Author Archives: CJ

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

“What happens when your past is not just past, but wiped clean entirely? How do you figure out where you’re going when you can’t even claim where you’ve been? These were the questions that inspired Lock and Key. It’s the story of a girl named Ruby who is abandoned by her mother and determined to make it on her own, even—and especially—when she is sent to live with her long-lost sister in a whole new world of privilege, family, and relationships. As Ruby learns, there’s a big difference between being given help and being able to accept it. And sometimes, it takes reaching out to someone else to save yourself.” – Sarah Dessen’s website

This is the second Sarah Dessen book I’ve read, the first being The Truth About Forever. I guess everyone’s right, she’s amazing! Her writing is so gorgeous. It’s very descriptive and emotionally charged, she makes you FEEL the characters, everything seeming so real. I might have felt kind of disconnected from Ruby if it weren’t for that, but I didn’t. The whole story is full of Ruby (and sometimes Nate’s) raw emotions and that made the whole thing more enjoyable. I felt so bad and so confused for Ruby, after her mom’s disappearance. I had a feeling of what Cora would tell her, and that Ruby’s impressions weren’t necessarily true, and I was right. (What am I talking about? I’ll give you my usual answer: read the book.)

My favorite character was probably Jamie, he tried to hard for Cora and Ruby to give them what they never had and be there for them. He was hilarious, too. The whole UMe thing was quite funny too. I liked all of the characters, actually (well, all the good characters, anyway). Olivia was great and I could really appreciate her helping Ruby… and Gervais was just amusing. The only qualm I have with the characters (and really, this is my qualm with the book in general, though not that bad) was Nate. I liked Nate, I liked how Ruby and him got along and could relate, they kind of needed each other, BUT I never really got to like him that much… despite his emotions showing through sometimes and his action, I never felt a connection to him as a character, and I missed that, I think that might’ve helped me love the book rather than just quite liking it, though I’m not sure why it effected me so.

City of Orphans by Avi

“The streets of 1893 New York are full of life: crowded, filthy, dangerous. If you are a newsboy like thirteen-year- old Maks Geless, you need to watch out for Bruno, leader of the Plug Ugly Gang whose shadowy, sinister boss is plotting to take control of all the newsies on the lower East Side. With Bruno’s boys in fierce pursuit, Maks discovers Willa, a strange girl who lives alone in an alley. It is she, stick in hand, who fights off the Plug Uglies–but further dangers await. Maks must find a way to free his sister Emma from The Tombs, the city jail where she has been imprisoned for stealing a watch at the glamorous new Waldorf Hotel. Maks, believing her innocent, has only four days to prove it. Fortunately, there is Bartleby Donck, the eccentric lawyer (among other employments) to guide Maks and Willa in the art of detection. Against a backdrop alive with the sights and sounds of tenement New York, Maks, as boy detective, must confront a teeming world of wealth and crime, while struggling against powerful forces threatening new immigrants and the fabric of family love.”-goodreads

I haven’t read a really good middle-grade in quite a while (aside that I’m currently re-reading “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” at a snail like pace to go along with Pottermore). I don’t read middle-grade very often, but when I do I usually enjoy it (well, actually, specifically, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I enjoy any kind of book, as long is it’s good, to me. That’s the obvious requirement, and that’s all.) “City of Orphans” fulfilled the good book requirement as well as the ‘good middle-grade since I haven’t read one in a while’ requirement.

I really liked Maks, the main character. Throughout the novel, he deals with a whole lot of problems amicably but realistically. He experienced set backs and not everything went as planned, and that seems to happen too much especially in middle-grade. It wasn’t a complete fairy tale. Willa was pretty epic too, tough girl who’s also sensitive (which has been done a million times, but still). While I thought the characters were likable, I 
didn’t necessarily think they had as much depth as I would have liked… 

The overall plot was good, well paced, a mystery that kept you reading to find out who the crook was, and when I did find out I was pretty sad for -insert character here-. I also liked that between the writing and the few illustrations scattered through out I felt the book come to life– which is really important for the middle grade genre, I think (but any genre for the most part!)! The voice is quite important too and I thought that was also great. The bottom line: A great historical, stand-alone, middle-grade novel!

Thank you Simon&Schuster for the opportunity to review this book, readers, as usual it in no way affected my opinion!

Moonglass by Jessi Kirby

May 3rd, 2011

I read once that water is a symbol for emotions. And for a while now, I’ve thought maybe my mother drowned in both.
Anna’s life is upended when her father accepts a job transfer the summer before her junior year. It’s bad enough that she has to leave her friends and her life behind, but her dad is moving them to the beach where her parents first met and fell in love- a place awash in memories that Anna would just as soon leave under the surface.
While life on the beach is pretty great, with ocean views and one adorable lifeguard in particular, there are also family secrets that were buried along the shore years ago. And the ebb and flow of the ocean’s tide means that nothing- not the sea glass that she collects on the sand and not the truths behind Anna’s mother’s death- stays buried forever.”-goodreads

Moonglass is a deeply impressive debut novel. It was just fabulous! It reminded me of Sarah Dessen (The Truth About Forever), who happened to blurb the book. Slightly reminiscent of Jenny Han (The Summer I Turned Pretty) which I just read. Definitely on the most emotional and powerful books I’ve ever read. The writing was vivid and addictive. I found the protagonist, Anna, very easy to relate to in general and rather likable in comparison to some that I’ve read lately.

The setting of the book was beautiful, and I could see it in my mind so clearly thanks to Kirby’s amazing writing. Anna’s story coming full circle, starting with relocating to the beach where her parents met was moving. The ongoing theme that was the moonglass was great, one of my favorite elements. The way more and more pieces of the story of her mother’s death came together (and that we learned more and more as we read the story) was so great as well. 

I enjoyed all of the characters. Ashley was really funny and sweet. Tyler was great. Anna’s dad and his dedication and that he was trying so hard was good too. I really, really liked Anna, as I said before. The REPENT man was a great element, and his story. I never expected that or the role he would eventually play. I didn’t expect what was almost the end of Anna’s story to happen…. 

Anyway, I keep *almost* spoiling things here, so I’ll just finish with saying that Moonglass is an amazing book. If you want a very emotional, very vivid, beautiful read, you should really pick it up! Fabulous. I can’t wait to read what Jessi Kirby writes next!

Thank you, Simon&Schuster for giving me the opportunity to read this book. Readers Note: As usual, this in no way effects my opinion, as always, my review is unbiased!

Story Time by Edward Bloor

“All I know is this,” Kate told her brusquely. “I’m not going to Lincoln with you on Monday morning, I’m going to Whittaker. And I’m not going home with my mother and fatehr tonight, I’m going home with just my mother. So I guess I don’t believe in wishes coming true, either. If I really want good things to happen, and bad things to stop happening, it’ll take more than wishing. I have to act. And I have to act now.”

Kate and her uncle, George, are regular kids. Kate is in eighth grade, Uncle George is in sixth. Kate is ready to go to Lincoln middle school and play Peter Pan in the play, and George is ready to learn things and invent things as well.
And then Uncle George passes the entrance exam to the Whittaker Magnet School.

Before they know it, both Kate and George are absorbed into the Whittaker Magnet School district ‘octopus’ and are attending the school with the highest scores on standardized tests. Although George is excited to be in a place where his genius is appreciated, Kate is not too happy to be in with the ‘mushroom children’ and personal assistant to Heidi Whittaker, the girl who dresses like a ‘Swiss Milkmaid’.
But when eerie things begin in the school, neither of them know what to expect. With the help of a woman who only speaks in nursery rhymes, Kate’s mother June, the staff of the White House, and a whole cast of other characters (Whether willingly or not), the two children will uncover a mystery that stretches back to the founding of the school, and nothing will be the same again.

Kate stared at the supine figure of Walter Barnes. She felt a pang of sympathy for the old librarian. but that pang was quickly replaed by another feeling, a feeling that something big had just happened. She didn’t know what it was, exactly, but she did know this: It was something that the Whittaker-Austins, with all their money and all their power, could not control. It was a first chink in their armor. Perhaps it was a door to a door to a door that would lead her out of there.

I rather enjoyed this book.
As a homeschooler, it fills me with a sort of righteousness when I read about the failings of the public school system, and this book is a criticism of said system of schools. With a school that only focuses on standardized tests (much like many schools nowadays actually do), it emphasizes the positive aspects of imagination, art, fantasy, and whimsy.
This book is also written somewhat like A Series of Unfortunate Events or Pepperment in the Parlor, so if you liked any of those books, I believe you’d like this one. Sort of in that J fiction and yet… aimed for older people type of writing. It’s interesting.

I have to say, however, that I did not particularly like Kate until near the end of the book where she goes through a character change. Uncle George was cool, however, and I liked some of the other characters as well.
Also, although I think the ending was okay, it wasn’t spectacular or anything to be overly impressed with. I’d recommend this book, but I’d also say not to expect anything mind blowing from it.

The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee

Insurance fraud.
Sunken ships.
Guilt money.
A ransacked office.
There was at least one more missing detail…

Mary Lang is a preteen girl living in the streets of Victorian era London. She picks pockets and breaks into houses to survive, until she is caught and sentenced to hang.
When she is miraculously rescued from the gallows and sent to Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls, it’s a new life. A life away from the crime and thievery she left behind. It’s a new chance to be independent- a rare thing in Victorian era Britain.
But when Mary, now going with the last name of Quinn, finds herself yearning for more, she is hired by the headmistresses of the academy to work for The Agency- a top secret detective agency exclusively for women agents.
Mary’s thrilled to be working for The Agency, and even more thrilled when she receives her first assignment. Posing as a hired companion, she’s to assist a more experienced agent in investigating missing ships containing smuggled items. But not all is as it seems in the household, and no one is who they appear to be.

Just before he caught her, she had a moment of sick premonition. It had been the same way the first time- the last time- she’d been caught. A flash of dread, of knowing. And then it happened.

I picked this book up from the library because I’m fascinated by the Victorian era. I decided that it looked interesting, took it home, and read it in what would amount to about 24 hours. It’s a pretty fast read, particularly once you get more than halfway into it.

The interesting thing about this book is not just that the characters are amazing, but that it seems like an incredibly realistic portrayal of Victorian era London. The jacket says that the author completed her PhD in Victorian literature and culture, and studied London. You can definitely tell this while reading the book- she includes many details that make the backdrop of this book to be exciting and foreign- and yet utterly realistic.

The characters are also quite amazing- Particularly James and Mary (the main characters), who happen to have some of the most wonderfully witty lines that I’ve read for a while.
However, although I enjoy the characters, I find the plot to be a little meandering and it has a slightly confusing end in my opinion. There were several times when I had to go back and reread as section because I didn’t quite catch what was going on. Several times also near the end things just seem to go a little too good for the characters, with Mary’s mysterious instincts. I also didn’t particularly like the end- it was a little abrupt and it made me a little sad.
Despite this, I consider it to be a good book and if I see more from this series, I will be getting them from the library.

The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa (The Iron Fey, #4)

(ATTENTION: This review is for the fourth book in the Iron Fey series. There will probably (read: definitely) be some spoilers from the other books. Especially regarding the Iron Kingdom, because it’s not something I can (or particularly want to) avoid in the review. Please beware. If you haven’t read the first three books or the two novellas, I encourage you to check those out: The Iron King, The Iron Daughter, Winter’s Passage, The Iron Queen, and Summer’s Crossing. YOU ARE WARNED.)

First thing: this book, the conclusion to the epic adventure that is the Iron Fey novels, which those who have read them have mostly become rather attached to, will make you cry. Seriously. There will probably be water works. Regardless of your being team Ash or team Puck or team ‘why don’t they both just give up on that crazy Meghan iron fey chick’, you will probably still cry, if you’re the type of person to ever cry during books.

Ash. *sniffle*

Anyway. As the conclusion to this series which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed so far, as well as the first and only book in the Iron Fey series to be from Ash’s perspective rather than Meghan’s, I was almost concerned that I wouldn’t like it as much as the others.

That was naïve of me, I should’ve considered that it was: a) Ash. and b) Julie Kagawa, epic author extraordinaire, wrote it!

It was awesome. Action packed, emotion filled, and beautifully written. I really can’t say more in this review. I want to, but I don’t want to spoil the whole thing which would be awful for everyone else. All I can say is thanks. Thank you, Julie Kagawa, for this awesome series that totally changed my mind about ‘stupid faeries’ and for the crazy roller coaster ride that it was and its epic conclusion. P.S.. thanks for geeking out about My Chemical Romance like twice. Haha!

The Witch’s Brat by Rosemary

“From the moment I picked up The Witch’s Brat, I was hooked. Sutcliff follows the journey of a deformed, quiet, boy with the gift of healing in his hands, a head for herbs and their uses, a heart of kindness. One shoulder is hunched and his leg is crooked, leaving even the simple manner of walking to be a painful and arduous task. One day, on his way back from errands, he stops and watches the neighbor’s cow who has, over the past three days, been growing extremely thin. Lovel believes the cow ate something that is causing her to lose so much weight so rapidly and is concerned. The neighbors raise a fuss, saying he’s cast the Evil Eye upon their milking cow and Lovel is the reason the cow is sick. The neighbors create such a ruckus that a mob starts and soon stones are thrown at Lovel, driving him out and away into the wide, unknown world.
In less than 200 pages, I grew to admire Lovel and his tenacity, watched him grow in confidence as he discovered his gift for healing, and cheered him on when he doubted himself and his purpose.
Sutcliff’s writing is so rich and hearty, I love her storytelling prowess, her ability to weave in so much without bogging you down. I can’t say that I adore her characters like I’ve adored other characters but I admire them, I want to be like them, they are real, down to earth, dust covered, people that bleed, cry, and struggle through years of adversity.
Lovel, though he has been beaten by men, still has the capacity to forgive and care for them when they are ailing, old, weak and tired. He heals them, much as he heals himself.
I’d HIGHLY recommend this book no matter your age. For those of you who don’t read any witchcraft, don’t let the name throw you off. There is no sorcery whatsoever.”

The Falcon by Jackie French Koller

“Sure.” I heard Jim’s pen scribbling again. “Our time’s about up anyway. Just one more question, though. Do you have any idea why so many unusual things happen to you?”
“Yeah,” I snarled. “God hates me.”

Luke Carver is a 17 year old who can’t seem to help getting in trouble. Every time he goes anywhere, he seems to get in trouble. He messes up so many times that it sure seems like God hates him. After all, how else would he get into such wacky, horrible situations?

Luke has secrets, though. There are things he hasn’t told anyone. He hasn’t even told his journal the full truth. After all, if it isn’t his fault, why does he have to tell anyone?

“Yes,” I said quietly. “I’m fine.” Then I closed my eyes and leaned my head back against the seat. I was tired, too. So, so tired…
Just like I am now.

This was one of the shortest books I think I’ve read. It was, strangely, also one of the most interesting. It was one of those books where you think that it’s not going to be that gripping, but then you find yourself wondering, throughout the day, what’s going to happen next.

I really liked the way that the author pulled out the mystery of what happened to Luke before the book started. It was really interesting, even though it wasn’t as “dark” as they made it out to seem. It was interesting, though.

I would actually recommend this book to anyone who really liked The Catcher in the Rye, mostly because the writing style seemed quite similar to me, and it’s about the same sort of aged guy.

All in all- pretty good of a book.

Crossed (Matched, #2) by Ally Condie

*Note: I want to apologize for not personally being as active in book blogging as I usually try to be. (If anyone even noticed!) I know for a while there, I was posting reviews and such every day/2 days/even 3 days. I would like to get back to that but I’m also very busy at the moment (if it tells you anything, after I finish typing this, I’m going to go do a mountain of french homework). Additionally, I seem to have like a reviewing writer’s block. But regardless, I hope to try to get back to ‘business-as-usual’. Anyway, basically, just thank you people for visiting the blog and all that business even though it isn’t quite as busy as usual, haha!*

(“Crossed” is the sequel to “Matched”. If you haven’t read “Matched” you may want to check out that review instead so as to avoid any spoilers in this one! You are warned.)

“Crossed” was a good book. The writing, one of my favorite elements of “Matched” with its poetry and flow were impeccable, again. The poems at the beginning were good, too– the actual poetry. They enriched the story. Problematically though– it wasn’t awesome. It was good. I was a little bit disappointed that I wasn’t totally blown away after being so excited for it. While I didn’t expect an incredibly adventurous book filled with violence and suspense or anything like that, I was expecting a little bit more adventure– the ending of the first set up for some grand endeavor to the end of the Society, and I expected that to a be a little bit more exciting that it was. There was a journey, a long one, a hard one, throughout the Society and outside it. However, sometimes it seemed to drag.

Also, I really liked Cassia, the heroine, in the first book. But in “Crossed” I didn’t like her nearly as much, because I felt she was so absorbed in thoughts of Xander and/or Ky rather than what was going on and the bigger picture or even her family. It was like in parts of “Catching Fire” or “Mockingjay” when I started to get (super) annoyed with Katniss for being caught up between Gale and Peeta rather than, you know, EVERYTHING ELSE. *slight exaggeration.* I did still like Xander and Ky, and am less convinced about being ‘team Xander’ like before. It’s harder now. Ha! 

The bottom line: “Crossed” was good book and I liked it, just not as much as I expected.

This Dark Endeavor (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein) by Kenneth Oppell

“Victor and Konrad are the twin brothers Frankenstein. They are nearly inseparable. Growing up, their lives are filled with imaginary adventures…until the day their adventures turn all too real.

They stumble upon The Dark Library, and secret books of alchemy and ancient remedies are discovered. Father forbids that they ever enter the room again, but this only piques Victor’s curiosity more. When Konrad falls gravely ill, Victor is not satisfied with the various doctors his parents have called in to help. He is drawn back to The Dark Library where he uncovers an ancient formula for the Elixir of Life. With their friend Elizabeth, Henry and Victor immediately set out to find assistance from a man who was once known for his alchemical works to help create the formula.
Determination and the unthinkable outcome of losing his brother spur Victor on in the quest for the three ingredients that will save Konrad’s life. After scaling the highest trees in the Strumwald, diving into the deepest lake caves, and sacrificing one’s own body part, the three fearless friends risk their lives to save another.”-goodreads

Okay, if any of you ever saw my review of “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley, you know that I liked it, but also was maybe a little bit underwhelmed after my expectations from the Hollywood portrayal of the Frankenstein monster (yes I realize this is absolutely *blasphemous*). I’m actually re-reading it right now, and appreciating it a lot more. (Give me a break, it was one of the first Gothic 19th century novels I’d read, and it was a lot to take in!). 

I wasn’t at all sure what to expect from this book but I loved it! It was so good. The portrayal of young Victor Frankenstein to show the childhood that isn’t talked about in Frankenstein was epic. It showed us some of the events that could’ve lead to the famous Dr. Frankenstein and his *slightly* twisted ways. From reading Frankenstein, I could totally believe that this is what his adolescence would’ve been like; the culmination of ‘teenage-angst’, bitterness, and tragedy to warp his future. Victor’s character was well developed and the voice of the novel was great. The tension between Victor and Elizabeth (and the different kind between Victor and Konrad) was remarkable.  It did move a bit slow for me at times but so did “Frankenstein”, and many other books that I end up liking. The mystery and misadventures were daring and cool to read of, and it was interesting to draw parallels to what occurs in the original novel in Victor’s adult life. Also, one might think that “This Dark Endeavor” would be cliche or cheese-y, another one of those unoriginal ‘teenage monster’ stories but it was much more.

I also looked up the book because I wanted to know if there would be a sequel, which I would be very interested in if that’s possible or maybe it would be too much, but anyway I saw that it’s going to be made into a movie which would be amazing because I could totally see this book as a movie– super creepy. Also, for the bottom line of random notes, look at the cover!! So eerie and dark, absolutely perfect for the book! 
Thank you to Simon&Schuster for giving me the opportunity to review this book. Reader’s Note: As usual, this in no way swayed my opinion.