Scorch by Gina Damico
Published September 25th 2012 by Graphia
Format: Paper Book
Length: 332 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Grim Reaper, Modern Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult – I do think this one is unsuitable for younger kids
Goodreads | Amazon
Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby is a teenage grim reaper with the bizarre ability to damn souls. That makes her pretty scary, even to fellow Grims. But after inadvertently transferring her ability to Zara, a murderous outlaw, Lex is a pariah in Croak, the little town she calls home.
To escape the townspeople’s wrath, she and her friends embark on a wild road trip to DeMyse. Though this sparkling desert oasis is full of luxuries and amusements, it feels like a prison to Lex. Her best chance at escape would be to stop Zara once and for all —but how can she do that from DeMyse, where the Grims seem mysteriously oblivious to Zara’s killing spree?
I’m horrible about reading series. I read the first book, I may even love it, but by the time the second book comes out I’ve forgotten about it. Lucky for me, Scorch by Gina Damico was already waiting for me when I finished the first book, Croak. I was late to the party but that meant I could go straight to the next book. Now, all I have to do is remember to get the third book, Rouge, when it comes out this autumn. Here’s hoping I can remember to pick it up by then! (Warning! Spoilers for the first book in the series, Croak.)
In this book, we return to the town of Croak with Lex and some new Juniors. The Grimsphere is still being terrorized by Zara. The group realizes that Zara must have some insider help because she keeps getting into Croak without triggering the security alarms, has gotten a new scythe from somewhere and is crashing with purpose again, Damning those she feels deserve it. (Or is she? What a clever twist!) The Senior Grims are slowly turning against Lex and the other Juniors, led by Norwood and Heloise, and Uncle Mort is trying everything in his power to protect his niece and her friends and sort of failing. It’s just a good old time in grim reaper land!
I have a deep seated loathing for the cliché where the main conflict is people’s inability to share information. If there was more communication between adults and teenagers in this book there wouldn’t be half as many problems as there were. But Uncle Mort is a secretive asshole and Lex is stuck in the mentality of us against them and nobody is sharing their information. This pretty much means that everyone is fumbling around in the dark and things would be so much easier if they just talked with each other. But god forbid Mort treat his niece like an intelligent person or Lex act like anything but a competitive snot. It’s one thing when nobody knows a piece of information but it’s entirely another when butthead characters refuse to share information. Then they just end up looking like petty morons.
(grumble, grumble, stomp all over) Despite hitting a pet peeve of mine, Scorch was a good book. It avoided the second book slump by being fast-paced and exciting. I felt like you didn’t have time to get bored because Lex and her friends were always racing headlong into danger and the unknown. Lex has no sense of self-preservation and she’s slightly reckless. There were a few slight hiccups. I felt the man in white that we see just once in Croak should have gotten more page time just to keep him in the forefront of our minds. He turns out to be an important character but it feels like he was just kind of dropped on us. He’s lead-in could have been more gradual. There are a lot of small puzzles to keep track of and that makes for a suspenseful but occasionally aggravating novel. Altogether, Scorch by Gina Damico is a great second book and I be looking forward to book number three this autumn.
The Secret Tunnel by James Lear
Published October 1st 2008 by Cleis Press
Format: Kindle ebook
Length: 325 pages / 1842 KB
Genre: Erotica, Gay Erotica, Gay, Mystery, Historical Fiction
Reading Level: Adults Only
Goodreads | Amazon
The Flying Scotsman, one of the world’s legendary train journeys, has many attractions for Edward “Mitch” Mitchell, from the obliging porter to the mean guard to a troop of rough-and-ready soldiers in easily lifted kilts in the third-class carriage. But Mitch may not have time for them all before they arrive in London. When the train gets stuck in a tunnel, a dead body is found in the first-class toilet! Ever-ready Mitch decides to intervene and solve the crime. With his new Belgian sidekick Benoit, he pursues the killer through a crazy kaleidoscope of movie stars, drug dealers, royal scandals, and queens of every description. Can he finger the villain before the villain fingers him? What is the connection between Buckingham Palace and a bunch of backstreet pornographers? And what is the mystery of the secret tunnel? Mitch intends to go all the way to figure it all out.
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Published September 18th 2012 by Scholastic Press
Genre: Paranormal, Young Adult, Romance
Reading Level: Pre-teen
ISBN 0545424925 (ISBN13: 9780545424929)
Goodreads | Amazon
“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”
It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.
Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.
His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
Maggie Stiefvater is a hot name right now after the book blogs exploded with glowing reviews of The Scorpio Races last year. It didn’t sound quite like my cup of tea but I couldn’t miss the announcement of her newest book, The Raven Boys. Now that was a book that sounded like I could enjoy it. When I realized that there were the four Aglionby boys, Blue, plus her whole wacky family and that all of them seemed to get a fair amount of page time I thought The Raven Boys might suffer from having too many characters. While I would have liked to see more of Blue and a bit more depth for her, I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the number of characters. Instead, Stiefvater manages to somehow control what should have been an otherwise out of control story.
I have nicknamed this book ‘the novel where everyone needs therapy’. This is because the boys are all nuts. Blue is the only sane one and she’s part of a clairvoyant family of weirdo women, so that’s saying a lot. Ronan actually disturbs me and we never find out the details of his backstory, which is frustrating. He has the last line in the novel and it promises a new adventure and weirdness in the sequel that I can’t wait for. Adam’s pride is both understandable and his worst trait. I don’t understand why everyone is so sensitive to Gansey. He’s acting perfectly normal and I think both Adam and Blue are just trying to be insulted by what he says because they want to find fault in him. It makes Adam and Blue seem a little childish. Noah seems to be a cardboard cutout and unimportant until he suddenly is. The only disappointing character is the ‘villain’, Whelk. He’s nonexistent for most of the book and I would have liked to see his thought processes a bit more.
The plot is fascinating. The sleeping king legend, of which King Arthur is only the most well-known, is seen many times in history. I made a small study of ley lines when I was a teen and have actually tracked a line using dowsing rods before. I sucked at it, of course, but I can remember it felt like there was a lot of static electricity in the air and if I touched anything I might explode into a star. It was awesome and I find the strange occurrences the teens experienced along the ley line intriguing. It’s like if a person could only step a little sideways, a little out of frame, they might be able to find the same thing.
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater is a great offering from a fantastic author. I’ll have to give some of her other books a try to see if I love them just as much. Some readers might still be overwhelmed by the number of characters, it is a little hard to know where to focus sometimes, but The Raven Boys is an excellent book that blends reality and the fantastical into a story that grips the reader until the end. Highly recommended.
Rating: 4.5 out 5
Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake
Published August 7th 2012 by Tor Teen
Length: 332 pages
Genre: Paranormal, fantasy, Romance, YA
Reading Level: Teen
ISBN 0765328666 (ISBN13: 9780765328663)
Goodreads | Amazon
It’s been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can’t move on.
His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they’re right, but in Cas’s eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.
Now he’s seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he’s asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong…these aren’t just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.
Cas doesn’t know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn’t deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it’s time for him to return the favor.
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake was my second favorite book in 2012. I always enjoy paranormal fiction books and Anna and Cas were excellent characters. I often don’t care for the love story in YA books but the unusual and creative pairing managed to avoid being annoying and other literary offenses that frustrate me. I was very excited to read the sequel Girl of Nightmares, even though I dropped the ball and it’s taken me months to get around to writing up the review. Bad blogger! Unfortunately, Girl of Nightmares doesn’t live up to the legacy of the excellent first book.
There is a phenomenon in YA books that I like to call “the sequel syndrome” or “the sequel slump”. (I like alliteration.) This is where the sequel to an awesome book turns out to be just meh. It’s a big letdown. Girl of Nightmares ended up suffering from sequel syndrome. The first half of the book was slow and frustrating to read. It’s basically the characters wondering what to do and I can’t stand that type of stagnate whining in books. Plot needs to keep moving forward to be interesting and that’s just not happening in the first half of the book. Things only pick up once they cross the pond and go to England to find Gideon.
Anna is almost nonexistent for most of the book. Why Blake would choose to write a sequel where the most popular character, the title character and the main driving force in the story, is barely present I don’t understand. The introduction of a new female character feels like the author is trying to fill a gap. This new character’s only saving grace is that she’s not overly irritating and Cas does not appear to be interested in her and continues to be focused on rescuing Anna. My favorite moment in Girl of Nightmares involves a character that I didn’t like very much in Anna Dressed in Blood; Carmel. I found Carmel to be a bit ridiculous and stereotypical in the first book but she does something very human and appropriate in the sequel; she has second thoughts. People aren’t able to handle the prolonged tension of being in constant danger (and seeking that danger out knowingly) and when Cas and Thomas continue to hunt ghosts, Carmel tries to separate herself from them, to return to being normal. Her actions feel very appropriate and real for her character.
I was hoping that Girl of Nightmares would continue the excellent writing I saw in Anna Dressed in Blood but the book fell short. Most of the book was uninteresting and slow and it’s only the last 1/3 that really has any action. The main opposition is that the adults won’t help the teens and I hate that Cas and Thomas are suddenly unable to do anything because the adults won’t help. They lost the competence I saw in them in Anna Dressed in Blood. The ending makes me want to throw things. It’s overly moralistic, saccharine, and tidy. It lacked the grit I saw in the first book and left me feeling unsatisfied.
Rating: 3 out 5
Silence by Michelle Sagara
Published May 1st 2012 by DAW
Length: 289 pages
Genre: Paranormal, YA, Ghosts, Paranormal Romance
Reading Level: Teen
ISBN 0756407427 (ISBN 13: 9780756407421)
Goodreads | Amazon
It began in the graveyard…
Ever since her boyfriend Nathan had died in a tragic accident, Emma had been coming to the graveyard at night. During the day she went through the motions at her prep school, in class, with her friends, but that’s all it was. For Emma, life had stopped with Nathan’s death. But tonight was different. Tonight Emma and her dog were not alone in the cemetery. There were two others there—Eric, who had just started at her school, and an ancient woman who looked as though she were made of rags. And when they saw Emma there, the old woman reached out to her with a grip as chilling as death…
Emma was not quite like others teenagers. It was true that other girls had experienced grief. Other girls had also lost their fathers, or had their boyfriends die in a senseless accident. But though she hadn’t known it till that night in the graveyard, unlike those other girls, she could see, touch, and speak with the dead. In fact, Emma could draw upon the essence of the dead to work magic. That was what Necromancers did. But Emma had no desire to be a Necromancer. She just wanted to help the ghosts who walked the streets of Toronto, unable to escape from the land of the living. And that was just as well, because had she chosen the path of the Necromancer, Eric would have had to kill her.
Instead, Eric and his fellow Necromancer hunter Chase found themselves violating every rule they were sworn to follow, becoming part of Emma’s group, helping her to stand against those who preyed upon the dead. But whether Emma and her friends could survive such a battle was anyone’s guess. And whether Emma could learn to use the magic of the dead against her enemies without herself falling victim to the lure of such power remained to be seen. Eric seemed to think she could, and her living friends would never abandon her. But only time would tell what Emma’s true destiny was…
I was running through the suggestions on Goodreads for books to read in October and ran across Silence by Michelle Sagara. I have a love/hate relationship with paranormal romance. In that I love the paranormal but am not all that fond of the young adult romance pattern. In that it’s often annoying and follows a certain set of clichés that I am quickly becoming tired of. But Silence by Michelle Sagara surprised me. Her romance is a tad different and very refreshing. You see, Emma’s boyfriend is dead and while there is a boy presented as a potential love interest, Eric, Emma’s feeling don’t move that way because she is still morning her boyfriend. There is also the potential for a love triangle with the introduction of another boy, Chase, that fails to develop and makes me so glad. Silence is a YA story without the silly romance angle and it works so flawlessly.
Along with the refreshing take on romance, there is the paranormal angle of the story. Emma can see dead people, which is a common trait in paranormal stories, but on top of that Emma has set of powers beyond just seeing ghosts. She is a necromancer, able to do magic by using the strength of the souls of the dead. The complete mechanics of being a necromancer are not clearly spelled out in Silence. I’ve never seen necromancy used before and I’m looking forward to the sequel and hopefully having the magical system more explained. Emma is, of course, a very special cookie among special cookies. Other necromancers use their powers for evil but Emma seems to be the only one of her kind with empathy and wants nothing to do with her powers over the dead. Which is good, since Eric and Chase would have to kill her if she did. (Let’s pause and cringe over this cliché; because of course Emma is the only necromancer to ever have a good heart and nobody else would ever think using the power of souls for your own purposes would be bad. Cringe, wince. End rant.)
Eric and Chase belong to some sort of shadow organization that hunts the necromancers. Not a lot is known about them, something else that is not fully explained, but we do know that Eric is going against orders in not killing Emma and that Eric himself has a dark past. He has an involvement beyond just being a hunter. I’m just happy that Emma and Eric aren’t suddenly falling all over each other. Emma keeps her head and is much more focused than most teenaged character in YA books. I adore her because while I can accept a young character being inexperienced and naive, I cannot accept somebody being stupid. I often get stupid in YA books. I love the main characters and I’m pleased that there is an autistic character that is well portrayed and deeply involved in the story, not just a throwaway character. Amy annoys me but the “super popular and bossy without really knowing it” character always do. Silence has an exceptional set of characters. Everyone in this book has a secret they are not sharing, dead and living. Eric is somehow connected with the necromancer leader and even Emma’s deceased father knows something about why Emma has her powers that he’s not sharing.
I have to take a moment to talk about the cover. It’s your usual YA cover. There is a young woman in a fancy evening dress in a cemetery with a lantern that is the wrong color. The lantern in the book is described as blue with an orange light. The lantern on the cover is purple. I just thought that was funny. Silence by Michelle Sagara impressed me enough that I chose it as my giveaway book for October. It was a refreshing YA read that managed to miss my biggest pet peeve. I will definitely be reading the sequel, Touch.
Rating: 4.5 out 5
Excerpt from Silence by Michelle Sagara.
An old woman was watching her. An old woman. Emma was accustomed to thinking of half of her teachers as “old”, and probably a handful as “ancient” or “mummified.” Not a single one of them wore age the way this woman did. In fact, given the wreath of sagging wrinkles that was her skin, Emma wasn’t certain that she was a woman. Her cheeks were sunken, and her eyes were set so deep they might as well have just been sockets; her hair, what there was of it, was white tufts, too stringy to suggest down. She had no teeth, or seemed to have no teeth; hell, she didn’t have lips, either.
Emma couldn’t stop herself from taking a step back.
The old woman took a step forward.
She wore rags. Emma had heard that description before. She had even seen it in a movie or two. Neither experience prepared her for this. There wasn’t a single piece of cloth that was bigger than a napkin, although the assembly hung together in the vague shape of a dress. Or a bag. The orange light that the blue lantern emitted caught the edges of different colors, but they were muted, dead things. Like fallen leaves. Like corpses.
Emma took another step back. “Eric, tell her to stop.” She tried to keep her voice even. She tried to keep it polite. It was hard. If the stranger’s slightly open, sunken mouth had uttered words, she would have been less terrifying. But, in silence, the old woman teetered across graves as if she’d just risen from one and counted it as nothing.
Emma backed up. The old woman kept coming. Everything moved slowly, everything – except for Emma’s breathing – was quiet. The quiet of a graveyard. Emma tried to speak, tried to ask the old woman what she wanted, but her throat was too dry, and all the came out was an alto squeak. She took another step and ran into a headstone; she felt the back of it, cold, against her thighs. Standing against a short, narrow wall, Emma threw her hands out in front of her.
The old woman pressed the lantern into those hands. Emma felt the sides of it collapse slightly as her hands gripped them, changing the shape of the brushstrokes and squiggles. It was cold against her palms. Cold like ice, cold like winter days when you inhaled and the air froze your nostrils.
She cried out in shock and opened her hands, but the lantern clung to her palms, and no amount of shaking would free them. She tried hard, but she couldn’t watch what she was doing because old, wrinkled claws shot out like cobras, sudden, skeletal, and gripped Emma’s cheeks and jaw, the way Emma’s hands now gripped the lantern.
Emma felt her face being pulled down, down toward the old woman’s, and she tried to pull back, tried to straighten her neck. But she couldn’t. All the old stories she’d heard in camp, or in her father’s lap, came to her then, and even though this woman clearly had no teeth, Emma thought of vampires.
But it wasn’t Emma’s neck that the old woman wanted, she pulled Emma’s whole face toward her, and then Emma felt – and smelled – unpleasant, endless breath, dry as dust but somehow rank as dead and rotting flesh, as the old woman opened her mouth. Emma shut her eyes as the face, its nested lines of wrinkles so like a fractal, drew closer and closer.
She felt lips, what might have been lips, press themselves against the thin membranes of her eyelids, and she whimpered. It wasn’t the sound she wanted to make; it was just the only sound she could. And then even that was gone as those same lips, with that same breath, pressed firmly and completely against Emma’s mouth.
Like a night kiss.
She tried to open her eyes, but the night was all black, and there was no moon, and it was so damn cold. And as she felt that cold overwhelm her, she thought it unfair that this would be her last kiss, this unwanted horror; that the memory of Nathans hands and Nathan’s lips were not the ones she would carry to the grave.
It Takes a Witch by Heather Blake
Published January 3rd 2012 by Signet
Length: 299 pages
Genre: Mystery, Paranormal, Contemporary fiction
Reading Level: Teen & Up
ISBN 0451235525 (ISBN 13:9780451235527)
Goodreads | Amazon
Until three weeks ago, Darcy and Harper were working dead-end jobs and trying to put their troubles behind them. Then their aunt Velma delivered a bombshell: They’re actually Wishcrafters – witches with the power to grant wishes with a mere spell. Wanting a fresh start, they head to their aunt’s magic-themed tourist town to master their newfound skills.
But their magic fails them when a wannabe witch turns up dead – strangled with Aunt Ve’s scarf – and Ve’s sweetheart, Sylar, is found looming over the body. Ve is standing by her man, but Darcy overheard Sylar wish that the victim would disappear – forever. With Harper distracted by her handsome new crush, Darcy is determined to sleuth her way to the truth. But it’s takes more than a wish to unravel this mystery…
I don’t read many mysteries. For one thing, I suck at them. My brain just doesn’t work like that and I often find myself fumbling after the main character, wondering how they made that intellectual leap. I feel like I should be taking notes or making some sort of flow chart. I have a horrible time keeping track of so many clues and facts. But there have been a slew of witchy mysteries coming out lately and I finally decided for October to bite the bullet and read some. I’m glad I did! I still fumbled but it was an enjoyable fumbling. For my first witchy mystery I read It Takes a Witch by Heather Blake.
First of all, cover love. Look at all the pretty! Secondly, kudos to Blake for such an original witchy power. Darcy can grant other people’s wishes. Sort of like a genie, only with a pointy hat. Another reason I don’t read many mysteries is because there is often a love story threaded through the rest of the plot. Of course, by ‘love story’ I mean basically ‘he’s cute/hot and does funny things to my body just by standing there’. For which my response is ‘They have medication for that. You should probably see a doctor’. The point is, it’s never believable and is almost always one-dimensional. I love Darcy. Her reaction to Nick, however, falls under ‘eye-roll’ for me.
I adored the setting. The Enchanted Village sounds like my type of place and all of the characters are awesome and quirky. Just like you would think a town full of secret witches would be. The murder mystery was okay. (Not that it’s hard to trick me or anything.) Of course, with a mystery anybody and everybody is a viable suspect. Throw in some witchy powers and general confusion and you have one sparkly mystery to solve. So, of course the real killer is the one person neither the reader nor Darcy thought it would be. I’m a tad disappointed because a really great mystery has the killer up front and center but still manages to make the audience think they are innocent. This killer isn’t a suspect because she is only mentioned in passing in the book. It could have been tighter and more ‘under your nose’ than it was presented.
It Takes a Witch by Heather Blake was a cute and fun read. It’s not very long but a light read that introduces a fantastic new heroine and an amazing location that I can’t wait to read more of in future books. The romance was a touch cliché for me but the characters themselves more than made up for the lack. As my first foray in witchy mysteries I think I picked a winner and will definitely be reading some more for October.
Rating: 3.5/5 (Between Okay and Good)
The Thirteen Hallows by Michael Scott and Colette Freedman
Published December 6th 2011 by Tor Books
Length: 349 pages
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary Fiction
Reading Level: Adult
ISBN 0765328526 (ISBN 13: 9780765328526)
Goodreads | Amazon
From book jacket: The Hallows. Ancient artifacts imbued with a primal and deadly power. But are they protectors of this world, or the keys to its destruction? A gruesome murder in London reveals a sinister plot to uncover a two-thousand-year-old secret. For decades, the Keepers guarded these Hallows, keeping them safe, hidden, and apart from one another. But now the Keepers are being brutally murdered, their prizes stolen, the ancient objects bathed in their blood. Now, only a few remain. With her dying breath, one of the Keepers convinces Sarah Miller, a virtual stranger, to deliver her Hallow – a broken sword with devastating powers – to her nephew, Owen. The duo quickly become suspects in a series of murders as they are chased by both the police and the sadistic Dark Man and his nubile mistress. As Sarah and Owen search for the surviving Keepers, they unravel a deadly secret the Keepers were charged to protect. The mystery leads Sarah and Owen on a cat-and-mouse chase through England and Wales – and history itself – as they discover that the sword may be the only things standing between the world… and a horror beyond imagining.
It’s strange going from a middle grade book to a young adult book to an adult book. I feel like I have whiplash. The Thirteen Hallows by Michael Scott and Colette Freedman is the first adult book I’ve read in some time and, wow, could I tell the difference. Blood, gore, and sex and more than a few places where I crinkled up my nose and went “ew”. A plethora of violent characters and a rather harsh view of humanity as a whole are present in The Thirteen Hallows. I obviously need to read more adult books if I’m that unused to bloody violence in my thriller slash fantasy books. Michael Scott and Colette Freedman blend the modern world and ancient legend together seamlessly in The Thirteen Hallows as we follow a story thousands of years in the making.
The Thirteen Hallows is a dark ride through the mists of time. England is a land of legend and there is more than one superstition holding the kingdom up. (Legend has it that if the ravens ever leave The Tower of London, that England would fall. Several ravens have had their wings clipped and are taken care of by the Yeomen Warders because of this.) We’re treated to the same amount of myth and legend in this book, everything from King Arthur to the hunting horn of the Horned God. Don’t get attached to anyone in this book, chances are they are doing to die. It will probably be a violent, bloody death too. Things get chopped off. Torture happens. Thus we have the moments that made me say “ew’. It’s not terribly graphic but I’d say if it were a movie it would rate an ‘R’ just for the violence and definitely for the amount of sex. Again, nothing graphic but it is there.
There are a lot of characters to keep track of in this book, all of them awesome in some way. Most of them meet bloody ends in various painful ways. Each chapter is another character’s point of view and chapters are short. The story is actually quite a bit shorter than the number of pages suggest because some of those pages only have a few sentences on them. Chapters are only a couple pages long. This makes for a fast paced read and a rush of events. (Well, you have to hurry when you are trying to save the world!) Normally, this type of choppiness would annoy the crap out of me, but for some reason the bouncing narrative works for The Thirteen Hallows.
I have nothing but praise for The Thirteen Hallows. It hit all the points. The characters were all great and the plot is fascinating. I was never irritated or annoyed with anyone or anything. If you’re looking for some modern fantasy with a bit of bite and something outside of the usual young adult formula, then The Thirteen Hallows by Michael Scott and Colette Freedman might be just what you are looking for.
Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
Published May 8th 2012 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Length: 288 pages; hardcover
Reading Level: Age 8 & Up
ISBN 1599907259 (ISBN 13: 9781599907253)
Goodreads | Amazon
Everyone in Abigail Hale’s world has magic. When children are Judged they find out what level of magic user they are. A child’s Judgment is a rite of passage. Or it should be. But Abby’s Judging reveals that she doesn’t have any magic at all. She’s ordinary, an ord. She will never be able to do magic. Now Abby’s life is turned upside down and she’s enrolled in a special school that prepares young ords to deal with life with their unmagical handicap. But there are hungry goblin lurking in the shadows, unscrupulous adventurers determined to have an ord in their service, and surprise meetings with the King to deal with and Abby’s life will be anything but ordinary.
After reading a string of great YA novels, reading a middle grade book is like running into a very forgiving wall. The mind needs to switch tracks. I’ve had my eye on Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway for some time now. First of all, huge kudos to Rubino-Bradway for the idea. Most fantasy stories have magic users being the extraordinary ones but in a world where magic is normal, the few people who can’t use magic at all are the amazing ones. Great twist on the fantasy cliché. I adored the characters in this book, everyone from Abby’s crazy family to the teachers at the school. I hope we get more on Becky. I hope Becky gets her own book, she’s that great. The only thing that annoyed me was the generalization that Abby’s family was the only family in the whole book that seemed to still love their child after discovering they were an ord. Can you really tell me that nobody else in whole school had parents that didn’t abandon them after finding out they were ords? It would have been interesting to see what must have been the vast and varied reactions of the different families, even a little bit. But, I understand the limitation of a book and shall set my irritation aside.
The plot was very loose, in my opinion. The red cap thing sort of happened and then the adventurer thing sort of happened, and then by the end it all exploded and everything is happening. The middle feels a bit wandering. I found myself speculating on little details. King Steve and Alexa are obviously together and I can’t wait for that can of worms to happen. (I’d also bet money that King Steve is an ord.) I want to know who this Margaret Green is that the ord school is named after. There are so many little things going on, little tidbits sprinkled through the book that I found myself sorry they weren’t more explored. Ordinary Magic has so many interesting secondary characters that I sincerely hope for a sequel or perhaps for off-shoot novels.
Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway is an entertaining read. It’s not mind blowing but well worth the time. It’s an interesting take on the old fantasy cliché. The characters are amusing. (Gil is my favorite of Abby’s family!) A few things could have had more depth. (Like why Trixie acted like she did, which was so different from Barbarian Mike’s attitude.) There has to be a sequel, just by mere fact that we still have kids missing. There must be a grand quest in search of Fran. I won’t accept anything less than a dozen more fantasy clichés turned on their heads!
I’ve been a bad blogger lately and I’d like to thank everyone for coming to my blog and commenting even though I didn’t have any new reviews up. It was all just memes and readathon posts. I’ve been lazy. But now I’ve finally gotten off my butt and written a review for my latest read. So I am pleased to give you The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen, one of my favorite authors. It’s always a pleasure to read her books.
The people of Bald Slope, North Carolina have a lot of secrets. Josey Cirrini has a closet full of sweets and an unwanted visitor. She’s also spent her adult life trying to make-up for being a horrible child to her mother. Della Lee is hiding from a lifetime of mistakes. Books come to Chloe Finley whether she wants them to or not. These three women couldn’t be more different from each other but they all have one thing in common that will change their lives forever. All it takes is a little courage to let go of the past and step out into the future.
I adore Sarah Addison Allen. I loved her Garden Spells. So it is no surprise to me that I loved The Sugar Queen just as much. I felt a little thrill when we first meet Josey. She’s not what you would call beautiful and not the typical girl we find in YA fiction. In fact, she’s a little chunky and uses food as a coping mechanism. She’s happy that the weather is getting colder because that meant she could wear more clothing. There was an instant connection for me with Josey. Here was a main character that was shy, and a little fat, and was just trying to deal with her life as best she could. Josey’s only comfort was food and sweets and she was trapped in a life where there was very little hope. I can’t tell you how pleased I was to see this character.
Allen is an expert as blending a touch of magic into her stories. It’s a “blink and you will miss it” addition. For Chloe Finely books just appear when she needs them and they act as her friends, giving her good advice that she doesn’t always understand or follow. Della Lee is running away from her bad choices and ends up in Josey’s closet as a result. There are clues sprinkled around the story about Della Lee’s true nature and everyone is to give themselves a cookie if they figure it out quickly. It’s a good twist. Everyone in this story is trapped by past decisions and they can’t move forward until they gain the courage to let the past go. All their sorrow is rooted in their past and you just want to shake everyone because the only thing standing in their way of happiness is themselves.
The Sugar Queen was an excellent read. At first I thought splitting a story between three people would annoy me (I’m currently having huge problems with the amount of characters in The Night Circus by Erin Morgertsin) but the three woman flow and ebb into each other so well that it works. At the end, each woman is able to let go of the past and move on. Sarah Addison Allen has written another charming and slightly magical story that was a true joy to read.
P.S. I almost wish Marco Cirrini were real just so I could slap him. What an ass!
Monday, my old foe. The regular receptionist is off all week, so that means I’m stuck doing both her job and mine. I hate doing phones. I can’t hold a thought in my head with the damn ringing and everything takes three times as long to do because I have to stop and answer it. Drive a woman to drink, I swear. It’s an odd week too because we have the 4th of July stuck in the middle. It’s like two mini weeks. It’s Monday, time for Musing Mondays!
Our question this week is: When you’re stuck for a book to read next, what do you do?
I can’t remember this ever happening to me, although it must have. Even as a child and teen, a good wander around the library would get me at least half a dozen books to read. I sometimes had to put some back because my Mom knew I’d never get through all of them in two weeks. It was usually the title that drew me in and anything fantasy was a good bet with me. Then about a decade ago, when I turned 20 or so, I found book blogs. Then I developed a long TBR list from the reviews, wish list posts, and rambling I found on book blogs and I shall never be in want of a book suggestion again. The world would have to end and even then it would take a few years to get through my backlog of books.
Actually, if you’re looking for something good then I suggest heading over to The Book Smugglers and going through the “On the Smugglers’ Radar” posts. I always find a couple books to add to the TBR pile from those posts alone.