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