Archive | January, 2011

Review: Spells by Aprilynne Pike

29 Jan

Series: Wings, book #2

Published: May 4th 2010 by Harper Teen

Details: Hardcover, 359 pages

My rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

Sequel to Wings. Laurel is summoned to study at the fairy academy, thus we learn more about the world of the fairies which I enjoyed. But other than that, it was more of a filler than an actual stand-alone plot. Not much happens, except for Laurels emotional struggles regarding Tamani & David. Enjoyable but not great. Next book Illusions out in May.

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A few chapters in:

Wings was a fairy tale story about the seemingly ordinary girl Laurel who discovered she was a fairy. It was not amazing by any means but it was cute. Actually, that’s the word right there: Cute.

Cute enough for me to want to pick up the sequel. Too much cuteness for me to want to pick it up right away.

Hence, here we are, roughly eight months later (including two months in the TBR-pile).

I’m now a few chapters in. Laurel has been summoned to attend the Academy of Avalon over the summer in order to catch up on her fairy studies. In Wings we learned that as a fairy child, Laurel was handed over to adoptive human parents in order to be raised by them, since the land where they lived was important fairy land that needed protection from the trolls. How Laurel helped protecting that land as a fairy toddler I have no idea, but I’m sure there was a reason.

The point is, after having lived solely a human life for the last 13 years, Laurel is now in urgent need of a fairy education.

Hence, from chapter one, we follow Laurel as she steps through the magical gate to the fairy land of Avalon discovering a whole new world she didn’t know existed, full of beauty and magic, but also strict social structures and rules. Laurel is a Fall Fairy, which turns out to be a rare species, and very highly appreciated. In fact, Fall Fairies rank second highest after the Winter Fairies, who are the rarest of them all.

Tamani on the other hand (Laurel’s fairy friend) is just a Spring Fairy, which in Avalon means he is common, ordinary and.. as funny as this sounds – a true working class fairy. I’ve just now got to the point where Tamani is showing Laurel around, including a visit to his mother.

And I have to say that so far I’m liking it! The world building of the fairies is intriguing, so much that right now I feel I could stay in Avalon forever! Or at least for 359 pages..

 

 

After finishing the book:

So I finished the book, and it was…cute. I seem to be stuck on that word when it comes to this series.

As you can see from my first impression above, I loved the first part of the book. The fairy world-building that Pike has created is fascinating and I loved every minute that Laurel spent in Avalon.

Unfortunately, a couple of chapters later, Laurel had  to return to the human world, and as she did my interest started to fade. Not necessarily because I found the human world boring, but more because in the absence of an intriguing world-building I started to notice the non-existent plot. You see, not much happened in this book. Or rather, a few things happened but not enough to justify a book of almost 400 pages.

If I were to sum it up, this was essentially about Laurel and her issues with being a fairy brought up in the human world. She tries to live in both worlds, including stringing along both her boys David and Tamani, but fails miserably on all accounts. The troll threat is lingering in the air throughout the whole book, but not much actually happens until the final pages.

In the end, not much is solved. Laurel does finally make a decision, but I’m not convinced that this is her final one, so expect her indecisiveness to continue in book three.

As a fan of Tamani I was especially irritated at Laurel’s behaviour towards him – I mean talk about giving out mixed signals! Shar (Tamani’s sentry colleague) tells Laurel a few wise words at the end of the book, and I pretty much wanted to hug him after that, because he nailed my view of Laurel’s actions right there.

The Bottom Line:

Finally, I know it sounds like I’m bashing the book now. Truth is, it was still enjoyable and easy to read, probably because of the fairy world and the fact that it is well written.  I will continue the series, in the hopes that the next installment will prove to be more than just another filler. Illusions to be released in May this year.

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Review: Entice by Carrie Jones

19 Jan

Series: Need, book #3

Published: December 7th 2010 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Details: Paperback, 264 pages

My rating: 2/5

My Summary:

Third installment of Need series. Zara is now a pixie queen. Astley is her king, and she is on a mission: bring Nick back from Valhalla. I loved Need, but nothing could hold my attention here. This book was a mess. Juvenile, flat characters and a straggling plot. Won’t continue the series.

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A few chapters in:

As you may know if you read my review of  Need, I absolutely loved that book. Zara’s grief  and fears rang true to me, the novelty of the pixies was exciting and of course there was the steamy romance between Nick and Zara. Impossible not to get addicted!

Unfortunately the sequel Captivate did not reach the same amazing levels as Need. Why? Well, I was craving growth and resolution in Captivate, and it failed to deliver on those two points. Characters stayed the same (or even went more immature) and most of my questions were left unanswered. I still enjoyed reading it, and so I always knew that I was going to read Entice, in the hopes that this third installment would restore my faith in this series. Time to find out if it will.

I’ve now read a few chapters and I can’t say that I’ve noticed any magic a la Need just yet. On the contrary actually. But it may be too early to tell. Let’s hope so.

Entice starts just where Captivate left off with Zara and her friends heading off to the school dance. As you know if you’ve read the previous books, Nick is dead, or rather he was taken to a resting place for dying warriors, meaning he may in fact still be alive. Zara has gotten herself transformed into a pixie, in order to bring Nick back. Apparently humans are not allowed to that resting place, and so she had to change. Moreover, she is now a pixie queen seeing as Astley – the pixie king who appeared in Captivate – changed her.

Zara however does not care about being a pixie queen. Her only goal is getting Nick back. Yet she fears that Nick will no longer love her when he finds out about her change. Nick hates pixies.

As in the previous books, the pixies are now roaming the woods looking for boys to torture to satisfy their needs. Being a pixie herself, Zara can now finally help with protecting humans from these pixies, and at the dance she does just that, stopping a couple of pixies from kidnapping teens.

Astley keeps reappearing here and there, and he remains kind and patient. Yet he is not the most talkative guy out there. I would like him to let Zara in on one or two things on the pixie stuff, because seriously, it’s starting to get very vague here, and I need some answers! For one, why is there going to be a war? Where do all these pixie kings come from? Why do some of these pixies (the evil ones) feel the need to torture boys? Is that something they need in order to survive? Why boys in particular? And why do the good pixies not feel the need to do that? Oh, well there’s more, but you get my drift. Answers please!

Moreover, I keep feeling that Zara has gone slightly too immature for my liking. For instance, in the middle of a deep conversation with Devyn, she decides to squeal, jump up and roll around in the snow. Say what??? And that’s just one example. Let’s just say, I’ve been scratching my head quite frequently over the course of these first chapters.

In short, let’s hope for some character growth here.  And answers..I need answers..

 

 

After finishing the book:

Well, I finished the book last night. And did I get my most needed answers?

No, I didn’t. Worse still, I’m no longer interested in hearing them. I’m sorry all you fans of the Need series (myself included) but this book was a mess.

I think the main problem was the plot which was so haphazard that it felt as if the author was making it up as she went. The whole book was about rescuing Nick from Valhalla. Problem was, no one knew how to actually get to Valhalla. So chapter after chapter was essentially devoted to Zara and Astley trying to find ways to get there. And failing, over and over again. When action was needed, Zara or someone else got hurt. Or we got to know a bit more about Astley. But other than that, not much of a plot.

Sometimes the conclusion outweighs a non-existent plot (see Linger), but that did not materialize either. In fact, the conclusion just provided me with even more questions (to store with my other trillions of questions from the previous installments, thank you very much).

I had a problem with the characters as well. Zara seemed downright immature, and more often than not I struggled to follow her train of thought because it wasn’t coherent. It was grave one second, then squealing of happiness the next. Astley was probably the character I felt the most for, all though that’s not saying much. I did however wonder why he was so bent on Zara getting back her wolf. It felt as if he neglected everything else (an eminent war, leading and taking care of his pixies etc) just for the sake of helping Zara. I failed to see how that made a responsible king, which is supposedly what Astley was.

Unless he had other motivations for helping Zara, apart from his goal of Zara finally having Nick back so that she could stop missing Nick and start loving Astley instead. Yes folks, this was apparently Astley’s main motivation for helping Zara, believe it or not. A bit too goodie-goodie don’t you think?

So, back to the other characters, Issie, Devyn, Betty etc. They were all brilliantly drawn in Need, and to some extent in Captivate as well. In this installment however they were reduced to flat cut-out cardboard characters, only existing in the plot to worry and help Zara on her mission to Valhalla.

It would have been interesting if at least one of these characters had provided some resistance to the Valhalla mission, or at least doubts, because there were reasons to doubt. They had no idea what they were doing – if Nick was even alive, and all the while people were dying in Maine. But the whole group just kept cheering on Zara and encouraged her to move on. Boring!

Lastly, I was getting seriously irritated at all the questions not being answered, which made me wonder if even the author knew the answers to them. As you know if you’ve read any supernatural fiction, it’s the how’s and why’s that make a great world-building great. Small details are weaved together into a logical pattern and suddenly you are presented with a world-building which feels intricate and most importantly: believable.

In Entice, the world building of the pixies is as haphazard as the plot, with plenty of details, but all lacking explanations, and never weaved into a whole picture.  Consequently, I had a hard time believeing in the world that Jones had created. Never a good sign.

In the end, I just gave up. I did get to the last page, but not without effort. And unless the next installment receives skyrocket high reviews, this is the end of the pixie road for me. No more squeeing Zara White for me, I’m done!

The next installment to be published sometime this year.

Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

8 Jan

Series: The Infernal Devices, book #1

Published: August 31st 2010 by Margaret K. McElderry

Details: Hardcover, 479 pages

My Rating: 4/5

My Summary:

Prequel to The Mortal Instruments Series which I LOVED. Set in Victorian London, shape-shifter Tessa is captured by evil warlocks and saved by a group of shadowhunters, among them handsome and arrogant Will. While I loved revisiting this world, the relationship between the two main characters in this book bothered me a little, as did some of the repetitive factors. All in all, a great fast-paced read and a good start to a series, but not as amazing as The Mortal Instruments Series.

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A few chapters in:

As a fan of Cassandra Clare, I was superexcited when I heard that she had written a spin-off series, set in the very same shadowhunter world that I’ve come to love after reading her Mortal Instruments Series. The question was only: was she going to be able to replicate the success that was The Mortal Instruments series?  Well, judging by the many rave reviews it appears as if yes, she has succeeded. And so, I am really excited to finally delve into that world again!

I’m now a few chapters in. Set in the Victorian England, this is the prequel to The Mortal Instruments Series. Many of the characters are therefore ancestors to Jace, Alec, Isabelle and Co.

The main character however is of unknown family. Her name is Tessa – an american orphan girl – who upon following her brother to London, is captured on arrival and held captive by two weird-looking sisters named The Dark Sisters. It turns out Tessa has a rather unusual talent which the evil sisters intend to use: Tessa can shape-shift into any human form. After weeks in prison, she is saved by the gorgeous and arrogant shadowhunter Will, and taken to the shadowhunter institute in London, where she meets the rest of the members of the shadowhunter family.

And this is where I couldn’t help but start noticing the similarities with the City of Bones. Tessa, like Clary, doesn’t belong in the shadowhunter world, yet is saved and accommodated at the shadowhunter institute seeing as her remaining family (Tessa’s brother as well as Clary’s mother) has disappeared. At the institute Tessa is introduced to the members of the shadowhunter clan, where Will seems like a Jace with brown hair, Jem is the equivalent of Alec (all though straight), and Jassamine is a slightly more bitchy Isabelle.

And this is as far as I’ve got. While I do love diving into this world again, I hope these new characters will differentiate themselves from the ones that I know in The Mortal Instruments. I hate to be comparing them like this, but I just can’t help it! Hopefully, the more I get to know about them, the less comparable to Jace and Co. they’ll seem.

 

 

After finishing the book:

As you know, after reading a few chapters, the similarity to The City of Bones bugged me. However, as I read more, the characters started taking on a life of their own, which meant I could enjoy it for what it was – another entertaining trip into the shadowhunter world of Cassandra Clare.

After finishing it however, I have to admit it lacked that special something that made the Mortal Instruments amazing. What special something? Well, it lacked a romantic lead as appealing as Jace. And there were some repetitive factors. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

First, let me tell you what I loved. As always with Cassandra Clare, she provides a detailed and intricate world-building that makes you feel as if you literally live and breathe within that world yourself, in the midst of all types of supernatural creatures in a London set in the Victorian era. Not an easy feat, but Clare sure pulls this off beautifully. I also love the sharp, interesting and quirky dialogues. But most of all, I think it’s her wonderfully fleshed out characters that stand out for me. After all, she was the author who created my one fictional crush last year – Jace.

In this book the characters are once again wonderfully drawn. There is Tessa with her identity issues, Sophie – the reasonable maid, Jessamine  who struggles against her shadowhunter heritage, the kind and fierce Charlotte and so on. Even if not that much is revealed about them in this first installment, you get a feeling that things are in store for all these characters, and that they will all play a role eventually. And that’s precisely what I like about Clare’s writing.

Yet, there was one character I had an issue with in this book, and that is Will, the potential love interest of Tessa. I first had an issue with him because he is just too similar to Jace in how he keeps the rest of the world at an arm’s length with sarcasm. As you can imagine, anyone too similar to Jace pales in comparison.

Then, as I read on, Will started taking on a slightly different personality than Jace. Which, in a way was good (because I’d hate to be comparing him to Jace), but was also bad, because what was revealed of his personality was not very appealing at all.

Will is like a darker version of Jace, who seems to use sarcasm in order to hide his ugly true self. While Jace (despite his sarcasms), was unable to lie, Will seems unable to tell the truth. All he seems to do is lie and being mean and rude, just for the sake of hurting others.

I don’t care whatever reasons may lie behind his behaviour, or that he occasionally seems to care for Jem. I still don’t think there is an excuse for acting the way he does. Most importantly, he treats Tessa horribly, and I’m actually bound to agree with the maid Sophie when she advised Tessa not go get involved with him.

Jem on the other hand grew on me. There is some actual bonding going on between him and Tessa, which seemed more grounded and real, as Jem (as opposed to Will) is someone you can actually talk to. He seems mature beyond his years, and despite his tragic circumstances he’s above self-pitying which is what seems to be consuming Will. Yet, Will is sure to be the romantic lead, or so I think. The next installment will most likely “explain” his earlier behaviour. The problem is, I’m not sure I’ll buy that explanation.

Lastly, the repetitive factors, some of which I mentioned earlier made for a slightly lower grade. All though the characters eventually took on lives of their own, it still could not take away the fact that some parts of the plot were quite similar to The Mortal Instruments. For instance, there is a questionable parentage of the main heroine, a villain who is raising an army to take down the shadowhunters, a main character discovering she has a powerful talent, a love triangle featuring two guys where one is kind and the other arrogant and so on.

The Bottom Line:

That said, I enjoyed reading it and I definitely plan to read the next installment, Clockwork Prince, out in September next year. It just couldn’t quite compare to The Mortal Instruments, that’s all.

Oh, and on a sidenote, what is it about Magnus Bane that makes him so appealing? I literally squealed when he made an appearance again. One of my favorite characters in this series, that’s for sure!