Monday, December 20, 2010

Spun by Sorcery by Barbara Bretton

The third installment in the Sugar Maple Chronicles does not fail to please. Sugar Maple disappears! and forces Chloe, Luke, Janice & Penelope to Salem to look for answers. We learn a lot about the history of the people of Sugar Maple, why they left Salem & who stayed behind. Chloe also learns more about her family and about herself.

Although this could have easily been the last in the series, Bretton leaves us with a teaser that can not be the end :)

Overall, I enjoyed this installment. There were a few places where the story dragged and then others where things moved so fast I had to slow down my reading to take it all in. However, if you enjoyed the first two books in this series, you should certainly enjoy this one.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bleed by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Sorry, didn't like this one. I've read the Blue is for...series, and while it was a bit juvenile in content, there was something compelling about the series that kept me reading. While I did finish Bleed, I don't know why I did. I tried to like it, but all the juvenile content was there without that extra incentive to keep reading. Each chapter is about a different character, but all the stories overlap in some way. All the characters are somewhat flawed, but the flaws don't make every one sympathetic. I found most of the characters hard to like and even failed to appreciate the obvious humor in one chapter. It's too full of teenage drama, backstabbing and angst for anyone who appreciates the YA genre for the quality of the story.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Spellmans Strike Again by Lisa Lutz

Izzy and family are back with more outrageous dysfunction!

The family is up to their old tricks--snooping around, surveilling each other and digging up all the family dirt. In this hilarious installment of the Spellman series, we find that things are a bit topsy turvy. Isabel is taking over the business, meaning that her usual tactics won't exactly fly. She finds herself involved in intrigue surrounding Rae's mysterious boyfriend, David & Maggie's relationship, missing household items at the Spellman residence and the re-appearance of Henry, who wants to be her friend. She is still 'dating' Connor, but is being forced by her mother to go on a series of blind dates with various lawyers (which is a wonderful outlet for her usual antics). In the end, it's business as usual for the Spellmans. The major issues are resolved, but they are still the same, just waiting for a reason to attach a GPS to another family member's car.

I hope this is not the end of the Spellmans. Lisa Lutz has created an incredible family. While it is clear that their motivation always centers on what is best for the others, the manipulation, blackmail & total lack of communication make the Spellmans so realistic and funny. While we do see some growth involving all the characters, Izzy really evolves and matures (for Izzy) during this installment. While some plotlines were wrapped up, some were left open--I hope that Lutz revisits these soon for another Spellman File.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Darklight by Lesley Livingston

The second in the Wondrous Strange series leaves you with more questions at the story's conclusion. It begins with Kelley in New York rehearsing 'Romeo & Juliet' & Sonny in the Otherworld hunting & killing the last of the Wild Hunt. But, as close to normal as things may seem, the repercussions from Samhain eve are just starting to be felt. Kelley is attacked by a leprechaun trying to recover the stolen clover charm that she's worn since she was a baby. We meet Gwynn Ap Nudd, the Vernal King & Titania, the Summer Queen. Auberon is ailing from a mysterious condition, Mabh is, well, Mabh. Fragments of secrets are revealed, but there isn't enough information given for anyone, even the reader, to truly discern what is happening. We learn that someone is plotting to take control of a lot of power, power that is somehow tied to Kelley & to Sonny. That someone, and the truth behind the attacks, is yet to be revealed...

Having developed the characters & plot line in the first story, Livingston sends us on a bit of an adventure in this story. We travel to Otherworld with both Kelley and Sonny, and we learn a bit more of the history of the Fae Race. There are more questions than answers in this book, making me want to read the third series as soon as it's released :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman

The Story Sisters is an incredible tale of love, loss, tragedy and betrayal. It follows the lives of the Story Sisters: Elv, Meg & Claire and how each of their lives is impacted by a single tragedy which places each of them on the path to her destiny. Alice Hoffman's telling leads us into a dark world of sadness, depression, drug abuse and death. It is written so honestly and thoughtfully that the reader is drawn into the world of these sisters and feels their pain right along with them. This is an amazing work.

I absolutely love Alice Hoffman & tend to devour her books rather quickly. This one, however, took me over a week to read. When I started it, the material was a little dark & disturbing, so I put it down, walked away & actually read another book before I came back to it. But, I did come back to it. I really wanted to know what happened to these girls and I cried several times while reading it. But, it was worth working through all the tragedy and heartbreak these girls face in order to see where they end up. As usual, I can't wait for the next Alice Hoffman to show up on my shelf.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Always a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Tamsin is back and this story picks up where the last one left off. She understands her Talent & has finally received the family initiation rites. Everything seems fine ... until a someone from the past makes an impossible trip into Tamsin's family home, setting off a series of events that requires Tamsin to make another trip into the past to save the future of her family.

MacCullough provides us with another wonderful adventure with Tamsin Greene. She sets course on an adventure that will fulfill her role as the beacon of her family, a role her grandmother predicted at her birth. Tamsin is a little more mature in this installment, although her interaction with Rowena still shows some adolescent sibling rivalry. In this story, she time travels back to before the Domani is created and ends up working for the Knight family. We learn more background about both the Knights and the Greenes, and MacCullough does a good job of not making the either family 'good' or 'evil' in its entirety. Tamsin must find a way to stop Alistair from warning the Knights about the Domani before it can be created. She is placed in a position where she must make a difficult decision in order to save the future of her family. The story is very entertaining and well-written. The characters are flawed and enjoyable. This story, however, seems to wrap things up neatly at the end. It would be nice to read more about Tamsin in the future.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Recently, I was given the opportunity to preview the sequel to this story, so I decided I'd better take this one off of my "to be read" shelf so I have enough background when I read the sequel.

"Your daughter will be one of the most powerful we have ever seen in this family"... or not. Tamsin has lived most of her life feeling like a disappointment to her family. Predicted at birth to be one of the most powerful amongst them, she is the only one in a family without a Talent. When her Talent fails to manifest itself by age 8, the absolute latest anyone in the family has ever shown, she begins to feel like an outsider. To make matters worse, she has a perfect older sister in Rowena. So, when she is 17 and a mysterious stranger mistakes her for Rowena, she fails to correct him and determines that she will find a way to help the stranger despite her lack of Talent. Her long-lost childhood friend Gabriel is brought back into her life at just the right time to help Tamsin help the stranger. Unfortunately, the stranger is not who he appears to be and the story of an ancient feud between families comes to light. The stranger needs the real Rowena to help him change the past & only Tamsin can stop him.

I really like Tamsin. She is not a helpless female character and while she is without Talent, she is not without wit and resources. She is funny and smart, while still being a vulnerable, insecure teenaged girl. She is a pretty good role model for other girls, despite the smoking. She really begins to come into her self during this story and I am interested to see how she develops as a young woman in the stories to come. I am also interested in how her role in the family will change in the future, as well as her relationship with Gabriel.

I really enjoyed this story and look forward to reading the next installment.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Life From Scratch by Melissa Ford

This was a coming of age story; however, the main character doesn't come of age until she's 35. Rachel Goldman doesn't know what she wants. She's divorced her husband, left her job and has decided to learn how to cook. But this novel isn't really about any of those things--it's really about Rachel learning to be Rachel. Outside of the expectations of her uber-successful parents, Rachel has to figure out who she is and what she truly wants out of life.

Melissa Ford handles this brilliantly. She tells Rachel's story in a way that any woman can relate to her. She speaks to an entire generation of women who were raised to be 'successful' without really understanding that being successful needs to be defined by the individual and not by society at large. She also includes supporting characters that are each struggling to find their happiness within their own boundaries. Rachel's friends and family may appear to be happy to outsiders, but Ford provides each of them with their own struggles. Perhaps, in the promised sequel, we'll see a little more of the depths of the supporting characters.

I thoroughly enjoyed Life From Scratch and look forward to reading the sequel.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

In the Company of Vampires

Katie McAllister revisits Fran & Ben from her previous works Got Fangs? & Circus of the Darned (both written under Katie Maxwell). This time, several years have passed & Fran is an adult making her own way in the world. She is determined to have her own life away from being Beloved to Ben, but her past catches up with her. She returns to GothFaire to find a missing mother, help Viking ghosts to banish a God and face her role as Beloved to Benedict who seems to have found a new love interest. Gone is the angst of teenaged Fran, or at least most of it, and this Fran is a little more mature and experienced. It's a more adult romance and a nice follow up to her previous YA writings. I honestly hope Katie McAllister visits with Fran & Benedict again because they are very likable characters and their adventures are excellent.

Wondrous Strange

Lesley Livingston's first installment in the series really captured my attention. Granted, the plot wasn't overly complicated and was a bit predictable, I enjoyed it nonetheless. Kelley, a young actress living in New York City, gets her big break when the actress playing Titania gets injured and can't do on. Once Kelley steps into the role of Titania, the parallels between her own life and the characters in the play start to develop. She meets Sonny, a changeling stolen from the cradle and raised in the realm of the fae. Together, they embark on a quest to find Kelley's true identity and save the human realm from the Wild Hunt. Livingston's story is well-written and highly entertaining. It is a great first installment and definitely has me interested in the next book, Darklight.