Friday, July 30, 2010

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women. And these women are exceptional all right: Even though to the outside world the school is simply a preppy boarding school for girls, it in fact is a secret school for spies. Cammie speaks fourteen different languages, can kill a person in at least seven different ways, and is known as the "Chameleon" for her ability to stay invisible during covert operations. But when an ordinary boy does see her, she has no idea what to do, especially when he thinks she's an ordinary girl. Straddling the real world and the world of Gallagher Academy, Cammie tries to figure out out how to have a normal relationship with a boy who can never know who she really is.

I've been wanting to read this book for a while. I remember seeing the book on the shelf at Target and thinking what a cute cover it had. Then I found out Ally Carter is from Oklahoma, which means of course I have to represent! However, it took a while for me to finally pick it up...

I thought this book was utterly adorable. Was it life-changing? No. But did it accomplish its goal of entertaining young teenage girls? Absolutely. It was just plain fun to me. I loved Cammie's voice, which I think really caught the "feeling" of a typical, yet not-so-typical teenage girl. It reminded me a bit of Meg Cabot's The Princess Diaries in that Mia and Cammie in some ways have a lot of similarities: They're both extraordinary in some way, but yet still face the same teenage troubles that every girl goes through.

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this series!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Even though she had no memory of exactly how the fire started that killed her friend Trevor, Luce is nevertheless the one everyone immediately pointed fingers at. After all, they were alone, and while he died she escaped with nothing but singed hair.

And so that's how Luce ended up as one of the newest students at Sword & Cross, a reform school for teenagers. She immediately feels out of place, but it isn't long before she sees him: Daniel Grigori, that oh-so gorgeous guy... who made eye contact with her and promptly flipped her off. Great.

But for some reason Luce can't stop thinking about Daniel, nor can she help but feel like they've met before...

I liked Daniel, but I really think Luce is one of the worst-written characters I've read in a long time. I didn't like the contradictions, like how it was mentioned that she avoided mirrors these days, but then later she was wishing she had a mirror because she was afraid her hair was a disaster. There was very little depth to her as well, which was disappointing. It seemed her entire existence at Sword & Cross revolved around the "Does he like me? Does he hate me?" back-and-forth attitude with Daniel and another potential love interest, Cam. She has no backbone, makes stupid decisions, and is really just devoid of any personality.

I also didn't care for the fact that hardly anything was explained. The book started off so slow, but by the time it caught up to the meaty plot points, nothing was explained. Just done. I didn't care for that. I'm sure a lot of the mystery will be explained in the rest of the series, but that's the problem: Each book needs some closure, and this one just didn't have nearly as much as I'd like. For example, the catalyst that led Luce to Sword & Cross is barely even touched on. There are some mentions of it, but soon it is eclipsed by other plot points and entirely forgotten. I would have liked to have seen a few more answers. By all means, please leave me hanging, but just not that much. I at the very least want to at least think I know what's going on.

On the plus side though, the cover was gorgeous!

So overall, this was definitely not my favorite book for the year, which is disappointing because I was so excited about it! However, I will likely pick up the rest of the series because that's how I roll.

Monday, July 19, 2010

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

It all started when 15-year-old Clary Fray witnessed a murder inside Pandemonium Club in New York City. But the problem was that she seemed to be the only person who witnessed this murder, along with the body disappearing into thin air.

One night later she has a run-in with one of the murderers, the beautiful, golden-haired, and impossibly-egotistical Jace. But Jace isn't your average teenage boy: He's a Shadowhunter, a group of Nephilim whose job is to kill demons and other "downworlders." So when Clary's mother disappears and a demon suddenly shows up in her apartment, Clary can't help but wonder: What does her mother have to do with all this? And why can Clary see things that other people can't?

The premise of this book was very good, and I did enjoy it. However, it felt extremely disjointed to me: It seemed like it just jumped from scene to scene sometimes without a whole lot of flow, and I thought some parts were unnecessary to the overall story as well. I can sort of see why there's a lot of hype surrounding this book and the rest of the series, but I'm not sure if I'm buying into it.

I will say that I love Clary. I think she's a great character with some great wit and fearlessness. Jace's arrogance felt incredibly forced, and while I know there was certainly some depth there, it just made him feel so flat to me. It's a shame because I think he has the potential to be so great, so I'm hoping Clare is able to really bring this character to new levels in the next books in this series.

One other problem I had with this book I can't really discuss because it's a major spoiler. However, I call it the "Star Wars Syndrome." This book has it in spades, and I really wish it didn't because it really detracts from the rest of the story.

I will continue with the rest of the series because Cassandra Clare really has made an incredible fantasy world come to life in these books. I figure since this is the first, they can only get better from here... right?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

16-year-old Nora Grey isn't interested in dating, despite countless protests from her best friend, the boy-crazy and gorgeous Vee. But when the seating chart in their biology class suddenly changes, Nora finds herself sitting next to an impossibly moody boy named Patch who somehow manages to both infuriate and intrigue her in ways no one else ever has. But even Nora can't deny that Patch seems to have a dark and scary side. So why is she still so drawn to him, despite Vee's protests? Even the school psychologist has warned Nora to steer clear, so why can't she?

This book was fun and mildly entertaining, and I can't deny it kept my attention. In fact, I will be reading the next book in the series when it gets released. But aside from that, there's not a whole lot I can say about it that's especially good. It's no secret that every paranormal young adult book out there gets comparisons to Twilight, but how can they not? I mean, Stephenie Meyer has the formula to get teen girls swooning down to a T: Hot, brooding guy with a dark secret, an "every" girl who isn't blonde and gorgeous with big boobs, a little mystery and/or adventure and/or danger, Broody Boy confessing his undying love for "Every" Girl, and a steamy make-out scene between the two that makes female readers jump the bones of Broody Boy.

Hush, Hush has all of the above, but unfortunately it also has more. For one, Nora meets Patch in biology class. He's dark and mysterious, and he might hate or... or does he in fact love her? It's rainy and foggy all. the. time. She lives with a single parent. All of this had me rolling my eyes in the first half of the book.

Luckily, the book does take a few different turns, so what started out as "Twilight with Angels" ended up being a bit different. Did I love it? No. I didn't like some of the things that went on, mainly that Nora claimed to loathe Patch so much, but hours later is just about ready to pee herself with anticipation at the thought of calling him. And then she goes and actually sees him. Personally, when I was 16 and some guy was a total douche to me in school, I wasn't all that interested in calling, let alone visiting him at some run-down and shady pool hall. Different strokes for different folks I guess, right?

Nevertheless, like I said I didn't despise it enough to not read the next book in the series. Becca Fitzpatrick is certainly a gifted writer, but I just wish the story had a little more meat to it. I also would have loved to learn more about angels and nephilim. It was touched on, obviously, but I think it would have been interesting to get deeper into the subject matter.

Monday, July 12, 2010

(the misadventures of) Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

I normally would have gone, "OMG OMG OMG!!!" upon receiving my copy of Linger, but fate apparently decided to make other plans.

So here's the story of my copy of Linger by Maggie Stiefvater: It started when I discovered that was shipping out all their pre-orders early. And by early, I mean the book was [at the time] being released on July 20th, and the books were shipping July 2nd. Not wanting to miss out on that party, I promptly decided to pre-order my copy from B&N's site, and sure enough: It shipped that day. Squee!

However, this is where karma kicks in, along with my guilty conscience. Because let's face it: I should have been good and waited for this most-eagerly-anticipated-book-of-summer-2010 and purchased it when it actually was released. But seriously? This was like someone telling me that Mockingjay was being sold three weeks early, something we all are wishing fervently for but know it won't happen. It was like finding a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on the shelf before it was released! ...Okay, that's stretching it. Because if that had happened, I probably would have died on the spot way back in 2007. Nevertheless, you get the idea. I have no self control.

So for several days I logged onto religiously to track my package is it slowly made its journey from Nevada to California to Kentucky to Oklahoma (where it then sat for a full 24 hours before finally being thrown on a truck for delivery). The scheduled delivery date was July 8th, and that morning I was practically bouncing with excitement to the extent that I barely heeded the signs that rain was on its way.

Karma's butt kick number one: Our UPS guy usually delivers to our house at about 9 AM. At 8:55 I saw him in our neighborhood. At 9:15 I conceded that he wasn't coming, and I had to get to work... without my Linger. Sad. I had so many Twitpics planned with it that were missed!

Karma's butt kick number two: At approximately 1:30 PM as I sat in my boss' car, I checked the radar on my phone and discovered it was raining at our house. I checked my package's tracking number, and sure enough it had been delivered almost an hour before. I crossed my fingers that the UPS guy put the box in a little bag that UPS drivers are supposed to use when it's raining or is threatening rain (and I know this for a fact because hubs is a UPS driver. I'm educated and informed!). So not a big deal... right?

Karma's butt kick number three: What is usually a 20-25 minute drive in traffic turned into an almost two-hour ordeal as I attempted to get from work to home that evening. Flooding was awful, and people were driving like crap and getting their cars stuck in rising water. Dumb butts. see where this is going, right?

Karma's butt kick number four: I got home. The box had no bag on it. It wasn't even sitting against my door where water would've had trouble getting to it. It was sitting pretty much in a puddle. Book was wet. Sigh.

The moral of this story? Don't flaunt publishing dates!!!

Anyway, now about the book (which luckily wasn't wet enough that it wasn't readable). Linger is the second book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series. You can read my review of the first book, Shiver, here. The story picks up where Shiver left off, and unfortunately due to potential spoilers I won't say anything more than that. If you haven't read Shiver though, I do recommend it: I loved it!

Linger, I am happy to report, is just as beautiful as Shiver, both inside and out. The cover art is just as entrancing as its predecessor, which makes me so happy because I love the artwork so much! The writing is equally amazing: It's gorgeous, lyrical, and captures the characters so well. The story went in an unexpected direction, so I have to admit I really enjoyed that aspect of it too. We got to see a lot of old characters along with a few new ones, namely Cole, who I loved watching grow as the story progressed! We also saw Isabel's point of view in this story, which was wonderful. She has such an amazing voice.

The final verdict is definitely a big thumbs up for this installment of the series! I am eagerly anticipating Forever! And for those who are curious, due to B&N's shipping early and Borders putting the book on shelves early in many stores, the release date for Linger was moved up to July 13th in the US. Which means tomorrow you will be able to waltz into your book store and grab your own, hopefully dry, copy!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

First off, can forgive me for not posting for like two weeks? I've been busy with work and some other things, so blogging hasn't been high on the priority list.

The Last Queen is the story of Juana la Loca (Juana the Mad), older sister of the more famous Catherine of Aragon (Henry VIII's Wife Numero Uno), and the daughter of Isabel and Fernando, the financiers of Christopher Columbus' journey to the New World. Betrothed to Philip the Handsome of Habsburg, Juana makes the journey to her new home and new husband, who she is delighted to discover is besotten with her, as she is with him. Life starts out happily for the newlyweds, but soon ambition, court intrigues, and other outside influences start to strip away at their idyllic world.

History has portrayed Queen Juana as a nutter, and recent histrorians have agreed that she likely suffered from manic depression, something she likely inherited from her grandmother. However, C.W. Gortner meticulously constructs another version of history, one that is not only plausible, but maybe even likely. While he makes no argument against Juana's possible struggle with depression, he shows that perhaps she wasn't mad, but rather a progressive figure for her day, who instead of being revolutionary was seen as crazy.

The book is beautiful. I don't think I cared for it as much as I cared for The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, but nevertheless it was an interesting, fascinating tale of a tragic royal figure.