12 Nov 2011

DELIRIUM - LAUREN OLIVER

SUMMARY
They say that the cure for love will make me happy and safe forever. And I've always believed them. Until now. Now everything has changed. Now, I'd rather be infected with love for the tiniest sliver of a second than live a hundred years suffocated by a lie. There was a time when love was the most important thing in the world. People would go to the end of the earth to find it. They would tell lies for it. Even kill for it. Then, at last, they found the cure.

REVIEW
This book is marketed mainly at adults but is actually an adult/YA crossover with a particularly YA dystopian theme and feel. I know it has been extremely popular and as such felt compelled to read it.

I have to say I was rather disappointed. I believe it has been marketed as an adult novel because it is more philosophical than action-packed and there were a number of times when I actually found my thoughts drifting off to other things. It's hard not to compare it to novels like Matched by Ally Condie, which have almost the same storyline but seems to be more successful - it has the same philosophical feel with action that fires up towards the end but does it in half the page count.

I felt like Oliver repeats her sentiments over and over again and I became very bored with this very quickly. It's most redeeming feature, though, is its brutality. The beatings of the raids and the end... well fortunately the end makes the whole book worth reading. 

This book is about how much we would sacrifice for our freedom, how important the lows are in life because they afford us the highs. In addition it's also a criticism on how science is developing and our ability to change not only our looks but our personality and attributes too. 


HE'S AFTER ME - CHRIS HIGGINS

SUMMARY
His smile faded and our eyes held and that's when it happened. A charge passed through me, like an electric shock. Anna meets Jem when her life is falling apart. He is everything Anna needs him to be. Her dad may have run off with a younger woman, her mum may be a wreck and her younger sister, Livi, is swerving off the rails - but as long as she has Jem, Anna will be OK. And for the first time in her life Anna falls. Deeply and truly and intensely in love. The end? Not quite...

REVIEW
Every now and again you read a book that knocks you off your feet. You can't put it down, and when you finally have to because it's finished, it still runs through your head.

I don't know if I liked this book because I can relate to it, because it's set in set in the UK with an education system that I understand, or because I loved how intense it is. One thing I do know is that I could read this book over and over and still be excited by it.

Anyone who has had that first love, the whirlwind romance that makes you forget everyone and everything around you, will understand and 'get' this book. You're first love is usually so intense and so captivating that you don't get a chance to take a look around you before you even take a breath. 

Anna and Jem's relationship is this. 

Anna thinks it's hard to imagine Jem, the boy shes loves over everyone can do any wrong, especially when he makes her feel like a princess. But there are two sides to every person and love can change you. Anna starts to lose sight of what is right and wrong and only what makes Jem happy, but Jem isn't wholly good for her. She stops listening to what her family tell her about him and heads straight into disaster.

Interspersed between the chapters is an internal monologue by an unknown character. It's pretty easy to guess who that is, but there is always a part of you that thinks, no. It can't be. And the final twist is like a slow motion car crash; you know it's coming but when it hits it's still like dunking your head in cold water.

CLOCKWORK ANGEL - CASSANDRA CLARE

SUMMARY
Magic is dangerous – but love is more dangerous still... When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray arrives in England during the reign of Queen Victoria, something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural fold stalk the gaslit streets. Friendless and hunted, Tessa seeks refuge with the Shadowhunters, a band of warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons. Drawn ever deeper into their world, she finds herself fascinated by – and torn between – two best friends and quickly realizes that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

REVIEW
First of all, for those of you who may have lived underground for the last few years, Clockwork Angel is the first book in the new Infernal Devices series, a spin off from the Mortal Instruments series that follows the lives of Shadowhunters- humans with Angel blood that govern over downworlders (vampires, werewolves etc) that live in our world.

I'm going to try not to talk too much about the Mortal Instruments but it is rather difficult considering both series are set in different time periods in the same world and parallel each other in many ways. For example, the main premise in the beginning of the Mortal Instruments is that Clary's overprotected life begins to unravel and become entangled with the Shadowhunter world and she gets taken in by their Institute. Similarly, in the beginning in the Infernal Devices series Tessa is sent from her normal life in London and ends up being kidnapped by those rebelling against the Shadowhunters, and as expected, Tessa ends up living in the London version of the Institute. All characters begin to mirror each other and we can only expect this is because all the traits of the families in the Infernal Devices will be passed down to their offspring in Mortal Instruments.

Having said this the story line in Clockwork Angel is quite captivating and a must read for anyone who enjoys Steampunk. The whole automaton army is a Steampunk dream and even Clare's vision on London is covered in a slightly changed Industrial veil. 

I highly recommend reading at least the first 2 Mortal Instruments before you read this because it gives away the secrets behind the creations of Shadowhunter equipment, like to Sensor - not that this will ruin any of the story line but is just a little more fun.

You also get to meet the very 'young' Magnus Bane, which is pretty cool, and I expect that this series is going to get better and better. It's dark, haunting and full of danger, not to mention brilliant characters, twists and settings.

6 Nov 2011

CITY OF ASHES - CASSANDRA CLARE

THIS IS BOOK TWO OF THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS SERIES AND MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS OF THE FIRST BOOK.

SUMMARY
With her mother in a coma and her father hell-bent on destroying the world, Clary is dragged deeper into New York's terrifying underworld of werewolves, demons and the mysterious Shadowhunters. Discovering the truth about her past was only the beginning, now Clary must save the world from her own father - the rogue Shadowhunter Valentine.

With two of the Mortal Instruments at his command, Valentine is assembling an army of demons to wage war on the council of Shadowhunters and destroy them once and for all. As the battle begins, Clary must face her darkest fears - and come to terms with her feelings for a boy she wishes wasn't her brother.

REVIEW
I'm a big fan of the Mortal Instruments series; it has great characters, great settings and, even if somewhat far-fetched in places (even for a fantasy novel) a good and complex story line.

One of the things I have really come to love about this series is how gritty it is, the fighting and action is pretty graphic in places and certainly grows in this book. It shows a real sense of danger which is important to ground the reader. The threat to the Shadowhunters is real, regardless of age, and is both physical and psychological. It gives a depth to the growth of the characters, and a series this long gives the chance to do this well. Relationships and friendships between certain characters strengthen or fall through, and more importantly (especially for the spin-off The Infernal Devices series) you get a real sense of history. The world Clare creates is so wonderfully complex it gives the story line an infinite number of places to go, and that keeps you guessing as to the direction the story will take.

Clary is still our guide through the strange, almost parallel world, which is great considering you're constantly finding out new pasts and information that can be slightly bewildering - at some points some of the new surprises are even better than in the first book. The reader becomes as engrossed in the world as Clarey is entangled in it. Her ability to move between the Shadowhunter world and and what we would see as the 'real', or natural world, is another grounding feature and is really helpful for a fantasy novel.

If you enjoyed the first you will like this too. I'm still a little weirded out between Clarey and Jace's strange and still growing relationship, but I think we all have our theories about that...

22 Aug 2011

MATCHED - ALLY CONDIE

SUMMARY
On her seventeenth birthday, Cassia meets her Match. Society dictates he is her perfect partner for life. Except he's not. In Cassia's society, Officials decide who people love. How many children they have. Where they work. When they die. But, as Cassia finds herself falling in love with another boy, she is determined to make some choices of her own. And that's when her whole world begins to unravel...

REVIEW
Matched is an intense story about the power of freedoms. It boils down what we take for granted, like the use of words, or little mementos we keep. It asks us who we become when we have no history and no real memories - or even control over who we fall in love with. There are no personal freedoms in Cassia's society.

The story plays out between Xander, a boy that Cassia is official 'Match' with at her Matching ceremony, and Ky - the boy who's picture accidentally appears on the screen instead of Xander. What makes all of these characters so brilliant is their resilience; they are strong and push the narrative along by the slightest of actions, and the smallest of words. Cassia herself is a brilliant heroine and you really do see her develop from a youngster who follows everything the society says to a budding adult, questioning both her emotions and actions.

Dystopian fiction at its best, Matched is both thrilling and worrying. It shows what happens when we allow our freedoms to be taken away for the sake of an easy life, and how difficult it can be to regain that. Condie masters the art of language in this book. It is perfectly crafted and will make you think.

9 Aug 2011

FORBIDDEN - JANA OLIVER

THIS IS THE SECOND BOOK IN THE DEMON TRAPPERS SERIES AND MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS OF THE FIRST BOOK.

SUMMARY
Riley's beginning to think being a demon trapper isn't all it's cracked up to be. Her dad's been stolen by a necromancer, her boyfriend's gone all weird and she's getting warm and fuzzy feelings for someone who's seriously bad news. It's tempting to give it all up and try to be normal, but that's not an option. Because the demons have plans for Riley. And they're not the only ones.

REVIEW
Whenever I really enjoy a book that is part of a series I always pray that the rest will be as good. Forbidden does not let you down. This, the second book in the series has a bit of everything (apart really from much demon trapping, ironically). The plot moves quickly, changing narrators keeping it fresh and interesting, easily incorporating supernatural elements but making it simultaneously realistic.

Riley's love triangle (or square?) is completely one I would love to be a part of, except for mainly Simon, because I think he's a little boring, but in terms of message his viewpoint is necessarily incorporated. His struggle with the omniscience of God is both topical and important, in real life and in terms of the story. Ori and Beck on the other hand... they're the kinda guys I read teen books for. Both bad boys in their own ways, both unbelievably gorgeous (in my head, obviously). Ori develops as this smooth, perfect dream man, where as Beck is the damaged, straight-talking, angsty-type boy. Which would you go for? Only one will break your heart.

However, there are so many more important things that these books deal with than simply which is the hotter guy. For instance, its take on morality is so interesting. If you've ever read any of the House of Night series you'll know that its take on morality is so blindingly straight forward. Good is good, and Evil can be good if they beg and plead and promise to bring down those who tempted them to be evil in the first place. But the Demon Trappers series is brilliantly complex. Morality is so merged, so relentlessly intertwined, and so subjective.

5 Aug 2011

PARALNORMALCY - KIERSTEN WHITE

REVIEW
Sixteen-year-old Evie has always taken comfort in the fact that she is normal, even though her best friend is a mermaid and her ex-boyfriend is a lunatic -- and a faery. In a world where paranormals are monitored and controlled, Evie works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency because of her unique ability to see through glamours. But someone -- or something -- starts killing vampires, werewolves and other paranormals, and Evie must figure out what's happening before they all disappear. Then a shapeshifter named Lend breaks into the agency, and Evie is irresistibly drawn to him, even though he makes her aware that the IPCA is not as noble as she once thought. With everything Evie believes suddenly called into question, the IPCA is attacked and she must choose who she can really trust. And when Evie discovers she's part of a faerie prophecy of death and destruction! so much for normal.

SUMMARY
Paranormalcy is the story of a girl who really just wants to be normal, but the fact that she can see through people's glamour makes her a prime tool of the government. Evie is hilarious, honestly. She may be the funniest character that I have read so far. I think that is one of the things that makes this book so good, whenever she is going through tough times she always uses humour to lighten the mood.

When Lend breaks in to the agency Evie's life is turned upside down - he represents what she would be if she ever considered herself a Paranormal: he's the same age and has the same confident and self-assured mindset, and, because he's a shapeshifter, sometimes literally becomes a mirror image of Evie, showing her how she would look leading his life. But Evie starts to realise that people who save you from the truth can be doing you a disservice, and she has reached the age where she wants all the facts so she can reach a decision as to who she is by herself.

What starts of as a very controlled life for Evie soon bleeds into Lend's chaotic life, and she soon realises that being 'normal' isn't always the best way of life. It's about what makes you happy. Paranormalcy is truely as story about growing up and taking the steps to become the person you want to be whilst learning to live with the person you really are. It's exciting, unpredictable and a really worthwhile read.

TEXAS GOTHIC - ROSEMARY CLEMENT-MOORE

SUMMARY
This is a spooky, electrifying love story. Amy Goodnight's family are far from normal. She comes from a long line of witches, and grew up surrounded by benevolent spirits and kitchen spells. All fairly harmless, but Amy can't wait to get to college and escape the 'family business'. But things take a darker turn when she and her sister Phin spend the summer looking after Aunt Hyacinth's ranch. Amy is visited by a midnight spectre who is clearly trying to send her a message. It seems that the discovery of an old grave on a neighbour's land has been the catalyst for an apparent ghost uprising. Aided by local friends and Ben, the handsome cowboy who just can't take his eyes off Amy, the sisters investigate. And they soon find that there's something strange and dangerous going on, deep in the heart of Texas...

REVIEW
Texas Gothic is the first book of this new trend of reviving the old 'southern Gothic' and I can't say I'm against it. The setting of the Texas hills is so exotic from me as I live in the centre of urban England so I was initially fascinated by that. The premise of the books itself is also pretty unique; it's like Charmed meets CSI and it works out pretty well.

While their Aunt is away Amy and Phin look after their Aunt's ranch. Their whole family are witches with individual powers, whilst Amy has subconciously rejected hers and becomes the family's 'liason', who keeps the outside world from truely believing that they do magic. Whilst at the ranch the neighbouring farm accidently uncover a skeleton whilst digging to build a new bridge. 

I don't want to give away too much more because the story is pretty intricate and yet easily unravelled so instead I'll tell you about the characters. Amy is really sweet; though young she is strong minded and sharp-tongued but still rather laid back compard to her older sister Phinn. Phinn studies the Paranormal at University and is in essence a Paranormal scientist. This is one of the reasons I was attracted to the book because I love the ideas of Spiritualism (although both Amy and Phinn actually know that ghosts exist because their Uncle is still haunting the Ranch). 

Texas Gothic is great fun: it's amusing, it's sweet and it shows how important family is, but also how dangerous family feuds can become. It's quick-paced and interesting, and you're never really sure where the plot is going to go next.

FORSAKEN - JANA OLIVER

SUMMARY
Riley has always wanted to be a Demon Trapper like her father, and she's already following in his footsteps as one of the best. But it's tough being the only girl in an all-guy world, especially when three of those guys start making her life more complicated: Simon, the angelic apprentice who has heaven on his side; Beck, the tough trapper who thinks he's God's gift, and Ori, the strikingly sexy stranger who keeps turning up to save her ass. One thing's for sure if she doesn't keep her wits about her there'll be hell to pay ...

REVIEW
For a long time I felt that YA Paranormal romance was becoming the same, repetitive sludge that I really wanted to avoid. And then I read Forsaken. I'd put off reading it for awhile because of the fear of being disappointed but I couldn't have been more wrong. From the first page I was hooked. Before I start my twinkly-eyed speech about Beck I'll tell you a little about the plot.

Riley is the daughter of Paul Blackthorne, Demon Trapper extraordinaire. When something happens to him out trapping one day, Riley is left to pick herself up and carry on her Trapper family name. Whilst fighting against a dystopian future that sees everything rationed and controlled by the Vatican (apparently the leading authority on the Devil and his minions) Riley finds out that not everything is what it seems within the Trapper circles. 

Jana Oliver is brilliant at scenery and character development, and please, let me come on to Beck! I love this bad boy, more than I loved Jace from the Mortal Instruments series, more than I love Sam from Shiver. He is a Southern hottie with a beautiful drawl, and even my Feminist side says he can call me 'girl' any time. He's an older man, mid-twenties, and probably too old for Riley, but oh so much more perfect than her fellow Trapper apprentice 'boyfriend'.

Anyway, with the fangirl-rant over, I can finally tell you that this is a series that I'm really excited about. I was devastated to finish this first book, especially as Ori doesn't really appear until the end and I can just tell he's going to give Beck a run for his money. I don't think many people would be disappointed with this series. Oh, and the demon's reminded me of the aliens from Men in Black.

LOOKING FOR ALASKA - JOHN GREEN

SUMMARY
First drink, first prank, first friend, first girl, last words! A poignant and moving novel about making friends and growing up. Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words -- and tired of his safe, boring and rather lonely life at home. He leaves for boarding school filled with cautious optimism, to seek what the dying poet Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps." Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska pulls Miles into her labyrinth and catapults him into the Great Perhaps. Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another.

REVIEW
I first picked up Looking For Alaska after being commanded to by someone at work, and actually I'm pretty glad I did. It didn't initially blow me away but it grew on me and as I got deeper and deeper into the story I desperately wanted to know what this main even was. The story is split into two halves; BEFORE and AFTER. You might guess what the event is before you get to it, but it won't make it less poignant.

The book centres around Miles, or 'Pudge', who is very much like Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye. He's a clever boy, not particularly a misfit but would rather have more intellegent friends than the people he knows at school, so he follows in his fathers footsteps and enrolls at Culver Creek school. There he meets his room mate, the Colonel, and Alaska, the beautiful, smart and mesmerising girl-on-campus.

What I loved most about this book is that it teaches you and makes you think, and for that I think it should be a staple book of any teenagers reading. At it's heart it is a philosophical exploration of friendship, grief and our place in the universe. Through school we are supposed to learn about how the world thinks, how religion builds who we are and how we deal with the inexplicable things in life. It's also about seizing the moment, and how you never really know who someone is without knowing the events that have built them.

Though this book may not change you life, I do believe it will give you a new perspective on things. Maybe even you will search for your own 'Great Perhaps' out there someday.

27 Apr 2011

CATCHING FIRE - SUZANNE COLLINS

THIS IS THE SECOND BOOK IN THE HUNGER GAMES SERIES AND MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS OF THE FIRST BOOK.

SUMMARY
After winning the brutal Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen returns to her district, hoping for a peaceful future. But Katniss starts to hear rumours of a deadly rebellion against the Capitol. A rebellion that she and Peeta have helped to create. As Katniss and Peeta are forced to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. Unless Katniss and Peeta can convince the world that they are still lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying. This is the terrifying sequel to "The Hunger Games".

REVIEW
If you have read The Hunger Games, the first book in this trilogy then I'm sure you were shocked by the events of this book just as much as I. I never know how this series is going to carry on, I always find my self at a crossroads and can't imagine what the path ahead will look like.

The beginning of the book is somewhat slow, it has to be said, but they were seeds and morsals of information that had to be put in place for the benefit of the reader and are therefore excusable in my view. You see even more how much the Capitol controls the lives of its people, even the money that Katniss recieves on winning the Hunger Games comes with the knowledge that depending on what happens with the next games, Katniss would always be involved in the wanton killing of other people. Its details like this that shows just how strong a dystopian novel it is.

3 Mar 2011

LINGER - MAGGIE STIEFVATER

THIS IS THE SECOND BOOK IN THE MERCY FALLS SERIES AND MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS OF THE FIRST BOOK.

SUMMARY
In "Shiver", Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in "Linger", they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping dangerous secrets. For Sam, it means grappling with his werewolf past ...and figuring out a way to survive the future. But just when they manage to find happiness, Grace finds herself changing in ways she could never have expected...

REVIEW
I really liked this book, for a sequel it had just about the right amount of old and new, both in characters and storyline. It takes you to new places while examining the backstory of the newest character Cole, who I really enjoyed hating. Sometimes it is easy to forget just how young he is supposed to be when you learn about his extreme drug use, but instead of finding it repetitive (as I probably normally would have) it actually made the way his character develops all the more interesting.

One of the major things I liked about Linger,and indeed Shiver, is how it is also a rather philosophical text. They're not just, 'oh you're a werewolf but I love you anyway', it really asks you what it is that makes us human, what distinguishes us from animals, and how we deal with the things that happen in our lives. Sam is inspirational in this sense, even though I find him at times to be a little too emotional, he thrives on life and sees the beauty in what we take for granted. I also really loved the use of Rilke, who's poetry gives Lingerand Shiver a more literary edge, and as I said about 0.4 introducing younger readers to critical writing and language, Stiefvater introduces her readers to beautiful poetry that in this age of pulp fiction, soaps and reality TV is becoming lost.

Without giving too much away, I enjoyed the switching of roles in Linger, and how Sam's character comes to the foreground as he tries to take care of Grace. At times it took me a few moments to adjust to the amount of voices (well ok, all 4..) but that was fine, the cocophony of voice made the writing deeper somehow, more interesting to follow more than one type of 'couple'. Isabelle also develops and becomes more of a contester as one of my favourites.

I don't think people will be disappointed by this book; it doesn't pack the punch that the first does in some respects, but in terms of the characters and the message it is just as good as, if not better than, Shiver.

27 Feb 2011

0.4 - MIKE LANCASTER

SUMMARY
One day Kyle Straker volunteers to be hypnotised by his friend at the annual talent show. When he wakes up the whole town is frozen, even thought time is still moving. Kyle needs to find out what is happening to his friends, family, and the rest of the entire town.

REVIEW
I don't really have a whole lot to say about this book. It left me feeling underwhelmed but not disappointed to the point where I didn't enjoy it. I felt that it completely underrated itself and could have benefited from being longer and more in-depth.

There is a lot of YA dystopian fiction out there at the moment and this book is perched in the middle. Not bad but... average. I loved the set up; I loved that it is recorded through audio tapes and has notes where (mainly) fictional critics have tried to analyse our present, such as figures of popular culture that have since become redundant. It's actually a great way in introduce younger readers (and older alike) to the way that critics write in journals. These sections also bring humour to a book that should really be rather terrifying and i think it's this that lowers the reading level from YA to teen. The writing itself also felt rather more fragmented than it needed to be.

There isn't really much to it; I know it's supposed to 304 pages, but most of that is blank space if I'm honest. Still, in terms of plot it is certainly worth reading. I would say that it will excite younger teen readers who love aliens and computers and just generally being weirded out, I think they can gain a lot of reading experience from it. I just feel a little bit spoiled from The Hunger Games.

THE HUNGER GAMES - SUZANNE COLLINS

SUMMARY
The Hunger Games are a reality TV show put on by the Capitol to remind the 12 districts that surround it that they are in charge. Each district enters 1 boy and 1 girl, randomly chosen from name entries in big balls. And only person can win the games, meaning that all the other contestants have to die. Katniss's sister, Prim, is initally picked for the games but Katniss voluteers to take her place.

REVIEW
This book absolutely blew me away. Katniss is an amazing character, complex, clever, honest, humble and most importantly of all, she's relentlessly tough. I wish I had her knowledge. Through her character Collins highlights everything that the majority of Western humanity has forgotten about how we used to live. Katniss knows how to hunt, cook, find water, heal - everything that we used to know about survival. She crosses this instinctive knowledge with the fake flamboyancy of reality TV. 

This book had something happening all the time and is a fantastic page-turner. From the opening stages of the games where Katniss and her 'tribute' parter Peeta Mallark are introduced properly to the public, through to the games themselves. I had no idea, couldn't even guess, how the games were going to play out, and I'm willing to bet that no-one could guess at the entire plot. I didn't ever want to stop reading, to the point when I skipped desert at a meal so I could get home quicker to read...

Collins has a lot to say about humanity about what we'll watch for entertainment and about the extremes of our societies and a lot of that message is actually built and explored through the events of the book and I don't want to give too much away (although if anyone wants to email me I'm more than happy to chat about it!). There is a kind of love story but no sex, and even the violence isn't too much for a book that is essentially about death. It's more about psychological constructs, about how it is both our nature and nurture that make us who we are, but also what we know and what we experience. It explores compassion, bravery, trust and need. 

This is just amazing, and really sets the bar for YA fiction. I have no doubt that this book will become a children's classic, and so it should. And for anyone who is looking for a way to reading YA from adult that doesn't feel hopelessly mindless, this is your in. Read it, enjoy it, love it. Everyone. Please!

18 Feb 2011

THE CURSED ONES - NANCY HOLDER & DEBBIE VIGUIE

SUMMARY
The Cursed Ones, or vampires, have made their presence known to mankind. They promised to help bring peace to the world but then declared war on humanity. The identity of their leader is unknown. Most people are too afraid or unwillingly to take a stand against them. Others, like eighteen-year-old Jenn Leitner, train secretly to become vampire fighters and risk everything in the process. Alongside her is fellow Hunter, Antonio de la Cruz. But Antonio has a secret - he is a vampire fighting on the side of humanity. Jenn must battle with her hatred of all things vampire, and her love for Antonio. For together only they can bring light into the darkness the vampires have drawn over the face of the planet...

REVIEW
The main gist of this story (which will be drummed into you head by the time you've finished) is that an academy in Spain trains people to become hunters to try to rid the world of its overpopulation of vampires. The main team, mentored by Father Juan the priest consists of Jamie, northern-irish military man, hell-bent on destroying everyone in his way. Eriko, the Japanese Buddhist who is the leader of the team. Sky, the English White Witch that can do magick. Holgar, the Dutch werewolf who sometimes attacks people by scratching and biting them. Antonio, the vampire in the team that is impervious to crosses, garlic, churches and all other things that are supposed to upset vampires, and the love of his life, Jenn, the normal American girl who's parents aren't too happy about her being in Spain, and who's Grandparents used to be part of a resistance.

9 Feb 2011

ENTANGLED - CAT CLARKE

SUMMARY
The same questions whirl round and round in my head: What does he want from me? How could I have let this happen? AM I GOING TO DIE? 17-year-old Grace wakes up in a white room, with table, pens and paper - and no clue how she got there. As Grace pours her tangled life onto the page, she is forced to remember everything she's tried to forget. There's falling hopelessly in love with the gorgeous Nat, and the unravelling of her relationship with her best friend Sal. But there's something missing. As hard as she's trying to remember, is there something she just can't see? Grace must face the most important question of all. Why is she here? A story of dangerous secrets, intense friendships and electrifying attraction.

REVIEW
Summing this book up without giving too much away is actually pretty difficult. As the blurb says, the book starts with Grace waking up in a completely white room with nothing to do but write with the pens and paper that have been provided for her. She is looked after and watched over by Ethan, who's only real part in the narrative is to spur Grace on to continue her story, which switches between her time in the room and the events leading up to it. There are two other main characters, Sal - her best friend, and Nat, who becomes her boyfriend. It's also a story of how easy it is to become 'entangled' in other people's lives, sometimes without even realising.

I really didn't want to like this book. When I started reading it I hated Grace, she was the kind of girl that I would have avoided like the plague at school - she's an underage drinker who sleeps with anything that moves. But thinking back, that isn't fair to her. I found myself finding things that I liked about her, she's fiercely loyal to her best friend Sal, and she uses falling in love as a reason to start her life over. And I think this is what makes me like the book so much - I took her to heart, and actually wanted to protect her from herself. I can hear you all saying 'she's just a character!' but you can see her downfall coming before she does, and it's heartbreaking. To the point where I was going to cry whilst reading the end on the train.

7 Feb 2011

SOULLESS - GAIL CARRIGER

SUMMARY
Alexia Tarabotti is labouring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette. Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire - and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Or will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart? SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.

REVIEW
I absoluely ADORED this book. Think of Jane Austen; her wit, her characters and settings, and add in the freedom of a 21st century writer, vampires, werewolves and a host of other species, and what you'll have is the Parasol Protectorate series. The characters are happily flawed, especially Alexia Tarabotti herself, who's half Italian tan skin 'pales' in comparison to the fair Victorian trend.

This is the first Steampunk novel that I've ever read, but to be honest there wasn't that many Steampunk elements. There were, of course, some fantastic machines, like the one that can make a you a cup of tea while you're happily rolling along in your carriage. It's rather a travesty that modern cars can't do this yet. Having said this, it's only the first in the series and I fully expect to see the machinery to grow. 

28 Jan 2011

CITY OF BONES - CASSANDRA CLARE

SUMMARY
Sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is an ordinary teenager, who likes hanging out in Brooklyn with her friends. But everything changes the night she witnesses a murder, committed by a group of teens armed with medieval weaponry. The murderous group are Shadowhunters, secret warriors dedicated to driving demons out of this dimension and back into their own. Drawn inexorably into a terrifying world, Clary slowly begins to learn the truth about her family - and the battle for the fate of the world.

REVIEW
When sitting down to write a review I try to think of the most brief way to sum the story up without giving away too many of the plot twists, but no matter how hard I try I can't think of anything suitable for City of Bones. The story starts with a small web and weaves its way around you until your completely trapped and enthralled.

Anyway, enough confusing metaphors. You know what the most simple thing is that I love about this book? The array of creatures. I didn't think I was really interested in demons until I read The Demon's Lexicon, same as I really didn't think I would like werewolves until I read Shiver. But I do love them all. I really do. And I love that the book is not concerned with a massively soppy romance, but at the same time I love Jace and would rather like to kiss him vicariously through another character...

The characters themselves are brilliantly crafted, not massively stereotyped or morally black and white, but confused, unpredictable and actually really funny. Clary, the main female that the narrative follows, isn't my most favourite of heroines, but I could grow to like her. She has great self control, even though she's naive at times. She follows her heart and stands up for her beliefs, but she still wavers in her own optimism. I like that. There are so many different characters but they don't get confused; they don't represent certain elements of a personality like the characters in The House of Night series, they are their own people, and each relateable in their own ways.

26 Jan 2011

EVERNIGHT - CLAUDIA GRAY

SUMMARY
A lonely girl, a beautiful boy and a load of terrifying vampires. Think you've seen it before? Well get ready for a shock, because this is paranormal romance with a twist! and a razor-sharp bite. Welcome to Evernight school. Don't chew gum. Don't feed on humans. Try not to die! Bianca is devastated when she finds herself uprooted from her small town and sent to Evernight Academy, an elite boarding school. Hidden in the woods, there's something more than a little creepy about her mysterious new home!

Soon Bianca discovers she could never fit in with the Evernight students -- they're just too sleek, sophisticated and beautiful to be real. Just when Bianca has resigned herself to being lonely forever, she meets Lucas -- an outcast like Bianca, even if he's way too hot to possibly be interested in her. Lucas is on a mission to uncover the secret behind Evernight Academy -- but he has his own secrets, and so does Bianca. Both of them are about to discover that secrets can be very dangerous things, and that a simple kiss can change your life forever! or end it.

REVIEW
Evernight follows the life of Bianca Oliver as she tries to fit in with her new life at the Evernight boarding school.

This book is not particularly bad; the characters are ok, the setting is enjoyable and there is at least a bit of action. Despite all this it didn't really catch my imagination. If I'm completely honest, I was bored, and I think the fact that there isn't even that much to hate about the book makes it worse somehow.

22 Jan 2011

BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS - KAMI GARCIA & MARGARET STOHL

THIS IS BOOK TWO OF THE BEAUTIFUL CREATURES SERIES AND MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS OF THE FIRST BOOK.

SUMMARY
One night in the rain, Ethan Wate opened his eyes and fell in love with Lena Duchannes. His life would never be the same. Lena is a Caster and her family is locked in a supernatural civil war: full of darkness and demons. On her sixteenth birthday Lena made a terrifying choice, which now haunts her day and night. And as her seventeenth birthday approaches Lena and Ethan face even greater danger. A Caster and a Mortal can never truly be together. Every kiss is a curse. Ethan's next heartbeat could be his last. It is their curse now...

REVIEW
Beautiful Darkness is the second book in this series, and just as amazing as the first. The series follows Ethan, a Mortal, help his Caster girlfriend Lena claim herself as either a follower of Light or Darkness. Actually, this makes the plot sound a lot more simple and boring than it really is. It's not though, the twists and turns are completely gripping.

Firstly, Ethan is awesome. I mean, the kind of guy that any girl would die for without being overly soppy. Secondly, I predicted very little of the events, and for me that makes it a fantastic book. Lets face it, with most YA books we know what's going to happen, every genre has its stock features, but the Caster Chronicles is something of its own; almost like a detective story, where everyone but you and Ethan are in on the secrets. It's the perfect balance of heartche and amusement, and - and this really is the most important part for me - they haven't make the British character too stereotypical.

I would encourage everyone of every age to read this series, it's so much fun and so enjoyable. Lets face it- that's everything we want from a YA book, isn't it?

17 Jan 2011

MARKED - P.C. & KIRSTEN CAST

SUMMARY
When sixteen-year-old Zoey Redbird gets Marked as a fledgling vampire she must join the House of Night school where she will train to become an adult vampire. That is, if she makes it through the Change. But Zoe is no ordinary fledgling. She has been chosen as special by the Goddess Nyx and discovers her amazing new power to conjure the elements: earth, air, fire, water and spirit. When Zoey discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school's most elite group, is misusing her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look within herself to embrace her destiny - with a little help from her new vampire friends. Not suitable for younger readers.

REVIEW
It is really difficult to write a review for this book after reading the rest of the series because I am rather tainted by my dissaffection for the later books. However, because these books are so popular and I always seem so negative towards it, I want you to see that it all actually started so promisingly...

Marked is perhaps one of my favourite of the series, and really caught my attention. I bought it about two years ago after reading Rachel Caine's Glass Houses and was in search of something similar. While their stock features are almost the same, the Cast's writing style is nowhere near as good but I still raved about it, probably because of how much potential it holds. I do believe in the benefit of the doubt.

I loved learning about how the House of Night worked, the legal emancipation, the hierachy, everything! There were certain events, however, that I didn't believe were highly necessary. I won't say what, but there are always crude references. I honestly feel that readers a little younger could also enjoy this book without those almost sexually explicit moments. I felt that the characters themselves were almost stock characters and completely stereotypical, as if trying to cover all the bases. However, this is obviously only the beginning of a long series and of course, there is room for the characters to evolve (she says, with her fingers crossed).

All in all, please don't be put off by my jaded attitude. I wish I had had this blog when I read the book for the first time. I would still recommend Marked, it's a thrilling read and does have some lovable characters. My final say: don't expect to be wowed by description, but most people will enjoy the events.

11 Jan 2011

THE DEMON'S LEXICON - SARAH REES BRENNAN

SUMMARY
Nick and his brother Alan are on the run with their mother, who was once the lover of a powerful magician. When she left him, she stole an important charm - and he will stop at nothing to reclaim it. Now Alan has been marked with the sign of death by the magician's demon, and only Nick can save him. But to do so he must face those he has fled from all his life - the magicians - and kill them. So the hunted becomes the hunter...but in saving his brother, Nick discovers something that will unravel his whole past...

REVIEW
If you're one of those people who adore YA literature but aren't too in love with the romantic side, (one of which I count myself) then I highly recommend The Demon's Lexicon to you. The cover portrays this book as some-what masculine and perhaps in its way it is but there is something in it for everyone: action, shocking plot twists, family drama, teenage angst, the potential of a complicated romance and the obligitory bad-boy. What more could you ask for?

This is Sarah Rees Brennan's debut book, and what a way to start. She builds suspense perfectly, making you sure of the facts before completely undermining your world. You are never really sure what is going to happen, and thankfully it's not predictable in the way that so many YA plots regurgitate each other. 

The main gist of the plot is that there are people in our world who are born with the ability to be magicians, who generally become desperate for the power given to them by demons, who are in exchange given bodies to possess. Alan and Nick are on the run after their mother, (who used to be a magician), who ran away from the circle with which she was affiliated, and stole a charm. Now magicians are coming from everywhere to get this charm, but Alan and Nick are ready for the coming attack.

10 Jan 2011

THE HOLLOW - JESSICA VERDAY

SUMMARY
Growing up in the town of Sleepy Hollow, the mystery and intrigue over Washington Irving's classic legend are all part of daily life for sixteen-year-old Abbey. But when her best friend, Kristen, vanishes at the bridge near Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Abbey's world is suddenly turned upside down. While everyone is all too quick to accept that Kristen is dead, Abbey refuses to believe that she is really gone. And when Abbey meets the gorgeous, but mysterious, Caspian at Kristen's memorial she starts to feel like she has something to hold on to for the first time since Kristen's disappearance.

But when Abbey finds a diary hidden in Kristen's bedroom, she begins to question everything she thought she knew about her best friend. How could Kristen have kept silent about so much? And could this secret have led to her disappearance or even her death? Hurt and angry at Kristen's betrayal, Abbey turns to Caspian for support...and uncovers a frightening truth about him that threatens both their emerging love and her sanity...

REVIEW
The Hollow is set in Sleepy Hollow, a town which fully embraces its legendary history. The narrator, Abbey, is a well developed and interesting character who more than compensates for the occasional lack of movement in the plot. She is a thoughtful, compassionate, and intelligent person who, most importantly, is easily relatable. Verday successfully uses Abbey's humour to keep her from falling towards the murky depths of teenage angst and love (which is a great feat considering the story centres around the aftermath of her best friend’s death).

A big chunk of the story takes place within the Sleepy Hollow cemetery, which is both the resting place of Kristin and a place which used to be the best friend's hang-out, provoking many flashbacks of their time together. Complete with the introduction of Caspian, whose air of mystery makes him all the more alluring; it is nicely atmospheric, with some echoes of Neil Gaiman's Graveyard Book. The Hollow is also a sensory novel, and Abbey's hobbies of baking and perfume making certainly evoke a deeper interaction.

9 Jan 2011

AWAKENED - P.C. & KIRSTEN CAST

THIS IS THE EIGHTH BOOK IN THE HOUSE OF NIGHT SERIES AND MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS OF THE OTHER SEVEN BOOKS.

SUMMARY
Exonerated by the Vampyre High Council and returned to her position of High Priestess at Tulsa's House of Night, Neferet has sworn vengeance on Zoey. But Zoey has found sanctuary on the Isle of Skye and is being groomed by Queen Sgiach to take over for her there. Being Queen would be cool, wouldn't it? And what about Stevie Rae and Rephraim? The Raven Mocker refuses to be used against Stevie Rae, but what choice does he have when no one in the entire world, including Zoey, would be ok with their relationship? Does he betray his father or his heart?

REVIEW
Awakened is the 8th book in P.C Cast's House of Night series and by far the most dissapointing. I honestly believe that this book could be condensed down into a couple of chapters. In fact, as much as I loved the first books, I think the same could be said for most of this series. It's most redeeming feature is that it's a quick read, so at least you can feel as though you've accomplished something.

I have long been confused by the intended readership of this series; it is classed as YA, has a writing style for 12/13 year olds and content for those much older. Perhaps at 23 I am starting to feel rather old and jaded before my time, but I don't have this opinion for other YA books. Awakened made me feel patronised, as though the message about humanity, Lightness and Darkness hadn't sunk in during the last 7 books. Its message is completely repetitive and I find its ideas about morality far too simplified and straightforward.

I read this series out of habit now, and although I know it has a very loyal readership I still feel there are much better series out there. Try Jana Oliver's Demon Trapper series, for instance. Or Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments.

ILL WIND - RACHEL CAINE

SUMMARY
Some Weather Wardens control fire, others control earth, water, or wind - and the most powerful can control more than one element. Without Wardens, Mother Nature would wipe humanity off the face of the earth - Joanne Baldwin is a Weather Warden. Usually, all it takes is a wave of her hand to tame the most violent weather. But now Joanne is trying to outrun another kind of storm: accusations of corruption and murder. So she's resorting to the very human tactic of running for her life. Her only hope is Lewis, the most powerful Warden. Unfortunately, he's also on the run but Joanne and her classic Mustang are racing hard to find him - because there's some bad weather closing in fast.

REVIEW
I have been a fan of Rachel Caine ever since I started reading The Morganville series, and I bought this book last year and have only just gotten round to reading it. The premise of this, the first book in the series, surrounds the weather and those with weather-commanding powers (namedly the 'Weather Wardens'). This is a great and unique form for a novel, well constructed and fantastically researched; I can't imagine how long it must have taken to fully research the entire series of books!

Caine builds the suspence fantastically well. Her writing is quick, sharp and witty and swept me along in its path. Although the Morganville series is aimed at YA, this is definately not aimed at younger readers and as such it releases all the sexual tension that Morganville has to suppress. This makes it sexy and sensual but at the same time a good laugh. It really does heighten the senses to weather and makes you appreciates the danger of Mother Nature!

A fantastic read. Now, on to the next!

SHIVER - MAGGIE STIEFVATER

SUMMARY
Grace is fascinated by the wolves in the woods behind her house; one yellow-eyed wolf in particular. Every winter, she watches him but every summer, he disappears. Sam leads two lives. In winter, he stays in the frozen woods, with the protection of the pack. In summer, he has a few precious months to be human ...until the cold makes him shift back again. When Grace and Sam finally meet, they realize they can't bear to be apart. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human - or risk losing himself, and Grace, for ever.

REVIEW
I had been putting off reading this book because I was becoming sick of reading the same type of story over and over again. However, it had been sitting on my shelf for so long that, after taking a deep breath, I decided to make a go of it. I'm so glad that I did! I am usually sceptical about the whole teenage romance plot and really didn't want to read the same formulaic forbidden/excessive love, but something about this book really caught my imagination. Both Grace and Sam are brilliantly written and stayed with me long after I finished the book.

The structure is great, it alternates chapters between Grace and Sam's dialogue, which gives a great incite into Sam's life as a wolf. Although I found the end a little far-fetched and over simplified, the story itself was engrossing and unstoppable, and left me with a real feeling of loss. A lot of people have referred to this book as the werewolf version of Twilight, which I personally feel is rather unfair - Shiver seems to be much more poetically written and with any luck will not go off in an odd tangent in Linger, Steifvater's sequel.

My overall rating is 4 stars. I was tempted to award 5 but I felt that the idea that Steifvater uses as way of a 'cure' was a little dodgy and difficult to believe (which actually sounds silly of me to say considering it is a book about werewolves!). A recommended read.

EVERMORE - ALYSON NOEL

SUMMARY
Seventeen-year-old Ever is the sole survivor of a car crash that killed her entire family. Living with her aunt in Southern California, she's plagued by the ability to hear the thoughts of those around her, and haunted by the ghost of her little sister. She tries to tune everyone out, shunning her old lifestyle as the pretty, popular cheerleader, but somehow she can't hide from Damen, the new guy at school. Stunningly handsome, clever and not a little bit intimidating, there's something about him that doesn't quite add up. Ever realises he's hiding something, but nothing could prepare her for the truth - especially when the truth involves past lives, murderous enemies, everlasting love and the secret of eternal youth.

REVIEW
This was another book that I bought but put off reading for fear of having to read about another pointless teenage soppy romance. (I should probably stop judging books by the synopsis). I was also put off by the fact that authors seem to think that writing a book is an excuse to give people silly names that normal people on the street would beat you up for having. Again, I was proved wrong (though not about the names).

Ever really is a likeable character, and I love that she actually changed from a blonde-wannabe to a sensible middle-of-the-road girl. However, I did cringe at the description of - and behaviour of - her friend Haven. I'd like to say Gothic Goddess but she's just a hopeless stereotype. Despite this it does have a great storyline; a good description of grief, loss, blame, obsession and the inability to let go of the people we love. I defy anyone to read this without feeling something for Ever's situation. Losing your family isn't something that goes unnoticed.

The only thing I didn't like so much about this book was Drina. Her character isn't very well introduced or developed for someone so threatening to Ever. Damen is also not the most lovable character, despite who he is revealed to be. Riley though I happen to love, and I look forward to reading her mini-series. I'm giving this book 4 stars because Ever really is a great character and her relationship with Riley is touching too. I'm not sure how the rest of the series will turn out but I'm looking forward to it.

8 Jan 2011

BLOOD AND ICE - ROBERT MASELLO

SUMMARY
When journalist Michael Wilde is commissioned to write a feature about a remote research station deep in the frozen beauty of Antarctica he is prepared for some extraordinary sights. But on a diving expedition in the polar sea he comes across something so extraordinary to be almost unbelievable - a man and woman chained together, deep in the ice. The doomed lovers are brought to the surface but as the ice begins to thaw the scientists discover the unusual contents of the bottles buried behind the pair, and realise they are all in terrible danger...

REVIEW
This book may look, and even sound, like a Vampire novel, but don't be fooled. The blurb will tell you that this story centres around the discovery of 2 bodies in the Antarctic sea, but it really deals with the build up to it. The supernatural elements don't even really begin until 2/3 of the way through.

However, as much as I would like to be critical of the book I can't; it is very well written and hopelessly engaging. This seems to be the beginning of literary fiction reclaiming the vampire and the supernatural from writers like Meyer, and although it does not pack as much of a punch as the teenage stories, it is fantastically researched. The threads Masello pulls through Victorian England to today's Antarctic are fascinating and the detail is extraordinary. This book doesn't have a quick pace. It builds the story as it builds tension - gradual and intense.

Although I would not recommend this book to someone looking for cheap thrills, the atmosphere is so strong it is definately worth a few comfortable nights in. This is a good novel for moving from teenage vampires to literary fiction. Also great for fans of The Passage who aren't sure what to read next.

THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH - CARRIE RYAN


SUMMARY
In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary's truths are failing her. She's learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future - between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

REVIEW
I thought this was such a great concept for a book that as soon as I saw it I knew I had to read it. This is the first zombie book I have read that hasn't been an excuse for a gore-fest.

The first thing I noticed about was its strange resemblance to the film The Village, but with even more of a colonial feel. There is something so bleak that it really drags you into this post-apocalyptic, dystopian world. It gives an outsiders' look at the commercialism of our culture, but also at the natural wonders we take for granted.

I loved Mary, the main character, because despite being trapped in the obligatory love obsession, she is a strong-minded girl. She follows her instincts even when others try to hold her down, and I admire her for it. The sheer sense of betrayal and hopelessness should make this a depressing read, but Ryan really makes you want Mary to find a way out of the Forest of Hands and Teeth, and at the same time free ourselves from sharing in her torment.

I'm giving this book 5 stars for its sheer bravery. It is accessible, easy to read and highly gripping - a truly brilliantly executed Young Adult novel.

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