Showing posts with label Fantasy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fantasy. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Review: King's Cage

"There are pieces of me, small pieces, still in love with a fiction."
-Victoria Aveyard, King's Cage

In the third book of the Red Queen series, Mare Barrow has found herself a prisoner of Maven, giving herself up to save the rebellion. With Maven constantly suppressing her powers, Mare quickly begins to lose hope. But Cal will stop at nothing in order to bring her back.

Similar to the way I felt about Glass Sword, I was also lukewarm about King's Cage. Quite honestly, the only reason I keep reading these is because I want to see how the story ends. The world is intriguing, but there are flaws and parts of it feel ripped off from other young adult novels (like The Hunger Games). I can see the appeal, in the drama and the intrigue, but it just doesn't seem to hold my attention.

One thing that bothered me about this volume in particular was the sudden switch to multiple narrators. The other two books were just narrated by Mare, and while I understand Aveyard wanted the reader to see what was happening in the rebellion, I'm a firm believer in series staying in the same narration style. Let's use Allegiant as an example. That book changes to multiple narrators in the last book, which gave away a huge plot point. I'm not sure if something similar is happening here, but I think we could have stayed with Mare and the story would have still worked just fine. 

This book just felt like a lot of filler in order to get to the last book, and I think the story could have done without it. Maybe the last one will be better--we'll just have to wait and see.

3/5 stars

Friday, February 16, 2018

Review: Glass Sword

"No one is born evil, just like no one is born alone. They become that way, through choice and circumstance." 
-Victoria Aveyard, Glass Sword

Mare is part of a new generation, a generation of Red bloods with Silver abilities. After the betrayal of Maven, now the new king, Mare is on the run with the rebellion--the rebellion that has a lot more reach than Mare could have ever imagined. Now, she had to help gather all the new bloods before Maven gets to them, before the darkness overcomes them.

This installment lacks the energy that the first book had, in my opinion. The action was slow moving for the most part, and didn't feel like it was going anywhere to me, personally. Much of this book felt like it could have been cut out, perhaps combined with the following one (which is up next for me to read). So far, the story doesn't feel as cohesive as it possibly could have been. 

The second half of the book is better than the first, pepper with extreme violence at points. I appreciate the rebellion story line, but do think it could have been better thought out; there are pieces of it that felt too much like The Hunger Games to me. Like Mare discovering exactly how far the rebellion reaches, how many resources they have at their disposal. I'm not quite sure where the story is going, and what will happen in the next two books, but despite its flaws, I'm curious to find out.

To me, Mare becomes increasingly annoying as the series goes on, complaining about having to do everything alone, blah, blah, blah. In comparison to other rebellion-driven narratives, her complaints don't seem to be driven by selflessness; for example, Katniss and Harry both feel like they have to do things alone because they don't want to put anyone they love in danger. The same doesn't seem to be true of Mare, though I'm not sure if this will change in upcoming books. Mare doesn't seem to know what she's doing, causing her characterization to be a bit all over the place.

Overall, the cliff hanger at the end of the book does make me want to read the next one, so I'll see if the series does indeed get any better. Once the last book comes out in May, we'll see how I feel about the whole series.

3/5 stars

Thursday, January 18, 2018

#TBT Review: Zarox

In order to catch up from reviews I didn't complete last year, I'm going to start doing #tbt reviews every other Thursday, as there were a lot of books that I didn't get to. I believe these books still need reviews, so to start, I'm reviewing Zarox, a book I received from Louis Smith on Instagram. 

On a dare, four kids decide to go to the creepy Churn Zone at night, proving that they are each adventurous and brave. But the unthinkable happens while they're there: they're transported to another world, called Zarox. In Zarox, they're the only ones that can save the world from the Glothers. Supported by Rotlier, the wizard Lupar, and the Book of Zarox, the children are off on a magical adventure that they're not likely to forget.

The beginning was a bit of a rocky start for Zarox, as we're thrown into the world much like the main characters without a clue of what's happening. But once you get into the story and the children start their training to save the world, you're much more able to transition into the world of Zarox. And what a magical world it is.

One of my favorite things about this book was the uniqueness of the world. While some of the plot points were familiar, the world of Zarox felt unique to me. This could especially be seen with the different characters that the author created, like the Glothers and Rotlier. Once we get a sense of these characters, it's easy to fall into the world Smith has created. It's magical and fast paced, and you'll hand on until the very end.

Overall, between the characters and the unique world, this is a middle grade fantasy that stands out from the rest. It's a fun, enjoyable read that you'll not want to put down until the very end.

4/5 stars

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Review: The Raven King

"He was a book, and he was holding his final pages, and he wanted to get to the end to find out how it went, and he didn't want it to be over." 
-Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven King

In the last book in the Raven Cycle, Blue and the Raven Boys are getting closer and closer to finding Glendower as a darkness starts to takeover Cabeswater. Their interference with the ley line has expanded to the town of Henrietta, and each is as desperate as the other to save the life of Gansey, Blue's true love and in mortal danger. By the end of the series, so many different stories are intertwined that it's difficult to tell who's the real hero of the story.

Oh my goodness. Where to even begin with this series? This past month has been my foray back into Maggie Stiefvater's work, and I forgot how absolutely lyrical her writing is. She's often given the title "Master Storyteller" and for good reason. Every single one of her books is woven so smoothly together, giving the reader all of the right pieces at the right time, inserting a magical quality that's entirely believable. If you haven't read any of her work, I highly recommend it.

One thing I specifically like about this final book in the series was the way that you could see the development in the characters. Blue, Gansey, Ronan, and Adam all bear marks of their journey toward finding Glendower, and by the end, they're all trying their best to save Gansey. Always Gansey. Ronan was probably my most favorite character (check out my playlist for him!), just because he put up such a hard shell, but you knew he would do anything for the people that he loved. Absolutely anything. The well-developed characters help to flesh out the emotions that emanate from the book, the emotions that draw you into the story and won't let you go until it's over.

The structure of the plot will have you on the edge of your seat until the very last breath of this story. Stiefvater expertly shifts between characters throughout the text, showing how the darkness seeps into each aspect of the story. Stiefvater's plot is poetic and original, living through the complex characters she creates. Overall, a fantastic ending to a well-crafted series.

5/5 stars 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Review: Our Dark Duet

"I'm willing to walk in the darkness if it keeps the humans in the light." 
-Victoria Schwab, Our Dark Duet

The monsters have taken over Verity. Kate hasn't stopped fighting them--August has finally decided to become one of them. In order to win the fight against the monsters, Kate has to return to Verity once more. To fight the new monster, the monster that feeds on fear and chaos, both Kate and August have to forget the past and create an alliance. But will it be enough to pull Verity into the light?

Schwab doesn't disappoint in this second book of the Monsters of Verity duology. She somehow makes the tone darker and grittier in this book than the first book, with both Kate and August battling demons that threaten to overtake them. The world of Verity is dark and menacing, and crafted beautifully.

One of the things that I absolutely loved about this series was that while there was definitely chemistry between Kate and August, it never evolved into a full-fledged relationship. It was mostly left to the reader's imagination, leaving Kate and August to fight the darkness of Verity together. Because the vast majority of young adult texts feature a romantic relationship of some sort, the lack of one in this story is a breath of fresh air. Not to mention each of their characters are beautifully constructed.

Overall, I'm glad that I received the first book, This Savage Song, in an Uppercase box. Schwab is not afraid to play with the emotions of her readers, gorgeously crafting a dark, twisty world, underscored by the light of hope. The plot is fast-paced, accented with new, unique monsters that haunt the night. If you're looking for a book that doesn't back down, this one is definitely for you.

5/5 stars

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Review: This Savage Song

This Savage Song book cover
"He wasn't made of flesh and bone, or starlight. He was made of darkness." 
--Victoria Schwab, This Savage Song

In the city of Verity, violence has begun to breed monsters, monsters that lurk in the shadows. Kate Harker's father made a truce with the monsters, making certain areas of the city safe. Kate wants to live up to her father's ruthlessness, and is willing to go to any lengths to do so. August Flynn wants the opposite--born into a family of monsters, all August wants to be human. August goes undercover in order to spy on Kate, but when things go terribly wrong, the two must run for their lives.

Let me start out by saying--this book was dark. And violent. But so well written. Schwab created a whole atmosphere in This Savage Song that envelopes you right from the beginning. Verity is a city where you have to constantly look behind your shoulder wherever you go, and Schwab keeps up this suspense throughout the entire novel, through the unique voices of Kate and August.

I was also intrigued by the kinds of monsters that Schwab created, specifically the Sunai. The Sunai feed on people by stealing their souls through playing music, which is one of the things that August struggles with throughout the novel. He loves his violin, but is deeply tortured by the fact that playing his music can take the life of a human being.

These themes of struggling with what you're supposed to be are woven throughout the story, as Kate is desperately trying to gain the acceptance of her father, desperately trying to be what she thinks he wants her to be. This is what draws August and Kate together--but there's no romance! Gasp! I find that these days, it's extremely rare to find a YA novel that doesn't feature a romance, and it's extremely refreshing to find one that doesn't. Sure, there are hints of something between Kate and August at times, but instead of focusing on a blooming relationship, the novel is able to focus on their struggles as individual characters.

The only reason this book didn't receive 5 stars is because it took me a bit to get into it. Sure, the beginning scene with Kate setting a church on fire was captivating--but it took me a bit to figure out Verity and all its quirks. But once I did--I was hooked.

4/5 stars

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Review: Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies

Rocks Fall Everyone Dies cover
"But we have one unbreakable rule in the Quick family. We don't steal from one another. We just don't." 
-Lindsay Ribar, Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies

One hundred percent, the first thing that caught my attention about this book was the title. This author, Lindsay Ribar, is definitely way better at thinking up titles than I am, as most of mine end up being really long and academic sounding, or waaaay too simple. Like, one word simple. But this title is fantastic and immediately makes you want to know what the book is about.

The Quick family has a magical ability to steal things--memories, emotions, abilities--from other people. They were bestowed this ability in order to keep the town of Three Peaks safe from the doom of the cliff that hangs over their town. Aspen doesn't really think about the effects of his stealing from others, until the events of one particular summer open his eyes to what his abilities and the ritual really mean--and how far his family is willing to go in order to keep their secrets safe.

I was a little put off at the beginning of this book, mainly because it is clear that Aspen is so incredibly selfish and lacking in the empathy department. But the good news is that this is definitely a coming-of-age story, meaning that character development is a key element to the story. Thank god. I don't know if I could have kept going if Aspen remained a selfish prick for the entirety of the novel.

I absolutely loved how unique and fresh this story was. Sure, it follows a pretty typical coming-of-age or YA mystery plot, but it's filled with twists and turns that you don't really see coming. The idea of reaching is also fascinating; being able to take the best elements of someone else and use them for your own benefit. It's creative and refreshing, and I absolutely would recommend this to a friend. I think it has something for everyone.

4/5 stars

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Review: The Glass Republic

The Glass Republic cover

Title: The Glass Republic

Author: Tom Pollock

Publisher: Quercus US

Publication date: October 4th

"Like a lot of weapons, laughter had two edges, and the tall girl in the green hijab was intimately familiar with both. She listened to it carefully, even when while she joked, wary in case it returned."
--Tom Pollock, The Glass Republic

So, I received this book from NetGalley for review without realizing that this was a sequel. Nonetheless, despite being a bit confused in the beginning, I was fascinated by this world that Pollock has created. It's different than anything that I've read before, and it's inclusive in a way that many books in this genre aren't.

"Pen" Khan is used to holding secrets, especially since she and her best friend Beth discovered the secret monsters that inhabited London. The only person who truly understands is Pen's mirror-sister Parva, who inhabits the world on the other side of the mirror, London-Under-Glass. When her sister mysteriously disappears, Pen goes into London-Under-Glass to find her, but there are people there who would do anything to keep Pen from finding her mirror-sister and ruining their fragile power.

Where do I even start with this book. Not only was I amazed and fascinated by the world that Pollock creates, a world that is the reflection of the real world (and includes intricate details I wouldn't even think about), but Pollock also created characters that are absolutely unforgettable. I may not have had the backstory necessary to completely understand what was going on, but I was still drawn to Pen's story, so much so that I definitely want to find the first book and figure out how she got all of her scars.

The other thing that is absolutely amazing about this book is its inclusion of diversity. Pen is a practicing Muslim (as least, that's what I gathered), but it's not all that defines her. For this genre, that is almost unheard of. If you're interested in a detailed, intricate urban fantasy, you definitely found it in Tom Pollock's book.

5/5 stars

Friday, September 23, 2016

Review: Maresi

Maresi cover

"It is never good to know what is going to happen. Your own future is not a gift I can give you."
-Maria Turtschaninoff, Maresi

I received this book as an electronic galley through NetGalley from Amulet Books, and this in no way impacts my view of the book.

The first thing that drew me to this book was the cover. It's beautiful and intriguing, and makes you want to know what story is hidden beneath it. The style of the book reminds me of something Ursula Le Guin-esque, and this first installment in the series enveloped me into this new world that I definitely would love to delve into more. 

Maresi follows the story of a 13-year-old girl of the same name who lives at the Red Abbey, an island where no men are allowed. When a new girl, Jai, arrives to the Abbey, Maresi notices that things start to change, start to not run quite as smoothly. When Jai's history starts to catch up to her at the Abbey, Maresi must do what it takes in order to save the Abbey.

The best aspect of this book was the feminist undertones throughout. Many of the girls who live at the Abbey are victims of violence from men, or have escaped from societies where the women are treated like dirt. The Abbey gives them power through knowledge, which is stated countless times throughout the book. The whole book, honestly, is a testament to Foucault's argument of knowledge and power, and being a Foucauldian scholar myself, I thoroughly enjoyed that aspect.

The main critique that I have is that this book did feel like a lot of set up, which is understandable for a first in a series. Moving around some of the plot points might have made this book faster paced and even better. That being said, the roundness of the characters makes up for the pacing of the book, and I was still invested enough in their stories to want to finish the book.

Overall, this is definitely a book that I would recommend to others, and you should check it out when it is released in January!

4/5 stars

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Carry On

“You have to pretend you get an endgame. You have to carry on like you will; otherwise, you can't carry on at all.” 
-Rainbow Rowell, Carry On

When I started this book, I wasn't expecting it to suck me into that black hole that sucks you in when you've found a truly amazing story. I've loved every single thing that I've read by Rainbow Rowell, and this book was no exception. The moment I picked it up, I couldn't put it down. Simon and Baz and the magical world that Rowell created and fully captured my attention.

Carry On is a spin-off novel from Rowell's last book, Fangirl, giving readers the context to the fanfiction that Cath writes in that book (also a phenomenal book, highly recommend). However, this book completely works as a stand alone book as well. Though this way Rowell's first foray into fantasy, and you can see the influence of Harry Potter (I mean, she used to write Harry Potter fanfiction, and who doesn't love Harry Potter anyway?), but I think it's different enough that you can't say that she completely copied her world from Rowling. The way magic is used in Simon and Baz's world is completely different than Harry's world. 

And oh my god, the characters. The dialogue. The descriptions. If there's anything that Rowell does uniquely well, it's these three things. Definitely had a book hangover after this book, because I just didn't want to stop reading about Simon, Baz, and Penny. Rowell slowly draws you into the story at the beginning, and once Baz enters the picture, you've lost all hope. The chemistry between Baz and Simon was magnificent, adorable, and shows Rowell's ability to write romantic relationships. 

All in all, I absolutely loved this book, and it's been awhile since I've read a book that I fell completely head over heels for. So go! Read it! And then go and read all of Rowell's other books too, because they are just as good.

5/5 stars.

Monday, June 25, 2012


I finished Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore last week sometime, but with everything that I had to do before England (and of course, left until the last minute) I haven't had a chance to write about it. So, here it goes! Bitterblue is the sequel to Graceling and the companion novel to Fire, and all three books definitely come together in this novel. Eight years have gone by since the end of Graceling and Bitterblue has now become queen of Monsea. But she has a lot of work to do, given the state that her father left the kingdom in, which Bitterblue doesn't really know the extent of, because her advisors keep her locked up in her tower most of the time. So Bitterblue starts sneaking out at night. And she finds out that her kingdom is in much more of a mess than she thought.

One issue that I had with this book wasn't with the writing, it was the fact that Bitterblue was published so long after Graceling that I had difficulty remembering what events had lead up to this book and how all of the characters were connected. In one of the reviews of the book, someone said that you could read this one  first and still have a handle on the series, but I definitely don't think that is true. I would definitely recommend reading this one last, because it does reveal so much about the other two books. Graceling and Fire can pretty much be read in any order, I think. But Bitterblue definitely comes last.

Putting that fact aside, I definitely love Kristin Cashore's writing style. She does a good job of putting the reader completely in the world she has created, and she creates characters that the readers care about. Readers want the characters to succeed. I must say, Bitterblue also doesn't have a predictable story line, Cashore kept me guessing for the most part, which I definitely appreciate. Overall, I think Bitterblue is a successful book, one that I really enjoyed. But I think I'll have to go back and read the other two to fully appreciate its wonderfulness.

In other news, I am leaving tomorrow for England and I am so excited! So for a month, I will switch from blogging about books to blogging about my adventures in England, which, undoubtedly will have something to do with books at some point. Until then, happy reading! :)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Lots of Adventures

While watching the movie We Bought a Zoo with my family this evening, it made me think about something. Adventures. It seems like people talk about them so much, but how many people have the actual courage to embark on an adventure? So many people go about their life, going to school, going to class, going to work, and they never really do anything out of the ordinary. They say that tomorrow they'll do something different, tomorrow they'll get out to do what they've always wanted to do. Travel. Go skydiving. Go bungee jumping. People want to make their lives worth living, but it seems to me that they don't do much to change their ways. Because people are afraid of change. I'll have to admit, I'm one of those people. But this summer, I've decided that I want to do something different. I want to see what else the world has to offer, so for the past 6 months or so (maybe a little longer) I've been working on getting my way to England. And in 24 days, a dream that I've had for years, an adventure that I've always wanted to embark on, is going to happen. And I've never been more scared or excited for something in my life. It's crazy! I know, this is kind of a tangent away from books (and yes, I will be able to connect this to the book I just finished reading, trust me), but I want to inspire people to take adventures. Even though it may seem impossible in the beginning, it almost always will be worth it.

Anyway, the book I just finished, The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan, has a little bit to do with adventures. It's the third book in the Kane Chronicles, and I believe I have talked about the first two on here, if you're interested (check out Some Egyptian Mythology and Old Books and Fast Reading for the first two books). Sadie and Carter once again have to save the world from oncoming doom (I know, shocking, huh?) because Apophis, the Egyptian god of chaos, has been set loose and wants to bring chaos to the world, which would end up completely destroying the world. Will they succeed? I guess you'll have to read and find out :)

Though it's based on Egyptian mythology instead of Greek mythology, this series is quite a lot like the Percy Jackson series, which makes sense, considering it's by the same author. But I kind of wish it wouldn't be so similar. In Percy Jackson, something is always happening that stops the kids from what they need to do (usually the gods interfering) but then something miraculous happens and the day is saved. I think almost every book of his has this plot actually....don't get me wrong, they're absolutely fabulous books, I just kind of wish that he would change it up every once in a while. I mean, so many bad things don't have to happen to his main characters; it seems like at every turn, Sadie and Carter have some other mess to get out of (Percy was the same way). And this is where I return back to the adventure thing. Though they might not exactly be believable...Sadie and Carter are having adventures. Yes, most of their adventures mean life or death, but they're living life to the fullest! They're not staying inside, on Facebook, Twitter, or playing videogames, they're out doing things to save the world. And while not everyone can be an Egyptian magician  and save the world, everyone has something on their list that they want to do this summer, this year, in ten years, or even twenty. The point is to get out and do it before you can't. Even if you won't save the world like Sadie and Carter, I promise it will be worth it.

Next, I will be reading the Scott Pilgrim series, because it's quick and was recommended to me by someone on the Central Quidditch team. Until then, happy reading, and happy adventuring! :)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Clash of Kings

It may have taken me a while, but I have finally completed the second novel in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, A Clash of Kings. It is about a thousand pages, so it's kind of a daunting read, but definitely worth it. And it shows that Martin has skill in writing because despite the length, I still want to read the next two books in the series. For that, I give him props. But for now, I think I'll take a break and get some other, shorter, reading done.

Now, I feel like the plot to these books is kind of hard to describe, because they are so intricate and complicated. There are so many different things going on, and it's told from the point of view of so many different characters (at least 4...I think there might have been 1 or 2 more, I don't quite remember) that explaining the whole thing would take ages. So I'll simplify it down to this. Basically, the Seven Kingdoms have fallen into chaos, with 4 people claiming to be the King, the one who sits on the Iron Throne, hence the name A Clash of Kings. Lots of fighting ensues, lots of people die, and by the end of the novel, not much is really resolved, even with all of those pages. Hence the need for two more lengthy books, which I will eventually read.

The thing that I like about this series is how intricate Martin makes the plot. In A Clash of Kings, there were definitely places where I was a bit confused as to what was going on, both because it was something that had happened way earlier in the book and because the characters are kind of hard to keep track of at times, but I soon caught on to what was happening and why it was important to the story. Despite everything that is going on in the book, Martin writes with a style that makes it easy for the reader to pretty much pick up where the character left off before. For example, one of the characters, Jon Snow, was, at one point in the novel, up in the mountains, searching for wildings (or those who don't live within the Seven Kingdoms). When his section ended, and the next character started, I became engrossed in the following character's story. But later, when the book when back to Jon, I was able to quickly remember what happened the previous time he had been telling the story. In this way, the reader gets many different views of the story and is able to see what is going on across the whole realm, as opposed to just seeing one side of the story. I find that I like that a lot, and even though the writing might be a bit dense at times, I still enjoy reading to find out what is going to happen to the Seven Kingdoms. Who will end up ruling in the end?

Since I will be taking a break from this series and catching up on some other reading, the next book I'm working on is The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan, the third book in the Kane Chronicles. This should go by pretty quickly, but until then, happy reading! :)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

An Excellent Sequel

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta was published in 2009, and I remember reading it and thinking that it was one of the best fantasy books I had read in a while. But I also remember thinking that it was fantastic on its own, it didn't really need a sequel. Yet, when I went to the house that I was house-sitting at, I found the sequel sitting in her library, Froi of the Exiles. I was kind of surprised there was a sequel, especially so long after the first one had been published. But I definitely wasn't disappointed. Even though I didn't really remember what happened in Finnikin of the Rock, I found that it wasn't really necessary to remember everything that happened. Since the story followed a completely different character, it wasn't as confusing as I thought it was going to be.

Finnikin of the Rock told the story of Finnkin and Evanjalin, who worked together to save the kingdom of Lumatere. Froi of the Exiles takes place afterwards, when it seems as though peace as been restored to the world. However, there is still one problem to be taken care of. The kingdom of Charyn is unpredictable, and known to be enemies with Lumatere. Froi was an outsider, taken in by Evanjalin and Finnikin and trained by their guard, thought to be one of their family. And he is the only one that can solve the problem between Lumatere and Charyn. But going there will unravel the mysteries of Froi's kinship, and throw Froi into the path of the half-mad princess of Charyn. Froi will eventually realize that he has to chose between the family that he has come to know, and the one that is actually his kin.

First of all, talk about a complicated plot. Marchetta weaves so many different things into this book that, at times, it is difficult to keep track of what's happening. And since all of the names are so strange, I found that it took me a little bit to actually figure out how everyone fit together. If I remember correctly, I think I had the same problem with Finnikin of the Rock. However, I don't think that that takes away from the story. Marchetta has created a great piece of young adult fantasy, one that I definitely look forward to seeing the end to, as long as I don't have to wait three years for it. Marchetta also has a fabulous writing style, one that almost seemed lyrical. It wasn't so detailed that you would get bogged down by all of the details of the world that she created, but it included enough details that you could easily picture the world in your head. Definitely enjoyable. I hope she publishes the next one before I forget everything that happened in this one.

Well that's it for now. Next I will be reading Fear by Michael Grant. So far, it's proven to be quite creepy and disturbing, and I'm sure that won't change throughout the rest of the book. Until next time, happy reading! :)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Almost There!

So the semester is almost over, which means that I will have time to read again! This makes me happier than you can imagine. There is a lot that I need to read. Despite the fact I haven't had much free time lately, I have actually managed to finish two books (one of which was The Game of Thrones, which was quite the accomplishment in and of itself, I must say.) Both were quite enjoyable, but they were definitely completely different from each other.

The first one I finished was The Game of Thrones or The Song of Ice and Fire: Book One by George R.R. Martin. I had this book recommended to me a while ago by someone I worked with, and after receiving a gift card for the Kindle Store on Amazon, I decided to buy it. The story line is really complicated, so I will do my best to summarize it here. In the country of Seven Kingdoms where winter can last decades, kings, queens, knights, and regular civilians struggle to gain the throne that will rule the country. As the time period of peace is slowly coming to end, the country soon falls into chaos. It's difficult to tell who's alliances lie with who, and who can actually be trusted. In a power struggle that could mean your life, knowing who to trust is everything. And if you place your trust in the wrong person, it could be deadly.

Okay, that wasn't really the greatest synopsis, but it's kind of difficult to explain what goes on in The Game of Thrones because it's told from so many different points of view. At the beginning, it really took me a while to figure out who was who, and how all of the characters interacted with each other. Plus the fact that some of them have quite unusual names didn't really help. Once I got my bearings, I didn't want to put this novel down. It's very fast paced, and Martin tends to leave the reader hanging with one character and quickly jump to the next. I have to admit, I kind of forgot about some of the cliff hangers because of this, and I wouldn't remember the character was in a dangerous situation until I got back to their narrative. But I liked that Martin kept me on top of my feet while reading. It keeps me engaged in the story, and he definitely made me want to read more, even though the books get longer and longer (oh well, I'll have free time soon anyway.). I also have heard that the TV show that HBO made out of this series is really, really good, though when I went to try to watch it last weekend, I couldn't find it anywhere on the internet. So I guess I'll be renting when I get home. Once I watch it, I'll definitely let you know if it's worth seeing. From what I've heard, it definitely is.

So the other book I read, The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson, was totally and completely different from The Game of Thrones. The Bermudez Triangle follows the story of three girls in their final year of high school, who have been friends forever. However, after Nina spends the summer away from Avery and Mel, things change between them. Nina has the best summer of her life, starting a relationship with Steve, which she's sure will last until they both start school at Stanford the following year. However, things between Avery and Mel have completely changed while Nina has been gone. When Nina discovers the two of them kissing, she knows that nothing between them will ever be the same.

This book was great for two reasons. First, I thought the way the characters interacted was accurate to how teenagers act, especially Nina. She becomes so obsessed with Steve, thinking that they'll be together forever, and this is something that I personally see in teenagers all of the time (especially those in high school). Those kind of people actually irritate me, so it was no surprise that I became irritated that Nina was so obsessed with Steve. It's kind of obvious from the beginning that the relationship won't work out, but Nina was so blind with her love that she didn't see that. But that's getting away from what I liked about this book. The second thing that made me like it was it was a portrayal of a lesbian relationship. Yes, the publishing industry has come a long way in publishing books with LGBTQ characters, but not necessarily in the way of lesbians. I was just reading an article for my final paper in my children's literature class, and the author said that the amount of lesbians presented in young adult literature hasn't been growing the way that gay characters has been, which I found really interesting. It's definitely something that I'll have to look into, because now I'm curious to see whether or not this author was correct.

On that note, I should probably get back to work, writing the paper mentioned earlier. I will have to let you know my findings for this paper, since I'm analyzing how the portrayal of gay characters in young adult literature has changed from 1969, when the first one was published, to now. It seems like it will be a very interesting paper. Until next time, happy reading! :)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Scorpio Races

What I like about Maggie Stiefvater's writing in general is the way she takes completely different spins on myths. For example, her Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy is a completely different spin on the werewolf myth. And it's refreshing. It's nice to read something like that every once in a while. Now, The Scorpio Races is based on the water horse myth, which isn't one that is as well-known, at least not to me. I didn't really know much about the myth going into the book, but after I finished it, I did a little research and found that Stiefvater once again changed the myth to fit her story and her characters. And I loved it.

The Scorpio Races is about two teenagers who live on the island of Thisby, a place that is only known to the world during the month of November, when the water horses come out. Once a year, men capture these horses (horses that could eat them, mind you) and race on them. Sean Kendrick, who lost his father in the races, has won 4 times, earning him a kind of respect around the island, despite his prickly demeanor. And he is ready to win again. Until Puck Connolly comes along. Puck is the first women to enter the races, throwing the island into a frenzy. Puck and Sean's lives collide, and what will happen is thrown to the fate of the race.

The first thing that caught my attention about this book was the first line: "It is the first day of November so, today, someone will die." How can you not want to keep reading after this line? Stiefvater draws you in, becuase you want to know why someone is going to die. What possibly could happen that this fact is so sure? And once you're drawn into this book, you will not want to put it down. Puck and Sean are such well developed characters that you really come to care about their fate. You want to keep reading because you want to know what happens to them. You want them both to win the races, but you know that's not possible, so you have to keep reading to know what happens. An excellent tactic to make the readers continue reading, and I definitely think this book fits the Printz honor that it won. Brilliant writing.

I think the only qualm I had about the book was it took me a little bit to really understand what the scorpio races actually were. While you don't necessarily want the author to just come out and explain them, it also shouldn't take such a long time to understand what is actually going on. I felt this could have been explained a little better at the beginning, and that might have drawn me even more into the story. But I love Stiefvater's writing style, she has a knack at describing a place so vividly, and having the tone of the novel match the setting. This last point is key, I think. I imagined Thisby to be this dreary, not very happy place because of the tone of Stiefvater's writing. I think that's brilliant. The way she writes really draws you into the story, and doesn't let you go until it's finished.

Next I will be reading Divergent by Veronica Roth. Another book I got from ALAN, actually. It looks to be an interesting book. Until next time, happy reading! :)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Phantom Tollbooth

I think I have mentioned before that I am taking a Children's Literature class this semester, which I am super pumped about! We get to read and talk about children's books all semester. What book lover wouldn't love that? Anyway, I have finished The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster for that class, and today we had a book discussion about it, so I thought I'd share it with you.

So The Phantom Tollbooth is about a kid named Milo who finds a tollbooth in his room one day and goes through it to a wonderful world. A world of words. Honestly, if you are a word lover, I guarantee you that you will love this book. There are so many different puns and plays on words, and it will just make your word-loving mind sigh with happiness. It is a lovely little kid's book that both kids and adults can enjoy. Those are the best kinds of books, aren't they?

Today in class we were discussing if there are all these little plays on words, how do kids understand all this? I think it's because kids understand more than we think they do. This book is a good example. While there are words and concepts that kids most definitely understand, when it comes to seeing the whole picture, that doesn't really matter. The kids can understand what Milo can understand. They may not catch all the jokes and such that Juster is making, but they still enjoy this make-believe world that he has created. They find all the different characters and creatures amusing, and the illustrations help them to understand what is going on in the novel. As an adult reading the book, we may have a better appreciation of what Juster was getting at with his puns and plays on words, and in having this appreciation, we appreciate this book more as a whole. We realize the craft that went into creating this book, and we become astounded when we learn Juster wasn't an author for a living. He was an architect. That in and of itself teaches a lesson as well. It shows kids, and adults, that they can achieve their dreams if they just work at it. This book is a timeless book, and I think it's definitely one that I'm going to introduce to my own kids some day.

Now I will get back to reading It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. I am enjoying it so far. I will let you know my complete opinions once I finish the book. :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Two for One

So today I have two books to talk about! Since I didn't have much to do this weekend, and I was very productive today (I don't know what got into me...) I had free time to read! And in that free time I finished both The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien and The Death Cure by James Dashner. Both were pretty good reads.

I'll start with The Hobbit. For those of you that don't know, which I'm guessing isn't that many, The Hobbit is the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it follows the adventures of Bilbo Baggins. In it, you figure out how Bilbo comes to have the Ring, and the adventures that ensued after he obtained it. I think I liked it about as much as I liked the Lord of the Rings. They're good books, but not necessarily ones that would be on my read again list. I think the thing that puts me off about these books is the amount that JRR Tolkien goes into detail. In a way, it kind of reminds me of Christopher Paolini. He includes details that aren't really necessary to the story, and that puts me off. I'd rather he just cut to the chase. Don't get me wrong, details are important in allowing a reader to fully imagine the scene that's going on in the story in their own mind. But to go into so much just bothers me. So yes. He's a good writer. But not at the top of my list.

Now The Death Cure is totally different from The Hobbit. It's the third book in the Maze Runner trilogy, and I'm glad that I know how it ends. The first two books ended in cliff hangers, and this one really brought everything full circle. It's hard to summarize The Death Cure without giving away what happened in the first two books, but I can give you the basic idea of what happens in the trilogy. It's a dystopian novel, set not too far into the future where human kind has acquired this disease called the Flare. The Flare makes people go completely crazy, and Thomas and his friends are the ones that have been chosen to help WICKED find a cure. But can they trust WICKED? That's something they struggle with until the very end.

What I like about these books is how action packed they are. There's never a dull moment, and James Dashner definitely gives you surprises along the way, and they're not always good ones. The novels are very fast paced, which means they're rather fast reads. Once you start, you really just want to know how it ends. Are they going to survive and find a cure? Or is the whole world going to perish because of this deadly disease? Those are the questions that drive the whole trilogy. The most disturbing thing about this novel, and any dystopian novel in general, is that if you think about it, it could actually happen. It's something that you could actually see happen in our society, and it makes you think about what you would do if you were placed in the same situation as the characters in the novel. Would you be as brave as them, or would you go into hiding, hoping to never catch the Flare? And honestly, you'd probably surprise yourself if  you were in the same situation. People don't really know how they'll react unless they're placed in life or death situations. It's scary to think about. And hopefully we'll never have to be placed in situations like that.

Well enough of that for now. Next I'll be reading It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. Until next time, happy reading!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Back to School

So I started classes again today, and this semester is looking to be just as busy as the last one. Which will mean less fun reading for me. But, on the plus side, I am taking a children's literature class, which means I won't be completely missing out on reading! I know it's dorky to be excited that I'll get to read kid's books for a class, but I am. It'll be fun! And more interesting than some of the things I've read for classes for sure. I'll have to blog about those books too :)

Anyway, before I came back to school, I finished The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima. An exciting read! This is the third book in the Seven Realms Series, and I'm not exactly sure how many books are going to actually be in the series. Possibly 7, but who knows? The number of books in a series changes all the time. All I know is there definitely is going to be another one. Sure things got resolved in this one, but there is so much more that needs to be fixed. Plus Chima said that she was working on the next book on her website.

You're probably wondering what this series is exactly about. The Demon King (the first book in the series) started out following two different characters, Raisa and Han. Raisa is the princess heir of the Fells kingdom. But things are getting complicated. Ever since the Breaking, a war that happened way in the past and forced wizards from having any kind of royal power, wizards haven't been able to hold the throne. But it seems like the Bayars, a well known wizard family, are trying to change that. And Raisa may be in danger. Han is a thieving street lord, steeling things to support his mother and sister. He spends his summers with the clan folk, hunting and such. However, there's something odd about him. Ever since he was a baby, he's had these metal cuffs on his wrists. His mother said it was to save his life as a baby. But recently, it seems like there might be a different reason. But what?

Basically, a whole lot of events unfold between then and the second book that bring Han and Raisa together. And then even more crazy and complicated things come between then and the second book, bringing basically the entire nation into a war. It's an exciting plot that always leaves the reader guessing. But surprisingly isn't that difficult to follow. I found that I always knew what was going on, even though things started to become more and more complicated. I think that it helps that it's told from both Raisa's and Han's point of view. That way you get all the angles for the story.

What I like about Chima's work (because I absolutely adore her Heir Trilogy. If you haven't read it, you should. Start with The Warrior Heir. It's fantastic) is that she creates these awesome worlds that almost seem like they could exist. Maybe not so much with the Seven Realms books, because it's a completely different world. But with her Heir books, it almost seems like they could be real, because she weaves the world of the Roses into our own. But that's for another time. The Seven Realms novels are definitely worth giving a look at. I'm positive that you won't be disappointed.

What am I reading next? Since I won't be able to read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green because it's being sent to my house in Holland, I'm reading The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. It should be just as good.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Finally the End!

The end of the Inheritance Cycle has finally come! It seems like it has been forever since I read Eragon for the first time, and now I finally know how his story finishes. And I must say, I have mixed feelings about the book. Overall I thought it was good, a good way to end the trilogy-turned-into-four-books. There were no loose ends left, and if there was, I would have been amazed because it is an 860 page novel. But then again, he did have a lot of loose ends to tie up. But, like I said, he did a good job of making sure the reader knew how everything happened and how everything ended.

For anyone who doesn't know, the Inheritance Cycle follows a farmer boy named Eragon who becomes a Dragon Rider. The series is the chronical to when his dragon, Saphira, first hatches for him, to the final battle with the evil King Gallabatorix, who is also a Dragon Rider and is the reason that the Riders are gone and the dragons are nearly extinct. Eragon meets all sorts of creatures along the way, elves, dwarves, urgals, and they all weave their own story into Eragon's. In Inheritance, the final battle is looming, but will the Varden (the rebel group) be able to defeat Gallabatorix? You'll have to read to find out.

Here's the thing that irks me about this series. Yes, Christopher Paolini is an amazing writer and the world that came from his mind is absolutely breath-taking. He also creates good, complex characters that all have their own background story, and it's almost always something interesting. But I feel like there was a lot that he could have cut down on. There was one thing that really got on my nerves while I was reading the story. Eragon has a sword named Brisingr (hence the name for the third book, Brisingr), and when he utters that word, his sword bursts into flames. Every time Eragon made fire with magic, he said that he avoided using "Brisingr" so his sword wouldn't light up. He did this a lot. After the first time it isn't really necessary to say that, in my opinion. The reader gets that his sword lights on fire, and that fact isn't going to change from beginning to end. There wasn't a need to keep saying it every single time. I don't really know why that irritated me so much, but it just did. 

While I thought I could kind of predict where the series was going to go (the inevitable battle with Gallabatorix, and somehow Murtagh would be involved) I give Paolini credit in that he included some twists that I didn't see coming. I won't mention what they are, but I thought they were well placed and added a lot to the story. Also, once you get to the battle scene in the end (everyone knows that's going to happen, right?) the book is darn near impossible to put down. While the battle goes on for a while (Paolini is very descriptive), you just have to know how it ends right away. And since so much action is going on, it's almost impossible to find a good place to stop at that point. Stopping would mean leaving yourself hanging for a while. I think this made the wait for the ending almost okay, but I'm still a bit irritated it took him so long to finish the books. But I finally know how it ends. And I'm happy with it.

So, what will I be reading next? The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima. Should be a good one!