Book: Paranormalcy
Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: August 31, 2010
Source: Borrowed ebook from library
Series: Paranormalcy #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evieâ??s always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, 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 still. Normal.

Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie’s dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

First impressions: I have to admit that with the number of people hoisting accolades upon Evie, I didn’t want to like her. Or this book. Evie is like the super-popular girl at your new school that everyone says is so nice, but you don’t believe them because anyone that popular, and pretty, and cool, cannot possibly also be nice.

But I can admit when I’m wrong. Evie is amazing.

Lasting impressions: The plot may be forgettable, but Evie and Reth and Lend are not. Or Lish. Or Raquel. Or David. Let’s be real – the characters are what make this one.

Conflicting impressions: What happened in this book? I read it a week ago. This shouldn’t be hard.

*thinks*

Hm. Evie wears pink boots? She meets a boy? A girl is on fire?

That’s all I got.

Overall impressions: Despite the fact that my brain has turned to mush and I can’t recall how this one ended (or, maybe, much of what happened in the middle), I do know that I liked it.

Evie is a force to be reckoned with, but not in the butt-kicking way you would normally associate with strong heroines. No, in Evie’s case, it is entirely based around her strong personality. I dare you to read 5 sentences of this book and NOT be able to tell me everything about her. Trust me when I say that you know who she is immediately, and that is always a great thing.

Kiersten White’s gift is writing strong characters. Each one of them, though colored by Evie’s perceptions, is full and vibrant. In fact, even the ones that Evie likes (Reth) can still be so forceful that I can make independent judgments about them. (RETH.) This may be Evie’s world, but we can still tell who is bad news. (Reth. RETH. RETH!!)

Ahem. So let’s talk about Reth, shall we? It’s not like I have strong feelings about him. Or feel the need to beat him to death with his own shoes.

Okay, I lied. I do have both of those things. I hate Reth, AND I want to beat him with his shoes. He is cocky, obnoxious, creepy, inconsiderate, rude, and a severe violator of Evie’s freedoms and personal space. He carts her off to his house and traps her there, touches and kisses her when she doesn’t want him to do so, and somehow the simple fact that he is an ex-boyfriend is supposed to make this okay? He’s a fairy, which earns him negative bonus points, and I wish he was not in this book.

I hope I’m being clear as to how I feel.

Even with Grossy McStabintheeye, the book is still enjoyable. I’d rather have strong feelings about a book than no feelings at all. Evie is delightful, even with her tacky style (hot pink boots and zebra print, I’m looking at you), and I adored her main love interest, Lend. Their relationship moved at a snail’s pace, which I thought made it that much more authentic. Throw in charming side characters and a unique setting, and this is one cute book.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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Review: Starstruck by Cyn Balog

Sep
12
1 COMMENT • This post is filed under: 3 stars

Book: Starstruck
Author: Cyn Balog
Publisher: Delacorte
Release date: July 12, 2011
Source: ARC for review from Books with Bite Book Tours

Summary: (from Goodreads) Gwendolyn “Dough” Reilly doesn’t think she has much going for her â?? she carries a few extra pounds, her family struggles with their small bakery in a town full of millionaires, and the other kids at her New Jersey high school don’t seem to know that she exists. Thank the stars for her longtime boyfriend, Philip P. Wishman â?? or “Wish.” He moved away to California three years ago, when they were 13, but then professed his love for her via e-mail, and he’s been her long-distance BF ever since.

At the beginning of her junior year, though, Wish e-mails that he’s moving back to Jersey. Great, right? Well, except that Dough has gained about 70 pounds since the last time Wish saw her, while Wish â?? according to his Facebook photos â?? has morphed into a blonde god. Convinced that she’ll be headed for Dumpsville the minute Wish lays eyes on her, Dough delays their meeting as long as she possibly can.

But when she sees Wish at school, something amazing happens. He looks at Dough like she’s just as gorgeous as he is. But Wish is acting a little weird, obsessed with the sun and freaked out by rain. And the creepy new guy working at the bakery, Christian, is convinced that there’s more to Wish’s good looks than just healthy eating and lots of sun. He tells Dough that a mark on Wish’s neck marks him as a member of the Luminati â?? an ancient cult of astrologers who can manipulate the stars to improve their lives. Is Wish and Dough’s love meant to be â?? or are they star-crossed?

First impressions: Gwen/Dough is a fantastic narrator. She shows us who she is from the moment we meet her. She’s funny, sarcastic, a bit down on herself, but able to handle anything thrown at her without losing sight of the big picture. There’s no unnecessary drama here.

Lasting impressions: The realistic elements of the story were more meaningful than the paranormal Luminati stuff. I wish the astrology part had been introduced sooner so it didn’t seem like it was tacked on to the back end of an otherwise interesting contemporary.

Conflicting impressions: I don’t have very specific complaints, as the whole story was enjoyable. I think it could have been great, instead of just good, if we’d gotten some more development with Christian and the Luminati lore.

Overall impressions: Overweight and poor, Dough is resigned to a life in the shadows. Her best friend Wish moved away, leaving her to fend for herself in her mom’s bakery, and the pounds added up after snacking on donuts all day every day. Now that Wish is headed back to town to be her in-person boyfriend and not just a long-distance boyfriend, she’s panicky at the thought of him seeing her bloated new body.

It’s a fear that hit home for me, and I understood Dough’s plight. Her oblivious mom keeps buying her shapeless, cheap clothing, and they can’t afford for her to get even a decent, flattering haircut. All the cards are stacked against her.

We spend a good portion of the first part of the book gearing up for the inevitable showdown with Wish…but it amounts to nothing. He’s not horrified (not that we expected him to be, nice guy that he is), and the in-crowd seems to accept her without much thought. This is where I think the conflict could have been turned up to really make things more interesting. We expect Wish to be the nice guy, so why not have him react poorly to her looks? Do we really think the popular crowd would be so into a guy who has been MIA for most of their formative years that they’d gladly accept a loser like Dough? I’m not saying they had to be complete archetypes, but some of the more expected behavior would have made things more interesting for Dough and Wish’s relationship.

Throwing a wrench into things is the new bakery worker, Christian, who seems to have an idea of what’s “off” about Wish. Trouble is, other than a passing comment from Dough, Wish isn’t really all that suspicious with his behavior. When Christian finally spills about the Luminati, it kind of seems ridiculous instead of being dangerous.

The action ramps up in the last part of the book, but suffers from the mistakes of Mockingjay in that Dough winds up unconscious during key points in the final scenes, thus denying the reader the chance to see how she gets out of her perilous situation. This was another big letdown for me.

I did like Dough enough to gobble this book in a few quick hours, and I appreciated the unique and fresh astrology elements. If you’re interested in exploring love and insecurity, with a dash of paranormal, this is the book for you.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Sep
08
10 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: 5 stars

Book: The Name of the Star
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release date: September 29, 2011
Source: ARC received from Around the World Tours

Summary: (from Goodreads) The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

First impressions: Rory is an incredibly friendly and authentic narrator. Her voice really drew me in, though I had a hard time picturing her with a Louisiana accent.

Lasting impressions: Jack the Ripper mystique aside, this is a good old fashioned paranormal murder mystery, and I loved every minute of it.

Conflicting impressions: As much as I liked Rory, she seemed a bit generic at times. I’m not sure I could tell you one unique quality about her, other than that she comes from an eccentric community in Louisiana.

Overall impressions: Oh good Lord did I gobble this one up! No, not just gobbled – devoured. This was no simple “Hmmm, wonder what’s going to happen next?” It was “OHMIGOD I WILL KILL YOU IF YOU MAKE ME STOP READING THIS.” I would count down the minutes on my commute and lunch hour, racing to flip pages as quickly as possible so I could find an appropriate stopping place.

There was no appropriate stopping place. It was too good to stop reading. Ever.

The summary pretty much says it all – girl moves to London for boarding school in the midst of a Jack the Ripper copycat spree and winds up entangled in the investigation while discovering an interesting paranormal element. So we have lots of things I love: 1) boarding school setting; 2)murder investigation; 3) Jack the Ripper history/trivia; and 4) paranormal activity. I fainted from swooning the moment I first read this book’s jacket copy.

Believe me when I tell you it delivers in pretty much all of these categories. Rory’s school is typical – grand buildings, quirky roommates, cute boys, skirted uniforms, and lots of studying. The murder mystery unfolds at a nice pace, with clues that stuck out upon reveal but weren’t too intrusive when introduced (these are the best kind, in my humble opinion). There was lots of good Jack the Ripper information shared as the investigation went on, and when Rory discovers her new powers play a distinct role in catching the killer, I was fully on board.

Whatever unique qualities Rory may have been lacking were more than made up for with Maureen Johnson’s breezy writing and distinct side characters. Everyone and everything seemed so natural and real that I bought in to the world completely without it ever seeming gimmicky. The tension and pacing worked seamlessly to pull me along through the plot, and around every corner there seemed to be something new and interesting to keep my full attention. Add in the Ripper timeframe counting down the days to the next kill and I was hooked.

This book requires a strong will to put it down, but enough entertainment to make you want to prolong the agony. Balancing fun, light characters with dark, terrifying events, this book is pure magic. You need to run out and get your hands on this one.

Now.

Rating: 5/5 stars

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A fan of historical, dystopian, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, mystery, steampunk, and young adult fiction, as well as any book that thinks smartly and imaginatively.

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