Tag Archives: book review

thephoneix’s bookbag: The Wicked Woods by Kailin Gow (A review)


So this week I continued with my quest (mind you it’s a new one) to try books by authors that I haven’t read before. Now I’m not sure how long this quest is going to last before I dash back into the comfortable arms of my favorites, but hopefully I’ll get through the stack that’s currently resting on my desk. A girl can dream right?

Anyway this week I decided to go with Wicked Woods by Kailin Gow, whose Frost series I’ve heard such great things about. Despite my love for fairies/fae (I’m blaming Peter Pan), I decided that I would give Wicked Woods a whirl first and go from there.

Now Wicked Woods starts with Briony Patterson who finds herself living with her great Aunt Sophie in Wicked Woods, Massachusetts after the disappearance of her parents and younger brother. Apparently disappearances are the norm as it seems people tend to walk in the woods and never come back. Briony finds out pretty early that Wicked Woods seems to be a nexus where all types of creatures go bump in the night.

I got to admit I was curious to see where Ms. Gow was planning to take what had been a promising premise, but I found out soon (and I mean soon) just exactly what was going on in Wicked Woods. At times I was in disbelief at what seemed to be some kind of parody of Buffy right down to the forbidden love of slayer/vampire and geeky sidekicks. Without giving away anymore spoilers, from the one dimensional characters to the predictable plot, I was sadly disappointed in what promised to be something good. I sadly give this book a disappointing C, and frankly now I’m weary in trying out the Frost series. Still I sometimes find that an atuhor can surprise you when he/she writes something different.

So what did all of you think for those who read it?

I’ll see all of you next Thursday to discuss “Evermore” by Alyson Noel.

thephoneix’s bookbag: Switched by Amanda Hocking (A review)


I got to admit that whenever I’m in my local bookstore I always find myself in the YA section fascinated by all the gorgeous covers. I know I should probably at least read a few pages before making a final purchase, but yeah it usually boils down to the pretty cover. I know, I know it’s shameful, but come on who doesn’t fall for a pretty picture every now and then.

So last weekend I found myself in the same predicament and I stumbled across “Switched” by Amanda Hocking. I’ve never read one of her books before, but I was intrigued by the blurb, the cover, and strangely enough the font on the cover as well. Did I forget to mention that I’m a sucker for font as well?

Switched” starts off with main character Wendy Everly on the day of her sixth birthday where she finds herself facing off with her mother who literally thinks her daughter is a monster and aims to kill her. Fast forward eleven years later, and Wendy begins to fear that she is indeed the monster that her mother proclaimed her to be. Between discovering an ability that she never knew she had as well as thinking that the new mysterious boy might be stalking her, Wendy isn’t too sure what to believe in. Just when she thinks she’s finally found somewhere to belong, she finds out there’s more than a homecoming waiting for her.

Now I don’t want to give anything away, but I was definitely intrigued when I found out exactly just what and who Wendy is. After reading so many vampires and fairies book, it was a pleasure to see another magical being getting some time in the YA world. I would definitely recommend this book as a quick and pleasurable read. At times the pace was a bit too slow to me and the ending will leave you with two reactions…grumpy or eagerly searching out for the sequel. Either way I give it a solid B. So has anyone read this? If so, what do you think of it? And have you read the sequel, “Torn” yet?

Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

So, I recently told you about the newest and final Fablehaven book coming out.  I haven’t been able to bring myself to let the series end for me just yet, so I went back to the beginning and started the series over.

Fablehaven is about Kendra and Seth, a sister and brother who lost their beloved maternal grandparents in a bizarre accident, whose will leads to their parents being sent on a Scandinavian cruise—no kids allowed.  This means Kendra and Seth have to be sent to stay with their mysterious paternal grandparents, the Sorensons, who are rarely seen and live on a giant preserve in the middle of nowhere.

When they get to the preserve, they’re given some strict rules to follow, confining them to the house and the lawn, even though the Sorenson’s property is enormous.  The rules prove too much for Seth the adventurer to follow, and after a series of odd things happening, Kendra and Seth learn that their grandfather is the caretaker of Fablehaven, a special preserve for magical creatures of all sorts—both good and bad.

The kids start out protected, because magical creatures can’t cause harm or mischief to you if you’ve done no harm or mischief to them.  Unfortunately, Seth is well, mischievous.  Throw in a little well-intentioned mistake on a Solstice night, and suddenly not only is their grandfather missing, but a powerful enemy is loose in Fablehaven, an enemy who is bent on destroying the preserve, and possibly the world.  Kendra and Seth must do their best to save the preserve, and they have to be very resourceful to do it.

I love this book.  The whole series, really.  Kendra and Seth are an amazing portrayal of a true-to-life brother and sister relationship.  They’re hard on each other, but they’re at each other’s back immediately, and know when they’ve said too much or gone too far to hurt each other.  Seth has a nose for trouble, while Kendra is maybe overly cautious about some things.  Just in the book, though, they both learn a lot and grow as characters, finding a little bit of a middle ground.  Meanwhile, the magical creatures Mull paints for us range throughout beautiful, breathtaking and scary.  Wholly enjoyable.

I give Fablehaven a heartfelt A+.

Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer

I realize today’s post is more than a bit late, but I’ve only just finished The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella by Stephenie Meyer.  I have to admit, I took advantage of the free version at breetanner.com, though that made finishing the story a bit difficult when you had to reflip to the page you’d ended on whenever you went back to the webpage.  Considering I had no idea if I’d enjoy the book at all, though, I was more than grateful for the chance to check it out before buying the book.  (It’s free online through July 5th, by the way, and only 178 pages, if you want to read it online!)

So.  I only vaguely remembered Bree from the end of Eclipse.  She was our one look at a “newborn” vampire, and one that Bella looks at with a “I could turn into that” point of view.  We didn’t know much more about her, though, except that she wanted to suck Bella dry—not that that was exactly a new thing for non-Cullen vamps in the Twilight world.  Probably like a lot of people, my first reaction to hearing about The Short Second Life was… why do I care about her perspective?  Why should I care about Bree Tanner at all?

I have to admit, though, when I read the intro by Stephenie Meyer, and I read the tagline from the inside flap of the book of it being another story full of “danger, mystery, and romance,” I kind of got my hopes up. Maybe Bree really was going to captivate me and hold me by the throat the way Twilight first did.  I was starting to look forward to it, even though vampire books really aren’t my cup of tea, and this is the most vampirish of any of the Twilight stories.

Now that I’ve read the story, though… do I feel differently?  Honestly, I don’t know that I do, much.  I have to admit, I enjoyed Bree’s perspective.  She wasn’t whiny like Bella, even though she was still kind of a scaredy, and kept out of all the real action.  Her interaction with Diego was fun to watch, but so short-lived that I felt the “romance” tagline was forced at best.  In fact, the romance itself seemed a bit overrated, even by Bree.  She didn’t have time to fall in love with Diego properly, so her agony at the end of the story doesn’t truly hit home the way it would if the two had more of a real relationship.  That said, I did enjoy their interaction, as I said.  Once Diego was out of the picture, though, we get caught up in the one big stumbling point Twilight—or any first-person perspective—can’t help but have… we were stuck with Bree’s point of view, even when it may not have been the most interesting one.

But learn insight into what happens in Eclipse, we certainly did.  I don’t know that it’s as essential to understanding the novel as it claims to be—Eclipse would be a failure of a novel if it needed outside help after all, which it’s not—but it was interesting.  And it was refreshing to stumble back into familiar territory at the end of the novella, too.  I think Bree ended up a lot more human than Meyer ever implied newborn vamps could be, though, and a lot more rational, too, no matter how many times she’d derail her logical thinking by saying she couldn’t concentrate—I didn’t buy that, half the time.

So I guess I could say that I’m glad I read this.  But unlike the rest of the Twilight novels, I don’t honestly know that I’ll ever read it again.  It was nice to step back into that world for a minute, though, and I have to admit, I really, really loved Fred.  I wouldn’t mind seeing more of him, in the future.

I give you a B, Bree Tanner.  Maybe a B+, since a dollar of every book is donated to the Red Cross.  Is that cheating?  Yes, but hey, it’s for a good cause.  If you do read the book online, there’s a chance to donate there, too.  Don’t miss it.

Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

The second novel in the Percy Jackson series is in a lot of ways, more of the same.  Percy and Annabeth run away from a not-as-safe-as-it-used-to-be Camp Half-Blood along with a new friend Tyson, in order to save Grover, who is in perilous danger.

I can’t really say a whole lot about this book that I didn’t say about the first.  Riordan jumps from myth to myth to obscure mythological character in an action-packed way that is really fun to try and keep up with.  This book went much faster for me than the first, and truly did feel like a continuation of the same book.  My one criticism would be that you don’t feel very much as if Percy is developing as a character—he’s the same kid at the end of this book as he was when he started the first one.

That said, there is some sweetness to his relationship with the oft-rejected Tyson—a friend who turns out to have more of a connection with Percy than he first realizes.  There is also a lot of hinting going on towards what may come in the later books, which is really fun to catch on to.  Can the traitorous Luke actually be saved?  Is the big mysterious prophecy about Percy—and if it is, what does that mean?

And even if the characters aren’t developing a whole lot individually, the friendships between them and the overall climate between Percy, the gods, and his fellow half-bloods.  There are so many characters that are coming in and out of the story that it would be overwhelming—except that we already know almost all of them from mythology.  Meanwhile, there are a lot of gray-scale characters involved that are neither all good nor all bad—and grayscale is what I live read for.  So while I don’t feel as emotionally tied to Percy as I did to (sorry to draw the comparison) say, Harry Potter, and I don’t necessarily see him taking life lessons away from his experiences—I’m still really happy to be along for the ride.

Give it an A.

Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Want-to-Reads – 2010 Debut Authors

Like a lot of you, probably, I’m always on the lookout for new authors.  Sure there are a trillion books out there I haven’t read yet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t keep my eye out for one more, right?  Or two, maybe?  Here are a couple of 2010 debut authors whose first novels are ones I’m really interested in.

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

Sydelle Mirabil is living proof that, with a single drop of rain, a life can be changed forever. Tucked away in the farthest reaches of the kingdom, her dusty village has suffered under the weight of a strangely persistent drought. That is, of course, until a wizard wanders into town and brings the rain with him.

In return for this gift, Wayland North is offered any reward he desires—and no one is more surprised than Sydelle when, without any explanation, he chooses her. Taken from her home, Sydelle hardly needs encouragement to find reasons to dislike North. He drinks too much and bathes too little, and if that isn’t enough to drive her to madness, North rarely even uses the magic he takes such pride in possessing. Yet, it’s not long before she realizes there’s something strange about the wizard, who is as fiercely protective of her as he is secretive about a curse that turns his limbs a sinister shade of black and leaves him breathless with agony. Unfortunately, there is never a chance for her to seek answers.

I love the title and cover of this book… and I’m a sucker for mysterious strangers and unexplained preferences made by them… if that makes any sense.  I’m not always one for high fantasy, but I want to know this wizard’s secret and I’ve only read the back cover.

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

“A serial killer on the loose. A girl with a morbid ability. And the boy who would never let anything happen to her.

Violet Ambrose can find the dead. Or at least, those who have been murdered. She can sense the echoes they leave behind… and the imprints they leave on their killers. As if that weren’t enough to deal with during junior year, she also has a sudden, inexplicable, and consuming crush on her best friend since childhood, Jay Heaton.

Now a serial killer has begun terrorizing Violet’s small town… and she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.”

I love the twist to this story… Violet can sense echoes of violence… which leads her to be able to locate the bodies of murderers… and now a serial killer may be after her.  This is a high-stakes book, and I feel like my putting it off is like putting off Violet’s solving the case.  Weird?  Maybe.  But I want to read this.

Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie, is the sequel to Lament, a story about a girl named Deidre which I reviewed enthusiastically a while back, and Isabelle reviewed just a little bit ago.  Yes, it’s good enough that we both took a shot at it.

Somehow I was taken by surprise when I started reading this and found myself seeing through the eyes of James, Dee’s neurotic-but-quietly-awesome best friend.  I’d even read that it was from his POV, but that had been before I’d read either book, and some hopeful forgetful part of me had blanked it out and was waiting for more Dee.  It didn’t take me to see that Stiefvater definitely knew what she was doing when she decided that James was certainly capable of carrying his own novel—not to mention more than worthy of his own happy ending.

James is barely there in Lament—or really, no, he’s not, but it feels like he is, as the reader, through Dee’s perspective, generally takes him for granted, enchanted as she is by Luke and her own developing possibilities.  Ballad starts as James and Dee are starting their first year at Thornking-Ash, a musical conservatory that sneaking suspicion says has more to it than meets the eye.  Well, sneaking suspicion and that nightly song of the dead.

It doesn’t take James long to wonder just what the hell he’s doing there—he’s already the best piper (yes, bagpiper) in the state, and no one at the school—or even the surrounding area—has the expertise he’d require in a teacher.  He’s not kidding himself, though.  He knows he’s followed Dee there.  Dee, his best friend, who he carries a tortuous unrequited love for.  Dee, who saved his life from homicidal faeries the year before—but who still chose Luke, in her heart.  Dee, who refuses to talk to him about any of it, and avoids his company unless she’s looking for a distraction.

Meanwhile, someone else is distracting James.  Not an altogether welcome someone, either.  Nuala is a muse, offering unparalleled inspiration in exchange for very little—just the years of your life.  James is still pissed at what the faeries have done to both him and Dee, though, and isn’t about to make any deals, even if he is bored out of his mind.  Nuala sticks around regardless, though.  Even at a school full of musical talent, no one can grab her attention like James.  Eventually they start making music together anyway, with no deal being made, and James can’t help but be struck with how human Nuala is.  Well, not human.  But human-ish.  And as a side-bonus, she’s a slap in the face to Dee, which James can’t help but enjoy, just a little bit.  Things come to a head on Halloween night, though, when both Nuala and Dee are faced with death—and James can only choose to save one.

I can’t tell you how awesome this book is.  For some reason, I’m a bit fonder of Lament, but when the pure Awesome in the two books are compared, Ballad blows Lament away.  James is the most fascinating narrator I’ve encountered in a long, long time, and what he says out loud is only half as funny as the things he stops himself from saying.  As a reader you’ll find yourself fluctuating between hopeful and frustrated with his encounters with Dee, and I think the best scene in the book is the one where James realizes that there are different kinds of love, and that you can’t change that, even if you want to sometimes.  I won’t even start on the side story with James’ teacher, Sullivan, which I loved as much or more than the rest of it.

Besides all that, this book has the best ending line I’ve read in some time—a line I’ve been wanting to hear from YA fantasy for a long time, and one I wholeheartedly agree with.  A definite A+.

And so you know, we’ll be interviewing Maggie Stiefvater here for Fun Friday this week!  We’re so excited!

Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Forest Born by Shannon Hale

Ah, the Books of Bayern.  I have always been a sucker for a good series, and this is one of my faves.  The series starts with The Goose Girl, an adaptation of the Grimm’s Fairy Tale, about a young princess who, on her way to marry a prince from a foreign land, is betrayed by her handmaid, and is forced to flee and eventually become a goose girl in the palace of the kingdom where she was meant to become queen—where her handmaid is standing in her place.  Throughout the story, she learns the languages of birds, her horse, and even the wind itself.

Shannon Hale then takes the idea of learning the languages of animals and nature and spins it into a whole world, expanding from the characters she first introduced in Goose Girl.  My favorite of the series is Enna Burning, the second novel, which deals primarily with the language of fire, which I find utterly fascinating.  The third book, River Secrets, is not my favorite, but does definitely introduce some great characters, along with letting us see a whole new land.

Forest Born is the fourth novel, and the farthest character-wise that we get from the other books—the main character is Rin, the younger sister of Razo, who was the focus of River Secrets.  Rin is, as the title suggests, a Forest Born, never been to the city before, having lived her whole life in the small community of her family, deep in the forest.  She’s loved the trees and the solace of the forest for as long as she can remember—but now things have changed.  She feels that something is wrong inside her—she doesn’t feel at ease in the forest anymore, and the very trees that she used to turn to for comfort seem to be turning her away.

I have to admit, it took me a while to like Rin.  I’d had high hopes for her, because she’d made a little appearance in River Secrets, and she was such a striking character in that, that when I was looking through her eyes, I found myself a little disappointed.  She’s a character that holds back—everything.  Words, demands, even requests.  She’s not the easiest character to like, but I know Shannon Hale’s books well enough to know that even if I didn’t start out liking the girl, she’d turn into something fantastic—which is exactly what she did, and what the story is about, after all.

I was cheering for Rin by the end of the novel, excited for her as she learned to embrace parts of herself she was afraid of, things she was capable of that scared her.  I think that’s something  that’s not only relatable, but also empowering.  It reminds me of the quote from Marianne Williamson.  “Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is out light, not our darkness that frightens us.”  Rin is the embodiment of this quote, and she learns that being powerful is not always a bad thing—it depends on what you do with that power.  I ended up really enjoying this book, and there was a lot of interaction with characters from the previous books.  It was nice to see Rin absorbed into this sisterhood of “fire sisters” who we already knew and loved, and yet become a strong personality in her own right.

All in all, I’m going to give Forest Born a very strong B+.  Slow to start, but I loved it by the end.

Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

I can’t say enough good things about this book.

Incarceron is a prison the size of a world, complete with mountains and chasms, and living metal forests and townships and secret compacts.  Most of the inmates don’t even believe there’s an Outside—and even if there were, Incarceron is a closed system—nothing enters, and nothing leaves.  The prison itself makes sure of that.  How, you may ask?  Simple—it’s alive.

Deep in its recesses, though, is a boy named Finn, a “son” of Incarceron, a cell-born who is believed to have been created by the organic matter in the prison itself… except he’s sure he’s from the Outside.  Finn is a starseer, called by some a visionary or a prophet—but are these “visions” of the world Outside really his own memories?  When he comes by a crystal key that matches a blue insignia on his wrist, Finn’s already eager desire to Escape is escalated by something completely unexpected—communication with a girl named Claudia, from the Outside, who claims to be the Warden’s daughter.

With their separate allies and enemies, Claudia and Finn work together to try and solve the mysteries of Incarceron—including its hidden location, and of course, the gateway out.

The thing I love about Incarceron by Catherine Fisher is that there are no easy answers.  The riddles the characters have to solve aren’t simple wordplays, but really the characters around them—and all of them are intriguing shades of grey—even Incarceron itself.  There are the wise Sapients, but with wisdom comes obsession.  There is the cold and distant Warden, who is so skilled at hiding his own feelings that the reader can never be quite sure what he’s thinking.  There’s Claudia, who wants to help Finn escape, but is ultimately doing it to thwart her father and avoid an impossible betrothal.  And more than that, there’s the questions that Claudia and Finn are trying their hardest to answer—where is Incarceron?  And how does one escape from it?  And the worst question of all—is the Outside, where Time and Progress have been halted, and Protocol dictates the limits of a “perfect” age—is that any less of a prison?

The answers were breathtaking, and nothing I would have expected.   The construct of this book as a whole is beautiful, from cover to content.  I loved every minute reading it, and was thrilled to find a book that felt fresh and new, in a barricade of recycled ideas.  Fisher doesn’t limit what she’s allowed to do in this book, and the result of that is awesome.  Magic?  Impossible science?  Hocus pocus?  Sword-play?  Yes, it’s all there, with no apologies whatsoever.  It doesn’t even feel quite like a suspension of disbelief—she pulls the wool over your eyes so successfully.  This is a fantastic stand-alone book, but I’m beyond excited that there are plans for continuation here, because Incarceron’s secrets have only started to be revealed, and the world Outside is on the verge of a revolution.  I can’t wait to see it.

This has an unreserved A+.  I gave it five stars on Goodreads, but I would have given it seventeen, if I could.

Obtained: Via the friendly Public Library system.

Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

Grace Divine has always wondered what happened the night her brother Jude wandered home late, covered in his own blood—the night no one in her family will talk about—the night their friend Daniel Kalbi disappeared.  Now secrets that have been buried underneath time and religious votives can’t help but come to light—because suddenly Daniel is back, and not only that—but people are going missing.

Everyone knows that Daniel is bad news.  Her entire family is reluctant to so much as acknowledge his existence, much less invite them into their lives again.  When she sees him, though, Grace can’t help but recognize the boy she once knew… the one she once was madly head-over-heels for.  At first the remembering hurts—and she hates him for coming back into their lives and complicating things again.  The more she learns about his situation, though, the more she feels like it’s her duty to help Daniel step out of darkness and back into the light.  Isn’t that what her name means, after all?  Grace?

She has no idea just what it is that Daniel needs saving from, though, nor how awful some monsters can really be.  What she really doesn’t realize, though, is that it might end up being her own soul on the line.

I thought this was a fantastic debut book.   There were a few things that seemed a little slow and out-of-context, but they all fell into place as the book went along, and while you could definitely see one or two of the twists coming, there were others that took me by complete surprise, and made the reading fun and suspenseful.   The book is about religion and redemption, but not in any way preachy, and the themes really are fairly beautiful, more about finding and forgiving yourself than anything, and Despain was not at all afraid of pulling punches when it came to darker subjects.

Maybe the thing I enjoyed most about this book was the delicate balancing going on with the emotions involved.  Grace is coming to care for Daniel again, but at the expense of having her beloved brother pulling away from her, and shutting down in ways that she never expected or prepared for, which is more than she’s signed up for.  Jude is feeling betrayed on all sides, and turning to near-strangers and desperate measures, that may have more dire consequences than he realizes.  Meanwhile, Daniel wants the chance to apologize to Jude, but doesn’t feel completely worthy of it.  The brother/sister relationship is sweet, despite the things pulling them apart, and as someone overly-partial to her own brothers, that’s something that I really enjoyed reading—it isn’t very often in fiction that a brother/sister relationship is done so well.

And yeah… I fell for Daniel.   I really did.  The ending is left very open for a sequel—and set up in such a way that made me really excited at the possibility.  I don’t know if Despain is planning one or not, but I would happily snap it up.  This book gets a strong A- from me.  I acquired it through the magical Davis County library system.

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