Friday, July 22, 2011

Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact by AJ Hartley

I got this book as an ARC (advanced readers copy) from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. The review of this book is easy - it was great. I think there is so much going for this book that I can't wait for a sequel (please write a sequel).
Darwen Arkwright is a twelve year old boy who has been sent from England to live with his aunt in Atlanta. He's not adjusting well but when he is given a mirror that allows him to travel to another world things start to look up for him, until he starts school. Darwen's aunt is sending him to a private school that looks a little like Stepford. The teachers hate hime and the students don't get him. He does make two great friends (sounds a little like Harry Potter but that's the only similarity).
There is so much going on in this book. It's never boring. There's so much action and emotion. I could see this book used in discussions and classroom settings as much as entertainment. There are plenty of themes to make it interesting. There's environment and history. One of Darwen's friends is a history buff but the teachers/principal feel that they are only supposed to look towards the future. Darwen says a great thing at the end (paraphrasing) - we have to hold on to the past and look towards the future. It's an amazing thought.
I could gush about this book for days but I worry about sharing too much of the intricate plot. It has a lot of twists and turns but you never feel lost. This will be a great book for boys but I think girls will find the female characters easy to identify with.
I think what I like best about the main characters is that they all have different family structures and backgrounds. They may come across as misfits but we are no longer the nuclear family sort of culture and it was nice to see that all the children have different things they struggle with at home.
Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pack hits shelves in October 2011. I highly recommend find a copy to enjoy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Midnight Gate by Helen Stringer

This book reminded me of Harry Potter. Not in the broad sense, they aren't witches but in the smaller sense that a young child is forced into a position where they have to be so much wiser and older than their years. Poor Belladonna is still only 12 years old - this story is only months away from the previous. The adventure is far more dangerous. The sad part is that those who have put Belladonna in this position really don't care if she lives or dies, she's replaceable as the Spellbinder. She has people who love her and want to protect her but they are not in positions to really help her.
There were things I loved about this story. Belladonna and Steve take their missions very seriously but there seems to be loose ends from one book to the next. In the first book, the oracle gives them two riddles to solve and they only solve one. That second riddle doesn't come up in this book. Aside from that, it's very good.
Belladonna is forced to live with foster parents but her new family is not what they appear to be. So many things happen but I worry about spilling any of the surprises. Early on you figure there is something wrong with her foster family and you find yourself very suspicious of hot chocolate but what is going on has so many details and twists that you can't guess it all.
I love the way Helen Stringer mixes in all types of mythology. There's so many more creatures in this book than in the last one. I really need a good mythology book but that will have to wait until after I finish my growing reading pile.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Spellbinder by Helen Stringer

I was going to give up this blog and stick with the two sites I mentioned in my last post. As I was transferring reviews around, I realized how limited those sites were. There are things I can share here that I can't really share on Goodreads or LibraryThing. There are some great features to those sites but I can only review books that they have in their databases. Sometimes I come across books sold by the author or, as the case is now, be given an ARC that isn't available. So here I am. I'll share the same reviews here as I do on those sites (or vice versa) but will add things here that don't apply on the other sites. It's a little more work for me but reading is my passion and sharing what I read brings me joy.

Spellbinder by Helen Stringer
Spellbinder was an amazing book. Helen Stringer did a great job of creating a story that is frightening, funny and wonderful. It's a touching story of a young girl who can see ghosts. She feels like an outcast and works to separate herself from her classmates. Her ability works in her favor when her parents are killed. They pretend they are a normal family until all the ghosts disappear. Belladonna wants to save her parents but no one will tell her what is happening. She and her friend Steve opt to do it on their own.
The journey mixes in some old mythology with some new ideas. It's a quick lesson in learning to trust and learning to be cautious. The two have unusual chemistry. They are such good friends and on this great adventure but they are challenged in ways they didn't expect.
At one point Belladonna cries "But I'm only twelve years old." It was so easy to forget how young they were. The book follows a sort of prophecy-like format but the kids involved have no idea who the Spellbinder and it's Paladin is or how they are involved. Right up to the end, they question and wonder.
There's a great realism with these two children. They are willing to try anything to help save the ghosts and the world but they don't think of themselves as heroes or warriors.
The story is not full of that many twists and turns but it does keep you reading. There's a number of struggles which kind of reminds me of Wizard of Oz. Not that the stories are similar but that you have an idea of where the journey is going - it's what happens on the way that makes the story great.
I will say that there were some weak spots in the writing but I can't say for certain that they are obvious. I've been doing a fair amount of editing lately and researching how to edit better so those particular parts may have just triggered my internal editor. They weren't enough to turn me away from the book or to prevent me from recommending this book.
The main character is female but I believe that this story will appeal to boys and girls. There's lots of action and age appropriate interactions.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Reading Sites

I have been thinking about the reading sites I use and whether it would make sense just to transfer everything from this blog to the sites and stop here. I do use Goodreads and LibraryThing. It would make sense to just use those sites for my book reviews and encourage people to join me there. I haven't been reading much lately due to a rather busy schedule. I am about half way through Spellbinder by Helen Stringer and have the sequel waiting patiently for me to finish. I have 5 (count them - 5) ARCs to read and review. I've gotten them all in the past month or so and hate to see them just sit there and wait.
I'll let you know what I decide about the blog.