THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH by Bethany Griffin is a fast-paced book that really will keep you on the edge...moreReviewed by Rebecca for www.BookChickCity.com
THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH by Bethany Griffin is a fast-paced book that really will keep you on the edge of your seat. The action is continuous and keeps you forever wondering what will happen next, and who will be next to catch the disease…
A violent plague has swept the city in which our protagonist, Araby Worth, lives, wiping out much of the population and causing the people to live in fear of contracting it. Everyone who can afford one wears a special porcelain mask, which keeps out the germs that cause the disease, whilst the poor are left to suffer in the lower streets.
The city is ruled by Prince Prospero, who believes that only the privileged deserve to survive the plague, and so limits the production of masks to those who can afford them. Araby is fortunate enough to live in the wealthy side of the city, as her father was the scientist who invented the masks, which has earned him a certain degree of leniency from Prospero, who keeps all other scientists safe in his palace.
Araby’s parents are distant, allowing her to come and go as she pleases with April, the daughter of the previous ruler. They frequent the Debauchery Club, a place where you can escape the fear of disease and seek oblivion for a few hours or more. It is here that we meet Araby’s two love interests (I know this love triangle sounds typical of a YA novel, but stay with me!), one of which helps her on her way to oblivion with an injection of drugs, allowing her to forget for a few precious hours.
This is Elliott, April’s ruthless brother who is out to cause an uprising in the city and overthrow his uncle Prospero. He wants to provide the poor with masks, asking Araby to betray her father’s trust and steal the blueprints for mask creation. Straight from the beginning he tells her never to trust him, but she starts to believe in him as a leader, and when forced to masquerade as his fiancé, will she start liking him for real?
Our other love interest from the Debauchery Club is Will, a doorman of sorts who tests the club’s entrants for the disease before allowing them to pass through. Araby has always been intrigued by him, and when she wakes up in his home after passing out at the club she becomes just as fascinated by his home life. She is drawn to him, and sees his home as a refuge from her own dramas, putting her trust in him.
Araby is a troubled individual, which is portrayed beautifully in the book, as she suffers daily for the events of her past. Her whole family is still in pain over the death of her twin brother, Finn, who died because of the disease. Araby blames herself, as she put her father’s first mask on before Finn, and each mask can only be worn by one person. She is racked with guilt, seeking oblivion at the Debauchery Club, but has also made a vow to herself that she will never do anything new that Finn will never experience. This counts relationships of any kind, giving her further turmoil over her relationships with Will and Elliott.
Overall I loved this book, as Bethany Griffin has built up an amazingly detailed world, with an incredible level of character development. There is genuine fear in each character, with Araby never being sure who to trust and trying to overcome her self-destructive nature and guilt. The book likes to shock you, as there are some things I just couldn’t have predicted, which keeps you turning the pages until you’ve devoured the whole book. I am really looking forward to seeing where the series goes in book two, but 2013 is so far away!
I loved THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, mainly because of Bethany Griffin’s great writing style and wonderful plotline. The plot is terrifying and the threat of the disease feels real as you read the book, as the characters’ panic is so well portrayed. There are twists and turns, and like Araby we never know who to trust and when we can breathe easy.(less)
SOUL BEACH by Kate Harrison is a murder mystery novel with a twist – the twist b...moreReviewed by Rebecca for www.BookChickCity.com - 4.5 Stars on the blog.
SOUL BEACH by Kate Harrison is a murder mystery novel with a twist – the twist being that the victim can still communicate with the world via Soul Beach.
The book begins with Alice Forster preparing for the funeral of her older sister, Megan, five months after her murder. Her sister was a reality TV star, known as the Songbird, and loved by millions for her beauty and girl-next-door personality. She was found suffocated, with her blonde hair brushed out around her like a halo, and the police are nowhere near discovering who killed her.
Alice is sixteen, and struggling to adjust to life without Megan. She is trying to continue as normal with her friend Cara and boyfriend, Robbie, but it is clear that she isn’t coping. The morning of the funeral she receives a strange e-mail from her sister’s e-mail address, dated with the date of her sister’s death. Alice thinks it’s a hoax, but she is then sent a link to Soul Beach, a mysterious online site that looks like a beautiful and serene beach scene, with palm trees and clear blue seas.
However, this site is definitely not ordinary, as Alice can hear her dead sister talking to her, and can actually communicate with her via the site. Her sister isn’t the only soul she can communicate with on the beach either, as the beach is full of pretty young souls in a never-ending party environment, but they can only see Alice if Megan introduces them to her.
Alice is only a Visitor to the site, but it is clear from her first entry to the site that her actions are being carefully monitored, as it is forbidden to ask residents how they died unless the resident starts the conversation about it. This leaves Alice to constantly fret over what she says to her sister, as she comes to rely upon the residents of Soul Beach more than her real life friends, and can’t bear the thought of losing it from her life.
It is clear that Soul Beach is not the paradise it is made to look like, as the residents are trapped there forever, described as a ‘limbo’ for souls with unresolved issues. As a Visitor, Alice is the only one who can help these souls to resolve their problems, which gives her even more mysteries to solve than that of her sister’s murder.
In her ‘real’ life, Alice is becoming more and more detached from her friends, breaking up with her boyfriend and steering clear of her parents and their arguments. However, she becomes determined to find out what really happened to her sister, as she doesn’t believe that Megan’s boyfriend, Tim, could have been behind it, and starts her own investigations.
Alice is a brilliant character, as the writer has given her such depth for a YA novel, especially with the grief she feels for her sister, and the attachment she forms for the beach. It is also easy to understand her self-destructive path with her friends, as Soul Beach becomes more real to her than real life, with her beginning to log on to the site more and more each day. And when she starts falling for Danny, a resident of Soul Beach, her life starts to get a whole lot more complicated.
I know. What kind of sick freak checks her email before she goes to see her sister being buried? But sometimes it hurts so much I feel like I’ve got acid in my veins instead of blood, and that’s when I go online.
The reader is left to make their own decisions about the nature of the beach, and I also loved the inclusion of the killer’s confession at certain points during the book. These inserts are told in first person, and give the killer’s perspective of Megan, but still don’t manage to give away any clues as to the murderer’s identity.
I loved this book, and I can’t wait to read the following books in the series, as I really have no idea who the murderer is, and have a feeling that any guesses I try to make are going to be totally wrong! This book was full of surprises, and I was absolutely drawn in to the world of Soul Beach. The only detail I had a slight issue understanding was how Alice could ‘walk’ along the beach when she was viewing it from a computer screen, but this was easy to overlook whilst reading.
I loved SOUL BEACH, as the story was gripping and a really innovative concept that I hadn’t anticipated. The character of Alice was easy to relate to and the murder mystery has gripped me, and I really can’t wait to read the next book in the series and get a step closer to finding out who the murderer is! (less)
THRONE OF GLASS is being released on the 2nd August and after seeing a lot of positi...moreReviewed by Becs for www.BookChickCity.com - 3.5 Star on the blog.
THRONE OF GLASS is being released on the 2nd August and after seeing a lot of positive reviews and publicity on this new release I was intrigued. When I managed to get my hands on an advance reading copy I was ecstatic. The downside to being so excited about a book is that sometimes it doesn’t reach expectations. However, I was not disappointed.
THRONE OF GLASS is mainly told from the point of view of the main protagonist, Celaena, an eighteen year old notorious assassin. Celaena had been imprisoned at the salt mines of Endovier, dubbed the death camp after an assassination attempt on King Adarlan went wrong. Despite the odds, Celaene had survived and was sought out by Prince Dorian to be his entry into the Kings Champion Tournament. Given the choice between dying in the salt mine or in a tournament, Celaena would rather go out fighting, and so accepts the Prince’s offer.
“If you win, and prove yourself both skilled and trustworthy, my father has sworn to grant you your freedom. And, while you’re his Champion, you’ll receive a considerable salary.”
At first there seemed to be some similarities to The Hunger Games, a dictatorship rule from King Adarlan, a tournament where 23 people from different kingdoms battle it out for the privilege to become Champion.
The similarities end there, THRONE OF GLASS is set in a world of Sarah J. Maas’ creation, where faeries and magic exist. King Adarlan has banned the use of magic and anyone found using it would be destroyed. Magic outlawed, Celaena is surprised to find ancient symbols in and around the palace and seeks to find their meanings, especially as there appears to be a link between these symbols and some unexplained gruesome murders.
Celaena trains at the glass palace of King Adarlan under heavy guardianship of the captain of the guard, Captain Westfall (Chaol). The relationship between Celaena and Chaol is tense with enjoyable banter and it’s great to see how their relationship evolves as Chaol realizes there is more to Celaena than just a dangerous assassin. Outside of training, Celaena is heavily guarded but she is allowed to wander the castle as a lady and meets the Princess of Eyllwe, Nehemia. Celaena and Nehemia become great friends and are both strong minded, outspoken women warriors who are great heroines in this book.
With any great heroine, a handsome man is usually on hand, and Sarah J. Maas gives us two to choose from with Dorian and Chaol. Both these characters have a different type of relationship with Celaena which allows her to fully shows her likable personality and brings out a lighter side in the dire situation of the tournament.
THRONE OF GLASS provides lots of action, not only through the trials in the tournament but because something sinister is lurking in the castle and some of the competitors are brutally murdered a day or two before each trial. Celaena, worried that she could be next, tries to figure out who or what is responsible, before it becomes too late. Help always comes when needed and when Celaena receives it from an unexpected source she needs to figure out if she can trust it and what will be required in return.
The finale comes with the last trial between the four remaining contestants resulting in a thrilling ultimate battle, and a great conclusion ready for the next instalment in the THRONE OF GLASS series.
I enjoyed THRONE OF GLASS, it has a bit of everything; mystery, romance and lots of action. Some things are a little predictable, but is a great story none the less. There are a few novella’s that precede THRONE OF GLASS, which I will be buying shortly. Celaena is a great heroine and I wish to find out more about the little deadly assassin. I’m excited for the next book in this series. (less)
After reading Blood Red Road, I couldn’t wait to pick up REBEL HEART. Like Blood Re...moreReviewed by Becs for www.BookChickCity.com - 3.5 Stars on the blog.
After reading Blood Red Road, I couldn’t wait to pick up REBEL HEART. Like Blood Red Road it is narrated in Saba dialect, it took me a while to get used to this style of writing but after a few pages you become accustomed and immerse into the Dust Lands world.
After Blood Red Road, Jack and Saba part ways with a promise to meet again. Saba, Lugh, Emmi and Tommo travel west towards the stories of freedom, big waters and lush landscape, as Jack travels to tell Molly the news about Ike’s death.
Saba is haunted by her past and the deaths that she feels responsible for, Epona’s death especially. Saba is slowly going crazy with dreams, memories and ghosts following her around, then Tracker, a tame wild dog who belonged to Mercy, comes to Saba’s rescue and leads Saba, Lugh, Emmi and Tommo to a camp at the side of Snake River.
At Snake River the Sky Speaker, Auriel is a shaman and walks Saba through her dreams so that she can put the memories and ghosts to rest and find her true path, just as Saba’s dream comes to an end and Auriel is about to bring her to the closure Saba requires, Lugh bursts in with some news.
This news changes Saba’s course and she goes in search of Jack. As she wants to travel alone she sneaks off only to run into some headhunters. Killing one, Saba quickly gets on her way before the rest of the tribe find her, crossing a rope bridge and hearing the chase, Saba makes a hasty decision that could cost her family their lives.
Safely across, her family and friends rejoin. They need transport so decide to hijack a passing cart. The driver of the cart, Slim, is made to take them to the tavern Molly owns but he was on his way there anyway. On their journey the group see what the Tonton are up to and get to know Slim, they begin to realise there is more to Slim than he is letting on.
The Tonton have changed tactics and have become more orderly. Now at the head is DeMalo who is trying to produce a new society called New Eden, where the young and the strong are given the land to work and told to produce babies. The old, weak and feeble are pushed out or killed off. DeMalo tries to convince Saba of his vision.
Who are the best stewards of the earth? He says. The old and weak? The sick? Or the young and the strong? Whose children will best serve the earth? Those born to the scum of Hopetown? Weak children born to the weak? Or the children of these people?
I dunno, I says. I ain’t never thought about it before.
Resources are precious, he says rare. There isn’t enough clean water or good land to go around.
The Tonton have left a trail of destruction which causes Saba and her group to keep changing their plans. With the problems they face, the journey becomes a tale of self-discovery for all who are in the group, each making decisions that could have a detrimental effect on another and Saba finally realising that her chase of Jack could be the biggest mistake she has ever made.
Nobody’s like I thought they was. Nuthin’s like I figgered it. Nuthin’s like I thought it would be.
There are many twists in REBEL HEART that are just a total surprise and overall I really enjoyed it. It’s not as good as Blood Red Road but it is still a very good read. A story about self-discovery and understanding your full potential.
I’m afeared, Jack, I says. Everthin I thought I knew, pretty much all of it turns out to be wrong. Some of the things I seen of late…that I felt, I…I ain’t the same as I was. I dunno who I am no more.
We don’t choose the times we’re born in, he says. That’s the business of the stars. The only choice we got is what we do while we’re here. To make it mean somethin.
If you are a fan of Blood Red Road then REBEL HEART is a good addition to the series although it has less action than Blood Red Road, and doesn’t quite reach the same high standard. However, REBEL HEART is full of unpredictable twists, heartbreak, deceit and betrayal. Saba is unsure of her path and herself, which makes REBEL HEART ultimately a book about self-discovery and realising one’s potential. Despite the book being written in the unusual dialect, I still enjoyed it and with a few romances along the way and a great ending, yet again Moira Young has left me wanting more.
THE CITY’S SON by Tom Pollock is a fast-paced urban fantasy, set in the modern str...moreReviewed by Rebecca for www.BookChickCity.com - 2.5 Star on the blog
THE CITY’S SON by Tom Pollock is a fast-paced urban fantasy, set in the modern streets of London, revealing the city’s secret war that lurks within its streets.
The book begins with a chapter that is a bit confusing, as it is told from the first person account of a character we haven’t been introduced to and details a hunt for a creature we know nothing about. This wasn’t the best start to a book I’ve ever read, and I could easily have made the decision to put the book straight down.
However, I persevered with the reading, in which we are introduced to Beth Bradley, a teenager who roams the streets at night graffitiing London with her innermost thoughts. Her best friend is Pen Khan (short for Parva), who accompanies Beth on her nighttime exploits, with our first example being a graffiti piece of their teacher on the school playground.
Of course, they are caught for this and Beth is expelled, being forced to deliver the news to her dad, who is catatonic and sits in a dream-like state lamenting the death of his wife some years earlier. Her father gives little inclination that he has understood this news, with Beth escaping the confines of her melancholy home to find solace on the streets. She then finds herself in the midst of a fight between two railwraiths, train-like beings that gain energy from the railway tracks.
She is saved by Filius Viae, the son of legendary street goddess Mater Viae, and prince of the streets. He lets her see his view of London, where other creatures exist, such as Gutterglass, a being formed out of rubbish; creatures that are like walking light bulbs; statues that can move; and possessed barbed wire. Sound strange? You’d be right. There seemed to be a whole host of creatures throughout this book, and at times it felt like too much, like the author was trying to cram everything in and expecting the reader to be swept along with it.
Together Filius and Beth are trying to recruit an army to take on ‘Reach’, an entity we don’t know much about until the ending, and even then I’m not sure what to think about it. It is the being responsible for the presence of skyscrapers in London, the supposed ‘King of Cranes’, which appears to be an embodiment of capitalism to some degree, and the long-term enemy of Filius’ mother.
Beth was an interesting main character, as her background is tragic, with her mother dead and father stuck in his grief. She is strong and fiercely independent, going her own way all the time, often going against Filius’ advice. However, the one thing I didn’t like, both about Beth and the other human characters in the novel, is that she easily accepts the world she is thrown into, and there is little resistance or unwillingness to believe. I understand this is a fantasy novel, but I would still expect a certain degree of bewilderment instead of total yielding.
Filius was similar to Beth in the amount of emotional stress he was under, as he is pressured to lead an army in the name of a mother he doesn’t remember, and to be as great as she once was. Of course, he falls for Beth, but what I didn’t like was that it was almost instantaneous, with very little build-up. There is little affection or attraction between the two, they are just suddenly together, with an almost sex scene, which I think places the book at the older end of the YA spectrum.
With the YA reader in mind, I understand that this book is set on the London streets but both Beth and Filius use phrases such as ‘bloody’ and ‘bleedin’’ far too much in their speech, with the c-word almost being used on several occasions (i.e. we get ‘cu-’ and ‘cun-’ being cut off mid-word). As a YA novel I understand the presence of some swear words, but felt that this hinted c-word was going a bit too far for the YA market.
Another thing that I was disappointed with was the focus on the other characters in the book. I liked the multiple perspectives that allowed Pen and Beth’s dad be focused on, but I felt that there wasn’t enough focus on them, as I often found myself looking forward to their segments more than Beth’s and Filius’. Pen’s character was a little too underdeveloped, as it is strongly suggested that one of the teachers is abusing her, but that story is never delved into, and I have a feeling it is being saved for a future book.
After reading this book I could take it or leave it, as it was starting to drag in places, and after the shocking twist of an ending, it could just as easily be a standalone novel instead of a series. I’m not sure how the series will develop, as there a few plotlines left open for the sequel, but there was no major cliffhanger to draw me in.
This book is an action-packed urban fantasy, but despite all the action and supernatural creatures it just felt a bit like overkill on the action scenes. I liked the heroine, but didn’t like how accepting all the characters seemed to be of the hidden world of London’s streets. The use of language in the book also made me feel like this book is targeted at the older scale of the YA market, and I’m sorry to say that this book didn’t pull me in as much as I’d hoped.(less)
GRAVE MERCY by Robin LaFevers is a nice change to the current YA paranormal market, with assassins of dea...moreReviewed by Rebecca for www.BookChickCity.com
GRAVE MERCY by Robin LaFevers is a nice change to the current YA paranormal market, with assassins of death replacing the now-saturated vampire fiction. The book is full of twists and turns, becoming a historical, mystery, romance and paranormal book all in one.
Set in Brittany in the late 15th Century, the novel’s heroine is Ismae Rienne, a turnip farmer’s daughter who is mistreated by her father as she is believed to have been fathered by Death. Her mother tried to cast her out of the womb before she was born, meaning that Ismae bears a terrible scar down her back that she tries to keep hidden at all costs, as everyone who has seen it is repulsed.
After her father tries to sell her for marriage, Ismae ends up at the convent of St. Mortain, the saint of death. Here she is taught the variety of ways of killing a man, showing a particular gift for the study of poisons, as she is immune to their effects. She is given her targets from the convent’s Seeress, each of which bear the marque of St. Mortain, which allows Ismae to see how they should die.
“Poisons that grip the gut and force a man’s life to dribble from him into a slop pail. Poisons that stop the heart or squeeze the humors from the body. Bloodwort to congeal the blood so it can no longer move through the veins. We will show you subtle poisons that take days to fell a man, and those that kill within seconds.”
Her actions as an assassin land her wrapped up in official court business, after the Duchess of Brittany’s bastard brother, Gavriel Duval, interrupts one of her assassinations. Ismae is then made to accompany Duval to court, becoming entangled in the corruption surrounding the rule of Brittany. France wants to take the country’s independence, meaning the Duchess’s hand in marriage is coveted by several suitors who each promise an army to aid Brittany. Ismae needs to aid Duval in discovering the true motives behind each suitor, and to find a solution for both the Duchess and Brittany. Is it possible for her to aid Duval and serve her saint at the same time? And what if everything she believes in is questioned?
Ismae was a really interesting protagonist, as her scars meant that she was always holding herself back from interacting with others, always trying to keep herself hidden. When she becomes an assassin she finally has a purpose, and it was interesting to see the conflict between her love of St. Mortain and her developing affection for Duval. Her first person perspective demonstrates her emotions well, as the descriptions of her feelings weren’t excessive and so didn’t affect the action of the book, which can sometimes happen in YA fiction.
As a compliment to Ismae’s strong character, Duval is a good match, as he has the emotional conflict of being the previous Duke’s bastard and half-brother to the Duchess. This means he is more likely to understand Ismae’s scars, and his devotion to his sister is admirable, as he goes to great lengths to protect her. He starts to show affection for Ismae, and the strength of their partnership is definitely a force to be reckoned with.
Overall I enjoyed reading GRAVE MERCY, although despite really enjoying the plot there were elements to the writing that ruined it for me. The author uses an abundance of short sentences in her descriptions, which kept halting my reading and ruined the flow of the paragraphs. It gave the description a blunt feel which was beginning to irritate me. I also didn’t like the constant use of the word ‘mayhap’, which is used throughout the book and the word just draws attention to itself in a sentence and I started to notice it being used all the time. Despite these issues with the writing I thought the book had a great plotline, and even though some of the mystery has an obvious cause it was still a great read.
This book was a good read, and I loved the plot as I felt it was something different to throw into the currently saturated YA market. The main characters were likable and the ending leaves a lot of possibilities for the sequel that are going to be interesting to explore. The writing style could be improved, as I was beginning to get frustrated at the overuse of short sentences, but overall it was a good read.(less)
EARTH GIRL by Janet Edwards is a young adult sci-fi adventure which is set hundr...moreReviewed by Rebecca for www.BookChickCity.com - 3.5 Stars on the blog.
EARTH GIRL by Janet Edwards is a young adult sci-fi adventure which is set hundreds of years in the future, portraying a vision of mankind’s future.
In this world Earth is no longer the main planet for the human population, as humans have migrated to a whole host of other discovered planets, each with their own class systems and rules. For example, there is the prestigious Alpha sector, sexually open Beta, moral Gamma, and a whole host of other planets within these sectors.
The occupants of these planets are referred to as ‘norms’ as they are free to portal to other worlds as they please, and can live on any of the planets available for human inhabitation. Then we have our main character, Jarra, who is ‘Handicapped’ as she is one of the few people whose immune system won’t let her live anywhere other than Earth. As a result of this there is prejudice between the norms and the Handicapped, with the norms thinking they are superior to the ‘apes’ on Earth.
Jarra is a typical victim of this prejudice, whereby her off-world parents had a baby that couldn’t survive on their planet and sent her to Earth. As a result, she has grown up with a certain amount of bitterness against the ‘norms’, determined to prove that she is just as good as they are.
This bitterness, coupled with her love of history, leads her to choose a history course at an off-world university, as the first year of all history courses are carried out at dig sites on Earth. She chooses University Asgard, and forms a false identity for herself as a Military child, which will give her an excuse for her background knowledge about dig sites and the Earth environment.
Her plan is to reveal herself as ‘Handicapped’ when she’s proved herself to the ‘norm’ students, as she wants to shock them and change their prejudices about those who live on Earth. However, when she meets the class her perceptions start to change, and is her battle really against the ‘norms’, or against herself?
Jarra was a really great main character, as there is so much going on in her life for the author to delve into, such as her relationship with the ‘norms’ and her feelings regarding her parents. She almost takes on a new life in creating her Military persona, which did get a little frustrating at one point in the book, as the truth being revealed to her classmates is dragged out too long for my liking.
A lot of the drama in this book does come from typical young adult sources, such as finding out the truth about her parents, and suffering a dilemma over whether or not she should become involved with ‘norm’ Fian. I think it was written in such a way that older readers shouldn’t be put off, as I quite liked Janet Edwards’ writing style.
However, this book does have its problems, and for me the main problem was the plot, or lack thereof. Although Jarra’s life is detailed in great detail, it feels like the book is always building up to some big event, but nothing big really happens. Less significant scenes, such as the historical digs, are given a wealth of detail, which was good the first couple of times but began to get a little repetitive towards the end. Then there are big life events for Jarra that are described in only a few sentences and feel like a wasted opportunity.
Overall, I did really enjoy this book, as despite the excessive description of history and adolescent dramas the author has built up a very convincing futuristic world, and it is very easy to see through Jarra’s eyes. Her relationship with Fian is built up slowly, and is different to the instantaneous love that seems to be seeping into young adult fiction. I really liked how this was different to current books, and would recommend giving it a read!
I thought this book was refreshingly different to anything I’ve read before, and I really liked the author’s vision of Earth’s future. Her world is detailed so thoroughly that you can become lost in the future, and I really liked the main character’s internal struggles with her identity. However, it felt like the book was building up to a big event that never really came, with a lot of important moments described in a few sentences whilst other less important ones took a whole chapter.(less)
172 HOURS ON THE MOON is a novel narrated in the third person and is set in the fut...moreReviewed by Becs for www.BookChickCity.com - 2.5 Stars on the blog.
172 HOURS ON THE MOON is a novel narrated in the third person and is set in the future of 2019. As the novel is told from different view points, you are able to follow the main protagonists giving glimpses of each character and their personality.
NASA’s funds, and people’s interest, in space exploration is dwindling, and so they decide to fund another moon landing by holding a lottery to win a trip to the moon for three lucky teenagers. Reality TV is immensely popular and has huge money making potential, which NASA hope to capitalize on to support their next moon mission.
As 172 HOURS ON THE MOON progresses you can feel that NASA is hiding information relating to their reasons as to why they wish to return to the moon and why moon landings had ceased. This element of the unknown helps to create an atmosphere that keeps you guessing as to what may be hiding out on the moon.
The three lucky teenage winners are Mia, Anotoine and Midori.
Mia is a sixteen year old girl from Norway and has overbearing parents who enter Mia into the moon lottery thinking that she would regret a missed opportunity, as Mia has no intention of entering. Mia loves music, and dreams of playing in a famous punk band. Mia is persuaded to go by her friends, to enhance their bands chances of making it big.
Antoine, a heartbroken seventeen year old French boy, needs a way to escape his obsession with his ex-girlfriend, Simone. Antoine enters the competition in the hope that if he wins he will be able to get as far away from Simone as possible.
Midori is a sixteen year old Japanese girl who insists on not following the crowd and wants more from her life than being the expected dutiful Japanese wife. Midori’s dream is to one day live in New York, and hopes that if she is picked to go to the moon, it make that dream a reality.
The three winning teenagers are wanting to get away from something in their lives, be it parents, an ex or a lifestyle, and a trip to the moon offers each person the opportunity to get what they think they want. The trouble is, most things never turn out as good as you expect, and 172 HOURS ON THE MOON teaches a valuable lesson in that the grass isn’t always greener.
There are a few other characters mentioned to help create an alarming situation, mainly an elderly man, Mr Himmelfarb, that has lost his mind and is living in a care home. As the story develops it becomes evident that Mr Himmelfarb used to work for NASA and knows something sinister to do with past moon landings and that his mind is trying to protect him from the memories.
The flight and moon landing takes place without incident and you begin to feel how desolate the moon would be.
Mia could see the surface very clearly now, and she thought she’d never seen anything so lifeless. Everything was just grey. Gray, grey ash, absolutely no sign of life.
I was disappointed that the majority of the book was based on earth before getting to the moon, and the frightening exploration on the moon was rushed and over with too soon. When the story eventually takes place on the moon, 172 HOURS ON THE MOON is more exciting as it’s a race against time as power fails, oxygen supplies dwindle and something evil is trying to prevent their return home.
Johan Hastrad creates a believable plot using actual astronauts and events then adding his own fictional twist, which is interesting. However, due to the third person narrative you never get a full insight into the personalities of the three main teenage protagonists. It is the lack of an emotional connection to the characters that reduced my enjoyment.
I may be a little harsh with my rating as the writing style and plot flowed easily making 172 HOURS ON THE MOON a simple read. However, it just wasn’t my type of book. I kept waiting to feel the tense, scared, heart pounding moment that you expect from a horror/sci-fi, which never came, and I was never fully absorbed with the characters, giving me very little emotional connection to 172 HOURS ON THE MOON as a whole.(less)
THE GATHERING DARK by Leigh Bardugo is a thrilling YA fantasy novel set in a fictional world where Grisha...moreReviewed by Rebecca for www.BookChickCity.com
THE GATHERING DARK by Leigh Bardugo is a thrilling YA fantasy novel set in a fictional world where Grisha live side-by-side with humans, serving the King of Ravka in the war with the surrounding regions. The plot is intricately carved, with this novel providing a strong basis for the future books in the trilogy and carving out the foundations of the Grisha universe.
Grisha are wielders of magic so to speak, their power being described as ‘like calling to like’, with the hierarchy of the Grisha dependent on their skills. The highest ranked is the Darkling, a man with the power to summon forth darkness and amplify others’ power, the strongest of all Grisha. The other Grisha wield a mixture of elemental, summoning, healing, and crafting magic, each having individual skills with which to aid the kingdom.
Our heroine, Alina Starkov, is an orphan, raised in a duke’s orphanage along with her best friend Mal, and now a cartographer in the army. Their regiment is tasked with crossing the Shadow Fold, a seemingly impenetrable stretch of the kingdom that is inhabited by volcra, vicious beings that will kill on sight. Alina’s power manifests during this attempted crossing, marking her as a sun summoner, a power almost as rare as the Darkling himself, making her a prime target…
Alina is a relatable protagonist, with her emotional turmoil at becoming a Grisha fully understandable, along with her subconscious desire to belong somewhere, to have some sort of purpose. I really liked her as a character, and felt that the first person narration was really well written by Bardugo, as I never once felt annoyed at her character or frustrated at her perspective. She grows throughout the novel, becoming even stronger and likeable by the end, the reader willing her to succeed along her journey.
Another well-written aspect of this book is the love triangle. Ordinarily the author will set up from the beginning who the protagonist will eventually end up with, prodding the reader’s affection towards the appropriate candidate. However, I felt that Bardugo completely subverted this, with the love triangle between Alina, the Darkling and Mal being totally unpredictable. I didn’t feel that there was a clear choice to be made until the end, with Alina’s childhood friend being pitched against the mysterious and seductive Darkling. But, is the Darkling working for the good of the kingdom or for personal gain? And will Mal ever understand Alina’s new ways of the Grisha?
Overall, I loved everything about this book, with there being some seriously unexpected plot twists that kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end. I could hardly put this book down, and am thoroughly looking forward to reading the following books in the trilogy. My only slight complaint is that the book was too short, I wanted more to read!
I absolutely loved this book, I was completely pulled in by the characters and the plotline kept me hooked until the end. I can’t wait for the next two books in the trilogy, and feel that this book was a superb opening to the world of the Grisha, and hope that it can only get better. (less)
SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman is a YA fantasy novel set in the mythical human kingdom of Goredd, where a pe...moreReviewed by Rebecca for www.BookChickCity.com
SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman is a YA fantasy novel set in the mythical human kingdom of Goredd, where a peace treaty of forty years enables the human and dragon kingdoms to coexist without the need for war, with each race respecting the legislation.
However, in typical fashion this peace is not as stable as it could be, and when a royal prince is murdered the dragons are instantly blamed by several groups. This mainly arises out of lack of understanding as most humans don’t trust the dragons, particularly the ones that live in Goredd in their human forms, called the saarantrai. Likewise, the dragons don’t understand human emotions, as they don’t allow themselves to make any emotional connections and any who find themselves developing such feelings have their minds purged by the dragon Censor Office.
Into this unstable peace comes Seraphina Dombegh, an exceptionally talented musician who works at the court of Goredd’s royal family. Her existence is even more unstable than that of the kingdom, as she struggles to hide her true nature from everyone she meets, meaning she can never get close to anyone. Seraphina’s terrible secret is that she is half-dragon and half-human, her draconic mother having committed the crime of falling in love with her human father. As a result, she has silvery scales upon her left arm and back which she must always keep hidden.
Believed to be the only one of her kind, Seraphina is taught by her draconic uncle, Orma, who unwittingly appears to have formed an emotional family bond to her despite dragon law. He teaches her about locking her overwhelming emotions away in her mind, in order to prevent the onset of visions left to her by her mother, as dragons can pass memories through the generations. As a result, the reader is given an insight into Seraphina’s mind ‘garden’, which is filled with other individuals whom she believes to be a product of her imagination, but who start to appear in her reality…
Seraphina is an amazingly strong main character, with her first person narrative providing the basis for the majority of the novel. I was a little doubtful about her perspective to begin with, as the prologue wasn’t overly strong, but I ended up growing to love her. Her emotional struggles drive the novel forward, as she faces a never-ending battle to keep her true self hidden from those she meets, and to protect her uncle Orma from suspicion. She displays both dragon and human traits at times, and it is often like she’s trying to prove to herself as much as everyone else that she isn’t a monster. I also loved how protective she is over Orma, and how unprejudiced she is towards dragons, often defending dragons against accusations.
Seraphina builds up a relationship with the engaged royal cousins Princess Glisselda and Prince Lucian as she helps to uncover the truth behind the plots to sabotage the peace treaty, but will they still accept her if they know what she really is? She becomes attached to Lucian in particular after undertaking a couple of investigative missions with him, as he is the bastard of Glisselda’s aunt and knows how it feels to be outcast from society. He was a really intriguing and philosophical character, but his investigative nature means that it is constantly dangerous to be around him for fear of what he may discover about her true nature.
I loved the plot of this novel, as it constantly took me through a series of twists and turns that I really didn’t see coming. Seraphina’s heritage gets explored along the way, and I loved her growth as a character as she became more confident in herself. At the end of the novel I had my suspicions about what would happen, but the book completely went against everything I expected and I was really surprised. I’m hoping for a sequel, as I really want to know what Seraphina will discover next!
SERAPHINA is a wonderful book that dragged me into its fantasy world and wouldn’t let me go. The main character’s internal struggles were beautifully detailed and full of emotion, and the plot kept me guessing right until the end and wasn’t the obvious ending I was expecting. Here’s hoping there’s a sequel some time soon!(less)
FORBIDDEN by Syrie James and Ryan M James follows the recent trend for paranormal...moreReviewed by Rebecca for www.BookChickCity.com - 2.5 Star on the blog.
FORBIDDEN by Syrie James and Ryan M James follows the recent trend for paranormal romance between angels and humans, and also follows the typical plot of a young adult novel. However, in my opinion this novel might follow stereotypical American YA fiction plotlines a little too closely, making it suited to a younger reader, with not as much enjoyment for a slightly older readership.
The plotline of FORBIDDEN resembles other recent YA fiction, with the main character, Claire Brennan, holding a scholarship to an exclusive private school where her grades are top of every class. She is sixteen, and has just started her period when psychic ‘gifts’ begin to manifest, allowing her to see past and future events whilst touching certain items or people. Alec MacKenzie takes the typical role of the mysterious newcomer to the school, also top of every class, and who takes a particular interest in Claire from his arrival on campus. He is a Grigori, or an ‘angel’, who has gone AWOL from his duties to prevent newly-awakeneds from becoming Fallens (what we might call the dark side to Alec’s good), with dangerous repercussions if his location is discovered by the Elders.
Protagonist Claire is mostly likeable, but I often got infuriated with her teenage worries, as at times she seems incredibly whiney, turning her attention to a homecoming princess campaign in the middle of important events despite claiming to have no interest in the prize. She is a half-blood, half-Grigori, half-human, the first to be born for thousands of years, her mere existence being forbidden, and is the reason she is being hunted by the Grigori. Her relationship with her friends seems incredibly unrealistic, as she tells her best friends Brian and Erica everything about her new gifts and Alec’s true nature, despite being told to keep it a secret.
As for Alec, he is apparently ‘sexy, powerful, brilliant, fascinating… and frightening… all at the same time’. Sound too good to be true? You might be right. He is seemingly good at everything, featuring few flaws that I can think of, always turning up to protect Claire when she needs him. His identity as a Grigori is compromised and full of secrecy, which he seemingly reveals to Claire without question, despite any kind of relationship between them being forbidden. It seems highly unrealistic that a Grigori would just reveal their secrets to a human so easily, and several aspects to his character, as well as certain events, make the novel seem very similar to Twilight, not a factor I found at all appealing.
Overall, I could take or leave this book, as it was an easy read and I did enjoy the romance elements between Alec and Claire, but the teenage elements just took away all enjoyment for me. I don’t have a problem with YA fiction being set in a high school, but the characters were just difficult to connect with and some of the plot points just too obvious for me to enjoy. The story has been left open for future books, but as yet it is unclear if there will be a sequel, and I am unsure if I actually want to continue Claire and Alec’s story.
I enjoyed the principle of this book, and enjoyed certain events, particularly the build up to the conclusion and the romance scenes between Alec and Claire. However, the book just felt too typically teenage for me to enjoy it fully, with the high school setting and subplots of the homecoming princess campaign seeming too stereotypical and unnecessary. (less)