Monday, February 09, 2015

Finding Mr. Brightside--Jay Clark

Title: Finding Mr. Brightside
Author: Jay Clark
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company, 2015.
Pages: 288 p.
Source: VOYA
Compensation: None



Abram is slightly obsessed with his neighbor Juliette but he is afraid to make contact because of their shared traumatic past. Abram's dad and Juliette's mom were in a horrible fatal car crash which revealed the two had been having an illicit affair. Abram and Juliette each react differently to the loss of their respective parents and the scandal it uncovered. Juliette is addicted to Adderall because it helps occupy her mind and prevents her from sleeping. Abram is on antidepressants that do the opposite. When they run into each other filling their prescriptions at the local drug store, Abram takes a chance and speaks to Juliette, who takes a bigger chance and speaks back. From there they open the door to an unexpected friendship and romance and some much needed healing.

Finding Mr. Brightside is told in both Abram's and Juliette's points of view in alternating chapters. Clark does a good job of making their voices different without resorting to stereotypical differences between girls and boys (Abram does not obsess over sex). The romance unfolds nicely and although it is quick, this is not a case of insta-love. It takes Juliette a while to let her guard down and truly trust Abram. She may have been subconsciously attracted to him, but she was determined to not be in a relationship with anyone. Clark's characters are realistic and sympathetic. Readers will root for both of them to overcome their trauma and accept a future of happiness.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2015

When My Heart Was Wicked--Tricia Stirling

Title: When My Heart Was Wicked
Author: Tricia Stirling
Publisher: Scholastic Press, 2015.
Pages: 192 p.
Source: VOYA
Compensation: None



Lacy is grieving for her beloved father with her kind-hearted stepmother when her troubled mother shows up demanding custody. Although clearly the better parent, Lacy's stepmom has no legal claim to her and must give her up to the wild and evil-spirited Cheyenne. Lacy fears that all of the work she has done to overcome her own troubled past will be undone as soon as she is under her mother's influence. She tries to fight it but little by little she loses herself until she must confront her mother and battle for her own soul. On the surface this is a normal story about a girl trying to find her own identity separate from her mother's. But underneath the surface, there is an element of magic. Cheyenne has always turned to dark magic and included her very young daughter in her spells. Now that Lacy is older and trying to resist her mother, Cheyenne goes so far as using magic against her. Lacy's battle for her soul is a very real one and not just a metaphor.


When My Heart Was Wicked is not a traditional fantasy story, nor is it traditional realistic fiction. Fans of Francesca Lia Block's magical realism will enjoy this quick and powerful debut from Tricia Stirling.  

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Friday, January 30, 2015

The Warrior Heir--Cinda Williams Chima

Title: The Warrior Heir
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Publisher: Hyperion, 2006.
Pages: 450 p.
Source: Library ebook
Compensation: None


The story opens with a prologue that immediately sucks you in and leaves you wanting more. Unfortunately you have to wait quite a while before you get it. We're introduced to a mysterious world where children have to hide from evil wizards. A young boy, Lee, discovers his family has been murdered and watches his warrior sister get stolen. He vows revenge. Fast forward 100 years. A heart surgeon is attempting to steal one of her infant patients when the boy's aunt discovers it and convinces her not to take him as a baby but to wait to claim him when he's older. The main plot begins sixteen years later. 

Jack has had to take strange medicine everyday for his entire life because of a heart surgery when he was just a baby. He's always had to be extra careful and his mom has always worried. One day he forgets his medicine and discovers he feels stronger and more capable. Unfortunately his new strength puts him in danger. Jack is part of a magical family--wizards, enchanters, warriors, sorcerers--that each have magical stones designating their power.  Wizards have always been in charge and feuding with one another. Rather than continue killing each other in bloody wars, wizards have devised a game in which warriors will fight for them in a tournament. There are fewer and fewer warriors born, mostly because the wizards keep capturing and killing them. Jack is one of the few, or possibly the only, warrior left. Which makes him a very valuable target and in immediate danger. 

Most of the story is Jack finding out about his heritage and training and running from bad guys. It's a little slow. But once Jack finally makes it to the tournament the story picks up speed and is difficult to put down. This is an interesting world with lots of potential. I'm looking forward to continuing the series with The Wizard Heir next.  

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Clariel--Garth Nix

Title: Clariel
Author: Garth Nix
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2014
Pages: 400 p.
Source: Library
Compensation: None


If you're one of the few regular readers of this blog and not just a googler, you should remember my obsession admiration for Garth Nix. I particularly loved the Abhorsen Trilogy. Which is why I may have flipped out a wee bit when I saw he had written another one! Clariel is not a sequel to the trilogy, but rather a prequel that takes place hundreds of years before.

Clariel is a loner who just wants a simple life of living in the woods and working as a Borderer. Unfortunately she is part of an important family with ties to the Abhorsen and the King and when her mother is called to live in the city, Clariel must go with her. While there she is drawn into political intrigue and murderous plots, and discovers that she is a Berserker. Her berserk nature makes her very vulnerable to free magic and makes it very hard to resist free magic's tempting power.

Clariel is an interesting character, unlike any of Nix's previous heroines. She is flawed, and while some of her actions are understandable, she is more of an anti-heroine than a truly likable character. I'd rather not give away any spoilers, but when Clariel's identity is revealed at the end of the book, it's clear that this is an "origin story."

I didn't love-love this one as much as I did the others but in retrospect I think it was because I didn't know what I was reading. I kept waiting for Clariel to be the hero, to be the next Abhorsen, to be what I expected. But that wasn't what this story was and I don't think I was supposed to love her like Sabriel. The more time I have away from it, the more I appreciate it.

I am REALLY looking forward to his next Abhorsen book which IS a sequel.
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