Monday, June 30, 2014

The One - Kiera Cass

Title: The One (Book 3 of The Selection series)
Author: Kiera Cass
Publisher: HarperTeen, 2014 (Paperback)
Length: 323 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Dystopian Fiction
Started: June 26, 2014
Finished: June 29, 2014


The Selection changed the lives of thirty-five girls forever. Now, only one will claim Prince Maxon's heart.

For the four girls who remain at the palace, the friendships they've formed, rivalries they've struggled with, and dangers they've faced  have bound them to each other for the rest of their lives.

Now, the time has come for one winner to be chosen.

America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown - or to Prince Maxon's heart. But as the competition approaches its end and the threats the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose - and how hard she'll have to fight for the future she wants.

After blazing through The Selection and The Elite, I was looking forward to the end of the series but at the same time not wanting it to end. There are novella prequels about Maxon and Aspen that are out that I haven't read yet, so I'll have to track those down to get my fix.

The One wraps things up quite nicely. America finally makes up her mind about who she wants (my only beef with this series was America's endless waffling, made me want to smack her), a certain character gets fleshed out and therefore redeemed, there's some great action scenes with the rebels, and some uber cute romantic scenes. The ending was a little abrupt, makes it seem like there needs to be another book to finish things off, but who knows, maybe the author will write a sequel series.

A great ending to a lovely series, I will miss it.

Thoughts on the cover:
These covers are simply gorgeous, I love the white wedding theme going on.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hidden - Loic Dauvillier

Title: Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust
Author: Loic Dauvillier, Marc Lizano, Greg Salsedo, Alexis Siegel
Publisher: First Second, 2014 (Hardcover)
Length: 76 pages
Genre: Children's Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction
Started: June 25, 2014
Finished: June 25, 2014

From the inside cover:

Like every grandmother, Dounia was once a little girl herself.

Tonight, she's finally ready to tell her granddaughter a secret about her childhood - something she never even told her son.

Tonight, Dounia is ready to share her memories of Paris in 1942. Memories of wearing a Star of David, of living in fear, of the kindness of strangers.

Memories of being hidden.

The thing I find most fascinating about Holocaust narratives is that you get a different perspective depending on the age of the person and which country they lived in. There are lots of similarities that unite all these various stories together, but a child in France that survived by being in hiding will have a completely different experience than one that survived by living in the forest in eastern Europe, same with a child from Germany or Poland that was actually sent to a concentration camp.

Dounia's young granddaughter Elsa is staying overnight, and when she wakes up in the middle of the night to find her grandmother up as well, she urges Dounia to share the reason why she can't sleep. Dounia then proceeds to tell Elsa of her childhood in France after the German occupation. She remembers the one day everything changes, when her father tells her they need to wear "sheriff's stars, when friends suddenly disappear, and when she is ostracized at school. Soon, soldiers come looking for her. Her parents hide her in a false bottom in a wardrobe, never to return for her. A kindly neighbour couple takes her in, but the husband is soon taken away for keeping Dounia hidden. Now on the run, the wife finds a farm to take Dounia to, arranged by the Resistance. After years in hiding, some are reunited and some are not. Back to the present, Elsa's father confides in his mother that he now knows the story courtesy of his daughter, and that he understands why his mother never told him, but that he's proud she was able to share it with Elsa.

This is a short graphic novel, a very quick read, but very powerful. There isn't anything overly violent in this book (nothing like Schindler's List kind of disturbing), but it does discuss the treatment of Jewish people and anti-Semitism, and that might be a lot for a particularly sensitive young reader to process, so proceed with caution depending on age and maturity of the reader. I'd say most kids over age 10 or so should be able to handle the content with no issues. I'd even go as far as to say that this is a good introduction to Holocaust narratives for a chid: it's short, in graphic novel format, and told from an innocent child's perspective (therefore it's not too heavy like more mature narratives).

Short but excellent graphic portrayal of a child's experience of the Holocaust in France.

Thoughts on the cover:
I love the huge splash of blue, especially this particular shade of baby blue, with Dounia in the corner with her black hair and red coat, the colours really mesh well.

Lost Girl Found - Leah Bassoff and Laura DeLuca

Title: Lost Girl Found
Author: Leah Bassoff and Laura DeLuca
Publisher: Groundwood Books, 2014 (Hardcover)
Length: 212 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction
Started: June 24, 2014
Finished: June 25, 2014

From the inside cover:

For Poni, life in her small village in southern Sudan is simple and complicated at the same time. Stay in school. Beat up any boy who tries to show attention. Watch out for the dangers in the river.

But then the war comes. And when soldiers arrive in her village, and bombs begin to rain from the sky, there is only one thing for Poni to do. Run. Run for her life.

Poni does run from the bombs, and then she is walking - a long and dusty trek across the east African countryside with thousands of refugees. Along the way, many die from starvation, land mines, wild animals, and despair, but Poni does not, driven by sheer will to survive and the hope that, against all odds, she can one day continue with her education.

I didn't realize this was a female perspective of the famous Lost Boys of Sudan until I got really into the book. I've read new stories and seen documentaries of young boys and men that were resettled in North America after surviving wars and conflict in their home countries, and I always wondered about the girls, but no one ever focused on them. This book is based off of the experiences of multiple Sudanese women and girls and portrayed as Poni. We first meet her as a 12-13-year-old girl living in south Sudan, trying to avoid an early marriage by focusing on her studies and literally beating up any boy who shows and interest in her to make them look elsewhere. When war arrives and bombs drop, Poni is separated from her parents and siblings, and she follows the other refugees to the Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya. She manages to survive even there, but when her foster mother threatens to marry her off, Poni escapes to Nairobi when rumours reach her of a nun who helps girls go to school.

The main thing that stands out here is the stark portrayal of gender issues in countries such as these. Early on in the book there's a scene where Poni's twelve-year-old friend is clinging to a tree and ripped from it because she doesn't want to be married off. Less than a year later, that same friend has died in childbirth, which reinforces Poni's resolve to avoid marriage at all costs. There's a scene in the camps where a girl is singled out from a group and raped, and Poni remarks on how she'll be blamed for it and will be shunned because no one will want her. The importance of education is also shown. Poni's mother tells her that her only chance to have a decent life is to continue her schooling, to the point where Poni must make a heart-breaking decision at the end of the book relating to it.

There's a few really good author's notes and a list of further resources (mostly on the Lost Boys though) at the end of the book for people wanting to research further. I love books like these because it makes our kids aware of issues going on outside of their own country and reinforces how fortunate they are.

A short but powerful read on the experiences of girls in the Sudan civil war.

Thoughts on the cover:
It's appropriate but doesn't incite much of a reaction.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

There Will Come a Time - Carrie Arcos

Title: There Will Come a Time
Author: Carrie Arcos
Publisher: Simon Pulse, 2014 (Hardcover)
Length: 315 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: June 17, 2014
Finished: June 20, 2014

From the inside cover:

Mark knows grief. Ever since the accident that killed his twin sister, Grace, the only time he feels at peace is when he visits the bridge on which she died. Comfort is fleeting, but it's almost within reach when he's standing on the wrong side of the suicide bar. Almost.

Grace's best friend, Hanna, says she understands what he's going through. But she doesn't. She can't. It's just not the immensity of his loss. As her twin, Mark should have known Grace as well as he knows himself. Yet, when he reads her journal, it's as if he didn't know her at all.

As a way to remember Grace, Hanna convinces Mark to complete Grace's bucket list from her journal. Mark's sadness, anger, and growing feelings for Hanna threaten to overwhelm him. But Mark can't back out. He made a promise to honour Grace - and it's his one chance to set things right.

I read the author's award-winning Out of Reach last year and loved it, so when I recognized the name on this one, I knew I had to try it.

There Will Come a Time doesn't make quite an impact as Out of Reach in my opinion, purely because it's a story of a teen dealing with grief and that type of story line is more common. I'm actually happy about that since grief narratives weren't common even a few years back, but those types of stories do get a bid predictable.

Mark Santos is going into his senior year of high school, 6 months after the car accident that killed his twin sister Grace. Between stalking the man who caused the accident and hanging out at the bridge where it happened, Mark is definitely not okay, but thankfully his parents have him in therapy as the book begins, plus he's in a twin-less twin support group. Mark is struggling to move on after Grace's death, which is complicated even further when Mark and Hanna find Grace's journal and read it. They find a "list of things to do this year" full of things that Mark knows Grace would've actively avoided, so that unnerves him even more. Hanna gets the idea to do all the items on Grace's list as a way to remember her: bungee jumping, run a 5K, learn to surf, perform spoken word at a club, and climb to the top of a mountain and watch the sunrise.

The book follows Mark through various aspects of his grief: returning to school and his band, questioning his feelings for Hanna, how to move on when Grace was such a huge part of his life, how to treat Grace's boyfriend River, relating to his dad, step-mom, and younger sister Fern; and whether to give his absentee mother another chance.

I felt this was a realistic story: Mark gets upset and angry and snaps at others because he feels his grief is so far above everyone else's, but due to the influence of therapy he doesn't do anything outright stupid like try to jump off the bridge. It's also hopeful. Mark manages to move on and feel empathy for everyone else's grief, like when he gives River Grace's old bracelet and the poem from her journal and tells him that she really did love River like he loved her. He realizes Grace is still present in his family's traditions and in how they interact, and that he is still a brother to Fern and needs to keep it together. He has an outlet in doing the bucket list and shares in his grief with Hanna, as well as his texts with Lily where he shares what he misses about Grace each day.

Not as amazing as the author's previous work, but still a great book about working through the grief process.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like the streetlights against the almost navy-coloured sky, and you almost miss the silhouette that's supposed to be Mark at the very bottom.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Winner's Curse - Marie Rutkoski

Title: The Winner's Curse
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2014 (Hardcover)
Length: 355 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: June 12, 2014
Finished: June 17, 2014


As a general's daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers; seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin's eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him - with unexpected consequences. It's not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human being is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this one, but I knew I wanted to read it. I didn't know if it was a one-shot or a trilogy/series (now know it's a trilogy), so the issues I had with the ending are now unfounded since I know it will continue.

Kestrel's father is the general of the Valorian army. The Valorians expand their empire through conquering other countries and enslaving those populations, and the war on Herran was no different. Now living in the homes of deposed Herrani aristocrats and officials ten years after the initial conquest, Kestrel and the other Valorians live the high life with the Herrani as their slaves. Kestrel spies a young man for sale at an auction, and buys him for his blacksmith skills when she finds out he has musical talents. Valorian society doesn't value music and Kestrel is one of the only members who actually revels in playing.

As she gets to know Arin, he is seemingly arrogant and doesn't act anything like a slave. They tentatively become friends, since both of them understand the Valorian and Herrani languages. Kestrel risks her reputation by using Arin as her escort, and then again when she challenges another Valorian to a duel to try to save Arin's life. At the same time, her father is pressuring her to make her choice between marriage and the military, neither of which Kestrel wants. After the duel, it is revealed that Arin is actually part of a group of Herrani determined to overthrow the Valorian rule and take back their country, and he's been using his position in Kestrel's house to plan it. When Arin saves Kestrel's life by not allowing her to be poisoned along with the other Valorian nobles, she is faced with a choice: does she side with Arin or her father?

The plot is stunningly developed here, but it is slow to take off. The first hundred pages or so when Kestrel first buys Arin go by quite slowly since it's mainly a play-by-play of Valorian society (though I did love the descriptions of Bite and Sting). The pace really picks up during the duel segment and afterwards once Arin's plot if fully revealed. Things aren't fully resolved by the end since it is a trilogy, but I look forward to reading the next installments.

Kestrel as a character was fascinating, I liked that she was trained to fight and can hold her own physically as well as mentally, using valuable information to change situations so that they're in her favour.

I also liked the fact that Kestrel and Arin's relationship developed slowly to the point where you almost don't notice the change; I did by the time they get to that scene where he braids her hair, it's so loving it's cavity-inducing. I liked that the author included a note about the concept of the Winner's Curse, that even someone who wins at an auction also loses because they've paid more for something than anyone else has deemed it worth. It fits Kestrel and Arin perfectly, at least at this phase, especially once you read the ending.

Starts off slow but gets soooo much better, give this one a go.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like how the model is holding the R in the title, and that they included Kestrel's dagger.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Storm - Donna Jo Napoli

Title: Storm
Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2014 (Hardcover)
Length: 353 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Historical Fiction
Started: June 6, 2014
Finished: June 12, 2014

From the inside cover:

Sixteen-year-old Sebah has lost everything to the raging storm: her family, her home, her best friend. Now, she takes shelter in a tree, eating pinecones and the raw meat of animals that float by. With each passing day, her companion, a boy named Aban, grows weaker. When their tree is struck by lightning, Sebah is tempted to just die in the flames rather than succumb to a slow, watery death. Instead, she and Aban build a raft. What they find on the stormy seas is beyond imagining: a gigantic ark. But Sebah does not know what she'll find on board, and Aban is too weak to leave their raft.

Donna Jo Napoli has imagined a new protagonist to tell the story of Noah and his ark. As rain batters the earth, Noah, his family, and hoards of animals wait out the storm, ready to carry out their duty of repopulating the planet. Hidden Sebah.

This was a really interesting premise. I've never read a book that retells a biblical story, so I wasn't sure what to expect. The first thing that took some getting used to was the language. The story takes place in the BCE era in Caanan, but all the characters speak what we would call modern language (no slang or anything, but not typical Bible-speak or old-English either). I was expecting the latter, so that was refreshing.

Sebah goes out to search for her brothers when the flood begins and ends up having to take refuge in a tree. Aban, a neighbour boy, soon joins her, and the two unofficially become husband and wife. When they build a raft to escape the tree catching on fire from a lightning strike, Aban grows weaker and begs Sebah to board the ark to save herself. She enters one of the portholes and ends up in a cage with two chimpanzees she names Queen and The Male. As time goes on, she eavesdrops on conversations amongst Noah and his family and learns about them, they're quite the dysfunctional bunch apparently. Sebah sees the animals go stir-crazy being cooped up for months on end, so she finds ways to let them out one at a time so they can roam. Sebah, and later Bash, another stowaway, find ways to evade discovery by Noah's family to wait out the flood.

I liked the 'what if?" aspect. I always found it hard to believe that the only humans that supposedly survived the flood were Noah and his family, so the idea that a person could've made their way onto the ark and lived there for months in secret without being discovered was really fascinating. The fact that the author added another stowaway that hides on the ark's roof was even better.

Sebah is a great character with a good personality, that despite losing everyone she knows and being pregnant in the situation she's in (yes there's mention of sex, and subsequent childbirth), she is quick on her feet and takes charge of things. The way she interacts with the animals is charming, since she can't show herself to the humans she bonds with the animals she helps to take care of.

An interesting take on the Noah story with a fresh perspective, I urge you to give it a try.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like how dynamic the cover is, combined with the colour scheme it's a very eye-catching cover.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dorothy Must Die - Danielle Paige

Title: Dorothy Must Die
Author: Danielle Paige
Publisher: Harper, 2014 (Hardcover)
Length: 452 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: June 9, 2014
Finished: June 10, 2014

From the inside cover:

I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.

But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado-taking you with it- you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little bluebirds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still a yellow brick road-but even that's crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm - and I'm the other girl from Kansas.

I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. I've been trained to fight.

And I have a mission.

I love a good twist on a classic tale, and a psychotic, violent version of The Wizard of Oz is right up my alley.

Amy lives in a trailer park in Kansas, and has issues with self-esteem. You would too if your dad left, your mom spiraled into an alcohol-filled depression, and the girls at school pick on you for being trailer trash. But when she finds herself alone when a tornado comes, and later in the infamous land of Oz, she's glad for a change of scenery. Until she realizes this Oz isn't the one from the books and movies. The landscape is grey and empty, the muchkins are nowhere to be found, and anyone she does find is wearing a super creepy Perma-Smile (think the Joker from Batman times ten). Amy goes to the Emerald City to find help and discovers the cause of the drastic change: Dorothy. She's apparently the poster child for the phrase "Power Corrupts." Amy angers Dorothy by both being from Kansas and arriving here via tornado, and is sentenced to death. She is rescued by Mombi, one of the members of the resistance, and is recruited to the cause. She is trained to be a Witch by Gert and Glamora (Glinda's twin sister), to use magic in order to kill Dorothy and bring Oz back to its former glory. But there are more issues. The Scarecrow is now a mad scientist who experiments on Oz's citizens, the Tin Woodsman is a killing machine as the head of police with a wicked crush on Dorothy, and the (Cowardly) Lion is a crazed animal who randomly eats and mauls people. Amy is sent to the Emerald City to pose as one of Dorothy's maids to work undercover until the Order tells her to strike. But Amy's not sure who she can trust; she knows Dorothy needs to go, but under whose direction should it be done?

I loved the twisted aspect of an otherwise sparkles and rainbows story, but there were a few things that irked me. I didn't know this was a series when I picked it up, so I was confused when the story dragged on and wasn't moving along quickly. so the pacing was an issue for me. It should have been titled "Dorothy Should Die Eventually", because there is no resolution on that goal by the end of the book. Having Nox as a romantic interest kind of fell flat to me, they become interested in each other way too quickly and it isn't believable..hopefully that will be rectified in the upcoming books. There's a lot of pop culture references, slang, and dialect in the book that I'm not convinced a fantasy universe would contain, even if it a few people from the US did inhabit it from time to time. The characters weren't very well developed either. Amy, although sympathetic and feisty, seems like a stereotype of the under-appreciated girl with issues that develops a chip on her shoulder; and the supporting characters aren't much better either.

The violence is really intense at times (the Lion ripping someone's arm off, etc.). It was fine in my opinion, but sensitive readers might be put off by it (like Dorothy ordering her head maid to crush a mouse in her bare hands).

Excellent premise and idea, but it just didn't deliver in a lot of areas. I'm hoping subsequent books will be better.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like it, Dorothy's signature pieces are all there (except for the red shoes), but they only outline her so your imagination fills in the rest.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Elite - Kiera Cass

Title: The Elite (Book 2 of The Selection series)
Author: Kiera Cass
Publisher: HarperTeen, 2013 (Hardcover)
Length: 323 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Dystopian Fiction
Started: June 4, 2014
Finished: June 5, 2014

From the inside cover:

The Selection began with 35 girls. Now, with the group narrowed down to the Elite, the competition to win Prince Maxon's love is fiercer than ever. The closer America gets to the crown, the more she struggles to figure out where her heart truly lies. Each moment she spends with Maxon is like a fairy tale, filled with breathless, glittering romance. But whenever she sees her first love, Aspen, standing guard, she's swept up in longing for the life they'd planned to share.

America is desperate for more time. But while she's torn between her two futures, the rest of the Elite know exactly what they want - and America's chance to choose is about to slip away.

After reading and loving The Selection, I knew this was one series I'd devour. Thankfully for me books 1-3 are already out (not sure if there's more coming aside from the side stories).

The Elite picks up where The Selection left off; America is one of the Elite, the six girls remaining from the original 35. Stakes are higher now, Maxon is under pressure to narrow down his choice according to which girl is the people's favourite, has political connections, or comes from a good family, none of which applies to America. But she remains Maxon's favourite until things begin to unravel and America sees a side of Maxon and the royal family that shakes her to the core. When she reconsiders whether she truly wants this life, Maxon bonds with the other girls. Cue both of them hemming and hawing over whether they still love and want each other. Basically that's the gist of the book with some more political intrigue and insight into how twisted the King is thrown in for good measure.

This was more of a bridge book to me, as 2nd books in a trilogy/series tend to be, however it did develop the political aspect of the plot, and we see America even more determined when confronted with adversity.

If you liked The Selection, you'll already have read this. If not, I suggest you give this series a try.

Thoughts on the cover:
Again, these covers are gorgeous. I like how the model has more auburn-red hair than orange-red, it actually makes the dress and colour scheme work.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Counting by 7s - Holly Goldberg Sloan

Title: Counting by 7s
Author: Holly Goldberg Sloan
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013 (Hardcover)
Length: 378 pages
Genre: Children's Realistic Fiction
Started: May 30, 2014
Finished: June 2, 2014

From the inside cover:

7 reasons to read this extraordinary novel:

1. Friendship. It doesn't always happen easily, especially for Willow. But now she has met Mai, a girl with enough energy to tackle the impossible, and one who sees Willow for who she really is.

2. Oddballs. We all feel like outsiders sometimes. Willow the genius - who has mastered several foreign languages and medical-school textbooks all by the age of twelve - certainly doesn't easily fit in with the crowd. Neither do the other people in this story filled with terrific, memorable oddballs.

3. Hobbies. It helps to have something interesting to focus on, such as Willow's passion for nature. When tragedy strikes, it is the simple act of growing sunflowers that first brings her some pleasure again.

4. Laughing and crying. But despite the tragedy, this is a beautiful, satisfying book - the kind that makes you see your own life in a new way. And through the heartache, you will find yourself the wonderfully absurd moments that happen even on the hardest days.

5. Miracles. Those unexpectedly silly moments are miraculous. This is a story filled with everyday miracles.

6. Family. And the most miraculous thing of all is a loving family.

7. Willow Chance herself, whose heart leads her on a path to belonging - a path that is surprising, exhilarating, and without a doubt, one you will never forget.

This book was likened to Wonder in several blurbs I read, and since I have an almost obsessive love for that book, I decided to give this one a try.

Willow is a genius, possibly on the spectrum as well. She counts by 7s to help calm her down, enjoys diagnosing medical conditions, and learning Vietnamese for fun. She's not challenged at school and has no friends because of how odd she is. When she gets a perfect score on an aptitude test and is accused of cheating (despite the school knowing she is gifted, really school?), she is referred to the school counsellor,  Dell Dukes, for behavioural counselling. Dell is a pretty bad counsellor, he does nothing that remotely resembles counselling. But since Willow is beyond counselling at this point, he can get away with being incompetent.

Then, Willow's adoptive parents both die in a car accident. Since Willow has no other family, her new friend Mai convinces her mother Pattie to take Willow in temporarily. Since the Nguyen family doesn't really live in appropriate conditions (they live in a garage behind the nail salon Pattie works at), they somehow convince Dell to let them overtake his apartment so the social worker won't put Willow in another place. In the process of cleaning up Dell's disorganized living space, planting a garden on the apartment grounds, helping Mai's brother Quang-ha through his troubles at school, and playing guardian angel to a random taxi driver, Willow endears everyone to her to the point where a surrogate family develops.

I enjoyed Willow's voice in this novel,  she's very adult despite being a twelve-year-old, but I think that's realistic of a prodigy. She says some real gems here, absolute moments of clarity that you just want to write down. The novel shows Willow's progression through grief and how she goes from not really belonging anywhere to having seven individuals that love her and that impact her life.

I did have one issue with the book. It's sweet, endearing, and quirky, but the ending is really unrealistic. So SPOILER ALERT! because this won't make sense unless I spoil it. Pattie and Jairo the taxi driver end up getting guardianship of Willow, and it turns out Pattie had a ton of money she was hoarding and saving. So though she was living in a garage and putting her two teenage kids through a life of poverty living in a garage and sharing a bed, she now brings out the big bucks to buy an entire apartment building once Willow is living with them permanently? But didn't spend that money when her own kids needed it? I'm not buying it. Plus Jairo just happens to win the lottery too (inadvertently caused by Willow), so everyone just happens to be swimming in money by the end, it seems a little too convenient.

It's no Wonder, but it's quirky and cute, if not a little hard to believe at times.

Thoughts on the cover:
It's cute and appropriate, I like it.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Shadow Prince - Bree Despain

Title: The Shadow Prince
Author: Bree Despain
Publisher: Egmont, 2014 (Hardcover)
Length: 481 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: May 25, 2014
Finished: June 1, 2014

From the inside cover:

Haden Lord, the disgraced prince of the Underrealm, has been sent to the mortal world to entice a girl into returning with him to the land of the dead. Posing as a student of Olympus Hills High - a haven for children of the rich and famous - Haden must single out the one girl rumoured to be able to restore immortality to his race.

Daphne Raines has dreams much bigger than her tiny southern Utah town, so when her rock star dad suddenly reappears, offering her full tuition to Olympus Hills High's prestigious music program, she sees an opportunity to catch the break she needs to make it as a singer. But upon moving to into her estranged father's mansion in California and attending her glamorous new school, Daphne soon realizes she isn't the only student in Olympus who doesn't quite belong.

Haden and Daphne - destined for each other - know nothing of the true stakes their fated courtship entails. As war between the gods brews, the teenagers' lives collide. But Daphne won't be wooed easily, and when it seems their prophesied link could happen, Haden realizes something he never intended - he's fallen in love. Now to save themselves, Haden and Daphne must rewrite their destinies. But as their destinies change, so do the fates of both their worlds.

A pulsating romance of epic proportions, Bree Despain's The Shadow Prince will leave her fans breathless for the next book in the Into the Dark series.

Oh, this book had potential...and then I read the whole thing and discovered it had so many cliches it made me cringe. It actually reminded me of Twilight, and that's not a good thing.

I have to admit, the first 100 pages or so were really enticing. Haden is the prince of the Underrealm, but disgraced by his father. His twin brother Rowan is the top pick for the Champion to bring home the Cypher, but the Oracle chooses Haden instead. So off Haden goes to bring the girl home, but the poor boy isn't quite knowledgable about Earth, so he gets a crash course involving Google and Youtube. Daphne meanwhile is getting cabin fever in Ellis Fields (the thinly veiled Greek mythology references made my head hurt) and wants to get away. Her chance appears in the form of her dad Joe Vince, rockstar extraordinaire that she hasn't seen since she was 10, complete with court papers giving him complete custody (yeah, like that's realistic) and offering her a spot at the music program at Olympus Hills. Daphne immediately leaves her home and her mom, claiming she's making it easier on her mother by going willingly so her mother won't sell her flower shop to pay the legal bills to get the court order revoked (again my suspension of disbelief isn't buying this).

So fast forward to Olympus Hills, we find out Daphne has freaky deaky music sense that compels her to practice in a grove where other girls were kidnapped/taken to the Underrealm, Haden comes on too strong and gets the first impression of being a psycho (but that doesn't deter Daphne for long), and of course Daphne makes no friends at school 'cause naturally everyone is jealous of her. She soon falls head over heels for Haden, complete with the intrigue of listing everything she knows about the mysterious boy (she actually makes a list in her notebook...I know no teenage girl who would actually do this). She's freaked out by discovering her name tattooed on his arm (so he would know the identity of the Cypher), but kisses him like crazy when she witnesses him killing a creature escaped from the Underrealm, make up your mind girl! Plus she's not quite as freaked out by guy friend Tobin who's unnaturally obsessed with Haden because he thinks he stole his sister six years prior...this girl has issues with her judgement calls.

It takes about 250 pages for anything to really happen in the first place, then the plot gets lost in the high school dramatics, Daphne dealing with her alcoholic dad, and the love aspect. By the time I got to the end it was getting painful, the plot starts to pick up again at the end of course, which means the next book in what I'm assuming is a trilogy will either change my mind or redeem this mess.

Had potential, but poorly executed and longer than it needed to be.

Thoughts on the cover:
It's perty, that is all.