Thursday, February 25, 2010

Book Review - Midnighters #2: Touching Darkness by Scott Westerfeld

Midnighters #2: Touching Darkness by Scott Westerfeld is of course book two of Scott's very successful Midnighters series.

Book #1 mostly concentrated on introducing readers to the Blue Hour, the extra 25th hour in the day that Jessica and her friends Rex, Melissa, Dess and Jonathan are able to move around in. It is also an hour wherein darklings, mysterious and dangerous creatures from a dark dimension populate the earth. Jessica and her friends have certain special gifts that help them combat these darklings, and in this book #2, we get to know more about each of the kids and their backgrounds.

As Jessica and friends learn more about their special gifts, especially Jessica with her 'light bringer' talent that can pretty much extinguish a darkling's life - they discover that there are humans in Bixby who also know about the Blue hour and the darklings. More worrying, the humans are after one of the Midnighter children. The fate? To be turned into a horrifying half human- half darkling creature...

Can Jessica and her friends work to stop this from happening? To find out, read the book!

As before, I was very impressed with Scott's imagination. I particularly loved the idea of imbuing metal objects with special powers ascribed to them by names. That the power came from the naming - kinda blew my mind with that one!

Check out Midnighters #2: Touching Darkness by Scott Westerfeld on Amazon!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Book Review - Midnighters #1: The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld

Scott Westerfeld is more known now as a writer of books geared towards the young adult market, and this book 'Midnighters #1: The Secret Hour' is likewise geared towards that age group. I do think that adults would also be able to enjoy it, as Scott doesn't dumb down when he writes.

I really liked the premise in this book - 15-year-old Jessica Day moves into the small town of Bixby, Oklahoma - and in addition to the stress of being the new girl in school, Jessica discovers that for the town of Bixby, time freezes for an hour at the stroke of midnight, except for her. In that hour, she is able to wander around an alternate reality where everything looks terribly beautiful.

Jessica quickly learns that she is not alone and that she has been given this special gift by virtue of her being born on the stroke of midnight. The other kids she meets who call themselves 'the Midnighters' - Rex, Dess, Melissa and Jonathan - all also have special powers that they employ against creatures of the night who crawl into our world at that extra Midnight hour.

Jessica tries to discover her own special power, and while doing so, the children risk their lives battling the dark creatures who unfortunately seem to grow in power daily.

I thought this was a fantastic very imaginative series from Scott Westerfeld. There are scary elements of course, but the kids deal with them matter-of-factly and their normal daily lives were a good contrast to all the craziness that occurred in the Midnight hour.

Check out Midnighters #1: The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld on Amazon!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book Review - Gone by Michael Grant

Gone by Michael Grant is geared for older kids to teens, but the writing is sophisticated enough to appeal to adults.

Gone is about a scenario that's like a kid's dream come true - one morning, everyone over the age of 13 disappears. A dome encompassing a 20 mile radius around Perdido Beach, CA cuts off all the remaining children from the rest of the world. Disturbing changes occur such as animal mutations and special powers developing in many of the children.

A divide occurs among the children - the students from Coates Academy (an upperclass school for rich delinquents) seize control under the leadership of older student Caine (who has the power to move things by mental telepathy) and a gang of other kids with significant powers.

The kids from the public school gather around natural but reluctant leader Sam, who has his own powers but keeps it hidden. Things come to a head when Caine appoints pretty much violent and psychotic kids to act as policemen, and who immediately start abusing their power. An added pressure is that both Caine and Sam are about to have their birthdays in one week, and likely to disappear to the great beyond like all the others before them.

In the end, a line is drawn between two factions - the children loyal to Sam versus those tied to Caine, and an epic battle ensues. But on the backdrop of this drama is a very real supernatural entity of darkness which is responsible for making all those older than 13 disappear. Pretty heavy stuff if you ask me.

The book is pretty violent so I was surprised that it was being marketed to older kids. I thought the themes of death, abuse, violence and young love that's addressed in the book would actually be better suited to older teens actually.

Check out Gone by Michael Grant on Amazon!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Book Review - Twenties Girl: A Novel by Sophie Kinsella

After taking a stab at an amnesia story on 'Remember Me?: A Novel', Sophie Kinsella tries her hand at another cliche of a story - this time - how about a ghost? And not just any ghost, but a glorious 20s flapper ghost by the name of Sadie. And this is 'Twenties Girl: A Novel'!

Unlike in Sophie Kinsella's other novels, here we have two young women taking center-stage. 27-year-old Lara Lington has many problems - her partner at her head-hunter agency is MIA, the business is not doing well, she's still hung up over her ex Josh (and the entire family is aware of this fact), and to add insult to injury, she is suddenly the only person in the world who can see the ghost of her great-Aunt Sadie Lancaster.

Sadie, who appears to Lara as a twenty-something flapper-girl free spirit, refuses to pass on to the great beyond without her special crystal necklace. In the meantime, while Lara chases clues on why her coffee-house magnate Uncle Bill has spirited the necklace away and chase after the necklace itself, Sadie passes the time helping Lara with her love problems and even business problems. Ensue a lot of mayhem and ridiculous and absurd situations with Sadie yelling in a lot of young men's ears, Lara walking around London in 20's flapper wear, and a ghost match-making project with the American Ed...

When you pick up a Sophie Kinsella novel, that usually means that you park your sense of reality somewhere around the next block over, and this book is no exception. If you are prepared to do that- you'll probably have a lot of fun with this one. As in other Kinsella novels, a lot of really awkward and comical events occur, so be prepared to laugh like a maniac all by your lonesome.

Check out Twenties Girl: A Novel by Sophie Kinsella on Amazon!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Book Review - Remember Me?: A Novel by Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella takes a stab at writing an amnesia fic with Remember Me?: A Novel and I thought she did a pretty good job of making a cliche'd plot seem fresh.

Lexi Smart, ordinary girl with a loser boyfriend and bad hair days, wakes up to find that she has magically become a different person. She discovers that it is not 2004 as she thinks, and that she has no memory of the past three years. Lexi has somehow woken up to the life she has always dreamed of - she's rich, she's a successful businesswoman, she's thin & gorgeous (!) with perfect hair, teeth and clothes, and get this, a freakin' gorgeous hunk of a millionaire husband Eric. Like, wowza! If only we all woke up to that fairytale too, huh?

Pretty soon though, Lexi discovers that things are not as rosy as they appear. She can't quite strike up a romantic spark with her new husband, none of her old friends like her in the present time, and her new-self is this cold-hearted, cut-throat person known for being a holy terror of a boss.

Lexi can't get a handle on her new life and job, and on top of everything, she finds herself attracted to her husband's friend & business colleague Jon. Imagine her shock when Jon tells Lexi that they were having an affair and that she was about to leave her husband for him before she got amnesia!

What a terribly muddled turn of events, right? Yes, the amnesia schtick is overused, but Sophie Kinsella manages to coax a funny, fresh and ultimately, heartwarming and love-affirming story out of it. You will cheer Lexi on as she tries to rediscover herself and reconcile who she was with who she had become.

Check out Remember Me?: A Novel by Sophie Kinsella on Amazon!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Book Review - The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

I skipped over Sophie Kinsella's 'Can You Keep A Secret?' since I couldn't make myself finish it. Just too horrid of a book.

Anyway, bearing in mind that I really really liked 'Confessions of a Shopaholic', I decided to take a chance on 'The Undomestic Goddess'.

Samantha Sweeting, Sophie Kinsella's new heroine, is thankfully about 180 degrees NOT a Becky Bloomwood clone. Samantha is pushing thirty, and is a very driven workaholic lawyer at the London-based law firm Carter Spink. She is also just about to achieve the dream of a lifetime - she may just be the firm's newest partner!

Alas, in one horrible day, Samantha's entire carefully constructed life collapses around her. She discovers that she has made an awful awful mistake at work that could cost a client more money than God, and Samantha goes into nervous breakdown and runs to the boondocks to hide.

This is where the entire premise of the novel goes haywire, and Sophie Kinsella asks her readers to set aside all sense of reality and just go with the flow... Somehow, Samantha finds herself employed as a housekeeper out in the English countryside by the noveau rich Geigers. Samantha (who does not have the first idea on running a household and household chores) then deals with absurd situation after absurd household situation, and at the same time, falls in love with the local gardener Nathaniel.

Yeah, like I can believe that a hard-driving attorney would be happy scrubbing toilets ;-) Samantha has to deal with her old life eventually, though, so how will she be able to connect her new self with all her old problems? And what about Nathaniel? Read the book to find out!

This book is not even in the same universe of quality of Chick-lit as 'Confessions of a Shopaholic', but it is still a fun humorous read, as long as you are willing to suspend all sense of reality while reading.

Check out The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella on Amazon!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review - Shopaholic & Baby by Sophie Kinsella

In what has to be the last book of Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series, Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood)is back in 'Shopaholic & Baby' and yes, horrors of horrors, Becky is going to be a mother! Heavens, will she grow up in time for this responsibility?

Becky should be a responsible adult - she's a respectable married woman (to that hunky Luke Brandon who is still so enigmatic to me even though this is the 5th book!), well employed as a personal shopper at a trendy London boutique, AND she is pregnant and about to have a baby!

Sophie Kinsella scrapes the barrel in the plot for this novel - basically, she shows how silly and out-touch-with reality people can be with the obsession over shopping only in upscale baby boutiques, snagging the IT celebrity ob-gyn, the latest in 21st century strollers.

Pumped up with pregnancy hormones and the extra weight, Becky is extra insecure and suspects that her hubbie Luke is having an affair with her ob-gyne Venetia (who also happens to be Luke's ex!) - and Becky's kinda half right there... So, will Becky triumph in the end and have her happy ever after?

Well, all I can say is that I did hope for a happy ever after, since to be honest, I don't think I can stomach another book in this series. There's a point where you have to admit that a gimmick is all played out, and that point occurred in book #4 for me.

Check out Shopaholic & Baby by Sophie Kinsella on Amazon!