Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book Review: Asunder

DARKSOULS
Ana has always been the only one. Asunder. Apart. But after Templedark, when many residents of Heart were lost forever, some hold Ana responsible for the darksouls–and the newsouls who may be born in their place.

SHADOWS
Many are afraid of Ana’s presence, a constant reminder of unstoppable changes and the unknown. When sylph begin behaving differently toward her and people turn violent, Ana must learn to stand up not only for herself but for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

LOVE
Ana was told that nosouls can’t love. But newsouls? More than anything, she wants to live and love as an equal among the citizens of Heart, but even when Sam professes his deepest feelings, it seems impossible to overcome a lifetime of rejection.

In this second book in the Incarnate trilogy, Ana discovers the truth about reincarnation and will have to find a way to embrace love and make her young life meaningful. Once again, Jodi Meadows explores the extraordinary beauty and shadowed depths of the soul in a story equal parts epic romance and captivating fantasy. Quoted from Goodreads

********************

I love this series. Seriously.  I read Incarnate last year, and then I read it twice more, so I was understandably nervous to see what would happen in book two. Asunder absolutely measured up to all my expectations: character growth, action, mysteries solved, romance (and not the "I can't be with you because--insert pointless problem here"), new problems introduced, cliff hanger to be solved in third book, etc. It had them all.

I love the person Ana is becoming. Incarnate was all about Ana's quest to figure out why she was born and our introduction to the world in which she lived.  In Asunder Ana is given a cause.  More new souls are being born, and Ana wants to protect them, not only from people who don't believe they have a right to live, but from the mystery that is Janan and why he considered Ana an inconsequential mistake. 

Speaking of Janan, we learn so much more about him and the tower/temple's purpose. I did not see that twist coming. He went from being odd/creepy but not the real bad guy, to something a lot more terrifying.  I also loved learning more about the Sylphs.  We still don't know everything, but the glimpses we get about them are intriguing, and I can't wait to learn more.  The one thing I wish there would have been more of are the dragons.  While I'm sure they'll make an appearance in the last book, they were absent from this one, and I missed them, their "relationship" with Sam, and the mystery of why they attack the tower.

One of the best things about this book is how unique it is. It has lots of fantasy elements--dragons, trolls, sylphs, new world, etc.-- but it's technologically advanced with out coming across as science fiction.  It's also the closest book I've ever read  to really establishing a Utopia society.  Of course there's a hidden underbelly that undermines the perfection, but these people haven't used bombs in something like three thousand years and despite a minor bump or two, they've been at peace for just as long.  It's a refreshing change after so many dystopia novels out there with horrendous living conditions and even worse dictators.

Then there's Ana's relationship with Sam.  I really liked it.  So many series go like this: first book = fall in love. Second book = find some reason to keep them apart. Third book = live happily ever after.  Asunder, despite it's title,  avoided all the stupid reasons for them not to be together.  The romance wasn't the main point of action, so there didn't need to be separation or conflict to capture the reader and keep the series going, and it was a nice change.  Their relationship simply keeps progressing as they get to know one another better.

If you can't guess, this book is 4.5 stars for me.  There is just something about Jodi Meadows's writing that I love.  She's descriptive, her pacing is even better in this book than the last, and I love her characters.  If you're looking for a great series, check this out. It's unique, full of mystery and great characters, and the first two books are out.  What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book Review: The Darkest Minds

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.

When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living. Quoted from Goodreads


*********************

Well, if you're looking for a bleak, realistic, well written dystopia, this is it. 

Honestly, I loved the writing and world building in this.  The writer doesn't assume the audience is stupid, and she reveals the story bit by bit.  Yes, there is a smidge of info dumping, but it's pretty much all show, not tell. Even though we see the whole story from Ruby's POV, we don't even find out what happened to her parents until halfway through the book. Plus, there's a tangibility to the writing that makes the world easy to picture in all it's harsh detail.

Ruby basically starts in a concentration camp, and the guards are horrible.  I realize this isn't a new thing, but it's hard to believe so many evil people could exist who hate kids that much.  Later you realize why they are so afraid of the kids, what some of the kids have done back that makes them so unfeeling and cruel, so it isn't just mindless, sadistic, power mongering designed to make you feel sorry for the main character.  It does, of course, but there's a reason given, so instead of being cardboard-cutout jerks, they become human--mostly.

Ruby, herself, is timid but loyal and empathetic, which is basically the only thing that has kept her alive. The characters are similarly well thought out.  They are all flawed and very distinct, but never over the top.  You never wonder if it was Liam or Chubb talking to Ruby. I love little Zu, who doesn't say a word, yet has her own brand of unique in what she wants and how she interacts. Even the car, Black Betty, had personality. Then there's Ruby's relationship with Liam.  It's kind of slow at first and doesn't really make an appearance until the second half of the book, letting it evolve naturally and keeping the whole scenario grounded in reality.   

The book starts off with a bang and the hits (secrets, car chases, child snatchers, villains, powers, etc.) just keep coming till it's over.  The ending killed me.  It is everything I love in an ending of the first book.  I love nobility and sacrifice, and  the last five pages had that in spades. It was perfectly set up so Ruby had to face what she feared most in the book, which broke me heart a little but left me feeling proud of her at the same time. I also really liked the references to Watership Down.  I realize it's a book about rabbits, but I loved it as a kid and thought it was used beautifully here.

So if this book is that amazing, why only 4 stars? First, the lack of hope and direction.  While I think everything they went through was action packed and realistic, I, as a reader, don't have a clue how this world will ever get any better. Granted, that's what the second and third book are for, so I'm content to wait and see what happens. Second, I don't see why all the Greens were locked up.  They are smarter than normal, so what?  I get how the oranges, reds, yellows, and even blues could terrify adults, but just having an extra smart kid?  After all the deaths and the fear of the population dying out, I would think they'd be thrilled to have some survivors who are really smart.

Anyway, besides those two little problems, this book is 4 stars excellent.  If you want a bleak dystoia, full of challenges and trials but mixed with great relationships, wonderful characters, and lots of action, this is it.  Now I can't wait for the next book to find out what Alexandra Bracken does with poor Ruby.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Amanda Monday: Emmalee


Emmalee Bradford thinks she’s an expert at matchmaking, and she won’t rest until all her friends are as happy as she is. Especially Hannah, the girl she’s decided to make popular. Everyone loves Emmalee's advice--everyone, that is, except her annoying neighbor Chase Anderson, who has taken it upon himself to "fix" her.

This modern version of Jane Austen’s Emma is the hilarious journey of a girl who believes she knows all about love. But when it comes to recognizing the perfect guy for her, Emmalee is absolutely clueless.

I have been a fan of all the Jane Austen Diaries books written by Jenni James.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, they are retellings of Jane Austen's famous books set in modern day Farmington, New Mexico.  I toyed with the idea of blogging about all four books of the series (Emmalee being #4), but after finishing the book, I decided to just focus on it, as Emmalee has many examples of the best and not-so-best of all the books.

Emmalee is certainly not an original book.  I don't think it was ever meant to be.  It is simply a fun retelling of Austen's classic Emma.  What makes it a fun read is seeing how the 19th century Austen problems translate into modern-day fiction.  Since Austen's conflicts were, in many ways, timeless, I think James did a good job of taking  the story and moving it into the future.  Instead of wealthy heiress Emma of Hartford, you have super popular and wealthy Emmalee Bradford, top of the senior class social ladder.  Is she nice?  Yes.  Is she flawed?  She is a pretty good blend of self-absorbed and giving, entitled and humble.  I actually enjoyed her character very much.  Though an older reader might wince a few times at the rather juvenile train of thought she possesses, she definitely has spunk and charisma, and is a heroine that will capture the readers' heart.

My biggest problem with the book is all of the supporting characters.  With the exception of her friend Hannah, they are all very harsh and quick to judge our heroine.  I kept wanting to yell at her parents, friends, and especially her love interest Chase (our modern Mr. Knightley), "Good grief! She's only 18!  Ease up, already!"  It made it hard for me to warm up to some of the other characters, and (maybe this is just the bratty part of me coming out), I never felt like what she did warranted the sometimes over-the-top  punishments doled out by her parents.  As a result, I felt annoyed when I think I should have been feeling happy and satisfied.  

But, in spite of the fact that I spent half the book irritated, I couldn't put it down.  I guess it has some of the same magnetism as Twilight and other such young-adult books.  "You hate it but have to finish it" syndrome.  So while a part of me wants to give it two stars for having some fairly contrived characters, I the other part of me that had to stay up late to finish it says that it justly deserves three stars.  


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Book Review: Double Crossed

Macey McHenry—Glamorous society girl or spy-in-training?

W.W. Hale V—Heir to an American dynasty or master thief?

There are two sides to every coin. Whether these two can work together is a tossup.

Born into privilege, Macey and Hale are experts at mingling with the upper class. But even if they’ve never raised an eyebrow at the glitz, neither teenager has ever felt at home with the glamour.

When Macey and Hale meet at a society gala, the party takes a dangerous turn. Suddenly they’re at the center of a hostage situation, and it’s up to them to stop the thugs from becoming hostile. Will Macey’s spy skills and Hale’s con-man ways be enough to outsmart a ruthless gang? Or will they have to seek out the ultimate inside girl to help?

The worlds of Heist Society and the Gallagher Girls collide in Ally Carter’s fast-paced, high-stakes and tantalizing new story. Get a behind the scenes glimpse as Ally delivers an irresistible thriller that is full of her signature style and savvy twists. Quoted from Goodreads


********************

This novel is pure fan-girl fun.  If, like me, you're a fan of Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls and Heist Society books, then you have to check out this novel, where those two worlds collide.  

Now you could actually read this novella cold, with no background in either series, but you would miss out on what makes it so much fun.  Sure, there is tension, twists, spy and thief stuff, etc. all of which make a fun story in itself, but that's not what I loved about this book.  What I most enjoyed is seeing the characters I've come to know from each series meet each other.  It's fun to see how they both recognize the different skill set the other possesses and how they work together.  You also pick up a few fun insights into the other's world.  It's not particularly new information, but when you see it through new eyes, you get a fresh take on familiar characters.

Plus, this book is free!  Yes, as of right now you can get this book from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and all other major e-book publishers for free, sort of an early birthday present to you from Ally Carter.  Now, just a warning so all of you won't be taken by surprise.  The book ends around the 55% mark.  After that, you get the first two chapters of the first book in both series, which is nice if you haven't read them before, but a little disappointing if you were expecting a longer story like I was. 

For me, this is an excellent 4 star book.  As far as colliding worlds go, it deserves 5 stars, but the plot was a little bit predictable.  Maybe I've read/watched too many mysteries (a particular episode of White Collar  and Psyche comes to mind), so I wasn't stunned by the final twist.  Still, there were a few other ones that were delightful.  So pick it up.  If you haven't read any of the other books, it will draw you in, and if you have, well, enjoy watching two excellent series come together.  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Book Review: Everbound

Nikki Beckett could only watch as her boyfriend, Jack, sacrificed himself to save her, taking her place in the Tunnels of the Everneath for eternity — a debt that should’ve been hers. She’s living a borrowed life, and she doesn’t know what to do with the guilt. And every night Jack appears in her dreams, lost and confused and wasting away.

Desperate for answers, Nikki turns to Cole, the immortal bad boy who wants to make her his queen — and the one person least likely to help. But his heart has been touched by everything about Nikki, and he agrees to assist her in the only way he can: by taking her to the Everneath himself.

Nikki and Cole descend into the Everneath, only to discover that their journey will be more difficult than they’d anticipated — and more deadly. But Nikki vows to stop at nothing to save Jack — even if it means making an incredible sacrifice of her own.

In this enthralling sequel to Everneath, Brodi Ashton tests the bonds of destiny and explores the lengths we’ll go to for the ones we love. Quoted from Goodreads

********************



There's a technique in writing, where when you don't know what to write, you just start writing words, thoughts, something, and suddenly you find that you kind of do know what to write.  I'm hoping this is true, because while I really liked this book I'm not quite sure what to say about it. First, I suppose, is how unique this series is.  Yes, there's a bit of a love triangle and otherworldly characters, but the entire premise is totally different from any other book I've read. 

Second, there's the action.  Everneath, while I really enjoyed it, was a bit more slow paced.  Nikki was so depressed/drained through most of it, the book really seemed to be more about getting her life together, uncovering what really happened to her (and how), and and finding a way to escape her fate.  Everbound is all about saving Jack.  In the Everbound, Nikki is exposed to all kinds of crazy landscapes and almost zombie-like creatures as she and Cole try and make their way to Jack. Plus, Jack is fading, so there's the constant worry pushing the story forward, "Will they make it in time?" Plus there's the irony that Cole is helping Nikki save Jack.

Ah, Cole and Jack.  Poor Jack doesn't make a huge appearance in this book in real time.  To compensate, we get a lot of flashbacks of Nikki's memories about how she fell in love with Jack.  It makes you fall in love with him more, because he was so sweet, but it can't quite makeup for the fact that it is a flashback and therefore happened two or three (or a hundred, if you're counting the time Nikki and Cole were in the feed) years ago.  Still, Jack is so consistently good, you have to cheer for him.

Then there's Cole.  You know from the first book that he is a little twisted, his moral compass is skewed, and he doesn't view things the way a normal person would.  Despite that, despite everything that happens in this book (and he does some crazy stuff) I absolutely enjoyed his character.  I love how much he loves Nikki, even though she takes a long time seeing it, and that he will do anything (and I do mean ANYTHING--even stuff that makes you want to hit him) to "help" her. He is a deliciously ambiguous, strangely devoted, and an absolute wild card, which, for me, made him the character I loved to read about most.

I also loved all the mythology that connects in this book, while at the same time, it never feels derivative.  Yes, certain Greek myths get mentioned a lot, but I don't ever feel that this is a modern retelling or, really, even a based on  Greek mythology at all.  It gives the whole story a slightly more epic/historical feel, while maintaining it's autonomy.

Then there's the ending!  I love, love, love this ending.  It had the ideal, happy moment, mixed with the betrayal/cliffhanger that satisfies while leaving you longing for more--exactly right for  a second book in a series.  It contained the perfect twist, that I half expected, but with layers I never saw coming. I can't wait for next year and the final book.

For me, this book is a wonderful 4 stars.  I loved the characters, the picked up pace, and the excellent ending.  It absolutely lived up to the promise of the first book, and did more than maintain the pace until the third, it add whole new layers of intrigue and conflict.  So, if you're in the mood for a fun, really unique adventure, check out this series.  It's totally worth it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Flashback Friday: I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You

Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school-that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but it's really a school for spies. Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she's an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real "pavement artist"-but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her? 

Cammie Morgan may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she's on her most dangerous mission---falling in love. Quoted from Goodreads


********************

With the recent release of Double Crossed, the Gallagher Girls/Heist Society crossover novella, which I'm currently reading (okay, so I'm on page 2, but still . . .), I thought today would be an excellent day to review Ally Carter's first Gallagher Girl's book, I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You.

This series is absolutely delightful.  It's light, funny, and exciting all at the same time.  To be honest, this is probably my least favorite book in the series. It's not that it doesn't have a great premise or does an excellent job of introducing you to the characters.  It does.  It just doesn't have the same element of epic spyness that the subsequent books have.  It's a little bit lighter, focused more on boys than other, bigger problems that crop up later.  Don't get me wrong, it's still an excellent way to introduce the series, I just want you to know it gets better and better with each new book, and the problems they face are a little less fluffy.  

First there are amazing characters.  I love Cammie, Bex, Liz, and Macey, and their (eventual) strong friendship.  Too often there is only one girl sidekick as a friend, and a bunch of mean, fake girls that provide the "conflict".  Not true in this book.  Each character is unique and fleshed out, bringing their own brand of fun and loyalty to the story.

Cammie is a second generation spy, nicknamed the "chameleon," who lives year round at an all girls spy school or on her grandparent's farm. Basically, she is clueless about boys, in an adorable way, so when she meets Josh, a boy who really sees her, she tackles her crush the only way she knows how: like a spy.   This book cracks me up.  We get some great moments, such as Cammie and her friends going through Josh's garbage to see what he likes, because while they are fluent in dozens of different languages, they don't begin to speak boy.

Mixed in with all this is some interesting spy training and some secrets about Gallagher Academy, which promise to become more in later books. Really, the school itself is sort of a character, much like Hogwarts for Harry Potter.  It helps define the characters lives, is full of secrets (including tunnels and rooms), and teachers that may be either good or evil.

Yes, this book is geared towards younger teens, but I still found it to be a blast.  It is a quirky 3.5 stars for me.  If you want an adorable, light read, full of fun characters and laughs, pick this up.  The first 5 books are already out, and the sixth (and possibly final) one comes out this year, so get reading!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Review: Splintered

Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own. Quoted from Goodreads

*********************

First we had vampires, followed by angles.  Then dystopia smashed onto the scene.  Now I suppose Alice and Wonderland are getting their turn on the YA stage.  Honestly, off all the different adaptions I've read, and I've read quite a few, this is probably one of the truest to the original story (but not a retelling.  It just uses the the original as history, and goes from there), while still maintaining its own, absolutely separate, story and characters, and I found it a lot of fun.

First, there's Wonderland itself.  It does follow more the Tim Burton movie vision, macabre and crazy, but since even the Disney version is a bit creepy, I kind of enjoyed it.  The world was twisted, dark, and strangely beautiful.  I really think A.G. Howard did an excellent job with her world building here, and how she blended the old Alice story into Alyssa's new adventure.

Now for Alyssa's story.  As it says above, Alyssa's family is cursed, but she discovers that if she can fix Alice's  mistakes in Wonderland, things Alice did that threw Wonderland out of balance (like create an ocean from her tears) then the curse will be broken. The beauty of this is that Alyssa gets thrown into some version of the same situations Alice faced, so we get to see all the "familiar" characters from the original book (with an A.G. Howard twist), but the story itself remains completely separate.

Then we have all the plot twists. Some of them were pretty predictable, but there were some I never saw coming. I loved how the ending turned out, with just the right amount of peril and action, mixed with betrayal and touching moments. 

All of the above I absolutely loved.  What I didn't actually love, was the love interest, or interests, if you prefer.  Don't get me wrong, there were the requisite sweet moments, moments when they guy will do anything for Alyssa, and you can see why she falls in love with him.  But then there are the other moments where the guy acts like a jerk, and then the love aspect goes down hill.   

Here's the thing, Morpheus is supposed to be mysterious and kind of creepy.  It goes with the whole wonderland territory, so while I didn't approve of certain aspects of his behavior (he was a complete jerk at times) , it was consistant with the setting and his character as a whole.  It was Jeb I had issues with from time to time.  First, his deciding with her dad she couldn't go to London?  Yeah, that was just creepy and wrong of both him and her dad.  Why would he be involved in a decision like that anyway?  Then there's the whole reason he wasn't with Alyssa from the beginning.   I just didn't really buy into his reasoning.  He didn't want to drag her into his problems?  She is his best friend!  She already knows his backstory, his issues, and she still hangs out with him every day.  I don't see how getting involved romantically would suddenly put his past history more in her life, especially since the problems are basicall over.  I just found it a manipulative/weak explination for why they weren't already together.

I know I spent too long on that.  For the most part, I really enjoyed this book, Jeb was mostly very cute and Morpheus was delightfully ambiguous. If you're craving a great twist on Wonderland, this is it. For me, this book was a fun 3.5 stars, and I can't wait to see what the author comes up with next.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book Review: Boundless

The past few years have held more surprises than part-angel Clara Gardner could ever have anticipated. Yet from the dizzying highs of first love, to the agonizing low of losing someone close to her, the one thing she can no longer deny is that she was never meant to live a normal life.

Since discovering the special role she plays among the other angel-bloods, Clara has been determined to protect Tucker Avery from the evil that follows her . . . even if it means breaking both their hearts. Leaving town seems like the best option, so she’s headed back to California - and so is Christian Prescott, the irresistible boy from the vision that started her on this journey in the first place.

As Clara makes her way in a world that is frighteningly new, she discovers that the fallen angel who attacked her is watching her every move. And he’s not the only one. . . . With the battle against the Black Wings looming, Clara knows she must finally fulfil her destiny. But it won’t come without sacrifices and betrayal.

In the riveting finale of the Unearthly series, Clara must decide her fate once and for all. Quoted from Goodreads


********************

This is, without a doubt, one of the best paranormal romance books out there, and possibly the best love triangle ever written.  I loved this series from the beginning, and Boundless concluded it in the absolute best way possible.  So if you haven't started this series, you need to start now, and if you already read the first two books, pick up the third.  It's just about perfect.

First, action.  These books are beautiful books, but they're not exactly action packed.  Yes, they have their shining moments when they fight off blackwings, but most of the book is more about figuring out their purpose, coming of age, and balancing relationships.  This book, however, was far more action packed than the first two, which I thought was rather perfect for the conclusion of this amazing trilogy. 

You can absolutely tell Cynthia Hand knew where she was going from the beginning. All the dreams Clara had are suddenly explained and her purpose made more clear, even if she did, at times, try and avoid it.  I love books that are well planned out, where little details  add up to significant moments.

I also actually loved this love triangle. I don't know that I've ever said that before.  Honestly, I don't t know if I ever thought that before.  Yes, there is a bit of sadness because Clara can only get with one guy, but that's also part of the beauty in the tragedy.  I love Tucker and Christian both. This is the first time I didn't know going into the last book who the main character was going to get with.  It's also the first time I didn't care.  She could have gotten with either of them, and I would have been just fine.  I loved them both, but was satisfied with Clara's decision in the end.

Another thing I loved about this book was all the perfect, little moments between the different characters.  I love Clara's relationship with Michael and how he helps her, the creepy yet touching moments with Samjeeza, and a particularly the brief chat she has before sunset at her thinking spot.  I also enjoyed Jeffery's story. Yes, he gets a bit lost and bumped about, but you can't help but care about him. Finally, Clara.  Every book makes me love her more.  Yes, she learns how to swing a sword, but that isn't really what makes her the hero. It's what she becomes, what she is willing to do for those she loves that finally allows her become the person she wants/needs to be.

This book is an amazing 5 stars for me. It is the perfect end to an excellent trilogy. I really feel that Cynthia Hand took most of the overused, stereotypical ideas and showed everyone how they should be written, so check out this series. I loved it.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Book Review: Shades of Earth

Amy and Elder have finally left the oppressive walls of the spaceshipGodspeed behind. They're ready to start life afresh--to build a home--on Centauri-Earth, the planet that Amy has traveled 25 trillion miles across the universe to experience.

But this new Earth isn't the paradise Amy had been hoping for. There are giant pterodactyl-like birds, purple flowers with mind-numbing toxins, and mysterious, unexplained ruins that hold more secrets than their stone walls first let on. The biggest secret of all? Godspeed's former passengers aren't alone on this planet. And if they're going to stay, they'll have to fight.

Amy and Elder must race to discover who--or what--else is out there if they are to have any hope of saving their struggling colony and building a future together. They will have to look inward to the very core of what makes them human on this, their most harrowing journey yet. Because if the colony collapses? Then everything they have sacrificed--friends, family, life on Earth--will have been for nothing.

FUELED BY LIES.
RULED BY CHAOS.
ALMOST HOME.    Quoted from Goodreads

********************

I knew January would be a good month.  January is always a good month for books, and this one absolutely didn't disappoint.  Shades of Earth has that perfect blend of so many different genres: sci/fi, dystopia, mystery, romance, action, suspense, etc. I loved it.

Heads up, I will be giving a few things away from the first and second book, so be warned.  One of the things I was most excited for in this book was the change of scenery/new characters.  Don't get me wrong, I love the Godspeed.  It was an interesting world/ship that Revis created, but I was ready for a change, and boy did Shades of Earth deliver.  Not only is there the new planet and all the challenges therein, but we also have the awakening of the Frozens, who introduced a completely different set of characters that challenged Elder and Amy.  

First the planet.  I loved that the planet itself was a mystery. It wasnt' the biggest one, in my book, at least, but I did enjoy the mystery of who had lived here, what were the dangerous monsters, etc. Plus, it was a different type of world.  I loved Elder's reaction and the other shipborns to the sky and the rain.  Despite all the unknown dangers, so many of them fell in love with it almost instantly.  

Elder and Amy had gotten rid of most of the "problem" people from the last two books, so this time we are introduced to the Frozens, aka Amy's parents and the other specialists/military personnel.  Honestly, sometimes I was so frustrated with them. Then I would think that they were trying to do the right thing.  Then I would be frustrated again. The best part is I felt like it was always believable.  How would most adults react to finding a 16 year-old boy in leading over a thousand people? Why wouldn't Amy's parents still view her as a child?  As annoying as some of the conflicts and secrets were, I could understand why many of the frozens acted the way they did.  I may not agree with it, but I completely believed it.

I loved  how Amy and Elder finished growing up in this book. Oh, they're still not perfect, but I loved them at the very end.  Amy said the things I wanted to say, and Elder really learned what it was to be a leader and put his people first.  

The stuff that didn't work for me?  Chris.  Don't get me wrong, I like that Beth Revis gave Amy another option and he was an interesting and rather complex character, but I felt Amy was a little bit stupid about him sometimes.  Maybe the hint of a a love triangle was supposed to add tension to an already action-paced, suspenseful book, but I could have done without it.  I was fine with Chris falling for her, I just wish she had been a little less stupid about him.  Plus, I wanted an epilogue.  I do think the ending was just about perfect, but I would have liked a glimpse of what happens to the characters down the road. 

From the beginning, I could hardly put this book down.  It perfectly wove a dozen different conflicts together, was blended with action and mystery, and had wonderful characters.  It was the perfect ending to a really fun series, and absolutely deserves it's shining 4.5 star rating.  I rarely thing the third book in a series is the best.  Usually it's the first, and sometimes the second, but this one is probably my favorite of the three, and I'm sad to see it end. Now I'm just waiting to see what Beth Revis will come up with next.  

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Theater Thursday: The Seventh Son

With the release of the the next Last Apprentice book, Slither, coming out next week, I thought this would be a good day to talk about the movie that's being made out of the series. It comes out  on the 18th of October, this year, and I'm rather excited . . . and a bit nervous.  I love this series.  It has great characters, creepy creatures, and lots of adventure. I'm just hoping they capture the essence of the story. From the cast you can tell the movie is changing things, but maybe it works better for the movie?  Thomas Ward is almost 13 when the first book begins.  Ben Barns is considerably older than that. Mother Malkin is the bad guy in the first book, but only a minor character in the series as a whole, so we'll see how that turns out as well.

Despite all that, I think this will be a fun adaption, I mean just look at the pictures. I love Jeff Bridges, who plays the Spook, and Julianne Moore is an excellent actress (plus she looks deliciously creepy as Mother Malkin). I'm just hoping for a trailer soon, so I'll have a better idea of how this movie is going to turn out.  If you're looking for a series full of little adventures tied into a greater one, this is it.

Plus, this is the time to start reading the books.  If you read them now, you'll have enough time to forget all the tiny details that they won't capture in the movie. I've found, for me, that I enjoy movies a lot more if I haven't read the book too recently. It lets me enjoy them so much more because I don't remember everything, so I don't get frustrated with the filmmaker's decisions.  If you're interested, here's a quick summary of the first book, The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch.

For years, Old Gregory has been the Spook for the county, ridding the local villages of evil. Now his time is coming to an end. But who will take over for him? Twenty-nine apprentices have tried—some floundered, some fled, some failed to stay alive.

Only Thomas Ward is left. He's the last hope, the last apprentice.  Quoted from Goodreads

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Book Review: Through the Ever Night

It's been months since Aria last saw Perry. Months since Perry was named Blood Lord of the Tides, and Aria was charged with an impossible mission. Now, finally, they are about to be reunited. But their reunion is far from perfect. The Tides don't take kindly to Aria, a former Dweller. And with the worsening Aether storms threatening the tribe's precarious existence, Aria begins to fear that leaving Perry behind might be the only way to save them both.

Threatened by false friends, hidden enemies, and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, Can their love survive through the ever night?

In this second book in her spellbinding Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi combines fantasy and dystopian elements to create a captivating story as perilous as it is unforgettable. Quoted from Goodreads

********************

Second books are hard. Too often, they simply bridge the gap between first and third.  The world building is mostly done, so the story has to step things up to keep my attention.  Too often it fails, but every so often I find a sequel that lives up to it's predecessor. This is one of those.

The first book was all about Aria's growth.  She learned to survive in her new environment, harsh as it may have been, and thrive on the challenge.  This second book was more Perry's story.  Yes, the chapters still alternate between them, but this time it's Perry on a journey. As Blood Lord of his tribe, he is given the opportunity to really grow up and come into his own.  Aria's still there, but her journey, while full of adventure, changes her less than Perry's does, and I enjoyed the chance to let a different character shine.

A lot of other things came together for me in this book.  There were several characters whose importance I didn't understand in the first book, or whose role was more like filler (I mean, you can't have a world with only five characters) that got fleshed out.  It added a wonderful depth to the book, and tied in loose ends from the first that perfectly set up the third installment.

Another thing I really enjoyed in this book is Aria and Perry's relationship.  Yes, there is the requisite heartache found in any YA sequel, but it was a normal, healthy kind. It didn't paralyze the characters or keep them from doing what they needed to do. It wasn't full of angst or dramatic bursts of tears. Plus, there still isn't a love triangle.  Aria and Roar are able to be good friends without Roar falling in love with Aria or Aria falling for him. In fact, I love Aria and Roar's relationship.  It's sweet, fun, and incredibly supportive.

If you haven't read Under the Never Sky, now is the time to pick it up, read it, and then read Through the Ever Night.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, far more than I thought I would. It deserves a solid 4 stars, maybe more, and is the pefect second book. It pulls things together, while still leaving me anxiously waiting for the thrid book to come out.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Memory of Light

Since 1990, when Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time® burst on the world with its first book, The Eye of the World, readers have been anticipating the final scenes of this extraordinary saga, which has sold over forty million copies in over thirty languages.

When Robert Jordan died in 2007, all feared that these concluding scenes would never be written. But working from notes and partials left by Jordan, established fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson stepped in to complete the masterwork. With The Gathering Storm (Book 12) andTowers of Midnight (Book 13) behind him, both of which were # 1 New York Times hardcover bestsellers, Sanderson now re-creates the vision that Robert Jordan left behind.

Edited by Jordan’s widow, who edited all of Jordan’s books, A Memory of Light will delight, enthrall, and deeply satisfy all of Jordan’s legions of readers.

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass.
What was, what will be, and what is,
may yet fall under the Shadow.
Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.   Quoted from Goodreads


********************

It's over.   I've been reading these books for over half my life and hearing about them for even longer, and it's over. Don't worry, I won't give anything away.

You know that giddy feeling you felt when you got the last Harry Potter book, and you wanted to read it right away and save it because you knew this was the last time you would read a Harry Potter book for the first time.  Yes, you can revisit the world over and over, but this is the last time you will have unanswered questions, the last time you don't know who will live and who will die, the last time the mystery is still alive.

I should probably tell you I cried.  You go into a story like this expecting a certain number of deaths, but sometimes it isn't the person you expected that hurts the worst. Like HP's Fred.  Who expected Fred to die, and who didn't feel their heart break just a little at George's tears? Like Amanda said, there are a LOT of characters, a lot of main characters, even.  There were some I absolutely expected to die. I was prepared for it, and I was sure Brandon Sanderson/Robert Jordan would kill them off. And they didn't (which is mostly good, don't get me wrong, but also a little bit bad, though you can figure out why yourself). Then there were others I didn't expect, and that was worse.  And, of course, there was the ultimate question of Rand, but I'm not going into that.

Beyond the deaths, there were several great twists in this story. Some I didn't see coming, though in hindsight it was perfectly set up.  There were others I suspected, especially as the book moved along, but all of them were fun.

This book does have a lot of battles.  It's rather emotionally exhausting just reading them, but thrilling/nail-biting as well.  The Last Battle had a thirteen book build up, which totally justified the number of pages spent on the final battle.  Plus Brandon Sanderson switches between so many characters and different struggles that it never feels repetitive or overdrawn, and merges just the right amount of heroism with despair.  

This book was, to borrow a word, exquisite.  It tied up decades of writing and hundreds of story threads. It made me cry, grin in delight, and honestly, part of me never wanted it to end.  It is absolutely 5 stars.  5 stars for the book itself, 5 stars for the world Robert Jordan started, and 5 stars for the way Brandon Sanderson finished it off.  Yes, it is a time commitment and, yes, it is daunting, but it is absolutely worth every minute. I loved it.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Flashback Friday: The Gathering Storm


Tarmon Gai’don, the Last Battle, looms. And mankind is not ready.

The final volume of the Wheel of Time, A Memory of Light, was partially written by Robert Jordan before his untimely passing in 2007. Brandon Sanderson, New York Times bestselling author of the Mistborn books, was chosen by Jordan’s editor---his wife, Harriet McDougal---to complete the final book. The scope and size of the volume was such that it could not be contained in a single book, and so Tor proudly presents The Gathering Storm as the first of three novels that will make up A Memory of Light.This will complete the struggle against the Shadow, closing a journey begun almost twenty years ago and marking the conclusion of the Wheel of Time, the preeminent fantasy epic of our era.

In this epic novel, Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, struggles to unite a fractured network of kingdoms and alliances in preparation for the Last Battle. As he attempts to halt the Seanchan encroachment northward---wishing he could form at least a temporary truce with the invaders---his allies watch in terror the shadow that seems to be growing within the heart of the Dragon Reborn himself.

Egwene al’Vere, the Amyrlin Seat of the rebel Aes Sedai, is a captive of the White Tower and subject to the whims of their tyrannical leader. As days tick toward the Seanchan attack she knows is imminent, Egwene works to hold together the disparate factions of Aes Sedai while providing leadership in the face of increasing uncertainty and despair. Her fight will prove the mettle of the Aes Sedai, and her conflict will decide the future of the White Tower---and possibly the world itself.

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow. Quoted from Goodreads


*********************

Wow, that was a really long introduction.  Still, now you have the background on this book, and can probably guess why I'm reviewing it. Amanda did a great job introducing the Wheel of Time series, and since my entire week's been consumed by it, I thought I'd dedicate Flashback Friday to Brandon Sanderson.  

Yes, Robert Jordan died.  Even before his death I worried because it was obvious (in my opinion) he would never finish the series.  While I love New Spring, I kind of wanted to scream when it came out instead of the next book. Then Brandon Sanderson took over with a lot of notes left by Robert Jordan and help from his wife/editor Harriet. I had read Elantris and enjoyed it, but I was still nervous.

I shouldn't have been.

Yes, the writing is a bit different, and there were a few characters that may have seemed a little off, but for the most part I think Brandon Sanderson did an amazing job of continuing the work Robert Jordan started.  I can't imagine with the hundreds (literally) of plot lines left open, how daunting it would have been to try and close them.  And never forget the fans.  He had the burden of continuing one of the best fantasy series ever, and I think he really pulled through. 

I felt like, for the first time in several books, that the plot was moving forward again.  Some of RJ's later books go so bogged down in the characters and petty conflicts, the plot hardly moved.  Supposedly he was going to finish things up in one more volume, but I'm betting it would have taken at least six, maybe seven.

This book, to me, was Egwene's glory moment.  This is where I feel her character really shined, where she became the person she had the promise of becoming. I also liked Faile for the first time.  Partly because of that beautiful thing she did right at the beginning, but I feel like Brandon Sanderson softened her character just a little bit, allowing us to actually see why Perrin loved her.

Before Brandon Sanderson, this series was starting to frustrate me.  Don't get me wrong, the first six  or seven books were still among my favorites ever, but then things bogged down, plots kept opening up without old ones being resolved, and I didn't see the end in sight.  Now I do.  This book is, for me, a stunning 4.5 stars.  It started things moving again, while still giving me time with characters and a story that I love.