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Review: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

21 Oct

Series: Dustlands, book #1

Published: June 7th 2011 by Margaret K. McElderry

Details: Hardcover, 459 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

An outstanding debut featuring Saba, who in a dystopian future heads out in search of her kidnapped twin brother. This is an epic adventure of enormous proportions, involving cage fighting, giant killer worms, a prison break out, mad chases across the desert, sand storms and a swoon-worthy romance. And I loved everything about it; the kick-ass heroine and her palpable growth throughout the book, the sibling love, the romance, the action, the writing. Absolutely amazing!!!!

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Synopsis:

Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That’s fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba’s world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she’s a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

Blood Red Road has a searing pace, a poetically minimal writing style, violent action, and an epic love story. Moira Young is one of the most promising and startling new voices in teen fiction.

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My Thoughts:

I just finished reading Blood Red Road, and I absolutely LOVED it!!

or

“Frikin’ amazin’, that’s what it was”. If I were to speak like Saba in Blood Red Road.

Which, after reading this book, I nearly did!

As you’ve probably heard, the writing of the book is depicted as the dialect the characters speak. That is, you’ll get sentences like:

He ain’t bin right fer a long time.

Which, truth to be told, made me wary of this book. I knew some reviewers claimed that after a few chapters, you’d get used to it. But seeing as English is not my native tongue, I wondered if that applied to me as well.

Well, fear not! I did struggle for the first few pages, while mapping a few of the changes in my head:

fer – for

jest – just

naught – nothing

bin – been

But once the major changes had registered with me, I ceased to notice. And before I knew it, I’d flown through the book in no time at all.

Looking back at the writing now, I’m glad it was depicted the way it was, as it made me get a better feel of  Saba’s world. A world of illiteracy and roughness where intellectuals don’t exist. Where all that matters is your skill to survive.

In a way, the world was fairly similar to what I usually encounter in fantasy genres. People are dirty, rough and simple, there are taverns named One Eyed Jack, the land is traveled by horse or foot, no technology in sight and it’s all ruled by an evil king. The only signs of a dystopia is the talk of “wreckers” which supposedly are us, who vanished from the face of the earth in some kind of world disaster many years ago. Traces are left from our era, useless wreckage such as broken planes and cars that can be found scattered in deserts or ghost towns.

Either way, whether the feel of the world was dystopian or fantasy, it was amazingly well-crafted. I felt as if I could turn around 360 degrees and see exactly what Saba saw with her own eyes, at all times throughout her journey.

As a character, Saba was amazing too. As were all the other secondary characters in this book. I immediately took a liking to them all, and had my first tear slip at page 71, when Saba’s sister Emmi talks about the loss of their mom. Yes folks, this is emotionally packed stuff!

Yet, it never gets too much. Saba is such a strong heroine, the kind that doesn’t take crap from anyone. She fights, she struggles and she gets on with it, no matter the circumstances. If I have ever seen a true kick-ass heroine, Saba is the one! I simply loved everything about her. Her tough act, her growth, her vulnerability, her trust issues, her red hot, her rawness and honesty. I especially loved her complex relationship to her siblings, Emmi in particular. Anyone who has a little sister will know what I mean.

There is romance, and holy smoke how I loved those two together. A match in heaven, without doubt. Both as head strong, both as fierce, both survivors. It made me swoon, big time.

That said, you should know that the romance is not at the forefront of the book. In fact, it takes roughly 250 pages before he even enters the picture. What’s so great though is that it didn’t matter. Romance or not, I was practically glued to the pages from start to finish. My mind reeled, I had trouble breathing during the action sequences, tears fell during some of the most heart-breaking family scenes. I had to stop at times, just to remind myself that “Relax Tess, it is only fiction!”.

When the ending came, I just wanted more. So thank god there is a sequel. That said, Blood Red Road can be read as a stand-alone too, since everything wraps up in a satisfactory way. There are a few open ends of course, just to keep you a little bit curious for what’s to come next. But no cliff-hangers in sight.

On a final note, what’s up with DeMalo? He played a minor role here, but I’ve got a strong feeling his role will expand. I guess we’ll find out in 2012 when the sequel is published. Cannot wait!!!

Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

5 Sep

Series: No, stand-alone    

Published: March 2nd 2010 by HarperCollins

Details: Paperback, 470 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

A cross between Mean Girls and Groundhog Day, this story is about popular and shallow Sam who after an accident gets to relive that same day over and over again, and learns to reevaluate her life and actions. Amazingly complex story, wonderfully fleshed out and real characters, and an ending that took my breath away. Simply put, a MUST READ!

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My Full Review:

Before I Fall is the debut novel by Lauren Oliver, a contemporary novel in the same vein as Alice Seabold’s The Lovely Bones, which I devoured a few years ago. It had received amazing reviews of course. Still I was totally and utterly unprepared for the emotional rollercoaster ride that this book was about to take me on.

Only one chapter in though, I knew I was in for something great because it captured me straight away. You know how it is when you suddenly start to curse every single thing you have planned in the next couple of nights (whether that be after work drinks, movie-dates or dinner with friends), because these plans have now turned into giant OBSTACLES between you and your book. Me this weekend: Who cares about the premier of Woody Allen’s latest film, all I want to do is go home and read my book!

Well, you get my drift. That’s how I felt, from the very FIRST chapter. So yep, the pull in this one is strong. Really really strong.

What then made it so special?

One major reason was the realness of it all. Oliver has captured the very essence of being a young adult here. I don’t think I’ve ever read about high school kids that felt as REAL as in this book, the insecurities, the clicks of best friends, the bullying, the school hierarchy, the do’s and dont’s in school. The coincidence that one person rises in popularity and someone else plummets to the bottom. Lauren Oliver took me on a ride that essentially transported me back into highschool, not always a pleasant experience. We all know how awkward those high school years were.

The main character Sam is one of the most popular girls in school and a bitch. Which, to tell you the truth, I found a refreshing change from those shy, nice, never-been-noticed-before-but-beautiful heroines that I’ve read about lately. Instead Sam is a shallow bully, stemming from fears and insecurities, who on that fateful first day worries mostly about how many popularity roses she’ll get on Cupid Day in school. Her click of best friends reminds me of Mean Girls with Sam’s best friend Lindsay as the  bullying leader and queen of school. What I liked though is that none of these girls felt like caricatures but were fully fleshed characters, that despite all their flaws and mistakes hade me caring for them. Well, apart from Lindsay who was, and stayed, a bitch.

After the accident on that first day, the story turns into Groundhog Day. That is, Sam keeps reliving the same day over and over again, learning how the actions of her and her friends have affected others. You might think that repeating the same day would get boring, but fear not! As Sam is looking for the way out of her one-day-repeat experience, you are wondering just as much as her, what exactly she has to do? Lauren Oliver cleverly serves us clues here and there to how all the events of that day link together. It’s like watching a real life puzzle come together and it had me transfixed.

I also loved watching Sam change. As you know, she starts out as a bitch but gradually becomes a less selfish person, someone who reflects upon her actions and who wonders if the price of popularity really is worth it. The ending is open-ended but beautiful, and very fitting to the story. Guaranteed to make you cry.

In short, this is one of these books that will have you thinking about it long after you’ve turned the last page. Simply beautiful. I cannot recommend it enough!

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

5 Jul

Series: No, stand-alone

Published: December 2nd 2010 by Dutton

Details: Hardcover, 372 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

Anna is sent to boarding school in Paris, befriends a group of people, among them the hottie St.Clair. Now, on the paper it sounds fairly ordinary. But don’t let that fool you. This is an AMAZING book!! So real, it felt like I was there with Anna, walking the street in Paris and falling in love. Simply put, A MUST READ!

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A few chapters in:

This is a book that created quite a stir when it hit the shelves in December last year. I remember reading a flow of rave reviews. It’s contemparary fiction, which means no paranormal creatures in sight. More chic-lit than paranormal romance.

In other words, not my usual cup of tea, but as you know if you’ve followed my blog, from time to time I like to read a contemporary novel, in particularly if they have received amazing reviews. Because paranormal stuff or not, if it has a great love story, I want to read it.

My hopes with this one is that it’ll be as wonderful as Perfect Chemistry, which took my breath away. Let’s see if it’s up for the challenge.

Oh, and not to forget, this book surfaced as the next book to read on my “what to read next poll”. Thanks again to all who voted!

I’m now a few chapters in:

Anna’s parents, or rather her hot-shot dad, has enrolled her into a boarding school in Paris for her senior year. She’s not too happy about this, because she never had a say in his decision and she’s also scared since it’s her first time living away from everything she knows.

Well, she barely has time to unpack until a friendly face pops into her room to welcome her in. Meredith, her next-door neighbour is an arty girl who’s been in Paris for a few years already. She introduces Anna to her group of friends who include the couple Rash and Josh and the hottie Etienne St. Clair.

Anna immediately takes an interest in St. Clair, but soon learns that not only does he have a long-term girlfriend, but Meredith also has a crush on him. In other words, he is strictly off-limits.

And this is as far as I’ve got, but I’m guessing Anna and St. Clair will find a way to get together anyway. Let’s see how it goes!
 
 
 

 
 
 
After finishing the book:

I remember my book depression after reading Divergent a couple of weeks ago. I was depressed because I thought it would be some time before I read anything equally amazing.

Well, I think Anna and the French Kiss just cured that depression, because WOW what a deliciously wonderful little book.

It completely swept me away. I read it in one sitting, then went right back and started reading it again! It’s been a couple of days now since I finished it (for the second time), and I’m still thinking about it. So much that I find it hard to get into anything new.

Just WOW.

It’s hard to believe now that I was bit wary at first when I started reading it. Reviews were great of course, but it just looked so ordinary on the paper (girl goes to Paris, meets boy and falls in love), that I suspected it to be just another chic-lit. Even a couple of pages in, I was still not convinced. Anna meets St.Clair pretty much on that first day in Paris and it’s obvious that he is the one she’ll fall for. I was wondering what could possibly happen to keep me interested throughout all of the 300 or so pages?

Well, at chapter 2, I had my last coherent thought. After that, I lost it and got completely swept away as Perkins took me on a ride that felt so REAL that I could have sworn I was there wandering the streets together with Anna and St.Clair in Paris.

Real. That’s the secret right there. It felt so real!

Firstly, the story is described in such a way that you are with Anna on every step of the way, every emotion, every conversation is detailed so that you’re literally there in the same room as her, all the time. The characters are all wonderfully flawed and so spot on described that I saw them all in front of me. Not only Anna and St.Clair but also the others in their group and some of her their class mates.

Secondly, the vividly described setting of Paris. I’ve lived in Paris, and visited it many times after. And I can assure you that Perkins describes a Paris that is real. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s lived in Paris too. What I loved the most is that she doesn’t glorify it, the way a tourist may do, but describes it with all its peculiarities as well, which had me laughing out loud a couple of times. Don’t despair though if you haven’t visited Paris. Just be prepared that you will most likely want to catch a plane to Paris in the immediate hours after having finished the book.

Lastly, the relationship between Anna and St.Clair. I can’t begin to describe how much I loved the two of them. How they were there for each other. Their obvious chemistry. They end up going through quite a few ups and downs throughout the book, but it all felt so real and believable. Not like something that was created by the author to prolong the story. Rather it felt like what happened to them could have been a real story, you know? In fact, I’m still surprised they don’t exist in real life. It sure feels that way.

I don’t want to give too much away, but let me assure you that you will experience every single emotion that Anna feels during her year in Paris. And that you will fall hopelessly in love, as much as Anna, with St.Clair.

In fact, I got the same feelings as I did when I read Twilight for the first time. You know, the heart flutters, the feeling of actually being there with them, and the whole emotional turmoil of falling in love.

I cannot recommend this book enough! Please. just. read. it.

Note: Anna and the French Kiss is Stephanie Perkins debut novel. Her second book Lola and the Boy Next Door is to be published this year in Sep. I am counting the days!

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

19 Jun

Series: Divergent, book #1

Published: May 3rd 2011 by Katherine Tegen Books

Details: Hardcover, 487 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

First book in trilogy. In this dystopian world, Tris chooses a faction to live in and the tough initiation ritual begins. This amazing book includes lots of action but also great character development, a wonderful kick-ass heroine and one of the most believable romances I have ever read. In short, WOW what an amazing book! I cannot gush about it enough!! If you read one book this year, read this one!!!

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A few chapters in:

The Hunger Games did to the dystopian fiction in young adult literature what Twilight did to vampires. Namely, increased the popularity of the genre by tenfold!

Since reading Hunger Games, I’ve read a number of dystopian fictions, each time in the hopes of coming across the next book that will blow me away.

Divergent is the next much-hyped debut out there, said to be the next Hunger Games. But do I really dare to believe that’s true?

You see, I don’t want to get my hopes up too much, because I know by now from experience that a hyped-up book doesn’t always equal amazing (see my review of The Maze Runner).

Divergent has however surfaced as the next book to read in my poll (thanks to all who voted!!) and I checked the average score on goodreads (4.55), which is promising. What if it really is the next Hunger Games? Time to find out!

I’m now a few chapters in. Beatrice lives in a society which has been divided into five factions, each faction valuing one personality trait above all others. In Abnegation, where Beatrice lives, they value selflessness more than anything else. Self-indulgence in any form is prohibited, and it’s asked of you that you help everyone else before yourself.

We enter the story when Beatrice has just reached 16 years of age, and hence is about to choose which faction she is to live the rest of her life. Most people simply decide to stay where they are, as it’s known territory for them, and they get to be with their families. In fact, transferring to another faction is very unusual.

Along comes the day when Beatrice has to make that choice and she’s debating with herself. She knows that she never truly fitted into the Abnegation life style, yet is she prepared to leave her family for good?

The decision she makes surprises everyone, most of all herself. And before she knows it, she is taking part of a fierce initiation ritual, together with a few other new-comers. The thing is, if you fail the initiation tests, you end up on the streets as a faction-less, which is a fate almost as cruel as death. In other words, she has to make it, right?

And this is as far as I’ve got.

But wow, so far, I am seriously liking this. I’m only a few chapters in and am already feeling the pull..big time!
 
 
 

 
 
 
After finishing the book:

I finished this book at 3.30 am. I had to work the next day. Enough said. This was freaking amazing!!! The kind of book that had me wishing I had a grading system that allowed me to give it more than 5. Because a 5/5 just does not seem enough.

It’s also the kind of book that makes all other books pale in comparison. You know, I almost fell into a slight book depression after reading this one. Because, what now? I knew that anything I’d read in the next couple of weeks (months?) would not be half as good. How depressing is that?

Then again, THANK GOD I did read this one, because WOW what an amazing reading experience it was. I felt like I was completely and totally emerged into the world Roth had created. The book literally swallowed me whole, hence why I got 3 hours of sleep on the night I finished it.

It’s said to be the next Hunger Games. Well, yes there are definitely similarities. For one, there is the dystopian world, then there is Tris, who is a kick-ass heroine and a bit of an underdog who goes through rigorous training and tests with possibly deadly outcomes. The main similarity however was this:

No force in the universe could have made me put the book down.

Do you remember me saying that in the Hunger Games review? Well, folks, for the second time since I started this blog, I am saying it again. This is a book  that you will NOT be able to put down. Period. A word of advise, clear your schedule before starting it!

So enough with my rambling, what was it that made it so gripping?

A combination of things really.

* The Action. Most of the book deals with the initiation rituals, which included plenty of nail-biting action scenes and fascinating ways to test the new recruits, all of which had me racing through the pages.

* The world-building. I loved how complete it felt. There are so many details and characters, all vividly described that I literally felt as if I were walking around in those dungeons myself.

* The main character Tris. It has been some time (perhaps since Katniss) , since I felt so much for a heroine as I did with Tris. She is such a multifaceted character. She’s vulnerable, strong, brave, selfish but also protective, tough but also doubtful. I was with her on every step of the way!

* The secondary characters Christina, Will, Al, Peter, Uriah and Eric. They felt as real and fleshed out as the main characters, having both good and bad traits (well apart from Eric), stemming from different pasts and each with personal motives behind their actions. There is loyalty and encouragement, but also betrayal and mistrust. No one is perfect, just like in the real world.

*The romance. It doesn’t take a forefront, yet is one of the most wonderful romances I have read in some time. I loved the fact that it wasn’t a love at first sight, rather took time to develop slowly.  And I adored their dialogues together, every moment they shared gave me heart flutters. I had to skip back and read their scenes together again, once I finished. That’s how hooked I was. My favorite scene is when he shows her his most vulnerable side in the fear landscape. Let me tell you, my heart was racing along with Tris’s during that scene. Simply amazing.

Overall, I also loved the fact that it felt so unpredictable. Up until the end I had absolutely no idea of what was going to happen. And since I don’t want to destroy that unpredictability for you, I’m going to finish here, before I give anything else away.

All I’ll say is that  if you haven’t read this book yet, what are you waiting for? Go out there and get your hands on it now. You will not regret it!!!!

Review: Blood Promise by Richelle Mead

13 Apr

Series: Vampire Academy, book #4

Published: August 25th 2009 by Razorbill

Details: Hardcover, 503 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

Fourth book in the Vampire Academy series. Rose has dropped out of school and is traveling through Russia in order to hunt down the man she loves. I loved experiencing the world outside the VA gates with Rose! Amazing book!! Cannot wait to read Spirit Bound, next in the series.

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A few chapters in:

I just started reading this fourth installment of the Vampire Academy Series, and boy am I excited! As you know, if you’ve been following this blog, I wasn’t always a fan of the Vampire Academy. In fact, it was a gradual process, which by the way can be seen in the grades.

Vampire Academy started off on an enjoyable but not great 3.5 grade. Frostbite hit a higher mark (4/5) as it was a great entertaining read. Shadow Kiss with its devastating ending reached an almost perfect 4.5.

Question is now, will Blood Promise be the first Vampire Academy book (in my opinion) to score a perfect 5/5 mark? Only one way to find out!

And here is where I advise anyone who has not yet read Shadow Kiss to stop reading, because some serious spoilers are coming up!

Okay, so in Shadow Kiss things changed quite dramatically. For one, Rose has dropped out of the academy, only months prior to her graduation. Moreover, she has abandoned her plans to work as the guardian of Lissa. In fact she’s left Lissa to take care of herself. The reason for all of this?

She is on a mission. To kill the man she loves. Dimitri. Yep folks, I still have a hard time believing this, but in the last battle with the Strigoi in Shadow Kiss Dimitri was captured by the Strigoi and turned. Rose, who is heart-broken by this turn of events has decided to take matters in her own hand (as she always does), and go after Dimitri – or the new undead Dimitri – in order to kill him. Because she knows he would rather be dead than walk the earth as a soulless Strigoi.

Hence, at the start of this book we find Rose in Russia. She’s following a hunch that Dimitri might have returned to his birth town in Sibiria. Problem is, she has no idea where that is.

After lingering in St Petersburg for a while, staying close to other Moroi in the hopes of finding information, she runs into another girl. A human girl who, it turns out, is an alchemist; someone who helps the vampire world stay hidden from humans. This job includes disposing of dead Strigoi bodies before they’re discovered, and not surprisingly, she has been kept quite busy ever since Rose turned up in the city.

Upon questioning Sydney, as the girl is called, Rose learns that she knows where Dimitri’s Damphir town is. Problem is, she can’t tell Rose the location. Instead she’s ordered (by some mysterious superiors) to take Rose there herself.

Hence, the two of them end up on the Transibirian train heading towards that town, and this is where I am at now.

Needless to say, I am so excited. I always wanted to know more of world outside the walls of the Vampire Academy, and that’s exactly what’s happening now. Moreover, the descriptions of Russia are wonderful, and having traveled on that Transibirian myself, I can tell you this – Mead knows what she’s talking about! It’s as if I’m revisiting that train trip once again, that’s how real it feels.

In short, it’s starting great and I can’t wait to see what will happen next.

 


 

After finishing the book:

Holy freaking crap! That was an intense ride! Yep, you’ve guessed it, I just finished Blood Promise, the fourth installment of the VA series. A series that just keep getting better and better.

This installment was the best so far as Rose travels to Russia in search for Dimitri. And wow, how I love it! I loved learning about the outside world of the Vampire Academy, the alchemists, the unpromised, the Damphir towns and mobster Moroi, the feel of Russia and all the new characters.

Yet, we never lose touch with the group of people we’ve come to know (Lissa, Adrian and co) at the Vampire Academy, as Rose keeps visiting Lissa’s mind from time to time. As much as I liked those characters (Christian and Adrian especially), I have to admit though that to me, those visits where the weaker part of the story. I was far happier accompanying Rose on her adventures in Russia than following Lissa on her journey through the social intrigues of the Vampire Academy and Court World.

This may be because I’ve really come to love Rose. She is without a doubt one of the coolest heroines out there. Bad-ass, yet vulnerable, huge heart, tough, protective and of course witty. Essentially, she’s a heroine I could follow to the end of the world. Which is surprising considering what I thought of her in the beginning. Talk about character growth!

Now, as for the actual plot:

As I mentioned above, Sydney the alchemist, accompanies Rose to Baia, Dimitri’s birth town where Rose ends up staying with Dimitri’s family for a while. Some reviewers commented that this part was a bit of a filler as nothing much happened during this period. Me? I loved every second. I drank in every detail of Dimitris house, his wonderful family, scary witch granny included and everything that came with it.

Eventually though, it was time to move on, and I think we all knew this was bound to happen. Rose finds Dimitri. Now this was interesting. Or no, wrong word. Excruciating! Back was the lump in my throat, my pounding heart and chest pain. Dimitri is a Strigoi, and so he has lost his soul, or has he? I found myself being as confused as Rose. Evil or good? Good or evil? Along with Rose I’d change opinion every few paragraphs. Excruciating indeed.

The ending provided another couple of twists, that I didn’t see coming at all (well, apart from the Dimitri dilemma that I kind of guessed would happen). Question is now, what about Adrian? Will he ever get a chance? Should he? Geez, I’m torn, because he really grew in my eyes in this book.

All in all, I am SO loving this series now, and I cannot get enough of this world. Thank god there are two more books to delve into, Spirit Bound being the next!

Review: Penitence by Jennifer Laurens

18 Nov

Series: Heavenly, book #2

Published: April 29th 2010 by Grove Creek Publishing

Details: Paperback, 322 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

While Heavenly was great this sequel was hands-down amazing!! A must read! Not one boring moment, what with Zoe seeing both good and bad spirits and trying to choose between two equally amazing guys. Involves the first love triangle I read in a while that actually feels real! Loved it from start to finish. Be aware though of abrupt ending. Last book called Absolution.

A few chapters in:

This is the sequel to Heavenly, which ended in such a way that it is nearly impossible not to want to continue this series straight away. I enjoyed Heavenly, for the good writing and characterisation, but was a bit frustrated with all the questions hanging in the air. Hopefully, now I will get some answers!

Before writing anything else, please be aware of that if you haven’t read Heavenly this post will contain some serious spoilers!

In the last pages of Heavenly we followed Zoe in paradise as she reunited with Matthias. She felt overjoyed to finally be able to share his world, but also sad of course, for leaving her family behind. Conflicting emotions to say the least.

This is why I threw myself over Penitence, anticipating a great read about Zoe’s discovery of the world of Matthias. But I was mistaken. Right at the beginning, Zoe’s body starts claiming her back. The doctors at the hospital are attempting to revive her, and as they are succeeding, she has no choice but to return to mortality, thus leaving Matthias behind.

Hence, this book really starts off in a hospital bed. Zoe is, much to her family’s delight, slowly recovering from the terrible car accident that almost took her life. Once again, she’s torn by conflicting emotions, happy to be reunited once again with her beloved family, yet achingly sad to be separated from Matthias. Speaking of which, where is he? Ever since she left paradise he is nowhere to be seen, and she fears that she may never see him again.

Yep folks, this is as far as I’ve got, but I have to say it’s promising. I’m starting to grow really attached to Zoe’s family, what a lovely bunch of people! And I’m looking forward to see what will happen next, because at the moment, I have no clue!

After finishing the book:

I know that after reading Heavenly, I was slightly disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great read. But it lacked that extra something that makes a book amazing.

Well folks, Penitence more than well made up for that. WOW! That’s all I have to say. This is what I call AMAZING. Unputdownable! I kept reading into the wee hours of the night, always thinking – just another chapter then I’m done. Yeah right! Somehow it was magically 3 o’clock by the time I went to bed, and I had to work the next day!

So after all this preamble, why was it amazing? I’ll try to assemble my thoughts, always proving more difficult when I’ve read a WOW-book. I wonder why that is?

First, let’s start with the obvious. Laurens proved in Heavenly that she writes great effortless prose with wonderfully fleshed-out characters. What I loved in Heavenly was that like in real life, people aren’t perfect. Everyone comes with good and bad traits, and in the end it’s the choices we make that define us. This continues in Penitence, as all the characters expand into real people with backgrounds, motives and choices to make, including secondary characters such as Krissy and Chase. Consequently, I loved reading about them all!

Secondly, the unpredictability. I thought I knew where this was heading. Boy was I wrong! And boy did I like being wrong! I love it when I have no clue, and it feels as if I’m on the same rollercoaster ride of emotions as the heroine, not knowing what to expect from one minute to the next. Wonderful!!

Thirdly, the love triangle. This phenomenon seems to be implemented in every other young adult series these days, but they usually feel fabricated, as if it’s thrown in there just to create some emotional drama. We know pretty much right from the start who the heroine will pick.

Now, that was not the case here. I had no clue. After finishing it, I still have no clue. I won’t reveal who the other boy is who is viewing for Zoe’s attention in Penitence, but he is something else. Most importantly, he presents a possibility for Zoe to experience love on earth, which is precisely what Matthias can never offer her. And he’s gorgeous, a turned-around Casanova who wears his heart on his sleeve. Oh my, I melted!

Matthias is still perfectly divine and glorious. I know I complained about that perfection in Heavenly, and called for some flaws to make him interesting. Well, the love triangle solved that problem as it brought out the jealousy in him,  which strangely enough made him that much more intriguing!

Consequently, I felt as torn as Zoe was. All though, to be honest, I think I may be leaning more towards the human boy. Their growing relationship in Penitence is the core of this book. It felt grounded and real, starting very slowly as Zoe is struggling with trust issues. After all, this boy wasn’t the nicest character in Heavenly. But I believed in their chemistry and devoured every moment they had together, more so than between Zoe and Matthias in Heavenly.

The bottom line:

Finally, I loved all the subplots, the evil Albert, the black spirits, Brady and Britt, Chase and Krissy and of course Zoe’s family in the background. All of this combined made an action-packed yet emotional drama. There was not one boring moment, hence the page-turner effect!

My only minor criticism is the abrupt ending, that felt as if the writer just dropped the pen mid-page. But given the wonderful ride until that page, I cannot but give this book anything less than 5 stars. I’m now eagerly waiting to read the final book in this series, Absolution!

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: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

5 Aug

Series: Perfect Chemistry, book #1

Published: January 1st 2008 by Walker Books for Young Readers

Details: Paperback, 360 pages

My rating: 5/5

My summary:

A story about two teenagers, she rich from north side of town and he a gang member from the south side of town, who are reluctantly paired up in chemistry class, then end up falling in love. All though there are no paranormal elements here, this is a wonderful read.  I was practically glued to the pages, reading it in one sitting. The love story blew me away!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Full Review:

Synopsis:

When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she’s worked so hard for—her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect. Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.
In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart.

My thoughts:

Simply put, amazing book. I knew from all the rave reviews that this was a WOW-sort of book, and I had high expectations. Amazingly, it still exceeded those expectations. I was blown away!

Simon Elkeles has created a wonderful story that will get under your skin and stay with you for a while. I don’t know how she did it. The story is not that original, far from actually. In fact,  when I first read the summary, it felt sort of cliché. Cheerleader gets teamed up with bad boy in chemistry class and finds out that well, they have a lot of chemistry going on. And the book cover doesn’t really help. Let me just say, it’s not the sort of book I would want to be caught reading on the subway.

So what then makes it so special?

It is essentially the writing, and the character development.  You can literally feel the two main characters falling in love as they get to know each other better. It’s so real you feel and breath with them, you feel the pain of each obstacle as if it were your own and the joy when they start understanding each other.

The book is told in alternating POV’s which is great, as you get an insight in both characters thoughts, thus realising what they are both struggling with, and the perception they have of each other, and how that changes over time. Alternating POV’s is not always great, and I often find that authors don’t distinguish the voices enough. They end up blurring into each other, making the story somewhat confusing for the reader. For instance, I felt this problem with Shiver.

In Perfect Chemistry however, the voices of Alex and Brittany are so clearly different that not once did I stop and wonder who was who. One aspect which helped, and also made the story telling more authentic, was the Spanish phrases thrown in here and there into the POV of Alex. I loved that. It made him feel even more real. Brittany felt very real as well, and I completely bought the troubles she had, despite being rich, beautiful and the most popular girl in school.

All in all, this is a great book about a great love story where you really root for the main characters, I think I dare say as much as I rooted for Bella and Edward in Twilight. There is a sequel called Rules of Attraction, which follows Alex’s little brother Carlos in quest for happiness in his life. Apparently, this includes a great love story too. Needless to say, I am very eager to get my hands on this book!

Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

5 Aug

Series: Hunger Games, book #2

Published:  September 1st 2009 by Scholastic Press

Details: Hardcover, 391 pages

My rating: 5/5

My Summary:

Ok, so finished this sequel to the Hunger Games in record time. Suspense from start to finish. And ending with a cliff-hanger again, so can’t WAIT for the last book Mockingjay, out this month!

My Full Review:

Like everyone else in the blogosphere, I absolutely loved The Hunger Games, and I was dying to read the this sequel Catching Fire. Even though my expectations were rocket high, it did not disappoint. Just like the first book, I was sucked into the story and literally read the whole thing in one sitting.

It begins where it left off in Hunger Games, with Katniss and Peeta returning to district 12 after winning the games. At the end of those games, Katniss pulled out deadly berries, forcing The Capitol to accept both her and Peeta as winners, or else they would have committed suicide. This little act of rebellion has not gone unnoticed, and the 12 districts of Panem are now boiling under the surface, so much in fact that President Snow himself pays a visit to Katniss house. He tells her that she better try to calm down the situation while touring the districts on the following victory tour, or else someone she loves will pay.

Beware of slight spoilers:

Katniss and Peeta head out for the Victory tour, looking every bit in love as ever, reinforcing the false view of start-crossed lovers who pulled out those berries in an act of love, rather than rebellion. None of this matters though, as the next Hunger Games is announced as a special 75th Hunger Games. Tradition states that every 25th year, a twist is to be introduced in the Hunger Games. This year, not surprisingly, President Snow has come up with the twist that the former victors have to enter the arena, one girl and one boy from each district, thus throwing Peeta and Kaniss into the Hunger Games round 2.

Meanwhile, it seems as if some districts are rebelling – all though The Capitol is doing their best to silence the news. There are also rumours circulating regarding district 13, which was supposedly completely destroyed as a punishment for the previous attempted rebellion. But what if district 13 still exists?

End of spoilers

There is more, but I don’t want to give too much away. I loved every bit of it though. It was as much of an emotional and action-packed roller-coaster as the first book. Once I started I simply could not let it go. The ending left me aching for more. What a terrific trilogy this is turning out to be, I am truly amazed by the story-telling abilities of Suzanne Collins! If you haven’t read The Hunger Games yet, what are you waiting for? Do it now!

Review: Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

5 Aug

Series: Hunger Games, book #1

Published: October 1st 2008 by Scholastic Press

Details: Hardcover, 374 pages

My rating: 5/5

My summary:

One of the better books I’ve read in recent years. Impossible to put down. All though brutal at times, also sweet, full of warmth and with great characters. The story is so good that I find it hard not rattling on about it to everyone I know. This is simply put a must read!!

See my full review here:

Synopsis:

Life in District 12 isn’t easy for Katniss and her family. Ever since her father died the girl has spent her time saving her mother and little sister Prim from starvation by hunting on forbidden land. But worst of all is reaping day. Once a year the government chooses two children from each of the twelve districts to compete against one another in a live and televised reality show. Twenty-four kids and teens enter, and only one survives.

When Prim’s name is called, Katniss exchanges herself without hesitation to compete alongside the baker’s boy Peeta. To survive in this game you need to win the heart of your audience, and so District 12’s trainers come up with a plan. Why not make it as if Peeta and Katniss were in love with one another? But in a game where only one person can live, Katniss will have to use all her brains, wits, and instincts to determine who to trust and how to outwit the game’s creators.

My thoughts:

Wow, that’s all I can say, really wow! I heard about this book, it was generally people raving about it on various book-blogs and I considered reading it. Still hesitant, because it seemed so brutal and I wasn’t sure if I was up to reading a “lord of the flies”, with kids running around beating each other to death. But as I accidently happened across the book at the local library I decided to give it a shot, and boy am I glad I did!

If I’ve called other books page-turners, I think I’ll have to invent a new meaning for the term, because this was such a page-turner that no force in the universe could have made me put the book down, once I started! It’s a 400+ pages book and I literally read it in one sitting, cancelling all other activities I had planned for the day. The story is so good, that at times I had to stop and just marvel at the turn of events the author had created.

But here I am rattling on..let’s get to the review:

As seen in the synopsis, this is the story about Katniss who in a dystopian future takes the place of her sister in the yearly tournament Hunger Games. The Hunger Games have been created by the Capitol (the government) to ensure the people in the districts are reminded each year how helpless and powerless they are up against the Capitol. This is to prevent the people to rebel, which is something that happened many years ago.

Each year, each district is forced to send two of their kids to fight against their lives in an arena filled with dangers, created by the Capitol. Only one kid is allowed to survive.

Katniss, our heroine is from district 12. Ever since her father died in a mine explosion, and her mother consequently went into a depression, she has been the food supplier of the family, mainly hunting game out in the forbidden woods outside the district.

She is a tough girl, and as a reader you believe and vote for her straight away as someone who actually might make it alive through the games. Complications arise though when the other kid from district 12 is chosen, a boy named Peeta. He seems like such a good boy and well, without saying too much, let me just say I rooted for him pretty much immediately. But only one is allowed to survive, right?

We enter the Hunger Games, and there are some turn of events here that literally had my gasping out loud. Yes, there are 24 kids here, who are to be slaughtered in  a number of ways. Yet, seeing as we are following Katniss, who is not present at most of the deaths, it’s not as cruel as you might think. Instead, as a reader you focus on her, and how she will survive. I don’t like when things get too cruel and dark. Generally, I need some heart and warmth to keep me going in a book. But let me assure you, that despite the cruel premise in this book, there are some real heart-warming moments. That’s what makes it so good.

I really only have one minor criticism, and that is the ending, which clearly needs a follow-up. It’s not exactly a cliff-hanger but you will want to read the next book, Catching Fire, pretty much straight away.

Review: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

5 Aug

Series: The Mortal Instruments, book #3

Published: March 24th 2009 by Margaret K. McElderry

Details: Hardcover 541 pages

My grade: 5/5

My Summary:

WOW!! What a great ending to a mind-blowing series! Yes, not the most original but great writing and amazing characterization! The growth of the characters is palpable – have now come to love them all, Jace, Simon, Clare, Luke, Magnus Bane..and the world of shadowhunters & downworlders. Eagerly anticipating fourth book, City of Fallen Angels, out next year.

My Full Review:

This is the third installment of the Mortal Instruments trilogy. And I’ve just warily started reading it. Warily, because I know that once I’m a few chapters in it will result in a “bye bye social life”. I’ll retreat into the house and will not get out until I’ve finished it. That’s how addicting I predict it to be. Needless to say, I’m a big fan of The Mortal Instruments series.  A fourth book in the series to be released in April next year, City of Fallen Angels. Yay!

Update:

I forced myself to read this over a week, just to savour it as long as possible, all though it was hard, really hard, especially nearing the end. Let me just say, what a great ending to a fantastic trilogy! I know I know.. another book is coming – and will get to follow these characters yet again, all though from Simon’s point of view – but it was meant as a trilogy from the beginning. And you can tell that this was the original end. Everything is wrapped up beautifully in this one.

I thought the two first books were great too, but I felt like this was the best, possibly because I’d grown so attached to characters and the story. Basically, I just I loved it, from start to finish. Yes, it may not be the most original story, but the world-building and the characters, and the witty dialogues, and the heart-pounding romance..it all makes up more than well for the lack of originality. I felt completely transported into to the land of the shadowhunters, Idris, where they travel in this book, to participate in a looming war against Valentine, and frankly, I never wanted to leave. Thank god for that fourth book, I’m just saying.

Ok, so beware of:

SPOILERS———————-SPOILERS—————————–SPOILERS

As I said before, I loved the characters in this book, and the witty dialogues..

– Magnus Bane for one is a brilliant character. I was a bit worried at first that he wouldn’t participate as much in this book as the rest, but I needn’t have to worry, as he shows up pretty soon in Idris.

– Sebastian. I may be blind but I didn’t see this coming. At first I thought it was going to develop into a love triangle between him, Jace and Clary. Then I started to realize that something was up with him, and began pondering that if he is Valentines son, how does Jace fit into all this?

– Jace. My oh my. Of all the characters he is the best. Tortured, strong, vulnerable, sarcastic, romantic, casanova, hero..I mean seriously, I have not come across such a complex character in some time. And the relationship he has with Clary is the core of the book. I just wanted more of them, all the time. Each one of their encounters was so emotional, tense, romantic and fierce that it blew me away each time. Absolutely wonderful!!

Valentine. Wonderfully drawn evil character, who believes, actually believes that he is doing the shadowhunter world a favor. He is that crazy. And I think that somehow he loved Jace, and he definitely loved Jocelyn. He wasn’t always mean. That is what makes him fascinating and more real somehow.

Even though the ending was pretty neatly tied up, there were a few loose ends left hanging. For instance, we know how the angel blood is affecting Clary making her being able to create runes. But Jace, what are his abilities? Apart from being able to move and jump faster and higher than others, we don’t know much about that. Also, Sebastian’s body was never found so expect that to continue in the fourth book. And, the fairy queen tells Clary that she does not know all the secrets of her past, implying this may somehow affect her and Jace. How? Well, I suppose that’s to find out in City of Fallen Angels as well. Can’t wait!!!

Review: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

5 Aug

Series: The Mortal Instruments, book #2

Published: March 25th 2008 by Margaret K. McElderry

Details: Hardcover 453 pages

My grade: 5/5

My Summary:

Ok, so I am officially hooked on the Mortal Instruments series. The more time I spend in this world, the more addicted I get. Great second book, with lots of suspense and plot twists. And did I mention Jace is hot?

Full review:

If you have not read the prequel City of Bones, be aware of some serious spoilers!

City of Ashes is the sequel to City of Bones, which I loved and devoured. Except for possibly that twist at the end which left me utterly devastated. I even hesitated about reading the next book, because if I weren’t to follow the budding romance of Jace and Clary, then what else was there to intrigue me? Or so I thought.

Well, I needn’t have to worry. This second installment is about as good (or even better) than its predecessor! Action-packed with twists and turns, great characters and now a forbidden romance. What else can you ask for, really?

It starts just where City of Bones left off. Life has been pretty turbulent (mildly speaking) for Clary ever since she saw the shadowhunters at the Pandemonium club that night. It turns out her mom is a shadowhunter, her dad is evil and she has a brother she didn’t know about – her love interest Jace!

The one person who could have explained a few things to her – her mom – is in coma, so Clary just has to try to figure out things on her own. For one, she tries a romantic relationship with her best friend Simon, because..well he is available and a possible option (as opposed to Jace). However, after a devastating scene for Simon in a fairy court (and possibly the best scene in the whole book!), things are made pretty clear where Clary’s heart stands.

Meanwhile, Jace is having problems, stemming from the fact that the Clave (the shadowhunter government) are now suspicious of his intentions. As the son of Valentine, they figure he may very well be working as Valentine’s spy. A new inquisitor arrives to investigate the matter, which really make things spiral out of control.

Simon is also struggling with some pretty serious issues, which result in a very dramatic situation half way through the book. I was shocked to say the least! And while all this is happening, Valentine continues planning his revenge on the shadowhunters.

There so much more, but I’m afraid to give away too much info. Suffice to say, this is as action-packed as the first installment. I raced through the pages in a matter of hours, loving every second of it.

What a wonderful series this is turning out to be. If you have not read The Mortal Instruments Series yet, what are you waiting for?? Get your hands on it now! You will not regret it!