Archive | September, 2010

Review: Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

29 Sep

Series: Perfect Chemistry, book #2

Published: April 27th 2010 by Walker & Company

Details: Paperback, 324 pages

My rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

Sequel to Perfect Chemistry which I loved!!! Following Carlos, the brother of Alex, who after some troubles moves into a professor’s house, where he meets the daughter Kiara. This book follows same plotline as Perfect Chemistry, but does not live up to the same standard. Good fun read but not fantastic.

My Full Review:

This is the sequel of Perfect Chemistry, following Carlos Fuentes, the little brother of Alex. Perfect Chemistry blew me away, with characters so alive and real that I kept thinking about them long after I turned the last page. So I can’t deny my expectations were pretty high when I started reading this sequel.

Ever since the traumatic end of Perfect Chemistry, Carlos, his little brother and his mom have been living in Mexico. Following some troubles at Carlos work in Mexico, he is sent to stay with his brother Alex in Colorado and go to school there. It doesn’t take long until he ends up into more trouble as a drug lord sets him up and he gets caught with drugs. Alex arranges for Carlos to stay at a his former professor’s home with his family to keep him out of jail. Kiara is the professor’s daughter who also happens to go to the same school as Carlos. They get off on the wrong foot at first but soon the attraction starts to grow.

Well, what can I say. Maybe if I hadn’t read Perfect Chemistry I would have loved this book. I couldn’t help but think that it was trying to be a new Perfect Chemistry but didn’t succeed. It’s still a fun easy read, but it didn’t touch me the way Perfect Chemistry did.

First of all I think it was because Carlos was so similar to Alex, that it felt as if I was reading about Alex again. Yet, while I totally understood where Alex came from and why he felt the need to shield himself from the world, as he had a bad-ass reputation to protect and was a member of the Latin Bloods in the area, I didn’t understand it with Carlos. He was plain rude and arrogant most of the time and I couldn’t grasp why he felt the need to be that way.  Insecurities sure, and feelings of not belonging maybe, but it was not as clear to me as it was with Alex.

Kiara was a sweet girl but in my opinion a bit bland. Apart from her tomboy persona and her stuttering there was not much else that made her stand out. Brittany in Perfect Chemistry had a more complex and interesting persona, what with being miss popular who carried a family secret.

The attraction between Kiara and Carlos was well portrayed and steamy at places but I felt it came from out of nowhere. One moment they were bickering at each other and the next they were having an almost-kiss. In Perfect Chemistry I understood their mutual attraction better as both Alex and Brittany let each other in, revealing secrets they hadn’t told anyone about. That didn’t happen here and so it wasn’t clear to me why they felt drawn to each other.  They suddenly just were.

Finally the climax at the end felt a bit forced, as if it was thrown in just for the sake of some action. In Perfect Chemistry it has more of a natural flow as if the whole story is leading that way, towards the climax. In Rules of attraction, not only did the gang member plot feel a bit forced, it also felt too unrealistic what with the professor helping out the way he did, putting himself in danger for the sake of Carlos who he has known barely a couple of months. It just felt a bit too “cookie butter sweet” for me. I love a happy ending but there are limits (even for me) to how cheesy it can be.

The Bottom Line:

So, final verdict? Well, having read Perfect Chemistry it is impossible not to compare it with that book as they are so similar plotwise. And I’m sorry to say Rules of Attraction does not come up to the same level. That being said, I still enjoyed reading it, and boy did I read it fast. So it is an easy fun yet somewhat fluffy read. But it’s not a book that will blow you away. A third book in the series will be released following the youngest Fuentes brother Luis, which I plan to read. My expections however have now been lowered as I expect a similar read there.

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Review: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

29 Sep

Series: Paranormalcy, book #1

Published: August 31st 2010 by HarperTeen

Details: Hardcover, 352 pages

My Rating: 4/5

My Summary:

Anticipated debut about Evie, who works for the IPCA, an agency which controls paranormal creatures in the world. She meets shapeshifter Lend and things spiral out of control. Great light, quirky and funny read, a nice contrast to the other doom-and-gloom epic paranormal romances out there. Very enjoyable read!

My Full Review:

A lot of hype surrounded this debut, which has earned praise from authors such as Lisa McMann and Becca Fitzpatrick, and a whole lot of rave reviews at the book blogs. Needless to say, I was really happy to finally get hold of a copy!

The heroine Evie is working for IPCA, the International Paranormal Containment Agency which is an organization aiming to monitor and control the paranormal creatures of the world. You could think of it as similar to the organisation in Men in Black, although they of course monitored aliens. Evie is useful to the IPCA as she can see through all kinds of glamour that paranormal creatures use to blend into the human world.

She is an orphan and has been living with and working for the agency practically her whole life. Her best friend is a mermaid who works there as a secretary and her boss Raquel is kind of her substitute mom. Oh, and there is Reth, her ex-boyfriend who also happens to be a fairy.

Yep, Evie is not the most normal teen out there. Yet normal is what she craves. She wants other teenagers (humans!) to hang out with, a highschool to go to (with lockers!), a driving license and boys to flirt with. Instead, she regularly escapes into her beloved tv-series Easton Heights for a dose of (what she thinks is) ordinary teenage life.

Still, she doesn’t reflect too much upon these issues until things change. A mysterious unknown creature called Lend breaks into the agency and is caught and detained at the IPCA quarters. Lend is a shape-shifter who can take on almost any form. Evie, not surprisingly, is the only one who can see through his various glamours to his real form.

Lonely as she is, and curious by nature, she starts a habit of visiting Lend in his prison cell. Soon they develop a crush on each other. Triggered by Lend, she starts questioning things in her life she had never thought about before. It turns out everything is not what they seem. Meanwhile, something is killing paranormal creatures and the agency is getting worried. Somehow this is all linked to Evie and her past.

My thoughts:

First of all, I was surprised to find that the tone of the book is light. The heroine Evie is explaining everything in a jokingly kind of way, as if not really taking it that seriously. It starts already in the opening scene where she makes fun of a vampire who is about to kill her.

“Oh, stop pouting. But, really, the widow’s peak? The pale skin? The black cape? Where did you even get that thing, a costume store?”

It is definitely refreshing to find a light tone in the narrator’s voice, a nice contrast to all the doomed, epic, dark, haunting and angst-ridden paranormal love stories I’ve read in the last year. I was expecting a darker tone though so it took me a couple of chapters to get used to Evie’s jokes. At first they felt forced, but eventually I warmed up to her bubbly, quirky personality and found myself chuckle out loud a couple of times.

Likewise it took me a couple of chapters to get used to the world White has created. There is a lot of info thrown at you at first. The whole idea behind the IPCA has to be explained, as well as Evie’s role in there and of course every paranormal creature you may have ever heard about is present in this book, so that has to be included too. I felt a bit like I did when I started reading City of Bones, like there was so much world-building going on I found myself detaching from the plot. It didn’t last long though. Once you get used to the idea of all that paranormal activity going on at the same time, it becomes easier to focus on the plot again, and get sucked into the story.

Once I did get into the story, I got into it fast. I loved so many aspects of it. The characters felt multi-dimensional and real . It’s easy to warm up to the heroine, who is strong and insecure at the same time. She’s bubbly with life and says what she thinks, yet she is also insecure and is struggling with loneliness and a feeling of not belonging anywhere. The growing bond between her and Lend is believable. They are honest and straight-forward to each other right from the start. Of course she is the only one who has ever seen Lend for what he really is – which yes, may sound cliché, but actually warmed my heart!

I was equally intrigued by the mystery surrounding the plot. Reth, the fairy seems bent on taking Evie’s heart but what are his intentions? What is the role of the IPCA? What is the creature who is taking out paranormals? And how is Evie’s past linked to all of this?

While alternating between all these plotlines and the growing relationship between Evie and Lend, there was not one boring moment. I was literally glued to the pages until the very end. The ending left me pretty satisfied, all though some questions were left unanswered. I am still wondering about the role Reth played.

One minor dissapointment though was the climax at the end, which I thought was solved too easily, and without being properly explained. Sorry to be talking in riddles but I want to avoid spoilers. For now, all I’ll say is that I was wondering about the logic behind one particular action, attempted and not carried through, by the villain. It didn’t make sense to me.

The Bottom Line:

Despite those question marks, it was still a very entertaining read. Kudos to White for creating such a fun refreshing new take on the young adult paranormal genre! (Something which is quite an accomplishment in the crowded ya paranormal market). I can’t wait to dive into this paranormal world again, which should happen in about a year. The next book Supernaturally is out in the fall 2011.

Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

24 Sep

Series: Study, book #1

Published: March 1st 2004 by Luna

Details: Paperback, 416 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

About Yelena, awaiting execution for a murder she comitted in miltary state Ixia. Instead of execution though, she is offered a place as the Commander’s food taster, thus her new life begins. This novel was so good on so many levels, it blew me away!!!A must read!!!! Sequel called Magic Study.

A few chapters in:

This is the highly acclaimed first book in the Study Trilogy. I have been wanting to read it for quite some time. I’m glad to finally have started, as it seems just as good as I thought it would be.

At the start of the book we find Yelena, the heroine, imprisoned and chained to a wall in a dungeon, awaiting the execution for a murder she committed a year previously. She is taken up for what she thinks is the execution, then learns that she is given the choice to instead become the new food taster of the commander. Naturally she accepts and her food taster career begins, meaning she has to learn to recognize and differentiate various poisons. Her trainer Valek is an expert, and he seems to be taking her under his wings, all though I am not yet sure of his intentions. He doesn’t seem like the most empathetic person out there. It remains to be seen.

I’m only a few chapters in, and let me tell you, I am really invested into the story already. It’s well written, it’s intriguing, it’s original. Let’s hope it continues that way!

After finishing the book:

Wow, I have one word for this book..AMAZING. I was addicted right from the start, yet managed to read the first 100 pages or so in a somewhat normal pace. After that, there was no stopping me and I read the rest in one sitting. Went to bed that night at around 4 am. Yes, this is addicting stuff.

It’s been a few days now since I finished the book, and I’m still thinking about it, so much in fact that I have a hard time getting into a new book. Did I say it was addicting?

Right, so no more rambling and let’s get on with the review.

As stated above, this is about Yelena who at the start of the book finds herself being the new food taster for the commander. The commander is the head general of Ixia, a land used to be ruled by royalty, but who’s king was overthrown by the military regimen. The new Ixia has been divided into several military districts and is controlled in a way similar to a communist military dictatorship. Everyone has equal rights (including men and women), and only your skills and achievements count, rather than you heritage or wealth. It is also very controlled. Any changes, such as location, profession etc need approval from higher authorities.

This whole world-building was an interesting back-drop to the story. It is acknowledged that the military system is not perfect, but neither was the King’s rulership. Snyder does not push you to think that way or the other – it’s just described as the way it is.

Yelena was charged for murdering her benefactor Reyad, at the child orphanage where she grew up. Little by little we get glimpses to the events that led her to murdering Reyad, and those events are truly horrible. I loved though that Yelena stands up for what she has done. She takes the consequences without excuses, and does not want pity. She did what she had to do, end of story. She wonders if she lost her soul though and she is faced with guilt – she’s only human – but I admire her strength on accepting her faith.

For most part of the story Yelena faces many dangers, the food taster’s profession being only one of them. General Brazell, whose son she murdered is bent on revenge, and consistently tries to inflict her harm. A strange woman from the neighbouring country Sitia is also after her. And there is Margg, the unfriendly house-keeper and Nix, a guard who seems to hate her.

Then there is Valek, her trainer in food poising and a Rand in the kitchen. Who can she trust? For most part of the book, I’m wondering along with Yelena who she should and should  not trust. Because if she trusts the wrong person, that may mean the end.

After several near fatal attacks, Yelena herself realizes that one way to keep herself safe is to start training and learning self-defense. She finds two friends in the guards – the wonderfully drawn secondary characters Ari and Janco – and together they teach each other tactics on the art of self-defense.

In short, the mixture of what I just described is what I loved. That is; the world-building, the developement of Yelena as she grows stronger, the constant dangers she’s under, the glimpses we get of her life before the murder, and the new friends (or enemies) she gains at the castle. There is not one boring moment in this story, hence the page-turner effect.

Of all this, what I loved the most though was Valek and his growing affection for Yelena. It is so subtle at the beginning I was wondering if I felt it right. Valek is supposed to be Yelena’s enemy. He is the one poisoning her with Butterfly’s Dust to prevent her from escaping. Yet, early on, he seems preoccupied with her welfare. After Yelena is attacked by one of general Brazell’s guards, he lets her move into his suite. He saves her life during another attack at the fire festival, and he has great faith in her abilities.

Yet, I am never sure of his intentions, whether she is a brick in the grander scheme of his plans or if there may be feelings involved. After all, Valek is a cold-blooded dangerous man. He is the commander’s right hand, the head of the regimens intelligence network and not to forget also a professional assassin. In short, not the normal romantic love interest you may find in young adult fiction.

Without saying too much, their relationship however does grow into something eventually and it is one of the most believable, genuine and sweetest things I have read in some time. Absolutely wonderful!!!

The Bottom Line:

There are two more books in the series. Magic Study is the sequel. I have heard that the series decline after Poison Study, whether that is true or not remains to be seen. I will have to read the rest, as I need to revisit this world again. Need as in addicted need!

In short, what a wonderful book. If you haven’t read it yet, do it now! You won’t regret it!!!

Review: The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

22 Sep

Series: Darkest Powers, book # 1

Published: July 1st 2008 by HarperTeen

Details: Hardcover, 390 pages

My rating: 4/5

My Summary:

YA trilogy from author of Bitten. About a girl who sees ghosts, is labeled schizophrenic and sent to a home, where she meets the two mysterious brothers Derek & Simon. I’m surprised to see how good this was, considering my view of Bitten. Well paced & exciting. The only downside was the cliff-hanger ending. Make sure to have sequel The Awakening when you finish.

A few chapters in:

After some hesitation I decided to check out Kelley Armstrong’s young adult trilogy The Darkest Powers. As you may know if you’ve been on this site, I’m not a big fan of Kelley Armstrong since I read (or tried to read) one of her books in her adult series Women of the Otherworld. To me that book belonged among Harlequin novels of the worst kind – poorly written and plain trashy.

Armstrong’s young adult work however has received great reviews, and it deals with a different theme than in the adult series. So I decided to give this author one more try.

I’m now halfway through, and I’m wondering if this really is the same author as in Bitten, because seriously – this is pretty good. The plot moves along in a nice logical pace and I like the voice of the heroine – thoughtful but not whiny. And the writing – what an improvement from Bitten!

The story revolves around Chloe, who is a normal 15-year old girl, except for the fact that she sees ghosts. It obviously freaks her out, and after one particularly bad episode seeing a ghost at her school she is taken away to a home for troubled teenagers. The doctors label her schizophrenic, and Chloe seems about to agree , because how can she possibly know for a fact she is seeing ghosts and not hallucinations conjured up by her own mind? Still, she wants to make sure and starts investigating..

She shares the home with a few other kids as well, among them the two brothers Simon and Derek, who both seem to have something to hide. I have no idea yet what that might be, just that there is definitely more to them than we know now.

Let’s see what happens..

After finishing the book:

I finished it last night and wow, I have to say I’m surprised at how sucked into the story I got. I still can’t believe it’s by the same author as Bitten, how is that possible?

The overall premise reminded me a bit of Fallen. A teen girl experiences supernatural events which leads people to believe she’s crazy. She’s sent to a school or home for troubled kids, only to realize that there is something more to that school and the kids within it, than meets the eye. Something more as in supernatural.

Only, where Fallen failed to keep up my interest, The Summoning more than well succeeded. In Fallen, very little action takes place which made it a bit boring to read, and I didn’t feel why Luce should be so interested in Daniel, or Cam for that matter. The book was all telling and little showing. The pointers about what supernatural elements were at play were too obvious to the reader, and Luce the protagonist struggled for too long to figure them out.

In The Summoning, the pace is brilliantly set. It feels as if the protagonist and the reader are realizing things at the same time, which is refreshing. I never felt bored wondering when the heroine was going to make a realization that I had made many pages ago. I also liked the fact that Chloe isn’t walking around pondering which guys like her and if they don’t, why not etc. It’s not like that at all. She has her priorities set straight, as she tells the brother Derek in one scene in the book.  She states that at this confusing time of her life, what with seeing ghosts and all, getting a boyfriend is about the last item on her priority list. Kudos to that statement!

That being said, there may be romance, somewhere along the line, all though it doesn’t happen in this book. I know I am certainly rooting for one of the brothers, and that may be where the story is heading. At first, this particular brother doesn’t seem very likable at all. Then he and Chloe experience a few things together – where his real personality shines through, and Chloe shows him that she can stand up to him, despite his menacing ways. More importantly, she shows him that she sees him, the real him. This is a great case of showing, not telling,  because I could feel a reluctant fondness growing between them. Please Armstrong, let that continue in the sequel!

The Bottom Line:

There is really only one flaw with this first installment, and that is the ending. It ends with a cliff-hanger – a real one, so that it feels as if the author cut one book into two, at a place where you’ll be dying to know what happens next.  You’d really want to have acquired the sequel The Awakening before you start with The Summoning. Otherwise, the ending was definitely surprising – I did not see that coming, and I still haven’t figured out what’s going on. I only have a feeling that it will be an exciting ride to follow Chloe and her friends in the sequel, while they discover their powers in this new supernatural world – hopefully tying some of the loose ends together in the process.

So would I recommend The Summoning?

Yes absolutely, this was a great addictive read. I am so happy I gave Kelley Armstrong another try!

Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

16 Sep

Series: Vampire Academy, book #1

Published: August 16th 2007 by Razorbill

Details: Paperback, 332 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

Vampire series with 6th book out soon. About Rose and her best friend Lissa. The plot centers around their high school life at Vampire Academy, with intrigues, revenge, gossip & face rank politics. Quick easy read, but not great- too much gossip girl a la vampire for me, but may develop into an intriguing plot in future books. Sequel called Frostbite.

A few chapters in:

There are many vampire series currently out there on the market, partly or mostly due to the enormous success of the Twilight Series. Hence, I’ve been a bit sceptical towards most of them, wondering if they are pure rip-offs or if they actually have something to offer. After reading quite a few reviews however, I realized that Vampire Academy seems to stand on its own, and have gathered its own little following (not so little by the way, only if compared to Twilight). So I decided to give it a go. There are currently 5 books out in the series, with a sixth book to be released later this year.

So I’m half-way through. It starts with Rose and her best friend Lissa getting caught on the run, and brought back to the Vampire Academy where Lissa, who is a royal vampire Moroi princess is to attend her education. Rose is a Dhampir, essentially the body-guard of Lissa, sworn to protect the race of the Moroi vampires her entire life. The Moroi vampires need constant protection since the Strigoi vampires – the undead immortal evil vampires,  are constantly on the hunt for Moroi blood.

Are you lost? Well, that is all there is in terms of world-bulding (so far that is), and as soon as these two, Rose and Lissa, arrive to the Vampire Academy, the somewhat ordinary life begins dealing with high school issues such as socializing with the right crowd, face ranks politics, avoiding that one school bitch, dealing with humiliating gossip, having crushes on guys, breaking all sorts of schools rules etc. Essentially a Gossip Girl with vampires.

Rose is a sexy, sassy girl, with a witty mouth and a temperament. Lisa is the opposite, kind, cautious and quiet. At the moment I’m feeling that Rose is bit too much into herself and Lissa, oblivious to the feelings of people of the outer world, and I wish she could be a bit more tolerant and humble. Let’s hope for development there.

There is Dimitri as well, who is Lissa’s guardian, and also the personal trainer of Rose. He seems like a fascinating character, all though so quiet that it’s hard to get an impression of him. Hoping for more there as well.

Let’s see how it plays out..

After finishing the book:

I’ve already finished it, in just two days. Very easy and quick read. Not the greatest book, and not something I’d lose sleep over.  It has a good premise for a series though, and I can see myself getting more attached to the characters the more I read.

However, it was a bit too teen for me to really love. The plot centered around too much highschool drama and gossip, to make me glued to the pages.  I also found it hard sometimes to relate to the heroine Rose with her over-confident and flirtatious nature.

Christian and Dmitri both intrigued me though, and I look forward to see where the story will take them. Dmitri is this silent hero, who always seems to emerge whenever anyone needs help, Rose in particulary. I’d still like him to talk more and reveal things about himself. There may be time for that though, in future books. Christian is a complex character given his troubled past, which made him that much more interesting. I rooted for him pretty much immediately.

A pleasant surprise was the ending and how most loose ends were actually tied together. We get explanations for almost everything we’ve been wondering about, and there’s no cliff-hanger, like in so many other YA series. Kudos to Mead for that!

The Bottom Line:

I can very much see a continuation, what with Rose and Lissa’s bond, the villain who is still alive, and all the other complications involving Lissa’s abilities. I just hope that the next book will incorporate more of the outer vampire world Mead has created rather than highschool gossip within the walls of the Vampire Academy.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, even though it is not nearly as addictive as Twilight, it’s still a good, fun and light read!