Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Book Review: Daynight by Megan Thomason

I'm just going to come right out and say it. This book isn't one of my favourites. And it just sucks to not be able to get into a book that's received so many great reviews; it's like I'm missing out on something that every other reader was privy to! I picked up Megan Thomason's debut novel "Daynight", intrigued by the whole idea of a second chance at life and the supposed great cast of characters... But I'm getting ahead of myself. To the beginning we go!

When Kira Donovan, an average seventeen-year-old in her junior year, signs the Second Chance Institute (SCI) Recruit contract to escape memories of a bombing that left her boyfriend and friends dead, she has no idea what she's in for. Her Recruit partner is the snarky, brooding Blake Sundry, who's determined to infiltrate and destroy the organization that sent his family to Exile...as well as the boy the SCI wants to Cleave Kira to. But Kira's mind is ensnared by memories of Ethan, a gorgeous, mysterious boy she met at the fateful party, not to mention the son of one of the Ten--the presiding powers of the SCI. With the totalitarian government watching their every move, can Kira, Blake, and Ethan survive the brutalities and threats thrown at them?

The one thing that really drew me to "Daynight" in the first place was its intriguing, unique plot. I mean, an institute that resurrects people to give them a second chance at life on an alternate planet? Count me in. I'd never encountered such an exciting concept in the YA dystopian world before, and needless to say, I was reeled in even before the book began. There's also some great world building going on in "Daynight", where everything is the opposite of Earth. The novel mostly takes place in Thera, a carefully monitored world accessible from Earth via a series of portals--if you enter by land on Earth, you arrive at sea on Thera, and vice versa. The sunlight on Thera is too harsh for human skin, so the inhabitants of the world live by a nocturnal schedule. And, of course, the rigid lifestyle imposed upon the people on Thera by the SCI only serve to complete the whole dystopian element of the novel.

But then comes the bad. What really turned me off of "Daynight" was the characters. The entire novel alternates between the points of view of Kira, Blake, and Ethan. While there was some distinction between the voices of each of the protagonists, they all pretty much said the same thing: "Wow he/she is so hot, oh gads almighty I'm so attracted to him/her." Seriously. Sure, I get that a YA novel unavoidably has some steamy romance between the characters, but literally all the characters would talk about was how much they wanted to maul one another. It's like they were teenagers amped up on ten times the amount of hormones. Gosh.

Another thing about the characters was that their reactions to all the things happening to them in such a messed up world were so tempered. Take, for example, Kira. The SCI shoots some people really, really close to her (won't say who to avoid spoilers), and she accepts it as cool as a cucumber. What?! If I saw people I didn't even like get shot in the head, I would be on the floor bawling my eyes out. And then when Blake and Ethan discover something about their respective bloodlines and families, they pass it by with a "whoah, what?" and then joking around about it with Kira. I mean, are you serious? So many things that would floor normal teenagers are accepted and handled with such calm that it's like they're not even human. And that's what really put me off the novel and prevented me from becoming truly engaged and invested in the characters: their sheer unbelievability.

Overall, "Daynight" is probably a big miss for me. There's some incredible potential with the unique concept of a shot at a second life on a totalitarian alternate world, but the characters need a lot of work before the novel can be truly engaging.

Rating: 1.5/5

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Review: The Elite by Kiera Cass

You know you have a good book in your hands when it just sticks to your fingers like glue. I started reading "The Elite", the sequel to Kiera Cass's riveting "The Selection", only a couple nights ago, and finished it last night! I read "The Selection" when it came out last year, and, much to my surprise, my sister devoured it on her own Kindle as well--and that's when you know you have an exceptionally interesting read in your hands.

Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection, to win over Prince Maxon's heart. Just six remain. And only one will be chosen as the crown princess of Illea. Seventeen-year-old America still isn't sure where her heart lies. Her new and exciting romance with Maxon sweeps her off her feet, but when she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, she can't help but be overcome with memories of her childhood sweetheart and the future they planned together. But the stakes are higher than before. The rebels' attacks are growing more frequent and destructive, and a devastating loss makes America question whether this is what she really wants. And with the clock ticking, America knows that a happy ending might be harder to achieve than she thought.

One of the most significant aspects in "The Elite" is the romance--that swoon-worthy, heart-stopping romance. I finished "The Selection" in a state of indecision like America. Sure, Maxon's the handsome, charming prince, but Aspen's her ever-loyal childhood sweetheart! What's even more interesting in "The Elite" is that Ms. Cass never makes it obvious who America's going to end up with, something that a lot of YA novels tend to do from the beginning. As the story progresses, however, we're most definitely left to our own judgments of the characters, since every single one of them has their individual flaws and personalities. I don't want to taint your own judgment about Maxon, Aspen and America with my own, but let me just say that I'm definitely leaning towards one of the boys now! Another thing is that there's some great potential danger in having your heroine fence-sit so much over two boys, but I think Ms. Cass did a good job in not letting me hate on America for being a bit of a player.

As for America herself, I definitely grow to like her even more in "The Elite". There's some great character development going on throughout the novel, and at the end of it, I got the picture of a strong, passionate heroine who still retains her seventeen-year-old-ness. What I mean by that is that while America is determined and well-meaning, she still makes rash mistakes and has a lot to learn about the world around her, especially since Illea is in a state of war. I also love the fact that she's just an overall kind person, who's compassionate and loyal to her family and friends, no matter what caste they're in. I especially loved her relationship with her dad--they're more like friends than anything, and that kind of reminded me of my own relationship with my dad.

The plot of "The Elite" was no less intense than that of "The Selection", and it had me flipping through the pages like a madman. When I wrote in the synopsis earlier that the stakes are higher than before, I wasn't kidding. The tension is really up there throughout the novel, not only with the rebellion and the war, but also emotionally with the whole Selection and the pressure it puts on you as a contender. There are so many twists and turns that had me on the edge of my seat, and it just makes me all the more excited to see how everything ends in the final book of the trilogy.

Overall, "The Elite" is an exciting, engaging sequel with wonderfully dreamy romances, a strong and believable heroine and a gripping storyline. I highly recommend "The Selection Trilogy" for anyone who loves exciting stories--I've seen so many statements and reviews of the book making similarities with reality TV shows. Definitely worth a read!

Rating: 4.5/5

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Book Review: Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

There are times in life when you just need a good, light-hearted book to get you through an especially tiring or stressful day, and with my final exams coming up, I sure as heck need a whole truckload of them in the next couple of weeks! Luckily for me, I have a whole list of books I've always wanted to read, plus the exciting new releases this month. "Of Poseidon" has been on my to-read list for a while now, and I finally got the chance to whip it out...yesterday. Yes, I gobbled up the book in a day--it was just what I needed!

When Galen, the prince of the Syrena, encounters a girl who can talk to fish, he knows she's one of them, and is determined to know more about her. Emma's lived a normal human life for all of her eighteen years, until one day, she literally stumbles into an incredibly attractive young man. Little does she know that from that day onward--the very same day of a deadly shark encounter--everything is about to change.

The characters of "Of Poseidon" are your typical YA cast of characters--and I love 'em! Emma and Galen are both likable, strong characters, and you get a really good sense of their distinct personalities through the chapters of the book, which are told alternating between the two's points of view. (I do have to insert here that I felt like the present tense was pretty awkward when told from a third-person point of view, though!) Luckily, Emma isn't one of those annoying, whiny heroines, which seem to be a little too prevalent in a lot of YA books. Instead, she's witty and honest, with a good head on her shoulders. It's also interesting to see things from Galen's perspective, especially with the whole mysterious Syrena business going on. One criticism I have about the two's relationship is that it just happened a little too perfectly. As in, "I-feel-that-spark-between-us-O-M-G" perfect. Sure, there was the initial denial and misunderstandings between the two of them, punctuated here and there with some arguments, but everything got resolved quickly and cleanly--a little too much so. Nonetheless, there's undeniable chemistry between the Emma and Galen, particularly as the relationship developed throughout the book.

The rest of the characters were equally as likable--maybe even more so! Rayna and Toraf make an interesting and cute pair, with her hot temper and his undying devotion to her. I especially like Toraf's witty, laidback personality and the way that played off with his sappier feelings of love for his mate. I'm definitely pretty bummed that Chloe, Emma's sassy, confident best friend, couldn't have stayed in the story for longer! She would undoubtedly spice things up in the novel and add so much to the character dynamics...maybe Ms. Banks shouldn't have done what she did with Chloe! Another thing I was a little iffy about was the character of Emma's mom. She seemed a little too teenagerish for my standards, even if she's meant to be one of those more relaxed, 'liberal' moms. I mean, stomping your foot? Not even teenagers do that!

The storyline of "Of Poseidon" was generally rather easy-going and smooth, mostly following Galen and Emma as their romance progressed and as Emma learned about who she is. I think there could've been more of a real climax, though, because there weren't moments when your heart began to race in anticipation of what happened next. Instead, I think "Of Poseidon" is generally more of an easy read, introducing the characters and the concept of Syrena and so on. Maybe the sequel will have more action in it.

Overall, Anna Banks's "Of Poseidon" is a flirty, fun read with a fun cast of characters and an intriguing new take on mermaids. It's definitely not a literary, classic masterpiece, but it's great for times when you need an easy-going book--plus it has such a beautiful cover! I'll also be checking out the sequel, "Of Triton", which is being released this May!

Rating: 3.5/5

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Book Review: A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

At a handful of points in our lives, we find that a chapter has closed, and a new one is about to begin. That's how I felt today, which was our last official day of classes before final exams begin next week. Obviously I won't ramble on and on about it on a book blog, but it's the moments like these that really open your eyes to the life ahead of you, and the stories to come. And here I'll use some clumsy poetic license and say, just as I'm almost done with high school forever, so have I finished reading Frances Hardinge's "A Face Like Glass"! (I warned you it would be clumsy.)

In the underground city of Caverna, the world's most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare--wines that can remove memories, cheeses that can trigger hallucinations and perfumes that can seduce you into trust and devotion, even in a world that's anything but. Above all are the Facesmiths, craftsmen who teach the blank-faced people of Caverna to show emotions of joy, despair or fear. Into this dark and carefully constructed world comes Neverfell, a little girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. And having a face like glass can prove to be very dangerous indeed.

What attracted me to this book in the first place was its magical and intriguing world. I mean, a dangerous city where the inhabitants have to be taught to display emotions? The very idea of emotions having to be bought and learned is something I've never encountered in any books in the past, and it's undeniably magical, the way Ms. Hardinge brings to life such a unique world that just sucks you in. I loved how the more generic concept of people living underground was taken up ten notches with the intricacy of the different craftsmen, and the descriptions throughout the novel of sleeping live birds encased in quivering jelly and short-tempered cheeses add so much to the magical quality of the novel. If anything, you must read the novel for the many fantastic and whimsical ideas that Ms. Hardinge concocts with her evocative language.

I have to admit that I was a teeny tiny bit iffy at first when I realized that the protagonist would be a twelve-year-old girl. Maybe it's because I've been reading mostly YA books with teenaged characters so much the past few years, but when I see a child as a protagonist, I immediately and subconsciously assume that the book will be a little more childish. But I was wrong. Sure, there weren't mentions of hotties or anything, but Neverfell is a cute and incredibly likable heroine to follow throughout "A Face Like Glass". Despite her extremely chippy personality and unfailing optimism, Neverfell grows and develops as a character as she learns about herself and the twisted world she lives in, and there's some simple magic in the face that a small, freckled twelve-year-old girl can change so much. The other characters in the novel only add to the great cast of characters, from the grumpy yet lovable Master Grandible, the complex Zouelle, the loyal and clever Erstwhile, and the incredibly unique Grand Stewards (both the Left and the Right)...and so many more!

There was, however, something that didn't have me flipping through the pages in Road Runner-speed, and that would most likely be the storyline. The plot of "A Face Like Glass" is without a doubt interesting, but at times I felt like there were too many details and unnecessary scenes that made me lose interest in the storyline. I think if Ms. Hardinge had tightened up the story a little here and there, it would've made for a more flowing and compelling plot. Overall, though, Neverfell's adventure is exciting throughout, especially the big reveal toward the end!

All in all, "A Face Like Glass" by Frances Hardinge is a magical novel with a unique, whimsical world, a lovable cast of characters, and an interesting storyline. It is truly a beautifully written story, something I haven't really found in a while, and it's an incredibly fulfilling feeling finishing the book.

Rating: 4.5/5

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Book Review: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

Historical fiction novels never fail to be new and exciting--it's like you're holding a time travel machine in your hands, and you don't need to worry about any of the tricky cause-and-effect business that could change the world as you know it. What's even better is when you have a kick-ass heroine to top it all off, and that's precisely what you get with Robin LaFevers's "His Fair Assassin" trilogy. "Dark Triumph" is the sequel to "Grave Mercy", which I remember gobbling up in a matter of hours, so naturally I squealed in excitement when I saw that the second installment of the trilogy was being released earlier this April!

Sybella thought she had finally escaped the prison of her home, thought that she was finally free from her brutal, merciless father and her brother's twisted love for her. But when the convent sends her back, armed with an assassin's skills of death and seduction, Sybella is thrust back into the darkness of her childhood home. And while Sybella is a weapon of justice wrought by the god of Death himself, He must give her a reason to live. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?

As I mentioned before, one of the things I love the most about the "His Fair Assassin" trilogy are its undeniably strong heroines. "Grave Mercy" had the incredibly compelling Ismae, and with "Dark Triumph", we have the darker, mysterious Sybella. I was a little iffy when I found out that the second book wouldn't be in Ismae's point of view anymore, since I just loved her character so much. Nonetheless, it was still exciting to enter the perspective of another character from "Grave Mercy", and there's something undeniably fresh and new about that. Sybella has had a dark childhood, one that's left her scarred, distrustful and independent. I do have to admit, however, that while her plight is horrible and her character strong, Sybella herself wasn't as compelling a heroine to me as Ismae was. She was just too serious the entire time, and there was a sprinkle too much of her fighting her emotions for me to really get into her character. This is not to say that she isn't an interesting protagonist to follow throughout the novel; instead, I feel like there could've been more to her character that would've made her even more likable and engaging.

That being said, there's some great stuff going on with the overall cast of characters. I was especially happy to see that Beast was making a reappearance, this time as an even more major character, though I was a little surprised to find out that he's actually pretty young. I somehow got the impression that he was in his fifties when I was reading "Grave Mercy"... Regardless, Beast is a loyal, lovable character who is the perfect match for Sybella, especially with their similarities in their love of fighting and loyalty. D'Albret was also the perfect villain, made all the more heinous as Sybella's own father. He made me feel all icky inside--no wonder Sybella had to escape from her own home! But one character that I found particularly interesting was Julian, Sybella's half brother who loves her more than a brother should. While the whole idea of incest painted him in a dark light, Julian became more understandable and open to sympathy as the novel progressed and details about their history was revealed, rendering him as a complex character whom I couldn't help but feel pity for towards the end of the book.

One thing I was a little disappointed at, however, was the plot. I felt like there wasn't anything that was on-the-edge-of-your-seat exciting save for the showdown at the end. The storyline, to me, was fairly linear, with nothing too compelling that had me flipping through the pages. The climax was exciting, but other than that I wasn't entirely invested in what was going on, especially with all the political stuff going on in fifteenth century Brittany that's a little hard to follow if you don't pay attention. There's such amazing potential for a gripping, thrilling story, but ultimately, it fell a little flat.

Overall, "Dark Triumph" possesses amazing potential, with great character development and a strong, independent heroine. In the end, however, it fell short of the standards set by the first book in the "His Fair Assassin" trilogy, but it's still definitely worth a read.

Rating: 3.5/5

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Book Review: Light by Michael Grant

Finishing a series is like finishing a long hike. It's without a doubt a journey of great length, and, looking back, there were so many ups and downs and adventures, and you can't help but think, "Wow, that was crazy." That's how I felt when I reached the final page of "Light", the final book in the "Gone" series by Michael Grant. After six action-packed installments, Mr. Grant finally reveals to his readers the fate of the inhabitants of the FAYZ.

It's been over a year since all the adults disappeared. Gone. In the time since the strange, impenetrable barrier appeared around the town of Perdido Beach, California, countless battles have been fought: battles against hunger and lies and plague, the battle against good versus evil. But with Gaia, the gaiaphage incarnate, hungry for destruction and massacre, Sam and his friends know that the end is near. The only question is, will the endgame see them out alive, or will Gaia succeed in her mission to slaughter everyone in the FAYZ?

At this point in the series, the characters have gone through most of their character development, but that's not to say that there aren't any emotional or mental changes within them. The two characters I saw most of that in were Caine and Diana. Despite the fact that they were the callous and cruel antagonists throughout most of the "Gone" series, the two really grow on you. You see their vulnerabilities and their struggles with doing the right thing, and how their twisted pasts haunt them. You especially see this in the relationship between the two. They're both so messed up, for lack of a better term, but they find in each other their saving grace. Step aside, Romeo and Juliet. This is one tragic love story that I really felt for, and Mr. Grant's done a great job with crafting the relationships in his stories.

The plot itself of "Light" is so intense throughout the entire book, my heart jackhammered in so many places it's a surprise I didn't have a seizure or something. There's definitely a lot of things going on, and it was interesting to see all of these different events from different perspectives as the points of view jumped from character to character. This also allowed for some serious buildup of dramatic irony and tension, things that were only enhanced by the gory, gruesome scenes of kids younger than me dying with holes burned through their necks or arms ripped off for supper. It's this gore that lends an incredibly dark undertone to the entire "Gone" series, and left me feeling slightly disturbed, even at the end of the final book.

One thing that I felt sort of detracted from the story was the constant use of references to pop culture. I understand that the reason behind this is to lighten the mood a little and also remind us that the survivors stuck in such a gruesome place are just fourteen-year old kids, and, to a certain extent, I think it's great! But when you add on a whole bunch of names of pop songs that no one really listens to anymore, for example, it's kind of pushing it a little too far. That being said, it's nothing drastic or anything, just a little too overdone.

Overall, "Light" is an intense final installment to a grisly dystopian series, with some complex character development and a gripping storyline, specifically tailored to teen readers. If you haven't read the "Gone" series yet, I'd recommend that you check it out and see if it's your thing, especially if you like gory details and dramatic scenes.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Book Review: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

When I read Brandon Sanderson's "The Final Empire" a couple months ago, I was instantly hooked. I mean, a great cast of characters, an eerily omnipotent bad guy, super cool powers and a thrilling plot...what more could you ask for? (You can read me rave more about the book here.) I always like having some breathing space between books in a series, just to mull over what happened and build up some anticipation, and a few days ago, I decided that now was the time to embark on another journey with Vin and her friends in "The Well of Ascension", the second installment in the "Mistborn Trilogy".

A year has passed since Vin defeated the Lord Ruler, a year since Kelsier, the mastermind behind the elaborate plan to take down the all-powerful God incarnate of the Central Dominance, died and became a martyr. But the defeat of the tyrant left behind enormous instabilities in the realm. As Kelsier's protege and the slayer of the Lord Ruler, Vin is venerated by a budding new religion, a distinction that makes her increasingly uncomfortable. Even more worrying, the mists that she found comfort in are acting strangely, and seems to harbour a mysterious entity that haunts her. With three armies now vying to conquer Luthadel, Kelsier's crew knows that the noose is tightening. The only thing offering a glimmer of hope is an ancient prophecy of the Hero of Ages and the Well of Ascension, and Vin plans on finding it to save the city she sought to free.

One of the things I love the most about the "Mistborn Trilogy" is its wonderful cast of characters. Every single one of them, from Vin to Elend to Straff, has his or her own distinct personalities, stories and thoughts, and the character building that Mr. Sanderson has done throughout the first two books, and even the second book alone, is astounding. Despite their differences, the characters in "The Well of Ascension" work perfectly with each other, both complementing and foiling others in a way that adds to the dynamism and complexities of the book as a whole. Take, for example, Vin and Elend. We all knew from the start that they would end up together as a couple--anyone with two brain cells to rub could see that! But what's really interesting to see unfold is how the two worked together in a time of crisis, and how both of them struggled with the relationship because they felt like they were too different from another to truly understand the other person. Admittedly, I felt like this whole question of self-worth and self-identity was a little too drawn-out throughout the book, but I think it perfectly shows the ways in which two characters, though seemingly contrasting one another, actually meld to create complex, human relationships in the story.

I usually find that the plot of sequels are hardly ever as exciting as that of the first book, but this was most certainly not the case in "The Well of Ascension"! Mr. Sanderson did an excellent job of creating an entirely new storyline from the previous one in a way that linked the two together, but presented a brand new set of obstacles and perspectives to the trilogy. There was hardly ever a dull moment throughout--the plot was, without a doubt, compelling and engaging, even in moments that weren't describing an action-packed scene of some sort. And the ending! The last part of the book had my heart racing, and let me just say, Mr. Sanderson, you are one tricky trickster! The twist at the end just had my eyes bulging out of their sockets. Wow. It'll definitely be interesting to see how everything turns out.

All in all, "The Well of Ascension" is an exciting sequel to "The Final Empire", full of what made the first book so compelling: a great cast of characters, realistic character development, an eerily magical world and a thrilling storyline. I will definitely be reading the final book of the trilogy, "The Hero of Ages", to see how everything unfolds! After some breathing space, that is.

Rating: 5/5

Monday, April 1, 2013

April '13 Releases!

Happy Spring! With flowers a-bloom and birds a-chirping, a whole bunch of new, highly anticipated books are being released this April. I'm especially excited because a lot of sequels of some amazing books are being unleashed into the literary world, and I just can't wait to get my grubby, greedy hands on them! Remember, you can click on the book covers' images to get to their respective Goodreads pages for more info. (:

"Light" (Gone #6) by Michael Grant
Release date: Apr. 2

"Dark Triumph" (His Fair Assassin Trilogy #2) by Robin LaFevers
Release date: Apr. 2

"The Elite" (The Selection #2) by Kiera Cass
Release date: Apr. 23

"The Eternity Cure" (Blood of Eden #2) by Julie Kagawa
Release date: Apr. 30

"Sweet Peril" (Sweet Trilogy #2) by Wendy Higgins
Release date: Apr. 30