Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Book Review: Haunted (Mediator #5) by Meg Cabot

Haunted Cover Review of abridged audiobook

Haunted (Mediator #5) by Meg Cabot

Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: May 27, 2003
Publisher: Imagination Studio; Abridged edition
Source: Purchase
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

I rate the actual book, Haunted, at 5 stars. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the abridged audiobook, which I rate at only 2 stars.

This is book 5 in the Mediator series, starring Susannah (Suze) Simon, a 16-year-old, high-school girl who encourages (and sometimes forces) recalcitrant ghosts to move on to the afterlife and stop bothering the living. Suze's powers include the ability to not only see ghosts but touch them. Which is a blessing when she can be hugged, and once or twice kissed, by the gorgeous ghost Jesse, who died in 1850 and haunts her bedroom in a restored, historic house in Carmel, California. Being touched by ghosts is not so great when they beat her up, hold a knife to her throat, or throw her off the roof of her home.

In this book, Cabot introduces a romantic triangle, when 17-year-old Paul Slater, who is also a mediator, and whom Suze met in Darkest Hour (The Mediator #4), enrolls in Suze's school. Paul is almost as gorgeous as Jesse, and he has the further advantage of being alive and intensely interested in becoming romantically involved with Suze--which Jesse seems sadly reluctant to do. The problem is, Paul is an amoral jerk who blackmails Suze into spending time with him based on the threat of exiling Jesse to the spiritual realms where Suze will never see him again.

As is the case in the previous four books of this series, Cabot has written an enthralling, action-filled, paranormal mystery novel with strong romantic subplots. Suze is a very strong, active, sympathetic heroine, and there is a great deal of humor based in Suze's self-deprecating, dry wit and her toe-to-toe repartee with multiple other characters, most especially her clueless stepbrothers, whom she dubs Dopey and Sleepy. The paranormal elements are well done, and Jesse is a wonderful love interest. Paul is a multi-layered antagonist who is both sexy and obnoxious, a fascinating combination.

Sadly, unlike the audio recordings of the other five books in this series, for some unfathomable reason, this one has been abridged. I do *not* recommend experiencing this book in this manner. The abridging makes the reader lose out on many important plot details. In addition, this is a different narrator than the one employed for the other five books, and she completely misinterprets Jesse, making his tone seductive when talking to Suze, which is never the case for gentlemanly Jesse, who is very protective of Suze's virtue. It's as if the narrator got Jesse confused with Paul.

Overall rating:
Meg Cabot's original book (which is butchered in this abridged edition): 5 stars
Audiobook abridging: 1 star
Audiobook narration: 2 stars

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Book Review: Heist Society by Ally Carter

Heist Society Cover A caper adventure for teens

Heist Society by Ally Carter

Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: February 9, 2010
Pages: 304 pages
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Source: Library
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Katarina Bishop belongs to a close-knit extended family whose members have been international art thieves for generations. Her mother brought her father into the business when she married him, and Kat's dad developed a brilliant flare for art theft. Kat, too, has the family gift in spades--she has been trained by her parents since she was three years old to participate in heists, doing them with both her parents until her mother's death a few years ago, and after that in conjunction with her father and other family members.

When Kat was 13 years old, she met 14-year-old W.W. Hale the fifth when he interrupted her while she was attempting to steal his grandmother's Monet in his family's enormous mansion. Much like's Kat's father's romance with her mother, Hale's instant attraction to Kat, and his willingness to, quite literally, follow her to the ends of the earth, pulled Hale into Kat's family business. Over the previous two years, Hale has become nearly as adept at art theft as Kat, but during the past few months, though Hale has remained an art thief, Kat has attempted to retire for her own survival.

She has decided that if she does not imprison herself willingly in a boarding school, sooner or later she will inevitably become an unwillingly inhabitant of an actual prison. Fabricating the records required to get herself accepted into the school was to have been her final con. Unfortunately, Hale's means of informing her that her father is in big trouble, which only Kat can rescue him from, is to pull off an outrageous prank that gets her expelled, leaving her no recourse but to abandon her boarding-school plan.

I am not normally a fan of stories about thieves, no matter how charming, unless they are trying to go straight (To Catch A Thief and The Town), stealing back something that is theirs (How to Steal a Million), trying to right a wrong by stopping a heist (Die Hard), or stealing back something that has been stolen by others and returning it to the rightful owners (the upcoming 2013-release movie, The Monuments Men, written, directed and starred in by George Clooney).

This book falls into one of those categories, but it would be a spoiler to say which one, because we don't know that information until the very end of the book.

It is a tribute to the amazing writing of Ally Carter that she pulled me into this story without my knowing for sure that it portrays a laudable type of heist. I did, however, suspect that might be the case because, as a rule, YA novels tend to avoid protagonists who are unrepentant criminals.

Kat Bishop is an ideal heroine. She is smart, talented, loyal to those she loves--and unwilling, no matter how much the odds are stacked against her, to give up when the going gets rough.

The subcharacters in this book are outstanding, too, especially Hale. He is a terrific romantic interest, though the romance is, sadly for those of us who enjoy romance as the A-Plot of a teen novel, only a relatively minor focus of the plot. The main emphasis is on a presumably impossible heist that Kat has to pull off within a very tight time limit in order to save her father's life.

Parental guidance: Other than the dubious morality of Kat's relations as thieves, there is no sex, no drinking or drugs, no swearing, and no overt violence.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 5

Subcharacters: 5

Heist Plot: 5

Romantic subplot: 4

Writing: 5

Overall: 5

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Book Review: Awkward (Smith High #1) by Marni Bates

Awkward Cover Wonderful young-adult chick lit with a terrific romantic subplot

Awkward (Smith High #1) by Marni Bates

Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: December 27, 2011
Pages: 300 pages
Publisher: Kensington Books
Source: Library
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Seventeen-year-old Mackenzie Wellesley is an excellent student, but she's unfortunately both socially and physically awkward. Her clumsiness has become a way of life for her during the past ten years, ever since she tripped at a ballet recital, yanked down a curtain, and exposed her father's kissing her dancing instructor. Mack has blamed herself for the resulting divorce, and has been estranged from her father ever since, because he remarried, moved out of state and essentially abandoned poor Mack. As a result, she has been distrustful of the entire male sex, other than her kind and light-hearted, gay best friend Corey, and she has never dated. In addition, Mack has purposely chosen to remain socially invisible, existing on the outskirts of the various social groups at her high school. Her only relationship other than Corey is her other best friend, Jane, a fellow, studious, introverted geek, until the day that Mack accidentally knocks down a huge football player with her backpack. While he is lying, stunned, on the ground, Mack assumes his life is in danger, and unknown to her, a fellow student records her hysterical and wildly funny attempt at administering CPR on the fallen jock. When the video is posted on YouTube, Mack becomes an overnight sensation, originally due to being a laughingstock, but soon after because a famous boy band cuts clips of the infamous CPR video into their own music video of one of their most popular songs. This new mashup video receives millions of hits, and paparazzi begin stalking Mack everywhere she goes.

This is a humorous and endearing chick lit novel. Mack is an extremely sympathetic heroine, and her overwhelmed but witty reactions to the events surrounding her YouTube fame are enormously entertaining. I love her existing best friends Corey and Jane, as well as the new friends Mack makes after she is catapulted from obscurity to a national limelight.

I was also delighted with the terrific romance subplot. Mack's love interest, Logan, is a great guy, and the repartee between him and Mack is my favorite part of the book. Amidst all the other craziness befalling poor Mack, there isn't as much on-stage time with Logan as I would personally have liked, because he is one of the best YA male love interests I've read this year--not just a handsome face but compassionate, responsible and very smart.

I'm looking forward to reading more books by this talented author. Mack's friend Jane has her own novel in the sequel, Invisible.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 5

Subcharacters: 5

Chick-Lit Plot: 5

Romantic Subplot with Logan: 5

Writing: 5

Overall: 5