Thursday, November 29, 2012

Theater Thursday: The Host

So I realize this isn't new movie news, and even this "new" preview has been out for a week or two now, but still, I'm excited.  I never fell in love with the Twilight movies for a multitude of reasons, but I'm thrilled they're adapting The Host. In my opinion it is the best of Stephanie Meyer's books, and I'm hoping for a similar improvement in on film.  Here's a quick summary of the book.

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact and continue their lives apparently unchanged. Most of humanity has succumbed.

When Melanie, one of the few remaining "wild" humans, is captured, she is certain it is her end. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, was warned about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the too-vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

Wanderer probes Melanie's thoughts, hoping to discover the whereabouts of the remaining human resistance. Instead, Melanie fills Wanderer's mind with visions of the man Melanie loves - Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she has been tasked with exposing. When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off on a dangerous and uncertain search for the man they both in love.   Quoted from Goodreads


Doesn't it sound excellent? It absolutely is. This movie comes out next March, so there is still plenty of time to read the book before it hits theaters, and you absolutely should.   

Now check out the trailer below. It shows a lot more than the first one.  Plus I really like Saoirse Ronan, the girl playing Melanie/Wanda.  More than looks (though that is important), I think a person's ability to act is what makes you fall in love with the character, and she's already proven she's a good actress.  Now enjoy!


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book Review: Just One Wish

Dearest Everyone,

I hope you all had an amazing holiday weekend. Yes, I've been a little lazy about this blog, but I'm blaming Black Friday sales and turkey comas.  And The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima. Yes, I know Amanda  covered that series right after the fourth book came out, and she did an amazing job. But I hadn't read it at that point. Now I have.  To be honest, I read 3 1/2 books in 2 days; that's how good it is. No worries, I'm not going to give a long review, but I am going to reference you back to her post, because you all need to check out this series.  Seriously, I loved it.  It is absolutely everything I look for in a fantasy, so you need to read it. Now.

Okay, now on to my own book review.

Seventeen-year-old Annika Truman knows about the power of positive thinking. With a little brother who has cancer, it's all she ever hears about. And in order to help Jeremy, she will go to the ends of the earth (or at least as far as Hollywood) to help him believe he can survive his upcoming surgery.

But Annika's plan to convince Jeremy that a magic genie will grant him any wish throws her a curveball when he unexpectedly wishes that his television idol would visit him. Annika suddenly finds herself in the desperate predicament of getting access to a hunky star actor and convincing him to come home with her. Piece of cake, right?

Janette Rallison's proven talent for laugh-out-loud humor, teen romance, and deep-hearted storytelling shines in a novel that will have readers laughing and crying at the same time. Quoted from Goodreads

--------------------

I meant to write this review last Friday, because it starts with a hysterical scene on Black Friday, which I adore, but again, there was the turkey coma and the Black Friday shopping deals I was busy with.  And the eating of pie. That is very important on Thanksgiving.

I love Janette Rallison's books.  They always make me laugh, but this one is a little different. Don't worry, it still has plenty of hilarious moments, but there is touch of sadness here, too, her other books lack.  Honestly, I don't do sad books. Or movies.  I want my happy endings. I read to escape, no to break my heart, so it took me a while to read this, despite the author. I mean, a little boy with cancer?  Just thinking about it, knowing there are thousands of children out there suffering just like Annika's little brother Jeremy kind of makes me sick, but it is absolutely worth the read.

First there is Jeremy, himself. He is adorable, which does kind of break your heart, but he's also so full of hope you can't help loving him.  Then there's Annika.  She is strong and so protective of her little brother.  She doesn't sit back and hope for his surgery to go well, she does everything in her power to make sure her brother has every chance of getting better. This is where the book gets funny.

Once Annika gets to Hollywood and starts chasing down Steve (the hunky star actor), things move into more familiar Janette Rallison territory. Parts of this I wanted to laugh out loud, and other parts sort of made me squirm they were so awkward.  Of course there is the promise of romance, which I enjoyed, even if it is a bit rushed, but beneath it all is Annika's unwavering devotion to her little brother. 

The ending was . . . maybe I'll let you decide on the ending.  For me it was perfect because it wasn't perfect, but there is hope. 

This book absolutely 4 stars for me.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Were there a few implausible bits?  Yes, but they weren't unbelievable.  Could I ever do what Annika did?  Probably not, but that's what makes her such a fun character.  She is as brave as I think all of us hope to be, Steve is as kind, and Jeremy is as angelic.  This book is a roller coaster---you laugh, you cry---and one absolutely worth the ride.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Amanda Monday: Pawn of Prophecy

 Long ago, so the storyteller claimed, the evil God Torak sought dominion over all and drove the world to war. Now the one talisman keeping this sinister force from seizing power has been disturbed—and no one will be safe. . . .

Raised on a quiet farm by his Aunt Pol, Garion spends his days lounging in his aunt’s warm kitchen and playing in the surrounding fields with his friends. He has never believed in magic, despite the presence of a cloaked, shadowless stranger who has haunted him from a distance for years. But one afternoon, the wise storyteller Wolf appears and urges Garion and his aunt to leave the farm that very night. Without understanding why, Garion is whisked away from the only home he has ever known—and thrown into dark and unfamiliar lands.

Thus begins an extraordinary quest to stop a reawakened evil from devouring all that is good. It is a journey that will lead Garion to discover his heritage and his future. For the magic that once seemed
impossible to Garion is now his destiny.
The first exciting adventure in David Eddings’s The Belgariad



When I was about 12 years old, my aunt recommended that I read the Belgariad Series.  Up to that point, I had never read any fantasy book in my life, except perhaps The Indian in the Cupboard and The Fairy Rebel.  Pawn of Prophecy was my first introduction to "High Fantasy", and the a pivot upon which my literary tastes turned.  

The story starts with Garion, a perfectly ordinary-seeming boy.  Of course, we as a ready knows there must be something extraordinary about him, otherwise, why write the book?  But through a series of adventures, including a quest to find a mysterious and powerful object, sword fights, sorcerers, mysterious friends and strangers, and an abstract but ever-present sense that there is something special about Garion, our hero unfolds into one of my favorite literary characters of all time.  He starts out immature and flawed like so many young teenage boys, but also very charming and innocent.  Because of this, you identify with Garion and grow frustrated, confused, and excited along with him.  

Author David Eddings does a fabulous job of world building.  If the setting and the story seems somewhat familiar, it is because Eddings is one of the premier fantasy writers in recent history, and many, many authors have borrowed ideas from him in their own writing, just as he himself borrowed from other writers, such as Tolken and Lloyd Alexander.  But the sense of humor and charm he manages to give all his characters are distinctly Eddings.  To this day, no other well-written fantasy novel or series has made me laugh like The Belgariad Series.  

I give this book five stars, because I have read it, and the entire series, multiple times.  This is the series responsible for the fact that I read so many YA fantasy, dystopia, and fairytale-type books.  It showed me that sometimes setting a story in a fantasy setting can better reveal themes and universal truths than our own world.  It is an excellent book for young and old, and I particularly recommend the book for young male readers. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

I'll be honest, I haven't really read many books about Thanksgiving.  Of course there are the children's books, which are fun, but it would be beyond Flashback Friday for me to really remember any of those.   So I decided to do a list of literary things I am thankful for right now.

6: Masquerade by Janette Rallison - So I know she was revamping an old book and was planning on releasing it, but I hadn't heard any dates or anything. Then, magically, it appeared on amazon a few days ago!  I haven't started reading it yet, because I'm currently reading the Seven Realms series by Cinda Chima Williams, but I'm super excited to start this one. I always love her books.

5: I don't live in the world of the Hunger Games - I've read a lot of dystopia books this year, and I'm pretty glad I don't live in any of those worlds.  Sometimes I look at world problems and get depressed or frustrated at the world we live in, and then my beautiful dystopia books paint a world that is so much worse, and I don't feel as bad.

4: Calvin and Hobbs - I love these books.  They aren't really the typical YA books I tend to cover on this blog, but I've probably read each of them at least 10 times.  They make me laugh, yet are incredibly insightful.  They are timeless. It doesn't matter that half of them were written in the eighties before DVDs let alone Blu-ray or cell phones.  These are amazing

3: So many young adult books are being made into movies - A love this trend, Hollywood's search for the next Harry Potter or Twilight.  I don't always love the movies that are made.  Some adaptions (like Ella Enchanted) are so horrible they make me cringe just to watch them.  But some are amazing (like Hunger Games).  Plus it generates interest in the source material, so more people start reading, which I thing is excellent.

2: I have less than two months before Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson's A Memory of Light comes out - I have been reading this series since I was fourteen.  I've grown up with it.  It's lasted beyond the Harry Potter Craze and midnight release parties. It is absolutely fabulous, and while I'm sort of sad it's ending, I'm also incredibly excited to find out how everything ends.

1. My Kindle - I know that a lot of people don't like them.  They love the smell of books, like the physical weight in their hands, the ability to dog-ear pages, etc.  I agree, to an extent.  I love books. I will always love books.  I love lining them up on my shelves, gazing at beautiful covers, and completing a series.  But. I love having my entire library in my hand.  I love that my kindle always knows right where I am, and sunlight doesn't bother the screen. I love all the bargains they offer online, and that I can get any book I want whenever I want it.  I don't have to wait until midnight at a bookstore, hoping they won't sell out, or going to the store, only to be told it's out of stock. I love how light everything is, and no one can judge the book you're reading.  Basically, I just love my kindle.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book Review: Black City

A dark and tender post-apocalyptic love story set in the aftermath of a bloody war.

In a city where humans and Darklings are now separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races still simmer after a terrible war, sixteen-year-olds Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie Buchanan, a human and the daughter of the Emissary, meet and do the unthinkable—they fall in love. Bonded by a mysterious connection that causes Ash’s long-dormant heart to beat, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they’re caught, they’ll be executed—but their feelings are too strong.

When Ash and Natalie then find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to pull the humans and Darklings back into war, they must make hard choices that could result in both their deaths. Quoted from Goodreads

--------------------

I sort of conflicted about this book.  It had a lot of really excellent ideas, but some of them fell a little short in execution, at least for me.

Let's start with the good.  First the world.  Yes, it was oppressive and horrible, with very little hope, but the author let you feel that.  You sort of suffocated along with the characters in this dismal world they were forced to live in, but at the end the author leaves you with hope.  Yes it is a trilogy, so there is the nasty cliff hanger, sort of, but there is also a sense of hope that everything that is horrible and wrong with this society can eventually be fixed or at least set on a better path.

Second, the characters. First, I enjoyed seeing the story from both Ash and Natalie's POV. I'll admit, in the beginning, I didn't exactly love either of them, but they grew on me. Both of them were flawed (which, trust me, is a very good thing), but they change and progress with the book. They come from very different backgrounds (privileged vs. persecuted), so you get a richer vision of the world.

Third, the pacing. I really liked the way this book was set up.  There was always something happening: love, then mystery, and finally government conspiracy, all while you get to learn more about the society.  Fourth, the secondary characters.  They were interesting, and avoided falling into stereotypes. 

The biggest problem I had with this book was the romance.  It starts out as insta-love, which is never a good thing in my book. Then we get an explanation, which seems to fix all that.  There is a reason for their connection, and you thing everything's going to be okay.  And then there's a problem.  I'm trying not to give too many things away, but if you don't want any spoilers, you may want to skip the next paragraph.  

Okay so here's the deal.  There is a reason given for Ash and Natalie falling in love so quickly, and it works in the story.  Then there is an equally compelling, if not better, reason given for him to be in love with a different girl.  This is where I don't know why he chose Natalie.  They didn't know each other enough for me to believe he would throw this other option away for her. I needed them to have developed more of a relationship outside their mystical connection, needed them to have more things in common or make each other laugh, something, to justify why he chose Natalie as his one, true soul mate.  

So much of this book hinges on the romance.  It isn't the only thing. There are plenty of other problems and mysteries to keep the reader intrigued, but the romance is one of the key factors, and it just wasn't quite there for me.  It all happened too fast, and in the end, I didn't really know why they fought so hard to stay together beyond the mystical.

This book is a nice 3 stars for me.  I enjoyed it.  It was a fun twist on Darklings (vampires) and an interesting, albeit bleak world. I just wanted it to be a little more than it was.  It's good, I just wanted it to be better.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Book Review: Meant to Be


Meant to be or not meant to be . . . that is the question. 

It's one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she's queen of following rules and being prepared. That's why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her, well, pocket. And that's also why she's chosen Mark Bixford, her childhood crush, as her MTB ("meant to be").

But this spring break, Julia's rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown from a window) when she's partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way. And thus begins a wild goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love.

Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be. Quoted from Goodreads

---------------------

This book had me at London.  I love that city, and I loved the semester I got to live there, so when I learned this book was about a clueless girl on a trip to London, I was sold. The author includes a lot of the famous stuff, but she also includes small shops and skate parks, the sort of thing you never see as a tourist, and I really enjoyed that.

If I could pick one word to describe this book it would be sweet.  Julia is a delightful overachiever, who uses her book smarts to hide from real life.  It's not that she isn't interested in boys, but you can sort of tell all her real experience with them comes from books and the idolized image she had of her parents marriage before her dad died when she was seven.  She's starts out rather a stuck up know-it-all, to be frank, but she grows throughout the book into someone I really like.

Bring in Jason, the boy who is everything Julia isn't. He cares little about grades, breaks rules, and is an attention hog.  Of course, they are pared up as buddies, and chaos ensues.  What I liked about these two characters the most is how realistic they were.   They were both far from perfect. Both of them had their annoying moments, and they clashed constantly.  Jason is one of the most realistic high school boys I've ever read about: annoying and sweet, clueless and insightful all at once.  

But this book isn't just about a boy and girl who learn to get along and fall in love.  That plot is, obviously, predictable from the cover, though the journey is still fun.  The best part is author also includes a few fun twists, so while you know what may happen in the end in a broad sense, there are still fun surprises as everything comes together. 

This book is a fun 3.5 stars for me. It's light, funny, and foreign, which is always a plus. If you're looking for a quick, cute read, with an exotic setting, you absolutely need to pick this up. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Flashback Friday: Unearthly

In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees . . . .
Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.
Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.
As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?
Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart. Quoted from Goodreads
--------------------
For Flashback Friday, I usually try and pick books that I read years ago.  It lets me remember fun reads from my childhood and early teen years that I haven't thought about in awhile. But, I've also decided it's a good place to review books that I'm super excited for that may have sequels coming out soon.  Boundless, the third book in this series, comes out in January, and I'm beyond excited. Plus, a short novella, Rapture, comes out in a few weeks.  So this week, for Flashback Friday, I decided to do a book that I read only a short two years ago: Unearthly.  And I love it.
There are so many ways this book could have gone wrong or stereotypes it could have fallen into, but it didn't.  1. There is a love triangle I didn't hate.  Yes, it's true.  So many love triangles are hideously predictable or so one sided I'm shocked that they even get the label.  2. There's the poor, underdog heroine who's picked on by one-note, high school mean girls.  3. There's the supernatural ability that magically appears, and a bunch of secrets kept by parents mostly designed to keep kids in the dark and make the plot murky.
Fortunately, Unearthly avoided all of those. 1. Love Triangle: No insta love. They talk. They hang out.  No boy who is clearly better than the other.  Honestly, I was a Tucker fan in this book, but then Christian won me over in the second one, so who knows what will happen in Boundless.  2.  The mean girl is given depth and a heart that can actually be broken and maybe even a few good qualities. 3. Her mother tells her what she is. Yes, Clara's mother still keeps secrets, and there are a lot of them.  But she tells Clara what she is and what she can expect being an angel.  She is there for her daughter, trying to help.
The writing in this was just about perfect.  It flowed, seamlessly slipping you into Clara's head, without being too ornate or noticeable.  It's not an action packed book until the end, but there is always something happening, whether mystery, training, or falling in love, I couldn't put it down.
Angel books are hard.  Sometimes, they seem more like vampires with a twist.  Other times, they land solidly in the dystopia genre. Most often God doesn't exist; angels are just powerful beings who are lead by somewhat flawed beings.  Honestly, I would never dare write an angel book.  Too much divinity and where is your conflict? So I can see why authors leave it out . . . but then you're really sort of back to vampires with a twist.  Of all the angel books I've read, I think Cynthia Hand does it best. There's a lot of stuff I still don't understand, but I think that's kind of the point.
This book is a heavenly 4.5 stars for me.  I loved it.  If you want to see a YA paranormal romance done right, this is it.  It didn't reinvent the wheel.  Instead, it proves what good writing can do with old tropes. Now here's the book trailer in case you weren't already convinced you need to read this. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Theater Thursday: City of Bones

Today is the perfect day for Theater Thursday.  Thanks to a certain financially successful adaption of a young adult book, there are three new trailers debuing this week about other YA books turned movies that I am excited for.  The other two I will probably cover later, but today is devoted to The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.

If this does well, there will be at least two other movies and potentially five.  That is, if they don't change the plot too much.  In some ways the trailer looks amazing, but in other ways . . . I feel that they may have changed a few too many things from the book.  Of course, I won't know that until Aug 23, so we've got a bit of a wait.  Regardless, here's the book summary (and please don't judge me because there's a half naked man on the cover. This is absolutely a book anyone could read, boy or girl, old or young).

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder -- much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing -- not even a smear of blood -- to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . . 

Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare's ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end. Quoted from Goodreads

Now doesn't that sound delightful.  Honestly, I really loved these books, and I'm hoping the movie is up to par.  Now, enjoy the trailer, and I hope all of you as excited as I am.   I think it's going to be great.



Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book Review: Reached


After leaving Society and desperately searching for the Rising—and each other—Cassia and Ky have found what they were looking for, but at the cost of losing each other yet again: Cassia has been assigned to work for the Rising from within Society, while Ky has been stationed outside its borders. But nothing is as predicted, and all too soon the veil lifts and things shift once again.

In this gripping conclusion to the #1 New York Times-bestselling Matched Trilogy, Cassia will reconcile the difficulties of challenging a life too confining, seeking a freedom she never dreamed possible, and honoring a love she cannot live without. Quoted from Goodreads

---------------------

I went into this book with a lot of excitement and a dash of trepidation.  Why the trepidation? I  loved Matched.  But then there was Crossed.  It isn't that I disliked Crossed, but that it didn't seem to match Matched.  Okay, that was a wordy sentence. Here's the thing, Matched was pure dystopia for me. Crossed was more a journey type book.  There were dystopia elements, of course---the world was the same, as were the characters and the writing---but it was a different type of book from Matched

The same is true for Reached. Each book in the trilogy had a very different feel for me.  This one was more like medical thriller in a dystopia setting. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed this book.  I still probably liked Matched the best, but it was absolutely better than Crossed and a great story.  It just had a different feel from the first two books. This is not a bad thing.  In fact, it kept the story fresh by not rehashing the same plot over and over like so many books do, and I really liked that.  

First, the story is told from three points of view: Cassia, Ky, and Xander. I liked finally seeing Xander's POV and his relationship with Cassia. In the second book, I was surprised when Ky's started telling the story, but by this third book it felt natural to switch viewpoints, and it let me experience different aspects of the rebellion and the Society's reaction to them.  Plus, it helped me understand Xander's journey better and some of the choices he made.

I really enjoyed having an antagonist that you can't punch in the face or push off a cliff. I loved the nebulous idea of wrong mixed with right to create the Society and all its inherent problems.  Can I tell you, I love how smart the Society is (and hated it, of course, but you have to admire a system that predicts . . . well some of the things it predicted).  Yes, the rebellion (The Rising) gets them into a lot of trouble, but I enjoyed how they figured the odds on everything.  Then, much like District 13, you have the problems with the Rising, and the question whether it's any better, etc.  Then then there's the horribleness of the plague . . .

What I liked most about this book was Cassia's personal growth. Yes, Xander grows a lot, and Ky often sacrifices what he wants, but it's Cassia's growth I enjoyed the most. She begins to create and uses her skills to solve problems no one else can.  She becomes more than just a sorter or the girl in love with Ky or Xander. I really feel like she came into her own in this book, and while I appreciated the other points of view and different character's journeys, hers was the one I found most complete. 

A lot of dystopia books are fun because of the adventure. It's a handful of people against Big Brother, and it makes for an excellent fight.  While there are absolutely elements of that in this book, this is more a book that makes me appreciate things I take for granted.  After I read this, I want to look at art, listen to music, read more . . . (let's be honest, I probably read too much as it is). They're the perfect books for November, even if they don't mention turkeys or pilgrims, because you can't read this and not be grateful for what you have.

For me, this book is a lovely 4 stars.  It isn't  the most fast paced or adrenaline filled read, but I did stay up until one in the morning last night finishing it.  I think Ally Condie's writing is beautiful, if a bit reserved.  I did want Cassia and her special someone -- I'll try and not give anything away here -- to have a bit more of a moment, but I feel the the parting moment with the other special someone, was absolutely perfect, as was the ending of a wonderful trilogy.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Book Review: Flame of Sevenwaters


Maeve, daughter of Lord Sean of Sevenwaters, was badly burned as a child and carries the legacy of that fire in her crippled hands. After ten years she’s returning home as a courageous, forthright woman with a special gift for taming difficult animals. But while her body’s scars have healed, her spirit remains fragile, as she fears the shadows of her past.

Sevenwaters is in turmoil. The fey prince Mac Dara has become desperate to see his only son, who is married to Maeve’s sister, return to the Otherworld. To force Lord Sean’s hand, Mac Dara has caused a party of innocent travelers on the Sevenwaters border to vanish.

When Maeve finds one of the missing travelers murdered in the woods, she and her brother Finbar embark on a journey that may bring about the end of Mac Dara’s reign — or lead to a hideous death. But if she is successful, Maeve may open a door to a future she has not dared to believe possible . . . Quoted from Goodreads

--------------------

This might be the last book in the Sevenwaters saga, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. While I have enjoyed all the books, there are some I like more than others.  I absolutely love Daughter of the Forest and Heir to Sevenwaters.  The others were good, but I didn't love them as much as the two I mentioned. I liked this one a lot. It was, for me, an absolute improvement over the last book, but it still didn't come up to the level of  Daughter and Heir.  Still, in some ways it was the perfect ending.  It didn't get all preachy like Child of the Prophecy, and left me with hope for everyone's future. Still, I would love a book from Finbar's POV.

Of course the writing itself was fantastic.  Marilliar's prose are always beautifully descriptive, breathing life into the world and characters she created. In most books I don't notice the writing as much more than the vehicle relaying the story, but Marilliars writing is generally lovely enough you have to take note, while  it sucks you deeper into her world.

Meave has one special gift.  It is that gift that brings her back to her home in Sevenwaters and makes the protagonist of this story.  She has a special way with animals, and it is that gift, and Maeve's love for them, that moves the story along.  Anyone who knows me can attest I'm not the biggest animal person.  Honestly the idea of a dog sleeping in my bed gives me the creeps, so this book could have been a huge fail for me based on that alone.  But it wasn't.  Meave was such a likable character, with her weaknesses and strengths, that I was able to relate to her love for Bear and Badger, her two dogs, and Swift, her horse.  

The plot was a little slow for me in the beginning.  Horrible things happen, but they were several steps too far removed from Meave for me to feel the urgency.  Her concerns were much more internal: her family's acceptance, judgemental outsiders, her relationship with her younger brother, Finbar, and training her animals.  Where I really started to love the book is when Finbar gets lost in the Otherworld and Meave has to find him. This is where we get the real hardships, betrayals, harrowing journeys, and even romance.  The beginning was needed to set up the adventure, but it is the last half that I really enjoyed.

It was fun to see a lot of the characters from previous books.  I wish Cathal and Clodagh would have been in it more, but I guess Marilliar is trying to give Meave her own story so I won't complain too much.  All in all this was an excellent adventure.  The romance was sweet, albeit a little unexpected and sudden.  The characters had a proper amount of suffering before they got their happy ending, and there was enough sacrifice and bravery to make you love them.

This book lands solidly between 3.5 and 4 stars for me, but because of the writing I'm rounding it up. It was a good end to the series.  I wouldn't read it if you haven't read the previous books (and if you haven't, go out and read Daughter of the Forest.  It's lovely), but it is an absolute must if you have.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Flashback Friday: The Bronze Bow

He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.–from the Song of David (2 Samuel 22:35) 

The Bronze Bow, written by Elizabeth George Speare (author of The Witch of Blackbird Pond) won the Newbery Medal in 1962. This gripping, action-packed novel tells the story of eighteen-year-old Daniel bar Jamin—a fierce, hotheaded young man bent on revenging his father’s death by forcing the Romans from his land of Israel. Daniel’s palpable hatred for Romans wanes only when he starts to hear the gentle lessons of the traveling carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth. 

A fast-paced, suspenseful, vividly wrought tale of friendship, loyalty, the idea of home, community . . . and ultimately, as Jesus says to Daniel on page 224: “Can’t you see, Daniel, it is hate that is the enemy? Not men. Hate does not die with killing. It only springs up a hundredfold. The only thing stronger than hate is love.” A powerful, relevant read in turbulent times. Quoted from Goodreads

--------------------

This is an absolutely beautiful book. I first read it when I was probably about twelve, right after The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and loved it.  Then it sort of fell to the back of my mind for years and years until my mom chose it for her book club and invited me to come along--two hours before it started.  Frantically I read it again.  At first I was just going to skim it to refresh myself on characters, story, etc.  But once I started reading, I couldn't just skim.  I'd forgotten how much I loved the characters and the message of this story.  

Honestly, this book has everything you might be looking for in a story.   Adventure, rebellion, hatred, revenge, forbidden love, dynamic characters, and personal growth.  The story is told from Daniel's point of view, a Jew during the time of Christ, who absolutely despises the Romans.  At times, you can almost taste his hatred, it's so palpable, but he's so much more than just hate and revenge.  He cares for his sister and friends, and when he meets Jesus, you can feel the conflict tearing at him as he tries to reconcile what he wants with what his heart is telling him.

I love Elizabeth George Speare.  I've read at least four of her books that I remember, and each one is beautifully written.  I think the Witch of Blackbird Pond is the most famous because it doesn't deal with religion like The Bronze Bow, or at least not so blatantly.  But I don't think that's all this book is.  Yes there is a message of peace, faith, and forgiveness that is applicable today, but it's also a fantastic coming of age story and look into the time period.  

This book is absolutely 5 stars for me. It's simple enough for a child to understand, but it has a timeless, ageless quality about it, and I found myself loving it years after I read it the first time.  It has a little bit of everything in it that makes a good novel.  It has a great message without feeling preachy, and a wonderful adventure that keeps you turning pages until the very end.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Book Review: Rebel Heart


It seemed so simple: Defeat the Tonton, rescue her kidnapped brother, Lugh, and then order would be restored to Saba’s world. Simplicity, however, has proved to be elusive. Now, Saba and her family travel west, headed for a better life and a longed-for reunion with Jack. But the fight for Lugh’s freedom has unleashed a new power in the dust lands, and a formidable new enemy is on the rise.

What is the truth about Jack? And how far will Saba go to get what she wants? In this much-anticipated follow-up to the riveting Blood Red Road, a fierce heroine finds herself at the crossroads of danger and destiny, betrayal and passion. Quoted from Goodreads


--------------------

So, so, so, so good.  If you look on the cover, there's a quote that says it's better than The Hunger Games.  I won't go that far, but I will say I like this series just as much.  

First off there's the writing.  It's so different from anything I've ever read before. The punctuation is horrible, quotation marks are nonexistent, the grammar is atrocious, and I love it all.  It took me a few pages to really get into the flow of Blood Red Road, but this time around, it was like visiting an old friend.  The writing style really brings the world to life and gives it a distinctive flavor I find really refreshing.

Things basically pick up a month after they left off in the last book, and we're starting to see the repercussions of what everyone went through.  All of them are changed, especially Saba.  She and Lugh aren't as close as they used to be, but beyond that, she is haunted by what she went through and she misses Jack.  Honestly, she's probably the least Mary Sue character I've ever read.  She's prickly, bad tempered, loyal, impulsive, selfish, kick-butt, and an absolute delight to read. The best part about her is watching her grow.  She makes tons of mistakes (one in particular I really wasn't fond of) but she learns and becomes better, kinder, and smarter every time.  You can't help but root for her, while at the same time, wanting to smack her upside the head when she does something stupid.

Then there's Jack.  The book actually starts out with his POV, which I loved, before going back to Saba. I enjoyed getting to know him that little bit better and glimpsing his thoughts.  The best part of the beginning is it leaves you on a horrible cliff hanger, and you, like Saba, are left wondering what exactly happened to Jack for the next third of the book.  Then you start wondering other things about him, until you finally see him again toward the end.  

The books follow their titles.  The last book, Blood Red Road, was action, action, action, with fighting cages, killer worms, kidnapping, and rescues.  This book, Rebel Heart, is a lot more emotion based.  Don't worry, there is still plenty of action, but a lot more of the tension is in the relationships and Saba's emotional angst.  Still, it was one of those books I could never put down because something was always happening.

I labeled the last book dystopia, and it kind of was, but this book is more so.  The Tonton before were superstitious bullies. In this one they are much more organized and sinister because they believe they are making a better world. This also ups the tension because the villains are changing and evolving.  You had to know DeMalo was coming back after the last book's ending, but I never really expected what happened with him in this book. I went back to the last book later and re-read a few key scenes, so I know it wasn't totally out of the blue, but still, I only got half my expectations right.

This book was a lovely 3.5 stars for me.  It probably would have been 4 if it weren't for that one thing Saba did that irritated me. A lot. Don't get me wrong, I can see her character doing that, but I really didn't like it.  Other than that, this book is excellent.  It is the perfect, kick-but ending, semi-wraps up, yet left me drooling for the third and final book. If you're looking for an amazing adventure, this is it.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Anticipating November

I only started keeping track of book release dates last year, but there are a few trends I've noticed.  September, October and January always have tons of exciting books. November starts out with a few amazing books, but the quantity goes down, and July and Dec. have the fewest book releases I'm anticipating. It's holding true again this year. If you compare November's list to October's, you may notice there are are fewer titles. Still, there are some excellent ones coming out.

November 2012:

                   Flame of Sevenwaters – Juliette Marillier


            13th: Reached – Ally Condie
                    Black City – Elizabeth Walters
                    Ashes of Twilight – Kassy Tayler
                    Meant to Be – Lauren Morrill
          

              21st: Elemental – Anthony John


See, not quite as many.  Still, there are some books I've been waiting for forever. First, of course, is Reached.  I loved, loved, loved Matched.  Crossed suffered a lot from middle book syndrome, but I think Reached will redeem it and more.  Next, I'm always a fan of Juliet Marillier.  I've never read anything of hers that equals Wildwood Dancing, but I'll give any of her books a try.  They are always beautifully written. Of course, Days of Blood and Starlight will be amazing.  Then there are a few other books that just look interesting, and I'm sure there are even more I've overlooked.  November may not have the quantity of October, but it still has the quality and some books I'm absolutely dying to read.

Well, that's my list (and I'm still working on October, I'll be honest).  If I missed anything amazing let me know. I know there are tons of other great books coming out.  These are just the one's I've picked out to read right now.  Who knows what else I'll add.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Amanda Monday: Sapphire Blue


Gwen’s life has been a rollercoaster since she discovered she was the Ruby, the final member of the secret time-traveling Circle of Twelve. In between searching through history for the other time-travelers and asking for a bit of their blood (gross!), she’s been trying to figure out what all the mysteries and prophecies surrounding the Circle really mean.
 
At least Gwen has plenty of help. Her best friend Lesley follows every lead diligently on the Internet. James the ghost teaches Gwen how to fit in at an eighteenth century party. And Xemerius, the gargoyle demon who has been following Gwen since he caught her kissing Gideon in a church, offers advice on everything. Oh, yes. And of course there is Gideon, the Diamond. One minute he’s very warm indeed; the next he’s freezing cold. Gwen’s not sure what’s going on there, but she’s pretty much destined to find out.

I am not the biggest fan of the 2nd book or movie of most trilogies.  Too many times the author is just sandwiching in some important information between the first book and the last book, and not giving the second book enough substance of it's own.  Consequently, my expectation for the second installment of every series has been fairly low.  I am glad for my pessimistic opinion because it really helped me to enjoy Sapphire Blue.

First, let's talk about what I loved.  I love Gwen.  She is, if possible, even more charming in this second book.  She doesn't have the greatest head for remembering crucial information that a time-traveler would need to know (like memorizing names, facts, dates, etc.) so she entertains us with her many mistakes.  However, she is intelligent, funny, and much more complicated a character than one would expect.  In this book you really start to see her potential as an amazing heroine.  

I also love the supporting characters.  I would stack up Gideon next to Edward Cullen for "perfect teenage romance" . . . except I think he surpasses Edward. He's real enough to be annoyed with Gwen's weaknesses, and is also flawed enough that the author can help him grow and change for the better as the story progresses.  I also love Lesley and Xemerius.  I thought Xemerius would be really annoying at first, but he turns out to be very, very funny.

And my last "love" of this book is Gwen's little adventures (i.e. mis-adventures) when she attends an 18th century soiree.  Let's just say I'll never be able to think of the musical "Cats" again in quite the same way.  'Nuff said.

Now for the things I don't love.  Like I alluded to in the beginning, this book is clearly setting up for the third installment and riding the coattails of the first.  I had one of those moments at the end where you are surprised it IS the end because there was no really big climax.  I also would have liked to see more loose strings from Ruby Red tied up.  I can only suppose the author is going to pull all the time-traveling snarls from both Ruby Red and Sapphire Blue together in the third book.  

Don't get me wrong, I still LOVED the book.  I laughed and I stayed up way too late reading it.  It just feels somewhat incomplete on it's own.  I give it 3.5 stars for how much I liked it.  I think when the third book comes out, and I have a bit more closure, I will probably bump it up to 4 stars.  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Book Review: Shadow and Bone


Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart. Quoted from Goodreads

---------------------

Do you ever have a book that you don't quite know what to say about it? Yeah, that's me right now.  I really enjoyed this book, but I hardly know where to begin.  I guess setting is as good a place as any, so Russia.  Well, not really Russia, but the author did garner a lot of influences from that country.  Yes, I've read enough to know there are a lot of problems (like Alina Starkov's last name should be Starkova because she's a girl), but it gave the world a unique flavor, and really it's a made up place.  It may have a few Russian influences, but it's not Russia.

Here's the British cover.
I love how different it is
from the American version,
but it still works perfectly.
Now on to the lovely Darkling.  I absolutely adore that name. You can just tell he's going to be a delicious character, and he is.   Here's the thing I love most.  Throughout the first two thirds of the book, you never know exactly how much you can trust him. He could end up being the love interest, the villain, or the wise mentor the helps Alina on, and I found that ambiguity delightful.

Then there's Alina herself. She starts out rather naive and average, but it doesn't last long.  They say you're supposed to make your main characters suffer to grow, and you can see that in her journey. I also really liked her priorities and how strong she is in the beginning before she even realizes she is strong.

The supporting characters are also rather wonderful.  There's Genya, Aline's friend, who is too beautiful for her own good.  Then there's Mal, who is such a typical boy in the beginning, I think it's perfect.  Too often possible romantic love interests act a bit too much like girls, and I kind of enjoyed the oblivious boy for a change. 

This book is full of excitement, betrayal, mystery, and power, all set in a fantastical world.  My only problem with it was the very end, but since it's the first of three books, I'm sure everything will be worked out. This book gets the delightful 4 star rank.  Now, go and put it on your to read list.  There is half a year before the next book comes out, and I can't wait.