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Review: Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins

15 Nov

Series: Hex Hall, book #2

Published: March 22nd 2011 by Hyperion Book CH

Details: Hardcover, 359 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

This sequel is just as enjoyable as its predecessor Hex Hall. Here we follow Sophie as she goes overseas to stay on the English countryside with her father and a few of her friends. New characters are introduced, and it doesn’t take long before she is put into various peculiar situations. Great witty heroine and fun dialogue, but lacking depth to make it really good. A light entertaining albeit slightly forgettable read.

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Synopsis:

Sophie Mercer thought she was a witch.

That was the whole reason she was sent to Hex Hall, a reform school for delinquent Prodigium (aka witches, shapeshifters, and fairies). But that was before she discovered the family secret, and that her hot crush, Archer Cross, is an agent for The Eye, a group bent on wiping Prodigium off the face of the earth.

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My Thoughts:

I didn’t outright love this book. Yet it still exceeded my expectations. You see, I’ve learnt to expect the worst with sequels. And this, my friends, is a sequel which manages to be just as good as its prequel.

A miracle in itself.

What probably saved this one from the dreaded “middle-book-syndrome” was the change of setting. As soon as we enter the story, Sophie is whisked away from the familiar setting of Hex Hall to the castle Thorne Abbey in England, where her father, as well as the rest of the council, is staying.

Immediately we are introduced to a bunch of new characters (Daisy,Nick and Lara), as well as getting to keep some of the familiar faces (vampire BFF Jenna and betrothed Cal). There is the giant mansion Thorne Abbey with its corridors and secrets. And Archer is supposedly lurking somewhere on the English countryside.

My interest was piqued.

Just like in Hex Hall the tone is light and sarcastic and the pace is great. Not once was I bored. There were equal amounts of action sequences, as well as space for some bonding, father-daughter or Sophie-Jenna. Sophie Mercer once again proved what a fun character she is. It felt effortless following her around.

I also loved the snarkiness and wittiness, which reminded me of Cassandra Clare’s in the Mortal Instruments.

Let me give you a few examples:

On Sophie’s dad being British:

“Dad was at his desk when I opened the door, doing what all British people do when they’re freaked out: drinking tea.”

Or when Sophie finds out about the betrothal:

“As I stomped across the school grounds, all I could see was Cal sitting with my dad in some manly room with leather chairs and dead animals on the wall, chomping on cigars as my dad formally signed me away to him. They probably even high-fived.”

Or the snarky remarks between Sophie and Archer:

“Never hurts to be prepared….”
“It just seems like overkill when you already have a sword and I have superpowerful magic at my disposal.”
“‘Superpowerful’? …. Let me remind you of two words, Mercer: Bad. Dog.”

Entertaining indeed.

Yet, just like in Hex Hall, it also lacked depth. All though some terrifying things happened, it never affected me much. I didn’t feel the pain, the loss or the fear of any of the characters. Like I said in my review of Hex Hall, it never goes beyond a light version of Harry Potter. A shame, because the potential is definitely there. Hawkins sure knows how to write.

In this sequel we are also introduced to another one of those dreaded love triangles. Well, dreaded only if forced or superficial, which unfortunately this one is. I would have been perfectly happy with only Archer. God knows there are enough star-crossed problems hanging over them, without an additional problem being added of another guy viewing for Sophie’s attention. It doesn’t help that this other guy hardly talks or shows any emotions. Consequently, I have absolutely no idea of who he is, more than that he is good at healing. Good thing the love triangle was never at the forefront of the story.

The ending was a real cliffie. Practically everyone is in danger. Who has made it and who hasn’t? Well, get the next book to find out!

Urgh, I’ve never been a fan of those ones.

Yet, cliffie or not, since I did enjoy the book overall, I think I’ll have to get my hands on Spellbound when it hits the shelves in March next year. So yep, I have to say I remain intrigued..

Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

6 Nov

Series:Razorland, book #1

Published: April 12th 2011 by Feiwel & Friends

Details: Hardcover, 259 pages

My Rating: 3/5

My Summary:

Great start with a tough heroine in a claustrophobic and grim dystopian world, but that fizzled out in a week plot, with a brooding male romantic interest and a forced love triangle. Be prepared for an abrupt ending. Overall, still a good read, but not as good as it could have been.

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Synopsis:

WELCOME TO THE APOCALYPSE In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups-Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear–to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning.

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My thoughts:

My thoughts regarding this book are nearly identical to Birthmarked. It started out strong with plenty of potential, but half way through the plot simply fizzled out. And so did my interest.

In the opening chapters, we are introduced to the claustrophobic dark tunnels of Deuce’s world. She belongs to the human settlement The Enclave, deep in these tunnels, a society which follows strict rules in order to ensure the settlement’s survival. Child mortality is high and children earn their names only if they manage to survive the first 15 years. On the naming day, each one is categorized into breeders, builders or hunters. Deuce belongs to the latter category, a huntress, whose goal is to protect the settlement from all the zombie-like freaks that roam around the tunnels.

Grim world, to say the least, but very very intriguing.

Deuce is a great heroine, with similarities to Katniss, which may explain the comparisons to Hunger Games on the cover. She is a survivor and a fighter who takes matters into her own hand. Her mind is more practical than sentimental.  She has a tough shell, but doubts and vulnerability exist on the inside, which just makes her that much more endearing.

Fade, the guy she is paired up with to guard the enclave, is an outcast. He was found out in the tunnels by the enclave, and it’s an enigma how he survived by himself that long. He’s quiet but strong and an excellent fighter. I immediately felt Deuce’s curiosity regarding him. In short, I was hooked!

But half way though, something unexpected happens. They leave the enclave. And that’s where it all started to go downhill for me.

They embark on a journey seemingly without plans, where each event that happened seemed rather random. Instead of focusing on the secrets of The Enclave, or why things were the way there were, the plot took a turn into typical YA territory.

Yes folks, I’m talking about that inevitable love triangle! The problem is, I would have been perfectly happy with only Deuce and Fade. The second male interest felt forced, introduced only for the sake of creating some romantic tension.

A shame.

Especially since there was so much potential there in the beginning. I almost wished that Deuce had stayed with The Enclave, despite the hopelessness of that world, since the characters and potential plot was so much stronger there.

By the time it ended I was loosing interest quickly. Good thing it was only 250 pages long, or else it might have got an even lower grade. That said, the ending itself actually lowered the grade, since there was no real closure, just a cessation of words.

Despite all my qualms above, it was still overall a decent read, and I will keep an eye out for the reviews of the next book Outpost, to be released in 2012.

Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

10 Oct

Series: Hex Hall, book #1

Published: March 2nd 2010 by Hyperion Book CH

Details: Hardcover, 323 pages

My Rating:  3.5/5

My Summary:

Light and fun read about Sophie, who after casting a particulary bad spell gets sent to Hex Hall, where she learns one or two things about the magical world and about herself. This is a Harry Potter for girls, with a distinct teen-age feel to it. As a 30+ year old, I found it slightly too immature. Yet because of the witty voice of Sophie, and a good pace, it’s still an entertaining read. Sequel is called Demonglass.

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Synopsis:

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father–an elusive European warlock–only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

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My Thoughts:

I remember saying in my review of A Great and Terrible Beauty that it was described as a Harry Potter for girls.

Well, scratch that. This is the Harry Potter for girls!

Let’s see:

  1. The main character Sophie is sent off to a boarding school for magical folk.
  2. Said school is essentially a pale version of Hogwarts, with ghosts floating around, furniture that change shapes, spooky bathrooms and classes featuring subjects such as The History of Warlocks and Transformation.
  3. Like Harry, Sophie was brought up in the human world, hence is a complete novice when it comes to all things magical.
  4. Like Harry, Sophie is famous in the magical world, given her family status, and I won’t say anymore here due to spoilers.
  5. Like Harry, Sophie is special and has a dark streak to her witch craft, which makes her not only a prime target for evil forces, but also has her doubting her own goodness.
  6. Like Harry, Sophie has a tendancy to get herself into trouble, with pretty much everyone at school, earning her several punishments and detentions.
  7. Like Harry, Sophie find herself an archenemy pretty much straight away.
  8. Like in the Harry Potter books, the plot revolves around students getting attacked at school by a mysterious evil force.

Well, isn’t it obvious where Hawkins got her ideas from? I really felt as if I was reading a girl-version of Harry Potter.

A very light version though, which lacked the depth that made Harry Potter such an engrossing read. You see, the theme dealt with here (as in Harry Potter) is quite dark. A character actually dies in this book. Still, because of the light tone of the book, this event never affected me. I didn’t feel the tragedy that the loss of that character was.

Compare that to my reaction to the fourth Harry Potter book where at the end of the book, a character died. I remembering being shocked, as a heaviness settled on me. I just couldn’t believe it had happened. And I certainly felt the grief of Harry and everyone around him.

Hex Hall could have been all that, but instead settled on being just a light, fun and easy read. Something which I liked, but didn’t devour.

Being a girl-version of Harry Potter, the romantic lead is also obvious, pretty much from the start. The romance (or crush as I prefer to call it)  was cute, but that’s about it. Sophie was a well-rounded character and a fun voice to follow. Archer however, felt a bit too one-dimensional for me. He was hot. He was mysterious. He was every girl’s crush. But then what? I would have liked to know more about him. The ending however promises more, and I have to admit I am curious to see how it develops.

Finally, I should warn the adult readers, that the book has a teen-age feel to it, and at times I felt too old (and rightly so, since I am much older than the target audience). I appreciate that Sophie’s voice felt so close to her age, not one year more or less than her 16 years. So kudos to Hawkins for portraying a teen that realistically. However, for an adult reader, it came across as a bit too immature at times.

In fact, I believe the extent of enjoyment of Hex Hall depends on the reader’s age. Say if you’re a teen or early tween, it will most likely rate 4-5 stars. If you, like me, are 30+, the grade is more likely to end up around a 3.

The sequel is called Demonglass.

Review: Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

8 Oct

Series: Awaken, book #1

Published: May 23rd 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Books

Details: Hardcover, 320 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

Set in a dystopian world, not too far away, where people spend most of their time in front of a computer screen, Maddie meets the charismatic Justin who wants to change the world. I thought this book had an intriguing concept, and the writing was really good. The romance was steamy, all though not very memorable. Overall enjoyable but not great.

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Synopsis:

Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether it’s to go to school or on a date, people don’t venture out of their home. There’s really no need. For the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life—until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her.

Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside her—a feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking.

In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space.

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My thoughts:

Only a few chapters in, I knew that Awaken shared similarities with many other dystopias I’ve read lately, who have put too much focus on a romance, and much too little into an actual plot and a believable world-building.

The signs were there, namely:

  1. Romance with a mysterious Boy – an outcast who wants to change the current world they live in: Check!
  2. Upon meeting the Boy, the Girl who thought she was content with said world, starts to awaken: Check!
  3. Girl and Boy cannot be together in this world because of “insert controlling rule of the Society”: Check!
  4. World-building has an intriguing concept but is not fully realized, i.e. plenty of holes: Check!

Yet, despite including all the points above, Awaken still surprised me by being a fairly entertaining read!

First off, I liked following the thoughts of Maddie, the heroine. She seemed relatable to me, with plenty of insecurities, but also a risk-taker, smart and witty.

Secondly, the writing was easy to get immersed in. And it was filled with all these thought-provoking quotes I constantly felt the need to scribble down, for instance:

“Thoughts are circular, they don’t take you anywhere. They don’t have feet-they can’t gain any ground. They can trap you if you don’t eventually stand up and make a move.”

or

“You need to be content with small steps. That’s all life is. Small steps that you take every day so when you look back down the road it all adds up and you know you covered some distance. It took me a long time to accept that, but it’s true. You need to have patience.””

I was also enjoying the attraction that was slowly building between Maddie and Justin. That said, I had a few issues with Justin. He had that tortured “My life is too dangerous for you/You’re too good for me” thing going on which as you know, is something I’m getting increasingly tired of.

Maddie was also, at times, too obsessed for her own good with Justin, when for instance, she should have been paying attention to other pressing matters, such as an impending escape or her family situation. She usually acknowledged this obsession though, which made me forgive her behaviour. After all, being young and experiencing your first love can make you slightly obsessed.

The world-building was intriguing, seeing as we are really not that far from it today. Aren’t we already talking more through computer screens than face-to-face? But I wished Kacvinsky would have explored the idea further. As it was now, there were too many question marks and inconsistencies to make it truly believable. For instance, it’s said to be dead on the streets, since no people need to commute anymore. But what about all those professions that cannot be done online, such as plumbers, electricians etc. Surely not everyone could stay at home?

It’s also not very clear why the national education system Digital School feels threatened by face-to-face interactions. Nor if those type of meetings are illegal or just very uncommon. I wished this had been made clearer.

The ending felt rushed and contrived, as if an action scene was needed for the climax and something had to be thought up quickly. Thankfully though, no cliff-hanger in sight!

A sequel called Middle Ground is to be released sometime in 2012.

Review: Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien

6 Oct

Series: Birthmarked, book #1

Published: March 30th 2010 by Roaring Brook Press

Details: Hardcover, 362 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

In a dystopian world set approximately 400 years in the future, 16-year old Gaia goes on a rescue mission to save her parents who have been arrested for traitory. It was an overall great read, with an intriguing world-building, good writing and a kick-ass heroine. The plot that at times felt too convenient, and a few holes in the world-building had the grade lowered.

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Synopsis:

In the enclave, your scars will set you apart, and the newly born will change the future.
Sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone and her mother faithfully deliver their quota of three infants every month. But when Gaia’s mother is brutally taken away by the very people she serves, Gaia must question whether the Enclave deserves such loyalty. A stunning adventure brought to life by a memorable heroine, this dystopian debut will have readers racing all the way to the dramatic finish.

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My Full Review:

Birthmarked started out as a 5/5.

It captivated me immediately, and for the first half of the book I had a hard time letting it go. I kept thinking about it all the time, and was dying to get back to reading whenever I was working or doing something else. In other words, all symptoms of it being a 5:er were there. But half way through my interest faded, and it didn’t peak again until just towards the end.

My overall feeling on finishing the book was that the potential was there (which is what I felt in the beginning), but that it failed to fully deliver. A shame.

But let me start with what captured me in the beginning:

The writing and the world-building drew me in so smoothly, that before I knew it, I was completely immersed into the world of Gaia, who lives outside the walls of the Enclave, the governing state. Gaia was a heroine I immediately grew fond of, because of her kick-ass personality. She was brave and tough and fought for what she believed was right.

Early on in the book, we realise that Gaia’s parents have been doing something illegal, which has been put into some sort of undecipherable code. This peaked my interest straight away, as I anticipated the unraveling of said code and secret.

We also meet Captain Grey, one of the Enclave’s tough guards, who may or may not have an interest in Gaia. He reminded me of the fierce Valek in Poison Study, which is a great compliment right there.

In short, you could safely say that my interest had been captured!

What happened next is that Gaia smuggles herself into The Enclave in order to save her parents. However, it was after some time inside The Enclave, that my interest began to fade. The plot started to feel a bit too convenient, like when Gaia needed somewhere to hide, suddenly someone would appear in a doorway and whisk her in. She would get help just about everywhere, and everything would just always solve itself, in the most random and implausible manner. I can take one or two events happening this way, but not throughout an entire novel.

Secondly, the unraveling of the secret wasn’t fully explained. I was wondering why on earth it was such a big deal, what Gaia’s parents did? And seeing as the Enclave had such a problem with inbreeding, why hadn’t they thought of said thing themselves? It seemed odd.

The ending made up for some of the short-comings, as it was action-filled, tensed and made me swoon. It’s no cliff-hanger but slightly open-ended for a sequel to fill the holes.

The sequel Prized, is to be published in November 8th this year.

Review: City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

11 Aug

Series: Mortal Instruments, book #4

Published: April 5th 2011 by Margaret K. McElderry

Details: Hardcover, 424 pages

My Rating: 3/5

My Summary:

I absolutely loved the first three books of MI series, and was thrilled to continue the series. Sadly, it left me disappointed. The plot was all over the place, more problems were thrown at Jace and Clary, and my favorite character Jace turned into an emo. Still ok read because of the great setting and the writing, but nowhere near as good as the first three.

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A few chapters in:

I have finally started reading the fourth installment of the Mortal Instruments. I’m feeling a bit giddy as I dive into this wonderful world of Cassanda Clare’s again. Actually, it’s a mixture of giddiness and nervousness. I’m eager to revisit this world, but also anxious about not messing up that perfect ending that was City of Glass. In particularly when it comes to Jace and Clary.

Nevertheless, I still want to read it. And, it’s on the top of my “what to read next” poll! Thanks to all who voted!!

Okay, so taking a deep breath here, and diving in:

I’m now a few chapters in. Clary’s friend, the vampire Simon is the narrator in this installment, and he is experiencing some problems. Firstly, there are problems of a romantic nature, as he is dating not one, but two girls at the same time: Werewolf Maia and shadowhunter Isabelle, who are bound to find out about each other soon. Then, there is his mom, who is growing increasingly suspicious of his weird habits (such as never eating), and is starting to demand answers.

The biggest problem however is his new status as the untouchable daylighter. That is, not only is he the only vampire who can walk in daylight (hence the nickname daylighter), but since The City of Glass, he is also protected by a rune mark on his forehead.  A rune that Clary gave him in order to save his life. All this makes him a very powerful vampire, and a threat to many others.

A vampire named Camille Belcourt (you may remember her from Clockwork Angel), has realized his potential power, and asks him to join her on her quest to become the leader of the NY vampire clan.

But does Simon really want to become involved in vampire power struggles?

As Simon ponders these issues, we also get a look into the Shadowhunter institute where Clary is now conducting her training to become a full-fledged shadowhunter. She and Jace are as much in love as before, all though Jace has been distancing himself slightly.

Oh no! Don’t give me that again!

But yes, I am definitely sensing troubles on the Clary and Jace horizon. Jace is once again doubting himself, or so I think.

I’ll admit I’m not too happy about that development. BUT, I am loving everything else. The characters, the dialogues, the humour, the vividly described settings are all spot on. And I am certainly feeling the pull..
 
 
 

 
 
 
After finishing the book:

I have a hard time writing this review, hence why it’s taken so long. But I guess I just have to get over it and write the words I’ve been dreading to spell out. I was disappointed.

There, I said it.

I hate to be criticizing my favorite author Cassandra Clare, but I have to be honest and write what I feel, sorry all you fans of the Mortal Instruments Series!

What I feel is that City of Glass was the true end to the series, but as Clare decided to extend the series, she had to quickly come up with a continuation. Consequently, the plot in this installment suffered. It felt forced.

The only part of the plot that was intriguing was the beginning, where Simon is being drawn into the politics of the vampires. I so wish she would have continued on that path.

Sadly, the first intriguing chapters quickly fell into the background, as a number of other irrelevant plot threads took the forefront. There is Simon who is tormented by two-timing his two girlfriends and his desire to drink blood. The new character Kyle is introduced, but does not really bring anything new. There are lots of preparations for a wedding that never actually takes place. Some shadowhunters are also being killed but that all happens off-page. Alec and Magnus are off on some honey-mooney kind of trip and keep sending pictures to the rest of the group. Clary is learning some self-defense. And what not else.

The overall feeling was a plot that felt jumbled, and a bit messy. The POV also changed like there was no tomorrow, and added to my confusion.

However, messy plot aside, what really disappointed me, more than anything else, was the problems Jace and Clary were having.

I had no problems with their issues in the previous books, but City of Glass brought a sense of closure for these two. And having them getting into more problems now felt like a huge step backward. Moreover, the issues they experienced this time around felt forced, as if Clare had to desperately create something to keep the lovers apart (and supposedly keep the readers interested). It was almost as if I could see her thinking: Okay, now the sibling problem is solved, so what do we do now?

She essentially tries to (re)create the romantic tension with the “I don’t deserve you because I’m too dangerous for you” -dilemma, something which is really getting very old. I’m not impressed with Clare trying to implement that here. Not impressed at all.

I also didn’t like that Clary and Jace, after all they had gone through, couldn’t talk about their problems sooner. You’d think they’d be closer to each other than that. It also annoyed me how their characters changed in this book, Jace going all emo on us  and Clary going all whiny about whether Jace loved her or not. I mean come on! In all seriousness, can she really doubt Jace’s love now??

The ending promises more problems regarding the Jace and Clary relationship, and I can only sigh. I so wish Clare had taken a different direction. I wish she had left Clary and Jace alone, and concentrated on Simon and his new adventures instead. Why didn’t she?

Ah well. For the first time ever with a Cassandra Clare book I am actually contemplating whether to read the next book or not. I probably will, just out of pure curiosity but if the end is any indication of where this is going, I am pretty much convinced I will be disappointed again. Damn it Clare, you should have left it where it was!

At least we have her other series to look forward to, which I am truly grateful for. I never thought I’d say this but I am now looking more forward towards The Infernal Devices than The Mortal Instruments Series.

The fifth installment City of Lost Souls to be published in May 2012.

Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

27 Jun

Series: Darkness Rising, Book #1

Published: April 12th 2011 by Harper (HarperCollins), New York

Details: Hardcover, 359 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My summary:

Spin-off series in the same world as The Darkest Powers. Not much happens as we follow Maya, Daniel and Rafe in their small town surroundings, and we are left with more questions than answers. Yet, because of a great setting and characters, it was still an enjoyable read.  Sequel to be published in April 2012.

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A few chapters in:

Next on my reading list, due to my next to read poll (thanks as always to all who voted!!!) is the first book in the new series Darkness Rising by Kelley Armstrong.

This is a companion series to Kelley Armstrong The Darkest Powers, a trilogy I finished only weeks ago, see review here. I also believe this is the series that is partly to blame why the final installment The Reckoning ended in such a rush. You see, I have a feeling Armstrong already had her mind set on this new series, as she was finishing off the other one. Let’s just hope it paid off..

I’m now a few chapters in.

The world in The Gathering is set in the same world as The Darkest Powers, and both series share some secondary characters. The story and the main characters however are completely new.

Our heroine Maya, lives with her adoptive parents in a tiny medical-research community on Vancouver Island. Her adoptive father is a park-warden and so their house is surrounded by natural forest, something with really appeals to Maya who has natural tendency towards the wild, and the animals in particular.

The story starts off quite dramatically when Maya’s best friend mysteriously drowns in a quiet lake. A year later, Maya has still not come to terms with the strange accident. She hangs out with Daniel, the former boyfriend of her dead friend, and goes to school. Overall, life seems fairly ordinary. Apart from the fact that Maya is different, which is most likely connected to her odd paw-print birthmark. But different how, I still don’t know.

And this is as far as I’ve got. But so far, I’m liking it. It’s got the same easy flow as The Darkest Powers series, and it’s easy to get into the story. I have to admit though that I am bit wary as well, seeing as I’m afraid to end up with tons of questions (as in the previous series) and no resolution. Let’s see how it goes!
 
 
 

 
 
 
After finishing the book:

As you know from my prelude above, I was a bit wary when I started reading this new start of a series by Kelley Armstrong. Her last series The Darkest Powers was left with so many open threads that I had a strong feeling this series may end up the same way.

Yet, as I started reading this book, not even two chapters in, I was already forgetting about my initial doubts. I was instantly drawn into Armstrong’s world, with the vividly described setting of the tiny village Salmon Creek with its expansive forests and the well-rounded characters Maya, Rafe and Daniel.

Before I knew it, I had finished the book. And I’m now struggling to retell the plot. Because to be honest, not much happened. I’m going to agree on what so many other readers have commented, that this first installment does not have much of a story, but rather serves as the introduction to a new series. We get hints about what is to happen, but nothing is explained nor resolved.

Yet like I said, I enjoyed reading the book. Which is strange, because I’m usually irritated when the author fails to provide me with any answers, see The Need Series.

I think it has to do with Armstrong’s easy writing style and knack for creating relatable characters. Just like in The Darkest Powers Series, I found myself getting attached to the group of supernatural teenagers, as they all felt so multifaceted and real. I got sucked in because I wanted to know more about them, and learn what supernatural abilities they were hiding.

True to her form, Armstrong also included another love triangle, with the protagonist choosing between a bad boy and the nice friend. Judging from this book, it seems as if she’ll pick the bad boy, but who knows?

The ending was more of a “to be continued” than a proper ending, which I’m learning is another one of Armstrong’s trademarks. I mean, none of the books in The Darkest Powers series had a proper ending (including the last installment!).

Consequently, I’ll say that despite being an enjoyable read, I would recommend you to read this book after that the sequel has been published. Or you might even want to wait until the whole trilogy is out on the shelves. I’m thinking about doing the latter myself.

The sequel The Calling to be published in April 2012.

Review: The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong

3 Jun

Series: Darkest Powers, book #3

Published: April 6th 2010 by Orbit

Details: Paperback, 400 pages

My Rating: 3/5

My Summary:

Final conclusion to Darkest Powers Series. Chloe and Co. has now got help from friends of Simon’s dad, but can they trust them? I loved the fast-paced read and watching the romance unfold, but was disappointed with the end. So many threads were left hanging that it felt more like a middle book than the end to a trilogy. All in all good, but not great.

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A few chapters in:

It’s been some time since I read the other two books in the trilogy Darkest Powers and while I can’t say I remember everything about the plot (the details are a bit fuzzy), I do remember that I liked the books. Well enough to want to get this final installment.

A quick check on GoodReads (currently4.3) tells me that it has received great praise, so I’m probably in for an exciting conclusion to the series! Looking forward to get some answers to my questions, and of course to see who Chloe ends up with, whether that be Simon or Derek?

So I’m now a few chapters in. As you may recall, in the end of The Awakening, Chloe and her friends (Simon, Derek and Tori) found themselves saved from the Edison Group ambush by Andrew, who is Simon’s dad’s friend.

In the opening of The Reckoning, we find them at a place where Andrew has taken them, so that they can rest and regroup. And rest is exactly what they need. Being on the run has (not surprisingly) put a strain on everyone.

There is not much time to relax though. They need to save Chloe’s aunt and Rachelle who they left behind at the lab of the Edison Group. The next morning, Andrew invites over a few members of a resistance group, which was apparently formed by ex-colleagues of The Edison Group when they opposed the way The Edison Group treated their subjects.

So who are the Edison Group?

Well, I haven’t got all the details together just yet, but they appear to be a group of people who offered to help supernatural kids (witches, necros, werewolves and the like) who had problems controlling their powers. Their solution to the problem (genetic modification) didn’t turn out so well though. And when supernatural kids weren’t behaving the way they were supposed to, they were locked in or even worse, killed.

Problem is, this resistance group seems to be doubting Chloe and her friend’s story about what happened, and consequently don’t want to act straight away. Which is worrying, because what will happened to Aunt Lauren and Rachelle if they wait too long?

And this is as far as I’ve got. At this stage, I’m feeling that it is about as good as the first two books, a great and fast paced read. And of course, there is Derek, who I have a soft spot for.

 

 

 

 

After finishing the book:

I’ve now finished this last installment of The Darkest Powers Trilogy, which turned out to be as enjoyable to read as the two previous books. That is, until I reached the end, which left me very disappointed.

But let’s first talk about what was good.

The pace, the writing, the characters. Just like in the two previous books The Summoning and The Awakening, I though the story flowed really well. Not much happens in this installment, apart from the final chapters. Chloe and her friends essentially spend all their time in Andrew’s house. Yet, somehow, I never got bored. I had grown attached to the characters, and it was interesting to see them further exploring their powers.

About half way through though, my feelings towards to book started to change.

Why?

Well, my first reason for disappointment was, believe it or not, the romance. Don’t get me wrong, I love the romance that has been slowly (on emphasis on slowly!) growing throughout this series. In the final installment Chloe finally realizes who of the brothers (Simon or Derek) she wants to be with. But when something finally happens, it just felt a bit anticlimactic. Like, oh okay, that’s it?

I expected the guy to fight it more, given what he has thought about himself in the past. And I expected more conversations to take place between the two of them, of what this really meant for them. But no, it was more like, one kiss, and now we’re together.

After the romance having been “cleared up”, it was time to solve the whole situation with the Edison Group. And the final chapters end with a big bang in their headquarters, supposedly providing us with a resolution to the entire series.

Or so I thought. After finishing the book, I realized that nothing was actually solved. No questions were answered. In fact, it left me so perplexed, that I had to double-check if there weren’t more books planned in the series. Because it certainly felt that way. The Reckoning is definitely more of a middle book than the final conclusion to a series.

Let me give you a few examples of open threads that were left hanging (be aware of slight spoilers):

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1) Chloe’s necklace. What was up with that? I was expecting all throughout the series to get an explanation, but alas, none came.

2) Chloe’s mom. She surfaces as a ghost, and it’s clear that she has secrets to tell, yet we never get to hear them.

3) The group behind the Edison Group. They show up in the final pages, yet we never find out who they are.

4) Tori’s parentage. This was never explored either.

5) Rae. Are we to just believe Rae’s mom appeared out of the blue and kidnapped her from a highly secured cell in The Edison Group head quarters?

~~~

Well, there’s more but you get my drift. I also had a problem in the ending with all the people getting killed. It suddenly seemed unlikely that they would spare the kids (Chloe and friends), if they could so ruthlessly kill off each other. I mean, these kids were obviously a huge problem to these people. Why not just kill them and be done with it? It just did not make sense to keep them in that house for weeks on end, if they had no scruples about killing people.

To cut a long story short, yeah I was disappointed. It felt like Armstrong was writing this great series, then got tired and decided to finish it off, as quickly as humanly possible. Hence, the ending felt rushed, it required a huge “suspense of disbelief” and left far too many important plot threads hanging in the air.

I’m still glad I read the series, as I thought it was enjoyable overall. If you are reading it though, consider yourself warned as this final conclusion does not deliver.

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

31 May

 Series: Across the Universe, book # 1

Published:  January 11th 2011 by Razorbill

Details: Hardcover, 398 pages

My Rating: 3/5

My Summary:

Amy wakes up on a space ship 50 years early of landing because someone unplugged her frozen box. At the space ship she soon realizes something is wrong with the way things are run. Her only ally seems to be Elder, who is born to be the new leader of the ship. This book was a bit too slow-going for me, and lacked in characterisation. I did enjoy parts of it though, because of the world building and the interesting ideas that were brought up. I may or may not read the sequel A Million Suns.

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A few chapters in:

The next book to top the poll of what book to read next is Across the Universe by Beth Revis. Once again, thank you all for voting, I really appreciate it!

This is a book that created quite a buzz when it was released a few months back, I’m guessing partly because of its originality (I mean, romance on a space ship?), and partly because of its stunning book cover.

I’m now a few chapters in. Amy and her parents have agreed to be shipped into space (preserved in ice), in order to wake up a few hundred years later for the arrival on a new planet.

It took me quite a few chapters though to just piece that bit of information together.

You see, the beginning is confusing. As a reader you jump right into the complex sci-fi world Revis has created, with tubes, blue-sparkling liquids and weird ice coffins. As soon as I started to grasp what was going on (more or less), the story forwarded a few hundred years into time and I found myself on the space ship, with feeder and keeper levels, gravitation tubes and biometric scanners.

My confusion was total. I felt a bit like I did when I started reading The Host  (Stephanie Meyers’ sci-fi novel), which also required a bit of concentration at the start. But just like in The Host, it all started to make sense after a while.

At the spaceship we follow Elder, who is a teenage boy, born to be a leader of the 2000 or so people who live on the ship. He is in training with the current leader “The Eldest”, but is generally just feeling lonely and left out of all the important stuff.

One day, someone unplugs one of the ice coffins in the basement of the ship. And that’s how Amy wakes up, 50 years or so early of the destination. Who unplugged her and why?

And this is as far as I’ve got, but I think I’m liking it. It’s a bit slow-going and has a melancholic feel to the story. Yet I’m intrigued by the intricate world-building Ravis as created and of course by the romance that’s bound to happen between Amy and Elder.

 

 
 

After finishing the book:

I finished the book last night, and I’m sad to say that I wasn’t thrilled by this one. I’m wondering now if it was because I was expecting something else from it (romance in space) or because the story just wasn’t captivating enough. Maybe a combination of the two?

There were parts of it that I liked though. The premise was interesting and I kept turning pages to find out what was going to be revealed of the world on that space ship. It was also very well written, so that I literally felt like I was on board myself.

Moreover, I liked the interesting ideas that were introduced on how one could survive in an enclosed space for generations and what actions are necessary to ensure the survival of such a society. Come to think of it, Across the Universe also dealt with the same ideas as in The Uglies Series, that is; how much damage are you allowed to cause for the sake of the greater good?  In Uglies, the authorities “solve” the problems of the society in much the same way as in Across the Universe. In both books I turned pages to find out more of the hidden truths that I knew were there.

Only, I enjoyed Uglies so much more.

Uglies had a sense of a great urgency and a quicker pace, that made me race through the pages. Across the Universe on the other hand, trotted along quite slowly. Now, I don’t mind slow-going, as long as it is enjoyable to read, usually due to great characters (see Unearthly). The problem here though was that it was slow-going AND lacked great main characters.

When you think about it, it’s strange that I didn’t connect with Amy and Elder, as they both had their own POV. But despite reading quite a lot of their inner thoughts, I never felt like I truly cared. Most importantly, I failed to see the connection the main characters Amy and Elder supposedly shared. Amy is mostly feeling upset all the time (from having woken up 50 years before her parents), and treats Elder as just another guy. Elder goes out of his way to support Amy, and I couldn’t fathom why he was that besotted with her – more than that he thought her unusual red hair was pretty. In fact the two of them hardly had any moments together where I felt like they connected. It was more like: “we’re the only two young people here, hence we have no other option than to stick together”.

My other main issue was that by the time the mystery was revealed, I had already guessed it. As I’m not usually a person who figure out mysteries before time, I think it’s safe too say that there were too many obvious hints pointing towards the conclusion.

Finally, the ending left me disappointed. Now, how do I say this without being spoilery? Let me just say that I wasn’t happy with the way things ended for a few of the characters. I thought all of these people were interesting, each in their own way, and I had hopes that they would provide something interesting (ideas, complications etc ) before they were dismissed.

In short, I felt that the ending was too simplistic, too black and white and too obvious. It felt rushed as if the author just wanted to get it over and done with. Given the intriguing premise, it therefore left me underwhelmed.

The question is now: Will I read the next book?

Maybe. I’m sort of curious to see what happens next, but certainly not dying to know. The sequel A Million Suns to be published sometime next year.

Review: Glimmerglass by Jenna Black

7 May

Series: Faeriewalker, book #1

Published: May 25th 2010 by St. Martin’s Griffin

Details: Paperback, 294 pages

My Rating: 3/5

My Summary:

About Dana, who runs away from her alcoholic human mother, to stay with her faery father. She soon realizes that she has a unique ability that makes her a great threat to the people in power. In other words, she is in danger. This book starts out great, then started sagging in the middle with fuzzily explained motives and political faery intrigues. Great secondary characters though. I may read the sequel Shadowspell.

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A few chapters in:

I usually don’t pay much attention to beautiful book covers, because to me they are nothing more than just that.. book covers, and hence no proof whether the content is good or not.

However, last week I think an exception occurred. I passed through a book store, and somehow ended up walking out with Glimmerglass in my hand, even though I had no idea what it was about (apart from the obvious faery theme), nor did I know if it had received good reviews.

Then what happened?

Well, a gorgeous book cover lured me in. That’s what happened!

I have checked a few reviews now, which hasn’t really helped as they are all quite mixed. So, let’s just hope for the best now, shall we?

I’m a few chapters in and at least I am intrigued by the opening of the book, which is a good sign.

Dana, our 16-year old heroine is tired of living and taking care of her drunken mom, and so she decides to go and live with her dad instead. The thing is, her dad is a faery, and he lives in Avalon which is the only town in the world where faeries and humans can co-exist, a kind of border if you like to the fairy world. So Dana jumps on a plane to head over there.

She barely touches ground before she gets into trouble. Instead of her dad meeting her, she’s picked up by her aunt Grace who locks her into her home claiming it’s for Dana’s own protection.

And weirder it gets, when in the middle of the night she gets kidnapped from her aunt’s cell by two stranger teenager sibling faeries, and taken to an underground get-to-together.

The kidnappers don’t seem to be the bad guys though. Kimber and Ethan as they’re called, explain to Dana that her aunt Grace was holding her imprisoned for selfish political reasons. It appears as if Avalon is getting closer to an important election, and both Dana’s aunt and dad are fighting for the throne.

It’s believed that Dana has some kind of power that could cement the victory, which is why aunt Grace thought it necessary to keep her locked away. However, what exactly that power is, remains a mystery.

And that is as far as I’ve got. But like I said, I’m intrigued. The start promises a great world-building, as we dive into Avalon and the land of fairies with unseelie and seelie courts, monsters and a cute faery healer (Ethan). 

 

 

After finishing the book:

So, I just finished Glimmerglass and I wish I could say it was as great as the cover promised..

But unfortunately, I can’t. Because this book was just okay.

As seen above, we literally get thrown into the story as Dana goes to live with her dad in the gate town of the faery land , also know as Avalon. She immediately gets into trouble, is kidnapped a number of times by various people, faces monsters and meets a cute fairy. In other words, so far I was really enjoying it and I felt confident it was heading towards at least a 4/5.

Then gradually, starting from somewhere in the middle when Dana finally finds her dad, my interest started to fade, and I’m having troubles putting my finger on exactly why.

I have a couple of theories though:

First of all, the pace and the thread of the plot halted once Dana found her dad. Up until that point, it had been an exciting ride to follow Dana as she was searching for her dad in an unknown country filled with dangers and strange faery people. When she did find her dad, everything halted. Because what now?

As Dana was now safely tucked into her dad’s place, the plot took a political direction with Dana’s dad heading off to various political meetings to try to sort out how to protect Dana the best. Whenever action was needed there would be a random attack on Dana, then once again she would be moved to a protected place and more political meetings followed. In short, the plot suddenly felt random, rather than well-thought.

However, all this (political stuff) would have been okay if only I had understood better why Dana was in such mortal danger.  

It is explained that the reason why everyone is after Dana is because she is a faery walker, and while I understand the idea (someone who can walk in both worlds – faery and human), the reasons why that made her such an incredible threat were quite vague. I mean true, the last faery walker was apparently no angel, and yes I do get that Dana can bring dangerous technology into the faery world, as well as magic into the human world. Yet, I still don’t get how that makes her a huge threat to everyone, so much that she can potentially cement a victory for anyone who allies themselves with her.

And while speaking about fuzziness, I thought the world-building was a bit fuzzily drawn too. Especially this whole thing  with fairies not being able to enter the human world and vice versa. Why was that? And what about Avalon? Why could both species co-exist there? I would have loved to get a better feel for Avalon and what made  that place so unique. As it was now, I had a hard time picturing the place in my mind.

I also didn’t quite get all the political stuff. It’s explained that a fairy consul is to be appointed soon which is creating quite a stir, but I had a hard time connecting this bit of information to Dana’s story. True, tension ran a bit higher than usual in Avalon, but how is Dana being a fairy walker helping a consul to get elected? By bringing technology into the fairy land or what?

Or maybe I’m asking too much from the start of a series?

I just don’t know. All I know is that I like to feel immersed into a world, and while the glimpses that I got from this faery world (water witches, knights, seelie courts etc) were intriguing, never did I feel completely immersed. I think simply because the glimpses that I got were too few.

Lastly, I felt that the villain in the end was drawn a bit too black-and white for me. I like my villains to be multi-dimensional with a well motivated agenda rather than just “I’m evil and this is what evil people do”. The villain in this book definitely fit the latter category. 

However, as much as it sounds like I’m bashing the book now, I did give it a 3/5 for a reason.

Essentially, what saved it from a lower grade, was the characters, combined with the glimpses of the fairy world that we got. In fact, I liked pretty much all of the secondary characters; Dana’s stern and blunt dad, the secret-police look-alike Finn and his rebellious goth son, the insecure Kimberly and the womanizer Ethan.

Strangely enough the heroine Dana was the character I felt the least for, or rather, she was just okay.  In fact, she felt like any other teen-ager, with her rebellious acts against her father, insecurities and pouting around. In other words, not particularly strong, but she may experience growth in the following books.

Which leads me to: Will I read the following books?

To be honest, I don’t know. The sequel Shadowspell is already out on the shelves, and the third installment is to be released this summer. Judging by the reviews of Shadowspell, there is some improvement to the series, so I might give it a go. But it won’t happen anytime soon.

Review: Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

12 Apr

Series: No, stand-alone

Published: September 7th 1999 by Laurel Leaf

Details: Paperback, 264 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

Stand-alone book about a werewolf girl who falls in love with a human boy. Or so I thought. It ends up being about so much more. First half of the book left me unimpressed, as the romance was dull and I couldn’t relate to the main character. But as I read more, it changed, and in the end I loved it! So all in all, a good book.

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A few chapters in:

This is another one of those pre-twilight books that I’ve heard is good.

With pre-twilight I mean paranormal young adult romance published before the Twilight Phenomenon. The first one that captured my attention was Old Magic by Marianne Curley, which despite its many rave reviews (from which age group I’m now wondering?) turned out to be.. well.. not so good.

I’m hoping that Blood and Chocolate will prove to be better, as in aimed not solely at 14 year-old teens (which seemed to be the case with Old Magic). Hence, it’s with a slightly wary feeling that I approach this book.

I’m now a few chapters in. The lead character Vivian is a werewolf. She’s part of a pack of werewolves who, following a terrible fire at their last residence, have been moving around ever since. The restlessness of not having a new place to live combined with the absence of a good leader is making the pack falling apart. In short, we’re meeting a pack in shambles.

Meanwhile Vivian, like any other teenage girl, goes to school. She is, and has always been an outcast in school, a fact that has never really bothered her..until now. In order to pass her free time, she creates arty pictures of her werewolf life, which is published in the school magazine.

One day she discovers that a poem written by some guy named Aiden is accompanying one of her published pictures, a poem that vividly describes the experience of being a werewolf. The fact that Aiden is human, and should know nothing about werewolves, peaks Vivian’s curiosity.

So much in fact, that she decides to contact him, which in turn leads to accepting his proposition to go on a date.

And this is as far as I’ve got. Vivian’s mom has just banned their planned date, because according to the pack, humans and werewolves just don’t mix. I think we can safely assume that Vivian is going to meet Aiden anyway…

 

 

After finishing the book:

Ok, I’ve finished the book and my first thought is this:

Thank god I am a stubborn reader.

Because, if I hadn’t been, I would have quit mid way through. No doubt about that. That first half dragged so much that I almost chastised myself for continuing.

Then somewhere after those first 150 or so pages, I gradually started to care, and before I knew it I was truly engaged in the story, so much that I would have given it a 4, hadn’t it been for the slow unimpressive start.

As for the plot, Blood and Chocolate opens with a setting we are quite familiar with now in the YA paranormal romance genre. A mythical creature (werewolf Vivian) falls in love with a human boy (Aiden) and the pack of mythical creatures (werewolves) do not approve.

Because of such a similar opening to other books I’ve read lately, I think I was expecting a different kind of story than it was. For one, I was expecting the love story between Vivian and Aiden to have been more captivating. I was expecting to watch them fall in love and then see them struggling against the problems that were sure to follow their star-crossed relationship.

So imagine my surprise when I watched Vivian head out on her first date with Aiden, I turned the page and next thing I read was a recap about how they’d now been together for a while. Say what?? No details, barely no conversations, nor explanations of what happened, or why they connected or anything. They saw each other at school, went out on a date (which wasn’t even described) and now that was it, they were a couple!

A lot of make out sessions followed, and I remained clueless of who Aiden was, nor was I very fond of Vivian as I couldn’t grasp her personality, more than that she was quite sure of herself when it came to guys. Meanwhile, we got to follow the pack as they struggled through some problems. Which didn’t help, because I failed to find anything engaging in any of the characters of the pack. In fact, they all seemed quite aggressive, volatile and egoistic, including Vivian’s mom who must be about the worst mom ever portrayed in YA literature. Well, that might not be true (I just recalled Janie’s mom in Wake), but you get my point.

And so that’s how it went on for a large chunk of the book. Needless to say, I struggled.

Then suddenly, it took an unexpected turn, and my interest was awakened ever so slightly, because what was going to happen now? I suddenly found myself having no idea.

Gradually, things started to spiral out of control and in the meantime I found myself caring for Vivian. She no longer seemed so sure of herself, and her thoughts started to make sense to me.  Some of the others in the pack started to stand out as well, in particularly one other person. If you’ve read the book, you know who I’m talking about.

At the end, I could not let go of the book. I really couldn’t. I think I read the last couple of chapters in one heart beat. So yep folks, this is something as unusual as a book that starts on a 2/5 and ends in a 4. How often does that happen?

Problem is now, could I really recommend a book with such a rocky start? Having read the full story now, I’ve almost forgotten how uninterested I was at first. In fact, I think that if I read it again, now that it all makes sense, I would probably enjoy this story so much more.

Finally, I’d say that if you like unpredictable books with a slightly darker tone (yet still hopeful) then yes, I do recommend you to read Blood and Chocolate. Just be prepared for a slow start, that’s all.

Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

17 Mar

Series: Hunger Games, book 3

Published:  August 24th 2010 by Scholastic Press

Details:  Hardcover, 390 pages

My Rating: 3.5 / 5

My Summary:

In this final installment of the much acclaimed Hunger Games Trilogy, Katniss finds herself in the middle of a civil war in Panem. It turns out that district 13 exists, and they are bent on destroying Capitol. I loved the two previous books, but found this one to be a little bit too much on the darker side for me. Still a good book, which I recommend anyone who is following this series to read. Just be prepared for a somewhat painful ride, that´s all.

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A few chapters in:

I must be the last person on earth to read this last installment of the Hunger Games Trilogy. At least, that´s how it feels. Its two predecessors took me by storm, and I was anxious to read this final part, yet other books came in between – well you know how it is.

Anyway, here I am, finally about to read the final part of Katniss’s story! I have managed to avoid reading any reviews and so I have no idea of the content – not a small feat considering the endless stream of reviews that have been flooding the web ever since its release in August last year.

What I couldn’t escape noticing however was the general opinion of the book, which seems to be quite a bit lower than the other two. Why that is I have no idea. Time to find out:

This final book continues just after Catching Fire left off. Plutarch, the head of the Hunger Games, has been collaborating with the rebellions, and managed to save Katniss from the arena just as it exploded. Other tributes like Finnick and Betee were also saved, while others such as Peeta, were captured by the Capitol.

As Katniss recovers from her injuries in the hospital of district 13 – the headquarters of the rebels – she becomes aware of how far the country has got into a full-on civil war. The first and biggest shock is that the Capitol bombarded the entire district 12 – killing all the habitants – save from a few thousand that managed to escape to district 13.

The second biggest shock of course is that President Snow has got Peeta, and the realisation that Peeta may very well be dead – or if not – under ongoing torture.

It’s a grim world to wake up to – and I understand when Katniss feels the desire to hide in the oblivious clouds of the morphine provided to her at the hospital. Nevertheless, the world is calling her. The rebels did save her for a reason. And they need her as their Mockingjay- the symbol of the rebellion.

After some hesitation, Katniss decides to play along with the rebels, and accepts the various missions they have in store for her – essentially various tv promos to promote the cause of the rebels.

And this is as far as I’ve got, but so far so good.


 

After finishing the book:

Ok, so I finished it last night. And I’m having troubles collecting my thoughts.

So let’s start with the most important question: was it as good as the first two books?

No, it wasn’t.

There, I said it. I still liked it, and I recommend anyone who has read the Hunger Games and Catching Fire to go for it. Just don’t expect the same thrilling ride provided in its predecessors, that’s all.

But let’s start with what was good:

First of all – the extended world-building. Collins knows her world well, there is no denying that.

In this final book, we are provided with explanations to what happened during the dark years. We are given the background story behind district 13 and how it was able to escape the Capitol and become self-sufficient. In short, many more details are provided to give you a clearer picture of Panem and its history, as well as the workings of the current civil-war. All this was really intriguing.

What I loved as well was how she (Collins) manages to make it all so realistic. There is a civil war going on and there is nothing heroic about that. War in any form is pain and misery which is described really well here. Even though the Capitol are the bad guys, the rebels are no angles either – as shown in one episode involving Katniss’s preparation team. It is also illustrated how difficult it is to stay sane in a war – to not become as evil as your enemy, especially if influenced by revenge, as in a scene involving Gale and some minors in district 2.

And what is to happen if the rebels win the war? Will the new leader provide a better example than president Snow? As in real life, there are no guarantees. Nothing is black and white. And this is precisely what I like with Collins. Despite its dystopian setting, it all felt so very real!

Yet, the harsh reality of a war provided here made it a very grim book to read. A bit too grim even.

You see, as you may recall from my review of the Hunger Games, I need some light and warmth in a book in order to really devour it. There can be darkness and cruelty, as long as there is some heart and warmth as well. What made Hunger Games so good was that despite its cruel premise, warmth was also present as well.

In this installment however, the darkness was overwhelming. Apart from a few heart-warming moments (usually involving Finnick or Prim), everything was just so sad and dark that it was downright painful to read.

Moreover, our heroine Katniss is crumbling, physically and mentally (understandably of course considering everything she´s gone through) but it made it a painful read to follow her. It reminded me of following Tally on her aventures through the Uglies Series, where it towards the third book Specials turned from exciting to painful to read , simply because Tally was falling apart.

I also found that this installment had a much slower pace. While the other two books provided a non-stop fast-paced tempo, Mockingjay provided more time for reflection. There were a lot of flashbacks towards the other two books, and Katniss spent time reflecting over things that mattered, and how she became the Mockingjay and what that meant – for her and for the rebellion.

This is certainly not a bad thing as it provided a better insight of the course of events of this series. Yet, because of it, quite a few chapters in the middle of the book got a bit repetitious. Apart from the promos Katniss would make combined with the occasional stay at the hospital, the plot did not seem to move forward for a large chunk of the book.

The final reason why this book did not resonate with me as much as the other two was the absent Peeta. I didn’t realise how much Peeta meant to me in this series before he was taken away, as a prisoner of the Capitol. I devoured the moments he and Katniss had in the previous two books. Peeta to me was the reasonable voice, the heart and warmth of the series, the much-needed support to Katniss. Without him, the story lost a bit of its magic.

The Bottom Line

In short, this was a good solid final installment. Yet I had no problems putting the book down for a few days and it didn´t provoke any gasping out loud moments, nor tears.

In other words, it was good – but not great.

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.

Review: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

31 Dec

Series: The Wolves of Mercy Falls, book #2

Published:  July 13th 2010 by Scholastic Press

Details: Hardcover, 362 pages

My rating: 3/5

My summary:

A continuation of Sam and Grace from Shiver. Sam is now cured, but as spring approaches Grace starts feeling unwell. While beautifully written, the pacing in this book is off and I’m still not connecting with Sam and Grace. I did however like the new addition Cole. Overall, okay read. Third installment Forever to hit the shelves next summer.

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A few chapters in:

If you’ve read my review of the first installment Shiver you might know that I didn’t outright love that book. I thought I was going to devour it, as the story seemed to be right up my alley with an Edward-Bella type of a romantic couple set in a paranormal environment (with werewolves instead of vampires). Problem was, Sam and Grace did not resonate with me in the same way that Edward and Bella did. Why? I don’t know. I just know that I didn’t care for them as much as I should have.

That said, it was beautifully written, with an intriguing and original plot that included well-rounded secondary characters (Isabel especially), and so I always knew I wanted to return to the wolves of Mercy Falls. The question was only when.

Well, the time has now come to delve into the sequel, and I’m already a few chapters in. Some time has passed since we left them in Shiver. It’s still winter but there are early signs of spring. Like in Shiver, there are alternating POV’s. This time however, two more POV’s have been added apart from Sam and Grace, namely Isabel and a new character Cole. Cole is one of the new werewolves that Beck recruited just before changing to a werewolf himself, presumably for the last time. Consequently, we don’t know much about Cole, except for the fact that for some reason he must have willingly agreed to become a werewolf, or else Beck wouldn’t have recruited him.

As the spring approaches, so does the time when Cole and the other new werewolves will shift back to their human forms. Sam, who is now amazingly cured, is waiting for them, hoping that their transition will go well. Meanwhile, Grace is struggling with headaches and a hot temperature. Something is not quite right, which is most likely stemming from when she was bitten all those years ago. Why that should surface now, I don’t know, but I’m sure there is an explanation.

I’ve just got to the point now where Isabel and Cole meet. And let me just say, that this is starting to get really interesting. If their first meeting (where sparks literally fly) is any indication of the rest of the book, I’m guessing I might just devour this sequel, the way I never did with Shiver. Let’s hope so!

 


 

After finishing the book:

Well, I’ve finished it. And I’m sorry to say, just like with Shiver I felt it was lacking. I was momentarily gripped when Isabelle and Cole met, but as that relationship sort of fizzled out, my interest in the book did too.

Mostly my problem with Linger (as well as Shiver) is my inability to connect with the lead romantic couple Sam and Grace.  This is a very subjective thing I know. But given the fact that it doesn’t take much for me to swoon over romantic couples (Bella & Edward, Cabel & Janie, Jace & Clary, Valek & Yelena) to name a few, it is quite strange how when I read about Sam tossing and turning in bed because he misses Grace so much, my reaction is: yawn. Why is that?

It may be because I’m missing sparks and passion. I don’t for a minute doubt that they love each other very much, but it’s all so careful, quiet and lovey-dovey. Which, once again, some might like to read about, but I need something with a little more life in it. That’s why I loved the new addition of Cole, because he brought some life and sparks to the story, that previously only Isabelle had provided.

My other main reason for yawning my way through this book was the non-existent plot. Already in the first couple of pages, we get a hint of what is to happen to Grace. Yet it takes all of the 400 pages to get there. And in between? Not so much, really. Cole’s background story is told, and there is the friction between Grace’s parents and Sam. But other than that, it felt like I read about all the four of them basically going on about their life, doing mundane things like calling each other, turning a pillow in a bed, driving their car, looking at the wolves, pondering and questioning and worrying.

It helps of course that these mundane events are told in the words of Maggie Stiefvater, who can make a trip to the bathroom sound like poetry. She is extremely good with words, there is no denying that. Unfortunately though, no amount of beautifully phrased prose can save a non-existent plot (in my view).

I have to say though that the ending was quite spectacular. I loved how Cole stepped up to the plate when it really mattered (Cole’s my man!), and the whole explanation behind the werewolf curse was interesting as well.

Did those last 10 pages make up for the rest? Not really. But a good ending always leaves you intrigued, and so I may actually pick up the third installment Forever, to be released next summer.

Review: Glass Houses by Rachel Caine

24 Dec

Series: Morganville Vampires, book #1

Published October 3rd 2006 by NAL Jam

Details: Paperback, 248 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

First book in a series of 12. About Claire who moves to Morganville, Texas as a freshman in college and befriends the older teens Shane, Eve and Michael. Soon the sinister secret of Morganville is revealed – the town is ruled by vampires.  And Claire and her friends find themselves in the midst of it all. This is a fun page-turner, with non-stop action, and a little bit of romance. Not enough character depth and a cliff-hanger-ending drags grade down. Sequel is called The Dead Girls’ Dance.

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A few chapters in:

After reading Twilight, I did what many others did. I went on the hunt for other similar vampire series. Numerous Twilight-reading-lists and recommendations later, I had gathered the following information:

There are two young adult vampire series out there worth getting into (for a 30-year-old), both having earned a huge fan-base and great reviews: The Vampire Academy and The Morganville Vampires. Problem with the latter was that at the time I was craving a vampire story a la Cullens i.e. nice vampires who refrained from killing humans. Not the case with the Morganville Vampires whose vampires are..well not exactly the good guys. Hence,  the book ended up on my TBR pile and there it was, forgotten, while I plowed through one young adult series after another reading about pretty much every mythical creature out there except vampires (sirens, shapeshifters, werewolves, fallen angels, fairies, demons, ghosts and the list goes on..).

Now, almost a year later, I feel I’m ready to delve into another vampire series where (gasp!) they are actually the evil guys. Not only ready, I’m looking forward to it! Time has come for the Morganville Vampires.

I’m now a few chapters in. Brainy and studious Claire is just starting classes at the Texas Prairie University in Morganville, Texas as a freshman, at only 16 years of age. Problem is, this doesn’t sit well with other students, in particular a certain Monica, leader of a terrifying girl gang.

During a scary encounter in the dorm with them, Claire is pushed down a flight of stairs. Feeling lonely and badly bruised she decides to try to find somewhere else to stay, seeing as her dorm no longer seems like a safe alternative.

Following an add in the paper, she finds a room in a house in downtown Morganville, to share with the group of older teens Eve, Shane and Michael. Through them she soon learns that there are things out there far more scarier than Monica and her gang of girls.

It turns out Morganville carries a rather sinister secret. The town is run by vampires, who operate like a type of mafia. You’re either with them and get protection or you’re not, meaning there is a high possibility you’ll end up as one of many strange disappearances.  Claire is having a hard time at first believing in the existence of vamps (who wouldn’t) but as the days go by, she reluctantly grows to accept it as the only plausible explanation to all the strange happenings around there .

And this is as far as I’ve got, but I’m already feeling the pull. I’ve got the same excited feeling as when I started reading the Mortal Instruments series. Claire (as well as Clary) is an ordinary girl who teams up with a cool group of older teens and friends, to explore a supernatural world she had no idea existed. As in the City of Bones I’m immediately warming to the characters, in this case Claire, Eve, Shane and Michael, and I’m feeling really curious to see what will happen next. In short, I’ve got a good feeling about this series.

 

 

 

 

After finishing the book:

I’ve just finished the book and I liked it. It’s a great fun page-turner and a good start to a series.

It had everything you’d want in a paranormal fiction series. Intriguing world-building, friendship, romance and of course lots and lots of action. I loved the latter of course seeing as that was one of the reasons why I kept turning pages. Yet, the non-stop action overshadowed character development, which is why this story never reached amazing grading levels for me. (As you know, the characters are the number one priority for me in a book.)

However, the characters are all likable, and they have distinct characteristics, so that’s all good. I just needed a bit more depth to really start caring for them. Though I assume more depth will be provided in the following books.

There is romance as well, and it develops quite slowly, which I liked. First they hang out, become friends and only then, after some time does it become more. I wasn’t even sure until about half way through the book which one of the two boys would take on the romantic lead (surprising seeing as my romantic antenna is usually pretty alert and spot-on). Either way, it doesn’t blossom into anything more than those first tentative steps. Too much fast-paced action going on in the background for that. But I look forward to see how it develops.

Lastly, but not least, the premise of this series is intriguing in itself. What would happen if vampires were to rule a city? How would that work? Some of the details of this concept is explained in this initial book, but others are left out, which makes me curious to continue reading. For instance, I would like to know more of the background and the hierarchy of the vampire rulership. And why is it that some vampires can stay out during the day albeit not in direct sunlight? Moreover, are all vampires evil or are there exceptions?

I’m sure these questions (and more) will be addressed in the following books, and I’m looking forward to get the answers, as I return to the town of Morganville in a very near future. One thing that lowered the grade however was the cliff-hanger ending, which had the book ending practically in the middle of an action scene. You probably will want to have acquired the sequel The Dead Girls’ Dance by the time you finish this book.

Review: Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

15 Dec

Series: Hush Hush, book #2

Published: October 19th 2010 by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Details: Hardcover, 432 pages

Rating: 3/5

My Summary:

I loved Hush Hush, mostly because of the dangerous and intriguing character Patch. Unfortunately he is absent for most part of this sequel, and Nora has turned into an irrational, angry, whiny and weak heroine. I’m sad to say that this book was a disappointment. Still an easy read, and I remain curious to read the conclusion to the series in Silence, out next year.

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A few chapters in:

Ever since I read Hush Hush some time ago, I have been eagerly waiting to read this sequel. Fitzpatrick has a way with words that make me feel as if I’m watching the story unfold from the front row of a cinema theatre. It’s that vivid. Consequently, I just know that the sequel will be as entertaining as Hush Hush was. Plus, it has got great reviews.

I’m now a few chapters into Crescendo, and Fitzpatrick does not disappoint. I’m pulled into the story immediately as I follow Nora’s father during the last terrifying hours of his life (in the prologue).

Fast forward to present day and the troublesome relationship of Nora and Patch. It’s been two months since Patch saved Nora’s life and was given back his wings and a place as a guardian angel. You would have thought that this achievement would put a stop to any doubts regarding Patch’s intentions, seeing as he is now clearly working for the good guys. Or is he? Nora is still doubting pretty much everything about him – primarily his feelings for her.  All doubts are of course stemming from the fact that she still doesn’t know much about him. Patch isn’t (as we know by now), the most talkative guy out there.

When Patch appears to have secretly visited Nora’s archenemy Marcie Millar, and refuses to explain it upon Nora’s confrontation, it all becomes too much and Nora breaks up with him.

As much as I love the bad boy character in Patch, I have to say I rejoiced when that happened, because from what I saw, that did not seem like a healthy balanced relationship to me, Nora being way too attached to a seemingly distracted/busy/arrogant Patch. So way to go Nora!

I know there may be ulterior motives behind Patch’s actions (angels stuff that we are yet unaware of), but he has to start including Nora into his thoughts, or else how is she ever going to be able to trust him? As it is now, she’s better off without him.

At the same time, Scott, an old childhood friend moves back to town. At first, I expected him to immediately throw himself over Nora, creating that love triangle we love so much in young adult fiction these days. But, that hasn’t happened yet. In fact, Scott – all though good-looking, is almost rivaling Patch with his grumpy attitude and shady past. It’ll be interesting to see how he will fit into the story, because at the moment I have no idea.

From the prologue, I am also guessing that Nora will start investigating her father’s death, hopefully casting some light on the events that led up to it, including her link to the Nephilim.

All in all, I’m guessing I’m in for an exciting read! 

 

 

After finishing the book:

It started out so great, with so much potential. We had the charismatic Patch, and his dramatic relationship with Nora. Throw in a new boy in town with secrets of his own – Scott. While underneath it all an outwordly and dangerous angel and Nephilim world is lurking.

Instead, what did we get?

An absent Patch, who made an appearence here and there occasionally, mostly to save Nora or Marcie from various situations. But certainly not enough apearences to keep me interested. The new guy Scott turned out to be a joke. Rude, strange, weak. A side character just like Elliot in Hush Hush. I was simply not  interested in him. Of the nephilim / angel world we only got glimpses here and there, except for the last three chapters when some of it is explained.

So, if nothing of the above, then what was the plot about?

To tell you the truth, I am still not completely sure of that myself. At the beginning Nora broke up with Patch, because she doubted his feelings for her (which I could understand). The rest of the book is mainly about Nora’s emotional turmoil following that break-up. It was quite confusing to read. It felt like listening to a confused friend going on and on about an ex-boyfriend post break up. That oh, she loves him, but they can’t be together, but he is a jerk, yet he is the best that ever happened to her, and she wants him, but it would never work out between them, and either way he is a jerk.. and so on and so forth.

I did understand the emotions Nora went through (break-ups are tough), especially seeing as she is young, and Patch was her first love. Yet, it’s hard to sympathize with such an irrational and whiny heroine. She keeps making stupid decisions, and as such ends up in the most ridiculous scenarios, breaking into numerous bedrooms/flats/cars, sneaking, stealing and lying.

After seeing her behaving this way for a while I started to feel that she wasn’t much better than her archenemy Marcie herself. Worse still, I was beginning to wonder what the heck Patch ever saw in her. And that can’t be good. Because Patch’s and Nora’s relationship was the driving force behind me turning pages in Hush Hush.

The Bottom Line:

So to sum it up, my hopes for Crescendo were that it was going to take a step forward, delving more into Patch’s background, character growth, the world of angels and nephilim and more about Nora’s part in the whole scheme of things.

Instead it felt as if the plot got stuck stomping at the very same spot, where we left off in Hush Hush. There was yet again a stalker attempting to harm Nora, there were the same trust issues regarding Patch, and Nora kept making the same stupid decisions putting herself in numerous dangerous situations, again.

As if nothing had been learnt from the events in Hush Hush. At the end of it, I was starting to lose interest, and frankly couldn’t care less about Nora – whether she was going to make it or not and who the bad guy was.

All that said, I still read it quickly, as it is very well written. I haven’t changed my mind regarding Fitzpatrick’s writing. She knows how to write, no question about that. I am also still curious to see what will happen next, (curious but no longer dying to know) and I will probably read the final installment Silence, to be released in the fall next year. My expectations however have now been lowered. Which may not always be a bad thing. I might enjoy Silence more. Let’s hope so.

Review: Siren by Tricia Rayburn

3 Dec

Series: Siren Trilogy, book # 1

Published: July 13th 2010 by EgmontUSA

Details: Hardcover, 352 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

Enjoyable paranormal read about Vanessa who is investigating her sister’s sudden death in a coastal town in Maine. If you are tired of fallen angels and vampires, this is a refreshing tale of something new: sirens. It’s a quite spooky read what with all the deaths caused by these creatures. Also with a hint of a romance. Be prepared to have questions left unanswered though. Sequel out next summer.

A few chapters in:

Ever since this book was published half a year ago, I’ve been keeping an eye on it, as it seemed to include everything that I normally enjoy in a book. We have Mystery: check! Sweet romance: check! Paranormal twist: check! And finally, but not least, great reviews: check!

I’m now a few chapters in. Quiet Vanessa and her lively sister Justine return together with their parents to their lake house in Maine to spend the summer. As always, when in Maine, they hang out with the neighbours and brothers Simon and Cabel. However, this time not many leisurely days go by until the unthinkable happens. Justine’s dead body is found in the sea, after having supposedly thrown herself off a cliff in bad weather.

Vanessa and her parents leave Maine in complete shock to arrange the funeral at home. After a few days, Vanessa decides to go back to the Lake House to investigate her sister’s death further as she is doubting the police report stating that Justine jumped off the cliff herself. There, she meets Simon, who tells her that ever since the night when Justine died, his brother Cabel has been missing too.  Meanwhile, the weather in Maine is behaving rather strange, gathering up storms from out of nowhere and calming down the next second. Somehow, I believe the weather is linked to these disappearances, but how I don’t know.

And this is as far as I’ve got, but the beginning is promising and I’m sensing a bit spooky too!

After finishing the book:

I have just finished the book, and..I liked it. It wasn’t mind-blowing, but I did enjoy reading it.

First of all, I have to point out that it had some striking similarities with Need, all though instead of pixies, here there are evil sirens. In both books, the heroine (a girl with a lot of fears) is grieving the sudden death of a family member. Both storied are set in small towns in Maine, involving quite a few deaths before our heroes manage to close in on the enemies. And last but not least, they both involve a kick-ass grandma Betty!

I could go on, but if I do I’m afraid there will too many spoilers. I gave Need a stunning 4.5, and as you can see, I was not as impressed with this book. The main reason? The romance, which was so much stronger and steamier in Need. Loved Zara and Nick!

Ok, I’m getting sidetracked, back to this review:

We have Vanessa, who is a very likeable heroine, thoughtful and cautious, yet brave and strong. Just the way I like a heroine. All through the book she deals with her sister’s death, which is a painful process and somewhat confusing, as she gradually realizes that she didn’t know her sister as well as she thought.

We have geeky but still adorable Simon. A romance is hinted between the two of them, or rather starts but never truly takes off. I actually thought there would more romance, but it turns out the suspense in this novel overshadows the romance.

There are also many side characters, such as Paige, Cabel, Zara and Betty who were very well portrayed. I particularly warmed for sweet (almost to the point of naive) Paige, who seemed so misplaced amongst all the cruelty.

Even though the romance was not as prominent as I hoped it would be (as you know, I am a romantic at heart), it still very much kept my interest. I got a real spooky feeling while reading about the small coastal town surroundings, with dead bodies washing up onshore every few days and a weather going havoc. You don’t need to be an Einstein to guess that the sirens were the cause of all the mayhem (considering the title of the book), but there were many questions regarding the how and why? Through most part of the book, I was kept in the dark, with only tiny bits of information thrown in here and there. And it worked, I kept turning pages hoping to get my questions answered.

After finishing it, I’m not completely sure though I fully understood the how and why. I’ve read quite a few reviewers addressing the same issue, that too many loose ends were left hanging at the end, and I have to agree. I would have loved more to have been explained about the world of the sirens. And not only that, but other weird happenings, such as why supposedly dead Justine could communicate with Vanessa. Anyone got that?

Then again, I assume all this will be more throughly explained in the sequel Undercurrent, to be released next summer. The end in this book promises an intriguing sequel, so I am looking forward to continue reading this (what I assume to be) trilogy.


Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

22 Nov

Series: Maze Runner, Book #1

Published: October 6th 2009 by Random House

Details: Hardcover, 374 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

Set in dystopian future. Thomas wakes up in a lift that takes him up to an expanse populated with dozens of other kids, surrounded by a maze. Together they have to find a way out before they’re killed. Not as amazing as the similar Hunger Games. Action-packed and with an intriguing premise, yet I felt slightly disappointed at the end. Sequel Scorch Trials out now.

A few chapters in:

As you know, I loved The Hunger Games. Which is why lately I have been looking for, not only the next Twilight, but also the next Hunger Games, meaning a mind-blowing dystopian young adult fiction.

Not surprisingly, The Maze Runner comes to mind. Ever since it was published a year ago, it has drawn comparisons to The Hunger Games. And so, I had to see for myself, is it as mind-blowing? Is that even possible? Time to find out!

I’m now a few chapters in. Thomas, our protagonist, wakes up in a lift. He has no recollections of his former life, in fact, all he remembers is his first name. When the doors of the lift open he finds himself in “The Glade”, a huge expanse surrounded by massive stone walls, and met with a dozens of other boys, ranging from 12 to 17 years old.  He soon learns that all the boys have arrived through that lift, with their memories wiped clean, just like Thomas.

And things just keep getting weirder. During the day, there are four exits left open in the stone walls surrounding The Glade, inviting the boys to explore the maze outside. Yes, a giant maze surrounds the place! Every night the exits close, whether to protect the boys from horrors outside or to prevent them from escaping, I don’t know.

After only a few chapters, my mind (along with Thomas’s) is already swarming with questions. Let’s just say I’m intrigued!

After finishing the book:

Ok, I have finished the book. What did I think?

Well, I know that I loved the beginning with the intriguing mystery of a maze with moving walls. Yet, it wasn’t as great as I expected it to be. Still an enjoyable read, and I kept reading because I wanted answers to all my questions. But it never truly gripped me and I’ll get to why in a moment.

Like I said, the start of the book was as intriguing as it gets. We have Thomas finding himself in “The Glade”, with a dozens of other boys. All their memories have been wiped clean, and no one knows anything about who put them there and why. All they know is that “The Creators” are providing everything they need to get by, and that a gigantic maze surrounds the place. It’s assumed that the only way out is to find a way out of the maze. The only problem is that the walls of the maze move, and that the grievers (some sort of horrible monsters) come out at night, restricting their exploration of the maze to daytime only.

Quite early on we realize along with Thomas that somehow he is special. Despite his memory loss, he senses a strange familiarity to the surroundings, especially the maze. What is also weird is that as soon as he arrives, things start changing.  Previous to his arrival, the boys have been having more or less the exact same routines for nearly two years. Not surprisingly, the sudden rupture of these routines scares the boys, causing some of them to cast suspicious looks at Thomas.

A few of the boys however are on Thomas’s side right from the start, in particularly Minho, Newt and Chuck who all came across as really nice guys, each in their own way. There is also one girl involved, who arrives soon after Thomas, but spends most of the time in coma.

All of this, which I just described, really intrigued me. I wanted to know how the boys were going to solve the maze, which role Thomas played in the whole thing, who the girl was, and generally why the boys had been thrown in there in the first place!

However, while we do get answers to some of these questions, I couldn’t help but feel disapointed at the outcome.

—  SPOILERS!!  —

Firstly, their escape was not how I expected it to be. I mean, they figured out the solution thanks to Thomas recuperating some of his memories. But if he hadn’t remembered what to do, they would never have gotten out. Hence, the smart logical solution I was expecting, something that would make me go WOW, I never thought about that!! – turned out to be no solution at all.  Given the intriguing mystery of the premise, I was expecting some clever solution. So even though it was exciting to see them fight their way out, it was also bit of a let down, if you get my drift.

—  END OF SPOILERS  —

What I also found somewhat disappointing was the lack of depth in some of the characters. I did care to some extent for the supporting characters Chuck, Newt and Minho, but I felt oddly detached from Thomas. Not that he bothered me but I felt indifferent to what happened to him, which I’m pretty sure was not the intention of the writer. When the girl woke up from the coma, I had a hard time caring for her too, and I didn’t feel the connection the two main characters supposedly had. Possibly, because we are only told that they used to know each other but never shown any background story. (Which makes sense given their memory loss). This may grow into something more solid in the sequel. I hope so.

The Bottom Line:

Disappointments set aside, I did burn through the book in a matter of days, eager to find the answers to all my questions (some of which are still left unanswered). It’s a good book, a page turner and the start of an intriguing albeit slightly depressing series. If you like dystopian fiction I recommend you to put it on you TBR-list. But it wasn’t the type of amazing book that have you gasping out loud. For that, you need characters that you truly care about.

The sequel is called Scorch Trials, which I will most likely read in the near future. After all, too many question marks are left hanging and I remain curious to what will happen next!

Review: Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

5 Nov

Series: Study, book # 2

Published: October 1st 2006 by Luna

Details: Hardcover, 392 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

I loved Poison study, and was really eager to continue Yelena’s adventure in this sequel. It starts out great with Yelena reconnecting with her family, native country Sitia and her magical powers. Unfortunately, in the last third of the book the plot spirals out of control – too many villains, sideplots and should-be-impossible escapes. Overall good, but it lacked that magic that was Poison Study.

A few chapters in:

I loved watching the romance unfold between Yelena and Valek in Poison Study – the first book of the series. Such a wonderful read!! Now I’ve finally got my hands on the next book in the series, Magic Study. I noticed though that it hasn’t received the same kind of praise as its prequel – which somehow doesn’t surprise me – it would be difficult to top Poison Study. But still hoping for a good read as it’s about Yelena – one of my favourite heroines!

Now a few chapters in. At the end of Poison Study, Yelena is forced to leave Ixia when it’s discovered that she knows magic (which is prohibited in Ixia). She leaves Valek behind and travels to Sitia with the fourth magician Irys and some of the other children from Braxell’s orphanage in order to reunite all the kidnapped children with their families.

However, when she is reunited with her own family, she feels as lost as she did in the castle of the commander in Ixia. Fourteen years have passed since she was taken away and she has no recollections of that previous life in Sitia. Her parents seem lovely and are happy to have her back, but her brother Leif doesn’t give her the warmest welcome – in fact quite the opposite. Unfortunately Leif is the one assigned to accompany her to The Magician’s Keep where she will begin her magic study with Irys, her mentor.

This is as far as I’ve got but I’m getting a feeling that we will be introduced to a lot of new characters in this sequel. Nothing wrong with that of course, but I hope that previous characters will show up as well, Valek in particular.

Let’s see how it plays out..

After finishing the book:

Ok, so I finished the book. Looking at how long it took me to read it, you can get an idea of what I thought.

First three chapters took me a couple of days (actually – this was mostly because I was finishing another book at the time), the next 200 or so pages swished by in a blur as I read the whole middle part..in about  a day!

The last 100 or so pages? Now this part (if anything) should have constituted a race-through-the-pages, to you know, find out how it all ends. Yet, this part took me about a week to get through.

So yes, it starts out well – following the footsteps of Poison Study perfectly. Then something happens, or rather, too many things happen – mainly consisting of a large variety of sadistic magicians wanting to kill Yelena – and I found myself loosing interest. There are only so many kidnapping scenarios you can get through (even in a fantasy novel), before it grows tired.

As for the plot, Yelena returns to her native country Sitia in this book, where she reunites with her lovely parents and hateful brother Leif. Not many pages in, the first kidnapping scenario takes place. Cahil, the forgotten nephew of the murdered Ixian royal family, kidnaps Yelena thinking she is an Ixian spy. Yelena fights back (and I loved the fact that she’s strong enough to do that), which earns her a place beside Cahil on his travels towards The Magician’s keep where she will begin her magical training.

At The Keep, she begins her training with Irys, her mentor, and it’s soon evident that her powers  surpass even those who have been magicians for years. Meanwhile Cahil and Yelena continue a complex relationship not sure if they are friends or enemies. Of course, as a reader, you assume that it won’t be too long until Valek appears. And seeing as Valek is the very one who murdered Cahil’s entire family, you anticipate an interesting conflict for Yelena. So far, I was loving it!

Then Valek does appear, along with some other favorite characters from Ixia, and I’m sad to say that this is where the plot got out of control.

First of all, Valek himself was a disappointment. Not many dialogues are exchanged between them. And I felt he had lost that fierceness we came to love about him in Poison Study. What made Yelena and Valek my favorite couple in the prequel was that they were both so head-strong, providing passion and conflicts to their relationship. Here, Valek has been dismissed to being a flat character merely there to provide Yelena with help whenever she needs him, to move the plot along. And while I’m at it, what’s up with Valek calling her “love” in every single sentence? Don’t know why but that annoyed the crap out of me.

Now back to my point – the plot did get out of control in that third part of the book. Yelena (along with the Sitian council) is chasing one sadistic magician who has been torturing and murdering young women in Sitia (very similar to Mogkan in Poison Study). But as if that wasn’t enough, about 3 or 4 (I lost count) others are after her as well, providing subplots in the last 100 pages.

The Bottom Line:

Consequently, what started as a really promising book, what with all the wonderful descriptions of Yelena’s native country and her magical powers, ended in a bad B-movie with too many villains and seemingly impossible escapes for our heroine.

In addition to all of this, Yelena has become too strong. Meaning, the fighting skills she improved in Ixia combined with her increasing magical powers make her impossible to beat. Now, I don’t mind a butt-kicking female character, but this added to my lack of interest in the final pages. No villain was ever a match for her! Hence, the lack of suspense. There was always some obscure magical ability she could use to disarm whoever was threatening her. Yawn.

It was much more fun watching her growth from insecure and weak prisoner to butt-kicking heroine in Poison Study, just saying.

As for the third book in this series, Fire Study, I am now a little bit hesitant. I would like to finish the series though and probably will, but I don’t think it will happen anytime soon.

Review: Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

29 Oct

Series: Nevermore, book #1

Published: August 31st 2010 by Atheneum

Details: Hardcover, 543 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

Well written debut about cheerleader and an outcast goth guy who are assigned an English project about Poe in school. First half of the book is of them gradually growing fond of each other despite their differences. The second half the book turns horror/supernatural as they are thrown into a dream world interwoven with Poe’s stories. A fuzzily explained dream world drags the grade down. Still enjoyable read.

A few chapters in:

I read various book blogs raving about this book and its wonderful romance, and so naturally I was intrigued.

After reading a few chapters however, I am sceptical. The premise is so similar to other paranormal romances that it almost put me off. Isobel, the heroine, a popular girl and cheerleader, is paired up in class to do a project with this outcast and weird, yet strangely good-looking boy in school. (Heard this plot setting before anyone?) Naturally, she’s horrified in the beginning, but I assume she will warm up to him eventually. I haven’t got that far though, and as I said, I am slightly wary. I hope that their (what I assume to be)  growing fondness for each other actually shows. As it is now, it’s been a bit too awkward and weird between them, him not uttering many words at all. Hmm..

It has got great reviews though, and so my hopes are still up for an exciting novel. Let’s see how it plays out..

After finishing the book:

So I finished the book a few days ago, and I’m still not quite sure what to think.

I think I find it difficult to sum it up because I really liked some parts and disliked others. As you know, I started out sceptical, but as Isobel and Varen got to know each other better it got interesting. But then, just as I was getting really hooked, it took a dive into that supernatural dream world and my interest was lost again.

First however, let me point out that the writing is excellent. It is detailed, hence the length of the book, but not tedious like other books I’ve read (see The Pace). The reason why it’s not tedious is because the details make sense. If something detailed is explained, more often than not, that particularly detail is important for the plot later on in the book. Which makes me want to pay attention, because I know I may be rewarded later. So kudos to Creagh for that!

The plot however, as hinted earlier, was uneven. The first half of the book was good in the sense that I liked how Isobel and Varen gradually grew fond of each other. It certainly took some time. Isobel, despite committing social suicide by hanging out with Varen, was surprisingly much more open to talking to him than he with her. Consequently, at the start I was wary of Varen. He was being rude and arrogant for no other reason than for the fact that Isobel was (on the surface) a popular cheerleader. Then gradually we get to know more about Varen and understand where he is coming from. Suddenly his grumpiness made sense to me. Their feelings for each other slowly start to grow into something more – romantic.

But, just as that starts to develop, the supernatural plot takes over. Varen disappears. Isobel somehow ends up in a dream world chasing him and trying to understand how to solve the chaos. She stumbles through one weird surrounding through another, meets a number of strange creatures, her ex-boyfriend being one of them as he visits the dream world as the red death. (Don’t even ask me what that was about – I have no idea!). And all the while the strange Mr Reynolds keeps popping up here and there, helping (or not helping) Isobel with fuzzy advises.

To cut it short, I felt like I was reading a great contemporary novel about two people with different backgrounds falling in love, then got interrupted and thrown into a David Lynch movie where nothing made sense.

Moreover, I didn’t buy the whole epic romance between Varen and Isobel. I understood their connection at the start, but it went from “I think I might like you” to “you’re the love of my life” in two seconds. Like ..wait..what? Did I miss something?

I think I would have like the two of them (Isobel and Varen) to have had a bit more time together in the “normal world” before all the craziness started. And I would have liked the craziness to have been a bit less crazy or at least stayed crazy for a shorter period of time.

The Bottom Line:

All that being said, it’s still a good book, which had me glued to the pages througout some parts. It’s well written with an original story. I can definitely see potential for a good series and it’ll be interesting to see where it is heading from now on.  I just hope that we are provided with explanations in the next book so that this dream world makes better sense. Sequel is to be published sometime in the fall next year.