Tag Archive | read in 2009

Retro Friday Review : Santa Olivia

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time!

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Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey
Pages : 341
Genre : Dystopia, Sci-Fi, GLBT
Series : Santa Olivia, Book 1
My Rating : 

From Goodreads :

Loup Garron was born and raised in Santa Olivia, an isolated, disenfranchised town next to a US military base inside a DMZ buffer zone between Texas and Mexico. A fugitive “Wolf-Man” who had a love affair with a local woman, Loup’s father was one of a group of men genetically-manipulated by the US government, engineered to have superhuman strength, speed, sensory capability, stamina, and a total lack of fear.

Loup, named for and sharing her father’s wolf-like qualities, is marked as an outsider. After her mother dies, Loup goes to live among the misfit orphans at the parish church, where they seethe from the injustices visited upon the locals by the soldiers. Eventually, the orphans find an outlet for their frustrations: they form a vigilante group to support Loup Garron who, costumed as their patron saint, Santa Olivia, uses her special abilities to avenge the town.

My Thoughts :

I read Santa Olivia in 2009 and loved it so much, I couldn’t write a review for it. I wanted to do the book justice, and in the end, I never found the right words. Go me!

This book was a great experience for me on two levels : first for the book itself, and secondly because it was one of the few books that both the Man of the House and I read, which means we got to talk about it. He is a huge fan of Carey’s fantasy series, but this book was my first time reading her, and I just fell in love with her writing. There is something different about it, something I couldn’t pinpoint but, combined with great story and characters, made the book a compulsory read for me.

While not the most original out there, the idea, a kind of “superhero-meets-government-conspiracies” story, was really intriguing. But what hook me into the story, really, was the character of Loup. I’ve met few characters that had that quality of both puzzling me and being easy to figure out. And I know it does sound contradictory, but it’s still true. The fact that, physically, she wasn’t completely “normal” made her motivations and her reactions clear enough; the fact that she wasn’t “normal” also placed her in a different spot than the rest of the characters, or than the readers, meaning that her reactions were often different than what you would expect from a “normal” person.

The romance between Loup and Pilar also plays an important part in the story, and I loved how contemporary it felt. For me, that relationship was one of the really strong points of the book : everything Loup felt, I felt through the words. Also, I loved having a non heterosexual main character in a book, without the book being all about dealing with sexual identities. It is part of the story, a really important one, but it’s really not the only focus, and while books dealing with GLBT issues are a necessity, I believe it is also necessary to show that a GLBT character can have a story outside of his/her sexual identity – that sexual identity, while important, isn’t the only thing defining an individual.

I did think the book had some faults. I felt like some aspects of the setting weren’t fully explored or explained, that many questions were left unanswered. At the time, there wasn’t a second book planned, so that really puzzled me. I still loved it though, because sometimes when it comes to books, I’m just irrational like that : I see the flaws and I choose to ignore them. I’m not the only one, right?

Although Santa Olivia is NOT a teen/YA novel, it would be really on trend with many YA books currently on the market :  it has a dystopian world where a disease made most people sick, it’s a bit futuristic without being full-on sci-fi, there’s a government gone bad, action, a strong female lead, etc. But since there are many YA readers who are, like me, of grown up age, I think it might be something that would interest some of you too! 🙂

I’m placing this one on my shelf and planning on re-reading it soon, hopefully, as book two is on its way for October. Yay!

Series Reading Order :

  1. Santa Olivia
  2. Saints Astray (coming October 2011)
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Retro Friday Review : Looking for Alaska

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time!

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Looking for Alaska by John Green
Pages : 221
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand alone
My Rating : 

From the author’s website :

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words–and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

My Thoughts :

I read Looking for Alaska in June 2009, for my first participation in the 48h Book challenge (and I will be participating again this year; to join the fun, visit Mother Reader!) I never got around to review it : I had loved the book, yet finished it in a state of such tiredness that I didn’t feel I could give it the review it deserved. Angieville’s Retro Friday meme seemed like the perfect occasion to do so, as I still have my notes from my first reading but also took the time to reread parts of it. I was surprised by how much I remembered of it : John Green really created unforgettable stories and characters! I am also forever impressed by how Green can get inside the mind of a teenager, yet write in a way that doesn’t feel juvenile.

I have to say, it was definitely a different read from An abundance of Katherines. Not in a bad way : just different. It’s as clever for sure – it is written by John Green, after all – but it also carried a lot more weight, if I can say. I loved every character of the story, and even though I’ve never been a teen boy (obviously), I felt I could understand what Miles was going through. His relationship with Alaska is exactly what a first love would be : a little unsure, a little nervous, but strong, somewhat passionate.

The book is split in two parts, Before and After. The chapters are titled by a countdown : Fifty-one days before, Forty-six days before, etc., and it gives you that nervous feeling that something will happen, something bad. I found it difficult to resist flipping the pages to the After part of the book, to know what happens. The second part of the books has a countdown in reverse, counting the days after. It carried the sense of “going forward despite the event”, and for me it reinforced the idea that there is no magical number of hours or days to get over something, and sometimes you carry it with you forever; you just learn to live with it.

I have to conclude by saying, you can’t go wrong with John Green. Looking for Alaska will make you laugh and break your heart at the same time, and take you through an incredible, unforgettable story.

Review : Give up the Ghost

Give up the Ghost by Megan Crewe
Pages : 241
Genre : YA, Paranormal
Stand Alone
My Rating :

From the back of the book :

Cass McKenna much prefers ghosts over “breathers”. Ghosts are uncomplicated and dependable, and they know the dirt on everybody… and Cass loves dirt. She’s on a mission to expose the dirty secrets of the poseurs in her school.
But when the vice president of the student council discovers her secret, Cass’s whole scheme hangs in the balance. Tim wants her to help him contact his recently deceased mother, and Cass reluctantly agrees.
As Cass becomes increasingly entwined in Tim’s life, she’s surprised to realize he’s not so bad — and he needs help more desperately than anyone else suspects. Maybe it’s time to give the living another chance…

Give up the Ghost was the perfect way to spend an afternoon : the story is straight to the point, the characters are a bit stereotyped but with enough personality, and parts of the story alternate between entertaining and heartbreaking. Megan Crewe did a great job of taking the usual clique system of high-school and adding to it a paranormal twist.

I liked Cass, and the fact that the story begins with her already at ease with her particular talent. Seeing ghost is part of the routine for her. It might remind you of the show Ghost Whisperer, but Cass isn’t trying to help the ghosts cross over to a better place : she’s more concerned in using their secrets to take her revenge on the other students. I thought this would make me dislike her, but it wasn’t the case. Even though I didn’t approve of her decisions, I understood why she was taking them.

I think the most surprising aspect of the book for me was the lack of romance. Cass does develop a strong relationship with Tim, but it’s more friendship than anything else. The story is more focussed on the two characters’s individual stories than on the possibility of what they could develop together. It was such a nice change not to have the teen romance thrown into the mix! I admire Crewe for not taking the easy route of the “dork girl and popular hot guy fall in love” storyline.

While Give up the Ghost wasn’t the most memorable story, it was definitely a character-centric book I enjoyed. If you take the ghosts out of the book, it was just “regular” people in a “regular” setting. It made it easy to relate to Cass and Tim and to enjoy Crewe’s writing. For a fun afternoon of ghostly activity, you might want to give this book a chance!

Review : Soulless

Soulless by Gail Carriger
Pages : 357
Genre : Paranormal, Romance, Steampunk
Series : The Parasol Protectorate, Book 1
My Rating :

From the back of the book :

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she is being rudely attacked by a vampire to whom she has not been properly introduced! Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire, and the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible.

I’ve been juggling with the idea of this review for a while now, but since I’m about to read the next book, now seemed like a good time to share my thoughts on the first one.

I’ll admit that, at first, Soulless was a huge disappointment from me. Part of it did came from the book itself I guess, but mostly it came from a misunderstanding on what the book was about. I got my copy soon after it came out, and read only a handful of reviews before reading it myself. Still, from all the publicity I saw on the blogs and various websites, Soulless was to be a paranormal novel set in a steampunk world. While this isn’t false, it isn’t true either.

Because Soulless turned out to be more about a paranormal romance than about the steampunk world. While I don’t have some prejudice against paranormal romance (I even read and enjoyed a few of those), it was a bit disappointing to see how little place took the steampunk elements. You could have easily suppressed them and made it a victorian paranormal romance, without much changes to the storyline.

That being said, I did enjoy my reading of Soulless. After having taken some distance from it, I have kept a mostly good memory of my time with Alexia. She annoyed me a little at times, and there were some repetitions (mostly about her physical appearance), but the writing had some great moments, too. The book definitely gave me a couple of smiles, and while the romance was a bit too buttery for my personal taste, it will definitely please those who enjoy some scenes of romantic hotness.

Gail Carriger has a unique voice and I’m sure this will shine even more through the following books. Now that I know what I’m in for, I am looking forward to reading Changeless!

Series Reading Order :

  1. Soulless
  2. Changeless
  3. Blameless
  4. Heartless (date to come)

Review : That Summer

That Summer by Sarah Dessen
Pages : 198
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

From the author’s website :

For fifteen-year-old Haven, life is changing too quickly. She’s nearly six feet tall, her father is getting remarried, and her sister, the always perfect Ashley, is planning a wedding of her own. Haven wishes things could just go back to the way they were. Then an old boyfriend of Ashley’s reenters the picture, and through him, Haven sees the past for what it really was, and comes to grips with the future.

That Summer was my second book by Dessen, and I liked it almost as much as Someone Like You – and in a similar way, too. Dessen has a way with words that I really enjoy, and she portrays teenage feelings in such a realistic manner! I wish I could have had an author that makes me feel like her words do when I was Haven’s age. My teenage self would have easily related to a lot of what Haven was going through.

For all that happens in this book, I thought the story was a bit short. I would have loved to get to know the characters around Have – her mother, her sister – a little better. The conclusion was a bit of a fast one too, even though I enjoyed it.

Another aspect I enjoyed was how Dessen doesn’t idealize the story and it’s resolution. She’s realistic in the way she portrays teenagers, yes, but also in the way she portrays life : not everything comes easy to the characters, which gives the story depth.

I can only recommend that you pick up one of Dessen’s books, and I can’t wait to read more of her work!

Review : Girl Stays in the Picture

Girl Stays in the Picture by Melissa de la Cruz
Pages : 432
Genre : YA, Chick lit
My Rating : 

What it’s about :

Girl Stays in the Picture takes you for a summer in Saint Tropez, where gossip reigns and famous people are fighting to keep their star shining. This summer, three girls with very different backgrounds will come together and try to make the best of their time in France : Devon, the just-out-of-rehab starlet; Livia, who dropped more than half her weight in a year – but not her self esteem issues; and finally Casey, the normal girl who plays assistant for her supposedly best friend and star Summer. Between movie sets drama and a variety of romances, this summer will be hot, hot, hot!

A few years ago, long before I really got into reading young adult fiction, I went to the bookstore looking for a nice, light read with lots of sun and which wouldn’t require too much brain power. At that time, I found exactly what I wanted in Melissa de la Cruz’s Au Pairs series. With Girl Stays in the Picture, I feel like de la Cruz has created a similar world :  in that stressful time that were end of terms exams, I thanked her for that!

There wasn’t much happening and the characters were a bit two-dimensional. Still, I didn’t have much expectations when I started reading it, and maybe that’s why I could appreciate it this much. I was a little slow to get into it, but once I was, I read most of the 432 pages in a day.

It was light, full of fun, and the characters were likeable enough – totally candy cotton read. I would have love to see a little less predictability in some of the characters, but Girl Stays in the Picture is what it is : a guilty pleasure with which you can relax for a short while. One of the things I really liked about the book were those short gossip columns in between the chapters, which completed the story in different ways. It was a cute and fun way to remind us that we were in a world ruled by gossips and media.

Also, the book ends on a major cliffhanger, and while I have couple ideas on where this all leads, there is nothing certain about it. The ending was good, and it does concludes most of the story lines in the book, but this last page leaves you wanting more, and I couldn’t find any information on a second book coming out. I guess I’ll have to be patient!