Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Classic Double Challenge: Attempt #2

Wow, I haven't been updating this blog in months. And I signed up for this challenge last year, but never finished it, so going to give it another try!

I was reading one of my favorite book blogs, Angieville, and I was redirected to the Classic Double Challenge hosted by One Librarian's Book Reviews. I have decided to join in, since I really need to get jump started on my blog again.

I think I will start with "Small" which is reading one set of related books, so 2 in total. I do have a lot of free time in Austria, but don't want to overwhelm myself!

Here is what I'm thinking:

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie paired with Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens paired with Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Both of the newer books are available from my library as e-books. I read And Then There Were None last year for this challenge, but never read Ten. Hopefully I can read at least one pair of these books!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Review: Hex Hall Series

I started this series awhile ago a couple of years ago and recently realized that the third book in the series had come out. I had forgotten what had happened in the first two books, so I had to reread them before continuing on to the third. Warning: There will be spoilers!

The series centers around Sophie Mercer, who is a witch, or so she thinks until towards the end of the first book. She finds out she is a demon, one of the most powerful supernatural creatures or prodigium in existence. The series starts out with Sophie having to attend Hex Hall after she does a spell that goes wrong. Hex Hall is a school for "bad" supernatural teenagers. Throughout the series, she has to grapple with being a demon while also being a teenager. She deals with love, family, school, friends and unlike most teenagers, the possible destruction of all supernatural creatures.

I find the books a bit fluffy, but I do enjoy them. I even read the spin-off series, School Spirits. My favorite part is probably Sophie. She is pretty sarcastic and uses sarcasm to cope with all the chaos around her. I also like her relationships with Elodie, her nemesis in the first book, and Jenna, her vampire best friend. I especially love the banter between her and Jenna.

There is a love triangle in this book and while normally I am not a fan of love triangles, I thought this one worked fairly well and was realistic. Sophie, like many other witches and warlocks, is betrothed to a fellow warlock, Cal. However, Sophie falls for Archer, resident bad boy. Both boys represent a clear choice for Sophie, in regards to which direction she wants to head and I think Hawkins handled it well. I also liked her resolution with the triangle, though it did seem a bit convenient.

However, sometimes I feel like the endings were rushed in the books,  especially the last one. I felt the last one felt a little jumbled in the plotting and the ended was very rushed.

Overall, I really liked this series and as I mentioned before, I have started the spin-off series. I think this series would translate really well to a movie or TV show, as it does have fun characters and the plot is very compelling, plus there is lots of action!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Review: School Spirits

Author: Rachel Hawkins
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Pages: 304
Source: Library
Why I read it: I have read the first two books in the Hex Hall series and didn't realize that the author had a new spin off series. Of course I had to read this!

Izzy is a member of the Brannick family, a family that hunts magical creatures. She, her sister, who has mysteriously disappeared, and her mom are the last of the Brannicks. They keep to themselves, and move around hunting different magical creatures. After Izzy botches what should be a simple vampire case, her and her mother move to a small town in Mississippi. The local high school has a mysterious haunting and Izzy is supposed to solve the case. Unfortunately, or fortunately, she begins to befriend people at the school, which interferes with her work and her disguise that she is a normal teenage girl.

I could not put this book down! I had read the first two books in the Hex Hall series and when I saw the author had a new series, I really wanted to read it. I didn't realize the book was a spin off, as I haven't finished the Hex Hall series.

The novel is fast paced and the mystery surrounding the haunting of the school is compelling. The characters are also really compelling. I loved the group of friends that Izzy meets at school through the PMS, also known as the Paranormal Management Society, especially Romy and Dex. I loved Romy's quirks and her warmth and Dex's quirks, like wearing old fashioned clothing and her flowery speech. I can't wait to see where they fit in the next books. 
Izzy is also a great character too. She struggles with trying to fit in and is a bit snarky and jaded, which of course, a monster hunter would probably be. Romy and Dex are really good friends to Izzy, and I warmed up to them quickly. Dex is also romantically interested in Izzy and she is interested in him too, but I felt like that plot line didn't overshadow the rest of the story. Izzy knew that her mission was the most important while struggling with her feelings for Dex and also her growing friendship with Romy. I though the conflict between the two was handled well and not too much hand wringing over Dex.

The ending felt a little rushed and actually I felt a little thrown off from what I expected to happen. It seemed thrown together and I wonder how the next book will start off, based on what happened at the end of this book. However, of course I will read the second book to see the new developments!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Review: Penny Dreadful

Author: Laurel Synder
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 28, 2010
Pages: 320
Source: Library
Why I read it: I had this on my Goodreads shelf and it seemed like a book that I could read quickly.

Penelope Grey lives a very comfortable and happy life in the city. But she wants more. She wants her life to be exciting and an adventure like in the books she reads. One day, she wishes for something exciting to happen and her father comes home and tells her and her mother that he has quit his job. The family also finds out that they have inherited an old house in Tennessee. Penelope and her family are forced to move there, because of financial concerns. When they arrive in Tennessee, they find out that not only did they inherit the house, they also inherited many tenants and a huge debt. Penelope gets to know the tenants and other various people around the small town and tries to help out her family.

This is a sweet, heartwarming book about the power of friendship. I actually liked this a lot more than I expected. The characterization is great. All of the characters are very interesting, with great back stories, and a lot of them even have hidden depths. There is even a lot of diversity in the book! I couldn't pick a favorite character, because they are all complete individuals.

My favorite part of the book is the development that Penelope, later Penny, goes through. She is a lonely girl in the city, but learns to make friends and learns how the power of friendship can help overcome adversity. Even a lot of the other characters have their own small story arcs and development. For example, her mother, who was formerly a housewife, begins to work in an unusual job. Her father finds a hidden talent that he didn't know he has. And even Penny's new friends have their own small developments.

Very sweet and heartwarming book. Though this book is middle grade, I feel like even adults can take something away from the story. I also loved the illustrations, but wish there had been a few more!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Review: Attachments

Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Release Date: April 14, 2011

Pages: 323
Source: Library
Why I read it: Had heard about the author's other books and this was the only one readily available from the library.
I don't remember when I first heard about this book, but I remember the premise intrigued me. The story centers around Lincoln, a man in his late 20s who is hired to monitor employee emails at the newspaper. He finds himself reading emails between two women, Beth and Jennifer. He finds himself drawn to their conversations and begins to fall in "love at first read" with Beth. He struggles with the moral issues of reading the emails between Beth and Jennifer, but also wonders how to approach Beth.

I found this book absolutely adorable. It also resonated with me, because I am at a similar place in my life as the characters. They are all in their late 20s and struggling with issues like independence, family and relationships. I am also in my late 20s and struggling with some of the same problems. Especially Lincoln. I loved the character of Lincoln. I saw myself in this character. Lincoln struggles with becoming an adult, and taking charge of his life. I also liked the characters of Beth and Jennifer, but I think Lincoln really encompasses being in your 20s and feeling directionless. I think many other 20-somethings would also be able to relate to his character.

As for the plot, I found it pretty believable. Though I was amazed how articulate Beth and Jennifer were in emails, though it is 1999 in the book, so I guess people still considered emails like letters.

I think Rowell did an amazing job with the characterization and I look forward to reading her other books.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Classic Double Challenge: And Then There Were None

I read this book many years ago, and after discovering the Classic Double Challenge, decided to reread it. And Then There Were None was written by Agatha Christie and was originally published in 1939. The retelling, which I will read and review later, is Ten by Gretchen McNeil.

And Then There Were None follows ten individuals, all guilty of a murder that is beyond the reach of the justice system. They all go to Indian Island under dubious circumstances and are slowly killed off according to the 10 Little Indians nursery rhyme. The murderer is never clear and the remaining victims try desperately to figure out who their mysterious murderer is. While I won't spoil the plot here, the big reveal is surprising and juicy!

Though I read this book many years ago, I had forgotten who the murderer was. Unfortunately, I spoiled the surprise while searching for information on the book on Wikipedia. Though I still enjoyed the book, I had wished I had not spoiled the twist for myself. However, despite knowing the twist, the book is still an amazing piece of literature. I am usually not a big mystery fan, but Christie was obviously a master at her game. I remember reading this years ago and seeing the film, and being impressed at how tight the plot was and how I was guessing the whole time, while still being ultimately wrong. The book is also definitely a product of the time it was written in. I have yet to read Ten by Gretchen McNeil, but I am a little worried about the retelling. The original book was written in 1939, before cell phones, before computers...well, before a lot of things! I don't know if McNeil will be able to keep the same suspense and keep it believable as the original.

I really don't have much more to say, because I think this book is perfect. It's also a good book for anyone interested in reading mysteries or Agatha Christie. Definitely one of my favorites in the mystery genre.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Classic Double Challenge!

Wow, I haven't been updating this blog in months.

I was reading one of my favorite book blogs, Angieville, and I was redirected to the Classic Double Challenge hosted by One Librarian's Book Reviews. I have decided to join in, since I really need to get jump started on my blog again.

I think I will start with "Medium" which is reading two sets of related books, so 4 in total. I do have a lot of free time in Austria, but don't want to overwhelm myself!

Here is what I'm thinking:

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie paired with Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens paired with Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier paired with New Girl by Paige Harbison

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie paired with Thief by Brom

Gave myself a few options in case some of the books are difficult to get a copy in Austria.