An absolutely fabulous second installment in this breathtaking trilogy. Renews my faith in the YA genre with its swift plot, cheer worthy characters,An absolutely fabulous second installment in this breathtaking trilogy. Renews my faith in the YA genre with its swift plot, cheer worthy characters, and swoony romance. Loved every page. Could hardly put it down.
I love books that really go for the uncomfortable parts, things that make you cringe -- not because they are gory or shocking, but because they are thI love books that really go for the uncomfortable parts, things that make you cringe -- not because they are gory or shocking, but because they are things we have all felt and wish we hadn't. I especially love it when this is done in fantasy. With dragons. In China. In the 1800s....more
I liked it for its shameless quirkiness but I felt like I didn't get enough sense of the main character to become truly embroiled in the flow of the pI liked it for its shameless quirkiness but I felt like I didn't get enough sense of the main character to become truly embroiled in the flow of the plot.
Maggie Stiefvater brought me to this story. When I found out that she would be writing a middle grade novel for a multi-author, multi-platform series, I had to get in on it. (I mean, hello. Maggie Whose-Mind-Is-Made-Of-Awesome Stiefvater.) I didn't have a lot of experience with Brandon Mull outside of the thirty pages I read of Beyonders. (I will finish that book, I promise.)
Before I go into all the things that made Wild Born great, I just want to note my one complaint: the length. Come on! This book exemplifies why I dislike reading tiny books: I'm skeptical that any sort of real plot or world building can be shoved in any satisfactory way into a book less than 300 pages. While there was plenty of world building and a delicately woven plot, I could sense its potential roaring right under the surface, desperate to break out and shine.
Despite the unsatisfactory length, I loved so many things about Wild Born:
The characters were diverse without being obviously polar opposites of each other. It's so easy with a four-hero template like this to be overly obvious. Brandon Mull did an excellent job creating interesting dynamics between each of the characters, so that while they didn't trust each other or necessarily get along, they were a group knitted together by their individual ties. (Think the character set of The Avengers.)
I love the world of Erdas and how distinct each culture is from each other. Again, though, I wish that it had been longer so that there could have been more time spent on the settings of each place. Despite this, Brandon Mull did a fabulous job establishing the feelings of each place.
The plot was interesting, if a bit cliche and easily predictable. It still kept me engaged and entertained. The ending was that of a fantastic adventure story, leaving plenty of room for another journey.
I also had the chance to try the online game. (Though I haven't actually done anything besides create my profile and animal.) I love how this is multi dimensional. If I had read this as an eight-year-old, I would have been all over it.
Saying that, I do understand why the book is so short: because it is targeting a much younger age than I happen to be. I feel like I've been set up by MG authors like JK Rowling, Eoin Colfer, and especially Rick Riordan. But Brandon Mull told a great story in a very short span of time. I'm excited to see what Maggie Stiefvater has to add to the adventure, and how this series is going to grow the older the characters become....more
Though there are many middle grade series and authors that I hold dear, I don't overly explore the middle grade genre outside of the authors I have already subscribed to. I had a lot of mixed feelings over Lauren Oliver's young adult books (Delirium, Before I Fall) but what I could never deny was how wonderfully breathtaking her writing style is. Jim Dale was the one who piqued my interest in Liesl & Po with the simple fact that he narrates the audiobook. He also did Harry Potter. When I heard an excerpt from the audiobook, I had to pick it up. When I saw it at a bargain book store, I grabbed it. And I am so glad I did.
What I expected was the stereotypical middle grade novel: something with some overly simplistic writing and characters that were flatly grandiose puttering along to a plot that could be predicted from another planet. What I got was the tale of three adorably fleshed out characters racing through the pages, chased by eyebrow-raisingly creepy villains, in a world that is instantly recognizable for its genius but enchantingly exotic shadows.
What I admired about Lauren Oliver's take to this straightforward plot was how she pulled the simple bones of the plot like soft taffy until they were an entirely different shape. The original idea was the still there -- a tale of an accidental switch by an abused apprentice, and a girl closeted away by an evil stepmother -- but it came alive. Lauren Oliver made it feel not so much created as discovered.
The illustrations added another layer of atmosphere to the already jam-packed story. They piqued my interest when I browsed ahead, and then painted a deeper picture when I came upon that part of the story. The illustrations helped me imagine how the author must've imagined the characters, and that brought a certain flavor to the reading of the story, seeing how the author meant it to look.
Liesl & Po was a fantastic story with a bittersweet ending. It is certainly a book that I will proudly carry on my shelves, and also one I may take the time to reread in the future. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone....more
For a long time I've claimed that short stories aren't really my thing -- I don't read them, I don't write them. Now, I find myself doing both! TheseFor a long time I've claimed that short stories aren't really my thing -- I don't read them, I don't write them. Now, I find myself doing both! These three authors have rekindled my faith in short stories. Each of their pieces are electrifying and exciting. Truly inspirational. Love it, love it, love it!...more
I had all kinds of wild expectations for The Assassin's Curse: there had to be romance, but not of the sneak-in-through-the-window-and-watch-you-sleep variety; the main character had to be kickass but not untouchable and immovable; the world had to be fully realized and epic; and, the plot had to be exciting and fresh. For a woman with such a sugar-topped name as "Cassandra Rose Clarke," she sure knows how to write a story to surpass all expectations.
The world of The Assassin's Curse makes me want to toss my computer aside and head for a pirate ship. While Clarke's writing style wasn't fantastic, it fit the story. So as I read, I could easily imagine the chatter of the day market, the rush of a hot desert wind, and the crash of waves against a ship on the open sea. I loved the design of the assassins with their desert masks, of how their tattoos and eyes glow like Avatar arrows. But, I feel like Clarke's only scratching the surface in this first installment, like she's just laying the foundation and secretly chuckling, "You ain't seen nothing yet."
Which reminds me of Ananna's character, a girl of many layers. The absolute refusal of an arranged marriage has been around since Romeo & Juliet, but would Romeo's father have sent an assassin after Juliet for marrying his son? Would Juliet have fought back, accidentally saved the assassin's life and end up bound to him? Didn't think so. Ananna's character was on a knife's edge: if she got too cocky, she would risk coming off as fake and irritating, but if she strayed too much to the soft side, she'd appear fluffy and superficial. Ananna was a girl who took a stand, called people's BS (even the dude she took a shining to), and backed up her arguments. I loved how her insecurities were not shrouded by bravado in her narration. She was strong, but not without empathy.
I could totally get into the story. While the writing style could've been a little deeper, could've stood for a little more polish, it had a certain... je ne sais quoi. But what was important was that Clarke knew how to develop the story in a way that heightened the suspense while delving deeper into the characters. The stakes were laid out starkly, so that I understood perfectly why Ananna would quake with fear, or rise to face her attacker.
The Assassin's Curse is what I would shamelessly call "masterful." I was hooked from page one, and had such difficulty putting it down! And when I did manage to yank myself away from the page, the characters would follow me and stalk me while I went about my day. I love books that manage to do that, invade my world so thoroughly. And with the way Assassin's Curse ended, I'm on tenterhooks for the next book, which doesn't come out until June?! If it's one mark against Assassin's Curse, it's how much I fell in love with it and how much it makes me want the sequel, which I'm going to have to wait forever for!...more
I'm a big fan of Rae Carson's debut, The Girl of Fire and Thorns. When I saw this one, I immediately rushed to buy it, even though I've never bought anything on my Kindle before. This historic buy was not disappointed. Rae Carson packs a lot of plot and character development into the equivalent of 54 printed pages. This time, we see Elisa through the eyes of her sister, Alodia as they encounter a problem in a remote part of their kingdom.
I was struck by the immediate sense of character. Within the first few pages, I felt well acquainted with Alodia, and because she is so self righteous, it was with a put-upon kind of amusement that I observed her character. She had so little faith in Elisa, it was disheartening, but I liked the transformation that goes down throughout the story.
And the story was a well-rounded one at that. Well-rounded, yet leaving a taste for more. The plot was exciting and coupled with Rae Carson's eloquent writing style, the shock factor of some of the twists actually made me gasp.
A reader doesn't have to have the history of The Girl of Fire and Thorns to get a grip on this novella. For those of you who have read The Girl of Fire and Thorns, this novella provides a great insight into Alodia's character, something that isn't really offered in the full-length book. It isn't exactly a refresher course of the book, however, since it takes place when Elisa is younger and her journey hasn't really started.
An amazing story; I don't regret the three bucks I spent on it....more
The last Artemis Fowl book. What a thrilling end! This book marks the very first to make me, Amelia Robinson, shed a tear. Part of me always worries about what kind of hell the author will put their characters through in the series finale, and with these crazy MG authors anything is possible. In Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian, I really enjoyed the maturation of the characters set off by Eoin Colfer's signature humor. Colfer pulls out all the stops to create a fast-paced, intriguing topper to his beloved Artemis Fowl series.
As is the case of book eight of any series, there's some preconceived ideas about how awesome the book is going to be -- and if a reader is eight books into a series, we're gonna assume the series is awesome. So there isn't much to add that hasn't already been said before. It's established that the Artemis Fowl series, which has been in my life since I was ten, is justifiably the definition of awesomeness. Moving on...
This final installation was sheer genius. Colfer opens with a bold and exciting conflict -- I mean, maybe that's a bit of an understatement when the "bold" conflict was the utter destruction of the known world. The stakes were upped like never before, creating a nail-biting ride. I liked that Colfer went into this kind of territory: most books, dystopians especially, take place after the world has been destroyed and been refitted into a semblance of order. The Last Guardian takes place during the destruction. I really appreciated Colfer's imagination.
I liked how there was a definite maturation of the characters. While Artemis Fowl has always been credited for speaking and acting a decade older than he should've been, emotionally there was a step up. There was a wealth of history to draw upon and the characters had (finally) truly accepted each other. I really enjoyed the camaraderie between them -- especially when it's accented with Colfer's signature humor.
The ending...was sheer brilliance. Sheer, utter brilliance. I have never seen a full circle executed so beautifully in the very last paragraph. And the climax made me cry! Me! Cry! Maybe I wasn't sobbing like a baby, but the words did go a little blurry and I had to wipe a tear away. But, of course, what would you expect from the last book in a series?! Ironically enough, the only other book that had me on the verge of tears was The Supernaturalist also by Eoin Colfer.
As sad as I was to see this beloved series come to an end, I really enjoyed it. It was funny, exciting, satisfying... If you haven't ever read the Artemis Fowl series, I'd highly suggest you try it out. It's middle grade, but it's short, enjoyable and terribly clever and imaginative.
My only regret, to those of you who have read the whole series: Seriously? Why was Minerva never brought back in? She was brilliant! ...more
When Vessel first caught my eye some months ago, I dismissed it. What a mistake. Sarah Beth Durst captured what I love most about fantasy with her impressive command of prose, instantly likable main character, and beautifully defined world. I had a hard time tearing myself away to do normal things, like I don't know, eat and sleep and other silly things like that. I was so firmly rooted in the story that my soul wept knowing that there wasn't a sequel. Vessel was just that amazing.
Tamora Pierce called it right when she blurbed, "Unique and breathtaking..." The beauty and simplicity of the opening line caught me right away:
On the day she was to die, Liyana walked out of her family's tent to see the dawn.
Sarah Beth Durst carries the story along with a beautifully exotic, yet easy to understand writing style. It's straightforward and reminds me of Maria V. Snyder's style -- how the sentences are short, but not truncated. It complements the characters and plot well by enhancing the atmosphere rather than getting in the way.
Durst also shows a command of story. When Liyana is abandoned by her tribe, Durst is able to maintain interest even when Liyana isn't interacting with another character. I was expecting a slump, because it's typical to see a character's inner self displayed by how they react to others, but there was plenty of conflict, both internal and external. It was at that point that my interest in Vessel doubled. It only got better the deeper into the story I got. And not only story, but world. The world-building was incredible. Complex, yet easy to understand, the stakes were clearly defined and I felt, right along with the characters, the dread of what could happen if the worst occurred. I loved the extra details: the stories, the gods, the destinies. All these fun things that don't really happen outside of a fantasy novel.
Liyana was a stellar character. (In fact, all the characters were very defined, with character specific dialogue.) I loved Liyana from page one, and felt immense sympathy for her when her tribe left her -- which occurred within the first few chapters, generally too soon for me to form an attachment to a character. Also, I never grew irritated with her because it seemed that all of her actions were well-defined by a clear thought process alongside consistent and believable motivations. She was feisty and a quick thinker. Possibly one of my new favorite characters.
Out of everything that made this novel unique to me, the romance stuck out the most. When Sarah Beth Durst described, in an interview with Simon & Schuster, how the romance in her novel was very natural, I didn't quite believe her. Now, after having experienced Vessel for myself, I realize how right she was. It didn't feel superficial to me; there was no instant gratification. And overall, the romance was intensely bittersweet, but it built and progressed at a natural pace.
It's amazing to me that Durst could tie up an entire story within four hundred pages. It's strange to me to see a stand alone fantasy book, and it made me sad to let go of the story so quickly! While some of the action scenes could've been refined to show more depth and clarity, the plot progressed smoothly and built the stakes higher and higher until my fingers were clenched around the book in anticipation for the conclusion.
Vessel was an amazing story. I must have it for my shelves....more
My first impression after closing the cover on Days of Blood and Starlight was that for a lady with bubblegum pink hair, Laini Taylor seriously knows how to dish out some intense stuff. There was absolutely nothing remotely cheerful about this story, but if there was anything that kept me turning pages, it was how Laini Taylor had a way of putting things that makes it interesting to read.
I had a hard time engaging in the characters. In retrospect, I think it was because I'd unknowingly shut myself down from empathizing or forging any kind of connection with the characters. How could I not? The world, as Taylor crafts it so masterfully, was soaked with death, destruction, horror and gore. The story was so heavy that I just couldn't bring myself to invest in the characters. That's not to say I didn't like any of them, because while Karou and I won't be exchanging friendship bracelets anytime soon, I certainly didn't feel any animosity towards her.
After closing the book, I certainly felt an animosity towards the plot and how much effort I had to put into understanding it. The plot was so heavy -- the war stuff got depressing really fast -- and quite frankly, it was a bit confusing. Some moments felt like a memoir without the historical context and other times, the scenes were disjointed and I was left thinking, "How the heck did we get here?" Overall, however, the story worked. I got the shifts between characters and where the stakes stood, and really, when someone's getting assassinated, that's what counts.
The one thing that impressed me the most, though, besides Taylor's way with words, was her indisputable knowledge of this world. There were so many details -- so many random things thrown in for flavor -- that it's like Taylor herself was reincarnated from that world. Except for the massive influx of war and death and depressing devastation, I would almost go so far as to say that Taylor's way with world-building is very Rowling-esque. It was just so obvious to me that she was a true authority. She knew was she was talking about, and I can't help but foster a deep respect for all the time and effort she must've put into her work.
Days of Blood and Starlight was a real beast of a novel. Super intense and breath taking in its scope, it's not something I would ever find it in myself to read again, but I can't lie and say that I didn't enjoy reading every page of it....more
I have always loved dragon stories, and with one notable exception, I have never been disappointed. Rachel Hartman and her work with Seraphina has reminded me in no uncertain terms why I love dragons and dragon stories. She created a world so uniquely her own and wrote a story so full of detail and passion, I would've thought she were recounting something she herself had experienced. From start to finish, this story captured me; I loved every moment of it.
Passion, I think, is something that a lot of writers nowadays lack. Everyone seems to be writing books now, obscuring those few gems who write for the sake of writing and who, even if their stuff won't sell, will be writing because they have to. Rachel Hartman wrote with a passion that makes me infinitely grateful that I didn't pass it by because of the disastrous cover, and gave the story a chance to stand on its own. Seraphina's story connected with me on a personal level, but I think many audiences could see something of themselves in this tale, simply because everyone has something inside of them that they are ashamed of, and that they are afraid to show the world. The fear of rejection is a universal feeling. I loved the way Rachel Hartman captured that.
Seraphina was a fantastic narrator. She's the kind that shouts, "Here, here, look at me!" And then blocks your view when you try to look around her. Her voice was steadily entertaining in a self-deprecating, sarcastic way that made her endearing rather than irritating. Hartman highlighted emotions that are normally butchered or omitted entirely by most authors. For example, Seraphina's reaction to a compliment: while she might feel the compliment is true, her thought process is such that I don't feel she's being falsely modest with herself. Her vulnerability and shame, along with how she dealt with the ground shifting beneath her feet, made her a character that I instantly bonded with.
I also grew deeply rooted in Hartman's world. It's almost as if the descriptions could've only come from someone who had the knowledge of a world that was fully realized, things that I didn't understand and yet the character clearly did. Hartman set up a world that was uniquely her own, adding details to flavor (not bog down) the story in a style similar to that of Tamora Pierce, Christopher Paolini, and Cinda Williams Chima. So when I set the book aside, the world still sat in my head like a memory palace and characters still deigned to play around.
The plot was amazing, though I could see how a reader might think it slow and sometimes aimless. But the way Hartman just dove into it, I couldn't help but try and keep up. I was so engrossed in the story, my mind stopped thinking about, "Is this predictable?" or "Could this have been better?" The inner editor just shut off and I went along for the ride -- and loved every moment of it!
I recommend Seraphina to any fantasy lovers, but specifically to those who love dragon stories. May it take your breath away as it did mine....more
I love the instances when a book lives up to its hype. I didn't have to read any reviews to know that Shadow and Bone was amazing because of the breadth of its readership. I bought it on a whim, still wary from the last time I'd bought a book before reading it. In retrospect, it was a grand decision, and one that saved a lot of time since I probably would've ended up buying it anyway. I was instantly hooked with Bardugo's masterful hand at atmosphere, the unique world she created, and the characters that populated it. As soon as I began the first page, I was hooked.
Finally, here was something vastly unique -- a bright beacon of originality in this sea of cookie cutter dystopians and high fantasies. I love how Bardugo transported me to a world highly influenced (or possibly, loosely based on) Russia. I have been fascinated by Russia for years now and to see Bardugo's incredibly crafted world based on Russian culture? I was ecstatic.
I was slightly worried, however, that poor character development would make the whole thing crash and burn. Wrong! I was a big fan of Alina's character -- I love how she had the inner conviction and courage to stick up for herself. So when a stranger runs into her, blames the collision on her, she defends herself. Small things like that made me really enjoy her narrative.
I love this world Bardugo created. It was so detailed, I could feel the passion behind it, and the amount of energy and time that must've gone into creating all the different facets of the world. The atmosphere was so unique. This is a world that I would love to live in (but only if I get a cool power).
The plot was exciting with all the twists, turns, and new developments. It was also easy to follow because Bardugo took the time to set up the world without bogging the story down. So by the time the climax rose ahead, I knew what was at stake, and I was as afraid for the outcome as the characters were. The ending left me absolutely buzzing for the sequel!
Shadow and Bone truly deserves all the hype that is circulating around it. (I am so excited to hear that DreamWorks has optioned it for a movie.) Anyone who loves high fantasy, or wants a step away from dystopian, Shadow and Bone is a good book to pick up next....more
I liked this second installment, even if the writing gave me a little bit of trouble.
Janice Hardy seen through the eyes of her awesome blog, The Other Side of the Story, is a master at her craft. The reason I picked up her series was because I was so impressed with her writing advice. However, when I read Blue Fire, I found myself distracted by her writing. Perhaps my expectations were lifted a little higher in light of her blogging prowess, but the moments I expected the writing to delve into and prolong were short, practically butchered. The times where I expected rushing action came off rather flat.
On the writing style front, I was a tad bit disappointed.
The story, though, completely rocked. I like Nya--she's a great character. She has many personal faults but is a hero for all intents and purposes. I love stories like that: Harry Potter-like stories where the main character doesn't set out to be a hero but is aimed that way because what they're wired to believe in and fight for is, in the eyes of the public, what makes them a hero.
Nya is also one of those character who just cannot catch a break. This kind of story, where the characters are always the underdogs, really gets me to the edge of my seat. I fear for Nya's safety and sanity every step of the way. With every situation, I always ask myself, "What can go wrong? What are the chances that it will go wrong?"
That's a great way to pull a reader in, which is why I am, again, so impressed with Janice Hardy's work.
The story is gritty and intense. I loved the new relationships that were formed in this one, as well as the ones that were deepened. My heart almost broke towards the end.
The incredible width and breadth of the world makes me think of Tamora Pierce. Great detail and fantastic atmosphere. Two thumbs up for worldbuilding.
A great installment, though lacking in the writing arena. I've got Darkfall all fired up and ready to go....more
Here I am, eighteen-years-old, and still finding unbelievable enjoyment in Rick Riordan books. While, for me, the writing is the main thing that demotes it down to a "middle grade" level, everything else can be enjoyed by anyone who wants a good story. That's why I love it -- the story. I love the characters and the world and the magic and everything. I love picking up a Percy Jackson and Co. book because I can never know what to expect, except a good time and a lot of laughs. In this latest installment of the Heroes of Olympus series, Rick Riordan brings everything to the table to make it the best yet.
The plot kept me glued to my chair. It's always a good sign when the reader can't figure out how a character is going to wiggle out of their current dilemma. I'm left in awe by Rick Riordan's ability to slam his characters into corners that seem impossible to get out of and then, somehow, miraculously, they get out. Barely. And if something can go wrong, it does. Most of the time I'm left thinking, How does this story even work when everything goes wrong? But that's part of the beauty of it.
Much like Harry Potter, the Heroes of Olympus series has a whole cast of characters to fall in love with. Annabeth had always seemed a bit standoff-ish to me in the previous books (even the Percy Jackson series), but I totally cheered for her in this one. I still absolutely love how all the characters have their own subplots. All of them have something dreadful and wonderful going on in their lives and that makes them all real to me.
The Mark of Athena kept me glued from page one. I think this one might be my favorite, but it's a close tie. All the books are excellent for their own reasons. What makes The Mark of Athena stand out to me is how the climax of the story stayed with me. Even now, after having finished it, that scene haunts me. When a book does that to you, that says the author did something right in more ways than one.
Anyone can love the Heroes of Olympus series. There are characters and stories within the series that anyone can connect with, all connected by a universal humor....more