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My Double Life
My Double Life
by Janette Rallison
Edition: Hardcover
48 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cute, sweet story, June 5, 2010
This review is from: My Double Life (Hardcover)
ARC received as part of Around the World ARC Tours.

Alexia Garcia looks just like singing star Kari Kingsley. Everybody says so, including Kari's manager, who wants to hire Alexia to be her double. Kari's racked up some serious debts (to the tune of one million dollars), and she needs someone to lip synch at a few minor concert appearances so she can keep earning money while she's in the studio working on her next album. By moving to California and impersonating Kari, Alexia will earn plenty of money, but what's she's really interested in is the chance to meet her California-dwelling father, whom she's never met and who may not even know of her existence.

I enjoyed this book so much, I read it in a single day. One the best elements of the book is Alexia herself, and she's absolutely the kind of girl I'd want as friend in real life (which is one of my chief criteria for liking female protags). I love ethnically diverse MC's, and I also have a soft spot for MC's who come from a low economic background, because I can relate to that. Alexia is half Latina and comes from a very low income family, which means she wears secondhand clothes and has her mom cut her hair because they can't afford professional cuts. She's a hardworking honor's student and she has a backbone--she doesn't back down from bullies, ever. With this kind of character foundation, she's able to be fairly sensible about being a glamorous celebrity double, and though she appreciates the chance to earn money and help her mother, she really only agrees to go to California because it will give her the opportunity finally meet her father. Now, that's what I call good motivation! She's not a whiny girl jumping at the chance to be pampered and petted; she's a girl with a need to meet her father, and the new job provides her with that opportunity.

Also, I'm pleased that Kari isn't a total monster--just run-of-the-mill shallow, not especially smart, and plagued by a truckload of immaturity. When she starts becoming friends with Alexia, I was downright elated, and then I was just as pleased when Alexia genuinely begins to care for Kari as a friend. How wonderful it is to see one of the "beautiful empty people" to be portrayed in such a humanized light.

Then there's the love interest, rock singer Grant Delray. He has a sort of righteous indignation against Kari for something she did, which means that he's unhappy with Alexia when they first meet, but Alexia does so much to mend Kari's mistakes, that the next time she and Grant run into each other, the tension is just right. Grant has a sense of humor. He is also good with children. He is also not stuck-up at all. He's one of those rare Good Guys in fiction, despite being a rock star, a profession where you expect a certain level of badness. He and Alexia's exchanges are so funny, I can't help but wish there were more of them. Grant needed more page time! And he would have gotten it, if this were a YA romance, but it's not, it's a coming of age story with love added.

Prior to this book, Janette Rallison was an unknown author to me, but I was so pleased by My Double Life, I plan to check out her backlist. I'm not sure how plausible the whole concept of celebrity doubles is, but the set-up works nicely for this novel, with its winning narrative voice, and humorous, down-to-earth tone. I laughed at Grant's dialogue, I shed a few tears during the big reveal scenes, and the book's end has still got me smiling. Grade: B+

Sisters Red (Fairy Tale Retelling)
Sisters Red (Fairy Tale Retelling)
by Jackson Pearce
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.23
110 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent writing, not my fav romance, June 5, 2010
This ARC was received as part of Book It Forward ARC Tours.

I've been looking foward to Sisters Red for a long time. I loved author Jackson Pearce's debut novel As You Wish, and the synopsis of this new book sounded great: a fractured modern fairytale where two sisters fight monsters, but one of them wants something more from her life. As a child, Scarlett March lost an eye to a Fenris (werewolf) while she was defending her sister Rosie. Flash forward to the future, and Scarlett's just a tad too obsessing with offing the Fenris, and Rosie's daydreaming about romance and a life that doesn't revolve around slaughtering monsters.

I'm sure Pearce fans won't be disappointed with the writing, which is crisp and compelling--my heart jumped into my throat in the prologue, because of all the tension and scariness. I think my problem with the story is, I'm a Scarlett fan, and the book is half Rosie's. Now Scarlett's a little manic and over-dedicated, but she's my kind of gal; when she sees evil, she fights it. Rosie's all right, but I disagree with her wanting to get away from the hunter lifestyle. Yes, it's tough and miserable, but if you know that there are supernatural serial killers literally eating young girls, and you're capable of stopping them, is it really all right for you to go off and pursue a happy white picket fence kind of life? This is the reason I couldn't really get into Silas and Rosie's romance, though it was written well.

The monsters are tremendous. The Fenris are all males, all belonging to packs with object names--Coin, Bell, Arrow--and they all have their pack marks tatooed on their wrists. And in this particular book, I think it's nice that they're not redeemable. They aren't misunderstood. The Fenris eat people and they have no souls; when you kill them, they disappear in a puff of black smoke.

So anyhoo, it's a good book that most YA readers will like. I'm just picky about my heroines. I like the stories where the MC gets to fall in love and kill monsters. We can have our cake and slay it, too.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 6, 2010 8:01 PM PDT

The Light (Morpheus Road)
The Light (Morpheus Road)
by D. J. MacHale
Edition: Hardcover
172 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Slow start, June 5, 2010
This ARC received as part of Around the World ARC Tours.

Marshall Seaver (anyone but me hearing the Growing Pains theme song in their heads when the name Seaver is mentioned?) is an ordinary good guy type of sixteen-year-old; he's the Luke Skywalker to his best friend Cooper Foley's Han Solo. Cooper's a troublemaker who's mostly interested in chasing girls, while Marsh is a kid at heart, and still interested in building rocket ships and reading graphic novels. The only girl who captures Marsh's attention is Cooper's older sister Sydney, a beautiful high-achieving ice princess who won't give him the time of day.

Marshall is an everyman character, but two things about him stand out: 1. his mother was killed in a earthquake overseas while she was photographing an ancient temple, and 2. He's an amateur artist who draws only one character: Gravedigger, a grim reaper character who resembles a skeleton and carries around a double-edged pick. When Marsh breaks an artifact his mother sent him, and Cooper suddenly disappears, a whole world of trouble opens up and Marsh will never be a normal kid again.

DJ MacHale's credits include a lot of television writing, and it shows in his story, which has snappy dialogue and interesting visual images. Unfortunately, this first book in the series feels more like a pilot episode in a new TV show--I just don't think enough actually happens to sustain an entire book. It gets a slow start, with Marshall getting about a dozen hints that something's not quite right in his world before anything significant occurs. He hears strange noises, sees gusts of wind in his kitchen, gets mysterious phone calls, and sees a manifestation of his character Gravedigger, all as part of the setup before the true action begins. I think all the warning signs could have been condensed without losing much of the impact.

I won't be continuing this series, but the author's writing style in engrossing enough that I'm definitely going to check out his Pendragon books.

Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy, Book 5)
Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy, Book 5)
by Richelle Mead
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.78
362 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The slump is over--grandness has resumed, June 5, 2010
Book five in the Vampire Academy series begins with Rose Hathaway, world-class dhampir guard, reading a letter from Dimitri, her fighting instructor-turned boyfriend-turned soulless Strigoi vampire enemy. He's been writing her love letters that are more like death threats, telling her that he's sorry she wouldn't let him turn her into a Strigoi, but since she's refused eternal life, he'll have to kill her. As far as emotionally charged beginnings go, this one doesn't pull punches.

After book four's side trip to Russia, we're back in the world of St. Vladimir's Academy for Moroi (good vamps) and dhampirs, and Rose is about to finish her senior year. She's nervous about taking her guardian finals, though she's basically already killed a small country's worth of Strigoi, because her performance will determine whether she gets a guard assignment with her best friend Lissa Dragomir, a Moroi princess with whom she shares a psychic bond. Rose and Lissa are planning to sneak away to a high-security prison to hunt down some information that might help Dimitri get his soul back, though the chances are slim indeed.

I was glad to be back in the environment I grew to like so well in the first three books, and to see Rose interact with familiar characters, as opposed to the Russian setting of the last book which was filled with an almost totally new cast of characters. But even with the established cast plenty has changed, such as Rose dating Adrian Ivashkov, a Moroi spirit user and reformed royal hellion. This development shocked me. I know in the last book Rose promised to really give Adrian a chance when she came back from chasing Dimitri, but by "give him a chance" I thought she meant "smile at him occasionally while mourning Dimitri". But this is a good development. Adrian has grown up a lot, and his inclusion in the story thickens the plot in all kinds of helpful ways.

My longstanding favorite character Christian Ozera has a pretty big role, too. He and Lissa have broken up, which I can't help but appreciate because they were both interesting before they became a couple, and they're interesting again now that they're separated. These two seem to generate more awesomeness when they're not being gushy and lovey, which declaws Christian too much for my liking.

Almost any further commentary on the plot would be spoiler-iffic, but I will say that Spirit Bound was an intensely fun ride. It does what a good series book should: it's an engaging read in itself and it makes you anticipate the next book. Grade: A-

Glimmerglass (Faeriewalker, Book 1)
Glimmerglass (Faeriewalker, Book 1)
by Jenna Black
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.99
164 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great new faery YA, June 5, 2010
Here's a new faery book for YA readers to fall for!

Glimmerglass' protagonist Dana is a half-Fae teen who lives with her mother, an alcoholic who stays pretty far sloshed most of the time. What little Dana knows about her father has been revealed during her mother's worst drunken binges: he's someone very important in Avalon, the only city in the world where Fae and mortal realms overlap, and her mom supposedly fled from him because he's powerful and would try to take Dana away from her. Dana finally decides that being taken away from her constantly drunk mother can only be a good thing--her own life could scarcely get worse, and maybe if she flees to Avalon, her mother will get the wake-up call she needs in order to get sober.

But just as Dana gets to England (Avalon is British, wouldn't you know), she learns that her father Seamus Stuart is embroiled in some hardcore political conflicts that have led to his being jailed, then she runs afoul of her scheming Aunt Grace and is sort-of rescued by blond Fae siblings Ethan and Kimber. Ethan's the primary love interest in the book, as shown by Dana's thoughts when he first appears: "He broke into a crooked smile, and I realized that I was staring at him like I was some twelve-year-old meeting the Jonas Brothers" (pg 36).

As it turns out, about a bajillion political factions want control of Dana, because due to her unusual mixed heritage, she's a rare Faeriewalker who can go to all three realms (Faerie, Avalon, Mortal) and can bring technology to Faerie and magic to the mortal world.

The plot and characterization are good for a first book, and I'm really hooked on the supporting cast. Kimber, Ethan's snippy sister, always looking like she's been eating lemons, but is actually an okay person. Her bitterness stems from the fact that she's an intellectual, a college sophomore at age sixteen, but she's practically the family outcast because her parents only value Ethan's magical abilities. Ethan himself isn't entirely sympathetic, which is a nice touch, because it really makes Dana question his motives in showing interest: she doesn't just have to wonder whether he thinks she's nice or cute, but whether he's mainly attracted to her because of her power. Ulterior motives regarding power and status aren't romantic complications that are often seen in YA, but I like to see it addressed the way it is in Glimmerglass.

I know Jenna Black writes adult fiction, and I hope that Dana's Fae bodyguard Finn appears in one of her other books, because I want to read more about him. He's a stone-faced Knight and he protects Dana at his own expense, and his loyalty and reserved kindness are touching. Even better is his surly son Keane, who becomes Dana's fight trainer. I won't say that he's a serious contender for leading man, but he's certainly cool enough to be. I think I even prefer him to Ethan, because Keane seems like a jerk with a heart of gold, while Ethan is a golden boy with a heart of jerk. Actually, I don't think Ethan's all that bad, he's just been raised by a politically ambitious Fae lord, and he's personally cursed with good looks and incredible magical talent--with all those setbacks, it's hard for him to be a decent person, but he does try.

Historical bonus: The Seelie Fae use a white rose as their symbol, while the Unseelie use a red rose, because during the English Wars of the Roses, the Seelie supported York while the Unseelie favored the house of Lancaster. Hundreds of years later, the Fae are still hung up about this human conflict. How amazing is that? I love historical research when it's smoothly added to paranormal fiction.

Glimmerglass is a fun read, written in a friendly, companionable style, and I'm very much looking forward to Shadowspell, the second book in this series, due early in 2011. Grade: A-
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 14, 2010 7:35 PM PDT

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