Thursday, July 28, 2011

Book Review: Pegasus by Robin McKinley

Pegasus by Robin McKinley
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication date: November 2010
ISBN: 9780399246777
Source: Library


When Princess Sylvi is bound to her pegasus Ebon, she is shocked to discover they can communicate with each other with their thoughts.  Through all the years of the alliance between Sylvi's people and the pegasi, there has never been record of such a bond before.  And such a close bond makes the wizards, not to mention the general population, nervous.  Will their new friendship be able to withstand the difficulties that arise or are they destined to destroy the peace of the alliance?

Things I Liked:
This has much of what I love about a Robin McKinley fantasy.  There is so much depth and history associated with the story she's created that you can almost become overwhelmed thinking about it!  McKinley spends most of the book developing the characters and relationship between Ebon and Sylvi.  Undoubtedly, that is one of the strengths of the book - that complex and deep relationship.  The other obvious one being the developed mythos of their world.  Reading it, you get the impression there are so many stories populating the past that there is no way we'll ever be able to hear them all.  Some favorite parts:

None of them were as beautiful - or as exciting - or as shocking - as this dark-blurred, wing-nicked scene, with the wind streaking past, tangling her hair and chilling her back and her bare feet; but her hands were buried snugly in his mane, and Ebon himself was as warm as a hearth. p 86
Although Ebon was the only black, the pegasi were variously coloured, from white to cream to gold to copper-red to dark, fresh-ploughed-loam brown and deep shadow or silver gray, and the three groups that made the three circles, six or eight spokes around each central boss, seemed to be creating some pattern with some meaning beyond the simple fact of preparation for the flight to come. p 201
Things I Didn't Like:
With all that being said in its favor, I have to agree with many that the book lacks action.  The whole thing (and it isn't a short thing) is spent on those two characters and how they're friends.  They don't do much of anything until the very end and it can be very slow reading up to then.  Also, the ending is very abrupt and leaves you really hanging - not knowing what happens next.  I certainly was entertained and kept reading, but I can see why many would be frustrated and stop.  I'm very interested in what happens next.

The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

s-factor: none

that I can remember

mrg-factor: X
maybe some passing references, nothing descriptive at all

v-factor: ->->
a bit here and there with some fighting scenes

Overall rating: ****

What's your favorite McKinley book?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book Review: The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

Posted as part of Tween Tuesday, hosted by GreenBeanTeenQueen.
The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date: April 2011
ISBN: 9780375868702
Source: ARC provided by publisher

The Emerald Atlas (Books of Beginning) 

Kate, Michael, and Emma have been passed from one orphanage to another.  But the latest one, located on a remote crumbled old manor, is the strangest yet.  Besides being the only children there, they meet the mysterious Dr. Pym and find an old book with magic powers.  When the children discover that the book has the ability to send them through time, they become embroiled in a centuries-old battle to protect the books from evil forces.  But can they protect the book and each other too?

Things I Liked:
This was a fun and unique fantasy story that kind of stole into my heart.  I really liked the world that Stephens created, though I had a hard time getting into it.  The atlas and the history of it was the most intriguing part of the world, though we didn't get much about it early in the book.  I fell in love with the three kids, though not right away.  I was especially fond of Emma, who is such a spitfire that it's fun to read about her.  A fantastic new fantasy series for those aching for a new world and new adventures.

Things I Didn't Like:
As I mentioned, it was hard to get into it.  I think maybe it was too slow in the beginning.  It didn't really pick up in action until about halfway through for me.  I wanted more details about the magical aspects of the world than we got and I look forward to more from the next books.  True fantasy tween fans will likely devour this series.

I agree it's kind of like a MG Lord of the Rings by Tolkien

Beyonders: A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull
The Shadows by Jacqueline West

s-factor: none
though I could have missed a few

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
some, though not described in detail

Overall rating: ****

What fantasy series did you love as a tween?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, July 25, 2011

Name That Book, Episode 16, and a Giveaway!

Name that Book is a biweekly game where you get to guess a book title from the photo clues.

In celebration of having posted 400 book reviews (Friday's review of Secondhand Charm was #402), I decided I needed to do a giveaway!  And what better way than making you guess for my Name That Book game?  I tried to be as creative and fun as possible for this episode (though you guys are so good at this that they will probably be totally easy) and I included four titles instead of the usual two.  Here's how the contest will work:

I'll choose two winners.  The first person to get them all right will win their choice of a book from the pile pictured above.  Then I'll randomly select another winner from the group of people who got them all correct and they will choose a book from the pile too.  It's open only in the US, to those 13 and older, and you can enter until Sunday, August 6th, and I'll announce winners the next day.  Good luck!  (And remember not to leave any guesses in the comments :)
Book 1:

Book 2:

Book 3:

Book 4:

Contest closed. Here are the answers to the Name That Book puzzles.

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Friday, July 22, 2011

Book Review: Secondhand Charm by Julie Berry

Secondhand Charm by Julie Berry
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens
Publication date: October 2010
ISBN: 9781599905112
Source: Library

Secondhand Charm

Evie is the talented young healer in her small village. But she longs for more than just a village life.  When chance brings her an opportunity to go to the university in the city, she jumps at it.  But the journey along the way is unexpectedly filled with danger.  It is also filled with opportunities for her to discover just where her healing skills came from.

Things I Liked:
I loved the voice from this book!  I felt like I was listening to a friend and talented storyteller recount the story - and I was reliving it with her.  Not only did it have a charming voice, the story was definitely not what I expected.  It went everywhere but where I thought it would, and that is a good thing.  It was interesting and unique and I loved Evie for her spunk and sparkle.  A fantastic fantasy fairy tale that isn't predictable or silly.  Here are some favorite parts:

A ripple went through the crowd, starting with Mayor Snow's great girth.  A royal visit!  Such a thing hadn't happened since Widow Sprottley's uncle's cow birthed a calf with two udders.  We'd heard the tale often enough to know.  What news! p 3
Water churned in the wake of the ship's stern.  It spread two blades of white-capped spray from either corner of the ship.  The black water stretched forever, except where the dark shore blotted out the stars to our left.  Hanging low over the horizon, painting a shimmering silver ribbon all the way to The White Dragon, was the moon.  p 90
Things I Didn't Like:
There were a few awkward phrases that threw me off.  It was like the wording was a bit off and I had to read it again to figure out what it meant.  But, there weren't too many of those.  I remember also thinking how strange it was that all these things kept happening to Evie in such a very short period of time.  They were all explained, but some of them felt just a touch random or out of nowhere.  Then again, that is what kept it from being predictable.

Shannon Hale's Books of Bayern and Princess Academy

Jessica Day George's Dragon Slippers series
The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal
The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry

s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
some fighting and action, but not much

Overall rating: ****

I'm wondering, for those who read The Amaranth Enchantment, how you think this one compares? I remember thinking the first one was ok, but I like this one better.

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter AND Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

Double Feature is an occasional feature where I discuss/review two books, often comparing and contrasting characters or elements that were similar or different.  I try my best to not include spoilers, or to give a spoiler warning before them, but because these reviews are more in-depth than regular reviews, it is possible there might be some plot points given away.  Read at your own risk.

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication date: April 2011
ISBN: 9780373210268
Source: Library

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication date: May 2011
ISBN: 9780062011992
Source: Review copy provided by publisher (and NetGalley)

The Goddess Test (Harlequin Teen) Starcrossed

Summary of The Goddess Test (GT)
For all her life, Kate has been with just her mom, and now her mom is dying of cancer.  Her last request is to die in the small town she grew up in.  Her new life is only complicated more when she meets Henry, who claims to be Hades.  But, when he brings a girl back from the dead, she begins to wonder if he's telling the truth.  And if he is, could he save her mother too?  Kate will find out when she faces trials and tests that every other girl who's tried before has failed.  Will she succeed and save her mother's life?

Summary of Starcrossed (SC)
Helen has spent all her life trying to hide from notice.  That becomes increasingly difficult as she gets taller and more gorgeous.  Oh, and when she realizes she has unusual powers as well.  All that changes when the Delos family moves to Nantucket and she feels overwhelming feelings toward them, especially Lucas.  Feelings she might not be able to control.  As she learns more about them and the mysterious dreams she's been having, she gets caught in a centuries old battle that could take her life and the lives of everyone she cares about.

The Mythology:
GT: This one was actually pretty light on mythology, despite having more of a presence from gods.  It didn't seem to include too many details and too much history at once.  Yes, Kate had to spend lots of time learning the myths, but fortunately we didn't.  I both liked and disliked that, because I wasn't overwhelmed with info, but still would have enjoyed a little more.

SC: A lot more mythology made it into this book.  It was very clear that Angelini has a thorough knowledge of Greek mythology.  I really liked the way she described the Houses and the Furies and all the history that goes along with it.  At times, however, it was a little too much and got a bit dull.  Still, the mythology had more involvement in the story and the characters than GT did.  I liked how it took a different path than most mythology books now - less about the gods involvement and more about the heroes.

The Romance:
GT: It was really sweet, actually.  I was glad that it avoided the deadly trap of insta-love and instead developed over the time Henry and Kate spent together.  It felt a little like Beauty and the Beast in that things went much more slowly.  While I often didn't like Henry for some of the things he did, I thought he was a pretty nice guy and not the typical "bad boy" that you'd expect from a Hades character.  Surprisingly refreshing.

SC: I was not terribly impressed with the romance in this one.  While I saw some of the appeal of Lucas, I was annoyed with him for the most part.  He really did jerk Helen around a lot and he had a little too much of a stalker-y feel sometimes for my preferences.  I liked the way Helen and Lucas interacted and the fun they did have, when they weren't fighting or trying to kill one another though.  
Things I Liked about GT:
I thought the story was really interesting.  I liked the different take on the Persephone myth, which wasn't precisely a repeat of history, but more of a continuation.  It was unique in that respect.  Also, while I was confused and wish I knew more for a lot of the book, I did find the ending to be surprising and yet satisfying.  It was a solid book that offered more than I expected and had a sweet romance to top it off.

Things I Liked about SC:
I quite enjoyed the way this one developed.  It was very complicated and interesting and took several turns I didn't expect.  I liked the minor supporting characters, particularly Claire and some of the Delos family.  They felt like people I would want to be friends with.  It was fun to have Helen learn about her powers and how she tried to get control of them.  Plenty of double crossing and mysterious motives made the ending very good too.  An all around solid debut. 
Things I Didn't Like about GT:
I was a bit annoyed sometimes when they talked about people who were already dead being killed again.  I thought that was a little too unbelievable and made it hard to accept some of the story.  Yes, eventually it made sense, but I still thought it was weird and it drew me out of the story.  The writing is also not the best I've read, but has a lot of potential.  I'm impressed enough to read the next book and was really glad this one didn't end on a cliffhanger that made me need it NOW.

Things I Didn't Like about SC:
I think perhaps it felt a little too much like a first book, with some overdone phrases and too many pages of description.  I think it might have been a bit more solid if some of the info had been cut.  The story felt very similar to Twilight too - girl meets mysterious boy who wants to kill her, has a big "special" family that wants to stalk/protect her, etc, etc.  Some of this was good (I liked the Delos family) and some of it annoyed me (the waffling, sometimes creepy love interest).  But, I'm interested enough to want to read the next book to see what happens. 

Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

Also a little like Goddess of Yesterday by Carolyn Cooney

s-factor: !@
here and there

mrg-factor: X
some implied stuff left to the imagination mostly

v-factor: ->
a couple of incidents, not too graphic

Overall rating: **** 


s-factor: !@
regularly throughout, but nothing too strong

mrg-factor: X
some talk, but nothing on page

v-factor: ->->
quite a bit of action fighting

Overall rating: ****

I'm really have a hard time picking one I liked more than the other. Anyone else read both?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Review: Abby Carnelia's One and Only Magical Power by David Pogue

Posted as part of Tween Tuesday, hosted by GreenBeanTeenQueen.

Abby Carnelia's One and Only Magical Power by David Pogue
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication date: April 2010
ISBN: 9781596433847
Source: ARC sent by publisher

Abby Carnelia's One and Only Magical Power 

When Abby Carnelia discovers she has a unique and very strange magical power - she can make an egg spin by pulling on her earlobes - she is obviously surprised.  She decides to attend a summer camp for aspiring magicians and there meets other kids who might just have similarly silly magical abilities.  But, when she is invited to attend a special camp just for special kids, she gets more than she expected.  Can she figure out just what the special camp is about before it's too late?

Things I Liked:
This book was a lot of fun to read.  Abby was a regular girl, until she discovers her power.  But, she still felt very much like your average tween looking to figure stuff out.  The magical aspect of the book will appeal to fans of Savvy and The Girl Who Could Fly and the humor and fun will appeal to everyone else.  A sweet and silly book that will have kids wishing they could figure out what their odd power is.

Things I Didn't Like:
I have to admit, the book seemed pretty forgettable (despite its silly premise) and it certainly lacked the personality and spunk of the two books mentioned above, possibly because of the adult narrator aspect.  It also was a bit predictable in the story, as I was quite sure of a few things almost from the start.  Still, it will make for a fun fantasy read for younger tweens.

Savvy by Ingrid Law

The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester

s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ***

What kind of odd power would you want to have?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, July 18, 2011

Listless Monday, Watery Covers Edition

Listless Monday was inspired by both Amanda at A Bookshelf Monstrosity's feature Books by Theme and Court at Once Upon a Bookshelf's Listed feature.  Be sure to check out their lists!
Most of you probably won't remember that I did a similar Water-Themed Listless Monday last year about this time.  However, this time I'm focusing on the watery covers more than the water-themed books.  And it seems there have been lots of those coming out recently.  Hopefully looking at these covers will help you cool off this summer :)

Watery Covers

The Unbecoming of Mara DyerImaginary GirlsBetween the Sea and Sky

SilenceSo ShellyHereafter

Hex Hall Book OneDemonglass (A Hex Hall Novel)Swoon at Your Own Risk

Lost Voices (Lost Voices (Trilogy))Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic TaleBreathless

Still WatersPossessionsTris and Izzie

Juliet ImmortalStarcrossedRipple

Check out Madigan's Cover Trend on underwater covers too!

Any additions?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage
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