Tuesday, September 6, 2011

all these things i’ve done by Gabrielle Zevin

All These Things I've DoneView a preview of this book online

All These Things I've Done (Birthright #1)

Quoted from the book cover:  In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidentally poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.


This book is narrated by Anya, the daughter of a deceased crime boss in the year 2083. Generally, I don't care for books written in the first person, it is a difficult style to write. However, I liked it in this case. It was effective and instantly provided a connection between the reader and anya. The author , Gabrielle Zevin, gives voice to Anya that rings true. She is as a 16 year old, with a wonderfully diverse vocabulary and just a touch of humor that remains humerus and not corny, annoying or distracting from the story she is telling.

Set in a world that is battling shortages of every type with extremely restrictive laws that are enacted as a result of the shortages, the setting itself should get young adult readers to consider the potential of this future world becoming a reality. While, this sounds ominous, it doesn't translate this way to the reader. Anya deals with these background issues in such a way that the result is not a scary, dark and despairing world, but one that is thought provoking. Other reviews have criticized this book for not being “dystopian”, but you need to remember the audience that this is written for. Think of it as intro to dystopia. There are some religious overtones. Anya is a Catholic and attends a Catholic school. She is not out to convert others, the religion simply provides a basis for her moral code and faith in a world that could seem pretty dim without it.

Anya is strong and intelligent, yet flawed and impulsive at times. After all, she is a sixteen year old. She is a character that I hope young female readers will relate to. Anya does quote her deceased Father frequently. Some may find these “Daddisms” to be annoying, however I felt that they were a reminder of how much she loved and missed her Father. Some of the quotes were actually quite good.

While Anya has a “love interest”, while there is no graphic sex, there are some sexual situations. Anya has vowed to wait until marriage before having sex. There are a few scenes where the couple let their raging hormones loose, but in the end they honor her vow. She is also pressured to have sex by another boy. Parents may want to preview this book before passing it on to their children. In comparison with the Twilight Series, this book has less sexually charged situations. Zevin handles Anya's sexuality with discretion yet, she doesn't compromise the story or her characters by omitting Anya's sexual feelings from the novel. For this reason, I would recommend this book for an audience a bit older than the age of 12, possibly 14 or 15.

The other characters are just as well written as Anya. They are interesting and a little quirky. The plot is unique and the short chapters keep the story flowing at a fairly fast pace. I love that the chapters have titles and the book has a table of contents! It provides just enough foreshadowing to keep the reader intrigued!

I was about two thirds of the way into this book when I realized that this was going to be a series of books (Yes, I know, it says that on the back cover.). I don't dislike book series, however the ending of this first book felt abrupt. While it left the reader “hanging”, I felt it left too many unresolved questions and issues. I would have liked to have seen a few more chapters.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and loved Anya. Yeah for strong (but not militant) female characters! I will be passing this one on to my 15 year old daughter. I look foreword to discussing it with her, I think it will provide a basis for some really interesting fuel for conversation!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Borgia Betrayal by Sara Poole

The Borgia Betrayal

From the book cover:

Before the Tudors, there were the Borgias. More passionate. More dangerous. More deadly.
From the author of Poison, called “stunning”* and “a fascinating page-turner,” comes a new historical thriller, featuring the same intriguing and beautiful heroine: Borgia court poisoner, Francesca Giordano.
      In the summer of 1493, Rodrigo Borgia, Alexander VI, has been pope for almost a year. Having played a crucial role in helping him ascend the chair of Saint Peter, Francesca, haunted by the shadows of her own past, is now charged with keeping him there. As court poisoner to the most notorious and dangerous family in Italy, this mistress of death faces a web of peril, intrigue, and deceit that threatens to extinguish the light of the Renaissance.
      As dangers close in from every direction, Francesca conceives a desperate plan that puts her own life at risk and hurls her into a nightmare confrontation with a madman intent on destroying all she is pledged to protect. From the hidden crypts of fifteenth-century Rome to its teeming streets alive with sensuality, obsession, and treachery, Francesca must battle the demons of her own dark nature to unravel a plot to destroy the Borgias, seize control of Christendom, and plunge the world into eternal darkness.

A sequel to the novel, Poison

I normally do not like to read books that are a series out of order. I have not read the previous book , poison, but decided to ahead and read it. I am really glad that I gave this book a chance! The concept of the main character being a the “court poisoner” to the pope caught my attention. I love this unusual setting and character. All of the new books seem to feature vampires and zombies, this was a refreshing change of pace. No one single vampire in the entire novel!

This novel does stand alone , but I wonder how much more I might have gained, had I read the first book. The book, Poison. It is definitely on my “to read list”.

Now onto one of my pet peeves related to novels set in a specific time period... This novel is set in the year 1493. As I read several phrases and words struck me as inappropriate to the time period. Here's and example; at one point a reference is made to having your cake and eating it ,too. A phrase that is attributed to Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution. Another was the use of the word “drone”.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and  I plan to read "Poison" soon!

Sanctus by Simon Toyne

From GoodReads:  Toyne’s Sanctus is, quite simply, one of the most extraordinary conspiracy thriller debuts in many years. In this electrifying, nonstop adventure, a young newspaper reporter, driven by the memory of her lost brother, uncovers a dark secret nurtured for 3,000 years by blood and lies by adherents of an ancient, unknown religion in a Vatican-like citadel hidden away for millennia from unwelcomed prying eyes.

Simon Toyne has crafted a conspiracy tale of so real that I had to keep reminding myself that it was fiction! It has all the necessary elements of a great series: Secret religions (including scary fanatical monks), a Vatican like fortress and mysterious “Sacrament”. Of course, the identity of the Sacrament is not reveled until the final pages!

This is one of those books that I mourned at the ending. While I wanted to know the secret of the Sacrament, I was sad that this captivating tale was coming to an end. Again, I found myself wishing that this was a true story and was sad to realize that it was not. However, I will note that the author left room for a sequel with several threads of the story unresolved. Yeah!

I loved the main characters. Liv is a normal American girl tossed into the heart the conspiracy. She is immediately a heroine that I could identify with. In walks Gabriel, tall, dark and dangerous...Is he a good guy or a bad guy? Either way he's got my attention! My only complaint is that I needed to know more about them. I wanted more background information. Maybe in the sequel?

I loved the cover art. I would have gravitated toward this book based on the cover, if it had not appeared in my mailbox!

Thanks to William Morrow an imprint of HarperColins Publishers for the opportunity to read and review this novel.