Monday, June 27, 2016

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

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Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Viking
Pages: 446
My rating: 3.5 stars
Ages: 16+

It's 13th century France. Men and women are being persecuted by the church as heretics. Botille and her sisters are far from it all in the small sea-side village of Bajas. All that changes when Botille comes across Dolssa, hungry and afraid. Dolssa has a special gift, a gift that they need to keep hidden from the monks that seek her.

Berry is a beautiful writer. The language, the detail, the characters--everything is vibrant. Berry has also written a wide range of books, so those how have read some of her other books should be warned that this isn't the same.

I don't know how easily younger teens would be able to understand this book. Though marketed as a young adult novel, I think that the subject matter and themes are more suited for adults. I consider myself a pretty intelligent person, but I spent a lot of the book trying to understand Dolssa. The author's note at the end of the book helped, giving me the context I needed; however, I think that the story should have been able to help me understand it better without the author's note. I spent a lot of time not sure how I liked Dolssa and the things she said she was, especially as it related to my own personal beliefs.

I don't remember any language, but there are very brief, mild mentions of sex.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

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Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 321
My rating: 2.5 stars

James "Jamie" Watson is a descendant of Dr. Watson--as in Holmes and Watson. Jamie thinks of Charlotte Holmes as his best friend before he ever meets her. When they both end up at the same school, Watson thinks they are going to go on all sorts of adventures. Unfortunately, he didn't think that was going to involve a murder where he is the number one suspect.

The characters were interesting and I really liked how it is set it in a world where the original Holmes and Watson were real people. Sometimes Jamie was a little annoying with his mooning and general teen angst. Charlotte was exactly what you would expect from a Holmes, which anyone knows can in itself be exasperating.

The mystery itself was a little complicated and hard to follow, in my opinion. And I found myself confused over either Jamie or Charlotte's actions/reactions. I found myself having to go back and read the previous page several times to understand what was going on. I feel that the story, even a mystery, should be easy to follow and understand. Also, some events at the end seemed a little contrived, like Cavallaro was trying to fulfill some kind of requirement for teen novels. I would have liked it better without it.

There was a lot of language and sexual dialogue, including talk about a rape.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

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Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Pages: 384
My rating: 4.5 stars
Ages: 12+
Series: The Trials of Apollo

After angering Zeus, again, Apollo lands in New York as a completely mortal teenage boy. Immediately enslaved by Meg, a young demi-god, Apollo and Meg head to Camp Half-Blood for safety. Apollo hopes that he can just hang out until Zeus is ready to reinstate his godhood, but campers have started disappearing, all lines of communication have stopped working, and the Oracle is still missing.

I have come to the point where I will preorder Riordan's books because I know I'm going to like them. This first book in a new series did not disappoint. It is highly amusing, especially since it's told in first-person from Apollo's point of view. Apollo's ego is probably only exceeded by Narcissus's.

Though I usually suffer from "series fatigue" (not wanting to read a book that is the beginning of a series because then I feel obligated to read the rest of the series), I never feel that way with Riordan's books. This is probably because most of the books in a his series have an ending, for that story line at least. I also like how they are all connected in some way, with "Easter eggs" for those who have read his other books.

I think that this book would be best read after having read Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus, just because it gives a nice background to the events leading up to this. However, Oracle could be read without doing that.

I think this is a great way to introduce younger kids to mythology.

No language and no sex.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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Publication date: 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 433
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 17+

Cath and her twin sister have always been a package deal, so when Wren decides she doesn't want them to live together when they go to college, it leaves Cath feeling lost. The only thing that keeps her going is her thousands of fans . . . of her Simon Snow fanfic. It has gotten her through everything so far, so she hides behind it through the ups and downs of her freshman year. She doesn't think she's missing anything, until she starts realizing that she is.

What I liked about Fangirl is that Cath is so relatable. She carries her anxieties around with her, never stopping to relax unless she's losing herself in her fanfic. She's shy and lonely, but at the same time wonderfully snarky and caring. Looking back on my college experience, I would have much rather have stayed in reading or watching a movie than at a party (and still do prefer those over going out), which is what Cath does. Some of the things actually started making me feel anxious, so, trigger warning? Cath doesn't think anyone will accept her crazy, but she finds someone who does--and isn't that what we all want? Someone to understand us and accept us for who we are?

The treatment of mental health was so ordinary that I didn't feel that Rowell was trying to make the novel into a "very special novel" about mental health. There was no trying to stigmatize it, or make it funny, or trying to teach about it. Some people have mental health problems, which can sometimes be a strength and sometimes a weakness. They can make you feel crazy, or maybe make you cautious, or help with your creativity. It's about finding a balance.

The novel also touches on family and growing up and apart and back together again. About finding yourself and sticking up for yourself. But it never preaches.  It also had some really funny lines and sections.

I'm not sure how I felt about the snippets from the fictional Simon Snow books at the beginning of each chapter. Maybe I just wasn't paying attention, but they didn't really seem to add anything to the story or carry the theme through. And since Simon Snow is fictional, I didn't really have a connection to it, making it a little tedious to read several pages at one time.

There was a lot of language, which is part of the reason I put the age so high. Also, since the characters are in college, I don't think readers younger that 16 would be able to relate as well. There were also some sexual situations and dialogue.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.