Friday, December 28, 2012

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols - Book Review

HOW FAR WOULD YOU GO? 
 
All Meg has ever wanted is to get away. Away from high school. Away from her backwater town. Away from her parents who seem determined to keep her imprisoned in their dead-end lives. But one crazy evening involving a dare and forbidden railroad tracks, she goes way too far...and almost doesn't make it back.
 
John made a choice to stay. To enforce the rules. To serve and protect. He has nothing but contempt for what he sees as childish rebellion, and he wants to teach Meg a lesson she won't soon forget. But Meg pushes him to the limit by questioning everything he learned at the police academy. And when he pushes back, demanding to know why she won't be tied down, they will drive each other to the edge -- and over....



This book is bad.  No getting around it, it was the worst read of the year for me, and one of my worst reading experiences ever.  I finished this novel weeks ago, but I was just too infuriated by it to attempt writing a review.  I think I’ve cooled off enough since then to not become a puddle of gooey rage and expletives, so here goes.

First off, let me address the rating; 4.02 average, as of the time I'm writing this review.  I'll be honest, it's what reeled me in.  And caught me like a fish on a hook, in for the same amount of torture.  Now I'll admit to being on the outside of a lot of book hype; I was one of the seven people in the entire world who didn't like Divergent.  But I would read a dozen Divergents, two City Of Bones, and top it off with an entire reread of the Twilight saga over subjecting myself to Going Too Far again.

Sound harsh?  Well, it is.  But this is a novel that prompted me to make a whole new goodreads shelf to showcase it's absolute crappiness.

Now, for the examples; From page one, it becomes evident that the writing is sub-par.  Sure, there are a few paragraphs, maybe even an entire page here and there, that don't make your eyes bleed.  But for the most part, the writing is overly obvious, the attitudes forced, the descriptions repetitive, and some of them just flat out don't make sense.  “I couldn't see his face, but I could tell from the way he walked that he was a teenager." "I knew it was too good to be true when it got even better." There is even an instance when Meg can hear John blush.  Not hear his blush in his words.  Hear John blush.  Now I'll forgive a lot, but that is physically impossible.

But Meg's sudden bursts of super-human senses weren't even my biggest pet peeves.  No, that goes to the most retardedly used, beat-the-reader-over-the-head-with-it metaphor I have ever read.

Meg has blue hair.  She dyed it a while ago to stand out or announce her rebelliousness or whatever.  And don't worry about forgetting Meg has blue hair or mistaking it for purple or green down the line, because we are reminded of Meg's blue hair.  A lot.  A whole freaking lot.  Even more than we're told about John's dark eyes, we're reminded about Meg's blue hair.  It got to the point where I would let out an audible growl of frustration every time I read about the color of her hair.  I was growling a lot by the end of this novel.

And the thing is, she acts like it's a freaking stamp on her forehead proclaiming her a lecher or something.  I don't know about you, but I actually think a chick with blue hair is kinda hot.  Especially when they're not, you know, thirty.  Meg constantly tells herself John can't like her because she has blue hair.  When his friends point out the proprietary way he watches her, Meg's internal reaction is this; But my hair is blue!

Who.  The.  Eff.  Cares?

See, there’s this thing that happened to Meg in her past, a very bad thing that is made totally unbelievable by the totally crappy writing of Echols’.  Anyway, this thing has led to an immaturity and rebelliousness in Meg, and her blue hair is supposed to symbolize said immaturity and lack of self-growth.  Hence the metaphor.  It is pointed out and shoved down your throat so much that by the predictable ending, it’s downright insulting.

Now, since Going Too far is supposed to be a contemporary romance, I should probably add something about Officer John After, or Johnafter as Meg calls him.  While he’s not as infuriating as Meg herself, he’s still an impossible character to like.  I didn’t care about him.  His big “reveal” seemed only slightly less forced and overdone than Meg’s, and there was not a single scene in the entire novel that made me feel the chemistry between the two.  And more than a few that made me actively dislike them together.

I do not get how this book got so many positive reviews.  I really don't.  It is one of only two books I've ever rated one star, which should prove that I don't give this rating out lightly.  It actually makes me angry to think about it, and that has never happened before.

Huh.  Looks like I couldn’t write this review without dissolving into a puddle of gooey rage.  At least I kept the expletives out.

Going Too Far – 1 out of 5 stars

Monday, December 24, 2012

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick - Review


It could happen tomorrow . . .

An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.

Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.

For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human.

Author Ilsa J. Bick crafts a terrifying and thrilling post-apocalyptic novel about a world that could become ours at any moment, where those left standing must learn what it means not just to survive, but to live amidst the devastation.


 

I’m surprised to say, after a very, very rough start for me that almost ended in a skimmed-through read of a little over half of this novel, that I liked this book.  It wasn’t great – any novel that takes half of its length to finally pick up and start to get good can’t be called great – but I liked it.

Ashes starts right before the big EMP, or electro-magnetic pulse, that wipes out all modern technology, and most of the population.  The only survivors are the very old, the very young, and very few of the in-between – of which Alex is one.   It delves right into action and survival, an abundance of it that had me bored and reluctant to return to the pages very quickly.  See for me, no matter how much gore or action, there comes a time when I need some story progression, or I lose interest.  The first 75 pages were promising, filled with questions to be answered and penned by a talented writing hand.  Unfortunately, after that initial burst of awesome, Ashes loses steam for about 200 pages that are almost completely devoid of story progression and don’t answer a single question from those first 75 pages.  I was left with chapters and chapters of action, action, whiny eight year old girl, action, hey look a new guy, action, rushed romance, action….  You get the deal.  I was all out of interest by the time we came to a 20 page long dog chase.  If I weren’t one of those stubborn readers who refuses to not finish a book I start, I would have abandoned Ashes then and never looked back.

For once, my stubbornness paid off.  For all the flaws of the first half, the second half managed to reel me back in and capture my interest in a way I’d completely given up hope on.

Once I slogged through the first painful half and got to…well…the part where it starts to get good (let’s keep this review spoiler-free, shall we?), I experienced one of the most complete transformations I’ve ever read in a book.  The setting is different, the secondary characters are different, and Ilsa J. Bick trades in her agonizing over-usage of action/wilderness survival for the story progression I was dying for in the first half, characters I was intrigued by, and a very realistic, psychological take on humanity’s reaction to a zombie apocalypse.  Now I know there are a lot of people who hated this sudden change, but I honestly thought it was a HUGE improvement.

I think Ashes would have worked better all around if Bick had cut out a large chunk of the first half, because to say it began to drag would be an understatement.  But when I finished, when I reached that terrible cliff-hanger (which is just as bad as these reviews will have you believe), I was surprised to find my fingers itching for more.  I have high hopes, too, that Shadows won’t suffer the same problems the first half of Ashes did.

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick – 3.5 Stars

Friday, December 14, 2012

Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor - Book Review

Three tales of supernatural love, each pivoting on a kiss that is no mere kiss, but an action with profound consequences for the kissers' souls:
Goblin Fruit
In Victorian times, goblin men had only to offer young girls sumptuous fruits to tempt them to sell their souls. But what does it take to tempt today's savvy girls?

Spicy Little Curses
A demon and the ambassador to Hell tussle over the soul of a beautiful English girl in India. Matters become complicated when she falls in love and decides to test her curse.

Hatchling
Six days before Esme's fourteenth birthday, her left eye turns from brown to blue. She little suspects what the change heralds, but her small safe life begins to unravel at once. What does the beautiful, fanged man want with her, and how is her fate connected to a mysterious race of demons?


Somehow this year has ushered in the words of Laini Taylor like a whirlwind for me, dropping first Daughter Of Smoke And Bone and slowly her other works into my lap. I had no idea, opening that first beautiful cover, that she would claim a part of my heart and become my favorite writer, taking a place long shared by a multitude of talented authors over as her own. I love her imagination, I love her worlds, her mythology, her unparalleled ability to get inside of her characters’ heads and make them real, make them relatable, and put into words things I never even knew there were words for. But most especially, I love her writing, and the way she turns words into true art.

Lips Touch: Three Times wasn’t, for me, a quick read. Rather, it was a book I had to take my time with so I could soak in the perfect phrases and amazing descriptions. It consists of three short stories – or maybe two and a novella, since the third takes up about half of the book; Goblin Fruit, Spicy Little Curses Such As These, and Hatchling. Each is very different from the others, but each is steeped in ancient mythology and lore. And even the shortest of these, Goblin Fruit, not even breaking fifty pages after you count in the illustrations, is more realized and satisfying than so many full-length novels I’ve read recently.

Goblin Fruit was probably my least favorite of the three, though that’s not to say that I didn’t love it. I think its short length was the main issue I had with it; I didn’t want to leave Kizzy and her friends and her desires so soon. Spicy Little Curses Such As These and Hatchling vie closely as my favorites, though the edge probably goes a bit to the former. I loved the non-Christian religious tones of Hell and demons, curses and bartered souls. Though Hatchling stole my breath away with its intricate story, its demon-and-fey-like Druj mythos, and its ambiguous characters; like I said, that’s a very close call. All I can say with certainty is that I loved all three stories, and would be quick to recommend them to anyone who likes a really well-written story that is both fairy-tale and horror, with a well-rooted center of ancient mythology.

It is my sincere and fervent hope that I’ll be able to read many, many more stories written by Laini Taylor in the coming years, and that she never strays from the fantasy genre; her writing is too magical to write about the mundane world we already live in.


Lips Touch: Three Times - 4.5 out of 5 stars

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Unwind by Neal Shusterman - Book Review



 

Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn't technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

I start this review speechless, but I know the words will flow as I type so here goes.  I started Unwind because it got some good reviews and had an interesting premise.  I figured I'd like it, but I did not expect to find myself totally immersed in the world Shusterman created, terrified and chilled yet too compelled to put the novel down.  The premise of a future where the debate over reproductive rights has been “resolved” by outlawing fetal abortions but allowing parents the option of aborting – or “unwinding” – any of their children between the ages of 13 and 18 on the condition that every part of them is still alive, transplanted into many different people, is a hard one to swallow.  But this novel does a fantastic job of making it seem not only less insane, but actually all too possible.

I mean, it’s not like social cultures that exist today haven’t been brainwashed to accept atrocities as just a part of life.  We’re in one.  The most successful dystopias are the ones that draw on this and use it to create a terrifying future that could become a chilling reality, and Unwind does just that.

Connor is a misunderstood bad-boy, rebellious and hot-headed but also heroic and honorable.  Risa is a ward of the state whose only mistake was being just a little less than perfect, and Lev is a thirteen year old boy who was bred for a singular purpose, like privileged cattle in a slaughterhouse.  All three find themselves betrayed by their parents or guardians and on their way to a “harvest camp”, where their lives will be divided into a thousand living pieces.  While Unwind has many different perspectives in it, Connor, Risa and Lev own the vast majority of the chapters.  All are likeable, though Risa gets lost just a bit behind the explosiveness of Lev, and Connor’s heroism.

There are a few small bumps and jolts along the ride this novel takes you on, but when the final pages are turned, you won’t be thinking about them.  You’ll be thinking about all the strong moral and societal implications, the horror of a world in which life is cheap until you reach a certain age.  You’ll be left wondering what the future has in store for us if the most horrifying possibilities can be twisted to seem just and plausible using the right blend of politics, and religious families see selling their own children as a sacred and holy sacrifice –“…when Bible passages become shredded to justify unwinding, and kids start to see the face of God in the fragments.”– pg 280.

And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be thinking about one of the most chilling chapters ever written in YA.  Not for its brutality, but for the cold acceptance and execution of what is absolutely and positively too horrifying to even contemplate.  In fact, that chapter alone bumps my overall rating up a star; I found myself struggling to read through it, but I mean that in the best possible way.

I always finish writing reviews of fantastic books just knowing I didn’t do them justice, and so is the case now with Unwind.  It hit the mark on all the emotional, dystopian and horror elements it was supposed to, and left me thinking about it long after I finished.  If you’re a fan of the dystopian craze, read Unwind.  It’ll make half of the dystopians since The Hunger Games seem like nothing more than a flash in the pan, proving to me yet again that the best in this particular genre were published before it became a YA phenomenon.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman - 5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn - Book Review

It all starts when Nick asks Norah to be his girlfriend for five minutes. He only needs five minutes to avoid his ex-girlfriend, who’s just walked in to his band’s show. With a new guy. And then, with one kiss, Nick and Norah are off on an adventure set against the backdrop of New York City—and smack in the middle of all the joy, anxiety, confusion, and excitement of a first date.

This he said/she said romance told by YA stars Rachel Cohn and David Levithan is a sexy, funny roller coaster of a story about one date over one very long night, with two teenagers, both recovering from broken hearts, who are just trying to figure out who they want to be—and where the next great band is playing.

Told in alternating chapters, teeming with music references, humor, angst, and endearing side characters, this is a love story you’ll wish were your very own. Working together for the first time, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have combined forces to create a book that is sure to grab readers of all ages and never let them go.

 

I saw the movie version a few years ago and liked it.  Didn’t love it, but thought it was good enough.  When I found out it was a book originally, I knew I had to read it – yes, I’m one of those people who always has to read the book if I see the movie – despite the luke-warm overall rating on goodreads.


Boy, am I glad I did.

Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist the book is a much more satisfying experience than the movie (and seriously, though I love him as an actor, who the hell chose to cast Michael Cera as Nick?  It took about two and a half pages for me to see how wrong that was).  The entire novel takes place in one adventurous, hormone-fueled, music-pumping night, when Nick-the-band-boy meets Norah-the not-wild-enough-daughter-of-a-famous-music-executive.  The chapters alternate between POVs, with David Levithan writing Nick’s chapters and Rachel Cohn writing Norah’s.  I enjoyed Nick’s chapters a bit more, and I attribute that to a preference for Levithan’s writing style.  Though Cohn is, by no means, a detriment to the novel; she gives Norah a nicely sarcastic, realistically self-conscious, overall romantic voice that compliments Nick’s heart-broken, somewhat jaded (in the beginning, at least), ironic one perfectly.

The novel’s 183 short pages are saturated with f-bombs and sexual content, and I can see how that might turn some readers off, but I loved it.  I’m a huge advocate of realistic YA, and come on.  Teenagers swear and lust and experiment more than most adults, so why are most YA characters saintly virgins?  Realism is important when it comes to growing adolescents, and books like Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist do a great job of giving us a realistic portrayal of almost-adults navigating through a sea of desires, doubt, questions and adrenaline.  With a heavy dose of music’s importance to a lot of teens thrown in, in this case.  Which I feel was done marvelously, as I was one of those music-reliant teenagers just a few years ago.

Normally, I feel like one night is not nearly enough for two characters to build a true chemistry with each other, but one night was all Nick and Norah needed.  It doesn’t seem forced or rushed at all.  It’s like the perfect how-we-met story, what was supposed to be five minutes of pretend-dating to save face in front of an ex-girlfriend morphing into an entire night of conversation and adventure and kisses and fun.  Mistakes, and mistakes avoided.

If you’re a fan of realistic YA contemporary, read this book.  If you enjoyed the movie even a little bit, read this book.  If you believe in the power of music to inspire love, read this book.  If you like fun, short reads that don’t answer every single question but leave a smile on your face anyway, read this book.  But if you don’t want to see “fuck” littering almost every page, or scenes pushing the limits of erotic YA about as far as they can possibly be pushed, you should probably stay away.

Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist – 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The 2012 Book That Is Made Of Awesome

So if you're a fan of the Vlogbrothers Green, you probably have inferred, by that oh so clever title, which book I'm talking about.  Inside Nerdfighter jokes, I'm rockin' em.  And if you're not a fan of the Vlogbrothers, you need to hop right on over to YouTube and check out just what you've been missing...after you've read this blog post, of course.

I've read a lot of great books this year.  A lot.  I've laughed, wept, and fallen in love over ink-covered paper.  One book that encapsulates the amazing reading year I've had, that has brought me to all of those emotional extremes I listed and beyond, is also a book that is topping many Best Of 2012 lists.  And I am grinning ear-to-ear, knowing that a novel that defies that gooey, cliche-ridden crap that popular YA novels seem to be made of since a certain sparkly vampire got every teenage girl's heart racing is getting such a huge amount of well-deserved attention.

That book is, of course, The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.

I don't have a review up yet for that amazing book since I read it months before the creation of this blog and so couldn't have given it an in-depth review, but that might actually be a good thing because I could have never done it justice with my words.  It's one of those books that will stay with me forever, and render me into a blubbering mess of tears and smiles and nose-drippings whenever I think back on it.

And it is TIMES Best Book Of 2012.

And Goodreads Best In YA Fiction.

And undoubtedly topping many, many other Best Books lists.

I. Am. So. Freaking. Happy.

Finally, the hype is deserved.

Finally, the lists got it right.

Finally, I'm not the odd-man-out praising a book that only avid readers have heard of.

The writing world needs more books like The Fault In Our Stars.  And more humble, deserving authors like John Green.  Anyone reading this who hasn't read that needs to stop what they're doing and order a copy.  If you have a beating heart, you will most likely love this book.

And now, I'm off to reread my favorite TFiOS passages with a handful of tissues at the ready.

And oh!  A special shout-out to my dear, dear friend Pixie, who is also a fellow (and much more successful) book blogger for forcing me to shut up about it costing too much and order The Fault In Our Stars early on in the year.  Oh, how right you were.

Embrace by Jessica Shirvington - Book Review

It starts with a whisper: "It's time for you to know who you are..."

On her 17th birthday, everything will change for Violet Eden. The boy she loves will betray her. Her enemy will save her. She will have to decide just how much she's willing to sacrifice.

Dangerously exciting and darkly romantic, EMBRACE is a compelling novel of good and evil, seductive desires and impossible choices. A centuries old war between fallen angels and the protectors of humanity chooses a new fighter. It's a battle Violet doesn't want, but she lives her life by two rules: don't run and don't quit. If angels seek vengeance and humans are the warriors, you could do a lot worse than betting on Violet Eden.

LINCOLN: He's been Violet's one anchor, her running partner and kickboxing trainer. Only he never told her he's Grigori--part human, part angel--and that he was training her for an ancient battle between Angels and Exiles.

PHOENIX: No one knows where his loyalties lie, yet he's the only one there to pick up the pieces and protect her after Lincoln's lies. In a world of dark and light, he is all shades of gray.

Two sides: Angel or Exile.
 

Two guys: Lincoln or Phoenix.
 

The wrong choice could cost not only her life, but her eternity...


 

Sigh….  Yet another book brimming with potential and a great storyline that managed to shoot itself in the foot with its execution.

Embrace suffers from what I like to call the Post-Twilight YA Syndrome.  It mercilessly shoves a love triangle in your face.  The writing is very average, and the characters could have used more development.  It has a very good storyline involving angels, but it’s so busy trying to compete with the YA trends that too much of the good is overshadowed by the bad.  It’s gotten to the point where I’m almost scared to pick up a new YA book by an author I’ve never read before because I’m terrified of it being yet another example of why these clichés need to die.

 Violet Eden isn’t quite as Mary-Sue as some protagonists I’ve read recently, but she’s still a two-dimensional character.  After a traumatic experience in her past, she’s become determined to be a strong-willed person who never runs when things get tough.  She also likes art.  That’s really all I know about her.  Well, that and the fact that she lusts after her athletic trainer and good friend, Lincoln.

Lincoln was probably my favorite character in this book, mainly because he was the least underdeveloped one in my opinion.  Phoenix, the bad-boy part of the triangle, with lusty eyes and smoldering looks, fit my usual “type” better, but he read like a walking talking cliché, and I predicted every single one of the surprises involving him way before they were revealed.  Even Steph, Violet’s spoiled, perky, loyal BFF, suffered from these characterization pit-falls.

 Aside from the minimal characterization, Embrace has a habit of dumbing down obvious things, and ignoring others.  A lot of questions got completely ignored, like why exactly Grigori – angel-human hybrids – partners can’t be together romantically.  It felt more like a convenient way to keep romantic tension high than anything else.

All in all, though it did keep me entertained, Embrace wasn’t the novel I was hoping for after reading a very interesting synopsis and some rave reviews.  It relied too heavily on proven popular formulas and didn’t have enough substance to wow me.

Embrace - 2.5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Game Of Thrones by George R. R. Martin - A Song Of Ice And Fire Book 1 Review


Kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars, lords and honest men. All will play the Game of Thrones

Summers span decades.Winter can last a lifetime.And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.It will stretch from the south where heat breeds plot,lusts and intrigues to the vast frozen north,where a 700-foot wall of ice protects the kingdom from the dark forces that lie beyond. The Game of Thrones. You win,or you die


 

I picked up this behemoth of a book with incredibly high expectations, having heard just about everyone and their brother rave about it.  As a fan of epic fantasy, I was fully expecting myself to become immersed in the world and the characters, and to fly through these 800+ pages quickly and wish for more.


That didn’t exactly happen.
 

Don’t get me wrong, A Game Of Thrones is a very well put-together novel.  There were some great characters, like the bastard Jon Snow and his father Eddard Stark.  Daenerys Targaryen and her journey was very interesting, and the dwarf Tyrion was witty and hilarious.  There were characters it was easy to hate, believable in their cruelty, and characters it was impossible not to root for.  All this was established in the first half of the novel, and for a while, I felt that this book would be the total immersive, page-tearing novel I was hoping for.
 

But I almost completely lost interest during the second half.
 

Maybe it was because of its length, though I’ve read more than a few that were longer.  More likely, it was the overwhelming political themes.  For an epic fantasy novel, there was very little magic going on.  The story focused almost solely on politics; the hurts of a kingdom and the fights for succession.  It may be my fault that I didn’t like this one so much, in that case.  It is, after all, titled Game Of Thrones; how could it be about anything other than politics?


The hints of magic we did get to see, however, were very intriguing.  They occurred almost solely during Jon Snow’s and Daenerys Targaryen’s chapters.  Not surprisingly, these were my favorite chapters to read.  But they were also the fewest and most far-between.  The rest of the time, I found myself slogging through the rest of the characters’ chapters; Catelyn Stark, who it was impossible for me to like after some very cruel behavior in the beginning regarding my favorite character.  Eddard Stark, her husband and probably the central character in this novel.  Their children, Bran, Arya and Sansa.  Tyrion Lannister, the only Lannister worth caring about.  Surprisingly, Robb Stark, a character I very much would have liked to know better, didn’t get his own chapters; we only got to see him through the viewpoints of his Stark family.

 
I wouldn’t say this was a miss for me, because I am very glad I read it.  I liked it, overall.  But it was a very different, much slower reading experience than what I was expecting going in.  Maybe I’ll be able to appreciate the second one if I choose to read it more, since I’ll know better what I’ll be getting with this story.

 
I only hope we’ll get to see a bit more of my favorite character, Jon Snow.  He had me won over from the very beginning, when he rescued an orphaned pack of direwolves cubs.  His character was easy to get attached to, and his place in the Nights Watch was so much fun to read.  I feel like, had he been a bit more of a main focal point, I’d have gotten so much more out of this novel.

 
A Game Of Thrones – 3.5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Days Of Blood And Starlight by Laini Taylor - Book Review


Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Killing Dance by Laurell K. Hamilton - Anita Blake Book 6 Review

The sixth Anita Blake novel starts with a vampire, Sabin, and his human servant, Dominic, contacting Anita for a rather…unusual job.  Sabin has begun to rot, excessively and disgustingly, and is desperate to find out if Anita’s powers in necromancy can possibly reverse the rot.  With Jean-Claude by her side, she politely (for her) informs him that she has no idea how to help him, but wouldn't let her worst enemy suffer Sabin’s fate, so agrees to try for him.

Then she leaves the vamp and goes to her furry beau, the werewolf Richard.  Where she finds out there is a hit taken out on her life, with a lot of money riding on her immediate death.  Edward, her informer, advises her to lie low for awhile, so she stays the night with Richard.

And it doesn’t take long for the reluctant three-way soap-opera that is wolf, vampire and necromancer to begin.


Blogger Woes

I've been virtually locked out of Blogger for a few weeks now, able to access my account but not to do much else.  For whatever reason, I was unable to make any changes to this blog, including commenting or posting.  Needless to say, this was incredibly frustrating.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Perfect By Sara Shepard Book Review - Pretty Little Liars 3

In Rosewood, Pennsylvania, four perfect-looking girls aren't nearly as perfect as they seem.
Aria can't resist her forbidden ex. Hanna is on the verge of losing her BFF. Emily is freaking out over a simple kiss. And Spencer can't keep her hands off anything that belongs to her sister.

Lucky me. I know these pretty little liars better than they know themselves. But it's hard keeping all of their secrets to myself. They better do as I say . . . or else!


 

Holy…wow.  These books just keep getting better and better.

I read the first Pretty Little Liars book with some skepticism, but ended up finding it quite entertaining.  The second kept in that same vein, pouring on the shocks and scandal with A’s particular brand of torture.

They were nothing compared to Perfect.

Previously, A was more of a threat than anything.  A ton of bark, only a little bite.  Boy, does that change in this one.  It takes A a little longer to make her first appearance, but from there, it is a whirlwind of secrets revealed, lives ruined, and threats acted on that lead up to the most shocking moment in Pretty Little Liars thus far.

You will be tearing through the pages, and when you get to that last one, when you read the final chilling line…well, you’d just better have Unbelievable lined up.

Now, the girls; Aria, who is probably my favorite and the first to see that A really has no problem delivering on her threats, is in turmoil over her father, Byron’s, affair being found out.  She turns to her boyfriend for support and comfort, even while she’s obsessing over the English teacher she crossed quite a few lines with, Ezra.  I shouldn’t love a romantic interest who is a teacher dating his 16 year old student, but I kind of do.  He seems sincere in his affection for Aria, no matter how wrong it is.

Emily is such an amazing character in these books.  She’s dealing with her budding romance with her neighbor and best friend, Maya, and the confusion and fear that comes along with it.  Her parents show us just why she has such a screwed-up view on what it means to be gay; they see it as something horrible, no matter how natural it feels to their daughter.  I really, truly hate her parents in Perfect.  I hate how they represent so many ultra-conservative parents in real life who do nothing but ruin their children’s lives and sense of self.  I am really rooting for Emily and Maya.

We see something so much darker in Spencer in this one.  She still has her constant competition with her sister, especially when the plagiarized paper she turned in for a school assignment – which Melissa wrote – enters her in a very prestigious nationwide essay contest.  To add to her stress, she starts to remember bits and pieces of the night Ali went missing, things she blocked out for years.

Hanna is easily the character I have the most issues with.  I get it, she transformed from the Ugly Duck into the Beautiful Swan, but does the Swan have to be such a bitch?  She is just a bit too bratty to blame it all on her past.  Still, you can’t help but to feel for her with all she is put through in Perfect.  The world of perfection and control she worked so hard to build is crumbling around her faster than a house of cards, with A at its center.

The Pretty Little Liar books are just plain addictive and fun to read.  Anyone who has enjoyed the first two will devour the third with wide-eyed gusto.  It’s still got that element to it that makes it junk-food reading, but this series is one hell of a guilty pleasure.  One I’m starting to feel not-so-guilty for reading.

Perfect – 4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Angelfall by Susan Ee - Book Review




It's been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister, Penryn, will do anything to get her back. Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel. Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl. Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels? stronghold in San Francisco where Penryn will risk everything to rescue her sister, and Raffe will put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.
 
 
 
Angefall started life as a self-published book.  Word-of-mouth made it impossible for a publishing company to not come along and grab it up for major distribution, and that formula gave us a very popular novel from an author to root for.  Like the underdog everyone wants to win.


According to most of the reviews for the book that I’ve seen, Angelfall does just that.

But personally, I’m kind of on the fence with this one…..

There were a lot of things I liked about Angelfall.  Within the first few pages, it becomes obvious that Susan Ee is a really good writer, better than most self-published authors out there by a landslide, and it comes as no surprise as to why she got picked up by a publishing company – aside from the huge demand from the reading community, that is.  Penryn is a strong heroine, and Raffe a sexy wingless angel with a mysterious past.  They have teamed up out of necessity.  Since this is a YA novel, sparks fly and they clearly develop the hots for each other.  That screams national bestseller, doesn’t it?

The first half of this novel crawled and jerked at irregular intervals.  We see Penryn and Raffe meet and team up, and deal with their often cheeky back-and-forth, as they make their way to the angel’s aerie.  Angels have turned the world into an apocalyptic wasteland and getting there isn’t half as easy as it should be, so we spend a few too many pages finding abandoned buildings that may or may not have food in them, dealing with thugs and desperate survivors, and learning surprisingly little about what, exactly, happened at the start of the angel attack. 

Which is probably my main problem with Angelfall, really.  The minimalistic world-building and characterization.  You’d think there would be so many religious and mythological overtones in a novel about angels, right?  Well, aside from a few minor scenes, there really isn’t much of that.  We don’t find out how closely these angels resemble their biblical counterparts—though it’s obvious they’re vengeful warriors, blood-thirsty like the angels in the Bible.  No sweet, gentle, guardian-type angels in this one, folks.  We don’t even find out if they’re actually on a direct mission from God.  They’d might as well be an alien species with bird wings and ethereal beauty.
 
Penryn was developed nicely, as was her mother – who just may be the most interesting character in this book – but Raffe suffers from the same lack of backstory as the plotline.  For the majority of the book, we know nothing about him but what we actually see happening.  Though we learn a little more toward the end, it’s nowhere near enough to satisfy of all my questions.
 
Maybe that’s the reason why I just did not buy into the romance.  Or maybe it was that it was rushed.  Penryn and Raffe are, by all accounts, mortal enemies.  Shouldn’t it take longer than a day or two for that to morph into the tingly, sappy feelings of romance?  Of love?  As an avid fan of romance in YA, I am always searching for the next guy to swoon over, and Raffe just didn’t cut it for me.  I think that’s what I’m most disappointed by in this book, because I had high hopes that he would.

Now that the ranting portion of this review is over, let’s get on to what worked in this novel; pretty much the whole second half.  As soon as Penryn and Raffe find themselves in the “camp”, Angelfall really picks up.  The pace becomes more consistent and fast-paced.  The writing is less choppy.  The characters begin to feel less two-dimensional.  Though we are still left with far too many questions, the ending was creepy and satisfying, with a nice little cliffie ensuring our interest in the sequel.

This is a novel worth reading.  Susan Ee is a new voice in YA to look out for, especially if she gets the editing and structure of a major-label publishing firm that this self-published work was missing.   The plotline is original despite its lack of information, and the characters are for the most part likeable.
 
I won’t deny that Angelfall is a good book, but unfortunately, I have a feeling I’ll be remembering the flaws of the first half more than the strengths of the second when I look back on it.  I also want to add that despite my luke-warm feelings toward Angelfall, Ee holds my respect and admiration for taking a chance and self-publishing her book.  She won every one of her fans through her hard work and dedication, and I'm looking forward to seeing more from her in the future.   

Angelfall by Susan Ee – 3 out of 5 stars

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dead As A Doornail by Charlaine Harris - Sookie Stackhouse Book 5 Review

Cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse has only a few close friends, which isn't surprising - not many people can appreciate Sookie's abilities as a mind reader. When she sees her brother Jason's eyes start to change, Sookie knows he's about to turn into a werepanther for the first time. But her concern for her brother becomes cold fear when a sniper targets the local changeling population - and Jason's new panther brethren suspect he may be the shooter. - Goodreads





Naturally, since this is a Sookie stackhouse novel, there is a lot of other stuff going on than you see on the cover blurb.  A rivalry for werewolf packmaster, part of Sookie's house burning down so she takes temporary residence in a duplex, and oh yes, of course.  Sookie's life gets put in danger again and again and again and she avoids death, again and again and again.



I have the biggest love/hate relationship with this series.  I love most of the cast, hate Sookie.  Who happens to be the narrator, so naturally, that makes it a little more difficult for me to jump on the bandwagon of hype this series has gotten.

I seem to be out of the loop with popular books a lot, lately.

Harris is a good writer, I don't think many would argue that.  Her little southern vampire tales are very involved and manage to be more realistic than a lot of stories featuring multiple supernatural creatures.  She has created a lot of wonderful characters who are easy to root for and return to.  Like the charming Sam Merlotte, bar owner and shapeshifter, who is just a genuinely good person, and a good friend.  Jason, Sookie's brother, a total player who gets himself in a lot of avoidable trouble, but still knows the meaning of family.  Acide, a gruff, manly werewolf who, despite some questionable decisions, is still sincere and kind.  And who can forget (or would want to) Eric Northman, blond Viking vampire who oozes sex and danger.  Eric, who has gotten more women readers into a frenzy of lust than almost any vampire of the 21st century.

And then, there's Sookie Stackhouse herself, who...ran into a buring building in this one for a purse and slippers.  No, I am not kidding.  That girl is just that dumb.  If it wasn't for a certain fairy, she would have found herself dead.  Stupid fairy.

Sookie is, of course, perfectly perfect.  Great body, naturally blonde (well, duh), kind and Christian, but not afraid to get down-and-dirty.  She has virtually every supernatural being with a penis wanting to get into her pants, but good girls just don't do that.  Except for with a-hole vampires they just met.  Or amnesiac viking vampires who just a few days ago had her practically calling herself a slut for even admiring his backside.  But don't worry, we'll still get plenty of steamy action, because good girls can apparently kiss whoever they damn well please.  Sam, Alcide, Bill, Eric, Calvin Norris.  And there was an instance of some hot blood-licking action involving a weretiger, too.

She also claims to rarely lose her temper, but in every single book, there have been multiple instances of her doing just that.  And she uses her very own supernatural abilities - mind-reading - to plumb the depths of every mind in Bon Temps with just the teeniest bit of justification to back her intrusions up.

I could go on, but isn't that enough?

Normally, if I don't like the main character of a series, I quit it.  No matter how much I like the secondary characters.  If I'm spending hundreds of pages stuck inside the mind of one person, I'd better like that person.  But something about these Sookie Stackhouse books, keeps calling me back....

Eric.  It's Eric.

I hate that I love him so much, because every time I think I'm finally done with this series, he comes waltzing into a scene and pulls me right back in.  It's like a destructive relationship that you just can't seem to end.

I'm not sure yet if I'll finally be able to break the spell that infuriatingly sexy Viking has over me yet.  I'm going to try, though.  I really will.  Because if I put myself through one more book in Sookie's mind, I'm liable to scream.

Until Eric makes his appearance.

And it all starts over again.

Dead As A Doornail - 2.5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan - Book Review

Nastasya has spent the last century living as a spoiled, drugged-out party girl. She feels nothing and cares for no one. But when she witnesses her best friend, a Dark Immortal, torture a human, she realizes something's got to change. She seeks refuge at a rehab for wayward immortals, where she meets the gorgeous, undeniably sexy Reyn, who seems inexplicably linked to her past.

Nastasya finally begins to deal with life, and even feels safe--until the night she learns that someone wants her dead. - As seen on Goodreads.




*sigh*  Soooo much potential here....

This is one of the hardest reviews I've had to write in a long time.  I didn't hate this book, but there were so many things wrong with it that I just want to howl in frustration and imagine the novel it could have been, should have been, instead of the novel that it was.

Let's start with the good, so I don't scare any prospective readers off with an onslaught of ranting right off the bat; Nastasya is a troubled girl, an immortal.  She is deeply flawed, but ultimately good, and Tiernan did a wonderful job of showing us this.  Her narrative is witty, wry, fun to read.  She makes us want to turn the pages, and overall keeps us entertained.  If you already want to read this book, I'd say to go for it.  It's at least worth the time it takes to read it.

Now, the bad.  Hold on tight, this could take awhile.

First off.  Why the hell even make these characters immortal?  Only in the back flash scenes do we really feel Nasty's - or anyone else's, for that matter - age.  For almost the entire novel, she seems like a troubled, repentant, snarky young lady, 25 at most.  Certainly not a whopping 459.  I honestly, honestly think this book would have worked better if they had simply been witches, not immortals.  By the way, "immortals" are just humans who...keep living.  They have magic, but nothing special.  Just your typical circle-based witchcraft.

We never got to hear how immortals came to be, why they exist.  We're just told they do.  Just go with it, we got this.  Don't focus on all the things that don't make sense, or all the questions we never even attempt to answer.  Laugh at Nasty's foolishness and take pride in her growth, and swoon over quite possibly the most disturbing romantic interest in YA history.

Oh, wait, I'm sorry.  Ex-disturbing.  He's reformed now.  And besides, Nasty immediately gets her panties wet when he's in the room, without knowing anything at all about him aside from his sullen sullenness.  If YA romance has taught us anything, he must be right for her.

Puh-lease.  Give me something to work with, here, Cate!  I want to shout your praises from the rooftops like I was doing with Sweep!  I want to fall in love with Reyn like I did with Hunter, to feel myself long for your next books as if returning to old friends!  Instead, I got this sloppily thrown-together novel that practically weeps with unrealized potential!

But wait, I'm not done ranting yet.

River's Edge, the immortal rehab school place where most of this book takes place, is run by River, an ancient immortal--I'm talking over a millennium old, here.  I liked her...sort of.  Shockingly, she wasn't developed enough.  I would have loved to know more about her past, the darkness she hints at that she managed to battle and chase out of herself.  I especially wanted to know why she chose to open River's Edge in the first place.  I know, I know, to help save straying immortal souls, but really.  Why did she decide to take that burden upon herself?  Is it out of repentance?  A sense of duty?  Heritage?

And finally, the ending.  It was so un-satisfying.  I'm having trouble even sifting through the final stagnant pages and finding the climax.  Okay, there were a few minor exciting things, but nothing that Tiernan should have chosen to go out on.  Nothing that makes you think, "I have got to get me the next Immortals book!"

And it's such a shame, because as I've already said, this book could have been so much more.  If Tiernan had chosen to put some concrete origins behind her immortals, developed the secondary characters a little more, brought Reyn into the forefront of the story so we could really understand his plight, well, I think Immortal Beloved would have been an easy 4 stars.  But the overwhelming underdevelopment robs it of almost all of its potential and leaves a merely somewhat entertaining book in its place.

Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan - 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Paper Towns by John Green - Book Review


Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life - dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge - he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues - and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer Q gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.





Let me start by saying I am a huge John Green fan.  He is a wonderful author, and a hilariously nerdy person.  He has a permanent place in my list of favorite authors.

Q has lived next door to Margo Roth Spiegelmen since they were childhood friends.  Though their friendship faded, his love for the girl he sees when he looks at her never has.  When she leaves town after one unexpected, adrenaline-fueled night of pranks involving him, he becomes completely obsessed with finding her and bringing her back.  A series of clues seemingly left for him to be able to find her certainly doesn't help.  He enlists his friends, Ben and Radar, and later one of Margo's friends, and embarks on a couple hundred pages' worth of working out the clues to find the girl he beigns to realize he never really knew at all.

This is the third novel I've read from this YA literary genius.  It features his trademarks of fantastic dialogue and unabashed nerd-ism (my awesome new word).  There are some awesomely hilarious scenes, most especially one featuring a beer-sword and the misuse of superglue, and there are some very real characters in this novel.

Just not any new ones.

While reading, I was simply unable to ignore the similarities between Paper Towns' main characters and Looking For Akaska's.  Margo could be Alaska thrown into a different setting.  Q and Pudge could trade skin and, aside from a few minor personality quirks, none would be the wiser.  Even their group of friends are similar.  Both books also feature the unattainable rebel girl distorted through the eyes of a teenage boy who sees her how he wants her to be, not how she is.

That doesn't make Paper Towns bad.  If you haven't read Looking For Alaska and thus can't compare the two, you'll probably love this YA contemporary.  It is such a different reading experience in the genre, seeing the love and idolization through a teenage boy's eyes, and not a girl's.  The characters are fun, realistically flawed and lovable.  If the story begins to lag a bit toward the middle, well, it picks up at the end and makes up for it.

But the thing is, I have read Looking For Alaska.  And I was simply unable to enjoy Paper Towns as much because of it.

I wanted to love this book, but ended up merely liking it.

Paper Towns by John Green - 3 out of 5 stars.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Daughter Of Smoke And Bone by Laini Taylor - Book Review

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. In a dark, dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low. And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

. . .
 
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
 
 
 
 

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love.
It did not end well.
 
And so begins the magic, elegance, beauty, romance and heartbreak that is Daughter Of Smoke And Bone.
 
I have never, ever been so spellbound by a book. I first read this in January, and until the day I picked it up for a reread, I have not been able to stop thinking about it. This book is going to stay with me for a long, long time, I know.
 
Take everything you know about YA fantasy. All the myths, magic, perceptions of Good Vs. Evil. Every cliché, every over-used plotline. Now throw it all away. Daughter Of Smoke And Bone is like a breath of fresh air in a stagnant genre, like a whiff of some exotic, wonderful scent carried on the wind. It is richly detailed and realized, with the kind of prose that makes you forget you’re reading a book and transports you to the streets of Prague, where a blue-haired girl with monsters for a family meets a beautiful, vengeful angel.
 
There are some books so good you fly through them, tearing through the pages like a kid with a cereal box, waiting for the prize at the end. Then there are the much rarer books that defy all standards of “good”, books you can’t even contemplate finishing in mere hours. You have to savor each and every page, drink in the description and dialogue and characters, set it aside so you can let the wonder you’ve just read sink in before picking it up again and continuing. Books so astounding that it would be a crime to give only a single afternoon to it.
 
Without a doubt, Daughter Of Smoke And Bone is one of the latter books.
 
I loved everything about this book. Everything. From the fairy-tale –esque Once Upon A Time openings, to the flowing descriptions to the all-encompassing romance, right down to the ending that was as torturous as it was compelling. I loved Brimstone and the chimaera, the monstrous beings that are far from monsters, and how we are first introduced to them through Karou’s sketchbook. I loved the turn this book took toward the last quarter, and all the implications it left open for Days Of Blood And Starlight.

The only thing I didn’t like was the agonizing wait for book two. A wait that is coming to an end, leaving me bouncing in my seat, anxious and excited and all out of patience to return to Karou and her fantastical life.
 
To return to Akiva, my tortured angel who has been seared into my brain and wanders my dreams at night.
 
I could search my mind all day for the right words to describe my feelings about Laini Taylor’s masterpiece and still come up short, so I’ll just leave you book-lovers with one of the best pieces of reading advice you’ll ever get—if you haven’t already, read this book. You can thank me when you’re finished.

Daughter Of Smoke And Bone; easily 5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Flawless By Sara Shepard - Pretty Little Liars Book 2 Review

 
Aria, Hanna, Emily and Spencer spent years thinking their dirty not-so-little secrets were safely behind them until mysterious messages from someone known only as -A started popping up and throwing each girl's world off its perfect axis.  They'd assumed it was their old friend who had gone missing, Alison, returned and taunting them.  Until Ali's murdered body was found.  -A didn't disappear with their hope for their old friend, and as Flawless has shown us, -A's brand of torture was really only just beginning.
 
Following in true Pretty Little Liars fashion, Flawless is chock full of secrets, suspense and scandal.  But unlike its predecessor, I'm beginning to rethink my previous "moral-empty" viewpoint on this story.  They're there, just hidden behind all the shock value.
 
The most predominant of these moral themes is anti-bullying.  The girls spent their childhood in their own little clique, teasing the outsiders and playing cruel pranks.  When the tables begin to turn on them, however, and the maturity that only comes with age sinks in, they realize just what it's like to be made fun of for being an outsider.  This is especially the case with poor, poor Jenna, who just may be the most realistically unfortunate secondary character I've read in YA in awhile.  There are also self-esteem issues, tragic though common family problems, and relationship drama.  These things that don't jump right out in your face but are still integral to the story have left me with just a little more respect for the series than I had at the end of book one.
 
Now, about the actual book.  OMG WHO THE EFF IS -A AND HOW DOES HE/SHE/THEY KNOW EVERYTHING?????  Every time one of the girls does something gossip-worthy, there's a taunting text or an email or a note bearing that single-letter signature.  This is a long-standing hook, and an almost excruciatingly effective one.  I doubt I'll be able to stop buying the next books until the biggest secret in this series is revealed, even if I wanted to.
 
Which I don't.  Not yet.
 
I mentioned in my review of the first Pretty Little Liars novel that I hate some of the romantic interests, one especially.  Well, I think I hate Wren even more now, if that's possible.  Sleazy college guy taking advantage of a sixteen-year-old girl?  So beyond uncool.  I actually found myself missing another of these romantic interests, Ezra, in this one.  True, he's a bit of a creeper for making out with his student (who is also a freaking minor) but he added a spicy hotness that wasn't attached to the same level of sliminess as Wren, one this installment was missing.
 
When it comes to Hanna, I've got a lot of mixed feelings about how Shepard handles her.  On the one hand, I think she does a passable job of showing us a volatile character who has gone to extremes to ditch her old dorky persona, and fears nothing more than having it catch up with her again.  On the other hand, I do not relate to her eating issues at all.  And not because I can't relate to overeating.  I've had an unhealthy relationship with food for about as long as I can remember, but I have never once shoved a hunk of cheese in my face at a party just because I was feeling a little anxious.  Most food binge habits are very private, taking place when there is no one else around out of shame and fear of being caught.  Certainly not at a huge party packed with "important" people.  But maybe I'm just a bit biased about this particular theme.
 
The biggest shocks in Flawless come at the end, making it almost impossible to put the book down during the last 50 pages or so.  And making you want to pick up Perfect - the third in the series - very soon.  That is a major success for a YA series, as it ensures the readers will keep coming back for more.
 
All that said, though this didn't have quite the same amount of compulsive readability as the first one, Flawless is a really good way to spend a couple of afternoons.  If you liked the first one, you won't be disappointed by the second.
 
Flawless by Sara Shepard - 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson - Book Review

 
I want my sister.
I want to hurl a building at God.
 
Lennie Walker's older sister, Bailey, died suddenly at a play rehearsal, leaving behind loss and a grief so deep Lennie doesn't know what to do with it.  She finds comfort in the physical embraces of Toby, Bailey's old boyfriend, and later Joe Fontaine, the new boy at school Lennie is instantly attracted to.  Now, the seventeen-year-old girl has to learn to handle her grief, her lust, and her budding romance without the most important person in her life.

If you read the cover blurb on The Sky Is Everywhere, you're going to think it's a huge love triangle story with death as a backdrop.  It's not.  I'd hesitate to even call it a love triangle, as it's pretty clear early on that Joe Fontaine holds Lennie's romantic interest.  She and Toby fall prey to their carnal lust for each other as a means to comfort one another, be there for each other without the star of their lives that was Bailey.

Joe is the boy with the smile who can wipe away Lennie's tears just by being in the same room with her.  His are the kisses that finally make her relate to the love in the stories she loves to read, and his arms are where she wants to be.

Quite simply put, I loved this novel.  I loved the deeply flawed but oh so real Lennie who, blinded by grief, makes some bad decisions while she's trying to find her way.  I loved the equally sorrowful Toby, the completely amazing Joe.  I adored Gram - Lennie's grandmother who raised her after her mother walked out on them - and Big, Lennie's uncle.  I liked Sarah, Lennie's best friend, and even Bailey, who we only got to meet through Lennie's reminiscing and poems.

But most of all, I loved Jandy Nelson's writing.  How she manages to give Lennie a real voice while showing her loss, her misery.  There are some truly beautiful paragraphs in here, and some light-hearted, funny ones.
 
 "...How do others do it?  People die all the time.  Every day.  Every hour.  There are families all over the world staring at beds that are no longer slept in, shoes that are no longer worn.  Families that no longer have to buy a particular cereal, a kind of shampoo.  There are people everywhere standing in line at the movies, buying curtains, walking dogs, while inside, their hearts are ripping to shreds.  For years.  For their whole lives.  I don't believe that time heals.  I don't want to.  If I heal, doesn't that mean I've accepted the world without her?"
 
The first few pages of this novel seem a little cliche-y.  Lennie meets Joe and immediately feels a connection with him, forgets to be crying about her dead sister and laughs at pretty much the second thing he says.  There is no doubt that Joe is on the path to becoming a main romantic interest.  But despite the rocky beginning, this novel soon becomes so engrossing that you don't want to put it down.  I finished it in just over 24 hours, feeling guilty over not taking the time to savor this book the author spent so much time working on but unable to tear myself from the pages.
 
Now, to be true to my fangirl side.  Joe Fontaine.  *insert uncontrollable gushing here*  He is just so full of life, so amazing, so romantic!  Guys like Joe Fontaine do not exist in real life.  They just don't.  No one is that gorgeous and that romantic and that incredibly talented and oh, so sweet.  I know that, but you know what?  I don't care.  That's why I love books like this, so I can find those non-existent guys and swoon over them through the pages that make them real.
 
Now, don't read this review and think it's one of those books that puts the ROMANCE in contemporary romance.  Yes, there are strong love themes in this book, but that's far from all it is.  This is the novel of one teenager learning that she can no longer hide in the shadow of a dead girl.  One who has to mourn her sister even as she has to find herself.  This is a novel of family and love and life, of learning that death is a part of it all.  That grief is eternal, that you never stop missing those you lose, but that good things can still happen even in the midst of all the bad.
 
Highly, highly recommended.
 
The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson - 4.5 out of 5 stars

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Hero Of Ages by Brandon Sanderson Book Review- Mistborn, Book 3


It would be almost impossible for me to give a synopsis of this novel without spoilers.  Suffice it to say that The Hero Of Ages is, without a doubt, the most fast-paced of all three Mistborn novels, and full of so many new surprises and revelations that it will make your head spin.

Now, I will do my best to keep this review spoiler-free as far as The Hero Of Ages goes, but I won't even attempt to avoid spoilers for the previous two.  I doubt it would be possible.  So if you're waiting to start this series, do yourself a favor and stop reading now, because this isn't a series you want to be a bad little reader and peek at the ending on.



Vin defeated the Lord Ruler.  She secured her husband Elend's throne.  She saved a lot of lives by ending a lot of others.  There is no argument that this girl has done a lot of good in her life, but she also kind of...released the most malignant force in existence on mankind. Bad luck there, Vin.

Ruin is a force.  Neither he nor she, it just is.  The only objective this thing has is to destroy.  Destroy everything.

The Hero Of Ages is...it's like...gah.  I'm sitting here trying to find the right words for it, but I don't think I'll ever be able to do a novel of this magnitude and scope justice.  I'll try, but know that no review I can give will come close to capturing the awe and depth of Brandon Sanderson's work.

This is, without a doubt, the most original epic fantasy story I have ever read.

In the previous two Mistborn novels, the plot was somewhat slow-moving.  Vin spent a lot of time pretending to be a pampered noblewoman in Mistborn, and we were in an extended political stalemate in The Well Of Ascension.  In comparison, The Hero Of Ages is a whirlwind of shocks, gasps, revelations and twists.  We learn that the Lord Ruler, though a tyrant, wasn't the evil force we'd believed him to be.  In his own way, he really had been trying to do what was best for mankind as a whole.  We're introduced to a new magic system, Hemalurgy, which adds a wonderfully macabre twist to the metal-based magics found in Mistborn.  The creatures we were introduced to in the previous two - Kandra, Koloss, Steel Inquisitors, etc., - are revealed in so much more detail in this last installment, and the secrets of the mists are FINALLY explained.  There is so much happening it can make your head spin at times, but nothing in this novel felt forced or thrown in last-minute.

As an avid reader, I've come to be able to spot a lot of inconsistencies in novels that can give the lie to a writer's plan.  The fact is, not every single writer knows every little detail that's going to happen at the end of a series when they publish the beginning.  Sometimes the additions are jarringly obvious.  But in the Mistborn trilogy, and most especially The Hero Of Ages, everything just came together so smoothly and seamlessly that I'm tempted to believe that Brandon Sanderson really did have every single detail plotted out before he began writing the first page of Mistborn.

Assuredly, that is one of the highest compliments I can give an epic fantasy story.

Now, while I definitely did love The Hero Of Ages, I feel obligated to mention some things I didn't love as much as the rest.  First and foremost, religion plays a hugelyenormousgigantic role in this one, so much more so than in the others where it was mostly Sazed contemplating and describing different religions. Not surprisingly, the religion in Mistborn doesn't actually exist.  But faith itself is such a huge focal point in the plot that I know there are some who fault the story solely for that reason.  I'm not one of those people (why not use religion to enhance a story?  It's just another element to use for fictional awesomeness, I think), but I can only imagine the outcry of some religious fanatics after reading this novel.

There are a lot of trust themes, particularly in the beginning, that came across as just a bit too campy and idealistic.

The ending, while throwing about ten thousand and one curve balls, was a lot to take in.  I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about it, though that may be a good thing as it means I am still thinking about it.  And probably will be for a long time to come.

I am almost certain that Mistborn has become a standard that I will now use while judging epic fantasy, and I highly recommend it to any lovers of the genre.  Preferably with an open mind regarding religious overtones.

The Hero Of Ages - 4.5 out of 5 stars