Thursday, January 15, 2015

Some Random Thoughts on Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Flynn, Gillian.  Gone Girl.  Broadway Books, 2014.

This will not be my normal review with a plot synopsis since most readers have already either read this book, seen the movie, or both.  So I am going to dispense with the summary and go on to the critique.
Gone Girl is a character-driven novel, and most of the players have "larger-than-life" personalities.  It is rare for me to dislike most of the characters in a novel.  I can honestly say that the only characters I felt any empathy toward were Nick's twin sister, Go, and the female police officer, Boney.  I detested both Nick and his wife, Amy; they were self-indulgent, spoiled, and self-centered.  The same can be said for Amy's parents--they were controlling, manipulative, and conniving.   Amy is a proof that the "apple doesn't fall far from the tree".  I would imagine that it was probably the author's intention that readers would be averse to these characters.  All this being said, I was pulling for Nick to win at the book's conclusion.
It was very smart to have the story told through both Nick's viewpoint and Amy's "soon-to-be-found" diary. The plot is genius--well-planned and contains unseen twists and turns that keeps the pages turning.  And the ending---WOWZA--I did not see that coming!  It was definitely a big surprise!
High school libraries will need to use caution if they choose to add this title to their collections.  There is an abundance of adult situations in this novel.  I highly recommend it for public libraries' adult collections.  I give it five out of five fleur de lis!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Review of Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Raasch, Sara.  Snow Like Ashes. Balzer +    Bray, 2014.

On the continent of Primoria, there are four Season Kingdoms—Spring, Summer, Winter, and Autumn, which sit on a chasm of magic.  All of them have eternal seasons and female rulers who wield magic through conduits, talismans to control their kingdoms.  The Rhythm Kingdoms—Paisly, Ventralli, Yakim, and Cordell—go through all four seasons and have males who rule through their conduits.  The eight kingdoms lived in more or less in harmony until Angra, Spring’s evil conduit, and his army attacked and destroyed Winter, broke its conduit in half, and killed its queen.  Only twenty-five of Winter’s citizens were able to escape; they rest were killed or taken to Spring’s work camps.

Sixteen years later, only eight Winterians remain of those who escaped.  They are constantly moving around so as not to be captured by Angra or his general, Herod.  The eight citizens spend their days trying to survive and searching for their conduit.  Finding the two halves of their conduit would mean freedom, the return of magic, and the rebuilding of their kingdom. 

The two youngest Winterians—Mather Dynam, Winter’s future king, and Meira, an orphan—infants when the attack on Winter occurred, are now teenagers.  Their leader, Sir William, has trained them to fight fiercely for Winter.  Meira knows Mather will one day be her king and is of a higher class, but she still has feelings for him.  On her first journey to look for the conduit, not only does Meira have an encounter with Herod, but she also recovers half of Winter’s conduit.

This leads to a series of events in which Meira, guided by encrypted dreams, becomes first a commodity, then a soldier, and finally a prisoner.  She must deal with courtly politics and Angra’s evil magic to find her true destiny and place in Winter.

Snow Like Ashes, Sara Raasch’s debut novel, is a wonderful fantasy read.  The world building and the concept of designing kingdoms based on seasons are fresh and beautiful.  The main characters are strong, heroic, and selfless, ready to sacrifice anything--even death--for Winter.  The descriptions of the battle scenes are so real, the reader will feel he is right there on the battlefield fighting with the soldiers!  In addition,  if you like love triangles, you will not be disappointed!  The cover art is awesome; it depicts a chakram, a type of throwing knife, Meira’s weapon of choice, on a bed of fresh snow.

The only negative about the novel is the pacing.  The plot sometimes slows down and takes awhile to pick up speed again.  However, there is enough happening during the slow parts to keep readers motivated to continue reading.

Snow Like Ashes is the first in a series of the same name.   Icicles Like Kindling, a novella eBook-only prequel, was released in September.  It covers Meira’s life from her infancy to age sixteen and was originally intended to be the prologue in Snow Like Ashes.    Ice Like Fire (Snow Like Ashes #2) will come out this year!

This book will be enjoyed by fans of Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series and readers of The Games of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin.  I highly recommend it for middle school, high school, and public libraries.  I give it four out of five fleur de lis!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review of The Jewel by Amy Ewing

Ewing, Amy.  The Jewel.  HarperTeen, 2014.

Once they reach puberty, all girls in The Marsh must have a blood test to determine if they have certain characteristics, which will qualify them to become surrogates to the royal families who live in The Jewel.  Due to a genetic quirk, royalty are unable to give birth to their own children. A Girl who “passes” the blood test is removed from her family and taken to live in one of four holding facilities in The Lone City, where she is trained to use her special powers, or auguries.  The auguries include the ability to change the color of an item, the ability to change the shape of an item, and the ability to make things grow.  Eventually, after several years, the girl is sold at auction to the highest royal bidder and becomes the surrogate for that family.

Violet Lasting, now sixteen years old, has spent her last four years in the   Southgate Holding Facility, preparing for her life as a surrogate.  She has wanted for nothing while living in the facility, has achieved extremely high scores on her augury tests, and is an accomplished cellist.  However, she has missed her family and home in The Marsh deeply.

At auction she is sold to The Duchess of the Lake as Lot #197 for an enormous sum and goes to spend her days in a lovely palace, where she has beautiful clothes, wonderful meals, enjoys lavish parties, and has her own suite of rooms.

However, there is a dark side to being a surrogate. Violet is a nameless “pet” to The Duchess of the Lake, forced to wear a leash and collar when they go out, as do all surrogates.  She is at The Duchess’s beck and call twenty-four hours a day.  Her body is not hers; it belongs to the doctor who performs experiments on her and to The Duchess, who wants Violet to use her abilities to grow a baby in three months as opposed to nine.

When Violet is secretly offered a way to leave The Jewel and her life of surrogacy, she has to decide if freedom is also worth leaving forbidden love and her best friend behind, as well.  Some decisions are hard, especially when they involve trust, promises, and love.

This terrific debut novel by Amy Ewing is the first in her new series, “The Lone City”, and is filled with excitement, surprises, and intrigue.  The world building is exquisite.  In The Jewel, which is painted as a fairytale-like place, everyone lives in castles, and all lifestyles are extravagant!  The city is decorated like it is Christmas all the time! There are headstrong royal women and power plays to see who can produce the first daughter, who can shun whom, and who has the most talented and beautiful surrogate.  All the royal women are conniving and mean-spirited!

Ms. Ewing has included such strong characters in her book—Violet, Garnet—The Duchess of the Lake’s unruly son; Ash—companion to Carnelian Silver, The Lady’s niece; and Lucien, the Lady-in-Waiting who prepares Violet for the Auction.  I am really looking forward to their continuing story in the next installment!

This dystopian/fantasy/romance will be enjoyed by readers who liked The Selection series by Kiera Cass.  However, be prepared, because it is much more sinister!  I recommend it for grades eight and up and for public libraries.  I give it five out of five fleur de lis!!!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I am continuing to read books for the TLA Spirit of Texas High School nominations.  Please stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I have not posted any reviews in awhile because I am currently reading many books that have or will be nominated for the Spirit of Texas High School Book List.  I will begin posting reviews very soon.  Please keep coming to my blog!  Thanks!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Review of Fat Boy vs the Cheeleaders by Geoff Herbach

Herback, Geoff.  Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders.  Sourcebooks Fire, 2014.

Sixteen-year-old Gabe “Chunk” Johnson lives in Minnekota, MN with his controlling dad and former body-builder grandpa, who moved in after Gabe’s mom ran off with an architect to Japan.  Gabe’s favorite thing about school is playing the trombone in the Minnekota Lake Area High School Band.  Every day he buys multiple bottles of Code Red Mountain Dew from the school’s soda machine because he thinks the proceeds are funding summer marching band camp.  Unfortunately, Gabe’s soda habit, lack of exercise, and his dad’s junk food purchases have caused him to gain a lot of weight.

One day, Gabe notices that the prices on the soda machine have increased.  He finds out later that the proceeds are now going to the school’s voluptuous new dance coach and dance squad, formerly the cheerleaders, instead of the band.  Consequently, band camp is cancelled for lack of funding.  The band director flips out and does some crazy things and is dismissed by the school board.  Helped by his friend and coworkers, RCIII, Chandra Gore, other band members, and band alumni, Gabe declares war on the cheerleaders and leads a rebellion to regain control of the soda machine and reinstatement of the band director.

Along with his cause, Gabe also gains a girlfriend, gets help shaping up and eating right from his grandpa, and helps the school acquire funding for the summer marching camp.

This book is extremely character-driven.  There are a lot of stereotypes in this humorous novel, and Geoff Herbach destroys some of them.  RCIII, for instance, is a black, talented athlete, but he enjoys hanging out with the band students!  The Goth girl, Chandra “Gore” Wettinger, is actually very nice and sensitive, contrary to what other students think about her and her past.

I can totally relate to this story because I was in band beginning in seventh grade and continuing all through college.  I also have three band directors in my family, so I understand the funding issues bands deal with.  Gabe is such a loyal, hardworking band member, and he thinks his director is pretty cool.  He epitomizes the typical band student and loves music.

I loved Gabe’s grandpa.  He inspires Gabe and sticks by him; he is a great positive role model.  He cheers Gabe, lifts him up, and supports his weight loss and fitness attempts.  He gives him advice because Gabe’s father is still trying to overcome rejection from his ex-wife.

Readers looking for a humorous read will enjoy this story.  It is refreshing and delightful to see and such an underdog become a hero!  I recommend this book for eighth grade readers and high school  and public libraries.  I give it four out of five fleur de lis!

Reviewer's Note:  The copy reviewed was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.