Monday, July 27, 2015

Daughter of Dusk by Livia Blackburne

Title: Daughter of Dusk
Author: Livia Blackburne
Disney Hyperion
Release Date:
August 4, 2015

The Gist: After learning the truth about her bloodlines, Kyra can’t help but feel like a monster.

Though she’s formed a tentative alliance with the Palace, Kyra must keep her identity a secret or risk being hunted like the rest of her Demon Rider kin. Tristam and the imprisoned assassin James are among the few who know about her heritage, but when Tristam reveals a heartbreaking secret of his own, Kyra’s not sure she can trust him. And with James’s fate in the hands of the palace, Kyra fears that he will give her away to save himself.

As tensions rise within Forge's Council, and vicious Demon Rider attacks continue in surrounding villages, Kyra knows she must do something to save her city. But she walks a dangerous line between opposing armies: will she be able to use her link to the Demon Riders for good, or will her Makvani blood prove to be deadly?

In this spellbinding sequel to Midnight Thief, Kyra and Tristam face their biggest battle yet as they grapple with changing allegiances, shocking deceit, and vengeful opponents.

Daughter of Dusk picks up shortly after the events of Midnight Thief.  Kyra is working for the council and struggling to keep her birthright a secret.  In this second book, a former background character steps forward as the big baddie.  His aims go far beyond the destruction of the Makvani race and Kyra must discover his secrets before both sides suffer tragic losses. With one foot in both worlds, Kyra is the only one who can prevent a war and save those she cares about.  
I stopped and started Daughter of Dusk a couple of times as the beginning was quite slow.  There is a little too much political drama and too little action. Kyra spends a great deal of time contemplating whether or not she is a monster and has a difficult time coming to terms with who she is.  This is not necessarily a BAD thing as it makes for good character development, but I was pretty anxious to see her meld both sides of her heritage and kick some serious butt.  Things picked up at about the halfway point when circumstances demand that Kyra leave Forge and come out of hiding as half-human and half-Makvani.  During this time we also get to learn more about Kyra's family history and there are one or two interesting surprises.  

The characters are enjoyable and I was particularly happy that we got to see another side of Flick.  I was quite pleased that he never became a serious love interest and thrilled that he found his own match (can we get a story about them please?)  The romance between Kyra and Tristam continues to be teased as both realize their stations make a serious relationship impossible.  While I like these two characters together and we got to see a deeper side of Tristam as he struggles with his own prejudices towards the Makvani, I didn't feel a great deal of chemistry between them, so that part of the plot fell a little flat.  

Daughter of Dusk has a satisfactory end that leads me to believe it is the last in the series (at least the last that tells Kyra's story) but there are still stories to tell.  We may see these in novella form or in additional books set in this world, but concentrating on other characters - at least that is what I am hoping. 

Bottom Line: Daughter of Dusk is a solid second book in a series with potential for more. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

13 and up
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Swordplay, Knifeplay, Violence towards a child
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Use/Abuse: None

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Pointe by Brandy Colbert

Title: Pointe
Author: Brandy Colbert
Release Date:
April 10, 2014

The Gist:
Theo is better now.

She's eating again, dating guys who are almost appropriate, and well on her way to becoming an elite ballet dancer. But when her oldest friend, Donovan, returns home after spending four long years with his kidnapper, Theo starts reliving memories about his abduction—and his abductor.

Donovan isn't talking about what happened, and even though Theo knows she didn't do anything wrong, telling the truth would put everything she's been living for at risk. But keeping quiet might be worse.


Just after I read Pointe I had a family emergency that took me away from home for a few weeks.  As a result, this particular review got left by the wayside.  I normally write my reviews within a few days of finishing a book, and since several weeks have now passed, this will be a little different from most of my reviews.
First of all, I LOVED Pointe.  I am usually drawn to books that feature the darker side of ballet (a sort of gritty, behind the scenes look) and that is what I was hoping for in Pointe.  It is not what I got, but I wasn't actually disappointed.  Our main character, Theo is terribly broken.  She has suffered an eating disorder, the disappearance of her best friend and horrible guilt over her involvement.  She creates falsities that she convinces herself are true and makes terrible decisions.  When Donovan suddenly reappears, she is forced to confront her role in his disappearance and the awful circumstances that led to it.  There is a great deal of internal struggle as Theo tries to decide not only whether she will tell her side of the story but also come to terms with what happened to her as a child.  Looking back through more mature eyes, she is able to see things she never realized as a young girl and finally confront the past that has haunted her.
Pointe covers A LOT of ground.  We have a ballet competition, an eating disorder, a missing friend, rape, drugs, and a cheating boyfriend.  In the beginning, things are a little slow as the plot appears to concentrate mainly on Theo's burgeoning love interest, which is pretty boring.  Things pick up once we get into the meat of the story and we learn more and more about what happened to Theo and Donovan.  Through flashbacks we learn more about the circumstances of the disappearance.  Theo doesn't seem to have any idea how horrific this thing that happened to her is and we watch in silent horror and pity ans she self destructs under the weight of her story.  The plot continues at a slow burn until the climax.  

Bottom Line: I loved the pacing and character development in Pointe and will definitely be picking up Brandy Colbert's next book.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

16 and up
Sex:  Sex between teens
Violence:  Kidnapping
Inappropriate Language: Asshole, Pussy, Shit, Bitch, Fuck
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking, Smoking, Marijuana Use
Other Issues: Stuatory Rape

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz

Title: A History of Glitter and Blood
Author: Hannah Moskowitz
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Release Date: August 4th

Cover Impressions: Meh. Moskowitz has had much better.

The Gist:
Sixteen-year-old Beckan and her friends are the only fairies brave enough to stay in Ferrum when war breaks out. Now there is tension between the immortal fairies, the subterranean gnomes, and the mysterious tightropers who arrived to liberate the fairies.

But when Beckan's clan is forced to venture into the gnome underworld to survive, they find themselves tentatively forming unlikely friendships and making sacrifices they couldn't have imagined. As danger mounts, Beckan finds herself caught between her loyalty to her friends, her desire for peace, and a love she never expected.

I have a love/hate relationship with Hannah Moskowitz.  I love her creative settings, enthralling characters and well paced plots.  I hate how very, very, very, dark her books are.  A History of Glitter and Blood was no exception.

The reader was treated to a book in progress.  Scrap writes about events as they unfold, with a back and forth between before Cricket's death and after.  The tenses change to differentiate between the two and helps keep the reader on track.  The idea of reading the events as they happen gives a unique sense of suspense as we are never quite sure where the story will go or if it will end abruptly.  It also adds an interesting element as Scrap is clearly not the most reliable of story tellers.  He self-edits as he goes, leaving chastising notes for himself and also writes about events for which he clearly could not have been present.  The text itself is sprinkled with additional elements like pictures and pasted in parts from other books.  This adds beautiful visual interest and my only complaint is that I wanted more! I was left really longing for more photographs, particularly of the trio and the different races.
Moskowitz creates a really intriguing world in this novel.  Fairies that live, not flitting about in forests but anchored in a city with real jobs.  I was really fascinated by the idea that the fairies never really died.  Instead, they can lose pieces of themselves, but they will always feel them.  No one really knows at what point the fairies stop existing - if they every do.  The plot is evenly placed but, other than the final few scenes, does not have a great deal of excitement.  Rather, it spins a steady tale in which we learn the history of the war and its eventual end.

As always, Moskowitz's world is strange and dark.  She always seems to feature some type of sexual exploitation, especially with young characters and I think it is this inclusion, more than any others, that make me uncomfortable in reading her books.  Perhaps it is being a teacher of teenagers, or having children, but I just find this part of her writing very difficult to get through.  In this book, she explores prostitution.  Beckan, Scrap, and Cricket sold their services to the Gnomes in exchange for food.  However, it is written about in a very strange way.  The characters seemed to revel in their work, despite the very dangerous situations they were placed in and the fact that it had already resulted in the "death" of their friend.  I think it is this that made it so difficult for me to connect to the characters.  I found that I had much more sympathy for the character that was already "dead" than for any of the ones I was supposed to be left rooting for.

Bottom Line: Though this novel didn't quite work for me, it certainly had a unique world and an interesting style of storytelling.  It will be a fantastic read for those readers who are already fans of Moskowitz and those who wish to delve into a dark fantasy with an unreliable narrator who will leave you questioning most of what he writes.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

16 and up
Sex:  Sex between teenagers
Violence: Gunplay, Knifeplay, Eating of other creatures, Loss of limbs
Inappropriate Language: Fuck, Bitch, asshole, Whore, Bastard
Substance Use/Abuse: Smoking
Other Issues: Prostitution