I've said it before and I'll say it again. Divergent by Veronica Roth totally gets the credit for intr...moreThis review originally posted at Hooked on Books
I've said it before and I'll say it again. Divergent by Veronica Roth totally gets the credit for introducing me to YA literature and for it's regular presence in my reading selections. It's just that good. It's got action and romance and a kick ass main character. So it should be no surprise that I, like countless others, rushed out on May 1 to pick up a copy of the sequel Insurgent.
I started it immediately on the subway on the way home. It picks up immediately where Divergent leaves off and it was easy to feel myself sliding right back into the action and the drama. Tris' world has now devolved into chaos. The Erudite faction has gone crazy, Tris has had to do some unspeakable things and the maddness is just getting started. It was an incredible way to start a book, hooking you from the very first pages and Veronica Roth managed to maintain the same level of drama throughout.
It stills shocks me every time I hear that Veronica Roth is 23. It blows my mind that someone my age could be so incredibly talented. She has managed to write a series that is not only action packed but thoughtful and intelligent. There were a number of scenes in Insurgent that really moved me – more so than Divergent. I found Insurgent had more of a message to get out and for me that was a welcome addition.
But despite all this praise, if I'm really being honest I don't think I liked Insurgent as much as Divergent. It's hard to really pin point why, but I think it has to do with Tris. She just didn't feel the same to me. I love her character because she's brave, and impulsive and incredibly loyal. She was everything you want in a heroine. In Insurgent many of her virtues are put to the test and I found her a lot more indecisive and unsure of herself. The rational part of me knows this is just part of her character development, and that there is more to Tris that you can sum up in one book, but I was still a little disappointed. She just didn't have the same feel to me.
Despite my teeny tiny disappointment with Tris, Insurgent is still an amazing novel. It brings the series to a new level, while still maintaining the pace and adventure of the first book. I can't wait to see what happens in book 3 and where Veronica Roth will take these characters next.
Final recommendation: Highly recommended. An amazing book from an amazing writer.(less)
If my reviews were only one sentence that would be the sentence for th...moreOriginally reviewed at Hooked on Books
What a gorgeous and heart wrenching novel.
If my reviews were only one sentence that would be the sentence for this book.
But my reviews are more than one sentence, so let me elaborate.
For Darkness Shows the Stars, a post apocalyptic adaptation of Persuasion, was a book I was expecting to like. It sounded fun and interesting and right up my alley. I was not, however, expecting to love this book (probably because I’m not a huge Austen fan). But as my recent re-watch of Grey’s Anatomy has taught me – you can’t choose who (or in this case what) you fall in love with.
For Darkness Shows the Stars starts off strong with a unique take on the future. Human beings, obsessed with technology, pushed the limits of our species too far, resulting in catastrophe. In response, they reverted back to an almost pre-industrial state of living. They still have tractors and some other basic equipment, but there are now inventors, great scientists, or even musicians or artists. Life has basically stalled. I thought this was really interesting for two reasons. 1) It was a fantastic comment on both our addiction to technology and our fear of it and 2) though this world was completely imaginary it did not seem like a huge stretch of the imagination. Her world building was smart and believable and I was completely immersed in it.
And then there was the romance – or maybe I should say lack of romance? Suspension of romance? Whatever the correct terminology, the story of Elliot and Kai made my heart beat faster and tears well up in my eyes. It was just so tragic! When presented with the opportunity to run away with the boy she loves, Elliot turns him down out of a sense of responsibility. Four years later, Kai returns, successful and proud and determined to make Elliot feel sorry for her decision. They were both hurt and cruel, and neither was truly an innocent party. And best of all (for us the readers) is that there weren’t any easy answers. Their problems didn’t magically disappear and the obstacles keeping them apart were real things they needed to confront. I truly didn’t know what would happen until the very last pages of the novel.
So between the genius setting and the heart breaking romance, this novel had me hook, line and sinker. Though I can’t say I loved all the characters or approved of all their choices, it didn’t seem to matter. This is story telling at it’s best. And to top it all off, it’s even convinced me to give Miss Austen another chance.
Final recommendation: Recommended for fans of romance and those who enjoy writers like the Brontes, Jane Austen etc. Not recommended for those looking for just another YA dystopia/post apocalyptic novel.(less)
I got so sucked into the drama of The Selection I couldn't help but read it in one sitting.
The Selection takes us right inside what is essentially The Bachelor for royalty. There's beautiful dresses, and maids to get help you get dressed and a charming prince. And right alongside that are a bunch of petty fights amongst the contestants, a secret (and illegal) love and coded messages. As a lover of the occasional soap opera I ate all of it right up. If you've ever watched the Bachelor or any sort of reality t.v show you know just how addictive the drama can be. My best description of this book is that it is a reality T.V. show in book form. And just like reality t.v. this type of book is fun to indulge in every once and awhile.
In this particular contest the story is focused on America Singer – who despite not wanting to be there is a favourite of the people. I wasn't overly impressed with America, herself. She seemed pretty one dimensional and it was fairly predictable what was going to end up happening to her. But I think in this case, I'm willing to overlook that because this novel does touch on some more important issues like hunger, education and wealth disparity and it is often America that brings these topics up. It's nice to see a YA novel pointing out some more difficult issues instead of just focusing on the love story.
While The Selection was definitely addictive, I still have so many questions that I couldn't overlook. A brief history lesson is given, as to why the United States of America is no more and how the current state came to be, but I didn't feel like it was enough. It explained the what and when but not the why. Particularly why a caste system was set in place – and an elaborate one at that. It simply states that it was easier that way, or they needed to do it. But why? What series of events are made simpler by a caste system? Just like my beef with the lack offeminists in the future, this didn't quite add up to me.
There isn't a lot of character substance and a lot of things are left unexplained but nevertheless The Selection is a fun read. It's sort of like cotton candy – light and airy but delicious.
Final recommendation: Recommended for those looking for a lighter read or those who enjoy indulging in soap opera drama.(less)
I hadn't heard much about Something Strange and Deadly before I stumbled across it. I knew it was para...moreThis review originally posted at Hooked on Books
I hadn't heard much about Something Strange and Deadly before I stumbled across it. I knew it was paranormal in nature and had a bit of historical twist to it. I definitely wasn't expecting such a fabulous steampunk-esque zombie romp, that I could easily read over and over again.
By far my favourite thing about this novel was the characters. Particularly Eleanor. She was often finding herself in hot water due to her stubborn nature. I may not be facing the walking dead but I can definitely relate to that! But even through her stubbornness she was fiercely loyal and willing to put herself in danger time and time again in order to help others. She was a respectable and admirable character and the story was richer because of her.
I would be lying, however, if I said Eleanor was the only character that interested me. Because I knew from the first moment Daniel walked onto the scene that I adored him. He's intelligent, handsome, good with his hands. He's got a bit of an attitude but he brave and compassionate - even if he won't admit it. If you're looking for a new leading man to fall in love with, he's your man!
All these characters were smack dab in a beautiful and vivid setting. It's old school Victorian style gave the novel a more haunted feel and it mixed just the right amount of steampunk elements to make Something Strange and Deadly unique and interesting. Like all good settings, Susan Dennard's 1876 Philadelphia, enhanced the story without distracting from it.
I will admit that the storyline is fairly predictable. It follows a pretty standard formula and the outcome won't be a surprise but there are still a few good surprises and overall it is an incredibly fun and entertaining read.
Final recommendation: Highly recommended for steampunk fans and those who loved Lia Habel's Dearly Departed.(less)
Tahereh Mafi what are you doing to me? So many feelings!! And since I read the majority of this b...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Tahereh Mafi what are you doing to me? So many feelings!! And since I read the majority of this book while on the subway and didn’t want people to think I was crazy, I spent 30ish hours like this
Seriously though, I just can’t get over how beautiful Tahereh Mafi’s prose is. I am in awe of the metaphors and descriptive imagery in this book. It’s just so gorgeous. My copy is now full of sticky notes marking all my favourite passages. Trying to resist the urge to track her down and beg her to teach me how to be awesome.
I know when it comes to this series there’s a lot of talk about the love interests, but I really enjoyed that for the most part Tahereh Mafi kept the focus on Juliette. Specifically, her development as a character. In the beginning she starts out as the ultimate “woe is me” character. Everything hurts and she is going to tell you about it. Repeatedly. But as the story continues you see her progress, you see her change in attitude and motivation. I really started to respect her as a character and became really invested in what was going to happen to her. To be honest, there may have been some nervous yelps at a couple scenes. I love when I can get this invested in a character and I adore when they change over time. It’s always more interesting and more believable.
Despite the focus on Juliette, however, you can’t talk about Unravel Me and not mention the love triangle. And if I’m being 100% completely honest…I’m not really a fan. I’m not anti-love triangle. Sometimes they work really well. But in this case I just don’t see it. Why? Because I find Warner so creepy. I think he is a fantastic character. And he absolutely fascinates me, just not as a love interest. Not even a tiny bit. That being said, I don’t feel as though I’m Team Adam any more either. Juliette really seems to have developed past him. So if I have to choose I’m going Team Juliette because I think she still needs to learn more about herself, rather than settling with either of these guys.
I’d also love to profess my affiliation with Team Kenji. Not as a love interest, but just as an awesome character. Also Team James. In my opinion these are the two male characters that should be admired in Unravel Me. They’re such fabulous and strong people. I was impressed with how they could stick to certain convictions in spite of everything that’s happened.
I realize I’ve spent most of this review talking about the characters, but they are what drives this story. They are what make it so addictive and so easy to get lost in. I love everything about this series, but it’s the characters that make it truly fabulous.
Recommendation: A heart racing sequel that will have you on the edge of your seat, begging for more. Highly recommended for all readers.(less)
Liza needs to save her brother, Patrick, from the spindlers. A mysterious, spider like group of people, who are de...moreOriginally posted at Hooked on Books
Liza needs to save her brother, Patrick, from the spindlers. A mysterious, spider like group of people, who are determined to steal his soul. Despite the fact that she doesn't know where they are, is lost in a completely new world and is forced to travel with a talking rat (of all things!) she presses onwards. Determined to see her journey through to the end.
There are many things to love about the new middle grade novel, The Spindlers. For starters there's the loveability of it's protagonist Liza. She knows her brother has been taken, and even though he drives her crazy a lot of the time, she's determined to bring him home. Why? Because he's her brother and she loves him. No hesitation. No dragging of the feet. She see's what needs to be done and she's sets off to do it. I found her brave, and intelligent and just generally a joy to read about.
And I love that Lauren Oliver touched on the idea of sibling love. I know, even as an adult, I can relate to Liza's feelings about her brother. My own brother can sometimes drive me up the wall, but at the end of the day there's nothing I wouldn't do for him. This is an especially important message to reinforce with children, who are potentially still getting used to having a sibling or at a time when siblings can be at their most mischievous.
The world underneath our own world, the one Liza ventures into, is really a testament to Lauren Oliver's creative mind. It's a world reminiscent of The Borrowers or Roald Dahl. It's full of strange but interesting creatures. Case and point, Mirabella, the talking rat that accompanies Liza on part of her journey. She certainly is a bizarre character and at times you really won't know what to make of her. But she is guaranteed to make you laugh and tug at your heartstrings.
Final recommendation: Lauren Oliver's The Spindlers is the stuff good middle grade is made out of. It's an adventure to a new world, filled with imaginative and bright characters and it'll keep you hanging on, cheering for Liza and Patrick right until the very last page.(less)
Earth Girl is an exciting new science fiction novel, with a foot in both the young adult and adult fic...moreThis review originally posted at Hooked on Books
Earth Girl is an exciting new science fiction novel, with a foot in both the young adult and adult fiction worlds. I would hesitate to classify it as either one and because of that I think it will appeal to a wide range of fans once it hits shelves.
In particular, readers are going to fall in love with the setting of this novel. The idea that Earth is no longer our primary location in 2788 was fascinating to me. Janet Edwards develops a really creative new system for our society to grow within and I liked learning about the different planets and what each one was known for. That being said, I was happy that the majority of the novel took place on Earth. Though it is interesting to see what would happen once we spread out across the galaxy, the history buff in me is fascinated with what would happen to the Earth after we leave it behind.
This focus on history continued throughout. This was nice to see in a science-fiction novel - which are usually so focused on the future. Because Jarra is a history student the reader gets a slow and steady exposure to what has happened between the present day and the year 2788. We got to look back over the years and learn what we did wrong. This interesting perspective of looking back on things that haven't happened yet, might be just the thing needed to keep us from making some horrible mistakes in the future.
In addition to the history, Earth Girl's complex and unique plot was able to explore some interesting questions. Such as the effect labels can have on a person and the importance of self identity. Jarra becomes an interesting character study over the course of this novel and I was fascinated with watching her change, devolve and evolve as the story progressed.
Unfortunately, this character study was both a positive and a negative. Though this made her an interesting case to look at, it also made her hard to relate to as a person. I never felt a very strong connection with Jarra and because she was so central to the plot, I also never felt a strong connection to the novel.
I also had some problems with the science behind this story. I'm willing to suspend a certain amount of disbelief with science fiction novels. It's one of the requirements of the genre. But Earth Girl pushed the boundaries of this suspension to the limit. Some things were just too far fetched, or just didn't make scientific sense. I think some better science could have greatly improved the believability of this novel.
Earth Girl is an exciting novel with some unique and interesting ideas worth exploring. However, the character development wasn't as thorough as I would have liked and I often found it difficult to believe the explanations for what was happening. It's not a bad read, but it wasn't one I particularly loved either.
Final recommendation: May appeal to science fiction and dystopian fans, but not recommended for those who enjoy the more "heady"/innovative versions of the genres. (less)
As a big fan of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, I was a little sceptical when I finally picked up this...moreOriginally posted at Hooked on Books
As a big fan of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, I was a little sceptical when I finally picked up this book. The original was brilliant and creepy and just wonderful. How could this book compete? Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself not only enjoying Ten, but curled up on the couch, shouting at people to leave me alone so I could finish reading it the same night I started it. I sat down to read this book, and found that I could not go on with my life until I knew exactly what happened.
Ten is without a doubt a thrilling read. It had me on the edge of my seat and a couple times I was so startled by a turn of events I actually jumped in surprise/fear. Gretchen McNeil has amazing pacing. The mystery slowly unravels before you, page by page, but it's also filled to the brim with tension so that is never gets boring. You won't be able to help yourself, you will have to need to keep turning those pages.
There was also an interesting variety of characters. As you may have determined from the title there are ten characters that feature prominently in the novel. They were a little hard to keep track of in the beginning, but eventually you do get to know them all individually. The trouble with such a large cast is that some of them just aren't as developed as others. This isn't really a problem, since some of them are definitely going to die, but it does mean you won't being particularly heart broken when they do - just freaked out.
Speaking of the deaths... Ten was a lot more gruesome then I expected. I knew people were going to die. It says so right on the back cover, but I didn't expect so many varieties of deaths and so much detail. Major points for Gretchen McNeil here, because she didn't shy away from the more unpleasant parts of this story just because she was writing a YA novel. Teens don't live under a rock, and they are not oblivious to violence so I'm glad she didn't try to sugar coat the details for a younger audience.
And to top it all off Ten has an ending I hadn't predicted. I - like many people - am always trying to figure out what the big twist will be. I started guessing right from the first few pages. And even though I had a number of different predictions throughout my reading of the novel, not once did I guess correctly. I truly love being surprised, especially when I thought back and realized all the little clues she had dropped along the way!
Final recommendation: Highly recommended for mystery lovers and those looking for a good book around Halloween time.(less)
Is it possible to fall in love with a fictional character? Because I may be in love with Clay Jan...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Is it possible to fall in love with a fictional character? Because I may be in love with Clay Jannon. Seriously. He works at a book store, he codes things for fun, he loves fantasy novels and makes great references to all sorts of nerdy stuff. Plus he’s socially awkward and random. Love him. I would marry him (shhh don’t tell my boyfriend) Characters like Clay Jannon are one of the reasons I love reading so much. You can’t help but fall for them. Become invested in them. And hang onto their every word.
It was Clay that hooked me into the dazzling story that is Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, but it was the ultimately the mystery that got me to stay. It’s so intriguing. And the idea of a secret society that revolves around books is just too good to pass up. As someone who loves to read and talk about what their reading, the idea of following clues hidden in writing is very appealing. I think it’s an idea that would be appealing to all book lovers. We all know what it’s like to become obsessed with books.
When I was done reading/listening to this book, the idea that really stuck with me was how Robin Sloane presented the new technology (Google and all it’s gadgets) and old (books). I loved that they worked together for a common goal, rather than against one another. I think this book is a wonderful example of how we don’t have to choose one over the other. I can have my e-reader and my bookshelf full of print books and there’s nothing wrong with that. New and old technology can co-exist. It doesn’t have to be a fight to the death.
Recommendation: Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore is a quick, fun read with lovable characters, and intriguing plot. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and yet still manages to say something important about our society. This is definitely a book for book lovers.
Notes on the Audio
Ari Fliakos did a fantastic job on the narration. He was Clay. He was able to perfectly conveying both Clay’s awkwardness and his internal sarcasm. I also enjoyed the way he did Mr. Penumbra’s voice. It really helped me picture the character, and I don’t think he would have been as vivid to me without Fliakos’ particular style.(less)
Stefan Bachmann’s The Peculiar is the story of Bartholomew Kettle and his sister, Hettie. A pair of Changelin...moreOriginally posted at More Than Just Magic
Stefan Bachmann’s The Peculiar is the story of Bartholomew Kettle and his sister, Hettie. A pair of Changelings living in Bath, England. Their existence is difficult, despised by humans and fairies alike. But when other Changelings start disappearing, the game changes and Bartholomew has to venture out, in order to protect his sister and himself.
I really enjoyed Bartholomew’s dedication to his sister. As someone his is close with her own brother, I tend to love any story that has to do with sibling love and friendship. I don’t think it’s a relationship that’s explored enough in children’s literature. It was great to see a pair of siblings that care about one another’s well-being and are always there for one another. That more than anything was what really made The Peculiar shine for me.
In addition to the sibling love, Stefan Bachmann’s writing is absolutely gorgeous. It’s almost unbelievable that he’s only a teenager. Beautiful flowing phrases, perfect metaphors, and detailed and expertly woven story. The Peculiar was truly a joy to read. I found myself getting lost in the rich setting and beautiful imagery. If you’re someone who appreciates the technical side of writing, this is definitely a book for you.
Bartholomew and Hettie were not the only fabulous characters in this novel. Arthur Jelliby was by far my favourite. He was such an ordinary, regular person, but when push comes to shove, he goes to amazing lengths to investigate missing Changelings (that others seem indifferent to). He’s a bit silly, and clumsy and more than a little awkward, but I was drawn to him and his well-meaning ways. An engaging and well written character, he really helps pull The Peculiar together.
My one word of warning about this book however is that the pacing is quite slow. It’s a story that takes its time, revealing it’s complex layers at a much more deliberate and careful pace than I’m used to in Middle Grade novels. It didn’t make it any less beautiful or enjoyable, but it could make it difficult to get into. I was never truly absorbed in the story, and because of that it was a book I really liked, but I didn’t love.
Recommendation: The Peculiar is an example of truly excellent writing and skill. It had great characters, great themes and an incredible setting. Though technically a middle grade novel, this is definitely a book readers of all ages can appreciate.(less)
Middle Grade fantasy is absolutely fantastic. It makes me feel nostalgic for the books I read whe...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Middle Grade fantasy is absolutely fantastic. It makes me feel nostalgic for the books I read when I was younger. And honestly who doesn’t love getting lost in a fairy tale? The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is no exception. It made me feel like a kid again, it was laugh out loud funny and it reminded me a lot of classic Disney movies like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White but with a great twist.
The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is really the story of four Prince Charmings (You didn’t think there was just one guy doing all the rescuing did you?) There’s Frederic – Cinderella’s prince – who is scared of everything (but an excellent negotiator!). Duncan, who broke Snow White’s sleeping spell. He’s a little dopey, but absolutely loyal and just wants to make friends with everyone and everything. Gustav, who rescued Rapunzel without realizing what he was getting into – which is the story of his life! And Liam. The only real “hero” of the bunch, who is unfortunately expected to marry the absolutely nasty Briar Rose. Seriously, move over Regina George. You have been de-throned.
I loved this book because all four of them – except maybe Liam – weren’t quite the Prince Charmings you generally think of. Fairy Tales are often all about the girls, and even most retellings focus on the female characters as well. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom was a nice twist because it let the men develop more as characters. No longer cursed to simply swoop in at the end, looking handsome and expected to solve all the problems with a dashing smile and love’s first kiss. And this is all accomplished without sacrificing the strength of the female characters. It’s win-win!
I also loved that, contray to a lot of fairy tales, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom was not about the romance! Yes Snow White and Duncan have a lovely relationship but the rest not so much. Each one is their own person and chasing their own dream. Cinderella wants adventure, Rapunzel wants to help people, Frederic wants to face his fears etc etc. Their destiny’s aren’t wrapped up in simply being with another person and I thought that was a more realistic portrayal.
Recommendation: The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is a delightful return to the fairy tales I grew up with but it makes this return without sacrificing strong characters or realistic goals. Basically it’s the whole package. Recommended for middle grade readers and those who grew up watching their Disney VHS’s over and over.(less)
The City of a Thousand Dolls is truly an inventive tale. In a world where male children are favou...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
The City of a Thousand Dolls is truly an inventive tale. In a world where male children are favoured over females, a city has sprung up in response. The City of a Thousand Dolls trains young, orphaned or abandoned girls with skills that will allow them to be productive members of society later on. A preferable fate (I think) to being left to the elements. Each girl is assigned to a different house and each house trains them for a specific job. Beauty (wives), Combat (warriors and guards), Flowers (nobility), Jade (healers and scholars), Music (musicians, dancers, performers), Pleasure (basically mistresses). I liked that there was a whole range of employment for the girls. Not just the sit there and look pleasing kind.
You can tell there’s so much to this world, and Miriam Forster is kind of brilliant with all she’s dreamed up. If I was ever going to take world building tips from someone – I would go to her first! Houses, castes, political detail, religion. It’s all here. But this was both a positive and a negative. Positive because I love when a world has been so fully thought out and is so lush with descriptions and imagery. But I also thought that it could have been explained more. That more detail and explanation could have been presented because at times it could be a little confusing. and I have so many questions! And since this isn’t a series (there’s one companion book planned) I feel like we as readers are missing out on the full picture.
At the centre of City of a Thousand Dolls is Nisha. Not assigned to any of the houses she is the assistant to the Matron. By all accounts she’s an ordinary girl. But I live how proactive she is. How involved she is in determining her own fate. I hate when characters simply stand by and wait for someone else to supply them with the answers to their problems. Nisha is a fighter, she knows the risks and she takes them anyway because what else can she do? Plus she’s just a fabulous person with a big heart. I think it would be impossible not to like her.
And then there’s the mystery! Miriam Forster doesn’t mess around. Someone is murdered in the first chapter of the book! And the story keeps going from there. Death, blackmail, political intrigue and a forbidden romance. It’ll get your heart pounding. I found the pages flew by and I was anxious to find out how everything would all work out. A few of the twists were a little predictable but it was still a lot of fun!
Recommendation: Not quite the fantasy I usually fall in love with. I wouldn’t compare this to stories like Graceling or Prophecy. But it is a fabulously descriptive, unique world, with a fantastic heroine and a captivating story. Highly recommended.(less)
When Prophecy first hit my radar, my initial impression was that it was just another Graceling. I...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
When Prophecy first hit my radar, my initial impression was that it was just another Graceling. I think this had a lot to with the back cover copy and how it was marketed. It’s pretty flattering to be compared to Graceling – it’s an amazing book. But no one wants to read a copy-cat of it. If it was up to me, I would do more to highlight what makes this book unique, because though there are some similar elements, Prophecy definitely stands out all on its own.
The first thing that really sets Prophecy apart is its Asian setting. It was a refreshing change from the many high fantasy novels based in Western traditions and ideologies. I’m glad we’re beginning to see a more diverse selection of protagonists and settings in young adult literature. It is long overdue. And as an added bonus, because this was one of the first fantasy novels I’ve read in an Asian setting, it made me really curious about legends and mythos from other cultures. I sense some fun research in my future (that’s right I said fun research).
If you’re a fan of strong female characters I can almost guarantee you’re going to love Kira. She was strong and brave, despite the way her own society shunned her. But she wasn’t a perfect character, held up on a pedestal. She was lonely, stubborn and often let her emotions cloud her judgement. I found these imperfections made her a believable character, and they made me like her. She is also unabashedly loyal – probably the best quality of them all. Her love for her friends and family is unwavering and you have to respect her for that.
Probably my favourite thing about Prophecy though, isn’t the setting or Kira, but the relationships. Prophecy has a heavy emphasis on familial relationships. For example Kira’s relationship with her brother, cousin, parents etc. Too often I find YA novels put all the focus on the romantic relationships, and either neglect or completely leave out the family aspect. Kira’s closeness with her family warmed my heart (and broke it at times) and it made me think of my family and how close I am with them. I think this focus was what really sold Prophecy for me and ensured that it will remain on my shelf for a long time to come.
My own complaint is that I would have liked a little more world building. I had a lot of questions about the Seven Kingdoms, their political system and religious traditions, and the answers given in the book fell a little short. But I have my fingers crossed for more detail in book #2.
Recommendation: A fast paced, action packed high fantasy adventure, that I highly recommend to fantasy fans or those who like strong female characters that can kick ass.(less)
I’m an avid speculative fiction fan (in case you haven’t noticed) and a lover of Canadian fiction so I can’t...moreOriginally posted at More Than Just Magic
I’m an avid speculative fiction fan (in case you haven’t noticed) and a lover of Canadian fiction so I can’t believe it has taken me this long to pick up a Lesley Livingston novel!
Starling is a unique story. It takes traditional Nordic myths and legends and places them smack dab in the present day. I am a sucker for myth re-tellings but I have so rarely come across ones that focus on Nordic mythology. This book felt like a breath of fresh air, in an otherwise Greek God dominated market. An original and captivating story meant right off the bat I was fascinated with Starling.
What maintained my interest throughout the reading of this novel however wasn’t just the mythological element. Starling, is a fast paced read with lots of great action and adventure. I love a good fight scene and/or battle and this book is full of them. It made for a lot of heart thumping moments during which it was impossible to pry the book out of my hands. All these action packed sequences were intertwined with a great mystery and the twists and turns kept coming.
Speaking of the mystery — Starling, has a fairly unpredictable plot. In this case it was both a blessing and a curse. On one hand it made this story incredibly interesting with some great surprises. It kept me guessing which I always appreciate. However, at the same time a few of those twists made me go “wait…where did this come from?” and even flipping back through the book didn’t clear it up for me. I’m hoping some of these issues will be resolved in subsequent books, so I’m not really counting this as a criticism. Just a note from a concerned reader.
And then there’s Mason. I really wanted to like her, and sometimes I did. Other times however, I felt like she just had things happen to her, but didn’t actually do all that much herself. I really would have liked to see more independent, proactive actions from her. It wasn’t until the end of the book that I thought her real potential really shone through. Hopefully that means she’ll keep growing as a character the more the story unfolds.
I will definitely keep reading this series. Lesley Livingston has such a fun fresh way of writing and I want to see more of that. And if that weren’t enough I am incredibly curious to find out where she takes this story next and how some of my questions get answered. This may have been my first Lesley Livingston novel, but it certainly won’t be my last.
Final recommendation: Fans of myth and fairy tale re-tellings are going to enjoy this original new addition to the genre.Also a great read for paranormal fans who are tired of vampires and werewolves.(less)
This is a really difficult review to write. The Delirium trilogy has meant a lot of me and I’m sa...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
This is a really difficult review to write. The Delirium trilogy has meant a lot of me and I’m sad to see it come to a close. I still remember when I first picked up Delirium on a whim, during a Borders closing sale. I had no idea what the book was about or who Lauren Oliver was – I only knew I had seen the cover on some blogs and people seemed pretty excited for it. I had no idea I was picking up what was soon to become one of my favourite books and that Lauren Oliver was about to become an author I would never forget.
I had a lot of expectations going into Requiem. And a lot of fears too. Would the series end the way I wanted it to? Would my heart end up smashed into a million pieces? It was a lot of pressure for one little book.
There’s really not much I can tell you about the plot of Requiem without giving anything away. I will say that there was a certain direction I thought this book would go in and it didn’t. But that isn’t a bad thing. I like the direction Lauren Oliver chose to take series in. It was different and unexpected and because of that it kept me guessing. It wasn’t what I expected but that worked out for the best because that meant I was just as obsessed with finding out what happened next as I had been in Delirium and Pandemonium.
The unique thing about Requiem was the addition of alternating chapters between Lena and Hana’s point-of-view. I have to say I really enjoyed Hana’s chapters. Having read the short story, Hana, I found I wanted to know more about her character and what she had been up to. But even if you haven’t read the story, you’re going to be heavily invested in her chapters. There is some crazy stuff in there! And as always I enjoyed Lena’s voice. I think she’s grown a lot over the series but she’s still not perfect – which in my opinion is how it should be. She’s still so young and has so much ahead of her, it would be crazy for her to have it all figured out.
However, I do have one criticism of Requiem. It doesn’t change my overall feeling about the novel/series but it did leave me a little disappointed. I found there are certain issues that don’t get addressed until late in the book. And because they are presented so late they really don’t get as fleshed out as I would have liked. There are two in particular that kind of bugged me and left me wanting more. I think there was so much potential to explore the effects of certain relationships and it just wasn’t met. I know I’m being super vague but I don’t want to give anything away. If you’ve read the book I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Perhaps a discussion post is in order?
Reservation aside, I do think Requiem is a beautiful end to an amazing series. Lauren Oliver has brought to life some amazing characters, she has made me cry sob, kept me up until all hours of the night, eyes glued to the page. She has given me a series that I want to re-read over and over. The Delirium series is a powerful story of love and resistance and freedom with universal themes everyone can relate to. So this isn’t so much a review as it is a love letter to Lauren Oliver. <3
Recommendation: A hard breaking but strong end to a fabulous series. A must read.
I finished this book ages ago, but I’ve had a hard time writing the review so sorry for the delay. It’s just...moreOriginally posted at More Than Just Magic
I finished this book ages ago, but I’ve had a hard time writing the review so sorry for the delay. It’s just this book is so unique that it was hard to put my finger on all the things that make it so special.
When I first heard about Yok, I had no idea there were three other companion novels to go along with it. So don’t worry if you haven’t either. Yok stands on its own, as far as I can tell it’s characters are separate from those in the other three books. It has, however, made me extremely curious about books 1-3, so don’t be surprised if reading Yok, adds three more titles to your TBR.
Because Yok is told in four separate stories, I think this review would work best if I shared my thoughts on each story separately.
1) Sors or Fox Antonio Ortega: The story of Fox Antonio Ortega is the story about a man fox that yearns for true love. Unfortunately his true love, Beatrice Cockatoo, is the daughter of a major crime boss in Yok, and he’s not willing to let his daughter go lightly. Thankfully Fox is up for the challenge. Though at times this story could be a bit silly, I thought it did an excellent job of setting the overall tone of the novel. You knew there was going to be some serious blurring of lines between reality and fantasy and you knew that despite the fact that these were stuffed animals, they were going to get involved in some very real problems. I felt very moved by Fox’s plight and genuinely got caught up cheering him on.
2) Pertiny or Erik Gecko: By far my favourite of the stories. Erik lives with his two older brothers, Leopold Lepoard and Rasmus Panther. Now anyone with siblings will tell you that you’re not always going to get along, but Erik’s situation is much worse. He suffers full on abuse from his two (significantly larger) brothers. To the extent that they occasionally lock him under the floor boards when he’s displeased them. Erik’s story broke my heart, especially when he was faced with a crucial decision which could result in his freedom. This story also contained one of my favourite quotes from the novel:
“This excuse of a life that I live, this masochism that I expose myself to daily , cuts into my soul, it may seem I accept it without thinking, as if I enjoy being bullied and held down, but inside I am burning up…Life is mysterious and not a second goes by that I don’t despise myself for this self-imposed punishment, that no one else sees and no one promotes…I’m not just a wretch, I’m worse than that, I betray myself.”
I think Tim Davys did an excellent job capturing not only the helplessness as victim of abuse feels, but also the self-inflicted abuse that many also go through, the self loathing and disappointment that is sometimes just as hard to shake. The story of Erik Gecko is one I’ll not soon forget.
3) Corbod or Mike Chimpanzee: I personally think that this is the weakest story in the collection (although that’s not to say it’s a poorly written story). I just couldn’t connect with Mike like I could with Erik or Fox. His particular problem to overcome was simply his own mediocrity. His music wasn’t good enough, his finance’s family didn’t think he was good enough. And though that should be a feeling we all can relate too, it just didn’t seem like Mike cared enough. He was someone I wanted to like more than I did, and as a result I didn’t enjoy his section nearly as much.
4) Mindie or Vincent Hare: Vincent Hare is on a life long quest to seek out a meaningful life. This often leads him down so dubious paths and wrecks havoc on his sanity. I think Vincent’s story is a perfect mixture of what I loved about Erik’s story and Fox’s story. It is at once both humorous and serious, meaningful and entertaining. Definitely a strong way to end the collection.
The over arching theme to this collection seems to be hope. Hope that we can all overcome our situation, however big or small that situation would be. Even if you’re a stuffed animal, even if you live in a crime filled, poverty-stricken slum and even if the “Chauffeurs” could come at any time and end it all. There is always hope. And that idea brings beauty to four otherwise, rather tragic lives.
Recommendation: A heart warming book that would be great for those literary fiction lovers who are tired of the same old, same old. It’s a book with something to say and I would be hard pressed to find someone who couldn’t relate to at least one of the stories within.(less)
I am constantly amazed by how much content Darren Shan can fit into so few pages. Zom-B Undergrou...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
I am constantly amazed by how much content Darren Shan can fit into so few pages. Zom-B Underground comes in under 200 pages yet, once again, I feel as though I’ve been on this crazy, emotional ride that I can’t stop thinking about.
Zom-B Underground picks up not long after Zom-B left off. B has been bitten and she is now a zombie herself. She’s found herself locked in a cell and doesn’t quite understand how she got there, why she still has all her same thoughts and memories and what they’re planning on doing with her. I found this a really neat approach to your standard zombie novel fare. The reader actually gets to see what’s going on in the mind of someone who has been turned. I’ve read a lot of zombie novels and I can honestly say Zom-B Underground was unlike anything I’ve ever read before.
I was kind of disappointed, however, that Zom-B Underground didn’t have the same level of commentary regarding racism as Zom-B did. B isn’t the same immature brat that we met in the first book. In a way this was a good thing – we really got to see her grow as a character and I am all for character development. But that being said, that commentary was what made the first book such a stand out for me. I guess that’s the trade you have to make in this sort of situation but I’m still hoping Darren Shan will come back to it in book three.
Finally, I feel it is necessary to add a warning of sorts for those who are considering this book. There is this incredibly creepy new character called Mr. Dowling. He is probably the most terrifying clown ever. I’m normally not scared of clowns but I’m reasonably sure he will haunt my nightmares. If you are at all afraid of clowns you have been warned.
Recommendation: A great continuation of the series. B is still an interesting and complex character and I truly enjoy reading about her journey. Recommended.(less)
Defiance is a whirl wind of a fantasy adventure. I was late to the party with this one, it didn’t...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Defiance is a whirl wind of a fantasy adventure. I was late to the party with this one, it didn’t even hit my radar until after it was already published. But once I heard about it, I had to get my hands on a copy. And I am glad I didn’t waste any time, because Defiance ended up being one of my favourite books of the year.
C J Redwine writes beautifully. She has a captivating style, that drew me in right away. I became enamoured to the world, the characters and everything she had created. The world of Baalboden, in particular was fascinating. It took all the best parts of fantasy and combined it with elements of science fiction (Logan’s inventions, giant worms that made me think of Dune), horrible tyrants as leaders, a rebellious under current, and a hint of magic at play. It was a world I loved and a world that I wanted MORE of. I have so many questions, so many theories and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series to find out the answers.
Defiance is told in alternating points-of-view. Logan and Rachel’s. I thought this worked extremely well for this story. It allowed me to fall in love with both characters and I didn’t have to second guess anyone’s intentions. I could trust both protagonists and I didn’t need to be distracted by second guessing their motivations. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the mystery is nice, but other times I just want to like the people I’m invested in.
Not only were Logan and Rachel great characters, I whole heartedly approve of how their relationship was developed. They didn’t just meet each other during the timeline of the story. Instead they grew up together and had a whole complicated, layered relationship before the story even began. It made their dynamic much more interesting and much more believable. And it made me much more likely to root for them as a couple.
Recommendation: An absolute must read for high fantasy fans and for those who love their relationships well developed rather than the all too common insta love fare.(less)
1356 is technically part of Cornwell’s Grail Quest series, but it is packaged as a stand alone so...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
1356 is technically part of Cornwell’s Grail Quest series, but it is packaged as a stand alone so there is no need to go out and read the other books first -I mean if you want to than excellent! but if you don’t have time or only have this book you don’t need to worry. I didn’t know until I started reading that it was part of a larger series, but other than a few passing references to earlier events I never felt lost.
The protagonist of this adventure is Thomas of Hookton. He is searching for St. Peter’s sword (La Malice) in an effort to keep it away from the corrupt powers of the church and government. And if that wasn’t keep him busy enough he’s also trying to rescue some maidens, fight in a war and constantly worrying about the stock of his arrows. Being a mercenary is not easy.
I found that Cornwell has written a well constructed story around a strong main character. I really liked Thomas and was fascinated by the search for La Malice. I loved the history around the sword (whether real or fabricated). I’ve always had a thing for Grail stories and this is very much in a similar vein. However, I found that I never got to know the secondary characters all that well and the subplots often confused me more than intrigued me. I kept mixing things up. For instance Roland and Robbie – these names were far too similar! And I also kept forgetting who was fighting for the French and who for the English. Although I think this is more my failing than Cornwell’s.
Outside of the plot and characters an excellent reason to pick up this book is for the utterly fantastic battle scenes. I can not stress enough how awesome they were. I felt like I was right in the middle of some epic Braveheart style warfare. There was a lot going on but actions were clear, and the detail was spot on. I kept noticing little things he would add in and was amazed that he thought to include it. It really made the scene come alive on the page. (Side note: Leather buckets. I may have obsessed over the notion of leather buckets for a full day. It’s something so small but that I would have never thought of. I think my own work-in-progress needs some leather buckets).
Recommendation: Overall I think I prefer Bernard Cornwell’s writing to George R R Martin. Though I find the Game of Thrones novels a little easier to follow the amount of actual action and historical detail in 1356 really made it stand out. Recommended for those who like their historical fiction violent and action packed.(less)
Very well written and quite disturbing. I started it on my way from home work and couldn't stop until I was finished. It was incredibly interesting to...moreVery well written and quite disturbing. I started it on my way from home work and couldn't stop until I was finished. It was incredibly interesting to see how Angie progressed through her recovery and the multiple personalities were something new and different that I hadn't seen in YA before.
However there was one twist at the end that I couldn't quite buy though. (view spoiler)[ Her being pregnant while being held captive I could buy. But having her neighbours across the street just so happen to adopt the baby?! That's an awfully big coincidence. And she's ok with them never knowing and just creepily watching the child grow up. I'm sorry but at some point that's going to get weird for Angie, the child or both. (hide spoiler)] I thought it was too much of a leap. I also thought it was a leap to suggest that Angie could be back home for so long without the media finding out. Just think back to the Elizabeth Smart case (which this book is said to resemble). There was no way she could have avoided the media. (less)
If I’m being totally honest, it was Arclight’s gorgeous, colourful and eye catching cover that co...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
If I’m being totally honest, it was Arclight’s gorgeous, colourful and eye catching cover that convinced me to pick it up. I had no idea what so ever what it was about. I was sold on the cover alone. But then I started reading and became just as hooked on the book’s insides as its outsides.
Arclight starts on a high note. Alarms are going off, codes are being given and people are seemingly running for their lives. We don’t who they are, what they’re running from and where exactly we are in time and space. Normally this kind of beginning can feel jarring and choppy but it was just the beginning this book needed. It gives the story an incredibly high intensity level right from the get go, and it never lets up. If you liked stories that get your heart pounding and move at a consistantly fast pace, you’re going to love Arclight.
Once you’re into the story and are able to get more oriented, you realize you’re reading something totally unique. This isn’t a dystopia, it isn’t science fiction. I saw someone describe it as Stephen King for teens and I think that’s about as accurate description as we’re going to get. It’s haunting and at times, more than a little creepy. The people of the Arclight are surrounded by these creatures called The Fade. They’re creatures of shadows, who have slowly, over many generations, taken over the world. They bleed black and can assimilate your body into their ‘hive’. Creepy stuff. I really enjoyed reading about a creature I had never heard of before as it added an element of surprise. How could I predict what they would do next if I knew nothing about them?
The only fault I have with Arclight is that sometimes I was a little lost. This was because the world building, was at times, lacking. Everything is just SO new and different that it would be impossible to flesh it all out in one book. Josin L McQuein does a pretty good job but I still would have liked more. Sometimes it felt like the world and the characters within it were just rushing by and it was easy to get lost in the shuffle. Overall I was still able to enjoy the story but if you asked me to explain how the world got this way or exactly what the Fade are…well let’s just say I’m not the best person to ask.
Recommendation: Arclight is a high intensity read that actually accomplished the challenge of being “nothing like you’ve ever read before.” It’s great for those who want to get lost in a high action, high impact read. Not so great for those who love really fleshed out speculative fiction.(less)