Apr 26, 2011

Review: City of Stars by Mary Hoffman

Title: City of Stars (Stravaganza, #2)
Author: Mary Hoffman
Publication Year: 2003
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Links: Goodreads | Amazon (Paperback)Amazon (Kindle)

Georgia would love nothing more than to ride horses every day and avoid her annoying stepbrother at all costs. But she could never have guessed that a tiny, antique winged horse figurine would be the key to her escape to another world and another time. When Georgia arrives in a 16th-century city called Remora, she is plunged into a dangerous and treacherous world of horse-racing, family honour and deadly rivalry. And there, as a new Stravagante, Georgia will have a dramatic and extraordinary role to play.

My two cents: This review is certainly long overdue. In this second instalment of 'Stravaganza' series, a new city and a new Stravagante are introduced. The new Stravagante, Georgia, a girl from Lucien's past, lives with her mother, stepfather and stepbrother (who would go extra-length to annoy her) and is fond of anything horses. After saving up for and purchasing a statue of a winged-horse she spotted in an antique shop, she fell asleep holding it. Upon waking up, she found herself in a stable in Remora, Talia, the equivalent of Sienna, Italy. Divided into twelve sections, each section of the city is related to a sign of zodiac and everyone in the city was buzzing with excitement for the Stellata, a horse race similar but different to the Palio, the horse race held annually in Sienna. In the stable of Twelfth of the Ram, she saw a living winged horse, the first to be born in Remora in over a century.

Georgia was reunited with Lucien (now Luciano) and had a hard time accepting the growing relationship between Luciano and the Duchessa of Belleza as she once had a crush on him. She also met other Stravaganti including the owner of Twelfth of the Ram stable where she stravagates and she befriended crippled Falco, the youngest son of Duke Niccolo of the Di Chimici's family.

This book maintains the political intrigue surrounding the Di Chimici's family and Talia's city states (in particular, Belleza). This time, the political war between the city states is apparent in the form of the Stellata. There was much lobbying and there were some who believed that the Stellata is rigged every year so that one of the city states under the direct influence of the Di Chimici would win the race. Also, a little more is revealed about the act of stravagazing. It seems that the talisman would find its way to someone who is not happy in our world. Lucien was suffering from brain cancer and Georgia is constantly being bullied by her stepbrother. Often Stravaganti find their way to Talia in times when one of the city states of Talia needs their help.

It was a bit hard getting into the story at first since I just couldn't picture how the city is divided into twelve parts despite the wonderful description by the author. Add to it, all the rivalries and alliances among the twelve parts. Each Twelfth owes allegiance to another city states of Talia though they are located in Remora. This is quite confusing and often I lost track of who are the allies and who are the rivals of each Twelfth. But, as the story progressed, things did become clearer.

Of all the characters, including those newly introduced, I found Falco very moving. The relationship between him and his brother, Gaetano reminds me of those moving stories we often heard about siblings making sacrifices for each other. The decision taken by Falco, though, have consequences on more people than just himself and not just on the lives of those from Talia.

It is easy to see the parallel between what happened to Lucien in the first book and the adventures gone through by Georgia in this one, though their adventures are different in nature. All in all, a great sequel to its first instalment.

My verdict: 4/5

Apr 3, 2011

In My Mailbox #2

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted at The Story Siren every Sunday. The aim is to share the new stuff we got for the week with other participants of the meme. Books don't have to literally come in our mailbox. The idea is just to share what's new on our book stacks.

This is how my mailbox looks like this week:

Title: Keep Me in Your Heart: Three Novels
Author: Lurlene McDaniel
Publication Year: 2010
Genre: Young Adult

Three of Lurlene McDaniel's bestselling novels in one volume. Readers will relate to the compassion and strength of the characters as they piece their lives back together after tragedy strikes.

Saving Jessica: Jessica McMillan and Jeremy Travino are a perfect couple. When they met in high school, Jessica's upbeat spirit helped Jeremy to see that there must be a reason he was spared in the car accident that killed his brother. But now Jessica has been diagnosed with kidney failure. Her only hope is a kidney transplant but no one in her family is a match. Jeremy believes that his life was spared so he could save Jessica by donating a kidney. Will Jeremy go against his parents' wishes to do what he must to save Jessica?

Telling Christina Goodbye: Trisha Thompson and her best friend, Christina, are having a great senior year. The girls love to double-date -- which would be perfect if only Trisha got along with Christina's boyfriend, Tucker. Their lives are forever changed when one night Tucker drives them all home from a basketball game. He hits black ice and the car overturns. The aftermath is devastating. Can those who are left behind learn to heal and find the courage to move on?

Letting Go of Lisa: Nathan Malone has always been home-schooled, so he hasn't spent much time with kids his own age. Then circumstances change. On the first day of senior year at a local school, he notices Lisa. Lisa is a loner, but she is attracted to Nathan. Nathan is the happiest he's ever been. But Lisa has a tragic secret and when she decides to deal with it herself, Nathan has to make a choice. Can he ever let go of Lisa?

Now three novels in an edition, isn't that just great? I'm on the second novel.

And I also got myself this:

Title: City of Flowers (Stravaganza, #3)
Author: Mary Hoffman
Publication Year: 2005
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy

Everything changes for Sky when he finds a perfume bottle that whisks him away to the city of Giglia, an ancient city similar to Florence. This may be the beautiful City of Flowers, but things that seem beautiful might also be deadly. As a new Stravagante - someone who can travel through time and space with the help of a talisman - Sky finds himself caught in a deadly feud between Giglia's two ruling families. Now, the Stravaganti must do all they can to avoid further bloodshed as politics, conspiracy and espionage unfold.

What have you got in your mailbox?

Apr 2, 2011

Review: Sleeping Arrangements by Madeleine Wickham

Title: Sleeping Arrangements
Author: Madeleine Wickham
Publication Year: 2001
Genre: Chick lit
Links: Goodreads | Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle)

Chloe needs a holiday. She's sick of making wedding dresses, her partner, Philip, has troubles at work, and the whole family wants a break. Her wealthy friend Gerard has offered the loan of his luxury villa in Spain. Perfect.

Hugh is not a happy man. His immaculate wife, Amanda, seems more interested in her new kitchen than him, and he works so hard to pay for it, he barely has time for his children. Maybe he'll have the chance to bond with them on holiday. His old friend Gerard has lent them a luxury villa in Spain. Perfect.

When both families arrive at the villa, they realize the awful truth: Gerard has double-booked them for the same week. What no one else realizes is that Chloe and Hugh have a history, and it seems Gerard's accidental double-booking may not have been accidental after all.

My two cents: Okay, in short I wasn't really impressed with the book. It's okay but I don't love it. It's definitely not one of those books which stay with me long after I'm done reading.

I think I'm going to make this one short and straight to the points. To be honest, I picked this one up as the synopsis mentioned it took place in Spain and I'm intrigued with anything Spain/Spanish-related. However, there's not enough touch of Spain. Of course, there were a few Spanish words and sceneries thrown in...but that's about it. But, where they were thrown in, each scenery is well explained and I could almost picture it in my head. I guess that is why I was left wanting more. And of course, the book is about two families sharing a villa. I guess I shouldn't expect it to turn out like a Lonely Planet guide on Spain.

The book might have one major plot but it splits into many sub-plots. There's the story of Sam and the nanny, Jenna. Also of Philip and his job, of Hugh and his families etc. The characters are likable and funny especially the kids. And I love Philip to bits. I however really dislike Chloe and Hugh, Hugh especially. At times, both seem so selfish and think of no one but themselves. But Chloe at least, has lil' more sense than Hugh does. I particularly hate they way they handled one particular situation. Now, I find it a bit odd that Philip and Chloe are not married. I mean, they have been together for 13 years or so. But, whether you're married or not, once you've committed yourself to your partner, I'm all about being faithful. Also, I can't help feeling like there's too many coincidences. And it somehow feels so unrealistic at times. The ending too seems a bit rushed. I'd like it if it's more detailed.

All in all, the book is okay. It's not something I'd be shouting at the top of my voice to get people to read. However, if you're looking for a book to read on your long holiday and have nothing better to do, then by all means pick it up.

My verdict: 3/5
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...