16 October, 2010

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
Publication date: October 19th 2010 (Philomel)
ISBN 10/13: 039925482X / 9780399254826

Category: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: Hardcover
Keywords: Romance, Wolves, Prophecy

How I found out about this book: I found this while I was looking for Debut Authors for The Story Siren's 2010 Challenge, though I have pretty much dropped out of the running for challenge prizes etc. I'm just having way too much fun reading to be bothered writing reviews for most things... anyway, Penguin sent my store a very generous box of ARCs and it included Nightshade. [insert joyful howling here.]

Find the synopsis on goodreads.com.

My review: Though I wasn't 100% happy with this debut novel, it definitely kept my attention--I finished it in just under two days. I like the mythology Cremer invents for the shape-shifting Guardians. I was also able to guess some major plot twists, so that took away a little bit of my enjoyment (hence the deducted star), but Calla Tor and her cavalcade of secondary characters sufficiently distracted me during the afternoon I got my flu shot. I couldn't seem to turn the pages fast enough once I finished the first half!

Calla, the alpha of the Nightshade pack, shifts not just from girl to wolf but from naughty, mini-skirted siren to prudish, hand-slapping goody-two-shoes (wow, that's a lot of hyphenates--hold on for the parentheticals) in the blink of an eye. I found this disconcerting; that and the almost entirely predictable (well, if you've read as many mysteries as I have) puzzle of newcomer Shay Doran. Ren Laroche, the alpha of the Bane pack, to whom Calla is promised, has good reason to despise him. Shay's poaching on his territory!

I did find the setting and some of the characters a little off--do modern moms in Vail actually serve hot tea to important guests in the evenings? Was she supposed to be English-ish? Er...

What would otherwise have been a sluggish, moony-eyed romance moves at a pretty good pace as Calla, Shay and Ren play with pack politics. I enjoyed the gamboling of the young wolf pack, and the unexpected alliances and loyalties that Cremer builds into the character arcs. I also thought the plot was reasonably perilous. I've read similar YA novels where the danger is so thin, the climax feels about as tense as breaking a fingernail--annoying, but easily fixed. Nightshade manages to layer the stakes so that Calla's mistakes are not just hers--it affects the Nightshades and the Banes, and may have even greater, world-breaking repercussions.

Lastly, though I deplore love triangles in which it is completely obvious who the main character is going to end up with, Cremer does a good job of balancing Ren's bad-boy behaviors with some good intentions; this has the strange effect of making you want a happy ending for him, all the while hoping Calla ends up with Shay anyway. At least, I do!

If your brain needs an escape from whatever is stressing you out, grab this book on Tuesday!

Who should read this book: Nightshade's not for everyone--I'd be hard-pressed to recommend this to the more innocent-looking YA readers. It's very sexy. But if mom let you read House of Night and The Immortals, guess what! You'll like this one, too. Grab a warm drink and tuck yourself up in bed with this wolf-shaped guilty pleasure.

Author photo taken from goodreads.com

Nightshade is Andrea Cremer's 1st novel. (Nightshade is first in a trilogy.)

Find the author at http://www.andreacremer.com/ (BTW, *awesome* website design :D), on Twitter @andreacremer

Shortlink to this review: http://bit.ly/callaTor

Find this book on goodreads.com, or buy it now!
What do you think? Is this something you would read? If you've already read it, put in your two cents... (no spoilers, please!)

10 October, 2010

Ten for 10-10-10

Hi! Been busy with school etc. lately. Here's ten books I've read recently.

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
Age group: Intermediate Readers (8-12)
4 out of 5 stars 

Sweet and a bit sad. An issues book for elementary-age kids: Lucky spends her free time eavesdropping on  AA meetings in her tiny little town, and tries to discover her own "Higher Power". Bullying, broken families, and running away from home figure centrally in this quirky, award-winning little story.

Obedience by Will Lavender
Age group: Adults
4 out of 5 stars

This mystery once scared me enough to shut it until my husband came back to the apartment because I was too scared to go on reading without anyone else in the room. Very creepy, though a gamble--you'll either love it or hate it. I loved it.

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
Age group: 12 and up
4 out of 5 stars
I listened to this on audiobook, and it was a great read, but quite heavy for the age group, I would think. Isabel yearns for freedom, but America is just on the brink of what we know now as The Revolutionary War. Politics, violence and bigotry color her world; Halse's rendition of the life of a slave girl vibrates with a sense of reality and hope.

Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell
Age group: 12 and up
2 out of 5 stars
I know that quite a few people really love this book, and I can't quite pinpoint why this one didn't grab me. It's a good ghost story, just not my cup of tea. It might be yours, though. A good choice to set you in a ghostly mood for Halloween.  More groovy ghouls: Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender (YA), The Last Days of Little Texas by R. A. Nelson (YA), The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (Adults), and The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
Age group: Adults
4 out of 5 stars

I don't read very many adult contemporary literary novels--I'm very picky with what I'll bother to pick up. This made the cut. It's an emotional coming-of-age post-9/11 story of a young woman in the Midwest who encounters grief, uncertainty, and love when she takes a job as a nanny for an adoptive couple.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
Age group: 10 and up
5 out of 5 stars
Adorable and intelligent (kind of like me! :D), Callie Vee develops a close relationship with her grandfather when she realizes that she, though the only girl in a family with 6 sons, LOVES science. In Texas in 1899 it's just about unheard of--but that doesn't stop her from exploring and experimenting whatever she can. If you have an equal respect for Little House on the Prairie and Charles Darwin, you'll love this book.

The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood
Age group: 14 and up
4 out of 5 stars
Loved this one. Mysterious and dark, this tale of Jessamine and the strange boy called Weed slowly smolders and drifts into a strange and dreamy fairy tale state. Fans of fast-paced action and plot--skip this one--it's all description, feeling, and hazy soporific gloom. I can't wait for the next installment (it's the first in a trilogy).

The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller
Age group: 15 and up
2 out of 5 stars
I really wanted to like this one. Fans of Twilight and other paranormal romances will still find something to enjoy in this slightly twisty and mysterious story of a girl whose seizures are actually uncontrollably vivid recollections of a past life. I prefer something with a little more humor (like Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey) or a little more action (like Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder).

Rose Sees Red by Cecil Castellucci
Age group: 14 and up
3 out of 5 stars
I think this would make a great gift for a girl who loves a) ballet b) the 80's, and c) New York City. It took me a little while to figure out why Russians were being referred to as "Soviets"--it's a historical! Though not from 300 years ago, more like 30. It was well written, and entertaining, though a bit far-fetched.

How to (un)cage a Girl by Francesca Lia Block
Age group: 16 and up
1 out of 5 stars
I like a bit of poetry now and then, but I really felt like reading this was like trudging through mud while looking for something shiny to fish out of the muck. "a myth of love for girls" and "lost in los angeles" come close to being a little memorable, but ultimately this reeks of In-crowd, privileged angst. But hey, if you're a fairly wealthy and popular girl with various psychological hang-ups and emotional baggage, this one's for you!

Happy reading! I'll be reporting back shortly on Cassandra Clare's The Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, Book 1), Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis, and the Beautiful Darkness Midnight Release Party.