Tag Archives: books

Review: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

18 Jul

Series: Maze Runner, book #2

Published: October 12th 2010 by Delacorte Books

Details: Hardcover, 360 pages

My Rating: 2.5/5

My Summary:

Second installment of The Maze Runner trilogy. Thomas and the gladers discover that the maze was only the beginning, as they enter phase two in the trials set up by WICKED. Interesting world, but would have liked less trials, and more on the background of the project. I also keep having issues with the underdeveloped characters. Won’t continue the series.

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A few chapters in:

The Maze Runner told the story of a couple of teen boys who find themselves in the center of a giant maze, with no recollection of their pasts. I didn’t outright love the book, but I thought it was intriguing enough to want to read the sequel. The ending in particular had me hooked as it promised revelations about the reasoning behind the maze, and more on the dystopian world outside.

Enough said, I started reading The Scorch Trials and I’m now a few chapters in.

We enter the story exactly where The Maze Runner ended. Thomas and the other gladers have been rescued and are enjoying their first night of good sleep in dormitories provided by the rescue team. But that peaceful sleep shatters the next morning when all hell breaks loose.

The first thing they notice is that their dormitories are surrounded by screaming “cranks” – which is what the insane disease-affected people are called. Then, they discover that the entire rescue team has been murdered in the kitchen. Thomas finds that his friend Theresa has disappeared and in her place there is a new boy, Aris, who appears to have come from another group who also went through the maze.

Not surprisingly, Thomas already overfull head is now swarming with a million new questions. As is mine. Thankfully, just as my head is about to explode with questions, a man appears in the dormitory. And he reveals the following:

The Maze was phase one of a series of tests which essentially were designed to monitor the reactions of the human race, and pick out who is the most fit to fight the world catastrophe which is currently going on in the world right now. The man also tells them that Phase two is about to begin, which is predicted to be even tougher than the maze (if that’s possible).

The next day the boys are instructed to march outside the dormitories, into the blaring sun of a destroyed world in order to complete phase two. And this is where I am now. The boys are marching through a desert land towards a city, and I can only imagine what they will encounter there. Crazy cranks for sure..but what else?

 
 
 

 
 
 
After finishing the book:

I can’t help but feeling a bit disappointed. I read this sequel in order to understand why someone would put the boys through the maze. I read it in order to find out more of the dystopian world outside. None of that materialized here.

Instead, we got a rehash of the maze runner. The only thing that changed were that the boys now knew that they were being put through some kind of trials. Apart from that little detail, it was the maze all over again. The boys stuck somewhere, where they had to survive various “variables” thrown at them, all directed by the creators of WICKED. In the end, the sequel didn’t bring us anything new. It felt very much like a middle book, whose only goal was to take us readers to the book three where the BIG CONLUSION will be revealed. I could have easily skipped the book entirely and gone straight ahead for the final book The Death Cure instead, and not feel the slightest lost.

The biggest downfall however were the lack of development in the characters. I said it in The Maze Runner, and I’m saying it again here. I could not connect to the main character Thomas. Which is strange, since I’ve been following him through two full books now. I’ve been watching him being beat up, betrayed, kissed and what not else, and all I feel is nothing! I’m wondering if it is because he’s got a bit of that Mary Sue syndrome, always doing the right thing in every situation, always good at everything he does. I’ve never been a fan of characters that are too perfect. Yet, even so, it’s strange that I care so little about him.

And that goes for the rest of the characters. Apart from maybe Minho, I couldn’t have cared less who died and who survived. Granted, we know very little of the other characters, which in itself is another fault of this series. When they start off on their phase two journey in this installment, there are twenty or so boys in the group. Yet it seems as if Thomas (as well as the reader) knows of only Newt, Minho and Frypan by name.  The rest of the group is reduced to nameless stand-ins, only there to be killed along the way (in order to spare the main characters).

I wasn’t a big fan of the romance either. I mean, it felt like Thomas had more chemistry with Minho than with Teresa. Likewise with Brenda. There was just nothing there, and I consequently got tired very quickly of all the angst regarding these two girls. I wish it had been skipped all together.

The question is now: Will I continue the series?

These first two installments are promising a final conclusion to the series that will explain the grand scheme of the WICKED . Only, I am almost positive I will end up being disappointed again, just like I was disappointed with the escape from the Maze.

You see, I don’t think there is a brilliant solution. There is all this talk about variables and killing patterns and how it’s all supposed to bring them closer to a cure. Considering the awful things these boys have gone through, there has to be a seriously brilliant solution to explain all this, and frankly, I don’t think there is one. Dashner did not deliver in regards to “the solution” to the maze,  and I have a strong feeling he will fail to deliver in the last installment as well. Hence, I’ve decided to leave this series.

The final installment The Death Cure to be published in October this year.

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

5 Jul

Series: No, stand-alone

Published: December 2nd 2010 by Dutton

Details: Hardcover, 372 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

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

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A few chapters in:

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

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

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

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

I’m now a few chapters in:

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

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

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

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

 
 
 
After finishing the book:

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

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

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

Just WOW.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: The Awakening by L.J. Smith

4 Jul

Series: Vampire Diaries, book #1

Published: June 26th 2007 by HarperTeen

Details: Paperback, 200 pages

My Rating: 2/5

My Summary:

About popular girl Elena who falls in love with vampire Stefan. Problem is, Stefan’s evil vampire brother has decided he wants Elena as well. This underdeveloped story, with contrived dialogues and shallow characters is clearly aimed for young teens only. I could barely get through the book.

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My Full Review:

I recently decided to give the Vampire Diaries a go, which is why I’m now sitting with The Awakening in my hand. With doubts creeping in: What the heck was I thinking?

Anyone who has been following blogs and reviews knows that this series hasn’t exactly received what you’d call high praise. Why then torture myself through another crappy novel? As if Evernight wasn’t enough suffering for one month.

But I suppose it’s for the same reason as when I want to see a supposedly crappy but very much talked about movie. I get this strange urge to see it just so that I can form my own opinion. (I remember watching The Da Vinci Code for this very reason.)

And let’s face it. Vampire diaries is a talked about series, most likely due to its resemblance to Twilight (note that it was published before Meyer’s work)  and to the succesful tv series which is airing at the moment.

Enough said, with these whopping high expectations, I’ve plunged into the world of Elena, Stefan and Damon (of course picturing them all as the actors in the tv series – hard not to!).

We enter the story as the beautiful and popular girl Elena returns to school after a summer in France to discover that a new student has enrolled. And not just any student but an outwordly-looking handsome young boy who seems to have no interest whatsoever in Elena.

Frustrating to say the least. Well, at least for Elena who is used to get anything she wants, especially when it comes to boys.

After a couple of weeks of “suffering” the ignorance of Stefan, as the boy is called, she is molested by another boy at a cemetery. Who comes to her rescue? Yes, you guessed it right. Stefan.

Despite a few eye-rolling moments here and there, I was sort of enjoying it though, as I found myself turning pages hoping to see some chemistry when Elena and Stefan finally got to know each other.

Well, turns out I should not have been bothered.

On that first night, when Stefan rescues her from the cemetery, they kiss. After that, Elena’s first words to Stefan (and I repeat first words), are I love you.

I mean, come on!

It’s explained that Elena and Stefan need no words to communicate to each other, because they just feel what the other one feels. Really? They have barely exchanged greeting phrases and they already know each other that well?

To me, that just signals a lazy author who can’t care enough to create some dialogues between our main characters.

When they eventually do talk (a couple of pages later), it’s generally something dramatic such as I love you, I’ll protect you, I’ll always be there for you, or something along the same lines. What happened to normal conversations?

Bah!

Once I established that this contrived soap-opera relationship was to be the main theme of the book, it was hard not to just drop it on the spot. But there are only 200 pages of the book, and I figured that if I’d got this far, I might as well continue.

At least there was Damon, who seems infinitely much more interesting than Stefan could ever be. Stefan and Damon are brothers and are mortal enemies ever since something happened way back then when they grew up. Damon is supposedly evil, but I have a feeling he may experience some development, which means he could become an interesting figure. That’s about the only good thing I can say about this series.

Elena on the other hand was a self-centered brat. Her friends were only there to support her, without any motivations or feelings of their own. There’s that one-dimensional evil bitch at school who is out to destroy Elena. Yawn. Nothing out of the ordinary.

In short, it all felt very underdeveloped. As if the story could have come to life, had more thought and investment been put into the characters. As it was now, I could not connect to anyone, and I certainly couldn’t connect to the romance of Elena and Stefan.

So yep folks, this was just about as bad as I thought. Despite its similarities to Twilight, it’s nowhere near the same league.

Do yourself a favor and skip this one.

Review: Iron King by Julie Kagawa

28 Jun

Series: Iron Fey, book # 1

Published: February 1st 2010 by Harlequin Teen

Details: Paperback, 363 pages

My Rating: 4.5/5

My Summary:

Meghan ventures into fairy land in search for her kidnapped brother, where she faces many dangers together with her friends. I loved this action-packed book! Great world-building, very well written, wonderful characters and a touch of forbidden romance. Can’t wait to read the sequel Iron Daughter.

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A few chapter in:

The Iron King is a series that has been around for while, with three books out and a forth on its way later this year. I have only heard good things about it, and so I am expecting it to be a good read. Actually, anything after reading Evernight is bound to feel great.

Oh, and this book is also next on my “what to read next” poll, hence why I’m finally picking it up now. As always, thanks to all who voted!!

I’m now a few chapters in, and I’m already in awe over the writing. Now, this is how you tell a story! And yes, I am looking at you Claudia Gray.

Okay, so with that initial praise out of the way. Here’s what I know so far:

Meghan Chase lives far outside on the country side with her mom, her step dad Luke and her little half brother Ethan. Her dad disappeared many years ago, and ever since she’s felt like a guest in her own house, as Luke never truly welcomed her in. Ethan however cares about her, and it’s adorable to watch.

As we enter the story, Ethan is scared, because there are monsters in his wardrobe. Meghan chases this off as one of his imaginary monsters, and heads off to school with her best friend Robbie.

But weird things have only begun, and strange things keep happening as her 16-year old birthday draws closer. It all culminates when Ethan is kidnapped and replaced by a strange creature known as a fairy changeling. Not only that, but her best friend Robbie reveals his true identity as a fairy.

Yep, it seems as if Meghan just stepped through the Rabbit’s hole in Alice in Wonderland. Still, she forces herself to keep it together, because she has a brother to save.

And so, that’s how, a moment later, she finds herself venturing into Fairy Land in search for her brother, accompanied by her ever protective fairy best friend Robbie. A journey that takes a dangerous turn as soon as they step through the portal.

I don’t think she’s been there more than a full 24 hours yet, and already she has been chased by hounds, a dark mysterious horse rider, goblins, a strange water horse and what not else. She’s also met a rather unusual travel companion, a talking cat!

In short, this is just getting more and more interesting. And so far, I am loving it!
 
 
 

 
 
 
After finishing the book:

I found a new world that I want to live in: Nevernever in The Iron King.

Because WOW, it’s been some time since I’ve entered a world as fascinating and complex as that of The Iron King. An I’m in awe over the ability to create such a world. I envy you Julie Kagawa!

Yep, like you’ve guessed, I just finished The Iron King. And I feel a bit like I did when I finished The Mortal Instruments Series, which is a strong desire to jump into that world again.

In many ways, these two series share some similarities. A girl who thought she was normal, discovers she’s anything but, while she plunges into a supernatural world she did not know existed, in search of a kidnapped family member. Accompanying her on the journey is her best friend and a dark brooding young man who hate each other’s guts. Both series provide non-stop action, as they are chased by one strange creature after another, jump into several portals/trods and also end up visiting an oracle.

Yet, the similarities never bothered me. On the contrary, I welcomed them. Because I loved the Iron King for the same reasons as the Mortal Instruments. For the wonderfully drawn supernatural world, the quirky characters and of course the romance.

Speaking of similarities, it also shares some similarities with Glimmerglass, with how both heroines (due to mixed parentage) can live in both worlds. All though, while I had problems understanding how that made the heroine potentially powerful in Glimmerglass, it was perfectly clear in Iron King, another proof of what a much better fairy book Iron King is if compared to Glimmerglass.

Okay, so moving on!

The plot reminded me a bit of The Neverending Story, that is, how disbelief causes the death of magical creatures. I loved The Neverending Story as a kid, and so this particular theme really struck a chord within me. I was almost hyperventilating during that last part when they trekked through Machina’s territory, and oh how I suffered with Ash.

The characters were so well-rounded, that I felt as if I was walking side by side with them throughout the book. As so many other have commented, the cat Grimalkin may have been my favorite secondary character. So cool, so cate-like, what’s not to love? All I can say is that it was a true pleasure to get to know this little creature. Oh I may have offended him now by saying “little”. Sorry Grim!

Meghan was a great main character as well, she had some spunk in her, and I loved her determination to get back her brother. The romance did not take a forefront but was still very sweet, and oh so forbidden as well. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. And the ending brought tears to my eyes, because Ethan is just the most adorable character!

There was really only one thing I didn’t quite understand, and that was why they didn’t go with Grim when he offered another safer route to Machina’s fortress? It seemed a bit strange that they would decline his offer.

But that is a small complaint to an otherwise wonderful book. Be assured that I will be continuing with the sequel Iron Daughter in a very near future, as I need to revisit this world again!

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: Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

25 Jun

Series: Jessica, book #1

Published: February 1st 2009 by Harcourt

Details: Hardcover, 351 pages

My Rating: 4/5

My Summary:

So I finally got around to read this vampire tale about Jessica who finds out that she is betrothed since birth to vampire Lucius of the dangerous Vladescu clan. And I’m glad I did, because this was a truly enjoyable read. Great dialogues and characters. A sequel to be published in Jan 2012.

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A few chapters in:

So I’m finally starting this book. I say finally, because this book has been lying in my TBR pile for over a year! I don’t really know why it took me this long, all though I suspect it had something to do with that dorky and chic lit-sounding book title.

So why starting it now?

Well, it has surfaced as the clear winner in my poll of what book I should read next! Thanks again to all of you who voted!

I’m now a few chapters in. It opens when our heroine Jessica, who is a normal (or so she thinks) teenage girl, notices that she has a stalker, a tall, mysterious and handsome young man, who appears to be following her everywhere she goes.

It turns out that Lucius, as the young man (and stalker) is called, has come from Romania in order to follow-up on a treaty that was made before Jessica was born. A treaty that states that Jessica is to marry Lucius!

Apparently, Jessica’s real Romanian parents, as well as Lucius’, pertained to two powerful and royal vampire clans in Romania. The “marriage treaty” was made all those years ago in order to stabilize the ongoing rivalry between the two clans.

As you can imagine, Jessica has a hard time believing all this. She knew of course that she was adopted, but not much more than that.

I’ve just got to the part now where Lucius has moved in to the guest apartment of Jessica’s house. The two of them don’t really get along that well (yet) . Lucius is trying to blend into Jessica’s school as “the foreign exchange student”, but is failing big time. Not surprisingly, considering his tall stature, long black coat, thick Romanian accent and old-fashioned manners. Jessica is just trying to avoid him at all costs, I mean what else would you do with a guy who is claiming to be a vampire?

In short, I’m guessing I’m in for an exciting read as these two get to know each other better!
 
 

 
 
After finishing the book:

So I finished the book and I thought it was a really enjoyable read! I loved the witty dialogues and watching the developement of the main characters Jessica and Lucius. I especially liked the development of the character Jessica. She gradually transforms from an all American, insecure and quiet teen age girl to a strong-willed courageous vampire heiress during the course of the book. And I never saw it coming! It was that subtle, which is a huge kudos to Fantaskey.

Lucius as a character was intriguing as well, as he has that dark side lurking beneath the surface. He’s got a bit of the Edward Cullen problem going on. Doubting his own soul, believing he’s evil and destroyed for ever, trying desperately to protect his loved one from his dangerous world. Doing so by distancing himself from her.

Does it work?

Mostly, yes it does. Like I said, I was intrigued. I loved his charm and humor, and I loved his development too, from and arrogant and sarcastic prince burdened by traditions and rules, to a teen-age boy who just wants to live a little. I understood his efforts to push Jessica away, for the most part anyway, except for maybe the whole Faith subplot. I mean, was it really necessary to be messing around with Faith? I wasn’t too impressed by that side of him.

In fact, at one point during the Faith episode I wondered what the heck Jessica was doing persisting to be with him after all he put her through. I know I had been running the other direction long before then!

But okay, I know it’s fiction. And I know that Jessica deep down knew that it was all an act. In fact, she was the only one who believed so, which in the end warmed my heart.

The ending wrapped everything up so nicely, that I am wondering if I really want to go ahead and read the sequel Jessica Rules the Dark Side, which is to be published in January next year. I’m afraid that it may be another one of those originally planned stand alones which has been turned into a series to generate more revenue. Sorry Fantaskey, but I’ve been burnt before, see Body Finder Series.

However, I will keep an eye out for the reviews as the sequel is published, hoping that they prove me wrong!

Review: Evernight by Claudia Gray

21 Jun

Series: Evernight, book #1

Published: February 10th 2009 by HarperTeen

Details: Paperback, 327 pages

My Rating: 1/5

My Summary:

About Bianca who reluctantly enters the eery boarding school Evernight, meets Lucas and falls in love. Half way through, an important secret is revealed about the school. Shallow characters, contrived dialogues, fuzzily explained world-building, a romance that is more telling than showing. I could not even get through the book. Do yourself a favor and skip this one.

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A few chapters in:

There are two books out there that appear on literally every “what to read after twilight” list, and which I haven’t read. Evermore by Alison Noel and Evernight by Claudia Gray.

Ever since I started this blog, I have been debating with myself whether to read them or not, more out of curiosity than anything else, because lets’ face it. The reviews haven’t been all that great.

Then just recently, two things happened around the same time.

1) I stumbled upon a raving review of Evernight.

2) I realized that I might have mixed up the two books.

You see, I decided quite early on that Evermore didn’t seem like a book I wanted to read in the near future (judging by the reviews), and so Evernight was put in the same box, not having done much else than having a similar title (stupid of me I know).

However, it suddenly dawned on me that I might have just misjudged Evernight. That maybe, just maybe it was a good book and I had missed something?

Enough said. I started reading it and I’m now a few chapters in.

The story takes place at the boarding school Evernight. 16-year old Bianca has just moved there together with her parents who are teachers at the school. She is not very happy about having switched her nice and comfortable hometown to this eery and goth boarding school where she knows no one but her parents.

We enter the story when she is about to run away from the school. On her way through the woods, she realizes she is being followed by a young man. Terrified, she sprints through the underbrush and so does he, until he manages to overtake her. Only, we soon learn that he wasn’t actually chasing her, just trying to protect her. He thought she was running from someone else in the woods, and so decided that throwing himself over her was a good idea to stop the attacker. Say what??

But yes, you heard it right. And this is how we are introduced to Lucas, Bianca’s love interest.

You know, I really wanted to give this book a chance, but that first scene literally had me rolling my eyes. Can’t be a good sign. Still, I’m carrying on..

Unfortunately though, it doesn’t get much better. Bianca is shy and introvert, yet despite this fact seems to be making quite a lot of friends here and there, including within the “in crowd”. There is the love triangle, which I don’t mind as long as it is believable, see Nightshade. Here, not so much.

We get that the other guy Balthazar, also the most popular and handsome guy in school, has taken an interest in Bianca. Yet we are never treated to any conversation between the two of them apart from the occasional phrase here and there. Consequently, I’m having problems grasping who Balthazar is and why he is so into Bianca. All I know is that Balthazar is incredibly friendly towards everyone, good-looking and well, just all around perfect.

Lucas on the other hand is moody, behaves weirdly, frequently starts fights with everyone, is hot and cold towards Bianca and what not else. Yet he is of course who Bianca wants.

Why am I even continuing this book, you might ask?

Well, I was just about to dismiss it, when something unexpected happened about midway through, and this has sparked a bit of interest. I’ve decided to keep going a bit more.
 
 

 
 
After finishing the book:

As you can see from above, I  wasn’t very impressed with the first half of the book, but I kept reading anyway. I’m not gonna lie, it was a struggle, but I am stubborn about finishing my books. I nearly gave up halfway through, but then something happened that surprised me, and I decided to continue a little bit further. What if it did get better?

Well no, it didn’t.

I fell about 80 pages from the finishing line. Or rather, I threw in the towel. I was already skimming large chunks of the pages to get to the end as fast as possible. And when that happens, there is really no point in continuing. There are far too many good books out there for me to waste my time on something that I could have written better myself.

Because seriously. That’s how I feel about this book. It’s really not good. At all.

Geez, where do I even start?

The whole book was all telling and no showing. We are only told how Bianca and Lucas feel about each other, and so I never felt any sparks whatsoever reading about these two. Bianca kept saying that Lucas was the only person she could truly be herself with, yet judging from her conversations with other characters, she seemed just as comfortable with them as with Lucas.

Speaking of the other characters, they were all cut-out card board shallow. Let’s for instance look at Lucas’s room-mate Vic. He is this surfer dude who is always in a happy mood, only there to move the plot along at times when Lucas and Bianca needed someone to chip in with dialogue or help. But who is he really? What motivates him?

And that goes for the rest of them. I had absolutely no idea of who the other characters were,  except for the one characteristic each that they were given i.e.  Balthazar is friendly, Patrice is shallow and Raquel is scared.

The writing was so poor that it threw me out of the story a number of times. I felt as if I were reading the script of a soap opera series, that’s how juvenile and stiff it was.

Then there was that surprise element that was thrown at us readers in the middle of the book, which I admit, at first sparked my interest only because I felt so dumbfounded. After the initial surprise had worn off though, irritation quickly followed.

Why?

Well, beware of spoilers:

For the whole first half of the book we are treated to Bianca’s insecurities and feelings of not belonging, and how eery she thinks the boarding school is. Then half way through, we find out that the reason why the school may seem a bit strange is because it is run by vampires. In fact, most of the students and teachers at Evernight are vampires, including Bianca!

We learn that (despite the first-person narrative), Bianca has known this all time along (while we readers had no clue). She was born a vampire, her parents are vampires, and she drinks blood every morning for breakfast. Yet, this little fact was deliberately not mentioned, so that it would come as a surprise to us readers later on. Once the surprise was out, vampire-related stuff was mentioned in just about every other sentence of the book.

I’m sorry folks, but that is just bad story telling. As I reader I felt cheated.

Moreover, I felt like I was reading about two different Biancas. In the first half she was a scared and shy girl, and in the second half she had suddenly become this self-assured strong vampire (or half vampire – whatever). The point is, I lost any concept I had of who Bianca was. Not the best character development if you ask me.

I could go on ranting (and believe me, there are things to rant about) but I think I’ve made my point clear. There are several books out in the series, Stargazer being the sequel. Needless to say, I won’t continue the series.

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

19 Jun

Series: Divergent, book #1

Published: May 3rd 2011 by Katherine Tegen Books

Details: Hardcover, 487 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

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

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A few chapters in:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this is as far as I’ve got.

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

 
 
 
After finishing the book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A combination of things really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: 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: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

9 May

Series: Unearthly, book #1

Published: January 4th 2011 by HarperTeen

Details:  Hardcover, 435 pages

My Rating: 4.5/5

My Summary:

About Clara, an angel-blood who receives her purpose on earth, which involves a boy in her school. All though a somewhat slow plot, I loved reading this one! The well-drawn characters and witty writing won me over. The only tiny issue I had was the non-ending that left too many open threads. Sequel Hallowed to be released next year and cannot wait!

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A few chapters in:

I’m so loving my new poll where you readers can vote what book I should read next. I mean, what better way than that to get great book recommendations?

The last book that you voted for me to read was Nightshade, which earned a stunning 4.5. In other words, I loved it!

Now the time has come to pick up the next book of the poll with the most votes: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand. Thanks again to all of you who voted!!

This book created a buzz in the blogosphere when it was released a few months back. It tells the story about an angel, or a part-angel living on the earth. But that’s all I know.

So far, and for some reason, angel stories haven’t made a huge impression on me. I think it has something to do with that angel personality.You know, they’re supposed to be “perfect, flawless, divine, beautiful, all-knowingly, reassuring” and what not else. Which in my book only equals: boring! I’m hoping Unearthly will prove to be different.

Ok, so I’m now a few chapters in. Clara our 16-year old heroine is a part-angel. She lives with her mom and brother (also part angels) in California. Apart from that supernatural fact, they live fairly ordinary lives, like any other people.

Then one night Clara has a very vivid dream about a forest fire and a boy. It turns out that the dream is a message to her of what her purpose will be on this earth. As her mom explains to her, all angels have a purpose which will be revealed to them around that age. Now it’s up to Clara to fulfill her purpose. Which means, she needs to find that boy.

In the vision, she catches the license plate of the car of the boy. Not long after, her mom arranges for the whole family to move to Jackson Hole in Wyoming, as the little town of the license plate is called. All for the sake of Clara’s purpose.

Already, on the first day in her new school, Clara encounters the boy from her vision. And she reacts.. by fainting in front of him, so that he ends up carrying her to the school nurse. Here, I almost rolled my eyes, as I envisioned that whole “we saw each other and now we’re in love” – scenario unfold in the next couple of pages.

That doesn’t happen though. And thank god for that. Instead, after that incident, Clara is experiencing some problems getting his attention again. Christian, as the boy is called, has a girlfriend, and he seems pretty content with keeping it that way.

In other words, apart from Clara receiving her purpose and their big move to Wyoming, nothing much has happened. Yet, I am loving it already!

Why?

Well, the writing and the characters are exceptional, that’s why. Clara is another one of these really cool heroines, with a voice that really strikes a chord within me. She’s real, with good and bad traits, and she’s smart and witty.

The writing reminds me a bit of Richelle Mead, need I say more? Suffice to say that Hand describes everything with just the right amount of quirkiness and irony, so that it makes a really enjoyable read.

Let’s hope the rest of the book stays that way!

  

 

After finishing the book:

So I finished Unearthly , and what can I say? You’ve probably already guessed that I loved it. Yet, the ending left me feeling slightly disappointed, which is why this book doesn’t reach a stunning top grade.

But more on that later. First on what I liked:

Two things: The characters and the writing. Wow! Just wow! I could literally picture them all in front of me, that’s how well portrayed the characters were. Especially Clara who has now moved in among my greatest heroines of all times (yep I see another top 5 list emerging). She was just so real! Worrying about the right things , thoughtful but never whiny, with a healthy relationship to her family, insecure as well as strong, tough, vulnerable and with a great sense of humour. The other secondary characters followed suit,  Clara’s mom, Angela, Wendy, Tucker and Jeffrey. Christian (the guy Clara is supposed to save in her purpose), is probably the character I felt the least for, only because he is portrayed as too perfect. And you know what I feel about those ones..yawn!

Yet, that didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying this book. Which brings me to the next item, the writing. Wow! I loved the wittiness of the descriptions. It didn’t feel forced, as is so often the case when authors try to write witty, rather it felt natural, as if that’s how Clara would have described her story.

I need to include a few paragraphs so that you’ll understand:

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1)  The paragraph below is taken from Clara’s first time alone in a ski lift:

I decide to go for it. I get in line. When I near the front, an employee punches a hole in my ticket.
“You alone?” he asks.
“Yeah.”
“Single!” he shouts toward the back of the line. “We have a single here!”
So embarrassing. I suddenly wish I had goggles.

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2)  And this is from one of Clara’s first meetings with her goth class mate Angela:

I’ve been waiting for maybe five minutes, completely creeped out by this point, when Angela comes bursting through a side door.
“Wow, sorry,” she says. “Orchestra went late.”
“What do you play?”
“Violin.”
It’s easy to imagine her with a violin tucked under her chin, sawing away on some mournful Romanian tune.

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3)  Or this part below is taken from the first time Clara flies:

Of course, I’m not flying so much as coasting over the treetops like a hang glider or a freakishly large flying squirrel. I think the birds in the area are dying laughing watching me try not to crash.


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Do you see what I mean? The book was filled with these kind of  detailed and witty descriptions, that had me chuckling out loud. It was just such a pleasure to read!

As for the plot, I know other reviewers have complained that it was too slow-going. And I can see what they mean, because not that much happened in terms of plot. We get to follow Clara as she adjusts to her new life in Wyoming, finding friends, falling in love, and trying to find out what her purpose is. That’s really all. I suppose this is the downside when you, as Hand did in this case, develop your characters slowly and take the time to describe the setting. Consequently, the plot suffers.

Yet, because of the joy of reading all these fun bits and pieces of Clara’s life, I didn’t care too much that the build-up was rather slow. I suppose another reason why I didn’t care too much was the romance, which was just Wow! Heart-pounding! I loved their chemistry which just sizzled off the pages! And I loved the fact that it took time for them to get to know each other, before they fell in love. It made it all so much more believable. The moments they had together were just adorable! Having finished the book, I even went back and read through those pages again, because I could not get enough of the two of them. Like I said, adorable! And let me tell you, the guy Clara falls in love with is SO swoon-worthy, I was voting for him big time!

Yeah, that’s right, I was voting for this guy, because this book features another one of those love triangles. All though, like in so many others, there is really no question of who Clara will choose. At least, that’s how it seems to me.

Finally, I believe this book would have gotten a 5/5, had it not been for the ending. Because I was expecting more. No, scratch that, I was expecting something. Some explanation, some kind of wrap-up or some resolution. What we got was not so much an ending but a cessation of words. Given the long and slow build-up I was expecting something to be revealed, not only, “oh get the next book and you’ll find out”. I feel about as clueless as I was when I started reading, which doesn’t go down too well with me.

Nevertheless, like I said before, I loved the ride up until the end. And let me tell you, I have very high hopes for the sequel now. Considering the great setting provided in this first novel, my guess is that the sequel will be extraordinary. There is so much potential now! A great premise has been set, with great characters that I truly care about and intriguing clues that have me thinking that there is so much more to the story than we know now. Did I say I had high hopes?

Sequel Hallowed to be published (oh man, that’s a long wait!) 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: Desires Of The Dead by Kimberly Derting

28 Apr

Series: Body Finder, book #2

Published: March 15th 2011 by HarperCollins

Details: Hardcover, 368 pages

Rating: 2/5

My Summary:

Sequel to The Body Finder about Violet who can sense murdered bodies. I thought her steamy romance with Jay in the previous book was really good. This one however was a disappointment. It felt like a filler, with no plot to speak of, and with a heroine who showed no backbone whatsoever, to the point that she started to bug me. Won’t continue the series.

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A few chapters in:

I remember reading The Body Finder and loving it, especially the budding romance between Violet and her childhood friend Jay, which was truly sweet. And so, when this sequel hit the shelves, I knew I wanted to continue their story.

Hence, here I am a few chapters in. Violet and Jay are now a couple, and as much in love as before. But troubles are closing in, and it comes from various directions.

Firstly, there are two new kids in school, Mike and his sister, and Jay has started to spend far too much time with Mike, to Violet’s dismay. Meanwhile, someone – a girl – is feeling angry with Violet for supposedly taking Jay from her and has started threatening Violet with various anonymous messages.

As if that wasn’t all, Violet has also found a new body. As you may recall from The Body Finder, Violet has the uncanny ability to sense murdered bodies, as they give out a special echo sound that only Violet can hear. Once discovering a body, the echo will keep bugging Violet until it has been given a proper burial-place where it can rest in peace.

Hence, after coming across this latest body, she places an anonymous call to the police so that it can be found. Problem is, her call is traced back to her, and before she knows it, the FBI has approached her for questioning. What will happen when they find out about her ability?

And this is as far as I’ve got.

Unfortunately, I have to admit I’m not feeling it yet with this sequel. Violet has started to bug me, because she keeps everything a secret, refuses to let anyone help her and in general is just too meek, quiet and gloomy for my liking. I’ve wanted to yell “get it together!” quite a few times already. Which can’t be a good sign. I’m especially frustrated with the way Violet treats Jay, who does everything in his power to keep her happy, yet all she does is pouts.

Moreover, the plot is not much of a plot yet, rather it’s screaming filler. Particularly the subplot about a psycho girl who dumps dead cats on Violet’s porch is a bit too over the top for me. It sounds more like Glen Close in Fatal Attraction than a little school girl who is jealous over another girl’s boyfriend, don’t you think?

In short, I’m trying to remember now what was so good with The Body Finder, because doubts are creeping in. Or maybe I’m being too harsh here, it may get better the more I read, let’s hope so..

 

 

After finishing the book:

Well, you probably have guessed it already from my little prelude above. I was not a fan at the beginning of the book and that’s unfortunately how it stayed.

My main issue is that a plot was lacking for about two-thirds of the book. Instead what we got was Violet, Jay and friends going on about their life. There were tons of descriptions of Violet’s best friend Chelsea’s infatuation with Mike which didn’t add to the story line at all. More than highlighting the fact that Chelsea just rivaled Vee in Hush Hush as the most obnoxious best friend ever in YA literature (I see a Top 5 List emerging). Geez what an irritating, self-centered brat!

Ok, with that out of the way, back to the topic at hand: the non-existent plot. Tons of passages are dedicated to Violet feeling this, and feeling that, that she should really say this and she should tell someone that, yet no words ever form in her mouth. Frustrating to say the least! Moreover, what really annoyed me this time around with Violet is that she seemed so fragile! It felt like a gust of wind could make her crumble, or a mean look could make her cry, you know what I mean? I wanted to shake her about 90% of the time, and shout ” Just get it together girl”!!

Then to top it off, we get to the “break-up” between Violet and Jay, happening over a phone call when Jay doesn’t immediately accept Violet’s accusation of someone he knows. Say what?? Now I understand that having no plot, we need to shake things about a bit, thus creating a bit of a turmoil between Violet and Jay seems like a good idea. Yet, that poor excuse for a break-up made me (if possible) even more frustrated with Violet than I already was. She really is impossibly difficult!

All right, so moving on. In the last couple of chapters a plot finally emerges. Unfortunately, it turns out to be so predictable it reads as a child story. Lots of foreshadowing. I felt like, three chapters away, I could have stopped reading and mapped out that whole conclusion myself. And get everything right!

Finally, the one and only thing that was good was the writing. Violet’s uncanny ability is described in such a way that even though it’s certainly weird and I have never encountered anything remotely like it before, it makes perfect sense as I’m reading it. As if the dead calling on Violet is the most natural thing in the world. No doubt due to excellent writing skills.

Nevertheless, I have no plans to continue Violet’s and Jay’s story. I’m not sure what is in store for them, no doubt another murder case to be unraveled and possibly one or two minor fights with Jay, maybe even Rafe making an appearance as another candidate viewing for Violet’s attention. All though that would be a shame, seeing as Jay is such a lovely guy.

Oh, I’m just guessing here. Like I said, this is the end of the series for me. After having read this sequel, I believe Derting should have left The Body Finder as it was (no doubt) originally planned: as a stand-alone novel.

Third book to be published sometime next year.

Review: Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

24 Apr

Series: Nightshade, book #1

Published: October 19th 2010 by Philomel

Details: Hardcover, 452 pages

My Rating: 4.5/5

My Summary:

First book in a series. A different take on the werewolf myth and one of the best written love triangles I’ve seen in a while. Plus a great world-building and multi-dimensional characters. All in all, a wonderful book!! The sequel Wolfsbane out in July, and cannot wait!

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A few chapters in:

I recently created a poll where you readers could vote and tell me what book to read next. Well, guess what book received the most votes?

That’s right, Nightshade! But before I go on, thanks to all of you who voted, I really appreciate getting your book recommendations!

Ok, so back to the topic at hand. Nightshade. All I know now is that this is the story about an alpha werewolf girl who falls in love with a human boy, thus it obviously draws some comparisons to Blood and Chocolate. It has also received great reviews. Needless to say, I’m excited to get started!

I’m now a few chapters in, and just like with Firelight, it starts bang on, where we’re literally thrown into an action scene when Calla (our werewolf heroine) saves a stranger human boy from getting killed by a bear in the mountains.

Little by little, we then learn the following about Calla. There are two rivaling wolf packs living in the mountains, The Nightshades and The Banes. As we enter the story, things are about to change. Calla, who is the daughter of the alpha of the Nightshades is to make a union (werewolf marriage I assume) with Ren, the son of the alpha of the Banes. This is a big thing, as everyone is now hoping to put an end to their fights. In particularly The Keepers (the rulers of all packs) are eager to make this work. Hence, Calla is feeling the pressure.

Enters the new enrollment in the mountain school, who happens to be the very guy Calla saved in the mountains. And complications arise, because this guy Shay has taken an interest in Calla, after their encounter in the mountains.

And that’s how far I’ve got. Or rather, of what I understood so far. Because truth to be told, I am a little bit confused. The new guy Shay seems to have connections within the werewolf community which was a bit of a surprise. Moreover, I’m not sure yet what Calla is thinking of her soon to be, Ren. True, he’s a casanova, but quite a charmer too, so not all that bad.  And what’s up with The Keepers, who are they? Not only do they seem to rule the two werewolf packs, they also rule the school.

In short, my head is swarming with questions, yet that’s what’s keeping me interested too. So it’s a good start and I’m certainly feeling the pull!

 

 

 

 

After finishing the book:

Wow! I don’t know where to start! This was such a great book! I read the first couple of chapters feeling slightly confused, because it’s a complex world-building that Cremer has created. And it does take a while to grasp the intricacies of that world – who is the master of who, learning the names of the members of the packs, the history, the rules and traditions and so on.

Once I did get into it though, I got into it deep! I read almost the entire book in one sitting! So yep, this is addictive stuff.

As explained above, Nightshade opens with Calla saving human Shay on the mountain top (revealing her true wolf form in the process), to later meet him as the new enrollment in her school. Which, on the surface sounds like the premise of any ordinary ya paranormal romance I read lately. In fact, after a chapter or so, I was already conjuring up in my mind what I thought was going to be the story line.

Well, little did I know that I was to be taken on a rollercoaster ride, along with the heroine, as layer after layer of the plot is revealed. And trust me, there are multiple layers. In fact so many things are going on at the same time, I’m seriously impressed with Cremer for pulling it off so effortlessly. This is what I call a great world-building!

But firstly, the characters, which as you know are the number one priority for me in any book. The characters in this novel was the real reason for why I loved it so much. Each character was so well-drawn, that I got the feeling that I was living right within the little wolf pack group myself.

There was Ansel, Calla’s brother who was discovering himself as the same time as being fiercely protective of his big sister. Bryn was the loyal, impulsive sweet friend. Sabine was supposedly the bitch but also someone who had sacrificed herself in order to protect the shy and quiet Cosette. Neville was the quite poet and musician and Max the outgoing and friendly guy who immediately takes in Shay into the group. Even Dax, the somewhat unfriendly second-in charge Wolfsbane member had his moments. In short, I loved reading about them all, as they felt so real!

Calla herself I also found to be a great heroine, strong and kick-ass yet vulnerable, trying to deal with a lot of pressure and problems in the best way possible. She wants to keep everyone happy, yet wants happiness on her own as well. I was with her on every step of the way. I simply loved her voice.

Thirdly and lastly, this novel contains one of the most real love triangles I have read in a while, (since I read Penitence), where both candidates are equally complex and strong. I usually at least have an inclination towards one of the guys in the end, but for the first time ever, I really have no clue!

I was resenting Ren at the start because he is a womanizer and even though hot and charming, I couldn’t forget the fact that he had been dating half the school, while knowing that Calla was his future partner. Like Calla says in the book: I don’t share. And I couldn’t agree more! Yet, after a while, I started to wonder if his womanizing was actually a reaction to Calla’s refusal of him. She never does give him a chance. Could it be that he has been in love with her all the time, but too insecure to show it?

Shay on the other hand I loved at the start. He is fearless and pushes the boundaries. He may have seemed a bit weak and confused at first, simply for being a human. But after a while, I found he started to behave more and more like an alpha. He challenges Ren, pushes Calla to see the truth, gets himself a place in the pack, and keeps showing his interest in Calla. While I loved that he wasn’t afraid to take actions, and to find the truth, he does get Calla into quite a lot of dangerous situations as he makes her break rule after rule. In the end though, he realizes this himself and apologizes which made me like him again.

In short, I understood Calla’s inner struggles to choose between them. Even though Ren proves to be a great guy, he represents what she ought to do, in a structured world she now wants to escape. Shay on the other hand is the new, exciting and forbidden aspect of her life. And he is in danger.

In the end I don’t think she’s consciously choosing any of the guys, it’s more coincidence and circumstances. It will be really interesting to follow this triangle in the next book, to see if a favorite will finally emerge.

Lastly, I only have one minor criticism which was the event which took place in the cave with Shay, which I thought felt a bit rushed. It’s supposed to take a while to learn, yet Shay managed the transition a little bit too easy. You know, one night in the woods, and now he’s a pro.

Yet, it’s a small criticism to an otherwise wonderful book. Thanks again to all of you who recommended me to read it. I’m now eagerly waiting for Wolfsbane, the second installment due to hit shelves in July this summer.

Review: The Dead Girls’ Dance by Rachel Caine

22 Apr

Series: Morganville Vampires, book #2

Published: April 3rd 2007 by NAL Jam

Details: Paperback, 238 pages

My Rating: 2/5

My Summary:

Second book in the Morganville Vampires series. Shane’s dad turns up in order to kill vampires, and gets Shane into trouble, which means Claire needs to save Shane. I enjoyed the first book, but here it felt too young adult. Simplistic plot, shallow characters and plot holes. Won’t continue the series.

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A few chapters in:

It’s been a while since I read the first book in the series Morganville Vampires, about 16-year old Claire who goes to Morganville to attend uni and finds out (first-hand) that the town is ruled by vampires. While I didn’t think it was fantastic I still thought it was a fun action-filled page-turner with the potential to become better as the series progressed. Which is why I thought I’d pick up the sequel.

I’m now a few chapters in. And it picks up just where Glass Houses left off, which is literally, in the middle of an action scene.

Beware of spoilers if you haven’t read the first book yet!

So, Michael is dead. Killed by that biker gang who stormed into the Glass House in the final chapter of Morganville Vampires. The leader of the gang is Shane’s dad, who has come back to the town in order to revenge the vampires for killing his daughter and wife. He mistakenly took Michael for a vampire, and hence had him killed too.

Needless to say, the other three house mates Shane, Claire and Eve are distraught and frantically trying to find a solution to their problems. And let me tell you, they have acquired a lot of problems. Half the town has turned into their enemies – vampires, police cops and now this biker gang.

They do have support from Amelie, the leader of all vampires, but if they screw up (for instance are linked to any vampire killings by Shane’s dad), that support would quickly be withdrawn. Hence, it’s a volatile security net, to say the least.

Despite this mess, Claire persists that she needs to go back to school, I mean , say what?? That would be the last thing on my mind (school nerd or not).

Moreover, I don’t know whether the writing of the book changed or my view of it (most likely the latter), but I’m noticing now that the language is very young adult. We’ve got phrases like “totally cool” in every second paragraph, and detailed descriptions on how to cook pasta for the first time (oh my god, it boils over!).

Which is fine, because after all, it is targeted towards young adult. As an older reader though, I’m starting to have a few doubts.

 



After finishing the book:

My first thought after having finished this book is this:

Meh!

It was not good, certainly not great, just.. meh. There was plenty of action but with plot holes huge enough to drive a truck through, and shallow cardboard cut-out characters. All written in a language way too young adult for me.

The strange thing is, I actually enjoyed reading the first installment Glass Houses. Strange indeed. I’m reevaluating that review now as I’m wondering if it really was as good as I thought at the time?

But I think I know why.

While reading that first installment, my curiosity was peaked because of the novelty of the whole world Caine introduced us to. Moreover, there was an actual plot, with Claire arriving as the new girl in town discovering everything on her own, meeting friends, creating enemies, finding love. I do remember that I was expecting more, yet forgave the first installment for its lack of depth in characters and world-building only because it was the first in a series, and I believed that it was to develop into something more complex in the following books.

Which obviously did not happen.

Instead, what we got was a filler with tons of action that had no other purpose than make the reader turn pages. In fact, the action scenes were so haphazardly thrown together, that it felt like the author just invented them as she went along, having Claire the heroine race around to try to save the day. It grew boring very quickly simply because there was never any thought behind Claire’s actions nor any dialogues (apart from the occasional “that’s gross!” Or  “totally cool!“). Just a lot of aimlessly running around.

As for the plot, I found it too simplistic. I need more layers or subplots to keep me interested. The story line was essentially Shane’s dad who showed up to kill some vampires and got Shane into trouble, which meant Claire and company needed to save him. That was basically it.

On finishing the book, nothing more had been revealed about the Morganville world than we didn’t already know. Amilie was still a bit of a mystery, Oliver remained the evil vamp who wants to take over in charge, Monica remained a super-bitch and Brandon was a jerk. Tell us something we don’t know!

Instead, what this book had me noticing was all the giant plot holes that seemed to have been overlooked. Of course, those existed already in Glass Houses. For instance, I remember questioning why Claire didn’t go home the second she found out  about the vamps in Morganville. But I went along with it for the sake of enjoying the story.

In The Dead Girls’ Dance however, I started wondering about a few other plot holes, such as why on earth people hadn’t tried harder to leave? And why no one else outside of Morganville knew about this deady secret? I know it’s (somewhat fuzzily) explained that anyone who leaves Morganville have their memories viped clean.

Should anyone recuperate their memory, the vamps supposedly had that person killed. How the vamps keep track of these “memory mishaps” is another thing. I mean, do they have vamp cops that go questioning every single former Morganville citizen to make sure that their mind manipulation works, or what?

Moreover, this series is placed in modern time, that is, in our current world of technology. Oliver, the evil vamp himself praises human technology as it makes it easier for vamps to keep track of humans. Yet, shouldn’t that very technology be a disadvantage as well? I mean, for one, there is the internet. Couldn’t any Morganville resident intent to reveal the vampire secret do so in a single chat or email? Or do the vamps control that as well? If they do, how?

It’s certainly not explained, and in order to believe in this world, I need to know how the vamps manage to maintain Morganville a secret. As it is now, it’s not clear at all, which makes it very unbelievable.

In short, in order to enjoy these books, I think you might have to suspense disbelief. You need to forget the how’s and why’s and just go with flow as Claire continues to land herself into trouble.

That, or there is the option to just quit reading this series altogether, which is what I’m about to do now. Two books were enough.

For those of you still interested, the third book is called Midnight Alley.


Review: Blood Promise by Richelle Mead

13 Apr

Series: Vampire Academy, book #4

Published: August 25th 2009 by Razorbill

Details: Hardcover, 503 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

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

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A few chapters in:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

After finishing the book:

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

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

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

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

Now, as for the actual plot:

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

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

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

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

Review: 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: Firelight by Sophie Jordan

5 Apr

Series: Firelight, book #1

Published: September 7th 2010 by HarperTeen

Details: Hardcover, 323 pages

My Rating: 2.5/5

My Summary:

First book in series which has been described as a Twilight with dragons. Starts out great with an exciting draki world, and a promising romance with a human boy. But as I read more, my interest fizzled out, since the romance didn’t capture me, and the heroine’s constant and monotonous inner worries got tiring. Won’t continue the series.

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A few chapters in:

Twilight with dragons. That’s how this novel has been described. At first, I wasn’t too interested, simply because dragons didn’t really appeal to me.

But then the reviews started pouring in, and after reading quite a few 5-star reviews about the incredible romance, I caved in. Dragons or not, if it has romance, I want to read it!

I am now a few chapters in. And let me tell you, there’s no slow build-up here. Already in the very first chapter we are provided with a thrilling action scene, with our heroine running from draki-hunters which results in a strange encounter with a beautiful boy.

Eventually, the facts are presented. The heroine Jacinda is a draki. That is, she looks like a human, but she can turn into a draki at will (mostly anyway). She lives with her mom and her sister in a secret draki society called The Pride. Ever since her father’s death, and the rise of the evil king Severin, life in The Pride has gotten more difficult. Which is why Jacinda’s mom one day decides to bring her girls with her and escape the society.

They end up settling down in a small town out in the desert, far away from The Pride. Jacinda and her sister Tamra start school, for the first time ever, and well, this is where I’m at now. Jacinda has just realized that, not only is school a strange experience, but the beautiful boy she met earlier also goes to this very same school..

I look forward towards Jacinda getting to know that boy, as I’m expecting the romance to be really cute.  However, I also feel that I may be too old for this book, that it is a bit too teen for me.

Well, only one way to find out!


 

After finishing the book:

Okay, so I just finished the book last night, and I can’t help but feeling a little disappointed. It started out so great, with an intense action scene and promises of a great forbidden romance.

But, as I read more, the plot sort of fizzled out.  The great premise and exiting build-up turned into a stereotypical  love-at-first-sight romance with a plot that at times got so cliché it had me rolling my eyes.

Now, if you think about it, it is weird that I reacted this way. Because if you know me – and have read my reviews – you know that I love romance. Especially when it’s hot and steamy, includes a supernatural twist and is sprinkled with a bit of danger.

Yet, this particular romance, though it contained all of the above elements, didn’t capture me. Strange indeed.

But I have a couple of theories as to why:

Firstly, the heroine. I could not connect with the girl, or worse, I actually found her annoying. It started out all right, but somewhere along the road frustration started to creep in as I had to follow her (as I discovered) very monotonous internal monologue.

I usually have no problems with inner monologues – in fact I like them because it gives me an insight into the main character and helps me connect with him/her. What I do have a problem with though, is when it gets too repetitious.

And Jacinda’s thoughts were just that, repetitious. She went on and on about the same issues (should or should she not see Will, how to keep her draki alive) for the entire book. Don’t get me wrong, I understood her issues. But having to hear those same thoughts over and over again got very tiring in the end. Especially since they never developed and she never reached any conclusions.  Just the same thoughts rephrased over and over again..and again..and again..yawn.

Secondly, the romance between Will and Jacinda was, yes I admit steamy at places. But it went way too quickly from “I’m attracted to you” to “You’re the love of my life to the point that I could die for you”. You know what I mean?

I like romances to build slowly. I like to feel how they gradually get to know each other and fall in love. Essentially I want to understand why they connect.

None of that materialized here.

Will and Jacinda shared a sizzling attraction. End of story.

I realized this after a while when it became apparent that.. hey, they never actually talk!? The few dialogues they exchanged (between their make out sessions and looking longingly into each others eyes) contained two or three sentences at the most, which by the way usually felt really contrived. I failed to see how that was love, or even a connection on any deeper level. Yet, Will declared his love after only a couple of chapters and yes, you guessed it, I rolled my eyes.

Thirdly, there were too many similarities to Twilight, so much that it actually bothered me a bit. At one point I couldn’t help thinking if she (Jordan) was trying to create a new Edward Cullen. Because seriously, there were too many incidents that pointed in that direction.

For one, Will is the unattainable gorgeous guy at school who hasn’t touched a girl until Jacinda comes along. Then, as soon as she does come along, he immediately starts stalking her, waiting by her house at 2 am in the morning, climbing in through the window, and (get this!) breaks into her house one morning to make her breakfast. When Jacinda happens to end up among other hunters, he turns really protective and growls.

And finally, just as I thought he could not get any more Edward-like, he utters the phrase: so the hunter falls in love with his prey.

Ring any bells?

All that said, what made it hard to connect to Will was not the Twilight similarities, but the fact that I knew nothing about him. Or rather, what I knew seemed too perfect. You know, not one single flaw. Which in my book always equals boring.

Even Cassian (the son of the evil king Severin) seemed more interesting, and given the little page-time he had in the book, that says something.

In the end, what saved this book from a 2/5 was the intriguing beginning, a few steamy sequences involving Jacinda and Will, and last but not least the colourful descriptions of Jacinda’s draki. In fact, all the draki-stuff was very well portrayed.

All though I had never read anything even remotely touching on dragons before, and hence was a complete draki-novice, Jordan really captured these creatures well. To the point that I understood how hard it was for Jacinda to face that dreadful heat when her natural habitat was mist and mountains. I felt the steam rise up in her when threatened, and I enjoyed the relief when her wings finally unfurled.

But unfortunately it wasn’t enough. The characters are always a number one priority for me, and if I can’t connect with them..the rest falls flat. Hence, I won’t continue the series.

The next installment Vanish is to be released in September this year.

Review: Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead

1 Apr

Series: Vampire Academy, book #3

Published: November 13th 2008 by Razorbill

Details: Paperback, 443 pages

My Rating: 4.5/5

My Summary:

Third book in the Vampire Academy series. Rose with friends are back, for their senior year at the Vampire Academy. Rose struggles with many issues in this book, in particularly the dark side effects of being shadow-kissed. Hence this book is quite a bit darker, if compared the first two books. And I am so becoming a VA addict here, this book and in particular the ending blew me away.  Fourth book is called Blood Promise.

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A few chapters in:

The Vampire Academy series is growing on me. I started out feeling just okay about it, as in yes, definitely an entertaining read but nothing to write home about.

After reading the sequel Frostbite however, I noticed how on finishing the book, my hands started itching to get a copy of the next book in the series. In other words, I was getting slightly more hooked.

Fast forward a few weeks, and here I am sitting with Shadow Kiss, book number 3 in the series, also rumoured to be the book – bound to make anyone who hasn’t got VA addicted yet (such as me) a complete convert. A bit like the fourth book in the Harry Potter series.

Needless to say, I’m eager to get started.

I’m now a few chapters in. After surviving the terrible Stigroi attack in Frostbite, Rose and her friends are back at St Vladimir’s, where life continues, more or less like before.

A very important school test is coming up – a 6 weeks field experience – where each Dhampir is assigned to guard a Moroi on school grounds. Occasionally, the instructors will try to “harm” the Morois and the Dhampirs are to be graded according to how well they protect their subjects during these fake attacks.

Rose is of course looking forward to spend 6 weeks with Lissa (who she assumes will be her subject), but gets an unpleasant surprise when it’s revealed that she is to guard Lissa’s boyfriend Christian instead. Christian is not too bad though and they soon realise that they get along better than they thought.

Meanwhile, something very strange is happening to Rose. She’s seems to be seeing ghosts – at least that is what she thinks it is, as the person she keeps seeing is the dead Mason. As you may recall, Mason is Rose’s friend who got killed in Frostbite. Rose fears that she’s loosing her mind, and keeps it a secret, even as one of these very “ghost sightings” lands her into trouble in school.

And this is as far as I’ve got. Even though not much has happened yet, I feel quite happy to delve into this world again, with Rose, Lissa, Dimitri, Christian and not to forget Adrian – our new acquaintance and spirit user from Frostbite. Review coming soon.

 

 

After finishing the book:

It’s been two days since I finished reading the book, and I just can’t seem to let it go. Wow!  It’s like everything just intensified. It went from being a fun light-hearted young adult series which I’ve read as pure entertainment up until now, to a darker gut-wrenching story that would not release me from its firm grip until the very last page.

I noticed the change while I was reading the second half of the book, as my heart started going like mad, my chest ached, and I realized I had a lump in my throat. I eventually had to stop for a few moments, to take a deep breath and remind myself that jeez Tess, this is just a book! Get a grip!

So yeah, to cut it short, this series is finally getting to me.

At the start of the book however, I wasn’t feeling it just yet. Or rather, it felt like a prolongation of the previous book Frostbite, that is, entertaining and fun. There were the ever-present issues at school, with rumours, jealousy, dealing with the bond to Lissa, evading Adrian’s flirting etc, and Rose kept getting into all sorts of trouble as usual.

Then gradually, darker forces began creeping into the story as Rose started noticing the consequences of being shadow-kissed. As you may recall, shadow-kissed essentially means brought back from the dead. Which is what happened all those years ago, when Lissa used her spirit powers in order to revive Rose.

Understandably, Rose finds it terrifying to realize that something unknown is happening to her, and to not know for sure what it is.  I mean how bad are the consequences? Is it something she will be able to live with or something that will destroy her life? As far as Rose knows, there has only ever been one other shadow-kissed person before, and that is Anna – the guardian of St Vladimir (whom the academy is named after). Problem is, Anna is dead and hence, is not much help in the advise-department.

At the same time, and possible derived from the darker shadow-kissed side effects, Rose also starts to question her choice as a life-time guardian. Like every Damphir trained to be a guardian, during her whole life she has been drilled with the mantra: the Moroi always come first. But, as Lissa starts planning her life for college, assuming Rose is to follow her to wherever she decides to go, the very thought of living a life as someone’s shadow is starting to frustrate Rose.

After struggling on her own with these issues (and more) for quite some time, Rose finally finds someone to confide in..Dimitri. And let me just say, that all though I already had a soft spot for Dimitri, he really grew in my eyes in this book. He really did. What an absolutely wonderful guy!

That said, he wasn’t the only person I got more attached to. I really enjoyed seeing more of the others as well, Adrian, Christian, Lissa, Eddie and not to forget Mason. I admire Mead for creating such well-rounded secondary characters, each one with good and bad sides, each driven by different motivations – just like in real life.

Christian in particular keeps growing in my eyes, mainly because he is such a vulnerable and strong character at the same time. I love his complexity. I keep feeling for Adrian too, who has now shown us that he is much more than just a drunken flirt.

I suppose Lissa is the character I feel the least for now at this moment, seeing as her friendship with Rose has been kind of one-sided lately. Her character however is also understandable as she has grown up with the same mantra drilled into her head as Rose – that Moroi always come first.  Considering the other Moroi Royals, she still stands out as one of the best Moroi out there. And putting myself in her shoes, I would probably have been upset too, knowing that my best friend kept all those secrets from me.

My only worry now is, will all these wonderful characters appear in the next book? You know, for the first time in this series, I really have no clue! Which is also of course what makes it so exciting! As for the other stuff, my chest keeps aching and the lump in my throat is still there – if you’ve read the book you know what I mean. I won’t even try to predict an outcome there, let’s just hope for a miracle, okay?

I’ve already ordered and received Blood Promise, the fourth book in the series (and thank god for that!). Expect that review to be coming up soon!

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.