Saturday, March 30, 2013

1,000 Pageviews!

My eyes bugged out a little when I saw my pageview count. Kind of like...

So I just thought I'd say a big thank you for those of you who follow my blog or have dropped by from time to time! I know The Ink Gobbler is still pretty new and not exactly Neopets-famous--I've never expected it to become some huge thing anyway!--but it's still amazing to me that there are people out there who enjoy reading my reviews. It actually touches me in that warm, sappy way.

So a humongous thank you, thank you, thank you! I hope you all continue to enjoy reading my blog as I continue gobbling ink. (:

And one more GIF just to show how grateful I am!

Book Review: Hidden by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast

This book has been sitting on my 'to-read' bookshelf for a pretty long time. I started the "House of Night" series a few years ago, and let me tell you, I was instantly hooked, finishing the first two books in one day! But then there was the third book, then a fourth, fifth...all the way to a tenth now. And who knows when it'll actually end! But having nothing else to read on a rainy evening, I decided to give "Hidden" a shot.

With Neferet and her evil deeds finally exposed, Zoey and her friends should be free to live normal vampyre lives, but unfortunately for them, the former High Priestess of the House of Night in Tulsa is far from done with wreaking havoc in her thirst for power. To top it all off, Zoey is beginning to suspect that Aurox, the strange bull-boy who ended up killing Dragon, is actually Heath, her human boyfriend who sacrificed himself for her. With tensions running high and the stakes even higher, Zoey and her friends must find a way to stop Neferet before it's too late.

...And they better do it soon. Seriously, the Casts are dragging this whole series on wayyyyy too long. It would be so easy for the apparently powerful vampyre gang to take down Neferet with one of their many, many magical abilities, yet they just end up messing up one way or another. Neferet always finds some way to provoke Zoey, which is honestly pretty stupid when she's 500 years old and Zoey's only...seventeen or something. I mean, the things that she does just to provoke Zoey are so immature and stupid, and the fact that the entire book revolved around Neferet trying to hurt Zoey in an indirect way just made everything a little flat. The plot isn't horrible or anything, it's just a little annoying when you see this whole thing dragging on and on and on and on.

The "House of Night" series wouldn't seem as frustratingly long, I think, if the characters were a little more likable. Lets just take Zoey as an example. She's definitely a strong character, who's had to deal with a lot since a young age but is still trying to be the confident leader that her friends need, and the whole not-swearing thing (i.e. "bullpoopie") is a little juvenile but cute. But despite this she's not an all together likable protagonist. She's just a little too whiney and the fact that she's caught between all these different guys kind of makes me roll my eyes. I also feel like there should be more of a character development, especially given that there is ample space and time for what could be great development.

Overall, "Hidden" is probably a miss, though I do want to see how the entire series ends--I deserve that much, at least, after ten whole books! Don't get me wrong, the "House of Night" series would be great if it had ended a couple books ago. It's simply about time that things wrapped up by now.

Rating: 2/5

Friday, March 22, 2013

Book Review: Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

To me, one of the greatest things about urban fantasy is its ability to take the world as you know it and completely transform it into a place of otherworldly magic. That's probably one of the reasons why I fell head over heels in love with "The Mortal Instruments" series by Cassandra Clare, which, obviously led me to a fit of squeals and shrieks when I found out a couple years ago that a sister series "The Infernal Devices" was coming out! Even more demons, angels and Shadowhunters, oh my! Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end--in this case, in the form of "Clockwork Princess", the third and final book in "The Infernal Devices" trilogy.

Tessa Gray should be happy--aren't all brides happy? Yet as she prepares for her wedding with Jem, the silver-haired, gentle boy she's found herself falling in love with, a net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute. Mortmain is lurking from a distance, but he only needs one thing to complete his army of merciless automatons: Tessa. As she deals with Jem's fatal sickness and her conflicting feelings for Will, Tessa knows that it's only a matter of time before Mortmain comes for her, and she'll stop at nothing to protect the two boys she loves and the family she's grown into at the Institute--even if it means making dangerous choices that could threaten the survival of all Shadowhunters.

What I found extremely impressive in "Clockwork Princess" was, of course, the way Ms. Clare played out the love triangle between Tessa, Will and Jem, romance being one of the ever-present elements of the series. Usually you see the whole annoying thing where the heroine constantly wavers between the two boys, with melodramatic spiels on how she thinks she loves Boy #1, but wait, Boy #2 is not too shabby looking himself. Which, inevitably, leads to kissing both boys and messing around with them. But in "The Infernal Devices" trilogy, you get a romantic conflict that's dealt in a pretty mature manner, which I am ever grateful for. Tessa's a responsible, strong and loving heroine who's a delight to follow throughout the novel, and, on a completely different and not-so-salient note, all the more likable now that I know how she looks like! I mean, how beautiful is the cover? But I digress. I don't entirely know how I feel about how the love triangle turned out, but I definitely know that it was very clever of Ms. Clare, very clever indeed! Plus it's quite fitting considering everything that's happened in the series, and surprising in a pleasant, warm way.

And, like any other novel in the rows and rows of books on shelves, the characters in them are of utmost importance. "Clockwork Princess" is chock full of engaging, wonderful characters who really end up forming an expansive, protective family you can't help but warming to. There's the iron-willed yet caring Charlotte, her kooky and adorable husband Henry, Gideon and Gabriel Lightwood, Will's sister Cecily, the brave and scarred Sophie, even Bridgett and Cecil! And, of course, Tessa, Jem and Will. I liked how the novel jumped around between different points of view of the characters, because you really get to know them all so intimately. There's so much to say about all the characters, but I don't want to go on and on and bore you, so I'll just stick to the two ever-important boys, Jem and Will. The bond between the two parabatai is so palpable and unbreakable, despite the fact that they're as different as night and day. I loved the way their pasts were revealed in "Clockwork Princess", and how each of their pasts made them who they are in the present. But one thing I especially love is Will's humour. My goodness, it had me chortling at one point--in fact, I have to share it:

"Mr. Rochester never courted Jane Eyre," Tessa pointed out.
"No, he dressed up as a woman and terrified the poor girl out of her wits. Is that what you want?"
"You would make a very ugly woman."
"I would not. I would be stunning."

For some reason, that had me giggling! Like Jace from "The Mortal Instuments" series, Will is just so full of dry, sarcastic wit that just gets me going and makes him that much more likable. Jeez, no wonder Tessa loves both of them.

One of the more disappointing elements of "Clockwork Princess" was the plot. While it did remain sufficiently engaging throughout, I felt like the plot was a little stretched out and lingered too much in unnecessary places, such as Will's ride to Wales. I definitely think the novel would've been more exciting (though, I deceive you not, it's plenty exciting!) if it had been a little more fast-paced. I sometimes found myself skimming over some parts, which is never a very good sign. Another thing was how quickly the climax seemed to be done and over with. There wasn't much of a struggle in the final scene between Mortmain and Tessa, and it was just poof-kill-and done! So maybe that could've been a little more well developed, since, after all, this is the very last book of such an amazing trilogy.

Overall, "Clockwork Princess" is the not-to-be-missed final installment to "The Infernal Devices" series, with a great cast of characters and beautiful, compelling writing that had me tearing up--something that books I've read recently haven't made me done in a while. It's bittersweet to be saying goodbye to these people you've gotten to know and grown to love, but the wonderful, magical thing about books is that you can always go back and revisit them! I highly recommend "The Infernal Devices" trilogy, as well as "The Mortal Instuments" series if you haven't read that yet!

Rating: 4.5/5

*News flash!* I just found out that there'll be a brand new Shadowhunters series called "The Dark Artifices" in 2015, centering around one Emma Carstairs (Jem's relative?!). Hopefully things won't become repetitive with the whole Shadowhunters/demons/angels business. Geeeeee I'm excited!! I can't wait. (:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

When books take me longer than a week to finish, it's either because they're just really, really long (think "Game of Thrones" long), or they're just not that compelling. When I saw the great reviews of Rachel Hartman's debut novel "Seraphina", I knew I'd end up finding it on my e-bookshelf sooner or later. What I didn't know was that I'd find myself stuck on the same book for nearly ten days, which is just such a bummer when every other reader has enjoyed it thoroughly! But let's just start from page one.

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Taking their human forms, saraantras, the rational, mathematically-minded dragons attend court as ambassadors. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions run high. Seraphina Dombegh, an unusually gifted musician, joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered in a suspiciously draconian fashion. Together with the bastard Prince Lucian Kiggs, Seraphina investigates a sinister plot to destroy peace, though she still struggles to protect her deepest shame and secret.

It's more than a little sad to admit this, but I found "Seraphina" pretty slow and plodding. There wasn't really any action in it, and mostly consisted of a rather passive Seraphina hiding her scales and meeting new people. Even though the blurb led me to believe that there was some mysterious murder that could threaten the peace between dragons and humans, I feel like Ms. Hartman revealed everything way too early on in the book, so it was just pretty obvious and deadpan when the big answer was revealed. It's a shame because "Seraphina" has so much potential for exciting adventures into these fascinating lands like Samsam, and, I mean, there are dragons!! Unfortunately, I feel like the book ultimately fell flat, and I found myself skimming over a lot of the text in the first three-quarters.

One of the things I did like about "Seraphina" was the diverse cast of characters, most of whom were pretty well developed throughout the novel. First, you have the titular heroine Seraphina, who's a pretty interesting character since the stakes are high for her if her secret (dun dun dun) is revealed. To me, though, she wasn't a particularly memorable or exciting protagonist. She's responsible, mature, yet vulnerable, but there really wasn't anything that made me want to meet her in person or anything of the sort. Despite this, there's some good character development going on throughout the novel with Seraphina as she learns to accept herself for who--and what--she is. The characters I just liked unconditionally were definitely the little band of 'grotesques' in Seraphina's mind. Lars' German/Transylvanian accent made him quirky and cute, while Dame Okra (aka Miss Fusspots) had her own annoyingly endearing qualities. And, of course, Orma! I liked Orma's struggle between his logical dragon side and emotional human side, and I definitely sided with him until the very end. Makes me wish I had an uncle like him!

As for the writing, Ms. Hartman without a doubt writes in a very sophisticated manner. The vocabulary is rich and the sentences are well strung, but I do have to question the diction at times. There are a lot of fancy words that seem somewhat natural in their context but still a little jarring, almost like when you know a bunch of great SAT vocab that you want to use in your school paper. It was also pretty wordy at times, and I feel like the pace would've been a lot quicker and compelling had unnecessary words been cut out entirely.

Overall, "Seraphina" to me is a decent fantasy novel with interesting things going on, but it just doesn't really cut it for me. It never hooked me in, and I had to force myself to finish the book, which is a shame since there are some promising elements, such as the cast of characters. It's just never great when you feel like you're reading a different book from the one extolled by many other reviewers, like you've missed out on something while reading it, but I'd probably give this one a pass.

Rating: 2/5

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Book Review: Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Maybe there's something about dystopian trilogies that decrees that the last book just won't live up to the first two. After seeing Ally Condie's originally awesome "Matched" series flounder in its final book, "Reached" (see earlier review), I reluctantly dismissed it as a fluke. I was really excited to see that "Requiem", the final installment of the "Delirium Trilogy" by Lauren Oliver, was being released a few days ago--like, holy-moly-can't-believe-it's-nearly-here-squeal-and-jump excited. The cliffhanger in the second book "Pandemonium" just had my heart pumping and jaw dropping, and I couldn't wait to see how things turned out. And they turned out... pretty disappointing. WHYYY??

After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends--and Alex--are trying to survive in the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven--the rise of rebellions have made it impossible for the government to deny the existence of the Invalids, and Regulators now infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels. As Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life back in Portland as the new fiancee of the young mayor. But when dark secrets hidden behind painted faces and forced smiles begin to emerge, the girls know they have to do something before the government destroys love forever.

Every cloud has a silver lining, so I'll start off with the silvery good stuff first. "Requiem" is told from two different points of view: Lena's and Hana's. I quite liked the alternating chapters because you could really see the contrast in the former best friends' experiences and thoughts, and how the government and the rebellion were affecting the Invalids and the Cureds. It also created a little bit of tension, especially at the points when they both think or see or experience the same thing and you just see that little crafty connection they have between them.

And then there's the cloud. There really wasn't anything monumental happening in the book at all. Lena and her friends in the woods literally just walked through some trees, blew up some stuff... and that's it. Even Hana, who's stuck in the relatively safer, sheltered town, had a more exciting story with Fred the jerk and sneaking around and whatnot. There's just so much that could've happened in the Wilds--it's called the Wilds for heaven's sake!--but there wasn't anything that actually happened. At all. It felt like Ms. Oliver was just trying to wrap up things nice and tidy before the trilogy ended, but while it was nice to see some loose ends tied up, I didn't feel like there was much point to the storyline.

The characters themselves fell short of their potential, too. "Pandemonium" ended with a whopping cliffhanger (ALEEX!!!) and there was so much to work with there, but instead the whole love triangle between Lena, Alex and Julian (and Coral, I guess, so it's more of a square) fell flat. There was a fist fight here, jealous glares there, and that was it. Even in the end, with the final scene between Alex and Lena, I was just left flipping back and going, "That's it??" It was just so matter-of-fact and blunt and not exciting at all, which was how I felt about the plot as well.

Overall, "Requiem" was a disappointing ending to what could have been a great, unique trilogy about a dystopian society where love is considered a disease. I actually loved that concept, but in the end, it was just about trudging through woods to blow some stuff up...and done. It's just such a bummer because there's some great potential for some action-packed, fast-paced rebellion and emotion. I'd probably recommend reading the first two books in the "Delirium" trilogy, but I'm just not very sure with the last.

Rating: 2/5

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Book Review: Roar and Liv by Veronica Rossi

I picked up "Roar and Liv" the other day to give me something to read while I waited for "Requiem" by Lauren Oliver to come out. There's something about novellas that subtly add to the main series, and since I loved Roar and Liv's relationship in "Under the Never Sky" and "Through the Ever Night" (check out my review here!), I thought it'd be worth a quick read.

After a childhood spent wandering the borderlands, Roar finally feels like he has a home at the Tides. His best friend Perry is like a brother to him, and Perry's sister, Liv, is the love of his life. Roar doesn't know what he'd do without Liv, even if his friends' brother, Vale, the Blood Lord of the Tides, doesn't approve of their relationship. And when Roar discovers that Vale intends to marry Liv off to another tribe to save the Tides, he knows nothing will stop him from saving Liv and their love, even if it means his whole life will be shattered.

I loved the fact that the novella was told from Roar's point of view, because he's such a likable and strong character in the series, and it was interesting and great to get into his mind. Above all, I could definitely see his love for Liv, which I never doubted throughout the entire series. Roar's character is also clearly present in his narrative voice, with undertones of humour and wit that makes him all the more likable. And that's what I like about reading prequel or in-between novellas: they give you more depth and insight into a character you've never had the chance to get to know on such an intimate and personal level, and that was without a doubt the case with Roar.

Even though I knew what was going to end up happening with the whole Roar and Liv situation from "Through the Ever Night", I still found myself caught up in the story. Seeing their romance and how they interacted just added layers of emotion and history to what I'd read earlier in the books, and I almost wish that I'd read the novella before reading the sequel!

I'm keeping this short and sweet (I'm letting myself get away with this since it's a novella!), but I definitely thought that it was worth a read, which is why I slipped in the time to write another review today! I'd highly recommend spending a half hour or two reading "Roar and Liv", no matter which point in the series you're at.

Rating: 4/5

Book Review: Opal by Jennifer L. Armentrout

It's kind of amazing how books provide an escape route from hectic everyday life. I've had mock exams the past couple of weeks, and each and every day was dedicated to studying and revising and more studying! Luckily, I had "Opal", the third book in the "Lux" series by Jennifer L. Armentrout, to keep me company when the going got tough. Not to mention that books sometime remind you that your normal life can't possibly be worse than life-risking scenarios involving aliens and seedy government agents.

Now that Daemon's finally confessed his feelings for her, shedding his arrogant, condescending facade to show Katy how he really feels about her (or at least for a few hours a day), things should be okay for Katy. But instead, her mom's boyfriend Will has run away after kidnapping her to force Daemon to heal him, and Blake, her 'friend' who also tried to kill her, has also disappeared. Not to mention Dawson's reappeared after being held captive by the Department of Defense. Now, Katy and her friends are closer to discovering the truth, putting them in the path of the secret organization responsible for torturing and testing hybrids: Daedalus.

One thing that I really like about the "Lux" series is Katy's narrative voice. It's so conversational, it's like she's really talking to you. She's funny and bookish, and I love the fact that she's a book blogger! I remember finding out that she reviews books in "Obsidian", the first installment of the series, I was a little surprised because I've never encountered a character who's a book blogger. In a way, it's a little jarring because it's kind of Inception-like... But I digress. Katy's a great heroine to follow throughout the story because she's so real and down-to-earth. I also thank the literary lords that she's not one of those whiny, weak female protagonists, which seem to appear in YA paranormals from time to time. Instead, Katy's strong and determined, even a little stubborn sometimes, and she's a really likable character.

I do have to admit that a good quarter of the book consisted of Katy and Daemon making out. While it's exciting to have a few steamy scenes sprinkled here and there, I felt like there was a little too much in "Opal". Yeah, I get that Daemon's super hot and saucy, and hormones are up and running strong and high, but a little more moderation would've been nicer. That being said, Katy and Daemon's relationship is also so unbelievably sweet! Daemon still has his characteristic cockiness and wit, but at the same time, he also shows his vulnerability and true feelings for Katy. I almost died of envy when I read about Daemon's little post-prom surprise date he set up for Katy.

Which brings me to the ending. I definitely don't want to give anything away, but THE ENDING!!! I just knew something like that was going to happen--I just hope in the next book it won't turn out that predictable story of...well you'll see. Other than the ending, the storyline remained pretty engaging throughout, even though the main focus, I think, was on the developments of the different relationships between all of the characters. Event-wise, I don't think there was too much that really happened. There were maybe around five main 'big plot points', but other than that, it was really about the various characters...and Katy and Daemon making out.

Overall, "Opal" is a great third installment to the "Lux" series, with a witty, likable narrative voice and an engaging storyline...not to mention lots of kissing. I'd definitely check it out if you've read the first two books in the series, or like unique YA paranormals that don't involve werewolves or vampires.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Book Review: How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller

I could never imagine myself living as a criminal. In fact, I don't even think I have what it takes to even be a criminal--the guts, quick thinking, slippery fingers. When I picked up "How to Lead a Life of Crime" by Kirsten Miller, intrigued by the title, I thought, well, here's my chance to live the life of a criminal! A friend told me a quote by George R.R. Martin the other day: "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one." And that's one of my favourite and magical things about reading--you experience things that you normally would never experience. Through "How to Lead a Life of Crime", I got to live as a teen boy with a troubled family history in an institution that teaches its students to be criminals.

Flick is a talented thief, abandoning a privileged life with his father for the harsh streets of Manhattan. He's honed himself to become stronger, to be the protective older brother he failed to be for Jude, and when he's given the opportunity to avenge the death of his brother, Flick knows he'll stop at nothing to do what it takes to bring his father down. The only catch: attend the exclusive Mandel Academy and rise to the top. Only the most ruthless students are allowed to graduate. The rest disappear. The only question is, can Flick put aside the things that matters to him most--the girl he loves, his conscience, his humanity--to survive the academy?

There's something undeniably dark and gritty about this novel. When I first read the synopsis and found out that the book was about an institution for budding juvenile criminals, a "Hogwarts for Hustlers" as Flick describes it, I'd expected that it'd be something similar to the Cherub series by Robert Muchamore or the sort. Instead, what you get is a lot darker and more disturbing than a bunch of kids on military missions. A good place to start is Flick. Since the entire book is told from his point of view, you really get a good look into Flick's character and his history. First, you have the abusive, alcoholic dad who's ruthless, rich and calculating, then you have the mom who's always tried to run away with her two sons, only to have them tracked down by--you know it--the cold father. Not to mention the younger brother who tried to protect Flick and died doing so. Oh, and did I forget that Jude pops up in Flick's mind to talk to him as Peter Pan? Flick's undoubtedly had to deal with a lot, and that's what makes him such a gritty, honest character who has no choice but to become stronger and more ruthless in order to survive. But at the same time, he struggles to retain his humanity and conscience, and that's what makes him such an interesting and complex protagonist to follow throughout the novel. There's an incredible amount of great character development going on with Flick, and Ms. Miller has done an excellent job in crafting a protagonist who's forced to challenge literally everything he knows about himself.

The whole idea of an institution that trains kids to become mastermind criminals is really taken up to a whole other level with the Mandel Academy. The students there are so ruthless, but what makes them especially pitiable is the fact that a lot of them would never have been that cruel had it not been for the academy. Though then again, there are the natural psychopaths who don't give a damn who they have to crush or kill to succeed. For example, the Wolves--the top-tier students in the academy--are so cutthroat that it's graphic, with decapitated heads and forcibly slit wrists and everything. It kind of shocked me when I read such gruesome descriptions, and it was then that I realized that these kids are so, so messed up. Ms. Miller definitely did an awesome job with creating an eerie, dog-eat-dog world within the confines of the Mandel Academy, and sets up the perfect place for all the crazy intense events that happen in the novel.

The plot of "How to Lead a Life of Crime" was exciting and engaging throughout. I wouldn't say that it remained fast-paced in every single page of every single chapter, but I feel like even the slower portions were necessary in building up the tension and in the development of the characters. I especially liked reading about the relationships between the characters, like Flick and his dad or Flick and Joi (she is seriously one amazing character, by the way! Kick-ass and clever to boot) , which unfold throughout the novel. The intense twists and turns also definitely upped the ante of the storyline, and got me flipping through the pages in rapid speed.

Overall, "How to Lead a Life of Crime" is a dark, gritty and intense story with sometimes scarily real characters and a compelling plot. It's an adventure you don't want to miss, even if it isn't set in some far away land with swords and pirates. And that makes it all the more engaging and exciting--the fact that it's a definite possibility in the real world we live in today.

Rating: 4.5/5

Friday, March 1, 2013

March '13 Releases!

Time's really flying by, isn't it? I can't believe it's already nearing the end of the winter season, since the official first day of spring is March 20... That's only a couple weeks from now! How crazy is that? Anyway, the start of a new month heralds the upcoming releases of some amazing books that are leaving me super duper excited, so voila!

"Requiem" (Delirium #3) by Lauren Oliver
Release date: Mar. 5

"Unremembered" by Jessica Brody
Release date: Mar. 5

"Let the Sky Fall" by Shannon Messenger
Release date: Mar. 5

"Mila 2.0" by Debra Driza
Release date: Mar. 12

"Clockwork Princess" (The Infernal Devices #3) by Cassandra Clare
Release date: Mar. 19