If you click on the link here and look up my review of Incarceron, you'll see that I really enjoyed reading that book....moreOriginally posted in WordPress.
If you click on the link here and look up my review of Incarceron, you'll see that I really enjoyed reading that book. So it should come as no surprise that I had high hopes for its sequel. Sadly, I was disappointed. My friend Moses, who sent me copies of the duology, already mentioned that the sequel isn't that good but of course, I was still curious. The characters are still the same but Claudia and Finn aren't the focus of the story anymore. The point of view shifts from Claudia, Finn, Jared to Attia and Keiro. Also, there were some new characters introduced to the story such as Rix.
Finn was able to escape Incarceron but he just went to a different kind of prison. People Outside are still trapped, albeit not in a physical prison, but in lives constricted to following the Protocol. They had to follow the rules governing the seventeenth century and how people lived their lives back then. Outside isn't the paradise that everyone in Incarceron dreams about. Finn also has to deal with his memory loss. He may be Prince Giles but he doesn't have much to prove it. Finn's troubles don't end there, he also has to worry about his political enemies in court - those who had him sent to Incarceron in the first place and the ones who don't believe that he really is the lost prince. Claudia has her own set of problems - her father destroyed the Portal and trapped himself in Incarceron and her beloved master Jared's sickness is getting worse. Meanwhile, Attia and Keiro struggle to find ways to escape and Incarceron grows restless: the prison wants to escape just as much as its inmates.
The changing points of view can be frustrating at times because it would change right after something big happens. A single chapter can contain scenes from various points of view. Like Incarceron, Sapphique is just as fast-paced and also riddled with political intrigue. However, I didn't feel like the sequel lived up to the first book.
Also, there were a couple of plot threads that were just left hanging. There were too many questions and not enough answers. I was expecting more character development and maybe the shifting narration just wasn't able to delve deeper into each character. I would still recommend that people who've read the first one to read this sequel because you can't help but be curious and Sapphique would give you closure, so to speak. I can see why others would like this but I echo Charlotte in saying that I guess this just wasn't for me.(less)
This is a classic story of a love-hate relationship. Payton and J.D. work in the same law firm. They’ve always competed against...moreOriginally posted here.
This is a classic story of a love-hate relationship. Payton and J.D. work in the same law firm. They’ve always competed against each other but more so when they find out that only one of them can be partner. I have to say, I think J.D. is the Julie James hero that I like the least because of something that he did to Payton in the past (sorry for being vague, I don’t want to mention spoilers). As a whole, it was still a lot of fun to see both of them battle it out through arguments and pranks. There’s a lot of background information about lawyers in this one because both protagonists are in that profession and I believe Julie James was also a lawyer before. There’s not a lot in terms of action in this one but what makes it enjoyable is the dialogue between the two witty and intelligent protagonists.(less)
I love Crown Duel and it's in my list of favorites. Vidanric is also in my list of fictional guy crushes. I loved that Sherwood wrote Crown Duel outtakes, which involved certain scenes told from the point of view of Vidanric (these are included in the e-book version, which can be purchased here). Vidanric was so aloof for the most of Crown Duel so it was refreshing to see his side of the story. A Stranger to Command gives us a more intimate look at how Vidanric became the person that he was in Crown Duel. For some reason, even though Crown Duel is popular, not a lot of people know that there's a prequel for it.
I put off reading this book for some time because one of the biggest highlights of Crown Duel for me was the love story between Mel and Vidanric. I didn't want to read about Vidanric without Mel in the picture. But being a Sherwood Smith fan, I gave in eventually and I don't regret doing so. Vidanric is sent to the foreign land of Marloven Hess to begin his military training and this is how he gains his formidable fighting skills. It's not easy for him to leave his family and the comforts of the life that he's known but it's necessary for his safety and for the future good of Remalna that he train himself in the art of war. Marlovens are experts at this, they have studied military command for centuries. They have a military school that takes in students as young as ten years old. Training begins early for these people. At fifteen, Vidanric is actually old for a beginner and he's a foreigner to boot. It's the first time that the school allowed a foreigner to enter. So aside from the difficulties of training and adjusting to a new environment, Vidanric has to deal with the hostilities of his classmates. He does it with the aplomb that we've come to expect of his character.
This is an excellent, character-driven story in the same wonderful world of Crown Duel. There's magic, political intrigue, romance and a whole lot of other challenges that make things interesting. I highly recommend this book to fans of Crown Duel, I know that there are many out there. It has the same lovely writing and is set in the same world albeit a different country. I also enjoyed seeing the references to the Inda series, which I read before this one.(less)
Graceling was published back in 2008, a few years before I started the blog and I remember I got the recommendation for it from...moreOriginally posted here.
Graceling was published back in 2008, a few years before I started the blog and I remember I got the recommendation for it from Sounis. I was so excited to read it but it wasn't initially available in local bookstores so I asked a friend to get a copy for me from the States and I'm glad she said yes. Graceling became one of my favorite discoveries that year. Gracelings are humans who have a highly specialized skilled called a Grace. Graces come in all forms - it can be as simple as being Graced as a cook to as unusual as Katsa's Grace of fighting. All Gracelings have mismatched eyes - Katsa has one green eye and one blue. That's the only way they know a child is a Graceling, through his or her eyes and they never know what the Grace is until it manifests itself in some way. Katsa discovers her Grace when she accidentally kills a man when she was just a young girl.
Katsa is the kind of YA fantasy heroine that I enjoy reading about. Strong female protagonists for the win! Katsa's physically strong, she could probably kill using just her pinky, but she's also an emotionally complex character. She reminds me of characters in books by Robin McKinley, Sherwood Smith and Tamora Pierce. If you're a fan of those three authors and you've never read this book then I highly suggest that you get a copy as soon as you can. Katsa's uncle, King Randa, takes advantage of her fighting skills by employing her as his own personal thug. At the start of the book, Katsa really believes that she's nothing more than a thug even though she hates doing her uncle's dirty work. She doesn't believe she's capable of building relationships so she keeps people at arm's length. As she learns more about herself and her Grace, Katsa also starts to trust other people. I was totally on board the romance as well, I didn't think it was instant love and I liked that they were friends first before they were romantically involved.
I remember that Graceling was pretty hyped the year that it came out. I had high expectations after all the trouble that I went through to get a copy and I wasn't disappointed. Graceling has everything that I look for in my YA fantasy reads: a unique world that I can get lost in, a court setting with political intrigue, characters who change and develop throughout the course of the book and relationships that take time to form. Writing this review has reminded me that I should read more epic fantasy, I think I've been reading more contemporary novels this year. Fire is also an amazing book but in a different way and I'm planning to write a review for that as well. I seriously cannot wait for Bitterblue to be published, I'm going to pre-order that as soon as there's a release date. (less)
I think Cinderella has the most number of retellings out there, probably because it's a very popular fairy tale. Ella Enchanted is set in a world full...moreI think Cinderella has the most number of retellings out there, probably because it's a very popular fairy tale. Ella Enchanted is set in a world full of magic, where fairies exist as well as ogres and gnomes. When Ella was barely an hour old, a fairy named Lucinda visited her mother and gave her the gift of obedience. Her mother and their cook knew that it wasn't a gift so much as a curse but Lucinda won't take back the gift. As Ella grows, they try to protect her from the effects of the gift. They forbid her to tell anyone about it so that other people won't be able to take advantage of her. Not even her father, who is constantly away on business, knows about the curse. Ella had a fairy godmother and her mother asked the fairy godmother to take away the curse, but the fairy godmother said that only Lucinda can do that. Although, she also said that it might be broken someday without Lucinda's help.
It's interesting how Ella adapted to the curse. Instead of being cowed, she tried to find ways to get around obeying orders: "Instead of making me docile, Lucinda's curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally."
When Ella turns 15, her mother gets sick and passes away. This is when her adventures begin. Her father, who doesn't know what to do with her, sends her to finishing school. Later on, her father marries another noblewoman who has two awful daughters. The novel follows the original story in the sense that Ella doesn't get along with her step-mother or her step-sisters. The rest of the novel revolves around Ella's adventures as she tries to get rid of the curse. Along the way, she interacts with a lot of interesting people, including Prince Charmont, Char for short. For of course, a Cinderella story needs a prince, right? But Ella Enchanted is very much Ella's story as she comes to her own and realizes what she needs to do to break the curse.
Ella Enchanted is a Newbery Honor book that a lot of people obviously enjoyed. It's a fun, easy read for those who enjoy fairy tale retellings or fantasy novels. (less)
Review for The Mark of Solomon duology: The Lion Hunter and The Empty Kingdom, originally posted here.
I think we've safely established that I'm a book...moreReview for The Mark of Solomon duology: The Lion Hunter and The Empty Kingdom, originally posted here.
I think we've safely established that I'm a book pusher and there's nothing I enjoy promoting more than under-the-radar books. I am constantly amazed that so many excellent books don't get the attention that they deserve. I reviewed The Sunbird by Elizabeth E. Wein last year, hoping that more people would read her books but I haven't been that successful because I haven't seen reviews of that book in the past year. Also, it makes me sad that The Sunbird is now out of print. So now I feel like I need to talk about The Mark of Solomon, the duology that comes after The Sunbird, because the blogosphere seriously needs to show more Elizabeth E. Wein love.
I've already dubbed Telemakos as Gen-in-Africa so that should serve as enough encouragement for all Megan Whalen Turner fans out there. I originally found out about these books from Sounis, back when I didn't have a blog and I got most of my recommendations from that community. If you have no idea what I'm talking about (shame on you!), Gen is the main character in the Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner and he's all kinds of awesome. Telemakos is young but he's wise beyond his years. His upbringing as a half-British, half-Aksumite noble and his innate curiosity has landed him right smack in the middle of political intrigue involving several countries. I find it ironic that he has such a striking physical appearance - cinnamon-colored skin, bright blue eyes and pale hair - and yet he excels in subtlety. A line from page 11 reads: "Oh, the wealth of intrigue you heard when no one imagined you were listening."
Elizabeth E. Wein is not afraid of letting her characters suffer and even though I've known from the start that Telemakos is as brave as they come, my heart goes out to him whenever something terrible happens. *huggles Telemakos* He also kept surprising me with how intelligent his strategies were. Sorry for being vague but he kept being thrown into situations where he had to make the most out of his wits if he wanted to keep himself and everyone he cares for out of harm. Also, the secondary characters in these books? They're all so smart and complex and they keep readers guessing. You never know who's really trustworthy. Which also paves the way for complicated relationships between the characters. I love that you can feel the love and respect that the characters have for each other but their interactions are never simple.
The Lion Hunter and The Empty Kingdom should be read together because the first book ends on a major cliffhanger. I heard that they're actually just one book that was split by the publisher, I have no idea why. The Sunbird is the first book about Telemakos and The Mark of Solomon duology continues with his journey. They're historical fiction books set in Aksum (ancient Ethiopia), Africa but there's a hint of Arthurian legend in them as well. Telemakos is actually the son of Medraut (Mordred) and the grandson of Artos (Arthur). So if you're a fan of historical fiction or Arthurian tales or you just want to read books with excellent worldbuilding, multi-faceted characters and plots riddled with conspiracies then you should pick these up as soon as you can. And spread the word about them when you're done reading.
I was looking forward to reading this because there's a lot of buzz for Maggie Stiefvater's books and I'm always ready to read...moreOriginally posted here.
I was looking forward to reading this because there's a lot of buzz for Maggie Stiefvater's books and I'm always ready to read more about faeries. But at the same time, I was also hesitant because this book was likened to Holly Black and Melissa Marr's books and I wasn't really enthralled by those books. When I saw that there was only one copy left in National Bookstore's Trinoma branch, I thought I should just go ahead and grab it as well as the sequel, Ballad.
Oh Maggie Stiefvater (I saw on her website FAQs that it's pronounced as Steve-otter), you've given me hope! I was starting to think that maybe I was lacking the gene that would enable me to appreciate urban fantasy novels. Stephenie Meyer, Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, Melissa Marr. I've given them all a try and I wanted to love their books but for some reason, they were just okay for me. But I really really liked Lament. I'm not sure though if I should list it in my Favorite Books, I'll probably read Ballad first before I decide. I'm sorely tempted to buy Shiver now. I don't know if I should wait for it to come out in paperback. The cover for the hardcover is so nice though plus the print is in dark blue! I haven't heard of any other book with blue print.
Anyway, on to the review! I really liked Deirdre even though she's an introvert and I'm definitely not. Deirdre, nicknamed Dee, is an amazing harp player. I know there aren't a lot of harp players around so I'd love to hear the kind of music that she makes. The book is fast-paced. Dee meets Luke in the first few scenes of the book and she starts to notice strange happenings around her right after that. She clues in her best friend, James, on what's going on and they puzzle over the meaning of these things together. Even at the start, she knows that Luke is more than what he seems and she accepts that fact. She knows it might not be good for her to pursue a relationship with Luke but she chooses to do so. It was easy to immerse myself in the world created by Maggie Stiefvater. I now understand why her work is being compared to Melissa Marr and Holly Black's works. All of them portrayed faeries as capricious and playful but in a dark and cruel way. Not the typical happy-go-lucky, we'll-grant-your-wishes, pink-and-glitters faeries of other stories. In Lament, people who are aware of faeries are warned to beware and stay away from them. Yes, faeries are out-of-this-world beautiful but they are scary and they can harm you. I think I like these dark faeries better than their brighter counterparts. I also liked how Dee and Luke's relationship developed. It was done in just the right pace for me. I have a minor quibble about Luke because he doesn't speak like his age although I can argue that away by saying that maybe he changed with the times.
If you're an urban fantasy fan and you haven't given any of Maggie Stiefvater books a try, I suggest that you check this out. I highly recommend it. I really enjoyed this book - beautiful writing, great characters and of course, amazing love story. I'm hoping to see more of Dee and Luke in the sequel, Ballad but from what I can see, it's mostly about Dee's quirky best friend James. I guess I'm fine with that because I liked the glimpses of James that I saw in this book. To those who've read Shiver, do you think I should go ahead and but it as well? (less)
I love fairy tale retellings and Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale so I'm always curious about retellings about it. I've read most of the...moreI love fairy tale retellings and Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale so I'm always curious about retellings about it. I've read most of the books in the Once Upon a Time series but I felt like they weren't really for me. I don't know why, maybe because they were trying to keep the books short, I felt like that stories weren't fully developed. The same was true for this one.
The beginning reminded me of Robin McKinley's Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast because Belle has two sisters that are both beautiful while she is not. Although in this retelling, Belle focused on it more. It was a huge problem for her that she was named Belle (which means Beauty) but she wasn't beautiful.
Cameron Dokey deviated from the usual story by coming up with the Heartwood Tree. Instead of a rose, Belle's father took home a branch from the Heartwood Tree.
Overall, the book was just okay for me. I would've probably liked it better if the story was more developed. I didn't really feel that the Beast and Belle connected during the short time that they were together.(less)
I remember buying my beautiful copy of The Invention of Hugo Cabret when I was in the States for a vacation back in 2009. I got...moreOriginally posted here.
I remember buying my beautiful copy of The Invention of Hugo Cabret when I was in the States for a vacation back in 2009. I got the gift edition for just $11 (yay bargain!) and I haven't gotten around to reading it until this year because of the huge TBR pile. I finally got to pick it up for a read along with my friend Capillya of the fabulous That Cover Girl and fellow Filipino book blogger Aldrin of Fully Booked .Me.
If you've seen an actual copy of this book then you know that it's quite a doorstopper. But don't be daunted by the book's size because it's actually a quick and fun read with all of the illustrations and black and white pictures interwoven into the story. I only read the book at home, I couldn't carry it around with me because it was so heavy and I was surprised at how quickly I went through it (didn't beat Capillya's record though, she read it in one sitting). I wanted to take pictures of all my favorite scenes in the book but I restrained myself since I couldn't post all of them anyway. Hugo is a twelve-year-old orphan living in an apartment inside the walls of a train station in Paris. Isn't it cool that there are apartments IN the walls of the train station? Pretty nifty. His uncle has disappeared and he has no choice but to take over his uncle's duties as the station's clock keeper. Hugo does this in secret though because he's afraid that he'll be sent to prison or to an orphanage when authorities discover that he's living on his own. He can't let that happen because he's working on a little project. Want to know what that sekrit project is? Then go read the book! Sorry, I don't want to reveal any spoilers but you find out early on what Hugo's secret is.
I sympathized with Hugo because he's obviously smart and has awesome skills when it comes to fixing mechanical devices and yet he was so alone. Poor Hugo. He felt like he couldn't depend on anyone else so he relied on his own skills (as a sneaky thief) to keep him fed. I think I've already established my fondness for thieves in fiction here on the blog. His thieving ways lead him to and old man who owns a toy booth at the station and the old man's god-daughter. When I think about it, nothing spectacular or unexpected happens in the book but I had so much fun following the story through both pictures and words that I didn't really mind. Brian Selznick has a unique storytelling method, his artwork tells as much of the story as the text. While I'm not a huge movie buff, I did enjoy learning about the details of the first few films and how they were developed. Now all I have to do is look for these old films so I can watch them. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is one of those books that I can recommend regardless of a person's preferred genres. It's a middle grade novel but told in such an unusual format that is really worth checking out. This is the kind of book that you can read even when you're in the middle of a reading slump because it's so easy to fall into. I'm looking forward to watching the movie, directed by Martin Scorsese, when it comes out later this year and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will be just as enjoyable as the book.