Grave Secret, the final in the series of 4, is a satisfying conclusion to a dark and compelling series. The series work like a lot of conventional mys...moreGrave Secret, the final in the series of 4, is a satisfying conclusion to a dark and compelling series. The series work like a lot of conventional mysteries, but there's a twist: Harper Connelly isn't an ordinary gal. Struck by lightning as a teenager, Harper can find dead bodies. She senses, hears, and feels them all around her. It's her job to find dead people.
Harper is joined in her work by her stepbrother and lover, Tolliver. This is perhaps the most contentious issue of the books, and a great deal of time is spent on the issue: the social taboo of their situation, their relatives' and colleagues' reactions, and Harper's reservations, ongoing concerns, self doubt and disappointment when she first realises her feelings for him.
The relationship sounds a bit disturbing without background, but in the context of the novels and history between the two, it is not *as* creepy as it sounds. The pair weren't exactly raised as brother and sister (only meeting in their teens), and Ms Harris handles the relationship between the two with sensitivity, and a great deal of introspection. While reading the book, I was pretty sucked in. Thinking about it in hindsight, and if I'd not read the book, and only knew about the relationshipg, it makes me a little uncomfortable, but the relationship between the two is sweet, and Ms Harris handles the matter with a well measured hand. Having said that, the situation may still be distasteful to some readers, and perhaps it's worth considering. The series does include some *ahem*... fairly stramy scenes.
Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the series. They are great little mysteries--quite dark, but a lot of fun--with a paranormal twist. They're never slow or dull. Harper is a ballsy heroine, and she's a fighter.
This is not a stand-alone novel. I would strongly advise reading the preceding 3 books in this series before reading Grave Secret. Rather than its own little stand-alone mystery, the story concerns itself largely with tying up a number of ongoing questions and mysteries from the series. It's a very satisfying read and ending, but not as stand-alone as the other 3 (Grave Sight, Grave Surprise, and An Ice Cold Grave, though the last not so much). (less)
Initially, as I know many were, I found myself attracted to Shiver's beautiful cover. The screen doesn't do it justice. Holding this book is like rece...moreInitially, as I know many were, I found myself attracted to Shiver's beautiful cover. The screen doesn't do it justice. Holding this book is like receiving a birthday present: it's a real treat.
But Shiver is much more than a pretty picture.
Werewolf stories are nothing new, but Shiver is. Told in the dual narratives of our two protagonists, Grace and Sam, Shiver is the story of the star-crossed (though perhaps winter-crossed, is more appropriate) lovers, and their fight to stay together against forces far beyond their control. This, to me, was one of the most interesting aspects of the story. There is really no antagonist to this story--perhaps the lycanthropic condition, combined with seasonal change, is the villain, rather than an individual being.
Shiver's wolves are a refreshing and unique take on a much loved, but much done, genre. I hate to ruin the surprise myself, because it's such a clever and absorbing moment in the story. The book is told in easily digestible sections, perfect for short sittings (if you can put it down), but the story flows beautifully, and I personally adored Stiefvater's prose (so smooth, 'flowy' and lyrical).
While one could say Shiver shares a lot in common with a great number of other YA paranormals around (werewolves, lonely protagonist, absent parents and love story), it had its own special, unique spark that, months after reading it, keeps it fresh in my mind. It should go down a treat with those who like YA paranormal, but the story is told so tenderly and with such beautiful restraint, I believe it could appeal to non-genre readers.
Gripping, hopeful and heartbreaking, I found the story kept me wondering till the very last page. I flat-out adored Shiver. (less)
Facing a death sentence, Yelena is pulled from the prison cell in which she's been held for a year, and offered a ch...moreOriginally read 9th February 2010.
Facing a death sentence, Yelena is pulled from the prison cell in which she's been held for a year, and offered a choice: die now, at the executioner's hand, or live as the Commander's poison taster. Yelena doesn't blink. It's live all the way, thank-you-very-much. And so she begins her new life.
Despite being victimised at every turn, Yelena refuses to be a victim. She is faced with a dark future, an even darker past, and nothing much to live for, other than life itself. But she chooses to live, again and again, despite her circumstance, and make the best of her lot. It's not often I'm left so inspired by a fictional character, but Yelena has a backbone, a sharp mind, and gusto in spades.
The land of Ixia, where Yelena lives truly is fascinating. Despite a dictatorship and strict laws with zero leniency--a land where all citizens are required to wear a uniform to tell of their station, have licenses and permission to marry, and permission to travel--there is truly equal opportunity for all. Positions of power and jobs are given based on an individual's merits. It's a seeming contradiction in terms: individuality is stripped in the forced wearing of an uniform, but an individual's talents are recognised, and rewarded. The government, ruled by the Commander doesn't care if you're a man, woman or child. If you're good at what you do, it's recognised. While on one hand certain circumstances of the nation's rule seem distasteful, and its laws cruel; on the other, they work. People don't go hungry--they're fed by the state. Crime is not tolerated. You can earn any job you want, regardless of your station, if you're the right person for it.
I really loved this book, but Poison Study isn't everyone's cup of tea. To a certain extent I agree with some criticisms leveled against it (modern turns-of-phrase ocassionaly seem strange, one particularly disturbing scene [though I believe it was essential in establishing background and motive:]), but for me this was a truly gripping read.(less)