Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Unfair Godmother

Official blurb:

Tansy Miller has always felt that her divorced father has never had enough time for her. But mistakenly getting caught on the wrong side of the law wasn't exactly how she wanted to get his attention. Enter Chrysanthemum "Chrissy" Everstar, Tansy's fairy in shining, er, high heels. Chrissy is only a fair godmother, of course, so Tansy's three wishes don't exactly go according to plan. And if bringing Robin Hood to the twenty-first century isn't bad enough for Tansy, being transported back to the Middle Ages to deal with Rumpelstiltskin certainly is. She'll need the help of her blended family, her wits, and especially the cute police chief 's son to stop the gold-spinning story from spinning wildly out of control. Janette Rallison pulls out all the stops in this fresh, fun-filled follow-up to the popular My Fair Godmother.

I have NEVER laughed so hard out loud while reading a book. That's it. I'm completely sold on Janette Rallison. I'm ready to check all her books out from the library; I don't care if the titles sound like cheesy teenage stories.

Besides being funny, this book had so much heart. I ached for Tansy while I was reading the first chapter. She's such a good heroine. She's not perfect and she learns so much about how to forgive herself and others and make the most out of her life. I loved her! And all the other characters were equally lovable and fabulous. There are themes in this book that aren't just for teenagers, but situations and moments that really spoke to me about the human experience we all go through. Good. Good. Good.

Have I convinced you yet? You really need to read this book. And My Fair Godmother too.

Wives and Daughters

*sigh* Loved it. It was such a pleasure to read. I've loved the movie for a few years, so I don't know why it's taken me so long to read this book. Everything great about the movie times ten. I enjoyed getting into all the character's heads and figuring out what they were thinking and feeling The ONLY bad thing about this book is that it's not finished. Yeah. Elizabeth Gaskell had one chapter left to write when suddenly, in the middle of tea with friends and in the middle of speaking a sentence, she fell over dead (according to the introduction in my book).

How DARE she????

Anyway. It's not all that bad, though, because there was a nice section at the end of my copy going over how Elizabeth Gaskell had planned to end the book. It gave a bit of closure, but my solution was to immediately spend the next couple of days watching the mini-series and drinking up that last scene.

Oh it's so good.

If you like Austen, you really need to check out Elizabeth Gaskell. North and South is another big favorite of mine.

The False Princess

From the inside cover:

Princess and heir to the throne of Thorvaldor, Nalia's led a privileged life at court. But everything changes when it's revealed, just after her sixteenth birthday, that she is a false princess, a stand-in for the real Nalia, who has been hidden away for her protection. Cast out with little more than the clothes on her back, the girl now called Sinda must leave behind the city of Vivaskari, her best friend, Keirnan, and the only life she's ever known.

Sinda is sent to live with her only surviving relative, an aunt who is a dyer in a distant village. She is a cold, scornful woman with little patience for her newfound niece, and Sinda proves inept at even the simplest tasks. But when Sinda discovers that magic runs through her veins - long-suppressed, dangerous magic that she must learn to control - she realizes that she can never learn to be a simple village girl.

Returning to Vivaskari for answers, Sinda finds her purpose as a wizard scribe, rediscovers the boy who saw her all along, and uncovers a secret that could change the course of Thorvaldor's history, forever.

First off, I don't like the cover much. It has nothing to do with the story. That picture she's wearing? Doesn't show up anywhere in the book. And what's with the neck, chin, mouth perspective? Bleh.

Besides that, this is a fascinating story. What a unique twist! Usually we hear about the obscure girl finding out that she's actually a princess. Imagine being raised as a princess, only to be cast out for the real deal at age 16. This book had me hooked very quickly. It starts fast and shows a lot of emotion. I was actually tearing up in the first chapter. It's well-written and completely engrossing from start to finish. Lots of twists and turns and unpredictability. Also - hooray for stand-alone novels!! No cliff-hanger and annoying loose ends left undone. The ending is great. Good romance. Really, there's not much I didn't like about this book. Not anything that I can think of at the moment. I definitely recommend this one!


First off, it's a gorgeous cover, no?

Official blurb:

Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.

The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.

But there is a cost.

The Keeper likes to keep things.

Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

This is another retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses fairy tale and it's quite good. BUT.... I have to say that I liked Princess of the Midnight Ball a bit better. Still, this is probably my favorite book genre, so I pretty much ate it up. The writing was lovely and there was some great emotion in the story. My complaints are that the world Heather Dixon created could have been more unique; it seemed to be a carbon copy of our world. I don't know - I just like my fantasies to feel... well, I'm not sure, but I want to travel somewhere. Most of the problem came out in the language. One character was obviously british, another obviously german, another french, etc... The main character kept saying "Great scott!" which got on my nerves because it's such a colloquial saying. And maybe it just reminded me of Back to the Future too much. I thought Heather Dixon could have stretched her imagination just a bit more on the language and character names.

But the characters themselves were fantastic. I loved Azalea and Lord Bradford and all the sisters, particularly Bramble. The King was a great character - very complex and dynamic. And I have to say that Lord Teddie (aka Lord Haftenravensher) made me laugh out loud several times. When this happens, Sarah looks at me and says, "Mom... is your book funny? Will you read it to me?" Yes, Sarah. I'll let you read this book someday. It's funny and sweet and very clean (I'm loving all these LDS authors who are publishing YA books!).

Friday, April 8, 2011

Across the Universe

Goodreads blurb: A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.




Yeah - this book blew me away. I finished it a couple days ago and I just can't stop thinking about it. I've even dreamed about it. Of course, I have a little corner of my heart reserved for sci-fi. I don't read much sci-fi, but I've always loved space and imagining what life would be like traveling on a spaceship. After reading Across the Universe, I can only hope that our world will never come to that. YIKES!

Beth Revis' writing is amazing. This whole book is just an incredible piece of work. It's a complete genre mix: sci-fi, dystopian, murder mystery, romance, time travel. The world is so well developed, and (unlike with so many other YA dystopian books) it is based on real science and technology. I can actually see how our world could evolve into the world in Across the Universe. This fact is both creepy and disturbing. The moral and ethical issues this book raises about our own world are seriously worth contemplating.

The characters are fantastic. I love that the story is told from both Amy and Elder's POV, because we got to know both of them - their thoughts, feelings, discoveries, and insights - so well. Their romance was also very organic (I hate when characters fall right in love for no apparent reason). There were some very natural ups and downs between Amy and Elder, but everything felt believable and true to character.

There are some incredibly intense themes in this book and one rather mature scene that Amy witnesses. Other than that, the book is actually very clean. And unpredictable. Holy cow. There are a couple big shockers in this book. One thing I loved about this book, though, is the natural ending. No massive cliff hanger, although there will be two more books in the series. I appreciated that. Let everything get messed up in the next two books - let the characters enjoy a little peace for two seconds for crying out loud!

Anyway, I've rambled on enough. I'll be buying this book and looking forward to more from Beth Revis.

A World Without Heroes

From Goodreads: Jason Walker has often wished his life could be a bit less predictable--until a routine day at the zoo ends with Jason suddenly transporting from the hippo tank to a place unlike anything he's ever seen. In the past, the people of Lyrian welcomed visitors from the Beyond, but attitudes have changed since the wizard emperor Maldor rose to power. The brave resistors who opposed the emperor have been bought off or broken, leaving a realm where fear and suspicion prevail.

In his search for a way home, Jason meets Rachel, who was also mysteriously drawn to Lyrian from our world. With the help of a few scattered rebels, Jason and Rachel become entangled in a quest to piece together the word of power that can destroy the emperor, and learn that their best hope to find a way home will be to save this world without heroes.

Brandon Mull delivers. I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I loved all the Fablehaven books, but sometimes when an author switches to a new world/new series the magic can get lost. I loved A World Without Heroes. It is intense, ultra-exciting, and very quickly paced. I only gave it four out of five stars on goodreads, though, for several reasons. First, it's not quite as much fun as Fablehaven. Much more violent and scary. I'm fine with that, and I think it would have worked with just a bit more comic relief. I think the world Mull has created is awesome and very fleshed-out; I just wish the characters had been as fully drawn. I didn't get to know Rachel (or anybody else besides Jason) as well as I wanted to. That, and I really didn't think Rachel and Jason acted like any thirteen year-olds I've ever known. I would say 17-18 yrs. is a better bet. My other complaint is that I got a little bored with the sequence of events: must find and retrieve object - encounter big hurdle in the way - get past problem easily with little help where legions of others (mainly adults) have failed - repeat. Over and over. It just felt a little linear to me.

Now, I've spent most of this review complaining, which really isn't fair because I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. There were some very unexpected and exciting twists, turns, and betrayals. The cliff-hanger really left me wanting more, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing what happens next in this series (should be a trilogy).


From Goodreads: Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy. But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

In a word: fascinating. The concept is so interesting! Matched by Ally Condie has a very similar premise, but in my opinion, Delirium does it so much better. First off, I love Lauren Oliver's writing style. I know I would have loved Before I Fall if the content had been cleaner, because the writing is captivating and gorgeous. Delirium is a perfectly clean read (wahoo!), but it's the story that is its strength. I think it has an incredible plot and the world is so detailed! Everything was fully visualized and imagined. I understood the government, the history, the purpose of the "cure", how it affected daily life, etc... Lauren Oliver even included quotes at the beginning of each chapter from different novels, academic papers, government pamphlets, etc... - all created and imagined by Lauren Oliver for her world. I did occasionally feel like there were logic holes in the world, though. Like, "If that were true, would this really work that well?" I know I'm being vague, but I do try to avoid spoilers on this blog. If you read it I'd love to discuss this book with you!

This book is fast-paced. It's intense. I felt like Lena was a good female character: not wishy-washy, but determined and self-assured. There was some very believable character growth from Lena, as well as from the other main characters. My only wish for this series is that it wasn't a series. I get so tired of horrible cliff hangers. I wish there were more new novels that were stand-alone stories.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Ordinary Princess

Goodreads says: Along with Wit, Charm, Health, and Courage, Princess Amy of Phantasmorania receives a special fairy christening gift: Ordinariness. Unlike her six beautiful sisters, she has brown hair and freckles, and would rather have adventures than play the harp, embroider tapestries . . . or become a Queen. When her royal parents try to marry her off, Amy runs away and, because she's so ordinary, easily becomes the fourteenth assistant kitchen maid at a neighboring palace. And there . . . much to everyone's surprise . . . she meets a prince just as ordinary (and special) as she is!

I LOVE this book! I had forgotten completely about it until I recently stumbled on it over at amazon. I read the description and realized that this was one of my favorite books as a child. It was so fun to read it again. If you like Gail Carson Levine or Shannon Hale or fairy tales in general, you will enjoy this book. I love the twists and turns in the plot and how plucky and enjoyable Amy's personality is. She refuses to let her parents hire a dragon to lure in an unsuspecting prince (for the purpose of marrying her off), so she runs away and manages to figure out her own destiny. She works and enjoys it! She thinks for herself! She doesn't mind getting dirty! Needless to say, she's far different from her vapid and gorgeous (and insipid) sisters. And she's all the better for it. This is a great story for young girls (or anyone) with a very good moral. It is a short read - just over 100 pages. Definitely next on my list of 'to-read to Sarah' books. I'm so excited to share it with her.


Summary from Goodreads: Tessa doesn't believe in magic. Or Fate. But there's something weird about the dusty unicorn tapestry she discovers in a box of old books. She finds the creature woven within it compelling and frightening. After the tapestry comes into her possession, Tessa experiences dreams of the past and scenes from a brutal hunt that she herself participated in. When she accidentally pulls a thread from the tapestry, Tessa releases a terrible centuries old secret. She also meets William de Chaucy, an irresistible 16th-century nobleman. His fate is as inextricably tied to the tapestry as Tessa's own. Together, they must correct the wrongs of the past. But then the Fates step in, making a tangled mess of Tessa's life. Now everyone she loves will be destroyed unless Tessa does their bidding and defeats a cruel and crafty ancient enemy.

This book has a lot going for it. I loved the time travel, the nordic mythology (the tree at Yggdrasil and the three Norns/Fates? So cool), the fantasy, and the magic. This book has an all-around solid plot. It was tight and original - interesting and refreshing (there's beginning to be far too much dystopian and paranormal YA lit these days). Other things I loved are the fact that Tessa lives in a used book store and the secret behind her name (which I won't reveal because it's far too much fun - especially if you're a fan of classic children's lit). A lot of plusses for this book.

There's only one thing holding me back from giving this book a stellar review, and that's the romance. It wasn't awful, just a bit bi-polar. By that I mean that one minute Tessa and Will hated each other (screaming and fighting), and a page or two later they were madly in love. And it seemed to happen over and over again. There was a lot of back and forth and I just wasn't buying it. I would have liked this book so much better if the romance had been better portrayed. Still.... with the cool plot and other good things I didn't finish this book feeling dissatisfied. I really enjoyed it - but I don't think it's earned a place on my bookshelf.