Calaena Sardothien has spent a year in the salt mines at Endovier in the harshest of conditions. As the most renowned...moreReview Published August 6, 2012.
Calaena Sardothien has spent a year in the salt mines at Endovier in the harshest of conditions. As the most renowned assassin in Ardalan, Calaena is plucked from the mines and offered a chance at freedom. She must compete against thieves and assassins across the kingdom for the opportunity to be the royal assassin. After she has served 4 years, she will have her freedom.
It is no secret that I have a soft spot for thieves and assassins. Especially when they are girls that exceed expectations. With all the elements of books that I have loved, I thought that this one was a sure winner.
However, I found myself confused and slightly disappointed by Calaena. In the first few chapters I was charmed by her wit and unwavering courage. I was baffled at her frequent mentions of how much she enjoyed clothes and shopping, but that this facet of her personality didn't seem to be consistent with the rest of her. She also seemed remarkably tame for an assassin and easily trusted those around her even after a year in the mines.Though there was a lot of talk of windpipe crushing and head bashing, there was very little of the blood and gore that I expected.
Calaena's inconsistencies continued with her relationship with Prince Dorian and her trainer Chaol Westfall. There is some reference to Calaena's distaste for Dorian's family, though it isn't fully explained. Perhaps a little more introspection into Calaena's past and her connection with the royal family would have helped me really get what her motivations were.
There were so many great things going on with the story, but I kept getting pulled out by Calaena's inconsistencies. Try as I might, I just could not nail her down. In the end, I saw it through because I saw great promise in the supporting characters (particularly Princess Nehemia and Chaol) and the overall story.
Despite my disappointment, there is still a chance that I may pick up the sequel next year. If only to see how the villainy of the King pans out. (less)
It has been several generations since the human race was changed forever through a disastrous genetic ex...moreReview posted July 18 at Emily's Reading Room.
It has been several generations since the human race was changed forever through a disastrous genetic experiment that caused the Reduction. The Luddites, who despise innovation and technology, keep the Reduced on their estates as slaves.
Elliot North is the youngest daughter of the North estate. As a Luddite, she is born to social privilege. But, even so, the estate is near financial ruin. The Luddite's control is slipping as a new generation of children that are innovative and bright are born to the Reduced. Elliot's childhood friend, Kai, is one of these children. When Elliot does not run away with Kai to the Post enclave, she hears nothing from him for four years. And when he re-enters her life, it is obvious that much has changed.
My excitement for this book has been slowly building for months. I have not read Persuasion, the Jane Austen novel that inspired For Darkness Shows the Stars, but am a fan of Austen's other works. My anticipation was further built by the raving reviews that were popping up in my google reader and goodreads page.
I could not imagine a more satisfying story. I was up late into the night on a Friday, and spent a good portion of the day Saturday devouring every single page. Combining the elements of a world torn apart by a disaster that decimated so much of the human race, with the classic story that Austen created, it was a match made in heaven for me. Though the story is not heavy on the elements surrounding the genetic experiment that lead to the ruin of humanity, there is enough to make me suspend disbelief to fill in the holes. And I have to admit that as the daughter of a botanist that works with genetically modified plants, I was very much cheering Elliot on. In fact, through the novel I was firmly in Elliot's court and never wavered in my support of everything that she did, even though at times her reasoning was flawed.
In regards to Kai, I have to say that his coldness to Elliot at times took my breath away. I think that this was very cleverly offset by the letters they secretly wrote to each other as children that were interspersed throughout the novel. It is obvious that both Elliot and Kai were hurt deeply by Kai's departure. And with each cutting remark, I was heartbroken for Elliot. I wanted to protect her and just shake Kai. And yet, I wanted Kai to understand and overcome his disappointment and grief, and just work it out!
This book was everything I hoped it would be and so much more. The eventual romance is one of the best that I've ever read and ranks right up there with my favorites. I'll happily admit to having a lump form in my throat several times, and even shedding a few tears at the end. A re-read of this story will definitely be in order very soon. If you haven't read For Darkness Shows the Stars, believe me when I tell you that it deserves to be next on your reading list.(less)
After completing her time at the Princess Academy and even setting up a school for the children...moreReview posted at Emily's Reading Room on August 6, 2012
After completing her time at the Princess Academy and even setting up a school for the children at Mount Eskel, Miri is given the opportunity to attend school off the mountain at the Queen's Castle in Asland. Miri is delighted to be with her friend Britta again, but soon learns that there is serious unrest in the kingdom. Between being faced with the big city, new friends, and challenging new ideas, Miri's loyalties are torn.
Oh yeah, and Peder is there.
Though I trust Shannon Hale implicitly to tell a good story, I was very.... curious to see how she would continue Miri's story when I felt like Princess Academy wrapped up so well. And it went in a direction that I absolutely was not expecting. And I mean that in the best possible way.
For some reason, I read the acknowledgements first. And I immediately knew that this book was going to be something special. Hale mentions that a portion of the proceeds of the book will go to LDS Humanitarian Services to help those who can't meet their most basic needs.
And on that note, I began the book. And I was bowled over by the most expert way that Hale handles complex situations like revolution, poverty, loyalty, and love. I've often felt that the best children's writers are able to take a sensitive issue and pose it in a way that is both thoughtful and respectful. There are so many ways that this book could have become preachy or false. But, it was handled so beautifully that I really think that I loved Palace of Stone more than Princess Academy. Which I didn't think was possible.
Miri is a strong girl. She has a strong, sound mind. Though goodness knows I love a girl that kicks butt ala Katniss, I really loved that Miri is most definitely not violent. But she is equally as strong. She comes off her mountain and out of her comfort zone. And she is stretched and tested in many ways. She doesn't always make the best decisions, but she does a darn good job of using her head and trying her best to help in a situation that is most definitely not black and white.
In regards to Miri and Peder. Peder comes with Miri in order to work as an apprentice to a stone carver in Asland. While Miri immerses herself in her studies, Peder works with equal fervor in his job. In fact, Peder becomes so entrenched (and exhausted!) by his work, Miri starts to wonder if he really does care for her. Which allows the sneaky addition of another character that opens Miri to questions about where she really does belong.
If you enjoyed Princess Academy, you are going to ADORE Palace of Stone. But, if you haven't read Princess Academy yet, you'll definitely want to get on that.(less)
I got 124 pages in before I just couldn't take it anymore. The premise was interesting, but I couldn't suspend my disbelief enough to really get into...moreI got 124 pages in before I just couldn't take it anymore. The premise was interesting, but I couldn't suspend my disbelief enough to really get into the story. It's also told from 3 perspectives which is confusing, and each one of the characters is their own shade of ridiculous. Such a disappointment. I was really looking forward to this one.(less)
I got 100 pages in and decided it wasn't worth finishing. Not horrible, just wasn't grabbing my attention and I had other books that were calling to m...moreI got 100 pages in and decided it wasn't worth finishing. Not horrible, just wasn't grabbing my attention and I had other books that were calling to me.(less)
Ever since Tom Raines' dad's luck ran out, they've been drifting from casino to casino. Tom earns money where he can by...moreReview Published July 10, 2012.
Ever since Tom Raines' dad's luck ran out, they've been drifting from casino to casino. Tom earns money where he can by winning at the VR games. His mom has been long gone, the girlfriend of an executive in a multi-national corporation. And that's when things change. Tom is offered a spot at the Pentagonal Spire, an elite military academy that trains the best to fight in World War Three. Though the promise of a constant home and meals is tempting at first, Tom discovers that he may be giving up more than he bargained for.
The best way that I can describe this book is an interesting mix of Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. It's definitely science fiction and is heavy on the computer and technology references. Which, is outstanding.
I was pretty immediately captivated by the idea of a war being fought in interplanetary space, but without the loss of human lives. Each side is fighting for control of resources out in space, and recruits children to fight using VR (virtual reality) machines. When Tom is recruited to join the academy, he undergoes a medical procedure to have a chip implanted in his head. He, and the other recruits, download their homework and have it processed into their brain through the help of the chip. It allows them to learn several different language and almost instantly understand math and science. But, it also makes their brains and their bodies vulnerable to cyber attacks and external control.
While I was definitely hooked on the concept, and even most of the plot, I found myself not sold on the characters. I think this is where the book definitely diverged from the likes of Ender's Game for me. Tom was a character I wanted to sympathize with, but one I definitely wanted to keep at arm's length. I'm not sure if it's the fact that he's a male narrator (I haven't really had trouble with that in the past, but it's possible), or exactly what it was. But, whatever it was, it caused the book to drag a little in parts when I felt like the plot needed to move on just a little bit. And there was a part at the very end (of which I won't disclose because it's a total spoiler), that made me completely detach myself from Tom. But, don't despair too much, Tom's friends at The Pentagonal Academy are well worth the read.
Fans of techno sci-fi thrillers are going to eat this book up. It's chock full of great technology, war (in a virtual realm), and twisted loyalties and politics. Give this to your gamer friend that claims they don't read. Maybe they'll change their mind. Oh, and the movie rights have already been sold to FOX. (less)
Pia has lived her life in a secret compound deep within the Amazon rainforest. She has never vent...morereview posted on Emily's Reading Room August 28, 2012
Pia has lived her life in a secret compound deep within the Amazon rainforest. She has never ventured outside the electric fence that keeps her protected from the dangers of the jungle outside. She is the culmination of decades of work that has resulted in an immortal being. Her skin is tough as steel, and her intellect is sharp. In a word, perfection. When she discovers a hole in the fence and ventures outside, she is faced with the reality of what the outside is really like, and also the dangers that lie within the fence.
The first 15 pages or so of this book are phenomenal. I was definitely drawn into the action and excited about where the story would take me. Ultimately though, the fabulous premise boiled down to a vehicle for a insta-love romance.
About the time of the first meeting between Pia and Eio, I started to slip off the hook. Their initial meeting was awkward, with very clunky and juvenile dialogue that didn't seem to fit two teens talking together (both around 17 years old). Instead, it felt like much younger children meeting together and talking. Their relationship, of course, gets off to a fast start, with only a few short meetings being enough to completely throw off Pia's determination to become a member of the head team researching Immortis. Pia displays some moments of curiosity, but it seemed implausible that someone as intelligent and scientific as herself wouldn't question more of the world that surrounds her. She takes an awful lot for granted about her existence which just isn't consistent with the way scientists operate.
But, my major gripe with this novel is the age-old battle between scientists and natives. The scientists are cold and calculating, bent only on results and crafting an immortal race. They will do anything to preserve the project. The natives are peaceful people who only want to live in their village unharmed by the scientists that live nearby. It isn't a new concept, and frankly one that I have grown weary of.
The concept was incredible. I loved the Amazon rainforest setting, a few of the supporting characters that had great depth. And much of the writing was smooth and enjoyable to read. I just wish I would have had more depth to the villains and the heroes.(less)