Archive | August, 2012

Diabolical by Cynthia Leitich Smith

31 Aug

Until the night I was taken, demonically infected, the guardian angel Zachary watched over me. Now, I watch over him.

One of my (admittedly, many) pet-peeves is when authors write a “trilogy,” see the piles of money they’re accumulating, and then decide to publish a fourth/fifth/sixth/eleventy-billionth book. What started out as a contained story spirals out of control into series-ville, where the original snappy idea gets hashed and rehashed until faithful fans start grumbling that the seventy-eighth book just isn’t as good as the first twenty-two. So, given my general grumpiness when it comes to the inevitable add-on, you’d think that I would have just ignored Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s newest release, Diabolical. Well, I didn’t, because this series is my personal paranormal romance guilty pleasure; it’s full of allusions to some of my very favorite things (most notably Dracula and very occasionally Buffy the Vampire Slayer) it’s funny, and not too obnoxiously sappy. So, I sold my soul to the series devil and took Diabolical home with me.

A supernatural alarm is raised when Miranda, former Eternal (vampire) royalty now sitting bored in the Penultimate (a sort of heavenly limbo), sees that her best friend from her mortal life, Lucy, is starting at Scholomance, an elite New England finishing school that almost certainly has demonic connections. When slipped guardian angel, Zachary (who is also Miranda’s long distance boyfriend, btw. More on that later), catches wind of the sitch he and Kieren (werewolf) decide to do the ol’ fake enrollment con while Quince (vampire, Kieren’s girlf) cools her heals in a B&B. Of course, the whole jam goes to hell (haha! Literally.) when Zach and Kieran realize they are (dum dum dum!) trapped in Scholomance, where not only their mortal lives are in danger, but also their immortal souls.

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Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

23 Aug

When he grabs Mama’s wrist and yanks her toward the wall-hanging like that, it must hurt.

Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away I was a naive library school student doing my practicum in New York Public Library’s amazeballs Teen Central. During a discussion of what to recommend to teen girls to get them reading about strong female leads rather than dippy, self-loathing Bella, the lovely librarians of Teen Central introduced me Kristin Cashore‘s Graceling Realm.

For the uninitiated, and because this is the third book in the sequence (though the second book, Fire, takes place before Graceling or Bitterblue), let me try to do a brief summation: gracelings are people born with preternatural abilities.  Leck, who features in all three novels and is one of the most terrifying literary figures I have ever encountered, ruled the kingdom of Monsea for decades without anyone knowing he was graced. You see, Leck had the ability to control minds, to make people believe everything he said to them. He manipulated their memories and their free will just to please his psychotic whims until Katsa, the heroine of Graceling (graced super power: survival and general badassery) threw a dagger through his open mouth and killed him (holler!), thereby rescuing his young daughter, Bitterblue, and liberating Monsea from a sadistic tyrant.

Bitterblue is the story of the eponymous young queen, now eighteen, who inherited her psychopathic father’s throne after Katsa assassinated him. Stifled by her four overprotective advisers (who are all suffering from varying degrees of PTSD, I should add) and wanting desperately to help her kingdom move forward from its collective trauma but feeling woefully out of touch with the reality of her city,  Bitterblue makes like a teenager, disguises herself as a commoner, and sneaks out at night. She spends evening after evening in her city’s storyhouses, listening to tales of her father’s tyranny and her friends’ heroism. She meets two young men, Teddy and Saf, a printer and a thief,  and as their friendship develops a conspiracy begins to unfold that threatens her life, her kingdom, and the healing it so desperately needs.

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The Crucial First Sentence

18 Aug

So, I’m working on a new post. I know it’s been a while. I honestly don’t understand how some of these book reviewers pump out a book review a week or more. At the end of a long work day sometimes the very last thing I want to be doing is sitting down to yet another computer and writing. Plus, you know, I have a life. Double plus, I am a perfectionist and obsess over each and every post for an inappropriate number of hours before making it public. But worry not, dear readers, whomever you may be. I am working on a new post, and I’m going to try something new. You see, I think the first sentence (or two) of a novel is really crucial. A well-written first sentence sets the tone for the rest of the novel, hooks the reader, can even help you overlook later bad writing (or is that just me?). So, I’m going to start each post, from now on, with the first sentence of the novel I’m reviewing. While I hammer out this next review for Kristen Cashore’s Bitterblue, here are some of my favorite first sentences from the teen books I have sitting on my shelves:

“The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.”
~Patrick Ness, The Knife of Never Letting Go

“The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.” ~Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls

“My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die.” ~Melina Marchetta, Jellicoe Road

“Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time thinking about death.” ~John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.” ~M.T. Anderson, Feed

How about you? What are some of your favorite first sentences?