Friday, August 28, 2009

Secret Society by Tom Dolby

Secret Society by Tom Dolby

I borrowed the "Shhh" image from liberated boy. I was unable to find contact info for permission, so I hope it's okay -- let me know if you're the liberated boy in question.

Secret Society never did grab me, unfortunately, but let me tell you about it. For hundreds of years, there has been an underground society in which the rich and famous become and stay powerful people. By linking together, they offer each other opportunities that regular people can never imagine. This story follows three students who have been chosen to join the society. The invitations always come during one's junior year in high school. Initiates must follow the rules and show up when summoned or else.

Both the lure of the society and the "or else" sort of fell short, in my opinion. For the most part, they go to a lot of parties and the previous year's initiates become mentors of the new members. They party frequently, are driven home if they choose to be (a line of dark cars waits outside, after each party), are given lavish gifts and incredible opportunities. They never get a chance to opt out. Lauren is offered a job working for a famous designer (by the designer, himself), given a Bellagio bag, and her jewelry designs are put into production, for example.

The trouble is . . . all three main characters are suspicious from the outset. And, they are people with money, but they're also all very down-to-earth. I had trouble with that. I can imagine one person rebelling from the society, but zoning in on three characters and then having all three of them suspicious of the organization and unsure that they want to be involved just did not work. I also thought it was very strange that they were wined and dined, but it wasn't so much a Cinderella experience as an occasional dip into this other world -- with a ridiculous amount of alcohol involved and even a drugging that made no particular sense (except maybe they didn't want anyone to fight getting the society's mark). When they were expected at a party, sometimes they had to do some last-minute shopping. There wasn't anything marvelously appealing about society membership, in other words.

The whole time I was reading this book, I thought (vain, vain, I know), "I could have done better." That sounds so awful, but I just didn't think the author had a very good understanding of how to create a secret group that would be worth the lure. Why not take everyone to a designer and have dresses made and fitted, for example, rather than having the kids scramble to find something appropriate for another stupid party where there are too many secrets and more frustration than fun? How about some of the established members loaning the new initiates jewelry, flying them to fun places, making them feel the "jet set" life? Also, the "or else" . . . gah. Pitiful. It's kind of obvious from the beginning, but I suppose it could be a spoiler. It's so ridiculous. I just didn't buy it.

There's also someone trying to infiltrate the society, but I'm not even going to get into that. 4 kids who are talented, ambitious, and already certain of what they want to do in a single book was just too much for me. The writing was fluid enough. The book just wasn't that great.

*****5/10 Twinkles - too implausible, not magical enough, decent writing but nothing special

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I am reading . . .

Secret Society by Tom Dolby

. . . because I'm a lucky chick and scored an advanced reader. It came autographed with a little thing that I think is a tattoo. See the ankh symbol on the back of her neck? That's the tattoo (or sticker -- not sure) that was tucked into the book. I haven't gotten far enough to say, but I assume it's the symbol of the Secret Society. Okay, yep, it's a tattoo. I just looked. Anyone want to come over and stick it on my neck?

The final copy isn't scheduled for release till September, so I don't know if that will be the final cover, but I love it. Her hair!!! Don't you love the gorgeous hair doodle? I don't know what to call it. Clip? Barrette? It's beautiful, whatever it is.

So far, I'm enamored of the writing style. More about the book when I finish!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Take That Back - The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Okay, so it wasn't so bad. In fact, The Graveyard Book was pretty good. I uploaded the UK cover to keep from being deadly dull. It's kind of cute, isn't it?

When a vicious murderer takes the lives of 3 family members but can't locate the family's missing toddler, he follows the baby's smell to a graveyard. But, the baby has already been embraced by the ghosts who live in the graveyard. They hide him from "the man Jack", saving his life.

Mr. & Mrs. Owens become the parents of Bod, aka "Nobody Owens" and Silas, a mysterious man who can leave the graveyard (none of the ghosts can leave) becomes his guardian. The world outside the graveyard is not safe for Bod and he needs their protection.

The Graveyard Book follows Bod's adventures in the graveyard and the lessons learned when he disobeys. The ghosts take turns teaching him and he learns history through the eyes of those who lived it. Actually, I was kind of jealous of Bod -- a fictional character -- in that way. Wouldn't it be fun to learn history from people who lived it? Eventually, Bod becomes old enough that he needs to leave the graveyard and attend school. By then, he has learned some special skills that will help keep him safe. But, the killer is still out there and he hasn't given up. When Bod slips up and draws attention to himself, he must face the biggest challenge of his life.

This is my 4th book by Neil Gaiman. He's not a favorite, but I keep coming back to his books. There is definitely something unique and magical in the way he writes and I loved the way this story unfolded.

********8/10 Twinkles

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I am reading . . .

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. He just won a Hugo award for The Graveyard Book. And, of course, he already won the Newbery for excellence in children's fiction. Sometimes I wonder what drugs those award people are on. It's creative, but a children's book that starts with a creepy murderer with a knife . . . who wants to kill a baby? Ewwww.

I'll tell you my general opinion when I'm done.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Paper Towns by John Green

I love John Green and he just cannot write fast enough to please me, but Paper Towns was probably my least favorite of his books.

Quentin Jacobsen (aka "Q") and Margo Roth Spiegelman grew up next door to each other and shared a traumatic childhood experience. Now in high school, Q is a nerdy outcast and Margo is popular. They don't have much to do with each other until one night when Margo taps on Quentin's window and asks him to sneak off with his mother's van to drive her around. Margo is upset with a few people and the errands mostly involve pranks.

Q thinks they've had a great time and is hoping they can get their old friendship going, again, but then Margo disappears and it turns out she's run away from home. Q finds out she's run away several other times and always left clues. He thinks she might have dropped a hint or two and decides it's up to him to find Margo Roth Spiegelman before it's too late -- because he's not certain, but he thinks she's going to commit suicide, if she hasn't already.

Most of the book is about Q trying to untangle the mystery of Margo's disappearance with the help of his two friends -- one of whom is brilliant and the other kind of a hormonal dingbat -- but there's also a lot of talk about the prom and Q's friends trying to find dates while he tries to avoid the whole prom thing.

I don't even know what I expected to happen, but the ending was a combination of relief and let-down. The characters, dialogue and quirky scenes were typical, massively awesome John Green. This one just wasn't my favorite.

*******7/10 Twinkles

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Evernight by Claudia Gray (my review)

I didn't want to be dull and repeat the same cover in two posts, so I searched for a different cover. And, yay, there was one! Just one, but I like it. I love black and white photos and it's suitably creepy, don't you think? Because . . .

In case you didn't know, Evernight is a vampire story, the first in a series. Bianca Olivier has had to leave her hometown and the life she loved behind, although she's not sure why. Her parents insisted that she needs to expand her world and the result is a move to Evernight Academy, where both parents teach and Bianca is a total outcast. I already mentioned that she tried to run away and the handsome Lucas tackled her, then ignored her once school began.

For a while, I wasn't sure if anything was ever going to happen, but about halfway into the book it suddenly became clear that Evernight is a vampire academy with a few humans thrown in.

The book gets really exciting when the vampire bits surface. Bianca falls in love with Lucas and Balthazar has a thing for Bianca (love triangle!) but Lucas isn't what he seems. A student goes missing, secrets are revealed and Lucas must run for his life. Then an important question comes out. Why is Evernight suddenly open to humans? There must be a reason.

Apparently, we don't get to find out till the second book in the series. Oh, killer. I don't own the second book. Please cross your fingers that my library does, because my library sucks and I'm not rolling in dough, here. Book #2 is Stargazer. I thought the beginning of Evernight was pretty slow, but good enough that when the excitement began, it was enough to make the book really shine.

********8/10 Twinkles

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I knew it

I knew that red cover was going to clash with my background. Doesn't it look awful? I turned my background black and it still didn't work!