Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It Looked Different on the Model by Laurie Notaro

Laurie Notaro is one of those authors that I just love. I was introduced to her writing by my friend Kellie (Hi, Kellie!). She has essays throughout the various stages of her life, from childhood to semi-adulthood, through singledom and marriage. She is incredibly relatable, the not quite the perfect weight woman who has to deal with unwanted hair just like the rest of us.

In the latest book, It Looked Different on the Model, Notaro tells stories about those special situations that only a select few ever encounter. There is everything from getting stuck in a shirt in a dressing room to getting snubbed at a neighborhood Christmas party for lip-syncing to wondering whether to call Homeland Security on an eBay rival.

These stories are why I like Laurie Notaro books. You could imagine going out with her and hearing these stories over drinks. Even if it doesn't make it better to be a klutzy, socially awkward girl, at least reading these books lets me know I'm not the only klutzy, socially awkward girl.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley

Based on the cover, Witchlanders doesn't look much different than most books in the Young Adult section these days. I expected some girl main character, a half-baked Twilight thing. I admit, I almost passed up on reading it until I read the actual description. Fake witches, mysterious prophecies, and a male protagonist all sounded awesome. Truth be told, Witchlanders ended up being a great book.

Ryder doesn't believe in the power of the witches or their prophecies. His mother always told him that it was all made up, every time she threw the bones for her customers. Lately, though, she has been acting crazy. Mabis has been taking maiden's woe, a flower that is highly addictive and poisonous, but helps with prophecy. Ryder is concerned with harvesting enough food for the chilling and taking care of his sisters. Then his mother's prophecies get more vivid, and they are definitely about him. The witches dismiss her concerns, but then what she sees comes to pass.

Our other protagonist is Falpian. He was sent away from home to mourn his twin brother, and to perform a secret mission for his father. Falpian is a Baen, the enemies of the Witchlanders. Long ago, there was a war and the Witchlanders drove the Baen out to the Bitterlands. Falpian knows that his father wants to stage an attack and reclaim the land for the Baen.

The interesting part is when Ryder and Falpian meet. They had actually been inside each other's heads, sharing their dreams. Falpian thought he was a disappointment to his father because he couldn't perform magic, he couldn't sing with his brother. He finds that he shares his magical abilities with Ryder, his true "twin." They forge a bond that surpasses Witchlander and Baen, and they find out new information about both of their respective people.

In the end, the description that made me want to read the book wasn't actually true. Ryder and Falpian share protagonist duties. There's no big Ryder-witch romance. Fortunately, the book we do get is great on its own. There was a lot that made me cry (Especially Falpian's father issues), and plenty to make me laugh (Bo the dreadhound). Bonus points go to the more than respectable amounts of action, suspense, and killing. I definitely hope there's a sequel so I can know what happens to Ryder and Falpian in the future.

I got a copy of Witchlanders from the Simon & Schuster Galley Grab. It will be published August 30th.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dark Parties by Sara Grant

Long ago, there was the Terror. After that, the Protectosphere was built to keep the people safe and enclosed. All history from before the Terror was erased, and time was reset so there was nothing that came before.

Neva just turned 16, which makes her an adult. She is just starting to rebel, with the help of her friend Sanna. They want to try to convince the government to open the Protectosphere. It's obvious that the population is dying out and food supplies are running low. The government tries to get young adults to get it on to keep the population up, but Neva and her friends made a pact to remain chaste until some real change happens. There's lots of heavy kissing and physical intimacy in the book, more than I usually see in young adult books. I found it kind of refreshing as opposed to books of the Twilight vein, but it might not be for everyone.

The spark of Neva's rebellion is the memories of her grandmother. Neva's grandmother used to tell stories about outside of the Protectosphere, about the snow. Then her grandmother disappeared, and her mother and father pretend she never existed. That's what happens when you disobey the government, you are completely erased. Neva even keeps a list of these people, the Missing, in her journal.

If the rebellion and threat of being written out of your life wasn't enough, Neva starts to fall in love with Sanna's boyfriend. They kiss at a dark party (Party in the complete darkness) at the beginning of the book, and cannot deny their connection. Neva doesn't want to hurt her best friend, but she still feels this spark when she is around Braydon.

Overall, Dark Parties had some really great moments. The big conflict near the end (At the Women's Empowerment Center) had me on the edge of my seat. While I predicted a lot of the twists that came up, they were still fairly shocking. A minor complaint is that I wish they would have given more details about the Terror, or that everything was wrapped up in just one book for once. That never seems to happen anymore these days.

I read a copy of Dark Parties through Netgalley. It's available now.

P.S. Just wanted to add this alternate cover. I think the black one with the red snowflake is awesome and very striking, but this one intrigues me. It's very generic-looking among young adult books these days, I'm fairly certain this never happened in the book...I'm pretty sure I don't like it, is what I'm saying.

You can read more Dystopian reviews during the month of August at Presenting Lenore.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cinder and Ella by Melissa Lemon

In this loose adaptation of Cinderella, Cinder and Ella are sisters. After their father abandons the family, it's up to the two middle sisters to hold everything together. Cinder is the more helpful of the two, and she acts as the good little maid. Ella is less agreeable. She tries to be helpful, but cannot tolerate her older sister's shallowness and her younger sister's spoiled nature. When Cinder gets a job at the castle, she expects Ella to pick up her slack at home. After her mother forgets she exists, Ella takes the opportunity to embark out on her own for the first time in her life.

Cinder becomes upset at Ella's disappearance. A kind knight notices the girl's distress and asks the Prince's permission to seek out Ella. It's fairly common knowledge that the Prince is an evil, evil man. So, there's every reason to be suspicious that the Prince gives permission to find Ella, sends two of his own men along, and also has his own evil, evil reasons for finding the girl.

Altogether, Cinder and Ella is a respectable retelling. Ella was definitely my favorite sister because she wasn't as easy to step all over. She's a girl who knows how to push back. I also love her romance with her brave knight Tanner. He had a tendency to drop her and become incredibly accident prone around her, and she was absolutely vicious towards him. It's adorable. There aren't any fairy godmothers, glass slippers, or pumpkin coaches. But we do have magical guardian trees and an evil prince. That counts, right?

I read an advanced copy of Cinder and Ella through Netgalley. It will be published November 9th.