Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Shadow Girl of Birch Grove, by Marta Acosta

When foster teen Jane Williams is invited to attend elite Birch Grove Academy for Girls, she thinks the offer is too good to be true. It is.

Soon she starts receiving threatening messages from an unknown enemy. She's also beginning to suspect that the pale elegant headmistress and her gorgeous sons are hiding secrets. Lucky is the sunny, golden son who is especially attentive to Jane, and Jack is the dark, quirky older brother, who constantly puzzles her.

The longer she stays at Birch Grove, the more questions she has about the disappearance of another scholarship girl and the headmistress and her family.

What will she give up and what risks will she take to stay in this privileged world and be bound to Birch Grove forever? What's Jane willing to sacrifice for this once in a lifetime opportunity?

If you don't do anything else that I ever ask of you, please go read The Shadow Girl of Birch Grove. It's a free read, and you won't regret it.

I don't know how many people have actually read this. I know that Marta posted this on her blog a few weeks ago, but I've just now been able to get around to it. (Thanks, silly computer.) In any case, I strongly urge you to read it if you haven't! You'd be insane not to take up the offer to read this full-length novel for free. So, go read it. If you read it and you enjoy it as much as I have, then PLEASE promote and give word to your friends about it. Marta is a wonderful writer and this novel needs to be published! The more views, the more chances it has for that!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Review: Wake, by Lisa McMann

Title: Wake (Dream Catcher #1)
Author: Lisa McMann
Pages: 224
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: March 4, 2008

Genre: Young Adult
Themes/Keywords: dreams, paranormal, fantasy, love, series.

Synopsis: (from book's slipcover) NOT ALL DREAMS ARE SWEET.

For seventeen-year-old Janie, getting sucked into other people's dreams is getting old. Especially the falling dreams, the naked-but-nobody-notices dreams, and the sex-crazed dreams. Janie's seen enough fantasy booty to last her a lifetime.

She can't tell anybody about what she does - they'd never believe her, or worse, they'd think she's a freak. So Janie lives on the fringe, cursed with an ability she doesn't want and can't control.

Then she falls into a gruesome nightmare, one that chills her to the bone. For the first time, Janie is more than a witness to someone else's twisted psyche. She is a participant ...

Additional Information: Read Lisa McMann's commentary on Wake here.

You can also check out the book trailer on Lisa McMann's website, or also on YouTube.

My Review: I know I have a ton of reviews to catch up on. However, I'm starting with my most recent read because it's the freshest in my mind. As soon as I read it, I wanted to talk about it - which is the whole reason of this blog. So, instead of letting it join in the notebook of jumbled reviews, I'm dealing with this computer to bring you a fresh review!

As a footnote, I'd like to say that I did actually read some other reviews and the author's book commentary before I started this review. I needed some information to make my rating completely justified, and I feel as though I have that now - which I will explain in further detail within my review.

When the book starts, you meet a present-day Janie dealing with what is your first insight into her "condition". You learn that whenever someone goes to sleep in her presence, she instantly gets sucked into it. She's not narcoleptic - she's actually aware of her surroundings during the whole thing - she just can't control her gift enough to get herself away from the dream. She doesn't tell anyone about what she has to go through, she just keeps to herself about it. If at all possible, she avoids being around anyone that falls asleep ... but school seems to be a problem, considering that kids can and do fall asleep in her classes. She's pretty used to the petty dreams that highschoolers have because they usually just center around that person, a crush they may have, or something more perverted. However, that changes one fateful night when she happens to drive past a house where a guy is having a nightmare and actually murders someone in his dream. It shakes Janie up - and shakes her up even more when she figures out that the murderer notices her in the dream.

I love the plot of this book. It's something that hasn't been touched on a lot in the YA genre and has a unique feel to it. Having said that, I have to point out my biggest problem with this book: the writing style. Short, choppy sentences. Incorrect grammar. Too many time flips. I do love the concept of the timestamp, but I feel as though it was overused. The positive to this was that the dates helped out a lot when it flipped from present to past, then back again. As I said before, I've read reviews and I've seen the commentary on the writing style - but, I just cannot accept it. Call me a grammar nazi if you'd like, but I'm a stickler on using complete, descriptive sentences. I don't believe in ending a short sentence, only to use "but" as the beginning of a new sentence. Yes, I know "but" can be used to begin a sentence when used with "for" or "what" as an idiom - I just don't agree with it. Nor do I recall if this was the case when used in this book - I'm just stuck on short sentences. I'm also shocked by the fact that people see the use of short, choppy sentences as "lyrical" and argues that such is better to keep the attention of young adults. As a student, I was taught in school that you have to pause after each period. Doing so in this book gives me a headache. Periods indicate the end of a complete thought. It's not the case in Wake.

The author argues that the reason it was written that way was because it was just the way she wrote it out the first time. I agree with this. As a writer, I know that most authors do tend to write short sentences when writing their first drafts. It allows the author to get everything out while their mind is going, and then they can go back and edit with more description. While this book had description, I didn't feel like it had enough. It was written in third person so it had the potential to give you a wonderful look at the world around the characters as well as more insightful feelings inside of the characters. I feel as though I was cheated of these things and felt as though the characters lacked growth and development because of it.

I'm getting off the subject of the review. Writing is a bit of a soft-spot for me. ;) Despite the writing, the story is wonderful. Normally, I tend to trash reading the rest of the series if the grammer gets to me, but I can't see myself doing it with this series. Why? The story is THAT good. The characters, while I feel I'm missing some of their depth, do have enough to them to keep me interested. Even if I don't know their past or most of their present, their actions can sometimes speak louder than words. My emotions did get tangled up in the story because these are true characters, most with not-so-perfect lives, that you can relate to. Janie is also NOT a Mary Sue ... and that is something in YA that you don't see much of. She's actually flawed and sometimes makes bad decisions. Like I said, you can definitely relate to the characters in the book.

Rating: 3.5 Stars! The story could have definitely been a four or better, but the writing killed it for me. Unfortunately, the writing style to me is just as important as the plot and the characters. Sorry! Even so, I would recommend this book to all of my friends that read these types of books as well as others that are fans to YA paranormal.

Source of Book: Public Library.

Other Books by Author: Lisa McMann has finished the Dream Catcher series with Wake's two follow-ups in the trilogy, Fade and Gone - which was just released this past February. Also, McMann has just signed a four book deal with Simon Pulse and Aladdin - two books for each division.
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