Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review: Entwined by Heather Dixon

Genre: Fairy Tales

Entwined is a lovely reworking of the classic fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Azalea, the princess royale and eldest sister, loses her mother to childbirth. Though newly born Lily survives the ordeal, the tragedy of losing their mother hits the family hard. The girls' father, whom they call 'Sir' or 'the King', begins to drift farther away than before. He demands that the girls give up dancing in order to fulfill the year-long period of mourning. The girls, now dressed in black, must also lose their father in a war, as he leaves to lead the troops. Despite their father's many restrictions, the girls are determined to find a way to dance, a talent inherited by their beloved mother. Upon discovering a magic passageway, the girls begin to take nightly visits to the mystic pavilion looked over by the Keeper. However, this beautiful eternal dance is not what it seems. The girls must face a more dangerous threat than mere family rules. It becomes a battle between dark magic and love.

The most endearing aspect of the novel is the close bond that all the girls share. The realization of their father's love, merely expressed differently than their mother's, emphasizes the importance of vocal confirmation of love and affection between family members. There are tidbits of romance throughout, which add a nice subplot, but it is not the primary focus. Familial love and honesty are the major themes of the novel. To put it simply, Entwined is delightful.

Book Trailer:

Rating: 5 out of 5 owls

Nook |  Kindle

Review: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Genre: Historical Romance


A study in contrasts between rural southern England and industrial northern England. The protagonist is the daughter of a parson whose religious doubts have forced him to resign his Hampshire living and to move his family to an industrial manufacturing town in Darkshire.


In North and South, a classic love story in the style of Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell paints a grim picture of the mill town--Milton. The reluctant romance  between Margret and John Thornton parallels the relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Mr. Thornton shares the cool, yet passionate reserve with Mr. Darcy. Margaret is much like Elizabeth in that she is confident and independent. The audience is privy to Mr. Thornton's overwhelming passion that is, unfortunately, unrequited until the end of the novel. We must sit back and watch Mr. Thornton's pain and jealous consume him when Margaret is thought to have had a scandalous relation with a mysterious man. While their journey towards love takes at least two years on Margaret's side, there is a lack of exploration of new love once they finally confess. I was left craving the more intimate and albeit gushy qualities typical to the romance genre.  Margaret does not realize her affection for Mr. Thornton until the last few pages of the novel. Though this is traditional in this time period, I found myself wanting more. Nevertheless, the story is filled with action and there are enough subtle glances and brushing of hands to keep the romance lover entertained.

If you do not wish to tackle the novel, might I suggest the lovely mini-series that BBC produced. Richard Armitage plays a dashing Mr. Thornton, while  Daniela Deby-Ashe plays a determined Margret.

Rating: 5 out of 5 owls

BBC Television Series:

Friday, January 27, 2012

Review: Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Genre: Supernatural | Vampires


The undead can really screw up your senior year . . .
Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year “get-a-life” plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancĂ©. Armed with newfound confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war—and save Lucius’s soul from eternal destruction.


Okay, I'll admit, the title threw me off. It seems a tad cliche. Honestly, I wasn't going to download this novel, until I read a great review for it--go figure. Despite that, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed reading it. This novel is an easy read and can be knocked out in a day or two. The story didn't pick up until about half-way through, then I couldn't put it down. I enjoyed watching Jessica slowly fall in love over the course of the school year. Lucius is, of course, my favorite character. He experiences the most drastic character development. In a sense, he is the one that must sacrifice the most for what he wants. The light-hearted, carefree attitude of the American teen culture is like a drug for Lucius. He can't resist. He is tormented by his responsibilities as a vampire prince, as well as his longing for freedom. His reluctant relationship with Jessica is highlighted by the love triangle--or rather quadrangle--with two humans at school. Perhaps the aspect that I loved the most are the letters that  Lucius writes to his uncle. They are both amusing and disturbing. Beth Fantaskey has intrigued me and I will definitely read the sequel Jessica Rules the Dark Side. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 owls
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Friday, January 20, 2012

Review: Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

Genre: Fairy Tales


As a child, Gretchen's twin sister was taken by a witch in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch's forest threatening to make them disappear, too.
Years later, when their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out, they find themselves in sleepy Live Oak, South Carolina. They're invited to stay with Sophia Kelly, a beautiful candy maker who molds sugary magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion.
Life seems idyllic and Gretchen and Ansel gradually forget their haunted past — until Gretchen meets handsome local outcast Samuel. He tells her the witch isn't gone — it's lurking in the forest, preying on girls every year after Live Oak's infamous chocolate festival, and looking to make Gretchen its next victim. Gretchen is determined to stop running and start fighting back. Yet the further she investigates the mystery of what the witch is and how it chooses its victims, the more she wonders who the real monster is.
Gretchen is certain of only one thing: a monster is coming, and it will never go away hungry.


Where was this novel during college when I wrote my dissertation on the sacrifice motif in fairy tales? To put it bluntly, this novel is wonderful. From the first sentence I was hooked. I could not put Sweetly down. Not only did the subtle references to motifs and themes common to traditional fairy tales tickle my love for folklore, but Pearce's descriptions of the painful torment of losing a sibling--a twin--are heart wrenching. The reader cannot help but become emotionally attached to Gretchen. Once again, I appreciate the maturity of the protagonist, Gretchen, and her brother Ansel. Gretchen and Ansel have a strong sense of reason and adult maturity that tells of  life quickly thrust into adulthood. 

Pearce's interpretation of the age-old tale of Hansel and Gretel combines the supernatural elements of pagan influenced folklore with the beliefs and customs of modern society. These supernatural elements are tastefully subtle and add mystery to the plot. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the novel is the somewhat tragic ending. I love the "what goes around comes around" finale. This novel is definitely one that I will enjoy reading again and again.

Rating: 5 out of 5 owls

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Review: Significance by Shelly Crane

Genre: Supernatural


Maggie is a seventeen year old girl who's had a bad year. She was smart and on track but then her mom left, her dad is depressed, she's graduating, barely, and her boyfriend of almost three years dumped her for a college football scholarship. Lately she thinks life is all about hanging on by a thread and is gripping tight with everything she has. Then she meets Caleb. She saves his life and instantly knows there's something about him that's intriguing but she is supposed to be on her way to a date with his cousin. But things change when they touch, sparks ignite. Literally. They imprint with each other and she sees their future life together flash before her eyes. She learns that not only is she his soul mate, and can feel his heartbeat in her chest, but there is a whole other world of people with gifts and abilities that she never knew existed. She herself is experiencing supernatural changes unlike anything she's ever felt before and she needs the touch of his skin to survive. Now, not only has her dad come out of his depression to be a father again, and a pain as well, but Caleb's enemies know he's imprinted and are after Maggie to stop them both from gaining their abilities and take her from him. Can Caleb save her or will they be forced to live without each other after just finding one another?


In her novel Significance, Shelly Crane tells a sweet story of how two adolescents on the brink of adulthood discover that they are soul mates. Caleb and Maggie are realistic characters, and the audience can genuinely feel the awkward hesitancy that comes with new romances. Crane explores a new dimension of the imprinting phenomena, while simultaneously keeping the supernatural elements subtle and tasteful. Their blossoming love is the star of the show. 

Though they are rushed into a relationship, Caleb and Maggie do so with maturity, taking care to pace their new relationship as slowly as possible. I have been craving a YA novel that illustrates the struggles of older adolescents that face the responsibilities of the adult world, and I think this series sates it. The opposition that the characters face is appropriately evil. The well scene was startling and disturbing. After all the mush I was anxious for the sense of danger and terror. Overall, I enjoyed reading Crane's novel and I look forward to reading Accordance, the next installment in the Significant series.

Random Quote: "Something triggered, rather, in my mind. A flash of something crossed before my eyes and I found myself doing some strange roundabout kick thing and saw Marcus go down to the grass on his back...Kyle's father had taught me karate that day and I was skeptical, but no more. It was amazing. My brain was literally teaching me karate as I went along. And when Marcus reached for my arm, I used it on him. It was like watching a movie. I didn't control it, I just did it."

Rating: 4 out of 5 owls
For your Nook
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Friday, January 6, 2012

Quote #1

"There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts." --Charles Dickens
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