“In the end you can’t always choose what to keep. You can only choose how you let it go.”
Before I start on Crossed, a little bit of background on my thoughts on Matched, the first book in this trilogy. I read a lot of mixed reviews for Matched, and things that other reviewers disliked about it were things that I actually relished and enjoyed about the story. Condie’s writing of this dystopian world is slow paced and has a mysterious undercurrent of wrongness about the society that just builds your anticipation as to how its all going to play out. I also quite liked Cassia and could understand her reasons and motivations through the storyline overall I thought it was a very solid book and was really interested to see what happened in the sequel.
Crossed starts out in a very different place. Ky has been sent to the outer provinces and Cassia is determined to find him. I was really looking forward to their journey to one another yet the way they were brought together was just unrealistic and implausible to say the least. Cassia manages to by complete fluke hop on an airship that magically takes her to the area that Ky was sent to. And then manages to escape without any planning or difficulties even though Ky only just managed to himself and no one has survived previously??? I just couldn’t buy it.
The book is written from both Ky and Cassia’s perspective as they journey to find one another, which sounds romantic and like it would build your anticipation. Unfortunately I found it jarring and really felt that it took from the overall story instead of adding to it. Amongst the unrealistic plot is a lot of poetry and prose which I thought was quite heavy handed and instead of me feeling the love between these two, I just got irritated by it and found myself skimming over those parts. Seriously I know teenagers have a lot of angst but considering both Cassia and Ky are written as quite intelligent individuals man do they have real emo tendencies!
There are also a couple of new characters introduced into the story who journey with Ky and Cassia respectively and I’m not really sure what their purpose was other to ensure that neither of them when journeying in the middle of the desert alone. Indie in particular had a lot of promise and I’m hoping that she is explored a bit further in the final novel.
Where the first book gave you good insight into the society, Crossed delves more into those opposing the society including the Resistance which is what Cassia and Indie want to join. Finding out about the resistance and the farmers plus some of the back story into the society was what I enjoyed most about this story and I’m very interested to find out how they all play together in the final installment of the trilogy – Reached.
Overall I found this an incredibly dissapointing sequel and while I will read the series to conclusion, my expectations aren’t particularly high.(less)
"Our purpose on this earth is not one single event, an accomplishment we can check off a list. There is no test. No passing or failing. There's only us, each moment shaping who we are, into what we will become."
Sigh, what a beautiful novel. Hallowed is the 2nd installment of the Unearthly series by Cynthia Hand and follows Clara, a part angel on her journey to fulfill her purpose on earth. This isn't a fast paced book, but the lack of intrigue and action is greatly made up by its solid characters and strong, well constructed relationships.
This book continues where Unearthly left off with Clara purposefully choosing to fail her purpose by choosing to save Tucker and now working out how to deal with Christian and the fact that he is also an angel blood. While dealing with that she also has her new relationship with Tucker and a majorly pissed off Black Wing who could return at anytime. The love triangle between Christian, Clara and Tucker is a very central part to this book but the triangle is done well - you can really understand and empathise with the wavering feelings Clara has throughout the book.
When I finished Unearthly I thought Tucker and Clara were absolutely perfect together, if you had told me that Christian was in anyway a contender I would have flat out laughed. Here I am now seriously wanting her to somehow magically get to have both guys because Christian didn't just grow on me in this book I totally love him - he is so perfect in such a completely different way to Tucker. I have no idea how this triangle is going to pan out but I think I'm going to be sad one way or another!
Aside from show casing a strong love triangle, Hand also delves deep into the mother, daughter relationship and I'm not sure whether its because I quite recently lost my own mother, but I found this relationship beautifully depicted. I found out when reading the acknowledgments that Hand was pregnant with her baby daughter while writing this novel and I think all those pregancy hormones definitely kicked in and helped her deliver a wonderful, emotionally driven story. I sincerely hope she has as strong a relationship with her daughter as Clara and her mother have in this book - I loved reading every minute of it even though it was so incredibly sad.
This is not an easy book to read at times, infact the depth of emotion and sadness that I felt in parts made this in some ways a hard read even though I rated it so highly. I wouldn't reccomend this to someone who is after something fun filled, this book definitely requires tissues though please don't let it deter you from an phenomenal series!(less)
"She had been innocent once, a little girl playing with feathers on the floor of a devil’s lair. She wasn’t innocent now, but she didn’t know what to do about it. This was her life: magic and shame and secrets and teeth and a deep, nagging hollow at the center of herself where something was most certainly missing."
"Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well."
Wow, what a commanding start to a novel. That opening sentence hooked me in, it set the bar high and boy does Laini Taylor deliver! Daughter of Smoke and Bone tears down the common formula for paranormal romance and sets a new standard. Based in Prague you meet Karou the azure haired girl an aloof art student by day and mysterious errand girl for the chimaera named Brimstone by night. While she is human, Karou was raised by Brimstone and some of his colleagues in his workshop hidden “elsewhere” accessible only through portals disguised as doorways. Brimstone tells her nothing, everything is a secret and Karou is raised a lonely girl who feels separate from humanity and with no clue as to how she ended up under Brimstone’s care. All this changes when by complete chance she encounters Akiva on one of her mysterious errands and her world starts to come apart.
The world building in this book is phenomenal. I’ve never been to Prague but I desperately want to go after reading countless descriptions of city scenery this being one such example:
"The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century—or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Motzart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet."
Along with the beautiful descriptions of Earth, Taylor introduces Eretz a world filled with Angels and Demons and torn viciously apart by war. You can visualise this alien land so well through the story and even though the book is laden with descriptions and explanations it at no point takes away from character development.
I loved the character of Karou. She was smart, clever, witty with just a hint of sorrow. You got a real sense of her inner strength even though she is fairly reserved – definitely not a flashy heroine! I was a bit worried by Akiva initally - I thought he was going to be a little too heartless and cold to me. There is nothing I like less than a girl who fawns herself over a complete asshole. Thankfully he wasn’t like this at all and as the story progresses you really appreciate how he is actually flexible and willing to grow.
The relationship that develops between Akiva and Karou could have so easily crossed the line into creepy and unrealistic but instead its authentic and innocent. You find yourself wanting it to work out for them against all the odds. Taylor shifts this story between both their perspectives and it really helps strengthen the realism in their growing love for one another. It’s hard to go into their relationship without giving too much of the story away but you do believe that these two are destined to be together and to do great things for the fate of 2 races and 2 worlds.
I also loved the fact that there is no clear cut good and evil in this book and that war isn’t anything to be glamorized instead its something that literally consumes both sides and everyone loses out:
"Have you ever asked yourself, do monsters make war, or does war make monsters?
While this sounds like a standard Young Adult romance it truly isn’t. The story changes about half way through when Karou learns the answers to just a few of Brimstone’s secrets and it almost feels like you are reading a different novel. This is not a story of happily ever afters even if it started with a fairytale beginning. This is a story that sends you on a whirlwind of all sorts of emotions, from grief, love, shock, betrayal and tragedy. It leaves you out of breath at the end and in complete awe. I was unable to contemplate starting another book for a good week, it took me that long to digest it.
I find myself recommending this book to everyone I know. While the story resolves itself and leaves the reader feeling complete, the ending is still a cliffhanger and I can’t wait for 2nd novel – Days of Blood and Starlight to be released in late 2012. I read this book in January 2012 and I won’t be surprised if in December this year I still list this as one of the best books I read in 2012. This book deserved its 5/5 stars and then some.(less)
"In approved places, every story serves a purpose. But forbidden books are so much more. Some of them are webs; you can feel your way along their threads, but just barely, into strange and dark corners. Some of them are balloons bobbing up through the sky: totally self-contained, and unreachable, but beautiful to watch.
And some of them- the best ones- are doors." What a wonderful follow up novel to Lauren Oliver’s dystopian, Delirium. Where many sequels flounder or just fall flat, Pandemonium delivers and grows on its predecessor. The novel is split into alternating chapters of “then” and “now”. The “then” chapters complete the tale of what happens to Lena after Delirium finishes and she is fighting to escape and survive in the Wilds without Alex. The “now” chapters show Lena back in society as a Resistance agent.
Delirium left you on such a cliffhanger, I needed to know what happened next. Oliver managed to deliver a sequel where she strung you out the entire book before giving that information. Normally this is something that would have left me twitchy and irritated, however the book is just that good I never once felt exasperated at all. What you get is a book that isn’t shy of being harsh and painful. It makes you think twice about about how we behave as individuals and shows the strength and resiliance of humanity regardless of what is thrown at them. Where Delirium explores Lena’s growth and love, Pandemonium is about the darker emotions like hate and revenge all of which are still considered part of “the” disease, amor deliria nervosa.
"If he were less well trained, and less careful, he would say hate. But he can’t say it; it is too close to passion, and passion is too close to love, and love is amor deliria nervosa, the deadliest of all deadly things: It is the reason for the games of pretend, for the secret selves, for the spasms in the throat."
There were many scenes in this novel that deeply impacted me, often by what Oliver leaves unsaid, once scene in particular with Raven, Blue and Lena left me in tears it was so harsh and beautiful. The writing is just superb, I can’t fault it. Where Crossed so desperately tries to be poetic, deep and meaningful and falls short at the mark, Pandemonium delivers in spades. The story and writing is fluid, soulful you really empathise with the characters and can feel the hopelessness and uphill battle of trying to change their society.
Lena really grows in this novel, she states that the old Lena is dead and in some ways this definitely feels true. The new Lena is much tougher after surviving the wilds and joining the resistance. She at times seems numb and dead due to the shock of losing Alex and her entire way of life. There are a few new secondary characters introduced who are well done and really enhance Lena’s journey through the Wilds and I can’t not mention Julian, her new love interest. I wanted to dislike him, I really did but I just couldn’t. Julian, like Lena is all about discovery, growth and acceptance that they are different to the rest of their society. He is sweet, he is genuine and I really felt for him and could see the love blossoming between them even if Lena resisted and battled it.
I can’t sing this series enough praises. If you haven’t read Delirium yet, please go pick it up and get as hooked on it as I am. Pandemonium is a wonderful sequel and I am on tenterhooks just waiting to see how everything comes together in the final book!(less)
"You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift."
An impressive debut novel by Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus is one of those stories which either captivates the reader, or puts them to sleep and thankfully I was most definitely captivated. Set in the late 1800s, you are introduced to 2 young magicians – Celia and Marco who have without choice, been trained for a contest that will span the majority of their lives. The playing field for the contest is The Night Circus, a wondrous and magical Cirque Du Soleil-esque affair that mysteriously appears in different locations around the world only to vanish again after a few days leaving a profound impact on those who visit it.
The story is filled with beautiful prose, there were so many quotes that resonated with me and provided such a rich texture for the story that I guess I understand why both the author and editor let the story run away with itself. I certainly would have found it hard culling some of those poetic paragraphs even though the story felt at times like one long description with no real plot or substance. The book is a little under 400 pages yet it was a long 400 pages and I often caught myself wondering if it was ever going to end and if anything was actually going to happen.
The book is written in 3rd person which makes it quite hard to connect with the characters and I felt it made the romance between Celia and Marco a little hard to swallow. Yes there were endless paragraphs about lights flickering when they touched and how the world stopped when they looked into each others eyes but it simply came across as text, you never really got to feel or understand why they loved each other so completely. The main characters were disappointing all round – very 2 dimensional with no defining characteristics or redeemable qualities other than their magic. The secondary characters, Isobel, Alexander, Tsukiko, Chandresh, & Friedrick Thiessen were much more interesting and are what kept this story fresh and dynamic.
The circus itself is quite simply the star of the show. The immersion is complete and sensory, the exhibits sound purely breathtaking, I want to visit the Ice Garden, make a wish on the Wishing Tree and just sit and watch Friedrick Thiessen’s clock as it goes through its 24 hour cycle.
“You think, as you walk away from Le Cirque des Reves and into the creeping dawn, that you felt more awake within the confines of the circus. You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream.”
I wavered while reading this story between a 3 star and 4 star rating. I was leaning towards 3 stars until I read the last few chapters – the solid ending definitely tipped the scales and I decided this book was worth the 4 stars. While this was no fast paced climax that left you on the edge of your seat exhilarated, it was a thoroughly satisfying finale. Like one of Chandresh’s midnight feasts, this isn’t something to be rushed, instead take your time to enjoy and mull over the minute details.
I’ll leave you with one more quote:
“Stories have changed, my dear boy,” the man in the grey suit says, his voice almost imperceptibly sad. “There are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need to rescue. Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case. There are no longer simple tales with quests and beasts and happy endings. The quests lack clarity of goal or path. The beasts take different forms and are difficult to recognize for what they are. And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep overlapping and blur, your story is part of your sister’s story is part of many other stories, and there in no telling where any of them may lead. Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon, or a wolf and a scarlet-clad little girl. And is not the dragon the hero of his own story? Is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should act? Though perhaps it is a singular wolf who goes to such lengths as to dress as a grandmother to toy with its prey.”
This book has been on my to-read list for ages. To be honest if it had been made available as a kindle book in Australia I probably would have read it eons ago but have only just gotten onto it because I spied it in the library while I was there recently. Whinging about the status of ebooks in Australia aside, I was excited to finally read this book and while it didn’t quite live up to some of the hype and expectations I had, it was still a fantastic fantasy read.
The story starts with our heroine’s arranged and political marriage to King Alejandro. At the age of 16, princess Elisa has been honored from birth to be the “bearer” for her generation. The bearer is the person who only once every 100 years is blessed with a godstone on their naming day and are destined for greatness. When you first meet Elisa, greatness seems incredibly far fetched. Instead you meet a heroine who appears to have been molly coddled her entire life and is to be blunt a selfish gluttonous princess who has never had to do anything she didn’t want to in her entire life. Life changes dramatically for Elisa after some extreme changes in circumstances and along with toughing things out for the first time in her life she discovers her purpose to help save her people from magical enemies.
I’m not sure I was really a fan of Elisa though I know many bloggers have hailed her as a likeable heroine. I found things a little too predictable with her growth. After whinging about her weight and frumpiness for the first half of the novel, she then managed to have the fortitude to tough things out in the desert without complaint and get fit and slim with what appeared to be virtually no effort on her part. I also didn’t like that she seemed to fall in love with her captor at one point and instead of feeling fear towards him upon first meeting she mooned over his eyes, this just isn’t realistic in my books! Small complaints aside, Elisa does grow dramatically throughout the course of the story and she really does step up and become a strong honourable heroine by the end of this book and I look forward to seeing how she goes in the remainder of the series.
The actual story was really fantastic, the plot moves at a fast but manageble pace and there is lots of fantastic action scenes to keep the reader intrigued the entire way through. There were some references to me that came a hairs breadth away from religion and christianity but it managed to only make me uncomfortable briefly and for the whole I could enjoy the novel irrespective of my religious beliefs. The story is wrapped up brilliantly and left just enough teasers for book 2 which I now can’t wait to get my hands on!
This is a great fantasy novel for people that just don’t have the time to read adult high fantasy due to the page count. While it isn’t the best one I’ve read recently, it still deserves a look in and I’m extra impressed considering its a debut author!(less)
What can I say, I just really enjoy this series! This book is dark, the opening scene is gruesome, traumatic and there is a lot of death. This opener really sets the tone for the entire novel and things don’t really look up for the people of Mythos Academy anytime soon.
In this book Gwen is on a quest to find the Helheim Dagger and through this Gwen learns a lot about her mum and her time as Nike’s champion. I really liked the quest in this book and the pace was just beautifully done, you always felt something was happening without being bombarded with too much information. I also loved that even though it had been a while since I read book 2, the author managed to weave in enough recapped information that you never felt confused or unsure about things that had happened in the previous novels.
Gwen is a wonderful lead character though in this book I felt at times she was a little thick as the author gave some fairly obvious hints that Gwen just glossed over entirely. I found this really frustrating at times, it was pretty clear to me what was going on from fairly early in especially with who Loki’s champion was yet Gwen just didn’t seem to get the most obvious warning signs. Good thing the story was so interesting that this could be taken in stride and wasn’t too big a mark down for the overall book.
Logan is awesome as always but man can these two just hook up already and stop with all the awkward conversations and wonderings. I just can’t see enough of a reason so far in Logan’s past that he has to stay away from Gwen. The backstory with his family just doesn’t cut it in my eyes and I hope there is something else we’re yet to uncover on this. The romance in this book is on the backburner in comparison to the first two books buts thats ok as Gwen really does a lot of self exploration and growth in this novel. I think too much romance would have really deterred from the processing and internalising of her mothers memories that happens over the course of the story.
Gwen’s quest really is the central focus in this book and I really did miss the fantastic secondary characters that have cropped up. I hope we get some more air time with Daphne and Carson plus Logan’s spartan buddies in book 4 as Gwen will need her friends to take on the Reapers after this huge page turning finale. The reappearance of the Fenrir wolf was a lovely surprise and side story in this novel, I’m really glad there was more to the wolf’s story even if it was all a little bit sad!
I can’t wait until book 4 is out, this is a wonderful series if you want a good all round paranormal – there is action, romance, mythology and teenage drama, definitely great fun!(less)
I was really surprised to discover that Across the Universe had a sequel at first because that book was wrapped up so very well. I was really excited to read the sequel though I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as this book was going to need a completely new direction after book 1. Beth Revis did however manage to come up with a whole host of issues for Amy and Elder to deal with in this book and I loved every minute of it!
At the end of book 1 the ship Godspeed is off the calming drugs pumped into the water supply and now there is a whole lot of angry and upset people aboard the ship. With no planet in sight for what could be countless generations there is a whole host of issues to contend with including mutiny, violence and work strikes. Elder has his hands full learning how to be an effective leader and Amy is busy uncovering the truth left to her in clues by Orion.
This book is really about change and growth and showing how the characters handle these new and stressful situations. Both Amy and Elder are beautifully handled by Revis and I found this book incredibly difficult to put down. Their blossoming romance was done well also, it isn’t just smooth sailing but they both question each other at different points throughout in a incredibly believable manner.
While I had a pretty good idea how things were going to end up before I got up to the climactic ending wow I still found it an exciting read and the cliffhanger was fantastic. I truly love this series and if you like a good science fiction then you wont be dissapointed by this trilogy thus far!(less)
I originally passed over this book after reading the blurb as I believed this story to be predominantly science fiction with a large cyborg element, a topic that doesn’t interest me in the slightest. Somehow I completely missed the fact that this was a modern fairytale retelling of Cinderella much to my dismay and was very excited to see it in the library during a visit one week. Once I started this book I found it incredibly difficult to put down it was so good, this is a debut novel that should not be overlooked!
Set in New Beijing sometime in the future after World War IV, the world is terrified by a very real and terrible plague called Letumosis which is highly contagious and completely deadly. Medical technology is much more advanced and humans who once would have died in accidents can now become cyborgs and live, but as second class citizens looked down upon by society. Cinder is a young mechanic who works to fund the social lives of her stepmother and two step sisters. After one of her step sisters contracts Letmosis, her stepmother sends Cinder off to be a cyborg volunteer at the research centre trying to find a cure for this deadly plague. From here Cinder’s whole world goes into a huge spin as she discovers things about herself and her past that she would never have dreamed.
Cinder is a wonderful character, definitely much more defiant and independent then the original Cinderella and I really enjoyed her point of view and telling of this story. The entire Cinderella retelling was just wonderful, there was enough elements of the original fairytale in the book that gave it a comforting familiar touch but it still managed to be so very unique. I especially loved the twist on the dramatic ball scene with Cinder’s grand entrance and reveal to the handsome prince!
The romance between Prince Kai and Cinderella was nicely done, not too thick or unrealistic and definitely not overally dramatic which I really enjoyed. Prince Kai was just a lovely male love interest in general and I think is a wonderful ruler – a great mix of empathy and inner strength! At the end when Kai discovers Cinder’s secret it was just heart breaking and so beautifully done, I just felt so sorry for the both and wished they could have their happily ever after.
The added plot twists with the Lunar civilisation was fascinating and really sets this book apart from the average Cinderella retelling. I found the Lunar people fascinating and loved the tension and anxiousness when the Lunar Queen descends onto Earth. I can’t wait to find out more about this in the future books of the Lunar Chronicles!
This has really been one of the best books I’ve read so far this year and I am incredibly impressed considering Cinder is written by a debut author. I think that this is a story that will suit anyone – don’t let the science fiction elements put you off as this really isn’t the heart of this novel. Cinder is a mystery, science fiction, love story and paranormal all in one and boy does it really work!(less)
"We’d both been stripped of all the evasiveness, all the lies, everything we’d ever kept from each other. Layer by layer, we had given up our defenses and our excuses and our demands for whys and hows, and what was left were two broken beings. Clinging to one last shred of hope. Tethered to each other."
I just loved the idea of this book, as soon as I read the synopsis I was intrigued and knew I had to get my hands on it. This book centers around Nikki, a forfeit who has just been released from the underworld to spend a final 6 months on earth before being given over to the tunnels. The story sends you on a journey of what happens in those final 6 months plus interchanging chapters giving you insight into the 6 months of her life leading up to her entering the underworld.
This book started off really slow - At 20% in I was worried that it was going to be a big waste of time. I didn't really get the whole tunnels/Everneath premise and couldn't really relate to Nikki at all. I also didn't buy the fact that she disappeared quite literally off the face of the planet and no one seemed that concerned by her sudden reappearance. At no point in the story does her family actually push her to find out what happened which doesn't seem very realistic to me. As more of the back story was revealed and I really got into the romance that is Jack and Nikki I could relax and forget about some of these eyebrow raising plot holes and just enjoy the wonderful characters. By the time I finished the book I was hooked and like a junkie I wanted more.
The strength of this novel lies in it's characters and character development. Nikki, our heroine is a beautiful character who a has to deal with some pretty full on issues for an adult let alone a teenager. While she seems weak at first, the way the story is written, slowly revealing little pieces of her history in between what is happening in the present really helps you connect with her. It shows her inner strength, personality flaws and all and it would be a rare person who couldn't understand her actions by the books conclusion.
Jack - wow, just wow. For a story based on myths and legend, Ashton has definitely come up with a modern day hero. Jack is a solid male lead and secondary character, that really rounds this book out. It is Jack that stops you from disregarding this as a typical teenage romance its just so clear that he really genuinely cares about Nikki, both as a girlfriend and his lifelong friend. I am normally quite cynical about the relationships in Young Adult novels, often finding them erring on the side of ridiculous and these two really hooked me in and had me rooting for them.
The book is pitched as a love triangle with the 2nd love interest being the Everliving Cole who got Nikki into this mess to begin with. Cole is an interesting if slightly two dimensional character. He starts off quite strong and mysterious, your not quite sure if he really is a bad boy or if he's just misunderstood. Unfortunately his character doesn't really develop that much through the story other than to fill you in on important information which means that this love triangle is pretty lack lustre. I expect that we'll see a lot of Cole development in the sequel.
There were plenty of little heartfelt moments through this book that just keep endearing you towards it. The scene where Nikki overhears her dad talking about his difficulties with Nikki to her mother just tugged at me and this novel is full of small occurrences like this one.
Because the story switches between the past and present you have a good idea where it is leading and it works in the stories favour, really building your anticipation. The story itself was paced really well and like the clock ticking down the pace gets faster and faster as it draws to the inevitable final scenes and ends with a nail biting finale.
This story is a breath of fresh air even though its loosely based on ancient myth and I definitely think anyone who enjoys mythology or young adult romance will find this a worthwhile read.(less)
“Who am I?” My first spoken words. “No one,” she said. “Nosoul.”
In a world of 1 million souls that have been reincarnated countless times over the span of 5000 years, on one fateful night the temple flashed dark during the birth of a baby girl. Instead of a normal reincarnation, no one they know is living in this baby girl’s body. She is a new soul, or as some believe a person with no soul. The person who was meant to be reincarnated is gone for good.
This is the premise for Jodi Meadows debut novel Incarnate and I admit I was really intrigued. I wasn’t sure if this book was going to take a very spiritual journey into life and death and the very essence of a soul, but I had high expectations that I was going on a thought provoking journey. I was very disappointed.
Incarnate is a well written story but to be frank it is a very run of the mill Young Adult paranormal romance that doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. The story starts out strong, leaving you sympathising with Ana who has been downtrodden her entire life by her mother who whisked her away at birth to the isolated countryside. You first meet Ana as she leaves home for the first time ready to find out why she is so different. On this journey she meets Sam who rescues her from a Slyph, the first of a number of mythological baddies that crop up in this world, and with his gentleness and music he helps thaw out a lifetime of neglect and abuse.
The story starts to go downhill by the time they reach Heart, the beautiful utopian city that the million souls live in. First there is a pretty thin storyline insisting that the 2 of them live together without allowing them to actually “be” together. Then there is this rather vague religion that is complete with a sinister temple and a mysterious godlike being, Janan who reincarnates them all. Multiple events crop up to further the plot and each time it happens Ana seems to connect the dots just a little too easily or makes some pretty large decisions with little to no evidence. I get that she is smart but I almost feel like parts of the stories are rushed and don’t ring true just because it has to happen in order for the larger story to play out.
The romance between Sam and Ana is really the main event in this book and it is a sweet romance. Its my belief that this book is really just setting the scene in the romance department and book 2 is going to revolve around how much these 2 souls are meant to be together not just in this life but in all reincarnations. The scene in the library looking through all of Sam’s past reincarnations and the Masquerade ball explaining the soul dedication make that all pretty plain to me.
Both characters had some fairly questionable personality flaws if you look at them individually. I liked the character of Sam to begin with but he really fell apart somewhere around the middle of the book. He became an absolute wuss and I just couldn’t really see why, in fact I wanted to slap him and tell him to man up for goodness sake. I in no way expect all male leads to be alpha males, but surely someone who has lived for 5000 years has some inner fortitude in the face of an emergency? I also don’t really believe that anyone who has faced the emotional and physical abuse that Ana did over 18 years could over the course of 2-3 months become such a strong resourceful person. The author did such a good job in the beginning with Ana’s emotional state yet it seemed to just magically go away after 3 weeks with Sam, yeah I don’t think so.
After a great well paced beginning and a slow stagnant middle the last part of the book is insanely fast. The amount that happens in the last few chapters left me having to reread sections to make sure I really understood everything that was happening. In saying that though, the story wrapped up nicely leaving the reader with just enough tantalizing new information and questions for the sequel.
Overall I think it’s filled with great writing and an enjoyable love story, but it all played out a little bit too safe. I was left with the feeling that if the author had been willing to delve more into some of the deeper questions and mysteries that the premise allowed this could have been something truly amazing.
“There was no telling if I’d be reborn when I died, but the waltz began and ended with my four notes. He’d built the music around things that reminded him of me. And now this name. My name.”
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)
"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)
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)
"Envy hurt exponentially more than heartbreak because your soul was torn in two, half soaring with happiness for another person, half mired in a well of self pity and pain."
I chose to read this novel back in January for the Dystopian Challenge and all I remembered upon opening the Kindle document was that it was post apocalyptic. Within a few chapters I started to get a real sense of familiarity to the story and characters and when I discovered that it was a Jane Austen retelling this made a whole lot of sense, there is a real Austen feel about this novel while still managing to spin a completely new and novel story.
The story is about 2 children – 1 rich, Elliot and 1 a slave, Kai. These two are born on the same day and form a strong friendship that overtime blossoms into love. 4 years prior to this book taking place, Kai leaves to try and make a better life for himself while Elliot stays behind, bound by duty to try to protect and look after the other people on the estate before her father’s disinterest drives it to the brink of ruin. Fast forward to today and Kai comes back, as the dashing and incredibly successful Captain Wentworth still hurt and angry about Elliot’s choice to leave him and ready to show her what a poor choice she made.
Elliot is a wonderful strong female lead, one who is self sacrificing, independant and who clearly cares deeply for others overcoming many societal predjudices. As one of the luddite nobitlity she takes her role as caretaker to the reduced (generations of people on which genetic experimentation went incredibly wrong) seriously unlike many of her society counterparts. The best part about her carefully constructed charactered is how layered she is. She chooses honor over love and underneath her tough exterior is pain, regret and a tinge of hopelessness. Mixed in with these many emotions are deep seated religious beliefs and fears about innovation, science and change making her a delightfully complex heroine.
Kai/Wentworth is a very typical Austen male love interest and while the arrogance has been toned down for a more modern audience I can still imagine many of his reactions wouldn’t sit well with teens today. His blind hatred to Elliot at the beginning of the story does seem to dissolve fairly quickly with very little reason, though many reasons why he should love Elliot are still shown to the reader. His character is given depth through the ethical dilemmas he faces while apart from Elliot with relation to science and innovation. The decisions and rational behind his choices definitely round him out making him more appealing and also add a extra layer of complicaton between himself and Elliot.
The many issues dealt with in this book make it such a very interesting read and I could easily imagine reading this story for a second or third time and taking very different messages away from it. From family drama, slavery, genetic experimentation, religious persecution and pitfalls of scientific innovation, there are many important questions to ponder as a reader and this book did a great job of painting everything a delicious shade of grey and never tried to sway your point of view one way or the other.
This is such an engrossing book, I finished it within a day and it’s probably one of the best written novels I’ve read since Daughter of Smoke and Bone. If your looking for a book that makes you want to think yet still keeps you entertained then I can’t recommend this enough!(less)
"I remember the Hunt from ten years ago. How for months afterward I didn’t dare fall asleep because of the nightmares that would invade my mind: hideous images of an imagines Hunt, wet and violent and full of blood. Horrific cries of fear and panic, the sound of flesh ripped and bones crushed puncturing the night stillness."
This book is a reversal of sorts on the standard vampire style novel. In Fukuda’s world the vampires are actually classified as normal people and the humans (hepers they are called in this book) are in hiding and virtually extinct. I was expecting a dark and thrilling story from the synopsis and I was sadly very underwhelmed, instead I got a fairly shallow and frankly weird story that seems more suited to 10 year old boys or I guess someone who doesn’t mind a bit of toilet humor.
Gene is a heper who has managed to blend in with the vampires his entire life by following a stringent set of rules his father drummed into him from birth. He does this by flying under the radar and being a loner though through the narration it’s clear he is meant to be incredibly smart and athletic. His ability to stay aloof all goes ary when he is randomly picked via a lottery to participate in the Heper Hunt an event that happens only once a decade. Along with his fellow school student, the “hot girl” Ashley June, they are taken to the Heper Institute for a week of training before the hunt begins.
Probably the biggest problem I had with the story was that the whole vampire culture was incredibly weird and icky. Now I don’t need my vampires to sparkle but the tourretes like head and neck jerking, the wrist scratching and the drooling just did not do it for me! The spin the bottle memory Gene has where he gets it on with Ashley June was completely nauseating and I just wish the author had left it out because I seriously don’t even understand how these creatures procreate if armpit (or was it elbow?) pumping is part of their foreplay. The world building also had some flaws, I couldn’t understand why hepers would try to blend in at all considering they had the daylight hours free to do as they pleased – why not simply hole up at night time, that would surely be safer? Also as there is definitely more hepers than Gene passing how on earth did they not spot one another during the day – the water supply and fruit trees nearby surely would be hot spots for fellow hepers to congregate?
World issues aside I just wasn’t a big fan of Gene, for someone who considers himself so smart he has to be careful at school not to get everything right all the time, he did some pretty dumb things. He knew from day 1 at the Heper Institute that the dome housing the captive hepers went down during daylight yet he didn’t cotton on until day 3 or 4 to go and talk to them, drink some water and “hide his odour” by taking a dip in their pond. Seriously if you are dying of thirst which you would quite literally be after 3 days surely a great big pool of water near your sleeping accommodation would drive you crazy. Aside from Gene you don’t really get much of an insight into any of the other characters in the novel. You are briefly introduced to the other hunters and the hepers being held captive but you aren’t really given enough quality time with any of them to form anything other than the most generic of connections. You see a bit of Ashley June through the dialogue her and Gene share but to be honest she does some pretty stupid things too so its hard to relate to either of them.
The actual idea of the hunt was quite interesting and the story really picked up pace towards the end of this book, and I started to enjoy myself. Unfortunately like so many YA books these days it just ends abruptly without any real conclusion. This is a pet peeve of mine, when I went through high school if I handed in a creative writing project that ended the way some of these books do I would probably fail for not completing the story. Using the “there is a sequel coming” excuse just doesn’t cut it for me I’m sorry give your readers some type of conclusion please!
I had really high hopes for this book but was not interested enough to consider reading the sequel when it’s released. Perhaps this book would go down well with middle grade boys? I’m not sure but I can safely say I didn’t love it in my 30s and I would have been highly grossed out by it in my teens so not thinking this one is for the female market!
Thank you Netgalley and St.Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this novel for review. The Hunt is released on 8th May 2012.(less)
“You’re crazy,” said her best friend, Angela, as the bell rang to signal five minutes before the first class on the first day back at school. “They said that about all the great visionaries.”. “You know who else they said it about?” Angela demanded. “All the actual crazy people.”
Every now and then you come across a book that completely blows you away and this is what Unspoken was for me. It was fun, witty and incredibly entertaining, it was a breath of fresh air in amongst a heap of super serious paranormal YA books. With a witty gothic vibe this world will just blow your mind with memorable banter between the characters and a super fun storyline that I challenge anyone to find boring!
The main character Kami is just brilliant - she is witty (I'm sorry in advance for how often I'll be using this word in my review), unstoppable and completely comfortable with being seen as a little bit crazy by the rest of the quaint small town Sorry-in-the-Vale. In fact all the characters in this book are wonderful, quirky and refreshing just making you want to find out more about them. Even the tiny characters have a real sense of completeness about them for example Kami's younger brothers the shy and serious ten year old called, Ten and the ADD manic lemonade addicted Tomo only a few sentences of air time yet you still feel a real sense of family and insight into their personalities. Her school paper project that has brought together a completely random group of personalities and created a sense of camaraderie is also wonderful and I especially love Angela the very gorgeous yet completely lazy side kick who is dragged along (never kicking and screaming as that would be too much effort) on all of Kami's escapades in exchange for cooked meals.
While it looks like there is going to be some major love triangle action happening in this book, romance isn't really that large a part of the premise and what romantic tension is included is well handled and uncliche'd. Jared is wonderful, complex and your never really sure if he is just a bad guy or a flawed softy hidden under a tough guy complex. I was erring on the side of a softy until he did something that left me a bit shocked at the end of this novel. There is some great chemistry between him and Kami which is further complicated by their mental link and I really really hope that these guys overcome all obstacles and manage to get together!
The other male lead Ash is your typical knight in shining armour hero type... or is he? Again this is another well multi layered character who doesn't stick to the standard YA cliche and I must say the date that Ash and Kami goes on had me giggling my head off - I just loved it! Jared you are a naughty naughty boy :)
Throughout the story you feel this ominous sense of evil with the Lynburns which is built from the get go and I wasn't dissapointed with how things ended up but boy what a cliffhanger! I really hope book 2 comes out soon because I'm dying to find out how things resolve. This is just a wonderful wonderful book and I think there are very few readers who wouldn't enjoy this one - the only reason it doesn't get a 5 star rating from me is that the ending is a little sudden, I like my books with a bit more wrap up then what we got in Unspoken.
Thank you Netgalley and Random House Children's Books for providing me with a copy of this novel for review. Unspoken has just been released on the 11th September 2012 and can be purchased via the links below.(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)