Hope everyone has a wonderful new year!!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Review: Georgetown Academy, Book 1

Title:  Georgetown Academy, Book 1
Jessica Koosed Etting, Alyssa Embree Schwartz
Publication Date: 
 Oct. 12, 2013
Reviewer: Carissa

Summary: It’s the beginning of a new political administration. That might not mean much at most high schools, but at Georgetown Academy, Washington D.C.’s most elite prep school, January 20th means new alliances, new flings, and new places to party.

While freshmen—nicknamed “interns” for their willingness to jump into bed with anyone higher on the D.C. totem pole—navigate the not-so-friendly halls of GA searching for Algebra and Bio classes, the school’s lifers have other things on their minds.

For self-proclaimed D.C. royalty Brinley Madison (of those Madisons), the first day of school is all about establishing the social hierarchy and playing the part of perfect political wife to her boyfriend, the outgoing Vice President’s son. Too bad he has a wandering eye that puts Bill Clinton’s to shame. Can she keep him, and her own secret vice, in check?

Ellie Walker, Brinley’s best friend, floats through the halls on the arm of golden boy Hunter McKnight (the JFK of GA). But when her ex-boyfriend, Gabe, returns to town and her Senator mother’s political nemesis is reelected, Ellie’s life starts to snowball out of control.

Shy, quiet Evan Hartnett is more into books than beer, and her closet is full of t-shirts and jeans instead of Jason Wu and Jimmy Choo. No one’s ever really noticed her—but she’s been noticing them. When her star rises as an intern at D.C.’s most-watched political news show, she soon finds the two worlds colliding in ways that make her question what’s secret and what’s fair game.

New girl Taryn Reyes is all laid-back, California cool; with a father who’s in line to be the first Hispanic president, she’s ready to dive into the D.C. scene with an open mind. But when her fellow students turn out to be more interested in spreading rumors than making friends, she realizes that forging a drama-free path might be a lot harder than she thinks.

With so many new friends and former flames in the mix, things are bound to get a little heated. And while diplomatic immunity might keep the cops away, there’s not much it can do about the press.
In a town where one teenage misstep can turn into a national scandal, the students at Georgetown Academy will have to be on their best behavior—or, at least, they’ll have to make the world believe that they are.

Because there’s only one rule: whatever you do, don’t get caught.

Review: Georgetown Academy is where all the kids of politicians got to high school. As you can imagine, tensions are always high. Anyway, G.A. is like any other high school: there’s a social food chain. G.A., Book 1 follows 4 girls navigating their way through high school.

            I really saw potential in Georgetown Academy, Book 1, and I did enjoy it. The only problem was that the book only covered the first week of school! I’ve seen Georgetown Academy, Season 1, and I think that would be much better for many readers. Also, there was a really weird format thing in the middle of the book. “Who do you want to follow for the Rookie Party?” That could have been formatted differently.

4/10 stars, 12+

Thanks for the review copy from NetGalley!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Review: The Lovely Bones

Title: The Lovely Bones
Author: Alice Sebold
Publisher: Little Brown and Company
Publication Date: 
 August 29, 2006
Reviewer: Stephanie

Summary: The Lovely Bones is the story of a family devastated by a gruesome murder -- a murder recounted by the teenage victim. Upsetting, you say? Remarkably, first-time novelist Alice Sebold takes this difficult material and delivers a compelling and accomplished exploration of a fractured family's need for peace and closure.

The details of the crime are laid out in the first few pages: from her vantage point in heaven, Susie Salmon describes how she was confronted by the murderer one December afternoon on her way home from school. Lured into an underground hiding place, she was raped and killed. But what the reader knows, her family does not. Anxiously, we keep vigil with Susie, aching for her grieving family, desperate for the killer to be found and punished.

Sebold creates a heaven that's calm and comforting, a place whose residents can have whatever they enjoyed when they were alive -- and then some. But Susie isn't ready to release her hold on life just yet, and she intensely watches her family and friends as they struggle to cope with a reality in which she is no longer a part. To her great credit, Sebold has shaped one of the most loving and sympathetic fathers in contemporary literature.

Review: The story focuses on 14 year old Susie Salmon who is taking a shortcut home from school across a cornfield when she is raped and murdered by George Harvey, one of her neighbours. When Susie is killed, her spirit journeys to her personal heaven where she watches over friends and family. Harvey disposes of her body and nervously waits for the heat to die down. Watching from afar, Susie witnesses her family fall apart in the aftermath of her murder, sees the impact it has on her school friends and she even gains insight into the movements of George Harvey as the police run out of clues.

I was pleased that Sebold dealt with Susie’s murder at the very beginning and that it was a brief scene. It’s still not pleasant what happens to this poor girl, but the focal point of this novel is her spirit giving us accounts of the impact on those she knew. Her parents, Jack and Abigail, refuse to accept their daughter is dead until a dog discovers her elbow! The impact on the Salmon family is understandably devastating. Jack and Abigail are driven apart, their daughter, Lindsey, tries to stay strong and shield her young brother, Buckley, from all of the grief. Len Fenerman, the detective investigating the murder, becomes personally involved with the Salmon family, determined to find Susie’s killer but the trail soon runs cold.

Jack Salmon later comes to suspect George Harvey of the murder and Lindsey echoes these suspicions. Between them they try to prove Harvey’s guilt but Fenerman has nothing to go on to arrest the neighbour. As the months then years tick by, Susie watches her broken family struggle to repair itself. Her sister grows up with the support of her boyfriend, Samuel, while two school friends – Ray Singh and Ruth Connors – become closer, united by their mutual pain over Susie’ death. Ray’s hurt is great indeed for he was in love with Susie and she with him, but their brief romance was cut tragically short. By the end of the novel, Susie has talked us through around a decade of events and there is much pain and emotion along the way but it remains enthralling throughout.

There were three moments in The Lovely Bones that I found very moving. Two concerned Susie’s father, Jack. Remembering his hobby of putting ships in glass bottles and how Susie was the only one who shared the interest, Jack immediately begins smashing his collection! In a later scene Buckley is planting seeds in the garden and has retrieved Susie’s clothes from a box, much to the horror of Jack who snatches them back before arguing with his son. The final moment is when the family dog eventually passes away and one day Susie hears him in heaven! Initially worried the dog won’t remember her, Susie is delighted when she is knocked off her feet by the joyful canine. I found little to fault with The Lovely Bones though there was a moment towards the end, which was supposed to be heart-warming, but I found it a little absurd given how excellent the book had been prior to this. For the novel’s length, Sebold covers a lot of emotion here and you will suffer with the Salmon family as they try to find reasons to continue with their lives. This is an extraordinary journey but it is a painful one.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Flicks: Stardust

A review of a book to film adaptation. 

Stardust, the novel by Neil Gaiman, told the tale of a young man and his search to find a falling star. The "grown-up fairytale" had a very cinematic scale, so it was a natural choice for a film adaptation. The film opens with the authoritative narration of Sir Ian McKellen, explaining the history of the world and the strange city of Wall. The city is a fairly normal, English town, separated from the mysteries of the rest of the world by a large wall. When reading the book, I imagined a tall and expansive structure, but the film version leaves a bit to be desired. When our protagonist, Tristan, sets out the find a fallen star for his crush Victoria, he is initially unable to pass the elderly guard at the only exit in the structure. Looking at the wall, it seemed a bit unbelievable that the young man couldn't find another way over the wall, but this is a fantasy story, so I guess you have to suspend your disbelief. 

Despite this small gripe, the film really is great to look at. I would compare it to something slightly brighter than a Tim Burton movie, while still containing enough dark elements to keep a real sense of danger. When Tristan arrives at the site of the fallen star, he does not see the large rock that he expected. Instead, he learns that the star is actually a girl, played here by Clair Danes. As he begins to take the reluctant star back to Wall, he realizes that he is not the only one who wants the star. 

The king of the world outside of Wall, played by Peter O'Toole, is dying. His son's, there are seven of them, must kill each other off until there is only one remaining heir to the throne. The heir must also retrieve the fallen star, in order to take the throne. Additionally, there are three old witches, led by Michelle Pfeiffer, who seek the heart of the star to restore their youth. As Tristan navigates his way home, he is forced to face these characters, and make the transition from boy to man, in the process. 

If all of this seems a bit confusing, do not fret. The filmmakers do a much better job than I have of relaying this complex story. While there are several changes from the book, none are so great that the magic of the story is decreased. When it is boiled down to its bones, this is the story of a young man, forced to grow up and discover the true meaning of love. With the fantastic story combined with a strong ensemble of actors, I would definitely recommend both the book and film to anyone who is a fan of fairytales, and coming of age stories. 

Have you seen this movie or read this book? If so, how do you think the two compare?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: Sworn To Raise

Title:  Sworn to Raise
Author: Terah Edun
Publisher: All Night Reads
Publication Date: 
 April 10, 2013
Reviewer:  Carissa

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Ciardis has grown up in poverty, a cleaner in a small vale on the outskirts of the kingdom. But beneath her kingdom’s seemingly idyllic surface lies a hidden secret. Whispers of an inept crown Prince are growing ever louder—intensified by the five year anniversary of the soulbond initiations.

Amidst scandalous whispers, Ciardis finds herself chosen to train for the Companion’s Guild. She leaves her home and sets off on a personal journey to become a Court Companion. A position she’d never thought possible for a lowly servant to obtain, she must prove that she has the skills to attract a Patron.

But she must master those skills quickly. If the legends are true, only Ciardis can harness the power to raise a Prince in an Imperial Court sworn to bring him down.

This sensational series debut melds intricate storylines with remarkable characters and unforgettable magic. Sworn To Raise is ideal for fans of Kristin Cashore, Michelle Sagara, and Maria Snyder.

Review: Ciardis wants nothing more than security in life, which is why she was planning to marry her long time boyfriend. Trouble is, he impregnated another girl and is forced to marry her. Obviously, Ciardis is mad! So when a Court Companion visits her town and offers Ciardis an apprenticeship as a Companion, she takes it. (Companions are women that magically complement they’re patron. Companions often end up married to their patrons.) It turns out that Ciardis is a Weathervane, meaning she has a rare talent to make others’ magic more powerful. A lot of people would like a Companion with that ability. So Ciardis is all ready for the Patron Hunt, in which Companions showcase their abilities, when she finds that the Prince needs her help.

OK, so I know that was a bit of a ramble, but I promise you, Sworn to Raise is an extraordinary read! The idea is totally unique and Terah Edun has done an excellent job building the world!

12+ for bad language, 10/10 stars!!

I look forward to reading more by Terah Edun, especially Sworn to Transfer, the forthcoming 2nd book in the Courtlight series!

Thanks for the review copy through NetGalley!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review: Slingshot

Title: Slingshot
Author: Matthew Dunn
Series: Spycatcher (#3)
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: 
 June 25, 2013
Reviewer: Ethan

Review: In the early 90's a group of high ranking officials from the Russian and American governments came together to form a highly classified initiative that could potentially lead to the death of millions of people. To ensure the security of the agreement, all involved parties sign a document that allows an international assassin to be ordered to eliminate anyone who leaks the information.

Fast forward to the present day, and the information has been stolen. With the threat of the horrific details of the plan being revealed, various entities begin to search for the documents, and the person who they believe could be responsible. Will Cochrane, an MI6 operative leads a team, in cooperation with the CIA, to attempt to find the man responsible for the missing papers. But the mission soon becomes far more personal. Someone has discovered Will's true identity, and threatens to release the information and to harm his sister, the only person on the earth who he truly cares about. The story quickly becomes an international tale of intrigue in which Will grapples with the implications of the released documents, faces the highly dangerous assassin, and attempts to discover the person or people who threaten to blow his cover.

The complexity of this novel makes it quite difficult to explain the plot without spoiling the twists and details that make it so compelling. Author Matthew Dunn is a former MI6 operative himself, so he brings a unique understanding of the inner workings of the secretive organizations that are explored in this book. This is the third novel to feature Will Cochrane, but the story itself stands alone as a completely realized narrative. It took me a bit of time to acclimate myself to all of the military jargon used throughout the novel, but the plot is intriguing enough that I was quickly able to work through it.

The character of Will Cochrane could have easily been a cold, one-dimensional man, especially given the secretive nature of his work. Where Dunn really excels is in extracting the emotions of this man who has essentially been trained to show none. It was fascinating to read about Will's internal battle of dealing with his inner feelings while never letting them betray the complex mission at hand. Overall, this is a fast paced, complex, international conspiracy novel that easily sets itself as a top example of the genre. Dunn is able to successfully combine his own personal experience as an MI6 operative with the conventions of modern thriller novels to create a unique and nearly flawless book

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