Oh my goodness, I think this book might have just ruined the entire urban fantasy - and possibly dystopian too - genre for me. Because, where can I g...more
Oh my goodness, I think this book might have just ruined the entire urban fantasy - and possibly dystopian too - genre for me. Because, where can I go from here? Does it ever get better than this? Please be warned right now that this review is going to be nothing less than gushing. I loved everything about this book, so much so that I may need to keep writing in italics.
I can't believe I nearly didn't read this book. I've looked at the other rave reviews for it so many times and I kept coming back and re-reading the goodreads description, trying to talk myself into a book with angels. Because, well, I think angels are actually rather lame. I also can't help but discriminate against books that are only published as ebooks, especially when it's becoming more and more apparent that anyone can stick their books on kindle and sell them at a ridiculously cheap price. I find myself thinking: "if books like Tempest and Article 5 can make it into bookstores, this must be really bad". This theory has been metaphorically kicked, flattened and destroyed by Angelfall.
Let's start with the key ingredient: an addictive quality. I was utterly captivated by the story from the very beginning, it pulled me in and didn't let go until the very last page. So many books don't have this, that special something that makes it absolutely necessary that you read on, no matter what time it is and whether or not you need to get up early in the morning. The story isn't the most unique idea I've ever heard - a future world that has been torn apart by angels. The kind that are cold, cruel and merciless, that see humans has little more than ants, no Halo-type storylines here. Penryn is a seventeen-year-old girl who must look after both her disabled sister and her mentally unstable mother who talks to "demons". In one eventful day, Penryn rescues an angel who is being attacked by five others, which results in her sister getting captured by one of the five. With only the angel - an enemy - who can help, Penryn sets out to rescue her sister.
Now Penryn may actually be my new favourite heroine of all time. In every way. She kicks ass, but at the same time she is a normal teenage girl who just wants to keep her family safe. There's a hint, or perhaps I should say a suggestion of romance, but Penryn has much more important things to worry about and she knows where her priorities lie (thank you! thank you! thank you!). The dialogue between Penryn and Raffe (the angel) is fantastic, it's so witty, funny and sometimes touching. Good grief, I love this book!
The pace never slows, the excitement never runs dry, and the ending is the perfect mixture of closure and a temptation for more. The second installment simply cannot come fast enough.
On the plus side, I have managed to complete one of my winter challenge books on the very first day it started. And no, I didn't cheat, I listened to...more
On the plus side, I have managed to complete one of my winter challenge books on the very first day it started. And no, I didn't cheat, I listened to all seven boring hours of this thing - sorry if you liked it, but this book is just dull.
It wasn't the cheesy romance, it wasn't the whole angels and emphasis on religion thing, it wasn't even the annoying voice of the audio narrator... it's just that this story is so blah. So very very blah. Haven't I read this story a million times? Don't I know these characters from nearly every other paranormal romance book? The lovestruck heroine, the hunky love interest, the supposedly quirky but mostly uninteresting best friend?
Apart from a few small annoying things that can be said about a lot of young adult novels (particularly of the paranormal kind), there isn't anything really awful that I can pinpoint specifically, hence the rating of two stars instead of one. But I will have forgotten everything about this book tomorrow. In fact, I'm already in the process of forgetting it... I just had to go back and check up on a couple of names to remind myself of the characters. Not good.
The audio narrator in this case does not do the protagonist any favours. She plays upon her whininess, and makes her sound all the more immature and completely (ridiculously) in love. I can only guess that she thought this sounded cute but, unfortunately, it did not. Also, she never changes her voice for different characters, even though several are male and one is meant to have a British accent. I'm not very experienced with audiobooks but aren't you supposed to be able to tell which character is speaking?
The best part of this book is when Charlotte's skin is peeling off - which should tell you a great deal about my interest in this story. As for the rest, her "steamy" encounters with Harlin, the discovery that she is one of the Forgotten... I really just didn't care.(less)
I know three stars isn't the most helpful rating in the world, but I just feel like parts of this book were worth at least four and other parts made...more
I know three stars isn't the most helpful rating in the world, but I just feel like parts of this book were worth at least four and other parts made me want to abandon it completely. It will suit a few people's tastes perfectly, I'm sure, but I wouldn't rush out to recommend it to the masses.
The story is based upon the old folk song "Scarborough Fair", a song I am very familiar with because my nanna used to sing it to me all the time. In it a series of impossible tasks are proposed by the listener's former lover, if the tasks are completed he will take her back. Impossible uses this idea in a modern setting, with the protagonist - Lucy - trying to break the curse that has plagued the women of her family for as long as anyone can remember. They are each destined to become pregnant at eighteen and, upon birth of the child who is always female, they succumb to madness. The only way this can be avoided is to perform the impossible tasks.
I thought the paranormal aspect of the novel was the weakest and I didn't care for it. You see all that I wrote about the story in the last paragraph? You can also read this in the goodreads description, on Amazon, on the back of the book... so why does the first hundred (and more) pages treat it like it's a mystery? I know there's got to be some time for the protagonist to discover what is going on but, because the reader already knows where the story is going, I could predict each chapter before it arrived and I was thinking of giving up early on.
For me, the curse should not be explained in the description, it sucks the enjoyment out of most of the first half (well, nearly) of the book. The novel's strength comes from the development of character relationships and how the people stand together to overcome this hardship. It makes me tempted to try out some of the author's realistic fiction - like The Rules of Survival - and just forget about her paranormal stuff.(less)
This book literally had me sleeping with the light on. It's not just sad, it's very creepy towards the end. I spent about two thirds of the book thin...more
This book literally had me sleeping with the light on. It's not just sad, it's very creepy towards the end. I spent about two thirds of the book thinking it was good and really captured the pain and loneliness of a young girl who is ostracised and has no friends because of the situation with her severely depressed mother. How sometimes she'll come home and find the house empty and have to go out searching for hours until she finds her mum wandering up the street in her nightgown. How she is forced to live with her mum's rantings about granddaddy - a man who died before Lacey (the protagonist) was even born.
That was the first two thirds of the story.
The last third scared the living hell out of me. It was like a weird combination of Poltergeist and Psycho, and the kind of ending that has you listening to every slight sound your house makes as you're trying to fall asleep. This might not be what everyone wants to hear, and probably why the book has quite mixed ratings but - for me - the strongest books stay with me for a long time, they shock me, affect me deeply, they make me feel something even if that something isn't necessarily good. That's what Miles from Ordinary did for me.
I really enjoyed the author's other novel - The Chosen One - but whether you enjoyed that or not doesn't really come into play here. The only vague similarity that the two books share is the creepiness, and that was much more pronounced in this book. Other than that they are very different. Miles from Ordinary focuses much more on the internal struggle of the main character, you find yourself experiencing her sadness and loneliness as the story progresses; where I felt The Chosen One explored the detrimental effects of a certain way of living and the way a whole society behaved, Miles from Ordinary took a close look inside Lacey's mind, it was very sad and very frightening and I'm sure I won't be forgetting this book anytime soon. (less)
I actually won a hardback copy of this quite a while ago and I have to admit that, as much as it is nice to win anything, I was a little disappointed...more
I actually won a hardback copy of this quite a while ago and I have to admit that, as much as it is nice to win anything, I was a little disappointed that I didn't get one of the other available books. This book has never appealed to me, I've passed it so many times in my local book stores and never felt any inclination to pick it up. So I was definitely surprised when I found the book to be enjoyable on the whole and I spent a lot of the novel thinking I might give it a four star rating. What stopped me was countless annoying little things that gradually built up and resulted in me having to knock a star off the rating, one or two I could have easily disregarded but eventually there were just too many to ignore.
The positives are plentiful and the story really interested me; Lenah has spent five hundred years as a vampire (part of which was spent as queen of a coven) but now she longs to finally become human again, to have the chance to feel alive and experience the world with human senses and emotions. This requires a sacrifice from her maker - Rhode - and the story opens up where the ritual is being completed. Lenah's past as a vampire is told in flashbacks, whilst at the same time she tries to fit into a modern day boarding school, come to terms with technology and slang terms (part of the ritual involved her spending the last hundred years underground) and generally convince everyone that she is your average sixteen year old girl.
Because she was previously a vampire queen leading a coven of male vampires, Lenah is not like many of today's young adult paranormal heroines. When they are studying Kate Chopin's The Awakening in class, she states that she "doesn't like to be controlled" and it's true that she never lets herself be. Yes, she has a crush on the school stud, but when he appears to insult her she tells him where to get off. At last! I liked Lenah, I liked the historical references and I liked Lenah's friend Tony. I also liked how the ending left me with excitement for book two without being overly cliffhanger-ish.
Now for what I didn't like. Rhode was meant to be the love of Lenah's life for hundreds of years and yet she seemed to get over him very quickly. In fact, she didn't really seem to care that much at all. And on the subject of love interests... well, there were so many in this book you could drown in them. Forget love triangles, this is at least a love pentagon. Was it really necessary? In fact, I can tell you the answer to that one: no, it wasn't. But I think worst of all was the horrible mean girl stereotyping. You know the kind... she's pretty, she's blonde, dates the hottest guy who our heroine has a crush on... and, naturally, she's a complete bitch. Apparently, she has to be a complete bitch in order for it to be okay for Mr Hotness to leave her for Lenah. At one point while they are still going out, sexy guy - Justin - openly ignores her to flirt very obviously with Lenah. When Lenah points out that she is watching, Justin says "I don't care"! Really? Because, you know, those pretty blonde girls obviously don't have feelings so what's the point in wondering whether you might hurt them or not? This pissed me off.
BUT... I like the story and I like the protagonist. And for that I am still going to check out Stolen Nights and see where the author takes us next. (less)
With a cover as pretty as that you'd think this book would be more dramatic, but unfortunately very little seems to happen for the majority of the no...more
With a cover as pretty as that you'd think this book would be more dramatic, but unfortunately very little seems to happen for the majority of the novel. The story consists of Ana attempting to discover why she is a Newsoul and managing to fall in love along the way. You see, in this utopian world every soul is reincarnated into a new body once they die, this has continued on and on for thousands of years. Each time a baby is born, they search for a match in the soul database to find out which individual has returned... until Ana. Ana's soul didn't have a match, and at the time of her birth, the soul of another disappeared from the database. In a world where everyone has known everyone for thousands of years, being responsible for a soul disappearing leaves Ana an outcast, abandoned by her father and mistreated by her mother because of it. One day, she sets out to discover why.
As much as I like the change from the typical dystopian setting, a utopia is difficult because nothing particularly bad happens and the novel lacks excitement because of it. The story concentrates more on Ana's relationship with Sam. I found the focus on music and dancing - for which they both share a passion - to be very dull, this would probably not be the case if I was a big fan of playing instruments and ballroom dancing... as I am not, however, I almost fell asleep during these scenes. I would have also liked a better explanation as to why Sam's opinion of Ana differs so greatly from everyone else's even when he has only just met her. He constantly tells her that she deserves to live her life to the full and enjoy it, whereas everyone else seems to believe that her life is worthless because she is unlikely to be reborn. Isn't it too big a coincidence that she happens to run into a handsome young guy who also happens to be okay with who she is? It seems every young adult heroine must meet that one guy that is completely different from all the rest.
I also have some problems with this whole reincarnation thing. I'm guessing that their must be some incest going on if they've been reborn so many times, isn't it also possible to give birth to your grandparents? Weird. And if you are with someone in one life (e.g. married) are you just supposed to find someone else even though you retain all your memories of your past lives? That doesn't seem right, and yet you would be a completely different person biologically, there's even a chance you could end up being siblings. Imagine your husband or wife being reborn as your brother or sister... too strange. And perhaps I missed the answer but it wasn't clear if I did: if people remember their past lives, are babies born intelligent?
On top of that, the changing genders issue also seemed kind of weird to me. Now, you have to be careful with the subject of gender, I mean, what is gender after all? Isn't it just the effect of primary socialisation on our behaviour? It could be. And I suppose having souls that are genderless is one way of getting rid of inequalities, I quite like reading books that explore the idea of one gender or being genderless. But, here's what's weird, and it's all to do with the reincarnation thing again: at one point in the novel, Ana looks at a photograph of Sam when he was a woman in a past life, and she is jealous because he fills out a dress better than her. I'm trying to wrap my head around what it would be like to be jealous of your boyfriend because his curves look good in a dress. Bizarre.
Incarnate really could have been good. It could have explored interesting ideas like the possibility of reincarnation and the nature of the soul. It could have served as an important reminder that we have one life to live and that we need to make the most of it. It could have, but it didn't. (less)
Oh, rip my heart out, why don't you? This is such a horrifying and sad book that again makes me ask the question: just what on earth is going on in t...more
Oh, rip my heart out, why don't you? This is such a horrifying and sad book that again makes me ask the question: just what on earth is going on in the UK publishing world??? This book was released in the US as Plain Kate with a cover that features the protagonist walking along a rooftop with her cat. Though it doesn't exactly gear you up for some of the horrors this story contains, at least it doesn't look like a pretty, twinkly version of Ferngully: The Last Rainforest. What is up with that cover? That title? If I had come across this edition first, something along the lines of My Little Pony would have sprung to mind, this book looks like a nice fairytale for eight year old girls... but if I'd read something like this at eight I would have had nightmares for the next five years.
Don't get me wrong, I thought it was very good. The plot was different, fast-paced and interesting, the heroine is strong and likeable. And, as much as it was quite disturbing, I found the witch-burning, ears getting cut off and general gory bits to only glue me to the pages in awe and disgust. But, unlike other authors that employ numerous shock tactics in a desperate bid to hold their reader's attention, Erin Bow is actually a good writer. Plus, there's a few deeper messages about friendship, hope against the odds, and never giving up.
Oh, and there's a cat. A wonderful, lovable talking cat. And I adore cats. No seriously, it's pretty weird. You know those old women who live alone with about ten cats? I envy them. I'm at five so far and all it will take is a trip to one of those rescue centres. Furry companions make me happy. In fact, I've included one of my own... this is Willow, she thinks she's a princess and I'm perfectly happy to let her think that:
It's weird how I find the most difficult books to review are those that I knew were going to be amazing... and yep, this was amazing! I mean, what do...more
It's weird how I find the most difficult books to review are those that I knew were going to be amazing... and yep, this was amazing! I mean, what do you say that actually means anything? I could ramble on about fantastic writing, brilliant characters, excellent plot, this would all be true but the words are so empty and don't convey what I love about this series.
They don't say how this intricate fantasy world pulls you in with it's politics, it's culture and it's superstitions. It's like the excitement of walking through a wardrobe into the strange land of Narnia and not knowing what's around every corner, but needing to find out. There is no map provided in these books (at least not in my editions) but the parts of the world that we have explored so far are completely imaginable to me. I can imagine Attolia by the coast and picture the mountains running through this world that forge geographical, political and cultural boundaries. Am I starting to waffle? That's because I am in love with this series; is this how Romeo felt? "Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night." Okay, all right, I'm stopping before it gets even weirder.
I don't understand how so many authors can write in 1st person and still fail to create characters that interest me as much as Megan Whalen Turner does so easily in her 3rd person perspective. Perhaps it is that she only reveals what is absolutely necessary and the characters we think we know can so easily surprise us. This book is told from the point of view of Costis (an Attolian soldier) who is assigned to be the King's lieutenant and witnesses much of the goings on around the palace. I'm starting to think that this is ultimately the more effective way to tell a story. Well, Wuthering Heights was told entirely from the point of view of secondary characters, for one!
The story was excellent, I loved visiting Eugenides again and seeing how far he has come and how much he is still the same little devil we met in book one. This is a novel full of palace politics, new friendships, conspiracies, assassins and a dash of romance. I wasn't sure how the relationship between the new King and the Queen of Attolia would work out, but Turner handled it perfectly and the chemistry between two such unlikely companions was very exciting to read.
For the first 160 pages (approx) this book was just okay. I liked it, the ideas weren't particularly original but the writing was decent, the char...more
For the first 160 pages (approx) this book was just okay. I liked it, the ideas weren't particularly original but the writing was decent, the characters were not quite as annoying as some I've read recently... things were going well but I wasn't blown away either. It was a spooky, easy to read novel with a relationship that made me smile instead of the usual insta-love, overbearing melodrama I've come to expect.
But I had problems too with these first 160 pages. One character - Tara - is introduced for the sole purpose of being the school slut, she is described by the clothes she wears ("tight" and "revealing") and/or by her sexual behaviour. Even if I could stand to read about slut-shaming (which I can't), what is the point of introducing such a useless, throwaway character. She is not a person, she has no personality, she is merely an example of the kind of girl our protagonist is not, and supposedly undesirable because of it.
Then there's the matter of no less than three contenders for Delaney's heart. One in particular was obviously never a real possibility - so why was it in there in the first place? As it happens, Delaney's relationship with one of the possible love interests really pleased me. I won't spoil the story but I thought it was well-told and believable. Oh yeah, and about that story... Delaney should have stayed dead when she fell through the icy lake and spent eleven minutes under water, but by some miracle she starts breathing again and appears to be completely healed. It isn't until Delaney starts being drawn towards the dying that she realises something really isn't right... and then there's Troy, the strange boy who's also always there when people are about to die... is he just like her? Or is Troy up to something more sinister?
And those last 100 pages I didn't mention before?
I thought these were a huge improvement, the novel went from one I enjoyed but would soon forget to a very touching and interesting novel that explored various ideas about death, life, euthanasia and guilt:
"I hoped he'd take his dog and drive down to the ocean. I hoped there was still time. I pictured him sitting on the grey rocks with the waves crashing and spraying white foam. Maybe he'd hear something in the roar of the ocean, feel some limitless power, believe that there's something greater. Something more. Maybe his heaven was at the coast, with a dog's head in his lap, with nothing but water and depth from there to the horizon."
I especially loved the discussions about euthanasia, particularly the involuntary kind. How can you know if an unconscious person would rather have the chance to fight? The chance to wait for a miracle like Delaney experienced? Is it wrong to prolong suffering? Or is it more wrong to give up on human life? A really thought-provoking read. (less)
I hate giving out one star ratings. I really hate it. And thankfully it doesn't occur too often because most books have something redeeming about the...more
I hate giving out one star ratings. I really hate it. And thankfully it doesn't occur too often because most books have something redeeming about them, something that I can think "yeah, the book wasn't great, but I enjoyed that one bit". I'm afraid I couldn't find this at all in Tempest. Harsh as it may seem, this is one of those novels that I honestly have no clue how it got published. It made no sense, the characters were one-dimensional, parts were misogynistic... and to top it all off, it was boring. Annoying is forgivable, so is the unexplained, but boring? Big no no.
Oh yeah, and there's something important I should point out. Try as I might to finish this, I only made it to page 300 out of 358 (which I think was pretty decent for a book that didn't hold my interest past page one). But anyway, I'm going to talk about how nothing made any kind of sense and I suppose there is a chance that sense was introduced in the last 58 pages and I missed it by giving up too soon. Oh well. What I read made no sense. It was pointless. So a guy can go back in time and do stuff that he never did before, but then when he returns to the future nothing has been affected by him changing the events of history. As in, whatever he did never happened - so what's the point?
And also, is he really going into the past if what happens doesn't affect the present? Or is he, alternatively, going into a different past/dimension? Perhaps this is explained after page 300, let me know in the comments if it is.
Plus, I'm not sure why that half-arsed romance had to happen. But this is the young adult genre and I suppose I should expect something equally annoying and completely devoid of chemistry by now. What's the point of selling the romantic element in your novel if it is dull as dishwater? I have no idea. I just know that there was nothing about Jackson and Holly's relationship that interested me. And, by the way, if Jackson can go into the past and interact with people without them remembering it in the present, why didn't he just try asking his dad about his strange abilities sooner? I know I would have if I were him.
I think I knew I wouldn't like this book from very near the beginning (chapter one or two) when a character is simply dismissed as being horrible and bitchy with all her "feminist lectures". Gosh, who cares about women and their rights, anyway?? But even that I could have forgotten if it wasn't for some more misogyny later on when Jackson is reluctant to take Holly's virginity: "You want to dump me for some loose chick?" Real nice.
And then this nice little piece:
"I just met this chick last night at my friend's party. She's mega hot and a total airhead." "Exactly your type right?" "Yeah, but only if the flakiness is genuine. Not that pretend-I'm-stupid shit. You know it's going to bite you in the ass later. Besides, I love messing with people who just don't get it."
How I wish I could tell you that this interaction was to demonstrate the absolute jackassery of the character. But it's actually brushed off as a bit of good fun by the protagonist. Must I say anything else about this book?
Whilst reading this I happened to glance over at my mirror and see the expression on my face - my mouth was open, my eyes were wide... needless to sa...more
Whilst reading this I happened to glance over at my mirror and see the expression on my face - my mouth was open, my eyes were wide... needless to say, I looked like a complete moron. But that should give you some indication of how much this story surprised me. I confess that I didn't expect to like it that much and it's obviously time I stop making these predictions when I'm nearly always wrong. I should also stop trying to work out what certain things appeal to me in books, these theories also fall flat on their faces.
I'm not going to sell this book as something it isn't, from the beginning there is a very heavy romantic element and a lot of the story is built up around the idea that Nikki has returned (after a century in Everneath, six months to the human world) for the purpose of rekindling her romance with her past boyfriend, or at the very least seeing him for one last time before the Tunnels claim her forever. A lot of the book is definitely paranormal romance, or PNR, or even Love in a Supernatural Climate - take your pick. But I wasn't put off by this.
A lot of the story is interwoven with parts of Greek and Egyptian mythology, which I liked very much. It was well thought-out, made sense, seemed fairly original (well, I haven't read anything like it) and even though a lot of it was romance-centred I still didn't feel that it claimed the novel. I was intrigued by the whole concept of this Everneath, a place almost like hell but rather than being a place for sinners, it's a place for Everlivings - who drain souls for energy - and the souls that have been drained.
I think what I liked best, that saved the book from being nothing more than a love story, was the characters. So many young adult books make the entire novel about the female protagonist and her male love interest and, apart from the occasional over-stereotyped mean girl, they disregard all other characters. But Everneath explores Nikki's relationship with her friend, her father and her brother as well as her boyfriend.
I just wish she didn't have to blush so much. There's this one part of the story where Jack says: "I know you're worried about that..." and just the small word emphasis makes her "turn red all over". Come on, this is the 21st century, surely every girl doesn't blush at the mention of that, do they? And if they do, why don't the boys? Because boys are wild, experienced-from-birth, sexual animals that you have to fight off with a stick and girls are meek, mild and pure? I'm not saying that's what the author wanted to portray but the sexually smirking guy meets innocent girl seems to be a common theme in these types of books.
And also, is that a potential love triangle I spy there? I don't know, it seems pretty one-sided right now but there's clearly more books to come. (less)
I thought Tatiana's comparisons between this and Blood Red Road were spot on, Under the Never Sky is definitely a very similar kind of book but without the strange dialect that sometimes made the other difficult to appreciate at times. They both focus on the dystopian aspect, instead of getting caught up in a romantic whirlwind, they both feature a journey that keeps the novels fast-paced and interesting, and I can honestly say that I cared about the characters in both books.
The romance, when it arrives, is told perfectly. It didn't feel rushed or "insta" and I liked Aria and Perry enough already to want them to be together. Perry was an especially intriguing character, his past and his motives for doing what he does throughout the novel endeared me to him almost immediately. He does seem to think that monthly ladythings smell like violets but, oh well, nobody gets it right all the time...
As well as Blood Red Road, I recognised similarities between this and another dystopia I've read recently: Pure. Both use the idea of humanity being split into two, those "lucky" enough to make it into the domes and those who are forced to live outside - the latter of which are meant to be the underprivileged and uneducated group. Of course, things are not all what they seem and the domes aren't as rosy as they first appear. A fact which becomes apparent when a boy and girl from each world happen to meet. The difference is that Under the Never Sky is just an all round better book, in terms of writing, plot and characters. In Pure the reader is bombarded with overly descriptive and often shocking imagery, it's okay at first but after a while I began to wonder where the actual story was amongst the descriptions. The characters were only as good as their weird physical portrayal and had little personality. So if you were wondering which of the two to go for, here's my recommendation.
Though I can't say this is the best book or most unique storyline I've ever read, I found it very entertaining with all of the elements balanced just right: action, adventure, dystopia, romance and even the occasional touch of humour. I'm really looking forward to the sequel. (less)
This book managed to tick all of the boxes for the first few chapters (actually quite a few chapters because they're only short) and I was pleasantly...more
This book managed to tick all of the boxes for the first few chapters (actually quite a few chapters because they're only short) and I was pleasantly surprised to find a young adult author that: a) doesn't think it's okay to be condescending when the audience is younger, and b) creates an atypical heroine who isn't all about drooling after her inevitable one true love. As a matter of fact, the author attempts to write quite prettily and sets the scene in the Sicilian countryside very well, you can practically hear the waves of the Mediterranean sloshing against the shore.
The protagonist - Rosa - immediately stands out against countless other young adult urban fantasy heroines. She's introduced as something of a kleptomaniac, she's snarky and upon meeting the novel's obvious love interest, rather than seeing cupids flying and hearing someone playing a violin, she turns away with a good dose of sarcasm as a goodbye present. It's no secret that they will clearly meet again and gradually Rosa's attitude towards him will change, but I was thankful for the lack of insta-love and sappy heroines.
So, I had the protagonist I've always longed for, the setting out of my wildest dreams... what was the problem? The lack of story. Or, at least, the lack of an engaging story. I kept reading and waiting for the moment when the author would use her heroine and her setting to create a novel that would blow my mind but it just never delivered. The big mystery of the book was easy to guess, even the author realised this and revealed it all pretty early on... but after that the story consisted of a lot of info-dumping about Greek mythology and the Italian mafia and the legendary island of Arcadia. I felt that the author set the kind of scene that had me anticipating something awesome but it was highly anticlimatic in the end.
I do wonder if this was done intentionally, because this book is the start of a trilogy and perhaps the author wanted to place emphasis on the setting and characters in book one so that you would actually care about them when the real story gets going in book two. It's possible but it isn't enough, if you're writing the first book in a series it's so important to make sure the readers are going to want to continue. I finished this book feeling like I had nothing to look forward to in the sequels.
Many thanks to the publisher for kindly providing an arc of this for review (less)
Now I finally understand why everyone seems to like this book so much more than the first. You see, The Thief is a wonderful little book filled with...more
Now I finally understand why everyone seems to like this book so much more than the first. You see, The Thief is a wonderful little book filled with excellent writing, an interesting protagonist, an exciting fantasy world and a great big twist near the end. The Queen of Attolia had all of this, but it just had more of everything. It was everything I loved about the first book... on steroids.
Every character and every sentence - damn it, every word even! - is important, serves it's own purpose and is never wasted. This is a characteristic in books that is rare but oh so wonderful when you manage to find it.
Being told in 3rd person, unlike book one which was from Eugenides POV, allows the reader to see the bigger picture and to better understand the world that forms the backdrop of this series and the political relationships between Attolia, Eddis and Sounis. But, oddly, at the same time I felt like we also got to know Eugenides far better than in The Thief, and I loved him all the more in this second installment. He's such a perfectly imperfect character, he's flawed, he's brave without being ridiculously self-sacrificing, he's a little devil and yet you can't do anything but be on his side. Whatever happens to him in the next book has suddenly become very important to me.
And it's not just Eugenides... I mean, how easy would it have been for the author to make the Queen of Attolia nothing more than a villain sat on a foreign throne? But that's not the story Megan Whalen Turner is trying to tell. Like I said, Turner doesn't waste characters and her use of 3rd person in this novel lets us readers see the real queen behind that stone mask of cruelty. Of all the qualities I like characters to have, complexity is quite possibly my favourite.
But I think the book was really sold to me when Turner managed to successfully pull off a romance that surprised me, pleased me and just generally worked without being soppy or cheesy. A young adult novel with romance that doesn't make me cringe? Genius. (less)
This was a super-short read - 215 pages of pretty large print - but it was fun, heart-warming and I managed to finish it within a couple of hours....more3.5
This was a super-short read - 215 pages of pretty large print - but it was fun, heart-warming and I managed to finish it within a couple of hours. I didn't quite take enough from it to give it 4 stars, but then it was far better than some of the books I've rated 3 stars in the past, hence the rating. I confess that I would not have read this book if the publishers had not provided a free copy for review, I rarely like romance books and need something else to support the novel, a mystery for example. Or a fantasy world. But this book surprised me with it's quirky humour and easy-to-read style.
Not many books actually make me laugh out loud but this managed to extract a few giggles, mostly during the conversations between Hadley and Oliver, the chemistry was easily built up and sustained throughout. Also, that's another thing, there wasn't any "love at first sight" nonsense, so I'm not quite sure what that title's all about. There is a touch of fate/destiny questions about whether life is automatically leading you towards the one you're meant to be with... but strangely, it wasn't cheesy and it kind of worked. I don't even know how. But I'm guessing it must be in the author's talent for writing conversations, the novel is made up mostly of conversations between the two protagonists and, though a novel with so little plot movement should be boring, I remained glued to the pages.
If you're British you should definitely read this for a good laugh at the stereotyping going on, he's got the accent, he's wearing trainers, and his name is Oliver... like Hadley points out: as in Oliver Twist. It's a little ridiculous but more ridiculously funny than anything else. Is this really how Americans perceive us? Or was the author just looking for a good excuse to use words like "bloke" and "bloody hell"? Teeheehee.
The slightly more serious aspect of the novel was to do with Hadley trying to forgive her father for running off with another woman whilst in England. I'm not sure why but I never actually felt like the author managed to redeem her father, I wanted her to create a strong personality for him, so I could see inside his mind and forgive him as a reader, but I kind of felt like Hadley's decision to forgive didn't occur naturally and came out of the blue, simply as a necessary part of the story.
Oh well, this was a sweet book and it provided me with a couple of hours of light entertainment.
Many thanks to the publisher for kindly providing a copy of this for review.(less)
I'm finding it difficult to compile my thoughts on this one. On one hand, I found it to be a very interesting exploration of an unreliable and unconve...more I'm finding it difficult to compile my thoughts on this one. On one hand, I found it to be a very interesting exploration of an unreliable and unconventional narrator, but on the other, I just felt like I needed something more in order for me to give a higher rating. Perhaps it was the shortness of the novel, I felt like there was so much that could have been developed and explored deeper, like the relationship between the protagonist and his father and sisters. But even just his own mind... we barely scratched the surface.
Anyway, the story is about Keir. He's a good guy. Or at least, he says he is. But some people seem to think differently, like Gigi who claims he did the unthinkable. It starts to become obvious that Keir might be lying, and not only to the reader but to himself as well.
I like these kinds of stories that are a bit different from the norm, that take on challenging characters and, through them, take us to new and unusual places. This is not a nice story, but I find that the most memorable stories rarely are and this is definitely the kind of book that makes you think about certain things and ask questions you wouldn't previously consider. As is written on the back of my edition:
Where does personal responsibility begin? How do we define ourselves? And are we all capable of monstrous things?(less)
Hmm. I'm not sure if it was the high of book one - White Cat - that made this sequel so disappointing but, whatever the reason, I really struggled to...more
Hmm. I'm not sure if it was the high of book one - White Cat - that made this sequel so disappointing but, whatever the reason, I really struggled to get into this one. The story became too involved with many subplots that failed to affect me in any way, stuff like: Sam and Daneca's relationship, Cassel's mother's annoying behaviour, campaigns for worker rights, and Cassel's run-in with two federal agents who are determined to make him work for them.
It wasn't bad enough that I won't read Black Heart, I really enjoyed the first in the series and this book still contained some of the things I loved about that. I really like the style this series is written in, I find Cassel to be a very likeable, interesting and humourous protagonist. This installment should have focused the book on the mystery and worked the various subplots around that but I found the opposite was true. Every so often, the murder mystery would resurface and we'd spend several pages on it and then the book would revert back to being about the subplots.
In White Cat the main bulk of the plot is surrounding this idea of a white cat appearing in Cassel's dreams, the mystery of what really happened to Lila, and discovering what Philip and Barron are hiding... it's interesting, it kept me hooked and it allowed for relationships to be explored with the main mystery, not in their own chapters. I really like books that can integrate finding out about characters and their relationships with one another into the events of the main story and I felt this novel failed with that.
As much as I hate to say it after loving book one, it was kinda boring and I think the only reason it got three stars from me was because a) I loved the first so much, and b) Cassel, I think he's a great character. (less)
3.5 I admit that for a while I thought this book might be one of those children's picture books whose ratings reflect the artwork and not the story. A...more
3.5 I admit that for a while I thought this book might be one of those children's picture books whose ratings reflect the artwork and not the story. And yeah, the artwork is pretty nifty:
But as the story began to unfold and became entwined with historical events, I gradually turned my attention from the drawings to Hugo Cabret and co. The book is set in Paris in the 1930s and Hugo is an orphan who only manages to survive each day by clinging to the hope that he will one day fix the automaton his father had been working on... and that it will reveal a hidden message left to him.
I had also originally thought that this book was tagged "historical fiction" because it happens to be set in the 1930s, but no, there is a real story in here that I found both interesting and educational.
Parts of the book managed to achieve that which we all really want from a children's book: magical flair. But other parts fell short of it. I found the ending to be somewhat anticlimatic as well but, on the whole, it was a nice story and I really enjoyed the history lesson behind it. Rounded up to four stars because I'm feeling nice.
I'm sorry if this review is on the sucky side, I really want it to be good but I'm writing it at the same time as writing a 2000-word research report...more
I'm sorry if this review is on the sucky side, I really want it to be good but I'm writing it at the same time as writing a 2000-word research report on quantitative data analysis (kill me, just kill me now) so I can't make any promises. Plus, it's one of those really good books that I tend to waffle about and write things that don't actually mean anything... perhaps it's destined to fail.
Anyway! Let me just say that this book needs readers. About five hundred people have listed this book as "read" on goodreads, and come on guys, this isn't good enough. Sorta Like a Rock Star is one of those beautiful and rare gems of realistic fiction that just gets it in every way. It's funny, it's sad, it's poignant. There's all these amazing characters - some like none I've ever read before in my life - and there's possibly the coolest dog ever.
By the way, this book has somewhere between very little and nothing to do with music. I'm always a little put off by books with creative/musical protagonists, sometimes it's done right like in If I Stay but more often than not, I find I just don't care how well a character plays guitar or writes poetry. There is some pretty use of Haikus here (a style of poem I've never cared for before I read this novel) but mostly, the whole "rock star" thing in the title is about Amber sorting her life out and discovering her inner rock star, the girl who has the ability to make a difference, influence people's lives and fulfill her dreams. I think I may have made that sound so cheesy... but, it's not, trust me.
In fact, parts of this book are horrible. It deals with death and alcoholism in quite a brutally honest way - but I guess that's the way I like it dealt with. There's so so much in this story, it's very rich and full to the brim with interesting questions about life, about faith and about hope. There are many people on my friend's list here who I know would love this story, I just hope this review will encourage some of you to read it. (less)
Sooo... what do I know about Indians (aka Native Americans)? Well, apparently the average white American knows very little about them and, whether tha...more Sooo... what do I know about Indians (aka Native Americans)? Well, apparently the average white American knows very little about them and, whether that's true or not, I can confirm that the average Brit knows NOTHING about them. That would include me. Or it would have included me before I read this book.
Okay, well maybe not nothing, I knew they can paint with all the colours of the wind, right?
Actually, on a serious note, this is honestly where my previous knowledge of Native Americans comes from:
I kid you not. And yes I know that this is: a) a Disney film, and b) set several centuries ago.
But this book was one of the biggest eye-openers ever. A very funny, kinda sad, eye-opening experience. You see, Arnold Spirit was born on an Indian reservation and raised amongst Indians and educated in Indian schools... and his life really just sucks. Big time. If the author didn't carry this story off with such witty humour, it would simply be a FML rant about poverty, death, alcoholism, abusive parents and just the sense that Hope is not even living in the same dimension as Native Americans.
The fact that all the book covers for this are incredibly childish is very misleading. It becomes apparent when you're reading it that the cover is a picture of Arnold's doodles that he does to entertain himself and to avoid going completely insane... but this is not a kid's book. In fact, I think it will be much more appreciated by the older end of the young adult audience and, of course, adults themselves. It's an education as well as an entertaining story.
I suppose that ultimately this book is about overcoming obstacles and finding hope in the darkest places (I obviously should write cheesy taglines for a living), or even just a bit of humour. (less)
I originally gave this 4 stars but changed it after I did some thinking. I definitely wanted this book to be at least 4 stars and even convinced myse...more
I originally gave this 4 stars but changed it after I did some thinking. I definitely wanted this book to be at least 4 stars and even convinced myself at certain points that it was far better than I actually found it to be.
I have nothing against children's books - and I do actually mean children's, not young adult - I think they can be just as powerful and moving as any adult novel, if not more so. There are all kinds of factors that can make these younger novels so appealing: interesting characters, fast-pacing, magical worlds, pretty hidden messages that make you sigh and force you to remember the book for long after you put it down...
Well, as much as it breaks me to say it and as much as I did find some pleasure in reading Liesl & Po, this book just struck me as being nothing special. I didn't realistically believe that I was going to get another Harry Potter, but there are many kids books I've enjoyed, Beyond the Deepwoods, the haunting A Monster Calls (though, arguably more young adult but from a child's POV)... the former took me on a wild and exciting adventure and the latter left a lasting mark with it's beautiful message. I think Lauren Oliver was going for both but actually achieved neither in the end.
****Some spoilers for the beginning - won't ruin the story**** The story is about a girl locked in an attic by her evil stepmother (oh yeah) and one night she is visited by two ghosts called Po and Bundle. One is vaguely boy-shaped and the other could be a cat, or maybe a dog but none of that actually matters because things aren't so straightforward on the Other Side. Po has met Liesl's dead father and passes on the wish that his ashes will be scattered beneath the willow tree at the house where they used to live... so the escape plan begins. Meanwhile, in another part of town, an alchemist's apprentice called Will makes a terrible mistake by muddling up a box full of the world's most powerful magic with the box containing Liesl's dead father's ashes. And eventually everyone's after the pair, whether for magic or revenge...
Basically, the book is about a mix-up, some ghosts and a few vindictive characters out for what they can get. There is no message, no hidden meaning, and I found the ending somewhat anti-climatic. Also, there are questions left unanswered that I can't talk about in this review without giving away the ending; but they're quite important questions, whose answers could have greatly added to the story.
I also found Liesl, Po, Will, and everyone else as well to be very one-dimensional. They all had agendas but they never seemed to have thoughts or feelings. If someone asked of me: "think of one word to describe Liesl's personality", I would reply "errrr...." and the same would go for all the other characters too. I don't think it relevant to point out that this is a kid's book, having memorable characters with unique personalities should be important to all age groups surely.
I gave this book 3 stars for the light entertainment that it provided me and also because some of the writing is indisputably beautiful. However, it does not really stand out to me amongst children's fantasy novels and both the world and story created were largely unexciting. The illustrations were quite effective, though.(less)
Surely this book is illegal. I mean, someone once tried to sue J.K. Rowling because their book included a kind of wizard sport tournament similar to...more
Surely this book is illegal. I mean, someone once tried to sue J.K. Rowling because their book included a kind of wizard sport tournament similar to the one found in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, they claimed she had stolen the idea from them... and this small matter takes up such a minuscule percentage of the novel! Not to mention the fact that no one I knew had ever heard of the guy's novel before...
Now, pretty much everyone I speak to has heard of - if not read - the Vampire Academy series. The first two thirds of Half-Blood is exactly the same as the first in the VA series, I'm not even exaggerating. There are some scenes where if you changed "Alex" to "Rose" and "Aiden" to "Dimitri" then you would have a difficult time guessing which book is which. In each novel, the protagonist has been away from their centre of training (St Vladimir's and The Covenant) for a long period of time. When they return, they are admitted for a trial period in which they must attend training by professional (and super sexy) hunters. In the training rooms, they fight the older and forbidden pros and get their arses handed to them repeatedly... then slowly they get better, stronger, and things start to get just a little too hot and sweaty between them and their trainers.
Oh, and another in-your-face similarity? There are pures and half-bloods, the former look down on the latter, pures would never stoop so low as to start a relationship with a half-blood, etc, etc. Alex, like Rose, is a half-blood. The only big difference is that Aiden, unlike Dimitri, is a pure. So the relationship in this novel is even more forbidden than the one in Vampire Academy. But I was just astounded by how many characters mirrored the ones in VA, this wasn't an accident, it simply couldn't be.
Two stars on goodreads means "it was ok" and, trust me, this very nearly got one star because plagiarism is never ok. But there was a big improvement in the last third that gave me the feeling that the second book in this series - Pure - would leave the VA books alone and show some originality. Things started to branch off from the obviously stolen idea and take their own shape; like the introduction of Apollyon (a half-blood who is granted super powers in order to keep pures in check, but only one can exist at any given time) and some other interesting discoveries that I can't talk about without giving away huge spoilers.
Even though Half-Blood is a well-written, dark and sexy novel, I couldn't help but be turned off when I discovered that the author had taken someone else's idea. Perhaps I'd have felt differently if I hadn't just read Vampire Academy in 2011? I don't know, but I'm not particularly interested in reading Pure right now. (less)
What a pleasant surprise this book was. It's the first one I've read by Marcus Sedgwick, I've been putting off reading his other works after hearing...more
What a pleasant surprise this book was. It's the first one I've read by Marcus Sedgwick, I've been putting off reading his other works after hearing them repeatedly described as "weird". And I get that, this was extremely weird and the kind of book that makes very little sense until the end. But it was a great story, the writing was brilliant and I really liked the whole concept.
This is a very difficult review to write beyond using rather empty adjectives like "amazing" and "great", mostly because it was so odd. What can I write without giving something important away? I will say that this has made my mind up about needing to read the author's other books, I already have Revolver sitting on my shelf and I plan on getting to it as soon as possible.
The actual idea behind this story is one that has been explored many times but the way in which it is done here is highly original (and slightly mind-boggling). I can understand why Sedgwick's books are not very widely read, especially seeing as he is writing for a teenage audience. In my local library, his books aren't even in the teen section, but on the 8-12 shelves. There's very little chance that younger readers will care for his writing even if they do manage to understand it. Perhaps both he and his publisher need to rethink the target audience?
Many thanks to UK Book Tours for sending me this ARC. (less)