Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Enchanting Review: Mistwood

YA Paranormal
Greenwillow Books
ISBN# 9780061956997
320 pages
Hardcover – Available April 27, 2010

Rating: 5 Enchantments

Travelling deep into the dangerous Mistwood, a young prince and soon to be king call upon an ancient power. Summoning and then binding Isabel to them, it would seem that all of their problems are now solved. Or are they?

Isabel is the Shifter, bound to protect the royalty of Samorna both with her strength and her mind. Immortal and able to take on any shape she chooses, the Shifter is a formidable weapon and great protection for a king in need. When Rokhan summons her and brings her back to the castle with him, however, Isabel soon learns that everything is not as it should be. Strong in character and wise beyond the appearance of her years, Isabel is a fantastic character with quite a bit of depth to her. This is easily a character one could follow throughout many stories as there always seems to be something new to discover about her.

Prince Rokhan, next in line to the throne after the death of his father, finds himself relying heavily on Isabel. Her powers and physical abilities should help protect his life while her mental capacity and experience advising past kings should help Rokhan lead his people well. With a strong desire to better his kingdom and rule wisely, Rokhan appears to have great potential. With Isabel at his side, he truly believes nothing can go wrong. Unfortunately for him, however, secrets rarely stay hidden and when his come to the surface, losing his crown may be the least of his worries.

MISTWOOD by Leah Cypess is a robust tale of royalty, deception, self-discovery, romance and a decent amount of the paranormal. As we follow Isabel throughout the story, we learn more about her and the memories that slowly come back to her. Snatches of memory and good reasoning skills allows Isabel to discover that Rokhan may not be who he truly seems although the compulsion of the Shifter magic forces her to protect him anyway. Uncovering more about Isabel and Rokhan, we find ourselves in the midst of deception. Full of sorcerers, princes, princesses, kings and the Shifter, MISTWOOD is a wonderful tale of magic and the strength of the human spirit.

Originally drawn to MISTWOOD by the beautiful cover, I was amazed at just how good the story was. Isabel is unlike many of the shape-shifters that we see nowadays. Ms. Cypess has done an amazing job of creating her own world and her own set of rules. What really made this book fantastic was how well she stuck to those rules. I have experienced many paranormal books where suddenly the characters could do things that had been impossible for them to do previously in the story. Here, Ms. Cypess gives Isabel her quirks and limitations while actually sticking to them. That made the story much more believable and realistic, which is great for something so full of magic.

Relationships played a major role in MISTWOOD. As Isabel learns more about herself and uncovers the truths about others, we see relationships grow and falter. This is more than a single week of time in the life of some girl. While not covering a huge expanse of time, this book does seem to cover quite a large expanse of events. Ms. Cypess does a fantastic job of allowing the story to ebb and flow throughout the book, giving us little mini adventures and allowing each event to come Isabel’s way to really shine. When I said that the story was robust, that really is the best way to describe it. MISTWOOD is a very full story with plenty of twists and turns. Every time it felt like the story was coming to a close, something else would happen that would keep our heroine constantly moving forward.

For me, the true test of a story is how long it stays in one’s mind after the final page has turned. With the plot twists throughout the book and especially at the end of the story, I believe MISTWOOD will stay with me for a while. This story is dark and mysterious, the lies surrounding Rokhan and the loss of Isabel’s memory aiding the mystical feel of the book. The way in which this book has fully wrapped around my mind is evidence of Ms. Cypess’s clear writing style and beautiful story development.

MISTWOOD was many years in the making and truly a work of art from Leah Cypess. Although this is her first published novel, she has written a number of other short stories. She can be found online at http://www.leahcypess.com/.

Cinnamon Brown
March 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Enchanting Review: Raven

Young Adult Paranormal
Simon Pulse
ISBN# 9781416978992
304 pages
Paperback - Available Now

Rating: 4 Enchantments

RAVEN by Allison van Diepen was an interesting story and definitely not what I was expecting. I thought there would be more of a paranormal aspect to the story and while there was, it didn’t seem to play too major of a role. The best way to describe the otherworldly elements in this book is as accessories to make the underlying relationship and character development stand out. It certainly worked because although I might not have read what I expected, I definitely came out of it with a story that has stuck with me.

Nicole is our raven haired beauty full of mystery and secrets. That’s one thing she shares with the delicious Zin. Secrets consume the both of them, threatening to spill over and control their daily lives. Perhaps for Nicole, they already are. Living with a ghost is never easy, especially when this ghost haunts your dreams and occasionally your day-to-day life. Knowing that somewhere in the world your ghost is alive and hurting is ten times worse.

Having fallen in love with Zin from the moment she laid eyes on him, Nicole has filled her heart with this Arabic break-dancing stud. She even went so far as to join the Toprocks, Zin’s dancing group, to get closer to him. This is where I started to get lost in the story.

Unless you’re a fan of break-dancing and understand the sport, I would imagine that the common reader is going to need a break-dancing dictionary to help them visualize the story. Ms. Van Diepen uses quite a few break-dancing terms that made a majority of the action within the story difficult to understand. I could kind of see what the characters were doing and I certainly understood the adrenaline that the dancing was creating, but having no knowledge of the dance moves and no real explanation of them given, this aspect of the book was hard to follow.

The majority of RAVEN focused on Nicole and Zin as their secrets explode and each is left to pick up the pieces for the other. As their romance blooms, however, life gets in the way and the author does an amazing job of holding that romantic tension in the story. Will Nicole end up with Zin or won’t she? My answer to this question changed about every ten pages and this is the true sign of what great writing Ms. Van Diepen put into this book. Her ability to keep us entranced and addicted to the story was such that even though I couldn’t understand parts of it, I still kept reading, needing to know more.

The paranormal aspect of RAVEN – the aspect that I mentioned was kind of lacking – did play a role in our story; it just didn’t feel like the main focus of the story. Perhaps it is better that it wasn’t the main aspect; we were able to focus on the relationships in the story with the magic tossed in to keep us hooked. The paranormal aspect did allow for a common problem the characters could work around and provided a nice touch of otherness to the book that lent it a perfect edge. Overall I would have to say that the combination of paranormal to not ended up working well and was probably to the story’s advantage. The author gave us a fictional story that could easily translate to real life.

Allison van Diepen is the author of multiple young adult books, a few focusing on the harsher topics that come up in a teen’s life. She can be found online at http://www.allisonvandiepen.com/index.htm.

April 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Enchanting Review: Fragile Eternity

Young Adult Fantasy
ISBN# 9780061214714
389 pages
Paperback - Available Now

Rating: 5 Enchantments

A great continuation to the Wicked Lovely series and an interesting look into Melissa Marr’s world of the Fae, FRAGILE ETERNITY turned out to be quite an interesting read. Having heard some mixed reviews about this one, I was a little nervous to see if this third installment could live up to the first two books. Following the incredibly intense Ink Exchange, FRAGILE ETERNITY could have easily floundered. Luckily, it didn’t.

While Ink Exchange took us over to watch the Dark Court, FRAGILE ETERNITY brings us back over to the lives of Aislinn, Seth, Donia, and of course our Summer King, Keenan. Struggling to find love where they can and fend off love where they shouldn’t allow it, life is anything but easy for these four. While Aislinn and Keenan fight against the lusty call of Summer, Donia becomes absorbed in finding a way not to wage war against the Summer court. After all, the man who is supposed to love her can’t help but find himself drawn to another woman. Amidst the chaos Seth finds the answer to his dreams, but will the required sacrifice be worth it?

Seth and Keenan both soar to new heights in FRAGILE ETERNITY. We see a new, deeper side to Keenan that we hadn’t really witnessed before. With Seth we begin to see the beginning cracks of insecurity. Aislinn’s pull to Keenan isn’t something he wants to witness but with no way to stop it, he’s at a loss for what to do. I think readers will love Seth in this book as he really becomes the focal point of the story.

The overall feel of FRAGILE ETERNITY was quite a bit different from Ink Exchange. Missing the deliciously dark, romantic element that the previous book held, this book stands out as more of a turning point in the series. We learn more about the world and get to meet a few more characters. It is still Ms. Marr’s world of the Fae, so there is plenty of darkness thrown throughout the pages of this story, but overall it felt that the tension here wasn’t as great as in previous books.

Readers will enjoy getting a deeper look into Ms. Marr’s world. Many of our questions are answered which, of course, only leaves us with more. One of my favorite aspects of her books is the way she manages to give us a fulfilling story without necessarily giving us a happy ending. Readers of Ms. Marr’s work will understand what I mean. FRAGILE ETERNITY is certainly no exception to this, but there was something about it, something about the change in the characters that leaves me thrilled and excited for the next installment in the series.

Melissa Marr is hard at working promoting the fourth book in the series, Radiant Shadows. She can be found online at http://www.melissa-marr.com/.

April 2010

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Enchanting Review: Sweet Little Lies: An L.A. Candy Novel

Contemporary YA
ISBN# 978-0061767609
320 Pages
Hardcover—Available Now

Rating: 4.5 Enchantments

Picking up right where 'L.A. Candy' leaves off, Jane is trying to recover from the leaked photos of her and Braeden, her boyfriend's best friend. Unknown to Jane, the person out to get her is her new BFF and fellow L.A. Candy co-star Madison. Meanwhile, her true BFF, Scarlet is dealing with her own misery. With Jane gone, L.A. Candy has been forcing her into hanging out with her worst nightmare—Gaby. But when the cameras stop rolling, maybe Gaby isn't as bad as Scar originally thought. When one of the cute cameramen asks Scar out, she finds herself agreeing, which is totally against L.A Candy rules.

Fast moving, SWEET LITTLE LIES keeps the reader turning the pages, waiting for Jane to discover the truth and waiting to see if Scar's really in love. And what is Madison's little secret? Someone out there knows and the way she's determined to hide it, it must be something good. I have to say I really enjoyed SWEET LITTLE LIES. A strong second book in the series, the reader gets pulled deeper into the lives of Jane, Scar, and Madison. Jane and Scar's friendship is a little more on the rocks in this one, thanks to Madison's lies and Jane's need to believe the best about people. I really liked how we got to know Scarlet better and the relationship brewing between her and the cute cameraman. And you can't help but feel bad for Jane when the whole truth is exposed and she finds herself possibly without a best friend and a place to stay. I'm really looking forward to seeing where Ms. Conrad takes this cast of characters next.

Lauren Conrad is best known for starring in the MTV hit series The Hills. Her first novel, L.A. Candy, was a #1 New York Times bestseller. She began her career as a fashion designer in spring 2008 with the debut of the Lauren Conrad Collection and expanded in 2009 with a second line, LC Lauren Conrad, exclusively for Kohl's. She has been featured on the covers of Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, Us Weekly, Rolling Stone, and Entertainment Weekly, among others. Lauren also launched the m.powerment by mark charity campaign with mark cosmetics in 2008. She lives in Los Angeles and is currently working on her third novel in the L.A. Candy series.

February 2010

Enchanting Review: Bleeding Violet

Young Adult Paranormal
Simon Pulse
ISBN# 9781416986188
454 pages
Hardcover – Available Now

Rating: 4 Enchantments

Hanna is a strong-willed, intelligent character; perfect for a book where your oddest dreams come to life. She probably doesn’t have the healthiest mind on the block and this is made evident by the number of prescription pills she has to take and the way she shows up on her mother’s doorstep. BLEEDING VIOLET by Dia Reeves is definitely one of those books where once the story is over, you go back to the title and finally realize what it means.

Wearing only purple dresses and nice heels, Hanna stands out in a town where everyone else wears black. It isn’t safe to stand out. Transies – transients – are people who have not grown up in the Portero, Texas area and are recent installations to this strange town. They are the only ones who wear bright colors; they don’t know any better. Why would you want to stand out when the attention you might receive could come in the form of something biting your head off…literally.

Immediately catching the attention of our neurotic Hanna is the green-clad Wyatt. His clothes signify his role in a dangerous organization within the town, one that can help or hurt depending on its desires. Wyatt and Hanna find themselves drawn to each other in a relationship that is surely as strange as the town they live in.

Ms. Reeves has created quite an interesting world in BLEEDING VIOLET. Portero is definitely on the top of my list of places I never wish to visit. Full of possessions, blood sucking creatures, monsters, and death, Portero is an interesting area where anything can happen. The possibilities the author created when she developed this town are many and I’m fairly certain that she utilized them all.

As we race through the story, Ms. Reeves throws a few different subplots at us. Hanna’s mother Rosalee wants nothing to do with her and we need to figure out why, the town is intensely strange with many secrets, someone close to Hanna starts to act oddly, and finally Hanna’s diseased mind itself plays a role in our exploration. Each of these impact the storyline and give the reader something to latch on to. Although the story may be vastly different from many out there right now, many readers will still find a good deal of enjoyment out of it. It’s oddity is such that there is never a moment when the reader feels bored. Hanna’s hallucinations (or are they real?) allow for some moments which can be at times hilarious or fairly disturbing. Ms. Reeves detail and imagery while creating these scenes is such that the full extent of the emotion in the book becomes available to the reader. I believe that the reader is meant to be confused, angered, and scared at times. These emotions fly freely off the page.

The style of writing and Ms. Reeves ability to give us a complex story in an interesting way was fantastic. At times, the story was a little difficult to follow as it stayed in fast-paced forward motion. Readers will need to make sure that they take the time to really read the book and not just flip through the pages as quickly as can be. This may be tempting as the story is quite addictive, but in order to get the full effect of the feelings surrounding Hanna, take your time with the story. It will pay off in the end.

BLEEDING VIOLET is the debut novel for Dia Reeves. Currently working as a librarian in Texas, she can be found online at http://www.diareeves.com/.

April 2010

Enchanting Review: A Brief History of Montmaray

Historical Fantasy YA
ISBN# 978-0375858642
304 Pages
Hardcover—Available Now

Rating: 4 Enchantments

"Princess" Sophie Fitzosborne lives on the small island of Montmaray with the King, his daughter, her younger sister and a handful of residents who still remain. Her dear older brother is away at school in England and Sophie and family miss him terribly, keeping in contact only through sporadic letters. The house is terribly dilapidated, but despite that, Sophie is happy with her life. And even more so when a letter arrives from her aunt, inviting her to London for her debut. The only thing is, Sophie knows her cousin Veronica won't go and she's reluctant to go on her own. How could she navigate life in London without her? But then something happens that might just jeopardize everything.

I have to admit from the cover blurb, I thought A BRIEF HISTORY OF MONTMARAY might be a bit of a dry read. I was wrong. What I enjoyed most about the book was Sophie herself; she had a great voice and was really likable right from the start. All the characters were very unique: Veronica, Sophie's cousin and daughter of the King, who'd rather hole up in the library and work on the history of Montmaray then head to England and make her debut, not to mention The King himself, who's just a wee bit unstable and prefers to stay locked up in his room, preferring to deal only with the housekeeper and not his daughter nor his nieces. One of my favorite scenes is when we actually get a glimpse of the crazy King as he appears briefly and we see the chaos that erupts around him as he finally emerges from his room and into the kitchen where most of the family is present. From Sophia's memories, we see how the King's wife took off suddenly and how he fell into the state he's in. A great combination of history, intrigue and a dash of suspense, I look forward to reading more from Ms. Cooper.

Michelle Cooper lives in Sydney, Australia. Find an excerpt here: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780375858642

Enchanting Reviews
October 2009