Friday, July 31, 2009

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

Lia, her twin sister Alice, and younger brother Henry are now orphans. Like their mother a decade before, their father has recently and mysteriously died, so now they are in the care of their Aunt Virginia. The same day that she became parentless, however, Lia notices strange mark on her wrist. She soon discovers that the mark ties her to an ancient prophecy, one that has pitted generations of sisters against each other. Hiding her discovery from everyone she loves, including her sister and beau, James, Lia attempts to unravel the prophecy before it's too late.

I know a lot of people really liked Prophecy of the Sisters, but I wasn't that impressed by it. I wanted to love it, because I had heard great things about it. Instead, I felt like the author was so close to writing a good book, but didn't go that extra step. Not to say that Prophecy of the Sisters wasn't enjoyable or entertaining, because it was, it just wasn't all that good. In short, the book is pretty much about two sisters who are on different sides: one's good and one's evil. Lia and Alice are twins, and supposedly they used to be close, but now are not. I wish the author provided more backstory so we could witness the change and learn more about these two girls. The author just jumped into the story without explaining anything else, and it took awhile for the reader to become acquainted with the two main characters. I also thought the book was really predictable. There were some "twists" that I guessed would happen before they actually did.

Prophecy of the Sisters has also been likened to the Gemma Doyle trilogy, but I don't think it's anywhere near as good as that series. It's definitely similar, so if you enjoyed A Great and Terrible Beauty, you'll be familiar with some of the themes present in this book. Fortunately, Prophecy of the Sisters is supposed to be a trilogy, so I think we'll get more backstory on both Lia and Alice, and then the prophecy itself. Hopefully, those extra books will add more depth to this series.

7 out of 10.

Release Date: August 1, 2009

Side Note: This is the cover of the ARC, but I thought it was cool, even though I like the hardcover better. I discovered from Reading Keeps You Sane's On the Outside post that this cover was meant for the hardcover, but enough reviewers didn't like it, that they decided to change it. Which do you like better?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Lia and Cassie were best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies. But now Cassie is dead. Lia's mother is busy saving other people's lives. Her father is away on business. Her step-mother is clueless. And the voice inside Lia's head keeps telling to her remain in control, stay strong, lose more, weigh less. If she keeps on going this way - thin, thinner, thinnest - maybe she'll disappear altogether.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the National Book Award finalist Speak, best-selling author Laurie Halse Anderson explores one girl's chilling descent into the all-consuming vortex of anorexia. (Taken from inside flap)

Wintergirls was disturbing. It was scary and it was sad. But it was also powerful. I could not put it down. I was exhausted after our championship meet, but I couldn't sleep until I finished the last fifteen pages. Somehow, without me realizing it, I was sucked into this book. At first, I was wary of reading Wintergirls because I wasn't sure if I would be able to relate to Lia since I don't have an eating disorder. But I was glad I read it because I got an inside look into Lia's mind and began to understand the illness a little better. I liked how the whole book was full of Lia's thoughts and there were even things crossed out and re-written as Lia internally edited her feelings.

The book was definitely disturbing, as we see Lia drop in weight and go whole days only eating a cracker. And even though this book and Lia's actions were difficult to read about, I truly felt sad for Lia and that her compulsion to control one part of her life translated into an eating disorder. But as I was reading Wintergirls, I felt like I was reading something important. I hope that this book will bring awareness to eating disorders and maybe inspire people suffering from anorexia and bulimia to reach out for help.

8 out of 10.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Legacy & Spellbound (Wicked Series) by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie

Holly Cathers is not the same person she was almost a year ago. After discovering her connection to an ancient legacy of witches, Holly has accepted her destiny as a descendant of the House of Cahors. She is determined to end an intergenerational fued that has plagued her family for centuries.

Holly will have to overcome unworldly obstacles as she battles to protect her loved ones - including Jer, a member of the rival House of Deveraux and her one true love. A war of magical proportions is being waged and Holly is at the center of it all.

Lives will be lost and sacrifices will have to be made... (summary taken from book)

I think I liked these two books better than the first two. The story moved a little faster and I feel like more happened. Unfortunately, what happened was more of the same. Really, I'm starting to think that these two authors have no creativity. The whole series so far has been Holly and her friends and family fighting for their lives. Several different people are out to get them, and every other page they are preparing for battle and hoping they won't die. It gets tedious, this looming prospect of death. And as I was reading, I just didn't like the writing. I kept finding things that I would change if I was the editor. It wasn't grammatical mistakes, just things like word choice that annoyed me while I was reading Legacy and Spellbound. The only redeeming quality is the cliff-hanger at the end. I want to know what happens, but I think I'm going to pass on reading the next book.

6 out of 10.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Devil's Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis

Caterina de Medici, the Italian duchess of Florence, has witnessed betrayal and hardship at a young age. As a prisoner of the rebels who wanted to take over Florence, she has suffered through hunger, cold, and the plague. With the help from a horoscopist and prophet, Cosimo Ruggieri, Caterina was able to escape from her captors and be placed in the favor of her uncle, Pope Clement VII. In a political power play, Clement married her to a French prince, where she was forced learn a new language, customs, and name: Catherine, queen of France. But to get what she most desires, first, children, and later, for her children to remain on the throne, Catherine must delve into the black arts and do everything in her power, short of selling her soul.

I learned about Catherine de Medici briefly in history class, when we were discussing the evolution of Protestantism in France, and I decided to read this book to see what else I could learn about her. Jeanne Kalogridis does a great job of using a lot of detail and information to describe Catherine's life. The book is really long, and I felt like I was living Catherine's life along with her as I turned the pages. Upon completion of the novel, I did some research on Catherine, and not everything in the book is accepted fact. A lot of what the author wrote, mostly regarding the black arts Catherine is involved in, are rumors, so they could be true or untrue. Even though the book wasn't completely historically accurate, I liked that I could get a different view on Catherine than what is normally written about her, since Catherine is considered to be a ruthless monarch. Putting aside the disputed authenticity of the book, I can definitely say that The Devil's Queen was entertaining, and any fans of historical fiction will enjoy it.

7 out of 10.

Release Date: July 21, 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors

Katrina lives in Nordby, an authentic Scandanavian town, complete with quaint houses, a Solstice Festival, and her grandmother's coffeehouse, where she spends most of her time. One day Katrina sees a homeless man sleeping in the back alley behind the coffeehouse, and she decides to leave him some coffee and pastries. But the homeless man is actually an angel named Malcolm, and he decides to reward Katrina with her heart's desire for her selflessness. After two botched wishes, Katrina is afraid to tell Malcolm what she really wants - because what she wants is him.

Coffeehouse Angel was really cute. I didn't realize that this was a romantic comedy, so I was pleasantly surprised by the humor. Katrina thinks and says some funny things, which makes the book more enjoyable. I liked the fact that Malcolm was an angel, which gives this book an element of uniqueness. The only problem I had was that Coffeehouse Angel started bordering on silly. Some of the character's antics started becoming annoying, rather than being funny. Even so, I liked this book and its humor, but I think serious readers might find the comedy immature.

7 out of 10.

Release Date: July 21, 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

Contest Winners!

Here are the winners of Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson! I'm going to email everyone who won, but I'll need you to send me your address by Friday, July 24. So that gives you a week to send me it. If not, I'll pick another winner. Thanks to everyone who entered!



BN Book Blog


Book Butterfly (Kim)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Simply Books!

I just realized that today is Simply Books's one year blogoversary. I'll have to do something special in honor of being around for so long, though I don't know what yet. But I can't believe it's already been a year! The time went by so fast. And I've had so much fun blogging and reviewing books. Thanks to everyone who has stopped by, commented, emailed me, whatever! All you reviewers are so nice and welcoming and have made this year so much fun. Here's to many more!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Contest Reminder

I just wanted to remind everyone that the contest to win one of five copies of Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson will be closing tomorrow (July 13) at 8 pm EST. So it you want to win a copy of the newly released paperback edition, visit the contest post.

In other contest news, Pam Bachorz is giving away two ARCs of her upcoming book, Candor, which will be released in September. Candor is about a town in Florida that turns its teenagers into perfect ladies and gentlemen through subliminal messages. It looks really interesting and if you want more information, watch the book trailer. The contest details are on Pam's blog.

Witch & Curse (Wicked Series) by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie

Holly Cathers's life has been turned upside. After her parents and best friend die in a white water rafting accident, Holly must move to Seattle to live with an aunt, uncle and cousins that she's never met. But dark forces are at work, and Holly soon learns that she is part of an ancient feud that extends back to the Medieval period. Holly and her cousins are part of the Cahors House, a French family that are warlocks and witches. Their rivals, the Deveraux family, are trying to find the secret of the Black Fire and don't like Holly getting in the way. Using her newfound magic, Holly, her cousins, and team of ragtag friends must find a way to stop the Deveraux and end the feud forever.

So for anyone who is confused, the book is actually two books in one. Since they have the same cover, and are essentially the same story, I just decided to review them at the same time. I got this book from a friend, who wanted me to read it first and tell her if it was good. Wicked (the name I will use to refer to the books combined) has been sitting on my shelf for many months, since I did not feel like reading it. But then I saw another friend reading it, and she practically gushed about Wicked, saying it was amazing and so, so good. But I didn't really like it that much. It kind of felt like Gossip Girl for fans of supernatural books. The story was easy to follow, the characters were pretty shallow, and the plot relied on a quick pace rather than actual storytelling. Ignoring the fact that the book is long, it was a light and easy read. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy reading it, but I'm not sure I would recommend it to other people. After finishing both books, I don't really like or care about the characters, and have no desire to find out what happens next. Unfortunately, there are three books after these two, and my friend said that she would bring me in the next two (also combined in one book). I don't want to hurt her feelings, so I guess I'm stuck reading more of Holly and her friends. If it's bad enough maybe I can attempt to snark it.

6 out of 10.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Stargazer by Claudia Gray

Stargazer returns to Bianca's story a few months later. Both she and Lucas will stop at nothing to see each other again—even if it means living a life of secrets and lies. But even as Bianca finds herself torn between two worlds, she soon discovers they aren't the only ones keeping secrets. Will powerful forces within Evernight Academy keep her from deciding her own fate, or claim her forever? (Taken from Claudia Gray's website)

I really like the summary I found because it tells about the book, while is also vague enough that the surprise from Evernight (the first book) is not given away. So, in keeping with the summary, this will still be a spoiler-free review, even though most people have either read the book or already know what it's about. Anyway, I liked Stargazer. There weren't any big revelations half-way through the book that left me scratching my head, so that's a plus. By now we've been introduced to all the characters and the storyline established, so I was glad to see the plot move forward. Some things were resolved in this book, but other things were left open to be discussed in the next two books. Mrs. Bethany, the headmistress of Evernight, is keeping a secret, and those who have read Evernight will be happy to find out the secret is revealed. There is also more backstory to Bianca and her parents, which I was not expecting, but it was definitely interesting. When I got to the end of the book, I turned the last page, expecting there to be more. But there wasn't and I really want to know what happens next. Unfortunately, the next book, Hourglass, won't be released until March 2010, so we have a long wait ahead of us. But all in all, Stargazer did not disappoint and will leave readers anticipating the next book in the series.

8 out of 10.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

All her world’s a stage.

Beatrice Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater. She’s not an orphan, but she has no parents. She knows every part, but she has no lines of her own. That is, until now.

Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the actors of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book—an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family—and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known. (Summary taken from Amazon)

I fell in love with Eyes Like Stars. I'll admit it - at the beginning of the book I wasn't too sure what I thought. At first, it's confusing because Lisa Mantchev has created this whole new world that I have never seen before. Bertie lives in a theater full of characters from Shakespeare plays and other theatrical works. And these people - the Players - are more of characters than actual people, and are bound by an ancient text to stay in the theater and put on shows. Bertie is human, and I felt really connected her. I liked that she stood out from the other characters; it was like the author was trying to differentiate between humans and the Players by making Bertie this funny, sassy, and vibrant girl. Everything she said and did was witty and at times I found myself laughing out loud.

The other supporting characters, though they were Players, were also interesting and had their own distinct personalites: from sweet Nate to seductive Ariel to the four silly fairies from A Midsummer Night's Dream. The play Hamlet is important to the storyline, so it was nice that I had read it in school. I haven't read a lot of Shakespeare, so I was glad that I was familiar with the characters and storyline of Hamlet. But I feel like people who don't like theater or fantasy or both will be turned off by Eyes Like Stars. I like theater, so that wasn't a problem for me, but if you can't stand musicals/plays, this might not be your cup of tea. I would still give this book a chance, because I enjoyed it a lot and thought it was a great story, but I understand that this book will not fit everyone's tastes. It's just a warning though. I think (and hope) that a lot of people will find this book entertaining. All in all, Eyes Like Stars was a beautiful performance of a book.

9 out of 10.

Release Date: July 7, 2009

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Independence Day! Hope you all enjoyed your barbeques/fireworks/parades. We had terrific weather today and I hope everyone else did too!