I loved the sound of this book from the synopsis, it was historical and it was also a fantasy book with dragons and beautiful gothic castles! While I did enjoy reading this book the entire time I just felt that something was missing, I wondered if this was a spin off of another book series or set in the same world as another book series at least. I wasn't surprised to discover that Shana Abe, while this is her first foray into Young Adult literature has quite a bit of experience writing adult romances and I guessed right, there is another adult series set loosely within the same universe.
The writing in this novel is beautiful though I felt that it left the main characters at times coming off as distant. Lora while sweet I never really felt sorry for her even though it would be tough living in a boarding school surrounded by wealthy girls. She was an interesting character however and I am interested in finding out more about her powers linking music with precious gems I found that really different and fascinating!
The two boys which make up your typical YA love triangle are both interesting though I do this this triangle is quite off kilter especially with how the book turns out. I'll be interested to see how Abe pulls off the romance angle in book 2. Jesse is all sweetest and light and theirs truly is a star crossed lovers romance. On the other hand there is Armand who is arrogant, rich and has an intense heat within him. Normally I'm more drawn to the arrogant alpha types in romances but I really loved Jesse and I think that his talents are fascinating and such a beautiful compliment to Lora.
The actual storyline is a little slow and if I think back, not that much actually happens. Abe is definitely playing to her strengths and this is foremost a romance with a smidgen of supernatural added in for good measure. If you are looking for a story that is romantic with some strong character building then I think you would enjoy The Sweetest Dark.
Thank you Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group for providing me with a copy of this novel for review. The Sweetest Dark is released on the 2nd April 2013 and can be purchased via the links below. (less)
This review will be fairly short as 3 weeks of reading this book and only getting 36% of the way through on my third attempt at starting it, I decided to add this book to my DNF pile.
I have never read any other Lili St Crow books so I’m not sure if it’s just her style of writing but I found it very hard to get into and the actual writing seemed quite complicated and heavy – it wasn’t an easy book to read. The fact that I was over a third of the way through quite a short book yet nothing had actually happened was very disappointing. While there was some world building and it was quite an involved world that did seem very interesting, there were just tid bits of information on the hierarchical society and the paranormal aspects, nothing really solid was given. I felt like it was all tease and not a lot of substance.
I couldn’t engage with the character of Camille at all and found her quite 2 dimensional. I got over very quickly that every page focused on the fact that she had a stutter, I understand it was a big part of her life, holding her back, but it got very annoying. I am assuming her two best friends are also fairy tale characters – Ruby and Ellie though I have no idea who they are from the descriptions given though Ellie’s evil step mother was mentioned a lot so I was wondering if it was perhaps Cinderella.
I also didn’t like that a third of the way through the book there was absolutely no resemblance to Snow White the fairy tale except for one nightmare she had, nothing remotely hinted of a retelling at all.
My Goodreads friends list shows that I am definitely in the minority feeling this way about Nameless, many reviewers seemed to enjoy this book and as I said in the introduction I did only make it just over a third of the way through. I’m sure the book picked up later on I just don’t feel I should have to spend that much time getting into a YA book especially when I have a million other ones that I’m dying to read!
Thank you Netgalley and Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a copy of this novel for review. Nameless was released on the 28th March 2013 and can be purchased via the links below.(less)
About once a year I hear about a book and for some reason I decide I most desperately have to read it and I build it up into the most awesomest book ever. Then I read the book and am thoroughly and incredibly dissapointed with it. Last year it was The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. This year it’s Skylark, I didn’t mind it, but boy did it fall way short of my expectations. The premise seemed so original and unique – part dystopian, part fantasy and part steampunk but the story was just way to uninteresting and the characters fell too flat for this book to be rated any higher than “average”.
Lark is well and truly over waiting for her harvesting. In this society older children and teens are “harvested” for their magical energy which keeps the protective dome energised around their city and ensures that their mechanical devices continue to work. Once children have been harvested they are allocated to their adult role in society and they start their careers immediately.
The first third of this novel sets the scene for how this city runs and explains how magical energy can only be harvested once out of youngsters. When Lark is finally harvested you discover that she isn’t ordinary – she is renewable meaning that after her first harvesting, her magical energy reforms so that she can be harvested over and over again providing a now renewable energy source to her people. She quickly discovers that the process of harvesting is actually incredibly cruel and that those in charge mean to keep her as a human battery, forcing her to flee for a fabled city of renewables outside the dome.
The middle of this novel is about Lark’s journey in the wilderness where is meets a strange boy Owen who helps her on numerous occassions from death. You discover the creepy zombie like people who are burnt out on magic and the strange magical hot spots that can take you to different places and different times. Unfortunately the majority of Lark’s journey is really quite boring and you just get a straight running commentary about what is happening to her at every moment. As there aren’t really any other central characters other than Lark for the majority of this section I found that it just dragged on for way too long.
Things started to really pick up in the last 3rd of this book though to be honest it was a case of too little too late for me. Some interesting things really do happen that I wont spoil for you but again it was so obvious who the bad guys were and who the good guys were – there was no complexity or layering of the supporting characters and I really found that lacklustre.
I found Lark to be quite a frustrating main character she just seeemed to continuously make poor choices, trusting the wrong people then totally not trusting clearly good individuals. Yes she was young alone and completely out of her element but I really found it hard to feel any sympathy for the girl. Oren was the real gem in this book, I’m not sure if I just like the silent savage type character who so needs a wonderful romance to open him up to a different way of life but he was complicated and interesting. I couldn’t say that there was any real romance between the two – in fact this book is really quite devoid on romance which isn’t a bad thing though I’m sure that this will be picked up in subsequent books in the series.
Overall I found that I procrastinated reading this book too much and felt at times I had to force myself to continue reading it. I’m not decided at this stage whether I will be continuing with the series – the premise and worldbuilding did hold some promise so I am hoping that book 2 might be vastly improved.
Thank you Netgalley and Lerner Publishing for providing me with a copy of this novel for review. Skylark was released on the 1st August 2012.(less)
"You couldn't hide from bad things and pretend they didn't exist–that left you with a dream world, and dream worlds eventually crumbled. You had to face the truth. And then decide what you wanted."
I've always loved fairytales. I remember in high school reading Beauty by Sheri S Tepper and absolutely loving the way it mixed traditional fairytales with a good dose of science fiction. As soon as I read the premise for Kill Me Softly I knew I had to get my hands on it and see if it could live up to my expectations and be the young adult version of its adult sibling. The story centres around Mirabelle a 15 year old orphan who has lived her entire life with 2 very loving but strict godparents. Shortly before her 16th birthday Mirabelle decides to defy their number 1 rule and return to the place of her birth to search for her parents graves in order to get some closure.
The town of Beau Rivage where Mira was born is not your ordinary town. This is a town that blends modern day diners and casinos with fairytale mansions and fates. Being born in Beau Rivage means you could end up being the handsome prince destined to rescue your very own princess, or you could end up cursed and a villain, perhaps abuse your beautiful stepsister, or eat a young girls grandmother. Happily ever afters in this town normally come at a price and Mira soon discovers that fate pulled her home for a reason just in time for her 16th birthday, an auspicious and often scary time for the teens of Beau Rivage.
While this book had some flaws overall I really enjoyed reading it. It's a fun read and you can't help but try and guess which character comes our of which fairytale. I really enjoyed that these weren't the disney versions of fairytales and insted err towards the Brothers Grimm versions being fairly morbid and nearly always gruesome. Happily ever after also has some fairly strange outcomes, like the prince who found his snow white princess yet upon waking her was no longer felt the attraction because she was too chirpy and bright. Being so in love with the handsome prince who rescued her, this version of snow white instead chose to drug herself so she walks through life in a almost catatonic state just so they can stay together.
The character of Mira was probably one of the weaker parts of this story, yes she's 15 so I understand that some level of self absorption is to be expected but seriously this girl could be downright dumb. She ignores all advice given to her for the most frivilous of reasons and does stupid things anyway. I found her whole infatuation with Felix completely unnatural and unrealistic. Yes I understand he is meant to draw and attract girls to him, but Blue has the same curse and she wasn't the least bit tempted by him. She also spent the middle of this novel being a world class bitch to people who had been nothing but nice to her as far as I could see. She didn't really do anything redeemable until the end of the novel and I still had a few issues with that, overall I just didn't connect with her and at times simply wanted to slap silly.
The love triangle, or is it a love square, was quite pitiful. I understand that it needed to be there to further the plot but considering she was deeply in love with Felix she seemed to forget about him a lot and would just turn up in the early hours of the morning ready to crash and only at that point remember to spend time with him. Blue who she apparently "hates" however she spends her entire days with and her relationship with Freddie is pretty awkward, I would have loved to have seen that fleshed out a bit more.
Now that I got those issues off my chest I can move on to what worked. The secondary characters were wonderful - I loved their little group, Rafe and his bad attitude, Viv and her complicated and creepy relationship with Henley, Layla and her gambling addict of a father I really could go on. Even though they didn't get much of a look in I was greatly entertained by the Knight brothers - Wills and Caspian provided such good comic relief. The scene where they go with Caspian to the beach so he can attempt to drown himself to find his mermaid was fantastic and hearing Wills talk about his hopes that his Cinderella can at least read and write gave me a giggle.
All the different storyline threads come together brilliantly and I couldn't put the book down I was dying to find out how it all ended. I can't say too much about the finale without spoiling it but I will be interested to see if this does stay a stand alone novel or if a sequel does eventuate. While Mirabelle's story wraps up fairly well, there were so many other entertaining characters that a spin off story centering around a different fairytale could easily work.
Overall I found this book very satisfying and think anyone with a penchant for fairytales would enjoy this. I can't wait for Channel 7 Australia to start airing Once Upon A Time now!
Thank you Netgalley and Edgemont USA for providing me with a copy of this novel for review. Kill Me Softly is being released on the 10th April 2012.(less)
"I became the very air; I was full of stars. I was the soaring spaces between the spires of the cathedral, the solemn breath of chimneys, a whispered prayer upon the winter wind. I was silence,and I was music, one clear transcendent chord rising toward Heaven. I believed, then, that I would have risen bodily into the sky but for the anchor of his hand in my hair and his round soft perfect mouth."
Seraphina is a young musician who lives wedged between two races who are in an uneasy alliance that could be destroyed at any moment. On one side there is the race of dragons – cold analytical beings that prior to the alliance saw humans the same way humans see ants, something to spare less than a passing glance. Then there are humans who fear and hate dragons wishing they would disappear completely their disgust and loathing of these creatures is so high. Her mother a dragon managed to break free of the standard unemotional detachment her race naturally has and fall in love with a human giving life to a baby. This child is Seraphina, a new hybrid – part human, part dragon and she guards this secret with her life for fear of violent persecution should she be discovered.
This book did so many things right. The world of Goredd is meticulously rich and complex giving you a really fundamental understanding of this world both from the human and dragon perspective. The writing was simply beautiful and this book is filled with little nuggets of simply beautiful prose:
"Sometimes the truth has difficulty breaching the city walls of our beliefs. A lie, dressed in the correct livery, passes through more easily."
What really impressed upon me the most was the undercurrent of fear that ran through the whole novel. Seraphina herself feels such fear about being found out and this is really driven home countless times over in small encounters with the general public and with her inner monologue. For all this fear, Seraphina is a wonderful character who would be enjoyed by a wide audience – she most definitely is not written to please a female market. Aside from one moment where she stupidly follows someone to a deserted place, she at no other point did anything that made me want to strangle her or roll my eyes in disbelief which was very refreshing.
The secondary characters were also well done really propping up the personality of Seraphina as well as coming into their own. Kiggs was a nice male lead though romance is very much on the backburner in this book and I’m very interested to see how things play out there. Seraphina’s uncle Orma was just a beautifully complicated character. A dragon who has feelings and is constantly struggling to reconcile these two sides of his personality he is simply wonderful to read about and I loved the interaction and clear devotion held between himself and Seraphina. The other interesting and very unique characters were Seraphina’s garden of Grotesques who all had their own distinct personality which comes to light as the novel progresses.
While this book appears to tick all the right boxes unfortunately I had to mark it down for a couple of things. While I loved the world and the characters I really didn’t feel that I could connect with this novel completely, it just seemed a bit too distant and there wasn’t enough that made me feel that I could understand what the character was going through. I also felt that this book wasn’t paced as well as it could have been. The beginning was slow going and at times felt a bit too complicated with not enough reward. I’m very glad I persevered however as I did think this was a superb novel and the ending was fantastic.
I have read quite a few stunning Young Adult fantasy novels this year and Seraphina is definitely another one to add to the recommend list. I’m really looking forward to book 2 as I’m sure that Hartman will have worked out the pacing on her sophomore novel and I can’t wait to see what happens next!
Thank you Netgalley and Random House Children’s Books for providing me with a copy of this novel for review. Seraphina is out now and can be purchased via the links below.(less)
I was so excited to start reading Dreamless, I loved Starcrossed when I read it last year and thought it was very unique the way it revamped Helen, the Trojan Wars and the face that launched 1000 ships. Starcrossed was very much about the romance between Lucas and Helen and explaining the world that Angelini created. Dreamless is a very different book, it’s about Helen finding her inner strength and very much delving into the characters and fleshing them out to provide a much richer reading experience.
In this novel Helen is struggling with her quest to free the Scions from the Furies. Much of the book is about her journeying into the Underworld trying to work out how to find the Furies and reunite the Houses. Helen and Lucas have also discovered their relationship as cousins and this has driven a large wedge between them which is further strained by the introduction of a new character – Orion who can journey and assist Helen with her mission.
This book started out a little slowly for my tastes, I’m not sure if it was just because there was such a long time between me reading the first book and this sequel but it took me quite a while to get into things and remember what was happening. I would have appreciated a little bit more of a reintroduction to the overarching plot just to get me back into the swing of things. Once I started remembering the characters and getting involved in Helen’s quest I truly enjoyed this story it was fast, fun and action filled.
Helen was done brilliantly in this book – I had found her to be quite weak in Starcrossed and I loved the self exploration and growth that she goes through in this novel even though it nearly kills her. By the end of the book she is fast becoming the kick ass heroine that this series deserves and I can’t wait to see how she tackles the challenges set before her in book 3!
I used to hate love triangles but I have read quite a few really good ones this year that the whole love triangle thing is really doing it for me. The introduction of Orion really irritated me at first but he was such a likeable guy that I couldn’t help but really love him by the end of this book. Lucas on the other hand I wasn’t quite so impressed with. I thought his melodramatic and public break up with Helen was poorly handled and then lets be frank he stalked her invisibly throughout half the book. Not on man, not on! His handling of Orion however when they meet was very gentlemanly so he got a bit of reprieve from me there.
The plot wrap up in this novel is sensational – I wolfed the ending up in no time and am now desperate for book 3! It managed to provide some key plot resolution making you feel that you had actually finished the book but left enough shock and cliff hangers that you can’t wait to read the next installment. Very neatly handled by Angelini and a far cry better than many YA books out on the market! I think anyone who enjoys greek mythology should consider this series, it’s a very unique angle and a lot of fun.
Thank you Edelweiss and HarperTEEN for providing me with a copy of this novel for review. Dreamless was released on 29th May 2012.(less)
"After years of pretending at emotions, he'd grown to appreciate their mystery, their chaos and randomness. Sometimes they were predictable, one-dimensional, almost stupid - other times they were so confounding, complex, and exquisite that he was convinced humans really were as special as they thought themselves to be."
The White Oak is a dark and interesting tale that takes well known greek myths mixes it with Alice in Wonderland and produces an inventive and unique fantasy that is guaranteed to hook in the reader. The story starts off fast and without any build up you are taken straight into a climactic scene of Cora being buried in a sinkhole desperate and frantic before arriving in Asphodel (also known as purgatory) alive and disoriented. The novel then takes on you Cora's journey as she tries to escape the underworld with her life intact as no one knows what would happen to her soul if she really died while already in the land of the dead.
This is an action packed book and reminded me a little bit of early 90s adventure games (think Kings Quest). Each chapter introduces you to a new problem or adventure so to speak which keeps the plot moving at a good rate and also helps you visualise what the character of Cora is going through.
The biggest weakness with this novel is that there didn't seem to be enough time to really build and explore the characters. There is a tiny amount of backstory of Cora & Lucas's abusive father and mother who dissappeared, but considering what a traumatic childhood they had, both of them seemed incredibly well adjusted and I never once actually felt real empathy or sadness for what they had experienced in life. Cora was so bland for a main character, nothing seemed to really phase her and I just found her plain boring if slightly weird considering she sews seeds into dresses for no apparent reason.
The secondary characters were much more interesting and I really hope in the future novels we get to find out more about them. Minotaur as a computer program, how novel and fascinating! I love how he would change personas depending on the situation. Sybil was also very interesting and I loved the concept of everyone having their own book of life that all made up the entire story of the world - past, present and future. I'm also interested to find out more about the hatred between Minos and Sybil and how this is going to play into the over arching story.
The finale takes place in a courtroom discussing the possibility of Cora's execution (Alice in Wonderland anyone?) and then just as things start to get interesting the book ends. This is a pet hate of mine - regardless of whether a book is part of a series or a stand alone there needs to be some resolution to the story. Ending it the same way you would end a chapter is just completely exasperating!
Even though the book had its faults I still enjoyed the adventure and would pick up the sequel. Just don't go into this novel expecting anything profound, it really is more suited as a fun summer read albeit a dark one!
Thank you Netgalley and Story Machine Studio for providing me with a copy of this novel for review. The White Oak is being released today, the 9th April 2012.(less)
Wow this was a fantastic book! I am not surprised to discover that this was originally written years ago on fictionpress and has only more recently been edited and published by a professional publishing house – it’s beautifully written and really packs a punch! This is one of those Young Adult novels that really gets it right, the world building is simply brilliant, I loved this war torn land and can’t wait to find out more about the magical elements that have been driven underground. The characters and character development is handled well and the writing is filled with witty banter. Even though the book is 400 odd pages it’s a fast read – highly entertaining.
This is the story of Celaena a teenage girl who also happens to be the most feared assassin of Ardalan. At some point prior to this book taking place, Celaena is betrayed and caught and the book starts with her imprisoned in the salt mines of Endovier where prisoners are sent to work to the death. Where most prisoners die within mere months, Celaena has managed to last a year so far without breaking her spirit. Enter the handsome prince Dorian who gives Celaena a chance at freedom if she will compete as his contender to become the King’s champion against other criminals all desperate for pardons and a fabulous salary. Things start getting scary when something starts killing off competitors one by one and Celaena is determined to find out and stop whatever it is before it comes after her.
What I loved most about this story was the character of Celaena, I just found her so relatable. She was strong, intelligent and confident and not in the least bit ashamed to admit it. She was also scarred and vulnerable with a traumatic past that is continuously alluded to in the story – it just made me want to give her a great big hug. There are elements of a love triangle in this novel but it’s a weak one – romance is definitely not a major part of this story it just enhances your understanding of the characters and gives you an insight into their personalities. The crown prince Dorian is well done, given his background as a pampered ladies man he could have been so unlikeable but he is witty and the flaws just give him room for growth and he definitely grows during this novel. The other love interest is captain of the royal guard and Dorian’s best friend Chaol, who is the strong silent type. Now this is a man I think many women would get behind, behind that tough battle strong exterior is a vulnerable man just waiting for the right woman to love him and make things all better. I will be very surprised if this isn’t who Celaena ends up with in the end though I’m sure many would disagree with me!
The world of Ardalan is beautifully depicted and I really need to go and read all the prequels that Maas released to see if you get further information into the wars and loss of the magic in the world. I’m also interested to find out more about the assassins’ guild that is mentioned numerous times when hearing about Celaena’s past.
There is simply so many hints and references given in this beautifully told story that I just can’t wait to see where things head in the future sequels. This was a wonderful fantasy story I enjoyed it immensely and Celaena is a fantastic heroine and role model for a Young Adult crowd.
Thank you Netgalley and Bloomsbury UK & ANZ for providing me with a copy of this novel for review. Throne of Glass is released on 2nd August 2012 and I most definitely recommend you pre-ordering your copy!(less)