Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"In the Forests of the Night" by Kersten Hamilton Review

 Again, no pics today. Sorry for being such a boring blogger, but I'm using someone else's computer and I hate to download images on a computer that's not mine. My mom wouldn't appreciate finding a random shot of a girl with glowing yellow eyes in among her grandchildren pics either. BTW, the cover is kind of neat, if you want to Google it. :)

"In the Forests of The Nights" by Kersten Hamilton (book 2 The Goblin Wars)

If I were rating just the last part of the book, I'd give it a four. But the slow start made In The Forests of the Night hard to get into, so I decided on three stars.
The book starts immediately after "Tyger, Tyger" left off. There are tons of characters and you're thrown right into their storylines without intro or explanation. To me, the first of the book felt a little jumbled and I think it was because there were so many people (and goblins, shapeshifters, etc.) to deal with.
Finn is still convinced Teagan is his soul-mate, and Teagan's not sure how to feel about that, especially since she's struggling with learning she has goblin blood. But don't think this is a YA paranormal romance. It's really not. There's one kiss, and it's toward the end of the book. I didn't really feel any spark between Teagan and Finn. The main focus of this book is goblins vs. good guys and their increasingly violent and bloody battles both in this world and in Mag Mell. That said, the fights were written so I didn't find them upsetting. It's hard to explain, but they didn't really have much of an emotional impact on me. Hamilton's writing felt, for lack of a better word, younger than most YA novels. (That's not a criticism, because it is well written, just an observation about the style.) I found myself thinking that without the curse words and occasional bloodiness, this really could've been a middle grade book.
A good deal of the plot is tied to Irish mythology, and occasionally it's hard keeping straight who did what with or to whom all those centuries ago that set the events of this story in motion.
I did enjoy seeing Teagan take charge of her own destiny and deciding that SHE is in charge of who she becomes, regardless of her goblin blood. And as in the first book, the scenes in Mag Mell (pronounced Moy Mell) are vividly described and highly imaginative. They are the highlight of the book for me, much as the scenes in the faery lands were my favorite part of the Iron King series by Julie Kagawa.
Teagan is a heroine who actually has goals, plans, passions, and ambitions for her life besides some hot dude. That's a welcome change in YA. However, I just didn't find myself wrapped up in her struggles emotionally. I will have to compliment Hamilton on her bad guys, though. The cat-sidhe and phooka are horrifying and disgusting all at the same time.
I do have a couple of nitpicks. Tea's best friend Abby is more of a presence in this book, and her habit of getting words wrong wasn't amusing after the first couple of times way back in book 1. And I wish Finn didn't call Tea "girl" all the time. I know it's a term of endearment, but it just started to bother me.
I will probably pick up the next in the series when it comes to my library next year. The book ends with promise of imminent butt-kicking and epic battles, and that's something to look forward to.
One more thing: the book draws heavily on Irish lore and Finn and Maimeo are Irish Travelers, so there are quite a few Irish words used frequently. I happened to listen to Tyger Tyger on audiobook, and it helped tremendously. I would never have known that Mac Cuhaill was pronounced like McCool otherwise, nor that bean-sidhe was banshee, and those are just a few examples. If you like to know how unfamiliar words are pronounced, the audiobook or at least an online search will come in handy.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Death Cure by James Dashner Review

"The Death Cure" by James Dashner

*Sorry there are no pics. I'm having some HTML issues with the good ol' laptop. And no...I really have no idea what I mean by that. It's just what my fab blog designer told me. :)**

**There are minor SPOILERS in this review**
When I reviewed The Scorch Trials (book two in the trilogy), I said I was confident Dashner would tie up the loose ends and answer all our questions in this final book. He didn't. I'm still not sure how I feel about it.
For most of The Death Cure, Thomas and his friends running from, fighting with, or trying to escape from either Cranks or WICKED. It felt like one action sequence after another.
Like lots of dystopian triologies, the first book lets you learn about the characters and what makes them tick, the second book sets up the final showdown, and then the last book is all about beating the bad guys (hopefully), and answering questions. Except in this book, Thomas decides that he no longer wants the answers he fought for in the previous two books. He's had just enough flashes of memory to know he was deep into WICKED and their evil plans, and he's scared to know what exactly he did. Thomas decides that it's what a person does now that matters, not what they did in the past. While I agree with this, and get the character's logic, it still feels really unsatisfying as a reader to not get the answers you waited through two books to get. I'm not happy with how Teresa's storyline played out, and didn't really see the point in it. Other reviewers have articulated their feelings on these points much better than I can, so I'll mention a few things I did like:
I appreciated that the book ended on a hopeful note that the human race wouldn't be annihilated after all. I was a little disappointed that WICKED wasn't defeated by the remaining Gladers and their Group B allies, but I was relieved to know that any remnants or their work would soon be gone thanks to the spreading Flare virus.
I was also glad that it didn't appear Thomas and Brenda would be too overcome by PTSD to have a happy future together. That said, it kind of bothered me Thomas never knew that Brenda and Jorge had been planted by Chancellor Page to affect her last-ditch escape plan for the Immune people. It seemed this piece of info was withheld for the sake of another surprise/twist at the end.
I did enjoy the redemption of Galley. The Right Arm being fanatics wasn't something I had really considered, but I liked how Thomas and company were ultimately responsible for saving the other Immunes themselves. Their return to the Maze felt like a full-circle moment.
The book had short chapters that often ended on mini-cliffhangers, which kept you reading to see what happened next. The nearly non-stop action kind of distracted me from how little character development there was. Overall, it was an OK book.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The A-Z's of Sarah (aka A Lil Bit 'bout Me)

I saw this post on Squeaky Books and thought it might be fun to do. If you want to as well, be sure to leave a link in the comments!

Age: clinging to my twenties for two more weeks! (Told you I was too old for the books I read :)

Bed Size: decision I ever made. It's a marriage saver for people with personal space issues.

Chore you Hate: Ummm...all of them. Most hated? Probably ironing or mopping. Or dishes. Or putting up laundry. We just came back round to "all of them" didnt' we?

Dogs: I have a three month old Pom named Emma and a rat terrier named Tommy.

Essential Start to the Day: Breakfast. I can't skip it, or I'll have to eat my own arm by about 10:00 a.m.

Favorite Colors: To wear, greens and purples and blues. Just in general, red.

Gold or Silver?: Both.

Height: 5'8''

Instruments I Play: None now, but at one time piano and flute.

Job title: "MOM!!!" (and I guess freelance newspaper columnist, but not really....)

Kids: Two boys. They're very smelly, very loud, very much my heart and soul.

Live: In the deep South. Y'all.

Overnight hospital stays: Just when I had my kids

Pet Peeves: I got this from my mother. When people say, "I seen..." She harped on it so much when I was a kid, it kind of drives me crazy now, too.

Quote from a Movie:  "Well...What are you waiting for???"
                                  "I dunno. Something amazing, I guess."--From The Incredibles

Right or left handed: Left

Siblings: A brother 19 years older and a sister 17 years older than me. Same parents. I was a surprise!

Time I Wake up: six freaking thirty-five. If the alarm doesn't do it, the kids will.

Underwear: Yes

Vegetable you hate: Celery

What makes you run late?: I'm hardly ever late, but if I am it's because I got distracted while getting ready.

X-rays: All I can think of right now is a sinus xray. Kinda boring, huh?

Yummy food I make: This is going to sound braggy, but I make lots of good stuff. I'm a Southern housewife, descended from a looonnnnggg line of Southern housewives. We give unsolicited advice, we say "bless her heart" when we want to talk ugly about someone, and we cook. With butter. And bacon grease. And it's awesome. That's my heritage. :)

Zoo animals: Lions. I have a friend who says looking into a lion's eyes is what she hopes seeing the face of God  will be like. They're regal. And they remind me of Aslan. :)
*I didn't forget M and N...they just weren't on the list. I did forget several others the first time...or times, I should say. Making lists is hard with kids hollering in the background!*


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: "Paranormalcy" by Kiersten White

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.
But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.
So much for normal.

Not what I was expecting...but in a good way!!
I admit it. I judged this book by its cover, and I thought I might not enjoy it. The cover is admittedly gorgeous, but it made me think the storyline would be dark, brooding, and melodramatic. I was delighted and surprised to find that Kiersten White's debut novel was witty, charming, and fun. She's created a protagonist with a funny, irreverent, and believable voice that I found engaging and enjoyable. Finally, a first person female teen narrator I didn't want to smack upside the head!
The basic plot: Evie is a sixteen year old who works for and lives with an international organization that tracks and captures/monitors paranormals who they deem to be a danger to society. When something starts killing paranormals, Evie finds herself in danger and on the run. At least she has a cute boy (well...kind of. Boy isn't exactly the right word!) with her.
There are several interesting mysteries at play in the book. Who (or what) is Evie and where did she come from? What is killing the paranormals and why? Just as interesting for me were the questions the book raised about choice, consequence, morality, love and loneliness. Evie's life has been defined by a feeling of being alone and cold, and her search for acceptance and belonging makes her a poignant character despite her spunky and easy going personality. She shows growth in the book, and even begins to question whether or not the IPCA (the group she worked for and lived with) is truly on the side of right and good after all. There aren't any overly neat answers to her complicated questions, and I liked that.
As for the "love triangle" so many readers liked...I didn't really see it as a triangle. The two "guys," for lack of a better term (one's half water sprite, the other is a faerie) aren't exactly competing for Evie's love. Lend (Water Boy, as Evie sometimes calls him, which I found pretty funny) loves and accepts her. Reth (semi-evil faerie) has some complex motivations we're never really sure about. Which leads to a nice set up for the sequel. I'm going to read it as soon as I can, and I dearly hope we don't have the "second book break-up" so common in YA series.
I feel like I have to mention that I thought the "bad guy" needed a little more build-up to be scarier, but I liked how we were never really sure how to feel about it. Like most of the characters, the being who turned out to be responsible for the killings was a complex entity. One thing that did bother me enough to keep me from giving five stars was the deliberate ambiguity Evie encounters when dealing with a couple of characters as she tries to get answers to pertinent questions. I don't like it when a character is maddeningly vague and it feels like the author is just doing it to spin the suspense out and keep the questions open longer. I wanted to tell Evie, "Make him tell you what that means before he leaves, for crying out loud!" But I can deal with that, because I found the book as a whole so refreshing and fun. Plus, Evie is honest with Lend, and I'm so glad we didn't have one of those, "I love him, so I can't tell him my secrets because then he won't love me!" scenarios.
Another plus for me was the humor in the book. I don't find myself chuckling at YA paranormal romances very often, but with this one I did several times.
Overall: This was a good book and it promises to be the start of an enjoyable series!

*I wrote this review a long time ago. Since then, I've read and reviewed Supernaturally and liked it, but maybe not as much as Paranormalcy. That said, I'm still planning to read the last book, Endlessly.
Speaking of which, let me take a fangirly moment to swoon over the gorgeousness of the Endlessly cover:

People, I love this cover. I've been complaining about the recent "girls in fancy dresses" cover trend in YA, and saying I was ready for something new. I'll make an exception for this book. I don't even care if a purple dress has nothing whatsoever to do with the plot. I'm just a sucker for chiffon, I guess. Also, I want that lipstick Evie is wearing. And her hair, but that goes without saying.


"The Dark Divine" by Bree Despain

Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared--the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in blood--but she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night held.

The memories her family has tried to bury resurface when Daniel returns, three years later, and enrolls in Grace and Jude's high school. Despite promising Jude she'll stay away, Grace cannot deny her attraction to Daniel's shocking artistic abilities, his way of getting her to look at the world from new angles, and the strange, hungry, glint in his eyes.

The closer Grace gets to Daniel, the more she jeopardizes her life, as her actions stir resentment in Jude and drive him to embrace the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind the boys' dark secret...and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it--her soul.

 Romance, Religion, Redemption....and Werewolves

 *I wrote this review months ago on Amazon. I like the book more now that I've read the sequel, The Lost Saint, and I'd really love to get an ARC of The Savage Grace. Unfortunately, I sit at the uncool kids table of the YA blog world and no one offers me free books and what-have-you. :)*
My Review:
I liked this book, but I'm not in love with it. Mainly I found myself interested in things that weren't delved into as much as I would've liked. The story is told from the POV of Grace Divine, teenage pastor's daughter and all-around Good Girl.
The Divine family deals with problems by not talking about them. Pastor Divine, his high strung wife, and their kids have never discussed what happened the night their foster son, Daniel, left...or what he did to their oldest son Jude that left him battered and bloody.
I thought the lack of talking about things that were hard was a believable trait in the family, because I know lots of people like that. Also, the Divines fishbowl world where they try to be good people and good Christians and are always under scrutiny was realistic. (You have to be in a pastor's family to really get that, I think. :)
I'm not overly invested in the character of Grace, but I found the character of Jude to be interesting because he has this simmering anger under his perfect son personae that was kind of fascinating. He's the good son from the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15), and I always found him to be intriguing.
And I really liked Daniel. He was a bad boy with an actual reason to be troubled besides a bunch of teenage emo angsty nonsense. He came from a supremely troubled and abusive background, and I agree with another reviewer that reading this story from his POV would've been more interesting. His quest for love, redemption, and control of his own demons was something I wanted to hear about from the inside.
Sometimes, I found the dialogue distractingly unrealistic. The overuse of "so" (as in, "I am so going to be late for Art class") was particularly noticeable. And there wasn't enough description, or the descriptions were sometimes just odd. (Grace keeps comparing her best friend to a puppy over and over again, and she often refers to Daniel's eyes as "mud-pie eyes." I know it's meant to evoke a deep, rich brown color but it was just weird to me. Eyes and mud shouldn't go together!)
I did enjoy the origin story for the Urbat, and maybe I'm dense but I didn't see the ending coming that others have said was obvious. I'm reading the sequel right now.
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