Book Reviews

Welcome to the book reviews page. You will find the most recent reviews at the top of the page, and those that are older as you scroll down. Special thanks to the TWFT contributors who write these fantastic reviews!

EYES LIKE STARS by Lisa Mantchev

 

Reviewed by Kristin aka kristinbriana

Bertie Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater.

She’s not an orphan, but she has no parents.

She knows every part, but she has no lines of her own.

That is, until now.

Enter Stage Right

NATE. Dashing pirate. Will do anything to protect Bertie.

COBWEB, MOTH, MUSTARD SEED, and PEASEBLOSSOM. Four tiny and incredibly annoying fairies. BERTIE’S sidekicks.

ARIEL. Seductive air spirit and Bertie’s weakness. The symbol of impending doom.

BERTIE. Our heroine.

Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the actors of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book—an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family—and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.

Since I started stalking watching the Debutantes’ LJ community several months ago, I’ve been very anxiously frantically patiently waiting to get my hands on this book. Seriously – just look at the COVER! The blue hair! The Suzanne Collins blurb! The tantalizing description – “All her world’s a stage.”

When I bought it at Barnes & Noble, I was momentarily terrified that the book wouldn’t live up to my very high expectations.

But there was no need to worry.

This book is everything I look for in a good read: whimsical, funny, suspenseful, romantic, clever. Bertie is a fabulous heroine to root for – flawed but oh-so-sympathetic. You’ll be cheering her on even as she puts on dangerous pyrotechnic displays, tries to seduce a pirate, and gets her friends in ridiculous amounts of trouble. Her stubbornness and her love for her magical family keeps her endearing, lovable, and very, very real.

Ariel is quite possibly the most unique, exciting character I’ve read in a long time, and he is also at the center of the conflicts in this book. He’s simultaneously Bertie’s friend, enemy, lover, and her worst fear. He’s charming and terrifying, sweet and sensitive and cruel, flawed and far too perfect. He’s a mystery, and I’M IN LOVE WITH HIM. *swoon*

But that doesn’t mean Nate, the dashing and surprisingly chivalrous pirate, isn’t a character to root for as well. No one is going to pick sides easily in this convoluted love triangle, I promise.

*swoons again*

Ahem. Anyway. Moving on.

But the main reason for which I will adore Lisa Mantchev forever: She set this book up for a sequel without carving my heart out to do it. No cliffhanger; no stopping in the middle of the sentence so as to assure you will buy the next novel. No, she left plenty of unanswered questions – but the book was very clearly finished. The immediate conflict was resolved. End Act I.

This book gets a definite 5/5 stars, and two thumbs way up.

***

MARKED by P.C and Kristin Cast

reviewed by It’s-Magic/bexmagic/Becky

“Of course, there’s always a catch, and this one’s nice and simple: if you fail, you die.”

Marked is the first novel in a series of young adult books by P.C and her daughter Kristin Cast. In all, there is (or is going to be) 9 (!!!) in this series. The sequel is Betrayed, then after that, it is, Chosen, Untamed, Hunted, and the to-be-released tempted.

Zoey Montgomery always had a bit of trouble fitting in…that is, until she’s marked. In Tulsa, vampyres are accepted in society, and the mark that defines them from humans is a cause of junk DNA. When a teenager is marked as a vampyre, a (normally) hollow crescent moon outline appears on the vampyre fledgling’s forehead.

Not that Zoey doesn’t have enough trouble in her life: nearly-ex-boyfriend Heath is always there to bug her, her mother isn’t capable of looking after her, her step-loser dad is totally shadowed by his faith and then, on top of everything else, she has to attend the House of Night, vampyre boarding school for the next four years. Of course, there is the possibility that the change to a vampyre will kill her.

Marked is undoubtedly a very unique novel. “Vampyres” are not the stereotypical type: no inch-long fangs or red eyes. This novel and its sequels got me thinking and daring to expand my horizons in writing, yet the realistic points of the stories are not over-looked by the fantasy elements in there.

I think, as a character, Zoey is very quirky and likeable. Her view on everything is funny at times, and I believe many teen girls today can relate to Zoey and her excessive dilemmas. I also like Zoey’s friends, and I quickly became attached to characters like Erik and Stevie Rae.

The only things I don’t like about this novel is that many readers may find Zoey and her friends too far-fetched/stereotypical (like Erin and Shaunee being clothes obsessed). The traits of the characters seemed to fit all-too-comfortably with templates many people do not like. Another point I would make is that when reading, it took me a while to get hooked. The last crit I’d have would be that the main plot point climax only started very late in, and lasted around 20 pages. Yes, there was a lot of build up, but that build up didn’t increase the terror.

But overall, I loved this novel, despite the flaws.

5/5 stars.

***

GLASS HOUSES by Rachel Caine

reviewed by It’s-Magic/Bexmagic/Becky

“Peer pressure sucks. So do vampires…”

Rachel Caine’s Glass Houses is the first in a series of books called The Morganville Vampires. Morganville is a small college town where Claire Danvers, a surprisingly smart 16 year old, is studying. Her parents shipped her off to college early because of her outstanding intelligence, naively thinking Texas Prairie University was a safe option to go for.

But Morganville holds secrets. Nasty secrets, which stretch further than her frequent problems with Monica Morrell, school hot-girl. Monica has been against Claire ever since she embarrased her in front of hot upperclass men. This is no normal bullying. Oh no. She’s basically trying to kill Claire.

Claire, desperate for escape from the madness of Monica and her Monickettes, finds a place called The Glass House, owned by the eldest house mate, Michael Glass. After much persuasion, Claire finally gets at least a few night’s stay at the house along with Michael, Eve and Shane.

But then Eve tells her about the vampires.

You see, Morganville may appear small and innocent, but the town isn’t really run by humans. Vampires are the rulers. As the story unfolds, Claire is thrown into trauma as she meets many mysterious beings, discovers Michael has his own secrets and starts to feel someone tugging on her heartstrings. But it was never going to be easy to solve. Claire must resolve the problems that are caused by the rivalry between vampire and human before anyone gets killed. Which won’t be easy when vampires lurk around nearly every corner.

The first chapter, for me, was slightly slow. I think at the beginning the background info dragged on a little, but after several chapters, I found myself gripped. The cliffhangers at the end of chapters are those that you can’t afford to wait later for. I also found that the characters were very individual and very very three-dimensional. Like Eve with her goth attitude and little sayings, Shane with his tough guy acting-before-thinking attitude and Michael with his worrying about Claire sharing the house with three people at least two years older than her. The plot is unique and Morganville really is unlike any other supernatural town. The subplots are also very intriguing and I got several “Oh yeah!” moments.

In my opinion, the book is just a bit too predictable. I don’t mean you know what’s going to happen next, but I noticed that I could predict quite accurately when another subplot would slither in mainly because they are so frequent. This may not be a bad thing, but it just made me a bit bored at times.

But overall, I absolutely love this novel. In fact, the sequels are even better.

5/5 stars.

***

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman
gb
Reviewed by Megan aka DK

“It takes a graveyard to raise a child,” or so the old saying goes.

In Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, a young boy travels from a murder scene to a tomb without dying in between. Adopted by ghosts and a “solitary type” who is neither dead nor alive, Nobody Owens must learn the customs and rules of the dead – the difference between Fading and Dreamwalking, ghoul-gates and unconsecrated ground – while preparing for a future when he will have to confront his family’s killer among the living. When the secret society of “men called Jack” return to finish him off, Bod must call on all his cunning, a little bit of magic, and friends from both the graveyard and the human city to protect himself and his home.

After a somewhat slow start, The Graveyard Book immerses readers in a world so well developed and easy to visualize that it is hard to believe it isn’t real. Everything from the types of creatures that inhabit the graveyard to Bod’s guardians’ personal histories is imaginative and multi-layered, yet the plot is never bogged down by excess information. Each chapter is both a self contained adventure and a piece of the larger narrative, and because two years pass from one to the next, we get to see Bod grow and develop as his story becomes more complex. Individual characters – especially Silas, who could pass for a vampire in another book, and Miss Lupescu, who might be called a werewolf – rise above their species’ stereotypes to become, more than anything else, human.

If the book has one weakness, it is the lack of similar complexity in its villains, the men called Jack. The men Jack seem to be killers without remorse or a reason for acting the way they do. Although we learn that they belong to a secret society that is trying to kill Bod because of a prophecy, the exact nature of this society and Bod’s threat to it are never fully explained. But since The Graveyard Book is really more about Bod’s personal development than the forces that sent him to the graveyard in the first place, this lack of depth is more of a minor disappointment than a major annoyance.

All in all, The Graveyard Book is one of the most creative, well written, and emotionally sincere novels I have read this year.

5/5 stars

***

FAKING 19 by Alyson Noël

19

Reviewed by Kody aka Blind Writer

When discussing young adult novelist Alyson Noël, the bestselling Evermore, first in the Immortals series, generally comes to mind, but since 2005 Ms. Noël has also created a sizeable list of contemporary fiction, including books like Cruel Summer and Saving Zoe. Though it has been four years since her debut, Ms. Noël’s first published novel, Faking 19, is still, in my opinion, worthy of attention.

While reading Faking 19, I was reminded of the classic Fox drama, The O. C.—and for good reason. Ms. Noël’s novel is centered in her hometown of Orange County, California—Newport Beach, to be precise—which is exactly where the television series took place. With its rich-kid drama, somewhat mature themes, and adventurous attitude, the novel was very reminiscent of Josh Schwartz’s television series, and that’s a major compliment when coming from me, an unashamed O. C. addict.

The book tells the story of Alex, a seventeen-year-old nearing the end of her senior year—or so she hopes. Alex, a former Honors student, has let her grades plummet, and the book begins with a meeting in the guidance office where Alex learns she may not be able to graduate. Despite the fact that Alex makes several promises, to her guidance counselor and herself, concerning her future, she is frequently drawn away from her studies by M, her picture-perfect, skinny, blonde, California Princess best friend. Though M (the novel’s biggest mystery might be her real name) seems to disapprove of her friend’s failing grades, she doesn’t hesitate to take Alex along on trips to LA, where they pose as nineteen-year-old college students in order to get into clubs and hip parties.

But Faking 19 isn’t the story of two rich kids on a road trip. Though she lives in the sunny suburbs, Alex and her mother are struggling financially (and this is pre-recession, so God bless them now), and Alex’s father seems to spend all of his money on his new girlfriend’s breast implants. Alex finds it hard to keep up with M, who swipes her daddy’s credit card every chance she gets. She is convinced that M’s life is perfect and positive that her own sucks. However, it looks like things are brightening up when she and M meet some British hotties in the trendy part of LA.

Alex’s narration is inexplicably charming. Though she criticizes the vapidity of her surroundings, she also indulges in some of the materialism. Rather than making the reader detest her hypocrisy, however, Ms. Noël manages to secure an affection and sympathy for Alex. She rambles and swears and is often self absorbed and self pitying, but she sounds like a real teenager. Props must be given to Ms. Noël for handling this task gracefully where other authors (I won’t name names, but you know who I mean) often appear to be trying too hard.

While Alex is a strong character, however, the male lead, Connor, is not. I wondered at several points if the reader is supposed to like Connor as much as Alex does. Yes, he is handsome and British (which is normally enough for me, but still…), but that is really all you learn about him. He likes music, and he has decent taste, but there are no quirks, no character development, and not even a trace of the witty banter that might have made up for this. Yet, by the same token, M stands out. She is the typical, stereo-typed cheerleader, but there is something about M that sets her apart. Despite her flaws—and there are many—it is almost impossible to hate M merely because Alex herself can’t hate her. Though there are many points when M deserves a good bitch slap, something about her relationship with Alex is touching. So why, I must ask, is Connor so two dimensional? Was this intended? If so, I must question Ms. Noël’s judgment on that aspect.

If you hate name dropping—but let’s admit it, we all kind of love it—then Faking 19 may not be the book for you. Alex mentions celebrities quite often as she narrates, and she has a special fetish for Richard Branson. Most of the references are still modern, but a few have missed their day. A supposed sighting of Brad and Jen, for example, reminds us that this was written before the Brangelina baby fest. This much is forgivable, however, since the references to Paul Rudd, Hugh Grant, and Madonna are not quite as dated.

Also, Ms. Noël should be praised for her candidness on the subject of sex. Unlike many modern heroines, Alex thinks about sex quite often. She is anxious, if not outright eager, to lose her virginity, and her narration of the subject is certainly not PG, like many YA novels of our time. The novel is most definitely intended for older teens due to the graphic nature of Alex’s wording. (Warning: blow jobs are referenced.) But, as a seventeen-year-old, I can honestly say that her thoughts—from concerns about the pain to contemplating the proper underwear choice—are humorously realistic.

Faking 19 will not be a classic, and it probably won’t be made into a movie. But it is a quick, entertaining read. Each chapter is fast paced, and each scene adds to the plot. Believe it or not, Faking 19 even manages to carry a valuable life lesson, though I won’t spoil that since I hope you’ll grab a copy of the book and discover it for yourself. I must admit, as I shut the book I found myself wondering where Alex is now, four years later, and what kind of adventures she and M might be having today.

With a debut as funny, touching, and utterly enjoyable as Faking 19, there can be no doubt that Alyson Noël is an author to watch in the coming years, and I have a feeling she’ll keep getting better.

4/5 stars

EON: THE LAST DRAGONEYE by Alison Goodman

eondragoneyereborn

Reviewed by Rachael aka rkhorserider

“Twelve-year-old Eon has been in training for years. His intensive study of Dragon Magic, based on East Asian astrology, involves two kidns of skills: sword-work and magical aptitude. He and his master hope that he will be chosen as a Dragoneye–an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good forunt.

But Eon has a dangerous secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been masquerading as a boy for the chance to become Dragoneye. Females are forbidden to use Dragon Magic; if anyone discovers she has been hiding in plain sight, her death is assured.

When Eon’s secret threatens to come to light, she and her alies are plunged iinto grave danger and a deadly struggle for the Imperial throne. Eon must find the strength and inner poewr to battle those who wnat to take her magic…and her life.”

This book is amazing, but very long. A little warning is there is a HUGE cliffhanger at the end and I can’t find a possible release date for the second book (Eona: The Last Dragoneye) anywhere. I read somewhere that it may be released in 2010, but that was all.

Eon (Eona) lives under her master as she trains as a candidate in the hope of being chosen by the Rat Dragon, the dragon that is ascending that year to choose a new apprentice Dragoneye. Eon is not only a girl in disguise, but also a cripple. Her master intentionally caused her hip to be shattered when she was younger to help disguise the fact that she is a girl. Eon knows that if she is not chosen by the Rat Dragon, her master will be ruined, she will be sold back to the salt farm to work, and her friends, Chart and Rilla, will be sold as slaves. She does have a special advantage over the other competitors: she can see all the dragons when she enters the energy world; a gift that is very rare.

When the Rat Dragon ascends, despite attempted sabotage by Lord Iro, the current Rat Dragoneye, and Ranne, the swordmaster who Eon has been training under, she is not chosen. Instead, she is chosen by the Mirror Dragon (Dragon Dragon) a dragon that hasn’t been seen for 500 years. When the dragon attempts to join with her and get her to shout her name to the sands, Eon refuses to shout Eona as she knows her real name means certain death. By doing so, she pushes her dragon away and spends most of the book trying to bring the Mirror Dragon back.

As Coascendent, Eon is tossed into a deadly struggle for power. Lord Brannon (Eon’s master) and Eon are supporters of the current emperor and his son. But Lord Iro and several others are on the side of High Lord Sethon, the emperor’s brother and leader of the military. When Lord Brannon dies of poison, Eon is alone and the race for power struggles on as Iro challenges her to a challenge that even Dragoneyes struggle with: she must turn the King Monsoon away from the village to save the new year’s crops. But Eon can’t even call her dragon and if she can’t call the Mirror Dragon, she can’t stop the Monsoon.

Tension is at it’s peak when the ailing emperor dies and Sethon seizes his chance to take the throne.

This book is amazing with plenty of action. The only complaint I have against it, is some things towards the end are a little unclear. But I shall anxiously await the next installment nonetheless. Oh and towards the middle when Eon is getting more and more desperate to find her dragon’s name, she does get a little annoying with her attempts. Trying things that in the end are really the cause of her failures.

4.5/5

***

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins

hungergames

Reviewed by Rachael aka rkhorserider

A quick overview before I tell you what I think. The Hunger Games takes place in post-apocalyptic North America in a nation known as Panem, made up of 12 districts and ruled by the Capitol. Every year the Capitol chooses one boy and one girl from each district through a raffle to compete in the “Hunger Games” a fight to the death in the arena of the Capitol’s choice. When Katniss’s 12 year old sister is chosen, she volunteers to go instead. Twenty-four will enter the arena, but only one will survive.

The Hunger Games is written in first person, present tense which I admit does take some getting used to if you don’t read much in present tense. But it is an awesome book, but I will warn you in advance, there is a huge cliffhanger ending. The next book “Catching Fire” is due to come out this fall, September 1st I believe. I read from one source that the Hunger Games is going to be a trilogy.

If you have not read the Hunger Games, I definely suggest it. It’s well-written and hurt me to put down, even for a minute. I even cried a few times and am anxiously awaiting the next book. There is plenty of action and even some romance. A fascinating read for teens (and adults).

5/5 stars

THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan

theforestofhandsandteeth

Reviewed by Kristin aka kristinbriana

“In Mary’s world, there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village. The fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power. And, when the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, about the Unconsecreated and their relentlessness. Now she must choose between her village and her future, between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded by so much death?”

I picked up this book looking for a good monster story. “Ooh, look! Zombies! Drooling undead beasties that suck out your brains! Cool!

I imagine a lot of people bought this book for the same reason. But I want to warn you now – this is not a monster story. If you’re looking for a book about creepy drooling zombies that pop out and scare you, choose another book.

THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH is not about the dead; it’s about the living.

More specifically, it’s about Mary’s struggle to live. She’s a hard narrator to follow through the book – lonely, determined, fearful, sometimes selfish. I found myself shouting at her from time to time, beating pillows against the novel. I found myself crying for her because I understood exactly where she was coming from. Mary is a perfectly developed character – flawed but sympathetic, compassionate but selfish, fearful but brave. Carrie Ryan didn’t slight her other characters, however. Travis is loyal to a fault; Harry is too logical and pragmatic; Cassie is simultaneously strong and very, very weak; Jed is both hard and tender… I was blown away by the depth of these characters, the fact that they were three-dimensional people living in the pages of a book.

My only complaint in this book is that the Sisterhood fell by the wayside once the fences were breached. I expected everything to tie together, but it didn’t. After the Unconsecrated invade the village, the entire book becomes about survival, and a few of the subplots suffered for that.

However, this is still a fabulous book from a fabulous debut author. I will be buying everything she ever writes, I guarantee it.

4/5 stars

5 Comments »

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  1. I really will have to read The Hunger Games sometime. Everyone says what a good book it is.

    Great Blog, guys, I’m a regular visitor!

    ~It’s Magic/ Becky.x

  2. All the books look good but I will definatley be reading Eyes Like Stars.

  3. I cant wait to read all of these books. you guys gave a great insight into the stories, which is really helpful.

  4. I read the Hunger games , and I also read the sequel, it is an amazing series written so well by Suzanne Collins. I just love it !

  5. How could you give Marked a better review than The Forest of Hands and Teeth?! Marked was awful. The characters sucked except the evil ones, the writers can’t, well, write. But Forest of Hands and Teeth had everything: insanely creepy nuns, metaphorical truth about life, and an actual conflict. Plus, she wrote the book about zombies, not vampires, so Ms. Ryan gets bonus points for individuality. I felt like you did a good job with your review for The Graveyard Book, though. That really was a 5/5 book.


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