The Hollow Bettle by Susannah Appelbaum

Hollow Bettle

There’s little joy left in the kingdom of Caux: the evil King Nightshade rules with terrible tyranny and the law of the land is poison or be poisoned. Worse, eleven-year-old Ivy’s uncle, a famous healer, has disappeared, and Ivy sets out to find him, joined by a young taster named Rowan. But these are corrupt times, and the children—enemies of the realm—are not alone. What exactly do Ivy and Rowan’s pursuers want? Is it Ivy’s prized red bettle, which, unlike any other gemstone in Caux, appears—impossibly—to be hollow? Is it the elixir she concocted—the one with the mysterious healing powers? Or could it be Ivy herself? (from Amazon.ca)

What I really liked was the world building. The journey Rowan and Ivy go through was well described and their encounters with different characters was well done. I loved the different settings and their adventure seemed to get even more exciting as the book was nearing to a close. How the setting came about, and the introduction to this story was well done. I liked how the setting was established, with a nice concise history on how King Nightshade came about. It’s almost told in a fairy tale narrative – which was well done, and there were plenty of witty phrases to enjoy (all throughout the novel as well). The idea of the bettles are interesting, but what I really liked was that the use of poison was all over the place in this land. It was different and I thought it was rather clever, definitely something you don’t see in a lot of fantasy middle grade fiction out there.

The characters in this book were also well done. Ivy and Rowan do make an interesting team. The plot was good, although a little slow moving at first. However once Ivy and Rowan teamed up on their journey, it got more interesting thanks to the different settings described, and the various memorable characters they encounter on their journey (Poppy really stood out! I thought it was cute).

The idea of this book is a creative one. It’s told with a nice whimsical flair to it, but it took a while to get used to this style of writing. I’m not sure why, but the pace seemed slower and with the writing style (perhaps it was a little too whimsical) the book just seemed to go at a snail’s pace. That being said though, I still thought it was an enjoyable book and it does pick up the pace after a third of the story. I’ll probably continue this series, I’d like to know what happens next, yet I’m not really in a rush to read it. I’d say take it or leave it with this book.

6 out of 10

Advertisements

Ruined by Paula Morris

RuinedRebecca Brown couldn’t feel more out of place in New Orleans, where she comes to spend the year. She’s staying in a creepy old house with her Aunt Claudia, who reads tarot cards for a living. And at the snooty prep school, the filthy-rich girls treat Rebecca like she’s invisible. Only gorgeous, unavailable Anton Grey seems to give Rebecca the time of day, but she wonders if he’s got a hidden agenda. Then one night, in a cemetery, Rebecca makes a friend. Sweet, mysterious Lisette is eager to show Rebecca the nooks and crannies of New Orleans. There’s just one catch: Lisette is a ghost. A ghost with a deep, dark secret and a score to settle. As Rebecca learns more from her ghost friend–and as she slowly learns to trust Anton Grey–she also uncovers startling truths about her own history. Will Rebecca be able to right the wrongs of the past, or has everything been ruined beyond repair? (From Amazon.ca)

What I loved most about this book was the setting. I love just about anything New Orleans. The setting was richly described and I loved the cemetery scene, and especially the Mardi Gras scene. Everything about the setting was wonderful and the book swept me away with it. I loved the ghost story as it fits hand in hand with the setting so you have this underlying paranormal feeling (although I think it’s not needed as New Orleans itself gives you that paranormal feeling anyways!).

I really liked Rebecca. I liked how her social status at her school didn’t matter to her and she went on with life however she pleased. I liked how she didn’t let snooty girls like Helena and Marianne dictate her life. Who annoyed me the most were Toby, Claire, and Amy. Toby because he was such a jerk and the urge to punch him in the face got stronger whenever he appeared in the book. Claire and Amy were immensely annoying because it felt as if they were with Rebecca out of convenience, and to have someone around to make themselves look better. I just couldn’t stand their chatter and the way they tried to make Rebecca look stupid (although Rebecca hardly cared less about what they talked about most of the time – which I thought, was cool and why I liked Rebecca even more).

I’d have to say, Anton started to grow on me. He did seem like such a nice guy and he fit the similar mold to Rebecca – that he didn’t care what others thought. So in that sense, they did look nice together.

The ghost story plot with Lisette was really interesting. It gave the story a good feeling of mystery and the setting helped a lot to give the plot a good creepiness factor. There’s also a nice rich sense of history behind the book and it’s well explained and thought out so it gives the reader a good comprehension on why things are like they are in the story. Although the mystery deepens as you progress through the book. The real action is at the last third of the book. The suspense really does build up – especially the Mardi Gras scene and I got so mad that these old families would ever think of such a thing to do against Rebecca.

What I particularly did not like is what in the world happened to Toby??!! he just disappears despite his actions??!!! I wanted him to get his comeuppance! I just thought the ending was a bit rushed.

Either way, the rich descriptive setting with a wonderful ghost story does make up for the shortcomings. It’s a well written book and well worth the read. It’s an excellent choice for those that like ghost stories or paranormal young adult fiction.

I give it 8 out of 10.

Cooking up Murder by Miranda Bliss

Cooking Up MurderAnnie and Eve are life-long best friends who have absolutely nothing in common-except a lack of skill in the kitchen. So when they sign up for a cooking class at the local gourmet shop, they figure the only things at risk are a few innocent fruits and vegetables. But on the first night, Annie and Eve see their fellow student Beyla arguing with a man-a man who later turns up dead in the parking lot. Now the friends feel bound to uncover whatever secrets she’s hiding, before someone else’s goose-perhaps one of their own-gets cooked. (From Amazon.ca)

This was a fun read!! I really liked the idea of a cooking class with two very hilarious funny ladies featured. Naturally, the reader knows where this is going, especially when you find out what kind of a sidekick Eve is.

Annie is a fun to read character, she’s come out of a divorce and she’s a disastrous cook. She has her own kind of natural charm, and I like how she is the opposite of what Eve is (sexy, a little on the airhead side, filled with plastic surgeries and possibly lipos). However Eve’s got her charm too – even though I found her at times a little too annoying and airheaded. It does provide for a lot of the comedy though, although I think her stupidity sometimes rubs off on Annie too.

The suspect list for this one wasn’t so large, which isn’t so bad. You aren’t really kept guessing as to who the culprit is. The case itself was not the best, and not the most exciting, but I think how Eve and Annie investigate really makes up for this as they’re always bound for disaster and it’s quite entertaining to read. The ending for this case wasn’t the best I’ve read. But nevertheless I thought it was all right. I do feel happy for Annie at the end, though.

The recipes in the back are worth a try, and they do look really good (have not tried it myself). However I’m willing to go for the next book only to be entertained with their antics and to see which disaster they’ll meet up with next! Fans of cozy mysteries will like this one, it’s a light right and easy to breeze through.

I give it a 6/10

Deryni Rising by Katherine Kurtz

Deryni RisingIn the kingdom of Gwynedd, the mysterious forces of magic and the superior power of the Church combine to challenge the rule of young Kelson. Now the fate of the Deryni — a quasi-mortal race of sorcerers — and, indeed, the fate of all the Eleven Kingdoms, rests on Kelson’s ability to quash the rebellion by any means necessary . . . including the proscribed use of magic! (From Goodreads)

I heard this is a very long fantasy series (which is still ongoing), although it is divided into sets of trilogies so the collecting and reading order is easier. There is a chronological order, and order by publishing date and it’s up to the reader which way to pursue.

I love how this book gives you a nice blend of magic, fantasy, and it’s setting is in a fictional version of the British Isles. This is nice because not only do you have a solid established setting without too much world building, but it also focuses more on the fantasy/magic aspect so you don’t have to worry much about the setting itself. Besides, I think a setting set in this particular time period is perfect for fantasy to blend into.

There is a little background history scattered here and there for the reader, to understand what the current world is going through so that it is more easy to understand. It’s very similar to the world where the Christian Church wielded immense power, and a small group of people (you could call them ‘pagans’ if you wanted to) are either under immense persecution or in hiding practicing their own beliefs. Just add magic to these small group of people and you have the Deryni. I liked this aspect of the book. It gave it a more solid feel, nothing flaky or whimsical about it.

It was also nice to see the magic was not over the top, although I’m not sure what to say about some spell incantations. (Especially during the ‘epic final battle’) The spells are said out loud, and it almost has a lyrical rhyme to it although it seems like the magic users just think of the words to the spells randomly as if they’re writing poetry. What irks me a little is since Kelson is technically a beginner when it comes to magic, how in the world did he manage to find the words to the spells? or is it just an innate skill they were born with? it’s like a poetry battle, the one who says the best lines wins. It’s different but I can’t help but think it’s a little childish, I thought it could have been much better.

The political aspect of the book is good and I enjoyed reading this. As a fan of intrigue in any royal court fictional or otherwise, it’s always nice to see a bit of political infighting, backstabbing, betrayal, and all the rest. It is a typical story plot of “Old King gets killed whodunit, younger inexperienced King comes in” but the writing style is good and the reader is kept interested with a rich assort of characters, the main ones with distinct personalities to make them easily identifiable.

The characters in the novel are well done. I liked how they were portrayed. My favorites would be Morgan, Kelson and Duncan. Kelson developed quickly and fast yet some parts of him still show he’s still a boy growing up. I like Morgan and Duncan because although they’re your average typical heroes, they make a great team. Charissa is the usual archetype of a villainess but her descriptions and personality fit the role well. The one character I did not like was Jehana, although she was a protective mother (overly protective) she annoyed me and her attitude was horrible. I liked how Kelson gave her a good tell off, it did put her back in her place as she was really starting to get to me during a certain part in the book. Towards the end, she still didn’t get any sympathies from me.

This is a good read, and I think it’ll be great for those who are into epic fantasy. Be prepared, it is a long series, and not completed yet. Rich in detail with an almost realistic setting it might also please those that like historical fiction, and who don’t mind the deviation from real history.

I give it an 8 out of 10.

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

Emerald AtlasKate, Michael, and Emma have been in one orphanage after another for the last ten years, passed along like lost baggage. Yet these unwanted children are more remarkable than they could possibly imagine. Ripped from their parents as babies, they are being protected from a horrible evil of devastating power, an evil they know nothing about. Until now. Before long, Kate, Michael, and Emma are on a journey to dangerous and secret corners of the world…a journey of allies and enemies, of magic and mayhem. And—if an ancient prophecy is correct—what they do can change history, and it is up to them to set things right. (Amazon.ca)

I thought this was going to be a light read filled with magic and other kinds of happy excitement. It actually was the reverse. It’s a bit darker than usual Middle Grade fiction, and it’s not as happy as I thought. However, it was still a decent read and worth the time spent.

The plot was quite detailed for a book that is targeted for a younger age group. It’s an interesting mix of several genres all in one. The time traveling aspect with photos is really interesting and I thought that was unique. The journey the three main characters undertake is also well done and fun to read. The setting is written in great detail, and it is evident there is a lot of effort and work placed in making this setting different.

The three characters have their own distinct personality. Kate is the eldest, who has way too much on her shoulders and I’m surprised she hasn’t keeled under all the pressure throughout the book – which is admirable, she’s extremely strong mentally and is a very protective towards her two younger siblings. Michael was a fun character to read, with his obsession with dwarves, I liked how he developed throughout the book. Emma was my favorite character though. She was the one with the punch, and the spark that kept this novel going. I loved her personality! she was the one with the memorable quotes and put downs, and she didn’t seem to be afraid of anything – although sometimes she did let things get to her head. She’s just as strong as Kate, however she doesn’t have a lot on her shoulders or enough to worry about – at least it doesn’t seem to bother her if she is faced with a situation. I’m not sure what to say about Dr Pym. I think I’d have to wait until the rest of the series pans out to get a proper opinion. I did take a liking to Gabriel though! he was a such a great character and provided the strong silent archetype in this book. (There seems to be a lot of archetypes in this novel, by the way).

It’s a long book, and sometimes the details in the book does slow the pace down. Although the time traveling idea was fun, how it was explained, and the consequences of it doesn’t seem to effect the characters or the storyline. Suddenly through the second half of the book, the plot seems to be extremely confusing and there seemed to be so many twists and turns through time that you can’t think straight and it feels like one jumbled mess. This is definitely a book meant to be slowly, for lack of a better term, ‘digested’ in order to get the main point across. There is just so much information to take in, that by the end of the book you’re still wondering if you really got the main idea. Or not. Another thing that bugged me were some of the characters just disappear and you don’t read up on them at the end. So what became of them? perhaps that question will be answered in the next book. (I hope so!)

I’d say this book is what you would call an adventure of epic proportions. It’s certainly not a light read, but one meant to be read slowly to take in the massive amounts of information, twists and turns through time, and all the action and adventure. Although a ‘heavy’ read, it’s still worth it and it was a great adventure with lots more to come.

I give it a 6/10

So Shelly by Ty Roth

So Shelly

So Shelly

Until now, high school junior, John Keats, has only tiptoed near the edges of the vortex that is schoolmate and literary prodigy, Gordon Byron. That is, until their mutual friend, Shelly, drowns in a sailing accident. After stealing Shelly’s ashes from her wake at Trinity Catholic High School, the boys set a course for the small Lake Erie island where Shelly’s body had washed ashore and to where she wished to be returned. It would be one last “so Shelly” romantic quest. At least that’s what they think. As they navigate around the obstacles and resist temptations during their odyssey, Keats and Gordon glue together the shattered pieces of Shelly’s and their own pasts while attempting to make sense of her tragic and premature end. (From Amazon.ca)

I’d have to say, before you actually dive into this book and enjoy it, to really *fully* enjoy this book to the maximum, it’s best if you familiarize yourselves with the Romantic Poets. Here I’m talking about the real famous ones: Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and John Keats. Make Shelley a female and then you get the main cast of So Shelly. It’s also best if you also take a quick read through of Lord Byron’s life just for the extra background information.

I absolutely loved this book. I loved the Romantic Poets and their transformation into three high school students in a contemporary setting was just amazing and very well done. At first I was skeptical because I haven’t seen this done before and thought this might be a flop. But it wasn’t. It was extremely well done and the portrayals of Lord Byron,and John Keats were great and I’d say, probably hit the bulls eye when it comes to accuracy (well, close enough). Although I can’t say the same for Shelley (since he became a she for this story). Still all three characters were really good and fun to read.

Byron really was the main star of this book. He was dashing, exciting to read, had a rather peculiar and rather dysfunctional life but it didn’t matter. He still oozed charm, and you couldn’t help but like him even though you knew he was a selfish self centered jerk that really was just out for himself. The things he’s done in the book might make you either shake your head, widen your eyes at his audacity, or just make you say: “Whatta guy”.

Yet there was also Keats, who was central to this story as well and the complete opposite of Byron. They become the odd couple yet manage to have an odd but interesting friendship. Byron takes the reins, and Keats just follows but it’s deeper than that as the story progresses. I liked how this developed, in fact, I really liked all character development in this book. The characters are very real and three dimensional – although Shelly not so much I wonder if it’s because she was made a girl in this book so she had to act differently? her development was there as well but I didn’t think it was as great a magnitude as the other two.

The plot was good, albeit slow. However, I think with this book, although there is a mystery behind it, the main focus was on the main characters and their relationships and dynamics. The plot was really secondary here. That being said, I don’t think the book is really for everyone. (Plus, there’s some content matter in there not really meant for younger teens, this is for the older teen bracket). Would I recommend this? yes and no. Yes, because I thought it was a good read however I myself love the poets mentioned. So perhaps this book would be best for those familiar with the three. Those new to this should give it a try anyway, but background information will help.

I give it a 9 out of 10.

The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

The Dark DivineGrace 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 his own 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 boy’s 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. (From Amazon)

I liked this book, it’s different, although a little slow moving. The plot does move slowly and gradually takes the reader along for the ride. Which is not too bad sometimes. I did like the writing style of the book. It is in some parts, a bit description heavy but I liked it because it gave the setting a rich detailed picture and gave the story more substance.

The actual plot and the origins of Daniel is one of the most interesting I’ve read. Yes, these types of paranormal monsters are overdone, but the origins behind Daniel and his history is definitely different and worth reading about – plus it got me reading into that kind of mythology. I have not come across something like this so far, so reading about this is definitely something refreshing and new.

There is a bit of budding chemistry between Daniel and Grace. It’s there but not quite as passionate or exciting as some of the other YA couples I have read in the past. Daniel does have a certain charm to him as a brooding bad boy and Grace being your typical smart good girl is a typical cliche romance and while yes, it’s been done before it’s not so overdone as their relationship starts to grow slowly – so it gives it a realistic feel to it. (No, they don’t fall in love overnight and declare their undying love a la Romeo and Juliet) (Which is good!)

Grace as a character and main heroine is ok…I did not have much of an opinion of her. She does not really stand out as some of the other main girls I’ve read in the past but she’s certainly readable, it’s just she does not stand out as much from the rest of them. Jude on the other hand got me really angry, he was a selfish twit and when it’s all revealed in the end the urge to stomp on his face was pretty strong. Oh and Pete. Wow you’re a jerk. A pretty handsome charming one, but still a jerk – which makes you ugly all of a sudden.

I’ll be picking up the next one because it’s got me all so curious about what’s going to happen next. This book is meant to be read slowly and to take things in slowly it’s worth a read through as although there are some things that are the same in every YA paranormal you see, there are some vast differences which puts this from the rest of the pack.

I give it a 7.5/10.

Side Note: The cover is nice…kinda. I hate feet so that just botches it up…..