Sunday, December 23, 2012

Book Review: Angel Fire by L.A. Weatherly

With Christmas fast approaching and the temperature dropping in all its wintry glory, it's really the perfect atmosphere to just curl up in a nice, warm bed with a good book. I was in the mood for some heartwarming romance as well as for some heartstopping action, and, luckily for me, L.A. Weatherly's "Angel Fire", the sequel to "Angel Burn", was ready to read on my new Kindle Fire (!!!). "Angel Fire" picks up right where the first book left off, and hardly ever drops the ball. (Warning: spoilers for "Angel Burn" in the synopsis!)

Willow and Alex are still both on the run, fugitives from their failed attempt at stopping Raziel and the other angels from literally taking over the world. A half-angel and an Angel Killer, or AK for short, isn't the most likely pair, but together, connected by an unbreakable bond of love and trust, they travel to Mexico City to seek refuge. When Alex discovers a group of fledgling AKs, he knows it's up to him to whip them into shape--and fast. The Seraphic Council of Twelve has come to moderate the angels' reckless feeding on the humans, and Raziel is plotting to get rid of them so that he can truly have his way. On top of this, Seb, a mysterious half-angel who's been looking for another of his kind his entire life, shows up one day, and it's only a matter of time before Willow and Alex's life together is put to the ultimate test.

It's always interesting to see how characters change and develop--or don't--in sequels. I do have to admit that I found Willow kind of flat, just like she was in "Angel Burn". Sure, she's nice and likable, but there wasn't anything that made her a particularly awesome or engaging heroine. There's no flaw to her--except for her humanity (wait, that didn't come out right, did it?)--and really she just doesn't change much at all. I think this was one issue I had in the previous book as well. Willow's not too boring, just very static and not very interesting. Alex, on the other hand, was more of a dynamic character than his girlfriend--again, just like in "Angel Burn". I loved how some of the chapters were presented from his point of view, because I felt like I got to know him more as a person rather than simply a strong, romantic hottie from Willow's eyes. Instead, I saw the struggles he faced with all the problems he was presented with: Willow and Seb, Kara, leading the AKs, his past. I definitely think that the person I find myself leaning to more (and this is not because he's male) is Alex, and it's a shame because Willow is a likable character, just boring.

Another character that spiced things up a little bit is Seb. I was a little unsure about how I felt about this obvious love triangle between him, Willow and Alex, but I think Ms. Weatherly did a good job with making sure that their relationships didn't fall into one of those ridiculously annoying triangles where the girl just can't make up her mind and ends up playing with them both. Seb didn't overstep his bounds, and I liked how he's a fresh character--and a half-angel, no less. There were times when his charm and wit did fall flat a little and he became your typical caring guy, but it wasn't too bad.

The plot of "Angel Fire" was quite engaging throughout the entire book, with interesting twists and turns. However, I found myself skimming over a lot of the parts--they simply weren't necessary. There was too much of the characters' thought process, when it would have been a lot more fun and fast-paced if Ms. Weatherly had skipped over or condensed some of this and continued with the next event in the plot. Nonetheless, the storyline wasn't boring, it was just a little slow-paced at some parts. The actual plot was fun and full of action, and I could really visualize what was going on throughout the chapters.

All in all, "Angel Fire" is a decent sequel, with an interesting storyline and cast of new characters that helped spice things up a little. I love Alex and Willow's relationship, which was sweet and believable and didn't fall to the trap of the typical YA romance love triangle. Worth a quick read!

Rating: 3.5/5 (I know I'm being picky with all these half-ratings, but it's what best relays my thoughts!)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Book Review: The Scourge by A.G. Henley

When people find out that a book is self-published, they tend to naturally shy away from it. I guess they think, if a publishing house rejects a manuscript, it's probably not good enough. The truth is that sometimes, the story isn't what they're looking for at the time, or they've already signed a similar story. Whatever the case is, just because a book is self-published, it doesn't mean that it's bad! When I picked up "The Scourge", I didn't even know that it wasn't published by Random House or Penguin or what have you, and it didn't come through at all when I actually read the book either--in fact, it's one you should check out.

Seventeen-year-old Groundling, Fennel, is Sightless, but she knows how to survive in the dangerous forest. When she's called by her people to begin her lifelong task of braving the Scourge--flesh-eating creatures that haunt humans--to collect water for both the Groundlings and the Lofties, Fennel is anything but fearless. But she won't be alone. Fenn's Lofty Keeper, Peree, a boy who smells like summer, protects her from the trees. When the unlikely pair uncovers a secret that shatters the truths they thought they knew, Fenn must decide who and what to protect--her people, her growing love for a boy she thought she'd never fall for, or the elusive dream of lasting peace in the forest.

I don't know whether this sounds strange or whatever, but the fact that the protagonist is blind just made the story all the more interesting. It presented all sorts of challenges, but Fennel deals with them in a way that makes her likable and extremely believable. Rather than presenting her readers with a two-dimensional, archetypal 'strong' heroine with a single weakness she has to overcome, Ms. Henley weaves in layers to Fenn's character that make her anything but boring. There were times, however, when her blindness wasn't entirely believable in some of the descriptions--they were almost too visual, and it would've been interesting to craft images in your head while reading relying solely on smells, sounds and textures. Nonetheless, Fenn is a unique heroine that I enjoyed being with throughout the book, and I definitely see potential for development in sequels!

Another aspect that was helped by Fenn's blindness is the romance between her and Peree. In a lot of YA books, you'll see the protagonist madly falling head over heels for a super hot boy with piercing eyes, and sometimes it makes me wonder whether it's more of a physical attraction than a deep, real love. And that's something that really bothers me, since romance is a huge element to the YA genre. If the relationship between the so-called star-crossed lovers comes across as shallow, it just ruins it. But in "The Scourge", because Fenn can't just fall for Peree because of his looks, but instead ends up being attracted to him because of his actions and his personality, their romance adds another layer of sweetness and believability to the story. I liked the way their relationship developed, though maybe it could've been stretched out a tad longer.

That being said, I think one thing that put me off just a little was the plot development. The ways the twists in the storyline were introduced to the readers were clumsy and way too sudden, and it just didn't seem too realistic to me. If Ms. Henley had dropped a few hints that led up to these surprises, the plot would've run a lot smoother. Towards the middle of the book, it was pretty much twist after turn after twist, and it was just too much and too out-of-the-blue to work really well.

Nevertheless, "The Scourge" is definitely worth reading, especially if you love realistic romances, or a believable, unique character. Peree and Fenn really tugged on my heartstrings, and I look forward to the sequel to see how things unfold.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Book Review: Outpost by Ann Aguirre

Reading a good book is just like being whisked away to a whole other world, full of adventure and romance and goodies you can't seem to tear yourself away from. With all the college craziness going on in your typical senior's life, an awesome book is something of a magic portal. Seriously, I think it's the one thing that helped keep me sane these last few months! "Outpost", the sequel of Ann Aguirre's riveting "Enclave", helped me do just this, and I could crawl into Deuce's skin and enjoy being free (or as free as she can be, given her circumstances!). Though I--and Deuce!--had to face flesh-eating Freaks besieging your foster hometown, threatening to kill and devour everyone you've grown to care about into shreds. But hey, beggars can't be choosers, right?

Deuce's whole world has changed. Not only is she the odd one out in the ultra-conservative town of Salvation, being far from a feminine young lady a girl ought to be, but her hunting partner Fade is keeping her at a distance. Her feelings for Fade haven't changed, but his cold attitude confuses and hurts her. Frustrated, Deuce jumps at the chance to join the summer patrol, protecting the planters from the Freaks. But the Freaks are changing, watching, waiting and becoming smarter and smarter as the days pass. Salvation can't survive for much longer, and it may take a girl just like Deuce to save them all.

There's really not much that can beat a kick-ass heroine. Being exiled from the only home you've known? No biggie. Annoying conservatives who viciously blame you for all their troubles? Piece of cake. Cutting down flesh-eating mutants? All manageable! Deuce is such a likable character because she's strong, determined and just plain kicks butt, but at the same time is compassionate and righteous. You just cheer for her whenever she bests a bad guy, and reach out to her when she's feeling hurt or angry or sorrowful. Deuce's narrative voice remains engaging throughout the entire story, and I became so invested in her that I almost felt like I became her. Such a compelling narrator is crucial to any novel, and Deuce was what really drove the events and the emotions throughout "Outpost".

Another thing that blew me away and warmed the cockles of my heart was the relationship between Deuce and Fade. The nuances and complexities of their romance made it all the more believable, and there were incredibly sweet moments that made me long for something just like what the two have between them. Nothing was too cloying, but was so realistic that you can't help but become invested in their romance. I liked the way their relationship developed both throughout and since "Enclave", and in "Outpost", Ms. Aguirre weaves in layers to their relationship that just fascinated me as I saw their romance morph into something so beautifully real.

The other characters in the novel are diverse and distinct in their own ways. I loved Momma Oaks and Edmund so much. They make the perfect foster parents for the battle-hardened Deuce, and the ways they each showed her what familial love in their own ways is were sweet and endearing. Deuce's developing love for her foster family also added to their relationship as well. As for Stalker, I liked how he added a little bit of tension for Deuce and Fade's relationship, but at the same time so, so, so thankful to Ms. Aguirre that she didn't turn it into a typical love triangle where Deuce is confused between the two boys and ends up unwittingly playing with both of them. Please, please don't change that in the next book, Ms. Aguirre!

The storyline of the novel was compelling and fast-paced throughout the entire novel, even when, in retrospect, some parts don't seem like they're action-packed (not complaining--every story needs some breathing time!). Which just goes to show how fun "Outpost" was to read--I swear I devoured it in a day, tops! My one complaint is that the climax could've been a little more climax-y. It just felt like it was over pretty quickly. Other than that, though, I was hooked.

Overall, "Outpost" is an extremely compelling, wonderful sequel that makes me want to crawl in between the covers and just live with Deuce and Fade. It's a definite must-read for lovers of romance, action or kick-ass characters. And if you haven't read "Enclave" yet, what are you doing still staring at the screen? Get at it!

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Book Review: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Happy December! I can't believe it's finally one of my favourite months in the entire year. I just love the cozy, festive atmosphere--not to mention it's the perfect season to curl up under fleece blankets, a cup of warm milk and a couple of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies by your side, and read a good book! And what better way to start the most magical holiday than an equally magical fantasy novel? One of my friends, who goes through fantasy books in impossible speeds, recommended "The Kingkiller Chronicle" series to me, saying that the narrative voice is unique and compelling. He sure wasn't wrong there! "The Name of the Wind", despite its daunting length, sucks you in and keeps you engaged through each and every page.

Kvothe the Kingkiller, Kvothe the Bloodless, has always had a talent for Sympathy--drawing on the energy of the surroundings and transforming it into magic. Now an innkeeper in a small, out-of-ways village, he calls himself Kote and lives a secluded, quiet life. When the famous Chronicler stumbles into town, bloodied from an encounter with demon creatures, the silent peace the world-renowned Kvothe had constructed for himself is disturbed, and the mysterious innkeeper finds himself conjuring up memories that had been pushed away into the deep crevices of his mind: memories of his childhood in a troupe of travelling actors, of his years spent as a broken, near-feral orphan in a corrupt city, of his daringly brazen bid to enter the legendary school of magic. And, above all, memories of seeking revenge upon the infamous, legendary creature who had ruined his life: the Chandrian.

One of the most compelling elements of "The Name of the Wind" is, without a doubt, its narrative voice. The majority of the book is told in Kvothe's voice, and readers are presented with an intimate narrative that draws them in and weaves an enchanting web around them. The fact that we see Kvothe as a character from a third-person point of view as well as from his own first-person point of view creates a whole other layer to our understanding of him, and you end up bonding with him even more. On top of that, it feels as if Kvothe is telling his story to you directly, as if you're sitting there in the inn, listening rapturously to his words and watching him animate his tale. One thing that maybe would've helped the narrative voice is a little humour, so that you get a little more of his character. Sometimes I completely forgot that it was narrated by Kvothe and instead we had a more objective narrator.

The other characters were fairly interesting, though they tended to be more of stock characters rather than characters who developed and changed as the book progressed. For example, Ambrose Jakis was ever the snobby, evil bully, while Wil and Sim were the jocular buddies who had Kvothe's back. Denna was pretty intriguing, with her complicated life and the challenge she presents to Kvothe. The relationship between the two is sweet and at the same time complex, and I'm interested to see how it unfolds in the sequel. Another thing about the characters that bugged me a little was the fact that many of them didn't make many appearances after a while. This could do with the fact that the entire novel is pretty much about Kvothe's childhood and memories, and, like in real life, sometimes you don't see someone who had been a part of your life once any longer.

The language used by Mr. Rothfuss can be beautiful. I particularly loved it when Kvothe brings Auri salt, he said that it was made out of "the dreams of fish and sailor's songs". It's just incredibly whimsical and lends a magical undertone to the story. The prose is flowing and eloquent, and, while not something outstandingly breathtaking, helps to transform a boy's coming-of-age story into something of a fantastical adventure.

Because "The Name of the Wind" consists mostly of Kvothe recounting the events of his childhood, there's a lot that happens, and it's no wonder that the book is this huge. Despite its formidable length, though, I enjoyed most of the story, though I did end up skimming some parts that went on longer than they needed to. Nonetheless, the plot remains engaging throughout, and doesn't get too boring.

Overall, "The Name of the Wind" is a great fantasy novel with a protagonist you learn to understand and become invested in, and other characters who help to enhance our understanding even more. Admittedly, the story can get a little too long, but it's still an enjoyable read throughout. I'd recommend it for readers who love fantasy books and a good journey.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book Review: Reached by Allie Condie

I remember picking up "Matched", the first book of the dystopian trilogy by Allie Condie, at a bookstore on a summer day. I read the first few chapters... and was instantly hooked. A girl living in a society where you're matched with a fiance according to commonalities, and two hotties to boot? We've got a keeper! I devoured the first book, read the second, and finally got to the end of the last...and it sure took a while.

After leaving the Society and finding each other, Cassia and Ky are now part of the Rising on the brink of a rebellion. When the Plague that the Rising used to rise to power spreads uncontrollably, infecting and killing hundreds of people, Cassia, Ky and Xander are faced with a new challenge: of finding a cure to save everyone.

I have to say I was pretty disappointed with the "Reached", especially because I just fell in love with the first book! It was incredibly, incredibly slow. The pace was just plain plodding, and barely anything happened. Thinking back on the plot of the book, I can only think of maybe two really important events, and even they weren't riveting at all. I did like the way Ms. Condie wrapped everything up nicely in a cute little package, but did it have to take that long to do? I ended up skimming a lot of the parts because they were mostly just unnecessary and seemed to be there to fill up the space.

Another thing that bummed me out were the boring characters. Sure, I get that Cassia, Ky and Xander were developed as characters mostly in the first two books of the trilogy, but they were just not fun to be with, not one bit. It was interesting to be in Xander's perspective for a change, and I guess the change in him was somewhat more active, but it was still a little boring. I did like, however, the introduction of new characters like Lei, and the more fiery characters like Indie. They added a bit of a twist to the events and shook up the main characters a little, so that was fairly interesting.

Having said this, the language was probably the only thing I really liked about "Reached". Ms. Condie's imagery and the type of flowy, pensive emotion it evokes lends the book a sort of grace, and some parts were nice to read.

Overall, I do have to say I was disappointed with "Reached". It was just so, so, so boring, I had to force my way through till the end of the book. I would probably not recommend reading this, which is actually making me a little sad to type. I'd definitely check out the first book, but from the second book "Crossed" onwards, I'd save myself the time and read the summary online instead.

Rating: 2/5

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Movie Trailer Release: City of Bones

I cannot express how excited I am for the "City of Bones" movie to come out! Ever since I read the novel years back, I've been a loyal fan of Cassandra Clare's books. I read the first "The Mortal Instruments" series, and was incredibly, ecstatically giddy when I found out that Ms. Clare was extending the series from a trilogy to a series of six books! I also ran to the bookstore Road Runner-style when I found out that a spin-off series called "The Infernal Devices" was coming out, which has the same concept of Shadowhunters and demons, but set in London in the 1800s. Needless to say, I am in love with Cassandra Clare's Shadowhunter books. So, when I found out that "City of Bones", which is the first book of the "The Mortal Instruments" series was being adapted into a movie, I think I bounced off the walls in pure excitement.

Lily Collins is playing Clary, and Jamie Campbell Bower will have to live up to the name of the breathtaking Jace. I was a little disappointed when I heard of the casting choice for Jace, especially when I discovered that Alex Pettyfer was offered the role but that he rejected it. He was literally the Jace in my mind!! Jamie just looks a little bit too mousey, in my opinion, but he doesn't seem all too bad in the trailer, I guess. Ooh, but here's a fun fact: Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower are dating in real life! Hopefully the chemistry will definitely be there.

Anyway, I've been blabbing on too much. Without further ado, the much-anticipated trailer for the "City of Bones"!

Book Review: The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

First off, how breathtaking is the cover? The fact that it's underwater lends it a beautifully eerie feel to it, and I can't wait to see how the cover of the last book of the Mara Dyer trilogy turns out. "The Evolution of Mara Dyer" is the second installment to the trilogy, and was released last month in October--and not a day too late! The novel begins right where the first book ended, and propels you forward with thumping hearts and white noise.

Mara knows that Jude, her ex-boyfriend who was supposed to have died when an abandoned asylum crushed him, is alive. But everyone--the doctors, her parents, everyone--thinks otherwise, that she's insane. The only one who'll believe her, even when she's stuck in rehab, is Noah. Noah, who also possesses an unwordly power of healing, the polar opposite of Mara's ability to destroy. When violent, disturbing things start showing up around Mara--a picture of her with her eyes scratched out, a gutted cat--she knows it can only be Jude. But what can she do when he really might be nothing more than a ghost--and what will become of her?

One of the things I loved in the book was Noah and Mara's relationship. It was so believable, so real that it made them more relatable and sweet. Instead of the goopy, cliched "I love you oh my goodness I will never leave your side"stuff, what Noah and Mara had between them was undeniably un-fantasized. While it was so obvious that Noah did love Mara and would do anything for her safety, you could really see that it wasn't just a head-over-heels unconditional love. Instead, there was a sort of grit in their relationship which really made it real.

Their believable, realistic, likable relationship probably also had to do with the characters themselves. Despite the whole everyone-believing-you're-insane and evil-ex-boyfriend-back-from-the-dead problems, Mara deals with everything just as a strong girl would. Her wry humour and wit also had me laughing at times, and she never got annoyingly worried or distressed, which is impressive considering what she has to deal with. Now onto Noah. Arrogant yet heartwarmingly sweet Noah is a perfect partner for Mara, and I just loved how despite the fact that he has to be the 'grounding rock' for his girlfriend, he still has hidden problems of his own. I think that this is one of the things that really made their relationship so hauntingly relatable and real--the characters themselves aren't even close to perfect, but they still try to make things work together. It's just an incredibly mature relationship, with the spark and passion of a teenaged one.

The story itself was just plain creepy. Really. It gave me the heebie jeebies. It had my heart beating a mile a minute and had me glancing out the window at night to make sure my creepy ex-boyfriend wasn't about to slice me to pieces or anything. The plot is extremely well woven together, and Ms. Hodkin manages to balance the scary parts with other ones, some sweet, some funny, some light. I liked how you learned a lot more about each of the characters as the story progressed, especially some juicy stuff about both Mara and Noah's histories.

"The Evolution of Mara Dyer" is a haunting yet beautiful book about love and vengeance. The unglamourized relationship between Mara and Noah especially cinched the novel, and the compelling storyline definitely didn't hurt too much either! I definitely recommend reading the trilogy--it's a creepily wild ride you won't want to miss!

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Book Review: Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

First off, let me just say that that is one awesome cover! The red mask-like pattern is beautiful, and those eyes!! The contrasts between the black/red colour scheme and between the cursive/army font, in my opinion, really embody the dual natures of every single thing--war, people, love--that is such a huge theme in the "Daughter of Smoke & Bone" novels. "Days of Blood & Starlight" is the second installment in the series, and picks up where we left off in the first book.

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world. 

Blue-haired Karou finally knows what, and who, she is. With that knowledge, however, came emotions of hurt, anger and betrayal, all directed at the one angel she thought she could trust: Akiva. Now, Karou helps the chimaera build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, despite the pain and the loneliness of being branded a traitor for daring to love one of the enemy, while Akiva wages a battle for redemption. For the one thing he stopped dreaming for: hope. But can Karou and Akiva find such a thing in the midst of ashes and broken dreams?

I took some of the words from the actual novel itself when writing the mini-synopsis there, and, wow, the language in "Days of Blood & Starlight" just took my breath away. There's a lyrical, fairy tale-like music to it, but at the same time it hints of a wistful sadness that befits the horrors of war that is central to the story. The emotions and images Ms. Taylor conjures from her words are all so vivid, and I could really picture the sand dunes, the out-of-this-world half beast/half human chimaera, the cold beauty of Astrae--everything. I especially loved reading the chapter titles, which isn't something you really hear everyday, since most of the time people (myself included) just skip over them to get to the actual meat. Let me tell you now, when you read the "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" series, pay attention to the chapter titles! They're so meaningful in the way that you go "ohh, that's deep" once you've actually read the chapter and make the connection, and each and every word in the titles are just infused with the lyrical quality that I just love about Ms. Taylor's writing style. Definitely keep an eye out for this!

As for the characters, I just loved, loved, loved Zuzana and Mik! Sure, they're not the main main protagonists in the book, but both of them are just so lovable. Not only is their relationship adorable--you could see that they just adored each other to bits--but Zuzana especially also just cracks me up sometimes! Her spunk and her optimistic, bubbly attitude is so endearing, and I'd say that she's a good foil to Karou's more serious nature. Hey, opposites attract, right? Even when you're talking about best friends.

I thought Karou and Akiva both could have had some kind of character development throughout the entire novel. I just found that they were both pretty much the same from the beginning til the end, and it was a little bit boring to watch. An interesting element to their relationship was the addition of another corner to the love triangle in the form of Ziri! In the epilogue you could just so clearly see the potential for some juicy romance. It'll be super interesting to see how the whole thing plays out in the next book!

As for the baddies in the book, I think that both Thiago and Jael are excellent bad guys in two very different ways. You had the calm, manipulative leader in Thiago, and the scheming, disgusting sleazeball in Jael. They make the stakes even higher for Karou and Akiva, and they clearly embody the ugly side of war.

"Days of Blood & Starlight" is a beautifully woven story of love, war, and, most importantly, hope. I found the themes of the brutality of hate and the fragile hope that somehow lives among all this hate very palpable throughout the novel, both in the characters and the plot itself. It admittedly was a little bit long and could've been condensed just a little bit, but other than that, definitely worth a read.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Book Review: The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa

Don't you just love a good urban fantasy book? I just finished "The Lost Prince" this morning, and the elated feeling in my chest hasn't gone away yet. The imagination it takes to combine two very dissimilar worlds--in this case the land of faeries and the human world we live in--is no small thing, but its results are all-encompassing. After gobbling down the parent series "The Iron Fey" in just a couple of short weeks, I knew I was enamoured with the world of Nevernever. When I saw that the story was continuing from the heroine's brother's perspective, I think I squealed and did a little shimmy--it's that fun.

Seventeen-year old Ethan Chase isn't your typical bad boy. Sure, he has the rep and the attitude to go with it, but when your life is spent avoiding mischievous fey, nothing is really ever as it seems. Don't look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them. That is Ethan's one unbreakable rule. But when half-breeds and exiled fey begin to disappear from the human world, Ethan must abandon his instincts and seek help from his sister Meghan in the one place he has vowed never to return to: the Nevernever. There, he will meet friends from Meghan's own journey, and make new ones himself as he tries to protect the one girl he never thought he'd dare fall for--and save all fey.

Having read the first "The Iron Fey" series from Meghan's point of view, I found it exciting to be in the mind of her little brother (though not so little anymore!) in the "Call of the Forgotten" series. It's thrilling to see how characters from the previous series have developed and grown, and I'm extremely happy that I won't have to fully say good-bye to Meghan, Ash and Puck yet! The fact that the book was told from a guy's perspective added a fresh twist as well, because it's not really something that you see in many urban fantasy novels. Ethan as a narrator is personal and wry, which gave me a particularly vivid understanding of what he's like: bad-ass but with a caring, more vulnerable side to him. Ms. Kagawa makes it seem as if Ethan's really talking to you as a speaker would to a listener, and this really drew me into the story. I feel like we're somewhat best buds!

The other characters in the novel were equally as fun to be with. I think I'll start off with Razor, even though he's not technically even a main character. I have such a great image of him as an electrical, mechanized Furby, hopping around everywhere and yelling "bad kitty, bad kitty!" in a cute, well, Furby-like voice. He's just such an endearing little critter and makes me wish I had my very own Razor to accompany me on my journeys and such! But moving on. Kenzie to me is a pretty likable character, but not someone I'm dying to meet or anything. She's pretty cool, but at times she just seemed  almost a little annoying with her constant upbeat attitude and stubbornness. Though maybe that makes me a little bit of a cynic or something. Kierran is an incredibly interesting character, with many different facets to him that are revealed throughout the story. After reading "The Iron Prophecy", the 'epilogue novella' to "The Iron Fey" series, I kind of know what may happen sometime in the later books (don't worry, no spoilers!), and I'm curious to see how everything plays out.

Plot-wise, "The Lost Prince" never dipped in tension to make me lose interest. In fact, I became so invested in what was happening that I had to force myself to stop reading at times! Everything is consistently fast-paced, and altogether makes for a fun ride. My one complaint is that the apparent climax of the story was over too quickly--it just seemed like Ethan and his gang got out of the mud too easily, without any major obstacles or trials.

Overall, "The Lost Prince" is a must-read for any urban fantasy lovers out there. With an engaging, interesting narrator, fun characters, fast-paced action and an enchanting world, the "Call of the Forgotten" series is not to be missed! Plus, if you haven't read the first "The Iron Fey" series, I highly recommend reading that first before starting this one. Trust me, you'll whizz through the books in a matter of days--they're that fun.

Rating: 5/5

P.S. If I haven't convinced you enough, check out the book trailer! I love the quite epic soundtrack.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Book Review: The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

Happy November! With the sudden drop in temperature over here, I had a sudden urge to read something a little more medieval, with kings and castles and peasants in blouses and such. Don't ask me why--maybe it's the warm colours of dirt grounds, or the image of heavy gowns and robes. Whatever the case is, I was lucky enough to find out that the long-awaited sequel to "The Girl of Fire and Thorns" was released a couple of weeks ago! The first book of this series by Rae Carson really had me engaged by and enraptured with the strong, likable heroine, as well as the unique fantasy world it's set in. "The Crown of Embers" is a continuation of Elisa's journey as she deals with the trials of being queen.

Seventeen-year old Elisa is now a hero. Not only did she defeat the terrifying Invierno, but she is also the bearer of the Godstone--a source of vast power that was bestowed upon her at birth. However, being queen is an entirely different matter, and, before she knows it, her enemies begin to make their moves to dethrone Elisa--from outside the realm as well as inside her own palace. In order to protect her people and secure her authority, Elisa must make yet another journey in search of the very source of the Godstone's power. Along with a one-eyed traitor, a loyal friend, an enemy, and the man she finds herself helplessly falling for, Elisa will face many obstacles--but is she strong enough to overcome them and become a true queen?

One of the best things about "The Crown of Embers" is Elisa herself. I'm always a fan of strong, kick-ass characters, but the thing that particularly sets Elisa apart is that she never started off that way, nor did she have a sudden moment where she became super cool and lived a whole new world. Instead, Elisa's development is a lot more gradual and, in this way, a lot more believable. Her strength isn't even in the fact that she has a holy object of power stuck in her belly button; it's her determination to save her people and protect her friends that's her driving force. Her devotion to her subjects and her loved ones isn't overbearing and sappy, either, which is important when giving a character a trait like this. Another thing I like about Elisa is that she's intelligent and very much down-to-earth. She accepts the fact that she isn't the prettiest, strongest or bravest person, and despite any shortcomings works that much harder to be a great queen and, more importantly, a great friend. The one minor complaint I have about Elisa is that her narrative voice isn't extremely compelling or unique, but maybe that's just not what her character's like.

All of the other characters in the novel are three-dimensional and nuanced. Storm is a very interesting character to follow, since being a traitor Invierno sheds a new light on the hostile race, and he himself is strangely regal and honourable in his own way. The banter between Storm and Elisa is amusing to read about, and provides humour to the generally more serious storyline. Also, I particularly liked Hector and his romance with Elisa (come on, it just screams out at you from page one), which was rendered very realistically without becoming too sappy and roll-your-eyes. Hector himself is strong and loyal, but at the same time struggles between his duty as the head of the queen's royal guard and his love for an equally strong, independent girl. After Humberto, I thought I'd be hostile toward another love interest for Elisa, but Hector and Elisa's relationship is so natural and sweet that such hesitation never surfaced.

The plot of the novel is layered and complex enough to keep the reader engaged throughout the story. The first few chapters of the book were a little bit slow for me despite the immediate action and tension in the opening chapter, and this is probably because Ms. Carson was introducing the context of Elisa's ascendancy as queen regnant and reminding readers of different characters and other major events in the previous book. Soon enough, the pace quickened, and I was engaged throughout the rest of the novel. In fact, I finished the last 3/4 in one sitting! One little downside was that the climax was a little un-climax-y. I felt like Elisa got away too easily, and it was over in a couple of pages. The ending, though, was a cliffhanger, and I really, really can't wait until the next and final book of the trilogy!

Overall, Ms. Carson's "The Crown of Embers" is an engaging, unique installment to the "Girl of Fire and Thorns" trilogy. The genuinely strong, likable heroine, the believable characters, and the compelling plot work together to create a fun read that you won't put down.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, October 29, 2012

Book Review: The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

I love retellings of classic stories. The ways fairy tales, myths and historical events are crafted into new stories with fresh perspectives are unique and super interesting to read. One of the most popular retellings are of Greek myths. My all-time favourite heroic fantasy are David Gemmell's "Troy" series, and it actually amazes me how such a classic tale could be woven into something totally new. Rick Riordan's famous "Percy Jackson & the Olympians" series is another retelling of the Greek myths, and luckily it led to a sequel series called "The Heroes of Olympus"! "The Mark of Athena" is its third installment, and was released last week. Don't read the synopsis in the next paragraph if you're new to the series! I don't want to spoil anything for you.

The war against Gaea and her minions is drawing closer. Percy, Annabeth, Jason, Piper, Leo, Hazel and Frank are the chosen seven demigods, both Greek and Roman, to embark on a quest to defeat Gaea. No biggie, right? Things get a little more complicated when Annabeth has her own quest to fulfill, on her own: to follow the Mark of Athena and avenge her mother. Both quests ultimately lead to the Doors of Death, but the real question is: will the seven demigods reach the Doors alive, or as the next spirits of the Underworld?

As always, Mr. Riordan's masterful storytelling sucks you in and spits you out smack-dab in the middle of a crazy whirlwind of a quest. I love how each and every book, even though they're part of the series, has its own set of quests and trials, and they never bore you. The plot never dropped enough to make the reader lose interest, and there was always so many 'somethings' happening at the same time even though the present narrator was someone who wasn't there. I know that sounds really complicated, but it's not! And that's the magic of it. Everything is presented simply, so that readers don't get confused with what's going on and who's where and what's happening.

Another vital element that makes the books engaging is the characters. Every one of the demigods has their own quirk and distinct personality. For example, you have the laidback yet strong-willed Percy; the serious and thoughtful Annabeth; the stoic yet gentle Jason... and so on. The ways each demigod, as well as the gods and goddesses themselves, embody marked traits are extremely well thought-out and enhance each character. What I particularly love about Mr. Riordan's wit that's present in his characters--I've snorted and giggled at some of the immature humour. And hey, who doesn't need a good dose of childish laughter once in a while?

Overall, "The Mark of Athena" is not to be missed. It's full of crazy, dangerous quests, funny and wonderful characters--and not to mention a cliffhanger that drops your jaw! If you haven't read any of Mr. Riordan's books, definitely check out "Percy Jackson & the Olympians" so you'll be on board with what's happened so far. A must for adventure-lovers and myth-devourers.

Rating: 5/5

Friday, October 26, 2012

Book Review: Finale by Becca Fitzpatrick

I remember when I was posting my review for "Angel Burn", I said something along the lines of, 'angels seem to be the new vampires'. There's been an influx of angels, fallen angels, nephilim, and so on. "Hush, Hush" by Becca Fitzpatrick was probably one of the very first paranormal angel YA books I read, way, way back in time in 2009. It's been a long ride with Patch and Nora, and it's a little sad that the series has now come to an end with "Finale". I really like the title--it fits with the nature of the story and the end of the series! Since this is the last book, however, you may want to skip over the synopsis in the next paragraph in case of spoilers for the first three books (don't worry, though, this entire review is spoiler-free for "Finale"!).

Now that Nora has to lead her father's Nephilim army, it's safe to say that things have changed. A public relationship with Patch, a notorious fallen angel, is definitely off the tables, and on top of that she has to deal with the impending war between Nephilim and the fallen angels before Cheshvan. The stakes are even higher than before. In the face of enemies, lies and betrayal, it's only a matter of time before Nora and Patch's relationship is put to the ultimate test of faith and an unbreakable love.

I'll kick off with one of the most important elements of any novel: the narrative voice. All of the books in the "Hush, Hush" series are told from Nora's point of view. I don't know whether I've noticed this before, and I really don't like saying it, but Nora is kind of boring. Yeah. I found her to be a pretty flat character, with no spark or anything particularly special about her. She also got pretty annoying when she was so over-the-top about her jealousy of Dabria. Whininess is one thing that is a major turn-off for a female narrator to me. Nora's likability wasn't really helped by the fact that Ms. Fitzpatrick made her seem like someone too attractive. There was one sentence that went something like: I knew I was attractive, but that didn't mean I couldn't be intimated by Patch's jaw-dropping, god-like hotness. (Okay, maybe not that last part.) But it just made Nora seem a little too perfect. Every good, interesting heroine should have a flaw or a quirk, like being kick-ass or having overly bushy eyebrows that need to be plucked every morning or something. I don't know, Nora just didn't cut it for me.

As for the other characters, I found Patch disappointingly a little flat, as well. The only things going for him are his love for Nora and his bad-ass overprotectiveness of her. It probably has to do with the fact that Patch's character has been developed over the previous three books, and the main focus in "Finale" isn't on their relationship but on the war between the Nephilim and the fallen angels. The other characters, though, were still engaging. Vee's sassiness is a good foil to Nora's more conservative nature, and Scott is the perfect, goofy childhood friend/boy-next-door figure. Dante is...well, Dante (you'll see what I mean if you read the novel!), while Marcie is that rich snob with a vulnerable side that readers have seen previously, and love to hate!

The plot of "Finale" was pretty interesting, but it was pretty anti-climactic. Maybe it was the boring narrative voice that pulled it down a little, but I just felt like the pace was pretty slow throughout, and the climax wasn't intense enough. Don't get me wrong, it's still a pretty good book, but as the show-stopping finale of a series, it just didn't reach that point of 'daaaaaaamn'.

Overall, "Finale" was sort of a disappointing end to an otherwise decent series. It could be that Ms. Fitzpatrick ran out of juice for Nora and Patch's intense relationship, and both the story and the narrative voice fell flat along with it. If you've read the previous books, I'd say it's worth a go to wrap up the series. Otherwise, I'd probably give it a miss.

Rating: 2.5/5

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Some books out there capture the tales of swashbuckling heroes and princesses and glass castles. There are some that are chock-filled with humourous anecdotes about a talking dog. And some, unsurprisingly, follow vampires and immortals and angels as they live, unseen, among humans in our world today. Then, there are books, simple, short and sweet, about life. Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is one of those books.

Charlie is a fifteen-year old boy. He's had a pretty normal life--his parents are caring, his older brother and sister constantly bicker--until his friend Michael commits suicide. Things have never been quite as normal after that. When Charlie befriends two seniors, Patrick and his sister Sam, he is exposed to parties, drugs and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. More importantly, however, he soon experiences love and friendship--and discovers what life is really about.

As with any coming-of-age story, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is told by a compellingly personal narrative voice. Charlie is a thoughtfully naive boy, and his voice is extremely present throughout the entire novel. What makes this even more so is the epistolary form of the book. It really seems as if he is speaking to you, despite the fact that the letters are addressed simply as "Dear Friend". However, one thing that caught me off guard was the fact that Charlie sounded much younger than he really is. The way he wrote, such as through simple sentences, and the things he said made him seem like he was nine-years old instead of fifteen. Maybe this is part of his naivete and innocence, as well as part of the unique way he filters things and thinks about them, but it was just a little strange to me. That being said, I was able to get a good sense of Charlie's character, something that is quintessentially 'Charlie-esque', which lends itself nicely with the coming-of-age element of the novel.

The events told by Charlie in his letters, though nothing extraordinary, didn't get boring. Through Charlie's observations and thoughts, I learned more about the nuances in the relationships between characters. Can I just say here that I really like Patrick? All of the characters are intensely 'real', but Patrick was even more three-dimensional than the rest, in the way that he didn't fall under a 'stock coming-of-age character'. For example, you have the girl that the protagonist is interested in, and is ultimately the one who reveals, in one way or another, the 'lesson' of the book. You also have the sibling who is going through some problems, and who the protagonist reaches out to. Patrick, however, wasn't like any of the other characters in other books of the same genre. He's definitely one to look out for if you decide to read the book.

Overall, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is a short and sweet coming-of-age story, with a uniquely lovable narrator and a cast of interesting, realistic characters. It's not 'oh sweet baby Jesus', drop-dead amazing, but there's a reason it's this critically acclaimed. I'd say it's worth a read in one point in your life.

Rating: 4/5 (though I was wavering between a 3 and a 4--probably because I'm not a huge lover of coming-of-age stories)

The trailer for the movie seems pretty good though! A nice way of seeing the characters come to life. Plus, I think Mr. Chbosky wrote the screenplay, as well, which is a nice touch.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Let me just warn you now: this book is guaranteed to give you the heebie jeebies. Seriously. I was lying in bed last night in the dark and had to force myself to think of other, less creepy things. I usually don't ever watch scary movies, and though reading scary books isn't as visual, it definitely leaves more to the imagination. "The Diviners" by Libba Bray was released last month, but I'm almost glad that I saved it until now, since it definitely set the mood for Halloween next week. I guess I shoulda known, especially after I read the "Gemma Doyle" trilogy by Ms. Bray a couple years back. But after I skimmed through the blurb, I didn't even think that this book would be that scary--and hooey, was I wrong.

Seventeen-year old Evie O'Neill has always been more than a little wild. So when she's shipped off to New York City to stay with her uncle Will from her boring home at Ohio, she is posi-tute-ly thrilled. The city is the place of speakeasies, shopping, parties, theaters--every glamorous thing that Evie could ever think of. However, the bright lights of the bustling city mask an unspeakable danger. When a string of gruesome occult-based murders comes to light, Evie finds herself pulled into the thick of the mystery. What the others don't know is that Evie is hiding her own secret: a power that could help find the murderer--if he doesn't catch her first.

The language in "The Diviners" is just beautiful. I remember reading the opening chapter and being moved by the words and sentences. I could really picture the setting and could feel the buzzing excitement of the inhabitants of the 'golden city of the future'. I loved the early 1900's lingo used; it gave me a vivid sense of the times, and I really felt like I was in New York then and there with Evie and her pals. It's the cat's meow! At times, though, the descriptions were a little excessive--I found myself glossing over the wordy sentences to get to the dialogue and the action. I get that Ms. Bray's hold over language is really, really great, but scaling it down in some parts might have helped the already high-strung plot.

Speaking of plot, "The Diviners" is definitely one book that sucks you in and won't spit you back out. My heart literally raced as I flipped through the pages. I particularly devoured every word of the parts about Naughty John, the established bad guy (not a spoiler, so don't worry!), as he staked out and murdered his victims, as gruesome as that sounds. You get that tight feeling in your heart as you think "no no no no no no", right up to the point when it happens. And then you stare at the page at the end of the chapter and replay the horrible scene in your mind. Yup, it's that compelling. Even better (yes, there's more!) are the twists and turns that Ms. Bray uses to masterfully manipulate her readers. I remember getting to a twist and thinking, "Oh my, she's done it again!" It really lends to an incredibly heart-stopping roller coaster ride, trust me.

I really liked the diverse range of characters as well. You had the bubbly, attention-loving Evie; meek, gentle Mabel; coy, wolfish Sam; reserved, stoic Jericho; seductive, troubled Theta; charming, likable Memphis... and so many more! I loved being in each of their heads--they were all intriguing and believable. On the other hand, there seemed to be so many jumping around in between different people's perspectives that it got a little jarring. Of course, the main focus stayed on Evie, but I think there was a little too much focus on Memphis in the beginning and I just feel like some aspects of the story, such as the romance between Memphis and Theta, would be a lot more realistic if we'd seen more of them in that portion of the book. Despite this, however, I really enjoyed being with this cast of characters--very, very fun to be with.

I highly, highly recommend "The Diviners", even to those who usually don't enjoy getting the bajeesus scared out of them. It's incredibly well-written, with diverse, amazing characters and a heart-racing plot that made it extremely difficult to put the book down. True, it's a little long, but it's an enjoyable ride the whole way.

Rating: 5/5

Also, check out the trailer! I found it while I was somewhere toward the beginning/middle of the book, and it really gave me the chills. Evie also looks just the way I thought she would!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Book Review: Legend by David Gemmell

Fantasy novels hardly ever let you down. The rich, expansive world woven from the strands of the author's imagination, the super sophisticated manner of speech (almost like Yoda but far less cryptic), and the larger-than-life yet still relatable characters with names you can't really pronounce, these all are what I consider the key elements of any great fantasy series. David Gemmell was a genius in this field, brandishing his pen--or keyboard, what have you--in all its heroic glory. After falling in love with the magical storytelling in his "Troy" series, I knew my experiences reading Mr. Gemmell's works weren't over. Last week, I was feeling in the mood for some full-blown fantasy, complete with heroes and wars and such, and picked up "Legend"--and boy, I sure wasn't disappointed!

Dros Delnoch is preparing for a siege, and every single soldier doesn't have any illusions of the outcome: the walls will fall. It's only a matter of how long they can hold out against the rapidly approaching Nadir army. Only one man can boost the spirits of the defenders and show the attackers that they're facing a force to reckon with: Druss, a true hero who has become a legend with his bravery and mighty fighting prowess. Now, though, he is old and tired, but is determined to die with his axe Snaga in his hand. With him stands Regnak, a romantic coward who finds himself going to Dros Delnoch for his love of Virae, the Earl of Delnoch's ferocious daughter. Together, they will fight against overwhelming odds, even in the face of death, sorrow and loss.

As always, Mr. Gemmell's characters pretty much make the story. Each and every one of the characters, no matter how minor they are, add to the heroism that is so central to "Legend". For example, Gan Orrin, who lacked his own men's respect, showcases his bravery by joining in on the soldiers' vigorous training, and, though he is hardly physically up to par with the others, perseveres until the very end. Through characters like Orrin and Rek (which is short for Regnak), Mr. Gemmell shows that the most ordinary of men can become legendary heroes.

I actually found that pretty much all the characters were in some way likable, even Ulric, the warleader of the Nadir, who was meant to be the antagonist of the novel. I particularly liked Bowman, whose wit and humour that came with being an outlaw was masterfully coupled with the sense of honour he possessed. Mr. Gemmell presents his reader with a wide range of characters--from the Yoda-like Vintar (toldja the flowery language came from somewhere!) to the seductive yet troubled Caessa--all of whom make readers invested and create the world we see in "Legend".

And this is where one of my not-so-good points come in. One of the other key elements in any fantasy novel is the world. In "Legend", however, readers are pretty much confined for the most part to Dos Delnoch, which, to my imagination, is comprised of walls and walls and more walls. I think I would've felt the Drenai nationalistic pride more if I'd actually seen more of the people and the places they lived in. I also wish I'd seen more than just walls. There's great potential for a fantastic, huge world that really pulls in the reader and makes him imagine that he's really there, but unfortunately it just wasn't exploited enough.

Plot-wise, the action of the battles and the temporary peace-times were well-balanced. I was really able to see the development of different relationships amongst the characters during the latter, and see the sword-singing, blood-roaring heat of the fighting. This is probably just me, since I'm sort of a romantic, but I just wish there'd been a little more focus on the romance in the story rather than fights, wars and battles, and then more fights, wars and battles. I think the "Troy" series did a really good job in this aspect--I still swoon over the crazy but incredibly beautiful romance between Helikaon and Andromache! But I digress. Maybe I'll write a separate review for "Lord of the Silver Bow". It's that amazing!

Since "Legend" was Mr. Gemmell's first novel, the storytelling is not as smooth and flowing, but is still effective in presenting to the readers the great characters and the events of the story. Trust me, it only gets better from here!

Overall, I enjoyed "Legend", and it really is a great heroic fantasy novel. What made it all the more interesting was when I was reading about David Gemmell, and learned that he wrote this novel when he was being diagnosed with cancer. Though I can't say whether the battle between the Drenai and the Nadir was a metaphorical for his fight with cancer, the knowledge of this made it all the more poignant. I would definitely check out Mr. Gemmell's other works--it will stay with you for years.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Book Review: I Wrote This For You by pleasefindthis

I'm sure every single person on this planet has had moments in his or her life where things just don't work out the way they want them to. Maybe you're hungry but there's no more milk left to suck out of the bottle. Maybe you got caught in a sudden downpour and your socks are squelching and gross. Maybe you just broke up with someone you really love. Maybe you got fired from work and now you don't know what to do. These are the moments when you feel hurt or angry or listless or sad. But sometimes, there are little things that end up brightening your day, even if its by the smallest of degrees. This book is one of those little things.

"I Wrote This For You" is a collection of nearly 200 of the most beautiful and meaningful entries about life, love, loss, beginnings, ending, and, above all, hope. Each of the four distinct chapters--Sun, Moon, Stars, Rain--explores the different facets of these themes of our lives and, in the process, brings readers to an understanding of themselves.

The photographs, the chapter titles, and the entries themselves all work together beautifully to really tug at your heart strings. What struck me was how personal each and every entry was. Being a hopeless romantic myself, I could relate to or at least imagine the emotions and images behind the simply-worded sentences. I can't help but to connect my own personal experiences to what's written on the page--which is precisely what the author had intended. Here's one of my favourite entries:

I don't know if you felt that or not. 
But it felt like two people kissing after hours of thinking about it. 
It felt like two people talking after nights of silence. 
It felt like two people touching after weeks of being numb. 
It felt like two people facing each other after months of looking away.
It felt like two people in love after years of being alone. 
And it felt like two people meeting each other, after an entire lifetime of not meeting each other.

It's so beautiful. The emotions wrought in the words really call out to you, almost to the point where they're palpable. You feel the relief, the breathtaking moment when you finally do that something or meet that someone. You become both the 'me' and the 'you'. There's a sweet sadness behind it, but, at the same time, there's hope, too. The simplicity of the language really reminds me that life is just that--it's not some grand movie or drama on a stage. Instead, life is life and nothing more. We smile, laugh, cry, yell, have good moments and bad moments, and, in the end, it comes down to us living through each and every day.

This short, sweet book is really a story of your own life. It really touches something inside of you, and I even went on the blog that the entries were originally from to read more. The words linger, and that's truly the most important gift a book can ever give you. I highly recommend picking up a copy--it will stay with you for days, if not years.

Rating: 5/5

Also, check out the blog for a taste of what "I Wrote This For You" is like! You won't regret it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Book Review: Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly

It seems that angels are the new vampires. There was "Halo" by Alexandra Adornetto, the "Fallen" series by Lauren Kate, the "Hush, Hush" series by Becca Fitzpatrick, and "Sweet Evil" by Wendy Higgins, just to name a few. I'm pretty sure there are a buttload more out there in the literary world. The one thing that never disappoints me is the cover. Angel books never fail to have beautiful, breathtaking covers that grab your attention from the get-go. "Angel Burn" by L.A. Weatherly, the first book of the "Angel" trilogy, was certainly no exception. It makes me wish I had golden hair that shone in the sunlight and floated in some gust of ethereal wind. Putting aesthetics aside--they do say "don't judge a book by its cover"!--I loved the new take on angels. But I'll get back to that in just one second.

Alex Kylar is an Angel Killer, or AK for short. He's been trained ever since he was young to track, fight and kill. In a world where angels are not benign celestial creatures but fierce hunters who feed off humans, the AKs are the only thing standing between angels and humans. And then there's Willow. Sixteen-year old Willow Fields has never fit into school. Some things about her just don't make fitting in easy. Her mom is lost in her own world, her dad left before she was born, and her aunt constantly complains about having to provide for the two. On top of all that, she's a psychic, though she doesn't know where such a power comes from. When Alex is sent to assassinate his next target, he has no idea that he's about to discover that nothing is as it seems.

As I was saying before, Ms. Weatherly's spin on angels was fresh and made for an interesting, unique story. The entire idea of having angels as malicious leeches who sucked away human life forces was something I hadn't encountered in a book before, and I liked the Buffy-the-Vampire-Slayer-esque romantic tension between Alex the Angel Killer and Willow the Clairvoyant. The intricacy of the battle between AKs and these heavenly beings also allowed for great background stories behind the two protagonists.

Speaking of which, I found Willow to be a fairly likable character who's a genuinely sweet girl with a slightly tough edge to her. I liked the quirk of her interest in engines and mechanics, though I felt like it was kind of thrown in there to make her seem more special. The more tomboy/eclectic side of Willow could have been developed and exploited a little further so that she became even more likable and realistic. She just seemed a little too perfect to me. The same goes for Alex. He did have a more dynamic character, with a caring, vulnerable side on one hand and the bad-ass assassin on the other, but he just seemed a bit too idealized. Don't get me wrong, I love the concept of a perfect, attractive, truly kind boy, but what about his flaws? That being said, if the 'flaw' was being a jerk who's actually sweet on the inside, I think that would've made him a little too much of a stock character, but it'd be interesting to see what kind of human shortcomings each of these protagonists had.

The relationship between Willow and Alex seemed a tad too 'struck-by-lightning-I-love-his-eyes-and-I'm-being-sucked-into-his-soul' from the very beginning, but it really developed into something sweet and believable. I went "awwww" as I imagined the two together in some scenes! Though I do have to admit that I cringed when Alex called her "baby" at one point.

"Angel Burn" is one of those YA novels that brings you on an easy, enjoyable ride. It's definitely worth checking out when things are too stressful at school or in life in general, and I'll be sure to check out the sequel "Angel Fire", which, thankfully, is already out! Check back sometime for that review.

Rating: 4/5

P.S. I couldn't resist--isn't the cover amazing? Interested to see how it turns out!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

When I first learned that Maggie Stiefvater was coming out with another book, I immediately marked it down on my handy dandy calendar. "Shiver", the first book of the "The Wolves of Mercy Falls" series, had me entranced by her beautiful language and her realistic and likable characters. And I fell in love with the relationship between Sam and Grace, which left me wistfully longing for a love just like theirs--mutual, respectful and enduring love, one that Ms. Stiefvater assured her readers was absolutely real in her author's note in "Forever", the final book of the trilogy. I also devoured the "Books of Faerie" series, and was a little disappointed by "The Scorpio Races", but I've long been an avid reader of Ms. Stiefvater's novels. With such expectations, I eagerly opened to the first page of "The Raven Boys", which was recently released a couple weeks ago.

Blue Sargent lives in a house full of psychics in Henrietta, Virginia, and every psychic she's met has told her one thing: if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. So she's given herself two rules not to kiss a boy, and stay away from the boys at the prestigious Aglionby Academy. The boys there--the raven boys--are stuck up and can only mean trouble. The charming Gansey and his raven boy friends have been on the search for Glendower, a vanished Welsh king. When they enlist the psychic's daughter to help them, Blue finds herself on an adventure filled with mystery, romance and the supernatural.

As always, the language of Ms. Stiefvater wove its magic around me as I read "The Raven Boys". Her ability to control the pace and the tone of words works perfectly with the actual events of the story, especially when she describes nature. It's incredibly beautiful, the way she can paint a vivid image of colours that are given life within the trees and the forest. The descriptions aren't overpowering either by distracting the reader from the plot, which is what tends to happen with books with powerful, strong language.

Having said this, I was a little disappointed by the characters. One of Ms. Stiefvater's trademarks is that she creates wonderfully realistic characters that don't fall into any classic fictional stereotypes, such as the dark, mysterious, brooding hottie or the headstrong, witty female protagonist. They're anything but stock characters. However, there wasn't much that made them particularly lovable. They were likable, but I wasn't really dying to meet any one of them. Blue was alright, really, nothing particularly outstanding about her character. And Gansey, oh, charming, rich Gansey, wasn't that charming at all. Instead, he seemed too serious and way too confident to be truly likable as a character. He didn't seem stuck-up or anything; his more humble, passionate 'other side' didn't really come through. Maybe it's too come in the sequels. Adam was quite an okay character, but his constant indignant responses about money got a little annoying after a while. One character that I did like was Ronan. He kind of did fall a little into a stock character: the troubled bad-ass who has a hidden vulnerable side to him. I really liked that about him, though--maybe that's why these stereotypes exist? But I digress.

The plot of the novel started off pretty slow in the first half of the book, but it did pick up in the second half. The twists in the mystery regarding a murder (no spoilers!) really helped to pick up things up, and the climax toward the end was pretty up there too. Overall, a pretty decent storyline in terms of tension and plot-pace.

"The Raven Boys" is an alright book--I really, really wish it'd been as beautiful and thrilling as Maggie Stiefvater's other books! I do think I'll still check out the sequel, because I feel like there's definitely a lot of potential in terms of character development and the storyline.

Rating: 3/5

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

When I first saw "Throne of Glass" when I was looking for books to read, I knew right away that I just found myself a kick-ass heroine. If you guys have read my previous reviews, you'd know that I love stories with strong female protagonists, and find whiny, save-me-I'm-helpless-and-I-love-you-so-much girls just plain annoying. And Celaena sure didn't let me down!

Eighteen-year old Celaena Sardothien has spent the past year in the mines of Endovier, serving a life sentence for her assassinations. Her only mistake: being caught. When the Crown Prince of Adarlan offers her a deal--her freedom for winning a deadly tournament--Celaena can't refuse. Brought to the gleaming glass palace at Rifthold, the infamous assassin has to best the most gifted criminals to become the King's Champion--his personal killer. But things bigger than anything she's known are brewing, and Celaena is plunged into a world of mystery, murder and even love.

Since I've already dipped into it earlier in this review, I'll start with the characters! Celaena was a really fun, believable character to be with throughout the novel. Haughty yet compassionate, confident but still only a teenager, Celaena is an incredibly likable, witty heroine who really knows how to kick some serious butt.

It was also interesting, though, to see things from some other characters' perspectives as well. The love triangle (come on, you knew it was bound to happen!) between Celaena, Prince Dorian and Captain Chaol Westfall wasn't overpowering at all; in fact, it was firmly more of a subplot instead. Usually, I'd complain, but I didn't think this would bode well with the personality of our protagonist or with the intense plot itself. Seeing things from Dorian and Chaol's points of view upped the "aww" factor, but also rendered the subtle love triangle more realistic. For example, I was a little skeptical about Dorian's feelings for Celaena, since I kept seeing him as a typical flirty playboy type, but through his point of view, I got to see the sincerity of his emotions. As for Chaol, you really wouldn't have noticed his romantic feelings so much if Ms. Maas had only told the story from Celaena's point of view. So subtly woven in--I loved it! In the end, I had no idea who to root for, and this is pretty huge since I almost always side with one guy. So eager to see how things develop in the sequel!

I would probably talk on and on about the characters, but I feel like I'm rambling, so I'll sum it up super quick: So many villains you love to hate. Heartwarming friendships, especially with Nehemia. Broad range of characters with different, unique personalities.

Now moving on to plot. "Throne of Glass" was amazing in that it started off with a pretty straightforward storyline, but began to get more and more complex with the added complications and plot twists and subplots. I swear I got chills at one point from how spooky it got! I loved how the climax was really a climax, and not one of those three-page scenes that aren't even that intense. My heart was literally pounding as I rapidly flipped through the pages. Ms. Maas has definitely done an incredible job with the plot--I really couldn't put it down!

To wrap things up with a nice, shiny bow, I enjoyed "Throne of Glass" immensely. The characters were believable and their relationships realistic, and the storyline never dipped enough to prompt me to take a little break after a chapter. This is a book that lingers in your mind after you've set it down, and is a perfect refuge from boring, mundane, routine life. I highly, highly encourage you to pick up a copy--you're in for an exciting adventure.

Rating: 5/5

Here's a fun fact: "Throne of Glass" started off as an online story that Ms. Maas wrote when she was only sixteen-years old! After ten years of editing and rewriting--and more writing!--it ended up as the published novel that we know it as today. So inspiring!

Also, check out the book trailer here, since it might give you a more pithy and easier to understand description of what it's about!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Book Review: Destiny Binds by Tammy Blackwell

Wow, it's really been a while since I last posted a review, huh? Senior year at school has been pretty busy lately, so I've only been able to slip a few chapters here and there throughout the week. Now that the long four-day weekend is here, I've been able to devour the rest of the book I was reading--"Fate Succumbs" by Tammy Blackwell. The unfortunate thing is that this was the last in the self-published Timber Wolves trilogy, so since it's a little strange writing a review for the last book when I haven't reviewed the first two, I've decided to review the first book instead! I re-read "Destiny Binds" quickly this morning, just to freshen up my memory so I could share with you this great, compelling trilogy.

Scout Donovan will never be the picture definition of 'normal'. Born with white-blond hair, pale-as-ghost skin, and ice blue eyes, Scout isn't a social butterfly at high school, and her smart-alecky attitude doesn't help with that either. Scout Donovan is a girl who believes in logic, rules and her childhood love for Charlie Hagan. Alex Cole is a boy who believes in magic, destiny and Scout. When he introduces her to the world of Shifters and Seers, Scout discovers that every single thing in her life--her family, her friends and herself--is about to change.

Now before you think, "Oh geez, not another werewolf book," stop. It really isn't. It doesn't have a sappy love story you secretly want to live in but detest at the same time. What really sets "Destiny Binds" apart from the other paranormal werewolf novels is the protagonist herself. One of the most important things for me in any novel, and especially in young adult novels, is the narrative voice. Scout isn't one of those annoying, whiny, my-life-is-about-to-change-and-this-guy-has-soul-sucking-eyes heroines. Instead, she's a witty, kick-ass girl who you wish you were friends with. Her references to pop culture made everything more relatable, and her humour, which worked wonderfully in her interactions with Alex, had me giggling and snorting throughout the book.

As a matter of fact, I loved pretty much all the characters. The relationship between Jase and Scout was incredibly believable, and made me wish I had a brother myself! Talley is just such a sweet girl, and Angel--oh, Angel--is just a mischievous bundle of evil that reminded me of my own sister. The one thing that was a little iffy for me was the relationship between Charlie and Scout. Maybe it's because I'm a die-hard Alex fan, but it seemed a little awkward to me. Having read the rest of the books in the trilogy, however, I do see a more believable development in their relationship, so I have no qualms there.

Plot-wise, the story was a little predictable at times, but unavoidable in that respect. In fact, isn't that what paranormal romances are kind of about? Again, though, he trilogy as a whole is definitely not predictable at all, and even the ending--the ending!!-- of "Destiny Binds" had me gasping and crying the whole way through.

There were a few punctuation and grammar mistakes (sorry, this is the editor in me speaking!)--I'm pretty sure the past tense of "drag" is "dragged" and not "drug"--but it wasn't enough to interfere with the well-written storyline.

All in all, "Destiny Binds" is an incredibly fun, great read with a fast-paced plot that kept me flipping through the pages with unbelievable speed. The characters are awesome, and I guarantee that Scout's wit and personality will coax out more than a laugh or two. I strongly, strongly recommend the entire trilogy. Trust me, it will suck you in and keep you there.

Rating: 5/5

The other two books in the trilogy--aren't the covers beautiful?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Book Review: Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins

That is one seductive cover. That was my first thought when I picked up this book. The black and red, the rugged guy caressing his jaw, the fanned out dress--everything about the cover oozed dark passion. Unsurprisingly, "Sweet Evil"by Wendy Higgins is about sin in all its forms: greed, pride, envy and, of course, lust.

Sixteen-year old Anna Whitt is your typical good girl. She doesn't drink, doesn't do drugs, doesn't swear--the whole package. The one thing that sets her apart from everyone else is that she was born with a sixth sense to see and feel other people's emotions. And, despite her goody two-shoes nature, she knows there's an inexplicable pull towards danger within her. Everything changes when she meets danger incarnate in the form of Kaiden Rowe, who reveals to Anna her true heritage.

I really liked the new take on the angel/Nephilim story in "Sweet Evil". The deadly sins are physically embodied by demons, who live disguised among humans, and their entire society as crafted by Ms. Higgins is ruthless, cruel and intriguing. The plot was engaging and fairly up-there, though I wish there had been more of a climax or a moment where my heart  revved up to 100 miles per hour. Overall, though, it was fun to read.

The characters were all rendered believably and were likable, which is key especially in YA novels. I didn't find Anna annoying at all, which is a possible danger at times for 'goodie goodie' characters who come to face danger and evil. Everything about her was realistic, and following her as she was pulled into the dark world of demons was fun and interesting. I also almost, almost fell for the tormented, sizzling Kai. The one thing that prevented me from gushing over him was the fact that there wasn't enough believable interaction between Anna and Kai, especially in the beginning. Why did Kai fall for Anna so quickly? Don't get me wrong, there was some definite tension between the two, but I wanted more!

Every character in "Sweet Evil" had their own quirks and their own story, which drew me in and made me invested in each of them. I particularly liked Marna, because she's actually sweet and friendly, despite her horrible past and the work that she has to do as a daughter of the Duke of Adultery. The dynamics between the Kai's group of Nephs--Kopano, Blake, Ginger and Marna--was realistic and enhanced the relationships and events that unfolded.

"Sweet Evil" is an alluring beginning to what promises to be a fun trilogy. I can't wait until the second book, which seems to be tentatively titled "Sweet Peril". Check out the book description here (spoiler alert!).

Rating: 4/5