Monday, October 31, 2011

Book Review: Oh. My. Gods. (Oh. My. Gods. #1) by Tera Lynn Childs

Oh. My. Gods. CoverA hilarious romantic fantasy that is a gift from the gods!

Oh. My. Gods. (Oh. My. Gods. #1) by Tera Lynn Childs
Reading Level:
Young Adult
Release Date: May 14, 2009 (Originally May 1, 2008)
Publisher: Speak
Pages: 288
Source: Library
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Phoebe Castro is the daughter of a football superstar who died from unknown causes six years earlier. Her dad encouraged her athleticism since earliest childhood and her happiest memories are running with him. Her whole life and all her dreams for the future center around winning a track scholarship to her dream school, the University of Southern California near where she's lived her whole life in Los Angeles. She and her two best friends since kindergarten have had plans for years to attend USC together. Then, out of the blue, Phoebe's mother returns from a visit to her husband's relatives in Greece the summer before Phoebe's senior year in high school with a Greek fiancé in tow. When her mom informs Phoebe she's getting married within the week and they're moving to Greece, Phoebe freaks out and refuses to go. But she and her mother are extremely close, and ultimately, Phoebe gives in.

After an exhaustingly long journey, Phoebe finds herself stranded on a Greek island with no way to get off it except by boat. Her step-father is head of a super-exclusive private academy that Phoebe is expected to attend, and she soon learns there is no way she will ever fit in there. Her step-father, all the teachers, and every student but her is the descendant of a Greek god, and they all have super powers!

Phoebe struggles with the step-sister from hell, a step-father who can read her mind, fellow students who look on her as inferior for being an ordinary human, and an unwelcome crush on a gorgeous fellow runner who veers between being kind and gentlemanly toward her and sabotaging her efforts on the school track team with magic. Through it all, she does her best to keep her eye on the main goal--place in the top three in every race she's in and maintain a B average so she can get her scholarship and get off the island at the end of the school year.

This book is so much fun! I smiled throughout it and many times laughed out loud as some truly hilarious moments. The premise is just great. Very different from the Percy Jackson books. To such an extent that I would not agree this is a "knock-off" or imitation of them. People have been writing novels about the Greek and Roman gods long before Percy Jackson. I've enjoyed those kind of books whenever I could find them for years. And this particular addition to gods books is one of the best ever.

The friendships are appealing. The romantic plot is adorable, and for once the adults aren't all horrible. I really liked Phoebe's therapist mom, and her mind-reading step-dad is a very understanding guy. I liked that Phoebe gets into her main conflict in the story not because her parents are jerks who abandon her, but because her mother really wants to be with the man she loves--leading to the inevitable upheaval caused when step-families are created by a second marriage. There is also conflict created because Phoebe's mom and step-dad really want the best for her education, and her mother wants to be with her, but Phoebe doesn't want to change her long-time plans for university. I also loved the way Phoebe uses psychological insights she gained from her mother to help her friends the way her mother has helped her over the years.

What I loved most of all was Phoebe's running. I enjoyed the descriptions of it throughout the book and the way her running is a theme that extends from the beginning to the end of the book and is strongly involved in the book's climax and resolution, which is very cleverly done. Speaking of which, I loved the ending. It wasn't at all predictable, but it was exactly right.

This book is a keeper! I'm so glad there is a sequel. I hope there is more than one! 

Heroine: 5

Subcharacters: 5

Fantasy World-Building: 4

Writing: 5

Romantic-Comedy Plot: 5

Overall: 5


Monday, October 17, 2011

Book Review: Summer of Shambles (Ondine #1) by Ebony McKenna

Summer of Shambles CoverOriginal, cute, fairytale romantic comedy

Summer of Shambles (Ondine #1) by Ebony McKenna
Reading Level:
Young Adult
Release Date: April 5, 2010
Publisher: Egmont Books
Pages: 336
Source: Purchased
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Fifteen-year-old Ondine de Groot lives at her family's business, a combination hotel and pub in the imaginary Eastern European country of Brugel. Ondine has worked for years alongside her mother, father and two older sisters cleaning rooms, serving customers and scrubbing dirty dishes. But at the start of the story her mother has sent her to the other side of Brugel to Psychic Summercamp for several weeks in order to develop her extra-sensory skills. Though these are accepted as a normal and desirable part of life in Brugel, Ondine doesn't believe she has any such talents, in spite of her mother's insistence that Ondine must be psychic because it runs in the family. Bored and homesick after only a week at camp, Ondine decides to sneak out of camp and run away to her home. Her only hesitation before leaving is what to do with Shambles. He's an adorable ferret who showed up not long before, "face-deep in her secret stash of Brugelwurst sausage," and he's been following her like a lap dog ever since. He's so attached to Ondine, in fact, she feels guilty about leaving him behind. She's convinced her mother wouldn't want a ferret at their hotel, so she tells herself if she brings Shambles along, she can find him a good home with someone else. In the midst of her trip home, though, Shambles suddenly begins talking to her in a thick Scottish accent, and Ondine wonders if she's gone crazy. Shambles assures her she hasn't. He can talk because he used to be a Scottish laird named Hamish until he angered a witch. She put a spell on him that changed him into a ferret and has also preserved him, in a non-aging state, for scores of years. And thus begins the hilarious adventures of Ondine's "Summer of Shambles."

The structure of this book is quite original. The author has written it in a fairy-tale, omniscient voice with a witty, intrusive narrator who reminds me of a combination of the narrator in Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice and the voiceover narrator of the classic movie, A Christmas Story. Ondine is an appealing character, producing many very amusing moments as she is tugged in multiple directions by the demands of her various family members, but most of all by the antics of Shambles/Hamish. Ondine's quirky relatives are a big part of the fun, especially her mother, and the villain is very well suited to a fairy tale. But of all the great characters in this book, Shambles/Hamish steals the show. He is outrageously outspoken, and a hilarious mixture of man and ferret in his living habits. His eternal pursuit of sausage is one of the cutest plot devices for getting Shambles in trouble throughout the book, and his distinctive take on life expressed in a steady stream of Scottish colloquial expressions had me constantly chuckling. Finally, like all good romantic comedies, this book has a satisfying, upbeat ending.

Heroine: 5

Subcharacters: 5

Fantasy World-Building: 4

Writing: 5

Romantic-Comedy Plot: 5


Overall: 5