Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lost Voices

Author: Sarah Porter
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: July 4, 2011
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal (Older YA)

SPOILER ALERT: I can't talk about the book without discussing the ending, so stay away if you don't want to find out what happens!

Luce has been living with her uncle ever since her father died in a shipwreck, but her uncle doesn't pay attention to her unless he's in a drunken rage. When one night, on the way back from the bar, he tries to rape her, Luce is so shattered and broken that she feels like she's dying. Instead, she actually turns into a mermaid and joins a tribe of mermaids living in caves in the water. For once, she feels accepted and appreciated, and she loves how her voice is now so powerful and beautiful. But when she learns that the mermaids use their beautiful singing voices to enchant humans on ships and kill them, Luce is torn. She wants to belong, but she doesn't indiscriminately hate humans the way the other formerly-abused mermaids do. Luce struggles to find a good use for her voice, to be able to keep the beauty and discard the horror of being a mermaid

I'm not sure I totally get the book, but I can still appreciate the terrible, terrible beauty of it. The whole conflict that Luce has throughout her time as a mermaid isn't neatly resolved, because, I think, nothing about the topic of abused children could possibly be neatly resolved. I'm not sure why Luce ends up alone, the way she was alone at the beginning of the book. But it's actually not the same thing - at the end of the story, she's not so much alone as she is as one with the world. Even though she's left the tribe and Cat has left her, she has the ocean and the music of it all. That is some bit of a conclusion, though everything is still left pretty much open-ended.

You just can't say about this book that you like it - it's too dark and depressing in some ways. But it's a really excellent book all the same. It's beautifully written, and it's so real and immediate that I found myself crying at a few points throughout the book. It's really moving, and totally heart-wrenching. Luce has a quiet strength that holds up the tone of the book even during the catty scenes with Anais, so that even when the girls are being girls in the way girls are, you still feel the heaviness of the book. I connected with Luce immediately, feeling her pain, excitement, confusion, etc., along with her.

I absolutely recommend this book (though not for younger teens), but be ready to cry over this one.

Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for providing a digital copy for review.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Enchanted No More

Author: Robin D. Owens
Publisher: LUNA Books (Harlequin)
Release Date: January 1, 2011
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal Romance (Adult)
Author's Website: http://www.robindowens.com/

Jenni has made a normal life for herself. After the disaster that killed her parents and most of her siblings, on a mission from the Eight Kings and Queens of the four elements, a mission to which Jenni was late and continues to blame herself for, Jenni wants nothing to do with the magical community. But when magical creatures show up on her doorstep asking for her help in a mission, and when Aric, her former lover, comes to tell her that her brother is in need of her help, Jenni agrees to help the Eight complete the mission. Besides for facing dangers of increased power in Dark ones, Jenni has to face herself and her grief and guilt, and her blame for Aric, to come to terms with what happened then in order to move on now.

I am a little conflicted as to what I think of this book. For the most part, I really really like it. But I can't not mention the things that bother me about it, because they did affect my reading of the book. So I'm going to write what I didn't like, get it out of the way, and then tell you what I did like.

The main thing that bothered me throughout the book is actually not related to the story - it's grammar. There were lots and lots of comma splices - two separate sentences joined together only by a comma. After I came across more than a few of them, I realized that the author was trying to create a feeling of immediacy, of one event happening right on the heels of another. But for me, it just jarred.

A more major point that bothered me is the guilt that Jenni feels. I felt that her guilt and blame for herself and others was not very well described. I kept hearing about them, but I never really saw them in action. The way they disappear is also not shown very well. I felt like if these were such major points, they should have been developed and shown more clearly.

That said - the style of the writing is really amazing. There's a perfect blend of magical and real elements, and the tone of the tale fits into this, to meld the two and make magic of the four elements sound natural. I was drawn into the world as soon as I was introduced to it, and the way the world is introduced is also great - with bits and pieces of how everything works revealed over time. Jenni herself knows some of it, but as she learns about the changes that happened since she cut off contact with the magical world, we get to see both how it was and how it is now. Everything just sounds so magical.

And the characters. Every single character, no matter how little page space they take up, has a very  distinctive personality. Aric and Jenni, the two main characters, really jump off the page. But even the minor characters, the brownies and naiads who appear only to serve and help Jenni, are so individual and unique in their personalities. I love how all the actions fit seamlessly together because each character does only what makes sense for him or her to do. Especially in the last battle - the way the Eight behave, the way Synicess does, it all makes perfect sense. And the way Aric behaves. That is so perfectly developed over their renewed relationship throughout the book, that by the time he does what he does, I think the only one who is surprised is Jenni - definitely I wasn't!

On the whole, this book is a great book to sink into. The magicality, the characters, the mystic style of writing - it all creates a believable world, with emotion and heart, that stays with you a while after you finish the book.

Thanks to LUNA Books and NetGalley for providing a digital copy for review!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Summer Blowout

Author: Claire Cook
Publisher: Hyperion
Released: April 7, 2009
Genre: Women's Fiction/Romance
Author's Website: http://www.clairecook.com/author/HOME.html

Bella is still trying to get over the fact that her husband ran off with her half-sister. Dealing with her big, messy family is never easy and she's sworn off men - at least for a while. But when she meets a cute guy giving away college application kits at the college fair where her family has a beauty booth, and that guy turns out to have an idea that might give her some independence from her family, Bella's resolution is sorely tested.

The cast of characters in this book is so great. From the despicable Craig to the almost-perfect Sean Ryan, every character is a full person, every character stands out from the page. And Bella - I loved her, for all her neurotic, sarcastic, zany personality! Even the dog gets to be a full character who in some ways helps the story along and plays a big part in the plot!

The plot of the story is really good. The reason I'm labeling this women's fiction/romance and not purely romance is because although the main point of the story is how Bella moves on from her betrayal and opens up to another man, the truth is that I read this as more of a woman-empowering story than a romance. Because the plot centers on how Bella moves on, how she takes charge of her own life and makes something of herself. I love that.

This is a good, fun read, with excellent characters and a wonderful story!

In My Mailbox 14

In My Mailbox is a meme started by The Story Siren, where bloggers post any new books they bought, received, borrowed, etc.

This week, aside from my usual library books, I actually got some books to own! On the last day of class, the teacher of my proofreading/copyediting class "auctioned off" a whole bunch of books from his publishing house, and I landed five! I love the feel of those paperback, shiny covers... Here they are:

From the library: 
The Pact: A Love Story [PACT] [Mass Market Paperback]Falling Through DarknessLooking for God in Harry Potter
The Pact by Jodi Picoult - recommended by a friend - thanks Mary!
Falling Through Darkness by Carolyn MacCullough
Looking for God in Harry Potter by John Granger

For my very own, permanent bookshelf:
The Beet Queen: A Novel (P.S.)The House on Fortune Street: A Novel (P.S.)The Marrowbone Marble Company: A Novel
Russian Winter: A NovelMarley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst DogRussian Winter by Daphne Kalotay
The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich
The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey
The Marrowbone Marble Company by Glenn Taylor
Marley and Me by John Grogan

Friday, December 10, 2010


Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Genre: YA Dystopia
Author's Website: http://www.laurenoliverbooks.com/
Author's Blog: http://laurenoliverbooks.blogspot.com/

Lena lives in a world where a cure for love has been found. After their eighteenth birthday, people have a procedure done which eliminates love, thus eliminating all the terrible side effects of love - faintness, difficulty focusing, even suicide. The government matches boys and girls with each other after they graduate from separate schools, and life is so much easier and happier. Lena is looking forward to her procedure, to the time when she can escape the disease that led to her own mother's death. But just months before her procedure, starting at her evaluations, things start to change. And she meets a boy - and falls in love. Lena starts finding out that almost nothing is actually the way she's been led to believe it is, and she finds out the true meaning of love and the absence of love.

The concept of this book is so great - the idea that people would call love a disease, and all the effects of removing love. I like how Lauren Oliver examines all sides of the idea, not just romantic love but also parent-child love. She portrays the effects of a loveless world so beautifully - well, heart-breakingly, actually. Although some of the things that Lena notices sound like comments only a person who has lived in our world would be able to say, things like commenting on the absence of love which she never knew, for the most part the things that Lena and her friends think really show what living in a world without love, a world of lies, would feel like.

Lena is an interesting character. It's funny how at the beginning of the book I almost couldn't stand her, but I felt like I had to know what would happen to her. Her friend Hanna was more compelling at the beginning, since she had more backbone and sounded more like a person, less like a robot as Lena sounded like. But as I got deeper into the story, it became quite clear that neither one of them is as simple as they sound at first. They're both complex in their situations, thoughts, actions, and opinions. I love how they're fully developed people, and their actions are hardly ever predictable, because each time they are responding to different parts of themselves - and isn't that actually what happens in real life?

The ending - well, the ending. I can't say I love the way the book ends, but oh, I love the way the book ends. It's heart-wrenching, the kind of conclusion that has me sitting and staring at the last page for minutes after I finish, trying to absorb what just happened. But it fits perfectly, the way Lauren writes it, going back to something that had been said earlier and that basically sums up the whole point of the book. It's not a happy-ever-after end, but I felt wholly satisfied with the way things were left.

I was a little surprised to find out that there will be a sequel to Delirium.  I felt like this was the end of the story, like everything there was to be told was told. I'm not sure how I feel about a sequel. Maybe once I know more about what aspect the second book will focus on, I can decide if I'm going to read it or not. Lauren Oliver's style of writing is definitely worth reading more of, though!

Thanks to HarperTeen and NetGalley for providing a digital copy for review!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: HarperTeen
Released: September 1, 2010
Genre: Paranormal (Romance)
Author's Website: http://www.kierstenwhite.com/
Author's Blog: http://kierstenwrites.blogspot.com/

Evie is a normal girl - but she lives in and is employed by the Center of the International Paranormal Containment Agency. All Evie wants is to be able to really live like a normal girl, going to school, having a crush, having a locker... But Evie is the only person able to see through paranormals' glamours to be able to identify potentially harmful paranormals and "bag-and-tag" them to neutralize them. When a paranormal no one can identify breaks into the Center, everything Evie has known as truth up till then is turned on its head - including her own normal-ness. Caught up in prophecies and plots set in motion before she had any say in them, Evie tries to balance having a normal life and maybe having a boyfriend with dealing with who she is and the paranormals determined to keep her from that normal life.

I love love love this book! The blurb on the cover calls it "refreshing," and I must agree. The voice of the story - Evie's voice - is so natural and clear, and really compelling. It all sounds like a teenager. The issues that Evie deals with sound very much like any teenager's issues. Sure, her identity crisis puts regular teenagers' identity crises to shame, but I like the correlation. I also found it refreshing that this book is appropriate for younger teens as well - nothing beyond kissing, which is so beautifully written.

I love Evie as a character and I emotionally connected to her. She's a strong heroine, but with normal teenage faults and blindnesses. She's smart and emotional, a nice balance which helps her and hinders her throughout the story. She's altogether a likable person.

As for Lend - wow! I'm not sure who I like more, Evie or Lend. I love the way Kiersten brings Lend to life. His shape-shifting and assuming hot guys' bodies doesn't mask him, because the way Kiersten describes Evie seeing through the glamours to the real form of Lend is so gorgeous. And his personality is so great. He's really smart, he's kind and funny, heroic and brave. I love the way he interacts with Evie - every scene when they're together is so beautiful.

The plot is amazing too. Never too slow or too fast, the pacing is just right, and there are plenty of surprising twists to keep you gasping in suspense. I like how there are clues dropped here and there, some of them totally misleading, the way Evie might be experiencing things. We, as the readers, never know more than Evie does, so we really experience what Evie is going through. I love that.

There are going to be two more books in this trilogy, Supernaturally and an as-yet-unnamed third book. Based on Paranormalcy itself, I'm excited for the next books, and after reading Kiersten's website and blog, I really can't wait for them!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

In My Mailbox 14

In My Mailbox is a meme started by The Story Siren, where bloggers post any new books they bought, received, borrowed, etc.

I got one book from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program, Writing Horses. It's an ebook, a guide for authors who are using horses in their novels. I started "flipping" through it, and it seems pretty interesting!

I also got a few more books from NetGalley:
Enchanted No More (Luna Books)Here Lies Bridget (Harlequin Teen)PopulazziLost Voices
Enchanted No More, by Robin D. Owens
Here Lies Bridget, by Paige Harbison
Populazzi, by Elise Allen
Lost Voices, by Sarah Porter

This time I made sure to only request books that really interest me, and I was more selective and didn't "binge" request. So these four are really tempting for me, and I can't wait to start them. Lost Voices sounds like it'll be a tear-jerker, Populazzi sounds fun - good mix!

Then, from the library:

ParanormalcyStealing HenryDrawing the OceanA True and Faithful Narrative
Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White. I'd been searching for this at my local (Brooklyn) library, but for some odd reason, they just don't have the book! But I've been reading great reviews for this one, so I went to the New York Public Library and got it. And am I happy I did! I'm in middle of it now, and totally loving it!

Two Carolyn MacCullogh books, which I put on hold after reading her books Once A Witch and Always A Witch:
Stealing Henry
Drawing the Ocean

A book I read a great review of (by an author who claims she's no good at reviews, but whose review was so detailed and specific that I got envious of her style!): A True and Faithful Narrative, by Katherine Sturtevant

And an anthology of fantasy short stories edited by Robin McKinley, which for some reason Amazon doesn't have an image of: Imaginary Lands.

So that's it for this week. We're nearing the end of the semester, and I'm having slightly more time to read now, so hopefully I'll catch up on that huge pile on my shelves - real and virtual - now!