The Dead Girls Detective Agency
By: Suzy Cox
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Rating: 4 Stars
|Summary:Pop quiz: What would you do if you had to solve your own murder to get anywhere in death?
Maybe if I hadn’t slept through my alarm, slammed into Kristin–my high school’s reigning mean
girl–or stepped in a puddle, destroying my mom’s new suede DVF boots (which I borrowed without asking), I wouldn’t have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I wouldn’t have been pushed in front of that arriving train. But I did, and I was.
When I came to, I was informed by a group of girls that I’m dead. And that because I died under mysterious circumstances, I can’t pass straight over to the Other Side. But at least I’m not alone. Meet the Dead Girls Detective Agency: Nancy, Lorna, and Tess–not to mention Edison, the really cute if slightly hostile dead boy. Apparently, the only way out of this limbo is to figure out who killed me, or I’ll have to spend eternity playing Nancy Drew. Considering I was fairly invisible in life, who could hate me enough to want me dead? And what if my murderer is someone I never would have suspected?
As kind of gimmicky stories go, The Dead Girls Detective Agency is just the right mix of hilariously entertaining ghost caper and sassy investigative whodunit. Suzy Cox sure has a knack for writing appealing, snarky sleuths who can poke fun at their own deaths, but, at the end of the day, still get across that it is nevertheless a murder investigation. I don’t even think I cared about the problems with having dead people investigate their own murders, starting with, well, they’re dead, because, gosh, this book was so much fun.
I have to start my praise first and foremost with Charlotte Feldman, erstwhile subway rider and currently investigating her own murder, for making this book such a breezy read. The concept’s not hard to grasp – the book’s title alone gives away pretty much the entire setup, dead teen must solve her own murder before she can move on, but Charlotte mixes things up and makes it fun, starting from the very first scene describing her death. Obviously, being pushed off a subway platform, getting run over, and becoming one big red smear on the train tracks is really no laughing matter, but the way Charlotte goes on about things, even her presumed epitaph, “Here lies Charlotte Feldman. She pissed off commuters. A lot.” (because the police had to shut down the trains for two hours during rush hour, see?), those are the priceless things that makes what would otherwise be a dry and angsty book way fun to read about. Charlotte’s got the snark down pat through her introduction to the Detective Agency, learning the rules of the game (she has to figure out who murdered her before she can get the key to the Big Red Door and be let through to wherever ghosts go next), figuring the ins and outs of haunting, and plowing through the suspects (sometimes literally) until she hits the right one, so hers is a story that’s a lot of fun and never a bore to read even if it’s pretty basic when I really think about it.
Along the way, Charlotte’s helped by the other members of the Detective Agency, a trio of girls who definitely make her investigations way more interesting. Nancy’s the by the books Nancy Drew type while Lorna’s more fast and loose with the clues, but Charlotte, Nancy, and Lorna together, they have some pretty good back and forth banter that, while playing to various ghost stereotypes (yes, ghosts can’t imbibe ice cream as a comfort food or wear anything except the out of style clothes they were killed in, truly appalling), are still pretty darn funny when coming from those three, I swear. Not to mention various investigative antics *cough* possessions *cough* that deserve every single snicker I gave them. The only Agency member I wasn’t so sure about at first was Tess, who seemed like the stereotypical ice queen even though Cox drops a couple of hints that there’s way more to her story than meets the eye, and I only wish the big reveal with Tess’s backstory could’ve happened before the very last chapter because those last couple of details completely changed her character and now I’ll never get a true picture of her character, which is actually quite tragic, until any possible sequel.
The actual investigation, interestingly enough, isn’t the focus of the book until after the halfway point; until then Charlotte spends her time getting acclimated to her ghost status rather than pounding the pavement looking for clues or at suspects, although, like I said, Cox’s writing and Charlotte’s voice keeps the story flowing smoothly. If I had one complaint, it’s that Charlotte spends almost all her time either mostly fixated on her boyfriend David for er moving on too quickly after her death or occasionally on kind of stereotypical bad dude slash ghost Edison that she seems to find her murderer only by sheer coincidence because of the murderer’s connection to David rather than a lot of work on her part (don’t worry, that’s not really a spoiler, it’s not like the book gives any other avenues for possible motives for Charlotte’s murder). In other words, it’s always the person mentioned the least. Oh well, even if the investigation wasn’t really smart (and it’s smarter than what the police did, immediately ruling her death an accident) and Cox has to insist on a triangle, Charlotte and her investigative partners’ ghostly escapades entertain until the very last paragraph.
The takeaway I guess is that The Dead Girls Detective Agency is way more fun when it’s about the dead girls than when it’s about the detective agency. That’s not a bad thing though, not when there’s a sassy girl detective slash ghost on the loose.
Go to Mitch’s review on Goodreads.
Quintana of Charyn (Lumatere Chronicles 3)
By: Melina Marchetta
Release Date: September 26, 2012
Rating: 5 stars
|Summary: Separated from the girl he loves and has sworn to protect, Froi must travel through Charyn to search for Quintana, the mother of Charyn’s unborn king, and protect her against those who will do anything to gain power. But what happens when loyalty to family and country conflict? When the forces marshalled in Charyn’s war gather and threaten to involve the whole of the land, including Lumatere, only Froi can set things right, with the help of those he loves.|
Review: How do you even begin to do justice on a review for such an amazing end to a truly amazing series? I have yet to read a better series because 1) the stories had me intrigued; 2) the characters moved me and 3) the books made me think the whole way through and kept me on my toes.
First of all, I think it’s a bit of a misnomer that the book was entitled “Quintana of Charyn” because I thought this book was going to be about her. I actually didn’t see very much from her perspective, and I felt she showed far more character development in book 2.
This book was about SO much more.
•Of course, Quintana’s adventures as she carries the future of not only Charyn but of all the lands with impending war;
•Froi in his journey to figure out where he truly belongs;
•Finnikin and his pride of not being good enough through jealousies when it comes to Isaboe and his role as a consort or a king;
•Isaboe as she tries to be a good mother, wife and friend having lost the innocence of childhood – in which she compares with Quintana – and decisions she has to make concerning what is best for her kingdom as she tries to keep her people out of war while still recovering from losing her family;
•Lucian as he struggles to follow his father’s footsteps as a leader and the battle he faces between his pride and his love for Phaedra;
•Phaedra and her coming to terms with being considered useless all her life to finding the strength to protect her queen and reconcile her marriage;
•Tesadora and Perri in rekindling their bond and seeing how they fit in their roles (and their child) in this book;
•Gargarin and Arjuro and the suffering they have endured and how they come to terms with the mistakes they have made and rise above it all to be two very powerful men;
•And so, so many other characters from the Charynite girls in the cave and the lastborns to each soldier, spy, traitor and political contributor.
Each character – no matter how big or small – played their role in each intricate detail of this elaborate web Marchetta has woven. For me, the stars of this book were Lucian and Phaedra (much like Trevanion and Beatriss in book 2) because the two of them showed far more character development than all of the other characters combined. I was very moved by their love for each other, as well as each one’s own struggles (that I mentioned in the first spoiler).
But going back to the point, Marchetta created such masterpieces because this book, and all the others for that matter, had it all – past tragedies and how they have brought such suffering to the land, action and adventure as the characters made their journeys through the land, strong character development from all of those involved, and such a clean yet masterful way everything tied together in the end.
The kicker was that the gears in my head were constantly turning as I thought of different theories to explain the curse; trying to figure out who was who and who belonged to which parents and how the story of the day of weeping affected each individual character; or guessing what was going to happen next only to have Marchetta throw in another twist. And mind you the twists were never things that made you say, “What the hell?!?” Nope, they were things that Marchetta dropped hints along the way – some you did picked up on and guessed right but some that totally caught you by surprise.
There were two things that I was disappointed with… First was Bestiano, and the other one was Celie. Please go to my spoiler on Goodreads review for details. But neither disappointments were enough for me to knock down the rating.
I’m sadden to see the end of such a wonderful series, but I just loved how Marchetta tied it all together – tidying all of the different side stories; Finnkin coming to terms with his jealousies; Quintana saying hello to everyone like she did when Froi first met her and she greeted everyone at the table despite them not responding back to her; and everyone looking on the side of wonder. What a way to come full circle. Marchetta has truly outdone herself, and I wonder – though totally hoping – if she will ever be able to top this.
Time Between Us
By: Tamara Ireland Stone
Release Date: October 9, 2012
Rating: 1 star
|Summary: Anna and Bennett were never supposed to meet: she lives in 1995 Chicago and he lives in 2012 San Francisco. But Bennett has the unique ability to travel through time and space, which brings him into Anna’s life, and with him a new world of adventure and possibility.
As their relationship deepens, the two face the reality that time may knock Bennett back to where he belongs, even as a devastating crisis throws everything they believe into question. Against a ticking clock, Anna and Bennett are forced to ask themselves how far they can push the bounds of fate, what consequences they can bear in order to stay together, and whether their love can stand the test of time.
Review: This book received SO many raving reviews, and I feel like I’m the odd one out. But to sum it all up, I just didn’t get it. I think this book had a lot of potential, but there were just too many holes and inconsistencies.
Out of all the young adult time travel books I have read, I think this book impressed me the least. And you know that a book is unmemorable when you sit down to write a review a few days later, and you have already forgotten a lot of what you have read.
Since I’m not sure how much I can explain without making the whole review spoiler-free, so HERE IS YOUR SPOILER ALERT!
I’m not sure how I feel about Stone’s concept of writing the time travel range to be within Bennett’s life span. On one hand, it’s more realistic, well, as real as time travel can be. But on the other hand, it kind of defeats the whole wonder of the concept because history can be so interesting. So since we can’t live in history, we have to rely on the story that is taking place.
To me, the storyline was just meh. Neither Anna nor Bennett were really exceptional. They were kind of bland, and the romance wasn’t one of those that just totally sucked me in. On a side note, neither one had great relationships with family or best friends that made the side stories interesting. I can see how Stone attempted to show us the consequences of changes, but those side stories just made me dislike Anna for how selfish and bratty she can be.
So going back to the story, there were so many holes in book that I just don’t see how everything added up. What’s so special about Bennett, and why does he time travel (obviously NOT hereditary)? I don’t understand what happened to his sister. How did he “lose” her and how is he supposed to “wait” for her? Also, what were the consequences of Bennett helping his father?
And the biggest question of all… Okay, so Bennett is actually 17 in 2012, and he is a baby in Anna’s time period. So I’m guessing he disappears from 2012 when he time travels? Okay, so there are two parallels? So the big question is, at one point, there is ANOTHER Bennett that shows up. So I’m guessing there is Baby Bennett, the Bennett Anna is in love with and the future Bennett all in one time period? So does that mean there is yet ANOTHER parallel universe? How many are there?
And I see NO way that Anna and Bennett can live happily ever after. Like I said, I’m still not sure if Bennett disappears from his time period or not. So he comes back. Yes, they solve the whole Anna taking her trip situation. But what about future events? There are no consequences from this time? How in the world is he supposed to stay with her?
Books like “The Mediator” by Jenny Carroll/Meg Cabot (yes, it was cliché, but it was cute) and “The Clearing” by Heather Davis (I was actually moved by this one) made an impression on me. And I’ve never read “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” but I’ve watched the movie.
With this book, the basic story was too bland, and the overall concept made no sense for me to enjoy it.
Quintana of Charyn (Lumatere Chronicles #3)
By: Melina Marchetta
Release Date: September 26, 2012 (Australia)
Rating: 5 Stars
|Summary:Separated from the girl he loves and has sworn to protect, Froi must travel through Charyn to search for Quintana, the mother of Charyn’s unborn king, and protect her against those who will do anything to gain power. But what happens when loyalty to family and country conflict? When the forces marshalled in Charyn’s war gather and threaten to involve the whole of the land, including Lumatere, only Froi can set things right, with the help of those he loves.|
The stunning conclusion to the Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta is finally here and every word was well worth the wait. Twice now, Marchetta has delivered indescribable stories of a cursed land, a nation of refugees, a series of powerful characters who exemplified hope, vengeance, and forgiveness rising from great tragedy, all through two unforgettable books. With so much on the line, a lot can go wrong, but I’m glad to report Quintana of Charyn ends the series on a high note that does its predecessors proud.
I don’t think I need to recap how much I enjoyed Finnikin of the Rock, a book so moving I didn’t think it could be topped – until I read Froi of the Exiles. By now, every one of these characters, Froi, Finnikin, Isaboe, Quintana, Lucian, Phaedra, and so many others, are like familiar friends, and many a scene in Quintana of Charyn brought a smile to my face simply by reminding me of how much I’ve grown to care for each of them, their friendships, their families, their loyalties, their struggles, their triumphs. And Quintana really brings this series full circle= with her attention to detail, her gift for subtle character development, and her ability to make even minor events of the first book hugely relevant to the current plot, Marchetta’s done a wonderful job tying together the three books in some really neat yet intricate ways. In a way, it’s fitting too, because Quintana of Charyn is a fairly straightforward story, the plot does an admirable but relatively simple job of connecting the futures of its characters with the fate of Charyn, just like Finnikin of the Rock connected the futures of the characters of that book with the fate of Lumatere – I’d definitely say this final book is stylistically closer to the first than its direct predecessor. For me, Quintana never approaches the sheer complexity of Froi of the Exiles, but it doesn’t have to, Froi already does the required work by setting up these wonderfully complex characters, and all Quintana has to do is bring them home.
Of course, it’s not that easy, going home. Even though the title of the book is Quintana of Charyn, plotwise it’s really Froi of the Exiles, Part Two, because the focus of the story is still Froi’s journey. He’s torn between his home with the Lumaterans and his home with Quintana, Gargarin, Arjuro, and Lirah in Charyn, and his conflict over where he belongs, like an extension of the wider conflict between Lumatere and Charyn – but on a personal level, just resonates throughout the book. It’s incredible how effortlessly Marchetta’s writing seems to emphasize all these conflicting ties in one person, with Froi’s loyalty and friendship with Finnikin and Isaboe balanced perfectly against his love for Quintana, Gargarin, and Lirah. So no matter where Froi happened to be, no matter what he happened to do, I was always rooting for him to find his place in the world, even though both sides are written so pitch perfectly I couldn’t even decide myself how he should choose, that’s how powerfully every single one of Froi’s relationships feels. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but the way it’s resolved, it’s one of the most appropriate endings I’ve ever read, and it just kept reminding me of Froi of the Exiles’s most memorable line, ‘blood sings to blood’.
But even if the focus is on Froi, so many other stories, Finnikin’s, Isaboe’s, Phaedra’s, Quintana’s, they all seamlessly intersect to combine into one incredible book. Quintana made such a huge impression on me in Froi of the Exiles with her tragic character and strange demeanor, and here she demonstrates once again how she’s much more than just Froi’s other half. In hiding, she’s got a lot to do, building slow, inspiring friendships with Phaedra in particular but also with a couple of other strong female characters, demonstrating just how tough she is, heck, opening not just my eyes, but the eyes of her fellow Charynites. I always looked forward to the few sections from her point of view, there’s a certain strange poetry to her tortured words, but even from the point of view of any of the other characters, she shows why she deserves to headline this book even if the show is ultimately about Froi. A quick read of just the epilogue alone reveals just how far she’s come as a character, not just from the tragedy surrounding her birth and childhood, but from Charyn’s entire history. Hers is the kind of ending that leaves me hopeful for the future.
Of course, even if Froi and Quintana are obviously the two main characters, their stories are just the tip of the iceberg. Quintana of Charyn is such a fully character driven novel, I can spend days covering every single character who made an impression on me and I still wouldn’t be finished. Isaboe and Finnikin, sure, Finnikin annoyed me at first with his overpossessiveness, but I meant it when I said Finnikin’s friendship with Froi, like so much of the book, shines through in a way that brought a smile to my face. Isaboe even more, not just her obvious love for Finnikin, but the incredible way her character develops through the book, shedding her stoic Evanjalin guise to reveal a far more multifaceted character, someone deeply hurt by the events of Lumatere’s recent past but, in the end, is still a big enough person that she’s capable of demonstrating just how powerful small gestures can be. Or Phaedra and Lucian, their story was kind of out of place in Froi of the Exiles but Quintana ties their plotline with the main story so well, and yet somehow still manages to retain everything that made it special, their mutual respect for each others’ strengths, the emotion in Phaedra’s sacrifice. And I haven’t even talked about Gargarin and Arjuro and Lirah and Tesadora and De Lancey and Beatriss and Barakah and Lord August and Perri and Olivier and Dorcas and even Celie who makes an appearance from Ferragost, truly, I am going to miss every single one of these characters.
So, I have good news and I have bad news. Good news, Quintana of Charyn is a wholly character driven fantasy that shattered all of my expectations for the final book of the Lumatere Chronicles. Bad news, this may be the final book by Melina Marchetta for some time. But if, like Gargarin, I look on the side of wonder, her hiatus really only reinforces my appreciation for how truly special this series has been.
Covet (The Clann 2)
By: Melissa Darnell
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Rating: 2 stars
|Summary:Dangerous to be together. Painful to be apart.Savannah Colbert knows she broke up with Tristan Coleman for the right reasons. Most of all, to keep from killing him with her new vampire abilities. But try telling her heart. Now, lost in a sea of hostile Clann faces, Sav tries to come to terms with what she’s becoming and what that means for her future. And that someone is doing their best to bully her into making a terrible mistake.
Tristan can’t believe Sav won’t even talk to him. If being apart is her decision, fine. Just don’t expect him to honor it. But even as he prepares to fight for the girl he loves, forces beyond their control take them both in directions neither could have foreseen or prepared for.
A reckoning is coming and not everyone will survive.
Review: The first few chapters sucked me in and really broke my heart. After that, I alternated between annoyed and pissed. I loved Savannah and Tristan in Book 1, but here, they were so pathetically whiny. This book felt long, and it just got more depressing and irritating the further I went. The only exciting part was the last two chapters, but even then, that was predictable.
I guess I use to be a nicer person. Because the whole I-love-you-and-I-want-to-be-with-you-but-I-can’t-so-I’m-going-to-sacrifice-our-love-and-stay-away-from-you thing was really grating on my nerves. Yes, I know that was the situation in Book 1, and I ate it up. But they were starting to figure it out, and even though the first book left us with a cliffhanger, I was hoping it would be resolved by now. I’m not sure how much more I can stomach.
But what I was guess was most irritating was the introduction of possible triangles and rectangles and however many sides you want to add the polygon. I mean, I know that Tristan isn’t interested in Bethany, but come on, HOW DENSE can the boy be? And instead of being protective, he came across very possessive. And Ron? Darnell just kills me with what a possible mess this can be, especially with Anne.
And there were just little things that really bugged me. Does anyone else find it extremely weird that Sav’s FATHER is the one giving her a makeover? I know that he’s some super badass vampire, and she’s a girl who doesn’t really care about her appearance, and it’s HIS money, but still. The book points out the absurdity of him picking out clothes for her and giving her an ultimatum, but I don’t know about that one. And some of the scenes were just plain ridiculous like the demon dog or Savannah’s reaction to her first encounter with a Keeper. Oh, the stupid things that came out of her mouth. I wanted to smack her.
And the story was really cheesy, really cliche, and really predictable. The high school drama and the fight with the jocks, Ron and his secret, Emily’s sickness, the one behind it all at the end. There wasn’t anything that surprised me, and I was more than ready for the book to end. Now, I just have to decide if I want to continue the series, and I’ll just have to see.
Dearly, Beloved (Gone With the Respiration 2)
By: Lia Habel
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Rating: 2 stars
|Summary:Can the living coexist with the living dead?That’s the question that has New Victorian society fiercely divided ever since the mysterious plague known as “The Laz” hit the city of New London and turned thousands into walking corpses. But while some of these zombies are mindless monsters, hungry for human flesh, others can still think, speak, reason, and control their ravenous new appetites.
Just ask Nora Dearly, the young lady of means who was nearly kidnapped by a band of sinister zombies but valiantly rescued by a dashing young man . . . of the dead variety.
Nora and her savior, the young zombie soldier Bram Griswold, fell hopelessly in love. But others feel only fear and loathing for the reanimated dead. Now, as tensions grow between pro- and anti-zombie factions, battle lines are being drawn in the streets. And though Bram is no longer in the New Victorian army, he and his ex-commando zombie comrades are determined to help keep the peace. That means taking a dangerous stand between The Changed, a radical group of sentient zombies fighting for survival, and The Murder, a masked squad of urban guerrillas hellbent on destroying the living dead. But zombies aren’t the only ones in danger: Their living allies are also in The Murder’s crosshairs, and for one vengeful zealot, Nora Dearly is the number one target.
As paranoia, prejudice, and terrorist attacks threaten to plunge the city into full-scale war, Nora’s scientist father and his team continue their desperate race to unlock the secrets of “The Laz” and find a cure. But their efforts may be doomed when a mysterious zombie appears bearing an entirely new strain of the virus—and the nation of New Victoria braces for a new wave of the apocalypse.
Lia Habel’s spellbinding, suspenseful sequel to Dearly, Departed takes her imaginative mash-up of period romance, futuristic thriller, and zombie drama to a whole new level of innovative and irresistible storytelling.
Review: It took me almost three weeks, and I fell asleep every day (sometimes two or three times) that I attempted to read it, but I FINALLY finished it! It wasn’t that the book was boring because it definitely had potential and there was a lot going on. It just wasn’t compelling enough to keep my attention.
My biggest complaint with the first book was there were WAY too many points of view with five different narrators. With this book, try six. Yes, you read that right, SIX different points of view.
My second biggest complaint with the first book was it started out really slow, but it did pick up about halfway through for me to end up liking it. With this book, slow pacing was not a complaint at all – quite the opposite really. In fact, I felt that there was TOO MUCH going on. There were too many different parties involved that it was so chaotic. It wasn’t just the living vs. the zombies. It was Company Z, the living army, the Punks, the Change, the bird raiders (yes, I forgot the name), all the different gangs – ugh, my head is going to explode, and to be honest, I can’t even remember everything that happened.
But despite everything that was going on, somehow or another, I just couldn’t get into the book. I can’t really explain why other than I just couldn’t keep my focus. Now whether the scenes were just not interesting enough or there was so much going on that Habel didn’t do justice to each part or that snippets here and there was just disruptive and disorienting – I don’t know. All I know is I couldn’t get into it.
And a good deal of what made the first book decent was the romance. With the exception of two passionate scene, I didn’t feel the attraction between Bram and Nora. Their relationship was just flat, and even though I know it’s because they’re in the middle of wartime, the chemistry just wasn’t there as Rhett and Scarlett in Gone with the Wind (yes, I did notice that Habel renamed the series, which I got a good kick out of).
Pamela was just a foolish character. Vesperatine, despite her intelligence, was almost as foolish. And Laura wasn’t intriguing enough. I could have done without all of their points of view – perhaps even traded Laura’s POV for Coalhouse. And for someone who was so badass in Book 1, Coalhouse’s pathetic attitude was really grating on my nerves. I didn’t really care for Allister’s POV either, but I guess you have to have the villan in there somewhere.
Overall, it wasn’t a bad book. Like at all. But I just had so many problems with it that it really ruined the reading experience for me. I really hope that Habel considers some of the complaints from critics (especially the abundance of POVs) in future books.