Tag Archives: romance

Review: Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins

15 Nov

Series: Hex Hall, book #2

Published: March 22nd 2011 by Hyperion Book CH

Details: Hardcover, 359 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

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

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Synopsis:

Sophie Mercer thought she was a witch.

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

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My Thoughts:

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

A miracle in itself.

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

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

My interest was piqued.

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

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

Let me give you a few examples:

On Sophie’s dad being British:

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

Or when Sophie finds out about the betrothal:

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

Or the snarky remarks between Sophie and Archer:

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

Entertaining indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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Review: Bloodlines by Richelle Mead

11 Nov

Series: Bloodlines, book #1

Published: August 23rd 2011 by Razorbill

Details: Hardcover, 421 pages

My Rating: 4/5

My Summary:

Great new spin-off series of the Vampire Academy following the new protagonist Sydney, the human alchemist who helped Rose in Last Sacrifice. Sydney may not be as kick-ass as Rose (kind of hard to beat), but she is every bit as head-strong and protective of the ones she loves. She warmed my heart, as did the other characters in their group, Jill, Eddie and in particular Adrian! All in all, a wonderfully entertaining start to a new series!!

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Synopsis:

When alchemist Sydney is ordered into hiding to protect the life of Moroi princess Jill Dragomir, the last place she expects to be sent is a human private school in Palm Springs, California. But at their new school, the drama is only just beginning.

Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Bloodlines explores all the friendship, romance, battles and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive – this time in a part-vampire, part-human setting where the stakes are even higher and everyone’s out for blood.

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My Thoughts:

I actually read this book a couple of weeks ago, but things were being so hectic at the time, that I never got a chance to sit down for a review. I do however remember my one thought after closing the last page:

I am in love with Adrian Ivashkov.

That’s right. Not since Jace in The Mortal Instruments have I felt so strongly for a male character. What a wonderful, cynical, broken-hearted, flawed, protective, kind and romantic character Mead has created. I felt as if he practically jumped out of the pages every time he was given page time. Talk about a scene-stealer!

So, taking that into account, my view of Bloodlines may be slightly biased, since Adrian had me feeling starry-eyed pretty much all the time.

That being said, I was conscious, more or less, of the rest of the plot as well. And believe me when I say that I was wary at the start.  For one, I loved everything about the Vampire Academy and was wondering if Sydney the alchemist could be as good of a protagonist as Rose?

Well, was she?

Yes, I think she was. Obviously not as kick-ass. Not the center of attention. Not as drop-dead gorgeous. But every bit as head-strong and courageous, and protective of the ones she loves.  Just managing the situations in a different way. While Rose tended to go running head-first into things, Sydney took time to think about the best possible way to handle something before acting on it. She is a bit of a brainiac, a book-nerd, responsible and all that. But she also proves that she has the guts to act in dangerous situations when it really comes down to it.

I found myself feeling for her, being human and trying to cope in a world of vampires, cleaning up after everyone, suffering from the repression of her father, trying to do everything right and please everyone but not always succeeding. Always putting everyone else before herself. I also see a lot of potential growth. I think she’ll learn how to stand up for herself and I hope in doing so she’ll also face her father. I can’t wait for that moment to happen.

The setting in this book is not much different from the Vampire Academy setting, except for the obvious. There are only humans in the school. Otherwise, Sydney and the Moroi princess Jill essentially face the same high school issues that Lissa and Rose once faced. That is, trying to cope with rumours, high-school bitches, not breaking school rules, boy crushes, demanding teachers, and the list goes on. It’s all very entertaining, and I loved seeing the little group of Sydney, Jill and Eddie taking care of each other and facing everyone around them.

Seeing as this is a spin-off, I should let you know that it works perfectly well to read this book if you haven’t read the Vampire Academy series. All though, be warned that there are quite a few spoilers as to how the previous series ended. So if you are planning to read VA, you should probably do that first before starting Bloodlines.

My one qualm about this book were the plot twists leading up to the finale which were a bit predictable. Someone of course had to turn out to be the bad guy with a hidden agenda.  BUT, seeing as Adrian was given page time in the finale, I wasn’t too bothered. And some of the other plot threads were very nicely tided up. So all in all, I enjoyed reading it until the end.

Finally, what really made this book special for me, was the growing affection between Adrian and Sydney. It happened so slowly that I barely knew if I was feeling it right, but I do think now there is great potential for the two of them. They definitely share a connection, and I cannot wait to see that continue in the sequel.

Now, some people have been complaining about the romance being too slow, but how could it have happened in any other way? I mean, Adrian was suffering from a broken heart. It would have come off as rather strange if he had been able to throw himself into another relationship just like that. I really did prefer this slow but much more believable scenario. Just saying.

The ending is a bit of a cliffie. Let me just say, you will be dying to know what the next spoken words are.

I know I literally cannot WAIT to continue the journey of these wonderful characters in The Golden Lily, to be published in June 2012.

Review: Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer

20 Oct

Series: Nightshade,  book #2

Published: July 26th 2011 by Penguin Young Readers Group

Details: Hardcover, 390 pages

My Rating: 2.5/5

My Summary:

In this sequel of The Nightshade series, Calla finds herself struggling with the consequences of having left her pack. She and Shay are being cared for by the Searchers, but the rest of her group, including Ren, are still with the enemies. I loved Nightshade, but was less than thrilled with this one. Too much talking and info dump. Not enough action. In the end, not much was solved, and it finishes off in a cliff-hanger. All in all, disappointing.

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Synopsis:

When Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemies, she’s certain her days are numbered. But then the Searchers make her an offer—one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack—and the man—she left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive.

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My Review:

Only 50 pages in, my “filler warning bell” started ringing. (The bell that rings when I see filler-signs, usually in sequels, see Linger or Desires of the Dead.)

I tried to ignore it, because I wanted to like Wolfsbane. I had been dying to read it ever since I finished the amazing Nightshade a couple of months ago. But the more I read, the higher the bell rang. And after another 100 or so pages I could no longer deny the fact that my “warning bell” had a valid point. The plot was definitely missing!

Throughout the first 250 pages, we follow Calla and Shay as they hang out at the Searcher’s quarters. Doing what you may ask?

Well, bickering. That’s what they do. They sit around and talk, joke, banter, discuss things and once in a while drink coffee or take a tour on the grounds. Then back to talking and joking around some more.

Literally 250 pages of dialogues, I kid you not!

You know, I’m usually a fan of dialogues, since they are a convenient way of showing what the characters are like, rather than the author telling us through descriptions. My problem with these dialogues though were that they seemed to have no purpose, other than serve as fillers.

A pattern that would repeat itself over and over again, was the following:

A vital piece of information needed to be delivered, maybe half a page at the most. But throw some bickering of the group in between that vital piece of information and voila! Three pages have been filled rather than a half.

It would usually go like this:

(One line of actual information)

“You’ll rendevouz with Grant tonight”, Silas said, pulling a crumpled piece of paper out of his jeans pocket. “I just got confirmation”.

(Start bickering)

Anika reached for the note. “Silas, we’ve talked about keeping correspondence neat”.

“I was in a hurry”. He shrugged.

“I wouldn’t touch that if I were you”, Connor said. “You don’t know where that’s been”.

“Shut up, you louse”, Silas snapped.

“Louse?” Connor laughed. “How deep did you have to dig for that one?”

(End bickering)

(One line of actual information)

(Start bickering..)

You see what I mean? It went on like this for the entire novel!

It also felt like Cremer tried so hard to make the searchers a likable bunch of people, that in the end, it felt forced. All their bantering and bickering felt like “Oh look at us! We’re so cool, deep and fun, we listen to cool music, we play guitar and on top of it all, we are kick-ass warriors who can wield all sort of lethal ninja-weapons”.

Sorry guys, but you did not impress me.

It felt more like a parody of other warriors, or as if Cremer had just read The Mortal Instruments and tried to create a new kind of Shadowhunters. Same type of bickering, same tight relationships, same weaponry rooms with enchanted weapons and the same type of enormous headquarters situated all over the world. There was even the same type of war going on against our parallel world, a demon world with black magic.

Only, in The Mortal Instruments it worked, because I saw it in action. It was an on-going thing, as in, they would head out and meet demons and fight them on a daily basis. Here, not so much. It was more talking and yada yada yada. I never felt any urgency, and I certainly never felt that they were skilled or talented. They made a huge fuss over preparing well and making plans, but when they actually went out there, it ended up being the most unplanned thing I’ve ever seen, which quickly went downhill as soon as they set foot on enemy territory. Skilled warriors? I think not.

Another thing that fell short for me was the love triangle. Surprisingly, because if you remember my review of Nighshade, I devoured Calla’s difficulties with choosing between her alpha mate Ren and the newcomer Shay. In this installment however, Shay has turned into an obnoxious macho guy who would not take no for an answer. Ren is practically absent the entire novel, save from a 3 second cameo appearance, and like most reviewers have commented, I missed him!

Moreover, I no longer recognized Calla. She lost her spine in this book, and was walking around feeling lost and guilty most of the time. A shame, since Calla was one of my favorite heroines in Nightshade.

The ending is a cliff-hanger, and promises more of Ren, which I have to admit is intriguing. Nevertheless, I am considering ending the series here. Unless of course, the next book Bloodrose recieves stunning reviews.

Bloodrose to be released in January next year. For all you “Team Ren” out there, see a teaser chapter here.

Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

10 Oct

Series: Hex Hall, book #1

Published: March 2nd 2010 by Hyperion Book CH

Details: Hardcover, 323 pages

My Rating:  3.5/5

My Summary:

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

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Synopsis:

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

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

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My Thoughts:

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

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

Let’s see:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sequel is called Demonglass.

Review: Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

8 Oct

Series: Awaken, book #1

Published: May 23rd 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Books

Details: Hardcover, 320 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

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

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Synopsis:

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

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

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

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My thoughts:

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

The signs were there, namely:

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

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

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

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

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

or

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Matched by Ally Condie

7 Oct

Series: Matched, book #1

Published: November 30th 2010 by Dutton Juvenile

Details: Hardcover, 384 pages

My Rating: 2/5

My Summary:

About Cassia, who in a dystopian future where The Society control all, is matched with Xander and then finds out that it could have been Ky. Or could it? Once the doubts are there, she can’t stop thinking about Ky, and eventually falls in love. It’s slow-going, bogged down with irrelevant details and lacks any sense of urgency. I had a hard time getting to the end without falling asleep. Recommended for fans of Delirium.

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Synopsis:

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

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My Thoughts:

I have a theory: What you think about Matched, is what you think about Delirium, and vice versa.

As you know, I was not a fan of Delirium, and consequently I am not a fan of Matched. For nearly the same reasons as with Delirium. In fact, I could almost copy and paste my whole review from Delirium and insert the appropriate names and locations because really, they are that interchangeable!

Both are set in an all-controlling society who decides where you’ll live, what you’ll work with, who you’ll marry and how many children you’ll have. Both heroines, who are strikingly similar personality-wise, meet a boy who is an outcast of the society and hence forbidden. Both girls have been assigned a match who they should fall in love with. I could go on but you get the idea.

Instead, let’s move on to my issues:

Just like in Delirium, I had problems with the world-building in Matched. For instance, I thought it odd that people didn’t seem to create anything anymore. The Society had saved 100 of everything (poems, books, songs) but nothing new was being created? It appeared as if the only tool of creation was the long-forgotten pen. But wait, can you not write a poem on your computer? It just did not seem plausible and the whole oh-so-forbidden act of writing in cursive, which is what Ky secretly teaches Cassia, had me rolling my eyes.

Just like in Delirium, I thought the romance happened too fast. Cassia started to get drawn to Ky pretty much straight away, which given what happened with the micro card, is understandable. What I didn’t understand is how quickly she thought herself to be in love with him. They barely exchanged any sentences. And when they did, it was all very stiff or dramatic.

Just like in Delirium, there was a lack of urgency. It was too slow, and there were too many redundant passages that bogged everything down so that I ended up feeling every single one of the 384 pages.

Finally, I didn’t like the writing style, which seemed to try hard to be poetic but not quite making it. Let me give you an example (from page 175):

“Can I do it? I look out at the view from the top of the hill. The sky does not have an answer for me. The dome of City Hall in the distance certainly doesn’t. I remember thinking of the angel stories when I went to my Match Banquet. I don’t see any angels and they don’t fly down on their cotton soft wings to whisper in my ear. Can I trust this boy who writes in the earth?

Someplace deep within me – Is it my heart? Or perhaps my soul, the mythical part of human that the angels cared about? – tells me that I can.”

Now, some people might like this type of writing. Too me, it just sounds overdone.  It makes me notice the author (for trying to be poetic) rather than get immersed into the story. But then, that is just my opinion. If you like a flowery poetic language with plenty of side tracks and a few philosophical rhetorical questions thrown in for good measure – then this might be the book for you.

Or of course, if you loved Delirium.

It is however the end of the series for me.

The sequel Crossed to be published on November 1st this year.

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: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

13 Sep

Series: Hourglass, book #1

Published: June 14th 2011 by Egmont USA

Details: Hardcover, 397 pages

My Rating: 4/5

My Summary:

A great read featuring Emerson, who since her parents death can see ghosts. She meets Michael, the consult her brother has hired, and her world turns upside down. I loved the dialogues, the heroine and the intriguing plot, but thought the romance and the villains were too clicheed. Still a hugely entertaining read, and I plan to continue the series.

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A few chapters in:

I have just started reading Hourglass, not to be confused with the third book of Claudia Gray’s Evernight Series. Instead, this is a debut from author Myra McEntire, and it involves time travel and an “explosively delicious romance”, if to believe a statement by Beth Ravis (author of Across the Universe) at the blurb of the book.

It also received a stunning review from yareads, which as you know I follow very closely.

Enough said, I got myself a copy and I’m now a few chapters in:

Emerson Cole is a 17-year old with a rather unusual problem. She sees ghosts. Generally, these ghosts are people from the past and the only way to make them disappear is by touching them.

Her well-meaning brother Thomas and his wife Dru are of course worried about Emerson’s strange ability (or craziness) and they’ve done everything in their power to help her, including a number of shrinks and medications. As we enter the story, Thomas as just hired another one of these “consults” for Emerson.

This one however is different from the others. For one, he is only a few years older than Emerson. Secondly, he is absolutely gorgeous. And thirdly he has the very same ability to see “ghosts” as Emerson.

All great news. Except for the fact that Michael, as he is called, seems to hide something, and this is somehow related to the mysterious organization Hourglass which he is working for. What secrets exactly he is hiding I don’t know yet, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.

And so far, I am really enjoying this! I like the smart, spunky heroine, the witty dialogue and the unpredictable story line. Let’s just hope it continues this way!
 
 
 

 
 
 
After finishing the book:

So here’s the deal, I thought Hourglass was a very entertaining read. It had that quality about it that forced me to continue, the kind of book that won’t let go. Just need to read one more chapter, okay just one more.. one more until Oops it’s 2 am! How did that happen?

That being said, it wasn’t perfect. Meaning, it was not the type of book that upon finishing it had me thinking about it for days afterwards. There were a few things I found myself questioning and a few cliché’s that had my eyes rolling, but which I chose to ignore because I was so into the unraveling mystery.

So yep, hugely entertaining, that’s for sure. Yet not a book to die for. Do I make sense? Probably not. I’ll explain a bit more:

What I loved:

I loved the heroine, let’s get that one straight. She was the type of heroine you want to become best friends with. I’d like all my heroines to be like that. She reminded me a bit of Clara in Unearthly, the same snarky humour, ability to fend for herself, depth, great relationship with her family, insecure but also tough. I could totally see how any guy could fall in love with her.

Like other reviewers have commented, I enjoyed the original take on the plot, and obviously the pacing was great! I loved learning more, along with Emerson, what exactly she could do, what the Hourglass was, and the inner workings of time travel. It was all really interesting and had me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

I also loved the side characters, her lovely brother and wife who believed in her and her best friend Lily, who seemed to have a few secrets on her own. Can’t wait to see her character expand! I also loved Kabel, the other guy in the love triangle. Maybe even more than Michael. He was more open and showed more of his emotions than Michael, who was a bit more closed off and had that tortured thing going on about him.

Which brings me to what I didn’t love so much:

Michael, the romantic interest. I think I’m getting tired of male protagonists being portrayed as tortured souls. It’s worked before – I mean Jace! – but I feel it’s time to read about something new now. That being said, I’ve definitely read about worse male romantic leads. Michael was okay, just not very original.

The romance worked because I liked their chemistry and especially their dialogues together. But again, I did have a few qualms about it, or rather, there were a couple of clichés embedded in that romance that had my eyes rolling a bit. For instance:

1)  There is this electric current that goes through them every time they touch. I mean, light bulbs would literally go out when they touched, that sort of thing. Call me cynical, but it seemed a bit too over the top.

2) Michael keeps saying that he and Emerson can’t be together and I kept wondering, why not? I sure didn’t understand that, and at the end of the book, it didn’t seem to be much of a problem either. So it really felt more like a convenient plot device to keep them separated rather than a real problem.

3) I didn’t completely understand why Michael was being all that mysterious about Hourglass. Once again, I thought he was exaggerating that, or that he was mysterious for the sake of being mysterious. He’d keep repeating that he couldn’t tell her anything but at the end of the day, she was bound to find out anyway, and it sure didn’t seem to cause any problems then. So why the whole mysterious act?

A final qualm I had with this book was the end, which felt a bit too over the top. The villains were evil because..yeah why exactly? They were evil because of the sake of being evil? Too black and white if you ask me. It felt like a James Bond movie, where they have this long ooohahahahaaa talk about why they betrayed certain people and want to conquer the world. You know?

I didn’t completely buy into it.

But, despite all that, I sure flew through this book, in a matter of hours. I just could not stop! The number one reason, apart from a great heroine, characters and intriguing plot was the dialogue! It was great, fun, inventive and most of all sarcastic! I literally laughed out loud througout the book! So great job on that McEntire!

All in all, this is a great fun read and I’m sure to pick up the next book in the series, to hit the shelves some time next year.

Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

10 Sep

Series: Delirium, book #1

Published: February 1st 2011 by HarperTeen

Details: Hardcover, 441 pages

My Rating: 2/5

My Summary:

I loved Oliver’s debut novel Before I Fall. This one however was a disappointment. The premise was interesting about a girl in a dystopian world where love is forbidden. But it turned out to be slow-going, with a sketchy world, a meek boring heroine and a shallow romance. The only good thing was the writing. Sorry to say I won’t continue the series.

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My Full Review:

As you know, I loved Lauren Oliver’s debut Before I Fall. Therefore it came as a bit of a surprise that her second book Delirium was such a let-down.

Since the hype surrounding this book was massive I’m sure you’re familiar with the general plot already, but here’s a quick reminder in case you’ve missed it:

This is a dystopian novel, set in a time when love is considered a disease and the root of all the problems of mankind. The government has decided it mandatory that all 18-year olds undergo a surgery to remove the part of the brain that triggers and senses love.

We meet Lena, who only a few weeks before the operation does the unthinkable. She falls in love with a boy.

Okay, so the premise sounded intriguing and I was expecting a similar roller-coaster ride as the one I was taken on while reading Before I Fall.

Instead I was treated to about the most boring story I have ever read. I got to the end, but it sure involved quite a bit of struggles on my part. Let me explain why:

The plot is practically non-existent for the first half of the book and then some. Meaning, you could easily flip forward a few pages and not miss a thing. Oliver writes beautifully, I get that. But I wished she would have cut some of her descriptions as they bogged everything down. It felt like the book could have been slimmed down 200 pages and still kept the story line intact. It felt like there was so much fillers!

I also had a hard time connecting to Lena, the protagonist. Do you remember in my review of Before I Fall how I said that the heroine was a breath of fresh air from all the other ordinary plain and meek heroines out there. Well, unfortunately Lena falls straight into the latter category. She did not seem to have one single trait to make her stand out. Apart from maybe indecisiveness and low self-esteem. How Alex would fall for her and not her charismatic best friend Hana is a mystery.

The romance was (once again) of that “fall at first sight” type which I am beginning to loathe. After only a few weeks of knowing each other, Alex and Lena are already proclaiming their eternal love for each other, where they are literally ready to die for each other if so be it. Romantic? I don’t think so. Stupid is more like it.

The boy Alex seemed like a generic and bland perfect-type of guy. Always saying the right thing. No chemistry nor sparks in sight. Yawn.

The dystopian world was a joke. Now, as you know, if a story pulls me in, I am more than willing to suspense belief of an incomplete dystopian world. Here however, because of a non-existent plot, the many holes in the world Oliver had created were kind of hard to miss. A couple of things bothered me:

1) Why had the government decided that love of all things was to be considered dangerous, but not some other emotion, such as hatred, jealousy, fear etc? What had happened that made masses of people beg to be lobotomized, to have their love removed? None of this is explained more than a vague “love made people do crazy things“. Sorry Lauren, but I need more than that to believe in the world you’ve created.

2) I found it hard believing that the pre-operated teens could co-live with operated adults and still want to go through with the operation. Wouldn’t any normal teen who hangs out with both loving uncured teens and cured glazed-eyed adults realize that something is very odd about the way this society runs? Wouldn’t tons of teens oppose to this operation? In for instance Uglies,which deals with a similar world, Westerfeld solves this dilemma by keeping pre-operated and post-operated people separate. Which made much more sense to me.

3) I did not see how the government could think this made for a more peaceful society. There were obviously a lot of violence going on, what with the raids, the crypts and so on. All the violence in the book contradicted the whole notion that love was the root of all the problems/wars/disturbance of mankind.

4) The government is said to be very controlling. Yet it seemed as if the teens could get away with just about anything, such as break curfew a number of times, jump the fence to the wilds, hold huge parties in abandoned houses, listen to illegal music on the internet and so on. I certainly didn’t get the feeling that it was all that controlling and I never felt scared of the authorities.

If I were to sum everything up, while reading this book, it felt like I was the one who had been lobotomized, to have love removed, because the only feeling the book provoked in me was indifference. Needless to say, I won’t be continuing the series.

The second book Pandemonium to hit the shelves in March next year.

Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

5 Sep

Series: No, stand-alone    

Published: March 2nd 2010 by HarperCollins

Details: Paperback, 470 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

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

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My Full Review:

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

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

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

What then made it so special?

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead

4 Sep

Series: Vampire Academy, book #5

Published: May 18th 2010 by Penguin/Razorbill

Details: Hardcover, 489 pages

My Rating: 4.5/5

My Summary:

Rose graduates from The Vampire Academy and goes to the court with Lissa and other guardians. It doesn’t take long until she has a new crazy plan in store, to save Dimitri from the undead. I loved this roller-coaster from the beginning to the end all though the end was quite a cliff-hanger this time. Can’t wait to dive into the final book Last Sacrifice.

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My Full Review:

This is the 5th installment of the Vampire Academy Series, a series I have gradually got drawn into, the more books I’ve read. I devoured the previous book Blood Promise, where Rose goes to Siberia in order to find Dimitri and kill him. She fails that mission and ends up having to return to the Vampire Academy, knowing he is still out there in his undead Strigoi state.

Not many pages into Spirit Bound we learn that the tables have turned. Dimitri is now the one chasing Rose, and he is just waiting for her to graduate from the academy so that he can go after her. After the graduation, Rose and Lissa go to the court, along with other newly graduated guardians that are all waiting to receive their real-life assignments.

Rose however, has other things on her mind other than her new status as a guardian. She has heard rumours about someone once having restored a Strigoi back to the living. The one person that may be able to tell her more is Victor Dashkov, who is imprisoned in a high-security jail for his deeds towards Lissa (which you may remember from the first installment). Soon Rose has come up with a plan which includes breaking into Victor’s prison, and well, I won’t say anymore than that.

What I will say is that I loved reading the book. Let me break it up to you in points:

1) Adrian: Rose has started dating Adrian, and all though I am really a hard-core Dimitri fan, I can’t help but feel something for this guy. You can tell how much he cares about Rose, and it’s heart-breaking to watch, because no matter how much Rose tries to tell herself she’s over Dmitri, she is so not.

2) Lissa. Like so many other reviewers have commented, this is the book where Lissa grows a backbone, and it’s about time. We’ve watched Rose doing everything for Lissa (including drawing darkness from her), without really getting anything in return. In this installment, Lissa finally shows us why she is worthy of Rose’s friendship and devotion.

3) Dimitri. Well, I did see that coming, all though maybe not that soon. His depression made very much sense to me. Who wouldn’t feel depressed with those memories haunting you? I only hope he’ll overcome it.

The ending was a huge cliff-hanger that I really didn’t see coming at all. Can’t wait to see what happens to Rose and all my other favorite characters in the final installment The Last Sacrifice! All in all, a great read!

Review: Wither by Lauren Destefano

1 Sep

Series: The Chemical Garden #1

Published: March 22nd 2011 by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Details: Hardcover, 358 pages

My Rating: 2/5

My Summary:

In a dystopian world where life span has been shortened to only 20-25 years of age, Rhine is married off to a wealthy guy to produce children. I loved the original concept, but quickly got bored when I noticed that the whole book took place within the house, and that nothing ever happened. The romance was non-existent and the characters underdeveloped. Won’t continue the series.

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A few chapters in:

This dystopian book by debut author Lauren Destefano created quite a stir when it the shelves earlier this year, receiving quite a few stunning reviews. Enough to peak my interest. It is also found at the top of my “next book to read” – poll. Thanks as always to all who voted!

And so, here I am a few chapters in:

As we enter the story, a couple of girls have been kidnapped, and 16-year old Rhine is one of them. She and two others are picked out and taken to a big mansion where preparations start to make all three of them wifes of the Governor Linden.

Meanwhile, we learn that genetic modifications of the human race has sucessfully cured cancer and other diseases. But now it has backfired, and created a uncurable virus, which kills men at the age of 25 and women at the age of 20. People desperate to find a cure kidnap young girls to be mated and experimented upon with young men.

Yes, this is truly a grim world. But intriguing, as I have absolutely no idea of what will happen (and you know how I love unpredictability in my books!). Rhine has just tried on her wedding dress for the first time, and is about to get married, along with the other two girls. Will she be able to escape? Will they find a cure?
 
 



 
 
After finishing the book:

Okay, so I’m gonna cut to the chase here: I did not like this book.

Surprising actually, because I thought I would, considering that favorite web sites such as yareads rated it 5/5.

Now, the reason why I disliked it, wasn’t because of the serious topics dealt with in this book. Topics such as polygamous marriages and a child brides. None of that shocked me. I’ve read and seen a bunch of books/movies far worse than that.

Nor did I care too much about the dystopian world not being sufficiently built up, like so many other reviewers have commented on. I did notice it, for instance that it seemed a bit strange that Rhine was able to roll around in silk, take bubble baths, and eat strawberries when supposedly the entire world (except the states) were lying below water. I also found it strange that when so many orphans were running around on the streets (given their parents’ premature deaths), there was still a need for “gatherers” to force girls to marriage rich men and produce babies. I mean, wouldn’t there be an abundance of orphaned girls willing to do this in exchange for food and shelter?

Yet, I can easily forget holes in a dystopian world if the story pulls me in, and this my friends, is where it fell short for me. Not the serious topics, nor the plot holes of the dystopian world, but the story itself.

You see, I found the story lacking. Rhine is taken into this house with her two sister wives, and forced into a marriage with Linden. Then what?

We learn that Linden is completely innocent (or naive) regarding how his three wives ended up in his house. His father is apparently the mean one. We are told repeatedly how that father is a huge threat, and yes, he is obviously not kind judging by the first chapter. Yet, we never actually see any proof of the supposed threat that he is, apart from the fact that he has this cellar where he performs dissections of bodies that have died in order to find a cure. Sorry, but that does not qualify as a big threat.

We learn that Rhine has a twin brother and is desperate to find a way out. Yet, I didn’t really see why she was so desperate. Sure, the house was a prison, but certainly a very comfortable one. Especially if compared to the harsh realities of the world outside. Linden is infatuated with her and grants her every wish, which makes me wonder: Why not just ask him to have her brother being brought there? Problem solved!

The whole book seemed to revolve around her wanting to escape, yet nothing ever happened. She would lie in bed, have a manicure, eat some strawberries, take a walk in the garden, lounge with her sister wives in the drawing-room, take a bubble bath, order some food and repeat the whole process again. Lie in bed, have a manicure, eat some strawberries…you get the idea.

It got so tedious after a while it took all my will power to keep going.

There is a tepid romance as well involving a staff-boy and Rhine, but seeing as he was absent for most part of the book, it was hard to care or feel anything for those two.

The only thing that I liked was the relationship that developed between the sister wives, and how they stood up for each other. The character that stood out the most was quiet Jenna. I liked her.

Other than that, it was just plain boring.

The sequel is called Fever, to be published in Feb 2012.

Review: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

17 Aug

Series: If I Stay, book #2

Published: April 5th 2011 by Dutton Juvenile

Details: Hardcover, 264 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

My Summary:

This is the sequel to If I Stay. Three years has gone since Mia left Adam, and he is still trying to come to terms with it. One night in New York they bump into each other. Is there hope for something new? This was a great follow up, almost better than If I stay! I Loved watching from Adam’s point of view, and what happened felt very real. All in all, a great read!

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My Full Review:

I remember reading If I Stay a while ago, about Mia whose spirit is trying to decide whether to go or stay in this life, after she learns that her entire family was killed in a car crash. I wasn’t blown away, neither did I cry. Yet it was still good enough for me to want to read the sequel.

Fast forward a couple of months, and here I am with the follow-up, which takes place roughly three years after the accident, all told from Mia’s boyfriend Adam’s point of view. We learn that Mia walked out on Adam, and he never got to know why.

Adam continued with his music and is now a famous rock-star. Mia went on to Juilliard to pursue a carrer as a professional cellist. One night they bump into each other in New York. They each have flights the next morning, so it’s really just one night. The book is essentially of the two of them wandering around in New York and talking.

In fact, it felt a little bit like the movie Before Sunset with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, all though the setting of the movie is in Paris instead of New York. If you haven’t seen the movie, please do, it’s great!

But let’s get back to the book, and I’ll be honest. At first I felt that Adam was being a bit too emo for my taste. You know, he had achieved everything he could possibly have dreamt of in terms of his music, and instead of enjoying it, he was a wreck. All because of one high school break-up. Get a grip! I wanted to yell at him.

As the story unfolded though, I started to understand what he had gone through. I think more than anything, he was trying to cope with the not knowing why. Mia practically cut him off, without any explanations. Un unresolved relationship, especially that of your first love does seem like a tough cross to bear. Add the terrible accident and how that must have affected him as well.

We get to follow these two through the streets and places of New York, as they are talking about everything that happened, and I felt myself getting more and more attached. What I liked the most was that it felt so very real. As if what happened to their relationship after Mia’s accident was something that would probably have happened in real life.

Somehow, through Adam’s point of view, I also got a clearer picture of Mia as a person, and of her grief, which is something I struggled with in If I Stay. I felt for Adam as well, and even shed a few tears there at one point.

In short, I am so glad I read Where She Went, as it proved that a sequel can actually top its predecessor. Yes folks, it is possible!

A highly recommended read!

Review: Illusions by Aprilynne Pike

12 Aug

Series: Wings, book #3

Published: May 3rd 2011 by HarperCollins Publishers

Details: Hardcover, 375 pages

My Rating: 2/5

My Summary:

The previous two books in this series, Wings and Spells were not amazing, but enjoyable. Unfortunately this book is less than enjoyable, with no plot to speak of, no Avalon in sight and instead centering around an irritating love triangle between Laurel and her two boys. This is the end of the series for me.

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Synopsis:

Laurel hasn’t seen Tamani since she begged him to let her go last year. Though her heart still aches, Laurel is confident that David was the right choice.

But just as life is returning to normal, Laurel discovers that a hidden enemy lies in wait. Once again, Laurel must turn to Tamani to protect and guide her, for the danger that now threatens Avalon is one that no faerie thought would ever be possible. And for the first time, Laurel cannot be sure that her side will prevail.

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My thoughts:

I have one word for this book.

Filler.

That’s all it was. Pure filler. Let me explain it to you:

There are 36 chapters in this book. Chapter 1 to 34 are devoted to the love triangle between Laurel, her human boyfriend David and fairy guardian Tamani. In other words, that’s 34 chapters of “should I choose this boy or that boy”, with no resolution at the end of it, I kid you not. Chapter 34 to 36 finally gives us a plot and some action, before it abruptly finishes in a.. yes, you guessed it right, a cliff hanger!

Now, the synopsis of the book promises something else entirely. I quote:

“Once again, Laurel must turn to Tamani to protect and guide her, for the danger that now threatens Avalon is one that no faerie thought would ever be possible.”

Okay, did I miss something here? Danger, where? Apart from one page of sudden troll action (and chapter 34- 36), there was no danger anywhere. I certainly never felt that Laurel was threatened, and besides, she had about 200 sentries protecting her, plus of course her two suitors watching her every step. Was Laurel in danger? Nope, did not feel it, at all.

What I did feel was irritation. The main reason being the love triangle.

Now, if you’ve read my blog, you know I have nothing against love triangles, if they’re done well. This one however is ridiculous, and even more so since it’s the center theme of the book. Laurel’s indecisiveness annoyed me to no end. She kept bouncing back and forth so much that it had me feeling dizzy. She behaved like a spoiled child that wants to have one’s cake and eat it too. She would chastise David for being jealous, then go on and kiss Tamani. Then she would tell Tamani off for pursuing her, and in the next second throw a tantrum when he flirted/danced/talked to another girl. Seriously? My 6-year old cousin behaves more mature than that.

I was not impressed.

What would have saved this book for me, was a lot less teen-age drama and more of Avalon. I loved Avalon in the previous book Spells but here we only got a very brief glimpse of that world when Laurel visits her mentor Jameson. Other than that, it all takes place in the human world, with highschool, teen-age drama, teen-age angst and the obligatory school dance to finish things off.

There is one more book in the series to be published next year, but this is the end of the series for me. One more word of “David or Tamani” and I’ll be screaming out loud.

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

5 Jul

Series: No, stand-alone

Published: December 2nd 2010 by Dutton

Details: Hardcover, 372 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

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

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A few chapters in:

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

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

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

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

I’m now a few chapters in:

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

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

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

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

 
 
 
After finishing the book:

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

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

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

Just WOW.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

31 May

 Series: Across the Universe, book # 1

Published:  January 11th 2011 by Razorbill

Details: Hardcover, 398 pages

My Rating: 3/5

My Summary:

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

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A few chapters in:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 
 

After finishing the book:

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

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

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

Only, I enjoyed Uglies so much more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Desires Of The Dead by Kimberly Derting

28 Apr

Series: Body Finder, book #2

Published: March 15th 2011 by HarperCollins

Details: Hardcover, 368 pages

Rating: 2/5

My Summary:

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

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A few chapters in:

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

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

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

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

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

And this is as far as I’ve got.

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

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

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

 

 

After finishing the book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third book to be published sometime next year.

Review: The Dead Girls’ Dance by Rachel Caine

22 Apr

Series: Morganville Vampires, book #2

Published: April 3rd 2007 by NAL Jam

Details: Paperback, 238 pages

My Rating: 2/5

My Summary:

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

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A few chapters in:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 



After finishing the book:

My first thought after having finished this book is this:

Meh!

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

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

But I think I know why.

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

Which obviously did not happen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

17 Mar

Series: Hunger Games, book 3

Published:  August 24th 2010 by Scholastic Press

Details:  Hardcover, 390 pages

My Rating: 3.5 / 5

My Summary:

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

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A few chapters in:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

After finishing the book:

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

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

No, it wasn’t.

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

But let’s start with what was good:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bottom Line

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

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

Review: 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.