The Witching Hour by Elizabeth Laird

Title: The Witching Hour
Author: Elizabeth Laird
Genre: Young Adult (Historical)
Source: Library/ Review copy
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books (1 May 2009)
Set in: Scotland
Rating: 4 out of 5

My Thoughts:

I picked this book because I love reading anything and everything about witches and witch trials. Also it’s set in 17th century Scotland which is just icing on the cake. The Witching Hour is not about witches or witch trials entirely though. It’s about a girl called Maggie who lives on the Isle of Bute with her grandmother who is bitter and angry with life and all that fate has done to her. She can’t help but turn all the hate on the neighbors and the people around her. When one of the new-born dies, his father accuses Maggie’s grandmother of witchcraft and since most of the people don’t have very high opinion of her, she is branded as a witch and burned. Maggie would have been burned too if not for Tam, a family friend.

Maggie manages to run away to her dead father’s brother who lives with his family in Ladymuir. Although he welcomes Maggie in his house and family he has his own problems to deal with. It’s the time when the King wants to replace God in the churches of Scotland and establish himself as the supreme leader. But many people, including her uncle’s family, is opposed to it. They have their secret meetings and sermons. When the King’s men arrest people from the town who have not been co-operating with the King, all hell breaks loose. Maggie has to leave her safe heaven and embark on a journey and put everything she has on risk.

There are a lot of things I loved about this book. First and foremost is the setting. The author Elizabeth Laird describes the time and the place so beautifully that you can’t help feel like you’re actually there experiencing it all with Maggie. I loved the Island of Bute and loved traveling with Maggie across Scotland. It’s as good as it gets where traveling via fiction is considered. I also loved Maggie and how she learned from the mistakes her grandmother made, and how even though she necessarily wasn’t always righteous, she had a good and brave heart.

I learned a lot of things about Scotland that I didn’t know before and although I don’t really understand all the religious details and intricacies, I had a good time getting immersed in the story of Maggie. It’s a Young Adult book but it’s also a book which adults can enjoy thoroughly. The Witching Hour goes way beyond a teenage girl’s story.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book was the length. There were a few dry spots in it and I guess it would have worked best if the book was cut short by a few pages. But other than that I heartily recommend this book.

Note: The Witching Hour is releasing in the U.S as The Betrayal of Maggie Blair in April 2011.

The Truth of the Matter and The Patron Saint of Butterflies

The Truth of the Matter by Andrew Klavan: This is the third book in the Homelanders series. You can read the second book without reading the first but to read the third, you have to read the second. In the first book (no spoilers), Charlie West does not remember anything about his life. He learns that the police are on his trail to arrest him for murdering his best friend. But the bad guys are after him too and he’s clueless why. In the second book he finds some answers but he doesn’t really remember a lot from his past year. In this book he remembers almost everything and seriously what a bizarre one year it was for him. I mean, the plot is unbelievable. I rolled my eyes almost throughout the book. There is only so much that can happen to an 18-year-old. But Charlie West is an extraordinary human being obviously. This book made me laugh so many times, not because the book was funny but because the plot was so unbelievable. But there is this un-putdownable quality in this book. I just couldn’t stop reading. It’s a good continuation to the series. This book doesn’t end here though. There is a fourth book in this series. And you know what? I want to read that too.  3 out of 5 stars.

The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galante: A nice book which would have its own post if I had reviewed it on time. But I didn’t and now the details are a bit hazy. It’s a story about two 14-year-old girls Honey and Agnes set in Mount Blessing religious commune. Agnes is devoted to her faith and believes everything that is told to her by her parents and their religious leader. Honey is an orphan who is a little wild at heart and difficult to tie down. As she has no parents to teach  her the ways of their religion all the time, she grows up reluctant to follow it blindly. She wants to move out of the commune and experience normal life. There are also things going on in the commune that she knows are wrong. When Agnes’s grandmother takes the kids and runs away from the commune, Honey and Agnes have to learn to live their life all over again with a completely new set of rules and beliefs. I loved how opposite the two characters are and I liked both the girls. I liked how they both struggled with what was right and wrong and what was taught to them. In spite of a serious subject it’s a pretty light and quick read. I enjoyed reading it and will definitely recommend it. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Pupulazzi by Elise Allen

Title: Populazzi
Author: Elise Allen
Source: Review Copy
Genre: Young Adult
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books (August 1, 2011)
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

My Thoughts:

Normally I wouldn’t have picked this book up because it seems like it’s aimed at teens. I love YA but I usually stay away from books that revolve around school like because I don’t really seem to connect. But Populazzi I picked because it’s written by Elise Allen who is a 2011 Debutante.

Cara is a teenager who is a nobody in school. The fact that she peed in school when she was a kid followed her as she grew up and stopped her from climbing the social ladder. But when she changes school she decides to start with a clean plate. Her best friend Claudia, makes a plan for Cara to climb the ladder and thus become popular in her new school. The plan is to start dating guys starting at the middle level and then gradually climb up and date the most popular guy and hence become the Populazzi.

It’s actually a pretty predictable plot. It started off very interesting and funny. I was engrossed until her first two boyfriends, Archer Jain and Nate. But after that it just seems like a drag. It’s a pretty believable story though. I can totally see teenagers relating to it. In spite of the topic of the book, the author has tried to maintain a sense of right and wrong throughout the book. Cara definitely knows the difference but still goes with the flow.

It is also probably one of the very few books with an Indian American as one of the important characters. So that was kind of refreshing. The writing was free-flowing which helped but I can’t deny that I was a little disappointed in the book.  But I liked the writing so I will definitely pick up her next book if the premise interests me.

I seem to be in the minority as the reviews on Goodreads are very good.

Heart With Joy by Steve Cushman

Title: Heart With Joy
Author: Steve Cushman
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Review Copy
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Canterbury House Publishing (September 1, 2010)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

My Thoughts:
Heart with Joy is about a 17-year-old boy Julian whose mom left him and his father because she said she wanted to help her parents with their motel and complete writing her book. But Julian knows it’s more than that. He plans on going to Florida to his mother for the summer, and possibly to settle there. He is not as close to his father as he was with his mother, so staying with his father is not really appealing to him.

Julian takes up cooking and other household activities after his mother goes away. Slowly, he discovers that he really likes cooking and is possibly even passionate about it. He gets acquainted with his next door neighbor, who is a really old woman, who has a passion for birds.

Heart With Joy is exactly that, finding something that fills your heart with joy instead of going through life just because you have to. It’s a coming of age story, where Julian begins to understand his father, his mother and his own heart. It’s an easy read and its a very simple and quite story. I enjoyed knowing more about birds as a hobby and also loved the glimpse of recipes given in the book.

I had a problem with what a sweet, understanding teenager Julian is. I haven’t met any teenager who is as well adjusted and has his priorities in place and also who has such insight into things. But maybe I’m just being cynical.

It’s a good book though, definitely worth a try if you like YA or like quite stories.

My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison

Title: My Fairy fair Godmother
Author: Janette Rallison
Genre: Young Adult (Fantasy)
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers (January 6, 2009)
Source: Library
Rating: 4 out of 5

My Thoughts:
This book was on my Wishlist for some time so when I spotted it in the library I grabbed it and the good thing is I wasn’t disappointed. Before I tell you how much fun it was let me tell you a little about the story. 2 sisters-Jane and Savannah. Jane steals Savannah’s boyfriend Hunter. Savannah is heart-broken which is why when a fairy godmother asks her to make 3 wishes, she wishes for a Price and a happily ever after like in fairy tales. But the problem is that her godmother is a teenage fairy, Chrysanthemum Everstar(Chrissy) who is granting her wishes as part of an extra grades project.

As part of Savannah’s first 2 wishes, Chrissy sends her to the middle ages, once as Cinderella and once as Snow White. The third time, even though Savannah tries to get her wish correct, she is again stuck in the middle ages with Tristan who is a guy in her school. They both have to take care of whatever problem they have and come back to the 21st century.

I just loved the concept and the fact that the fairy Godmother was a teenage girl who was always shopping and partying. I loved how Savannah’s ideas about a fairy tale were shattered when she went to the middle ages. In fact, it was so logical that even I had to think over how dreamy these fairy tales really are. I loved all the characters. Savannah was a typical popular teenage girl but I liked how much depth there was to her even when portrayed as a caricature.

I loved the sense of humor and I laughed out loud many times. It’s such a fun book. The end was a little confusing for me but overall I enjoyed My Fair Godmother a lot. Those who love YA or love fun books, I’m sure you would like this one.

Prada And Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

Title: Prada and Prejudice
Author: Mandy Hubbard (Blog)
Source: Library
Paperback: 270 pages
Publisher: Razorbill (June 11, 2009)
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 4 out of 5

My Thoughts:
Callie is a 17 year old average geek girl who has no friends. She convinces her mom to let her go to a London School trip hoping she could make new friends here. But things don’t change. To get noticed by the popular girls she goes shopping and buys a $400 Prada shoes. But the moment she is out of the Prada door, she slips, falls down and hits her head. When she wakes up it’s 1815 and she is alone in a forest.

She somehow manages to walk herself to something that looks like a castle and decides to ask for help. A girl called Emily, who is almost her age, mistakes Callie for her American friend Rebecca, who was to arrive a month later. Callie wanting someplace to stay and get help lies about being Rebecca. There she meets Alexander, Alex, who is a young and handsome guy about her age. But….he is the Duke of Harksbury. After some time Callie realizes that she really is in 1815. Emily is about to get into an arrange marriage with a guy old enough to be her father and Alex is an arrogant guy who seems more mean and arrogant every day.

Prada and Prejudice was such a fun book. I enjoyed seeing a 21st century girl thrown in 1815, in the world of balls, dances, carriages and corsets. It was fun when Callie showed off her knowledge from the 21st century, things which were not known in the 1815’s.

The Duke of Harksbury, Alex, is another Mr. Darcy. But I love how Mandy Hubbard has taken inspiration from a much-loved novel and come out with an original story. I loved all the characters but I wish I got to know a little more about Alex. Mandy Hubbard could convincingly switch from 21st century to 1815 in a split second without making it awkward or unbelievable. I was not a fan of the ending though. I wish it was different although I fail to come up with other endings on my own without turning it into a series which I’m glad she didn’t.

Read it if you want a fun, fluffy and light read or if you love YA.

Mandy Hubbard has written 2 other books, one of which is releasing in 2011. I am especially excited about Ripple, can’t wait to get my hands on both the books.

Paper Towns by John Green

Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Genre: Young Adult
Set in: United States
Source: Personal Shelf
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

My thoughts:
I cursed myself for waiting so long to read it and to discover John Green. I can safely say it’s one of the best YA novels I have read. I don’t know what I was expecting but I wasn’t expecting this. This book really make me laugh out loud many times, it made me fall in love with the characters.

Quintin (Q), Ben and Radar are friends who are in their final senior year. Q and his friends are not the popular kids , but they do have fun and are almost comfortable in their own skins which makes it a refreshing approach on unpopular kids in YA novels. Q is in love with this firecracker of a girl called Margo. She is everything Q is not. Although they were good friends when they were kids as they lived next to each other, they kind of drifted apart as they grew up. Margo became the popular girl. On the outside she seems perfect, but beneath that perfect exterior is a girl who is very different from what Q knows and loves. When she disappears leaving clues for Q to find her, he starts realizing that there is a lot more to her than what appears on the surface.

Q becomes obsessed with finding Margo and as the book progresses we get to know more about Q’s relationships with his friends and his parents. Paper Towns is the kind of book that makes you want to love the author for creating characters like these. The humor is delicious and as I said before I was laughing throughout. Even my husband was intrigued and asked me to keep my copy for him instead of taking it back home. What is the best part of Paper Towns is that even underneath all this humor is a sensitivity and warmth which very few authors can achieve.

If you haven’t read John Green, do so now. Even if you don’t read YA, you simply cannot go wrong with John Green. Cannot wait to read his other books.

Some Quotes from Paper Towns
“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.”

“When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.”

“The rules of capitalization are so unfair to words in the middle of a sentence.”

“When you say nasty things about people, you should never say the true ones, because you can’t really fully and honestly take those back, you know? I mean, there are highlights. And there are streaks. And then there are skunk stripes.”

Joint Review with Melody: Forget You by Jennifer Echols

Melody had 2 copies of this book and the awesome friend and person she is, she sent me one. We both loved Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols so we thought doing a joint review on this book would be fun. I hope you enjoy reading our join review as much as we had fun doing it.

Title: Forget You
Author: Jennifer Echols (blog)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
About the book: There’s a lot Zoey would like to forget. Like how her father has knocked up his twenty-four-year old girlfriend. Like Zoey’s fear that the whole town will find out about her mom’s nervous breakdown. Like darkly handsome bad boy Doug taunting her at school. With her life about to become a complete mess, Zoey fights back the only way she knows how, using her famous attention to detail to make sure she’s the perfect daughter, the perfect student, and the perfect girlfriend to ultra-popular football player Brandon.

But then Zoey is in a car crash, and the next day there’s one thing she can’t remember at all—the entire night before. Did she go parking with Brandon, like she planned? And if so, why does it seem like Brandon is avoiding her? And why is Doug—of all people—suddenly acting as if something significant happened between the two of them? Zoey dimly remembers Doug pulling her from the wreck, but he keeps referring to what happened that night as if it was more, and it terrifies Zoey to admit how much is a blank to her. Controlled, meticulous Zoey is quickly losing her grip on the all-important details of her life—a life that seems strangely empty of Brandon, and strangely full of Doug.

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Here are my questions and Melody’s answers. (all without spoilers of course)

1. What are your first impressions of the book?
Intense, conflicts and lots of drama! When I first seen this book, I didn’t know that this is a story based on Officer Cody Fox’s brother, Doug. (For those who are not familiar with Officer Cody Fox, he first appeared on Jennifer Echol’s book titled Going Too Far, and I loved that book!)

That aside, I’ve to say there are several issues covered in this book besides the love dilemma… things like parental issue (Both Zoey and Doug have that issue with their fathers), infidelity and sex (not in graphic terms, mind you, but you’d be able to understand why this topic was raised towards the end of the story).

I mentioned that this book was intense; with lots of conflicts and drama, and that is always good thing because it keeps us intrigued and wanting to find out more. However, I’ve to confess that I was a little confused (and not to mention unconvinced) over Zoey’s condition when she claimed she has no memory what happened the night before the car crash. She wasn’t drunk, and she didn’t appear terribly hurt or shell-shocked to me either. You can say I was left confused like her; at some point I’ve to re-read a few paragraphs to make sure that I didn’t miss anything (maybe this is part of the plot, but if this is the case, then I’m disappointed to say it doesn’t work for me).

2. There are a couple of steamy scenes in this book. This was probably one of the very few YA books having such scenes. Did those scenes surprise you?
A little (especially on one particular scene but I’m not going to disclose it, haha), but I think it was good to have the author wrote about those scenes with a message behind it: practice safe sex.

3. Did you like Zoey as a character?
Hmm… what shall I say? After some thoughts I was left with one word to describe my feelings towards her: confused. Don’t get me wrong, she was a great character but at times, she seemed like having two different personalities to me – strong and independent, and feeling insecure and whiny the next. But what most puzzled me is, why did she have a relationship with Brandon despite knowing that he is only a friend and a player too?

4. What do you think were the strong points of this book (if any)? The characters, the story or the writing?
Definitely the characters. Zoey and Doug apparently have a lot of issues to deal with, and it was great to find out about their feelings toward each other as the story slowly unfolds. Secondary characters like Keke and Lila (twins and are Zoey’s good friends) are a great fun to read and they definitely add some amusement to the story.

5. Which one did you like more? Forget You or Going Too Far?
Going Too Far, without a doubt (Read Melody’s Review). I enjoyed reading Forget You, but I felt there is something lacking on the plots. And as I already mentioned before, Zoey’s condition left me feeling perplexed, and sometimes she confused me with her decisions. Doug definitely makes a better character as compared to Zoey, but then again I couldn’t understand his feelings and his attitude towards Zoey. Why did he act as if he didn’t care about her despite what he felt towards her is completely the opposite? Forget You is not a bad read, but overall I wasn’t satisfied with the story as I felt there were more questions than answers to it. Going Too Far, on the other hand, has better characterizations and more complexity (plot wise) to the story. Also, the attraction between Officer Cody Fox and Meg McPherson is more clear-cut (to be fair, this attributes to the fact that there is no other guy involved in between Cody and Meg, unlike Doug and Zoey).

Nevertheless, I love Jennifer Echol’s books and I look forward to reading her future releases.
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Read my answers to Melody’s questions here (will add the link when I get it)

The Long Way Home by Andrew Klavan

Title: The Long Way Home (The Homelanders Book Two)
Author: Andrew Klavan
Genre: YA thriller
Hardcover: 352 pages
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5

My Thoughts:
I’ve had this book for some time now but what kept me from reading it was that it was the second book in the Homelanders Series. So I did what I usually do when faced with this dilemma. I read the spoilers reviews of the first book on Amazon after checking if the library had the first book. I was very happy to know that not many people were satisfied with the first book since it left a lot of questions unanswered. It seemed like the first book was kind of a build up.

So I jumped into the second book and was hooked right from page 1. In the first book ‘The Last thing I Remember’, a high school student Charlie West went to bed as an ordinary guy and woke up to find out that the police as well as the bad guys are after him. A year has passed by and Charlie doesn’t remember any of it.

********spoilers for those who haven’t read the first book**********
I didn’t really know how much he found out about himself in the first book but it didn’t matter because I didn’t feel like I missed a lot. I think it was because the author covered the gaps successfully. When this book opens Charlie is surrounded by the bad guys, supposedly the terrorists who want to destroy America by recruiting Americans who are against the country. After escaping from them and then later the police, Charlie goes to his town Spring Field to find out the truth. That is where we learn about his friends, his school and his teachers and what could have gone wrong. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire book which was also a very fast read.

********end of spoilers**********

What I didn’t understand was the terrorists role in all this. They were always in the background and the reasons were not really enough for me to believe that they were a danger to Charlie. Charlie was too good a kid which could actually work well since this is a YA novel. Charlie could be a good role model. Also there are absolutely no bad words. Even though it’s an adventure involving terrorists and a murder, it is a very clean book. At times I found the language very simple and forced. It could be because this is the first YA series that the author has written. But he is the recipient of 2 Edgar awards, so what do I know.

Anyway, recommended for YA lovers and those who love adventure and mysteries.

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

Title: Prophecy of the Sisters
Author: Michelle Zink
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (August 1, 2009)
Genre: Young Adult (Fantasy)
Source: Library
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

My thoughts:
I was excited when I picked up this book from the library because it had been on my Wishlist for some time. I was instantly drawn to the World of Lia and Alice in Birchwood. When the book opens, 16 year old twins Lia and Alice and 10 yr old Henry are at their fathers funeral. Their father dies a strange and sudden death leaving them in the care of their Aunt Virginia.

Soon Lia sees a mark on her wrist, a circle with a snake coiling around it and she struggles to make sense of it. Then she learns of an old prophecy, a prophecy that places 2 sisters on the opposite sides, one evil and the other good. She realizes that there is something sinister at work and that this time she and her sister Alice are at the opposite sides.

I loved the story, I loved the idea of 2 sisters against each other and I loved the Gothic atmosphere in Prophecy of the Sisters. I was engrossed in the book for the first 200 pages and could not put it down. But…yes, I’m sad there is a but, the story got too complicated at times. Lia is trying to understand the prophecy and her place in it for almost the entire book. I was waiting for the action to start, but that was not to happen in this book.

Because most of you know by now, there is a sequel to the book called ‘The Guardian of the Gate’. I was hoping there would be some conclusion, or at least a part of action that would be over and done with in this book. Alas, that was not to be. It just worries me that I will forget a lot from this book before I can get hold of the next one. The book is from Lia’s point of view. The other characters interested me more than Lia. I would have loved to have a first person account from Alice and possibly a little from Henry. Those were the characters I found most interesting.

Nonetheless I would definitely recommend this book to YA and fantasy lovers and begin stalking the library for the second book.