Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Secret Circle Trilogy by L.J. Smith

Cassie Blake is devastated when her summer vacation in Massachusetts is made permanent when her mother insists they have to move in with her grandmother in small town New Salem.  But her disappointment soon gives way to shock when she encounters The Club at school--the elite clique that even the teachers submit to.  But the biggest shock isn't that they're witches, it's that Cassie is actually one of them.  Soon she is locked in an internal struggle between those who use their powers for good and for evil, and she soon discovers that the decision is not as easy as it seems.  When a centuries-old evil starts to infiltrate their coven and tries to bring them all under its control, Cassie finds herself with choices to make, and one wrong step could spell doom to all.

I was going to review these one volume at a time (the "trilogy" is currently packaged into two volumes), but I could not put them down!  L.J. Smith does some fantastic world building and the story ensnared me.  The tension between the major characters is fantastic-- it's very refreshing to read a series where a coven isn't held together by "perfect love and perfect trust", but is held together mainly by heritage.  This leads to a lot of power plays and emotional mainipulation, which is so relatable and a large part of why I couldn't stop reading-- I had to make sure my favorite characters were going to be alright!

My favorite part of the series, though, was the love triad of Cassie, Diana, and Adam.  I say "triad" instead of "triangle" because despite the competing romantic interests of the three, they remain a cohesive unit bound by love and friendship between all of them.  (I almost get the sense that Smith wanted to set-up a three-way, polyamorous relationship, but wasn't allowed to or didn't think she could get away with it.)  It is a much healthier take on a dynamic that flourishes in YA lit these days.  It's also just far more interesting and heart-wrenching to see three people who love and respect each other deal with this issue, instead of the typical tug-of-war of one person between two people who hate each other.

Of course, the witchy aspect is what we're here for, and Smith pulls it off brilliantly!  She sets up a complex internal mythology that has endless potential for expansion (which I expect to see on the TV show!)  And even though they originally came out almost 20 years ago, this series holds up remarkably well (only the characters' birthdates really threw me).  The writing can be a little melodramatic at times, but it did its job of roping me in!  Pick it up!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Old Magic by Marianne Curley

When a freak storm happens inside their classroom on Jarrod Thornton's first day at his new school, resident "freak" Kate Warren has her suspicions.  When an earthquake hits just the local cafe-hangout when Jarrod is there, Kate is absolutely sure.  Jarrod has magical powers, just as Kate and her grandmother Jillian do.  Seeing how ostracized Kate and Jillian are in their town, Jarrod is not eager to associate with her, especially since he doesn't believe in magic and that's all Kate wants to talk to him about.  And besides, if he has magical powers, then why is he--and his entire family--so unlucky?  For Kate the answer is obvious: the Thorton family is cursed.  Jarrod categorically rejects the idea at first, but after digging into his family history, he finds the theory impossible to ignore.  And when tragedy strikes, he cannot resist Kate's offers to help end the curse once and for all.

I loved the dynamic of this book.  The chapters alternate between Jarrod and Kate's POVs, which not only gives you a greater view of the plot, but also allows both leads the chance to develop.  Curley nails the nuances of human interaction, how people perceive each other, how they act outwardly towards each other as opposed to how they actually feel.

The plot was filled with good ideas, but it kind of fell apart for me in a few places--but to its credit, a lot of that had to do with how I felt about the characters.  For example, when Kate and Jarrod go back in time to break the curse, I felt like there were too many characters and things going on that blotted out a lot of what I loved about their relationship.  However, it was still an engaging, perfectly-paced story.  As a history nut, I was totally hooked by the setting of Thorntyne Castle, and I really appreciate how much thought Curley put into the complexities of time travel.  A great read!


Sunday, February 6, 2011

WBN Tumblr Auxiliary!

So I haven't been around--eep!  My school year has been hectic, and even my winter break wasn't much of one.  And while I'm not sure if I'll be able to return to full-on blogging anytime soon, I decided to do the next best thing.  I started a Witchy Books Network Tumblr!  Tumblr is a bit easier to keep up with, and I'll be better able to do a greater variety of posts.  I'll still post reviews (when I get around to doing more) on this blog, but the Tumblr will have a lot of great stuff on it too.  Go follow me there!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

SWEEP: The Movie!

In case you haven't already heard, Universal Studios has bought the rights to adapt Sweep to the big screen!  Cate herself is, understandably, excited, especially that they have hired screenwriter Robert Nelson Jacobs, who previously adapted another magic-themed book, Chocolat.

So, I figure now's a good time to remind you that Sweep: Volume I, collecting Book of Shadows, The Coven, and Blood Witch is out on all bookshelves now.  And that Sweep: Volume II (Dark Magick, Awakening, and Spellbound) is already on Wal-Mart shelves and will be hitting all bookstores on November 11th.  Sweep: Volume III is slated for a February 3rd, 2011 release (though it will no doubt hit Wal-Mart earlier) and will collect The Calling, Changeling, and Strife.

Also, let me point you to my rarely-viewed YouTube channel where I have a playlist for all the Sweep Dream Casts and Fan Trailers I've found-- which have new relevance while we wait for more movie news!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

xxxHolic vol. 1 by CLAMP

When he bumps into a garden wall, Watanuki Kimihiro's legs get a life of their own and lead him inside.  There, he finds an enigmatic witch known as Yûko, and she tells him their meeting was fated.  She grants wishes for a cost, and she knows his-- she will take away his burden of seeing spirits after he works off her price.  He grudgingly accepts, but he is not prepared for he methods...

This was a great first volume for another series by the legendary mangaka collective CLAMP.  The set-up is a little cliché and rushed, but it's worth it to start exploring Watanuki's character and Yûko's work.  Contrary to all expectations, Yûko turns out not to be the kind of witch that grants every shallow wish, requiring steep or ironic prices.  Rather, she seeks out people who have wishes they're afraid to voice, and attempts to help them find the solutions they already know.  This allows the creators to explore very down-to-earth problems and probe realistic psychological complexities, which I found very satisfying.  And in seeing her work, I began to suspect she was offering Watanuki something else-- perhaps showing him what his powers can actually do.

A few peeves: CLAMP work in allusions to their other works that, while you don't need to know them to appreciate the story, do make the narrative hiccup.  Also, there are a few Japanese puns that, rather than being explained in a footnote by the translator, are pushed to an appendix, leading to a delayed appreciation.  But these are minor quibbles, and overall I would love to read the rest!


Friday, July 30, 2010

Hop and Follow! Plus In My Mailbox!

Book Blogger Hop
It's Friday already!  And I've done almost no reading this week which I am more upset about than is perhaps reasonable, if only because I hate having two of these posts in a row-- I like my variety!  So anyway, I'm making this a combo-Friday hop'n'follow and an In My Mailbox.  But first!  The question of the week.


This feels like such a cop-out because they wrote the last book I reviewed, but Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl!  Basically all of the reasons can be found in my review of Beautiful Creatures .

Now my IMM:

Petty Magic by Camille DeAngelis.  This is an ARC that Random House's Read It Forward program sent to me after finding me on Twitter!  It's not YA, and it's not contemporary (which is what I lean towards here) but I had to read it once they pitched it to me.  It's about a 150-year-old witch during WWII who entertains herself by de-aging herself and seducing young mortal men for one-night stands.  But then she finds one who reminds her of the love of her life who may or may not be dead behind enemy lines.  I love WWII stories, and  to have one with witches is so fantastic!
In the Land of Winter by Richard Grant.  Picked this up from BookMooch.  Again, not YA, but it is contemporary.  It's about a Wiccan mother who has her child taken away from her due to a combination of bigotry and panic over "ritual abuse."  Stories about religious persecution, especially when it happens in less obvious contexts (The Five Paths is my favorite Circle of Three book, go figure).

Anyway, these books are just a small part of my acknowledging that there a limited amount of Witchy YA books, so I am plenty prepared to start branching out into adult, MG and children's books too!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Book Blogger Hop! Tres!

Book Blogger Hop Here I am again!  Unfortunately I already covered most of my news in my IMM!  So I figured now was a good time to join the other weekend blog meme I've seen around--'s Follow Friday.  So, hello everyone Hopping and Following!  Please poke around for a better idea of what I do.  Hopefully you'll see something you like!

Now, on to the Hop question:


Well, if my widget's anything to go by, I have four books going right now (oy!).  But I'll just talk about the one I'm focusing on: Manifest by Artist Arthur (great name!!).  Basically, misfit girl sees a ghost who wants her to help him solve his murder.  But soon after she's contacted by the ghost, she's contacted by two much stranger beings: a popular girl and and a punk guy who seem strangely interested in--and knowledgeable about--her M-shaped birthmark.  I'm really enjoying it, even just five chapters in-- I can totally relate to Krystal's social plight, since I was very much an outcast in eighth grade.  It's also the first book I've read for this blog that had an American lead of color (Magic or Madness had the half-Aborigine Reason, but I'm an American and "get" more about the American racial landscape--at least as much as I can as an upper-middle class white girl).  Also, it's the first book for this blog by an author of color, which really makes me think...

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl (Caster Chronicles #1)

Ethan Wate is haunted by a strange song in his dreams, and he's enthralled by the beautiful girl with a crescent moon birthmark under her eye who seems to accompany it, but he shrugs them both off-- until he sees her on the first day of school playing that song in the music room.  Her name is Lena Duchennes, and he soon discovers even weirder things about her: she drives a hearse, she's the town recluse's niece, and strange storms seem to break out when she's upset.  Rather than being scared off, Ethan is drawn to her even more and soon breaks through her defenses, and they find a deep inexplicable bond.  But it cannot be.  She is a Caster-- she and all of her family have special powers, but not all of them are good.  On her 16th birthday, she will be Claimed for Light or Dark-- and it's only a few months away.  Together, they're determined to break the curse on her family, and Ethan's family history may hold the clue...

This book was fairly incredible.  It wasn't perfect, but it deserves the buzz it's getting.  I agree with most every other review out there-- an American South setting and a male narrator add to this book's uniqueness and gives it a different mood from all the other YA fantasy out there.  This story is rich, with history, with love, and with creepiness.  There is almost too much to talk about what I love, so I'll hit on some highlights.  Lena and Ethan's love is deeply organic to the story-- I never for a moment doubt their feelings for each other, as Garcia and Stohl make you believe in both free will and fate at the same time (an overarching theme that affects more than just their relationship).  Also refreshing are the prominent black characters, in positions of immense power and influence (though you wouldn't know it at first-- always a good lesson to learn).  Also, creepy though he may seem (and justifiably so), but his Southern gentlemanliness, sophistication, and iconoclasm had me falling completely head over heels for Lena's reclusive uncle, Macon Ravenwood.  On a more general note, it's also a love letter to books and stories, to reading, to libraries-- something that nearly everyone who picks it up should be able to appreciate.

Its main weakness is that it does start, not exactly slowly, but unrushed.  Garcia and Stohl take great care in constructing this world and it pays off in a big way.  Don't miss it, or the upcoming sequel, Beautiful Darkness.  You can read the first 58 pages of BC here.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In My Mailbox (and on my hard drive)

Never thought I'd get enough books in a short enough span of time to justify doing one of these, but here I am!

First off, the thing I'm most excited about is the ARC for Beautiful Darkness that I got from a Goodreads swap!

I'm going to hold off on reading it for a little while-- I have a few more books I want to read and reviews to write, including the ones below.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Book Blogger Hop! Again!

Book Blogger HopCan't believe it's been a week since I did this last!  Of course, I did finish Beautiful Creatures, and got halfway through Old Magic-- reviews to come soon!  Not to mention, I have a few ARCs and galleys in the pipeline that I can't wait to get to; two of them are from NetGalley and I only get those for 60 days, so I'll start those soon.  I've gotten plenty of new followers this week (Welcome all!) partly from last week's Hop and partly from Twitter convos.  And those nice people have also given me some more ideas about what to do on this blog between book reviews, and I hope to start working on those soon.

This week's official Hop question is:


At the risk of betraying the genre of my blog-- Mockingjay.  I think just about everyone who reads YA fiction wants to know what happens to Katniss Everdeen.  But just to let you all know, before you even think of asking me, I do not care who Katniss ends up with.  In my opinion, the whole "love triangle" thing is the weakest part of the books.  I want to know about District 13, the Resistance, the real aftermath of Quarter Quell, and more than anything I want to know what Katniss is going to do, not who she falls in love with.  It's frankly annoying to me that a series like this, with such great worldbuilding and a complex female lead who has so much else to concern herself with, has become a battleground for yet more ship wars.  Please, people, she's the Mockingjay, she's going to lead an oppressed people out from under a totalitarian regime-- there is so much more at stake to discuss than her boyfriends.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Book Blogger Hop!

I've just discovered and their weekly Book Party for bloggers and readers to connect and share their loves, and I decided to join in the fun!

This week's question:  Tell us about some of your favorite authors and why they are your favorites!
Okay, I think I'll break this down into three parts, because I love too many authors to restrain myself!

My favorite Witchy author is Cate Tiernan.  No question-- as you have probably noticed from my reviews of Sweep and Balefire.  She is just incredible at world-building, character development, and suspense.  Every word she writes rings true, no matter how fantastical the subject matter.  I really hope that with Immortal Beloved and the Sweep and Balefire bind-ups, she finally gets the recognition she deserved 10 years ago.  On the comics side of things, Matt Wagner has me absolutely enchanted (no pun intended) with his work on Madame Xanadu.  I really hope the sales allow it to get the full 50-60 issue run it deserves-- or possibly even more!

Don't Die, Dragonfly by Linda Joy Singleton (Seer no.1)

Sabine Rose is fitting in well at her new school-- friends with the cheerleaders, confidante of the charming editor of the school paper, and dating the sweetest guy in school.  She can almost forget the tragic circumstances that made her an outcast at her old school and ended up with her moving in with her eccentric grandmother, a psychic matchmaker named Nona.  But Sabine swears that she didn't inherit her grandmother's abilities-- a facade that's hard to keep up once the visions of the death of a classmate with a dragonfly tattoo begin...

Don't Die, Dragonfly is a thrilling first installment of a series that I am eager to read more of.  It's a book that deals with the most frightening burden of power: social ostracism.  Sabine's struggles to both own her powers and save her classmate's life are skillfully intertwined as she must learn to trust others with her secret in order to do what's right.

Singleton also sets up plenty of teasers for future installments, from the mysterious Dominic who moves into Nona's barn at the beginning of the story and makes cryptic intimations about the future of Sabine's family, to the effect of her new alliances on her old friendships and her new boyfriend.  And her strained relationship with her mother not only longs for resolution, but is completely relatable to anyone who has ever been a teenager.  I can't wait to read more-- including the final book, Magician's Muse, out in October!

(By the way, if the plot reminds you of Blue is for Nightmares, you're not alone.  But whether you love or hate those books, you should give Dragonfly a try, because the two books/series are plenty different!)  You can read the first two chapters here.

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