Tag Archives: Kick-Ass Heroine

Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

6 Nov

Series:Razorland, book #1

Published: April 12th 2011 by Feiwel & Friends

Details: Hardcover, 259 pages

My Rating: 3/5

My Summary:

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

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Synopsis:

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

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

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My thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A shame.

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

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

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

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Review: Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien

6 Oct

Series: Birthmarked, book #1

Published: March 30th 2010 by Roaring Brook Press

Details: Hardcover, 362 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

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

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Synopsis:

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

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My Full Review:

Birthmarked started out as a 5/5.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: 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: Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

5 Nov

Series: Study, book # 2

Published: October 1st 2006 by Luna

Details: Hardcover, 392 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

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

A few chapters in:

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

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

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

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

Let’s see how it plays out..

After finishing the book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bottom Line:

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

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

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

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

Review: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

29 Sep

Series: Paranormalcy, book #1

Published: August 31st 2010 by HarperTeen

Details: Hardcover, 352 pages

My Rating: 4/5

My Summary:

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

My Full Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

My thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bottom Line:

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

Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

24 Sep

Series: Study, book #1

Published: March 1st 2004 by Luna

Details: Paperback, 416 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

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

A few chapters in:

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

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

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

After finishing the book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bottom Line:

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

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

Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

16 Sep

Series: Vampire Academy, book #1

Published: August 16th 2007 by Razorbill

Details: Paperback, 332 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

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

A few chapters in:

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s see how it plays out..

After finishing the book:

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

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

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

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

The Bottom Line:

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

Would I recommend it?

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

Review: Captivate by Carrie Jones

28 Aug

Series: Need, book #2

Published: January 5th 2010 by Bloomsbury USA

Details: Hardcover, 273 pages

My rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

Sequel to Need. The pixie hunt continues, and the new pixie character Astley is introduced which causes Zara to doubt if all pixies are evil, also creating a love triangle. Ending with a cliff hanger. While I loved Need, I found this book less great, with logical gaps and preteen language. Still enjoyable. Third book Entice out Dec this year.

A few chapters in:

I loved the first book Need, so I’m loving diving into the pixie world of Zara and Nick again.

This book takes off where the first one ended. All the pixies are imprisoned in their house and Zara and her friends are patrolling the woods. One day, Zara happens across a wounded pixie guy. She saves him only to realize afterwards that he was a pixie king from far away. Has he come to take over the kingdom of her father? Moreover, he seems nice and he is confusing Zara. Are all pixies really evil?

The others, and especially Nick don’t seem to share the same concern over the welfare of the pixies. They think pixies are evil, period. Meanwhile we are getting glimpses of the bigger world of pixies. And what is the deal with Zara not feeling quite right. Is her pixie blood affecting her in some strange way?

This is how far I’ve got, but I’m very invested into the story already, and I’m pondering the same questions as Zara, are all pixies really evil? The story is promising so far. Let’s see how it plays out..

After finishing the book:

I finished the book last night and I’m sorry to say I was not as overwhelmed as I was after reading Need. The great characters that were introduced in Need never developed into anything more, rather they felt slightly underdeveloped in this book. For some reason I also felt the language in this book to be more preteen than teen, as if it had gone slightly more immature than in the prequel.

I did however like the new character Astley, which is introduced midway through the book. He added a new dimension to the plot, both in the form of a possible love triangle and the fact that he may (or may not) be something as unusual as a good pixie. I loved reading the sections where he was involved.

We are also introduced to some of the world building of the weres and the pixies but only bits and pieces, so that nothing really makes any sense. I think I would have liked some loose ends to get tied up, something more solid to build upon. It all felt so vague, the whole reason for a looming pixie war. What are the forces behind it? What are the roles of the weres? Why is it happening now? Not much is explained, and what is explained doesn’t make much sense. I am curious though to see if it will redeem itself in the third book Entice, to be released in Dec this year.

The Bottom Line:

Finally, do I recommend Captivate?

Yes absolutely, it is still very much an entertaining read, especially if you are invested into the characters after Need

Review: Need by Carrie Jones

13 Aug

Series: Need, book #1

Published: December 23rd 2008 by Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books

Details: Hardcover, 306 pages

My rating: 4.5/5

My Summary:

About grief-stricken Zara who after her fathers death is sent by her mom to stay with her Granny. There she meets sweet Issy and gorgeous Nick, who help her when strange things start happening, mainly a man following her leaving traces of gold dust. This is a wonderful story, with pixies and weres and a beautiful love story. Loved it!!!!

My Review:

All I know about this book is that it is about pixies..sort of fairies I think, and that the plot is somewhat similar to Twilight. Curious to see what it is all about.

Update:

Ok, so I’m really getting into this book! It’s about grief-stricken Zara, who after her fathers death is sent away by her mom to stay with her granny in Maine.  She starts school and finds new friends, among them sweet Issy and gorgeous Nick. She has barely started her new life there and weird things are happening. Mainly, there is a strange man, who keeps appearing wherever Zara is, and he leaves gold dust after him. Could he be a pixie? Why is he following Zara? Ok, so that’s as far as I’ve got. But it’s looking good. Great heroine! Let’s see how the rest plays out..

Final thoughts:

Wow what a great book!! It’s been some time since I got this attached to a book. I loved the voice of Zara, she seemed so real somehow, scared but yet brave, with a temper..I liked that! And Nick..swoon! Loved all the secondary characters as well, and the whole myth around the weres and the pixies. Great story! And thank god there is a sequel!

Finally would I recommend Need?

Absolutely with a resounding YES! Great start to a series!

Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

5 Aug

Series: Hunger Games, book #2

Published:  September 1st 2009 by Scholastic Press

Details: Hardcover, 391 pages

My rating: 5/5

My Summary:

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

My Full Review:

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

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

Beware of slight spoilers:

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

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

End of spoilers

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

Review: Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

5 Aug

Series: Hunger Games, book #1

Published: October 1st 2008 by Scholastic Press

Details: Hardcover, 374 pages

My rating: 5/5

My summary:

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

See my full review here:

Synopsis:

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

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

My thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Specials by Scott Westerfeld

5 Aug

Series: Uglies, book #3

Published: April 15th 2006 by Simon Pulse

Details: Hardcover, 372 pages

My grade: 3.5/5

My summary:

Ok, so while I did read this book in record time, just as I did with the first two, I was a little annoyed by the plot this time. Firstly, I was annoyed by the repeating factor, and having to get to know a new Tally yet again. Secondly, I think what bothered me was that I saw so much potential building up in Pretties, which didn’t play out as I thought in Specials. Having said that, the fact that it did get me annoyed also means that I cared, and so it wasn’t all bad. So yes, it’s still a good read.

See my full review here:

Synopsis:

“Special Circumstances”:

The words have sent chills down Tally’s spine since her days as a repellent, rebellious ugly. Back then Specials were a sinister rumor — frighteningly beautiful, dangerously strong, breathtakingly fast. Ordinary pretties might live their whole lives without meeting a Special. But Tally’s never been ordinary.

And now she’s been turned into one of them: a superamped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid.

The strength, the speed, and the clarity and focus of her thinking feel better than anything Tally can remember. Most of the time. One tiny corner of her heart still remembers something more.

Still, it’s easy to tune that out — until Tally’s offered a chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke permanently. It all comes down to one last choice: listen to that tiny, faint heartbeat, or carry out the mission she’s programmed to complete. Either way, Tally’s world will never be the same.

My thoughts:

Warning:  if you haven’t read Pretties yet, you may not want to continue, as this review most likely will contain spoilers!

I started this book with a bad feeling in my gut. It felt kind of hopeless to have  followed Tally through such an exhilarating ride in Pretties, seeing her coming through it OK against all odds, to just be crushed down and forced to change again, by the authorities.

Actually, this is how I would describe this book, painful and sad. Still a page turner though, just not as enjoyable to read as the others.

As can be guessed by the title, our heroine Tally has now become a Special, as in one of the very Secret Police who chased her all through the two first books. Her brain has been altered and all though she remembers everything in her past she views it in a different light. She also has a new body with superhuman qualities.

While Pretties included Zane for the most part, Specials includes Tally’s friend Shay, as they bark on many Special Circumstances journeys together. This was one of the painful parts, to see the two of them trying to chase down old friends. Also, I’m not a big fan of Shay, and so I didn’t enjoy all the time Shay got with Tally in this book. I know she’s a victim of the society just as much as Tally, but she seems weaker, more insecure, and as such ends up in all sorts of unstable situations. Consequently, she is the root of most of Tally’s problems. She does redeem herself in the end though, about time!

So the bad gut feeling continues. By the end of the book another tragic event happens, and I swear I almost gave it up right there and then. But the final chapters do leave some hope regarding Tally, so do keep reading.

All in all, this last book was not as good as the rest. It’s still a page-turner and if you have got invested into the characters, you will want to know what happens. Just prepare yourself for a somewhat painful ride.

Review: Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

5 Aug

Series: Uglies, book #2

Published: November 1st 2005 by Simon Pulse

Details: Paperback, 370 pages

My grade: 4.5/5

My summary:

I was glued to the pages in Pretties from start to finish. This is as action-packed as the first, and once again ending with a cliff-hanger, so make sure you have the third book ready by the time you finish!

See my full review here:

Synopsis:

Tally has finally become pretty. Now her looks are beyond perfect, her clothes are awesome, her boyfriend is totally hot, and she’s completely popular. It’s everything she’s ever wanted.

But beneath all the fun — the nonstop parties, the high-tech luxury, the total freedom — is a nagging sense that something’s wrong. Something important. Then a message from Tally’s ugly past arrives. Reading it, Tally remembers what’s wrong with pretty life, and the fun stops cold.

Now she has to choose between fighting to forget what she knows and fighting for her life — because the authorities don’t intend to let anyone with this information survive.

My thoughts:

This is the second book of the series Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. It’s very much a continuation of the first book Uglies – no extra explanations provided for newcomers – so you definitely need to start with Uglies.

I should also warn you that if you haven’t read Uglies,  don’t continue reading this review as it will contain spoilers!

So as for the review:

While Uglies explained the world of the “Uglies” – those who had not undergone cosmetic surgery, Pretties explains the life of the Pretties – what life is like post-operation.  At the end of the first book “Uglies”, Tally decides to become pretty, so that she can try out the cure that David’s mom has developed for the altered Pretty brain. Thus we continue following our heroine, but this time as a Pretty.

There is certainly no slow beginning here. We are quickly thrown into Tally’s adventures in Pretty town. Already in the first chapter, her former “Uglies friends” from The Smoke (rebellious town outside of society) contact her, thus making her remember some of her past, which has been quite fuzzy since the operation (for reasons explained in the book).

She finds an accomplice in Zane, one of the guys in her group of “Pretty friends”, and together they bark on a journey whose goal is to free themselves from their pretty minds, and the city.

If I was a bit hesitant towards Uglies at first,  Pretties was exciting from start to finish. I could not let go of the book! There were a number of reasons for this.

Firstly, I was so invested in the heroine Tally that my heart felt with her in every step along the way. Secondly,  the prequel Uglies had already sparked my curiosity for how the Pretty world functioned. In the first book, we experience Pretty Town through Tally’s eyes as an ugly – that is, at a distance, so I was really eager to find out more about that world in closer details. The main reason however for me liking this book was the new addition of Zane as a character in the story. I immediately rooted for him and loved following his relationship with Tally.

As in Uglies, the plot continues to twist and turn and true to his form, Westerfeld provides a number of things to reflect upon in our society – things I discussed in my review on Uglies. But not only that, while reading Pretties I was also starting to see shades of grey, as in I was starting to wonder if the “bad guys” really were that bad.

The “bad guys” are The Specials who keep interfering in Tally’s life. They are the secret police (The Specials is short for Special Circumstances) who operate whenever a threat from the outside is detected, essentially anything threatening the Pretty World that they have created.

Of course, I knew that The Specials are supposed to be the bad guys. After all, they alter people’s brains without permission which is clearly not OK. But what if the purpose of The Specials is good? I mean, they are trying to avoid a repetition of what happened to “The Rusties” – the people before them (us) who nearly brought the world to an end through wars and environmental catastrophes. At one point in the book, one of the Specials describes humanity as a cancer tumor to the world – unable to live in it without destroying it. And well, at the rate we are currently going at destroying our world, I can’t help but wondering if it’s true.

So, what I asked myself was: how much damage are you allowed to cause (as in what the Specials did with the Pretties), for the sake of the greater good (not destroying the world)? Tough question with no easy answer, but it sure had me thinking.

As for the ending, I was sort of guessing where it was heading, considering the name of the third book. Yet, the way it happened shocked me, as it felt so cruel. Once again, my heart felt with Tally.

All in all, this was a great and exciting read, with an ending that made me throw myself over the third book in the series “Specials”.

Review: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

5 Aug

Series: Uglies, book #1

Published: February 8th 2005 by Simon Pulse

Details: Paperback, 425 pages

My grade: 4/5

My Summary:

Great series set in an distopian future that makes you think about the way things are in our society. Very fast-paced and action-packed. There won’t be a dull moment. With a love story as well, all though it’s not the main focus of the story. Highly addictive read!

See my full review here:

Synopsis:

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. Not for her license — for turning pretty. In Tally’s world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world — and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

My thoughts:

Uglies is the first book in the Uglies Trilogy. At first, when I started reading it, I thought it was just  a light and fun read; a page turner yet not something I’d lose sleep over, a 3 out of 5. But as I read more, I found myself getting more and more invested in the characters. By the time it finished (and it finishes with a cliff hanger) I literally threw myself at the next book Pretties, thankful I had already acquired it. So it does get better!

The book starts with the young heroine, 15-year old Tally, who is an “ugly”. She has been left alone in “Ugly town” since her slightly older best friend Peris, has moved to the “Pretty town” (for his 16th birthday) to have his operation. In this dystopian future, Tally lives in a society in which everyone has major surgery on their 16th birthday, to become supermodel gorgeous. Before the operation, as a normal person, you are thought of as ugly, and thus every teenager longs for the day of the operation.  So does Tally.

Things change though when Tally cross paths with Shay, a girl who has opinions on the society in which they live, not completely accepting it. When Shay runs away just before her 16th birthday to escape the operation, the authorities force Tally to choose between staying ugly for life or to find and bring back her friend.

Tally decides to go after Shay, and well, that is essentially where the adventure begins. I won’t say too much, as there are so many surprising twists and turns in this book, it is best knowing as little as possible.

There were a couple of things that I really liked about the book. Firstly, the plot of the story makes you think about the way things are in our society. Not only about our obsession with beauty and what price is worth paying for it,  but it also makes you reflect on the environmental issues of our world. In the book, our society is constantly referred to, as the utterly stupid society who lived in such an unsustainable way that it nearly extinguished the world. This truly makes you think about how we live our life. One example is when someone tries to explain to Tally what “newspapers” used to be in our society; essentially books printed for a one-day-use to be thrown away the day after. All those trees wasted for a one day read. How utterly stupid and wasteful, Tally reflects. And I can’t but agree.

I also liked how Tally, the main character grows throughout the book, as in the rest of the series. She starts off as a quite immature girl, completely unaware of the effect her society has had on her, but gradually becomes stronger and also more likable.

There is romance, but it’s not the focus of the story. Actually, that happened very quickly, I did not even see it coming (and I’m usually good at spotting those things). Consequently, it’s not something to swoon for, and never really made my heart racing. Still, it’s kind of nice that it’s happening. It sort of adds to the story rather than makes the story if you know what I mean.

Finally what I liked about this book is how you gradually get to know more and more about the society they live in, as Westerfeld reveals secrets throughout the book. He keeps you on the edge, revealing bits and pieces here and there, but always leaving things out, so that you are wishing for more, and keep turning pages.

Uglies does not feel like a stand-alone book, and as I mentioned before, you will most likely want to keep reading the next two when it is finished. It kind of draws you in gradually. Starting light and easy and then before you know it you will be hooked. If you like books like The Host and Hunger games, I’m pretty sure you will like this series as well.

Review: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

5 Aug

Series: The Mortal Instruments, book #3

Published: March 24th 2009 by Margaret K. McElderry

Details: Hardcover 541 pages

My grade: 5/5

My Summary:

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

My Full Review:

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

Update:

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

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

Ok, so beware of:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

5 Aug

Series: The Mortal Instruments, book #2

Published: March 25th 2008 by Margaret K. McElderry

Details: Hardcover 453 pages

My grade: 5/5

My Summary:

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

Full review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

5 Aug

Series: The Mortal Instruments, book #1

Published: March 27th 2007 by Margaret K. McElderry

Details: Hardcover 485 pages

My grade: 4.5/5

My Summary:

First book in trilogy. About a girl who enters a magical world she had no idea existed, yet finds out she belongs to. I started off thinking it was a rip-off of quite a few books I’ve read before, especially Harry Potter. Then I got too invested into the characters to care. This is a world I will want to visit again. Loved Jace.

My Full Review:

This is a series which has been figuring on just about every list for twilight fans, and on top of that recommended by Stephenie Meyers, and so it felt like it was just a matter of time before it ended up in my hands. Finally, it did, and I was able to find out if it was as good as everyone said it was. Well…was it?

Absolutely!!! Every bit as good!!

However, to tell you the truth I wasn’t totally converted at the beginning. Two reasons for this:

1) Many bits and pieces have been borrowed from other fantasy work, and at the beginning all I could think of was where these bits and pieces came from (that Hodge resembled Dumbledore in Harry Potter etc).

2) There is also a lot of world building going on, with so much background info weaved into the story that at times I got detracted from the plot.

Hence, it took quite a few chapters before I started to get used to the world of shadowhunters and demons that Clare has created. Once I got into it though, I got into it deep, and before I knew it, I raced through the pages in no time at all. So regardless of my hesitations at first, this is extremely addictive stuff! It truly is.

As for the plot, Clary is an ordinary New York girl, or so she thinks. She lives with her artist mother and has one best friend – the geeky Simon. All is well until the day the two of them head out to the notorious goth club Pandemonium, where Clary witnesses something very strange.

She doesn’t know it then, but what she does see is three shadowhunters capturing and destroying a demon. You see, in this world, all types of nightly creatures exist, demons being the most dangerous. Normal people are of course oblivious to all of this, and the shadowhunters, whose work is to keep the world somewhat demon-free, like to keep it this way.

What is odd is that Clary sees them, despite the glamour the shadowhunters use in order to avoid being detected by normal people. But the odd things have only just begun. Not long after, Clary’s mom is kidnapped and Clary herself is attacked by a demon, and brought to the shadowhunter’s home (an old cathedral which has been made into their New York Institute).

The shadowhunters are Alec and Isabelle who are siblings, and Jace –  their adopted brother. The new arrival of Clary stir things up a bit within the small and tight shadowhunter group, in particular Alec and Isabelle who both have their reasons to stay wary of Clary. Jace however feels inexplicably drawn to Clary right from the start and they end up spending quite a bit of time together, at the institute or during various dangerous missions.

I loved watching their budding romance enfold, but mostly I loved Jace. He jumped out of the pages right from the start. It´s been some time (if ever) since I read about such a fascinating, complex and sexy character! The moment he got more page time with Clary in The City of Bones, I was a convert.

So yes, there is no denying it that the number one reason why I loved this first installment was Jace. Yet, there is so much more to this novel. The well-rounded characters (Simon, Luke, Magnus, Alec, Isabelle), the non-stop action and last but not least the quirky dialogue.

See a snippet below:

“Have you fallen in love with the wrong person yet?’
Jace said, “Unfortunately, Lady of the Haven, my one true love remains myself.”
…”At least,” she said, “you don’t have to worry about rejection, Jace Wayland.”
“Not necessarily. I turn myself down occasionally, just to keep it interesting.”

The book is filled with this kind of sarcastic dialogue – mostly from Jace, but Magnus Bane and Simon will occasionally pitch in as well to create some really funny moments.

There is really only one minor disappointment with this book and that is the unexpected twist at the end, which I can assure you will be quite frustrating. But I urge you to keep reading, because it only gets better. Having read all three books, it now stands as one of my all time favorite young adult series (along with Twilight of course.)

Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

5 Aug


Series: The Seven Kingdoms trilogy, book #1

Published: October 1st 2008 by Harcourt Children’s Books

Details: Hardcover 417 pages

My grade: 4.5/5

My summary:

Great book which is a coming-off age story about a girl Katsa and her relationship with the prince Po set in a fantasy land called the Seven Kingdoms, somewhat similar to the set of Lord of the Rings. Great read about a strong heroine with paranormal abilities and a believable love story.

See my full review here:

Synopsis:

In a world where people born with an exceptional skill, known as a Grace, are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a skill even she despises: the Grace of killing.

She lives under the command of her Uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to carry out his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him. Breaking arms and cutting off fingers are her stock-in-trade. Finding life under his rule increasingly unbearable Katsa forms an underground Council, whose purpose is to combat the destructive behaviour of the seven kings – after all, the Middluns is only one of the Seven Kingdoms, each of them ruled by their own king and his personal agenda for power.

When the Council hears that the King of Liend’s father has been kidnapped Katsa investigates …and stumbles across a mystery. Who would want to kidnap him, and why? And who was the extraordinary Graced fighter who challenged her fighting skills, for the first time, as she and the Council rushed the old man to safety? Something dark and deadly is rising in the north and creeping across the continent, and behind it all lurks the shadowy figure of a one-eyed king …

My thoughts:

I hardly ever venture into fantasy land, The Lord of the Rings series being the one and only exception. And now that I come to think about it, it’s strange, because seeing as I devoured that series I wonder why it never occurred to me to seek out other books in that same genre?

Anyway, to cut it short, I am a novice when it comes to the fantasy genre, and so Graceling wouldn’t be my usual pick.  But as I stumbled across reviews of this book on various book blogs, I was intrigued, both by the tough heroine with paranormal abilities and of course the romance. (I’m a sucker for the latter)

So, as for the review, I can start by saying that Graceling was a page-turner. I think I read the book in about 2 days. It’s filled with action-packed adventure and a beautiful romance, but at its core it is a coming-of age story about Katsa.

The story is set in a land of seven kingdoms where some children are born graced with an extreme skill. A skill that can be anything you might think of, from trivial things like walking backwards, holding your breath, climbing trees to more advantageous graces like exceptional sword fighting or mind reading. Katsa is burdened by the grace of killing, and is naturally feared by most people. Ever since her grace was known (by accidently killing an annoying cousin) the king has been using her to perform his ill-willed tasks. In order to balance out the acts of evil she performs under the influence of the king, she has started a secret council, bent on doing good. It’s during one of their missions that we are introduced into the book.

At the start of the book, Katsa carries around a lot of anger. She’s angry to be burdened by her grace which is making her a “freak”,  lonely and feared by most people. She’s angry to be used by the king carrying out his dirty missions. More importantly, she is not entirely sure how to separate the evil acts  she performs for the king with herself. She is doubting her own “goodness” so to speak. As the story moves on she gradually comes to terms with who she really is and how to accept her grace as a part of herself.

One character that helps  her on her way to self-discovery is Po, a prince from one of the other kingdoms who sets off with Katsa to solve the mystery of the kidnapping (the council’s mission at the start of the book). Po is a wonderfully drawn character, and as he has that emotional maturity and security that Katsa lacks, he appears to be that perfect person to befriend the temperamental, angry and wild Katsa. I just loved watching the two of them getting to know each other!

Another great character is introduced halfway through the book when Katsa and Po cross paths with Bitterblue, a child princess from yet another kingdom. This is when  it starts getting really interesting, not only because the story itself heats up, but also because Bitterblue is such a likable character, strong, brave and mature, who immediately forms a strong bond with Katsa.

In short, I loved the plot which contained everything you might wish for; adventure, romance, fighting scenes, creepy villans and a tough cool heroine.

My only minor criticism is that I found the language a bit uneven. There were parts in the book where I got distracted from the story because certain paragraphs were constructed in such odd ways. The language just didn’t have that effortless flow, at least no constantly throughout the book.

Either way, it’s still a good novel with one of the most interesting heroines I’ve encountered in a while, not too unlike Katniss in Hunger Games.

Graceling is the first book in a trilogy. The third book in the series is  to be focusing on princess Bitterblue, once again involving Katsa and Po in the story.. and well, I know I’ll be running out to get my hands on that book as soon as it is released!