Tag Archives: magic

Review: Old Magic by Marianne Curley

7 Dec

Series: No, stand-alone

Published: February 26th 2002 by Simon Pulse

Details: Paperback, 317 pages

My Rating: 2/5

My Summary:

Stand-alone novel about Kate and Jarrod who time travel to medieval England in order to prevent a curse to be casted on Jarrod’s family. First half of the book dragged, but it got slightly better in the second half – the time travel section. My main problems were Jarrod who was a wimp and the simplistic plot & writing, which was too young adult for me. Probably ok for younger teens.

A few chapters in:

Witchcraft, time travel and romance. A (gasp!) stand-alone book, almost never heard of in the young adult paranormal genre these days. And finally, written by Marianne Curley, an Australian author I’ve been curious about for some time.(She is also the author of the highly acclaimed The Guardians of Time Trilogy.)

All of the above, combined with the fact that it was standing there literally waiting for me while I was browsing the library shelf for something to read, made me pick it up.

I’m now a few chapters in, and while it’s an OK read, I’m not feeling completely converted just yet.

Kate is a witch. Meaning, she knows how to cast minor spells such as turning on the radio in the next room or fast-forwarding the minute-hands on the clock. Her speciality however is to get inside people’s heads in order to sense their general feelings.

Witchcraft runs in her family, all though the only family she’s ever known is her granny with whom she lives. Her mom abandoned her when she was only an infant. Because of her and her granny’s abilities, they have a bit of a reputation in the small town of Ashpeak where they live.

One day in school, Jarrod, the new guy arrives. Kate immediately senses that something is different about him. When Jarrod is being teased by the other guys in class, a storm is suddenly conjured up out of thin air, throwing things around within the walls of the class room. What Kate suspected before is confirmed. Jarrod has some serious magical powers.

Problem is, he is not aware of it, and he refuses to listen to Kate, who he believes is one crazy witch.

This is as far as I’ve got. I’m liking the fact that we’ve got alternating POV’s following both Kate’s and Jarrod’s thoughts. Yet, like I said before, I don’t feel any pull towards it. Hoping to feel it though, as I read more.

After finishing the book:

On finishing this book, I had a similar feeling to when I finished A Great and Terribly Beauty by Libba Bray. That the writing was good, but the story failed to pull me in, and in both cases I suspect it was because I am considerably older than the target audience.

As for the review:

Well, as I mentioned, the first half of the book dragged, to the point that I almost gave up. We are given Kate’s background story of being an outcast, due to being a witch, in the small village of Ashpeak where she and her grandma live. Enters Jarrod, the new guy in town, and he and Kate start a wary friendship. Wary because Jarrod – spineless as he is – is too afraid to acknowledge outcast Kate in school – as to not lose popularity himself.

They do however get to know each other better (off school) and as they do, Kate realizes two things. 1) Jarrod has powerful magical powers and 2) His family is unusually accident-prone, to the point that she suspects a curse has been placed upon them. After this realization, she repeatedly (and I mean literally repeatedly) tries to convince Jarrod to see this truth, while Jarrod repeatedly denies it. And this goes on..and on..and on..and on..until I was ready to throw the book into a wall.

Then just as the book was about to fly, Jarrod finally makes up his mind to follow Kate on a time travel to meet with his ancestors in medieval England in order to prevent the curse (which they believe was casted around that time era).

Here the pace picks up, and I gathered enough interest to keep going. Kate and Jarrod visit the ancestors Lord Thorntyne and his family at their castle – and are welcomed in. Not long after, it’s made very clear who the source of the curse is. There is this illegitimate brother – Rhauk – who lives in a neighbouring castle called the Blacklands (sounds evil anyone?), and who is looking to revenge his lost inheritance with a curse. The question is now, will the clumsy wimp known as Jarrod gather enough strength and magical powers to beat the powerful magician Rhauk, thus destroying the curse in the process?

Well, as much as I want to avoid spoilers, I can’t pretend the ending was a surprise. And believe me, as you are reading it you will know the end way before time as well. The plot was as predictable as a child story. I would have needed more subplots or twists and turns to keep me interested. This was simply put, too simplistic.

There is also a romance between Kate and Jarrod, which never pulled me in either. Kate was such a strong and mature girl, and I couldn’t fathom how she could ever be interested in Jarrod, let alone go through so much trouble to save him and his family from a curse.  She mutters herself quite a few times how she thinks that Jarrod is a spineless wimp. So I found it hard to believe in the romantic connection that they supposedly shared. Granted, Jarrod does change towards the very end, but it was a bit too late for me.

The Bottom Line:

All that being said, the book wasn’t completely bad, meaning I’ve read worse. It did redeem itself slightly towards the end. And, like I said when reviewing A Great and Terrible Beauty, had I been say 14 years of age, chances are I would have loved it.

As for now, I’m contemplating whether to read more of Curley’s books. Her trilogy The Guardians of Time has received high praise but after reading this debut novel of hers.. let’s just say, that trilogy just moved down a couple of notches on my TBR-list.

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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: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

13 Oct

Series: Gemma Doyle, book #1

Published: July 4th 2005 by Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

Details: Hardcover, 403 pages

My Rating: 2/5

My Summary:

About Gemma, who after her mothers death is sent to a boarding school in Victorian England, where she befriends a group of girls with whom she starts a secret club and uses forbidden magic to enter a magical world. For me it lacked in characterization, none of the characters were likable, and so I didn’t care about the book. Possibly ok for teens.

A few chapters in:

Harry Potter for girls. That’s how some people have described this book. I have also heard it’s very young adult – as in – you may need to actually be in your teens to appreciate this book. In short, I’ve heard a lot of various opinions of this series, some less flattering than others. But seeing as it’s recommended by a huge amount of people, and seeming similar to Harry Potter (which I loved), I thought I might as well check it out.

I am now 100 pages in, and I’m stricken by how similar this is to Immortal (note that Libba Bray published a few years previous to Immortal). We have a grief-stricken girl, arriving at a haunting, old private school, not getting the warmest welcome. The click of popular girls treat her badly, and her only friend so far is her room-mate who is a plain and ordinary girl, also poor and an outcast as she was sent there on a scholarship. There is a necklace, passed on from the dead (or sick) family member, which seems to hold secrets in regards to the heroine’s hidden powers. There is also a diary, written by someone else entirely, who experienced the same confusing powers as the heroine, but years previously. Oh, and there are visions as well, and strange dreams. And not to forget, a dark mysterious boy who lingers in the area, watching our heroine, but with unknown intentions.

Did I miss anything? That’s as far as I’ve got, but the premise really does share some striking similarities with Immortal, just saying.

Am I liking it so far? Sort of. I’m not completely captured, possibly because it got me bored reading the same story yet again. I also understand reviewers saying it’s aimed towards young adult only. It feels as if I may be too old for the target audience here. That being said, it’s well written, and I have a feeling it might get better. Let’s see what happens..

After finishing the book:

So what can I say? I wasn’t captured in the beginning and I’m sorry to say it stayed that way throughout the novel.

As I said earlier, Gemma the protagonist is sent to a boarding school in England after her mother’s death. There, she befriends three other girls and they form a secret club, first as a joke but as Gemma’s powers are revealed, it grows into something far more serious and eventually spirals out of control.

So why did it not capture me? I have one word for that: characterization. I didn’t care one bit for Gemma or neither one her three friends. They were immature, stupid and irresponsible, all of which I could have forgiven them in the beginning seeing as they were only teenagers. But there is no growth! Gemma keeps trusting these girls, and I can’t for one understand why, seeing as how they behave in various situations in the book (torturing an animal and having their best teacher at school fired among other things). Gemma might be a nice girl but she is too weak. She seems to know right from wrong, but keeps making stupid decisions anyway due to peer pressure (basically whenever the other girls whine).

It’s hard to care about the book when you are not invested into neither one of the main characters. I’m all for rounded characters portraying both good and bad traits, but these girls seemed to portray flaws exclusively. I would have loved for these four girls to eventually bond and care  for each other as in a true friendship. That never realized though as they were all too absorbed into their own personal goals to truly care about one another.

There is also a weird sort of romance in the book, made up almost entirely by sensual dreams. I’m not sure of why Gemma starts dreaming about Kartrik, seeing as they don’t share one single good moment together. He’s basically threatening her or being plain rude every time they meet. There is also not much of an explanation to why Kartrik made the effort to follow Gemma from India, and incorporate himself into a Gipsy community in her proximity, just to be able to watch her and advise her not to do magic. It seemed a bit too far-fetched to me, but sure, maybe there are explanations in the following two books, what do I know?

The ending fell flat as well. I don’t even think I fully comprehended it. Why was the villain suddenly defeated? What happened? There was a lot of rushing and swivelling and then suddenly Gemma got away. Or maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, because to be honest, at that point I had all but given up on the book.

The Bottom Line:

All this being said, and to Bray’s defence, I may be too old for the target audience. Or rather, I know for a fact that I am. If I had read this book at say, the age of 14, chances are I would have loved it. But as it was now, at the age of 32, this book did not deliver. I won’t continue the series.

Review: Immortal by Gillian Shields

4 Oct

Series: Immortal, book #1

Published: August 4th 2009 by HarperTeen

Details: Hardcover, 368 pages

My rating: 1/5

My summary:

Don’t waste your time. It had a good premise about a girl who is sent to strange and haunting private school Wyldcliffe and meets mysterious boy. But the writing is poor, the characters one-dimensional and the plot predictable and full of holes. I never got into the story, and couldn’t care less what happened, not even towards the end. Possibly ok for teens under 15.

Synopsis:

Wyldcliffe Abbey School for Young Ladies, housed in a Gothic mansion on the bleak northern moors, is elite, expensive, and unwelcoming. When Evie Johnson is torn away from her home by the sea to become the newest scholarship student, she is more isolated than she could have dreamed. Strict teachers, snobbish students, and the oppressive atmosphere of Wyldcliffe leave Evie drowning in loneliness.

Evie’s only lifeline is Sebastian, a rebellious, mocking, dangerously attractive young man she meets by chance. As Evie’s feelings for Sebastian grow with each secret meeting, she starts to fear that he is hiding something about his past. And she is haunted by glimpses of a strange, ghostly girl—a girl who is so eerily like Evie, she could be a sister. Evie is slowly drawn into a tangled web of past and present that she cannot control. And as the extraordinary, elemental forces of Wyldcliffe rise up like the mighty sea, Evie is faced with an astounding truth about Sebastian, and her own incredible fate.

Gillian Shields’s electrifying tale will dazzle readers with suspense, mysticism, and romance.

My thoughts:

I feel terrible for what I am about to say, but there’s no way around it. I did not like this book.

I actually had a bad feeling about this one only one or two chapters in. It starts with the heroine Evie arriving to Wyldcliffe boarding school, and in the first two chapters her background information  is thrown in, meaning all the events leading up to her being sent there are explained in between the lines. Usually that type of info is weaved into the story so that I hardly even notice it’s there. Here it was done in such a clunky way that it felt as if lights went on blinking – background info coming!! – every time anything was added, detaching me from the story because of the sheer clunkiness of it.

But I kept reading..don’t ask me why but I did.

About the plot. Well, it  has been done before. Girl arrives at a boarding school after the loss (or sickness) of a family member, only to find out that things are not what they seem at said school. She meets a handsome boy with a dark mysterious past. Somehow all the secrets (of the school and the boy) are linked to her past, and most likely also linked to the dead (or sick) family member.

Even though the plot is a far cry from original it could have been saved with good characterization and writing. This is where it falls short. Now, firstly let me explain: I don’t have the best skills in determining the writing in a book. Usually it goes something like this: “Wow this is something I know I could never achieve myself = great writing” or “Hmm this is something I could have written myself = pretty bad writing”.

This book however (and take into account folks that I am not a writer nor an English native speaker), I could have written better had I tried it myself. It was that bad!! Some phrases had me literally cringing. Not once did I feel it transported me into the story, rather, the writing made me detach from the story as I couldn’t help but notice how awkwardly some sentences were put together.

On top of this, the characters were one-dimensional cut-out from cardboard, with one personality trait each, if even that. I had no interest whatsoever in Evie, the heroine as she had no personality. Her so-called epic romance with the mysterious Sebastian could not hold my attention either. Their romance was all telling and no showing. They were supposedly so in love, yet I didn’t feel it anywhere, not even the slightest.

Also, it didn’t help that I knew where the story was heading as early as a third into the book – no surprises there. Needless to say, I had a hard time finishing this book. In fact, I didn’t. I quit with only a few chapters left. That, if anything, is saying something about how badly executed it was.

If you want to read a similar book, but better accomplished in terms of writing, read “A Great and Terrible Beauty” by Libba Bray. But whatever you do, don’t waste your time on this one. There are so many much better books out there.

Review: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

5 Aug

Series: Caster Chronicles, book #1

Published: December 1st 2009 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Details: Hardcover, 563 pages

My rating: 2.5/5

My summary:

Tale of a human boy who meets a caster girl and falls in love. Even though well written, and funny and quirky at times (with great secondary characters), it was way too slow. And I didn’t feel the love between the main characters Ethan and Lena. I’m sorry to say it all fell flat for me and I won’t be continuing the series.

See my full review here:

Synopsis:

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps, and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

My thoughts:

So I jumped on the bandwagon and got myself a copy of Beautiful Creatures, which was proclaimed to be the next Twilight.

I was hoping for another love story with paranormal elements that would blow me away. I’m sad to say that I wasn’t.  I did however like the book. It wasn’t bad, but  it was no page-turner either. In fact, I had no problem at all leaving it for a few weeks midway through, to read a couple of other books in between. Never a good sign.

The main flaw for me was that the love story did not feel real. The narrator Ethan keeps telling us how much in love he is with Lena, but I just didn’t believe it. It felt more to me that they came together because destiny had decided that. It was almost as if they didn’t really have any choice, and kind of just went along with it.

Maybe more room was needed for the romance to blossom into something real? As it was now, almost as soon as they met, weird stuff started happening and the story pretty much turned into solving the mystery of Lena’s curse, rather than of them falling in love. I don’t know, I’m just guessing here why the love story fell flat for me.

I also found the book too slow. The background of the curse of Lena’s sixteenth birthday is explained somewhere midway through the book. Then the seemingly endless wait for her birthday begins, and this wait essentially continues until the final pages. Not much happens in between – apart from lots of worrying and a fruitless search for a cure to Lena’s curse.

What I did like about the book though was the descriptions of the small town surroundings. The narrator’s voice is very likable as he describes all the people around him. The secondary characters are vivid and charming personalities and I found myself chuckle out loud quite a few times. So in that sense, I liked it, as it’s well written and witty.

But despite that, it is nowhere near comparable to Twilight. It’s definitely not as addictive, and I didn’t buy the romance. I enjoyed some parts of the book though, and some of the secondary characters, but not so much that I will continue the series.