Tuesday, December 31, 2013
The Icarus was never meant to fall. Built by the powerful LaRoux Industries, the massive luxury spaceship is equipped with the most advanced technology available. No one expected that the Icarus would be yanked out of hyperspace and sent plummeting toward a planet, leaving only two known survivors. Lilac LaRoux is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver Merendsen comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they're worth. The two are loath to work together, but when they find themselves haunted by chilling whispers, Lilac and Tarver know that their only hope of survival is each other.
I don't know if I've made it very clear in my little synopsis, but let me tell you now that the storyline in "These Broken Stars" is creepily awesome. Sure, at first you get the Titanic-esque fall of the spaceliner, leaving two survivors stranded on a seemingly deserted planet, but as the story progresses, the tension creeps higher and higher until you get perpetual shivers running down your spine. Nonstop. Seriously, the plot of the novel is one heckuva thriller, complete with strange, indecipherable whispers and illusions taken from your memories. Not to mention rotting corpses and freaking ghosts pointing toward some place. How creepy can that get? Ms. Kaufman and Ms. Spooner definitely do an excellent job in weaving together a compelling storyline, one that propels you from start to finish. There are lots of elements that create both physical and emotional tension in the storyline, from the development of Lilac and Tarver's relationship to the two's trek across the strange planet. You'll be getting your fair share of the heebie jeebies with this one.
Speaking of Lilac and Tarver, the two main characters of the novel were really great characters to follow throughout the novel. Lilac is a rich heiress, but one with a backbone and little care for the false niceties of societal life. Tarver, on the other hand, is a soldier from an ordinary family, one who's relied on instincts and wits to get to where he is now. I thought that the portrayal of the two protagonists was not only believable but also exciting, especially with the way the two's differences played against one another in a way that ultimately leads to the best sort of dynamic and symbiotic relationship. The development of their romance was especially done very well, beginning with natural attraction, then barely contained disgust, to reluctant tolerance, and...well, the rest is history!
It seems like "These Broken Stars" is the first novel in a trilogy, with three different worlds and three different love stories (which means no more Lilac and Tarver?). I think this is probably a pretty good move, as it'll give readers a glimpse into different lives and make it all the more exciting. I do have to admit that while I found Lilac and Tarver really interesting to read about throughout the novel, I don't think I ever reached that point of "oh my goodness I love these people, let me be with them forever and ever" like I have with some other characters in other novels. Maybe there could've been a little more oomph to their characters and back stories, to make them more captivating to read about.
Overall, "These Broken Stars" is an intergalactic thriller of a novel, with an exciting storyline and a pair of characters who are enjoyable to follow throughout. I definitely recommend this novel for anyone looking for a good adventure, you won't regret it!
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
I find myself at a loss in trying to think of my own synopsis for "Pale Fire"--I don't think I can do it justice by trying to capture the essence of the novel in my own words--and so instead offer you the one given on the back of my copy: In "Pale Fire" Nabokov offers a cornucopia of deceptive pleasures: a 999-line poem by the reclusive genius John Shade; an adoring foreword and commentary by Shade's self-styled Boswell, Dr. Charles Kinbote; a darkly comic novel of suspense, literary idolatry and one-manship, and political intrigue.
After reading that blurb at the bookstore when I was buying my copy of "Pale Fire," I was a little unsure of what the novel was. A poem? A commentary of a poem? And that's what makes this novel--and Nabokov--so ingenious. For those of you who are just as confused as I was prior to reading the book, "Pale Fire" presents a foreword and commentary by the fictional Dr. Charles Kinbote, who the rather peculiar main character we accompany throughout the pages. Sandwiched between his foreword and commentary is the eponymous poem "Pale Fire," which was written by John Shade, Dr. Kinbote's neighbour. Even after reading the first few pages, I was still a little confused by what the novel was meant to be, but as I continued reading Dr. Kinbote's notes in his commentary, I found myself piecing together the puzzle pieces of this strange novel until I got a clearer picture of what Nabokov is doing. It's extremely clever, what he does, even to the point where I'd say that he's creating his own genre, or, at the very least, his own distinct literary form. I've never encountered a book like this before, and the journey that you embark on as you read the novel is such a unique and exciting experience!
Another thing that makes "Pale Fire" such an incredible read is Nabokov's rich and intricate language. Reading the words of the novel was like stepping into a candy shop for book nerds like myself--whimsical, magical and so alive! The purposefully obscure and fancy diction works enticingly well with the atypical syntax of the sentences, capturing the peculiar character of Dr. Kinbote and stamping the novel with Nabokov's trademark writing style. Not only is the language hypnotizing, but the images that they create are breathtakingly beautiful as well. I'll give you an example, the opening couplet of John Shade's poem: "I was the shadow of the waxwing slain / By the false azure of the windowpane." The waxwing, knowledge that Dr. Kinbote eagerly supplies to us, is a type of bird, and those two rich lines describe a bird flying into a glass window, thinking it was the sky. Such a simple image is captured in intensely ornate language, and it's just truly captivating, is all I can say! What's also exciting and clever is the way Nabokov makes allusions to his other novels, like when he mentions Hurricane Lolita, referring to a certain nymphet I've met in his arguably most famous book. Nabokov, you cheeky master of words!
The character of Dr. Charles Kinbote, of course, must not go unmentioned when talking about "Pale Fire." Just like I did with Humbert Humbert in "Lolita," I found myself at once being drawn to and repelled by the dark yet twistedly charming hero (or, perhaps, antihero?) of the novel. You learn a great deal about him not only through the way he speaks in his commentary, but also through the things he reveals in it. He's indubitably narcissistic and passionate, not to mention sly and obsessive. I do think, however, that he puts a sort of distance between himself and his readers, unlike Humbert Humbert, who makes a deliberate attempt to appeal to his audience. It's really interesting, the way Nabokov crafts his main character through his voice and his language, and it's honestly something you have to see for yourself--or, more correctly, he's someone you have to meet for yourself.
Overall, "Pale Fire" is yet another one of Nabokov's darkly whimsical and tantalizing novels, abound with rich, ornate language, a unique novel structure, and, of course, a twisted yet alluring main character. In his novel, Nabokov reminds his readers of what exactly being a reader means, enticing us with undeniably beautiful words and wacky, sly puns. I highly recommend exploring Nabokov's works--it is a trip to a candy shop, or treasure trove, that you cannot miss out on!
Saturday, December 21, 2013
For Kitty Doe, the choice seems simple at first: spend the rest of her life as a III, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or become a VII as a member of the most powerful family in the country. What she doesn't expect is that her decision sends her tumbling into a world of deceit and secrets, and strips her of who she used to be--for good. Kitty is now Masked as Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece who died under mysterious circumstances. The price for a life of luxury: her identity, and her freedom. Kitty is forced to stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed and one Kitty finds herself believing in. Caught in this twisted game of manipulation, Kitty must consider her moves carefully--or she'll lose everything she's ever held dear to her heart.
First off, how thrilling does that plot sound? I was hooked from the blurb of "Pawn," and I knew I had to get my greedy, grubby hands on a copy--and I sure as heck wasn't disappointed! Ms. Carter weaves a story full of intrigue and surprise, one that grabs hold of you from the first page and never lets go. The storyline is, without a doubt, fast-paced throughout the entire novel, with tensions escalating as the story progresses and buried secrets are exposed. The entire idea of being Masked--surgically altered to look like someone--may not be entirely novel, but the real focus remains on the messed up family politics. The Harts are the governing family of the District of Columbia, but they are far from the kind of family who'll dress up in matching ugly sweaters during Christmas and pose for a geeky photo. Instead, they're cutthroat, and will do anything--even murder their own family members--to retain power. The extents to which the Harts go to really help to up the ante, building up the tension and engendering readers' disgust at the society the people are forced to live in.
This, of course, also helps to make Kitty, the heroine of "Pawn," all the more likable. Kitty is an undeniably strong protagonist, one who has her priorities straight and will do anything to protect those she loves. She's also compassionate and clever, and the way she deals with all the obstacles thrown in front of her is admirable. I especially liked her relationship with Benjy--it's clear as day how much she cares for him, and will do whatever it takes to make sure that he's safe, even if it means letting herself become a pawn for the Harts' ruthless games. Really the only thing I can say about Kitty is that she is definitely a great character to follow throughout the book, one we become invested in and root for.
The other characters also help to create a thrilling and engaging story. Augusta and Daxton make the perfect villainous duo, and can I just say here that I am so grateful I don't have a cutthroat grandma. No apple pies and warm cookies baked out of grandmotherly love here. Daxton is also an evil, manipulative sleaze with no redeeming qualities to him whatsoever--which, of course, is perfect in a villain. On the other side of the good-vs-evil battle (though admittedly some of these so-called good guys aren't very good themselves either), are Knox, Grayson and Celia. Celia, Lila's mother, was definitely one of those people you can't classify as entirely good, since she's forced to become just as ruthless as the other Harts to secure her own safety and power. It was interesting, though, to see how she dealt with Kitty as her 'replacement daughter.' Knox, Lila's fiance, is one of those charming fellows every girl swoons over, but what made him more of a dynamic and exciting character was his seriousness in the cause. I do want to mention Benjy, who's just sweet and cute and a good match for Kitty! Love their relationship.
Overall, "Pawn" is a riveting first installment to what promises to be an exciting series, packed with gripping events in the storyline, a great heroine and a dynamic cast of characters. I actually might want to check out Ms. Carter's other series, "The Goddess Test," because I so enjoyed this book! I highly recommend this book--it's an adventure you don't want to miss!
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Penryn should be dead. At least, that's what everyone--her mom, her sister Paige, and Raffe, the angel with demon wings--thinks. After being stung by a monstrous scorpion creature, Penryn wakes up from her paralysis, and is ready to continue surviving in a world overrun by angels. But when Paige is captured by a group of people thinking she's a monster and disappears, Penryn scours the streets of San Francisco to find her. Her search brings her deeper and deeper into the angels' secrets as she discovers that their plans might be even more malicious--if that's possible--than they were led to believe. Entangled in a complex net of angel politics, survival and longing for a certain angel, Penryn knows she has to act fast, and make the most impossible of choices.
I think I'll start off by talking about "World After"'s thriller of a plot. The storyline of this sequel is fast-paced and exciting throughout, with hardly a dull moment. There's always something happening, whether it's escaping the inescapable Alcatraz or penetrating the angels' twisted, decadent parties at the aerie. There's a lot that happens emotionally too, especially between Penryn and Paige as Penryn learns to truly see her little sister as the girl she is, trapped in the body of a monster thanks to the angels' experiments. I also feel like the plot in the sequel has escalated since the first book. To be honest, I don't really recall the storyline of "Angelfall" very clearly, maybe because it wasn't too memorable, but I definitely feel like Ms. Ee stepped it up in "World After," concocting shocking revelations about the angels' plans and upping the stakes in their deadly and dangerous war.
Penryn as a main character is a pretty butt-whooping heroine, one who's clever, brave and undoubtedly has a good head on her shoulders. What I especially like about her is that, despite the fact that she's dealing with a freaking angel apocalypse, unwarranted feelings for an angel, and a little sister who is thirsty for blood, she keeps her calm. Penryn's the type of girl who knows what she needs to do, and understands that no amount of whining or melodrama can change her situation. At the same time, though, she isn't 100% stoic and invincible--Penryn is still a seventeen-year old girl, young and vulnerable, and that's what makes her relatable as a main character. What made me roll my eyes a little, however, was how she expressed her undeniable attraction to Raffe. Sure, he's beautiful and all--he's an angel, for heaven's sake--but the amount of times she described him as "Adonis-like" was a little too much for me.
Speaking of Raffe, his and Penryn's romance in "World After" kind of left me wanting more! Their relationship definitely underwent a lot of development throughout the sequel, with quite a bit of carrying-in-the-arms and blush-worthy moments between the two. I also thoroughly enjoyed their witty banter, which helps to define their relationship in subtle and amusing ways. I do wish that there was a little more of Penryn and Raffe together, though, and I can't wait to see how their romance develops in the next book!
All in all, "World After" is an exciting sequel to "Angelfall," with a fast-paced storyline, likable heroine, and an enticing romance. If you're looking for an apocalyptic adventure, or, for some reason, like angels and the like, I'd recommend checking this series out for a good read!
Saturday, December 14, 2013
Day is the legend, the hero and voice of the Republic's people. June is the prodigy, the strongest and smartest soldier who gained the Elector's trust from a young age. Both June and Day have sacrificed much for the Republic--including, perhaps, each other--and now their nation is on the brink of change and new development. The Colonies and the Republic are finally about to sign a peace treaty, reuniting what had once been America and relieving the tensions that had held reign for years. But when a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, war threatens the Republic cities. The only way to resolve the conflict is for June to ask the boy she loves to give up his own brother, to give up everything. Difficult choices have to be made: peace or love? Who will be the champion?
I imagine it must be pretty tough to juggle two different perspectives in a single book, jumping to and fro from each characters' voice, personality and thoughts. Yet Ms. Lu does a terrific job with June and Day's points of view, with alternating chapters from the two protagonists' perspectives. By giving us an in-depth look into the two main characters' thoughts and actions, she's not only able to make her readers invested in both of them equally, but also create tension and what a lot of people call the 'feeeeels.' And feels there were! Seeing the other person through the other characters' eyes really helped to develop June and Day's relationship in nuanced and complex ways, while at the same time making it incredibly believable and exciting to read about. In fact, their romance took leaps and bounds in "Champion," maturing in ways that allow them to grow as individuals as well.
Which, naturally, brings me to June and Day as characters. In the previous two books in the trilogy, June, to me, has always been a sort of foil character for Day, someone who kind of exists to make things more exciting for the 'real' main hero of the novel. But as I read "Champion," I felt like June definitely became more of a protagonist of equal standing. This is not to say that she used to be a faded side character. She has always been a kick-ass soldier, but she felt a little too stiff to me. In this novel, though, I definitely think that June develops a great deal emotionally, embracing her love for Day and her deceased brother, while struggling with not only the politics of being a Princeps-Elect, but also Anden's unrequited feelings for her. As for Day, he remains a dynamic and interesting character to follow throughout the novel, especially now that he has to deal with the possibility of his own death. Things have undeniably changed for both characters, forcing them to grow in ways that wouldn't have been possible without the pressing circumstances they face as important figures in the Republic.
The plot of "Champion" definitely does the trilogy justice, never letting the stakes drop and the story fall flat. Unlike a lot of dystopian series, where the finale ends up boring and stale, "Champion" remains exciting throughout the novel. When there isn't some punchy action going on, whether it's fighting enemy soldiers or jumping off of ridiculously tall buildings, there's always some emotional tension with June and Day's thoughts and the decisions that they have to make. The ending, especially, was original and fresh, and the epilogue kind of left things a tad bit hazy in a way that wasn't frustrating, but rather left things to the readers' hopeful imagination.
Overall, "Champion" is a thrilling finale to a great dystopian trilogy, with a pair of compelling main characters and an exciting storyline that remains that way until the final page. There's a reason the "Legend" series is so popular--I would definitely recommend the trilogy to anyone looking for an adventure!
Sunday, December 8, 2013
For seventeen years, Eureka has grown up without crying. Never, ever cry. After her mother was killed in a freak accident, the things and people she held dear to her heart hold no more meaning, and the last thing she will ever do is let anyone close enough to feel her pain. Eureka will do anything to escape, save for one thing that holds her back: Ander, the mysterious boy with turquoise eyes that speaks of the ocean who seems to be wherever she goes. And when she uncovers an ancient tale of romance and heartbreak, about a girl whose tears drowned an entire continent, Eureka knows there's no escape, no disappearing. Suddenly her mother's death and Ander's appearance seem connected, and her life threatens to slip under dark undercurrents that will change her forever.
Eureka is a pretty awesome protagonist to follow throughout "Teardrop"--I mean, come on. Her name says it all. She's definitely a somewhat grittier main character than your average YA heroine, exemplified by the fact that she tells us from page one that she attempted suicide because of her mom's death. Putting the macabre aside, Eureka also has a hard time trusting people, even her own dad, who had remarried someone else after he and her mom got divorced. It was really interesting to see their relationship develop throughout the novel, in ways that were both sweet and sad at the same time. I think it's these weaknesses which make Eureka not only an interesting heroine, but a real one, one who struggles with her shortcomings and all the other sucky things in life, and, because of this, one you can relate to. Yet despite her tougher side, she's also undeniably compassionate, vulnerable and independent, a complex mix of different aspects to her personality which make her all the more real. Her loyalty to her best friends, Brooks and Cat, and her love for her twin half-siblings and dad really capture her strength in character, and I think Ms. Kate has done an amazing job in creating such an awesome heroine.
I did, however, feel like Eureka almost crossed the annoying "holy moly this guy is cute, but ooh the other one is really hot too" line at times with Ander and Brooks. Almost. Luckily, though, she never actually crossed that line, thanks to her believable explications and thoughts that we see through her first-person perspective. It also probably has something to do with the characters of these two prospective contenders-of-love themselves. On one hand, you have the mysterious, ocean-eyed Ander, whose sudden appearance in Eureka's life definitely shakes things up and makes her question her undeniable attraction to this stranger. On the other, you have the familiar, best friend (but maybe more?) Brooks. Brooks, more so than the pretty perfect Ander, was an interesting, but at times frustrating, character to read about for me, with his complicated portrayal with mixed signals (all will be revealed...in the book!). While there was, and maybe still is, definitely some risky potential for the love triangle to fall into the tropes of most YA romances, I think--and can only hope!--that Eureka has a better head on her shoulders than that.
Just as she did in her "Fallen" series, I think Ms. Kate has created an exciting and unique storyline in "Teardrop". By taking the age-old legend of Atlantis and putting her own spin on it, she creates a world that I can't wait to jump into in the next book, since all of "Teardrop" is firmly rooted in the human world for now. The idea of the prophecy of the girl whose tears have the great power to change the fate of the world was the main driving force for the tension in the novel, and I don't think I've flipped through the book so quickly in a while! The plot is, without a doubt, compelling, with new developments popping up in a great pace, and there really never was a dull moment. I think it's also gruesomely great that Ms. Kate isn't afraid to tinge her stories with a little gore here and there, which helps to elevate the stakes of the characters' actions and decisions.
Overall, "Teardrop" is an exhilarating story with a strong heroine, an awesome cast of characters, and an intriguing plot that keeps you hooked throughout. I highly recommend this book to any "Fallen" fans, or any reader looking for a fresh YA novel to sink their teeth into. Now all that's left is to wait for the sequel...
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
The world as Tris knows it has disappeared. The factions have been abolished, fractured by betrayal and violence and replaced instead by a new, problematic society led by Tobias' mother, Evelyn. So when she is offered a chance to explore the world beyond the fence, a world in which she and Tobias can find a simple new life together, Tris is more than ready to go. But when she discovers that her new reality is even more disturbing than the one she's left behind, with secrets that force her to examine her loyalties and discoveries that change the hearts of those she loves. Once again, Tris must fight to comprehend the complexities of human nature--and of herself--while facing impossible choices of courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.
I know my introductory paragraph up there hardly left any room for optimism, but trust me when I say that "Allegiant" isn't a crappy book. In fact, Tris and Tobias' character developments were interesting to read about as the book progressed, especially since it is the final book in the trilogy, which means that they will soon reach the crux of their character journeys before the last page. Tris, to me, is an awesome heroine. Not only is she a brave, butt-kicking and stubborn protagonist, but she is also compassionate and thoughtful, which, I guess, is the whole point of her role as a Divergent: Tris is an amalgamation of all these different characteristics which make each and every one of us human, from erudition, dauntlessness, abnegation, candor and amity (see what I did there). Watching her as she deals with conflicting problems and new, life-changing discoveries, as well as with her relationships with her family, friends, and Tobias, reveals the huge amount of change she's gone through since the beginning of the series. Tris is, without a doubt, a great heroine you can't help but become invested in and root for from the start, and I'd even go so far as to say one that you can look up to as a sort of role model.
The same, unfortunately, can't really be said about Tobias. If Tris is the epitome of a teenaged heroine, then Tobias is more of a gritty, 'real' character, with possibly more faults than admirable traits. I understand that growing up, Tobias had to deal with a butt ton of issues that left a lot of emotional, mental and physical scars, but there were times when I just felt like he was kind of annoying. This might be because of the comparison between his perspective and Tris', since the chapters alternated between their two points of view. There was definitely a sort of emotional journey that he goes through, what with his mother and abusive father and Tris and so on, but I still felt like he ended up as a character I lost interest in. On the other hand, he and Tris were generally pretty sweet as a couple, with a strong and believable dynamic between them that allowed them to mature both individually and as a pair. I just wish Tobias himself was a little more likable and strong as a character, especially since he was pretty great in the first two books!
The real disappointment I felt toward "Allegiant" was about its plot. It seemed as if the real action was over in the second book, and "Allegiant" just dragged it on for the sake of having a third book in the trilogy. Like I said before, the storyline is pretty generic for a dystopian finale, where there are post-insurrection problems that make the characters realize that everything is not as they seem. The pace was pretty plodding throughout the entire novel, and there wasn't much of a climax either. In a way, it's kind of like the storyline meanders this way and that, and never skyrocketed in tension or excitement. This may be due to the fact that Ms. Roth was trying to tie up all of the loose ends from previous books, in terms of Tobias' family and Tris' struggles with Caleb and being Divergent, but it ultimately fell flat.
All in all, "Allegiant" is a pretty disappointing finale to what had been an exciting and refreshing dystopian trilogy. It's unfortunate to see such great world-building, strong characters and riveting storylines decline to a dull end, as much as I (really, really, really!) don't want to say it.
Ho ho ho... It's that time of the year again! December has always been an exciting month for me. The beautiful strings of fairy lights, rising buzz of shoppers looking for the perfect gift, warm mugs of milk and soft chocolate chip cookies... What more could you ask for? December also signals endings, and it presents the perfect opportunity to look back at the past and look forward to the future. In the midst of the holiday madness and self-musing, however, there's always time for books! This month introduces us to new and exciting books, from Andrea Cremer's continuation of her delicious "Nightshade" series in the new "Nightshade Legacy" series, to Maria V. Snyder's third installment in the "Healer" series! Everyone, please, contain your excitement. Because I sure can't.
"The World Without a Future" by Nazarea Andrews
Release date: Dec. 3
"Chasing the Star Garden" (The Airship Chronicles #1) by Melanie Karsak
Release date: Dec. 4
"Snakeroot" (Nightshade Legacy #1) by Andrea Cremer
Release date: Dec. 10
"These Broken Stars" (Starbound #1) by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Release date: Dec. 10
"Fireblood" (Fireblood #1) by Trisha Wolfe
Release date: Dec. 17
"Taste of Darkness" (Healer #3) by Maria V. Snyder
Release date: Dec. 31