Monday, February 16, 2009

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

Title: The Summoning
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: July 2008
Format: Hardcover, 390 pages
Age Group: Young Adult
Series: Darkest Powers (Book 1)

Chloe Saunders sees dead people. After a terrifying encounter with a dead janitor at her school, Cloe is sent to a group home for troubled teens. She soon finds out that things at the home aren't exactly what they seem. As she learns more about the other residents, Chloe realizes that they each have unique abilities and begins to believe that it is no coincidence that they all were sent to the same place.

Many of my favorite authors of adult novels are trying their hand at writing young adult novels lately. I was very interested in seeing how The Summoning compared to Kelley Armstrong's adult fiction. Overall, I think Armstrong did a fantastic job transitioning into the world of young adult fiction. The voice used in this book is very different from the voice used in her adult novels and is extremely well-suited to her young adult audience. This is also noteworthy because Chloe's universe is the same one that Armstrong uses in her Otherworld novels.

Chloe feels alone and scared as she tries to understand what is happening to her and why. While there are times when Chloe wants to pretend that none of what is happening is real, she chooses to investigate her circumstances and to take action based on her findings. Unfortunately, Chloe doesn't know who she can really trust. Armstrong writes Chloe with strong emotions that the reader can relate to.

I was excited to find that I liked Armstrong's young adult novel as much, if not more than, her adult novels. I can't wait for the second book in the series, The Awakening, to come out in May. For more info on Chloe Saunders and the Darkest Powers trilogy check out

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Title: Vampire Academy
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: August 2007
Format: Paperback, 332 pages
Age Group: Young Adult
Series: Vampire Academy (Book 1)

Lissa is Moroi, vampire royalty. Her best friend and Guardian, Rose, is Dhampir, a human and vampire mix. Together they ran away from St. Vladimir's Academy two years ago but now they have been found and taken back. Now they must navigate the treacherous social scene, protect Lissa from danger coming from an unknown source, and try to figure out what is going on with Lissa's growing powers.

Vampire Academy begins with a lot of action. The reader doesn't know why Lissa and Rose are on the run or who is after them but can sense their fear of being caught and taken back. This sets the tone for the entire book. Mead does a great job of giving the reader bits of information about the past as it relates to the current events of the book. The reader is then able to put those bits of information together with the current information to understand the situation in the same way that the characters are beginning to understand it.

For the most part, dialogue, description, and action are all well-written. The only confusion that I had was with the first use of the terms Moroi and Strigoi as I did not find them to be clearly defined. The same was initially true of the term Dhampir, although I did know that term from other vampire stories. Of the three terms Dhampir was the one eventually given the most thorough explanation. My understanding of Moroi was that it was a term for vampire royalty, although it may encompass more than that. Strigoi seemed to mean a vampire who was truly undead. The unfamiliar terms did not hinder my understanding of the main events in the book.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to continuing the series.

6 Things that make Me Happy

Lisa at Online Publicist tagged me for the 6 Things That Make You Happy Meme. I haven't done one of these before but here goes...

6 Things that make Me Happy
  1. My Family
  2. Great Friendships
  3. Good Books
  4. Warm Vacations
  5. Sunshine
  6. Extra Sleep
Here are the Rules for this meme: Link to the person who tagged you. Post six things that make you happy along with these rules. Then tag six others (letting them know, of course). Let the person who tagged you know when your entry is complete.

I am tagging: The Fool's Journey, The Upside of Being Down, Young Adult Author Terri Clark, Jenn Donner, minds alive on the shelves, and A Reader's Respite. I'm looking forward to seeing your happy thoughts!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Title: People of the Book
Author: Geraldine Brooks
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: December 2008
Format: Paperback, 400 pages
Age Group: Adult

Australian rare book expert Hanna Heath has the opportunity to examine the Sarajevo Haggadah, a priceless Jewish book that survived war. The book is one of the earliest known Jewish texts with illustrations. Hanna must repair the book so it can be placed in a special display. During her examination, Hanna finds small clues to the historical journey the book has taken to arrive at this point and she is able to learn something about the people who created and owned it.

People of the Book is a wonderful novel based on the real Sarajevo Haggadah. Chapters alternate between Hanna in 1996 and an important event in the history of the book. In Hanna's chapters, she investigates artifacts found in the book. The following chapter explains the presence of that artifact in the book. The chapters are very clearly labeled with the artifact, location, and year. This makes it very easy to transition between times and places.

Although the story focuses on a Jewish text and contains Jewish terms and traditions, I did not need to have a previous understanding of these traditions to enjoy the book. The focus is not on the traditions so much as it is the people who created each piece of the work and how the pieces came to be pulled together into one volume. The history is not simply the history of the book but, as clearly stated in the title, it is the story of the people of the book. Each had their own story and left their own mark. In her examination of the book, Hanna becomes a part of its story and so her personal story becomes important.

People of the Book is a fantastic historical novel. Brooks provides incredible detail in describing the Sarajevo Haggadah and the historical events surrounding it. It is obvious that she spent much time researching her subject in order to provide the most accurate portrayal. She also writes strong characters and dialogue. Overall I would highly recommend People of the Book. The edition I received has a Readers Guide, making it an ideal historical fiction selection for a book club.

Thank you to Julie at FSB Associates for sending me such a great read. I also received an extra copy which I will be giving away here.