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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