Thursday, July 18, 2013

ARC Review: The Chaos of Stars by Keirsten White

I read and enjoyed Paranormalcy and Supernaturally, but it was a long time ago (and apparently before I got a firm grasp of how to add images to reviews...which still applies, but...anyway...)

 I haven't read the conclusion to that trilogy, Endlessly, or White's  other recent book, Mind Games.  When I saw The Chaos of Stars, with its semi-dark poetic title and the promise of Egyptian gods I thought..."hey, sounds good to me!"

And look how pretty this cover is...
Cover reveal: THE CHAOS OF STARS by Kiersten White

Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up. Of course, as the human daughter of Egyptian gods, that pretty much comes with the territory. She’s also stuck with parents who barely notice her, and a house full of relatives who can’t be bothered to remember her name. After all, they are going to be around forever—and she’s a mere mortal. Isadora’s sick of living a life where she’s only worthy of a passing glance, and when she has the chance to move to San Diego with her brother, she jumps on it. But Isadora’s quickly finding that a “normal” life comes with plenty of its own epic complications—and that there’s no such thing as a clean break when it comes to family. Much as she wants to leave her past behind, she can’t shake the ominous dreams that foretell destruction for her entire family. When it turns out there may be truth in her nightmares, Isadora has to decide whether she can abandon her divine heritage after all.
*Goodreads summary*

First of all, it was a little bit of a mental shakeup to read about the Egyptian gods I knew so well from Rick Riordan's Kane Chronicles with totally different personalities. It took me a while to get acclimated.


Second, it's helpful if you know going in that this book is different than most YA paranormals/fantasies.


 I couldn't quite define what was different about it until I read Kiersten White's description:


"This is a weird book, a sort of hybrid contemporary-family-drama-romantic-comedy-coming-of-age-but-oh-yeah-also-with-Egyptian-gods creature."

(Quote from author's blog)

Exactly.


 For a good deal of the book, we're reading Isadora's feelings about and memories of her family, her thinking she's unloved and unimportant, and her reasons for refusing to love anyone. The "oh yeah, also with Egyptian gods" feels really accurate. Gods and goddesses are not the focus of this book at all, although Isadora relates a story from Egyptian mythology at the beginning of each chapter to illustrate how massively weird and screwed up her family is. The Chaos of Stars is much more about her journey to be brave and let her guard down, and allow herself to fall in love with Ry, who is a likable love interest.


There's a fine line when you're writing about an MC who is resentful and bitter. She can come across to the reader as a wounded character, one who is hiding behind anger and pushing people away for fear of being hurt again. That's sympathetic and understandable.

 OR...she can sound like a jerk.

Isadora most of the time has enough humor to land on the Not a Jerk side of the fence. But it was a close call and this is certainly a YMMV situation.  There were moments when her attitude was a bit much. That said, I always got what White was trying to do with this character. I just wasn't won over  by Isadora, even though I understood where she was coming from.


 While I didn't strongly dislike The Chaos of Stars, I also wasn't drawn into the story. It just wasn't my cup of tea.


*Review copy courtesy of Edelweiss. Thank you!*





sarah

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Tag Team Review: TEXAS GOTHIC by Rosemary Clement Moore





















Amy Goodnight knows that the world isn't as simple as it seems—she grew up surrounded by household spells and benevolent ghosts. But she also understands that "normal" doesn't mix with magic, and she's worked hard to build a wall between the two worlds. Not only to protect any hope of ever having a normal life.

Ranch-sitting for her aunt in Texas should be exactly that. Good old ordinary, uneventful hard work. Only, Amy and her sister, Phin, aren't alone. There's someone in the house with them—and it's not the living, breathing, amazingly hot cowboy from the ranch next door.

It's a ghost, and it's more powerful than the Goodnights and all their protective spells combined. It wants something from Amy, and none of her carefully built defenses can hold it back.


This is the summer when the wall between Amy's worlds is going to come crashing down

NOTE: My funny, brilliant, awesome writerly friend Hannah West and I read Texas Gothic at the same time.
Here's what we thought, minus a bunch of fangirly text messages back and forth :)

Hannah: I'll be honest: the first few pages were rough for me for a couple reasons: 1) I was too excited about the witches and cowboys mentioned in the cover copy to read it properly and realize the book was not based in the 1800s, and would not involve rough-and-tumble outlaws, whiskey, corsets, saloons, and the like. And 2) I had just bought it and was reading while clothes shopping with my mom, which aside from the mom part could be used to torture me for information (“OK, I’ll tell you where the super secret files are, please, please don’t make me go to Kohl’s”) However, once I located a chair in the fitting room and hit a reference to William Wallace, Texas Gothic wooed me fast and hard. 

Amy believes herself to be all that stands between the judgmental world and her weird family, the Goodnights, among whom she is the closest thing to normal. This immediately sets her up as loving and protective, yet practical. Her voice is effortlessly hilarious, smart, and relatable. Her sister Phin is also a charmer in such an offbeat way. Our introduction to her begins with, “Her strawberry-blond hair was coming loose from her ponytail,” and I thought here we go, bring on the typical popular older sister and all the jealousy issues her perfection provokes. But that clause was succeeded by, “possibly because she was wearing what appeared to be a miner’s headlamp. ‘I’m doing an experiment.’” And for the rest of the book my enchantment with this matter-of-fact researcher of paranormal physics did not fade one bit. She is flaky, brilliant, oblivious to sarcasm, and represents all of the Goodnight magic cooky-ness that Amy is unwilling to participate in and would rather keep in the peripherals of her life. 

Sarah: It might've taken a Braveheart reference to hook Hannah, but Clement-Moore had me when Amy described Phin as "Galadriel in an SUV." Be still, my nerdy heart. I loved Amy's POV so much. Fun fact: Ben McCulloch was the name of a real Texas Ranger who lived in the 1800s, but here he's the cowboy-next-door. And for those who are sick of instalove, I'd like to point out that Amy and Ben "meet cute" and then immediately dislike each other. It occured to me that their relationship is reminiscent of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett. Both guys are like "I think your family is nuts and you're too opinionated and you make me angry but I want to wrestle you down and kiss you breathless anyway." If you like your fictional couple to engage in some verbal sparring before they get to the kissing part, you'll enjoy the romance in Texas Gothic

As far at the plot goes: don't fret, faint-hearted readers. I was a tiny bit worried the book would veer toward the horror side of things. I'm not sure why. Maybe the darkish title and the (gorgeous) kind of intense cover? But I can honestly say I was never scared reading this book. Intrigued, curious, and interested? Yes. Freaked out? Never. The mystery Amy and her friends are trying to solve reminded me of an old Scooby Doo episode, minus the rubber masks and the "I would've gotten away with it too if it weren't for those meddling kids!" I don't mean that in a bad way, though. The mystery of what's going on with the Mad Monk wasn't the main attraction for me. It was the characters, and the search for answers about possible buried treasure and vengeful ghosts was just icing on the cake.

Hannah: A high point for me was the authentic portrayal of the Texan city girl by a Texan. We say y’all. We drink sweet tea. We two-step when country-er folk force us to. Some of us (including me) live in close proximity to cows and horses. But we are not hicks, rednecks or cowgirls. Our hair does not reach Guadalupe Peak elevation. And I’m with Sarah on the gorgeous cover and on the book being just fun. I didn’t expect it to be so funny yet heartfelt – and I had no idea I was really aching for that kind of read in the midst of all the epic fiction I gulp down. In part thanks to Texas Gothic, I’m realizing that there may be a broader spectrum of novels for me to enjoy. I’m very much looking forward to reading Clement-Moore’s more recent titles next. 

View Hannah's blog at hannahwestwriter.blogspot.com


sarah
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