Saturday, March 24, 2012

WEM VII: Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep and Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt

It's the week-end! It's the week-end! Just too bad that the temperature has started dropping. Although, I'm kind of happy... because now, it feels more like spring instead of summer LOL.

I haven't talked about it, but this week was the World Women Curling Championship and I've been following it religiously :) The teams either did great or not in the round robin and some teams I was expecting to see as the top 4 didn't make it like Scotland and China. The big, big surprise this week was Korea!! Wow, they won 8 games and lost 3... Their previous best record was the opposite, 3 wins and 8 losses and that was 2 years ago! Such improvement! So I'll definitively be rooting for the underdog. The funniest thing about Korea is that they came to Canada to train a couple of month and guess how they learn strategy? By watching TSN! TSN is our national sport channel on which I watch curling all the time because it's so popular in Canada. The commentators are very good and knowledgeable. They will talk about all the options available, what is the best call in their opinion, what should have been done for the perfect shot (brush more, brush less), etc. I just find it fun that Korea could improve so much by watching it LOL. Oh and USA was pretty amazing this week. They lost 4 straight games and everyone thought they were out... and had 7 consecutive wins! That meant there was a tie-breaker with Canada. Just too bad they had one bad end, so Canada ended up winning it. The top 4 teams are Sweden, Switzerland, Korea and Canada. Sweden is already sure of winning either gold or silver and it was a great match between Sweden and Switzerland. I hope this week-end's curling will be as good as last night :)

All right, back to books :) Since I've been pretty much up-to-date with my reviews this month, I thought I'd take the opportunity the books that slipped through the cracks last year :) And I decided to go by genre, which was YA last week. The whole week, Kiss of Frost was leading... and at the last minute, someone sneaked in a vote and we got a tie with Sean Griswold's Head! So here we go :)

Oh and for next WEM feature, the genre is historical :) As usual, the poll is on the sidebar :)

Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep
published by Kensington in November 2011
I’m Gwen Frost, a second-year warrior-in-training at Mythos Acad­emy, and I have no idea how I’m going to sur­vive the rest of the semes­ter. One day, I’m get­ting schooled in sword­play by the guy who broke my heart—the drop-dead gor­geous Logan who slays me every time. Then, an invis­i­ble archer in the Library of Antiq­ui­ties decides to use me for tar­get prac­tice. And now, I find out that some­one at the acad­emy is really a Reaper bad guy who wants me dead. I’m afraid if I don’t learn how to live by the sword—with Logan’s help—I just might die by the sword...
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Series: Mythos Academy, Book #2

What do you need to know? The story actually takes place away from the Academy. The students are headed to a ski resort for the Winter Carnival. Otherwise, Gwen has been training with the Spartan boys. She still has a crush on Logan, but he's with someone else. So when she meets a cute guy at the ski resort from another Academy, she decides, why not? Also, Gwen has the feelings someone has been following her and perhaps there's been a few attempts on her life, but doesn't really speak up ^_^;

Why this book? In the past couple of years, I've become a big fan of Ms Estep. First with her Elemental Assassin series and now, the Mythos Academy series. I enjoyed Touch of Frost and thought the series had potential... so it was simply a matter of time for me to pick up Kiss of Frost. Plus, great cover!

My thoughts? Truthfully, I was a bit disappointed with Kiss of Frost ^_^; I thought Touch of Frost was a great beginning to the series and I thought Ms Estep would use this opportunity to ride the momentum. Instead, she seemed to have "halted" with Kiss of Frost, almost like a breather. It was bogged down by too many descriptions, internal dialogues and Ms Estep's Archilles heel, recaps. It's nice to provide information to new readers, but at the end of the day, this book is part of the series and therefore the author should expect that readers have read the previous books.

I did like that Ms Estep changed the setting for Kiss of Frost and that most of the story took place at the ski resort. I have to say, I wished there's been more action in this one, but what was there was good. As for the storyline, it wasn't great, but wasn't bad either. The idea was good, but I thought the identity of the villain was too predictable and I didn't like how it connected with Gwen's mother's death. Too coincidental and too obvious. I think for this series to be a success, it needs to be more subtle and intricate. The way it is now, you know that every new information or element is important and will come into play later on.

Something else that I liked about Kiss of Frost is that Gwen finally seems to be coming out of her cocoon and making friends. She's not universally loved, but at least, she has people that she can count on :) Aside from Daphne, I think Oliver will become someone she can confide in. While it's improving on the friendship front, there was little progress on the love front. It annoyed me that Gwen was mooning so much over Logan ^_^; I like Logan and I can see how someone would have a crush on him... but to say that he broke Gwen's heart is going too far as well as the way Gwen is hanging up on him. Yes, they could have started something but Logan backed out at the last minute. Both Gwen and Logan's attitudes towards each other is simply frustrating. Either you get together or you move on... However, as it is, one minute they care, one minute they don't: it's just so contradictory.

Luckily, what saved the day for me was the overall story about Gwen's family being Gypsies. It clears up some questions I had and kept things interesting :) And because of it, I think the series still has a lot of potential.

My Grade? C+Kiss of Frost felt very much like a transitional book to me. However, the end sets up well for the next book. I'm definitively going to read the next and hope it's a winner :)

Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt
published by Bloomsbury USA Children's Books in March 2011

According to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object-an item to concentrate her emotions on. It's supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold's head. They've been linked since third grade (Griswold-Gritas-it's an alphabetical order thing), but she's never really known him.

The focus object is intended to help Payton deal with her father's newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis. And it's working. With the help of her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton starts stalking-er, focusing on-Sean Griswold... all of him! He's cute, he shares her Seinfeld obsession (nobody else gets it!) and he may have a secret or two of his own.

In this sweet story of first love, Lindsey Leavitt seamlessly balances heartfelt family moments, spot-on sarcastic humor, and a budding young romance.
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Series: None

What do you need to know? Payton is very close to her father, therefore finding out that he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) is a shock. While not life-threatening, the disease is debilitating on a long-term basis and obviously, life-changing. Payton is scared, but also hurt that her parents did not tell her and she was last to learn about it.

Payton decides to listen to her guidance counselor who suggested to focus on an object and write about it to help her go through this rough period. And she chooses the object that she has been seeing most since third grade: Sean Griswold's head. Well it starts out with the head, but quickly expands to the rest of him. Payton realizes that while she's been sitting behind him for years, she barely knows the boy. What are his likes and dislikes, his interests? As Payton starts getting to know Sean better, she finds she enjoys his company and likes his personality... But Sean's migraines are troubling her and she fears they are not simple headaches...

Why this book? This book first came to my attention on Rowena's The Book Scoop blog :) There was the cover which I found absolutely cute, but also the fact that this book dealt with the acceptance of MS. During my undergrad, I worked at the MS clinic, so I'm familiar about the disease. Also, I thought I'd enjoy this book since it's about Payton's acceptance of her father's disease instead of high school drama.

My thoughts? I'm really glad I read Sean Griswold's Head, because I enjoyed it a lot. It was also as I expected: the book was focused on Payton's acceptance of her father's disease and not centered on high school drama. I find that Ms Leavitt did a great job because the story was very realistic, what Payton and her family were going through felt really real and so did their feelings. In addition, the author did a great job at balancing the serious aspect with the silly, fluffy side of the story :) While the topic is serious and hard at times, the tone wasn't dark or heavy. Instead, it was easy to read and that made it a good read for me :)

All in all, I really liked this book. Payton was a good heroine, although a bit self-centered. I don't mean it in a bad way though. It's just a side-effect of being a teenager :) Payton is hurt and scared and as a result, she's angry at her parents. And while she was angry, she didn't stop to think about how her parents felt... Especially her father who is the one sick. I thought the reaction was very normal, very real... Not just from Payton's side, but also her father. I really liked his explanation for not telling Payton sooner. He himself needed time to accept the disease... by telling Payton, it became too real. I also liked that overall, Payton had a good relationship with her parents and her family was normal.

I also liked Sean very much. He was such a great guy in my opinion. I wished we could have read his POV or seen more of him. I liked how Payton started getting to know him better. First, it was a bit stalker-ish, but then, she started talking to him and made a new friend, found a new interest - biking... Seeing her develop feelings for Sean and her feelings being reciprocated, that was definitively the cute part of the book :) Especially when it started from such a silly idea LOL.

My only complaint is the author's need to add conflicts to a story that already had one. First, there was the fight between Payton and Jac, her best friend. I thought it was superfluous and especially, the way it was done ^_^; Then, there was Payton pushing Sean away because of his migraines. I understand that Payton doesn't want to care for someone who might be sick... She's dealing with her father's illness and so, is scared she could lose Sean. So instead of standing by his side, she pushes him away. I really didn't like that part because I think it spoke poorly of Payton ^_^; As it turned out, Payton's reaction was very premature and lucky for her, Sean forgave her... But what about the future? If something does really happen to him, will Payton rabbit again or will she be strong? Obviously, the relationship was pretty new and as it deepens, things will change... but it left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Finally, with these two conflicts, it meant Payton was pretty much on her own in the last quarter of the book... and it took out steam from the book. It just wasn't as interesting and engaging and I thought it was unfortunate since the first 3/4 was so strong :(

My Grade? B. Despite a couple of issues, I really liked Sean Griswold's Head and will definitively read more books by this author :)