Monday, July 11, 2011

Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell

When I read a book I try to remember that not everyone has had the life experiences that I have, so when I think something is hilarious it not may be for other people.  But ya'll, this book is a hoot!

Seventeen-year-old Ashley Jane Fontaine Ventouras has a proud Southern heritage to go with her long name and a list of boarding schools that she's been kicked out of that's even longer.  Back in her home town of Bienville, Alabama, for the first time in five years Jane finds herself in just about every kind of situation she doesn't want to be in.  The ghost of her mother (figuratively, not literally - we're not in Savannah) is every where, from the people she meets who give her faux sympathy to the Magnolia Maids her grandmother wants to her be a part of.  Much to Jane's horror, she gets chosen to be a Magnolia Maid - a group of young ladies who are supposed to be "ambassadresses" of Bienville for a year to the rest of the country.  The Maids, who have always been from the rich, white class are diversifying this year...Brandi Lyn is from the working class; Zara, although incredibly rich, is black; and Jane, despite her wealthy family is now considered an outsider.  This is change and as Jane says that is the "dirtiest six letter word in town."  Her sarcasm and general lack of fervor for pearls and pastels isn't helping either. 

Oh and Luke Churchville, the guy that she's never forgotten, her best friend and first kiss, had turned into a serious hottie.  The problem is that they haven't spoken in five years.  The agony Jane goes through in figuring out if she wants to see him again and the hilariously awkward first re-sighting...any woman alive will remember those emotions and any teenager reading it will immediately identify.

Jane is a perfect combination of snark and Southern charm.  She's also authentic and completely believable.  Don't believe me?  Spend a few days hanging around with my mom and she'll point out plenty of potential Janes.  This was a breath of fresh air, an easy read, and even thought it wasn't suspenseful I didn't want to put it down.  I hope Crickett Rumley writes more YA fiction!   

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


I did it again...I read a book and forgot to blog about it.  Maybe it's because the book didn't hook or thrill me like I'd hoped.  As a matter of fact, reading this felt more like riding a bicycle under water.  Slow going....

Finn is a prisoner in Incarceron, a living prison.  Memories haunt him and wrack his body with fits.  Memories he shouldn't have unless he was born outside Incarceron.  But no one has entered Incarceron in decades and only one person was ever rumored to escape.  The one solid clue that Finn holds on to is the strange tattoo of an eagle on his wrist.  Then one day, Finn becomes the owner of a mysterious crystal key that has that same eagle etched into it.  Finn knows that he must use this key to escape the prison that holds him tight.

Claudia is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron.  On the brink of an arranged marriage to the prince of the land, she has memories of her own.  Memories of another prince, the older half-brother of the one she is currently engaged to, who she feels died under suspicious circumstances.  He was her original betrothed, and even though she hasn't seen him since they were both children, Claudia is determined to figure out what happened to him.  In a search for information, she breaks into her father's office and finds a crystal key with the royal eagle emblem etched into it.

Guess where the story leads.....Not only did I have the "mystery" figured out well before I was a 4th of the way through the book, the seemingly endless descriptions of Incarceron itself slowed down what could have otherwise been a really good story.  Setting the scene was way to important to Catherine Fisher.  I also don't care for it when someone has made up a world that is completely unlike our own and has created new names for things but then does not do anything to give them context so it takes you forever to figure out what the heck is going on, if you ever do.  There's a sequel - Sapphique - that I'm going to try to read, but I don't have a lot of hope. 

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Once in a while a book comes along that is so well written, so bitingly funny, and so innovative you find yourself simultaneously wanting to savor each line and speed read through it because the action never slows down.  I also know when I really enjoy a book because I'm making a movie of it in my head as I read it.  Obviously, this was one of those books for me...

Sam, or Samhain (prounced Sowin) Corvus LaCroix has a pretty fancy sounding name but he feels extremely ordinary. And yet, he feels that he has never really fit in anywhere, except with his mom & sister and best friend Ramon.  Unfortunately for Sam, his ordinary fast-food job, college-drop out life is about to become the furthest thing from ordinary.  With a sudden and rather violent warning, Sam finds out that he is a necromancer.  And the other necromancer in the area, a complete power-hungry jerk named Douglas Montgomery, would like Sam to, ahem, go away....and I don't mean move, I mean die.  So what's a boy to do when captured by said jerky necromancer and thrown into a cage with a gorgeous girl/werewolf/fey hound hybrid, especially when you don't know how to use your powers?  In short, try to survive and escape.

Just to give you an example of how witty this writing is, allow me to quote my most favorite two sentences.  I'll set it up for you....A severed head, who's owner Sam knows well, is delivered to his apartment and starts talking to him. He's a little afraid and grabs something from the kitchen as a defense, but then he starts to calm down..."I put the butter knife down. I was still freaked out of my mind, yes, but over that lay a thin patina of shame."

Fair warning: there is some implied sex.  Though you don't read about the "during," you know it's coming and you know it's happened.  Very few reviews other than mine, except this one, say anything about it and most librarians actually need to know these things. 

Fans of Garth Nix, Holly Black, Libba Bray, and other similar writers will definitely enjoy this book.  And if you need some more oomph, as you might be able to tell from the cover picture it was a 2011 Morris Award Finalist.

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Fair Godmother

I can't tell whether this chick on the book cover looks more like Emma Roberts or a teenage Emma Thompson.  Either way, she's an Emma and her outfit isn't anything like what the book describes her wearing - ever.  Well okay, she does wear sunglasses most of the time.  But when an author, like Janette Rallison, goes to the trouble of describing in detail what people wear and the cover art doesn't match...I just don't get it.  Seriously, how hard is it?  Anyhoo...

Be careful what you wish for.  More importantly, you might want to think the wish over for a while (even if your fairy godmother tells you she's missing a shoe sale waiting for your wish), maybe even write out a few drafts.  Because if your fairy godmother is Chrysanthemum Everstar, a.k.a Chrissy, and you ask for Prince Charming you'll get exactly what you wished for Cinderella or Snow White style - complete with a jaunt back to the Middle Ages and with all the crap they went through before said prince comes along.  Keep in mind, that just because he's good looking doesn't mean he's actually nice or smart.

After her boyfriend dumps her for her older sister, this is precisely what happens to Savannah Delano.  Although Chrissy is a fairy godmother, she didn't do so well with some of her tests in fairy godmother school so she's only a "fair" godmother...for good reason.  Granted three wishes and under the regulations of wishing, Savannah finds herself in increasingly awful situations as the servant Cinderella and the complete airhead Snow White.  Finally, when trying to clarify for Chrissy what she really wants in a guy, her school mate Tristan, who has a crush on her, is banished to the Middle Ages to prove himself worthy.  Savannah finds herself bringing some 21st Century smarts and technology back in time to "rescue" Tristan.

While sometimes predictable, the story has all the classic elements from any Medieval fairy tale: the dwarfs, wicked stepmother/evil queen, an ogre, a dragon, plenty of poorly maintained teeth, princes, castles, mutton, and a black knight.  (I know you're thinking it, so just go ahead and say it out loud, "The Black Knight always triumphs!")  It's funny with some definitely snort worthy moments and a pretty kick-butt leading lady, even if she's not always taken seriously or appreciated by other characters in the book.  A very enjoyable read!