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Daddy's Little Angel (Bedeviled)
Daddy's Little Angel (Bedeviled)
by Shani Petroff
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.99
94 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Supernatural Fun, September 14, 2009
Petroff has created a fun story in Bedeviled. The reader is entertained not only by the dynamic between Angel and her father (Lou Cipher, get it....Lucifer, haha) but is also treated to light-hearted lessons on morality, how individual decisions not only affect our own lives but also of those around us, and finally about acceptance. Despite the unrealistic circumstances, ie: the devil rises to claim his sweet awkward daughter, the story does view the above mentioned themes in a realistic light. Angel is a typical girl running head long into teendom where the biggest concerns she's face with are popularity and boys. She's typically spiteful, characteristically awkward in social and public situations and most of all unforgiving when she thinks its warranted. Anything more or less than that would have made the story shift more towards the implausible.

The story is a quick and easy read of complex issues today's teens may encounter in real life. While understandably targeted towards the middle grade and young adult reader it is still enjoyable for adults as well.

by Allyson Roy
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.90
78 used & new from $0.01

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sexually Charged Mystery, September 14, 2009
This review is from: Babydoll (Paperback)
Review of mystery stories are always most difficult as I loathe spoiling the fun of taking the trip with the characters by pointing out certain plot elements. Readers should not that much of what is stated in this opinion is written with that in mind.

Roy does a wonderful job of making this story quirky and interesting. Each character has their own distinct niche -- Saylor equal parts confident and uncertain; Benita is willful and overpowering while Johnny is tough yet tender. Unfortunately it seemed other characters seemed a bit more cliched and stereotypical, most notably Sydney Chen's bitchy and domineering fashion designer. Having said that, stories of this nature dictate some characterizations be created to throw the reader off fortunately Roy is adept in doing just that by creating that misdirection in several key places.

As one would expect the overall mystery had some interesting twists and turns though at times I felt there were small non-critical parts that fell a little closer on the predictability scale. For example, some of the elements of the mishaps Saylor and Benita had to endure on their way to resolution were where the reader encountered this most often. Further I thought some of the transitions between scenes were a bit abrupt, one moment we have Saylor girl mystery solver then seconds later we had Doctor Love MD. I personally could have done without some of the sexual innuendo but given the subject matter of the mystery and it's main character it was not entirely out of place.

Where the story excelled most was in creating a grander scheme of the who `dunnit where the reader didn't have any idea who actually did it until the very bitter end. There were any number of reasonable possibilities with valid motives yet as a reader I was guessing who it really was. The corruption and nefarious activities at several different levels and positions made it a reasonable expectation that just about anyone could have done it, include the person charged.

It is the latter aspect that makes Babydoll well worth the read. Roy didn't write characters that take themselves too seriously, the dramatic elements weren't steeped in some powerful learning opportunity, it wasn't some grand romantic epic where the story was clouded by love triangles and potential for happy endings it was just good old fashioned fun and entertainment that was also mysterious at the same time.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 31, 2011 7:53 AM PST

Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse
Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse
by Kaleb Nation
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.99
92 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Middle Grade Mystic, September 14, 2009
Nation has constructed an interesting and imaginative world in Bran Hambric. It's Potter-esque lore of magic and mysticism is likely to enthrall the most reluctant of middle-grade and young adult aged readers.

Where it falls a bit short, however, is segueing into the audience of adult readers which I whole-heartedly recognize is not it's purpose or goal. While the vivid imagery and creative characterizations make great strides in that direction the slower story-telling made it difficult to grab hold and really stay invested in the outcome. This is exemplified most in the heavy focus on the character of Sewey. A healthy amount of time was spent showcasing his curmudgeonly and grumpy nature -- a point that was made several chapters in and would have sufficed. Moreover, what made this aspect more difficult to deal with was the fact that his constant presence didn't do much to further the main plot. Ultimately I struggled with the fact that this focus was time that could have been spent developing far more critical characters.

In my humble opinion, a great place to focus some of that attention would have been in further developing Emry. Now, I caveat this by saying that the lack of true depth of focus on Emry may have been designed to keep the mystery of her involvement in the Farfield Curse alive....but, still there could have been more focus on her in a historical perspective so that the ultimate reveal at the end of the story was more powerful. The same holds true of characters involved in the Farfield aspect of the plot -- more on Elspeth, Joris and other critical characters to the story of the Curse and it's role in Bran's life may have provided the reader more investment in the story earlier on.

Speaking of the curse it took us over 2/3 of the book to really get deeper into that part of the story. This was a shame since it was the best and most thought provoking part of the novel. It is here that Nation found his stride as he revealed secrets long held back and allowed the reader to see how character's lives were truly intertwined. There were unexpected connections and surprising revelations that finally gave the reader that `can't put it down' page turner aspect they longed for. It is in the chapters where Bran is in Farfield that the most compelling and enjoyable parts of the story are provided. Furthermore, Nation did an excellent job of making the mystery mysterious, I did not find myself predicting what was going to happen. The foreshadowing was subtle and kept the doors open for events to happen any number of ways. I appreciated that I wasn't lead through the story with my hand held the entire time.

Nation's Bran Hambric series has enormous potential and despite what I personally found to be hurdles I can see the appeal of this book for it's target audience. I would certainly recommend this first book to middle graders and younger skewing young adults. Further, given the writing and plotting of the last 1/3 of this book I too am interested to see if the next book in Bran's story picks up where Nation found his stride in Farfield Curse.

by Malinda Lo
Edition: Hardcover
68 used & new from $0.01

17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wanted More Faerie Tale, September 7, 2009
This review is from: Ash (Hardcover)
Lo has created an interesting premise in this reworking of Cinderella's story. There is absolutely no question of that. The problem is that there was too much going on. Was it a faerie story or was it a story about a girl awakening to the fact that she could be in love with another woman? The broad overview of both stories left me feeling as though Ash was disconnected from both potential romances; there wasn't any passion in either. Given that, I didn't feel the conflict Ash was supposed to be experiencing as she worked to decide which life and which partner to choose.

The latter made me wish we'd had a story without that conflict at all; that it was either Ash in the faerie tale or Ash awakening to her lesbianism all the way through. I understood completely the reason for having both in the story but for me that conflict muddled the eventual love story. Particularly since we also dealt with the overpowering step-mother, the annoying plotting step sister, and bits and pieces of the prince choosing his bride from all eligible ladies of the land. As I said, lots going on.

The faerie story aspect was intriguing and beautifully written. Of the whole story it was that area that drew me in as a reader the most. I wanted to know more about it and see more of it. I wanted Ash to tell us more of the history and interact with its inhabitants much more than she did. The sections where Ash was in the Wood and in that faerie land were so vivid I was excited to experience them.

In the end this book may not have been for me but it was none the less a book that I would encourage anyone interested in experiencing a retelling of Cinderella's story to pick up.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 1, 2014 5:44 PM PDT

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd
Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd
by Holly Black
Edition: Hardcover
47 used & new from $0.02

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Geek-fest, August 30, 2009
Who says nerds and geeks are out of style? Certainly not Black and Catellucci as they've done an amazing job of collecting stories that highlight the dorkdom of quiz bowl athletes, nerd quotient of roll playing gamers, and flighty disinterest of a popular princess prom queen turning to the dark side and befriending a loveable group of losers.

While it is difficult to provide a succinct summary of this book or review its many stories with great detail it is safe to say that there truly is something for everyone in this collection. As a reader I did not enjoy every story, in fact I skipped over a couple entirely, but the majority were entertaining, enlightening and heart-warming. I mean, honestly, we've all been through high school and most of us have also felt periods of inadequacy so I doubt there isn't at least some small something somewhere in these stories that a reader won't relate to.

Though difficult to read at times stories surrounding the persecution of teens for being different (Lyga's The Truth About Dino Girl for example) all seemed quite realistic to me. High school is a brutal place where kids who are different are treated like social pariah and even worse abused mentally and physically. This issue is addressed in multiple ways in multiple stories -- from the dork subtly changing their own lives to fit in with a more mainstream crowd or by acts of revenge that turn the nerd into a bully themselves.

All in all I would recommend this book to anyone who finds different types of culture interesting or engaging. I admit I do not have a great deal of knowledge of much in the way of roll playing games, quiz bowls, or other such thinky and different past times but I walked away from these stories a better person for having learned more.

This Is What I Want to Tell You
This Is What I Want to Tell You
by Heather Duffy-Stone
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.13
74 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Teenage Angst, August 29, 2009
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Navigating precarious relationships is the name of this book's game. Family, friends and romantic interactions are all showcased with a dynamic realism. The most forceful portrayal being Noelle's relationships with everyone she encounters. At the tender age of sixteen she runs the gambit of emotions from blind euphoria to obsession, rage, betrayal and depression -- ultimately culminating in an act of self-realization that will shock and sadden the reader.

On the other hand there is the more muted tone of her brother Nadio and best friend Keeley. The two and their love story play and underlying roll in the story but one that ultimately spurns the culmination of events in Noelle's life. So for that one moment they too become as dynamic as she.

I found myself wishing that more of the twin dynamic was explored and that we got to see the inner workings of Noelle's relationship with Nadio. Seeing how that played into Noelle's decision making process (or didn't as it were) as she navigated her relationships may have added more emotion to Nadio's story. It certainly would have lent more power to her discovery of the blooming romance between he and her best friend. It would have made that betrayal more tragic in the readers eyes.

As is the case with much young adult fiction the parent as friend factor played into the story here. While in many cases this element of a story doesn't quite jibe it really worked well here. A father that had abandoned his family and a mother who compensated for that by being "cool, hip and understanding" and allowing the teens more freedom went a long way in facilitating Noelle's ultimate decent.

The events leading to Keeley's personality shift during her time in Oxford seemed to hang out there in nowhere. They neither drove the overall story nor had great influence on anything but the small underlying story of she and Nadio. While it did effect her growing relationship with him, the fact that this novel appeared to be more of a story about Noelle made the admission and recognition of what transpired seem slightly out of place.

Having said that, the recognition of those events was handled tenderly and with great respect and dignity. Exactly as one would expect a conversation of this nature between two young adults to go. Given this fact it is important to point out that this was an exceptionally well written story. It was not difficult for the reader to visualize characters, locations and events in any way. At times a reader may even find themselves feeling and living certain parts through the eyes of the character they most relate to.

In the end, this was not a light and fluffy read nor is it intensely dark and brooding. It had a great deal of angst and certainly its share of emotional upheaval but all was befitting a struggling teen. I would encourage adults and youngsters both to read This is What I Want To Tell You.

Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood, Book 2)
Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood, Book 2)
by Charlaine Harris
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.99
796 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Southern Fried Mystery, August 20, 2009
Sookie is a great, albeit whiny, character. The partnering of she and Bill was natural, at least as realistic as telepathy and vampirism allows, and interesting to watch evolve. The mostly understated nature of both characters made it particularly interesting for the reader when they stepped outside the norm and got fiery with each other and others.

One of the pitfalls of this book was that, at times, I felt there was just too much going on. Jason, Lafayette, Andy, the uncle that popped out of nowhere -- at times it felt like the reader could get whiplash going from one part of the story to another. While it was infused together with a purpose it still could have been scaled back a bit and the same results achieved.

The mystery of the book is mostly well done, one of the advantages of the aforementioned excessive goings on is the masking of the true nature of things. The instant the reader thinks they know what is going on and who the perpetrator is they are quickly brought to another place where they are then led to believe something entirely different to be true.

All in all this was a quick fun read. One that most who enjoy the supernatural, paranormal romance and elements of mystery will likely enjoy.

Italian for Beginners
Italian for Beginners
by Kristin Harmel
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.56
141 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ciao Bella, August 14, 2009
This review is from: Italian for Beginners (Paperback)
Italian for Beginners was appealing for many reasons. First, I've read all of Kristin Harmel's previous novels and enjoyed each one and knew that this too would provide that same level of entertainment and enjoyment. I can happily tell you it did, in spades.

It was, however, a bit of a departure from her previous work. I felt the story was more deeply emotional than her other novels. Outside of Cat's obvious (and warranted) trust issues she also owns a heaping case of low self-esteem. Moreover, infused throughout the story readers are given insight into the instability of her life via some heavy underlying issues. It's these same issues that play such a significant role in shaping how her relationships with friends, family and potential lovers continue to be formulated and manipulated all the way through her time in Italy and back to the US again.

None of this is to say there isn't a fair share of comedy and light-heartedness because there is plenty of that too, I wouldn't want to paint Italian For Beginners as a dark or brooding story because it's not. For example, the eclectic group of friends Cat makes during her time in Italy provides an extremely happy place. We also get some good chuckles out of the self-centered and somewhat clueless baby sister. It's just that much of this is not the heart of the story.

One of the reasons I believe this particular story resonated so deeply with me is that I felt Cat's life, in some respects, mirrored my own. I felt a kinship with her -- Harmel wrote an exceptional character that allowed me to feel the vulnerability and pain she was experiencing. I bonded with Cat and I can tell you that does not happen with me often. She is a character that is deeply committed to her family and views herself as the primary caretaker. She takes this role seriously but also to the extreme. While at times certain people worked those traits to their advantage ultimately her family saw how important it was for Cat to strike out and make a life for herself. A life that isn't solely centered around them.

There wasn't anything in the plot of Cat going to Italy to discover herself that I found unrealistic or particularly cliched. I found her journey to be one of profound self-discovery. More importantly it helped her become a better communicator. She was forced to face a great many truths about herself and her family. In doing so this book went away from the typical formulaic chick lit novel where woman meets man, woman is destined to be with man, then woman and man get together. I mean, don't get me wrong there was a fair share of romance but unlike many books in the genre that aspect took a back seat to the larger emotional issues. As a reader I appreciated that Cat's story wasn't just about chasing men and "oh by the way I discovered myself on the way" plot points. These elements were reversed and on Cat's road to self-discovery she happened to find a man too. I felt it was quite empowering for her and for the reader to know that yes a woman can survive adversity and still get it all in the end. Not only that but she gets it all in a way that (I felt) prioritized the most important aspects of life first. Get your own life in order, love and care for your family and friends (to an extent) and in the end romance will fall into place.

Speaking of ends falling into place I'm sure you can sense through this review that I encourage you to go out and grab a copy of Italian For Beginners it's an entertaining and heart-warming read.

How I Live Now
How I Live Now
by Meg Rosoff
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.53
186 used & new from $0.01

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars War Torn Tragedy, August 12, 2009
This review is from: How I Live Now (Paperback)
Rosoff paints a realistic picture of the toll war takes on children there can be no arguing that. It is ugly and violent and at some points gruesome but it is also what one would imagine the ravages of war would be those so young. It was not difficult to read these circumstances, however, as the author was careful to craft scenes with just enough detail to allow the reader to imagine some of the children's surroundings.

What the reader might find most compelling is the portrayal of the children's fight for survival. How they manage everything from food and water to home security. Though young, they are shown as keenly intelligent and creative, cautious to navigate their precarious circumstances wisely and with great care. Moreover, it is in the end result, the "where are they now" element that the most satisfaction can be drawn. Without giving away that ending it can be said that it was painted a most believable and emotional way.

While there were passages and elements of the story I thought were too drawn out, the pacing a bit slow, I thought this quietly honest depiction was worthy of reading. It certainly puts a face on how children manage the diversity of war without being over the top in violence and gore. If a parent is looking for a book to educate their child of such real-life circumstances I'd certainly recommend How I Live Now.

The Lost Sister
The Lost Sister
by Megan Kelley Hall
Edition: Paperback
28 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mystical Mystery, August 12, 2009
This review is from: The Lost Sister (Paperback)
This review starts by stating it was incredibly difficult to write a detailed summary of the over arching story because there are so many good plots, twists and turns that shouldn't be revealed. There are just that many secrets that spoiling even the smallest part would take the fun out of experiencing it; and experience it you should.

Knowing that to be the case, it can be said that the author did an excellent job of formulating an interesting and thought provoking mystery. Her ability to construct a story that utilized elements of mysticism and witchcraft accompanied with local history made for an intriguing read. It was certainly difficult for this reader to put the book down for fear of not getting to know the answers soon enough.

Hall has also written dynamic characters that are somewhat larger than life. Showcasing a typical class based system of haves and have-nots the animosity between groups is palpable. As one would expect there is constant positioning, one-upsmanship, back stabbing and general down and dirty cat-fighting. Fighting, that at the heart of it all, spurns resolution to the larger mystery.

If you are looking for a good whodunit with a dash of the supernatural that includes compelling characters that you'll want to revisit in the future then The Lost Sister is definitely for you.

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