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'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

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Divergent by Veronica Roth - Book Review

Looking back on this novel, all I can seem to remember are the reasons I didn't like it.  Yes, it's a quick, compulsive read, but the multitude of holes in the backstory and the absurdity of the factions has led me to lower the rating from the initial 3 stars to 2.

I think I'm one of like seven people in the entire world who didn't like this book, however, so don't decide to skip this one based off of my review.

Original Review (With Original Rating)

I wanted to like this book; I really did.

I was debating whether to give this book two stars or three. I chose three for one simple reason; while this book had many flaws, it was still gripping and compulsively readable. Which is actually rare for me, a book I both can't put down, and am disappointed in.

This book had been recommended to me by close friends who share very similar reading tastes with me. I think they both gave this book 5 stars. So I picked it up already expecting to be blown away. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe that's why I put this book away with no real enthusiasm for the sequel. Or maybe it was because of the almost total lack of world-building, the premise that I found a bit unbelievable, the protagonist whose head I just could not get inside of, and the romance that, to me, felt luke-warm at best.

Divergent is about a future society separated into five different factions, each of which values one trait above all others, to an extreme level. I'm sorry, but I don't buy there ever being a time when humans can be broken down and made that simple; we will always be ruled by many warring traits, and while some will put one above all others, I don't see an entire population doing so. It's almost an insult, really, to say that our future generations won't be able to see the equal value of many different virtues.

The romance building in this felt, to me, very forced. There weren't really any of those tender moments that make the reader feel the affection between the characters. Tris's love interest is the typical "good/bad-boy-with-the-troubled-past-and-hot-body". While I do love that type, I need...more. More than just the author's assurance that he is what she wants and she what he wants. I need to fall for him with the protagonist. That just didn't happen in this book.

That said, this book did manage to find its way into my hands on bus rides, during my breaks at work, before bed at night and before breakfast in the morning. Even though I felt my eyes rolling at every other chapter, I also found my hands turning pages more frequently than most books I've been reading lately. I found myself, quite simply, wanting to know what happens next, and whatever flaws I have with Divergent, any book that can do that is at least worth the time it takes to read it
Divergent by Veronica Roth; a tentative 3 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bloody Bones By Laurell K. Hamilton Book Review - Anita Blake # 5

Bloody Bones starts off with Anita's boss booking a job that would be impossible for anyone but Anita without human sacrifice; raise an entire grave of 200 year old zombies.  The client is a business tycoon with way too much money who needs proof that the land he wants to build his new hotel on doesn't belong to the Bouvier family, and he needs these zombies' identities to find out if the piece of land is their burial grounds.  He offers an exorbitant amount of money for this job, and Anita is shipped off to another town to be bathed in luxury and do her necromancer thing.

Surprise, surprise, it's not going to be that easy.

Anita knows that Stirling - her client - has a reason for needing this particular plot of land, a reason he has no intention of letting slip.  Simultaneously, there is a series of vampire murders and abductions involving young boys in the same town.  But don't worry, folks, Anita is right on it.  Oh yeah, there are also some faeries involved, too.  It all ties up nicely at the end, as always.

I love the Anita Blake books.  Love them so much, in fact, that this is my second reading of them.  But this particular installment just didn't have quite as much to love as the previous ones.  It was good and entertaining, but it somehow lacked that compulsive need to keep reading and tear through the pages.  But I must admit, Jean-Claude was absolutely fantastically fantastic in this book.  He just may be my favorite sexy vampire of all sexy vampires.  I love virtually everything about him; the mystery that surrounds him but slowly gets revealed just a little more each novel, his endearments for Anita that do nothing but annoy her, his single-minded determination to prove to this woman that he is not a monster, and that he really does hold a very special place in his heart for her. "I love you, ma petite, as much as I'm able." - page 286

I know she has some moral reasons for keeping her emotional distance from this master vampire, but if I were her, I'd have given into that particular brand of necrophilia in book one.

I also loved Larry, Anita's protege, in this one.  And Jason, who goes on to become one of my favorite characters.  For you Richard lovers, you might be a bit disappointed with his one short appearance.  My fellow Jean-Claude fanatics, prepare to fall in fictional-character love even more somewhere around chapter 30.

Bloody Bones - 4 stars, but only because of Jean-Claude.