Sunday, October 17, 2010

Persy -- Story Time by Edward Bloor

All Kate Peters wants is to star in her school's fall performance of Peter Pan. She doesn't want to go to the 'Genius School', Whittaker Magnet School, and besides, she's not a genius anyway. Her uncle George is, though, and Whittaker wants him.

To clarify, Kate's mother, June, and George are siblings, but they were born about thirty years apart, so George is two years younger than Kate.

When George goes online to look at school districts, he finds some disturbing information about Whittaker. Their district is in the shape of a mutant octopus, with branches reaching out seemingly at random. Kate and George later discover that this is because Whittaker changes it's borders in order to lasso in all the intelligent kids. That's why Kate is being made to go to Whittaker: she and George live at the same address. Whittaker can't have George without Kate.

There are plenty of strange things going on at Whittaker: every day they have a test. In fact, that's really all they do. Whittaker isn't actually teaching them anything, just training them to be good test-takers.

But the real trouble doesn't start until several people begin to act strangely. During one story time, one of the librarians suddenly jumps up from his chair and starts telling a story that is not in his voice. And just as he finishes, he collapses back into his seat, dead. As time goes on, one boy pretends to be a monkey, a girl continues running into a wall until she passes out, and a woman behaves very inappropriately in front of the First Lady.

There has always been talk of Whittaker Magnet School being haunted, but could there really be a demon running around? Kate befriends Pogo, a librarian who can only speak in nursery rhymes, and who definitely knows something about what's going on.

This is a satirical novel, which you might want to realize before finishing the book. I didn't realize it for a while, which was why I had a rather low opinion of the believability of the story. But I love satire, so now a lot of the book makes more sense!

In the very beginning, I really wanted to murder Kate. She was an arrogant little brat who was rather mean to her uncle George (who of course is awesome). But as it all continues, she gets over herself a little and isn't as annoying. The story isn't really a character-developing one, though, so it's not like she went through a huge, inspiring change. My favorite characters are definitely George and Pogo. George is always pointing out when things are redundant (like saying 'ISBN number' or 'space-age NASA technology'), and Pogo's nursery-rhyme speech is so much fun! But of course, most of the novel was told from the view point of Kate.

I wasn't very happy with the ending of the book. Kate and George really didn't do much throughout the entire thing except listen in to what everyone else was doing. They might've solved the mystery, but they didn't solve the problem.

If you don't understand satire, you probably shouldn't read this book. You might find it enjoyable (it's a really easy read and has lots of humorous parts), but you would probably get annoyed at how unrealistic it is. But if you do like satire, or just want to give it a go, go ahead! I read this book in practically one sitting, so it shouldn't take up a ton of your time (though you might stop several times and wonder what all happened in the last twenty pages, because it won't seem like much).


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Arty -- Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

Beatrice Shakespeare Smith lives in a world any thespian or writer would dream of - the Theatre Illuminata, where all the characters of every play ever written reside. Bertie, though not a Player herself, has lived there most of her life, left there by her unknown mother. She and her cohorts, the fairies Peaseblossom, Moth, Mustardseed, and Cobweb, are constantly making trouble, breaking rules, and causing general destruction.

But it's still a surprise when the Theatre Manager decides to kick Bertie out of the Theatre, unless she can come up with a way to be useful. So Bertie, the fairies, and Bertie's friend (crush), the pirate Nate, put their heads together and come up with... Hamlet set in Egypt.

But the Egyptian Hamlet isn't the main idea of the book, or it's not the only one. There's also Ariel, the air elemental from The Tempest, who may or may not be 'good.' Of course, there's Bertie's inevitable questions relating to her parents, how she came to the Theatre, etc. And then there are... the hungry fairies.

As a disclaimer to any negative points I give this book, let me make it clear that I did enjoy it. It's utterly original, the writing is excellent, and (most of) the characters shine with backstory and ulterior motive. The fairies are hilarious, even if you can just ignore the names because of their uniformity. And Ariel... you will hate his guts, while loving him at the same time.

That said, I was disappointed in Bertie. All the reviews said that she is a 'strong, spunky heroine,' which is generally code for 'whiny, stubborn, self-absorbed heroine.' Bertie wasn't that bad, but she wasn't anything special, unless you count her penchant for swearing and dying her hair odd colors. She just didn't seem like anyone you would look up to, appreciate being around.

The language was another problem that I didn't especially like. It wasn't that bad, but it was coarse, and annoying. Bertie's relationship with Ariel was also a bit... too fleshed out for my taste, especially in one part. I know there have been worse scenes. But then there are much better.

The story handles its several plots well, though sometimes Nate was forgotten (not a tragedy, really). The end, however, was perhaps too easy - not all the questions are answered, leaving it wide open for its sequel, but nothing came as much of a surprise. Still, the resolution left me dying for the next book.

Eyes Like Stars has its fair share of problems. But for discerning readers, I'd have to recommend it. The sequel, Perchance to Dream (which has a cover just as beautiful as the first), came out this May.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Persy -- Dead End Dating by Kimberly Raye

Lil Marchette is not your average vampire. She doesn't like black (she's a pink kind of girl), and she's one of the biggest believers in love.

All born vampires are looking for in a mate is how well they'll be able to produce children. Lil, however, believes that everyone deserves an eternity mate that they love. So she starts her own dating service (against her family's wishes) called Dead End Dating, open to clients of all kinds (born vampires, made vampires, humans, werekind...).

But then Ty Conner, a made vampire and a bounty hunter, turns up and tells her about a serial killer/kidnapper who seems to go through singles ads and dating services. Lil agrees to help Ty in keeping a lookout for the killer/kidnapper.

I originally got this book because it kind of resembles Maryjanice Davidson's Queen Betsy series, which, while not the most serious and interesting vampire series, is pretty darn hilarious. The Dead End Dating series has similarly drawn covers, and the titles are even alike. But Dead End Dating isn't nearly as good.

In the beginning, Lil was just plain annoying. She's a perky, ditzy vampire (which is pretty close to Betsy from Queen Betsy, but Betsy wasn't quite as bad) who reminded me of shallow teenage girls. But after a little while I got used to her and she wasn't so bad. She ends up being almost cute with her firm beliefs in L-O-V-E and determination to not be the stereotypical vampire woman.

But Ty Conner is definitely a cliché. Boots, long black coat, rugged good looks, lack of a real personality. Kimberly Raye doesn't seem to really dig deep into her characters, so they're all rather flat and one-layered. And I love characters with toons of depth, so this bugged me a little.

It certainly wasn't a bad book, and I do plan on reading at least the next book (mostly just out of curiosity), but if you want a funny adult vampire series, I'd definitely point you towards Queen Betsy instead. And if you want a serious series, I definitely wouldn't even mention Dead End Dating (though the pink cover probably should've hinted at that).


Note: this is an adult book and contains adult content, such as language and a few 'graphic' love scenes.