Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

"Some loves are meant to be. Others are cursed."

Beautiful Creatures - Book one

"There were no surprises in Gatlin County. At least, that's what I thought. Turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong. There was a curse. There was a girl. And in the end. there was a grave. I never saw it coming."

Ethan Wate has just awaken from the same dream he has been having for months, ever since his mom died in a car accident. In the dream, Ethan and a girl are falling and he is unable to catch her. This is the only part he can remember. He cannot see her face, but he feels like he is in love with her, even before first sight. Even after he wakes up, Ethan can still smell her scent; lemons and rosemary. He sees an unfamiliar song on his iPod, Sixteen Moons, and listens. The song is moody and creepy but he feels as if he has heard it before.

In a town where change is a rarity, there is a new girl at school for the first time since the third grade. Ethan's dream is to escape Gatlin where it seems that the War of Northern Aggression is still being fought. And everything about you and your family matters, down to your family tree to what clothes you wear. The new girl already has several strikes; her choice in clothes and no tan. The biggest strike against her is the fact she is Old Man Ravenwood's niece, the town's recluse who no one has seen since before Ethan was born. Lena Duchannes begins to haunt Ethan and he finds himself explicated drawn to her. Even if it means becoming a social outcast himself.

While in art class, Ethan hears the band practicing in the room below. The sound soon changes from Dixie to the haunting viola solo playing a melody that Ethan remembers from his iPod, Sixteen Moons. He quickly slips back into the falling girl dream. When the bell rings, Ethan rushes to the band room in hopes of finding Lena. The stage is empty but he smells lemons and rosemary and finds out from the band director that the soloist is the new girl in town. He skips basketball practice and borrows his friend's car in hopes of finding Lena and getting some answers to his questions. A torrential rainstorm has hit Gatlin and Ethan is having trouble staying on the road. Ethan slams on the brakes and is spinning out of control when he notices someone standing in the road, Lena Duchannes. Ethan suddenly remembers that she is the girl from his dream. She denies everything but Ethan remains convinced. He takes her home to Ravenwood Plantation. They begin to talk, but in the end, Ethan feels overwhelmed and brushes Lena off.

The next day in English class, Lena bumps into Ethan. Sparks fly and an overhead light shorts out. Lena asks in front of the class if he was trying to kill her just like the night before. Those last two words could be a social killer at Stonewall Jackson High School. But Ethan's ex-girlfriend Emily and her gang of popular cheerleaders are out to humilate Lena. Ethan attempts to block this attack but they begin to compare Lena's uncle to Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird. Ethan starts hearing a voice inside his head. He thinks it is coming from Lena. When pushed, the voice screams and the window shatters. Ethan notices that Lena looks frightened and the voice says that "I didn't mean to." He sees her hand is bleeding but she runs from the room before he can ask if she is alright.

When Lena's voice inside his head says "Don't", Ethan commits social suicide and runs after her. Just because he was never the bully, Ethan still stood by and watched others. This time he wouldn't sit idly by. He walked out of school and followed Lena home. "Even if home was Ravenwood, and she had gone home to Gatlin's own Boo Radley." Ethan finds out that Ravenwood is impressive even if it is run down. He opens the door hearing the Sixteen Moons melody and realizes that Lena is near. The interior of the house was shocking. Bright and airy and filled with modern furniture. He comes across a large black dog or wolf with odd looking eyes. Ethan runs from the house when the dog growls.

As Ethan runs down a path to find Lena, they continue to talk in their minds to one another. He finds her crying in an overgrown garden and she asks why he didn't he leave. He came to check on her and they soon discover they share a love of books. He realizes that he is sitting on a stone slab and they begin to talk about the dream. Neither realized the other was a real person until they met. Lena doesn't want Ethan around because her life is complicated and it would be better if he wasn't involved. Ethan is touching Lena's hand when he finds a small stone next to the slab. Soon they are thrown into a dream where General Sherman and the Union soldiers are burning down the plantations neighboring Ravenwood. They see the dream through the eyes of a young woman named Genevieve.

Upon opening his hand, Ethan realizes he unearthed a cameo locket. "Greenbrier" is engraved on it along with the date "February 11th, 1865." Feb. 11th is Lena's birthday and she tells Ethan that "nothing in my life is a coincidence. Ethan finds himself inexpliciably drawn to Lena, even though her life is shrouded in mystery. Why is her uncle so reclusive? What is the mystery surrounding Ravenwood? And who or what is Lena Duchannes?

More questions than answers occur but you have got to love a book where the librarian is one of the good guys.

Visit the Beautiful Creatures website

Some secrets are life-altering. Others are life-ending."

Beautiful Darkness - Book Two

"A few months ago, I believed nothing would ever change in this town. Now I knew better, and I only wished it was true."

The continuation of Athan and Lena's story where endings are not always happily ever after. Their story picks up a few days after book one ends. The Caster Chronicles will continue with book three in the Fall of 2011 amd book four follows Fall of 2012.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Another Faust by Daniel and Dina Nayeri

"Welcome to the Marlowe School where some very gifted students are having a hell of a year."

Five children who had nothing in common, disappeared on a single night. Victoria was from London and driven to be perfect at everything in an attempt to make her parents proud of her. In Glasgow, Christian was homeless after his father's despair over his mother's death. He stole to survive and was a strong athlete. Indentical twins, Belle and Bice', resided in Rome where Bice' could speak numerous languages and Belle wished to be beautiful. In Paris, Valentin is a budding poet who wishes for fame. All of them end up at a secluded country house somewhere in Europe where they are brainwashed into believing they were orphans who had always lived together. Their parents or anyone else never missed them.

Nicola Vileroy referred to herself as a governess, although as beautiful and refined as she looked, was anything but. She secures an exclusive invitation to an annual Christmas Eve party for herself and her five children. It is the opportunity for her and the children to step into New York society and become its' focus. "Now that her children were well prepared, now that she had taught them enough, she could finally give them everything she had promised, everything that they had bargained for - here in this city where life is lived in the present, where today's moguls are yesterday's nobodies, and where no one cares to delve too far in the past - a city that asks no questions."

When Madame Vileroy's five charges enroll mid-semester at the exclusive Marlowe School, each has their own agenda. Victoria, the brain, wishes to be the top student at Marlowe and especially at Lucy Spencer's expense. Belle, the beauty, desires Thomas Goodman-Brown as her boyfriend, even though Miss Spencer also has her eye on him. Christian, the super athelete, joins every available sports team and is out to win it all. The aspiring poet, Valentin, like to manipulate time and people to suit his needs. Belle's twin, Bice', is still learning new languages but has become an expert on hiding. As they rise through the ranks at Marlowe, they soon realize that what seemingly started as innocent talents (cheating, hiding, lying and stealing) are more powerful and addictive than they ever imagined.

But what happens when two discover the dark and terrible secret about their very existence? And at what price does your most wished for desires come true? In this modern day retelling of the Faust bargain story, these five children make a deal with the devil for their hearts' greatest desires.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Evie works for the International Paranormal Containment agency (IPCA). She is the only human on earth who can see through a paranormal's glamour to see their true facades. In the crazy world of vampires, werewolves, etc. which she takes part, she considers herself normal, even though her best friend is a mermaid and her ex-boyfriend is a faerie. Evie has resided at the IPCA center since she was eight-year-old. Never knowing her parents, she spent her early years in foster care until the day she wandered into a graveyard and started screaming. That's when the APCA found her and took her in. Other paranormal agencies where clamoring for Evie's services so the IPCA was formed.

For the past eight years, Evie's job has been to "bag and tag" paranormals around the world to save them from humans. Her life is on the solitary side since she is one of the few normal people who work there. But things change when an unknown paranormal breaks into the center and takes Evie's boss' form. Evie is able to see through his glamour and captures him. She soon finds herself drawn to the shapeshifter known as Lend. They are close in age and Evie is lonely for companionship since Reth, her faerie ex-boyfriend did something to repel her. She begins sneaking into Lend's cell and a friendship soon forms. Evie's boss, Raquel, is not happy and orders her to stay away. Since IPCA doesn't know who or what Lend is, they keep hin prisoner. When Lend informs Evie that someone or things is killing paranormals, she realizes that IPCA has been less than truthful with her.

As Evie and Lend's friendship grows, Reth starts to become meddlesome. When Evie starts to have weird dreams about a prophecy and Reth becomes possessive, she begins to wonder who or what she is. When the paranormal killer breaks into the IPCA center, Evie breaks protocal and escapes with Lend. Why are the paranormals dying and who is doing it? What is with Reth's possessive nature and why the werid dreams? What is Lend's secret, but more importantly what is Evie's? Join Evie on a fast paced and hilarious adventure to find where she belongs in the world. Her story will be continued in Supernaturally in 2011.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mistwood by Leah Cypess

"The Shifter is an immortal creature bound by an ancient spell to protect the kings of Samorna. When the realmis peaceful, she retreats to the Mistwood.
But when she is needed she always comes."

Her ankle was hurt or she would have ran. But something made her wait for the prince. He made it through her old forest and called out to her, "Isabel?" She was unable to flee and instead claws at the prince's face. The prince pulls a crystal bracelet out from a pouch and she instinctively holds out her wrist. The prince says "Isabel, by the Shifter's Seal on your wrist, do you swear to serve me and mine with all your abilities and powers, to defend us and protect us and keep us safe from all harm?" Then he asks if she will come to his castle with him and she accepts.
Isabel is a Shifter, or at least that is what they tell her she is. Unfortunately she doesn't remember, anything. Not who she is or what her powers are. Prince Rokan has brought her to his castle because he needs her powers to ensure his reign. As Iasbel tries to keep her ignorance under wraps, Prince Rokan and his domineering sister Clarisse begin to see through her. Fortunately Isabel realizes that Rokan is lying to her but she still feels the overpowering need to protect him. Isabel soon finds that Ven, the sorcerer's apprentice who wishes to study the Shifter, may be her only ally, especially after an attempt is made on Prince Rokan's life.

Isabel knows something is wrong, not only in the kingdom, but with her. She is unable to shift on demand. Isabel can make minor changes to her appearance or to her body while in the heat of battle. A full change is not possible. Isabel struggles with her feelings but feelings are a human trait, something that the Shifter should not have to deal with. What happens with the trust is shattered between Isabel and Rokan? Will Isabel figure out what exactly is happening to her since she cannot shift? And where do Isabel's loyalities lie, with Prince Rokan or the Kaer, the "true" prince?

The plot twist at the end of the novel really caught me off guard. I wasn't expecting it. Leah Cypess is currently working on a companion novel, Nightspell.

Visit Leah Cypess website.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

At the age of nine, before the five days of the unspeakable, Finnikin of the Rock dreams that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh in order to save the Lumatere's royal house. Eventually Finnikin and his friends, Prince Balthazar and Lucian of the Monts, climb a rock and make the sacrifice and pledge. All was well until the five days of the unspeakable. The king and queen and their four daughters are slain and Balthazar's bloody handprints are found. Finnikin's father is arrested for treason and imprisoned. The matriarch of the Forest Dwellers cries a blood curse as she is burned at the stake. Those who escaped the kingdom are forced to walk the land as refugees and those trapped inside the kingdom's gates were never heard from again. Finnikin recorded the story for those not around to live the horror in the Book of Lumatere, so no one will ever forget. Until the day Finnikin decided the climb another rock, ten years later.

Sir Topher, the king's First Man and his apprentice, Finnikin, climb a rock to reach the temple of the goddess Lagrami. Finnikin received a message delivered in a dream. One word was spoken, "Balthazar" and he is told to visit the isolated cloister. Upon their arrival, the high priestess Kiria tells them of a novice, Evanjalin, who arrived two years earlier. Kiria tells them she believes Evanjalin has a gift, the ability to walk through people's sleep. She claims to have walked through the sleep of the people still trapped in Lumatere, as well as the lost hier. Sir Topher and Finnikin don't believe what they are told. Kiria informs them that Balthazar has a message for them, a name of a trusted friend. She tells Finnikin that Balthazar has chosen him, by way of Evanjalin, to lead his people home to Lumatere.

Finnikin has conflicted feelijngs for Evanjalin. He doesn't trust her or want her around yet feels sorry for her and at times confused by his feelings. But as they continue their journey to the kingdom of Sorel, where Evanjalin "claims" all the answers lie, Finnikin learns that Evanjalin is not at all what she first seems and neither is he. And the truth will rock Finnikin to his very core.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dragonfly by Julia Golding

"It's alright, Your Highness, I do not need you to swear your innocence to me. I will not accuse the Blue Crescent Islands of an act of war. I have a higher opinion of your honor than you do of mine. No, I think respoonsibility lies elsewhere: we share a common enemy." Ramil lay back on the straw and closed his eyes. "Either that, or it's a joke in desperately bad taste by my friends to throw us together."
"You think this is possible?" asked Tashi, bewildered.
Ramil sighed. "No, that last suggestion was a joke of my own." Was he never going to find the right note of conversation for this girl? She took everything so seriously.

The Blue Crescent Islands lie to the west in the known world. Their rulers consist of four Crown Princeses, one from each of the islands. Princess Taoshire id the Fourth Crown Princess and the youngest at sixteen. Tashi's life is dictated by the religious rituals she must conduct each day to Goddess.

To the northeast lies Gerfal, King Lagan is worried about his nation's future. The warlord, Fergox Spearthrower of Holt, has recently conquered the nation of Brigard and it is feared that Gerfal is next. King Lagan believes if a pact is made with the Blue Crescent Islands and their powerful navy, Gerfal would stand a chance against an invasion from Fergox. An arranged marriage between Princess Taoshira and Lagan's son, Prince Ramil, is desired.

Where Tashi's life is refined and disciplined, Ramil's days are taken up with horseback riding and hunting. Neither is happy with the idea and things go from bad to worse when they meet. Not understanding Tashi's customs, Ramil knowingly and unknowningly offends her. She takes to her rooms and refuses to come out. When Ramil realizes how he has treated her and is berated by his father, he decides to take Tashi horseback riding since she has shown an interest. Having been confirmed to the castle, Ram is excited to ride and enthuasicatically takes off. Having never ridden before, Tashi becomes terrified and screams to stop. Fed up, she takes off on foot and heads back to the castle. Ram soon realizes he has made the situation worse and takes off after her.

Ramil soon discovers that Tashi is gone. In looking for her, Ram is caught in a net and captured by a traveling circus troop. He is thrown into a tiger's cage and soon realizes his fellow prisoner is Tashi. Each is sceptical of the other but soon discovers that a third party is responsible. Can Ramil and Tashi put their differences aside abd escape or are they doomed to be pawns in someone else's game? Join Ramil and Tashi's journey as they discover not only who they are but the other as well.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Plain Kate is an orphan who live in a market town by a river. Kate was raised by her woodcarver father afer the death of her mother from childbirth. She was named Katerina Svetlana after her mother but when she is intoduced to the butcher, he says that he calls her plain Kate. The butcher laughs and says that judging by her appearance, Plain Kate is a good name and it sticks.

From an early age, Plain Kate is taught woodcarving skills by her father until she is quite good. Growing up in a superstitious village with the odd appearance of having two different colored eyes and the ability to carve with a knife, Plain Kate is viewed upon by the villagers as an oddity. When a sickness referred to as "witch fever" strikes the village, fingers begin to point her way. Her situation goes from bad to worse when her father falls ill and dies before Plain Kate can become his apprentice. Soon a new master carver from the guild arrives and Plain Kate finds herself homeless.

Plain Kate decides to live in the bottom drawer of her father's market stall. She is soon joined by three motherless kittens whom she cares for. Plain Kate earns some money by carving amulets and other items for the townspeople who don't wish to patronize the master carver. Two kittens go off on their own but the one she named Taggle becomes her companion. Soon several visitors arrive in the town. Linay, who could be described as an albino, sells trinkets to ward off witchcraft in the village square. Turns out Linay is a witch. He offers Plain Kate her fondest wish for the price of her shadow She turns him down. When devasting situations occur in her village, the townspeople begin pointing fingers her way. Harshly awakened by an axe destroying her stall one night, Plain Kate decides her luck has run out. She turns to Linay for help leaving the town. He will help her, for the price of her shadow. She agrees and Linay warns her to find a place to fit in before someone realizes her shadow is gone.

Plain Kate is shocked to discover that her cat Taggle can now talk. He tells her that her greatest wish was a companion to talk with and now she has him. They go off to find the supplies Linay provided them with. Plain Kate decides she must take the woodcarving she made for the baker to him. When she goes to drop it on his doorstep, she has forgotten that he would be up at the early hour. The baker is concerned about where she will go and offers to take her to the Roamers, who are leaving the town, to see if Plain Kate can go with them. When Mother Daj learns that Plain Kate is a woodcarver and her cat a mouser, she tells her that they can travel with them for one month. Plain Kate sees this as a test and is eager to please.

Will Plain Kate be able to find her place in the world? Can she be accepted by the Roamers before someone notices her shadow is missing or will her secret be discovered? And what does Linay want her shadow for?