Monday, April 30, 2012

The Divide (Book Four of The Secret Circle), Created by L.J. Smith, Written by Aubrey Clark

The Divide
Book Four of The Secret Circle
Created by L.J. Smith
Written by Aubrey Clark
"Here's what I have to say. Power always creates enemies.  It divides people into two types, good and bad.  If you really want to be a leader of this Circle, then you need to pick a side." -- Faye, The Divide created by L.J. Smith, written by Aubrey Clark

I wasn't surprised to see the huge controversy over the fact that this book wasn't actually written by L. J. Smith, the creator of the Secret Circle series, and writer of the first three Secret Circle books.  In fact, that is why I chose not to read any of the reviews beforehand, deciding I'd allow the book to speak for itself, without any preconceived prejudice on my part, either for or against the ghost writer.  That being said, I was incredibly impressed!  I thought Aubrey Clark did an amazing job of keeping with both the style and the theme of the earlier books that had been written by L.J. Smith. 

I know this isn't going to be a popular opinion, but I genuinely enjoyed this book.  In fact, I actually think that Clarke did a better job of keeping with the original spirit and style of the earlier books than Smith herself did when she came back and wrote additional Vampire Diaries books several years after the original series ended.  I thought that the newer Vampire Diaries books were ridiculously descriptive and the characters were predictable and stereotypical. I was barely able to force myself to read them. They were just so inherently different from the original books, which I adored.  From my perspective, her writing had regressed, rather than improved.

Clark maintained just the right amount of tension between the characters. The theme of "The Circle vs. Outsiders" was very well played, as the Circle members allowed their fears to sway their judgements. Cassie, in particular, seemed to struggle as her own memories of being an outsider conflicted with the separatism ideals of the rest of the Circle. I felt like Clark really caught the essence of each of the many main characters, and got their voices just right.  

I also had to give Clark points for managing to follow the path of the previous books, while still offering a few surprises as the story progressed that were unexpected, but were still in perfect character with the series as a whole.  In fact, if I hadn't known it was written by a ghost writer and I'd just read the series one right after the other, I don't think I'd of suspected it.  Since it's only been a few months since I read the other Secret Circle books I can honestly say that this book was a very believable continuation of the series. 

I'm looking forward to the next book in the series and I'm sure that, if they allow Clark to write the next book, I won't be disappointed. 

The Calling, by Kelley Armstrong

The Calling
Written by Kelley Armstrong
"I've always thought of myself as an open-minded person.  I had no patience with anyone who put down other kids because of their race, religion, or sexuality.  But that's just one kind of open-mindedness.  There's another kind, too, the kind that's willing to see people for who they really are and admit when you were wrong about them.  That's the part I still need to work on." -- Maya, The Calling by Kelley Armstrong

I've anxiously been awaiting the arrival of this book ever since I finished the first book in the Darkness Rising series by Kelley Armstrong, The Gathering (you can click that link to read a summary of The Gathering).  Although I didn't write a review, I adored it and I did give it a 4/5 star rating.
If you haven't read the first book, you may want to hold off on reading my review here of The Calling, as it does have some spoilers from the first book.  I can't think of any way to give it an adequate review without mentioning some of the things that are unknowns at the beginning of The Gathering, that are givens in The Calling.  So if you haven't read the Calling, stop right now and go read it first.  Then come back.  :-)

The Calling starts out where the Gathering left off.  With Maya and the other teens in a rescue helicopter with the mayor.  Right away the mayor observes that they aren't heading in the right direction and the chaos that follows will leave you bereft with disbelief. 

As their harrowing journey continues Maya must hold the group together as they come to terms with the horrific challenges they continues to face.  They will discover more about each other and themselves than they'd ever known as they struggle to come to terms with their own identities and try to figure out why they are being hunted and who they can trust.  Along the way they realize that what had divided them in the past was nothing compared to what would bring them together now. 

It is easy to forget how young these characters are, as you read this book, because most of the time they are so mature and self-reliant.  When they have those inevitable lapses into typical crankiness and bickering amongst themselves, you're suddenly hit again with how horrible it is that they aren't given the luxury of being a normal teenager.

City of Bones (Book One of The Mortal Instruments)by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones
Book One - The Mortal Instruments
Written by Cassandra Clare
“Declarations of love amuse me. Especially when unrequited.”
―    Jace, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

I came across this book when searching for other dystopia novels after reading and falling in love with the Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins.  In my opinion, it wasn't a true dystopia novel, but after reading it, I can't imagine not reading the rest of the series as well.  I also found that it's in the pre-production stages of becoming a film (The Mortal Instruments) starring Lily Collins and Jaimie Campbell Bower.  I have to say I'm in the group of avid readers who are actually enjoying seeing so many of my favorite books turned into films.  A film rarely is a completely accurate portrayal of a book.  That being said, I still enjoy seeing the characters I've grown to love come to life on the big screen, whether or not the screenwriter takes a few creative liberties here and there. 

The basis of the Mortal Instruments series revolves around a little known warrior race, the Shadowhunters. It is the job of the dwindling Shadowhunters to rid the world of demons. City of Bones may contain all the supernatural characters that you'd expect to find in a book of this genre:  fairies, vampires, werewolves, witches.  However, it's similarities end there.  Cassandra Clare paints a vividly accurate picture of each character without boring you with lengthy descriptions. 

What makes Cassandra's storytelling style unique is how she manages to combine the predictable dangers and drama that surround the main characters, with some very improbable surprises. She has this amazing ability to get you, the reader, to a point where you feel that the main characters are practically immortal, because they have survived so many impossible situations already.  Then, when you least suspect it, she reveals their humanity and shows you how easily they can be brought to their knees.  It was this rare skill which kept me at the edge of my seat throughout the entire book. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Beneath the Shadows, by Sara Foster

Beneath the Shadows
Written by Sara Foster

"She took a deep breath, trying to quell the worry that was winding her nerves into knots.  Adam's note had unsettled her. 'Won't be long. I have to talk to you when I get back, don't go anywhere. A x.'" -- Chapter One, Beneath the Shadows, by Sara Foster

When I found out that I was the lucky winner of an advance copy of Beneath the Shadows, I got excited.  I had read the summary of the book and I had been anticipating it's release this summer.  When I found out I'd get to read it a month before it hits the shelves, I began anxiously awaiting it's arrival in the mail.  It's always fun to read new authors, but I still cannot believe that this was Sara Foster's debut novel! Her poignant writing, leaves me restless with anticipation of her next novel. Beneath the Shadows was brilliantly told, and the characters instantly draw you in. You won't regret picking this one up and whiling away a hot summer day on the couch. 

I literally could not put this book down.  I started reading it the first chance I got yesterday, and I was reading it every spare second for the rest of the day.  I just barely managed to finish it before bed-time last night. 

Beneath the Shadows kept me in thick suspense as Sara wove a story about a woman, Grace, in her determined search to find out how and why her husband, Adam, disappeared a year ago.  I loved how there was just enough foreshadowing to hint at who may have been involved in Adam's disappearance, but it was handed out in such a clever way that it added to the anticipation. In an attempt to carry on with her life after the baffling disappearance of Adam, Grace returns to the place of his disappearance in a hope of finding the answers she so desperately needs.  More importantly, she hopes to find peace so she can move on and raise their daughter Millie, who was born just a few weeks before the disappearance and may never know her father. 

Beneath the Shadows by Sara Foster will be released on June 5, 2012!  Happy Reading!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief
Written by Markus Zusak

"Just..." He chose his words gradually. "Don't get caught." This from a man who'd stolen a Jew.--pg 319

This isn't just another Holocaust book. I want to start off by saying that. I've read several books about the Holocaust, from many different point of views, this one was unique. Other people will tell you that it's unique because the narrator is Death. But for me, the true inspirational quality of this book was that The Book Thief tells the story of a family, albeit an unconventional one.

What makes this family unique from other families portrayed in other Holocaust books is simply that they are regular people. They aren't super religious, they aren't activists, they aren't rich. This book isn't really about the Holocaust at all, or about hiding Jews from the German Nazis, not really. To me, it was as simple as this, a story about a family and what that really means.

The fact that this family is made up of people who aren't biologically related isn't important to the story, or maybe it is. Maybe it's the fact that each of them chose to be there and chose to stay and chose to love one another despite the lack of blood binding them.

Hans is a gentle giant in my mind. The kind of father who truely wants to keep his family safe because he loves them so very much. Roza is brash and unyeilding, she hides her fears and her softness behind a loud and often angry facade, but she loves her family unwaveringly. It's easy to see that despite her bluff and bluster. You see their inherant kindness and hardworking nature from the beginning. It shows in their ability to take in strangers and love them wholeheartedly as well as in their refusal to hate the Jews just because it's what everyone else is doing.

This is a story worth reading. I will admit it had a shakey start with me. I was often irritated in the first 50-60 pages until I adjusted to the strange format and style of writing. The idea of Death as a narrator enticed me, but the flow of the book was difficult to get used to as it jumped back and forth between the narrator, and little snippets of information like defintions of the regularly used German words. I did actually find the use of random German words to be a deterrant throughout the book. Although I understood the signifigance of including them, I felt it would have been easier to read had they been left out. It's a personal preference that not everyone will share.

However, once I had become accustomed to the strange back and forth nature of the writer, the book was actually a quick read. I urge you to give it a try, and stick with it, if at first the style isn't to your liking, I promise it gets better and the beginning really does lay the framework for the rest of the story. If you can make it to page 100, you'll want to finish it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible
Written by Barbara Kinsolver
"Until that moment I'd always believed I could still go home and pretend the Congo never happened." -- Rachel, pg 367

Reverend Price, the father of four girls, and the husband of Mrs. Price, is an evangelical Baptist missionary who drags his entire family into the wilds of the Congo.  Their story spans 30 years and is told alternately by each of the daughters, as well as Mrs. Price. 

While reading this book, I couldn't help but feel a kinship with the Price family, when I saw just how ill prepared they really were for their situation.  The Price's situation, put me in mind of how a new parent feels when they are suddenly thrust into the job of being a father or a mother.  One moment you're just a person responsible for yourself.  The next moment you are a parent and responsible for another life.  No amount of groundwork can really provide you with the foundation you need before the baby arrives.  You can read all the right books, ask all the right questions, and practice with other people's children every day, but none of those things will ensure that you are able to deal with whatever happens once you have your own child to care for. 

Thus was the Price's dilemma when they undertook their journey to the Congo to deliver salvation to the Congolese people.  They were completely unaware of the trials and tribulations they would face, of the difficulties that they would have to overcome, of the sheer impossibility of such harsh conditions.  They believed that they knew what to expect.  They had been told that it wouldn't be easy, but they had absolutely no idea how utterly vulnerable they really were.  And before their journey would come to an end, each and every member of the Price family would be irrevocably changed.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Wicked Lovely, by Melissa Marr

Wicked Lovely
Written by Melissa Marr
"I like to read the ending first." -- Aislinn

Wicked Lovely is the first book in a series of modern faerie tales, written by Melissa Marr, which takes an old fey tradition and turns it into something with a more modern vibe.  I think what I enjoyed most about this story were the concepts of the game that is being played, and the unalterable roles of the pawns stuck in the game. 

The main character, Aislinn, suddenly finds herself as a player in this game, against opponents who are invisible to almost everyone.  Aislinn realizes that the rules she's followed all her life, the ones that are supposed to keep her from being noticed by the fae, aren't going to work this time.  She begins to discover that in addition to wit and cunning, if she wants to win this game, she'll have to learn to think outside the box. 

There are plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing throughout this tale.  As in all faerie games, it is how the game plays out, not only the winner, which holds the most interest.   Melissa Marr gives a unique voice to an all new faerie tale that I couldn't put down.