Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (1)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.  I'm happy to be participating for the first time!

My Waiting on Wednesday Book Is:

If I Should Die
by Amy Plum

I will not lose another person I love. I will not let history repeat itself.

Vincent waited lifetimes to find me, but in an instant our future together was shattered. He was betrayed by someone we both called a friend, and I lost him. Now our enemy is determined to rule over France’s immortals, and willing to wage a war to get what they want.

It shouldn’t be possible, none of it should be, but this is my reality. I know Vincent is somewhere out there, I know he’s not completely gone, and I will do anything to save him.

After what we’ve already fought to achieve, a life without Vincent is unimaginable. He once swore to avoid dying—to go against his nature and forsake sacrificing himself for others—so that we could be together. How can I not risk everything to bring my love back to me?

(Cover & Description from Goodreads. Source.)
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: May 7, 2013

I'm a sucker for books set in Paris, and this whole series has been a kind of love letter to the city, not to mention a great love story with more than a hint of danger.  I'm eagerly anticipating the finale!

What's your Waiting on Wednesday choice?

Review: Storm (Elemental #1)

Storm (Elemental #1)
Becca Chandler is suddenly getting all the guys all the ones she doesn't want. Ever since her ex-boyfriend spread those lies about her. Then she saves Chris Merrick from a beating in the school parking lot. Chris is different. Way different: he can control water just like his brothers can control fire, wind, and earth. They're powerful. Dangerous. Marked for death.

And now that she knows the truth, so is Becca.

Secrets are hard to keep when your life's at stake. When Hunter, the mysterious new kid around school, turns up with a talent for being in the wrong place at the right time, Becca thinks she can trust him. But then Hunter goes head-to-head with Chris, and Becca wonders who's hiding the most dangerous truth of all.
The storm is coming.
(Cover & Description from Goodreads. Source.)
Publisher: Kensingtion
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Kat's Review
The first book in what promises to be a very exciting series did not disappoint.  When Becca stumbles upon Chris being beaten in the parking at school after hours, she helps him without hesitation, not realising that she is intervening in something far bigger than a simple fight.  Despite attending the same school, Becca hasn't had many interactions with the brothers in the past.  Now her life is intertwined with theirs in inexplicable ways. 
This book took me by surprise.  The characters were complex and so different from one another, each struggling with their own issues.  The author knows how to give a little at a time, just enough to keep the reader turning the pages.  Becca was such an authentic teen, struggling with her own insecurities and regrets, trying to trust even though she's wary.  The way she's tormented by her peers was very real, and her efforts to just ignore the problem and hope it will go away also struck me as real.  Bullied kids often just want to be invisible. 
There's a lot going on here.  Becca's issues, her strained relationship with Chris and confusing one with Hunter, the new boy in town.  The Merrick brothers are trying to stay alive & control their impulse to fight back, although doing so would be to ensure their death.  Not to mention some fight scenes and a budding romance or two.  Seriously. 
I read somewhere that the characters were originally supposed to be vampires, and I'm so happy that she went in another direction.  A band of brothers who can bend the elements to their will is much more original and interesting.  Not to mention hot.  These boys are all very attractive, and their powers just add to that appeal.  That there is a solid storyline backing it all up makes the book even better.
Rating: All Consuming
I'll admit that I wasn't expecting to like this book as much as I did.  It delivers on all fronts: action, mystery, romance, friendship, trust, betrayal, you name it.  If you like books with a supernatural slant, I would recommend giving this series a chance. 
Purchase from Amazon ||  Amazon Canada

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review: Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French Kiss
Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?
(Cover & Description from Goodreads. Source.)
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: December 2, 2010
Kat's Review
I read this book with a bit of nostalgia for the year I spent in Paris as an exchange student, although I wasn't in a school with expats. I was at University, and my roommate was an Italian girl who invited her hippie boyfriend to come and live with us for the last month and who brushed his teeth in our kitchen sink...but I digress.  Although I knew how to speak French when I was there, I could identify with how overwhelmed Anna was by the wonder that is Paris and the sudden freedom of living on her own for the first time. 
And let's be honest, Paris is a character in the book.  Not as much, perhaps, as it could have been, but more than enough for the purposes of this novel.  The author walked a fine line between providing enough info about the sites to orient the reader and providing a history lesson.  She walked it well.  It's also obvious that she did her homework, because her descriptions of many of the locations were perfect.  Paris is such an iconic and romantic backdrop to a book, although I'm perhaps a little biased to be objective about this.
I read this book all in one go, which I like to do if I'm enjoying a book.  Otherwise I just wander around thinking about the book while I pretend to do other things, and nothing actually gets done. 
I enjoyed it. 
It's a cute, feel good story about a girl finding herself, and falling in love in the process.  The love story is front and centre, there's no doubt, but it was Anna's journey from a sheltered girl afraid to leave her dorm, to a confident, self-sufficient young woman who finds the courage to stand up for herself and demand more.  I wasn't always sure that she would get there, but she did.
So let's talk Etienne St. Clair.  The American/British/French hottie that Anna (and everyone else) falls for.  Full disclosure, my first born son is named Etienne, so I'm kind of partial to the name.  Etienne is sweet, charming, and taken.  Not to mention the object of desire of Anna's first friend in Paris.  She falls for him anyway, and spends most of the book trying to decode his mixed messages. 
I liked his character, although the whole "everyone loves him" thing was a bit much.  I liked him less and less as he strung Anna along (intentionally or not) and started getting tired of his inability to make a decision.  By the time Anna lost her sh*t on him I was relieved.  Not that I didn't want them to get together, but because I didn't want her to be that girl, the one who is willing to take whatever scraps they're offered.  They were both flawed, which I thought was great.  In many ways, Etienne was also learning to be independent by letting go of what was comfortable and taking a chance on something new.
Rating: A Good Read
This is a sweet, funny book.  It takes place in a great location, giving it a twist from the usual boarding schools stories.  The chemistry between the main character and the love interest is written to feel real, and the story kept me reading until the end. 
Buy From:  Amazon        Amazon Canada

Monday, February 25, 2013

Book Review: Curse Worker's Trilogy

White Cat (Curse Workers #1)
Cassel comes from a family of Curse Workers - people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all criminals. Many become mobsters and con artists. But not Cassel. He hasn't got magic, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail - he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.
Cassel has carefully built up a facade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his facade starts to crumble when he finds himself sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.
(Cover & Description from Goodreads.  Source.)
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry books
Publication Date: May 4, 2010
Red Glove (Curse Workers #2)
After rescuing his brothers from Zacharov's retribution and finding out that Lila, the girl he has loved his whole life, will never, ever be his now that his mother has worked her, Cassel is trying to reestablish some kind of normalcy in his life. That was never going to be easy for someone from a worker family tied to one of the big crime families and a mother whose cons get more reckless by the day. But Cassel is also coming to terms with what it means to be a transformation worker and figuring out how to have friends.
But normal doesn't last very long-soon Cassel is being courted by both sides of the law and is forced to confront his past. A past he remembers only in scattered fragments and one that could destroy his family and his future. Cassel will have to decide whose side he wants to be on because neutrality is not an option. And then he will have to pull off his biggest con ever to survive.
(Cover & Description from Goodreads. Source.)
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: April 5, 2011
Black Heart (Curse Workers #3)
In a world where Magic is illegal.
Cassel Sharpe has the most deadly ability of all. With one touch, he can transform any object - including a person - into something else entirely. And that makes him a wanted man. The Feds are willing to forgive all his past crimes if he'll only leave his con artist family behind and go straight. But why does going straight feel so crooked?
For one thing, it means being on the opposite side of the law from Lila, the girl he loves. She's the daughter of a mob boss and getting ready to join the family business herself. Though Cassel is pretty sure she can never love him back, he can't stop obsessing over her. Which would be bad enough, even if her father wasn't keeping Cassel's mother prisoner in a posh apartment and threatening not to let her leave until she returns the priceless diamond she scammed off him years ago. Too bad she can't remember where she put it.The Feds say they need Cassel to get rid of a powerful man who is spinning dangerously out of control. But if they want Cassel to use his unique talent to hurt people, what separates the good guys from the bad ones? Or is everyone just out to con him?Time is running out, and all Cassel's magic and cleverness might not be enough to save him. With no easy answers and no one he can trust, love might be the most dangerous gamble of all.
(Cover & Description from Goodreads. Source.)
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: April 3, 2012
Kat's Review
I've been taking my son to the library a lot lately, and as a result I've been catching up on books that I missed when I was in my post-baby, new mom, nobody- told -me- it -would- be- this- difficult phase.  Turns out I've missed a lot, like this series.  I checked out the whole lot, and spent the last week devouring them. 
There is a lot to love here.  A book told from a teen boy's perspective is always a fave of mine, although I can't say exactly why that is.  This particular teenage boy is complicated, funny, sarcastic, and conflicted, with an inner monologue that kept me smiling.  Cassel's attempts to reconcile his worker family with the normal school boy he tries to be while away at school was like a twisted coming of age story, where the family is full of criminals without conscience (although some of them do, but in a weird way) and the school is full of rich kids who want a taste of danger, but not too much. 
Cassel is stuck in the middle. 
Crime is something he knows.  It's familiar.  When he learns of his own particular power, and how it's been used against him by his own family, it's as though the universe has a particularly nasty sense of humour.  Add in some reluctant friendships, crooked Federal agents, and a love that's most dangerous of all, and you've got the gist of this series.  Kind of.  Because it's all that and more. 
There's love, loyalty, betrayal, mystery and intrigue, all wrapped up into one.  There are cheeky allusions to the works of Ms. Black's friends, like a student named Jace showing up in the background from time to time, or a show about beauty contestants being stranded on a desert island playing in the common room.  There's an epic love story that isn't resolved one way or the other until the very last page. 
Rating: All Consuming
If you read this series when it first came out, it's worth a reread.  If you missed it the first time around, clear some time in your schedule, because you're going to want to read them all in one go.  Original, funny and twisted, all wrapped up in one great series.
Purchase from Amazon  White Cat                Red Glove               Black Heart

Monday's Book Buzz

There's a lot of book buzz going on this week! 

The Oscars were last night, and movies adapted from books were well represented.  Here are a few of the more notable ones:

Jennifer Lawrence took home the Best Actress Oscar for her role in Silver Linings Playbook

Ang Lee took home Best Director for Life of Pi, and thanked the author in his acceptance speech!  The movie also won an award for Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Special Effects.  Plus, the book was written by a Canadian!  Great night for this best-seller.

Anne Hathaway took Best Supporting Actress for the classic Les Miserables, which also won for Best Make-up and Hairstyling. 

Anna Karenina, another classic, won for Best Costumes. 

Book Signing

If you are in Burnaby, BC today and a fan of Stephenie Meyer, she will be signing copies of The Host at the Chapters Metrotown from 5:30-9:00 pm.

Releases This Week

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Book Review: Dare You To (Pushing the Limits #2)

Dare You To (Pushing the Limits #2)
Ryan lowers his lips to my ear. "Dance with me, Beth."
"No." I whisper the reply. I hate him and I hate myself for wanting him to touch me again....
"I dare you..."

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does....

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him.  But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all....

(Description & Cover from Goodreads. Source.)
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: May 28, 2013

Kat's Review

It's no secret that I loved Pushing the Limits, the first book with Echo and Noah as the main characters, so I was really excited to have the chance to review this book as well.  I liked Beth's character in Pushing the Limits, and was looking forward to seeing her story evolve.  I have to admit, I was a bit confused when I read the synopsis and found that the book wasn't about Beth and Isaiah. They were so close in the first one, and Isaiah made no secret of his feelings for her.  After reading Dare You To though, I'm happy that the author took the book in a different direction, including moving Beth to a different setting.  I don't think her character would have been able to grow in the same ways if she had remained living in the same place, surrounded by the same people. 

The other main character, Ryan, took a while to grow on me.  I found his "I don't lose" attitude a bit much at first, but as the book progressed and his own insecurities and fears started surfacing, I began to like him more and more.  He was loyal to his friends and confused about how to deal with an issue that was tearing his family apart.  What I particularly found great about his character (SPOILER ALERT) was that McGarry wrote him as a guy's guy, a great athlete, attractive and popular with girls, but also a virgin.  LOVE THAT.  Losing his virginity was a big deal.  This did not make him less masculine, or less attractive, and that was really nice to see.  I also liked the way she included the conversation about sex between Ryan and his friend.  Honest, but not cheesy or overly sentimental. 

I could identify with both Beth and Ryan.  I spent my childhood in a very small town, bordered by farmland, and then moved to a big city in my teens.  I've lived both lifestyles, and could identify with both perspectives, the big city one where almost nothing is shocking, and the small town one where everyone knows everything.  It was fascinating to watch those two worlds collide in this book. 

About Isaiah.  Sigh.  His relationship with Beth was as complicated and fascinating as ever.  The way he protects and looks out for her, while setting himself up to be hurt was heartbreaking, but it was a relationship that needed to be explored, not just disappear once Beth moved away.  I am so looking forward to reading his story! 

Rating: A Good Read

This was a great book.  Grittier than the first, perhaps, but realistic in so many ways.  The way that Beth stays devoted to her mom and dedicated to saving her from herself was painful to read.  McGarry attacks the cycle of abuse head-on, and that's something to be respected.  If you liked Pushing the Limits, I think you'll really enjoy Dare You To.

I was provided a complimentary ebook copy of this title in return for an honest, unbiased review.

Buy:       Amazon US  ] Amazon Canada           


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Book Review: Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles #1)

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles #1)
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.
(Cover & Description from Goodreads. Source.)
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Publication Date: December 1, 2009
Kat's Review
I have to admit, I missed the boat on this one when it was first released.  I heard the hype, but I resisted.  There are several reasons for it, one of which being that unlike many people, I am not automatically drawn to books set in the south.  I don't hate them, but I don't flock to them the way some do, whisked away by the romance of all those puffy dresses.  I'm not always comfortable with the way issues of history and race are handled, and as a result I sometimes just pick up another book instead.  There is still a very popular novel, which was turned into a very popular movie, with several very popular actors, that I haven't gone near, for those very reasons. 
So I asked around about those very things, and was assured that while the book didn't shy away from them, it didn't try to turn the past into something it wasn't.  So I picked up a copy of the book.
And I loved it.
The first thing I noticed was that the main character was a teenage boy.  Score one for Beautiful Creatures.  I like reading books from a male perspective.  There aren't enough of them for teens, particularly not enough love stories, in my humble opinion.  I felt a kinship with Ethan from the start, having grown up in a small town, dying to get out and see the world. 
The second thing I noticed was the way the fantastical was interwoven with the mundane so seamlessly that I often had to go back and reread a passage just to be sure that I understood exactly what was happening.  In a good way.  Learning what Lena was capable of, what Macon was, where Ethan and Amma and everyone else fit into the story was all enough to keep me reading far past my bedtime. 
Finally, the love story.  It is somewhat of an epic love story, entwined with a love story from the past, all caught up in forces outside of anyone's control.  The love that grew between the two main characters was so organic, so subtle and real that I wasn't rolling my eyes at the thought of it being true love between two sixteen year olds.  It was sweet, and strong, and yet so innocent.  The way a first love should be. 
Rating: All Consuming
I have to admit, I wasn't sure about this one before I started it.  Hype doesn't always equal quality, and many times I've picked up a hyped book to wonder what everyone is going on about, but I really fell in love with this book.  Well written, well paced, and not too sweet. 
I'm always wary about seeing films made from books I love though, so I'm still on the fence about going to see this one.  Any thoughts? 
Purchase from Amazon Beautiful Creatures
Purchase from Beautiful Creatures

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Book Review: The Name of the Star (Shades of London #1)

The Name of the Star (Shades of London #1)
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.
(Cover & Description from Goodreads. Source.)
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication Date: September 29, 2011
Kat's Review
With the sequel to this book, The Madness Underneath, due to hit shelves in a few days, I thought it would be a great time to write a review of the first book in the series to give reluctant readers a few reasons why picking it up would be a good idea.  I have to admit, I'm a sucker for books located in Europe, probably because I was an exchange student in University and spent a year in Paris.  That this book is not only set in London but also involves a student studying abroad pulled me in from the start. 
Aurora (Rory) is adjusting to life at a boarding school in London, located in the heart of where the original "Ripper" murders took place.  Unfortunately for her, a new set of copycat murders are taking place in London just as she moves in, putting her and her classmates at risk.  As we watch Rory make friends, develop a crush on Jerome, and try to keep up with her studies, we're also drawn into the mystery of the present day murders and who might be responsible.  When Rory speaks with the suspect, she gets drawn in and realizes that there's more to the murders than just a copycat killer. 

While the book does introduce a paranormal element, it does so within the context of a normal girl's existence, and in a way that doesn't take away from Rory's human experiences of school, friends, and dating.  The writing is skillful and witty, and the characters are well-drawn and likeable.  Maureen Johnson did a great job of highlighting the challenges of adjusting to living in a new country as a teenager and adjusting to a different set of rules and expectations.  She also managed to incorporate murder and ghosts into that world without making it all seem ridiculous. 

Rating: A Good Read

This book caught and kept my attention from the start.  I liked Rory, and rooted for her throughout the book.  The ending was good too.  It tied up enough loose ends to keep me satisfied, yet introduced a whole new twist that left me guessing and excited for the next installment. 

Purchase on The Name of the Star (The Shades of London)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Book Review: Revival (The Variant Series #1)

Revival (The Variant Series, Book 1)
Jena Leigh

Possessing the uncanny ability to fry a television set from twenty paces can really wreck a girl’s social life.

If you’re looking for proof, just ask sixteen-year-old Alexandra Parker. After catching her boyfriend in the arms of the prettiest girl in school, she made the journey from social elite to social pariah in a haze of electricity and exploding electronics. But finding herself at the bottom of Bay View High’s social hierarchy was nothing compared to the shock of discovering who—and what—she really is.

After being zapped out of a burning bookstore by the mysterious Declan—a hero nearly as handsome as he is infuriating—Alex finds herself under the protection of the powerful Grayson family. It’s through them that she learns the truth: that the world she’s always known is nothing like it appears to be... and that she has far more in common with them than she might want to believe.

Now, on the run from a fire-wielding hit man and a secretive government organization, Alex must navigate a strange and treacherous new world filled with superhuman mutants known as Variants. As she begins to unravel the many secrets of her family’s past, she uncovers the real reason for her parents’ death twelve years earlier—and finds out that the threat to her family, and to everyone she cares about, is still dangerously real.

(Cover & Description from Author Website. Source.)
Published By: Jena Leigh
Publication Date: November 14, 2012

Kat's Review

When I started reading this book, I was first struck by the writing style.  It's good.  The author has a comfortable way with words that made me at ease from the start.  Sounds obvious, but so often a story is good, but the writing style is clumsy and difficult to get into.  I didn't have that problem with this book.  I also took a liking to the main character right away, and it's obvious from the start that there's some sort of supernatural or paranormal twist to the story. 

I became a bit concerned when Alex (short for Alexandra), finds herself in a cabin in the woods surrounded by a group of other young Variants (what those with special powers are called).  Those who can read minds, or move things without touching them, or transport themselves from place to place.  It began to feel a bit X-Men, and I was worried that things would proceed the same way.  Instead, I was pleasantly surprised when the plot line twists, and apart from the special powers, the X-Men thing didn't materialize.  Which is a good thing, because I don't think I would have enjoyed the book if it had. 

Without giving away too many spoilers, it turns out that Alex has been hunted her whole life for particular powers that she possesses, powers that only one other Variant has ever had.  She was kept in the dark as a means of protection, and now she must learn to protect herself and safely use her powers. 

As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, the writing here is really, really, good.  The dialogue feels natural, and the storyline progresses at a good pace.  I was sad when it ended and left wanting to know more.  There is a bit of a love triangle going on, but it doesn't really get the space to grow in this first book.  Not all the questions raised in this book are answered, including a secret that Nate has been keeping from Alex.  Hopefully all will be answered in the next installment. 

Rating: A Good Read

This book hooked me from the first page, and kept me until the last.  I would have liked to see more of Nate, as it seems that he has some information that will be important going forward, but watching the growing relationship between Declan and Alex was fun.  There isn't any overt romance going on here, but there is definitely the promise of more romance in the future.  I'm looking forward to the sequel, scheduled for late spring or early summer of 2013.

I received a copy of this book for review, in exchange for an unbiased review.

Purchase from Amazon Revival (The Variant Series, Book 1)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book Review: Dreamstate: Dark Eyes Volume #1

Dreamstate: Dark Eyes Volume #1
Every night, as eleven-year-old Daniel Knox falls asleep, he has the dream again. It is a dream filled with grand forests, small towns, bizarre creatures, and stone castles—but it is also a place where sinister horrors lurk just out of sight. Through a chance encounter with a mysterious girl, Daniel finds himself swept up in a war. Hunted by a dark god, he must learn to master the powers within himself or see his dream world conquered by evil.
(Cover & Description from Goodreads. Source.)
Publisher: Trevor Zawalich
Publication Date: November 30, 2012
Kat's Review
I didn't know what to expect when I started reading this book.  I do read a lot of YA, but not so much middle grade, or books with protagonists this young.  As I was reading, I was actually reading it with an eye to whether I would let my son read this when he reaches 11 or 12 years of age.  The answer is yes.
While the concept of the book is pretty straightforward- a young boy lands in a dream world whenever he falls asleep, discovering a world filled with strange animals, dangerous foes and increasingly difficult challenges- the execution of the story is quite well done.  The world created by the author contains enough that is similar to the protagonist's real world that he can navigate it, but has enough of the fantastical to make it interesting for the reader.  The main character, Daniel, is a typical young boy who finds it difficult to fit into his life at school and has few friends.  That he is a critical piece in the fight against evil in his dream world is every kid's fantasy.  It is the one place he feels he belongs.
I enjoyed the friendship that grew between Daniel and Leerah.  It was great to see a strong female character, and to watch her teach Daniel how to be strong and protect himself.  The friendship was natural, and there was no hesitation with letting a female teach a male how to fight.  I know that this shouldn't be a big deal in a book, but it is, especially in a book with young main characters.  Leerah isn't just a secondary character, she plays an important role and is Daniel's only real friend.  The relationship was also age-appropriate.  There was no sexual tension, no kissing, no viewing Leerah as a sex symbol.  The relationship may change as the books progress and the characters age, but for an 11 year old boy, his friendship with Leerah was just a friendship, the way it would have been if Leerah had been written as a boy. 
The world-building is quite extensive, but not overwhelming, and pieces are revealed over the course of the book.  There are still questions that remain, and secrets to uncover, but the story was easy to follow and the world was drawn in good detail.  There was enough action to keep a young reader interested, without veering into the violence for the sake of violence cliché.
Rating: A Good Read
As I mentioned at the beginning, I don't usually read books with protagonists this young, but I enjoyed this one.  It would make a good read for a pre-teen or a teen, looking for a fantasy book but not quite ready for some of the more adult ones with a ton of sex and violence.  I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this series.

I received a copy of this book for review in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Book Review: The Indigo Spell (Bloodlines #3)

The Indigo Spell (Bloodlines #3)

In the aftermath of a forbidden moment that rocked Sydney to her core, she finds herself struggling to draw the line between her Alchemist teachings and what her heart is urging her to do. Then she meets alluring, rebellious Marcus Finch--a former Alchemist who escaped against all odds, and is now on the run. Marcus wants to teach Sydney the secrets he claims the Alchemists are hiding from her. But as he pushes her to rebel against the people who raised her, Sydney finds that breaking free is harder than she thought. There is an old and mysterious magic rooted deeply within her. And as she searches for an evil magic user targeting powerful young witches, she realizes that her only hope is to embrace her magical blood--or else she might be next.(Cover & Description from Goodreads. Source.)
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: February 12, 2013

Kat's Review
I have to be honest and say that I'm enjoying the Bloodlines series more than I enjoyed the Vampire Academy books, and I liked that series quite a bit.  This is a surprise, because I usually find spin-offs to be less interesting than what inspired them in the first place, with plots that run thin.  In this case, perhaps it's because the main characters of the original series are mostly absent and there is a change of scenery, but this series manages to keep things fresh with a different set of challenges and a protagonist who approaches each situation much differently than the protagonist of the original series.

The author has done a good job of showing Sydney's progression from a vampire-hating Alchemist to a young woman in love with one, without having it all happen in one sudden moment of clarity.  Sydney slowly learns to trust them, moving from a working relationship, to friendship, to love, in a pattern than sometimes feels like one step forward, two steps back.  The same can be said for her gradual acceptance of the role of magic in her life.  Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, this entire book is about documenting Sydney's move into adulthood, into accepting responsibility for herself and her actions, and being prepared to deal with the consequences of her decisions. 

It also shows growth in the secondary characters.  Adrian is the most mature we've seen him, without losing any of his charm, which is important because Sydney could never truly be in love with someone who didn't have the ability to take anything seriously.  Jill is maturing, Sydney's sister is growing up and Mrs. Terwilliger becomes more than just a hippy witch showing Sydney a few magic tricks.  I liked the way the stakes were raised in this book, leaving both satisfied and shocked at the ending, in equal measure.  It's rare that I'm entirely surprised with the ending of a book, but I didn't see this one coming. 

Rating: All Consuming

For me, this was the best book in the series so far.  The characters are really coming into their own, the pacing was good and the storyline has branched out enough to keep things interesting.  The ending threw a wrench in everything, leaving me excited for the next installment.  Really good stuff.

Purchase from The Indigo Spell: A Bloodlines Novel

Purchase from The Indigo Spell: A Bloodlines Novel