Tag Archives: ya book review

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.

Book Geek Wednesday: We Geek over Ballad

Okay, so yesterday we put up a review of Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie by Maggie Stiefvater, who we’ll be interviewing on Friday.  A few days before, Isabelle and I geeked out about the book on instant messenger.  This is the result. 🙂  We didn’t get super in-depth about the book, I admit, but we did squee… a lot.  This might be the tiniest bit spoilery, so be warned!

Isabelle: I loved Ballad
Isabelle: the idea that the muse killed the men she inspired
Isabelle: So awesome.
Isabelle: So brilliant.
Lisa: hahaha
Lisa: I loved James.  Oh man.
Isabelle: I figured you would
Isabelle: LOL
Lisa: ROFL
Isabelle: He was sooo… you.
Lisa: hahahaha
Lisa: YES.  He was.
Isabelle: I did have a soft spot for him though.
Isabelle: I’ll admit.
Isabelle: And I was VERY angry when Dee kissed him.
Lisa: Yeah.
Isabelle: I mean, how cruel
Isabelle: that whole pull and tug relationship was just brutal to watch
Isabelle: /read
Lisa: I mean… I almost wanted her to give in and be with him.  But when she started crying, I was just like… hell no.
Lisa: I loved it. hahaha
Isabelle: I know, me too.
Isabelle: We’re such sadists.
Isabelle: ha ha
Lisa: True.
Lisa: Because really, I didn’t like Nuala a ton… I just wanted James happy.
Isabelle: Nuala struck me as very unfae
Isabelle: She was so typical teenage girl it was kind of weird
Isabelle: I know that was the point… lure prey and all that… but it seemed so odd…
Isabelle: I LOVED the teacher.
Isabelle: He just fascinated me.
Isabelle: There was so much about him in general that worked for me… and then when he talked about his old experiences I kind of got shivers and was like, poor dude.
Isabelle: He’s wayyy too familiar with the folk
Lisa: I was picturing him as Ed Quinn…. I’m a sucker for Ed Quinn.
Lisa: Side note—he’s who I wanted for The Time Traveler’s Wife, too… but he’s a bit too old to play the younger years.
Isabelle: I loved that James played bagpipes. I don’t know why but that made him like really cool in my book
Isabelle: lol
Isabelle: Oh… and weird creepy roommate hearing the names and the song.
Isabelle: That whole plot line. FASCINATED me
Lisa: Yeah, I ended up really liking the roommate.
Lisa: Yeah.
Lisa: I LOVED the Ophelia conversation.  Oh my goodness that was my favorite thing in the book.
Isabelle: OH i know!
Isabelle: SO fitting!
Isabelle: That was a really great scene.
Lisa: That where he realizes that she DOES love him, just not the way he wanted… killed me.
Isabelle: I know. The poor kid. He was really so hung up on her.
Isabelle: I mean, even in Lament, where he sends her that last text.
Isabelle: Guh.
Isabelle: Too much.
Lisa: Yeah.
Isabelle: It makes my heart hurt for him.
Isabelle: And I don’t even really fully feel Nuala was right for him.
Isabelle: Though I was glad he was no longer caught up on Dee.
Isabelle: I think Nuala was just… there at the right time and could share something he was really passionate about…

So… maybe not the most professional review we’ve done, and I have to say, I do like Nuala… especially what she turns into and how she develops, she just takes some getting used to.  Anyhow, be sure to come back for our interview with Maggie on Friday!

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: 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.

Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Silver is for Secrets by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Stacey Brown has finally graduated and is looking forward to a nice, relaxing summer renting a beach house with her boyfriend and good friends, but that is all put off-kilter when she meets Clara, a somewhat ditzy, unfortunately boyfriend-snatching younger girl who Stacey senses strongly is in trouble.

Clara has secrets that could end up being deadly for her, and as little as Stacey and her friends like the girl, she can’t turn her back on her and let her die, either.  But at the same time Jacob, the one person Stacey should be able to trust more than anyone, is keeping secrets from her, too, and between that and Drea and Ambers hatred for Clara… well Stacey can’t help but feel a little on her own.  With the added stress of once again having someone else’s life in her hands, the secrets are a bit too much to have to handle.

Admittedly, this book makes the least sense plot-wise of the series so far.  The misdirection Stolarz implements so masterfully in Blue is for Nightmares and still-convincingly in White is for Magic is a little too willy-nilly and easy to see through here, and doesn’t end up leading anywhere at all in most cases.  I didn’t really mind, though, as book three brought back the scared-to-turn-the-light-off creepiness of the first book, even maybe turning it up a notch.

I’m also continually impressed by Stolarz’ portrayal of friendship.  Stacey, Amber and Drea are three very different girls, but they have the kind of friendship anybody could wish for, and a bit more believable and organic than something like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, for example.  Drea and Amber nitpick each other to death, but when someone else picks at them they back each other up like siblings.

Jacob and Stacey’s relationship grows really nicely in this novel, also, and it’s interesting to see these characters in a slightly more adult environment, and to see Stacey interacting with Chad (her ex, and Drea’s boyfriend) and to see how relationships grow and change.  Again, the friendships are my favorite thing in this series, and I’ll use the word organic one more time, because that’s how genuine they feel.  It’s really the highlight of the books, and why I’m so eager to move on to Red is for Remembrance (which my library is currently holding for me, yay!)

Silver does not by far end on a happy note, and there is quite the cliffie at the end, but if Red is about what I’m hoping it’s about… well I’m certainly interested in seeing how it plays out.

Silver is for Secrets gets an A from me.

%d bloggers like this: