Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Review - Beastkeeper

by Cat Hellisen
Date: 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Reading level: MG
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 208
Format: e-book
Source: library

Sarah has always been on the move. Her mother hates the cold, so every few months her parents pack their bags and drag her off after the sun. She’s grown up lonely and longing for magic. She doesn’t know that it’s magic her parents are running from.

When Sarah’s mother walks out on their family, all the strange old magic they have tried to hide from comes rising into their mundane world. Her father begins to change into something wild and beastly, but before his transformation is complete, he takes Sarah to her grandparents—people she has never met, didn’t even know were still alive.

Deep in the forest, in a crumbling ruin of a castle, Sarah begins to untangle the layers of curses affecting her family bloodlines, until she discovers that the curse has carried over to her, too. The day she falls in love for the first time, Sarah will transform into a beast... unless she can figure out a way to break the curse forever.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

It's been a while since I've read a fairytale-esque fairytale retelling.  Beastkeeper certainly fits the bill, with a story about curses and family and love and ever-afters.

Please, dear author, I want some more...

I was a bit confused at first as to why the author would choose to write this story for middle graders rather than young adults.  After all, we're talking about a thirteen-year-old girl and a curse based on love.  Can thirteen-year-olds really fall in love?  If they do, is it really appropriate?  These were my thoughts as I was reading the story, especially after Alan came into the picture.  But, after finishing the story, I get why the author choose to make her heroine so young.  The love in this story isn't just romantic love... and having a younger narrator actually helped make certain parts of the plot more intricate and interesting.

While this is not a straight retelling of a standard fairytale, Beastkeeper probably has the most in common with "Beauty and the Beast", with the original beastly curse coming about because of vanity, jealousy, and retribution.  I like that the curse in this book is multi-generational.  Sarah was just as vulnerable to the original curse as her father and her grandfather before her.  Fair or not, it's an interesting take on the concept.

I really like most of the characters, even our thirteen-year-old heroine.  Middle-grade narrators can sometimes be a little hit-or-miss.  If they're not done quite right, they can come across as sounding like stilted little adults... which isn't very believable.  But Sarah manages to sound both young and modern, while also keeping within the fairytale flavour of the book.  She doesn't use jarring jargon that might pull a reader out of the atmosphere of the story.  The villains are also complex and nuanced, with good reasons for acting the way they do.  One of them, especially, is one that readers are bound to love... if only because she's so easy to hate.

The writing in this book is also very lovely: lyrical, evocative, and colourful, without straying too far into purple-prose territory.  Some of the settings are so vividly described, with such wonderful little details, that I could easily imagine all aspects of them: the scents, the sounds, the sights... even the temperature.  It really works well in a book with such a magical setting.

It's all a matter of taste...

The one thing I wasn't crazy about was that the ending felt a little bit rushed, and I wasn't sure why one character had a particular outcome (unless it was simply for shock value).  A few more pages to flesh out the ending might have been nice... though I don't think I would have actually changed what happened.  It's a pacing issue more than anything else.

I was also a little confused by the terms of the curses... though I may just need to go back and reread the explanations.

Let's get technical...

Aside from a couple of continuity issues (which may have just been sloppy editing), the writing in this book is pretty strong.  I don't have many complaints.

The verdict...

Beastkeeper is a lovely addition to the fairytale retelling genre, perfect for fans of old-fashioned fairytales and more modern fantasies alike.  Even though it's technically in the middle grade category, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to fans of young adult books.  It's perfectly suitable for older readers as well.

Quotable moment:

There was a long silence, drawn out and stretched like a strand of bubblegum.

Sarah tiptoed along the landing toward her parents' room and wondered what flavor silence was, and if it grew hard and brittle if you threw it away, or if people sometimes stepped on wads of discarded silence and it stuck to the soles of their shoes and made their footfalls softer.

She stepped on the silences, and padded fox-quiet.

Premise: 4/5
Plot: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Editing: 4/5
Originality: 5/5
Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall Rating: 4.38 out of 5 ladybugs

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Favorite Heroines From Historical Fiction

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Ten Favorite Heroines From Books.  I think I might have done this particular topic before, so I'm going to get a little more specific and just focus on historical fiction.  There are so many strong heroines there, which is kind of funny.  Why are so many of today's heroines comparatively weak?

Top Ten Favorite Heroines From Historical Fiction:

Birdy from Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman - This girl is the very definition of a feisty heroine.  Though she's just a young teenager, her father keeps trying to marry her off... to old men!  She tries her hardest to live her own life and make her own choices, in a time when girls were expected to obey the men in their lives.

Birdy is headstrong yet relatable.  She tells the story with touches of humour in an unforgettable voice.  I really liked all the little details about 13th-century England and learning about the saints that Birdy mentioned in her diary.

Ruby Jean from Free as a Bird by Gina McMurchy-Barber - The narrator of this book has Down syndrome.  She's also got a huge personality that comes across on the page, aided (in part) by some phonetic spellings throughout the text.  I really got engaged with this story, and I know it was because of the character.  She drew me in, and I found myself really caring what happened to her.

The story is set in the latter half of the 20th century, in British Columbia, Canada.  Ruby Jean is basically dumped at the provincial asylum (they called it a "school"... though there wasn't much teaching of any sort going on there), and the story follows her as she grows up and learns to live in a world that can be challenging even when you don't have a disability. 

Cassandra from I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith - This is one of those coming-of-age stories that we're all supposed to read at one point or another.  But this story has some unique elements that make it a bit different, and a really strong narrator.  Cassandra is the younger daughter of a writer with a bad case of writer's block.  She's also got a beautiful older sister, and when some nice young men move in nearby, of course some sparks are going to fly.

I found Cassandra to be interesting and easy to relate to.  Her awkward first experiences with boys and her interactions with her family make her a character with some depth.  She's one of my favourite female characters of all time.

Jane from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë - When I first read this book, I was struck by how modern it sounded.  I hadn't read many other classics that were written in the first person point of view.  Jane herself tells the story of how she came to work as a governess for Edward Rochester, and the subsequent adventures she has after she finds out a pretty big secret.

It's a timeless love story, and Jane's anxieties and heartbreaks are easy to relate to... even more than 150 years after it was written.

Tula from The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle - There are a number of strong historical heroines in verse novels.  Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (also known as Tula) is from one of my recent reads.  She's a modern sort of girl, with some very modern ideas, living in 1820s Cuba.  Her mother wants her to marry, and marry well.  Tula wants to help abolish slavery and use her talent for poetry to help.

She's an interesting heroine from a time and place that's not very well represented in fiction.

OTMA from The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller - I may be cheating a little here, since OTMA (Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia) is four heroines, not just one.  But Sarah Miller did such a good job of developing them all that I just couldn't choose a favourite.

Though the end of this story is tragic and known to pretty much everyone, it's still lovely to see these girls developed as individual characters.  There's been so much focus on Anastasia in fiction that the other three tend to get overlooked.  And they were all interesting young women, with their unique upbringing and perspective during a time of war and revolution. 

Odette from Odette's Secrets by Maryann Macdonald - I'm not generally a fan of stories that take place during the Holocaust.  But this verse novel was an interesting story about a real little Jewish girl who was sent from Paris to the countryside to live as a Christian for her own safety.

The story itself was interesting enough, but knowing that Odette was a real person brought a sense of immediacy.  It was especially nice to see the included photographs of the people who were mentioned in the story.

Marnie from The Raging Quiet by Sherryl Jordan - I hesitate to include this one as I'm not sure it actually takes place in a real historical setting.  However, it doesn't really have any fantasy elements, and it does go into the way certain women were treated by the Church at times throughout history.

Marnie escapes from an abusive marriage to a much-older man, only to find herself the target of suspicious villagers.  It doesn't help when she seems to be able to tame a wild boy named Raver (who isn't possessed, like some believe; he's merely deaf).  Marnie is strong, even in the face of torturous circumstances, and the story itself is lovely.

Elinor from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen - I've always liked Sense and Sensibility more than Pride and Prejudice, and I think perhaps it's because of the relationship between the two elder Dashwood sisters.

Elinor has always been my favourite, with her practical ways, even though, in reality, I'd probably be the one to fall for the no-good Willoughby.  Still, I can't help but be happy for her when she finally gets what she's wanted all along.

Agnes from Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury - It's 1815 and Agnes is making her debut in society... and unwrapping mummies... and trying to solve a mystery.

I really liked reading about a Jane Austen-era character written from a modern-day perspective.  Agnes is fairly typical for her time in some ways, but she does have a mind of her own and the intelligence to fuel it.  While a story set in this time period could end up being all about landing a suitable match, Agnes has other things on her mind.  The touches of romance in this story are just that... because this heroine has other things to worry about!

What are some of your favourite historical heroines?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

New to the TBR Pile (17)

Bought from Amazon.ca:
Always Emily
by Michaela MacColl

Emily and Charlotte Brontë are about as opposite as two sisters can be. Charlotte is practical and cautious; Emily is headstrong and imaginative. But they do have one thing in common: a love of writing. This shared passion will lead them to be two of the first published female novelists and authors of several enduring works of classic literature. But they’re not there yet. First, they have to figure out if there is a connection between a string of local burglaries, rumors that a neighbor’s death may not have been accidental, and the appearance on the moors of a mysterious and handsome stranger. The girls have a lot of knots to untangle—before someone else gets killed.

Dodger (Dodger #1)
by Terry Pratchett

A storm. Rain-lashed city streets. A flash of lightning. A scruffy lad sees a girl leap desperately from a horse-drawn carriage in a vain attempt to escape her captors. Can the lad stand by and let her be caught again? Of course not, because he's... Dodger.

Seventeen-year-old Dodger may be a street urchin, but he gleans a living from London's sewers, and he knows a jewel when he sees one. He's not about to let anything happen to the unknown girl—not even if her fate impacts some of the most powerful people in England.

From Dodger's encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd to his meetings with the great writer Charles Dickens and the calculating politician Benjamin Disraeli, history and fantasy intertwine in a breathtaking account of adventure and mystery.

Beloved and bestselling author Sir Terry Pratchett combines high comedy with deep wisdom in this tale of an unexpected coming-of-age and one remarkable boy's rise in a complex and fascinating world.

What's new to your TBR pile this week?  Let me know in the comments!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Review - Watch the Sky

Watch the Sky
by Kirsten Hubbard
Date: 2015
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Reading level: MG
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 272
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

The signs are everywhere, Jory's stepfather, Caleb, says. Red leaves in the springtime. Pages torn from a library book. All the fish in the aquarium facing the same way. A cracked egg with twin yolks. Everywhere and anywhere. And because of them Jory's life is far from ordinary. He must follow a very specific set of rules: don't trust anyone outside the family, have your works at the ready just in case, and always, always watch out for the signs. The end is coming, and they must be prepared.

School is Jory's only escape from Caleb's tight grasp, and with the help of new friends Jory begins to explore a world beyond his family's farm. As Jory's friendships grow, Caleb notifies Jory's mother and siblings that the time has come for final preparations.

They begin an exhausting schedule digging a mysterious tunnel in anticipation of the disaster. But as the hold gets deeper, so does the family's doubt about whether Caleb's prophecy is true. When the stark reality of his stepfather's plans becomes clear, Jory must choose between living his own life or following Caleb, shutting his eyes to the bright world he's just begun to see.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I had hoped this would be an interesting middle-grade story with a survivalist theme.  Unfortunately, like some other books in this vein, it veered off into unbelievable scenarios and unrealistic characters.

Please, dear author, I want some more...

For me, the best part about this book was its premise.  I thought Jory's stepfather sounded intriguing, with all his talk of signs, and I figured he must've had a good reason for believing what he did and convincing his family to go along with it.  There was a bit of insight into what made Caleb tick (though perhaps not as much as I'd hoped), and some backstory that partially helped to explain why Jory's mother was so dependent upon her new husband.  However, I would have liked to see these parts of the story developed a little better and a little more; had they been, then the conclusion might have seemed more organic and a little less like it came out of nowhere.

It's all a matter of taste...

My main issues with this book were related to the characters.  I didn't really like any of them.  Jory, even though he's the main character, is kind of blank and boring.  I spent the whole book in his head, and yet I still don't feel like I know him that well.  That may have been intentional, since he was somewhat stunted by Caleb's demands that he remain isolated, physically and socially.  He comes across as bookish and studious, though I thought someone who enjoyed learning as much as he did would not have kept insisting that his family did not live on a farm (despite the fact that they grew copious amounts of cucumbers, tomatoes, and squash in their expansive fields).  Jory's foster sister, Kit, is basically just a miniature Manic Pixie Dream Girl (without any of the romantic elements); while she's more interesting than Jory, she seems to be there mostly for the sake of creating conflict, showing what kind of a man Caleb really is.  Jory's little half-brother, Ansel, is one of the most unrealistic baby characters I've ever read; despite not being able to talk that well (he's only about a year old), he can apparently count to ten and understand everything that's going on around him.  Alice and Erik, Jory's friends from school, are also not very realistic; they use words and turns of phrase that I doubt eleven-year-old kids would ever use in 2015.  In fact, all of the child characters in this book are weak, and I was left wondering why the author chose to make this a middle-grade story if she couldn't write child characters.

But there's a reason this book needed to be middle grade and not young adult: teenagers simply would not have gone along with Caleb's nonsense without questioning everything.  This is probably why Jory's mother really annoyed me.  She comes across as an abused woman, viewing Caleb as her saviour, even knowing what he has planned for her and her family.  I was never quite sure if she believed what Caleb was saying was true; some of her comments made me suspect she didn't... but then that just left me wondering why she was meekly going along with her husband's madness.

Caleb himself is a strange character.  A former soldier, he may have been suffering from PTSD, though his behaviour suggests something more like a complete disassociation from reality.  He seems to relish having control over people, and treats those who don't worship him as unworthy.  His treatment of Kit is particularly appalling.  He also has some fairly sexist ideas, too.

All of these issues make me question the suitability of this book for middle-grade readers.  While Jory does eventually decide to question everything and stand up for himself, it isn't until almost the very last minute.  Before that, I felt distinctly uncomfortable while reading this book, and I don't know if I would want actual middle graders to read it without a lot of accompanying discussion.  I would hate for anyone to come away from a story like this with the impression that the adults' actions and attitudes were normal or positive.

Let's get technical...

I received a copy of this book for review from NetGalley.  As it is an ARC, there are a few typos throughout the text.  Aside from that, the writing is fairly solid and mostly technically correct.  There are a few passages that are quite pretty without getting too flowery.  All in all, there's not much to complain about from a technical standpoint.  The book design itself is also pretty cute; the house on the front is mirrored throughout the text with little house drawings at the beginning of each chapter.

The verdict...

While I did like the overall premise of the story, I thought it could have been handled a little better.  I also would have liked to see the characters more developed and the child characters come across as actual children.

Quotable moment:

Jory followed her inside the house, battling not to glance back. His stomach swarmed with butterflies, angry hornets, miniature dragons with fiery sighs. He felt upset with everybody--Sam and Randall, Erik and Alice, Mom and especially himself.

But he also felt loyal to them. All of them. His family, but also his friends. It wasn't their fault they didn't know any better. It wasn't their fault they had nobody to warn them of the danger.

Thank you to NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Plot: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall Rating: 2.63 out of 5 ladybugs

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Things I Like/Dislike When It Comes To Romances In Books

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Ten Things I Like/Dislike When It Comes To Romances In Books.  I'm going to split it, since I'm neither 100% pro-romance nor 100% anti-romance:

Romance tropes that make me swoon:

average/disfigured/not-quite-pretty girl gets the hot guy - While it's not really a reflection of real life (at least, not from what I've seen; if anything, you see the opposite), it's nice to see in books.  Why?  Because, if it's done right, then the attraction is based on something deeper than looks.  Maybe the guy loves the heroine's kindness... or her intelligence... or the way she doesn't back down when she knows she's right.  (Note that I'm not talking about the self-deprecating heroine who bemoans her imagined ugliness while simultaneously being drooled over by every guy in the vicinity.)

Some examples are All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill and All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry.

characters who have lives apart from pining over each other - I want characters to be defined before the romance begins.  If it seems like they have no lives apart from making goo-goo eyes at each other, I'm going to get bored really quickly.  I want characters to have interests and hobbies and things they can discuss with each other; otherwise, what is the romance based on?  Pure lust?

Good examples of books with characters with back-stories who end up in romances are The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey, and The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater.

couples who start out as friends - These romances are the ones where the two parties have known each other for a while -- maybe years -- before realizing their feelings have morphed into something more.  These relationships start out on a strong footing and build from there.

Books that use the "friends first" idea are All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry, and Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury.

love triangles that just happen - When there's a love triangle that just sort of happens, where you can't see the author's heavy-handed plotting, then it can work really well.  Often, these love triangles will involve people who've known each other for a while, so when the romance comes into the picture, it seems more organic.

Some good examples of nicely handled love triangles can be found in All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

drawn together by weirdness - Past lives, apocalypses, supernatural powers... these sorts of things have the potential to draw people together when they're forced to deal with them.  I like reading about characters who fall in love despite strangle obstacles.  I mean, if their relationship can survive one party remembering their past life as a werewolf hunter while dealing with frogs raining from the sky during a governmental collapse, as well as trying to harness their new-found invisibility... it can probably survive anything.

Fun examples include The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare by M. G. Buehrlen, Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor, Dream Boy by Mary Crockett & Madelyn Rosenberg, Every Day by David Levithan, My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares, and Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston.

Romance tropes I wish I could get a restraining order against:

the "bad boy" who's not really bad - Chalk this one up to weak characterization.  If the love interest is supposed to be a bad boy, show him doing bad things!  If he comes across as a decent guy, then I'm going to spend a lot of time wondering why the heroine shouldn't be with him.  His reputation is not enough to answer that question.

Some examples are found in My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by Rachel Harris and The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin.

insta-love - People don't generally fall in love at first sight.  Simple attraction is often mistaken for love.  In my opinion, it takes more than attraction to equal love.  It should be built up slowly as the characters get to know each other.

Some good (or bad, depending on how you look at it) examples can be found in Escape from Eden by Elisa Nader, Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore, Neverland by Anna Katmore, and Timebound by Rysa Walker.

if he tries to control you, it means he loves you - Edward Cullen set the bar pretty high here, but there are plenty of other "control masquerading as true love" stories out there.  If the guy's telling you what to do, how to dress, and whom you can see, there's a problem.  I'm not talking about the stories where this behaviour is addressed; I take issue with the books that normalize that sort of thing and teach girls to put up with being bossed around by a man.

See Ice by Sarah Beth Durst, Splintered by A. G. Howard, and Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer.

the old, hot pervert - There's a disturbing trend in YA: old men are somehow suitable love interests for teenage girls.  Apparently, if a guy looks young, that's all that matters.  That excuse certainly wouldn't fly in real life, and I'm kind of tired of seeing it in YA novels.  And we wonder why 13-year-old girls keep running away to meet up with 40-year-old men they met online.  The books they're reading tell them it's perfectly okay!

Some squicky age dynamics can be found in Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble, Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin, and Evermore by Alyson Noël.

pregnancy as a plot point - I do not want to see this in the YA books I read unless it's a hard-hitting contemporary novel about the challenges of teenage pregnancy.  Yes, I know teenagers have babies in real life... but in my opinion, it's not romantic and should not be glorified as such.  Chances are, the guy who knocked up the heroine will be gone shortly, leaving his (often) paranormal spawn and responsibility behind.  At least, that's probably what would happen in real life (minus the paranormal part).

Books that should've left the procreating out are Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer, Ice by Sarah Beth Durst, and Salt by Maurice Gee.

What do you like or dislike about romance?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

New to the TBR Pile (16)

Borrowed from the library:
by Cat Hellisen

Sarah has always been on the move. Her mother hates the cold, so every few months her parents pack their bags and drag her off after the sun. She’s grown up lonely and longing for magic. She doesn’t know that it’s magic her parents are running from.

When Sarah’s mother walks out on their family, all the strange old magic they have tried to hide from comes rising into their mundane world. Her father begins to change into something wild and beastly, but before his transformation is complete, he takes Sarah to her grandparents—people she has never met, didn’t even know were still alive.

Deep in the forest, in a crumbling ruin of a castle, Sarah begins to untangle the layers of curses affecting her family bloodlines, until she discovers that the curse has carried over to her, too. The day she falls in love for the first time, Sarah will transform into a beast... unless she can figure out a way to break the curse forever.

Bought from Amazon.ca:
Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2)
by Marissa Meyer

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison--even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

What's new to your TBR pile this week?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Review - All Our Yesterdays

All Our Yesterdays
(All Our Yesterdays #1)
by Cristin Terrill
Date: 2013
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 368
Format: paperback
Source: gifted

Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She's tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present-- imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend, James, since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America's most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James's life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina's hopes for their future. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it... at least, not as the girl she once was. Em and Marina are in a race against time only one of them can win.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I think I've found a new book to add to my list of favourites!  I knew when I read the synopsis for this one a couple of years ago that I really wanted to read the book.  I'm so glad I finally got the chance, because it's just as good as I'd hoped it would be.

Please, dear author, I want some more...

Even though the plot of this story is built around time travel, it's really all about the characters.  And I thought they were all pretty strong.  There are basically two groups of characters here: one whose ages range from 16 to 18, the other whose ages range from 20 to 22 (which sort of makes it straddle the border of YA and NA, which is kind of neat).  The contrast between teenage concerns and adult ones is highlighted, and I found it refreshing that it isn't necessarily the teenagers who are trying to save the world (even though I know that's standard for YA).  I also thought the villain was done really well.  Even at the climax, he doesn't stand around twirling his metaphorical mustache and explaining all his dastardly plans.  He goes along with the action in the scene, not standing apart with a hackneyed monologue like so many villains do... and it was utterly realistic.

I also thought the romance, which is pretty prominent, was handled very well.  There is a love triangle, but it wasn't there just for the sake of conflict.  It seems completely organic, and totally believable.  And though I was leaning in one direction for how I wanted it to turn out, I was still kind of gutted when things turned out the way I'd hoped.  Now that's how you write a love triangle.

It's all a matter of taste...

I really didn't see many weaknesses in this book.  It's tightly plotted and moves at a good pace, despite focusing on time travel (which can be confusing and require too much explanation if the author isn't careful -- see Timebound by Rysa Walker for an example of a time-travel novel that tries too hard to explain everything and gets bogged down by infodumps).  For the purposes of this story, the author went with a more linear idea of time, wherein if you go back and kill your grandfather, you'd cease to exist.  This requires some explanation to get around the paradoxes that would result, but the explanations fit into the story subtly enough that I could suspend disbelief and go with it.

Let's get technical...

The writing in this book is pretty good.  It stays away from my pet peeve of said bookisms for the most part.  The prose is easy to read and flows along nicely.  My only complaint was the use of grammatically inappropriate words, and after seeing the long list of people who supposedly helped get this book to print, I'm wondering why none of the errors were caught.  You don't "hone in on" something; you "home in on" it.  You don't "envelope" someone in your arms; you "envelop" them.  You don't "staunch" the flow of blood; you "stanch" it.  To be fair, it's likely that none of these things would have been caught by a spell-checker... though a grammar-checker probably would have flagged them.

The verdict...

Aside from a couple of small technical issues, I really enjoyed this book.  It's a strong addition to the time-travel genre.  I can't wait to read more from this author, if this book is any indication of the amazing things we're going to see from her in the future.

Quotable moment:

Finn, in an ill-fitting tux, is waiting for us outside the hotel. He performs an elaborate bow as we climb out of the car. "My Lord Shaw! And Lady Marina of the House of Snobs!"

He reaches for my hand and actually kisses it, and I snatch it back before anyone can see. Why does he always have to try to make me feel stupid?

"Did you bathe in that cologne?" I ask. The cloud around him is thick enough to choke a cat. "You know, there's this thing called soap--"

"It's Eau de Homme," he says, straightening his bow tie. "You know you can't resist it."

I gag.

Premise: 4/5
Plot: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Pace: 5/5
Writing: 4/5
Editing: 4/5
Originality: 4/5
Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5 ladybugs