Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Clarity / Kim Harrington / 242 p

Clarity "Clare" Fern sees things no one else can see. All she has to do is touch a certain object, and the visions come to her. When a teenage girl is found murdered, Clare's ex-boyfriend wants her to help solve the case. Then Clare's brother becomes the prime suspect, and Clare can no longer look away. Teaming up with Gabriel, the smoldering son of the new detective, Clare must venture into the depths of fear, revenge, and lust in order to track the killer. But will her sight fail her just when she needs it most? (from Goodreads)

I liked this book from start to finish.  I mean, really, how can you not like a supernatural murder mystery?! (Maybe that's just me...)  Chapter One pulls you in immediately and you honestly can't put this one down until you've gotten to the end.

My honest-to-goodness favorite thing about this book was that I did not solve the mystery before the main character.  I'm sure that many readers will figure it out, but I'll readily admit that I was so into the story that I didn't see it coming! I was *completely* convinced the murdered was someone else and had a "NO WAY!" moment when it was revealed.  That's always a good feeling when you're reading a book--like you're learning right alongside the main character.

Now, Clarity, or Clare as she prefers, didn't necessarily pull me in as a character right away.  I'm not sure why but I didn't connect with her at the beginning.  As the story progressed, I did feel like I warmed up to her quite a bit.  I also really thought that the minor characters in this one were well done.  I felt like I knew each of them fairly well...with a lot of room for growth in #2!!   Also, on the character side of things, I actually liked the love triangle in this one because it wasn't the FOCUS.  It was there, it was minor, and it was a cute romance.

The Magnolia League / Katie Crouch / 368 p

After the death of her free-spirited mother, sixteen-year-old Alex Lee must leave her home in northern California to live with her wealthy grandmother in Savannah, Georgia. By birth, Alex is a rightful, if unwilling, member of the Magnolia League, Savannah's long-standing debutante society. She quickly discovers that the Magnolias have made a pact with a legendary hoodoo family, the Buzzards. The Magnolias enjoy youth, beauty and power. But at what price?

I haven't read too many books set in the South, but after reading The Magnolia League, I know I want to read more!  The ambiance that Crouch conveys through that setting is phenomenal.  I could almost feel the humid heat during the sweltering Georgia summer and reading the book made me want to speak with a Georgia drawl.  

At the beginning of the book, I really liked Alex.  She seemed like such a strong character with these unwavering beliefs that made her seem crazy to the new people in her life.  When the Magnolia girls start to get to her, I was a little disappointed at how quickly her started to cave to their beliefs and leave behind little parts of herself.  As soon as she lost her dreadlocks, it was like little pieces of her personality just flaked off here and there. That was a tad annoying to me, but the story itself kept me involved enough that I didn't put the book down at that point.

Things really do turn around though and at the end I was really gunning for Alex.  She seems to start to find her roots and realize what's really important...and the only way to get that back.  It doesn't end at all the way you think it's going to.  A last minute twist in the plot definitely leaves you hanging and begging for more.

Graveminder / Melissa Marr / 324 p.

Claysville made a deal...and the next generation must deal with its consequences...

Rebekkah Barrow never forgot the tender attention her grandmother, Maylene, bestowed upon the dead of Claysville, the town where Bek spent her adolescence. There wasn't a funeral that Maylene didn't attend, and at each Rebekkah watched as Maylene performed the same unusual ritual: three sips from a small silver flask followed by the words "Sleep well, and stay where I put you." Now Maylene is dead and Bek must go back to the place--and the man--she left a decade ago. But what she soon discovers is that Maylene was murdered and that there was good reason for her odd traditions. It turns out that in placid Claysville, the worlds of the living and the dead are dangerously connected. Beneath the town lies a shadowy, lawless land ruled by the enigmatic Charles, aka Mr. D--a place from which the dead will return if their graves are not properly minded. Only the Graveminder, a Barrow woman, and the current Undertaker, Byron, can set things to right once the dead begin to walk...

I think that Charlaine Harris hit the nail on the head when she said "No one builds worlds like Melissa Marr." (Quote on the front cover, in case you're curious) Marr really sucked me into this small town world with all its quirkiness and creepiness. If you liked the Wicked Lovely series for Marr's writing style and world building, then this book won't disappear. However, don't go looking for any fey here--this world if of a completely different nature. The magic is dark, hidden, and dangerous.

The story is told from the alternating POVs of multiple townspeople, both living and dead. Each one gives you just enough information to keep the story moving and clue you in just a little more. It also added an extra layer to the intrigue and depth to the characters. The protag, Rebekkah (or Bek), is a strong young woman who, while she wasn't born in Claysville, has always felt and resisted the pull of the town--until her grandmother dies and she is forced to return. Her evolution as a characters is the most profound as she goes from resisting to acceptance. She's never been one to tie herself down, whether to a place or a person, and it's very interesting to watch her emotional evolution as she begins to accept her place in Claysville and Byron's place in her life.

Between Here and Forever / Elizabeth Scott / 256 p

When Tess falls into a coma, Abby finds her life put on hold in her sister's absence.  Living in Tess's shadow is one thing...but it's unbearable now that she's in a coma. As Abby works through a plan to bring her sister back (involving the handsome love interest, Eli), she has to learn a lot of hard truths about who here sister really is.

Abby is a fairly typical self-deprecating younger sister living in the shadow of her "amazing" older sister.  Throughout the story, I honestly wanted to slap her more times than I can count and tell her to open her eyes.  Her insecurity is pounded into your head throughout the entire book, and honestly, it made me almost completely unable to get behind her as an main character.

Tess is, in Abby's mind, the girl who everyone likes and I have to admit that I felt like I got to know her more through the story that I did Abby.  As Abby learned about the Tess she didn't know, I did too and I really liked her.  She was a teenager dealing with a lot of emotional difficulties and tough choices.  I loved how Tess was unveiled slowly throughout the story.

Eli....oh Eli.  Eli was such a real, fabulous love interest and friend.  His character was beyond well-developed and I loved the dynamic that he brought to the story.  Again, I don't want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that Eli is awesome.  You will fall in love with him.

What this book does fantastically is bring in diversity and sexuality in such a seamless way that it doesn't come across as preachy or forced or any of the things that often happen when an author tries too hard to do those things.  I don't want to spoil anything so I'll leave it at that but be prepared for a well-rounded cast of characters.

Shine / Lauren Myracle / 376 p.

Shine is the story of a small-town with backwards thinking.  When a young boy is the victim of a hate-crime, his former best friend will stop at nothing to get to the truth and find out who hurt him. From the moment I read the opening newspaper article to when I read the final page, Lauren Myracle's Shine pulled me in. It was a truly spell-binding read--one that I put off for far to long. I know I won't be the first to say that some of Myracle's other popular novels don't hold a lot of appeal to me--not that they're not probably fantastic reads, just not my type. I guess it just goes to show Myracle's diversity as a writer because Shine was my "type" of book.

From the start, I felt completely sucked into the atmosphere the author creates. The bigotry was so indicative of the small-mindedness that is often engendered in that setting. I could connect so well to the characters that I felt stifled right along with them - stuck in a world where my ideas didn't fit in.

The main character, Cat, was incredibly relatedable in all her flaws. She's far from a perfect character, but I fell in love with her more and more every page. She became my best friend. I wanted to know on a personal level why she had separated herself from all her friends. I wanted to understand and I wanted to be there for her as she worked through years of pain and separation. When the description calls this a coming-of-age story, it's spot on. Watching Cat essentially grow up in the span of just over a week is harrowing and beautiful all at the same time--watching her open back up to people in her life and even the possibility of a new friend/love.

All the characters in this novel were really well-done. They were so dynamic and did things that you didn't expect. It was truly refreshing. It made every turn of the page a new adventure because the characters could turn out to be or do something different than you expected at every turn.

The mystery is, of course, the plot focus, but I really felt that the atmosphere and character were the driving force. They created the mystery and moved it along and created the twists that made the story unpredictable and kept me turning page after page.