Review: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

 

Title: Hourglass

Author: Myra McEntire

Publisher: Egmont

ISBN: 978-1606841440

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

Full of atmosphere, mystery, and romance, Hourglass merges the very best of the paranormal and science-fiction genres in a seductive, remarkable young adult debut.

Review:

I wanted to like Hourglass better than I did.  I had high, high hopes for it, and to be honest, I don’t think anything could have lived up to the hype I had planted in my brain.  I was thrilled to be reading a book that was a little different, one without vampires or shape shifters, but one that still had paranormal elements, and one that might be the tiniest bit scary.  Emerson does see ghostly apparitions, and what’s not spooky about that?  I built this book up so much that it fell a bit short of my expectations.

Here’s what worked for me: Emerson is a wonderful character.  Since she can see things that nobody else can, she gets a big old crazy label slapped across her forehead.  After spending time in a mental institution, she weans herself off of her medication because she is tired of feeling like a zombie.  She is stubborn and determined, and she tells herself that she will just have to deal with the ghosts that she sees, without letting her brother and his wife know that she’s not taking her meds anymore.  While less than wise, it showed that Em is brave and that all she wants is to live a normal life like every other 17 year-old.

When her brother hires Michael to try to help her with problems, Em is surprised to learn that he’s only slightly older than she is, and that he works for the mysterious organization called Hourglass. When Em tries to dig up some information on Hourglass, Michael is less than happy with her.  In fact, he gets a little irate.  Here’s one of the things that I didn’t like: Michael.  I just never warmed up to him, or thought that he was the right guy for Emerson.  He put his own agenda ahead of helping her, and he didn’t hesitate to lie to her and manipulate her to get his way.  It is disheartening when you don’t like the soul-mate of the protagonist, and wish she would get together with his best friend instead.  Even if his best friend is a player.  Sigh.  That was one love triangle I didn’t mind, though I was hoping for a different outcome.

Without giving away too many spoilers, I will say that I loved the time-traveling aspects of the story.  Michael wants Em to help him right a terrible wrong, and save the life of a man who was murdered by going back in time and changing history.  The end result certainly wasn’t what they had hoped for, but playing with the past should never be an easy accomplishment.  There should be a price to pay, and an extremely heavy one at that.  Emerson learns the hard way that changing the past shouldn’t be undertaken lightly, and that there are worse circumstances possible, both for herself, and for her friends.

While I thought that parts of the story were sluggish and the pacing was uneven, the last 150 pages rocked out.  I couldn’t put the book down.  That was bad, because I was supposed to socializing with friends while on vacation, but all I wanted to do was disappear for a bit to polish off the rest of the book.  While I didn’t totally love this book, I am looking forward to seeing what happens next, and I hope that the momentum from the end of this installment carries over to the next one.

Grade: B-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

 

Title: Starcrossed

Author: Josephine Angelini

Publisher: HarperTeen

ISBN: 978-0062011992

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

How do you defy destiny?

Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is—no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it’s getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she’s haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood . . . and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they’re destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.

As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together—and trying to tear them apart.

Review:

I loved the spin Josephine Angelini put on Greek mythology in her debut book, Starcrossed.  I love all of the novels hitting stores shelves with re-imagined myths and fairytales, and I don’t think I will ever get tired of them.  There is a timelessness about them, and such a huge body of material to play with that I’m not even concerned about them sounding too much alike. 

I had very high expectations for Starcrossed, and despite it feeling overlong a few times, it did not disappoint.  I was sucked right into the story, and found it difficult to put the book down, especially after Helen goes berserk and tries to kill Lucas, a guy she hasn’t even met yet!  What was that all about, I wanted to know.  I mean, what would compel this mild-mannered young woman, who by nature is rather  timid, to try to strangle a complete stranger?  That was a great WTF moment, and I was hooked from that point on.

Though Helen’s timidity occasionally irked me, I did like her character.  She has a level-head on her shoulders, as long as she isn’t a slave to the frenzied whispers of the Furies, urging her to kill, kill, kill some guy that she doesn’t even know.  She and her dad live on the island of Nantucket, and Helen has always felt like a freak.  She doesn’t fit in at school, and her only real friend is Claire, a little spitfire who always has her back.  If it wasn’t for Claire, Helen would be totally alone.  Weird things happen wherever Helen goes,  and her classmates quickly ostracize her.  Her self-confidence is sadly lacking, and she does everything she can to just fade into the background.  That’s not so easy with her height and stunning looks, but she still tries to stand out as little as possible.

When Lucas and his family move to the island, Helen’s life is turned upside down.  She’s drawn to Lucas, but for all of the wrong reasons.  She wants to see him dead.  Every time she sees him, she has an obsessive compulsion to kill him.  What Helen doesn’t know is that she is descended from one of the four great houses of Greece, and that all of them are under a curse – one that compels them to kill anyone they see from another house. 

As Helen and the Delos family work through the curse, as well as the visions of the Oracle, they discover that there’s a lot more at stake than overcoming the need to commit violence on members of the other houses.  Helen and Lucas find themselves doing the impossible – they begin to fall in love.  They uncover betrayals, murders, and the mystery behind the disappearance of Helen’s mother.  And once they learn more about both of their families, they are forced to see just how forbidden their love really is.

I loved this book, despite it occasionally feeling overly long.  Illogical and unnecessary roadblocks were thrown up to keep Lucas and Helen apart, and these plot points slowed the flow of story for me.  The complexity of the reimagined mythology more than made up for the pacing missteps, and kept me turning the pages well past my bedtime.  I found Starcrossed a wonderful introduction to the trilogy, and I can hardly wait to find out what happens next.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Flawless by Lara Chapman

 

Title: Flawless

Author: Lara Chapman

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

ISBN: 978-1599905969

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Sarah Burke is just about perfect. She’s got killer blue eyes, gorgeous blond hair, and impeccable grades. There’s just one tiny-all right, enormous-flaw: her nose. But even that’s not so bad. Sarah’s got the best best friend and big goals for print journalism fame.

On the first day of senior year, Rock Conway walks into her journalism class and, well, rocks her world. Problem is, her best friend, Kristen, falls for him too. And when Rock and Kristen stand together, it’s like Barbie and Ken come to life. So when Kristen begs Sarah to help her nab Rock, Sarah does the only thing a best friend can do-she agrees. For someone so smart, what was she thinking?

This hip retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac is filled with hilariously misguided matchmaking, sweet romance, and a gentle reminder that we should all embrace our flaws.

Review:

When I read the description for Flawless, I couldn’t wait to read it.  Having a beak of epic proportions myself, I was curious about how Lara Chapman would present her story about a girl with what she thinks of as a big flaw – her nose.  Sarah is the daughter of a successful newscaster, and though she’s confident on the outside, on the inside she is troubled by her appearance.  She just wants people to accept her for who she is, instead of fixating on her nose.  The problem is that Sarah can’t get past this “flaw” herself.

Sarah’s defense mechanism is to strike first, before someone has a chance to make fun of her.  When meeting people for the first time, she is always on guard.  Will they notice anything other than her nose?  She has killer eyes and a perfect smile, but most people zero in on the largest part of her face.  Even her mother turns it into a sticking point between them, by constantly urging that she get a nose job.  Sarah knows that her mother means well; after all, she ended up with her mom’s nose, before she had her cosmetic surgery.

I loved the humor, and quickly came to like Sarah.  She is smart, practical, and loyal.  She wants to be accepted for who she is, but she hasn’t quite managed to embrace her outer appearance.  It is always there,  always something for her to worry about.  She puts on a tough front, but that’s all it is – inside, she is insecure and fearful of letting anyone other than her BFF, Kristen, get too close to her.

Drama rears its ugly head when hottie Rock, the kid at school, catches Kristen’s eye.  Even though Rock is perfect for her, Sarah is guilted into helping her friend snag herself a new boyfriend.  Sarah doesn’t believe that anyone, especially a guy as good-looking as Rock, could ever fall for her or her nose.  What Sarah discovers is that she is selling herself short, and not giving the people in her life the credit they deserve to see the real Sarah.

Flawless struck a chord for me.  I remember being in Sarah’s shoes and feeling like everyone was constantly making fun of my flaws.  I pushed people away, and it took many years to move beyond that high school mentality, where everyone is judged by how they look, what they wear, and how good their grades are.  If you allow your insecurities to rule your life, life is going to get pretty lonely.  It’s hard to take risks and stand up for yourself, but the connections you make will be more than worth the pain of those occasional failures.  Everyone is flawed in one some way, but once you accept your differences, you will be the richer for it.  It takes a lot of missteps for Sarah to learn this lesson, but once she does, she finally allows the real Sarah to shine through.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: OyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy

 

Title: OyMG

Author: Amy Fellner Dominy

Publisher: Walker & Company

ISBN: 978-0802721778

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Ellie Taylor loves nothing better than a good argument. So when she gets accepted to the Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts summer camp, she’s sure that if she wins the final tournament, it’ll be her ticket to a scholarship to the best speech school in the country. Unfortunately, the competition at CSSPA is hot-literally. His name is Devon and, whether she likes it or not, being near him makes her sizzle. Luckily she’s confident enough to take on the challenge-until she begins to suspect that the private scholarship’s benefactor has negative feelings toward Jews. Will hiding her true identity and heritage be worth a shot at her dream?

Debut author Amy Fellner Dominy mixes sweet romance, surprising secrets, and even some matzo ball soup to cook up a funny yet heartfelt story about an outspoken girl who must learn to speak out for herself.

Review:

When I read the description for OyMG, I have to admit that it left me a little ambivalent.  I wasn’t sure about the tone of the book, and since I am about the least religious person you will ever meet, it’s hard for me to relate to a character who does have strong religious identity.  So it was with a bit of trepidation that I started reading this, and I have to say now that I couldn’t put it down.  I read it through in two sittings, and enjoyed it very much.  Despite the serious subject of discrimination, it is presented with humor, and it manages to make a statement without feeling preachy.  And there is a very sweet romance stirred in to make the protagonist’s decisions that much harder to make.

Ellie Taylor has one dream; to attend CSSPA summer camp and win a scholarship to elite Benedict’s Conservatory of Arts and Academics.  Problem? CSSPA is the Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts, and she’s Jewish.  Her grandfather thinks it’s a bad idea for her to attend, and when Ellie discovers that one of the school’s benefactors and board members might be prejudiced against Jews, she starts to think that maybe he’s right.  Ellie wants that scholarship so badly, though, and she can only see one path for her life; graduate from Benedict’s, move on to college, and make a difference with her oratory skills.  She has a gift of gab, and she wants to put it to good use.  When she has to lie about who she is, she starts to wonder if she’s doing really what’s best for herself after all.

There are so many aspects of OyMG that I liked that I don’t even know where to begin.  Probably first and foremost is Ellie’s relationship with her grandfather.  He is appalled when he discovers that she’s lying about who she is.  Hurt and angry, he doesn’t hesitate to call her out on her rejection of her heritage.  While they have always had a strong, though occasionally argumentative relationship, Ellie’s desire to get what she wants, no matter the cost, puts a serious strain on their interactions.  Her grandfather wants Ellie to understand that there is a price to be paid for denying yourself, and that allowing decimation when it’s convenient for you is inexcusable.  So many people made so many staggering sacrifices to keep their heritage, and for Ellie to brush that aside is wrong.  There’s a lot of raw emotion here as Ellie keeps making excuses for Mrs. Yeats; confusion, anger, fear.  She has never experienced such blind hatred, and she doesn’t know what to do about it.  More than anything, Ellie wants to be accepted and liked, and she doesn’t understand how Mrs. Yeats can hate her because of her religion.  Her inner struggle was so compelling that I couldn’t put the book down.  I wanted Ellie to make the right decision, but even I didn’t know what it was!

Ellie’s romance with Devon was my second favorite story thread.  Devon is the grandson of Mrs. Yeats, and he’s the one to tip her off to his grandmother’s dislike of Jews.  Devon confuses her, because Ellie starts to wonder if, deep down, maybe Devon shares his grandmother’s views.  Devon, it turns out, has a few personal issues with his grandmother, as well.  The successful businesswoman is used to getting her own way, and that includes with her family.  She has goals and plans for Devon, even though she knows that he doesn’t want the same things she does. 

OyMG was a surprise discovery for me, and I am looking forward to reading Amy Fellner Dominy’s next book.  Her characters are deep and complicated, but able to laugh about their own short-comings.  The final resolution is a bit too convenient, but I found it satisfying none-the-less.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: The A Circuit by Georgina Bloomberg & Catherine Hapka

 

Title: The A Circuit

Author: Georgina Bloomberg & Catherine Hapka

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

ISBN: 978-1599906348

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

The A Circuit is the top of the top when it comes to horse shows. It’s a world with its own rules and superprivileged lifestyles. Teens travel the circuit all year, showing horses that cost as much as some homes.

Tommi, Kate, and Zara are all elite competitors on the circuit, but they come from totally different backgrounds. Tommi is a billionaire heiress trying to prove she has real talent (not just deep bank accounts). Kate puts the working in working student-every win has been paid for with hours of cleaning stalls. She’s used to the grueling schedule, but Fitz, the barn’s resident hot guy, is about to become a major distraction. And then there’s Zara. She’s the wild child of a famous rockstar, but she’s ready to take riding seriously. Can a party girl really change her ways?

Readers who enjoy peeking into the elite world of Gossip Girl or The A-List will feel right at home in this new series with its friendships, drama, and privilege set against the backdrop of competitive horseback riding.

Review:

Warning – Very long and rambling post; my apologies

It seems like I have waited forever to read this book!  When I first saw it, with that pretty horse on the cover, all shiny clean, wearing show tack, and ready to put on a show, I wanted to read it, even though I am usually disappointed by books with horses.  Most of them have left me underwhelmed, because the horse facts are wrong.  Before I had horses, that never bothered me. I read horse stories all the time, and loved them.  Now, in my life with horses, I don’t enjoy them as much, because most of the time, they don’t feel authentic.  I know that Georgina Bloomberg shows competitively, so I had high hopes for this book. Probably too high!  But I enjoyed it so much!

First off, this book is soap opera with horses.  If you don’t like horses, think they stink, can’t imagine shoveling their poop, The A Circuit is probably not for you.  Most of the action takes place at the show grounds or the barn, with minimal time spent elsewhere.  When the characters aren’t at the barn, they want to be at the barn.  That feeling certainly resonated with me!

Told through alternating points of view, the story focuses on three teens: Tommi, Zara, and Kate.  Tommi and Zara come from money, while Kate, the daughter of a cop, has had to work day and night for the opportunity to ride.  She doesn’t have a horse, but she is able to show the barn owner’s string, or catch ride for clients.  I liked Kate.  I felt for Kate.  I understood Kate.  Horses are like a drug.  When you aren’t around them, they are all you think about.  Chilling at the barn, forging that bond between yourself and an animal that weighs half a ton and could stomp the life out of you if it got a burr up its butt.  Why do we work ourselves to the bone to experience this rewarding, though occasionally unnerving pursuit?  I have no idea, but if I ever figure it out, I will write up a post about it.

Zara rubbed me the wrong way, and I wanted to beat her with a riding whip or strangle her with a lead rope.  Which ever was closer would have worked.  She has no respect for anyone, including herself.  She is out of control, and she takes her anger out on everyone, including her horses.  She doesn’t beat them, she is just very rough and demanding with them.  It made me angry.  The general rule is ask for a little, reward a lot, but this is a foreign concept to Zara.  She has no discipline, and I wonder why she rides at all.  She wants to ride and train on her terms, and she should have been sent packing the first time she put a horse in harm’s way.  But no, money talks just as loudly in the horse world as it does anywhere else.  Unfortunately.

Both Tommi and Zara take their horses for granted.  Both of their fathers pick up their training and show tabs with nary a fuss.  Tommi, at least, is trying to think of a way to keep doing the horsey thing after she finishes high school, despite her family’s insistence that she attend a prestigious college and get a high profile job.  That’s just not her thing.  I admired her drive to find a way to pay her own way, and was even more intrigued with her self-doubts.  Was she good enough to train a horse capable of showing on the A circuit?  Her self-confidence takes a beating, and I am so curious to see how she progresses – really hoping for a sequel for this!

Without spoiling anything, I was so disappointed with both Tommi and Kate when they are involved, indirectly, in a display of blatant stupidity that injures a horse.  That is so not cool!  Their silence was painful for me, and they both took the easy way out of a difficult situation.  To me, they didn’t learn from a mistake that could have gotten someone killed.  You can’t goof off around horses; their size makes them dangerous if you aren’t paying attention.  I get a little sick when I think back on that scene in the book. So senseless and such a waste, and nobody has proved to me that they learned a darned thing from it!

The A Circuit was everything that I had hoped for, and more.  It is a soap opera set in a barn, with a group of angsty teens and their horses in starring roles.  Their little dramas kept me engaged in the story, and the show scenes made me wish I was at the fairgrounds. 

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs

 

Title: Tempest Rising

Author: Tracy Deebs

Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers

ISBN: 978-0802722317

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Tempest Maguire wants nothing more than to surf the killer waves near her California home; continue her steady relationship with her boyfriend, Mark; and take care of her brothers and surfer dad. But Tempest is half mermaid, and as her seventeenth birthday approaches, she will have to decide whether to remain on land or give herself to the ocean like her mother. The pull of the water becomes as insistent as her attraction to Kai, a gorgeous surfer whose uncanny abilities hint at an otherworldly identity as well. And when Tempest does finally give in to the water’s temptation and enters a fantastical underwater world, she finds that a larger destiny awaits her-and that the entire ocean’s future hangs in the balance.

Review:

I love the cover of this book, and I wanted to read it from the moment that I first saw it.  I have a great affection for mermaid stories, and I try to read as many of them as I can.  The ocean is like the last frontier; who knows what lurks down there, in the dark depths of the sea?  I mean, have you seen pictures of some of the crazy looking fish that live down there? Who is to say that mermaids can’t be hiding under the waves as well?

Tempest is just days shy of her seventeenth birthday, which is something she has come to dread.  On her birthday, she will have to choose what she will be – a human or a mermaid.  Her mother abandoned her family years before, returning to her home in the Pacific Ocean.  A half-mermaid, the sea has always called to her and made her feel at home.  She is a killer surfer, and loves the time she spends with her on again, off again boyfriend riding the waves.  When weird things start happening to her, and after she almost drowns, Tempest begins to realize that maybe she doesn’t have much of a choice about whether she stays a human or fulfills her destiny and follows her mother into the ocean’s watery depths.

I loved Tempest’s inner struggle here.  It is obvious that she loves her family, and she will do anything for them.  Her younger brother is especially dear to her, and she has tried to make up for their mother’s absence.  Despite their occasional bickering, there is a strong unity between the siblings, and you get a great sense of how much they care for each other.  Tempest’s father is a wonderful character as well.  He is still reeling from the loss of his wife, but he strives to provide a stable, supportive home for his kids.

When the water keeps calling to her, and her body starts to change in unsettling ways, she begins to wonder if she really has a choice at all.  Those gills are kind of disturbing, and she is terrified of growing a tail while surfing with her friends.  When the mysterious and totally hot Kai shows up on the beach, Tempest’s life is thrown into chaos.  She feels a strong and undeniable attraction to Kai, and even her boyfriend Mark feels threatened when he sees them together.  The tension between Tempest and Kai sizzles, and while I enjoyed the romance aspects of this story, I felt that they overshadowed the rest of the plot. 

This brings me to my only complaint about the book.  Tempest’s voice did not ring true for me, and I didn’t get the feeling that she was a 17 year-old.  She sounded much older to me, and that occasionally jarred me out of the narrative.  Tracy Deebs also writes under several pen names, including adult paranormal romances as Tessa Adams (Dark Embers looks awesome, by the way!).  While the physical displays of affection are obviously toned way down, there was still too much emphasis on this.  Call me silly, but I would have preferred to learn more about the mermaids and their world than reading about Kai and Tempest making out or swimming together, for that matter!  I enjoyed the world-building we were given, but was disappointed that there wasn’t more.

Overall, Tempest Rising is an enjoyable read.  I liked the characters, and found the underwater world of the story fascinating.  I am just disappointed that we didn’t get learn more about the mermaids, but hopefully this will be addressed in the sequel.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses by Ty Drago

 

Title: The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses

Author: Ty Drago

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

ISBN: 978-1402247859

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

"On a sunny Wednesday morning in October, a day that would mark the end of one life and the beginning of another, I found out my grouchy next door neighbor was the walking dead. When you turn around expecting to see something familiar, and instead see something else altogether, it takes a little while for your brain to catch up with your eyes. I call it the ‘Holy Crap Factor.’"

Forced to flee his home and family, twelve-year-old Will Ritter falls in with the Undertakers-a rag-tag army of teenage resistance fighters who’ve banded together to battle the Corpses.

Review:

Wow, have my reading tastes changed!  Just a little while ago I would have avoided a horror yarn like the plague!  Especially one with zombies.  They are so scary!  And gross, with all of that rotting flesh and vomit-inducing stench.  Yuck!  Why do I like to read about them now? Zombies rock!

I felt so bad for protagonist Will! When his cranky neighbor suddenly looks like a walking corpse, he thinks he’s losing his mind.  Then, suddenly, most of his teachers look like they just crawled out of a coffin, too!  Talk about being confused!  And frightened!  When they discover that he can see them, try to kill him, and Will is running for his life.  He can’t go home because he’ll put his family in danger, he’s terrified, and he has to put his trust, and his life, into the hands of a bunch of kids he’s just met.  Yeah, that will pretty much ruin anyone’s day. 

I loved the complexity of the zombies in Ty Drago’s first installment of this MG horror series.  The Corpses aren’t your typical slow, stupid creatures craving nothing but brains; these guys want nothing less than to rule the world.  They are smart, they are fast, and they look like normal people.  Only a few kids can see the monsters for what they really are, and they have banded together to try to save as many kids as they possible can.  Once the Corpses realize that someone can see them, they will stop at nothing to kill them to keep their secret safe.  It’s not like anyone would listen if some kid said they were seeing zombies mingling with the rest of society, especially when the Corpses have infiltrated the local police department. 

Will is only 12 years old, and he acts and thinks like a 12 year old.  He wants to go home, and he wants his mom to magically fix this nightmare.  He isn’t used to relying on himself, and he’s finding that it’s not much fun.  It’s kind of stressful, actually, trying to keep a few steps ahead of the rotting corpses that will do anything to get him in their decaying clutches.  Will is special, and the Corpses have been watching him for a long time.  They have a lot more resources at their disposal than Will and his new group of friends, who call themselves the Undertakers.

The Undertakers are led by Tom and Sharyn, two street savvy kids who knew Will’s father before he died.  I liked this story thread, and thought it made Will seem even more convincing.  He is jealous to discover that his father was leading a secret life, helping the Undertakers defend against the Corpses.  Will’s resentment is strong, and it affects his relationship with all of the Undertakers.  It’s a great weakness that gives him a chance to develop and become more mature, as he learns to forgive, and accept, that his dad was caught up in a very dangerous game that he had little chance of winning.

With non-stop action, The Undertakers is a fast read, despite weighing in at almost 500 pages.  It kept me engaged in the plot, and provided plenty of thrills and chills.  I want to learn more about the Corpses, and I wonder how a bunch of kids are going to defeat them and stop them from slowly taking over the planet.  I’m looking forward to the next book in the series; this introductory volume was a lot of fun!

Grade: B, leaning towards a B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: The Time-Traveling Fashionista by Bianca Turetsky

 

Title: The Time-Traveling Fashionista

Author: Bianca Turetsky

Publisher: Poppy

ISBN: 978-0316105422

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

What if a beautiful vintage dress could take you back in time?

Louise Lambert has always dreamed of movie starlets and exquisite gowns and longs for the day when she can fill the closet of her normal suburban home with stylish treasures. But when she receives a mysterious invitation to a vintage fashion sale in the mail, her once painfully average life is magically transformed into a time-travel adventure.
Suddenly onboard a luxurious cruise ship a hundred years ago, Louise relishes the glamorous life of this opulent era and slips into a life of secrets, drama, and decadence. . . .

Dreamy and imaginative, The Time-Traveling Fashionista features thirty full-color fashion illustrations to show gorgeous dresses and styles throughout history.

Review:

The Time-Traveling Fashionista is a fun read and a promising start to a new series by debut author Bianca Turetsky.  I love time-travel books, so I was happy to journey along with Louise when she is hurled back in time after trying on a beautiful pink dress in a vintage clothing shop.  When she discovers she has ended up on the Titanic she is less than thrilled, but she becomes determined to save everyone on board by convincing the captain that they are headed for certain doom.  Yeah, that doesn’t work very well, because everyone believes the hype – that the world’s largest passenger ship can’t ever sink.  Instead of looking like a knight in shining armor, Louise only looks like a nutcase, which doesn’t help her cause much.

I liked Louise quite a bit, and immediately starting hoping she could somehow change the disastrous accident that befalls the ship she’s on.  When she is first propelled back in time, she acts like any 12 year old.  She is dazzled by the glitz and wealth suddenly surrounds her, and she kind of spaces out where she is.  It never crosses her mind that she is on the Titanic, and when she does finally get a clue, she is panic-stricken.  She’s made friends, and she doesn’t want anyone to get hurt.  Herself included! Her efforts to save the ship and its passengers are courageous,  and make for a suspenseful read.

The historical details of the time period and the Titanic are interesting, and made me curious to learn more.  I hate to admit that about the only  thing I knew about the Titanic before reading the book was that it was a really big ship, it hit an iceberg, and it sank, with much loss of life (and no, I haven’t seen the movie!).  Bianca Turetsky fleshes out the incident, building an engaging read around the real life events. 

The book itself is so pretty!  There are full color illustrations throughout, in addition to splashes of color in the chapter headings.  Illustrations add so much character to a book, and I don’t think publishers realize how much they make a book stand out.  I realize that they are expensive to include, but they make the finished product so much more memorable.  The Time-Traveling Fashionista is gorgeous, offering up visual treats as Louise journeys through the past.

I have only one complaint with the story.  The villain is too one-dimensional, and I didn’t find him to be an interesting opponent.  His interference bogged the story down, and his actions just didn’t seem convincing to me.  There was no compelling reason for why he was trying so hard to stop Louise from trying to save the ship, and it seemed that his only purpose was to cause problems for Louise, without adding depth to the plot.

The Time-Traveling Fashionista is a fun read that will appeal to MG readers, as well as those who enjoy stories with historical settings.  I like the premise that vintage clothing holds the memories of the people who once wore the garments,  and wonder what adventures Louise will have next.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher