Sunday, August 26, 2012

Book Review: Endlessly

Evie's paranormal past keeps coming back to haunt her. A new director at the International Paranormal Containment Agency wants to drag her back to headquarters. The Dark Faerie Queen is torturing humans in her poisonous realm. And supernatural creatures keep insisting that Evie is the only one who can save them from a mysterious, perilous fate.

The clock is ticking on the entire paranormal world. And its fate rests solely in Evie's hands. Quoted from Goodreads
This year has seen the conclusion of so many trilogies/series, for me at least, and most of them pulled it off pretty well. I'm always sad to see a series end.  And happy. Endlessly by Kiersten White is no different.  

I should probably explain now that I read this book about a month ago.  Yes, I was one of those people who rushed out to by the book the day it came out, or, well, I pushed some buttons on my kindle and it magically appeared, so I can't exactly claim it was a lot of work.  Still I had it that first day, and I finished it by the next one.  And I really liked it. Of course I didn't have a blog then, or not really, so better late than never.

Everything that I loved in the first two books was present, and it all circled back to create a tight story without any nasty loose ends or wait, what? moments.  It's hard not to say too much about the third book in a series because I don't want to give too much away from the first two, but everything leads to a fantastic ending full of twists, love, conflict, and sacrifice.

One of the things I look for in books is a multifaceted conflict, and Endlessly delivered.  We have the IPCA attacking Evie from one side, the evil fairies from another, and even the good mythical creatures and her normal high school friends want something from Evie. All she wants is live a normal life, normal relationships, and keep from being hurt, captured, or killed.

Kiersten White created a phenomenal world with a different take on everything paranormal while maintaining the roots of the legends.  For example, the unicorn. What can I say, she turned the myth on its head and yet, for a moment, it was the stuff little girls dream of. And then it wasn't. In fact it might even make them cry. And it's that way for all of the different magical creatures she created. Oh, and the bleeping.  Who can forget the bleeping bleeping?

As fun as the world is, the characters are what made the book for me. Lend was as sweet and loyal as ever, Jack simultaneously made me laugh and shake my head, Reth continued to confuse and exasperate me, while Vivian stays . . . interesting.  But far and away I love Evie the most.

Evie is one of my favorite characters in all young adult literature right now. She is funny, sarcastic, way too perky, and in love with everything pink and sparkly, yet she can still kick butt and save the day.  I love her interactions with the other characters because she responds so differently to each.  I think one of the reasons I love Jack and Reth so much in this book is because of the way they exasperate Evie. Same with Lend, only different.  He calms her down, providing that center she so desperately needs.

Now all of you need to run out and read this book, or this series if you haven't started it already.  It is light, sweet, and fun while still managing to be rather epic, which is an unusual.  I give this book a solid 4.5 stars and eagerly away the two new books Kiersten White has coming out next year.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Palace of Stone (Princess Academy #2)

So I made all these lovely goals, and then I had no internet at my apartment (and still don't) but where there's a will, there's a way, so I'll see if I can do better.  We should be getting internet hopefully in the next week or so, but until then, I'll have to get creative.

Coming down from the mountain to a new life in the city seems a thrill beyond imagining. When Miri and her friends from Mount Eskel set off to help the future princess Britta prepare for her royal wedding, she is happy about her chance to attend school in the capital city. There, Miri befriends students who seem so sophisticated and exciting . . . until she learns that they have some frightening plans. They think that Miri will help them, that she "should" help them. Soon Miri finds herself torn between loyalty to the princess and her new friends' ideas, between an old love and a new crush, and between her small mountain home and the bustling city. Picking up where "Princess Academy" left off, this incredible stand-alone story celebrates the joys of friendship, the delight of romance, and the fate of a beloved fairy tale kingdom.  Quoted from Goodreads

When I heard there was a sequel to Princess Academy, I was ecstatic . . . mostly.  Here's the thing, I didn't think that Princess Academy needed a sequel, and I was afraid it wouldn't live up to my expectations. Case in point, Goose Girl, also by Shannon Hale.  I loved this book, but while I did enjoy the sequels, I didn't like them as much as the first.  Plus, Princess Academy is my favorite Shannon Hale book, so I was a tiny bit leery when I heard about the sequel.  

I shouldn't have been.

Shannon Hale did an absolutely amazing job of matching this one to the first. This is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.  And yes, it does deserve the triple wonderful.  

Miri is her same outgoing, cheerful, adventurous self, but she does grow up a bit.  She is exposed to the big city, the ocean, and thousands of people she has never known. There is a bit of a love triangle but with none of the angst that generally accompanies it.  And just as Miri's world has expanded, so do the problems in the book. Before it was other girls and bandits and traders and ignorance that she was battling.  This one is about revolution, and Miri has to figure out where she stands and who she will stand with.

I really liked the concept because everything wasn't straight forward and simple. Miri learns about ethics in her class and has to wade the murky waters between what is right and what is wrong. There were good people on both sides with goals and agendas that clashed and there were less good people on both sides that were rigid, greedy, and manipulative.  It reminded me of the French Revolution vs. England's less turbulent struggle for rights and royal accountability.  From the beginning, Miri is thrust in the middle of the debate with everyone she loves threatened by one group or the other.  She wasn't perfect, but she tried her best and she relied on her friends.

Ah, Miri's friends.  I really enjoyed the distinctiveness of each character.  Shannon Hale always does a great job of keeping characters real and deliciously flawed.  I love Peder, Timon, Britta, and everyone else, new and old. 

As if that weren't enough, Shannon Hale is the master of words.  Everything she writes is simple, well crafted, and beautiful.  The book started of a tad slow, maybe (I'm still debating that one.  It set the scene beautifully, introducing new characters, etc.), but the second half of the book was fast paced and breathless.  It was one in the morning when I finished it, and I had to go to work the next day, but it absolutely refused to let me put it down until it was over.

And now, drum roll please, though the result may be obvious, I bestow upon this book the coveted 5 star rating!  Yes, this book has earned 5 stars, so you should all run out and read it as soon as possible. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone and everyone. You should probably read Princess Academy first, because while the story is distinct from the first, the it would be a bit confusing without the world building and character establishment.  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Book Review: Dreamless

So vacations are obviously not good for me and blogging.  Even though I have way more down time and you'd think it would be easier, without structure, I fail.  Anyway, I'm back, and with school starting, etc. things should be getting back to normal.  Hopefully. Now on to the book review!

Can true love be forgotten?

As the only scion who can descend into the Underworld, Helen Hamilton has been given a nearly impossible task. By night she wanders through Hades, trying to stop the endless cycle of revenge that has cursed her family. By day she struggles to overcome the fatigue that is rapidly eroding her sanity. Without Lucas by her side, Helen is not sure she has the strength to go on.

Just as Helen is pushed to her breaking point, a mysterious new Scion comes to her rescue. Funny and brave, Orion shields her from the dangers of the Underworld. But time is running out--a ruthless foe plots against them, and the Furies' cry for blood is growing louder.

As the ancient Greek world collides with the mortal one, Helen's sheltered life on Nantucket descends into chaos. But the hardest task of all will be forgetting Lucas Delos.

Josephine Angelini's compelling saga becomes ever more intricate and spellbinding as an unforgettable love triangle emerges and the eternal cycle of revenge intensifies. Eagerly awaited, this sequel to the internationally bestselling "Starcrossed" delivers a gritty, action-packed love story that exceeds all expectations.       Quoted from Goodreads

I love that the summary ends with the word expectations.  Expectations are interesting things and they can totally make or break a book. In this case, they made the book for me, probably because for Starcrossed, the first book in this series, they broke it. I'm not saying Starcrossed wasn't a good book because it was.  I just had too high of expectations, and the book wasn't quite up to par. Plus there were some things that really irritated me about that book.

Dreamless, on the other hand, didn't suffer from high expectations or sophomore slump.  In fact, it took the adequate foundation created in Starcrossed and built a dream home.  Needless to say,  I found myself liking it much better.  Or maybe the book was just plain better: writing, plot, the whole shebang.  I kind of thought I knew what to expect, but Josephine Angelini surprised me in the best way possible.

Lets start with things I liked.  I liked Helen's character growth.  It may have started a bit slow, but she does grow up and take more control of her life in this book. I like that she doesn't quit, and while she has her weak moments, she really does try her best and never falls into the too stupid to live category (except for maybe in one area, but then every character, and I do mean every character in the entire book, falls into that particular pothole, so I can't really blame her too much).

The ending.  I thought the ending was fantastic.  It had everything I could possibly wish for, peril, self sacrifice, betrayal, fighting, hope, and left me wanting the next book.

Orion.  I really liked the introduction of this new character.  I was leery at first because I'm frankly done with the whole love triangle thing.  It rarely works for me, is usually too obvious for words, and creates needless drama.  While I'm not going to pretend that Dreamless avoids most of the above, I like where this is all heading.  The need for three main characters is obvious and furthers the plot along instead of just causing angst.  And Orion himself is sweet, charming, and helpful, albeit doomed to the friend zone (in my opinion) in the next book.

Daphne.  I love this character.  And I hate her, which is why I love her so much. She is the Jack Bristoe of Alias.  She is good, bad, and deliciously ambiguous all at once. I love that I can't quite figure her out.  Of all the characters she intrigues me the most.  Even Hector, who I grew to love in this book, isn't as much fun.

Okay, now to my biggest problem with the book: the continued stupidity surrounding Helen and Lucas's relationship.  I won't go into details because I don't want to give away spoilers for anyone who hasn't read Starcrossed, but come on.  The lie should be obvious to so many people.  I'll cut Josephine Angelini some slack about what's keeping them apart, because she did defend it with the Electra reference and other tragedies from history, but really?  It's simple math.

I'm giving this book 3 1/2 stars.  It may have made it into the 4 star echelon if it weren't for the above mess.  Still, I'm super excited for the next one.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Adventurers Wanted: Slathbog's Gold

Do you have the courage, the wits, and the skill to claim a dragon's hoard? If so, apply within ...

The sign is small, tucked into the corner of Mr. Clutter's bookshop window: "Adventurers Wanted. Apply Within." No one but fifteen-year-old Alex Taylor even seems to notice it is there. And for Alex, who has wished for a change in his life, it is an irresistible invitation.

Upon entering Mr. Clutter's shop, Alex is swept away on an incredible adventure to a faraway land filled with heroic warriors, mysterious elves, and hard-working dwarves.

Alex becomes the eighth man in a band of adventurers seeking the lair of Slathbog the Red - and evil dragon with a legendary treasure. Along the way, Alex and his new friends must battle dangerous trolls and bandits, face undead wraiths, and seek the wisdom of the Oracle in her White Tower.

Alex's adventure takes him to distant and exotic lands where he learns about courage, integrity, honor, and, most importantly, friendship.

Slathbog's Gold is the first book in an exciting new YA epic fantasy series and heralds the arrival of a major new talent in the genre.


In my last post I mentioned a bunch of book bargains that I was interested in.  Some of them I've read and some I hadn't, so I decided to check a few of them out.  Ever since reading Rachel Hartman's Seraphina, I've been on a bit of a dragon kick.  I like middle grade books (like Artemis Fowl, obviously, Fablehaven, and The Last Apprentice series), and despite the YA designation in the description, this is absolutely middle grade. So the obvious conclusion was to read Adventurers Wanted: Slathbog's Gold.

Let's just say it wasn't quite the experience I was hoping for.

On the positive side, this is the adventure everyone dreams of stumbling across.  On the negative side, this is the adventure everyone dreams of stumbling across. And therein we find my problem with the book.

Alex, while walking around and moping, sees a magical sign promising escape from his hum-drum life.  He is immediately recruited to be part of a company of Adventurers with a capital A, and to defeat an evil dragon. Already seeing parallels to The Hobbit?  Yes, and they keep coming throughout the entire book, except instead of a middle-aged hobbit, the main character is a fifteen-year-old boy who is destined to become a great warrior and a wizard, which is almost unheard of. The Oracle sees this, and grants him special audience, favoring him over all the others in his company. He randomly is chosen by an ancient magical sword that makes him an unparalleled fighter.  He is named both a friend of the dwarves and elves.  He defeats wraiths and trolls all by himself, develops a special bond with his horse, all the while collecting piles and piles (literally) of gold, diamonds, rubies, and other treasure. Oh, and he picks up a mysterious magic ring . . .

Maybe it isn't fair to compare this book to The Hobbit.  I mean, how often does a J.R.R. Tolkien come around?  But M.L. Forman has to know he was begging for it when he created a quest to slay a dragon set in a magical realm with elves and dwarves.

Don't get me wrong, this is a fun adventure, and just the sort of adventure you might want to read to a six or seven year old. But everything is too easy.  There is no accountability for what the characters do. Too sore from riding horses?  Here's a magical potion that will cure that right up.  About to die?  Oh, the elf queen will save you and then call herself your best friend.  Don't know how to fight?  Don't worry, your sword will do all the work for you.

Everyone lives.  Everyone is your friend.  No one tries you rob you, though you're carrying a mountain of gold in your magical bag (and I did really like the magical bag thing.  See, it is a fun world M.L. Forman created, just lacking in consequences and something resembling reality).

This is the story you dream of as a child: power, riches, respect, and glory, all without paying any sort of price or sacrifice.

After much debate, I would give this book 3 stars, because I do like it for young children.  But for anyone out of elementary school, I would skip it and go straight to Tolkien's The Hobbit. It is, I'm afraid, superior in every way.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book Bargains!

Every so often I run across a bunch of great deals on e-books.  Mostly I search Amazon, but some of these books are also on sale at Barnes and Noble, so you should check them out. 

Lani Woodland: Intrinsical - $.99
                           Indelible - $.99 (through Aug 5th)

Myra Mcentire: Hourglass - $1.39

Shannon Hale: Book of a Thousand Days - $.99
            A lot of her other books are also on sale for around $4.00, if you’re interested.

Plus, because it’s the first of the month, there are new, on sale books on Amazon.  Check out the entire list here.  Or here are a few of the ones I am interested in.

Jessica Day George: Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow - $1.99

Ann Agguire: Enclave - $2.99

A.C. Gaughen: Scarlet - $2.99

Brigid Kemmerer: Storm (Elementals) – $2.99

Now I haven’t read all of these books, so I can’t promise they are all amazing, but I would absolutely check at least some of them out (Especially Jessica Day George’s Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow and Shannon Hale’s Book of a Thousand Days.  I love those books).