Saturday, July 27, 2013

Book Review: Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Book: Every Other Day
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

Half the time, Kali D'Angelo is a normal, if lonely, teenage girl. She goes to school, she comes home, she avoids talking with her dad. The other half, she's a demon hunter, with supernatural reflexes, superfast healing abilities, and an urge to find all the things that go bump in the night and kill them dead. She doesn't know why or how she makes this switch at sunrise, human one day and supernatural killing machine the next, only that she does.

But on one of her human days, she realizes that popular-girl Bethany Davis has a deadly little parasite. Chupacabras drink all your blood within a few days, and Bethany doesn't have much time left. Kali takes the gamble that she can survive to the next sunrise, and coaxes the parasite to jump over to her instead.

But oh, there's so much more to this than a simple bloodsucking demon. Before she knows it, Kali is fighting bigger and badder things than ever before. Even having allies--Bethany, "little bit psychic" Skylar and her brother Elliot, and a mysterious voice in her head only known as Zev--doesn't mean that Kali will get any of them out alive.

When this first came out, I actually requested it from NetGalley. Unfortunately, it expired before I got to it. (Everyone else who uses NetGalley knows the pain of this.) That's why I was so excited to read this. Now that I have? Aw, man, I wish I had read this a year and a half ago!

I'm probably not the first person to make the Buffy comparison, but I'll do so anyway. Combine supernatural beasties, a tough and snarky demon killer, and Ominous Bad Guys, Inc, well, the name of the Slayer is going to be invoked. Does this book stand up to the comparison? Yes, I think so.

What I loved best was that the most important relationships in this book weren't with boys. They were with other girls. Sweet and chirpy Skylar and bitch-queen Bethany form Kali's Scoobies, and the boys (and most of the potential romance, triangular or not) are firmly on the back burner.

While the end seems to make it clear that this is a standalone, I wouldn't mind reading a sequel.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Book Review: Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

Book: Keeping the Castle
Author: Patrice Kindl
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

Althea Crawley is a very beautiful girl. She's also very practical, and knows that her beauty is the only thing that's likely to save her family and her ancestral home from ruination. She has to marry for money.

Unfortunately, all the best catches seem to be slipping through her fingers. So when the wealthy Lord Boring (no, really) comes back to the neighborhood, Althea sets her mind and all her considerable charms to catching him, and she seems to be succeeding. If only his blunt, sarcastic cousin, Mr. Fredericks, didn't insist on hanging around, quarreling with Althea at every turn.

One of my first book reviews on this blog, lo these many years past, was this author's Owl in Love. The thing I remember most was how the humor and the warmth came organically from the characters, and it's the same in Keeping the Castle.

Althea could very easily have been a really difficult character to like, mercenary and manipulative. After all, it's her stated intention, right from the start, to marry the biggest fortune she can find. That's balanced out by a clear portrayal of how desperate her situation is. Living in a castle that needs a new repair every time she turns around, remaking ballgowns every time there's a party, and pinching pennies until they scream, Althea is very aware that her family is just hanging on by their fingernails. (And the obnoxious stepsisters, who refuse to share even a penny of their own money with the household, don't make life any easier.) Her quest therefore becomes entirely reasonable and practical.

My favorite character, for obvious reasons, is Mr. Fredericks, who really is astonishingly bad at social intercourse, but proves a wonderful foil for our main character. The world of a small country neighborhood is built on polite fictions, and it's those polite fictions that Althea is navigating and manipulating in order to get what she wants. Mr. Fredericks has no capacity or patience for polite fictions, but he proves a better neighbor and friend than the people who have known Althea all her life.

My only quibble with this book is precisely who the audience is. Though content-wise, I wouldn't mind giving it to a middle-grade reader, I wonder how interested they're going to be in the marriage machinations of a time long ago. The best audience, I'm guessing, will be those kids who already enjoy a light romance.

But for this reader? Touches of Cinderella, Jane Austen, and Georgette Heyer made this book all I hoped it would be.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Book Review: The Unseen Guest by Maryrose Wood

Book: The Unseen Guest
Author: Maryrose Wood
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

Fresh from a madcap adventure in London, the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place are about to expand their ornithological horizons. That is, they're about to go on a hunt for an ostrich. Unfortunately, the ostrich's owner thinks that three wolfish children would be a dandy addition to his traveling wildlife show.

Who will save them from this fate? None other than plucky governess Penelope Lumley, with the help of all the unlikely allies she can muster. It might take a wolf mother, a seance, and a really awfully nice young man that makes her heart go pitter-pat, but she's going to ensure that the children stay right at Ashton Place where they belong.

While stuffed with all the madcapacity (I hereby declare that a word) and tongue-in-cheek asides of the first two, this book felt slower-moving. It could be that I was fairly tired while reading, but still I wish that it had been trimmed down some.

The larger mysteries of the childrens' origins, and the origins of Penelope herself, seem to be moving at a glacial speed. I don't know how long Wood has planned this series for, but we got very few clues in this book as to what, exactly, is going on around here.

I'll keep reading this series, because I do love Penelope as a character. She is staunch in the face of every danger, from feral children hanging out windows to possibly-dead-possibly-not gentleman who clearly don't mean any good. I also really want to figure out just what is going on around Ashton Place, and how everybody is involved.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Book Review: Ink by Amanda Sun

Book: Ink
Author: Amanda Sun
Published: June 25, 2013
Source: review copy from publisher via

Katie Greene is a stranger in a strange land. Transplanted to Japan to live with her aunt after her mother's death, she feels out of step and confused about everything from following along in math class (in Japanese!) to remembering to change out of school slippers and into street shoes. Lonely and grieving, she just wants to return to North America.

Then she meets mysterious Tomohiro Yuu, who acts like a jerk sometimes and other times like a sweet and sensitive artist. What's more, his drawings are so realistic she could swear they sometimes move. But that's impossible, isn't it?

She soon discovers that Yuu is a kami, a magical spirit who can bring his own drawings to life. But this is about more than flowers and birds. People, including Yuu, have suffered the effects of his drawings before, and the criminal underworld wants to use him as a weapon against his will. She keeps getting warnings to stay away from him, but she can't stop herself from seeking him out.

I really love a book with a strong sense of place. This novel has that in spades. Katie provides us with a window into modern Japan, replete with schools, sports, and teen hangouts, as well as some of the mythology that underlies a culture so different from our own. It does require the non-Japanophile to pay pretty close attention. Luckily, there's a glossary/dictionary in the back to explain Japanese terms and traditions. I found myself getting especially confused over all the different names, but manga-loving teens will probably be just fine with that.

Katie is unfortunately more a witness than a protagonist. She spends most of the time looking on, trying to get and stay in Yuu's orbit, and it's only close to the end that we even realize she has anything to do with the ink magic. I'll pick up the second book in order to return to Katie's Japan, and to see how she becomes a more active player in her own story.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Reading Roundup: June 2013

By the Numbers
Teen: 17
Tween: 6
Children: 2

Review Copies: 5
Library: 18

Teen: The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff
The daughter of a demon and a fallen angel falls in love with a suicidal human boy. Oh yes, it really is that tortured and glorious. I don't think I would have turned off my oh-please meter for anyone but Brenna Yovanoff, but that woman's Facebook statuses probably ooze atmosphere.
Tween: Zombie Mommy by M.T. Anderson
When you're in a bad mood, there's nothing for it but some madcap lunacy, and this fits the bill. Click the title to see the actual review I wrote.
Children: The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver
A good old-fashioned kiddie adventure, in the vein of Gregor the Overlander and E. Nesbit. Not what I was expecting from this author.

Because I Want To Awards
Still Good Stuff: The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee by Tom Angleberger
How can you hate on this series? Answer: You cannot. It's impossible for human types.
Need Some Buffy Methadone?: Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
What else can you call a book about a tough, snarky demon hunter and her human friends? Luckily, it stands up to the comparison.
Where is the Third Book?: Messy by Heather Cocks and Jessica
While it's dressed up in the Fug Girl's tradesnark, this is at heart a sweet and unlikely teen romance, and I lapped it up. Can we please have a third book, because I want to see where Brooke is going, like now.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Late Roundup this month

I'm just back from ALA and in no shape to do a roundup tonight. It'll be up tomorrow!