Review: Once a Witch

Once a Witchby Carolyn MacCullough

When Tamsin was born, her grandmother predicted that she would be one of the most powerful Talents in her family’s history, but Tamsin’s Talent never appeared.  Now Tamsin is the only “normal” person in her family, living under the shadow of her supremely Talented and beautiful older sister, Rowena.  When a man comes into her grandmother’s bookstore looking for special help finding a missing item and mistakes Tamsin for Rowena, Tamsin can’t help but pretend, just for a moment, that she is her Talented older sister.  Tamsin always intends to set the record straight but one thing leads to another and Tamsin finds herself embroiled in a mystery that has her in way over her head.  With the help of an old friend, Tamsin is determined to solve the mystery, but she may not be prepared for what she is about to find.

Reaction: This book was a pleasant surprise.  I really hesitated over the premise — Tamsin posing as her sister, which usually is a plot device that just creates way too much tension for me to handle — but I am very glad that I gave it a chance.  Tamsin posing as Rowena turned out to be a fairly small part of the story, the catalyst to get the ball rolling, but the real meat of the story is Tamsin learning about her family’s history and learning who she is and how she fits into the mix of Talented people from whom she’s always felt isolated.  The back story of Tamsin’s family and the family history along with the idea of Talents with a capital “T” added interest to what could have been just another witch story.  The ending has closure but leaves enough open for another book.  While I think it works as a standalone, I certainly wouldn’t mind more time developing the Tamsin/Gabriel relationship. :)

Review: The Splendor Falls

Splendor Fallsby Rosemary Clement-Moore

After a devastating leg injury ends her promising career as a principle ballerina and some poor choices at her mother’s wedding get her in hot water, Sylvie Davis’ life is in an upheaval.  While her mother and her mother’s new husband are away on an extended honeymoon, Sylvie is shipped off to spend part of her summer with her deceased father’s cousin, a woman she’s only met once–at her father’s funeral.  Her father’s cousin, Paula, is working on refurbishing Sylvie’s father’s family’s ancestral home in Alabama, and that is where Sylvie is going to stay.  Sylvie is hoping for a relaxing time full of reading, healing, and figuring out what she wants to do with her life now that her dream, her career, her passion has been taken away.  Instead, Sylvie gets a watchful cousin, warned by Sylvie’s psychologist stepfather that Sylvie is headed for danger, a house and town rich with a family history she never knew about and expectations linked to that history that she’s not sure she wants to live up to, a broody boy and a charming boy both vying for her attention, and visions of a watching colonel, a running woman, and a crying baby.  What is going on in this small Alabama community?  Is Sylvie going crazy or is what she’s seeing and feel for real?  And if it’s real, what does it mean?

Reaction: Overall, another solid story from RCM.  There were a lot of really well-done elements. I found Sylvie a very believable character.  Her struggle with her identity after her injury and her sanity as she started seeing things felt real.  I could understand her anger and her frustration over her situation even as those around her seemed to think she should be able to move on by now.  I also enjoyed how little Sylvie reminded me of Maggie Quinn, the protagonist of RCM’s other novels.  I think it is a sign of a good writer when her characters are distinctly different.  I also greatly enjoyed the setting.  It was well-drawn, atmospheric, and really added to the overall effect of the story.  Finally, one little thing but something that stood out to me, I appreciated Sylvie’s lackluster relationship with her cousin Paula.  I feel so often in other stories, teens find these immediate and amazing relationships with a previously unknown adult when they are thrust in new situations and I really appreciated the fact that Sylvie and Paula didn’t see eye to eye; it just felt more realistic to me.  There were a few things I didn’t like: 1. there were some inconsistencies (Sylvie being freaked by the lilac sent in her room one minute then thinking not long after that the scent was the only unexplained event that didn’t creep her out); 2. the length, it could have been shorter; and 3. the lack of time Rhys and Sylvie had to develop their feelings.  The complaints are minor in the end and do not keep me from recommending this title to those who like a bit of history and mystery with their ghosty, supernatural stories.

Also by RCM:

Book provided by my local library.

The Awakening

AwakeningThe Darkest Powers
by Kelley Armstrong

The Awakening is the second book in a trilogy.  If you haven’t read the first, The Summoning, then you definitely should.  Oh, and I wouldn’t read this review.  Spoilers galore for those who haven’t read the first.

After mistakenly trusting her Aunt Lauren, Chloe and Rae are taken to the Edison Group’s compound and locked away “for their own safety.”  Chloe is determined to breakout before the Edison Group and their leader, Dr. Davidoff, can do anything to her or Rae, but she is also determined to gather information while she is on the inside.  After a bit of sneaking around and with the help of a ghostly demi-demon, Chloe is able to find out the truth behind the importance of the teens sent to the Lyle House.  The truth is shocking, it leaves Chloe with a huge uncertainty about her and her friends’ futures, and confirms her worst fears, the Edison Group is not above killing teenagers, just like they did Liz and Brady before her.  More determined than ever, Chloe is desperate to escape and meet up with Simon and Derek.  But even if she gets out, where will she and the boys go?  Who will help?  How can they stop the Edison group?

Reaction: I have no idea how this is going to be wrapped up in only one more book (which, according to Kelley’s site, will be called The Reckoning).  It took me awhile to get my bearings since I read the first book a year ago.  Armstrong just throws you right back into the mix, pretty much as if the first book never ended.  Despite the fact that it took me a few chapters to re-orient myself, I really like this method.  No chapters of rehashing, just the story, and you’re back in the action.  Like with the first book, I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to give anything away.  I will say, there is a lot more Chloe and Derek time, which I loved.  They have a lot in common when it comes to their powers — both of them are developing more quickly than they should with pretty much no guidance as to how to control the powers.  I think this commonality will become important in the next book.  Plus, I just like Chloe and Derek together as a team.  I think they mesh very well.  I do see a problem in the future with a possible Derek-Chloe-Simon thing becoming an issue.  I guess we’ll see!  Overall, The Awakening was action-packed.  It is a fight for survival, not only against the Edison Group and the supernatural world but against the real world as well.  The group is constantly moving and constantly facing one kind of adversary or another.  I have no doubt that The Awakening will keep you turning the pages to see what is going to happen next because that is exactly what happened to me!

Other reviews: Check out what Kristi over at The Story Siren has to say about it.  I think she wrote a great review and she touched on things I didn’t think of.

For anyone who has read it already (and if not, SPOILERS AHEAD!):

What do you think of Andrew?  I don’t trust him.  Did you catch that “It’s so great to see you [Tori] and Simon together” thing he said?  What about Chloe and Derek?  I think he’s going to pose a threat to them.  I bet Simon and Derek’s dad didn’t join Andrew because Andrew wants to get rid of Derek, not because it was “too political” for him.  I feel bad because I want the group to have somewhere safe to hideout and have some adults on their side but I don’t believe that Andrew and his group is all he’s divulging them to be.  It’s driving me crazy.  I want to know now what’s going to happen.  I want to know what you think is going to happen!  Leave me a comment with what you think, just remember to mark it as a spoiler.