Monday, September 27, 2010

Just One Wish by Janette Rallison

It seemed like such a good idea at the time, a foolproof plan, and not something that was likely to get me, say, thrown in jail. All I was trying to do was help my six-year-old brother, Jeremy, beat his cancer. He's been so afraid of his upcoming surgery that I was trying to use some of that "power of postive thinking" everyone keeps talking about.

I told Jeremy that I had a genie, and I still had two wishes left. He could use one for anything he wanted and one to make sure his surgery went well. I knew he'd ask for the new action figure of Teen Robin Hood. It's all he's talked about since he started watching the TV series.

But tere is no such thing as a foolproof plan where six-year-olds are concerned. Instead, he asked for the real Teen Robin Hood to come teach him how to shoot arrows. And now I have just a couple of days to drive to Hollywood, find the actor who plays Teen Robin Hood - incredibly hot and way too famous - and convince him to visit my little brother.

At times like this, I could use a genie myself.

I thought Just One Wish was super adorable and super funny. I've wanted to read this book since it came out and I finally got around to it now. Annika is like the greatest older sister. She loves her brother so much she would do anything for him. And the reader has no doubts because she is completely willing to drive to Hollywood to find famous actor Steve Raleigh and somehow convince him to accompany her home to Nevada. I must say, Annika and her friend get into a lot of shenanigans trying to get to Steve. Hair dye, snakes, and sneaking onto sets are all involved. I laughed so much during this because Annika does some crazy stuff. But what I also loved about Just One Wish (and what I was totally not expecting) was that is was actually really deep. I thought it was going to be really light and fluffy, but it's not because Annika's brother has cancer and that's always an undertone in the book. Also, there's some backstory to Steve that isn't all butterflies and candy. So Just One Wish was able to be funny but also contain serious topics and make it into a good message. That's really why I loved Just One Wish. It has all the things you love about books rolled into one neat package. I would definitely recommend Just One Wish; I read it in a day, so it's a quick read.

8 out of 10.

FTC: I borrowed this from my library.

2009/Putnam Juvenile/272 pages

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill

What started out as girls' games became a witch hunt. Wicked Girls is a fictionalized account of the Salem witch trials told from the perspectives of three of the real young women living in Salem in 1692.
Ann Putnam Jr. plays the queen bee. When her father suggests that a spate of illnesses within the village is the result of witchcract, Ann grasps her opportunity. She puts in motion a chain of events that will change the lives of the people around her forever.

Mercy Lewis, the beautiful servant in Ann's house, inspires adulation in some and envy in others. With a troubled past, she seizes her only chance at safety.

Margaret Walcott, Ann's cousin, is desperately in love and consumed with fiery jealousy. She is torn between staying loyal to her friends and pursuing the life she dreams of with her betothed.

With new accusations mounting daily against the men and women of the community, the girls will have to decide: is it too late to tell the truth?

A Printz Honor winner for Your Own, Sylvia, Stephanie Hemphill uses evocative verse to weave a nuanced portrait of one of the most chilling and fascinating times in our nation's history. (Taken from inside flap)

I absolutely love the Salem witch trials. They are one of my favorite time periods in history to read about. I would love to go visit Salem, Massachusetts one day. And yet, I did not like Wicked Girls at all. You would think that this would be the perfect novel for me; however, since I've read so much about this period, Wicked Girls just didn't bring anything new to the table.

For one, I did not like the writing style Stephanie Hemphill used, meaning the verse. In general, I am not a big poetry person, which usually includes verse as well. Well, I actually do like it, but only if it's done well. Key words: if it's done well. In my opinion, the verse in Wicked Girls wasn't so much as verse as "let's use really short sentence so I don't have to write a whole book."

Exhibit A, page 24:
"I sneak from my work
of spinning and darning
and unlatch the wooden box
wherein hides the necklace
too lavish to be worn upon the neck."

Like most of the novel, the lines are not very poetic, not very musical, not very verse-like. And it's not even the bad writing, it's the application of it. I just don't think that prose in general works in this kind of novel. The Salem witch trials (or any historical fiction, really) is a great setting, rife with lush detail and description. But a lot of that is lost because the author uses so few words. Another problem is that the verse does not allow the girls' motivations to be fully explained. Obviously we know they were faking it, but in the book it's so vague that for some time I thought that they were actually seeing witches. This book could have been so interesting if it wasn't so distant and actually had a plot, instead of the girls' accusing someone else every other page. Frankly, it got old.

It's unfortunate that such a great subject could be ruined by Wicked Girls, but you can't win them all. If you're actually looking for a good book on the Salem witch trials I would recommend Witch Child by Celia Rees or A Break With Charity by Ann Rinaldi.

5 out of 10.

FTC: I received this book from the publisher.

2010/Balzer + Bray/416 pages

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - 10

As always, "Waiting on" Wednesday is the place for bloggers to drool over upcoming books. Started by the lovely Jil at Breaking the Spine.

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

The sequel to the New York Times Best selling phenomenon, Hush, Hush!
Nora should have know her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The farther Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim blood line has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?

I loved Hush, Hush so much and am totally excited for this book to come out! I need some more Patch. And isn't the cover gorgeous? That is one good cover designer.

Crescendo will be released on October 19.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Grace by Elizabeth Scott

Grace was raised to be an Angel, a herald of death by suicide bomb. But she refuses to die for the cause, and now Grace is on the run, daring to dream of freedom. In search of a border she may never reach, she travels among malevolent soldiers on a decrepit train crawling through the desert. Accompanied by the mysterious Kerr, Grace struggles to be invisible, but the fear of discovery looms large as she recalls the history and events that delivered her uncertain fate.

Told in spare, powerful prose by acclaimed author Elizabeth Scott, this tale of a dystopian near future will haunt readers long after they've reached the final page. (Taken from back cover)

When I first began reading Grace, I didn't like it that much. Part of the reason was the "spare" prose mentioned in the summary. Since it was written sparingly, it's hard to get into the novel. The fact that this is a dystopian novel makes it even worse because not much was being explained or described, so I couldn't really understand what was happening. Fortunately, the book resembles some current day theocracies (the desert and suicide bombers point to the Middle East), so I had something to go off of. But everything changes in the last third of the novel, which is where everything starts getting really good. This is where the plot thickens and major character development occurs. The spare prose begins to work well here and it really is "powerful"; even though so few words are being used, Scott does a magnificient job of driving the point home and evoking emotion from the reader. It's at this point that you really begin to understand and sympathize with Grace. And don't let me forget about Kerr - what an awesome character! He is really mysterious, and when you finally learn his backstory, it's like wow! He is a really layered and deep character, and helps Grace along on her emotion journey.

The book was also interesting if you look at it in terms of current day affairs. It eerily resembles Middle Eastern governments. I don't know if any are quite this strict, but it certainly seems like a possiblity for the future. And there used to be a ton of stories on the news about suicide bombers, so it was nice to get the other side of the story because Grace was supposed to be one but ran away instead. I would never want to be a suicide bomber so I completely understood Grace's mentality and I was able to relate to her. I liked that even though Grace's people were fighting against the bad goverment, they weren't necessarily innocent either. It reminded me a lot of Mockingjay (District 13) and it was nice to see Grace realize that not everything is as black and white as she thought.

I thought Grace was a great testament to the themes of freedom and liberty, and it serves as a reminder that democracy isn't a given anywhere and that it's important to keep fighting for it. The book really makes you think (which is why I love dystopias - it gets your brain working). I loved seeing Elizabeth Scott write another serious book (like Living Dead Girl), even though her chick lit is fantastic too. I really think Elizabeth Scott needs a round of applause for being such a versatile writer! All in all, I would definitely recommend Grace.

8 out of 10.

Release Date: September 16, 2010

FTC: I received this book from the author.

2010/Dutton Juvenile/208 pages

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (with spoilers)

It's been two weeks since Mockingjay was released, and now that all the hype has died down, I'm ready to review this book. Okay, I actually wasn't waiting for anything, I just hadn't finished the book until last Friday. I know, I know, what is wrong with me? I'm going to skip a synopsis because I'm assuming that anyone reading this review has already read Mockingjay (there are spoilers) or at least knows what's going on. So let's get started.

I'm going to start out by saying right now that I loved Mockingjay. It was highly anticipated, I love the story, the setting, the characters, everything about this trilogy. And it is because of this intense and ardent love that I am able to complain and rag about Mockingjay. I'm not gonna lie, I was a little disappointed. And it's kind of selfish of me, but I'm disappointed because things didn't turn out the way I would have wanted them to. But that's why I review books. To give everyone my lovely opinion. And I just really need to rant about this amazing book.

I liked the beginning of Mockingjay. It was really interesting seeing how District 13 was run. I wouldn't necessarily want to live there (what was up with those crazy schedules?) but it was semi-decent. So things are moving along, Katniss agrees to be the Mockingjay (you go girl!). However, I thought there was a bit too much drama regarding Katniss's mental state. I am fully aware that 95 percent of the population would be ten times worse than Katniss in this situation, and I'm not saying that Katniss shouldn't break down at all, but it occurs a lot in this novel. Like, enough already, I get it. And with this comes Katniss being drugged/knocked out a lot when she can't handle something. And when she would wake up, all these things occurred and they had to be explained to Katniss. Can you say boring?

Then we get to Peeta. I am unapologetically Team Peeta, so I was looking forward to their reunion. It was really sad seeing Katniss try to be the Mockingjay while Peeta was being tortured by the Capitol. But the "hijacking"? When I read that, you should have seen my face; I was stunned. And a little upset. I understand why Suzanne Collins wrote it that way, you know, it was the one way for President Snow to break Katniss, but I don't think it was totally necessary. I'm not saying this because I'm in love with Peeta, but I honestly believe that Mockingjay could have been written without it. My big problem is that it kind of chops up the book at the end. For awhile, Peeta does not like Katniss, and then suddeny in the finale, he's practically normal. Trust me, I was overjoyed, but I think there wasn't enough transition of Peeta returning to his old and adorable self to justify that change.

So as the Mockingjay, Katniss gets to shoot video spots of her rallying up the troops and going into battle which I thought was awesome. It was so cool seeing her in action, and pretty much just seeing anyone fight against the Capitol was amazing, too. There is a lot of action in the end, so much that it starts to blur together a little, but it was nice to see some action (wow, I used that word a lot) outside of the arena. And with some violence, ultimately comes death. I was so sad when Finnick and Prim died. Finnick was becoming one of my favorite characters and Prim's death practically made Katniss entering the Hunger Games in the beginning pointless. Okay, so obviously it wasn't pointless, but that was just so sad. Even though her death was kind of glossed over I still felt bad for Katniss.

So now we're practically at the ending. I always knew something was up with the president of District 13, President Coin, when she was reluctant to grant Peeta and the other tributes immunity in the beginning, but I did not realize the extent of her maliciousness. She actually wanted to have another Hunger Games, this time with children of the Capitol. When Katniss agreed, I was shocked. Of course, I didn't realize she had something else up her sleeve. Thank goodness for that, because I was starting to think that Katniss had been hit too many times in the head. But when she assassinates President Coin, I was giving her a standing ovation in my head. That is why I love Katniss. She is one brave girl! Besides that, the rest of the ending was rushed. I didn't like how Gale wasn't in the picture anymore (I mean, they were best friends!) and even Katniss's mother wasn't living with/near her! Of course, I was estatic about Katniss's romantic choice, even though I wish there could have been a nice scene with them together (Mockingjay was lacking in the Katniss/Peeta moments, unfortunately), but the "real or not real?" was adorable!

So overall, I had a lot of complaints. But I realize that I tease because I love. I don't think Mockingjay had any major flaws and I thought it was an amazing novel and conclusion to the trilogy. I was just disappointed because the book didn't live up to what I thought would/wanted to happen. And that's okay. I know it can't please everyone entirely and I still love this trilogy with my whole heart. I highly recommend reading it and maybe you guys will love it even more than I did.

8 out of 10.
FTC: I bought this book!