Monday, July 27, 2009

Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

I love Jacqueline Carey. She is one of my all-time favorite authors. This book begins a new series by her, separate from her beloved Terre D'Ange books. It is a very different story from those books, but I enjoyed it, and I am really looking forward to a sequel.
Loup Garron is born in the forgotten town of Santa Olivia, where she is raised by her single mother. She has been named by her father, who had to flee while her mother was pregnant with her - he was an enigma, a man who had been genetically engineered, told he could not have children. Loup's mother and her older half-brother Tommy teach her how to be "careful" - she is not like other children. Loup has no fear, which makes her do things that seem strange to others. She also is incredibly fast and strong. She learns how to hide these things, because if the soldiers stationed at the base discovered who she was, she would disappear. Santa Olivia is not on any map, not anymore. The people who live there have been forgotten by the rest of America, and they are allowed no contact with the outside world. But as a teenager, Loup can no longer keep quiet who she is, although she still manages to hide it from the soldiers. She begins to plan a way to help the people of Santa Olivia.
Loup's character is fascinating, Carey does a great job of making her seem very human, but slightly different at the same time. I loved the actions that Loup and her orphan family, the Santitos, plan and execute. They're like a little team of superheroes, even though Loup is the only one with any supernatural powers. Besides Loup's actions against the soldiers, boxing is the other main focus of the book. I am not a fan of boxing, however, Carey kept this part of the book interesting enough to keep my focus. Overall, this was a fantastic book, and had a few surprises that I was not expecting. I am genuinely looking forward to the next story about Loup, as she learns more about who she is.
Oh, and this is my final book for the Pub 2009 Challenge. Maybe one day I'll get a wrap-up post up.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

I have to begin this post by saying that I absolutely loved this book. So this is going to be a rather gushy review, because I really just adored it. Even the cover is perfect. The only thing I really didn't like about it is the title, because I found it off-putting. To me it sounds frivolous, like a cheesy teen romance, but that is nothing like what it is. You'll see.
Anna and Frankie are best friends, and have been forever. They were always joined by Frankie's older brother Matt, an inseparable threesome, until Matt's tragic death the year before. Now it's summer again, and Frankie's family are trying to pull the pieces back together, deciding that the annual family trip to Zanzibar Bay will be the best thing for them. But instead of Matt, this year they will bring Anna. They will be there for 20 days, and Frankie decides that she and Anna will meet 20 boys, and just see what happens. Anna goes along with this, as she has gone along with every wild thing that Frankie has done over the past year. Because she has a secret, one that she is afraid will destroy her friendship.
Anna accidentally fell in love with Matt when she was 10 and he was 12. Last year, on Anna's fifteenth birthday, Matt kissed her for the first time. This began a sweet, and secret, love affair between the two of them. Matt wanted to be the one to tell Frankie, but he wasn't sure how to. He was leaving for college at the end of the summer, and he wanted to make sure he didn't leave on a bad note. He decided that their trip to Zanzibar would be the best time to tell her, and he made Anna promise she wouldn't tell first. But he died the day before they were to leave.
The love story between Anna and Matt is so sweet, and the way that Anna deals with her feelings for Matt, and the new feelings she has for Sam, a boy she meets in Zanzibar, is very well told. All of the things she goes through feel authentic. This really is an excellent book, for teens, but also for adults who enjoy authentic, heartfelt stories. I loved the characters, and the way they grow during these 20 days will change them forever, but for the better.
This book qualifies for many challenges, I'll just list them here: RYOB 2009, The New Author Challenge, The Pub 2009 Challenge, and the A-Z Reading Challenge.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer

Another very enjoyable read from Georgette Heyer. I found this one just as amusing and sweet as Frederica. And as with the other Heyer books I have read, it was fascinating to read all of the details of fashion that she goes into.
The story of The Corinthian is perhaps more absurd than in the other books I have read by Heyer, but she manages to pull it off. It begins with Sir Richard Wyndham being accosted by his sister and mother, as they attempt to bully him into marrying. He feels he has no choice, but the woman to whom he is supposed to propose is connected to a family whose sons are nothing but trouble, and would drain Richard's fortunes if he let them. The woman herself understands the situation, and has no ideals about falling in love with him. Sir Richard goes out that night and gets completely drunk, and we get the impression that he had hopes of one day falling in love himself.
His life changes that night however, when he is walking home drunk in the early hours of the morning. He comes across a young woman escaping from her home by means of a rope ladder out the second story window. Due to his drunkeness, he makes some interesting choices, and ends up helping her continue her escape by escorting her - she disguised as a boy, and he as her tutor. The girl is seventeen-year-old Penelope Creed, and she is escaping her own unwanted marriage. She is completely naive, and totally unaware of the compromising position she has put both herself and Sir Richard in. Their situation only gets more absurd, with the addition of thieves, murderers, and young lovers too silly or scared to elope. But the romance that develops between the two main characters is lovely, and I never got tired about reading about Penelope.
Besides the delightful two main characters, there are several supporting characters that are also amusing and fun to read about. One surprising character is that of Cedric Brandon. When we first meet him, at the home of Sir Richard's intended bride, who is his older sister, he seems annoying and foppish. And maybe he is, but he is also thoroughly entertaining, and he in no way expects Richard to saddle himself with the Brandon family's difficulties. Besides the characters, the way that Heyer describes the fashions of the time is also fascinating. She seems to mock much of it, especially the men's fashion, adding another layer of humor. All in all this was a very enjoyable read.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Frederica by Georgette Heyer

This is the second book I have read by Heyer, and I have to say that I enjoyed it much more than The Convenient Marriage. I'm glad I gave Heyer another try. This novel was written much later, in 1965, and takes place in the Regency Era.
Frederica is a young lady who has been taking care of her family ever since her mother died when she was young. She has four younger siblings that she looks after, and now that her younger sister is coming of age, she wants her to be able to experience coming-out in London. In order to help her accomplish this, she contacts a distant relation who she has never met, Lord Alverstoke, and asks for his help. Alverstoke is a confirmed bachelor who is bored by his life, and ends up taking on the challenge mainly to irritate his sister. He succeeds in both launching the Merrivilles into society and causing strife in his family, all of which amuses him. But he had not counted on actually beginning to care for Frederica or her younger brothers, and he must reevaluate much of his life as a result.
I just loved most of the main characters in this book, which was the main problem for me with The Convenient Marriage. Even though the Earl of Rule and Lord Alverstoke share many characteristics, Heyer made me actually like Alverstoke. And Frederica and her two younger brothers, Jessamy and Felix, are just fantastic characters. The social humor is very similar to The Convenient Marriage, and as in that book, the romance does not get resolved until the very final pages of the book. But it was well worth the wait, and a treat of a book in general.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer

I have seen Georgette Heyer's books so often, I decided to take advantage when I got a chance to review a handful. This was the first one I read by her. It was written in 1934, and takes place during the Georgian Era.
The Convenient Marriage is the story of Horatia Winwood (known as Horry), and her marriage to the Earl of Rule. She marries the Earl after he has proposes to her sister, because she knows that her sister is in love with someone else. But Horry also knows that it is necessary for someone to marry him, as that is the only way to keep her family out of debt. The Earl goes along with this change, because he merely proposed due to the fact that he has come to believe that he needs to settle down. And although she is young, and not very pretty, and has a stutter, Horatia enchants him. They agree to "stay out of each other's way" but Horry seems determined to be outrageous. She gets into a few "scrapes" and tries to keep these a secret from the Earl, but he is determined to win her over and show that he loves her, and she can keep nothing from him.
I found this story rather entertaining, and a fairly quick read. The details that Heyer gives of the time period are very interesting, and show that she knows quite a bit about it. I did not like it as much as I had thought I might, however. Horatia simply annoyed me, and while she started out fine, she seemed to get worse as the book went on. I think I was supposed to find her amusing, but she really just began to wear on me. I liked the Earl of Rule better, but not by much. I think that may have been my main problem with the book - I simply was not really fond of any of the characters. It was funny, and the romance sort of sweet, but I honestly did not really care what happened to the characters as the story went on. I have enjoyed the other Heyer books I have read since then more.
This is my final read for the Romance Reading Challenge. Funny how I managed to finish this one way early - I guess it's a good idea to sign up for year long challenges! I will have a wrap-up post up one of these days. It also qualifies for the New Author Challenge and RYOB 2009.