This series keeps getting better and better. Action packed, phenomenal characters, LOVE! The only problem I had was that since it is so long between rThis series keeps getting better and better. Action packed, phenomenal characters, LOVE! The only problem I had was that since it is so long between release dates I could use a bit more re-cap in the book so that I can remember who everyone is. I think I stopped 8-10 times in order to look something up on the wiki which, ultimately, removed me from the plot and broke up my reading mojo....more
An interesting sequel, second half is far more exciting than the first. Feels like the end to this series but there is still a lot more story to tellAn interesting sequel, second half is far more exciting than the first. Feels like the end to this series but there is still a lot more story to tell regarding side characters.
Sabaa Tahir presents a bleak and disturbing world. With the conquered Scholars on one side and the terrifying Masks on the other. Masks are trained a Sabaa Tahir presents a bleak and disturbing world. With the conquered Scholars on one side and the terrifying Masks on the other. Masks are trained as children in the most horrific of circumstances to best their peers and follow their superior's orders without question. The Scholars watch as they raid, arrest and murder with impunity. Thinking only of rescuing her brother from prison, Laia agrees to enter the Mask's world as a spy for the resistance, a position that proves more and more dangerous as she becomes more and more desperate. Elias also dreams of escape. He has never wanted to be a mask and has elaborate plans to slip away. This is, of course, until fate steps in in the form of a mysterious Augur who seems to know the secrets inside his heart and head. As he tries to meet their demands while still maintaining his soul, he faces challenges that he never imagined and is continuously pulled towards Laia and away from the world he swore to uphold.
An Ember in the Ashes is not for the faint of heart. It is a terrifying world where the characters must make heartbreaking decisions. Often, these choices mean suffering and death for those that they care about. The masks are taught to fight and sometimes kill one another from the moment they begin their training. Upon graduation, they are put in charge of a society where they will be forced to torture and kill Scholars without question. There is a great deal of talk about prostitution and rape. There are instances of attempted rape and points where the threat of rape is used as a plot device to spur on male characters, which I could have done without. The plot is exciting, with danger around every turn. Laia is spying on the most terrifying woman in the empire, who always seems one step ahead of her enemies and takes a particular sort of pleasure in torturing and mutilating those that displease her. Elias is facing a set of trials that threaten not only his life, but also his soul. The odds are stacked against him as the trials seem designed to prey on his weaknesses more than anyone else's. Despite this, there aren't really that many surprises in the plot. It was just too easy to guess which characters had ulterior motivations and how the story would play out. The only characters I was left questioning were the Augurs. It still isn't clear what side they fall on and how much they manipulated the outcome for their own aims.
While I liked the characters, I didn't particularly LOVE the characters. The only one I wanted to spend more time with was Helene and I really wish the narration had also been told from her point of view (fingers crossed for the next book!) I was not really invested in any facet of the love triangle (love square?) and, as with the rest of the plot, it was pretty easy to predict which way things would go. We know that there will be a sequel to this book, but it isn't yet clear if it will be a trilogy. There are a lot of questions left to answer (who exactly is Cook? What game are the Augurs playing? Who betrayed Laia's parents? Who is Elias' father?) which means lots of material for expansion in this series, whether it be through more books or novellas (I would love to see novellas telling Cook's story and the young life of the Commandant.)
Bottom Line:While I am definitely not on the "best book of the year" bandwagon. I am also intrigued enough to say that I will read the sequel as soon as it comes out.
Age: 16 and up Sex: Kissing Violence: LOTS, fighting with weapons, violent deaths Inappropriate Language: Bastard, Whore, Bitch Substance Use/Abuse: None...more
Shadow Scale continues the story of half-dragon, Seraphina as she seeks out others of her kind and endeavors to find a way to save her home from the Shadow Scale continues the story of half-dragon, Seraphina as she seeks out others of her kind and endeavors to find a way to save her home from the fallout of a dragon civil war. Seraphina still struggles with who she is as she travels the region meeting hatred in some and acceptance in others. Shadow Scale features some fantastic characters. First, we continue with the half dragons we have already met - Abdo, Lars and Dame Okra - all phenomenal characters in their own right. Particularly with Dame Okra's sense of wit. "'Ah children' growled Dame Okra, watching him climb. 'I forget what darlings they are. How I long for the opportunity to forget once more.'"
But, as Seraphina travels we get to encounter even more half-dragons and see how the avatars in her mind garden compare to the actual specimen. It was fascinating to see how the dragon side manifested in each of these people and the different motivations of each. We are also able to see the impact of location and upbringing as we travel from Goredd, where Seraphina hid among the people of the city, to Ninys, where the Ityasaari were banished from society, to Porphyry, where they experienced their own sense of community and family. We also see more of Jannoula, raised in the worse of circumstances and playing her own game with the people, Ityasaari and dragons. We spend a great deal of time trying to ascertain her motivations and whether or not she can be trusted. This adds a sense of intrigue and mystery to the plot. The story itself lags a little as we get bogged down in several different places. There are instances where Seraphina appears to spend a great deal of time in limbo, never really accomplishing anything and also times when the plot is slowed by a sense of helplessness as Seraphina appears unwilling or incapable of saving the people that she loves. There are also several sections where the author delves into metaphor and introspection, particularly with regard to the inner workings of Seraphina's mind. The whole concept of the mind garden and Jannoula's tethering is confusing at best, and I did find my eyes glazing over when the author tried to explain them. The rest of the plot is much stronger, particularly after Seraphina returns to Goredd and the war approaches.
This being YA, we can't quite escape the love interest aspect, but it is particularly well done in Shadow Scale. Here we see two characters making a conscious choice not to be together because of the pain it will cause someone they both care about. There are also some unexpected surprises to this portion of the plot which were a breath of fresh air to someone who has seen the same old love triangle over and over again. I was also very thankful to Harman for the inclusion of diverse characters - those of color, of all sexualities and even transgendered. Those aspects of the characters are not a plot device, or even their defining characteristic - it is simply part of them being well-developed characters.
Bottom Line: Shadow Scale features some phenomenal characters and an interesting plot. It is an excellent continuation of the story started in Seraphina and, in the end, will leave the reader satisfied, even if we do wish for books in this world. Notable Quotables: "Oh, good - he was dead, too. It wasn't just me."
Age: 12 and up Sex: Kissing Violence: Swordplay, Knifeplay, Death by Falling Inappropriate Language: Bastard Substance Use/Abuse: None...more
Having lost his twin brother in a drowning accident as they ventured out to find the sea, Ned never feels completely whole and is unable to do many ofHaving lost his twin brother in a drowning accident as they ventured out to find the sea, Ned never feels completely whole and is unable to do many of the things that he had previously taken for granted. He has been plagued by the assumption that his father had saved the wrong boy. His mother is a witch who uses dangerous magic and Ned is constantly faced with the townspeople who love her when they need her and loathe her when they don't. He retreats into himself, rarely speaking and avoiding interaction with anyone, even his grief-stricken parents. When his mother's magic is threatened by outside forces, Ned is the only one who can protect it and he is sent on a perilous journey to save himself, his family, and his village.
The Witch's Boy is written in a beautiful style that is reminiscent of classic fairy tales. The author displays a unique and clever sense of wit that kept me smiling to myself.
King Ott; benevolent ruler of the Kingdowm of Duunin (of course he was benevolent! It said so on banners and placards and all of the money! He even required his generals to tattoo it on their forearms with an outline of his smiling face hovering above), was in a bit of a snit.
There is an exchange between the bandit king and the king of Duunin, as the later calls the executioner and the former merely smiles, that had me in stitches. At the same time, the author regularly comments on the magic, delight and power of words which is bound to warm the heart of any lover of books and reading.
A word is a magic thing. It holds the essence of an object or an idea and pins it to the world. A word can set the universe in motion.
I love middle grade stories that do not shy away from important themes and deep symbolism. The Witch's Boy is one of these. There is a continuous thread throughout the novel the reminds of there could not possibly be NOTHING on the other side of the mountain (in fact nothing is a very important word and becomes a refrain repeated by several characters). The author does a beautiful job of extending this metaphor to show that there is never "nothing", even in death. The soul never disappears, it simply moves to the next place - the other side of the mountain.
"There is no death," the Stone said. "There is only the next thing. A mountain gives way to a river and becomes a canyon. A tree gives way to its rot and becomes the ground. We will let go of our unnaturally elongated lives and embrace something else."
The characters also have a magic all their own. By the end of the novel, we see such remarkable growth in Ned as he learns his own power and the strength of his own desires. The magic itself also makes for a very fun character. It has a fantastic voice as it speaks inside Ned's head. It doesn't seem to have the same sense of morality or guilt that a human character would, which makes it much more unpredictable and enjoyable to read.
(Having been asked to heal a bandit) We are certain that you meant to say, "painless death." We can say it together: "painless death." Or painful, if you prefer. It's up to you. Please tell us that you simply misspoke.
The plot moves at a decent pace, and is helped along by the changing of viewpoints from Ned to Aine to the King, to the Bandit King, to the Stones and so on. There is a great deal of action that will keep any reader interested and a beautiful thread of friendship that will keep them satisfied.
Bottom Line: The Witch's Boy is wonderful. A phenomenal addition to any middle grade library and well written enough to be enjoyed by older audiences as well.
Age: 10 and up Sex: None Violence: Death by drowning, Death by arrow, Swordplay Inappropriate Language: None Substance Use/Abuse: None ...more
Wow. This series has been really interesting so far - I wasn't a big fan of the first book but I stuck it out for the second, which was considerably bWow. This series has been really interesting so far - I wasn't a big fan of the first book but I stuck it out for the second, which was considerably better by the second half and then it really hit its stride by this one, leaving me dying for the next book! The addition of Manon and the Blackbeak clan was awesome, so much so that through the entire book I was cheering for the good guys AND the bad guys. The only thing that slowed it down was the whole Chaol storyline - I just don't give a crap about him anymore.
I stopped and went back to this one several times. The beginning didn't quite grab me but I eventually stuck it out and it did get better. I was actuaI stopped and went back to this one several times. The beginning didn't quite grab me but I eventually stuck it out and it did get better. I was actually pretty pumped when Celaena went total badass assassin. That was one of my main issues in the first book - we saw that girl in the opening sequence, but then she disappeared. So happy to see her back and kicking ass. Moving straight onto the next in the series. ...more
Cover Impressions: This cover is just stTitle: Midnight Thief Author: Livia Blackburne Publisher: Disney-Hyperion Release Date: July 8th, 2014 Rating: 2/5
Cover Impressions: This cover is just stunning. It is the real reason that I picked it up in the first place. I can't wait to see if the next one follows the same theme.
Review: Kyra has gained a reputation as a girl who can get into any building. Stealing coin from the richer part of town keeps her from starving but not much else. When the leader of the assassin's guild offers her a job that will allow her to take care of those she cares about, Kyra agrees. Before long, the desire to prove herself leads her deeper and deeper into the guild's secrets and, when Kyra refuses to play by their rules, she learns it is not so easy, or safe, to go back to her old life.
Midnight Thief has a rather generic feel. Despite the fantastic cover, there isn't much content to make this stand out from other mildly fantastical novels. Kyra is an orphan girl, trying to make it in a cruel and difficult world, who is chosen by a super secret society because she is oh-so-special. The worldbuilding doesn't get really interesting until over halfway through the novel. Once it does, things pick up, but by that point I had mostly lost interest.
The characters, for their part, are rather bland. Kyra doesn't have a great deal of personality to build the plot around. Tristam was equally uninteresting and I felt no chemistry between the two main characters. The romantic angle felt forced and, in the end, didn't really amount to much. There were some side characters who showed promise, like Flick and Martin, but they didn't enough play to have that pan out.
Overall, the biggest downfall for me was the fact that there were a lot of threads - the corruption of the governement, the tactics of the assassin's guild, and the barbarian attacks - which caused the plot to be spread a little thing. As a result, none of them had any forward movement or sense of momentum. I realize that this is the first of a series, but I was still hoping for a little more headway in the whole "our government is corrupt and our people are miserable" storyline.
With a stronger second half, I was able to give a little more credit to this novel, but it was mostly a case of too little, too late.
Age: 13 and up Sex: None Violence: Death by: Poisoning, Knife Inappropriate Language: None Substance Use/Abuse: None ...more
Title: A Creature of Moonlight Author: Rebecca Hahn Publisher: HMH Books/Houghton Mifflin Release Date: May 6, 2014 Rating: 4/5
Cover Impressions: Just breTitle: A Creature of Moonlight Author: Rebecca Hahn Publisher: HMH Books/Houghton Mifflin Release Date: May 6, 2014 Rating: 4/5
Cover Impressions: Just breathtaking. I love everything about this cover. The silhouette of the dragon is gorgeous against the full moon. The font fits perfectly with the title and the magical feel of the book. I want to frame it and hang it on my wall.
Review: Marnie has spent her entire life hidden in plain sight. The daughter of a runaway princess and a mystical dragon, she enjoys a quiet life tending flowers on the periphery of her uncle's kingdom. But the forest has started to creep into her world and, for the first time in a generation, it is not receding. Panic strikes the kingdom and they look to someone to blame. That someone was once Marnie's mother, now that she is gone - the blame falls to Marnie herself. It is time for her to decide where her destiny lies, with her Uncle who killed her mother and left her an orphan, or with the mysterious creatures of the forest and a father she has never known.
A Creature of Moonlight is a beautifully written debut novel. It features some of the most unique worldbuilding that I have ever seen. The forest has a mind of its own, claiming territory overnight and swallowing up peoples' homes and fields. It is filled with magical creatures who call to those seeking to escape. Once in a while, a young girl will be claimed by the forest, never to return. Marnie hears this call, but she alone is able to resist the siren song, spending long hours swallowed up in its embrace but always returning to her grandfather, the former king and the only person who keeps her anchored to her world. I love the idea of a forest where the very trees are controlled by a dragon lord and one that encroaches and retreats, ebbing and flowing much like the tide. This dark and mysterious element starts strong and only gets better as the book goes on and Marnie explores more and more of her father's world.
Title: A World Without Princes Author: Soman Chainani Publisher: HarperCollins Release Date: April 15, 2014 Rating: 4/5
Cover Impressions: I love, love, loTitle: A World Without Princes Author: Soman Chainani Publisher: HarperCollins Release Date: April 15, 2014 Rating: 4/5
Cover Impressions: I love, love, love the cover art for this series. The expression of distrust and wariness on the girls' faces is perfect and the colors are just stunning. There is so much detail that I keep picking up on things that I never noticed the first time around. Anyone know who the artist is?
Review: Sophie and Agatha are back at home, but things have not ended so happily ever after. Sophie is fighting to stay the centre of attention as her father plans to re-marry and Agatha is secretly dreaming of the price that she left behind. When she secretly wishes for a new ending, Agatha re-opens their story and re-writes the rules of their fairy tale world. Back at the School for Good and Evil, girls are fighting against boys and no one is getting a happy ending. Agatha and Sophie must steal the Storian and finish their story once and for all, but how can they work together when they don't really want the same things?
I really love the premise behind this series. Fairy tales are even more fun when they are turned on their ear and Chainani does an excellent job of re-writing the rules for a new generation. I was so dismayed to see what had happened to the school, standing on the brink of war between the genders and so thrilled to see that the Three Witches were the only ones not taken in by the new roles. Still, I NEED MORE WITCHES, Hester, Anadil, and Dot were my favorite part of the first book and, though they play an important role in this one, there is still just not enough. Can I get a side story or novella that just features them?? I am also a big fan of how the evil in this story did not take on the traditional form and came from a more unexpected place.
Title: Sea of ShadowsAuthor: Kelley Armstrong Publisher: HarperCollins Release Date: April 8, 2014 Rating: 2/5
Cover Impressions: I noticed, just before rTitle: Sea of ShadowsAuthor: Kelley Armstrong Publisher: HarperCollins Release Date: April 8, 2014 Rating: 2/5
Cover Impressions: I noticed, just before reviewing this book, that a new cover had been released. The first one, I believe, will be the hardcover and the second, the paperback. I have to say, I much prefer the second book. The first has some strange swirling mists that may or may not form an image. The second has a fierce image and the coloring is just perfect.
The Gist: Moria and Ashyn, the Keeper and the Seeker are charged with calming the spirits of those condemned to the Forest of the Dead. This year, however, something has gone wrong. The spirits will not be soothed and strange magics allow them to rise and attack the villagers. With their people slaughtered and themselves separated, the sisters must travel over the wasteland in search of their village's lost children and each other.
I have been a big fan of Kelley Armstrong for a very long time. Many moons ago, I devoured her Women Of the Otherworld series (preferring the witch side to the werewolf one). When she started releasing YA novels, I was slightly disappointed in the quality but still buoyed up by the fact that we were still dealing with the Otherworld and the that I was already familiar with. I had hoped, by the time Sea of Shadows was published, that the kinks would be ironed out with her YA writing and that this could be an enjoyable new series. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I was incredibly and unequivocally wrong.
Very quickly, I encountered a problem with the worldbuilding in this novel. By the time I was 50 pages in, I still had no idea how this new mythology worked and was getting tired of all the rules that I had to be told about. Despite being constantly reminded that the twins were super special snowflakes, I never really saw anything that was the least bit impressive.
Title: The Cracks in the Kingdom Author: Jaclyn Moriarty Publisher: Scholastic Release Date: March 25, 2014 Rating: 5/5
Cover Impressions: The digital imagTitle: The Cracks in the Kingdom Author: Jaclyn Moriarty Publisher: Scholastic Release Date: March 25, 2014 Rating: 5/5
Cover Impressions: The digital image really doesn't do this one justice. In the physical copy, the colors are so vibrant and the raindrops and lightning keep your eye moving across the image. It fits beautifully with the first cover in this series, but I am still wishing for the parking meter to be featured on a cover - here's hoping for #3!
The Gist: Madeleine and Elliot's communications through a mysterious crack between their worlds have been fun and exciting, but now their notes must take on more purpose. The royal family is missing, presumably transported to The World and Madeleine and Elliot have been charged not only with finding them, but with determining the science governing the cracks so that they can bring the family home. As if that weren't enough, Elliot must also travel Cello with the Royal Youth Alliance and endure tours and parties while trying to discover where in The World to start looking for the missing royals.
Review: I shouldn't like this book. The characters are strange and some are completely unrelatable, there are long scientific diatribes that make little sense and the "rules" of the fantasy kingdom are near impossible to discern. I shouldn't like this book, but I do. In fact, I love it.
It has a strange charm that drew me in and I ended up closing the book wishing for just one more chapter. Please, Ms. Moriarty, Just. One. More. Chapter.
Title: Defy Author: Sara B. Larson Publisher: Scholastic Release Date: Jan 7, 2014 Rating:2/ This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Title: Defy Author: Sara B. Larson Publisher: Scholastic Release Date: Jan 7, 2014 Rating:2/5
Cover Impressions: The cover does not stand out particularly well. The blade is interesting - but doesn't appear to have any significance to the story. I like the faint impressions of leaves in the background that link to the jungle setting but the color of the title font is throwing me off - it just doesn't appear to "go".
The Gist: Alexa Hollen is a natural born fighter. She has spent years training with her father. When the war reaches their home and her parents are killed in a Sorcerer's fire, she and her twin brother must flee. In order to avoid the breeding houses where orphan girls are sent to bear sons to become soldiers, Alexa cuts off her hair and becomes Alex, prize fighter and guard to Prince Damian.
Review: Defy is the debut novel for Sara B. Larson, and you can tell. The story is not particularly well conceived and, despite having a female main character who is prized for her fighting skills, it reeks of sexist attitudes. A major plot point revolves around the existence of "breeding houses" for young girls. Orphans are brought here and repeatedly raped in order to produce soldiers for the King's army. Alexa avoids this fate by disguising herself as a boy and becoming a soldier and eventually guard to the prince. Even though she has achieved a level of proximity to the king and prince that most assassin's would dream of, and a reputation as a fearsome fighter, Alexa does not actually DO anything to stop these atrocities until fate forces her hand.
The author appears to have some issues around "male behavior" and "female behavior". The story draws some very clear lines around what is believed appropriate for each sex. I realize that this story is MEANT to challenge those norms - but it doesn't. In fact, when another character guesses that Alex is actually a girl, Alexa herself claims that she hadn't been acting like a girl "I'd carried Tanoori with three other men without complaining once for days. I helped set up the tent, I took it down, I did everything every other man here did." Am I meant to believe that only a girl would complain about trying to save another person's life or that only men are capable of setting up and taking down a tent and that Alexa should be considered "manly" for doing so with only her weak feminine muscles to help her? In fact, it appears that every time Alexa is hindered in doing her job she blames it on the "female" part of her, particularly, emotions and desires. She also seems incapable of resisting the attention of any man and spends a great deal of time describing their physique. To the detriment of my eyes which have begun to tire from the number of times they are spent spinning in my head.
We also have to deal with a very weak love triangle which, I assume, is going to be the basis of some inner turmoil for Alexa as the series (there is at least one more book planned) goes on. I actually held particularly high hopes for Alexa when I was introduced to the young girl who had bluffed her way into the Prince's guard and rose to become their best fighter - however, as soon as that fact is established and very shortly before it is revealed that her secret was not so secret after all, Alexa becomes the damsel in distress who needs constant rescue from the two men who are now fighting for her attention.
I also wish the author had made some different choices around the timing of the story. If it had started earlier in Alexa's life we could have gotten attached the Alexa's parents and brother. As it is written - their deaths did not have any emotional impact and Alexa's belief that she has to appear stoic and "manly" (insert eye roll) mean that we do not see much of the impact that it has on her character either. Some earlier development would also have allowed for some back story into why this war was being fought and avoided some issues with "telling" letter on. Instead, once we get to the reveal-the-whole-plot part of the story we have long explanations of years worth of intrigue and secrets. This appears to be the author's way of compensating for the fact that there is very little action in this book.
I understand that there are several other one star reviews coming from people who simply could not bring themselves to finish the book, and I can respect that. I did, however, see some redemption by the end. Alexa manages to start making some decisions on her own and does show some character growth (though not nearly as much as I would like) which allowed me to raise my rating by a star. I sincerely hope that the author is able to take care of some of the sexist issues before the publication of the second book and that Alexa is allowed to grow into her own as a character, rather than simply spending the book bouncing from one love interest to the other.
Teaching/Parental Notes: Age: 15 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing Violence: Use of "Breeding Houses" that feature the repeated rape and pregnancy of young girls, Swordplay, Death by Arrow, Death by fire, Inappropriate Language: None Substance Use/Abuse: None...more
Cover Impressions: At first glance, this cover looks like just another contemporary romaThis and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: At first glance, this cover looks like just another contemporary romance but, after finishing the book, I can appreciate the little touches. Madeline's outfit is exactly as described in the book - a whimsical plethora of colors. I also love the sparkle and light that gives an ethereal quality to the letter and the wonderful colors reflected in the falling leaves. The one thing that I do miss is a reflection of Elliot, but perhaps that is just because I preferred his side of the story to Madeline's. It is also worth taking a look at the actual hardcover underneath the book jacket - it is covered with the colors of Madeline's jacket and boots and is imprinted with the image of the umbrella and falling leaves. These touches are beautiful and unexpected.
The Gist: Madeline and her mother have run away from their privileged life for one of struggling to make ends meet in Cambridge. Elliot lives in the mysterious Kingdom of Cello and is on a desperate search to find his missing father. The two begin communicating through letters that they fit through a rare gap between the worlds and weave their two lives together in ways they never imagined possible.
I will admit, A Corner of White was almost a did-not-finish for me. This book got to a very slow start. Almost the entire first half was a sluggish slog. At about this point, I went back to the reviews on Goodreads and saw that most reviewers had commented on this and said to hang in there. So I did, and, I am so happy for it. In the beginning, the writing style took some getting used to and the characters were quirky if a little too well informed for their age. This type of book will require a patient reader and not all teens will fit this bill, however, the payoff in the end is entirely worth it.
Moriarty's characters endear themselves to you slowly. At the beginning I wasn't particularly fond of Madeline and I didn't entirely see the point of Jack and Bella. By the end, I enjoyed their strange obsession with aura's and horoscopes and could see the important role that they played in Madeline's growth and development. Incidentally, I really hope that their peculiar interests are incorporated into Cello's world in further books. Even Madeline had outgrown her whining and become a character that I could continue to follow through this series. I enjoyed Elliot from the very beginning. He was strong and independent while holding an important place within his community. I was very glad that the relationship between him and Madeline never crossed into the romantic and I hope that is something that does not change further into the story.
Jaclyn Moriarty is certainly an author who shows rather than tells. While this is an admirable trait among writers it also means that it takes quite a while to get a clear understanding of the way that the world of Cello works, particularly the threat of Colors. She occasionally pushes our understanding forward through the inclusion of newspaper articles, books or police reports. I will admit, I still don't quite understand the mechanics behind catching and using spells, but I assume this will be revealed in the next installement. One thing that I did love to see was the incorporation of scientific knowledge and history into the storyline. It would be interesting to see the reactions of my grade 8 students were they to read this book while studying our Optics unit which covers light and colors. A Corner of White also featured an unexpected twist or two that were refreshing and kept me engaged for the second half of the book.
As I noted previously, this novel gets off to a slow start but ends with a resolution that is satisfying while also successfully setting up for the next book in the series. Unfortunately, I cannot discuss too much of what makes it such a good ending without spoiling the entire plot, I only wish to tell you that if you are reading this review while in the middle of the book, as I did, keep going. If have not started yet, remember to let the story develop around you - it is worth it.
Age: 13 and up (readers must be patient enough to get through the slow beginning) Gender: Both Sex: Kissing Violence: "Color" attacks that maim/kill Inappropriate Language: Ass Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking, Smoking, Discussion of Alcoholism...more
Cover Impressions: This cover is so beautifully intricate. It is not the type of cover t This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: This cover is so beautifully intricate. It is not the type of cover that jumps off the shelf but it is the type that encourages the reader to stop and study it. I am already intrigued to see the artwork for the next in the series.
The Gist: The kingdom of Goredd holds a tenuous balance between it's human citizens and the dragons who can take their form. As the 40th anniversary of their peace treaty approaches it seems that someone is determined to tip the scales and renew the old conflicts. Seraphina straddles the line between humans and dragons. When a member of the royal family is found beheaded, she becomes an integral part of the investigation - if only to try and keep her own secrets hidden.
Review: Oh God. These are always the hardest reviews for me to write. I can rant all day about books that I hate, pointing out the slow plot, annoying characters and writing that would fit quite well in my stack of grading from grade 7. Those reviews are my bread and butter, they flow through my fingertips like water, gracing the page with WTF's and FFS!'s.
Every now and then, however, I come across a book that was just so fan-fucking-tastic that I can barely put into words why. Seraphina was one of those books. The world building is complete and unique. The characters are fully developed, sometimes flawed and remarkably human (even when they are not). The writing is polished and elegant, begging you to savor every word. The plot never lags or races but maintains a pace that keeps the reader enthralled (seriously - as soon as the baby went to bed I begged my husband to just leave me alone and go watch sports or something so that I could read).
Seraphina is easily one of my favorite characters thus far this year. She is intelligent, talented, brave, vulnerable, and loyal. She struggles with her own self worth and undergoes remarkable growth. The secondary characters are also not to be missed. Hartman has not allowed for one dimensional characters here. Between the members of Seraphina's garden, the dignitaries at court and the dragons in human form, there was always someone intriguing to watch and someone else to wonder about.
Hartman creates a world that is wonderfully strange yet oddly familiar. Though the people and dragons of Goredd negotiated a peace treaty nearly 40 years ago, there is still a great deal of animosity and racism on both sides. The hatred and anger between these peoples was palpable and created some of the most tense scenes in the novel.
The writing in Seraphina flows beautifully. The one thing that I did not enjoy (and this is a criticism of fantasy in general rather than this book in particular) is that choosing not to explain certain terminology in the text and to rely on a glossary is fine in a physical book, but I find it becomes rather tedious while reading an e-book.
This novel easily makes the list as one of my top books of 2012. Now, when is that sequel coming out???!!!
Age: 13 and up Gender: Both Sex: Implied at Violence: Death by be-heading, Knifeplay, Swordplay, Death by Poisoning Inappropriate Language: Bastard Substance Use/Abuse: Drinking of Wine...more
Cover Impressions: The cover is beautiful. I love the colors and the interplay of the ri This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The cover is beautiful. I love the colors and the interplay of the ribbons with the antlers.
The Gist: Alina Starkov is an orphan training as a mapmaker in the King's Army. When she and her best friend are attacked by a monstrous beast, Alina discovers a power that she never knew she had. The land's strongest Grisha, the Darkling, takes claim of her and begins training her to banish the darkness of The Fold and save the land. However, everyone seems to have their own wishes for Alina's power and she must decide carefully where to place her trust.
Review: Admittedly, I have never been a big fantasy fan. Shadow and Bone is one of those books that kept popping up on my radar but I never gave in to reading it until my Christmas vacation (lots of time at home/v.little to do). It took me a while to fall into the world of Ravka, as it usually does with fantasy novels, but I soon found the world building to be rich and beautiful. This is a land of contrasts, great beauty with great darkness, strong magic with overwhelming poverty. In telling the story through the eyes of an orphan, we are able to see both sides of the country.
I had some difficulty connecting with Alina. I found her to be weak and whiny. I was annoyed by her obsession with beauty and her incessant need to be rescued. The whole "transformation" from sick and spindly orphan to strong and gorgeous Grisha was clichèd and reinforced the stereotype that only attractive people can be heroines. I could get past the fact that her super special power remained hidden for most of her life and even the fact that she was suddenly the most super special Grisha alive. But she couldn't be satisfied with being this special? She still had to whine about not being pretty enough? Dude, you can command light and you are whining about your complexion?
The other characters were a bit one dimensional. There was the "I won't notice you until you are super special and gorgeous" love interest. The "I'm dark and mysterious and can see the power under your ugliness" love interest. The "I'm totally gorgeous but totally humble at the same time" BFF. The "I'm only mean because I can see your potential" trainer and the "I'm also totally gorgeous and a jealous bitch" rival. Neither of the love interests felt quite genuine or passionate to me and the friends didn't play any important role - though I hope they get some fleshing out in the next book.
The plot moved steadily except for a bit of lag in the middle as Alina worked with her power and learned to fight in what transformed in my head to an 80s movie montage set to the sound of "Eye of the Tiger". The writing was beautiful and the ending was strong enough to make me come back for the second installment Siege and Storm in June.
Age: 13 and up Gender: Female Sex: Kissing Violence: Knifeplay, Gunplay, Death of an animal, Deaths by magic/magical creatures Inappropriate Language: Ass, Bitch Substance Use/Abuse: Drinking ...more
Cover Impressions: Here is where things get tricky. Because I had an e-arc with no cover This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: Here is where things get tricky. Because I had an e-arc with no cover page I got to choose my cover. Can you guess which of the two above I picked? That's right, the badass one. I believe the first is the UK cover and the second is the US cover. Well folks, the UK wins it. The US cover is ho-hum, seen it, probably not gonna pick it off a shelf. The UK cover, on the other hand has a fantastic blend of awesome colors, creepy atmosphere and "don't fuck with me" attitude.
The Gist: Game of Thrones meets The Hunger Games when a king bent on domination holds a competition to find the most deadly criminal to be his champion. Celaena Sardothien is pulled from the depths of the lands most brutal prison by the Crown Prince to serve as his competitor. When a mysterious forces begins to sadistically murder and disembowel the other competitors, Celaena finds herself in a world that might just be more dangerous than the one from which she escaped.
Review: Oh how I wanted to love this book. The cover. The hype. And, to be truthful, Maas had me for the first 5 or 6 chapters. I began burrowing in and expecting an engrossing read with a compelling main character but alas, things eventually began to fall apart.
The Celaena Sardothien that Prince Dorian finds in prison is one of the most badass characters I have ever encountered. We learn that she was one of the most feared prisoners for her tendency to "snap" and bury her pickaxe in anyone within her sight. She has survived for a year in a place where most last weeks at best. She is strong, witty and imagines murder at every turn, making comments like "You'll be sweating when I skin you alive and squish your eyeballs beneath my feet". However, halfway through the novel, this character seems to disappear. Throughout the novel, it seems like Maas can't actually decide who Celaena is. She is badass one minute, vain and pompous the next and weak and simpering after that. If anyone has read my review of Grave Mercy, you will recall that I have a problem with Assassins who never actually kill anyone. This is also a problem in Throne of Glass. Making your character a kick-ass female assassin with a deadly past seems like an easy out. The author gets this fantastic character with a fearsome reputation but doesn't actually have to do anything to prove/maintain that reputation. Now, I am a little bloodthirsty, I think an assassin should kill someone at least every 50 pages. That may be a bit excessive but (view spoiler)[ Celaena doesn't actually kill ANYBODY! Sure she can fight, but in the end she gets rescued. Which doesn't fit AT ALL with the original character that we met. There are also some other issues with the whole assassin role:
- It is up to Chaol to come up with the "lie low" plan, why didn't she think of that herself? - It is hard to believe that an assassin would be so comfortable in gowns without making some adjustments or asking for clothing better suited for fighting. - She never manages to get her hands on a decent weapon and, despite being mentioned constantly, she never actually uses her makeshift "knife". - She never takes a single shot at Cain, despite his increasingly aggressive taunting. - Dorian is CONSTANTLY sneaking up on her. Seriously, your trained assassin hearing doesn't work anymore? (hide spoiler)]
There are some other interesting characters. Chaol starts off strong and stoic and it appears that he will play the love interest. Unfortunately, he seems to fade to the background by the end of the novel. The princess, Nehemia, is kind and mysterious. She appears to hold a world of secrets and, I hope she comes to the forefront as the series continues. The prince, Dorian, plays the role of handsome womanizer who reforms once he meets the right woman. It is a little cliche and never quite feels real to me. For his part, Dorian disagrees with nearly all of the decisions that his father makes but never actually DOES anything about them. The fearsome and cruel king removes himself from the action, returning at the end of the novel under mysterious circumstances (which are never explained).
The world building is interesting. I like the idea of a land where magic has been banished but simmers just below the surface, sometimes leaking through fissures and wreaking havoc. The plot begins strong but starts to lag once the competition begins. There are A LOT of Tests and many of them are covered in just a line or two. Maas could have accomplished the same thing by reducing the number of competitors (some of whom never receive a name) and subsequent tests. There are a lot of hints at larger secrets in both Celaena's and Nehmia's past but nothing important is ever revealed (I kept wait for that OH MY GOD! moment - but it never came). The pacing is a bit off, with the training and competition being glossed over in order to spend time on the will-they won't-they relationship between Celaena and Dorian.
Books like this are often the most disappointing. It has a fabulous premise, even a fantastic opening, but fell apart once the story began to be fleshed out. Because I saw flashes of greatness, I will be sticking around for the next book. Here's hoping for more killing, less moaning and FFS no love triangle between Celaena, Chaol and Dorian!
Age: 13 and up Gender: Both Sex: Hinted at Violence: Swordplay, Disembowelment, Hand to Hand Combat, Poisoning Inappropriate Language: Ass, Bitch, Substance Use/Abuse: Wine, Opium ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Cover Impressions: The cover is breathtaking. This is one of those covers that when it was revealed, I immediately added it to my TBR list. The colorsCover Impressions: The cover is breathtaking. This is one of those covers that when it was revealed, I immediately added it to my TBR list. The colors are gorgeous and the imagery is so interesting. I love that the connection to Alice in Wonderland does not smack you in the face but is hinted at in the flowers and bugs entwined in her hair.
The Gist: Alyssa is a direct descendent of Alice Liddell, the real life Alice in Wonderland. Every since Alice returned from that fateful trip into Wonderland, the women of her line have been cursed. They are unable to block out the calls of insects and flowers and are haunted by a mysterious moth that inspires them to unspeakable acts. With her mom in a psychiatric hospital and facing more and more dangerous treatments, Alyssa follows in her ancestor's footsteps in an attempt to set things right and free her family from this crippling curse.
Review: If you have been following my blog, you may remember that I am a sucker for books that either re-tell or are influenced by the classics. Splintered first grabbed my attention with it's stunning color, then made it on to my OH MY GOD I WANT IT NOW! list, when I read the synopsis and discovered it was a continuation of the Alice in Wonderland story. Splintered is very true to Carroll's whimsical style but with enough of a twist to stand on its own. The characters are considerably more frightening and the story often dips into darkness which serves to create a more grown up Wonderland while reminding readers that there was real horror in some moments of the original (non-Disneyfied) version.
Alyssa was a strong enough character to carry the story, although I would have liked to see a little more character development. She seemed like a damaged little girl who was playing at being a rebel. At times, she was a little too trusting and took a bit too long to catch on to the obvious. I would have preferred if she had taken a more active role in success, but she seemed to simply stumble upon the answer, rather than work towards it. Her love interest, Jeb, was not my favorite person. He treated Alyssa like a child and was always running to her rescue (whether she needed/wanted it or not). I was pleased when he was conveniently removed from the storyline so that we could see Alyssa grow into her new place in Wonderland and meet her challenges on her own. I did, however, love Morpheous. He was very Mad Hatter-esque in that he had character and motivation. He was multidimensional in a way that most of the other characters were not and I kept wishing for him to pop up whenever the Alyssa/Jeb story started to get a little boring.
The plot of Splintered moved quickly as Alyssa was dragged from one challenge to the next. Morpehous' manipulations made for exciting situations and were the catalyst for an eventful race through Wonderland. Even though I did figure out the BIG plot twist earlier than Alyssa did, it still added a special element to the story and left me to re-examine earlier events in a new light.
Splintered is a very fun read. While it is violent and dark, it is not inappropriate for a teen audience and has enough romance to keep young girls interested. It is a definite must read for anyone who loved Alice in Wonderland or is a fan of whimsical stories with a little bite to them.
Age: 15 and up Gender: Female Sex: Kissing, Allusion to sex/rape Violence: Swordplay, Other Issues: Discussion of mental issues/images in a psychiatric hospital Inappropriate Language: Ass Substance Use/Abuse: Underage drinking ...more
Cover Impressions: The cover doesn't stand out as much as I would like. It is simple and clean This review can also be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The cover doesn't stand out as much as I would like. It is simple and clean and I do like the gold crown and lettering on a blue background.
The Gist: As an orphan running the streets of Carchar, Sage has learned to depend on his quick wits and quicker mouth to survive. When he finds himself one of four boys bought by a wealthy nobleman with a dastardly plan to gain control of the throne, Sage must use every trick at his disposal to outmaneuver the other boys and convince the kingdom that he is fit to rule.
Review: The False Prince is the first book in The Ascendance Trilogy, and when I finished this book I was incredibly thankful that there are more to come while, at the same time, lamenting that I did not have the next installment NOW. This novel manages to invoke the same sense of intrigue and danger that Game of Thrones does, but presents it in a manner that is appropriate for a young audience. At the end I found myself warring contradicting emotions as half of me wanted to finish quickly so that I could find out what happens while the other half wanted to slow down a savor each word.
The voice of Sage, hooked me from the very first page. He is clever, witty and self-deprecating. He interjects a wonderful sense humor into the most serious of situations and is able to manipulate the other characters into playing along in his grand master plan. His antics left me laughing, shaking my head or asking "why can you not keep your mouth shut!" (and sometimes all three) in the most wonderful of ways. Sage is the type of character that is impossible not to root for and I truly feel that he will appeal to both male and female readers, a feat that seems difficult to accomplish in most YA novels.
The plot unfurls slowly but steadily, with secrets and betrayals around every corner. There was not a single moment when I was bored or wishing for more action. This is one of those books in which seemingly insignificant details will later be revealed as integral to the plot. I adore novels where all the puzzle pieces seem to fall into place, creating a finished piece that is full of detail and leaves the reader reflecting on all of the moments that brought us to this place.
The False Prince is easily the best book I have read this year and I am especially excited because this is a book that I can hand both my male and female students knowing that they will return begging for the next in the series. This is a wonderful addition to any classroom library, kid's bookshelf or adult's to-be-read pile.
Teaching/Parental Notes: Age: 12 and up Gender: Both - Boys will LOVE this book! Sex: None Violence: Shooting with an arrow, swordplay, stabbing Inappropriate Language: None Substance Abuse: None...more
I chose this novel based solely on the book trailer. I don't normally even bother to watch them, however, this one featured the music of S.J Tucker. II chose this novel based solely on the book trailer. I don't normally even bother to watch them, however, this one featured the music of S.J Tucker. If you haven't watched it, you really should. Go on, check YouTube, I'll wait.
There. All done? See, it was delightful wasn't it? Now, on with the review. The writing style of the book is charming and reminiscent of Lewis Carroll or Lemony Snicket. Valente is sure to leave any reader smiling and chuckling to themselves. The wonderful language, however, did not lend itself to the plot development. The story is actually a very simple one and I found myself skipping over much of the flowery language in order to reach the next plot point. As the novel wore on, there seemed to be more and more distance between these points. I was also dis-heartened at my utter lack of concern for September. I never felt that she was in any real danger and I did not find her endearing in any way. She was not particularly kind, or clever or gifted. Without a protagonist to worry about, the journey through Fairyland, while colorful and magical, seemed to lack the substance required to make it a truly captivating read. ...more