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review: “captivate” March 24, 2010

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Captivate by Carrie Jones.
Bloomsbury // Hardcover // 288 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Zara and her friends ended the reign of Zara’s pixie king father at the end of “Need” by trapping him in a iron-barred mansion. Now, all they have to do is make sure no pixies escape and everything will be fine…or so they think. By trapping Zara’s father, they’ve made way for a turf war between neighboring pixies, and for other pixie kings. But when Astley, a pixie king, shows his good side to Zara — she begins to wonder if all pixies really are evil. And when the stakes are raised, siding with the pixies doesn’t seem so horrible after all…

I really loved “Need” and was really pumped for “Captivate.” I came out with mixed reactions to the sequel. Overall, I really enjoyed the story and the new directions — but I did have some major out-of-character moments.

Zara was much more wishy-washy in this book, and instead of the smart heroine I loved, I had to read about her boyfriend issues over and over again in the first half of the book. And I honestly thought I was going to scream the next time that Nick called her “baby.”

What kept me reading was the immediate chemistry and intrigue between Zara and Astley. I’m not sure that Astley is truly “good,” and I’m not sure that I want him and Zara to get together, but I was so invested and interested in their scenes together — a thousand times more than Zara and Nick.

Now, I had really enjoyed Nick in “Need,” but he was reduced to a boyfriend doing nothing but “protecting” Zara by un-empowering her. This really bothered me!

Issie and Devyn are the cutest friends in the world, and I am so glad to see that they are continually being included in the story instead of being dropped now that Zara has a boyfriend!

And as for the plot, the beginning of the novel is very slow and took me a while to get into. But the last 100 pages flew by and the cliffhanger ending left me already counting the days to the sequel. I will definitely be sticking around for the third book, but I do hope that the Nick from “Need” returns this time around.

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Carrie Jones

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review: “darklight” March 17, 2010

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Darklight by Lesley Livingston.
Harper Teen // Hardcover // 320 pages.
Reviewed from copy.

After the events of last Halloween, Kelley and Sonny are separated — Kelley is in the mortal world, working on a new play while Sonny is in Faerie, trying to rid it of the wild hunt. Trying to accomplish their goals and reunite with one another proves difficult for both Kelley and Sonny. Kelley soon discovers that she has a new enemy who is determined to murder her and she escapes into Faerie with Fennrys Wolf of the Janus Guard. But things in Faerie are not perfect and Kelley will have to be very cautious about who she offers her trust to.

I love the world that Livingston has created and the myths that she draws on when writing the Wondrous Strange books.

That being said, I felt like “Darklight” fell a little bit flat for me. I think part of it was that everyone hyped about the book. And that it definitely suffered from a middle-book-syndrome, where the author opens up more questions without answering any from the first book. Also, this is not a stand-alone novel. Readers will definitely have to be familiar with “Wondrous Strange” to read this book — and it should be fresh in their minds before reading this one!

I really liked learning more about some of the characters from the first book — particularly Fennrys Wolf, and Kelley’s parents. The climatic scene at the end of the book was my absolute favorite and the cliffhanger ending made me immediately look up the release date for the third book.

While this wasn’t what I expected, I think the book did continue Kelley and Sonny’s story. I will be eager to see where Livingston takes them in the third book. I am positive that once I read all three books in a row that the second book will be less jarring. These books are an easy sell for teens, and I definitely have fans in my library. I expect we’ll get more when we read “Wondrous Strange” for Teen Book Club this summer.

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Lesley Livingston

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review: “the dark divine” March 15, 2010

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The Dark Divine by Bree Despain.
Egmont // ARC // 384 pages.
Reviewed from ARC copy provided by publisher.

Three years after Grace Divine lost her best friend, Daniel Grigori, he’s finally returned to her high school. But Grace still doesn’t know what caused Daniel’s mysterious disappearance — only that it happened the same night Grace found her brother, Jude, on the porch covered in blood. Whatever secret Daniel is hiding, Grace finds herself drawn to him despite Jude’s obvious hatred for him. To make matters worse, the whole community is watching Grace’s family after one of her father’s parishioners passes away. With all the odds stacked against her, can Grace finally uncover the past?

Despain writes a strong debut novel that I really enjoyed. I finished the book in one fell swoop, and will definitely be picking up the sequel when it comes out. I immediately had teens in mind to sell it to at the library and eagerly passed on my ARC. Reviews from teens have been quite favorable — one girl begged for it for book club already. (We have to wait for paperbacks though, so not for a while!)

I really enjoyed the strong family life that Despain created in the novel. The complexities of faith, forgiveness, and guilt are explored throughout the novel without becoming overly preachy. And the siblings’ dynamics really intrigued me — Jude appears to be a fairly simplistic character as first and his character development surprised and please me.

The supernatural elements were well-done. I did not expect the twist that happens at the end of the book! YIKES. It left me reeling and desperately wanting the sequel.

And as for Daniel and Grace — it was so nice that they had a background prior to madly falling in love. Just knowing that they had been childhood friends made it that much more wonderful when they did fall for one another once he returned. (Also, that much more realistic and believable!)

Couple of weak moments of characterization. Grace’s friends basically disappear once the love interest is introduced, small flaws that will be improved with time and more writing experience.

Definitely one of the better paranormals I’ve read in a while. I look forward to whatever Despain writes next.

(Also! If you’ve read a published copy, can you enlighten me about the added scenes that tied in the cover, if you remember? Email readwhatyouknow[at]gmail[dot]com or leave it in the comments!)

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Bree Despain

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review: “betrayals” March 14, 2010

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Betrayals by Lili St. Crow.
Razorbill // Paperback // 304 pages.
Reviewed from library copy.

[Spoilers for the first book!]

Dru Anderson is still reeling from her father’s death, her best friend transforming into a werewolf, and the discovery that she’s not entirely human — she’s part vampire. Now at a school for all creatures supernatural, Dru’s supposed to be safe. But when have the school is attracted to Dru’s blood, there’s fights every single day, and Dru develops the sneaking suspicion that someone wants her dead — no one is truly safe.

I did wind up liking “Betrayals” better than the first book in the series, “Strange Angels.” The series still has some flaws, but I really enjoyed the character development, and the further world-building that took place in the latest installment.

“Betrayals” was an action-packed ride from beginning to end. Dru got into fight after fight, and I raced along with her to finish the book. Once I closed the book, I didn’t have a sigh of relief though — I was still wondering where Dru would be going next.

The character development is much, much better in this volume. Dru finally allows some of her walls to break down and readers are finally able to see beyond her tough girl exterior.

And, I finally felt like the love triangle actually showed up — both Christophe and Graves were present, and both seemed like viable boyfriends this time around. I’m actually okay with either of them being with Dru — each one has pluses and minuses.

I will definitely be picking up the third book when it comes out this summer, but will be getting it from the library still. A great improvement from the first book.

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Lili St. Crow

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review: “shadowland” March 11, 2010

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Shadowland by Alyson Noel.
St. Martin’s Griffin // Hardcover // 368 pages.
Reviewed from library copy.

[Spoilers for the first two books.]

I was not a fan of this book.

When I read “Evermore,” I was pretty excited about the series and where it would lead; the series had room to grow and evolve from its steady beginning. “Blue Moon” was slow, and dragged a bit, but I was still interested and figured Noel would wrap up the story in the third and final volume, “Shadowland.” Then, the contract was extended from just a trilogy to an unending series. (As of this writing, there are two more books planned and titled.)

Ever hasn’t grown at all throughout these three volumes. She makes the same mistakes over and over again. She infuriates me over and over again. Damen seems washed out from his characterization in the first volume, a shadow of himself.

Haven and Miles (Ever’s friends) have become caricatures of themselves, popping up only as mild comic relief during Ever and Damen’s drama.

I never liked Roman, and felt like he was thrown in during an “oh, I killed Drina, I need a villain moment.” And now we have a similarly dropped in character in Jude, who is also part of Ever and Damen’s past, now here to change their relationship.

So much of the plot was a twisty rollercoaster ride that I often lost track of which turn I was in.

My older teen readers have lost interest in these books, and my younger teen readers aren’t ready for the mature themes. I don’t even know who to sell this series to anymore.

I still think Noel writes well, and that the covers for these books are truly amazing. I might be willing to try one last time for “Dark Flame” in June, but at this point (months after reading “Shadowland”), I’m frankly not liking the idea of reading another book about Ever.

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Alyson Noel

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review: “deadly little lies” March 7, 2010

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Deadly Little Lies by Laurie Faria Stolarz.
Hyperion // Hardcover // 304 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

[Spoilers for Book One — Deadly Little Secret.]

Camelia and Ben have parted ways, and Camelia is heartbroken. Trying to remain close to him, she’s been studying psychometry — Ben’s psychic gift that allowed him to save her from a stalker last fall. But it appears that Camelia isn’t out of danger yet — she soon begins receiving cryptic notes and living through truly spooky situations. And while Camelia wishes she had Ben around, she starts to suspect if Ben might be behind all this when he comes back into her life.

I’m going to be utterly honest here — this novel was basically a slightly tweaked version of book one in the series. Camelia was in danger, she didn’t know who to trust, she didn’t try to get help from anyone, and she made a lot of the same mistakes.

I was so disappointed that the story didn’t move further. I feel like a lot of pressure is placed on authors to turn around one book per series per year. (You can see this in Alyson Noel’s “Immortals” series — the faster she had to write the books, the worse they keep getting.) And I feel like the “Deadly Little” series is suffering from the same kind of issues.

Camelia doesn’t strike me as a very strong heroine, and it really bothered me that she didn’t make any changes when it appeared that she was once again being stalked.

I still think that Ben and Camelia have a better relationship than other paranormal romances, but the series is seriously losing steam for me — and it’s only book two.

I’ll be reading the third book, but I might be throwing in the towel if it doesn’t improve.

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Laurie Faria Stolarz

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review: “ballad” March 1, 2010

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Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater.
Flux // Paperback // 360 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

After the events of “Lament,” James and Dee begin their school year at the prestigious Thornking-Ash Conservatory — a school for only the most talented musicians. While Dee is struggling to make sense of recent events — James is trying to get over Dee. But the faeries aren’t ready to leave James alone. When Nuala arrives, attracted to James’s musical gift, James is in danger all his own — especially when he begins to care for Nuala.

First of all, I will not call this book a sequel — it is a companion novel. Think “Ink Exchange” to Melissa Marr’s “Wicked Lovely.” Dee is there, but this is not her story — it is James’s.

I really enjoyed this novel, but I enjoyed “Lament” more.

Don’t get me wrong, I love James. I think he is absolutely fabulous as a character and I would *definitely* read more books about him.

Part of the reason that I didn’t enjoy “Ballad” as much is because I was expecting a direct sequel instead of a companion novel. (Which is my fault, and not the book’s.) But, the other reason is because I never connected with Nuala. It makes sense that I would difficultly connecting to Nuala because she is a faerie, but I didn’t have nearly as good as a grip on her character as I did with Luke in “Lament.”

Other highlights: James’s roommate and teacher. I loved the new supporting characters we were introduced to and I hope to see more of them. I absolutely loved how Stiefvater explained why the faeries were drawn to the students because of their musical talent. (I don’t remember if this was explained in “Lament” or “Ballad,” honestly, but I still love it.)

Nuala’s history and faerie destiny were simply fabulous and I love the way that the book ended. It left me with a wide smile on my face and fingers crossed that Stiefvater would be writing another faerie tale after finishing up the “Wolves of Mercy Falls.”

Definitely recommended, but make sure you realize this is a companion novel and not a direct sequel.

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Maggie Stiefvater

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review: “lament” February 24, 2010

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Lament by Maggie Stiefvater.
Flux // Paperback // 336 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Deirdre has played the harp for years, despite her fearsome stage fright that has her throwing up before every performance. And while she’s preparing for a music competition, she meets Luke Dillon — a flautist. Together, they play an amazing memorable performance right before Luke disappears again. Mysterious people, four-leaf clovers, and powers start appearing in Deirdre’s world and she knows just two things. One, that Luke is somehow involved and two, that’s she in some kind of danger. The problem is that Deirdre doesn’t realize just how much danger she’s in.

I absolutely loved both “Lament” and its sequel “Ballad” (review coming right after this one).

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of paranormal/urban fantasy/supernatural romance, right? So, this book was basically a no-brainer for me — I knew I had to have it the second I heard about it. (And for the sake of this minor discussion, I’m just going to keep calling the genre “supernatural romance” like I have it in my tags.)

Anyways, this genre has a basic formula: girl meets guy, there is romance, there is supernatural happenings. No one gets to credit inventing the genre. And no one is ripping off the basic formula from another author. What really sets supernatural romance apart — good writing, relatable character, mythology research, strong world building, non-stalker boys — is what I found in “Lament.”

(Yeah, you thought I had disappeared on a tangent, admit it!)

I immensely related to Dee — I used to have the worst stage fright in the whole orchestra! And let’s not talk about my first and only vocal solo where I promptly finished my part and ran off the stage to use the facilities.

And as amazing as the faerie world is (and it is!), what really and truly impressed me about “Lament” was Dee’s human life, particularly her family. There is an excellent backstory that would be really spoilerish to talk about, so I’ll just say that it serves as such a great underlying backbone to the story and I would really like to hear more about those events.

I would be remiss not to mention Luke (Dee’s love interest) and James (Dee’s best friend). Luke was a bit more developed, but since I knew James would have his own story in “Ballad,” I overlooked James’s lack of development in “Lament.”

Near flawless writing and a great story makes this a perfect buy for libraries with supernatural romance fans.

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Maggie Stiefvater

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review: “fallen” February 16, 2010

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Fallen by Lauren Kate.
Delacorte Books for Young Readers // ARC // 464 pages.
Reviewed from an ARC, provided by publisher.

Luce might be going crazy. She sees shadows and is starting to believe that they were the cause of the fire that killed her boyfriend. So, her parents ship her off to boarding school where she meets Daniel Grigori and her life changes forever. To add to the crazy, Luce is convinced that she knows Daniel — even though he assures her that they’ve never met. Drawn to him for some unseen reason, Luce is determined to be with Daniel no matter what.

If you’re ready for another YA paranormal with undying love — this is the book for you. But if you’re feeling burnt out on mystical love and unusual circumstances — I’d skip “Fallen.”

The book has an interesting premise that suffers from the long, drawn-out set-up. And just when things start to move, we launch into a whirlwind ending that leaves more questions than answers. As I closed the book I was equally torn between immediately wanting the sequel or throwing the book across the room.

However, I will be reading the sequel. Why?

1. I felt like Luce was more tolerable than other female leads in this situation. She wasn’t a particularly strong character, but I was willing to give her more slack given that her boyfriend just died in a fire that she was involved in. That’s enough to rock any teen into being a more meek version of themselves.

2. There was a reason that Daniel and Luce experienced an immediate deja-vu connection. (It will probably be obvious to adult readers, but teens might miss it.) And it had nothing to do with the scent of Luce’s blood.

3. The mythology of the world/book is intriguing and I can see that Lauren Kate did a lot of research into it.

4. The writing and atmosphere of the book were enough to save the plot holes for me.

So, yes, I purchased it for my library (and recommend it for public libraries with large paranormal followings). My teens are trading it back and forth — it’s a hit for them. But adult readers beware — it’s not my favorite paranormal romance.

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Lauren Kate

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review: “hush hush” January 22, 2010

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hushhush

Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick.
Simon and Schuster // Hardcover // 400 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

[Um, spoilers if you’ve never seen the cover of the book.]

Nora’s always been a model student — she’s got a good head on her shoulders. Which is why no ones understands her fascination with Patch, the town’s resident bad boy. When Nora and Patch are paired up as biology partners, Nora finds that she can’t stay away from him. And when her life take a dangerous turn, Nora begins to wonder what Patch’s role is in all of this — and what her own role might be.

I have a few complaints about “Hush Hush.” My main complaint is that the “mystery” is spelled out on the cover. You want to know who’s behind the weird happenings around town? Who’s bothering Nora? Just close the book, the answer will be there.

(This is not to say that I don’t like the cover. In fact, the cover was what drew me to the book. But after reading it and going through nearly the entire book before Nora actually discovering that Patch was a fallen angel? Are you kidding me? I was annoyed.)

There are specific similarities between “Hush Hush” and “Twilight.” Obviously, biology partners and all. I’d be a bad reviewer if I didn’t point it out.

However, there is more than enough material here to make this book a unique contribution to YA paranormal. I’m very interested to see where the next part of the story will go (Fitzpatrick has a sequel already set for fall of 2010), especially now that we’ve been let in on the secret and the mythology of the story can be explored.

My advice for this book? Sit back and enjoy the ride. Don’t over-think it!

Recommended for public libraries with paranormal readers.

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Becca Fitzpatrick

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