Friday, January 28, 2011

Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst

Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst
“What Lily Carter wants most in the world is to attend Princeton University just like her grandfather. When she finally visits the campus, Grandpa surprises her: She has been selected to take the top-secret Legacy Test. Passing means automatic acceptance to Princeton. Sweet!

Lily's test is to find the Ivy Key. But what is she looking for? Where does she start? As she searches, Lily is joined by Tye, a cute college boy with orange and black hair who says he's her guard. That's weird. But things get seriously strange when a gargoyle talks to her. He tells her that there are two Princetons—the ordinary one and a magical one—and the Key opens the gate between them. But there are more secrets that surround Lily. Worse secrets.

When Lily enters the magical Princeton, she uncovers old betrayals and new dangers, and a chance at her dream becomes a fight for her life. Soon Lily is caught in a power struggle between two worlds, with her family at its center. In a place where Knights slay monsters, boys are were-tigers, and dragons might be out for blood, Lily will need all of her ingenuity and courage—and a little magic—to unite the worlds and unlock the secrets of her past and her future.” (summary from jacket flap)

At first I felt a bit hesitant about whether I was going to like Enchanted Ivy or not. Sometimes fantasy set in the real world doesn’t appeal to me very well, especially if the place is well known. Yet, to my delight Enchanted Ivy sucked me right in. The story is set at Durst’s own alma mater, Princeton. Her love of the school and familiarity with the architecture really shines through in a way that brings the story alive. The setting really does feel magical and mysterious. Her main character is determined, smart, and totally clueless to the fact that she is about to discover an alternate world that will change her life forever.

About half-way through the book I was so hooked into the plot that I could not put it down, as Lily discovers the alternate magical world she also discovers secrets about herself and her family that she never knew before. In particular she discovers the source behind her mother’s mental illness, and learns about her father’s death, and even new talents that she herself possesses. This wonderful discovery story is full of magic, adventure, and little romance. I think I may have become a fan of Durst with this one. I’m going to keep an eye out for her next book.

Visit Sarah Beth Durst Author’s website

Her author blog also has a pretty cool picture tour of Princeton architecture that inspired characters and scenes in the book.

Friday, January 21, 2011

My Double Life by Janette Rallison

"Her whole life, Alexia Garcia has been told that she looks just like pop star Kari Kingsley, and one day when Alexia's photo filters through the Internet, she's offered a job to be Kari's double. This would seem like the opportunity of a lifetime, but Alexia's mother has always warned her against celebrities.

Rebelliously, Alexia flies off to L.A. and gets immersed in a celebrity life. Not only does she have to get used to getting anything she wants, she romances the hottest lead singer on the charts, and finds out that her own father is a singing legend. Through it all, Alexia must stay true to herself, which is hard to do when you are pretending to be somebody else!" (summary from good reads)

I think the first line of this book is sort of hilarious considering the fact that I got to talk to Janette Rallison at the LDSstorymakers conference while she was revising this book. She wasn't really all that excited about writing this book because while she came up with the initial idea when she sat down to write it (because her editor requested it) she found it kind of limiting. I still think the book turned out great, which is a sign that she is an experienced and skilled writer.

It seems very similar to Just One Wish on a surface level. A normal everyday girl goes to Hollywood and falls in love with a handsome star, but Alexia has very different struggles than the main character Annika in Just One Wish. She has grown up dirt poor, watching her Latina mother work as a housekeeper at a very nice local hotel. She knows that her father abandoned them when she was just a baby but not much else. They live a good life, though a very simple one. So, when Alexia is offered the chance to go to Hollywood and be Kari's double she thinks seriously about the offer, but her decision isn't final until she finds out that she may be able to meet her father, who abandoned her family when she was young.

This story ended up being a entertaining, light-hearted romance that even made me teary-eyed on one occasion. I read this book rather quickly considering the time I had to read it in. I always seemed to get sucked into Rallison's novels and can't put them down. This book was no exception.

Janette Rallison's Website

Friday, January 14, 2011

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

"The behemoth is the fiercest creature in the British navy. It can swallow enemy battleships with one bite. The Darwinists will need it, now that they are at war with the Clanker powers.
Deryn is a girl posing as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek is the heir to an empire posing as a commoner. Finally together aboard the airship Leviathan, they hope to bring the war to a halt. But when disaster strikes the Leviathan's peacekeeping mission, they find themselves alone and hunted in enemy territory.

Alek and Deryn will need great skill, new allies, and brave hearts to face what's ahead."
(summary from goodreads)

Scott Westerfeld’s second installment of his steampunk WWI series was as enjoyable to read as the first book. This time much of the book takes place in the city of Istanbul. Dylan and Alek and the crew of the Leviathan are put smack dab right in the middle of a huge political and military tangle for power over the city. We finally get to discover what strange creatures Dr. Barlow is carrying across the entire continent of Europe as a peace offering to the sultan of Istanbul.

Alek, meanwhile, gets himself in a tight spot when Britain finally declares war on Austria-Hungry and Germany. The hospitality of the Leviathan crew can no longer protect him, and so he flees into the streets of Istanbul and finds what allies he can to elude capture and to make plans for the future. As he wanders around the city we get introduced to a whole new crew of walker machines and their intriguing owners.

This book is full of plot, awesome characters, and one of the most interesting and unique settings I’ve come across in a long time. While I did miss reading about the ship Leviathan and found the huge new beastie a little disappointing because it had so little screen time this was still an awesome read. This is a series I would recommend to everyone. I can’t wait for the next book to come out!

Scott Westerfeld's blog

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Limit by Kristen Landon

The Limit by Kirsten Landon
"An eighth grade girl was taken today . . .

With this first sentence, readers are immediately thrust into a fast-paced thriller that doesn’t let up for a moment. In a world not too far removed from our own, kids are being taken away to special workhouses if their families exceed the debt limit imposed by the government. Thirteen-year-old Matt briefly wonders if he might be next, but quickly dismisses the thought. After all, his parents are financially responsible, unlike the parents of those other kids. As long as his parents remain within their limit, the government will be satisfied and leave them alone. But all it takes is one fatal visit to the store to push Matt’s family over their limit–and to change his reality forever."
(summary from Author's website)

I was immediately intrigued by the concept of this novel. The idea of people coming and snatching children away to pay off their family’s debt when they went over the limit was a very compelling hook. The author does a very good job a conveying the conventions of society in her world and introducing the main character, Matt.

Matt is super smart, unusually smart and the author does a really good job at portraying how smart he is without making him seem unrealistic or unsympathetic. When Matt gets taken away from his family after they go over the limit during a trip to the grocery store I as a reader felt as desperate as he did for him to get back to his family.

At the workhouse it seems that some of the action in the book slows down a bit after Matt gets sorted onto his floor. The workhouses are actually designed to be quite humane and comfortable for the kids. They do work assignments, get paid, meet new friends, and some of them even forget a bit about getting back to their family. Sure, Matt misses his family at first, but then he sort of gets used to living the luxurious life on the “top floor.” It was kind of hard for me to keep reading the novel after the initial conflict of him being taken from his family weakens, but the author has a few twists and turns in the plot, and soon Matt is working with his friends to save children on the lower floors from the director’s illegal experiments.

While I thought The Limit was well-written novel with an interesting concept at the end I felt like the novel was lacking for me. I was expecting the book to have a few more action scenes, and a little less down time. All the loose ends of the plot were nicely tied off, but the ending wasn’t as big as I expected it. It becomes obvious that the corruption of the director was localized to Matt’s workhouse. That at the end the society in the book would continue to function as it always had before, and there would be no huge overall change. I suppose that took me off guard because I expected the plot to go in the character v.s government plot line that is so typical of this type of book these days.

Alas, my expectations for the book led for me to feel let down at the end of the novel, but it really is a decent little novel. I would recommend it to those who like the dystopian sci-fi genre as a quick, stand-alone read.

Kristen Landon's Website

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Books read in 2010

List of Books read in 2010

137 Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys (won in contest)
138 Heroes of Glorietta Pass (won in contest)
139 Brellan’s Tale by Kindal Debenham (manuscript)
140 Two Girl’s of Gettysburg by Lisa Klein (library)
141 The Giver by Lois Lowry (library)
142 Wolfhound by Kindal Debenham (manuscript)
143 Maurice and his educated rodents by Terry Pratchett (library)
144 Band of Sisters by Annette Lyon (electronic review copy)
145 Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman (library)
146 Leviathan re-read
147 Leigh Ann’s Civil War by Ann Rinaldi (library)
148 Being Sixteen by Ally Condie (purchased)
149 Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik (Purchased)
150 Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen (library)
151 Victory of eagles by Naomi Novik (Purchased)
152 My ridiculous Romantic Obsessions by Becca Whilhite (Purchased)
153 Pegasus by Robin McKinley (borrowed from librarian)
154 Mistwood by Leah Cypress (borrowed from Librarian)
155 The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan (purchased)
156 The Last Waltz by G.G. Vandagriff (purchased)
157 Alma the Younger by H. B. Moore (review copy)
158 Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George (purchased)
159 Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (purchased)
160 Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt (library)
161 Just One Wish by Jannette Rallison (library)
162 Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale (library)
163 Spells by Aprilynne Pike (library)
164 Ice by Sarah Beth Durst (library)
165 Mayflower by Beverly Peirce Strobel (Review copy)
166 this world we live in by Susan Beth Pfeffer (library)
167 I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter (library)
168 Pocket of Guilt by Dora Lee Thompson (ARC)
169 Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (library)
170 Airman by Eoin Colfer (library)
171 The Princess and the Snowbird by Mette Ivie Harrison (library)
172 The Heist Society by Ally Carter (library)
173 The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne Duprau (library)
174 The 13th Reality: The Blade of Shattered Hope by James Dashner (library)
175 Secondhand Charm by Julie Berry (ARC Bloomsbury)
176 Raven Speak by Diane Lee Wilson (library)
177 The Limit by Kristen Landon (Purchased)
178 Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld (Purchased)
179 Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst (library)
180 My Double Life by Janette Rallison (library)
181 Matched by Ally Condie (Purchased)
182 Bounded by Aneeka (manuscript)

I read 45 Books this year. Down from my usual number. I've been slacking off recently, as I still need to write a review for Behemoth.

3 book manuscripts written by people close to me
22 from library
2 contest wins
11 purchased with my money
2 borrowed from people
5 ARCs

My favorites:

1. Charles and Emma
2. Being Sixteen
3. Pegasus
4. Mistwood
5. Behemoth