, a lowly scullery maid, save the kingdom from its curse?

Final thoughts:  It was an interesting premise, but it was just poorly done.  There's no consistency to the timeline at all.  You can go from a minute-by-minute description in one paragraph and suddenly find yourself 3 months later in the story.  Things just speed up and slow down with no warning.  The prince's change of heart regarding Molly is just too sudden.  One moment he's criticizing her and the next he's calling her his good-luck charm.  And the relationship with Tobias was just completely dull.  There was no personality from anyone in the story, least of all Molly herself.  Mediocre read at best.

Rating: 2/5

Friday, February 18, 2011


by Kristi Cook

For years, Violet has tried to get people to believe her.  She's begged, she's pleaded, and she's even tried to sneakily suggest, but when her father goes on a journalistic assignment to Afghanistan, Violet pulls out all the stops.  Yet he still doesn't listen to her.  And now he's dead.

You see, Violet sees the future.  And the future she usually sees is of violence against her family.  So she got to see the murder of her father as if she was there in the room weeks before he even left her with her stepmother. 

Now, a couple of years later, Violet has the chance to start over.  Her stepmother gets a lucrative job offer in New York and Violet gets the opportunity to go to Winterhaven, an exclusive boarding school that's even more exclusive than she thought.  While she thought she was leaving behind the taunts of "freak" from her schoolmates and getting a chance to be someone completely new, it turns out that the school she goes to is full of "freaks" like her.  

Everyone at Winterhaven has a secret.

Everyone at Winterhaven has a "gift".

And one boy in particular has Violet's eye.

But his secrets are more dangerous than anyone else's.  And while she's drawn to him in ways she cannot explain, she must also watch out for him and for his future.  

Who else is better equipped to see what lies ahead than a precog in love?

Final thoughts:  The writing in this one drew me in quickly and kept me eager to read more.  It wasn't until after I put it down that I got the sense that much of this had been done before.  At least this one did a better job of it than most.  There is a whole Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Twilight aspect that, while not new, at least had some new, creative twists.  Once again, my biggest complaint is that this appears to be the first in a trilogy.  Can we not have a single supernatural romance in ONE book??  Also, the cover is bland compared to the story.  I guess the butterfly is supposed to represent coming out of a cocoon or something, but this cover needs more than a vague metaphor.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


by Courtney Allison Moulton

Ellie's dreams have recently begun taking on a frightening edge.  Previously, they had been normal (well, as normal as a teenage girl's dreams can be), but now they are becoming violent and real.  When Ellie wakes from them, she has the distinct feeling that these are more like memories because she always feels like she's really there.

And maybe she was.

One day, a gorgeous stranger shows up and tells her that she's much more than an average teen.  She's the Preliator.  For thousands of years she has been reincarnated, killed the descendants of the Fallen, and stopped Lucifer from building an army of souls to fight against the angels of God and Heaven.

It's a little more than a girl like Ellie can take, especially when she can't remember most of it.

It seems she skipped a generation in her reincarnations and no one knows quite why, but they do know that something big is coming and Ellie is the only one who can stop it from destroying everything she knows and loves.

Final thoughts:  I'm conflicted on this one.  On the one hand, it's a pretty decent read.  There's action and romance enough to hold my interest while reading it.  But it didn't grab me and make me want to never put it down; in fact, I didn't read it at all for the entire weekend.  However, I never really felt like giving up on it either.  The first hundred pages or so actually made me angry because it felt like a Buffy rip-off.  A kind of "Chosen One" who is watched, guarded, and taught to slay demons of varying strengths with different kinds of powers.  She has dreams of her past lives.  There's also a love that can't be shared for various reasons, some of which made no sense.  Ellie also has to make up excuses to people to explain how things keep getting destroyed around her, which Buffy got to be a real pro at doing.  There's more, but I don't think I want to go into all of them.
Essentially, this was just ok.  No great shakes.  I'll read the sequel (in yet another trilogy... really!?!?), but I don't think I'll get all bouncy in my chair when it comes out.

Rating: 3/5

Thursday, February 10, 2011


by Tara Hudson

Amelia doesn't know why it happened or when it happened, but she does know it happened.  She died.  And now she's a ghost in a prom dress who primarily hangs around an old, dangerous bridge over a river.  She's tried talking to people.  She's even screamed at them.  But it does no good.  She can't see them and she hasn't met any other ghosts, so she wanders around lost and alone.

Until one day a car careens off the bridge and Amelia sees a boy floating from the vehicle.  She hears his heartbeat and knows that she has to do something to save him.

Somehow, she does.  And now she can be seen by someone.

Now that Joshua can see her, hear her, and even touch her, Amelia finally has something to live for.  Of course, that's a little difficult seeing as how she's already dead, but neither she nor Joshua seem to mind.

Can Amelia and Joshua find a way to be together when everything and everyone around them seem to be conspiring to keep them apart?

Final thoughts:  I soooo needed this book.  After zombies and dystopias, a good, solid, paranormal romance was exactly what the librarian ordered.  This book is well written, romantic, and suspenseful.  Amelia's quest for self-discovery is perfectly timed and I was hard-pressed to put this one down.  Excellent book.  My only problem is that this is, once again, the first in a trilogy.  For the most part, this book could just end as it is, but the author left a few little tidbits and crumbs about possible storylines that can be used for the future, so it's just a little unfinished.  I really wish that publishers and authors could just put out single volume stories again.

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth
by Carrie Ryan

For generations, the fence has stayed strong.  There are occasional breaches, but the Guardians, and Sisterhood which leads them, have kept the village safe.  Practically from birth, villagers are trained on how to handle any breaches from fighting to getting up onto the platforms in the trees.

After her mother gets too close and becomes infected by the Unconsecrated, Mary is sent to become a Sister and devote herself to saving the villagers, both their physical bodies and their immortal souls.  But Mary does not want this life.  She wants Travis, even though he is betrothed to another.  And she wants to see the ocean, which her mother used to tell her about and show her a picture of when she was a child.

She wants so much more than the village can give her.

She wants answers.

How did the Unconsecrated really come to be?  Are they really the last of the human race?  Is the ocean real?  Is there anything else out there away from her small village and limited choices?

Will she find out the answers before it's too late?
Final thoughts:  I guess I'm just not a zombie fan.  I really tried to get into this, but the whole post-apocalyptic feel just wasn't jiving with me.  I also had a very hard time believing that Mary really loved Travis.  They just weren't together often enough in the book and, what time they were together, there just didn't seem to be any chemistry (no matter how many times the author said there was).  I just felt that Mary was a little selfish and slightly obsessed.  Even when things are going to crap around her, she's completely focused on finding the ocean and to hell with the people she loves.  It just lacked flair.  I have the ARC for the third book, but I don't know if I care enough to get the second one so that I can read it (and have it make sense) or if I should just hand it off.

Rating: 3/5

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Gathering

The Gathering
by Kelley Armstrong

Maya's town is a little different than most.  Created by a scientific research organization to house its employees and their families while staying away from the corporate spies that want to steal their secrets, the little town isn't even located on most maps.  The children have grown up learning in a small school and have been trained how to handle strangers who ask too many questions.

But now a new stranger has come to town and she's asking questions that pique Maya's curiosity.  Why do the children have annual physicals conducted by the scientists every year when they "tour" the research facility on school field trips?  Why do animals seem to flock to Maya and heal more quickly under her care?  Why was she abandoned at the hospital as a child?  What does her paw-print birthmark mean?  How could the captain of the swim team die in the middle of a lake she'd swum in practically since birth?  And what does the hot new guy want from her?

As Maya and her best friend, Daniel, search for answers, it may be that searching could be the worst mistake of her life.

Final thoughts:  This is not a novel; this is the first third of a novel.  This is only the exposition of a novel.  Almost everything in this book is a set-up for the next two in the trilogy.  The cliffhanger isn't even really a cliffhanger as much as it is a "turn the page to find out" only to find out there's nothing on the next page.  It's like buying a book to find the printer messed up.  There's some interesting storyline stuff going on here, but it's obscured by the fact that there isn't much plot.  The supernatural element may be great... once we can get to it.  
And I'm a little disturbed by the references to Native culture.  I've checked Armstrong's bio and there is nothing to suggest that she has any Native history, but Maya is supposed to be something (though she was abandoned and adopted, so no one knows what she is), her  adoptive mother is Navajo, and there are references to tribes, laws, and other stories throughout the book.  Having followed Debbie Reese's blog for a few years now, I'm wary about recommending books that will indulge stereotypes like skin color, religion, tribal histories, etc... In her "Mea-Culpa" page on her website that is there to discuss errors and plot holes, Armstrong mentions about another book of hers that she doesn't want to "appropriate anyone's faith for my fiction."  However, I'm concerned that she's appropriating a culture here.  Hesitant to recommend this one.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Desires of the Dead

Desires of the Dead
by Kimberly Derting

It's been three months since a serial killer nearly ended Violet's life, but now things are going well for her.  She's got great friends, decent grades, and a yummy boyfriend who would (and has) jumped in front of a gun for her.  

She's also got a stalker who seems to like leaving dead animals and threatening letters for her.

And there's the fact that there's a pesky woman who works with the FBI and her very cute teen partner who has his own secrets.

Add to all of that a couple of new students with their own trauma and the body of a boy in a storage container at a shipping yard and it seems that Violet's life will probably never go back to normal (whatever that is).  

When you're a girl who can sense the bodies of those killed by violence, is anything really normal?

Final thoughts:  I really liked The Body Finder and was hoping for more of the same from Derting with this second book.  Unfortunately, it got a little predictable at parts and definitely hit the repeat button a few times.  Violet makes a number of bad choices, the biggest being not confiding in anyone.  Throughout the book she keeps pushing people away, which seems stupid when just talking to a couple of people could have solved her problems in half the time.  Violet's connection with a new boy also leads me to think that future books are bound to have some romantic entanglements no matter how devoted she and Jay seem to be, especially since Derting basically kept shoving it in my face over and over again.

Rating: 3/5


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