Friday, March 30, 2012

Book Review: Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

Eyes Like Stars

Lisa Mantchev


All her world’s a stage. 
Bertie Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater. She’s not an orphan, but she has no parents. She knows every part, but she has no lines of her own. That is, until now. 
Enter Stage Right 
NATE. Dashing pirate. Will do anything to protect Bertie. 
COBWEB, MOTH, MUSTARD SEED, and PEASEBLOSSOM. Four tiny and incredibly annoying fairies. BERTIE’S sidekicks. 
ARIEL. Seductive air spirit and Bertie’s weakness. The symbol of impending doom. 
BERTIE. Our heroine. 
Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the actors of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book — an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family — and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known. 

Open Curtain 


I know the old saying is don't judge a book by its cover, but I find time and time again that what gets me to pick up a book while browsing a bookstore or a library is exactly that, the cover. Then of course I turn the book over, or open it up to read the inside jacket to learn what it's about.

The art for Eyes Like Star's cover is absolutely beautiful. If I could get a print of the cover as a poster for my room, I would. Even though it was completely the cover that got me to pick this book up, it was the synopsis that made me curious to read it. Mantchev has created a world that is so unique that the thought of it hadn't even occurred to me before. All of the Players of every play live in a magical theatre along with orphan girl who doesn't quite belong there as she is not a player herself.

The prose is very entertaining, and I enjoyed the way flashbacks were often handled by retelling them in play format.

I do admit that for the first few chapters at least I found it hard to follow who was what and why they were doing what they were doing and who all these characters are. I do think that if you are a fan of Shakespeare plays you will enjoy this book greatly and be able to follow it a bit easier.

In Depth Spoiler Review

There are two things that I really liked about this book, and that's the idea of the book and how Beatrice has to figure out how to save it and the playing out of her Origin story play. As much as I wanted to see her succeed in directing Hamlet in Egypt! When she was forced to do her own play I was ecstatic, I had guessed she was Ophelia's daughter as soon as I learned Ophelia had left the Theatre once before, but I loved seeing how Beatrice's vague memories that had romanticized everything fit into what really happened. I also think I would have enjoyed it performed as having the narrator explain things and then the characters go into more details or contradict what the narrator is romanticizing is a style I enjoy greatly.

Something that really confused me is Beatrice's relationships with Nate and Ariel. I realized that Ariel was her childhood friend, I thought Nate was her crush or possibly a love interest in general, but though she seemed to be so interested in Nate in the beginning, it was Ariel who seemed to get her in the end. And then my mind went and guessed that Nate was her father which was all kinds of wrong and I'm pretty sure I'm super wrong since Bertie's father is supposed to be all special, but I assume that she's going to go and save him in the next book and her relationship with Nate will be cleared up more.


Eyes Like Stars ended up being an incredibly interesting read. Bertie is an interesting heroine who isn't flat at all and in fact there seemed to be a depth to all of the characters. The book can feel a bit confusing at times, but it is worth it, I believe, to wade through the confusing bits so you can enjoy this world and the characters.

I recommend this book to people tired of the same old cliché stories in YA Fantasy and want to try something very original. I also recommend it to people who love Shakespeare or have every read Hamlet, Tempest and other plays because being able to know some of the characters how they are in their plays and then be amused about how they act "off stage" makes the book even more enjoyable.


Book Review: Jinx by Meg Cabot


Meg Cabot

It's not easy being Jinx. 

Jean Honeychurch hates her boring name (not Jean Marie, or Jeanette, just . . . Jean). What's worse? Her all-too-appropriate nickname, Jinx. Misfortune seems to follow her everywhere she goes even to New York City, where Jinx has moved to get away from the huge mess she caused in her small hometown. Her aunt and uncle welcome her to their Manhattan town house, but her beautiful cousin Tory isn't so thrilled. . . . 

In fact, Tory is hiding a dangerous secret one that could put them all in danger. Soon Jinx realizes it isn't just bad luck she's been running from . . . and that the curse she has lived under since the day she was born may be the only thing that can save 
her life.

Meg Cabot and I… I have an interesting thought process whenever I see a Meg Cabot book, part of me wants to read it so bad and the other part wants me to avoid it at all costs. I cannot really explain it, but it might something to do with the fact that she usually tends to lean towards plots I have no interest in reading and plots that I find insanely interesting. Also I'm a huge fan of the Mediator series. So on a whim at the library (a thing that happens quite often) I went: Okay Sam pick it off the shelf, sounds interesting maybe you'll like it. I do that a lot, you'll hear the story about me giving a book a chance because it's a library book.

This book was both enjoyable and confusing. I found the plot enjoyable and the environment and whole idea. I also found the prose enjoyable. The confusing part was Jinx herself. Other than something that happens in the beginning and that it is her nickname she never felt especially "Jinx-y". I also could never figure out her motivation and it would miff me that she seemed to no nothing at some points and know everything at other points.

It is a good fluff read, however, and I personally adore the villain of Tory and her drive.

In Depth Spoiler Review
I have to admit I enjoyed the ending/climax a lot. I enjoyed that Tory what batshit crazy and was ready go sacrifice and drink Jinx's blood and whatever. I do wish that I enjoyed this book more, though. Jinx denying she had magic and then having it felt like a betrayal to me as a reader, why didn't Jinx trust the reader to know this about her, screw hints I trusted her.

I do adore, adore the "prophecy" that either Tory or Jinx would have magic and how that set everything in motion, it really was a cool idea.

Some things I loved, some things I didn't like so much. As a Meg Cabot book it's pretty average her, so if you love Meg Cabot and you love her heroines this is a book you will enjoy. If you also want yourself a fluff YA urban fantasy romance, I'd go ahead and pick this up as well.


Book Review: A Posse of Princesses by Sherwood Smith

A Posse of Princesses

Sherwood Smith

Rhis, princess of a small kingdom, is invited along with all the other princesses in her part of the world to the coming of age party of the Crown Prince of Vesarja, which is the central and most important kingdom. When Iardith, the prettiest and most perfect of all the princesses, is abducted, Rhis and her friends go to the rescue. 

What happens to Rhis and her posse has unexpected results not only for the princesses, but for the princes who chase after them. Everyone learns a lot about friendship and hate, politics and laughter, romantic ballads and sleeping in the dirt with nothing but a sword for company. But most of all they learn about the many meanings of love. 

Something about the title and plot of this book made me not want to read it. It's really quite strange, I can't explain it, but it was one of those books that kept popping up on my recommendations so I finally said screw it and checked it out from the library.

I was pleasantly surprised.

There are really two parts to this book, the introduction of characters and then the growing of these characters. The plot expained up in the synopsis happens in the second part of the book, though honestly it is the first part that I enjoyed more.

I have a thing for spunky heroines that buck the social norm of their society so that they are considered "not good princesses" by the social obsessed characters. This books is full of them. We are introduced to Rhis first and she goes to go spend time with every other princess and prince her age and ends up becoming very popular just from the fact that she does buck the "natural order"

What I liked best about this book is how every character approaches things differently, including love, crushes and politics. There was also a lack of clichés in a book that was so ripe to become full of them and that is another thing I really appreciated about this.

I do wish that the transition from the first part to the second part was a bit smoother, so I wouldn't be able to think of them as part one and part two, because the pacing and point of the book changed so drastically seemingly out of no where. This book honestly felt more like two books instead of one, but that is probably the only real gripe I had about this book.

In Depth Spoiler Review

The way love and romance was approached in this book was spectacular. I love how Rhis, who was pretty isolated in her home kingdom assumes she is in love with the prince, mistaking instant attraction for love at first sight. This feels so natural, this would happen, and I love how as soon as she finally talks to him she feels the attraction just fall through, realizing that it wasn't love at all. Then when she does fall in love, she doesn’t realize what it is till almost the end and then the Prince's mother makes sure it is not just attraction by making them wait and wait and wait, which I loved the idea of.

And then we look at Shera, who grows into being a major flirt, thinking everything is love and not realizing what she doesn't take seriously is taken seriously by other people. I felt she was such an honest character, I have met so many people like her, who find themselves falling in love at every turn of a corner because of, in our society's case, what Disney movies, RomComs and YA Romance teach us about romance.

Thirdly there is Taniva who marries for political reasons, but also it is obvious that she and her Prince have a large amount of respect for each other which I enjoyed.

Overall I just really like the way romance was portrayed in this story, there is just something so natural about it all.


This is a book that made a great, before bed wind down book for me. The prose is very light and easy to digest and the characters a sweet to read. Though the world seems simplistic, it has more layers I feel. It is a true coming of age story for several characters, not just the main one and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys books with a fairytale feel to them (Patricia Wrede books and Shannon Hale books) as I would place this book near those on my bookshelf.

Also when the story shifts, get past it and finish the book, do it for the characters.


Book Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman


Neal Shusterman


Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives. 

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn't technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.


One thing you will all find out quickly about me is that I'm a sucker for Dystopias, Adult and Young Adult alike, and though often Young Adult Dystopias seem to miss out the point of a Dystopia as a Social Commentary, this one does not.

The idea of unwinding sent chills down my spine, and the ideas and philosophies discussed were exaggerated echoes of arguments and situations I've seen and thoughts I've wondered. At first the world feels almost like a shock, it is so much like our own, not overly futuristic that it's hard to comprehend that people would just "recycle away" their kids if they weren't pleasing. As the book continues, however, you start to understand that, although the society seems so close to ours, it is in fact not our society.

What is also great is that I didn't feel like there was an agenda pushed in this book, just a lot of questions asked, the readers put up to think their own answers. The abortion argument is one of the most heated political arguments someone can get into and what's scary is that America going into a Civil War over it does not seem to farfetched, and although the book deals with that I couldn't tell you what Shusterman's thoughts over it are at all.

For example the fact that abortions are no longer allowed seem to point towards that philosophy, while the idea of "storking" and the problems it causes shows that stopping abortions doesn't stop the problem.

The other idea explored is that of unwinding, of one's organs being harvested and then being completely used in other people. The society of the book wants to believe that means that the child who was unwound is still alive, but what individual people believe is different. And by the end of this book I'm sure every reader asks themselves the same question: Would they rather die or be unwound? I would rather die, personally.

Prose wise, I enjoyed the writing style immensely. Shusterman created three very distinct very developed characters in who we see most of the story unfold. All three of the characters captured my curiousity and interest. The thing I loved most about the prose however is the fact that although many things about this world are introduced, nothing that isn't needed is introduced. Every piece of information ends up being important to the plot later.

In Depth Spoiler Review

There are two parts of this book that left the biggest impression on me, the first I can assume would leave a huge impression on ANYONE, and that is Roland's Unwinding. The fact that it is done to the kids while they awake and reading the process through Roland's consciousness I started crying in horror, a hand covering my mouth, unable to turn my gaze away from the page until his final thoughts. After that chapter I set the book down and took five minutes to take it in, in complete shock that it had been written. The including of the that chapter is both brave and clever of Shusterman, specifically since we know that Conner is supposed to be next and we are almost sure that the book is going to end with his death.

The other is the whole idea explored with CyFi and in fact his final chapter especially. What happens if parts of your brain are transplanted into another person. Shusterman's world predicts that thoughts may come from you into this new person. CyFi gets led on this journey to his "brain donator's" hometown so that the piece of that brain can see his parents and be assured that he wouldn't be unwound.

It really makes you think and question about the soul and what happens if all your body parts are used somewhere else and never die, does that mean you never die?


This is a book that made me think, it made me gasp, cry, laugh, become involved in the characters. It is however not a light book. I would not read it if you're looking for fluff, this book is not fluff. I recommend this book for any Dystopia lover, especially those who have been annoyed at the lack of social commentary in Young Adult Dystopias. The last YA Dystopia to leave an impression on me was 0.4 by Mike Lancaster (which if you enjoyed Unwind and haven't read 0.4 I recommend they have a similar feel to them).


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